Monday, May 4, 2009

Shepherds and Sheep

Our family is in a time of great change and to many people, change is scary. I am one of those people. Change is scary for me. It does not matter how strong my faith, it is not a reflection on the people I love and support and support me, it is not any of those things. It is just me being me- and I fear change. I also fear roller coasters, but I still go on them over and over because I love that tingly feeling in my belly. I love that moment where it is ok to not be in control- and change falls in that category, too.

This summer we will experience change. Our oldest will embark on the next stage of her journey. She will be attending a special summer camp to help her deal with her illness. We hope she will come home understanding more about it, about herself, and be ready to face her next challenge and opportunity when she moves to Maryland in August to be part of a special program at the National Institute of Health. This program will help get her moved to medications that have a higher success rate with her symptoms- but the program takes four months. So going from a family with four busy daughters, to three busy daughters will be change. And, change scares me. The fears with this change are many- and mostly they are selfish. I am trying to let them go. Being a parent involves making deeply difficult decisions that are not necessarily in your best interest, but always in the best interest of your child.

Our newest change happened last week. The economic recession hit our family. My husband was laid off. This statement probably would freak a lot of people out. Remarkably, it didn’t freak me out, my husband either. We saw it coming- who couldn’t? It looked as plain as a giant tornado coming down the street. What else would happen to a company that is not bringing on new business? They can’t float payroll forever. Since we had seen it coming, and since we have never taken the approach that “it won’t happen to us”, Phil and I had a plan. We made ourselves have minimal debt, and put our expenses in line with a one paycheck household and stockpiled as much as we could into savings for emergencies, and we finished most of our home improvement projects. So, worst case scenario, we can meet all of our needs and the girls’ needs for a long time. Of course, there won’t be luxuries- and I am considering McDonald’s a luxury, but again, we will be fine. Financially, we are ok and in much better shape than 99% of those facing the same circumstances. But again, change scares me. The layoff actually answered many questions we had been praying about, and so we feel this is all part of God’s plan for us- which leads me to the main point of this blog.

The homily yesterday was based on the bible verse, “I am a shepherd and you are my sheep”, or something close to that. I think most of us are familiar with this symbolism used by Jesus. The Priest was explaining how Jesus was saying that a Shepherd had a vested interest in his sheep, while a hired hand was only interested in the paycheck. Fr. Robert went on to talk about how sometimes a Shepherd even needs to have a vested interest in sheep that are not part of his own flock, because it is the right thing to do. This really made me think, and it made me cry. I questioned myself on whether I am a Shepherd. Do I take care of my own flock as I should? Would I stand up to the wolf for them or would I turn away? Do I take care of sheep that are not my own, because it is the right thing to do? Or do I view those sheep as a paycheck? I realized, this homily was written for me and my family.

One of the questions Phil and I have been praying about is how to do a better job of putting the kids first, to continue the transition into a stable environment for them? How do we rebuild any damaged parts of our relationships with the girls that the turmoil of moving, building a new house, new careers, new schools, etc. may have damaged? Our question was “Have we been taking care of our sheep?” And in honesty, we have been meeting their basic needs, but we could do better. Meeting their basic needs is all you can do when one parent is gone before the kids wake, and too often home after they go to sleep. Meeting their basic needs is all you can do when the other parent is torn between four kids needing four different things, the housework, the insurance questions, the bills, the returning of calls, homework, and their own job. Meeting their basic needs was not good enough for us- but we didn’t know how to get beyond that given Phil’s job.

The next question involved sheep that didn’t belong to our flock- and I thought of my students. Then I thought of all the teachers I know. It is obvious that we do not work for a paycheck- my pay alone qualifies our family for free lunch and other benefits (pretty sad eh?) But do we always tend to these sheep that do not belong to us as if they did? And I had to say no. Do I try, absolutely, I try. But can I do better? Yes. Have there been times I have turned away from a stray sheep for whatever reason, and left them to the wolf? Yes. I also thought of Phil, and by the way he dropped his head, I knew he was asking the same questions of himself, his role as a father, and his performance as an employee, and finding the same answers.

So, while change is scary, I know I need to move forward in a way that improves my role as Shepherd to both my own flock and to sheep that don’t belong to me. In one fell swoop, God answered all of our family’s questions through a layoff and a homily. Kind of ironic isn’t it? Our largest opportunities are coming from something that is so often perceived as bad. So, while change is scary, faith is not. Faith in His plan, and the desire to do what it takes to go where you are led, will lead you to happiness. We know now that His plan for us involves a lot of elbow grease, a lot of love, and the need to strengthen ourselves in God, our children, and each other.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


I have been having an insatiable desire to re-connect with people from my past. I am not sure where this desire is coming from... I can't pinpoint a specific answer to the why. I do know that many of my women friends are going through the same thing right now- so maybe it has something to do with hormones of the 30-40 crowd. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I can actually catch my breath these days. I feel as if the last four years has been a complete whirlwind... the last three being the most fantastically, dizzying times of my life. In that whirlwind, things that were not stapled down, cemented to me, or just plain hanging on for dear life, got inadvertently lost in the blur. The fact is that I miss my old friends. I miss the memories with them, the connection with people who knew me through my innocence, my loss of innocence, and when I was Katie discovering Katie.

At least from my perspective, I don't have enemies from the past, and perhaps I put on my rose-colored glasses when I look backwards, but then, I don't find anything wrong with that. Resentment and anger are pretty heavy burdens to carry. Every person from my past has good qualities (even if I never acknowledged them back then) and I remember these memories with the sunshine of the good and not the shadows of the bad. These people are marks on my pathway of life and I am as interested in discovering who they became as adults as I believe they are in me. I no longer dream about reconnecting with an old flame- that desire was lost 10 years ago, but the old flames helped shape who I have become and hold a part of my past within them. While the flames have died the embers of friendship will always exist and that is how I want them to be a part of my life now- friends. All of my old friends- I want to know that they are well, that they are as happy as I am, and that if something should ever happen to me and my children go in search of the story of my life, these people have my blessing to share every intimate and embarrassing detail.

So friends have started contacting me, and me them. These are old names and faces to me, but to Phil, they are all new. I think it has shaken him a bit- why do I need these people now, is he not providing me with something, is our life together lacking something important? Quite the opposite. I am very proud of being Phil's wife. I think I hit the jackpot with him and consider myself the luckiest woman on Earth. Having that sense of pride in my family and our life together makes my desire to re-connect with the past grow stronger and stronger. Look people, look at how blessed I ended up becoming! Look friends- you were right- I would have a great life, and you always reminded me of it- even when I didn't believe it myself. For those friends still searching, I want to show them what is possible for every human being if the person is just patient.

Bottom line, I am in a place in my life where I am content. Sometimes the routine of life gets annoying, and that is when old friends help me recall a crazier day (which I have no desire to relive by the way- no desire to be stupid again) but it is fun to be mature enough and comfortable enough in my skin to be able to laugh at my old self. I love the place I am in my life. I understand what being a friend is truly about, and God has smacked me with some of the most amazing women and men to be friends with- people I never tell enough or show enough how appreciative I am of their time and talents. I do not wish to replace these people with the old, or completely let go of the old for the new. In my ideal world, I would have a barbecue and every person I care about, past or present would all come together. And every person they care about would be there too- so we could all get to know the stages of one another. Since we are all scattered to the four corners of the Earth, this can never happen- but it is a sweet dream. Except when it comes to the clean-up- that I would hire out!

I am at a crossroads in life- that place where I am who I am and it is finally ok to let my past and present merge together to become my future.

Friday, April 3, 2009


Something is going on with my tummy today. It is not very fun. It is that thing that happens when you drink the water in Mexico. Only, wait, I haven't been to Mexico, and quite frankly, I can't remember the last time I drank water- bottle, tap, or otherwise. Have you ever had to deal with the revenge of Mexican water while teaching 6 periods of 7th graders? It's not pretty. It goes something like this:
tummy gurgle
Ignore tummy gurgle
Teach more
Think about tummy gurgle
Seat shift
Seat squirm
Bell rings- run like H.E. double hockey sticks

Have you ever had to deal with this scenario with the community toilets that never have enough pressure to flush everything on the first try and you are flushing, then re-flushing, then flushing again, finally taking your red grading pen and pushing the toilet paper just a little closer to the drain-thingie so it will finally flush down???? Ooops... maybe that was TMI.

What a wonderful thing on a typhoon Friday in Central Florida. I think I will go get my hair colored after school. I will look good as a blonde.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Am I getting too full of myself?

I have added another blog... a blog of opinions. This is a blog for me to share my opinion on all the products I encounter in my daily life of trying to manage my mini-circus. I have two reviews so far and feel free to check them out...My Opinion and a Quarter Get You a Gumball!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cheers to Mom

It has taken me over a week to process this blog. After all, how do you describe in words a person who is so fundamentally important to your very being that everything that comes out in words sounds trite or superficial?

My Mom is my mentor, my role model, my hero, essentially, one of the most important people in my life. My Mom shaped the person I am today. Not that Dad didn’t play a role in it, but Dad came in later in the picture- the later in life lessons and understanding. When I was young, it was all about my Mom. I want to share a bit of my Mom with you because Sunday was her birthday. My selfless, loving, non-judgmental Mom is 25 years older than me. Those of you, who know my age, can do the math. The most critical thing I notice about the aging process of my Mom is that the more years pass, the more we resemble sisters rather than Mother/Daughter. I age, she doesn’t.

Mom has to be the smartest person I know. She is that incredible level of smart that I never understood until I became an adult. Mom can finish crossword puzzles- in ink! Mom knows the answers to any version of Trivial Pursuit. Jeopardy? She plays while cooking. Wheel of Fortune- often knows the answer before a single letter is turned. As a child, I took this for granted. I thought every parent was this smart. My Mom finished her Master’s Degree while working full-time, two young kids goofing off in the library while she was studying, and a husband who worked long hours and was constantly traveling for work. I have no clue how she did it- and I try to tell her how amazed I am by what she did- and often. Her reply? You do what you have to do.

As if being brilliant isn’t intimidating enough, my Mom is gorgeous. She is the perfect height, the perfect build, crystal blue eyes and blonde hair. Could I even get one shred of my Mom’s genetics- nope! Even today, walking next to her, I feel like an awkward gangly, girl with the wrong coloring, wrong clothes, and wrong everything. Sorry Dad, but not fair that Chris got the gorgeous genes. Mom always carried herself with confidence, something I still have not acquired. I am not biased here; my college boyfriend once said if I could guarantee I would age like my Mom, he would marry me on the spot. We’re not married. It was creepy to have my college boyfriend hitting on my Mom.

Mom set an example of what a parent should be, although at the time I didn’t realize it. She showed me that a Mom can and should have her own identity and can still be dedicated to her kids. Mom had an amazing career in education. She was well-known, well respected, and admired in her field, but away from school, she was still her own person. She was involved in Junior Women’s Club, Tennis Group, Golf Groups, Bridge Groups, you name it, and she was involved. She was always there to do the business politics with Dad, kept an amazingly clean house (without a cleaning lady and three messy people living with her), was a restaurant quality cook (except for the month of casseroles- sorry Mom, but the casserole phase- I still have nightmares!) and encouraged me and my brother to explore everything, do our best, and be true to ourselves. I can’t remember Mom not allowing us to explore something, and this I took for granted, and for that I will always be sorry.

As a kid, you don’t realize what a parent does without so their child can do something or have something. I loved art, so Mom drove me into Omaha on Saturdays to the museum so I could take art classes. She even found a local artist to give me more lessons. She made sure I got to dance classes (ballet, tap, jazz, and toe) and sewed costumes and bought expensive dance shoes and paid for even more expensive cheerleading uniforms. She didn’t just do these things for me. Chris pursued tennis, running, soap box derby. She was a scout leader for girls and boys and she planned numerous amazing birthday parties. When I got older, she took me shopping every weekend, and now I realize it wasn’t about making sure I had the latest clothes, it was about making time for me, trying to get me to talk to her about things and being a part of my life. She was cool. She taught me to shop sales, find bargains, plan ahead, cook, multi-task, skills I use everyday.

And what did Mom get as a reward for being so awesome? Me, an unappreciative, often embarrassing, rule-breaking, snot-nosed kid. I never said thank you enough, I constantly reminded her of what other kids had and I didn’t, made her feel guilty for not being a Room Mom or making me walk to school because she had to work. I was awful and she did not deserve it. Even now, after all the hell I put her through as a child and as an adult, Mom is my biggest supporter. Mom listens to me complain, tells me she is proud of me, and never seems surprised by an accomplishment. She never shows me any doubt she may feel about my abilities. Mom is a solution gal, so if life is throwing curve balls or lemons, she knows how to make the sweetest lemonade or become a better catcher. When I ask her about this, how she never stops to wallow or cry or be upset, she has the same answer- you do what you have to do.

The only good thing I did for her was give her grandkids. Although I think she feels I overdid it with four of them, she loves them all. She is an amazing Nana. She believes in building individual relationships with her grandchildren and recognizes their own talents. Having four daughters who are often looked at as a group by family and friends, I can never thank my Mom enough for recognizing them as individuals! My girls love to spend time with Nana. They read or do art or play on the computer or play games. She lets them drive the golf cart, takes them swimming, to the movies or shopping and lets them help her cook. She helps me be a better Mom by giving me advice- but in a way only when I am asking for it. She does not force an opinion or herself (although many times I wish she would) on me, my husband, and my kids. We all love her for it.

Happy Birthday Mom. May there be many, many more. Thank you for everything.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Roses and Radishes

Ok... so I know it is a gerbera daisy- but didn't Roses and Radishes sound so much better in the title? I also know that one picture is of corn... I do know my vegetables and flowers, they are in my garden. But again, it was all about the title. Moving on, SPRING HAS SPRUNG! I am so excited- the first successes of my flower and vegetable gardens are appearing. They may be my only successes, but we will see. This is the first radish harvested from my garden. Well, Phil says it is technically the second, because on Sunday we pulled one for our nephew, Jack to show him how radishes grow and he ate it straight from the garden. I wish I had my camera with me, because he was so thoughtful as he chewed on that miniature radish- contemplating the taste and texture. For a minute I thought he was going to hurl, but his eyebrows came together and then apart and he announced "I like it." Then, in typical Jack-style, moved on to a million other questions about this plant or that plant. He finish by proclaiming I needed to add broccoli to the garden and it will be done. Of course, I am now in search of broccoli starter plants for Jack!
After I harvested this radish, four more were ready, so we had our first salad last night with radishes from our own garden. It is becoming quite the family affair. I often find Phil out giving the garden a good soak- of course he has also informed me he has a vested interest- if the economy keeps going to heck in a handbasket- our only food may come from that garden! The corn is now two foot tall, so time to get a nitrogen boost. Carrots sucked this year- they usually do- but the leaves are so pretty that I left them in the garden anyway. This weekend we should be able to have bibb lettuce and radishes from our garden and tomatoes will be coming soon, onions quick to follow, and oh I can't wait for those cucumbers. The girls and I eat cucumbers like there is no tomorrow- I can get them to tell me anything with a cucumber bribe and Molly has an obsession with slicing cucumbers... should I be worried?

The flowers are a little newer to me. Don't get me wrong, I love flowers, but I have learned big, bad Phil loves flowers too. (Oops, there I go again revealing the softer side of Phil) Have I mentioned that my Hubby is a Harley-Riding, Bar Loving, Ready-to-Rumble Redneck designed to drive fear into the heart of everyone he meets? (There Honey- you are redeemed) So moving on, 'The Girls' really love flowers, so I am learning more and planting more so we have continuous color in our yard. SUGGESTIONS WELCOME!!! We are adding huge flower beds in the backyard next to our "Karma is a Bitch" fence (see future blogs for details), so I am busy planning bulbs and flowering bushes, etc.

Anyway, I rambled. I always ramble. But my gardens are a heck of a lot cheaper than a therapist and it is so darn wonderful to be able to say, "I grew that!". Check out the "My Opinion and a Gumball" website for upcoming reviews of products. I must say I found a killer pair of garden gloves- making it possible to get dirty and still have pretty nails!

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Most Amazing Brother Ever

Today is the birthday of the greatest brother whoever walked the Earth- my big, brother Chris. He and I have very different views of him, which I think is pretty common among any two people. Today, Chris is 39 years young, and has already accomplished more in life, with such great success, than I will ever achieve. Besides being tall and gorgeous (I used to love watching the girls fawn over my brother), he is an amazing Dad, fiercely protective of his family, managed to marry a wonderful woman willing to put up with our family's quirks, and is phenomenal at matters of business.

My big brother was not thrilled with me at first. I heard stories of him trying to dump me out of the cradle and push me out of my Mom's arms. As soon as I could move, we transitioned into a pretty common brother/sister relationship. We were best of friends one day and worst enemies the next. Having kids of my own, I understand now how this must have driven my Mother to the brink of insanity. My brother stood up for me to the bully, and included me in explorations of the woods and fun time with his own friends when I had nothing to do. My brother let me sleep with him for weeks when I was terrified and tried to get me to wear jeans on the first day of middle school so I wouldn't look like a dork in my dress... I didn't listen, but gosh I wish I had. My brother used to pick me up from school or drop me at a friend's house when he could drive and I couldn't. He moaned, he groaned, but he did it anyway. My brother taught me 'the rules' of drinking in high school- number 1 rule- don't embarrass him. (I broke rule number 1- a lot!)

Today is the day we celebrate him! His fantastic arrival in this world and his very presence that adds value to everyone he touches. I hope in the next 39 years, my brother learns to value himself as much as others appreciate him. I wish him the confidence in the love of a family who would walk through fire for him. I wish him the success he deserves as he embarks on the scary journey of starting his own business. I wish him the moments to stop and smell the roses (sorry about the cliche), but I wish him the gift of appreciating the moment in the moment, not in hindsight. Jack will only make his first hits once, and Addison will only dress up like a princess for so long, and there may come a time where he and his wife won't be able to dance on the back patio. I wish for him to go exploring like we used to do, build a fort out of an abandoned sheet of plywood left in the woods, build a soapbox derby car, lay on your back and stare at the clouds or the stars, and bring home flowers either picked from the road or picked up as an afterthought at the grocery store. Be as grateful for each breath on this Earth and accept that everyone you touch, is touched forever by your intelligence, sincerity, love, and truth. Thank you for always showing me how to be a better person, and for loving me and accepting me, even though I am a quirky annoyance (aka little sister!)

I love you Chris! Happy Birthday!