Tuesday, August 2, 2016

45 and Counting...

Here is my annual birthday post (which seems to be the only post I can get in these days!).

Here are 45 joys in my life (in no particular order):

45.  Sunsets.  Colorful sunsets. Especially over the ocean.
44.  Afternoon naps with the pup curled up next to me.
43.  An ice cold Coca-Cola
42.  Reading glasses (so I can read a lot of books!)
41.  My dolphin anklet
40.  Workouts that challenge me (even better when done with my teacher friends)
39.  New crayons and markers at the beginning of school
38.  Texts and messages from friends and families (all year long)
37.  Coloring in my coloring books with Child 4 as we listen to audio stories
36.  Reading my newspaper every morning
35.  A dip in my parents' pool
34.  Chilled Ghirardelli dark chocolate with sea salt caramel squares
33.  Watching the "lightbulb" go off when my students master a new skill
32.  Taking pictures
31.  Pizza (from Chicago or "Darngood")
30.  God's presence in my life. EVERY day.
29.  A hot shower (and the chance to pray in there)
28.  White lilies OR magnolia buds on my little tree
27.  My feet buried in the sand (with the saltwater lapping at my feet)
26.  Devotion time with Child 3
25.  Nike shorts and tank tops in the summer
24.  My Praise and Worship playlist
23.  Waterfalls and rainbows
22.  Spotting a cardinal
21.  A husband who loves me, supports me, encourages me, challenges me
20.  Weekly date nights
19.  Watching the cousins play together while my sister and I chat
18.  Family game night
17.  Weekly grocery shopping trips with child 2
16.  Evening walks with my main man
15.  Chocolate peanut butter shakes
14.  Watching my kids do the activities they love
13.  a pedicure (especially with pictures on my big toes)
12.  My school "family"
11.  Parents who live nearby
10.  Summertime (not setting my alarm!)
9.  Watching Child 1 prepare to leave the nest
8.  Friends who pray for us at a moment's notice
7.  Jigsaw puzzles
6.  My crockpot
5.  The colors of fall
4.  A hike in the woods
3.  Pillow talk with my guy
2.  Staying connected with family and friends via text/Facebook/email
1.  You. I am thankful for you.  I am blessed.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

44 and Counting...

Yes, I realize my summer is almost over and I didn't post ONE time. How is that possible?

I do have some things to share. Soon.

But today is my "big" day.


Another birthday.

And that means I have to continue my birthday tradition of sharing some of the blessings in my life I am so very thankful for. Since this year I am 44 (I had to subtract years to figure that out), here are 44 gratitudes. In no particular order.  And please don't count to see how many items are food-related... :)

44.  Reading the paper as I eat breakfast.
43.  New workout wear/attire.  It is an addiction.
42.  Slow dancing with my husband. A VERY rare treat.
41.  Sweet words from my students (both present and past).
40.  Walking along the beach with the waves splashing my bare feet.
39.  The majestic colors of the sunset.
38.  Shopping with Child 2. She makes me laugh.
37.  An ice cold Coke. Preferably from McDonald's.
36.  Afternoon naps with the little pup curled up next to me.
35.  My praise and worship songs on my ipod.
34.  My Fitbit. (I am on number 4...HIGHLY recommend the 2 year warranty)  Especially when it vibrates, meaning I have reached 10, 000 steps.
33.  Bacon and cheese bunsters on a Saturday morning.
32.  Sundays. A day of worship, then a day of rest.
31.  Reading a good book or doing a jigsaw puzzle. They both make me happy.
30.  A rainbow across the gray sky.
29.  An empty sink.  Another rare treat.
28.  The imagination of my 8 year old.
27.  Weekly date nights with my husband.
26.  The "volcano" roll. (A sushi roll).
25.  Magnolia blossoms on my little magnolia tree (a gift from my sweetie last year on my birthday).
24.  Watching cousins swim together while my sister, Mom, and I chat.
23.  My reading glasses. I don't like needing them but I am glad I have them.
22. A successful surgery for my husband.
21.  Encouraging texts and e-mails from friends on hard days.
20.  The heated seats in my van.  Especially in the winter.
19.  The beautiful colors of fall.
18.  A hike in the woods (even better if a waterfall is involved).
17.  The dependability of child 1. 
16.  Cheese pizza.  From Chicago is even better.
15.  My Macbook. Even if the Internet is a bit slow sometimes.
14.  Springtime when the world comes back to life.
13.  The Psalms. I have been "living" in them this challenging summer!
12.  Not having to set my alarm clock in the summer and on the weekends.
11.  Dancing around my bedroom as I blast music from my i-pod.
10.  Seafood. Cooked just about any way.
9.  A fun night of badminton.
8.  Memories of special times with my grandparents.
7.  A new box of markers for school.
6.  Warm vanilla sugar soap/bath gel from Bath and Bodyworks.
5.  Deep discussions with child 3.
4.  Organizing and decluttering. I love to do it. I just don't get to very often.
3.  Our Bible Fellowship class. A place where we can openly share our struggles and our praises, pray together, learn together. 
2.  Pedicured toes. Especially with a little artwork on my big toe.
1.  And last but not least, you. Only those who truly love me would read this far down. Or read this at all. :) 

More later,

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Are You There God? It's Me...


As a child I read all of the time. It was rare for me not to have a book in my hand.  Yes, I was a nerd. And I am okay with that.

I still am, and I am okay with that too. The only thing that keeps me from having a book in my hand all of the time is this whole real life thing. I tend to forget about it when i am reading which doesn't fare well for my family or house. :)

One of my favorite authors was Judy Blume.

She had a book called Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

I loved the book but apparently I also loved the title.

When I am in a hard situation and I am calling out to God, that is the first thing that comes to mind every time.

By the way, I always say it in my mind with a "reet" on the end instead of "ret" because I think it flows better that way.

Anywho, I find myself saying this a lot recently.  Or at least thinking it because if I went around and said it, some might find that a bit odd.

We are having a more challenging time in life. It is the end of school.  Life is busy.  We are experiencing some "growing pains" with one of our kiddos. We have some bills rolling in that seem a bit overwhelming.  And though I love vacationing, we set our vacation plans before those bills started rolling in so now we are kind of "stuck" with going because otherwise we are out all of that money. 

So lately I find myself standing in the hot shower, letting the water run down my back, as I cry out.

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

I know deep in my heart, He is there. But sometimes I feel so alone. I feel like I am calling out and nobody is listening.

Some days I want that personal answer. I want a neon sign saying "Go this way".  "Do that."  I want some stranger to walk up and say, "Hey, I don't know you but God told me to let you know things will be okay."  I would love to open the mail and find a check for just the right amount for a bill that came due that day.

 I know it happens.

I read about it.

But it doesn't seem to happen to me.

So I despair.

And yet each nigh (well, most nights), when I sit down to write in my gratitude journal, I am reminded.

He is there.

Maybe not in the obvious ways.

But He is there.

Here are just a few of the "gratitudes" I have recorded in the past few weeks...

  • an article that reminds me we are not alone
  • friends who offer counsel
  • someone who listens and offers help
  • watching God use the trials of life to help others
  • opportunities to become a better mom
  • friends who defend my family (and love on me in the process)
  • small victories
  • the opportunity to cry with a friend
  • friends who listen and offer support
  • an opportunity to talk to another adoptive mom
  • an e-mail of encouragement from someone I was trying to encourage
  • friends who strengthen me in the Word
  • a hospital bill paid (and the HSA to cover it)
  • an encouraging e-mail
  • laughter after a tantrum
  • time spent with a friend being "real"
  • an e-mail of prayer from a friend
  • a lower grocery bill this week
  • a good day
  • a belated Mother's Day note from a child
  • a child's good day
  • resting in the Psalms
  • the freedom of a budget
  • listening to a child's giggles as we play badminton
Are they the kind of answers that we all rush to post?  Will they give people chills to hear?  Would any of them be considered miracles?


But I have been reminded over and over that though the times are still tough (and show no sign of letting up for a while), He is there.  And He shows me each day.

It isn't necessarily the out and out answer for all of our ills and troubles.

But He is there.




I just need to take time to notice.

More to come,

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day Fantasies...

I struggle with Mother's Day.

I mean, isn't every mother's dream just to have a little recognition that you are the best thing that ever happened to your children?

Or is that just me?

It isn't that I expect diamonds or fancy meals or huge bouquets of flowers.  Or teary speeches about the impact I have made in my kids' lives.

It is just that I want a fun day. A day of peace. A day of love.

Let me explain.

Fantasy Mother's Day:
I wake up to find my husband standing there with bags packed.  We kiss our four well-behaved children on the cheek, wave good-bye, then drive to the airport where the private jet is waiting to whisk us away to the beach. My husband has packed a brand new dress that looks amazing on me.  We dine on fresh seafood right there on the beach, watching the sun set.

Can you hear it? The waves crashing against the sand?  The call of sea gulls in the distance?


The Wishful Thinking Mother's Day:
I wake up, feeling refreshed. Not because a child woke me up. Or the dog demanded to eat at 6 a.m. I wake up just because I am rested.

I am greeted with Mother's Day greetings and a bouquet of spring flowers.

Then my family brings me breakfast in bed.  (Just to be fair, that has happened before)

My children all walk in, presentable for church. We don't have to ask anyone to change into something more appropriate.  And the kids sweetly get along.  All the way to church.

After church, we come home, change our clothes, and head out on a hike.  All of us. Not one person reminds us that they don't understand the point of being in the woods.  We just go and truly enjoy one another.  Oh, and since this is wishful thinking, I get some amazing pictures. Not one person complains that I am taking yet another picture.

After enjoying nature, we come home for a delicious meal that is NOT prepared by me.  I get to just sit, enjoy my ice cold Coca-Cola, and eat.  Then my children jump up to eagerly clear off the table and clean off.

We finish the night with snow cones on the back patio.

And I drift off to sleep with a smile on my face.

Now, the Reality Mother's Day:
The dog wakes me up to tell me she is hungry. An hour earlier than any other day.  Our youngest child pops in the room with a made up reason for being up early.

Finally I drag myself out of bed only to hear children complaining that it is Sunday and I didn't make a thing for breakfast. Gasp.

We get ready for church, sending at least one child back to try again on their outfit.  Then we head to church, arguing in the background.

After church, I will try to nap.  The arguing of children will keep me awake.

Sometime during the day, with a little prompting, the kids will say "Happy Mother's Day".  One will give me a card she made at school. The other will forget that he ever made something or will have left it at school; I may or may not ever see it.  One child will promise to buy me something the next time I take him to Sonic or the snow cone place. And one child will search her room for something to wrap and give me.  

Somehow we will have dinner.

And then the day will be over.

And I will avoid Facebook all day so I don't have to see how perfect everyone else's day was.

The truth is, some of my Mother's Days have been "perfect" (including a couple where Mark took the kids somewhere else and let me stay at home alone as well as one weekend away to one of my favorite hiking spots in Arkansas).  And some have been less than stellar (having "I hate you!" thrown at me by at least two children and then last year when we were still waiting for the results of Mark's MRI).

I have read some good posts recently about Mother's Day.  I have struggled with that desire for the  "wishful thinking Mother's Day" (and the disappointment that will always follow).  And I have come to realize something.

It isn't the gifts. Or the breakfast in bed.  Or the ideal day to post on Facebook to show everyone how loved I am.

It really boils down to needing reassurance.  Knowing that I am not botching this motherhood gig.  Wanting to not feel like a failure.

Because I do.

I feel like it every single day.

Every night as I sink into my bed, the many ways I have failed run through my head. Over and over. Like they are stuck on repeat.

Sometimes my kids tell me.  Unashamedly.  Other times I can see it on their faces.  But more often than that, I just know.

So maybe what I really want for Mother's Day is peace.  Freedom from those thoughts.  A sense of accomplishment rather than failure.  And the promise that one day, I may get this right. Maybe.


Friday, April 17, 2015

TBH Thursday

I typically do "Thankful Thursday".

And I know I could. If I dug REALLY deep down.

But the truth is, it has been a hard day.  A hard week. 

And I would honestly just rather not today.

I am still thankful for some things.

I am just having trouble feeling it right now.

So instead, today I am going to do a TBH Thursday.

In the day and age of "text talk" (especially among teens), I have learned a few things.  One being that TBH means "To be honest..."

So here are some things I am going to be honest about.

  • TBH:  This is one of the most challenging times in my life.  Financial surprises, medical concerns, and parenting challenges seem to knock me down. A lot.  And sometimes I don't feel like getting back up.
  • TBH:  I sometimes spend extra time in the shower just letting the hot water run over my head while I drown out the yucky stuff of life.
  • TBH:  I also sometimes escape by going to the grocery store. I don't even always go right in. Sometimes I just sit in my car and chill by myself for a bit.
  • TBH:  I go to bed every single night feeling like a failure as a parent.
  • TBH:  Parenting teenagers isn't all that bad. In fact, at times it is kind of fun.
  • TBH:  The highlight of my week every week is my date night (usually just dinner and maybe an errand) with my husband. It is a time we can talk uninterrupted and just enjoy one another.
  • TBH:  Sometimes I wish this parenting gig were easier.  I want so much to take a long trip with the Hubs but honestly, with four kids (including some challenges), not many people are lining up to keep them for us...
  • TBH:  I love my job. I am not the best teacher in the world but I love what I do. Almost all of the time.
  • TBH:  As I get older, I keep expecting to "grow" thicker skin. I haven't yet.  When I walk into a room and the already hushed conversation comes to an end upon my arrival, my heart hurts and I spend hours trying to figure out what I did wrong.
  • TBH:  My eyes are failing me.  Small print is impossible for me to read without reading glasses.  This hurts my feelings a bit for some reason.
  • TBH:  My sister is living right where she should be. It is the best place for her family.  But I miss her. Like crazy.  And I wish she lived here.
  • TBH:  I don't really have "best" friends. I have friends in different places who meet different needs. And my husband and family are my very closest friends.  But I don't really have a "BFF". And though I don't have the energy or time to really have one, there are times I wish I did so I could share some of my struggles freely.
  • TBH: I have come to love Sundays. They are my "days of rest". And I really make every priority to treat them that way. I won't do dishes or laundry on that day or go to the grocery store. I do cook but only if I want to. :)
  • TBH:  My lunch break is over and I must head back to school. I will share more later...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wait For It...The Rest of the Story

Right after I finished yesterday's blog post about Mark's surgery, I looked up to see a dear friend of mine walking in.  Holly and I taught together MANY years ago in Little Rock.  She had been watching my posts on Facebook and came to sit with me.  There is a lot more to the story about why it was so special for her to come but I won't share that for now.  I will just say that her being there was a huge blessing; we were able to talk on and off for the next couple of hours. It was a good distraction for me.

I can't say that I was overly nervous or worrying the whole time. I honestly was so tired I didn't have much energy to be anything.

However, one thing kept me a little on edge.

Since we sat in the waiting room for so long (we were the last family to leave), I started to figure out how the whole thing worked. The phone at the front desk would ring, the receptionist/hostess would answer, then she would call out information to the waiting families.

After we had been waiting for about 40 minutes, we had our first call.  Surgery had started.

Then an hour and a half or so later, we had another call.  "Cloud?  They are working on him; he is doing fine."

A while later the phone rang again. I found myself holding my breath every time it did (though at that point there were still other waiting families).  "Cloud?  They are still working on him; he is doing fine."

I learned from watching the others that after the appropriate time, the doctor would walk in. Some doctors took family to the family room (which I was sitting next to) to share surgery news.  Others would just meet with the family in the waiting room.

So after the 2 1/2 hours I had been told the surgery would take, I expected the doctor to walk through the door.

But he didn't.

And more time passed.

I still wasn't really nervous (again, thankful for Holly and small talk).  But I was ready to see that doctor.

Then the phone rang again.  Except this time,  the hostess said, "Cloud?  Phone." 

I will not lie. My heart stopped for a minute. Or two. Or three. 

I had not seen one other family go to the phone.

It took all I had to say, "Hello?"

"Just wanted to let you know that we are closing him up.  It was a hemangioma like we thought. He is doing fine."

Big deep breaths.

I know I was shaking. And starting to cry. (You know, happy tears.)

So then I waited for the doctor to walk through the door again. They were closing him up which is when the other doctors usually walked in.  So I waited.

And waited. And waited.

Then the phone rang again.

And again, I was called over to the phone.

I was pretty much on edge by that point.

I even asked the hostess if this was normal.  She only smiled.


"Hi, just wanted you to know that he is fine and the doctor will be out to talk to you."

I turned around to tell my in-laws, but they were gone.

While I had been on the phone, they were ushered into the family room. Then I was too.

I was feeling pretty good since I had just had the phone call, but then we waited some more.

And waited.  And waited.

Finally my father-in-law went to the front desk to make sure we were really supposed to be waiting in there.  The hostess said she would find out.

Shortly afterwards, the doctor and his team (he had two students with him) walked in.  He assured me it had gone well, that he was 99.9% it was a hemangioma (I don't think he is allowed to say 100% until there is a pathology report), and that the bone had fit nicely back in place (now held with titanium plates).  He told me what to expect for a while and then answered a whole lot of questions.  Then he was gone.

I walked back into the waiting room and said good-bye to Holly (who spent more than enough time in a waiting room with me!). 

Finally a nurse walked in and told me I could come back.  I took Mark's clothes with me and walked into the post-op area. 

When I walked in, Mark was sitting up but his eyes were closed (and of course, one was bandaged up). 

I walked over and touched him.  I got a half-smile. 

When he talked, he pretty much kept his eyes shut.

And he talked really lightly.

And when he talked, it didn't always make sense.

In fact, today we have relived some of the same conversations because he doesn't remember a word of what we talked about yesterday.

I did not get any fun videos that will go viral on youtube. In fact, I didn't get any fun videos at all. There were times he made funny comments but overall, he was just so groggy and a bit grouchy.

(One little funny though was when I told him that my friend Holly had come to the hospital.  He quickly told me that he didn't remember her being there at all.  I had to tell him that was because he was in surgery.  :)

I helped Mark get dressed (which was an experience) then listened to all of the instructions from the nurse.  The doctor stopped by to check Mark's eye movement (which was really good) and his vision (still fuzzy).  He reminded me of some of the instructions, then we were told we could get the car while they got the wheelchair.

Thankfully my father-in-law got my car for me so I could wait with Mark.  Except I had to wait for him first. 

And I waited.  And waited. 

Finally a hospital attendant asked me if I was the family of .....  I am still not sure what name she said. When I said Mark's name correctly, she nodded and told me that he was sick.  I rushed back in only to find that he needed to use the restroom before we left.  (He had been sick though earlier)  I escorted him into the bathroom because he was a bit unsteady.  While in there, his head started bleeding.  It was like a comedy of errors, me holding all of our stuff, his belt which he insisted he did NOT want to wear then, and his "barfbag" for the ride back to the hotel, while trying to clean up blood in a men's bathroom. I went back out to tell the attendant who just stared at me. I suggested they might want to get someone to clean up the bathroom.  She disappeared.  Then we waited again.

Finally my mother-in-law went to look for her (I really wanted to push the wheelchair out at that point but figured it was against policy plus I had full hands).  The attendant returned. I told her we were the gray/silver van.  When we got outside, she turned the opposite direction, looking for a red vehicle.

Finally we got Mark into the van. My in-laws had driven separately which turned out to be a good thing. They went to pick up prescriptions while I drove back to the hotel.

The drive back was an experience.

I should know how to drive in Little Rock but it has been 18 years since I lived there. 

And as luck would have it, there was construction.  Like come to a screeching halt construction.

Meanwhile, Mark (who usually drives) is trying to get me back to the hotel. But he was pretty out of it. He was also a bit whiny (which I understand). I couldn't get the temperature right. We kept hitting potholes which hurt.  He just wanted to be at the hotel.  (So did I!)

Finally we got there, somehow managed to get him up to our room, and I began the process of caring for the wound, doling out medicine, helping with clean up, fetching ice, etc.

In all, we had been gone for over 8 hours. 

It felt like 3 days to me.  To him, it felt like 2 hours.

Oh, by the way, I didn't sleep any better that night.  The hotel bed was not comfortable for me.  And my poor husband slept sitting up.  

Fast forward, we are home now.

Mark's appetite is back.

He can walk around fairly well (as long as he doesn't look down).

We kept his eye patched all day.

He is in minimal pain.

However, his eyelid is three times its normal size. And it is quite colorful.  He looks like he was in a brawl.

I am pretty sure he is counting down the hours until tomorrow when he can take a shower.

We still don't know about vision (his eye is too swollen right now). We know he can see (sometimes double) but will have to wait a few more days to find out for sure where he stands.

Now we will finish up spring break in "recovery" mode.

Then I may need a spring break to recover from this week. :)

Mark goes back next week for a follow up. I may or may not need to take him depending on his vision.  So I guess it isn't really the rest of the story. Just more of it...

More later,

Monday, March 23, 2015

Eye Love Him

I haven't done a good job posting lately.

And I definitely haven't done a good job posting since last spring when I shared the story of the tumor that had been discovered behind my husband's eye.

At that time, we were told to seek a specialist's opinion and keep an "eye" on it. 

Which we did.

Until the end of the year when we told it was probably best to get that tumor removed.  (Test revealed that it was affecting Mark's vision since it is resting next to the optic nerve)

And here I am.

In a waiting room.

 The doctor wanted to do this surgery in January.  It was a bit of a shock to us since we had just been told we would just watch and wait.  We asked to wait until March when things wouldn't be as crazy. I mean that in relative terms since our lives are always a bit crazy...
And suddenly it is March.

We drove over (Little Rock) yesterday since we had to be here bright and early this morning. I still don't know why we had to be so early because we just did a lot of waiting once we got here. I suppose it really doesn't matter anyway. I didn't sleep. I don't think I was nervous about the surgery as much as nervous about oversleeping. It is my spring break; I am not used to being up before the sun!

Mark's parents joined us here (mine are at home, manning my kid crew and pup).  We went out for a nice dinner last night.  Then we tried to sleep.

We arrived right on time, they did the pre-op assessments, and had him change. Then we waited. A lot. 

One thing I have learned is there is no privacy in those pre-op rooms.

Or cubbies.

Or whatever they are called.

We heard all kinds of stories and health issues while waiting.

I finally got to meet the surgeon (nice guy) and hear all of the risks and possibilities.  That is not fun.  The possibility of an overnight stay was not welcome news either. 

And though none of that was really fun, I can't help but be thankful.

Other than having babies and one very quick outpatient procedure for me, we really haven't dealt with medical issues.  Or hospital visits.

So this is new to us.

Like the "compression" socks he had to wear.  Or being asked over and over if he had dentures or any loose teeth.  Or meeting a whole team of people (who all asked if Mark takes medicine and when he last ate).  I am thankful that is new to us. 

Finally, we were told it was time.

I have done fine.  Stayed strong.  Smiled a lot.

Until they told me I had to leave.

Then I cried.  (Very thankful for the nurse who sweetly hugged me on my way out)

And now I am just waiting.  Holding my breath each time the phone rings.  And sending messages to our kids.

There are always risks, especially with anesthesia.  For some reason the 1 in 200,000 chance of death from anesthesia complications seemed a bit daunting.

And a chance of blindness.

Or double vision for the rest of his life.

Or that we are dealing with something different than we were told.

All real risks.

Though my heart aches and I will admit to being a bit fidgety, I also know I have a real God.

It doesn't mean things will go just like I want.

But no matter how they go, I have a real God who is here supporting me.  Supporting him.

One more hour to go...

 Oh, how "eye" love him.