To read the story of our precious Harlynn Renae, start here and follow the "next" links at the end of each post. Thank you for coming and sharing with us in this journey.

Monday, December 7, 2009

18 wks and Counting Blessings!

I can't get enough oatmeal. With toast. Sometimes I have it for lunch, sometimes I have it for dinner, sometimes I have it for lunch AND dinner..... Oatmeal is my staple food now. I think it's funny that throughout the stages of my pregnancy, the foods I can't get enough of have been breakfast foods. First it was pancakes, then Cheerios, now oatmeal. What's in store for me next??

My belly is making things a little harder, also. I can't lean across my desk if I'm sitting down. Hugging Brent (or anyone for that matter) is a little tricky. And thank heavens I found a body pillow on sale, or else my sleep would be severely hindered, trying to keep my body balanced otherwise.

Really in the last two weeks, not much has changed, save for the growing belly and the increased forgetfulness. But today - today was a most special day, and I really want to share.

I'm not going to lie - I detest Mondays. Mondays start off with a staff meeting 15 minutes after I get to work. I don't like to talk to people, or be addressed, until I've been awake for at least three hours. When I get to work, I'm lucky to have been awake for an hour and a half. Then, to have to sit through a meeting first thing....dear gracious, I would rather pull splinters out of my toes. So this morning, I was expecting any other Monday. For some reason, though, I enjoyed most of the meeting, and it was relatively painless. I went on about my day, and sailed through to lunch. Rarely do I enjoy a Monday, so it was already a great day!

I came home and fixed up some oatmeal. You think I'm kidding. I've got it down to a science as far as the serving size and time in the microwave. There's nothing better, I'm telling you. I dinked around on the computer, and finally left to head back to work. As I started backing out of the driveway, I was having a conversation with myself in my head. You do it too, admit it.

"Oh...I'd better check the mail, you know in case we get that big check! Ha ha!" (Sometimes I make myself laugh....Oh come ON, you do it too!)

I walked to the mailbox, grabbed a bill, a Christmas card, and an unidentified piece of mail. It was a bright orange envelope, no return address, and I certainly did not recognize the handwriting.

I went back to the car, threw the mail in the seat and drove back to work. A few streets away from the office, my sister called. I answered and talked to her as I parked and walked inside. I shut my office door as to not disturb anyone, and started to end the conversation with my sister. I grabbed my purse to fling it under my desk, and remembered the mail. I opened the bill, and the small blessing was I owed less than I thought! That's always good news, right? I opened the Christmas card and smiled to myself - a friend of Mom's, they used to work together - is the cutest thing on two legs. A spitfire from the east, who fits in splendidly in the Midwest, and calls herself my Auntie. And she's earned that title for sure.

I moved on to the mysterious orange envelope. It felt like a card, and that's what I was expecting.

It was a card, alright. A gift card. To the grocery store. For a generous amount. There was a typed note on the inside that read, "Merry Christmas! God Bless! Faithful Servants of Jesus Christ."

You know what's next. I am that predictable. I cried. Right there at my desk, I slumped over and cried.

I don't know who it was from, or what led them to bless Brent and me in such a way. But know that I have been praying and requesting prayers for some financial stability as we continue this venture to become parents. With the grocery gift card, I can buy a substantial serving of meals for us. I can also apply that money I would have spent on groceries to dumping our debt, which is a huge burst of stability for future planning. This was an answer to prayer. An answer for all those I've asked to be praying for me.

I've said it before, and I will say it again. Every time I question, or start to feel like I'm fading in my faith, God proves - in the most incredible ways - how unconditionally He loves, and how desperately He fights to save each one of us. I don't deserve it - not a single bit. I don't deserve the gift card, and it humbles me greatly that someone would be so generous to me, the wretched creep I am. But God told me today, loud and clear, that I am His and He will take care of me (and Brent and Ziggy) with everything He is.

Whoever sent that card - I pray they are blessed ten-fold. They may never realize how their act of generosity potentially saved Brent's and my month of December. They are a hero (or heroes) in my eyes. A literal God-send.

I pray the same for each of you - that you see and hear and feel when God sends you a blessing, and that you honor Him for it!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sixteen Weeks

My belly has made an appearance. It's hard to bend over. Roll over. Walk upstairs. My entire center of gravity has begun to shift. And it's hilarious.

I've started to feel like myself again. I mostly have energy - though by Thursday evenings, I'm ready to be done with the week. I can eat just about anything, and aside from the bladder interruptions, I've been able to sleep fairly well at night. There have been a few sleepless nights, but not as many as I anticipated. Ziggy has been exceptionally kind to mommy, and will be rewarded in life as a result. Though someone may have to remind me later that I said that.

The one dramatic change I've noticed - aside from the enlarged body parts - is my mood. If I start laughing really hard, I can't stop. I laugh so hard I cry. I'm not just talking I shed tears. I actually cry. As in my mouth curls, my shoulders shake, the tears aren't from laughing. I cry. When I start crying, I can't stop. Every emotion I feel is exacerbated. If I'm happy, I'm really happy. If I'm tired, I'm really tired. If I'm annoyed, I'm really annoyed. And if I'm mad - y'all better duck for cover. God bless my husband.

My appetite has changed. I get really hungry but end up not being able to eat very much. Two pancakes fill me up. A single cheeseburger. Three slices of pizza instead of five (or more. And those of you who know how much I love pizza realize three pieces is n-o-t-h-i-n-g.) I am hungry about every three to three and half hours. This has changed, as I was hungry every forty-five seconds a few weeks ago.

As Thanksgiving approaches I am super excited about my parents coming to visit. I haven't seen them since September, and they of course have not seen the baby bump yet. I imagine within the next four days it will define itself a bit more. I'm cooking and am so grateful I have the energy to prepare a meal of that size, and to have people over to my home to enjoy it! This second trimester thing is amazing!

So without further ado....here's the belly. And might I just say that taking these pictures is a lot harder than it looks.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Betty the Bartender

Everything I need to know, I learned waiting tables. Maybe not, but during the five seasons I worked at the Sunset House in Cody, Wyoming, I learned a lot about life, people, and food. (You won't get better fish & chips anywhere else.)

The first year I waited tables, I loved it. I seriously thought it was something I could do the rest of my working career. I loved the customers, the coworkers, the atmosphere - it was exciting and exhilarating. Then there was the second year. I still loved the job, but not so much the people. The customers, yes. Most of the coworkers, yes. There was this sense of negativity, though, that stemmed from certain individuals that caused me to ... well ... hate them. I hated working with them, and seemed to have worse nights when sharing my shift with their presence.

Betty the Bartender was one of these people. The woman was so bitter and so vulgar, I could hardly stand to order my customer's drinks from her. When I came back the second year, she was the one person who didn't even say "welcome back" or "hello" or "what the crap are you doing here?". Nothing. I made the mistake of sharing my disdain towards Betty with someone who apparently befriended her. Word got back to the boss.

You see, the manager of the restaurant happened to be Betty the Bartender's daughter. Julie is still one of my favorite people. The woman put me through school and watched me go from single and irresponsible to married and emotionally unstable. :o) I always tried to work hard to make Julie's life a little easier in that restaurant. She was a lot like me - you never had to question how she was feeling. I knew when to steer clear, and when to tell a joke, and when to just attack her with a hug. She was a great boss, and is a great person. And she was the daughter of Betty the Bartender.

Julie came up to me one night and said, "So I hear you hate my mother." I stammered....I'd been busted. I couldn't really back out of this one. Julie wasn't mad, but told me essentially to deal with it - because Betty was Betty. And there was nothing either one of us could do about it.

Betty was Betty. We actually got along for the most part, Betty and I, after I decided to heed Julie's words. She was still bitter, and was still vulgar, but I didn't have so much of a problem with her. Betty never bridled her tongue, either. One night I showed up to work and her greeting to me was,
"You look like $#!%."
"Thank you, Betty."
"Well really. What the hell happened to you?"
"Nothing, I'm fine. We just - I've been eating tuna for the last two days because that's all we have. I'm sick of tuna, and I'm hungry. But I'm fine."
She pried, and I told her as little as I could get away with. Brent and I were struggling financially and I couldn't afford to buy even a loaf of bread. All we had were cans of tuna, and stale tortilla chips. That had been my lunch and dinner for two days. I was tired, I was hungry, and I was in no mood to hear a life lecture from Betty.

The next night was day three of tuna for me. I showed up to my shift and there was Betty, leaning against the sink in the bar. "Hey Val, there's something for you in the freezer." What now? was what was going through my mind. I lifted the lid to the freezer and there was a plastic grocery bag, filled with items wrapped in butcher paper. Betty had brought me elk steaks. I gasped.
"You brought me elk meat?!"
"Well hell, you need more than tuna."
I smiled. I fought back tears. I hugged her. "Get off me, g**damnit. Just eat the meat."

Betty the Bartender was who she was; but she wasn't heartless. Did she know how to show care and compassion? No. But she certainly felt it. God used her that night to help me. God used Betty the Bartender, and she didn't even know to what extent! We still had our moments from time to time, but I looked at Betty through a different set of eyes after that night. Dare I say, we became buddies. Betty even shared a joke or two with me, and we had some laughs through the window of that bar.

A few years ago, Betty passed away after losing a battle with leukemia. I may not have always liked her, but she found a place in my heart, and certainly in my memory bank. Why she insisted everyone regard her as a crass, rotten person, I'm not sure. Maybe it was easier for her than letting her guard down or becoming vulnerable. What I do know is this - Betty saved my stomach, if only for a night or two. And had she never had Julie, I would've missed out on some of the most memorable five years of my Wyoming life there at the Sunset House.

Betty was Betty - and God used her just the same. Regardless of who we are, or what our plans are, God has something in store for us. He's waiting to show us all of who He is, if we'd just open our eyes to Him! He can provide so much more than a meal, or a friendship. And yet he still provides even those - in times and circumstances we may least expect.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Good Samaritan Gone Sour?

We've all heard the Bible story of the Good Samaritan. The person who was least expected to help a neighbor in need, went above and beyond in restoring an individual to health and wellness. It's a gripping parable told by Jesus about living and giving mercy and compassion.

I'll never forget one night I went to WalMart in Wyoming....I was walking from my car to the store entrance when I heard a "Ma'am?" from behind me. I kept walking because of course, I was too young to be a ma'am. I heard it again, "Ma'am?" so I turned around. Some poor soul had mistaken me for a ma'am instead of a "pretty young lady". "Me?" I asked.

"Yes. We've run out of gas. We need to get to Powell. Is there any way you could spare some cash?" He was tall, burly, and unkempt. He had bushy, curly hair and a thick wiry beard, both cinnamon colored. His denim shirt was half untucked and he stood offset to one side, like it was painful for him to stand fully erect. His eyebrows were furrowed and I could tell from the vehicle he pointed to, that he had lived a hard life, and made some hard choices along the way. I eyed him from where I stood to see if I could pick up on any glimmer of genuineness.

I had a $10 bill and a $5 bill in my purse. I stared. So many thoughts ran through my mind before I asked, "How long are you planning on staying out here?" I was stalling. I was trying to decide what course of action to take. He shrugged and replied, "Until I can fill my vehicle."

I turned to go inside, but didn't take a step. I let out a heavy sigh. I was so completely torn. Is he being serious? Is he trying to take advantage of me? I reached in to my purse and grabbed the $5 bill. I turned and reached my hand out, but stood planted where I was.

"If I give you this money," I started, "Will you use it to buy drugs?"
"No ma'am."
"Will you use it to buy booze?"
"No ma'am."
"You promise?"
"Yes ma'am."

A female poked her head through the window of the rusty suburban and she explained, "No Ma'am, we don't do those things. He has a new job he starts in Powell tomorrow - we just need the gas to get there."

Everything inside of me said not to. Who runs out of gas parked in a parking lot? The busiest parking lot in town no less? I handed him the money and said, "Remember. You said you'd buy gas."

I turned and walked inside WalMart while a few "Thank you"s were uttered behind me. There was a manager there by the door and I said, "I'm not sure how you handle this, but there's a gentleman peddling for cash in your parking lot." He smiled and said, "Thank you, I'll take care of it." I have no idea what he meant by that, nor do I really understand why I told him....I was so caught off guard by the whole event. I went and retrieved the two items I needed and returned to my car. I was in WalMart for less than 10 minutes. When I got to my car I noticed the suburban was gone. I looked to my right where the nearest gas station was, and saw no suburban.

I got situated in my car, fastened my seatbelt and turned left out of the parking lot to head home. A short distance from WalMart, on the right hand side of the road, was a liquor store called Whisky River. I happened to glance as I drove by, and there in the parking lot was the rusted suburban. I was overcome with "OH NO YOU DID NOT" emotion. Next door to the liquor store was a Radio Shack, and I immediately turned in the parking lot and flipped around. I pulled up next to that Suburban and parked. Oh yes - I had caught them red-handed.

I remember as soon as she saw me, her eyes got huge and I saw her sit up a little straighter as I rolled down the window. I can't imagine what was going through her mind, but I would have given another $5 to find out.

"What are you doing here?" I snapped.
"He just went in....he's...."
I interrupted. "You told me you wouldn't buy booze. You TOLD me you wouldn't! Do you care that you lied to me? Took advantage of me?"
"Well we got gas! We did, but then we had some money left."
"You bought gas and had change in a ten minute period and from a five dollar bill?!"
She stared and didn't answer. I looked inside the store and debated whether or not to go inside and confront the gentleman. I decided against it, however. All I wanted to do was yell at this couple and let them have it. I shook my head, closed my eyes, and turned back to face the woman. "All that I can do for you now is pray." I said. (Mind you - I did not think those words on my own. I only spoke them, and only because the Spirit persuaded my lips to speak them. It was not what I had intended to say, nor the impression I had planned to leave.)

Her shoulders sank, her eyes lowered, then she looked at me and said, "Thank you?" I rolled up the window, shot the car in reverse, and headed home. I was HOT. Whoooo I was hot. I was actually surprised in my anger I didn't go inside and grab the bottle out of the guy's hand. It's the redhead in me - I get mad, and I get my point across. I had been completely taken advantage of, and I contributed to and enabled an addiction. A bad habit. A false witness. I called my parents. I called my sister. (and to this day she can't believe I whipped my car around and confronted these people.) I vented to my husband. These liars! These creeps! Who did they think they were?!

Were they in need? Not of my money, and not of the alcohol they purchased with it. Should I have helped them? Differently. Yes, I should have. But differently. I sometimes still think about that night. I wonder what happened to them, where they ended up, and if they ever turned themselves around. I replay hearing that "Ma'am?" and thinking - if only I had driven to the gas station and given them gas instead of cash. How would I have felt if I had never seen their vehicle in the liquor store parking lot, and never known how they had used the money?

Were they in need? Absolutely. I look back on that night and think about the role mercy and compassion had. Initially I would say there wasn't any. However, the reason I was so upset was because I genuinely wanted to help. I wanted to believe these people were in trouble and that my measly five dollar donation would be enough to get them gas and nothing more...nothing controversial. I wanted these people to be honest, and to be blessed. I was more upset that they acted so deceitfully, not so much that I had been suckered.

What would the Good Samaritan have done? Part of me would love to think he would have turned his donkey right around to confront the rusty suburban! But these few years later I wonder - what if that night, and that experience, was more supposed to be a lesson for me than for that couple? What if God was trying to teach me about mercy and compassion? What if the redhead in me needs to get a different point across?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Twelve Weeks

"Oh the wax and wanes of pregnancy poop!" said the text message. It made me laugh. And if you've ever experienced pregnancy, you'll probably laugh along with me. Things don't work the same as they once did, and there is a whole lot of adjusting going on. I'm not showing - I just look like I am because my intestines are full and I'm bloated beyond all recognition. I've got more gas than a Phillips 66 station, and things are uncomfortable! Yet I'm still completely excited and in awe of what's taking place.

All stomach bloatedness aside, after I moved past the nausea and got over the flu/cold bug, I finally started to feel like a semi-normal person again. This last week I've been able to cook, clean, and take ownership of the responsibilities I didn't even have enough energy to think about doing, let alone the physical capability. Winding down the first trimester has proven to be worthwhile in more ways than one.

Wednesday was a rough day for me though. I learned that the phrase "mood swing" doesn't necessarily mean from minute to minute, or even hour to hour. I had a 14 hour mood swing on Wednesday. My mood pendulum was swinging over in the "death-glare anger" area. I was livid. For 14 hours. Thursday, I was fine, and yesterday, I laughed all day long. But lo.....Wednesday. Wicked Wednesday. I can tell you this - I hope I don't have another one of those days. Not only was it scary, but talk about draining! I was not anywhere near the person I wanted to be, and couldn't bear the thought that the anger could be a regular attender to a day-in-the-life-of-Val. Granted, it didn't help that it was a rough day at work and I had to put up with some over-the-top thoughtlessness, but still. Spooky.

Now it's become a battle of nesting. Oh yes - I'm nesting. After being basically laid up for the last six weeks, I am raring to go now. I can tell you that I'm tired of being the only one tired of this house being in the state it's in. I plan on holding a family meeting later today in which I will introduce the dishwasher, how it opens, and the simple task of putting a dish or two inside. It's not easy living with a 21-year-old family member who you love and adore, and simultaneously want to hang by his toes. Maybe I'll hang him upside down in front of the dishwasher.

Brent has been working in getting our basement put back together and I am so very excited to have this house back the way it was before the water issues this spring. We'll be making lots of changes on the main floor once the basement is finished, and I think it's the perfect time to start the in-home projects with the onset of winter just around the corner.

I started knitting a baby blanket, but I've stopped. There are so many things I want to knit for the bean in my belly, that I just don't know really where to start. I imagine I'll finish the blanket soon enough, but depending on the gender of little Ziggy, I may have to gift the blanket later. Of course it's hard to get any knitting done when I'm so busy loading the dishwasher...... :o)

And so with being 12 weeks along, I find I've got more sass. Oh, snap, sassy friend! Just when you thought I couldn't get any sassier, I went and got pregnant. Are we all in for a treat or WHAT? Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

First Appointment, First Report!

I had my first appointment this morning, and was pretty nervous. My ears are still plugged and I've still got a cough and congestion from my bout with the flu, but I put my best game face on for the appointment. I saw the nurse first, Shelly, and she was adorable. I loved her. Brent was in rare form this morning cracking one-liners, and entertaining both the nurse and me. The nurse answered most all my questions and made me feel completely at ease. After paperwork and family medical history, it was off to meet the doctor.

We went in to another room where a different nurse, Tiffany, took my blood pressure and asked some other questions. I've always had a really high pulse, and today was no exception. Sitting completely still, I rung in at 97 bpm. I have to be careful because exercising while pregnant, I'm not supposed to get my heart rate above 140 bpm. When Brent and I were going to the gym 3 times a week, I would get on the elliptical and it wouldn't be unusual for me to be at 180/185. Thankfully for the baby, I've been too ill to push myself. :o)

Dr. came in and introduced herself - I liked her right away. I loved the nurses, and the OB, so all in all, I was praising God I had come to the place I had! She said since I was 11 weeks, she would try to find the "heart tones" so we could hear them at this appointment.

I got situated on the exam bed and she brought the machine out. She apologized for her hands being cold, but let me tell you - they were warm compared to the gel!! She moved the microphone around slowly and patiently, but we couldn't hear any heartbeat. I was eyeing her the whole time, trying to read her face. She turned and said, "I'm going to go get the ultrasound machine." I had Brent come hold my hand.

I was somewhat scared at this point - what did it mean that the heartbeat couldn't be found? She came back right away and got me situated for the ultrasound. After more cold gel, she pointed to the screen and said, "that's the heart beating, right there. 177 beats per minute." I looked. I gasped. There was Ziggy!!

My uterus is tipped and my placenta is right in my front so she said, "That's why we couldn't hear the heart, because the big ol' placenta is in the way." Phew. Ziggy was break dancing like it was nobody's business. Even the Dr. commented, "You've got a little wiggle worm!" I started crying - I was so overwhelmed. This little baby is rocking out inside of me, and I can't feel a thing, but there it was and I was WATCHING it!

She also made an interesting discovery - I'm not 11 weeks, I'm only 10. So I'm not quite as far along as calculated. This pushes my due date back to May 10th. All 3.29 centimeters of Ziggy equals 10 weeks.

I could have laid there and watched Ziggy move around all day. It was incredible. I had to wrap up the appointment, though, and go get my mercury-free flu shot, my blood drawn, and schedule my next appointment. November 11th I go for appointment number 2!

It was such a great appointment, and such an answer to prayer today. I am just in amazement to see and witness God's handiwork firsthand. I'm floored - in total amazement - His creation is beyond exquisite!!

I have been on cloud 15 all day. Way beyond cloud 9! I'm just in amazement at the miracle that's taking place inside of me. And it left me wondering - which one of us did Ziggy get those groovy moves from?! :o)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Portrayal of Pregnancy

Tomorrow will be 10 weeks. Ten weeks of the most inexplicable experience you can imagine!

One Wednesday some friends of ours brought over some homemade lasagna. I had a generous helping and went to knit at another friend's house. The entire time I was gone, I was experiencing heartburn like I have never had before. Granted, the first time I had heartburn I was 26 years old, so it's not exactly like I'm a seasoned sufferer. But let me tell you - that Wednesday was horrible. From about 7:00 until 11:00 that night, my chest was on fire. No amount of milk could douse my discomfort. Perhaps I should have stopped chugging the milk and I could have avoided the next problem.

11:30 I started to get some really uncomfortable stomach pains. Cramping, aches, and all-out misery. I couldn't sleep all night. Around 5 Thursday morning, the stomach pains became......um....productive? If you catch my drift? And from 5 a.m Thursday to 10 a.m. Saturday - I couldn't leave my house. By 2 a.m. on Friday, it had become more than I could bear. I woke my husband and choked back tears as I asked, "How much would you hate me if I asked you to go to the store for me?" His response? "Just a little." Yes, folks, the world's greatest husband got out of bed and drove to the store at 2:00 Friday morning to get me something to soothe my issues.

I had asked him to buy me some Pepto, as I had been told by another formerly pregnant woman, with a perfectly healthy child, that it was okay. Within 24 hours I consumed 8 tablets. That's when the next problem started. Apparently Pepto can cause some side effects, that I won't even bother to mention here. I started doing some research online and every site I came across, from doctors, pharmacists, and other pregnant women, said DO NOT take Pepto when pregnant. Pepto is bad, and you're bad if you take it!

Momentary panic. After talking to sister and Mom - panic subsided. I'm fine. I'm confident Ziggy is fine. Lesson learned. It's amazing all the things you can do when you're not pregnant, but as soon as you have a bean in your belly, there is an entire list do's and don'ts that seems to change depending on who you talk to.

I can't eat lunch meat. I can't eat soft cheeses - so my favorite snack of lignon berries and brie cheese baked in crescent rolls? No can do. I can't have sugar alcohol (found in sugar free items). I can't take Pepto. I can't take anything, for any ailment, save for Tylenol. I can't have as much (or any) caffeine. I can't scoop the cat box. (Not complaining about that one!)

Other can'ts: I can't wear a bra because my girls have quadrupled in size. I can't button my pants. I can't stop eating carbs. I can't sleep through the night. I can't believe I'm pregnant.

No, really, I can believe it, but it still hasn't sunk in yet. I suppose next week when I head to my first appointment and get that under my belt, it will be more real for me. Otherwise, it's just been a few weeks of feeling sick. And trying to wrap my mind around this full-blown miracle that's taking place inside my body. I am in no way complaining of anything I've experienced. These are all small sacrifices I'm willing to pay 1,000 times over if it means I get to enjoy a life with a happy, healthy child.

Psalm 139, David talks about being "knit together in my mother's womb." Being a knitter, I understand the attention to detail that takes, and the sometimes laborious efforts to create a wonderful garment. What's going on with Ziggy is more intricate than any garment I could construct with yarn or needles. It really and truly is a miracle of life - God's handiwork.

Friday, September 25, 2009

And Here We Are

It was August 26th, almost one month to the day that had been so hard for me in July. Brent woke me up so we could go to the gym and work out. I told him I was too bloated, and too PMS-y to go work out, and just wanted to sleep. He was okay with that. When I finally couldn't sleep any longer and had to get ready for work, I went downstairs to shower. For whatever reason - and I really don't know why - I grabbed a pregnancy test on my way in to the bathroom.

Upon taking the test, up came the line I had become all too familiar with - not pregnant. I set the test on the counter and went about getting showered. After my shower was done, I pulled back the curtain and saw the test there on the counter. As Brent's cousin, Travis, is living with us as he attends college, I thought I had better throw the test away before he could get a look at what it was. I picked it up and started to dangle it over the trash when something caught my eye. There it was, although faint, a second line. Two lines. Pregnant.

"OH MY GOSH!" I didn't know how to react or what to think as I headed upstairs to rouse Brent from bed. "Brent? I need you to take a look at this." Brent fumbled around for his glasses and put them on to see what was needing his attention. He took the stick. "Huh...."

I started laughing. Then crying. Then laughing again. Brent needed more proof than a faint line and suggested I wait a few more days before taking another test. I couldn't tell anyone....yet.

Saturday morning I got up and grabbed a second test. Immediately two lines appeared, and neither of them faint. This was real. This was for sure. Even Brent was convinced this time - pregnant. We started to refer to the little bean in my belly as "Ziggy" (nicknamed from the word Zygote), and both of us couldn't wait to see what the road ahead had in store for us.

The very next Wednesday I flew to Portland for my nephew's first birthday. I had the opportunity to break the news to my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandfather - in person. My sister already knew since I broke the news to her on the same day I took test #2. I sat on my sister's sofa knitting a hat. My Aunt D and Uncle G came in and asked what I was knitting. "A hat for Ziggy." "Who's Ziggy?" I smiled - "Ziggy is in my belly."

I felt like a rockstar. I had no physical ailments other than the sore, tender "girls". That, and I was hungry all the time. Eating every two hours, and then some. If this is all being pregnant was about - why on earth did I wait so long to do it? Piece of cake!

I came home from my trip and two days later, I had my first experience with "morning sickness." What a misleading title. It lasted ALL DAY! Scratch that, it lasted for a solid 12 days! Constant nausea, the throw-up-in-your-mouth episodes, the thought of food disgusted me, but I was still so hungry. All the time. I would feel good for five minutes, and lousy for the other 23 hours and 55 minutes of the day. I had three good days where I felt like my rockstar self again, and then I developed new issues. Being pregnant is not for wimps.

Here we are, approaching week 9, and the cat is finally out of the bag as public knowledge. I'm nearing the end of the first trimester and am appreciating every little detail - even the not so pleasant parts. I can't even leave my house to go to work today, as I'm afraid to venture more than 20 feet from my bathroom. As uncomfortable as it all is, I'm still appreciating every moment.

Brent has been an absolute super-husband. He has taken care of me during times when even I'm annoyed by my ailments and whining. He made a 2:00 a.m. store run for some Pepto. He's rubbed my feet. He's cooked. He's cleaned. He's perfect. :o) I have always known he would make an outstanding father, and have always appreciated how he is an outstanding husband. I don't know how I would make it some days, without him there to help me through.

I still felt like I needed to share July's story, since it was such an integral part of August's story. Had those events not taken place, I would not have been emotionally, mentally, or spiritually prepared for August 26th. Isn't it funny how God teaches? And that he cares enough to prepare me in that way?

The approximate due date is May 3rd. It seems like a long time off, but I know it will go by so quickly. In the meantime I'm glorifying God, and being extra thankful for sugar-free fruit popsicles (they have saved my life!). Time for me to get cracking on more baby knitting!

Here are some specific things you can pray for:
~ That Brent would find a job with a sense of fulfillment, and enough income to sustain us so I can stay home.
~ That we would be able to raise this child to know and experience the truth and love of God
~ For a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and baby.

Friday, September 11, 2009

July's Journey

DISCLAIMER: This post contains anatomical/bodily references and specific comments. You may blush, squirm, or become extremely uncomfortable while reading. But now you can't say I didn't warn you.

It was July 9th. I woke up and my boobs hurt in a way they had never hurt before. They throbbed, burned, and itched. I was so uncomfortable and in quite a bit of pain. Usually my "girls" get tender and achy every month - but never like this, and never this far out before starting my period. I had another two weeks to go before my period was supposed to start. This was new, and very different.

I joked about being pregnant, but really the pain was sometimes so debilitating I wondered if there wasn't something seriously wrong with me. This had just never been so bad before.

I made the mistake of complaining about my boob soreness one morning at work in the copier room. I asked a coworker if she would grab a roll of packing tape and hold it steady as I turned in circles so I could mash down the pain-causers. We got a good laugh out of it, but then the rumor mill took off with a start. Everyone at work was convinced I was pregnant. One woman told me she was bringing me a test the next day, so I could pee on a stick at work. That's right. I work with some really sick people.:o)

I wasn't about to let my coworkers find out whether or not I was pregnant before my own husband! After work that night I headed to the grocery store to get my own test. I put my phone in my purse with my car keys and headed to "the case". You know, the one that houses the condoms and the pregnancy tests. The case. My phone is broken and the vibrate feature no longer works. Sometimes my phone shuts itself off. As a result, I have to physically check it to see if I've received any texts or phone calls. I went through the check-out line with my pregnancy test, and as I reached in my purse to get my car keys, I pulled out my phone. I had received a text message while I was scanning my goods. It was from my best friend in Wyoming - 700 miles away. It read, "U pregnant yet?"

I stopped. I looked around me. Was she watching me? Was this real? I read it again. "U pregnant yet?" Oh my word. I immediately called her. She answered, "Hi!"
"Where are you?" I asked.
"I'm in the car....."
"No, but, where are you?"
"I'm on my way home. Where are you?"
"Tiffani - at the moment you sent your text message, do you know what I was doing?"
"Um.....no?"
"I was buying an at-home pregnancy test."
(Laughs)"Are you serious?"

I was serious. And pretty freaked out! I thought to myself, "Oh my gosh, I'm pregnant. This is the real deal." I went home and peed on the stick. Negative. Okay....that's okay, that meant the one at work would be too, and I wouldn't have to deal with talking about it. But as the day's events started to sink in, I knew I was. I knew I was pregnant.

I went to work the next day and took the test the woman brought. It took forever to show up (it was a digital one - she was serious about finding out!), and when it did I secretly sighed a sigh of relief - Not Pregnant. At least my coworkers would believe I wasn't and stop nagging on me about my sore, painful boobs.

A few days later, Brent showed me his finger. He had mangled it while working in the basement. He tore the bandaid off and shoved it toward my face. Normally I don't mind seeing things like that - blood and guts don't bother me. When I saw his finger, though, I almost passed out. Brent even made the comment, "You're usually okay with seeing stuff like this...."

Oh dear gracious. I'm pregnant.

I took another test when I was four days late for my period. Negative. Seriously? I know I'm pregnant. I wrote in my prayer journal, "God, I know I'm pregnant. When are you going to let the test be positive so I can convince my husband?"

Three days later - I was seven days past the supposed-to-start-your-period-date - I started my period. I sat in the bathroom and said, "no....no....no...." over and over again. I cried. I wept. I tried to pull myself together. I had been such a fool!! I let myself get sucked in to the drama of something that wasn't real. I had convinced myself I was pregnant. FOOL! I walked upstairs - slowly - and when I got to the bed where Brent was still sleeping, I choked out, "Brent, can I have a hug?" He rolled over, took one look at my face, and said, "Oh sweetie....you started. Come here." He held me and let me cry. I saw a compassionate side of my husband I needed to so badly. My respect for him increased exponentially in those next moments. My next prayer journal entry read, "Dear God......ouch."

It was several days before I could bring myself to call Tiffani again. I told her what had happened. I choked back tears as I told her I was embarrassed and told her how I felt like a fool and got caught up in the hype. "Tiffani....I was seven days late. I just KNEW I was pregnant. Seven days later I wasn't."

She stopped me. "I don't know why, but when you said 'seven days' God literally just spoke to me. Do you know the significance of seven days, Val? Completion. It's complete. He's ready to work in you now."

I heard what she said. I responded, "I don't know what that means, and it scares me a little bit, but thank you for sharing...."

Here's what I learned in July. God has ways of getting your attention. And what you think he's doing could be way off base from the reality of what he's doing. I learned to lean on him and trust in him with a grounded faith I haven't felt before. My faith and prayers changed dramatically. "Less of self, and more of thee." I rekindled more trust and respect for my husband - seeing a side of him he dosen't show very often. Our relationship benefitted for sure. I was able to go to my best friend about something I had never talked about before. The possibility of being pregnant...having children....I always told Tiffani she would be the last to know if ever I were pregnant, because she always had something to advise me about. Like she knows anything - she only has three kids. :o) Yet here I was, talking to her first, and watching our friendship grow as a result. And I learned to never complain out loud about boobs hurting.

Why is it September and I'm just now posting about July? I still had a lot to come to terms with. What I experienced was hard, sobering, and convicting. I couldn't really put all the emotions or tasks in to words. Until now.

In His time, all things work for His glory. And good things come to those who wait. I will wait on Him.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

My Friday Fling

Yesterday I was anticipating the Beth Moore conference held here in Fargo. I won tickets from the radio (Thanks Life 97.9!) and I was so excited all day long and couldn't wait! I was going to meet up with another gal at Taco Bell across the street from the Fargodome for dinner before the conference started. I beat her there by about thirty minutes and decided to pass the time by sending my husband a text message. I flipped open my phone, arrowed down to my husband's name in my contacts and sent him a text that read, "I love you babe!"

I sat there in Taco Bell, and saw the several other women who chose the same fine dining before going to see Beth Moore. There's nothing like burritos and Bible study, right ladies?! A few moments later my phone rang, and it was Brent. He told me he was headed out to a friend's for dinner and wanted to know which debit card to use to buy some chips beforehand. While he and I were talking, my phone beeped, indicating that I had received a text. We said our goodbyes and after I hung up and checked my inbox to read my new message. The message read, "Who is this?"

It was from my contact list name "Adam Basement Guy". I got that horrible sinking feeling in the middle of my gut. I knew what that meant. That meant I had mistakenly told someone else I loved them. That person inquiring as to who I was, was the guy who gave Brent and me an estimate to fix our basement of its water seepage problems. I had just told the basement guy I loved him. And....I called him babe.

Oh. My. Word.

My face immediately flushed and I called my husband right back. "Brent, I tried to send you a text message telling you I loved you and then -" He cut me off and said, "Yeah, I got that text...."

"Wha....You did?"
"Yeah, why?"
"I sent it to two people then. And one of them is Adam the basement guy and he sent me a text asking who I was. I am so embarrassed, what do I do?"

Brent laughed at me. He told me to explain something about "you did an estimate for our basement and that text was meant for my husband." I hung up with Brent and decided I would only tell it was a wrong number and not reveal my identity. I texted Adam Basement Guy back by saying, "That would be a misdial on my part. Very sorry."

Though my face was still very red, I was relieved that was all the explanation I would need, and the embarrassment of further revealing myself had been avoided. That is - until I received another text message back. It read, "Humor me then?"

I can't blame the guy. If someone told you they loved you - even if it was a mistake - you would still be curious. Here's the deal. This guy has my number - somewhere on file - in his office, and possibly in his brain. If he thought it looked familiar and if he was curious enough, he could easily track down who the text came from. Time to fess up.

I texted back, "I'm very embarrassed. You did an estimate on our basement. That text was meant for my husband Brent." I swallowed a little piece of humble pie with that reply - considering that's what my husband told me to respond with in the first place. Moments later I received a text back that read, "It's ok Val."

Oh. My. Word. I had still tried to avoid revealing my identity by telling him my husband's name and not my own. It didn't work - he figured it out. Still embarrassed - but thankful that my husband did in fact receive the text that was meant for him! (Even if he did have to share it with another man.)

We went on to Beth Moore and what a blessing! That woman is such an encouragement, and inspired me to live more boldly in my beliefs. I don't want to give away her entire message, but I will tell you that I have never seen a more genuine spirit...never seen a woman more desiring to serve her heavenly king. Beth is an incredible speaker, and definitely someone I could share some latte time with. If you ever get the chance to see her, or do one of her studies - take advantage of the opportunity! You will learn so much about yourself, but more so, about your Father who created you with a divine plan and purpose in mind. I am still soaring on the wings of eagles after this weekend!

So go see Beth. Go do it. In other news....If you ever get a text message from me that says I love you - it's probably genuine, in a platonic sense of course. If I ever call you babe - you know my fingers are playing a little texting prank on my pride. Or I'm really impressed with your work in my basement.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Weather or not

When the sun doesn't shine, I tend to get a little weather-depressed. I realized today, though, it's not the lack of sunshine that depresses me, it's the threat of rain. Just the threat. If it rains, I'm okay with that. But when it merely threatens, I find my mood to be as dull as the clouds, and about as heavy. Either rain or shine, but don't just hang there, looming your gloom.

This morning started out with some sunshine. I love waking up to the bright light of the sun. It's reassuring and comforting. As the day went on, the sky started to turn gray. Ugh. There's the threat. I hate it. The clouds just hang over you, being non productive, and taunting your plans. "Come and play. I might rain, I might not, but I'll enjoy tormenting you just the same."

Earlier this afternoon we started to get a light rain. A soft, gentle, but steady rainfall. I felt a sense of relief as I saw the rain falling. At least the weather was doing something. I opened the front door and hung out of the screen door - just listening to the light tapping of the raindrops as they hit our ash tree out front, and watching the splat as it hit the driveway. The neighbor's roof had dry spots yet, and I turned my head to the living room to tell Brent to mute the television. I just wanted to hear the rain. The quiet reassurance of productivity. No more threat, only promise now.

I showered and cracked the window open in the bathroom so I could still hear the thunder. As I finished up and headed upstairs, I rounded the corner and saw my sty of a bedroom. Do you ever get that immediate wave of frustration? It hit me - hard - as I stared at the laundry and unmade bed. UGH. Sometimes when one little thing gets me frustrated, I get another wave - of everything that's ever frustrated me. I sat down on the bed and thought, "God - why are we such slobs? What is the purpose of all this stuff, and this huge mess, and what's the meaning of life, and.....This is one of those times where I could really use that whole direct line of communication thing..."

Soft thunder.

"No seriously. I need to know it's you, and I need to know what I'm supposed to do to get over these bumps in my road."

Really loud thunder.

"Oh. Hi there. I'm listening."

The rain - and thunder - started to intensify. I opened the windows and shut off the lights in the house so I could hear, and see, what the storm had in store. I love watching the raindrops splatter once they hit a surface. I love listening to the plickity plunk as it hits the window, and the tapping as it hits the pavement or concrete. I love watching it fall, straight down, with purpose. I love the smell of the outside when it's all wet. I love hearing the thunder and being reminded of the power in a storm. And in the one who created them. I love knowing that it will end, and when it does, there will most likely be a rainbow. Beauty all over again.

I hate the mere threat, and the loom and gloom of the possibility of a storm.

When the sun is shining and the weather is fair, I don't have a thing to worry about. I can go on about my business and live care-free. Fun in the sun. I tend to be more upbeat, more relaxed, and a tad silly. All in fun. When there's a storm and I'm in the middle of it, I can react accordingly, take care of whatever needs tended to, and power through until the storm subsides. I can hunker down and steer my survival mode to salvage whatever resources are necessary.

When the sky is gloomy, and merely threatening to storm, it's incredibly daunting. How bad of a storm will it be? Will it storm at all? Do I need to prepare? What could I have done, what haven't I done, and what won't I do? When will it start, and when will it end? I'm just waiting. Sitting and waiting. And for what, I'm not sure.

Whether the sun shines, or the rain falls...whether it's the gloominess of anything in between, I know my needs, my cares, my frustrations - they're all being taken care of by God. No matter the weather - in storms of life, or clear, sunny days - I'm cared for. No amount of frustration, responsibility, failures or accomplishments will stand in the way. No cloudy sky can separate me from the love of Christ. And even if the weather does change the course of my day - or my life - every storm will end. When it threatens to storm, and when I start to feel that eerie sense of defeat or doubt, I can rest assured know that Christ has already overcome. Every storm and every threat is already overcome.

Hallelujah, and amen.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Omnipresence

I'm tired, and it's six minutes until I turn in to a pumpkin. But it's been a while and I want to share.

Yesterday I heard a powerful sermon on God being omnipresent. Of course we all hear and know that God is everywhere all the time. Or do we know it?

The message was so powerful, I will admit I teared up a little at one point. I want to share with you and I'm excited to - but first I need to rest my head. I just want to encourage you all....in the depths of your lonliness, when you feel withdrawn or deserted - even when you cry out to Him and get no reply, God is there with you. All the time, everywhere.

I will check in and elaborate once I've caught up on some rest and some household chores, but after that - look out! My rambling will ensue!

Blessings all....

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Best Week Ever Wind Down

Winding up the best week ever, and what a ride it has been! Thursday Brent and I joined up with some friends, M & D, and headed downtown for Corks and Canvas. We enjoyed galleries, eateries, and shops that had featured artists and refreshments. I saw some fabulous decorating ideas, that I just might share with you here in a bit. We had such a great time and fell in love with our downtown all over again. I sampled some absolutely divine cheese, juicy sweet grapes, and crispy crackers. I saw art I really appreciated and some I didn't quite understand. I also had a fabulous decaf latte from Atomic Coffee. Mmmmm. (It was 8:00 p.m. ~ decaf was in order.)

Yesterday I ended the work week and headed to the ballpark to get my game on. My friend H accompanied me and we had a BLAST! The game was fantastic - the Redhawks won in an intense high-scoring game. H and I laughed and cheered and had a fantastic, relaxing time. Then, to top it all off, there was a great fireworks show after the game! The best part was watching the fireworks, while there was a lightning show a few miles directly behind them. It was amazing.

Today I've been doing some cleaning here and there but am really enjoying the super-warm temperature outside, and even squeezed in some reading and knitting today. Fabulous! Brent and I are going to another baseball game tonight and are going to enjoy some side-by-side sports-watching quality time!

Back to the ideas I saw at Corks and Canvas! These ideas are well worth implementing - trust me. I thought of so many people that night thinking, "Oh this would work great in so-and-so's house." Here are a couple of the ideas I loved!

What a fantastic idea to create a seascape ambiance, no matter how near or far you are from the coast!


Stamped fabric flags, threaded with ribbon - can't you see this as a great wall decor, or window treatment accent?


And finally, a home-grown implementation I didn't need to see downtown - a little bit of tranquility from my yard to my table. It's made eating so much more pleasant!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

2sday & Wednesday of the Greatest Week Ever

So this is the week I decided would be the greatest week ever, starting with the Best Monday Ever! Let me tell you, now, about the Greatest Tuesday ever, followed by the Greatest Wednesday ever.

Yesterday, Tuesday, the sun shone for the first time in a while. It was warm - breezy - but warm. I had a great morning at work and was accomplishing more work than I originally thought I would. I also received a voicemail from a new friend, D, asking if she could crash at our house for Tuesday and Wednesday night as she would be in town. (D is moving here the end of the month, but has to work here intermittently in the mean time.) I asked my boss if I could take a little longer lunch so I could prepare the guest room (currently occupied by our baseball player who is on the road for some games this week) in order for D's stay.

I started the lunch hour driving home. About four blocks from work, I was just coming to the top of the overpass. My car died. Quit. No sputter, no warning, just death. As I tried to reconcile in my mind what was going on, I decided to let it coast as far as possible before stopping. Hazards on. I finally stopped a few hundred feet past where the car had died. I called Jess and asked if he could come push me. Without hesitation, he agreed, and was on his way. No sooner had I gotten off the phone, a stranger walking by offered to push me to the nearby gas station. I steered, called Jess to tell him never mind, got settled in the parking lot, and called my husband at work. Calling him at work is always a challenge. Scrap that - calling him is easy, it's getting a hold of him that proves difficult. I was able to get him and ask him to come to my rescue. A while later he pulled up and we diagnosed the situation. I still had power, so that meant it wasn't my battery or alternator. A few days before, my gas light had come on. I stopped on the way home and put in about $10 worth of gas. Apparently when you don't fill the tank, the gas light/meter don't reset, and fail to warn you when you once again are about to run dry. Brent pushed the car up to a pump and we put almost 17 gallons of fuel in a 15 gallon tank. Yeah - I was bone dry.

I was able to go on about my day, but it turns out I had to use my "extended" lunch hour for car issues rather than housecleaning. Ah well. Here are the really awesome parts of the car issue story.

1. I was at the top of the overpass when the car died and was able to coast forward rather than roll backward.
2. The light at the end of the overpass "hill" was green - I was able to coast through the intersection without imposing any danger to other vehicles.
3. I was about 250 yards from a gas station when the car came to a stop.
4. There was a gentleman out for a walk, who when he saw me stopped with hazards on, offered without hesitation to push me to the gas station.
5. Jess was available and willing to come help a gal out! (Even though it turned out I didn't need him.)
6. I was able to get a hold of my husband, which is harder than it sounds during the work day.
7. It was only a $40 tank of gas, rather than a $400+ alternator issue, or worse.
8. I learned a valuable lesson - when it comes to my car, it's all (full tank) or nothing (dead car).

After work I went to the chiropractor and he snap, crack, popped me - felt amazing as usual. I hurried home and rushed around getting the guest room ready. While I was changing the sheets on the guest bed, I kicked the bed frame with my right foot. It hurt so badly, it dropped me to my knees. I was pretty sure I had broken my toe. Upon further inspection, I had seriously made my toe a gnarly sight, but it wasn't broken. I didn't even cry - but I came close. It hurt! The good news was, I only stubbed my toe.

D showed up with pizza and veggies, and we had a fantastic dinner and visit. After some hockey and basketball watching, it was time to call it a night. After the Best Tuesday Ever!

Today was the Best Wednesday ever. This morning started all too early, but I woke up to another gorgeous sunshiny sky. Brent made me another berry smoothie and we headed to the gym to work out together. Once again, I loved it. I have a new found respect for my husband and his physical stamina. I also felt like I could do a lot more than I originally thought myself capable of - I kicked butt with the weights today! Soon enough I will have the best butt ever, and that will indeed be the best day ever! :o)

I was early to work, which is always nice. I had the office entirely to myself for most of the day, and was able to totally haul butt through most of my work. (Along with rocking out in my office to some tunes, and being able to stretch and swing my elbows a bit!) I had a fabulous day, and did I mention I had the office entirely to myself for most of the day? Heavenly!

I came home from work to find my husband folding clothes - FABULOUS! I made beef and cabbage wraps (one of our favorite meals) for dinner. D and I again had some fabulous visiting, and there was only one bill in the mail!

Seriously, the best Tuesday and Wednesday ever, making for the greatest week ever! Attitude really is everything, and my prayer is that I can maintain this attitude. Today when I shared with a coworker that I was determined to make this the best week ever, her response was, "Good Luck." "Luck? I don't need luck, I have Jesus!" I replied. And that reason - that hope - is why every week, every day, can be the best ever. Regardless of setbacks, trials, or stubbed (painful!) toes, Jesus is constant. He is hope. And he will sustain the best ever - in everything!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Best Monday Ever.

I don't like Mondays. At all. It means my weekend is over, my work-week has begun, and I have to get up early. Phooey. I resolved, though, to make today the Best Monday Ever! Lately I've been feeling pretty drab about my days in general. "I do what I do not want to do, and I do not do what I want to do." Sound familiar? It should. That was what Paul said to the Romans when he talked about struggling with sin. And friends, let me tell you, it's a struggle.

I decided I was going to do what I know I should, and what I want, and attempt to make every day the best day ever. If I can't stand to be around me by the end of the day, how can I expect anyone else to?? It's time for a change. I prayed for some help with my attitude. The answer was clear. It's time to praise God for His constant goodness. It's time to enjoy the best Monday ever.

Yesterday I told my husband I wanted to go to the gym with him this morning. I told him specifically, "Make me go, even if I tell you in the morning I don't want to go." I was so anxious - I kept waking up during the night thinking I had overslept. I don't like those mini-anxiety-attacks from a dead sleep. Also, I had this bizarre dream that Edie from Desperate Housewives was giving me a tour of her home and at one point she lightly shook me and said, "Valerie, wake up." I woke up to find Brent looming over me and I groaned my grumpy-bear-groan. He just loomed and stared. I reached up to lovingly pat (aka Smack - in Christian love) his face out of view. I didn't touch anything. It turns out, Brent wasn't looming over me and I was staring at the overhead light fixture. Great. I had just tried to shove a light fixture that was a good six feet above my head. It was going to be a fantastic morning. (insert sarcastic tone here)

All too soon my husband's alarm went off. I slithered out of bed and forced myself to put my "work out clothes" on (clean sweats and a freshly folded tee shirt). Brent made us fruit smoothies and off to the gym we went. We worked out - together - and I loved it. Side by side, as he was teaching me how to use the machines and equipment....don't let him know this but I actually had a lot of fun! Granted, I will be sore for months to come, but it was really fun! And there's something about seeing my hubs drenched in sweat and lifting weights....well....*ahem*. That was the epitome of quality time with my husband, though, and on a Monday morning no less! Best Monday ever.

I came home, showered, got ready for work, and headed out. It was raining, but considering the fact other parts of the west have gotten snow, I wasn't about to complain about a few sprinkles. And I'm pretty sure no complaining is allowed on the best Monday ever.

Work was work - though I'll admit I got a few good belly laughs in today. I struggled at one point to stay awake, but after I powered through it, I was good to go. I didn't feel like poking my eye with a sharp stick, which was a tremendous turn around from the usual. As it was time to go, my boss went to double check a file that I assured her was missing a document. She told me if she found it, I had to do three cartwheels. I was fine with that bet, because I had already checked the file and knew it wasn't there. Had she been in something other than a skirt, I would have forced the bet back on her. I didn't want to embarrass her, though.

I heard her laugh. She started moving chairs. The document was mislabeled and it was in the file. Unfair!! She moved the furniture, and I had to do three cartwheels. There sat Jess and Stacey, waiting for me to put on a gymnastics show. One - two - dear gracious I just pulled something - three. Three cartwheels in the office. Might I add, Stacey even complimented my form.

When I could walk again, I headed to the grocery store that neighbors the building where I work. I was going to pick up some ground turkey and a few more ingredients so we could have our favorite taco salad. I called Brent to run over a list of things we may be missing from our cupboard, whipped in to a parking spot, and hurried inside. I did my shopping, paid for my groceries, and headed out to the car. Wait....I saw I had parked in front of a sign. A very big sign I had not noticed before. The sign read, "RESERVED PARKING FOR MOM'S TO BE!" Hoping no one would recognize me as I sheepishly got in to my car, I made a mental note to look for signs in said parking lot. I totally stole a parking spot from expectant mothers! And if anyone saw me, how much time do you think until the rumor begins around town I'm expecting? Parking took on a much more important role today than I ever intended. Oh yes, the best Monday ever!

I came home, talked to my sister on the phone telling her about my parking faux pas, and cooked us up some turkey taco salad. It was delicious. And me, full of energy and humility, truly did have the best Monday ever.

"I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." (emphasis mine) 1 John 5:14, 15. When my will was to seek the will of God - I had the best Monday ever. I can't wait to see what Tuesday will bring.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Neighborhood Watch

Brent and I were enjoying our fantastic dinner of grilled tri-tip, pinto beans, and rice. One of our favorites. Brent saw an SUV Police vehicle inching down our street and said, "Uh oh." I turned to look out the window to see what it was. It was moving really slowly. Brent said, "They're looking for somebody."

Shortly thereafter, a police car drove by at an even slower pace, with its lights on. Sure enough, they were looking for somebody. Brent saw a police officer take off running across the street into a neighbor's back yard. We stood at the window and I realized I had left the garage open while I was grilling. My hero of a husband went to make sure no one was hiding in our garage, and closed it up so they couldn't use it for a hiding place.

I saw the officer emerge from the backyard across the street and he had his taser gun drawn at his side. He was walking militantly, with a definite purpose. Two more cars drove by.

We locked our doors and sat and watched, wondering what - who - they could be looking for, and why. We heard the officer yell, "He has to be back in here, Carlos!"

Neighbors started emerging and standing in front of their houses - watching, waiting. We saw more police cars crawl by, and a few officers on foot. We went to our next door neighbor's house, and the neighbor on the other side of them informed us the police were looking for a shirtless man covered in tattoos, but the police wouldn't tell them why. I told Brent, "behind our garage is a good hiding place," and he agreed. "I'm going to go see if someone's back there," I said. "Are you nuts, Val?" Brent asked. I guess I was, because I started walking back there to check. He came alongside me - not because he wanted to, but because he was going to protect his crazy wife from the even crazier criminal in the unlikely event there was one there........the coast - or behind the garage, anyway - was clear.

Finally after about twenty or more minutes of police driving and/or walking by, we heard squealing tires, and saw the cop cars congregate around the corner from us. Apparently the shirtless tattooed man was apprehended and all is back to normal.

For our quiet, family oriented street, this was a really big deal!! If the most action we ever see on this street is what happened today, I'll be okay with that. It was a bit unsettling for a while!!

Happy Anniversary

Six years ago today I walked down the aisle and exchanged vows with Brent. I was sick as a dog with salmonella and strep throat. I was a mess. I don't remember much of the wedding ceremony itself other than when it was over, I remember thinking, "That's it?" I was so focused on the wedding - the details, the decorations, the people in their proper places. I was trying so hard just to make it through the day without getting sick in front of other people. I was just holding it together. I was so busy in all the preparation and commotion for the wedding, I hadn't spent a lot of time thinking about the marriage.

The first few months were ridiculous. I had to learn to live with another person and accept he wouldn't do everything the way I wanted. I had to share my living space, my checkbook, and my remote control. Our checkbook register from the first few months of our marriage still has the tear stains in it from me fretting over our finances. We argued over the dumbest things. Some of the biggest fights we had were over things that were so trivial. I remember thinking, "What did I get myself in to?"

Marriage isn't a ceremony followed by a dance with food, champagne, all while wearing a big poofy dress. It's not happily ever after. When the pastor pronounced Brent and me "man and wife" he didn't follow up by saying, "let the fairytale begin."

Marriage is hard work. We've had our struggles, and we will continue to do so. For the last six years I have done my share of fighting, sleeping on the sofa, shedding tears, apologizing, and throwing sucker punches (metaphorically speaking of course).

I will say this, though. Six years ago today my husband and I made a commitment to love each other in good times and in bad. In sickness and in health. For richer for poorer. We've had good times. We've had bad. I used to get sick a lot! Brent's been sick a few times. We've both enjoyed good health. We've been poor. We're waiting for the richer part... I am crazy about my husband - even though sometimes he drives me crazy. He is my hero, my handyman, my knight in shining armor.

Sometimes I've questioned why we're still together. Mostly, though, I thank God that His plans and provisions are bigger than my understanding. He knew who He had called Brent to be. He knew the husband I would need. He knew that whenever Brent looked at me with those big blue eyes, I would turn to a puddle of goo.

As we were winding down five years of marriage, we were in serious uncharted territory. Things weren't great. In all honesty, things were pretty shaky. We really started working together and praying together. I can say that heading in to six years, things have turned around. We don't have a perfect marriage, but we have an honest one. We have a marriage we're continually building on the foundation of God and His promises.

Honey - my groom of the last six years - I am so proud of you. You are such a great man, and you are so worth all the tears, the smiles, and everything in between. You inspire me to be a better wife, and a better woman. What a blessing you've been. You encourage me to seek the light in every dark situation. You encourage my faith and my following of Christ. You have my utmost respect. You are my hero. I love you, Brent. Happy Anniversary.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Going Batty

Yesterday morning I walked in to work and said hello to Jess, my coworker. His response was, "Did you see our little friend?"

"Our little friend?"

"I figured you didn't, else I would have heard a scream."

"Is there a mouse outside?!"

"No, a bat."

"A BAT?!"

I went outside to look. Sure enough, directly above the door, was a furry, sleepy bat. I shuddered, quickly walked back inside, and went on about my day. I made the mistake of mentioning the bat's presence to a few other employees. I had to convince them that it wasn't going to harm them, and it should be left alone. My guess was it would fly away at night to feed and be on it's merry way.

This morning when I got to work, that was not the case. Bat-creature was still there. Let me tell you the bank employees were freaking out!! One said, "it looked black yesterday and gray today. Did it just hit the brick wall and die and now it's starting to mold?" Another told her boss if someone didn't kill the bat, she was going to have to go home for the rest of the day because she was having anxiety attacks. (She's on the opposite side of the building, nowhere near the door or the bat....)

Late in the morning, I see two male employees (higher ups, mind you) march outside to "inspect" the bat. The next thing I know, there's a big discussion that went something like this: "You kill it." "No, you kill it." "No you." "Did anyone bring a badminton racquet to work?" "Where's the big shovel?"

I couldn't take it. I do not like anything that creeps, crawls, or is winged. Bats disgust me. However, this thing was outside and was just hanging out! It wasn't harming anything or anyone, and bats eat mosquitoes.

I asked for a really large cup. I excused myself to the break room and filled the cup with water. I walked outside and stood around waiting for the people in the parking lot to leave. I took one last look around and said, "Sorry little guy" before I threw the water on it. The bat squeaked, chatted it's teeth, and flew away.

I walked back inside the bank and told the men the bat was gone. One guy was really upset because he was convinced the bat had rabies and was going to come back. (And kill us all?) I'm sure he had a psychic-medium-veterinary degree that led him to that conclusion. Another woman was upset because she thought for sure the bat was going to land on her car. (Because cars are common roosting spots for bats?) I just had to shake my head.

I took some pictures of the bat before I doused it, and sent them to a professor at NDSU. Turns out it's a species that not a lot is known about - and isn't really seen in these parts. And my colleagues wanted to smash it with a giant snow shovel.

Enjoy the close-up of the "Silver-haired bat." I'm glad it's gone, glad it's alive - but mostly I'm glad I don't have to hear about how it's going to send people in to a sheer panic. I mean if scaredy-cat Val can be okay with it, when I'm the one that uses the door it was roosting above..... Can I just say I felt totally invincible today?! :o)

**No animals were harmed during the writing of this blog**





Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Homeownership Is Overrated.

Seriously, if you don't believe me, buy me coffee (skinny vanilla latte, with a dab of whip cream) and ask me to tell you the story of becoming a homeowner. I have told Brent that our next house won't have any problems, and if it does, the landlord will take care of them.

Right now as I sit on my sofa and type, there is a kind young gentleman downstairs operating a jackhammer on my basement floor. The sound of it alone is enough to make my teeth hurt (for some reason it reminds me of a root canal I had November of 2000). He then is shoveling the sloppy wet concrete and rock into a bucket, hauling it upstairs, and dumping it into the lovely receptacle parked in our driveway. There is muddy water all around our basement. It makes me sick to my stomach to go downstairs and see the amount of work that's been done, and the amount of work we have yet to do. In case you're not aware - I'm not really a manual labor kind of girl. I will fish, hunt, camp, play tackle football, hike, irrigate farmland, and feed cattle, but I don't want to fix my basement. Or your basement. I might break a nail. Or a sweat. Or a limb.

All that to say I feel completely in over my head when I think about what's left to do in our basement. These pictures aren't pretty, but I feel the need to share my mess. So gaze with sympathy upon my sawed beams, water filled perimeter, concrete rubble, and demolished basement. If we're lucky we might have it pieced back together by the end of July....?

Oh, and did I forget to mention that the neighbor across the street backed in to my husband's car this morning? Nothing super bad, and no horrendous damage. Just another, "are you serious?" moment of the day. Is it July yet??









Thankfully I found some beauty in the midst of it all....right outside my front door.



Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Latest "Buzz"

I have an overwhelming fear. I cannot stand insects, bugs, spiders, critters with more than four legs, or wings, or bug eyes - yuck. Yuck, and again I say yuck. Something happens to me physically when I encounter one of these creatures. I become incredibly tense - especially in the shoulders - I make strange, guttural noises, and my eyes quadruple in size. I literally become scared stiff and I have a hard time moving, speaking, etc.

I recently made light of my sister's situation as we spoke on the phone a few days ago. She was chatting away, telling me about life in Oregon, when her voice dropped about four octaves, and she let out three throat noises that I couldn't spell out for you here if I tried. I heard my nephew start crying, then I heard her say, "I'm sorry Travis, Mommy freaked out about a fly and it scared you too, I'm sorry." A fly. I wish you could have heard her noises. Then you would laugh, for one, but you would understand the type of fear I'm talking about here. My sister apparently inherited the same trait. (But I don't know if I would freak out about a fly.)

I have really been enjoying our weather here in NoDak lately. High 60s, low 70s, lots of sunshine - just beautiful weather. I try to take long walks around the neighborhood each evening to take advantage of the temps and the sunshine. We get locked up for some pretty long winters, so it's hard to stay indoors these days! Tonight was no different for me. I trekked a long way around the neighborhood until I could hardly feel my legs anymore. I came home, was zapped of energy, and Extreme Pita sounded better than cooking.

Brent and I enjoyed some Philly Steak pitas with veggies and sauce, and Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips. (Can I get an "amen" for how tasty those are?!) We headed back home and caught up with our e-mail and twitter before it was time to get some housework done. Brent started organizing the office and I decided to tackle the bathroom. I don't understand how the smallest room in the house requires twice as much cleaning, three times as often. I digress....

I had scrubbed the toilet bowl and got down to my knees to wipe the base of the throne - which is apparently a magnet for dust and hair. Dis-gust-ing. I had to maneuver to really get back there, and my face was all but touching the toilet. That's when I saw it.

It was dark, hairy, winged, and struggling.

"OH MY GOODNESS. (throat noise, throat noise, cough)" That was my best attempt to communicate to my husband what I was really wanting to say which was, "Get in here and kill this thing immediately!" I don't remember how I got from my knees to my feet, and have no idea how it could have happened as quickly as it did.

Brent has been around me enough times to know my, "It's a bug!" cry. He sauntered in to the bathroom and said, "What is it?"

"I think it's a bee!" As I struggled to move my legs to walk myself out of the direct path of the thing, and get as far away as I could.

"Where is it?" He couldn't see it. I had to muster up enough strength to walk back inside the bathroom, extend my arm to point, and try to verbally communicate, "It's there on the bowl right at the base of the lid." Of course it came out, "There, (throat noise, throat noise) RIGHT THERE!"

"Oh yep, sure enough. It's a bee." (Squish) "And now it's dead." With that, he went back to the office to finish tidying up.

I, of course, began thinking, "Is there a hive in my wall? How did it get in? Are there more? Where did it come from? How did it end up on the toilet I JUST cleaned?" I stood trying to regain my cleaning composure. I resumed cleaning, but moved on to the shower. Everything that brushed against me, or that I thought I felt, made me gasp. Every time I felt something on me, I thought it was a bee. I will most likely have a hard time getting to sleep tonight. Brent has probably already forgotten he even killed a bee in the bathroom tonight.

Yuck. Yuck, and again I say, yuck.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Evolution

It all started, many many years ago....as a little ball of some cells. We've come to call it an "egg". Where life begins.


(Yes, I know this isn't an ovarian egg, but this is a family blog, people!)

Then one day, there was a big explosion (or simply loud screaming, and 21 hours of gruesome, painful labor, while mother had toxemia and baby was sunny-side-up) and WHOOSH, there was life.



As time went on, the life form grew to be quite cute. Dashing, even. And quite possibly looked a lot like her paternal grandfather. As her skills advanced, she won the hearts of many.



Then there was another explosion ~ this time it was an explosion of hair. It was everywhere. Even when armed with the power of a nylon-bristled brush ~ the mass could not be contained or controlled. It was so out-of-control, people would find themselves stuck inside of it if they dared to venture too close.



A few years later, the life form's mother learned the value of barrettes, pony tail holders, and shirts bought at county fairs. (Was Stevie Wonder playing that night? I forget.)



Then came the day the life form admitted her one and only dream - to model. She carefully picked her coordinated outfits and practiced her signature poses, knowing one day her style would leave it's mark in this world. A mark it left, indeed.



After her modeling career took off, she was able to stay at home and care for her family. Mothering in her pajamas had become a way of life ~ a life she enjoyed every minute of. It was her gift of sight ~ with the help of glasses half the size of her face ~ that would take her places....if only she had a way to get there!



As the years went on, she was finally able to mobilize, taking advantage of the latest technology available in bicycle bells and horns. Because she invested so much time in bicycle accessories, personal care and maintenance was pushed aside. It was a sacrifice she had to make ~ for the sake of survival.



Riding around, she began to search for more purpose. Things were holding her back ~ so she changed it up. She got different colored (though still humongous) glasses. She chopped off 1/3 of her hair, though it looked like it was considerably shorter. People were her first love, though she made times for the smaller creatures, as she remembered what it was like trying to find an evolutionary niche.



Finally, thankfully, evolutionary survival allowed her to develop into a bright, well-maintained creature. A creature capable of having a great time, laughing heartily, and questioning why the parental units ever let her out of the house with her wild mane of hair and model outfits. And then take pictures. (Seriously, why?)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Rainy Reflections

It's raining and overcast outside today. I'm happy to be indoors, and to have some hot chocolate on hand. It's a good day to cozy up and have some personal reflection.

I've been pretty upset lately. Seems like the smallest of things just grate at me so badly, and I get ticked. One thing on my Sets-Val-Off-List is my marriage and the are we/are we not having a family issue. I'm not going to go into every dicey detail, but I have really been struggling with the next steps to take in my life. How I envision them and how they're playing out are polar opposites.

This morning I got up and got ready for church. I'm flying solo this weekend as Brent is spending time in the western part of the state with his W.C. boys, as they watch the NFL draft on t.v. Yes, I think it's incredibly silly but at the same time, I know how much he loves and misses his friends, and it's a great time for them to get together. It also provides me with a weekend all to myself. Next year, I won't overbook my social calendar like I did this weekend. Note to self.

Since Brent did such a fantastic job changing the rear brakes on my car, I let him take it for the long drive, and I ended up with his 1993 Mercury Topaz, which I have not-so-affectionately deemed the SLOWPAZ. That has no relevance to my day today, but I'm trying to evoke your sympathy. :o)

In church today, I was gripped with emotion. It was all I could do to hold back from crying, as I sat in the pew and listened to the message. It was a great message on entering the sanctuary of God (from Psalm 73). I sat as the preacher read "And earth has nothing I desire besides you." from verse 25. Earth. Has. Nothing. Wow.

One of my dreams, if we do have children, is to raise them in a home where it is known beyond the shadow of a doubt, that God is first and foremost, and that God is the one desire of Brent's and my hearts. I want to raise a child in a home where God is glorified and sought after earnestly - every day.

In front of me this morning sat Wendy Gade, her husband, and her twin boys, Tyler and William. Yesterday morning I went to a coffee talk at the church where Wendy shared the story of her journey as her husband soldiered in Iraq, and lost his leg (and almost his life) to an IED. I heard her talk about the provision and strength God gave her, and how in every turn along the way, she and her husband relied on Him fully. And their kids will see that.

I just got choked up. I felt like I was already failing. I don't have kids, and I feel like I'm already failing as a parent. Why? Because it's been easier to do, say, and think things other than things that align with God. These last several weeks, I've been plugging along with hardly a spiritual pulse at all. I desire so much more than "just God."

The pastor concluded the message and I pulled myself together, only to have the worship leader begin singing, "In Christ alone, my hope is found - he is my light, my strength, my song...." I had to close my eyes and not sing for a moment.

It's one thing for me to not understand God - I mean honestly, he wouldn't be much of a god if we understood everything about him and his works. But when I don't understand myself, or my relationship with God - then it really starts to bother me. A lot. If I can't understand my own self, how can I expect anyone else to? How can I be an exemplary parent? A proverbial wife?

I want to go in to the sanctuary - I want to know that nothing on earth supersedes my desire for God. I just need to find that place....that sanctuary.

Yes, it's a good day to be inside out of the wet and cold. I am looking forward to the warmer, brighter days ahead.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Risen Indeed!

I have not exactly been enjoying life lately. I'm tired of having water in my basement. I'm tired of the smell, I'm tired of everything being wet, I'm tired of having to move things around, and I'm tired of the aesthetic value of my home completely deteriorating as a result. We would love to get it fixed, but we can't get it fixed until we can put money on the down payment to fix it, and we can't do that until we hear back from some "investment options" shall we say, and this entire thing is driving me crazy.

Add to that the daily stress that seems to eat at me incessantly of work, money, schedules, weight, groceries, paying bills, etc., and the result is me not enjoying life.

I become so frustrated, I can't even seem to focus enough to pray. My prayers are more of, "Hey God - yeah - I'm tired of this. If you could make it all go away, that'd be swell.....thanks....." Do you ever have those exasperated prayers? I'm confident He hears them, but I wonder if He doesn't think, "Again, Val? You doubt I can sustain you in this?"

Earlier this week I was driving to work and instead of listening to the radio, I was listening to a Selah CD I have of hymns. This song, which I have heard - and sung - more than a hundred times, came on, and it clicked. The light came on in my head that said, "Duh. Now I get it." Look at the words, listen to the song, and tell yourself - The Lord is on your side. You will forfeit peace when you don't lay your burdens at His feet.

Yes this basement issue is draining, and I'll be so happy when it's all said and done. In the meantime, though, I need to remember that He - is my best, my heavenly friend - and he's walking right along side me in everything I face. I am only alone if I forget He is with me, not because he has ever left my side.



In other news, I wanted to bake some banana chocolate chip bread for gifts to people for Easter. The recipe called for 3 or 4 ripe bananas....I had two bananas. I gave it a shot, and ended up overcooking the loaves and making crunchy bread. Apparently the bananas really do matter, and you need to have enough. The bread is rock hard on the outside. I had planned to say, "The banana chocolate chip bread rose to save your tastebuds, but Christ rose after dying to save your soul. Happy Easter, from the Ks." Now I will have to say, "I made some banana chocolate chip bread to give you, but I overcooked it, so forgive me...as Christ forgave us all...".....? It's a work in progress.

Have a blessed Easter, everyone.

And happy birthday, Mom. :o)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Swamped

Lately, I have been swamped. Busy? Yes, absolutely. Aren't I always busy? But that's not what I mean today. When I say the word "swamped" - I mean I have been inundated with/by water. Swamped.

We live in Fargo. Perhaps you've heard about us lately on the news.....and our epic flood? We're running a little short on gopher wood!! The Red River (which is nowhere close to red, by the way, more murky ugly brown) swelled right on up to a record 40.82 feet. Let me tell you the significance of this. Flood stage of the Red begins at 18 feet. Major flooding begins around 30 feet. The river rose to 40.82 feet. Every time they announced how high the river had risen, I would just get a knot in my stomach. The river broke a record....but will it break a levee? Will it break the hearts of more people as it claims their homes? Who knows with the 15 - 20 inches of snow we've received since the river rose. So far things are staying mildly frozen...but when it thaws....Water Water Everywhere!

I will tell you this, though. Never in my life have I seen people - complete strangers - band together for a good cause, like I saw the residents of ND and MN band together to save homes and lives from the rising waters of the Red River. Never in my life have I seen such servant hood and such sacrifice. Never in my life have I been so proud to live in Fargo. To live in North Dakota. The state I swore once upon a time I would never reside in. To all the volunteers, to all the leaders, to all the people who joined with us to save our livelihood.....you are amazing, and THANK YOU for the valiant effort you displayed. Kudos to the people who still understand what being a good Samaritan is all about!! The river is falling.....slowly. We're cautiously optimistic we will be back to normal by...oh...June? Water Water Everywhere!!

Our basement, which we have problems with every spring, decided even though we are a few miles from the river, it wanted in on the saturation action. Our walls sprung a few leaks, and several - and I mean several gallons of water in the shop-vac later, we're now without half of our carpet and calling for outside experts to come charge of thousands of dollars to fix our problem. This is by far the worst water problem we've had in our basement to date, and it's high time to fix it. I can't live through the disappointment and the stress of another wet spring and summer. And to all you homeowners out there - if I ever find out you didn't disclose water issues to the people you sold your house to....I will come after you and wallop a big thump on your head. I refuse to pass this pain on to someone else, and I wish the previous owner of this house had the same conviction to follow the letter of the law and disclose water problems to us. At least let us know what we're up against! I digress. We have to fix our basement, and we're working on finding that solution. I'm pretty sure the only way we can afford it is if I sell one of my kidneys and every ounce of my plasma, but we'll get it taken care of. Water Water Everywhere!!

My husband is presently up in our kitchen replacing our kitchen faucet. I just love it when he becomes my handyman hubby. Rawr. :o) But yet here we have this little device that we so grossly take for granted. Our "diverter" as the plumber phrased it, was not working. So we had no water pressure in our faucet. We had all the water pressure in the world in our sink sprayer, but we couldn't use it because the spray handle would get stuck and everything and everyone in the kitchen would end up wet. So Brent is now putting in our new Moen faucet - where the faucet is also the sprayer. Genius!! Water Water Everywhere!

So I have been swamped. Literally. Figuratively. Swamped. And hallelujah for it. Why? "He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters." ~ Psalm 18:16
"Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." ~ John 7:38


Praise Jesus, that I might have water, water, everywhere!