Monday, March 27, 2006

For all you women out there living with CHAOS: A photo essay

Warning: this post is LONG. And if you have dialup, I am sorry, b/c it will probably take forever for you to load it!

This is your formal invitation. You are hereby invited to be an uninvited guest in my home. What you are about to see is real. The characters are not actors. This is the real me, and this is my real house - the house you would see if you dropped by... uninvited.

My house is a mess. But, one thing that I have learned about myself in the past few years, is that I care about relationships more than I care what people think of my housekeeping skills. I don't LIKE it that my house is a mess. But if you came by unannounced, I would certainly invite you in... and then clear a space for you on the couch.

I have slowly learned to let go of the insecurities I have about my poor housekeeping skills, and the worry that I let myself feel over what people might think of me. This is not to say that my mentality is "I am a slob... deal with it." On the contrary, I am taking steps to change that. Baby steps. But steps.

Sometime in January, I was taking a serious look at the routines presented by the Fly Lady over on her website. While I do not adhere to every part of her program, I have learned a few basic concepts that I becoming very comfortable with. I will discuss some of those throughout this post. But I started doing some of the things she suggests, and I was enjoying a cleaner house and, more importantly, a more peaceful home. We actually invited people over to our house... SPONTANEOUSLY! It was so nice. (The CHAOS that I refer to in the title is what the Fly Lady calls "Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome.")

But, I hit a little bump in the road. Part of it has to do with the depression that I am experiencing (though less and less as time goes on.) But the bigger part of it has to do with some spiritual housecleaning I have been doing also. I will get into more details about those two things later. But the point is, I let things go around the house and we returned to CHAOS.

My goal in writing this post is to encourage three different types of people:
1. those who stink at housekeeping and are too embarrassed to invite anyone over
2. those struggling with depression, and
3. those who want more of Christ but are dissatisfied with what life currently has to offer.

All of those things have come into play for me. I don't mind sharing them with people because I know someone who reads this will be able to relate. And hopefully they will also be encouraged - because I believe there is a way out of all three of those things.

So I will begin.

Chapter 1: The problem

I had been conscious of what was going on for a while, realizing how much my computer has become an idol in my life. I already knew that I was using the computer to try to fill my longing for relationships (see previous post) and that it was NOT satisfying me. I knew I needed to make God my priority rather than my computer. Yet, I kept turning to my computer. I was letting it steal time away from me. In the process, it was stealing me away from my family and my responsibilites. So, not much was getting done around the house, and when it did, I was crabby about it.

Being a stay at home mom is hard in different ways. Being needed all the time is draining. Constantly having to fend for four people (with no one around to fend for you) is draining. Every moment seems to bring a new decision. Should I give them a snack now or wait until after nap? Should I go do errands in the morning and risk them falling asleep in the car and messing up their nap? Or should I do it after nap and not have enough time to make dinner? What is the best way to deal with them coloring on the wall? or clogging the toilet?

Maybe I think too much. But there is something to be said for having to constantly deal with stuff that comes up for which there is no prescribed plan of action. The mental energy that it requires exhausts me. And when you have depression dancing around in the background, it brings anxiety and loneliness along with it. Hang out with exhaustion, anxiety, and loneliness long enough, and things get pretty desperate.

In my case, I convinced myself that the solution to this desperate situation was to make more time for ME! And, while it IS true that we need time for ourselves (and my husband and I have worked out ways for me to have "me time,") it is not true that the entire day needs to be about me. But, without realizing it, that is what I'd come to expect.... everybody leave me alone and let me be... (write a post)... (check e-mail) did anyone comment?... (read some blogs)... (escape reality)

But this past week of the Breaking Free study (by Beth Moore) encouraged me and reminded me of something that I already knew and have experienced in the past: Christ satisfies me. Regardless of the situation I am in, there is satisfaction that comes from inviting him into my day. My laundry-washing, kid-disciplining, snack-fetching day.

And what I was doing was not working. Relying on an object for satisfaction never does.

So, on Wednesday, I left the computer off. And every time I got the urge to go check e-mail, I just read some Scripture (I love Isaiah 55,) prayed, or worked on my Bible study lesson. I just let God fill me up.

And instead of "computing," I played with the kids. I sat with them during lunch. I held Bethany whenever she wanted to be held. There was time to get some housework done. I wasn't as impatient with the kids as I might otherwise have been. Amazing what one little change can do.

And I think this was the little push that I needed. God blessed in so many ways as if he was saying to me personally, "Why spend money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your sould will delight in the richest of fare." (Isaiah 55:2)

God was fulfilling my need for relationship. And not having to search for it elsewhere certainly freed me up to be who I need to be for my family.

And now, my uninvited guests, welcome to my home:

Chapter 2: Refocusing on God

THIS, is what I saw on Friday morning. No, the sink isn't just full. It is OVERFLOWING!

In my FLYdays, I was doing well at keeping the sink empty. But my FLYing lapse caused me to crash land - right back into my old habits. Dishes. Not my favorite.

But, seeing this gave me an idea. I had just posted about how I wanted my blog to be one that glorifies God. So, I had the idea to let you come with me as I tackled some of my chaos. I figured that letting this secret out would free me from the demon that tells me I have to make myself "look good" on my blog. And, having read a few other blogs, I know that I am not the only woman who suffers with CHAOS. So I hoped that letting my guard down would encourage someone else to do the same. I think both of these goals would fit the criteria of glorifying God.

It took a while to get this job done. But I wasn't rushing. I had to start by unloading the dishwasher. This is my least favorite part of doing dishes. And it's how the sink got this way... because I just didn't want to unload that thing again! But I got the next load going, as shown in this next picture, then walked away until it was done.

I watched a show with the kids. And I dusted the tops of the door frames! HAH! That is SO, not something I would do. But, one thing I learned from the Fly Lady is to do one small piece of detail cleaning each day. The dust was "spilling" over the frames, so I figured this was a good one to do. Easy. And before I knew it, my dishes were ready to unload.

So I unloaded the dishwasher and got it running again. All but a few dishes were left, so I decided I needed to return to the clean sink of my FLY days. Fly Lady insists on a shiney sink. I am satisfied with CLEAN. But clean meant that I had to get rid of the slime that you see pictured here. This, fair reader, is my A-number-one MOST HATED and DESPISED task. I HATE cleaning out the drain "thingies." And if the food has been sitting there a few days (as was the case here) and become slimey, I find this absolutely LOATHESOME.

I am not complaining. I am simply stating a fact. Because my honest-to-goodness thought at the time was, I will do anything for my sink to be clean again. All the while I am hoping that my readers will be looking at the picture of my sink and thinking I can't even believe she is letting us see this... and hopefully realizing that there is no shame in letting people see our weaknesses. There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

Laughing to myself, I start scouring the sink and I tell God I can't believe he found a way to make this fun for me. Already I am seeing how much he does care about the smallest details - like my nasty sink. And, enjoying the fellowship he offered during this endeavor, I start looking for another task that we could tackle together.

And it comes to me almost immediately. It was the one thing that I NEVER want anyone to see. EVER. This is the spot I ALWAYS think to cover when someone comes over. But my only thought is Oh, Lord... that's PERFECT. I finish up my first task, snap this picture...

And I run to the bathroom, throw open the shower curtain and snap a picture of this. At that moment I remember what the Fly Lady says about how we should feel good when we are in our homes. People, this tub does not make me feel good. I cringe every time I see it. So, I chuckle to myself because I realize that, while God is busy picking tasks that will encourage you, he is also making sure that completing them will make me feel good too. I love it!

Having snapped my picture, I turn around and I see my SPARKLING CLEAN sink, mirror, and toilet. Clean, thanks to a Fly Lady routine that I'd already been doing. So, I snap a picture of it too, lest you think I am only here to make myself look bad. There ARE a few things I am keeping up with. Why not celebrate the success? (The toilet is not pictured here, but you'll have to take my word that it is clean.)

I got out the Tilex, and sprayed down the tub. The first application did little to get the mildew off of the caulking. So I re-applied the Tilex and let it sit for a long time. In that time, I hung out with the kids, did a little laundry, put Bethany down for a nap.

When I return to the bathroom, I start scrubbing the caulking and chipping away at the soap scum that had caked up under the soap dish. It occurred to me that maybe I could actually salvage all those soap chips and reconstitute it into a brand new bar of soap. I decided I'd just stick with the cleaning for now, because MAN was it ever difficult.

And I suppose that's one reason why I never do it. Also, I don't like using harsh chemicals like Tilex... But I especially dislike the Tilex when it doesn't work... because I was having to use some serious elbow grease. I decided to get an X-acto knife so I could remove some of the uneven portions of caulking that were making it difficult to clean. But it didn't help much. So I tried my old standby, Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda. I was pretty sure it wasn't going to do the trick, but I tried anyway... and it just made more of a mess for me to clean. So, I tried the toothbrush with bleach approach. (Bleach, another chemical I'd rather not be using.) But it just ended up that I needed to go back to my scouring sponge and scrub HARDER. The whole thing probably took about a half hour. I will admit to ignoring some "screaming" coming from the living room. I really wanted to get this one done. Eventually, I did. TA DAAAA!

Chapter 3: The REAL reason why I never scrub the bathtub

When I walked out of the bathroom, I was reminded of another reason I never clean the tub... too much time away from the young'uns.

Here is what I found on the kitchen floor. It wasn't just any laundry. It was the laundry that I had in two OVERFLOWING baskets, all of which had already been folded. But don't panic. Because this is exactly what I thought: You know what? This is not a big deal. Are you with me here, people? God had me so calm that I simply told the perpetrator to pick up the clothes and put them back in the baskets. I even took it as an opportunity to put some of that laundry away. To commemorate the fact that I was able to remain calm, I thought I would take a picture of the perp as the reloading took place.

But then I walked into the living room to find these scattered (and some broken) on the floor:

And, upon returning from the living room, I found this on the kitchen table:

Yes, that's cheese. (And yes, I wrapped it up and put it back in the refrigerator.) What you can't see in the picture is the evidence of it being rubbed all over the table.

All of this happened while I was cleaning the tub.

At this point I am about to revert to my old way of thinking: One step forward, three steps back, right? But as I write this, I am wondering if maybe God was just trying to show me that there is joy to be found with him through every little thing. It isn't about getting ahead. (That is never going to happen anyway, right?) Maybe it's just about taking care of the things I need to and feeling good about not neglecting them. With the unexpected bonus of developing my relationship with God a little more.

Who ever would have thought THAT would happen from housecleaning?

Chapter 4: I'm kind of getting into this

I enjoyed getting my first two tasks done, and wanted to do some more. Mind you, I was not frantically running around the house trying to figure out what else I coiuld do. I just worked when I could and enjoyed the kids the rest of the time. It was a very peaceful day.

I washed the window dressings from two different windows that were covered in dust and cobwebs. (Sorry, no picture of that.) Back in January when I started FLYing, Bethany's high chair quickly became a part of my daily routine. But when your sink fills up like mine did, that makes it difficult to clean up the high chair's tray. So, it was nasty (I took a picture, but I am going to spare you...) It had old food dried and caked on it. Now that my sink was clear, I thought I would quickly clean Bethany's tray and sweep out the seat... both of which had been neglected far too long. Once again, Bethany can enjoy a clean place to sit and eat... something her big brother and sister rarely got to experience!

Chapter 5: The next few jobs

This is one of my "hot spots." A hot spot is the Fly Lady's term for any flat surface where stuff just tends to migrate. The ironing board is right next to the laundry area. Whenever I come across something the kids have outgrown, I fold it up and put it in a pile on the closest flat surface... which happens to be the ironing board. (Paul irons his clothes every morning... it has become a permanent fixture right by that window.)

Here is a picture of another one of my hotspots. It is the counter area right near the kitchen door. It seems like something gets thrown there every time someone walks into the kitchen. But as part of the evening routines the Fly Lady has helped me develop, I spend two minutes cleaning hot spots every night. Two minutes is more than enough time to get this hotspot cleared. And that is exactly how it looked on Friday, because I'd worked on it the night before. (Now that little organizer might be considered a hot spot all its own. This is one area that I USED to clean when company was coming over. Not any more. The Fly Lady is BIG on getting over perfectionism. And the truth is, I don't care that that thing is a mess. It doesn't bother me. So I leave it.) And here is my clean ironing board too.

This was everything I got done by the time 4 o'clock rolled around. Not much. But not nothing either. I had to get ready for a "ladies night out" at church. I made a salad to bring, which is SO MUCH EASIER when the counters are cleared and the dirty dishes can go straight into the dishwasher!

I came home from church pretty pumped about my day with the Lord and about the things I'd heard that night that confirmed a lot of what I have been processing. Somewhere along the way, I am starting to wonder if there is anything to the old adage cleanliness in next to godliness.

So, after putting Bethany down to bed, and realizing I was alone in the house... can you guess what I did? I tackled the floor in front of my closet. Take a little looksie.

I laugh when I see this. Partly because this really isn't all that bad. I had just removed a big pile of dirty laundry from that mountain a few days earlier. But what is REALLY funny is that suitcase. Think, astute reader, what that suitcase might be a remnant of. If you said "your trip to China," YOU WIN THE PRIZE. That suitcase is full of gifts that we bought for Bethany while we were in China. But I can't GIVE them to her, because they are meant to be for birthdays as she gets older. So, what do I do? I park the suitcase in front of my closet. And I leave it there.

For five months.

There are too many things in that suitcase for me to find a "place for." And since we bought this suitcase while we were IN China (to carry home all the stuff we bought,) it doesn't have a "home" in our home, if you know what I mean. Finding a home for a big old suitcase is no small task. If I try to store it in the garage, for example, I would have to reorganize the entire garage just to get it to fit. The task has just seemed too daunting. So, the suitcase just sits there. Did I mention it's been FIVE MONTHS?

Anyway, I decided to time this one, since there wasn't much chance of being interrupted. In less than fifteen minutes, I had this. I also had a pile of stuff set aside to give away. Clutter reduction is my new mantra... oh, wait, can Christians have mantras? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, good question. (Sorry, I had to do that.)

Anyway, please note the new home I have found for my suitcase. Works for me.

Chapter 6: Spilling over into Saturday

I went out on Saturday morning to purchase an item that I have been wanting for a while. I found it at Bed Bath 'n' Beyond. I also found dryer balls. Has anyone ever heard of these? I thought I'd give them a try... but I digress.

I came home and noticed the kitchen table. It often looks like this. Why? I thought. That could be cleaned in no time. But, I know what you are thinking... Hey, Lori, what's with the ironing board? I thought you just cleared that yesterday! Well, I TOLD you it was a HOT SPOT, right? But those are the clothes I have to hang, and I don't want them getting wrinkled in the laundry basket... if you MUST know. However, the fact that I need to leave those clothes on the ironing board, brings to mind another little yucky spot that hasn't been making me feel so great. The top of the dryer. This is probably a hotspot too. So, I get to work. While I am working, a little sweetie pie decides to "help" with the socks that have to be sorted. It's only appropriate she would do this while I am cleaning the dryer. You see, Bethany thinks I moved that basket of socks to the floor so that she could have easier access to it. But no, I moved it to the floor because it is *supposed* to be (can you guess where?) ON TOP OF THE DRYER! But, of course, it didn't fit there anymore!

So, thank you, Bethany, for all your help. And, by the way, you are very cute.

Anyway, the dryer didn't take long to clear. And please notice the new contraption for hanging stuff. THAT was what I'd purchased earlier in the day. By the way, I LOVE that thing! (Yes, those are barbecue tongs. I don't have any good place to put those. But you know what? If you came over and saw those on my dryer, I wouldn't really care. I can live with barbecue tongs on the dryer.)

And, of course, we cannot forget the table. I laugh, because as I write this, it looks almost exactly like the "before" picture again. (Same diaper bag is on it, another stack of newspapers... that's worth a good chuckle, I think.) BUT, it WAS clean on Saturday... and this is what it looked like.

Now you are probably thinking, Uhhh, Lori, the laundry in those baskets looks suspiciously like the laundry that was in those baskets YESTERDAY. And, are those JEANS on the ironing board?

Man, you people don't let up! I'll get to it! I guess you have figured out that putting the clothes away is my least favorite part of doing laundry... And the jeans are only there until they finish drying.

Here - take a look at this picture (Yes, it was dark outside by the time I was able to take it... but I did it, so PIPE DOWN out there!)

That's it folks. That ended my Saturday. But I know you still have questions...

Chapter 7: What's next?

Well. My focus over these next few weeks and months will be enjoying God's presence and finding satisfaction in him. Part of that will mean joyfully living up to my responsibilities even when you guys aren't "watching" me. Additionally, I cannot let my computer take precedence over my family, my sleep, or my housekeeping. And I cannot allow myself to look to it for something that only God can provide. What does that mean for blogging? I don't know. I have to determine what my limits will be with my computer. I will be discussing this with God over the next few weeks.

Perhaps in a month or two, I can try to take a few more pictures and give you an update on how things are going. Is the house reasonably clean? Did those dryer balls work? Did anyone die from eating that manhandled cheese?

Until the next time I post... and I don't know when that will be... I will leave you with a verse that has been of great encouragement and motivation to me over these last few days:

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. -Hosea 10:12

Anybody got a hoe?

Labels: , , , ,

Thank you all

Thank you all for the encouraging and uplifting responses, both public and private, to my last post. I want to assure you all that I am doing very well and in fact I think I am coming out of the depression that I spoke of. I was never, thankfully, unable to function, but there were some very low lows of anxiety, fear, restlessness, and hopelessness. God has been good in bringing healing and I am enjoying the newness that he's bringing to my life.

I have been working on a VERY long post about this and other things. I think you will really enjoy it. Hopefully it will be up tonight or tomorrow, so check back... and bring your cup of coffee when you do.

But right now I have a crying baby to tend to, so I must away!

Thanks again.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Spiffy, clever title

I haven't been blogging or reading blogs much lately. I just caught up on the three or four blogs that I *really* like to keep up with. Blogging hasn't been very satisfying lately.

I have come to realize (again) that I expect way too much from this blogging thing. I expect relationship out of it. Really. Quite silly, I know. I wish that I could talk with people in real life about some of the things that I write about here, but I haven't been good at finding people who want to "go there."

So, it kinda weirds me out a little bit when I hear that people I actually know, in real life, read this blog, but have never told me so. Kinda makes me wonder how many times I have told them a story that they have already read about here... and if they are bored with hearing it again.

But no matter, really. It's one of those quirks of blogging. People lurk and that's part of the game. It's just an odd feeling for someone who has such an intense desire to form deep relationships.

That being said, I have to admit that I have been seeking relationship with others to the detriment of my relationship with God. Finding satisfaction in Christ and enjoying his presence are two of the things we studied this week in "Breaking Free." It became very obvious to me that I spend a lot of time on this here computer trying to fill the void of dissatisfaction with life. This dissatisfaction is compounded by the depression I have been dealing with for a while, because it often leaves me without any motivation to change.

I mention depression not as an excuse, but as a point of reference. I don't think I have mentioned it here before, but most people who know me in real life know that I have been dealing with it. I don't feel any shame in it. It's the way it is.

But even now as I renew my focus on Christ, much of what I used to fill my time with before is beginning to lack any luster. I am nowhere near the point of completing this current lesson with God, but I have been enjoying a more committed pursuit of Christ lately. It really does make other things pale in comparison, even, and maybe especially, blogging.

Part of what God is beginning to show me is that I seek after my own glory far too much. I do it in a lot of ways, but often in my blog. I want to be the funniest or the most thought provoking or the most read blogger. It's a tall order, and one that is impossible to fill. And so it feeds the dissatisfaction. It is a "chasing after the wind."

So I am thinking about what I want this blog to be about and what purpose I want it to serve. The only clear thought I have settled on at this point is that I want it glorify Christ, and not me. What that will mean and how that will look, I don't know.

But I am thinking. And learning. And loving Christ a little more than I did a week ago. It is very freeing, and it's what I need.

So, if I don't write for a while, you will know why. I'm just trying to figure a few things out over here!

Labels: ,

Sunday, March 19, 2006


I don't know about you, but I have never found something so funny that I have ended up rolling on the floor laughing. Apparently, my sense of humor is under-developed, because a lot of the folks out in cyberspace do this all of the time.

And when I see ROTFL, I do anything but.

"ROTFL," of course, stands for "rolling on the floor laughing" to all of us internets. But when I see that, I cringe. It makes me think of grade school where we learned about acronyms and how you should always leave out the letters for short words like the, a, it, on. So, my humorless mind sees that and says, shouldn't that just be RFL?

I suppose I should just get with the times. I mean, over here at netlingo dot com, there is a huge list of acronyms for us to use. But please don't read too many of these. It seems that you have to have a trash mouth if you want to use them. I'll just point out a few of my favorites.

I really should start using some of these. After all, shouldn't everyone have a BHAG?

And I was fascinated to learn that CIAO is actually an acronym. I wonder if the Italians know that?

I think I will make up a few of my own. ICBF. Maybe I could write a whole paragraph with these things! WDYTOT?

But not right now. IGL.

And hey, DAKWIGLM?

(If you want any of these translated, check the comments section.)


I am...

A cynic. A pessimist. A critic.

Sometimes, and all around crab.

In two of my recent posts, I threatened to beat my readers with a book, and to shove an adoption decree down the throat of an unsuspecting clerk at the Social Security office (though, not in so many words.)

So kind. So, so, kind, I am.

Those words, though I was just joking when I said them, have been coming to mind lately. They really aren't so funny. And I bet everyone knew I was joking, but they just weren't funny.

Coarse joking... my forte... but not exactly the hallmark of a Spirit-filled believer.

And the fact that I so easily complain about the TRIALS (sufferings - injustices really) of dealing with the social security office completely negates the genuine thankfulness my heart felt on my last trip to that office.

I do like to be funny. But sometimes, I think I want to be funny more than I want to be content.




The count from this past week includes:

- one jar of cinnamon
- one cup of chocolate milk
- one cup of regular milk
- a half gallon of milk that never made it into any cup
- several cups of orange juice
- an entire bottle of dish soap
- an entire container of grated parmesan cheese
- several bowls of Kix (sans milk, thank goodness)
- about 1/4 of a bottle of glass cleaner
- a bag of pool filter sand, which is hilarious, because we don't have a pool
- mud, on Bethany's walker... and face... thank you very much
- about 2/3 of a bottle of Bath and Body hand sanitizer
- unknown amount of cotton balls... down the toilet
- water, from an overflowing toilet
- an unknown amount of toothpaste, which my son admitted to during prayer, but which he apparently cleaned up, because I never saw it.

AND my bottle of Calgon!

Here is a photo from this week's escapades. Looks appetizing, doesn't it?

Also dumped this week: the contents of two kids' piggy banks - to pay for the replacement of the items they'd wasted.

Labels: ,

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Name that Movie

I don't know what possessed me to do it, as I have not done such a thing in my entire adult life. But, sometime last year, at the end of the winter clothing season, I saw a sweater on clearance at the store. I picked it up. Odd, for me, because it is a color I never wear. (Never. EVER.) But it was cheap. And I WAS looking for something to brighten up my predominantly black wardrobe. So, I bought it.

Then, since it was the END of the winter, I brought it home and quickly forgot about it.

Until this past Christmas, when the annual deacons' Christmas dinner rolled around at church. I had happened upon the sweater a few weeks prior, and I figured that I would get it washed and ready for the party.

On the night of the party, I put the sweater on and walked into the kitchen where my husband was getting the kids ready for the sitter. I can honestly say (and I am sure he'll argue this) that I swear I didn't get as much reaction from him when I came down the aisle in my wedding dress as I did wearing this sweater.

Maybe it was the color that caught him off guard. I don't know. But his face LIT UP, and he said something to the effect that he liked how I looked.

My "style," when I choose to have one, could be described as "clean" or "sophisticated." So, in keeping with that, I wore my new strand of pearls with the sweater, and a collared shirt underneath. Still, I wasn't too sure what I thought of it.

But I wore the whole ensemble again a few weeks later at a gathering of "the girls" from college. After dinner, I went to use the restroom, and I found myself staring at this image in the mirror. It was an image of a bright sweater, with my head sticking out of it.

It just looked so silly on me. Not a soul in the world would have said I looked silly in this color. (In fact, I get several compliments every time I wear the sweater.) But I felt, well, SILLY. When I say that I have not worn this color in my entire adult life, I am not kidding. Here it is:

So, what's wrong with this color you ask? Nothing, per se. I know a lot of women wear this color. But ME in this color is, uh.... icky?

Why? Not because it doesn't look good. It's not about how the pink looks. It's about what pink "means." To me, pink stands for everything cute. And cute is not my MO. Pink is teddy bears and hearts, ruffles and bows, styled hair and painted toe nails. It is the epitome of "girly" and that just ain't me.

I recently had a conversation with some women from church. One of them is quite the fashionista. We were discussing hair and clothes... go figure. When I described my general feelings about pink, my friend said that pink can be sophisticated if it was done "right," offering the example of wearing it with pearls. (Phew, at least I got THAT part right!) Then we talked about how I can't style my hair the way I want to because it requires that I buy a straightener. When asked why I don't just buy a straightener, I laughed, and explained that it wasn't worth it since I only style my hair once a week.

Well, my other friend (Shannon) gave me a straightener this past week. So, today I figured that I would go crazy and, with those two ladies in mind, I got out my pink sweater, my pearls, and my straightener (but, sadly, no hearts adorned the outfit...) and arrived at church in all my done-hair, pink-donning, girly splendor.

I announced to my husband before we left that today was the one day of our marriage that I was going to be high-maintenance. (As if he hadn't already figured this out when it took me ALL morning to get my hair done and he had to get the kids ready for church practically by himself.)

"Why?" he asked. (So innocent, he is.)

"Because it's raining," I said, "and I don't want it to rain on my hair. So you are going to have to drop me off at the door this morning."

I'm sure he was wondering why I suddenly cared so much about my hair... the girl who loves the rain and would rather just have it get her hair wet than try to dodge it. So I explained about Shannon and the straightener, and told him that I wanted her to see how my hair came out before it got ruined. I have no doubt that, after dropping me off, he drove away with his finger to his head, making a circular motion to anyone who might have been watching.

So I hunted down the girls at church this morning to show off my look. One of them asked me the strangest question. She asked me how it made me feel.

Um.... pink. It made me feel pink. And when I looked in the mirror, I thought "that's a stinking lot of pink." And when I sat in the pew, I felt as though I was emitting cosmic rays of pink to everyone around me. So. Very. Pink.

So here is a picture of me in something more normal. Not dressed up, mind you, but something you might find me in on an average day (which is why my hair isn't done either.)

And I guarantee you I don't feel "green" when I wear this.

So there you have it. The only girl in the country who doesn't like pink.

Molly Ringwald, I am not.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

If the third time isn't a charm, then I'm going to get rude and some people aren't going to like me very much*

We are pursuing the temporary tax ID number for Bao. I don't know if this will work b/c there is a spot on the form where we have to fill out the placement agency. Technically, this is the China Center for Adoption Affairs. But I don't think that is what the IRS is looking for. And who even knows if we will get the number in time to do our taxes.

I called our adoption agency to ask which forms served as what, so I'd know what to send with our application for Bao's temporary tax number. I asked a few other questions and happened to mention that Bao's US Certificate of Citizenship was processed in her Chinese name. "Odd," said the woman from the agency, "Lin really tries to get the English names on all of those forms."

Ah, yes, thought I, but LIN wasn't the one who was with us when we adopted Bao. It was Li.

I verbalized that thought. "Oh," says agency woman. "Yeah, Li doesn't know all of those little tricks yet."

So I gathered.

ANYWAY... I know which forms to send to the IRS now.

But just as a CRAZY why-not-waste-a-little-more-time-doing-something-useless kind of thought, I figured I might try to call our local Social Security office to see
a) if I could get anything other than a busy signal.
b) if I could talk to someone who could check on the status of the SSN.

Well, surprisingly, the phone rang when I called. Then I listened to every option there was, chose the best one, even though it didn't describe quite what I needed, and listened as I was told to speak my name and address into the system. (This is not what I want, thought I... because giving them my name and address will be useless.) It didn't matter. Because as soon as the system clicked me over to the place where I was supposed to leave my name and address, a voice came on saying "there are no questions in this mailbox" and proceeded to hang up on me.

Thank you ever so much.

But, being the glutton for punishment that I am, I CALLED BACK, to try a different option. I thought maybe I could talk to an actual person if I stayed on the line, as directed for people who do not have a touch-tone phone.

That was fun. Because when you stay on the line, the only thing that happens is that the whole message starts playing over again... "Hello, thank you for calling Social Security..." uh, so am I on hold or am I just stuck in the Groundhog Day-like nightmare of the Social Security telephone system.

So, nix the local office. Call the 800 number and see if there is someone there who can tell me what I should do.

She listened to me explain about my first and second trips to the SS office, and then asked me (ME!) why they haven't processed a card for Bao.

I could see this was not going to get me anywhere.

She then took Bao's information (Chinese name, date of birth, citizenship status,) then waited for a moment (as if she was letting her computer think) and pronounced: "You need to go to the Social Security office."

"Again?" I said.

"Yes. You need to speak to a manager."

"How do I do that?"

"Tell the person at the desk that you want to speak to a manager in charge of Social Security cards. Or you can ask for a second manager (????) or you can ask for the office manager."

"Okay," I mutter, totally confused. "And tell them what?"

"Bring all of your forms and tell them you filed an application three months ago and you want to know the status of it."

"You have no record of my daughter's application in your computer, do you?"

"I can't give you that information."

"You can't give me information about the status of a card for my own daughter?"


"So I need to go into the office again?"


(Isn't this little conversation enthralling?)

So, I (stupidly) ask, "Is it even possible at this point for me to get a card in time to do my taxes?"

"Well, sure, you've got a month."

(Can you GUESS what I am thinking at this point?)

Then I say a few other things, and she reiterates that I need to speak to a manager, and that I "SHOULD HAVE" asked to speak to one before.

"I'm sorry," I said (when I should have just shut up) "But I don't think your average person knows that they can ask for a manger at the Social Security office."

And, um, shouldn't the clerk have known that maybe someone of authority should be summoned when I went in the second time? (I did not say that part to the woman on the phone.)

So, Social Security, here I come. I'll be asking for a manager. I'll try to be nice, but I swear, if you flippantly tell me ONE MORE TIME, that I can file for an extension or amend my taxes, I AM JUMPING THE COUNTER. And I hope you like the taste of adoption decree, because I am going to make you EAT IT!

* Do I need to say that I am joking?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Thinking about asking a woman at church to disciple me. But I am not sure what, exactly, that should look like. Lots of questions swirling around. I think discipleship is Biblical. But I think there is an art to it that hasn't really been passed on all that well.

I think I have been a "discipler" to one person in my adult life. It was for a season, and I don't think I have that role with her anymore. But I enjoyed that time and felt that I was able to support and encourage her in some of the things she was dealing with at the time.

I cannot say that I have HAD a discipler in my adult life. I had one woman who was older than me and had been through more life experiences, who was a very committed prayer and accountability partner for me. But I would not call her a discipler.

Since I am considering asking someone to disciple me, I obviously want a discipler. I think it is something that older women in the church should be purposing to do... but in general, they aren't. So, I can't say I have seen enough (any?) of it happening to know what I can expect from a discipleship relationship.

Here is a description of what I'd like in a discipler:

someone who will be committed to me for an indefinite period of time. Committed to praying for me, but also committed to spending time with me. Someone who is committed to encouraging me in my walk with the Lord. Committed to challenging me in areas of weakness. Someone who sees opportunities for me to grow in Christ and directs me to those things. Encouraging me to try new things; listening attentively as I hash out thoughts with her; cries with me; laughs with me. Helps me wade through motherhood, wifehood, personhood with the intent of seeing me become more like Christ in these areas. Someone who is a good example. Someone to have coffee with. someone to study scripture with, or just read a book with. Someone who calls to see how I am doing even when I am too busy to ask how she is doing. Someone who remembers the "big stuff" and checks in to see how it went... or offers to go with me for moral support. Someone who cares about me and wants to see the me of today become a better me tomorrow.

I realize I am a needy person. And this is where my doubts arise. I don't know if the description I have written above is fair to ask of a discipler. It sounds a lot like the description of a mother. Just picture me walking up to that woman at church saying, "Hi, I was wondering if you would like to be my mother?"

Anyway. What does Biblical discipleship look like? Where do I need to alter my description so as not to bow to my neediness, and hold some poor woman captive to it? Are these desires simply things that I need to trust God for, and not look for other people to meet?

Just wondering if anyone has any advice or thoughts. Is anyone out there currently in a relationship as either disciple or discipler? What does that relationship look like? What do you expect? What do you do together? I'd really like to know.

(I swear, if you give me the title of a book to read, I will buy the book, hunt you down, and beat you mercilessly with it.)

Perhaps gentleness will be the first trait my new discipler will have to tackle with me.


Monday, March 06, 2006

Petitions and Blessings

Hey, y'all. I thought I'd ask those of you who pray for a favor.

We still don't have Bao's social security number. I filed the paperwork in December. For whatever reason, this office is really swamped and hadn't looked at it when I checked back with them at the end of January.

Anyway, we would really like to have her SSN so we can do our taxes without filing for an extension or amending them later. Both would be kind of a pain. I have considered that maybe God would like to teach us something by going through the annoyance, so pray however you see fit... that we'd be able to get our taxes done, or that we'd be content and attentive to God's teaching if we have to wait to get them done.

In other news, my blessings list for the year is well into the five hundreds. I find that amazing. So, I was wondering if any of you have a blessing from the last few days that you might like to give God credit for. I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


has been busy. Fine. Happy. Frustrating. Very much like... life, I suppose.

March is here, so winter, in my book is over. Even if it snows again. It's March. And I don't care about the rest. I feel like I made it through the winter!

Bible study began today. Beth Moore's Breaking Free is the one we are doing. I need this. I need Bible study. I need to "break free," I need that time with the ladies. I feel like there are new beginnings and a few things to be excited about. Yay!

We got our portraits today. Family. Mr. Bug. Ms. Bao. Have put them all in frames. The boy is too ridiculously cute. Bao's came out good. The pictures are totally her. The exact same look that she has in her referral photos. So, I like them because it's her personality... her pensive personality. But, I do wish we could have gotten her to smile. She does that too, and it is SO cute!

I have mentioned previously that I have been wondering about Bao's attachment. She's only been home for 4 1/2 months, so certainly I don't expect her to be totally there yet. But there are a few little things I am honing in on and will watch for a while to see if they improve over time. If they don't in the next two months or so, we have the name of an adoption counselor we can contact. We'll see how it goes.

People tell me to trust my "instinct." I do, in a lot of cases. But sometimes it seems like "instinct" isn't really the safest answer when it comes to a child who has spent the better part of her life without developing the "natural" kind of relationship that a kid should with her parent. There are things going on with her that I don't think my instinct always has a good answer for.

The best I can describe it is to say that Bao definitely likes me, but in some ways I sometimes feel like I am just the "fun lady" in her life. She doesn't rely on me for comfort to any great degree (though this has been improving, s-L-----OOOOOOO---W---l---y. So, still watching that.) She relies a lot on her snuggler, which is like a little blankie. It is to her what a pacifier is to other kids. She turns it until she finds a corner and sucks on it! She doesn't snuggle me unless the snuggler is there. (Just her personality? I don't know...)

Anyway, I have been ramping up the closeness with Bao: lots of gentle touches and as much snuggling as she'll allow. Also re-evaluating how much we leave her with other people.

So, last night when I came home from church (only Bao was with me) I decided to do something that I had done with Bug many, many times on the evenings I came home from church with him. Granted, he was a SNUGGLER, so that made it easier... but I decided I was going to institute some of my own therapy for Bao. So, we took a night time walk around the neighborhood.

I got her all dressed up and brought a blanket with us (and her snuggler, of course...) It was such a beautiful night. And we walked together. Sometimes she snuggled me. Sometimes she looked around. I whispered in her ear and sang to her.

When we got to a corner with a street light, I stopped. In the interests of keeping up my "therapy" status, I decided that I was going to try to get her to make eye contact with me. I wanted to tell her that I loved her while she was looking at me.

So, I stood there for what seemed like eternity, gently calling her name, craning my neck to get a look in her eyes. She would not, WOULD NOT, look at me. I said her name 30 times, easily. I just kept waiting. She turned away to the left. She turned away to the right. She wouldn't look, and I started wondering how long I was going to keep trying.

I kept waiting patiently a few moments before I called her name again, and at one point, I decided to pass the time by giving her a butterfly kiss (she likes those.) It made her look. She looked right at my eyes. Granted, it was because she wanted to poke it, but she looked. So, I told her "I love you," and we were able to get on with our walk.

On the way back home, she snuggled into my shoulder and started making little noises.

"ah," she'd say, and I would mimic.

"uh," she'd say, and I would mimic.

"na," she'd say, and I would mimic.

All the while, she had her hands (mostly) around my shoulders, which is the closest thing to a hug that she does... and not very often.

So, we enjoyed our little conversation game, and I especially enjoyed the snuggle time she let me sneak in, albeit short.

Good times. Good times.

Though she has been quite clingy and whiney today, I have told myself to enjoy the time with her. So, we were hanging out on the floor in the family room today, when she made my day. She was laying on the floor rolling around when all of a sudden... I looked at her and out of nowhere, she has one knee in crawling position (she has never ONCE put her legs in crawling position) and the other foot on the floor such that her calf was perpendicular to it (the floor.) She pushed her arms back and presto... she was sitting up. Boo was there to witness it and we both cheered and made a big fuss. The kid sat herself up. SHE SAT HERSELF UP! Then, just to show us that it was no accident, she did it two more times, and AGAIN tonight IN FRONT OF THE VIDEO CAMERA!

Aye, carumba. THAT'S MY GIRL! She may not snuggle... and hey, she may not even LIKE me,* but THAT'S MY GIRL!

* joke.

Labels: ,