Thursday, November 12, 2015

The One Where I Quit

In the words of the great Kenny Rogers, "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run...."

I've tried.  I've really, really tried to keep up the blog this year, but I just can't. 

To be completely honest, I'm in so much inner turmoil right now that most days it takes most of my focus and energy to just get through the day.  And whatever additional focus I do have needs to be spent on other things than blogging.  Let's face it, I wasn't cranking out winners this year anyway.  

The Byrds told us (and so did the Bible, actually) that there is a season for everything.  As much as I wanted to fit writing into this season of my life, I've realized that it's not to be.  Maybe at some point in the future I'll be in a place to pick it up again.  But I've decided not to force it for the next 18 days and make myself sick over it.

I feel sad.  I feel like I'm letting myself down, as well as you, my very few but faithful readers. I'm actually tearing up a little as I write this.  I feel like I've failed.  But I also know that I need to try and let myself off the hook.  

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and hope that you're able to spend time with those you love.

Until I return...  
Love to you all.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Childhood Gifts

I had the day off today and I decided to spend it Christmas shopping.  I really want to have everything purchased, wrapped, and under the tree by the time my first offspring comes home for his Christmas break.  I would like to be able to spend those last two weeks having fun and doing things with my family, not running around to get last minute presents taken care of.  However, since that’s only one month away, I needed to get started.

As I was walking around the mall checking things off of my list, I was reminded of my infamous Christmas gift from 1983. This particular gift has been referenced in our family each and every Christmas since, often popping up in conversations around birthdays or anniversaries as well.  I’m about to let you in on some classic Reed lore.

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, and gift giving has always been extremely important to me.  While I love to receive gifts, I also love to give gifts to my family.  My parents always fostered this and even before I was earning my own money, they would give me money to go and buy gifts for them and for my grandparents.  When I was a kid, the gifts weren’t necessarily awesome, but I did try to think of things that they would like.  I remember once when I was about eleven years old, my best friend and I were dropped off at the Mission Valley Mall and I had about $20 to do all of my Christmas shopping; I was able to get gifts for my parents and all four of my grandparents at the drug store that was next to May Company.  I was so excited!  That was also the day that I knocked the mannequin over in May Company and broke the escalator and thought that I was going to be sent to jail.  But I digress…

In 1983, when I was eight years old and not old enough to go shopping without a grown-up, my grandma took me to K-Mart to do my Christmas shopping.  While I don’t remember what I got everyone else that year, I DO know what I got for my dad.  As Christmas morning approached, I couldn’t wait for him to open his gift from me.  I was So. Freaking. Excited.  When the moment finally arrived and he opened his present, he smiled, gave me a big hug, and thanked me.  He was now the proud owner of….

The Return of the Jedi Soundtrack.

You know, because he totally wanted that.  Or maybe, just maybe, I wanted that.  Let’s face it, while my pops didn’t mind the movies, there was only one Star Wars junkie in the house and she was eight years old.  I’m sure that, as parents do, he saw right through me.  But my dad is so wonderful; he acted like it was the best present that he’d ever received.  My grandma gets a few props too, for letting me purchase it “for him” and not making me put it back and think harder for something that he’d actually like.

That cassette lived in our brown, VW Vanagon for years.  My dad probably listened to it a time or two; I listened to it all the time.  And by the time the next Christmas rolled around, a new phrase had worked its way into our vocabulary.  Any time that someone in our family gave something to someone else that benefited them (the giver) in some way, it was referred to as a Return of the Jedi Gift.  It’s never said maliciously, and we all really do try to get gifts that the recipient will love.  It’s just our good-natured way of giving each other a hard time.  For example, if Mom bought some chocolate chip ice cream at the store so that everyone could have some, my butter pecan loving dad would tell her that she got us all a real Return of the Jedi gift.  If I went to the store tonight and bought some Peppermint Oreos for “us,” Andy would accuse me of getting a Return of the Jedi gift.  When I surprised Andy with a trip to Vegas for our 5th Anniversary, that was pretty much a Return of the Jedi gift.

It’s good-natured, it’s all in fun, but it’s a constant reminder of my childhood and the parents and grandparents that I was blessed with.

Oh, and the cassette?
Yep.  I’ve still got it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Oily Thoughts

I don’t sleep well.  Like, it’s a serious problem.  In the last fifteen years or so, I can count one hand the number of times that I’ve slept through the night.  I’m not kidding; I don’t know what it’s like to go to bed at bedtime and then wake up when the alarm goes off.

Because I love sleep so much and was pretty desperate, back in January I decided to give Essential Oils a try.  I have a number of smart friends who use them (and swear by them).  So today I thought I’d share my ten favorite oils (so far).

1. Lavender.  I’m pretty picky about my lavender scents, but the one that I have (combined with a few other oils) does seem to help me sleep a little bit better

2. Lemongrass.  Not only is it a component in my homemade pain cream, but it’s one of my favorite scents to diffuse in the summertime.

3 Sandlewood.  This is what I would add to the lavender for bedtime if I could afford it.  So wonderful, yet one of the more pricey ones.

4 Breathe Again.  A blend that comes in a roller ball so that I can carry it in my purse and use it when I’m congested?  Yes please!

5 Mel-A.  The bomb for cold sores.  And probably a bunch of other things.  But I haven’t tried it for other things yet.

6 Bergamot.  Something new that I’m trying with the lavender.  I’m thinking that it might be helping.

7 Stress Away.  Hands down my favorite scent to apply.  I don’t know if it actually takes the stress away, but the smell makes me super happy and helps me to focus and calm down when I need it.

8 Peppermint.  I’ve used this for all things tummy.  Pretty effective.

9 Tranqil.  A sleepy-time blend in a roller ball…I apply this one at night while I’m diffusing the others.

10 Joy.  This is my very favorite to diffuse.  It makes the whole house smell so yummy wonderful.

There are a lot more oils out there; we'll see if I start to use them more in time.
I have some others, but I haven't necessarily figured out what to do with them.
For now, I'm pleased with these.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Easier Said Than Done

finish each day and be done with it.
you have done what you could.
some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can.
tomorrow is a new day.
you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered by your old nonsense.


This is the second magnet that I purchased for the refrigerator, and there are a couple of things that I really do love about it.  

First is the line about forgetting the blunders and absurdities as soon as you can; and secondly, the part about not beginning a new day with your old nonsense.  You see, while I may be good at a few things, I’m absolutely terrible when it comes to extending grace to myself. 

When I fall on my face and make mistakes, whether they are trivial little things or big, life-altering poor decisions, I have an extremely hard time letting them go.  I don’t mean that they should be completely forgotten immediately and that there should be no consequences for our choices, but at some point I need to ask forgiveness or choose a different path (whatever the situation warrants) and then move on.  Living in the perpetual funk of guilt isn’t healthy.  Beating myself up for the same thing over and over and over again isn’t going to help me make better choices the next time.  In fact, it seems that the more I tell my myself what a horrible person I am, the more I start to believe it.  And let's face it, nothing good is going to happen at that point.
So I love Emerson’s quote. 
I also love the way The Message puts 1 Peter 5:7:
Live carefree before God; He is most careful with you.

Living carefree before God…how freeing of an idea is that?

So I can cast all of my cares His way, made adjustments to my life as needed, and then begin each new day without the weight of my old nonsense.

It certainly sounds like a better alternative to guilt and regret. 
If only it weren't so hard to put in to action.  

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The One About John

I know I've kind of cheated with pictures these last few days.  Oh well, life is like that sometimes.  I'll start writing again tomorrow.  I just couldn't write posts about our weekend with Matthew without giving John a few minutes too...

Like I said last night, I am so thankful that the boys chose schools that are reasonable close to each other.  They're only about 100 miles apart, so whenever we are visiting one, we generally see the other as well.  As you know, we spent the weekend with Matthew, so today we drove up to see John.

My firstborn.
One who gives the best hugs ever.
A guy who would do anything for you.  
Someone who never lets life's curve balls get him down.
The one who just found out that he made the Dean's List last quarter.
And a guy who never turns down the Never Ending Pasta Bowl.
The first one to capture my heart completely nearly twenty years ago; one who will have it forever.  
My John.

Who doesn't love loading up on carbs at 11:00am?


Saturday, November 7, 2015

My Day in Pictures

We started the day at our favorite
coffee joint in Carpenteria.
The next stop was Crushcakes.
It was tasty, but I decided that my
Limoncello Cupcakes are just as good.

The water was so blue today.
Top Gun Part 2?  :-)

For some reason, I love train tracks.

We stumbled across a store closing sale at Haggen's.
Hooray for 50% off!

After our morning activities, we picked up the kid.
He'd suggested coming back to the hotel to play games,
but he promptly settled in for a nap instead.
I guess college wears him out!

Once he woke up, it was time to eat.
Taking a page of out his brother's playbook,
he chose to go to Outback.

After dinner, we came back to the hotel, saved the world again,
(dang, we're good at that game), and then took one
last picture before returning him to school.

We walked over eight miles today.
Now I'm curled up with a drink in my hand and a football game on TV.  
It's been a great two days up here visiting Matthew; tomorrow we get to see John.  
I'm so thankful that they ended up at schools that are reasonably close together. 
Yay for long weekends, visits with your kids, and time away with your hubby!


Friday, November 6, 2015

The One About Matthew

I quoted a movie line last November that said, in essence, the hardest part of parenting is letting go.  I can't say definitively that it's the hardest; I’m willing to concede that there could be something more difficult down the road.  However it’s certainly been the hardest part for me so far.

When our firstborn left three years ago, it was rough because everything was new; it was a season of firsts.   First college visits, first applications, first time one of the littles left the roost, first holiday or special occasion without the four of us being together...first everything.  Oh, and it was even the first serious illness!  It never occurred to me when we left him that he'd contract and fight something significant that would entail hospital visits, narcotics, and the eventual medical leave of absence from school.  There were so many firsts and it really did take a while to get used to the new dynamic.

When our younger son left this past August, it was brutal in a whole new way, as everything seemed like a last.  All throughout his senior year, really, I struggled with the lasts.  Last birthday (for me) with any of my children living with me, last Mother's Day with a kid home, last drive to the high many lasts.  While (thankfully) they come home to visit, it's never quite the same once they're adults and have been living on their own.  We truly did close the door to a significant chapter in our lives and it's been rather difficult to navigate at times.  It's been very hard to let go.

I must say though, there’s a certain peace that comes with knowing that your child is in the best possible place.  (This applies to John too, but I'm going to speak of Matthew now.)

When we began looking for a new church home almost four years ago, I had no idea that the Lord was already setting His plan for Matthew's (college) life into motion.  Looking back, there were so many things that worked together and led Matthew to Westmont College.  It really was (and continues to be) an answer to prayer.  I miss Matthew terribly, but I can honestly say that he is at Westmont because Christ used some phenomenal people and opened some pretty big doors to allow him to be there.  He's right where God wants him to be, of that I am certain.  And that is a pretty wonderful thing.

I'm so thankful to be up here for the weekend.  I love him so very much.  

Somebody is tired and not in the mood to have his picture taken!
This was right before we headed in to Multivariable Calculus and my head exploded.

After dinner we had to come back to the hotel and save the world.
You can sleep well tonight; all four diseases have been eradicated.
You're welcome.

There's the face I love.

The tables have turned!  I'm the one who is tired now!

Such a great day; I can't wait to see what tomorrow's adventures bring!
(Spoiler alert....the next few posts might just be more pictures.  Don't say I didn't warn you.)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

With A Little Help From My Friends

This morning I Googled sayings about friends. 

I came across the ever popular (yet slightly true): “Good friends don’t let you do stupid things…alone.”  

I liked this one: “A good friend knows all of your stories; a best friend has lived them with you.”

This one rang quite true for me, “A true friend is someone who sees the pain in your eyes while everyone else believes the smile on your face.”

I’m pretty good at painting a smile on my face; I think we all are, really.  We tend to let people see only what we want them to see and nothing more.  We’re proficient at putting up barriers and pretending that everything is just fine.  Part of it is common sense.  I am asked at least one hundred times a day (at work) how I’m doing.  In most cases, it wouldn't be appropriate to answer anything other than the usual, “I’m great, thanks!”  But sometimes, my insides are screaming at me, “I’m NOT great!  I’m feel like I’m being swallowed up with sadness/anger/guilt/confusion etc.”

This seems especially true, for me at least, at church.  I've perfected the Sunday Smile and am able to, for a few hours, pretend that everything is excellent when in reality my life is a mess.  Have you done that?  I’ll bet you have.  Even if your life isn't in some kind of a major upheaval, think about the times when you've had an argument with your spouse or a rough morning with your kids, and then you pull into the church parking lot, affix the smiles, and off you go as if life were all hearts and flowers. 

I’m not picking on churches here, please don’t get me wrong.  I’m simply pointing out that even in the place where it should be safe and acceptable to be our authentic selves, we tend to hide it.  While it is fine and appropriate that we are guarded when we choose to be, after all we shouldn't be blubbering idiots all the time, it’s terribly important that we have people that we can be open and honest with, people with whom we can be our true selves regardless of what that looks like. 

That being said, I've got a few friends, a few friends who are extremely dear to me, who are able to easily look past the smile and see the real me.   God has blessed me with a few friendships that have grown over years, decades really, of walking through life together.  They know me, the real me, and for some unexplained reason they still seem to like me!  In the past year I have leaned on them far more than ever before, and they have been there.  They love me unconditionally, they comfort me when I’m hurting, and they call me on the carpet when I've done something stupid.  Whether is a huge crisis or a late-night-before-you’re-leaving-town toothache, they’re there for me. 

So here’s one last quote, just for them.

“Here’s to the nights that turned into mornings with friends that turned into family.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

An Unpopular Opinion

I probably should have titled this post, “The One Where I Talk About A Problem Without Offering A Solution.”

Unless you’ve been seriously avoiding the news lately, you’re probably aware of the current refugee crisis.  As all manner of terrible things continue to take place in the Middle East, people are streaming in to other countries unchecked, and in unheard of numbers. 

I’m not going to debate the wisdom (or lack thereof) of various countries taking in so many people at such a rapid rate; I have my own thoughts on that, but they’re an argument for another day.  I will say, however, that if a nation is going to allow such massive amounts people to stream in, they should have a reasonable plan in place on how to deal with them.  To do otherwise, as is happening now, is simply irresponsible. 

To my point, let’s talk about Sumte.  It’s a tiny little town in Germany, and when I say tiny, I mean TINY.  There are only 102 residents and the town barely has any infrastructure.  There are no schools, no shops, no law enforcement, and only the most skeleton of public transportation systems.  This little town was informed recently by their regional government officials that they are going to be required to take in 750 refugees.  Did you catch that?  Did you do the math?  There are only 102 people in the town to begin with, and they’re being forced to take in 750 more!  Insanity.

Apparently the town has some empty government buildings so that’s why they were chosen to house so many, but this is happening all over Germany.  When residents of Sumte heard their particular news and asked for a police force to be formed to provide protection for everyone, there request was excused as being “excessive.”  Apparently the people were told that all would be well and that they shouldn’t worry about any crime because the town’s streetlights would remain lit all night.  Yep.  No crime.  Because the lights will be on.  How laughable!  These aren’t your run-of-the-mill law abiding German citizens, these are people with very different ideas of what law and order (or not) should look like; stories are already coming in from all over Germany reporting rises in both theft and bodily injury since the influx of refugees began. 

I don’t’ see how this can end well.  The German culture, in many ways their way of life, is being threatened by these careless open-door policies.  The people coming in aren’t going to just assimilate, their numbers are far too great for that.  I’m afraid that we’re going to see crime and violence increase over time.  And people are na├»ve to think that all of these people, many of them “healthy young men,” are just poor victims of Middle East turmoil.  At best, many of these people are opportunists just taking advantage of easy access to the European nations; I fear that far too many are those who are just biding their time and positioning themselves to do great and untold harm to the civilized world.

There’s got to be a better system; there has to be some way to help those who are truly in need but to also keep a nation’s borders and citizens safe.  Letting the masses in as Germany is doing isn’t the way.  Closing the borders and aiding no one isn’t the answer either.  There has to be a middle ground.  I just hope that it’s found before it’s too late.  Germany may in part have sealed their fate; I pray that something changes before the same thing happens here in America.  

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Five Plus Five Does Equal Ten

Lists are so awesome.
Hooray for Tuesdays!

Five Less-Than-Fantastic Things About Having An Empty Nest

1.  No games.  My hubs really doesn't like to play games, so when they're gone, I really miss my game buddies.

2.  Less exuberant laughter.  AC and I do laugh at things, but lets face it...teenagers laugh in a much more infectious way.

3.  Coming home to an empty house.  My #1 son has always been so good at running down the stairs to greet me when I get home from work (he still does it when he's home on breaks); I miss him.  It's too quiet when I get home.

4.  A smaller labor pool.  For  years I never had to vacuum or carry in the groceries.  That was nice while it lasted!

5.  Not nearly as much guitar playing.  There aren't enough words to express how much I miss hearing my #2 son play the guitar on a daily basis.  Seriously.

However...not to be too negative.....

Five Totally GREAT Things About Having An Empty Nest

1.  Freedom to come and go.  Technically I've been able to come and go for years as the boys have been self sufficient for quite a while. Still, it's different when they still live with you.  It's nice not having to worry about anyone else's schedule.

2.  Every night is a date night.  Enough said.

3.  Meats and cheese and wine.  It's so freeing not to feel pressure to put a big meal together for growing people.  Meat, cheese and wine is one of our favorites.  So simple, yet so good!

4.  The grocery shopping is easier.  Gone are the days when I have to buy six gallons of milk at a time!  It's amazing how few groceries the two of us really need.

5.  The house says clean!  There's something pretty awesome about the house being as clean and tidy at 5pm as it was when I left it at 8am.

As with any journey, this transition into an empty nest has had it's ups and downs.
Still...I'm thankful that there are happy things to balance out the moments when I miss my kiddos.

(And I may be counting the days until Thanksgiving; I can't wait to have all of my people in the same room at the same time!)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Words From Across The Pond

Today I'm starting a new series;  it’s only five weeks long so it will fit perfectly with the five Mondays that we have in November.

During a de-cluttering phase that I went through back in January, I got rid of everything that was on my refrigerator.  You, various magnets, notes, etc.  I had never thought about it before, but it was actually stressing me out - the constant look of disarray was really starting to bug me.  It was such a simple thing, but I was so happy when I was able to look at the clean, white refrigerator.

Over the course of the year, I’ve collected five new magnets that now reside there.  Before you think I’ve gone and cluttered it all up again, let me assure you that it still looks wonderfully tidy.  All of the magnets are white with black lettering, and they’re all the same size!  (Uniformity makes so very happy.)  They align perfectly along the top and they serve as reminders to me whenever I need a kick in the pants or a little extra help getting through the day.  I thought that I’d share them with you (in the order that I purchased them); perhaps at some point they will encourage you as they have me.

The first one is a reasonably famous quote by Winston Churchill.  It reads:

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

So simple and yet so profound.

How often do we find ourselves in the middle of difficulty and we’re so paralyzed with fear, indecision, or pain that we do nothing?  We just remain there as if we're physically stuck.  I’ve been there lately more times than I care to count.  I love being able to read this simple quote and be jarred to movement.  It reminds me that I don’t need to have all of the answers, I don’t even necessarily need to have a coherent plan, but I do need to do something.  Sitting and wallowing in whatever hell I find myself in doesn’t help me; taking a step and looking for a solution, even if I change paths a million times before finding the right path, is a good thing.  It’s doing something.  It's being proactive.  It’s not giving up and allowing myself to be defined by or controlled by my circumstances.

So I'm trying, with a little help from Winston, to remember to keep going.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Undefeated

I spent this evening watching a football game.  The Broncos (officially my team these days, but that's another story) were hosting the Packers.  Neither team had lost a game yet, so the graphics going into each commercial break showed a big banner that read, "The Undefeated." Normally I am able to tune out silly graphics, but for some reason the words stuck with me and I began to notice them each time they popped up.  

About halfway through the game, I realized that today is indeed November 1st and therefore the beginning of yet another NaBloPoMo.  Earlier this year I had thought about participating again, but honestly I haven't thought about it in months.  Suddenly, I was faced with making an immediate decision.  After all, there are only a handful of hours left in the day!  All of the usual doubts filled my mind: I don't have enough time, I don't have anything interesting to say, nobody reads it or cares about it anyway, why bother blogging one month of the year and then letting it sit dormant for the other eleven months...  The list went on and on.  Still, I couldn't shake a nagging feeling of failure if I let it go.  This would be the eighth year of Snow Comes Up; I'm not great at this, but am I really ready to call it quits?  Was this just my OCD talking, or was this really something that I wanted to do?

As my brain argued with itself and I continued to cheer Denver on to another victory (wahoo!), I finally put it all together:  the blogging, the doubts, and the football game.  

This year has been hard.  Ridiculously hard.  I have struggled in ways that I had never imagined and had to walk down a path that I never thought would be required of me.  My life, in many ways, has been turned upside down.  I have felt, for so much of this year, completely and utterly defeated.  I don't mean that in a flippant and cliche kind of way; I have been completely broken and have had to fight each and every day to put all of the pieces back together.  Defeated.  

Except that I'm not. and the goofy NBC graphic reminded me of that.  As I read "The Undefeated" over and over, 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 came to mind.  Actually, it hit me like a ton of bricks!  It reads:

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."

While walking through dark moments, it is easy for me to feel crushed, to despair, to feel abandoned and destroyed.  To feel defeated.  But that's a lie.  That's the enemy talking.  The reality is that I am, in fact, none of those things.  I may be going through times of trial, but I am being held by a Father who created me (Psalm 139) and who has delivered me (Psalm 56:13).  

I am...Undefeated.

How does this all relate to the blog, you ask?  Well, it really doesn't.  Except that it was a reminder to me that even in the muck of this life, there is hope.  There can be healing.  There can be restoration.  And there can be normalcy.  And for that reason, I will try my hand at writing again this month.  I will continue to put one foot in front of the other, I will remember Who holds me, and I will once again try to find the joy in putting even my most ridiculous thoughts to paper (well, to the Internet) this year.  And I promise you, some will be exceedingly ridiculous.  Will I complete all thirty days?   I have no idea.  

But regardless, I am undefeated.