Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"A baby changes everything"

December is a diverse month.  Winter officially begins, shopping is in full swing, it seems dark more than it is light and for me, this month is bittersweet.

Over the years, December has proven to be a difficult month for our family.  We have suffered significant health issues and loss.  At times it has been difficult to hold on to the hope that this season offers.

no crib for a bed
This is in sharp contrast to growing up; this time of year was filled with anticipation and excitement.  By Christmas Eve us five kids never could seem to settle down and go to sleep.  I remember still being awake in the wee hours of the morning.  I am sure by that time, mom was desperate to finish wrapping and GO TO BED.

My earliest recollection of the true meaning of Christmas was when I was in 5th grade.  We did not go to church regularly as a family, but often times we were included and attended with neighbors and friends.  The lady across the street was our "before school" babysitter and her family attended a Nazarene church in the neighborhood.  I started going to church with them and they held a competition for the kids attending - who could memorize the Christmas Story in its entirety (Luke 2:1-20) .

Back then my memory was much more reliable than it is today and I won the competition.  The reward was reciting the story during the church service.  As the winner, I also received a Bible. While I didn't attend that church for a long period of time, it had a lasting effect on me.

I have had periods of time when I wasn't attending church.  Yet I was always searching.  My faith was always a part of me.  The particular denominations have varied but in 1983, I found my "forever" church home.

I was actively looking for a good fit at the time when a co-worker, Marlene Shellenburger, invited me to attend St. John's Lutheran Church in Topeka.  As I explained to the Pastor when I met with him to discuss joining, "this church felt like I had come home".  My sister and I took adult confirmation classes together and were confirmed later that year.  I have only changed churches three times since 1983 and it has always been precipitated by a move; never a change of faith.

Ironically, my dad was baptized, confirmed and raised in the Lutheran church.  It had been many years since he attended regularly.  However, before he died in June, 1985, he had come full circle and was attending with us, as health permitted.

So the other day I heard Faith Hill on the radio singing, "A baby changes everything".  A simple line that made me ponder that complex truth.  All new parents experience the profound changes that occur while here on earth.  However, this song is about the changes that occurred when an unwed teenage mother found herself carrying a child almost 2000 years ago.  I am including a link if you haven't heard it.

The last verse sums up the additional reward I received many years ago when my competitive nature memorized what Christmas is all about.

My whole life has turned around
I was lost but now I'm found
A baby changes everything, yeah
A baby changes everything

Until next time,

your pal,

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Which one do you feed the most?

A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other.  One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred and fear.  The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?”
 The grandfather quietly replies, “the one you feed the most”
This story has many titles, and variations and the source of origin is unknown.  What is consistently the same is the outcome. 

I choose family
I am a "half-full" kind of woman.  I believe I am this way because of  "the one I feed the most".  Katy and I have talked about this; our shared ability to turn a negative into a positive...or at least find a bright light in any given circumstance.  And when no bright light can be found, we take comfort in the fact that it wasn't any worse.

Thirty years ago (tomorrow), my son Zachary died.  It was a very dark December for us that year (and for many to come).  I remember thinking even then, "it could have been worse". And then I would list in my head all the scenarios that didn't play out which would have made it worse.  This is who I am.

There are so many things that happen during life.  As I have said, some worse than others and some people suffer more than any human being should have to. All we have to do is turn on the news and within minutes, something will be reported that breaks hearts.  

But this isn't the end of the story.   What happens to us does not need to define us, but our choices going forward will make us who we are. 
I choose love!


One of my favorite words.  When I wake up in the morning, how will I view the day?  My choice.  As I interact with my co-workers, who do I want to be?  My choice.  Is there anything to be grateful for today (you got choice).  And how about humor?

I make the choice to be grateful daily and find humor in all things possible. My humor is irreverent at times and my laughter may be inappropriate.  So you could say, sometimes I choose laughter...but sometimes it chooses me.   Laughter releases all kinds of positive endorphins that make everything better. But again, it's a choice.

I remember when Terry and I were raising kids and hadn't been married a real long time.  Mr. French can be quite intense and if there was something to get upset about, he tended to get upset.  I am happy to report that he did not chose to live that way for long.  One time he got angry about something (it could have been a football score) and Madison was 2 or 3.  She looked at him and started laughing.  The older kids looked at her as if she had lost her mind.  But within a minute, Terry started laughing, too.  That now tends to be our "go to" response. (Thanks, Madison.)

I choose penguins.
Over the past many years, I seemed to be anxious and fearful about a lot of things.  It wasn't until about five years ago that I realized I was making a choice.  I was afraid to fly, heights, enclosed places, people...the list goes on and on.  I was choosing fear.  Change did not happen overnight, but now I am like Pavlov's dog - as soon as I am on an airplane, I can fall asleep. I am THAT COMFORTABLE.  Sometimes before we even take off.  As recently as our last vacation, I went zip-lining.  We have also been hiking in mountains on very narrow trails.  These things happen now, because of my choices.

As we prepare for this holy season, I hope you take the time to reflect on who you are and who you want to be. 

Until next time,  

your pal,

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The trouble with dream vacations.....

Wow!  What a great week spent celebrating our 20th anniversary and having our friends join us on our adventure.  We accomplished so many "firsts" for all of us (and at our age, I didn't really think there would be that many left).

Jungle time! #zika
I have also discovered as I have entered this phase of my life (not sure exactly what it is) that I am much braver than I have ever been before.  I tend to make plans without going over every little detail that could possibly go wrong...who am I?

Example:  Last week on our "escape from reality" I zip lined.  Not just one line but six...did I mention this was in a jungle in Jamaica?  WHOOHOOO.  It was simply amazing.  And obviously a first because I am not keen on heights...or I didn't used to be.  A couple of these lines went from tree to tree with a very small platform to stand on (with about 10 other people).  I may have become a "tree hugger" also (he he).

Next up - Mayfield Falls.  I thought we would hike along the falls, casually getting in and out as the spirit moved us.  No!  It was a jump in and go type of experience with any walking being done through the falls.  The water was initially a shock, but soon became quite refreshing.  We spent about 45 minutes walking through the falls with Mr. French daring to swim through a hole in a rock from one body of water to another followed by he and Dr. Lesko climbing up (and then jumping off) a tree located by the Falls.

Favorite team of waiters (and husbands)
The next day our plans took us to Grand Cayman for first time scuba diving.  The past did come back to haunt us via past health issues (there are some things you just should not lie about to participate).  We quickly regrouped and went to the beach.  Everything about that decision was positive - the clear water and warm temperatures and is it too soon to mention a common theme throughout this vacation - margaritas!  Mr. French rented a jet ski (another first for me) and we raced back and forth over ocean waters.

Our final excursion was Friday and we went by catamaran to Isla Pasion - in Cozumel.  For those of you who didn't receive the big news - Terry and I are reigning champions in the water balloon competition, after eliminating about a dozen other couples.

Even after MARGARITAS, we still have it going on.

I haven't even mentioned the spa that we all frequented daily while on board the Carnival Breeze, (can you say massage and facial)?  Or the Yoga classes we participated in (even though French's don't have the flexibility to really call what we did participating!).  And of course, the impromptu dancing (ok - mainly me) during any conceivable opportunity.  I can't believe I almost forgot to mention dining at The Chef's Table (and TF tried EVERYTHING) #pickyeater

You must be asking by now, what possible trouble could be associated with a dream vacation like we just enjoyed?  It's really quite simple - dream vacations END.

 The literal cold dose of reality hit when we docked in Galveston on Sunday.  We raced to the car in record rain fall, and it was cold.  This week brought more rain and cooler temperatures, plus it was back to work.  Apparently drinks aren't served with breakfast (or anytime for that matter).

Until next time,

your pal,

It's never too late to do the "right" thing

Even this is my opinion! What is "the right thing"?  Many times over the years, I have heard people say "I want to do the...