The Tribe Jayhawk

Still smiling, heart bursting, always a proud Jayhawk!

The Kansas Jayhawks lost the 2012 NCAA Championship game 67-59 on Monday night, but for so many the sting of defeat is already gone.  Maybe I’m speaking for myself, but I sense something different in the Jayhawk nation…something that I hope lasts for a really long time.  I’m talking about gratitude.  You see my alma mater has had a little problem in the past.  Believe it or not, people actually think KU fans are “arrogant” and “haughty”.  Some have even called us “snobby” (and these are the so-called nice comments from people I know and like–you can imagine some of the other names that get bounced around in less polite company!)

I’ll admit, we’ve been spoiled in the past.  Filled with expectations and on occasion, “hard” on our team.  However, this year fans watched, rallied and cheered on a team that was highly questionable compared to past teams and the season was initially dubbed a “rebuilding” year.  Nevertheless, the Jayhawk faithful rearranged their schedules to watch games, purchased additional cable/satellite packages to see them play on networks like ESPNU and donned their KU garb to support the team.  And something wonderful happened…we WON!  And we kept winning–games that polls, commentators, and basketball insiders said the Jayhawks couldn’t win.  That’s when the fun really started!  Around town, at work, in schools, and even before morning worship on Sundays, fans were talking about this unbelievable team.  We were bonding over the near heart attacks and close calls.  We were beaming at Thomas Robinson’s amazing season.  We were marveling at the transformed Jeff Withey who showed up to play this year (thank you Danny Manning and Andrea Hudy!)  We were developing an affection for Tyshawn Taylor during BOTH his ups and his downs.  KU fans were making room in their hearts for less familiar faces on the court–Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, Kevin Young and many others.  Basketball fans were (re)discovering this team.  We were falling in love all over again with the Jayhawks…and isn’t that how love happens…when you least expect it!

The thing I have enjoyed the most has been the “love fest” we saw among fans during the NCAA tournament.  In some ways, the tournament was like undertaking a strenuous new exercise program.  There were heart bursting moments, heart attack inducing first halves, heart warming game finishes and ultimately a heartbreaking loss.  It was a real workout!  And post game, the sentiment that ran through everyone from the coach and players, to alumni and fans was true gratitude.  Coach Self gushed about his team and the love he has for each member.  The players spoke of each other like family (not just family, but a family that actually loves each other.)  Sports writers went on and on about how this season exceeded the expectations of so many.  And everybody talked about gratitude.  Gratitude for the effort the team put into the game, gratitude for the talent of the coach and coaching staff and gratitude for the overall “ride.”  This is not a “cinderella” story, the history of the KU basketball program is anything but that.  This is a story of finding $20 dollars in your pocket–you didn’t expect it, you don’t deserve it, you don’t know where it came from or why, but, man, isn’t it AWESOME?  What an amazing season…and just like that it’s all over.

Some people will read this and think I’m going over the top (and those who know me well, know that I’m known for such things.)  Still the whole experience reminds me of something I read once about tribal affiliation.  Many think that tribes are part of the past.  We’re civilized now, right?.  Advanced even.  Yet our thinking, our brain wiring retains some ties to ancient society  Years ago our survival depended upon being part of a tribe.  The tribe was our family.  It was a source of pride.  People were grateful for their tribe.  Nowadays, people equate tribes with regions of the country, brand loyalty, and of course, sport team affiliations.  Today’s tribalism is a source of social recognition, socialization and symbolism.  For myself, being a Jayhawk is not just about belonging to the tribe of my family (yes, we’re ALL Jayhawk fans!), but it’s a reminder of my personal opportunity to grow in education and life knowledge.  The time that I spent in Lawrence taught me so much about who I am and what I believe.  It prepared me for so many different experiences.  It opened doors and took me places that I couldn’t have imagined.  I’m part of the Tribe Jayhawk.  And so here’s where my personal gratitude to a school that I love comes full circle with the gratitude that I feel has infiltrated the hearts of so many Jayhawk basketball fans this season.

In this life, nothing is promised.  In the big scheme of things, college basketball (and sports in general) are like the wind—fleeting.  So when you have the opportunity to see gratitude (even if it’s in something as commonplace as sports), I hope that you’ll recognize it.  More than that I hope you make gratitude part of your every day life.  Nothing makes my heart sing like seeing those around me recognize the blessings in their lives–they are abundant if you just take a moment to look for them.

I don’t know what next’s year basketball season will be like.  Early reports show that the Jayhawks will have a good team.  I know that there are many fans who EXPECT the KU basketball team to be top-rated every year.  Regardless of early predictions, I hope that we will remember this season–and the spirit of gratitude that it brought with it!  A gratitude that made the Jayhawks a better team and the rest of us better fans.

Still smiling, heart bursting, always a proud and grateful Jayhawk!

The Birthday Sister

My Mom used to dress my sister and I up in the same outfits.  This looks cute on twins, but when you’re four years apart one of you is bound to look WRONG!  Case in point, a twelve-year-old in footie-pajamas and an infant wearing a belt.  Okay, it wasn’t quite that ridiculous, but it was pretty close. 

Today is my little sister’s birthday.  Whenever I think about her a few things (other than our wacky forced wardrobes) come to mind.  First, I think about how blessed we are that we did not grow up fighting.  I’m sure that we had our squabbles and  a few tiffs come to mind, but nothing major.  The lack of fighting left room for laughter and lots of good times.  I remember sharing a bedroom and staying up talking and telling stories.  One Christmas season we decided to change our pre-bedtime ritual into a singing contest.  We would each pick a favorite Christmas song and start singing it at the same time.  Whoever could get the other sister to start singing their song first was the winner.  It was a lot of fun and I have to admit that as the older sister I had the advantage.  You see, at the time my little sister only knew two songs all the way through–Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.  She always sang one and if I sang the other and sang loud enough she would always end up joining in.  Before you start thinking I’m the bad guy, I must confess that it took me several nights of singing “complicated” songs like the Twelve Days of Christmas before I finally realized I could save myself a lot of breath and time by simply singing one of her faves.

We did all the fun things sisters do, like playing dolls, playing house, playing Barbies (which is like dolls, but different), playing store, playing school and even playing adoption agency!  I know what you’re thinking, “WHO plays adoption agency?”  But you should keep in mind that it was at the height of the Cabbage Patch Kid rage thus adoption agency makes perfect sense.  Speaking of Cabbage Patch Kids…boy did we LOVE those dolls!  I remember when we got them for Christmas.  My Mom could only snag boy Cabbage Patch Dolls (the height of the rage remember) so my sister ended up with Ramsey and I had Peyton.  Hers came in a cute little non-gender outfit with short curly hair and, after attaching a hairbow, she immediately reassigned Ramsey’s gender and he became a she.  I on the other hand, felt obligated to keep Peyton a boy–after all he came in a sporty little blue and white sweatpant suit and was bald.  Nonetheless, we loved those dolls and took them everywhere.  In the winter we bundled them up in blankets and carried them around like real babies, in warmer weather they could be found tagging along to Grandma’s, the grocery store, etc… like real babies.

If you asked my Mom to share some of her favorite memories, I wonder if she would remember the time we were playing “K-Mart.”  Yes, we weren’t just playing store on that particular afternoon, we were playing “K-Mart.”  And when you play K-mart you must have layaway and of course, blue light specials.  We arranged the living room, and calculator in hand, we took turns being the shopper and the cashier.  We tape recorded the specials (trying to make our voices sound like the coolio K-Mart managers) and played them back all afternoon.  Oh, those were the days.  Purses full of fake money and the ability to “purchase” things we already owned.  We sure knew how to have fun!

In many ways my sister and I are very different.  She has loads of dark, curly hair and I have loads of lighter, straight-ish hair (that’s code for boring and constantly permed!)  For a little sister she ended up taller than me (a family curse where the eldest daughter ends up the smallest in the bunch.)  She has always had perfect teeth and long, slender fingers which I always envied.  She’ll pay money to see a scary movie and I have to turn the channel when a horror pic trailer makes its way onto a TV screen.  She truly LOVES children whereas I would say that I like most kids.  She is the favorite aunt, hip to all the new fashion trends, music and kid-slang and I’m the aunt who you’re not sure if you want to show up at your graduation (can you say group t-shirts and caricature signs!)

We’re also similar in my ways.  We both love comedies, Mexican food, the Donna Reed Show and to shop.  It’s funny how we’ll like the same scent of perfume without consulting one another.  We both try to “lay low” at family events to avoid getting picked on by our brothers.  We also know exactly when to roll our eyes and shoot a “here we go again” glance at larger, extended family functions.  And we both love to laugh.  As little kids we would  get the giggles and hardly be able to contain ourselves (even on the rare occasions when we were in church.)  As teens we laughed through the dishes and the Uno games that determined who was going to have to sweep or wash!  We laughed when our Mom called us Frick and Frack (I’m Frick), Ding and Dong (I’m Ding) or Mutt and Jeff (I’m Jeff.)  We could hardly contain ourselves the one afternoon when we decided to cover every photo in the house with post-it notes (adorned with a smiley face), all the while waiting to see how long it would take our Mom to notice when she got home from work!  (Ha ha, Mom, it took you a while….) 

So many good times.  I love my sister for all of these fun memories and so much more, but recently I’ve come to love her in a new way.  In the last few years I have seen a strength in my sister that makes my heart burst.  While she has always been a key figure in the lives our nieces and nephew, I saw her finally put herself first and  fight through a difficult personal situation…and come out the winner.  I know that she still has her good and bad days, and most people wouldn’t believe all that she’s had to deal with and the challenges that she’s been through.  Still, I’ve seen her take steps to become more independent, I’ve seen her change her course, I’ve seen her make realizations and discoveries that have deeply impacted her life.  I’ve seen her come from a place of brokenness and rise up to a place of responsibility and change for the better.  I’m so proud of her and all that she has accomplished so far.  I pray for her daily and I know that God has a wonderful future for her, one with promise and hope.  She is special and this birthday marks a tremendous turning point for her. 

So my darling, sister, here’s to a year unlike any other.  One with less worries and stress.  One with more happiness and success.  And one with courage and loads of side-splitting laughter and joy!  Happy birthday, sis…may God bless you today and everyday.  YOU ARE LOVED!

A sister is a forever friend.  Author Unknown

Just Say NO! (And Why Yes Can Leave You Feeling Blessed)

The key to keeping your balance is knowing when you’ve lost it.  Anonymous

Balance.  Very few have it, everyone wants it, and there are a zillion resources out there for how YOU can achieve it.  If only it were that easy.  For me the idea of a balanced life is like trying to catch the wind with a butterfly net.  I keep telling myself that things will all fall into place when I learn to balance my life more effectively.  Like millions of others, I just don’t have the time to make a plan, read all the books or the money to acquire a life coach.  Sometimes I feel like I’m swimming in a sea of obligations and commitments and not only do I not have a life jacket, I don’t even know how to swim!

For weeks now I’ve been whining (what me whine?  I know you can hardly believe it.) and complaining about being too busy.  I have a list a mile long of things that I “need” to do in addition to the things that I “have” to do.  I am weighed down with housework, parenting, grocery shopping, cooking, organizing, etc….  I am buried beneath books that I promised myself I would read.  I am surrounded by commitments I had made to my kids’ school and our church.  I felt pressure to eat right and get back on track with an exercise routine.  The days were getting longer and nights were getting shorter and I found myself moving further and further away from any trace of balance in my life.  I had so many good intentions, but I was losing the battle.  In sharing these thoughts with family and friends it seems this lack of balance had become some kind of common malady for the masses.  The real kicker was that I felt like I had created all of this imbalance on my own.  I felt like it was all my fault because I hadn’t mastered the art of saying “no.” 

“Just say NO when the requests come.  You can do it,” I kept trying to tell myself.  You don’t have to make cookies for every school event.  Every birthday party doesn’t have to be a big blow out.  You don’t have to get it all done in one day.  No one said you had to be perfect.  I began to think that the key to finding balance was to guard my yeses and carefully weigh my noes.  Simple right?  I was certain that I had stumbled across the answer of a lifetime.  The ultimate trick to achieving balance.  In my mind’s eye I  could picture the scale coming into perfect balance.  I was a genius.

My genius was short-lived.  It wasn’t long before I was back in the pit.  I hadn’t guarded my yeses enough and I weighed only one “no” and that “no” was rebuffed.  I hadn’t thought about that.  I naively thought that if you told someone “no” that they would politely back off.  Note to self–that’s not always the case.  

I was feeling pretty low and right on cue, the guilt crept in (and sometimes that’s the worst part.)  The guilt that reminds you that you have everything that you need and so much more.  The guilt that says stop bellyaching and look around…you have a home, food, money in the bank, good health, a wonderful husband and family, and great friends.  The guilt that prompts you to realize that your life is better than so many others and that you have NOTHING to complain about.  The guilt that says maybe they asked because you can….  Uggg!  Now I was completely out of balance and racked with guilt. 

I was starting to feel nauseous.  I can’t win here.  Life started piling up.  Can you plan the class party?  Can you bake cupcakes?  Can you organize this?  Can you volunteer for that?  Would you mind doing (fill in the blank)?  It was getting to the point where I wanted to stop answering the phone and venture out of the house only in disguise.  My life scale wasn’t just unbalanced, it was on the verge of collapsing.  And that’s when it happened.  Right on time and in His time, the weight began to lift.  I saw the whole situation with fresh eyes. 

I had burdened myself with countless projects and obligations and I asked God to help me honor my commitments.  I asked him to forgive me of the pride that fooled me into thinking I could take on so much.  The Holy Spirit put into my heart a reminder that I “can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  I clearly need His help and I needed to ask for it.  I prayed for discernment and that God would help me weigh my yeses and noes.  What I received was something that I didn’t expect.  In every project that I had dreaded or wished that I had said “no” to, I found God’s love.  In my commitment to teach, I found willing and joyful students.  In my commitment to lead, I found dedicated and giving volunteers.  In my obligation to help a friend, I found time to talk and share life stories.  In mundane office work, I found community.  In tedious organizing, I found a renewed sense of purpose.  In class, I was reminded that God calls us to serve.  As it turns out, I was blessed when I said “yes.” 

My house is still a disaster.  The laundry pile grows in the dark.  I dread making dinner every night.  I’m still not sure that I want to answer the phone.  Obviously, as I write this my life scale remains lopsided (I am human after all.)  But I’m beginning to wonder if the idea of balance is a box we chain ourselves to or an imaginary oasis we’re not meant to find.  In the meantime, I have resolved to keep one eye on the scale, the other eye fixed on God, and my hands ready to serve…when asked.

The Birthday Brother

I smile because you’re my brother.  I laugh because there’s nothing you can do about it.  –Author Unknown

Little brothers are g-g-g-great!  If you can swing it, I highly recommend having one…and I can say that now because I don’t live with mine and haven’t for years.  And I am especially reminded of how great it is to have a brother because today is my littlest bro’s birthday.  (Insert birthday horns here!)

I dont’ remember the day my youngest brother came on the scene.  I think I might have been three or four and those kinds of things don’t really register when you’re little.  What I can honestly attest to is that I can’t remember a day in my childhood when he wasn’t around.  His cute little, round-cheeked, skinny self running around the house…usually right behind my other brother.  To this day I still refer to them as “the boys” (notice the plural) because they were always together!  And together they managed to get into all kinds of adventures.  But this blog is an ode to the birthday brother so I’ll try to stay on task.

My memories include all the regular little brother stuff like how he would play with toy trucks, get dirty, play sports, get dirty, bother me, and get dirty (of course it didn’t help that our backyard at the time was nothing but dirt.)  But he did other things, too, and some of them still put a grin on my face to this very day!  I remember the summer he wouldn’t wear shorts.  I’m not sure of the real reason behind this abnormality, although I have my theories, but he just flat out refused to wear shorts one summer.  Instead he opted for jeans!  Jeans in the hot, dry western Kansas heat.  I can remember it was a family effort to try to convince him to wear shorts.  It was a battle we lost.  I can still picture him on the sidewalk in front of the house with a pair of black jeans on…and his little shirt was tucked in!  But those jeans were the least of his worries.  During one of the summers when he did wear shorts that boy had more mosquito bites than the whole population of GC!  He had welts the size of ping pong balls and they always got infected.  He practically bankrolled the Campho-Phenique corporation that summer!  The mosquitoes sure must have thought that kid was sweet (I’ll throw him a bone, after all it is his birthday!)  Other summer memories include his obsession, or was it superstition, with Gatorade gum and sunflower seeds.  (Upon a recent trip home a story was relayed to me that he is still crazy about sunflower seeds.  A little bird told me that he uses his prechool-aged son as a pack mule for carrying around three different flavors of sunflower seeds at a time.  If you’re ever in need, check his boy’s backpack for sustenance!)

My littlest brother was also a bit of a clown and could be counted on for a laugh or a quick remark at anytime.  This orneriness landed him in trouble once or twice (ha ha) and he was lucky that he was such a cute little boy– it was his saving grace!  As a consequence of his cuteness, little girls were always buzzing around, going to his ball games and calling our house.  Not sure if he’ll admit it, but I think he secretly liked all the attention.  Things got weird in high school when girls my age were asking who’s “that guy” and it turns out they were pointing to my kid brother!  It got even weirder when a friend of mine called and I started chatting with her when she interrupted me to say that she was actually calling to talk to him.  Awkward.  But as fate would have it, he is now the father of two beautiful girls and a darling little boy and I can’t wait to see how he handles the consequences of their “cuteness.”  I can already hear him saying, “Well things were different when I was your age….”

I could go on and on about my littlest brother, but I will stop short and relay my two favorite stories.  The first takes place in Allen Fieldhouse during a Jayhawk game.  I remember him sulking because he had to accompany my folks on a weekend visit to see me in Lawrence.  Poor guy!  He happened to be in trouble (again?) and my parents were afraid a typical grounding would be ineffective if they were out-of-town.  I’m sure the house party invites were already out by the time my folks told him he had to go with them on their road trip.  He was not very happy.  So while thousands of Jayhawk fans were screaming at the sight of the Jayhawks and Jacque Vaughn running through the tunnel, my brother sat sulkily in his chair sucking on a soda.  Nevermind the awesomeness of seeing the Jayhawks play at home.   Nevermind being on the hallowed grounds of basketball history.  Nevermind that it’s next to impossible to get tickets to a Jayhawk game.  As the saying goes, “Beware the Phog,” but that afternoon it was more like the Phog should beware him.  Hell has no fury like a boy who lost his house party!

And my all time favorite story takes place back in high school.  He was a freshman (I was a senior) and he was having a hard time relating to his math teacher (and that’s putting it nicely.)  As I bounded around the corner in JDA, I almost fell over myself at the sight of my brother sitting in the hallway.  This floored me for two reasons:  1) I didn’t know teachers put high school kids in the hallway and 2) I wouldn’t have imagined that if a teacher did put him in the hallway that he would have actually STAYED!   Okay, you’re thinking what is so exceptional about this story?  Well here it is.  I used to tell my friends that my brother was destined for great things, if only he would put all his energy into good instead of evil.  It’s a little dramatic, but I think it was right on.  As a kid, my brother was a good-hearted, funny, spirited, adventurous people magnet…what he didn’t realize was that he was also thoughtful, kind, intelligent and a born leader!  Today, my dearest little brother is a TEACHER and works at our old middle school where he also coaches football and freshman baseball.  In a twisty sort of tale that is all his own, he found his way out of that high school hallway and made his own round-the-way path to success!

He’s no longer the round-cheeked, skinny fella tagging along after my brother.  He’s much more than that.  He’s a terrific son, brother, friend, cousin, husband, father, uncle, son-in-law, brother-in-law, child of God and TEACHER who puts his energy into good and making a positive difference in the lives of others. He’s the teacher with a story that even the orneriest child can relate to.  But let’s not kid ourselves here, it is a little funny to know that as a 30-something year old man you can still find him hanging around in the hallways at school!

On your birthday, may you find joy, blessings and lots of laughter, little brother.  Enjoy your day.  YOU ARE LOVED.

A brother is a better defense than a strong city.  Proverbs 18:19

 

They Grow Up So Fast (and a dozen other cliches….)

Here sleeps a girl with a head full of magical dreams, a heart full of wonder, and hands that will shape the world.  -Author Unknown

WARNING:  SAP ALERT!!!  You know those TV shows and movies where the teary-eyed parent goes into flashback mode.  I trust you’re familiar with that slow fade producers use to signal that we’re going back in time.  And heaven help us if they actually use the wavy picture trick!  Well, I’ll fess up.  For the last week or so I’ve been camped out in that dreamland because my baby girl just had a birthday!  (Dissolving…now.)

I’ll begin the tale with the fact that I didn’t really want a second child.  Every step of the process with our firstborn was difficult from pregnancy to post-pregnancy.  Blessed as we were with one child, I sort of thought we should leave well enough alone.  One baby is good.  But as it typically goes, my plan was not His plan.  When we found out that I was pregnant with our little girl, we could hardly wait to share the good news!

We started calling people on a drive out to beautiful Colorado.  Smiling and happy we passed the miles jabbering along telling everyone we knew.  The pregnancy was off to a great start!  I had such a wonderful doctor who was an angel throughout the process.  She eased my fears, reminding me that every pregnancy is different.  She was right, every pregnancy is different.  While our son was born in record heat for the San Francisco Bay Area…our darling girl was born during record cold in Kansas!

Everything was iced over the night she was born.  My folks had fortunately arrived early–ahead of the date I was to be induced (which was the following Monday.)  We all passed the time laughing, cooking and eating (my Mom is a great cook!) and of course, playing with my son.  We were so busy hanging out that at one point we didn’t even realize that somebody’s car had slid off the road into our yard and ultimately onto our mailbox.  (To our credit, we all thought we heard “something,” although none of us bothered to check.)  Still, the tire marks and the downed mailbox post told the story.  To top off that evening, Steve and I decided to brave the bitter temps and go to Wal-Mart and just walk around, supposedly that’s great for a pregnant woman who wants to speed along the process.  While it never worked for our son, that night I awoke Steve to say that it was time! (I say that I awoke Steve because I did not go to bed that night.  Our little girl had given me the worst insomnia I have ever known and I had grown accustomed to watching late-night infomercials while the rest of the world slept.)

Off we went into the still of an icy night.  Everything progressed smoothly.  I was told that she would probably be born in the late morning or early afternoon.  I passed the time in a horrible hospital gown (whose idea were those things anyway?) watching Bible documentaries (Steve was with me remember) on the History Channel.  When he managed to doze off (I still had insomnia), I couldn’t even change the channel.  Tethered to an IV, I had little mobility and the remote was conveniently still in Steve’s possession.  Oh well.  I gained a great deal of Bible knowledge that night!

Soon it was time.  Nurses scurried around us.  Steve and I were ready.  I fixed my gaze on the giraffe painting across the room.  Only one thing was missing–my doctor!  As wonderful as she was, we were on her time schedule now and I was told not to push until she arrived!  Yikes!  So we waited.  Finally, during the noon hour (and probably the doctor’s lunch break) our baby girl arrived.  It was the easiest delivery ever…what a blessing!  As our little girl tells the story, she “couldn’t wait to get out of there.”

We had no visitors on the first day of our little baby girl’s life.  The weather didn’t permit travel that day.  The hospital was quiet.  We talked on the phone with my folks who were caring for our son, and many other well-wishers who called that day.  Steve had some business to tend to and I was on my own for a while.  Nurses would bring our little girl in and I would look at her in amazement.  She was beautiful.  Big cheeks, a tiny amount of downy hair, and such a small bundle of a body.  Thinking about that day still brings tears to my eyes.

Throughout this week I have relived that day a thousand times as well as countless other “baby girl” memories.  I remember that her nursery was pink and purple with butterflies and bunnies.  I recall that she had her days and nights mixed up.  I remember the colic and the switch to soymilk.  I can’t forget when she fell down the steps or how quickly she learned to walk, practically skipping crawling all together.  I remember how she didn’t even own a doll until she turned one.    I remember her first Oreo, her first lollipop and when she learned to talk… “oh, wow, oh, wow.”  My mind goes back to the holidays we’ve celebrated and, of course, her birthdays:  the Elmo one, the Barbie princess one, the Mermaid one, the cookie baker one, the High School Musical one, the let’s eat at McDonald’s one, the Pop-Princess one and now–this one.

Back to reality and the producer brings everything back into focus.  Each birthday is a blessing and nothing is promised.  My baby girl (who is no longer really a baby) has turned seven.  As I write this it is bitter cold outside, and as far as I know, our mailbox is intact (no ice.)  I still spend way too much time walking around Wal-Mart and my insomnia is merely a thing of the past.  My daughter, who once had her days and nights mixed up, wakes up with the sun and soundly sleeps through the night in a bedroom that is still pink and purple filled with butterflies and bunnies.

Happy, happy birthday, darling Casey.  You are so very LOVED.

Every good and perfect gift is from above… James 1:17

My Dates with Donna

The Donna Reed Show

Today I had a lunch date with Donna.  She makes me smile.  She makes me laugh.  I consider her to be both an unlikely mentor and an inspiration.  We get together every once in a while for lunch and occasionally coffee.

I met Donna years ago when I was a kid.  She and I hung out every night one summer.  After evenings at the baseball diamond, after endless Monopoly games, after midnight snacks, and long after my parents went to bed…Donna was there.  And so was her husband–Dr. Stone, Mary, Jeff and later, Trisha.

trisha
Trisha

The Donna Reed Show has had an odd place in my heart ever since.  I didn’t grow up in the era of her show.  I came upon her sitcom by chance, back in the days when Nick at Nite was in its infancy.  It came on very late and included other black and white shows like Mr. Ed, Dobie Gillis, My Three Sons, The Patty Duke Show and so many others that I came to adore as a kid.  Off all of these comedy classics, Donna Reed was my favorite.  My siblings and I laughed at Jeff’s antics and joked about how boy-crazy Mary was.  We wondered if Dr. Stone was the only pediatrician in Hilldale?  (Anyone ever notice how that man never had a moment to himself?  That poor town had the sickest children’s population ever imagined!)

Donna’s show was popular back in a time when family was more than important, it was everything.  Back when there were high standards and ideals.  Back when girls were expected to grow up to be ladies and even the orneriest boys grew into gentlemen.  Yes, I know it was just a TV show.  But even back in the late 80s/early 90s her show was relevant and fun.  And I latched on to it BIGTIME!  A permed-hair, gum snapping, jelly-shoe wearing kiddo like myself could easily step back into time and come up with applicable and memorable lessons in life.  I recall seeing the Stone family deal with time-management issues, sibling rivalry, the pros and cons of marriage and countless other teachings.  We saw them donate their time, help others and land themselves in all kinds of crazy jams.  We learned what to do and what not to do in 30 minute episodes.  And what stuck with me was the manner in which they carried themselves through good and bad situations and how they looked out for each other with kindness and loyalty.

It wasn’t like I was a neglected kid pining for this type of family.  I had a great family…Mom & Dad both in the home, siblings I loved and adored, a good neighborhood, middle class upbringing and on and on.  So for me, I guess it reinforced all the good that I already knew and cemented the concept of good that I would come to expect and demand of myself and my own family.

Nowadays most of my dates with Donna occur while my kids are in school and my husband is busy at work.  I’ve tried getting them to watch with me, but they don’t share my delight with Donna.  And, that’s okay.  Those TV moments have become somewhat sacred to me now.  It’s thirty minutes where my 80s kid-self can meet up with my laundry-folding, house cleaning, reluctant chef mom-self and be in perfect harmony.  In some ways I ended up becoming just like her…and for all her notable qualities, that really was the last thing I was trying to do!  But in rediscovering her show on DVD a few years ago (and loving it just as much now as I did then), I realize that Donna and I have become quite a duo…and I’m good with that.

Now you’ll have to excuse me while I straighten my apron and check on the roast…Alex will be home anytime now, Mary will need me to help set her hair, Jeff has homework to do, and Trisha lost the dog in the park (again).

The Problem With Picture Frames

It sounds like the start of a children’s book…”The problem with pictures frames is….”  You’d expect the author to come up with a silly little rhyme about the frame falling off the wall or failing to hang level.  I can imagine a crayon-drawn picture frame all lop-sided and wearing a crooked grin.  But my problem with picture frames is a little more complicated and, unfortunately, far more redundant.  For me the problem with picture frames is WHAT pictures to put in them!

I love to take pictures…just ask anyone within five feet of me.  I often carry my camera in my purse.  I love to take photos of my kids, capture candid moments at church, and click away at just about anything else that crosses my path.  I wouldn’t classify myself as “camera crazy,” but some might say I’m not far from it.  And what I’ve noticed is that when you love taking photos people naturally give you picture frames as gifts. 

You’ve probably guessed by now that I received a picture frame for Christmas.  YAY, a new frame!  And not just any new frame.  This one is a biggie and it’s set up “collage” style.  WOW!  It’s a picture frame that will hold EIGHT pictures!  While I’m smiling from ear to ear looking at my new frame, it occurs to me that, uh oh, now I have to choose the pictures that will occupy that space.  And thus, my dilemma begins.

I’ve had the frame for a little while now and although it was a Christmas present, I was there when the gift-giver (Karen) bought it.  In fact she’s a really awesome gift-giver in that she let me pick it out!  (Those are my favorite kind of gift-givers by the way!)  It has just the look that I like–black frames.  It’s just the size that I like–4x6s with a couple of 5x7s for flair!  It says family in the middle–a frame with its own topic…wonderful.  But all night I’ve been frantically trying to come up with the perfect photo compilation to bring it all home. 

So, you see my problem. 

It’s not that I don’t have a lot of photos to choose from (I’m sure you’ve figured that out by now.)  I have 10 years of mommyhood to choose from and that’s a lot of pictures.  I have at least 10 albums big and small dedicated to just my first-born.  When my little girl came along I started to chronicle all our family photos on our computer.  This summer’s vacation alone logged over 500 photos and earned its own special file on a separate drive.  And if that weren’t enough, I just got done checking my Walgreens photo account and I presently have 34 albums of pictures housed there!  Do you feel sorry for me yet?

Okay, so you don’t feel sorry for me.  Fine.  It took a few hours, but I’m happy to report that I have all of the photos picked out now anyway.  All except for one that is, but it’s late and all that will just have to wait until tomorrow.  Yes, tomorrow.  The only problem now is where am I going to hang it?

New Year, New YOU! (new me?)

So, here it goes (again!)  That time of year when we all vow to make huge changes, drop our bad habits, and ultimately become more responsible, capable and productive members of society.  Some of us will start new diets, add an exercise regimen, get our finances in order, and (insert YOUR personal New Year’s resolution here.)  Others will quit smoking, stop drinking, go to bed or wake up earlier, etc….  Well, let me be the first one to tell you that I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.  Why?  Because I don’t like to.  Don’t get me wrong–I think self-improvement is awesome (and necessary!)  I really do want to become a better person, but I just don’t particularly like going along with the pack.  (In fact, I wear holiday socks all year long, listen to yuletide tunes November through January and I’m toying with the idea of leaving my tree up and decorating  it for Valentine’s Day.) 

Despite all of this, I am human and the whole New Year’s resolution thing has me thinking.  Today alone, I’ve read a handful of articles about New Year’s resolutions, heard a guy on the radio go on and on about the top New Year’s resolutions people make (and break),  and clicked past even more New Year’s related stuff on the web.  It’s on Facebook, people are texting and talking about it…and so here I am at my desk and I just realized that I DID it!  I inadvertently made a resolution.  Drum roll please,…I decided to write a blog!  Sure, I’ve been planning to do this for the past year and I just never got around to it.  But look what coincidentally happened just before the clock struck 12!  I’m doing something new for the New Year.  I have plans for 2012?  All my talk about ridiculous resolutions and here I am vowing to do something I never thought I would do, but always wanted to do.  Something that I have a fair chance of failing and an even greater chance of quitting.  I’ve joined the ranks of the masses and become one of them–a RESOLUTIONIST! 

Just who do I think I am anyway?  What could a thirty-something, stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife, and C.O.G. (that’s Child of God in case you didn’t know) possibly have to blog about?  You might just be surprised!  So, Amy– my dear, I’ve done it…I’m writing a blog.  Amanda, my love, you know that book is just around the corner!  Steve, my darling partner, here we go.  And kiddos, Mommy will try very hard to be cool….

Well, here goes nothing, or maybe here goes something….