Monday, May 20, 2013

God's Providence

Have you ever been struck with the sense that something needs to change and you're not sure if it's the right thing to do?  My daughter is currently enrolled in a preschool that we loved when my son went there.  We were very happy with the 3 year old program and the 4 year old program.  My son came home sharing Bible stories and singing songs.  To this day he fondly remembers his preschool teachers and how they are allowed to teach about God.  Buggy has a late birthday so all of last year while Boogie was in kindergarten, Buggy stayed home with me. This year she was able to attend preschool and she has loved it and her teachers.

After the Sandy Hook tragedy Bug's preschool placed a full-time police officer in the front lobby and we had to be diligent with showing our laminated cards with our child's name in order to enter the building. I thought it was a little extreme, but it was put in place after Sandy Hook, so we just went with the flow. Rather be safe than sorry. However, in my humble opinion I thought the administration and staff at Sandy Hook had done everything they could have possibly done to make their school safe and it was a bizarre and tragic event that took hold of their school.  That was in the back of my mind as our school began to make changes.

Time went on and pre-registration came up. The school had a new system that was online with little explanation. Knowing that the preschool is very popular and can be difficult to get in, I panicked and had my husband do the registration from work since  registration opened when I would be in the middle of getting my kids ready for school.  My husband diligently spent quite a while on the phone and with the online registration to finally get Buggy enrolled. I was annoyed with the new process, but figured it would be worth it.

Then not a few weeks later rumors started to swirl around that Buggy's current teacher would no longer be teaching. The question was, is she retiring? Then we found out the 4's teacher was not returning.  What's going on?  But nothing was out publicly and no word had been said, but parents started to become anxious.  More rumors spread that the 3's teacher was leaving to start another preschool (she had founded Buggy's preschool and been there more than 20 years) and that the school did not want us to know before registration although the teacher wanted us to know. Hmmmmm. Okay, I understand why the school didn't want to risk losing enrollment. People line up to have Mrs. E. be their child's teacher.  But I thought it was a little shady.

Later we found out that indeed our beloved teacher was leaving and she was leaving to start another preschool program elsewhere.  Our beloved 4's teacher was leaving as her husband had found a new job and they were moving. Two wonderful teachers leaving at the same time. We were blown away. Hubby and I started talking about switching schools to another program that would fit our schedule better. As it stood now, I was having trouble getting Buggy to school on time because I had to drop off Boogie first at his school.  The new preschool also had a two year old program so if we wanted to, we could enroll Mr. Bananas in school. I know he would LOVE it.  As we contemplated the switch we found out Buggy's new teacher in the 4's program would be her current teacher's aide and that was good news. But I still felt unsettled. Another two weeks passed and the school went into a code blue, kids were locked in their classrooms and preschoolers could not be dismissed. We found out later that a high school student had left his backpack with a homemade musical instrument in the senior high worship center over night.  The police officer on duty had noticed the bag and no one had stepped up to claim it, no one knew who it belonged to, and they couldn't identify the musical instrument. Next steps were taken and the bomb squad was called in, the backpack was blown up, and fortunately it ended up being a mistake. It was not a bomb, just a homemade instrument. However, the school is now instituting random locker checks and backpack searches. The school is preK-8th grade. These turn of events left me more unsettled.

 I worried and Hubby and I continued to talk. Long story short, I ended up calling the new preschool at 7pm on a Monday night hoping an answering machine would pick up my call. To my disbelief the director of the school answered the phone. I was so shocked I think I asked her if she was real. She assured me she was and we spoke over the next half hour about her school's program and set up a tour date. She even scheduled it early in the morning so that Hubby could make it to work at a decent time.  Before we hung up I told her that I was surprised she answered my call and I didn't think that preschool directors were still working at 7:00 at night. She answered, "I usually don't. I had a meeting tonight and came in early to do some paperwork. I think this was God's providence that I was here when you needed me. I look forward to seeing you." Well if that didn't seal the deal, I don't know what else could have...oh wait, how about the Protestant school had decided to do a lesson on Mary, mother of God, for Mother's Day. That usually doesn't happen in a Protestant school, and I was thrilled that there was a focus on the mother of our savior.  Jesus is usually the focus, but I think Mary should get a shout out every now and again. I mean really, she is the first disciple and said, "Yes" to God.

Anyway, we went to the school, took the tour and we really liked the director. Hubby asked her if it was true that she was retiring at the end of the year. She confirmed it. We asked her if she knew the new director and she said yes but she wasn't at liberty to share the information yet.  We asked if the integrity of the program would stay intact. She was the founding director of this preschool. She assured us it would be. We decided to enroll Buggy anyway and leave it up to God. The very human side of me still worried, but at the same time Hubby and I felt that this was the right decision for us and for our family.  We were concerned about Bananas not having Mrs. E. when his turn came but we would rely on God for next steps. We left the new preschool thinking we made the right decision, but of course feeling slightly uneasy being out of our comfort zone.

Wouldn't you know that I received an amazing email this morning, less than a week from enrolling Buggy for next year at the new school.  The director of our religious education program at our parish was stepping down because she was presented with a new opportunity to become a director at a local preschool. Guess where? Yes! She was the new director at Buggy's new school. God is so good!  It is amazing to me when I hear God's answer to prayer and it is definite. There is no guessing game. It is an absolute answer one way or another. God answered my prayers, took away my anxiety, and confirmed through the new director's email, that Buggy is where she is supposed to be next year. What a blessing and a huge weight off our shoulders. Hubby and I could not be more thrilled with the turn of events.

We just felt that our current school was no longer the right fit for us and we hesitantly moved out of our comfort zone. We prayed, I worried, and desperately tried to let God take over the situation. Letting go has always been hard for me. God has shown me over the years, in more ways than I can count, that He is in charge. This time was no different. We are so blessed and we look forward to next Fall filled with joy and relief.

As my babies grow up and begin school, the thought of what I will do next looms over me. Do I go back to work? What do I do? What opportunity will present itself?  Can I stay home?  Should I stay home while the kids are in school?  All of this nibbles away at me while I try to let go and let God take over.  However, this most recent blessing reminds me, very loudly and very clearly, that God has a plan for me and that I should not worry. It will present itself when the time comes. Just as I knew 5 years ago that I should stay home full-time with my children.  God will let me know when He is ready to use me again and how I will serve Him and my family. God is so good.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matt 6:25-27 NIV

Friday, May 17, 2013

Meeting Diana

Last month I had an amazing opportunity to go at an author's event for my favorite author Diana Gabaldon.  This was huge for me because I notice that she doesn't travel to my area very often or at all for speaking engagements and for this event she would only be one state away.  I was introduced to the magic that is Gabaldon's writing by my mother-in-law and fell in love with the Outlander series. I don't know quite how to categorize Outlander and I don't think any one can. In a nut shell it's historical fiction with a little fantasy and romance thrown in. My huband's favorite summary is that a nurse from the 1940's walks through a set of standing stones in Scotland and finds herself transported to the 1740's and has to marry a hunky Scot.  Mind you, he hasn't read any of the books and is gleaning this wee bit of information from bits of pieces he's heard me tell him or that he's heard while I'm listening to my audiobooks.

Deb and I waiting for Diana!
I was fortunate to go to the event with a colleague from my former teaching days.  The event was hosted by a public library and when they opened the event registration they were hoping for 400 participants and ended up with over 1,200 in addition to a very long waiting list.  As a result they had to change venues to a gymnasium to accommodate Diana's Outlandish fans.

It was perfect.  I am so glad that I had the opportunity to go. I was at the event for more than 4 1/2 hours, but it was worth it to me. While meeting Diana and having her sign one of my books was a great honor and I was most definitely starstruck, the best part of the event was listening to her speak.  Being a wannabe writer myself I was enthralled and really enjoyed hearing how she started in the business.  At the time she was working full-time for a university and was raising 3 young children.  In her spare time she wrote and she was never going to publish her work, she just wanted to know if she could write a novel and see it to the end.  She shared snippets with an online writing community and what was once a personal project turned into a highly acclaimed and beloved series.  My favorite anecdote was answering a question about whether or not she does her own researching and why doesn't she hire someone to do that work for her. Diana's answer, granted this is not verbatim, but you get the gist:  She has a personal assistant. If she wants hot dogs for dinner that night, she'll send her personal assistant out who picks up the fixings for dinner and they eat hot dogs. But if Diana, herself, goes out with the intention of buying hot dogs for dinner, she might come across chicken breasts on sale and then she thinks hmmmm, I can make curried chicken, I have all the spices, what else would go well this? Oh, look at that lettuce, it looks fresh and beautiful with the water glistening on it, let's make a salad, let's add some walnuts, and oh, look at these tomatoes, I'll add that as well.  And she ends up with curried chicken and a hearty salad instead of hot dogs for dinner. Why doesn't she use a research assistant for her writing, if she did then you'd just get hot dogs ;)

Listening to Diana!
I was so enamored with her and breathed in every word.  I thought to might be possible. I might just be able to pull off my dream some day and write something that is worth something to me.  I hung on to every word as if it were a gift just for me and I am so grateful that my husband enjoyed an evening with the kids while I trotted off to another state for the night to meet my favorite author and to gain some inspiration from her.

She signed my book!
After the event, my friend Deb and I joined the 1,198 other Outlandish fans and patiently waited in line for Diana to sign our books.  I brought my current crocheting project with me and it was good thing I did because we were in line for over 3 hours. My only regret is that I wish I had worn more comfortable shoes and chosen comfort over style.  My companion was great and the Outlandish fans charming. I was impressed with the group and how everyone was polite and courteous to one another.  I was very impressed that Diana agreed to stay and sign all of our books (with a 2 book limit, though if you wanted more signed you could go back to the end of the line! Super generous!). I had waited 3 hours for her to sign a book for me and for my mother-in-law. Not only did she sign our books she took a picture with each of her fans.  After I left the line, she easily had another hour of signing to go. She was gracious and beautiful and I was awestruck. I barely managed to squeak out that my mother-in-law and introduced me to Jamie and Claire and I had been a fan ever since.  I think my voice was breathy and soft and just every so squeaky.  She graciously signed my book with "Best Wishes" in Gaelic. It is a treasured book that I hope to pass on to my daughter some day when she is old enough to read about the adventures and passion of my favorite characters James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser and his wife Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Fraser.

Meeting Diana...swoon!
If you have never read Outlander I suggest you do. Diana Gabaldon is an amazing storyteller. Her ability to weave the intricate scenes, story lines, and characters is extraordinary.  She is so descriptive that there are times when I feel like I am in the story, sitting on the sidelines and observing and hearing every conversation. Davina Porter is an amazing narrator for the audiobooks. I have recently started rereading the series again in preparation for the next book due to come out at the end of the year Written in My Own Heart's Blood. With my busy schedule I have little time to sit and enjoy the luxury of reading a long book filled with historical information, many characters, and several story lines.  However, the beauty of today's technology has allowed me to download my books onto my smartphone and now I can take Jamie and Claire with me on my long runs. It is a gift to my myself every morning to find the time to read a long and intricate book combined with my passion for running all before the kids wake up.

Thank you Diana for letting us into your world! It was an honor to meet you and to hear you speak!

Tapadh leat!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's Day 2013

Celebrating with a Mother's Day Tea at Bug's Preschool
I'm so far behind so many posts (aka memories) that I need to log in.  We have been so blessed and every weekend has been awesome for different reasons.  I'm trying my best to keep up, but this class I'm taking has really eaten up every spare minute of my day. No lie. And really, the class isn't hard, it's just a lot. And really, I'm probably over doing it, because that's just what I do.

Mother's Day for me is a time for me to reflect on being a mama and truly appreciating the three awesome gifts God has given me.  Without them, I would be a completely and totally different person and I don't know if I would have liked that person very much. Honestly, I think I would be working, working, working and coming home 8pm every night. I think Hubby and I would travel a heck of a lot more, but I think in some ways we'd be a little bored. Seriously, you cannot get bored taking care of three charismatic, mischievous, ever changing little beings. I know that I would not have picked up crocheting and making blankets for loved ones.  I would probably be much fatter, would never have attempted a half-marathon, and I would be watching The Biggest Loser on television while eating my giant bowl of ice cream with all the toppings. And I'm pretty sure that I'd be a little grumpier in general.

My Mom and I and my 3 Blessings
Being a mother has changed me for the better. I am more patient. I have learned that I have to go with the flow or I'll get washed away with worrying about the details. I have learned that I can love with all of my heart and feel like I can keep on loving because my heart keeps on growing. I am more forgiving.  Having children really changes your perspective on love and forgiveness.  I am more fun. I laugh, I giggle, I smell stinky toes, chase naked bottoms (yes, I mean my childrens'!), blow bubbles, tickle and kiss bellies (yes, again my childrens'!), and look at the world through the eyes of a child. I have strengthened my faith, because I cannot imagine that I am alone in this world or that our Creator above is not looking down on me giving me a hand when I need it and yes, there are days when I do need it! I have found my strength and I have found my weakness.  I am somebody's whole world and and each of them are mine. I dance in the kitchen and sing off key to my babies. There are days I have got it together and there are days I am broken. Through it all I am loved and I am blessed.

My Mom and I Mother's Day 2013
Mother's Day this year I was able to sleep in until 6:30am. Really, that is sleeping in for this 4am Mama who tries to get in her run at 5am. I was able to study before the kids awoke (seriously, my class has been stressing me out so that was good!), I was given breakfast in bed before our big brunch at 10am, my folks joined us for a yummy brunch made by my fabulous husband. I don't think I washed a dish all day!  I received a new pair of running shoes (YES!), beautiful roses, the sweetest card from sweet Boogie with a letter attached, a card from Buggy where she signed her name, and sweet scribbles from Bananas.  I napped (amen!) and we went out for sushi (yum!).  We ended with family movie night and snuggles on the couch. It was the best and it gets better every year. I am so, so blessed.

My family attended Mass the night before Mother's Day so that we could celebrate my niece's first communion. Mr. Bananas was in rare form and the kids were antsy or non-participatory.  I murmured in their ear often trying to encourage them each to sit up, participate, or stay in their seat.  As we were leaving I turned to pick up our bags and faced the three nuns who sat behind us. I gave an inward groan as I'm sure they saw the shenanigans and my lack of ability to "control" it. I was just happy the kids were mostly quiet during Mass.  However, I received the best compliment I have ever received as a mother. One of the nuns remarked that Mr. Bananas was full of character to which I said, "Why, yes, yes he is" and she said that I must be a very patient mother because she never saw the stress on my face and saw nothing but patience.  She said that I never let on that I was frustrated or irritated although she could imagine I might be.  She said that I was a very good mother.  Being a teacher herself she knows a thing or two about patience and children.  I was really, really touched. Being patient and letting things roll off my back has been something that I am continuously working on. I don't like the yelling, frustrated, irritated mother that I am known to be now and again. I really, really want to be patient, loving, and not let the little things irritate me. So I felt her compliment was an affirmation of my work towards bettering myself.

The 3 Reasons Why I am a Better Woman
I am thankful for the babies I have.  I would not be the woman I am today without them. They have taught me so much and I still learn more and more every day. I aspire to be like the Proverbs 31 woman. Day, by day, I hope to walk in such a way that I am an example to my children.  It's not an easy walk, but one that is honorable and blessed.

Proverbs 30:28-30
Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Another Year Older

Happy Birthday to me :)
Earlier this month I turned 35.  I can't believe I am 35, but there it is. However, I think I am the healthiest I have ever been.  Seriously.  How is that possible? I'm in my 30's and now is the time that I have become my healthiest.  It's taken being pregnant, having kids, and staying home with my kids full-time for me to realize that I need to take my health and my weight seriously.  I mention my weight because when my weight goes up my knees hurt, I trudge along, my energy is low, and I am hungry all the time.  When my weight goes down I feel like a rock star because I can move more easily, my energy (for the most part) is up, and I eat much healthier and I don't crave the junk food.

This is a big year for me.  I am at my lowest weight since being pregnant for the first time. Yeah, it's only taken me 7(!) years to finally get rid of the baby weight from all 3 kids.  Not only have I lost the weight I have discovered a passion for running. And, no, I'm not being chased!

Blessed beyond measure
I have run in the past and I have run in a few 5K, a couple of 5 milers, and a 10K over the last 7 years.  But this past October after coming off an injury (I had a wicked case of Plantar Fasciitis) I ran in a running festival with family and I was hooked!  I ran my first ever 7 miles as a member of a 4 part marathon relay team. I started training late for it because I was scared and I was kind of hoping that we weren't going through with it. But once Hubby's cousin took the lead on our team I made a definite commitment and kicked my training into gear.  Everyone else could run longer distances and at a faster pace. But I was happy to be included and I didn't want to let them down.  Oh.My.Goodness! I ran faster than I thought possible, LOVED the vibe from the spectators, and truly enjoyed participating in this event with family. It was a great bonding experience and made me love them even more. One awesome benefit was spending extra time with Hubby's cousin and her husband. I was able to spend the night with them so I didn't have to drive an hour to the race site in the wee hours of the morning.  We looked at old family photographs, talked for hours, and I got to know them better. It was great. But that entire event, the bonding, the vibe, the spectators, the runner's high, and reading Born to all totally hooked me.

And now at 35,  I am running in my first half-marathon. WHAT?  That's right. You heard me, I'm running in my first half-marathon. This chubby little girl in her 30's has fallen in love with running and ran 13.1 miles last Sunday.  How did I fall into that?  Well, my seat mate on the bus to the first leg of the marathon relay in October told me about this race and told me the registration date. She planted the seed in my head and I talked about it for months. After overcoming a few more injuries (a calf strain and hip pain) that took a couple of months to heal completely, I decided to start training keeping my eye on the registration. Finally last month after a conversation with my husband he told me to go for it. I was already training as if I was registered why not just do it. So I did. And did you see that? You better take a look because that was pigs flying. Never in a million years did I ever believe that I would sign up for that kind of crazy. I will definitely write a later post about that experience, because it was awesome.

So at 35, where am I in my life?

  • I am a stay at home mommy to my three children ages 7, 4, and 2.  I have been blessed to be home with my kids for the last 4+ years.  
  • I am a wife to my amazing husband and I have been married for almost a dozen years.
  •  I am still trying to find my career calling.  I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I was a teacher, my husband thinks I'll be a teacher again. I'm taking classes to keep up my certification, so maybe he's right.
  •  I'm still writing, but not as often as I would like. Does that still make me a writer, even if it is done causally? 
  •  I am a runner.  Overhearing your daughter tell her friend, "My mommy is a runner" kind of makes it official. 
  •  I continue to make baby blankets and full length afghans for family and friends.
  •  I volunteer at my son's school and in different ministries at church and I love being a part of each volunteer opportunity.
  •  Somewhere in there I try to be a friend to my friends, though I know that I am falling down on the job because I am almost never home and my hours are crazy (I'm up by 4am 4:30am and I collapse by 8pm and try to eek out more time in my day by staying up just a little bit later).
  • And finally,  I am imperfect and I am thankful for God's grace and forgiveness. 
Thirty-five isn't looking too shabby.  I will continue to work on myself to be the wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend that God wants me to be. I am blessed beyond measure by family and friends. I feel so good physically and I look forward to tackling yet another half-marathon.  God has been so good and while I am enjoying where I am right now, I look forward to what God has in store for me.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.