Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Long Trip...

Although this trip isn't nearly as long or turbulent as my last trip 5 months ago, it will still be both long and turbulent. I'm leaving tomorrow, with the boys, minus the husband, to drive down to Augusta, GA for the first time since my dad passed. Next Saturday, or this Saturday (depending on how you look at it), we will be burying my Dad's ashes in a plot in Magnolia Cemetery in Augusta.

I'm sure it will be a nice, simple service with a small crowd of family, but like my last departure, I have a few fears. One, I've done a good job of avoiding the topic as much as possible, surrounding myself with distractions, and I'm not sure it's going to be so easy being there. I was talking with Jo the other day on IM and she asked me if this trip will be good for me or just drudge up the past. My response? Both! Maybe drudging up the past is just what I need to bring some closure (as much as can be brought). Then again, maybe not. Who knows until I come out on the other side?

My second fear, and a valid one, is once again dealing with my family. I don't know if any of you remember this, but it was a fear when I left back in March and continues to be one now. Only this time, it's been perpetuated by my Dad's departure. Simply drama, and I'm not sure I'm in the mood for it. My aunt's will all be there for the service, as well as my sisters and my step-mom. All were at the memorial service, save one aunt. She chose not to come to what she described as a service not for people who loved Dad, but for people he barely knew. Well, I spent 4 weeks with these people he barely knew and all I can say is that they are wonderful strangers. I'm not going to air my family's dirty laundry, but let's just say that I'm not exactly looking forward to what may come (out of my mouth).

It is amazing to me how family members you rarely see can still have such an impact on your life. It seems like dysfunction is more the rule than the exception. We come to expect it, dread it, and regret it.

I'll keep you guys and myself updated through out what should be a fairly interesting and emotional week. I'm honestly looking forward to the process. The last trip brought me through a wild storm that left pieces of me lying all over the place, but I came out a stronger person because of the grace of God, and I happened to be carrying a little something extra (in my belly).
By the way, on a lighter note: Owen is fully potty trained (and tree, deck, and floor trained), but at least he's no longer pooping in his potty. Camp is on it's way to a second season with many new changes and exciting additions. Blake is climbing all over the place, loves the toilet (playing in it), the buttons on the TV, and anything in Mat's room (oh, did I tell you we have a tenant?). So Mat is Clare's boyfriend, soon to be fiance, soon to be husband who's staying in our basement and helping with our new mortgage until he goes off and gets hitched. He's great with the boys and even makes homemade Mac & Cheese. I'm thinking about trying to sabotage their relationship so we can keep him around longer.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Are We Living in a September 10th World?

I arrived at work right around 8:15, just as I normally did, placed my Starbucks cup on my desk and checked my voicemail. I set my new voice message, "Hi, You've reach Hillary Pennington, administrative assistant with All-American Recreation. Today is Tuesday, September 11, and I am in the office today. Please leave me a message and I will get back with you right away."

A few minutes later, life, as I had known it, changed. Our facilities guy came running down the stairs into our dungeon offices and told me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in NYC. As I was the only person in my office, I dropped everything (literally) and rand up the short stair case to the facilities office. He was listening to the radio online, which was strictly prohibited by our IT department, but something told me that today they wouldn't care. Just as we begun to listen, we heard that a second plane hit another tower. Immediately I knew we were under attack. For several moments, we both stood silent, tears streaming down our cheeks. What do you say to that?

I rushed back to my desk to call Neil, my husband of one month. He was at school at Georgia Tech, and of course wouldn't answer his cell phone. I knew I'd have to wait for him to call me, so I grabbed my cell phone and head upstairs to the main offices. 120 people worked at Perimeter at that time, most of which had not even arrived at work. I wondered how many would hear about the attacks on the radio and head back home, but as I came out of the stairway into the main lobby, it was apparent I was the only one who knew. It was business as usual. I found Heidi at the front desk, and asked if she had heard about the planes that hit the World Trade Center. She grasped at a near by radio and tuned to a talk-radio channel. It seemed as though the world had stopped. There was no cable television at the church, which was quite surprising to me, but I'd never questioned it before. So a few of us huddled about the receptionist's desk listening intently for any new details. About the time, and I'm serious about this, I said aloud "Where will they hit next," the report came in that there was some sort of fire at the Pentagon. At this point, panic set in. What would stop them, whoever they were, from hitting Atlanta?

I didn't even notice the growing numbers of people gathering around us, hanging on every word that reporter said. Tony, our IT guy (yes, the one who wouldn't allow us to listen to radio online), told us he was gerry-rigging a TV so we could watch from the fellowship hall. It's amazing how quickly this all happened. I walked into the hall, the very hall I'd been married in the month before, just in time to see the first tower fall. How could I not cry? In that moment people died. I didn't know how many, but I knew it was inevitable. Moments later, the second tower came down, and in horror, I sat down on the floor and wept. And I wasn't alone. My colleagues, men and women, pastors and admins, moms and dads, stood, sat and knelt around me in utter and complete shock. As a staff we prayed, for hours it seemed, for the victims, the survivors, and yes, those responsible (whoever they were).

Never in my life had I seen such hatred clearly demonstrated, and my naivety was put to rest once and for all. In the days following the attacks, I began to see a country awakened with patriotic hearts, joining together for one put our land back together again, protect our people from further attack, and bring justice to the invaders. In those moments, I was thankful for George W. Bush, our commander in chief. I could not have imagined what it would have been like had Gore been our president. It was clear why Bush had won that race, no matter how tight it was.

Seven years and two and a half kids later, our country seems safe. We've avoided other attacks and have successfully fought our enemies on their territory and not ours. But it seems that it's so easy to forget what we went through. We're back to tearing each other apart, pointing fingers, concocting stories about 9/11 being an inside job (yeah, and the holocaust wasn't real either). Even in the midst of a tragedy like Hurricane Katrina, all we could do was place blame. It seemed like the comrodarity we saw seven years ago has dissappeared. And in this ever so important, and historic election (on both sides), as American's we're going for the juggular instead of reaching out our hands. And don't get me started with the church. There's a song I just love about the body of Christ that says "if we are the body, why aren't his arms reaching? Why aren't his hands healing? Why are words words teaching?" Are those not the truest statements?

I encourage us to remember, and not just one day a year, but daily remember why we're Americans, why we love freedom, and why we were attacked. Live in a post-September 11th world, where we see the threats that surround us and respond to them, where we strive to protect ourselves and our neighbors, where we're proud of the freedom we have and the sacrifice it took to provide it.

Where were you on 9/11 and how did that day change your life?

The Burden of Excellence

When planning for camp, I am one of the biggest advocates of excellence in our programming. We must strive for it in every area, because this is what will translate to our community and set us apart as a different kind of day camp. But my question is, how does this same excellence translate over into my home life? I'm reading a book right now called "The Excellent Wife" Notice how it's not entitled "The Perfect Wife." There is no such thing, and if there were, I'd probably be in a long line of women waiting to take her out.

So what is excellence? Webster's defines it as "very good for it's kind." says it's possessing outstanding quality or superior merit. I like the "very good for it's kind" definition even though it uses a word that is very much overused...good! But the part I like is the "for it's kind." Now I am not suggesting that wives delve into a competition to be the better wife. Not at all. In fact, I think that the only opinions that matter are that of her husband, her kids, and her Lord. The reason a wife should strive for excellence is not to impress the other women at Mom's group. It's not even so she can impress her husband. It's so she can bring glory to her God.

I can tell, in my own marriage, the times when I am pitting Neil against myself, comparing his efforts to mine. "I watch the kids all day long, sometimes without a break (no nap days). When you get home, I simply ask for a bit of peace and quiet so I can get your dinner on the table and prepare for an evening of continuing to raise your kids." Now you have to imagine that as I'm saying those words, my hands are placed skillfully on my hips, head titled to the side (not sure why that happens) and my voice suddenly changes into this "I Love Lucy"esque high-pitched tone with a slight handful of nagging on top. It's quite the sight to see, and it accomplishes nothing.

On the other hand, when I take 15 minutes to straighten up the house before Neil arrives, go to the door to greet him (with the kids), and give him 10-15 minutes to wind down, put his clothes away, and possibly take a dump, Neil will emerge ready and willing to take on the kids for as long as I need. It's amazing to me how my attitude can make or break a situation, and yet more times then not, I'm standing at that door when he arrives, not to greet him, but to throw the kids at him and retreat to my room for a pity party from hell. Whoa is me, right?

I think being an excellent wife is more about attitude then actions. Sure, I could go through the motions, but what reward would it bring? My husband should be my first priority outside of my relationship with God. If he were, my attitude would stem from love instead of selfish pride. So in this first week of reading this book, I've realized some of my priorities need to change. But here's the kicker, I'm not sure I can change them, especially not in an instant. So I've been praying that God would change my heart, giving me a deep love for my husband and desire to be an excellent wife to my husband.

Oh and Poo Poo Update: Owen hasn't had an accident since he first went poo poo on the potty, and now he's refusing to wear a diaper at night and surprisingly staying dry. WOO HOO! Now off to the Zoo for some fun!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Proud Mama

When you live in a house full of boys, minus the dog and the baby in my belly, you learn to deal with the grossness of life. It all doubles when half those boys are under 4 and things like toots, pee, and poop become part of your daily routine. Then you have to add in potty training and the stubborn will of a 3 year old boy. What a train wreck. Peeing in the potty was easy, very few accidents after Owen figured out how much fun it was to stand, aim, and wiz. But poop, whoa! For some reason, Owen just did not want to "put his poopies in the potty." A couple of weeks ago, we did away with diapers except at night. I can't tell you how many pairs of dirty underwear I've washed since then. And let me tell you, it's disgusting. If we go a day without accident, it's due to the simple fact that Owen didn't poop at all that day. Sometimes, I would go through 5 pairs of underwear in a single afternoon. A very frustrating process indeed.

Then, yesterday, the miracle occurred...Owen poo pooed in the potty all by himself. In the midst of this training event, it's very difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but when it comes, it sure is bright and warm and welcoming. Now granted, it's been less than 24 hours since the blessed event occured, but I am proud to say we've had not one accident. And then comes the peace.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I Know I Said I Wouldn't, But

Here is a video when Sarah Palin speaks at her church in Wasilla, AK! This is a perspective we don't normally get to see in the mainstream media.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Challenging the Status Quo

It's in our nature to both be different and belong. There is a battle within ourselves to stand out and fit in all at the same time. We don't want to conform, but we also don't want to be excluded. I believe this to be one of the most perplexing oxy morons ever, yet it's nestled at the center of our very beings. I think this battle within ourselves, drives us to conflict and harmony, ideas that wouldn't seem to coexist. But let me tell you something I've learned about conflict. It's not pretty, but it can be beautiful. Don't worry, I'll explain.

When I first became a Christian, I was an 18 year old freshman in college, and the biggest conflict in my life at that moment (and for the last 9 years) was with my dad. Almost right away, God placed this very conflict at the forefront of my heart and my mind. Since he was an alumni from my school and a noted writer, my professor asked my Dad to come speak to my English class (which I eventually was dropped from and ironically caused me to lose the Hope Scholarship, but that's beside the point). The night before the scheduled event, I couldn't sleep. This internal battle of bitterness and fear was raging inside of me, and I did the only thing I knew to do at the time. I prayed out loud in the middle of my dorm room (luckily my roommate was gone for the evening or that might have seemed odd). I cried out in frustration and pain to a God I'd barely known for a few months, but I cried out all the same, and the answer I got was forgiveness. So I sat down and did what still comes most naturally to me, I wrote a letter. In this letter, I poured out my heart, nine years of confusion, anger, and pain. I vividly remember wiping the tears from the sheets leaving a crinkled surface. In this letter, I told him how much I missed being his daughter. In this letter, I scolded him for leaving his family to pursue another relationship. In this letter, I chose to forgive him and to begin a new chapter in our relationship where I would stop expecting him to be the dad he clearly was not capable of being. In this letter, I put the past behind and decided to sprint towards the future.

I didn't get much response, though I waited impatiently. After a month or so, I asked Dad if he had read the letter. He said he had, thanked me writing it, and told me he loved me. There was not recognition of wrong or apology for the pain his decisions had caused. At first I could feel the bitterness resurfacing, but I continued to remind myself that love and forgiveness are both choices, and that I had made a choice to love him for who he was and not for who I wanted or expected him to be.

The next twelve year were both difficult and rewarding. But the battle remained, as I believe it does in all relationships involving conflict. When there is pain, hurt, anger, misunderstanding, and the biggest culprit of all, missed expectations, there is always a choice to be made. You can take the difficult road, the one requiring sweat and hard labor, humility and sacrifice, or the easy road (which never proves to be as easy as it seems) requiring avoidance, burning bridges, and a commitment to destruction of the relationship, a road that most likely affects all relationships in one's life.

Most people feel it's easier to avoid conflict, but I'd like to challenge the status quot on this topic. I believe God uses conflict to draw people, even unlikely couplings, together. Because I was willing to enter into battle, I enjoyed a beautiful relationship with my Dad before he died, and not just in the days leading up to the inevitable, but in the 12 years when I chose to put the relationship before the conflict.

But God didn't stop with my Dad. He continued to put conflict in my path for me to make friends with. My BFF, Jo, is a perfect example. Around the same time I was dealing with my dad, I was dealing with Jo. When we first met, let's just say the sparks flew and not in a good way, but through our commitment, not to each other, but our walks with the Lord, he blessed me with the most rewarding friendship I've ever enjoyed. We've been through the thick of it together, the muck of life, and now we're reaping the benefits. But if I had listened to my nature 12 years ago, I would not only be living in regret about my dad, I would lost with my friend. I'm not done yet.

The year after I graduated college, I went to work for Camp All-American where I met a woman of character and strength. My boss, Tammy quickly became my mentor, and taught me about Jesus' way of dealing with conflict, a way I'd become accustomed to without even knowing it. In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus says,

"If your brother sins against you,[b] go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'[c] 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
18"I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be[d]bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.
19"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

Combining these statements with a passage in Ecclesiastes 4:12b, "A cord of three strands is not easily broken," I learned the beauty of conflict resolution. If we don't discuss the issues dividing our relationships, we miss out on the benefits of knowing and loving those people. I believe gossip is a symptom of a dying relationship, or a missed opportunity, or a conflict not resolved. Gossip leads us to slander those around us, most likely stemmed from some disagreement or misunderstanding. It's hurtful and painful and destructive, but worst of all, it denies both parties the opportunity for reconciliation, what Jesus so desired for his people.

I have to admit that I don't always practice what I preach, because my desire to be right, or noticed overpowers my desire to be reconciled...just ask my husband. But I'm thankful for the relationships in my life that I can look upon and know that without the beauty of conflict, they wouldn't exist. Sometimes a relationship that has been through fire is so much more sweeter than one without a grievance. I happen to find myself in the midst of a battle, one I am caught in the middle of, one where the participants have yet to figure out that they are in, a battle I'm afraid may end in bloodshed and not beauty. Of course I can see the potential, but can not force the hand of reconciliation. I can only encourage the parties involved to step into the ring on the same side and battle the true enemy who seeks to destroy.

I pray that we'll all challenge the status quot by getting in the fight, tearing down the walls, and seeking reconciliation.

Switching Gears

My last couple posts have dealt mostly with political issues and rants. My friend Wes started a website just for us to write about these very issues, so I will be keeping my political rants contained to that site, You should check it out if you're at all interested.

I can't stick around long today. I spent most of my morning writing a blog for the new site on Sarah Palin. It will be interesting to divide my free time between two sites, but who cares, I get the write and that is the point.

I hope you'll check out the site. Maybe during naptime, I can come back and write about something else, like why my 15 month old son thinks it's funny to turn the tv off and on over and over again, or why my 3 year old is afraid to poop in the potty. Oh the life and times of a stay at home mom.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

More Things I Just Don't Get!

I totally don't get the show "Oobi" on Noggin, or boys who think it's cool to show off their underwear, or any person revealing a certain crack. I don't get "Boke." Okay, this one deserves an explanation. When my sister was a teenager, her friends and her would mix coke and beer in a 2-liter bottle so it looked like they were just drinking soda. I guess it was too hard to get a hold of a cheap bottle of liquor. Worst thing about it? I found this bottle of coke down in the basement and thought I'd just won the lottery (Mom didn't buy much soda). You can tell where it goes from here. Let's just say there's a reason no one has tried to market Boke.

I don't get how Obama's team can go after Palin, the VP pick for McCain, for a lack of foreign policy experience. Seriously, are they that arrogant that they can even bring up the word experience? If I were him, I'd leave that word in the 4-letter word pile. Tell me Obama, what foreign policy experience have you had? You've been in the U.S. Senate for how long? 3 years is it? And when did you start running for president? Oh, right away? Hmmmm, that doesn't sound like a lot of experience to me, foreign or otherwise, and you're running for president. Sarah Palin might not have a ton of experience either, but she out ranks you. She's not just the mayor of a city of 7,000 as your minions would suggest, she is the Governor of the state of Alaska. Granted Alaska is not the largest (population wise) state in the union, but it's still important (and one my dad was quite fond of). Now she hasn't sat down with our enemies yet without preconditions, and hopefully won't because who would do that (except you, Mr. Obama)? But she does have executive experience, not much granted, but more than Obama, and they're not running for the same position. She's a Governor, a conservative, a reformist, and a mom...which brings me to my last point of the morning.

I don't get how the supposedly tolerant left can attack Palin for the fact that her 17 year old daughter is pregnant. Now I have to stop for a moment and give huge props to Obama for publicly stating that children are off limits. Still don't like his politics, but that bumped him up a notch in my book...didn't stop the rhetoric of the main stream media, but still. I'm a mom and I realize that all I can do is raise my children as best I can. I hope to teach them Christian values, more than that, to have a personal relationship with Jesus, but just like I can't force Owen to poop on the potty, I can't force them to live by the things I teach them. I grew up in a house that taught the importance and value of abstinence, but I didn't exactly adhere to those teachings, and believe me I paid the price. No I didn't get pregnant, but I see now the benefits of waiting, what God intended sex to be like in the safety of a marriage. Just because Bristol, Palin's daughter, got pregnant at 17, doesn't mean she's a bad mom. But maybe the extreme left feminists would think so, after all, Sarah didn't stand at the door every time Bristol left with a condom. If she had, maybe this mishap wouldn't have occurred, right? First of all, it's not a mishap, it's a miracle, as life always is. Second, I have more respect for Palin and her family that Bristol has decided to keep the baby and marry the boyfriend. Now I'm not always for the marriage part. I don't think that is the best choice sometimes, but maybe for Bristol it is.

I feel for Palin and her family right now. It must be very difficult for all of them, especially Bristol. No matter how much love she gets from her family, it probably seems like the rest of the world is condemning her. How difficult that must be, to feel like your life just changed, all your plans, all your dreams...not ruined (though it may feel like it) but definitely changed, and you have to live through that in front of the whole world. Yeah, I don't get how people can stand on their soap boxes and point fingers in judgement, and sadly this doesn't just apply to the left. In fact, I'm sure there was a rumble and grumble among church goers as well, and shame on them. Believe me, Jesus would not have been condemning this girl, he'd extend his arms providing refuge, retreat, and love.

I'm sure there are a million other things I just don't get, like now that I'm pregnant with a girl, why I lost my glow, but I can't really go on and on forever...the gym beckons me, as does Blake.

Maybe tomorrow I'll hit a topic a little lighter, or maybe not. You never know what I might write about.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What I Don't Understand!

Oh so many things make me go "huh?" Like why people drive so slow in the fast lane or what the deal is with Katie Holmes and her tight-rolled jeans. Really I could go on and on, but since I've already written this post once and lost it, I'll keep my intro simple (totally ticked me off too).

Right now, in the midst of a historic election, I'm just shaking my head in disbelief. I tried to get my friend to explain this Obama phenomenon to me, but honestly I think she just got a hold of some funky kool-aid, because she didn't make a lick of sense to me either (You know who you are and I love you). Apparently Obama isn't a normal democrat, and doesn't want to raise least not for the people that matter, the people who make less than $250,000 a year. All the rest, which is such a small percentage anyways, of the people, the evil rich are stuck with a bigger bill. Considering the top 5% of our nation's wage earners already pay over 50% of the taxes in this nation, and the top 1% pay over 33%, I think they already pay their dues. But who cares, right? They're rich. They have money to spare. Damn them for having more than us. We work hard and don't have the luxuries they do. They should give us some of theirs, right? Can I get an amen? NO! Absolutely not. That is the most ridiculous argument I've ever heard, not to mention socialist. We supposedly live in a free enterprise society, where people dream of bringing in the big bucks, being discovered, making it big...if you take that away and make everyone equal (take from the rich and give to the poor) then there would be no more American Dream. Although, maybe I'll rethink this...then we wouldn't have the illegal immigration issues we have now. Huh, maybe you democrats are on to something? While you're at it, let's just genetically alter our genes so that we all think alike, look alike, and act alike...then we wouldn't have any free thinking or free markets or freedom in general.

Oh, but this is not the only thing I don't understand. I don't get how people can stand behind a man who not only supports a woman's right to abort her child, he supports partial birth abortion. In case you're not familiar, this is a procedure where a baby is born almost entirely (typically breech) and then the nice doctor jams scissors into the infant's skull hence the abortion. But let's not stop there Obama? What if that baby happens to survive? Shouldn't we do everything in our power to save it's life...I mean, after all, it would be "born" and therefore alive. Nope, Obama voted against the Induced Infant Protection Act that would give doctor's the authority to do everything in their power to save that little life, and then prevented that bill from coming up again. Gee, Obama saving it for your own girls? You've already said that you'd want you daughters to have an abortion and save them from unwanted pregnancies. Just makes me shake my head in disbelief? Seriously, how did this man make it so far? What a scary thought.

I have more, believe me, but I don't have time. Owen is banging on his door, saying "door" over and over again. I should go get him. Just wanted to throw in my two cents. But I'll be back!