Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dear 2011,

Dear 2011,

You've been an interesting year. In nature, you've been a bit difficult. (Insert eyes rolling viciously at the prior statement's understatement here.) I'm not sure though if you've been truly painful or if it just seems that way because the horror of some of the other trying times in my life is fading in the recesses of my memory. I suppose either way you go it's alright.

In spite of the extra stresses that you've thrown at me, I have learned to be truly happy in my little sphere of life. It is not what I expected for myself at this point, but it is beautiful. We are happy and safe. We don't have much, but our needs are always met, and as my seven year old says, "we have enough, Mom. Don't you think we have enough?" I have my kids, and they have me. Just as important -- to me, at least -- I have a job that allows me to be home at almost any time that my sweet girls are.

During the course of your stay, my kids have grasped more tightly to their new normal. They have put down roots and found their niche in this life of ours. They have learned to feel normal again. M learned that she's brave enough to go to church with a family friend when her sister is sick. She is finding her own strength and sense of purpose, and in it, she shines! L is finding her own voice as well. While this can create a bit of friction, she is learning to stand up for herself in increasingly appropriate ways. It is grand to see her finding her own inner strength.

Over the past year, I've been able to continue my education. This last semester, I finished up all the requirements for my minor and all except three classes for my major. If all goes well, I'll start the teaching program in the fall. It's been a long road, but when I reach the end of it, I'll have my degree in a field that I am passionate about and in an area that will allow me to be home with my children as much as possible. Despite the challenges, it will be worth it.

It's been a challenging year musically as well. This year, I have: accompanied the choir for our local church congregation, sang a duet in our worship service (for the first time in close to a decade,) and I have begun accompanying our local congregation periodically on the organ. All of these things are a great challenge to me. I'm grateful that I've had these opportunities to stretch though. It's both a trial and a blessing. I am becoming more than I am.

Even in the most trying times that you've sent my way, I've seen the hand of God guiding my life, strengthening me to face my challenges, and making up the difference when what I had to give just wasn't enough. I've seen miracles over and over, so while I might hope for a few less surprise challenges in 2012, I can leave you, 2011, without regret. I've made my share of mistakes, but I'm learning to be my best self.

With heartfelt farewell,


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's been a month of Christmas miracles: one in which many wishes, hopes, and secret desires have been realized. The better part of those longings have been known only in my imagination and to God. Many of them may appear trivial to some, but to me-- the realization of so many of the things that no one else knew has been a reminder that God is aware of not just my little family, but of me as an individual. I'm not lost in the shuffle or in the crowd. He sees not just what everyone else sees, but who I am in my heart of hearts.

These blessings have been a reminder that He has beauty and joy in store for me and that He will provide it in His own time and in His own way. It is a reminder that He will bless me abundantly, not only in my needs, but in my wants as well. These small (and large) miracles are a beautiful reminder of the goodness of people and their willingness to be prompted by him.

My heart is truly full this season; the sweetness of so many dear blessings has been trumped only by the true goodness and love of the people who've done so much to provide them. Thank you so very much to those of you, known and unknown, who have brightened our lives. You are some of our greatest blessings!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Windblown Wisdom

Things I've learned while the winds raged and the power failed ...

* Charging my cell phone each night would not be a bad idea.

* Keeping my mp3 player charged is important as well. While we have a hand crank radio, it was nice not to have to pull it out.

* I like being able to hunker down in our own home comfortably, knowing that we have what we need to be safe, healthy, and happy. Having faith that there's a God who loves us and is watching over us doesn't hurt either.

* The prospect of being without power long term (they thought it would be forty-eight hours or more) does not feel like a real emergency when we have what we need.

* Candlelight is still charming.

* I'm thankful that my parents taught me to use candles, etc. with common sense as a child.

* Christmas carolling by candlelight with my daughters is one of the most magical experiences that I've had.

* I've got a lot to be thankful for. There is beauty -- even in the hardships.

* I'd infinitely rather be without power than hot water and functional sewers.

* One of my random talents that I've acquired over the years is a knowledge of how to layer blankets to maximize or minimize warmth. Strange, but infinitely helpful in this situation.

* Cold isn't so bad, and I've been colder.

* I need to invest in a charcoal bricket camp stove and a bag of brickets. While I've got an emergency burner and fuel, you can cook almost anything on a grill with relative ease, and being able to roast marshmallows and hot dogs might be a fun distraction for some stir-crazy and slightly worried children.

* Kids take their cues from their parents. If I make it a big deal, my kids will too. If I stay calm and remind them of all the things we have to help us make it through, they tend to look at it as a fun and exciting experience.

* Sometimes having very little in the fridge is not a bad thing. We were able to eat a lot of it yesterday before it went bad, and very little actually went to waste.

* I'm immensely thankful for those who are willing to take a job that requires them to sacrifice their own safety, sleep, and warmth to ensure mine. The power company has been truly amazing with how quickly they have dealt with massive amounts of damage.

* It's lovely being able to do laundry anytime and with relative ease.

* Washing dishes by candlelight is rather fun -- when the water is already heated, I don't have to fetch and carry it, or haul it out either.

A New Month of Excitement ...

December in our neck of the woods came in with a vengeance. As if to announce its presence, the new month rode in on the back of some ferocious canyon winds. The damage to several cities is immense. Our city is apparently one that was hardest hit. As I looked at the major amounts of damage to both landscape and property on all the neighboring property, I have been reminded over and over how very blessed I am.

Our trees lost a few branches, and I have now have a puncture wound in my bathroom window screen from tree shrapnel. That's it. No siding lost, no power lines actually down, my roof is still there and solidly attached, and even my plastic snow shovels and the small Christmas tree on my front porch stayed put. They didn't even move.

Although the power went out for good just before six a.m. yesterday morning and stayed out until just about an hour or so ago (over thirty hours) we had plenty of warm clothing, extra blankets, and even food to eat. I had candles, my mp3 player was charged, so I could listen to the news, and I was able to charge my phone at work so that we weren't completely cut off.

We had lots of wonderful family and friends who offered us a warm place to stay, however, it was the girls' night to go with their dad (who had power and heat) and I just snuggled under the blankets here at home and spent some time reading -- just for fun. I know, unusual. Being an English major means that it's something of a rare thing for me to choose what I read.

The girls came back this morning. After a couple of errands in the warm car, we bundled them into a whole pile of blankets each, had Family Home Evening (er, ... morning) where we sang, read, and put up the nativity set. I also taught them to play Phase Ten. It was a blast.

We were all thrilled to get the power back, but I think that there were some great memories made during the blackout.