Friday, February 26, 2010

Good Reads

If you've hung around here for even a little while, you know how I love to travel. So, for this travelin' gal, this weekend will be a thrill. And a half. I'm heading downstate to a couple of really fine institutions of higher learning as a chaperone for an orchestra trip.

And if that isn't thrilling enough, we also get to ride on school buses. Last year I chaperoned this same trip--on coach buses. It seems the economy has really taken its toll on our school district (well now, there's an understatement!) and we must now cart two orchestras--both kids and their instruments--on buses of the yellow variety.

Even if the mode of transportation isn't my favorite (note to self--stop at Walgreens for Dramamine), the trip should be fun. Believe it or not, it thrills me to see how well those high school kids play. They are amazing, and it's fun for them to be able to play on some bigger stages than they do at their school.

So I'll be offline for a while this weekend (probably a good thing for me to be every now and then), catching up on some reading. Definitely not sleeping.

And now, for your weekend reading enjoyment . . .

This post by Antique Mommy made me think of my grandpa. I miss those days sometimes.

Not your typical birth story post here. You'll need a lot of time. And a lot of Kleenex. But the brutal honesty in this post is well worth the read.

This one is for bloggers who fall into the stats trap on occasion, myself included. It made me feel so much better about my few followers--our happy little band--and made me realize that my instincts are right: the quality of my writing is what I should be most concerned about, not the number of people who visit (although I will happily welcome any and all new readers at any time. I may even invite you over for dinner!).

O.K., now do tell . . . are you doing anything more thrilling than chaperoning an orchestra trip this weekend?

Shelly

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My Daughter's Heart

It was about 8:15 one night last week. Cold. Dark. Dreary.

I remember because I was irritated that the doorbell should ring at that hour, frustrated by the interruption into my quiet evening.

The little boy who stood there didn't say anything at first, a lost, confused look spread across his face when I answered the door.

"Can I help you?" I asked.

"Ahhhh. . . . This isn't it," he quietly answered more to himself than to me; his big, brown eyes peering up at me, needing some reassurance.

"What isn't it?" I replied.

"AJ's. This isn't AJ's house," and he looked around to see if perhaps my neighbor's house looked familiar. It didn't seem to bring the relief he was looking for.

Not more than nine or ten years old, the little boy wore a jacket that seemed much too thin for a cold night like that. He had no hat. No gloves.

"AJ?" I must have looked puzzled. "There isn't an AJ in this neighborhood," I quietly told him. "Where do you live, honey? It's really cold out here."

Those big, brown eyes darted up the street and his little hand pointed toward some apartments a few blocks away. I suppose that was where he lived, but I couldn't be sure because he quickly said, "AJ told me this was where he lived. . . . Huh." And he shrugged and turned away.

I called to him, "Do you need some help?" but he just walked toward the sidewalk where his bike was lying on its side; he picked it up and rode away.

Maggie stood back, away from the conversation at the doorway, but observing all the same. A few minutes later, after I was snuggled back on the couch underneath the blanket I had been wrapped up in, but still not comfortable in my soul, Maggie came to me with tears in her eyes.

"Mom," was all she said before she melted into my arms, crying for the little boy lost.

"I know," was all I could say. And then, "Maggie, there's nothing we can do for that boy right now except pray for him. Let's pray for him." She nodded and cried and clung to me.

And so we prayed for that nameless little boy. We prayed he'd be safe. We prayed he'd be warm. We prayed that he'd find his way home, wherever home was for him. We prayed that he had two parents who loved him. We prayed he'd find Jesus.

As my daughter held me tightly and cried for the lost, I caught a glimpse into her heart. And I loved it even more.


Shelly

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Darn that Groundhog!


This is the time of year that tries men's (and women's) souls. Everyone I talk to these days is frazzled and futzy about the weather. It has been a long winter.

But I know that there are two things that one should never complain about: your health or the weather. And so, I've made it a personal goal to not complain this winter.

For the most part it's worked. Until this week.

We got blasted with another snow storm yesterday and I think it's just about all some people around here can handle. Even my kids are getting a little sick of it all.

But rather than bemoan the fact that we're knee deep in the white stuff . . . again . . . I thought I'd try a different tactic. I'd try to see the beauty in it.

So I grabbed the dog . . .



. . . and my camera, and I took some pictures while we walked.




And we found beauty all around us.









(Especially beautiful to me was what an unidentified neighbor did while I was out. Thanks, neighbor!)




[Edited to add: I totally forgot to tell you that today I'm linking up at Emily's. Hop on over there to read some more inspirational posts.]

Shelly

Monday, February 22, 2010

Intentional Parenting - Part 4; Intentional Stewardship


Let me just say right off the bat that I am no financial expert. I don’t even play one on T.V. But I do sleep with one, so maybe that makes me qualified to write this post. I don’t know.

What I do know is that money is a tricky, tricky issue. It can be the source of great joy, but it can also cause great sorrow. Talking about money is extremely emotional for me, which is why I try to avoid money talk as much as possible.

Frankly, I hate money. I hate the necessity of it. I hate the lack of it. I hate when I disagree about it with my spouse. I hate everything about it.

Which is exactly why I am intentional about teaching my kids about money. Because I really believe that if you don’t show money who’s boss, it’ll quickly turn the tables on you and become your ruler.

Why do kids need to know about money?
Think about it. How much did you know about money when you got out of college or headed out on your own? Had you ever managed a check book? Had you ever had a savings account? Had you ever paid a bill?

I’ll bet you had a credit card, but did you know how much interest you were paying if you didn’t pay your entire balance at the end of the month?

Money is such a huge part of life, but too many kids are sent out into the world ill-equipped to make financial decisions for themselves. Too many young people have no idea what it takes to be financially savvy in the world today and they easily get themselves into trouble. They suffer because of their lack of knowledge, and, ultimately, the rest of the world suffers too.

Why do I say that? Because with careful planning and solid biblical training, anyone—even a child—can learn to be good stewards of their finances. Call it being charitable, call it tithing, whatever you want to call it, this is one of the most important reasons that B and I have taught our kids how to handle money.

Financial principals we believe in
B and I have trained our girls to handle money from a very young age, believing that knowing some basic financial principals would then turn into habits which would carry them into adulthood. From the time they were four years old we have stressed stewardship in three ways: giving, saving, and spending.

Giving
The first time that B and I sat down as newlyweds to pay bills together was an eye-opener for me. He made it very clear that the first check we write on payday was our check to church. No exceptions. He said that if we were faithful in this, God would supply the rest of our needs.

And you know what? He has. Always and faithfully, God has met our needs as a couple. I could tell you stories about days when we didn’t think we’d be able to pay our bills, but when God came through in miraculous ways (but I’ll save those for another time). Just know that I am so thankful for a husband who has made giving a priority.

So when our girls were about four, we started them on a meager allowance of four quarters a week. Each girl had three jars that were labeled “Giving,” “Saving,” and “Spending.” And each week they would say the same thing over and over again: “One for God, one for saving, and two for spending.” It became a family mantra after a while, “One for God, one for saving, and two for spending,” but they knew the mantra and can repeat it today.

The order in which those quarters were dropped into the jars was extremely significant: the God jar was always first.

Today their allowances have gotten bigger, and our older two daughters have jobs—babysitting and one “real” job—and we still expect them to put aside the first ten percent for God. They are learning at a young age that God gives us money for a reason—to live, sure, but also to give. It’s a habit that I pray will continue as they get older.

Saving
The second jar was for saving. It got the same amount as the God jar (one quarter at first, more later) and came second, after God got His money. The idea here is that saving—even just a small amount—adds up and is just as much a priority as giving. If you don’t think you can save anything, think again.

Giving your kids savings goals is one way to help them learn this principal. We’ve told our girls that they will have to help pay for part of their college expenses, so they’ve had a savings account for that since they were very young. Some of their money goes here—especially Kate’s money since she’ll be needing some of it next year.

But we’ve also given them smaller savings goals as they have gotten older. For instance, once they got into 6th grade, we made them start paying for part of their summer camp expenses. (Do you have any idea how expensive summer camps have become?!) It’s not that we couldn't afford to pay for camp, it’s that we wanted our girls to appreciate the privilege of going to camp by investing in it themselves. In 6th grade we expect them to contribute $200 toward their camp fee. After that, it increases until eventually they have to pay half (which is about $500).

That probably sounds like a lot of money for a kid to have to save, but just this week Maggie proudly came to us to say that she had saved her Christmas and birthday money and some allowance money and now has the $200 to give to us for camp. You should have seen the joy on her face as she told us that she had accomplished this goal—she was so proud of herself!

Spending
“One for God, one for saving, two for spending.” B learned it another way: “Give ten percent, save ten percent, and spend the rest with joy and thanksgiving.” Those numbers may have been tweaked a bit over the years, but the principal remains: if God has blessed you with money to spend, enjoy it. Don’t squander it, but also don’t feel guilty about it.

We’ve adopted an allowance principal that my parents made up for me when I was a teenager. It taught me so much about how to budget and how to handle money that we thought it was important to share with our girls. (I know lots of parents who have different philosophies about allowance. This is just what has worked for us.)

Once our girls reach high school we put them on a bi-weekly allowance. Their allowance is an amount that B and I decided upon together, one that we feel is fair, that allows our girls to pay for their clothing and entertainment expenses (but we still expect them to tithe on that amount). If they don’t feel like they have enough money for all of that, then they work to make up the difference.

Believe me, as a parent this frees me up so much because I don’t have to make on-the-spot decisions about whether I can afford to pay for that pair of jeans or that top. The girls have to make those decisions for themselves. It’s a win-win all the way around.

As soon as our kids turned 14 (the youngest age our bank would allow)we got them a checking account and a debit card. This way they can write checks to church for their tithe and transfer money into their savings account using the ATM machine. We also wanted them to have the responsibility of paying a bill each month, so we make them pay for a portion of their cell phone bill.

Some of you may be reading this and thinking, “Wow, that’s harsh! Making your kids pay for their own clothes AND camp AND still give some away. What do your kids think about it?

Well, I asked them, and they all say they like the allowance concept because they don’t have to run to me for money all the time. They can make decisions for themselves about whether they want to pay to see a movie with their friends or whether they want to save it for something else. If they want to buy expensive jeans, they can; if they prefer to buy cheaper jeans and something else, they can do that too.

Lessons Learned
As I was writing this post I asked Kate, who is almost 18, about some of the financial lessons she’s learned over the years. Here’s what she told me.

• It’s very easy to get into trouble with your money. You must be very wise with how you use it.

• Saving money now will make you happier later. (At this point I thought I had to do some re-teaching, but Kate clarified her point. She knows that money does not bring happiness, but what she meant was a sense of security, maybe a sense of peace in knowing that there is a little money saved up for the future.)

• She said she’s learned the value of a budget through getting an allowance. Getting into the habit of paying a bill every month has been good too.

• She said it has been good to do her taxes with her dad instead of him doing it for her. B takes the time to walk through the tax form with her each year, showing her how it’s done rather than just having her sign on the bottom line.

• It’s O.K. to spend money on yourself . . . as long as it’s not in excess.

• How to stay out of debt. (This is a biggie for a kid! Start teaching them this NOW!)

Kate’s final comment to me really made me stop for a second. She said, “You and Dad have prepared us to be poor when we get out of college.” She said that our stories of really struggling in those early years have made an impact on her, and they have made her realize that she probably won’t have much money right away. And that’s O.K.

She also said that too many kids her age just think that they will get out of college and live the way their parents live. Kate knows that she will have to work for what she has, she’ll have to budget with what she has, and she will have to be a good steward of her finances because, after all, it’s God’s money in the first place.

I warned her that there are no guarantees that she’ll have much money EVER, and that’s O.K. too. In the day and age we’re living, we really need to give our kids a realistic picture of what may be ahead for them. Believe me, my financially savvy husband does not paint a rosy picture of the economy.

But by giving our kids some good, solid financial principals to live by, they can be on a healthy path toward financial freedom. By helping them to become good stewards of their money now, we are helping them to, hopefully, stay out of financial trouble later.

Now talk. What have you done to teach your kids about money?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

You'd think that after 25 years of marriage we'd be better at it


“So how was your Valentine’s Day?” my sweet friend Meghan asked me this week.

I had to laugh. Sort of. And then I told her the truth.

Truth which actually started last Wednesday—the Wednesday before Valentine’s Day—when B called me from work. “So, do you want to go out for dinner this weekend?”

My mind was thinking, Are you crazy? This is Valentine’s weekend. We’ll never get a reservation.” But instead my mouth said, “Are you crazy? This is Valentine’s weekend. We’ll never get a reservation.”

And then nothing happened until Friday when B called me from work again and said, “So, how do you feel about eating a little early tomorrow night?”

“What? Like as in 4:30 when the old people eat?” I said.

“Nah, not that early. How about 4:45?” That B. He’s such a kidder.

And me? I’m too honest for my own good.

“No,” I said. “Basically, no. We’ll be done with dinner by 6 and then we’ll have to go back home to the kids and that won’t be fun at all. Nope. Not gonna do it.”

So we talked about it a little more and decided that we’d go out the next weekend. When all the Valentine’s Day losers go out to eat.

So then Valentine’s Day came, and, frankly, I was pretty excited because you know what happened last Sunday.

The Olympics.

When our neighbor, Nancy Swider-Peltz, Jr. was skating in the 3000m women’s speed skating competition. And I really wanted to see it.

But there was this little matter of a meeting I had at church that afternoon. And then another matter of Nancy’s skate being postponed by a couple of hours. And the DVR recording that didn’t happen. And then another matter of a hockey game that was on when I got home. Well, and if I’m to be completely honest here, which I most certainly am, there might have been a little bit of a hormonal matter going on too.

And before I knew it the Blackhawks were in a shootout and Nancy skated and our DVR had not recorded it and I missed the whole thing. And I was kind of . . . oh . . . mad.

But I held it in. For a little while. Until B asked me what was the matter and, silly me, I had to be completely honest and blame hockey, whose fault it certainly was, which made him mad and so we were both mad for different reasons, both, I think, hormonal.

Children huddled in the basement. Dogs whined. Voices were raised. It was an ugly, ugly scene.

All over . . . what? I can’t even remember.

The next day we talked laughed about it, realizing that we couldn’t even really remember why we had had a huge fight on Valentine’s Day. We couldn’t even remember the last time we had had a huge fight. It’s all just so silly.

So, yes, we’ve been married for almost 25 years (June 1 is the big day—you can start your planning now), and we still fight every now and then. Over some really important things.

Like hockey.

And Valentine’s Day.

So, how was YOUR Valentine's Day?

Shelly

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nice to Meet Ya!

Hey! Guess what! I "guest blogged" yesterday over at Sandy's place. Sandy's wonderful, and she's been a great encouragement to me. She used one of my all-time favorite stories, so if you haven't read it here, you can go read it there.

Sandy also gave a little background about how we met, so if you're curious about how bloggers meet IRL (in real life), go check it out.

Shelly

Monday, February 15, 2010

Intentional Parenting - Part 3; Intentionally Truthful


**Thanks for joining me in my Intentional Parenting series. From now on it will run EVERY Monday until I run out of things to say.**


It was long past Maggie’s bedtime when she called out to me through choking sobs. “Mom? Could you please come in here?”

Oh my goodness, what could be wrong? I wondered as I rushed to her bedside. “What’s the matter, honey? Are you sick?”

“No, I’m not sick. I have to tell you something.”

“O.K. Tell me. What’s making you cry so hard?” I asked.

“Today during library time Mrs. M got mad at me for talking.”

“Oh, honey, that’s O.K. I know how it is when kids get talking. Sometimes the teacher just has to get you to quiet down. Don’t worry about that.” I was getting kind of confused because Maggie’s story and her frenetic sobbing didn’t seem to match up.

“No, that’s not the bad part,” Maggie cried. “Later on, Mrs. M came around to see what books we had checked out of the library and I told her the names of two books. But, Mom . . . I lied!” And a fresh round of sobs choked out Maggie’s words. “One of the books was a Captain Underpants book, but I didn’t tell her the truth.”

At that point I just about burst out laughing because Maggie and I had had a few discussions about Captain Underpants books. Not only is the name ridiculous, but I also felt like Maggie’s reading level was well beyond the reading level of that series and I wanted her to challenge herself a little more. (Now, before you send me comments touting the praise of the CU books, remember that arguing the pros or cons of the Captain isn’t the purpose of my post here.)
The book itself wasn’t the source of Maggie’s sobbing—my daughter knew how I felt about lying, and at that moment she was being convicted of her sin in that area. I could not have been more pleased.

“So, what do you think you should do?” I asked.

“I need to tell Mrs. M the truth.”

Maggie and I talked for a while about telling the truth and confessing our sin and how she would approach the situation with her teacher. The next day, about 15 minutes before the start of school, Maggie and I walked hand-in-hand toward her classroom. Thankfully we caught her teacher just as she was walking into the room and a few minutes before the flurry of the day's activites began. She sat patiently with us as Maggie, through more sobbing and tears, confessed her lie to her teacher.

And then the most amazing thing happened. Her teacher tenderly forgave her. (Can I just say thank God for Christian teachers in the public school system?) That dear woman, under whom all three of my girls had the opportunity to learn, blessed my daughter in such an amazing way that day, just by forgiving her.

That moment was so difficult for Maggie (although, let me just tell you right here and now that this wasn’t the first time I had had to accompany a child to a confession to a teacher *ahem*), and yet it became such a step of maturity for her. Her teacher’s reaction had so much to do with it. It was such a beautiful, tangible picture of what our Heavenly Father does for us when we confess our sins to Him that I was left crying myself—so thankful for a teacher who “got it” and freely forgave my daughter.

And you know what? Maggie practically floated out of the room after our little talk with her teacher. She beamed. So happy to have received forgiveness. I have a feeling that because of that, Maggie won't hesitate to apologize for her wrongs in the future. And I have a feeling she'll think twice before she tells a lie to a teacher!

Why Truthfulness Matters
I learned something about myself when I became a parent—I hate lying. Any form of it. Untruthfulness just sits wrong with me. From the time my girls were very young and began to experiment with lying, they began to see that it was one of those unpardonable sins in my book. They’d get disciplined for lying every single time.

God hates lying too. Check out what He says about it:

“The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.” Proverbs
12:22

“Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks
the truth.” Proverbs 16:13

“These are the things you are to do: Speak
the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts.”
Zechariah 8:16

So why does it matter that your children tell the truth?

First, because God commands it. Remember the 10 Commandments? Don’t bear false witness against your neighbor? That’s lying.

Second, because your child’s reputation is at stake. I would venture to say that Maggie’s teacher probably felt like she could trust her after that day. On the flip side, I know kids who regularly tell lies—even of the white variety—and honestly, I take what they tell me with a grain of salt. In the back of my mind I often wonder, “Really? Is that the truth?” Don’t you want your children to be known for being trustworthy and honest?

Third, truthfulness matters because it’s right. It used to be that a person’s word was his bond, but that’s no longer the case. We live in a world of lawyers and lawsuits and courts trying to determine whose word can we trust. How much more will our children stand out in this world if they become adults who are truthful? But the time to instill truthfulness in a person is when they are young—it becomes much harder to break the lying habit when kids get older.

How Do You Instill a Sense of Truthfulness?
Insist on it. Every time. If you catch your children in a lie, take them aside and talk about it. Discipline it. Take care of it before it gets to be too big.

My girls knew that if they told a lie there would be consequences—every single time. They knew that I would not mess around with lying because it is so important to their character. I was intentional about truthfulness from the very beginning.

But here’s the interesting thing I’ve found . . . because I took truthfulness so seriously and punished lying so consistently when they were young, my girls have grown into honest young women whom I know I can trust to tell the truth. They are women whom their teachers can trust, whom their college roommates can trust, and, most importantly, whom their future spouses can trust.

As they become trustworthy women, God can entrust them with so much more than if they were women with lying lips. And that’s ultimately what we should all want.

So I want to encourage you today to intentionally break the lying habit. If it's a problem in your life, stop it. Today. And if you see your kids venturing down that road, save them from the inevitable crash that will result. Don't allow even "white lies" (they're still lies!) to cross their lips. Insist on truthfulness all the time.

Now talk. How do you combat lying in your kids? What do you think about those little white lies?

If you'd like to read parts 1 and 2 of this series, click here and here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Seven Quick Takes Friday



Well, now, I haven't done a Seven Quick Takes post in a loooong while now, have I? But this week there are so many things rolling around in this little pea-sized brain of mine that I think I should just throw them all out there and see what happens.

1

Did I mention that Maggie turned 12 last week? Let me just say that if a girl was ever spoiled on her 12th birthday, it is this girl. Here's a quick recap: Blackhawks game with her dad. Skybox. Bobble Head night. Poster with her name on it. Meeting the Blackhawks president, John McDunough. Mr. McDunough leaving the box and coming back with a gift for her. Toewes t-shirt. Long-sleeved t-shirt. Hoodie. Hat. NAME IN LIGHTS UP ON THE SCOREBOARD. Need I say more?

2

I feel like I started a new job this week since I've started writing semi-seriously. Thanks to all of you who are praying me through this. It's a lot harder to make the time than I thought it would be. Believe me, the offer is still out there, so if you'd like to join my merry band of pray-ers, drop me an email and I'll add you to the list.

3

The biggest blogging conference of the year happened last weekend, and I missed it. I'll explain why in a post tomorrow (or next week), but it sure sounds like an amazing time was had by all. There are all kinds of posts going around, recaps of everyone's adventures at Blissdom, but Emily's was one of my favorites. If you read it you'll see why.

4

See this face?


This is the face of anticipation. It's the face I get every morning before Thunder the Wonder Dog and I take our walk. Some days the walk is short, but some days it's about 3 miles. Like yesterday, in 20 degree weather. But really, could you resist that face?

5

Kay offered up some great thoughts on the different stages of parenting yesterday at her place. I've recently gotten to know Kay a bit through blogging, and I have to say that she is a gem. One of those people I'd really like to meet someday. One of the few bloggers I've met who is kind of in my stage of life. Anyway, go read it. You'll like it. I promise.

6

And speaking of parenting posts . . . check back on Monday for the next in my Intentional Parenting series. In case you've missed the first couple of posts, you can find them here and here.

And while I'm talking about the IP series, I think I'm going to make that an EVERY Monday thing rather than an every-other Monday thing from here on out. I'm just afraid people will get confused by the every-other thing, as I'm sure I would if it weren't me writing the posts and deciding when to put them on my blog.

Nothing like another challenge, huh?

7

Is anyone else excited about the Olympics like we are around here? We missed the summer Olympics two years ago because we were in Switzerland at the time. It was such a bummer to get home and realize that there was only one day left of the competition and that it was Greco-Roman Wrestling or something equally obscure.

Anyway, this year we will be home and firmly planted in front of the big screen because one of our neighbors, a girl who attended the same elementary school as my girls and who goes to our church and who lives just two blocks away from us, is going to be competing! Look for Nancy Swider-Peltz, Jr. who will be competing in the women's 3000m speed skating race this Sunday. She says the competition begins at 3 p.m. Central time, but she probably won't be in the first pairing.

I'm a fan of Nancy's on Facebook, and I don't think she'd mind my sharing her blog with you all. It's a fascinating look behind the scenes at the Olympics.

Go Nancy, go!!!

Thanks to Jen at Conversion Diary for hosting Seven Quick Takes.

Shelly

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Woe to the person who tries to buy these tickets

When the mail arrived yesterday I was so excited to see a large-ish envelope from the R&A. Anyone who knows anything about golf probably knows that the R&A stands for Royal & Ancient--in other words, the birthplace of golf.

I had been waiting for this envelope for a few weeks now,and I was so excited to see it in the stack of otherwise junk and bills and sale papers.

Except for one thing. This is what my envelope came in . . .



And this is what my envelope looked like . . .



My envelope contained two pieces of paper. One was a letter telling me that the tickets I had ordered were enclosed. The other was a lot of very small print that basically said that the R&A was not responsible for lost or stolen tickets.



What the envelope did NOT contain was tickets. About 14 tickets for a really important event that B and I, along with my parents, sisters, and brothers-in-law, will be attending next summer. Our anniversary trip that we have been looking forward to for, oh, about 25 years.

I immediately got into the car and headed to the post office where I met with a supervisor who basically said, "Well . . . um . . . ah . . . oh boy . . . gee . . ." You get the picture.

I think his lack of speaking skills may have something to do with why he's a supervisor at the post office, but who am I to judge?

I called my parents to tell them what had happened. They're doing whatever they can on their end, but they didn't get many answers either.

Then I talked to my kids. They're always so helpful and full of answers. Kate immediately said, "Mom, someone stole them out of the envelope," and I came back with, "Yeah, but that would be stupid because they'd have to go to SCOTLAND to use them!" to which she looked at me sideways like I was some kind of postal worker or something and said, "Mom. EBay."

Oh yeah.

Finally, in desperation, I sent an email to the R&A. Basically it said:

Dear Kindly British Sir or Madam:

I am desperate for your help. My parents and I are planning a trip to your event next summer, and I was thrilled to receive your envelope today, but the envelope was ripped and the tickets were not in it and I need your help. Please, please, please help me.

Oh, and did I mention that this trip was supposed to be for my parents' 50th wedding anniversary? You wouldn't want to let them down now, would you?

I am counting on your sense of fairness and trust to send me another set of tickets or else my entire 2010 will be a complete bust. Over before it even begins.

PLEASE HELP ME!!!

Very sincerely and grovelly yours,

Shelly


So what do you think? Think it'll work? Think I'll even hear from them? I'm sure praying that it will be so. I'll let you know.

**Update** Just this afternoon I got an email from the R&A saying this: "Do not worry about the tickets as these can all be cancelled as they have barcodes on them. Therefore if anyone turns up at the paygates with them they will be denied access." Isn't that so nice? I'm so relieved.


Shelly

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Super Show After the Super Bowl


Did you see it? Sunday night? That great show?

No, not the Super Bowl. The show that was on after the Super Bowl.
"Undercover Boss," I think was the name.

Sunday night I was tired from all that partying we did at the Women's Retreat last weekend. It was a fun-fest, I'm telling you. Especially Saturday night's rendition of "To Tell the Truth" with some pretty, shall I say, well-respected members of our church telling outright LIES in front of 250 women. And laughing at their untruths, even! Imagine.

Anyway, the events of the weekend, which may or may not be recounted here at a later date, left me feeling pretty much out-of-it by the time I got home on Sunday afternoon. I rested a bit and then I got a junk-food feast prepared for my family so that we could watch the "Big Game" together. (Just curious--why don't other channels and T.V. shows just call it what it is--the Super Bowl? Why do they have to call it the "Big Game" or the "Big Event" or the "Big Whatever"? That kind of bugs me.)

So by the time the game had ended Sunday night I was really tired. Dragging, even. I had watched the entire game in its entirety and was entirely impressed that it was such a good game. But then it was time to hit the bed. Entirely.

Except for one thing. I started watching this new show called "Undercover Boss" and got hooked within about two minutes.

Did you see it? Everyone was talking, blogging, and Tweeting about it yesterday. Even B, who actually made it upstairs to bed before he got sucked into the vortex of that show, knew everything that happened on it because he said everyone at work was talking about it. Crazy how that happens, isn't it?

Anyway, just in case you missed it, here were what I thought were some of the highlights.

- COO of Waste Management, Larry O'Donnell, literally managing waste in some of their porta potties. I don't know how he did that without throwing up. Honestly. Whoever does that does not get paid enough.

- The dear waste hauler, Kathy (I think that was her name), getting out of her truck to hug some of the people on her route. What a sweetheart she was. I am sure I've never met our garbage man. Of course, we're on the beginning of the route, so he comes much too early for me to be outside just waiting to give him a hug.

- Watching Larry try to sort the papers and trash on the moving belt in the recycling plant. Kind of reminded me of the "I Love Lucy" episode with the chocolates.

- In the end, the woman who was doing the jobs of three people finally got a promotion, a bonus, and a raise which then allowed her to keep her dream home. Now, isn't that what you want to see? Someone who works hard finally getting recognized for it? I absolutely loved how Larry helped her out, not by handing her some money, but by giving her more responsibility. She earned every penny of her raise.

I think I may have a new favorite show. And I definitely know what company I'd like to work for if this stay-at-home-mom gig ever dries up. Waste Management rocks! (Don't tell my kids I just said that.)

Of course, next week they're featuring the CEO or President or Founder or Whatever of Hooters, so the highlights could be . . . um . . . completely different. But I'm pretty sure it's going to be entertaining. (I'm also pretty sure I won't want to go work for him.) I think I'll watch and see what happens.

Shelly



*Photo credit: CBS.com

Monday, February 8, 2010

Book Review - Thin Places, A Memoir


Warning: the book you are about to read is real. It's raw. It's honest. If you like to keep things light and happy, this book is probably not for you. But if you want to read a true redemption story, give this one a try.

Mary DeMuth has done it again--she's made me think, made me wonder about life, and made me feel so grateful. Mostly, she's made me see God's hand in a new and wonderful way.

Just as I said about her previous novel, A Slow Burn, this book is not easy to read. Mary would probably be the first to tell you that she's had a tough life. Growing up with less-than-attentive parents was hard. Really hard. Mary experienced things that no little girl should ever have to experience, and as a mother of daughters, I do not say that lightly. Never. Ever.

My heart ached for Mary as I read her words, and yet, I rejoiced that the God of the Universe would reach down into all that brokenness and pick her out to proclaim His goodness. It's amazing, really, the picture of redemption that Mary's life paints.

With brutal honesty, Mary tells about her childhood abuse, her struggles on the mission field, and challenges in her marriage. Yet through it all, Mary shows how she has seen God in the "thin places" of her life--those places where He has lifted the veil, ever-so-briefly, and revealed Himself to her. It's beautiful to see how Mary weaves God's redemption into every aspect of her life.

I resonated with many of Mary's emotions, not because I have endured what she endured, but because she has chosen to honestly share her insecurities as a mom, as a wife, and as a person. I get that. Here are a couple of quotes that I really identified with:


"I am sitting with Sophie, Aidan, Julia, and Patrick [her children and husband] around our table. We are eating dinner and sharing our days. I battle inside
myself, wondering if I should share my frustrating day or just let it rest
securely inside my head. Such heaviness settles on me that I don't want to
infect my children. But when it's my turn, I make a snap decision to speak up.

'I have had a hard day,' I tell them. 'I got another book rejection.' I
expand the story, letting my family know the wrenching details. I take in a deep
breath. 'And here's the thing. When I'm rejected it sends me to this very dark
pit, to this place where I wonder if I'm worthy enough to take up space on this
earth.' I point my finger into the table. 'This space right here.'

'Mommy," Julia says. 'I love you. I'm so glad God made you to be my mommy.'

'I don't know where I"d be without you,' Sophie says.

'Please don't feel like that,' Aidan tells me.

'I love you.'Patrick grabs my hand.

In that embrace of words, I am home."



And in another chapter, she talks honestly about her own insecurities, something I could really relate to:

" . . . I'm insecure at heart.

I love to order my world. When others don't like me, my world breaks apart. And I panic. I can be secure when everyone approves.

. . . I drive myself nutty, all for the sake of wanting every single person on this earth to like me. Notice me. Not criticize me.

. . . Even though I know it's a lie, I tend to believe that in order to be valued and loved, I must never do anything to hurt anyone. Likewise, in order to love myself, I must never do anything wrong.

That sure doesn't leave room for grace, does it?"


But in her chapter on insecurity, Mary also says this: "It all comes down to who you want to like you." That line hit me squarely between the eyes. And in my heart. With that one line, Mary pointed me back to the cross and to Jesus, the only One whose opinion of me really matters.

And that's what this book does. Yes, it reveals a broken girl, a broken life, a broken world, but it also shows that the only opinion that really matters is of the One who redeemed our lives from the pit. Mary lifts our eyes and helps us see Him.

This morning, as I opened my Bible, I read Psalm 124. I was contemplating writing this review, and the passage seemed so fitting that I think I'll quote it here.

"What if the LORD had not been on our side?
Let all Israel repeat:
What if the LORD had not been on our side
when people attacked us?
They would have swallowed us alive
in their burning anger.
The waters would have engulfed us:
a torrent would have overwhelmed us.
Yes, the raging waters of their fury
would have overwhelmed our very lives.
Praise the LORD,
who did not let their teeth tear us apart!
We escaped like a bird from a hunter's trap.
The trap is broken, and we are free!
Our help is from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth."
Psalm 124 (NLT)



Shelly

Friday, February 5, 2010

Don't Hate Me Because I'm an Introvert


Don't you just love it when your friends, who know your issues, take an opportunity to remind you of those issues?

I mean, it's not like I don't know my issues, right? I know I wear holey socks and that my husband hates it when I do that. (I actually think that when I wear holey socks it makes him feel like he can't provide socks without holes for our family. Trust me, he can. It's just that I hate to throw anything away, especially socks, because I know that once they're in my shoes nobody can see the holes.)

I know that I tend to ask my teenage daughters too many questions--what mom of teenagers doesn't? (And just for the record, too many questions would be exactly one. One question is too many for them.)

I know that I have an irrational dislike of people who make loud, repetative noises in public and that nervous tics make me, well, nervous.

I have issues. What can I say?

But one of my "issues," if you can even call it that, has become even bigger and more glaring the older I get and the longer I'm a stay-at-home mom. Because my issue is that I've become an introvert.

Oh sure, you could probably argue that a person is born that way, and maybe I was. Looking back now I realize that I spent lots of hours alone as a child, wandering through the cornfields with a book in my hand. I mean, when you grow up on a farm, there really aren't that many people to be social with. Maybe I just didn't get enough practice being social, I don't know. I guess the difference is that when you're an introvert you don't really mind that there's nobody around to bug you.

Anyway, back to my issues and to my friend who pointed one out to me. Recently Amy sent me a quick email that said, "This is perfect for you. You'll love it." And there was a link to an article titled, "Caring for Your Introvert" by Jonathan Rauch.

Well, I'm here to tell you that love it I did. It's one of those articles that you wish you were reading with someone else in the room so you could go, "Oh, listen to this! Isn't that just like me?" That article (go click on the title above to read the full text), written by a self-described introvert, pretty much sums up yours truly to a tee.

The author describes introverts as misunderstood people who don't really hate other people, they just don't like or need to be around them that much. He says every introvert's motto is "I'm O.K., you're O.K.--in small doses."

Bwahahah. Get it? If so, you, too, might be an introvert.

I'm kind of a slow learner, though, and not all that self-aware, because I really didn't come to a full realization of the level of my introversion until a few years ago, when I was driving home from a writer's conference with my friend, Cheryl. Cheryl-the-extrovert.

She was driving (thank goodness!) and chattering on and on about how great the weekend was and about all the great people she had met and all the great conversations she had had. Everything was GREAT! And there I sat in the passenger's seat, quietly listening to Cheryl recount her absolutely fabulously great weekend.

It's not that I didn't also have a great weekend--I had. I loved every minute of it, but I realized as we drove and she talked that my tank was empty. I had had enough of talking and listening and conversing and schmoozing. I was completely depleted and had nothing left. I desperately needed to get alone for a while to recharge my batteries.

As I made this observation to my friend, she just laughed and admitted that she was completely opposite from me in that way. After being with people all weekend she was charged up, ready to go. She could have taken many more days just like that weekend and have been perfectly happy.

So, of course I had to laugh when I read this in the article Amy sent to me: "After an hour or two of being socially 'on,' we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing."

I like that formula: two hours "off" for every hour "on."

Rauch is quick to add that introverts aren't trying to be rude or arrogant, although that's how we can come across sometimes; it's just that we're playing things out in our head instead of through our mouths.

Which brings me to my current conundrum. I'm going away this weekend. On a retreat. A women's retreat. Do you know what that does to an introvert like me? It makes me want to run the other way. It makes me want to hide. It makes me want to slather myself in lotion and slide right out of the picture for a while.

Because you know women. Women like to talk (so do some men I know, but that's another post for another day). Most women, I would venture to say, are extroverts. And introverts like me make extroverts like most women kind of nervous.

I think they think we're weird. Or worse, as Rauch points out, aloof or arrogant.

But we're not. We just need a little more time alone so that we can actually muster up enough energy to spend time with the rest of you. Talking. And listening. And socializing.

But here's the thing. I am excited about going on this retreat because of some of the great women I'm going to be able to spend time with. I'm going to suck it up, that need to be alone, and I am going to socialize. I'm going to talk. And I'm going to listen. And I'm going to try with everything that is in my to NOT come across as aloof.

Even though I'll be counting down the hours until I can be home again. Safe in my little haven. With people who understand my need to just be quiet. And alone. Blessedly alone.

Come Monday.

Shelly

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Putting It Out There

My buddy, Jon (and I use that term so very loosely because a) I have never met Jon and b) Jon has absolutely no idea who I am in the entire universe), when he's not busy selling his new book that comes out in April, has some funny and profound things to say.

You'd think I'm a stalker for as many times as I've linked to Jon here. But I'm not. Because I don't even read every single one of his posts--there are too many. And, besides, he's way too young for me from what I can tell.

But dear Jon does make me think, as one of his recent posts really did. In fact, I can't get it out of my mind, so I thought I'd just hash it out here, if you don't mind.

In this post, Jon talks about finding the one thing you're "made" to do. He suggests that you're probably getting warm if you find the one thing that satan (he uses the small "s" for satan because he says that's the "middle finger of grammar"--a phrase that has made me chuckle more than twice over the past few days) constantly tries to divert you away from. It's the thing that satan tries to keep you from doing because ". . . he only attacks things that matter."

So Jon, in his much-more-humorous-than-me way, gets his readers to think about what exactly satan doesn't want them to do. And then challenges them to just do it. Because it's what satan-with-a-small-"s" wouldn't want.

And it got me to thinking about the thing I always have on my mind--writing my story, as weak and mundane as it might be. But it's there, always there, in my mind and in my heart. But it's also the thing that I so easily put on the back burner, probably because it's just the thing that satan doesn't want me to do.

Jon's post got me to thinking that if I put it out here, as I've just done, and let all of you know that this "thing" that I think I'm supposed to do is the one "thing" that I so easily put off until it's the last thing on my list, that maybe . . . just maybe . . . a few of you might pray that I would have the strength and the courage and the determination to actually put that thing on the front burner. To make it #1 on my list of things to do today.

And so I'm throwing out a challenge to myself and to you. My challenge is that, starting next week, I will work on my story for two hours a day, five days a week, for a month. At the end of four weeks, I'll report back and let you know what God has done.

My challenge for you is to pray for me. And if you are willing to do that, would you kindly send me an email (wildmom3.at.sbcglobal.dot.net) letting me know? I would appreciate it more than you could ever imagine.

Who knows? Maybe I'll have a little more discipline at the end of four weeks.

And maybe I'll have so much more.

Shelly

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Travel Tuesday - The Top 5 Best Things About Getting Away for the Weekend

Shhhh. We snuck (is that a word?) away for the weekend. Nope, I didn't tell you I was leaving. I need to keep a few things a secret around here, don't I?

B and I had the good fortune to be invited to Park City, UT last weekend. We went with three couples from our small group (but we sure missed those who didn't come!). And no kids. Enough said.

The weekend is hard to put into words, so I'll just list the top 5 things about sneaking away to Park City for the weekend.

1. Skiing with my hubby. We have really only done that once before, and this time was so much fun. I especially enjoyed talking to him as we meandered down the hill (and believe me, meander is just about all I can do on those slopes). He encourages me to keep trying, even though I feel like I can't ski very well. I love that he does that.



2. Spending time with friends. We've been in a small group with these friends for over 15 years . . . some for over 20 years. We've watched each other's kids grow up, and we've been through a lot together in that time. It's always great to be together and to celebrate God's goodness to all of us.



3. Enjoying the great outdoors. I thought a lot about this this weekend: I don't consider myself that much of a nature girl, but I really feel closest to God when I'm outside. And on the slopes I really felt close to God as I cried out to Him for help getting down the mountain.



4. Watching Olympic athletes train for competition. Oh. My. Word. We went to the Utah Olympic Park where we got to see actual Olympic aerial jumpers train for the actual Olympics which will actually be taking place in two weeks. It was amazing. That's pretty much all I can say about that. Amazing.



And I can't wait for the Olympics.


5. Coming home to an immaculately clean house and dinner on the table. What can I say? I've trained my children well. And I loved them even more when I saw what they could do this weekend.

All in all, it was great. And kind of like a fairy tale in many ways. I had to keep pinching myself to make sure it was real.

But it was indeed real. And now I'm back to reality. *sigh*


Shelly