Sunday, July 29, 2012

christmas in july

Yep. I'm jumping on the bandwagon. Trying to get ahead of the game. I have friends on facebook who have started counting down already. The crafts stores have supplies lining the shelves. And many DIY blogs have featured projects to prepare for the Christmas season. I have been trying to resist, but to fight is futile. One night this past week, Lovey and I made a late night trip to walmart, and yesterday, I made Chex Mix! I don't know about y'all, but around here Chex Mix is a holiday staple. From just around Thanksgiving until the supplies run out in January, we make and eat A LOT of it. Once that first batch comes out of the oven, we graze on the stuff almost constantly. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, bedtime snack - we eat it all day knowing that once I go back to work in January the holiday cooking and the Chex Mix comes to an end. I have been craving the stuff for several weeks now. Why do we only make it during the holidays? I'm no nutritionist, but I would think that it would be better for us than eating potato chips. I also think that if I have access to something throughout the year then maybe I won't feel the need to founder myself on it during the holidays (I can rationalize almost anything if need be). So in the "Christmas in July" spirit, yesterday just before lunch I started mixing. And I decided that since it was so close to lunch that I would have eat Chex Mix as soon as it came from the oven. And Lovey came in just as I was stirring for the last time - he decided to wait for it too. I made a giant batch. And maybe I realized why we don't make things that require the oven to be on during for hours on the hottest day of the summer. But I had Chex Mix and I was happy. And the not foundering myself theory? I didn't eat any for breakfast this morning, but I did eat three bowls of the stuff yesterday. I'm going to take a bag of it to Brooke today. You might think sharing it goes along with the whole Christmas in July thing, and that it part of it. She loves Chex Mix as much as we do, and if I don't take her some I will feel guilty. But honestly, it's more about sharing the calories - if my butt's going to get bigger then someone else's should too.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

counting my blessings

This has been a busy week. I've been running early every morning, going to workshops during the day, and teaching at Bible school each night. And I haven't done any of it witih a willing and happy heart. Especially the VBS part. Isn't that sad to admit! I know, I should be embarassed to own up to it. But there's no use in pretending. I have grumbled and griped all summer long about it. But I knew that I needed to adjust my attitude. How can I do a good job of teaching God's message when I have such a bad attitude about it? I'm telling you, I was worried about it. But I just couldn't get in the right frame of mind. Until tonight. Tonight's lesson was about Jesus and John the Baptist. In the lesson I had to do the introduction and then pretend to be John the Baptist at the River Jordan. After telling about baptising Jesus I asked the kids "What would you give to have Jesus in your life?" And before I even finished the question, Layla (going into first grade) gets big eyes and breathes a very sincere "Everything!" And I felt a chink in my hardened heart just fall away. The kids discussed that they would do anything needed to be close to Jesus. And then I said "Well you all are telling me all sorts of things that you would do - even that you would give everything that you have to know Jesus, but what's the only thing that you HAVE to do?" And again before I had finished to question good, seven-year-old Austin whispered, "Ask. All you have to do is ask." I'm telling you, I heard that hardened heart of mine just crack wide open. When I had finished the lessons, I went into the sanctuary where the groups were gathering for the night's closing. Each year we group the kids and the UMY teenagers serve as team leaders. I sat there and watched as those teenagers danced and chased and laughed and witnessed to these kids. No grownups were forcing them to dance. No one said "You have to hug the kids in your team." It's a rule that each teenager is responsible for the safety of the kids on his or her team, but these leaders do so much more than make sure the team members are safe. They help with check-in. They clean up messes. They help with snacks. They sing and dance. They tie shoes and replace hairbows. They hug. They laugh. They play games. They chase and chase. They listen. They praise. They love. And again, I felt my heart just burst. If you are one of those parents who have brought or sent your kids to VBS this week, I thank you for allowing me to share my nights with your babies. And if you are the parent of one of those UMY teenagers, I just can't tell you how much those kids impress me on a daily basis. They are amazing. It is an honor to watch God work in them and through them.

Monday, July 23, 2012

an everday adventure

I've had an adventurous summer - ziplines and alligators and exercise, oh my. But does any of it compare with what is the everyday life of a parent? Now THAT's an adventure. I don't think there is any ride or activity that can increase my heart rate like being a parent can.

Just the other day someone asked if the bruise on my arm was from being hit by a softball. No, it's from a one-year-old. He pinched me. I let him. He fights sleep so much during the day, and when I was trying to get him to sleep  the other day, he pinched me. He wasn't being mean - he wanted to rub my shirt sleeve while he went to sleep, but I had a tank top on. He needed to sleep. I could have moved his little fingers, but I didn't want to disturb him. A few days later, I sat by his mom as she answered someone's questions explaining that she rocks him to sleep each night. No, he isn't put to bed and let to cry. He's just a baby. Yes, there are other things that could be done, like laundry. But he won't be a baby long. And I'm so glad she realizes how precious those rocking times are. Babies grow up, but laundry never goes away.

During that same week, a friend posted something about how hard it is to sit back and watch our kids make decisions that we believe to be the wrong decisions. Boy, do I know from where she speaks! Wouldn't be great if we could just sit down and rock those grown kids every night and save them from poor choices? She and her husband have done a great job - she has great kids. It's easy for me to tell her that her kids will end up making the right choices because they have have great parents. But I know she still worries.

My boys were 4 and 6 when we got them - what I wouldn't give for a night of rocking my baby boys to sleep. Over the years, we've had many conversations about being adopted. There were many questions that I just couldn't answer. But this weekend we had the opportunity to get some answers. Baby Jus and I drove almost 1,000 miles round trip so that he could meet his biological father. Ups and downs people! It was a long drive. A stay in a hotel that wasn't quite what I would have chosen. A few hours to show a stranger what a great guy my Jus has become. And it was hot! I'm so glad that he had the chance to do this. But I worried so much about what could go wrong - what can still go wrong. Believe me, I'd let him pinch the other arm if I thought it would make things go smoothly for him.

It's so much easier to worry about what can go wrong rather than what can go right. But I'm trying to focus on the what can go right.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

say it ain't so

On our way to New Orleans last Friday and between my navigation duties, I checked facebook, twitter, and email. But I couldn't get into my school email. I had changed my password just before school got out in hopes that I could stay connected all summer - but for some reason my password no longer worked. There was no way to correct the problem at that time, so I let it ride until I could go to the school on Monday. Of course when I got there the floors were being waxed, the principal was gone to a workshop, and the technology guy had just gone home for the day. I knew I was taking a chance by not calling ahead. I went to the superintendent's office and tried to log in on a computer there - didn't work. But the secretary left a message for the tech guy and later called me to let me know that he would reset my account the next morning. All of this to let you know that I had to go to the school yesterday.

July 18th - I think it may be the longest I've ever gone without stopping by the school to work on something in the summer. I have had a few calls to the principal. And I've done some work emails. And of course lots of reading and researching for school. But I haven't gone there in about six weeks. (Well, take that back - I did go by there one night a few weeks ago but it had nothing to do with work, so it doesn't count.)  There have been times that I thought about going. I have driven by several times and almost turned in. But I didn't. Each year I am soooo ready for summer, but then I spend some of my time there working. And this year, I promised myself that I would stay away.

But while I was there yesterday, the tech guy said something about me coming by to let him do some techy thing with my ipad when I came back, and I thought, "I'm not coming back yet." And then I did a quick countdown in my head and thought, "Ohhhhh, I AM coming back." I have three workshop days next week, and the following week I will have to be there preparing workshops for the next week.

How does the end of summer always sneak up on me?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

22 and counting

July 1990. Has it really been twenty-two years?

We had known each other for most of lives. We had been dating for most of the previous year. Lovey was a few weeks away from his 30th birthday. His grandmother had called me every name except Michelle - Everleena being her favorite.

It was July. And hot. And steamy from the rain. I wouldn't let Momma bring an umbrella to the church because I had prayed that it wouldn't be raining and I had faith that God had heard that prayer. Because Lovey's daddy thought I shouldn't walk alone, my brother walked beside me. And not a drop fell as we walked from the from the fellowship hall to the front door. I was surprised at the cars and trucks filling the parking lot.

Dusty, in his tiny tux, had been told and told to take the pillow to Joey. No one thought to tell him to STAND there. He made it to the front of the church, threw the pillow to Joey, and turned to run back down the aisle. His mother, matron of honor, made a one-arm-scoop and passed him off to Nannie as she made her way to the alter. She had played catch-me-ith-you-want-me many, many times.

Lovey was nervous, and I thought that he just might pass out. Soon the ceremony was over. We cut the cake, drank some punch, and drove away. But we didn't go far. Only home to change into something more appropriate for a shop party. I just thought the church parking lot was crowded. We had bar-b-q and music and beer and friends and family. The party lasted into the wee hours of the morning.

Monday morning I had to go to class. It was a few weeks before summer school was over,  and we could take a trip to celebrate. On that trip, I was the navigator and Lovey the driver. Again this weekend, I was the navigator and Lovey the driver.

We need to turn left at the next street.

Lovey drives right past it.

That was our turn! You missed it.

You have to tell me when I need to turn.

I did! I said, "We need to turn left at the next street." That was the next street. You don't listen.

I haven't changed a damn bit in twenty-two years have I?

No. You haven't.

And I like him just the way he is.

Monday, July 16, 2012

2 steps forward 3 steps back

Or something like that.

If you've read any of my very few posts this summer, then you know that I've been using a running app with the goal of being able to actually RUN. Along the way there have been great accomplishments - the first 6 minute run and then the 20 minute. But there have been set backs too - and most of them can be blamed on a broken toe the day before starting week 4.

During week 5, I thought I might die from cramps in my calf. Those cramps were from running longer times but on the wrong side of my foot (see reference to broken toe above). It took almost an entire week to get the cramps to stop.

Week 6 brought much longer run times. It started with a 9 minute run, a 3 minute walk, and then another 9 minute run. I made the first 9 minutes fine, did the 3 minute walk, and then just couldn't make the second 9 minutes. I would get about 4 minutes in and the calf muscles would cramp terribly. After trying it two different days, I decided it was the stopping to walk and then going back to running that was killing me. So I decided to just move on to W6D2 - a 20 minute run. And I did it! I was so excited to finish 20 minutes of running. The next run was a 15 minute run with a 3 minute walk and then a 10 minute run, and again I didn't do well with the run-walk-run pattern. I modified myself and decided to just run it and skip the walking part. I was running for 26 minutes - with no walking breaks. I was at the lake. And the lake has hills. And asphalt. At home I run on flat land. And gravel. During that time my butt cheeks and back were bothering me, but I thought it was just something that I would have to push through. I thought that when I got home and back to running on flat, gravel roads again it would get better. But it got worse. And I couldn't finish my runs. I tried stretching. I tried ibuprofen. I tried muscle relaxers. I tried heating pads. I have been so mad. And so disappointed.

I did some googling and read several running articles. Most mentioned that back and butt pain could be caused from a change in gait, increasing speed or distance, and changing running surfaces. Hmmm? Check, check, and check. I tried to continue running. The back got worse. I finally went to the doctor. He told me the pain was from running on my foot in a different way, increasing my run time, and changing my running surface - all the things that I had already read in those articles. He gave me pain meds and muscles relaxers and told me to keep running and when I couldn't run to walk double the time. I tried. I really tried. But I just couldn't keep running. I barely made it 13 minutes. It was so frustrating. And even finishing the time walking was killing me. So I took a few days off.

This morning I tried it again. I ran for just over 15 minutes. I increased my distance by walking to complete 3 miles. And my back and butt are killing me. I should have finished W8D3 - the full 30 minute run - by now. And I'm back to just 15 minutes? All because of a damn pinky toe. It just makes me so mad. Tomorrow I will run for a few more minutes and go the full 3 miles again. I'll just have to work my way back up. Maybe I'll get to the 30 minute run before Christmas. Uggghhhh!

It hasn't all been bad. I've done some running with friends and family. At the lake I ran with my nieces, Brooke and Leah, and my friends, Carrie and Alli. At home I've run with Carrie and neighbors, Emily and Brandon. Brooke, Carrie, and I have made lots of jokes about being runners. We can work 'cause I'm a runner now into almost any conversation. This weekend Lovey and I went to New Orleans for our anniversary. Saturday morning we were walking along the river. There were lots of people riding bikes, walking, and running. We met a group of guys who were obviously real runners - very lean, very quick. I leaned over to Lovey and said, "That's what our running group looks like when we run." He answered, "So y'all run topless?"

So you runners, I need advice. I need encouragement. I need someone to come by every morning and drag my butt out of bed.

Monday, July 9, 2012

the only thing to fear... being more than two feet off the ground. And having to find a way to get down.

Yep, I'm terrified of heights - even tiny ones. It's not the going up; it's the looking/coming down that gets me. I can stand on a desk in my classroom, and I have to hold on to something to climb down. It makes me a bit nauseous to climb a ladder for any task. I don't like looking over the edge of anything. Several years ago, Lovey and I stopped by Petite Jean Mountain to have a quick look. He hopped around on those rocks like a mountain goat. I crawled out a tiny way on a ledge for him to snap a quick picture, and he had to come out and get me - I was frozen in my tracks. So imagine my family's surprise when I suggested that we do some ziplining during our camping trip this year.

It's something I've always wanted to do. And this year just a few miles down the road from our campground there is a new place to do it. Rowdy Adventures is just off the interstate at the Okalona exit. Because there were fifteen in our group, we got a small discount on our ticket prices. There are 14 lines - it takes about two hours to complete all of them.

We had no idea what to expect before going. We pulled up to a large parking lot in front of a big cabin and some sort of wooden structure backed by the interstate on one side and woods on the other.

After signing our lives away, we paid our fees and went out to prepare for our adventure. My sister and her oldest daughter came to see us off. They took a few pictures while we "trained" for the real lines. After that no cameras were allowed.

Harnesses, helmets, and gloves were lined up waiting for us outside. The guides got a hint of what was to come right away. We had lots of discussion during this stage of the adventure. I'm sure they were already arguing over who had to take us on the course. Right away, we had to have some bigger helmets - we are some big headed people.

And no one really listened when the guides were giving directions of how to get into the harness. We are a hands-on do it our way kind of family.

We also do things in our own time. The guides were telling us to grab harnesses and helmets, but we were reading the rules, talking to each other, and making jokes about heads not fitting in the helmets.

It was nice that they gave me the same harness as the younger girls, but my but is MUCH bigger than theirs, and I quickly sent the guy in to find me a bigger harness.

The getting harnessed and helmeted was not a quick process. We laugh a lot. We talk a lot.

And there was lots of discussion of where to place parts in the harness. Brandon and Dusty had us all cracking up.

Can you tell we are family? No one plans to dress alike - it just happens.
The girls' discussions were about where to put the ponytail in the helmet.

Once we were all harnessed up, the guides tried to put us into two groups. They did the 1,2,1,2 count-off technique.

They counted, and we just stood there looking at them.

Their system was flawed. It separated mommas from babies, husbands from wives, and boyfriends from girlfriends. We quickly arranged our own two groups, and then they put us back together for a group picture.

Then it was the top of the wall and a training zip line. This is the point where my family thought I might turn around. And believe me, I thought about it.

From the moment I left that top step, I clung to a wire. The two's had to go to the far end of the platform which meant me moving on down.

That platform was crowded with all 15 of us and several guides up there. But I was so consumed with looking down and across to the other platform that I didn't even have time to consider the crowd - that would have really bothered me had I thought about it at the time.

We did listen a bit more when the guides were discussing the actual zipping rules.

I don't know exactly when, but my group let the guides know that I was scared of heights. The guides were careful to make certain that I was okay with each and every slide.  But they didn't check on me nearly as much as my group did. My group was the young couples - Dusty and Leah, Brandon and Laura, and Luke and Emily.

After everyone had a quick training zip, we were ready for the actual course. Melissia, Brooke, baby Eli,  and the cameras headed back to camp. It was a short walk to our first line.

Just like the training slide, the leaving the platform was the hard part. I loved the ride. The landings were always interesting, but they didn't bother me. I just had work up enough nerve to go off that edge.

 One guide was on the take-off platform and one guide was on the landing platform. The guides hooked us to the cable and caught us at the end, hooking us to the tree if we were off of the ground.

before my training zip
I never felt unsafe. I was scared of the edges. I was nervous on the platforms. But I knew I was safe.

From the beginning, the guides would run and jump off of the platforms. The brave souls in our groups did some of that running and jumping too. Not me, I crept to the edge of each platform, sat in my harness, and pushed myself away from the edge.Sometimes I even had to scoonch myself to the edge. I never felt rushed by the "push you off" guide. And the "catching" guide always checked that I was okay when I reached the landing platform.

There were ground to ground zips, ground to tree zips, tree to tree zips, and tree to ground zips. Some zips were really long. Some were really fast. Some were really high. And after pushing away from the platform, all were fun.

I had my own little cheering section. With each line, there was someone encouraging me at take off and someone high-fiving me at the landing. Dusty, Leah, and Brandon spent a big part of their day checking on me. I'm not going to lie - there was a tear or two shed.  About middle ways of the lines, we zipped to a tree platform, climbed a ladder even higher into the tree, and made a short zip into  another tree. Nineteen people zipping onto a tree platform, climbing a ladder, zipping twenty feet to another platform, and zipping away from that tree. It was scary. The damn ladder was the worst part. I hate climbing a ladder on the ground, and climbing one in a treetop is truly pushing my limits. but again, the guides were constantly reassuring me, checking that I was okay, and offering to help me up the ladder. I got a tad bit dizzy going up, but I knew that I was attached and wasn't going to fall. The platform at the top of the ladder was tiny. TINY! And it was in the top of the tree, so it swayed with each take off and landing. Dusty wrapped his arms around me and held me close to the tree - and we were always connected to the tree with a safety line.

By the last few lines several people were zipping upside down. Needless to say, it wasn't me. But I did get brave enough to step of the last two platforms - not run and jump, just step without sitting and scooting. On the long line across the river, I got turned around and couldn't get turned back. Just as I was turning, I realized that I might hit the platform sideways and let myself turn backwards instead. I heard the guide yelling, and it took me a second to realize what he was saying, "Feet up! Feet up!" Just then one shoe went flying and one calf smacked into the platform. I think Leah actually reached me before the catching guide did, both of them asking if I was okay and lifting me back to my feet. It was a glancing blow and not too painful. I was fine. And thankfully, Laynie's shoe didn't end up in the river (Abby wore my shoes, and I borrowed a pair of Laynie's). The last line was a quick ride back across the river onto a sandy shore. I made it on my feet.

Along the way there were little signs with sayings, several about conquering fears. There was one that I really liked. Leah and Laura both said, "That should be the title of your blog post." And I can't remember what it was. For a short time, I left my fear of heights behind me. I'm not sure that I'm ready to climb any ladders, but I am ready to go back for more ziplining.

Some things you might want to know if you go:
*Wear closed toe shoes.
*Long gym shorts might be more comfortable even if it is above 100.
*No phones or cameras on the ziplines.
*Rowdy Adventures provides three water breaks during the 14 lines. You will be ready for the water when you reach a waterbreak.
*If possible, go with a group. I wouldn't want to do it with strangers.
*There is quite a bit of walking between some of the lines.