Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Is It Over Yet?

Where has this month gone?

Other than eight days dedicated to visiting family, our anniversary, seven more days of visiting family, back-to-school shopping, the start of school, the start of fall planting, a family birthday, a family birth-day, a reunion with a newly nearly-local cousin I haven't seen since the year I got married, and the deadline for part one of a writing assignment I received back in March...

Not to mention baking bread several times, sending spontaneous fun packages to a couple of friends, changing my plans for where Rooster would attend kindergarten, deciding to enroll Lu at Mother's Day Out once a week, attempting to determine a new direction for my blog, considering becoming a locavore, and just generally getting excited about all the upcoming opportunities wafting to me on the fallish breeze...

Trudging through a final month of chaos with everyone.home.all.day...

Getting an offer to contribute to a regular online publication right up my alley...

Learning of a friend's highly anticipated pregnancy...

A difficult interaction with another friend that left me reeling for days...

Having my heart broken by yet another friend's completely unexpected cancer discovery...

And, just to top it all off, getting barfed all over my freshly showered, last-set-of-clean-clothes self this afternoon by my poor feverish baby, who is sleeping very restlessly this night...

I wonder where the time went, and why I feel a little post-roller-coaster whiplash!

I'd post photos, but my external drive dedicated to photos is about to die so I'm afraid to turn it on again until I am ready to back it up immediately. And since iPhoto can't seem to figure out how to download my camera without finding the photo library, the images of baby, relatives, and some really cool bugs will have to wait.

I have reached the finish line of August with my writing deadline accomplished... except today I suddenly realized the deadline for part one was August 1, not September 1. Dang. Novice freelancer mistake, I hope they still want my work now that I've completely buried myself in Israel's unattractive period of the Judges for the past two weeks.

The entire month of September is committed to completing the remaining four lessons of this project on Judges by October 1. Assuming they didn't reassign the job when they didn't receive Lesson One a month ago. But considering the competition for this subject matter, I think I have good odds. I'm either going to be completely depressed about human nature by the end of it, or completely grateful for the grace of God that spares us from ourselves when we behave in stubborn, self-serving ways.

So if fire and brimstone happen to be the only themes that leak out of me for the next four weeks, perhaps you can understand why. At least I'll have all those other fun things like gardening and fall baking to help balance the subject matter.

So long, August. It's been fun, but I can't take any more. I'm moving on.

September, I'll deal with you when you get here. For now, I'm on a break. If the baby sleeps tonight.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Total Faith and Surrender

Before my Life in Texas began three years ago, we lived in Salt Lake City, Utah. We moved there from Michigan in 2004 with about 20 other families and single people to start a new life and a new church, which has since become known as K2: The Church.

The tagline of this church says, "Go on an adventure with God," and at no time in my life have I felt so much on an adventure as I did during the years we were part of that group. I count the privilege of having a front-row seat to witness God's amazing transforming power every week in that church as one of the greatest blessings of my life.

Paula was one of my co-adventurers, being married to one of the original staff members of the leadership team and a fellow transplant from Michigan. We worked together with a small team at building the children's ministry program.

Last week, Paula was diagnosed with an inoperable cancer that has invaded her body.

On Sunday, just a few days later, she and her husband shared with the church, the first chapter of their new journey.

Paula and Eric just got front-row seats to the craziest adventure of their lives. They share in this video how they found great meaning in the lyrics of a song the other day:

Stop the world
I want to get off
I just want to spend more time with you

They also share about an amazing faith that has brought them through the week already past. Paula reveals that for years she has been struggling with a sense of loneliness. Eric realizes through this week's events that Paula has been higher in importance to him than Jesus, because his greatest fear is that the family could not survive the loss of either one of them.

Their God, my God, is known as the Great Healer. In this week, he has already shown Paula that her loneliness has been a lie of the enemy to make her feel isolated. Paula has been healed of the sin of self-imposed loneliness.

Eric has had to come to the point of being willing to release Paula to God's care, to trust that God will care for her far better than he can. In the moment of being thrust into his greatest nightmare of possible family separation, Eric has been healed of his sin of Paula worship.

Our God heals. We pray for him to be shown powerful through a complete physical healing of Paula's body. But we also know he doesn't always choose to show his power in ways we fully understand.

In another time, another place, three young men stood before an angry monarch. The king insisted they worship the statue he had built, but the three refused because they knew the power of the one they worshiped was far greater than this king. He threatened to throw them in a pit of fire, to burn to death, as consequence for disobeying their king.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego responded, "O king, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up" (Daniel 3:16-18).

"Even if he does not." I find those words some of the most powerful in all of scripture.

Even if he does not physically heal my friend Paula, God has already healed her heart. He has already healed her husband's heart. And he is already showing the strength of his hand in the number of people profoundly affected by her story.

Father God, Great Healer, thank you for being so real today. Thank you for working in Paula's life to reach an audience that includes me, to remind us that you are in control of each moment. Thank you for the faith that has already carried her through the start of this new journey.

I add my voice, my prayer to those going up all over the world, that you would choose to heal Paula's body, and be shown powerful by the lack of any other ways to explain her healing.

But even if you do not choose to physically heal her, even if her journey takes her to you sooner than anyone expected, thank you for the healing you have already done in Paula's and Eric's hearts. Please continue to bring that kind of healing to people all over the world.


I've found a new love

I find myself almost at the end of August, looking back in astonishment at the wide variety of experiences the month has held. I'll have to elaborate more later, as one of its myriad ingredients is a writing deadline for which I am not yet ready. I need to get busy!

But today, I simply must share one particular miracle that happened 10 days ago. Amidst all the decisions, interactions, visits and joys, a new star was born. Literally.

My friend-turned-sis-in-law Whit popped a few weeks earlier than expected and presented us with a little piece of heaven. I got to meet this darling bundle when she was just a few hours old, and unexpectedly (for I don't usually go ga-ga for babies), I fell in love with her. I looked at her, and something in my soul melted.

Baby meets her Kiki (that's me!) for the first time

All little boys are princes and all little girls are princesses, according to one of my favorite authors, George MacDonald. All are children of the King, the one who made us.

This little princess needs no other term of valuation. She is beautiful and perfect just as she is. And yet... she is named after the daughter of a Greek king, and after the bright light of morning.

She is a Light Princess, and she holds the key to my heart. I'm really looking forward to being Aunt Kiki to this miracle.

Friday, August 27, 2010


When we traveled up North earlier this summer, I learned about a new trend sweeping in from the East: Silly Bandz. These are thin rubber bracelets in shapes like animals, musical instruments, anything you can think of. I got mine in packs of 12 for $3. Someone is getting rich off these, because even the knockoffs are 24 for $4.99. And apparently kids are wearing them all up their arms and they trade them with each other for more variety.

I had never heard of them, but purchased a couple sets for the kids for "sometime." I was thinking Christmas stockings.

"Sometime" finally arrived this week, as the crazy trend made it here in time for the start of school.

On Friday, three days before school started, Boo found a package in the store and swooned over them. After never having mentioned them before, she suddenly developed an overwhelming need for these (that she has always wanted). All I heard about all weekend was "can I get some Silly Bandz?"

Saturday morning she realized we were out of eggs, and she immediately assessed that we needed to go to Kroger stat to get more. I agreed. Next thing I knew she was at the front door with her purse in hand, ready to accompany me.

This is highly unusual behavior, as she not only avoids errands as much as possible, but doesn't carry a purse.

Halfway to the store, I realized she had brought her coin collection with the intention of buying two sets of Silly Bandz: one for her and one for her brother. Which was supposed to make me more willing to let her spend the money.

Boy, was she disappointed when I didn't let her spend her money.

I had decided to gift the packs of bands I had, to the kids on their first day of school, Monday morning. Unfortunately, I forgot. And sure enough, they came home talking about Silly Bandz.

I resolved to give them the second morning. Unfortunately, I forgot again.

On Tuesday, Boo came home with one she had gotten from someone at school. Knowing the kids are trading them with each other, I asked her if it had been given or traded for. She revealed that she had traded for it.

What had she traded for it? I wondered.

She had traded one of her (seven, precious) tooth fairy coins. A gold presidential dollar, thankyouverymuch.

Believe me, I remembered to give the bags of Silly Bandz on the third day. The kids were in heaven. They wore those bands to school with pride.

But then something odd happened. Yesterday, the fourth day, Boo suddenly didn't want to wear them to school.

This morning I asked if she would wear them today, and she said no, they're starting to say people can't wear them to school.

Of course.

All this fuss for a bunch of overpriced cheap crap from China that I could have invented myself and made enough money to hire a housekeeper, a personal chef, a laundromat, a nanny and a live-in masseuse.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Happy Blogiversary, Life in Texas!

Between summer visitors, our wedding anniversary, the start of fall planting, more summer visitors, a writing deadline and preparing for the start of school, August has been jam-packed with busy-ness.

This morning I got the kids off to their first day of school. 6am came painfully early, especially since we are still in the midst of summer visitors and last night ended way too late. My son, my middle child, the Rooster that holds my heartstrings, starts kindergarten today. I'll have to think more about that later in the week when I've had a chance to catch my breath.

Today I celebrate that I have been a blogger for three years now.

(Well, I've actually had a cooking blog for almost five years, but I actually didn't know that was a blog until I got this one going. This feels like my first blog.)

We arrived in Texas August 12, 2007. Shortly after that I began this Life in Texas blog as a way to share my new life with everyone I left behind, as well as the multitude of family and friends scattered across the country.

I don't know exactly what day I started, or what entry was my first entry, because I was so cunning with the original entries that I changed the dates to go with the date of the event instead of the date of the post. Awesome, except today when I want to know when I started this adventure. Oops.

At least I am fairly confident one of the entries from August of that year was the first. So I claim the last week of August as my blogiversary, and post a link to the entire August 2007 archive (all six entries of it) as a way to take you back to the beginning. I think it contains some representative content, including the story of our arrival in Texas, our 10th wedding anniversary, and a description of Texas wildlife.

Blogging has helped me flesh out a purpose in my day-to-day life. The passion to share has grown, and now I think it's time for the blog to grow, too. Beginning very (I hope very) soon, Life in Texas will be evolving into something else.

In the meantime, Happy Birthday, Life in Texas. You have been very good for me, and I would not be on the path I am today if it hadn't been for you.

I hope my readers have enjoyed you even a little bit as much as I have.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


In completely inconsequential news, we received enough rain today to fill my rain barrel. This first significant rainfall in two months was sorely needed, and cheered by my local friends. Some of them have cracks in the dirt of their yards so deep one cannot see all the way to the bottom. It's high time for a little rainy season around here. We have to keep the zombies from coming up from the center of the earth.

Not my rain barrel, but it's much nicer to look at.

To follow yesterday's manic house cleaning X2, today I topped it by driving a hundred miles to the airport to pick up Sweet Annie and The Coach. Then I made homemade pizza for everyone at my spic 'n' span house and enjoyed the flood of conversation that comes whenever visitors come to town.

The Captain made coffee for dessert, and I took my morning medication twelve hours late.

Four hours later, I find myself still spinning around the house at midnight, wondering what other fun things can happen today. I find this strange since normally I'm done with the day by about 10pm. I figure it's either from the excitement of having more visitors or because my morning med has an associated energy rush.

I wonder aloud about the possibility of this connection, and a sheepish Captain finally confesses to having made 'real' coffee for dessert instead of decaffeinated.


So I'm going to attempt to turn out the light now, but I may be back. It's good to know blog world never sleeps.

Speaking of sleep, here's a link back to one of my favorite stories from that first year in Texas, about a crazy half-dream experience. My beloved has had to put up with some strange behaviors from me, usually with no warning.

Do you have a favorite story about sleep? Funny, scary, sweet, whatever. Please share it, or even leave me a link to it. I may be needing inspiration in a few hours, or for the next day.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Waiting Place

This week marks the final week before school starts. The tide of mayhem in my house is cresting. We have relatives coming tomorrow for a week, and I have not just one, but two houses to clean today before their arrival (yikes!).

With that in mind, for the rest of this week I will be re-posting some of my favorite posts from our first year in Texas.

This morning I dug through my archives for a post to submit to another website, to represent my faith journey, and was reminded of one I wrote two years ago about waiting. At the time I felt at my most uncomfortable with the situation I was in.

It was good to pause for a moment and reflect on how far I have come since then. Other than eagerly anticipating the start of school in six days, I don't feel stuck in a waiting place today. Waiting places have great value, but it's nice not to be obsessing about a road block.

Enjoy the story by clicking the link below. I would love to hear your response if you have one.

The Sports Lake

This post is also linked to Tuesdays Unwrapped, in which we celebrate the gift found in everyday moments. As I remember 2007-2008 as the year of waiting for my house to sell, today I celebrate the gift of not being in a waiting place.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Taming the Lion of Summer

In Central Texas, summer roars like a lion. It prowls for the unaware: the un-sunscreened, un-hydrated, un-sheltered among us, looking for victims to scorch and wither with its breath. We start to feel like prey, perpetually seeking respite from the deadly heat.

Just a few days ago, we completed three years of living in Texas. As we have walked through three full circles around the sun at this latitude, I have learned to appreciate and savor the in-between seasons of spring and fall, and take cover during the more extreme times. During Texas summer, we pretty much just stay indoors like many of my friends do during Northern winter.

Except, as with the snows that require shoveling in bitterest winter, we still have to get outside for yard maintenance.

After a time or two mowing my yard in 100 degree heat, I begin to surrender to it. I accept that an hour of outside work includes a huge styrofoam cup of iced tea, a fully drenched set of clothing, and the sun's bronze kiss on my shoulders. Not to mention a mandatory shower (or at least a dip in the pool) at the end.

Then, while working in the yard this weekend, I sensed that the lion's heavy roar grows a little thin. It's still plenty hot and loud, but something about it just doesn't threaten like it did a week or two ago. I think the deadly heat we experience this week is the last of the really oppressive Texas summer. The heat will die down slowly over the next two months, but it is on its way out.

I rejoice at this sign, for it signals fall gardening, the start of school, and the arrival of my favorite, most productive season of year. I do my best writing and cooking in Fall.

Don't get me wrong, I am celebrating every day of summer. We have crammed in lots of library trips, Sonic happy hours, visits with friends and family, and an abundance of general (mostly happy) mayhem around this house. We have spent about 5 evenings a week out at Red Boot Ranch with the Captain's parents and their pool. We still have a week of the Captain's brother (#3: the Coach) and his sweet wife coming to enjoy the end of summer with us.

But one week from today, my firstborn begins third grade and my #2 Rooster starts kindergarten! I may shed a tear for this rite of passage, but to me it marks the beginning of Fall and a whole bunch of free time to get back to my own agenda. And precious one-on-one with the baby doll, of course.

Summer has been glorious. But I eagerly anticipate the imminent taming of the lion.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lucky Thirteen

It's you I like,
It's not the things you wear.
It's not the way you do your hair,
But it's you I like.

The way you are right now
Way down deep inside you
Not the things that hide you
Not your diplomas...
They're just beside you.

But it's you I like,
Every part of you,
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings,
Whether old or new.

I hope that you'll remember
Even when you're feeling blue,
That it's you I like,
It's you yourself, it's you
It's you I like!

Fred Rogers

Happy Anniversary to my one and only.

This concludes a series celebrating our anniversary today. Click here to start at the beginning.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Rule of Engagement (and Marriage)

This post is the sixth in a series leading up to our anniversary tomorrow. Click here to start from the beginning.

When we are listened to,
it creates us,
makes us unfold and expand.
Karl Menninger

After a week of rambling about all the fun memories, bold dreams, and refining challenges found in thirteen very lucky years of marriage, I think it all distills down to this one bit. We really only have one rule that has always influenced every element of our relationship:


We have three off-limits words: Idiot, Stupid, Moron. Once you start calling names, respect starts to dwindle. When fighting, we never use these words, and we always try to address only the issue at hand without attacking the other person.

When we talk about one another to others, we intentionally always say positive things about one another. If I'm cutting him down behind his back, not only am I not behaving respectfully, but I'm diminishing the respect others have for him.

The Captain always treats me respectfully. If he doesn't, he comes back very quickly to apologize. He taught me about making up via that first fight in the shower.

My biggest challenge in marriage is that I struggle with respecting him the way he wants to be respected. I stew about money management or housekeeping. I raise his children. I worry about feeding him regular meals. I am his sounding board about external frustrations.

He appreciates all of those things about me. But those aren't the things he really wants, deep down. All this simple man needs to feel respected is for me to be emotionally and physically available to him.

The rest can be negotiated.

I love my man to the deepest part of my being, and want to help him be the man he is meant to be. The best way I can do that is to give him what he needs. Although we do have fun in our intimate time, it's not always my idea of fun to stop and play with him when he wants. I just have so many things running in my mind at a time that it's hard to settle down and be in the moment.

But when I don't make time, he doesn't feel respected.

And it diminishes him.

So many popular books talk about how a man needs to show respect for his wife. Many more talk about how the wife needs to create a haven for her husband, a well-run home with well-disciplined children. Those are both excellent points.

But I don't think enough of them stress this point enough: A man needs to be physically loved in order to feel fully respected by his woman.

I have found as I make that time and put away all the other distractions to focus on my man physically, his confidence and charm increase, and lead him in turn to focus more on me emotionally. Which increases my desire to put everything else aside and focus on him physically. Which increases his sense of having everything right with his world. It's a mutually beneficial cycle that builds our respect for one another as well as our sense of being on the same team.

I love this man. I love being on the same team with him. I love being treated respectfully by him. And I love the confidence in his eyes when I treat him with the respect he deserves.

Thank you for reading my lengthy discourse (not eulogy) about marriage this week. Please excuse me now, I think it's time to go respect my husband.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Shower Scene

This post is the fifth in a series leading up to our anniversary on Sunday. Click here to start at the beginning.

In marriage there are no manners to keep up, and beneath the wildest accusations no real criticism. Each is familiar with that ancient child in the other who may erupt again.... We are not ridiculous to ourselves. We are ageless. That is the luxury of the wedding ring.
Enid Bagnold, 1969

Yesterday I started talking about some of the challenges of our married life, and lessons learned. The first lesson was about having realistic expectations, and about the importance of viewing ourselves as on the same team. Today I am sharing how I learned to fight fair.

After the first few months of dating, most of our courtship was long distance; but talking to the Captain on the phone for an hour a night over the course of a year told me much of what I needed to know: he had the character I wanted in a mate. The rest would work itself out.

The nice thing about this arrangement was that I entered marriage with very few expectations about behavior or habits. Most of the surprises quickly became humorous moments. See posts from earlier this week for details.

One important habit we did not practice while dating, was how to fight. We had our first fight four months into our marriage, and it sprang out of playtime. Like all of our first three fights, which occurred during the first six years of our marriage, it was such a dumb little thing, not really worth making it a "hill to die on."

We were taking a shower together, as young married couples frequently do. I accidentally bumped him into the cold tile wall of the shower. He bristled, so I playfully pushed harder. In response, he held me under the shower spray and turned off the hot water. Or maybe it happened the other way around, I don't remember anymore. What I do remember is that I felt shocked and betrayed. He was furious, and left to take a shower in the other bathroom.

In three seconds, our playful moment had escalated into warfare. What just happened?

I fixed the temperature of the shower spray, then stood under it and cried. The whole thing was completely blown out of proportion in my mind. Our perfect relationship was shattered. I was a failure as a wife. He had rejected me by leaving the scene of the crime.

Five minutes later, he quietly returned. Swallowing his pride and probable innocence, he apologized for having overreacted, for having been a jerk, for simply being wrong. HE was apologizing to ME! He concluded with, "Besides, there was a silverfish in that other shower, and I'd like to come back to this one."

What did I learn from this about how to fight? Humility, honesty and a dash of humor go a long way toward bringing two friends back together again.

If you live to be a hundred, I want
To live to be a hundred minus one day,
So I never have to live without you.
Winnie the Pooh

Come back tomorrow to read about the one simple rule that has greatly blessed our marriage.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Us Against the World

This post is the fourth in a series leading up to our anniversary on Sunday. Click here to start at the beginning.

Grow old along with me.

The best is yet to be - the last of life

for which the first was made.
Robert Browning

This week I celebrate my love for my beloved. When I told him I was eulogizing him all week on my blog, he responded, "Why, am I going away?" Oops. I meant to say, this week is an Ode to our Marriage.

With every difficult moment, every ordinary day, and every glorious year that passes, I grow more convinced that I married the right man for me.

We are still both convinced that we have the better end of the deal. I really know I have it better, but I let him believe he might be right. I also let him believe he is the smarter one of the two of us, which works well because in return he lets me believe that I am the smarter one.

We genuinely enjoy one another's company, one another's interests, one another's ambitions and passions. Plus we also enjoy one another's children, which is fortunate since they are also our own.

We are so blessed to have found one another, because a good marriage brings a wellspring of life to one's soul.

I believe we provide an example that while it takes constant maintenance, marriage does not have to be hard work. There are challenges, to be sure. Make sure you marry the right person, yes, sort of. But I think it's also about two people deciding to commit fully to this institution, this project, this team.

We have found that when you keep expectations realistic, you fight fair, and live by simple principles, life together can be the blessing God intended.

Chains do not hold a marriage together.
It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads
which sew people together through the years.
~Simone Signoret

Great Expectations: Us Against The World
The challenges of our early time together came from outside our relationship, and ended up cementing our bond. We set up house across country from all of our parents and brothers and most of our friends, which quickly led to us relying on one another instead of the support structures we had previously had.

Six weeks before the wedding, my grandfather (dad's dad) suddenly passed away after open heart surgery. Ten weeks into our marriage, my grandmother (dad's mom) was told she had leukemia and was gone five days later. Our first Christmas was spent with my parents and brother, staying in my grandparents' empty house in Arizona where we had met up with my dad's brothers in order to divide up the estate.

I remember telling the Captain we would be glad someday to have had that as our first Christmas, because it could only get better from there.

By the time we had been married six months, we had developed an attitude of "It's us against the world." This attitude has served us well through the years, helping foster our togetherness when we might be inclined to let circumstances pull us apart:

  • Our rallying cry has become, "Go, Team Burdine!" as we pound fists like the Wonder Twins from our childhood Superfriends days. Incidentally, that's why I call him the Team Captain. In case you have always been dying of curiosity.
  • Together, we plot to take over the world with our awesomeness, like Pinky and the Brain ("we're totally insaney").
  • How could you not grow to love someone more, after you have spent years outlining together how you will survive the Zombie Apocalypse?

I jest a bit about the application, but the principle is completely true. When you are busy working together toward a common goal, you spend less time worrying about whether your teammate is perfect, and
more time worrying about
less time worrying in general.

In our case, having appropriate expectations means expecting that the two of us are on the same team. Tomorrow I'll tell you what I have learned about fighting fair.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dream a Little Dream of Forever

This post is the third in a series leading up to our anniversary on Sunday. Click here to go directly to the first post in the series.

I love to dream with my beloved.

From the time we were dating, we have built castles in the air. Sitting on an old sofa on the screened front porch of my off-campus rental house, toes touching in the middle as we faced one another from each end, we talked earnestly about all the fun things our future life could hold.

In thirteen years, we have pursued some dreams, released others, stored some for later, and birthed new ones.

We followed our dreams to California and spent three years working in the film industry. Southern California is beautiful and cosmopolitan, a fascinating place to explore when young and in love. Northern California is wild and varied, full of breathtaking scenery and tour destinations. Both are full of dreamers, people who left homes and family to pursue excitement and adventure in film.

In those years, we considered and released a dream of moving to Pasadena so I could pursue a graduate degree in Psychology; and later one of relocating to New Zealand so he could work on the Narnia movies. Either would have been an amazing experience, that would have steered our lives onto a different path than we are on today. Instead, we moved to Troy, Michigan to bring professional quality film skills to a church setting. For several years we enjoyed living within driving distance of our families and many good friends.

As we got to the point of starting our family, we began to discuss living even closer to family. The Captain's parents moved to Texas while I was pregnant with Boo, and soon we found ourselves building a dream of raising our family in Texas, living in the country with horses, and a self-supporting homestead. The more we dreamed, the more we visited, the stronger our desires grew to make that dream a reality.

Then one day we learned of a group from our church making plans to move to Salt Lake City and start a sister church to the one we were part of in Troy. A new dream ignited in our hearts, to bring our unique mix of skills and experience to the team, and join this new adventure. And we felt our purpose for that time in our lives was to pursue that dream to the best of our ability.

The dream did not disappoint. The years of setting up video production, teaching and consulting with the children's ministry team, leading home group meetings, and generally watching people's lives be changed by God's love, were some of the most spiritually exhilarating I have experienced.

Our dream of Texas was stored but never forgotten. After the church was past its beginning chapter, we felt released to pursue it once again. When the time was right, everything fell into place, and we found ourselves on another incredible journey that ended right where we had dreamed, under the wide open skies of Texas.

How blessed are we to be able to count so many dreams as having come true?

I love being married to a dreamer. I love to listen and tag along on his flights of fancy, wherever they may lead. We bring it out in one another, for I know his gentle whispers in my ear have encouraged me many times over the years to reach for a new dream.

This week, we are still dreaming of that self-supporting homestead, complete with a vineyard, bees, a house made out of freight containers, and enough land that we can shelter our family in the event of a zombie apocalypse. I'm going to build a reputation good enough to publish, allowing him to retire early so he can spend his time fixing up and renting old homes. He can manage bottling and distributing the wine and honey, while I manage our orchard and garden, and together we will solve the problems of the world while we live happily ever after.

I love to dream with my beloved.

Click here to go directly to the next post in the series.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Personal Guarantee

This post is the second in a series that continues all week, leading up to our 13th anniversary on Sunday. Click here to start at the beginning of the series.

Early Discoveries in My Marriage

1. Did you know that the louder you state a fact, the more likely it is to be true?

2. Or that if you want to buy something for yourself but aren't sure you should spend the money, the fair solution is to also spend an equal amount of money on the other person sharing your bank account?

3. Or that some people are wired in such a way that, if you want them to do something and think it's their own idea, all you have to do is tell them, "I know you can't do this"?

These are three of the most startling discoveries I made during the first year of marriage to my beloved. I also learned a lot about myself.

On Navigation
I learned that my unpredictable tendency to mix up my right and left makes me a terrible navigator.

In addition, when we are approaching our turn but might have trouble getting to the proper lane in time to execute properly, I learned the Captain responds much more positively to a low soothing rendition of, "Okay, now whenever you get a chance you're going to want to turn around so we can make the turn we just missed back there," than he does to, "Oh crap--turn right turn right turn right!!!"

One Saturday morning after we had been married about a year, we hopped in the car to go to Pagano's, the local hardware store. At the time, we lived on Alameda Island, which is about three blocks wide and maybe 10 blocks long. Since he had been to the hardware store before, I did not attempt to give directions. Soon, however, I began to wonder what side errand he was taking us on, as we were almost to the other end of the island already. Eventually we both came to the realization that he was taking us on the single most indirect route possible between our house and the store. Since that day, "The Road to Pagano's" has become our personal expression for taking the scenic route.

Let's just leave further discussions of our growth in the team driving category with the statement, we learned a lot that first year.

On Food
It took a little longer than a year, but pretty soon I learned that my new husband didn't like leftovers, casserole, chicken, meat on salad, or chocolate cake. He was sensitive in the beginning to my beginner status as a household chef. Then gradually I would get bits of more constructive responses.

But it was okay, because he bragged on me to others, which totally increased my confidence in the kitchen. Also, he knew what he did like, and soon he had me calling his mom to learn how to make spaghetti sauce, artichokes, asparagus, and more. And before I knew it, I discovered I really enjoyed cooking. I even learned to appreciate white cake, who knew.

The Personal Guarantee
By far the best thing I learned about during my first year of marriage was the personal guarantee. My confident, cocksure beloved had been fond of putting his personal guarantee on lots of things over the years. He has such a force of personality that quite often he can make something happen when others wouldn't even think to try. See item three at the top of this post.

So imagine, if you will, my beloved, his best friend, and me, standing in line for a movie, on its opening night in LA. We were watching the marquee for the show times, noting that the next four showings had just started blinking, SOLD OUT. The time we were trying to get tickets for was the fifth time. And the best friend and I did some mental calculations involving the number of people yet in line, the speed with which the next four showings had closed, and the fact that we were there at the peak hour on Friday night, and concluded that we were not going to get into our desired showing.

My beloved was optimistic. In the face of our negative opinions, he continued to declare that we would get into the movie. See item one at the top of this post.

Finally, he pulled out his figurative credentials, burnished them, and raised his voice yet another notch. Silhouetted against the lights of the marquee, he turned around to face us as we leaned against the velvet rope:

I give you my personal guarantee that we will get in to see our movie when we want!

No joke, the words had not even died on his lips when, directly behind him, the marquee began to blink on our time slot: SOLD OUT.

Chris and I laughed so hard we almost couldn't even continue standing. To this day, all one has to say is the phrase, "personal guarantee" and the other will begin to laugh hysterically.

Sadly, the spoken personal guarantee died that day. My beloved enjoyed the joke at his own expense, but he doesn't leave himself open for it any more, unless the joke is his idea. Don't be fooled, however. He may not say as much, but by his actions he continues to give his personal guarantee all the time. And almost all the time, he actually makes good on it.

I love the confidence that he carries as he still exerts the force of his personality to make the world a better place. I love that he raises his voice more, the more convinced he is of his right-ness. I love the passionate spirit that influences those traits.

After thirteen years, I am still learning new things about my beloved. But some of those first revelations continue to be my favorites.

Click here to go directly to the next post in the series.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ten Things I Don't Hate About You

How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right:
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

My beloved and I will celebrate thirteen years of marriage at the end of this week. After my in-laws' 40th anniversary last month I got to thinking about our own marriage: how it started, where we've been (and could have gone, but didn't), our dreams, our challenges. Today I thought I'd just share the first ten things I fell in love with about him.

  1. I loved his guts. I was working at the McDonald's near campus, when he came in with several friends. A moment after they ordered and sat down, he came back and asked for another bun. I felt obligated to mock him to the entire crew as well as the other customer in line, asking him if he'd like that toasted or fresh. A few moments later, he was back asking for ketchup (which was right behind him). Again, he came back for a refill. And finally, he stopped by a final time on his way out to order food for a classmate back at the dorm. Come to find out later he had used every trick at his disposal to come up with excuses to come back and chat with the girl at the front counter again.
  2. I loved that he looked down on me. At 5'10" I had only one physical trait on my "wish" list, to meet someone at least 6'3". God in his humorous way of giving me "above and beyond all I could ask or imagine" sent me someone 6'8".
  3. I loved that when I first looked into his eyes on our first date, I fell in.
  4. I loved that he pursued me. Nobody had ever really seen me for me before. I was always trying to present myself in a way that would catch someone's eye, but in this case all I had done was make fun of him. Apparently this intrigued him enough to ask a mutual friend about me, whose response was, "Oh, stay away from her. She's a little weird." And this only served to increase his interest in pursuing me.
  5. I loved that he laughed at my personal inside jokes. I am forever cracking myself up commenting on the humor I see around me, but the soundtrack is just for me. If anyone else gets it that's great, but I am my own greatest audience. Once he started hanging around I'd make my usual under-the-breath cracks and suddenly there would be two of us laughing.
  6. I loved that he could laugh at himself. Can't think of a moment from back then, but tonight as we are sitting together looking at slides from the past, he is laughing hysterically at a photo we just found of him in his sweaty, farm boy glory. Others try to hide their terrible photos, he revels in them because they are worthy of inspiring laughter. And his number one value is fun.
  7. I loved that as we would walk around campus together, he would greet by name every one of those people that linger around the social fringes, recognized by anyone but known by only a few. He took the time to know them all.
  8. I loved that he told me up front he was not looking for a girlfriend, but he was praying for a friend. I had been praying the exact same prayer for a best friend. Being known is such a strong human need, isn't it?
  9. I loved that he promised not to give me flowers. In previous relationships he had had to send flowers to girlfriends to make up for mistakes, and to him flowers had a negative connotation. Instead of secretly hating himself every time I asked for them, he simply told me up front that he wanted to wait until he could give them to me by his own free choice. Communication does wonders for an awkward situation. I was totally fine with it, and by our first married Valentine's Day I was receiving freely given flowers.
  10. I loved his explanation of why we should get married: "Ninety percent of the world, we agree on. And the other ten percent is stuff I have no opinion on, that doesn't matter." If you know this dear opinionated man at all, you may laugh out loud now. Perhaps the fact that it sounded plausible at the time might indicate we were talking about marriage a little too soon (two weeks after we met). Lucky for me, it all turned out okay in the end!

This post is the first in a series that continues all week. Click here to go directly to the next post in the series.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Too Soon?

Summer vacation with the relatives continues to entertain.

Last evening we went to DQ to help sponsor Miracle Treat day. Of the 9 of us, three ordered Blizzards. I was thrilled to discover a new "mini" size blizzard. And a new flavor, double chocolate cookie dough or some such. Lulu found a buddy to share a little blizzard with her, too.

Today the Captain's mom, the Archaeologist (henceforth "Maryanne") and I took an outing to the bead store for supplies. Afterward I requested a trip to Kohl's in search of a new bathing suit. Despite it being the first of August and NOT bathing suit season, I am actually in desperate need of probably two suits to get me through to mid-September. Depressingly, I could find neither a one piece suit of any style in my size, nor two coordinating pieces. Boo. My search will have to continue.

In good news, I found a lovely pool cover-up on a good sale.

On the way home, we stopped at Walgreens for one quick item. As I accompanied the other ladies to the checkout, Maryanne casually pointed out, "Look, they have candy corn already."


Immediately, desire seized me. There was nothing for it but to purchase a bag of Autumn Mix and eat half of it on the way home. Good golly Miss Molly, but a little binge once in awhile can't hurt, right?

It wouldn't have been so bad if we hadn't just stopped at Sonic for a Route 44 diet cherry limeade.

And I could possibly have even survived the sugar shock had we not been about to be treated to the dinner of the month by the Professor and Maryanne.

After watching a full day of dinner preparations, we had the pleasure of marinated chicken kabobs, greek salad, spanakopita (spinach pie), and baklava. I had three glorious pieces each of the spanakopita and baklava.

Finally, my brain gave out. Adult hour after the kids were in bed consisted of our family favorite card game, Scum. I just couldn't do anything more than lay down cards in the hope that it was my turn. At least I didn't win too well or lose too consistently. Finally my lovely Captain noticed I was having trouble regulating my body temperature, and sent me to bed.

The sugar bomb on my body was totally worth it for that sweet annual rush of candy corn goodness. I figured the candy is probably fresher this week than it will be in another two months.

It's not too early in the season to be confessing to this, is it?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Simple Pleasures

I am exclusively washing clothes today.

Actually, other than managing three rowdy children, that's about all I have to be doing, so it's not all bad.

The laundry is a prerequisite to packing to move 5 miles down the road to spend the weekend at Grammy & Guppy's house while Professor Beardsley & the Archaeologist are in town.

And in between each load change, I have had time to appreciate a few simple pleasures.

A Giant Mug of Morning Coffee

Running the Sprinklers

Running in the Sprinklers

Watching the Hummingbirds

Watching the Hummingbirds Watch Me

Leftovers for Lunch

Self-Directed Play

Folded Laundry

Now that the laundry is under control, I have a date with a swimming pool, a glass of sangria, and a house full of relatives.

Oh, and the Texas Stop Sign; did you know today DQ will donate $1 to Children's Miracle Network for every Blizzard purchased on August 5? Get out and get one!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pass the Sangria, Please

The Captain's "baby" brother Beardsley (#4) is in the house this week, along with his lovely wife, The Archaeologist. Beardsley, now being the only brother still in his 20's, has scheduled whompins on his older brothers to once-and-for-all make up for decades as the pesky little brother.

He will first attempt to showcase his prowess in the pool.

A year ago, Beardsley rode Boo's new inflatable swan into oblivion within a matter of minutes, to our great entertainment.

If last year is any indication, the boys will test themselves by counting numbers of somersaults they can do in the water before passing out. They play aqua hoops (entertaining since all of them are terrible at shots; one of the girls usually wins this competition). This year the contest will expand to include whatever they can think of to do with our newest pool toy, the pool legos modeled here by brother #2, TomTheFool.

When everyone is pruney and sun-dazzled, the party will move indoors, so Professor Beardsley can attempt to steal the title of Game-Master from TomTheFool. The Captain (#1) is a formidable game player also, and sometimes pulls ahead in this competition, especially when he tries the tactic of introducing a new game that he already knows how to play. But brother #2 is somehow savant with games, and he usually figures out the game and conquers it in pretty short order.

In the late afternoon we will return outdoors for more pool time. Sometimes if it's not too hot (although chances of that are slim of that this week) we go for a walk or pull out the bocce ball. In each instance, Beardsley will attempt to assert his dominance. And brothers #1 and #2 will do their best to keep him in his place. But he will still claim victory, even if just for the sport of watching his brothers' indignant reactions.

After awhile, everyone will get hungry, and happy hour will commence. There will be lots of guacamole consumption, and a perpetually refilled pitcher of sangria punch on the counter. The boys may even compete to see who makes the best guacamole, although everyone knows I am the master of that. But I enjoy it no matter who makes it; my secret ingredient (shh) is avocadoes. Just please let's not run out of chips.

For dinner, the families will share food duties. Generally each family takes a night or two to showcase their favorite large-scale recipes. This year I'm going to showcase Freebird burritos and Killer Shrimp, with the Captain's help (assuming he hasn't drowned himself in the sangria). I'm hoping for some awesome stir-fry from the Minnesota pair. The rest of the nights, cooking hour is part of the companionship. Last time, the Archaeologist worked with my kids to make individual pizzas.

I think this vacation will include more fun memories, and we may even attempt some new activities. As of today, it's a blank canvas on which to paint.

What I do know is that there will be lots of sangria, lots of pool time, a bit of heated dialogue, and as much of a good time as we can squeeze into ten days.

And at the end of our too-brief time together, every brother will be declaring himself the winner.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Karate Kid: What's Your Motivation?

How can I get her to want it?

Miss Boo has reached the point where taekwondo requires practice outside of class. She has suddenly developed the attitude I was expecting all along, of just showing up and barely going through the motions.

Mrs P called a conference last week and challenged her to only come if she is going to try. It was meant to get her to want to try. Instead, she has spent the week moping around saying, "I just don't think karate is my thing."

Really? Karate was all she could talk about for three months before she started in January. Now she says she didn't know what she was getting into. She didn't realize it would be so hard.

I have to say, it's not really hard. We just practiced together for 20 minutes and I learned half of the 23 steps of the form. It's not hard, unless you expect to only ever do things that come naturally, at a time when you feel like doing them.

Which rules out horseback riding, telling stories, becoming an artist, or any other successful discipline for the rest of her life.

But how do I get her to want it?

My mom made me take piano lessons for ten years. I hated it. But I had to keep at it. I didn't appreciate the accomplishment until ten years later, when I was a decent pianist. I love that I can play the piano, but I have regret. I could have been really good had I practiced and studied theory better. And I feel like I wasted my opportunity.

The Captain shares similar feelings about his own experiences with organized activities as a child. He tried the smorgasbord approach and never really achieved success in any one area. Like me, he wants more for his kids. Does that require forcing her to continue with an activity for years whether she enjoys it or not?

I don't view parenthood as a chance to make up for my past mistakes. But I sometimes wonder if another approach might have worked to help grow my inner desire for success. Maybe a proper incentive might have encouraged him to stick with one activity long enough to develop mastery. I don't know what that approach or incentive would have been; I just wonder if one might have existed. And if it is possible, I want to help my daughter learn something I still struggle with: personal discipline.

So how do I get her to want it?

Boo requested Daddy escort her to her last class. When they returned, even he was defeated. From the first minute of class she was off kilter from the rest of the group, even the ones newer to the discipline than her. She just marches to the beat of a different drummer. Martial arts, which stresses uniformity, control, and precision, seems to be crushing the fragile flower of this girl's confidence.

I was stunned last week to hear her express a thought she worked out on her own:
I don't like karate because it's all about war-making and fighting, and that's just not me.
How do you argue with that?

Parenting is so challenging. The stakes seem so much higher than just the issue at hand, because you set precedents:
  • If she stops, is she a quitter? Or is she brilliant for being able to verbalize that this is not her cup of tea?
  • If she picks up something different, what if she wants to quit that too?
  • If we force her to stick with something, are we building character or damaging her trust that we will take care of her?
  • Are we the problem?
We walk a tightrope between celebrating her for her unique approach to life, and making sure she is prepared to live in a world that will require more of her. Our society pushes "different" people to the fringes, unless they also know how to fall in line at the proper times.

I don't care what the venue is, I just want to find an organized activity that will spark (and hold) her interest, and give her practice in persistence, self-discipline, and taking instruction.

On paper, karate sounds like a great way to accomplish that. I was so hopeful that this would be a breakthrough for her. However, until she starts to want it, I think I'm done forcing this activity.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Early Morning

One of my favorite times of day comes early, before the children stir. My backyard retreat summons me for fellowship, before midsummer heat burns away the hush of daybreak.

I get lost in my yard, mesmerized by tending to the tomatoes and herbs, inspecting the beans and watermelons, listening for messages being spoken by the trees and saplings: A little more water, please. Could you remove these bug-eaten leaves? Look, I've got a praying mantis guardian!

After a weekend of weeding, pruning, and repotting, this morning offers a chance to simply enjoy the moment. Six jalapenos will be ready to harvest by the end of the week. Two fresh tomato plants seem to be adapting well to their new, larger containers. Three tiny clumps of perennials will apparently survive being shared from Miss ReNeau's yard to mine: after only two days, one has already opened a new flower.

The hummingbirds have finally found us this summer, now that construction is nearly complete on the row of houses behind us. A pair of them dart here and there, taking advantage of our nectar feeder while I inspect my domain. A garter snake escorts me from the tomato containers to the herb box, escaping my notice until he has nearly reached the tall grass cover under the herbs.

Four crepe myrtles, anchors of this young landscape, continue to lend their graceful beauty to my boxy suburban oasis, while they offer needed shelter to sparrows and mockingbirds. Other than Miss ReNeau's garden paradise next door, no trees yet reside on our block. Showy clusters of pink blossoms attract butterflies, hummingbirds and honeybees.

The bees thrill me the most. We need pollinators to have a productive garden. The only way I got more than a pair of watermelons this summer was by pollinating the flowers myself with a cotton swab one morning. Within a week I suddenly had five more going.

My goal is to have a flower garden full of colorful pollinator attractions all season long, which will hopefully increase the yield on the tomatoes, peppers and melons. And this morning's sighting of buzzy bees carrying their bags of pollen from flower to flower offers me the confidence that we are already beginning to accomplish that goal.

All too quickly, my solitude comes to an end. The children begin to leak into the yard, the smell of coffee lures me back indoors for breakfast duty, and the magical moment evaporates with the dew.

I carry the memory of early morning with me into the day, along with my silent promise to return tomorrow.