Saturday, April 30, 2005

Invincible Mother Breaks Down! News at 11!

Every now and then I get to correspond by email with a gal that I went to high school (and middle school, and elementary school) with, and recently I invited her over here to Dolly Mama. She wrote today to say how much she, as a mother of 3 young children, could identify with a post I wrote a few weeks ago about only being able to clear off the refrigerator. As I was writing her back, part of my reply struck me as worthy of adding here.....

Life as a mother is something amazing. On the one hand, we are doing one of the most important jobs in the world. On the other hand, almost every step in that journey is made up of something extremely mundane. A lot of the time it seems like we just go in circles, or run (or stumble) along on a treadmill for our entire lives. It is very easy to only see the sameness, and not see the long term issues, to see what we are working for and that we are actually getting closer to our goal. I was quite inspired recently by watching the Lord of the Rings movies. I hadn't watched them before because I'm not a fan of that genre, but after hearing a few things about the story I decided to check it out. I found that I identified strongly with Frodo's journey. I had been experiencing desperation, pain, hunger, weariness, fear, doubts, and more. (obviously not as mad as poor little Frodo, just in my own way) Watching him press on for a higher goal, knowing that he was the only one who could bear the ring, reminded me that what God has given me to do is a job that only I can do. God needs me to play out my part in the bigger story of the world and eternity. It may sound corny, but it was a great reminder and encouragement to me. We may not see our place the big story, but I believe we do have a place. We need to press on like the fate of Middle Earth depends on us!

From there I accidentally found a treasure at the library: a wonderful book called Surrendering to Motherhood by Iris Krasnow, which fed me some more inspiration to help me go ahead and renew my inner commitment to throwing my heart into being fully present for my children.

So, I got nice and inspired, only to have my back blow out on me yesterday! I've been in bed both days with a painful lower back that makes regular stuff pretty hard to do. This happened to me last year, to a much more severe degree, and I used the time (more than 2 painful weeks) to reflect on my life and if there was a connection between my physical situation and my mental and emotional situation. (I'm broken down=I'm broken down/ I can't bear the weight of my life=My body can't bear the weight of my life) It was a good thinking break for me that sparked a lot of stuff, and here I am again wondering what I shall deal with this time. Invincible Mother Breaks Down! News at 11! :)

The single, clear profound thought that came to me the other day (before my back blowout) was this:

I have always found the strength to do the right thing for my children.
I am strong, and I will continue to find the strength I need to keep doing that.

So, there it is. The battle cry of the down-but-not-out mother. Hang in there, sisters!

Friday, April 15, 2005

Happy Birthday To Me

Hey--it's Dolly Mama's birthday today! Go get yourself some balloons and streamers and a piece of cake and have a blast!

As for me, we pretty much celebrated around here yesterday, since the hubby was home and he's not today. Since I had been kind of down in the doldrums, I asked the hubster if he'd mind helping (read: doing every bit of the heavy work) moving our bedroom to a different room. It's a move we've been considering for a few weeks, and I got to thinking that a change would do me good. So, sure! says he. We can do that. So, we start by taking the bed out of the guest room and picking up about a million little toys, sippy cups, pieces of paper, books, and other assorted crapola. Then we started thinking, "Hey--you know, it would be kind of nice if we rented a carpet cleaner and got all the carpets nice and fresh before we do all this switcheroo...."

Next thing you know, our "simple" room switch had turned into renting a steam cleaner to clean 5 rooms of carpet, PLUS buying paint to simply spiff up our new room!

The carpet cleaning meant that we had to pick up 4 rooms worth of similar stuff (filling about one large laundry basket per room), then vacuum on my hands and knees with a teeny weeny wet-dry van because our good vac is at the repair place an hour away, *then* finally get to the point where I could actually do the cleaning. And then I found out that any of the actually stain spots weren't going to come clean simply by running the steam cleaner over it. So I got to clean all those on my hands and knees too!

The painting project was one for the books. Let's just say that the paint I picked, "Sunshine" was, um, a little bit of a BRIGHTER yellow than we had anticipated. Think of the brightest daffodil or sunflower you have ever seen. Or, as my husband says, just think of a school bus. And, then you're right in the neighborhood of how bright this yellow paint is.

I knew I was choosing a brighter yellow than what we had originally had, but I didn't know that the new yellow would make the old yellow seem like white in comparison!

Sadly, now the room's cool, calm feeling that it had that made me want to move in there, has now been replaced with electric yellow, which most definitely cannot remain. So, if any of you are great masters of fixing painting foibles, let me know where I should go from here. I still want yellow, but I want a lighter yellow. Do I just get a light yellow and go over it? Can I mix in some white and make it work? Faux paint over what I already have and somehow turn it into one of those genius mistakes?

Other than that we had a nice birthday dinner and my favorite kind of cake, the kids sang to me multiple times (even the littlest one can now sing the birthday sing very well), I got gifted with back rubs and hugs and kisses, and promises of shopping trips to buy new clothes. Then I got to sleep in my new bright and sunny room and inhale paint fumes all night long. Now I get to go through about 5-6 laundry baskets full of junk, and try to get it all dealt with before Monday when The In-Laws Arrive........

Should be fun!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

It Was Just Another Manic Monday

Yesterday was one of those days that sometimes happen to me. It's as if every item on my To-Do List for the present and on into the future comes charging at me all at once, with exclamations of, "See! You can't even get this stuff done! You are not doing a very good job! Heck, you STINK!" I'm not exactly sure what brings it on, although I think not getting enough sleep probably has something to do with it.

So, I had myself a little boo-hoo time thinking of the house stuff I never seem to be able to get on top of.... the business stuff that sits undone..... the things the kids need that seem hard to accomplish..... the healthy eating I know I should be doing but for some reason just eludes me..... the extra weight I know I should lose...... Some days it just seems nearly impossible to stop noticing that at just about every turn I see things that seem to whisper to me, "You aren't doing a very good job................."

Some days all of it just seems too daunting to even figure out how to fix it. I thought about trying to do some wonderful super-productive schedule a la Managers of Their Homes (which I have used and appreciated in the past). I thought about going to the library to get some organize-your-life books. I wished really, really hard that I'd somehow have a giant financial windfall that would allow me to hire someone to come in full-time and do all the stuff I wish I could. And then I settled on taking all the pictures and magnets of the refrigerator, and cleaning it really well. It was something small and doable. Something I could mentally point to for the rest of the day (and today!) and say to myself, "See. At least I got that done."

I wish I could tell you that this one simple little thing revolutionized my attitude, and now I am rejuventated beyond comprehension and feeling much, much better. But, um, not really. I have at least gotten a few more things done, working with the idea that maybe if I have less clutter I might feel more peaceful. So, now I have several things to say, "OK. Not quite so bad. You did get that and that and that done....." I'll take any improvement I can muster.

Some days it feels like I would need about 2 weeks of solitude to get my act together. First it would take several days to sleep a lot extra, lay around reading and taking long baths. Then once I got rested up and got the laying around thing out of my system I could get on to things like finding the receipt for the washing machine, balancing the checkbooks, paying the bills, organizing stuff, throwing away things, and rearranging furniture. If I didn't have anybody around needing me for anything, undoing all the work I already did, or hanging on my legs, I daresay I could accomplish great things.

But, alas, I'm right here with no chance of 2 weeks (or even 2 hours, most of the time) of solitude, trying to shovel snow in the midst of a blizzard. And I'll be right here doing that same thing for the next 16 years or so.

So, you know, tune in tomorrow for more fun reflections from Dolly Mama.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Alright, already...the story you've all been waiting for.

Ok, well, maybe not, but I've got plenty of story to tell, and time to do it, so here it goes.

For those of you who have been visiting me here for awhile, you may remember about my older three children being in Junior Bible Quiz at church. This is an activity where the kids learn various Bible information and Bible verses, and then go compete against other kids at area churches once a month during the JBQ season. When we first started going to this church almost a year ago and we found out about this, my kids said they wanted to be in JBQ. Then after they had been going to the practices, been given team t-shirts, etc. they decided they didn't want to be in it any more...on the eve of their first competition. At that point I told them they had to at least go and see what it would be like to compete, and then if they didn't like it they didn't have to go to JBQ any more.

When they got home they claimed they hated it and never wanted to do JBQ again. But somewhere along the line they each changed their minds and decided to be in JBQ after all. I made it clear to each of them that if they said they were going to stay in it, that they were going to Be In It for the entire season no matter what. We had already seen some tendencies with our kids to get into stuff and then drop out of it when the going got tough, and we really wanted to get past that. We also don't want our kids just saying yes to all sorts of activities that they aren't really all that interested in being in, since it takes a lot of energy to take kids to stuff. If they Really, Really, Really want to be in something, I'm happy to get them there and help them do it. But I'm sure not going to be driving 6 kids hither, tither, and yon for the next 14 years to go to stuff they aren't really that into.

So, anyhoo, every one of them agreed they would stick with JBQ. And then the whining started again.

So for the past several months I have been determinedly taking my kids to JBQ practice against their will over and over again, not sleeping in on Saturday mornings when they had meets to go to, etc. etc. all in the name of good character development.

And then we got to the point when it was time for the State Competition. This is an event that takes place 3 hours away from our home. The group was going to stay overnight in a hotel with a pool, la ti dah, big affair for kids you know. Oh, and the group's treasury was paying for it all. We were asked if we would like to go and help out with t-shirt sales (one of the guys from our church has a shirt business and had designed the official souvenier shirt for the event), bring all of our kids, and get everything paid for. There was a nursery for our little kids too. And, the tshirt sales would only be for a shirt while before and after the meets, and in between we could go watch our kids do their quizzing.

Since this was going to cost the JBQ teasury a pretty penny, we wanted to help our kids take the event more seriously than they normally do, so we worked with them for about 6 weeks doing extra studying of their quiz questions so they could do their best. Our 9 year old daughter was the one working the hardest and she was really excited about it.

So then we had our wonderful At-Home Vacation week which featured sickness and me going away for a funeral for 2 days, then got home for one day, and then we were off to the JBQ thing. We had been told to come on to the hotel pretty much any time after lunch, that the woman coordinating things for our group was going there early to make sure all of our rooms were set for us, etc. So, great. The kids were chomping at the bit to get us out the door as soon as we could throw our stuff in some bags and go. So, off we go across the state with a car load of kids, and get to the hotel in a downpour of rain. My husband is wiped out due to still not feeling very well and he is looking forward to laying down for a nap with our little boys who had not slept during the drive.

So I run in to the hotel, wait in line to check in, and find out that, "I'm sorry ma'am. Your room will not be ready for you until our usual check-in time of 4pm." And it was 1:45pm. Great. "But you are welcome to use the pool!" super. You can imagine my husband's lack of glee when I came back to tell him the news. "Our trip coordinator failed to mention that check in time is 4pm! ha. Great. Funny. But we can swim!"

So, we had to dig out swim suits from various bags, and then run through the rain into the hotel and get the kids changed in a bathroom, and then hang out by the pool with a hundred other displaced JBQ people for over 2 hours. Which wasn't our idea of a good time. Although the kids thought it was great!

Once we got into our rooms, I was very disheartened to find that they were *smoking* rooms, so they stank. And, you know, I have my 2 year old with breathing troubles. Dandy. No proper check in time AND smoking rooms! I'm in heaven.

The room wasn't even very clean when we got in there. I found a water bottle and a huge blob of lint and some popcorn on our floor. Yes, I feel good about this room. It was particularly small, too, and didn't even have the sink in with the toilet. Out of 5 possible stars, this place gets the DollyMama ranking of one star. Only.

To make things even more fun, we had an extra little girl staying with us since her parents hadn't come along. I didn't know her before this event, except that I knew who she was. If I had known what she was like I may not have agreed to let her stay with us. She was one of the more, uh, *assertive* little girls I have ever known. Bossy is an appropriate adjective. So, I had her trying to tell me what to do, tell my kids what to do, and trying to get me to let her out to roam the hotel hallways (as if!).

The dinner outing was planned and we were given hasty, approximate directions to the restaurant, but nobody even pretended that they were going to try to drive together. So we were promptly left in the dust as all the other vehicles from our church drove off the the place. Fortunately we found our way there, got all the kids in, and got to eat. But, you know, nobody even made a pretend effort to include us or make our way the least bit easier. The other adults didn't try to make us feel welcome or save us seats or anything else. It was very weird since we were supposedly so *wanted* to come on this trip. We were feeling wanted, alright.

The church that was hosting the event was HUGE. We got in the door, our big kids were whisked away to wherever the quizzers had to go, and we were shown to 3 large boxes and given various supplies for setting up the tshirt table. it was like, up to the second floor, down several curving hallways about a half mile, and eventually you find the right room to set up in. Which we did with our little boys ages 2, 3.5, and almost 5 in tow. And the room we got to set up in? The concession room! That had lots of candy sitting out on tables to tempt our little boys! How convenient!

So, we set up the stuff while also telling our little boys "No candy! Don't touch the candy! Please sit down here and be good boys for us!" They were actually very well behaved, but it feels stressful as the parents, trying to figure out how to do the crowd control for the kids, plus sell the shirts.

We needn't have worried, though, because nobody even knew we were there selling shirts, so nobody came along to buy any.

After awhile we wondered, "What do we do now?" We had been told we only needed to have the tshirt sales "open" for 20 minutes before and after the quizzing. But, were we to just leave the shirts where they were and take the money with us? Box up the shirts? Put them someplace? We had no idea. Great communication and organization for sure!

Eventually we decided to take the money and leave the shirts, and my husband took me and my 3 little boys back to the stinky hotel room so I could put them to bed and try to forget my misery by watching several episodes of What Not To Wear.

The next day started dark and early with our little visitor and my daughter waking up quite early. The little visitor hissed at me, "Hey, we can't sleep. Turn on the TV!"
ME: No. I'm not turning on the TV. People are still asleep in here.
HER: But we can't sleep!
ME: Then just lay there and be quiet.

After awhile of hearing the girls discuss making shadow puppets she checked in with me again:
HER: When are you going to turn on the TV?
ME: Later when the little guys are awake. Stop asking.
HER: Well, can I at least turn on some lights?

It went kind of like that off and on for about 40 minutes, with me trying to sleep in the cruddy double bed with 2 little boys beside me.

Then we had breakfast to look forward to. I had been told that it would be a continental breakfast, which I know are not always the greatest, but they usually at least have several kinds of fruit which is what I like to eat for breakfast. But, alas, no continental breakfast at this fine establishment. We were having McD's for breakfast. I'm sure the kids thought it was wonderful, but I didn't. McDs isn't exactly the way my body likes to start the day. But, ok, I'm trying to be flexible!

The food was supposed to come at 8am, and my little visitor girl started telling me at about 10 before 8, "When they knock on the door, I want to open it!" And she reminded me of this approximately every minute or so. And then the food was late, so she felt she had to point this out to me over and over again.
HER:"The food was supposed to be here at 8. It's 8:06 now."
ME: Yeah, I know it.

Her: The food was supposed to be here at 8. It's 8:11 now.
ME: Yep. I guess it'll be here when it gets here.

Her: Well, the food was supposed to be here at 8. It's 8:14 now. How about if I go see if so-and-so's mom knows when it's coming.
Me: No, stay put. I can't watch you go to her room, and it won't help it get here any faster.
Her: But I wonder why it's not here yet.

blah blah blah blah blah blah..............

(and we had other food to eat with us in the room, so it's not that she was just hungry)

Eventually the food came, she got to open the door (although I was so sick of her and feeling so sorry for myself that I almost opened the door just to spite her, but forced myself to behave like the 33 year old woman that I am).

Once we got over to the church we got our little boys set up in the nursery, which was a big help. We then set up the tshirts at location B, and through the day ended up moving to locations C and D as well.

We found that despite being told that we didn't have to do the shirt sales all the time or for very long, that we were kind of locked into it. Once the meets start, you can't enter the rooms. Also, there was no way to figure out where in Fort God our kids actually *were.* I got to watch our oldest child quiz in one match, only because I happened to walk past his room and see him through the window and got in before they began. What I saw made me wonder how any kids are even willing to do this activity.

The set up is this: A Sunday School room. A table with kids lined up on one side with buzzers, and various officials on the other side of the table. Behind the kids, some coaches and scorekeepers, and maybe some parents or other onlookers. The official asks the questions, the kids buzz in and answer. And they do this in a very quiet, sterile, non-animated, non-interesting way for 20 minutes, and then they go to another room and do it all over again. For hours. The 20 minutes I was stuck in that room literally almost put me to sleep. it was So. Boring. Seriously.

At lunch break my daughter came to us in tears. Why? Well, one of the girls on her team said to her in the middle of their recent match, "I don't even know why you bother to come! You never answer any questions!" This really hurt my daughter since she has been working so hard at studying, plus this is her first year in the thing and so she is not an old pro at it like some of the kids that don't even need to hear the entire question to buzz in and answer.

The thing that really stood out to me about this situation is that the girl who was rude to my daughter is the child of the leader of JBQ at our church. Her parents are really into JBQ and she has been learning the questions and answers for a very long time. And yet, this child seems to have completely missed having a Christ-like attitude toward others. (and that was a very typical type of comment for this girl to make. She wasn't just overtired or something.) What is the point of knowing a zillion pieces of Bible information or even verses if you still go around treating others like crap? Reminded me of the Bible verse about how if we have all the bells and whistles but have not love, we've missed it.

We've actually seen quite a disappointing amount of rotten behavior from the children at this church. Interestingly, the kids whose parents are on staff, at every service, or are some other type of pillar of the church, are the meannest, most out of control, brattiest, grouchiest kids there. I don't think I've ever encountered such an unpleasant bunch of kids in any other setting. Another interesting thing that I have noticed is that with all the emphasis that the Assembly of God denomination puts on speaking in tongues as being evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit, once again I see the Super Wonderful Leaders of the church being some of the most unpleasant people to be around. Rude, gossippy, complaining, backbiting....... So, I think to myself that I do not see good results coming from this place or this teaching. Pretty sad.

Frankly, I don't care of my family gets to church 3 times a week. But I do care about how we treat each other and others. We are far from perfect, and our kids can be quite mean to each other even though they are very nice to other people. We're still working on it. And I know those other kids aren't finished yet either. But, it has just really struck me as being kind of an amazing amount of not-so-good-stuff showing up at this church.

So, anyhow, we suffered through the JBQ thing, at least our teams didn't come in last, and we vowed never to return. If our kids want to be in it next year they sure can, but we won't be going along to states. And if they don't want to be in it, we can sure understand why.

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road trip misery #2 Posted by Hello

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birthday boy Izzy Man! Posted by Hello

bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do??? Posted by Hello

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Would you, could you, in a boat?

So howdy to you all today. No time for the long story, but I have a few points of interest to bring up:

Question #1: Would you give your triplet sons the rhyming names Kevin, Tevin, and Devin? And would you go even farther by giving them rhyming *middle* names as well? (Shayne, Wayne, and Blayne) Some people in my area did just that. Wow.

Question #2: Would you get married on April Fools Day? In a red dress? My sister's friend did. The event also included these other interesting mishaps:
-The bride's car getting wrecked while she was getting her hair done, making her 1.5 hours late for the ceremony
-My sister was sent to pick up the cakes (ice cream cakes!) and they weren't even ready, nor did the staff seem to know that they had been ordered
-My sister was supposed to arrange gerber daisies on top of these cakes, and when she got to the restaurant they offered to do it for her. Not only did they put an absurd amount of flowers on the cakes, but they kindly arranged the flowers, then carefully placed the cakes back into the freezer..... 4 hours later the cakes came out for the reception and the flowers were nicely frozen and black.
-While waiting for the bride to get done with the police report and make it to the church, a black cat actually came along and sat down right where the bride and groom were to exchange their vows.
-All-in-all, a promising start, don't you think?

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Dolly Mama Returns!

Is anybody still coming around these here parts? After such a long and abrupt absence I wondered about that.

So, where have I been? Ah, well, let's see....

My kids had spring break last week. We had discussed going on a trip, but ended up deciding that at $2.15 a gallon in a vehicle that gets about 14 miles to a gallon, that we would be better off staying at home. So, we gleefully planned an At-Home Vacation which would feature going to the children's museum, a movie, eating out at restaurants, going to an indoor adventure playground, and much, much more.

And what did we get?

Sick parents. Sick kids. (Thanks for all the candy, Easter Bunny!) Then, my grandfather died the night before Easter. He was 85 years old, was a strong Christian man, and died in his sleep. So, if you've got to go, that's the way to do it, eh? He had been in basically good health although it was declining in the last several months. He'll be missed, though.

So, I was then trying to figure out how I could make a trip from Kentucky to New York for the funeral. And lucky daddy Firecrapper had taken 2 days off from work to enjoy our big at-home vacation, was now looking at being at home for 2 days with 6 kids and a bad cold.

I had the good fortune (not) of finding an affordable flight, but it was departing at 6am. And of course they want you at the airport an hour early. And, uh, I live almost an hour from the airport. Uh huh.

So, Monday night I was scrambling around trying to pack and organize and get things set up as well as I could for my husband and the kids while I was gone. Then I enjoyed 4 hours of sleep before I got to get up and get on my way through thick fog to the airport. Yeah.

I had a long, boring layover in Chicago. Unfortunately, it was one of those layovers that is too long to be happy sitting in the airport, but not really long enough to be able to leave the airport and go do anything. So, my first visit to Chicago (and my second, the following day) was spent learning that there is no smoking allowed anywhere in the airport (I don't smoke, I just heard that announcement dozens of times), there is a Children's Museum there, and I found myself thinking about Oprah and wondering what she was up to, since Oprah is almost the only thing I know about Chicago. Very pathetic, I know. (Me sitting in the airport trying to use some mental telepathy: Oprah? Are you out there? Taping a show today? Coming through the airport? Come find me and I'll tell you about my No-lice Hair Spray! Give me a makeover! Or a car. Whatever you're in the mood for.....)

One thing that I learned during my time in airplanes and airports was that there is a desperate need for native English speaking people for the jobs that require speaking over loudspeakers. Talking into loudspeakers is notoriously difficult to understand, but when the person has a thick accent that sounds like English must certainly be a new language for them, it's just not a good situation. So, if you're out of work and can speak English better than the average computer tech support person, get on over to the airport. I bet they'll have something for you.

I had a very tense few minutes in Chicago when it was time for my plane to start loading. There was one of those barely-English announcements which seemed to amount to something like, "There are not enough passengers for this plane so sit tight because we are not taking you people anywhere." I asked the person sitting across from me for clarification, since he looked like he understood what was going on. After he explained to me the gist of the thing, my heart kind of sank because I had a very small window of time to get to NY and be at the funeral. He said to me, "Geez, I have an appointment at 2 o'clock." and I blurted out "I'm trying to get to my grandfather's funeral..." and then promptly burst into tears. I'm not usually the cry-in-the-airport kind of girl, but that hearty 4 hour sleep, 3am wake up, grandpa dying, and not feeling well had me fairly well strung out by that point. The poor guy looked like the felt pretty awkward. I thought about apologizing, but then I figured that was stupid too since of course somebody would cry if they thought they might miss their chance to be at their grandfather's funeral because of some stupid cheap airline. The man was very kind and said, "Oh, bless you."

Fortunately, a few minutes later the barely-English announcement came that we could board our plane. So, I wiped my tears and looked up to see some encouraging smiles from a few people who probably wanted me to stop crying before we got on the plane and they were stuck sitting next to me, and got my act together.

On my flight into New York my ears really took a beating from the descent. I think that I don't do well when the flights cruise at 33,000 feet. The ones that only go to 22,000 don't seem to bother me. Anyhow, despite me having gum to chew and knowing to swallow and all of that, my ears got intensely painful and stayed that way for about 20 minutes. Once we landed I had one ear stopped up to near-deaf, which lasted almost until the funeral.

One of the biggest things about going to the funeral was that I saw my father for the first time in 13 years. Strange but true.

I was very glad to be at the service and calling hours. I got a different picture of my grandfather's life than I knew. My grandparents had always gone to very traditional churches with hymns and everybody wearing suits and ties and pantyhose and dresses. After my grandmother died 7 years ago, my grandfather went to live with my aunt and uncle and their 2 children in a home in the same town. My aunt and uncle were in the process of starting a new church in their area that was geared toward people who had never been to church before. So, no hymns or pantyhose or ties around there too much. More like jeans and t shirts and guitars and drums. That was the kind of stuff that my grandmother never would have gone for in her lifetime. Yet, my grandfather decided to be open minded, check into it, and then got involved and made it his church home. I don't think he started wearing jeans or anything, but he just found a way to fit in as himself. He became the greeter, standing at the door welcoming people to church, meeting new people, helping them find their way to the nursery and classes and such.

So, at the calling hours there were tons of people from their church. My grandfather had meant so much to them. He was the friendly face each week when they showed up at church. More than one couple told me things like, "We weren't sure how we would like it, but decided to come give it a try. Your grandfather was right there to meet us and help us. The next week when we decided to visit again, he remembered every member of our family by name. That's the reason we kept coming. We knew somebody cared about us." Teenagers stood and shared about the impact my grandfather had made on them by befriending them, accepting them, teaching them things, and spending time with them in various ways. It was really neat to see all the ages of people who loved him. My grandparent's best friends for 43 years were also there and that was pretty sad since they had all been through so much together amd I'm sure it had to feel like a huge loss to them.

So, the moral of the story is that you can teach an old dog new tricks, it's never too late to grow and change, and you can just be yourself and still make a difference. I'm really glad I got to be there and hear all the great things that people shared about him.

The next day I had to get up at 5:15 am and do all the fun travel and layover and ear popping and Oprah-channeling, in reverse. Finally got home in the afternoon. ugh. Nap time!

Now, if you're very, very good, sometime in the next day or two I may check in and tell you about the wretched trip we took on Friday and Saturday to the Junior Bible Quiz state tournament! It's a story filled with frustration, folly, extreme boredom, and a little girl named Marie. You'll be sure to love it.

Ta ta til then!