Tag Archives: life

The Calm After the Storm

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The return home from the heightened frenzy of vacation living is always a mixed bag. After 2 1/2 weeks of early mornings, late nights, high stimulus fun, 10+ miles of walking each day, A LOT of junk food, and little in the way of routine…we were all whooped!

The excessive togetherness left everyone craving the quiet and solitude of their own bedrooms and all of us were missing our animals.

As much as we hated to see our amazing vacation come to a close, I don’t think we could have extended our trip a day longer without soldiers beginning to fall left and right. We were all tapped dry.

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We arrived home on Monday night, unloaded the car, left to pick up the puppies from the kennel, and were in bed by 9:00.

The early bedtime was a result of two determining factors: 1. It was desperately needed by all after two long days of driving in a very packed car and 2. Our house was freezing!

It is “family tradition” to return home from vacation to some sort of crisis. It happens every time. Some “welcome home” surprises have been more devastating than others with lost pets or a deep freezer dying early on into our two week trip and coming home to a home that reeked of 50 pounds of rotting meat.

THAT was a FUN night!

I guess we should be glad this mishap only involved lack of heat.

We arrived home to find the house extra nippy. Upon checking the thermostat, we discovered the house was a frigid 43 degrees. It turns out we ran out of propane while in Florida despite our tank reading 30%. It turns out the device that measures the amount of fuel in the tank was broken and that 43 degrees felt all the more chilly after the 80 degree temps we had been enjoying for the last two weeks!

There was nothing to do except start a fire in the fireplace and add extra blankets to the beds. Some chose to sleep in the living room, near the fire, while other chose solitude over warmth. They were excited to sleep alone and were willing to endure the cold to get some quiet time.

But regardless of where each family member fell asleep, there was no real rest for the weary, for life began the next morning at full throttle when kids were shaken awake at 6:00 am to catch buses or prepare for work. Vacation was officially over and we jumped right into the craziness of life as we know it at Patchwork Farm with three appointments on the calendar that day. In the midst of beginning life again at full speed, we scrambled to get heat in the house. This wasn’t accomplished until Friday, when rain had finally cleared all the snow and ice off the driveway, making it possible for the propane truck to drive up.

It was a cold four days at Patchwork Farm!

In the midst of addressing the calendar obligations, much of our energy that first week home went into helping everyone navigate the post-vacation crash that inevitably hits all of us when we have to return to the grind of everyday life after being in vacation mode. For my trauma-affected children this crash is far more impactful. There is an ongoing fear that every good experience will be “the last,” having lived a life full of loss and final endings. For one of my kiddos there is a great deal of discomfort and guilt over creating memories and feeling connected to this family, feeling that they are somehow betraying their birth family by feeling love and connection with us. With these hard feelings inevitably come hard behaviors as he tries to “right the wrong” of letting down his guard and showing love, by lashing out with hurtful behaviors meant to distance us from him.

This led to us taking an unplanned trip to the ER for suicidal ideation. It breaks my heart how hard it is for my boys to feel worthy of love and to believe they deserve happy moments. The self punishment and distancing behaviors that must follow such a wonderful trip is so hard to parent and even harder for that child to live with.

Now that we are into week 2, since our arrival home, everyone has stabilized. We are back into a routine and all are in a much better place emotionally. With the “after vacation crash” we got hit with a nasty flu that led to half our family falling ill over the weekend. I think extreme physical and emotional fatigue created the perfect hotbed for the plague to hit. I was the first to be hit with the bug on Friday afternoon. On Saturday afternoon I lay down for a nap and woke up Sunday afternoon at 3:00pm.

I have never slept that long in my life. It was wonderful and so needed. The cough and headache lingered another two days but the fever and nausea were better upon waking up from my Rip Van Winkle nap.

I now find life almost routine again. The vacation laundry is all washed. The fridge has been filled. The vomiting has ceased and school is back in session. Now that life is back on track I will hopefully be able to catch up you, my friends, on the non-vacation happenings of our crazy crew at Patchwork Farm.

The next few months promise to be eventful!

A Blessed Saturday

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Toby was home on Saturday so it turned into a project day. It was cool and rainy, giving us the perfect excuse to hunker down and work on some house projects.

Number one on the list was painting. Over the last few weeks Toby has been working to patch and sand the many holes made in the drywall over the last year as a result of little boys raging. The bulk of the damage was in Ozzie and Tyler’s room but we also has a few other spots through the house that needed patched. Toby was all done with repairs so everyone pitched in to repaint Tyler and Ozzie’s rooms and touch up the other spots.

Now given the instability of things around here lately, I do recognize the efforts may be futile, but for now the walls are beautifully pristine. 🙂

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While we were in painting mode we decided to tackle another project that has been sitting on the back burner for the last year. A while ago we were given an old set of school lockers that we thought would be cute in Tyler’s sports themed bedroom. They needed painted so they have been sitting in the basement waiting for some TLC. We finally got around to the task last Saturday. We let Tyler pick the colors he wanted to spray paint the lockers with the understanding that Mom and Dad had veto power. Tyler’s first pick was neon pink. When that was vetoed he chose red, green, and yellow for the doors and chalkboard paint for the sides so he can draw on the lockers.

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He loved helping prime the lockers. I think maybe he enjoyed it too much.

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He declared with glee, “I feel like one of those bad boys who color on buildings!”

Beware world: if you see the following image tagging the buildings and bridges of Pittsburgh then you will know Tyler has turned to a life of crime!

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In the afternoon we loaded everyone up for errands. Molly needed to be dropped of at work so we all tagged along.

Work is going well for the girls. They are thriving as Pretzel Factory workers. In fact they are doing so well that they received a personal call from the district owner who has noticed the girls’ work ethic and diligence and called to inform them that they will both be receiving a raise. She said that their store’s sales have increased significantly in the last quarter and she credits Grace and Molly’s work with the increase in the store’s profits. The girls were thrilled…not only for the pay raise but for the recognition.

After a trip to Home Depot and Walmart we headed over to Ellwood City. Rusty had heard news that the comic book store in Ellwood City was having a “Free Graphic Novel” day. Every customer who stopped in could pick from a selection of free graphic novels. Rusty loves graphic novels and asked if we could go check it out.

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We arrived and found a large selection of books to choose from. Rusty was in heaven. The kids searched through the pile of choices looking for the one they wanted. Toby and then previewed possible choices, making sure the content was age appropriate.

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There was something for everyone! Who knew my girl Janet Evanovich wrote graphic novels?!

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Everyone left with some new bedtime reading.

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When we returned home Toby gave the boys haircuts while Grace and I had her weekly one-on-one time. She chose to make fudge. She found a recipe for cookies & crème fudge on Pinterest, so that is what we made. The rainy weather made baking a perfect Saturday afternoon activity and the results of our labors were then enjoyed the next evening as our Family Night treat.

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We are all adjusting to the new normal of having Grace gone more than she is at home. Between two jobs and school she is a girl on the go, but is thriving and loving life. She has fully embraced her new status as college student and is loving her classes. In addition to school changes Grace has transitioned from being a young woman at church to a young adult. She no longer has early morning seminary or Wednesday night youth group. Now her Wednesday nights are spent at institute (church classes for college aged students.) This past Sunday was also her first Sunday attending church down in Pittsburgh at the young adult ward where the congregation is comprised of 18-30 year olds. It is a chance for her to get to know, socialize with, and worship with like minded peers… and also happens to be where Toby and I met 20 years ago. It was a bit surreal sending her off to our old stomping grounds for church. It feels like I was in her shoes just yesterday. How can we be old enough to have a daughter that age?!

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But I am also excited for her. That was such an exciting, sweet time of my life and I am thrilled she gets to embark on such a grand adventure. Week one was a huge success. Grace loved it. Now the rest of us just need to get adjust to being a family of 6 at church. It has been especially challenging for Molly, who has had to get used to not having her best friend/sister in Young Women’s with her.

This seems to be the season of change for our family…both good and hard.

We are still working to get Ozzie in a good place and appreciate all of the prayers said on his behalf. We have felt the sustaining power of the many prayers lifting us up these past few weeks and we are very grateful. When we have a better idea of where we are at and what needs to happen next we will share but until then, thank you for your prayers.

 

Time

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“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” – Henry David Thoreau

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I recently had a conversation with two friends. As we sat at a table, catching up on each other’s lives, I found myself caught up in a working woman’s conversation as they discussed their careers, their busy schedules, and the juggling act they must perform as working moms. Rather than bemoan their busy days, however, they quickly agreed that they could never go back to being “just a stay at home mom.” They agreed that staying home with their children, spending their day caring for their homes, doing laundry, and making meals would just be “too boring.”

Then they smiled at me with a poor, pitying nod and the same sympathetic, “poor soul” look you might give someone on death’s door. 🙂

Thinking they were joking I found a laugh beginning to bubble up.

Then I realized they were serious…and I had to hold back the fit of laughter that was fighting to come forth.

Boredom…HA!

I can’t even imagine such a feeling.

It is the object of my fantasies and distant memories.

I remember being bored once… I think I was 8, but it was so long ago I can’t be sure. 🙂

Time is such an interesting paradox. It is something we always feel we are lacking and yet we perceive others having in abundance, and yet the reality of it all is that we all are equal…

In a world that is quick to point out any imbalance, any inequality, any injustice, this is one area where we all stand on equal footing.

86,400…

those are the seconds in your day

and my day,

and your “busy” neighbor’s day,

and your great grandmother’s day,

and the President’s day,

and your 8 month old daughter’s day.

Time is the great equalizer.

Within every day we begin with the same balance in our bank book,

only the way we choose to use (or lose) those seconds differ.

I am a firm believer that no one person is busier than another. We are simply busy with different things. How my daughter spends her seconds is very different from how my mother spends hers, and yet I wouldn’t say one schedule is busier than another.

Society sells us this lie that the worth of our life multiplies the busier we can tell people we are. Busyness is worn like a badge or carried like a bank book, quick to be pulled out and compared to other’s accountings of their lives…

“Who is busier?” we ask ourselves.

“Wow,” we acknowledge, “She must be an amazing person. Look at how busy she is. There is hardly a second left at the end of her day.”

BUT:

“It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. What are we busy about?” -Henry Davis Thoreau

No one is busier than another, we are just busy with different things…

with different priorities…

with different purposes…

with different callings.

How I use my time, while it may seem to lack value when seen through the glasses of your priorities and your calling, has equal value to your life’s work. And while I may not have any desire to spend my days in an office environment, I recognize it is where God wants you to be.

We don’t have to want another person’s life to be able to embrace its worth for them!

I think this is the greatest lesson I have learned as I have grown older…

Our callings are not the same.

My purpose on earth is different from yours,

and because our callings differ, our use of time will differ too. And that is a wonderful thing. We need to spend more time cheering each other on in our journeys and spend less time judging the value of our journey based on the lives of those around us.

As I sat and listened to the conversation of these two friends I just smiled. I didn’t take their words personally, and I didn’t let their ignorance of my personal calling affect me. I don’t need their validation or their approval. I don’t need to give them an accounting of my days, and minutes, and seconds.. I know I am on the path the Lord wants me on (at least for this season of my life.) and I know he values the way I am spending the seconds of my days.

It is not their journey to understand.

So I just smiled and assured them that staying home and teaching my five kids wasn’t boring to me…not boring at all.

Perhaps someday the Lord will see fit to bless me with a little of that mythical “boredom” I hear about in fairy tales.

Until then I will embrace the crazy busyness of my life,

and give thanks for the path I am on.

We all have the same 86,400 seconds of life to spend each day,

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may we all spend them wisely and see them for the beautiful currency that they are.

How are you spending the days of your life?

Life is a beautiful ride

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It never ceases to amaze me the difference a year can make in an adoption journey.

The passage of time is such an interesting paradox. It ebbs and flows with different speeds, largely determined by the ease of that season of life.

When life is hard and moments are a struggle it is as though the clock stands still,

and then when things are fun and easy

time flies by…

regardless of how hard we try to hold onto each passing minute.

This summer has flown by. It is hard to believe it is half over.

But as much as I might mourn the fast pace this summer has taken

I must celebrate it too.

What a difference a year makes. The difference between last summer and this one is night and day.

While last summer was filled with temper tantrums, testing, and a lot of hard growth as a family,

this summer we have been blessed with ease.

The hardest of the growing pains are over and we are now enjoying the season of rest that follows the harder testing times of life.

And it is lovely.

I know that this season of ease is just that…a season. Other tough times will follow. That is the beauty of this ride we call life. There are peaks and there are valleys. It is all part of the journey…

but for now I will enjoy the view from the top of the ride.

This weekend was a “boys only” weekend. The girls went away this weekend with the youth from our church to western New York where they toured some historical church sites and enjoyed a three day youth conference. This meant that it was just the boys home with Toby and I, so we decided to plan a fun treat for them…

On Thursday night we took them into town where we enjoyed a fun evening at the fireman’s carnival. Toby surprised them with “all day ride bands” and set them loose to enjoy the rides while we watched. It was so much fun. The warm summer night, the smell of funnel cakes, and the bright lights of the fair made for a magical evening.

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It was a fun way to celebrate the joy of having sons without sisters there.

As I watched Ozzie work up the courage to step onto some of the bigger rides, and then squeal with delight once the ride began, I thought about our own journey toward growing our family through adoption.

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It was scary taking that first step.

We stepped on that ride not really having any idea what we were in for.

Then it began…

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Some moments we were lifting our hands and laughing with glee,

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but often we were holding on with a white knuckled grip

wondering what we had gotten ourselves into.

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But we knew there was no getting off. We had to ride it out to completion.

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And we are so glad we did,

because now is the fun part.

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And if we had climbed off the ride during the scary, hard times than we would have missed this:

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“Life isn’t always beautiful

but it’s a beautiful ride.” – Gary Allan

If I die young…

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It is the middle of the night.

We leave in 2 1/2 hours, at 3:00am to board a bus for Mount Vernon, Virginia.

I should be sleeping but I can’t turn my brain off.

Oh, how I envy my sweet husband, snoring next to me, who can simply shut off the worries of his day and sleep.

This week a friend passed away.

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We haven’t talked in a few years but this friend had a life changing effect on my life. This friend was the one who started our home school co-op group. She saw a need and worked to meet that need by creating a venue for our children to gather, and learn, and for friendships (kids and mommas) to be forged. Meeting her on a cyber school field trip put me on a path that forever changed my life. Her effort has blessed my life abundantly. My children have blossomed, learning has taken place, memories have been made, and friendships have been formed. I owe her so much.

It is funny how the Lord uses us to answer the prayers of others…

and uses others to put us on the paths we need to be on.

Sometime friendships are life-long, but so often friendships are seasonal. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t real, or deep, or special, or valuable, it just means they are there to meet a need or serve a purpose, and then the Lord sends us on to the next friend that needs us.

Or the next friend that we need.

This friend came into my life during a season of transition when I needed support and encouragement. I was graduating from MOPS and moving out of the toddler/ preschool phase of life and entering the world of home schooling. I was nervous, insecure, and lacked a support system. I joined co-op just as it was beginning and immediately felt like I had come home. The past 10 years have been all the sweeter as a result.

I look at the profound role this dear friend played in my life. She affected the lives of so many, far more than she probably ever realized. We haven’t talked in a few years but I was heartbroken to hear of her tragic passing. It has affected me profoundly…

Perhaps because the loss feels so personal. She is me. She was living my life, she was my peer, with kids the same age. In a moment their lives were changed forever. It makes me all the more aware of my own mortality and the fleeting nature of life. In a moment it can be over.

The reality of these thoughts have been all-consuming this week as I consider my own life…

as I look at my own children…

as I listen to my husband snore next to me in the dark.

What would I say if tomorrow were my last day? What would I want my children to know?

So here it is. My words to my babies…

If I die young:

1. I love you. Oh, how I love you. I never understood the power of love until I held you in my arms. In loving you I better understand how my Father in Heaven feels about me, and I am humbled. I worried, with each addition, that I wouldn’t have enough love in me to go around, but I discovered love is sort of magical. It grows and multiplies until it is spilling out of your very soul. There is no limit to it.

I can’t wait until you each hold your first baby and feel the love I’m talking about. Then you will understand the love I have for you.

2. Being kind is the most important thing. More than being pretty or smart or talented. It is important to remember that everyone you will meet in your life is fighting a hard battle. It could be sickness, infertility, the loss of a loved one, financial struggles, a loss of faith, addiction. Everyone has a burden they carry. Most of these burdens are hidden and you will probably not even know they are there, so it is imperative that you be kind to everyone. Be kind to those who deserve it, but more importantly be kind to those who don’t. They are the ones who need it most.

Nothing has greater value in this world than kindness and if you can be nothing else, be kind.

3. The answer to life is found in JOY. The acronym is simple. Jesus first, Others second, then Yourself. By following this blueprint you will always have joy, because contrary to what the world is shouting at you, real joy comes from forgetting yourself and serving others.

4. Build a relationship with your Father…earthy and heavenly. They both love you dearly and want the best for you. These relationships are built from TIME. Your relationship will grow and sweeten as you spend time together, communicate, listen, and follow their guidance.

5. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, only how you are doing it. I don’t care what vocation you choose. I see no more value in being a doctor than a handyman. I only hope you will let God lead your steps as you seek out your life’s path…

and whatever you find yourself doing, do it well. Work hard, give it 100%, do your best. If you can learn early the enjoyment that comes from a job well done you will always find life enjoyable…for there will always be work to do.

6. How you treat someone who can do nothing for you says more about your character than anything else. Remember this when choosing friends or considering a future spouse.

How do they treat animals, children, the janitor, the homeless man on the corner, or the man behind the counter waiting on them? That is the real test of character.

7. Embrace plan B. Your life will be full of plan Bs. Those unexpected roads and course changes that go against your plans. They are often disappointing and it can be hard to embrace plan B when you are struggling to let go of the dream you had. Just remember that your plan B is often God’s plan A…

and His plan is always better!

8. Be grateful. Gratitude is the  father of all other virtues and the key to growth and happiness. Count your blessings and change your life. Something as simple as listing your blessings can change everything…

it may not change the circumstances, but it will change you.

Say thank you. Express gratitude to your Heavenly Father and to others. Take the time to write a thank you note when someone does something kind.

Please be grateful.

9. When it comes to relationships you get what you think you deserve in life. This is a hard one and its root is found in the way you see yourself. You have divine worth and you must believe that. For when you truly understand your great value in the eyes of your Heavenly Father you will attract a spouse who also sees that value in you. Unfortunately, I have also seen the opposite be true.

Believe you are a royal daughter or son of a Heavenly King and you will attract royalty.

10. Live today…really live! So often we postpone the important for the urgent, spending our days racing around “putting out fires,” and never really living. Each day is a gift from God and how you use that day is your gift to Him. So for today be present. Stop and see. Experience the world around you. Listen to the words of those you love, really listen. Work, and pray, and laugh, and love a little more. Practice patience.  Say your sorry and forgive…

Forgive others. Forgive yourself.

Give that compliment, and hug those you love a little tighter for a little longer. Share your testimony. Dream big dreams…

and enjoy the journey,

every twist and turn,

because it is an amazing ride!

“If you must look back, do so forgivingly. If you must look forward, do so prayerfully. However, the wisest thing you can do is be present in the present…Gratefully.” – Maya Angelou