Sunday, September 28, 2014


A difficult week it's been.  The girls and husband Dion each took a turn getting sick, and my allergies have been plotting against me more than the typical allergies plotting against me.  And then there's this story...

Once upon a time we had a house that refused to sell for 3 years.  As a result the savings we had depleted over the time it was on the market.  Running out of options, we rented it a few months back.  Initially it was a fixer-upper.  We lovingly and with much dedication saved up the money and restored it while living there.  Over those 8 years, it transformed into a beautiful little cottage, and other than the overall cost of restoration, saving, tackling a project, saving, tackling a project...there wasn't a problem that we couldn't financially swallow. Until this week.  This week there was an unexpected problem large enough to force our hand to take out another loan.

One day while Dion went to pick the girls up from school, I sat by the window for a few quiet minutes before heading off to work.  As you know, I've been in the  reorganize and move everything to a different place frenzy.  Here I sat looking at my newly formed desk/project area, not quite complete.  Everything else has settled into its organized place for the most part, but this area still needs some work. 

Here's what I was thinking about...
Nothing too awful.  Needs a curtain rod and a curtain, a few more organizers, and cleaned up. There's also a small but growing pile of things that need fixed...hemmed, stitched, or glued back together again.  This area is one of the final pieces of the move it all around tetris puzzle.  The other somewhat perplexing puzzle pieces include the laundry pile-up from a still broken washer, as well as other semi-serious fixes on our home that have been waiting for us to address them.  And a garage completely out of sorts and highly testing my patience.

I also found myself zeroing in again on this annoyance...

To most, those white spindle things are probably not too terribly offensive, but to me they are like an outdated step jail. They need to go and my impulsive self was beginning to think they should go now soon.

So there I sat, dwelling on numerous, uncompleted and lingering projects and the developing financial issue, when I caught myself.  I caught myself in a not helpful frame of mind.  I caught myself becoming a little obsessive with my surrounding life. 

You know there is and always will be, "something"...many times multiple somethings...a pressing heart issue, financial situation, health circumstance, difficult relationship, or an altogether different problem of sorts needing resolution.  

And I know that too.

I thought to myself, "Self.  You need to move beyond yourself.  You need a perspective change. "  

So I turned.

just a little.  A slight adjustment to the right.  This is what I saw...
better right?  This is what beautiful early fall looks like.  My thoughts turned to a few recent posts of dear friends on facebook.  How they are working through life circumstances so complicated, they make my temporary situations seem minnow small.  Some of them are going through the kind of stuff that makes us ask the questions without answers.  

Yes.  In that moment I had a small perspective check. We've all had them.  We need them. It can be a missions trip to an AIDS camp in the Bahamas, or to help a out a widow living in the middle of Nowhere Hills, Kentucky, or a two sentence status update from an elementary school friend, or simply looking out our nearest window.  It's when we are sitting in the exact same spot, but we see a little differently.  What we see or how we see we think of it shifts.  Our view changes. It's the whole "Do you see a vase or two guys talking?" thing.
a vase...
 two guys talking...
you saw it just like that, right?

Now. Don't misunderstand. I'm not a big believer in the underskirting of our pain. It is what it is. Authenticity is far up there on my core values list, possibly the highest.  As a kid, learning there were hungry children in Africa successfully stirred up my empathy and compassion for them. But I still wanted to vomit up the lima beans and turnips.

When we get a paper cut, it hurts.  Pain is painful, no matter how small our injury may appear in comparison with another's. We don't know the pain of another.  Although we may remember some of the more distressful experiences from our past, we only know the ache we feel in the moment. That understanding may help us identify with the pain of others, but we don't really know what someone is going through.  

A similar situation affects any two of us in very different ways.  How arrogantly assumptive of us to judge another person's response to their pain and circumstances, pointing out what we perceive to be their shortcomings.  In a similar way, we must extend grace to ourselves as we deal with our lot.  It's not fair to ourselves to know there are others who have gone through or are currently going through the unthinkable, to only then conclude that we have no right to complain or be struggling in our now perceived, comparatively minuscule situation. 

No. Perspective change creates a healthy shift in our view. But it is not numbing out, disengaging, denying, or minimizing our very real and present emotion.  The most authentic way we can work through grief, anger, disappointment, anxiety or whatever it might be, is to walk through it.  Sometimes slowly. Occasionally at a surprisingly faster pace than we may have expected. Sometimes we feel pulled or pushed through, sometimes held up by another through, and sometimes we're just. barely. making. it. through.  But through nonetheless. Our emotion in itself is neither right or wrong.  It just is.

That said, a perspective check can powerfully challenge and move us beyond ourselves in a moment. To look higher and deeper.  To stand at the top of a skyscraper and watch humans scurrying around like work ants below.  To meet a Haitian refugee with no use of his legs, living in garbage and filth, wearing a larger-than-life smile on his face.  A glance over at a little girl basking in outright laughter, even though she cannot see what's beside her and at the end of the day, her survival is one hundred percent dependent on her caregivers.  To hear a woman singing, left alone with her three year old son, the spreading disease in her body taking her very life from her.  But there she stands, singing out a song that testifies to the faithfulness and of all things, goodness of her God.

These experiences do not diminish our pain.  What they do is give us hope in our circumstances.  In the fight.  In our present battle.  Its the human spirit at it's best.  It makes us ask the question, "How could it ever be possible to be surrounded by that kind of tragedy and then smile? and then laugh? and then sing?!"  Their responses inspire us to smile,  or cry,  or squirm,  as they begin to MOVE our mountains.  It's a shift.  It's not a cover up.  It's not magic fairy dust. Sometimes a window into foreboding possibility is what it takes for our perspective to shift.  And sometimes it takes something so genuinely beautiful, so beyond...higher and deeper than us, to move us beyond ourselves.

And so with my perspective in check, I went outside to spend the rest of my quiet time in nature...knowing I'd be captivated by the beauty of a Creator with an intelligence and paintbrush far beyond my own.

and I was...
There was a moment last week when daughter Sara was in tears.  She felt exasperated in a situation and cried, "You taught me to try my best.  And I try my best and it's not good enough.  Were you lying all that time when you taught me that?"  

So we've been talking about that together.  How there are days when "our best" will not be or at least will not seem to be enough.  But there are days when our best will get us through.  And there are days when our best will seem to be exactly what was needed to win a victory or to help another win theirs.

So we keep giving it our all.  To resolve the issues of the heart, issues we're sure others would misunderstand if we even knew how to begin expressing them out loud.  To resolve the problems that surround us as we live out our lives in an environment where the moth and rust destroy.  To stand up for others in the moments when we're barely keeping our own knees from buckling.

A day or two following my perspective check of a day, we had a family trip to Walmart planned.  I had five free minutes before our agreed upon, scheduled, departing time, so this happened...
I guess for now I'm kinda walking through by adding to my mess...and that's okay...for now...I suppose.

In the meantime, hopefully we'll avoid a falling-down-the-steps-and-then-through, kind of through...

How are you making your today world beautiful?

Friday, September 19, 2014

On the Road AGAIN to FUN-draising...Part 2

Did you see that coming..."on the road again?"  I bet you did if you've read Part 1.  If you haven't, and you'd like to, find it by clicking here.  And if you did, well, I'm going to do that thing that makes me REALLY not like reality tv, which is summarizing by pretty much repeating word for word where we left off .  It will be just like coming back from a commercial break.

In Part 1 Sara wanted to play the drums.  She decided to have a bake sale to raise the money to buy her practice drum kit.  We put her bake sale on wheels and off we went.  She was hugely successful.  This gave us an idea!

We regularly try thinking up good ideas to raise funds for Siri's medical expenses and needs.  "What if we simplify this idea by making only brownies, and do a similar type of fundraiser for Siri at the car show events and possibly a few others?" I thought.  Dion got on board at the beginning of last week, and we were off...

At the end of Part 1 there were lots of questions to be answered, and in Part 2 there will be answers, but first I cannot wait much longer to tell you the story of this cart.

In Part 1 we used this, taken from an old suitcase...
and tied a basket hamper to it, so that Sara could sell on wheels using this.
The night after Sara and I completed her fundraiser, I was having a typical fun time looking for things that are not in our budget on Craigslist.  And there they were.  Two Amish rockers.  The ad is no longer up, so I'll try recreating what I can remember here...
These chairs really wanted me to come check them out, so the following day we drove around the corner to the estate sale.  They were definitely project chairs, and in my opinion, overpriced, but I have wanted Amish rockers for such a very long time.  Probably because my grandparents were Amish, so it is kinda a part of who I am.  This is also why I am super good at eating things like whoopie pies, cookies, and all things baked with flour and sugar...see how this works? part of who I am. This is also why when I find a fitting and comfortable piece of clothing, I'd rather buy 10 of that shirt or whatever it is, and wear it every day.  This is also why I don't shower wish I didn't have to shower. This is also why for a very long time I only thought of Intercourse as a town in Pennsylvania where my mother grew up, and where we visited our Amish relatives. This is also why I don't wear underwear.  I'm kidding. That's a myth.  Also, I do wear underwear.  One time I wrote a song about underwear.

Any. way.  These chairs spoke to my Amishness, and just as my relatives would do, I got a better deal.  Actually, my relatives would make the chairs themselves. They would sell them in their wood shop beside their house in Intercourse, and make a lot of money.  See, Intercourse kept developing up around their house into what is now an Amish amusement park of sorts.  The tourist masses come to learn about the Amish.  They ask questions like, "Do you wear underwear?"  My relatives make and sell their things to the tourists who ask the questions of this kind.

Here is a picture of husband Dion, baby Sara, and myself, dressed up in Ohio Amish clothes for an Amish-like dinner.  The covering and clothing patterns are different in PA.  And Dion would have a beard.  Sara's covering is correct.  It was from one of those Amish baby dolls sold to tourists, this one made by my great aunt.  They look like real babies and wear Amish clothes.  Actually, the dolls that Amish girls have do not have faces.  It is against the rules.  They are fabric dolls without faces.  But baby Sara is a real baby.  Baby Sara has a face.
We would be good Amish.

So there we were at the estate sale, when I saw it...a dolly with a yellow handle.  I figured if we're going to pull off our up-coming car show fundraiser successfully, we would need to go bigger than Sara's band fundraiser.  THIS was the answer!  I saw it in my head.  THIS was it!!

I began building the idea, using the dolly as a base, and these wire cube things...found 2 of these containers full of them last year at a yard sale for only 5 dollars.
and made this.
Then I made the top, using two types of yard sale fabric, and a fun green and yellow ribbon.  I used this yogurt lid for the pattern.  It had a little bit of yogurt on it...when I get an idea, there's no stopping for things like cleaning yogurt off of the lid that I must use in that moment. 
My inspiration for this cart was the yellow handle on the dolly, and the idea of a bright, fun, and cheery lemonade stand on wheels.

Then I tied a cut piece of fabric around the cart.
Those blue wavy things are classroom bulletin borders sold at The Dollar Tree.  I added velcro to the ends. Now they wrap around and attach over the wires, making them easy to take on and off.  They keep the product from falling out.  This cart can hold 120 of the 6 inch square, plastic, clam shell containers!  It's really not that large, so it was maybe brilliant.  Using the 6 inch containers, that's 260 brownies.

I cut out large and small felt flowers, leaves, and hearts and hot glued them to the cut fabric ribbon.  The fabric ribbon of flowers can be untied and removed.
Then another fabric ribbon was cut and tied around the cart, and used to begin a rag skirt.  A rag skirt is when you cut lots and lots of strips of fabric and tie them to the top.  This project took a ridiculously long time to finish, only because I tend to be a perfectionist.  I would not have needed to be so particular with it. But I was, and completing the cart took an embarrassing three days.
Then I added two 8x10 photos of Siri, using cardboard, two sleeve protectors, and more yard sale fabric.  DONE!!!

This cart has potential.  Items could be hung off the sides, or attached to the top.  The skirt hides what could be anything on the bottom.  And the wire cubes lift off of the dolly as a unit. Or the top can be removed, making it smaller. 

We're parking it in Siri's room.  It's perfect for her books on the top, diapers/wipes in the middle, and extra blankets on the bottom.  Love how it worked out.  Today we bought the matching dolly to make another.  Here's a basket for Dion and Sara to keep snacks and waters.
When the cart was finished, I began baking and packaging.  I found great joy in packaging these brownies, knowing that every buyer would be giving a donation, probably more out of compassion than the immediate desire for a freshly baked, chocolate fudge brownie.  They certainly were put together with love.  Siri Love. Siri's middle name is Love, so when others demonstrate their love to her, we call it Siri Love.
These brownies are in a brownie prison...
And now the answers to Part 1 questions....

Can they sell a mess of brownies?  yes we did.  all 486 of them.  We bought out three stores, including Walmart.

Will they be baked in time?  yes.

Can they get through this challenge without arguing   (who? us?)?
Yes!  and if we wouldn't have, I wouldn't have brought it up.

Will there be enough containers?
We ran out of containers, but then on Friday morning husband Dion found some more.  We had just enough.
Will the weather cooperate? 
Kinda sorta not really. Dion planned to take off of work Friday night, when most of the car-loving folk come into town, but the weather forecast said "no deal due to rain".  So he made a last-minute executive sales decision to get off work Thursday night and take out the brownies that were made. 

No problem right?  Well, a little bit of a problem, since the cart was ready to go, but the plan was to bake most of the inventory that less than half of the brownies were ready.  

Oh. And then as we were loading up, it began to pour. THURSDAY!  (weather forecast said "clear") 

After the rain slowed up, he and Sara went out to sell the brownies that we did have, to the Thursday night not-as-many-people crowd.

He took my cart apart!!!  What husband Dion??!!  I put SO MUCH time into this plan, and now you are rushing it?!! And now you are taking off from work??!  And now you are breaking my beloved cart??!  

But we did not argue.  We went with it.  We were doing our best, and taking some risks, and when one does one's best and takes some risks, there must be grace and flexibility.

Friday night came and the weather was PERFECT (so much for rain).  So, husband Dion made another executive sales decision to once again take off work. This began to worry me, since we are trying to raise money, not loose money.  But all the brownies were ready to go, and the cart was fixed and better than ever, so we all went out as a family.  A few hours later, we sold out to a crowd of amazingly kind, 
car-loving folk, who were so very generous to our family.  Our last sale was to a group of men sitting on and around a golf cart by the old cars.  They said, "We will take all you have."  That was 80 brownies!!  They gave a generous donation.

How many brownies does husband Dion want her to make next time? Will they become brownie makers and sellers for the rest of their middle-aged lives?
We did so well after all expenses were paid, that Husband Dion now sees a little bit of wisdom in my ways.  We hope to try the next two car shows in the spring, but hopefully a few other venues in the meantime as well.  For our next "try again" in the making, he has asked for 120 brownies. No problem. 
The very last batch of brownies was finished up on Thursday night at 5:30AM.  I was mixing up that batch, when I figured out it would be much more efficient to use these two larger than life pans, instead of the little eight x eights I had been using all week.
Live and learn.  The memories and lessons of this experience may last us a lifetime, but I'm pretty sure the brownie sticky/crumbs will too.  There was brownie sticky/crumbs ev-er-y-where.  Sticking to the bottoms of our feet. stick. stick. stick. sticky here. sticky there. sticky everywhere.  

Here we are rocking on our Amish rockers...age 90 and 92...

How are you making your today world beautiful?

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