Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Guardian Angel

There is an elementary school right across the street from the office where I work.  I drive past the playground every day, and on my trips back from lunch last fall I began to notice somebody special.  He's a little guy, probably six or seven years old.  He has bright red hair, glasses and a wheelchair.  While the other children play on the swings or run among the trees, his wheelchair is parked against the inside of the fence nearest the highway.

He spends his recess watching the cars go by.

I've missed him over the winter months, but now that the days are lighter and warmer, he is once again back at his post.

I feel badly that this little boy can't run and play with the other kids, but rest assured, he is never alone.  Behind his wheelchair stands a brawny man; he has a dark complexion, bushy black hair and beefy arms.  He looks quiet and unassuming; sometimes I've seen them laughing together, but for the most part he simply stands and guards his charge.  It must get tiring at times, I'm sure his job holds many challenges.  But there he is each day, watching over the little boy like a sentry.

He looks the picture of a guardian angel.  And every time I see him, I wonder about mine.

The Bible isn't silent about angels, but in my mind they are shrouded in mystery.  Do I indeed have my very own?  Does he protect me when I forget to lock my door, or prompt me to drive a different route that will keep me from being in an accident?  Maybe his roll in my life is less physical...perhaps God instructs him to comfort me when I'm sad or lonely, or encourage my spirit when I need it.

I wonder if God assigns multiple angels to a disabled child like this special little red head.  Heaven knows he will need angelic assistance as he navigates this world with his limited physical abilities.  Then again , when it comes to the areas of insight and understanding, compassion and faith, I suspect this little boy may run farther and faster than I can.   Maybe I am the disabled one.

And maybe my guardian angel has the harder job after all.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

No More Homework

One of my favorite books is called I'll Love You Forever.  It's a children's book about a mother's affection for her child.  Every night she goes into his room and recites this little poem...

I'll love you forever
I'll like you always
As long as I'm living
My baby you'll be.

As her son grows up, she is seen sneaking into his room at night while he sleeps, scooping him up and reciting her little mantra.  Even when he reaches adulthood and is living across town, the stooped, little old lady drives over, gets a ladder, crawls into his window, pulls him onto her lap and repeats her little ditty. 

If you think it sounds a little creepy, you should read the book.  It's not. 

I'm not going to say any more, I'd hate to ruin the ending for you.  But let me tell you something...

I can totally understand where that fictitious mama is coming from.

In a little over a week, I'll be watching my son graduate from college.  It feels like the end of an era.  Something about the last kid...the youngest kid, being done with something so big...it makes me misty.  Or weepy, depending on my location.

I've loved being a part of my kids' education. The pressure of their homework wasn't necessarily my favorite thing, but editing papers, checking math pages, quizzing spelling words...I liked it all.  From college they often emailed me papers to edit.  This past year, my son has written a column for his university newspaper.  I've really enjoyed reading his rough drafts and appreciate the fact that he still values my red pen.  I don't need it much, though.

Both my kids will have degrees in communications.  They excel at getting their point across.

I shed a few tears when my oldest received her university diploma, so I'm sure there will be plenty for my youngest.  Maybe I'll convince him to keep writing papers for me to edit. 

That would be so much easier than hauling a ladder all the way to Oregon.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Banking Needs

I had been getting phone calls from a guy at a bank I'm unfamiliar with.  He works with new businesses and wanted to know if I had any needs he could help with.  I did, so we made an appointment.

My banker was very excited to meet me.  Like, very.  He was exuberant; he was the Energizer Bunny in a tie. He was very knowledgeable, he treated me like I was important and he was ready to meet my needs.  I liked that.

I’m not sure how our conversation turned personal, I told him I'm a Christian and where I go to church, and for some reason he told me he is living with his girlfriend.  And honestly, I’m not exactly sure where my courage came from.  Our conversation went something like this…

Me:  “So, you and your girlfriend live together?”

Him:  “We do!  In my house.”

“How come you haven’t married her?”

“Oh, I promised her I would.  But I want to save up enough money to buy her a really great ring.”

“You know, nothing says ‘I love you’ like ‘I promise to marry you as soon as I can buy you a ring that makes me look good.’ “

I really had said that out loud.

(Uncomfortable laugh from him.) “She says the size of the diamond doesn't matter, that she just wants to get married.”

“You should believe her.”

“Want to hear something cute?  Her daughter gave me a ring for Christmas because she wants me to marry her mommy so much.  Isn't that just the most adorable thing you've ever heard?”

It wasn't the most adorable thing I'd ever heard.

The conversation drifted back to banking; he wanted to show me how I can personalize my debit card so he whipped out his.  It had a picture of him and his girlfriend on it.  

“Is this her?  She’s absolutely adorable.  I'm surprised you're not fighting off other men."

(Uncomfortable laugh from him.)  “What do you think I should do?”

“Grovel.  Tell her you should have begged her to marry you before you ever moved in together.  Beg her to marry you now.”

We walked over to the tellers, made my first deposit and concluded our business.  He shook my hand and said, “Thanks, it’s been a pleasure being your business banker.”  I looked him in the eye and with a grin said, “It’s been a pleasure being your conscience.”  Then he said, “I promise I'm going to marry her,” and I said, “I'll be checking up on you.”

Isn't that so weird? 

It troubles me that a beautiful young woman with a little girl would expect so little from a man who says he loves her.  And that the man who says he loves her would give so little…under the guise of wanting to give her something so big.

I'm also troubled that some random bank customer he's never met would feel compelled to be so direct with him...and I hope she didn't come across looking like a big jerk.  

I hope I didn't.  He seemed to hear the things I said. 

I came away wondering if someone somewhere was praying for that couple.

Someone is now.

And I really, really hope he was glad he was able to meet my needs.



Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Skinny Jeans


“Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.”

At least that’s what I told my Weight Watchers group twenty years ago.  I had lost 40 lbs and achieved life time membership status.  They asked me to make a speech, and as I stood there in my size 8 pants, I totally believed what I was saying.

I was young.  I was na├»ve.  I was motivated.  

I was wrong.

I’ve been perpetually on a diet for most (if not all) of my life.  If my actions are any indication, there are lots of things that taste better than fitting into my skinny jeans.  And the whole food vs. size conundrum pretty much drives me nuts. 

There used to be certain things that would motivate me to lose weight.  A trip to see somebody I haven’t seen in a long time has worked in the past.  So has money; if I’m spending money on a diet program I will be more likely to stick with it.  But neither reason works 100% of the time.  I’m honestly not sure what causes me to make up my mind to lose weight.  I wish I knew; I would put it in a bottle and drink it every time I was tempted by something chocolate and gooey.   

And then I would sell it and be disgustingly rich.

As important as my weight is to me, and as much as it dictates how I feel about myself, it doesn’t seem to matter at all to other people.  When I visited my son in college awhile back, I asked him if he could tell I’d lost 20 lbs.  He said, “I don’t know.  You just look like Mom to me."

A girlfriend at church told me she has a hard time keeping track of when I’m skinny and when I’m fat.  Can’t she tell when half of my wardrobe disappears?  When I start wearing the same thing to church every Sunday, it’s very likely I am fat.

She really needs to pay closer attention.

I'm feeling motivated today, so maybe my mind is made-up to eat right and drop some of my winter hibernation fat.  Maybe I'll stick with it tomorrow, and the next day and the next. Maybe I'll be wearing my skinny jeans before...before....before....

Before I eat one of the chocolate cupcakes sitting in the break room at work.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pretend


Many moons ago, when my daughter was five, I was putting her to bed and she asked this question…

“Mommy, is the Easter bunny a man dressed up like a bunny, or is it a real rabbit?”

I felt my castle of lies crumbling down around me.  I had to decide…truth or fiction.  Sweat beaded on my forehead.

“Well”, I replied, “There is what’s real about Easter, and there is what’s pretend about Easter.”

That sounded good.

“The fact that Jesus died on a cross for our sins is real.  The Easter Bunny is a game we play.”  I proceeded to explain that her dad and I hid the eggs, filled the baskets…you get the picture.

She looked at me with her big, brown eyes and without missing a beat said, “Is Santa real?” 

Be still my heart.  I was in deep.

“Well, there really was a Santa.”  I dredged up some facts about Ol’ Saint Nick.  “But what’s real about Christmas is that Jesus was born as a baby in a manger.  Santa is a game we play.” 

“So, Santa didn’t bring my doll closet and all the clothes?”

“No, sweetie.  Daddy and I did that.”

“Do other kids know this stuff?” 

“Well, parents tell their kids about Santa at different times.  So it’s important that you not say anything to your friends.  Let their parents tell them when they think the time is right.”

“Okay.  'Night, Mommy.”  She rolled over, closed her eyes and went to sleep.

I left her room with mixed emotions.  I was relieved that the truth was out, but I knew I would be accused of ruining her childhood.  And I was.  But I think if you asked her today, she would proclaim from the rooftops the truth set her free.

The next afternoon I received a call from my daughter’s preschool teacher.  During Show & Tell, my baby girl made an announcement.  She stood up and said, “My mommy says the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus aren’t real.  They are pretend.”  And then she sat down.

Her preschool teacher wasn’t calling to expel her.  She called to warn me to expect hate mail. 

Okay, that's an exaggeration.  But it rings of the truth, doesn't it?

I know parents who go to drastic measures to keep what's pretend about Christmas and Easter alive in the imaginations of their children.  But in retrospect, I'm grateful my daughter asked the questions she did, and I do believe God gave me the words to lead her little heart in the right direction. 

Truth is, the truth is what sets us all free.   

Jesus is what’s real about Easter.

Jesus is what's real about everything.







Saturday, April 16, 2011

When Flowers Speak

One rose, one friend says, "You're special, and I'm thinking of you today."

One rose is sweet.

Two roses, two friends say, "We talked about your birthday and wanted you to know we care."

Two roses are wonderful.

Three roses, three friends say, "We really wanted your day to be special."

Three roses are surprising.

Four roses, four friends say, "Better clean up your office because you're expecting company."

Four roses are motivating.

Five roses, five friends say, "Give up counting, girl.  We're going all the way to 50."

Every time I looked up, there was another friend coming in my office door. My coworkers put yellow duct tape arrows on the floor to help direct the traffic.

It was overwhelming.  It was humbling. It was validating.

It was a parade of love.

42 roses, 42 friends say, "You are an important part of our lives."

The roses are unbelievable.  And they smell really good.

She had been scheming for months.  She took time off work, she bought a plane ticket to Alaska.  She got up at 3 am to catch her flight.  It was a huge surprise.

The last roses, brought by one incredible daughter say, "Mom, do you understand how much I love you?"'

50 roses.  One very special day.

And I will never forget what they say.



.

Monday, April 11, 2011

An Easter Poem

It’s Easter in Alaska
And spring is weeks away,
There are no flowers blooming
No green grass on display.

The little girls wear winter coats
Over their Easter dresses,
You never know when you might find
A snowflake in their tresses.

Our egg hunts often happen
Inside our houses warm,
Unless we don our mud boots
And sometimes brave a storm.

Though Easter in Alaska
Does not arrive with spring,
Our hearts still bloom with renewed hope
That makes our voices sing.

For Jesus died to save us
And rose on the third day,
This is what we celebrate
Just in a special way.

So please enjoy your Easter
Proclaim resurrection bold!
And know Alaskans join you
Even if we’re cold.


                KSanders
                2010

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Half A Century

I turn fifty this week.  The big 5-0.

Wow.  That's a pretty bold thing for a girl to admit, but I'm actually okay with that number.  Surprised?  Curious?  Don't worry.  I'm not going to get all philosophical about the life experience I've accumulated throughout the years.  I'm not going tell you how much younger generations can benefit from my great wisdom and counsel.

Nope.  The reasons I'm okay with turning fifty are a little less complicated than that.

To begin with, I have no grey hair...absolutely none.  I know that to be true because after I dyed my hair last week, I didn't rinse out the bottle on purpose.  That way there was some left to cover any stubborn grey strands that had the nerve to show up the next day.

I don't have a lot of wrinkles...and I've often wondered why.  Perhaps it's because of the limited exposure I get to harmful UV rays and my great aversion to tanning beds.  Maybe it's simply clean living or genetics.  Honestly?  I think it has more to do with hormone replacement therapy.

Menopause is such a negative word.  I plan to remain in denial as long as possible.

I drive a fairly sporty little SUV.  My minivan days are long gone.

I have enough strength left to lift important things, like cute little kids and groceries.

My brain seems to be functioning at a fairly high level.  If I go into a room and stand still long enough, I will eventually remember why I am there.

There is one last reason I'm okay with turning fifty this week.

I'm still young enough to remember when I thought fifty was old.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Testimony

Life comes with transitions.  Some are harder than others, but there really is no getting around them.  As the saying goes, the only thing certain in life is change.

I was not prepared for the transitions that entered my life last fall.  My youngest got married in August, and when I returned home from the wedding, it dawned on me that neither of my kids live here any more.  That, coupled with the end of something important to me, set my world rocking.

It decked me.  And I'm not easily decked

I felt like I no longer had a purpose.  I felt insignificant.  I felt lost.  I'm not saying those things are true, I'm saying they felt true.

Have you been there?

I spent months pouring my heart out to the Lord.  "What's the next thing? Where do I go from here?  Why does everything so familiar feel so wrong? What's wrong with me?"  I peppered God with those questions, but no answers came.  So I cried a lot, prayed a lot, and waited.  I honestly didn't know what I was waiting for; I would have been satisfied to just feel better about life.

I've heard people say they have no choice but to wait on God.  That isn't a true statement because we always have choices.  At least I knew I did.  I could push doors open that needed to remain shut, I could make a stupid decision, I could start drinking, smoking and chasing wild men.  But I knew I didn't want to do something that might hurt those I love or my walk with the Lord.  So I waited in an emotional pit and it was really, really hard.

A few weeks ago, I found myself humbled before God in a way I have never experienced before.  In his mercy, he met me in that dark place and let me know he would help me wait.  We would wait together.  My
circumstances didn't change and I really didn't feel different.  But in some inexplicable way, I knew different.

Then he moved.

He moved so fast my head was spinning.  I'm still dizzy.

I've never written a post about my love for quilting on this blog, but many of you know how much it means to me.  For years I have dreamed of going into business as a long arm quilter, but the machinery required for that is very expensive and I knew it would never happen.

Today it did.

I know, right?!!!!!

I've been hearing rumors for months that one of the local long arm quilters was trying to sell her set-up, but I knew I could never afford it.  A couple of weeks ago a friend encouraged me to give the seller a call and just chat.  So I did.  She had already committed to another buyer, it was pretty much a done deal.  End of story...

...Until she called me last Saturday to tell me the deal had fallen through.  I worked up a business plan on Sunday, secured my financing on Monday and today I bought a Gammill Long Arm Quilting Machine.  It's huge, it's overwhelming, it's amazing and it comes home next weekend.

She Likes Quilts is born.

If you had told me last September that this would happen in April, I would have laughed in your face and stomped on your foot.  But God knew.  God knew all along that he was going to bless me with this amazing opportunity.  I believe he left me waiting in the dark so I would learn to trust him in the dark. Even though I couldn't see him, he was working.  He's all over this decision and all over my life.

Friend, that's true for you, too.

I will keep my day job, but at night and on the weekends I will be at home where I belong,  finishing the quilts entrusted to me by quilters on the Kenai Peninsula.  It will be a lot of work, but I'm ready.

Thanks to all of you who have looked me in the eye and said, "DUH!  This is perfect!"  And thanks to those who made it possible...you know who you are.

So...She still Likes Skirts.  Now She Likes Quilts.

And She knows that waiting on God in the dark is far better than being without him in the light.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Breakin' Up Is Hard To Do

I grew up in a place that is perpetually warm and sunny.  I honestly don't ever remember the tree in our front yard losings its leaves. If it did, the new ones probably showed up before I ever realized the old ones were missing.

I wish all things in life were like that.

Back then, break-up was something my friends and I did with our boyfriends.  Break-up was a verb.

I left that constant warm and sunny world behind when I moved to Alaska 30 years ago.  Here, break-up is a noun.  It's a season, one of the many unique seasons we have here in the north.  And I don't like it.

Let me 'splain.

If it snows in October, that snow is still around in March.  So is the snow that falls November through February.  Things might start to warm up a tad in March, but then we do a two-steps-forward-one-step-back dance.  It might melt a little, or a lot, then it snows a little, or a lot.  For example, it's April 7th and I woke up to two inches of snow on my car. And it's still coming down in buckets.

Break-up is a tease.

Anyway, when it all starts to melt you get some rather unpleasant circumstances.  Like puddles so huge they eat your car.  I have a picture somewhere of my son and his friend dressed in rain gear floating on an inner tube in the puddle on our road.

That's what we call an outdoor Alaskan water park.

And then there's the mud.  Have I mentioned the mud?  There's a lot of mud.  For a couple of months everybody's car is the same color.

As things begin to dry out, break-up continues to vex us.  The sand used to make the icy roads safer all winter turns to dust.  Several months worth of dog poop begins to surface.  It stinks, and I only have one little dog.  Some families think bigger.

Hey, I'm just keeping it real.

The river can stink, too.  Dead salmon don't move as fast as live ones and some get frozen in the river.  Ick.

Thankfully, the longer days and warmer temps do eventually win; spring arrives in May.  Things turn colorful and we Alaskans bask in the beauty of our surroundings.  It's a good thing too, because I bet you're ready for me to stop whining.

Not a chance.

I'll be back to tell you about tourist season.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Comfort Food

I find the human psyche mystifying.

Well, at least my human psyche is mystifying.  I shall refrain from commenting on yours.

I just don't get how my mind has the power to affect the physicality of my body so dramatically.  Seems to me they should have two separate data bases.

For example...why in the world do I want vanilla ice cream every time I'm sick?  Vanilla ice cream does nothing for a cold or cough, it just adds to all that extra stuff in your head you want to get rid of.  If you have an upset stomach and you feel like you might hurl, eating vanilla ice cream will guarantee that you do.  Doesn't matter, I want it anyway.  It simply makes me feel better, even if it makes me feel worse.

It's comforting.

I always have the same thing for breakfast.  You may think that's boring, but I find great comfort in the consistency of boring breakfasts.  I go through phases...right now I'm in an oatmeal with applesauce phase.  Hey, it's not just me. My son used to want the same thing for breakfast every day, too.  I'm not sure he does now, I'll have to ask.  Maybe his wife has been successful in breaking this hereditary malfunction of his human psyche.

Go ahead...blame me.

Occasionally I make a box of macaroni & cheese. (Yes, there is a $20 gluten free version.) All that butter and cheesiness reminds me of afternoons when my kids were little.  I remember giving it to them in their alphabet bowls and watching them eat it with their stubby little alphabet spoons.

I add some freshly cracked pepper to it now.  We've all grown up.

Cookie dough...yum.  It makes me happy, even though my intellect knows it may give me food poisoning.  Poached eggs on toast, scrambled eggs with cheese, mushroom omelets...eggs are just the right thing to do sometimes.  And vegetable beef soup with corn bread makes me feel cozy for no reason.  It just does.  And don't even get me started on grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup...I'll end up holding my favorite blanket and sucking my thumb.

I find it unfortunate that something as physical as eating can make my emotions feel things.  Seems like that's all it should do, but it doesn't stop there.  My comfort foods tend to have a negative affect on my very physical waistline. 

But I just can't find solace in a carrot stick.

Can you?


Friday, April 1, 2011

Smells

For years she had been the little girl next door.  It was cold, so my son loaned her his sweatshirt.  She pulled it over her head, grinned and said, "It smells like your house."

My house smells?

"What does my house smell like? " I asked.

"I'm not sure," she answered.  "It has a smell all its own."

                                                    ***********

Jostling through an urban grocery store, his goal was to buy produce.  He loved the pace of this new life; so much hustle, so much action, so much to entertain.  He happened upon the berries by accident...they seemed surprisingly out of place in his mind.  He breathed deeply and in an instant was transported back to cool summers, a raspberry patch, and playing in the midnight sun.

They smelled like his childhood.

                                                    ***********

Beautiful bottles, beautifully fragrances...so many to choose from.  They picked it together, her own special scent.  And though it smells like her, it reminds her of him.

And now it hurts too much to wear.

                                                    ***********

He transferred during high school.

It must have been hard joining a small class of kids who had been together since kindergarten.

He was funny.  I liked him.  He stopped by the office a few times to chat.  And when graduation came, I made him a quilt.

He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  There was a wrong choice.

And then his parents had to make the impossible choice that offers no choice.  He was gone.  They had to say goodbye.

It took a few weeks for his roommates to gather up his things and drop them by the house.

They brought his quilt.

His parents held it to their faces...then wrapped themselves in grief and longing.  Awash in tears, hearts aching...they once again held a tangible piece of their son....

It smelled like him.