"We're all just fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make." – Jerry Ellis

Archive for September, 2014

Growing Up with My Dad

Our family circa 1973. Love the plaid!

As a kid, I don’t remember having the hectic evening schedule that our family does now. My mom was a stay-at-home Mom, and Dad got home from work around four o’clock in the afternoon. I remember he always had a recliner in the family room (we liked to call it his Archie Bunker chair—though my kind-hearted Dad and Archie don’t have much in common!) He worked outside all year around—our family business was a sand plant—so in the summer, stretching out in the recliner in the AC was a wonderful reprieve from the heat. He’d kick off his shoes, to which we kids were obliged to moan and groan about the stench—whether they actually were odiferous or not—and usually cat nap for about half an hour before he watched the news. The 5 o’clock news was always on at our home. Followed by the 5:30 national news and then back to the local 6 o’clock news. I remember I always hated when I had to turn off the channel I was watching so we could watch grown up shows like the news.

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This photo was taken after we’d had new carpet installed and Dad’s recliner hadn’t been put back in the family room yet. He took his nap right on the floor next to the dog. He’d worked hard, out in the heat all day. The same cannot be said for the dog.

When my brother and I were young teens, we got an Atari game system one year for Christmas, so sometimes when he came home he’d play Asteroids with us. To this day, I can remember us taking turns in front of the old console TV on these 70s-style hassocks my mom had. My dad, this big six foot three guy, would lean into his moves on that joystick with a lot of gusto, firing shots from that little triangle at those monstrous space rocks. I’m surprised the legs of those hassocks didn’t snap!

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That was the old set-up. The hassocks we sat on to play Atari or watch TV up too close were stacked there on the left. Oh, and Scamp, our family dog was front and center, too.

 Though he had to stop in later years for health reasons, when I was a kid Dad smoked a pipe. His favorite tobacco was this horrible smelling Captain Black. It came in a white pouch with black lettering and a picture of what looked like a pirate on it. For Christmas we’d buy him fancy tobacco from a cigar shop at the mall—Honey Cavendish or Cherry blend, which he always would smoke, but now I wonder if he did it just so it wouldn’t hurt our feelings. I think he really did like that Captain Black. He was a fairly polite smoker, before it became politically correct to be one. I have many memories of him doing a little hot pocket dance when he’d try to stow his pipe away in his pocket before it was cooled off. Note that this politeness in smoking did not extend to his family in the car. Nothing worse than being in the car in the middle of winter with the windows rolled up! Of course, this was well before all the public service announcements about second hand smoke. My brother and I just learned to hold our breath for a really long time.

As Daddy’s little girl, I got by with a lot of stuff my brother didn’t. A lot of things Kevin got yelled at for, I’d get maybe a stern look. Maybe. My husband says the only time he ever saw my dad reprimand me was once when we were at Steak ‘N Shake and I blew the straw wrapper off the straw at him and it landed on his head. Keep in mind I would have been about twenty years old at the time. But he’s probably right—Dad didn’t do more than mildly scold me, though I’m sure I deserved much more growing up. Especially when I was a bratty teenager. I remember saying awful, dramatic, teenage girl things to both my parents at one time or another, but they managed to love me anyway.

It’s not the best picture of either one of us, but this is my dad and I at my college graduation. I couldn’t have gone to college without my parents supporting me.

Next week, my Dad will celebrate his his 74th birthday. Long retired, he spends his days enjoying the History Channel and going out to lunch with my mom…(I should mention he ate cold salami sandwiches with mustard EVERYDAY for at least 25 years while running the sand plant). I am so glad that he’s my dad, and I smile when I think of all we have in common with our personalities. My dad raised me to have a strong faith, honor tradition (but don’t be bogged down by it) and to cherish family. Happy Birthday a little early, Dad! I love you.

A snapshot of Dad at his birthday dinner last year. He hates when I take pictures of him like this!

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Endings and New Beginnings

As a young Sunday Schooler, we used to sing a little song:

I am the church, you are the church,

We are the church together.

All who follow Jesus, all around the world.

Yes, we’re the church together.

The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple,

The church is not a resting place, the church is the people.

 

Over the past few years, big changes have come down the pike for the church I’ve gone to my entire life—a church blessed with long-standing tradition. I was christened at Immanuel as a baby, confirmed there in eighth grade and took my marriage vows in that beautiful sanctuary. My three children were christened there and two of them have gone through confirmation there. I love the people at my church. A lot of them are relatives, and those who aren’t blood kin certainly feel like they are to me. They have seen me grow up, they know my parents; they’ve celebrated with us in joyous times and mourned with us when we’ve suffered loss. We pray for each other and serve together.

Immanuel started over 126 years ago as a German community church. In fact, services were in German until the War, when pointing out your German heritage was not a good thing to be doing. We still have an annual Wurstmarkt (sausage supper) the first weekend in November. My great-grandparents were a part of the founding members, and my entire family—grandparents, great aunts and great uncles, aunts and uncles and cousins of all “once-removed” status attended church there when I was growing up. At the time, our family was an anomaly because we commuted over 45 minutes to go to church, as we lived in St. Charles and the church is in Ferguson, Missouri. But since my childhood, many of the families that attend church there have also spread out across St. Louis and St. Charles counties and commute to attend services and activities. To have a “commuter church” to this degree is a rather unique situation.

I feel compelled to tell you this brief history because to many people who have either grown up attending various churches or never went to church at all, loyalty to one particular church can be hard to understand. Most people who moved that far away from their church would have found a new one closer to home-especially forty years ago. My parents tried several nearby churches, but none of them had the people that made Immanuel what it meant to them. But what a long commute to church meant for our family then was less involvement with the activities in church outside Sunday morning service. As a youth, I didn’t participate in the Youth Group activities, except for Confirmation, because we just didn’t live very close. So when my own kids were getting to an age to be more involved in Youth programming at church, I didn’t really notice when they weren’t interested in participating.

All these years later, we were still commuting to Immanuel. Until recently. The slow, steady emotionally pulling away from our church began a few years back when the man who was our pastor for over thirty years suddenly retired. We all missed him, especially his wonderful sermons, but I always felt like it was a storm we as a church family could weather. I don’t feel a blog is the appropriate place to go into detail all that’s happened since then, or air any dirty laundry. But the end result is that while Immanuel is still that beautiful church building with a history rich in tradition full of people I love, I feel like all of the unrest has become a huge distraction to the faith development of its members.  My kids are missing out on being a part of an active, thriving youth program.  Despite how that may sound, I am not angry about any of it; just terribly, terribly sad.

Because I miss trying to avoid the delicious donuts while visiting with my friends and family on Sunday mornings in the church basement. I miss our beautiful hymnals that have been so well-loved some have the backs taped together to keep the covers on them. I miss saying “debts and debtors” in our Lord ’s Prayer and reciting the Apostle’s Creed. I miss hearing the choir’s descant and my uncle’s beautiful voice singing “To God Be the Glory”. I miss when we pray for our hospitalized church members together in worship. I miss the kids playing basketball in the gym after church. Those things, like my love for my church family, will never change—they are now a part of my physical and emotional make up—a fiber in my being that will never be unbound. I could go there next week and breathe in that entire experience and feel God’s love for me deep within my heart.

Experiencing other worship services has made me feel disloyal to those people who nurtured my faith all these years, and loyalty is something I cherish. I feel guilty because it’s easy when I attend services elsewhere to focus on the message. I feel uplifted because there’s no emotional baggage with these other worship services because there’s not the history. I see how attending a church within my own community is giving back to my neighbors and it brings me joy. I see ways to become involved at church in more than Sunday morning worship and it scares me. I see my daughter asking to go to Youth meetings with her friend at a nearby church and I feel like I’m doing the right thing. All of these things—they’re about me. And I’m trying to see how to make them all about God.

Still, I’m not ready to say that this is a definite ending or beginning just yet. My heart will always be with my “home” church. My prayer as a woman of faith is to have discernment in knowing which way to move forward.  Standing at this crossroad in my life, I am reminded of yet another song—a hymn from my youth:

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!

Thou art the potter, I am the clay!

Mold me and make me after Thy will,

While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Just for Today: Be Positive

Happiness-Is-Friday from lovethispic.com

The world is full of negative energy and people. People who are looking to blame. People who are miserable that want others to be miserable too. Our media, news stories in particular, contribute to this overall negative vibe.

I’m not sure why it is that way—other than the fact that it’s easier to be negative—a cop-out. After all, isn’t it easier to protest something, be against something or someone than to be for something? Besides, if you are too positive, people begin to think something is wrong with you. Isn’t that sad? That it’s perfectly acceptable to be Negative Nelly, but if you have a smile and a positive outlook people start looking for the wine bottle in your purse.

So for today, just today, focus on the good. Focus on what it is you love, admire and stand for. Bask in those things. Your family, your faith, that silly dancing flower pot. Ignore the naysayers and tune out the people who want to bring you down. I realize not every day is easy to be positive when there’s so many things that could be stressing us out. Jobs, health, relationships. All of the above. But it’s Friday, so try, for one day, to not add any more negative vibes to the world. And see how you feel tomorrow.

Happy Friday!

Is it Apathetic to be Content?

lifesperks.wordpress.com

 

Is it apathetic to be content? In today’s world, I find myself asking this question a lot. This past Sunday Darrell and Tyler were watching football and I noticed that so many commercials with athletes send the message that you should always strive to be better, to do more, and to work harder. Being content with your performance today is being mediocre. Although I can’t argue with the admirable work ethic, I sometimes wonder if the message the world sends to all of us is that we are never good enough and it is wrong and downright lazy to be content.

In the Jimmy Johns sandwich shop near my home, they have a sign hanging up with a story by Mark Albion about a fisherman on a small island. I found the version below at: http://www.awakin.org/read/view.php?tid=70#sthash.wrHhZh4w.dpuf  It really speaks to me:

Businessman and the Fisherman

–by Mark Albion (Apr 19, 1999)

A young businessman was at the pier of a small coastal village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Seeing several large yellowfin tuna inside the small boat, the businessman complimented the fisherman on the quality of the fish and asked how long it took to catch them. “Only a little while,” the fisherman replied.

A little surprised, the young business man asked, “Why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The content fisherman said, “This is enough to support my family’s immediate needs. I don’t need any more.” “But what do you do with the rest of your time?” asked the confused young man. “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a walk with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my buddies; I have a full and busy life.”

The lad scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The fisherman asked, “How long will this all take?” to which the young man replied, “15-20 years.” “But what then?” The business man laughed and said “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”

“Millions, sir? Then what?”

“Then you would retire, move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a walk with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your buddies.”

In many ways, I find myself identifying with the fisherman on the island. In truth, I have the best of both worlds—a regular paycheck and work experience, but since I work part time, I have more time and energy to write and do things with my family. Yet, I feel like I should be doing more. After all, it would be nice to have the extra income having a full-time job can bring, but at this point in my life, would the additional stress it would bring to our family actually be worth it? My kids are teenagers. In a few short years they will all be in college and embarking on their own careers and lives. Ideally, this is the time of my life to put my ducks in a row for when the day comes when I will return to working full time again. Instead of enjoying the season I’m in now, I worry about what if this or that happens, or what if I don’t get the job I want. I wish I could think more like the fisherman and less like the businessman!

The flip side of being content, at least for me, is the “Someday” trap. Filled with apathy and no commitment to a goal, the Someday trap puts all my dreams in future tense. I will finish my novel…someday. When I’m in Content mode, it’s easy to put off the small things that make Someday possible, like building and promoting a blog. This is where discernment comes in, and when I have to question the motives behind my goals. It’s a delicate balancing act—as well as the reason why I need deadlines! It’s when I have to ask myself what small step I can do today to make my Someday happen, you know—SOMEDAY.

So for today, I will be patient and content with this season in my life, with only one eye on the future. Because we should enjoy the here and now…and everyone needs a Someday.

The St. Louis Zoo

Love the Zebras!  So unique.

Love the Zebras! So unique.

Here lately, it’s a pretty amazing feat any time that all five of us in our family manage to do any family activity together besides the occasional meal at the dinner table. But a few Sundays ago, it happened to fall into place-the girls wanted to DO something besides hanging out at the house and Tyler happened to have the afternoon off when we had a Sunday afternoon at our disposal. So we went to the St. Louis Zoo.

Normally when we're at the Zoo, it's too hot or too cold and the cats are hiding somewhere.  It was great getting to see them out and about.

Normally when we’re at the Zoo, it’s too hot or too cold and the cats are hiding somewhere. It was great getting to see them out and about.

Out and about today!

If you’re not from St. Louis, let me tell you our Zoo, located in Forest Park, is absolutely amazing. Though you have to pay for parking if you choose to park in the Zoo’s lot, admission to the Zoo is still free. And our Zoo has a rich history (as does Forest Park in general). It started with the walk-thru flight cage, originally part of the 1904 World’s Fair. The City paid $3,500 for it back in 1917. You can check out the Zoo’s history at http://www.stlzoo.org .

So this guy in the Walk Thru Bird Cage was friendly.  He was mugging for the camera...even playing peekaboo!

This bird in the Walk Thru Bird Cage was friendly. He was mugging for the camera…even playing peekaboo!

Peek a Boo–A little blurry, but this little guy was a hoot!

Ask anyone who grew up in the St. Louis Metropolitan area, and they will probably recall school field trips as well as family visits to the Zoo. I remember in first grade we went there and when my kids were in elementary school they always did a Zoo field trip in third grade. Both of my Girl Scout troops participated in Snooze at the Zoo, where we spent the night at the Zoo participating in fun educational activities, including a night hike. They also hold this event for families as well—you can read about it on their website. My favorite part was being able to go through the herpatorium at night with flashlights covered in red plastic film as to not disturb any reptilian eyeballs. Seeing the snakes and amphibians poised in the eerie light had a certain creepiness factor unlike when you see them in the normal light of day. We learned a lot about how the Zoo operates and works with other Zoos in how they choose to breed the animals. Hint: Sometimes the females and males that would make great offspring do NOT like each other. Both times our troops went it was winter, so we slept inside the buildings (with Erin’s troop we slept right under the stuffed display of world-famous Phil the Gorilla) but they have these events in the summer, too, where you can sleep outside under the stars.  As a Girl Scout leader, it was one of the most enjoyable trips we have done…and there have been several.

The rhino seemed to be in a little bit of a bad mood.  It was hot though.

The rhino seemed to be in a little bit of a bad mood. It was hot though.

He must have felt better getting in the water.

He must have felt better getting in the water.

When we went as a family, we were able to see the Sea Lion show. The sea lions are my favorite. Even Tyler made the comment that they seem so happy, it just makes you happy to watch them. They re-opened the Sea Lion exhibit a few years back and now you actually walk through a tunnel that goes through the water tank where the sea lions are swimming around. I was a little bummed that they were off eating or something when we walked through, so we didn’t get to see them up close in the walk-through tunnel. But I have some great pics from the show.

The sea lion pups really know how to perform.

The sea lion pups really know how to perform.

Check out Mandy getting her treat.

Check out Mandy getting her treat.

I took some pictures with my phone camera and thought I’d share some of my favorites. Have a great weekend!

Owl pose for you.

“Owl” pose for you.

Oh, how dignified!

Oh, how dignified!

Lemurs are just hilarious to watch.  They were behind glass, so I didn't get the clearest pic, but he just looks SO relaxed!

Lemurs are just hilarious to watch. They were behind glass, so I didn’t get the clearest pic, but he just looks SO relaxed!

Check out his face! I’ll bet he was just DYING to say something about it being hump day, but couldn’t as it was the weekend.

The hyena didn't seem to be laughing...he was stalking something while we were watching him.  Very intense dude.

The hyena didn’t seem to be laughing…he was stalking something while we were watching him. Very intense dude.

Again, behind glass, so a little blurry.  However, he just looked "cozy" or something all curled up like that!

Again, behind glass, so a little blurry. However, he just looked “cozy” or something all curled up like that!

Guest Post: Tyler’s Class Project

So Tyler and his buddies had to make a video for his speech class.  What makes me laugh–more than the actual video content–is that Tyler has my warped sense of humor.  If you’re watching this, and you don’t know our family, you will most likely be unimpressed.  After all, I’m a blogger Mom basically posting my kid’s artwork on the fridge.  But listening to his friends while they were videoing it, and hearing their “logic” behind it, I just saw a sliver of my goofiness in him.  The ability to be a bit ridiculous and actually bask in the silliness of it all. Tyler’s the Richard Simmons-like guy in the short shorts and Bro shirt.

When I told him I wanted to put his video on the blog, I figured he’d be appalled, but he was actually pleased.  So here’s Tyler in his acting debut.  A non-politically correct way of dealing with bullies.  By the way, I posted his senior pic below so you can see him as the savvy business-looking dude he’ll be someday.  I am Mom, after all.

Boss Man T

Boss Man T

As the Kitchen Goes, So Does the Rest

I’ve posted before about how I continually seem to battle the natural disorder that likes to take over my house when I’m not looking . With the kids back in school, I’ve decided that I want to tackle some overdue projects that would simplify and make my life a little easier. My pantry has been bothering me for several years now, and I just felt overwhelmed by the whole premise of where to start. That could be because I started with Pinterest and the types of posts there about pantries have alphabetized spice racks and color-coded expiration date systems. I’ve not reached that level of organization. If I live to be 178 years old, I might.

My pantry is HUGE comparable to the size of our home. It’s a walk-in pantry that had some very deep, ill-spaced shelves. Not a good combination for people like us. Or more specifically me. I’m just a bit of a food hoarder. I don’t know why—we never went hungry as kids or anything and it’s not a result of my stocking up in bulk on the cheap. My friends have been known to say that in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse they are coming over to my house. I think I just grocery shop too much when I’m hungry and everything looks good. In any event, lots of non-perishable food would be brought home and get stashed in the pantry. So eventually there would be three opened boxes of Cheez-Its because the kids wouldn’t bother to dig out the already-opened box.

The more the problem pantry grew (literally), the less I felt inclined to deal with it. Quite the metaphor for life that contains all the elements of a First World Problem—overabundance breeding the problem of “too much” and then an overwhelming inability to know how to handle it. Or more accurately, the energy and desire to “fix” it.

Because I’ve found that as the kitchen goes, so does the rest of my life. When my kitchen’s a mess, it’s generally a reflection of how we’ve been spending our days. When it’s non-stop activities and not enough time at home, the kitchen is the first place to becoming the family dumping ground, minus the great family time around the kitchen table that’s supposed to be there. It’s living in survival mode, and it wears me down very quickly. Once I take an hour to just put away everything that’s wandered its way into the kitchen and polish up the stove top, I feel like I’ve regained a bit of myself.

Before I could get a decent before picture, Darrell had the shelves out.  This is what it looked like empty with builder's grade primer on the walls.

Before I could get a decent before picture, Darrell had the shelves out. This is what it looked like empty with builder’s grade primer on the walls.  Probably just as well–I cringe at the thought of my “before” pantry being out there for the world to see!

So over Labor Day weekend, with the help of my talented and very patient husband, we took every single thing out of the pantry, including those shelves. Darrell patched the walls and painted it a very generic color with a pole-dancer-sounding name, “Vanilla Delight” and we started over again. We came up with a different configuration of the shelves. We purged and re-thought how to organize the various types of foods, paper supplies, small appliances and baking sheets and pans that have been haphazardly put away over the last few years. A small step for mankind, to be sure, but a huge one for Amy.  It feels terrific, even if not everything has found its permanent home yet.

In all her painted glory. It took almost three quarters of a gallon of paint to cover just the pantry because the walls soaked it in.

 

I never want to revert to how we had the pantry before. Even if it means following my kids into the pantry and pointing out where the bread goes. Because, although I may never color code the expiration dates, it still looks pretty damn good. If you’ve got any great tips for pantry organization that don’t involve alphabetizing or color coding, share them with me in the comments.  I’d love to hear them.

The after. Still need to put a few of the shelves back in. Although you can’t see the exact contents, it made a difference having similar items put together and lesser used items put in the back corners. What comes naturally to some people was an epiphany for me!

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