Most readers who drag themselves through what I put out here also read my daughter, Sarah's stuff. If so, then they know I'm in Texas, and have gone through a guargantuan gastro-guacamole gut-turning event. Having moved on from that delightful experience, I thought I'd tell you what we're up to, and what's coming up.
Last night I went out to dinner with daughter #2, Leslie. We had GUACAMOLE. I did stare at it on the menu, hesitating for a moment. I also considered the fact the lights were dimmed, and there was nobody at our table under 25. Leslie had hired a sitter and we went to On the Border for margaritas, tex-mex and girl talk. The latter was the best, and lasted til long after the sitter had gone home, and we should have gone to bed. We solved all the problems of life, or at least considered options in doing so. She has a baby and teaches 5th and 6th graders, so adult conversation is a treat for her. Especially if the other adult is a female.
We're here in Texas, celebrating a birthday for Miss Addison, and hanging out with the family. That generally means messes, noise, filling gas tanks and eating tex-mex every other day (gas in, gas out). Today all the men over age 6 are on the lake with a fishing guide. Don sprung for the fishing trip, and the other men provided the cabin overnight. They should be back this evening with lots of fileted stryper. Today is all about getting ready for The Party, so Sarah's driving across the metro-plex to pick me up shortly, then we have a day full of to-do's and errands. Tonight we're taking our son, Dan and daughter-in-love, Janae out to dinner to celebrate her recent promotion. Tomorrow all 12 of us are headed to a patch of ground covered in bluebonnets, for a family photo shoot, and yes, actually the men are all VERY excited. You know how men love to dress to match. Then church with all of us together tomorrow night at my very favorite church to hang out at. The worship is fabulous (thanks, in large part, to our son-in-love Chris), and the coffee shop ain't bad either. Sunday is all about barbeque and birthdays, and pink is the color of choice as Addison celebrates being the big One. Monday night we'll all head to Sarah and Chris' for a classy cookout in their backyard with a fry daddy, smelling up the neighborhood frying the fish the men caught, and Sarah's grits, beans and corn on the cob. Everybody's even bringing their dog just to make it a little bit more crazy and/or annoying to the neighbors. Tuesday it's back to real life, but we're not dwelling on that right now.
Right now it's all about family, being all together in one place for the last time in awhile, and soaking up every single crazy minute.
I told Leslie last night, my goal for family vacation is not that it's reasonably priced, or restful, or relaxing. As long as we're all loving on each other, that's good enough for me. She said, "way to keep the expectations low Mom." Quite the contrary, I think I set them very high. Grab every single minute, be completely in it, and squeeze every single drop of goodness out of it I can. Going home a bit broke, tired, and the good kind of worn out - that's the stuff life is made up of. Or should be.
And if life wasn't good enough already, I woke up this morning, went online, and saw that Rob got a job! Hallelujah! My mom got a job. Hallelujah! I have one more day of my "job" in the bookstore. Hallelujah!
Labels: Family Affair
posted at 9:25 AM
Growing up, with six kids in our home, I don't remember my mother this way. I wonder, was she? We didn't have a microwave, or a crockpot, or any of the 'conveniences' that are considered necessities today. We had a wringer washer on the back porch at one point. My father's shirts were 100% cotton uniforms. Four boys made loads of laundry, mountains of laundry. Cooking to feed us - I can't imagine. Yet I don't remember once having frozen pizza. We ate potato soup, cornbread, homemade pizza, chicken gumbo. It seems whatever we ate was homemade, because you couldn't really buy anything else.
There weren't lessons to drive to, sports practices or events to attend. If other kids at school participated in those things, our family did not. There were just too many of us, and my mom worked much of the time I was growing up. We had one TV in the living room, with rabbit ears, that had foil balled up on the ends of the antennas. We got three channels. Everybody got three channels. My father chose the shows we watched nightly, and the stations all went off the air at 10 pm. I still remember the crazy black wavy lines when the stations shut down. Shut down, can you imagine? There was no internet, no computers, no video games. We used encyclopedias to do our homework. One telephone in the hall where God and everybody could hear every single word you said, and there was a time limit anyway.
If my mom was busy, and she certainly had to be, there didn't seem to be this expectation that she would be involved in our lives constantly, going here and there at a frantic pace so we'd be exposed to everything society could offer. I don't remember her sitting down, reading a magazine, but I also don't remember a big family calendar on the fridge, governing our very existence. Our refrigerator sported a chore list, and it was not a suggestion, but a requirement.
I don't know when it changed. Or how. Or why. I just know it did. And I jumped in with both feet.
Fast-forward to 1998, and I had just agreed to head up the Ladies Bible Study program for our church. It involved a lot of recruiting, and making decisions that weren't popular across the board. A wise woman at the church told me this, "You can't please most of the people most of the time, so don't even try. Please God and call it good."
I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure...which is: try to please everyone." Herbert Bayard Swope
I forgot her words. Worn Out Woman tells me part of the reason I'm worn out is expectations. Living up to the expectations of family, friends, work, neighbors, even my church, and, oh yeah - myself. The shoulds and woulds and oughts won't stop easily, rather the more I live up to expectations placed on me, the more will come my way. Vicious cycle. The book suggests the best way to stop it is to starve them. Expectation is fed by 'three foods of comparison, people pleasing and perfectionism'. Take away the three foods and they will starve.
Comparison increases expectation. Whether it's comparing my appearance, accomplishments, acquisitions, or abilities. Sometimes we exaggerate other's qualities and give ourselves the short end of the stick; other times we build up one area we feel good about, hoping nobody will notice the area we feel inadequate in. The book tells me the antidote is reality. Realizing each of us is a unique creature, formed by God, with God-given atttributes and abilities. Each of us can grow and improve, but like roses and lilies - both are beautiful, so comparison isn't the answer. Or even appropriate. Or godly. Can the comparing.
People pleasing - is there anyone out there who doesn't struggle with this? We all come with a healthy desire to be needed, loved, to belong, to fit in. When it reaches a level that could be called "disease to please" as the authors put it, it's a problem. I suspect most of us have a problem. I sure do. I loved when the author said, "seeking to please is like trying to catch a snowflake on your tongue; even if you can do it, it doesn't last very long." Isn't that the truth! I've had seasons where I 'hung the moon' for someone; the next time they asked me to do something and I had to decline, or actually succeeded in setting limits, my name fell out of favor. When my natural, God-given desire to please reaches the point it drives me to being worn out, it's time to stop, take a look, make adjustments.
Perfectionism - I tend not to think of myself this way. Really, you Should Not eat off my floor! My home is clean enough to be healthy, and that's it. I can live with weeds in the flower beds, wrinkles in the bedding, an effort that is enough to get the job done, but won't win rave reviews. I tend to think of myself as too practical to be a perfectionist. Still, the author says "pretending to have your act together all the time" is a sign of perfectionism rearing it's ugly head. Rather, admit I blow it every day, and move on. It frees me, it frees those around me. This was convicting. I like feeling like I have my act together. I don't. Often I won't. Admit it. Move on.
This struggling with expectations, my own and others, isn't cured with a one time fix; rather it will continue to come my way, or be self-induced. It's something I have to learn to recognize, and put some stops to. Oh, that I could be as gracious with myself as He is. He's not the one dumping the load on my shoulders. He tells me, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:29-30.
And oh so perfect - this is how the Message puts it:
"Are you tired? WORN OUT? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
Living freely and lightly - what's not to love about that?!
Labels: Glimpse of the Heart
posted at 8:00 AM
“When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.” Erasmus
Erasmus could have been my middle name. Not that it goes well with Beverly, but it sure does fit. My home is overrun with books. In my on-going journey to live out the 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, I was sort of expecting God to start by telling me where to cut activities, or commitments. Instead, He mentioned a habit, something I've been doing lately.
"I Bev, aka Blessed Beyond Measure, hereby pledge not to buy ANY books through the end of the summer (September 21)." At least. Much like the date you set aside to begin your diet, or quit smoking, or begin exercising, or getting up early to start your day with devotions, I've set the date. My last book purchasing date is today, April 23, 2007. I won't buy a single one, no matter the cost, no matter the book. Only my family will really understand what a big thing this is for me. They've seen my nightstand and bookshelves. My husband will just sigh with relief.
I'm crazy about books, the feel of them, the smell of them, the lovely covers they now sport. It's been a love of mine since I can remember. B.A.L.A.N.C.E. - that's what we're striving for, people. Purchasing a book, what amounts to every three days, isn't balanced, nor financially responsible. It doesn't lead to a clutter-free home. I'm praying and working toward a more simple life, one that lends itself to serenity 90% of the time, with a little wild/crazy the other 10%. Working on improvement, not perfection, that ratio sounds about right to me.
I tend to have this jump in with both feet, reckless abandon, no holds, personality. That sounds so much nicer than "Type A" or "OCD", don't you think? My husband absolutely will not allow me to volunteer at the Humane Society because he doesn't want to own 19 cats and 7 dogs. If I volunteered there, I'd have to drag home every single creature I was sure nobody else would take. He knows me well.
I started running our church bookstore 6 months ago. Every time I see a book mentioned in a magazine, or flyer, or by someone who stops in the store, or on the blog, I have to order 2 copies, one for the store, and one for me. Seriously. I'd rather have a new book than a new pair of shoes, or clothes, or dinner out. Especially if you'd all go out, and leave me home alone to read the book. I've likely purchased 50 books in the past six months, and since it's unlikely I am going to read two books a week this summer, I'm sufficiently stocked up, and then some. It's not just the cost of the books - even if I'd purchased them all at the Half Price Bookstore, there would still be too many of them, to call it good stewardship of my time.
Here's what I have sitting on my nightstand, coffee table, end table, kitchen counter, desk, bathroom basket, and in my car, waiting to be read:
BURNOUT, GETTING MY ACT TOGETHER, ETC.:
BURNOUT, GETTING MY ACT TOGETHER, ETC.:
Discovering God's Will, Andy Stanley (working on)
Brokenness, Nancy Leigh DeMoss
The Search for Significance with journal, Rogert S. McGee
Martha to the Max, Debi Stack
Fresh Brewed Life, Nicole Johnson
Lies Women Believe, Nancy Leigh Demoss
Overcoming Overload, Steve & Mary Farrar
Having A Mary Spirit, Joanna Weaver
Having A Mary Heart in a Martha World, Joanna Weaver
The Friendship Factor, Alan Loy McGinnis
HOME MANAGEMENT, ETC:
HOME MANAGEMENT, ETC:
The Hidden Art of Homemaking, Edith Schaeffer
Restoring Order to Your Home, Vicki Norris
Open Heart, Open Home, Karen Mains
Living a Beautiful Life, Alexandra Stoddard
The Simple Home, Sharon Hanby-Robie
Simplify Your Life, Marcia Ramsland
Simplify Your Time, Marcia Ramsland
COOKING WITH EASE OR BUTTER:
COOKING WITH EASE OR BUTTER:
Don't Panic, Dinner's in the Freezer, Susie Martinez
Paula Deene & Friends (Living it Up Southern Style), Paula Deene
Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker For Two, Beth Hensperger
PURE LOVE OF READING:
PURE LOVE OF READING:
Wish You Well, David Baldacci
Black, Ted Dekker
Red, Ted Dekker
White, Ted Dekker
My Sister's Keeper, Jodi Piccoult
Peace Like a River, Leif Enger
The Prodigal Comes Home, Michael English
Too many to list, seriously
If I read constantly all summer long I would not make it through all of them, although you don't really read a cookbook. Paula Deene's could be an exception, with it's fun side-stories.
So the book buying has to stop. Whether I'm a Mary, or Martha, or something inbetween, I don't need more books. On any subject. What I DO need is to clean out some piles of clutter, do some quilting, weed the flowerbeds, spend time with girlfriends, visit family, learn to bake bread, play ball with our old dog, eat watermelon, begin to scrapbook 31 years of photos, and go camping with my sweet husband. Enjoy my middle daughter moving home next month. Lose the last five lbs (not sure Paula Deene cooking plays into that.) Most of these activities take both hands, so none are free to hold a book. That leaves time on the ellyptical or in the tub, and once in awhile, curled up in the beat up adirondacks in the back yard. Or maybe at the start of a lazy Sunday naptime.
Knowing once in awhile I can grab one of the books sitting around this place, pour some sweet tea and spend an afternoon with my nose inside its pages - that's enough to keep me going. As I dig through some of this reading, I'll come back and tell you what's worth the read, and what's not.
Labels: Glimpse of the Heart
posted at 10:00 AM
My oldest daughter, Sarah, wrote a post about her sister, Leslie, moving back to Pennsylvania, where I am. Leslie and Jeremy listed their house, and in spite of the crummy housing market it sold in 16 days. There was a little catch, they had to be out within two weeks. While they're both working full time, teaching school, with a 7 month old. When Leslie and I were having our weekly Saturday morning chat, I could tell it was a bit intense at her house. She and the baby were sick, they had one week to be moved out, still didn't have a place to move, no storage, no boxes, just a hope, a prayer, and the beginnings of a plan. I hung up the phone and checked airline prices online. Then I asked my husband if he could think of any good reason I couldn't fly out and give them a hand.
Silly man, he thought I meant I'd fly down there this past week, instead of next week, when we are scheduled to go to Texas, for a big birthday party for a little peanut of a girl.
I explained that would be a separate trip, one having nothing to do with the other. So, in my new easy going, spontaneous mode of living, this past Saturday (a week ago) I booked a reservation to fly out two days later, Monday evening. I'm now back home again. Man alive what a week! It ended up involving most of the family in one way or another, but we packed up their entire house, moved them out, cleaned the place, got them into a fully furnished two bedroom apartment for the next six weeks, all in 3 1/2 days.
It wasn't necessarily pretty.
We didn't necessarily act or smell nice the entire time.
I told my three girls all about the new plan to be more of a Mary than a Martha, then I went and worked like a dog, but with a Mary heart. It made all the difference. I did devotions every single day before I grabbed boxes and markers. I listened to praise music and drank sweet tea while I packed. My sense of humor held up most of the time. Sarah and I hung out at Barnes and Noble for over an hour (bless your pea-picking heart, Chris, for that little gift). I read books with the grandkids, met the new hamster, saw Chris' and Sarah's new patio, ate some marble slab with Dan and Janae and met their new puppy, sat up late with Leslie and Jeremy for heart to hearts, and rocked and kissed grandbabies here and there. It was a great, hard, tiring week for all of us. Working really hard is good for us, now and then. So are massages.
I'm back home, in PA. They're moved into their apartment, where we all had breakfast this morning. The three kids, their spouses and children, went to church, then dinner together tonight, and a barbeque tomorrow, trying to squeeze in all they can before Leslie and her family finish the last leg of the move, back to Pennsylvania. Because we tend to create a completely insane life now and then, Don flew to Colorado this past Thursday (while I was in Texas) to visit his Mom, and he's flying home late tomorrow night.
That leaves me home alone ALL DAY TOMORROW. I have no plans. Well, that's not true. I may do some quilting, after I sleep as late as possible, and eat cinnamon rolls and drink coffee on my deck, with the paper and the pets. I plan to sleep a very long time.
I stopped at the church bookstore on my way home this evening. Dianne, at Unfinished Work was running it tonight. BLESS HER HEART. She is taking my early shift tomorrow morning, and letting me stay home and sleep. When she offered and I said no, she offered again. I am so grateful, truly. Then I came home and opened my mail, and one of my favorite commenters, Phyllis, sent me a package. I got to see her writing. Isn't there just something that makes a blogging friend seem more real if you hear their voice or see their writing. It was in polka-dot paper with a pink tulle bow. Tickled me pink, literally. xoxoxo
What makes all this crazy is Don and I are flying to Dallas THIS Wednesday (yes, 4 days) for Addison's first birthday party, and it's going to be a bash. It's also going to be the last time all of us are together in one place for quite awhile, so we plan to treasure every minute. Not that they're necessarily peaceful ones when we're together, but it's pleasant pandemonium. It's also sunny and 80 degrees there, and we're immensely looking forward to that.
I'm almost finished reading Worn Out Woman (it's great!). I've accumulated about 10-12 books on peace, restoring order, lifestyle, etc. I'll be back to post more about them later. You're going to want to order a few of them.
So, first lesson on this new journey: Sometimes you can be a Mary on the inside, but the outside looks a lot more like a Martha. That's okay. It's likely not an either or, but rather a little of both, that pleases the Lord, and soothes the soul.
The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7
Labels: Glimpse of the Heart
posted at 10:43 PM
I woke up, alone in my bed. To make it worse, my best friend had been picked. I still have, buried somewhere in the basement, the little note she wrote me, telling me how sorry she was that I'd been left out.
It sounds trite, almost laughable, 35 years later, this lingering hurt. Looking back, it was the beginning of a feeling of being excluded. We were created for relationship, with God, and with each other. I began to pursue a different group - the members skipped school, smoked at the little store, weren't into "academics", didn't quite follow the rules. Didn't always wear a bra, cursed a bit, acted tough. This group didn't hand out bright t-shirts, but you just joined. What seems like youthful incident was actually life-shaping. I chose not to pursue college. To graduate early and begin working as a secretary the next day. To move out, on my own, at age 17. I chose to marry my high-school sweetheart, barely 19. Become a mother at the ripe age of 20.
Five years later, I was a young woman, married the second time, expecting a second child, with a five year old. We'd moved 750 miles away from family, and for the first time since age 16 I didn't work. I was a "stay at home mom", with no idea what that meant. I remember the phone ringing, Connie was on the other end. Connie, with three little ones underfoot, and she'd been home awhile. We talked, the conversation rambling here and there. It was only after I hung up, coming up with no purpose for the call, I realized she'd called "to talk". In this town of 1700 people, on the plains of North Dakota isolation was a fact of life. She was trying to fill the lonely hours of motherhood, drive away the isolation. I spent much of our four years there pregnant, or caring for a newborn. I felt the sting of loneliness more than the brutal temperatures. Some of that time was spent oil painting, some bowling, the Avon lady became my fast friend, although she never did know part of that time I was pregnant and not married. Or if she did, she didn't let on, possibly out of her need for a friend.
The loneliness led me to a home Bible study. I still remember her musical doorbell, the coffee cups that hung from underneath her kitchen cupboards, and her name, Judy. There I realized I was missing what I thought I had, a personal relationship with Christ. It was a gradual realization, not a lightening bolt, but when I moved away, leaving behind friends, I took that relationship with me. We were starting over, again. New state, new friends.
We moved to southern Illinois. I was 35, with three children, ages 7, 3 and 1 1/2. The town's main focus, the university, gave it a very transient feel. Don worked 7 days a week. Long, long hours where he was rarely home during the daylight. My loneliness and the constant caring for three little ones put me into a pit of darkness. I was not aware of the beginning of a habit. Not smoking, or drinking, but something that looked much better on the outside. Joining a church to belong. I began to pour myself into too many hours of volunteering, whatever was needed, just to be a part of something. We moved 40 miles away 4 years later. The busyness got me through those hard years of raising toddlers.
When we moved to the next town of 3,500 people, we again joined a church. Within a very short time, I'd taken on teaching Sunday School, leading Girl Scouts, and even went to work for the pastor. I filled the hours, I felt like I belonged to a group, and managed to make one fast friend. After a few years of attending this church, I was so dry, so burned out, so discouraged, I quit. Quit the job, quit the church. We didn't attend anywhere. For two solid years I'd sit on my front porch, watching all the Baptists pour up the sidewalk, heading into the church just down the street. After sending our kids to VBS there, and two of them deciding to get saved, we started attending. You couldn't hardly have your kids getting baptised, while you were just down the street, sitting on the porch. I began to volunteer, teaching, leading, the same ole stuff. That lasted for 7 years. Seven years of a very dry time spiritually. I worked now and then, at part-time jobs, even full-time for a stint. Not once do I remember taking a break, spending time at home just raising the kids and enjoying them. Rather the challenges that came with teens and tweens sent me back into volunteering or working. Escapes.
When we moved from our second home in Illinois, it was to Virginia for just under a year. In that year, I volunteered to sew all the costumes for the Christmas pagent, help with the final cleanup of the new building, scrub a few houses. All this in spite of just moving our kids across the country, trying to get settled into our own home. When we moved away 10 months later, I remember a group of women in my living room, saying goodbye. How much I'd be missed. I'd been included, and that had been my goal.
We moved to Pennsylvania. The day we closed on our home, I drove by a church nearby. My husband, who was not a Christian at the time, and dealing with the stress of beginning yet another job, told me to choose a church that had a good youth group for the kids, and women's ministry for me. It had both, and we started attending two weeks after we moved in, just as soon as we unpacked our Sunday clothes. Within a couple of weeks, I'd joined a weight-loss group, the only group that was running that time of year, in spite of the fact you couldn't really call me overweight. What you could call me was lonely. Looking for a place to fit, again.
Eleven years later, the last several being particularly hard in many ways, I began to sense God calling me to change. Maybe he just let me get completely worn out. I've come to realize something that for me is radical, and life-changing. 1 Peter 4:8-11 summed it up. "Above all, love each other...Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever."
In other words, the motivation for our service starts with a response to his love for us; simply loving each other, making love a verb, using our gifts to serve others, the strength to do this comes from God, and it's all about him, his glory.
I 'knew' this. I've come to KNOW it over the past few months, somewhere much deeper within me. For the last 20+ years, God has used my efforts, it wasn't all for naught. Sometimes my motives were pure, but mostly I served to be included, to fit in, to feel a part of it all, out of habit, or obligation, or wanting to please. I've served with a poor attitude, while bitter or hurt or discouraged, or tired, too proud/dumb to step aside and let someone else take my place, and become cynical over it all. I've neglected friendships, family members, and even God in the process.
Most who know me would say I'm a Martha. I truly don't know. I'm organized, efficient, a worker, but that may all be learned behavior, or habit that goes back to when I was all of 15. My soul is fed by painting, sewing, cooking, growing flowers, reading, writing, taking walks, and I'm not sure if that's typical Martha or not. I do know the past 25 years have trickled by with very little time spent in a Mary pose. Sitting, listening, being complete when it's just me and him.
So I quit. Everything. I gave notice in the bookstore three weeks ago, and am done the end of the month. For the first time in over 20 years, I am not volunteering in any capacity, anywhere. I'm just being fed. Because I need to be. I have no plans really. And that's the point. Just to wait and see - not even what does he want me to do, but rather how does he want me to grow?
My life verse, for years has been, "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. I have no idea if anyone else out there can relate to this. I do hope there is a young mom or two, who will take note if she can relate to this, and possibly stop. Savor the years, make a name change now, instead of waiting 25 years to do so. I'd like to start living my life verse, finally.
I'll have more on this to share, as time goes by. I know what's in my heart, and finally, it feels right. Martha is very, very tired. Tired of seeking, tired of trying so hard, tired of missing the point entirely. She's ready for a transformation, starting with changing her name.
Labels: Glimpse of the Heart
posted at 4:40 PM
When we arrived, there were huge tables of fruit sliced and waiting for us, drinks of all types, lawn chairs and umbrellas in abundance. We'd reserved a "cabana", a small blue front-opening pup-tent type of thing, to go over our chairs if we wanted to get out of the sun a bit. We showed our receipt, chose a tent, and set up beach camp for the day.
This man divides his time between carving fruit and ice sculptures. It was fun watching him - he was very quick with a knife.
We'd also reserved snorkeling equipment. We were given little fish identification cards, tubes of fish food, masks, breathing tubes and fins. About 7 years ago, we'd snorkeled out in the middle of the ocean in Cancun, but it still felt awkward, this time around. The last time, we couldn't touch bottom (by a long shot). This time, being able to stand up when we got scared or frustrated seemed to make it more difficult. Not sure of the devotional there, but likely there is one! We chose to snorkel right there in the bay, around the rocks jutting out of the water. After we figured out how to clear our masks, hold onto the card, let out some of the fish, and flip our feet, all at the same time, it was amazing what beautiful fish were very near the beach. We even saw a big lobster, lurking under the rocks. He was not interested in meeting us. I felt a little like "Sea Hunt" in my goggles and fins, splashing through the shallow water.
Most of our day was spent napping or reading books, lying on the beach. Somewhere around mid-day we went through food lines, loading up on all the barbeque we wanted. Likely the most practical barbeque I've ever attended - clothe everyone in swimsuits, let them eat away, then tell them all to go get in the ocean and swish off!
Princess Cruise splashes blue everywhere, chair liners, towels, cabanas. The view from the beach, sitting on this white sand, was truly gorgeous.
There were hair-braiders in abundance, and even though the beach was private, the people working there required cash for anything they sold. American cash. Many of the women either wanted their own hair braided, or their little girls. Watching that single comb, parting their hair gave me the hee-bee gee-bees. How many other scalps had been parted? H.E.A.D. L.I.C.E - it didn't seem to concern them at all, even though it's likely many of them would never touch a doorknob at any McDonald's restroom in the states. That the little girls seemed to be in pain, having the braids and beads put into their hair, didn't seem to phase most moms. Maybe we all have a deep seated desire to look like Bo Derek?
Our last evening on the ship was a mixture of melancholy, knowing we'd go to bed, and wake up back in the states, and realizing staying on "holiday" too long takes away the specialness of it all. You have to go home to leave it, later. We lingered over a nice, quiet dinner. Spent time in a lounge watching a few couples play The Newlywed Game. One couple had been married on the ship, another had been married over 50 years. We finished our evening on the top deck, watching the basketball playoffs under the stars, full moon, a night sky full of stars. Purchasing our "prom photos" from the photo shop, and one glass of wine together on the balcony, before we headed to bed.
A few miscellaneous thoughts - we never thought we were the "cruise type". Almost everyone is the cruise type, trust me. It was the most romantic, relaxing, restful vacation we've ever taken. We thought cruises were expensive. We spent more, three years ago, to spend a week in Maine. We went for a week, but cruises are offered for as little as three days, at under $500 per person. We met couples who had cruised over 30 times; one woman had been on 83 cruises, but she trains travel agents. Many were like us, their first time. We could be in a group when we wanted, alone when that sounded nice. We could eat anytime we wanted, dress up or down, stay dry or get wet. We met people from all over the world, groups of women who looked to be alone, and had chosen to travel together, and one solitary woman. She intrigued me. We met her on one of the island tours, this lovely late 3o's lady. She told us she was married, but he was a "wet blanket", and why would you travel with someone like that? She said she had friends who were planning to travel with her but couldn't swing it. So she went alone. I saw her later, here and there on the ship, always dressed up, looking like she was just hoping to find people to spend time with, but there was a loneliness about her. She told me she had a mini-suite and no one to share it with. I could not imagine what marriage would allow/cause someone to travel around the world alone. Her bright red lipstick, and curly blonde hair seemed to me to only be a disguise for her emptiness.
A week in a tropical place was such a nice respite from our cold, wet eastern weather. Still, as beautiful as this is, walking up the basement stairs, into our kitchen, greeting our dog, seeing our coffeepot, and knowing we'd sit together at the kitchen table the next morning, over coffee and the newspaper - that sounded wonderful too. What a wonderful time we had, but part of the blessing was going away, so we could come back and have a new appreciation for the comforts of home.
Labels: Family Affair
posted at 5:00 PM
I've been a bit lax/busy this week, drat those vacations that throw you off schedule for a week or so! Upon my return to real life, I was told by several bloggers I'd been given this award. So let me start by thanking you, whoever the two or three of you are. Then let me apologize for not being entirely clear about who the two or three of you are. I'm not completely clear about a lot of things lately. Did I pay the mortgage? Do we have groceries without fur in our fridge? Do I have to be anywhere today? I'm struggling with clear lately. One person left me a comment, telling me she'd given me an award, but I could not open her homepage, no matter how I tried.
Then - getting to the heart of it. I'm flattered. Really. That my crazy, funny, sometimes almost organized a bit, sometimes completely disheveled, difficult, blessed, full to the brim life, produces writing that makes any of you think - well that's simply amazing. What youre' thinking - that might be an entirely different matter! My daughter frequently writes about poop, I seem to write about intimate issues or nudity. You, as a group, are obviously tolerant and easily entertained.
I am not handing out this award to anyone. First of all, I have something like 75 bloggers in my bloglines, that's a guess. I don't read anyone who doesn't make me think, or cry, or laugh, or try harder to be more kind, gracious, loving, giving, thankful, or less judgmental, critical, self-centered, clueless than I am. I have favorites but they are more than five. You know if I read you, because I sometimes get my act together enough to leave you a comment, rather than just doing a fly-by. Blogging blesses me. My blogging birthday is sometime this month, so let's just call it today, and let me tell you it adds something to my life, a lot to my life. Writing to you, reading what you have to say. I'm thankful for that. It has also rubbed off several of the letters on my keyboard, and I'm not completely sure what that says since I bought my computer right after I started blogging...
A few notes here - I haven't written anything lately to make anyone think, but I will, soon. Promise. I've got so much going through this little pea-sized brain, and have been jotting down notes in my journal, on napkins, those little carboard things in magazines, and plan to spit it all out next week. What I've been thinking about. It's big, in my little life. I hope it'll encourage, challenge, convict some of you out there. If I'm feeling it, thinking about it, whatever "it" is, soon as I post about it, I'm always amazed to see how many of you are thinking the same thing, feeling the same way. It must be either the barometric pressure or God, that works that way. I'm going with God, since barometric pressure has to do with Science and I don't really do Science. Just ask Mr. what's his name, my Science teacher in High School.
Second, on a serious note, my 94 year old mother-in-law is critically ill. She's been hospitalized 3 times in 3 weeks, just home today from her latest stay. She has congetive heart failure, has slown down over the past few years in ways that were easy to ignore if they hurt your heart, but now has started having problems with her lungs filling with fluid, and her pulse racing to counteract that. She has always seemed like a grandmother to me, being 20 years older than my own mother. I love her dearly. I've only made her mad twice, we've never "had words", and I call her Mom to show her how I feel about her. She has been grandmother to our three children, the kind who baked cookies, planted a garden, made her own soap, cooked all the time, read books, wore an apron, and was just a bit plump, as grandmothers of that type are supposed to be. Our three adult children are trying to come to terms with the fact that her life is nearing it's end. So I ask for your prayers for my husband, and the rest of our family as the next days, weeks or months could be very difficult. She's in Colorado, 1500 miles away, and my husband is flying out next weekend for a quick visit with her while she's still able to visit. Then we're off to Texas to celebrate the event of the year. So a busy time for us. Just the stuff that makes up a life, but somedays it feels like a lot.
So that's what I'm thinking about. Thanks for a great first year of blogging, thanks for an award saying you are blessed by what I put out here, and thanks for your prayers, ahead of time. One thing I've learned this year, you bloggers are the best. I can count on you to be there. xooxxo
Labels: Girl Talk
posted at 9:04 AM
Waking up to see St. Thomas out the window.
We're more accustomed to oaks, maples, and pines that this.
Real life sometimes gets in the way of doing my favorite things, so it's taken awhile to post. Here's the second part of our fun, fun trip. And if you were overly impressed by our dress-up photo, you'll love this post. The camera doesn't lie - you'll see the 'real' us. I'm going to tell you about both St. Marten, and St. Thomas, since, after two islands in two days I'm a bit confused about what we saw where...
I opened my eyes, the third morning, looked out the balcony window, to see lots of little, twinkling lights of all colors. St. Marten was just waking up. We expected it to be flat, for some reason, but it was in fact hilly and wooded, if you can call groves of palm trees that. Cars were going here and there, as people headed out for the day, involved in getting ready for us to 'disembark'. We pulled up alongside the port. For someone who is challenged to parallel park, I was duly impressed as the captain parked this 950 foot long vessel. He backed in! We were required to insert our little plastic cards in a machine as we left the ship. They told us this was to let them know who they were waving goodbye to, in case any of us were late getting back onboard at the end of the day. They were serious.
St. Marten has two governments, French and Dutch. Neither works real slick. We heard more French than English, which sounded charming. The French side has a reputation for being cleaner, and more liberal. The first thing our tour guide told us was that everyone on the island, who works in the tourism industry, makes $6 an hour. I think that was the priming for all the tips we gave during the day. Lots of tips.
Overlooking St. Thomas, and further outlying islands.
We chose to do a tour of the island, both days, from an open-air vehicle. It looked much like something you'd see driving around Disneyworld, although they are built for mostly slim people, and of course not everyone is. That made for some interesting stops, while we took time to squish in some people, or get someone unstuck who'd only made it halfway onto the vehicle. Literally the driver had to get out and shove on someone's rear to get them loaded. All the island natives wore long pants and long sleeved shirts. We were all stripped down to the minimum, thinking it was hot. Likely March seems cool to them, in comparison to July or August. Both tours took us on a circle of the island. Overall St. Marten was trashy, I'm sad to say. Hurricane damage was evident everywhere, and some businesses or residents had rebuilt, but they leave the rubble right there. New next to ruined. Trash littered every street - they seem to have no concept of recycling, or of keeping their island beautiful. St. Thomas, on the other hand, is beautiful, clean, has a good sized airport, and they are very proud of the fact that they have Kmart, Burger King, Wendy's, etc. The St. Thomas guide kept reminding us they are a part of the U.S, and he'd say, 'you have it, we have it'.
At some point in our tour of St. Marten, we headed to Orient Beach, famous for being 'clothing optional'. It was. We had fun playing in the water, body surfing. Both Don and I got twirled around, upside and down, more than once, and I spent some time looking for my 'Life is Good' cap that had been pulled off my head. So had much of my suit, but I'd reapplied that before I came up for air. Clothing is not optional for me. Sure enough, soon after we arrived, a group of much older adults showed up, and they immediately stripped down, and headed for the water. I do think possibly my mouth hung open, as was the case with many of the beach visitors. One elderly lady had nothing on but a little straw hat with a bow on the front. I have to be honest and say I've never seen a rear sag that low. She looked tall, skinny and saggy. So did the man. There was one couple who walked down the beach, the man in swim trucks, the woman in bikini bottoms. He seemed quite pleased with the prize on his arm, although I think she should have gone with the enhanced swimsuit top option. We were surprised at how many of the people on the cruise were foreign, and it's likely many beach visitors were too. I believe they have a more liberal stand on nudity. My stand, which could include all sorts of verses, but won't here, is basically, if you're ever going to participate, likely about the time you get your driver's license is a good time to switch to the clothing mode. Soon after that age, everything begins to go south.
I clothed myself in a tankini, the closest I care /dare to get to a bikini.
The fourth day, the boat unloaded again, to enjoy St. Thomas. They literally have a reception area dedicated to the arriving cruisers. St. Thomas is known for good jewelry shopping, and in the days before we arrived at the island, the ship had classes you could attend on how to purchase diamonds, etc. I bought a tank top. I got to pet a baby shark at Coral World, and we did an underwater thing, seeing what's really down there in the water. Beautiful fish of so many bright colors, funny mouths and eyes. The day we visited St. Thomas, there were four huge cruise ships in port. That's a lot of tourism.
One of the weird fish we saw. Beautiful weird.
Any children we saw, leaving school, wore uniforms. Most people had dark skin, dark hair and dreadlocks were in abundance. The vegetation was amazing on both islands we visited. We saw bananas, papayas, mangos growing next to the roads. Most people have fruit trees in their yards, for their personal use. Imagine going outside with your bowl of cheerios and a knife, and grabbing what you need to top it off! We saw iguanas everywhere, it wasn't something that endeared me to island life. Lizards are creepy, and the bigger - the creepier.
A clump of bananas. The strange bottom thing looked like it should be on a cuckoo clock!
Ugh. They were everywhere, trees full of them. I cannot believe some people buy these as pets. Where's the fur????
The blue of the Caribbean is amazing, a blue I used to be able to describe in other terms. Then my daughter started producing children. The Caribbean is the color of her children's eyes, especially Grayson. If you're up on a high road, looking over the islands, the water seems to be in layers, deep navy blue further out, then that amazing turquoise, then a paler blue, then white, white sands. The sand was crunchy to walk on, with crushed coral and shells mixed in, and the water had a rocky bottom to most of it.
St. Thomas had the unique feature of driving on the wrong side of the road, although their steering wheels are the same as ours. It made for crazy driving. Most roads have a double, no passing stripe, which is unanimously ignored by everyone. They just drive down the middle of the road, laying on their horns. Sometimes we just watched in amazement, sometimes we closed our eyes. Most of the vehicles we saw on St. Thomas were dented, beat up, and for good reason.
We didn't get in the water on St. Thomas, but should have. They have one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world, Megan's Bay. We saw it from a gift shop overlooking it, and it was gorgeous. Enclosed on both sides by groves of trees, white sandy beach. If we ever go back, we'll spend some time there.
Overlooking beautiful Megan's Bay.
Something else both tours did, immediately upon loading us all, was to take us to a gift shop, unload everyone and give us all free "rum punch". At 8:30 in the morning! Apparently the shops aren't open, and they want you happy and shopping, so they did a stop, gave everyone alcohol, then took us to the shops. We thought 8:30 was a bit early for rum punch. Many thought it was just fine.
We visited one of their open markets, saw fresh fish laying in huge filets. Bright, bright colors, t-shirts, shawls, baskets, bags, hats, and fake dreadlocks so we could look like the natives. I bought a huge bright green bag for $6, to haul our stuff to the beach later on our trip.
"No ma'am, it does not make your rear look wide. I promise."
One of the funniest entrepreneurial ideas I saw was this pitiful looking man who 'just happened' to be at one of our photo stops. He had a goat with him, a flower lei around his neck (the goat, not the man), and you could take your photo with the man's goat for free. Tips were appreciated. I honestly wondered at what he takes home at the end of the day, not having a job at $6 an hour, but hundreds of tourists coming by, charmed by his flowerdy goat. Smart man! His entire cost of business start-up was whatever one goat costs.
At the end of two days of touring islands, safely checked back in, and on the ship, we climbed into a hot tub near one of the main pools, alone for a minute. An elderly lady approached, in a leopard print one piece suit. My husband did not recognize her. I did. She wore a little straw hat with a bow on the front. She was foreign, and during our conversation I found she'd been married 53 years. I asked her what she attributed her long marriage to. She said, "respect each other". I thought she might add - 'a little skinny-dipping doesn't hurt either.'
Well, that's enough slides for this day. I'll come back in a few days, and tell you a bit more about our day in the Bahamas, snorkeling and barbeque, and how the cruise finished out. If you're not bored yet, come on back.
And yes, Phyllis, I know I still have an announcement to make. Haven't forgotten, promise. xooxxo
Labels: Family Affair
posted at 2:30 PM
We were told, right off the bat, we were not on a "boat", but rather a SHIP. At 18 stories tall, and 900+ feet long, that seemed reasonable. We came onboard, showing passports, and were given a plastic ID card that was, very cleverly, linked to our credit card. A "cashless cruise". This chap is the Captain, who was very funny, giving his welcome speech. His homeland was Scotland.
To purchase anything, you showed your card, worn around your neck. Don bought us a "stamp", which covered diet coke fixes, rather than shelling out $1.75 for each one.
This is the Caribbean Princess, largest in their fleet of ships.
If you were in the middle of the ship, or even near the ends, where the three elevator shafts were, you could forget it was in fact a ship, not a huge hotel. Artwork on the walls, huge plants. Then the plants would shake a bit, and you were reminded this was a hotel on the move.
Long corriders ran the length of the ship on each side, leading to the staterooms. We had a little room, with a double bed, a huge closet area, a funny little bathroom where you could almost brush your teeth in the shower but there was always hot water with good pressure, and then a balcony with a slide door to go out. There were also rooms inside, without windows, but we purposely chose one with a balcony so I could get fresh air and keep my bearings. I've taken too many car rides with my head hanging out the window to even attempt a room with four walls and no outside air. The tougher souls stayed in those. They saved money too.
Possibly our favorite spot on the entire ship was our little balcony. Every morning the staff brought us continental breakfast, which we enjoyed outdoors. We'd sit in provided robes, sipping coffee, and plan our day. Watch the world roll by. Feel/taste the salt in the air. I felt a kindred connection to Noah, when I realized we had not seen a single bird for two days. We were too far out. On the third day I knew land was near, when a seagull flew by. Strangely enough, I never saw a single fish jump. All that water and no signs of fish. I heard a group saw a whale surface repeated times, off the back of the ship. There were 3400 guests, and 1200 staff. Any request was met with graciousness. Fresh towels three times a day, fresh fruit in our room, bedding turned down with chocolates on our pillows. 24 hour room service was free. The TV in our room had a channel where we could see what the captain saw (lots of water), and another one reported sea conditions. They also did a morning show, telling us the happenings of the day aboard. CNN, a few movie channels, cartoons were also available. We didn't go on a cruise to watch CNN. For a week I did not hear a phone ring, watch TV, or go on the internet. It was heavenly to do what they promoted - completely escape.
Early Monday morning the sea conditions were classified "Rough". I'd put on a patch two days before, and was amazed to see 14 foot waves, liquids in glasses sloshing, plants waving, feeling the movement but not being ill. Normally I can't even watch fan blades turn. My only reservation about taking the cruise was that I would be sick and ruin it for Don. It made me think of life in general, how hard it often is, and how gracious God is not to show us what lies just around a corner. Manna for today I call it. If I'd know the seas would be "rough" I would have been afraid to take the trip. Yet, once I was in the midst of it, covered in prayer and a patch, I was amazingly fine. Much like raising a teenager, or in the middle of 15 or so years of marriage. Who, bringing a newborn into the world, dwells on the fact that they will someday morph into a 13 year old with an attitude. Not good to look too far ahead! The captain came on the speaker the next morning, apologizing, saying he'd heard many of us were ill. Not me. I was amazed all week long with how okay I was. I also never had more than one glass of wine at night. I was quite content to keep my feeling of all feet on the floor.
There were three huge dining rooms on the ship, plus two other speciality restaurants. Two open buffets, a grill, a pizzeria and an ice cream bar. Several bars, a coffeebar too. Five pools, all with hot tubs, some for adults only which we appreciated. We saw every form of body you can imagine during the week, and after a day or so, it just didn't matter. Beautiful or not, I began to not notice. Most every female wore a two piece swimsuit, regardless of body shape or size, something I found refreshing. It was especially charming the night we celebrated our anniversary, serenaded by our two waiters, while they held up a chocolate cake, complete with Princess insignia around the sides. We both enjoyed dressing up for the two formal nights. It felt like prom for adults. Dance classes were held every day and we attempted learning the Swing. We got the steps right, but were completely off-beat. We weren't alone - there were in fact enough of us off-beat to plead a case for being right in time!
If there was a second favorite spot, it was Movie Under the Stars. One of the main pools had an enormous flatscreen above it, and movies showed from 8 am til midnight. In the evening, they'd clear out the pools, cover all the deck loungers with warm pads, each had a flannel blanket placed on it, and we curled up and enjoyed two movies. Our last night on the ship was spent there, watching the basketball playoffs, under a full moon, and I thought of how perfect a night it was. In the middle of the ocean, snuggled under the covers next to Don, a group of mostly 30-40 year old men, cheering on their teams. We watched The Queen and The Illisionist, and walked through during the day to see Jurassic Park or Harry Potter or a James Bond movie showing, with a pool full of people splashing while they watched.
Labels: Family Affair
posted at 9:30 AM
Today is about so much more than vacation photos, or anything that might be going on in my little life. It's about a love beyond comprehension, undeserved, for me. For you.
Celebrate his resurrection this Sunday morning - when death lost it's sting. Get up early and watch the sun rise. Take it in. Everything else can wait.
Labels: Glimpse of the Heart
posted at 3:45 PM
I have absolutely nothing on my calendar for the next two days. Nothing.
I do not necessarily plan to get dressed.
I do plan to take the wreath with ice skates off the front door, remove the snowflake stickers off the glass doors, and the snow village out of the entry. In spite of the fact that we're supposed to have a high of 37 and flurries the next four days, it's Spring.
I also plan to take my time reading blogs, while drinking really good coffee, some nice praise music playing in the background. I want to know what everyone's been up to. Then I'm going to upload the 100 photos we took on vacation, crop them, etc. and find a few great ones to share with all of you.
I'm planning a post or two on our trip, and it'll take a few to cover the naked elderly couple on Orient Beach, the woman who cruised alone, the interesting people we met, breakfast from our balcony with the ocean as a front yard, there was so so much that happened.
Then next week I'm planning to come back with an announcement - big changes around here. I can just feel it all swirling around inside my head and heart.
But first, I need to find the shot of the tree filled with icky iguanas. And no, we did not photograph the sans swimsuit couple. Although my husband wanted to. Inside every grown man is a 13 year old boy screaming to be let out. xoxoxo
Labels: Girl Talk
posted at 6:48 PM
I only gained two lbs. It was worth it.
Thank you for praying - the seas were categorized as "rough" for the first three days and I did fine. Many did not. I seriously still feel like I'm swaying side to side, which would be great if I was at a concert, but I'm not. Apparently I still have sea legs. It feels very strange.
I paid the bills, bought some groceries, my sweet husband fought the battle of the pet hair on all floors. Some of the laundry is back in the drawers. We're caught up on '24' (obviously our priorities are in line.) I'm taking deep breaths, trying not to feel overwhelmed at re-entry.
So many wonderful experiences, moments we experienced that I immediately thought, "I have to tell them about this." Photos - if you haven't been there, you just won't believe how gorgeous it all is.
Give me a few days, and I'll be back to share with all of you. It was too wonderful to keep to myself. Hopefully I can describe it so that you'll feel a little grit between your toes too. xoxoxo
Labels: Family Affair
posted at 9:12 AM