Saturday, February 26, 2011

Give Thanks

I watched the TV screen as throngs of children ran towards an unimpressive white van that drove towards them across the hot, sandy desert.  The children, their black skin gleaming in the unsympathetic heat of noonday, sang in joyful unison, dancing and leaping across the dry ground as they formed several long lines.  Large barrels of food- mushy porridge of some sort- were removed from the back of the white van and several women began scooping the goop into red plastic bowls and handing them to the eager children, one by one.

They were starving.  Their ribs showed through the skin that stretched tight across their small, angular frames.  Still, they stood patiently, waiting their turn.  As each child received a portion, they began to eat and I smiled in sympathy for these poor kids who were grateful for even wallpaper-paste-like-gook that I would have gladly skipped a meal to avoid; and I smiled because they were being fed.  It was a beautiful sight, these sunny, joy-filled faces getting to fill their empty bellies.


The unthinkable happened.

The food ran out.

My mouth fell open and I leaned forward, staring at the television screen in disbelief.  Nearly half the children were still standing there, unfed.  How could this happen?  One small girl crawled inside one of the hot barrels and began scraping food from the sides with quiet determination.  Another boy, about the same age as Joshua, suddenly realized the significance of the empty barrels and began to cry.

I cried with him.

I pictured my own son.  I imagined the emotions that would tear my heart to pieces if he were hungry.  If the hope of food was taken from right beneath his nose as he watched his playmates gobble down their last bites, knowing there would be none for him.

I cried harder.

How is it that we have come to take so much for granted?  And place so much importance on obtaining THINGS?  We're a society that loves our things.  I complain that my living room rug is shabby and the computer is working slowly, I didn't have time to put makeup on and oh, heaven forbid, there's a hole in my brand new sock and my shoes don't match my pants.

It's hard to look past our own reality at times, but while some of us are busy whining about petty things, there are children death.  There are people wondering how they're going to pay rent.  Battling sickness and disease.  Living in pain.  Losing loved ones.  These suffering people are perhaps not to be envied, but there's something that most of them have, that we should all possess, yet often forget to cultivate: a spirit of thankfulness.  Thankfulness for the little things.  Thankfulness for food, whether it's a bowl of mush or a big juicy steak dinner; thankfulness for stability and money; thankfulness for good health, something we always take for granted until we don't have it, right?  Thankfulness for the gift of life.

We are surrounded by gifts from the Father, who showers us with blessings we don't deserve.  We should really take the time to notice them.  To thank Him for each one.  We don't realize how precious these gifts are until they are suddenly stripped away.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bedroom Makeover

Our plans for the kitchen/dining room are on temporary hold (including the painting).  We will resume when a fabulous deal for kitchen cabinets comes along.  We are keeping a watchful eye on Craigslist.  Our current cabinets are not that old, but neither are they withstanding the time.  To paint before we know what the kitchen will look like is a sure ticket to painting again, and--believe it or not, I don't want that.  My living room has seen 3 colors, yes, so one would think I'm quite addicted to painting.  And, okay, I am.  But there are more projects in this house than I can count and extra painting will only slow us down. 

In the meantime, we decided to fix our bedroom.  We both reached the point where we just couldn't stand the ugliness any longer.  The bare, yellowed walls, the paint splattered floor (which still lives on), the poorly placed furniture and the lack of color.  The bedroom is where one goes to see reprieve in its many and varied forms, after a long, tiring day.  It should be a place of relaxation, restoration and peace.  Ours wasn't. 

So...with a jig and a jog, we were off to Ikea.  I wandered through the textile department for a long, long time, looking for the cheapest options, and ways to put them together in the nicest way possible.  I finally found a $60 duvet cover (which I put over our old brown comforter to save at least $100), a couple of pillows for $1 each, and a $20 rug.  I've learned from experience that it's better to know everything else about a room (colors, textures, lighting, etc.) before choosing a paint color.  Not the other way around. 

Everything else I used for the room was stuff we already had, including the curtains, which I 'borrowed' from the living room.  The living room as the old ones back up because it can stand to wait for something better.

I didn't remember to take a before picture, so this one will have to do.  I've posted it before.  It's a random picture I took for absolutely no apparent reason, right after my parents left at Christmas and John and I were moving our stuff back in. 

John did most of the work, me helping where I could, and Joshua 'helping' with as many tasks as we could come up with for him.

Cracks repaired and furniture moved out....BEFORE:


BEFORE (I think that's kind of obvious...)


I love owning a house and adding our own little personal touches.  It's amazing how a coat of paint can change the whole feel of a room. :-)

Friday, February 11, 2011


SUMMER '93: After dinner the three of us went outside and sat on the platform of the swing set Dad had built for us.

“What are we going to do this summer?” Derek asked, calling our meeting to order.    

Mark was holding a thick stick in his hands and pulled a piece of Mom’s kitchen twine out of his pocket.  He tied it to the end of the stick and whipped it in the air.  I covered my head, even though he was aiming it in the opposite direction.
“Maybe we should go on a long bike ride,” Derek suggested, reaching out and grabbing Mark’s stick.  He threw it to the ground.  “You have to hurry up and learn how to ride, Mark.”
“Hey!” Mark protested, focused on the stick.  He wriggled off the platform and climbed down the ladder to retrieve his new toy, but Derek jumped easily off the other end and picked it up before Mark had his feet on the ground.  He spun around and whipped Mark on the back of  his legs.
“We can’t go on a long bike ride.  We’re not allowed off the street,” I said logically, ignoring their antics.  Mark picked a rock up from the ground and recklessly hurled it towards Derek’s head.  He was always reckless.  Derek dodged the rock and it landed with a thud against the side of the house.  The smiles faded from their faces.  My disapproving frown remained intact.  We stopped moving and stared at the window, waiting breathlessly for Dad or Mom to appear.  A minute passed, and nothing happened.  We relaxed and Mark dove across the rocky lawn and landed on top of his stick.  

“Ha!” he cried victoriously, returning to his feet.

I sat down on one of the swings, pumping my legs, swinging higher and higher.  I tilted my head backwards until my hair brushed the ground when I came back down.  I could see the moon, still pale in the dusky sky just above the green roof of our house.  I stopped swinging and stared at it intently.  I heard there was a man up there, but I never understood what that meant.  I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.
“People find fossils and bones in their backyards.  Maybe I can find a whole dinosaur skeleton,” Derek said, returning to the important task of planning our summer.  “I’m going to be an archaeologist one day.  I might find Noah’s ark.”  By the triumphant tone in his voice, you’d think he’d already found it.

Derek looked at Mark.  “What are you going to be when you grow up?” he asked in a superior voice, certain that nobody could top his high and lofty ambitions.  He tilted his head back and looked down his nose at Mark, raising his eyebrows and clearing his throat.  Mark looked up, distracted by the grasshopper that was clinging to the end of his stick.  He shrugged.  “I’m going to stay at home and live with Mom and Dad.”

“You can’t do that!” Derek scoffed.  “How are you going to make money?”
The grasshopper jumped off the stick and into grass and Mark returned his full attention to Derek.  “I have a bank account.”

“You can’t live off of five dollars for the rest of your life,” I informed him unapologetically.  There were so many things I wanted to do; I couldn’t wait to grow up.  I looked at Mark and wondered how he could be so calm about his intentions to stay at home with our parents for the rest of his life.  Who wanted that?

“Where ya goin’, Daddy?” called Mark, pulling me back from my thoughts.  The screen door banged shut and I heard the familiar jingle of the car keys as Dad pulled them from the pocket of his well-worn jeans.
“Well,” he said, looking over at us.  “I’m going to get ice cream for Mom.  I didn’t think you’d want any.”  We laughed and started running towards the car.  Dad scooped Mark up as he ran past him, and turned him upside down.  “Where do you think you’re going?”  He teased.  Mom stood at the screen door laughing as Mark squealed and tried to free himself.  Dad started spinning in circles and Mark’s head fell back and his eyes bulged as he laughed so hard that no noise came from his mouth.  I smiled.  Living at home with Dad and Mom wasn’t such a bad thing.  For now.

Fifteen minutes later, we were sitting back at the swingset with our melting ice cream cones.  We had all ordered the same bright blue bubble gum ice cream,  and we counted the gum pieces to see who got the most, talking little but enjoying the twilit evening. 


We're all grown up now.  

I am a wife.  A mother.  I am still logical. 

Derek is not an archeologist.

Mark lived with his parents until he died.

I think back to those carefree, twilit evenings when we were free to dream.  Life was good.  Easy.  We were undaunted.  Full of hope.  We were invincible.  Blissfully unaware of the trials we would face only ten years later.  

Today, we are still headed in the same direction: straight for tomorrow. 

 Cherish each moment.  Dare to dream.  Love each other like it's your last day together.  

When tomorrow gets here, yesterday is a long time ago.