Monday, June 11, 2012

An Unexpected Twist in our Road

Casually she sauntered toward me. "Mom, I think Dad is testing Robyn."

I was tending to the bed of weeds where I dream of seeing flowers. Not half an hour earlier, Kelly had returned home from picking up Robyn from her Home Alone Safely course.

"What? What do you mean?"

"Dad is on the lying on the garage floor and I think he's testing Robyn," she laughed.

At that very moment, Robyn came barreling around the corner, panic in her eyes, fear in her voice. "MOM! Come NOW! Something's wrong with Dad!" she cried.

I started walking toward the garage. She is the dramatic one, after all.

I had heard a yell just a few minutes before, but to be honest I thought maybe one of the cats had been hit by a car and I didn't want to go check. So I kept pulling weeds.

Something finally registered and I dropped everything and raced the rest of the way. I think that may have been the last time I fully inhaled Friday afternoon.

I'll spare you all the graphic details and just say that Kelly was, indeed, lying unconscious on the garage floor. I sent the girls to the house to get the phone and then followed because they were taking too long. Back at Kelly's side, I called 911 and the ambulance was dispatched.

As the dispatcher was part way through her assessment, Kelly started to stir. I pleaded with him to stay still. I didn't know how he got there. It didn't work. I tried to physically hold him down - who was I kidding? He pushed his way up and started stumbling into the yard. He was mumbling something, but wasn't making any sense.

Alyssa had taken Robyn into the house to try to calm her down and to pack bags to take with them. I yelled for them to come out - to bring a chair off the deck to the grass so I could try to get Kelly to sit down and for the other girl to pick up the phone I had dropped and talk to the dispatcher. He sat. Thankfully. And he stayed put, but he was confused.

My perception of time was completely thrown off, but we live 15 minutes from town and the ambulance missed our corner so I'm going to say it was at least 20 minutes before Kelly was coherent and could remember anything. It was just before the ambulance pulled in to the yard that he was starting to put a few things together.

While "guarding" Kelly (making sure he stayed put) and waiting for the ambulance to arrive, I had called a friend to make arrangements for the girls, so once the paramedics took over it didn't take me long to gather a couple things and head to town. They ran a couple tests and started an IV before they left the yard so I left before they did.

The first thing I heard when I walked up to the nurses' desk at the hospital was the paramedic talking to the doctor. When they finished I explained that it was my husband they had been talking about. After arriving at our house and getting the details, the paramedic immediately believed Kelly had had a seizure. Before even seeing him, the doctor agreed and told me this would mean an automatic 6-12 months of no driving for Kelly.

I confess: the first word that entered my mind was not nice.

I was filled with fear. (As if I wasn't already.) Fear for Kelly's health - and now for his job. 98% of his job is driving to the rigs. If he couldn't drive, then what?

The paramedics had checked Kelly's blood sugar as soon as they arrived. It was normal. They did an EKG as soon as they had him in the hospital - also normal. There wasn't anything else to do for him at our small hospital, so they loaded him back up in the ambulance and took him to the nearest city for more tests. They did a head CT and more blood work. The head CT was clear and if they had the results from the blood tests that quickly, I can only assume they were good too because they didn't say anything about them. Before they left Beaverlodge, Kelly's color had returned and he remembered everything leading up to the time when he passed out.

It was Friday night and he had passed all the tests they did to determine if "anything would kill him in the next three days" (comforting words, right?!). They weren't going to call in everyone to do all the other tests he needed so they discharged him to come back for the tests as an outpatient.

Within five hours of the beginning of all this, he we were driving home together, relieved and grateful that he was ok, but still with many questions and a strict "no driving for one month" restriction.

This is pretty much where we're at today.

Already we can see God's hand in all this. I very nearly went to Calgary for the weekend - he would have been home alone when this happened if I had. This didn't happen just a few minutes earlier when he was driving with both girls in the truck. He didn't fall just a fraction of an inch from where he was - if he had, he would have hit and most likely cut his head on the way down. He doesn't have a concussion. (Head on a concrete floor, anyone?) The first thing Kelly's boss said when I called him from the hospital was, "Don't worry. We'll put him on a modified work plan." And the strength and confidence we both felt during all of this cannot be explained any other way.

We're only at the beginning of this particular journey, but we're both hopeful that it will be a short one. Kelly goes for an EEG tomorrow and an MRI sometime this week too. Then we'll follow up with our family doctor to hear the verdict. We're praying that they will agree that all this was caused by Kelly having worked all night Thursday night (he was called out at 10pm and didn't get home until 5:30 am) and the fact that he hadn't eaten anything. We're praying that there is nothing more serious at the root of all this and that we can get back to our normal routine...

... but we're not discounting the fact that right here - this place of uncertainty and discomfort - is where we are most reliant on God. It's where we learn to trust him more and where we learn to follow his lead. It's what we use to teach our children and it's what we use to boldly show you just exactly what our faith means to us.

"The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights." Habakkuk 3:19

I heard this verse both Thursday evening and Friday morning before all this happened. My study notes say, "God will give his followers strength and confidence in difficult times. They will run surefooted as deer across rough and dangerous terrain." I don't believe in coincidence so I believe that God was speaking to me through it and I'm claiming it as a message intended directly for me for the rest of this journey and I'm thanking him for it...

...may he rub off a few more rough edges because of this.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Minivan Meal Idea

First off, let me start by acknowledging that this is not a food blog. What this *is* is a place for me to share my thoughts, insights and growth with you in the hopes that you might also be encouraged.

I have two children, one of whom, despite my ceaseless attempts, is not much of a breakfast eater. I have tried various breakfast ideas with her that have worked but sometimes struggle to keep it interesting.

And recently I have found it challenging to have healthy suppers ready on the fly. My children are active and we're in an "in between" season where swim club and gymnastics overlap, which means we're out of the house at supper time several nights each week. I refuse to eat out that often. Add Provincial Achievement Tests for both girls and now I'm extra concerned about a really good breakfast, too.

If your definition of a morning person is someone who eagerly jumps out of bed at 5 am, I don't qualify. I am not the kind of mom who enjoys getting up an hour before my children so I can bake fresh muffins for breakfast. My children learned at a young age to grab a juice box, a piece of fruit and a granola bar.

But I am the kind of mom who wants to teach her children that healthy food tastes good and that it doesn't have to be difficult.

Enter light bulb moment!

Scrambled omelettes! In bulk! If Jugo Juice can do it for their wraps (which I have duplicated for suppers), why can't I? The more I think about this, the more I wish I'd thought of it sooner.

What did I do? I threw 10 eggs, a splash of milk, a diced tomato, half a finely chopped onion, some chopped spinach, a yellow bell pepper and some cheese into my frying pan, cooked it up and threw it in the fridge so my kids can heat it up by themselves (they're old enough) in the morning. They can have it with a slice of toast or in a whole wheat wrap - their choice. It works for breakfast or supper on the fly and it's incredibly versatile. Your kids won't eat spinach? Don't put it in. They love bacon? Add some! Use what works for you, even if it's just plain scrambled eggs.

I'm also known to have pre-cooked chicken breasts and a variety of fresh veggies on hand to make wraps for suppers on the fly. Add this idea to The Big Cook and I'm good to go.

What's your favorite way to beat the, "I'm hungry, can we stop at _______ (enter any fast food restaurant here)?" blues?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Walk a Straight Line

"We can make our own plans, but the LORD gives the right answer." Proverbs 16:1, NLT

The words practically jumped off the page at me. I had just reviewed the items listed on my calendar for that day and determined that I would not succumb to the temptation of feeling overwhelmed.

But... God might just override our plans anyway? Why bother making them then? Oh, right... because He wants to work with me. Because He gave me the grey matter that fills the space between my ears for a reason. He wants me to use it. He wants me to plan. But He wants me to seek His guidance both through knowledge of the Bible and from advise from trusted and respected people. He wants to work with me to determine my goals and He wants to show me exactly how to get there.

The next night as I settled in for my evening foot rub and cuddle time, my Sweet Man tuned in to MythBusters.  In Walk a Straight Line (Season 9, Episode 15) Adam and Jamie attempted to swim, walk and drive in straight lines while blindfolded. Before they were blindfolded they placed themselves at the starting point and took time to evaluate their surroundings and their target finish mark, their end goal. They were (ahem) highly unsuccessful and confirmed the myth. It is not possible for a human to travel in a straight line while blindfolded.

Kinda sounds like parts of my life.

Later in this episode Adam and Jamie mimicked the effects of walking in the forest in a snowstorm (with limited visibility) by walking with buckets over their heads. Adam (who has no outdoor survival training) made quite the circular trek. Jamie, on the other hand, had the advantage of such training and was able to use it to successfully navigate a straight line through the trees.


"in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:6, NIV

I know where my goal is, but without God I am blindfolded. I do not know the terrain. It is not possible for me to know for certain what obstacles I will encounter. But God knows. So if I take time to seek His guidance, I won't wind up travelling in circles aimlessly. God wants to be my guide. He wants to open my eyes. He wants to show me the way - and usually not much more in advance than one or two steps at a time. (Though there have been times when He has given me glimpses of the big picture.)

So what does this look like in my daily life? How do I apply these lessons so I won't have to learn them again?

It means I work like it all depends on me, but I trust like it all depends on Him. It means I still fill those (extra large) calendar blocks with my list. It means I still review that list. Every. Day. Sometimes several times a day. But it means that I refuse to open the door to panic and anxiety. It means I pray, asking God what HE wants me to do first. It means I only have tabs for email OR my blog OR Facebook open one at a time and when it's time to focus on my family or my home my laptop is closed. No more checking for email or Facebook updates every time I walk past my computer. In most situations, it means I spend my time focused on one task at a time rather than multi-tasking and running around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off. It means I must measure quality over quantity.

And I'm never sorry when I do it.

How do you successfully navigate your days without feeling overwhelmed?

This post is part of a series Timeless Journey. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Timeless Journey

Her heart raced, anxiety welled up within her like the molten lava of a volcano about to erupt. Again. This ritual seemed to be becoming increasingly familiar and she didn't like it. No, she thought, I am not going to do this. I refuse to allow myself to become overwhelmed. But how?

She was looking at the day's agenda. Tasks written on her calendar - some in ink, some in pencil. Some that had held their place for months already, and some with the ink still wet.

It will be ok, she told herself. What matters most will be crossed off by the day's end. She can be a bit stubborn that way, this woman.

Inhaling deeply and releasing slowly, she cried out to her Maker. Father God, thank you that you love me. Thank you that you see the reasons behind everything I do. Thank you, Father, for blessing my life with so many incredible gifts and purposes. Thank you for using me for your Glory. God, you see what's written on my calendar and you know as well as I do that this list is not exhaustive, that there will be other things that pop up in my day that I did not plan for, that at this very moment I do not feel like I have time for. Please, God, take my plans. Help me to complete the tasks that YOU deem important. Help me to focus on what's most important first, help me to manage my time well, help me to get out of the way so You can do what You want done through me.

But oh, the ways she could mess that up. How easy it is to step back in, take those plans back, get right smack in the middle of His way.

She desperately wants to please God. He created her to be a planner. Very much so, in fact. It's not uncommon for her to plan her days months in advance, but it seems that she's on a path where there are a few lessons to be learned along the way. Some she has learned partially and needs to improve on, others completely new. Most of them about time and how to spend it wisely, how to maximize it, how to make her plans but then give them back to Him, how to feel a sense of peace that she did what she could when her weary head is gently cradled by her pillow each night.

Have you figured it out yet? The reason I know this woman's thoughts so intimately is because they're mine. But I bet many of you can relate.

I've talked about time before. About how to relish every moment. To seemingly slow the relentless ticking, about different time management techniques I've tried, how to stay motivated to optimize timeI've shared my favorite method for saving time in the kitchen, and I've given my time back to the One who gave it to me. Do you notice a bit of a theme? Yeah, me too. So I've been spending a considerable amount of this precious resource studying it and I'd like to unwrap my findings with you. Maybe you'll glean a small tidbit of insight from something I learn. Maybe I'll be the only one learning. But this I know: A journey is always more fun when shared with friends.

Pack your bag and join me?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Joy Dare - 3 Gifts in the Kitchen

Today's Joy Dare is to find 3 Gifts in the Kitchen.

Considering how much I love my kitchen and being in it, this one's a breeze and a perfect opportunity for a photo post! I couldn't stop at three...

Over-ripe bulk bananas on sale at the grocery store. In just a couple days they'll be transformed into tasty morsels of baked delight!

The knives my dad made for me. Hand-crafted blades and handles, made with love and sharpened every time he comes to visit!

Fruit. So simple, so healthy and so beautiful. I think a colorful fruit bowl is my favorite decorative addition for my kitchen. (And did you notice that rockin' tile behind it?!)

Breaking into a fresh coconut. A first for us!
The coconut water...

The first impressions... She's a foodie in the making, always noticing the first tastes and the (in her words) ending taste. Two thumbs up from her, she'd like to try it in tea.

First impression? Not so hot. She spit her mouthful back in the cup, much to her sister's dismay.
Examining the freshly-opened meat.

Dragon fruit!

Dessert! Dragon fruit (kind of like kiwi), Star fruit (kind of like an Asian pear), and fresh coconut. A delightful adventure in texture and new flavor!

Another treasure I keep in my kitchen. Somewhat faded by time, I think of the special flower-giver and maker when I look at them.
It's small, but I can feed a lot of people because of the love that has gone into it.
P.S. That jar of pre-made pasta sauce? I'm also counting it and the pasta beside it as gifts - they allowed me time to surf the net in my quest to capture the Aurora "on film."

Can you find three gifts in your kitchen? I'd love to hear what they are!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ready? Set! Here I go! 31 Day Challenge, Day 1

My blog has felt somewhat lackluster to me lately and I don't like it. So when I stumbled across Allume's website and blog I was excited. I found it just in time to join this challenge. Coincidence? I don't believe in coincidence.

This will indeed be a challenge for me, but I'm willing and ready so here we go!

Today's Challenge: Write five nondescript sentences. Look at them again and re-write them to show not tell what was happening. Go over them again and pump them full of interesting and descriptive words to really drive your point home! 

I invite your gentle feedback. I want to hear what you have to say, but go easy. I'm a tender soul. 

1. I am thankful that spring is near.
2. I don't have much planned today.
3. I want to grow as a writer.
4. My dog is sleeping on the floor.
5. I have a dramatic child.

1. As I sip my coffee from the comfort of my recliner, the sight of a clear blue sky, melting snow, an earlier sunrise, and songbirds in the trees fills my soul with joy.

2. My wide-open schedule allows me the freedom to fully commit my time to God today.

3. While I've always expressed myself best through writing, I do not claim to write well and desire to improve.

4. From the floor by my feet I see the indicative twitching and hear the stifled barks. He's chasing deer in his dreams.

5. "Is she okay?!" inquired the concerned passer-by who had stopped on our country road, turned off his music and rolled his windows down after hearing the wails of a child whose sister hadn't agreed with her plan.

Pump Up:
1. As the aroma of freshly ground beans fills the air and steam rises from my favorite mug, I am filled with joy a little earlier each morning as I behold the beauty of a clear blue sky, melting snow and songbirds flitting in the branches against the backdrop of a beautiful sunrise.

2. A quick glance at my abnormally blank calendar page told me all I needed to know. Considering a variety of potential options, I chose to commit it all to the glory of my Creator.

3. Reflecting on my writing, I quickly realized my desire to improve on content, style and skill.

4. I see the twitching and hear the muffled barks. The curled up tail-wagging bundle of love is chasing deer in his dreams.

5. Upon hearing the blood-curdling screams and seeing the child lying prone on the trampoline, he skidded to a halt, turned off his radio and rolled down his windows. "Is she okay?!" he yelled across the farmyard. "She's just mad," the sister replied, and he drove away shaking his head.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Help! I can't find my SuperMom Cape!

Some days it seems I'm a little thick in the head, slow to learn.

I love sewing. I love a clean, uncluttered house. I love my children. And I want my children to learn to love the things I love - because if we didn't have them to share the world with them, why did we have them?

But teaching them is more difficult than doing it for them.

Yet infinitely more rewarding.

I know that if I invest some time and energy now in teaching them how to properly clean a home or to sew a straight seam or to square up a quilt they will have skills they will find useful their entire lives. But it requires being intentional and focused and patient.

Qualities that I possess to a degree, but that I am provided daily opportunities to practice. Because the doctor didn't present me with a SuperMom cape when he delivered my babies, and I was not born perfect.

But I love The One who is. And He loves me. And He is endlessly patient. He is the Teacher who understands me better than I understand myself, who gently provides me with countless opportunities and varied situations in which to practice the lesson of the day.

Who knew that while teaching my children how to sort and fold laundry and scrub a toilet, the teacher would become the student? How often in my quest to find the bottom of the laundry basket or the floor in a child's room have I really only succeeded in proving just how imperfect I am?

Sometimes I succeed with my timing - recognize my need to refocus before it's too late, catch the tiles before they all come crashing down.

Sometimes I don't.

I fall to my knees - sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively. I sneak away for a moment to regroup, to pray, to remember my priority is to love my children and the rest doesn't matter. We do forgiveness in this family. We do grace. We do humility. I apologize and ask.

And then God places me exactly where he wants me - teaching Sunday School, filling in last-minute for a friend with a sick child.

Today's lesson?

"We seek forgiveness with God's help."

But we have to ask for that help before we can receive.

Conviction and affirmation rolled up neatly together in a one-hour ball of energetic and eager ears.

Think God doesn't have a sense of humor? Think again...

We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. ~Psalm 33:20

Friday, March 2, 2012

Joy Dare - 3 Gifts Green

Today's Joy Dare was to find three gifts green. 

My first thoughts included Green? It's been snowing again. Anything that may have been peeking through has been buried again, and It's Pay Day... a job I love and Kelly's job are both great contenders...

All that is true, but I wanted to post here so I needed to find something I could take pictures of, so here goes...

A not-so-pretty but very tasty smoothie recipe. Green because of spinach. Yes, I just said spinach. It also contains pineapple, strawberries, banana, honey, coconut oil and lemon. YUM. A friend shared the recipe... a good gift indeed.

An old metal... not quite sure what the proper name for it is... bucket? Bin? Left behind by the acreage's previous owners, it sits right where they left it filled with gardening paraphernalia. Time and weather have left it bearing a slight green tinge and I love its antique look. Goal for this summer - find a way to incorporate it into a flower bed or something. Maybe use it as a planter...?? Got suggestions? I'd love to hear them!

Green eyes that love combined with a motor that revs up easily and a desire to cuddle anytime anywhere, she is always ready to soothe.

Did you find three green gifts today? What are they?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Joy Dare - February 28

Confession: I fell off the Joy Dare Wagon for a while. A friend said she missed my posts. I realized just how much I missed the mark when I lost my focus. So here I am, amazed yet again at how I am able to rise to the challenge and think of the dared gifts when my first thought was "What? Really?"

Today's Joy Dare: 3 gifts from the past - that help you trust in the future.



A legacy left and a legacy to leave.

A legacy forever changed.

My gifts:

Letters from my grandmother. She'll be 99 years young in just a few weeks and although she's slowing down, she's just as spunky as she ever was. Although her body is starting to give out, her determination is to be admired. Nearly blind and not able to get around like she once did, she lives alone and loves to share her stories. We write back and forth to each other and I have kept every letter she has sent me - and I'm willing to bet she has every letter anyone has ever sent her. What an amazing gift it would be to peruse those one day. 

These letters - my grandmother's legacy - give me hope that one day (ha! ok, some of you might say it's already happened) I'll be just as spunky, steadfast and determined as she is. Maybe it would be better to say that they give me hope that I'll still be like that at her age.

My husband. Together we share many, many dreams for the future. Front porches and rocking chairs, world travel, and changing our family's heritage....
... with this. Leading our children by example, living out our faith in the every day. Praying for increased boldness and pouring over this book like letters from a new love. The best hope for and trust in the future we could ever ask for.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Celebration Sunday

Our church did something new today.

To be honest, I'm not sure what the motivation behind it was. What I am positively certain of is that it was incredibly moving, freeing. I rarely cry in public. I did today. And I wasn't the only one. Sniffles and Kleenex were plentiful throughout the sanctuary. It would have been a good day to have a box at the end of each pew. The presence of the Holy Spirit was overwhelming.

Last Sunday an invitation was made to bring something that you do or something that symbolizes something you do that you want to dedicate to God. Something you want to give to him, something you already do that you want to offer as a form of worship. A symbol to lay at the foot of the cross.

Before the final words crossed the announcer's lips, I knew what I had to bring. 

I anticipated this all week. This morning arrived and I had my offering ready to go. I didn't know how the morning would go, but I was ready. 

Worship began as normal and then the plan was explained. We were invited to worship in a variety of ways. God the ultimate creator and artist inspired and worshiped through painting, singing, dancing, praying, giving. People wrote out offerings and burdens and nailed them to the cross, right where they belong. Two baptisms had been planned, seven took place. People who had been feeling God's gentle nudge took the plunge. Literally. And without having brought a change of clothes. It. was. amazing.
I've thought a lot about time recently. I do a lot of things, most of them intentionally for God's purposes. I am very much a planner, God wired me that way, it's no surprise to him. But if we plan every minute of every day, we leave God no room to lead. I want him to lead me. I need him to lead me. 

After the baptisms were over, we sang more praises. Extravagant, moving, tear-filled praises that at times I could only listen to because I was overcome by emotion. My favorite songs lead by incredibly gifted musicians. It was then that I finally mustered up the courage to walk to the front and not just lay my offering at the foot of the cross, but nail my offering to it.

"The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand." ~ Psalm 37:23, 24

Friday, February 17, 2012

Earnestly Seeking

Earnestly seeking God's will, that's what I've been doing.

There are a couple things I've been praying about for a few weeks now and I still don't feel as though I have clear answers. Though I had a revelation - a light bulb moment, if you will - this morning.

Perhaps you'll be able to relate...

Have you ever asked a child to go get something out of another room for you? Have you ever told them exactly where to find that item, knowing full well it's there? Perhaps said child has "looked three times" and still cannot see it, yet when you go yourself and move one small item that was in front of it, it "magically" appears. The item was there all along, right where you said it would be. But something had to be moved to be able to see it.

Or maybe (like as in my case just a few days ago), you were certain that something was in a certain place. So certain, in fact, that you dared to look in that same place (and a couple other likely choices) no less than FIVE times.

Why did I think that the next (and the next, and the next, and...) time I looked it would suddenly be there? Because I was convinced the item in question (crushed garlic in this instance) was there. I was SURE I bought it and that's where it would be. I didn't. It's not.

Now, since God promises that all we have to do is ask for wisdom (James 1:5) I'm pretty sure that my current personal situation relates more to the first scenario (not looking deep enough) than the second (not there). My pursuit today also lead me to Proverbs 2. Both scripture references imply an active and energetic search for answers. Just like the jar of pickles won't jump off the shelf for my daughter, the answers I seek will not just fall into my lap.

I also gained some perspective from a great gift - a new camera. The kind of camera that (among other features) allows the user to focus manually rather than just automatically. This means that I can blur items in the fore- and background of my pictures. I can focus on only the item I wish to focus on. A picture of an item with its surrounding in focus can be beautiful, but a picture where only the key item is in focus and everything else is blurred a bit can be breathtaking.

Perhaps I've been a bit more like that pickle-searching child than I've realized. There is something in the foreground blocking my view and other things that seem pretty are taking away my focus.

So, I'm taking time to focus more specifically and earnestly seek. I'm changing up my MO a bit - I'm moving the junk that's blocking my view. I'm switching to manual focus, not auto, so that I can focus on the item I want to see rather than the item that is nearest me. And I'm waiting expectantly for answers.

I'm waiting on the breathtaking beauty that God has in store for me to be revealed.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Three Ways I Feel the Love of God

Today's Joy Dare is to name three ways I feel the love of God.

Friends. Friends who love me just the way I am (imperfections and all!), friends who pray for me, who support me, who make me laugh.

The outdoors.  Sunrises, sunsets, trees, water, sky, insects (maybe just the pretty ones), animals - all of creation, in a nutshell.

My family. A husband who supports even when he doesn't understand, and children who are amazing and vibrant and life-filled... all of whom practice the art of forgiveness even when I don't deserve it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

"Blinkets and Love," Part Two

We burned her blanket. We thought we were doing the right thing. Now we're undecided. This business of parenting, it's heart-wrenchingly difficult.

The hard stuff came. Regret. Sadness. Tears.

We cried together, she and I.

Watching a sad movie right before bed couldn't have helped, but my heart was grieving already anyway.

And then I remembered...

As she and I cry together... Made of the softest fabric possible, a small quilt I made for her years ago. It had been sitting, rarely used, in the cupboard.

And I could take it no longer.

She sleeps. Still I weep, thanking God for his goodness and grace - even in the hard and uncertain moments of loving our children.

"Blinkets and Love" - Another Step in Learning to Let Go

It happened yesterday and I still feel sad about it.

How long does it take a mother's heart to heal?

Perhaps I was just as attached to it as she was, maybe more. Or maybe my attachment is to my baby girl more than to the red Scottie-dog printed piece of flannel she has hauled around for the last nine years.

The idea came up a week ago. To be completely honest, I don't even remember how. A trade: Blankie gets thrown in the fire in exchange for early ear piercing. (The rule in our house has always been that you can get your ears pierced when you're 10.) We didn't think she would go for it. She did. Eagerly. Excitedly. Immediately. She really wanted earrings. Completely undeterred by the thought of pain, she was ready to throw her beloved Blankie in the fire.

Suddenly - and unexpectedly - I was hesitant, apprehensive. The thought of actually throwing Blankie in the fire, of following through, filled me with panic, with fear, with anxiety. What if she couldn't sleep? Better wait until a three-day weekend to make sure she has time to adjust. What if she cried? What if...? What if....? What if...?

All week, she asked to do it right then. All week I replied, "We need to wait until Daddy gets back from his work trip." "We need to wait until the weekend." "Are you SURE you want to do this?" I think I didn't want it to happen. I was not - am not - ready to let go.

Friday night arrived, Daddy caught an earlier flight home. Not five minutes after he walked in the door she appeared with Blankie in her hands, hope and excitement filling her eyes. My heart sank. I struggled to maintain my composure when all I wanted to do was go hide in my room and cry. But I was not going to miss this.

"Go get the scissors." We cut a couple pieces to keep, to scrapbook. She cut her piece carefully and purposefully. Sister decided she wanted a piece too. My soul anguished as Sister hacked in, straight for the middle. I was sure that would be "it." She smiled the whole time. My turn - Sweet Man said my piece was too large, I had to cut it down so there could be no turning back. Grudgingly, I obliged, all the while thinking Is this really for the best? Does it REALLY matter? So what if she really does take Blankie to college?

This blanket, this ragged, patched up, ratty old piece of flannel that caused us grief and sleepless nights in its absence more than once; this inconvenience that was impossible to keep clean, this false sense of security that traveled the world with us would finally be gone. Never again would I chuckle, shrug and say, "We waited too long, she's gonna take that thing to college now!"

I used to dream of getting rid of that thing. Especially when we didn't have it and it was getting late and she refused to sleep without it. Now I was a complete softie, wondering what I ever thought the harm was. Except, did I mention she always had it in her mouth? In spite of washing it regularly, I'm convinced that's a big part of the reason she has had so many more colds than the rest of us.

How could I follow through? Just last weekend I found a "story" she wrote that had been tucked away in her drawer full of paper for who-knows-how-long?

Blinkets and Love (typed as she wrote it)

1. One day I made a cwilt of love and gave it to my children they loved it so I made them cwilts every day.
2.  When my children grow up I had to stop making them baby cwilts and had to make them big girl blankets they loved them more so I made them big girl blankets every day.
3. When my children wher (were) prents (parents) I made they children cwilts they loved them so I made them blankets every day untell they were prents. 
The End

She obviously equates blankets and love. What if this breaks her heart?

What if it breaks mine?

Daddy stoked the fire, we followed through.

And while my heart grieved the end of an era, we celebrated the beginning of the next.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Friend Who Makes You Cry

I have this friend who likes to make me cry.

You know the type. 

Or do you?

My Sweet Man is away for work this week so I've been missing adult company and in a nutshell, doing life alone, and I've had a few things on my mind this week. So this morning when I texted my friend and she picked up on my hint and invited me over (in spite of the fact that she home schools - she probably would have gladly traded my empty house for her bustling one!) you can bet it didn't take me long to round up something to do (sewing machine and a project) and head out the door.

We have one of those "you're one of the friends who can come over no matter how dirty the bathroom is or what I'm doing 'cuz I'll just do it while you're here" relationships. Actually, I'm blessed to be part of a circle of women who all have relationships like that with each other. 

I didn't get as much sewing done as I could have. Instead I joined in on the home schooling and learned that I am, in fact, smarter than a fifth grader. Though having the math answer guide in hand sure helped. I (with only a moderate degree of success) stifled my giggles as she read to her children about Bladderwort. She was so immersed in teaching that she didn't understand immediately. Then it was nearing noon so while teacher and students worked on their science experiments, I snuck upstairs to make lunch.

It turns out that a morning in a bustling unconventional school room what just what I needed. My spirits had been lifted - but maybe I needed the afternoon just a little bit more. 

We went for a long walk where we enjoyed encouraging conversation where a couple of times the words that were spoken were just as meaningful for the speaker as for the listener, and froze our noses. We continued our chat as we thawed over tea. I was doing fine until just before it was time for me to leave. That's when she made me cry. 

You see, she has this way of asking all the wrong right questions. She has this intuition and soul-piercing eyes that scream at her when something is amiss with her friends. A quality most good friends possess - they know how you're doing without even asking.

Yes, my friend "likes" to make me cry. It's not because she's vengeful, but because it's exciting to be part of someone working through something, because she cares and wants to encourage me. She wants to know the true me, my thoughts, my feelings, my dreams, my challenges. It's not that she wants me to be sad - not at all, in fact I've never seen her let anyone cry alone. It's that we love to help each other and we love to celebrate life's victories together. It's what I want for her, too. It's the way good friendships work.

It's not something every little girl dreams of, to have a friend who makes her cry, but it should be. 

It's my wish for each of you, because we were not created to do life alone.

Today's Joy Dare

A Gift Thrifted: The Hillbilly Wagon

A Gift Broken: The fence of our corral. While broken, it still feels like a gift because it holds a large key to the dream of one day owning horses and maybe a couple cows.

A Gift Fixed. December 2010 I slipped on ice while out for a run and fell, breaking my right arm. I waited weeks for surgery and then weeks more to be healed enough to remove the cast (that went 3/4 of the way up my arm). Today I celebrated full recovery by heading out for a walk... the first time I've done this outside on winter roads since I broke it. (Although I have had full mobility and strength back for quite some time now.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Three Gifts Red

Today's Joy Dare (scroll down to the end of the 02.06.12 post to see the February Challenge): 3 Gifts Red.

When I saw that last night, I admit I wondered if I could complete the task sincerely. Sure, I could say my hair. It truly is a gift - the only physical feature I have that I can honestly say I've always liked in spite of all the teasing it earned me. But that seems superficial and lame. Really - three RED gifts? Can it be done?

I set out this morning, camera in hand, determined to find three new gifts to give thanks for - new meaning something I hadn't already counted. I prayed for God to open my eyes and this is what I found:

A Canadian flag. Yes, I'm proud to be Canadian, but more than that I'm thankful to live in such a beautiful country where I have so many privileges and so few worries.

Our quad. A red Polaris. It serves us functionally - add a blade to the front for faster and easier snow removal or strap heavy items to the back to move them, and FUNctionally - add the "Hillbilly wagon" behind for family trips to the river or hook the sled on the back for fun in the snow. It's also a great vehicle for a romantic and adventurous date for two!

*Curious about how the Hillbilly Wagon got its name? Think dilapidated old converted and patched up tent trailer + Beverley Hillbillies. The wagon earned its name the day we hooked it up behind the quad and perched Grandma - with a broken foot - in it on a lawn chair to go to the river.

My sweet man's Sears Craftsman toolbox. Yep, I'm thankful for this dirty old thing and the large wooden bench beside it. Why? Because it holds many of the tools he has used to make my visions for our home come true.

I was skeptical that I could do it, find three red gifts. To be honest I feel the same way about tomorrow, but I love a good challenge. And really, any challenge that has me on the lookout for blessings is one worth taking on - whether I find the three items the challenge asks for or three of my own.

Monday, February 6, 2012

2012 Joy Dare

In light of how she's inspired me, I've decided to join in (albeit a little late - hey, I can catch up) on Ann Voskamp's 2012 Joy Dare. The mission? To list 1000 gifts in a year (3/day). I also have a goal to take more pictures and have been contemplating the 365 photo challenge (taking a picture a day) for a couple years now. Since I LOVE efficiency, what better than to combine the two?

Today's Dare
 was to find three gifts, all outside. Here are mine:

Morning visitors (a herd of deer.), not to mention another beautiful sunrise.

Plenty of wood to keep our house warm. The mercury is going to dip tonight.

Squeals of delight.
 And an extra to help me catch up:

A flock of Common Redpolls (?) that passed through  Jan. 20, 2012.

Tomorrow's Dare: 3 gifts red. Join me, won't you?

Friday, February 3, 2012

God's Chisel

This video about says it all, doesn't it?

My desire to become the person God wants me to be is a bold one. It's scary at times. It's hard to let go of those pieces of me that I am so attached to. Even posting something like this requires me to overstep the boundaries of my comfort zone - because there are few people with whom I openly discuss my faith. I worry about offending friends and family I know are not believers or whose beliefs I know differ from mine.

Which is crazy because pretty much everyone who knows me knows I am Christian.

My goal is and always has been to love everyone like Jesus loves them, like he loves me. To live my faith, not preach it, using action consistently and words only to answer questions. Just like the guy in the video, I am - and always will be - under construction. I strive for perfection in my tasks, but I am by no means under any illusion that I am perfect. 

I am guilty of caring too deeply what other people think of me. I look around more than I look up, and there's plenty of chiseling for God to do in me. But I know that I am not junk. Even though I am still a work in progress, I am an original masterpiece. I am wonderfully complex. I wonder, though, if you would ever know this if I were never bold enough to just say it:

So are you.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Can You Do Yoga With Rigor Mortis?

Rigor Mortis - Latin meaning "stiffness of death," according to Wikipedia. "One of the recognizable signs of death ... causing the limbs to become stiff and difficult to move or manipulate."

Yoga - for the purposes of this post, I am focusing solely on the physical strength and flexibility required.

Sometimes life feels like trying to do yoga with rigor mortis.

There's just one small catch. I'm not dead.

I can think of two specific life events that have been instrumental in my process of learning to accept change, but really, change is inevitable and dealing with it is a life-long process for all of us. Often one change sparks another - and it can snowball from there.

There are times when I eagerly anticipate change, when I am excited and ready to move in a new direction; there are times when I take an apathetic approach; and there are times when all I want to do is dig my heels in like a rebellious two-year-old and scream, "NO!"

Unfortunately, the latter is not conducive to living a happy, fulfilled life in which I grow. Unfortunately, I have felt that way a couple times recently.

I desperately want to grow. Because to stop growing, learning, changing, is to die. Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. And I don't want to just live, I want to live FULLY.

Therefore, no matter how stiff I feel, I must bend... because there are some changes that will happen no matter what I think - and I refuse to let them be my breaking point.

But that also does not mean that I need to sprint toward every change heading my direction with open arms and a huge grin. It's ok for me to feel disappointed or frustrated or sad... for a little while. Change can feel a lot like loss that we need to grieve and that takes time - and that's ok, and depending on the severity of the change, the amount of time needed to accept it varies.

I did some research on flexibility today. One article said this:

"The most practical way to increase flexibility is to get stronger. It sounds strange but according to Pavel Tsatsouline, author of Relax Into Stretch, 'Typically a stronger muscle does not have to contract as hard as a weaker one to exert the same amount of force and it more willingly relaxes into a stretch.'"

Wow. Funny how something so literal can be taken to a deeper level of thought and still hold true.

The article goes on to say (basically) that the more you stretch, the easier it becomes to stretch further. Obviously. But there's a catch most of us are familiar with - stop doing it for a while and you seize up again. So since we can't always control the frequency with which we are presented with change, how do we remain limber so it won't be so difficult next time?

Strengthen ourselves. To relax more willingly.

For me, that means spending time reading my Bible, hanging out with people who know me and will challenge me when I start talking crazy, and ignoring the "stinkin' thinkin'" that (let's be honest) I'm often challenged by. I can be on the lookout for changes that are sneaking up on me and start assessing them and planning my attack when I see them approaching. I can talk it out with other people who are involved or whom I trust. I can look for the positive aspects of the new, rather than focusing on the things I'll miss of the old. If it affects other people, I can tell them as soon as I know so we can discuss our plan of attack together and they too can have time to prepare.

And then I can take action... which means choosing a direction and bending in it. This may even involve moving out of this tiny little box I like to call my comfort zone.

Can you do yoga with rigor mortis? Not literally. But fortunately even the most rigid of us can bend at least a little before we break.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What to Say?

What to say when you've already said it on Facebook?

Maybe I need to stop posting on Facebook so much so I'll have something new to say here. Or maybe I just need to get on that "take more pictures" goal and post those here. Or maybe I could go a bit deeper.

After all, this is a blog about my life, the things I am thankful for, the things that I am learning, the things that challenge me...


Here goes. A recap of one of my Facebook statuses (stati?) today.

Sigh... I just enjoyed my (late) lunch outside on the deck (in a sweater), sitting in a sunbeam, breathing fresh air, listening to birds chip and coyotes yip with a purring cat on my lap after spending the morning on the phone/Internet with a variety of amazing women from all over the world. Yup, it's a good day.

Truth be told, I needed that. All of it.

Last Friday I received news that left me, well, bummed out. Disappointed. Sad. Something I had been hoping and praying for and started to believe was going to happen simply cannot happen. It took me a full day to let it go, even though the search for Plans B-Z started almost immediately. I don't like it. But I'm a big girl and I can deal with it. I've got the panties to prove it.

I had a full weekend so I didn't really have time or space to process my thoughts. I wrote a blog post about my disappointment - but it's still in my drafts and it may remain there forever. You see, I can't publish it because it isn't right yet. I desperately want to say that this, like so many other disappointments in my life, will turn out EVEN BETTER than what I wanted. I can't say that. At least not yet.

I DO believe that Plan B will be good, great even, and I have moved past melancholy, but there is just no replacement for what was supposed to be.

I found encouragement in community, refreshment in creation, motivation in action.

My soul  has been fed. I am thankful. It was a good day.

I guess that's what I needed to say.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Never Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Our realtor called Monday afternoon.

Our house is not for sale.

But two years a year and a half ago it was. We were overwhelmed with all the work involved in living on an acreage. Kelly (I'd say "we", but I'm being honest here) had pulled the well pump twice in a week, replacing it completely the first time only to discover the second time that the problem (all along) was just a broken wire. Our lawn takes more than a few hours to mow every time. Our house is 40 years old and needed a LOT of work. We had a huge garden and TWO large berry patches, not to mention several flower beds. We were tired. Of putting all our time and energy and resources into this property. We wanted a new house that didn't need any work. We wanted a bigger (think twice the size - literally) house. We figured we should be able to get a house less than three years old, on a half-acre lot (still big enough to not have a clear view of the neighbor's bathroom) with a mountain view for the same price we could sell for. A straight across trade, if you will.

We spent months in limbo, looking at houses we deemed acceptable. Bigger. Newer. "On the hill." We swayed in our opinions. A lot. Move to town? Stay on the acreage? Back and forth like the pendulum we swung. It frustrated me. A lot.

Moving back to town would mean the girls would be closer to their friends, we would be closer to the majority of our friends, I would have less driving to do, car-pooling for extra-curricular activities would be a breeze. Water issues would be the town's, not ours. As would septic problems. We would have a fraction of the yard work to do. The house would be twice the size and have at least one more bathroom (and with two teenage girls on the horizon, who wouldn't want a third bathroom?) And the house would not be sucking up our every last available penny, it would already be "perfect."

We thought we had the PERFECT buyers. Her grandparents built this house. It seemed God-ordained. We accepted an offer less than we planned because of the sentimentality of it all. The deal fell through. Our second offer to purchase fell through. We decided we would not put an offer on another house until we had something a little more concrete. And then we discovered that God had other plans for us - and they most definitely did not involve moving back to town.

Then God provided almost the exact funds we needed to do the work that REALLY needed to be done on our little old house. Windows (even a new one facing West so we can enjoy the sunset every day!), more exterior insulation and siding. Another affirmation that he was in control, providing what we really needed, and that we should stay put.

Not everyone considers trees to be "a view", but I do. Trees and water take me directly back to some of my  happiest childhood memories - hunting with my dad and family camping and picnic trips. Nothing makes me feel closer to God than creation. Call me a country hick or redneck woman, I don't care. I love the outdoors.

Did I mention that we CHOSE the location of our acreage on purpose? We wanted our children to attend the very small school they attend. (I even successfully lobbied the school's transportation division to have the busing boundaries changed to accommodate this desire.) We liked that we are only 1/2 mile from the highway. We LOVE all our trees and our creek that only runs in the spring. We even believe that God provided this place for us at just the right time - for a number of reasons that I won't bore you with.

Yet, when our realtor called to tell us that he has a couple who are interested in our acreage, we considered selling. (See paragraph five.) Given that they approached us, we would have more bargaining power. And we found a house in a rural subdivision much closer (even though we're currently only a 15 minute drive) to town. Could we get what we want for our house? How much is it worth - this home we've put so much work and money into renovating, this location we prayed for with the very characteristics that we love so dearly, this piece of land I have described as heaven on earth, this gift we were given? I bet we could get what we want...

The view out of the new, completely unnecessary window.

Our realtor called Monday afternoon.

Our house is not for sale.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Stocking Up - Saving Time in the Kitchen

The mercury dropped below -40 here last night. (Yep, it's the same in Fahrenheit and Celsius.)

Until now our winter has felt more like spring. We barely have any snow and our temperatures were quite mild. It's the kind of weather that leads me to dream of camping and gardening and pulling the patio set out of storage... not filling my freezer.

Until today.

Did I mention -40?? Brrrr. Too cold to go outside, though the sun sure is beautiful today on the little snow we have, I woke up inspired and set on filling my freezer. The girls were home (buses don't run when it hits -40) so I thought this would be a great way to spend the day. Fortunately, I keep a well-stocked pantry and cold room. Otherwise such impromptu batch cooking just wouldn't work. In fact, my Sweet Man had to go to town today so I sent him to the grocery store with a list... and then I emailed to add a couple more things... and then a phone call. (!) As luck would have it, he was still in town... all. three. times. He rocks.

What did I make? Bread - four loaves, 16 slow cooker/oven ready meals (more on this in a bit) and muffins. I have been making home made bread for a couple years now - ever since my Sweet Man and parents pooled my Christmas gift and bought me the most amazing kitchen tool. A Bosch. A mixer, food processor and blender all in one. I love it. I've been making four loaves of bread each week or so ever since. It also makes a HUGE difference when it comes time to grate 10 cups of cheese or slice 20 onions.

Multigrain Bread - Makes 4 Loaves
4 cups water (I use 3 cups tap water & 1 cup boiling water)
3/16 (1/8 + another half of that) cups yeast
1/2 cup oil
4 tsp salt
1/4 cup honey (or sugar)
5 cups multigrain (or whole wheat) flour
app. 4 cups white flour
1/8 c. ea.: flax seeds, sunflower seeds, wheat bran, wheat germ, sesame seeds, ground flax (whatever you want here, really. I add this before the white flour and then adjust the white flour depending on how many other things I add.)
Proof yeast. (Add a bit of the honey to the water and then add the yeast to make sure it is active. Takes about 5 minutes.) Mix all ingredients and let rise for about an hour. (I put mine in a metal bowl, cover it with a towel and then put it in the oven with the light on to rise.) Form into loaves and let rise (same way) for another hour. Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes or 375F for 20-25 minutes.

My sister-in-law gave me a copy of The Big Cook for Christmas a year ago and it has been well-used. This is where I got the idea and recipes for most of my slow cooker/oven-ready meals. I made four meals each of four different recipes (BBQ Beef, Hamburger Soup, Lazy Lasagna, Tomato Herb Chicken). There are many good recipes in this cook book - and, as always, a few that just were not keepers. The only new recipe to us today was the Tomato Herb Chicken - and I just happen to have a batch in the oven at the moment. 

Back to The Big Cook. The idea is that you get together with friends for a day (someone has to do all the planning and shopping beforehand) and make a PILE of meals together and then you each go home with a bunch. I've done it more than a few times with varying numbers of other women and what I can tell you is this:

1. It is easiest to do this in someone's home. (As opposed to, say, in a church kitchen.) A larger kitchen is nice (especially if you have quite a few ladies participating), but in someone's home you are more likely to be able to "raid a cupboard" should a miscalculation of ingredients occur. And it happens.

2. Choosing a menu can be tricky. Different families have different preferences and it can be challenging to find a number of recipes that everyone agrees on. There can also be other challenges to overcome - like childcare (definitely best to have small children looked after off-site. It's a busy day and there are many sharp utensils involved.) and (as in my case) someone who prefers to cook with wild meat (because of the cost effectiveness and low fat content). Compromise is the answer here. Say you're making four of each recipe. If your friend likes a recipe you don't care for, then she could take all of those and you could take all four of a different recipe you prefer.

3. While I LOVE The Big Cook, I have come to the conclusion that this concept of doing all the prep (not much is actually cooked) in bulk with a group of friends (or alone) can be applied to any of your favorite recipes. You will want to be aware of foods that do not freeze well - like large chunks of potatoes. We also don't care for previously frozen bell peppers so we leave them out of any recipe that calls for them until it's time to cook it.

4. The neat stacks of Ziploc bags don't take much room and are ideal for maximizing space in small and or trailer freezers.

5. Meat can be safely frozen, thawed and re-frozen.

6. The idea of having a couple people work on the planning together may sound appealing - but beware. You want to be sure that you go over every ingredient for every recipe. When more than one person is involved in this process ingredients may be missed. Trust me.

7. These are great to have on hand for busy days and for those times that pop up when you'd like to take a meal to someone else.

8. When defrosting these meals, it's best to put them in a large bowl or on a cookie sheet with a lip. Sometimes they spring leaks.

9. These meals can be thrown into the slow cooker frozen solid (as long as you can make them fit) and will turn out just fine, as long as they aren't rushed for time. (I.e. You will be away all day but forgot to take it out the night before.)

10. If you plan carefully and shop sales, this can be quite cost and time-effective (even if you're buying all your meat), not to mention a lot of FUN!

Today I spent 3.75 hours in the kitchen (not including clean up) making 16 meals and four loaves of bread. That's less than 15 minutes per meal. And I did it alone. (My sous-chefs were stolen away by my Sweet Man who lured them to the basement with Star Wars. Worked for me.) Not bad, eh?! I didn't calculate cost today because it was impromptu and because I've been collecting ingredients for meals I like and knew I'd make again for a long time, but cost per meal can be quite low, depending on what you make. Ground beef meals are obviously cheaper than chicken or roasts or recipes with a lot of cheese in them... cheaper yet when the ground meat you are using was the result of your husband's fall entertainment.

16 meals and 4 loaves of bread in 3.75 hours.

I also planned to make Clean Eating Apple Cinnamon Muffins and Clean Eating Chocolate Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Muffins. The Apple Cinnamon Muffins turned out very well. I did make a couple substitutions though - canola oil for safflower oil and whole wheat all purpose flour for whole wheat pastry flour (things that can't be found in our small town). We loved them. Unfortunately, when I was starting the Chocolate PB muffins, I realized I am out of Baking Soda. So much for my well-stocked pantry.

The girls enjoying a taste of my double batch of Apple Cinnamon  Muffins.

The weather forecast is calling for a low of -39C and windchills of -50C tonight. I'll bet the girls and I get another chance to finish the kind of baking they're more interested in (dessert type) tomorrow... Maybe my Sweet Man will go to the store for me again...? ;)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Gift

From here (Jan. 15, 1998)
... to here (Dec. 2011)
Dec. 2011 the blink of an eye!

You are the man who stole my heart, who calms my nerves, who's got my back. You challenge me when I need challenging and help me with everything I take on. You're the elbow grease to many of my big ideas, and the strong leader our family needs.

We've gone from young to mature (unless there are Nerf guns involved), from one end of the province to the other and a few places around the world, and I can't wait to see where else life takes us.

There is no way I could have possibly known the depth of the significance in store for me when we chose this for "our song."  Thank you. You are one of the greatest gifts I've ever been given.

It really is a fairy tale come true.

Happy Anniversary, Kelly. I love you!

(*For my American friends who may not be able to access the link, the song is Collin Raye's The Gift. You can see the lyrics here.)