Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Time with Friends

I hope that you, dear readers, had a chance to spend time with your friends and family this past holiday weekend. Aren't those times with those we love precious?

Our time with family this last weekend was just that; precious. We played, we laughed, we told stories, and giggled at innocent quips the kiddos made. It was heaven. I adore our family.

I also adore my friends. A lot. Honestly, more than most people love their friends, I think. I don't know if it comes of not having a sister or what, but I have always held my girlfriends very, very close to me...and this move has been difficult due to my girlfriends, though very close in spirit, are physically far from me. And I get lonesome.

My kids seemed to have inherited this trait from me and miss their friends desparately. To ease the pain we try to get together with our friends as often as possible, but it is still hard to figure it into the schedule sometimes, you know?

A few weeks ago, we were headed back to our "home"town to do a little work around the house, go to an appointment, and do laundry (we have no facilities in our building and laundromats are not my favorite) so the day before I decided we needed to connect with our friends. I shot out a Facebook message to a handful with a plan of attack....pool, pizza, laughter. COME!

It was totally impromptu, I didn't do a great job of contacting everyone, we barely had a plan, but it turned out to be a blast and EXACTLY what the kids and I needed...a little time with friends...that family that we've chosen for ourselves.

We're coming up on a crazy-busy time of the year for most people. I "get" that, but might I challenge you to think of a few people you would just LOVE to hang out with and randomly set up a spur-of-the-moment get together? Afterall, these are our friends; those whom we adore and adore us back...not because we share DNA and they HAVE to love us...those who love us purely by choice! What a precious gift! I know we're giving ours a call next time we're back "home"...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Party in Heaven

Today's post is coming late....I had another one all ready to go, but after the events of today I realized I needed to write something else. You see, first thing this morning I saw a post on Facebook about an accident on an island near our "home" town. As I read through the comments my heart skipped a beat and the tears began to flow. Two very dear, inspirational ladies from our previous congregation were in a terrible car accident last evening. The car they were driving struck an SUV; the family within was unharmed.

One of the ladies, ML, passed immediately. The other, B, was taken to the hospital in critical condition. I'm told that one of our fire-fighter friends saw both of them and that ML was so peaceful looking and happy, just holding something in her hand.

As the day wore on we found that B had internal and brain injuries. We were so saddened...this afternoon they took her off life support and she passed. We sobbed.

Please understand me....these two were rocks in the congregation. Women of faith who encouraged, supported, and served others. They were bright, intelligent, and full of life. They were both over 80 years old, but acted like people 1/2 their age. They gardened, read books, led Bible studies, owned businesses, and made the people around them feel their love. So we KNOW they are dancing in heaven today....together. Can you imagine them there? These two gals with so much wit and vigor? It is good to know where they are...that we will see them again soon...but...

Our hearts ache. We long to hear someone say, "Gotcha!" and have it all be a terrible joke. We wonder how we could even go into that church and not see their smiling faces; B in a gorgeous outfit picked for her by her niece, ML showing you the latest book the church library has gotten in that she KNOWS you'd love. A joke, a smile, a gentle word. Maybe B has knitted a new pair of mittens for Leve, or a sweater for TJ, a sweater with sweet buttons she lovingly picked out for "that sweet little one of yours". Those women have impacted our lives more than they could ever have guessed. It brings tears to my eyes to imagine they aren't there anymore. My throat aches with sadness. Sure, I imagine they're excited to finally be in paradise, and maybe I shouldn't even say this, and I'm sorry, but I'm selfish. I want them HERE. I want to know that when I send them a "thinking of you" card they are there to open it...that next time I'm in town I'll see that green Buick drive by the corner at our house and know that B is on her way home.

I guess, dear readers, I KNOW the truth, but I'm not ready for it. Honestly, it just hurts too much right now...although I do wish that I could peek into heaven and just see a glimpse of those two dear friends partying together in with everything those two gals did, I'm sure it is first class.

Thank you, ML and B for all you've done for us and all you've taught us.
I'm sure upon arrival you heard, "Well done, good and faithful servants."
We'll miss you more than you could have ever guessed.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hopping on the Etsy Train & Shopping Locally

I recently watched a news clip about Small Business Saturday I was struck by the fact that they were talking about ME. A small business. Wow.

In light of my realization, I thought it a good time to share with you my latest "branch" of Simply Stacy....Simply Stacy Designs on Etsy.

My crafty side has always been part of who I am, but it came out in full force a few years ago when my dear friend Anne started to sell green smoothies at a Farmer's Market and needed more vendors to fill out the event. Who says "no" to their best friend? Not this girl. I went to work and made a bunch of things for those Farmer's Markets...I coined my name "Simply Stacy" then! Sadly my biggest customers were my dear friend, Hope, and Anne's Mom. Apparently the people at our Farmer's Markets weren't looking for embroidered pillows and repurposed furniture & junk...go figure!

Never swayed, I kept making this and that and this summer at Anne's much more successful Farmer's Markets I did much better and was able to sell to a few more people than Hope and Anne's Mom (though they were still great customers!). And a few weeks ago I decided it would be great to take the next step and hop on the "Etsy" train.

I'm sure you've heard of Etsy, but if not, think of it as a huge online craft sale...pretty neat! You can check me out here. And my pal Joanna here. And a dear congregational member here.

Be careful, though, it can be one of those sites where you lose hours just browsing!
Oh, who am I kidding? I get lost on there all the time and LOVE it!

Long story short; Small Business Saturday is important, but shopping local whenever you can makes a world of difference. I'll admit I haven't always been the best about it. With 4 little ones it is much more convenient to hop online and order things to come right to my door (the UPS guy loves me) or to go to the nearest box store with everything under one roof. But the statistics are there....when I go online $0 of the money stays in my community (unless I'm ordering from someone on Etsy or via a home-based business like Partylite or Thirty One). In the box stores, $40 of every $100 stays in the community. So this year, I will pledge to shop more small businesses where $68 of every $100 stays local...that's better for our neighbors, for the local economy, and, in the long run, better for our kids.

Care to join me?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

"Christmas City of the North" vs. Mama

We now live in the "Christmas City of the North"...and the locals take the title pretty seriously. We're trying to embrace the positives of city living and have decided to take part as much as possible. Friday night The Spouse was gone with youth at an event, but there was a parade happening downtown. Sure, it would have been nice to have help with the kids, but I soldiered on...after all, what sort of Citizens of the Christmas City of the North would we be if we didn't even go to the parade?!?

Of course, before we could go, we needed to get bundled up. It took 30 minutes to get everyone decked out in their gear.

Of course "someone" decided once he was all bundled up to "unload" some excess, so we had to strip him, change a diaper, and get him dressed again. Good thing he looks adorable as a red marshmallow!

I had given us 1 hour from the time we started to get ready to the time the parade would start and though it did take 30 minutes to get ready I was STILL positive we wouldn't have a huge challenge finding parking. W.R.O.N.G. we live just 3 minutes from downtown, but when we got there it was chaos! We finally found a parking spot...3 blocks from the parade route. Now, you're thinking to yourself, "Three blocks...that's not far!" And you'd be right. EXCEPT if those three blocks are all on a steep hill. (Note the parade route at the bottom of the photo).

I walked down those three slippery blocks with as much grace and poise as a Mom trying to keep 2 children near and double stroller holding 2 other children from not getting away from her. Needless to say, I heard more than a few snickers from behind me and one gentleman even said, "Try holding onto the fence with one hand!". Like I said I was totally cool,calm, and graceful as I skated my way to the bottom.

Once there, we took in the scenery around us and I tried to disway my children from wanting to buy everything thing that the vendors were selling as they walked through the crowd. By that point Finn was cold and wanted to go home.
Not. Kidding. I encouraged him to hang in there and chided him for not putting on his long underwear as instructed. Finally the parade began.

We left before Santa and Mrs. Claus came to us. Why?
1. I didn't want the kids to see Santa & Mrs. Claus. We have a crowd of total believers at our house and they've already wondered aloud to me how Santa could possibly be hanging out down here when there are toys to be built, lists to be checked, and preparations to be made for Christmas. "He's WAY too busy for THIS, Mom!" I think the less we see of him the longer we'll have believers.

2. We were COLD...The Christmas City sits on the largest body of fresh water in the world and the wind coming off it makes for a chilly place to be.

3. In case you forgot, we were 3 blocks from our van...straight up hill with a double stroller filled with 2 kids. I figured the fewer people who were there to witness my huffing and puffing, the better!

So, off we went. At the 1/2 way point Leve started to bawl her head off. She was too "tired"...this from the kid riding in the stroller! She wanted Daddy, she wanted a drink, she wanted to go potty. I tried to focus on not slipping BACK down the hill.

At 3/4 of the way TJ started in...perhaps it was the person sitting next to him screaming and he couldn't take it, maybe he had a legitimate complaint; we'll never know. I tried to focus on not slipping BACK down the hill or falling on my face while the stroller flew out in front of me.

When we arrived at the van Finn and Kiki started to cry because they wanted a snack, they were tired, they wanted a drink, Finn touched Kiki's toy, etc., etc.


I tossed the kids in, buckled them up, threw the stroller in the back, and peeled out of the parking lot like a teenager showing off for her friends. I was back at our doorstep in less than 2 minutes, the kids were all in bed and asleep in under 15.

Let's just say that next year The Spouse is taking the kids to the parade.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Photo Activity Time

(A post that didn't run this summer, but was stuck in "drafts"...I am hoping to do it again soon with the kids...snow, Christmas lights...excited!)

The kids see me taking photos ALL. THE. TIME.
Naturally they'd like a turn!
So I let them use my point-and-shoot cameras.

Don't worry...I pinned it to them "just in case".

They headed across the street to the vacant lot to take photos by their butterfly hunting grounds.

They took photo after photo after photo...aren't digital cameras fun?!?!

And Mommy took some pictures of her own!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Why Do We Do What We DO?

Our new congregation put together a devotional booklet this fall and encouraged everyone to submit. Below is my submission…I thought this busy holiday season was a great time to reflect on the topic of “shoulds” that often come from being part of a family. I certainly don’t advocate saying “yes” to every request that is made of us, but I do think that often, as a culture, we’ve been too “Oprah-ized”…we have been told over and over to “say no more”, “step away from un-necessary responsibilities” and while we all need to find a balance that works for us, I think too often people are being down right selfish with their time and talents under the guise of “not being over committed”. Just some food for thought…

“But, MOM, I want to go to the PARK, not the BEACH!”

“I understand that, but we voted and the park won. Sometimes being part of a family means that you have to do things that the others want, instead of what YOU want.”

This snippet of conversation took place a few days ago. As I spoke the words, I almost lost my breath - the truth that I was sharing with my son was hitting me hard.

I admit to being part of the generation that wants things their way, and wants it NOW. In fact, if things aren’t going our way we’re not phased! We have numerous resources at our disposal and we’ll simply take another route that fits into our plans a little better. Are we “spoiled”? “Entitled”? Perhaps. Mostly, we’re HUNGRY.

We’re hungry for a home, for a family, for a feeling of belonging. Where do we find it? For me, it has been in a fellowship of believers…and, for me, being committed to that family encourages me to do things that may not be my first choice. Giving an offering, fulfilling confirmation goals, volunteering when asked, or hosting others may not be my first impulse; but as it is with so many things, doing what is best for the group strengthens my sense of belonging and blesses me in intangible ways.

What I work on next is making sure that I heed Colossians 3:17 (ESV) “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Working to seek a heart from which my actions are not of pure sense of obligation, but the joyful response to my Father’s love and an expression of that love to those around me.

Hopefully this gives you some food for thought…are you saying “yes” out of obligation and doing things for your family, church, school, etc. with heart full of disgust? Or are you saying “no” for selfish reasons? May you easily find a heart that gives an answer that is founded in joy and truth.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! I decided that today would be a great day to get back to my blog (It helps a TON that we’re spending the holiday with my in-laws and they are so amazing to watch the kids and give me some much needed “think-time”...another blessing in my life!)

I cannot believe it has been four months since my last post…what a ride it’s been since then! In one of the posts before I went MIA I mentioned something about the kids and I joining The Spouse…well, it happened!

The church where he is working is providing us with an apartment. The church owns a large house that is broken into three apartments. They partner with Lutheran Social Services to provide housing to people in transition. The Spouses’ (amazing) supervisor saw our needs and made it happen that WE were given the three bedroom apartment. The spouse moved in mid-June and the rest of us joined him at the end of August. Why so long? Many reasons…first, we had made commitments to people and activities in our “hometown” and didn’t want to back out on those; I felt better finishing the summer with my Christian Education position (VBS, Day Camp, etc.) and with the various trips the Spouse takes during the summer with youth we would have been spending a lot of hot, sticky days in a city apartment with no air-conditioning! SO…we opted for a house near a lake that DOES have air-conditioning!

We did join him at the end of August. We count ourselves completely blessed that we are able to be with one another, that our children are able to take advantage of all the neat programs a large city has to offer, and that there is never a shortage of possibilities for fun things to do together. Moreover, we know that as far as “tough” situations go ours is pretty mellow. Compared to loved ones we watch, we are thankful that this is our “cross to bear”.

That being said, it IS our “tough” situation and we do struggle. Primarily, I think, because we are wounded. We are wounded coming off a tough work situation, wounded by a tough economy that has caused our home to linger on the market, by a change of environment that is quite a shock to this farm-girl’s system, not to mention to the hearts of my small-town children. Our souls ache for the connections we felt in our little town, for the familiar faces we’d see when we were out and about, for the dear friends who became our family. There are days when the kids and I nearly suffocate in the longing for our friends; for that feeling of HOME. So I use the term “wounded”…. ‘wounded’ and ‘wondering’. We wonder how God will work this all for good. Don’t mis-understand me. He WILL work it for good. Of that we are sure, but there are days where my tension in wondering HOW and my patience for wondering WHEN are at levels I can nearly see radiating off my body. When the kids say, “I miss Walker” it’s all I can do not to cry as I quietly say, “Me too”. God will. He has to. Not only do I need it for myself, I need it for my children. I cannot bear to think that they will have gone through all this for nothing. That they have left all they’ve known, given up months with their Daddy, put their loved items in storage, moved to a strange place, put themselves out there to make new friendships for nothing. No, that cannot be. He will and we are hopeful for the day when we’ll look back on all of this and think, ‘I SEE where God was taking us!’

Until then we work to adjust the best we can, holding onto the friendships with those we love and tentatively putting out our hand in our new community. What a blessing to simply be together in the journey! We have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving day and we thank God for all He has done and rejoice in His love for us. May your Thanksgiving be filled with blessings as well!