Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rhapsody on a Theme from Princess Bride or The Happiness Project, Scene 1

“My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

No! That’s not what I meant.

How about this one?


“I do not think it means what you think it means.”

No! That’s not it either.

Here we go.

“He’s not dead. He’s only mostly dead.”

Know any dead people? I know you don’t. But it’s slightly possible that some of the people you know are only mostly dead. Okay. I know. I’m crazy. What on earth am I saying?

I’m reading the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Right off the bat, she makes the point that she’s not depressed. She is simply asking some basic questions. I can tell Gretchen Rubin is a “thinker”, like me. She’s also a list-maker, like me. Gretchen Rubin isn’t searching for happiness the way some people in this day and age search for “purpose” or “inner truth” or whatever it is they do..... Gretchen Rubin takes a scientifically sound, statistical approach and asks, What makes people happy? What might make me a happier person? What choices do I have to increase my happiness? Not schmultzy, mushy, sappy, cheesy, warm and fuzzy happy - no, content. Read that both ways. CONtent and conTENT. Simple acts like getting enough sleep and putting things away when you are done with them. Creating order. Creating energy. That’s where she begins her project. I've re-worded Rubin's ideas and summed it up this way for myself: The CONtent of my life choices will increase conTENTment. duh!

But what I like best so far is not so much that I need cleaner closets or a better night-time routine, but that the Happiness Project is a way to choose a little bit MORE life.

We can fill our lives with so much “stuff” that we don’t choose; we don’t live much. We are mostly dead, reacting to our environment as opposed to embracing the choices we have. We all need a Miracle Max to chocolate coat a little pill we can swallow that will improve our circumstances. But as he said in the movie, “You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.”

My girlfriend, Kristy recently shared with me what gave her the courage to become a painter, at the ripe old age of 42. She’s got 2 kids at home with plenty to do; homeschooling, running those boys all over creation, fundraisers, church stuff.... but she realized God had given her a passion to create art. What she lacked was the discipline. Her Happiness Project (and she hasn’t read the book) was the CHOICE to combine her passion with DISCIPLINE. A few years ago, she committed to draw or paint every day. It was that simple. She made a choice. This summer, she has several shows lined up and people, including me, who want to buy her work (but I can’t afford it, she’s already that good!). Wow. To see her work, click on Kristy.

Apparently, Miracle Max was correct, “There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.”

So the slightly alive part of me is challenging the slightly alive part of you to read the Happiness Project. If you can’t, that’s cool. But ask yourself, what do I need to do with the CONtent of my life to increase conTENTment? The Apostle Paul said he had to learn to be content. It takes time. It takes discipline. But do you want to be happier? Will you join me?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

BYOK or Bring Your Own Kleenex

Emily Adcox shared with Catey a blessing. It was more than that, to me, however, because what she shared was a question. The question was about legacy. Not the highfalutin’ kind. No. Emily shared a simple gift of passing something on.

As she shared, I found my mind reeling back to my mother. My mother who did not teach me to clean toilets or do my own laundry. My mother who did not teach me to cook or sew. But I couldn’t stay there in my mind when I thought of all the things my mother did teach me... to believe in myself.... to trust my instincts... to not give up.... to stand choose good friends.... to make memories..... to hope for more. Thought I didn’t grow up in a conventional Christian home, my mother also taught me how to pray... Now I lay me down to sleep..... So when the storms hit later in life, to whom did I turn? I have my mother to thank, in part, for Faith, the greatest legacy.

About 8 months ago, maybe it was 10. It was hot that day so it must have been last fall or even last summer. I was on my front porch on the phone with mom. In fairness to those of you have a strained relationship with your mom, you have got to know that my mom is not, nor ever has been, my “BFF”. We don’t have a relationship like that. We have our obligatory calls, which my mom usually initiates and sometimes we talk about heart issues. But it took a long time before we could do that. That day, I decided to put the advice of The Blessing into practice. That day on the phone, I told my mom how grateful I was that she gave me so much advice growing up. That sound, wise advice, have been the pillars of strength in what has been a most difficult time in my life. I hear my mother’s voice when the world closes in, and my gratitude overcomes me. It was time to tell my mother that and thank her.

Emily has 5 young children (one on his way from China!). She’s a young mom herself I think. She is about to teach her daughter to cross stitch. Her mother taught her to cross stitch. Cross stitch has been for Emily what baseball is to some father/son relationships. Cross stitch is the tie that binds, the spark of communication. Cross stitch is a legacy the women in Emily’s family share. Joy over finished projects. Enthusiasm over new ones to come. Frustrations about bad patterns, missing stitches, doing and re-doing. Shared excitement. Shared losses. Shared vision. Shared hope. But her question to Catey was what struck me most: What is your connection going to be? What will you pass on? She asked Catey this while giving her a beautiful cross stitch to place in her Hope Chest.

Here I am, with 3 not-so-young children and like iron sharpening iron, Emily asks a question of another person that is a gift to me.

WHAT AM I passing on?

Some of you know why I don’t crochet. My mother crocheted. Like crazy. And when I tried to learn how (she bought me books and hooks and yarn), I failed...miserably. So that’s when I went to my mom-in-law to learn to knit. Deep within, I was longing to have something to pass down.

Little did I know when my mom-in-law taught me my first stitches, that there was a whole world out there of enthusiastic knitters taking the world by storm with free lessons on YouTube! But at that time, I was trying to create a memory and a miniature legacy of my own.

But here I am today, thanks to CATEY, (who is responsible for the whole Emily connection because I met Emily at Catey’s Blessing Celebration), I am also a crocheter. CATEY taught me to crochet my first flower. I needed to see it all in 3-D. Thanks to Catey, I have now crocheted several hats and this picture is her wearing one with a flower SHE taught me to crochet. That day on the porch, I delighted in telling my mother that I had finally mastered a small aspect of crocheting. Connection. Sharing. Passing down. “I finally got it, Mom!” “Good for you!”

I intend to leave a legacy of every other good thing my mother offered me, as well. Thanks to Emily's blessing, I will be intentional about passing on the most precious gifts of all. Wisdom. Words. Encouragement. Hope. Prayer. Faith.

And if I forget, I have this to hang on my wall. A story to share with all who enter my home. A piece of Emily Adcox and Catey and Me. We each have one. Emily made it for Catey and gave it to her at her blessing. Mine will arrive soon, a free gift given to me for no good reason. Maybe that’s the best reason of all.

For the record, all of my children, including the boys, can knit and crochet. They don’t all love it, but they know how. Best of all, stitched in their minds forever will be pictures of me, propped on the couch, in the car, and in our trailer - reflections of memories I have of their grandmothers... yarn in hand....flowing from a skein that never ends.

What do you give? What will you pass on? What will your story be?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Blessing

The Blessing: It’s a book by Trent and Smalley. I’ve read it 3-4 times. It’s one of those I come back to again and again because I want to give blessings, not curses to people. When you’ve been cursed, it’s as if someone has put you to sleep and diabolically planted thorns in your flesh. (That’s not from the book. That’s from my imagination) Those thorns cause pain. Whenever someone rubs you wrong the way, they get poked or stabbed. Sometimes, the thorns themselves cause aching and anguish for the bearer. The Apostle Paul had a thorn in his flesh that he prayed to be removed. Musta been a pain.

Sometimes, the thorny nature of people, simply keeps you from being close to them. When I shop for roses I’m like that. If I see a wallop of thorns on the stems, I skip it. The suckers that often grow from good roses are often thornier offshoots of the original plant. What to do with those? You cut them off... as close to the ground as possible. You don’t let them grow because no matter how pretty the flower, them thorns are vicious! And they’ll eventually take over the whole plant. Kinda like the proverb, a companion of fools suffers harm. Keep away from the cursed!

But I am cursed. In part, I was born that way. Sinful nature and all. So in response, I read the Blessing, because I wanted to be a blessing to others. I want to be a thorn picker. One of those people who patiently de-thorns the rose stems before I put them in the vase. I recommend it. It’s a good book.

Another recommendation is to GIVE a blessing. My friend, Jill, did this for her daughter, Catey. I got to be a part of it. Here’s the “How to”.

First, have a momentous occasion. 16th or 18th birthday or a graduation. In Catey’s case, it was her high school graduation celebration that prompted the date for The Blessing.

Second, a Hope Chest is a good idea.

Third, send an invitation and descriptive letter to all significant women in daughter’s life. Tell invitees to come prepared with a written blessing to share verbally and to give to the Blessed for her Hope Chest. Explain that the Hope Chest is to be started that day, filled with the hope and promise and blessings of a future, along with colanders. (inside joke)

Fourth, make a whole lot of sandwiches!

Fifth, inconspicuously place tissues around the room (Jill forgot this part) and be prepared for the wisdom of the ages to come pouring out of the women you know who love your little girl.

Some blessing ideas: A set of candles and candlesticks - to remind her to let her light shine before men in such a way that they will see her good works and glorify her father who is in heaven. A tablecloth - a foundation on which to build service and hospitality. A quilt- to comfort her with the comfort with which she has been comforted by Christ. Tea things - to encourage her meditation. Coffee Mugs - to encourage her meditation after she has children when she needs something stronger than tea to get her going in the morning. Books that have changed your life - Sit, Walk, Stand by Watchman Nee and The Rest of the Gospel by .... okay, so you can tell... I WAS ENCOURAGED AND BLESSED! You know those 2 books are currently in my amazon cart for when I get done with the Happiness Project and Bold Love.

One of my favorite of the blessings, deserves a post of its own. Because it wasn’t just a blessing to Catey, but because it was the kind of blessing that is changing me. Stay tuned... and BYOK (bring your own kleenex).

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Paradox. I love 'em.

Read this today. Thought it might strike a chord in you, too.

Both. And. Having your cake and eating it, too. Truth. In Love.

Justice. Mercy.

Not unlike my recent blog post about Truth and Grace.

Think about it. Abundant life born from giving up your rights to everything. (Matthew 10:39)

The wisest people are those who can receive instruction. (Proverbs 9:9)

The last will be first and the first will be last.

What paradoxes come to mind for you?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Two Lucky Ladies

Looks can be deceiving.

You can’t always read a book by its cover.

All that glitters is not gold.

You’ve heard them all before and you know they are true. The hard part, is unlike the God of the Universe, we are prone to judge on appearances. Why is that? We are wired concretely. We respond to what we see.

The dog really is impressionably challenged. She’s ugly, but in a cute way. That’s what I thought to myself but before the words were fully formed and I gave it any thought I simply blurted out, “She’s ugly.” I’ve spent many years considering the importance of tact. But sometimes, I don’t have any. It’s kind of like appearances, I guess. Some people don’t give the best first impressions, yet underneath an impression lives someone quite the opposite. Sometimes.

Most of us merely want to be loved for who we are INSIDE. Not what we do. Not even what we say. Not what impressions we give. I’m like everyone else.

Like Popeye of old, I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam. Tactless though I be on occasion, I’ve been blessed with something not everyone has. Thanks to one very important person in my life, my mother, liking myself has been mostly easy. That was a blessing all by itself. Of course, then when I met God, I realized, my mom was really right! God says I am fearfully and wonderfully made! Yahoo! Sometimes, I am ugly, or tactless but in an okay sort of way. Sometimes, I don’t make the best first impressions or say the right thing. It’s okay, though, because I am His. The older I get the more I realize how rare a thing it is to both strive for personal improvement and live contentedly in one’s own skin, with mistakes, blunders, failures, warts, wrong motives and all. I am very fortunate to belong to a forgiving God.

Meeting Lady, the ugly dog, reminded me of this kind of unconditional acceptance. She’s been re-homed 3 times now (kind of like being stood up for the prom) and needed someone to take her in. She is the blind date that no one would take out, the wallflower that no one wanted to dance with, the Ugly Duckling of the dog world or Cinderella in dire need of a fairy DOGmother. But a few weeks ago, she got loved.

Even though she is really funny looking, my friend, Jill, Carli “The FunYuen’s” mom, saw her full potential as one of God’s creatures and invited Lady into her family. Spots and all. It doesn’t matter that she can’t dance and that her head is too big for her body. Jill saw beyond all that…..saw her for who she really is. Beauty IS in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? How lucky Lady is. She may be ugly in a cute way, but what’s best is that she belongs.

When I think about it, Lady and I have a lot in common, but what's obvious is that we both have a great personality! (grin)
(seriously) Maybe we do, not because of who we are, but because of who loves us the way we are. We are two lucky ladies.

(no animal feelings have been hurt in the writing of this blog)
(photo has not been touched-up, re-touched, altered, stretched, colored, exaggerated... no.... that’s what the dog really looks like!)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Car-tripping with Carli is a Trip!

We went to see Catey Yuen graduate and be blessed. That was the goal. I can’t say enough about her that wasn’t already said to her face. She is loved. She is admired. She is blessed. So many people celebrated her and the Schneiders were overcome to be among them.

But then, we snatched Carli! Nicknamed, The FunYuen! What a hoot to have Carli on wheels among us. Fiesty. Friendly. FUN! Here area few glimpses of Car-tripping with Carli as we traveled from Colorado back to California pulling our trailer behind us, camping along the way.

These are notes I (Aunty) wrote to her Momma (Jill) so she could share in the FunYuen from afar:

Carli upon completing a lovely origami elephant exclaimed,"Look Uncle Joe!"
Uncle Joe replied, "What a nice giraffe!"
Carli's expression in reply, priceless!
Let the laughter begin!

Today Carli and Aunty walked around Bear Lake. While traversing in several feet of snow, learning to slide as we go, we both stepped straight through into the lake! Undaunted, we finished the course with wet socks, wet shoes, cold feet. By the way, your precious girl doesn't complain!

We finally got showers today. Laundry done and spaghetti dinner and grocery shopping. A full day... Thank God there was no snow and lots of elk to see. Did some browsing in Estes, too. Don't be surprised when you hear Carli being elected Mayor of Estes. Everyone knows her now and she can introduce you to half the shopkeepers in town. Carli for MAYOR! Hip hip Hooray! That sweet girl makes the world a better place and this trip a better trip ! Tomorrow swimming. Exploring. And maybe no wet socks.

"Certain members" of the Yuen family are Energizer Bunnies! Joe and I are a bit concerned.... Will Carli crash and burn? Do we need to make her go to sleep? She fell asleep during story time last night - it was late. But woke this morning bright eyed and bushy tailed... How much sleep does The FunYuen need?

She lost panties in the locker room. Loves to shop, but seeks advice about spending wisely.... Washes hair at lightning speed. Discusses the importance of modesty quietly with me while naked mother searches for daughter in locker room. Orders Dr Pepper at restaurant.

Has named free toy frisbee, Violet Petunia Switsengard. According to Carli, her frisbee doesn't like men. So Aunty is holding free frisbee while Carli goes to bathroom. The FunYuen won't let Uncle Joe, who paid for dinner and therefore, paid for the free frisbee, touch Violet Petunia!

Carli doesn't appreciate Aunty's Latin rock/60's mix though she can sing on queue, “TEQUILA!” with the rest of us.

She thinks she found missing panties in Cedar City laundry room. She lost the panties in laundry at Glenwood Springs ( uh?)

Carli has taught Zach to crochet..... Is that why we trailer ? ( guess so)

Ate limas. Didn’t complain. Cleared plate. Confesses that she still likes brussel sprouts better.

Carli wants to make sure Aunty likes Steve Winwood while she blasts him from the bunkhouse. Aunty is concerned about sharing. Had to find Walmart to buy crochet hooks and yarn so everyone wasn't borrowing from generous Carli. Poor girl inspired all 3 kids but didn’t have enough hooks and yarn to go around.

Evan's highlight of the day: Carli’s wild hair at the super windy gas stop between No Name and Somewhere.

This morning is a Cap'n Crunch morning.
Carli says, “I don't think we are eating one serving.”
Uncle Joe, “Let's see how much is one serving.”
(Joe hunts and finds measuring cup)
Joe measures, beginning lecture on serving sizes, sugar and calories.
Carli, “Can you be quiet now?”
Zach asks for a Pop Tart to round out his meal.
Evan asks for a banana ;)
Love mornings.....

Carli purchases ice cream cone larger than her head.... But she earned it! 5 mile hike. No slouches or grouches. Carli gets award for most interesting find- mating frogs!
Carli, “Aunty can I touch them?”
Me, “Sure.”
Mating frogs hop away....attached!

Carli was dismayed when she discovered Uncle Joe allows sodas for breakfast on vacation. Zach had a Sprite to go with his pancakes while the FunYuen had taken the high road by ordering chocolate milk. Bummer . As the meal progressed she eyed Jillian’s apple cider in a frosty mug. As soon as Carli finished that milk she leaped at the chance to order something sweeter.... Which she totally consumed before I could finish this note.... Ready for shopping Cracker Barrel and naps now.

There were many I could choose from today, but the 100 degree heat and the Blizzard from DQ knocked me out. Here's a quick keeper:
Carli, “I did it!!!!!!”
Aunty, “What did you do?”
Carli, “I did it! I flushed the toilet while sitting on it!”
Carli is now officially Trailer Trash - no no no - maybe put it another way- how about Toilet Trained- no no no! - I mean Trailer TRAINED!
That's it.

THIS morning Carli was the 5th one up! I think we FINALLY created enough activity that she was inspired to sleep in!

At lunch she names the flies, Bob and Larry. She cons Evan into catching a moth for her.....which she is scared of! They try to trap it in a napkin, 3 times. (S’cuse me, Why does she want a moth she is frightened of?) She orders a BLT and takes out the bacon (?). Jillian eats the bacon ;)
Numerous questions to waitress about her very cool hoop skirt! Don' t be surprised if she wants to get married in one . Vacation is way more fun with Carli .

Good day at Yosemite except that she is too smart. She seems to have lost her sweatshirt somewhere sometime, so Joe slyly bought her a new one. On way back to car she does NOT ask "What did you buy?" nor does she ask "Did you find something you liked?" No.
Carli asks directly, “Can I see what is in the bag?” (dangit!)
So much for surprises......

Today she nursed her bug bites, learned what a junco looks like, smelled a dogwood blossom and swam in a mountain lake. S’mores when we get home so we can authenticate trip officially as "camping". A very God kinda day. Did I mention horrible traffic due to roadwork? BUT Jesus gave us a perfect parking place in the heart of Yosemite Village and a memorable experience on a crowded shuttle. Met Mike and Tracy on the shuttle and became intimately acquainted with German tourists ;) While walking to the car we quizzed her on the people we met along the way.
Who was the guy who met us at the door at that place in Glenwood Springs? Levi!
Who was the first waitress at the place where they gave you Violet Petunia? Alicia! the waitress. Who wore the hoop skirt? Shiloh!
Then there was Ranger Jack at the Rocky Mountain National gate. Connie, who helped with the bowling scores.... and the list goes on.

Her last night with us she tells me, “Aunty, I know this doesn’t sound right, but I miss my family!”

“Of course you do! You’ve done so well and this has been such a long trip for a 10 year old girl.”

“Yeah. But I mostly just missed my dog.”

The Dog, is a blog for another day.....

In the meantime, watch the FunYuen in action!