Day One

Today is Monday, August 30, 2010.

It is the first day of my "vacation." I use that term loosely.

I'm off work - as long as my mother can work (yes, we work together...15 years so far) - this week and my goal is:

1. To have another party prepped and ready to go. We're celebrating a friend who has recently finalized the adoption of her daughter. At 41 years old she has adopted a 9 year old little girl out of our foster care system. It's a long story, fraught with tears and years of indecision - not uncommon, I'm sure. She has never been married and there doesn't appear to be a husband on the horizon...God has not brought one to her. She has, however, a heart for children as big as the ocean and has so desperately wanted to be a mother. So...she has adopted. As a woman who was a single mom for many years, I think she is incredibly brave. I don't think, given the option, it is a choice I would make for myself. We will celebrate this new, little family and pray over them both. And eat ice cream.

2. To have the house organized and cleaned before school starts and all that comes with THAT merry-go-round. That one is easy as I've had most of the summer to go through things here and there so there isn't too much to do.

3. To have Christopher ready. Set. Geared up. For that first day of 5th grade. F.i.f.t.h. grade. How did that happen? But...clothes, backpack, lunch supplies (he packs his own...he's such a good boy!) and room will be purchased, washed, organized, put away and ready to go.

4. To figure out a better way to have my office organized. I have plenty of storage options, plenty of space and plenty of ideas but I have yet to settle on the layout that works the best. My husband is looking forward to moving furniture.

5. To rest. As much as I possibly can. I don't do that enough and it's going to be hard for me because as soon as I sit down I think of three different things to do. I'm going to try to let some of that go. Maybe I'll go practice now...take a nap... That sounds like the perfect way to end this post!


Sunday Strength

Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
"That with an iron stylus and lead
They were engraved in the rock forever!
"As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.

~Job 19:23-25


It's My Rant And I'll Probably Cry A Bit

y attitude stinks quite a bit. Two years ago this month my sister & brother-in-law said and did some things that were the straws that broke the camel's back. We haven't spoken since although I have tried to approach them a few times about reconciling. They've dug in their heels and refuse to acknowledge me. It's hurtful but above that it's frustrating. I try to not think about them too much because they make me very angry. In their selfish stubborness, they've wreaked havoc on our family.

It hasn't been any better since Mom's cancer diagnosis back in October. If anything, it's gotten worse. My sister had her 3rd child on June 6th. I still haven't met her and have only seen one picture of her - briefly and because that picture has since disappeared, I'm pretty sure I wasn't supposed to see it in the first place.

It's all ugly. It's tempting to word vomit all over the place here and just spew my anger because I am furious over the situation they created, which didn't need to be created and could have been handled by one phone call my brother-in-law doesn't have the guts - or maybe it's the desire - to make...

I'm not so pretty on the inside, either. This isn't an attempt to "lighten" my ugly but on top of it all, to add injury to injury, she withholds her children from me. No pictures, no inclusion in birthdays, no invites to soccer games - nothing.

So much for not word vomiting.

Anyhow. What I actually wanted to write about was this last Tuesday afternoon. See...in all of this mess, I am really, really trying to figure out how to let go of the anger, how to actually lay it at the foot of the cross and not pick it back up. It's the not picking it back up where I fail.

But it's been next to impossible. The hurt wells up and the anger quickly follows.

Take Tuesday for example.

Mom's first round of chemo didn't work. At all. When she went back for her 1st 3 month check-up, her blood levels were elevated enough they ordered another CT scan. The CT scan revealed all sorts of little tumors in her abdominal/pelvic area. One of them is the size of a golf ball. It also looks like the cancer has settled on her colon. She has a clear cell ovarian cancer, a "surface" cancer and some of the cancer "flaked off" (yup - like dead skin), floated around in there, settled and started to grow.

Her cancer is resistant to the particular type of chemo they used in round one. Goody. They move on to another chemo.

Almost every time she has gone in, my sister has gone with her. Twice my sister-in-law went and then this last week I went. It's not exciting. We're there to chat with Mom, help the time pass, get her water, etc. She sits and the bags of poison empty.

What killed me, though, was the chemo nurse mentioning it wasn't my sister. No baby. Chatting with my mother about how cute the baby is, growing like a weed.

The chemo nurse knows my niece better than I do. She's almost 3 months old and I have not yet seen her.

And there I sit, in that chair, unable to say a word. Can't tell the nurse I haven't seen her. Don't want to upset my mother. My mother brushing me off afterwards with a roll of her eyes, a wave of her hand. It's not her problem. Somehow I'm supposed to fix it (forget the fact that I've tried a half dozen times and my sister ignores me) and it's my fault.

And I stay angry. And hurt.

People wonder why I want to end all contact with my family. It's because of moments like that. Moments where I have it shoved in my face one.more.time that my sister appears to mean more to my family than I do. They don't hold her accountable for what she's done but they don't mind leaving me out.

I'm running out of...whatever it is that keeps me from throwing things, screaming and yelling. I swallow the venom and it tastes like bile. I'm tired of swallowing it - I want it gone.

I wish I were eloquent, I wish I knew just the right words to say to diffuse it all. I wish I knew how to write it out without sounding so angry & upset. I also wish I could stop caring. Hasn't happened so far. Wishing doesn't work.

Back to that oh-so-official Oriental Trading calendar. Today is Global Forgiveness Day.

Maybe they'll read that somewhere. Maybe it'll trigger a conversation. A girl can dream...

Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische


National Dog Day

According to my oh so official Oriental Trading calendar, today is National Dog Day. (This is Max - surveying his kingdom from his throne, his favorite spot in the backyard.)

Hug a dog. Adopt a dog. Befriend a dog.

They are, after all, one of God's greatest creations.

Max is proof of that theory.


Cooking Blog

I head over to One Pretty Thing at least once a day. Rachel puts in a lot of time scouring the internet and blogs for information, projects, tutorials, printables and great ideas. She then consolidates them all on One Pretty Thing for us. It's an amazing reference blog and I love seeing so much talent in one place.

Last week, in her Crafty Foods Round-up, she posted a recipe for Baked Maple Cinnamon Donuts by over at Cooking With My Kid. Now... it might have been Baked Maple Cinnamon Donuts that caught my attention and took me over to check out Rebecca's blog but I quickly became a fan.

Rebecca's goal is to spend 365 days cooking 365 recipes with her son, turning him into what she terms an "adventurous eater." She's brilliant. Check out her "about" page and read her plan for yourself.

While nosing around her place, I came across a recipe I had to try for dinner last night. There are more but this one had me chomping at the bit to try it and I have to say, it did not disappoint. Both husband and son agreed and this recipe is a keeper.

Rebecca's Warm Tortellini & Pesto Chicken Salad Recipe is a winner. It was 45 minutes from start to table and worth every minute. Easy to put together, great for those nights when you don't want to turn on the oven but want to put together something healthy and satisfying for your family.

Yum! I know I'm going to be heading back to her site for several new recipes and I'm willing to bet I find more than just one keeper.


Backpacks Galore!

F or the first time in my 5 years packing backpacks (3 years facilitating), we started at 9AM on Saturday morning and finished at 2:30 PM and were DONE. No double checking, no doubting that the backpacks had the correct supplies in them. As far as I know, the last of them will be picked up tomorrow morning and just over 500 kids will have brand new backpacks with brand new school supplies in them in their hands by the weekend.

Hallelujah and Praise God!

I absolutely love packing backpacks and I love facilitating this outreach and it feels SO good to have a system in place now that works and works well. The only thing we need to add is a few hands to our Friday night set- up. Oh...and I'll be taking Friday off from work next year. We started set up Friday night at 6PM. I left the church at 12:38 AM. It was a LOT of work setting out all of the supplies. We used 5 elementary Sunday school classrooms and set backpacks up by grades (PK/K, 1st-3rd, 4th & 5th, 6th-9th and 10th-12th). We further break that down by boys & girls. The last thing we want is to send a 6th grade boy a pretty pink backpack... Set up took longer than packing. We'll use more hands next year for sure!

Here are just some of the boxes we unpacked, full of supplies and backpacks.

This is Janelle. She is an awesome senior who chose to take on backpacks as her senior project this year. In Washington State, seniors are required to pick a subject or topic and, in intense detail, describe how to complete said project from beginning to end. In this case, Janelle will document just what it takes to provide 500 children in area shelters with backpacks and school supplies, the work that goes into gathering the children's information from the shelters, ordering the supplies, set up, packing and delivery. She was supposed to put at least 20 hours into her project. By the time we finished Friday night she had somewhere around 18...and packing and delivery definitely put her over the top. She was an incredible help, though. I can't tell you how many times I'd panic about something that would need doing and then the relief would flood when I remembered that Janelle had it this year...

Here are just a few of the amazing volunteers we had helping us...

And here are the packed backpacks:

I love this job! God is always so amazing and good to us through this, too. We always have enough in the way of donations and supplies to provide backpacks to every child who needs one.

If anyone is wondering at the decor of our Sunday school classrooms, when we bought our building and remodeled, our kids church area was given an incredible overhaul. For our preschool, each room is decorated in an animal theme (penguins, tigers, lions, camels, etc.) and the animals are pre-school appropriate. The elementary classrooms are decorated in country themes. We have India, Morocco, Mongolia, Ethiopia and more. The "stuff" in the rooms represent daily life in each of those countries. It's an amazing set up and I love roaming through our elementary wing. Our children's pastor is simply brilliantly creative.

Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische


Sunday Strength

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

~Ecclesiastes 4:11-13

Sunday Strength

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische


Backpack Packing

I've probably written about this before and considering it's an annual event, I'll probably write about it again. And again. And again.

It has been my privilege to serve on the Board of Proverbs 31:20 Ministries. Proverbs 31:20 is a ministry that serves hurting women and children in our community. We go into area shelters and clean and refurbish rooms for those women & children who will be, unfortunately, in need of a safe place - some for a day, some for years. We also offer classes to women in our local shelters - classes that help them improve their professional skills, making themselves more marketable and making it easier for them to function in the workplace.

We offer gas and grocery cards - helping those women we serve make it through "one more month" at home - avoiding homelessness. We have counseling available (Biblical) and many other services we offer. Then... there are our events. There are three for the women and children we serve. In May we offer Spa Night, in August we pack backpacks and in December we host our Spirit of Christmas luncheon.

It's August. That means backpacks.

Tonight I head over to my church where I will work with 3 other women to set up 5 Sunday school classrooms. We'll transform them into backpack packing production lines. We're trying something different this year and I'm praying it works as well as it sounds like it will. If it does, it may mean backpacks are not a nightmare for the first time in three years. Tomorrow we will come together with almost 20 volunteers and pack 465 backpacks to be delivered next week to kids eagerly awaiting this year's supplies.

In 2008 I took on backpacks as "my" project for the ministry. It was a tough year to take it over. The previous year had seen a complete meltdown on the part of the coordinator and the Ministry's Executive Director was a bit gun shy about letting someone take over. The problem she ran into, though, was her son's little league team made it to the World Series. It meant she had to turn it over - she was out of town.

So...it came to me. There was soooooo much to do and I threw myself into the project to have a couple of major glitches practically send me screaming for the hills. Our church didn't announce our need for volunteers to help pack so packing day dawns and 5 people show up.

To pack over 500 backpacks.

And the latest any of them stayed was 1PM.

I packed over 300 backpacks on my own that year. I was tired and frustrated and by the time it came to delivery, I wanted to cry. I just wanted it done and didn't care if I ever saw another backpack as long as I lived.

Then there was Cheyenne.

Cheyene was a sweet little girl, beautiful brown hair and big eyes who came skipping up to my van when she saw us unloading the backpacks to ask what time they were going to be handed out. Then she asks if her backpack is pink.

I'm looking at a van filled with over 200 backpacks and I'm thinking there is no way I can find hers in the pile. My son is just grabbing backpacks and handing them to me.

Then...just as I ask her for her name and tell her that we can look for a few seconds but I didn't know if we'd packed her a pink backpack, my son hands me a couple more packs. And you guessed it... one of was labeled for Miss Cheyenne in the 1st grade and it was... yup... pink.

That little girl lit up so brightly I thought I was going to glow. And with that happy smile and those big eyes and bobbing brown hair, she said thank you, gave a little wave and skipped away.

And I melted.

I about cried on the spot. Every ache, pain, sleepless night, sweaty evening spent cramped in a small room at the church trying to get these backpacks packed was totally forgotten.

And I knew God had put me exactly where He wanted me.

And I'd be back.

Last year we tried to do a few things a bit differently. It definitely ran better than 2008 but it wasn't great. It was, however, 623 backpacks that went to children who desperately needed school supplies. The imperfections always melt away in the face of those children.

How much they appreciate us is beyond description. In May, when I was at one of the shelters for Spa Night, mom brought her kids with her. The director there mentioned I was the person who made backpacks happen and the boy came over to me and gave me a giant hug. It was the sweetest thing... and then I found out he's 14. Then I about cried because if you know 14 year old boys, they rarely hug their momma's let alone some strange woman they just met...

It is because of children like Cheyenne and Brad that I keep coming back and will continue to pack backpacks every year this Ministry can offer them. And I'm praying God doesn't slow us down one bit.


England Bound...

The "big event" I've been planning and working toward for the last few months has come and gone. It was a wonderful afternoon and everyone seemed to have a good time. There was definitely plenty of food and if you're ever having a summer afternoon party? Set up an Italian Soda bar. That was a GINORMOUS hit. Everyone seemed to have fun picking a flavor and then mixing up their soda. Some went back for 2nd's, 3rd's...even 4th's so they could try the different flavors.

In case you haven't read this somewhere before, Teixeira is a beautiful young woman I've had the pleasure of knowing since she was 14 (she's now 23). The year I met her I worked with a friend of mine as a co-leader for what our church called SF-12. We were blessed to disciple four young women through a Bible study that year and it was an amazing time for me. Three of those four young women are still a part of my life and me a part of theirs and I wouldn't have it any other way. God saw fit to give me sons to raise but in those three young women He blessed me with my daughters. All three of them have turned into beautiful, poised and amazing young women.

Teixeira and her husband Andrew are leaving for England in a few short days. There, Teixeira will attend Oxford University to earn her Masters degree in Education. It is going to be an exciting year for them and I can't wait to hear about it step by step (Thank God for Facebook!).

One person I do need to mention here in a bit more detail than I normally do is Teixeira's husband, Andrew. I adore Andrew. He is an exceptional young man and I am so happy God put him and Teixeira together. Case in point: this young couple, in order to go to England, must have all of their ducks in a row to do this. That includes having every penny they will need on which to live while they are in England. If they don't have that saved, England doesn't allow them entry.

That's a bit of change - even if you are only two adults with no children.

Andrew has been working at least two but I believe three jobs for the last five months to save up as much money as possible. Three jobs. He's 21. He has put his career on hold so that Teixeira can have this amazing opportunity. He is willing to go overseas - no job, no friends, no family - and spend a year supporting his wife while she lives out this dream.

Her dream. Not his. Yet he's working his tail off to make it happen. How he loves his wife and even if he didn't possess dozens of other wonderful character traits? That one alone would make him the best in my book...

(rabbit trail: I am appalled at how heavy I am!!! Ugh. Before Kenya next year I have a LOT of work to do!)

I see young people all around me making oh-so-very-foolish choices. I hear the way they speak to one another and I cringe.

And then I look at Andrew and and I'm reminded there are still amazing young men out there. There are young men who make good role models, who are responsible and who will be good fathers.

Then I get on my knees and thank God for providing Andrew for Teixeira. She is brilliant, funny, incredible and wonderful. I adore her. It is only a man like Andrew who deserves her. He truly is good enough for her. I know he's better than I could have imagined for her.

So...to the party pictures. There aren't many because, as always, I am a bad blogger and I put my camera down to take care of guests and that's all she wrote... I also type out my typical lament: I need a better camera!

Finally - considering it was the hottest day of the summer to date, my son had plastic covering our windows until 1PM (he finished painting the back side of the house about 12:30) and despite all of my lists, boxes and planning I STILL forgot to put a few things out, everything came out pretty ok.

One last thing I need to mention, a huge thank you to Tricia-Rennea. She was incredibly generous in that she posted the aqua & yellow birds plus the balloons, the "congratulations" and "thank you" banners as clip art on her website. Free. Then... when I asked her about adding the hat and suitcase to the two birds, she did it for me, no charge. She is incredibly talented and wonderful to work with and I am just so grateful for her offering this clip art to us for free (personal use only, of course!). Thank you, thank you, thank you, Tricia!!!

Enjoy the pictures...

Can anyone see the upcoming projects in these pictures? Painting the paneling... changing the kitchen wallpaper... I see dozens!! :)
This young lady, in the blue, is Ashley. She's one of the three young ladies I was fortunate enough to get in my group. She's like Teixeira - bright, beautiful, kind and lovely in every way. Another one I love like a daughter. She deserves her own post...she's so accomplished in her own right. God sure did bless me mightily that year with these three! (The 3rd one is at YWAM in Idaho so... not too much on Oana these days!)

The pinata was a fun addition for the kids. There were a few people missing so not all of the kids I had thought were coming made it but... this worked out great for the girls who were there. I did make Teixeira take a turn before everyone else could but they all had a great time trying to break it. The candy, as melted as it was, was just a bonus. :)

The planters are from Ikea and the stickers are from Michael's. I was absolutely amazed at how much in the way of "travel" stuff Michael's had in my colors. It was like the clouds parted and the sun shone down...right on me.... That NEVER happens!!! I LOVED it!!!!

This was the family room couch as I started to figure out what went where. Notice the plastic on the window?

The Italian Soda bar in the process of being set up... again... the plastic...

I have the perfect-sized kitchen table. Until I throw a party and try to fit all of the food on it!

There is always more food than table. I don't know if you can see them in the picture but the Big Ben I found at Safeway and the red phone booth at Target. Who knew?

The "Suitcase Station." Here I had special cards printed out and asked people to write a note to T on the front and to Andrew on the back. I'll be mailing those off to them both in a few months. Hopefully it will be a good reminder from all of us who love them here at home that they're missed and the time will fly by...

The Photo Booth was meant as a fun way to send some giggles to Andrew & Teixeir while they were gone. Unfortunately, the weather chased everyone indoors and it was just too hot for people to be into the idea of being "silly" for the camera. I have some great pictures of the girls but...no one else went for it.

On the positive side, I have plenty of mustaches & lips for another party!!!

Tables set outside.... too hot for people to use.

But the Italian Soda bar was set up right next to the portable air conditioner. That became "the" spot in the house.

All in all? A GREAT day... and while I am going to miss Andrew & Teixeira while they're in England I know they're in for some amazing experiences and I can't wait to hear all about it!