Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What's On Your Lips?

Last week I stopped by a friend's house and was asked the simple question, "How are you?"

The truth was that I was fine and happy and blessed, but a string of complaints came out of my mouth when she asked me. I felt like a complete moron, babbling idiotically about all the yuck in my life. I drove away kicking myself and proceeded to beat myself up for about an hour afterward.

You want to know the truth? I even cried out of frustration with myself at what an idiot I sounded like. Why can't I get things right? I want to seem put together and always say the right thing and be uplifting and peaceful and someone she wants to be around. Instead, I listed all of the tiny things wrong in life and hardly even asked her how she was! I've analyzed the scenario quite a bit, and I think in part I wanted to be real and not sound as if everything was GREAT. However, I also didn't have any specific good things in mind.

From this experience, I realized that I want to think of something positive each day that I can say if someone asks me how I am. I want to have an experience or positive thought on the tip of my tongue to share. If I'm not doing well I'll say that, but I've had more good days than bad lately and I want my words to reflect that.

What's on your lips? When someone asks you "How are you?" what is the first thing that pops into your head? Is it a complaint or an encouragement? Take some time to reflect on this today and be prepared to answer honestly when asked this question. I hope to see you around town so I can hear your reply!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Writing Your Life Story

I attended a beautiful wedding this weekend. My cousin Corey got married to a sweetheart named Nicole. One thing that was said during the wedding really stood out to me, and I hope I remember it all my life.

The officiant said that each day we are writing the story of our lives. Our attitude and how we choose to react to the things that happen to us are the bits that are scribbled down in our life story.

It made me wonder, what is my life story like so far? It also made me want to give each day the very best.

I had a chance to practice that today. Zac and I had a busy afternoon filled with friends and errands, and a little frustration too. We were running late to meet some friends and had some space heaters in the back of our car. They're supposed to stay upright, but of course they were tipping as we were quickly taking corners to arrive less late. One tipped so badly that we had to pull over to fix it. Not the best thing when you want to scurry as fast as you can to make up time.

I realized that I wanted to be mad and frustrated, but then I remembered what I heard. Today, I am adding pages to the story of my life. Do I want to include frustration?

The answer came easily - no way! I was able to cast aside the encroaching frustration, and merrily hop out of the car to fix the heaters in the back. I chose not to add frustration to my March 27th entry in life.

It felt great to be able to make that choice, and to instead fill my day with memories of friends and my faithful husband.

What is being written in your life story today?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Beauty of Art

I just got home from the Amos Lee concert at the State Theatre.
It. Was. Amazing.

First of all, the State Theatre is just gorgeous. I have never been there before, and its ornate beauty took my breath away from the moment I walked in. I feel silly that here I am, living 10 minutes away from this gorgeous theater, and this was my first time there! Tonight will certainly not be my last.

Secondly, I got to hear Amos Lee perform in a place he was meant to perform in. The State Theatre suited his style and even though there were 2,200 people there, it was an intimate evening of music and stories.

It was an incredible experience to be in a place where visual art intermingled with musical art. The thought-provoking lyrics of Amos' songs bounced off the detailed craftsmanship of the theater. It overwhelmed my senses and made me feel alive.

That's the beauty of art.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lights Out on Old Habits

As you know, our power was out on Sunday. Click here to catch up if you haven't read that blog. I've been doing a little reflecting about that day, and I'm wondering if you can relate...

Zac and I knew the power was off. Our activities were altered because we didn't have power; however, we kept trying to turn on the lights! Zac had to go downstairs, so he opened the basement door and flipped the switch. He laughed at himself, then trotted down the stairs. He proceeded to go into the basement and pulled on the cord to the light bulb in the storage area. EVEN THOUGH not 10 seconds before he was reminded that we had no power, he still pulled on the cord out of habit.

I tried to turn on the lights when I went into the bedroom and bathroom. We continued trying to turn lights on out of habit, even though we knew we had no power. The routine of turning on a light is so ingrained in us that our brains can't work fast enough to tell us not to before we've already tried the switch.

What habits are sitting around in our lives that are like trying to turn on lights when the power is out? What things do we do without thinking? Are any of these habits negative?

Take some time today to find your light switch habits. Let me know what you come up with!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Quiet Afternoon

"Home by noon, eat, and in the garage by 1:00." Zac stated his afternoon goal proudly as we drove home from church. He started a new woodworking project recently and has been spending every possible moment working on it in the garage.

We pulled into the driveway, shut off the car, and walked into the house. I hit the light switch in the kitchen, and nothing happened. It was then that I noticed our digital clocks were not showing me the time, and the refrigerator was very quiet. Our power was out.

Just in case you were wondering, it's very difficult to use power tools when the power is out.

We decided to keep moving forward with our plans to eat lunch. Our original hope to reheat leftovers was readjusted because our microwave wasn't working and also our electric stove. We had a lunch of whatever we could find in the pantry, and a few items we bravely stole out of the refrigerator as we opened it and closed it as fast as possible.

1:00...still no power. I called the electric company and received a message that said power should be restored by 2:00. Hmmm...1 more hour. Zac's 2nd favorite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon is take a nap, so he laid down and set his phone alarm clock to wake him up at 2:00.

2:00...still no power. Now what?

"Hey! Let's watch a movie-aw, never mind."

"Maybe we can book vacation tickets - oh, I guess the computer won't work."

"We could play the wii-"

"I could do the laundry-"

"I could balance the checkbook-"

"I could do some baking-"

I don't know if I ever realized how many of our daily activities rely on electricity! It's incredible! It seemed that everything we wanted to do, we couldn't.

One fun thing Zac and I have been doing lately is reading a book aloud together. We started this book when we took a 6-hour road trip to Bismarck, ND. We decided to finish it today while we were without power, so we used the daylight coming in through the windows to read the last chapters together. That was really fun!

I picked up a magazine that I don't often get time to read, and flipped through the articles, enjoying the quiet time. Occasionally I'd just look up from the page and stare off into space, thinking.

We decided to go outside for a run. It was misty out and everything smelled of Spring from the night's rain. Glorious!

My favorite thing, though, was how quiet our house was. There was no hum from the dehumidifier downstairs or the refrigerator upstairs. There was no high-pitched whine of the computer. No bass line floated through the house from a stereo. It was simply quiet.

I've always enjoyed stories about the pioneer days, and secretly wished I could have lived back then. I wonder if this is what Sundays were like for them. Silence, fellowship, reading, and peace. I liked the chance to experience that today.

And, in case you're wondering, our power came on again at 4pm and as I write this blog, Zac is in the garage working! :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Good Kids Day

Today I was lucky enough to leave work early and go for a walk with my best friend and her two kids. The weather was perfect and we walked and talked for quite awhile. Near the end of our walk, her 3-year-old son asked, "Do you want to play with me, Amber?"

How could I turn that down? It melted my heart. Of course I would play with him! When we got back to his house, my friend took the basketball hoop out of the garage and put it in the driveway. He and I shot hoops for awhile together, sometimes including his little sister. It was a great memory.

AND, his little sister who still sometimes wonders about me, started to cry when I left! I think this was mostly due to the fact that we were playing a fun game right before I left where she would step on and off the porch step; however, I still took her tears as a sign that we were connecting.

This evening Zac and I were at another friends' house and I got a chance to hold their 3-month old baby. He started talking and talking and talking to me with the little coos and sounds that babies make. He told me all about his day and his house and his cat. Well, God only knows what he was really saying, but this is the conversation I pretended we were having. It was so fun to make eye contact with him and interact with him in that way.

What a blessed day enjoying the children in our lives. Thank you to our friends who allow Zac and I to be a part of their lives and their kids' lives.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Saggy Jeans - aka "May I buy you a belt?"

I've been wanting to marvel with you at the style of dress where young people wear the waist of their jeans around their thighs or knees. Seriously, I ask you, WHY?

I was most struck by the ridiculousness of this style when I watched a young man walking down the street. I watched as he had to make sweeping motions with his legs to walk, just to help keep his pants up!

I wonder how many people are walking around the world with an adapted stride in order to keep their pants up. Or how much time one of those young people spends each day pulling their pants up when they've fallen too far (although what is too far, really, if they're already at your knees!). Think of all the time they would have to work on issues like World Peace if they'd only wear a belt.

How long can this style possibly last? It's been roughly 20 years now and it continues going strong. I had really hoped it would phase out. Please, Lord, let it phase out by the time my kids are teenagers...

I learned recently that this style of dress originated in prisons. Oftentimes the correct size of prison attire wasn't available for an inmate, so he or she was given a size that was too large. Additionally, belts could be used in harmful ways, so some prisons did not allow inmates to have belts. Put those two elements together, and you have saggy pants.

Now, what is it saying when our young people sag their jeans? They are in essence copying prison inmates. Hip-hop culture has adapted this style, and I believe that most people who wear saggy jeans are showing they are part of the hip-hop culture, but let's really get to the source here. Do we want our children wearing a clothing style that originated in prisons? What does their clothing style say about their attitudes and aspirations? Can you picture a group of Congressmen waving at the camera with one hand and holding up their jeans with the other?

I wonder how many kids would continue to sag their jeans if they knew the origination of this style.

I wonder what other things are accepted as part of our culture that have shady beginnings.

On a side note, I'd love to watch a group of about 20 people in saggy jeans try to run a foot race. But alas, that's a different blog for a different time.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bonus Cleaning Reward

I've always been a person who is motivated by rewards. Over the years, I've noticed that the rewards seem to be most effective when they are food.

Need proof? Step back in time with me to my college days. As an English major, I had a lot of reading to do. Yes, yes, I get it that every college student has a lot of reading, but for an English major, it's one notch above that. For one course in particular, I had to read 13 novels! One strategy I used was to reward myself with a piece of candy for reading a certain number of pages. Smarties were a particularly good candy for this, as they had many small pieces of candy in one Smarties roll.

One chore today that neither Zac nor I like to do much is cleaning. We like a clean house, but we don't like putting in the work to get there. I suppose I could hire a person to clean my home, but then we wouldn't eat and we wouldn't have a home...so I guess I'm sticking with us cleaning it ourselves.

Zac and I like to break up big tasks like cleaning into smaller ones to make it more manageable. Last week we decided to do one of those small pieces each day of the week. This is what it looked like:

Monday - Declutter. The most important step to cleaning is putting things away so you can actually find the surfaces you are to clean.

Tuesday - Dust and Vacuum. I dust, he vacuums. It all works out.

Wednesday - Bathrooms.

Thursday - ?

We ran out of things to clean! We pondered what to put for Thursday because the usual weekly chores were already taken care of. That's when I came up with a brilliant plan. Thursday would be a bonus cleaning activity. If we actually did the bonus cleaning, we would get to go to Caribou Coffee on Friday.

Our bonus activity was to wash our light fixtures. Dust was piling up on them, and I honestly don't know if we've washed all of them since we moved into this house nearly 3 years ago!

Unfortunately, when it came to Thursday, we found ourselves with NO TIME at all for cleaning. We got home from work and soon after went out for the evening.

However, on Friday when we got home from work, we remembered our bonus cleaning (and the sweet reward to follow), and got right to work! We were motivated, excited, and we worked well together to accomplish the task.

After about 30 minutes of unscrewing, washing, and putting light fixtures back together, we were surveying our work. I'm not joking when I say this - the rooms looked brighter to me!

I had so much fun doing this bonus cleaning challenge that it got me wondering about next week. What sort of project could use some attention for next week, and more importantly, what kind of reward could we give ourselves? :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

More Questions than Answers

When I don't know the when
and I can't hear the why
and I don't see the answers coming down from the sky

When I can't find the where
and I've lost sight of the how
You give me grace to keep going, somehow.

Funny YouTube videos to lighten and brighten your day:

Baby Laughing

Charlie Bit My Finger

Kids Say the Darndest Things

People Falling

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Roller Coaster

Everyone says that adoption is a roller coaster. I've nodded along in agreement as I've heard this again and again, but I think I'm only now starting to understand what that really means.

On March 19, 2010, we were officially placed on the waiting list for 1 child or twins under 12 months old. About one week after we were on the waiting list, we were informed that Ethiopia decided to change their adoption procedure. Instead of making just one trip to Ethiopia, we would now make two. It was a little shock to our system as well as our pocketbook, but we understood the reasons and supported the decision.

The months have worn on, some of them being easy to wait and others more difficult. 2011 brought a difficult waiting period, but since mid-February, things have been on the upswing for me personally and I have not minded the wait much. I've actually been doing alright.

Enter Friday. We received an email from our agency announcing another change. It was disappointing at first because I speculate this new change might make our wait longer. However, as I read more from the adoption world, I wonder what this change signals.

My fear is that Ethiopia will eventually close their doors to International adoptions, as they have been flooded with families willing to adopt the children and I believe they are struggling to keep up with all of the processing. I have no reason to believe this will happen. Please understand, I have NO REASON to believe this is happening or will happen in the near future, it is just an irrational fear of mine today. (I don't want this blog post going viral and freaking out other adoptive parents.) I just wonder. I fear. It's all part of my doubt.

Sometimes when the wait gets long, I doubt if we heard God's voice correctly. Did I just think I heard him, or was he really speaking to our hearts about adoption? As time wears on, I wonder if it was really meant to be. I wonder if we should change our preference to just one child, to ensure we can get matched soon. I'm scared. I'm worried. I wonder if my dream of becoming a mom will ever come true.

So, the roller coaster intensifies. Am I up for the ride? The stakes are high and they continue getting higher.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Beyond Myself

I don't know about you, but I frequently get stuck inside my head. I obsess over the things that are bothering me and that aren't perfect in my life.

This all reaches a point where I just have to get out of my head. I have to get beyond myself to get a more realistic perspective.

Today offered me a chance to do that. A friend of mine plans monthly service opportunities in which anyone can participate, and this month's service opportunity was at a shelter in St. Paul. At this particular location, parents must attend their children under 12 at all times. I can only imagine that that is a lot of work. Our group came in tonight to spend time reading to the kids so that their parents could have some uninterrupted personal time to relax, check email, apply for jobs, or make phone calls.

What a gift it was to be there. I met some wonderful children who are holding up well despite the changes their families are going through. I got to read books and giggle with the kids. I taught a little friend of mine words like "Excavator" and "Skid Steer." This particular little guy was so curious about EVERYTHING on the pages! We even danced together while reading a musical book. :)

I saw one really little guy getting sleepy as the night wore on. He was sitting in the same chair as his big sister, she perched on the edge of the chair and he sitting between her and the chair back. I watched him actually fall asleep in the chair behind his big sister! He was sawing logs while his sister, her friend, my friend, and I looked through a Where's Waldo book together.

It was crazy for me to imagine the things these children must be feeling, or trying to comprehend. I don't know their life situations, but I am guessing they lack stability.

I had a new perspective as I hopped in my car and drove back to my house. Soon I will go to bed so I can get some rest for the two jobs I have tomorrow. I will awake in the morning and pull food out of my cupboards for my lunch. I will choose what to wear from a variety of outfits in my closet. I will receive a paycheck tomorrow that will cover my bills. I will come home and prepare food out of the excess in my cupboards. I will check my email with one of our 2 computers. I will turn on my TV and watch my favorite shows.

I have a lot. I have stability. I have more than what I need.

But most importantly, I have a new perspective.