Thursday, November 30, 2006

Intentions and Tonation.

After that lengthy post and so many comments and emails, I just have to add a few more thoughts in response to an anonymous comment about me being so 'happy all the time'.
As a media communication graduate ( I understand and am aware of my 'voice' and words that are shared here each post.
I always hope that the way I intend to 'say' something is the way that it is received, but I am realistic. I know that everyone comes from a different walk of life with different experiences and opinions that shape the way things are perceived. Including what I write here on Nitty.Gritty. I try my best to write things in a way that makes them understandable and clear...but sometimes I don't succeed in doing that for everyone. I also realize that the comments that are posted here have their own 'voices' attached, and I may not always 'hear' them as they were intended. As may very well be the case with the comment at the center of the last post. I just wanted to respond and reitterate what is the basis for Nitty.Gritty.
It is simply about me sharing the events of my life, my reactions to them, and my thoughts about them in a public place. Because of the enormity of the tragedy that has touched my life, that tends to be one of the main themes that I go back to or how I measure my day-to-day happenings- it's my defining point in life. I think it always will be.
Does that make sense? To put it another way, I often feel like I've lived two lives- one before our tragedy and one after. When I blog about anything, it's from one of those two perspectives. I find that the way I function best and have been able to 'move on' since Teagan's death, has been for me to accept what has happened and not get hung up in looking back or wishing things over again, or hanging onto something that no longer exists. I still have my memories of Teagan and all the happiness we had in our lives with her, and I still have the experiences that shaped me in all those years I grew and learned until July 29th, 2oo1, but since then things have changed.
So, part of why I may 'sound' or 'appear' so happy here all the time has to do with the way I function now. If I had kept a blog in the weeks following Teagan's death and the years of change and healing and recovery that I and the rest of my family endured, you would have 'heard' a very different story. Well maybe not VERY different story, but it has definitely changed and 'sweetened' over time.
The pain and anger and hurt and depression and unfairness and bleakness that consumed me has slowly faded and healed and recovered and looked forward and forgiven and looked deeply and is seeing a new world. A new life. A new Joy.
That is what I hope to continue to grow into- a person who has been broken beyond what she thought she could bear, but has been reborn into a person full of hope and joy.
Maybe Anonymous had only been reading for a few days or through the month of November. I specifially looked inside me this month for all I have to be grateful for. In doing that, I often realized that my pain and struggles and changes that have happened in my life the last few years are things that I can now celebrate and appreciate. It's been an important journey for me to get to this point, and on this last day of November 2006, I am grateful for the insight that I have gotten on this journey and my heart is full.
Maybe I made myself sound too cute and quaint; too happy and appreciative. I can't fault someone for 'hearing' me that way. I have said it here before. I welcome controversy or different viewpoints, because they make me think harder or search myself deeper, or question my beliefs. And then I either grow or change, or am strengthened in my own position. It doesn't scare me to be transparent, open and vulnerable here.
This is for me. It has been from the beginning. I am 'happy' to share myself this way, and I have loved the ongoing dialogue (through comments and emails: ). I think we can all learn something here. I know that I never want to stop living and learning and growing and becoming. Something better, something greater and something that is worth sharing with others no matter who or where they are. I wish everyone in the world wanted this in their life- instead of beating ourselves up, or hurting one another, we would all be evolving into better people.
That's the heart of my message. I want Nitty.Gritty. to offer hope and joy to anyone and everyone who reads it. Afterall, I have it {hope and joy} in abundance in my own life, and while I'm not perfect by any standard, I don't want to hog this goodness all to myself. I hope you have been able to grow and appreciate and find purpose in your life all month long, just as I have this November. I plan on taking my appreciation and gratitude with me into the coming weeks and months ahead. I can only imagine what my life will look like years down the road. =)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Someone's been reading between the lines here.

I just got done reading the comments that were left in response to my post yesterday. I have no idea who the anonymous poster (see 2nd comment) is, but I am compelled to write a response. Thanks for the jumpstart as to what I should blog about. =)
Whomever this person is seems to think that I am 'happy all the time'...that somehow I don't blog about the negative things or the stuff I'd like to change in my life. I was just thinking back to a few of the things I've blogged about off the top of my head. (Meaning I haven't looked through my archives to dig this up- I just remember writing this stuff down.) In the past year, I recall blogging about some not-so-good things; at least to me they weren't that wonderful.
Do you recall the one about driving over a skunk? Chip hit it on the freeway, and our van smelled terrible for about 4 days after that. Not to mention the first few minutes after it actually happened. We argued about why 'bad stuff' happens to us all the time. Or what about the morning Bella stuck her jammies in the toilet? I wasn't exactly Miss Thrilled with that incident. Or Ava pulling ALL the clothes out of her closet- more than once. Then there are the ongoing issues we still have as a result of the death of Teagan and the life-long impacts of the injuries that some of the rest of us sustained back in July 2001.
Wyndham has challenges and disabilities that affect all of us- like the shots we have to give her every single night. Or at age five, that we have to lift her into a carseat, she can't climb into it herself...and she is still wearing diapers- although we've been potty training for more than a year now. Then there is her obvious challenges- she's made great strides in walking over the last year and a half- but she's still not speaking. We are all in the process of learning sign language, while still trying to work with her speech and keeping up with therapies three times a week.
I know I've been honest about the struggles that Chip and I have had in our relationship since losing Teagan. It has not always been easy to love each other when we have had our hearts ripped out...and then add to that the fact that we have (and I still believe continue to) grieved differently and at different times. I'm sure many of you know how marriage can be a struggle even when things are going relatively well. We have learned through our struggles that life is out to pull people apart, and I think I can speak for both of us that our 'seams' were splitting on more than one occasion after Teagan died. We have had moments. We still do, but we have decided to get through them together . (I think I talked about this in the middle of November '06 if you want to look it up in my archives.) We have had to dig deeper and love each other harder than we ever did before our lives were so drastically changed.
I think what I have tried to say through Nitty.Gritty. is that fact...that life's NOT always rosy, but we have the option to choose JOY in the midst of difficulties. No matter who or what caused them; no matter if you deserve what life throws you or not. I think maybe that's why I appear 'happy' all the time. And I certainly don't want to take all the credit for that. I have blogged at great lengths about my deep-rooted faith in God, which sometimes even amazes me. I wouldn't have believed I could get through the things I have endured the past five years. And yet I have...and I am even pleased with how things are turning out. God has definitely provided me with more strength, compassion and the ability to pick up the shattered pieces and start anew. I sometimes can't even explain what I feel and how much peace I have- but it is real. Chip and I both know, without a doubt, that we will see Teagan in Heaven someday, and we look forward to our reunion with her in eternity. My favorite definition of faith sums it up for me. It goes like this- "Faith is believing in advance, what will only make sense in reverse". That is one of the best ways I can explain how I choose to live. I gave up asking "why" a long time ago. It only made me more angry, depressed and hurt. I simply couldn't find an easy answer as to why our family had to suffer and Teagan had to die. I don't know that my mind could wrap around the answer even if there were a good one.
So, Chip and I have leaned on our faith and a whole lot of friends and family members, and then looked for ways to bring good out of our hardship- because we were hurt so deeply. In fighting our pain and embracing our tragedy, we have been able to give back to our community- we founded the Teagan Ferlaak Memorial Foundation and used money given to us by hundreds of people to give college students scholarships. We have done speaking engagements and shared our story with so many people- in hopes that they (and you) might look at your own life in a new light. If our response to suffering gives others hope and courage and strength, well then our own hearts heal a bit more every time we share a piece of us and Teagan. It's a win-win situation.
I wouldn't choose the events of my life to play out the way that they have in recent years. Yet, I often realize that I am a different person because of them...and a better person in many respects. I miss Teagan every day that she's not with me. I have never cried harder in my life than in the weeks and months after her death. I would have done anything to get her back. I prayed over and over for God to give her back to me- to turn back time, or to make it all a 'bad dream' or to just snap His fingers and give her back to me. I believe He could.
I think about Teagan every single day. The sun makes me think of how much she loved summer. The rain brings pictures of her in my memory of a little girl splashing in the puddles in her yellow raincoat and boots. The seasons changing always bring a lump in my throat- realizing that life goes on without her, even when I wish it wouldn't at times. Her birthday and holidays and Barbies and PowerPuff Girls and her favorite color and Pop-tarts and playdough and Hello Kitty and music and Annie and the Grinch and golfing and swimming and Happy Meals and knock-knock jokes and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and coconut lipgloss and checking the mail and gardening and dancing and laughing and making pie crusts and ribbon fairies and fireworks and brushing teeth and days-of-the-week underware and seeing Brock and Wyndham and Bella and Ava and softball games and popcorn on a string and playgrounds and chalk on the sidewalk and the Vikings scoring touchdowns and the Vikings throwing an interception or even fumbling the ball and pizza and balloons and Nick Jr. and Playhouse Disney and almond-scented shampoo and hair bows and coke floats and Larry Lizard bedtime stories and fruit snacks and dresses and snow angels and music and magnets and presents and ReddiWhip and gingerbread houses and butterflies and Chicka-Chicka Boom Boom book and glitter and everything in between. I think you get my point.
Not a day goes by that I don't think of Teagan and miss her with all of my heart. Losing her was the deepest hurt my heart and soul has ever felt, and I'll never get over it. Ever.
But, I have learned to live, in spite of that loss and pain, a life that brings me great joy and happiness. It's not that it's so rosy, but I know that one day, when it's all said and done, that I will stand in Heaven and see Teagan again. And I hope that I will hear my God and Savior say to me, "Well done, my good and faithful servant", and I will spend eternity free from pain and sorrow. I hope that everyone's life that I touch will want this same thing- a faith and belief in God and an eternity with Him. I want to spend eternity with all of my loved ones and with new friends too.
I hope that I am 'real' enough for those of you who don't know God to want to seek Him with all your heart. I hope that my real-life struggles can help others of you make sense of your own circumstances in life. I hope that my passion and joy for life in spite of tragedy continues to grow in me and make me a better person in everyway. I hope that I honor Teagan and glorify God in all that I say and do. It's not easy. I don't always measure up, but I know that someday it will all make sense when I see it from the vantage point of Heaven. I know everything I have had to endure will be worth it in the end. That's what drives me from day to day.
There you have it. I was just trying to keep it real. =)

Monday, November 27, 2006


I would have Chip guest-blog again, but he is sleeping soundly at this moment in time. I went back into my November 2005 archives and enjoyed reading some of the stuff happening from day to day in my life a year ago. However, it made me feel like a broken record...I sort of say the same stuff over and over it seems.
Chip would say, "What do you expect? That's exactly how you are in real life too, and that's what you want Nitty.Gritty. to be, right. Real?"
I suppose I do have certain themes and topics that I revisit or retell, in different ways. I'm just wondering if it's time for a change. Maybe it's just Monday talking and I'm looking at my week feeling like I'm in for a fun few weeks...lots of routine ahead of me.
Today was mostly routine with a mix of 'little stuff' mixed in (see yesterday's post if you missed out on the 'little stuff'). The little stuff like hanging Christmas lights on trees outside my house and putting up a tree (I've got two small ones up already with two bigger ones to go). There was the trip to the YMCA for Brock's swimming lesson- which I got to see for the first time. Ususally Chip takes him, but tonight I got a turn. The best part? The conversation to and from the Y- just me and Brock in the car, and the smiles, waves and kisses he kept blowing up to me as I watched him swim from the big window upstairs. I love that he still 'loves me in public'. =)
There was some wonderful little stuff from Chip, that he may not even remember, but they made a 'big statement' to me. The first was the extra long hug he asked me for while I was trying to get three kids dressed, fed and ready for preschool. I almost snapped at him because we were hustling around so much, but I noted that he held me for a second longer and wished for more than that. Then he stopped back home with a Starbuck's nonfat Eggnog latte extra hot no whip...he got it right! Love, love LOVE when someone notices or cares about the details of life. Even in things like morning lattes. No wait. Especially in things like morning lattes!
Next, despite her staying up way too late again last night, Bella managed to pull off a good day (meaning she obeyed the rules fairly well and followed directions and listened as best she could) at preschool, and then went on to be a pretty good little girl the rest of the day. She and Ava had fun 'helping me' put up Christmas lights outside. It was a balmy 56 degrees! I was just happy that Bella managed to get through the day without a major meltdown. And then a small miracle happened. When I got home from swimming lessons, Chip had gotten her to sleep already. By 8:00 pm! That's almost four hours earlier than her usual time. (Bella starts out in bed around 8-8:30, but is still up and playing or reading or going potty 3-4 hours later. She just doesn't know how to shut-down. Teagan was the same, exact's mostly from Chip's genes.)
I've been cleaning and making my new scrap space the past week and it is starting to come together. I am excited to have a spot to create and mess around and just have fun with all the products I have. I've got to get going on my Christmas cards...I think I may have to simplify them this year. Too much blogging is cutting into my Christmas decorating/card-making time.
With that, I will start to wrap this up. It's getting to sound too chicky, and I wouldn't want to offend my many male readers.
And please, leave me a comment if I AM starting to sound like a broken Nitty.Gritty. record around here. Afterall, it's been a year. Maybe I should take some time off and work on new material. =) Or, leave me some questions or topics that I can explore. Like stuff that's on your mind. Or stuff that you want to know about that's on my mind but I just haven't blogged about yet. Happy Monday back-at-it everyone!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

It's the little stuff.

I'm sure I've blogged about it before, but it really is the little stuff in life that matters most. Well, with exception of your faith and where you plan to spend eternity, that would be the most important thing, I believe.
But after that, it's really all little stuff; little stuff that's really important and matters- especially in the long run.
Here are a couple of pictures of Chip and the kids sitting around the new popcorn popper that we got. Chip and I had snacked on some popcorn- straight from the air popper a few weeks ago at a restaurant, and we started talking about the memories we had with our own families and popcorn growing up. Each of us recalled having popcorn most often on Sunday nights, with lots of warm, melted butter and salt. We talked about how our kids wouldn't have any idea that popcorn came from anywhere other than the movie theater and the microwave. I have fun memories of popping corn over a fire as a kid when we camped outdoors a couple of times. Or how it was cooked in the 'olden days' on the stove. It was a nostalgic and eventful moment for Chip and I to talk around the air popper that night.
A few days later Chip came home from the store with a new air popper and a bag of corn. I thought it was a terrific idea, and we saved it for Thanksgiving night. Maybe to start a tradition, but also because it was a great day to do a 'family thing'. The kids were all excited when we told them they could watch the popcorn while it popped. Ava was almost a little bit scared of it when it did start! It was fun to watch their eyes light up- over popcorn. Wyndham sat in her spot and signed 'popcorn' all the while it popped. {Funny side note...I am blogging while watching "Breakfast at Tiffany's", and just now, Audrey Hepburn's character was making popcorn and it exploded on the stovetop all over the kitchen counter and floor- while I was posting about popcorn. How's that for coincidence?!}
Anyway, back to my story...
The kids loved the popcorn maker and for sure made a memory of their first time seeing the popcorn pop. We pulled the air popper out again tonight and had popcorn and root beer. It makes me happy to have little memories like this in life- that don't cost that much, that didn't even take us away from home- but that created happiness and love among all of us as a family. I feel very lucky that I was part of a family that created good memories and shared many fun times. I know that Chip had a great childhood too and he appreciates all the lessons and fun he had as well. Now I hope that we are passing on this same good fortune to our kids. It really is the little stuff that makes the biggest difference in life.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The day after...

Here are a couple of pictures from yesterday...lots of smiles. Everyone had a great day and plenty to eat and be thankful for.
I am always excited for the day after Thanksgiving, because it is the start of the Christmas season, and more than buttercream icing, I love Christmas! I now feel free to crank the seasonal music as loudly as I like (or that the kids will tolerate) and not feel like I'm jumping-the-gun. I have this thing for Christmas music. I think I own more Christmas cds than I do 'regular' music cds. I think I get anxious to play the music and enjoy it even before the Christmas countdown begins from my days back in music class and show choir when we would start learning our songs and singing Christmas music as early as October. I love the traditional/sacred chorale arrangements, but can listen to remakes by Clay Aiken or old-fashioned tunes by Bing Crosby just as much. I love it all!
I am thankful for music in my life and how much it has played a role in the memories I have made and the attitude it creates in me through the years. Music is a part of my day everyday, but it becomes an even greater part of my life from now til New Years. And sometimes, I have been known to pull my Christmas music out in June or July. Just for the fun of it. I have learned if you love something or it makes you happy, you don't need to wait for a good reason to use it, play it, eat it, see it, ride it, share it, bake it, or whatever else it may be that brings you joy. Life happens only once...and I live to make the most of mine each and everyday!
Happy Day-After, everyone. =)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Family, fun, food...Happy Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving! Wishing you and those you are sharing this day with a very special time together. I hope you have much to be thankful for today and everyday. Just for the fun of it...tell me what your favorite food was that you ate today. For some reason I think there could be a lot of 'pumkin pie' in the comments.
I've yet to eat the traditional Thanksgiving day feast...but will say that I enjoyed some really big raspberries in a cream cheese fruit dip. Delicious! And even a little bit healthy. =) Enjoy the rest of your day!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Heightened awareness.

That's what I have...heightened awareness to others' hurts. Today I am thankful for empathy. I have a lot of it, and it certainly shapes the way I think and feel- every single day.
I've had people say things in emails and comments about my 'ability to connect' to others, or that "they feel like they know me", or that it seems I operate on a 'different plane than some' as I go through life.
I write this not to be boastful in any way, however, there is a truth to those remarks. I am learning that I can't necessarily change that fact about me. Based on particular experiences in my life, I have been shaped and molded a certain way...and I continue to grow and change because of people and events around me.
I have received hundreds of emails in the past year alone, many of which have asked me for advice or help or prayer for a person's hurting soul. These emails have touched me...they have impacted me, and they have brought tears and sorrow and sometimes joy as well. Many of you have written very personal letters about your own struggles with grief, heartache, and questions of faith.
One night after reading such an email I said to Chip, "I think it's time for me to change my story at my Nitty.Gritty. blog. People are sending me emails and links and some of these stories are heartbreaking! I've 'typecasted' myself too much...they think I can fix their problems or cure their friend's grief."
I am realizing there may be more truth to that than I thought. It's not really a joke. I do have more empathy to people's hurts and grief in life. That's what happens when you live through your own grief- or any other experiences in life. It makes you more aware of people and circumstances that happen to others in similar events.
Take an example from just a couple of days ago. As my homepage loaded when I clicked on my computer, one of the first headlines I noticed was 'bus crashes in Alabama, at least two dead'. I couldn't help but click on the link and read more of the story. My heart started to throb and ache for the victims and their families who were just beginning to piece together some unbelievable life-changing realities and hurts at that time. As I read the story and saw the pictures, it brought me back to a similar time in my life when I lived through a crash and tragedy and disbelief that life can go from sunny and carefree, to shattered and painful in an instant. I began to hurt for the mothers whose kids died on the scene. Those families will be having funerals in place of a Thanksgiving meal together. Their lives suddenly took a new and painful direction.
And because of my own experiences, I could feel for their hurt and relate to some of what they are living through at this time. That's why I can say I have 'heightened awareness'. It's not something you just decide to get. It's a learned thing.
What does that have to do with being thankful? Well, I have learned {mainly} in the past year, that this empathy that I am developing and continues to grow in me is a good thing. It has helped me become a more compassionate and humble person. In the past, I probably would have hardly noticed a tragic headline. Now it is the first link I check out. I have been able to connect and touch base with people who have hurts and pains in their own life, and it makes me realize I am not alone in my grief. I have been able to share my experiences with others- who may or may not have similar stories as me, and we have learned from one another. My empathy has allowed me to see purpose or give reason to some of the pain I have had to bear. I can attribute much of the joy in my life to the empathy that grows in me. It is as though I have an 'internal scale' so to speak...I base the goodness and joy on the ordinary and opposed to how I used to live. I realize life can be difficult, and that realization makes me appreciate the day to day in a much more glorious state. {Are you following this logic...or am I crazy?!}
I think you can see it and understand it to a certain degree, even if your life hasn't been as overwhelmingly heartbreaking as my own. And that's a big reason why I share my story and myself with as many people as I can touch. I have made the decision to share my experiences, so that in turn you can live and learn through them, and hopefully develop things like compassion, empathy, humility and faith just by seeing or reading about me. I realize that my 'knowledge' can help others grow and learn- without having to actually 'live through' the real-life experience.
It's like watching 'Schindler's List' or a war documentary. We don't have to 'be there' to feel like we've been there. We can all be changed inside if we are open to 'feeling' another's hurt/joy and then be willing to take a part of their life and make it our own.
Today I am not only thankful for my empathy, but I have a challenge or opportunity for you (and me) to share someone's burden and grow a little bit more in this respect. It involves the Kaat family...the family I have linked you to in previous posts. Their infant son, Jaymun, was diagnosed at birth, back in July, with cancer. I can't imagine all that everyone in their family has had to live and learn and sacrifice because of this cancer. It came out of nowhere. They had no idea that Jaymun would be born with such a scary, life-threatening condition. It changed their lives from the moment they got the news.
This week they were hoping to be home (Jaymun and his mom Jennifer spend most of their life at Milwaukee Children's Hospital) for Thanksgiving, but those plans have changed. Instead, Jaymun continues to receive treatment and care in preparation for a bone marrow transplant. From the little bit I do know, I have heard this is a dangerous and painful treatment- but it is their one hope for his cure. The kicker? Jaymun's (young) older brother, Devon is a perfect match for the transplant, and will be the donor for Jaymun. I can try to feel what this family is feeling, and it hurts me deeply- even though I am not living it or seeing it firsthand. My heart and thoughts go out to though it were my own children involved.
So, if you can feel for them and some of what they must be going through, I am inviting you to play a small part in their lives. Not only can you send them well-wishes and thoughts at the website (, but you can take it one step further, and do something tangible for them. Especially for little Devon (he's 7 or 8, I forgot) as he will go through the surgery and then recover from his part in the bone marrow transplant for Jaymun. Jennifer has listed under the Nov. 20th journal portion of their site, a number of items and ideas that you can choose from, and then mail a note or package to Devon. She is hoping to give him lots of gifts as he recovers from his role in all of this. I would like to challenge us all a step more. Imagine the little bit older siblings...and younger ones as well (see the web for names, ages and pictures...there are 5 children in this family); imagine Jaymun's mom Jennifer and dad, Dave. They need our prayers and encouragment as well. Just the traveling back and forth to the hospital has been an added expense. The way they have had to depend on one another to be the dad or mom to the kids while they are away. They haven't been able to have many visitors because of Jaymun's weakened immune system- so they have had to be there for each other, and not been able to lean on many of their closest friends and family. I know it has been a struggle and a challenge in ways I will never know.
But I have seen their attitude and their strength. I was able to talk with Jennifer when she called me one day last week on her way top the hospital. She is hanging in there. She is being an encouragement to the staff and other parents and patients on Jaymun's floor. She is striving to be her very best- when life is handing her it's very worst. I have been in her shoes.
I am sharing all this with you in hopes that some of you will answer Jennifer's small request for goodies and encouragment for Devon. I think it would be an even more wonderful thing, if some of us (Nitty.Gritty. people) shared their burden and gave them a bit of joy in whatever way we feel led or are able to give. I think it would be neat to send some 'extra love and care' to all the members of the Kaat family. There are lots of ways to do this. Some of the little ones off the top of my head are to pick up and send various giftcards. I am thinking Starbuck's cards, or gas cards or a Target card. It doesn't have to be big, but they would definitely use it and it would be a way to show that we care and we're thinking about them. I know it is small, but as I said, I've been in their shoes so-to-speak, and it's the littlest things that speak volumes at times like this.
Here is the address: Jaymun Kaat Children’s Hospital, WI HOT Unit, 9000 W. Wisconsin Ave, Box 1997, Milwaukee, WI 53201.
In the meantime, be thankful for all that you have, and grateful for your health and well-being that you might oftentimes take for granted. You never know when you could be wearing different shoes.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

'Slacker Mom'

There you have it. I admit it. I was the 'slacker Mom' today. Just thought you might all appreciate me telling it like it is. No gush. No glamour. Nothing gourmet.
Why is it that my kids clean their plates or eat better than usual when I pour something out of a can (like Spaghettios and meatballs for lunch) or mix up something from a box (like Bisquick pancakes for dinner)? I am learning to not take it personally. In fact, that is the very reason I made the meals that I did today. I wanted my kids to EAT something!
They can go in spurts with their eating habits. As many of you with your own kids understand, I'm sure. So, today, I decided to keep it simple. There was still nutrition involved (protein, carbs and fiber), and of course, a little creativity thrown in as well.
Afterall, just because I keep something simple and feel like a slacker doesn't mean I didn't have any fun! I did some playing with the pancake batter (remember my Font Pancakes from awhile back?! Somewhere in the archives last March or April maybe?) and came up with Spongebob and Patrick pancakes. At least for pancakes they were a close enough match. Top them off with chocolate chip eyes and noses, and the kids were more than happy to eat their dinner tonight.
That's what made me thankful and happy today. Knowing that I don't have to work very hard to make my kids happy and myself happy at the very same time. Sometimes simple is the best way to go!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Grateful wallet

What's in YOUR wallet?

That tag line, "what's in your wallet" comes from some credit card ad that's on tv these days. I can't tell you which one it is...VISA, MC or AMerican I guess it wasn't 100% effective for me. =)
Anyway, in keeping with my monthlong posts of gratitude I have a little project to share today. Monday mornings have been my productive days of the week lately- today I whipped up this Thanksgiving picture/journal wallet in part for a challenge posted at KI Memories blog. I was anxious to put the products that they sent me to good use, and what better way than to rise to a challenge! (All the papers and gel candies are from their 'Grateful' them!)
I was thinking of what it means to be 'grateful' and what I would like my kids to think about as Thanksgiving comes and goes this week. I came up with the idea of a small wallet in which I can put pictures and jot down what we eat on Thanksgiving, and make notes of what each of us has to be thankful for this Thanksgiving 2006. Cute, huh?! If I need more room to write important memories down, I will simply cut more 'dollar bills' down to size and write my thoughts on them and then I can tuck them into the money pocket.
This little wallet is simple and easy to make, and I think it will be fun to pull out each year and to either add things to it, or make another one and pass them around the table from year to year. I hope that my kids learn that while it's important to use your money wisely, and that it helps you attain certain things in life, it's never the most important thing in life. It's family and memories and blessings in life that are to be appreciated on days such as Thanksgiving. Above all else, I hope that they learn from me on Thanksgiving and everyday, that I don't value what's in my wallet, but what's inside my heart. "For where your treasures are, there will your heart be also."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Pumpkin Cream Cake

Don't get too excited. I don't have a picture or recipe to show you the Pumkin Cream Cake that I made today. It's just like a jellyroll, only it's pumpkin with a cream cheese filling. My kids loved it. My friend was over while I baked it and 'turned it out onto the powdered sugar towel' when I rolled it to cool completely. I hadn't made a rolled dessert since I was in 8th grade Home Ec. class. I do remember making a jellyroll, and I got an A on it. I have not needed this learned skill for almost two decades. Maybe that is why they are not teaching as much cooking and sewing in schools anymore. Or maybe it is because the kids were ruthless in those classrooms. Some of the boys in my class would put drops of hot sauce in my teacher's coffee cup when her back was turned. She never found out who did it, but I imagine she didn't encourage her own girls to grow up and learn to teach Home Ec.
Can you tell it's been a routine week at my house? Laundry, cooking, cleaning, setting up a new scrap/art room, taping a tv interview with a producer and camera person in my home, and baking pumpkin bread and cream cakes. The ususal stuff. =)
It wasn't the first thing to pop into my head today, but now that I am relaxing on my bed, with 4 little munchkins climbing around- smelling like baby wash and orange smoothie shampoo, I think it is sinking in just how much I love being the mom and caring for my family. There's just something about combing their smooth, silky hair and then dressing them in their jammies and giving and getting goodnight hugs that make me feel so fulfilled. It's nothing big. It's nothing new. I just love it and wanted to note how much I love my 'job' somedays. Especially now that Bella is learning to count higher- she counts the number of kisses she gives me. I just had a round of 25. Teagan did the same thing at her age. Funny. After all these years, I still love counting kisses. I guess some things just never get old.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

When you start to take life for granted...

Awhile back I posted a link to a website of an infant boy and the details of his fight with cancer. Jaymun and his family still need our prayers and continue to journey through this scary, difficult path down the road toward what they hope will end in a miracle.
I have continued to follow Jaymun's updates written by his mom, Jennifer in the journals at After reading this post, I encourage you to stop by their website and sign their guestbook. How simple, yet meaningful it would be to leave a short note for their family telling them you are thinking of them. I know it would mean a lot to their family.
As I have done since the beginning of the month, I have tried to be conscious and aware of the things I am grateful for in my ordinary life, every single day. Today when I opened my eyes and Ava was climbing up onto my bed, I savored the warmth of my home, the smile and twinkle in Ava's eyes, and the feeling of restfulness that greeted me. I realized how much I absolutely LOVE to wake up in the comforts of my own home, knowing that my children are warm and comfortable and have another day to appreciate and explore.
My thoughts then turned to the Kaat family, and the challenges that greet them each morning. My heart aches for them and this disease that so suddenly and dramatically started calling the 'shots in their lives', both literally and figuratively speaking. I have been where they are- to a certain extent. I understand and can recall some of what they are facing each day, and trust me, it's not easy, glamorous or fun.
Yet, I am encouraged and challenged as I read the journal entries each week. God is giving them all strength and somehow working out all the details of their tumultulous days. I know they appreciate our prayers and care.
I asked Jennifer if I could use some of her words here on Nitty.Gritty. This morning I went back and copied her journal entry from Novemeber 7th. I think it is something that will put life into perspective for some of us, will encourage others, and will certainly make us all appreciate the life we have at this moment. I have said it and lived through it...but sometimes even I like hearing it from another point of view.
So, today I give you another perspective...and I hope it makes you grateful for your own comforts and health. I thank God today, for the goodness I enjoy, and I ask for a miracle in the life of little Jaymun.

Nov. 7, 2006~Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep [by Jennifer Kaat]

One of my greatest pleasures as a mother is being able to partake in that age old ritual of tucking my children into bed at night. There is nothing more satisfying than cozying up with them in a chair and reading them a story (or two, depending on the amount of begging!). I love the sensation of being able to caress their freshly washed hair and snuggle their little flannel pajama bodies close as we read together. I like their giggles when we get to the funny parts and their rapt attention as the story unfolds. Their delight in a comforting bedtime ritual is a satisfying ending to a long day. And being able to tuck the warm blankets around them and listen to their little prayers is about as nice of a reward that a parent can hope to receive this side of heaven.

It's also the time of day when their hearts seem to be most open to sharing their deepest feelings. Usually they share their anticipation about the coming day, whether it's a field trip or wearing a brand new shirt or having their favorite hot lunch meal at school. I think it's interesting that children seem to always be looking forward, whereas we adults revel in looking to the past for our happy memories. Sometimes, along with the excitement of things to come, they share their fears and worries. Perhaps it's because they feel their most vulnerable as darkness sets in and they know that they will soon be drifting off to sleep.

Obviously, Ben and Kirsten are at the age where praying out loud with their mom at bedtime is considered "childish". But Sean and Devon are at that perfect age, the time of childhood that is just ripe for wanting Mom and Dad's attention--and I know all too well that this time flies by ever so quickly and ends long before I'm ready. The topmost prayer request is always Jaymun's recovery. Always. Devon is very focused on making sure God knows he's quite serious about Jaymun getting better. He has a beautiful and sincere faith that God is looking out for his baby brother. But the tricky thing about faith is that the essence of it involves trusting without seeing.

Devon had just finished praying for Jaymun one night. He looked up at me with those big blue eyes and said softly, "Mom? I don't understand--I pray all the time for Jaymun to get better. I prayed before he was born to be healthy, and he was healthy except for the cancer. But if I'm praying so much for Jaymun,why doesn't God just make the cancer go away? Why did he get born with this leukemia?"

And this little boy of ours who seems wise way beyond his seven years, is looking to me for answers that I don't have. I ask myself the very same questions every day of Jaymun's life. The chances of a baby being born with congenital leukemia are so microscopic it's staggering. We are told that Jaymun is only the third baby in Wisconsin ever to be born with AML. What were the chances that such a thing would ever happen to us? The odds of it just blow our minds away. Our Devon is trying to wrap his young mind around the complexities of that which we adults cannot even fathom. I refuse to even slightly crush his faith in the power of prayer. But at the same time, there is that very real, very sobering reality that Jaymun's life is not in our hands. How do I as a mother balance those two worlds and explain all of this to a boy who trusts that life is mostly full of goodness and light?

The answer is--gently, ever so gently. I give you the following bedtime conversation, as best I can recall it:

"Devon, this is probably pretty confusing to you, isn't it?" I started. "But you know what? It's confusing to me too and I'm a grownup! Let's think about all of this for a bit, okay? Let's really talk about it and try to figure out what might be going on up in heaven."

At which point he giggled and settled back to see where his goofy mom was taking this conversation. I knew the point had to be simple, yet profound. And so I began.

"Alright, here's what I think," I said. "I think God knew that Jaymun was going to be born with cancer-"

"Because He knows everything!" Devon added solemnly.

"Right. He already knew before Jaymun was born that he would have this terrible cancer in his blood." I said. "And He knew that Jaymun was going to need a lot of help. He knew that Jaymun was going to have to be really strong to fight the cancer. He knew that Jaymun would need a family that could love him and take super good care of him because he would be sick for a very long time. And He knew that Jaymun would have to have a bone marrow transplant and that meant he would need someone in his family to be a perfect match. And I'm sure that God knew that Jaymun would need a big brother who would remember to pray every day for him, because a lot of people might forget to do that when they got busy. And God knew Jaymun would need a big family around him to keep him really happy so he wouldn't think too much about being so sick. And so what do you suppose God thought when He looked down from heaven and tried to figure out the very best family to send Jaymun to?"

Devon sat up straight and his eyes were enormous. You could see the lightbulb in his brain just popping away. He laughed that carefree laugh of his, the one we all adore so much, and bursted out, "I know, Mom! I know! Now I get it! God picked our family out because we were the best ones to take care of Jaymun! 'Cuz I'm the perfect match for his bone marrow and I never forget to pray for him. And we make him laugh and smile all the time. And you're a mom that knows how to take care of sick kids. And Jaymun was twelve pounds so that he could be tough enough to fight cancer. That's why we got a baby with leukemia!"

I understand that maybe God has His own reasons for all of this happening to our family. But so far, He hasn't let me in on them. Jaymun didn't come with an instruction manual on how to make decisions concerning his cancer (and don't think I'm not slightly annoyed with that oversight!). I don't want to be presumptuous in trying to read God's mind, but I have some little critters that need constant reassurance that their baby brother is in good hands. And this is the only conclusion I've come to so far: God knows our family and He loves Jaymun. If He has entrusted us to take care of this adorable little guy--even when we feel completely overwhelmed and severely incompetent at best--then for as long as we have Jaymun, we plan to make every day of his a happy one.

An upcoming bone marrow transplant and our family being blessed with a baby who just happens to have cancer.....

In both cases, we've got a perfect match.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


How fitting that after my previous post I am writing about memories today. It's been a really neat thing for me to capture my memories in scrap layouts. I have enjoyed the process of putting the pages together and seeing them tell a story in the colors, paper design, pictures and words that I put together to pull the layout into shape. Very neat for me...
I am thankful for my memories. I know that with each passing day they fade a bit, especially in regards to Teagan, but they also become that much more valuable to me at the same time. I know I may not always have the opportunity to record my memories or to pull them back up in my mind, so what I write about or scrap about is very important, not just for now- but for down the road for myself and my family.
I am learning to love history (family and American and other history as well) more than I ever did before in recent years. Maybe it is because of things that have happened (like 9/11) that make me it more relevant, maybe it is my age, maybe it is that there are so many really good documentaries and movies on various events, but whatever it is, it has made me more aware and more grateful for people, places and values that are worth fighting for.
I appreciate the elderly people in my life, especially my grandparents, and all that they passed on to me through their wisdom and experiences. I have learned that while they may not have passed on great riches and wealth to me, that what I learned from them and the character they had was worth more than money.
I hope that my memory stays sharp for years to come, and I am thankful in a special way that I have been able to keep Teagan's memory alive- not just for me, but for her brother and sisters who never got to know who she was in their life. I hope that they will one day appreciate the importance I placed on memories, and they see that the time and energy I put into 'saving' those memories was time well-spent.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Unexpected goodness.

Yesterday I wrote about how much I appreciate my simple life...blessed, but still very much ordinary and filled with routine. It's true. I don't need the biggest, most perfect jewels, or the latest fashions or make of car to drive. I don't even drink "real" Starbuck's lattes as often as you might think that I do. I'm the kind of girl who loves the people in my home and their happiness makes me happy. I consider myself lucky when I hear them laugh and see them smile and grow and learn new things.
Today I was planning on not posting here. I've got lots of little things going on, and then there's the never-ending cleaning list (that I actually don't keep in writing or follow that closely) that has called my name for a couple of days. I could wash some bedding or clean out some closets, or work on creating my new scrap/art space. Those were just a few of my options today.
But then the UPS truck stopped by and much to my surprise, there was a package dropped off for me. You know how I LOVE mail, don't you?!! You should and I do. It's part of my DNA. I have always loved writing letters, decorating envelopes, checking the mailbox...I used to even sit at my dad's desk in his office and open the junk mail from his basket when I was little. It's just something I can't explain.
I didn't even have to open up this box to know that it's contents would make me happy. I saw the KI Memories logo and 'special delivery' on the side and I knew I was in for a treat. Back to some scrap talk for the next few paragraphs...
KI Memories was one of the sponsors of the CK SOY contest that I was a finalist in last month. I used lots of their products and patterned paper on my pages, and I think they are part of the reason why I won a spot among the top 10. Their stuff is colorful, fun, bold, whimsical and easy to mix and match.
Today I want to thank Kim and Ira Sabel for their company, their designer products and their commitment to creativity. I can't wait to use some of these yummy products. (Okay...that's a little over-the-top chick talk, but I've missed it here- so that was all for me!) I am thankful today, not just for this box of new scrap product, but for all the times in life that something really wonderful, something totally unexpected has come my way. Here's hoping the same thing makes you happy too. No matter how big or how small it is- unexpected goodness is worth taking a moment to appreciate it.

Monday, November 13, 2006

These pictures say so much...

I took these pictures (with the exception of Brock at Spartan stadium for a football game) a few days ago. We finally had a sunny, dry autumn afternoon where the kids could play outdoors and jump in a pile of leaves and simply enjoy the moment.
It's times like these that I see how forunate I am and how much I truly appreciate my simple life. Some of you know how I had my own plans and dreams out of college, and early on when I was dating Chip, that didn't include kids. True. I decided after years of babysitting and waiting tables that I didn't want kids of my own. I was going to go after success- thinking somehow everyone in the business world must be right- that to have big cars, homes, boats, the latest fashions, furniture, jewelry...all that kind of stuff, must make you happy. I figured that so many 'successful people' must have all the answers. I couldn't wait to get going in a career that would allow me the chance at all this stuff. That's what was behind my decision to keep kids out of the picture. I decided that they added too much hassle and would 'get in the way' of what really seemed to matter to people and success.
Flash forward 10 years, and I have to admit I have a nice home, a couple of vehicles and no financial worries...yet those things have nothing to do with my definition of success anymore. I am realizing that business degrees, money, fame, houses, boats, jets...all that kind of 'stuff', while it can bring happiness and fun- it's all temporary. Oftentimes I have seen how bigger stuff and more things only adds to people's troubles. Things can bring more trouble than they do good- cars can break down or depreciate, jewelry can be lost or stolen, or fame can bring loneliness and heartbreak. You have to agree more stuff can simply add to the list of things that need more of one's time and attention. It can cause one to lose sight of what 'success' in life really consists of.
I am grateful, that although it didn't hit me at the time, that my defintion of success was 'shaken up a bit' when I found out I was pregnant for the first time. I thought my life was over for awhile. I had trouble surrendering my mind and body to the idea of having someone else call some of the shots in my life at that time. And really, I don't think it was Teagan- but God who was in control all along. I was headed down a different path, and He knew what was best for me
even though it didn't allign with what I had 'planned out' for my future.

I find myself, on almost any given day, thanking God for helping me to realize what really matters in life. I am grateful that I didn't get sucked into the belief that success is about what you have or get in life. Instead, I am learning and living that success is more about what I have to give away...the values and lessons and experiences that I can give to my kids and others around me. It's about sharing life and goodness and hope with people that might not otherwise get the chance at those 'things' in life. My success is feeling contentment with what I have- not in striving for things I see that other people have.
Yes, I have more than enough in my life, I am blessed beyond measure. But it's not because of the monetary worth of the things around me. It's because I have learned to define success in a new way. I am grateful for the everyday beauty in life, the ordinary that really isn't 'ordinary' in the least, and the belief that each moment I have is a gift. I am thankful, more than I thought I ever could be, as I live my simple life day to day.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Don't get mad at me for this one.

My intentions here are not to offend anyone or to cause jealousy toward myself, but rather I am just continuing to note the things I am grateful for all month. Today I just happened to think about the 'lack of stress' in my life- at least the way I see it and I realized that I am grateful for that.
It may not seem like I live a low-stress life. In fact for some people, the idea of having 4 kids, ages 2 and a half to 7, is enough stress all on it's own, am I right?! Still, I wouldn't have it any other way. Sunday mornings can be our most stressful- I think that is what made me think about this topic in the first place. Yet, in the scheme of things, or compared to some people, I really live a very low-stress life, and I am truly grateful for that. In fact, I wanted to write myself this post, so that I'll have it for future reference on the days when I need a quick reminder. =)
I can't pinpoint an exact day or time when I first started living this low-stress life, but it's been awhile. I do know that I have a 'new definition' of stress since the time of Teagan's death and all the trauma that our family has lived through. Prior to our tragedy I used to worry about stuff or get concerned about things that were beyond my control.
I have sinced learned that a lot of things in life are out of my control, or at least a certain amount of things are going to occur that I cannot control. I have learned to not even waste my time thinking about these kinds of things or wondering how I can prepare myself for them. For example, my kids being sick...that can make a mom worried and stressed out, right?! My kids get sick on occasion. Our daughter, Wyndham was very fragile for a long time after her head injury. She was in and out of the hospital so many times that I lost count. It was emotionally draining and nerve-wracking at times...not knowing what to do next, not knowing what was our best healthcare options for her sometimes, and just the lack of sleep that goes with having a sick child, and the issues of maintaining getting bills paid on time when you're hundreds of miles away at a hospital, and having to depend on friends to care for your other kids, etc. It can be very stressful. And that happened lots of times over the course of about three years.
Through those kinds of experiences I learned that the more I could 'let go', the easier it was for me to get through it. I use the term letting go, but what I am realizing is that I was actually turning my problems and worry and stress 'over'. I realized that stress and worry could literally suck the life out of me, and I wasn't happy with the way I looked whenever that happened. I didn't like the way I felt, or how I talked to people around me, or even how sad I felt inside. I would even get angry at things I had tried to move past- and I'd start a pity party for myself. I'd say things like, "Why does our family have to have all the big problems in life? Why can't other people get some of the struggles we face?" Or my most famous quote (ask Chip about this one) was simply whenever something went wrong- from our furnace not working, to our roof leaking, to Wyndham being ambulanced to Detroit Children's Hospital, I'd simply say, "Just My Life". It became my response to every little thing (even the McDonalds drive-thru order missing my fries!)...and it seemed that life was really piling up on me.
Slowly though, I'm realizing that things have gotten much better and brighter, and it isn't because my life is suddenly so rosy, (just today our McDonalds missed 2 cheeseburgers!) but I have learned to give my worries and cares to God. I have learned to lean on my faith- not just when things get really bad, but every single day! I am much better about handing all of my cares to God- often times before they have a chance to bring me down or cause worry or stress to pile up.
I am telling you, it isn't the most amazing thing, and yet it is! I think there are a lot of people missing out on this really wonderful opportunity in life. It's the chance to live life relatively stress-free. It means that you rely less on yourself, less on the uncertainty of the world around you to create the joy and assurance you want in life and instead, you rely totally on God. That's basically what faith is.
As I said, I am writing this mainly for my own benefit, and even as I write this it's making more sense to me. Of course I had more stress in my life before tragedy struck me and my family. My faith wasn't nearly as strong back then as it is now. And no wonder I am living a fairly stress free life from day to day...I hand all my problems to God and then depend on Him to carry me through or to give me the wisdom and strength to handle them as He would have me do. It's not always easy- sometimes I forget and try to do things on my own. Sometimes I think my problems are too small to bother God with them...and I let them cause more stress than they need to. But, most of the time I know that things will come my way, that "stuff' happens, that my future may be uncertain, but through it all, there is One who is dependable and trustworthy. It's my God, and I know that He has my best interest in mind. That is the key to my low-stress living. It's in the assurance I have that God is in control; it's in the faith that I put into practice every single day. When I keep my heart and mind focused on what truly matters in life, nothing can ever really stress me out. It's true. That's "Just My Life".

Friday, November 10, 2006

He's 'Nitty.Gritty.' all the way, Baby!

Funny how after just one post here on my blog the tables have turned and I now have a 'new & improved' hubby. Yep. Thanks to your comments and emails since yesterday, Chip is a different guy. He understands me on a different level. He was caught up in the thrill of seeing new comments left for him, and he was happy to share his own thoughts and perspective- even though he doesn't really "know" many of you.
I am grateful for Chip in my life, and am happy to have shared him here with so many of you yesterday. As I thought about his sense of humor, my own sense of humor, our personalities and how much we have grown [literally and in other ways too =)] and changed since we met in 1993, I realized that I am truly thankful for the storms we have had to endure in our lifetime together. It was at about this very time just 5 years ago that I would say our relationship was in the midst of the biggest storm ever. We had faced the death of our 4 year-old daughter, Teagan just months before, and were trying to come to terms with what to do with our lives now that so many of our hopes and dreams had been shattered. We were living with never-ending physical pains (he with fractured ribs and internal injuries & me with post-traumatic stress, nightmares and ongoing headaches), our two surviving children had their own set of issues; we were a less than stellar picture of a happy family. In fact, had Norman Rockwell come into our home to render a painting of us, it could have been titled, "Traumatized Family Hanging on by a Thread".
Seriously, I think back to some of those days and I can still remember and visualize our family. We were grief-stricken, we were sad, we were hurting, we were searching for direction; we were ready to call it quits on more than one occasion. Not that there was so much anger or bitterness or hurt between the two of us, but we were more at a loss of how to pick up the pieces of our lives and put them back together in a way that we would want to live them out again.
I'll admit it. I was the most depressed. From the grief, from my physical injuries, from the lack of sleep I was getting, and for the fact that life had lost any fun and joy that it had had at one time. I wondered at times if we could ever be a 'happy family' again...and if we couldn't, then I thought maybe it would be best if we could split up. I thought, "Maybe if we split up at least one of us could go out and find happiness." I thought it would be easier somehow- as if we could divide our problems in half, and somehow that would lift the burden of our situation.
We stopped ourselves short more than once when this separation idea was discussed- for the well-being of our kids. We decided at one point, that to split up, while it seemed to have it's bright points, had a major downside, and that was the issue of the kids. We knew that the trauma they had just survived and continued to feel the effects of it everyday, was something they did nothing to deserve. We knew that to overcome some of the physical and emotional issues they faced meant that they needed both parents in their lives. The last thing they needed was for Chip and I to split up. It would only add to the problems that already overwhelmed their little souls.
I remember standing in our tiny kitchen, sobbing into Chip one afternoon, not knowing what might happen to us next. However, I do remember that nothing felt more 'right' at that time in my life than being next to him- no matter how badly I hurt inside. He 'felt right' to me.
At this point, I have to give him more credit, because he is the fighter in our family- he is a competitor to the very core. He says he yells at the tv and refs and throws his arms in the air when his teams fumble or the coach calls a horrible play- not because he's a crazy, obsessed fan- but because 'he's passionate'. But he's right. He's passionate about sports and his beliefs and he almost always knows what he wants at any point in life.
When I look back at this time in our life, when we were at our 'rock bottom', I owe him the credit for being the one who was willing to pull us through. He hasn't always been the most charming person to live with- and even admitted to you yesterday, that he missed Ava's birth- not entirely by choice, but still.... Okay. That's a whole different story.
Now, here we are, five years after trudging through life's deepest valley, life's darkest storm, the 'worse' in the vows that we took together, and I can honestly say that I am grateful for that time in our lives. I wouldn't want to live through it again. I wouldn't wish the circumstances we faced on anyone. It was hard. It was painful. It was ugly and gut-wrenching at times, and yet I can see now, from a distance, that it has brought about some wonderful things in our lives.
Chip and I are friends to the core. He knows what I need sometimes more than I do myself. I, in turn, try to support him and be the best non-nagging wife I can almost everyday. =) We're not perfect by any means, and sometimes I wonder how we ever got together. Oftentimes we are more similar than we are different- at least moreso than when we first met. We are still growing and learning and trying to figure out each other. But we are stronger and we have survived TOGETHER.
I laughed at his post yesterday, in regards to the 'men love your liberated, opinionated women' line. He thinks I am liberated and opinionated because he is a man. =) Any ultra-liberal feminist would be outraged at the way I live- choosing to stay home with 4 small children, with no housekeeper in sight, letting my hubby take an all-male tri pto Ireland, and still be sane and happy. Oh yes, he may think I'm liberated and opinionated, but that is because we {mostly} hang out with conservative families like ourselves. I only 'appear' that way because of the people he chooses to measure me against. =)
I also have to add a note in response to so many comments made about Chip getting me DSL for blogging. He's the one that wants it...I'm too cheap. Or should I say, CONSERVATIVE. =) I keep looking for good deals, or trying to justify it in our budget, but it can't compete with our free service at this point. One of these days I'll give into him, and I'll wish I'd listened to him sooner. In the meantime, I am thankful that we're still together in spite of life's storms, and I know that because of those storms, we are a more confident, secure couple. We may have times in the future in which we will be tested again, but I will have memories and examples to look back on in life which will be reason enough for me to ride out the storm with Chip at my side.
And someday, he may have the good fortune to stand at my side as his liberated, opinionated woman takes the "Oath of Office". I will be more than happy to have him next to me.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Nitty Gritty Hubby Chimes In...

The voice that made Jody who she is... live from the kitchen counter. Per the request of loyal reader Tom K., who said Chip should do a post, I have decided to let my views be heard. No this is not a takeover of the sight or the end of "Chick Talk", but a feeble attempt to get some oohs, ahs, tears, and cheers from Jody's fellow bloggers. In this post you'll learn a little about me (hubby-Chip), and my opinion of my wife.
I am little like a glass of red wine "Full Bodied with a touch of whimsy" (for those that are fans of the movie Forget Paris you recognize that line). My profession is General Manager and Director of Golf at Grand Haven Golf Club. I am a die hard fan of all Minnesota sports team especially that of Saint John's University, see
I think my wife is wonderful, she puts up with me, which says alot. But she is also a great mother, and a creative personality. I am coming to terms with her blogging time, it keeps her from getting pregnant again. I also enjoy her scrapwork. Jody has a passion for creativity and with her blogging and scrapping she has seemed to find an outlet for it. It also allows me to click many more times on the remote because she is too preoccupied to tell me to knock it off (I haven't tried chewing my nails or sniffling while she is blogging to see if I can get away with that too).
Commentary of the day.
The other day I commented to Jody, as we were trying to come up with dinner ideas, "It sure would be nice to come home to a wife with a poodle skirt on and dinner on the table." This ideal would be a little like Pleasantville, with color and more television stations. It also reminded me of when Pastor Jim Mathis was talking about how amazed he is about how tough men of today have it during childbirth. Years ago all men had to do was wait in the lobby with a good book and watch television. (At this point Jody would tell the story of how I went to lunch and missed Ava's birth, but I digress). My point is, whatever happened to the good old days, before Women's Lib? A man could work, go bowling two nights a week, play golf on Saturday and watch football all day Sunday, and in return all he had to do was mow the lawn, shovel the snow, and take out the trash. When the concept of Utopia came to be this is probably what is sounded like.
In thinking of this since that time, I have come to realize that I have it pretty good today. So what if dinner is not waiting when I get home; I like to cook and go out to eat. I liked being a part of my childs birth, Ava notwithstanding. I also like that my wife has an opinion and the fact that when I call our home phone it is always busy because Jody is blogging. Most of all, I like the fact that my wife likes to cuddle. June Cleaver never cuddled with Ward on any episode I have ever seen, and I have seen them all. So, men enjoy your opinionated, liberated women; they are much more fun than June Cleaver ever was.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What "pride" looked like in my life, yesterday...

Notice I don't have any "animals" on my shirt or sticker. No donkeys or elephants in sight. I truly believe that the leaders of our governments-local, state and federal- should care more about truth, character, responsiblity and equality than about party lines, policies, campaign money and platforms. I firmly believe that when people start caring more about others than they do about themselves- that when what a person or party "gives" matters more than what they "get", then we will see changes and dignity restored to all people. It's no easy task, but I was "proud" to be able to do my part yesterday.
Maybe this will be a stepping stone in my journey toward presidency someday. =)


I went to bed last night and woke up this morning with thoughts all over the place in my mind. It reminded me of times when I've been asked to 'brainstorm'. Have you ever done a short brainstorm exercise where you are given a word or idea, and then you start jotting down all the other thoughts or ideas that comes to your mind in relation to the given word?
That's where I'm at today with my thoughts. I could go in any number of directions here in and write all sorts of good stuff. Or just stuff that's making me stop and think. So, bear with me as they end up in blogspace today.
I stayed away from blogging about politics in my post yesterday, but that didn't mean that I stayed out of politics yesterday. In fact, as I went to vote at my local highschool last night, I was deep in thought. Those thoughts are the driving force behind my words today. I was thinking of all the things I could be doing instead of taking the time to go and vote. I had almost talked myself 'out' of voting for a few minutes when some of the thoughts I share with you now started to overwhelm me. I started thinking of all the people who would love to have the physical strength to get out of their home or hospital room or prison cell or wherever, and have the chance to vote. I got a knot in my throat as I thought of the mothers and fathers, the sons and daughters, sisters and brothers of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice over the years and even recent days in order for the rest of to have this freedom to vote. I thought of all the men and women who are away from their family and friends, at this very moment, who feel such duty and responsibilty and are willing to sacrifice the comforts of their home and jobs in order to protect and promote freedom and democracy.
I was thinking about how little, if any, that I have actually had to 'sacrifice' for my country. A little bit of my time, some of my money...but in the scheme of things it really adds up to nothing in contrast to those who have given so much.
It was with that spirit and humility, that I stepped into my polling booth and filled out my ballot last night. My heart was full of pride and gratefulness for the ability and the opportunity to exercise my right to vote. I realized it was a small 'sacrifice' on my part, and although I have strong opinions on certain issues, those mattered less to me than the actual act of me (and others) voting.
I turned in my ballot and stuck an "I voted" sticker on my shirt as I walked out of the school. It felt good. It felt right. I imagined how I would have felt if I could have embraced a row of people- patriots and family members- all who truly have sacrificed something in order that I have opportunities and freedoms in my life. It made me realize how much I take for granted every single day. I have come to 'expect' freedoms and rights, rather than appreciate them in my life. Today I am thankful more than I was less than 24 hours ago, for the freedom I have, and for the people who have allowed me those freedoms.

When I got home, Bella asked me what my sticker was for. I told her that I had voted in the elections. She smiled and said she liked my flag, and that was it. However, that short interaction with her made me realize something more. Something that has come up in conversation with others I was with on Sunday. It's the fact that others are always watching us. I'm not talking about spys or government 'bugs'; I'm talking about the people we interact with every single day. For many of us, that means our families first...our spouses and/or our kids. It made me stop and think about the 'message' we send to those around us. The "I voted" sticker on my shirt said more than just those two words. It said that I felt a responsibilty as an American, as one who lives in and appreciates the democracy we have. It said that I was willing to "do" something, and not just sit back and let others determine my rights.
I realized that my kids especially, are watching and learning from me the values and truths that I embrace in my life. They may not appreciate why or how much something has demanded of me or has driven my actions, but I hope that they will continue to grow and seek the truth and values in their lives.
I am learning that the purpose behind the things I do, is often more important the the actual 'doing'. Does that make sense? For example, right now I have some sweet potatoes roasting in my oven. It was 8:00 am when I popped them in my oven. It's not that I plan on having sweet potato casserole for breakfast, but the fact that I want a nutritious dinner for my kids later on tonight. It would be easier to grab some fast food, or to whip up some EasyMac...and believe me, there are days that I do that. I am not judging the meals you eat. I'm just making a point, that things that are important to us, things that we care about sometimes demand our effort. The fact that I care about my kids' health and nutrition, demands some of my time and energy in life. I think this has been something in my mind and 'at work' in me for awhile now. It goes back to when I blogged about taking up bike riding- remember? I wrote (I think it's in the August archives) about sacrifices and rewards. The idea that we get out what we put in to certain things- whether it's people, work, ourselves, our dreams...anything. I'm starting to see that it's so true- in every aspect of life. I hope that everyday this truth will play itself out in ways that my kids, my husband, anyone whose life I touch...that they will be able to "read my messages" loud and clear. It's a huge responsibilty. It should make me stop and think (or stop and PRAY) before I act. I am grateful today for the examples I have had in my own life- through the people around me, the stories of others- especially those who have had courage and faith, that have shaped who I am and who I am becoming, day after day.
On that note, I'll stop my thoughts and ideas and hope that I've triggered some in your own life. What do your actions or the way you spend your time, your money, your energy...what do those things say about you? For me it is humbling first, and I am doing a sort of personal inventory. But on the other hand, it can be inspiring. We can choose how and where to invest "ourselves" and send messages to others just by doing or acting a certain way. I know I have a long way to go...but I am on the road to becoming the best person I can possibly be. And when I fall short, or make mistakes? Well, then I know there is more I need to do. More I need to learn. There is always something to reach for in life. That's an important message I never want to forget.