Sunday, February 26, 2012

Fixin' Stupid

So did you hear the one about the Aggie graduate that did something really stupid?...

I am a former highschool cheerleader who graduated from Texas A&M University. Needless to say, I have been the target for many "dumb" jokes for a significant portion of my life. But I have never felt as stupid as I did yesterday.

Let me back up a minute before I begin. (Y'all know how I like to roadmap my stories!)
I am friends with a lot of "coupon queens." They are not like the crazy, mega-hoarding coupon ladies you see on Extreme Couponers, but they are pretty fantastic at finding great deals. Anyway, it has become a recent trick of mine to simply follow all of these afore-mentioned friends on Facebook. At least once a month I will snag a fantastic deal from their page when they post their latest finds. (By the way, thank you ladies for sharing the wealth.) With all due credit to their efforts, time, research, know-how, (and maybe even top-secret coupon connections,) I have clicked my way to all kinds of free stuff like household samples, beauty and healthcare trial items, candy, coffee, snacks...I have even scored a free Victoria's Secret clutch (valued $35) and a free pair of Revlon sunglasses (valued $100.) Pretty stinkin' sweet!

So imagine my enthusiasm when I spotted that a friend had shared a link yesterday for two free tickets to Southwest Airlines. Without hesitation I clicked and began to fill in the blanks provided on the webpage. Name, phone number, email address, mailing
After I clicked the "submit" button I was prompted to run a script to download a program onto my computer. That immediately set off a red flag for me. I'm not gonna beat around any bushes here...I dropped the f-bomb and looked at the web address on my screen. I don't remember exactly what it said (something with smiley in it, I think)--whatever it was, it wasn't Southwest Airlines or any affiliate of the company.
I have always fancied myself a pretty bright person, and cautious at that. I shred every single piece of junk mail I get just because I am terrified that people will take and use my personal information. I have even just mere weeks ago experienced debit fraud, and here I am bending over and giving who-knows-what company all of my personal contact information. As I type this one day later, I will have you know I have already received at least 15 new spam emails to my inbox. I could cry thinking about what they are going to do with my phone number...Sorry Babydoll :(

I was so mad at myself all day yesterday and I spent most of today just being worried sick about it. I was so wrapped up thinking about my stupid mistake that I was just running on auto-pilot and feeling much too self-involved to do any substantial mothering. So sometime around late afternoon I popped in a Dora show for my kids to watch while I continued with my mental butt-whoopin'.

In case you were never fortunate enough to watch an episode of Dora, I will share with you that in about half of the shows Dora--a child who cannot be any older than ten and gets to galavant around the rainforest unsupervised--and Boots--Dora's purple, talking, monkey friend who accompanies her on all her adventures--usually find themselves in a bind--like a giant red chicken about the same size as a 42-story skyscraper is sitting on one of Boots' magic bananas. Boots is always the first to panic. "What are we going to do, Dora? What are we going to do?!" After which, Dora always calmly answers, "Let's stop and think."

Indeed, Dora. We should all stop and think.
(Oh dear. I can't believe that horribly annoying preschool show is what has given me insight into my problem.)

The problem with us crazy-woman-drivers is that we seldom stop and really think about something before we do it. It is not in our nature. We just swerve around cutting people off, blowing through "orange" lights (that's what I call it when yellow turns into red before you finish going under it!) and then have to give the obligatory "I'm sorry wave" every time we get honked at or someone flips us the bird.

The more I pondered this simple truth, the more I realized my failure to stop and think was behind pretty much every foolish thing that had happened to me today.
If I had stopped to think...
-I would not have worn white leggings and then given my son a piece of chocolate immediately afterward--guess whose brown fingerprints are all over mommy's pants?
-I would not have allowed Sammi to wear her "ring around the nosy" gamepiece to the bathroom--where she managed to drop a few rings into the used potty for mommy to fish out. Ewww.
-I have would made sure I had put the remote control back out of Bubba's reach before I left the room--I have just hours ago discovered that "someone" had purchased J.Edgar HD by pure luck of his random button pushing. (By the way, can anyone tell me if it was good? It expired before I actually got to watch it. Ha!)
-I would not have let my kids eat sloppy joes in the living room--I don't think additional explanation is needed here.

You see, you can fix stupid. You just can't be hasty. You have to take the time to (say it with me!) stop and think.

My husband has more patience than he likes to admit to having. (And not just because he is married to a lady who falls for scam websites.) He really is my man with the constant plan--so good at navigating through the roadblocks. That's probably why he's so good at his job. But as quick as he is to make decisions (and the right ones) when it comes to his work or our homelife, he is one of the slowest people ever in the checkout line. Why? Because he stops to ask questions. "Do you offer a military discount? No? Why not?" "Why do you need my zipcode and phone number at checkout? What is your company going to do with it?" "Why do I need to pay extra for the five-year extended warranty? Are you telling me my product is going to break in the next five years?"
People don't want us to stop and think about these things. They want to pressure us to rush through the lines so they can get our personal information (probably to sell to other companies) and pay extra money for services we don't need or forget to ask for a discount we deserve. They are totally taking advantage of the fact that we make stupid decisions when we're in a hurry.

And this is dangerous because it only takes an instant to make a stupid decision that sticks with you--like saying something hurtful, or posting a hateful status update, or getting into a car with someone who has been drinking, or falling for the deal that is too good to be true...crazy to think that one extra instant could just as easily prevent it.

Let's all stop the stupid. Let's all stop and think.

(And in a related note, don't be surprised if in the next few months if you receive a message from me that I have changed my phone number and email address--I wonder if imwithstupid is already taken at yahoo...sigh.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I really did win the in-law jackpot.
I love my husband's entire family, but tonight I am going to lush about my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law is one of those people who you'll catch on the phone once in a blue moon and will reply back to your emails about two weeks after you send them (I guess being a doctor probably has something to do with the response time!) But when she gets a chance to slow down and catch up with you, she is always so attentive and supportive. I love that about her.
PLUS I love that I know she has been keeping up with my blogs. I guess I should take that as a sign that really likes me if she cares enough to make room in her busy schedule to keep up with my random spurts of "insight"...either that or she just wants to know if I'm yelling at her grandkids again. (Just kidding, it's because she likes me.) :)

Today I received a belated birthday gift from her that was one of the most thoughtful gifts I've gotten in a long time. Her birthday package to me contained a cupcake cookbook to help me cultivate my skills in the kitchen, a song book containing guitar chords to a bunch of country top 40 songs and a gift prompting me to "sign up for guitar lessons."

I loved all of it from the minute I saw it and I was so excited as I flipped through the pages of my books. But then, all of a sudden, the "negative nancy" inside of me came out and spoiled the party. (Who keeps inviting that witch over, anyway?!)
Sammi looked over my shoulder at the cupcake book just as I was turning the page to a castle constructed out of different sized cupcakes and icecream cones. Of course, my four-year-old sees this a says, "Mommy, that's the cake I want for my five year princess sparkle party!" (By the way, her birthday is not for several months, and she already has her party themes picked out up to age 18. Anyone up for a unicorn pirate party in about 14 years?!) Anywho...
I saw the excitement in my daughter's eyes and the first words out of my mouth in response to her question were "well baby, I don't think Mommy's cupcake castle would look quite as nice as that. I don't know if I can do it." Saying these words triggered a cataclysmic force of negative thoughts. Almost instantly, I began to wonder, "Would I be able to make anything out of this book? Do I even know where to go to get the little candies to decorate this stuff? Are my cupcakes going to be so ugly that no one will eat them but me and I'll end up being this fat person who doesn't know squat about making cupcakes?" Then my thoughts shifted from cupcakes to other things. "I know I won't be able to play any of the songs from my new guitar book. I don't know who to call to help teach me. I don't even know if I have the capability to invest my time into taking lessons, (what with all the hours I need to dedicate to Pinterest and Facebook!) I will probably take the lessons, not be able to figure it out, and ruin a perfectly lovely contribution to my resolution. My mother-in-law will come to visit and she will roll her eyes at me when I try to play her a song and it sounds awful. Then she'll never invest anything into me again and she will quit reading my blogs and I'll only have like three readers."

I quieted that crazy nutcase now, mostly thanks to a conversation I had with my mother-in-law. As I called to thank her for my presents, I realized that she sent me those things because she believed I could do them. In fact, I realized that the only person that thinks I can't do any of this stuff is me! I might not be able to construct a cupcake castle come birthday time, but I can make a lot better cupcakes now than I could when my daughter was born. And who knows! I might surprise myself and crank out an awesome cupcake castle for Sammi's birthday. And no, I can't play any of those songs from my new book yet, but I can play a lot more than I could a couple months ago. And if I could learn that much through self-teaching, then I should be able to do a lot more if I commit to lessons.

I confess, I was one of those kids growing up who was honors and all-star everything. I really prided myself on being one of the best. But somewhere down the line, I got a much needed wake up call that I was not God's gift to the earth. And rather than letting it humble me, I let it destroy my confidence in myself. And since then, I have taken a few more hard hits to the ego. I didn't graduate with honors, I didn't get the promotion I thought I deserved, I didn't get the new job I thought I was qualified for or even the ones I thought were beneath me.
I love being a mother, but I don't want that to be all people see me as. I am comfortable with the person I am. I know I am well-liked, and maybe even looked up to. I am proud of the life I lead, and I do feel successful about a bunch of small things--like when my son learns a new word after I work with him, or when my daughter gets the "lightbulb" after I teach her simple addition, or even when I realize I can still fit into my wedding dress (yes, I have put it on recently lol.) But it's been a long time since I've set real goals for myself, and I think it's because I'm afraid I'll be put into my place again. My New Year's resolutions may have seemed piddly to some, but they are important to me--and for me.

Vic, thank you for realizing how important they are, for supporting me with your gifts, and for unknowingly giving me the push I needed to move forward.

Monday, February 20, 2012

"Pin" Up Girl

It's been slightly more than a month since I've posted my resolutions. One of them that I've let sit on the backburner for a while was my resolution to be on Facebook less.

Facebook is such a necessary evil, in my opinion. I hate a lot of the negative stuff I usually see on my newsfeed when I open it up. I hate how some people's random junk still pops up even after I've unsubscribed to their comments. I hate when people have these ridiculously fabulous announcements to share and I get to say "hey guess what just got stolen this week?!" But mostly, I hate what a time suck it is. I can honestly spend an hour or more just scrolling through everybody's business, looking at random photos from Lord knows when, and trying to come up with these little witty comments to leave on their updates. (Yes, there are crazy people like me who do that. Think about what you post, people!) So really, I just hate how much I love it.
And I would give up Facebook altogether except for I feel like I honestly need to keep it. I have so many different friends that it is just easier to get in touch with via Facebook than over the phone, email, or what have you. I can keep connected to people that I normally would be too lazy to pick up the phone and call. I am able to see pictures of my family and that helps me keep up with all of them, no matter how far away the Army takes us. And then there are all of the organizations who post events and information on their FB pages before posting anywhere else. So I guess Facebook is really not all bad. In fact, it's really a good thing. But as the old adage goes, too much of anything is bad.

So how did I attempt to break the Facebook spell? Um...I signed up for Pinterest :)

(Side note: If you just read this and asked yourself, "what is Pinterest?" you really need to get with the program. Seriously, I will send you an invite today.)

So I thought Facebook was a time suck... OH. MY. LANTA! The first time I logged onto Pinterest after I created my account, I was on there for 3.5 hours.

Scroll. Scroll. Scroll. Click. Click. (Hmmmm...) Scroll. Like. Scroll. Scroll. Click. Click. (No way! That's awesome!) Repin. Repeat...

I have to tell you, for about a week straight after I put the kids to sleep, I poured myself a glass of wine and had a little date with Pinterest. I don't think I mopped or did any housekeeping beyond dishes for the better part of 3 weeks. I seriously did not wash laundry until I went to get a clean pair of socks out of my drawer and I had none.
And the real trouble with Pinterest is, you FEEL like you're being so productive! "Pinterest Liz" is the most stylish, crafty person you've ever met. She makes fabulous recipes all the time. Her home is decorated to a tea. And she knows more wise sayings than an Indian monk. However, in reality, normal Liz has not worn anything but sweatpants in three days, is heating up leftovers for supper once again, and says things like "Hey bubba, get your hands out your stinky dipey."

You're laughing...but this is a problem!!!

My goal was to refrain from using Facebook as much so I could make more productive use of my time, and here I am signing myself up for Facebook on steroids! What's a girl to do?!

I decided that half of my problem was that I was logging on each night because I loved the inspiration, but I wasn't actually giving myself a creative outlet. So here's what I've been working on for the past week...

I've had my eye on these beautiful glass soap dispensers at Target for like a year, but they never go on sale, and I am just too big of a cheapo to fork over $20 for a jar. I saw these mason jar soap dispensers and thought, "Hey I have a buttload of those! And I can actually do that myself!" This was my first Pinterest project:

Feeling good about myself after I accomplished one, I immediately started on another. This guy is a dry erase board you make out of a picture frame and you can leave "I love you because" messages on it. The one I saw used gift wrap for backing, but I decided to fashion something out of scrap. Then I added denim flair onto the side because I'm a country bumpkin like that. Excited to get all mushy with the hubby once he gets home :)

On a roll now, I decided to use one of my extra barnwood frames and make this backless frame. I want to say that in the original I saw on Pinterest, she had used twine to string along the nails, but I had yarn and that does the trick too. Clothespins to hang your favorite photos. Denim buds to match my message board. (Designers call that I get to pretend to be a designer when talking about denim rosebuds?!)

This last guy is my favorite. Nathan and I have a very strong love for Texas and a very funky kitchen. The goal is to give our kitchen a "homier" resemblance to one of our favorite bar and grills from our favorite place in the whole world-- Aggieland! Anyway, I used a template I printed online as a guide so I could cut out my scrap and glue it onto a board backing. Then I stuck bottlecaps from Texas breweries all around the border and voilĂ !

I think it fits in perdy good!

Lastly, I did something I normally don't do and decorated for Valentine's Day. I don't know, maybe I thought because my valentine wasn't here, I needed to do a little extra something to keep myself from feeling blah. Now I feel the love :) This one took me about 15 minutes. For hearts: just cut strips of scrap paper, fold in the center, curl the ends around your finger, and glue together where they meet. Then string them up on whatever you have handy. The chain was inspiration from Pinterest. Attaching it to the wreath was an afterthought.

Anyway, I feel much better now that I've given myself that creative time. It felt nice to get off of my hind-end and look at something other than a computer screen.
Now having said that, I am going to publish this and then immediately hop onto Pinterest...
But for a good reason! I decided that if I am going to keep up with Pinterest, I need to create a new board featuring all of the things I've actually made. That way, I can A)Be proud of my accomplishments. (Toot toot!-- That's my own horn!) B)Feel that the time I spend on Pinterest is validated because I am actually creating something C)Check myself when after a month, I have 200 new pins on my other boards and nothing on my 'I DID IT' board, or what ever I choose to call it...

I still don't know what I'm going to do about Facebook...but maybe I'll figure it out and then post it to my new board. :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Funny Valentine

I love Valentine's Day. I know that it's been given a bad rep, because just like with every holiday, we've managed to over-commercialize it. And perhaps, Valentine's Day was only about making a buck from the get-go. I don't know for sure, and who am I to speculate?

However, regardless of its origins, I think there is something truly beautiful about it. Could you do something romantic with your significant other on any other day of the week? Of course you could! Could you take the time out to tell your friends and family how much you love and appreciate them without attaching a box of conversation hearts? You betcha! But the truth of the matter is, we are usually so busy dealing with our own day-to-day, the romance gets put on the backburner and we just make assumptions that our family and friends know that we "heart" them. Valentine's Day gives a gentle reminder to make those sentiments known. Moreso, it gives us an opportunity to put thoughtful consideration and time into making our sentiments known...and any woman would agree with me that thoughtfulness and time trump any amount of money spent.

In case there was any doubt in your mind, I am madly in love with my husband. I wanted to make a special post for him on Valentine's Day, but his Valentine's Day has already come and gone. So take this as your cue to share your loving sentiments with the special people in your life every day of the year :)

The day we were married, we shared our first dance as husband and wife to Keith Urban's "Making Memories of Us." I am so not enough of a techie to make this into a video, so I'll work with the skills God gave me. But you should definitely play the video of Keith Urban--if for no other reason than his voice is like honey and he is awful nice to look at :)

(But I think my husband also is so I will be posting pictures of him as well lol)

The Video

I'm gonna be here for you baby
I'll be a man of my word

Speak the language in a voice
That you have never heard :)

I wanna sleep with you forever
And I wanna die in your arms

In a cabin by a meadow
Where the wild bees swarm

And I'm gonna love you
Like nobody loves you
And I'll earn your trust
Makin' memories of us

I wanna honor your mother
And I wanna learn from your pa

I wanna steal your attention
Like a bad outlaw (haha!)

And I wanna stand out in a crowd for you
A man among men

I wanna make your world better
Than it's ever been

And I'm gonna love you
Like nobody loves you
And I'll earn your trust
Makin' memories of us

We'll follow the rainbow
Wherever the four winds blow

And there'll be a new day
Comin' your way

I'm gonna be here for you from now on
This you know somehow
You've been stretched to the limits
But it's alright now

And I'm gonna make you a promise
If there's life after this
I'm gonna be there to meet you
With a warm, wet kiss

And I'm gonna love you
Like nobody loves you
And I'll earn your trust
Makin' memories of us

Happy Valentine's Day---I mean Wednesday--Soldier :) I love you!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lessons from a Cheesecake

A word of caution:

I fear that tonight's entry might get a little...(wait for it...) cheesy. :)

Every year for my birthday, I make myself a cheesecake. I'm not too big on desserts, but cheesecake is my one indulgence. Four out of five people surveyed agree with me that cheesecake is "da bomb-diggity."

Tonight as I began to bake, a little lightbulb went off in my mind. From the laundy list of New Year's resolutions I shared with you, one of them was that I wanted to enter the BHG Prize Winning Recipe Contests. This month, one of the categories was "banana desserts."

Yes, hello...two birds? I'd like you to meet my one stone :)

I decided that I wanted to try to create a "banana split cheesecake" for my birthday dessert to enter into the contest. Broken down, that means that I was going to add a ripened banana to the cheesecake batter, marble it with semi-sweet chocolate, and top it with a warm cherry sauce and whipped cream when it's ready to serve. (Yep, I know. It sure sounded perdy darn good in my head too!)

Little did I know my "bright idea" was going to prove to be rather dim-witted.

As I went about my business in the kitchen, I realized that I didn't have any ripened bananas to add to my batter. I didn't even have a yellow banana to add to my batter... I just had about 7 neon green ones. Determined that I wouldn't let this one tiny glitch wreck my entire system, I headed straight for Google.
LESSON 1- You can ripen green bananas in a closed paper bag with a tomato overnight, but if you don't have time, you can also ripen it in the microwave in 10 second intervals---so they say. My banana actually ended up burning on the ends and staying a lovely shade of bright green in the center. (I seriously may consider recreating it as "Monster Fingers" next Halloween.) Anyway...moving along.

So I didn't have a ripened banana. No worries. I would just do the extra legwork to mash my partially-cooked banana to a pulp before blending it into half of my batter and I'd move along my merry way. I'm feeling unstoppable! Now I just need to melt the semi-sweet chocolate to add to the other half of the batter I'd use for the marbling.
LESSON 2- I need to wait a minimum of 10 minutes before I attempt to melt chocolate in the microwave after it has endured about 12 rounds of 10 second intervals with a banana. My chocolate chips didn't liquify as much as they turned into a softened, brown clump. (mmmmm....appetizing!)

But it still tasted like chocolate and I was just going to beat it into the batter with a mixer anyway, (and I consider it a cardinal sin to throw chocolate in any form into the trash,) so in it went. Now I just needed to "marble" the chocolate layer into the banana layer with a knife.
LESSON 3- I am no good at marbling. My cheesecake looks like a white layer underneath a brown layer with tiny (almost invisible) thin white swirls inside.

LESSON 4- I am a complete goober. I don't own a springform pan. You would think with it being a birthday tradition of mine for x amount of years, I would invest in something other than a pie plate...

LESSON 5- I am too hard on myself. I have been alive almost 26 years now, and I still don't know who the heck it is I am always stressing myself out to impress.

Sad truth: I almost cried a little as I put my birthday cheesecake into the oven because it didn't look exactly like my mind had envisioned it when I concocted this recipe on a whim. And I will tell you right now, I just pulled my cheesecake out of the oven, and there is a thin crack down the middle and a few spots that probably cooked for a little too long.

But every story should have a happy ending, so here's mine.

THE BIG LESSON- I love myself. After I pulled myself together from my near-meltdown, I realized that my cheesecake and I are an awful lot alike.
When my creator came up with the recipe for me in His mind, He too hoped that I would be perfect. But I have cracks. I've been burned. I was meant to be a cheesecake and I keep trying to throw myself into a pie plate. I wasn't patient enough to wait for the right ingredients to be mixed into my life story, so I made do with less-than-perfect alternatives. But in the end, I am still going to be perdy darn good. Whatever imperfections I have are made lovely when covered in God's grace.

And whatever imperfections my cheesecake has will still be lovely covered in cherry sauce and whipped cream.

BHG probably won't dig it, but I certainly will :)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Making Lemonade

I'm not gonna lie...

My past week has been a huge pain in the tuchus.

I felt like each new day bore its own new tiny disaster, and it was turning me into a crazy woman. I did all the things that crazy women do: I yelled, I cried, I complained on Facebook, but none of that was helping. So this morning I woke up singing a new tune. Whatever tiny disaster was waiting for me today, I was going to be ready to face it head on. How? I was going to make some lemonade.

Yes, I am referring to the age-old expression, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade." Lame? Possibly. Effective? Absolutely.

The more I went about my day, the better I got at it. Did everything go perfectly for me today? Heck no! I had a sick toddler at home with me all day, I walked around post-wide with a sticker stuck to my hind-end, I burnt supper while spilling raw egg on the floor (because it takes real talent to do both at the same time!) and I had to send a preschooler to bed early after attempting a few uneffective time-outs. (And that was just a list of things from off the top of my head. I'm sure I could find more if I nit-pick. I am a woman, afterall!)
Today was no better than days past because of any change of events. It was simply better because of my attitude. In life, you have to be able to take the sweet with the sour. And if you are given an extra helping of sour, then you better figure out a way to make it sweet.

And that's exactly what I'm going to do for you here now. :)

SOUR: A little over a week ago, the FedEx delivery guy dropped off a package containing my birthday present from my husband. The package had a huge hole in it (like someone had sliced it open with a knife) and the contents of the package were missing. There was a jewelry box, but there was no jewelry in it. It was very upsetting that my present was stolen, but even moreso, it was upsetting that my husband's grand surprise for me had been spoiled. We hardly ever buy eachother things that extravagant, and I was not expecting anything like that from him. In addition to all the chaos behind the questioning of "will we be reimbursed?" "will the jewelry be replaced?" "can we get another replacement in time?" etc., there was also the huge letdown of now knowing what my present was going to be, and feeling like I wouldn't appear as appreciative as I should of my husband's very deserving efforts when the replacement did arive. So in sum: Stupid thief aka Party Pooper!

SWEET: First off, my husband bought me jewelry for my birthday! How is that not sweet?! Secondly, I was very fortunate to have a very professional delivery guy at FedEx helping me. He stayed to make sure we were taking all the right steps so I wouldn't get the run-around, and even contacted the customer service rep for Zales for me...above and beyond what he needed to do, really. Though we haven't been refunded yet, we know we will be. And my replacement jewelry has arrived (from another vendor, obviously.) The hubby said it wasn't what he had ordered for me originally, which probably worked in my favor, because I LOVE my new necklace so much! (Yes, I did open my present a few days early...I had to make sure it was actually in there this time!)

SOUR: About mid-week, I was at the Office Depot trying to make a very small purchase with my debit card. After two attempts and two declines, I decided to use the credit card. Jack had gotten a hold of my debit card earlier in the week and had bent the card. I thought maybe it wasn't agreeing with the card reader... Anyway, right beside the Office Depot there is a Dollar Tree. Sammi begged me for a balloon, so I figured I would cave to the request. While we were there, I grabbed a couple more seasonal items. Again I went to pay, and again my card was declined. Really?! At the Dollar Tree?! I was flipping out. I knew we had money in the account...why couldn't I pay?! In a snap decision not to induce further drama by telling my four-year-old she needed to put her balloon back, I used the credit card again and raced home to see where all my money had gone. I checked the account, and everything looked normal. Could it be becuase my card was all bent out of shape? Maybe. So I called my bank and requested the new card. As they pulled up my account, they said, "actually ma'm, there has been a freeze put on your account for a suspicious charge. You didn't happen to make an online purchase at the Apple Store for $1300, did you?" Nope, sure didn't. And while I knew that Valentine's Day was just around the corner, I didn't figure that was a present Nathan had picked up for me either. My account had been compromised. I needed a new debit card--minimum of two day waiting period with the possibility of ten. I had the credit card, but who wants to live ten days on credit while there's money in the bank?!

SWEET: Actually, so many things are sweet about this. First of all, my bank caught the fraud. While the $1300 wouldn't have put us in a bind, it CERTAINLY would have been missed. I was so happy to have the credit card. I didn't want to use it at all, but it was nice to know it was there in case of an emergency. Also nice to know was that I had enough food, diapers, and dog food to last several days. The only thing I was lacking was milk. I decided that I would just dig through a change jar and walk with the kids over to the Shoppette to pick some up. But after I brought up my situation with my MOPS group, one of the moms took me to her house and let me take home a gallon of milk. I was so touched by her generosity and willingness to help a friend. I am blessed beyond measure with the wonderful people God has placed in my life. Another blessing: the replacement debit arrived after only two days...I'm back in business, people :)

SOUR: Yesterday afternoon, I tried to send an email and my inbox completely shut down. When I went to re-open it, a message popped up on the screen that I had set off some kind of spam alert in the system. Yahoo says this happens if you send an email to a large number of recipients at once, or send more emails than normal in a certain time-frame. I had done neither. All I could think about was "Why, oh why is this happening to me?! Who is hacking into my stuff? Is someone trying to steal my identity?" Then I cried about it to everyone in my Facebook world.

SWEET: First things first--I can send emails again. I don't know what caused it, or how they fixed it, but at this point I am not asking anymore questions. But probably the sweetest moment for me here is that after I "cried" on Facebook, I had a large amount of loving responses from my friends. It made me realize that I truly do have an arsenal of wonderful people who have my back through all things, big and small. A girl can't ask for too much more than that.

SOUR: Yesterday morning, Jack was looking a little sluggish. I took his temperature, but he didn't have a fever. I decided to take him to my MOPS meeting and see if he would perk up, which he did. After the meeting, though, he got really fussy again. He had started running a temp of 102 and he was breathing very rapidly. I freaked out, called all of my "Dr. Moms" and then called Urgent Care and got him an appointment where he was diagnosed with the beginnings of Strep.

SWEET: I freely admit, I am a bit of a hypochondriac when it comes to my kiddos. I will walk around with a barking cough for weeks and not think to see a doctor, but the second I see my childrens' snot is any other color than clear I call the Tele-nurse. This time it worked to my benefit. Because I brought him in so early, the doctor said he should be fully recovered in only two days. In fact, he is already looking so much better. This scenario is also sweet because I have a precious neighbor who not only served as a stand-in "dr. mom" for me when I couldn't contact my usual line-up, but she also watched my daughter for a few hours while I took my son to urgent care. Also, I saw sweetness in this because I am insured through Tricare...gasp! I know, I know! Who knew Tricare could be such a blessing?! But since I didn't have my debit card, it was an ENORMOUS blessing that Tricare covered the cost of both the urgent care appointment and the prescriptions. (So there you go Tricare; you get some points in the 'pro' column.)

MAKING LEMONADE: Before all of this chaos ensued, I had scheduled an appointment to get my haircut. I haven't even had a trim since before my husband deployed, so I was about due. But with Jack getting sick and me not having any access to my checking account, I decided it was in my best interest to cancel. This morning, I was getting ready to walk out the door to drop Sammi off at childcare with the church so Jack and I could come back to the house to hang out and lay low. Five minutes before I left, I heard the doorbell ring. It was the same helpful FedEx delivery guy from the jewelry mishap standing with my replacement debit card. I took this as a cue from God to treat myself. I grabbed a portable DVD player, a Wiggles movie, the stroller, and lots of distractive snacks and I got a new haircut to go along with my new perspective ...

Now that's sweet :)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Being the Tree

One week after my son was born, my husband left for several weeks of training at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. As one would expect, I needed to call in some reinforcements so I could take care of the toddler, the baby, my recovery, the house, and so on...
My mother-in-law was able to come stay with me briefly for a couple days right after my husband left, and then shortly after she left, my WONDERFUL grandfather allowed an amazing lady to come stay and help me out for two whole weeks. (And she is pretty wonderful, herself!) This was such a blessing in it's own right, because I have never had the luxury of living close to my relatives, and this gave my grandmother and I an opportunity to spend time together that we normally wouldn't have. But that is another story for another blog... :)

During her visit she was reading a book, entitled "Legacy of a Pack Rat." (I know I have referenced this book in a previous blog--See 'God Bless All Mothers.') One night she read a poem out of the book that brought her to tears. Here it is:

He Fell on the Sidewalk

He fell on the sidewalk...
I saw him fall,
too drunk to walk
he could only crawl
to a scraggly tree;
and with help of that tree he got on his feet.
In my heart always,
God, please help me see
he got on his feet
there was A Tree!

I didn't want to tell her as she read the poem aloud to me that day--- I didn't get it. I mean, I understood that the "tree" was a reference to Calvary, but I didn't get what was so moving about it that it would bring her to tears. And I like to consider myself cultured to things such as these, so it has bothered me the better of two years that I was not moved like my grandmother was.

Nothing better to turn on a lightbulb than a little life experience...

There were a couple of mothers from my daughter's last dance class that I, well,(trying to be P.C. here...)didn't particularly care for. It wasn't that they were mean, nasty people. They just did things and acted ways that I disagreed with.
---Does anyone here still watch Friends? Because I am about to throw a reference in just for you ;)---
You may henceforth refer to me as "Judgy von Holier-than-thou."

One of the mothers had four kids: an older boy, three-year-old twins, and a 7 month old. The older boy we never saw much because he was at school, but she would tell us these horrible stories about his behavioral problems. Her three year old boy ran around kicking the 7 month old baby (and pushing mine!) and the girl in Sammi's class would randomly throw herself onto the floor in screaming fits like a normal three year old girl would do---if that three-year-old were on steroids. The complete lack of control that mother had of her children disrupted the entire tone of the classroom, and the waiting area for that matter. It possibly affected my homelife too. Honestly, Sammi never yelled at me until she saw those twins yelling at their mother. I remember actually feeling relieved when they weren't at dance class.
The other mother was not a bad mother--she was just chatty. Her husband is deployed as well, and she always spilled her guts about everything she had heard was going on over there. Now, this may just have been me being overly sensitive, but I hate it when people talk openly in public spaces about private information. If you know a soldier who was KIA--good for you. That is not the business of the random collection of people we have in the dance class, and truthfully, I feel like peole just like to flaunt that kind of information when they have it.

Anyway, let's fast forward to the point where Judgy von Holier-than-thou becomes Sorry von Eats-her-words.

As the dance class progressed, I began to learn more about these women's personal stories.
The first mother was raising four children as her own, but the 7 month old was the only baby she had actually birthed. Her oldest three were adopted from her sister, who was having mental and drug abuse issues.
The second mother had just lost a three month old baby, and her husband was deployed one month following their loss.

So now I'm sure you're wondering, why did I share these women's stories and how do they relate to the poem?

The drunken man in the poem would have never been able to get back on his feet without the scraggly tree. But why was the tree there in the first place? Because God knew the man would need it and provided a customized aide for him in that exact moment of weakness. People often speculate that God is punishing them on earth for their wrongdoings, but there is only one judgement day. Right now He is watching us in our drunken stupor, withholding His judgement, and trying to get us back on our feet by planting trees.
As a follower of Christ, I have been given the very same power to plant such trees. Too bad I am more of a lumberjack.

I was so busy judging what a "bad mother" I thought first lady was that I failed to see she was acting as a "tree" for her sister. Heaven knows, I love my nieces and nephews, but I have a hard enough time dealing with my own children screaming at me, and I certainly wouldn't manage well if it were somebody else's child. And with my hoity-toity attitude and up-turned nose, I was just hacking that mother away at the roots.

I was so huffy at the second lady for spreading sensitive information that I didn't realize WE were supposed to be her tree. I can't imagine how much hurt and lonliness she must have felt--all she needed was a listening ear, a chance to feel "normal." I just left that poor lady down there on the sidewalk, so to speak.

So now, nearly two years after hearing the poem for the first time, I finally get it. Over two thousand years ago, God knew that I was going to be the secretly judgemental person that I am today (along with a laundry list of other things I will also save for another blog!) So, He planted a tree for me in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ so I could grab hold of Him and stand back on my feet.

And because He did that for me, the least I can do for Him is this: I will be a tree for other people in need to lean on. I know I'm not perfect and may sway a little in the wind, but I'm still going to stand. In fact, I may never be anything more than a scraggly tree...
but I'll do my darndest not to be a lumberjack anymore.