Monday, July 9, 2012

New blog address

I have a new blog address. Please visit me at: everydaymomlife.com.



Friday, July 6, 2012

Andy, Bill and Gilligan

Our 11-year-old had just popped open his root beer when we gave him the news.

He only gets to drink soft drinks when we go to restaurants or on special occasions. But we were at the farm, and Aunt Pam had a red cooler loaded with ice cold IBC, Orange Crush and Double Cola. In bottles!

He was right in the middle of a big swig when I remembered what I wanted to tell him.

Click here to keep reading on my new blog...



aug2011emily

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Summer bucket list

Every summer, the 4th of July seems to be the signal that summer is halfway gone. I guess it all depends on your school schedule and perspective. But if summer begins at Memorial Day and school starts 12 weeks later, this is, in fact, the halfway point....

Click here to keep reading on my new blog...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

I'm mooooooooooving!

I like change. I really do.

I get bored easily. I like new adventures. I love a challenge. I like a freshly-painted room, a new city to explore, the excitement of learning something new.

What I have realized, though, is that I'm not crazy about transition.

I have a hard time saying good-bye to The Old. I worry that even though The New might offer more possibilities, I will miss all the good parts about The Old. Sometimes change can be full of frustration and headaches as I learn to do something a new way.

Those are the things that have been on my mind the past few months as I've contemplated moving my blog. I've wanted to move my blog to WordPress for a while now, but, believe it or not, it's hard to think about saying good-bye to the place I've called my home on the web for the last five years.

Will people come see me at my new space? Will they like it? Will some of the new, better features make up for a few things that I can't take with me? I really worry that my old blog will miss me. I feel so bad leaving it all alone.

After much thought, work, messing around and a few counseling sessions, I'm really going to do it. I'm moving my blog.

But before I give you my new blog address, I just want to ease your mind by letting you know about a few of the things that will remain the same on everydaymom:

1. I will continue to publish the same pointless, random and even boring content that you have grown to know and love.

2. My posts will remain sporadic. Sometimes, I might post something every day. Other times, you will have to wait months for a new blog post.

3. I will continue to write many of my blog posts in a southern accent. You can read them in your mind in whatever accent you normally use.

What's NEW on the new blog?

1. It's really bright. Hopefully, if you don't like the new, brighter colors, they will at least distract you from noticing other things you don't like.

2. It combines my blog with my daily photo blog. Now, it's easier to find everything in one place.

3. It includes commentLuv. I really luv this feature on other blogs. If you aren't familiar with it, just leave me a comment, and you'll see how it works.

4. There's a bunch of other stuff that I love about moving to WordPress, but I'm sure you're dying to just get over there and check it out.

Here's the new address: www.everydaymomlife.com. (Didn't see that one coming, did ya?) (I still have a few more things to do on the new site, so I'll keep posting both places for a bit until I get it all done.)

Check it out and then leave me a comment to let me know you stopped by. Even if you've never, ever left a comment before, it's super simple to do with WordPress. (One of the many things I love about the new blog.) You will make me so happy  if you take a second to say hello.

Oh, and PS... What about you? Do you like change? Are you good with starting something new? Leaving the old behind?


aug2011emily

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The end is near

For the last four weeks, our family has been counting down the days to June 19. The rest of our life felt like it was on hold as we waited for this one day to arrive.

My husband has been working his tail off — actually his arm off — in preparation for his four-month follow-up visit with the surgeon who worked on his shoulder back on March 8. After that gloomy visit with predictions of a second surgery, I have to admit we were expecting the worst.

We had gone through the four stages of grief as we thought about what it would mean to go back into the operating room for a second time, and we were starting to set up a tent in "acceptance."

As I mentioned in my last post about this, my husband has regained a lot of movement in his right arm since the surgery. But he has one motion that is still only at about 65 percent of its range of motion. Our lives have revolved around physical therapy appointments four days a week, often 2.5 hours long right after his work day, as well as putting on his stretching contraption three times a day to slowly pull his arm and hold it in place 30 minutes at a time.

We resigned ourselves to no vacation this summer since we would need all of his remaining vacation days to recover from a potential surgery. Three of his therapists had a big debate Monday night about what would be his best course of action. He seems to be an anomaly even in their eyes, or at least some kind of fascinating case for someone's future thesis, because of his inability to regain his full movement despite how hard he has worked the last four months.

Is it a scar tissue problem?

Did this all actually start 20 years ago after a bad car accident he had?

Could the problem have been building even before that? A bad football injury in high school? Hundreds of repetitive shoulder movements throwing a baseball during Little League?

An excruciatingly painful "dry needle" treatment last week seemed to show that the muscle in his arm was balled up so tight that it had basically stopped working since the injury seven months ago that sent him to the doctor.

Anyway, even the doctor said he was expecting the worst when he saw my husband's name on the patient list Tuesday.

I was in a different meeting during the appointment, but wanted to jump out of my seat when Capable Dad sent me this text:

"The end is near."

Could it be? The doctor was actually happy with his progress! He was NOT recommending a second surgery!

We couldn't believe it! We are so thankful to the many, many people who have prayed for him the past four weeks and the past seven months. This truly was not the result we expected, so we know God has been working!

The plan now is to continue his therapy at home, but reduce his visits to the PT office to twice a week for about six more weeks. Even though he still has limited range of motion in one area, he seems to be regaining a lot of flexibility and strength in the other directions. The doctor will check him again in six weeks, but he was pleasantly surprised with his progress.

Most people don't regain much more movement after the four-month mark. If that were the case, he might never regain his golf swing. Might not ever be able to pitch a baseball. He would be limited in his ability to shoots hoops with the boys.



Our prayer now is that he will regain that movement. Although those things are all very minor in the whole scheme of life, they are all things that he enjoys. And God has showed us that he can continue to work in ways that seem medically improbable.

It's crazy when I stop to think that this whole journey began seven months ago when we were working on rearranging our basement to clean out a ton of junk and make a nice space for our 11-year-old to hang out. My husband was carrying an armload of big work manuals when he tripped and the books jammed into his shoulder.

During the last two weeks, I have spent most of my free time back in the basement working on that long-lost project. I have been clearing out junk, cleaning and painting. Last night, my husband joined me in the basement to help me put together some storage units as I FINALLY finished up the project.

For the first time in many months, he held a power tool in his right hand and helped me put together some shelves. It was something I had seen him do many, many times during our marriage. And yet this time it was so special.

We had come full circle. We could see life returning to how it used to be.

It's been a long journey. But for the first time we could say it: The end is near.



aug2011emily

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Angles and perspective

Last week, we went to St. Louis to visit our good friends who moved to Baton Rouge in April. They were staying with family in the St. Louis area, so it was a great way for us to spend a few days together without driving all the way to Louisiana.

We couldn't visit St. Louis without going to see the Gateway Arch. The great thing about hanging out with my friend, Kelly, is that we are both equally obsessed with taking photos. So, when exploring a place as photogenic as the Arch, we didn't have to constantly beg each other to stop to shoot a photo.


The Arch is a study in angles. It seems to curve and rotate as it stretches into the sky. Figuring out how to get the best photo was a puzzle we were determined to solve.

We walked around it. We laid on our backs. We walked away from it to look from a distance.



We had a certain photo in mind that we kept trying to figure out how to compose. No matter what we did, that photo never seemed to materialize. Finally, we took a walk through town, and when we headed back toward the parking garage, we saw a clue.

A man and woman were standing in a big open space in front of the Arch. He had his arms stretched into the sky, and she was looking up at him with her camera. We knew exactly what they were doing! We asked to see the photo on their digital camera, and they showed us just the photo we had been trying all day to create.

Looking at him from a distance, he just looked like a strange person with his arms up in the air. But through the camera lens, held at the right angle, he looked like he was holding the Arch.


We rounded up our boys and got them to start posing. It was interesting to me that all day we had wanted to take this funny photo. However, I was convinced that the key was to figure out how to make the person pose in just the right spot.

First, Kelly and I took turns standing just where the man had been standing and holding our arms just like he had his. But when I looked through my lens to take a photo, all I could see was Kelly with her arms up high and the Arch way off in the distance.

A kneeled down farther. I changed my angle. I looked up, and it started coming into view! I moved myself slightly to the right, then to the left. Finally, she was holding the Arch!

Getting that photo really wasn't as much about the subject as it was the photographer.

Soon, five or six other groups of people were gathering on the lawn. They all held their arms up high or pretended to lean. Even though people were all around us, no one was in our way. People could stand in different spots to the right, to the left, in front of us, and behind us. No matter where they stood, they were able to take the same photo without interfering with one another because everyone's camera was pointed at such a sharp angle upward.





Photographing the Arch reminded me of so many challenges I have faced in my life this year. At 630 feet in the air, the massive Arch doesn't change.

But depending on my perspective, it can look like this:


Or like this:


It is amazing how something can look so different based on how I choose to view it. It's strange how you can look at the exact same thing one time and then years later it can look so different. It's interesting to me that you can look at a situation and see what you want to see.

This has been true for me in so many ways recently:

For example, sending my kids to school looks completely different to me in many ways after I have home schooled them for three years.

Enjoying an hour to myself is a treasure that I don't take for granted after having four children.

Going for a short bike ride with my husband is a gift after watching him go through intense physical therapy for four months.

Spending a few days with friends is a blessing after they have moved 900 miles away.

Sometimes I have to kneel down and change my angle to see what I need to see. It's not always the situation that needs to change. It's my perspective.

**
If you want to see more photos from our trip, check out my photo blog: http://everydaymomsnaps.wordpress.com/


aug2011emily

Monday, June 4, 2012

The perfect portrait

I've been having a big philosophical discussion with myself lately about portraits. I know this is totally normal, and lots of other people have been talking to themselves about photography lately, as well. It's been getting a little boring to talk to myself in my head, so I wanted to bring my internal conflict to the blog to find out if maybe, just maybe, anyone else in the blogosphere might happen to have an opinion. (Or not.)

You all know I really love to take photos. I'm trying to teach myself to use my camera and take better photos. And I'm trying to do this without breaking down and actually taking a photography class.

I go on web sites and blogs and Pinterest, and I look at photos taken by professional photographers. I study the angles that they use and the background and the way people pose. And then I practice. I take photos of people and dogs and random animals. I drive my family crazy begging them to let me take just one more photo.



Lately, I decided to just focus on taking close-up portraits. Maybe if I can master this one type of photo, I can move on to shooting the whole body or maybe even shooting two people at once! My 50 mm lens makes it easy to take an amazing close-up shot. But I have not even come close to figuring out how to use it more than three feet away from the subject.

I love looking at wedding photos and graduation photos and baby photos taken by professional photographers. But I've always been mystified by how they make the eyes so bright and vibrant.

Well, until a few weeks ago.

I really haven't spent much time, nor do I know much about photo editing. I usually crop my photos in iPhoto and enhance the color and occasionally add a special effect. Once in a while, I will take the time to edit a photo with Photoshop 5 and really play around with the color, contrast and lighting.

But a few weeks ago, I remembered that I got a free copy of Photoshop Elements with a purchase we made. I loaded it onto my computer, and that is when my complete photo editing obsession began!

While the full version of Photoshop can do so much more than Photoshop Elements, PE makes it so simple to edit your photos step by step. It has a feature called "the perfect portrait."

With a click of a button, you can smooth out the skin. You can remove blemishes. Add eyelashes. Brighten the eyes. You can even "slim" the subject! My favorite feature is adding a glow. The only way I can describe the glow is that it makes the photo look like it's in a magazine. Here is a photo of my son with a bit of a glow.


I started going crazy with "the perfect portrait" setting. And that's when my conflict began. There's so much controversy right now about models who are airbrushed and Photoshopped in magazines. I started realizing I was doing the same thing.

When people pay someone to take their photo, they do want it to look somewhat "perfect." But how high should that standard be?

I mainly shoot photos to preserve my family's memories. I also like to try to take photos that are decent enough I can frame a few of them and save money on going to the portrait studio. But am I really preserving a memory if I have brightened someone's eyes to the point they are an unnatural color? It's one thing to remove a blemish on the face, but should I really erase a beauty mark or freckles?

I feel like it's OK to boost the color or adjust the contrast. But how many extra eyelashes are too many? And do I really want a photo that includes a person who was Photoshopped in later?

I guess part of the answer rests in whether the photo is meant to capture a memory or create a piece of artwork. I do love playing with PE, and I'm hoping to learn a lot more about it this summer. But I promise to go easy on slimming someone's waistline, altering their eye color and smoothing out the skin.

I would love to hear what you think about this topic! Does anyone else out there practice taking photos? What do you use to edit them? And do you think you can enhance your photos too much?

Here are a few other portraits I've taken lately (without much editing).

Our oldest daughter:


My dad:


My super handsome husband:


Our oldest son:




aug2011emily

Saturday, May 26, 2012

My life in photos

Last year, I made a resolution to take a photo every day of the year and post it on my blog. My amazing friend, Kelly, has been doing this for four years, and we love checking in with her family every day to see what is new.

It only took me a few weeks to find out that this endeavor is a LOT harder than it looks. I'm not sure which part was more difficult for me: remembering to take a photo every day or posting the photos. I started out strong, but then I would miss a day. Or I would get a month behind in posting the photos and have to catch up all at once.

I finally gave up. I felt bad that I failed in keeping what seemed like such a great New Year's resolution.

But then... At the end of the year, I wanted to make a photo book of 2011. I love taking old blog posts and photos from the year and compiling them into a book. It was so awesome to be able to be able to go back to my photo blog and easily find the words and photos that I wanted to include in the book.

So, a few months ago, I decided to restart the photo blog. It only took me a few hours to post photos from March and April. (I still need to do January and February.) While I'm not trying to take a photo a day, I am trying to post photos of significant events.

My family members are really the only people who ever look at the blog, and that is totally fine with me! It's so fun to sit down with the kids once in a while and go back and laugh as we look through our adventures from the past few months.

Well, yesterday, I was thinking that I would enjoy posting my photos so much more if the blog looked better. I've been learning a ton about WordPress the past few months because I have been redesigning our church's web site. (That will be unveiled very soon!)

I'm also working on moving this blog to WordPress. It has so much more functionality and flexibility.

But until then... if you are interested in taking a peek at our photos from 2012, you can use that link at the top right of your menu or click here! The layout is very simple right now, so I will probably be making some improvements, but I really love how the navigation works.

Posting my photos really motivates me to work on my photography skills. My goal for this year is to learn how to use my camera. I'm planning to start by finding some good photography blogs. I need to learn how to use the manual settings on my camera. I need to buy a better lens. And I also want to study how to take better photos without looking posed. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know!

aug2011emily

Thursday, May 24, 2012

If scar tissue had a football team

... my husband's would be in the Super Bowl.

I guess that's the best way to sum up what we have learned the past four weeks about Capable Dad's amazing superpower. His body works harder than the average person at trying to heal itself. His body forms scar tissue at an incredibly fast pace. 

Now, this sounds like a great problem, right? In many cases, it probably would be. But when it comes to CD's recovery from shoulder surgery, the goal is to break through the scar tissue as it forms so he can regain movement in his arm. Even a team of physical therapists, a very strong doctor, and a big stretching apparatus haven't been powerful enough to conquer his scar tissue.

Capable Dad went in for his 10-week follow-up visit on Tuesday. It seems that each of his follow-up visits is a little more discouraging than the one before. At this one, we learned that he is part of a very small percentage of people who build up scar tissue thicker and faster than most. As a result, he has one motion that — even after faithfully stretching and pulling his arm three times a day and even after going to 2.5 hour PT sessions four times a week — is not coming back.

The doctor gave him three more cortisone shots and a warning that if he can't regain his motion in four weeks, he will need a second surgery to go back in and cut out the scar tissue. We are closing in on the three-month mark since surgery day. Once he gets to the fourth month, the doctor says patients aren't able to regain any more movement. At that point, the scar tissue has won. It forms a bond that is as strong as bone.

I'm going to be completely honest and tell you that the thought of a second surgery caused me to temporarily sink into a mini depression. OK, I know what's true:

I know that God can intervene and help CD rip right through the blanket of scar tissue that is encapsulating the back of his shoulder.

I know that the doctor said this big, white, $2,000 contraption that CD straps on his body three times a day has had amazing results in other patients. 


I know that the cortisone shots could help. I know the physical therapists can try new torture treatments.

I KNOW it's possible to avoid a second surgery. And we're praying like crazy that will happen.

But for about 12 hours, I felt like I was suffocating. It was the first time I felt hopeless about the situation. It was the first time I allowed myself to even consider he might not fully regain the motion he once had.

My mind started racing back through the sequence of events.

There was the initial surgery when the doctor said he was shocked to see how much scar tissue was already formed around my husband's shoulder, basically creating a "frozen shoulder." At the next visit, the doctor showed us the photos from inside my husband's arm. He explained how he "aggressively" scraped out scar tissue, filed away the bone and "released the capsule" that surrounds his shoulder.

At the last visit, the doctor wasn't happy about CD's limited range of motion when it comes to pushing his arm downward. While he is doing great with lifting his arm up and backward, he hasn't been able to  push it all the way down. Imagine the motion you make when you throw a ball. It's the follow-through motion at the end that he can't complete.

Four weeks ago, the doctor increased his therapy sessions from three a week to four. He also prescribed the big white contraption in the photo that we lovingly refer to as a modern-day version of "the rack." He slowly turns the cranks on the device to stretch his tendons and then hold them in that position for 30 minutes at a time.

During therapy, two and sometimes three therapists work together to try to push his arm down. One holds his shoulder in place to keep it from dislocating while the other two basically lay on his arm to try to push it to the table. It won't move.

I think our whole family has accepted the "inconvenience" of Capable Dad's inability to use his right arm. It's been good for the kids to take on the duties of mowing the lawn, carrying out garbage and helping with lots of other chores. My husband would tell you that even his pain tolerance is so high now that what seemed unbearable a few months ago has now become an acceptable level of discomfort.

It's become more personal for me.

I long for him to be able to help our son work on his pitching skills.

I am suddenly desperate to go on one of our family bike rides.

I can't wait for him to be able to sweep up the toddler with both arms and spin her around in a big bear hug.

The doctor says a second surgery won't be a major set back if it comes to that. He will resume therapy the same day and restart the race to regain movement before the scar tissue forms. But for me, it seems like we would be starting over. And that is not something my mind is ready to accept.

So, that's the news. Thanks again for reading these updates. We truly appreciate everyone who has asked us how it's going. Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers!

aug2011emily

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The rest of the story

I can't even tell you how many times I have sat down at my computer to write a blog post to follow that last one. I didn't mean to leave you hanging for so long. And now my list of draft posts is getting way too long.

Often it is somewhat therapeutic to unpack my thoughts here on my blog. This time, it seems I'm carrying around some pretty heavy boxes that are jammed to the point I don't even know where to begin. I start writing and realize it will take me 10 posts to finish.

And that is just too much information. Let's face it. No one wants to read my epic history of home schooling successes and failures.

I've also realized that even though I like change, I don't like transitions. Starting something new is no problem. It's ending something that's hard.

So, here's the big reveal, plain and simple.

We're applying to send all three of the big kids to a private, Christian school in the area. We are still going through the process of having the kids tested and an interview, so we are "in process." We got to this point for lots of reasons. And we chose this school for lots of reasons. All of those reasons would have been revealed if I had posted the other 10 posts in my draft box. haha! :)

As most people know, during the last two years I have been working part-time, along with home schooling. This year, we decided that it was too much. I needed to give up one of those two things. So, from a financial perspective, the result would be the same whether I gave up my job to focus on home schooling or whether I quit home schooling and we sent the kids to private school. (Yes, we did consider sending some or all of the kids to public school, but again, it's just too much info.)

We had visited this school several years ago and ruled it out for a few reasons. When we went back this time, we had a very positive experience. The kids all spent a day in the classroom, and they loved it. Prior to that day, all three of them had begged me to continue to home school them. After that day, our entire family agreed that this would be a good next step for us. The kids are very excited!

Looking at the bigger picture with high school just THREE years away, we also felt this would be a good transition for the future. We know it won't be perfect. But the great thing is that we aren't looking for perfection. We've realized that we can learn a lot living with imperfect people, in imperfect situations with imperfect challenges. (Or maybe it would be perfect challenges?)

It's hard to avoid comparing yourself with other families and the decisions they make. When the kids in a family are so different and have such different needs, it's hard to even make a good decision for all the people in one family.

As parents, we all are responsible for the education of our children. For the last three years, I have taken a very hands-on approach to that responsibility by being the person who is actually educating my kids. My husband and I are still taking that responsibility very seriously, we are just doing it in a different way. We know that every option has its strengths and weaknesses. We will lose some of the strengths of home schooling, and we will gain some of the positives of being in a formal school environment. We know that, and we're at a point that we're good with it.

So there you have it! If you want to know more, feel free to ask! But I will warn you. My answer might be a long one. :)



aug2011emily

Friday, May 11, 2012

Our last day

Today was our last day of home schooling for the year. On Monday, the kids will go to their classes for final exams and class parties. But for me, this was the last day that I will sit down with them and go through math lessons and review history facts and help write research papers as part of our home school curriculum.

If all goes as planned, it will be the last day of home schooling for at least a year. It might be the last day of home schooling for several years. I hate to actually utter this out loud, but it could quite possibly be our last day of home schooling. Forever.

We spent the afternoon hanging out with friends at an end-of-year party and then spent the evening at a birthday party with lots of school friends. It was a great way to end the year. 

Swinging on playground equipment.



Chatting with friends.


Playing baseball.


Running down a big hill.



It was the kind of day that made me want to home school forever. I would love home schooling so much if we could do this everyday. But the problem is all of that school that gets in the way.

I was a little nervous about the day and facing the inevitable question, "So, what are you doing next year?" But I was extremely thankful for the responses that I got. Sympathetic ears and understanding hearts. And I was pleasantly surprised that several people said they had been waiting for me to blog about it. So, here I am. Trying.

When we started home schooling three years ago, we did so for a few very specific reasons. Back then, home schooling was my biggest fear. Now, that I've done it, I'm not afraid of it anymore. I know I could do it again.

It also feels great to look at how different things are now and realize that all of our hard work has paid off. I don't regret one minute of the past three years.

And yet, unlike last year, when I was so unsettled and so unsure of what we should do, I feel totally at peace with our decision. It's just hard for me to blurt it out in a sentence. You know me. I like to analyze and process and give the complete explanation. Which I will. And I promise it will be coming soon.

Will you come back? Please? ;0



aug2011emily

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My Once Upon a Time predictions

Once Upon a Time, there was a woman who loved the TV show "Lost". When the show ended, she was very sad and stopped watching TV.

But a few months ago, she was in desperate need of some mindless entertainment. She remembered that the writers of "Lost" were supposed to be working on a new series. That's when she found "Once Upon a Time."

Now, she is very happy again. She gets to contemplate the mysteries of the show. She gets to ponder the relationships between the characters in storybook land. And once again, she gets to make predictions on her blog about what will happen next!

**

So... here we go!

I am anxiously awaiting the season finale of the first season of OUaT, and for the record, here is what I think is going on.

First, the preview for next week shows that Henry's heart is going to stop. Sunday night's episode also showed that when Snow ate the apple, she no longer had breath. So, I'm thinking that even if he dies, he won't be completely dead. Of course, Regina is the only person who understands the curse of the apple, so she is either going to have to reveal her knowledge, or once again, lose the one thing in life that she truly loves.

I think Henry will stay in his comatose state for most of next season. I think Emma is going to have to start working things out without his help. While he is sleeping, I think the writers will take the opportunity to bring out more of the back story.

It seems fairly obvious that Emma will now become a believer in the story and the fact she is the savior. Next week's trailer showed her picking up the book and being overcome by some type of force. So, I'm thinking that once she believes she will be able to see and understand things she couldn't before.

I think she will spend next season trying to get the other storybook characters to believe, as well.

Regina said the curse is weakening. She could tell because the apples on her tree were starting to spoil. I think Regina also is gaining a conscience — another sign the curse is weakening — and she is losing her strength. She is having nightmares now about the other storybook characters.

What else does it mean that the curse is weakening? I think it means that the other characters will be able to come out of their slumber, remember their past and figure out how to defeat her.

We learned on Sunday that for some reason, Mr. Gold wants the curse to end. This is very interesting since we also learned last week that Mr. Gold was the true mastermind behind the curse. I think his change of heart has something to do with his interaction with August a few weeks ago in "The Return." Perhaps he has accepted the fact he will not find his long-lost son, Baelfire, in this world, and he wants to go back to his old life. (Or maybe he realized he's too much of a coward to find Baelfire.)

We learned a few key pieces of info the past few weeks. We now know that three people were transported to our world before the curse began: Emma, August (Pinnochio) and Baelfire. Could there have been others?

We know that it's possible to reach back into fairytale land. Regina used a portal to grab one of her poisonous apples. That land is still there! There is still a little bit of magic left. Will they find enough magic to bring Henry back to life? Or will Regina find a way to go back to fairytale land to find a way to help him?

We also found out that if Emma is killed, the curse will be broken. Regina can't let that happen. Or perhaps she will now want that to happen to save Henry?

One of the big questions still out there is: "Who is Henry's father?" I'm guessing it is Baelfire. This is mostly just a guess, but Emma did say that Henry's father was a "fire man." I think Baelfire is going to play a big role in all of this.

I'm hoping the writers will start giving us more details about Henry's birth and adoption by Regina. Mr. Gold organized the adoption, so he must have had his eye on Emma and made sure Regina ended up with Emma's son.

I'm wondering if the showdown between Emma and Regina will be an actual physical battle or if it will be more of a battle against the curse. I'm thinking that as Emma gets more people to believe in the fairy tales, the curse will grow weaker.

So... I have three questions for you:
1. Do you watch Once Upon a Time?
2. What do you think about my ideas?
3. Do you have any theories about what will happen next week? The curse? Baelfire? Will Henry stay dead? Or anything else?

I would love to hear your theories!!

aug2011emily

Monday, May 7, 2012

An undeserved gift

This is a post I wrote for our church's web site. I'm reposting it here as a reminder to me... :)

**


A few weeks ago, our children heard about the upcoming outreach event at The Sanctuary to help families clean up their yards. My son eagerly asked me, “Mom, can we pleeeaaaase go to “Tend the Garden”?
Our family has had the privilege of being able to take part in some of the other events organized by our Justice and Compassion Ministry, and my kids know what a blessing — and what fun! — it can be to join with other families on a service project.
“Well, we can definitely do Tend the Garden,” I replied. “We are part of Tend the Garden! They’re coming to our house!”
Our four kids were bursting with excitement. “People from the church are coming to OUR house?!” they exclaimed. “They are going to clean up OUR YARD?!”
Our kids started counting down the days to May 5. They couldn’t wait.


I will admit that I wasn’t quite as ecstatic. “Anxious” might describe my emotions a little better.
In fact, when Cheryl Lynn Cain, director of Justice and Compassion, had e-mailed me a few weeks earlier asking if we would be one of the two project sites for Tend the Garden, my immediate internal reaction was, “NOOOOOOO!”
“We don’t deserve it,” I thought. “There must be someone else who needs help more than we do.”
But in her e-mail, she said that God had put our family on her heart. Hmmm. Maybe she was right.
Cheryl Lynn has never been in our yard, so she wouldn’t have known that our garden could use some tending. When we purchased our house, we inherited a lot of landscaping. We have trees that need pruning, bushes that need trimming and weeds that need pulling. We have a large barren spot in the backyard from where we moved our old sandbox. And we have tons and tons of landscaping that could use some mulch.
Our yard is a big project in an ordinary spring. This year, my husband and I had already decided that there was no way we were even going to be able to think about it.
He tore up his shoulder around Thanksgiving, and finally had surgery on it in early March. He could barely use his right arm for the three months leading up to the surgery. Post surgery recovery has been even harder. He still has several months of recovery time before he will be able to start building muscle in that arm and use it at even a minimal level.
Between helping him, taking care of our four kids, and staying on top of my job as communications director, I didn’t really have time to think about the lack of mulch and overgrowth of weeds.
After talking to my husband about the Tend the Garden project, we both knew we had to say “yes.” We know what a huge blessing it can be to serve others. Even though we were uncomfortable, we didn’t want to steal that blessing from those who wanted to serve.
And really, at the heart of our objection was pride. We realized that we like being self sufficient. We like being able to take care of things ourselves. We aren’t used to having to ask for help. We prefer to be the ones serving someone else. It was uncomfortable to be on the other side of things.
We realized that it’s hard to open up your life to people to invite them in, let them see your mess, and raise your hands and say, “I can’t do this on my own.” As the day got closer, I learned a lot about humility. I gained so much respect for the people in my life who have allowed me to come in and help them. I learned so much about serving others by being the one served.
At around 9 a.m. on Saturday, about 10 adults and 10 kids started swarming around our yard. They brought shovels, wheelbarrows, trimmers and work gloves. Joel, our project manager, kept everyone moving and working together. They trimmed bushes. They pulled weeds. They carried mulch. They filled lawn bags. They put down sod. One sweet friend even repaired the screen on our back door.









By the time they were done, we had filled 21 lawn bags with debris. The transformation was amazing. We heard the team that worked on the second house did an incredible job, as well.



Words can’t even begin to convey our thankfulness to the families who came to help tend our garden. We were so blessed. We felt so loved. And we are so humbled by their sacrifice.

After everyone had left, I was spraying down our muddy patio with tears running down my cheeks, so overwhelmed by what had happened. “I can never repay these people,” I thought.
Then, that still, small voice spoke to my heart.
“That’s the point,” I realized. “That’s what grace is. It’s an undeserved gift. You can’t repay it.”
I’ve talked so many times about how our church shows the love of Jesus to people through our actions. That’s what these people were doing for us.
Just like my yard, my heart can be a filthy mess. I’m not capable of cleaning it up on my own. But God showed us grace and mercy. He gave us the free gift of his son to die for us to clean up the dirt and mud in our lives. We don’t deserve it. We can’t repay it. We just have to accept it.
Thank you, Sanctuary, for showing that kind of love to us! We love you!
~ Emily Neal
Communications Director
(To view photos of the two Tend the Garden projects, go to our Facebook page and click “photos.”http://facebook.com/cometothesanctuary)



aug2011emily

Thursday, May 3, 2012

She's all grown up

Eighteen years ago, before I had my own kids, before I was married, before I had even started dating my husband, before I had my first full-time job, I "adopted" a little girl.

Her name is Kebabush, and she lives in Ethiopia.

I had the incredible privilege about a year before that to spend 12 weeks in Africa. To this day, those three months would rank among the most life-changing times of my life. I came home and went through the very difficult process of reverse culture shock.

Many of you have been there. It's a feeling of disgust of all we take for granted in this country. Walking through the grocery store feels far too indulgent. Taking a hot shower is no longer a given. All of the clothing, the toys, the shoes, the food, the restaurants. It all seems like too much.

And I was desperate to find a way to do something to continue helping the people I left behind. The women whose eyes were filled with delight when I gave them my half-used bar of soap. The moms who were overjoyed with my hand-me-down shoes. The three families who couldn't stop thanking me because I took them to the market with $100 and bought them enough food to feed their families for several months.

Once home, I felt guilty standing in a hot shower with water pouring over my head, knowing they might never in their lives experience such a simple luxury.

I was so thankful I had been able to meet people in Zambia who worked for World Vision. I saw the work they were doing to help communities that didn't have running water or electricity. I saw how they helped kids get an education, even in a building without a roof. While their mission included telling families about the hope of Jesus Christ, they also provided practical assistance to help improve people's lives and make it easier to get through the day.

When I got home, I looked up World Vision and asked to be assigned a child in Africa. It wasn't long until I received a card with her picture, telling me about her favorite games and subjects. She was too young for school then, but she helped with carrying water and cleaning up the house.

We wrote letters. I sent gifts. And every year when I received her picture, I was amazed to see how much she had grown. I dreamed of seeing her in real life some day. What would that be like to walk into her village?

A lot has changed in my life in the last 18 years. I became a newspaper reporter. I moved from one city to another. I got married. I became a stay-at-home mom. I've given birth to four children of my own.

Through all of that — all of the changes, all of the envelopes that have come in the mail — Kebabush has been a constant. I can't think of any other organization or company I have written a check to more times than World Vision. I've paid off cars. I've moved out of apartments. I've paid off student loans. I've switched churches. We bought a house.

And for 18 years, I've been sending my monthly check to World Vision.

This week, I got my last bit of info about Kebabush. I knew this day had to be coming.

She grew up. She graduated from the World Vision program. I don't really know what this means. I hope she's healthy and able to support herself somehow. I hope that maybe in some small way her life was better because of my help.

I feel sad knowing I might not ever hear from Kebabush again. I've said her name so many times. I've "known" this girl longer than my own children. I might not ever know what happened to her. I probably won't ever hear if she gets married or has kids. I won't ever know if she moves out of her community in Ethiopia.

World Vision assigned a new child to me. It feels so abrupt. I'm not quite ready to accept the fact that my "adopted child" has a new name, a new face and a new family. It's bittersweet to think that this little girl will someday grow up and graduate and be on her own, too.

It feels so small to send off that check every month for a mere $30. I've done it so many times without even really thinking about it. I hold onto my memories of meeting those World Vision workers and hope that somehow I've helped.

And I think about Kebabush. A young woman now. All grown up.

What about you? Have you ever sponsored a child in another country? What has the experience been like for you?


aug2011emily
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