Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A New Kind of Counseling

We were in the right place at the right time to see someone delivering a leather sofa to Goodwill. Much to my husband's embarrassment I asked him to turn the van around and asked the guy if he was donating the couch, and would he donate to me? He would, he did, and he even delivered and so I had two couches in my living room. My little, tiny living room. One couch had to go.

We asked, begged, pleaded, bribed for help to move the couch. We even got someone to say they'd come do help do it so on a Friday after work we moved other furniture in preparation and to save our friendly helper, we decided that we could move the old couch out the front door, around the house and up on the deck. From here it should be a straight shot in the backdoor and down the stairs to the family room.

And then it was kind of starting to drizzle and looked like rain... and our help was a no show, which was great. Great because I hate moving things. Hate with a fiery, burning like surface of the sun hate. In fact, I think that engaged couples should attempt to move a couch through some sort of obstacle course that includes stairs with corners in them and kids running underfoot. If this can be accomplished and both parties are still speaking, and listening, then the marriage has a chance. Seriously.

The couch went down the stairs not once, not twice, but three times, into the bathroom once, ripped off some molding, removed a huge scratch of paint from a wall, got both offspring sent to their rooms, had one sobbing because they're "not part of the family!" (Really?!? You are a perfect square of 45'' tall and 45# and you're upset because we don't need your help to move a couch? Perfect.)

All this makes me think I can not possibly be the only person this happens to? There must be thousands or millions of couples out there who need help moving things. Not the moving kind of help. The kind of help who follows you around as you move things and when a spouse says, "Lift and pivot!", this counselor who earned their PhD with an emphasis on spatial movement liaisons would say, "They mean to lift this and do that in this direction at this specific spot in the space/time continuum." And the second half of the couch moving party could actually do that specific thing. It would be a highly specialized counselor who would be in high demand.

I would pay THROUGH THE NOSE for this service. Plane ticket from your house on your private island? No problem. Reserve your services 2.3 years in advance? Sure. First born son? Mmmmm, OK. =0)

OK, I should give a disclaimer that my husband is a sweet patient man. There is just something about moving things together that I am unable to do: Understand him. I confess there is an almost 100% probability that this is ALL ME. And I wouldn't give up my first born son. He's 15, and just about manly enough to start doing all the moving with his dad. It'll be father/son bonding time.

So anyway, if you are looking for a solid career in a brand new area of study, you should totally do this Couples-Who-Need-To-Move-Large-Heavy-Pieces-Of-Furniture Counseling gig. This may be for you. And if it is, call me! Because it's for me, too.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Fun Photo Op

Our family did our annual 'MN State Fair/School Clothes Shopping/Como Zoo' trip last week. I wanted to share this fun idea with you. One of the booths at the state fair had this photo opportunity set up. (It was to publicize some book I never saw the name of, but kept the idea!)

So, it's swimming noodles, you can use any kind - the round ones or the star or flower shaped ones, with a slit cut the entire length of the noodle right down to the hollow core. And then there were all kinds of letters in fun fonts and designs, laminated. You could spell whatever you wanted, stand in the framed area (which the picture doesn't show, except for the top edge), and take pictures.

Kid's names, 'Hi Gramma!', random words...

Now, think Christmas photo cards, or pictures to track your kid's growth year to year, fun family portraits, sports team stuff like "Go Hawks!", photo booths at weddings and graduation parties, hop out of your car on family vacations and take a picture with a sign that says 'Old Faithful' with Old Faithful in the background... whatever you wanted to do!

I loved this idea! I think I'll make some of my own laminated letters & numbers which may have to ride around in the car with me.... You should, too.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I am alone... kind of.

I am an only child, born to parents who divorced when I was not yet four, one died 12 years ago, the other last week. My husband has family, we have nieces & nephews, I have in-laws. I do have family left, but the ties that bound us together are stretched thin to breaking in some points, the connecting tissues that were my parents, removed.

Not one member of my 'close' family has responded to the death of my father, no condolences, no 'thinking of you' notes, no calls, no response. And I fight the voice that tells me I am alone alone alone.

And new pain draws out my old pain.

And God moves the hands of friends and I receive cards, hugs and support and I find myself in a place where I want to pick and carefully choose the heritage I leave my children. I want more for them than I have for myself. Not more money, a better job, or a bigger house, I want them to be rich in faith, in family, in people who love them, including each other.

I am standing in the current of time, and I have the power to change where the river flows.

We can point to Jesus. 
We can build memories.
We can love each other through tragedy, through mistakes, through disagreements, through life.
We can ACTIVELY participate in each others lives.
We can turn off the TV, eat healthier, get out of the house more.
We can tell our kids how we met, what's important to us, what we believe & how to manage finances.
We can teach them that forgiveness has nothing to do with anyone else, it's a choice, and we can model it.

I don't know how to do all of that, I do know one way not to do it. I know a few things to avoid, I can point out a few potholes... And I'm thankful God has a better, bigger, and more detailed plan than I do.

I hope and pray these two are never alone.
If I am in harmony with my family, that's success.
~Ute saying

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


They are burying my dad today.

Big, 35 year gap
that feels like 300
 I didn't get enough time with him.

Raymond Harold Dolan III
9.30.46 - 8.15.10

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Nobody plants the weeds

 (photos taken 7.29.10)

Grace and I picked raspberries and blueberries at a friends recently. Grace lost interest pretty quickly, more interested in feeding the chicken clover heads and talking to our friend, Casey, who was weeding some of the nearby vegetable gardens. I was a couple gardens over and  could hear snippets of Grace's continuous questions and Casey's patient answers. 

(photo taken 7.29.10)

One of her answers that has stuck with me,
rattling around my mind,
"No one needs to plant the weeds."

(photo taken 7.29.10)

I'm sure there is a magical far-away land where the zucchini is weighing down the plants with no one to pick them, juicy tomatoes run amok, various herbs gone wild and fields of carrots feeding herds of rabbit, to say nothing of azaleas, rhododendron, dusty miller and mums. But not here.

Here, we thoughtfully pick seeds from the store while ignoring the half empty seed packet at the back of the junk drawer, carefully cultivate seedlings indoors in April and May as it's still too cold to plant outdoors, prepare fertilized, tilled beds for the fragile growth, covering them at the slightest frost warning, and weed the garden. 

Always weeding the garden. Because the weeds will come.
"No one needs to plant the weeds."
And if you want the good stuff, the pretty stuff, the tasty stuff, you have to weed the garden.Unless you like a yard full of Creeping Charlie with some grass thrown in, a flower garden filled with thistle, or a vegetable garden choked with weeds, you have to remove the undesirable, remove the chaff, separate the wheat from the tares.

You can't garden through omission.
"No one needs to plant the weeds,"
but they'll keep showing up anyway.
If you don't' choose to be proactive

(photo taken 7.29.10, 2 weeks later)

the weeds will begin to choke out the growth so carefully cultivated.

 "No one needs to plant the weeds."
It's a warning, a charge to be careful,
be diligent, pay attention.
It's a lot like life.

Don't mind me - I'm just weeding out loud.

Monday, August 9, 2010

What Fear Does & How Truth Overcomes

We ended a fun week at church of doing free stuff for our community with a big BBQ on Friday. Our whole family participated in different ways and went to the grand finale. There was cotton candy, sno-cones & popcorn, family portraits & a skateboarding competition,
(this is the 'diva' style face paint she picked - 
suits her personality perfectly!)
and one of these:

Doesn't it all sound like a dream come true for families? Free dinner, lots of fun stuff for the kids, and no mess at home to clean up? I thought so, too. 

Then fear came to the party. 

We arrived and Micah did what 15 year-olds do, dropped us and found some friends to hang out with. Grace and I perused the BBQ offerings, settling on face painting before the line got too long. Then cotton candy, then the Olympic. Obstacle. Course. (You should feel the impending doom at those words.) Grace wanted to go through the obstacle course with me and was having nothing to do with anyone else. We waited in line, got to the front, Ready...Set...Go! And I run and jump through that first hole, almost lose my pants, am full of grass... (this could be a hilarious post if I continued through the course...) and Grace is outside crying. I try to encourage her, offer to lift her into the hole. Now she's sobbing, dripping face paint with tears and drool. So I climb out and we let the next team go.

Off to the side, Grace cried and told me how she wants to do it SO BAD but is just too scared. I reassured her, I would do it with her, help her, protect her, and.... we try again. Mmmmmm...... nope! Now let's try with Lynsi (favorite friend/babysitter)..... nope! We're done. We'll try next time we see one of these and Grace will be older.

At this point she's a yelling, blame-throwing, sobbing mess. She wants to do the obstacle course so much that she is beside herself with frustration. She can see what she wants, it's available to her, but she just can't make herself take the step to get there. We go home, wash her face because she needs to get every last vestige of the ruin of a night off her body and out of her mind. It takes a long time for her to sleep.

I know exactly how she feels. Fear takes you captive if you let it. I have the niggling feeling that God is speaking to me in this, but it's pretty painful in the way a parent hates to see their child suffer, and I am ignoring it. But I know I do this on the inside, I scream and wail and want to do the thing that terrifies, but just can't make the leap.

Church on Sunday brings a message that was aimed right at me. I both hate that and love that. The message was based on Romans 12, offering ourselves as living sacrifices, and the lyrics from 'Moment of Surrender' by U2 (we're talking about when faith and culture meet). And these lyrics completed the idea that God was trying to get me to think about:
I tied myself with wire
to let the horses run free
playing with the fire
until the fire played with me
Oh how I have lost myself, how I have allowed the things I thought I was using to protect myself to rule me, keep me afraid, keep me tied down, held back. I live in fear of disappointing the people I love, the people around me, and the One who made me. I am so afraid, all the time. Here's the part that knocks the breath right out of me:
It's not if I believe in love
(it's) if love believes in me
Oh, believe in me!
It's the longing of my heart and the resolution of my fear. Perfect Love casts out fear. If Love believes in me.

But that's what fear does. It lies, it makes you afraid of Truth, it rules you while using the guise of safety.

That's what God is showing me through the terrified tantrum of a 5 year old and a song. It's where my culture and my faith meet.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Deeply Rooted

God has been talking to me about being rooted in him. Deeply rooted. Not just on the surface, not just the stuff that people see or the stuff that makes me feel temporarily secure, but really rooted in Him down deep where the storms of life can't blow me over.

The Wise and the Foolish Trees
(My version of the parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders)

Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise tree who rooted himself deeply to the Source of Life. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that tree; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation set in the Source. 
But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish tree who only rooted himself to the most superficial part of the Source of Life. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that tree, and it fell with a great crash. (found in Matthew 7:24-27)

There is some hard work to be done, digging and burrowing through hard packed earth. I don't really feel up to the challenge, but where He calls me, I'll go. I am so tired of fighting and struggling to hold on to the thin topsoil but when I really consider what it is He is calling me to do, He wants me to have the restful peace of being deeply rooted to Him: real rest. How can I refuse?