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Like a rainbow between storms

22 like a rainbow between storms

Last week a turbulent storm kept us up half the night.

Watching a stormy sky is a much different experience than watching the globs of primary colors on the radar screen. Both indicate the weather. One is twisting around you with gusts of wind, flashes of lightning, and gurgles of thunder. The other contrived with mathematics, equipment, and computers.

Same storm, two perspectives. Real life vs. reality.

It seems like reality has a whole new meaning. Like “reality” television. Like instant access to information, entertainment, gratification. A sense of entitlement that makes power outages refer not just to devices, but to people as well. Because technology seems to, in many ways, have become an extension of ourselves and our reality.

Like the night of the storm :

“No red boxes!” I said, my face lit up by the computer screen. Then jumped as a rumble of thunder shook the house.

A few minutes later, I went onto the back porch. The storm whipped against my face as lightning made curtains of rain shimmer like a disco ball. Thunder boomed so often that it was impossible to differentiate the thunder from its echoes. The back yard looked like a Van Gogh landscape being electrocuted. It was scary, life-affirming, and real.

Not a red box in sight.

Einstein feared the day that technology would surpass human interaction and create a generation of idiots. As grateful as I am for severe weather warnings to keep my family safe, I regularly limit screen time for my kids because no device should be a substitute for intelligence or good judgment. I don’t want them to feel at a loss when the power goes out—on the screen and in real life.

Technology is handy, no questions about it. It has saved lives, enhanced education, and improved the world in many positive ways. But like any good thing, there can be too much of it. To depend on technology to make your choices can alter real life. It can shrink the world to within the four corners of a high-definition screen. Updating your status and waiting for likes instead of talking to people. Googling far off places instead of travelling there. Choosing your outfit based on a celebrity you have never met. Uploading a photo and not until the appropriate number of “likes” pop up do you consider it a worthy one. Or checking weather.com for the temperature when you can just as easily open the back door and judge for yourself.

Kids should grow to learn that the most important person to depend on in life is themselves. To develop into a strong, independent, optimistic, and dependable person who makes the most from their circumstances. Without relying on any device (or person, or media outlet, or drug…) to do their thinking for them.

Life throws some hard lessons your way. That repeat over and over until either you learn, or you buckle under the pressure. But deciding how you feel based on some update in cyberspace shouldn’t be one of them. Go outside, face the storm, and feel it for yourself. You may be surprised what you hear when you start listening to yourself in the real world.

Like a rainbow between storms… you may realize that you are enough.

 

😉 Julie

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March 10, 2017 · 12:35 pm

The Story is in the Struggle

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I love a good fairy tale as much as the next person. But there is a formula for fairy tales that can be misleading for impressionable minds. The “happily ever after” factor.

 

Ever after what?

 

Because what makes a story magic isn’t the happy conclusion. It’s the unique conflict the protagonist endures. Although the words “happily ever after” are probably programmed in our vocabulary before we can recite the alphabet, it is all of the chaos, strife, laughter, and tears that give it meaning.

 

Though there is not a well-coiffed villainess/villain or mythical beast to contend with, life does have its share of evil forces in different forms. All we can do is to keep fighting the good fight, teach our children to never give up, and not judge one another. For everyone is battling their own adversary and we cannot know each other’s struggles.

 

Better than marrying a prince of a fairy tale, I found a warrior. He’s moral, feisty, hilarious, fiercely protective, and does the dishes sometimes. He unquestionably believes in my dreams and gives me the strength to be both a warrior and a princess.

 

More romantic than gifts on an appointed day, my husband loves me at my worst even harder than at my best, because he knows I need it more then. He surprises me with books I mentioned I wanted to read at unexpected moments and plays football with our daughters so I can have some quiet time to paint. He is as handsome as he is stubborn, helpful, resilient, and there isn’t anyone on earth I would rather write my story with.

 

Our fairy tale has been tumultuous and beautiful. It has been impossible at times, unbelievably happy at others. We have been up all night with sick babies, barely able to form a sentence much less a romantic interlude. There have been times that we have really, really not liked each other and days we have laughed nonstop. We have gripped each other’s hands while awaiting the fate of our 3-day-old baby in surgery and we have watched that daughter play the lead in her school play at age 8. We have waited until the kids were asleep to break out the new sleds when an unexpected snowfall arrived and we have argued ourselves hoarse.

 

The story is in the struggle. The life, real life, so much better than the fairy tale. And when it concludes with “Happily Ever After,” I think ours will be a pretty awesome tale.

 

😉 Julie

 

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February 15, 2017 · 1:31 pm

new horizons, new chances, new beginnings

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There are times I desperately want a do-over. I just want to turn my wooden pencil around and erase until the paper is fresh and new. But then, even that leaves a trace—an indention between the turquoise lines of the paper that never truly goes away. Even if you ball it up and toss it squarely in the trashcan on your first try.

It took many years before I realized that sometimes those mistakes can be useful, even necessary. How will you know where not to go if you haven’t been there? How do you know what you truly want until you have the opposite?

Sometimes life becomes about looking at these marks, these indentions between the lines, a different way. A new perspective can give an old mistake new strength, new direction, new possibilities.

Of course, this is much easier said than done. We live in a very visual world that seems to create more problems than it solves, if you listen to the variety of media influences. But the world has always had both good people and bad, and most of us falling in between somewhere. Life is a mixture of circumstances, influences, and choices.

Often, when we are young, we make some of the same mistakes. No matter what our caring parents/teachers/etc. tell us from their experience or history in general. No matter what positive quotes or compliments or brilliant advice we receive.

I’ve always felt so different from my peers. Even having an awesome, loving family and childhood. Even when I was in a group of kids that lovingly embraced me just as I was. Even when I met a wonderful man who loves me completely and was blessed with four daughters who think I am awesome. Even when I said “unique” instead of “different.”

That feeling makes me feel sad and alone at times. Although it has been erased many times over, the indention between those turquoise lines is clearly there.

As I started observing the world beyond my own fears, I realized that we are all different. And that is the beautiful thing about life. Embracing the differences and pursuing them instead of trying to shut them away. We are not here to fit in, we are here to navigate circumstances, influences, the life we were given, and to choose to do the most we can with these gifts to make the world a better place.

Circumstances often can’t be changed. Influences can’t be unseen or undone any more than choices we have made in the past.

But you can change how you look at them. The world is a big place, and as wonderful or horrible as you choose to see it. The sun rises each day, and with it come golden hours of opportunity. Opportunities to write over the indentions with all of the wisdom of experience, and then finally be able to turn the page.

 

😉 Julie

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January 14, 2017 · 12:53 pm

Every Day is the Best Day of the Year

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It’s New Year’s Eve 2016. Most grownups are probably planning to dress up, head out, and party.

As for me, I am in Minnie Mouse hand me down sweatpants, my husband’s sweatshirt, a messy pony tail, and glasses. After 3 hours of hard core cleaning, I am sitting here smiling as I listen to the faint sounds of my husband singing Martina McBride to the girls in the playroom (he really pulls off soprano quite convincingly!)

My party days have really changed since… well, no, changed is not quite right. I did the “popular” thing before once or twice. In college and beyond, parties where people dressed up like a movie and held a really cool glass with some bubbly/translucent liquid and just seemed to… get it. The party thing. The “COOL” thing.

Even when I studied it closely, even when I pretended… I never either a) got it b) convinced a soul that I got it.

But… maybe I get it now.

Today, I hosted 23 kiddos 12 and under in a Cupcake Wars-Style NOON Year’s Eve Countdown. After 4 hours sleep+3 hours sleep the night before. My kitchen was a MESS. Like, even worse than when I   cook in it. (And that is saying something! Doubters, verify with my husband.)

Crazy? Absolutely.

Magic? Maybe. At least for me. It was totally fulfilling to show these awesome kids how to pipe icing, give them hints about different textures/shortcuts/etc. and have them teach me several as well. To see them working fluidly together to create a cohesive cupcake with the crazy ingredients they were assigned.  Just to see the brilliance of their imagination, because it is immeasurable. 3 hours of cleaning is nothing compared to seeing THAT look on a kid’s face. Just their imagination being real for a moment. Because, how awesome is that? I remember those days, when I wanted so hard for the magic to be real, when I picked berries and mixed them with whatever ingredients were in our cupboards for a dessert treat (the tears in my parents’ eyes as they “enjoyed” it were clearly joy, right?)

So I sent home with these kids 42 confetti-filled balloons they collected from the balloon drop countdown, 36 cent boxes with cupcakes and Father Time (aka Santa, thank you 90% off Walmart pricing!) and passed out face first on my bed for 45 minutes before my cleaning spree. And since then… I haven’t been able to stop smiling.

Because I did it. At least, I think I did.

I finally fit in. Granted, I was wearing a Gryffindor Quidditch Captain sweatshirt and a pair of 5-year-old Chuck Taylor’s that had an unrecoverable chocolate pudding stain from my lunch monitor days… but I had 23 (little) people who were totally thrilled with being together, celebrating, and accepting one another for exactly who they are.

The little faces that looked at these balloons coming toward them with absolute acceptance.

So as I fix my kiddos dinner and tuck them in while the wind roars fiercely outside, and anticipate folding a week’s worth of laundry while watching “Forrest Gump” as always, I anticipate 2017 wholeheartedly with all of its quirks and uncertainties.

Happy New Year’s! May everything you ever have dreamed come true.

 

😉 Julie

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January 1, 2017 · 1:04 am

Play, Imagine, and Believe

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Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”  

Kids seem to reach this realization naturally. Often they grow out of it and only return briefly when something touches them deeply enough to believe and imagine once more. 

If there is any time of the year to be a kid or at least a kid at heart, it’s Christmastime. Even when I was a brooding teenager, I couldn’t deny the magic of Christmas. Something about the lights, the kindness, the perpetual hope of the season, special movies that never go out of style, and, of course, the real reason for the season. 

This time of year it seems like everyone is willing to play, imagine, and participate in all of the good feelings that make Christmas—and childhood— so magical. From commercials to news stories of kindness to the many people that donate their time to ring bells in the cold, gather coats and food for the less fortunate… the selfless feelings that travel in perpetual waves and embrace the true spirit of human goodness. 

And it is not knowledge that brings the conclusion of caring and kindness, but imagination. All there is ever is “to know and understand.” 

“This girl said that Santa Claus isn’t real. She’s in third grade so she knows,” one of my daughters confided in me the other day. 

“People are allowed to believe anything they want to,” I told her. “That’s what makes the world a colorful place.” 

She thought about it for a while. I could see the gears turning as her eyes glimmered with the warring conclusions in her mind. 

I was happy to hear her participating in the subsequent impromptu musical in the playroom with her sisters, “Santa Claus, the Ninja, and the Fairy Princess Who Saved Christmas.” (Or something along those lines!) 

Knowledge is a powerful thing. But so is imagination. As silly and loud as it can get, hearing my kids play is an indication of the wonderful, creative, compassionate, brave young women they will become. 

Wishing everyone a merry, playful, memorable, magical Christmas!

 

😉 Julie

 

 

 

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December 22, 2016 · 4:28 pm

Shine Brightly. Live Thankfully.

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What is it about Thanksgiving that makes it so special? Turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie, football, family, togetherness, peace… what’s not to like? My favorite part is the moment before the meal when we say grace. When our plates are before us, everyone anticipating the carefully prepared food, the happy faces of those that we hold dear all looking at one another. Just… that moment. No longer than a breath, but so very precious. 

That moment is like Thanksgiving itself. The day. The special time that we take out of our busy schedules to just be together. That’s the true gift of the day. The impending holiday season will be coming like a freight train before we scrape the last of the gravy from our plates, but at this moment there is peace and togetherness and just… thanks. 

In church last week the pastor threw out a phrase I hadn’t heard before. “Thanks-living.”

I liked it. Maybe every day can’t be a holiday, but there is something to be thankful for every day.

When I was little Thanksgiving was celebrated at my grandparents’ house, which was across an alfalfa field from ours. We wore our church clothes and listened to Grandpa belt out, “AAH, COME LORD JES-US! AND BE OUR GUEST! AND LET THIS FOOD TO US BE BLE-SSED!” with three silly versions of “AMEN!” to close it. The tablecloth was on the round table and the food would be plentiful. We would use our best manners and Grandma would smile shyly when we complimented her cooking. Then we would run back home through the fresh, cold air and play until chore time.

Year after year, it was the same. Until, well, it wasn’t. I am so thankful that we had those days with my grandparents and those special moments. I realized that every moment will one day become a memory, so why not appreciate it now?

Just a moment, no longer than a breath, but so very precious.

Thanks-living. To live thankfully, to appreciate each moment as it happens, not just on any appointed day but always.

 

😉 Julie

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November 23, 2016 · 2:33 pm

Don’t Ever Lose Hope

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Election Day is here. In a few short hours I will pack up my girls and head out to vote.

I don’t think I have voted without one kiddo in tow in ten years. Up until this year, the big attraction was the stickers. They wore them as proudly as one from the bank, Target, etc. Like cool little badges. Sometimes they would put them on their favorite stuffed animal or doll when we got home.

This year… is different. There really was no way to fully shield them from the chaos/confusion that this election has been. From the candidates to the media to the general hysteria surrounding it all, it is difficult to explain. There are more questions than answers.

I don’t have the answers for them. Or for me. Or for my country. There really are no words of comfort or clarity. It is so easy to lose hope in times like these where there seems to be so much at stake riding on which box you mark on a piece of paper.

The answers most likely won’t be clear for years to come. They’ll be listed in history books, only partly accurate, with all of the clever analysis of hindsight. But perhaps at that time, those of us who lived it, will be able to finally understand.

Today we cast our vote, mix them all together, and count them. All of us making a very difficult decision with the very best interests of our family and country in mind. As a reward, we’ll get our “I Voted” sticker.

I wonder what the girls will think about their stickers this year? My oldest two in particular. They may be proud of it, or wonder about the results, or maybe they won’t care much at all. When they are grown, will they look on this day as a new beginning or an apocalyptic end as the media portrays it?

We can only hope it’s not as bad as all of that.

Hopefully the winning candidate will be neither as horrid nor devastating as they are portrayed, and this will become another chapter in our country’s history, with both the troubles and successes that come with life.

After we get our stickers, my girls and I will talk about what may happen briefly. We will probably bake something, snuggle together and watch a movie, ready ourselves for school tomorrow. We will pray. We will trust in God. We will hope our vote and the many votes cast today will come together with positive results, whatever that may mean.

We will hope.

 

😉 Julie

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November 8, 2016 · 1:16 pm