Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Advent with a 2 year old

I've always loved Christmas and Advent and the whole excitement and build up for the holiday. I've been pretty good at doing this for myself. I celebrate in my own rhythm, spiritually physically and just the joy of the holiday. 

There is some stress, perhaps not as most. I don't have the big family to prepare for. I have my 2 sisters over sometime around Christmas. Whenever we can get together. Some years we host a friend Christmas party. Not this year with a newborn. And we go up to the in-laws for everything else. We buy presents and bring a dish to pass. 

This year has brought a new sense of urgency to celebrating the season with intention. For my faith and my time and energy are no longer my own. This time last year my toddler didn't grasp as much. But this year, I know my almost 3 year old is soaking in the world like a sponge. He is paying such close attention to what I do. And he will understand Christmas and Advent in these formative years only as I outwardly present it to him. It's a big responsibility. 

A few days into December I realized I wanted to do an Advent Calendar. Not one of those ones you get for a buck or 2 with the crappy chocolates. We tried that last year. They are no where near as delicious as I thought I remembered as a child. On the contrary they were completely in edible. But I digress. 
So I searched the web, and maybe Pinterest, my arch nemesis, for a cheap and easy,  "I can make it right now " solution to the actual calendar. I made this. 

It progressed into an affair lasting a few days to make because I decided I wanted actual magnetic material instead of a half a pound of tape to keep it all together. But it was still pretty easy. I already had a mini muffin pan at home, construction paper and tape. Which is what it was before the upgrade to magnets and pretty paper. 

To keep it both fun and meaningful, in each day I had a Hershey's kiss (I know, not exactly high quality candy) and a slip of paper for someone/ something to pray for each night in our prayer time. We also read this each night:

Bill questioned the same book each night.  But I said "yes" repetition is how he will learn the story. Maybe in the future we will mix it up a bit. 
I thought it seemed simple enough for a little guy. He gets excited for "Advent calendar" time. 

We've also been trying to be intentional about doing some fun holiday stuff withBen  and the baby. Things we can have in pictures, but also memories we can make and really make it feel like Christmas. 

This last weekend on Saturday we did both a "breakfast with baby Jesus" as well as a live nativity in the evening. One low cost , the other free. I also enjoy looking up such activities to do. 

The weekend before we went to a visit Santa with hot Cocoa at a small country store north of the border. It was awesome. Not only was the cocoa awesome, but we literally had Santa all to ourselves. He read us stories and sang Christmas songs to us. I almost don't want to give this gem of an experience away. But I love this store so much. Google "Hill Country Market " in Salem WI. They also have a killer deli lunch menu. Seriously. And local and organic produce and meat. 

We went to Our towns Christmas parade and tree lighting ceremony. We have dropped off presents for our Angel Tree kids and involved Ben somewhat in that process. We drive through our hood looking at lights. We made a gingerbread house. I love it all. I hope our kids do too. 

Some of my favorite snapshots are:
-Ben calls Santa "ho ho guy" (I have mixed feelings on the whole Santa thing. I don't push it too hard. I really barely mention him. I just allow him to exist)
- while reading the Christmas story he  likes to tell me now what's going to happen next
- every present he sees he begs to open. So everything is stashed in my already disaster of a closet. 
- the way Ben says Christmas tree sounds more like "Chris Chris tee"
- every night this Advent Ben has added "blah" to our prayer requests when asking if we should include anyone else. "Blah" is what he calls my sister Beth. It's more endearing than it sounds. But he thinks of her often. 

How have you made the holidays meaningful for your family, especially in the early years ?

Thursday, December 4, 2014


In the life of a 2 year old , there are trends   . There is hilarity, there is frustration and tantrums, there are hours if just sitting on the floor playing with your "guys". 

Trending with Ben lately is his enthusiasm over Old McDonald and encouragement of family participation. 

It started out with us just playing the song here or there on the guitar or piano. And going through the normal range of farm animals. Your horses, goats , cows , chickens etc. 

Old McDonald has evolved in our home to a non-traditional barnyard. 
Our daily rounds of the song have come to include old McDonald having:

-batman (shocking). With a "pow pow" here
- Robin.  Also with a "pow pow" there
- Superman.  With a "zoom zoom" here
- storm trooper. With a "hi. Hi. " here
- Santa clause. With a "ho ho " there
- momma. With a "no no" here
- baby.  With a "wah wah" there
- dad. With a "hi hi " here ( conspicuously similar to storm trooper)
- bad guy. With a "pow pow" there
- George ( as in curious George) with an "oo oo ah ah" here
- Ben. With a "pphhlllt (think the raspberries)" here and there


It cracks me up every single time. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

The balm of gratitude

It's been about 5.5 years since she left this world. And the years before that saw a slow decline of mind and body into a state that was unsustainable. 

Death is difficult, no matter what the circumstances. And no 2 circumstances are exactly the same. Be it the diagnosis, the suddenness (or length) of it's reach, the relationships surrounding the soul. 

For those around the dead or dying person there is a mix of conflicting emotions. Sometimes in the same moments, sometimes fluctuating from moment to moment, or year to year. 

Somehow, in my recent reflections of my mothers death, reflections I too often try to avoid due to the extent of the pain involved, I have begun to find peace 

I don't know how. Or why. Or where this happens. But it's happening. 

Grief is so complex, it is difficult to put into words. Though we try. There are countless books and experts on the subject. Support groups, etc. and no right answers. 

All of this to say that My words here will be a simplification of my heart. 

Why does a good, loving, peaceful and hardworking woman have to suffer and go. A time seemingly cut short. While less decent people live on, continuing to put their 2 cents into the world. 

My anger at the injustice of it had been suffocating at times. My guilt and shame for not having done more to ease that suffering was equally damaging. Sadness at opportunities and blessings that she would never see or realize made me sick. 

I would swollow these feelings like bad food.  And use running to burn them off. And avoidance when I couldn't. 

Little by little I have been working on a thing called gratitude. And I am wondering if this plays a part in my healing. 

During runs, reading, prayer, quietness, my own brokenness of late, I have been able to reflect on what I do have. While it doesn't take away that which is broken, it refocuses my perspective. 

What  am I talking about, right?

Though injured and unable run for a while, I can walk. I am thankful for that. For a healthy child. While on leave and receiving new clients I must refer out, I can refer them to people I trust and have a beautiful reason to be on leave. Though the weather is turning cold, the trees are ablaze with color. 

Can I see the beauty?

Is there beauty in death?

And yes. 

Which do I choose to focus on. 

My mom's death was unjust. 

It was also beautiful. 

I can't tell you the number of times she spoke of her own longing to see her mother again. Some 50 years passed away. I close my eyes to picture what their reunion might have looked like. 

How many people can you name that accomplished most of their life dreams? And by the age of 60. Or long before. She did. Her simple dreams of having horses, raising kids, pursuing art. 

She held no bitterness. Had no relationships that she did not try to repair. No worldly regrets. 

Her faith was strong. She wasn't afraid of what was next. She had peace about it. She didn't fight death. Only the limitations of not being able to be productive. 

I am filled with happy childhood memories while in her charge. 

Aren't these things beautiful. It has a thread running through them of peace. And I feel like that is what we are all longing for. 

If she had peace about it, why shouldn't I one day? 

And I speak of it as "one day". I am not there yet. I don't know if I ever will. And I think it will be a daily commitment to try. But is that not also what she would desire for me? 
I am making steps. And it feels a bit lighter. 

Anger can be a heavy load to bear. 

Can gratitude be one of the things we can use to ease that burden? I am beginning to believe so. 

Precious moments

Confession time:
I can't remember a whole lot from when Ben was a newborn. 
It was only 2.5 years ago!

I wish I would have taken more time to document/write down what every day was like. What we did. What my favorite little moments were. 

Together Bill and I can remember a few things, and provoke each other's memory. 
We remember freaking out the first few days when we thought he wasn't getting enough to eat. 
We remember how completely flawless his skin and complexion were immediately after birth. 

We remember how when he fussed, he only wanted to be walked around. He would not tolerate Sitting or rocking in a chair (which was awesome at 1am)<-add sarcastic font. 
I remember trying to take thousands of pictures to hold memories. 
But I wish I would have written more feelings and moments that film will never capture. 

I was thinking about all of this today after I put Ben down for his nap. This usually starts my quiet baby one on one time with Jillian. My favorite time with her these days includes one of two positions. Each we are sitting in the beloved recliner chair. 
The first she is laying on my chest. We are belly to belly and she is lifting her head and just staring at me or looking another two feet up at the collection of shiny running medals. 

The other she is sitting against my knees( my knees are up) and we again are just looking at each other. This eye contact. Where I feel like we are studying each other's faces and getting to know each other. 

I want to remember these moments in 2.5 years, As currently they are my favorite. 

I want to remember other such little moments as we go along. 

Moments and feelings like:
My pride as Ben says "hi baby" and strokes her head. Or how he makes grocery shopping easier than it should be for a mom with a newborn and 2.5 year old. Or the pleading look he gives me as he asks for permission to eat the cookie he is reaching for. Or the simultaneous adoration and frustration I feel at his "1 more book" request for the 10th time before bed as he holds 6 of his Little People who he is taking to bed with him and I just laugh cause it's so insanely cute. 

I want to learn to embrace the joy in these small moments now, in the middle of the chaos and Legos under my feet. 

I don't want to look back and not remember. It feels like I am missing out. Even though I was there. 

I am considering documenting some of that here. In this blog space. As a place to come back to and read. To remember. To refer to on rough days. And smile. (Which is one reason why I document rougher times as well). 

However I am aware of what happens to some of my best laid plans. 

Passing like memories. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

I miss being pregnant

I sit in my recliner chair In awe that in addition to my sweet Ben, We now also have a beautiful healthy 6 week old daughter. 

She lays now on the same stomach that carried and grew her for 9 months. We spent so much time waiting and in anticipation, labor came and went, quickly, and now she is here to stay, on the outside. 

There is much to do and keep up with now with 2 babies. I'm trying so hard to be mindful of the moment and the present gift of these 2 children sitting before me each day. Much of the time I feel I am awed by them. 

But I also have this weird feeling, I didn't have it after Ben...
But I miss being pregnant. 

Perhaps that sounds odd, I am so very glad that she arrived. Or counterintuitive. Or maybe it's my raging hormones. Or the idea that it's possible that this is my last (this discussion one way or the other has not happened yet)

And Keep in mind I have relatively easy pregnancies (don't hate). 

Specifically, here is what I miss:

- I miss the anticipation. That feeling that every moment you know that you are working towards something monumental. Eyes focused on due date. And that person you are going to meet. It helps tremendously that I have each time chosen to wait until their birth to find out the gender. There is so much to look forward to that day (except the pain)

- I miss the easy conversation that would ensue later in pregnancy, when obviously showing. It was something to talk about. And one of the few times I found myself less awkward talking to strangers (this time). People are genuinely interested and happy for you. Again, not knowing the gender changes the conversation. No wishing for the opposite gender or completing the family with one of each talk. Just "I don't know" which has different follow up questions like "what do you want?" ( to which I either tell the truth or reply "human" jokingly).  All speculative talk or a "good for you"

- I miss the doctors appointments. Weird, I know. But maybe it's because everything was healthy (I can't imagine the dread if it wasn't) and I loved the praise of being healthy and having a healthy baby and excitement of hearing the heartbeat. It helps that I have a phenomenal doctor and I love the friendly staff. 

-pregnancy has helped me with my body image. During pregnancy I feel pretty and glowing and have learned to accept my body (more) and all it's flaws through this miracle. (Thanks Angela for the reminder of this!!)

- I miss the excuses. Like " oh Jenna is crabby today, well, she's pregnant, it's ok". Late? Forgetful? Or feeling too tired to do something (even if I'm not)- it's a great excuse people buy into for poor social behavior. Granted, having a newborn affords you some of those same rights. But after a few months, I'm actually accountable for myself. 

- I'm just going to say it, no lady business to worry about for 9 months. And in addition, since I'm nursing, it may not return for a while. With Ben it was another full glorious year. 

- naps. I've never been much of a napper. It feels inefficient when I have a million things I want to do. Though I enjoy naps. Pregnancy is the perfect excuse and no one questions it. I have only napped once since she was born. 

Now, there are many details I certainly do not miss. The heartburn, weird cravings, the failing bladder, the compromised blood oxygen levels, etcetera. But for me they pale to the joys. 

Has anyone else ever felt this way?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

And in my weakness

Today I talk about the one down side of this birth. 
While I was blessed with a beautiful and healthy baby on Tuesday night, 9/9, the enormity of that blessing is not lost on me, I had a rather scary after effect of giving birth to a big baby. 
Here is what happened. 

After less than 3 hours of birthing, I was feeling pretty good. Even the next day, I was walking around the hospital, trying to keep my legs moving and alleviate some boredom. The next day, Thursday, I woke with some soreness in my pelvis and upper legs. Nothing crazy, I just attributed it to the fact that I had just used to muscles so intensely 36 hours ago. And like after a hard workout, they say you feel it most 2 days later. I was discharged Thursday morning with just some muscle soreness. 
However as the day went on, the soreness intensified. And by Friday morning, I could barely get out of a chair, much less walk a few steps to get to the bathroom. Any movement that required my pelvis (which is most movements) was incredibly, immobilizingly painful. I could not understand what was happening. 
So the first thing we did is what every doctor hates: I googled my symptoms. It took us through a variety of terrifying scenarios. We knew we should probably seek some actual medical advice/intervention. It took most of the the day Friday, but I finally called my doctors office. Of course the office was closed. But I could have the doctor paged if I wanted. I didn't. 

My brain does this thing where I am terrified of over reacting. I need to be "strong" and tough things out without complaining. There's a history behind it. It is enormously ridiculous. The very idea of calling and asking for intervention brought me to tears, far more than the pain did.  I have realized in retrospect if I saw this happening to anyone else but me, I would demand that they seek medical help. (And yes, Bill had been encouraging me to do so. Sadly he also knows that pushing  me too hard to do anything exacts the opposite response)

Luckily, The next day my sister, my mother in law and sister in law came over to visit the new baby. And were more than a little disturbed that I couldn't move and that I hadn't actually spoken to any medical professional. My mother in law didn't want to leave until she knew I had spoken to my doctor. Finally I called. And had the doctor paged. And he called me back pretty quickly. 

I told him what was happening. Practically in tears (which he later told me freaked him out more than anything cause he had never seen me complain or cry, not even during child birth ) and went through many questions and symptoms with me to narrow down the issue. It became clear quickly that somehow my pelvis was injured (probably due to the speed of delivery ). Possibly separated. 

He gave me a prescription for pain and we scheduled an x ray for my pelvis. 

And so for a few days, between an engineer and a therapist, we problem solved, cause that's what we do, on how to get me around the house, much less to the x ray and dr appt. Bill has been awesome through this. Taking extra time off and always making sure I am comfortable and have what I need. And very patient through a stressful time. Those around me who knew have been incredibly supportive. And in that I am blessed.  some amazing friends helped out tremendously with meals, giving us a wheelchair to borrow, visiting, and performing other seemingly minor tasks, that were otherwise impossible for us. 

And somehow after talking to my doctor, asking for help became slightly easier. I stopped freaking out about being weak. And got into "how do we get through this" mode. 

It also helped when we got some answers. There was a possible minor separation in the pelvis, it was not obvious on the xray, and usually they are. He said maybe very minor. But that even if it was major, nothing different could be done to heal it. Just time. He then assured me that it should get better sooner rather than later. 

He explained that it was probably baby coming so fast and furiously. There was almost no time for my ligaments to properly expand. A little damage happened, and then like a bruise, it took a day or so for swelling to start. The swelling then hit my nerves. Thus creating the pain. 

And he was right. Every day I have slowly gotten better. It started with just being able to transfer from the wheelchair to the toilet with less or without pain. Then I could take one or two steps without crazy pain. The most exciting thing was managing in the kitchen on my own. 

Now I can walk around without any assistance. I am off of any pain medication. I still have a limp and/or Frankenstein walk, but I can walk. And I am told that I can expect a full recovery. And if not, we will look at some pt. 

Now, I realize things could have been so much worse. I have heard horror stories of horrible injuries to babies during birth. Or blood clots or bleeding out in mommas. Or actual severe pelvic injuries. 
And I am very lucky. But it was very scary. 

And I have learned that in weakness/ brokenness I am strong. Not because I am tough, but because I have to reach out to those around me. Because those are the times when God does his greatest work in humbling me and changing my perspective and growing me. 

And in the end I have a beautiful and healthy baby girl. And I will be back to normal at some point. 

And It will make whatever my fitness goals for next year that much sweeter. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Birth story

For 3 weeks my body had been ready to give birth. Being at least 3 cm dilated, 80% effaced and baby super low. For 3 weeks I insisted upon waiting for my body to flip the switch, imagining it would be any day. And it just wasn't coming. 
Finally , 2 days before my due date, my doctor invited me to come to the hospital the next day to have my water broken, knowing I still wanted to wait for nature to take it's course. He left it up to me. 

That next morning, after some quiet thought and prayer, told myself "what the hell. Let's do it" I knew we wouldn't use drugs unless necessary. So we called doctor up and he brought us in to have this baby! And my sweet Ben got to have his first sleepover at the neighbors. 

At 4:15pm, after being checked in and changed into the very attractive hospital robe, they broke my water. Which feels like nothing more than just checking dilation. They also informed me that I was already 5cm dilated at this point. Bill and I laughed and watched the monitors, and the clocks, guessing how long this would take. I optimistically guessed baby #2 would be born around 9pm. Bill guessed around midnight. The doctor came in several times to talk us through what to expect and to check in. 

We had an awesome nurse, Kate who was friendly, kind and explained everything that she was doing and tolerated my never ending list of questions with great patience and joy. Her shift ended at 7pm and verbalized her disappointment that she probably would not see the end of this birth. She loved the surprise of not knowing the gender or the name. 

About a half hour later, I started to note the contractions. And how quickly they were coming closer together. 10 minutes. Than 8. Then 7. Then 5 minutes. Then the intensity grew and I knew that we were getting somewhere. And fast. By 6:15 I had to stand and get out of the bed. They came to get me some sweet adult diapers so water wouldn't get all over the floor, since it had been broken and all 2 hours ago. I just needed to move my body differently in an attempt the relieve the intensity of the contractions. However, this probably had the opposite effect, due to gravity. Bill said it hasn't been more than 10 minutes when I asked for the nurse to come in and check my dilation. She came in, and I was now at 8 cm. she went and informed the doctor. Soon, the contractions were nearly unbearable, and were right on top of each other with virtually no relief, but I knew the end was near. 
Within another 10-15 minutes the nurse checked again, and I was at 10, and barely able to hold the baby in. The nurse then ran for the doctor. 

Luckily all of his stuff was set up, since they know his routine. And it seems as soon as he walked in and put his gloves on, that they were telling me to push. Kate and the doctor gave me directives, and after one big count to 10 push, they told me to stop. Doc asked me to look at him, which I was not happy about cause usually it's for him to check in and see how I am, and all I wanted was this baby to be out. To my surprise, what he wanted to show me was my baby's head. It was already out. The nurses all gasped, exclaiming how big the head was. 

After that we did some small pushes, doc explained that it was to get the shoulders out, which is the hardest part apparantly. After that it was 1, maybe to big count to 10 pushes, and baby was born.  No more than 5 minutes of pushing. And I swear to you, that there is no greater physical sensation of relief, than that last moment of push. When baby is out. 

Right then, I was waiting for someone, esp my husband, to tell me the gender. There was literally a minute of everyone looking at each other, seeing who was going to make the announcement. I think Bill was just bewildered for a moment. And finally, they told me that I had a little girl.  I was surprised, I really expected a boy, but in no way was I disappointed. I had a little girl. 

The official birth time was 7:01pm. Just at the end of Kate's shift. She stayed a little longer to help, which I was grateful for. And before she left, she asked, and was the first one to do so, what her name was. We told her "Jillian" with pride, and she gave me a hug, congratulated us, and went home. 

I got to hold and nurse my baby as soon as she was weighed and checked out. ( like 5 minutes later). It was wonderful. She did, however weigh in at 9 lbs 9 oz. on 9/9. (Glad she didn't wait until 9pm!) 

I could not have asked for labor to go any better or faster. 

However there were some unexpected consequences to that, of which I will write about in another post. But this is one of celebration.

In the next few hours, reasonable calling hours, Bill and I enjoyed the process of calling and telling everyone our news. Most of which were surprised, because they knew we had just gotten there a few hours before. 

We were also glad that we went in when we did. If we had waited another week, for my body to flip the switch, it's possible we would have had a 10 lb + baby. And that might have been far too large for my hips/pelvis. 

When we told Ben on the phone, over at our neighbors house, he apparantly ran over to the other kids, pumped his fists in the air and exclaimed "baby!"  And he has maintained his excitement over her since. He gives her hugs and kisses and pats her head so gently. He is such a sweet brother. 

And here is my baby girl today, a week later. 
Welcome to the world, Jillian Mary Burris. We are very happy to have you. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Baby Pool

We are that annoying couple.
The one that most of you don't understand.
(in many ways probably)
But we are waiting to find out the gender of our precious baby until he/she is born.

And we are withholding the names as well.

Actually one of you out there knows the girl middle name. And its possible someone remembers the girl name I never changed from 10 + years ago that we have always liked.

But no one knows our boy name.
The fact is, we don't even really know. Its still a point of contention.
I suppose we have to decide soon. We are only 3 weeks from the due date. But todays dr. appt alluded to a potential earlier delivery. But we still don't know.

And so for fun. Lets make a game. A guessing game. We've created a baby pool.
What are we having?
Boy? Girl?
I'm pulling for human.

And what shall we name said child?

Game also includes actual birth date guess ( I may subtract points if you hope for September 11), height and weight (of baby)

I might even have a prize for the winner.
If my post-pardum body allows me to get it to you before his/her first birthday.

And so...guess away... the official site to put your official guess in is below. If you put it on the blog alone I may or may not count it.


or copy and paste this:


Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Today I bulked up a little. 
After making Bill's requested birthday breakfast of chocolate waffles, I used the last of our vanilla, sugar and cocoa powder. There are few things I dislike more than running to the store for something basic like that. So I do stock up on those items. 

(In case you can't tell. That is a 10lb bag of sugar. It lasts for months. )

I do a fair amount of cooking and baking. Mainly from scratch. I admit I'm a little snobby in my kitchen these days about ingredients and not using box mixes. And I have had those days where I want to make chocolate chip cookies, only to realize that I'm out of brown sugar. Do I really want to put a bra on and go to the store? 

It was one of those days that I made a discovery this year that has changed my kitchen.  

I have learned how to make my own brown sugar and powdered sugar. 

Not only is it convenient, but it's also disgustingly easy. Like the food industry has been tricking me into believing I am incompetent my entire life. Which they have.  (It also satiates part of my hatred of waste and garbage. Less packaging to throw away!)

So take this food industry...

Here is how you make brown sugar:

1 cup of regular granulated sugar (from my ginormous bag)
1-2tsp of molasses. (Depending on how dark/heavy you like it)

Put the 2 into your mixer of whatever sort. 
(This is my Kitchen Aid mixer. Got a deal on a refurbished one. Still pricey, but so worth it for my Betty Crockery kitchen needs )

Then you just mix them for like 5-10 minutes. Make sure you do it on a low setting. I tried it on a higher setting and they just never mixed. 

And ta-da!! Brown sugar! And it keeps! I have some in my pantry right now in a sealed Pyrex container that I made 2 weeks ago. 

So the other item is powdered sugar. I realized this after needing to make frosting for something and realizing again that I was out. And after I learned the brown sugar trick, I thought "I wonder if..."
I looked it up and it's even easier than brown sugar. Do you know what powdered sugar is? Just more finely ground sugar ! WTH!!!!

Powdered Sugar:

So I took a cup of sugar and put it in this... 
Yes it's the magic bullet. Don't judge me. Like you've never watched an infomercial and been sucked in?

Anyway. I put the sugar in here. And turned it on. And about 5 minutes later I had powdered sugar. 

I'm sure you can use a regular blender. Or food processor?

The only thing to keep in mind is that if you intend to use this for something like frosting, you need to add about a tablespoon of cornstarch. Before or after.  It just serves as a binding agent. 

This also keeps well in my pantry. Sealed of course. 

And there you have it. You don't have to wander the baking isle in the store anymore. I don't. With each of these 3 items for your sugar supply(which if you bake, you'll more than likely have these anyway)  a little goes a long way. (Granulated sugar, molasses and corn starch) 

It has changed my kitchen. Is super easy. And thought I would share with you. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My one and only political post.

I think that, if you read through every one of my blog posts, you would be remiss to find much written on politics.
Its not because I don't value them or have political opinions. But for the most part, they are not on my motherhood or professional agenda in regards to writing; and to be honest, I know that I am probably not thick-skinned enough to handle the criticism and varied opinions on hot button issues that are usually embodied in politics.

However today that will change.

Mainly  because there is an issue near and dear to my heart, and to my profession and professional experience that I want to talk about.

And unless you are over the age of 60, or are a caretaker for someone over that age, this is probably not something you have considered.

But let me tell you a fact.
Medicare (the primary insurance provider for seniors) does NOT cover/pay for mental health counseling provided by Licensed Professional Counselors.

Medicare DOES cover counseling services provided by Social Workers and Psychologists. But not Professional Counselors (whose entire extensive masters or doctoral level education is solely focused on mental health counseling services).

However every single  other private insurance carrier offers coverage for mental health services through professional counselors  (BCBS, Aetna, Humana, Tricare, Medicaid, etc)

It is not a secret, I am a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in the State of Illinois and Wisconsin. So I have a vested interest in being included in providing professional mental health care services to this population that is growing exponentially. Much faster than any professional program can educate practitioners.

It is also incredibly frustrating that I am limited in what I am able to do. Much of my professional experience has been with this population. From working with elder abuse, to supervising senior services programs in Lake County, to running support groups and providing individual counseling to residents of nursing homes and working with (and being at one point myself) a caregiver. With this experience, I have received referrals to my private practice for seniors on Medicare with a variety of mental health issues including grief, depression, co-dependency, trauma/abuse, adjustment issues, etc. Each of whom I have to make arrangements to either   1. see pro bono (for free),  2. work out a private pay rate- which is incredibly high for someone on a fixed income, or   3. refer elsewhere. And I think each of these people deserve their services and I will do whatever it takes to make sure they receive it, be it from myself or someone else as qualified.

Now you might ask, how I am able to see seniors in nursing homes? Long story short, I do that as a contractor for a group practice. I am "supervised" by a Licensed Psychologist who signs off on everything I do and so he bills Medicare. Its completely legit and an acknowledged practice, like how other practices (like doctors) can still bill for utilizing interns or nurses services or those without their full licensing credentials.

I just cannot not do it on my own. Even though the services are identical. And it limits the number of highly qualified mental health practitioners who can serve this population.

This article gives a little bit more info about it:
article from the Illinois Counseling association about this issue

So why do seniors need Mental health services? Imagine yourself when you are 65+. How many people around you, friends and family have passed away? grief/loneliness. Its harder to get out/leave your house. You've most likely retired from whatever your life's work has been. You are most likely physically able to do less than you were before. Most are on a new very tight fixed income. Health concerns increase including new meds, eyesight, arthritis, breathing, etc. Its a time when you question your purpose and life contribution. And even more so, imagine for yourself having to move into a nursing home (if you haven't visited one recently, I encourage you to do so. Its a sobering experience). Get the picture. Its depressing. Anxiety producing. Lonely. And Seniors have the highest rate of suicide among any age group by far.

So here's the deal.

Legislation has been now introduced to the house of Representatives in Washington to make one simple change. That is to include Marriage and Family therapists and Licensed Professional Counselors to the list of accepted mental health providers for Medicare. Its called HR 3662 The Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2013.

If you think that this is important, which I do, here is what you can do. Its really quite easy.

Can you please call or e-mail your local Congressional representative to Washington. Just let them know that you are in support of H.R. 3662, The Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2013 and to ask for their support of it. To allow for greater access to Mental Health Services for seniors, who need it. Your letter/voice mail does not need to be elaborate. Just state your support.

Here is where you can look up your Rep by zip code (use the "find officials" box). Mine is Randy Hultgren (if you live near me). Each rep should have their own website with a "contact" or "email" section/tab.

The other simple thing is to encourage others to do this as well. Pass this on.

Thank you for bearing with me on this.
But it is rather important to me.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Warnings to moms

I was having a conversation with my sister in law the other month about our respective   pregnancies. She is due about a month before I am (I'm excited to have these cousins so close in age).
It's the summer now and our next 1-2 months of growing humans will take place as the temperature continued to rise. 
We shared and compared our stories of all of the people who have felt compelled to warn us about how big and hot and miserable we will be during the long scorching summer months. Because apparently we were probably not aware of this phenomena they call "summer". 

Now I believe that these people were probably trying to be helpful. Or it's make conversation. Or somehow well meaning. 

It got me to thinking about all of the ways that people, especially other parents, feel the need to "warn" and "prepare" you for how horrible pregnancy and motherhood are. Most of these warnings start out with "just wait till...____"

Just wait till the middle of August and you're ginormous and pregnant and miserable

Just wait till your nursing and (fill in the blank for the discomfort of the first 6 weeks of nursing)

Just wait till you are unable to sleep again until they are in college

Just wait till you have to deal with sibling rivalry/temper tantrums/ the terrible twos/ etc. 

Just wait until they start getting sassy and talking back. 

Just wait until the hormones start kicking in. 

Now. I know that being pregnant and motherhood is challenging. But it's not impossible. People have been doing it since time began. I've seen seemingly less than capable people turn their offspring into perfectly well adjusted human adults. 

And I do wish there were some areas of more open discussion about the actual surprising parts (like needing freaking depends for 6 weeks post birth. Post-partum depression. Or the astronomical cost of buying bras for your ever changing size) But seriously, summer being hot is not a shock. I've lived in the Midwest my entire life. I understand the weather patterns. 

I guess I am somewhat confounded by the need for all of the warnings. But what about the excitement of new life and new beginnings? What about warning parents of all the abundant joy you might experience.  What about sharing or warning about how adorable your child might be. Or about how emotional you might get when your child starts saying "no thank you" instead of screaming "no!"  Or warning that your child might actually sleep or nap and you could actually have some "me time". Warning about how much fun it is to see your child's eyes light up when they meet Batman or dad comes home or greets some other superhero in their world. Or how you think you might die of loneliness after leaving your child for a short girls weekend. 

Where are those warnings? 

We live in a world it seems so warped by negativity. And yes, I value honesty and there are negative things to parenthood and the world around us. But why do we give that so much credit and power? I don't want to focus on that. I want to be mindful of the good. Both the yin and the yang. Take it all in. Relish the moments. Not fear them. 

I was given a huge gift about a week before my wedding. Someone told me to take a moment to myself, silently, before I walked down the isle. Take in everything and everyone I saw. Take a deep breath. And I did. And in that moment there was no worry. Only peace. And I fondly remember that moment 9 years later. More vividly than many other moments of that day. (Where there were some messy moments too). And in the meantime, marriage has been messy. But I am learning how to try to hold those precious moments, like I was advised to so wisely.

Can I please do that with my children. My pregnancies. Relish them. Even in the chaos? 

A simple gesture

Throughout the years I have been blessed to know so many generous souls.
Generosity, in my eyes has nothing to do with money or possessions or how much you have to give. But in how willing you are to share what you do have and in making people feel valued. 
There are people who have been immensely generous to me in opening their homes and giving me old cars and helping a silly young girl stay on her feet. For those times and people, my life has been forever altered for the better. 

But it's also in those small gestures where I felt supremely cared for. For some reason lately I've been pondering those and remembering with gratitude those who took an extra minute or thought or $1 to tell me that they were thinking about me to brighten my day. Some were as long as 15 years ago. But I remember the feeling like it was yesterday. 

I just want to share a few. Perhaps you were on the giving end of one of those. And if you were, know that I still remember. And with great fondness. 

A few took place in the year I was working at Wheaton College. 

-a friend/ student stopped by my office to give me a small bouquet of flowers. Just because. No reason. They were just thinking of me. 
-another friend/student remembered my description of a song I heard on the radio and fell in love with. Though I could not remember it's name. A week later she handed me a recording of that song. 

when I was making a significant life move, taking a new job and moving to a new area and leaving some special people. 2 things I still have in my possession were given to me:

 - a scrapbook of memories from the previous few years 
- 2 framed pictures of my favorite place 

After I had had my son, and a few months later returned to work (which if you don't know... Is the single hardest thing in the world. And I was only working 2 days a week!) my coworker left me this on my desk:
- a "back to work survival kit ". Including 2 packs of tissue (that said worlds greatest mom), 2 packs of Reese's Peanut butter cups and done calming tea 

When I left the southern suburbs and my job of 5 years with students, they left me with 2 beautiful gifts:

- my guitar students learned and performed a sweet good bye song for me 
- a collection of letters of people telling me how much they loved me

I realize now that many of these things are physical "gifts". Which if you have ever read "the 5 love languages " it's probably pretty telling about me. 

What does that mean? That someone took time out of their day to consider me and put energy into making me smile. I think it's easier probably to do when someone is right in front of you. Telling a joke or story and making people laugh. But I guess it tells me that out of sight does not mean out of mind. And that feels good. 

So I guess in all of this , it inspired me to want to do the same for others. How can I go out of my way a little bit to let those around me know that I am thinking about them and care about them? That they are important. 
Gestures and gifts are one way
Just telling them is another
Performing some service or
Making time to be with them. 
Affection is another. 

Sometimes fear of imposing myself on others holds me back from doing this.
But it also then holds me back from loving. From creating connections.

It is my impetus to be more brave in this. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A mother and a _____

Recently I've been blessed to participate in a summer bible study with a group of ladies from the MOPS (mothers of pre schoolers) program I have been involved with. This was some spiritual self care I knew I needed. Most of the ladies I had never met before or only met once or twice. And they have been incredibly tolerant of my tardiness, since I come straight from seeing a client. 

We've been reading "Known and Loved: 52 devotions from Psalms" directed towards moms/parents. 

One of its foci has been around identity. How often when we become parents, sometimes that not only becomes our life, but our sole identity. While parenthood is a significant role in our lives, it is NOT all if who we are. 
We were each made with unique gifts and abilities. To be creative, in many different ways. To have multiple purposes. To love and be loved. To be complex and multi- dimensional. 

Some "assignments" from the book called for us to do a role call of what we do and who we are, as people, not just moms. Cause either way, we are valuable. 

I guess that this is my exploration of my role call. Who I identify myself to be. (In no particular order)

I am  A mother and a _____.

Fierce friend
Loyal wife
Guitar teacher
Animal lover and advocate
Child of God
Supporter if my community
Green Bay Packer fan
Running enthusiast
WW2 history buff
Perpetual learner
Believer in each persons potential
Nature lover
Down home/ from scratch cook
"Don't take crap from nobody"
Person who can laugh at themselves
Fascinated by geography
Hopeless romantic

I disallowed qualifiers, negativity or self pity. I have lots of those. But I found them unnecessary for this purpose. And perhaps we all should. Love ourselves for who we are. Not always pointing out the bad. But allowing for The good. God does. 

What/who are you?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

on the eve of

9 years ago this evening, I had several of my favorite ladies sitting with me on the floor of Bill's 1 bedroom apartment (far larger than my studio apartment) making bouquets and boutonnieres of several of the 200 roses I bought wholesale, and folding programs for the festivities of the next day. Laughs were shared, projects completed and mattresses and sleeping bags were spread out, and well before midnight, just about everyone was ready to call it a day. The next day was going to be pretty busy.

Everyone was ready to call it a night except me.

I had the excuse of "I need more tulle" to decorate the church with, so I left to make a run to up all night Meijer store to make this seemingly necessary purchase. Meijer wasn't exactly close. It was a few towns away. I'm sure I could have driven to Walmart just across the highway.

Obviously, the next day would carry on with or without more lacy fabric. I doubt anyone even noticed. But I needed to get out. I needed to breathe. I needed to think. Alone.

As you may have figured out, that next day, July 9th, 2005, was going to be one of the biggest days of my life. I was going to marry the man who was created to be exactly who I needed. A sweet, generous, annoyingly honest, intelligent and godly man.

But to tell you the truth, I had some reservations. Not about him. But about me. About marriage. About the complexities of life lived not only for myself anymore. No more survival mode. Other people were involved. I knew that everything was going to change. There was no gong back. I have always been aware of my belief system of "marriage is forever"

But you see, I had no idea what that looked like. What that meant. How do people do that? Most of the marriages I knew fell apart. Or the lengthy ones I did get to observe were terrifying. I knew a lot of what I did not want. But had little clear vision of what I did want. In a marriage.

Whats funny is that I did know what I wanted in a person. A potential spouse. I suppose thats where I got lucky. I was picky. Not that I had more than a handful of people ever interested in dating me. But I had my specifications. And to tell you the truth, I had been praying for the person who I was going to marry for years and years. Even though I did not know who that was. Someone once told me, as a young adult, to think about praying for your future spouse. I have always wanted to get married one day. So I decided that was not a bad idea. And my prayers often contained blessings for whoever was out there for me. It certainly couldn't hurt, right?

And somehow we found one another.

And in the party section of Meijer I stood there, staring at bolts of tulle. Considering all of this. How blessed I was. But also how scared I was. This was my last evening/night as just plain old me. I would be a part of a new family. A new name. A new system. A new way of life.

I decided I was thinking too hard, and after making my purchase,  made a stop at Steak and Shake on my way home for a small order of cheese fries. (most people starve themselves before weddings, right?) But fries may or may not be my stress/comfort food.

And while driving the rest of the way home, with salty and sticky hands, I decided that it was going to be okay. That I really believed that "life is what you make it". Even with the ups and downs, and I knew those would happen. I would choose to do my best. I was not alone. God was right beside me. And these had gotten me through thus far.

And 9 years later, I think about that girl in Meijer. Still the overthinker. Still married. Still sure she made the right choice, and that this is the man she prayed for long before they ever met.
Life has not taken us where I ever expected. But far exceeded where I dreamed.
There have been some incredibly tough times and moments in there. Changes. Losses to great for words. fights. Words we wish we could take back. But also adventures. Support. laughs and ridiculous inside jokes. goals and dreams met and accomplished, with many more on our list. We have a beautiful son, and another baby coming.

All in all I cannot complain. If I did, it would be about a few dishes left out of the dishwasher. Of course a few other issues that we may never resolve. Don't all marriages have those? And really, in the scheme of things, they are pretty petty.

I hope the years multiply. And even if our days end long before we are ready, I am incredibly grateful for the past 9. For there is nothing lost in love.

Happy Anniversary.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Writers block

I've been struggling mightily with the blogging/writing thing lately. 

I have ideas. I have half or fully written blog posts waiting for me to complete, delete or hit the publish button. Hey, I even have an entire draft devoted to ideas on what to write about. 

So my problem isn't lack of ideas. 

Perhaps it's more an existential one. ( and perhaps I've always wanted to use that word in a blog post)

You see, all around me I see and hear about real issues and problems. Not whiney blogger-mom-type problems such as what to get dad for Father's Day or what to do when your garden is producing too many strawberries. Or even pregnancy woes of poor bladder control or fatigue. 

You see I am lucky to be pregnant, when I know so many others who are struggling with fertility. 

I am lucky to be healthy and pick berries and go for walks and runs. When I have an old friend who is exactly my age and just started chemo. Or have another dear friend who is walking with one of her cherished ones through their last few months of life. Or when there are those who were born without ever having the chance to walk. 

You see. It just feels selfish to write about the every day. About work. Growth. Family. Life. Ups and downs. 

But on the other hand part of me believes that we need to embrace the every day mundane- ness for its own sake. The small struggles. The small successes. Because that is what life is made out of. That is where we connect with others. And that is where the magic happens. 

And well, because we can. 

Should we stop living because others are struggling? No. But I also do not wish to alienate isolate or diminish their struggle by ignoring it or focusing all of my energy on my own. It's a balance I suppose. 

Additionally I wonder if what I do and write means anything. I mean, I write and should write for me. But does it mean anything to anyone else. And please don't hear this as a fish for compliments. It's just what I'm feeling right now. Don't we all get into these funks of "what's the point" with particular efforts? Does writing do anything. For me? For anyone else? And does it even matter if it means anything to anyone else? Truly the answer is both yes and no. And sometimes when it's not clear like that, I just get stuck. And sit on it. 

And So here is has been why I have not been writing. Or at least publishing. This is my struggle. The meaning of what I do. Of one of the 100 things I like to do. So in this struggle I have focused my efforts in other directions. And that's ok. I tend to have a monkey brain anyway. 

And let me tell you, the strawberries in my garden have been abundant and delicious this year. It's not a bad place to put energy these days. And I'm happy to share some those. So as not to be completely selfish...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How being a parent and therapist are kind of the same thing

I am being slight cheeky , slightly serious here. It's possible that my current 2 professions are nearly identical. And when I say "you" I mean "Me".  Here is how: 

1. You spend the majority of your time cleaning up someone else's messes

2. You do a lot more listening than talking. And when you are talking, not sure if it's being heard or comprehended. 

3. Without some healthy "me time" you will loose your marbles. 

4. You Spend a lot of time talking to your child/therapist humans in a language that would receive a lot of strange looks if used elsewhere

5. You don't even flinch at others peoples crap. Literally and figuratively. 

6. The smallest step or measure of growth creates reason for great celebration. 

7. You  Always seem to be running behind. Despite your best efforts. 

8. You hear the same story 10,000 times 

9. You wipe up an awful lot of tears

10. Puzzles are put together and solved daily. Lots and lots of puzzles. 

11. You are responsible for another human being 

I'm sure there are more. But I am pregnant.  And tired. And a therapist. And a mom. 
Anything else you would like to add to this list? I guarantee it will amuse me. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Round 2

Next week I hit the halfway point of pregnancy #2.
My doctor confirmed on Monday that all is going well and everything is right on point. I like to hear that. Have I mentioned that I have an awesome OB/GYN? (I'm happy to refer you to him)

Recently I have found myself contemplating the differences between pregnancy #1, with Ben, and now pregnancy #2, with my little "plum".

Really, when it comes to basic physical pregnancy stuff, much is the same. Each time I have had zero morning sickness (please don't hate me). I just get a little tired by the afternoon. My only real food aversion is eggs, especially with runny yolks...ughh. A little heartburn after fried foods, so I just avoid them Mine and baby's heart rates have been similar each time. I have had some really whacked out dreams each time. I mean freaky. And its the kind that you remember. We are again choosing to wait till the birth to find out baby's gender and are waiting to share the names as well(much to everyone's chagrin). Of course all of the similarities lead me to believe that I am having another boy. Which is fine by me, because I adore my little munchkin. But then again, last time I was dead certain it was a girl! WRONG!!!

But the real differences between the two for me, are truly mental and emotional.

If you were around me with pregnancy #1, I was so awkward about the whole thing. I mean, I was so excited to be pregnant, but I kept it quite internal. We had been trying for a long time. The attention that it brought made me so uncomfortable. Even saying the word "pregnant" felt weird.

I didn't take any of those baby bump pictures every 2 weeks like everyone shows off on Facebook. I didn't have any trouble waiting to tell most people (except my sisters). I didn't really want to talk about it with anyone. When I was showing, it was like torture when strangers would ask questions or, God forbid, touch my belly. I refused to buy maternity clothing. I did buy those things that extend your pants out at the button/zipper. And some of my style was maternity friendly already. I put off registering for baby stuff and setting up a nursery till the last possible moment. (no seriously. I didn't even have a crib and room for him until after he was born) I was like, the opposite of every first time mom ever.

In retrospect, I understand myself from then enough to know why. I was terrified. Of so many things.
1. you know I'm superstitious. I didn't want to jinx anything. This thing that I had wanted for years. Like if I acknowledged what was happening, the other shoe would drop. Or something would go wrong. And that would have been devastating.
2. I was so not comfortable in my own physical skin to begin with. Now that skin was going to change. And stretch. And be changed forever. Were those changes going to make me unlovable? Would it change my relationship or how my spouse looked at me?
3. I was going to be a parent. The sole mother of this tiny delicate important human. It was overwhelming, the responsibility. I did not take this lightly. At all. Was I strong enough? I do come from a long line of leavers.

And there is so much deeper we could dive into the psyche of it. but I've already bored you with enough details of my own personal crazy.

I am happy to say that in the 2 years since I gave birth to my beautiful boy, I have changed and grown tremendously.

The things that seemed important once, are no longer so dire. The fears are still present. But so is the present moment. And the realization that those fears are really crap.

            I mean stretch marks don't make me unlovable. They make me powerful.

            I've lost some personal freedom only to gain purpose, focus and value of time.

            Its in the ordinary every day monotonous tasks, that glory shines.

            Only jerks give a crap if my house is perfectly in order.

            And perfection means nothing. Presence means everything.

And in being less afraid of everything. I am enjoying my pregnancy this time.
Yes, I am taking those corny baby bump pictures every 2 weeks. (i'm just not posting them on Facebook). They are for my enjoyment only. And I do still kind of think they are corny, oh well.
I am embracing the changes in my body, and how they are happening earlier, and making the necessary accommodations. I am staying very active, but also taking regular naps (which I have never done in my life mind you). Yes, I have bought maternity clothing already. Thanks to the local Children's resale store and Kohl's clearance rack. What the hell, I might as well be comfortable.

I couldn't wait to tell people this time around. I mean, I still waited past the first trimester to tell most people, but I wanted to scream it from the rafters immediately. That might also be due to the fact that it was during the abominably cold winter months that I found out, and was bored as a gourd.

And much of this is likely due to what Ben has taught me. And motherhood in general. I know that I only have one baby (on the outside!) and , yes motherhood is hard. But it is also awesome. He doesn't care what I look like (unless I pull my hair into a ponytail. which he hates. whats up with that?). But he cares what I do. How I look at him. That I am THERE! And how am to him and with him. And I want to be my best self for him. I am amazed that I have been able to get into the best shape of my life since having him, because I want to keep up with him. And set a good example. I've followed my professional goals to work for myself and provide a schedule of my own choosing, so that I can choose to be with my son most days of the week. I work only 2 days a week. Doing what I enjoy. I'm not sure I would have been brave enough to pursue such things before baby #1. So disabled by fear.

There have been so many changes in 2 and a half years. Growth. Stretching. Improving. Its painful and uncomfortable at times. So uncomfortable. But what is change without that.

I wish you could see the stretch marks on my mind, my heart and soul. They are glorious.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Winter and car seats

We sit here at the end of February, thigh high in snow and negative temperatures and indoor play days. I'm not one to complain about the weather. I live in theMidwest  after all. Anything can happen. 

But I've gotten to a point with a few things were we have just given up and are waiting for spring. 

One was shoveling this weekend. Granted we were all sick. The snow melted. Then froze. Then snowed again. Creating this hump if ice at the end of my driveway that could puncture tires. And we just don't care. And our sidewalk? Well. Abandon all hope ye who enter here. At least I can say we are not the only ones. How many times can a person shovel in a week? 
(It's quite a bit better than before)

The area in which I have completely lost it is with dressing my son for the winter. No, I am not taking him outside in shorts and a t shirt. Hold off your calls to DCFS to let me explain. 
I only have one child. God bless those with more than one little one and how they survive this winter coat monstrosity. 

I have friends with 3 children under 4. I cannot imagine. 
(We are just in the train here. But tucked under his arm is our extra blanket I shall refer to later. )

So getting a 2 year old into a winter get up is hard enough, right? (Not to mention snow pants. Boots. Hats. Gloves. Scarves) But in case you don't know, you are not supposed to have your child in a car seat with a winter coat on. It's a safety hazard. Car seats were not designed for that. 
So every time I get my child into the car or out of it. We are wrangling giant coats on and off. We are lucky to have a garage so I don't usually have to worry about getting him in to the car at home with a coat ( but what about those without garages ? Or packed too full so you park in the driveway like half if my neighborhood?)

So days like today. It's 15 degrees out. I take Ben to gymnastics. Then we stop for lunch before going home. Other days insert grocery shopping or Moms group or whatever. Constant coat wrangling in the back of a. 4 door sedan ( no we have not succumbed to soccer mom suburbia with a van or SUV. Yet. ) 

And so I have given up. Ben wears his hats. His gloves. His favorite stripey fleece hoodie. But then I resort to one of 2 methods to get him warmly out if the car. And am ok with the pitied stares I get. 

1. I wrap him up in a blanket. It can just be draped over him as I get him out of the seat. 

2. I put his winter coat on backwards. Yep. Rather than pick up spin around pull coat on while door is open. We walk right into Walmart with his hood in front. 
What are you going to do about it?

I actually think children's winter coats should be designed this way for this very reason. 

Maybe I am feeling a little guilty aftergymnastics  where I saw every other parent with their child fully and properly dressed. Forwards. 

And it will be this way until Mother Nature forgives the grudge she has against us all and allows the snow to melt and for me to be able to run in shorts. 

And moms everywhere are freed from the burden of winter coats. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Losing Tom


My first memory of him included my first few weeks as my new job as a youth minister. During the hiring process, someone on that panel's eyes went up when I mentioned I was also a musician and loved worship music. He invited me to consider checking out "testament" , the praise band. 

I was so nervous to check it out. But when I finally did, the welcoming smiles of Tom, Denise, Lana, Barb, Dave, Paul and crew were enough to put me at ease. They were kind, funny, adaptable and made me feel like I had always been a part of the team. 

Tom especially. While Tom could play guitar, he mainly played keyboard for the group. He played much like I do, by ear and chords. But 100x better. 

Both of us tragically Cubs fans, he would call me. "Ray " for Ray Burris. And old baseball player. And I would call him "Bob" for Bob Brenley, who was at the time the Cubs tv announcer who, in my opinion, Tom was a dead ringer for. 

His 2 younger daughters were also in many of the youth activities. And Tom would chaperone many of them. I learned a bit about his recent family history and it was heartbreaking. But you would never know, he was always joyful and full of life. 

He and Kate threw the best parties. And anyone and everyone was invited. They made you feel like you were the cool kids. (I even stole their decorating idea from their 'pub' and have old old family photos all over my dining room. )

He, along with many others from the church were instrumental is helping me with some dental challenges. Initiating it in fact. And the difference that made to my self confidence, I cannot put adequate words to. 

Tom at some point shared his personal music with me. The stuff that he wrote and recorded. Such a gifted musician. And he encouraged me in my own, even helping me record a few songs with his equipment. 

Such a generous, kind gifted soul. I regret not staying in better touch after we moved north. It's something I need to work on in life in general. For his life changed mine in so many big and small ways for the better. And I know I am not the only one who feels this way. 

It's with a heavy heart that the world has had to say goodbye. Heaven has gained an angel. He joins his first wife and daughter. He is at peace at home with Lord. 

He leaves a granddaughter. 4 beautiful daughters. Countless friends. And a community forever changed by his kindness. If only we could all be Toms

My heart and condolences go out to his many loved ones. 

A better friend

Somehow over the past couple of years, I have found it pretty easy to become a bit of a recluse. 

I have had strong groups of support and friendship in the past. People I call up for lunch or a movie or just show up at their house. 

Now I pretty much keep to myself. I miss just "popping by" and being less self conscious about asserting myself to what your needs are. You know, being a good friend. Neighbor. Human being. Etc

I have had a lot of goals roaming my brain for this new year. And they have changed based on circumstances and thought redirection and General ADD tendencies. 

One that keeps coming up is being a better neighbor. Including being a better friend. 

What I don't like about it is imposing myself on others. What I do like is that I know that it will do several things:
1. Create stronger friendships
2. Help me feel more connected In general. To people. My community. Spiritually etc
3. Strengthen and help others. 

So I feel I have made some conscious efforts in this area. And know I can do more and better. 

A few basic things I have learned so far:
1. Act on my impulse. If I think: bake  my neighbor some cookies. Just do it. Right then. No scond guessing
2. While I like to say " let me know if you need anything". No one ever tells you what they need. I need to be specific and direct with offers. I.e can I make you dinner this night. Can you come over for coffee this day. Etc. 
3. There are a lot of things I could do if I just open my eyes and look around!!

What suggestions/ideas do you have to be a better neighbor/friend?

Friday, January 17, 2014


I just finished packing up my Christmas decorations for this year. I love my Christmas decorations and try to leave them up as long as possible, at least until after the epiphany. I packed up the tree, ornaments, all of the stockings, the wrapping paper and the nativity sets.

We have 2 nativity sets at home.

Our first one came from my mother in law the first year we were married. Ceramic Mary Joseph Jesus Angel animals and wise men sit atop our piano these days 

The other is the Little People set Ben received for Christmas last year from my cousin. It was the first Little People anything he ever received so those guys stayed in circulation all year. Mary sits next to crossing guard guy on the LP school bus. 

Since we brought out the ceramic set this year, it has been Bens favorite  "new toy " he will climb up the piano to retrieve each piece one by one and relocate them  to the living room, the counter, his table or wherever he fancied. Maybe a bucket?

Along the way, in the hands of an almost 2 year old we have had a few mishaps of falling and heads breaking off. Baby Jesus lost a hand. The cattle lost his horns. But that's what super glue is for

As he plays with it, we talk to him about it. We tell him who all of the characters are. The "mom"- Mary, the "dad" Joseph, the "baby"- Jesus.  We told him about the shepherds and wise men, and referred to them as their "friends"- trying to keep it at an almost 2 year old level. How the wise men brought him presents. The animals. And how special they all are.

I especially enjoyed watching Ben connect to the "mom-dad-baby" piece of it. Those 3 traveled together everywhere. Sometimes "dad" gave "mom" a kiss. or the "baby". Sometimes the other guys came along too. But always the "family". And those are 3 of the 10 or so words he can say clearly, (mom, dad, and "bay").

It has just been so sweet to have him start to interact with Christmas in this way this year. Yes, presents have been fun. St. Nicholas day too. But this was so heartwarming. To have him interact with the love that is Christmas. The family. The story. The meaning.

To be fair, I am keeping the Little People set out this year. I just can't bear to let it all go away until next year. Its really an all year thing anyway, really. Isn't it?

swept in the tide

 I have a client these days who I relate to in many ways.  Battling with many of the same demons and  internal messages that I do. I feel I learn a lot about myself through their struggle.

Why is it so hard to overcome old messages of:

- you are not important
- you are an afterthought
-you do not belong here
-you are an inconvenience

especially when the reinforcers of those messages are still in your life.

I have been really struggling lately with a few events that have gone on in my family without me. Not so much because they happened. But I was not even invited.

And lately I watch my husband look at my son. I wish I could describe that look. Like he is the only and most precious thing in the world. To be honest I am jealous of that look. Not that I don't get loved on my my own husband, because on do. But because I have yearned for the look my entire life.

And again. I have so much good. My husband counters those messages. And I do not give him enough credit for it. Why do I allow this old garbage to eat me up? It steals my joy.  I get irritable and a kill joy. Bringing others into my sty to wallow with me.

Its not fair to me. And its not fair to others.

So I do I let go of that old crap that keeps coming up.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately,  I have learned that letting go and forgiveness is not a one time thing. I wish it was. It would be so much easier. But it is a constant ebbing tide. There are days it is washed away. And days it is high tide and I am drowning. And I have to learn to swim in it and escape it, lest it washes me away with the current.

I want the feelings to wash away. Not me.

Its important for me to have some anchors when those tides rush in.

* affirming messages. reminding myself what is good.
* gratitude. reminding myself what I have
* faith. reminding myself *whose* I am
* and reaching out to friends who are disconnected from my history.

Establishing those in the good times.