Sunday, August 31, 2008

Losing well, is an artform...

Losing well, is an art form...

That is my great revelation of the day. I just got home from having dinner at my in laws house. After dinner we played dominoes, a game called chicken foot. This is not a new thing. It is not uncommon for us to have a big meal and play a game over there every once in a while, however tonight was different. I don't know if everyone was tired or what, but instead of being fun, the two rounds of dominoes ended up being very stressful. Why? Because everyone in my dear, sweet family is a VERY sore loser, except for myself and my father-in-law.

The truth is I'm not a competitive person at all. However, I have to wonder is it by nature or a learned art form? The reason I asked this, is simply this... If my children are doing something, playing a sport or involved in a contest, I find myself being the true sports mom. I'm screaming on the sidelines, trying not to badmouth the referee or judge, cheering as loud as I can, making up excuses when they lose. When "I'm" playing, deep down I would love to win, but the need doesn't control me. Is that maturity or simply a learned response?

Part of me thinks it is maturity, the reason being my husband has changed a lot 19 years I've known him. When I first met him, he couldn't stand to lose, it would frustrate him to where he would make the game not fun for anyone else. In fact I use to not be able to even enjoy a good win. Yet, today he may still make some noise, but he is more calm and as a dad is willing to take second place.

That being said, he is still very competitive. He wants to win, needs to win or come close, to have what he considers a good time. That is where we differ. I like to win, in fact I enjoy beating him a lot, yet I don't have that same drive. Did I learn this as a defense mechanism, so that when I couldn't hit the ball in softball or came in last when running the track, that it wouldn't hurt so much? Did I develop this laid back attitude after many years of being "picked last?"

Whatever the reason, I've become pretty good at the art of losing. I'm not saying I lose all the time. I do pretty well at some games. What I am saying is I have discovered something I really like about myself... I know how to lose with grace. I can enjoy a good game even when I don't come out on top. Tonight, while Jordan was crying (he was not winning the first hand), Kayla was sitting in unhappy silence (if she is quiet you know something is wrong!), my mother-in-law was huffing and snapping (it was definitely not her night!), Kevin's voice was raised an octave (he was very frustrated at Jordan!) and my father-in-law was defending his win (like I said Grandma was losing!); I was sitting there, losing, with a smile on my face, even cheating so my son and husband could win a few rounds!!! Doesn't it make you wish you were with me tonight?

Art form or not, who cares?! I'm waiting till the day I see how many jewels I really have earned in my crown... didn't Jesus say something about the "first shall be last and the last shall be first?" I wonder if that applies to the world of dominoes! :)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Food Fight!

To be honest, I really don't have anything to say today. I have no deep words of wisdom to share, no funny little tidbits of news, no venting needing to be done... oh, I take it back! I do have something to say:


OK, now that I have gotten that off my chest... I think I will go to bed. Nothing like a little sibling rivalry to wear a person out! On the off chance that you are not a family member and you are wondering what the big deal is... let me just say this, my mom's mashed tators are worth fighting for! (Love ya, Mom!) Enough said!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

FEAR and the dreaded needle...

FEAR! Such a small, simple word, yet it packs a punch. I'm curious what makes some people prone to be fearful people, fearing EVERYTHING, while other individuals are fearless in the extreme meaning of the word!

I guess I ask this question because I heavily lean towards the fearful side of things. I have phobias that take over my body and seem to be out of my control at times. I have many fears, but there are four that leave me trembling, often sick and sometimes close to passing out. Public speaking, needles, spiders and storms. Just ask anyone in my family and they will tell you... I have it bad.

Now in all fairness to myself, I'm better than I was, that is in some areas. I think having children will do that for you. For example, after being in childbirth, a shot isn't too bad, or when a spider is fixing to jump on your infant...well you do have to learn how to kill a few. When the storms come our way, I do have to remain calm for my son (who hates them too!) and as for public speaking... well I said I was better in a few areas, this just isn't one of them.:)

I was thinking about my fears today as I was walking out of the health department. The nurse had just checked my TB test results. (Tb free, by the way! YEAH!) As I was walking towards my car, I was remembering all the times as a child I would run, screaming in fear of shots. Here I was this quiet, shy child, yet if a needle was brought out, I turned into a child possessed by who knows what!

My mom said that I was never like that before I visited the hospital one night. I was five and having my tonsils out. Prior to that visit, she said I would just hop up on the table and take my shots like a big girl. However, that all would change. Looking back it was the needle itself that did me in. I was use to just getting my finger pricked like Sleeping Beauty... just a drop of blood, no big deal. So in my little five year old eyes, when they brought the big needle out, well I remember being terrified. It probably would have helped the nurses and their cause if they had just let my mom talk to me or hold me for a moment to calm my fear, but that didn't happen. My memory of that night is of several people holding me down while I was indeed possessed with terror! I remember someone even sitting on me!!! Funny thing is I have pleasant thoughts of going into surgery... not fear, yet when I think of being checked in and getting my blood drawn, I still cringe. (Truthfully, I don't know how accurate my story is, I was only five. Whatever happen that day, well, it left me terrified!)

OK, I know I need to put your mind at ease... I did NOT run around the health department screaming when I had my TB test done. No, I was a big girl and they really should have given me a lollipop or sticker for it too! That being said, I have to admit I was still afraid and I find myself asking WHY?

The adult in me, realized before going that if it hurt at all, it would just be a prick, kind of like Sleeping Beauty. However, the little girl in me still swells up with dread, anxiety and fear all rolled in one, when I know a needle is coming my way. (Lord help me if I ever have diabetes and have to check my blood sugar everyday!) This is why I ask the question:

"Why do some people have fears and others are fearless?"

I believe in God and I know he is my strength and source of great help in times of need, yet sometimes "phobias" still get the best of me. In this matter I often want to ask God "why?" I have the type of personality that is prone to worry and hold on to fear. I've looked up scripture, prayed and discussed this with others, yet even though some of my fears are not as strong as they once were, they are still there.

The only conclusion I've come up with is simply this; that God wants to show his power. In his word, he clearly states that he will use the weak of this world to display his strength. I think it also make me a more compassionate person as well, there is that ability to understand and comfort.

So, as I walked to my car today, TB free, I know I had a smile on my face. I had faced a fear, me and God alone, three days earlier. No one had to chase me down or hold my hand... I had walked in of my own free will and by myself. WOW! I guess there is hope for me yet!

Of course I am going to try and not think about the little girl sitting next to me who had to get four shots and never shed a tear... Hmmm... Oh well, I still think I deserved a sticker! I guess that is why I don't feel bad about the shoes I bought on sale afterwards!:)

Monday, August 25, 2008


OK, I will try to make this short and sweet because I am really tired and should be in bed right now, but of course I just have to get this little tidbit of news off my chest... My children passed the BENCHMARK! YEAH!

Now that I've hooped and hollered about that, I have to be honest; I HATE that test! I HATE everything about it! I HATE how stressed my kids get every time they have to take it. I HATE that they spend months just teaching kids how to take the test instead of really taking the time to teach them things that will help them grow and feel better about themselves as individuals. I HATE that it seems like a backwards way of learning (I will explain what I mean in a minute.) Anyway, I guess you've pretty much figured out I'm not a big fan of the Benchmark. :)

Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for teachers (my mom and sister are teachers) and I greatly appreciate schools in general. However, being an individual that isn't very good at taking tests, well I just want to ask: "What does a test in its self really prove?"

Example A: When I was in high school, I went to take the SATs. I remember sitting there all nervous, because I am horrible at multiple choice and true and false tests... give me an essay question any day! Anyway, in walks in one of our star athletes, Mr. Popular, you know the type. The guy that the title "dumb jock" was created for! He comes in without a care in the world, sits down and finishes the whole test in thirty minutes. He brags later of how he just went through and randomly picked letters. The sad thing is, he had the second highest score out of our class!!!

Example B: ME. As I've already said, I'm a horrible test taker. I can have straight A's in English, yet do horrible on ACTs and SATs.

Example C: My son up until 3rd grade, never made lower than an 95%. He loved school and everything about it. Math was his favorite subject, then he hit 3rd grade. Granted we moved in the middle of the year, but he started making C's. The thing is today I receive his Benchmark scores and he has really high scores... what does it all mean? I'm still trying to figure out how he makes a C in math his last semester of 3rd grade when all they do is teach you how to take the test, yet he makes an Advanced score on the actual test, with his score being higher than the school, district and state average.

I guess what I'm saying is, do tests really tell us anything? Why do we put kids through all the stress? What happened to the old fashioned way of test study a subject, then take a test. Simple. Why do we have to have these week long testing periods?

I said I would explain my earlier statement of "backwards learning." Here it goes... my son is pretty good at doing math in his head, unlike me who has to write everything down or use a calculator. However, in math class last year, he got more points counted off for not showing his work than credit for having the correct answer. Why? It seems to me if a kid can already do math in his head, why do we want that kid to be like me and have to write everything down? It just seems a little backwards...

OK I'll get off my mama soapbox now. Truth is I'm tickled pink that my kids did GREAT! I just wish they didn't have all the pressure...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pause before words...

"Kay, pause before you speak. Let your brain catch up before you say something (again) that you regret."

Remember the old saying; "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me...?" WRONG! I look back on my thirty seven years and realize that 95% of my painful memories, low self esteem, frustration, etc... came from words said to me at some point in my life. I am one of those people that may "forgive" but I have a horrible time forgetting! God has been working hard on me now for years, helping me to let go of some of my hurt...

I said all that to say, that my daughter loves to run at the mouth! Oh, don't get me wrong, she is a sweetheart! Teachers love her. Friends love her. She has the reputation at school and home as being sweet, kind and quiet. She is also very loving at home when she wants to be. I am blessed and love her dearly... however, when she comes home she unloads! All of a sudden she turns into what I call the "MOUTH." She has a comeback for EVERYTHING!!!

The person that usually suffers from her mouth, is of course her brother. It is a daily ongoing thing, where in typical sibling fashion she lets him have it everyday. I will hear phrases like "he's stupid!", "I can't believe he said that!" or the old fashion word of "DUH!" And that is really just to name a very few. This will go on until I've had it or they end up in a knock down drag out fight!

Well today I had had it. (again!) I called her in and in my "MOTHER" voice, started being in her eyes, "a totally unfair, always taking his side, love him more mom!" That is until I called her a word she hates... I said "Kay, you're a bully."

She hates that word. Hates it when kids bully others at school, so when I, her own mom called her one, well, she finally got quiet. She admitted not meaning half of what she says... she just gets frustrated with her brother... which is totally normal. (I'm still apologizing to my sister for being mean!) The truth is that her mouth opens before she thinks about what she is saying... if only...

SMACK! Ouch! Practice what we preach, right? How many times have I fumed over something said or done without really thinking things through? How many times do I get upset, before I have all the facts? How many times do I say things I regret? How many times have I called someone stupid (in my head, of course)? How many times have I wanted to shout at God and say; "Are you sure you don't love them more?" How many times... Isn't it funny how sometimes God teaches us the hardest lessons through ourselves teaching our kids?

Today's lesson was to pause and think before speaking. I wonder what tomorrow's will be? How to share when your selfish heart wants to yell "it's MINE?" I'm beginning to think the reason I had kids, was so I could learn how to be a better me... I think I'm going to pause now and spend some quiet time thinking, before I go on speaking.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Be still..."

This has been a very busy week for me. Rough? No, I don't think I have really earned the right to describe it that way, after all there are many painful things that could have happened and didn't, but what I will say is that I feel worn out. Between "open houses" at schools, training for a new job, church activities, working at my husband's office, getting ready for two big youth events for girls, on top of being sick, well it has been quite a load to carry. Of course that is before mentioning stacks of laundry and mommy duties at home. Yet, here I am sitting at my computer, feeling "thankful."

I'm not sure where the feeling came from, for less than an hour ago I was feeling frustrated that I only have "one" free day to get all the little extra stuff done that MOUNDS up and never seems to go away. But I decided to check my email and started blog searching... Somehow when you read the everyday life of others you realize you are not alone in this crazy world we call motherhood and marriage and that there are many other possibilities of how I could be spending my days...many of them not so normal or even pleasant sometimes.

So as I am sitting here talking to you, I'm going to be thankful...

Of course, my "to do" list still needs to be conquered! Yet I can feel my Savior gently saying "BE STILL." Oh, if only the Lord meant "GO TAKE A NAP!" I probably could and it would be alright, but truth is, what He is saying is; "Michele, it is OK if it doesn't all get done today. It is OK if everything is not perfect. It is OK to just have "peace" in the moment." He wants me to know that I am not alone, I just have to give up control. Instead of looking at the "mound" like it was this huge mountain, He wants me to just take one "molehill" at a time. In other words, "worrying" about anything will accomplish nothing, while "being still" in peace creates "active" joy!

I hope as you read this that you too are inspired to find a thankful heart in the middle of your own world of chaos!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Summer is gone and I still need a VACATION!!!

My life has been a whirlwind lately. My husband says summers are always busy, but I honestly think this summer was a little more hectic than usual. So busy, that I didn't even get to do some of the things I had wanted to: Sorry Mom and Dad, maybe we can see each other soon and Amber, did your family ever make it to Magic Springs?

The summer has been good. There have been camps, VBS, family visits, lots of swimming, weddings... Unfortunately now that school is about to start, I'm worn out. I'm ready for a vacation to recover from my vacation!!!

We've done the school supply shopping, we've done the wardrobe planning, we've talked about how things will be when mom goes back to work...

Oh yeah, I haven't told many people yet, but after 12 years of being able to stay at home with my kids and babysitting off and on, this "old" woman is going back to work. There is a part of me that dreads every moment, after all what woman wants to give up her freedom and have to start working a second job and punching a time clock? (I believe being a mom and wife is already a full time job!!!) Yet there is a part of me that desires to help, to have the knowledge that I helped put some of that money in the bank...

I have a new job that I will start the first part of September. In the mean time I have been filling in for one of the secretaries at my husband's office, while she is gone to be with her daughter, who is having a baby. Every night I've come home worn out, yet I've felt good about what I've done. And when I got my first paycheck this week, well I felt blessed.

My kids start school on Monday. I have a youth girl's sleepover, a new bible study starting, I may be teaching Sunday School, a youth retreat, and who knows what else coming up in September... and a new job! I think I'm ready for a vacation just thinking about it all. Yes, I think my days of freedom are over...

Tomorrow is Saturday. I think I will go for now and rest. I might just sleep late in the morning!
After all, I'll need the energy to do the piles of laundry...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

My new friend the AT&T lady

Let me start by saying that, like everyone else, we have had our "crunch time" moments. What I mean by that is that we crunch the numbers and sometimes they don't add up the way we would like them to. With the gas prices, milk prices, "summer fun" prices all adding up, many times my checkbook doesn't look too good...

That being said, I forgot to pay a bill that was already late!!! I happened to be working at the church office, filling in for the receptionist, when my husband comes through the door and quietly says, "I need to see you for a moment... now!" Like I said, he said it quietly, but after being married for fifteen years, his whole expression told me I had better have a good explanation for whatever it was that I had done!

"My cell phone will not work!" he states, still "quietly." My immediate response was, "oops!" Well, "oops!" never worked for my parents or my teachers, so it probably wasn't going to work here either. I told him I would figure it all out and fast...

I got home and went straight to my desk, found my bill and grabbed the phone. After waiting for 10 minutes, I finally heard a "real person" voice. The voice on the other line was low and very tired sounding. I thought, "Oh no, I got a cranky person! What am I going to do now?" ( I slipped in a quick prayer for help.)

After getting all my information, making sure I was who I said I was, I found myself asking her if she was tired. What? Where did that come from? Let me explain, I am not someone who usually makes conversation with strangers on the phone, especially people taking my money for bills! (even if it isn't their fault... that is of course beside the point!)

The Lady surprised me by answering me. Before I knew it we had a who;e conversation about lunch, what she had eaten and our desire to take a nap, before I had even told her what my problem was. by the time I had explained about what had happen, she simply told me that she liked me and had already turned my phones back on while we had been talking.

Our conversation went further, but it would take too long for me to write about it all. I will say this, that by the time I got off the phone, my cell phones were both back up and running and she had taken care of my problem. Our call ended with her thanking me for being honest and friendly with her.

I realized something in that moment... she was just doing her job. How many times have I been impatient with someone on the phone because I had to "hold for hours" or they couldn't fix things the way I wanted them to be fixed? This lady may have started off a little tired, yet when I took the time to acknowledge her as a person, she perked up and even went out of her way to help me!

I was telling my husband the story later, he said it sounded like something my dad would have done. I can't tell you through the years, how many times I've watched my father talk to strangers, asking them about their day, while checking out at the store or ordering his food at a restaurant. As a teenager, I would be impatient or a little embarrassed while he did it. As an adult, I've always been amused. Today, I was thankful. He has through the years, been an example.

Today, God whispered in my ear "Ask her if she is tired!" and then HE took care of the rest.
My dad would have been proud...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Memory Lane

It all started when my sister discovered Facebook. We had been on Facebook for a while, since it is a great way to keep up with our youth group and what's up in their world. However, when Amb "became a friend," our Facebook world changed. All of a sudden, she's giving me flair, we are having a daily search for a "friendly spy" (it's a private joke!) and we are getting in touch with long lost friends. It is good to go down memory lane every once in a while, after all those moments are what made us who we are today, the good, bad and even the ugly...

Since I had found some of my old buddies, I thought it would be fun to post old pictures on Facebook. What a hoot! Maybe some things should be left in the past!!! While I was going through my old pictures of "once upon a time," I started thinking about the good old days and all the little moments that I've kept locked away. My parents were missionaries. I went to high school in Bangkok, Thailand. I've traveled the world. I've met all kinds of people. Sometimes I feel like I dreamed it all.

When I think about my childhood, certain "snapshot" memories come to me. Excuse me while I take another walk down memory lane...

1. The smells... I can still smell the Asian smells. In Bangladesh and India, there was that intense body odor smell, (try taking a boys gym bag and the "pleasant" odor it gives off, times a billion...) that comes from billions of sweaty bodies, living on the streets in poor conditions. Add the extreme heat of the day and it's memorable! I remember getting off the plane for the first time and literally being engulfed in heat! Not everywhere you went, did it smell horrible or maybe I just got use to it... but I certainly can remember that "first impression" smell.

Thailand, was not as bad, it depended more on what part of the country you were in. When I think of walking down the street in Bangkok, I think food. All the street vendors, cooking on the street... The sometimes weird, sometimes delicious aromas would fill the air.

2. The rain... When it rained, it poured! For days!!! Flooding was a way of life. I remember going to class and it starting to sprinkle and coming out and the parking lot would be flooded! Walking down the street in knee deep water, was nothing!

3. A soda...You haven't had a coke until you have drank it out of a plastic bag tied with a rubber band!

4. The International School. Wow, if only the politics of the world could be so simple. I went to school with all races and nationalities and never thought a thing about it. No one thought they were better than anyone else... we were all just trying to survive school and have a little fun while doing so!

5. I was Fearless! Of course I didn't know it at the time. However, I went all over the city of Bangkok, by myself or with friends and never worried! A FOREIGN city!!! What were my parents thinking? I can't let my kids play in the yard, without checking on them every five minutes!!!

6. The beach! I may not be a friend now, with the heat and the sun (I have very fair skin) but once upon a time I LOVED IT! The beach represented vacation, family and friends!

7. The military. My first real encounters with soldiers, when I truly realized they existed, was when I was in High school. The Navy and Marine ships would come to town, while I was in Thailand and my girlfriends and I would have so much fun watching them. In a teenager's mind, there was nothing better than a cute guy in uniform to dream about!

8. Traveling... Sometimes my journeys would take me to different countries, both in Asia and Europe and sometimes a "journey" was to a village. I've been on planes, boats, ferries, buses, trains, rickshaws, taxis, etc... I've ate dinner at fancy motels and had lunch in a little hut, while sitting on the floor, eating with my hand. I've walked across bridges that crossed eight lanes of traffic and crossed bridges consisting of two pieces of wood. I've seen water that was as clear and as blue as the sky and drinking water that was MUD.

9. The food. I can still smell it. I've never had an exotic palatewhen it came to foods... let me just say, RICE was my best friend! However, I can still smell and taste the many different foods that crossed my plate!

10. The example. Yes, I had some rebellion in me, just like many teenagers. There were days that I hated what my mom and dad did for a living... and then there were days that I felt blessed. I look back now, as an adult, in awe of the example set by my parents and other missionaries I met along the way. They really did "drop" everything and follow Christ. As a mom and wife, in my comfortable house, driving my car, I have to stop and say "thank you" to my Lord, for the lives I was able to watch first hand as they tried their best to serve God.

And there are many more little memories locked away... maybe saved for another day and another blog. :)