Thursday, February 24, 2011

It's a Miracle

{The sunrise from our back deck. Effects from Picnik.}
I can't stop thinking about miracles. When everything around me gets quiet, I start thinking about them, my mind racing a mile a minute. It's a conflicting train of thought. Are miracles real? Who decides when and if they happen? How long do we have to wait for a miracle? Was there a number at the deli counter of life that I forget to grab for mine?

You see, my conflict is this: I was raised to believe in miracles. As a Catholic, and the lesson and explanation of miracles is one I have always found comforting. Beautiful, even. It's an amazing thing, really: the belief that in the midst of your pain and sorrow, something unexplained will happen and God will make things right. It makes the hairs on your neck stand up, that thought that a true miracle will be there to save you and guide you through the darkest moments of your life.

To be honest, I stopped believing in miracles a while ago. Because the miracle I was waiting for never came, and I was left feeling angry. Pissed off, actually. Month after month, then year after year, my hope in the arrival of a miracle dissolved. And believing--trying to believe--only broke my heart. But I have always had faith, I would plead at night as I sandwiched my personal prayers in between an Our Father and a Hail Mary. I have always believed. If I have done everything right, then why am I being passed over for a miracle?

My faith was lost somewhere along the way, because I felt that I had been let down one too many times. My heart was tired. When someone or something disappoints you over and over again, you harden yourself as a survival tool. To protect the vulnerable parts of your heart. I was vulnerable. I was in pain. I was hurt. Disappointed. Furious. I was convinced that this was all God's fault; he had decided to pick on me. On us. To dangle the promise of a miracle in front of us like a carrot, then whisk it away the moment we were within reach. I needed someone--anyone other than myself--to blame for the mess. He was an easy target.

Only now, after the sting of my miracle-lessness, have I realized something: I was demanding a miracle, not praying for one. I demanded my prayers, the ones that came from the broken place in my heart, be answered immediately. And when a miracle didn't arrive, I decided that it was because I was being ignored--that my miracle would never come and I would continue to be left standing alone in my own misery.

{Signs of faith.}

But we can't demand a miracle. We can't ask for something miraculous, then expect it to drop into our laps immediately: that wouldn't make it a miracle. I don't know it would be exactly, but I do know that it's not a miracle. I was so intent, so focused upon something, that I never considered any other possibility other than utter disappointment. What is a miracle?

Is it not a miracle to be alive? Not a miracle to survive? To have a roof over your head, money in the bank and food in your stomach? Maybe the miracle of life is just that---a miracle to live. My mind was so closed that I failed to see the miracle in survival, the beauty in my pain, and the promise that my life still had to offer. Just because a miracle doesn't arrive on your time, doesn't mean it won't arrive.

{My miracle reminder}
 But sometimes, it couldn't hurt to have a reminder. That's mine. It's a miraculous medal. I wear it with a diamond cross on a chain around my neck nearly every day. A sign of my faith and a reminder that there's still a miracle or two out there with my name on it. That miracles are still possible--especially the ones that are worth waiting for.

"He loves you right where you are, but He loves you too much to leave you there." –Max Lucado

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

CSN Stores Giveaway!

Question: Would you like a $20 gift certificate to CSN Stores?

Answer: Of course you would.

The lovely people at CSN Stores have graciously offered to award one of my readers with a $20 gift certificate, which can be used at any of CSN Stores' 200+ websites. It can be used on ANY product from ANY of their stores. Neat, huh?

Think of all the possibilities! 200+ stores! If you're anything like me, if will take you days to decide. But that's what we like to call a "good problem" in these parts. With spring right around the corner (hopefully, this snow is for the birds) it would be nice to freshen up your decor with a new flat panel TV Stands from CSN. Doesn't your TV deserve a special treat? Like, one that comes from a website devoted entirely to flat panel TV stands? Of course it does.

But enough about your TV. Let's get to the giveaway.

Here are the deets:

You have 2 chances to win, by doing both of the following. Please remember to leave 1 comment for each entry!

1. Follow this blog via Google Friend Connect and leave a comment...if you are already a follower via GFC, let me know. (1 entry)

2. Follow me on Twitter and leave a comment telling me so. (1 entry)

I will be picking a winner for this conest next Wednesday, March 2 at Noon. Good luck!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Are you ready?

My husband was recently named head coach of our small town's high school football team. The thing that fascinates me about this new position is that as soon as the topic comes up, people look at me and say, "So, are you ready to be a head coach's wife?"

I have no idea what my answer is supposed to be, so I say yes. Of course I am. Rudi, however, is a bit nervous about being the head coach's dog.

{All this worrying makes me tired.}
 But seriously, I can't help but wonder: what does it mean to be ready for something?

The thing about life is that we're never really ready for anything. At least not in the complete sense, or one that might make us feel completely secure in the journey that lies ahead. Sure, we can plan ahead and pack our bags with plenty of extra underwear and socks, but does that mean we are really ready? Are we ready for everything our trip might bring? Inevitably, we forget our toothbrush or some disaster occurs and we're left feeling like it would be nice to have another pair of pants.

In life, we pack our hearts and minds just like we do our bags for a trip. We try to prepare ourselves, nestling away all the necessary items just in case we need them. Inevitably, it's the things we don't pack that we end up needing the most when we're worlds away from home. I notoriously over pack, because I hate to think that I may not be prepared or that I'll change my mind once I step out of the confines of my closet, where everything is still familiar to me. In the process, I am left with more than I could possibly need. My heart is no different.

We can say that we're ready, or feel that we're ready, but not everything can be predicted.

The impending change in our lives, one that bears more responsibility, time away from home and effort, is one that all the extra underwear in the world cannot prepare me for. Most things in life--the ones that test us--can't be prepared for, or packed for; they just have to be lived. So, maybe I'm not ready. Maybe I am. I don't know for sure.

But I do know one thing: it's time I start learning more about the spread offense. And football in general. The least I can do is be ready with good football comments.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Four Friday Loves

I love Friday--it's a day that always seems to be filled with such promise. Promise of a few days of rest and, if you're lucky, a day that produces an automatic payment into your bank account. This Friday is special, because for the first time in a long time, it truly feels like things are coming together. It's amazing how a phone call or two can change your life for the better.

 Here are the things I'm loving today:

{A sweet Valentine}

1. I work for a school district, but my job doesn't include much interaction with our students. But every Wednesday, for 25 minutes, I volunteer to work with a little girl who struggles with reading and spelling. It's the highlight of my week. This week, she gave me this pencil as a Valentine's Day gift. Later, we were practicing using words in a sentence and the word was "aspire." Her sentence? "I aspire to some day marry Justin Bieber." She's a girl after my own heart.

{A sweet reminder}
 2. My grandma's turquoise ring, made by my grandfather. It's one of my favorite pieces of jewelry. I love that it was hers, but mostly I love that he made it for her. I love that it shows its age and has plenty of imperfections, because that's what love it all about: giving to one another, accepting the things that aren't perfect. I'm also wearing this little gold band from Etsy.

{A sweet office mate}
3. My little hula man from Hawaii. Purchased from the swap meet held twice weekly in the University of Hawaii stadium parking lot, it's a sight to be held. It was great for people watching and tchotchke-buying. I love that it reminds me of the trip of a lifetime; it was almost worth enduring a red eye home just to bring this guy back with me.

4. Adele. She has an AH-mazing voice and I can't stop listening to this song; it's beautiful. Also beautiful? Her song "Someone Like You"--check it out. It's equally amazing. She says her music is "hearbroken soul" which makes for amazing songs and lyrics.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Little, tiny furniture

We laid in bed this morning at 4:00 A.M., listening to the sound of mice scratching the ceiling. It's like the millionth time we've been awoken by the soundthatissoannoyingbecausewecan'tdoanythingaboutit. Which is why I feel it's important to insert humor into a situation that is no longer funny in any way.

Husband: Those mice can go to hell.
Me: Why can't they go to heaven?
Husband: Because they are evil, devil mice that want to scratch through the ceiling.
Me: Maybe they aren't scratching. Maybe that sound is them rearranging their little, tiny mouse furniture.
Husband: Trust me, I've been up there and the last thing they've doing is something involving little, tiny furniture. There's no furniture. Only mouse poop and my tears.

Aaaand SCENE.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I'm brave?

{My hormone bravery pills.}
The incredibly lovely Shannan at Flower Patch Farmgirl recently hosted a giveaway and asked her readers a simple question: What are you being brave about right now?

While the question was indeed simple, the place it touched in me wasn't---it was much more complex than I could have imagined. My response really wasn't a statement, it was a series of rhetorical questions instead:

I'm being brave about adoption and working to put infertility behind me. That's brave, right? Taking each day as it comes, making the most of an awful situation...that's brave, right?

Looking at what I said got me thinking; it was as though I was afraid to actually proclaim that I am, in fact, brave. That's probably because I don't necessarily believe I am. Bravery, it seems, is a funny thing. We often hesitate to proclaim that we are brave because it sounds like we're being selfish or self-serving in some way. We say "I think I am" or "I suppose that was" when we refer to bravery. Most people that we label as heroes--the ones that do something truly brave in the face of a catastrophe--often say that they were just doing the right thing or that anyone else would have done the same, if given the opportunity. Most of the time, we are brave because someone tells us we are, not because we are the first to jump up and give ourselves that title.

When people tell me that I'm brave or strong or even resilient, I'm touched--but I know deep in my soul that they think that because they don't see my weakest moments. They see my words about living with the pain or our decision to adopt, but they don't see me crying while I fold the laundry for no reason other than I feel really sorry for myself. And I wouldn't dare let them catch a glimpse of the horror I feel each night when I stifle down a glass of water with the horrible hormone pills that make me feel (and act) awful, in an attempt to fix my broken body. In those moments, I feel far from brave.

Perhaps bravery is earned by simply surviving. Is there a difference between surviving and bravery? Is bravery a requirement for survival? Does surviving a painful ordeal and coming out on the other end, still standing and functioning in your life, automatically earn you the title of bravery? I lived through it. I worked through it and came out on the other end, still looking the same as I did two years ago--my outside has not changed. If something trying, something that has the potential to break you, leaves you looking about the same on the outside, can anyone see the broken parts that make you feel less than brave on the inside? Or, is being brave about being smart enough to cover up the cracks so they are no longer visible?

Perhaps bravery is more subjective than that. Often people think you're brave because you did something or lived through something they couldn't imagine doing themselves--but that's because they were never faced with the opportunity. They wouldn't be any less brave, or any less hurt by a heartbreaking experience; they wouldn't do anything differently. Maybe doing something that by all appearances seems too hard to handle themselves, is brave just because it seems unfathomable. "I know I couldn't do it," the person who says you're brave tells themselves. But, could they?

My answer is always yes. You could do it, too. You could do anything, really. This experience doesn't make me any braver or stronger than anyone else. The choices I (we) have made, the path we have chosen---it's all relative. In the face of all the things in this world that we fear--loss, heartbreak, pain--I didn't do anything special. I just survived. I kept going. I made up the rules as I went. I made the choices that felt right and if those choices make me look brave, then that's great. But I didn't make them because I wanted to be brave, or stoic---I made them because it was what my heart told me to do. Is that brave?

Monday, February 14, 2011

OK fine: I'll talk about Valentine's Day

{My funny Valentine, with effects by Picnik.}

Remember what I said last week about today? Of course you do. I know, if there was such a thing as the Scrooge of Valentine's Day, that would be me. I'm all humpty frumpty about this day because I hate to think that just one day of my life can be dedicated to both love AND romance. I want more than one day, mmkay?

But that was before I found my Valentine, which was a few of my favorite things: Sugar-free Red Bull and almonds. They were just what the doctor (Love Doctor?) ordered. I guess this day isn't all dumb stuff, after all.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I'm the Pied Piper?

I have begun to think this attic scratching situation is a glimpse into what it's probably like to go insane. I mean, doesn't it start with irrational thoughts, delusions, paranoia and hallucinations and then progress quickly into thoughts of conspiracy and crazy suspicions? Beats me. Maybe we should Google it and find out. Or--OR--we could all go see the film Black Swan. Which I did. And which has convinced me that going insane involves violently picking at the skin on your fingers and perhaps stabbing yourself in the face with a metal nail file. That's right; I'm talking to you, Winona Ryder.

Anyway. When you hear suspicious scratching sounds in the ceiling and attic of your home, you start to feel like you truly are going insane. I can't tell you how many times I'm in the middle of watching some dumb show like Jersey Shore, I Used to Be Fat or Teen Mom 8,998 and I swear I hear the scratching again. Or, I stop in the midst of conversation to hop on the counter and press my right ear to the ceiling to ensure nothing is trying to get me or eat dog food. See? Crazy.

I hear the scratching when I'm getting ready in the morning. I hear the scratching when I'm getting ready for bed at night. I hear the scratching so often that I think it's never going to stop--truly, I will be listening to scratching for all eternity. It's possible. So, Husband again took the trip of a lifetime into the attic (wearing a hideous flannel shirt, no less) and again saw nothing. Nothing at all. Not even his crazy wife, who was too busy judging the local spelling bee to be bothered with attic-related activities. She wasn't there either. Which is a good thing; I hate flannel.

But in his flannel shirtedness observations, he did notice an important detail of what I'm now calling The Suspicious Case of the Scratchy Attic, A Nancy Drew Mystery; whatever it is that is hiding from his eyes is eating the snacks we left out for them. Delicious, yummy snacks. Which I hesitate to describe as effective as my husband recently told me the cold, hard truth: it's going to get stinky up in this piece. But "just for a while" and "only until they finish decomposing" and "maybe not so bad because it's so cold outside." It would seem our problems are slowly evolving. Into things that not even my favorite Wallflower scents from Bath & Body Works can solve.

As I reflect upon my possibly insanity plea in regards to scratching noises, I can't help but think about the fact that the mice seem to be following me. Don't believe me? Read this. Oh, and don't forget about this. Also, this isn't turning into a blog devoted entirely to mouse problems. Swearsies.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dying a slow death

I'm pretty dramatic. Overly dramatic, even. Whenever something is truly awful, though, I typically proclaim that I am "dying a slow death." Mostly because I am, but partly because it sounds dramatic. Torturous, even.

So, as you can imagine in that little brain of yours, I was dying a really slow death in this little brain of mine, wholly in anticipation of what---or who--might be residing in the attic of my home, being all scratchy n' stuff. Knowing fully well that I am entirely too dramatic and uncoordinated to venture into the attic myself, dearest Husband was sent to explore the attic. I would have loved to sit on the sidelines for said event, but instead my attendance was required at Important Meeting.

At Important Meeting I sat, dying my slow death and wondering what was happening. Did Husband fall through the ceiling, raining rodents and feces everywhere? Was he attacked by bats? Is there a raccoon and its twelve babies living up there? The suspense was actually trying to kill me. So, I sent a Secret Text during Important Meeting, inquiring about the status of the adventure.

The response? "Nope." Nope?? Nope, nothing in the attic to explain the sounds of something digging a large hole to China itself? Nope. It was as though I was dying an even slower death, if that was even possible.

Drats. Here's hoping those super-sonic plug-in devices that rid your home of rodents but don't harm your 75-lb. Labrador Retriever mix yield better results than good, old-fashioned detective work.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I'm not crazy, which is actually a bad thing

{Not my attic, but probably what my attic looks like. Image.}

I believe that life should be approached with a healthy pinch of paranoia. We should be wary of those skeevy people that make our skin crawl, like the creepy guy watching you while leaning up against his white, unmarked van. And yes, you should be skeptical of anyone who tries to give you anything nice for free. Nothing is free. Everyone knows that.

However, I like to approach life with at least two large pinches of paranoia instead of one. I worry about noises, I'm skeptical of people and watch entirely too much 48 Hours: Mystery for my own good. Related? Probably. The thing about being paranoid all the time is that you're usually only correct 25% of the time. But that 25% is just the inspiration you need to continue your quest into complete anxiety. Take someone breaking into our house, for example: this worries me significantly. It actually happened once and almost happened a second time. Paranoia necessary!

The other thing that worries me? Weird noises. Anyone who lives in any structure of any kind will tell you: structures, especially houses, make noises. Lots of noises, actually. Pipes make noises. Vents make noises. Heck, even the foundation makes noises. It just happens. So, a few months ago when I began hearing a bizarre scratching sound in the attic and on various ceilings throughout my house, my paranoia kicked up a notch. Intruder? Rodent? Squirrel? What on earth could be scratching a Morse-code like message to me on the ceiling? Was it the frog, mouse and roach back from the grave?

I have no idea, because every time (and I mean Every. Time.) I heard the noise, my husband was either A. Not home or B. In another room and by the time he arrived, it had stopped. This thing was trying to make me look bad---and succeeding handily. Knowing the old "My paranoia is always correct 25% of the time" rule to always be true, I kept listening closely. And wouldn't you know it? You would know it, because I heard the noise on Saturday and A. My husband was home and B. The noise continued when he entered the room. I hit the paranoia jackpot.

The thing about winning said "lottery" however is that you must deal with the aftermath. No, not needy family members who want money and new cars from your new found wealth, I mean you have to continue to listen to the scratching into the wee hours of the night and lose sleep over your inability to control the situation. I'm pretty sure I never slept even one half of one wink last night. As any paranoid person will tell you, worrying about things you cannot control is a must. A must, I tell you.

So my dear husband, the one who didn't hear the scratching for months has been awarded the top prize: he gets to figure out what's living in the attic. And get rid of it. So his wife will stop being so damn paranoid. Jackpot!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Re: Valentine's Day


I'm just going to come out with this right up front: I loathe Valentine's Day. It's not that I don't like love (I really do) or that I think it serves as a reminder that I'm not happy (I am) I just take issue with the very idea behind Valentine's Day itself. Typically, my remarks about V-Day cause every woman in my presence to groan. Once a woman begins to suggest Valentine's Day isn't a real, legitimate holiday, the men start to get ideas.
But wait! Let me explain my loathing first! Then you can groan all you want! Here's the thing: I take issue with only being "romantic" or "showing your love" or "giving the person you love nice gifts" on one overly commercialized day a year. I get the idea, I'm just not a fan of the delivery. I think relationships are about showing your love through small, thoughtful and even unexpected, gestures. Sure, 6-foot tall teddy bears and chocolates that equate to my daily calorie allowance and diamond necklaces are super, but they hold more meaning when I receive them on some random Tuesday afternoon instead of February 14th.

Any successful relationship needs romance, love and signs of affection. Obviously. But instead of roses and sugar on the fourteenth day of the second month of every year, I much prefer a repaired mailbox. Or, a love note written in the snow (sidebar: My husband wrote ADAM + EM in the snow last week. I suggested he add "= TLF" and he had no idea what I was talking about. I guess teenage girls are the only ones who write things like that, eh?).

Before you begin to feel truly sorry for my poor, poor husband, let me be clear: he knew all of this before he married me. I secretly think my dislike for overly romantic gestures is why he married me in the first place. That or my cooking abilities, affinity for great bargains or love of shoes and dog snuggles. I bring a lot to the table.

Love doesn't have to be about expensive gifts or showy displays--it can be about supporting your spouse's dreams, even though they require a major time commitment, providing a shoulder to cry on and pushing their very stuck and extremely cantankerous Honda Accord out of the snowy driveway. (Not naming names.) Love is making homemade, stuffed crust pizza for dinner. Love is washing the dishes afterwards. Love is going grocery shopping together and not getting angry at the "Coupon Maven" who spends fifteen minutes deciding what brand of cereal is the best deal when really you'd rather be shot than spend more than sixteen minutes in the grocery store.

But more than anything, love is about surprises. Last year, my husband send me a Pajama Gram at work for Valentine's Day. Imagine that: the girl who thinks Valentine's Day is a sham received a romantic pair of pink polka dot pajamas for the very day she despises. Worlds are colliding! As you can imagine, ironically, receiving a gift on Valentines Day was actually a surprise. I guess love is about keeping you guessing.


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