Monday, April 30, 2012

Gratitude Journal #136

Today, I am grateful for winning two--not just one, but two!--baskets at the baseball association raffle. One basket included spa gift cards, lotions, and wine, and the other included grill accessories and a gift card to a local butcher!

Today, I am grateful George returned from abroad safe and sound last Thursday. After experiencing his twenty years in the military, I am accustomed to his leaving frequently, but this particular trip was no good and very bad on my end. His return not only signaled the return of my honey-bunny, but also the end of a run of unfortunate frustration. What a blessing!

Today, I am grateful for playdates and baseball and steak tacos and bang bang shrimp and birdsong and news from friends.

Today, I am grateful for the joy of servanthood, of doing for others without expectation of reward or thanks.

Today, I am grateful for visible progress on getting my junk cleared out, cleaned, organized.

Today, I am grateful for plain ol' joy of any kind.


I believe joy resides in a state of gratitude...gratitude for the Creator, for salvation, for love, for people, for passion, for laughter, for work, for opportunities to help and serve and inspire others.

Where do you think joy resides? What are you grateful for today?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Words, Words, Words about the Necessary

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” Hans Hofmann

The title of my stamping/cardmaking blog is Simplicity. That's the style I aspire to in a crafting world increasingly dedicated to more: more layers, more embellishments, more tools, more inks, more colors, more, more, more. I also aspire to simplicity in my life, but as I've written before, expanding my simple approach is, well, a seemingly impossible challenge.

I feared moving to a bigger house would create an excuse to store more stuff, to keep stuff just in case because, dang, there's a lot of room in this house so why not? This fear blossomed in my stomach every time I thought about George and the boys, all of whom are hoarders, but I'm guilty of hoarding as well, guilty of keeping things because they might be useful later, of holding on to sentimental things that no longer make me happy.

Today, I'm going to recommit to purging the unnecessary so the necessary may speak, so I don't spend so much time containing my clutter and managing other people's clutter. It's a huge job, but as George has said, you eat an elephant one bite at a time.

What areas of your life need a good purge? Why do you purge? What keeps you from purging?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Things on Thursday: Grass

This morning, as the sun was rising behind iron-gray clouds, Jack shouted, "Look, Mommy! We have grass!" I looked, and Jack was right.

How uplifting and wonderful on this dreary, drippy, and depressing day!

It's amazing how Mother Nature is coming through for me even as German engineering (in the form of my 2003 Passat station wagon) is letting me down. Tuesday was a nightmare of car trouble just one week after spending a painful amount of money fixing several oil leaks. This new trouble isn't related to the old trouble, costs another painful amount of money to fix, and has completely eroded my trust in my car.

But grass is satisfyingly trustworthy. With good dirt, straw, water, and sun, it grows. It will not develop a coolant leak in the heating coil that will pollute my garage floor and drain my bank account.

So that's why, today, I am grateful for grass.

What thing makes you happy today?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Weekly Giggle: Politics

When I saw this on Pinterest, I laughed out loud.

And speaking of ticks...

Apparently, our warm winter really appealed to ticks of the six-legged kind, and Ohio is now eaten up with them. We would pick this year to move to the country. We've pulled several ticks off Daisy, and Nick had one on his head. When I removed it, I did what the tick-removal website said to do: I put it in a plastic baggie to show the doctor if Nick got sick later.

Isn't it weird how we go to Google every time an unusual situation arises, and as long as the advice we find there is remotely reasonable-sounding, we take it?

Also, did you know that the docs don't want to run tests on the tick? I bought the website's line that the tick would be tested, but my medical-technologist aunt informed me they just want to see what type of tick it was to give a better idea of what sort of disease might be transmitted.

Another urban legend bites the dust.

Anyway, Nick was thoroughly grossed out by the tick and the tiny bit of his flesh that was still attached to its head. Ewww. I left the room but soon heard a strange thwack, thwack, thwack sound and ran back into the kitchen, where I found my son, plastic spatula in hand, beating the tick to jelly and chanting, "Ticks must DIE!"

All-righty, then.

I suppose I could make a joke about politicians at this point, but really, beating them with plastic spatulas hardly seems worth the effort, not to mention it sounds a bit kinky and it's probably illegal.

Well, okay, definitely illegal.

That's why I recommend voting this November instead. Voting is legal and moral and ethical and won't leave your mom wondering if you're playing too many violent video games.

See? Sometimes you can get good advice on the Internet!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Gratitude Journal #135

Today, I am grateful for friends who give good advice.

Today, I am grateful for friends who come to lunch and bring lunch with them.

Today, I am grateful for the gift of time. It's my fault I squander it so.

Today, I am grateful for coaches, assistant coaches, stats takers, and all the volunteers that make community sports possible.

Today, I am grateful for sunshine and the certainty that, one day, I'll see it again.

What are you grateful for today?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Words, Words, Words about Confidence

Rather appropriate for a blog called Questioning my Intelligence, don't you think? I believe that confidence comes not from knowing answers but from faith that you'll figure out what you can and that what you can't answer is simply Mystery.

Most of the questions worth asking don't have concrete answers anyway, and for the most part, our "certainty" is an illusion created by our limited perspective. Perhaps confidence just comes from the optimistic belief that we're part of something bigger than ourselves and someone (God, in my opinion) has a plan and a purpose motivated by love.

Or am I just crazy?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Things on Thursday: Alphabet Art

I want to make one of these.

Perhaps not as a table, though. Can you imagine dusting this? Or cleaning up a spill? No, I'm too practical that way. But a frame hung on the wall, with a hidden message worked in? Oh, yeah. That could be loads of fun. *squeal*

What sort of art do you want to make for your home? How do you personalize your home with things? Inquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Beginning Is Near!

This picture appeared on Pinterest and completely grabbed my attention.

Of course, I've written before about End Times and how silly it is to try to predict them. The Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that the time of the End will be...uncertain, unpredictable, a big fat surprise to everyone. Science hasn't much to say on the matter either. Our sun will go super-nova eventually, billions of years from now, which shouldn't really concern any of us. An asteroid might hit and wipe out life as we know it, and just maybe we'll get a heads-up about it from astronomers. We cannot, however, control the sky falling.

Henny Penny really is the silliest nursery-story character in the world, and who wants to act like her?

Of course, there may or may not be a conspiracy, headed by Elvis, to wipe out the human race using cell phones, that yummy roasted asparagus recipe from Pinterest, and genetically-modified golden retrievers controlled by the same code that Palpatine used to turn the Clones against the Jedi.

But I'm not holding my breath.

Beginnings, however, can be quite easy to predict and even sometimes to control. Graduations, weddings, new babies, new jobs, new puppies, new houses, new books, new craft supplies...starting something new in life is exciting (and occasionally quite terrifying).

Our new beginning--which isn't just near but is here--includes a new house and a new contract on the old house. We have a new patio and newly bulldozed earth, grass seed, and straw in our back yard; all our old furniture in its new setting; and a new basketball hoop.

Assuming all our straw and grass seed don't blow away in April winds, we'll soon celebrate a giant new yard upon which Daisy will pee and poop to her heart's content.

And speaking of Daisy, several of you have asked how the Furry Golden Sunshine is doing in her new digs. She's adjusting well and has fully recovered from her knee surgeries.

The first few weeks in the new house, she was completely freaked out by the noise of the ice maker in our new fridge, but she ignores it now. She loves finding sunbeams through the undressed windows and basking in the spring sun's glow. She loves looking out the low windows and off the deck at the birds and neighborhood dogs and people. She loves tearing around the basement like happiness on speed. She loves killing her indestructible blue chew toys and trying to bite my hands when I brush her ridiculously furry butt.

Basically, her life is good.

And so is ours.

It's humbling in this crazy, chaotic, uncertain world to be as blessed as we are right now, and a little terrifying. You see, I've read Boethius and know that fortune's wheel keeps spinning, and I've listened to Jimmy Buffett sing about just wanting to live happily ever after every now and then. Bad things happen, but they are worse when we go looking for them and they are the worst when we cower in anticipation of them and allow that fear to take away from the wonderfulness of life in the here and now. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind.

What beginning is near for you? How are you using your spirit of power and love and sound mind to embrace that beginning and let go of whatever end it's replacing?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Gratitude Journal #134

Today, I am grateful we have a contract on the old house. Hopefully, this one doesn't fall through like the last one did!

Today, I am grateful for experienced professionals who do good work. We now have a patio in the back yard, and the back yard has been graded and seeded. If we are fortunate with the weather, we'll have the beginnings of grass in about two weeks! The front yard is completely exposed to the prevailing winds and cannot be seeded for perhaps another month, but at least the back is in progress!

Today, I am grateful for a full week of school so I can truly make some progress getting the house organized.

Today, I am grateful for George, a man who makes life fun.

Today, I am grateful for bird song, for stars that shine at night, and for running water.

What are you grateful for today?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Words, Words, Words about Spells of Calm

" is important that there should be places where not a great deal happens because such places remind us that life is not entirely and exclusively made up of exciting or significant events. Every life needs spells of calm, every life needs expanses of time when nothing much occurs, when one may sit for several hours in the same place and gaze upon static things, upon some waxen-leafed desert plant, perhaps, or a patch of dry grass. Or a group of cattle standing under a tree for the shade, the slow, flicking movement of their tails the only indication that they are animate beasts, not rocks; or a sky across which no clouds, or perhaps only the merest wisp of white, move." 

--Alexander McCall Smith, from The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection

I don't remember when I started reading the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith, but it's been a favorite of mine for a long time. Smith's style is simple, clean, and appropriate to his characters, who are carefully drawn, deceptively complex, and extremely likable.

What is your version of gazing upon a group of cattle under a tree for shade? What spells of calm do you cultivate in your life, spells in which there is no agenda, no purpose, nothing to do except recharge your heart, mind, body, soul?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Things on Thursday: Basketball Goal

Two weekends ago, we bought a basketball goal. The large expanse of concrete outside our side-entry garage is perfect for basketball, and all three of my boys love shootin' hoops!

Today's photos were taken by George.

Which reminds me of a funny story about basketball and whores.

Nick and George were playing HORSE at the basketball court in our old neighborhood a couple of years ago. When they got to H-O-R, Nick asked George, "What is a whore?" George dodged the question and told Nick to ask me.

A while later at the dinner table, George announced that Nick had a question for me. Nick lit up and eagerly asked, "Mom, what's a whore?"

I replied, without hesitation or blushing,  "A woman who has sex for money."

"Wow," George said. "You didn't even hesitate."

"No. No, I didn't," I replied smugly.

Sometimes, it's fun being a grown-up.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Gratitude Journal #133

Today, I am grateful for a joyful celebration of the Resurrection yesterday in worship. Up from the grave he arose!

Today, I am grateful to have had my friend Mary visit our crazy chaos yesterday to eat lunch and watch golf.

Today, I am grateful for Bubba Watson, whose attitude toward the game of golf made me pull for him all the way to the green jacket. Congratulations, Bubba.

Today, I am grateful for having our furniture...finally. Since Thursday, we've been sleeping on real beds, eating at a solid wood table, and trying to put clothes away in actual, honest-to-goodness dressers. It's wonderful!

Today, I am grateful for the chaos before the order. (If I say it, I might start feeling it!) This isn't the table we've been eating on (obviously) because the bolts were stripped after eight moves of assembly and disassembly and it won't stand up. Yet. We'll get it figured out. In the meantime, the breakfast table works just fine.

Today, I am grateful for this, our tenth move in 26 years. May it be the last move for a lonnnnng time!
What are you grateful for today?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Words, Words, Words for Good Friday

Almighty God,
graciously behold this your family,
for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing
to be betrayed into the hand of sinners,
and to suffer death upon the cross;
who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever. Amen.

--#284, The United Methodist Hymnal

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

World Autism Awareness Day

Yesterday was World Autism Awareness Day. I lost track this year and was reminded when I read a post on a friend's blog. With all the media coverage in the past few years, people are becoming somewhat more aware of what autism is and the statistics, but here are some things you might not know about autism.

1. Moms and dads of children with autism often go through cycles of interest in the subject. Sometimes, we devour every book, magazine, and website we can lay our eyes on, spend hours on Internet forums, join support groups, even spend hundreds or thousands of dollars going to conferences to learn what no one really knows: what causes this and how can I help my child overcome it?

At other times, we want an autism news black-out. That's why World Autism Awareness day snuck up on me. We live it every single day, and constant saturation wears us out. Enough, already!

By the way, we can fluctuate between these two states of obsession and avoidance instantaneously, which only adds to our sense of being on a scary roller coaster ride without a safety bar.

2. One of the biggest social networking problems we parents face is the fact that every single child with autism is different. The saying in the autism community (we have our own community, you know) is "If you've seen one child with autism, you've seen one child with autism."

Those support groups I mentioned above have only limited usefulness because my experience as the mother of a well-behaved, high-functioning child bears absolutely no resemblance to the experience of a mother whose nonverbal son has to be institutionalized because he is now too big for her to control during his tantrums and he can't stop pulling out handsful of his sister's hair. Our two sons represent opposite ends of a spectrum of endless diversity.

How do you find people who can truly empathize with your particular situation, who can say, "I know exactly what you are going through"? It's tough. And isolating.

3. There's a lot of factionalism and division in the autism community. I've watched television talk shows that degenerate into name-calling and verbal violence over subjects like the gluten-free, casein-free diet or whether environmental toxins or genetics are to blame for the disorder. Internet forums are riddled with threads that degenerate into nasty name-calling and insults.

Without clear answers and definitive research results, chaos and ignorance rule. And where chaos and ignorance rule, cruelty thrives. One mother tells another, "If you loved your son, you'd put him on the GFCF diet." Another says, "I can't believe you're wasting your money on DAN doctors! You need to accept your child's condition and just take him home and love him."

Cruelty also takes the form of snake oil sales..."Give us $3,000, $30,000, $100,000 and we'll FIX your child!" Out of hundreds of treatment options that compete for parents' hard-earned money and government support, only a handful have serious scientific research backing them. Some have substantial anecdotal support and truly seem to help some people, but some treatments are complete hokum, as Dr. Sheldon Cooper would say. How do parents who don't have advanced degrees in child psychology, developmental pediatrics, and neuroscience distinguish false claims from legitimate avenues to pursue?

4. There's also a lot of compassion and realistic common sense in the autism community, too. I have two close friends whose approaches to treating their children with autism are polar opposites, while George and I have opted for a sort of middle ground. We all respect each other's decisions, support one another, encourage one another, and above all listen without judging each other. Also, some Internet forums are ruthlessly polite and supportive and respectful, although it can take effort to find them.

Almost all the therapists, special education teachers, doctors, and aides we've dealt with in the past six years--about fifty in all--have been lovely, positive, encouraging, skilled people. Many who work with our children understand their own level of informed ignorance. Their humility and willingness to try things give me hope--lots of it--for the future.

5. Autism, at least for us, can be funny. We laugh a lot, and Jack's sunny personality lifts us all up daily.

6. Autism is real, with 1 in 88 children diagnosed. What we do with it as a nation will say a lot about who we are as a people. Jack has had wonderful blessings in a school district dedicated to seeing him succeed, but not all school districts are as committed to helping our children. A friend's son was diagnosed in a district in Texas that wanted to warehouse him with other profoundly disabled children. The psychologist in that district told my friend her son would never read and never function in an inclusive education setting. After a futile fight that included lawyers, my friend and her family moved back to Ohio. This year, her son is in sixth-grade inclusion, without an aide, and doing extremely well. He reads above grade level, too. If my friend had listened to that first school psychologist and given up, her son wouldn't have left the warehouse the Texas district dared to call a "school" until it was time to move him into a group home. He's got a lot more hope now.

Her son's case highlights just how variable resources are across the country, and even from one school district to the next. We need more consistency in resource availability to help all children, no matter where they live; more informed and helpful bureaucrats and politicians making and executing policies that serve those who need help most; more money for research and treatment.

It might seem to be an overwhelming task, and it is. But like all big problems, let's each do what we can to help. Smile and offer kindness to the mom whose son is melting down at the grocery store, donate a few dollars where you can to legitimate autism charities, stand up for the rights of children who can't speak for themselves in your school district or when you vote on public services.

Thank you. From the whole autism community. Thank you.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Gratitude Journal #132

Today, I am grateful for a beautiful Palm Sunday worship service and the tone it set for all this Holy Week. Hosanna! Save us! Indeed.

Today, I am grateful for fresh air and sunshine.

Today, I am grateful for the kindness of strangers.

Today, I am grateful that the hideous orange stucco is gone. Well, it's been gone for months, but I finally took a photo of the lovely, orange-free facade of our new home yesterday. I hope one day soon to say I'm grateful for having the yard put in!

Next on the to-do list: paint the door brick red...

Today, I am grateful for dogs who make us laugh even when we don't want to laugh.

Today, I am grateful for an email I received yesterday. It demonstrated the power of gratitude to heal hurts and worries, to shift our focus away from pain and toward something amazing and beautiful. We are, in so many ways, a product of our habits of mind...and being grateful is a powerful habit to cultivate.

What are you grateful for today?

What seeds of gratitude can you cultivate today?