Sunday, June 22, 2014

To expand on the safety post

I'm linking this blog to another for the sake of reference: The Most Important Article On Safety...

Every bit of my world changed when a certain little boy entered the world. I became less selfish, and I realized how selfish I still was. My needs directly became effected by the needs of another. Many drives, passions, goals and desires shifted. My world would never, could never, be the same, nor would I want it to be. I had been given the sweetest gift that had ever been given.  

Little did I know that such permanent bliss would be paralleled with deep fear. At first it was "is he eating enough," "why is he crying," "is his belly button supposed to look like that?"

Then it was, "hurry, corner protectors on everything, baby gates on every door, in front of every stair, for heaven's sake, LOWER THE CRIB MATTRESS!"

If it wasn't an innocent bite of dog food, or his first spill on the concrete, it was stressing over the peeling (yes, I said peeling) of grapes and on his not so well developed social skills. "Could something be wrong!"

I felt in my heart if he could just be older, more independent, the fear would subside, but as he does get older and he becomes more dependent I see the fear does not subside, it just morphs into a different kind of fear. "Will he be made fun of?" "Is he really safe at school?" "How far is too far? How much is too much?" The questions stream through my head, heavy... burdensome. 

And THEN - I visit social media.  Or THEN I watch the news.  Fear becomes not only present, but overwhelming. It is evident the danger that lurks in the world, and my every choice can keep my children from - or expose them to - said danger. 

It's terrifying, really. 

You think I'm exaggerating.  

Admittedly - I have chosen NOT to visit certain establishments alone with my kids out of fear. I prefer to walk through my neighborhood with my kids only with my husband present. The desire for a gun in my home comes from fear - and produces fear at the slight chance that at some point they could access it despite my efforts to keep it from them, and then - again - I would be at fault for their demise. 

I have said - and do somewhat hold to - my children won't have the freedom to 'ride their bikes through town' as I did.  Half of that is the difference between small town and - well - not small town.  The other half is because people are creeps, and I don't know when creeps are roaming the same road as my kids. 

And I find in this that I mourn.  I mourn the life I wanted my kids to experience.  The simple pleasure of childhood:
being able to watch the street lamps to know when to be home
playing flashlight tag or kick the can throughout the neighborhood
swimming at a friends house - with no outside adult supervision
riding my bike all summer, everyday, from 8 - 4 through town, stopping only for lunch

It's a different world we live in, and I'm praying for guidance on the line we walk on allowing our kids to be kids and parenting them well with their best interest (and safety) in mind.  Mostly, I'm praying with the guidance comes peace from the fear, the fear that my actions will destroy the lives of the very beings I love most.  Be it the food that I feed them, the water I let them swim in, the distance I let them wonder, the homes I let them frequent, the stores in which we visit...

and the lack thereof.  

Because not experiencing life is not the answer.  

Because without the freedom to be independent and make decisions apart from my parents, I wouldn't know that character is built when you're not being watched. 

Because - frankly - I can't keep them in a bubble forever. It is not healthy.  For me. Or for them. 

And as for me and my house - well - we are choosing Jesus.  We choose to trust.  We choose to use the common sense and wisdom He's given, then we choose to lay down fear at the foot of the cross.  We choose to live in the joy of the Lord, rather than the fears of the enemy.  

That is experiencing life, albeit, life different than I had growing up. 

That is building character. 

That is healthy.  

And as always - Jesus is the answer.  

Thursday, June 12, 2014

My 30 by 30 List

There's really no rhyme or reason to this blog, so I'm going to try to make it coherent and readable, and ultimately it's going to end with a list (you do know me, right?), but I'm probably not even going to proof it.



So, if you've been around these whereabouts long enough you can probably figure out a few things about me.  A.) I have dreams.  B.) I'm terrified of failing.  C.) A+B does not equal accomplished dreams.

No need to dwell on the items above.  They've been stated many times.

Just yesterday in scrolling through my facebook feed I came upon a Jim Carrey commencement speech. The two together intrigued me, so I watched it, and I'm so glad I did.  It brought out verbally exactly what I've felt inwardly for years.  I'll link to the video here, but because I'm so much of a sucker for the written word, I needed to see it in front of my face. Here is what he shared:

"Many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality.  What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect so we never dare to ask the universe for it.  I'm saying, 'I'm the proof that you can ask the universe for it.'  My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn't believe that that was possible for him.  And so, he made a conservative choice.  Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was twelve years old he was let go from that safe job, and our family had to do whatever we could to survive.  I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which is that you can fail at what you don't want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love."

Now, the universe comments are a whole other blog post, but as a Christian, I believe we can ask God for the desires of our hearts, and I even believe many of those desires He instills within us.  There's so much I could 'amen' in just that one minute of speech that, had I been there, they may have removed me for  disturbance.

It hit home.

So - that tied in with the fact that I'm nearing 6 months until my 30th birthday (someone explain how that happened...), and I have been teetering with the thought of compiling a list of 30 things to do before I'm 30.

Many of the things on the list don't even touch the possibilities that could come to fruition in my life if I'd only allow myself to dream them and risk for them, but these items are baby steps, some maybe even insignificant, but hopefully will lay the foundation to a confidence boost in feeling as if I can accomplish something small, maybe I can accomplish something larger.

So here it is, in my last 6 months before I leave the 20's (and in no particular order)...

1.)  I plan to try to blog 2-3 times weekly, barring sickness, vacation or other unforeseen circumstances.  (I have to include the contingencies. If I don't, and I miss a day here or there, I've been known to throw in the towel.)

2.)  Learn how to do something to help myself and help others.  (ie: Change the oil in the car, jump start a car, change a tire.  I'm not sure why, it's only car examples I can think of so far.  If any of you have joined in life's journey with us over the past many years, you may understand why :) )

3.) I've attempted this before, but I'm going about it a bit differently this time.  I'm going to accomplish a 6 month photo challenge.  One photo, taken every day, and blogged at the end of the month.

4.)  Tattoo.  (I could spend an eternity here either a.) trying to justify myself or b.) excusing myself if it doesn't end up happening, but ultimately, it's been on the list for sometime, so we are just going to leave it at that.)

5.)  Try a new art class.  (When a friend finally convinced me to go try painting with her, I was shocked at two things.  I liked it, and I wasn't as horrible as I thought I'd be! - Only 1 painting I've done, of many, don't hang in our house daily. - For the fun, I'd like to try a different medium.  Who knows what you might like if you don't try!  I may very well be able to accomplish this one in Hollywood Studies as I try my hand at animation!)

6.)  Buy something off of a stranger's registry just for the fun of it.  (Because doing something kind for someone else is always a win / win.  Maybe I'll try to find another couple that share our names!)

7.)  Originally, I had 'read the chronicles' - as in, Narnia- written on my list, and then I realized I wanted this list to be attainable and not overwhelming.  So I decided that I would set to finish two in this six month time frame (I have 29 other things here, ya know?), and will finish the set out in the years to come.  So for the before 30 sector - The Magicians Nephew & The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

8.)  Again, we are going for success and attainability again.  I need an everyday workout routine to stick to, so I'm starting with an easy set of five exercises, low reps (getting higher each week), in addition to a set amount of walking weekly.   Am I going to become a professional body builder? No.  Will I get stronger. Yes. 

9.) 5k.  Yes, you read that correctly.  This is in conjunction with at least my five year old, and can be walked, ran, or crawled for all I care. 

10.) I want to master five of my mom's recipes.  (It's not a rare occasion that I don't think to myself, "Man, I could sure go for..." insert one of many of my momma's favorites.  It's at those times that I realize that I've carried almost nothing over from my mother's kitchen, mostly because the hubs and I grew up with completely different dinner experiences and our tastes are so much different.  Now that there are two kiddos involved, it's bout time they experience some of Gaga's specialties! On the menu:  Gaga's Italian Beef, Peppered Steak, Chop Suey, Chicken n Dumplings, and Bean / Potato Salad - yes, I know, the last 'one' is two, but they go together quite well!) 

11.) Write letters to 5 influential people.  (Because it does me good to know I've not gotten to where I am by accident, and it does them well to know what they've done has mattered.)

12.) Visit a gun range... and participate.  It's like the old sayin', if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  Well, if you ain't packin' heat in Texas, you ain't beatin' nobody.  My first step is to get comfortable with a gun in my hand. 

13.) Camp Out.  And yes, I mean in a tent, outside, preferably in the woods somewhere. Roast hotdogs and marshmallows, make smores, no electronics, go exploring.  You know, the good ole days. 

14.) Try foods I've never tried. I'm not putting a goal or a stipulation on this.  I'm afraid if I say one, I'll stop at one.  If I say ten, I'll feel it's unattainable, so, when given the opportunity to try something new... I may just do it. 

15.) Plan a dream vacation and start saving for it, even if it's just chump change.  I've already put way too much thought into this, as I expected, but my biggest decision here is going to be 'romantic or family'?  If it's romantic, I want one of those over sea cabanas somewhere in the middle of nowhere.  If it's family (and we aren't counting another trip to Disney in the future, a trip to NYC at Christmas-time or a cruise someday), it'd probably be an RV trek through the west.  (Who AM I???)

16.) Do something spontaneous! Judging from number 15... I'm quite the planner, and I actually thoroughly enjoy planning.  Half the fun of the vacation is planning it!  But I'm well aware there's a thrill of dropping things spur of the moment and just doing something.  So, though I obviously don't know what it is... sometime before mid-December, we're doing something spontaneous.  (Can you plan spontaneity?  I dunno, I think I just did.  Kinda.)

17.) Tell someone 'no' without giving a reason.  I'm not going to lie, I stole this from another when I was thinking about things that were really important to me, and it stuck.  I'm a people pleaser by nature.  Over the years I've been able to say 'no', but most of the time I feel obligated to give an exaggerated reason as to why I cannot.  I'm going to feel the liberation of just saying, 'no'.

18.)  Have a Mental Health Day.  We've agreed to give our kids one once a semester once they are in school.  So, why do I not take these occasionally?  No kids.  Just me.  A whole day. 

19.) Make a 40 Before 40 List.  Because, somethings you just need more time for.

20.) Purchase something I really love that I wouldn't normally purchase.  I'm not going to say this is going to be lavish.  We don't do 'lavish' right now, I'm just saying that I'm not going to talk myself out of something, just one time, in the next 6 months. 

21.) Attempt one DIY project.  I'm thinking, maybe refinishing something?  Something I can work, see and feel accomplished.  

22.) Go to DISNEY WORLD!  It's already on the books!

23.) Learn my cameras better.  Hopefully this will be part of the 6 month photo challenge.

24.)  Learn how to fix hair, and do it.  This benefits not only me, but Ansley too.  You'd think by 30 I'd accomplish something aside from "straighten", but that pretty much sums it up.  

25.) Go to a Mavs game.  This may seem menial, but I've done MLB, NFL, and NHL, and even pro-golf, it just seems fitting to get them all in in 30 years. 

26.) Go have my makeup done.  And have them teach me how to do it properly.  

27.) Care less what others think.  Which I'm getting surprisingly better at in my age.  Dressing up for halloween at Disney with the kids this year and LOOKING FORWARD to it! :)

28.) Build a sandcastle with my kids at the ocean.  Two accomplishments in one.  I've never built a sandcastle (I know!), and I've never been with both of my kids at the beach, and neither one where they could really react to it.

29.) Journey the 'World' and learn some new things about countries I've not actually seen.  This is at Disney World, of course, and traveling the countries there.  We are devoting a whole day to it, we'll see how it goes!  

30.) Start and make good progress on that book I've mentioned 100 times.  I have no intentions of forcing it done by the end of 2014, but have high hopes for the end of 2015!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Dry Ground

We moved to Texas almost three years ago.  We came in the midst of selling our previous home, with hopes of quickly buying a new home here.  We didn't feel that our expectations - or our 'want list', if you will - were very complicated.  It appeared something like:

  • Within Budget (first priority)
  • At least 3 bedrooms
  • Basement
  • Garage
  • 2 full baths
  • An extra space of some sort (and the garage doesn't count, though people in Texas, for whatever reason, believe that it does.)
Somewhere at about the 'garage' point things become more "wants" than necessities.  They are high on the priority list, but not deal breakers.  The garage vaguely fit the deal breaker category, but many of the homes in our price range, surprisingly, had garages.  Little did we know, a garage would be the least of our worries.  It was the basement that threw us off guard.  

When we sat down with our realtor the first time to explain our wants / needs, we read her our list and she literally laughed out loud (LOL) when we read the word 'basement'.  

Aaron and I saw no humor in the matter and stared at each other like deer in headlights.  What was so funny? 

It was then that she explained to us that homes in Texas just aren't built with basements.  The ground cannot support them, and in thirty years of selling real estate, she had sold one... yes, one... house with a basement.  

For a Southern Illinois girl who lives in a basement during storms, this was less than settling. 

Once I finally, yet unwillingly, wrapped my head around the idea that a basement was out of the picture, we began looking at homes.  We put in offers on not one, not two, not even three homes.  It was home number 4 that we ended up settling in, but lovely Texas soil reared it's ugly head in our dream house number 3. 

Perfect space, perfect square footage, fantastic back yard, ideal neighborhood.  They even accepted our 'perfect price'.  Fast forward to the inspection and $17,000 worth of hidden foundational problems were found.  Not only that, the problems were so bad, the foundation repair company that always brings their work with 100% lifetime guarantee said 'NO WAY' to guaranteeing it... ever... at all.  

That didn't sound like a popular resale, so we bowed out.  Our realtor agreed it was a great move, but her comment next stuck with me, "If you own a house in Texas, you own some kind of a foundational problem."  


And I'm sure you wonder where all of this is heading.  (Don't worry, so do I.)

The longer we've lived here, the more we have learned.  Foundation problems here are due to drought.  The ground is not a little dry, it's way dry.  Walk around an area that's not 'watered' and you will see large, sometimes gaping, cracks in the ground.  The cracks are unsettling enough that you wonder if you are standing atop the next yahoo news thread of a sinkhole.  

For this reason, it's not uncommon for people to have sprinkler systems.  This seemed like a lavish upgrade for us at first, we quickly learned they are all but standard, and they aren't just so your grass is green.  They also own soaker hoses.  These hoses lay along the outside of your foundation and 'water' your foundation, because those big nasty cracks I mentioned previously, yeah, they'll show up under your house (read: eventually in your foundation) if that ground is not kept watered.   (And, another fun fact, most DON'T own gutters, because they WANT the rain to run off their houses near the foundation.)

The vicious circle comes in the drought that we are perpetually in.  This means that our foundation is not being watered naturally through rain, but normally means that we are under water restriction DUE to the drought which limits how much we can water.  That, my friends, = foundation problems.  

Moving forward. 

And for the first time I felt a vested interest in these lyrics: 
"In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song. 
This cornerstone, this solid ground, 
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm."

Did I mention we found a large crack through our garage floor the other day?  We did.  It's devastating, really.  I mean, when you are on a tight budget all you hear are dollars 'cha ching, cha ching,' whether it comes in the form of fixing, or loss in selling, it's dollar signs.  It's worry.  It's uneasiness.  

But this morning, when we sang those words, I appreciated it for the first time.  My foundation.... not the foundation of my house, but the foundation that I stand on perpetually, eternally, is crack free.  It is not uneasy.  It requires no worry.  There is no sinkhole looming, ready to swallow me up.  No drought strong enough can shake it.  My foundation, yes, my foundation is firm. 

And those storms I was worried about.  You remember?  The entire reason I needed that basement... yeah... they say - in homes without basements - you should gather in the most interior room, under stairs if possible, and if there is a commode, you should hang on to the commode (the plumbing runs deeper than the sinks... who knew?).  Risking sounding sacrilegious, Jesus is better than any commode. His truth runs deeper.  There is no storm that can shake me, be it physical or figurative, because my foundation IS Jesus.  

When the cornerstone is strong, the entire structure remains sound.  When Jesus is my foundation, there is nothing that can shake me.  My I remain strong in the Lord, pressing into Him, and standing confident on His promises.  

The ground may be dry, the storm may be fierce, but I shall not be shaken.