Thursday, September 12, 2013

It's the little things

Some days it is hard.
Some days it is easy.
Some days they are abundant and clear.
Some days they are abundant......................and ignored.

The sweet little moments in life that bring joy, peace, laughter, and happiness are there.
We just have to see them and acknowledge them.

For several months I have been trying a little experiment.  I am the only one who knows about this project...till now.  I have been trying to focus on the little things because some of the big things are so very overwhelming!   These big things are hard.  These big things are can drain the hope from us.  These big things.....

2 dear friends battling cancer.
Torn tendon surgery and recovery.
Business growth slowed because of time away for surgery.
Potential war.
Youth that are facing tough challenges.

Even writing this list...and it could be longer but this was enough....changes my mood.
Are these important things?  YES.
Are these things worthy of focus, prayer and energy?  YES.  And that will NEVER change.
Are these the things that I should focus everything on?  NO.

But I was.

Some of these things were creeping into my thoughts constantly and.....they were changing me.  And I didn't like the change.  I was no good for anyone who needed me...or myself...when I put the all my energy into dwelling about these things.

In my studio hangs a sign.  It is not a fancy sign, with a strong yet simple font that spells out a quote that I look at every day.  But one day I looked at it and decided.....not thought, pondered or considered....but decided to make it a priority to be on the lookout for the little things in my life that make me smile.

Since I am a visual gal I documented many of these on Instagram.  I didn't take pictures of ALL of the things that I noticed for several reasons.  One reason is that it is not even possible.....because some were just found in a quiet conversation or in a very public place where it would be super creepy for me to take a picture of the checkout lady in Target who smiles even when someone is rude to her!  The other reason is my daughter would tell me I was really uncool for posting too many pictures! ;)

So what caught my eye?

Here are some of the little things that I noticed.....

There is an older gentleman who works at one of the paint stores I love.  
He works hard and always has a smile for me.  
His hands remind me of my Papa.  

These are the hands of some amazingly cool high school gals who I have the privilege
 of seeing each week and walking through life with. 
 The bracelets symbolize the hope we have.  

I am not normally a big "angels" gal, but this cloud formation was stunning. 
The arms of an angel.

We don't have a dog anymore but I LOVE golden retrievers.  
This sweet gal was our house guest and the best design assistant.  

Our youngest, Noah, still holds on to his bunny.  
That bunny has been around for 8 1/2 years.
Noah...and Bunny... just pulled up a stool and chatted with me while I worked.
A quiet sweet moment.

I love color.  The beauty of it sometimes moves me significantly.
This pastel rainbow looks like a mess to most people but to me....gorgeous.

Our oldest son is in his senior year of college.  Now it was time to take our daughter.  
This was the night before we moved her into the dorm.  Her little brothers and she were looking at a menu of over 200 ice cream sundaes and shakes.  
I love how Noah couldn't stop looking at her, soaking her up while he could...
and Luke, as always, was aware of me and knew I was taking the moment in 
and checked on me with a smile.   

There are many busy days in the studio for Cellar Designs.  
But thankfully the busy-ness is done with this right outside my window.  
A new hydrangea plant blooming for the first time.  

Cancer sucks.  
(I hate that word but do allow myself to use it when describing extremely tough stuff)
This thoughtful thank you card came from a friend 
who is fighting hard against breast cancer.  
All I did was help her change the look of her blog which took all of 30 minutes!  
What I am doing is easy.  She is doing the hard stuff.  
It should be me thanking her for inspiring me. 

Sometimes it is necessary to bring my color samples to the home 
where the future sign will reside.
For me....this is like joy in a bag.  

This is the sawdust that covers our garage floor many days.  
Many people would see this and see a mess.  
I see it and clearly recognize a kind, thoughtful man who works all day 
and then comes home to cut wood for me. 
 I don't see sawdust.  I see love. 

And this last one is from today.  
As I was leaving the gym a flash of red caught my eye in a sea of green 
that has been around for months and months.  
The first sign of my favorite season.
The rich beauty of autumn is around the corner!

Focusing on the little things has brought me back to my true self.  A content gal.  
Each little thing is a gift.  
A promise.  

May you not be completely overwhelmed with the big things.
May you shift your focus to the little things.
May you acknowledge the change in yourself....whether a good one or a bad one.
May you.....
 enjoy the little things, for one day you might look back and realize 
they WERE the big things.   

Friday, August 30, 2013

2 by 2

Many of us grew up being taught the bible story of Noah's Ark.  You know.... Noah built an ark and all the creatures of the earth boarded it to avoid the flood.... two by two.  That image is always interesting to me. I am intrigued by the thought of the amazing variety of animals.

Each pair is unique to each other.
Each pair looks different but is equally beautiful.
Each pair has its own distinct identity.
Each pair has its own personality.
Each pair has different needs.
Each pair is extraordinary.

Craig and I...and others....have often used the Noah's Ark pairings analogy when talking about our 4 kids. We like to say we have 2 sets of kids.  The older two and the younger two.  
We have Zack, Taylor, Luke and Noah.  There is a 6 year gap between Taylor and Luke.  It took us a long time and some efforts to become pregnant with Luke.  Then a few years later we got the surprise gift of a red-headed boy.  
So, right now we have a set of children who are in college and a set who are not.  We have a set of kiddos that are independent of us and a set that is not.  We have a set of kids that have moved out of our house and one that still hangs with us here.   

Each pair is unique to each other.
Each pair looks different but is equally beautiful.
Each pair has its own distinct identity.
Each pair has its own personality.
Each pair has different needs.
Each pair is extraordinary.

But there is another pair in this whole situation that gets ignored sometimes....the parents.      
Craig and I are a set.  We boarded that "ark" together long ago.  We do not look alike, act alike or, most times, think alike.  But we are a pair, a set, a combo, a team, a couple....  And also, at the same time, we are one single parenting unit with our own individual set of attributes, behaviors and approach to life and its events.  Our kids know us as "their parents".  So I could look at us as one pair of animals.... but sometimes I see us as two.  

We, by nature, have become 2 sets of parents.  The parents of the older set and parents of the younger set.  We have parented each pair of kiddos differently.  
(All you oldest siblings out included...can now be get ready to say "Yes, I knew it!  You DO treat the youngest differently!  See!?  It ISN'T fair!  I knew I was right!".  And you youngest can say "Yes, I knew it!  I totally saw how you were with my older sibling and I was able to do things differently and get away with MUCH more!".  Simmer down people.  This is always going to be true.  This is never going to change.  Get over it. )
We parented... 2 by 2.
We made mistakes... 2 by 2. 
We learned... 2 by 2.
We grew... 2 by 2.

The first set of kids had parents who were cautious, over-analytical, too protective, unsure, eager, wanting to succeed, young, energetic and very, VERY green.  We had NO idea what we were doing.  We compared ourselves to other parents and always seemed to fall short.  We were a hot mess. I remember walking the halls of our little house in the middle of the night with a colicky Zachary.  He wouldn't stop crying.....for anything!  We could do nothing but felt we should know what to do.  We took the inability to console him and quiet him as a failure.  It was like we thought we were terrible parents because we were unable to know instantly and easily the answer to something parents have struggled with for HUNDREDS of years.  We took it out on each other.  We were so naive.  We were new parents.  

The second set of kids had parents who were more mellow, perceptive, watchful but not hovering, more confident, older, relaxed(somewhat!) and very, VERY seasoned.  We had a better idea of how to do this parenting gig.  We weren't comparing ourselves to other parents.  This time around we let the baby cry in the middle of the night, just going in every 5 minutes or so to pat him on the back, reassure him we were there and he was loved and then LEFT THE ROOM.  That was unheard of, for me especially, the first time around!  We helped and supported each other.  We were experienced.  We were wiser parents.

Last night was "Meet the Teacher" night at our youngest's school.  Afterwards I was thinking about all the differences between that night LONG ago with Zack and Noah's. 
Zack's: Craig and I both went. Craig got off work early, stressing himself out and probably frustrating a boss who didn't understand so he could be there to meet the teacher.
Noah's: Craig had taken a longer-than-normal lunch to come and have lunch with his parents who were passing through on the first leg of a fun trip.  So he couldn't get off early.  He had a job to do and knew that when weighing things and prioritizing it was more important to spend time with family than meet a teacher for 3 minutes who he will meet many times throughout the year.

Zack's: I packed his new backpack with all the supplies.  I crossed things off the list as I put them in (probably in color order!  Sheesh!).  He had everything the teacher had asked for and all in order in his desk because I put them in there.  I made him dress in khaki shorts and a polo-like shirt. I combed his hair and ran a cloth over his face to make sure his ketchup from lunch wasn't the first thing the teacher saw.  
Noah's: He packed a cloth grocery bag with all his supplies.  He crossed things off his list as he shoved them in the bag (and not at all in any beautiful color order!).  He didn't have everything as he had forgotten his sketch book back on the dining room table...and that is ok.  He arranged his desk in his own way and I told him it looked awesome....even if it was not AT ALL what I would have done.  He wore what he had on that entire day while playing outside.  His tshirt had a picture of hamburger talking to a hot dog and the text bubble says "'Sup Dawg?".  Oh my.  His face?  No ketchup...but I noticed a bit of chocolate at the corner of his mouth.... after we left.  Oh FOR THE LOVE.......!

Zack's: I asked the teacher a ton of questions.  I wanted to know things that would help me assess if she was going to academically challenge Zack.  I wanted the teacher that all the other moms said was the best and was looking for verification of that.
Noah's: I talked to the teacher...woman to woman.  I asked about her oldest son who she had just dropped off at college THAT SAME DAY!  I asked how he was doing....but, more importantly, how she was doing.  I listened as she talked to Noah and loved that she wasn't chatting with him about what they were going to learn, but instead about how he could always come to her if he was having a problem.  She wanted to hear from him and help him with everything.  I trusted my own opinion and not that of other moms.  I was confident that since she was a teacher at this amazing school that the academics were exceptional.  I cared more about the heart and character of the person who would be with him more hours than I would be for the next 9 months.  

We are doing this parenting thing differently.  Not better.  Just different.  

Our older 2 children are fantastic, healthy, independent, happy, confident, responsible, capable and loving people.  We are proud of how we parented them and even prouder of them! 
Our younger 2 children are fantastic, healthy, independent, happy, confident, responsible, capable and loving people.  We are proud of how we are parenting them and even prouder of them!
How in the world can parents who do things VERY differently for each set have kids that turn out the same???  It is because there are a few things that didn't change in our parenting style.

Each set were taught that:
they are privileged...not entitled.
they must be kind to each other and all people.
we loved them unconditionally.
we had expectations of them to work hard, be respectful and love others.
that they could do anything if they just tried.
they couldn't quit anything they started.
they were created for a great purpose.
they were imperfectly amazing.
God loves them.

Those things are the common thread that binds together the first set of parents with the second set of parents.  They are the foundation.  They are the glue.  They are everything.

So do we wish we did things differently 20 years ago?  YEP.  Do we wish we did something differently yesterday?  YEP.   The difference is that we know that if we have the foundational things working somewhat well that all the others things will iron themselves out.

May you enjoy the beauty of each pair boarding the Ark.
May you give yourselves a break.
May you figure out what are your foundational things.
May you keep your eye on those things and not others.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Orange Barrels, Flashing Arrows & Distracted Driving

Dear Shiny Black Kia Optima Driver,
I have been thinking about you for a few weeks now.  I can't seem to get you out of my mind.  So, I am writing you to let you know I am concerned about you and the people around you while you drive.
My daughter and I were driving through the Appleton, WI area on our way back home from family vacation in beautiful Door County.  We were on US 41 traveling on a stretch of 6 lane highway.  We were clipping along at 72 (the mythically known "only 7 over the speed limit so you don't get a ticket"). 
You were ahead of us in the far left lane.  There had been signs for at least 2 miles saying that your lane would close and merge ahead.  Then there were large yellow flashing arrow signs telling you to GET OVER SOON!  I watched as you drove faster and faster and didn't seem to care about the signs or arrows.  As you got closer to the orange and white barrels you showed no signs of wanting to get over to the next lane.  

Meanwhile.... in the lane next to you there were 2 vehicles.  One was a dark brown deliver truck with an open back that was covered by a heavy curtain.  It looked like a landscaping truck possibly filled with plants for a big project.  The other car was a silver Dodge Caravan.  It had several stickers on the back window that I couldn't see clearly because we were back a bit and one lane over.  
So back to the orange barrels... You seemed to be one of those crazy drivers that wants to see how far they can go before absolutely having to merge.  At the very last possible second your brake lights lit up and you swerved wildly into the lane next to you.  
You almost hit the back of the delivery truck and the minivan had to slam on its brakes to avoid hitting you.
You magically avoided a big accident.  I was unnerved.  I was pretty vocal in the car (ask my daughter..she will tell you I had a few things to say!).  I was irritated that you were that arrogant of a driver to be that reckless, selfish and unsafe to want to drive like that. 
But then I passed you.
You had both hands not on the wheel.  They were...
BOTH hands. 

And to make it worse....your eyes were...
You didn't look up at the road the entire time I was passing you!

A few minutes later you passed me.  Same thing.  Head down.  Both hands on your phone and typing away.
Just for good measure, and in hopes of it only being a 2 time thing, I passed you again.  As we passed you for the 3rd time you were again looking at your phone, one hand holding the phone and the other scrolling the screen.  My daughter piped in with the comments and said "Hey there...checking Twitter can wait!".  
Now I totally get the magnetic pull of our smart phones.  I understand, and live with, the addiction to a iPhone.  When I hear that magical "ba-bing" it is VERY hard not to look at the phone to see who has texted me.  I get it.  But the 2 times I have texted while driving were enough to scare me to death.  It is not worth it to look down for a few seconds.  
But you were more than a few seconds with your eyes off the road.  Way more. 

What I thought was arrogance was just plain old stupidity!
Unbelievable.  You could have easily hurt or killed many people that day.  Have you ever thought of that?  Who would you have hurt that day? 

The delivery truck driver.  I never saw the driver but I picture him being a young guy in his late 20s who works very hard every day hauling plants, digging landscapes in the heat of the sun.  I bet he goes home after a 10 hour day to a wife and small child.  That day he might not have come home to them.... all because you had to check an email.
The minivan driver.  It was a couple in their 60s.  I imagine that they were going on a trip to see their grandchildren.  They were just enjoying retirement and had hopes of many years of memory making with family and friends.  They might not have been able to make those memories....all because you had to check Twitter.
Me.  I am a wife and mom of 4 kids.  I own a business.  I love people, am passionate about sports, am happiest when being creative and love God with all my heart.  I have lots of things I still want to do here on earth.  And mister, you almost robbed me of more time with the people I love and not getting to zip line (a bucket list item).....all because you had to check Facebook.
My daughter.  Now you are in big trouble Mr. Shiny Black Kia Optima!  This girl is so important to me.  She has just graduated from high school and is heading off to college in August.  She is giddy with excitement!  She is going to study Elementary Education specializing in Special Education.  She had a whole big future ahead of her.  If you had hurt or killed her that day you would have taken a beautiful light from this earth......all because you had to see that SnapChat.

And yes........ you.
I haven't met you but I am betting you have a mom and dad who love you.  I bet you have friends who care about you.  I bet you have co-workers who think highly of you.  You are probably an amazing man.  You might even have children of your own.  You would have robbed the world and your loved ones of time with you.........all because you had to text.
In closing I just want to implore you to put your phone down while you are driving.  Is any of the stuff you were looking at, typing about, scrolling through worth dying for?  Is knowing the very latest tweets by the 742 people you follow as important as the 28 orange barrels and flashing arrow signs on the road?  So please, please, please.... for the love of the delivery truck driver, the retired minivan driving couple, me and my beautiful daughter.... stop looking down at your phone and look up at the road.

With great concern (and a bit of anger),
Not-so-shiny Silver Honda Odyssey Driver

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Invisible Staircase

 "Faith is taking the first step,
 even when you don't see the whole staircase."
~Martin Luther King, Jr. 

I have been wearing a boot since October.  

Not a cute boot, a sexy leather boot, a hiking boot or a snow boot.  
Nope......instead an ugly, gray air cast boot.
I tore a tendon in my ankle and ended up needing surgery to repair it.  After the surgery they took the boot away!  But only to put on a cast.  Then the boot back again.   Sigh. 

Yesterday was a LONG time coming.  
I heard the words "You can wear shoes and walk today"!!

I was, admittedly, nervous taking those first real steps.  Before, all I had done in the shoes, is to stand firmly and transfer weight back and forth...but no steps.   So, yesterday, at physical therapy I was a bit anxious to take a real step.  

Was it going to hurt?
Would my ankle be strong enough?
Would I have a limp?
Could I re-injur it?
How can I find cute summer sandals with orthotics?  (Ok, I digress but I did seriously think it!)

I needed to have faith.  I needed to believe that the surgeon did a stellar job.  I needed to have confidence in my therapist to know when I was ready.  I needed to have faith.

I needed to take my first step even though I didn't have the view of the whole staircase....
and I did.  

It was energizing.
It was scary.
It was exciting.
It was fantastic.
It was a relief.

This morning I flung open the french doors of Cellar Designs' studio, sat down, laced up my new bright tangerine shoes with great arch support and took a deep breath...............
and prayed a prayer of gratitude. 

It is a it is time for GratiTUESday!  

Today I am grateful:
1. for the faith to take the first step.
2. for the strength to keep walking.
3. to God for helping me to trust in the invisible staircase.

May you be willing to fling open your doors.
May you be ready to lace up your shoes.
May you have the faith to take your first step.
May you see the staircase through the eyes of trust.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Chicken Coops & Flying Kites

Last fall I woke up one morning and it hurt like heck to walk.  What in the world had I done to my right foot?!  I mentally went through my previous day..... but, as usual, my memory is terrible and couldn't remember doing anything to it.  I figured I must have turned it on a curb or something.  I, being the internet-educated medical wanna-be professional that I am,  diagnosed myself with a slightly sprained ankle.  Wrong.

A month went by of me walking with pain before I wised up and went to the doctor.  After some testing the real professional diagnosed me with a torn tendon in my foot.
Really?!  Are you kidding me?  Ugh.  Eye roll.

Deep sigh.

What good can come from this?!

So after almost 5 months of walking in a big, ugly gray boot I had surgery to repair the tendon.
What was ahead?  Crutches, a roller aid cart called Nellie (as in "Whoooaaa Nellie!), medications, pillows for elevating and my tuckus on the couch almost constantly.
Lost freedom.  Inside my house.  Always.  Totally cooped up.

More deep {aggravated} sighs.

Chicken coops are a necessary thing.  They normally have an enclosed space for protection from storms, heat and rain.  They also have an area that is covered by wire fencing so that the chickens can get outside and strut and feel the sunshine.  Inside that enclosed space they have perches where the lady chick can sit on the hay, rest and lay her eggs.

Chicken coops are also a maddening punishment.  These birds don't want to be closed in.  They don't want to feel trapped.  They want to fly.  Things must seem right outside of their reach.

I have been in a bit of a chicken coop for the awhile.  Physically...and mentally.

I have sat on my "perch", the loveseat, in our family room, with my foot elevated on pillows for what seems like FOREVER.  I can't bear weight on my foot so any movement in the house is done on Nellie or crutches.  I can't drive since this is my right foot.  I have been going stir crazy.  Life seemed to have been just outside of my reach. be honest... I have felt pretty stinkin' down.

What good can come from this?!

Let me switch channels for a moment.........

Yesterday, there was a knock on my door.  It was my sweet next door neighbor.  She came over to tell me that her son, Eli, had asked if I could come out to see him fly his kite.  Ok, melt my heart, right?!?  Eli is 4 and has a very sly, up-to-something grin that makes me giggle every time I see it.  How sweet of him to want me to come out!  So, I crutched out onto my front porch and watched from the porch perch as he and his mom flew his kite.

She would hold it up for him.  They would wait for a gust of wind.  Then she would say "GO!" and Eli would start running.  Up went the kite.  He kept running, looking ahead of him and his was like an explosion of joy on his face!

But when he was looking forward he didn't see that the kite had fallen to the ground.  He didn't notice that he was dragging it.  He didn't notice that the kite was about to break.  The thought of that made the smile go away... for a moment.

Luckily his mom saw and told him "Stop Eli.  Stop running.  Sometimes it is best to stand still once the kite is up in the sky.  Let the wind hold it up.  Watch the kite."

He was running so fast that he missed seeing the beauty of the kite flying in the sunny sky.


What good can come from this?

If I can't learn a lesson from things in life then I am my own worst enemy.  I have been looking for the lesson that I think God is teaching me in this chicken coop phase....
and I think Eli helped me see exactly what it is.

I have been running very fast.
I have been looking ahead.
I have not stood still.
I have not stopped to let the wind carry me.
I have not watched the kite fly.

Life has been wonderful with the advent of Cellar Designs.  It has been exciting, renewing, creative, overwhelming and satisfying.  But it has its drawbacks too.  I haven't been as focused on my marriage, my family and myself as I had been in the past.  I was trying, but probably not doing a bang up job, of balancing my new business and the most important things in my life.

So, with new eyes, I am looking at the the time in the chicken coop.
Here are some of the things I see today:

A husband who is incredibly kind & loving.  A man who props up my foot, gets drugs for me, helps me to wrap my foot for my first shower on one leg, does the dishes, drives the boys to their activities, worries about me, listens to me.... and loves me.

A mom who spent every day for several weeks helping me.  Talk about role reversal.  It should be me taking care of her one day!  She did our laundry, cleaned, cooked, watched Downton Abbey with me, worked crosswords with me on the perch, sprung me from the coop for a lunch outing, drove me to my doctor's appt, picked up kids from school, laughed with me.... and loves me.

A daughter who helps out more than most 17 year olds ever would.  Taylor comes home during a lunch hour from school and watches Smash with me, teases me about my short eyelashes, helps with her younger brothers, sticks her cold toes under my perched tuckus to warm them, tries to rub the knots out of my neck that have come from turning my neck to watch HGTV all day, talks about college decisions with me in my coop, giggles with me.... and loves me.

Three sons who are incredibly sweet to their momma.  They all have been so good to me.  Noah snuggles with me on the perch, shares his highs and lows of his day with me after school, brings me things from the kitchen and tells me that he loves me "mosterest".  Luke watches Sportcenter with me, makes sure my towels and stool is set in the shower for me before he heads to school, is careful of my foot hanging off the back of Nellie when zooming around the kitchen island, smiles with his eyes and loves me.  Zack is concerned from afar as a college guy, brings me some goodies, drives me to a parent teacher conference, shares life stuff with me.... and loves me.

Amazing friends & family who care about me.  They bring me meals, flowers, stay to chat, send notes, take me out of the house, call to check on me, come to play cards, pray for me.... and love me.

A church community that in unbelieveabely inspiring.  It leaders teach me, the fellow leaders encourage me with their selfless service, the youth constantly impress me with their ideas and care for others.  My church love me...but...more importantly, loves others more.

My God is overwhelmingly loving and full of grace.  He holds up my kite and says "GO!".
He provides the wind that keeps my kite afloat.   He nudges me to stand still even when I don't listen.  He takes the ability for me to run (by way of a torn tendon) so I would not allow my kite to break on the ground.  He provides a perch for me to sit up on so that my few is on what is close up and right in front of me.   He LOVES me.

He found a way to teach this stubborn Irish gal a lesson.  I see that.  I am grateful.

I need to stop running with my eyes fixed forward, smiling but not seeing that the kite might have started to drag and break.

Instead, I need to see the kite flying up in the beautiful, sun-drenched sky from this view and thoroughly enjoy it and realize its beauty.

What good can come from this?!
Plenty.  An abundance.  Oodles.

Deep {happy} sigh.

May you stand still.
May you let the wind sail your kite.
May you keep your eyes focused on the beauty of that kite soaring.
May you learn to love the chicken coop and savor the kite flying.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Listen To The Tone

This blog entry is a tough one.

This blog entry requires me to be brave, authentic and open........
You see, it is clear from the news feed on Facebook yesterday and today, that I am surrounded by differing opinions.  Our country is, once again, divided on a very volatile issue.  I have opinions.  I have thoughts.  But do I share them?  Usually my answer is no...... but today it is a yes...sort of.

This blog entry asks for the reader to be understanding, show kindness and a willingness to read with tone of love that is intended.
You see, it is clear from the news feed on Facebook that everyone is not doing this.  People, who are normally loving wonderful people, are posting things that are rude, antagonistic and do nothing but create a culture of hate and divide.

Why do people feel that it is necessary when stating their opinion to not include basic kindness and love?

Why do people think it is acceptable to dishonor a human being when stating their thoughts on an issue?

Why do many believe it is decent to say things in a social media post that they would never say to a person's face?

Yesterday and today my feed has been filled with some pretty ugly stuff on both sides of the marriage equality issue.  It makes me so very sad.  These are people who are loving and kind most of the time.  But give them the shield of social media's false anonymity and they resort to mean, unkind words.

I thoroughly respect, and would fight for, each person's right to say what they feel.  BUT....
Can't it be done with love and respect?
Can't we have conversations that are open, honest and are full of understanding and mutual care?
Can't we listen to each other like we would if it was our own daughter or father?

You see I think that is the main problem.  We all have taken the human factor out of our disagreements.  We all have forgotten that the person with a different view of us has a family, loves someone and is loved by someone.  Would you say things differently if you were talking face to face with your child?

I normally don't post political things on the social media.  I tend to shy away from that.  Not because I don't have strong opinions, but because I am truly afraid it will not be read with the tone that I hear it in as I write it.  So I thought I would try it here.... in a bit of an unusual way.

Listen carefully.

(Said with a hushed, soft, loving tone)
I believe firmly in the separation of church and state.
I do not want my government to create laws, like one that would tell me that I have to have an abortion after a certain number of children, when my personal, faith-based beliefs would not want to do that.
I would never, ever (tone gets even more quiet and caring here folks) want to have that government create laws that made other people do things that were against their beliefs.

(Said with an understanding look in my eyes and fixed on the eyes of the person who I am talking to)
I know of many people who felt one way about an issue until it became personal.
I know of many people who didn't support marriage equality until their child wanted to marry someone of the same sex.
I believe that if one of my children told me they were gay that I would love them the same and want them to have a long, faithful loving relationship.

(Said with open hands and not clenched fist)
I respect your thoughts on this issue and others.
I wish that you would return the favor and respect mine.
I might make a different decision as you and I hope you are understanding of that right.

(Said with the caring tones of sensitivity, true affection and esteem)
I ask that we all listen to each other.
I implore us all to look at the opposing view with the love we should show.
I beg us all to think about the other person and who they love and who loves them. that part from earlier about me sharing my thoughts on this issue?  Here you go...

(Said with a touch of nervousness, a load of confidence and a bucket of hopeful anticipation)
I love God.
I love others.
I love I am called to do.

That is what leads my heart on these issues.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Light Bulb

This whole week I have shared my thoughts about how people shine their lights to this world.  I was honored to have 2 very special guest bloggers for the first time!  I have loved this week on the blog.

But it has been hard to figure out how I want to close it up.  How can I possibly wrap up all these amazing people's stories in one sweet conclusion package?  How can I sum up what it has meant.  How can I finish this series?

So.... I won't.

I will continue to, over the years, write about people who...
inspire me.
change me.
encourage me.
motivate me.
bless me.

But what for today?

Instead of finishing the series I am going to put myself out there a bit.  I am going to tell you a bit about me and my light.

I am sure (and know for a fact) that some people think I am a bit Pollyanna-ish.  It used to hurt my feelings a bit and confuse me.  Why would anyone want to criticize or put down someone because they try to be positive?  It boggles my mind.  Aren't there enough negative people out there?

But they, clearly, don't know me well.  I have not always been this content and hopeful.

Long ago, when I was younger, something happened in my life.  Something bad.  There are only a couple of handfuls of people on earth that know what happened.  My husband, family, close friends and now even my high school home group girls.  I trust them all.  But I didn't always trust so well.

What exactly happened doesn't matter.  What does matter, however, is that afterwards I was not the same.

I was changed.
I was fearful.
I didn't trust.
I was not positive.
I was not Pollyanna-ish.  At all.

It was like I was a light bulb whose filament had broken.  My light had be destroyed and there was no chance of repair.  I am pretty sure I was one of those milky white 25 watt incandescent bulbs.  You know the ones?  When it goes out you can't see that the filament has broken, it looks the same on the outside.  You have to shake it up to hear the damage.
I may have been smiling on the outside but not so much on the inside.

Sure I could just replace the light bulb but it wasn't the same.  It was like the wiring from the switch to the light had been messed with.  I took it out on my body and ate my way through the pain...for decades.

What changed?  What happened to change me from that broken bulb to the gal I am today?
I figured out where the glitch was.

The glitch was me.

I was focused on the broken filament.
I was focused on the faulty wiring.
I was focused on the bad stuff.
I thought I was a broken, faulty, big old mess.

So I chose a new light bulb.  I became an Edison light bulb.  They have clear glass, able for someone to see through to all of the inner workings.  The filaments are twisted and imperfect, but when the power switch is turned on they are artistic, inspiring and bright.  How did I do this?

I changed my focus.

I focused on being a new light bulb.
I focused on being fitted with new wires.
I focused on the good stuff.
I focused on the fact that I was still a mess...and that was a good thing!
I focused on what I had to be grateful for.
And......most importantly....I focused on who I was grateful to.


He is the power source for my light.
My light is a reflection of his love for me.
I am Pollyanna-ish because of him.

I intend on always being a content, happy gal who, to be honest,
just simply loves a not-so-simple God.

No perfection.  No apologies.  No regrets.  No broken light bulbs.

May you look at yourself as a new bulb.
May you focus on the source of your light.
May you be content and positive.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Shooting Star

I have never been lucky enough to see a shooting star in person.  I have seen them in photos, in movies and on greeting cards.  People who do get to see one report how incredibly amazing it was to see, how fast it flew through the sky and how bright a fiery blaze it was.  Oh, how I wish I had ever seen one........

Or....maybe I have.

Today, in the "Let Your Light Shine" series I want to introduce another guest blogger!  
Ashley is one of the newest members of my big old Irish brood of a family.  No, she isn't a little baby who has just been born and no, she isn't a new bride who has just married a family member.  She is my new of oodles!  Ashley and her 3 sisters Natalie, Stephanie and Leah, along with their mom, Mary Jo,  were the newest people crazy enough to want to be a part of our family a few years ago......and we are all blessed by them. 

They are brave.  
They are strong.  
They are resilient.
They are compassionate.
They are beautiful.

I know all of these because shortly after they joined our family, they suffered a huge loss and showed us these characteristics in how they lived through it...and still are.   

One cold February night in 2010 Leah and Natalie were traveling home from spending the day cheering on their high school's boys swimming team at the state competition.  The roads slowly became not the best of traveling conditions and they were in a car accident.  Ashley's sister, Natalie Kate Bolin, passed away that night in the accident. 

Today, almost 3 years later, Ashley has written down her thoughts about Natalie and the light she still shines.  

Dear Natalie,

Sometimes I cannot help but wonder about the beautiful woman you would have become, the experiences you didn’t get the chance to have, and the life you would have lived whole-heartedly. For a moment I pretend your life on Earth didn’t end on that dark February night in 2010 and I see you graduating from high school, finding your own college, growing up and living your dreams. Although I thought we would have our entire lives to laugh, grow and be together, I know that someone else had a greater plan for you. Despite the fact that you are not here in person, you continue to live on in the hearts and lives of your friends, family and people who never had the chance to know you. You have shown us the power of bringing people together, the magic of smiles and laughter, and the joy of life. You are the light that saved us in the heart of our greatest sorrow. You have always been my sister, soul mate, and best friend, but now you are the shining star that guides me each day of my life.

While your death was a turning point in the lives of many, we refused to let it be the defining moment. From the very moments after the accident we knew life had to go on: for Leah and the other girls recovering in the hospital, to keep your spirit alive and for each other. As difficult as it was to move forward, we were able to do it because of you.

Throughout your life you approached every situation with a smile; you were and still are our bright shining star, our Natalie. In the midst of our darkness you reminded us that the light hadn’t burned out, we had only lost our way. As your star continued to brilliantly shine, you gave us strength to find our own light. You provided the opportunity for our beam of life to burn even brighter. We realized the only way to move forward after losing you was to live as you would have lived; to hold our loved ones tighter, count our blessings every day and focus on spreading your contagious, happy light of life that we love so much.

For every day that I don’t get to spend with you, you inspire me to do my best and remind me that every day is a precious gift. Your beautiful smile is a daily reminder for us all to do the same. For the last three years the Natalie Kate Memorial swim camp has been bringing people together while creating special bonds and lasting friendships. Instead of recognizing the anniversary of your death, we celebrate your birthday with a blood drive, a birthday swim and a Swedish pancake breakfast. You remind us that the sun will rise as we wear your favorite color, purple. Your spirit has taught us that love, laughter and faith are the only answers for all the pain; you have helped us transform the darkness into light and hope.

Even on the hardest days you give us the strength to keep on shining. We remember how lucky we are to have you in our lives and know you are always with us. When I left for college the first time in 2008 you sent me a card that said “I love you with all my heart and that will never change. Stay strong and call me whenever you’d like”. Underneath your words you drew a shooting star. While I would give anything to be able to make that phone call right now, I can’t help but smile every time I read the card. You are my hope when I am defeated, you are my light in the darkness and you are my shooting star for the rest of time.

While tragedy and heartache are never someone’s chosen path, sometimes going through those struggles is exactly what we need to grow, learn and come out even stronger. We can’t change the past and we can’t control the future, but we have power over our reaction and approach to life. We can’t stop the darkness from happening, but when we make our way out of the depths and find life, we create a light that is beautiful, unique and everlasting.

Thank you Nat, you have given us an incredible gift that can never be repaid. You have given us hope and guidance, reminded us to smile and shown us how to find our light.

Your star lights the whole sky.

With all my heart,

Here's the thing about shooting stars.  When you see them with the human eye, they only last for a short time, are very bright and make you gasp at the breath-taking beauty.  That sounds like what Natalie did for so many.

But.......if a photographer taking the picture of that same shooting star were to slow the shutter speed so that the lens is open much longer the shooting star looks much different.  It looks like this.....

This shooting star's light remained in the sky for a long time.  This shooting star's light changed colors across the skyline.  This shooting star's fiery tail stayed bright. 

I didn't know Natalie long or very well at all.  But I am blessed to be getting to know her extraordinary mom and sisters better all the time.  I am inspired by the love they have for each other and people around them.  I am encouraged by their strength to carry on when that is most difficult.  I am moved by their compassionate natures that motivates them to help others in Natalie's name.  

I think that Natalie's light is definitely a shooting star.  But not that one that we human's can see.  She is the one that God sees, with His lens pulled back and open for longer than we are able to.  

She is a beautiful enduring light.
She is a fiery far-reaching blaze.
She is a light that remains in the sky lighting the way for all to see.

May you recognize the shooting stars in your life.
May you write a letter to them today.
May you be grateful for the lights that light your way.