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OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES

DSC_0141mud puddle girlIt was a beautiful sunny day and we had our grandkids over. Brooklynn’s favorite thing to do is pick raspberries from my garden. She loves Grandma AMA’s raspberries. Maya was in the garden with us and Logan was playing basketball with Papa!

I don’t know about you, but I am tempted to compare my garden with other gardens. And in doing so, my garden is never good enough…. especially this year.  My chronic pain is draining and I physically haven’t had the energy to do what I need to do in my garden to make it what I would like it to be. But I learned something that day with my granddaughters.

As Brooklynn was enjoying every sweet berry she could find, Maya said something that totally blessed my heart. Maya said, “Ama, your garden is so beautiful.” She was being sincere and meant it. I stood back and took in her words and thanked God for my garden. Will it ever make it in Better Homes and Gardens? Not a chance. But there is beauty in my garden…I just need to find it through the weeds or through my granddaughters!

Philippians 4:8 comes to my mind. It says, “Finally brothers and sisters,  whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is LOVELY, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things!” http://www.biblestudytools.com/philippians/4-8.html

From that day on, I am choosing to see the LOVELY in my garden. How about you?

We All Need Validation

DSC_0140 (1)DSC_0721Validation is a beautiful thing.  It’s a great feeling when your idea, project, belief, or cause produces the desired result.  Sometimes the process leading up to that discovery can be hard or even painful.

Our three grown children and nine grandchildren are scattered across the country….from Washington, to Arizona and to Florida (sad face).  This summer Karen and I will have them all together at home for the first time in several years (Happy Face).

Along with the joy of seeing them again comes the reality of preparing for it.  There has been weeks of planning, organizing, dusting, washing, drying, cleaning, food buying, and rubbing sore muscles.

The biggest project of all has been replacing the boards on our twenty-five, year-old deck.  Over the past year, several boards snapped under our feet.  There is an old saying:  If you see one bunny eating breakfast in your garden, there are fifty more waiting in line. I knew this probably applies to rotting deck boards as well.  A carpenter I am not, so I knew this was not only going to be a huge, time-consuming, often frustrating, project but a painful one as well (see the sore muscle reference above).

My prediction has been validated.  After having seventy-five boards of red cedar delivered, I discovered the boards needed preparing with a cleaner/brightner.  I was told to let the boards dry for three or four days before staining them.  The three to four days turned into a week because it sprinkled off and on for three days.  Finally, the boards dried enough to stain them….then it rained again for a few days, so instead of letting the boards dry quickly outside under a hot summer sun, Karen and I had to hastily clean out our garage and move the stained boards inside to dry.

Another three days passed before I was ready to lay down the new boards.  Do you know how many nails it takes to build a deck?  The answer:  TOO MANY!  Too many to pull and too many to nail.  Do know how many times I’ve measured wrong?  The answer:  TOO MANY!  Do you know how many times I’ve hit my hand with the hammer?  You guessed it: TOO MANY!

Well, I’m almost done and while the process has proven to be, time-consuming, often frustrating and yes….painful, the results truly are beautiful.

I want to share some exciting news with you about how the mission statement of Desire To Inspire is constantly being validated.  (Remember, our desire is to encourage each of you to use your God given gifts and talents).

In January of 2006, Karen and I started Muddy Water Ministries.  The business (or hobby as Karen would call it) was created, at the time, as a means to sell our products. The business name was created out of a poem Karen had written. Trust Me My Child described her fears after finding out her unborn child had a good chance of being born with birth defects caused by her taking a very strong antibiotic in the early stages of her pregnancy.

The poem tells the true story of when she took our daughter Jaymi out to stomp in mud puddles one rainy afternoon.  Jaymi was content to stay in a small puddle but Karen saw a much bigger one down the road.  When she took our daughter’s hand to lead her to that larger puddle, Jaymi threw a fit.  She couldn’t see the bigger puddle and wanted to stay in the small one.  Karen then relates this story to her struggle she was having with trusting God during the remaining nine months of pregnancy, not knowing whether her son would be born healthy.  We printed off the poem on fancy paper and it became our first product to sell.

For years Karen had gone through some extensive dental procedures and chewing her food had become painful.  After a lot of time in prayer over her predicament, she knew she had a choice; she could choose to become bitter over her circumstances or she could choose to trust Jesus.  Out of this painful affliction came an idea.  She pictured a mug displaying a sheep chewing on some grass with the words “Chews Jesus” beside it.  This became our second product.

I talked Karen into sending her poem to a book publisher.  It was accepted and soon both of us (mine was my fiction novel Chameleons of Truth) had our first books to sell.  Later, we would both publish another book (Because God Said “You Are Very Special”) and Wherever the Wind Blows).

We had a website, we had products to sell but in my heart I knew there was something missing….a message.  We both struggled to identify what that message was exactly.  In 2011 during lunch breaks at the job I had at the time, I wrote down ideas for a third book.  Curious co-workers sat at my table to ask what I was doing.  When I would tell them, many would respond with a similar story.  They had always wanted to either write a novel, take up painting, start their own band or some other dream they had long given up on.

These frequent discussions began to manifest into a vision for the message Karen and I had been searching and praying for.  We recently signed up for a series of podcasts hosted by Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas/Nelson Publishing.  He calls his podcasts, Platform University.  https://platformuniversity.com/

This training has helped clarify our message and shown us how much we don’t know about websites, social media and blogging.  (Remember, I’m a dinosaur when it comes to such things….but even dinosaurs can learn new tricks).  Although Karen was really enjoying the podcasts, she had a hard time seeing herself encouraging others to use their gifts when she often  struggles to acknowledge her own gifts and talents (silly girl).

The validation for this message has become crystal clear for Karen in the past few weeks because of conversations at:

  1. A garage sale.  When the person running the garage sale overheard Karen and I talking about our books, she told us that she wanted to write a story about her mother but was too busy to begin.  We encouraged her to record the conversations she has with her mother so all that knowledge is available when she does have the time to write.  She thought it was a great idea and I could see the light bulb go on above Karen’s head.
  2. The dentist.  (Her favorite place to be)  One of the employees asked her what she did and Karen told her she was an author.  A dentist overheard her and told Karen she had a story in mind she wants to write sometime and had questions about the publishing process.  (The lightbulb was getting brighter)
  3. Our home.  Karen sells items on a local buy/sell/swap Facebook site.  When a gal came to pick up something from Karen, she mentioned that she read on our website that Karen was an author and that she wanted to write books too.

I’m so thrilled to have my wife and best friend on the same page when it comes to sharing the same passion.  I respect her wisdom, her perspective and her companionship in this journey of sharing our lives with you.

Validation is a beautiful thing.

How do you feel when you are validated? 

How does it make you feel when you are not? 

Validate someone today and make them feel special and listened to.

 

 

 

 

 

Love is intentional–Not always a feeling

mud puddle girlDid you ever have any misconceptions as a child that you would just one day grow up and be an adult?  I am a Grandma (AMA) and I still wonder when that will be.  I’ve come to realize that we never truly stop learning and growing and hopefully maturing.  Our bodies definitely change and age with time.  But I think we make choices along the way that help determine our tomorrows.  Even little choices matter.  I don’t remember who penned this but I loved what she had to say:  Live less out of habit and more of intent.

When I was going away this last spring I mentioned to Terry before I left that I was sad that I wouldn’t be having a garden.  I was going to be gone for 5 weeks helping welcome our beautiful granddaughter on the East Coast.  When I was away, Terry had our two grandkids over and helped him weed the garden bed.  Then Terry seeded the garden with wildflowers, which I am totally enjoying today.   Those little seeds probably seemed a little insignificant back in April, but they are totally blessing me today!DSC_0073What can you do today out of love and intent for someone else’s tomorrow?  Love is action and intentional, not always a feeling!

SUMMER TIME BLUES….Part 2

DSC_0057DSC08863In my last post, https://desiretoinspire.life/avoiding-summer-vacation-blues/, I promised to share some ideas on how to build a legacy of stress free summer fun with your kids while still enjoying some time for yourself.  My mother had the right idea.  She loved to spend time with me, my sister and brother.  She also wanted to instill in each of us the value of learning how to work and save money.

We lived in the country on five acres.  She enjoyed taking care of her many flowerbeds and her vegetable garden.  After breakfast and an hour of watching cartoons on T.V., we would all go outside with her and help weed and pick out rocks (which seemed to magically grow faster than the weeds).  When the weeding was finally under control, the lawn needed mowing, sapling Alder trees needed to be chopped down, cows needed to be fed and manure needed to be shoveled into a  wheelbarrow and spread in the field (my least favorite job).

After helping her, she would fix us lunch and we were free to play.  She was a good basketball player and took great pleasure at beating me in  games of h-o-r-s-e (she was the master of the, back to the basket, toss the ball behind you and over your head, shot).  On rainy days, she would teach us card games and play Monopoly with us.  After dinner, we helped her with the dishes and then the evening was her time to relax (Dad was often available for a card game after dinner).

Once a week, we were paid an allowance for our services.  We put 1/2 into our savings and we could keep 1/2 to spend on whatever we wanted.

As each of us grew older we picked strawberries for farmers within bicycle riding distance.  Sometimes my mother would wrap a bandana around her head, drive to the strawberry field in the early afternoon, and help us fill our flats until it was time to go.  Our bicycles were shoved in the trunk and she would drive us home.  One time, she brought our dog, Fluffy, to the strawberry field and left him in the car while she helped us.  Unfortunately, Fluffy wasn’t too keen on being locked up in the car and proceeded to show his displeasure by ripping both the front and back seats to shreds.

Okay….Let’s transition from my visit down memory lane and jump ahead fifty-years.  My how things have changed:

  • 49% of mothers didn’t have a job outside the home in 1967.  Stay-at-home mothers hit an all time low at 29% in 1999 but has steadily risen to 39% in 2015.
  • Another fun fact:  From six men who identified themselves as truly stay-at-home fathers during the 1970’s http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/08/stay-at-home-dads_n_7234214.html   rose to 1.9 million in 2015.  Many of these men became stay-at-home fathers due to unemployment, sickness of a spouse, retirement, etc. but 20% made the choice to give up their careers to raise their children.
  • Interestingly even though most mothers had more time at home fifty-plus years ago statistics say that the modern mother and father spend more time with their children.

I believe because of the vast quantity of parenting material made readily available on the internet and social media over the past 35 years, parents are much more in tune with the needs of their children’s and their own needs.  All this information has created its own problem….FALSE GUILT.

Many working mothers still feel guilty about having to leave their children with others.  Some try to make up for it by spending their way out of guilt. They smother their children with every kind of indulgence hoping gifts and entertainment will quiet the self-condemnation they feel.  Others will pour every spare minute they have into their children, while neglecting their own needs and the needs of their husband.  This often leads to either burnout or resentment.

Stay-at-home mothers may also suffer from feelings of guilt.  They naturally have more time on their hands.  They often use this time with friends, for community service, hobbies and with their spouse.  Even though they spend time with their children, they wonder if the time spent was enough or if it was regarded as “quality time”.

Even fathers can fall into this trap.  How do I know?  Because the sharp teeth of this trap had clamped onto my leg one too many times as a young father.  You see…. my father drove a milk truck for a living.  Cows are notorious for not taking days off from giving milk.  That meant my father didn’t take many days off when I was young.

He tried his best to spend time with his kids, but he was often too tired to spend as much time as we all wanted from him.   When I became a father, I made an inner vow.  No matter what job I had, I would always make myself available to my children….no matter how tired I was.

My first mistake was making a noble but silly vow like that.  The second was actually trying to keep it.  I often failed and then felt guilty.  It’s crazy to feel bad about something you didn’t do.

So all of this is a lead up to how you can avoid the summer time blues.  Here are 10 things you can do to make this summer memorable for you and your kids.

  1. STOP FEELING GUILTY!  Enough said.
  2. No matter what age they are, teach them how to help you with the daily household chores.  No one is going to call the CPS on you for developing in them a good work ethic.  I know….I know; It’s easier just to do it yourself.  Well it is at first, for sure.  But don’t underestimate them. Start out with one task and when they master that, give them another.  Like my Mother did, offer them an incentive they will value more than the work.
  3. Organize your week ahead of time.  Include your kids in this and not only will they learn valuable planning skills but they will take ownership in the activities (including daily chores).  Unplanned things are bound to throw a monkey wrench into your detailed plans from time to time but again, use these as teachable moments to instill in them flexibility and to come up with creative solutions.
  4. Plan a special summer vacation with your children.  Planning a vacation often times is just as much fun as the vacation itself.  Young children don’t need much extra prodding to get excited….including your teenagers in the process is critical.  I have video footage of us packing our mini-van for a much-needed vacation; well, at least to my wife and I it was much-needed.  My two daughters were not too thrilled about hijacking them to a place they never heard of and were not shy about sharing their feelings at the crack of dawn.
  5. If you can’t afford a big summer vacation, give your kids day-trip options they can choose from.  Make sure they leave their cell phones at home, bring a picnic lunch or find a restaurant you have never eaten at and make memories at a local park or beach.
  6. Arrange time for your kids to play with their school friends.  Many children really miss their schoolmates.  Have a sleepover.  Put up a tent in the back yard, barbecue some hot dogs, make some smors, tell a ghost story and take pictures for show and tell once school starts back up.
  7. Be creative.  Make a movie.  Let your kids write a script, pull out your Halloween garb, help them build a simple set and record their epic adventure.
  8. Encourage them to read. Offer an incentive for reading a set amount of books throughout the summer.
  9. Encourage them to learn a new sport.  Give them swimming, tennis, golf, or martial arts lessons.  Teach them favorite sport or hobby.
  10. And finally….fill the kid’s pool, put on some sun screen, pour yourself some ice tea, grab that neglected novel and relax.  You deserve it.

You might also enjoy reading Cheryl Butler’s article on enjoying your summer vacation with your kids at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/parenting/school-age/how-to-enjoy-summer-vacation-without-losing-your-mind-part-1

Goodbye to Muddy Water Ministries

mud puddle girlA while ago I told you there would be changes to our MuddyWaterMinistry website and facebook.  You have seen some changes but there are more to come.  When I first got my Trust Me My Child book published, a children’s book about a little girl playing in mud puddles, Muddy Water Ministries came to mind–and we weren’t clear on what the Lord had in mind for us with publishing books, etc.  It seemed that Muddy Water Ministries fit well for us.

We are entering a new season with our four books that have been published, and Lord willing, for future ones.  As Terry and I prayed for a name that would define our hearts a bit clearer we decided on DESIRE TO INSPIRE.LIFE

So our website domain name is desiretoinspire.life  (.com was already taken but we actually love .life even more) and we will be phasing out of Muddy Water Ministries.  Our books remain the same but our hearts are continuing to be stretched and growing with desire to inspire others by our heartfelt stories and sharing snippets of our life.  We hope you will be inspired and will want to walk along this journey of life with us.

Avoiding The Summer Vacation Blues: Part 1

DSC_0057Summer is finally here!  Your kids are free from the structure of school.  No more helping them with homework, no more shuttling the crew from baseball practice, to spring football practice, and attending all the year-end school activities like:

  • Volunteering to help with your elementary school aged child’s field trips.
  • Tearing the house apart looking for that biology book you will pay for if not turned in by the last day of school.
  • Attending baccalaureate and graduation services.
  • Planning your child’s graduation party and attending all his/her friend’s graduation parties.
  • Cleaning up after the graduation party.

Whew….now you can put on that suntan lotion, grab that novel you’ve been dying to read for the past nine months and relax by the kid’s pool with a cold ice tea.

But after a week or two you realize:

  • Your older kids need a summer job.
  • The younger ones are bored already.
  • There are two more months with teenagers collecting dust on your hammock by the pool with cell phones glued to their ears.
  • The younger ones expect you to be their slaves.

So much for that novel.  Before you spike that iced tea, wish you had remembered to fill out that registration form for Camp Faraway and tell them to go find something to do for the umpteenth time, let me tell you a cautionary tale or two from my childhood summer vacations.

My friend and I rode our bicycles to his cousin’s house one summer day.   We quickly ran out of things to do. We thought it might be fun to climb over a barb wired fence, gather some rocks and chuck them at their muscle-bound, bull in the center of this huge field.

Of course safety was our #1 objective (wink-wink), so we didn’t get too close. My friends first few throws fell far short of the target.  They encouraged me to get just a little closer so I did.  The rock I heaved hit the once docile animal square in the head.  The enraged beast charged.

Being closest to the fence, the cousin was first to quickly climbed over.  My best friend was ten yards in front of me and dove headfirst under the prickly wire. The earth shook from the approaching bull when I dove under the barb wired fence.  As I stood to face the snorting bull, I noticed blood pouring out of two, four-inch long tears in my blue jeans.  I still carry those scars as a reminder of my stupidity.

Another lazy summer day, while on a date with Karen at my parent’s house, (she was fourteen and I was fifteen at the time) my cousin’s family came to visit from Seattle.  Not long after the introductions, things got a little awkward.  That is until my cousins snuck their new bow and arrows out of their car.

We decided just looking at them was too lame.  No, we had to try them out.  Someone thought it would be a hoot for all of us to stand close to the shooter and scramble like mad, with our hands covering our heads while screaming like lunatics, as an arrow was shot straight up and disappeared into the sky.  Fortunately know one became a human shish kabob and we all lived another day.

I tell these two stories to remind you that not all childhood activities, when left up to the imaginations of kids, are safe. We live in a different world than the one I grew up in during the ’60s & early ’70s.  At the age of eleven I was riding my three-speed all over a six to seven mile radius without supervision.  Most of my friends did the same.  Many of the  parents I know keep their children on a much shorter leash now.

In my next post, I’ll share some ideas on how to build a legacy of stress free summer fun with your kids while still being able to read that novel in peace.

Please share some of your favorite ideas for enjoying the summer months with your kids or grandkids.

Also….please share about some of the misadventures and close calls you had while passing the time away during your childhood summer vacations.

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One of Those Days

Have you ever had, ‘one of those days’?  Well, yesterday was a ‘one of those days’ kind of day.

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For the past four days, I’ve had computer issues which have kept me from blogging.  Now in the world of technology, I’m a dinosaur among computer geeks.  I despise calling for tech support.  First I always have to pray that I get a person who speaks English as their first language.  I have a hard enough time hearing as it is without having to translate as well.  Next, I have to explain that I am a dinosaur and they will have to dumb down their vocabulary.  Then when they still use language not understood in the Jurassic age I have to remind them, that while I may be on the endangered species list, I am not extinct.

So Monday after spending three hours on the phone with a geek, she threw up her hands and had me reset my computer to its original manufacturer’s settings.  Tuesday I woke up excited to write.  My computer said, “Not so fast, buddy.”  Three more hours on the phone and another eleven hour reset.

Okay….so I won’t be blogging today.  I know; I’ll put up those picture shelves Karen has wanted up forever and which I have been conveniently forgetting to do.  As you know, my blogs are about encouraging people to use their gifts.  Putting up level shelving is not my gift so I had been encouraging myself not to do it.  I mean really, how hard can it be?  After two hours, I had managed to make one wall in our bedroom resemble a giant slice of Swiss cheese.  But I finally was able to maneuver the shelves around enough to cover most of the holes.  Karen wanted two shelves up in the kitchen next but after six holes, she thanked me for trying and had me move a grandmother picture quilt over to cover the holes.

While Karen was vacuuming up the mountain of drywall dust on the bedroom floor I had created, she accidentally sucked up a sock I  thought our dryer had eaten.  We tried everything we could think of, short of performing a C-section on the vacuum hose, to get that sock out…. but to no avail.  So we bought a ‘not on the budget but it’s an emergency cheapo vacuum’ at Walmart.

To top off the day, I forgot to buy lettuce and tomatoes for the taco dinner Karen made.  (Tacos without lettuce and tomatoes is like French fries without ketchup or tarter sauce).  Then of course the Seattle Mariners lost again.

I was in a very sour mood when Karen suggested we pray.  And so to continue with the allegory theme: Praying when in a sour mood is like going to church with a hangover; you know you need it but it doesn’t feel right until you do it.  So we prayed.

So did our prayers fix everything….no, but I woke up to birds chirping to the morning sun.  If Karen moves a vase just a little to the right, it will cover up one of the holes.  We can vacuum the floors once more.  We aren’t having tacos tonight so it doesn’t matter that we don’t have lettuce and tomatoes.  Its another day for the Mariners and I am able to write this to you today.

Tell me when you had ‘One Of Those Days’ and what was the outcome.

Maya’s surprise for her Mom

DSC_0718As I wrote on my previous post, Karen and I had a fun with Logan, Maya and Brooklyn the other day.  During a water balloon fight Jaymi came to pick up the kids to take them home.  This picture collage portrays the sequence of events after Maya noticed her mother was turning into the driveway.

 

Grandparents Most Valuable Gift….

Out of all the memories I have of my grandparents, what do I recall with the most fondness?

Roller Coaster Santa

As a child, each year could be described as a roller coaster with many ups and downs.  The anticipation leading up to Christmas Eve was like the slow climb up the final, steep incline on that roller coaster.  Just thinking about spending the next few days at both sets of grandparents playing with long-distance cousins, eating all the cookies, pie and candy I wanted, hoping for snow, and opening presents was almost more than I could handle.

The reality was that my siblings and I would end up fighting with our cousins, I always ended up with a stomach ache from eating too many sweets, it never snowed, and a few days after Christmas I was bored with my new presents. I know my grandparents put a lot of energy (and money) into making the holidays great but looking back I don’t remember spending any alone time with them.  They were too busy being good hosts, while taking care of everyone’s needs, to play with me.

The same could be said about my grandparents organizing trips to the zoo, family reunions and birthday parties.  While all these things were fun times with my grandparents, family photos are the only way I remember any details regarding those events; so what do I remember about my grandparents in which don’t need old photographs to flood my mind with vivid details of emotions.

I remember my grandfather giving me his Swiss Army knife, pouring me a glass of Pepsi, and showing me how to whittle a car out of a block of wood so I could compete in the local Cub Scout’s Pinewood Derby race.  I remember taking my grandmother by the hand and leading her down into the basement I was too afraid to go to by myself.  She would open up the mysterious closet door and pull out musty smelling books and games, which had belonged to my father and his brothers, and play with me for hours.  I remember the smell of salt water and the sound of my grandparent’s laughter as my grandfather had to hold onto my pant’s belt so I wouldn’t fall overboard as I struggled to reel in my first salmon.

On Thursday mornings, Karen and I watch three of our grandkids for an hour until their mother gets off work.  Yesterday, Karen asked me if we could give our daughter a break and watch the kids all afternoon.  In my mind I rattled off a list of things I needed (desired) to accomplish that day like:

  • Assemble our new barbeque which came with a million parts.
  • Go to the dentist for my broken filling.
  • Call Costco’s concierge service over a computer glitz because I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to computer problems.
  • Take an afternoon nap.
  • And figure out what I would write for my next blog post.

Instead of accomplishing anything on that list, except for a glorious trip to the dentist, we decided to invest the best gift you can give to your grandkids (or kids); the gift of our undivided attention.  We played basketball, jumped rope, threw water balloons, built a fort, hurled magnetic darts at a felt baseball diamond, and engaged in a games of checkers and Blokus.  And while I didn’t get my afternoon nap, the youngest granddaughter did.

What are your favorite memories with your parents or grandparents?  What can you do to make unforgettable memories with your loved ones?

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Make it an “AMA”zing Day!!!

I mud puddle girlwas reminded of this journal entry from June of 2010.  Had fun playing with Caleb & Jakey today.  I look for the simple things in playing with them; like turning a lawnmower box into a boat.  We ate popsicles in the boat and enjoyed the sunshine.  Didn’t think much about it until our neighbor drove by–I don’t think they could see Caleb or Jakey.  Just this crazy “AMA” sitting in a lawnmower box in my driveway eating a popsicle!  Oh well–who cares what the neighbors think!!  Don’t just have a good day!  Have a Great Day and it might end up being “AMA”zing!!!