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Sunday, February 5, 2017

I Just Wanted To Rant....

I have been working really hard the last few weeks. I took a work related trip and so the prep to be gone from my classroom for 3 straight days about killed me, then I drove to Tallahassee to pick up my son, then drove home, then worked for a full week and ended this week being sick. So, needless to say, I have been so busy, I have hardly had time to think about my next meal, let alone to think about anything else. However, today, I finally got my little guy to go to bed early and I got my lesson plans for THIS coming week logged and emailed and my thoughts would not stop swirling. I am not a big "ranter and raver" but here are my top "things I rave about in my head but not out loud to anyone else ever." BATHING SUITS So today, in between morning church and evening church, J and I attempted to tackle the monumental task of hunting down a bathing suit for myself (or as J calls it..."baby's suit"). The last time I actually purchased a bathing suit for myself, it was two years ago and I was 5 dress sizes larger than I currently am. So, unless I wanted to start with a suit on and after diving in, find myself suddenly not wearing one....I needed to get one, and soon. What I discovered was the following: if you feel like going to the pool or beach in NOTHING at all, this is the year for you. The "bathing suits" I saw in the store were the same size as J's little Thomas the Train underwear! They came in all kinds of cute colors and prints (what little of them there were) but those are not for me, let me tell you. If you feel like you should cover yourself in some way, you are going to pay an arm and a leg for your swim suit and it will only come in two colors, black or neon pink. Additionally, the only swim suits in your size will look like 52, 000 people have already tried it on and found it wanting. Needless to say, I still have no swim suit. If you see a woman swimming in leggings and a t-shirt, that will be me. DIET PLANS I lost weight this year. I started the school year at my heaviest weight in my entire life. After a really unpleasant doctor's visit and not really being totally sure how to fix it, my hubby and I signed up for Weight Watchers. I was not totally sold on the idea, but I had watched it work for my mom so I decided it couldn't hurt. Do you want to know what I learned? I didn't have to "sell" Weight Watchers to ANYONE else! I didn't get kicked out of Weight Watchers or have to pay $25.00 more per month if 5 people didn't join and give my name as their "encourager." I joined for me! I joined for my husband and for our son and I joined so I could feel good shopping for clothes again. I joined so we could have more kids. I joined so I wouldn't cringe when the yearbook came out this year. You know what happened? People ASKED me how I was doing it! The lady in Anne Taylor Loft decided to join because I came out of the dressing room BEAMING because I was holding a pair of pants in a size that I had only ever seen with a 1 in front of the other number! You know what I pack to go on a trip? Clothes and that is all. I don't have to pack a blender, five pounds a shake mix, dehydrated fruits, or prepackaged meals (and those may work for you, but let me tell you it is freeing to sit down at any restaurant and find SOMETHING you can eat. Heck, I am going to Disney World next week and I am already thinking about one special "splurge" I plan on getting. I can do that...really, I can). I have discovered that my new "life" is just that, LIFE...it isn't a gimmick or a slogan or a pyramid scheme...it is me learning that food is not an enemy or a friend, it is just fuel. That makes me happy. It makes me even happier that I don't have to worry about who else joins...it it just WW and me and I love that. The creeps at the Library So, I stopped at the public library on my way home from work the other day. I have been on a quest for a book I can read to "relax." Being that I am a teacher, I am constantly reading works on history and biography to stay on top of exciting information to supplement my regular curriculum for my students (got to move "beyond" the textbook, ya know?). Anyhow, I sometimes like to kick back for 15 minutes or so, just to get my mind off work and ready to sleep, by reading some regular fiction. So, I stopped at the library to meet that need. There I am, wondering the shelves of the fiction section (which, may I remind everyone, contains ALL kinds of literature). So, from behind the shelf I am browsing comes this voice. "Oh, I see that romance book you are holding over there." I stop. How close is this guy looking because from my eyeline I see a mystery book about a guy in India. There is an elephant, a magnifying glass and a guy in a turban....not exactly Fabio here, am I right? I try to give one of those laughs that says, "Ok, thanks for trying to talk to me but you are odd and I just want to pick out a book, thanks." But he goes on about something else, still oblivious to the very obvious clues I am dropping like, I don't know, my walking up and down the shelves much more quickly, not making eye contact, the usual things someone does when running from the serial killer in the library. I blink and keep shopping for a book and then say, hoping he will leave, "Just looking for a book to keep me engaged." He leaps on that, "How can you forget you are married?" Oh brother! Finally, I look right at him, point a finger to my forehead and say, "keep my MIND engaged." I scurried off to the next shelf where OTHER people were and he thankfully found someone else to bother. Someday, in my perfect world, I am going to make a library where people always return their books on time, never creep on people in the aisles and never leave food stains on the best chapters of the books. There will be a policeman on duty at all times and the librarians will all be trained in the art of karate. Will you support my library fund someday? I guess that is all for tonight. I am sure I will think of more. Until then I will be shopping for swimsuits and buying books from regular bookstores, at least until I get my library idea up and running. If you know any librarians willing to learn karate or maybe are already skilled in that area, please give them my contact information. Until next time, XOXO, AMY

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

But If Not....

It is only three little words... But if not. You are the best readers in the world so I know you already know the story and the meaning behind those words. Three men, uncompromising men, faced with bending to a tyrant's psychopathic ego and a direct violation of their faith or certain painful, agonizing death. They chose to stand for what they knew was right and face the death. The source of the courage to stand--the unflinching belief that God would deliver them out of the king's hand, far from his fire-flamed wrath. BUT IF NOT...if for some reason the answer was no, if for some reason God allowed them to perish...still they would not bend. 2017 is still fresh. It is a mere 3 days old. Already, though, it has been a struggle. We have prayed. We have struggled. We have agonized. We have "what if'ed". Unforeseen troubles and tragedies and emergencies have filtered in quicker than we can respond. Still, the answers do not come. The answers are not a yes or a no....they are silence. In that silence, in that restlessness...I have to choose. I must choose, in the waiting, in the doubts that quickly swoop in during the quiet moments--I have to choose to trust in the same God...the God of the "but if not." I am not saying it is easy. There have been requests on my "list" since I placed my trust in Christ. Still, I wait. Not getting a "no"...but not getting a "yes". Sometimes, I feel the anxiousness begin to close in. Suffocating restlessness. In it all, I have to trust. The same God who chose to save a wicked wretch like me (I don't say that in jest...sometimes I marvel that He would even save me...ME...the unworthiest of them all) is the same God who delivered those Hebrew men so long ago. What is so hard for our 21st century minds to remember is that they did not know the end of the story. When they stood there, sweat probably beading on their brow (I mean, come on people, that room HAD to be hotter than Florida in August), they did not KNOW they would be delivered. They were trusting with all they had, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME, being "ok" with the alternative. We see the end of the story...but in their time, in their actual moment, they had no clue what the end would be. "But if not" just leaps off the page at me tonight. What if those things we have been praying for get a "no"? Am I ok with that? Am I willing to bend and say, "If it will bring YOU glory, I will do it, even though it is painful, even though it is really, really hard." There are a lot of things I am "waiting on." Some are personal, just known only to me and God. Some are family goals and dreams and things we have talked about and hoped for since we started dating. I couldn't begin to post about all the things we hope for...there is not enough storage space on my computer to type a document that big. God knows them all. The same God who delivered those men knows the recesses of my heart, the last of my dreams and hopes. He cares. I know He cares. He knows about those little pink outfits stored in my hope chest. He knows they have been there since 2012 and He knows how long they will sit there without someone to use them. He has watched each time I have given away little pink outfits to someone who really needs them and how it has been so hard to do that. He knows how many little pink outfits are left in that chest and how many we started with. He knows how hard we work to make a life for ourselves in the physical sense. He knows the hours upon hours my amazing husband works to provide for us. He knows the deepest dream of our family as a whole. He cares about it. He may make us wait. He may tell us "no" or "no, not right now." Even then, even in the "but not"...I will choose to trust. I will choose to wait. I choose joy in the waiting. Thanks for reading XOXO--Amy

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Please Don't End

I am sitting here in the glow of my Christmas tree, I am thinking back on the many many many memories this particular Christmas has given us. I found myself thinking--almost hourly--since the day after Thanksgiving, "Please slow down. This is going so fast and I want to remember it all." There has never been a more joy filled Christmas than this one. Each day carried new joy, especially as I watched my three year old enjoy the delights of the advent house, Christmas advent calendar, the searching shepherd, walks to see Christmas lights, buying presents for family and friends and watching Christmas movies. I wish it didn't have to end. I wish I had taken even more time to savor the season and take even more pictures than I did. It wasn't about how many present he got (he got way too many)....each one (whether it came from the dollar tree or the Disney store) was treasured and cheered about by my darling little man. Watching him experience Christmas from December 1st to today was all the gift I ever needed or wanted. Thank you Lord for the gift of joy. Thank you that because of the gift of Your Son, we can fully experience joy! Merry Christmas, dear readers!!! Soak of the joy of the season

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Joining the Ranks

Today I was on my lunch break (Monday and Tuesday are the two days I actually get lunch alone...every other day usually has a commitment). So, after I had heated my lunch and got back to my desk, I opened my phone for a minute to catch up on the news of the day while I ate. The old adage, "No news is good news" was really true today. I stumbled across the page of an old school friend from long, long ago. I had recently started following her again to get a flavor for what was happening "back home." Unfortunately, "back home" suffers from the same tumults and tempests as "right here." Today, I read a testimony of an old friend, another mom who lost her child. Having written about that myself, I knew exactly why she was writing it. She needed to write it, she HAD to write it. Those words she wrote through her absolute gut-wrenching, heart-rending pain HAD to come out. We all needed to hear them and she needed to say them. It pierced me to my core to read it. The pain and agony I felt nearly four full years ago, came back with such an intensity that I wondered how I would teach my last two classes of the day. I found myself in that place all over again...fresh and raw as though it had just happened. Why is grief like that? Why can't it come, do what it needs to, and leave forever! I hate that at the most random of times, it comes back. Then, with grief comes the guilt. "Amy, why are YOU thinking about YOUR pain. Your friend is the one suffering right now. You are so selfish. When will you get over yourself? When will you get over THIS?" Then, not only do you feel that dark cloud of grief settle in, but now you feel guilty in combination with it--adding another layer of misery. I wondered how my friend was sleeping at night? I wondered how many times she had cried today when she thought no one was watching? I wondered if anyone was helping her with the funeral so she didn't have to visit that place of death for a moment longer than she had to? I wished, more than anything, that the peace she described having in her Facebook post would get her through the most painful days ahead and that in those days ahead she would not doubt that God was still good. I know a lot of people think that I should not still grieve over the loss of my children. After all, I have Joel now. He is healthy and strong and adorable and loving. Still, in the back of my mind, I remember them....all of them. Sure, several of my babies never got names and I never met them face to face. The grief of those losses is painful, but it is a very brief visitor. The grief for Hannah Grace, however, comes and settles in and is hard to shake. I met Hannah...I held her. I am still angry at myself for not holding her longer. It was such a strange thing because I knew she was already in Heaven, so maybe that's why I felt like I needed to let the nurses take her away. The days after, however, when my arms ached to hold her....I cried and hated myself for not holding her more, memorizing her face, committing her to my heart. I knew after reading that Facebook post, this mom had not reached that point yet. I also knew, that moment was coming for her at some point. Maybe not today or tomorrow...but sometime. I ached anew for her. So, today, as I cried over another mom joining the ranks of loss and grief, I wished in my heart of hearts I could be there to help... To wash those dishes that had probably piled up since the loss, like someone did for me. I wanted to make sure someone was taking care of the condolence meals and organizing the funeral needs, like someone helped us to do. But, I know she is loved and has people around her that are helping her, caring for her, and praying for her, like someone did for me. You have to wonder, as I do...what is the purpose to these little lives? Why did we get to have Hannah for those few short months only to give her right back to God? I don't know. If I had a nickel for every time I wrote a post about her and why she lived and died and how I still don't know why, I would probably be a very rich person. I can say one thing, her short life taught me a lot about what is actually important and what isn't. Her life also taught me to be thankful. I just had another day with my son. In fact, as I write, I can watch from my vantage point on the couch as his little self sleeps in his room. I am thankful because he got to turn three. I am thankful because he can identify numbers 1-5 by sight, tell you all the colors (except brown, for some reason) and knows his ABC's. He is a living, breathing miracle that I would have taken for granted if it wasn't for Hannah. Sometimes, we have to drive by the place where her grave is. Even now, four years after the fact (this coming May), I cry. It is so crazy. I know she (her actual person) is not there. But, I guess the human side of you overcomes the logical, "I know where she actually is" side. Not sure this post helps you at all, and the friend of long ago that is now dealing with this pain in a new, fresh way...she won't ever read this...we aren't that close any more and I doubt my experience is exactly what she is dealing with. But this post helped me. That little dark cloud of grief trailed me all day and I couldn't shake it. I needed to write this. I needed to put this on paper. I don't know if anyone will care or even read past the first paragraph--"Oh here goes Amy again with another sad post. I am over this."---close web page, walk away. That's ok. I didn't write it for anyone except me and the new member of this group. I wrote it for us. This is my way of dealing with grief. I hope she finds hers. Until then, I am going to pray her through it...just like someone did for me.

Because it is fleeting

When Thanksgiving ended, I decided that THIS year, I was going to make the moments of Christmas count. I am sure every parent says this every single Christmas, but I knew that this year (Joel is three) would be special. He really is "getting" Christmas...the excitement, the purpose of it, of course, the thrill of presents. He also takes so much joy in seeing his own Christmas tree brightly beaming with colorful lights and ornaments haphazardly placed (and then replaced) all over it. So, this year I decided to say "no" to extras so I could have time to treasure Christmas before it whipped past me in a frenzy of work, parties, events, mandatory and obligatory attendance, and so on. Here is where we are December 1st---Tree was up and we started the advent house and the advent calendar my mom made for him. By December 2nd, he knew what both of those things were and looked forward to doing both every day. December 2nd--We put up the Star of Christmas on the advent calendar and opened a "chokate" from the advent house. December 3rd--Busy, busy day today. We woke up early and Joel went to his first Weight Watchers meeting with Mommy and Daddy. He was a hit of the gathering, to say the least. We then took Ryan to work and saw one of Joel's favorite people (Mr. John) and met up with Santa Cow. This year, Joel has been mentioning Santa. This was a real concern of ours...how to handle Santa. I didn't want him to be that kid who shattered the illusion for other kids, but we had always committed to just skip Santa (I know, cue the hate mail) and focus on Jesus and family and the reason of Christmas. So, the main question Joel has been asking lately is "Mommy, is Santa 'weal' (real) or 'be-tend' (pretend)". So in spite of Santa being "be-tend", Joel was very, very excited to meet Santa Cow. After that, we raced home to prepare for our good friends to come into town for a party the next day. We had a very full day. Today we got a special new mini train engine in the advent house and were (at first) a little disappointed that is wasn't candy. December 4th---Birthday party for our sweet friend, Levi. We partied and opened presents and ate cupcakes (well, one of us did...the grown ups didn't really share in the purple and red frosting festivities). It was really a great time together. December 5th--Back to school....but only for a few more days and then the blissful break full of PJ's all day, Christmas movies at night, and lots of Christmas memories. We added a few trees to the advent calendar on the wall and discovered another little mini train engine hiding in the advent house. Side note: I bought the advent house after Christmas last year. I bought it because my mom had something kind of like it as I grew up. Every day there would be something in there. It might say, "play a game as a family", "go look at Christmas lights together", "make Christmas cookies", or "pick your favorite Christmas movie to watch." Sometimes, mom would slip a quarter or dollar in there for us. Some days it might have a chocolate kiss or maybe even a little trinket or toy. As a kid, it helped Christmas and the excitement last a little longer. It helped us find time to spend together. I knew, if God ever allowed us to raise a child of our own...the advent house was a must. I think I love doing it even more than he does. Until next time, XOXOXO AMY P.S. There is no real guarantee that I will find the time or energy to sit down and record all the "magic" of Christmas this year, but that is one thing I will have after the tree is boxed and in the attic once more---the memory. So, if I don't sit down and write again till New Years...well, its because I was so busy making memories, I didn't have time to record them.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

So You Could Have a Life

We had just finished a nice dinner at our favorite local "let's-grab-a-quick-dinner-before-church" restaurant on a normal, rushed Wednesday night. Joel was still munching his last few pancakes and Ryan and I were discussing the affairs of the day. The election results were fresh and there was a tangible sense of who had voted for whom in the restaurant. Some were discussing (rather loudly) how so and so was going to "turn everything right again" while others were just trying to escape the "noise" of this last election by having a peaceful, quiet dinner. When the last scrap of pancakes had been eaten, we got up to pay the bill and at the same moment, the elderly gentleman at the table ahead of us also rose to pay his bill. On his head was proudly perched his veterans hat, the emblem of the 4th Infantry division stitched in gold lettering across the top. Ryan stopped Joel and said, "Do you know what we say to someone who wears a hat like that?" "No," said Joel, eager to get his hands on the after dinner cookie that this little eatery provides to its tiniest patrons. "We always tell them, 'Thank you for your service'," Ryan replied. "Oh, 'Tank' you for your service." said my little munchkin boy. The older gentleman stood a little closer to my baby and said, "I did it so you could have a good life." I don't know how, but the older man had with those few words and his simple kindness of listening to my little boy chatter about going to Disney soon and that he was three years old, brought tears to my eyes. This man, whoever he was, gets what it is about. He was part of that "greatest generation." He was part of the group that didn't need a "safe place" to voice their opinions and didn't need a trophy for "trying hard." No, on those dark days, he and the rest of his detachment looked the enemy square in the face and did what needed to be done. They did it so we could have a life. They did it so we could go to church freely, speak our minds (albeit sometimes we do speak it rather ignorantly...but we can save that for another post), raise families, and enjoy countless other freedoms. I can imagine that some of them did not see eye to eye with the political beliefs of their Commander in Chief at the time and I am sure some of them "didn't vote for him" (especially since they couldn't vote at 18 till we were WELL into Vietnam--but I digress), but they got dressed, wrote those "if I don't come home" letters, and geared up for the longest day of their life. I googled the 4th Infantry Division, just because I wanted to know, and found some of their engagements. Not knowing exactly which war our dinner companion had been in (judging from his "age" I was thinking he was a WWII guy or perhaps Korea), I googled that division, hoping to narrow down where he had been or what he had done for us. Google informed me that the 4th had seen action in WWI and lost 2,611 men, WWII (including being involved in the Normandy landing) and lost 4,000 men in action, and Vietnam, losing 2,500 men in action. All I can assume is that whatever war he was in, he had tasted the bitterness of the death of a combat buddy. He had faced the agony of pulling the trigger and doing what needed to get done. This was the real deal. This was not a sunshine soldier or the summer patriot...he had done the hard things. I think as a history teacher, perhaps I am more prone to nostalgia or sentimentality on days like veterans day because I know the stories. I know the stories of those guys who hit the beaches at Normandy. So many of them were just boys in reality. Sure they were 18, sure they had completed "training"--but they had never seen carnage like they were about to see. I wept right along with Kurt Klein as he liberated the camp at Ravensbrook in the biography All But My Life. I felt the desperation of Louis Zamperini as he endured the horrors of POW life. I think of my own grandfathers on days like this. I think of my Grandpa Sherm. My grandpa could tell a good story. As a younger girl, I did not love history the way I do now. I did that subject just to get through it. Then, one year, I had the best teacher I have ever had and I discovered that here in the pages of my history book was an endless source of "great stories"--and I could get into that. It was at that time that I realized my own grandparents were a treasure trove of untold stories. So, I remember listening to my grandpa talk...but he never talked about the war (he was a WWII vet). ONE TIME, just once, I got him to tell me what he did in the war. He told me only enough to peak my interest and then he moved on. I can only imagine it was hard for him. But now as a teacher, on the bulletin board in my classroom, is a treasured photo of my grandfather in those days. I keep it there to remind my why I have to keep teaching. It reminds me that no matter what the current trends in education, no matter the changes to the text, I owe it to those vets, to brave men (and women) like my grandparents to tell their story. History is not just about the collective...it is about those individuals (and I would argue that the individuals ARE the story). Without those individual men who jumped into the water to storm the beaches of Normandy, who parachuted behind enemy lines, who trudged through the swamps and marshes in Vietnam--I wouldn't have the beautiful classroom I have today with a Bible happily opened on my desk and an American flag displayed above my white board. I don't know what kind of legacy my generation (according to google I am part of the millennials---not sure how I feel about that--but that is perhaps fodder for another post that I have tried to write five times now but the right words aren't coming out) is leaving behind us, but I am pretty confident we aren't doing anything close to what the "greatest generation" did. Until we "get over" ourselves and start thinking a little more sacrificially, we won't do anything of note either. We can keep sitting around, obsessing about someone's latest status update on Facebook and lament the "state of the nation" or we can attempt to make something of this life we have been given and that someone fought to preserve. I don't think those guys in WWII envisioned a generation of people who struggle to have an intelligent conversation in person but can eviscerate one another over social media without even batting an eye. One thing I can tell you that I plan to do and you should too--the next time you see one of those veterans walking around--stop and thank them. I can promise you, they won't be annoyed that you stopped them. In fact, they will probably be shocked that you stopped them...but do it anyway. Dust off that old history book on the shelf and put yourself back there with the 4th Infantry Division--it might just change your perspective. Thank a veteran today--America is still here, in part because of what they have sacrificed.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Oh Thou That Changest Not

It is fall in Florida. As "fall" goes that does not mean much. It is no longer 80 degrees all day and occasionally you can wear a light jacket...but other than that, it is identical to any other season in Florida. I was driving down the road, sipping a "fall" flavored latte and listening to a new CD I had bought a few weeks ago. The song, "Abide with Me" came on and I took the time to actually listen to the lyrics of the song. If you ever went to church in your life, you probably heard the song, but maybe my church never sang the second verse...but boy it struck me in this season of life. Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day; Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away; Change and decay in all around I see— O Thou who changest not, abide with me That idea..."Thou who changest not" made me want to cry and gave me so much comfort! Lots of things in my life are in a constant state of flux. I took on the weight watchers lifestyle in July and so my whole lifestyle has taken a drastic overhaul. I don't look like I used to (and that is a good thing) and a normal day of eating and functioning has altered. My little boy has changed. Gone are the little snuggles and cuddles. He is constantly running, laughing, getting into mischief that I never could have imagined (he used an entire bottle of lotion up the other day on his legs...he came out of my room and said, "Wook, I have lotion."). I find myself looking at Facebook and realize how much people around me have changed. The opinions and viewpoints of a lot of people I thought saw things the same way I did suddenly don't anymore. It is tempting to say, "Man, everything is changing and I don't love it." However, as the song reminded me...there is ONE who never changes. God never, ever changes. HIS WORD never ever changes. While the world around me appears to change its mind by the minute and hour, I have a reliable, unchanging God. In the middle of the chaos, the uncertainty--there is that one sure anchor for the soul.