"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious." Albert Einstein

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Crossroads Dreams #3

I have already established that I love to travel & experience new places. I spent some time looking into jobs with the American Schools in foreign countries but I discovered that I need to have a min. of 3 years teaching experience. So, undaunted, I have spent a few hours tonight looking into the Peace Corp. Oh, I love the idea. I am sure there are a million things that will go wrong but for the moment, it is so exciting to consider the possibilities. How cool would it be to live in Bolivia for two years? Or go back to Chile? Or to go to Africa? Can you even imagine???? I think that I will get our passports updated - you never know what adventure might be around the next corner.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The List

Last year I knew our marriage was struggling. I needed to improve but I am not creative. However, I am a great gleaner of others' fabulous ideas so I spent a few hours searching archives of a couple of discussion boards and the internet for tips on how to show love, date ideas, and improve romance. Unfortunately, my marriage disintegrated within weeks of compiling "The List". I am still excited about these ideas so I share them with all of you in the hopes that they can provide lots of laughter, fun & memories to cherish forever. Without further ado, The List.

Attitude
Get up with him & make him breakfast
Always wave good bye
Call him "lover" or another sweet nickname
Yummy, passionate kisses when he leaves &/or comes home
Leave white board marker messages on the mirror or in the shower
Hold hands in the car aor walking together
Make dinner together
Clean up dinner together - snap towels, squirt each other with the water hose, make beards out of the bubbles
Play "your" song and dance in the living room
Leave flirtatious voice mail messages
Leave "coded" messages on pagers, cell or email - such as 143 (I love you - each # stands for letters in word) or SHMILY (See How Much I Love You.) etc.
Pack lunch - include a treat, card, garter. Use valentine cookie cutters year round on sandwiches & cookies
Fix hair & make-up daily. Re-apply lipstick & perfume before he comes home.
"Daddy Dinner" with his favorite meal on china and w/ candles
Shop together: groceries, Home Depot, antique stores, Bass Pro
Decorate "his" parking spot (at home or at work) with sidewalk chalk
Decorate his car while at work
Card / Ecard / letter
Fill his car with gas & leave a single rose or note on the the steering wheel or a new air freshner
Share your "passion" foods, such as chocolate covered strawberries, shrimp, fondue, etc.
Send flowers/singing telegram/balloons to his work

Date Ideas
Attend temple together (esp. with family names)
Attend adult session of confrence & go out for dessert together
Workout together
Board or Card games / Puzzles (cribbage, sequence, chess, checkers, statego, speed, etc.)
Read a book together
Stargaze in the backyard
Play a sport together (tennis, racquetball, frisbee golf, tetherball, etc.)
Bike ride
Hike & picnic
Fly a kite at the park or beach
Treasure hunt/ Geo-caching / Letterboxing
Eat Out- Nice restaurant (just dessert or appetizer if $ is low) take out - Pizza or chinese
Arcade date: bowling, pool, air hockey, foosball, mini-golf, laser tag, paint ball, etc.
Window shop: motorcycle shop, sports & outdoors stores, model homes, plane hangers
Arts & Crafts: take a class together - sculpting, gardening, home improvement, cake decorating, etc. Make if fun, not necessarily serious.
Sight Seeing: Museums, local tourist areas, Planetarium, Zoo
Music Date: check out different kinds of music from the library, make new playlists, share old music memories
Culture date: concert, play, or lecture in parks, museums, high schools, universities, etc.
Bookstore date: browse together or separately and then enjoy a dessert or cocoa or smoothie together discussing book choices or enjoying live music.
Dancing date: country line dancing, ballroom, historical, Latin, etc.
Water Date: Aquatic center, water park, hot tub, spray park, squirt guns, slip & slide, etc.
Snow Date: make a snowman, snowball fight, snow angels, skiing, snowboarding, sledding - come home for hot chocolate
Movie Night: make a kit with some munchies & soda. Smoothies or Root Beer floats. DVD at home or dollar movies. Quote as many lines from movies as you can. Make these part of your regular speech/fun jokes.
Adventure date: skateboarding at a skate park, in line skating, roller skating, ice skating, Rock climbing/Repelling, ropes course, etc.
Outdoors: Camping or cabin (backyard if $ is low), canoeing, boating, rafting, etc. Horse or sleigh riding, four wheelers, target shooting, Archery, etc.
Mini-Honeymoon: First go to the temple for an endowment session and sealings if possible. After go out for a nice dinner & then on to a bed & breakfast. Sight see & take lots of pictures.

Gift Ideas:
Message in a bottle: write a love letter, insert in a bottle & toss in the tub or pool
Make a favorite mix tape/play list ("These songs will always make me think of you...")
Monogrammed towels (big & fluffy)
Love Rocks - write a love note or quote and leave in his pockets or give as a paperweight. Start a vase to collect all your love rocks over they years.
Sheets - 800 count sheets or silk sheets
Romantic pictures
Scrapbook or DVD montage of your life together
Tickets to sporting events or movies

Friday, December 26, 2008

So, How Am I Doing?

Many have asked me how I am doing. The answer varies moment to moment at times. Never have I felt closer to the Lord, protected & blessed by him. Never have I felt farther from my goals, dreams and desires. I am humbled by my blessings. I don't feel worthy of the great goodness that has been shared with me. I am so grateful for the littlest of things - I soak them up & bask in the many people who are close to the Lord and hear His promptings. Daily I feel Him close to me by the words & actions of so many angels. I am so grateful.

I am also ashamed that I have not been there for so many others. I have 3 siblings and a dear friend who have all experienced divorce before me. I talked to them, offered words of comfort and included them in my prayers but I wasn't there for them, especially not the way others have been there for me. Some people have to experience to understand, others can understand others' experiences. I definitely needed to experience divorce to understand its devastation. I am so sorry to you who I love dearly. I hope some good will come of all this and that my heart will always be tender to others' heartache.

I was talking to my brother last night (who has experienced an unexpected & devastating divorce) and he said something that describes some of my feelings. He said that at one point he was angry at his former wife because "she destroyed something that wasn't her's, it was our's." That is how I feel. I feel so angry and helpless and sad and betrayed. Our marriage was mine too and I didn't have any say, my votes didn't count, I couldn't stop it. Many will think that I must have seen it coming. I mean divorces don't just happen. And yes, in a way you are right. There were problems and a gulf between us that seemed to increase. But I have learned that while it does take two to make a marriage or even an argument, it only takes one to walk away.

My grief for the loss of my marriage threatens to overwhelm me at times. I truly do not grieve Tim - many times I feel I didn't know him at all. But marriage - I miss it desperately. I miss having someone to talk too, someone who knows everyone I know. I miss planning the future & dreams, I miss early morning talks, I miss a parenting sounding board, I miss holding hands and kisses, I miss the priesthood in my home, I miss companionship, that feeling of us against the world. I had no idea what a incredible blessing marriage is until it slipped through my fingers. I took it so for granted.

Last night my brother asked me what I wanted out of life. My heart broke to tell him - I want to be married to a man who loves the Lord first and cherishes me second, I want to be a stay-at-home-homemaker soaking up every second with my kiddo, and I want a houseful of kids to love. I have been raised to set & reach goals yet these goals are beyond my control. I can't make them happen. I do know that eternally, they will happen one day. And I know that I can experience so many wonderful things in the mean time and I have many days that I am excited for those adventures. Other times, my heart aches and tears flow.

Slowly, I am creating a new life. This week I have a project that I am very much looking forward too (more to posted on that later.) The future is very hazy, but answers are coming in bits and pieces. I try to plan enough when I am feeling positive to keep me walking through the bad times.

Visitation is the worst. I don't mind seeing Tim - when he is alone & we talk as a family, I feel the most positive for our success as a divorced family. The hardest is when his girlfriend comes along. Seeing her interact with my son stabs my heart. I feel very keenly that I am the unwanted one. It is in my nature to be friendly and yet I struggle with her. I don't know how to be her friend. I know many will say I don't need to be her friend, but unfriendliness is hard for me. Befriending everyone is one of my few talents. By not being her friend, I feel like I've lost a bit of myself.

I've thought about how many times in life does one person's happiness come at the expense of another's heartbreak. For example, organ transplants. One family is thanking God for their miracle while another is sobbing and asking "why?" My personal heartache has been a blessing for her. I always come away from visitation thinking, "How did this happen? What did I do? What didn't I do?" "Why?" So many questions without answers. I am grateful that Tim's girlfriend cares about Ryan. She makes Tim happy. She has been civil to me. It isn't her that is hard for me, it is what she represents. I guess that for now, she embodies my heartache, disappointment and shattered dreams. I want her to be happy. I want Tim to be happy. I just wish that it didn't have to come at my expense.

Visitation is also hard for me because I am a control freak. I have such a hard time sending Ryan because I don't know what he will come up against. Will he be strong enough to make the right choices? Does he have the power of discernment to see good and evil for what they really are? Will anyone remind him to read his scriptures? Will he be enticed to want to go live with his dad all the time? How will I ever make it through that? I have read the story of Daniel in the Lion's Den every visitation. Like King Darius, I plead with the Lord to protect him. Please don't let him suffer for my mistakes.

I bought a box a few months ago that is my God's Box. My deepest hurts get recorded and put in His hands. Remarkably, there are not many notes in there. I have been strengthened and blessed beyond measure. He has taken care of my needs and many of my wants. I know that He knows me. I know that He loves me. He is my priesthood leader now and He will never leave me. I can trust that he will always be there. I am learning to, bit by bit, trust his plan & goals for my mortality. Many days I stubbornly keep holding on to what I want in life but he is patiently walking next to me.

So, how am I doing? I hurt. I cry - sometimes tears of gratitude & other times tears of heartache. At times, especially lately, I have felt strong. Other times I have felt so weak. My smile has reached my eyes a few times lately, but it hasn't quite warmed my heart. I do trust that it will again someday.

So, how am I doing? Depends on when you ask.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Giving (one of multiple Christmas posts today)

I really love the giving part of Christmas. I also love the getting part. For me, they work together. This poem is in our Christmas Devotional book and expresses how I feel about sharing with each other.

Old Gentleman Gray

Said old gentleman Gray, "On Christmas day,
If you want to be happy, give something away."
So he sent a fat turkey to shoemaker Price,
And the shoemaker said, "What a bird, now how nice;
with such a good dinner set before me,
I'll send my chicken to poor widow Lee.
"This fine chicken, oh see!"
Said the pleased widow Lee,
"And the kindness that sent it, how precious to me.
I would like to make someone as happy as I,
I'll send washwoman Biddy, my big pumpkin pie."
And "Surely," Biddy said, " 'tis the queen of all pies,
Just to look at its yellow face gladdens my eyes.
Now it's my turn, I think, and a sweet sugar cake
For the motherless Finnegan children I'll bake."
Said the Finnegan children, Rose, Denny and Hugh
"It smells sweet of spice, and we'll carry a slice
To poor little lame Jake who has nothing that's nice."
Oh, I thank you and and thank you!" said little lame Jake
"I'll save all the crumbs, I won't waste a one
And give them to the little sparrows that come."
The sparrows they twittered as if they would say,
Like old gentleman Gray, "on a great Christmas day,
If you want to be happy, give something away."

Traditions

Having the rare opportunity to create new traditions, I thought I would share a few highlights of this year. A sweet sister whom I have never met, the mother of my good friend Allyson, made us these beautiful stockings. She sent us 7 to choose from! I let Ryan choose his (he chose the blue one) and then I choose a coordinating one. They are treasures. So beautiful and new. I love them.
Another new tradition for this year - Christmas letters. We each wrote a letter to each other and put it in our stockings. I got a little teary-eyed writing Ryan's and reading what he wrote to me. I am so glad that I started them. This way, we can share with each other even when we don't get to spend Christmas day together. Ryan read his letter first thing this morning.

A couple of traditions that we are going to keep:
Christmas Journal - I started a Christmas Journal when we got married. Each year everyone who has been with us on Christmas day has written a line or two in the book. The last couple of years it fell by the wayside but I dug it out again and we are writing in it today. I want to record these special memories, thoughts and feelings for us to remember for years.

Bethlehem Dinner - On Christmas Eve we have a Bethlehem dinner, eating traditional Jewish food from Christ's time. We sit on pillows on the floor in the living room & eat with our fingers with only the Christmas lights, candles and some Christmas music in the background. Last night the menu was broiled fish, Bulgar pilaf, raisins, grape juice, pita bread & goat cheese. After dinner, we watch the Nativity on TV or read the story from the scriptures or do the candlelight nativity. It is my favorite part of Christmas. I always feel so peaceful on Christmas Eve. (A side note for keeping it real purposes- Ryan was very sick yesterday so I enjoyed our Bethlehem dinner while he laid on the couch with a bowl nearby. It was still fun to watch the Nativity & Joy to the World DVDs together in the Christmas light.)

Christmas Devotional - I wrote a Christmas Devotional book 6 years ago and I love it. This is the first year that it really took off and I have loved reading it with Ryan. One thing I love about it is that it begins on Nov. 30 and goes until Jan. 1 which helps carry the feelings of Christmas into the New Year. The book includes ideas for activities that go along with the devotional for the day. A new tradition that I am gleaning from Alisa is that I will choose an activity for that day and put it in a red envelope to be opened each morning after our devotional. I am so excited about the red envelopes! Some days it will say "Listen to Christmas music all day!" or others may have a more involved activity.

Ornament - Every year we each have had a new Christmas ornament in our stockings on Christmas day. I have always tried to find ornaments that say something about that person or the events of the year. This coming year Ryan will turn 12 yrs old and be old enough to receive the priesthood. This year's ornament has a picture of the three Wisemen and says "Wisemen still seek Him". We talked about him being old enough to seek the Lord and do His work and what he must do to prepare. We talked about the trials that the Wisemen might have endured to get to the Savior. My ornament for this year is a picture of a Phoenix on a silver square. I choose a phoenix because their tears are healing and they rise from the ashes. I wanted it on silver to remind me of the Savior's purifying process. For me, it symbolizes this past year.

A bit of a twist- we are going to exchange our ornaments on Christmas Eve as part of our Bethlehem dinner and enjoy our new ornaments all Christmas day.

Lastly, a tradition that Alisa shared with me that we are going to start next year. We are going to get new PJ's the weekend after Thanksgiving and get to wear them all December. I think it will be fun to have them washed & comfy for Christmas. Plus we will get to have tons of fun memories in them each year - drinking hot cocoa, watching movies, devotionals, etc.
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Merry Christmas! (one of many posts today)

Here are a few pics of the morning. A heartfelt THANK YOU to all who contributed to make this a wonderful Christmas. We love the John Bytheway Collection. The CD from Aunt Tee were a hit as well as the sweat shirt & especially the Wii games. (Thank you Aunt Cindy!) When Ryan saw the OU sheets from Grandpa & Grandma Mills he said, "I am using these until I get married!"



The best part- Ryan said, "Mom, I think that I have been saving all of my smiles lately for today." It was so wonderful to see a real smile and twinkling eyes again. Thank you all.
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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Jumbled Thoughts on Motherhood


I grew up in the Hood River Valley, a tiny, somewhat isolated, beautiful valley in the Columbia River Gorge. The valley has the ideal conditions for growing fruit and produces 3% of the nations pears as well as tons of apples, cherries and some peaches. When the weather warms up each year the trees blossom and become seas of flowers. It is absolutely beautiful.

Occasionally, we would have a few weeks of warm weather suddenly followed by a return of winter weather. The blossoms would be frozen on the trees, unsure of what was going on in the mixed up seasons. Families would spend the cold nights lighting smudge pots that would burn and warm up the orchards trying to protect the harvest. We would wake up to a black sooty cloud over the valley. Those years would be fraught with worry - the bees could not pollinate in cold weather, the blossoms would break off. How much fruit would grow that season? Everyone in the valley depended on the fruit so the worry could be a tangible thing. All would work as hard as they could and prayers became a bit longer & much more earnest as we put the trees in the Lord's hands.

They say adoption is about love. Well, I have learned that for me, Motherhood is about time. Time to have morning devotional, time to eat a real meal together, time to work on a project together, time to talk, time to read together, time to wrestle & play, time to tuck-in bed & discuss the day, time to work together, time to create a home not a hotel, time to plan, time to sing, time to cook, time, time, and more time.

I have always wanted to a be a mother. My biggest worry in college was trying to figure out what to study if I didn't get to be a mom. I really didn't want to do anything else. Before I met Tim, I wanted to have 8 kids. I grew up the oldest of 6 (plus a few extras along the way) and I learned at a young age that kids are more important than stuff. When I met Tim, I knew his personality was more of a 3 or 4 kids kind of guy so I settled in with the idea of having a small (to me) family. When Ryan arrived, I was ecstatic to be in the mothering season of life. Over the years, I have had to work more than once. My heart ached, but I always felt like it was a temporary chill in my otherwise warm spring season.

Since the divorce, I feel like the fruit trees caught blossoming in an ice storm. I don't know what season I am in anymore and I feel stranded between mothering and working. I know how important this mothering season is and yet I feel so powerless as we go through this storm. At times, I feel like I am trying to breathe the choking soot from the smudge pots of necessity in my life right now. I am limited in what I can do and feel that the harvest truly is in the Lord's hands.

My mom was almost always home growing up. And dad, if I never said thank you, I am saying it now. Thank you! As a teen, we would all come home and tell her all about our day, good & bad. On the rare occasion that she wasn't home, we would go about our afternoon but when she did get home a bit latter, the moment to tell her about our day was past. My good friend Kim made me a sign this last Mother's Day that says "The Joy of Motherhood Comes in Moments." I believe that. Mothering is moments. Moments when your kids' hearts are open, moments of sharing, moments of teaching, moments of sharing. The season of motherhood is a collection of moments.

I have come to realize that my pre-teen (as he likes to be called) needs my time even more than he did as a toddler. Teens only share or listen when the mood strikes them and if you miss that moment, it is gone. Also, they can get into so much more trouble. There are four of us ladies at work that are mothers returning to the workforce this year. Last week we were discussing the stress our families are under and the balancing act we are trying to perform. One lady had received a call from a detective that week as her son had been contacted by an online predator. He is in 6th grade. We talked about the critical hours between 3 & 5 when our kids were without any supervision. My good friend Alisa picks Ryan up from school and drops him off to me everyday so that he is not home alone and so that I don't miss that moment with him. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

So, what am I trying to say? For me, mothering and working are two different seasons of life and trying to mix the two has left me confused, stressed, and the harvest in danger. Mothering is a full-time job for me, not until Ry is in school, but until he is gone on a mission. I child-proofed our home when he was a toddler, I now feel that I need to youth-proof our life to safely get him to adulthood.

So, what am I going to do? Right now, pray even harder that we can make it until May. I am starting to look for other jobs at the school, something that will not require my time 24/7. I will take a severe pay cut, but right now, my mothering time is priceless. If I don't make every effort, the harvest will be lost.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

6 Degrees of Separation-

Or Blog Surfing:

So a few months ago my good friend Megan posted a link to a blog of a friend of her relative or something like that who chronicled her divorce. Interested, I followed the link and began reading. After a while, I meandered through the blog's list of links on the side. One said "Pepper" and since I once knew a Pepper, I always click on that name. For the first time ever, it was MY Pepper! Pepper is one of the younger sisters to one of my mission companions. I lived with their family for some six months after my mission. I LOVE their family and over the years we have lost touch. Of course, Pepper had links to her sisters' blogs and it was so fun to time travel over the last 10+ years. But it gets better. One sister (Paige) mentioned her kids attending Capitol Hill Academy. Suddenly bells went off in my head and after some internet detective work, I am 99% sure that Capitol Hill Academy is run by non other than Megan's mom! How is that for a small world!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Today's Angel-

A warm, huge Thank You to the sweet man at Auto Zone who spent 15 minutes in 24 degree weather replacing my head light bulb and for patiently teaching my son how to do it for the next time. It warmed my heart to see such compassion. I thought about him tonight as I drove in the dark to a Christmas Carol party that we would not have been able to attend. Some angels wear Auto Zone overalls.

Thank you to all of our Christmas Angels-

So far this Christmas has been amazing. I was feeling very resigned to our situation and hoping to just make the best of it and get to 2009. I should have known. I truly have the best friends in the entire world. I have been surrounded by angels. At the risk of forgetting someone or something, I want to remember this special Christmas filled with angels & miracles:

*Birthday & Christmas gifts from Missouri
*Christmas gifts from 3 loving sisters
*12 Days of Christmas from sisters & a wonderful ward family. So much fun looking forward to the next gift.
*Food, food, and more food- Oranges, candy, fudge, cookies, turkeys, and a huge rubbermaid tub from the Fostercare association.
*New, beautiful stockings from a sweet sister I have never met.
*New-to-Ryan freestanding basketball hoop that two wonderful hometeachers found & delivered.
*Beautiful Christmas music on my new-to-me IPOD from a sweet sister & wonderful friends.
*Christmas cards from angels, especially from my in-laws. It means so much for them to reach out to us right now.

I wrote a Christmas devotional book a few years ago but every year it would fall by the wayside. It has been a treasure to have Ryan remember it each day and read the stories & scriptures together.

Thank you for a wonderful Christmas. It has been hard but it has also been sweet, tender, touching and treasured. Thank you my angels.
Julie

Lebkuchen & Lasik

My maiden name is Hachtel (hawk-tel) and is a nice, old German name. And for Christmas, Germans make Lebkuchen. I remember my mom making it a canning kettle because the recipe is a little overzealous. I haven't made it most of my married life so I decided that I would make some this past week because I was in charge of Germany for the "Christmas Around the World" activity we did on Friday at school and nothing pleases my dad more than to know his girls have made Lebkuchen. I had two family recipes so I have tried both of them this week. Last night was quite humorous as I called two of my sisters for help. I had added the soda to the liquid mixture and it was about 1/4 of an inch from the top of my 2nd largest pan. The recipe then called for me to add 1 Tbsp. vinegar. Lucky for me, I have made a few homeschool volcano projects and I knew what would happen. I called said sisters and we consulted on what to do. We figured it out, I got it all chilling in the fridge overnight and have spent the last 3 hours of my morning rolling out and cutting out cookies. And I only made half of the the recipe! (this is the last batch to roll out!)

Dad- they are in the mail!

The mailman brought me the next best thing to Lasik this morning:

I have been using the same contacts with major nicks for over the past 9 months. I figured out that if you position the nicks & gouges at the corners of your eyes, they don't bug you so much and you can keep going. Putting in the new ones feels unbelievable. No more gritty eyes. Yeah!!!

Lastly- I have a million posts written in my head (or at least started) so you may hear multiple times a day from me as I don't have time to write when school starts up again. Love you all!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Bittersweet

After 3 hours in the Urgent Care Monday night we found out that Ryan does not have Chicken Pox but rather his skin broke out from the dry Arizona climate when he was out at Grandma & Grandpa's for Thanksgiving. The good news was that he also had a severe sinus infection that was progressing to a whopping ear infection so we left there with an antibiotic prescription and a bruise in his hinny from the steroid shot.

We went to the Journey to Bethlehem program last night. A local church puts on an outdoor (yes it was freezing!) program where we walk through the woods to Bethlehem and meet all sorts of camps of people dressed in biblical clothes & campfires that teach us about Christ's birth. Eventually we got to a huge market place were we danced Jewish dances and then found the baby Jesus in the stable. We have gone 6 years now and it was the best one last night. This church works for 6 months to put this on and they do such a good job. I am so glad we went.

We put up our tree on Tues. night. Both events this week have been bittersweet, but not for the reason that you would think. As we were putting up the tree, Ry made the comment, "Who will put up the angel?" and then answered his own question "I will." In the past that has always been Tim's job. However, other than the angel, it was a year just like every other year, it was just the same. It suddenly hit me. We never put up the tree as a family. Tim always said, "just have you & the kids do it." And we always left the angel for him when he came home. He did go with us once or twice to the Journey to Bethlehem, but again, most of the time, the kids & I went while he worked late. My heart ached with the realization that we had missed opportunities to create family memories. Yet, I was grateful that those mistakes made this year a bit easier. Bittersweet.

I have been realizing mistakes that I made over the years and I share this only to help others not to fall into the same traps I did. With our hectic lives, it is easy to fall into the "divide & conquer" trap in marriage. To alleviate the stress Tim was under during Law School and opening his practice, I took on most of the stuff at home - the budget, the calendar, the kids, the cooking, the cleaning, the traditions. That temporary need became a way of life for us and it led to a disconnect in our family. In the last few years, it was very difficult to bridge the gulf, to try to establish meaningful family times. If I could do things over again, I would not "divide" the labors of a family but seek for ways to work together which, for me, it is much harder to do because it requires more planning, flexibility and time. I would care less about bedtime for the kids and more about decorating the tree as a family, even if it meant staying up to midnight.

So, this holiday season, learn from my mistakes and take the time to celebrate the season together, even if it means you do less. It this case, less is more.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ringing in the Holiday Season...

with CHICKEN POX!!!!

My deepest apologies to everyone at church. I had no idea. Ry had the vaccine and was deliberately exposed multiple times a few years ago when I was a stay at home mom. Last night he had what looked like his first pimple on his chest. Tonight we counted over 30 and spreading.

While this will cause unknown trauma at work tomorrow, is it bad to be excited about the prospect of some days off to nurse my kiddo back to full health? This is what I get for saying in Gospel Doctrine class today that my plate was full before I got this calling. You gotta love Heavenly Father's sense of humor and the way he sends blessings.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wii Fun and update

We celebrated Thanksgiving & Christmas yesterday. Ry will be with his dad on Thanksgiving so we attended the ward Thanksgiving dinner - very nice, lots of food, good people.

Ryan had saved all of his birthday money & we saved for the last two months for our Christmas present - a Wii. We bought it yesterday because I was afraid that we wouldn't be be able to find one closer to Christmas. It has been a ton of fun - even more than I thought it would which is saying a lot because I am very anti video games. The best part is that I am basically done for Christmas. We agreed that we will each exchange one homemade gift & stockings, so other than cards (which I haven't decided if I am doing or not), I am done. Ry was so funny - on the way home he said, "This is the best day of my life, but don't tell my future wife I said that!" :)

If my camera was working or if you were here, you would see that I finally got my haircut. I now have a slightly stacked bob with bangs. Very nice to do something different.

I was sustained today to be a Gospel Doctrine teacher. I cried when they asked me. Then I said yes and since then I am unabashedly in denial, trying not to think about it. I had this calling once before and it wasn't pretty the first time. I can handle almost any calling but this one. When will it be my season to be the door greeter? *sigh*

I guess my name is on the high councilmen's short list. I spoke in the Spanish branch last week and I am scheduled to speak in another ward in Jan. No rest for the wicked. :)

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving this week. Hug your family. Read your scriptures. Tell Heavenly Father how grateful you are. Life is good, even when it's bad. Savor every minute.

Love your guts!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I just want to say what great friends I have!

I have been blessed with the most amazing friends. Heavenly Father truly has surrounded me with the best people.

I am so grateful for all of you that have cried with me. It has touched my heart and bound me to you as you have mourned with me. You will be with me forever.

I am so grateful for your thoughtfulness & kindness. You have remembered me, prayed for me, dropped of notes & gifts, shared your services, sent emails & cards. I know I haven't been good at getting back to some of you, or saying "thank you". It seems so hallow, such a trite phrase to try and express the ocean of feelings in my heart.

I am thankful for the listening ears & inspired counsel. I can't imagine how I would have found my way through this nightmare without your help.

I am thankful for the kept counsel. It has been a pleasant surprise to learn that rumor mills do not flourish everywhere. Sunday I gave a lesson in Relief Society and made mention of my trials this past summer without actually saying the word divorce. After the lesson, a sweet, very active sister in our ward came up and hugged me and said, "I don't know what your trials are but you are in my prayers." She was shocked to learn of the divorce. It has happened many times over. My heartbreak has not been discussed, dissected and judge my all who know me. I have been so impressed with you good people. I want to be more like you. You really are amazing.

I am thankful for the married men I know who: 1. are shining examples of the priesthood and have shared that blessing with us. 2. cherish their wives and it shows. They have given me so much hope for the future and helped clarify my goal. 3. for their words of encouragement & love. Our society places so many burdens on men and I am very grateful for their ways of helping me through this.

I want each of you to know that your kindness has been en graven on my heart and recorded in my book of life. Each thing has meant so much. Thank you so much. I love you all.

Love,
Julie

I am here...

I am sorry for neglecting this blog. I have been writing, but only in my journal. I am trying to be more positive, to find joy in my trials, to embrace my new life, to stop living in the past. I am not doing a very good job of it. My heart feels like a rock, heavy and dead. My life feels so unrecognizable, so far away from my dreams and goals. Every time I think, "Ok, I can do this." A new wave of something hits me and I am back to barely keeping my head above water.

My blessing for today: Ryan. I am so grateful for my relationship with him. I am so thankful that we really talk together and that he shares so many of his thoughts & feelings with me. Almost every visitation weekend I find a note from him under my pillow telling me how much he loves me. He has no idea how much he has helped me through this.

I can do this. I can do this. I can...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Janes In My Life...

Or Why I Didn't Get Emma Read.

Since the divorce I have become obsessed with Jane Austin's "Sense & Sensibility" and "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte. I have watched to movies over and over (the new Sense & Sensibility & Jane Eyre that came out last spring) and read the books until the wee hours of the mornings. I love these books. They have been therapy for me. I have felt like I was Elinor living out Marianne's story, having to make the decisions of Jane Eyre. (That will make sense to no one but me!) I love these women's goodness, their determination to make good choices, their heartbreak. I have loved the line from Sense & Sensibility - "It is not what we say or feel that makes us good. It is what we do."

I think that Jane Eyre should be required reading for most laurels. Maybe that is going too far, but I love that (in the book) she relies on her convictions that were made before the moments of temptation. Her heart wants to stay with Rochester. It could easily be justified. Yet, she knows it is wrong in God's eyes and she sacrifices all for her convictions. I love how she learns to be happy in her new single life. She finds purpose even when life has not offered her happiness.

I love the endings- I love that Marianne finds love again. A real, lasting, good love. I love that Elinor & Jane are rewarded with love for their sacrifices. Have I said that I love these books? My obsession is beginning to ebb but these books & movies will always hold a special place in my heart as they have helped me see myself in their heartache, reinforced eternal truths, and given me hope for happiness.

Book Group & Book Review

When we moved back to Oklahoma 6 years ago, I was invited to join a book group. I loved it. We met monthly and I read some very cool books. I loved talking about books to others who wanted to get into them as well. After a year or two, the group fizzled as life pulled us all in different directions. This past Mother's day, I was invited to a friend's home for dinner and we both expresses a desire for book group. We decided that we were going to do it, even if it was only one book for the summer. Well, as word got out, others were feeling the literary pull as well and our book group has been reborn.

Our first book was "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. I loved this book! The writing is amazing. The plot is good, thought provoking and provides ample fuel for discussion. But the writing drew me in and kept me spellbound. I loved the vocabulary, the turns of phrases. I could feel the small southern town. It was so refreshing to read a really good book again and have friends to talk to about it. We had a great evening chatting - looovvveedd it!

We decided that we will meet every other month. Our second book was "Emma" by Jane Austin. We were welcomed into Regina's house to the smell of hot spiced cider. Oh, it smelled & tasted heavenly! She had gone all out - Boston Creme Pie, cheese & crackers (the tomato basil triscuits are awesome) and I don't know what all. Few of us had actually read the book - I did try but other books kept getting in my way. More about that later. We have all seen the movie, some of us both versions, so we did discuss the plot & the characters. We were able to compare the book with the movies as a few had read the book. More than anything, we talked about all kinds of books. So much fun.

One of the best parts - Caroline came to book group with a book under her arm to share with us all. It is called "Puppy Stew" and she is the author!!!!!!! We have a published member! I personally know an author! It is a super cute book about how the magical love of a pet can change a person. Her brother did all the illustrations. Anyway, it was so much fun.

Our next book is "The Goose Girl" by Shannon Hale. I have until the first week of January to get it read. Exciting!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Giving a Shout Out -

for new traditions ideas. I came home a week or so ago to a brown bag on my doorstep. When I opened it, I found an adorable clay Jack-o-Lantern candle holder and a bunch of wonderful smelling votive candles. The note said something about needing new traditions. I would have cute pic for you except my camera won't work. Uggghhh!

Anyway, I digress. I loved the gift and we have used it almost every day. It also got me thinking. I have the unique opportunity to recreate myself a bit. After thinking it over, I do have some traditions that I want to keep. They are special to me and I think they will help Ry as well. However, I would like some new things to mark this new book in my life. So, I am asking for your favorite traditions. Holiday, Birthday, Fast Sunday, Vacation, Fun, etc. Traditions, decorations, music, etc. You get the idea.

So, please share! Or email me privately. Or call me. Or send me a cute card. Or even a not cute card. I promise 15 mins. free babysitting for each tradition shared (that means you need to share a few to have enough time for dinner - even more for dinner & a movie!) For those of you who live far, far away - you know I am good for it!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Why I blog...

I started reading the blogs of 3 friends over a year ago. Meghan had moved and we hadn't kept in touch much. I think that we were headed to a Christmas Card friendship when I started reading her blog. I loved it! I felt like they were still in my town. I loved watching her kids grow up. I also started reading Kim and Alisa's blogs. They are good friends in my town - I see them at least once a week, but reading their blogs has been so wonderful. I have learned so much. I get to see sides of them that time, children, & life keep us from sharing with each other. So, after these wonderful examples of blogs, I decided that I wanted to create one.

Originally, my goals were to use my blog as our family scrapbook. There are a lot of day to day things that can get recorded in a blog that would not find their way to a scrapbook. Actually, very little has found it's way to our family scrapbook so I really needed to find something that would work for me! I loved the fact that all of our extended family could be included and feel a part of our lives. I loved that I would have an outlet to express some creativity. I still have plans to add a bit of color to my blog, maybe even some music.

Enter the divorce. Since the divorce, my reasons for blogging have changed a bit. My original reasons are still valid, but have become secondary to my main reason now. I feel this overwhelming need to be heard. In my hand written journal I can express my heart, pour out my feelings, but no one ever reads it but me. My blog has become my voice. One of the things that I really miss about marriage is having one person that I could tell anything and everything too. Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of people to talk too, but no one person that I can tell everything too. Most of my friends here have never met my family so while they could listen politely, they can't add much to the conversation. Same with my family. They don't know my friends here. In a marriage, you have a person who knows almost everyone you know. You can talk to them about everything and they can add to that conversation. I have found that since the separation, I miss talking. I miss being heard. I have felt like my voice has been stifled.

So, blogging has become a way for me to be heard, to leave my ripple in the great pond of life, to record my family, to share my heart, to leave my footprint for my great grandchildren, to leave my testimony for others. Welcome & happy reading!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Eleven Years Ago Today - (long)

Today my boy turns 11. Time is flying by yet my mother's heart holds so many memories, so many moments, that it feels impossible to have had them all happen in 11 short years. But let me start at the beginning...

It took us 5 months to get pregnant. I was starting to feel nagging concerns that maybe something was wrong. When it happened, I remember looking at the stick and feeling like I had just jumped off a cliff. I was excited and scared at the same time. I wasn't going to tell Tim right off. We had just moved into a condo (our 3rd move in 6 months of marriage) and my teenage sister was living with us. I wanted to figure out some cute way to tell him and maybe get used to the idea myself a bit first. But then that night I was laying down on my bed in the soft glow of lamp light reading some chapter for school when he came home from work. He came in, sat beside me & kissed me, and it just came out. "I am pregnant." I will never forget his reaction. "Really? Really?" and he touched my stomach so gently. I have only seen Tim cry once - that night. His eyes filled with tears and one trickled down his cheek. "Really." I said with a smile as tears filled my eyes. Much of my fear washed away with his tear. We were so happy. How could we love someone so tiny, so unknown to us, so much? I don't know but we did.

I went to the clinic a day or two later to confirm everything. I estimated that I was only a couple of weeks along but learned that you count back to your last period so I was just over 5 weeks pregnant! What a jump! It definitely made it more real. About two weeks later it started to feel very real. I forgot to include morning sickness in my schedule when I signed up for classes that semester. At the time I had to get up at 5:30 to get ready for the day, leave by 6:30 or quarter to 7:00 (depending on the roads) and drive sister to high school and then hustle to my 7:30 class - Utah State History. I was in classes until 11:30 when I then drove to my job at the bank and worked from noon until closing 6:00ish, drove home, made something quick for dinner & studied. Enter morning sickness. I would be fine until just as we were suppose to leave. Sara spent quite a few mornings watching the morning shows with her coat & back pack on while I was considering the intricacies of pregnancy in the bathroom. We ended up with a routine - get ready, throw up, quickly drop her off, drive to school, and then throw up between each class. Tim would stand outside the girl's bathroom door at school and have words of encouragement & a big hug ready when I finally emerged. I was very blessed to have a very understanding teacher in my 7:30 class, Dr. Sadler, and I was grateful for my C that semester.

Eventually, the morning sickness ebbed around the end of the fourth month (finally!) I wasn't showing much and I actually applied for a new job at a medically clinic and was hired. I debated in the interview if I should say anything and in the end decided I wanted to be upfront. I told the would be supervisor that I was 5 months pregnant and asked if that would be a problem. Her eyes teared up and she said "Absolutely not." Turns out that she lost a baby to SIDS after years of trying. Soon after she went through a very nasty divorce. Her mother's heart was thrilled for me. When I started the job no one knew I was pregnant - I still wasn't showing. After 3 weeks of training, our clinic opened and I was definitely pregnant in the picture that was taken at the grand opening. In fact, I looked like I was about to deliver!

I spent the summer working, attending a maternity water aerobics class (loved it!) and taking my last class for my degree. I continued to get big - I think others were dismayed. Around 7 months I went back to the bank to see everyone and one of the girls asked if I was having triplets! Just a word of wisdom- do not comment on a pregnant woman's size. Her hormones and self confidence are are already suffering and she should not be held accountable anything that she says or does. (I pasted on a smile and cried all the way home.)

The doctor that I saw owned an ultrasound machine so I got an ultrasound at every appointment. I thought that was standard for everyone and didn't realize until much later that it wasn't. I have a video of Ryan from the very first. With all those ultrasounds it was impossible to not know what gender was coming to our home! We were very excited.

So, eleven years ago today. I woke up VERY tired. Tim had already left for school and I spent over 2 hours getting dressed. I just didn't feel well. I didn't have any energy. I showered and then layed on the couch for 20 mins. to regain my energy. I got dressed in spurts. Finally, I made it out the door to meet Tim at the financial advisor's office to roll over our 401K's from past jobs. On the drive, I realized I was having contractions. I have no idea what the advisor said because I would squeeze Tim's hand through each contraction and he was timing them - 5 mins. In the parking lot we discussed our options. I didn't want to go to the hospital. I still had 2.5 weeks to go. They would just laugh at me and send me home. I had been to my OB the day before and while I was fully effaced, I was only diated to a 2. We had a ways to go. Anyway, I argued, I worked at a medical clinic with 10 doctors. I would be fine. So we parted ways & I went to work. My face must have been expressive because it didn't take long before my supervisor got the LPN who strongly suggested I go to the hospital. I called Tim & he met me at home to quickly pack a bag. I was so sure that it wasn't going to happen I made him leave it in the car when we got to the hospital. They made me walk 45 mins and then re-checked me. I got to practice my lamaze breathing during that walk! When they re-checked me, I was dialated to an 8. We were having a baby. The nurse could even see Ry's head and said he had red hair about an inch long. The nurse was worried that I wouldn't make it until 8:00p.m. when my doctor came on duty. They started talking about breaking my water. For all the talk of a quick labor, it didn't go that way. I pushed for almost an hour. Ry was turned wrong and I couldn't get him out. They started talking about ceaserean. Finally, the doctor got him turned and out he came at 10:07 p.m. weighing 8 lbs. 6 oz. We were estatic. Our joy was quickly replaced with fear. He wasn't breathing like he needed too. They let me hold him for literally 3 seconds when they whisked him off to NICU. Family & friends had left for a variety of reasons and I waited alone for news. Those next 3 hours were very hard. I prayed some of my most earnest prayers during those hours. Finally, Tim came back. They had "vacuumed" his lungs and he was breathing well now. However, they discovered that his blood sugar was dangerously low. He was staying in NICU. Tim told me he had given him a blessing and apologized - he had chosen from the two names we had discussed and blessed him Ryan Hunter Mills. I knew that was his name when I first saw him so I was fine with it.

Finally, at 3a.m. I was wheeled to NICU to meet my dear boy. How do I express that moment? It was like putting a face to someone I had always known. He was perfect. Those moments are some of the tenderest of my life.

My new mother's heart knew he needed breast milk. As his blood sugar continued to drop through the rest of the night and then next day, I knew. I pumped non-stop and finally had 2 cc of liquid gold. We gave it to him in the morning of Sun. Oct. 19 and finally his blood sugar turned around. It went up & continued climbing. They let me stay with him in the NICU bonding room on Sunday night so that I wouldn't have to go home without my baby and they released him on Monday afternoon with a blood sugar in the 40s - still low but it had been as low as 17. I remeber leaving the hospital feeling awed that they were trusting me with this baby. I was a mother. I kept saying it over in my mind and watched him all the time, trying to make it all seem real.

I love being a mother. I love being his mother. He has made me laugh more than any other. I love the adventures - him following me around the house in his walker, candy up the nose, playing in the rain & mud, bike riding around Lake Hefner, building snowmen in the yard, hiking up Silver Falls, playing in the ocean, light saber fights, lotion letters after a bath, snuggling in the rocker with tons of books, reading chapter books together, building legos, playing games, washing dishes together & talking, building tree houses outside & tent forts inside, car discussions, dancing in the living room to loud music, hot chocolate on the couch with a good book, watching all my Jane Austin movies together, singing primary songs together when I tuck him in bed & talking about the best & worse part of the day. I love it when he doesn't have a worse part of the day.

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to homeschool him until 4th grade. I love reading books with him, learning history together, making things together, discovering science together. I will never forget reading "Summer of the Monkeys" and "Where the Red Fern Grows" together - laughing until our cheeks hurt and crying silently together & holding hands as we drove to McAlester listening to the final chapters of "Red Fern." We have had amazing conversations that I treasure. I am constantly awed at his understanding & maturity of things that never entered my head at his age. Being his mom makes so many things worth it.

So Ry Pie- Happy Birthday! I love your guts. You were dearly wanted before your birth and you are my greatest treasure. I love the young man you are growing up to be. I love your smile, your resourcefulness, your positive attitude, your testimony of the gospel, your understanding of deep things. I love you.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Race for the Cure

I can do hard things. I went to bed at 2:00a.m., woke up at 6:00, left the house at 6:20, finally found a parking spot at 7:20, spent almost an hour getting through the crush of 17,000 people, and had a great time walking the 5k. I did run the last block & a half. It was very encouraging - so many survivors, so many with notes on their shirts about who they were honoring. I thought about my friend Cindy Prentice who died a couple of months ago after an 11 yr. battle with breast cancer. I thought about Mitch - a boy Ryan's age who died a year ago from Lukemia. I thought about the qualities of survivors. I thought about life. It was amazing to see so many people, to hear the music throughout the race. Life is so full, so many twists & turns, so many blessings. I went by myself and in a way I am glad. I did think but more than that, I just experienced. I listened to the life around me, the weather was perfect and I just enjoyed it. This is my life and it is an amazing gift. I am so glad that I did it.
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Saturday, September 27, 2008

I really can't believe I am doing this...

I just registered for a 5k race for next Sat. It is the "Race for the Cure" annual fund raising race for breast cancer. Why did I pick that race, you ask. Because it is the next race and if I don't do this now, I never will. I was shaking as I was typing in my info. I am so out of shape. I haven't been working out, or running or even walking long distances. But I desperately want to live the life I dream of. I don't want to come to the end of my life with a mountain of regrets and a puddle of accomplishments. Those who know me well, know I have an almost unreasonable fear of running. It is not fun in anyway, shape or form and my memories are filled with unpleasant associations with PE class. So for me, this truly is a personal Goliath.

And just to be clear on my goals here-
1. register (check)
2. show up
3. finish the race (and I do plan on walking most of it. If I want to run, I will.)
http://www.logosoftwear.com/embroideryclipart/Track.Runner%20Silhouette.(CD021406TI).(3.5x1.46).5472.jpg

Afterward, I am going to come home & pass out in front of the computer and listen to conference.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Crossroad Dreams part II

It's a Small World-
I have always dreamed of traveling. I love the countries that I have visited- the adventures, the people, the traditions, the languages, the food, the history, the beauty. I spent hours one day reading this LDS family's blog who have spent the last year traveling the world. Their experiences were incredible and each post fanned the flame in my heart to travel. It is amazing to me, but a family of six traveled 6 continents for an entire year on less than $15,000 each. What an experience! Every time I read about their family's adventures, my heart skips a beat. I have followed another friend who has spent the last year + living in Morocco (her hubby is military) and they just adopted twin baby girls while they were there.

My dream has always been to take a year and live somewhere. At times I have wanted to sell everything, buy a motor home and travel the US & Canada. Other times, I have wanted to tour the world like the Sixintheworld. Either way, I really want to serve other people whether that is volunteering in an orphanage in India, building a house in Africa, helping at a school in Bolivia, or reading to elderly in a nursing home in Nebraska. To me traveling has always equated living life to the fullest, of appreciating every drop of life, of living without regrets. I have always wanted that & wanted that kind of experience for my kids.

So, now I find that I may be able to make this dream happen. It will take this next year (or possibly two) to get my final teaching certificate, but I am already investigating opportunities to teach for a year in different countries. There are American Schools & military bases around the world. There are countries who are always looking for American teachers to teach English in their country for 6 months or a year. And I think that Ry is catching the vision. We have been watching the touristy shows on PBS the last few months and he has made more frequent comments about wanting to travel. :)

Who knows what will happen. Obviously, the farm dream and the travel dream are polar opposites. I wouldn't really want a farm without a husband & large family to share it with anyway. But now I find that the travel dream may be opening up for me. I would LOVE to teach at the American School in London for a year or the Liahona Academy in Mexico. I would love to travel to Africa, Japan, China, France, Germany, Holland, Chile, Brazil. I would even love to teach in a remote town in Canada or Alaska for a year. I don't know if I have the guts to follow through with it, but I looooovvvve to think about it...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Blessings From Heaven

Yesterday was payday and I received my first check on a teacher's salary. After I made it to the bank and verified that it was there, I have been giddy; my heart floating with gratitude. We made it. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Money will still be tight for a while as I catch up on bills & needs, but for the last few months, every day was a prayer that we could meet our needs, that I would find gas money, milk money, that people could wait until Sept. 19. And you know what? We made it!

My testimony has grown a 100 times more in a couple of areas over the last 7 months. One of those areas has been tithing. I remember having a conversation with my dad a few months after I came home from my mission. It was one of those conversations where you say something and as the words come out of your mouth, they sink into your own heart as well. At times, our family had struggled to pay our tithing and my dad mentioned that it was his experience that sometimes you pay tithing with the expectation that you will be blessed like so many have testified; that a check for the needed money will appear. In his experience, it had not happened. The money never came & then next month the hole was deeper. Suddenly, these words came out of my mouth and whether my dad heard them or not, I did. "But we don't pay tithing expecting a blessing. We pay it because the Lord asks us too." Suddenly I realized, it wasn't a bargain with the Lord. If He never blessed me with temporal means, I was still going to pay it. My faith couldn't be bought with a 10% check. Since that day, my testimony of why I pay tithing has been solid.

Fast forward a few years. Our Bishop in Oregon shared an experience with us about fast offering and we decided on an experiment. We doubled our fast offering the next month. I was amazed at the difference. Answers came and we were able to feel the Lord's guidance in our financial decisions. As we moved to Oklahoma and Tim set up his own practice, we continued with the "double our fast offering principle" when we were really low. Fast offering became our offering of faith. I was able to keep the bills paid, Ryan in multiple activities (that of course all cost money), build our food storage, etc. We were blessed. Looking back, I wish that we had applied the same principle to Tim's business - perhaps it would have fared better.

Over the years, I have always written my tithing check first, but I am ashamed to say, I haven't always paid it first. Many times it sat in my church bag while I spent my week spending money. Suddenly, I would realize that my checkbook showed us in the negative but, as I would rationalize to Tim, "We really aren't because the tithing check hasn't cleared." When my world fell apart a few months ago, I decided that I really was going to pay the Lord first. When I deposited my check(s) I withdrew the cash for tithing (& fast offering if applicable) at the same time. The money still sat in my church bag all week, but it felt paid. I knew the Lord's money was safe from bouncing.

A great peace has settled about me - I have felt honest with the Lord. My faith has been buoyed up and I have not panicked about finances when there have been many times & reasons where panic would have been appropriate. That peace has been the greatest blessing over the last few months. And he has blessed me to overflowing the last few months. I have had countless blessings that have met my needs and wants over the last few months. Some of them absolute miracles that can not be explained. Each one has been a layer to the foundation of my testimony. As I take my turn in the Refiner's fire, I feel so blessed, so grateful. We made it!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Falling Alseep but I Can't Sleep

It is 2:42 a.m. and while I keep drifting off for a second or two, I can't sleep. Too many thoughts & noises. I hate it when Ry is gone. The solitude is deafening.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Crossroad Dreams - part 1

I have so many ideas about my life - dreams in vivid color & detail yet they all go in completely different directions. I would truly be happy with any of them - I am equally passionate about all of them and I feel that any of them could come to pass. But the question now - which should I pursue? So, I decided that I would take a few posts to write them out so that each would come to life, if only on this blog.

Country Farm-
My dream house is not very large because I am lazy and do not want to clean it. More than anything I want it to be as self-sufficient as possible. I am so sick of being a slave to electricity bills/outages.

I would like a modified A-frame with passive solar framing so that it will cool the house in the summer & warm it in the winter and passive solar houses don't look like an A-frame in the mountains. I would like to have radiant floor heating in a stained concrete floor - it is cheaper & if I don't like it, I can always put a hardwood floor over it. I want the ends of the house to be made from strawbales & rock as it is much cheaper & has an outstanding insulation factor.

I would like it to have a rainwater cistern that collects all the rainwater that is then used to flush the toilets or water my lawn & garden. I would like a windmill in the backyard that powers my house & sells electricity to the city! How cool would it be to finally get a check from the power company!!!!

I would also like a little cubby with a drain at the bottom built into the wall next to every toilet - it would be the plunger cubby. You need a plunger close by when there is an emergency, but where in the world are you suppose to put the nasty thing? Drives me crazy. Mine is currently sitting in an old dishpan under my bathroom sink. It has the whole space to itself because, what else do I store next to it? Anyway, in my dream home it has its own space in the world.

I would have tons of built-in's. Bookcases would line the hallways and because I hate the wasted space in A-frames, I would build bookcases, shelves, closets & dressers into the lower portions of the exterior walls. That way it doesn't feel so much like an A-frame too.

I would like a sky light in my room so that I could sleep under the stars every night. The night sky is amazing in the country & I miss it so much. I would love to watch the stars every night. If it turns out to not be practical to have a sky light, I would like a balcony off my bedroom so I could drag a mattress out on a spring or fall (or winter or summer!) night and watch them all pass by. I would also like a deck or a patio with a pergola where I could grow vines. And a campfire pit where we can roast marshmellows & s'mores over hot coals & read Patrick McMannis books and laugh until we cry.

I would have a wood stove in the living room with a wood cookstove on the kitchen side of the chimney and a brick bread oven. I would never have to worry about another power outage again! The kitchen stove would be mostly decorative (I would use a regular gas stove most of the time), but it would be so reassuring to have one when the power goes out. (And yes, I have used one for days at a time before, so I know full well the work involved)

I would also have a sewing/craft or office area at the top of the stairs. The top of the stairs is a cool place - it is one of the crossroads of a house. You can hear upstairs & downstairs & everyone passes you. I want my passions to keep me in my families path, not tucked away in a room elsewhere. I would have lights in every closet that come on when the door opens and possibly a universal vacuum (I haven't decided on that yet.)

I would have a large herb & flower garden outside my kitchen because I love flowers & herbs are a joy. I would have a large veggie garden where I could relax in the early morning weeding & then find joy sharing the harvest a few months later. I would grow green beans, tomatoes, pumpkins, spinach, broccoli & asparagus (other things too, but I love these!) I would also build a small greehouse so that I could have fresh salad whenever I want. I would have fruit trees on one side - especially the Sappington Apple tree that my grandpa Sappington developed. I would have a huge Elderberry tree as there is nothing so good in this world as homemade Elderberry syrup on pancakes.

I would have a root cellar to keep all the good stuff we grew & if we lived here in tornado alley, it would be a storm cellar as well. I would have a clothesline in the backyard. I would have chickens, rabbits, bees, & maybe a goat (Dad, can you believe I said that!) or a cow, as well as a couple of barn cats & a dog or two. I would have an outdoor kitchen where I could can food & not heat up the house.

I would not have tv but I would have a built-in projector screen in the ceiling above the fireplace so that we could watch movies. I want it above the fireplace so that I don't have to decide where the furniture should be pointing. :) Or maybe a flat screen - maybe by that time they will have developed a way to have the screen be one of those digital picture frames when the t.v./movie is not on. Maybe they already have!

I would not have a dishwasher. Shocking huh? I washed dishes by hand most of my life and I love the camaraderie & discussions you have when someone washes & another dries. The job is done when you leave the kitchen - there is no coming back later to unload or half done dishes in the sink because the dishwasher was too full.

My kids (this is my dream so I would have ton of them) would share bedrooms. I have a good friend who has 5 boys in one bedroom. Space is obviously at a premium, but she has a rocking chair in their room where she sits and reads to them every night. I love that! I remember sharing a room with my 3 sisters - there are a lot of close bonds that develop when you share a small space. Plus, it encourages de-cluttering & organization - love that!

So, that is dream number one. I know that it is crazy, but aren't all dreams? If nothing else, it gets to breathe a for minute on this page.

Conversation with Ry

Ry - "Do maids get paid a lot of money?"
Me - "No"
Ry - "Then why do they do it?
Me - "Because they need a job."
Ry - "But that's what McDonald's is for!"

Monday, September 1, 2008

Divorce 101

I have learned quite a bit lately. Things I never would have thought of and I started a Divorce 101 list. These are things that people have done for me or I have done for myself that have helped get through this time. A few are things that I wish had been done. (They are not in any particular order)

A good uplifting book(s)- one friend sent me "21 Days Closer to Christ" and another shared a beautiful book about motherhood. Both lifted me and helped me to lean on Christ. They helped me find some peace and perspective.

Running Shoes - I started taking long walks and eventually bought myself some running shoes. It is very freeing to feel like I am running away from my problems.

Journal - I have always kept a journal although never regularly. For the first time in my life, my journal has become therapy. It has been so helpful to pour out my heart, to write out the pain, the fear, the disappointment and eventual end with some perspective and peace.

Music - I made a mix cd when I was in Washington which was really wonderful. Many of the songs are ones that Tim would not have liked so I haven't listened to them much over the years. I feel like I am reclaiming my independence, my personality, by listening to songs I love.

Body Pillow - I have had a very hard time sleeping. Lots of strange, distorted dreams where I wake not sure what is real and what I dreamed. It has been hard getting used to a huge empty bed.

Netflix & Books on Tape - My hardest time is when I drop Ry off for visitation. My life is so quiet, so unrecognizable in those moments. Books on tape & a movie to come home too have helped get my mind focused on something and not wallow in despair.

Missionary dinner invitations - My heart hurt when I realized that we could not feed the missionaries in our home any longer. I have been so grateful for the invitations to dinner when others are feeding the Elders. My son needs to see these missionaries, to see the example of missionary work, to feel the missionary spirit. All these years I have feed the missionaries and never once did I think to invite other single parent families.

Jewelry Box - Tim bought my jewelry box our first year of marriage. For some reason, it brought a lot of pain. I would remember how things used to be and how a jewelry box holds so many of my treasures - jewelry from my mom, Ryan's baby teeth, old temple recommends, etc. I wasn't planning on doing much about it, but while I was in Washington, I found a beautiful dark cherry wood jewelry box with an inlaid top for $3.oo in the clearance bin. I brought it home and have love having a fresh place to hold my treasures.

A God Box - there are so many things that I now have no control over. There are so many things that I have to turn over to the Lord because I can not do them. A month or so ago I bought a God Box. It is a beautiful cardboard box that says "Hope, Love & Trust" on the top. When things start to overwhelm me or when I am dealing with things beyond my control, I write them down and store them in the box. It is my way of putting them in God's hands.

Missing Tim

I used to be frustrated with Tim because he would play games on his cell phone with Ryan during Sacrament meeting. Yesterday, I missed him so much. I could tangibly feel his presence missing during Sacrament and I would have given a lot to have him there playing games with Ryan. I wonder if I will always miss him. Will I ever be able to emotionally move on? Will this be an eternal heartache?

Tim is currently in the hospital with a massive infection in his left leg. He was admitted Thursday. It has been a very strange feeling - I feel like I should be there. I have worried about him physically. I have worried about him emotionally. I have worried about him financially. I have thought about the future. Just a lot to think about...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

School Update

So, Ry has finished his first full week of school and I have finished my 3rd. We are both alive. Each day has been better than the last. Ry has decided that he wants to join the orchestra (we will find out what instrument this next week) and much to his chagrin, he made the 5th grade Honor Choir. He is not too sure that choir is cool enough for him, but he did perk up when he found out that the choir gets free tickets to the High School football games when they sing. So, he has decided to give it a try. Baseball practice also started this past weekend and his first game is Tues. Between choir, orchestra, scouts, & baseball I don't think that he will have much time to get into trouble.

For me- I really love my class. The kids are so good. And some of them have really hard lives. At least two are in the foster care system. But they are so much fun. We have been memorizing poems and listening to Mozart. We learned a cute song about the continents & where they go on a map. We practice skip counting to the mac arena. They have been learning how to use a dictionary, make & read maps, read clocks & thermometers, the history of the Olympics and I am currently reading a biography of Helen Keller to them. It has been so fun to see them learning & having so much fun. I am a bit sad that next week some of them will go to other classrooms for one hour a day. I am feeling a bit possessive of my kids.

Life still has its challenges. Public school red tape makes teaching almost impossible. It is very frustrating but I am learning the ropes and squeezing in as much as I can. I am still putting in around 60 - 70 hours a week, but I have been getting to bed earlier and I am working harder to balance everything. All in all, life is good.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Girl's Night Out

The other day I dropped Ry off at his friend's house for a play date. On the spur of the moment, I asked the friend's little sister, Miss Aubrey, if she wanted to go with me to Walmart. We had a great time shopping & running a couple of errands. We splurged on a 4-berry Sundae at Sam's Club. It was so fun! I truly love kids. I am so grateful to have lots of friends that let me borrow their kids.
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First Day of School


Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Ryan's first day of school! Ever. As homeschoolers, this week was his first experience with public school on the first day of classes. It was a bittersweet day but overall, went well. Each day has been a bit better than the last for him and I feel peaceful that it will be a great year for him.
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Cinderill Elise

My sweet sister had her birthday this past week. We exchanged voice mail messages but I didn't have time to share my post on her birthday so here are a few things that I love about my sister.

I love your sense of humor. You always come up with the quick wit reply and have brought so much laughter to so many ordinary things. You balance my serious nature and challenge me to find fun in everything, even the hard things.

I don't know if we sisters would have been so close without you. It was you who started calling me after we were both married & started building the adult bonds that we have. I am so grateful for you. I don't know what I would do without my sisters.

You have always been so inspirational in "keeping up appearances". You have always been so creative in sewing your own clothes, staying up with cute styles and working so hard to stay fit. You are a constant example and wonderful cheerleader.

I love you! I am so glad that you are my sister. I hope you had a great birthday & have a great week!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Chapter One

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way."
Charles Dickens

This opening paragraph to the classic "The Tale of Two Cities" is a great beginning to the first chapter in the next book of my life. I have never been under more stress yet I have never felt so blessed. I have never felt so alone, I have never felt so many angels. I absolutely believe that my Heavenly Father knows me. He knows my heart & my hurts. He knows my mistakes and my joys. He knows.

It I could, I would subtitle this chapter Strength. Last Monday, I drove to the Professional Development Center to make copies since the copier at the school was not working. When I went to return to the school to frantically finish my classroom, my car wouldn't start. I was calm and started walking the 12 blocks to the school. I called a friend but kept going instead of waiting for her. It began to rain lightly and I started to think, "OK, don't think about it or you are going to cry. You can do this, you can do this." And suddenly, I felt a wave of quiet determination, of steel-strong strength wash over me. My thoughts changed from "poor me" to "bring it on!" I am strong. I am powerful. I am not a quitter. I will not be a victim. I am not the first to be abandoned by a husband & I will not be the last. I will overcome. I reached the school and a few minutes later my friend showed up. She & her daughter stayed until 9:30p.m. and helped me get so much done. Since that walk home, I have felt peaceful and strong. I feel the Lord on his side of the yoke and I am walking with him instead of asking "Do I really have to do this?" "Can't we do it another way?" Nothing has really changed, except my attitude but it is amazing the difference it has made.

And lastly, quick update:
The first three days of school went well. I am exhausted! But I have a really great class (so far) and I really love being with these kids.

I hope to post some this week and I am hoping to post pics of my classroom next weekend, so stay tuned.

I went to see Mama Mia! last night with girlfriends. It was so much fun! I lived so far in the country I missed out on a lot of high school friends & fun nights. It was really fun to feel young again.

Love to all of you!!!!! Thank you so much for your prayers & help. You have all been so wonderful. I have seen angels and they look just like you. I can never repay you for all you have done.

Have a wonderful week! LIVE STRONG!




Friday, August 8, 2008

The Straw that Broke the Camel's Back

I started a long post with all the gory details of my nightmare right now and just writing it out was adding to my stress. Yesterday I lost it and yelled at Ryan for a fairly minor thing that was an accident but it was the straw that broke the camel's back. Last night he came and talk to me and said that he thought I needed more sleep to deal with my stress. I took his advice and after a long prayer pleading for help, I went to bed. This morning I am feeling more rested but still very stressed, panicked, overwhelmed and humbled. I basically feel like I can be a mother or I can be a teacher but I can't do both and I am feeling so frustrated that I have no choice.

I woke up before my alarm and feel strongly that I need help. So, I am asking. If any or all of you could do one of the following I would be very grateful.
*Would you please include us in your prayers, specifically that I can get everything done & be ready for my students next Wed.? That I will feel prepared for them? That I can figure out ways to be a mom to Ryan through all this?
*Put our names in at the temple.
*If you live locally I could really use some help with the following things:
Taking Ryan for a day or afternoon
sewing curtains
sewing chair pockets
painting a banner
transporting, painting & installing shower board in my classroom
Making a sign with my name (Ms. Mills)

I am calling today to get a blessing. And a HUGE thank you to the family that mowed my yard. My grass was so high that we did not know a stray cat had given birth to her 4 kittens in the grass! And the kittens have their eyes open & are toddling around. My yard was their jungle. And another HUGE thank you to the man who is spending his Saturday fixing my car.

Thank you all for all your thoughts and prayers. I have tried to be strong through this all and I just feel like I can't do it anymore by myself. Your prayers made a huge difference when the news of the divorce first broke and so I am hopping the same will happen again.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tuesday Tell All


I have been reading blogs on the Tuesday Tell All site for at least 6 months. I have wanted to participate for a long time and finally got my act together tonight. And it is only 11:48 so technically it is still Tuesday. So, the question- Am I competitive? What Olympic event would choose to participate in?

Answer- I am not very competitive. I hate the feeling when I loose but then I feel guilty for not being happy for the winner(s). I love it when I win but then I feel guilty for the losers & how bad they feel. It is a no-win situation so I tend to not be competitive. When I am not playing, I like to root for the under-dogs. I love the Cinderella wins and I always cry happy tears. I do still feel a twinge or two for the losers, but I celebrate the guts & determination & the never-give-up-ness of the underdogs. I love movies like Rudy, Miracle, The Rookie, etc.

What Olympic event would my athletic alter-ego participate in? Gymnastics was my passion growing up & Nadia Comeneci was my hero. My favorite event was the uneven bars - I could watch them forever and I would do twirls around the monkey bars at school pretending that I was in the Olympics. My youthful, never-say-you-can't-do-it spirit would say gymnastics. However, my 5'9" mature reality could definitely get excited in the rowing competition. I love watching everyone in sync and the teamwork it takes. Speaking of in sync, I LOVE to watch synchronized swimming! It amazes me how they can do all of those routines. I love the dance part of it, the teamwork part of it and the athletic part of it.

I am so excited that they Olympics start next week! I love all the athletes' stories as well as the events. I love seeing all the countries come together. I could spend hours watching the diving, swimming, fencing, archery, canoing, biking, triathlon, and team sports. I love watching the final races/competitions. I love the Opening Ceremonies and watching the torch come in. I won't have time to watch most it this time, but just knowing that the world has come together & the games are going on makes the world a better place. Go USA!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Mother's Day

Today is my mom's birthday. She would have been 60. The opening hymn today in church was "Because I Have Been Given Much", her favorite hymn and the closing hymn was "God Be With 'Till We Meet Again", the final hymn sung at her funeral. In a way, it felt like she was wrapping her arms around me giving me a hug.

When my dad turned 60 last year, we all got together and wrote reasons why we love him. My sister printed them up on business cards, laminated them and put them on a ring. It has been so much fun reading (& remembering) each person's memories. I thought I would share a few of my memories of my mom.

I love my mom because she was there. When I came home from school she was there. When I came home from activities I would wake her up and tell her all about it. Once my entire family drove 4 hours to see a college performance of mine. After the show, they got in the car and drove all the way home. I especially remember coming home as a teen and telling her all about my seminary lesson that day. We had some great discussions.

I love my mom because she was a homemaker. She taught me how to garden, can food, stretch a dollar and sew. She taught me how to care for & love children. She showed me a love of reading and how to have a sense of humor. She showed me how to share with others and see others' needs.

Mostly, I love my mom because she loved the Lord. She accepted the gospel and taught me a great example of service. Through various trials in life, she proved her devotion to the Lord. She never wavered. Her life is her testimony and I have been so blessed because of it.

I love you Mom! Happy Birthday!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

My Morning

I have spent the morning labeling the food storage under Ry's bed. My ideas are all gleaned (plagiarized) from other very smart ladies.
First, I label each bucket with a strip of colored electric tape around the bucket & a 2" strip on the top. I use electrical tape because it comes off without much residue. Each type of food has a different color. Blue tape is for Oatmeal. Next, each bucket gets 5 colored stickers, one on the top & 4 around the bucket. I make sure I put a dot under each handle side so that we always know where to look for the sticker. Each color indicates a year. Florescent green means 2005.
Some categories have sub categories, such as beans so I write what kind of beans on the sticker. This one says Kidney.

Lastly, I have a 3x5 card on my fridge that has my master list. From this, I could ask Ry to get me a black bucket with an orange sticker and I would have a bucket of rice from 2006!


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