My Full Plate


It’s happened.  I’ve finally reached the point where I feel like I can’t fit one more thing in my life.  I wondered if that was possible – if I could get to the point of being completely overwhelmed.  It can.

The strange thing is – I like being crazy busy.  I like feeling like I’m living life to the fullest and helping my family in all that they want to do.  Our lives are pretty scheduled and they are full of fun things we enjoy doing.

But, the past few weeks (or maybe a month?) have been a wild ride.  My sweet Mama went to see Jesus, we had her service and were able to celebrate the amazing person she was and all the lives she touched while she was here, I got promoted at work which has lead to a ton more responsibility and busyness,  helping out my dad and sisters clean out my mom’s things, and we are buying a house and moving.  Yeah, that’s a lot.  That’s all on top of our usual crazy lives filled with school, basketball, choir, field trips, and whatever else we can fit.  It’s just all happened at once.  To a certain degree I’m loving it.  And, I’m trying to soak in all the moments that are coming with it.  But, some days I can’t soak because I’m drowning.

The beginning of this week I started stressing about things that I needed or needed to get rid of before we go to the new house.  A friend suggested I make a list.  I did.  And, it’s amazing how calming that was for me.  Order.  I need some order.

One of the best parts of moving is that I get to clean out the whole house and not have guilt about throwing things away.  I’ve cleaned out so much paperwork, old books, and clothing.  Sure, there’s tons more, but I’m loving all that I’ve already done.

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And, I’ve been able to have a few wonderful things of my mom’s.  She had a collection of plates with the love chapter on them.  She bought them because one reminded her of me when I was little and my sisters let me have the set.

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So, my daily objective is to make progress without stressing over things I can’t control.  I can’t start painting or moving until we can actually move in.  I can’t know what exactly I need until I move in.  I can only pack so many things in a night while keeping up the rest of my life.  No one is judging me, but myself.  I wonder why I expect so much of me?  In the spirit of giving myself some grace – here’s my verse for this season of my life:

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work

 

 

Talents


Each human on this planet is born with talents that are uniquely theirs.  That’s not to say others don’t also possess the same talent.  But, more to say that each of us has our own “talent grouping”.  While many people may be good at something – not everyone has the exact same talents.

I fully believe that we are each created to do something special.  The ‘special’ doesn’t really have to be something that everyone you meet sees as special.  But, my thoughts are – God has put us all together to do something specific for His kingdom (even those who don’t know they are doing it for His kingdom are contributing and that thought makes me smile a bit).  Someone may be put here to run the government of their country.  Someone else may have been put here to sing.  And, yet another someone may have been put here to write a book.  Any and all of those are talents.

But, there are lots of talents that we overlook on a daily basis and people never really get credit for excelling at them.  Today I read a blog about running the race God has set before us.  And, not only using our talents, but also recognizing them.  It really struck me.  And, the interesting thing is that this isn’t the first time it’s come up recently.  I’ve had a few discussions with the kids over people’s talents and what it means to have a talent.  I’ve challenged them to make a game of noticing their classmates or teammates talents and seeing what they can find out about those around them.  I’ve also taken a few personality tests for work and other things that weigh in on this area too.  So, the whole ‘realize your talent’ thing is just where I am right now.

A few talents I see daily that I’ve noticed and yet haven’t made a point to praise are:

  • Friend of strangers Those people who walk up to random strangers and start conversations.  They’ve never met a true stranger, and they think nothing of making new friends any place and any time.  They start conversations with people in line in places like Target or the airport.  How many people can truly do this without concern for feeling like they are being a weirdo?  Not many.  This is a SKILL and should be recognized as a talent.  They never leave the new person to themselves and they are great at just making everyone feel like they are a part of whatever is going on.
  • Sitting quietly while listening (TRULY LISTENING – not thinking about your to-do list while someone else talks) Kudos to you!  I am not gifted in this area.  I want to be multi tasking at all times.  I am constantly impressed by those who have the ability to simply listen with interest.
  • Go with the flow These people do not need to force their will or agenda on anyone.  They are willing to help reach other people’s goals.  They are agreeable and generally the center of every team because they can be depended on to help, but not to overrun.
  • Being a friend The person who remembers to call you when your life is too busy to call them first. The girlfriend who notices you are a little down and drops you a note.  The one who takes the time to memorize all your favs and all your dislikes just because it comes natural to them.  These people are amazing.  Everyone needs at least one in their life and I am so blessed to have many!!
  • Cheerleaders Those who have no desire to rush out and change the world, but who willingly sit and cheer everyone else on.  They are outstanding ‘words of encouragement’ people and truly desire to see everyone else succeed.
  • Organizers Not just the people who keep things and events organized, but those who do it as a blessing to others.  Those who see one of the go-getters going out to get things done and steps in behind the scenes to simply organize the charge.  They don’t seek glory or praise.  They’re gift is that they can do it without needing any of that.  It’s just their natural talent.
  • Nurtures Those who simply care.  They share their heart with others because others NEED that.  They aren’t afraid to give a little tough love, but they also take the time to share some sweet, kind, and squishy love too.  They mentor others, they support dreams, and they think of ways for others to accomplish them.
  •  Decision Makers Believe it or not – not everyone is good at making decisions.  We all like to pretend we are, but the truth is that most people only want to make decisions that specifically affect them – not everyone.  Great job for sticking your neck out even when you know it won’t always be comfortable!
  • Dreamers The people who take the time to sit in a field of flowers and just enjoy thinking and dreaming.  They show us what it’s like to actually stop and smell the roses.  They think of impossible things without fear.  They don’t worry about how they will accomplish those things – they just enjoy thinking them.  That is NOT me.  I’m constantly impressed by people who dream well.
  • Positive People Those people who only see the rain for a few seconds and then come away with a positive spin.  They find the rainbow in every situation.  Not everyone can do that.  It’s inspiring!

There are so many more.  But, what I have had pointed out to me many times recently is that we need to recognize these talents (and all the other non-recognized ones) and celebrate them.  Let’s teach our kids and our friends that we KNOW they are special.  We know we are unique and we are perfectly made.  Keep up the great work of being YOU.

Keeper


My parents have a large house (as one would expect with so many children). And, when they built it my mom designed in ‘pony walls’. These are basically saddle bags for the house. Long storage ‘tunnels’ line the upstairs. And, they are full.

My mother was always organized and clean. So, the pony walls are filled with nice storage boxes and they are I n a very specific order. She remembered exactly where each treasure was stored. And, she had lots of treasures. I assume that because she also grew up in a large family she understood that holding onto & passing things down was easier & cheaper than buying new for each child. There have been many times I’ve said something like ‘The kids have Colonial day tomorrow. What should they wear?’ And, Mom would head up to the pony walls & pull out his & hers colonial outfits. Every grandchild has used the same Johnny Jump Up, walker, and bouncy seat. Even when I was a kid trying to pick a costume for a Halloween party she would say, ‘Let’s pull out the box’ and then several costume boxes would come out filled with things she’d made or purchased.

When I was in jr. high school (7th grade, I think) we took trips to Washington DC, Boston & New York. We went on amazing historical & educational tours, and walked through museums filled with lots of information about our nation’s history. Three things stick out in my memory about that trip.

3. We went to Williamsburg Virginia and visited William & Mary college. It was beautiful. We had our photos taken sitting on a brick wall there.

2. We visited the Statue of Liberty & the woman in the booth was insistent that I looked at least 13 so my father would have to pay the general admission & not the youth fee.

1. The clearest memory was my mother agreeing to take us to the Espirit Outlet & on our way there finding a Benetton store to run in.

In the Benetton store I picked out the softest pink sweatshirt with the name Benetton scrolled in large letters across the front. I wore that sweatshirt until it literally fell apart. I adored it.

The Espirit Outlet was in an industrial looking building. It seemed so adventurous to a girl from the small town of Redding, and I remember being thrilled to wander the building looking & touching everything. I purchased a few things, but the two things I remember very specifically are a blue sleeveless dress that had a collar & buttoned down the front AND a sweater with thick blue stripes as well as a red stripe, yellow stripe & green stripe. It was the coolest dressy outfit I owned. And, I wore it the day we went to the Statue of Liberty.

Yesterday, my sisters and I were sorting through some of Mom’s things & stored away was my Espirit sweater. It was in the same pile as a few baby clothes she’d saved of kids. She knew I loved it and I really can’t believe she kept it all this time.

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My (Our) Car


My oldest son is now 16.  He has been licensed by the state of California to drive.  However, he has not purchased a vehicle for himself.  After a few discussions on what car we intended to purchase him (which usually ended in me pointing and laughing at him – maybe mostly in my own head, but a little bit for real too) he managed to grasp the concept that we would SHARE my car.  And, if ever I purchase myself a new(er) car I will probably allow him to continue to drive my car.

I drive an old car.  My husband drives an old car.  Our insurance is low (well, as low as it can be with a 16 year old boy on our policy).  And, because I have no intention of purchasing a car for my son to drive I am happy to share as long as he continues to abide by the following conditions:

  • Driving safely!  This includes general maintenance that I hate like checking the oil to be sure the engine doesn’t blow up,  making sure the water level is fine, filling it with fuel so we doesn’t get stranded, no texting while driving…ever.  These basic parent “rule-things” that I think all kids have to agree to when driving.
  • He must text me when he arrives somewhere or leaves somewhere.  I want to know where to look for his body if something awful happens.  I don’t want to be the mom who has to tell the police “well, he left at 6:30am and said something about friends, but I haven’t seen or heard from him in nearly 24 hours”.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate.  Just a simple ‘here’ or ‘leaving’.
  • Drive siblings to school and bringing them home.  Carting siblings is a must because if I don’t have a car someone has to cart them.
  • Running random (and probably mostly boring) errands as needed for me.  The fact that he’d probably rather sit on the couch and text his girlfriend or spend awhile playing X-box means nothing to me.  Me providing fuel, vehicle, and insurance = him running my errands cheerfully (or at least cheerfully when I see him.  He can grumble in the car if I’m not there to hear it).

Apparently, the one thing I didn’t cover is the meaning of sharing.  I thought this was covered in Kindergarten.  But, I learned yesterday that he needed refresher course.

On days when I have no need of my car I allow him to take the car (filled with the twins) to school. I get to work 2 hours before our office opens for business.  Sometimes I have actual work I can start on.  Sometimes I don’t.   Then, after he’s done with school and any after school activities he is supposed to come pick me up.  Yesterday was one such day.  He dropped me off at 6:30am and headed off to his 7:00am class.  He texted me when he arrived (yes, all I got was ‘here’, but it was enough).  Then, I worked all day.  He did his thing.  I assumed he would be at my office about 5:30.  But, he didn’t arrive.  About 6:00pm I decided to text him.  My goal was to not sound paranoid so I did not text “WHERE ARE YOU!?!”  I sent a simple “hey, what time do you think you’ll be here?”  He texted back, “I’m at home.  I just made food.  I will pick you up on my way to basketball practice.”  (note: Basketball practice was still another hour and a half away)  I looked at my phone for a second and then sent another text, “Is that a joke?”  He texted, “no”.  And, so I picked up the phone and called him.  We had a short but clear discussion on SHARING.  You know, the fact that we are sharing MY car, MY fuel, etc.  That little tidbit.  He hung up and came to pick me up.  When I got in the car I said “I’m sorry, but what were you thinking?  Your objective when you have my car is as soon as you leave school to COME GET ME because I am STRANDED at the office.”  He said “well, I thought about it, but that just seemed like a lot of running around.”  My mind was reeling.  Oh.no.you.did.not.  Really?

It should be known (and recognized – I expect some sort of gold star on my chart somewhere where records of such things are kept!) that I did not abuse him.  I didn’t even yell.  I just agreed. Yes.  It is a lot of running around to get everyone where they need to go, picked up when they are finished, and still do the things we want to do.

I’m not sure I can make it through another two teens.  Pray for me, friends!

 

What about the old dog’s tricks?


When each of my siblings and I reached about the 6th grade we went to work for my dad.  (One of the perks of owning the business, apparently.)  My personal experience was that I showed up after school to work and my dad pointed out two people who would teach me what I needed to know.  It was presented as an opportunity to learn something and increase my personal value as an employee.  Maybe I’m weird because I bought into it, but many years later I can look back on it and see that it was, in fact, valuable to learn to take direction and to appreciate their on the job experience.

I’m not sure when or how the appreciation of experience disappeared.  (Yes, I realize teens for-basically-ever have believed they know everything that could ever be known, but I’m referring to adults.)  Maybe it’s just not in fashion right now?  I’m really not sure.  But, what I do know is that it is totally annoying.   I find it difficult to watch others make mistakes that could easily be avoided if they simply listened.  Remember the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”?  Well, sometimes you can’t teach a new dog the old tricks because the new dog is an annoying know-it-all.  Those old dogs have already learned to work smarter not harder.  What would it hurt to sit and learn a bit of that?

I have a co-worker (from here on out referred to as co-worker 1) who has refused to take instruction from the day co-worker 1 started.  Instead of learning when training was offered co-worker 1 simply ignored all instruction.  Generally, I don’t care if others don’t want to use the experience being offered.  But, when it starts to affect me – it becomes a problem.

Here is a delightful example or two from the past year when co-worker 1 moved into a position to work with me more often:

Co-worker 1 needed to check the work of another co-worker.  The company has a system for this.  We have protocol and procedures to be sure it’s done correctly.  Did co-worker 1 listen when the procedures and protocol are explained?  Nope.  Co-worker 1 instead chose to shrug and do it their own way.  But, then errors happened.  So, I gently suggest “you know, co-worker 2  has been working here nearly 30 years.  And, because it’s been so long they are amazing at that job.  I bet if we asked they would come teach us.”  Co-worker 1 said “I don’t need them to teach me.  I already know how.” For.the.love.  So, I decided that the next time it came up I would simply contact co-worker 2 to give another free example for co-worker 1.  A few weeks later my evil plan came to fruition when the same task was presented.  I sneakily called co-worker 2 and ask if they were willing to come and train again.  While co-worker 2 was sharing their experience and knowledge after a lifetime of being in the same job – co-worker 1 WALKED AWAY.  When co-worker 1 returned I said “Wow.  Co-worker 2 was teaching us how to do that and you walked away mid instruction. Co-worker 2 is more than twice as fast as either of us so since it is now your job it’d be great to learn from Co-worker 2.”  Co-worker 1 said “well ,I don’t need help.  I can do it by myself.”   My mind was blown.  I’m not even sure how someone can have that sort of mindset.  But, whatever.

Then two weeks ago a huge job came in and co-worker 1 was put in charge of shipping.  Co-worker 1 simply had to be sure all 5 volumes of the job were in boxes.  However, when I came in on Monday – I could tell that something had gone terribly wrong.  There were not the same number of remaining documents.  What this meant that somehow the counting to 5 had proved to be too much and the clients would not all receive all 5 volumes.   I was pro-active and fixed the issue.  I again suggested to co-worker 1 that perhaps some training in this new area would help.  Co-worker 1 insisted that they were fully trained, but that counting was confusing.

And, of course, we arrived at yesterday (which prompted this blog entry).  To avoid the counting struggle I insisted on making sure exact amount of documents needed for each client would be left for me to recount.  But, before we could get to that section of the job co-worker 1 needed check the work again.  Two days.  A job that should have taken a few hours took two days.  I.can.not.even.  I didn’t bother to suggest any training.  It would simply be shunned and ignored.  I doubt I will ever understand the mindset that causes someone to think they have no room for improvement or what makes them think they can’t learn from those ‘old dogs’ tricks.

For me – put me in a room with someone who has been doing a job for awhile and I sit and take notes and ask a billion questions until I feel like I can duplicate the task.  I adore learning something new, and I adore it even more when I can learn to do it quickly and well.

But, it’s not just this co-worker I’ve noticed this with.  It’s so many people in this generation.  Maybe it’s my generation?  I’m not sure where the issue is focused.  But, I do know that it’s a dangerous thing to assume that all mistakes should be re-made simply for the sake of learning.  There is a loss of respect and care for those who have worked hard to get where they are.  I do not like it and I’m not sure how to fix it.

The Aftermath


This past week has been hard.  It has been physically hard, emotionally hard, and spiritually hard.  The sheer willpower it has taken to get up instead of laying in bed sleeping should impress everyone.

There is a lot to do when someone passes.  The service alone takes time, money, and tons of effort.  Thankfully, one of the benefits of having a enormous family is that there are lots of people to lighten the load.    Aside from the service, we also had things around my parents house that needed to be done.  We managed to get them finished and I felt like we did a good job.

There have been a few things I’ve tried to make a mental note of as the week has passed.

1.  Just think before speaking.  Yes, it seems obvious.  Everyone always thinks it’s obvious.  But, I know for a fact, that I am as guilty as the next person and this is a much more difficult task than we often admit.  This is important in every situation, but especially in a situation of people grieving.  If I manage to hold it together during our conversation – I count this as a win.  There is nothing wrong with crying, but at a certain point I want to feel that I have some sort of control over my body and emotions.  For someone to say to me “Wow, I can’t believe you can just stand there and talk.  I’d be crying if I went through something like that” is odd.  Or saying “I can’t believe you’re at a basketball game.  Shouldn’t you be at home?  Your mom just died.”  is probably not great either.  I am the sort of person who will answer back, but I know not everyone is.  I want distraction from the tears, a little peace after the storm of emotion, and to be completely honest – REAL LIFE MOVES ON.  The world doesn’t stop because I am grieving.  I have to keep going.  Just a reminder that everyone deals with grieving differently.

2. The simple things really matter.  Having someone come to care for the basic needs of our family while we grieved and sat by my mother’s bedside was amazing.  It was an unexpected gift that truly blessed our whole family.    Between the aunt who came and helped with the 24-hour care, the cousin who fed us during the last week of Mom’s life, and the friend who just stopped by with basics like paper plates, napkins and cups – we were so blessed.  People ask what they can do, but the truth is that I couldn’t make my mind work in a rational way.  None of us thought much about eating or dishes or anything like that.  But, once it was taken care of we realized OH!  That was exactly what we needed.  So, thanks.  Thanks to everyone who helped with that and who realized we couldn’t even mentally get to the point of asking for exactly what we needed.

3.  People can be so thoughtful and I should learn from their example.  I have seldom sent condolence cards.  I don’t think I’ve ever dropped flowers by to a friend who had someone pass away.  I usually ‘give them space’ and attend the memorial service.  The people who sent cards, sent a quick Facebook message, or just dropped by for a second to say “I’m thinking of you and praying for you” really made a difference.  I need to be better about this because it really mattered to me that people cared and showed it.

4.  Those things that seem hokey or cliche are much different when it’s YOU who are grieving.  I’ve attended several funeral services at my parents’ church.  I have seen the same screen with different pictures of people I’ve known all my life.  But, there is something so different when you see your own family up on that screen.  The words spoken, the songs shared, and the hugs given just become less of a ritual and just become more real.

5.  Death is never avoided.  People die every.single.day.  Americans try to avoid that reality and we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to try to reverse that truth.  But, the fact is that we all will eventually die.  I would have never said I wanted to be there when my mother passed.  I would never have said I would sit and watch her die for several days.  And, honestly I didn’t WANT to do those things.  But, whether I did them or not – death would not have been avoided.  The only thing I would have escaped were the last few days I had to spend on this earth with my mom.  It was HARD.  We cried A LOT.  It HURT.  But, we laughed a lot too.  We shared memories, we hugged, and we had really good deep theological discussions really late at night/early in the morning that we probably would have never taken the time to sit and have.  I know Mom wanted us all there and she used her final words to ask for three things: She wanted us all to come kiss her, she wanted us to pray with her, and she wanted us to read the Bible to her.  What a testimony this woman was – even in her last days.  My life is richer for spending the last week of her life with her.  I would never have chosen to do it, but now I am so very glad I did.

Parenting 101


My mom passed away this morning. We spent lots of time looking through old albums & boxes so we could prepare for her service. In the mists of the digging we came across a baby album she made just for ME! I didn’t know it existed. Something people don’t often think about is that kids adopted after a certain age don’t have baby photos. It’s always bothered me that I didn’t have those things so finding a whole book dedicated to me with pictures, cards, and notes was such a treasure.

In the midst of all the notes and pictures I found a great letter from my dad written to all 7 of us. I was 4 when it was written. It makes me laugh so hard. It is so official and so business like. And, it’s so him. We photo copied it & shared with all my siblings.

To ALL MY Children:

I will not tolerate the slovenly mess you left for your Mom tonight. I have seldom witnessed such total disorder.

It became apparent to me as I worked at making the kitchen livable for the morning that I had somehow totally neglected to observe the mess before you all retired. Then, I decided to see how deep the nature of the problem was. I did! Your mom has maintained a good sense of order which was evidenced by the materials stored away in the cabinets.

The disarray was due to you children’s lack of discipline stowing away items you have used. I observed the upstairs where your Mom had cleaned 1 week ago. It looked like a small tornado had struck (plus a few straggling decoys). CLEAN IT UP!

The kitchen was a disaster area where someone I love dearly had created something beautiful. The trouble was the residue was left to envelope the kitchen.

See you all Wednesday evening.
Love, Dad

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