Being a Good Samaritan

Do you know what’s not hard?  Doing the right thing.

Teddy Roosevelt quote 1

Two winters ago (this one is pretty much over, so two it is), I witnessed a horrific roll-over accident on the highway directly in front of me.  I slammed on my brakes, put my flashers on, put my car in park (in the middle of the highway, mind you – rather stupid, but whatever), got out and superhumanly (seriously, I do not know how I did it) opened a crunched up car door on an upside down car and pulled two young women out of the car.  I was joined by another person in the scene, a man.  I never got his name, but he, too superhumanly opened a crunched up car door, laid on his stomach on the highway, and helped pull out two young women.  He had to have hurt himself scooting through the broken glass and mangled car (the side he was on was in much worse shape than the side I was on).  Yet, he reacted similarly.  We both made sure the young women were safely by the side of the highway and then he disappeared; he left the scene and went on his way.  It took 5, maybe 10 minutes of his time, to help save the lives of those young women.  I stayed, gave my statement to the police because I witnessed the entire accident, and then left to head home and hug my children 500 million times, especially my then 15 year old daughter who had her learners permit.

Fast forward to a few days ago, my oldest son and I were at the grocery store.  We were minding our own business and walking down the main aisle of the store when we saw a woman slip and fall about 40 feet away.  She landed hard on her hip.

In a split second here’s what I saw: a man right next to her who looked at her and then looked away and continued doing what he was doing; 2 other people in the same section of the store who also ignored the situation (even though she was obviously crying out in pain); numerous people walk by her to use the bathroom and just glancing at her as though she didn’t matter.

In a split second here’s what I did: told my son we have to see if she’s okay and ran to her side.  I was able to determine that she was significantly hurt and that she had two grandchildren with her (who happened to be in the bathroom).  I stayed at her side until another woman joined me, about 30 seconds later, who was a medical assistant (which is definitely someone more knowledgeable than me with regard to medical situations) and then I asked her if I could go get her grandchildren from the bathroom.  My son, thankfully, grabbed our shopping cart (with my purse!) and parked himself out of the way.  I retrieved her two granddaughters who, scarily, came with me without hesitation.  At this point a store employee was on site and was making a phone call.  I asked the woman who fell if there was someone I could call to get her grandchildren and make aware of the situation.  I then called her daughter.  Then I told her that I would take her grandchildren to go look at the fish in the pet department.  At this point, she was in the care of the store employees and there was nothing more I could do.  I simply didn’t want her grandchildren to see her in so much pain.  For the next 20 minutes, my son and I entertained two little girls with fish, cat food (?), and kitchen utensils.  Not for a moment did I question my decision to help.  (Obviously some details are left out, but hopefully you get the general idea of the situation).

I have no idea what ended up happening with that woman other than she was taken out of the store on a stretcher, but I do know how disappointed I was in my fellow humans.  I could not believe how many people ignored this woman’s pain!  It took me less than 2 seconds to respond.  If she had been okay, I would have let her be.   She was definitely NOT okay and the only problem I had was that it took me 25 minutes longer to grocery shop than I had planned.  Big stinkin’ deal.

Why were people so afraid to intervene?  Are we so jaded as a society that the mantra “Not my problem” comes into play when someone is injured?  Are we so afraid that someone will sue us for helping them?  What is the big deal?  I, seriously, do not understand it.  Is the community I live in so snooty that most of our residents only do for themselves (this is a generalization)?  I was embarrassed for my town and for that woman’s family having to be on the receiving end of such selfishness. Something is seriously flawed, people.

My son, who is 14, said to me when we got in the car, “The worst part of the entire thing is that you were the first person to help and you were not even near that lady.”  I just nodded because I couldn’t have agreed more.   I do realize that sometimes, there is nothing we can do.  Some situations aren’t safe for us to intervene or to help with, but there is always something we can do to make it better (call the police or EMS or make someone aware of the situation who is in a position to help.  There is always something we can do, somehow).  My husband said, after I filled him in on the events of the afternoon said, “It doesn’t surprise me.  We’re Christians.  That’s what we do.  Most people don’t do what we do (in those situations).”

My hope and my prayer is that my son learned a valuable lesson and, even though it was inconvenient for us, it didn’t ruin our day, it didn’t make us late for anything (and even if it did, we wouldn’t have acted any differently).  There was no reason not to help.  I don’t think I did anything worth praising, so please don’t think that’s what I’m searching for.  I’m simply trying to call attention to the fact that SO many people did nothing.  NOTHING.  What if I hadn’t acted?  What if I, too, turned and walked away?  What if that woman had laid there, crying in pain, for 15 minutes?  What if no one had thought to get her grandchildren away from the area so they didn’t have to see their grandmother in so much pain?  What if humanity never helped each other?  Thankfully, we won’t know.

MLK Quote

And for those of you wondering, the real story of the Good Samaritan can be found here: Luke 10:25-37, in the Bible.

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Just to be part of the team

I have three children.  All three are involved with STUFF.  All three need rides, need shoes and equipment, need practices, need special food/beverages; they are NEEDY.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I am a competitive mom – not the sugar coat it with “great job, good effort” mom.  I’m the “if you did this or this or this different, you’d have made that basket (or the tackle or caught the ball)” mom.  Not a real pretty character trait and definitely not one I want to pass on to my children.  It’s so bad my children and husband don’t usually want to play board games with me because I will do whatever WHATEVER it takes to win.  I hate to lose, always have.  I have trash-talked to my own children (even when they were preschoolers.  I am NOT going to lose at Memory to a 4 year old.  It just isn’t going to happen).  One of my coaches in high school told me second place is the first loser.  That has stuck with me forever.

“Second place is the first loser.” ~ most motivating (and flawed) coach of my life

Just recently, I’ve realized how significantly flawed I am.  My children are encouraged to participate in something so they aren’t bored, so they are part of something bigger than themselves.  Yet, I do not allow them to be themselves if there’s a win or loss to be recorded.  I sometimes push them so hard they begin to hate the things they are in, but only because I make it not fun for them anymore. Why oh why is this so hard for me?

Youth sports are supposed to be fun.  They are supposed to teach kids to love the game, the event, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, leadership, teamwork, how to win gracefully and lose gracefully.  Yet, I’m pushing, yelling, and thinking I’m being helpful.  Newsflash: I’m not.  I’m the worst kind of parent at moments like these.

Now, my saving grace is that I try not to say these things in the arena’s they are performing in (whether it is a theatre, a playing field, or other venue).  I do, however, say things immediately upon entering the car.  Ugh.

I love sports.  I love football the most.  I don’t follow certain players or teams too closely, but I understand the game and the strategy…and I love it.  My daughter is fortunate that she never showed even a little interest in wanting to play football (although she is impressively knowledgeable about the game itself).  For my sons, fortunate isn’t probably the word they would use.  This past year my oldest son played football with a group of extremely athletic and competitive kids.  They weren’t a great team compared to the other teams they played, but they had heart, seriously.  My frustration came when my son wasn’t getting playing time even if they were losing by over 20 points (I mean, really, the game is pretty much over at that point, play the second string, coach).  He isn’t the biggest kid or the fastest or the strongest, but when he’s on the field, he is trying.   I know that at the level he played it wasn’t about equal playing time for youth sports; it was about winning.  I completely support that theory.  However, when you’re losing by a major margin, give some kids a chance to have game experience.  Anyway, long story short, I asked my son after a few of these kinds of games if he was having fun.  He said, “Yep.  It’s fun to be on the team.”  Silence from this mother.  What?!?  I thought to myself, Don’t you want to win? Don’t you want to play more?  Why don’t you try harder to get more playing time?  Then I realized, for him and likely lots of other kids, he doesn’t care if he doesn’t play in game situations.  He literally just wants to be on the team, part of something bigger than himself.  He just enjoys the camaraderie, the brotherhood, the TEAM.

Fast forward a few months to my youngest and his experience with basketball.  This was not a good situation for multiple reasons, but at the end I was not interested in attending the team party because it didn’t make sense to me since they never won a game and what was there to celebrate?!?!  My husband gave me a look (THE look) and said, “I’ll take him.”  Ugh.  Pathetic parenting on my part.  Why oh why am I like this?

Recently I saw a quote from a blog – www.momastery.com – that summed up my current state of mind.  Insert the word COMPETITIVE before the word GOOD…or don’t.  It’s all truth no matter how you read it.

momastery quote

I’m a work in progress, I’m not perfect – this is obvious, I know.  I’ve realized it’s not about me.  It’s about them and building relationships with other kids their age, and adults who invest in them, and learning how practice pays off, and learning new things, pushing themselves to achieve and grow physically, and experiencing the best (and worst) of competition.  It’s about life lessons, even if we’re almost 40 and still learning them ourselves.

Ashley softballThis girl has an impressive swing!  (There are no theatre pictures, because I’m not allowed to take any.  Whatever.)

Nathan footballThis is my oldest son on the football field…he’s on defense and the kid with the ball didn’t make the photo frame.  Oops…(I’m not really sorry, though).

noah football kickThis is my youngest, kicking!  (he’s a lefty, who kicks righty.  Whatever.)

While I may still critique and judge their performances, I will try to do so with more love.  I will fall off this wagon of positivity on occasion.  I will try to appreciate the mistakes as much as the effort.  I will be their cheerleader even when it’s hard to do so.  I will show up and be positive (even if it’s 30 degrees and raining).  I will be competitive on the Wii or the PS3.  (all bets are off when there are video games involved – and I usually lose these with lots of excuses and whining – unless it’s “Just Dance”, then this girl has moves).  Competition is good.  Winning is awesome.  Hard work and perseverance are lifelong qualities for many different fields – business, church, school, athletics, theatre, gardening, RAISING CHILDREN, MARRIAGE.  Losing can be good, especially when the team tried their hardest and pulled together as a team.  All things with winners and losers are good.  Life is like that – not everyone deserves a trophy or accolades just for trying or just for showing up.  Sometimes we (I) need to just not take it so seriously.   After all, Michael Jordan didn’t make the varsity basketball team on his first go-round when he was in high school, and he turned out okay.  Chris Daughtry got eliminated from American Idol, yet he went on to record albums and be successful.  Just sayin’.

This weekend, I get to watch my daughter at the State Finals of One-Act theatre.  I don’t know if I can yell and scream and hoot and holler at this, but I’m gonna try.  I mean, seriously, if we are going to have competitive theatre, there needs to be cheerleaders.  And cheerleaders should be loud and obnoxious and NOISY during competition.  Bring it, theatre people.

“There are two gifts we should give our children; one is roots and the other is wings.” ~ Anonymous

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” ~ Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

Take me on an adventure!

Our daughter, age 16, recently had an amazing opportunity to visit Greece – yes, the country – with a group from her high school.  To say this created some anxiety for her mother (if you recall, I am a control freak and this pretty much relinquishes all control) is a massive understatement.  For months we planned, saved, she worked to earn money, she sent letters to family looking for work to earn money, we researched (well, she researched) the culture, I forced her watch the movie “Troy” because it really did happen like that (& Hector and Achilles just because – whatever), and our entire family became excited for her educational vacation.

troy-brad-pitt-as-achilles-and-eric-bana-as-hector(Movies are real, right?)

Then the day came.  The day she was to leave.  She was up until well after midnight the night before with all the jitters that come with being excited for her new adventure.  I, however, was up until well after midnight trying not to focus on all the possible worst-case scenarios while she was traveling.  We were all up, at least awake, by 6:30 that morning.  Her brothers gave her the typical half-hearted “mom made me” hug and left for school.  She and I ran through the checklist again.  And again.  And one more time for good measure.  (“Please roll your eyes one more time for me so I can remember what that looks like while you’re gone.”)  It had snowed overnight and was cold.  Roads were less than fun and it took us close to an hour to get to school where the charter bus was picking up the group.  She was giddy and talkative.  I was just driving, listening, thrilled to hear her voice filled with so much energy.

We arrived at school and she grabbed her backpack and I grabbed her carry-on.  Together we entered the main lobby of the school and I was blasted with so much genuine excitement.  These kids (my kid!) were traveling to Europe – to Greece – for 9 days!  The group gathered for a photo, prayed together, and boarded the bus for Detroit.  Somewhere in all of this I hugged her (probably too tightly) and kissed her beautiful face.  I sat in my car and watched her board the bus and then drove to work, knowing I just left 1/4 of my heart there.

While she was traveling, I was THAT person – the app checker person.  I was on my phone the entire night checking her flight stats and where she was in the world, literally.  I waited for the text that she made it safely to each destination and that she had no problems with customs.  Then, and only then, did I sleep.

During her trip, she would send us facebook messages to let us know how her day went – sometimes only a quick note and other times she would attach a photo or two of places she’d seen that day.  Not once did I get to speak to her, to hear her voice, the one I listened to earlier in the month chatter all the way to school.  I filled my nights with lazy activities, boring television, and dot-to-dots (seriously).   It was just weird at home.  The dog wandered around looking for her every morning.  Her brothers asked about her adventures and wanted to see photos.  Her dad acted like nothing was different (although I’m pretty certain he secretly was having a more difficult time than me).

Then the day arrived – she was coming home!  She messaged us after she got through security at the Athens airport to let us know she was on her way.  At work, I peeked at my flight tracking app to see where in the world she was (literally, all I saw was a funky line on my phone that makes zero sense with regards to the path one would think the plane would take) and let my travel anxiety take over.  The entire day was a blur and thankfully it was a busy day at work so I wasn’t able to focus on her travels too deeply.  Once her plane landed in Michigan, she texted her dad to let him know all was well and she was through customs.  Then nothing.  Not a peep from her until she was 1/2 hour from the school.  I guess international travel is tiring because she slept most of the 2 1/2 hour bus ride.

My husband and I were in the parking lot – with all the other parents – when the bus pulled up.  We walked (I walked fast) to the bus and watched through the window as the kids exited the bus.  The excitement was gone.  The enthusiasm wasn’t there.  There was no energy at all.  Just some shrugging and shuffling of feet as they gathered their luggage and found home in their parents open arms.  She was so tired she could barely walk (20 hours of traveling internationally will do that.  That and sitting next to a 1 year old on the longest flight).

We put her and her things in the car and drove home.  We let her chatter about things we can only picture with our minds.  She was excited to be home.  Her brothers were happy to have her home.  Our dog was even happier!  I didn’t want to stop looking at her, but I know that would have creeped her out.  She showed us a few pictures, showered us with amazing gifts (I need a shelf just to hold all the amazing things!), talked to us all for a while, and then she went to bed.  My heart was full and overflowing again.

We’ve been asked, often, “how did you afford this?”  (we aren’t rich people, we manage and squeak by and quite frankly it isn’t anybody’s business).  Here was my response to that – This opportunity, the opportunity to travel and see different parts of God’s amazing creation was something we couldn’t say no to.  Not only was the cost a bargain (I can be rather frugal with regards to travel sometimes), but she saw historical places like the Parthenon and the Poseidon’s Temple, she saw religious places like Mars Hills, she ate food with weird names and ingredients, she raced her classmates on the first ever (!) Olympic track, she toured countryside in a country that NEEDS tourism.  I can’t even begin to scratch the surface of what she experienced.  I do know that it has forever changed her view of travel, of the world, of different cultures, and of her own personal journey in this world.  We are 100% convinced this was the right time for her to experience this trip.  God opened her eyes and her heart while she was gone and, for the rest of her life, she will understand people and cultures differently than those of us who only dream of the adventure.  There was not a missional element to this trip, and we’re okay with that.  Sometimes God works on us the most when we aren’t expecting it and usually when we aren’t planning on it.   I guarantee God worked on her and every single other person on that trip and most of them likely won’t fully grasp the enormity of it all for many months or even years.  But the stories, oh the stories!  They are never-ending and wonderful.  They are life-changing and amazing.

My favorite part of her first night home and  even though she was absolutely exhausted, she and I were lying on my bed looking through photos was “When I get my job in international whatever (seriously, she wants the word “International” in her career), I will take each of you with me at least one time.”  Knock me out and take me on an adventure!  I truly cannot wait.

wanderlust (n.):

A strong desire or urge to wander or travel and explore the world.

greece1The Parthenon, I think.

greece2

This is the island Hydra, I think.

Greece olympics

This is the group at the starting line before they raced each other on the first Olympic track.

New shoes!

This year, 2015, I will be celebrating a rather large milestone birthday.  As far as birthday’s go, this one is the one I’m most looking forward to, after all, 40 is the new 30, right?  I don’t feel like I thought I would at this point in life.  When I was 10 years old 40 seemed so OLD.  Now that I’m staring it in the face, I don’t feel old…I feel like a grown-up, sorta.

I was thinking of ways to celebrate this major life event (it’s major to me so whatever) and knew I wanted to do something that would give me a major adrenaline rush – you know, so I don’t feel OLD.  So, like any normal person would do, I looked for good suggestions on Facebook.

Before I give you more details you should know that I have some very unexplainable extreme fears of heights and of the water.  Why would anyone want to put their head in the water where sharks and barracuda live? (thank you Finding Nemo for making my fear even more irrational)  And jumping from an airplane?  Only crazy people would do that – so, call me crazy, I’ve done that.  I’ve bungee jumped. I’ve snorkeled – if you want to call it that – I actually put my head in the water just long enough so I could see the coral and had one hand on the boat the entire time because I wasn’t entirely sure if Bruce or some other evil shark was lurking in the beautiful waters off the coast of Jamaica and I’d have to scramble back onto the boat.  Comedic relief for the entire crew on that boat was given by me that day.  I’ve gotten a tattoo (actually two, but who’s counting).  I’ve white-water rafted (even taking my children along because every good family needs to experience an adrenaline rush together).  I’ve hiked in places where the edge of the mountain looks like it’s going to break away and I’m going to fall to my death (I hugged the wall/edge of the mountain so tightly that my children were laughing at me instead of encouraging and helping me – mean, very mean, children I’m raising).  So, I’ve faced my fears a few times.  I’ve done some wild things, the things that look fun, the things that make my heart race.

GUIDE1-100-JULY8-CSW a(6)

So, after the very scientific Facebook poll was done, I was still stuck.  A Richard Petty driving experience?  That would be fun – but I kind of (kind of) experience that twice a day on my commute (especially in the winter).  Kayaking in Lake Michigan off the coast of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore?  That would be fun, but if I tipped over, well, let’s just not go there.  So I thought about tornado chasing?  But the cost to chase a giant swirl of uber-destructive wind was more than a Carribbean vacation with my family, so that was taken out of the equation.  Zip-lining?  Only in the jungle, thank you.  What about shark-diving?  You know, like getting in a cage and having the sharks “eat” out of your hands, or eat your hands, whichever.  Unfortunately, the shark experience wasn’t expensive, but the travel to and from Florida kind of shoots the family budget.

After some significant soul searching, I decided I’m going to try to run a marathon.  Yep, 26.2 miles of pounding the pavement for 5 hours straight (or a little longer, we’ll see) without walking (jalking likely, but walking, no).  Unfortunately, this will be something that will have to consume my life for the next 8 months or so although I don’t intend to start training until the temperature is about 40 (see what I did there??) and there isn’t ice on the ground.  I will be eating differently (but don’t worry, I will still drink Wild Cherry Pepsi every single day – some things are non-negotiable), behaving in ways that I never intended (like running more than once a week), and gaining a new perspective on a sport that will like consume my entire being.  Once upon a time I was active and I was fast.  I had muscles.  I could run a 5k in less than 20 minutes.  Now, well, I can run a 5k, barely.  This marathon business is going to take a lot of time, energy, and mostly commitment.  I’m going to have sore muscles.  I’m likely going to get shin-splints and other runners stuff.  I’m going to want to give up – a LOT.  I’m not the world’s easiest person to deal with when I’m frustrated or hurting (hard to believe, I know).  Whatever.

So, please pray for my husband and my children, and maybe even the dog.  They are going to feel the frustration, too.  They are going to be annoyed with me.  They are going to get irritated with the process.  They will be forced to eat whatever healthy-ish food I make and like it or starve.  We are all in this together, whether they know it or not.  And maybe, just maybe, I’ll run the entire 26.2 miles.  That is the goal.  And while the adrenaline won’t be there every time I run or even likely during the race itself, I know that I can do this, I’m pretty sure I can.  Well, I’m going to try – for a while at least.

The best part?  I will get new shoes.  New fancy running shoes.  Because my old ones are old, a little worn, and rough around the edges, like me.

20150107_183242

 

“It is a shame for a woman to grow old without ever seeing the strength and beauty of which her body is capable.” ~ Socrates

 

A boy and his dog

There are numerous things we’ve done wrong as parents; I can’t even begin to count the things or the ways we’ve messed up our kids (they will need therapy in some capacity when they are adults most likely)!  There is one thing, however, that we’ve done right, and, without a doubt, we will do it again.

We bought a dog.

Before we had children, we had a dog, a beautiful chocolate lab, Ginger.  She was a good dog, but we didn’t have the time or the space to keep her and make her the best dog she could be.  So, unfortunately, we had to sell her.  She went to a good home, an excellent home, with a lake and acreage.  She lived a long happy life there.

A few years later, after we had our three children, a larger house with a huge yard, we rescued a small mixed breed dog, Mollie.  She was a good dog for a year or two, then she became grumpy.  She would snap, growl, and be downright ornery not only to strangers, but to our children.  After 9 years of this, we had to put her down for their safety.  At the time you would have thought we were the worst parents known to man.  Our children said horrible things about how awful we were, etc.  Of course, their reaction was the emotional consequence of loving something, even something with such vicious tendencies.

As we neared the end of Mollie’s life, we got a new puppy, a boxer we named Stella.  For almost a year we had two dogs, one moody and very much not friendly, and one that was playful, fun, and full of life.  We put time and energy into Stella’s training, we encouraged family and friends to come over so she could socialize with them, we brought her places so she would be used to other people and environments, we took her to obedience classes, we worked hard.  She is very protective of our kids – even trying to grab my youngest’s hand so he doesn’t “fall” into the pool (when in reality he is trying to jump in and she thinks she’s protecting him from that scary body of water).  She is a really great dog!

The best part of Stella is what she has taught our children.  Most of these things we have tried to teach them, but in no way could we have taught them as well as Stella has.  She has taught them patience, especially when she has chewed up their favorite football (she loves footballs and soccer balls – and she destroys them, absolutely destroys them).  She has taught them perseverance; her tricks took a lot of time and energy to learn, but she did learn them, eventually.  She has taught them the value of a good laugh as she quietly and patiently lets them put human clothing on her so she can struggle through walking just so they can laugh at her expense.  She has taught them the value of exercise; she has a lot of energy (a LOT) and she needs to burn that energy through daily walks or runs across the field, often chasing one or two of them in the process.  She has taught them the value of friendship; rarely is she not near one of our kids…sleeping, playing, or just being next to them.

But perhaps the best thing she has taught them is unconditional love.  We love our children unconditionally, and we’re pretty sure they love us the same way, but Stella has taught them to love others.  Every time Stella does something wrong (chewing up a toy or digging a giant hole in the yard or knocking over their cup of milk), they just look into her big brown eyes and forgive her.  She is thoroughly excited every single time one of us walks in the door after being gone for even 5 minutes, we are greeted with a wiggly butt, and a face that looks like it’s smiling with joy.  They love her, even at her worst.

And when one of our kids is sad, angry, or hurt, the first thing we see is Stella trying to cuddle up to them to make them feel better.  And you know what?  It works.  Every.single.time.

Not everyone is a “dog-person” and not everyone should be.  Dogs are a lot of work, they smell – boxers REALLY smell, they make messes, they ruin things, they are clumsy, they are hairy, they drool, they are protective.  But, now that we have Stella, she really is truly a part of our family.  She completes our family.

And there is just something about a boy and his dog.

noahandstella2013

 

A Control Freak Christmas

Sometimes we are THAT family; you know the kind – a little dysfunctional, but genuine and cute in our own weird way.  We also have THAT dog – the one that sniffs everyone’s privates and then expects some love in return.  We are now THAT house – the one that is decorated for Christmas but none of the lights work properly.  We, for whatever reason, cannot keep strands of lights lit…

Here’s our tree.  Pretty, eh?  The lights are still there, sorta.  The lights are dark near the bottom, but not all the way at the bottom because that would be way too easy to fix.  They are so tangled they are in a pile behind the tree, still attached because we can’t undo them without knocking every ornament off the tree in the process.  And broken ornaments would put me in a downward spiral of control freakishness in a hurry.

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Here’s our 5 foot tall outdoor tree in all it’s well-lit glory.  Cute, right?  Whatever.

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In case you haven’t figured it out already, I have some control freak tendencies and these trees are driving me CRAZY.  Add to all of that the fact the indoor real Christmas tree is no longer taking water (I add water because it is evaporating and it makes me feel better) and I’m just a big mess of tension and stress.  Not only are the lights half functional, there are evergreen needles all over the floor.  A few weeks ago, the entire tree was leaning so far it would’ve tipped completely over had we not re-set it in the stand.

And then I watch tv and see trees that look like this:

baxter-christmas-tree

Who – in real life – decorates their tree like this and have it look gorgeous all the time and even have tinsel all cute and evenly spaced and ribbons and bows without sap and tree junk on them?!?  I only dream of this type of tree.  But then I think, if I had a tree like this, I’d be even more annoying and control-freakish to my family.  I’d say things like: Don’t touch the tree!  Don’t look at the tree like that or you’ll mess it up!  or better yet Stay away from the tree or you’ll ruin Christmas!  Seriously, this is how control freaks think, at least how this control freak thinks.  I walk around the house moving things a 1/2 inch one direction only to turn around and literally move it back to where it was to begin with.

And then I look at my dark barren spots in my lit trees, the corny ornaments that adorn it, the pile of lights strategically hidden (or smooshed) in the corner, and the village scene that I allowed my children to put together (yes, I allowed it.  It was hard, but I let.it.go this year), and, I think, that maybe having an imperfect house, an imperfect dog, and highly messed up trees is okay.  If all I am aiming to be is perfect, I’m missing out on the imperfect and the joyful chaos that creates.  My children will have memories of mistakes we’ve made as parents, of trees that have tipped over (it happened…once), of gifts we’ve numbered instead of labeled nicely with names (we’re mean and those kids are genius guessers!), of ornaments that are ugly, and of arguments we’ve had decorating because someone wasn’t decorating “right.”  We all have our issues, our vices, our quirks.  In this house, our (translated: my) issues currently revolve around Christmas tree lights and decorations.

And did I tell you about the crooked wreaths around our outdoor lights?  My husband says that’s how they’re supposed to look.  I doubted him and he said, “You told me to put them like that.”  Whatever.

Unsung Carols

It’s weird how people can impact your life in ways you never expected.

I work full-time at a church; I’m the central hub for everything that happens there (well, I’m supposed to be, anyway).  Every Friday afternoon, without complaint and always with a smile and a sweet “hello!” my friend, Carol, comes in and helps me with the mundane task of folding bulletins, preparing mailings to the elderly folks who can no longer get out of their homes to worship, and makes sure the worship participants have their outlines.  It’s a boring job.  Really, it is.  But, for years, without fail, she shows up.  Every.Single.Week.

A week before Thanksgiving, Carol confided in me and told me money was tight and she wouldn’t be able to attend some upcoming events for the senior citizens at the church.  The cost for attending these events was less than most of us spend on dinner at a restaurant, so my heart went out to her.  I sent an email to the pastor and asked her if church could cover the cost of Carol’s attendance after explaining the situation.  The pastor enthusiastically said,  “Yes!”  So, I wrote a small note of thanks to Carol, explaining that we, as church staff, wanted to thank her for volunteering every Friday and cover the cost of the events.   I placed the note in her church mailbox and didn’t hear from her for a few days.

The next week, Thanksgiving week, Carol showed up unexpectedly on Tuesday.  Things were busy and a little chaotic.  I was chatting with another parishioner, but, thankfully, the pastor was in the lobby.  Carol graciously thanked the pastor for the note and then waiting patiently for me to finish before entering the office.  She slid a small card across the counter and started to cry.  (If you know me at all, you know that tears make me VERY uncomfortable).  Being a little busy and more than a little slow to pick up on the cues, I asked if she was okay.  She replied, “I just wanted to say thank you.”  I nodded and said, “of course.  We appreciate you.”  She lowered her head and walked out, as quickly and unassumingly as she walked in.

A little while after she left, I opened the card.  I was floored.  It was a thank you card – to us as staff – for appreciating her!  We had thanked her for her devotion to a relatively thankless job and she turned it around and made it not about her.  She literally gave us a thank you card for thanking her.  This is Carol.  This is who she is.  Never has she complained about spending every Friday afternoon folding bulletins or putting up with my endless chatter about my children.  Never has she said, “I don’t want to do this anymore.  This doesn’t matter.  Nobody notices what I do every week.”  She shows up, she does her work, and she leaves.

However, she is not invisible.  She is what we should all aspire to be – one who gives freely without ever expecting anything in return.

Scatter Joy

Well, here it is…the long-awaited first post of my first ever attempt at blogging!  I’m a nervous wreck about this and hopefully you can follow along as I’m likely to make mistakes in grammar, punctuation, and probably just about every other aspect of on-line culture.    I’m not perfect, far from it, as many of you know.

I was shopping today, Small Business Saturday it so happened to be, and came across a small pillow that struck me in so many ways.  It was a throw pillow, you know the kind, like the ones you see on friends’ couches but are afraid to really use as a pillow (because drool marks on those types of pillows are really just super inappropriate in every social circle).  But, I LOVED this pillow.  I even took a picture of it with my phone and posted it on Instagram.  I know.  How completely ridiculous.  Even my 11 year old son looked at me and said, “What are you doing?!?”  I, like any good mom would do, replied, “taking a picture so Dad will know what to buy me.” Don’t judge, you know you’ve done something similar.

Here’s the thing – I didn’t buy the pillow, but should have.  It was even my favorite color!  But I couldn’t justify spending $20 whole dollars on a pillow the size of a hardcover book.    That’s not what’s bugging me about the pillow.  What’s bothering me is the simple message printed on the pillow – “Scatter Joy” was all it said.  Scatter…like a dandelion scatters seeds, like a 15 month old scatters Cheerios, like an 11 year old boy scatters Legos, simply scatter joy.  I absolutely love this phrase – Scatter joy.  Two words that impacted me when I least expected it.  Scatter joy.  I will, will you?

scatter joy pillow