Sunday, January 8, 2017

I love you but not enough to ______________

We all love our families. Unless you are in a bad marriage or have demon children, I am betting you would say there is not anything you would not do for your family.  I bet you would even say you would lay down your life for your spouse and children. But, would you? I mean would you really? I am sure you have thoughts going through your mind ranging from donating a kidney for your loved one to stepping in front of a bullet for them and you are probably still saying "Yes!!" You may be even saying, "Has she lost her mind? Of course I would!! Is she implying she would not?" Before you start unfriending me on facebook and walking on the other side of the hall when you see me, I need to say that I would do all these for my family, no questions asked. Of course I love my family! I am so blessed to have them! So what AM I saying?  Stick with me until the end...

My husband's company has a "use it or lose it" policy with his vacation time.  Many of the workers, him included, take of time around Christmas and New Years to use up that time and be home for the holidays.  Each year, it varies how much we are blessed to have him home.  Some years we have him for 3 wonderful weeks! What does this have to do with the paragraph above? Well, with him home I get to have some alone time.  I get to "think". I get to have him cook meals and break up kid's fighting.  It is glorious... GLORIOUS! This year, in my "thinking", I stumbled on a silent message I was sending my family and I wanted to share it with all of you. After all, don't we tell our kids our actions speak louder than our words?

I often tell my husband how, while I do not wish to rush life, I do look forward to him retiring and being home all the time. Yes, you read that right, I am one of those weird people who does NOT look forward to her husband returning to work at the end of each of his vacations.  I used to work with him, at the same company, cubes in the same aisle AND we carpooled! 24/7 we were together and honestly I miss him when he is gone. My first days home with our daughter and him at work were HARD for me. Don't get me wrong we do have time apart and I don't sit in a corner rocking back and forth waiting for his return but, I do honestly love the time with him and I do look forward to our adventures when he retires.

I also tell my children how I hope to be a "fun" Grandma.  One that plays with the grandkids and runs around (as much as possible) with them.  I tell them how I hope we can all go camping and hiking together as a giant family.  I tell them how much I look forward to our fun adventures even in the upcoming years that I am still blessed to have them home with me (even though there are days that the school building down the road seems tempting to me).

But, I am silently telling them that these words that leave my mouth do not matter.  I am telling them just the opposite with my actions.  For those of you who know me, you might be wondering what I am talking about.  You see it, but you might not be thinking of it.  I am currently 80 pounds over weight.  Yes, you know I am overweight, we all know that.  But, I realized while my husband was home on break that I was telling him and my children that "I love you but not enough to stop eating things I KNOW I should not." "I love you but not enough to make sure I walk around more or even get one the treadmill for 20 minutes 3 times a week."  Seriously,  my current health is such that this is what I am telling them with my actions. Do you think I am jumping off the deep end?  Well look at it this way...

For all my children, I had to be induced due to high blood pressure (my last one resulted in preeclampsia and the doctor telling me not to have more children...). Part of the issue was that the weight gain made my blood pressure increase. I now weigh 15 pounds more than I did at my heaviest with any pregnancy and guess what?  I have been on blood pressure meds for a year now.  I told the cardiologist I would lose the weight so I could get off these meds. I have only managed to put on a few more pounds since then.  I have a history of diabetes and cancer in my family and being obese only increases my risks.  Yet, I still tell myself it is ok to eat cookies, candy and pop whenever I want and in whatever quantities I want.  After all it is the holidays, isn't that what we are supposed to do?

But, what happens after the holidays? The fact is that I don't really ever have a time to just put my foot down and say "no". I mean I do, but I choose not to. I silently tell my family I love them but not enough to give up my addiction to sweets and other things to try to improve my health so I can be mobile as we all age.  I have TERRIBLE knees.  I inherited them. In high school, when I was a whopping 125 at 5'9" (and of course I thought I was FAT) I had to stop running track due to the pain in my knees and I was getting cortisone shots in them! Now, while I was thin I had knee problems, but honestly the extra weight I carry is not HELPING them!! So, I am noticing it is hard to get up off the floor, out of a chair, etc.  They are sore some days and while I know the underlying cause may not make the soreness go away I notice my mobility decreasing already. The doctors have told me I will probably need replacements but that I want to try to push that off as long as possible. But carrying around 80 extra pounds is not helping that, it is making it worse.

So, for the last couple weeks I have found myself kicking myself after I eat sweets. I find myself saying I just told my husband that I don't want to spend retirement traveling and hiking.  That I really want to spend it using a cane and barely walking at all. This is not the message I want to send. I don't want to send a message that food is more important to me than him! So, I have to start to think with each piece of food I grab, "What am I saying to my family?" "Are my actions matching my words?"

I am not a New Years Resolution kind of girl. Any time I have tried one, well if I make it a day or two I am lucky. What I want to do is just change my life to put my family before my addictions. And, if I am REALLY honest with myself, I have to go a step further and think of what I am telling Jesus, who I profess is my savior. I know he wants me to be healthy so he can use me for his plans. But, as I let my body, his temple, deteriorate, I am telling him "I love you but not enough to stay healthy". It is really convicting when you think of things in that perspective!

Am I saying I will never have a cookie again? No, I know I am too weak for that. But, while a Christmas cookie would not hurt, sneaking into the kitchen to repeatedly eat them is. I don't need dessert every day. Birthday cake would be acceptable if I did not have desserts as many times as possible in between those days. I want to be healthy. And, you know what? When I had cut sugar out of my diet before, when I first added it back, I found it made me nauseous. I really would not mind going back to that. That made me not eat huge sundaes and keep it to just a taste every once in a while. But as I continued to push through the nausea I got my body back to being used to it and well now my body craves it, it begs for it, it lives for it. I want to live for my Savior and my family not for my next "fix" of sugar.

So what is in your blank? What do you quietly tell your family "I love you but not enough to_____?"

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Today

Today is hard.
Today is emotional.
Today is painful.
Today is sad.
Today is happy.
Today is.

Eight years ago today, I went into induced labor.  The night before I took sleeping pills to help me sleep.  Now I was in pain and wanted it all to go away.  I did not want to feel the pain of delivery.  I knew my baby was going to be born sleeping and I felt as if my world had caved in on me.  Each breath came, thank God that is an involuntary action of our body because I would have forgotten to breathe if it was up to me.  When the hard labor started, the nurse offered drugs and I took them. I did not want to feel this pain.  It was not pain with a happy moment at the other end.  It was pain on pain.    God in his humor always had Bruce Lee on the TV in the hospital for my husband to watch while I was in labor.  I did not want to hear the karate-chopping noises this time.  I took the drugs because they would help me sleep.  But my sleep would be temporary, unlike that of my child.  The doctors and nurses in their desire to keep me healthy had hooked me up to an IV for fluids.  No baby monitor necessary for there was no heartbeat to monitor.  My nurse was so wonderful, so sweet, and so compassionate.  She knew this would be a delivery with no crying baby at the end of it and yet she cared for me just as she would any other patient.  In fact, she acted as if she was my own loving mother.  She had compassion in her eyes with everything she did for me.  I told her I was sorry that she would not have a happy day when she left work today and she told me that it was her job to be there for me and that she treated all her patients as if they were her own daughters and I was no exception.

I was awoken from my sleep by the intense need to pee... all those fluids were be pumped into me as I slept and my bladder just kept filling so I guess it was inevitable.  I called for my nurse since I needed her to move my IV bag to something mobile.  But as I stood, I felt another sensation.  I told the nurse and she had me lay back down.  She checked and then called the doctor.  It was time to deliver.  My emotions were all over the place.  On one hand, I was ready.  I wanted my lifeless child out of my body.  On the other hand, I was not ready.  This would sever my tie to my baby.  It would end my body's pregnancy... a pregnancy that was only half way done.  What would my baby look like?  Would it be a boy or a girl?  They had not been able to tell on the last ultrasound.

The doctor (I can't remember if it was a full fledged doctor or a "student" -- after all a student could handle this one, it is not like they could kill the baby...) came in and told me it was time to push.  I did not want to push.  I was not worried about the physical pain, I was pretty sure there would be none.  But the emotional pain.  The mental pain.  I was not really ready to meet my baby this way... but it was time and I did not get to chose whether it was time or not.  That was out of my control.  Everything was out of my control this time.  And let's not forget, I was in pain from the need to PEE! I pushed as instructed.  It only took that one push.  Out my baby came, still enclosed in the sac.  We still did not know if it was a boy or girl and I still needed to pee.  My heart was so heavy and I did not want to walk to the bathroom anymore. I did not want to go anywhere.  I just pee'd right there.  I apologized to my nurse.  She had been so nice and here I gave her more mess to clean up.  She was so loving.  She and the doctor told me not to worry and agreed that I did indeed need to pee like I had said.

They had taken the baby to another room to clean it up before bringing it to me.  The nurse came in first to tell me it was a boy.  Another boy... my son would have been so excited to have a little brother to play with.  My daughter would have been a little mother to him.  The doctor came in and told me information I had asked for them to give me.  Before I held him, I wanted to know what to expect.  We knew he had died some time before the delivery and I wanted to know what I could expect for what he would look like.  I was not sure I wanted to see him if he was too far gone.  I won't go into the details they told me.  I will just say I wanted to hold him and we decided it would be best to swaddle him and I would leave him in his swaddling and hold him that way.

The younger nurse that brought him in to me tried to smile.  It was kind of her to try but her eyes were full of tears and she had to quickly excuse herself.  She was young and clearly this facet of the job was not as familiar to her as my motherly nurse.   As we looked at our son, I was in awe.  He was 20 weeks gestation and technically he could have been aborted.  (In fact, that was the other option I was presented with... the doctor told me I could go to a "clinic" and have him "removed" if I did not want to go through delivery.) But he was all there.  He was fully formed.  All he needed was a little longer bones and a little more meat on them.  I remember commenting to John that he had a finger nail that needed trimmed.   How could anyone abort a child like this?  I have never felt that abortion was appropriate but this -- this was beyond bearable to think of... HE WAS ALL HERE.  HE WAS NOT A LUMP OF CELLS!  He was a baby!  Our baby who needed a name...

We talked a little bit and I came to the conclusion that since he was in heaven singing praises with the angels that we would give him the name of an angel.  Gabriel.  I asked John to think of a middle name and when we both though separately we both came to the same conclusion. John it was.  So here we held Gabriel John.  The hospital mortician came in and gave us our options.  Because I knew before I went to the hospital what the outcome would be I had already made arrangements for our son's burial.  But did we want an autopsy?  That was harder question.  In the end we chose to have it so any information we could glean form this loss (our third loss) might help if we had another.  He left us with our son and we were told to take our time.  How do you decide when you have held your child enough.  I told them I was done and we put him into the basket they wheel babies in the hospital around and called the nurse.  She was busy.  After a few minutes I could not bear that he was sitting in the corner of the room alone so I had John bring him back to me.  How was I supposed to say goodbye?  He was not in this body but this was all I had.  How could I say goodbye?  I never even got to say hello!  I let them take him.  Then it was time to move me...

It was hospital policy to take a woman like me -- ones who did not get to leave the hospital with a live baby, to the antepartum floor rather than the postpartum floor where babies were everywhere.  Yes, this was a good idea... or was it?  Kindly they wheeled to a room at the end of the hall. The one with the "most comfortable bed on the floor", the nurse told me.  As they wheeled me down the hall to that room, I passed room after room with fetal heart monitors going.  Oh how I longed for that noise to be in my room!  As we approached the room, I saw an oak leaf "card" stuck to my door.  I would learn later that this told all hospital staff who entered the room that I had delivered a sleeping child so that they would use the proper words and tone with me.  They would not look for a heart monitor.  They would not ask if the baby was moving around in me.  They would be more somber and express their sympathy to me.  They would wheel my lifeless son back to my room if I called for him.  This is what the oak leaf on my door told them to do.

I was afraid to ask to see him again.  Would I be able to give him back again?  I wanted to hold him so bad.  I never wanted to let him go.  I wanted him to come home and play with my two other children who did not understand anything other than that the baby in mommy was dead.  My daughter heard that plain as day when the doctor said "Your baby is dead" at the ultrasound.  How was I going to be strong for her when I got home?  How was I going to help her when I was not sure how I was going to make it though this myself?

The story goes on and on from there.  People not knowing what to say to me and saying the worst things they could say to me.  "Maybe it would have had a defect", "It is better off", "You can have another"... platitude after platitude.  Friends brought meals.  When my husband had to leave the state for his job 3 days later a dear friend took me and my kids in for several days.  It was perfect. I could cry and sleep when I needed to while her kids that were the same age as mine played with my children.  Meals were cooked for us and I got hugs when I needed them.  I had a copy of Gabriel's foot prints with me when I wanted him to be closer.  Dear friend, THANK YOU for the gift you are to me and my family!

People sometimes are horror stricken by my openness in sharing what happened.  But I can't keep quiet.  It is not a secret.  It is not anything I should be ashamed of (even if I hate that the autopsy showed that my body threw blood clots in the placenta that is what killed him).  I feel like hiding it would be allowing Satan to minimalize Gabriel's life.  I don't want Satan to be able to hide that these babies are just that -- BABIES!  Not lumps of cells or disposable lives.  They have fingernails that need trimmed... they have 10 fingers and 10 toes.  I don't want Satan to keep me quiet or I can't allow God to use me to talk to others who need to know they are not alone.  After losing Elisha and Noah as well, I learned that silence prohibits me from helping others.  I would never have CHOSEN this ministry but I will take it.  God wants me to be there for others.  As friends have friends that go through miscarriage they come to me and ask how they can practically help.  What should they say?  No, I don't want this job -- I HATE this job.  I wish this job was never given to me.  But, if God wants me to have this job along with the beautiful job of raising my children and teaching them how can I say no?  As Job said, "Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?"  I don't deserve the good things I have in life but I willingly take them... I have to take this too.  And if it means living the pain so that others may feel a tiny piece of comfort, than that is what I have to do.

So, yes, each year on this day, I change my profile picture to a picture of his gravestone.  Each year I remind everyone I can of his life.  Because even though he never took a breath of air, he was a LIFE and every bit as important as the 3 children in my house (Which is why today is happy!  I have 3 beautiful children here with me!).  My other two children, Elisha and Noah, who were miscarriages before were also lives just like Gabriel.  When I delivered Elisha I saw his/her body as a "bean" in the sack.  Yes, I believe life starts at conception.  I am saddened when I remember that had I delivered Gabriel one week earlier, I would not have been able to bury him.  He would have been considered "biohazard".  One week earlier and there would have been on option of an autopsy and no death certificate issued.  But that one week earlier he still would have been every bit as much a baby and every bit as much developed.

And, as Natalie Morgan has so beautifully brought out in her viral posts, my vagina is not a magic portal for living beings that suddenly turns a lump of cells into a human.  As she pointed out, NARAL wants to say that the silly Doritoes commercial "humanized fetuses" and that this is wrong... well sorry NARAL all 6 of my children are HUMAN!!  No, I will not boycott Doritoes for the fact that a silly (and funny) commercial made the little human seem too real for those who wish to believe that they are not real babies.  And no, I will NEVER think that abortion is ok at ANY point in a pregnancy.  And NO, I will not just shut up and "get over it already"!

Today I cry.
Today I go to the cemetery.
Today I eat Doritoes.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

You can chose to be thankful

Last week was Thanksgiving.  I am not sure how many people paused to be thankful and how many people stuffed their bellies with way more food than they needed.  Many people spent the day traveling to relative's homes -- sometimes more than one home.  My day was supposed to be spent traveling to two different homes and seeing much family.  But, as Wednesday afternoon closed in, I began to think it was not going to happen.  We notified the families that we might not be attending but before we went to bed my middle child had a fever of 101.5 and my youngest had been diagnosed with an ear infection. :(  We were staying home.  My husband went out and purchased a small turkey and fixings so we could still have the traditional pant-popping meal at home.

Thursday morning was lazy.  It was kind of nice to not have to worry about everyone getting up, dressed and ready for that first trek to grandma's house.  By this time the middle one was a lump on the couch and the other two, while lower fevers, were not moving much.  My husband and I took time to enjoy the beautiful weather and get a couple things done that we did not want to take time from healthy kids to do.  The turkey in the oven, my husband cleaned the garage while I cleaned out a portion of the school room so we could move a chair out of that room (to make room for other things which would in turn make room for the tree).   The kids were watching movies and playing video games in between my temperature checks and prodding to drink more fluids.

The turkey dinner was delicious.  It was not my mom's but it was good.  I missed seeing some extended family but instead of sitting there feeling sorry for all of us for being stuck in a home ill, I chose to be thankful.  Thankful for the 3 children I am blessed with.  Thankful that we have medicines to bring down fevers that reach 102 by the end of the turkey dinner.  Thankful for medicines that help the ear pain for the child who has had so many ear infections that he can tell me it is infected.  Thankful that I am able to own my own otoscope to check to see that it is really infected before we trek to the doctor's office for a false alarm.  Thankful for a husband who is willing to shop the night before Thanksgiving for last minute meal supplies.  Thankful that we have a meal to eat.  Thankful that we have a roof over our heads.  The list goes on... I am sure that you get the picture.

I could have chosen to be sorry for our situation.  I could have sat there and felt bad for what I perceived as things we did not have, but instead I counted all my blessings and they were MANY!  I chose to fill the house with love.  I chose to hug my little sick children and tell them how thankful I was for them.  It felt more like Thanksgiving than just about any other year because I sat back and reflected on what I have and what I should be thankful for rather than just filling my stomach to the point of bursting and reliving days gone by with extended family...

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Facing Fears and Hearing God

There are two different types of fears: rational and irrational.  Therapists will tell you that in some cases in order to lessen the fear or conquer the fear or make it have less of a hold on your life that you have face your fear.  Everyone has something they fear.  What strikes sheer horror in one person may make someone else smile.  That is the tricky part of irrational fears not only do they not make sense but you may not have support from others with your fear.  Here is an example: my sister does not like spiders... like REALLY does not like spiders.  If she sees one and does not kill it she wonders where it has gone and if it will be crawling across her in the middle of the night.  On the other hand, I have picked some spiders up and moved them by hand to outside my home.  Big spiders or "hoppy" spiders, well I do need to squish those...  but only those large tarantulas strike terror in me at the thought of them leaving their cages in pet stores.

For me, I have fears that cause me to tremble.  And much like my peace with spiders while others fear them, I fear heights -- my knees tremble, my pulse races and my heart pounds so hard I think I can see my shirt move with every beat.   I feel that way when I am only one story high!  You can only imagine the terror I feel when I am 200+ in the air.  This is what makes it to amazing that I faced this fear this year.  I not only faced it once but 3 times.  I am not by any means over it and I would not by any means say that I have lessoned it by large amounts.  I am still like a vampire running from day light when I have to go high up -- wanting to run as far away as I can from the heights as I can.

This summer my family went to Cedar Point many times.  My fear of heights makes going there a little challenging at times.  I look at some of these roller coasters and I think to myself how they look like so much fun but I look at that first hill -- that mountain holding people up so high with so little protection around them and I cringe.  I remember being on the Magnum as a teen and crying at the top of the first hill...  well I was not even at the top, it took so long to get there I started crying half way up!  I can handle corkscrew and blue streak... I think many people would call them "baby coasters".  They only send mild palpitations and I have more fun on them than terror.  This is why I know if I could just get over that first hill I would probably enjoy others.  I stand at the bottom of them looking up just wishing I had enough in me to get on and enjoy it.  Iron Dragon is not a huge coaster, but the swinging of the cars... oh the swinging -- I feel like an eagle has picked me up and is taking me to her nest.  I am not fond of that feeling but I can tolerate it for those that want to ride it with me.

There are two coasters that made me want to give them a try.  Both of them are floorless.  Now, this is a big deal -- a REALLY big deal.  You see the first thing I do when going down a big hill is brace my feet on the floor... HARD!  Riding a coaster that is high AND has no floor... well that is a recipe for terror unlike any other.  It is with this in mind that I tell you that not only rode but also enjoy the Gatekeeper.  It is one of my new favorite rides.  No, I do not think it will be easy for me to just jump on it each time I go but after having ridden it twice now (once in the day and once at night) I can say that I know I can do it and if someone were to want to ride it with me I could do it.  I am certainly not ready for the front car and I may never be but I know I can do this.

All summer I have looked up at the Raptor and thought that I would like to give it a try.  Each time I walked up to the entry I would look up and feel that intense pounding in my chest.  I would use a 20+ minute wait as an excuse not to ride.  But on our last trip this year the line was only about 10 minutes and I knew it was now or not at all this year.  I went up and each step forward put another level of intensity to the pounding in my chest.  My hands began to sweat and thoughts of turning back continued.  Since my husband can't ride due to motion sickness and my kids are too afraid to ride with me I felt so alone in line.  With no one to talk with my mind focuses only on the impending trip up followed by the steep drop down.  To take my mind off of it I try to listen in to the conversation of the kids in front of me.  I watch the little questions go by on the screens that I pass...  Anything to stop thinking about what I am going to be doing in a few short minutes.  I start to climb the stairs that lead to the boarding platform.  The pounding is so intense now that I think I will just walk by the seat when they say I can board and not ride after all.  I go through the turnstile and look at the options for seating.  NOT the front seat... Ah if I ride in the very last seat I can get on the next car and get this over with.

Still uncertain if I am just going to walk through or if I am going to sit on the seat the gate swings open.  The two people in front of me are an older couple.  In line I had been praying that God keep me safe and that I would be able to do this to show the kids that I can face my fears (like I ask them to do).  I finally sit in the seat next to the woman and lean my head back.  She asks me if I am ok.  I tell her "Yeah, I am just scared."  She smiles warmly and says "You'll be ok, I will pray for you."  Did I just hear that right?  She offered to pray for me?  I thank her and said my daughter was doing the same.  We are now climbing the first hill.  I still feel my heart pounding but I am strangely at peace.  Soon we are zooming and swooshing around.  I can't tell when I am upside-down and when I am right-side-up since, unlike the gatekeeper, I can't see what is going to happen ahead of me...  We come to that sudden stop and my head feels like it is still going.  The lady next to me asks how I did.  I tell her that I survived and it is just that I am afraid of heights.  She tells me that she is also afraid of heights but she just prays and she makes it through.  Wow... God met me right where I needed Him to...  Just like He says He will... It was amazing to have a complete stranger there praying for me on the ride.

Now, I did not like the raptor too much.  Not being able to see what was coming was not so cool... when we stopped my head felt like I was still going.  But, I can say I rode the Raptor.  I can say I rode the Gatekeeper and you might just find me on that one again.  But, you can bet I will be praying in line and all the way up.  I am not sure if you will ever find me on the Top Thrill Dragster (appalled that there are not shoulder harnesses) but I will slowly face those things that scare me... next stop on the facing fears train... my son is getting a pet snake... I think I would rather ride Top Thrill...

Friday, March 27, 2015

Swimteam Benefits -- It's Not About Physical Fitness

So for some time now, I have told so many people to think about joining swim team.  I never would have guessed that it was going to be the sport I encouraged my children to be in.  Before I had children, I would listen to one of my co-workers talk about all the swimming and the meets and the SUNBURN (my pale body can't handle that!) and I pretty much decided I was not going to join those crazy people.

But, then as time went on and I saw my son's love of the water I thought it was something he should try.  My daughter was not really interested but I thought my son should do it.  We joined the local rec league... nothing big time here.  I watched him swim for an hour straight -- lap after lap.  Knowing that I could not swim that much I felt good about the exercise my video-game-loving-boy was getting.  I quickly decided this was his phys ed class! :D

The first meet was bright and early on a Saturday morning.  Much earlier than I wanted to be up and I could not imagine my son getting up that early and then swimming!!  But, despite the earlier hour we got up and ate a healthy protein filled breakfast and headed off to the pool.

My son's first race was also his first blue ribbon.  I was so happy for him.  But something even more amazing than that blue ribbon happened.  People who did not even know my son were cheering for him -- just because he was on the team.  Now this may sound silly to you, after all, aren't we supposed to cheer for our team?  But it was a different cheering that what we experienced in other sports.  There was a sense of sincerity to it that lacked in baseball and my daughter's softball.  After that first race, my daughter looked at me and said she wanted to join swim team the next year. 

But over the year things only got better.  My son did not get a blue ribbon in every race but he did have people cheering him on at each race.  And then I saw him.  I still don't know this boy's name but he challenges everything that I thought I knew about sports and sportsmanship.  I am not certain what his disability is, but I suspect he has a milder form of cerebral palsy.  He cannot use one of his arms and walking is not a smooth even gait for him.  But he has the BIGGEST smile and is one of the friendliest boys I have seen.  His jump into the water was anything but graceful.  With only one arm to use he was slow going down the lanes.  Due to his age he had to swim 4 lengths of the pool.  He NEVER gave up.  Other kids were done and he was just heading on his 3rd length but he gave it all he had.  All eyes were on him as he did his last flip turn.  I noticed something the cheering was so loud and crazy that it caught my attention. I looked around and found ALL teams cheering him on.  Everyone was on their feet as if there were watching some sort of photo finish.  I was almost driven to tears at this huge amount of encouragement that people were giving to this boy that many of them did not know.

As the season went on I saw this repeat itself with other children whether they were young or disabled and I saw it again at Champs with this same boy.  I was proud to be part of a great team sport.

The following year at a meet against the same rec league with this young man, it was COLD.  I mean get your kids out of the water and put thick quilts on them as their lips turned blue cold.  My children (my daughter did join the team the following year) were miserable between races trying to keep warm.  Races were slow from cold muscles.  Children lept out of the water and ran to their blankets.  But then the race happened.  This young man was in the water again.  Our guy on our team finished the race again as he was heading on his 3rd leg...  Our guy got out of the water and wrapped his arms around himself and walked from his lane.  But, instead of heading for his towel or his blanket he walked to the lane this other young man was swimming in. He stood there with not an ounce of body fat on him to keep him warm and cheered his opponent on and wait.  When the young man finished, our guy as cold as he was reached out his hand, helped this guy out of the water and hugged him.  How many 15/16 year old boys do you see do that?  Again, near tears!

I stopped our swimmer later and told him how grateful I was to have him as a role model on our team for my young son to watch.  That is the kind of thing is the life skill that I want my kids to learn.  I am sure it exists in other sports, and don't get me wrong there are kids on the swim team that are not the great role models and who do pick fights... but between the cheering and the sportsmanship I have seen on the swim team I am thankful for it. 

I meant to write this article for a while but I was too lazy.  Then a friend of mine wrote about her daughter Ella (Ella's Story) and I saw the story that I wanted to relay repeating itself.  I tell even more people about the benefits of rec level swim teams.  There is just something awesome about them and I am glad my kids are part of ours.  They can show the love of Christ in ways I never imagined!  (and they are in great shape!!)

Just keep swimming...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Living out my childhood dream

Growing up, I wanted to be only one thing -- a teacher -- preferably a math teacher. :)  I was the kid that always took the extra worksheets that the teacher was going to throw out at the end of the year home with me.  I had piles and piles of old worksheets and scholastic order forms.  I would go down into my parent's basement and lay them out on the floor for my invisible class room to work on.  I would tell the talkers to quiet down and separate them if necessary.  I was certain that I was going to teach real children some day.

Then in high school my mind was changed.  I really did not want it to be changed but it was.  My mom went to the parent-teacher conferences at our school.  My Algebra II teacher told my mom that letting me become a teacher (even a math teacher) would be a waste.  He told her I should look into being an engineer.  While this is flattering it did not take into account my life long dream!  And isn't that implying that you can have too much to give to children?  Anyway, I took the advice. I went to college thinking I was going to have a degree in Physics.  That lasted all of one semester.  Instead I came out and became a software engineer.  I liked my work but I never truly loved it.  Sure there were parts I loved, but on a whole I always felt like there was a part missing.

Then I had my daughter and made the decision to stay home her.  I just could not imagine having anyone else care for my little one and I was blessed to be able to stay home with her. When she was two I started to wonder what we were going to do for her in terms of school.  I was not fond of the local school district and while we were able to keep me at home, I was not sure that we would be able to send the children to a private school.  So we began to investigate homeschooling.  Yes, while she was still 2 and we had no other children (well there was one on the way...) I went to my first homeschooling convention and we decided that our children would be homeschooled.

Upon making that decision, I began to live the dream I had always had -- to be a teacher!  I never thought it would be this way.  I never thought it would actually be in my house as it had been as a child.  I never knew that it would be with students that I love so intensely.  God brought me to my dream in a way I had NEVER imagined.  Isn't that how he works?  Using the least likely way to do things to show his glory to the world?  I mean just look at Paul-- killing the Christians and then finally becoming one himself to the point to persecution like many of us have never experienced in our lives!

I often wondered about the comment the teacher made to my mom about it "being a waste" and have often thought how ridiculous it is.  I mean if you have a passion to teach and you love it and are good at the subject you are teaching doesn't that make it so you would be a GOOD teacher?  I often wondered how many children would have been happy to have me as a teacher... but then I step back and say "NO".  If I had followed my dream straight out of college I am not sure I would have stayed home with MY children.  I might have enjoyed the work so much that I would have kept teaching and then I would not be so blessed to be here encouraging my own children every step of the way.  So, I have finally decided to thank Mr. Beeler, wherever he is.  Ha!  Actually it was all through God using him to veer me off my course.  I love teaching my kids (even on the hard days) and teaching children via the co-op.  Even teaching the children via 4-H is a pleasure.

So, there you have it.  God brings you to your destinations in life but often the path to get there is not the one you imagine. I could have used so many examples in my life of other ways this has happened but this one is the most clear cut.  His hand is in all I do!  I am so very grateful for the opportunities I have been given.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Leaving your comfort zone can be good for you (and those around you)

Those who know me -- I mean truly know me -- know that I will do things out of the ordinary.  That is why I am the one who taught a class in our homeschool group that spent all kinds of time talking about vomit, diarrhea and urine.  Sometimes finding wacky ways to do things helps students remember things better.  Talking about vomit and diarrhea would not normally be on the top of this germaphobe's list of things to do, however, the students really did seem to learn the digestive system after I taught this way.  But, while those are not necessarily the most fun topics to spend your time talking about, for me that was only mildly outside my comfort zone.  (Making me clean up those substances would have been drastically different!)

Last year we started the school year the same as we did the years before.  I was excited, I love new books -- I love to smell them, I love to look at them and I love to read them.  But there was this underlying "mood" in the house and no one was happy.  I loved the curriculum I was using, it all made sense to me, but the tears were too frequent.  The phone calls to the "principal" were too frequent.  The constant justifying to my kids what we were doing was too frequent.  (On an aside, I must note that I did not use parts of the curriculum that might have been more interesting for the kids but I felt like there was no time for it and that stressed ME!)

Enter December 2013 -- I had had ENOUGH!  I just felt like I could not do one more day of school like this.  I know that homeschooling is not perfect.  There are hard days and there are VERY hard days but I felt inside that there were not enough good days.  Not enough looking forward to learning something...ANYTHING.  I felt like the love of learning was being sucked out of my children.  They wanted to be done ASAP (some of this is just how children are but in this case they looked forward to NOTHING about school).  So, I made a decision... a decision that is enough out of the comfort zone that I almost did not want to tell any of the women around me.  I threw out the curriculum I was using and switched at the beginning of December. That's right I switched curriculum mid-year!!  Now you have to understand, I am a planner.  I don't like having all my plans thrown out and having to start over and here I was doing it to myself!

I purchased a used teacher manual on eBay and started to find the books.  The price was mounting and I was terrified that this was a bad choice -- I had not sold the old curriculum yet since I felt I needed a "safety net".  But, God in his mercy, provided me with a dear friend who allowed me to borrow all the books I needed because she was not using that set this year.  Armed and ready to go we started again in January.  The first day went great.  I was afraid to be excited because, well it was the first day!   But as the days went on I noticed less tears.  The principal noticed less phone calls.  The kids started asking me to continue on with some of the lessons -- REALLY they did not want me to stop!  Some subjects were a little hard but this is SCHOOL after all! :D

The hardest part of switching mid-year was that at the end of the school year we were not "done" with all curriculum.  In addition to me being a planner, I am also a box checker.  If there is a box in the teacher manual to be checked off, I want to check it!  God had a conversation with me.  He reminded me of how many history books in school had pristine pages at the backs of them.  I learned about Christopher Columbus MANY times but we never made it to JFK at the back of the book.  I had to let it go.  So the last day of school came and I eBay'd the teacher's manual off.  I was free from having to look at those unchecked boxes.

So now we are 5 weeks into 2014-2015 school year and we are still enjoying this new-to-us curriculum.  I am actually kind of sad.  I wanted to use this curriculum when my oldest was in 1st grade but I talked myself out of it... now that she is in 6th grade I feel like I let her down.  She could have enjoyed some of those school years so much more!  Yes, there are still tears -- there always will be those hard days.  But they are SO much less often and usually they do not have to do with the new curriculum but instead the fact that they have to do school in general or their least favorite subject -- MATH, which was not changed.

There are a multitude of other reasons I like this curriculum better -- everything from keeping me off facebook as much as I had been to the one-on-one reading time that I now enjoy with my middle child who I often felt was left out.

So all this rambling is to say that sometimes, you need to leave that comfortable place.  Sometimes we need to take that leap of faith and do things that some people think are crazy.  You never know what you might learn!