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Tuesday, September 25, 2012


For all of you keeping up with our puppy search…I want to introduce you to our sweet little Belle.  I wouldn’t be honest in saying that WE found HER because in actuality, she found us.

Just being truthful here – I am not by nature a “dog lover.”  Gasp!  Since I didn’t grow up with a dog, I have always been very skeptical of the barking, licking, and jumping that some of them do.  My mom also reminded me of the time that a very large dog jumped on me as a child and knocked me completely off my feet.  She said it scared the daylights out of me (and her, I’m sure) and I was always pretty fearful of dogs after that.

However, it’s quite interesting what our children will open our eyes and hearts to, isn’t it?  My children have been asking for a family puppy for a couple of years now, so it was time to give it some real thought and discussion.  It obviously wasn’t a passing phase that they’d forget about in a month or two when something new and better came along.  The more and more I read about dogs, the more interested I got.

We visited the local adoption centers and I put my feelers out for the type of dog that would be a good family dog and an even better “first” dog for this cautious Mommy.  For a period of time, dog talk and puppy research consumed me.  I couldn’t believe it really.  I mean, I had NEVER even walked down the pet aisle in a grocery store!  This was going to be interesting.

Anyway, I finally got sort of fatigued from staring at all the puppies on the different adoption websites.  I really didn’t know which one to pick or which one would like the country or which one was friendly with kids or what type of dog food to buy or what vaccinations they need or how to prevent fleas or…would I even be a good pet owner?  Well, you get the picture. 

Sometimes, I do that.  I get slightly over-analytical (or many times, pathetically so) and cannot make heads or tails of the decision that I’m supposed to make.  I kept thinking, “Am I really spending this much time on this?  Who could help me make the best decision?”

The resounding answer was God.  I know, I know – it seems like such a trivial thing to be bugging Him with, but, I go to Him in things both big and small.  So, I prayed - “God, if you think our family would be a good match for a needy puppy out there, please send us one.  If not, we will be content in knowing that now is not the time.”  I was truly ready to stop worrying about it.

I kid you not – the next day, I received an e-mail from someone that I’d contacted about our puppy search.  She said she knew of a man who needed to find a good home for seven puppies because there wasn’t room for all of them at the adoption center that week.  She attached pictures to the e-mail and I was smitten.  I knew immediately that one of them would find their home with us.

I contacted the man and he said he had three puppies left for us to choose from.  Three of the puppies had been stolen out of his backyard and his children begged to keep one.  The puppies’ mom was a stray that had been dropped off in his country neighborhood and the daddy was the neighborhood lab.  The daddy was a big yellow lab named Horse, but was as tender as a teddy bear and played with all the kiddos in the neighborhood. (However, with a name like Horse, I guess Belle won’t be a purse dog – hee hee!)

When we saw the 7-week-old yellow lab mix puppies in the cardboard box in the back of his SUV, our hearts melted.  How could we choose just one?  I honestly just wanted to say, “We’ll take ‘em all.”  But, practically, I knew that going from never having a dog to having three might have been too much. 

But, only a few minutes into the meeting, the little pup lying in the back of the box caught our eye.  She had a unique little white stripe down her face and sweet white paws to complement her yellow coat.  Her innocent face said, “Pick me, pick me.”  She wasn’t jumping up in our faces to demand our attention.  She didn’t need to command our attention – she already had it.  The bond began.

We brought her home, gave her a bath, played with her, loved her, and made her family.  The kids named her Belle, and we affectionately call her “Bellie Belle” because a belly rub is what she loves the most.  When we found out that Belle shares a birthday with my youngest daughter, we were sure it was meant to be.  Thank you, Lord, for taking the time to answer a simple prayer.  Note to self:  If God hears the teeny tiniest of prayers, why wouldn’t He hear the big ones?

All the dog talk around our house lately has the phrase, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” running through my head.   But, I wonder if we can teach our new dog old tricks?  Hmmmmm.  Here we’ve been given this opportunity to teach our Belle some wonderful lessons, um “tricks” about this magnificent world that we live in.

Just a few of the old, but timeless, tricks include lessons in patience, tolerance, encouragement, and love.  If Belle can be patient with us as we learn about her and if we’ll be patient with her as she steals my husband’s socks...then we can grow together.  If Belle can be tolerant of the cows mooing in the pasture and we can be tolerant of Belle’s poop in the yard...then we can grow together.  If Belle can encourage us with her sweet eyes and happy-to-see-you tail wag and we can encourage her with belly rubs and a game of fetch...then we can grow together.  If we can love Belle unconditionally and she can teach us that there is always room for more love in our hearts...then we can grow together.

Belle has already enabled our family to get a whole lot more vitamin D because of the time we spend outside with her.  Belle has also taught me that mornings aren’t so bad after all.  Watching her explore the great outdoors has reminded me of how much we sometimes take our beautifully detailed world for granted.

In my, uhem, research, I found that labs have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years.  That doesn’t seem like a very long time in comparison to how many years many of us can live.  But, it made me think more about making every day count – with her and with my family.  In Francis Chan’s book, “Crazy Love,” he states that “it’s easy to think about today as just another day.  An average day where you go about life concerned with your to-do list, preoccupied by appointments, focused on family, thinking about your desires and needs.”

Chan challenges us to think about how we can get pretty caught up in ourselves on an average day.  I know that on most days, I don’t remember to thank God for all of the things that are functioning properly in my body just in order for me to survive.  For example, Chan says that the only people who really give much thought to their kidneys are those whose kidneys don’t work correctly.

Life can also be full of stress and worry.  Chan reminds us of the command: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4) and how it ends in “always” and not “unless you’re doing something much more important.”  There is another verse that deserves the same attention - “Do not be anxious about anything.” (Phil 4:6)

Chan provides a description of worry and stress that I hadn’t thought of before.  He writes, “Worry implies that we don’t quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what is happening in our lives.  Stress says that the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace toward others, or our tight grip of control.”

Why are we so quick to forget God?  Who am I to think that the stuff in my life is somehow more important than His command to rejoice and not worry?  Hmmmmm….

I will leave you with this exceptional “trick” (not a dog trick, but a card trick that my Uncle Erol sent my way) – check it out and you too will be reminded that even old dogs like us CAN indeed learn new tricks…new lessons.  We just need to remember who is in charge.  And, thank you, Lord for sending us Belle to teach us even more about life along the way.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Boxed In

Photo Credit:  cohdra at
We went to our local 4-H Harvest of Fun festival this past Sunday and had a wonderful time!  We had never been to this particular event before, so the kids enjoyed the new variety of games there.  They had the ole stand-bys of the duck pond, ring toss, corn dig, and cake walk.  But, then there were some unusual ones like archery and the “Poop Plop” that we hadn’t done before.

The WHAT?!  Yes, after each of my three kids won a cake at the cake walk (which we’ll be eating for weeks…), we headed over to see what all the excitement was at the “Poop Plop.”  I had to laugh because this type of game would only be welcomed in rural areas where the smell of poop is a breath of fresh air for some.  And, for those intensely passionate about cattle, the smell of poop is the smell of money, so it’s even more so appreciated, I’d say.

Anyway, the object of the game was for participants to buy a numbered square from a chart of about 100 squares or so.  Part of the donation would go to the winning individual and the other part would go back to the organization.  Sounds fair enough.

Now, how would one win at this unique game?  Well, they put a snazzy little heifer in a fenced-in area in a corner that was marked off with numbered squares on the ground.  If she pooped in the numbered square you paid for…YOU are the lucky winner of the pot!

So, in theory it all sounds fine and dandy, right?  One of the 4-H students had meticulously marked off nice little squares in the dirt and the sweetie pie heifer was supposed to come in, do her business, and leave.  Game over, right?  Wrong.  It couldn’t have gone more awry.

First of all, the poor young cow was asked to do a daunting task in my opinion.  She was supposed to “do her business” with about fifty eyeballs watching her back-end.  Not gonna happen.  Secondly, who can poop on demand?  (Why on earth am I talking about poop?)

We were all watching.  We were all waiting.  We were all looking at each other watching and waiting.  Anyway, the heifer just “had it!”  She gave us a nasty look (well, sort of) and basically just laid down and started wallowing around in the dirt, moving her head from side to side over and over again…completely and utterly messing up any and all “squares” that were at one time visible.

My friend, Dodie, and I watched in disbelief.  Then, we couldn’t stop giggling.  I told her that the whole thing reminded me of that great line in the movie, Dirty Dancing – “NOBODY puts Baby in a corner!”

I wish I knew how the “Poop Plop” ended, but we needed to get home.  I guess I’ll never know who “won” – “Baby” or a lucky individual.  But, what I did take away was that that little gal did NOT like being cornered.

I guess she’s not a whole lot different than us.  We don’t really care to be “boxed in” or pushed in a corner by someone else either, right?  We all enjoy our room to breathe…to be ourselves…to live.

However, sometimes we box our own selves in.  We limit ourselves by negative or “what if?” thinking and by all of our self-imposed boundaries.  We can also push ourselves into an angry corner by thinking that everyone communicates the same way as we do and then not understand when things go wrong.

Our love languages differ and so can our ways of communicating.  Some people primarily text, some e-mail, some facebook, some tweet…but, in my opinion, nothing beats a good old-fashioned eye to eye or a phone chat.  Call me old-timey, but I’m okay with that.

Too many times an e-mail, text, or facebook post can be misconstrued, misinterpreted, or perceived to be something completely different than its original intent.  I’m sure it’s happened to everyone out there at least once.  There is just no “voice” behind those black words on the screen.

Don’t get me wrong.  Technology is a wonderful way to get information distributed, BUT, it can also be disaster waiting to happen when misunderstood – even just the slightest bit.  I always try to keep that in mind during those crucial few moments before I press…send.

Another special someone who really doesn’t deserve to be boxed in is God.  Sometimes it’s easy for us to just keep Him in a corner until we really need Him.  You know…it’s nice to have Him around at weddings and funerals, when someone’s sick or dying, and on special occasions like Easter and Christmas.  But, on a regular day-to-day basis, He often might be forgotten in our fast-paced lives.  And if we think about it, sometimes, it’s the ordinary days in which we need Him most.

How easy it is to forget how magnificent God is – how diverse and creative.  How often do we wrongfully “limit” Him?  As Francis Chan says in his book, Crazy Love - “If my mind is the size of a soda can and God is the size of all the oceans, it would be stupid for me to say He is only the small amount of water I can scoop into my little can.  God is so much bigger, so far beyond our time-encased, air/food/sleep-dependent lives.”

Chan goes on to say that this God who is the Maker of the billions of galaxies and thousands of tree species is the same “God who takes the time to know all the little details about each of us.  He does not have to know us so well, but He chooses to.”

What if we tried to return the favor and get to know Him better?  I know I can easily get overwhelmed with life’s little details.  But, who knows details better than the Lord above?  Heck, Chan states that a caterpillar has 228 separate and distinct muscles on its head alone and that the average elm tree has almost 6 million leaves!  Don't even get me started on the marvelous human body!  The Creator knows details.

I want God to hold my hand in His and walk with me through life’s little details.  I want Him to hold my hand as I journey out of any “boxed in” or limiting situation I’ve found myself in.  I want Him to hold my hand as I move out of life’s tough corners.

I specifically want HIM to hold MY hand so that when things get hard and I try to let go, He’s still holding on.  It’s safer to let God hold our hand in His instead of us trying to hold His hand in ours.  Because, if we are the ones in control and we just choose to hold His hand when we want to...feel like it…need something…or have the time - then it’s too easy to let go when we don’t.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Just Three Words

Photo Credit: Virginiamol at
I am a firm believer in the quote, “Never say never.”  It rings true in so many areas of our lives.  I will NEVER do this and I will NEVER do that.  We think we are so firm in our decision and that nothing can ever change our mind.  Right?

However, when it comes to parenting, there are many “nevers” that we might have to take back a time or two - “I will NEVER let my newborn sleep all night on my chest.  I will NEVER let them sleep in our bed.  I will NEVER let my child eat only goldfish crackers for lunch.  I will NEVER let them go all day without brushing their teeth.  I will NEVER wear a shirt with someone else’s food, boogers, and dried slobber all over it.” 

Never say never.

It’s wonderful that we have the opportunity to change our mind.  I think we all try to make the best decision at the time with what we know at the time.  So, another favorite saying of mine is, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

Where is all this leading you might be wondering?  Well, I’ve spent the last month or so doing research on something that I thought I would never be researching.  What was I searching for online?  Where did I visit?  How many countless people have I talked to?

Answers are:  What?  Puppies/Dogs.  Where?  Local animal shelters and pet adoption centers.  How many?  Too many dog owners to count.

I didn’t have a dog or cat growing up.  During my childhood, I had two goldfish named Abraham and Lincoln, a guinea pig, a hamster, two mean rabbits, and that’s about it.  Dogs really kind of scared me as a child and I wasn’t sure about all of the licking, barking and jumping either.  But, basically I knew nothing about them.

However, my children have been fervently asking us for a dog over the last year or so.  My husband grew up around animals all of his life – cattle, dogs, cats, horses, and a donkey, too.  I am clueless in the area of animal care (well, not quite as clueless now…).  He knows what a time commitment and responsibility that many animals can be, but I think he also secretly treasures the memories of the furry friends he’s had throughout his life.

While being open-minded and looking for a great match for our fam, I found that over 60% of U.S. households are home sweet home to at least one pet!  I guess because I’ve never really had heart-to-heart discussions about pets with friends, relatives and other acquaintances, I never realized how many people have them (and love them dearly).

In my search for the right type of dog for our family, I found that pets also provide powerful health benefits, both physical and mental.  Having a pet reduces stress levels and depression, increases longevity and decreases heart disease.  Who knew?!

Studies have shown that rescuing an animal, in particular, is like “volunteering” in the sense that you are helping out another.  And, since we are looking to adopt our puppy from a rescue shelter, the happiness and contentment from “rescuing/volunteering,” combined with the health benefits mentioned above are a cocktail for amazing things, I think!  How cool is that?!

I’ve even had dreams about puppies recently.  This is definitely strange for me.  My husband doesn’t understand my hours of researching and I really can’t explain it.  Anytime I am on the computer and he walks by, pictures of puppies adorn the screen, along with detailed info. about how much and how often dogs eat and what vaccinations they need.  I guess I just want to know all about them, because our puppy will find a forever home with us, when we find the right one. 

And in the words of my dear friend, Anne: “Dogs have their good points, but also come with their own personalities, needs, and maintenance.  I know whichever pup is lucky enough to ‘rescue’ you will have a wonderful home.  Some people say they ‘rescue’ a dog from a shelter.  But, have you ever seen those bumper stickers in the shape of a dog paw that say, ‘Who rescued who?’  I always say our sweetie Elsa dog ‘rescued’ us.”  Hmmmm – very thought-provoking, Anne…VERY.

My other good friend, Chris, is so amused that I’ve called her several times now with dog questions.  Being an avid dog lover, she is willing to answer any and all of my questions about dogs with great passion.  Mind you, Chris is also the one who has gotten me to step out of my “insanely-practical-box” to paint my toenails a color other than red and to own more than one purse (I have two now – well, one and a half - and that’s epic for me!)  She’s ecstatic to put it mildly.  Just plain giddy.

My husband and I have had numerous discussions about this whole puppy thing.  All this communication and decision-making got me to thinking about the whole process of coming to mutual decisions.  I’d like to share some great steps (that really do work) that we learned at our Catholic Engaged Encounter retreat and have used many times since.  These steps can be a guide for big or small decisions – from starting a family to changing jobs to buying a car or home to…adopting a family dog:

  1. Prayer - Prayer opens our hearts and minds to God.  We want God to have a voice in the direction our life is taking.  We can do this by listening to God speaking within us and by being aware of how God speaks to us through others.  We can make prayer a real part of our day – an ongoing conversation with Him.
  2. Gather Information/Consultation – We can gather information from all available resources – experts, trusted friends and family, and Scripture.  When consulting others, this shouldn’t be limited to just those people who are likely to give us the answer we want to hear.  We should also consult those people who may be affected by the decision.
  3. Consider Consequences – Is it moral/ethical?  Who will our decision affect besides us?
  4. Mutual Discussion – We can clarify what is important to us and listen in turn.  We should be open to the other person’s opinion and to options that maybe neither one of us had previously considered.  It’s also important to weigh the severity of the consequences of a decision as well.
  5. Mutual Agreement - This means reaching a point at which we are truly able to “live with” our decision.  It is far more than simple compromise or just having one person win or give in.  Anxious feelings may not always disappear, but if it’s mutual, then we can feel unified and at peace with it.
  6. Mutual Responsibility - This means that we both “own” and support the decision and accept the responsibility for its consequences.  We aren’t concerned with placing blame or justifying ourselves.  If it doesn’t turn out the way we had hoped, there are no “I told you so’s” or “This was your bright idea” because we each have taken responsibility for it.
  7. Re-evaluation - With every decision that we make, we must be open to re-evaluate it either at some specific time, when conditions change, or when we change.  Some situations to which this stage often applies is education, career changes or children.  Whenever a decision becomes life-draining to either of us, then it must be re-evaluated.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell where one part of the decision-making process ends and the next begins, because it is a fluid process and not a checklist.  There may be times when we need to return to prayer if we are unable to come to a mutual agreement. 
I love these steps.  However, I often forget that our knees should be the first place we fall and not the last.  Still working on that.  But, I vow to you, my faithful readers, that I will NOT name our dog, “Naked.”  I saw this funny little cartoon that discouraged that because this statement might be too much for some to handle: “Hey, I’m gonna walk “Naked” around the block.  Be back in a minute!”  Love it!

I’ll keep you posted on the puppy search.  When we see him/her – we’ll know.  We can’t wait for this furry new journey to begin!  So, there are just three words that I want to leave you with – “Never say never.”

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Snorin' Chorus

Photo Credit:  sideshowmom at
I hope you all had an enjoyable Labor Day weekend with your families and friends!  Now, it’s back to reality.  I mean it this time!  That was such a tease, wasn’t it?  Get the kids off to school for a week, try to get back into some sort of routine, and then BAM - it’s time to kick back into summer mode for a long three day weekend!  Gotta love it!

What did we do?  Well, we jam-packed as many things as we could into this last official weekend of “summertime fun.”  We headed to Austin on Saturday to hang out with Aunt Kerri at Austin’s Park & Pizza.  The kids had a blast!  There were go-karts, bumper boats, dizzy tea cups, rock walls, arcade games, a bouncy house, and unlimited pizza, pasta and salad.  Unfortunately, we cut into their profit that day when our party of six stayed from lunch until supper and ate twice – hee hee!

After that, we managed to squeeze in a trip to the swimming pool and still had room in our bellies for Kerri’s homemade ice cream (even though there wasn’t enough room for salad – you know how it is!).  On Sunday morning, we went to Mass together, got the kiddos to take a rare afternoon nap, and then headed to Kyle for a family wedding. 

It was a beautiful wedding.  And, since the kids were in a sugar coma because of the “candy bar” at the reception, my husband and I were able to dance without, uhem, anyone hanging on our legs or wanting to be carried.  So, yes – we danced like no one was watchin’.  Oh yes…we did – just ask my Uncle Greg.  “Shot through the heart and you’re to blame, darling, you give love a bad name”…yada yada….oh yes, Bon Jovi, we danced!  Woo-hoo!

In addition to bottomless candy bowls, the kiddos entertained themselves by mixing together bubbles, rose petals, and water.  We just had to remember that the pink potion they kept offering us was not fit for human consumption.  After five dances in a row, one can get thirsty and desperate and it’s easy to forget.

Of course, amidst all of the fun, I did get a little sentimental like I always do.  I know in my heart that in what will seem like the blink of an eye, my children will be the ones walking down that aisle – sniff, sniff.

So, after we said our goodbyes, it was time to hit the road.  I offered to drive home since I’m the night owl by nature.  And, by golly, it wasn’t fifteen minutes before I heard the snorin’ chorus and it was in loud, surround sound.  I giggled and was glad that their nasal tunes would help keep me awake on the ride home.  Of course, since I have little to no sense of direction, my husband slept with one eye open.  He didn’t trust me (and rightfully so when it comes to directions).

I had some time to think during my late night drive – no distractions, no interruptions, and no “Mommy, I need this or that.”  I reminisced about when I was that snoring child in the back seat.  I remembered how content I was – how trusting.  I knew that my parents would get us home safely – every single time.  I had no doubts – not even one.  I knew that if I just closed my eyes, my mom or dad would navigate the roads and get us to where we needed to be.  I loved that feeling.  I was comfy.  I was cozy.  I was at ease.   I felt secure and relaxed.

But now, as a parent, it seems harder and harder to have that feeling – that harmonious contentment of the snorin’ chorus.  Oftentimes, I feel more like my husband sleeping with one eye open.  Why can’t we let God drive?  Why can’t we just close our eyes and let Him drive?  It’s so hard because many of us like control – WE want the wheel.  But, the more and more I think about it, I would much rather have God steer for me.

And, speaking of letting God completely navigate your life, I started a wonderful book last night called, “Kisses from Katie.”  Katie Davis shares the story of how she let Jesus take the wheel, which led her on a journey of radical love down the red dirt roads of Uganda, Africa.  Why in the world would an 18-year-old homecoming queen and senior class president at the top of her class forgo college, leave home, lose all but a handful of her friends, and break up with the love of her life?  I guess I’ll soon find out.  I’ve only read the foreword and introduction and I am thirsting for more.

Here is just a tiny taste of what I’ve read so far:

“I thought that I wanted to go to college with my high school boyfriend, get married, have a successful career and children, settle into a nice house down the road from my parents, and live happily ever after.  Today I am a single woman raising a houseful of girls and trying to teach others the love of Jesus in a land that is a far cry from my hometown and my culture.  This is not a life that I dreamed up on my own or even knew I desired.  I am watching God work, and as I ‘delight myself in the Lord’ by doing what He asks of me and by saying yes to the needs He places in front of me, He is changing the desires of my heart and aligning them with the desires of His.”

“It is simple in that each and every one of us was ultimately created to do the same thing.  It will not look the same.  It may take place in a foreign land or it may take place in your backyard, but I believe that we were created to change the world for someone.  To serve someone.  To love someone the way Christ first loved us, to spread His light.”

“I am writing {this book} on the chance that a glimpse into the life of my family and me, full of my stupidity and God’s grace, will remind you of this living, loving Christ, and what it means to serve Him.  I am writing with the hope that as you cry and laugh with my family you will be encouraged that God still uses flawed human beings to change the world.  And if He can use me, He can use you.”

Oh, I just can’t wait to read more, more, more!

So, who’s with me?  Who wants to be a part of the snorin’ chorus?  Who else wants the heavenly contentment of letting God drive?  Who else wants to close their eyes and really and truly give Him the wheel?

P.S.  Before I go, I wanted to share the one last wonderful thing we did on Labor Day - we celebrated my Aunt Edie’s, um, 29th birthday…AGAIN.  I absolutely LOVE family get-togethers and I dearly love my aunt.  I love that she sits by her computer just waiting for my weekly Sips of Sunshine.  I love her example of faith, sacrifice, and generosity.  I love her for what she teaches others – through both her words and her actions.  I love her inner and outer beauty.  I love that she wants to be in the snorin’ chorus too.  Happy Birthday to YOU!