Monthly Archives: September 2011

Sunday Mornings

One of my favorite TV shows is Sunday Morning, a slow-paced, positive news show that airs on CBS.  I suppose it is a kickback to my childhood days in Nebraska, because my parents watched it then (when it was hosted by Charles Kuralt), and we all still watch it now (with its host, Charles Osgood).  It is one of those shows that I chart my week by – even choosing which church service to attend so that our family can watch the last few minutes of the show before we leave.

The articles that it features are in depth, gentle, positive, and take their time developing.  Each segment can last 8 – 10 minutes, verses stories that run a little over a minute on average on local/national news.  It deals with a broad spectrum of eras and topics, covering actors/musicians from the 50s one week, and then covering an up and coming actor/musician the next week.  It highlights trends in culture, while honoring the lost art of the handwritten thank you note.

It highlights the fine arts, including art, dance, architecture, opera, etc.  It asks its guests nontraditional questions to create a sense of depth of knowledge that goes way past their celebrity image.

While this might sound a little schizophrenic, the Sunday Morning broadcast actually creates an atmosphere that appeals to multi-generations.  In our family, it creates a touchpoint from which we can discuss influences from the past, our memories, and their thoughts about the future.

One of my favorite things about the show is the very last segment.  In the final 60 seconds of the show, they highlight a moment of nature.  This moment is filled with video shot in various places, selecting a scene upon which to observe, with the focus being animals in nature, plants, streams and the animals that interact with them, etc.  The only audio is the natural sounds created on the scene.

Our family stops everything we’re doing, cranks the volume to its highest, sits, and breathes in scenes that we don’t get to experience during a normal day.

Maybe our fascination and commitment to this segment is an indication that we live in an urban, loud, sometimes angry setting, and that we need to get out into nature more often.  But I believe that it is also because it is a source of refreshing, and a reminder that there is more in the world than just what humans have touched.  Yes, we create some beautiful things.  But there is a Creator who created some spectacular, intricate, and astounding things.

This post really wasn’t meant to be a commercial for the show.  It was a set up to explain the video link that I’ve attached to this post.  It isn’t perfectly shot, but it is my “moment with nature” that I filmed last week when we were at the ocean. For those of you who don’t live by an ocean, it is a chance to imagine the sea salt, the feel of the wind on your face, and to hear the pulse of the waves.  It is my reminder to us all that there is more beauty than what we create, there is more peace available than what we’re accessing, and there is importance in designing for ourselves moments to stop, regroup, and refresh.

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Serene Saturdays #22 – The 100th Article

This is my 100th post.  I sit and let that sink in a bit.  Writing is still a really emotional process for me.

I started this journey in January with the hope that I could capture a few thoughts, share some truths that I’ve learned, and record some memories for my kids.  I think I’ve done that.  What I’ve also been able to accomplish is planting the seed of confidence that I can write.

I really love most of my posts.  I’ve loved that I’ve been able to see life a little differently because I have attempted to capture the moments through writing.  I’ve loved having another reason to take pictures.  I’ve loved having an excuse to isolate for short periods of time and feed the introvert in me.  I’ve loved learning that, for the most part, the articles come really quickly, and that the process of writing feels natural and easy.

For the next 100 posts, I really hope that I can work on the design of the web page…I’m not really happy with how it looks.  I also hope that I can figure out a way to broaden my readership.  I’d love to feel that I’m connecting with more people.

Thanks for journeying with me this far.  It means the world to me.  Really.  You’ve been a safe group of people with whom I could practice finding my voice, practicing the art of writing, and communicating some personal thoughts.  Thanks for caring and reading.

This week I am thankful for:

* Our first week back at school being successful.  I didn’t think I could make it through a first-week without my eldest being with us, but I did.  Tear-free even.  Huge accomplishment.

* Being able to shop at Whole Foods and Barnes and Noble.  Those stores make my heart happy.

* A successful week of working out.  I’m thankful for sore muscles.

* Having successfully published 100 blog articles.  Amazing.

I pray that you reach some beautiful milestones this coming week.  Stretch yourself and see what you can do!

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Back to School

We start school on Wednesday (tomorrow).  I recognize that we’re behind the public schools around the country, but I also wanted to take two weeks off to gather what crumbs of entertainment the tourists left after they returned to work and school.

The kids and I spent our summer inside my husband’s business doing construction work, and I felt that they needed a little extended playtime on beaches that weren’t crowded, and catching up on the relaxing that they didn’t get to do this summer.  One of the many perks of homeschooling; and while I haven’t taken advantage of this perk in the past, I am playing that card this year.


I have been prepping this year a little differently.  First of all, I have one fewer student to prep for (sigh…) so the time will be dispersed a little differently.

Second of all, I am planning with college in mind.  After walking through this last year with my eldest being bound for college, I’ve learned some academic lessons. While I believe that we’ve done a good job with home education, I also have seen that there is more that we could be doing – more that I could be doing to get the kids ready for college.

Therefore, this year I am introducing homework to the kids.  I am introducing the use of a syllabus to them.  I am giving them some self-paced materials for them to complete.  I am having them take notes on what they’re reading.  All skills that should help make their transition into college easier.

I am also using their input as to what subjects that they’d like to study.  One picked graphic arts.  One picked linguistics.  One picked spelling and handwriting.  I found high school curriculum to guide them (including iTunesU – a great resource) and will give them time to study these subjects.

I also will be leading them in developing their worldview.  In an effort to be intentional (see my post Passing It Down – 9/11 Reflections), I am having discussions about values that I have, in the past, assumed were being caught by my  kids.

“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”  – C.S. Lewis

In whatever way education flows through your life this school year, I hope that it fills your minds and your souls.

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Serene Saturdays #21

I hope you all had as good a Saturday as I had.  You just can’t get better than driving with your family to spend the weekend with your college daughter – getting to spend the hours together and being able to be a family of 6 again.  Life is as it should be.

Add to this scenario that you get to spend the evenings visiting with one of the dear sets of friends that moved away recently.  We are staying in their home and enjoying their sweet gift of hospitality.  Their presence is refreshment to a deep place in our hearts, and it gives us a much-needed sense of normalcy and shared experiences.

This week, I have been thankful for:

* Much needed preparation for school being made.

* Spending oodles of quality time with my elder daughter.

* Quiet evenings watching football.

* Amazingly perfect cooler temperatures.

* The hospitality of heart friends.

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Bowling 101

We found a great source of entertainment this summer.  After the onslaught of daily construction subsided, and we had a huge amount of extra time on our hands, I enrolled the family in a bowling program with AMF.

AMF is a national bowling chain with several locations in our area.  They have had a program for the past several years of providing two free games of bowling per child (16 and younger) per day.  Every week day!  It is as simple as enrolling online and printing out weekly coupons to be scanned at the AMF center.  You still have to pay for shoes, but all of the games are covered.

In our constant search for cheap/free activities to do with our family, this one fit the bill nicely.  We have spent the past few weeks bowling.

And bowling.

My kids have each become good bowlers.  I am sure not an expert, but bowling was an activity that I did with my dad when I was younger.  It brings back great memories, and was fun to pass on the knowledge that I had with each of them.  My older son is a natural, while the other 3 each needed a little coaching.

In a world where high-tech beats out the simple, and bowling is a little passé, AMF initiated a program to create a new generation of bowlers.  Bring them in for free when they’re little, and they’ll play often when they’re older.

What is neat about this sport is that it is so social.  I’m not sure how other families participate, but with our family, there is a lot of cheering on, and an equal amount of heckling.  There is a fair share of competition, but mostly that is with our own personal scores and goals.  We also laugh and laugh and laugh.

In the summer dominated by doing construction at my husband’s business, forsaking the beaches for paint brushes, it was nice to find an inexpensive way to play.

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Chef’s Table

This is the 3rd article about the cruise.

The Chef’s Table.  It was such an altering experience, I had to write about it.

Our hosts on this cruise, Shawn and Cheryl Small, arranged a special treat for us on Monday night.  They paid for our group to be the guests of the head chef as he prepared a special meal for us.

The chef’s idea of a “special meal” included a full tour of the kitchen, being handed a lovely glass of champagne, and being served 4 exquisite appetizers – all while we got to ask him questions about himself, his experience on the cruise ship, and the way food service works on the ship.

At the end of the kitchen tour, we were taken to the pastry prep section.  Laid out on the table were all of the ingredients of our favorite dessert – Warm Chocolate Melting Cake.  They gave us a complete demonstration on how to make the dessert, with Cheryl (who is an experienced chef herself) actually helping to prepare the dessert.

We were walked through the dining room like royalty, only to be escorted to the ship’s library where an amazing table was prepared for us.  There were place holders with our names on it, a customized menu of the night’s delicacies (with our names printed on them), and a ship’s photographer took a picture of all of us together.

Then the dining began.  We had a 7 course supper served to us, each with the chef coming out and explaining what we were being served.  The food was the caliber of what you’d see on a television cooking show – the kind of food that you admire, but know you’ll neither eat nor prepare in your lifetime.  Each course was presented so elegantly.  As one member of our group said, edible art.

About half way through the meal, the chef introduced the ship’s table-side magician.  He performed a full show of tricks for us for about 1/2 an hour.  We were thoroughly entertained, with lots of laughing and befuddlement.

We talked, laughed, ate, swooned, and enjoyed the chef’s company for 3 1/2 hours.  Each course being more amazing than the last one.

The grand finale was dessert.  Along with what the chef prepared for us, his assistants (a kind and efficient waiting staff) served the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake that Cheryl had helped make at the beginning of the tour!

After our places were cleared, the chef personally handed out a copy of the picture of our group that was taken at the beginning of the evening…

as well as a printed copy of the recipe of the Warm Melting Chocolate Cake.  What an intimate, classy touch.

At the beginning of this article, I wrote that this meal was an altering experience.  The reason I say that is because it was such an incredible extreme from my normal life, that it caused me to step back and realize how blessed I really am.

Only a daily basis, I am weighed down with the pressure of the world.  I wrestle with how to make our ends meet.  How to get the mortgage paid – and lately, not succeeding.    How to pay for my eldest to get to college.  I wrestle with helping my husband get his business off the ground.  Praying that I can get the girls the things they need for dance, while making sure that we have gas money.  Praying that the boys’ clothes and Boy Scout uniforms fit just a little longer so that we don’t have to buy them new things.  Nothing unique in this economy, but debilitating pressure nonetheless.

And yet – tonight I am drawn to the realization that this has been an extraordinary life.  Truly supernatural.

*I have an amazing family.
*My eldest made it through her first few days of college without us being there, and is still smiling.
*My family has traveled to so many countries that we’ve quit counting.
*I have been on 2 cruises within a 2 year time span.
*I had a seven course meal with the head chef.
*I have friends that care enough about our hearts that they provide these extravagant retreats away for us for the express purpose of making sure that we’re served and spoiled.
*We have other friends that have financially invested in us so many times that it is ridiculous, and because of them, we are still financially standing.
*I have a brand new Mac computer because a friend from college believed in my writing and paid for me to get one.

Who has these things happen to them?!?

I shake my head and say, “I do.”  I marvel at that answer, and am humbled.  My stomach is full, my taste buds completely satisfied, and my heart more full than it has been in a very, very long time.

Thank you friends.

Thank you God.

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Passing It Down – 9/11 Reflections

As the nation stops to remember the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I am struck with the lack of information that my own kids have received in regards to this event.  The world in which I lived changed forever on that day – but it also changed the world in which my kids would grow up.  While they see the effects daily of the events of 9/11, ( airport security, wars, governmental policy changes, uprising in the Middle East, news reports that reference that day, etc.), I didn’t realize that they really hadn’t understood what the day itself looked like.

Two nights ago, I sat with my 14 year old son to watch news footage of the terror attack.  I was caught off guard as I watched the image of the second plane crashing into the tower – not by the visual (I’ve seen it many times before), but by my son’s gasp.  It was the first time he’d seen that footage.  It was even the first time that he realized we’d all watched it live on national television.

It changed the way I watched the events of that broadcast.

Instead of personally reliving the moments, I then anticipated his reactions as the first tower fell.
Then the second tower.
I had an etched image in my brain of the clouds of debris chasing people down the Manhattan streets, and I wanted to see his face as the enormity of the situation sunk in.
I knew there were going to be images of bloody people covered in white ash running for their lives, and I wanted to make sure that he was OK with what he was seeing.

He got to hear first hand the testimonies of the people trapped in the towers, the last phone messages left by those who knew they were dying, the 911 calls from the plane that went down in Pennsylvania as the travelers realized what they had to do, and the survivors whose lives were devastated by the invasive loss of that day.

I was grateful for that broadcast, if for no other reason than to give context and an explanation as to why this event was as life-changing as it was.  It was thousands of lives lost.  But it was also hundreds of thousands of lives transformed as they rushed out of the towers, ran for their lives from a monstrous cloud of ash, stopped to help another person on the street, grieved over loved ones lost…

It changed my world, but because I experienced fully the moment that it happened, I understood.

It changed my kids’ worlds, but because they were so young during the moment, they didn’t have the “why”.   It was a good thing to share those moments with my son who is now old enough to understand.

I am determined to begin a mental list of other events that have changed our lives, for better or for worse, that we might not have fully explained the “why” behind the action.  Our story is our legacy, and we must fully and completely pass it on to our kids.  Even if those stories include one of the darkest days in our nation’s past.


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Why I Love Cruising

This is the second article about my cruise.

This is my second cruise.  I say that with a sense of wonder and awe, because I never dreamed I’d EVER go on a cruise.  I don’t come from a cruising family.  I don’t even come from a vacationing family.  Just during this visit with my parents being at my home, my dad shared that he’s never been on a vacation.  Sure, as a kid we’d take trips to see my grandparents from wherever we were living at the time, but never a vacation to a destination that didn’t include a home of relatives.

Both of these cruises were paid for by Wonder Voyage, the company for whom my husband works.  Both were working vacations for the Board Members or the Voyage Directors – but for me, they were simply vacations.

Both have come at such a crucial time in our marriage and in my personal life.  I know that I would’ve continued on without these times away, but also recognize that they were an intimate gift from God to help.  To help me.  To remind me.  To heal me.   To reconnect me.

What I love about cruising:

Being served.  Completely, with a smile, endlessly.  There is a huge crew that is here to meet my every need.  Room service, bed turndown service, drinks delivered poolside, cleaning up after me, cute towel animals.

(Our dinner waiters performing a song for us.)

I receive love by acts of service.  If you want to show me love, serve me.  Maybe it is because I serve my little people so incessantly, but I think that, even before I had kids, I received love by acts of service.  I don’t need touch.  I don’t need love notes.  I don’t need lots of time spent in intense dialogue to feel loved.  I just need the simple acts of service.  On a cruise, that’s what happens.

No schedule.  No expectations.  Now of course, there are typical times that people eat (although most people just eat all day on a cruise), there are shows with showtimes, and there are certain hours the casinos and clubs are opened and closed; however, there are not people waiting to be disappointed if I decide not to attend.  What a refreshing feeling!  If I want to sleep in, I sleep.  If I want to walk the deck, I walk.  If I want to get super dressed up and eat at a fancy dining room, I eat with my cute black dress and high heels on.

The food.  I suppose that is what I heard most about a cruise before I actually cruised.  But for good reason.  The food is endless.  Constant.  Delicious.  My sweet husband is addicted to the constant offering of soft serve ice cream.  Before the ship even departed, he’d had a couple.  Besides the taste of the stuff, I think it is the ready access and the constant “of course you can” that becons him.

Nothing in life has this much excess attached to it.  In most real life scenarios, if you want extra, you pay for extra.  Here, if you ordered steak and loved it, but there is also an entree of lobster, you can order that as well.  They’ll, without judgement or complaint, clean up your well-eaten steak plate, and simply replace it with a lobster tail plate.  You want two desserts?  You got it.  You want that dessert, but with 3 scoops of ice cream instead of one?  You got it.  It never ends.

The destinations.  I have been able to see Grand Turk island, St. Thomas of the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and now Cozumel, Mexico and Key West, Florida. (The following pics are from our rainy/overcast day in Cozumel.)

The relaxation.  Maybe I alluded to this in the other reasons I love cruises, but it is such a major part of the journey that I have to single it out.  There is a Zac Brown Band song, called Knee Deep, that has become our theme song for this trip.  There is one line that says,

“Blue sky breezes blowing wind through my hair,
The only worry in the world is the tide going to reach my chair.”

And while we haven’t seen much reason to sit in a beach chair worrying about the tide (it has been overcast most of the time), the sentiment is there.  There is no communication with the business of our world.  No pressure or worries.

– I don’t have to worry about communicating with the rude lady on the other end of the phone as I try to renegotiate the terms of our mortgage.

– I don’t have to have a grasp on my family’s schedule so that I can plan meals accordingly and, subsequently, purchase groceries.

– I don’t have to keep the kids’ activities in the front of my mind so that I make sure that we don’t miss some commitment.

Is that tide reaching my chair?  Hmmm…guess I’d better move a little.

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This is the first of my 3 articles that I wrote while on the cruise:

As I lay out on the deck in the Serenity Deck (a space of the deck reserved for 21 and up so that it is quieter and more relaxed) overlooking the wake of our ocean vessel, my eldest daughter is being escorted to her first year of college by my awesome parents.

They are also about to wage war with Irene, the hurricane that we left for them instead of our presence. For me, there couldn’t be any more fitting parallel than an historic hurricane.

For all of her 18 years of life, I have pushed against the current of culture to raise a godly, loving girl, with whom I have the most special relationship.  I went into the teen years having heard mostly stories of dissension, embarrassment, and disagreements.  I anticipated those years with dread – until we began that season of life, and I learned that I could expect my daughter (and the kids following) to mature without losing who she really is.  Her teen years were by far the most rewarding, loving and special years of our relationship.

For all 15 years of her education, I have gone counter-culture and educated her at home.   I have fought her insecurities and the voices that told her day in and day out that she wasn’t smart.  I have wrestled with the doubts about whether or not I am her best teacher, and whether or not she will resent me for making a choice that would keep her from group sports and prom.  I guess time will tell on whether or not she resents missing the cultural rites of passage found in the public school system, but I can report that she is attending college on a Presidential academic scholarship.  She is a bright, thoughtful, and creative young lady.

For all of her teen years, I have fought against a media current that calls her to waste her time, that creates a false sense of connectivity with “friends” she barely knows, or that would cause her to stumble upon a torrent of information that is not helpful and potentially destructive. Maybe that sounds a little combative or paranoid.  Maybe it is a little of both.  However, the culture that we’ve developed in our home has been challenged at every turn, and sometimes feels like riding out a hurricane.

And now, as I sit and drink in the ocean air, sip on a virgin Pina Colata, and read an enticing book, I can’t help but find my mind journeying with my parents as they deal with my daughter’s fears and emotions, and with the sense of loss that is inevitable in the other kids.

Our cruise was re-routed from Bermuda to Cozumel, Mexico to avoid the path of the hurricane.  It didn’t work very well.  We left the port at Charleston, SC and for 24 hours, experienced waves that gave you a sense of weightlessness, non-stop.  I was on a roller coaster ride for what seemed an eternity.  Imagine repeating the anticipation and that floaty feeling that you get at the top of a roller coaster just as you’re descending the giant hill, and that is what I felt on a minute to minute basis.  I fought well for the first 10 hours or so, but then my body gave in to the abhorrence of that feeling, and I spent the next 14 hours either laying in bed suffering, or throwing up.

(Barf bags temporarily put up to catch the effects of hurricane Irene.  The picture is a little tipped, because it is impossible to take a good picture when the floor upon which you stand is rocking/swaying incessantly.)

Thankfully, my husband roused me from my sick bed (at which time I promptly threw up), got me to take a shower, and walked me to the deck.  Historically, the deck is a better place to be for motion sickness.  A friend gave me a dramamine (which really, really work, by the way), and we slowly moved further away from the effects of the hurricane.  Between my husband getting me out of bed and serving me selflessly, the medicine I was lovingly given, and the ship getting further away from the crashing waves (some of which woke people up in their sleep because they sounded like luggage crashing or doors being slammed), I am happy to report that the moment on the Serenity Deck actually happened.

And yet my mind is in a gold minivan filled with people I love to the point it hurts, dropping off one of my most precious possessions.  Wrestling with a real hurricane, and a figurative one all at once.

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Serene Saturdays #20

Happy Saturday!  We returned from our cruise on Wednesday into the port of Charleston, SC and drove home.  On the way, we passed through Philadephia, took a detour, and visited our daughter in college.  It was such a refreshing way to end our vacation.

Then we arrived home.  Our poor family had weathered an earthquake centered in Washington, D.C but felt all up the east coast, got my eldest off to college and dealt with the devastating loss felt by her siblings, weathered hurricane Irene, but was left with 6 days of no power.  They had endured freezing showers (my youngest said that after you went numb, it was no problem), the loss of all food in the fridge and freezer, no electronics, no way to cook, the loss of light at 6:30, no laundry capability, etc.  It was a miserable existence, brightened only by candles and poker.

Yep, that’s right, my parents taught my kids poker via candlelight every evening.  They are experts, impressing me not only with their knowledge, but the lingo.  They now talk like real poker players, with an occasional, “You could get shot for that,” thrown in there.

On the evening that we arrived home, the power was still out.  We got a small taste of what they’d been going through.  The next day at noon, power was restored.  There was not only screaming and cheers from my home, but from 4 other neighbors that happened to be home.  It was quite a joyous scene.

My parents began their long drive home today, with a short stop at my daughter’s university to give her one last hug.  Things started to get back to normal – although a normal that will be hard to adjust to.  Anyway, we will be cleaning like crazy (everything from washing clothes, dishes, vacuuming, and cleaning out the soggy, stinky refrigerator and freezer), playing like crazy, and not taking anything for granted.  It is good to be on the grid again!

This week I am thankful for:

* Cruises.  I have a couple of posts that I wrote while on the ship that I’ll publish later this week.

* My parents.  Their sacrificial service is humbling.  I shouldn’t be surprised, because that is how I was raised, but they put up with circumstances that would undo other, less hearty people.

* Lovely weather.

* Skype.

* Restored power, and the creativity that the lack thereof gives you.

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