Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The White Witch, My Moment with a Cow and Choosing Joy

Last Friday I walked with a girlfriend.

It was so beautiful and sunny and warm.

We wore shorts and popped into art shops and a bakery and picked up Nigel from the dog groomer.

We walked all over our town and it was wonderful.

That evening, Monte and I cleaned up the yard and I did my most favorite thing.

I burned sticks in the fire pit.

I don't know why, but I just love picking up all the sticks
 our beloved huge Sycamore tree has shed 
and burning them in the fire.
It's such a satisfying and quick way to clean up.

I purposely save some greenery from my flower boxes from Christmas time each year to help start the fire in the spring.

The height the fire gets in a hot WHOOSH when I throw in the dried up greenery should be such a warning to all those who keep their Christmas trees up too long.

Fire. 
Hazard.

It was such a nice day and evening.

A neighbor came over to talk to Monte on the patio as I stoked the fire.

We got excited about finally starting to see 
neighbors out and about again.

Then it snowed on Monday.

Tuesday we woke up to a fresh blanket of snow.

I asked Monte if we were in Narnia and the White Witch was ruling and it was always going to be Winter and never Christmas.



He said,

"Yes. Yes, it is."

He grew up in Florida 
and has mentioned moving 
no less than 75 times.

I had to wear my gloves,

GLOVES,

in mid-April,

as I drove to bible study.

Our church is across from a big field with cattle.

The cows were standing close to the fence as I slowed to turn into the church parking lot.

I locked eyes with one cow.


Looking into his big eyes, I could feel we were having a moment and I could tell what he was thinking.

"Are you kidding me with this weather?!"

I actually shrugged my shoulders at him in response.

"I know. It stinks, buddy."

I didn't go into my whole Narnia White Witch theory 
because while I do remember lots of animals like beaver 
and wolves and a half-goat man in the Narnia story, 
I don't recall there being any cows 
and I just didn't want to confuse him any further. 


That night while at small group, one of the girls there said she thought we were in the movie Frozen and Elsa was pretty darn honked off.



That made me laugh.

And what else can we do when the winter drags on and on and on and on and the bitter cold snaps back like we weren't just sitting on our back patio with a neighbor last Friday or walking all over town with a friend?

A sweet boy with special needs in our church was baptized a few weeks ago.

He's non-verbal and has a smile that lights up any room he's in.

I've had the privilege of having him in my Sunday School class.

I actually let him use scissors during craft time once not realizing, 
he's not used to being given scissors.

That explains the bigger than usual smile on his face that day.

The family showed a video before the baptism of them asking the boy questions to see if he understood what it meant to accept Jesus.

He nodded yes to knowing he was loved by Jesus 
and pointed to his heart when they asked where Jesus lived.

The pastor asked the boy's father how he saw God in his son.

He answered with one word.

"Joy."

This boy who can not form words with his mouth, spoke volumes to my heart. 

He possesses such a clear outpouring of joy that can only come from heaven.

His father baptized him in what was one of the purest, sweetest moments I have ever witnessed.

There wasn't a dry eye in the church.

My car had thick frost on it this morning on DAY 3 of Winter's Return.

But I know I am loved by Jesus 
and I know where He lives.

So today I choose joy.

Friday, April 06, 2018

That Time I Almost Died in Whole Foods

I guess I always thought there was a good chance I'd die in a Whole Foods parking lot one day.

It's truly the most dangerous, out of control, let's-make-this-whole-parking-and-driving-
thing-up-as-we-go-place I've ever been.

Don't get me started on the electric cars 
that MAKE NO SOUNDS 
as they whip out of a parking space 
unannounced right in front of you.


I heard this song some time ago a guy wrote about the Whole Foods parking lot. So I'm not the only one with all these feelings about it. WARNING: There is a bit of language at the end.



When my oldest daughter first got her license, the Whole Foods parking lot was OFF LIMITS.


It really does dig deep into all the meanings of "defensive driving."

Maybe Ellie's "Norm MacDonald" driver's ed teacher SHOULD take students to the Whole Foods parking lot. 

It could be a lesson on how NOT to drive 
or that our country is just a vending machine spitting out driver's licenses 
to people who really can't drive.

All in cars with lots of bumper stickers.

Granted, our Whole Foods is close enough to our house that we could walk, which we do A TON when the weather permits.

But being as we live in OHIO, the weather does not consistently permit.

So I have to drive.

In complete contrast to the nightmare in the parking lot, INSIDE Whole Foods is a pleasant, esthetically satisfying time.

Except on Friday evenings when they do a wine tasting.

But that's a rant for another day.

I had a plan for dinner the other night that Ellie gave a big ol' thumbs down to.

I quickly put together a different plan that required me to get just a few things from Whole Foods.

It had been raining and storming all day. 

It was so wet that I saw an actual duck, soaked to the bone, fly out of my neighbor's yard.


But it had stopped.

Perfect time to make a run for my life in the Whole Foods parking lot.

I was quickly knocking out my list and humming along to whatever music was playing in the store when my phone rang.

It was Monte. He told me to hurry because the tornado sirens were going off 
and he didn't want me driving in, well, a tornado.

The ambiance and music was so pleasant
 that I didn't hear the sirens!

As I started unloading my cart at the check-out, I noticed how dark it was outside and how hard it was raining.

I was taken a little off-guard because I HAVE IMAGINED what my death 
in the Whole Foods parking lot would look like. 
 I've seen the whole thing played out.

But dying INSIDE a Whole Foods?

Hmm.

I didn't see that one coming.

The cashier was super chill and asked me about my day and what I was making for dinner. She scanned each item with the urgency of a slow sloth.

I kept nervously looking outside so she'd get the hint. 

Danger was coming! Seek shelter! Assume the tornadic position!


I resisted the urge to scream,

"HURRY THE FREAK UP!"

As I walked away, I heard the woman behind me tell the cashier about the tornado and her need to hurry and the cashier said,

"Oh, those sirens are never right."

Poor Sloth's going to die inside 
a Whole Foods for sure!

I got soaked getting to my car (after a car almost hit me, for the love of Pete!) and practically blown away getting into the house.

The lights flickered several times as we started dinner but the tornado warnings were called off and it went back to just good ol' thunder storming.

And I lived to tell the tale.


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Rats, Rocky, Filling Gaps, Wonder Woman and the Armor of God

I'm still a little obsessed with rats.

I saw one dead on the street two days ago and instead of rejoicing that another one bit the dust, 
I felt this dread inside, 

"They're BACK!"

And it didn't help that someone nearby posted on Facebook a picture 
of a baby rat nest she found under her woodpile 
in her backyard.

Or that Nigel kept sniffing at a cabinet in the family room 
the other night like he SMELLED A RAT.
Literally.

I feel like I'm at the beginning of a big fight and I need to get prepared by getting the right shoes, equipment or be sent off to Russia to train in the snow and a barn the old school way like Rocky when he fought Drago.

Remember these crazy barn loft sit ups?


And how he lifted up that big wheelbarrow like cart
with Adrian, his trainer and his crazy brother-in-law just sitting in it watching
him struggle to lift them up?
I have a point, I promise.

I read a devotional the other day by Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith about a rat that got stuck in a hole in the siding of her garage.


Kelly knew the hole was there in her garage and knew she needed to fill it in but, like many things on our to-do list, it got pushed down in priority.

Overlooked.

Then a fat rat got stuck in the hole 
and the item on her to-do list raced 
to the top of the priorities for the day.

She goes on to say that in our lives, we all have gaps to fill in to keep unwanted things out.

Things we've been meaning to repair.

Tend to.

Things like our health, unforgiveness, anger.


We don't realize the risk each day when we bump those items down in priority on our to-do list.


The vent on the outside of our house was open with a small hood.

Anything could get in and DID.

We had no idea.

I don't even remember picking out that vent.

That's how little of a priority it was to me.

Now we have a vent with a magnetic cover to let the dryer exhaust out but not let unwanted creatures in.

We're protected.


God wants us protected too.

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes."
Ephesians 6:10-11

He not only wants us to be fully protected, but know who the real enemy is.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavily realms."
Ephesians 6:12


That's some heavy stuff.

"Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."
Ephesians 6:13

The cool thing about the armor of God, is that we are only asked to put it ON and STAND OUR GROUND. 

God does all the fighting.

So no Rocky crazy sit ups from a barn loft 
that would make me dizzy are necessary.

But we can't just sit in the wheelbarrow cart either,
waiting to be lifted up.

We have to actively put on the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, slip on our gospel of peace shoes, pick up our shield of faith, put on our helmet of salvation and hold the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:14-17)

Every day.

My bible study notes say about "standing your ground" and "standing firm:"

"In this context the imagery is not that of a massive invasion of the domain of evil, 
but of individual soldiers withstanding assault."

God is going before us and after us to do all the fighting in our very personal, individual, rat-infested lives. We just need to be armored up and stand firm.

It makes me think of the scene in the movie "Wonder Woman." 

There is a part where she is standing along side soldiers from World War I. There was a front line area called "No Man's Land" that the soldiers were afraid to cross into because it was where the most enemy fire would be encountered. 


Without crossing into it, the two sides remained at a stand still. 

Wonder Woman walked right into "No Man's Land" and held up her shield to deflect the incoming fire. There was an aerial shot of all the fire coming at her and her just standing firm behind her shield. 


There were so many bullets shot at her, bouncing off the shield, it seemed they were on fire.

via GIPHY

It made me cry.

We are often SO UNAWARE of all the "flaming arrows of the evil one" that are hurled at us.

We try to do life in our own power and get so weary and discouraged that we blame "being with the wrong person" or "being tired" or "being hormonal" or "being hangry."


We forget God gave us the perfect weapon, "take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." (Ephesians 6:16)


Wonder Woman didn't fight back, she just stood her ground and "withstood the assault." 


While doing so, the soldiers were able to gain ground.

God meant us to live victoriously because He has already won the battle. 

But the enemy isn't going to go out like the loser he is without a fight until the end.

He's going to try hard to make us forget about all the gaps in our lives.

The areas we've left wide open that need a vent cover.

He's going to try hard to distract us 
so we keep their repair low on our to-do list.

But God is in the business of fixing things.

It's why he sent His son to die for us--so things would be fixed for good for us.

Forever.

Let's go into this Easter weekend ARMORED UP, 

gaps filled 

and ready to STAND OUR GROUND.



Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Education of Driving

Ellie is learning to drive.

She has completed the classroom portion and just finished the in-car part of driver's ed right before Spring Break.

The in-car driving was two hours long each session with an instructor and pretty much trial by fire.

Monte had driven with Ellie but she was pretty anxious so the sessions never lasted more than 10 or 15 minutes.

She begged me to take her driving but I told her I wanted her to get a little more experience under her belt before I risked the integrity of my blonde highlights.

It's a financial thing.

Plus, I had blown it with McDaniel letting her drive my big SUV 
WAY before she was ready.
We went to pick up Ellie from golf practice 
and McDaniel almost took out EVERY mailbox on the way.


Driver's Ed scene from "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day."
Great movie.


I wasn't going to make the same mistake.

Ellie's first driving session didn't go super well.

For starters, I watched her park at the end of her session with the instructor and she pulled in pretty hot and slammed on the brakes. Hard.

She blamed the old car she's learned to drive in for having stomp-it brakes.

I told her she better get used to driving old cars. 
Princess is not getting anything new until she's buying.

I once had a car catch on fire 
while I was waiting at a fast food drive-through window.

Yes, I waited until I got my order 
before I drove across the street to a mechanic.

And yes, the fast food worker pointed out that my car was on fire.
Like I didn't notice.

Ellie said there was lots of yelling and the instructor had to use the brake on his side of the car during her sessions. A lot.

She was given a little book to take to each session that he wrote comments in.

When I picked her up after her first session, she read it to me.

I stopped hearing clearly after "doesn't know right from left under pressure" and "turned from a non-turning lane."

She reassured me that she's a good driver but the instructor is just picky.

When I asked what he's picky about she replied with finger air quotes,

"Stopping at railroad tracks to see if a train is coming."

Dear word, she's going to kill the driver's ed guy!

Ellie told me that he's been doing this for 29 years.

29 years of stomping a brake from the passenger side of the car.
29 years of antacids.
29 years of telling someone to turn right only to have them turn left FROM A NON-TURNING LANE.
29 years of almost getting hit by a train.
29 years of seeing your life pass before your eyes.

Ellie said he's pretty laid back, reminds her of Norm MacDonald and has a million stories of people doing it worse than her.



One story was actually about her friend.

During her in-car, the instructor asked her to fill up the car with gas.

That was something she'd never done before.

He walked her through the process but failed to tell her to wait until the pump was off to pull out the gas nozzle.

She sprayed gasoline everywhere and made the long list of stories the instructor now tells in the classroom portion of driver's ed.

I told Ellie to make that her new goal.
DO NOT make the long list of stories 
the instructor will tell in class.

When I was pulling into the high school parking lot for Ellie's next in-car, I turned left in a "turn right only" area (I swear I've NEVER seen that sign before) and I accidentally ramped the curb.

She gave me the side eye and told me it was 
all starting to make sense to her now.

I do recollect a faint memory of my driver's ed teacher 
popping Rolaids while I drove.

But then again, we used to do in-cars with 3 people at a time.

One of the girls in my group did not have a good handle on speed or turns and we ended up off the road and in a field.

Thank goodness I grew up in a rural area.

I remember holding hands with a girl in the backseat and praying out loud.

None of us thought we were making it out alive.

GOD BLESS those driving instructors! 

They must have steel running through their veins and lining of their stomach.

They are doing a job that I could not do. I put that right up there with skyscraper window washer and tree trimmer where they swing willy nilly from a rope in the air with a chainsaw.

Is that guy smoking a cigar?


I wish I could extend Ellie's driving lessons a wee bit longer because we have to get in 50 hours of road time before getting her license in July.



My blonde highlights may not make it.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Surviving Spring Break and an Angel Named Michael

We should've taken it as a sign that our spring break was going to be interesting when we were told before our flight even took off that our back-up engine went out but not to worry, things would be just fine.

When we landed in Florida, the gate our plane drove to didn't have the right power source to compensate for our loss of the back-up engine so we lost all power.

We sat in the dark with no ability to open the door to leave.

Did I mention it was night time?

Every now and then the lights flickered on and off to keep the foreboding creepy atmosphere strong.

Workers from the outside were able to bust us out and we exited the plane in darkness.

Because of the loss of power issue, they couldn't retrieve our luggage for over an hour.

We didn't get to our condo until after midnight.

We were too tired to notice 
or care 
about all the screaming happening 
all night 
all around us.

Clearly we did not research well the condo we booked in Ft. Lauderdale.

Which is SO unlike us.

We usually over-research 
and even talk to friends in the area 
to get their input.

We were already leery of the condo being in a high rise.

We were on the 9th floor. I'm not so fond of the heights.

Too many people.

We aren't big into having to take 
an elevator to get to the beach.

We are more of a holler from the balcony to the pool and/or beach to let the girls know lunch is ready.

Because the balcony is one or two stories up.

As it turns out, there was a lot of hollering from balconies.

2 stories, 
8 stories 
and 9 stories up.


They hollered up to people above them, below them and across from them.

They hollered in the morning while we tried to eat breakfast.

They hollered in the afternoon.

They hollered most of the night.

This sounds like a frustrating Dr. Seuss story.

Apparently, we had booked a very popular college Spring Break destination condo/hotel.

Our condo owners promised us it was a spring break free area and required us to be over 26 to book, etc.

But no one else in the building stuck to that plan.

There were college kids EVERYWHERE.





Except for this bagpipe group that we met at breakfast.


And this parrot that just showed up in the midst of all the chaos.



We are around college kids all the time because we live in a college town.

This was different.

The decibel and energy level was  like one big college football game tailgate with the biggest rival.

All the time.

But it involved WAY less clothing.

And WAY more bad words.


We got well acquainted with the hotel security guards (there were two but later they brought in more) because we were constantly pointing out concerns.

While we were eating lunch one day the smoke alarms went off and we were asked to evacuate the building.

We actually did smell smoke.

We took the stairs down nine flights and got a lovely view of discarded beer cans, spilled drinks and one lonely banana peel.

The urine smell took our minds off 
the possibility of all our belongings 
going up in flames.

We were told it was just a piece of burnt toast and we could re-enter the building.

4,000 people were in line for the 3 elevators so back up the stairs we went.

We decided the stairs were safer and faster than taking our chances in an overpacked elevator so it became our way to get to and from the beach.

It was a great thigh workout.

As much as we loved hearing the guy holler over and over from the 4th floor balcony that he was in Miami (which he wasn't),

and as impressive as it was to hear all the University of Kentucky kids chanting 
C-A-T-S CATS! CATS! CATS! 

Monte started looking for other places for us to move to.

We had also found out that our hotel was hosting a big St. Patrick's Day party which we were going to be there for.

We could not imagine the party ramping up a notch.

After many reports of full hotels and condos, Monte did a Google Maps search and started making calls to all the places as far north from our hotel as possible.

We called a place we stayed in two years ago and loved. They had a room for only 3 nights with one king size bed.

Monte tried to convince them Ellie wouldn't mind sleeping between us.

We were THAT desperate to leave.

They wouldn't have it.

Monte kept calling places.

Then a man named Michael answered the phone.

[Cue the harp music]

When Monte explained the whole situation, Michael said he had a condo available. Monte asked if there were any spring breakers there.

He said it was strictly a family friendly condo.

He said he had a place and it was available right away but that it might be hard to find because their sign had blown away during the hurricane and it had not been replaced yet.

Monte couldn't say we were on the way fast enough.

Still in our bathing suits and cover ups, we were packed up and in an Uber in less than an hour.

Our ears were still ringing from all the loud everything when we walked into the lobby of our new place.

Michael had kind eyes and the most soothing voice.

Monte was talking loud and fast and overly excited when Michael handed him a key and told him to "CALM DOWN" and take our bags to the room while he signed us in.

I heard the click clack of an old-fashioned credit card machine making an imprint of our card while we walked away and the banging of guns from a black and white western on the TV in the lobby.

I couldn't remember the last time we had real actual keys in a hotel, 
let alone a 1970s credit card machine with actual carbon paper!

Was that Uber really a time machine?


Did we accidentally sniff something wacky from 
the throng of screaming spring breakers?

We were hallucinating?

Was Michael an angel?

We landed on the last one.

Our new place was on the first floor, HUGE with a full kitchen, two full bathrooms and steps from the pool and beach.

Monte didn't even mind that it was across from a creepy cowboy clown swing set.

Even Creepy Cowboy Clown is welcoming us with open arms.

Howdy



There were palm trees, iguanas,  a putting green, tennis court and shuffleboard.


Turns out, I'm really good at shuffleboard.





We didn't have to pay to get a chair on the beach. We just had to bring it back up when we were done with it.

We almost cried when we saw all the old people at the pool.

Ellie posted this.


Ellie found a binder with ALL THE RULES for the condo.



RULES!

It was heaven.

It took us several hours on the beach before we could do what Michael asked and "CALM DOWN." 


It was so quiet we were afraid we were going to spoil it 
with our excitedness.


We were only 2 1/2 miles north of our hot mess but a complete world away.

     

When we walked through the lobby again later to get some dinner, Michael said he was so glad to see Monte wasn't so "FIRED UP" anymore.

And our first condo gave us our money back.

Praise God!

Later in the week we checked out rackets and tennis balls from Michael to play tennis.

Monte hit one ball into the parking lot of the high rise next door and one ball onto busy A1A.

Ellie's ball hit a car parked close to the fence and Monte standing right next to her.

Clearly, this isn't our sport, 
but we laughed a lot. 

Well, Ellie and I did.

Monte didn't like getting hit.

He went to search for all the missing balls.

Michael saw him and told him we were ON VACATION and not to spend it looking for lost tennis balls.

An angel!

We ate breakfast and lunch in our condo and usually ventured out for dinner. Uber drivers had trouble finding our place because the hurricane took the sign.

I later wondered if maybe no one could see this place but us 
and Uber drivers were just picking us up in an abandoned parking lot instead of paradise.

Every morning I was SO HAPPY it wasn't all a dream and we weren't waking up to the guy hollering that he was in Miami from his balcony.

In complete contrast, Monte overheard a little boy at the pool say to his mom that he knew God made him special because when he "tried to drown" he kept just floating to the top to get air.

Monte may or may not have teared up.


We saw this shopping one day.

Monte wanted me to get it but I couldn't. We had it WAY too good at Michael's place.

It was hard to leave Michael when the time came and we each wrote gushing reviews of his customer service.

The last words he said to us were "God bless you!"

I'm pretty sure the entire place evaporated 
as we pulled away.

We had to wait in line to check into our airline for over an hour and then our flight was delayed 4 1/2 hours.

Which was unfortunate since we gave Ellie a Dramamine 
anticipating we'd be boarding in 30 minutes.

An hour later I had a touch of a Weekend at Bernie's experience 
getting her to the bathroom.

How quickly paradise fades.






Monday, March 05, 2018

Spa Night Party


The female Young Life leaders in our area work tirelessly pouring into the lives of our high school and middle school girls and fostering their walk with the Lord.

They do this ON TOP of going to college, 
working and trying to have a life of their own.

A group of us moms wanted to pamper these leaders for a night.

Spa Night was born.

Pinterest is chock full of ideas for a spa party at home.

Like this spa wreath.


I bought a bunch of shower scrubbies and hot glued them to a straw wreath form that I had. I printed out the Spa Party sign from my computer.

I printed out all the spa services we were providing and where they were happening and stuck it in a frame. 

I also made some lavender and peppermint foot scrubs for the girls to take home with them. I put them in small throw away containers from the grocery store.




Manicures were done at the kitchen table.

Someone brought a hand wax machine that was THE BEST. My hands were so soft after I did it.


I found this cute ribbon banner at Target and I printed out the Relax letters from Word one letter at a time and I cut them down.


I grabbed all the massage tools we had in the house and put them by the couch.


Pinterest gave me the idea to use pool floats for facials. I ordered these guys from Amazon because it was still February and none of our stores had any pool things out for sale yet. 

I bought those white containers at Dollar Tree that we used for foot soaks.


Nigel is so confused.
Marshall's was a great resource for lots of different inexpensive face and lip masks.

I also set out a great clay mask from Arbonne that we used a big make up brush to apply.


We had a vase of head bands and shower caps for the girls to grab to keep their hair out of their facials.

No facial works without cucumber slices.


Some marked down, slightly brown grocery store roses de-pedaled made for a fancy touch to the foot soaks.


I used a bath soak by Arbonne in warm water for the foot soaks.


Then I sprinkled the fancy pedals on top.


I'm so sad that I didn't get any food pictures but we had fun hand cookies, roast beef crostinis, little chicken salad sandwiches, yogurt and granolas, fruit, cupcakes and brownies.

We also served an iced coffee latte punch and non-alcoholic mimosas that we called "no"mosas.




I put 2 cups of water in a crock pot set on warm with a few drops of lavender essential oil and rolled up wash cloths for the girls to use to wipe off their faces after their facials.


One of the moms brought a few electric massagers to use on the girls.


This foot massager was crazy. It moved back and forth sideways--FAST.


I loved seeing these girls relax.


And enjoy each other.


And completely unwind.



This was such an easy party to do! I had most of the stuff already (except the pool floats and masks) and all the mom help with the food, nail painting, masks and massage made each girl feel pampered and loved.

Which was the whole goal of the night.

Monte is cooking up a fun night for the guy leaders.

And no, it will not be a spa night.

The White Witch, My Moment with a Cow and Choosing Joy

Last Friday I walked with a girlfriend. It was so beautiful and sunny and warm. We wore shorts and popped into art shops and a bakery a...