Monday, April 30, 2012

Bad Stuff, Take 3: Teen Gossip and Marriage Counseling...

This entry is a continuation of the "Use Everything, Even the Bad Stuff" blog entry from a few days ago, and I know this is the entry some of you have been waiting for.  It seems like the blog that will be the juiciest or the "laundry" that will have the most stains on it.  My teenage gossiping days and my days of going to marriage counseling probably will be the most viewed...maybe the most read...but probably not the most entertaining.  I am slowly turning my life's profile to a less photogenic side and showing my "bad stuff" in hopes that it can be used to help someone, so can use everything, even your "bad stuff."  Warning...this blog entry could change your mind about me.  I am going to be honest and very open. 

4. I enjoyed hearing and sharing gossip in JH and HS...

Most people love a good gossip story.  People Magazine sells more copies per year than Self or even Good Housekeeping.  This is the world as we know it...watching Inside Edition or Entertainment Tonight each night to get the latest scoop on people we don't even know!  But, the "inside scoop" on people we do know...that is so much more alluring.  I admit that I was caught up in this in my teen years. 

As an adult, I like to catch up on people's lives, know how they are and what they are doing.  I do not yearn to know all their business or the secret things.  That is not to say that I am not finding myself in the middle of a gossip session from time to time, but I will find a way to exit the conversation. 

What I mean is that there is a difference in hearing "Gertrude has 3 kids now, got divorced last year, and is struggling to find a job now that she cannot be a 'stay-at-home' mom anymore" than in hearing "you wouldn't believe what happened to Getrude...her husband left her for someone at work.  I cannot believe she didn't see that coming because she did not fix up at all and stayed home all day...poor thing has to go back to work but cannot find a job because she doesn't have any skills except taking care of kids, all because she dropped out of college when she got married..."  There is a difference between finding out general information presented in a non-judgemental way than gossiping. 

My pet peeve...the thing that irks me so much is the gossip that is disguised as a "prayer request."  I will go as far to say that I HATE that hypocrisy; saying, "I have something for you to pray about" to preface your disguised gossip session about someone else is so much worse than just talking about people openly over coffee and bagels. 

Gossip serves no benefit to hear.  How many people can say they are uplifted by finding out that Jennifer Lopez is thinking about getting married again or that the new movie out with Zack Effron isn't any good because there wasn't enough skin showing in their love scenes.  I admit it though...I read all the covers of the magazines at the check out stands, and I rationalize purchasing them from time to know, the ones with the future king of England on's historical, right?  :)  Seriously though, when was the last time reading that celebrity gossip actually benefited my own life?  (I am thinking ahead to purposefully decide what book I will bring with me to the pool this year...maybe even a book of pleasure like The Great Gatsby, yeah!)

Gossip hurts.  I had a turning point from gossiping; it happened the summer between my Senior year of high school and my Freshman year of college.  It changed me.  I worked 3 jobs that summer...daycare 8 hours a day then either to hostess at a restaurant or light office paper filing for 3-4 hours every night after the daycare job.  I hostessed on weekends too.  One Saturday afternoon, the other hostess and I were talking about the cashier who was dating one of the cooks.  The other hostess said, "Look at her...she looks like she is pregnant."  I looked at her, and to be really did, but I said, "No, probably not pregnant, just getting fat."  I cringe as I think back because I would be appalled to be in a conversation like that today, but I said it then.  I did feel a little guilty after talking about her, but I justified it because she was unfriendly and rude to us most of the time.  Here's the problem with gossip: it doesn't usually just stay between the original of the waitresses heard us talking and told the cashier's boyfriend (one of the cooks) that we were discussing his girlfriend either being pregnant or fat. He confronted us and stood up for her.  He told us that we were awful people and that they didn't "do anything" that would get her pregnant.  He told us we were mean...and, he was right!  I felt so badly about it, convicted about ruining whatever character or testimony I had with the people at the restaurant.  I knew that I should go to the co-worker and apologize.  I went first to her boyfriend who accepted my apology, but, of course, he told me that it was not really about him.  He told me that his girlfriend had heard about what we said already, so I shouldn't expect her to be happy or even willing to talk to me.  I was scared to death, humbled like never before, but I asked her if we could talk.  She said that she didn't want to talk to me and didn't want to hear anything I had to say.  I said, "I am sorry" which was all I could get out before I went to the bathroom to cry a little and gain my composure; my words, mere words, didn't even get her to look up from what she was doing. 

The next night, I went over to her as soon as I got to work and said, "I know I don't deserve even one minute of your time, and I don't expect you to forgive me.  I know what I said was cruel and wrong.  I am sorry that I said it, truly sorry.  You don't have to respond to me, but I wanted to tell you that this experience has changed me and that I will not talk about people like that again."  Again, she didn't even look up from her paperwork, and I walked away.  It was hard for me, a seemingly "good girl," to face deserved judgement from people whose "bad" behaviors I had quietly judged for months.  I was the disgusting, sinful person who'd ruined my reputation.  Eventually, the cashier opened up to me, maybe she saw that I meant my apology.  We even became people who interacted with a "strained friendship" which was more than we had before I cruelly talked about her.  The saddest part of this story is that I didn't know how deep my comment cut her.

A few years later...when I was in my 2nd year of teaching...there was a student teacher who talked about his fiancee who was a nutritionist.  She became a nutritionist after battling with an eating disorder she got in college because she struggled with her body image.  At our staff Christmas party, he brought his fiancee with him...and there she was, the cashier from the restaurant. 

You never know what an offhanded comment will mean to someone else; you can never take back what you say.  Apologizing can lead to forgiveness, but forgetting is sometimes impossible.  Gossip does not benefit anyone, and it definitely hurts some is a snare that disguises itself in many ways...

5.  I have been to marriage counseling...

I have been married a long time, almost half of my life.  I married Eric when I was 20 (turned 20 three days before I got married) and he was 22.  He was finished with college; I was not.  We had a sum total of 1 premarital counseling which happened to be on the only topic we probably didn't need counseling on: money management.  I thought my quiet guy who avoided social settings and intimate conversations would suddenly change into an emotional strong tower the moment we said "I do."  I seriously thought we would instantaneously become close when we lived together, sharing a house and a bed.  Made sense to me... 

Fast forward 10 years...there I was, a deep thinker who longed for emotional intimacy with my husband, Eric, who happened to be a very hard worker who enjoyed surface level, fun activities and nothing too "touchy-feely."  We lived in the same house and shared two great daughters, but honestly, we were not on the same page anywhere...except maybe money management. :)  I was loving being changed by serving on short-term mission trips, and Eric was supportive but mostly along for the ride on that one.  Eric wanted things to be comfortable,  and change was something he loathed.  I needed change, and I wanted my life to be interesting and meaningful beyond the walls of my own house.  Neither one of us was "wrong" or "right," but we were not "together" emotionally or spiritually.  You can only live with someone like that so long before life feels pretty miserable, on both sides.  Eric went to stay with his parents for a couple days just so that we could live peacefully alone instead of avoiding each other all the time.  I felt broken, alone, like I had this huge weight on my shoulders, and he wasn't suddenly happier being apart. 

What to do?  53% of marriages end in divorce...divorce might be the easier route for 2 people who were a little mis-matched from the beginning.  We didn't get the support we thought we would get from some of our friends and family at first.  Someone called right away to say that s/he wanted us to keep our "problems" quiet so that other people wouldn't find out and go for counseling with his/her pastor...the meeting was already set up for us...It was pretty much, "show up at this counseling time, and my pastor can fix you guys up before anyone finds out."  My response was, "wow, all I needed to hear right now was something like, 'Are you okay' or 'Is there something I can pray for'."  Another person advised Eric to just do what would make him happy, but he told her/him that leaving his marriage wasn't going to make him happier.  Eric and I just couldn't see how to make it work out.  The ironic thing was all of our "helpful" friends and family members who were trying to fix us actually did move us back toward each other.  When I reached the end of my tolerance and had enough of the intrusions...who did I call?  I called Eric, and he came back over right away to rescue me from all of the well-intentioned people who were trying to tell us what to do.  The problem with our "helpers" was that all of them were emotionally invested in us or our marriage, and that actually was not going to help us. 

I asked a good friend for a counseling referral, and we got the name of Chuck Lynch, a counselor at Living Foundation Ministries in Blue Springs (by Con case you want to go).  I was told that miracles happened in his office, so we went.  The first session looked like sitting at one end of the couch quietly crying the whole time while Eric sat at the other side of the couch listening intently to the counselor.  We had a little homework which entailed dwelling on only the positive things about each other.  We had another counseling session about 5 days later where we sat a little closer on the couch and talked about what we liked about each other.  Chuck, the counselor, got to know us better by asking us specific questions about our likes/dislikes, etc.  I will never forget his comment, "I really like you guys and think you both are great people, but I gotta did the two of you get together?  I mean with interests so diverse and your 'perfect day' being described as reading a book on a blanket and watching clouds as you have a picnic (me) which is SO different than a 'perfect day' of watching a basketball game while getting your back rubbed (Eric)...I just want to know what attracted you to each other."  Good that moment, we remembered that we did fall in love...we did commit to spend our lives together and raise a family together...even if we were as different as the ocean and the stars.  We remembered our connection to each other before all of the "other stuff" that clutters it like mortgages, grocery shopping, gas prices, and even kids. 

The next few sessions of counseling consisted of Eric taking charge of things and making decisions about opening up emotionally which was hard for him.  I knew that it was hard for him to do that and him going through those steps willingly made me respect him so much.  Six weeks later, we were sitting next to each other on the couch, holding hands as Chuck Lynch looked at one of my scrapbooks from a mission trip.  Chuck told us that he really enjoyed spending time with us but he would feel bad about taking our money just so we could hang out.  He said that we didn't need to come back unless we needed to have his counsel some other time in our lives.  Honestly, the transformation in 6 weeks was a miracle; I went from thinking "my life would be so much easier if I was alone" to "wow, this is going to turn into something good" in that very short time. 

Chuck's parting nugget of wisdom was that we needed to join each other in our interests...very good counsel for any other seemingly mis-matched couples out there.  So, occasionally...Eric will stop and smell the roses with me, and I will catch a game with him.  We came to a place where we don't expect so much of each other, and we started to accept each other the way we are without expecting changes.  Now, 8 years and one new daughter later...things are good.  I am not saying that there aren't "those days," but there is always a rainbow after a storm...

There is no shame in getting marriage counseling when you need some help in your marriage.  DON'T HIDE when you need help!  A crack in a marriage can be mended before the dam breaks wide open to a broken marriage!  You go to the dentist when you chip a go to the emergency room when you break a go to school when you need an go to church when you need to be fed spiritually...who hides a festering sore so that no one will see it?  No one go to the doctor.  You wouldn't stop eating altogether just because you have have a soft diet while your teeth are sore.  You get my point, I think: Don't Hide your problems...learn to use everything...even your "bad stuff."    

To be continued....  :)

Bad Stuff, Take 2...stuffing those feelings! and taking on too much!!

This is the second installment of "Use Everything, Even your Bad Stuff" blog entry, so if you are reading this but haven't read the first entry...go back and browse it so that you understand why in the world I am sharing all of my dirty laundry with you...

2. I Hold All of My Hurt Feelings Deep Down...

The "Sticks and Stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me" childhood rhyme needs revision; it should say: "Sticks and Stones can break my bones, but words will crush my spirit."  We've all been there...someone says something to us purposefully or unintentionally that hurts us, cuts the inside of us.  When this happens to me, I feel the need to always "put the brave face on" instead of saying something.  I am not talking about a horrible confrontation either...I cannot even get myself to say, "that hurt me" or "what you said offended me."  I feel a need to pretend that I am okay in order to not offend the person who offended me.  Wow, talk about messed up!  We need to speak up.  More specifically, I need to speak up for myself.

There will definitely be times when hiding my feelings is necessary, but there will be times when it is necessary to share how I feel even if it is hard to do for a non-confrontational person like me.  

A problem or side affect of hiding my true feelings is that the hurt will come out somewhere; for me, it is usually my family who suffers from me being hurt because I will bring my hurt home where it will lash out on the ones nearest to me.  We will hurt most the ones we love the most.  I remember a time a few years ago when a co-worker said something to me in the morning at work that hurt my feelings.  I do not even remember her exact words, but what I heard was something about her feeling intimidated by me.  The way she said it made me realize that she hadn't meant the comment as a compliment.  I had a terrible day, and I couldn't stop dwelling on her comment.  I was getting ready to leave work, and my oldest daughter stopped me and said, "Mom, please go talk to her and tell her how you feel."  I immediately knew that she was right, but I protested, "Why should I?  She won't change."  My daughter, Belle, looked right into my eyes and said, "because you'll take this home with you, and your family needs you to tell her how she made you feel."  Wow, I knew what I had to do.  I went in to talk to the co-worker and said, "I just wanted to tell you that what you said this morning about me hurt my feelings."  She seemed very startled and started to tear up as she said, "I never meant for you to take it negatively.  I just meant that you are confident and do not ever need the rest of us to help you with anything."  She walked over and hugged me and said, "I am sorry that I hurt you.  I did not mean to."  I accepted her apology and hugged her back and left with a smile on my face instead of the frustration and sadness that I would've been feeling if I hadn't listened to Belle's advice.  Healthy confrontation is the right way to handle things; hiding feelings is seldom the answer.

I tend to distract myself from my hurts...sometimes the distraction is keeping myself super busy...which is the perfect transition for my next confession...

3.  I Take On Way Too Much, More Than I Can Possibly Accomplish While Sane...

Why? Why don't I say "no" to people?  Honestly, I cannot even blame it on people asking me to do things...I go out into the big world getting myself too busy.  It is me; I am to blame....only me.  Women tend to multi-task with competency, and I find myself feeling like I am not productive if I am not doing 2-3 things at once.  Somehow, multi-tasking is my new norm...doing one thing at a time is now not enough.  I push myself to the point of exhaustion...and, I do this on purpose!!!!?  I could say "no" or actually take some time for myself...maybe read a book...or even a book for pleasure!?!?!  Does anyone do that anymore? 

It is to a point where I am doing a quantity of activities, but the quality of what I do is suffering.  I will make dinner, do a load of laundry, grade some papers, plan for the next day, help with home work, let the dog out several times, water the flowers, clean up or straighten up a room......wait......I am at the end of my day, and I haven't even spoken to my husband, or did I?  The next day, I will make a different choice, and after teaching, I will focus on the relationships.  I will have the girls help me make dinner, a dinner where we all sit down together and talk for a solid 30 minutes....then eventually, everyone gets to bed...the emotional side of me is peaceful....BUT...I have to stay up 4 more hours to grade the papers, do a load of laundry because someone has to wear a specific outfit for a school concert, take a shower, take a few seconds to ponder what we'll eat for breakfast the next morning, and all of the other things that I just do in the quiet of the house while my family gets their beauty sleep.  Since I do not get my beauty sleep very often...I am tired and sometimes grouchy on the way to school/work which my kids don't deserve, and it's all because Momma cannot manage her time like she should with the amount of things Momma takes on in her life. 

The truth is that I would LOVE to have more time to read a book for pleasure, lay on a blanket in my backyard and watch the clouds make shapes as they float across my part of the world, watch every one of my own children's games/activities without distractions from other things I need to do.  I have a problem, and I am the only one to blame.  I take on the busyness like it is a challenge...when in reality, the challenge for me would be to treat my life like I am on fire, in danger of burning up from overbooking my life.  I will stop, drop, and roll into my new, better life!!!!!  Stop and take notice of the things that will LAST...people.  Drop all of the excess, really fall into doing things that are my passions, and say "no" to the rest without feeling guilty (that one is the one I need to work on the most).  Finally, Roll into bed for some rest!!!!   

Stay tuned...more confessions coming your way soon!!!!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Use Everything...Even Your "Bad Stuff"

Hiding flaws and shortcomings is an art.  No one wants their worst side showing in a photograph.  No one wants a list of everything they've done wrong to accompany their resume'.  Why do we try so desperately to hide our "bad stuff"?  I do.  I stuff my dirty laundry far under my bed...I prefer the good to show and the "bad stuff" to remain hidden...okay, it's confession time...

I am terrified to speak or perform in public...
I hold all of my hurt feelings deep down...
I take on way too much, more than I can possibly accomplish while sane...
I enjoyed hearing and sharing gossip in JH and HS...
I have been to marriage counseling...
I have a 2-3 year attention span for a job before it gets boring, unfulfilling, or unchallenging to me...
I know the pain of losing people I love, losing them to death or desertion...
I avoid people sometimes...
I do not let other people help me even though I am often spread thin helping others...
The United States of America is not my favorite country...
I usually give a bad first-impression...
I do too much for my kids, I enable them...
I think I am good at several things, pride or confidence?...
I often hide chocolate so that I don't have to share.

Do you really know me as well as you thought you knew me?  Did your feelings for me or thoughts about me change after reading my list of confessions?  It can be a bit of a relief to read someone else's "laundry list" of the "bad stuff"?  I think it would make me feel better to read yours.  :)

Why do I now choose to confess?  Well, it is because I have discovered that there is no purpose to my "bad stuff" if I don't use it in some way, hopefully to help someone else.  I am going to try to do just that...use my bad stuff...I hope someone out there will benefit from me doing this.  At the very least, it will be good therapy for me.   Be encouraged to use your "bad stuff" too; if you don't, what is the point of going through it?  I know that everything happens for a reason and that my steps have been ordered by God, so I will go boldly where few have gone before...into my dirty laundry...and, you can come too!  

1.  I AM TERRIFIED TO SPEAK OR PERFORM IN PUBLIC:  As a child, I loathed piano recitals or when my mom "signed me up" to play or sing the offeratory or special music in church.  When I was 9 years old, right after my brother Jeremy was born, I remember specifically praying to die before a Christmas piano recital.  I prayed every day for 2 weeks, "Lord, let me die before this piano recital.  That would make me so happy. Amen."  Seriously, I had a problem.  When I was the focus of attention, on a stage, or in a situation where the focus of many people was directly on me, I shook from head to toe.  My anxiety level was so high that I could often hear my heartbeat resounding in my head.  This followed me to high school where I remember crying before every speech I gave in HS Speech class.  The first speech I gave was on death, and the teacher wrote on my evaluation that she loved the anticipation I set up by crying as I delivered my opening line, "Death......."  She learned quickly that my crying was not some tricky way to mesmerize the audience; it was something I could not control and very painful to watch.  

Then came college where I actually chose my profession, Teaching, over Speech Pathology ONLY  because I got to choose between Public Speaking or Interpersonal Communications in the teaching course requirements, and the class for the Speech credit was public speaking, no other choice.  I can see now that my fear of speaking led me to a career that I love, and I much prefer teaching a class of students rather than one-on-one worked out for the best is all I am trying to say.   Teaching in a classroom has never caused me anxiety, it seems more interpersonal to me than standing up by myself in front of people.  Forget about adding a microphone into the situation...things only get much worse.  My fear did not end there; I didn't mature or grow "out of it" later on in life when I "grew up" and aged.  I am going to share 2 clear happenings in my life where delivered me from the snare of fear to speak in happened in Romania, and the other happened in Lee's Summit, Missouri.

It was Fall 2003, and I was filling out my checklist of what I was willing to do on an upcoming mission trip to  Romania.  Pass out medicine...check.  Lead or teach in a "kids' club".....check.  Administer lotion or toiletries to people in Gypsy villages.....check.  Cook, clean, whatever came up....check.  Share a verse, testimony, or pray in church.........NO check.  Work with teenagers.....check.  I sent in my form, that was that.  I fully expected that the form was "the law" and actually meant something, or why would the missionary have us take time to fill the form out?  The first night we were in a small church in a Romanian Gypsy village called Sarata, the missionary prayed then looked at the team and said, "Chris and Kari, share a word with the people."  I wanted to yell at him and say, "No, you are mistaken.  I did not mark that box."  I stood up with literal fear and trembling and with a VERY shaky voice; I shared a verse and then said something about feeling at home in Romania because the terrain looked like Missouri where I was from in America.  I wanted to go home; I remember fuming through that whole service while thinking that I NEVER would've come on this trip if I would've known that the missionary wasn't even going to go by the list of what we would be willing to do on the trip.  The reality is that I was speaking in a language that the people in the church didn't even understand, and my interpreter was really doing the talking to the people.  And, quite really wasn't about me!  The funny thing is that when I accepted that I wasn't going to get out of the public speaking in Romania, it actually started to get easier to do.  By the end of the 10 days, the missionary would call on other people to speak, and I would actually feel disappointed.  The missionary started to give me time limits too; he'd say, "we don't have much time, Kari, so try to keep what you say down to 2-3 minutes."  Funny how things work out.  I had to go halfway around the world to learn a lesson that I could have avoided learning if I had just stayed home.  Going out of my comfort zone allowed me to get out of my box, and that box that I thought was my safe place was actually robbing me of a richer, fuller life.

The second BIG lesson in breaking free from my crippling fear of public speaking was in the summer of 2005 when I was helping out with the children's ministry at Lee's Summit Community Church in Impact (4th-6th grade).  The Children's Pastor, David, was going out of town, and the "usual" teachers must not have been available because I was called by the children's ministry assistant and asked if I would teach the whole group (70 kids and 14 adults) the next Sunday.  I said "yes" because that is what I do; I usually feel compelled to please people.  That week was torture.  I was miserable all week.  I thought of ways to graciously "get out of it," but nothing came to mind that allow me to still show my face at church in the weeks to come.  The Thursday before the big day of teaching...I had reached a place in my head that was desperate.  I angrily said to God, "I do a lot of things for You, and this is not something I want to do.  Please don't MAKE me do this."  The only thing I could do was cry which ultimately led to the submission of my will, my wants, and even my comfort-zone.  See, speaking in Romania was one thing because if I  started to lose control of my voice or emotions, there was time to pull myself together while the interpreter conveyed the message to the people....speaking in my own church to so many people who knew me was an entirely different thing.  We are talking about a full "10" on my fear-factor meter.  I wanted to pray to die, but at that point in my life, I was old enough to know better than to wish for that.  Deep down, somewhere, I knew that I would live through the experience of speaking in public...but, I was fertilized with fear.  So, I finally found myself admitting that I needed God's strength to speak, and I acknowledged that He and I both knew that I would never be about to do it myself.  I had to have God's help.  After this realization, I felt better, better in the sense that I really did think that things would be okay...not that I was absent of fear.  The fear was present that morning when I spoke, yet I can say that I did not lean on myself to get the job done.  My attitude was that I wanted to do a good job but that the message was not really mine to give...I was just a mouthpiece, a vessel for words.  

The truly interesting thing about speaking in public is that now people do not realize how much I still struggle to do it.  Every time I speak, still the fear is present, the trembling just below the surface.  I have had some success speaking and teaching in public over the past 7-8 years, but each time when I finish, I quietly say to God, "Thank you for doing that, doing that through me and giving me strength.  You are you think anyone noticed that I was terrified?"  

God can use our "bad stuff," and He wants to.  Quit hiding in shame hoping that your dirty laundry stays under your bed...let God wash your dirty laundry with his strength.  Use everything, even your "bad stuff" courageously and victoriously!  

This is me.....long-winded even when, I guess this blog entry will be written in several installments!  :)  I have a few more things on my list of confessions!

Ecclesiastes 12:14, "For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil."  NIV

I Peter 5:6-7, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under god's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." NIV

I corinthinans 1:5-6, "For in him you have been enriched in every way- in all your speaking and in all your knowledge- because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you." NIV

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hamster in the Potting Soil

       No one could make up the stories that really happen in my real life.  I cannot begin to imagine some of the things that actually happen around me, so perplexing.  My life is a comedy of errors mixed in with some things that make sense.  I cannot even blame it on my's me...I bring the craziness and quizzical situations with me wherever I go!  I remember one time when I was in Romania, my interpreter said to me, "it is always an adventure with Kari."  I am thankful that my interpreter thought "my ways" were endearing and not annoying.  I cannot escape the times when I accidentally say or do the awkward thing or when I just walk into a situation that is straight out of Ripley's Believe it or Not.  Most people who know me could tell you a story that seems like a far-fetched yarn or tall tale.  I am sure every person reading this can recall at least one of my life's adventures!
       This ability to find trouble even where trouble doesn't exist has been passed down to our pets as well, particularly our hamsters!  We have had several throughout the years.  One hamster was an escape artist, and she managed to get out of her cage all of the time.  We found her several times after she got out too (which is not true of all of our little buddies); she would just be going up and down our stairs, funny to see her show up after being "lost" for a week.  
       We had a hamster we thought was a goner until we found him living it up with in the Yahtzee game in the basement...he seriously had a decked out living quarters snug in that Yahtzee box using the cup for a bed and the dice for end tables.  He was so fat when we accidentally found him...he had been stealing cat food.  The cat's frustration with the hamsters might have gotten the best of him when we found one little lost hamster floating belly up in the basement sump pump, most likely chased to his last skinny dip by the "food deprived" cat.
       Currently, in the Schooley home, there are 2 hamsters (Elizabeth and Bananas), a rabbit (Tom), and a weenie dog (Lena).  Elizabeth and Bananas had been signed up to compete in the annual Petco Hamster Races on April 21, 2012 at 2pm, and those hamsters were SO could see it in their beady eyes!  My husband, Eric, had the idea that our hamsters needed to practice before the race because they were getting a little "fat and lazy," so Elizabeth and Bananas spent the whole evening 2 days before race day speeding around the house in their clear hamster running balls.
       Friday morning (1 day before the big race), as Sophie and Emi were going out to the car to go to school...they both stopped and gasped!  Elizabeth's cage door was open with no sign of her inside...immediate tears started flowing from Emi, Elizabeth's loving "mother."  The truth was that taking time to look for Elizabeth was going to make us late for school...we couldn't be late for school because it was the standardized testing week.  What a dilemma...Emi's standardized testing scores for that day were not going to be very valid if she was thinking about her lost hamster!  I told the girls that Elizabeth had to be in the garage, so we would just watch the door after we pulled out and would make sure she didn't run out as we were leaving...then, we could look for her after school.  It was a very stressful time, especially with the big race only 1 day away! :)  I ran back into the house to tell Eric that we had a "hamster catastrophe" which he immediately thought meant that one of them had died, so he was relieved to hear that it was just another "lost" hamster.  I ran back out to the car.  The next seconds will account for one of those "situations" that cannot be explained or made up...the parts of my life that are "stranger than fiction."  I didn't go directly to the car...
       Instead, I walked on the other side of the garage and took the "long way" to my car.  I had a feeling that the hamster was close...was Elizabeth under a shelf hiding in the dark or was she snuggled in with Eric's work clothes in a basket?  I heard a noise, barely a, so weird that I could even hear it...a soft scratching noise.  Did I imagine the noise?  I stopped, and something inside me made me say aloud, "I hear something!"  The girls opened the door of the car and stopped crying for a moment.   There it was again...a faint rubbing or scratching noise coming from the......bag......of...........potting soil?  What?  I cautiously walked toward the 25lb. bag of "special dirt" and actually saw the bottom side moving.  Okay, I really didn't think that noise could be the hamster...I was thinking of what could be inside of a new, big bag of dirt: a snake, a frog...not a hamster.  So....I called for Sophie to be ready for whatever was coming out of that bag, of course I said, "I think I found Elizabeth; Sophie come and catch her after I cut the bag."  I was not going to tell her that it might be some other critter.  
       I took my rose pruning shears  and carefully cut a small hole a little away from the movement (I didn't want to take a chance of cutting Elizabeth...I mean how would she compete in the big race with only 3 legs?)  What happened next cannot be explained adequately with words...I cut...out came a dirty hamster...simple as that.  It was so surreal to be there in that garage, my kids with big grins and tear-stained faces.
       What if we had gone to school and looked for Elizabeth later? I mean, I would've been in the car leaving in the 6 seconds it took me to walk to the other side of the garage.  I would've had a terrible surprise later when I was using the potting soil...eww!  How did Elizabeth get in there, and what on earth was she thinking that would make her put her whole body in the bag after she got her face in there?  How was she breathing inside of a plastic bag...with dirt surrounding her?  That girl was lucky that I have good hearing!!!!  
       My husband, Eric, had a few nuggets of wisdom to add.  He walked over to Elizabeth after she was back in her closed cage and said, "Well, girl, if you didn't want to run in the race or if the training was too hard for you, you should've said something.  You didn't have to run away."

 Elizabeth and Bananas made it to their race at Petco, and the hamsters ran the ball races well!  

Friday, April 20, 2012

Experiment with "Letting it Go"

My youngest daughter, Emi, always has something going on in her life...she is busy.  She catches butterflies, picks grass to feed her imaginary rabbit family, has so many "collections" that I may have to call the TV show, Hoarders, pretty soon, but she is always learning something, teaching herself through experiences. I came to the conclusion that Emi was up to her one of her "experiments" when I saw several cups in the freezer with various levels of water in them; the cups were also at various stages of freezing.  Emi had been so excited when she made a drink with the top layer frozen solid yet she was still drinking cold liquid from a straw she put into the cup before she put it into the freezer.  Emi...always learning something...

I was in the living room sitting on the couch when I heard Emi's "oh, no!" from the kitchen.  I sat quietly as my middle daughter, Sophie, piped right in with some words of her own, "Oh my, Emi.  What have you done?"  My interest was definitely peaked at this moment.  Sophie, an aspiring police officer, practices her "justice" every chance she gets; she could make a nun feel guilty with just a sideways glance.  Sophie continued, "You should know better, Emi.  Glass cups cannot go into the freezer with water in it; everyone knows that makes them break.  Poor Mom, now her memories of her special anniversary trip with Daddy will be ruined.  This is her very special glass from their anniversary dinner.  Mom can't just go to the store and get another one; in fact, she will probably never get to go back to Hawaii ever again.  She will never have a chance to have her special glass, and even if she could go back to Hawaii and go to the same place and get another glass...Mom would know the new glass was not really from her special anniversary trip!  Poor Mom."  After that, I was thinking..."poor Emi." :)  

I jumped up and went into the kitchen just in time to see Emi's head hanging so low; she wouldn't even look at me when I spoke to her.  "Emi, what happened?"  Emi told me all about her grand, seemingly magical ideas about making "more water appear" in cups when she put them in the freezer.  Her reasoning was because the water level always rose higher in the cup after she put it in the freezer for a few hours.  She wanted to try my glass because it was big which would mean she could make even more water "grow" in the cup.  Well, even if her scientific conclusion was flawed, I was truly excited about her learning experience.  I told her it was okay that the glass broke and that I knew she didn't break it on purpose.  I also told her that I really liked my glass but that it was just a "thing."  I winked at Sophie who was fuming and shaking her head behind Emi; I was kind of proud of her rant too because she was being empathetic and putting herself in my shoes even if she didn't handle it properly.  

My kiddos are still learning.  I have to remember that!  I have to take time and talk to them about things that happen.  Admittedly, when it comes to my kids, it is easier to "forgive" the accidental hurts and broken things.  My co-workers...other adults, NOT so much.  Why?  Because they should "know better"?  

What about letting things go?  Instead of "trying to forgive" someone, why don't we train ourselves to do it.  Carrying around hurt or brokenness actually causes more harm to the person who has the original hurt, not the wrong-doer.  If we learned to "let go" of our broken "things" or feelings, we would free ourselves to LIVE!  Do I mean that someone doesn't have to ask for forgiveness to be forgiven?  Yes!  You can forgive anyone and let go of the pain and the hurt without them ever being sorry or admitting what has been done.  It is for you to be free more than anything else.  

Forgiving DOES NOT mean that you forget; this distinction is important.  I will remember that Emi broke my glass, but I will not dwell on it.  I will "set up boundaries" for my future special glasses, maybe put them in a shelf that Emi cannot reach.  Something terrible might have happened to you, but you can forgive and let it go.  You might not ever forget the wrong.  You will probably have to set up boundaries or fences in relationships, and you may not see or associate with someone who did the wrong to can let go of the pain, forgive, and set yourself free.      

This might take time, and that is okay.  Training yourself vs. trying to do something does take time.  If I decide tomorrow that I want to play hockey, I can try my very hardest to do won't be pretty!!!  If I started tomorrow and trained myself to play hockey, it might happen.  First, I would have to improve my ice skating abilities, then add carrying a stick while I ice skated, then practice moving the puck with the stick, and after several days, months, or maybe several years...I would start to resemble a hockey player.  Similarly, when my husband trained to run a marathon, he did not decide to do it and go out the next day and run 26.1 miles.  He started small and built up his resolve through training.  You will not be able to just go "poof...I forgive you" to someone; you'll have to train yourself.  

How many of God's special glasses have we broken? Plenty, yet He is quick to forgive us.  "O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help." Psalm 86:5  NLT  

Proverbs 17:9, "Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends."  NLT

Matthew 6:14-15, "If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins."  NLT

Mark 11:25, "But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too."  NLT

Experiment with "letting go" of hurts and brokenness.  Train yourself to forgive.  Give yourself TIME to train.  Forgiveness will free you to LIVE!!!  

If you need some other passages of scripture to look up, try these: 
Matthew 18:21-35...Luke 6:37-42...Hebrews 12:10-15...1 Timothy 4:7-9

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Acorns In My Dryer

I often hear some sort of clanking or thumping from inside my dryer...usually it is loose change from my husband's pant pockets.  You can find all kinds of interesting things in the dryer, everything from candy wrappers and frayed tissues to paperclips and hair barretts.  Sometimes, the noise turns out to be a lipgloss container somehow void of the lipgloss after its ride in the dryer.  One day was different...there were acorns in my dryer!  Acorns, those nifty seed nuts that feed the squirrels during the long winter months, were breaking free from my youngest daughter's drying clothes to take a warm, wild ride.  The first acorn I found in my dryer brought a smile to my face as I thought about that whimsical, free-spirited, red-headed, freckle-faced creature who always seemed to notice (and pick up) anything and EVERYTHING that fascinated her, including rocks...but that's another story for a different day! :)  The acorns started piling up on the top of the dryer.  I planned to return them to the yard or do something with them later on, I guess. 

One day, I noticed that the acorns were gone.  What really surprised me was that I felt a little paniced and saddened to the point where tears started to well in my eyes.  It was not really in my character to react that way, let alone because some "already misplaced" acorns were gone.  I looked beside the dryer first, then in the trashcan.  There they the trashcan.  I dug in the trashcan to find every last one of those capped nuts, and I carried them outside to the back deck and flung them out into the grass in the yard.  As I stood there, I wondered why I hadn't left them in the trashcan...really, what was the big deal? 

The big deal was that my kiddos, all three girls, are my acorns.  In a way, finding the acorns in my dryer reminded me of them...the oldest: patient, sensitive, loyal, and quietly strong...the middle: strong in every way, filled with justice, empathetic, and amazingly athletic...and the youngest: sweet, tender, feisty, and determined.  My children are the "potential trees" in my life.  I can pour life into them and nurture them, love them, admire them...and hopefully give them a warm, wild ride as they grow in character, knowledge, and love.  I feel about my girls what my youngest feels about those little acorn nuggets she plucks from the earth's floor and hides in her pocket: I want to keep them, hold onto them!

Metaphorically speaking, notice your acorns!!!!!!  Don't just leave them on the top of the dryer.  When you have children there is an unspoken mandate and unavoidable responsibility that you will spend time with them.  Time is valuable, things are not.  Things do not matter when children are grown, and relationship-building can only come through TIME.  As an adult, I do not remember what specific toys my parents got for me (except the Cabbage Patch doll named "Hildegard Cassandra").  What I remember most are the times when my dad made different voices for all the characters in my bedtime story or when my mom taught me how to make chicken soup.  I remember sitting on my bed having long talks with my mom after a date and going to the park for a picnic with my parents, sister, and brothers.  You know the quote "Love don't cost a thing"?  Well, LOVE does cost us something....our TIME. 

Appreciate your acorns before they are gone. 

"Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from Him." Psalm 127:3

Later, I found out that my husband threw the acorns away. :)  He is less analytical and much more practical than I.  :)