Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Why I Don't Leave Home

Last weekend Cody and I traveled to Ft. Worth for the 2017 Angus Convention

Two people. 
Two suitcases. 
No diaper bag. 

You guys - I darn near had an anxiety attack traveling without Caroline. 

It was during those brief three days that I remembered why, now that I'm a mother, I no longer leave home. Unless we're out of milk. 

1. I updated our will. 
I'm serious. After retrieving Caroline from daycare to take her to my sister's, we took the updated will to be notarized at a local business. We were flying to Texas, not Tonga. This is the state of mind I was in. 

2. I found the best sitters money can't buy. 
My sister and brother-in-law, Laura and Scott, watched Caroline for the weekend. Let's talk about the list of instructions I left for them. I put a lot of thought into the instructions on how to love our child, and I have a really bad feeling that they never even read the document before throwing it into the trash. 

I also continued to think about all of the guidance two grown adults - who have fantastic children of their own - would require when managing Caroline. So, as the weekend progressed, I sent more instruction. Least I could do. 

3. Airline travel is ridiculous.
Cody and I split ways when we got to security because he goes through TSA Pre-Check where he just bypasses all lines and walks through, iPad, laptop, boots and all. 

I, on the other hand, still mingle with the snow birds. I was moving along the security line quite well until a line of 5 (FIVE!!!!!) wheelchairs scooted up to the podium. There, the snow birds had a heck of a time remembering that they had to have their license (the one that was revoked four years ago) to go further into security. 

Because of the wheelchairs, they were able to bypass me. This took several minutes. Then, a TSA employee called for attention and loudly asked this simple question: "Do any of you have metal in your body?"

Some people just like to hear themselves talk. 

It was then that all five raised their hands and the interrogation proceeded quite quickly. The snow birds went on their merry way to head south and I jumped back in line to throw my iPad onto the security belt. 

4. I like my personal space. 
I'm not sure if it was the furry vest or the fact that the tray table was not down, but my row partner had a burning desire to rest her sleepy head in my lap. For the entire flight. I tried bouncing my leg, faking a sneeze, and reclining my seat, but girlfriend must have needed some serious rest. I get it, girl. 

5. Look Ma, No Hands
I had no idea what to do with my hands all weekend. I didn't have a kid on my hip. I wasn't carrying buckets. I wasn't pushing a stroller. I wasn't picking up sticks or toys. I was basically a big bag of skin and mascara, wandering around a massive crowd of Anderson Bean boots and Bar None hats, hearing to people ask me: Where's the baby?
"Well, good question," I constantly replied in my head. "I should probably call home immediately." 
Which leads me to #6. 

6. My phone rang off the hook. 
I thought. 
I cannot count the times I thought I heard my phone ring, beep or buzz. 
Caroline needed me. 
She had swallowed a sequin. 
She had developed a rare and severe allergy to beef. 
She was trapped in the car seat because technology had changed so greatly since Laura had kids, that Laura could not figure out how to remove her. 
I think I checked my phone something like 697 times throughout the weekend. 
My phone actually rang four times. Total.

However, there were four great successes of the weekend:
1. I spent really good quality time with my in-laws who I see every couple of months. 
2. The event I was there to help facilitate went quite well and I'm even better prepared to do it again 2018. 
3. I learned that Caroline can survive for several days and have a wonderful time without me. This made me smile and cry. Roots and wings, right?

4. Lastly, I had four (4!!!!!) strangers approach me and tell me that they read and enjoy this blog. I wanted to hug them and visit with them and ask them how they stumbled upon my writing. 

But then I had to excuse myself because I thought I heard my phone ring. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Three Things Every Day

I’m out of town on business this week.

I crossed a few states lines, two time zones and a great big river before checking into a beautiful boutique hotel. In route, I saw the St. Louis arch from afar and sent a photo to Cody to update him on my travels. While doing so, I took a wrong exit and ended up on a side street in East St. Louis. At the lonely end of a scrap yard. Where they dump the bodies. I was white knuckled during my 12-minute detour of dread, while visions of Dateline danced in my head.

On the way west, I actually crossed two extra state lines than what my GPS mapped, having crossed the same state line twice. It became painfully clear at mile 313: I don’t often travel solo in My Life, AC (after Caroline).

I packed seven days’ worth of clothes; I’ll be here three days. I packed 20 lbs. of jewelry that won’t come out of the bag; I’ll wear the same turquoise set for the duration of the trip. Three belts. Four pairs of shoes. Nail polish. Snacks. A book. At this point I don’t know if I’m at the Wildwood Hotel or an Extended Stay America.

The business side of my trip has been very good, but SEO goals and analytics are not why you’re here today. I hope.

One of the speakers said something very simple during our Tuesday morning session. I found it worth writing down. As I sat to write this week (in my big, comfy king size bed that I didn’t have to make this morning), I thought it worth sharing with you.

If you do three things well every day, you will make progress in different areas of your life, daily.

Maybe it is  cleaning the bathroom (not just wiping the toothpaste off the spout).
Maybe it is diving into your daily devotional and really reading the listed scripture, contemplating the afterthought questions and praying about the message.
Maybe it is focusing on communications and returning the two phone calls you’ve put off for some time.
Maybe it is cleaning up the barn in a way that you would be proud to show around a last-minute guest.
Maybe it is shutting your office door and diving into the tough project for an hour straight, giving it your undivided attention.
Maybe it is taking ten minutes to actually sort through the stack on the kitchen island and put things where they belong. (FYI: belts, fundraiser reminders, spare buttons and mail don’t belong on the kitchen island).
Maybe it is going to visit parents, grandparents, or a forgotten friend.
Maybe it is balancing your budget, taking a look at where your money is actually going.
Maybe it is reading an extra book to your child before you tuck them in.
Maybe it is going on a walk, run or skip (did you know it is impossible to skip and not smile?) to clear your mind for a few minutes.
Maybe it is clearing the refrigerator of bad contents and wiping down the shelves that you’ve not given thought to in a year.  
Maybe it is paying close attention to yourself when those red flag arise - and addressing them appropriately. 
Maybe it is sitting down with a cookbook and creative thinking to map out your meals for a week or two.
Maybe it is carefully choosing your words to change direction of thought.

By paying enough mind to 
three simple things 
throughout your day, 
you’ll no longer be carelessly 
going through the motions to maintain; 
you’ll be living with intent.

This time tomorrow I hope to be on the second floor of a farmhouse where I can hear a mousetrap go off in the basement. 

Some gals just don't sleep well in boutique beds. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Building Strong Children

It's been a bad week, huh?

We'll never understand the reason behind Sunday night's tragedy in Law Vegas, and frankly I wondered if I even had anything to write about this morning. Sunday night has left me sad, uninspired and wanting terribly to just be with my family in our living room. 

Then I saw someone on Facebook share a video showing exactly what the shooter's hotel room looked like when he opened fire. It was a virtual tour of the setting he was in when he made a horrific decision. 
I don't want to see that. 
I don't want to be in his element. 
I don't want to hear about his life, his buying history or his girlfriend. 
I don't want to know anymore about him. 
He was a terribly broken human being. 

I want to think about moving forward. 

This quote has been on my mind all week. 
(As I write this, it's only Tuesday. Jesus, take the wheel.)

"It is easier to build strong children 
than to repair broken men." 
- Frederick Douglass

So starting now, 
lets focus on building strong children. 

This means setting an example in how you treat other people, whether that be at the school pick-up line, on the sports field, at home or in a restaurant. 
This means setting an example in how you use your words to encourage, discipline or guide.
This means setting an example in how you honor your spouse, your parents and others that you consider family. 
This means setting an example in how you take care of yourself; your body, your mind and your faith. 
This means setting an example in how you take care of things around you, leaving things better than how you found them. 
This means setting an example in how you make choices, taking into account the the things that matter, against the ones that don't. 
This means setting an example in how you determine and honor your priorities. 
This means setting an example in how you spend your "free" time. 
This means setting an example in how you value your daily work. 

Who knows? Maybe it won't be only children you influence by living well. Those around you may begin to emulate your example, one by one, building a character of integrity in a world that desperately needs it. 

People on this earth are broken, some certainly more so than others. Let's commit today to do everything in our power to grow a population that values one another. By being kind, extending grace and loving one another, let's show the rest of the world that we value human life. 

Even when it brings us to our knees. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Kitty's Special Music

Hello. Welcome to this week's confessional. Something has been on my mind.

When I was in high school I went to a small church tucked inside the confines of a tiny Indiana village. I say village because it was too small to warrant a town; it had only three streets. 

General store next door

The old church had many empty pews on Sunday morning, but you could count on the same familiar faces being there every single Sunday. It was a small, but dedicated, bunch. 

I went there by invitation from a friend. I knew no one on the first Sunday that I joined them, but by the time I moved to Purdue I knew nearly everyone. I'm not saying that to brag; there were maybe 20 people in the congregation. They taught me not only the words to, but to believe the message in, Because He Lives

Alabama sings Because He Lives

My friend and I brought the average age down greatly. We were 16 and 17 years old, and many of the others could have very well been our (great) grandparents. You can imagine the joy on their faces when we'd come through the doors. One woman in the church even bought my monthly devotional for me; the one where the Peril of Prosperity entry came from. Twelve years later and I still carry it around. 

Though I haven't been to that church in more than fifteen years, there is one woman I remember well. 

Her name was Kitty. 

Kitty would always come in on two wheels on Sunday morning, barely beating the clock that hung at the back of the church. She played the organ beautifully and took full advantage of the acoustics in the tiny rural church. She sang loud as she played, and rarely seemed to look at any kind of music book in front of her. When the service was over, Kitty seemed to leave as quickly as she'd arrived. 

Often we would have "special music" by Kitty. The minister would actually say it that way:
"This morning we'll now have special music from Kitty."
Kitty didn't need a microphone. She was quite small but her voice was large. And high pitched, with a hint of scratch in it? Is scratch a musical term? It is hard for me to explain in writing, but some how Kitty's singing actually reminded me of a cat.

My friend and I always kind of giggled to one another, and maybe participated in an elbow jab to the ribs, when the special music started. We always knew where it was headed. 
Kitty's music was special, indeed. 

I admired Kitty for standing in front of a group and belting out her love for Jesus. It was true. And real. And quite loud. 

I was reading the paper last week and saw a face I hadn't seen in years. 

In the obituary section was Kitty. 

I read about her life and dedication to her family, community and church. She was an organist at church for 47 years, but not the one I went to. She was an organist at the tiny church I write about for 20 years. Finally, I understood why she'd rush into our church service then leave so quickly; the woman served in many capacities on Sunday morning. She also created and directed a community choir. She was in charge of Good Friday services. Kitty was a faithful servant through music. 

I sat back in my chair after reading about her life, and thought about my short association with her. 

I felt shame that I giggled at Kitty's special music. Because Kitty's special music was how she used her God given talents to to serve and love the Lord. Her special music was how she shared her gift. Who was I, at 16 and barely able to tap out Mary Had a Little Lamb on a keyboard, to smirk each time she sang? If I could go back in time, I would rewind seventeen years and stop Kitty after church to thank her for her special music. 

I learned from Kitty last week, by reading her obituary.

God gives us certain talents, gifts. Things we can do, create, extend or give away to others that no one else can. Edwin Elliot once said, “By being yourself, you put something wonderful in the world that was not there before.” I believe that very much. There will never again be music in that church like Kitty's. 

Use up those talents and gifts. Every single one of them. Wring them out and get every last drop. Find those things that make you uniquely you and extend them to the best of your ability. Worry not what others may think of your volume or boldness or the ways in which you give. Sing it, live it and scream it to the rafters.

I've heard that the meaning of life is to find your gift, and the purpose of life is to give it away.

Kitty did, every Sunday. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Spaceship in the Room

In a corner of our kitchen, along the Hoosier Cabinet and the south wall, a large box sat for nearly two full months. 
Caroline found it to be a great place to stack toys or climb. 
Cody found it to be quite in the way and annoying. 
I found it to be quite intimidating. 

On Amazon Prime day (July 10) I ordered an Instant Pot, based solely on the raving reviews  I'd seen my food-fixin'-Facebook-friends give the spaceship-looking machine. 

I watched in wonder while they threw a chuck roast, a can of pinto beans and a shoe string into the spaceship, pushed a single button, used a spoon to release the valve of death, then opened the lid and basically found Thanksgiving dinner inside. 
It was real.
It was fast.  
It was magical. 

Two days after ordering the counter top spaceship, it arrived at our backdoor and a wave of intimidation came over me. I now owned a machine that is supposed to cut my meal preparation time in half and I'm scared of it? I felt silly. 

So, I did what anyone would do with something they're intimidated by: I avoided it. 
I didn't look at it. 
I didn't reference it. 
I no longer watched the videos on how to make yogurt and cheesecake and soups. 
That box sat by our Hoosier for weeks before I scooted it into a corner where it was more out of sight, out of mind. Weekly, Cody asked what my plans were for "CrockPot's Little Sister". I assured him it wasn't another crockpot! It was a pressure cooker! And it will help me in the kitchen!
But not until I got it out of the box, he was always quick to remind me. 
So one Sunday afternoon, I did. 

As I dug it out of the (dusty) box, I was surprised to find a cracked lid and broken utensil. 
I'm embarrassed to say I felt relief in finding a broken machine; that meant I didn't have to face the thing for at least a few more days. 

I know you're asking yourself: 
Why would Crazy Train buy a kitchen gadget 
that intimidates her so?
Well, thanks for asking. 
I wasn't scared of it until it showed up in my own home. 
Much like babies. 

Back to my story:
I packed the broken Instant Pot back up, intimidation and all, and put it in the back of my vehicle where it rode around with me like a bag of Goodwill clothes that don't make it to the store for five months.
You know the bag of clothes I'm talking about. 

Then I called Amazon and requested a replacement InstantPot.
It arrived two days later. What a drag.

This time, I put the box in the living room so it would annoy the heck out of me and I was forced to address the spaceship in the room. 
You guys. 
This is true!
This is how I operate!
This is what fear does to a grown woman!
This is why my husband spends so much time in the barn!

Cody asked me what I was so afraid of. 

Oh, I don't know, Cody. 
The beeping?
The hissing?
A dashboard with more options than what is offered when landing a plane?
A user's manual with more pages than my Ford EDGE's manual?
A lid that closes, seals, latches tighter and is more secure than Ft. Knox?
And when that bad boy locks, you know something is about to go down. 
Or, through the ceiling of our farmhouse kitchen. 


It was only three three days later that the weekend arrived and I opened the new box. I read every piece of literature packed within it, studied every utensil, read the trial recipe six times before attempting it. 

I then did what any confident in the kitchen cook would do, I boiled water. 
And it worked!
Relieved, I thought I better quit while I was ahead, so I dried the spaceship off and tucked it under a cabinet until the next weekend. 

Yes, I'm ridiculous. 

I told Cody,
"We'll either have supper or an insurance claim in 17 minutes."
He rolled his eyes and went to the barn. 

In the days to follow I made beef short ribs, hard boiled eggs, shredded beef nachos (no link: Jean's Boots Original Creation) and applesauce. All were quite easy to prepare and very good. And it is true: This thing really cuts down on kitchen time. 

So I have more time with this:

If you're on the fence about getting an Instant Pot, I highly recommend it. It has saved me so much time on the few recipes I've tried, and also encouraged me to try new things. I would have never attempted homemade applesauce in the middle of a busy week. Now, I have enough for our lunches and an after dinner treat. And I had a great excuse to use the high-powered Mexican vanilla my mother-in-law gifted us after a trip south. A little goes a long way. 

Also, I'm terrible about meal planning, which tends to lead to quick thawing of meat after work. Many of the Instant Pot recipes allow for frozen meat to be used, at an additional 10 or so minutes. You can't beat that with a stick. 
I guess you could - but you shouldn't. 

If you want to pull the trigger and invest in a spaceship, you can use this quick link to get the model I have:

As for the genuine fear and intimidation of the machine in the beginning:
I can only compare it to a breast pump...

You can only avoid it for so long.