Friday, July 31, 2009

Attitudes of Gratitude

A few days ago, I wrote a post about being discontent with my life, which is really ridiculous because my life is very blessed. Instead of seeing the gigantic blessings in my life, I often nit-pick about what isn't quite right. I am Madame Blueberry!

I want to grow in gratitude. I want to nurture positive thinking in myself, in my family, and in the world around me. So I'm going to start writing about gratitude on a regular basis. I am going to include Mr. Linky, just in case any of you want to write about gratitude and positive thinking so you can encourage the world around you, too. If you do, please link back to me! Otherwise, you can simply share your positive thoughts with me via the comment form.

Today's subject matter is the "Madame Blueberry syndrome". This is a serious issue for me. If you haven't seen Madame Blueberry, she is basically unhappy about all the material possessions in her life. In her estimation, they are substandard, and she won't be happy until she has all brand new stuff, just like her friends and neighbors.

Uggh! My life is a cartoon!

I am embarrassingly like MB. I look around at my home and I am constantly discontent. My curtains are falling apart, my almost-new carpet is terribly stained already, the paint is peeling on the front porch and the gutters need cleaning. Oh, and I have a set of knives from 1988 that I curse every time I try to use them. The laminate on my bathroom cabinets is peeling, and the cats have discovered this, so they are now using it as a scratching post. One of the children melted a spot on our sofa with a hairdryer. The list goes on. . . .And these are all entirely accurate statements. But do they reflect what is true in my life?

You can see that I have some work to do in this area, not because I have "stuff" that is wearing out, but because I can't get past it. I obsess about how to get better "stuff" in my life, instead of focusing on what is truly important.

Enter one of my favorite Scriptures: "Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thess. 5:16-18). How miserably do I fall short of this mandate!

My attempt from now until my next post (my goal is to post about this once a week), is to not grumble and complain. In addition, I will choose to give thanks in each and every circumstance. Of course, it may be difficult for me to quantify the results, as thoughts are so fluid and immeasurable. But I will do my best to give an accurate report of my progress.

How about you? Are you able to rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances? Or do you struggle with complaining and grumbling?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Spiritual Conversations. . . .with 4-year-olds

Yesterday in the car, my son (or was it my daughter) asked me, "Mom, how can Jesus be God if Jesus was born 2000 years ago and God has lived forever?" Whichever child asked me, these are deep thoughts for a 4- or 6-year-old. I'm so glad they think deeply sometimes and ask me these questions, especially when we're driving, because I don't necessarily think to address the deep issues on a regular basis. I'm glad they want to go beyond the simple truth that Jesus does indeed love them, and get into theology and apologetics.

However, their philosophical thinking doesn't last too long. We were driving to pick up 2 friends for an overnight, and on the way home, this is how the conversation went:

"He's fat."

"It's not nice to call anyone fat."

"Well, except one person. We can call Satan fat. Right, Mom?"


"OK, well Satan is the fattest buffalo in the world."


Monday, July 27, 2009

High School Reunion

The main reason for my visit to Chicago was to celebrate my best friend's 40th birthday. She also invited several high school girlfriends of ours, so it was like a mini-reunion. We had a great time catching up. At some moments, I could still see my "old" friends from 20+ years ago.

But here's what I wonder? Does everyone still feel like a high school girl once in a while? Does everyone still feel unsure of herself and wondering what others are thinking of her?

I had a hard time getting past my weight as I prepared for the weekend. I've gained far too much weight since high school, and I didn't necessarily want people to see me like that. But I talked myself through it because I knew it was shallow and there's more to me than just my body. But man, it was still hard to not compare myself to the beautiful bunch of women who came to the party. One not only looks like a model, but she is a model and has a body to die for; one is tall and still slender after 4 children, just like me (the 4 children part, not the slender part); one is training for a 1/2 marathon, etc. And although I know I am doing God's will (which is also what I wanted to do all my life) by being a wife and a SAHM, it was hard not to give in to the feeling that "I haven't done anything with my life."

OK, I'm not trying to complain or have a pity party here. Self-esteem has always been a major issue for me, but I really have come a LONG way since high school. I like who I am and I love what I'm doing. I just wonder if other people still have the same struggles after 20 years, or does it eventually go away???

Claustrophobia (A bit about my trip to Chicago)

So I went to Chicago over a week ago, and I'm just now getting around to writing about it.

You already know that I experienced the thrill of riding a train and all the patience that I had to endure during numerous delays. Now I'd like to talk about claustrophobia. I think I mentioned in that post that the Metra was a claustrophobic experience for me - riding in the upper level, which was only wide enough on each side for a single row of seats facing sideways. I had to try hard not to think about how difficult it would be to get off the train in case of an emergency.

But I also found the city itself to be claustrophobia-inducing. On Sunday, before we caught our train back to Michigan, we wandered (actually, it was more like sprinting) around downtown Chicago for a few hours. Although I was naturally impressed by the skyscrapers, the art and the amazing architecture, I felt very closed in. I couldn't help but feel like I needed an escape route. I seriously can't imagine how people can live and work like that. I know it's a matter of taste, but it definitely doesn't suit mine at all. I would prefer a God-made wilderness over a man-made concrete jungle any day.

I was also struck by how clean the city was - no garbage on the streets at all. From the sights and sounds of the "big city", I also expected to experience the smells of garbage lying in the streets, for that is what I experienced in Metro Manila so many years ago. I know it wasn't fair for me to compare Chicago to a third-world metropolis, but that's what my senses expected. Then my friend assured me that it's only downtown Chicago that is so clean, so that the tourists will enjoy their stay and spend lots of money.

I had a great time with my friends from high school (fodder for yet another post), but you couldn't pay me a million dollars to live in the city.

Maybe a billion. . . . .

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Time To Do Some Weeding

I'm painfully aware of my place in the Sower's field. I am the seed that falls among the thorns, the seed that gets choked out by the worries of life and the deceitfulness of wealth, so that it cannot grow to full health and maturity and fruitfulness.

I am very much a "grass is greener on the other side" type of person. I love the blogging life, but I have to admit that I often feel "substandard" when I read most other people's blogs. Maybe most people aren't "real" in their blogs. Or maybe I just tend to think that other people's struggles are more "normal" than my own. I mean, how many other women out there have my set of neuroses and indiosyncracies? A pervasive fear that I've suffered all my life is that "if people really knew me, they'd think I was insane". (Which is sometimes countered by the thought that, "If people really knew me, they'd think I was brilliant and fascinating." I like that one better.)

I look at other people's blogs and think, "they're normal and I'm not." I KNOW this is not true, and there is no absolute standard for normal, but I still tend to fight the feeling that I'm more messed up than most people.

Many bloggers have pictures of their cutie-pies all dressed up. I rarely post pictures of my kids because they rarely look like that, even on Sunday, when I often let them wear flip-flops to Church because we can't find their Church shoes in the mess of a house in which we live. And only when we get to Church do I realize that their toenails haven't been cut in a good 3 months, and the nailpolish from last Easter is mostly chipped away.

Many bloggers post pictures of their beautiful abodes. I do not, because, although my house is sufficient and "homey", I don't know how I could ever keep one room clean long enough to get a decent picture of it. And even if I could pull that off, I don't know how I could hide the chipped paint, the stained carpet, the peeling laminate on the sink cabinets, or the distinct lack of decor.

I have an endless list of "things" in my life that I am unhappy about.

So, in my little place in the field, instead of enjoying the sunshine and the rain alike, and letting each one fulfill its purpose in my life, I find 101 things to be discontent about.

And God called me on it.

When I was praying this week, I was reading about the Israelites in the desert, and how quickly they forgot about God's goodness in freeing them from slavery. So, instead of being grateful that they were free - after 400 years! - from hard labor, they started to piss and moan as soon as the going got tough. Now I could sit there and say, "What idiots! I can't believe they were so ungrateful." Instead, I saw myself. Even though my life is incredibly, amazingly, exponentially blessed, I find many things to complain about. Which brings me back to the parable of the sower: I am so busy worrying about how to get my house to be perfect, or to get my body in the shape I want it to be in, or to get my husband to read my mind, or to get money for the next big "thing" on my list, that I am choking out the life that God truly intended for me to live.

God has commanded me to "Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances!" And I want to do it! But I need accountability. But how do I keep myself accountable for my attitude and my internal state? I'm chewing on that right now and trying to figure out if there's a way to work it into my blogging. I can't just walk around "feeling" grateful; I think it will be helpful to say it out loud - to my family and friends, as well as to my blogging friends.

I will come up a plan and let you know. Maybe I'll give thanks for 10 things or 100 things each day for a week. Or maybe I'll come up with some cool Mr. Linky thing where other people can share how they keep a positive and grateful attitude instead of complaining.

Any suggestions? I'll keep you posted, and you can keep me accountable!

Friday, July 24, 2009


If you can recall, I had a difficult time trying to decide whether to send our children out to school instead of homeschooling.

Once we actually decided to send our kids out to school, I was very peaceful about it, and I still am. And I am very excited! I can't remember where I left off, but our children will be attending a brand new school that is opening this fall. As I write this, the finishing touches are being put on the building so the teachers can get in and get their classrooms set up in August. God's timing was definitely in our decision because we would surely have been placed on the waiting list for the current charter academy in our town. Since everyone in their classes will be new to the school, it seems like an ideal situation for my homeschooled children - they won't be trying to break into a group of children who have known each other for years.

I can't believe how fast summer is going by. I have to get on the ball to get the children their uniforms - checking out second hand stores, yard sales and eBay before I buy anything brand new. Here is what they'll be wearing. They're all pretty excited, with the exception of the 6-year-old, whose pants were too long. I'm sure I'll be hiring a seamstress friend of mine to do some alterations, since our family tends to be vertically challenged!

I have to laugh at these pictures of Evan. I always said he would be the class clown, even when we were homeschooling! He definitely has an attitude and the ability to make others laugh!

Now, ever since we decided the kids were going to go out to school, I've been having sort of an identity crisis. For the several years, I've been a homeschooler. We decided early on to give homeschooling a try, and Hope was so smart I had to start teaching her at age 2 or 3! Instead of being a mom who chose to homeschool for a time because it seemed like the best decision we could make for our kids, I saw myself as a HOMESCHOOLER, as in "This is who I am", not just "This is what I do." So, now that the kids are going off to school, I'm wondering what I am going to do with myself. Oh, I know I will find a lot to keep me busy - keeping my house clean, shopping alone, maybe even decorating my house and getting crafty, pursuing the ever elusive state of sanity. But I just feel like it's been such a huge paradigm shift for me.

I wonder if that's what sparked my mini-depression. I seem to have 2 predictable episodes of depression each year: one major episode in the fall and winter (like October to March. . . .it's probably due to lack of sunlight); and usually a more minor episode in the summer, for no apparent reason at all. It even happened when I was in the Philippines, and there ain't no lack of sunshine there!

I *think* I'm doing better now. Do I dare say that out loud? I know God is in charge of my family and my children and He will bless our life and our future.

Aren't you glad I told you all of that???

Monday, July 20, 2009


Someone please remind me why I wanted children so much. I mean, seriously, why was it that I pined away for a husband and babies for so long? Because if I had any foresight into the chaos that my life would become, I might have postponed the family thing for about 10, 20, or even 80 years.

Remember this post about my 4-year-old's yard sale adventures? Well, recently he also came home with a battery-operated massage pillow. No, it's not things like He-Man action figures that my little guy looks for; it's giant-sized yard decor and vibrating spa items. So this pillow was filled with miniscule little styrofoam balls. Note that I said, "was" (past tense). I think this photograph adequately explains what happened.

Now, I tend to think my children are quite intelligent; geniuses, really. But it seems their superior intellect took a summer vacation. And common sense? I'm kind of thinking that they don't even possess it. At all.

I mean, why else would they see these little styrofoam pieces coming out of the pillow, and then proceed to rip it more and more so that the little devils are released into every nook and cranny of our home? And especially after I told them to throw the stupid pillow away so that exact thing wouldn't happen?

So, now my home is infested with about 83 billion tiny little styrofoam pieces. The number 83 billion is my favorite numerical exaggeration, but in this case, I think it's no exaggeration. We have swept, we have vacuumed, we have brushed and shaken these little things off our clothing. And yet they exist. I suspect they will continue to be part of our home for many years to come, hiding in drawers, cowering in corners, and sticking to us so that no one will ever believe that our family doesn't have a serious dandruff outbreak.

Anyone out there considering starting a family? Be forewarned.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


I'm posting under the influence. Yes, I've had a few - 2 "glasses" of wine (large plastic party cups, actually) and a bottle and a half of "organic beer" made with rice and sorghum or some such other thing that I can't quite remember at this moment, and I'm too tired to go downstairs to find out the official contents of the bottles of beer I drank.

So, yes, this is the night of the big 40th birthday party. Quite fun. A great reunion with high school friends. We all turned out to be an interesting bunch of people. Except me, I guess. I always feel like, when I speak, I can't say anything intelligent. That's why I blog.

But it was enjoyable sitting around listening to people's various adventures in the 20 years since high school. And drinking organic beer.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Not-So-Easy Life of a Railway Passenger

My oldest daughter and I embarked on an adventure today. We took the Amtrak to Chicago to visit my best friend and celebrate her 40th birthday (my best friend's birthday, not my daughter's). It was supposed to be an easy trip - get on, get off in Chicago 4 1/2 hours later, ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom.

Not so easy, it turns out.

My husband dropped us off at 7:45 AM to wait for the 8:30 AM train. We got our tickets and assumed the waiting position, which turned into about 20 different positions as we decided to pick up our baggage and move every 2 minutes to "a better spot over there." When 8:15 rolled around we got the news: the train out of Flint was delayed by a stalled Freight train. The damage: A 1 1/2 hour delay. Great - this was the day that my husband and I had discovered, 13 minutes before leaving the house, that my cell phone needed new service, and we decided that I probably didn't really need one for the weekend. So I had to scrounge up change for, heaven forbid, a pay phone. Yes, they do still exist. I called my husband and tried to quote to him, from my aging memory, my best friend's phone number so he could call her and tell her we were running late. Then Hope and I dragged our not-so-light luggage across the 2 sets of railroad tracks and down a rocky embankment to a Quality Dairy store so we could get some food. It turns out that trying to carry 2 hot sandwiches and a steaming cup of coffee, as well as 2 bags, a laptop case and a heavily-laden purse is not an easy feat. I think it should be an Olympic event. I might qualify.

OK, fast forward to the train ride. Yes it came an hour and a half late, but we were so relieved to finally be on our way. Straight through to Chicago. Until we hit another halt about an hour into the trip - a faulty switch. And Lord knows we really wanted them to fix the switch because I didn't want our train to go flying into some nice meadow of grazing cows. So we waited another bit of time. And finally we were off again.

But wait, there's more. There are more stops in Michigan to pick up passengers before it's non-stop to Chicago. But it wasn't really non-stop. We came to another grinding halt right around Michigan City, Indiana. It turns out yet another freight train was giving us some grief. Well, technically, it was the reported "unticketed" passengers who had hitched a ride on the freight train and were now being hotly pursued by police. I guess I can be thankful for that stop, too, since the offenders were possible escapees from a prison nearby.

So, finally on into Chicago. We were so close to Union Station, we could taste it. Screech. We had to wait for a commuter train.

Finally, we made it. My friend had been waiting for an hour with her 2 small children, God bless her. We boarded the Metra which was exciting, but also slightly claustrophobic. It took us right to my friend's front door. Yeah, I wish. It was actually like a 10-block walk, 3 children in tow, with an 85-pound bag wrapped around the handles of the umbrella sroller, which nearly catapulted the little guy right out of his comfy transport.

But we made it. And Hope was such a good sport. We are settled in and ready for a weekend of merrymaking.

It's time for bed.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Honest Scrap

Diane from "At Least Three" nominated me for this award. Thanks, Diane! I am honored.

So, I am supposed to share 10 honest things about myself. In a way, it shouldn't be hard because I don't hide many things about myself. On the other hand, I may have already spilled my guts about everything, so it may be hard to find something to write about. (I can't be much more honest than I was in yesterday's post about my struggle with depression.) But I'll give it a try.

1. I know that I was called by God to be a wife and mom. But sometimes I ask God why He didn't equip me better for the job. I was extremely disillusioned when I realized that I was so bad at a job that I wanted for so long.

2. I'm often very candid with God during my prayer times, and I hope that He has a lot of mercy for me in my outspoken-ness.

3. I have a very difficult relationship with my dad. I love him, but we don't get along very well, and sometimes I feel like a foolish little kid again when we're together.

4. I can't decide if I'm a perfectionist or a slob. I want things in my life to be perfect, but I often don't feel like doing them perfectly!

5. I like the smell of tractor exhaust and cow manure because it reminds me of growing up on the farm.

6. I wonder if old boyfriends still think about me (weird, I know, and my hubby knows this - I tell him everything!)

7. I've been to the Philippines, Mexico, and Honduras, and none of those were vacations. I want to take a REAL vacation to a tropical locale some day. (Club Med, Sandals, you know. . . .)

8. I used to want to be a marine biologist. However, I am terrified of deep, dark water. I love to swim, but I have to be able to see the bottom or I will freak out.

9. I am claustrophobic. Elevators are OK, but if you restrain my arms or legs in any way, I will have a panic attack. If I'm lying under a blanket and one of my kids sits on top of me, I will practically hyperventilate.

10. I like bald men (which is a good thing b/c Hubby is going bald!) I think Patrick Stewart (aka Captain Jean-Luc Picard) is hot. (So I guess I like older men, too, which is funny because Hubby is 4 years younger than me!)

Congratulations! I’ve nominated the following bloggers for the Honest Scrap Award. Have fun with it. I didn't choose 7 people as the award dictates, but I wanted to hear more from these 3 ladies that I've recently "met" and want to know more about. :) Go and check out their blogs!

In accepting this award, you can do the following:
1) Say thanks and give a link to the presenter of the award.
2) Share "ten honest things" about myself.
3) Present this award to 7 others whose blogs I find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged me.
4) Tell those 7 people that they've been awarded HONEST SCRAP and inform them of these guidelines in receiving it

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Little Honesty About Depression

I haven't written about depression in a while, so here are some honest details about my own struggle with depression.

I think I'm having a bout of depression right now. It's not as bad as in the winter when the lack of sunlight makes it about ten times worse. But the signature symptoms of depression for me are:

I am tired all the time and I want to sleep all the time.

I have frequent headaches and I just generally don't feel good.

I have trouble focusing and have a hard time making even simple decisions.

Taking care of my family - even simple tasks like making meals or doing laundry - are completely overwhelming for me.

I feel hopeless about the future, as if my life has no purpose.

I feel like everything in my life is out of control: my children aren't obeying me and my house is trashed.

I feel guilty because my husband has to deal with me in this condition.

I just want to crawl into a cocoon until I feel better and my life is "fixed."

So, at this point, my thoughts enter in. I think it's all my fault. I must be a bad mom because my kids are having such a hard time. If I only worked harder at sleep and exercise and eating well, I would feel better. If I only prayed more, the depression would go away. If I spent more time with my kids, they would be better.

But, am I tired because I'm not exercising or am I not exercising because I'm tired? Are my kids giving me a hard time because they can sense that I'm not up to par, or are they acting up because I haven't been disciplining them consistently?

I have not yet hit rock bottom, and I hope I won't. But I can see that the downward spiral has begun. I'm still lucid enough to know that I will probably (hopefully, prayerfully!) snap back in a few weeks.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Yard Sale Queen

I have a yard sale every year. Last year, I had 2 or 3, I think. But this year, even though I had a ton of junk quality items to get rid of, I had to really drag myself to get this one organized. It's starting to seem like a real job to try to make this little bit of extra cash every year. I can't imagine how it was so much fun when my kids were much smaller, and now that they're big enough to actually help, it's such a chore. But the cash comes in handy, so I have to do it.

I'm learning some interesting things about yard sales and the people who frequent them. When I'm hosting a sale, one of my gigantic pet peeves is people who start wandering in before the sale starts. So, I always make sure that I write "NO early birds" in the ad. But undoubtedly there are those who "didn't get the memo" and start shopping before I'm completely set up. And what can I do? I can't turn away a potential customer, so I just have to smile and endure it.

And there are customers that I see EVERY year. Every. Single. Year. And there are a few ladies who are the most shrewd - I have to brace myself for their inevitable bargaining. They will NEVER pay your asking price. I had a brand new plastic crib mattress cover, still in the package, marked at $2. One of the ladies looked at me squarely and said "50 cents". No way! I finally let her bargain me down to one dollar, but then it turned out she only had 90 cents in her wallet, aside from some large bills, so we settled on .90. But even if I have something marked for 10 cents, these ladies will try to offer you 5. I mean, honestly, are they really too cheap to pay a dime??? I usually mark my stuff at a very reasonable price, taking into account wear and tear, and people still want to bargain. I guess I can't blame them - I like bargaining when I'm the customer too!

As I'm sitting here writing during a lull, I'm playing with some ideas for how to increase my profits. Do you think it would be shabby of me to have my kids wander out here in ratty clothes, with unkempt hair, and barefoot? I could cue them to say they're hungry, and I could "discretely" tell them (loud enough for the customers to hear) that if someone buys something soon, we might have enough money to buy milk and bread. OR, they could wrap their feet in bandages and, while a customer is considering a rather large item, I could say, "If he buys that elliptical, we can afford to get you some shoes." Hee hee. I'm so bad.

Wish me luck.