Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beautiful Nail

First of all, if you haven't seen the video I'm going to link up to at the end of this post, be sure you go see it. You will laugh so hard!

But first I just have to tell you this story.

Now, I'm not much of a girlie girl (don't ANYONE say anything now!), and I don't get regular mani/pedis, but I'm going out of town tomorrow and I desperately needed someone to scrape the crud that's been growing on the bottom of my feet this summer. Nice image, huh?

Now, the nail place I go to is kind of hit or miss with me. Sometimes I get a fantastic pedicure, other times not so much. But the last time I was there I got a newish (that's new-ish, not Jewish or fewish or pewish) girl who did a fantastic job. So I asked her her name, thinking that the next time I came back I'd ask for her specifically.

Her name was Tammy which inwardly made me giggle. (See video below for the significance of this.)

So today, when I walked into the nail salon, I marched right up to the desk and said, "Is Tammy available for a manicure/pedicure?"

The guy at the desk looked at me with this funny look, gave me a wry grin, then said, "Ah, yeah." Then he turned around and said something in whatever language they speak in there to the woman sitting at the table behind him. She kind of chuckled, looked at me funny, and replied in whatever language they speak there.

Now, while these two were chattering back and forth, I saw the girl who told me her name was Tammy giving a pedicure to someone else. No biggie, I could wait. So I started to leisurely look through all the polish to find the just-right color.

All of a sudden the guy tells me to go sit at one of the pedicure stations and another woman, who I know isn't Tammy, sits down to do my pedicure. She doesn't even acknowledge that Tammy is busy or that she'll be doing my pedicure today. She just grabs my foot and gets to work.

At this point I am so flummoxed by what's going on that I just don't say anything. I'm completely confused. What happened to Tammy? That totally is what she told me her name was. I remembered because of the video you're going to watch in just a minute. As soon as she told me I thought, Well, that will be easy to remember.

So, being the non-confrontational person that I am (don't ANYONE say anything again!) I just sat in the chair and let girl-who-is-not-Tammy do my mani/pedi. Because I don't speak whatever language she speaks and maybe her "other" name is Tammy too.

Whatever.

O.K., so that's today's adventure. Now go watch this video and enjoy a good laugh on me.





Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What Do You See?

Yesterday, as I was perusing blogs for a few minutes, I read one in which someone asked, "What do you see?" so I thought I'd answer that for you all today.

What I see today is an empty house because all three of my children are away this week.

I see a clean house because my husband and I don't make messes and not clean them up.

I see fresh sheets on every single bed and beds that will stay made all week long.

I see a computer I can actually get my hands on so that I can print out some things I need.

I see the bottom of my sink because it's not filled with dishes.

I see bathroom floors--they're white. (Who knew?!)

I see the bottom of the hamper in the kids' bathroom.

I see towels that are hung on rods and not thrown on the floor in a puddle.

I see a dog who just isn't herself this week.

I see grass that should be cut and weeds that need to be pulled and plants that are thirsting for water.

I see the note that one sister left for another before her trip.

I see photographs of past vacations and a brochure for one about to be taken.

I see college recruitment pieces that flood our mailbox every day now.

I see school supply lists.

I see my future.

What do you see today?

Oh Boy, It's Going to be a LONG Week

I feel like I'm living in the twilight zone this week. Everything is jumbled and different and strange and confused. Nothing looks like it's supposed to look. It's like I'm living in a black and white world that is supposed to be in color.

See, all three of my girls are away this week, scattered across the country from Wyoming, to the inner city of Chicago, to northern Wisconsin. I'm sure they're all having wonderful times doing what they're doing, but this week is really challenging me to put my money where my mouth is. I say I trust God with my kids, but do I really?

On Sunday afternoon, the first real backpacking day for Kate who's out in the Tetons with her youth group, our phone rang, and it was one of the leaders. Kate was having trouble breathing, experiencing asthma-like symptoms . . . except she doesn't HAVE asthma . . . and would it be O.K. to use another girl's inhaler? Ah, yes.

I found I had to really pray to steady myself, to go back to what I know about God in order to not worry too much about Kate. We haven't heard back from the leader, so I'm assuming Kate is fine. They won't have contact with the "real" world until Thursday night.

On Sunday, Abby left for a missions trip in the city. Before she left I made the mistake of looking up their location on Mapquest and found that she is deep in the heart of the "bad" part of town. Gulp.

So I've been praying--not just for her safety and protection (that goes without saying)--but moreso for my heart. Do I truly believe that missions projects like this are worth it to teach my daughter some important things? If so, I need to let her go, and I need to trust that God will take care of her. No matter what.

Yesterday, Maggie left for camp. The same camp where there are lots and lots of horses to which Maggie is highly allergic. Last year she was pretty much blowing her nose and puffing on her inhaler for the entire two weeks. But she insisted on going back.

And I have to ask myself, are the things she'll be doing and the lessons she'll be learning more important than her not feeling all that great during the time she's there? Most definitely. And she wasn't at all worried about her allergies. It was worth it to Maggie to go back to camp, so I need to trust that God will work out her situation too.

Here's what I know about this week. I have absolutely no control over what happens to my kids. Zero. I can't run out to Wyoming and check to make sure Kate is breathing. I can't put a fence around Abby and tell her to stay within the boundaries. I can't hold Maggie's hand if she gets sick. I just have to trust that they are all O.K.

But the funny thing is, if I really stop to think about it, every day of their lives is SO not determined by me, and I have little control over much of any of it. I have much less power than I like to think I have, that's for sure.

So, in this funny Twilight Zone of a week, things may be out of my control, stuff could happen--kids could get hurt or sick or worse--but I choose to believe that they are in God's control. And there is no better place for them to be.


Monday, July 27, 2009

And the winner is . . .

Congratulations to Emily at The Pilot's Wife who won the $25 Starbucks gift card! And here's the cool thing . . . she gave something away on the Blog Hop too. Except that her giveaway was something a little bigger and better than a $25 Starbucks gift card. She was giving away a thrill ride in her husband's airplane.

Yeah! No kidding!

Now, I'm no believer in karma, but I do believe in paying it forward, so I guess this is Emily's reward for giving out such a great gift.

Congratulations, Emily!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Welcome to the Blog Hop AND My Seven Quick Takes




Hey, I’m killing two birds with one stone today, and I sincerely hope that's not offensive--forgive my ignorance if it is. I’m participating in the usual Seven Quick Takes, sponsored by Jennifer at Conversion Diary, and I’m also participating in Robin’s Blog Hop. Try real hard not to be confused here.

Jennifer has us list seven random things about our week, and Robin wants us to introduce ourselves to new bloggy friends. So, in honor of both of these wonderful women who have figured out Mr. Linky and actually use him, I’m giving you seven snippets of information about me. Welcome to my Life on the Wild Side!

1. I’ve been blogging for a little over a year now, and I’m not tired of it yet. In fact, I love it! And the reasons I started the blog still stand today. I still, however, have very few followers, so if you’d like to follow me it would make me over-the-moon happy.

2. My tagline, “Because every day is an adventure” is so true! My kids get sick of hearing it, but you can see for yourself here and here and here.

3. I’m married to my college sweetheart, B. I am the luckiest woman in the world to have found a friend and partner like him.

4. I have three daughters who keep me on my toes. My oldest is looking for a college right now and reminds me on a regular basis that one year from now she’ll be gone. Believe me, I am more than aware of this.

5. I have some wonderful friends who also keep me on my toes. I am blessed beyond belief to have a small group that cares about me and Amy who feeds me.

6. Cooking relaxes me and makes me happy. So does Food Network. You can check out a couple of my favorite recipe posts here and here.

7. I enjoy giving things away, so if you’ve read to the bottom of this post and leave me a comment telling me one thing you and I have in common, I’ll enter you in my $25 Starbucks gift card giveaway. Just make sure I have your email address so I can get in touch with you if you win.

Thanks for stopping by and please . . . come again!

Make a Good Choice, My Friend!

I have a riddle for you today: What is sometimes frustrating, often corrupt, and always entertaining?

No, not parenthood!

Anyone who lives near me knows I’m talking about Illinois politics, of course.

We’re famous for corrupt politicians on the city, county, and state levels. I’ve actually heard that people won’t come visit us because of our nasty reputation. And I’m not singling out one political party over another in this—both parties in Illinois have their challenges in the integrity department, that’s for sure.

It seems that people who run for public office in Illinois tend to have an attitude of looking out for Number One, if you know what I mean.

Which is why I found it exceedingly refreshing to read about our Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, last week, who made the ever-important decision to put her family above her political career. See, Lisa is a go-getter. She’s been a pretty good AG, from what I can tell. She hasn’t been caught up in scandal. She’s basically kept her nose to the grindstone and done her job.

Which is more than I can say for some. Ahem.

Anyway, Lisa Madigan, probably because she has a pretty good reputation, was being talked about a lot in the media. It was thought that she could probably run for Governor or even Senator (to replace Winnie the Pooh . . . I mean Roland Burris) and get the job. Either one.

But last week, Lisa announced that she wasn’t going to seek either the governorship or a senate seat because, according to an article I read in our local paper, “To hear her tell it, she has a job she loves and a family, including two small children, she wants to be with.”

The article goes on to quote Lisa Madigan: “At the end of the day, I have a job that I am deeply committed to, and extraordinarily satisfied by, and not everyone can say they have a job they love, and have a wonderful family they love as well. So that’s how I came to the decision. . . . Obviously, I’m cognizant of the fact that we have two wonderful, little daughters, and I want to be around to see ‘em.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much blown away by a woman who could have been Governor, or even Senator, who chose to stay in her position because of her family. I don’t have big enough hands to applaud loudly enough for this woman.

And then I think about the example she is setting for her own two daughters, and I think that’s pretty great too. She’s not saying you can’t be a mother and have a satisfying career at the same time. She’s not saying you cannot be fulfilled by having a family (she obviously is). She’s just saying that sometimes in life you have to make hard choices and, for her, that time had come.

Can you imagine people whispering in your ear, “Come on, run for the Senate. You’ll have a beautiful townhome in Georgetown and you’ll get to go to all the great parties. Oh, and you’ll have the ear of the president because you’ll be sitting in the seat he once occupied. Come on. Just do it!”

I don’t know about you, but for me the temptation would have been very great. Not so much about the senate seat, but the parties and the townhome in Georgetown would have been reeeaaal sweet. Just keepin’ it real here, folks.

I’m sure Lisa thought about those kinds of perks, and probably many others that I’m not privy to, and weighed those in her mind for a long time.

But then, I imagine, she looked at her family and said, “No. The time away is too much. I want to be around to see my daughters grow up.” And then she made an intentional decision that will affect all of their lives forever.

I wish more parents thought through the consequences of their actions and made intentional decisions like that.

Choices. Those are what we’re all faced with every day. Will we choose to put the needs of others in front of our own desires? Will we choose selflessness over selfishness? Will we choose to affect the next generation instead of worrying so much about our own reputation today?

I talked to my girls about Lisa Madigan’s story over dinner one night, and we talked about choices we have to make in life. I told them about how, after Kate was born, I decided to put my Ph.D. on the backburner because I didn’t want to have to pour myself into my studies and my baby at the same time. I didn’t have it in me to do that. Other mothers have made a different choice in that area that has suited them very well, but, for me, I couldn’t divide myself like that. Too hard.

My girls were surprised to hear about that. They asked if I ever thought about going back to school now that they are older. I told them, no, I didn’t, because I’m too old (!) and, to be perfectly honest, I just don’t want to work as hard as I’d have to work to get it done. I gave up that dream, and it was O.K. Really O.K.

Sometimes I think our kids have to know these things about us. They need to know that we have sacrificed some things for them. It’s not a guilt-motivated thing, just a life-lesson thing.

Because life is all about choices.



Tuesday, July 21, 2009

You Just Can't Make This Stuff Up

Warning: The tale you are about to read will make you weep. If it doesn’t, you have no soul.

Today was going to be a great day. It was the one day of the summer that I probably look forward to more than any of the year. It’s the day I pack my little darlings in the car and drive for a little over an hour to a blueberry farm where we get to stand in a field, pick berries, and sweat. It’s glorious, and it’s a tradition that we’ve held to pretty much since before Maggie was born.

Today was going to be the day.

But it wasn’t.

Oh, we left our house at nine o’clock this morning, alright. We drove down the highway. We even suffered through a traffic jam for about 45 minutes while singing “Mama Mia” hits. We finally made it to our destination, albeit a little late, but very excited to start filling our little metal pails with blueberry goodness.

But as we drove to the gate of the farm, this is what greeted us:



For those of you who can’t quite read the sign, here’s what it said: “We are closed until Monday, July 27. We finished the 1st pick and the berries need more time to ripen for the 2nd pick. We have large crowds.”

Every one of our jaws dropped as the realization of the situation came upon us. I very nearly drove into the ditch.

“WHAT?!” we all screamed at once.

No blueberries. No blueberry muffins. No blueberry coffee cake. No blueberry crisp. No blueberry pie.

The blueberry farm’s predicament was truly our demise as we realized that today was it. The only day we could work in a trip to the farm to pick blueberries. Next week, all the girls will be gone on different trips, so there was no chance we could go back.

My heart started to sink and sink fast. I knew we had to do something (believe me, the thought of parking down the road and sneaking into the berry farm actually crossed my mind for a minute), so we headed into the nearest town to the diner we always hit on our way home, and we ate lots of greasy food at 11:00 in the morning. Disgusting, I know. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

And then we headed home. Dazed and confused we were, and suddenly Kate realized that we (O.K., I was) moving through the five stages of grief.

Here’s kind of how it went down:

Stage 1 – Denial. “OH NO! This can’t be happening! How could they do this to us?” This was the point at which I contemplated hiding my car in the woods and sneaking onto the property. Who cares that I didn’t have a bucket in the car? I’d figure something out. I just knew I HAD to have those berries.

Stage 2 – Anger. “I called last week and they said they’d be picking for three weeks! They can’t do this!” My rational brain was completely gone by now and my crazy-out-of-my-mind brain took over, thinking of every possible reason I could have to take that berry farm to court. Don’t they know this is the ONLY day all summer that we could get out to their lousy farm to pick their scrawny berries out in the scorching heat?

Stage 3 – Bargaining. “They might not have enough berries for everyone, but maybe they would have enough for me. Maybe if I offer them a little more money, they would open the gate to just let my one little car through. We wouldn’t take too many. There would be plenty left for next week’s suckers pickers.”

Stage 4 – Depression. “You girls go ahead and eat your lunch and drink your milk shakes. I couldn’t eat a thing. I’m just too sad.” And on it went, throughout lunch and the drive home. Me, shaking my head, pounding my fists on the steering wheel (I guess that takes me back to the anger stage, doesn’t it?), and saying, “I’m just so sad” for the next hour or so.

Stage 5 – Acceptance. Truthfully? I’m not there yet. I’m not sure I’ll ever be there.

I sure had different expectations for today’s blog post. I was going to come home and take pictures of the freezer bags filled with blueberries stacked up on my kitchen counter. I was going to bake a pie and show you how beautiful it was.

Instead, I’m sitting, still depressed, on my porch writing this sad tale of woe.

The saddest part, to me, though, is that we didn’t make it to the blueberry farm last year either. We were either out of town or too busy, so we didn’t go. And now this. Does missing a tradition for two years in a row make it not a tradition anymore?

Because if that’s the case, I’m sadder than I even was this morning.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Out of my Comfort Zone, Part 2

Back in March, if you were reading my blog back then, I told you about some growing I was doing. Some stretching that needed to be done. Some stepping out in faith that I felt I should do.

I told you about a conference I was thinking about attending called She Speaks. I told you about the challenge my dear husband gave me to send out ten queries to magazines to see if I could get published.

Well, guess what! I completed the challenge, and I got one magazine to say they'd give me a shot. (I'll have a story in the November issue of P31 Woman magazine, if you're interested.)

In less than two weeks I'll be getting on a plane to Charlotte, NC to attend the She Speaks conference. I'll be taking the speaker's track, so I have to bring two short speeches with me--one is a three-minute introduction of myself and a bit of my testimony, and the other is a five-minute Bible teaching time. I'll be evaluated by a group of my peers and someone from Proverbs 31 ministries. Yikes!

I have felt all along that God is asking me to push myself just a bit. To challenge myself to do something a little out of my comfort zone, which is why I signed up for the speaker's track. I mean, the writing track would be a piece of cake, right? (Just kidding!)

But I kind of thought, why not do something I never thought I could do? Thus, the speaker's track.

But I'm stepping out in faith in another way, too. The conference offered two 15-minute meetings with publishers while I'm there, and before I knew it, my fingers were pushing the "yes" button on my computer while my head was screaming, "No! No! No!" So for the past couple of months I've been writing a book proposal and learning what a "one sheet" is and writing an elevator pitch. It's craziness, I tell you!

And I'll tell you another thing. I'm terrified. Not like an I-can't-function-because-I'm-so-scared terrified. Just a little niggling in the back of my mind that says "You have to do this pretty soon" kind of scared.

For the past three or four months, since I started thinking about going to She Speaks, I have felt God's nudge in the small of my back almost every day. And just about every day I have taken very tiny steps toward a goal I never even knew existed and that I'm not quite sure is clarified in my mind just yet. But I'm trying, every day, to be obedient to what I think God wants me to do, even if I think He's nuts.

(Sorry, is it bad to call God nuts?)

Anyway, let me get to the point of this post. I've never done this on my blog before, but I'd like to ask you to pray for me. I honestly don't know what's up with all of this. I really like my life the way it is, and being shaken up is not what I'm looking for. But if God has other plans, I'm open. I'm willing. So would you please pray for my time at She Speaks and for my speeches and publisher meetings? Please pray that I would just be obedient to whatever God wants me to do.

Thanks, friends. You really do make my day.



P.S. I'll try to go back to being funny tomorrow. I'm much more comfortable there.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sorry, Mom. You just knew this had to come out.

Did you hear the story on the news this week about NASA losing their very first footage of the first lunar walk? Yes, probably the most famous piece of video tape in history was lost, somehow, somewhere, by someone at NASA. You know,Neil Armstrong? "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind"? That one. Gone.

Thankfully they had made copies.

Even though it was kind of funny, in a sick sort of way, to think that an organization that big and that important could manage to lose a tape that significant, I had to empathize with NASA.

Twenty-four years ago I got a phone call from my mom, just a few weeks after my wedding.

"Shell?"

"Yeah?"

"I have some terrible news."

At this point, I thought someone had died, so I braced myself.

"What happened, Mom?"

"Your wedding video is gone."

Much relieved that it wasn't a death, I asked her what happened.

"I accidentally taped over it, and I've been sick about it for days. I just didn't know how to tell you."

After picking myself up off the floor from laughing so hard (I chose laughter over anger in that moment, and I'm so glad I did), I asked Mom what was so important that she just had to tape over our wedding.

(Brace yourself now . . . )

Oprah.

Yep. Oprah.

So this week, as I heard about NASA losing their video tape, I wondered if they've checked their Oprah footage.

Or called my Mom. Maybe she knows where it went.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Annapalooza

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
Psalm 139: 13-14

They are the words no parent ever wants to hear: “Hey, Mom. Check it out. I’ve got this weird lump on my abdomen.”

And the diagnosis no parent ever wants to get: Cancer.

The life no parent ever wants to lead: Hospitals. Chemotherapy. Radiation treatments. Clinical trials.

But not for you—for your child.

The summer before her senior year of high school the daughter of my friend, Laura, discovered a mass on her abdomen, just below her ribcage. Very quickly, Anna was diagnosed with neuroblastoma—the most common form of cancer for infants, but extremely rare in older children like Anna. There is no known cure for this cancer.

What has followed has been seven excruciating years of clinical trial after clinical trial (traditional forms of treatment have not worked for Anna), hopes raised and hopes dashed, and a journey of trusting God no matter what the future holds.

Laura and I are Margarita Mamas—part of a group of PTA moms whose kids went to elementary school together. We used to meet once a month, after PTA meetings, but now we're lucky if we get together a couple of times a year. Life gets like that, you know. But boy, do we have fun! We’ve shared joys and sorrows, milestones and bumps along the way as our children have exited elementary school, survived middle school, enjoyed high school, and headed off to college.

Laura's news, seven years ago, affected us all. As a mother, I could only imagine many nights of crying out in fear for my child in the solace of my room or walking with shaky legs toward a hospital that will do who-knows-what to my daughter. It’s funny though, when we get together those are not the things Laura focuses on. Instead, Laura has chosen to focus on the good—the successful treatments, the shrinking tumors, the graduations and landmarks in Anna’s life.

And always with a smile and a laugh. Laura’s positive attitude is contagious and one of the reasons, I am sure, that Anna has done as well as she has over the years. In the years since her diagnosis, Anna has graduated from both high school and college, and now she has felt called to start a foundation to raise awareness and funds for neuroblastoma research.

As Anna mentions on her website, we don’t hear much about neuroblastoma because most of its victims cannot speak for themselves—they are usually under the age of two. But Anna feels that God can use her to speak for these children and to raise awareness of this incurable disease.

This Saturday, July 18, Anna is holding a fundraiser, the proceeds from which will go to support neuroblastoma research. She’s calling it Annapalooza, and it’s going to be great. If you’re in the Chicago area, I hope you’ll stop by Community Fellowship Church on the corner of North Avenue and St. Charles Road from 3-9 p.m. There will be silent auctions and raffles, bands and food. WGN radio celebrities will be there too, interviewing Anna. If there’s any way you can, please come on out.

If you can’t make it on Saturday, or if you live out of town but want to help, there are several things you can do. First, check out Anna’s two websites: annabanana.org and annashope.com. You can read all about Anna’s journey and about neuroblastoma there.

Second, donate to the cause. You can do that on her websites or by purchasing one of her uber-cute Anna’s Hope necklaces. I have one, and every time I wear it I am reminded to pray for Anna.

Which brings me to my third and most important point. Please pray for Anna and her family. She is certainly not out of the woods, and she continues to fight this beast of a disease. It’s got to be a struggle, but Anna is always smiling—you can see her warm and bubbly personality coming through on the video on her websites. I know that the millions of prayers that have been prayed on her behalf have uplifted her through this struggle.

This morning I read these words in the book of Daniel as Daniel was pouring out his heart to God for his people: “We make this plea, not because we deserve help, but because of your mercy.” I think this applies to Anna as well as all of us. Not because she deserves help (not that any of us do!), but because of God’s mercy, we plea for her healing and for her life. He has been so merciful over these past years--I’m sure my friend Laura would agree--and we pray for His continued mercy in the future.

God bless you, Anna.

Now go to Annapalooza!


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Switching Seats

We’re creatures of habit around here. We just can’t help ourselves.

We like Trader Joe’s Free Trade Breakfast Blend coffee in the morning--black. I only use Tide. Every Saturday morning at 8:30, B takes the girls out to breakfast to the same little dive they've been going to for years.

And we sit on the left side of church, sixth row back. We used to sit in the fifth row, but that’s the wobbly pew, so we switched to the sixth row a couple of years ago.

Boy, did that cause a stir!

So, a couple of weeks ago, when Kate said, “Mom, why do we always sit in the same place at church every Sunday? Why don’t we ever sit anywhere else?” I started to get real nervous. A change was in the air.

Did I mention I’m a creature of habit? Change does not sit well with me.

“Ah . . . um . . . well . . .” I stammered, knowing full well what was coming next. I thought about giving her the explanation that we were really secretly Anglicans from the 1700s and that we had paid for our pew, but I didn’t think that would go over real well, so I just stammered some more.

“Why don’t we just try sitting in a different place next week?” she asked. Ah, the innocence of youth.

Never one to be called a fuddy-duddy, even though sometimes I really am, and always up for a challenge, I put on my most cheerful face and my most enthusiastic voice and said, “Sure! We can do that!” even though inside I was dying a slow and painful death and thinking that this would somehow go terribly wrong.

So the next Sunday, B and I were the first ones to "our" pew—sixth row back on the left—when suddenly I said, “Hey, remember, Kate wanted to try sitting in a different place this week?”

Oh. Yeah.

So B and I decided to move to the opposite side of the church. Sixth row back. (Come on now, you really couldn’t expect us to completely change our ways now, would you?)

What happened next was truly strange. It was like I suddenly became OCD and just couldn’t, for the life of me, walk like an adult over to the “other” side of the church. My stomach tightened and my palms began to sweat. Because what might happen to me over there? I mean, who are those people who sit over there? What if they don’t recognize us? What if they don’t want us sitting on their side of the church? What if they don’t like us? What if? What if? What if?

B pulled me out of my stupor and dragged me to the “other side.”

“Come on! This will be a fun experiment.” I wasn’t so sure.

Maggie had just arrived in the sanctuary, so we dragged her along with us. We sat down behind a family we actually know, so I started to relax a little as we got settled in, but as I looked around me I barely recognized anyone.

Oh my gosh, what if someone thinks we’re visitors?! How embarrassing would it be to say that, no, we're not new; we’ve been coming here for over 25 years? I desperately wanted to get up and run back to my beloved sixth row pew, but, glancing over, I noticed that it was already taken.

I gotta say, the service was weird for me. Out of whack. The music was dissonant. I couldn’t sing. I almost forgot the words to the Apostles Creed which is one of those liturgical beauties that I’ve been saying since I was about ten. Frankly, it was hard to concentrate on pretty much anything. (Sorry, Jay, but I couldn’t pay attention to the sermon that week either.)

And the coup de resistance was when the little boy sitting behind us did what so many little boys do—he let one fly during the sermon. And then giggled with his little sister. Since none of us were paying attention to much of anything except our new surroundings, we all had to try to hold in giggles too. What a mess!

Last week, as we drove past church one day, one of the girls said, “What a stupid idea that was.”

“What idea?” I asked.

“Thinking we should sit somewhere else. Let’s never do that again.”

We all agreed that we missed our beloved little congregation on the left side of the church. And while we love our friends who sit on the “wrong” side, we just can’t join them. Because they’re right. And we’re left.

And that's just the way it has to be.

Anybody else ever try switching seats in church? How did it go for you?


Monday, July 13, 2009

Weekend Update

I hate to even admit it. I mean, it’s summer, and summer is supposed to be fun and full of activity. Right? Well, shhhhh, don’t tell anyone, but last week was . . . boring. We didn’t have much to do. Friends were out of town. Nobody had camps to attend. The weather was too crummy to go to the pool. And, yep, by the end of the week we were all kind of glaring at each other in frustration.

Now, sure, I could have planned something for us to do, but I’m working on a project that is keeping me busy in the mornings, so I didn’t plan anything. Plus, I don’t think it’s all that bad for kids to be bored once in a while. In fact, it might be a good thing because starting next week things are really going to heat up around here. We’ll be sending all three girls off on different trips, people will be coming and going for the rest of the summer, and I’m heading to a conference that I’ll tell you about next week.

But in the meantime, boredom has set in.

Like I said, by Friday of last week we were just kind of sitting around looking at each other cross-eyed, so our weekend was a blessed relief. Turns out, all three girls had activities scheduled for Friday night. Maggie went to a pool party with some friends, and Kate and Abby spent the evening playing a game with the youth group. Well, “game” might be a bit of a stretch. It’s an activity (?) that involves cars and dropping people off in undisclosed locations and searching for people all over town. Basically, it’s high school craziness that I’m sure will land them all in jail someday, but, hey, I’m permissive that way.

I was just glad to have a night alone with my husband. We ended up walking downtown to a newer restaurant where the food and atmosphere were great, but we somehow managed to get seated at a table being served by the World’s Worst Waiter. Granted, we were sitting outside—it was a gorgeous evening—but did WWW really have to sweat in our food? Poor guy was dripping, his glasses practically hanging off the end of his nose. And he was distracted. He either didn’t feel well or was tripping on something or both because he did not have his head in the game. And on a Friday night at a lovely restaurant, with live music and an outdoor patio, you have to have your head in the game.

Trust me on this one. I’ve waited tables enough in my life to know that if you don’t feel well during your shift you might as well hang it up. And WWW should definitely hang it up—he’s really in the wrong line of work.

Thankfully we didn’t let WWW completely ruin our evening. Since he never offered us coffee or dessert, we hightailed it out of there and walked to one of the three ice cream places our downtown offers. (Just one of the many reasons I love our town!) We ate our dessert as we slowly walked home.

It was nice, and one of those summer evenings you just don’t want to end because you know that very soon you’ll have to go pick up your youngest daughter and two of her friends from the pool party and you’ll get to listen to them chatter all the way home and then you’ll have to wait up for the other two to come home and then you’ll end up talking and watching Conan with the teenagers until 11.

Yes, the boredom beast had disappeared by Friday night.

Earlier in the week, B had decided that Saturday would be family night, so he ordered tickets for our local minor league baseball team because, hey, not only could we have fun at the old ballpark for cheap, but there would also be fireworks. Who could pass it up?

Saturday night turned out to be another beautiful evening, so even if some of us don’t love baseball all that much (I’m not naming names), it was fun to just sit together eating hot dogs and watching the crowd. Plus, the between-innings shenanigans are always hilariously stupid. See?





And then there was the girl in front of us who WOULD NOT SHUT UP through the entire game. Yack yack yack yack yack. All four of the women in our family can talk, yes we can (just ask Mattwholivedwithus), but this girl beat us in the talking game entirely. Might have been the beer samples she was chasing.



That’s right. Beer samples. Goose Island Brewing Company was giving away free samples. And, no, I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. What’s next? Crack samples? Weird.

Anyway, the fireworks were great. Again. Because we all know how much I like fireworks.



But the best part of the evening, for me, was the view in front of us. Turns out, going to the ballpark can be a spiritual experience.



And a learning experience too. Because Maggie fiddled with my camera and figured out how to crop. Right there on the camera! So just in case you couldn’t read the guy’s neck who was sitting in front of us, here it is again, courtesy of Maggie who showed me how to crop on my camera.



Oh, you can’t beat fun at the old ballpark!



Friday, July 10, 2009

Here's a Friday Funny for You!

Have I mentioned that it's summer? Which means that not only am I watching more Food Network than I do during the school year, I've also been perusing blogs. Catching up, if you will.

There's a blog I've been reading (I've mentioned it here before) called "Stuff Christians Like" that I happen to really . . . well . . . like. Hmmmm. Is there a correlation here?

Today I was looking back at his full list of 500-plus entries--500 things that Christians like--and found this one that just made me laugh out loud. It's called "Not Knowing How to Baptize Tall People."

The reason this post made me laugh is because it made me harken back to a couple of years ago, three to be exact, to when Kate got baptized. We were just talking about this the other day and having a good family chuckle, so I thought I'd share it with you.

Kate is 6' 1" now, at age 17, but even at the age of 14, she was pretty tall. So when she got baptized she was a little worried about how she was going to fit in the baptistry thing in the front of the church. Plus, the pastor who baptized her wasn't even quite as tall as she was then, so it was awkward to say the least.

But the moment came for Kate to be dunked, and I'm not quite sure what happened, but somehow she lost her footing or forgot to bend her knees or something and, you guessed it, he just about dropped her. Thankfully she caught herself and came back up without too much embarrassment, but it was a bit of a scene.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Wildman family event if there wasn't a scene involved.

Anyway, go read Jon's post about baptizing tall people. I think you'll get a laugh out of it.

And have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What Rhymes With Garlic?

It's summer. Which means that I'm watching an inordinate amount of Food Network lately. I know, I shouldn't be, and the guilt is killing me, but I figure since my family benefits from some additional Food Network viewing, I shouldn't feel too guilty about it. Right?

Like tonight. Boy, did they benefit. See, I watched Tyler Florence make Shrimp Scampi the other day and I thought to myself, "Gee, that looks easy. And boy does my family love shrimp. I'm going to try that one!"

So tonight I tried it, and my family loved it. You should try it too because it really is so easy.

First, assemble your ingredients. (Normally I don't assemble ahead of time, but this recipe comes together so quickly you'll want to do this.)



Cook about a pound of linguini (I don't have to spell that one out for you, do I?).



Melt two tablespoons of butter with two tablespoons of olive oil.





Add shallots, garlic, and a pinch of red pepper flakes (unless you're Kate and you add several pinches because good golly nothing could be hot enough for that girl).

Now, I have to just stop here and say this is the one and only time I modified Tyler's recipe. He puts five . . . yes, FIVE . . . cloves of garlic in his recipe. I know, I know, it is shrimp scampi after all, but seriously . . . five?? I love my family, so I cut back on the garlic just a bit.



After a couple of minutes, add the shrimp and cook it for about three minutes until it's pink.



Remove the shrimp from the pan, but return the pan to the heat. Add some wine and lemon juice and bring that to a boil.



Add some more butter and olive oil (I told you it was good, right?!).



Return the shrimp to the pan and cook for another minute or so, just to let all that deliciousness come together.



Add to the linguini, sprinkle with parsley, and voila! Instant yummy supper!



And just because I had some leftover tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, and just because I happen to grow basil on my patio every summer, I threw together a nice caprese salad to go with it. Oh my it was good!



Tyler Florence's Shrimp Scampi with Linguini

1 pound linguini
4 T. butter
4 T extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large shallot, finely dices
5 (?) cloves garlic, sliced
pinch red pepper flakes, optional
20 large shrimp, about 1 pound, peeled and deveined, tail on
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 C. dry white wine
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 C. finely chopped parsley leaves

For the pasta, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. When it has come to the boil, add a couple of tablespoons of salt and the linguini. After the water returns to a boil, cook for about 6-8 minutes or until the pasta is not quite done. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 C. of water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 2 T. butter in 2 T olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes until the shallots are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper; add them to the pan and cook until they have turned pink, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan; set aside and keep warm. Add wine and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add 2 T. butter and 2 T. oil. When the butter has melted, return the shrimp to the pan along with the parsley and cooked pasta and reserved pasta water. Stir well and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over a bit more olive oil and serve immediately.

Monday, July 6, 2009

I hate having to take my own advice

A couple of years ago my good friend, M, called me with panic in her voice.

"Daughter Number 1 wants to have her cartilage pierced! What should I do?"

After I stopped laughing, I explained to her that if she was looking for someone to give her ammunition against her daughter's cartilage piercing, she was probably asking the wrong person. (I actually think cartilage piercing is kind of cute.)

But I did my best to try to help her think it through.

"Look, M," I said. "Is this a moral issue?"

No.

"Is it a sinful thing to do?"

No.

"Is your daughter doing this out of rebellion?"

Obviously not, since she had asked her mother's permission.

"Does she realize the consequences of her piercing? I mean, she'll have a huge hole in the top of her ear for the rest of her life. Is she O.K. with that?"

Yes.

"Well, then, in my opinion, I think you should let her do it. . . . With the understanding that there will be NO MORE PIERCINGS. Of any kind. Ever."

It's all about setting boundaries with those teenagers, right?

I don't think that was the answer my friend was looking for, but she must have taken my advice to heart because a couple of days later she was driving her daughter to Claire's to have her cartilage pierced.

Well, today my parenting advice came back to haunt me as my two teenagers begged me to let them do something I never thought they'd want to do. . . .



AARRGGHH!!!!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fireworks

The weather was “iffy” last night, and cool, so we decided that rather than watching the fireworks from blankets on the rain-soaked ground, we’d just head to the Target parking lot and watch from the back of the car. We’ve watched the fireworks there before, and we knew we’d be able to see enough—just not the low-to-the-ground displays.

Of course, we forgot to bring chairs of any sort, and all five of us couldn’t fit in the back of the van, so it took us a little while to figure out exactly where each of us would sit. Once the fireworks started and we could see that we couldn’t see, we headed over toward a grassy area where other people were gathered.

I’ve always had a fascination with fireworks. How someone could pack the sounds and sparkles and colors and happiness of a million little specks of light into one cylinder is beyond my comprehension. It seems dangerous and dark, yet thrilling all at once. Every year I tell myself, “You’ve seen it before, don’t get excited.” And yet, every year I feel like a kid again as the sparkling and the twinkling and the crashing begins.

I can “ooh” and “aah” with the best of them. Just ask my kids.

My favorites are the ones that look like willow trees—they come spraying out all golden and then end up with millions of tiny diamonds that twinkle their way down to the ground. It’s just magical to me, and I sometimes wonder if I headed back to the fairgrounds the next day to take a look around if I’d find even one of those sparkly diamonds waiting for me in the grass.

As we stood and watched the fireworks, I began to notice the people around me. Little kids, no older than five, were running everywhere—everywhere!—at full speed, and I turned to B and said, “Remember that feeling when you were a kid and you could run as fast as you could forever?”

We both agreed that we’d love to feel like that again, even for a few minutes.

The grassy field near us was filling up with fast-running little kids twirling neon glow sticks, their parents sitting in portable lawn chairs next to the curb. Teenagers on dates sat on blankets nearby. And my little clan huddled together, enjoying the moment, even if it was for the sake of tradition.

Next to me sat an old man with whom I presume was his daughter. She was in her late-50s or early-60s, and he looked to be well into his 80s. They both sat quietly, side by side, not talking much but occasionally glancing at one another, smiling.

I took a good long look at this man, his hands gnarled and spotted, his knuckles swollen with age. He wore black pants, a black checked dress shirt underneath a gray cardigan that was so old it was pilled all over. On top of his head he wore an old-fashioned hat, the kind that comes together at the bill—is it a driving cap or an ivy cap? He wore white Converse tennis shoes and white athletic socks. All-in-all he was dressed quite well for a fireworks display.

Partway through the fireworks, I noticed that the man was struggling with something in his hand. It was a miniature Kit Kat bar that he was having a little trouble opening. After a couple of minutes, though, he had success, and I watched him as he enjoyed his little treat for the evening, a slight smile creeping to the edge of his mouth.

I wondered about this man and his daughter. What made them head to the Target parking lot together to watch fireworks with the younger families? Did she do it as a special treat for him? Did they have some sort of tradition of watching fireworks together, just the two of them? Did they somehow, in some unspoken way, know that this could possibly be the last fireworks display that the old man would ever get to see?

As I pondered them, I found myself getting choked up. Tears came to my eyes as I wondered how many fireworks displays this man had seen in his life and how many he would have yet to see.

I looked at my little brood sitting all around me, happy with the effort we had made to get to the fireworks, and thought, “I hope they all have the opportunity to sit with their own sons or daughters when they are 85 and watch fireworks together.” What a blessing that would be.

And I hope that when I’m 85, should God give me that many years, I’ll be sitting in the Target parking lot or wherever I am, still enjoying the childlike thrill of watching diamonds fall from the sky.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July!



So, I'm in the grocery store yesterday, buying things for our 4th of July party, standing in the checkout line minding my own business. And my great, goofy, super-fun friend from church shouts across the entire front of the store, "Hey, Shelly, what's with the blog? I've been reading about that Greek wedding for days now. When are you going to put up a new post?"

"Soon!" I promise her. "Check back later today. I'll have something for you later."

That was yesterday. It's now late on the 4th of July, and I still can't come up with much of anything to say.

Not that I haven't tried. I've started probably five blog posts since yesterday. You could have read about

- my 4th of July party.

- our town's parade.

- the "frat house" down the street.

- how to make Blue Cheese Potato Salad.

- my latest Priceline win.

But instead of all that, I'm just going to wish you all a Happy 4th of July and call it a blog post.

And now I'm leaving to take Maggie to see fireworks because, as she's reminded me about twenty times this week, she hasn't seen fireworks in two years because she was at camp last summer. Poor baby.

Check back on Monday, dear grocery store friend and closet reader. I promise I'll have more to say by then (because you know I can't keep quiet for long).


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I Still Wanna Be Greek

When last I left you, B and I were headed to McDonald's to get a Coke after the wedding. My blood sugar had dropped significantly from all that standing up and from the the very little sitting down. I was parched and getting a headache.

Aren't I a fun date?

Besides, we had a little time, so we acted like our parents and drove around a little bit, stopping for that much-needed Coke. Diet for him; regular for me. Ahhhh, nothing like a cold McDonald's Coke over ice to make a girl feel better. And I did, by the time we got to . . .

The Reception

While standing in the receiving line, we overheard the groom telling someone to make sure we were at the reception right when it started because there would be a big surprise. Curious, we did just what he said. (Never mind the fact that we are always early to EVERYTHING.)

When the doors to the reception room were opened, this is what we saw.





Sorry about the blurry pictures--I'm not professional--but hopefully you can get a sense of the sweets table. This table was over 15 feet long and laden, LADEN I TELL YOU!, with Greek pastries of every possible kind. I have never in my life seen anything like it, and for a girl with a sweet tooth like I have, I was in hog heaven. (Is that a proper term for a wedding? I don't know.)

I was ready to skip the dinner portion altogether and just get to the sweets table.

But, of course, we didn't skip dinner. Who would? What with the Greek soup (oh my yum!) and the salad (I can always take or leave a salad--just not my thing) and the fillet Mignon with grilled prawns and the flaming cherries jubilee! Yes, they even had a separate dessert before we got to the sweets table.

Whew!! My head was spinning after all that food wonderfulness.



(This is just a random picture of our table, but I thought it was cool that each table was strewn with rose petals. Sweet, huh?)

It took about an hour and a half to get through dinner because between each course two people would stand up to give speeches. Let me tell you, these speeches were delightful. We learned all sorts of interesting things about the bride and groom, none of which shall be revealed here since I don't even know these people. At all.

But let's just say that the speeches were sweet. I think my favorite speeches were from the groom and the bride. Both of them started out by saying that they wanted to thank God first for bringing them together. Like I mentioned in yesterday's post, there was such a sense that this was, first and foremost, a spiritual union. A God-ordained marriage. And that sense carried through to the reception. I loved that.

Well, after much speech-giving, hugging, kissing (lots and lots of kissing--and I'm not talking about the bride and groom. Those Greeks just love to kiss!), eating, and drinking, we finally got to the sweets table. Let me just tell you that it did not disappoint. B and I loaded our plates because it all looked so good and we figured that we didn't know anybody there (well, at least I didn't) so who cared?! It was insanely decadent, but so, so good.

As I was standing there contemplating whether I should take a second plate, I saw an older gentleman walking around the table with a styrofoam "to-go" container. I nearly stabbed a woman to death with my fork as I ran to ask him where he got that. His Greek accent was so thick I could barely understand him, but I think he told me to ask the waiter.

I practically sprinted back to my table to ask our waiter for a "to-go" container. My girls just HAD to see some of these amazing sweets which, by the way, were all--each and every one of them--homemade. Yes, friends, all of the Greek thias and ya yas were busy the week of the wedding baking their particular specialty for the bride and groom. Each piece of baklava was baked to perfection. The little powdered sugar-covered cookies melted in my mouth. And the peanut butter balls were decorated to perfection.

It was an amazing sight. I SO wanted to be Greek when I saw that table.

I know, I know, enough about the sweets table. Next came, what else?, the dancing. This was not your Brittany Spears/Justin Timberlake/Michael Jackson dance mix spun by a Rock 'n Roll D.J. Oh no. This was GREEK MUSIC. And, oh, was it fun.

The only song that was what you might call "modern" song was the first dance of the bride and groom. They danced to "Lucky" by Jason Mraz and Cobie Caillat which is such a sweet song. It was a perfect first dance.

But other than that little contemporary interlude, we were livin' in Greek town. The music was fun, the dancing was lively. And nobody cared if we didn't know how to do whatever it was they were doing because everybody was just having fun.



At one point I saw someone throw a fistful of rose petals onto the bride, and I thought, "Oh, how sweet. They're throwing blessings on her." I knew what the rose petals meant by then. No pulling one over on me now.

But later, when things got going a little bit, I noticed that people were throwing something else.



Yes, I once again witnessed something I've never seen at a wedding before. Dollar bills. People were throwing wads of cash at the bride and groom! I'm guessing that signifies prosperity, but clear me up if I'm wrong about that. I never asked anyone what it meant for sure.

So all-in-all, I'd have to say that was the most fun I've ever had at a wedding. Hands down. Those Greeks not only know how to party, they know how to eat and how to kiss and how to make even us non-Greeks feel most welcome in their setting. It was a true celebration--the kind that every parent would want to send their child off with. This reception was full of fun, but also full of symbolism and most definitely full of love.

I so want to be Greek.




P.S. (O.K., just because I promised you yesterday . . . here you go!)