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Friday, September 28, 2012

Garden tour

Since I've spent a good part of the week talking about my garden, I might as well give you a tour. I've always been hesitant to show pics of my garden, because as a recovering perfectionist, all I can see are the flaws. But you know, I've got a pretty great garden, and I need to learn to accept that things will never be perfect. My garden is messy, full of weeds, and a work in progress. Kind of like me.

My herbs... I took them out of the grass so hubby can mow the lawn. I usually keep them in the grass because I always forget to water them, and at least if they're in the grass, the sprinklers get them. The rest of my garden is on an automatic waterer because I'd forget to water those plants too.




The path leads to my grape arbor- when we moved in, they had the arch thing, and I thought it would be perfect for grapes. The only problem is I planted grapes with seeds in them, and  after a while, we get tired of eating them. I don't know what to do with the rest of the grapes.



Our house also came with a sour cherry tree (not pictured) and an apple tree. The apples are yummy but pretty buggy. I'm going to talk to an arborist to see what I can do about that.  We have pumpkins under the apple tree, and they spread out into the lawn. I think it's hubby's sinister scheme to have to mow less of our lawn, since he never mows where my pumpkins are.



I planted some blueberries and raspberries along the fence. We've gotten a few raspberries, but no blueberries yet.




And for the main garden... we originally started with one large plot but I needed more room, so I got the two raised beds. The main problem with our main garden is that we have shade from large trees at the neighbor's plus our shed. So I tried putting my raised beds in a sunnier area. I have a strawberry patch along the fence by the raised beds. The only problem with that location is that on the other side of the fence, my neighbors have dogs and they never pick up the poop. So on hot days, it really stinks over there.

All in all, I'm pretty proud of my little garden. I'm still not satisfied with how everything is laid out, but I learn new things every years, and eventually, I'll figure out what I'm doing.

So that's my garden! I hope you enjoyed a trip to my little plot.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Garden Mysteries

Back in April, I posted about a mysterious plant in my garden. It took over a year, but I finally learned the identity of the mysterious plant. It's a hollyhock!!

I've loved hollyhocks ever since I was a little girl and my bff gave me some seeds from hers. But I never had the right place to plant them, so I've only dreamed of having them. I'm so excited that I finally have a hollyhock of my very own! I'm sure next year, after this one disperses its seeds, I'll have many more.

I'm so glad I didn't tear up this plant. Of course I may have to since it's right by my strawberry patch, and I want more strawberries.

Have you seen any of your mysteries finally reveal themselves?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The imperfect gardener

Every year, I grow a garden. Most of the time, it's a mess of weeds and strange plants, and most of my grand plans never quite pan out. I will admit that my thumb is a sort of brownish black and I can't take much credit for my garden's success. But every once and a while, I come up with something that makes me exceedingly proud of myself.

Last night I was making stock from our leftover chicken. I'd forgotten to buy carrots at the store, and then I remembered- I have some in my garden. Most years, my carrots are these pathetic spindly things that are an insult to the eater. But this year, I tried something different. I bought a new variety that promised rainbow carrots, and I planted them in a raised bed instead of the ground. And now...

I have carrots!!


So I had these lovely carrots to put in my stock. Then, I went out and harvested some fresh herbs (which I still don't fully know how to use. I'm still learning.) Those went into the stock too.

And I got to thinking that while I'm not the world's best gardener, it still blesses my family. My kids eat fresh grapes and tomatoes, and now carrots. I use a lot of our other vegetables to cook and prepare my family healthy meals. Over the summer, I had a much lower grocery bill because I had my own lettuce and other fresh veggies. I never got any big tomatoes (sob!) but I have a ton of the baby ones. (Anyone know what to do with a ton of cherry tomatoes?) Some of my stuff grew, and some didn't, but what I do have has been really neat to share with my family.

A lot of people tell me that they'd like to have a garden, but they don't know what to do. I didn't either. And I still don't really know what I'm doing. But half the fun is in the experimentation.

What have you wanted to do, but haven't tried because you were worried about not knowing what to do?


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

ACFW Healing

[caption id="attachment_4064" align="alignleft" width="300"] My roomie, Gina Conroy. A friend who blesses me immensely.[/caption]

My friend Gina has the tradition of giving a word to describe ACFW, and hers this year was connection. Which I loved, because I think it definitely played in to a lot of things I experienced. But I think, for me, the word wasn't connection, but healing.

When I attended ACFW for the first time in 2007, it was at the urging of some good friends. I went, and in some ways, had a good time, but in other ways, had a very bad time. A couple of things happened that really wounded me, wounds I've carried for a long time. I also had a lot of really wonderful moments, and made some really wonderful friends. But as each ACFW conference came and went afterward, I experienced a number of reminders of those wounds.

Over the years, I've done a lot to find healing, but a few pieces of my heart never lost the ache. I came into this conference with a lot of prayer and had a lot of people praying for me. A couple of days before I left for the conference, I had an amazing prayer time. God exposed a lot of the lies behind my pain, and I honestly felt like God had given me some deep healing. Now, I've thought I was there before, so when I went into ACFW this year, I was hesitant, but I wanted to believe, so I did.

God blessed me so richly this year. So many moments where tears would spring to my eyes and I would be thankful for His mercy and work in me. I connected with old friends, and I made new friends. And I was able to let go of the painful experiences in the past. At one point, God pointed out a specific person who'd been unkind to me in the past and whispered, "it's not you. It's her. And she's hurting in ways you can't imagine." For the first time, I was able to look at this woman with new eyes and have a level of compassion for her that I could never have thought possible. Don't get me wrong... we didn't have a wonderful "now we're friends" moment, and I don't think we will. But it's so freeing to know that I don't have to carry the burden of the pain.

Here are a few things I learned:

  • Sometimes there are deeper things that have to be healed before you can find peace for issues that you've been trying to heal.

  • Healing is a process, and there are no instant solutions.

  • Even though some negative situations are your fault, sometimes they're not. You have to learn to pick up the things that are yours, and leave the rest alone.

  • There are some really beautiful, wonderful people out there. Open yourself up to get to know them, and take a chance on friendships outside your comfort zone. You will be blown away by the blessing they bring to your life.

  • Your struggles happen for a reason, and when you open yourself up to sharing them with others, you'll find that not only are you not alone, but by sharing with someone else, you are helping them with their struggles.

Thank you to all of the incredible people I spent time with, and also to those who prayed for me. If you want to see pictures, you can find them here:



How has time shaped the wounds you've carried?


Monday, September 17, 2012

How do we give our kids value?

The princess and I had a weird conversation the other day. She was convinced that some day, when she grew up, I was going to forget about her. "I will never forget about you," I told her with confidence. "Yes you will. You're going to see me on the street someday and you won't know who I am." Nothing I said would convince her otherwise. I finally hugged her tight and told her that she was too precious to me to forget. At the core of my daughter's questions, though, was the question we all ask. Am I significant?

I started a new Bible study at our church based on the book, Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller. So far, we've only discussed the introduction, but I have to say, even that small bit is changing my life. Keller's main point is that we set up idols for ourselves by allowing things to take the place of God's significance in our lives. It's making me realize how easy it is to take the focus off God and replace Him with something else.

One of the prominent thoughts in parenting today is giving our kids good self esteem. All of the books and schools tell us how we should praise our children and make sure they know they're loved. There are so many techniques for helping our children grow a healthy self esteem. But everything I've learned is missing one component. Where does our kids' value come from?

Is it because I say they are? Or because they are good in school? Or because they're such nice kids? Well, all of those are true. They are good in school (sometimes) and they are nice kids (sometimes). And I happen to think that they're pretty great. But that isn't why my kids are valuable. They are valuable because God says they are. That's it. There is nothing they can do to make themselves any more or less valuable.

The problem is that as parents, we tend to only give them value based on our authority. "You're valuable because I say you are." To a point, we need to do that. But we also can't neglect the idea that our authority is nothing to God's. God's authority is the ultimate authority, and we also have to remind our children of their value in God's creation. I know so many adults, myself included, who don't have the proper self esteem because they didn't learn as children their value in Christ.

As I denied that I would ever forget my daughter, I started thinking of reasons I would forget her- like a traumatic brain injury or Alzheimer's, or some other terrible thing. I didn't mention them to her, but as I started worrying, I thought, great, now I'll be a liar and that will really devastate her.  That's the trouble with placing the hope in a person... there's always the chance you'll be let down. But see, God isn't going to get a traumatic brain injury or Alzheimer's or have any other reason to forget us. God will always be there.

So I'm going to be more intentional about reminding my kids that even if I fail, and let's face it, I will, some way or another, God won't. Even if they fail, God isn't going to love them any less.

How do you remind your kids of their value in God's eyes?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Making the time

[caption id="attachment_4055" align="alignleft" width="150"] The books and knitting I'm sacrificing[/caption]

Can I make a confession?

A lot of people praise me for how organized I am and how I've got it all together, and how I get so much done. Right now, I am SO not living up to that title. In fact, I feel like I am juggling a million glass balls and at any moment, they're going to crash down into a million little pieces that will get stuck in my bare feet, leaving me bleeding all over a carpet I still need to clean.

I keep saying, "when X happens, I'll do Y." And you know what? X happens, and something else gets in the way of my doing Y. I was talking to a friend who used to be one of my writing buds. We used to challenge each other and push each other on a daily basis. She hasn't been writing much because life got crazy. She'd say things like, "when I get past X, I'll start writing again." Well, X finished but then another situation came up, and it's been a couple of years. I told her recently, "You've got to just say, I don't care that X is happening. I'm going to carve out this time and I will write. This is my writing time, and I'm going to stop letting stuff interfere."

Then I realized something last night. I do the same thing. I missed a writing goal. It partially was because I was waiting on someone else. But then I slacked off on doing my part. Because life was getting in the way. First it was because I still needed to do stuff with my new computer (and yes, still working on it!), then it was because my boss was on vacation, and I had a lot more to keep up on. There was also my husband working weird hours, leaving me to do more of his stuff. Let's not forget the kids' sports and activities. I was trying to keep up with it all, proud of myself on the days when I had it together, worked out, made dinner, did my Bible study, got my work done, and found time to write.

But most days I've been falling into bed exhausted because I have too much to do in too few hours. And left a lot on my plate undone. I've done a lot of kicking myself for not accomplishing everything I'd set out to do.

I was thinking about this last night as I finished a great chat for work. It was fun, and I loved it. I was so tired after that all I wanted to do was curl up with one of the books I've been wanting to read for a while. But then I got an email from someone who just sold her book and wanted me to know so I could make the announcement. Of course I was happy for her, but a tiny voice in the back of my head reminded me that I'd never get that announcement for myself if I didn't do the work. So instead of picking up the book and treating myself, I pulled out the manuscript and got to work. A few times, I thought about going to bed, but then I started thinking about all the people I keep telling to make the time.

So I made the time.

I'm not saying that what I wrote was good (but I hope it was!), but I did get more done than I thought I would. Moving forward, I'm going to be more intentional about making sure I find the time to write.

How do you find time for the important things that sometimes slip away?


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tired of Mean

I've grown weary of checking Facebook and Twitter. It seems like every other post is filled with something mean about someone else. Maybe it's a political party. Maybe it's an ideology. Maybe it's even a person. I used to have a friend I had coffee with on a regular basis, but I finally stopped going because I got tired of hearing how everyone who didn't agree with my friend is stupid. Occasionally, when I disagreed, I'd be told, "Oh, but YOU'RE not stupid. But everyone else who thinks that is." Um, okay. But why does the automatic response have to be to call the other person stupid?

The more I think about people who think differently, the more I realize that none of them are stupid. Sure, some of them may be ignorant of certain facts, others may have interpreted a situation differently. And maybe they just don't agree.

You know what I think is stupid? Being mean. Just because someone doesn't agree with you or hold a viewpoint you agree with doesn't make it okay to be mean to them. Maybe they have a perspective you haven't explored. Maybe their experience is different from yours. And sure, maybe you do take the time to see the other side. and you still disagree. But is there a way to politely agree to disagree? Without name-calling? Without having to be mean about it?

I unfollowed a few people today. I really debated about it, but then I thought, "why am I letting this person suck this energy out of me?"  I don't want to read things that do nothing but tear others down. I'm thinking about going on a social media diet through the election.

How are you handling the social media negativity out there?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Facing a Past Hurt

Several years ago, I had a situation with another woman that was very hurtful. When we came to her and her husband about the situation, they invited us to dinner to talk about it. The dinner was a disaster. Rather than being about resolving our differences, the couple used this as an opportunity to let us know everything we've done to hurt them, and everything good they've done for us. Their attitude was, "how dare you have anything against us when we've done all this for you and overlooked all of these faults?" In the end, we agreed to disagree, and nothing was ever resolved.

The experience scarred me deeply. As much as I tried getting beyond the hurt, I couldn't. I felt so much shame and condemnation from a couple that I'd once looked up to. I was afraid to engage with anyone who knew them because they'd put us so far in the wrong that I was afraid others would also look badly upon us. When this couple moved, I was relieved. But the hurt never went away.

Fast forward several years. Hubby ran into them at an activity our kids are doing together. And of course, they're on the same team. At our daughter's last game, the woman sat behind me. She arrived late, so I wasn't obligated to speak to her. I was relieved because the thought of even seeing her made me feel sick to my stomach. However, shortly after she arrived, I could hear her talking to her mother or mother in law. I was horrified to realize that she was talking about me.

They spent a great deal of time talking about me, and while I didn't hear all the details, I can tell you that it wasn't positive. I wished I had the courage to turn around and say, "since you're talking about me, why don't I join you?" But I'm not that brave, and I'm not sure it would have ended well. As I sat there, uncomfortable about being gossiped about in my presence, I realized something- she's hurting too.

The talk stopped as soon as I started cheering for my kiddo. Part of me hoped she realized her faux pas and was embarrassed to have been so indiscreet. Then I wondered if maybe the reason she acted the way she did was because she was embarrassed over how she'd treated me. And I thought, "I don't want her to be embarrassed further."

For the first time, I had compassion for the woman who'd treated me so badly. I still don't know what motivated her to hurt me. But I can't stop thinking about something I read a long time ago- "hurting people hurt people." Maybe I was the one to hurt her, causing her to respond in kind. Or maybe it was someone else, but I reminded her of that wound and made her lash out. Maybe it was a combination of both. I don't know. I'm not sure she knows either.

I'll admit that I'm probably not going to become her BFF. In fact, other than exchanging the same pleasantries I exchange with the other parents on the team, I probably won't talk to her. There's still a lot of healing in my heart that I need to do. But I'm finding it easier, knowing that she's suffering under the burden of our previous conflict, to let mine go. For me, taking the time to step back and try to imagine things from her eyes has helped in my healing.

Is there a wound from the past you're still healing from? How have you handled facing that person again?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Thank You Judy Blume

[caption id="attachment_4040" align="alignleft" width="150"] Yes, that is my actual childhood copy![/caption]

My little princess has had a hard time with reading, primarily because she has significant audio and visual processing issues. So in our house, with my stacks and stacks of books, a lot of our books sit... waiting. Today, though, we had an incredibly awesome moment. She asked me to help her finish reading one of her library books because she had a special book she wanted to check out. Of course I asked her which one it was, sure that it would be a princess something with lots of pictures, because that's pretty much all she reads.

"Oh, Mom, it's this great book. It's got this kid named Fudge in it and there's lots of books in the series. But the one I want is called Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Have you ever heard of it?"

Have I ever heard of it?

"Come with me," I told her, and I took her downstairs to the magical bookcase, the place where I keep all of my books from my childhood, plus a few of the older books I like to collect.

As we went downstairs, she got more and more excited. "You have it? Oh, I just know you have it. You always have the coolest books. Do you have all of the books? Oh, I just know you do."

I didn't answer her questions, mostly because I wasn't sure which ones I had. I had saved a few of my childhood treasures, and our eldest daughter went through a "Fudge" phase, where she had to have all of the Fudge books, and I'd kept those. I hoped I had Tales, but I wasn't sure. When I was in my early teens, my mom thought that purging my book collection was a good idea, and she made me get rid of a bunch. I managed to salvage a few, and today, they still remain my treasures. My books got me through a lot when I was a kid, and I'd always hoped to pass on that love to my own children.

[caption id="attachment_4041" align="alignright" width="150"] She couldn't put it down![/caption]

When we got to my magical bookcase, I immediately spied the Fudge books. It took some digging but I finally found... yes, the book she was looking for. In that search, we also found a lot of other great books that I loved as a kid- a lot by Judy Blume. Books my daughter eagerly eyed and commented that she wanted to read because she'd heard they were good. She grabbed Tales off the shelf and immediately began reading. Even though she only got through a couple of pages, my struggling little reader read. And she was mad when I sent her to bed. I suspect that after I tucked her in, she turned on her lamp and kept reading.

People wonder why I keep all of my books. Tonight was one of those reasons. Having a struggling reader means that if she shows interest in anything, I want that book in her hands right away. Part of her processing issue means that if she's excited about it today, she may not be tomorrow, and I will have lost that chance. I love having books to share... with my friends, with my family, but mostly, with my girls.

Tonight also reminded me of a lot of the reason why I write. I was that kid- weird, smart, awkward, and sometimes bullied for it. Judy Blume and a lot of others wrote stories that made it okay to be who I was. My kids are weird. Cowgirl doesn't care that she's different. But my little princess, some days I ache for her because she struggles so much with being different. I write books for people to know that they're not alone. If you're weird or different or have issues, it's okay. You've got someone who understands, and I hope, in those moments when you read my work, you'll feel a little less like it's you against the world.

Thank you, Judy Blume. Thank you for writing the books that encouraged me as a kid. Thank you for writing books I can pass on to my daughter because she relates to them and can actually read them, despite her processing issues. I could fill several books thanking the authors whose work I am thankful for. But I won't. At least not today. Tonight, I want to honor the woman who has always had the courage to share with us, even today as she blogged about her recent battle with breast cancer. How interesting that I have this experience with my daughter the same day she blogged. I thought about writing this in the same way she wrote the first book of hers to catch my eye, Dear Mr. Henshaw, but then I thought it might be awkward if she saw it and actually played Mr. Henshaw and made me answer questions. So I have no questions for her today, just my gratitude.

How about you? Are there books from your childhood that you've passed on to your children?

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Squeezing the last bits out of the summer

It's such a gorgeous day today that I couldn't resist working on the deck, or as I call it, my outdoor office. Now that we're headed into fall and cooler weather, I'm determined to suck the last bit of sunshine before the cold hits. I often joke that I'm solar powered, so I need to charge up my batteries.

How are you spending your last bit of summer?