Friday, June 8, 2012

16 Resons I am Still Crazy About My Husband

Today marks 16 years of marriage for me and my hubby. I was reading a blog by one of my favorite authors the other day, and she wrote a post for her anniversary on why she loves her husband. So with that meme in mind, here goes:

He is the calm in the middle of my storms. He is the sane to my sometimes CRAZY. He has put up with my "quirky" personality for 16 years of marriage, and he loves me, sometimes because of, and sometimes in spite of, who I am.

He is steady and true and hard to move, which can be both wonderful and exasperating. When I have wanted to do crazy, irrational things, he has kept me from it, i.e. purchasing a farm. When I have wanted to do crazy, rational things, he has supported me, i.e. homeschooling our three children. And I'm only just a wee bit bitter that he won't let me have chickens.

He has the most beautiful blue eyes I have ever seen. And he was kind enough to pass those beautiful blue eyes on to three other pairs of gorgeous eyes that I get to see every day. And those three sets of eyes happen to be attached to three of the most beautiful, amazing children on the planet. I'm fairly certain that along with their beautiful blue eyes, most of their really good traits come from him.

He is tall and strong and my head fits exactly into the hollow of his chest when we stand in the kitchen after he gets home from work, and he hugs me tight.

He often forgets to engage his filter, which could be really bad in a marriage, but he is never purposely unkind. And when he does forget to use it, I have seen him physically try to swallow up the words that have escaped unfiltered. It is amusing.

He is funny in a quiet, you-never-know-what-he-might-say, kind of way. My all-time favorite example happened when a former co-worker of his told him a story about almost cutting his toe off while chopping wood in flip flops. Jeff looked at him, cocked his head, and in his slow, off-handed manner said, "Well, if you're gonna be stupid, you better be tough." I almost fell off my chair.

He is comfortable in his own skin - so much so that he is not afraid to make a complete fool of himself in public. I've never been one to easily laugh at myself, but my husband does not have that problem. He just doesn't take himself that seriously. Recently at work he has been donning a Titan's flag around his neck and running around his office as Captain Titan, just to lighten up a long week.

He can fix almost anything, and he can fix it right. And if he doesn't have the tools or parts to do it right, he can make it work, usually with the help of duct tape.

He is an Eagle Scout, and he is steadfast, faithful, and always prepared. I'm fairly certain he could keep us alive in the woods with just a pocket knife and piece of flint. He is not a girly man, which I find totally hot. Just bein' honest here...

He is a man of abiding faith. I study theology and think deeply about issues concerning faith, and when I discuss them with him, he says two or three sentences that immediately clarify exactly what I've been struggling with. Then he goes about doing what he was doing before, while I marvel at his easy understanding.

He keeps light bulbs in a cabinet in the garage. If he is standing in a room when a light bulb blows, he will walk straight into the garage, get one out of his stash, and replace the old one. This is HUGE for a girl who grew up in a house where a light bulb might be out for weeks. Did I mention that "always prepared" thing?

He is old-fashioned and traditional. He has always supported me staying home with our children, but he does not expect me to be responsible for everything having to do with our house and children. He takes his role as provider very seriously, and as an employer, he takes providing for other peoples' families very seriously as well.

He is not afraid of work - of any kind - but he is not a workaholic. He goes to work early, so he can get home to see us.

He is a man of deep integrity. When faced with doing the right thing which is hard, or doing the wrong thing which is easy, he chooses the right thing.

He is an incredible father who wrestles, plays, tickles, laughs and has all manner of fun with our children. When my paranoid mother gene kicks in and I insist our children are going to break their necks on a trampoline or shoot their eyes out with a Nerf gun, he steps in and lets our kids do "dangerous" things. This is a good thing.

After 16 years of marriage, three children delivered via C-section, stretch marks, a few wrinkles, a gray hair or two, and more than a few pounds later, he still looks at me like I am a cool cup of water and he is a man parched in the desert. And that is a very good thing...

Around here our anniversary is not usually a big deal. We're not that romantic or hung up on things like birthdays or festive occasions. I often forget to buy a card or a gift, and we both forgot our 14th anniversary (being leaders at a Cub Scout day camp will do that to you.) But this year I wanted to mark the occasion with a few words. I love you Jeff Buck! I may get lots of things wrong and flit from hither and yon in life coming up with new things to do and be when I grow up, but one thing I know for sure: I married a supremely good man, and I am blessed beyond measure to be your wife.  Here's to 50 or 60 more years together...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

So, How's Your Summer Been...

Hello to my once faithful readers who must have assumed my untimely death, because surely I have no other excuse not to have blogged since May 2010! Apologies, apologies, dear readers. I have no excuses, so I will not insult you with "I'm so busy...My life is crazy...I'm homeschooling three kids now...blah, blah, blah." You've heard it all before (except that homeschooling thing). You know I am a fickle blogger at best, so I say "Love me for who I am and don't expect anything else from me!" Okay, now I sound all 1970s Love Story and "Love means never having to say I'm sorry" and that is SO not where I am right now.

Where am I, you ask (besides residing in my usual place called Crazy Town)? I am in the middle of what I am dubbing "The Summer of Exegesis." I'm calling it that because I like the word; it's new to me. It means "an explanation or a critical interpretation of a text." (If you already knew that, you are smarter than me and I admire your vocabulary prowess!) I also like that it has Jesus in it, as in ex*uh*Jesus. But it's also a fairly accurate name for my summer. I am knee-deep in Lutheran Doctrine, Theology, Hermeneutics, and basically all those other Latiny terms that mean, "What do I believe, and why do I believe it?" Lovely readers I am "full to bursting" with everything I am trying to cram into my brain right now about theology. I know I've come to this Lutheran doctrinal party a little late, having been a Lutheran almost 17 years now, but I am now completely fascinated with it all. Really. Fascinated.

Lutherans know what they know and know why they know it. This makes them confident (some might say cocky) about what they know. Funny thing is I am married to one of the most confident men on the planet. He knows what he knows and knows why he knows it and that is that. If he had not been baptized into the LCMS, he would certainly have had to seek it out. (For the uninitiated, LCMS means Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, which basically means real confessional Lutherans, as opposed to the kind that say they are Lutheran, but do all manner of things that are un-Lutheran, which I am very sure IS a real word.)

Back to "My Summer of Cramming My Brain Full of Theological Teachings and Wonders." I've been doing this by reading some great blogs here, here and here, watching some funny, satirical, and yes, instructional videos, and hearing some great, albeit really crazy in delivery - not doctrine - sermons, and taking a Sunday School class that's using Lutheranism 101 as a starting text. There is so much out there and so much to learn I'm ashamed I haven't taken the time or interest to learn it before.

You could say I sort of fell into the Lutheran church, as in I met a boy, fell in love, he had a great church, and the rest as they say... But that wouldn't exactly be accurate. I was looking for something different than the Southern Baptist Church I'd been brought up in. I'd been told one too many times that I was going to Hell for questioning beliefs and asking, "Where do you find that in the Bible?", and I'd decided I'd had enough of that. (No offense to all my Baptist peeps out there. You know I love you!) Although I didn't much care for church, I still believed that Jesus was the Way, the Truth, and the Life, so I knew I needed to go to church, but I wasn't really looking.

In fact, I wasn't going to church at all. Now, back to that boy I met. We'd been dating for a few months and I said, "Hey, I really want to start going to church again, since I've been a totally lapsed Baptist the whole time I've been in college. My roommates and I visited the Presbyterian Church, but I really don't think a PC(USA) church is for me, so..." And he said something like "Church sounds good. I should start going again, too. You want to go to a Lutheran Church with me?" And seeing as how I was totally crazy in love with him already and would have quoted Ruth to him about 'going where he wenteth', I said "Sure, I'd love to." And off we went.

*As an aside, I had never even heard of Lutheran before I met my hubby. Remember, I was a smalltown, East Tennessee girl. The first time he told me he was a Lutheran, I said a silent prayer that went something like, "Please, God, let that be normal Christian." And then I asked him, "Is that like a normal Protestant church?", which I thought sounded better than, "Is that real Christian or something weird?" And then he of course rolled off the couch laughing at me. In my defense, I knew that Martin Luther had started the Reformation, I just didn't know there was a church named for him. And I figured just because it was named for him, didn't mean the church was still a traditional Christian church, remember that other type of Lutheran I mentioned?*

What this story illustrates is that God, in his divine mercy, saved me from my ridiculous self. I do NOT recommend falling in love with someone about whose theology you know nothing. I'm fairly certain it smacks of great sin! Did I mention God had mercy on me? I'm so thankful my hubby was raised by godly parents who took him to church every week and raised him "in the way he should go." As parents we are already praying for the future spouses of our children, and of course we hope those spouses are Lutheran, or at least very close to it!

So why all the interest in doctrine now after having joined the church, been married in it and having baptized three babies in it? Well, it all comes down to homeschooling.

I haven't posted a thing on here about homeschooling, but we have recently finished our first year of homeschooling using the classical method. What's the classical method you ask? Well, that depends on who you ask. For me, it's teaching my children like children were taught for hundreds of years before the invention of public school. It is heavy on English grammar and writing, Latin, the Great Books, science and math and all of it wrapped in a Biblical worldview.

That last part about the Biblical worldview is where all this theology comes in. As much as I have come to love the LCMS, it is not exactly homeschool friendly. It doesn't publish homeschool curricula, and since it's not a huge denomination, there are not individual LCMSers out there publishing curricula either. So, that means I've been using books which have a slightly different theological slant to teach my children. Therefore, I've had to read them, figure out what we believe that is different, and then explain that to my children. It's a little daunting. Most of it is obvious - infant baptism, which Lutherans believe in, versus believer's baptism, which Evangelicals believe in. But other differences aren't so easy to spot and taken all together, they could really change how my children view Law and Gospel. And that I don't want to mess up. So I'm praying for grace and asking God to give me wisdom and discernment, and then I'm studying everything I can, so I don't mess it up. Now you know the reason for the "Summer of Studying All Things Lutheran."

And I think my children have noticed. How could they not with me watching animated videos with computer generated voices and a pastor on Youtube who has samarai swords as his background? And I don't know if it's because of some things they've heard or if it's just because of their ages, but I'm starting to get some hard questions. The one I got yesterday was "Mommy, why in the Bible did God's people lie?" And believe you me, my middle child will not let you off with "Sin" as an easy answer. No siree, that one is quite the deep thinker herself, so I started explaining to her that we are saints and sinners, which thankfully we had just covered in my Sunday School class, so it was all still fresh, but I'll leave that Q&A session for another post...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Water, water, everywhere and all the spores did stink...

... Water, water everywhere nor any for my sink.

Okay, so that's not exactly how Coleridge put it, but that's pretty much the reality around here. I live just south of Nashville, so to say things have been a little crazy around here this week would be the understatement of the century, or five centuries, as it were. For those of you who don't know -- because there've been a few other things going on in the news like an oil spill and an attempted terrorist attack -- we had a 500-year flood here, or possibly even a thousand year flood. Who even knew those existed?

Although my family was not personally flooded, the entire Middle Tennessee Region has been affected. The roads near my home were very scary for awhile, both front entrances to my subdivision were impassable, and you couldn't get north to Nashville or to the west, either. But that was small potatoes compared to other areas of town.

Almost every Nashvillian I know (and yes, those of us in the 'burbs still consider ourselves Nashvillians) watched the news last weekend, first with slight amusement or irritation, then with curiosity, then with dread, and finally fear as the rain continued to pour.

We watched a portable building from a Christian school float down the interstate, break apart, and go under a bridge. That happened about 7 miles from my house.

We saw our beloved Opryland Hotel fill up with 6 feet of water, ruining the beautiful gardens where we take our children to have their Christmas pictures made. We saw our new symphony hall fill with water and lose its custom-made pipe organ and two concert pianos. Yes, there is more than just country music around here.

But we also saw the Grand Old Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame fall victim to the same flood. Thankfully, the Hall of Fame sustained damage only in the basement and re-opened mid-week. The Grand Old Opry's building was devastated, but it has returned to its roots and is playing once again at the Ryman.

Our Titan's stadium and our Predator's arena were both full of water as well. Even our beloved Vanderbilt Children's Hospital flooded and those poor, sick children were moved to higher floors as a precaution, but no child was injured. Praise God.

This storm did not care about race or creed, rich or poor, famous or folk, it hit us all. Country stars lost their road equipment, and regular Joe's lost their homes.

It's been hard to take a deep breath around here this week. Everything about this week has had me out of my comfort zone. And coincidentally, I've been thinking about my "comfort zone" a lot these last few weeks. The lovely, talented, did I mention beautiful?, ladies over at Five Full Plates have been challenging everyone to get out of their comfort zones, but I'm pretty sure this is not what they had in mind.

Be that as it may, I'm out. I've been out since Saturday afternoon around the time my husband dropped off our 3-year-old at a birthday party, and then spent 30 minutes trying to get himself and our other two children home through a flash flood that we didn't realize was happening, and then had to wonder for two hours if we'd be able to pick her up, or if she'd have to stay the night with her friend. Praise God there was a break in the rain and the waters receded enough for him to go get her and bring her home.

But what about consciously getting myself out of my comfort zone? Well, I did that too. I lived up to my state and Alma Mater's moniker, and I Volunteered. I've never volunteered during a crisis, and I'll admit it's a little intimidating. I've always wanted to help during things like a tornado clean up, but you always here warnings to stay away. I'd never bothered before to figure out how to become all official-like and get on the scene. But just a day after the flood, my pastor sent an e-mail saying that one of our sister churches that's in one of the hardest hit areas of town was asking for volunteers. It also happens to be the church my husband grew up in, and that's when I knew what I had to do.

So, I posted on Facebook that I was going, and I asked for someone to take my 3-year-old for the day. I know, how tacky is that!?! But I didn't think I could help with her along, and I really wanted to help. I also really wanted someone to go with me. Right away my friend said she'd take my daughter, but no one offered to go with me. Fear, trepidation, discomfort, they all set in. Was I really going off to this church, where I knew exactly two people, to help all by myself? Uh, yes.

When I got there I took a deep breath, got out of my minivan and started unpacking stacks of unused boxes my husband had given to me. A couple of people came over immediately to help, and then I walked in the door, dropped off my stack of boxes, walked up to the one person in the room I knew who also happened to be in charge, and said, "Hi. Remember me? I'm Jeff's wife. How can I help?" And just as easy as that, she put me to work.

So what did I do? I delivered meals to the volunteers who were helping people in an area of town that looks like something from a Hollywood disaster movie.

I went to the Community Center to gather information for the victims about FEMA and the Humane Society and where to get rides for the elderly and how to get help if you lost your medication.

And I bought more supplies and delivered boxes, and I even got a FREAKIN' TETANUS shot while I was at the Community Center before I realized I'd only be delivering lunches and supplies and not actually working amongst the tetanus germs. And for that poor decision I spent a couple of afternoons this week in bed with a fever and chills from a reaction to the shot, which meant I also couldn't give blood, which was the one out-of-my-comfort-zone challenges I had promised to do. Fail this time, but not off the hook for next time.

So what did I learn from being out of my comfort zone? A few things. It doesn't matter if you're the volunteer ripping out drywall, the one delivering lunches to the ones ripping it out, or the one taking care of small children so others can go rip stuff out, you are needed and you are appreciated and you are part of the overall Relief Effort, and God bless you for doing it.

I also learned that as long as you are volunteering with a trusted organization such as the Red Cross, a church, civic group or company that is volunteering, you can get on site without being hassled. The police are only worried about keeping criminals and Looky-Lou's out, they are not trying to keep out people who actually want to help.

Another valuable thing I've learned from the flood? We waste a ton of water in our daily lives. We're voluntarily rationing our water right now, and you can get by with so much less than you think you need. Did you know that you don't actually have to flush the toilet every single time you use it? You can actually wait and flush every third time you use it. Also, you don't need to take 15 minute showers every day (but HAVE MERCY you will miss them!) In fact, you don't even need to shower every day or shave your legs for that matter. You can even go a week without submerging your children in water and just washing them off with a wet wash cloth. Did you know this? I certainly didn't (except for the part about the kids). Heaven help me, I'm not even in the same sniffing distance of my comfort zone at this point!

Another challenge I had planned to do before the Great Flood of 2010 was to help raise money for a water well in Africa. Due to the circumstances here right now, I'm going to put that challenge on the back burner. But I know that I will never again take for granted the pure, clean water that runs out of my tap any time I turn it on. I knew that millions around the world live without access to safe drinking water, but I've never known the fear of that until now. Although we still have safe water right now, the danger is that if we don't conserve we could run out.

I also learned that floods stink, literally and figuratively. Everything that the water touches has to be ripped out, ripped up and thrown away. All drywall, carpet, insulation, hardwood, everything but the studs. If not, it will mold and mildew and stink so bad and be full of so much bacteria, you couldn't possibly ever live there again.

And insurance companies don't pay for any of it, unless you have flood insurance, which hardly anybody does. So that means I also learned that the good people of Middle Tennessee are going to need outside help whether we like it or not. And we're just not used to that.

Because what I didn't learn was that good ol' boys will navigate dangerous flood waters in aluminum boats during raging thunderstorms to pull strangers out of their homes before the "rescuers" even show up on the scene. And that good Samaritans will pull into a stranger's driveway to see what they need and then go to the store and get it. And that Stars will come out shining to raise millions of dollars for Average Joe's that live in their community. And that not every area of the country will loot and take advantage of one another when the going gets tough.

I didn't learn all those things, because I already knew all those things...I've lived here for 14 years. Another thing I already knew? I live in the greatest town in the greatest country on earth, and I want to live here until I'm old and gray and I want to see my children's children raise their children here, and when I die, I want to be buried about a mile down the road. Yep, that's something I already knew.

And in case you are wondering, I've been thinking about the name of my blog this week, too. Seems a little apropos, doesn't it? The creek really did rise this week, but the Good Lord was willin' to keep me here writing. And I will be here writing, albeit sporadically, until He isn't -- willing that is. Please say a prayer for Nashville tonight. We could use it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The fox and the hound

We have a new puppy. She is a yorkie-shih tzu mix which means she is three pounds of puppy breath and sweetness and light. The children love her. I mean REALLY love her, as in I am afraid at any moment my littlest one might actually love her to DEATH. I have found my girls playing tug of war with her, each claiming it was their turn to hold her. The "Wrath of Mommy" came out over that, so now they just whine and cry over her and tattle on each other for holding her too much and generally make me wonder "Why on God's Green Earth did we decide to get another dog, because heaven knows I DO NOT NEED ANOTHER CHILD!"

Then she comes up and licks my face and breathes her sweet puppy breath on me, and I snatch her up and carry her out of the room just to make sure she is safe, not because she is my favorite at the moment. *cough*

My son doesn't fight over her. Instead, he announces at dinner, "I don't mean to offend anybody, but I just want you to know that I am the puppy's favorite" and he is serious as a heart attack which makes me cough to cover my laugh and turn my head so as not to hurt his feelings, because as we all know I am obviously her favorite.

The kids have been asking for a dog for about a year. Our last dog had to be put to sleep about two years ago, and I wasn't ready for another one until now. As soon as my mother heard, she promptly got us a puppy and brought her to us. Then she insisted on us naming her right away as she is want to do. I took three days to name my first child after he was born, so I like a little time to think about these things, but my mother and my children weren't having any part of it.

They were throwing names at me left and right, and Daisy was one of them. I didn't think it fit her, because it reminds me of a cow and she is all of three pounds. Then Maggie came up and we liked it and even used it for a few hours, but then I thought of my new friend named Maggie and knew that could become awkward. Our last dog was named Briley and I have a friend with a daughter named Briley, and it always felt weird yelling at my dog when her daughter was over and Lord knows I can't have a dog I can't yell at.

So due to the circumstances, Maggie had to go. My mother brought Daisy back up which made me think of Maisy which I really like. I had wanted to name our new puppy something all literary and cool, but with the girls calling out names like Princess and Ariel, and my son insisting that he was going to call her Maggie no matter what, and my mother throwing out Kaisy in addition to Maisy (what?), and my husband giving me the gimlet eye which said, "We aren't naming her anything weird," I was at a complete loss for anything literary. Then I remembered one of my favorite authors has a daughter named Maisy, and I decided that made the name literary enough. So, Maisy it was. (And yes, I do know that both Maggie and Daisy would have both paid homage to great literary characters, but they just didn't work for me.)

Now Maisy has settled into that warm and fuzzy place in all of our hearts, and she only goes off to far corners of the house to poop on rare occasions and doesn't chew on too many barbie legs or human shoes, so she is fitting in nicely. And she has even started sleeping through the night, except for last night when she pawed my forehead and chewed my hair all night, and I thought I would have to banish her to her crate for ever and ever, amen, but we are going to assume that was just an off night for her due to a crazy schedule.

Actually, not that this has anything to do with my ultimate point, because I do have one of those, but having a tiny puppy is really like having an infant again, which is why it took me two years to get another dog. When you have an actual infant, people expect you to go through the day with slits for eyes and don't expect you to be able to hold an intelligent conversation. When you have a puppy, you are expected to get out of your pajamas before 2 o'clock in the afternoon and also go on with your life as if nothing is wrong, despite the fact that you are only getting about five hours of sleep a night. I'm pretty sure we need to form a grassroots organization to correct this societal misconception. Getting up in the middle of the night with a baby causes the same sleep depravity whether or not the baby is an actual human infant. 'Nuf said.

So, the other morning Mr. Engineer took Maisy out around 5 am to do her business. She ran towards the woods in our backyard to do her first business, then she came back and ran up the hill just in front of the woods to do her other business. Right about then my husband saw a red fox on the other side of the small strip of woods between our house and our neighbor's, and he was pretty sure the fox wasn't there to play. Being the brave and loyal Eagle Scout that he is, Mr. Engineer charged up the hill towards the fox right about the time the hair on Maisy's neck stood up and she realized that she might become someone else's breakfast and took off high tailing it for the house.

The fox knew the jig was up and took off for other small innocent creatures, while Maisy came in the house and immediately threw up on Mr. Engineer's foot. Personally, I think that last part shows why I am her favorite. She ran from danger and just the thought of it was more than her intestines could handle, so she got the shakes and threw up. I know exactly how she feels.

I was very impressed with my husband for having even seen the fox. My eyes would have been slit open just enough to see if she was actually pottying, and she would have been carried off to the the fox's den before I could have screamed (which is probably what I would have done had I seen said fox stalking our sweet puppy.)

Mr. Engineer assures me I would have done the same thing. I appreciate his belief in me, and it is a sound belief where his ACTUAL children that I birthed are concerned. Had any of the three of them been on the hill in danger of a fox, I would have charged the hill and done what I had to do to save them. I would have charged the hill had it been a coyote, which are said to roam this area, and would have choked it with my bare hands had it been necessary.

But for the dog? I'm really not so sure. If it had been a coyote, I might have screamed, turned tail to run, and sent up a prayer for sweet Maisey. A fox, I would have screamed and probably scared it off. But a chipmunk? Well, I'm pretty sure I could have taken a chipmunk. Heck, I'm pretty sure Maisy could go toe-to-toe with a chipmunk. And if you're wondering what the heck a chipmunk has to do with anything, well you should head over and take a gander at Five Full Plates... (That's for you, Gray.)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary...

Today was one of those beautiful spring days that you dream about after you've been snowed in for five days with your children and you've made enough hot chocolate to float the Spanish Armada. The high was in the low 70s with a slight breeze to keep the sun from feeling hot. The cherry trees and Bradford pears are in bloom and the sky was the perfect shade of blue. It couldn't have been prettier. I think I could live this day for 3/4ths of the year, and I'd be happy. Assuming of course the pollen miraculously went away while the flowers were still in bloom. The other days could be one month of temps hot enough to swim, one and half months of glorious fall foliage and half of month for winter where it could snow for one week and keep us snowed in for four days. Um, that would be if I was in charge of the weather, but alas I am not...

Anyway, as I said, today was perfection. It wast the perfect day for selling lemonade with the Girl Scouts at our little town's annual Spring festival. It was the perfect day to walk home from the festival -- even though there are no sidewalks and we were 'afeared' for our lives while crossing the bridge. But most of all, it was the perfect day for gardening.

I don't think I've ever mentioned my relationship with gardening here at The Creek. I came to flower gardening a little late in life compared to some and a little early compared to others. Although I grew up in the South, I did not have a magnolia and gardenia mother. Gardening was not about growing flowers -- it was about growing food. And that was my Daddy's job. The son of a farmer, the man had a penchant for throwing seeds in the ground, tending them and then enjoying the literal fruits of his labor. You need some half-runner and silver queen (that's green beans and the best white corn you've ever tasted for the uninitiated)? My Daddy was your man. When I was a child he kept a garden that put all other gardens to shame. You would have thought we were feeding a small Amish community with the garden we had in our backyard, but that's how Daddy liked it.

*I am using the past tense here, because nowadays my Daddy does not put out a garden, because it might interfere with his retirement and his golf game, never mind that we're in a recession and his poor grandchildren could use some free organic vegetables that had been grown with his tender loving care. Okay, I don't know why I'm going on like this. It's not like either of my parents even knows what a blog is, much less reads it. But maybe one of my cousins will pass along the message.*

One of my earliest memories is digging in the garden in the potato patch. I think I was about three or four years old. It may not be a memory, so much as it is an actual picture I have of my 3-year-old dirt-covered self sitting in the dirt digging up spuds. Another fond memory I have is of my mother cooking dinner and asking me to go get the potatoes. And she didn't mean out of the pantry. She meant out of the ground. So, I would dutifully run down our backyard to the very bottom of our garden, grab a potato plant with my hand and pull. Then I'd go hose them off and take them inside to Mom. My favorite were new potatoes, the ones that were small and round and perfect. We also grew black-eyed peas, okra, tomatoes, corn, strawberries, squash, green beans and few melons every now and again. And by "we" I really mean, my Daddy. Of course my brother and I did string up a few beans, hoe a few weeds and water a few rows, but the real work was all Daddy.

Now come pickin' time, it was a whole other ballgame. I have picked, strung, and snapped green beans until I thought my fingers would bleed and I have hulled bowl after merciless bowl of black-eyed peas. A year or two ago we were at our friends' house and while they were fixing dinner, the husband grabbed the corn and started shucking it over the kitchen sink. He laughed and said I'd probably never shucked corn. I let him know real quick that I'd shucked corn for dinner just about every summer night of my childhood. And there were even some nights were the only thing we'd eat would be corn. Mmmm, I can just taste that Silver Queen now.

My point (I do usually get around to those sooner or later, don't I?) is that I grew up thinking vegetable gardens were necessary, and flower gardens were not. Flowers are pretty to look at and all, but they've never put food on the table, now have they?

Fast forward to my blissful mid-twenties or "the BC years" as I like to call them, Before Children, and I got bit by the flower garden bug. As soon as we moved into our little cracker box of a first house in a shady historic area of town, I just had to plant flowers. The most beautiful blue hydrangea bush you have ever seen grew right beside the front porch stairs. One look at that baby and I knew flowers were what I wanted, what my little house and my soul needed. I immersed myself in gardening like any good, er obsessive, student would.

I read everything there was to read about gardening in the shade. You see, we had dappled shade, light shade and deep shade to work with, so I scrounged up every shade plant known to grow in the Mid-South region. The Southern Living Gardening book became my flower bible. I knew every plant by its common name, as well as its Latin name. Even my mother-in-law, a flower gardener from way back, was impressed with my knowledge. She added to my collections and gave me much needed advice. Mr. Engineer and I planted with abandon. We went mostly for perennials, but threw in some annuals for color as well. We had heated debates over the size and shape of flower beds. He wanted 90 degree angles; I wanted meandering curves. We compromised with precise curves at exact intervals. Life was good. Life in our backyard and by the front porch was beautiful. Then something more beautiful than any flower I'd ever known came along, my first baby.

And then I gave up gardening. My husband tended what we'd already established and my mother-in-law continued to bring transplanted flowers from her garden and take transplants from my garden, but I would just point and make suggestions while blissfully holding my sweet baby boy. Fast-forward almost two years and we moved to a new town that was just perfect, except our house was in full sun. Not just sun, but blazing sun, Tennessee in August and not a piece of shade to be found except in the wood line behind our house sun. When Springtime rolled around and we were ready to plant, I had a 2 1/2 year old and was ready to pop with our next child, and I didn't know Jack Sprat about gardening in the sun.

All those years I had coveted a plot of ground to put some showy full-sun flowers in were coming back to haunt me. And with a brain so pregnant that all it could think about was, "I'm pregnant. How am I going to take care of two babies? I'm really huge. Is that ice cream mint chocolate chip, yummy. I'm so swollen. How many more weeks can I do this!?!" planting flowers was the least of my worries. Fast forward seven more years and another child to boot, and you can probably guess that I'm still not versed in growing flowers in the sun.

Yes, we've added a couple of perennial beds and changed some things in the front bed, but we still aren't the experts we once were. Oh, Mr. Engineer would probably beg to differ, and he'd be right. I'm not the expert I used to be, and that's okay with me, sort of. I still love watching things grow, I just don't love planning it and executing it and taking care of it as much as I used to. Maybe I'm just too busy growing and "training up" other, more important things.

So nowadays when I say "we" were gardening today, what I really mean is I was pointing at places where Mr. Engineer could put the daylillies he had just divided, and he was digging holes. We also planned an oak leaf hydrangea garden in the back where Mr. Engineer could plant the offshoots he'd just dug up from the side bed. There was no major planning session, no Round-Upping of the soil and waiting a couple weeks, just him asking, "Where you want me to put 'em? How about here and here?" And me saying, "That's good, and maybe one over here?"

We've come a long way from our master-planning days. Will the hydrangea transplants make it in the rocky soil among the weed? Who knows? And who really cares? They were free, they were there, and we had the time so we planted them. Will Mr. Engineer dig out the weeds and mulch it when he gets a chance? You can bet on it. Will we turn that rocky ugly part of our yard into a beautiful garden like we've talked about for the last seven years? I don't know, but we did take a babystep in that direction today.

So yes, "we" did garden today, and for now I really like the way "we" did it. It left me free to run in the house and check on the eggs I was boiling to make tuna salad for lunch, and to answer my 3-year-old's questions and to wander back out and point some more. My nails aren't traumatized like they were 10 years ago, and I only miss playing in the dirt a little. But every now and then I do have to rip a dandelion out of the flower beds. It's an old habit that's hard to break. And I'm sure Mr. Engineer is grateful, right? He can't do it all around here, now can he?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A place for baseball belts, and baseball belts in their place!

I found my son's baseball belt just a few minutes ago. Yep, it was in the corner of the bathroom downstairs, just in the sort of place my husband suggested it might be last night while helping my son get ready for practice at the last minute. I heard him say something like, "I just saw it the other day where it wasn't supposed to be. It's probably wherever you took it off when you got home the other day. Go look in the bathrooms."

Now these few short sentences sum up our entire family dynamic. Mr. Engineer, aka Captain Trash, is frustrated with the rest of his family's lack of engineeriness (that is so a word) and our inability to find a "place for everything and everything...blah, blah, blah." While our 9-year-old son, aka The One Whose Head Resides in the Clouds, is assuring us that there is no such thing as a baseball belt, so he couldn't possibly have lost one. And I am thinking, "Oh yeah, I saw that belt in a strange place, too. It's probably in the bathroom downstairs and I should go -- look, something shiny!" While our girls are downstairs coloring on paper with markers on the one patch of carpet that doesn't look as if it has been herded over by muddy elephants. Yep, that's us.

I have told you before about my stellar housekeeping skills, and I am sure you must be bored of it by now, but there's a reason I've brought this dead horse up to beat again. A lovely author whose blog I follow, Joshilyn Jackson, and four of her just as lovely friends are running a Spring Cleaning contest over at Five Full Plates. No, there is no fabulous Dyson vacuum cleaner up for grabs. The only thing you'll be getting out of this contest is bragging rights and possibly a freshly cleaned house. The first contest they did was a 10-week weight loss challenge that I failed at, but at the same time won. The goal was to lose 10 pounds in 10 weeks. I lost about 6 pounds, so technically I failed. But, I started actually and truly exercising at least once a week and at least thinking about what I shoved in my pie hole before I shoved it and am now healthier and my jeans are too big, so that is totally a win for me. I am sure it will be the same with this contest. If I just manage to get one closet cleaned and make a dent in my bonus room, it will be an EPIC WIN for me. I may, if I get up the nerve, post before and after pictures. Do not hold your breath.

Now I did not see any rules posted for this contest, except for the fact that we are in no uncertain terms not to mention the Flylady to her ever, so I am so totally going to cheat. I have a friend who has recently become a professional organizer, and I plan to call her. Yes, I have used organizers in the past and my house still looks like a pack of hoarders up and moved in, but like the Apostle Paul, I will press on through my failures! Speaking of Paul, after the last few months of the metaphorical cleaning I've been doing in my life, I should feel refreshed in doing just housecleaning. (That was last week's post, and I am just too lazy to make another link to myself.)

Anyway, have I mentioned I broke down and got myself a cleaning lady that comes every two weeks? Now some of you are probably giving me the evil eye right now wondering why I'm complaining about a dirty house when I have a house cleaner, but friends the cleaning lady brings out a whole other can of worms, and she certainly doesn't help with the underlying whole organization thing. I finally hired her because I didn't want my wonderful, awesome, did I mention hot? husband leaving me with three children clinging to my Depression-era skirts, because my house occasionally looks ready to be condemned. (Am I the only one now singing "You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille..."?)

God bless Mr. Engineer's heart, he loves a freshly scrubbed and organized house, and I am genetically unable to make a house either sparkly or organized, so I decided to cut out lattes that come in cups with a pretty green logo and stay out of the fabric and craft stores for a while and get myself some shiny and sparkly. The problem is, I hired the sparkly before I hired the organization. Now I spend every Wednesday marshaling the troops to "pick up all the crap off the floor, because the cleaning lady is coming tomorrow!" And then I spend an inordinate amount of time running around and trying to put things up and generally working myself into a tizzy, just so my toilets and sinks will shine like the stars every other week and my lovely cherry desk will reflect my surprised face when I look at it. What's that you say? You can see your reflection in your desk!?! Why yes, I did. So that means that all of the papers that had been piled on my desk for the last three, four, five? years, are now in boxes residing beside my desk. Yep, you heard me. She cleaned off my desk. (Insert mild expletive here.)

This, of course, had to happen right before tax time, which is my absolute favorite time to be married to Mr. Engineer. This is when he starts asking me dreadful, hateful, nasty questions such as "Where are the receipts for the inventory you bought? And where are your receipts for what you sold? And how about those sales tax forms that show you paid your taxes this year? You did pay your sales tax this year, right?" And this is where my heart feels all panicky in my too-small chest and my armpits start to sweat, and I try really hard not to shout, "How the *&^% should I know? And LEAVE ME ALONE!" I refrain from shouting this because I know that he is only doing our family a favor by keeping the IRS off our backs, and seriously, I should know these things. I am a grownup, and I have had this embroidery business for at least 4 or 5 years now, and I know that the Tax Man cometh every April. I should really know where all that crap is. And I usually have a vague idea of where it is piled up on my desk, written on backs of envelopes and folded and put in the special "tax" places on my desk. But remember, I hired out some sparkly and shiny, and that is what I got. I just didn't realize I'd get a big freaking headache to go along with it.

Anyway, the whole point of this rambling post is that I'm trying to get this pit I call a house in order, because I've got some things I'd like to do that require a little organization. My goal is to tackle some particularly nasty organizational task every week for four weeks. Anyone willing to join me? I meant join me in organizing your own house, not coming over to help in mind. But if you are up for that sort of thing, I certainly won't stop you. Just bring some water, flashlights and emergency food packs. Who knows how long we'll be buried in my closets...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Back, ahem, again...

Hi old friends, did you miss me?

"Who are you?" you say. "We do not know you. Who could you possibly be, calling us friends?"

Aww now, don't be that way. I know I up and left on a three-month hiatus without so much as a "see you later" but I didn't mean to.

*Looks at freshly painted hot pink toenails, chagrinned*

Forgive me? Please? Pretty please with sprinkles on top? What about if I pinky swear and spit and promise never to do it again? Okay? Thanks! You guys are the best. And I am so sorry that some of you (make that two of you) have been checking back every few days to see if I had showed back up again. And I hadn't. I don't even know what to tell you. It's not as if my life has been any busier than normal the last few months, other than the holidays of course, which are busy for everybody. After the holidays it might not even have been as busy as usual. (Like my stellar sentence structure, there? I know that's why you've been coming back day after day looking for me.)

I guess you could just say I've been in a place. I've been doing lots of looking in and trying to figure things out in my life. I've been doing a Bible study these past few months on abiding, based on John 15:1-5. It's the "vine" analogy on how Jesus is the vine, God is the vinedresser, and we are the branches who are unable to accomplish anything apart from him. He says that the branches that do nothing will be cut off and those that bear a little fruit will be pruned, so they will bear more fruit.

Pruning, it's not something I've thought about much, and frankly, it's not very fun to think about. I feel like my eyes have been opened to all the pruning that is necessary in my life, and have mercy! It is not a pretty picture. Literally, in a span of a week or two God showed me every thing in my life that needed to be cut away -- every sort of sin and wrong-thinking (I'm sure that's a word) that needed to be taken care of. It was tough. I asked him, in a respectful way of course, did He really have to show me every single thing that was wrong with me in one week?

Apparently, yes. It was an ordeal just to "see" it all, much less try to deal with it. But there you have it. Now that I know better, I must do better. And it's not all that easy, but I'm getting there, and I know I will be much better for it in the end. I've made some progress in some areas, and not so much in others. But suffice it to say, that's one of the reasons I've been busy.

Another reason is guilt! After feeling guilty about not posting for a while, and then thinking of things I could post, but not getting around to it, and then feeling more guilt, I didn't feel like writing because I felt guilty. How ridiculous is that! It's not like you people (all three or four, okay seven of you) are paying me to write this. These are just the ramblings in my head that I feel the crazy need to let spill out onto the screen for all the world to see. I'm not trying for the Pulitzer here. Heck, I'm not even trying to get paid, so why on Earth should I feel guilty? It's ridiculous. But, guilt is just a part of who I am.

Also, this blog thing is time consuming. I write and write, and then revise and revise, and then write some more which is ludicrous, too. (See above note about the Pulitzer and payment.) Dear readers, you all know that once upon a time I was a writer, and I do have a degree in communications which should prove that I am somewhat familiar with the rules of grammar and even the AP stylebook, and if I can't follow those rules and guidelines flawlessly at every sitting, it's because my brain has turned mushy after reading Green Eggs and Ham and watching Dora the Explorer for the last nine years!

I know -- and I hope by now that you know -- that I have a decent understanding of grammar, and a not-too-shoddy way with words, and if that doesn't come out in every single blog post I write, the world will not come to an end, right? Mind you, this is coming from the woman who will edit an e-mail reply for 20 minutes before sending it back to a friend.

*Hi, my name is Lori, and I'm an editing addict.*

But no more! I think I'll use this to blog to work my steps and get over it. In fact, I may only read through my posts three or four times before posting which would be a major step. Because, my theory is that if it takes me less than an hour to write and edit a post, then maybe I'll write one more than every three months.

And let's face it. I edit endlessly to look more clever and smart and pretty and likeable, or something like that. It's the people pleaser in me. I want you all to like me, really like me and not just me, but my writing -- especially my writing -- which is something else I probably need to work out in therapy. But sense some of you have been kind enough to call and say, "Hey, when are you ever going to blog again, because dang it, I miss it!" then I should realize at least two of you do really like me, so I should just get over myself and write and not work myself up so much. So that's what I've decided to do. I'm done trying so hard, okay? You'll still like me, right? *Okay, so I'm still working on that one.*

And last but not least, I'm going to try really, really, REALLY hard not to write massively long blogs. *Don't laugh! I heard you laughing.* Seriously, it has occured to me that maybe, just maybe, if I don't write several thousand words at one sitting, I might just want to sit down and write more often? Makes sense, huh?

I also want a prettier, fancier blog, and I basically want to be the Pioneer Woman, but I don't see that happening any time soon, so you'll just have to live with my new color...white! It's so original, don't you think? And you can also look for a crafty blog coming from me soon. Yes, I can hear you thinking, "She can't keep up with one blog, so why would she write two?" In the real world I know that this makes no sense, but in the world inside my head, it makes perfect sense. Scary, huh? Just be glad you don't live there.

Did I mention it feels great to be back? Thanks for waiting on me.