Saturday, November 27, 2010

That Time of Year

Looking out the window, the snow continues to remain. I think winter is finally here. Although there's talk of 40 degrees tomorrow, whatever melts will likely freeze by nightfall and be covered with more fluffy precipitation, at some point. Now that Thanksgiving is over, I gave into the kids' reminders of putting up the Christmas tree, and all the rest of the decorations. Our house is now aglow--cozy and warm, with the flicker of corn kernels, set aflame.

Sounds like a good place to camp out for the next 3 or 4 months, doesn't it? I did a lot of hibernating when I was on layoff. Too bad motherhood doesn't have a layoff period*LOL* My job was seasonal, so by the time the holidays rolled around, I was on break...until the next holiday, Valentine's Day, came. Then after everyone got their roses, and we were sure we didn't want to see another flower until spring, we were on break, again, until the end of March. Not a bad deal, if you ask me. So while winter is not my favorite season, it comes close to being so because of the slower pace and time to catch up on indoor projects. Also a good time to go cross-country skiing. I've made some tracks already in our snowy fields. Maybe I'll melt away the 'post-baby belly' after all.

I thought that this year, I wouldn't go Black Friday shopping, with the rest of the world, after how tired I was last year. Who really wants to get up at 3AM and stand in line? I heard that some stores were opening at midnight this year. I was tempted to go, but then sleep seemed more appealing by the time I would need to leave.

Instead, I got myself and our kids, on the road, by 10AM. We went to the mall and endured the crowds, lines, and outbursts of temper by both of my children. The screams, kicking and tears were flowing, quite freely, in one children's clothing store. My daughter, crying, wanted me to buy her boy's PJ's. I didn't care that they were boys, but did she really need another pair of footie jammies? My son was also crying because the snowman jammies he wanted didn't come in the footie style, but rather, in a 2-piece set. And he didn't want to give up the seat in the stroller, back to his sister. I think every person in that store could hear us(it wasn't a big store). But I calmly handed my payment to the gal at the register, not backing down on my position. I no longer sit in judgment of parents with screaming children. At times, I am one of them.

I promised them candy, out of the gumball machines, if they were good. I think they did pretty well, all things considered. We ate lunch in a food court that literally had only one table left. We shared a plate of Japanese food. For 6 bucks, the three of us ate lunch, sitting next to a mom and her daughter--out shopping together, getting some girl time. It was fun to talk to them, and not mind that we were strangers to each other. I was thankful that they let us sit next to them. I'm also thankful(not usually)for 25 cent machines that dispense small tokens of sweet silence!

Here's what I find funny, about Black Friday. They send you a paper that weighs about 3 pounds, chalk full of advertisements. The colorful ads promise good deals in the term of "Door Busters". So that somehow gets us wound up to go out at all hours of the night in order to satisfy our need for this or that item. People line up, shoulder to shoulder, at some places. Later on, the evening news appears, showing video footage of all these people and how bad it was that someone almost got trampled, trying to get through the doors of a toy store when they finally opened up.

Here's the kicker: they call it door busters for a reason. For some of us, just hearing it phrased that way may indirectly cause some of the negative behavior we see, played out in the masses. Maybe words are that powerful. What we see, read, or hear influences us, does it not? Or maybe we're just selfish by nature, and turn into tantrum-bound children, under the right environment. Just ask my kids.

I came home with a few goodies. Ironically, I have to go back up to that mall and make another exchange. I'm not doing well in judging how clothes really fit me, these days. All the jeans have spandex in them, which is great, but sometimes that denim stretches to a point of no longer staying on your bumper!*LOL* I'm glad that my favorite store allows returns on worn merchandise. That's how you know its a quality place to shop--when they can deal with picky customers, like me--then you know they're good.

The holidays are a great time of year. I'm so happy that my kids like Christmas music. Some of you may find it annoying because it seems to play earlier and earlier, with each passing season. But I really like it. It puts me in the right mood and helps me focus on what is important. We only get to sing these songs, once a year, so I'm taking in my full 6 weeks of enjoyment. In addition to the sounds, I love the lights, the smells and scents of burning candles, cookies baking, breads full of spice. It's a celebration that invokes all of the senses. No wonder we feel kind of a let down when its all over. A song I heard, recently, alluded to 'if only it were Christmas, everyday.' That might drive some of us a little nuts, but in my heart, it kind of is that way, for me. Without all the commercial fanfare, of course. Well, ok, maybe a little. Retail therapy?

This time of year, we often see family that is, more or less, not a part of our every day lives. That can be great, but it can also be stressful. I enjoyed Thanksgiving. I was sad that I didn't get to see those who couldn't make it, but overall, it was fun. No pressure to bring gifts, instead, making all the food. That's the busy part. The first Thanksgiving I hosted was an experience. I was pregnant, my mom was battling cancer, and I left half of the gizzards in the tail end of the bird!

I remember being so exhausted, trying to multi-task several dishes, all at once. But I was determined to do it. It would be the first, and only time, I could cook for my mom. She was pretty frail, by then. Our house tends to be on the cool side, so we put her chair right next to the corn stove. My grandpa also brought up his little fireplace heater so she could have extra heat while taking a nap. The table we set was so pretty. Guess I made my grandma proud that day. Maybe she was smiling down on us as we ate together.

Enjoy the time that you have with your loved ones. Make it a good memory to cherish and recall, so that when you have one of those days, you can pull out a picture of a good day, in your mind. Happy holiday season to you all. He is my reason for celebrating because He gave it all, for us.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


One of things I enjoy, in raising our kids, is reading Eric Carle's "The Very Hungry Caterpillar", over and over again. Such a simple story, decorated with delightful paper mache images. Yet in its simplicity, the book communicates a great message to young and old alike.

Now that we're on the brink of an impending MN winter, I thought it would be fun to share this warm tale from one of our summer adventures. Enjoy!

"Last summer, we raised our first Monarch butterfly. It was a great experience; with a few failed attempts, we eventually succeeded. Adrian was so excited to see the transformation from a tiny little egg, to eating machine, to shiny green cocoon...and then, finally, a butterfly! The
whole process takes about a month. We find the eggs on the Milkweed plant, which is prolific throughout the countryside by our house.

Once inside the jar with holes atop, we watched the changes take place, day by day. To think that a creature with this kind of design, and intricacies, is deemed to have "evolved", seems ridiculous. Is there anything on earth, quite like the metamorphosis of the butterfly? The caterpillars know that they can eat only milkweed(occasionally, dill weed), making them poisonous to predators.

Having eaten just enough, these little wigglers shed their skin(multiple times), and when they are so full that they can hardly move, they hang upside down, turn themselves inside out, and become like "jelly"--inside the chrysalis. Once inside, all the cells and DNA are programmed to transform this colorful caterpillar into the majestic orange, white and black Monarch butterfly. The name means "King of Butterflies"--and we get to watch it all happen, right here in our own home. So cool.

This past July, we raised two butterflies--Adrian and Samantha's "pets". Our first one hatched on a Monday, after we got home from a short vacation. All was going well until she fell inside her jar. Normally, Monarchs hang from their empty shell for about a day, allowing their wings to dry and fully extend. Something was amiss with this butterfly. We took her out and let her sit out in the sun, on one of my flower pots, for a day. Next day still no change. She couldn't fly away and her wings seem kinda droopy.

I did some research and discovered that butterflies can be infected with a parasite called OE(short for Ophryocystis elektroscirrha). It's spread from the spores on the milkweed plant and can infect future generations of butterflies, especially if you don't sterilize your containers after the fact. Not for sure, but it could be a possibility. If this was the case, our butterfly would not learn to fly, no matter how hard she tried.

I read up on how to feed this poor butterfly and how long we could expect her to survive. It could be several days to weeks, depending on how much care she receives. As directed, I got a small piece of sponge and soaked it in sugar water. This little creature sat on my finger and drank from it's little straw(proboscis), right before my very eyes. It was amazing.

Even though this creature may never grace the blue skies above, the benefit is how close we've been able to get to her: to see her eyes, mouth--watch her eat, stroke her velvety wings. That would've never happened if she were fully developed and had flown away. The last two days, our Monarch friend has been sitting on my vase of flowers, in the kitchen window. This morning, she was glued to the screen, gazing outside as if she knew that was where she belonged.

While it was fun to have our little friend inside the house, I would be leaving on a trip in a few days: so out she had to go. I placed her on my flower pot and she remained there, as happy as a grounded
butterfly could be, until I left town.

Guess what? When I came home, 4 days later, I couldn't find our butterfly. I looked around the plant to see if she had expired, but didn't see a trace of her. A few days later, we were outside and we saw a Monarch fly by, like an airplane, doing take offs and landings--bouncing along.

As it glanced by, I noticed the lower wings were bleached white--suggesting it my have been our little friend. Because we fed her sugar water, her back wings had wicked up some of the moisture--several times--making the orange color fade to white. It was hard to prevent this from happening, and I wondered if that would make it harder for her to survive. Maybe she figured it out, after all!

I continue to be amazed at how great our God is. He wants to reveal Himself to us in big ways and small. The wonder of seeing this creature, up close and personal, was a teachable moment in our lives. Even though I'm mostly unaware of the changes occurring in my life, I have to trust that He is doing a good work in, and through, me. During those times when it feels like nothing new is happening...learning to wait for change to be revealed. In times when I'm so hungry, taking it all in--and being forced to shed my old ways of thinking, relating, parenting, living. One day, we will look in the mirror and see a reflection--recognizable as a "familiar presence", directing our lives. Until we fly away, it's a daily dependence on a Person who's ways are higher than ours."
(reference for my thoughts:2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Linked in Love

Tonight, my mind is trying to process the many conversations I've had, in several circles, lately. The commonality between them all is the fact that so much of what we make much of, really isn't. Human beings like hanging out with others that think like they do, walk like they walk, talk like they talk. It's a comfort thing, I suppose. We feel safe and validated, knowing that we are among friends. Within 'the bubble', we may begin to believe, simply by association, that our choices are the best...dare I say, the right ones.

The other side of the coin would be diversity. The concept of being multi-cultural within our circles of community, having different life experiences and gaining valuable perspective from one another. What does this look like? What is it supposed to look like? When it doesn't happen, when do we decide to walk away and find another group where we 'fit in' better? We've all been there: on the school playground, in churches, study groups, the workplace, the lunch room, our own homes. How is it that we can feel so isolated within the irony of community?

When I was younger, some of my friends would affectionately call me 'Lizard'. Kinda paints a reptilian picture in the mind, doesn't it? I would often respond to that nickname with my eyes rolling (LOL). Not one of my favorites, as you can imagine. However, in today's world, I will gladly answer to the call of Chameleon. Yes, the reptile that changes color within its environment. The blending in is not to simply fit in, and be unnoticed. No, rather, I see it as finding common ground--whatever that may be.

There is freedom in letting go of your own agenda. You become aware of what is important, and what is not. I enjoy being around different circles of community, so long as I feel welcomed. You can almost taste the disdain when you are not. I remember, not so long ago, when I thought that the way to 'make friends' was to inform people of what I thought about "stuff". These were my life experiences, were they not? Yes, but they were also opinions that sometimes communicated a different message than I had intended: "you are not doing it the right way".

Even in theological discussions, which can cause rifts among us, we have to come back to the foundation. And that is Jesus, of course. Sometimes the opinions we have, about secondary issues, can become barriers if we wear them like a uniform or badge(who do we work for?). A friend once told me, "we all stand the same height at the foot of the cross." No one is on tip-toe, there. At some point, I had to look at the relationships that were forming around me. What is more important? That this person do what I do, or think like me...or, that they are in my life? What would Jesus do, if he were me?

Love is on the agenda. What would that look like, every day? I think it would look something like the Olympic symbol of rings: each one of them, intersecting with another, crossing paths, individual and yet, interconnected. So we can have our circles of familiarity, but allow ourselves to reach beyond that--becoming a person of influence rather than merely a person of opinion.