Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"What I'm Reading" Wednesday

Yay! It's Wednesday again and time to talk more about books. I finished the Steve Jobs biography, and ended up buying an iPhone! Now I've moved on to reading about a woman named Henrietta Lacks. Ever heard of her? Most people hadn't until this book came out...
I have only read the free sample on my Kindle so far, but I plan to buy the full version tonight. Basically, Henrietta grew up poor and suffered cervical cancer as an adult. When she died, the doctors asked her family for permission to save her cells for medical research. This request was denied, but doctors took her cells anyway. Her cells became immortal (and were called HeLa cells) as they were grown in laboratories all over the US. In fact, her cells are still alive today. The review on says that:

"HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions."

Yet, Henrietta's family has never seen a dime of the money. This story follows the journey from her cancer through all the amazing things her cells have done for the medical world.

Sounds really interesting. I'll keep ya posted! :-)

I'm also reading a book for my 4th grade book club at school. Actually, I am re-reading it- I read it through once to make sure it would be appropriate for elementary school, but I always reread the chapters I've assigned the kids each week. This book is: Floors by Patrick Carman.
I love this book-not only because it is a cute story that the kids are really seeming to enjoy, but also because it is the first in a series. I always like to interest kids in a series because then there will be many books for them to enjoy. I, myself, like to find a good series because then I know that I will be guaranteed something good to read for quite awhile.

This book has a little fantasy, a little mystery, and even some realistic fiction elements. Leo and his father,Clarence, live in the famous Whippet Hotel. The whimsical owner-Merganzer D. Whippet has been missing for over 100 days, and strange things are starting to happen. Leo stumbles upon 4 mysterious colored boxes that lead him through a series of adventures through some of the hotel's many secret rooms. There is a little "twist" at the end, which is always fun.

At each meeting, we discuss what we've read for that week and answer some discussion questions. We've also been designing our own versions of the 4 boxes that Leo finds during his adventures according to the boxes' descriptions in the book. We end each session by answering some "Reading for Detail" questions. I will ask some very detailed questions from the pages we read that the students will only know the answers to if they really read closely and paid good attention to what they read. If someone gets the right answer, they win a rubber "ducky". Ducks are central characters in the book-adding to the quirkiness of the story. I found some little rubber ducks from Oriental Trading, and that is what I give the kids if they get a right answer. It's lots of fun and they are very motivated to read for those details! 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Good day-good things happening!

Today was a busy-but good day! It started with church this morning and Preschool Praise. Then, we went to have lunch at one of our favorite restaurants- Palio's- and then back home for a couple hours before I had to be back up at church for a VBS meeting. It's so hard to believe that we are already getting ready for VBS again! The time has flown by. This will be my third year to teach the VBS music/dances to the first graders. I really enjoy it, and am always impressed at how much the children learn in 4 short days. There are usually a few students from my school that attend our VBS, so it's a neat opportunity to get to know them in a "church" environment as well. :-)

I took a bike ride after the VBS meeting, and it was a beautiful afternoon. Since it had just rained, there was a cool breeze in the air, and everything seemed clean and fresh. The honeysuckle smelled SO good! The only bad thing was the dozens of gnats that I think I swallowed while I was riding! :-)

During my ride, I kept thinking about a situation in my life right now that I am not entirely happy with. I was complaining (in my mind) and whining, and feeling pretty sorry for myself. Then, Father broke in and turned it all around on me. "What are YOU doing or not doing that could help the situation?" "Are YOU doing your part?" "Are you praying over this?" "What should YOU be doing?" "Focus on that, and trust ME to take care of the things you cannot control." Wow!! Not really what I wanted to "hear", but so very very true. And although it put some responsibility on me and took away my pity party, it also gave me peace. For that, I am so thankful! :-)

On another note, I am working really hard right now to leave behind some bad eating habits. Two things: I LOVE chocolate and other sweets, and I LOVE Cokes. Unfortunately, they make you fat and unhealthy. Why can't I LOVE broccoli instead? So...I am really trying to cut back. Luckily, it helps to take the bike rides because it's a lot of work to ride 13.5 miles, and I can't stand to think about "wasting" the effort by eating junk. I have now gone.....DRUMROLL PLEASE...5 WHOLE DAYS without a Coke! Yay! And my mother-in-law dropped off one of her "best-chocolate-pies-in-the-world" last week and I only ate ONE thin slice! That's progress!

So, good things are happening- God is continuing to work on me to handle situations in life the way He would have me to, I am now in a pretty good habit of exercising regularly, and I am working on replacing unhealthy eating habits with more healthy choices. Good things!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Glorious Day!

Happy Resurrection Day!
What a great day today! Wonderful service at church-even though we had to go to the gym for the "overflow". It was still a beautiful service, and I was impressed at how well our church had planned ahead for the event that we would need a place for those of us who made it to church "just in time"! I LOVE that we got to sing "Glorious Day"! It was an amazing moment to sing that song and think about the truth in the words. It overwhelms me:

"Living He loved me, dying He saved me
And buried He carried my sins far away
Rising He justified freely forever
One day He's coming, oh, glorious day, oh, glorious day"

It was one of those moments when everything around you just disappears and it's just you-singing worship, and gratitude to the Father. Thank you, Jesus, for being my savior and dying on the cross for me. 

My sweet "Grandmommie" joined us for church this morning. She also came to Sunday School with me after "Big Church", and she was treated like a princess in there! Several of my friends came over and introduced themselves and spoke with her. Our director even gave her a candy treat for her birthday (which was Wednesday- 91 years old!!- and which she ate on the way to our house after church!) and told her that we as a Sunday School class have prayed for her often in the past. 

Grandmommie spent a good while on our SS prayer list because a couple of years ago we almost lost her. She had a series of health problems that kept her in the hospital for an extended period of time. She couldn't seem to get her footing and as a result, we were told that she wouldn't make it much longer. It was terrible-I went to the hospital one afternoon to tell her my "goodbyes". I was the only one there with her at the time, and she asked me a few times to pray for her, with her, sing to her, etc. She was so at peace and ready to go. It was so hard because at one point she wanted to take a nap, and all I could do was sit there and watch her breathe-in and out- and wondering if each breath was going to be her last. 

But, God still had plans for Grandmommie here on earth, because she rallied and recovered and after a fairly extended period of time, went on with life. So...we are lucky to still have Grandmommie and now she is 91! She mentioned today how life is different now that she's elderly. I asked her how she feels about life now. She said, "Well, it's not as fun as it was, but it's good." A piece of my heart broke at that moment because I want her life to be AWESOME, not just "good", but I can only imagine how disappointing that would be to have so much of your freedom and your choice to do what you want taken away from you with age. She doesn't drive anymore and has to rely on others to do many things for her that she used to be able to do for herself. 

I also felt REALLY guilty today because I don't go see her at her assisted living facility near enough. I feel terrible about that and it kills me to admit it. I think I am a pretty bad granddaughter for that. I felt VERY convicted today to change that. I have NO excuse except that, like I have said before, I am not good at juggling tasks, and I usually feel like I am doing good to handle what is directly in front of me: being a wife, a mother, and an employee. Above and beyond that, I am not always reliable. 

I need to make a goal to go see her at least once a month. I pray for forgiveness and that the Lord will grant me time to make it right. I don't want to waste the time we are privileged to still have her with us, and I don't want her to feel lonely or unloved (I know that is how I would feel if my grandchildren didn't visit me). She made a really sad statement today over at my parents house. We were all in the kitchen and the cousins were all playing and she said, "I wish I could get to see all these kids grow up into adults." That took my breath away. We joked with her about "are you planning on going somewhere?" But, it was a sad shock of reality. I don't like to think about it. 

I can't stand to end this on a sad note, so let me just say that my Grandmommie is an amazing woman of faith. She has ALWAYS been a wonderful example to me of what a Godly woman is like. Growing up, she and my grandfather (Big Daddy) always lived far away from us in another state (Georgia and then later, Florida), but I always felt so close to them. We would mail audio tapes back and forth to each other full of messages of love and stories about what we were up to. Grandmommie would always include a "chat" on her tapes that she sent us. Her chats were just little stories about her childhood, and we loved to hear them. I always knew that she loved me, and I loved being with her. 

We went to my parents' house today after church for lunch, dessert, and the annual Cousins Easter Egg Hunt! This year was a little different because my sister and her family couldn't be there- they were missed! But, my boys and Ben, my brother's, girls had a great time hunting for eggs full of quarters! We had to hide the eggs inside because of the rain, but they didn't care! :-) 

Overall, it was just a nice, peaceful day. It's funny how your parents' house can always be a place of comfort and peace. That's how I feel about my parents' house- even though it's not the house they had when I was growing up, I still feel "at home" and "safe" there. I guess it's just because that's how my parents make me feel! :-)

So, I end today feeling so thankful- for God's gift of His son, for my sweet family, and for my life! Glorious day! 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Have I mentioned that I love riding my bike? Well, I do! :-) I know it may sound silly, but I am just so glad that I have found a form of exercise that I enjoy doing. In college, I was really good about working out in a gym 3-5 days a week, but I can tell you- I DIDN'T enjoy it. But, biking-I enjoy.

As I was riding today it occurred to me that one reason that I like it so much is that it is not just a physical experience, but a spiritual one as well. I pray while I'm riding, and think....ALOT. Today I had my favorite praise music playing on my IPod as I rode, and let me tell you-there is nothing like riding through a beautiful treelined path beside ponds and ducks-just surrounded by God's amazing creation while "How Great is Our God" is playing in your ears.

"The splendor of a King
  Clothed in Majesty
  Let all the earth rejoice
  All the earth rejoice..."

I was riding outside in the warm spring afternoon with goosebumps!

I love "where" I ride as well. I always ride from my house to Bear Creek Park, follow those paths to Keller-Smithfield Park and then back home again. Bear Creek Park has always been a favorite of mine. I love all the trees and the tranquil walking/biking paths. The other day I rode through there and saw a whole group of ducks up on the bank with their heads twisted on their backs taking a peaceful nap.

We took the kids there a lot when they were younger, so there are a lot of memories there, as well. Every time I pass by the giant sandbox, I remember when my boys would always want to play in it every time we visited. It always kind of grossed me out a little bit-wondering how many animals might have used it as a litter box, but I always let the boys dig, and bury, and build in that sand.

I love that along the way I ride over the place where my sweet Will once asked me to stop right then and say a prayer to thank God for all the wonderful things he created. I remember it every time I pass that spot.

I even love the steep inclines along the path that can be so hard to climb. I struggle, and sometimes think "I can't do it", but then I push on-refusing to give up, and I finally make it to the top. I love this too, because I know that after I make it to the top, there is a downhill on the other side where I can coast, and rest, and breathe...FREEDOM with the wind whipping through my hair!  And the hard work and struggle was worth it. What a great metaphor for life!

I love the families I see along the way-enjoying the weather, the beauty, and each other. I see representations along the way of where I have been- in the moms jogging with their little ones in strollers, and where I am going- in the elderly couple walking hand in hand.

I thank God for this place and that I am healthy and able to enjoy it. I am thankful for the difference that being there is having on my body and my spirit. I love the time I can spend with the Lord while I am riding. You can't help but feel closer to Him surrounded by nature.

And I am thankful for your prayers, as well. Today is the first day in about 2 weeks that I have felt like myself again. I have felt strong and "normal" and like maybe I am over the worst of the adjustment period. Thank you for your prayers as I was working my way up that steep hill-wondering if I would make it. I think that maybe-I have reached the top and can now enjoy the downhill- to coast, rest, and breathe....FREEDOM with the wind whipping through my hair! :-)


Thursday, April 5, 2012

"What I'm Reading" Wednesday (One day late...again!)

This is one of my favorite kinds of blogs to write because I love talking about books and what is good/not good, etc. Sorry it's a day late...again! I had a lot to get off my chest last night and I so appreciate everyone's kind and supportive words and prayers!

Ok...onto what I'm reading................

Right now I am in the middle of Steve Job's biography. Overall I am liking it. If I had to rate it on a scale of 1 to 5, I'd give it about a 3. It has been interesting so far to learn how Jobs developed Apple from just a small start-up in the garage to the empire that it is today. Although he was a pretty "hard to love" guy who was intense, perfectionistic, and sometimes cruel to others, there are (were) enough redeeming qualities about him that keep me turning the pages. Things I can appreciate about Steve Jobs:

* The customer experience was most important to Jobs. It was extremely important to him that his products be easy to use and intuitive.
* Jobs would accept nothing less than a quality product. It was ingrained in him by his father early on that you should always "do things right". Even the motherboard inside the computer had to be put together in an attractive manner using only the best equipment-even down to the screws (even though no one would ever see it).  It makes me feel confident that anything I buy from Apple is going to be a solid, classy, quality product. Although he could frustrate his engineers to death by making them redo and redo something until it was "perfect", I still respect him for not taking shortcuts and for doing things right.
* He spoke his mind. Although he went waaayyy overboard and could have taken a course or two in "tact", I respect anyone who is not afraid to be honest.
* He was a genius- he was not an engineer and did not build any of his products. But, he had the vision and the uncanny ability to know the exact way to promote/market a product. He was feared by many because of his volatile personality, but he was also deeply respected for being a genius and a master of the craft of product development/marketing.

I'm sure there will be more to come, especially when I get to the part where his cancer strikes. It's not a book you can't put down (at least for me), but it is a nice relaxing escape as I fall asleep each night. :-)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

It's Been Awhile!

It has been a long time since I have posted anything on my blog. I guess with the school year in motion, there's not as much time to reflect. Sometimes that's good and sometimes it's not. I tend to get in autopilot mode during the school year and everything is "all business". I become a major "task master" ticking things off my to do list and taking care of business. I'm not near as fun! :-)

But, lately, I have taken on a new exercise routine that I LOVE-biking! I can't get motivated to go into a gym on a regular basis and workout. Goodness knows I have tried and had SO many good intentions. But, I just can't do it. It is so boring to me. But, biking-I can do that! I LOVE the solitude, the peacefulness, and being outdoors and watching the scenery as I ride. It's very relaxing to me! Weird, I know, that exercise would be relaxing, but that's what's so great about it-it doesn't really seem like exercise because I love it so much! I have to be "fooled" into exercising to actually be consistent with it. :-)

My typical ride is about 14 miles. I prefer to go by myself because I can get better exercise when I'm not having to stop frequently to give the boys a break or make sure that they are doing ok on the ride. They have done the entire ride with me before, though. :-)

It takes about 1 1/2 hours start to finish, so it has given me lots of thought and reflection time. I began to think about this blog once again as a way to kind of get my thoughts down and continue growing into the woman that God has planned for me to be. Not that I should ever stop that journey just because I am busy with the school year, but I think I just so very easily get sidetracked when there is so much to get done. I don't juggle multiple things very well, and unfortunately, I think I tend to lose touch with myself when life demands so much.

I've always had tendencies towards anxiety and have let it get the best of me on several occasions throughout my life. For the past 10 or so years I have taken Zoloft to help ease my anxiety (shortly after 9-11). It has worked REALLY well up until the last few months. I found that I had started feeling just kind of "blah" and apathetic-like I just had no motivation. I had read on the Internet that when taken for extended periods of time, medicines like Zoloft can actually start CAUSING the symptoms that they are taken to PREVENT. Thinking that I was really lucky to have gotten so much benefit from Zoloft for the 10 years I've taken it and now maybe it's time to get off it, I started "weaning" myself off.

Doctors never recommend quitting an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication "cold turkey". There are terrible side effects to quitting so drastically. Instead, you have to gradually stop by cutting back on the dosage a little at a time. I was on the lowest dosage to begin with (50mgs daily), so I went a week cutting back to 25mg daily. That went pretty well. After that, I decided to try 25mg every other day. Since then, I have really been struggling.

The withdrawal symptoms are really hard to get through right now. I have a lot of light-headedness, headaches, slight nausea, "brain zaps" (kind of like electricity is shooting through your brain really quickly), trouble sleeping, and I have not been this emotional since I was pregnant! I am not normally a very big crier at all (takes a lot to turn on the water works usually!) , but I have cried rivers in the last few days! I have been EXTREMELY irritable as well-so much so that while I'm being that way I even have the presence of mind to think, "Wow! What is wrong with you?" :-) I even got mad at a website that I was registering with because it told me my password was "weak". How rude! :-) I am REALLY ready for this to be over so I can feel normal again. The apathy I was feeling that led to this process suddenly doesn't seem so bad. But, I really feel like I need to push through the process to get to the other side. I feel like it's time to say goodbye to Zoloft for good.

Strangely, even in the midst of feeling so yucky, I have continued to bike-it makes me feel better. That, and gummy bears. Weird, huh? :-) Whatever works.

Long long story short, I would covet your prayers for this unpleasant time. Both for me and for anyone that has to be around me while I'm going through it. It can't be easy to be in my family right now. I'm pretty good at work because I know I have to hold it together there, but I've been falling apart pretty bad otherwise. At least this whole thing has found me on my knees in prayer. During my bike rides I've done some crying and lots of praying along with the reflecting.

I know that "this too shall pass"and that eventually my body will adjust. I am just not enjoying the trip there. I know this post is long, thanks for sticking around to read it. Please don't take away from this that I think anti-depressants are bad. Quite the contrary-I firmly believe that life is way too short to waste it feeling bad when there is something you can easily do to help. I knew when I first started taking Zoloft that getting off it could be challenging. Despite how bad I am feeling right now, it was well worth the help that I received from it the past several years.