Tuesday, May 31, 2011

1000 gifts: Asheville NC, mohitos and Melissa

I got to spend a couple days with my high school friend, Melissa in Asheville, NC over Memorial Day weekend. I hadn't seen in her 10 years, but it was like no time had passed at all! So here I continue my list of gifts, blessings that I write down to remember all the wonderful things that God gives me along the journey (from Ann Voskamp's book and her blog, A Holy Experience). I'm still struggling with depression (SAD), but the gifts keep accumlating, and it's possible I appreciate them even more in the midst of depression.

Before I get to my North Carolina adventure, a few end of school year things:

275. Birthday cupcakes.
Dreamer's birthday was May 17 and I brought cupcakes to school for a little school party. After all the kids sang her Happy Birthday, Dreamer asked me to stay (there was only about an hour left of school). I hadn't planned on staying, but how could I refuse on her birthday? And I've got to enjoy these years when I'm still the greatest thing in the world to my kids, when they want to show me off in front of their friends and teacher!

276. Giggles.
Dreamer's ballet recital rehearsal was the next day, and she was so excited about getting to perform up on stage! When we entered the big auditorium for her rehearsal - she couldn't stop giggling. Dreamer giggles when she's excited, and it's contagious.

277. Dance recitals.
Saturday was her actual ballet recital. She got to dress us as a bride and the girls in her class did a dance called "La Mariee" by Marc Chagall, to a beautiful classical piece that I'd never heard before, but now I love: The Great Russian Easter Wedding March by Rimsky-Korsakov. I love all the other dances too, tap, jazz, hiphop and Irish step (I love the Irish step especially because the whole audience gets involved clapping and yelling). The costumes are always fun, too. One of my favorites were the little girls dressed up in jungle gear and tap dancing to the elephant's march from Disney's Jungle Book.

278. Texting.
B. tried to call me during Dreamer's recital to see if Blaze had come outside yet to be picked up for her friends' swimming party. I couldn't talk to him so I texted him back. Texting is so much fun! I loved our little "conversation": B: I'm a bissy man send her a runnin or no swimmy. Me: I'm in the middle of a recital! B: Just march right up on that stage grab her and tell them people my husband wants dinner what are you all thinking?

279. Last favorite things.
One more thing relating to ballet - Dreamer came and told me, "Some people at school don't like ballet." I told her, "well, people have different favorite things and some things they don't like to do." Dreamer thought for a minute and then asked, very plaintively, "why can't ballet be their last favorite thing?"

280. Casa BonitasAfter the recital, we drove down to Denver for Dreamer's birthday party at Casa Bonita's. It wasn't a real party (it was just our family) but that giant resaturant, with a waterfall, a high dive show, actors dressed up as pirates, gorillas and princesses, pinatas, puppet shows, and Black Bart's cave, is better than any party I could come up with for girls on my own!

281. Refocus stations.
Blaze and Dreamer told me about the "refocus station" at school. Apparently when you get in trouble these days at school, the old threats we used to deal with - a dunce's cap, detention - have been replaced with something with a more more constructive title - a "refocus station." I'm not quite clear how it works, but the name just cracked me up.

282. Critique partners.
I've found a new "critique partner" via my writing blog, another writer of youn adult fiction, and we exchanged our stories (well, she sent me her entire novel - which was WONDERFUL! I had a hard time finding anything to critique about it; it's ready for publication) and I sent her my first three chapters (the rest of my novel still needs major revision). But my partner's response to my first three chapters was very encouraging. She found some things I needed to fix, but they weren't major. Her words: "I like this. I really, REALLY like this." Music to my ears!

283. Dismissed fees.
I forgot to file a form with the IRS last year, and they threatened a $700 fee! I sent them the missing paperwork, and said a prayer. This week I got a letter saying they were dismissing the fee! Hallelujah!

284. Great quotes‎"The world will not starve for want of wonders, but for want of wonder." G. K. Chesteron

285. Beautiful riding.
Stars posted a video of her riding her horse Roy without bridle or saddle, walking, trotting and loping in circles and doing patterns - even backward steps and a perfect 360 degree turn on the quarters!

286. The filling of the Holy Spirit.
Beth Moore's Breaking Free study continues to give me wonderful insights into the Bible and my spiritual walk. She talks about how the Holy Spirit is like a great flood of water pouring into your life. The only places it can't fill are the places that where you won't yield - your "high places". It is entirely possible to be filled with the Holy Spirit but still have high places you haven't yielded yet - stubborn spots the Lord is still working on you to give up. I could think of a few I'm still hanging onto...

287. Old friends, far away but not forgotten.
Visiting Melissa! Oh my goodness a friendship that stands the test of time is a true treasure! When she picked me up from the airport in Greenville, SC, I got to meet her daughters Molly (13) and Emily (10) for the first time, and then I got to meet Ho Ward, which is what they've named their talking GPS. Yes, I've been living in the dark ages, I've never heard an onboard GPS give directions before. They had all sorts of stories to tell me about the pros and cons of GPS and the particularities of a computer voice (I wanted to hear the Australian version of Ho Ward).

288. MohitosMelissa had a barbeque to reaquint me with her family and introduce me to her new friends and she introduced to me to a new drink, "the mohito": a freshing lime, mint, seltzer and rum concoction. Delicious.

289. The Grove ParkA grand old hotel and spa. I took pictures of Molly standing inside its giant fireplaces (it reminded me a more rustic version of the Homestead in Virginia). We also drove by the Biltmore (too expensive to actually go in - we admired from afar).

290. Pink ghosts.
The Grove Park is supposedly haunted by the Pink Lady, who is not a frightening ghost - the worst she does is tickle your toes while you are sleeping.

291. Star shops and street performers.
We walked around downtown Asheville, listened to street performers - Asheville reminds me of the outdoor mall in Boulder, Colorado. We popped in and out of all the little boutiques. At one store you could buy real dinosaur bones and fossils. My favorite though was the Star Shop, where you could buy these beautiful painted paper lanterns in the shape of stars.

293. Old-timey general stores.
Another great store in downtown Asheville is Mast's General store, like stepping back in a time fifty years or so (well, except for the prices). I loved the barrels of full of old-fashioned candy in the back. While picking out some treats to take home to my daughters, I heard another shopper exclaim "I haven't seen some of these candies in forty years!" They even had horehound candy (famous from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books).

294. Mugs and maps
Whenever I visit a new place, I like to get a local map of it (I was picking on Melissa for not having any Asheville maps and relying so much on her GPS). And I like to bring home a mug. Because then when I'm sipping my tea in the morning, the mug brings back memories.

295. Fusion restaurants, flavor explosionsWe ended the day at a delicious restaurant, Curras, which serves Mexican fusion - not sure what that is exactly, but my scallop enchilada was a perfect explosion of different flavors.

296. Creatively-named chocolates.
I dragged Melissa and the girls into a shop called the Chocolate Fetish, because I love to discover new flavors of chocolate! I tried a truffle called "the Dragon's Sigh" - listen to this heavenly description: "sprinked with white and black sesame seeds, enrobed in a creamy smmoth dark choclate overture, the full flavored dark chocolate center will tackle your tongue with a light taste of Wasabi." I also tried the "Midsummer Night's Dream" truffle - chocolate infused with fresh lavender, locally produced honey, and hint of lemon, and admired more creative truffle names such as "High Tea" "French Velvet" "Wine and Roses" and "Ancient Pleasures."

297. Mountain driving.
After another delicious meal on Sunday, brunch at the "Laughing Seed" (love that name!) we went driving up along the Blue Ridge Parkway, through real mountain tunnels, and hiking through "tunnels" of rhodendron. I am used to mountain driving, but I've never encountered such narrow scary little roads as the ones in the countryside surrounding Asheville. You really do not want to encounter another car coming the opposite direction!

298. Silliness that you never outgrow.
"I am in love to help you, Miss Meleeeeeeesa" - not sure how to explain this one, except to say that it's classic Melissa. We were silly like this all the time in high school, so nice to see we haven't outgrown it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

1000 gifts: April blizzards, May storms

In the rest of America, the saying is "April showers bring May flowers," but here at 7200 ft in Laramie, Wyoming, it's more like "April blizzards bring more May storms." I've had my worst fight with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) this year. I didn't struggle with this at all for the first couple years after the twins were born, but last year it came back with a vengeance and this year has been even worse.

We don't seem to get as many breaks in the bad weather as we used to, and March and April are particularly hard because I know every where else there are signs of spring, but we just get more and more winter.

Nevertheless, God continues to give me little gifts, and I write them down on my calendar and give praise back to Him. 1000 gifts is an idea from Ann Voskamp's book and her blog, A Holy Experience.

256. Woodstove fires.
Blaze is our "fire-girl." (I guess I chose her nickname well!) She has gotten so good at building fires in our wood stove, it's become her official job.

257. Bumper stickers.
This one made me look twice: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind."

258. Advanced reader copies
I received my first "ARC" in the mail, or Advanced Reader Copy. Now that I have an established writing and book-review blog, I am eligible to receive ARCS (for free!) from publishers - months before they are available for sale. In return, all they ask is promotion on my blog. I already raved/reviewed Possession, a futuristic young adult novel by Elana Johnson, on my writing blog, but I'll mention it here, too. If you liked mind benders (like the movie Inception) you might like Possession. Inception blows your mind with dreams within dreams; Possession blows your mind with mind control and trying to guess who is controlling who.

259. Baby cars
You know that great Disney movie, Cars, where there are no humans at all and the people are cars and trucks and the livestock are tractors? Lightning McQueen falls in love with a Porsche. Well, they never showed any baby cars in that movie. I wonder if they have kid cars and baby cars in the sequel movie? I had fun imagining that scenario!

260. The potter and the clay.
From my Beth Moore study, Breaking Free, I found these powerful verses, Jeremiah 18:1-12, about the potter and the clay; I wonder if this is where the famous verses in Romans 9:19-21 come from. The Lord has Jeremiah visit a potter and watch him make clay vessels to illustrate his point.

261. Crazy ideas.
Character idea (probably already taken, but it's still fun): a character for a book who's special gift is seeing every person's "inner animal". This is different than saying "he's like a fox" or "she's like a tiger." This is more like your hidden personality, or potential, not your most apparent one.

262. Fun things your daughters say.
Dreamer tells me: "I am powerful and flexible." I ask her if she heard that at school. She says, "Nobody taught me this. I figured it out myself."

263. How important children are to God.
Another important lesson from Beth Moore's study: Matt 18:1-8. She shares some of experience of how she was abused as a child, and yet still God used this terrible thing for many great purposes.

264. Morning walks.
Now that it is lighter in the mornings, I am starting to get out and walk more, which helps the winter blues. At the end of my walk I always visit our horses and spend some time rubbing their faces and "talking to them."

265. The Bible is relevant, at any time, at any age. Stars called me and told me about this wonderful book she'd read, "Heaven is for Real." (This book deserves a post all to itself). Anyway, Stars said the book reaffirmed her faith in God, though she said she struggles with the Bible - is it really relevant? I told her it was, more than any other book in the world, because it is how God speaks to us, and it gives a blue print for living a fulfilling life.

266. Happy medicine.
B.'s brother and his family came to visit for a weekend and the girls had so much fun with their cousins Br., T and D. . R.B. and J.B. had us busting up laughing several times, it was like an instant shot of happy medicine.

267. Old horses that never give up.
We got the horses out for the kids to ride and I was delighted to see that Rebel was still full of energy, still "leading the pack" at 29 years old!

268. Prayer beads.
At my women's Bible study (which I'm now hosting at my house) we talked about the importance of prayer, how to make it more of a priority and how to stay concentrated during prayer instead of wandering off to plan the grocery list or other things. Heather shared that she uses prayer beads (not a rosary) but a bead each a different color for each family member and close friends and it helps her remember to pray for everyone.

269. Sharing parenting tips.
Also from the Bible study, another friend, Tuesday, shared some advice on parenting, on dealing with attitude (which I'm getting a lot from Blaze, lately) - it's such good advice I'm going to write a whole post on it. The basic gist: many times your kids don't even realize how their attitude appears to others.

270. Not being afraid to fall off.
Lunch with Heather. She told me to look up Francis Chan's videos on YouTube (he's the author of Crazy Love, another must read). This video called the Balance Beam is something every Christian should watch. The basic premise is that it's easy to get caught up in accumulating things and then hanging on to them, that we aren't willing to take risks anymore for God. If life is like a balance beam, we hug it close and creep across carefully so we won't fall off. Then at the very end of our safe little lives we "dismount" the beam and stand up and look to God to see if he liked our "performance." Very convicting!

271. Promotions.
B. got a promotion at work, and he's only been working there for 4 months. He has better hours now, too, no longer has to work through the night plowing when there is a blizzard. He works four 10 hour days, and has Fridays off, so we really like that too. (Now the new position has it own set of issues and challenges, things we are praying about - issues with his foreman).

272. Morning notes.With his new hours, B. has to be at work at 6:30, so when he's running late he doesn't have time to feed Rebel in the morning (our old horse). So then he leaves me these adorable notes on the kitchen counter: "Please feed Rebel the debel, the old crafty one" and another time: "Please feed the other handsome man."

273. Good can come from cancer.
Heather was diagnosed with breast cancer in April and had a double mastectomy in May. I visited her a couple days after her surgery (she was only in the hospital one night!) and she was a little groggy from pain pills but very optimistic. She said her reconstructed breasts were actually an improvement over the old pair! Other good news: the surgeon felt confidant that he got all the cancer and that it hadn't spread. She may not even need to have chemo, but still too soon to tell. Heather amazes me with her strong faith since finding out this scary news. She's sure that the Lord will use this to help her reach many more people and share her faith.

274: Worship songs
I have a new favorite song at church. Well, I have lots of favorites. But this one moved me to tears recently: "All I have is Christ" (I even emailed Karen the lyrics).

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You