Thursday, December 27, 2012

7. My Dream Job Part 1: For My Boys

Dear Ryan and Will,

Question No. 7 asks, "What is your dream job, and why?" You'd think that would be an easy question. And I reserve the right to change my answer at any time.

I am pretty much doing my dream job right now. First, I am a wife to your dad. Second, I am a mom to you boys. And third, I am a school counselor. This entry will be about jobs 1 and 2.

Why is being a wife and a mom a dream job, you wonder? Good question. Frankly, before I had you boys, I would have wondered the same thing. I was career driven and success minded. But during the last 11+ years I have been bestowed the enormous responsibility to be a wife and a mom first, before any other job. I have held other jobs before, but none like this. None that were so critically important that your futures hang in the balance.

Being a wife and mom is the most important job I will ever have. And it's the most important because you boys are the most important things in the world. The way your dad and I raise you will have permanent ramifications on your overall health, happiness and well being. And other people's well being, too: someday your wife, your kids, your friends, your co-workers, your adversaries, and most importantly your eternal destiny.

We've raised you boys to know and love God. And you do. Both of you have made the most important decision you will ever make: to trust Christ as the leader of your life and accepting him as your Lord and personal savior. Now the challenge will be to make sure you continue to rely on him. This won't be as easy. And I am going to make you do things you might not choose to do to ensure this happens, but I will do it because I love you.

My job as your mom is to make sure you have a solid set of values and morals that ground every decision you make. I hope they are there because your foundations have been set by this time. Now my job is to hold you accountable to the decision you make.

When you make the right decisions, my job will be to encourage you, love you, congratulate you and reassure you. Making good decisions won't always be easy. In fact, sometimes making right decisions will be the hardest thing to do, especially into your teen and young adult years. You will get pressures from all directions to make the popular choice, not the right choice. Every choice you make today matters for tomorrow. One small bad decision can have long-term ramifications.

For example, choosing to drink before you are 21 can lead to a bevy of bad things. People who are drunk aren't always thinking clearly. In fact, alcohol and drugs can cloud your decision making so much, you might do things under the influence that you would never do otherwise. Like drink and drive. Like break the law. Like hurt people you love.

My job if you make the wrong choice will be to encourage you, love you, correct you and help issue a consequence. Consequences are a real part of life that you have to face. My job is also to help you see long-term consequences for a one-time bad decision. THIS IS NOT EASY. Your dad and I do not like for you boys to be in trouble. We want you to have freedom and fun and live life. But sometimes that is irresponsible because we are still in charge of teaching you and helping you become amazing men.

What you do in your life - the relationships you make, the way you worship God, the jobs you choose - they all matter in this world. You are special and can change the world. What you do will matter. And I can't wait to see what you choose.

Will you be engineers? Doctors? Performers? Pastors? Accountants? Actors? Athletes? Politicians? I don't know, but it is so exciting to see what happens.

So making sure you are God-following, healthy, happy adults is the best and most important job there could ever be. And it's because of how much your dad and I love you. And we love each other. And being his wife will help you choose wives some day, too.

This job matters like no other.

I love you boys.



Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The First 5 Random Facts: For My Boys

Dear Ryan and Will,

This is the first of hopefully many blogs that I will be writing for you about me. You might someday want to know some things about your mom that you might have missed or just didn't know about.

I read this blog where they list 30 things your kids should know about you. The first on the list is 20 random facts about me. Today we will just start with 5.

1. When I was 24 I was the Emergency Services Director for the Hearth of Oklahoma Chapter of the American Red Cross. I had worked there 5 weeks and 2 days when the May 3, 1999, tornadoes swept through our counties. I was temporarily in charge of the Red Cross' local response to the largest tornado ever recorded. There so much I could tell you about this, but the random fact I want to share is that Katie Couric interviewed me on national television on May 4, 1999. She was talking through an ear piece and I answered her questions. The news cast did not run locally because of OKC's tornado coverage, but it did run nationally. I had friends from across the country who saw the interview. When she interviewed me I had barely slept, I had on no makeup, I was wearing the clothes I wore the day before and my hair was in a pony tail. And it was super cool.

2. My first car was a midnight blue 1965 Mustang convertible that Bubby got for me. When I was about 12, Bubby told me to pick out a classic car that he could fix up for me. I think he did that since he never was able to drive. That car was super fast and super fun to drive. It was a 4-speed and learning to drive a stick was hard. I hope you boys learn to drive a stick. It's the only way to really drive.

3. I never partied in high school. I mean, I had fun and went to a few get togethers with friends. But I never got drunk and I never did drugs. I had great friends and was in the right crowd. This was important to me because I cared about my future and I cared about my soccer team. I couldn't let them down. When my senior year started, I remember asking a boy what he did over the summer and he said he puked a lot. I thought he meant he was sick a lot, but he corrected me quickly to let me know that meant he partied a lot. I don't regret walking a straight line in high school. People sometimes make bad decisions when they are young and drunk or high. I hope you will avoid drugs and alcohol, especially in high school. There is too much at stake for you to lose by making a bad choice.

4. Since I became a Christian in 1999, life hasn't always been easy. In fact, life has been especially difficult at times. And although I have not always understood God;s plan and even have been angry with him at times, I have never doubted that he exists and that he loves me. Your faith will increase at times and fade away at other times. Just remember to never lose hope that God is in control and he loves you even more than your dad and I do.

5. I love to write. I mean, I really, really love it. You know that I was a print journalist before becoming a counselor. I did this mostly because I loved writing and I loved people. It was a great marriage! Although I still write, I don't write creatively as often as I wish I could. This blog will be one way I do that; it will let me express myself, write to you boys and let you get to know a side of me you maybe didn't know before. I have written lots of blogs, lots of stories and lots of other stuff. These blogs to you boys will be the most important things I will ever write because you boys and your dad are the most important things in my life.

That's all for now. I hope you learned something about me you didn't know. I love you both with all my heart!



The First of Many Things About Me: For My Boys

Today I read a blog titled "30 Things My Kids Should Know About Me." I read it and thought it would be something really cool for my kids to have about me some day. At least I think it is cool. They might think I am a dork. Well, I kind of am a dork, so I guess they would be right on!

I do not usually make new year's resolutions. But this year, I would like to answer all of these for my boys (and maybe more) in 2013. There have been too many events lately that have made me realize just how precious life is, and how quickly it can end. Although my plan is to be around a long time and to be an awesome grandma and spoil my grand kids, I want to take the opportunity to leave a legacy anytime I can.

Anyway, here are the 30 things the author suggested:

1. List 20 random facts about yourself.

2. Describe three legitimate fears that you have and how they became fears.

3. Describe your relationship with your spouse.

4. List 10 things you would tell your 16-year-old self, if you could go back in time.

5. What are the 5 things that make you the most happy right now.

6. If you could have three wishes, what would you wish for?

7. What is your dream job, and why?

8. What are 5 passions you have.

9. List 10 people who have influenced you and how.

10. Describe your most embarrassing moment.

11. Describe 10 pet peeves you have.

12. Describe a typical day in your current life.

13. What's the hardest part of growing up?

14. Describe 5 weaknesses and strengths you have.

15. Describe when you knew your spouse was the one and how you fell in love.

16. What are your 5 greatest accomplishments?

17. What is the thing you most wish you were great at?

18. What do you think your spouse loves most about you?

19. How did you feel about the moment you became a parent?

20. Describe 3 significant memories from your childhood.

21. Describe your relationship with your parents.

22. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? 15 years?

23. What is your favorite holiday and why?

24. What's your favorite and least favorite thing about childhood?

25. If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be and what would you eat and why?

26. What popular notion do you think the world has most wrong?

27. What is your favorite part of your body and why?

28. What's your favorite quality about your spouse and why?

29. What are your hopes and dreams for your prosperity?

30. List 10 things for which you hope to be remembered.

I reserve the right to answer these questions partially, completely, randomly and out of order. But I am going to post this as a way to hold myself accountable to write. The blogs will be written to my sons, Ryan (11) and Will (8).

Thanks for reading.


Monday, May 7, 2012

So Far Away ...

I have been trying to decide what to write on this post for a long time now. Months really. Truth is, I still don't know what I am about to write. What I do know is, my heart hurts. It's breaking, in fact. How am I supposed to come to terms with the fact that my best friend - who truly is more like a sister to me than a friend - has a daughter with aggressive, malignant, inoperable tumors in her brain and along her spine? And to top it off, her daughter is just 4 years old. Every part about this situation is wrong. I can't reconcile it. Four year olds shouldn't get cancer. Really, no one should get cancer. But a 4 year old? There just isn't any part of me that can make sense of it. Backtracking, Natalie, my best friend Jen's beautiful blue-eyed, sassy, baby-animal loving daughter has been sick for a while. It was January 2011 when she had her first seizure, which they now think was a stroke at a remote Wisconsin cabin. She was so sick, she could have died. But by the grace of God she didn't. She made it to a hospital whose staff cared for her. She made it out of the hospital, made it back home to Peoria, Ill. I got an early morning text from Jen letting me know what happened. Click here for the whole story: Her seizures became a regular occurrence. They manifested with "spitting" episodes, where Natalie would produce a thick mucus that would cause her to gag, spit and sometimes vomit. She also started experiencing sharp pains in her face and head. None of this was ok. Doctors put her on several anti-seizure medications. They would work for a while and then the seizures would come back. Doctors did MRIs, ran tests and did everything right. They diagnosed her with a rare condition that would leave her having seizures the rest of her life. While this was a terrible thought, no one knew that it wasn't the worst case scenario. I knew this was taking a toll on not only Natalie, but the rest of the family. I decided to surprise Jen by surprising her and going to see her in February. I made arrangements with her husband Brian, and I showed up in her living room. It was so wonderful to surprise her! But I soon discovered how hard things were for everyone. Natalie was really sick. By this time she was having multiple seizures a day. In the short time I was there, it was clear that this was a serious situation. But it wasn't until mid March that doctors did another MRI and discovered that Natalie's seizures were being caused by a malignant, aggressive, inoperable brain tumor that was covering her brain like a veil. Chemo and radiation just weren't an option. In late April, doctors discovered that Natalie also has tumors along her spine. Now, Natalie and Jen are in Scottsdale, Arizona, receiving treatment to help Natalie's body fight the cancer on its own since other treatments are readily available. And I am sitting in my living room in Norman, Oklahoma, feeling completely helpless. I am tired of sitting here. I have to do something. Although, I don't know exactly what it's going to be yet, I am going to be doing something. And when I do, I will probably ask you for your help. I wish I knew what Jen and Natalie or the other Schwammleins needed. But it's hard for even them to know. While I look into more ways to act, I will be praying for all of them. And I will also be praying that I become less angry at this awful situation and that I recognize the true blessings all around. And there are many. Like the blessing of Natalie and how she has shared her beautiful smile and girly spirit with me. Like the special connection I have always had with her. Like the fact Jen and Natalie found this treatment and total strangers are helping them in Arizona. Like all the prayers going up on their behalf from all around the world. Prayers for Natalie.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Am I really all that thankful?

I have been resisting the game so many of my friends are playing on Facebook of listing things I am thankful for during Thanksgiving. This is normally something I would do, and, last year I think I was one of the first of my friends to play this game.

Don't get me wrong, I am thankful. But I didn't want to be redundant and list all the typical things. I was thinking of doing it but being thankful for obscure things.

But recently, my little family has been going through a hard time. Luckily, we are solid and strong, but it has been enough to shake things up quite a bit.

Today, one of my best friends sent me a devotional about how we have to be thankful for things in the midst of the worst of situations. The devotional said,

"I find this truth about the power of thanksgiving over and over in Scripture. What was the prayer Daniel prayed right before being thrown in the lion’s den and witnessing God miraculously shutting the lion’s mouths? Thanksgiving.

After three days in the belly of a fish, what was the cry of Jonah’s heart right before he was finally delivered onto dry land? Thanksgiving.

How are we instructed to pray in Philippians 4:6 when we feel anxious? With thanksgiving.

And what is the outcome of each of these situations where thanksgiving is proclaimed? Peace.

Powerful, unexplainable, uncontainable peace.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, NIV).

One of Webster’s official definitions of thanksgiving is: “a public acknowledgment or celebration of divine goodness.”

So I decided that in the midst of the adversity I am experiencing, I will be thankful. So here are some things I am truly thankful for today:

The most amazing, resilient, funny, smart, handsome, awesome sons that God ever created. They make my world brighter every moment of the day.

A loving, hard working, generous, protective, providing husband who would do anything for me and his boys.

Prayerful and encouraging friends who not only pick me up when I stumble but hold me accountable when I am not living up to my end of the bargain, especially concerning my relationship with God.

Wonderful parents who have gone, will go and are going to great lengths to help me and my family however they can.

The ability to advocate for not only my family, but all the kids I in which I come into contact.

Amazing coworkers who help me every day and who love kids and do what's best for them.

Courage to do what is right even when it is the hardest thing to do.

Kids in my life who show me love and affection and make me feel important in their worlds.

Findlay, the dog I am convinced God sent me last week. She is the exact dog I always hoped I would have someday. I am once again astounded that God answers specific prayers in miraculous ways.

A social service community that helps people. Really helps people, in specific ways.

Most of all, I am thankful for my personal Jesus, who knows me, loves me in spite of myself, and works all things or the good of those who love Him. Even little old me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

How My Son Redeemed Me

I was having one of those moments. A moment where the filter in my brain was turned off and whatever scrolled across my mind immediately exited my lips.

My boys and I were at Chic Fil A, which is our favorite fast food place. It was 2 p.m. and we were just eating lunch. So, of course, we were all cranky. We got our food and then gather up all the condiments, make it to our table and start to sort out our food. This was all feeling very stressful at the time.

Will, my 6 year old, knocked over his drink, and just a little spilled. I handed him a napkin and told him to hurry up and clean it up. And then he tried to hand the used, wet napkin back to me and I hatefully replied, "I'm not a trash can."

Normally, I wouldn't have thought much more about it and chalked it up to extreme hunger and stress. But today a mom and her 3-year-old son were sitting at a table behind us. Just after I quipped my non-trash can remark, the little boy behind me says, "Mommy, I'm not a trash can either." The mom was sweet and gentle and engaged her son in a long funny conversation about if he was a trash can or a garbage truck and which would be better.

I was horrified at my behavior. I was regretting my words. I started to wonder what that sweet, kind mother was thinking of my terse comment that I had for my sweet 6 year old. The mommy guilt was swallowing me whole. I of course regretted sounding so sharp and cranky.

The rest of lunch was uneventful. We all perked up after we had some food in our bellies and the crankiness went away. The boys got ice cream cones and all was right in the world, except for my mommy guilt.

Suddenly, Will asked me to hold his ice cream cone, and I obliged. He got up from the table and left me wondering what in the world he was doing. I watched as he walked to the condiment area, picked up a straw off the floor and followed a woman and her baby to their table. He tapped her shoulder and said, "Excuse me, but I think you dropped this." The woman was caught by surprise and thanked Will for his kindness.

I was speechless and I felt my eyes warm with tears. Will walked back over and sat down and thought nothing of his random act of kindness. He took his ice cream cone and started in eating it.

My heart was about to burst. I couldn't have been more proud of my son. My goal is to raise him to be a kind man, and this showed that he was well on his way. "I am so proud of you son. That was awesome," I said, trying not to cry in a public place.

Then I heard the voice of the woman with the little boy at the table behind me. "Yes, that was awesome," she said. "You don't see that everyday.

I turned to see her eyes filled with tears, too. She was also amazed at Will's thoughtfulness. We chit chatted a little after that and laughed at how emotional we had gotten at such a little thing.

And then, instead of feeling like a bad mom, I knew that my son's actions had redeemed me. My son's kind actions spoke louder than my cranky words.

It reminded me of another way I have been redeemed by a son. God sent His son to redeem me from my sins. Jesus' sacrifice not only redeemed me from cranky words said in public, but for every sin I have ever committed and will ever commit.

As each nail entered Jesus' hand and foot, it represented my sin. As Jesus was whipped and beaten and mocked, he suffered for the things I have done. As Jesus was separated from God, the unimaginable anguish he felt was because of the sins I have committed.

Jesus' actions on the cross redeemed me from a life apart from God and made it possible for me to bury my old life and live a new life in God.

As proud as I am of my son's simple kind act at Chic Fil A, I can't imagine the deep pride God must have felt when Jesus ministered to the lost and eventually sacrificed his life on the cross so I could live. There has never been a more redeeming act ever made.

And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Finding My Voice Again

It's been a while since I have posted. Part of the reason why is that I have been busy with a new career. Working full time has been a huge change, not just for me, but also for my family. Finding time to do the things I enjoy, such as writing, has been difficult.

But the other part of the reason I haven't posted has been because I have lost my voice. Today, I am trying to find it again.

I have done a little writing this year. In fact, the writing I have done has been my favorite style that I have ever composed. It has recently been on display in major ways throughout the U.S. and even abroad.

I admitted today to my mom that the reason I haven't written more has been because I am afraid that I am not good enough. I have doubt. What if I've outreached my potential? What if I run out of things to say? What if I'm being judged, or worse, laughed at, and I don't know it?

Self doubt has crept in. I have let it control me.

But now, I am going to work on overcoming my insecurities and charge ahead.

After all, the biggest risks also carry the biggest rewards.