Monday, December 31, 2012

FreakAngels and Art

Jeremy got me addicted to a comic series called FreakAngels, so I blame him for this short post. Must get back to reading!

I did a few hours of work today (officially I'm off work until Weds), but otherwise I haven't been up to much. I'm still working on that painting for a friend -- experimenting with watercolor and colored pencil for it -- and taking breaks to play with my scratchboard project.

These are pics of the process -- these pieces are nowhere near done:







Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Untethered Soul

I read a lot of self-helpy type stuff -- mind over matter, law of attraction, using the energy of the universe, that kind of thing. Yes, right alongside my Bible reading. No, it doesn't conflict -- because I have a brain in my head that I use to determine what I think is right and what I think is bunk. It's all about opening my mind, learning, witnessing the possibilities of this short life.

If I'm being honest, most of those books are the same. There aren't many new ideas. But I just finished reading one that took me by surprise. The Untethered Soul wasn't the best book I've ever read -- the writing was mediocre, the big paragraphs lent to skimming, and while it posed a lot of problems it didn't give a lot of step-by-step instructions for how to solve them (I like step-by-step). However, it made me aware of things I hadn't been previously aware of. And it reinforced some practices I already have.

I am aware of how much brain chatter is happening in my head. I am aware of the tightening in my chest when something upsets me. But The Untethered Soul pointed out that these are objects passing through, and I don't have to give them any attention or hold onto them. The book starts by identifying who we are -- our consciousness. We are our awareness. We are the witness.

We can witness our brain chatter, we can witness the physical sensations of distress, but we can do it with some distance. We can step back from all of that and just watch it happen. And once we become a witness of ourselves, all the stress, negativity, frustration, anger loses its power.

When I have trouble sleeping, I use meditation techniques to separate myself from the brain chatter that is keeping me up. Then the chatter stops and I immediately fall asleep. So this book just reaffirmed why this works so well for me.

It also talked about feeling your heart shut closed when you are distressed. I think we can all identify with that sensation -- that tightening in our chest. And the book encourages us to purposefully keep our heart open, to feel that closing sensation and release it, because we can only be happy when our heart is open.

Anyway, with how much stuff I'm processing this year, it was nice to be reassured that all these negative thoughts and feelings aren't me, and I have the capability of getting through it in a healthy way.


Friday, December 28, 2012

YAY Technology!

I was absolutely born at the right time in history. I freaking love the Internet.

I had lunch with two girlfriends today -- one of whom I haven't seen in a year (hi Cheryl!) -- and it was like no time had passed. We keep up on each other via Facebook and they read my blog, so there was absolutely no disconnect in our friendship. How amazing is it that three girls living in Seattle, Colorado Springs and north Denver can stay such fast friends?

This blog in and of itself is a miracle of our time. Not only is it a vehicle for me to keep my friends and family in the loop on what (and how) I'm doing, but it has been the best therapy device. Getting my thoughts and feelings down here gets them out of my head and heart, and begins to process them.

I'm working with a copywriting client in Texas right now -- someone I will never meet face-to-face -- thanks to modern technology. I'm keeping a friend apprised of a painting I'm working on via instant messenger. I found a recipe for sea-salt-chocolate cookies on a blog last week that is now Jeremy's favorite baked good. I can let a friend know I'm early to a restaurant and ask her how many people to get a table for, all without speaking on a phone. Do you ever stop and think about how amazing our world is right now?

On my drive home today, I heard a radio ad on a Christian music station talking about how atheists have a louder voice than ever, thanks to the Internet. I thought that was ridiculous on several levels. First, because ALL of us have a louder voice now. Second, because Christians are not charged with hating atheists -- we are charged with being able to answer questions, and when challenged being able to defend ourselves. But I was able to have that strong opinion of that radio ad because I have instant and omnipresent access to the Bible -- my book, my iPhone, my iPad, and my computer. I continuously learn and build my confidence because of this amazing technology.

Technology, the advancement of science, the abundance of risk-takers in this world -- they saved my nephew's life again and again. They gave us the chance to know him.

What has technology done for you lately?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dividing Line

Warning: Christian theology ahead.

I was listening to a Christmas sermon this morning about how the birth of Christ divided the timeline of history (BC/AD), and it's the only event in the history of man that has ever done that. The pastor said that our relationship with God should have the same effect on our individual lives -- that there should be a dividing line for each of us Christians where we can identify our lives drastically changed.

The Bible uses the term "born again," and while that term has a negative connotation these days, it's a pretty accurate way of putting it. When you accept Jesus, when you let Him into your heart, you become a new person. I don't think you can help it. I think once the Holy Spirit starts moving in you, it fundamentally changes you. And I think if you let it, if you don't fight it, it will make something beautiful out of you and your life.

At least it did for me.

I can identify that dividing line. It wasn't a fixed point in time, but a series of events over the course of 3 months.

I was drawn to church for the first time in my life a couple of weeks before Scarlett died. I took her with me to Crossroads and she played with the kids in the childcare area while I went to the sanctuary for the service. The sermon didn't sink in, but it still felt good to be there. I knew I wanted to go back -- I especially knew I wanted to take Scarlett back, because she was such a social butterfly. But a couple of weeks later, she died. She only went with me that one time.

After she died, I would have been justified in never going to church again. I would have been justified in being furious with God and blaming Him for my daughter's death. But instead I felt even more drawn to church. I needed to go. So every Sunday, whether by myself or with a supportive friend or family member, I went to church. Still the message wasn't sinking into my soul, but it felt good to be there.

I met a girl named Lisa in my first Bible study group. When she learned my story, she invited me to Flatirons Church that Saturday night. It happened to be a baptism weekend -- and for some reason, I felt compelled to get baptized. So with this woman I didn't know, in a church I'd never been to before, in front of a crowd of a thousand people, I got dunked, fully-clothed, into a kiddie pool.

Driving home that night, I couldn't stop smiling. Something had changed within me.

After my baptism, everything started making sense. The sermons sank in. I had started a year-long Bible reading plan, and the book became a part of me -- like an extension of me, like a limb. Jesus was no longer just a great teacher, He wasn't just this theological concept. Jesus really, truly became my savior.

I look back at my life before I became a Christian, and I know that I would have made a lot of different decisions if my dividing line had been earlier. I think I was meant to cross the line at the specific time that I did. I may have made some poor decisions in my life, but they all led me to Jeremy and Scarlett -- so I wouldn't change a single one.

I realize my "dividing line" is a little more dramatic than most. But I bet all of you could tell me a story about your own -- about a point in your life that divided everything, especially spiritually.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas

Thanks to the love (and distraction) of family on both sides, we made it through Christmas with minimal tear-shed. It wasn't easy, by any stretch of the imagination -- but we made it.

Yesterday morning we brought a poinsettia to Scarlett's grave. We picked a poinsettia in a sparkly red tin bucket that we knew she would have loved. Tromping through the snow, we stood at our daughter's headstone, told her how much we missed her and wished her a merry Christmas. We also promised her we'd give her cousins extra hugs, which we promptly did at Jeremy's parents' house.

We unwrapped presents pretty soon after we got there. Jeremy's favorite part of Christmas is watching the kids open their gifts. Even if we lived across the world, I think he'd insist we fly to Colorado Springs each Christmas to witness those kids' faces light up.

I'm glad Jeremy is so confident driving in the snow, because the drive yesterday to and from the Springs was really nasty.

It's been a quiet morning here at home today. Jeremy is still sleeping. I watched a sermon online from Craig Groeschel while I drank my coffee, and I'll probably log a few hours at work later today. I also have to figure out the design for a new painting I promised to a friend.

A friend contacted me last week to ask if I would do a painting for her. She lost one of her best friends, and the godmother of her daughter, in the CT shooting. She wants to send the painting to the grieving family. If there was ever a time for me to shake off my own sadness and create some art, it's now, for this.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

Perfect Christmas Eve. I cooked a feast for my parents and brothers, then we unwrapped presents. I could only be happier if Scarlett were here.

Jeremy got me a cross with a rose. He also got me one of the books in the Saint John's Bible collection -- the first hand-scribed and illuminated Bible in hundreds of years. It's truly breathtaking. My mom and I saw the original in a museum in Santa Fe -- it brought me to tears.








Jeremy truly considers my heart when he chooses gifts for me. They're always meaningful and thoughtful.

He also got me some study books (the commentary is part of a collection, and he also ordered me volume 1 but it hasn't arrived yet) and a nativity set I've been drooling over. We are going to add to this nativity each year.








He didn't realize everything he got me was Christian until tonight. I told him, "Considering my faith has kept me afloat since February, that's perfect."

Jeremy is a stubborn agnostic. The support he gives me in my faith is straight from his heart. God has exceedingly, abundantly blessed me with this man.

I'll blog more after Christmas, I promise. It's late and we've got a big day tomorrow. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

New Hairdo, My Special Little Man and Christmas at Church

Yesterday was a busy, but crazy blessed, day. 

I started the day by driving down to Colorado Springs to get my hair cut and colored. My hair has changed since I had a baby, and it was kinda driving me crazy. I have been throwing it back in a ponytail so much lately -- I started fresh by cutting it all off. I like it, but I don't love it as much as the first time I cut it short. I think I need the top/front longer and the back shorter. So I'll probably have my hairstylist trim the back the next time I go in and let the top/front grow a bit. Also, I like my hair a little more spiky than my hairstylist styles it -- so I'll be experimenting with it in the next few weeks.

I spiked the front a little -- I like a more punk-rock look.





After my hair was done, I drove back north to my parents' house in Castle Pines. My mom and I had set aside the day to bake holiday goodies. We started with chocolate-dipped pretzels.

Our first batch. They turned out so pretty!
We took a break in the middle of our day to go to my nephew Nicky's birthday party in Highlands Ranch. Nicky turned three yesterday -- which blows my mind. No one knew if he would live long enough to take his first breath, much less bless us with three whole years.

As his mother puts it, he has been confounding medical science since the day he was conceived. Nicky doesn't suffer from an ailment, there is no disease or single gene abnormality that explains his condition. But everything from the composition of his bones to the placement of his heart (it's on the right side of his chest instead of the left) is irregular. It's impossible to say what he will or won't be capable of in his life, or even how long he'll live. There is just no precedent for Nicky. So we cherish every moment with him.



As you can see in that picture, my brother (Nicky's dad) and my father are exceptional men. They're some of the most rare males of our species -- they delight in their children. And children respond strongly. I remember how Scarlett would light up when she saw her Uncle Drew or her Grandpa Z. "Unca" and "Papa" were some of the first words she learned (though to be fair, she called my mom, her grandma, "Papa" too. LOL). I don't take these guys for granted -- I know how lucky I am to be related to them. And I desperately want to give them more children to fawn over.

After Nicky's party, we all went back to my parents' house and my mom and I continued our baking. We made sugar cookies and sea-salt-chocolate cookies, and my mom brought out the fudge she had made before I got there earlier that day. It's not the holidays without a sugar rush, right? YUM.

This morning Jeremy went to the Christmas service at Flatirons Church with me. I know, you just fell out of your chair reading that. But he stayed awake the whole time, so I'm extremely proud of him. And I'm proud of myself for only crying during one song. The more ethereal Christmas songs (Oh Holy Night, Silent Night, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, etc.) always make me weepy -- and this Christmas I'm more weepy than usual. When the worship band did a gorgeous rendition of Oh Holy Night with Jenny Dreyer leading the vocals, I lost it. 

And now, right after I publish this, I'm spending the rest of my day wrapping presents and pre-making some dishes for Christmas Eve dinner tomorrow. I can't believe Christmas is already here!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Working at Relaxing

I have been doing my best to relax this week. Jeremy thought it was hilarious when I told him that it's hard work for me to relax.

But it's true. For me, relaxing means being unproductive and saying no to things that I actually do want to do. Relaxing, for me, means giving myself permission to be lazy. I am simply incapable of being productive and engaging in social activities without some level of stress.

It was important this week for me to avoid stress. Specifically to avoid the chemical reaction that happens in a body when you get stressed -- the spike in cortisol and adrenaline. I would do okay for a few hours, and then something would raise my blood pressure. It was seriously a lot of effort to avoid stress this week!

My day-job workplace shuts down at noon today, and the furlough goes until January 2. We've all been eagerly anticipating the break. Most of our team has already started their vacation, so there are just a handful of us holding down the fort right now -- and of course a major issue just arose. An issue that is going to require IT support. And at this company, you don't just hand things off to IT to fix -- you log a ticket, make sure the ticket gets routed to the right IT team, and then HARASS THE HECK out of that team until they decide that fixing the problem is easier than dealing with you constantly asking them where they're at with it. And yes, this process is standard for everything from a molehill to a mountain.

Every year in my peer review, "tenacity" is brought up as my strongest trait. And I think that's hilarious. Because I don't think I'm tenacious as much as I get so irritated when people won't do their jobs, that I don't care if I annoy them to death. I will stay on top of them until they do what they need to do. My manager calls it tenacity -- I call it professional harassment.

So I guess the time for me to relax is officially over. I'm writing this blog as I wait for an update from our support team.

Do you see why it's so difficult for me to relax? LOL

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Final Decorations and My Husband with a Needle

I've been dragging my feet with the holiday decorations this year. I think I was afraid of the memories.

At first I wasn't going to decorate at all. Then I decided I'd at least put a wreath up on the door. And then when my family decided that I'd host Christmas Eve dinner (thank you guys for that -- planning that has been a lovely distraction), I thought I'd put a few festive decorations around the main level of our house. I even created a few new decorations with some ribbon I got on sale at Michael's.


I've been doing little bit by little bit over the last week. Last night I determined to finish putting up decorations. I opened the last box that Jeremy had pulled out of storage, and the first thing I saw were three stockings. That hurt, but I held myself together. As I worked my way to the bottom of that box, I saw the aforementioned reindeer headband that Scarlett wore last year. That, I couldn't handle. I went upstairs to our bedroom and bawled my eyes out.

I guess Christmas is going to be like everything else this past year. Some of it I'll be able to handle, and some of it will be heart-wrenching.

But to end this post on a happier (at least more comedic) note, Jeremy and I did have a little adventure last night.

I had to get a shot (injection, not alcohol) last night. I pass out when I have blood drawn, so I knew I wouldn't be able to give myself that shot. Jeremy (bless his heart) offered to do it -- as long as he could "put a pillow over my head so he couldn't see my face." I know he meant that he doesn't want to see me in pain, but I laughed my butt off at that. I asked him, "So you want to smother me as you stab me, huh?"

He did a great job, though. I literally didn't feel a thing -- no pain, no nothing. Maybe Jeremy was supposed to be a nurse in this life. LOL

Monday, December 17, 2012

Wonderfully Made

It amazes me sometimes how we are all so fearfully and wonderfully made.

For example, I'm a terrible runner. Try as I might, I never improve and I never enjoy it. I run for cardio exercise -- never for fun or challenge. And if I don't run for a couple of weeks, when I get back on the treadmill it's like I have never run before.

But yoga -- that's a different story. I love it. I've always loved it. It makes me feel good while I'm doing it and afterward my body feels like I just got a massage. I can see improvement quickly when I do new asanas or series. If I can't do yoga for a few weeks due to travel or injury, when I go back to it I haven't lost much strength or flexibility.

But I know people who are great runners who hate yoga. And it has nothing to do with personality, but everything to do with the way our bodies are designed.

And that right there is why I hate the whole idea of a physical ideal. There is no perfect body type -- we are all perfectly uniquely made.

I've been a vegetarian for almost 7 years. And I still get questioned about it. I assure people it's a dietary decision, not a judgement about what they just ordered at the restaurant. But even that's not satisfying to most people. They ask me if I did it to lose weight. And at that point my filter comes off and I tell them the truth -- I had gut-wrenching stomach aches my entire life, and when I stopped eating meat, I stopped getting those stomach aches. End of story.

But so many people are looking for that quick fix. They want to be told, Do this exercise and stop eating XXX and you'll be skinny in 6 weeks. But that's not the way we were made. We are all unique. I experimented a lot with both diet and exercise to figure out what worked for my body -- and I still have to consciously resist comparing my lifestyle and body type to those of my friends.

These bodies of ours are gifts, and they are not indestructible. Yoga and a meat-free diet keep mine working pretty well. How about you? What have you found that makes a big difference in your overall health?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Relaxing Weekend

Saturday was a real day off. I didn't have to work, I didn't check work email, I didn't have any obligations. It was heavenly.

Jeremy had to work, so I even had the house to myself for the afternoon. I did a little painting, a little reading, watched a romantic comedy -- yes, heavenly.

I did go to church Saturday night, though. Erin was interested in checking out Flatirons, so we went to the 5pm service. I'm glad we did -- I needed church after what happened on Friday in CT. I needed that gathering of holy spirit stirring around me. The pastor touched on the tragedy, led us in a really nice prayer, and then went on with his pre-planned sermon, effectively getting our minds off of it. Perfect.

Sunday Jeremy and I met some friends at Fox & Hound for lunch and to watch the game(s). Sad to say, we haven't done something like that in ages. Jeremy and I aren't really into watching sports, but it was a great excuse to get out of the house, splurge on greasy food and enjoy the company of some great people.

After lunch, I dropped Jeremy off at home and went on my "blind date." Heehee. At the women's ministry Christmas party a couple of weeks ago, Flatirons Church had those of us that were interested put our names and locations on pieces of paper that they gathered at the end. Then they matched us up with other ladies around where we lived, so we could have the opportunity to connect with other church members. So today I met with three ladies who live here in Northglenn. It was really nice! We're planning on meeting for another coffee date after the holidays.

Even having to do some Christmas shopping this afternoon, this was seriously the most relaxing weekend I've had in ages. Very much needed.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Day After

Yesterday was rough for the whole country. And for those families in CT, life will be rough for a long time.

I got a text from one of my best friends right after the massacre happened, simply asking if I was okay. I hadn't seen the news yet (I was head-down in work), and she checks on me pretty frequently, so I didn't think much of it. I texted back about looking forward to having a real day off on Saturday.

A few hours later, I got on Facebook to catch up (yes, that's how I get my news a lot of the time -- television news depresses me too much) and saw what had happened. After I posted about how my heart was breaking for those families, more friends started calling, texting and emailing. The consensus was they were all worried about how I was taking it, and no one wanted to be the one to break the news to me.

That is incredibly touching. I appreciate that my friends and family worry that the news of the massacre would bring back my own pain.

But here's the truth of it. It didn't bring up any more pain for me -- because the pain never really goes away. There's never a moment that my loss isn't very real and very close to me. Over time, I'm just learning how to live with it better. The pain never lessens, never goes to the back of my mind.

So my heart broke for those families that lost children yesterday. I don't want anyone to ever know the pain of losing a child -- I don't want companions in this club of mine. So I feel for them, literally, but I also mourn the fact that they now know how I feel. I don't want anyone to know how I feel! Ever!

In one of my Bible studies recently, the leader was talking about the Jessica Ridgeway murder. She said, "I just can't imagine how her parents must feel. Can you?" She didn't know the details of my own loss, and I was so choked up at the question, I didn't say anything. But I wanted to. I wanted to say I knew exactly how her parents felt -- the horror, the guilt, the questions, the pain of part of your heart being cut away. It was a different circumstance from my own, but the loss was the same.

And as for my spiritual stance on this, I can tell you right now this tragedy wasn't God's will. This was pure evil at work. There is nothing good in the death of a child. There is nothing good in murder. There is no purpose in tragedies like this.

Yes, God works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28) -- but note the "all things together" there. It will take a long time for anything good to arise out of this event, and other things will be working together with it to create that good. There will never be a point at which these families look back at their loss and say, "It was for the best." I can promise you it was not for the best. But some of those families will arise from these ashes, some of them will find their way again, some of them will find their strength. Some will do none of that. So we have to send love to them all. We have to pray for their strength, for their comfort, reassurance and healing. We have to send as much good energy to those families as we can because we are part of the "all things together." Every single one of us has a part in this.

Whether you pray, send good vibes, meditate, or whatever it is you do to send love into the world, do it now. It matters. I know from personal experience it matters.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Praying for CT

I'm writing this after just hearing the news about the school shooting in Newtown, CT. I wanted to get my thoughts down right away.

Twenty children between the ages of 5-10 are dead. The parents of 20 children can't breathe right now. They don't believe they'll ever breathe again. They don't know how they can still be here, living, when their child is dead.

We live in a fallen world, yes. It's terrible when people die -- especially when they are murdered. But children? Why children? No matter how crazy the shooter was, how could he justify the death of twenty little kids? That goes beyond insanity, straight to evil.

The president teared up when he spoke today. He barely made it through his speech. The great speaker, the most powerful person in the country, Barrack Obama, could hardly speak.

I can't stop crying. I've been talking to God non-stop, asking him to care for the families of the lost, and asking him to gently guide those children into heaven.

I don't want to know how those families feel -- but I do know how they feel. And some of them won't make it through this.

If you pray, pray for the families of the lost. Send them all the positive energy you can muster.

Hilltop View

I always want to live on a hill. I love being up high, in the treetops. And this time of year I delight in our hilltop house even more because I can stand at my bedroom window and be eye-level with flying flocks of geese.

There is a lot of wildlife in our little neighborhood because of the lakes and fields near us. If I was a birdwatcher, this would be heaven. I've also seen coyotes tramping through the field behind our house and bats flapping around the trees. I can stand at any of our back windows and get an eyeful of nature at any given moment.

But when I step outside and start walking to the nearby trail, when I start making my way toward that lake, my field of vision narrows. I'm in the midst of nature, and it makes nature harder to see. I experience more nature from a window in my hilltop home.

That's a pretty apt metaphor for life, if you ask me. We can be in a beautiful time of life, where things are going right, love abounds and happiness reigns, and in the midst of it we are blind to it. Years later, from the hilltop of memory, we can see how everything in that season was so beautiful and wonder how we missed it.

The length of time it took to have Scarlett was a blessing, because it gave me that hilltop to stand on before she was born. When she came along, I knew how precious she was and I didn't miss appreciating a single moment. I will always be thankful for that. But this time I'm going through now, after her death and before we have any more children, sometimes it's hard to see the beauty. I know it's there, but I need to get on a hilltop to see it. In time, I will have that hilltop view, I know.

(Side note for Bible lovers -- I just realized this train of thought ties in to my Bible study from this past Weds. We talked about how God showed Moses the Promised Land from a mountaintop before Moses' death. Some ladies said it was sad, because Moses knew he would never enter the land with his people. But now I think maybe it was beautiful. God showed Moses what he led his people to, and thus what Moses accomplished in his life.)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cairo

I have an 18lb half-Siamese cat named Cairo. I adopted him in February of 2006, and he was 7 months old when I brought him home.

At the time, he was a tiny little thing. And female.

There was a litter of black kittens at Dream Power Animal Rescue in Colorado Springs. They had been born at the shelter. Their mother was full-blood Siamese but the father was unknown. I picked out one of the girls -- a sweet, snugly little thing. I filled out the paperwork, paid the money, and took my kitten home.

Three years went by, and my little kitten grew bigger. And bigger. And bigger. And then she got sick. Weeks of vet appointments, and the vet could not figure out what was wrong. The symptoms all fit a UTI, but none of the antibiotics were working. Finally, during the last appointment, Jeremy and I were standing in the room with the vet and my miserable (and huge) cat, and the vet said "You know what? Let me check one thing." He lifted Cairo's tail, put it back down, and looked right at me.

"This may come as a surprise to you," he said. "It's not a surprise to Cairo. But it's probably a surprise to you. This cat is a boy. Which means it's not a UTI, but a male-specific infection that we can treat with a different drug."

I kid you not, I burst into tears. And then laughed hysterically. And then cried more. Meanwhile, Jeremy was doubled over, watching me and laughing his butt off.

For three years I thought Cairo was a girl. This cat was my little princess. It was us girls. And suddenly it was a boy!

It took me weeks to get my head around the fact that Cairo was a boy. WEEKS. I'd sit there and stare at him, repeating "boy boy boy boy," trying to drill it into my head. I was so mad that Dream Power had been wrong about his sex -- or at least given me the wrong paperwork (spayed female my rear!).

Over time it all sank in. And really, it made sense. He was 15lbs when he was 3 years old -- and he's 18lbs now. How many female cats get that big? But it's amazing how different you look at someone of one sex versus another.

Cairo is more like a dog than a feline. He's aggressively affectionate -- if you sit down in my house, you will have a huge cat in your lap in seconds. He's extremely attached to my presence. He follows me or precedes me wherever I go, spending most of his day in my office with me. Jeremy says he knows when I'm coming downstairs because he can hear Cairo's collar jingling. And Cairo has the most raucous (and prolific) meow -- definitely from his mother's side.

Most of the time, Cairo's presence is just a given. He's always at my heels. He's always "talking" to me. Shoving him off my lap so I can stand up is an unconscious act.

But every so often, it hits me how lucky I am. Sure, Cairo is obnoxious a lot of the time. But he's mine. And he loves me. And I won't have him forever.

We have that understanding about animals. We know they're not going to be around forever. But what if we looked at our humans that way, too? What if we looked at our spouse as a precious and possibly fleeting companion? What if we looked at our kids like every breath they took was a miracle? What if we saw every text message from a friend as a message from an angel?

I have to reach over a mound of black fur to type all this on my keyboard. Cairo's warmth and purring is like white noise, ever present and only really noticed when it's gone.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Stirred Up

Part of the reason I love selling Thirty-One products is because women get so excited about their purchases. I mean REALLY EXCITED. Knowing you helped facilitate someone's happiness -- well don't we all just love that?

I got a phone call yesterday from one of my best customers. She was literally squealing with delight, telling me how fun it was to go through the box of products and see what everyone purchased from her party, explaining how perfectly all of her own items had turned out, and sharing her ideas for how she was going to use everything. After that phone call, I started getting texts from my mother-in-law, who is also one of my best customers. She sent me pictures of some of the items, and we chatted back and forth about how great everything looked.

I love getting texts from my mother-in-law. Any excuse to talk to her is a blessing to me. And yes, I know how lucky I am to have a MIL that I absolutely adore. Not many women can say that.

So this whole direct sales thing did something that I didn't realize it was going to do. It deepened friendships. It was never about the money for me anyway, but the friendship benefit has been outstanding.

I love connecting with people. I look at every woman I meet as a potential friend, and I treat them as such. Many women are not like that, I know -- many women think of others as competition. There's nothing worse to me than walking into a room full of women and not connecting with a single one. Sadly, that happens pretty frequently.

So imagine my delight when I found that every party I do for Thirty-One introduces me to new women who don't view me as competition. In fact, I encourage people to send me pictures of their purchases when they arrive so I can share their joy -- and many of them do just that.

I've gotten some clarity in the last several months about what I need in life. Thirty-One has been one of the things that has helped me with this. I need to connect with other women -- but beyond that, I need to stir up other women. Get them excited about something, inspire them.

I don't know what that's going to look like. But I do know that's part of my purpose while I'm here.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Other People's Memories and a New Normal

I was catching up on Facebook this morning when I came across a familiar little face in a picture. My sister-in-law had posted a picture of Scarlett from last Christmas. In it, Scarlett is wearing a headband with reindeer antlers on it. She's reaching up to touch the headband, a delighted look on her face.

Last Christmas was the best Christmas of my entire life. And this one is the worst. But I'm still breathing, and I still have hope, and I will get through this. My heart is broken, but it's still beating -- and I know there's a reason for that.

Coming across a picture like that is horrible and wonderful all at the same time. I love my daughter more than I could possibly describe here, and seeing her picture is as close to being with her as I can get now. I also love to know that Jeremy and I aren't the only ones missing her.

Everyone has handled Scarlett's passing differently. And no one knows how to approach it with Jeremy and me. Mostly people don't bring it up. I'm sure they're afraid of upsetting us. I understand that completely. But it's also nice to know that Scarlett is still alive in the memory of everyone who knew her. It's nice to know people still think about her. It makes me feel like her life truly mattered.

Our grief counselor told Jeremy and I that we would have to learn a "new normal." We're still working on that. We're an unusual case, and I know that. Scarlett was our only child, she had just gotten to the age where she was learning to talk, walking with confidence, and understanding the world around her. Jeremy and I were home with her all day, every day, interacting with her every moment. She was the center of everything for us. And when she passed, she took our world with her.

There is nothing familiar about the world we're living in now. We are rebuilding it from scratch. And having trouble conceiving a second child just adds to that sense that our "new normal" is going to be rebuilt very slowly. Having another child is not going to be the world-rocking thing that it was when we had Scarlett -- rather, it's going to be like a big sigh of relief. I am excited about that. I've moved beyond a lot (not all) of the frustration and anger, and I look forward to sharing my memories with another child. I'm waiting with anticipation. But it's not my new normal. It's a step to get there.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Advice from the Heart

I'm used to working on a deadline. For my entire career as a writer, and the bulk of my career as a web content manager, deadlines have guided my work. I know what to deliver and when. And while I have been known to procrastinate, I never miss a deadline and I never deliver less than my best.

But when I don't have a deadline, my head spins off into outer space. I get this overwhelming feeling that everything has to get done RIGHT NOW, if only to get it off my plate. And then determining which item to do first makes my head spin even faster. Mostly I can stop the head-spinning long enough to reasonably sort out my priorities. But then I have days like today.

Inside my head is a running tally of everything I need to do, how much time it's going to take me to do it, and when I will be able to get it done. And I'm ALL inside my head when I get into panic mode like this. But it shows on my face, obviously, because as I was trying to race from lunch back to work, Jeremy pulled me into a hug and told me I had to stop doing this to myself. And while I sat there in silence, still completely inside my own head, he rattled off all the things he knew I was working on and told me which items I was not allowed to do today.

Normally when things get hectic with my work life, Jeremy picks up some slack. He'll run to the bank for me, or to the post office, or make me meals or coffee -- whatever little things he is able to do for me, he does without asking. It's rare when everything I need to do can only be done by me. So what does he do when he can't do anything? He talks me through.

Every woman should have a partner that can handle her at her worst and talk her out of driving herself crazy. But also -- every woman should learn to listen when her partner is trying to talk her off a cliff.

There were times early in our marriage that I would dismiss Jeremy's words on the assumption that he had no idea what my work was like. But over the years, I've come to realize that he doesn't have to know the ins and outs of my projects -- he knows me better than anyone on this planet, and his advice comes from a place of love. I should listen to him.

Think about it. Whose advice do you dismiss that you shouldn't?

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Becoming Van Gogh and Christmas Prayers

My mom and I had a girls' day out in Denver today. She had bought us tickets to the Becoming Van Gogh exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. It was wonderful! We did the audio tour, so we learned a ton about the artist's life and work. He was self-taught, and started painting at the age of 27. Gee, that's familiar!

I actually started a new painting a few days ago. It's a landscape based on a photo Jeremy and I took on the west coast of Ireland. It's pen and wash right now, but I think I'll end up doing a layer of pastel over it. I'll post a pic when I finish.

Anyway, after the museum today, my mom and I went to lunch at Parsley. I got a fig and brie sandwich on freshly made ciabatta bread. UN-BE-LIEVABLE. My mouth is watering just writing about it.

I went to church tonight because I'm going to be gone all day tomorrow. I am continually amazed at the range of the Flatirons worship band. They did a rendition of White Wedding by Billy Idol, and they rocked the house.

I stayed after the service to have the prayer team pray for me. It's our first Christmas without Scarlett, and, well, hard is an understatement. But Flatirons Church has an AMAZING prayer team. If you ever need prayer, even just requesting it on their website will direct some powerful positive energy your way. The woman who prayed for me was this sweet grandma who said she "wanted to take me home and make me some tea." Such good energy.

I wasn't going to put up any Christmas decorations this year. There are just too many emotions involved. But slowly I have changed my mind on that. And slowly I am adding decorations to our house. Josey made me a beautiful wreath a few years ago, so that was the first decoration to go up. And I brought home the centerpiece from the church Christmas party that Erin and I went to last night, so now that is decorating our kitchen table.

I almost forgot to blog about that Christmas party! The women's ministry at Crossroads Church threw a Christmas party called the Night of Elegance. The dress code was formal, which was a nice excuse to dress up. The entire buffet spread was desserts (women after my own heart), and professional carolers put on a great show. Finally there was a speaker who told the story of Jesus' life in a theatrical way.

Tomorrow is a big day. It's the Thirty-One spring product premiere! So I'll get a sneak peak at the new products and fabrics, and I'll also get the new catalog. So any of you that want the new catalog before it goes online in January, email me!

And yes, next weekend I WILL be starting to take my weekly Sabbath.

Friday, December 07, 2012

The Importance of a Day Off

I don't remember the last time I took a day off of work. I mean 100% off of work -- not answering emails, not checking on scheduled web content publication, not updating an editorial calendar or a spreadsheet, not updating my Thirty-One Facebook group page. Just OFF. I think maybe the last time was when I went to Mexico on vacation, back in July. There were a few days during that week where I didn't answer emails or anything.

I watched a video online the other day talking about how important a day off is. So important that it is part of the Decalogue in the Bible, aka the Ten Commandments. Sabbath is sacred because we human beings were not built to work 7 days a week. We need a day of rest. The pastor went on to talk about how he enforces his own Sabbath day (which can change from week to week, and doesn't HAVE to be Saturday) -- he refuses to schedule anything work-related on that day, and won't answer email or work calls unless it's an emergency.

I like that idea. I think the spiritual principle is sound, but I also think in my line(s) of work, my brain really needs it. Half of my work is creative, and the other half is analytical -- and both require a healthy, well-rested brain.

So I'm scheduling a Sabbath once a week. It'll have to be different days each week -- sometimes a Saturday, sometimes a Sunday, sometimes a holiday -- but one day a week I am going to try to rest from work. I am excited to see what this does for my spiritual, mental and emotional state.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Visit with Nicky

I always try to blog before the end of the workday. But today it just didn't happen. Too much going on.

But I did take a long lunch hour to go visit my nephew, sweet little Nicky. He is going to turn THREE (OMG!) two Saturdays from now.

He is such a little miracle. I've written about him before, and all of his physical limitations -- but even though he can't move or communicate like a normal almost-3-year-old, he still plays and learns and loves.

I was getting him to high-five me today. He smiled and stared at me as we played, and it lifted my spirit so high. But watching him play with his daddy, my brother Drew, was the most amazing thing of all. The way Nicky looks at Drew -- it's worshipful.

I barely got out of there without leaving too many lipstick marks on Nicky's forehead. I just love him so much! And even though I don't get to see him very often, he never leaves my mind or my heart.

I don't feel resentful that Nicky, as sick as he is, has survived while my perfectly healthy little girl did not. It's a curious thing, yes. But to me it's just proof that there is more to this world, and this life, than we are aware of. Some of our paths are short or long, simple or complicated, smooth or rough. But in the end, we all meet back with each other again in an eternal, happy place.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Innkeeper Poem

I heard a poem read this morning that had me bawling my eyes out. The poem was about the innkeeper from the nativity. I had never considered the innkeeper from the story. Have you?

It hit home in a lot of ways. But it also drove home why history is so important to me. I can read something and get a story from it -- but history makes the world of that story come alive.

Herod the Great, Roman king of Judea, ordered the execution of all boys under the age of two in Bethlehem around the time of Jesus' birth. This was an attempt to overturn a prophecy about a newborn King of the Jews, who would remove Herod from his throne. The Innkeeper poem poses the idea that maybe the innkeeper had sons when he housed Mary and Joseph. And what would have happened when Herod's soldiers came through?

It's a reasonable idea, given the historical context. And it adds a rather important element to the nativity for me. Jesus was born into a world where there were real, live people suffering at the hands of other real, live people.

I don't know about you, but until now, the nativity story was just that -- a story. Maybe a spiritually relevant one, but just a story nonetheless. Once you add some historical elements to it, it comes alive. These events happened. And they changed the entire world.

What if the innkeeper had lost his sons to Herod's soldiers? And what if Jesus had gone back to meet the man that housed his mother and earthly father when He was born? As a brokenhearted parent myself, this is a powerful poem on many levels.



The Innkeeper from Desiring God on Vimeo.
Direct URL: http://vimeo.com/54317968

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Bless the Teachers

I had a lunch/coffee date with my dear friend Heather today. I've been friends with her for about 3 years, since the time Jeremy and I moved to Lafayette.

When I was pregnant with Scarlett, I got it in my head that I wanted to re-learn how to play the piano. I had taken lessons when I was a kid, but much of my knowledge had long since disappeared. I called around the Boulder County area and found Heather. Once a week I'd trek from Lafayette to Boulder for a half hour lesson -- and usually a half hour of chatting, because we became fast friends.

She and her husband are active Christians. They were both raised in active Christian families. And while I knew that, it never really made a difference to me until recently. Now I notice that people like her have an understanding that others don't.

I always thought that "spiritual" people and Christians were so totally different. That Christians didn't have an understanding of the spiritual world that I always knew was surrounding our own and intermingling with it. When I read about parallel universes, the astral plane, the akashic field, quantum physics, ESP and magic, those things were so divorced from Christianity in my mind.

But now I see so clearly that many Christians are closer to the veil than anyone.

Women like Heather don't bat an eye when I talk about joining Scarlett someday. They don't question why I don't usually cry when I talk about my daughter. They smile when I tell them how incredibly blessed I feel to have had her for the time I did, and how I cherish that time more than anything in the world. They understand the same thing I do -- that this life is short, and what's waiting on the other side is infinitely more beautiful than anything we can imagine. And that the other side is just a prayer away. The veil is torn.

Heather asked me if she could pray with me as we wrapped up our coffee date. I enthusiastically agreed -- in fact I desperately needed that. A couple of years ago it may have made me uncomfortable, but now I crave prayer. Her words were so beautiful and thoughtful, and as she spoke I felt a familiar peace come over my heart. I know that peace now like the back of my hand -- it's the Holy Spirit stirring.

I want to learn how to pray like that for other women. I am absorbing moments like that one, memorizing the experience and making mental notes about what made the prayer work so well. I know prayer is organic and personal, and there is no "right" way to do it -- but I am not an eloquent speaker and I want to learn all I can. So I am blessed to have teachers like Heather.

I know Heather is reading this post and crying. So I'll wrap up before she goes through too many tissues. You never know who is going to turn out to be a teacher in your life. Heather once taught me how to play lullabies on the piano so I could play them for Scarlett after she was born -- and now Heather teaches me more spiritual lessons.

Teachers are the ones we remember most, aren't they? Not bosses, colleagues, ex-boyfriends or people we used to go to clubs with. Teachers are the ones who become a part of your heart forever.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Combat Grief with Giving

When Josey and I were at brunch the other day, she mentioned how amazed she is that I am "overcoming" the grief and getting out of bed every day, even though some days I just want to take a sleeping pill and pull the covers over my head until the world disappears. For some reason, the word "overcome" struck me as wrong -- as in, I'm not really overcoming anything here. I'm getting through it with as much grace as I can muster, I'm learning how to live every day missing Scarlett, and I'm trying not to let the pain stop me from living the life God has blessed me with.

So I told Josey, "I don't know about overcoming. There are still days when all I want to do is join my baby." And as soon as those words left my mouth, I regretted them. First, because I'm not suicidal. When I say "join her," I mean that in my lowest moments, I think it would be easier if my life would hurry to the end so I could be with my daughter again -- not that I would take my own life before God decided my time here was done. Second because Josey was complimenting me and instead of saying thank you, I denied her compliment. And third, that statement does not accurately describe my normal state of mind at all.

Sure, I have my down moments, my down days, when the grief overtakes me and the depressive thoughts get a foothold -- but I refuse to live my life in that state of existence. This life is a gift, and I don't take it for granted. Plus, Jeremy doesn't deserve a wife who walks around feeling sorry for herself and bringing everyone else down with her. He deserves someone who can pull herself up by her bootstraps and help him through his own grief the way he has helped her through hers.

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- there is an element of selfishness in grief. Grief is a mixture of emotions, states of mind, experiences, memories and physical symptoms. It's different for everyone, but many of the elements are universal. Sadness, for example, is a universal component of grief. Guilt, too. But the one that will ruin your life, and the lives of those around you, is the component of selfishness. If you let that rule you, the world falls away. You feel like you live in a silo, and you begin to act as if your pain doesn't affect anyone else -- but in reality you are NOT in a silo. In reality your friends, family and colleagues are still there, still surrounding you and trying to support you, and all you're doing is infecting them with your pain.

So when the grief gets its hands around my throat, if I just focus on not being selfish, I will come through it without hurting myself or anyone else. To those around me, it may seem like I'm strong -- but inside I am just trying not to be selfish.

There's a saying that goes something like, If you want to be a happier person, do something nice for someone else. I've also heard the saying, There's no such thing as an unhappy volunteer. And I think those are right on. The more we get our minds off of ourselves, the happier we are.

So I get out of bed on the days I don't want to -- to be there for my husband, to do my job, and to just be present for everyone in my life. I write in this blog when I don't have anything to say, because it gives people reassurance. I volunteer as a greeter at church and put on a smile to welcome the congregation. I donate what I can to the charity drives at church. Right now, that's not much in the way of giving. I mean, compared to people helping to build wells in Mali, or teaching orphaned children in Haiti, but it's something. It pulls me out of my own grief and makes me a blessing to someone else.

So I guess if I could give anyone advice on how to get through a difficult time in their lives, it would be, Don't be selfish. Because selfishness is the biggest temptation when you're hurting, and the thing that will ruin your life faster than almost anything else. When you're hurting, give to someone else. Give your time, give a gift, give a compliment. Giving will help your joy return.


Sunday, December 02, 2012

Working on a Sunday, Shame on Me

This is going to have to be a very quick post. I've got two hours worth of work to do before Walking Dead comes on. :p

I didn't blog yesterday because I was on the road most of the day. I headed down to Colorado Springs early to meet Josey for brunch. It was great catching up with her, and hearing the funny stories about her two crazy boys.

After brunch, I went to present Thirty-One at the home of one of my best customers. There were 7 women there, and only 2 of them had not heard my spiel. I got about halfway through my presentation when I realized that the two ladies who had never been to a Thirty-One party before weren't listening to a word I was saying. My other regular customers were helping them shop while I was talking! Hey, I have no complaints about my ladies helping me sell product. Hahaha! So I cut my presentation short and helped everyone get as much as they could from the December sale.

After I got home, I watched an episode of Game of Thrones with Jeremy while we ate dinner, then I went into my office and placed the party order. One more episode of Game later, and I was in bed.

I went to church this morning and realized that for the first time in my life, there was a spiritual element to Christmas -- and I had no idea what that meant for me as a new Christian. Christmas has always been about family to me -- and doing my best to fight the consumerism of the season (sometimes more successfully than others). But this year I understand the meaning of the holiday on a different level. The pastor talked about advent, and I had no idea what that was. So this month I am learning what Christmas means for a Christian. It's a pretty cool experience.

I had just enough time to eat lunch when I got home before I had to jump on a conference call for GlobalWrites. JoAnn, Ellie and I did a Google Hangout, and it was neat actually seeing those girls while I chatted with them (one is in Houston and the other is in Washington DC), but I admit it was a little distracting because I was really focused on not doing anything embarrassing while I was on the webcam. LOL

So now it's past 5pm and I need to do some research for the new direction/focus of the content on our website. I'm the editorial director for GlobalWrites, so it's my job to make sure the website is up and running, work with the writers to get fresh content every week, manage the editorial calendar, work with development agencies on any technical issues or design needs, and also contribute content myself. I'm a very important person, you know. Ha! Really, this is the type of work I excel at. Keeping things running, managing processes, babysitting contributors, that's my bag.

And now to get back to it before Walking Dead starts...

Friday, November 30, 2012

National Pride

I have relatives in Europe -- Belgrade and Amsterdam, to be precise. And it's always interesting to me to see my European cousins' posts on Facebook when they are talking about American politics or economy.

First, it's interesting that they care so much about America. They have visited a hundred times -- sometimes for lengthy stays -- but there is no reason for them to be invested in our country's success or failure that I can think of. So the fact that they have opinions strong enough to be worth posting on Facebook makes me think that it's not just because they have relatives here in America that they are interested in the standing of our country, but rather the people that surround them on a daily basis are thinking of us too. I imagine my cousins sit around talking about American politics with their friends.

We don't do that. For the most part, as a country, we don't really give a hoot what's going on in other places. Sure, we are interested in what's happening around the world, but we aren't usually invested in it. What does that say about us? Does it say we're confident in our top-of-the-heap position in the world? Does it say we're apathetic? Or isolationist in some way? (Though that last one is unlikely, I think, given the aid we give so many other countries.)

The fact is, I think other countries look at us and gauge their own futures on where America stands at the moment. That is an incredible responsibility when you think about it.

I remember in college getting emails from my aunt in Belgrade on a weekly basis. She is American, but married a Serbian man and moved to the former country of Yugoslavia long before I was born. During the Kosovo War, bombs were going off in Belgrade all the time. I remember her detailing how she had to tape their windows. I also remember her account of getting pulled over and taken to a police station because of her nationality, only to be released when the police recognized who she was married to (my uncle is a prominent professor).

This was all back in 1999, if I remember my dates right. And yes, I felt personally invested in the conflict going on over there because of my aunt's letters. But no one around me was talking about it -- no one wondered how it would impact us. I didn't sit around debating the future of the Yugoslav nations with my friends. I worried about my family there, but I didn't worry about their country.

I say this all the time, and I always mean it from the bottom of my heart: I am so blessed to live in this country, in this time. No matter how frustrated we are with the state of our economy, or how our government is handling our national challenges, we live in a safe, stable and wealthy nation. There are few other places in this world where I could write this blog and not worry about my safety if my opinions were different than the government's. There are few other places in this world where I could go out to the grocery store at night and feel (relatively) safe. There are few other places in this world where my gender wouldn't hinder me.

Yes, America is not perfect. Do you really expect it to be? I'm just pleased as punch to live here and call it my home.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bright Light


Erin and I went to a women's ministry holiday party at Flatirons Church tonight. It was really fun, even though we didn't win a single game. They were taking cash donations to buy grocery gift cards for the Sister Carmen food bank, so I not only had a good time, but I was able to give to a good cause too. That's a successful night in my book.

I got the best news tonight. One of my sweet friends was at the party, and she came up to me to tell me that she and her husband had applied to foster a child. She told me more about the little girl they were trying to bring into their family, and my heart just swelled. I am so crazy blessed to know women like her. I can't wait to meet her new child.

In my younger years, I was proud to be friends with people who had interesting or unusual jobs, or came from interesting places, or had interesting hobbies. You know, people with a "cool" factor. And come on, who doesn't like to name-drop, right? But as I've gotten older, as I've had life experience and found God, I find that I covet "bright light" people. People who give above and beyond. People who save the world. People whose hearts are bigger than Texas. Being around people like that -- like my friend who is fostering a child -- makes me want to be a better person.

Some of you bright lights know who you are. Others don't. But I hope you all know that I admire your hearts so much, and I can only hope to be half the light you are in this world.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Using Your Strengths on the Job

I love to watch painting shows. Think Bob Ross. There are a bunch of those types of shows on the Create channel, and every so often I get a chance to watch one.

Do you know what irks me every time I see it, though? When the painter dips a dirty brush into a different color paint. I know a little of the color on the brush is getting into the pot of color the artist is dipping into, and later on that former color is going to mess up the canvas somewhere. But these artists do this all the time.

This is how I know I'll never be a professional artist. There is a freedom in painting that does not exist in writing -- just as there's a structure in writing that does not exist in painting. They are both creative pursuits, but they are so different. When I misspell a word, I correct it, because that is a mistake, not a quirk. But brush marks in a painting, an accidental swipe of color in the wrong place, a jagged line -- those give a painting personality, and sometimes even context.

I love that about painting. Since I started dabbling in visual arts a few years ago, it has taught me how to let go in so many ways. But when I see a dot of yellow in my ultramarine blue, I still cringe.

A friend of mine from work told me during a phone conversation yesterday that she was a film major in college. That really surprised me, since she is one of the best project managers I know at the computer corporation I work for during the day. She told me that she felt blessed that she has "been able to dabble in film since she graduated from college, so she has kept her passion for it, rather than making it a career and burning out on it." That's genius right there. Sure, the ideal scenario is to do what you love for a living -- but how many people can do that without ending up hating what they used to love? Not many. Burn out happens in anything you do 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

I think a better way of looking at your job or career is, Am I using my strengths? You can use your strengths in a job that isn't your passion, and you'll find great satisfaction each day.

There is a course on the Oprah site called Career Intervention that deals with this topic. It's pretty interesting if you have some time to watch.

So you're not doing what you love for a living. So what? Are you using your strengths? If not, can you make changes in your job -- delegate, re-prioritize -- so you are using your strengths more often?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Failing to Learn

Does anyone else out there have a penchant for failure? And no, this isn't a poor-me post. I love failing. Failing is the most important way I learn.

I had a phone conversation with an old friend and colleague yesterday, and we talked about how we both learned to code. Both of us simply got our hands dirty. We went into existing code and fiddled around. Inevitably something would break, and then we'd HAVE to learn enough to fix it.

I learned how to write by writing terribly. I learned how to paint by making a mess of a canvas. I learned how to cook by ruining a few meals. I learned how to be a partner to Jeremy by failing as a wife during our first year of marriage. Did you know that I was even slow to learn to read when I was a kid? Oh yes -- I had to fail at that too.

I know people that are so afraid of failure, they won't try anything new. And sure, they probably live very safe lives and have very safe jobs -- for now. But what about when they have to adapt to a new circumstance? What about when the rug gets pulled out from under them? I wonder how they manage.

My day-job manager asked me yesterday if I had any ideas about where I wanted my career to go. It's a fair question at a company like this one -- but with everything in such a major flux in the company and the economy, it was a question I couldn't answer. I simply told her that I know what I enjoy doing, I know what I have a knack for, and I have a ton of different types of experience under my belt, so I know that I'll always be able to fit in somewhere -- and my hope is that at some point I'll see a career direction that I'm interested in and aim at it.

I wouldn't have that kind of confidence or self-knowledge if I hadn't failed along the way.

What are some of the things you are thankful for failing at?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Networking Madness

My brother was here until 1am last night getting my home network up and running. I am very tech savvy, but wireless networking throws me for a loop. It doesn't make SENSE to me. Unplugging and re-plugging the modem and routers is usually all it takes to reset everything -- but you can do that ten times, and while it won't work 9 times, the tenth time it will work. And then inevitably in my household there is a IP conflict somewhere. HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN? It's like wireless networks have a mind of their own.

I seriously started thinking about that at 12:30 last night when I was beginning to get delirious. I imagined my wireless network developing sentience and taking over the world.

This happens every time I have to unplug the modem for any reason. And this weekend I moved it into a different room (before you techies start sending me emails about signal strength, it was the exact same outlet, I just ran it back through the wall) -- so inevitably our whole wireless network started getting cranky. By Sunday afternoon, we were able to connect some devices and not others, and the connection would flicker in and out on the rest. Considering how much we rely on a wireless Internet connection in our house, it was more than just a little frustrating.

So Drew came to the rescue. He has more patience with our network than I do. He'll try the same thing ten times until it works, while I try once or twice and determine that isn't fixing anything. So between the two of us we can usually get it working again. And sure enough, by 1am my network was up and running.

But today I'm dragging. It's overcast outside and it's my first day back to work after 4 days off, neither of which is helping my energy situation. This is one of those days when I would just love to stay under the covers all day.

So I'm off to make another pot of coffee now.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Trinity Passed, But Gave Me Hope

I'm starting off this post on a rather somber note. Trinity, my friend's niece, passed away at 5:08 last night. She wrote a letter before she died, to be read after she passed. You can read it here if you are interested -- but be prepared to both cry and have your heart lifted high.

I thought when she finally passed away it would bring my personal grief up a notch. I thought it would bring back the raw pain again. But it didn't. The emails I received from Trinity's aunt, and Trinity's letter itself soothed my heart. The family was expecting this passing, and the little girl was ready -- and Trinity was almost excited, given her unbelievable, outrageous and pure faith in God and heaven. Knowing Trinity was excited to get to heaven... how do I put this?... it renewed my own belief that Scarlett was also taken to the beautiful and happy place that Trinity imagined.

Just as I never know when the pain is going to hit, I never know where I'll find these little boosts of hope.

Jeremy and I spent the last two days switching my office and the guest room. My new office is quite a bit larger, so we're also moving my art supplies in there so I'll have a combined office/studio. (My studio has been in a spare room in the basement since we moved in here -- and frankly it's never felt like a good, creative space to me.) Even with my office and studio furniture and supplies taking up most of the new room, there is a great deal more floor space than there was in my old office. My immediate thought was, There's enough room for a playpen in here. Just having that room in my office where a child could play, unexpectedly lifted my spirits.

This room feels... expectant. Which makes me feel less like I'm holding my breath and more like my foot is on the starting line, waiting for the gunshot to sound.

These little bits of hope, reminders of faith, thoughts of expectancy are like boulders in a river. I step from one to another, aware of the water rushing beneath my feet but unwilling to give up and jump in. I don't know how wide this river is. I don't know if I'll ever get across to the other side in this lifetime. But as long as those boulders keep appearing, I will keep springing from one to another.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Thankfulness

Yesterday was amazing. Just amazing. We had nine people come to our house for Thanksgiving -- my parents and both brothers, Jeremy's parents, Kelsey and the twins. I cooked a turkey that turned out perfectly. We had good wine, more desserts than you could shake a stick at, and the entertainment of watching the twins play "werewolf."

A house full of family makes my heart so glad. It just feels right. Not that Jeremy and I don't like our quiet time with just the two of us here, but the noise and bustle of a house filled with family is just so uplifting. I'm so happy I got the opportunity to host Thanksgiving this year, if for that reason only.

But another reason is, it was a really great distraction. I had no time to think about the one missing person. I had no time to wallow in the memories of Thanksgivings past. I had no space to feel my empty arms when they were filled with twin nephew hugs.

I've always appreciated family, but it wasn't until recently that I realized the true blessing of it. Family heals, holds and uplifts you. Family surrounds you with love when you are caving in on yourself. They reach out when you can't lift a finger to dial their numbers.

It's become something of a tradition since the invention of social media to post about what you are thankful for from Nov 1 until Thanksgiving each year. If you follow me on Facebook, you'll notice I didn't participate. And here's why. I was thankful for the same thing every single day. And while I am thankful for other things, I am more thankful for this than anything else. I am thankful for the love of family.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm having a quiet morning. I'm sitting here with my coffee and a donut (a holiday splurge), and I just finished watching part of a great series online from Robert Morris.

I couldn't stay in bed this morning. There was no reason for me to get up as early as I did, but I felt called out of bed. When I first woke up, I was so comfortable wrapped up in the blanket next to Jeremy -- but my mind was racing with all of the things I would need to do today to make Thanksgiving dinner for 11 people. I kept trying to tell myself that I didn't have to stress about it until 9:45, when it was time to get the turkey in the oven. But my brain wouldn't let go. So I decided, rather than lay in bed and work myself up into a tizzy, I would get up and have a quiet, spirit-filled morning.

Works every time.

I had my coffee, I had my donut, and I had some time with God, and I feel a million times more relaxed. I'm ready to tackle that turkey.

For years I would go straight from bed to work. Even when I worked in an office, I would get up with just enough time to throw my clothes and makeup on and I was out the door. Working from home, I would go straight from bed to my office -- I'd work in my PJs until lunch, usually. I didn't realize how much stress that was causing my mind and body.

And still today there are mornings when I don't get this quiet hour. Mornings where I have had a late or stressful night and I need the extra hour of sleep. Or mornings when things pop up -- like the dog getting sick or a work emergency. But I avoid those like the plague. This quiet hour is important to my mental, emotional and spiritual health. I honestly wish I had started doing this years ago.

What you do first thing in the morning sets your intentions for the day. Whether you are aware of it or not.

My intention today is to spend quality time with my family, and to mindfully and lovingly cook a Thanksgiving meal worthy of these wonderful people. And I also intend to not ruin the turkey.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Money vs. God, AKA You Can't Serve Two Masters

I was listening to Andy Stanley this morning talking about money, and how it is the biggest competitor against God for our attention. The Bible talks about money a LOT, but for some reason that topic is taboo in church. I'm sure a lot of that has to do with some of the financial scandals and abuses we have seen in our recent history, but I appreciated Stanley speaking so frankly (and humorously) about it.

Jeremy and I are on a path to getting our financial situation more in order. We planned for some debt when we bought this fixer-upper house -- but the debt got a little bigger than we expected. So we're buckling down. And I'm sure a lot of you have gone through this, or are going through it right now, but there is a big emotional element to this process. Not so much here at home, but when interacting with our friends and family. It is difficult for us to say, "I'm sorry, we can't go out to dinner with you because it's not in our budget." Or even worse, "I'm sorry we can't go to your child's birthday party 90 miles away because we can't afford the gas right now."

For Jeremy there is an element of shame in that. We should be able to afford simple things like a meal at a restaurant and an extra tank of gas. For me it's more of a hypocrisy situation. I feel like a hypocrite making as much money as I do and still having to say no to those things. I wonder if people think we're making flimsy excuses.

But one thing I have refused to do (and Jeremy has helped me greatly with this) is to let my attention get too focused on money. When I focus on money, I turn into a monster. I get stressed out like you wouldn't believe. So I set a budget that makes sure all of our bills are paid on time, our debt is decreasing steadily and we've got enough savings for minor emergencies -- and other than the twice a month when I pay bills, I keep my mind OFF of our money.

Then, to make sure I've got my mind focused in the right direction, I have a constant stream of God in my days. I start my day listening to a sermon, I get a daily devotional email from Joel Osteen, I have a bunch of spiritual organizations and people posting encouraging messages in my Facebook feed, I listen to spiritual podcasts during my workouts/walks and in the shower, I always have a spiritual book in the stack of "currently-reading" books on my nightstand, and I do my daily Bible reading right before I go to sleep (which, by the way, has all but erased my nightmares). Essentially I try not to give stress (aka money) a foothold in my day.

I fail at that sometimes. I'm only human. But the conscious effort to keep my mind on God has transformed my life -- I will keep going no matter how many times I fail.

If Andy Stanley's stats are correct in his How to Be Rich series, Jeremy and I are rich. And I know we're rich -- I look around this big house and I know that in another country ten families would live in a place like this and consider themselves wealthy. But actually saying that to myself, "We are rich," feels different. It puts things in perspective. We have been blessed and we need to steward these blessings carefully. I'm happy to say we're on the right track.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Urgent Prayer Request for Trinity

My friend's ten-year-old niece, Trinity, was diagnosed with an un-treatable brain tumor just over a year ago. The little girl is a powerful spirit, and in the time she has had on this earth, she has inspired so many people.

She has fought hard this last year. But I just got an email from my friend that Trinity is seeing angels and her family knows she is about to pass over.

If you pray, please pray for Trinity and her family right now. Stop what you're doing and bow your head.

I pray that Trinity passes over gently, and is greeted warmly by her loved ones who preceded her in heaven. I pray that Scarlett shines her blue eyes on that amazing little girl and they become fast friends, keeping each other company until we can go home to them.

Grateful to be Cooking for a Crowd

We expected the holidays to be difficult this year. Especially with how kid-centric our holidays have been in past years. So I was really grateful when I got the opportunity to host Thanksgiving dinner.

Even though cooking the traditional meal is quite the undertaking -- especially being a vegetarian myself and thus not able to taste-test some of the recipes -- I look forward to it. I look forward to the distraction. I look forward to having a house full of people. I look forward to not having to make that long, lonely drive south.

Sometimes that drive does us in. And we don't expect it to, ever. But on our way to family events, sitting in the car that Scarlett used to share with us -- it's difficult. Most of the time we talk the whole way. Jeremy fills me in on the latest comic book news between outbursts at idiot drivers. Sometimes we listen to music. But more often than not, there are silences -- somber moments when we realize one person is missing from our vehicle, and missing from the events of the day.

I don't know why, after 9 long months, we don't see this sorrow coming. It surprises us every time.

So no driving for us this Thanksgiving. Our families are coming to us. And I am so grateful for that. I didn't realize how much pain that would alleviate until today. Instead of steeling my heart for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday without my daughter, I am looking forward to everyone coming to visit us.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Weekend Full of Kids

Exhausted is not a powerful enough word to describe how I'm feeling this morning. But it's a blissful exhaustion.

I went to church at Flatirons on Saturday night because there was a seminar that I have been dying to attend immediately following the service. I always enjoy the service there -- but this one blew me away. Pastor Jim talked about discipleship, and how it's different than being a student. But the thing that rocked my world was that I learned how young Jesus' twelve disciples were. If we have an accurate understanding of the culture of the time, that is if our historians and archaeologists are correct, the disciples were between the ages of 12 and 20. John was thought to be the youngest, around age 12, and Peter the oldest, around age 20. Jesus left the creation of His church in the hands of a bunch of teenagers.

The pastor this weekend used that as an example of why teaching our children is so important -- because they are literally the future of our world. And instead of calling on adults to help out in the kids' ministry, Pastor Jim called on the teenagers in the audience to step forward and disciple the younger kids. That was some powerful, powerful stuff. And the service ended with the middle school band, Controlled Chaos, leading us in the final two songs. They were INCREDIBLE. I mean professional-quality musicians. I got goosebumps listening to them, which then turned into tears.

So following that world-rocking sermon, I went over to the west auditorium for a Bible 101 seminar. I have pretty good study skills -- after all, I'm trained in how to study history -- but studying the Bible is another thing altogether. It involves history, language, archaeology, and spirituality. I feel unprepared to study it at the depth I really want to. So when I heard about this seminar, I jumped at the opportunity. And Pastor Jesse did not disappoint. He is a true Bible scholar, and I learned more about the Bible in that hour and ten minutes than I have my entire life.

So of course I came home Saturday night on cloud nine. My heart was full to the brim.

Sunday Jeremy and I planned on a lazy day, other than shopping for Thanksgiving dinner. But when Jeremy's parents called asking if we wanted to watch our 3-yr-old twin nephews while they went to a Broncos game, we immediately changed our plans. We met up with them at the Denver Aquarium, and while Jeremy's parents went to the game, we took the twins into the aquarium.

David is being goofy, scratching his belly -- but this captures their personalities so well!


After the aquarium, Jeremy dropped me off at our house so I could do a little work, and he took the boys to the comic shop.  An hour later, Anthony and David were running into my office to show me the comics Uncle Jeremy had bought them. They picked out Spiderman for one and Black Widow & Hawkeye for the other -- boys after my own heart!!!

We had a blast with the twins all day. I even played superhero with them -- I was She-Hulk and they were "pewing" me (shooting me -- "pew pew pew"). Have I mentioned lately how much I love those kids? I didn't want to give them back!

This morning all the dogs in the neighborhood were being more obnoxious than usual. And when I looked out the back window to see what all the fuss was about, I saw that they were putting in the new trail in the field behind our house. I was really hoping they would forget about that part of the park reconstruction project. Not that it won't be nice to be able to hop our back fence and get right on the trail over to the lake, but I am NOT looking forward to how the neighborhood dogs are going to respond to having people walking behind their houses. I am trying to keep a good attitude about it, and look at the blessings of a walking trail so close -- but I admit I am feeling anxious about it. Few things cause me such intense anxiety as dogs barking.

I guess it's a blessing that work is absolutely insane this week. I can't spend too much time worrying about what's going to happen when the trail is done!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

John the Baptist

This morning I watched last weekend's sermon from Pastor Jim at Flatirons Church online. I was sick last weekend and didn't make it to the service or my volunteer work. But I think it was meant to be that way because listening to the sermon today struck me in a different way than it would have if I'd gone to church and heard it live last weekend.

Pastor Jim spoke at a high level about the life of John the Baptist, and transitioned into some of the lessons John learned in his lifetime that we can use today. 

I've been fascinated by John since college. I took a class on medieval manuscripts, and when we were learning about some of the trends in illumination, I learned that artists would always portray John the Baptist with his index finger pointing to the sky. In paintings where you see two babies and you know one is Jesus and the other is John, you can identify John by his pointing finger and Jesus by his halo. I knew there was something special about this John guy just from those college lessons.

So the sermon I listened to this morning absolutely hit on a subject I'm already interested in. But the way Pastor Jim wrapped it up just socked me in the stomach in two ways.

First, he posed this question, "What do you have, what can you do and what are you doing with it?" His point was that God gifts us all with something to make this world better -- some people write, some people lead, some people teach, some people parent well, some people are powerful speakers, some people motivate, and so on. But we all have some gift that we can use to improve the lives of those around us. And Pastor Jim challenged the audience to look at how they are using those gifts. 

Of course I immediately thought about my writing. And I feel like I am using this gift in a good way here in this blog. I am happy with what I'm doing with God's precious gift to me. But I also know I can do more with it. I want to do more with it. 

Second, he talked about finding homes for several local children who needed adoption or foster care. And remember my post from last night where my conviction that I want to someday adopt was strengthened? Talk about timing. It might not happen today, or in the next year, or in the next few years -- but someday I know we will give a child a home. I know it deep down in my soul.

So in the spirit of that sermon, I toss this question back to you today. What do you have, what can you do and what are you doing with it? I know some of you are gifted teachers, chefs, writers, leaders, speakers, financial wizards, carpenters, cleaners, artists, administrative geniuses... but what if you recognized right here and now that those are gifts from God? What if you started seeing those gifts as tools you were given to help others? What would you do with your gift?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Odd Day

Odd day. I worked through rush hour and then hit the road around 9am to go to Colorado Springs and work from the office for the day. I thought I'd avoid traffic that way. But there were two "situations" on the side of the road right as I got on the highway. Driving through Denver when there is anything going on (construction, accident, someone pulled over, a cardboard box on the side of the road) is miserable. People drive like morons.

But I got down to the Springs in pretty good time, considering. Upon trying to enter the building, I realized my badge had stopped working. Luckily the security guard was competent and fixed it for me right away. I found an empty cubicle, got logged in and worked for a few hours.

I spent my lunch hour at the hair salon. My hairstylist's assistant mixed the wrong color -- so instead of the vibrant red I have had lately, I'm back to the super dark red that looks almost black. So now I'm thinking of just cutting my hair short again and starting fresh.

I stopped by the cemetery before heading back to work. That never gets any easier. I told Scarlett how much I missed her, shed some tears, straightened her flower arrangements (THANK YOU Schell family for the beautiful fall bouquet) and promised I'd be with her as soon as God was done with me here.

I spent most of the rest of my day pulling quarterly numbers at work, when I wasn't arguing with people trying to get them to complete work that my projects were dependent on. This was a week of arguing for me. I hate arguing with people. It seems so... pointless. When I get backed into a corner and forced to confront an issue with someone, I feel like I'm spending energy better spent on positive things.

Then toward the end of the day I got to talking to two coworkers who I only really engage with when I'm in the office. Our jobs almost never overlap, though we've been working side-by-side for years. Anyway, it turns out both of them had to undergo fertility treatments in order to conceive their children. It just blows my mind how many people have gone through what Jeremy and I are going through -- and no one talks about it. It makes me feel less alone to hear these stories, and I'm thankful people are sharing them.

As I was packing up to leave the office, my phone rang. I ignored it because I didn't recognize the number, but immediately following the call I got a text message. It was from our security monitoring company, and our fire alarm had gone off at home. I called Jeremy and he picked up right away, laughing on the other end of the line. I asked him if he was home, and told him the fire alarm had gone off -- and he filled me in. Jeremy's parents and our twin nephews were visiting on their way from Greeley back home to Colorado Springs, and one of the twins had hit the emergency fire alarm button on our security system. Ha! We all got a good laugh out of that after Jeremy explained to the security company that they don't need to send the fire department.

After work, Deb, Regina and I went to the Caspian Cafe for tapas and dessert. It was a lovely couple of hours of catching up over great food. I definitely need to do that with them more often.

When I got home tonight, I mentioned to Jeremy that I had listened to a talk this morning from Andy Stanley, talking about his experience visiting a Chinese orphanage. And it just added to my conviction that I want to adopt a child someday. I'd love to adopt a child from China, but I understand it's difficult to do so these days -- they have put a lot of restrictions in the adoption process. And no matter where you adopt from, or the age of the child you're adopting, it is crazy expensive. I don't understand that. With so many kids in need of good homes, and resources worn so thin trying to take care of these kids, why add a financial hurdle to the process of adopting? Sigh. But the money issue doesn't dissuade me one bit. When I started talking about this tonight, Jeremy pulled up some information online about it -- and we both daydreamed about a house full of kids.