Sunday, December 16, 2012

Politically Correct

My family isn't good at "political correctness".  Not because we aren't concerned with others feelings -- mostly just because we're ignorant.  :)

Ben recently got in trouble at school for calling another child a name.  A racial slur.  Certainly NOT something Billy and I condone, but  the comment, in "our day", would not have gotten us detention as it did Ben.  Beat up maybe, but not detention.

Mom and dad try to explain the seriousness of flippant speech, etc.

Ben, "Mom, I just think people in public school are too sensitive!  I mean, really, the kid wasn't actually Mexican!"

Liz, "Ben, if you were an adult, you'd be arrested for that".

Mom, "Liz, you don't get arrested for calling people names."

Liz, "Yes, you do."

Parents decide to leave it at that.

Today, Victoria asks, "What does getting your G.E.D. mean?"

Mom, "It's a test.  It stands for Graduation Equivalency Diploma or General Education Development...something like that."

Victoria, "Oh, I thought is stood for General Education Deficiency".  Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Parents decide to leave it at that.

This evening, addressing Christmas cards and gifts for our trash men and mail carrier, I say, "I don't know how to address this to the trash men.  What should I call them"?

In the words of my sister, if you don't like being called a Maid -- go to college to be something else.  She applys the same reason to trash men.  Still, I struggled.  I even googled it.

Ben to the rescue, "How's about 'Official Sanitation Control Officers'.  Unless they are "Sanitation Control Generals -- then we're in trouble"?

We went with that.

Happy Holidays Merry Christmas Everyone!

:) Shanna

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Eli's Eyeballs - An Update

When we selected Eli's file for consideration, we consulted over the phone with the leading expert on children's Glaucoma in our area AND our pediatrician.  Between the three of us, none could fully interpret his poorly kept medical records.  Basically, we knew he'd be some where between corrected vision and totally blind.

Eli's right eye is totally blind.  Not only did he have cataracts at birth (in both eyes), a separate defect caused high eye pressure (glaucoma).  By the time he came to America, his optic nerve was eroded 99%.

Because the eye gets no use, it is in the process of dying.  The end result, a prosthetic eye.

For the past 3 years, his eye has been stable.  His last pressure reading, 6 months ago was a "9" -- which is fairly low.

Yesterday, we got a call from his school teacher stating that he was crying because his eye was burning.  We saw Dr. Lee to discover that the pressure had gone back up to a "40".  High enough to be painful.  Currently, we are using topical drops to try and bring the pressure down in to comfortable ranges.  If that doesn't work -- he'll have a little procedure done.  The goal is to postpone the prosthetic for awhile longer to allow for more growth and lessen the chance of complications.

In the mean time, we thank God the kid has 1 healthy eye!  Although his left eye does not have a LENS, it is functioning normally.  He's doing well in Kindergarten, learning his letters, writing, etc.  Recently, we received a scholarship that allowed us to get a CT TV for him for $200 (normal cost $3,000).  He works with one at school to blow his papers up to the correct font size.

We are all so in love with this little guy.  Most days, I can't believe he was considered a "hard case".

Sunday, December 9, 2012

5 years we're still here...

I remember where I was 5 years ago.

Not to long before, I resigned my position at New Life Church.  Pastor Ted was gone, and so were about 5,000 other people -- and the stress of having a full time business, a large family AND being on staff at a church that seemed to be falling apart at the seems was just too much.  I had no intention of abandoning ship, but I also knew, for my sanity, I needed to simplify.  Taking the advice of my sister, I decided to simplify by eliminating what was causing me the most stress.

Had I not made that decision, not only myself, but my entire family would have been in the exact hallway -- as we usually were -- the gunman entered that morning.

My mother had been visiting and we just so happened to leave church early that morning to take her back to the airport.  I remember telling her what a safe place Colorado Springs was on that drive.  Billy was home with our small children, but Elizabeth stayed back to finish church and hang out with some family friends.

I returned home shortly after service would have ended.  The phone rang.  Billy answered and heard Elizabeth's frightened voice on the other end.  The conversation went something like this...

Elizabeth, "Daddy, don't come up to the church!  Someone is here shooting people!"

Billy asks Elizabeth's to repeat herself.

Billy, "Elizabeth, where are you?  What adults are with you?"

Elizabeth, "I'm in Pastor Brady's Office.  I'm calling from Pastor Daniel's cell phone.  He's here, Pastor Brady and some man named Jack Hafford".

We were alarmed.  And, "Don't come up to the church," translated in her dads mind to, "Shanna, get in the car.  We are going to get Elizabeth!"

We dropped our small children off at Billy's parents and headed to the New Life building, only 1 mile from our home.

It was already surrounded by SWAT team members, with shields and weapons ready for the possibility of a second shooter.  We briefly discussed driving through the building to get our daughter.  We knew exactly which door would be closet to her.  Reasonable, we were not.  We argued.  Fortunately, we obeyed the SWAT team and drove to the perimeter of the campus.  Looking back, a better choice than driving through the building.

What happened before we arrived?

Service had ended a little early that day.  Elizabeth had been heading up the stairs to the executive office to find her grandmother.  Half way up the stair case, the gunman entered the hallway opposite of her.  The security guard that eventually brought him down, entered the hallway from behind her.  Hearing gunshots and cussing disoriented Elizabeth.  Confused she started to descend back down the stairs -- straight into the danger and line of fire below.  A pastor, locked behind a glass door and shielded by SWAT team members at the top of the stairs, looked out and saw her.  He came out of the offices, tore down the stairs and pulled her back up with him until the SWAT team would open up the executive wing and let them back in.

Shortly after the campus was secured, she was marched downstairs, hands in the air -- through hallways strewn with bullet holes, blood and glass -- and directed into an area of the building -- where she would be questioned by police along with others until she was released into the custody of family friends and brought out to her parents.  Four LONG hours after her original phone call.

That evening we carted many, many people whose cars were still in the "lock downed" area from the perimeter of the campus to our home.  I'm from the South -- so when tragedy happens I feed people.  We didn't even know 1/2 the people who wound up in our care that night...I just continued to pull plate after plate from the fridge.

For days we were distracted, hyper vigilant.  Elizabeth couldn't sleep.  New Life offered counseling.  We returned to the "living room" of the building -- worshiped, prayed, anointed the halls with oil -- we decided that we would stay.

2 young girls were killed that day at our church.  Questions like, "Why them?  Why this family?  Why NOT my family?"  Ran through my mind day and night.  

I grieved -- what happened, yes -- but mostly -- I grieved what could have happened.  I didn't say it out loud, but I couldn't identify with all the people saying how thankful they were.  I would just silently shake my head in agreement...but felt dazed on the inside.

10 days or so after the event, Billy said, "Shanna, I don't know why the Work's family lost their daughters.  I just know that on THAT day, for SOME REASON, God said we could keep ours."  And, at that moment, for whatever reason, I was freed to be thankful.  And I did feel thankful.  Sad, and thankful.  Afraid, and brave.  Confused and certain.  All.  At.  The.  Same.  Time.

Matthew 5:45 He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Our family has had it's fair share, and then some, of tragedy -- so has our home church -- and many other families we know.  We aren't the picture of wisdom and calm in the midst of pain.  We argue, panic -- both want to be in control.  It isn't pretty.

In fact, after 18 years of marriage, Billy and I have come to believe that most couples are only 1 crisis away from divorce.  Certainly, given the same circumstances, most churches are 1 crisis away from becoming used car lots.  

My revelation today, not only about New Life, but about my family -- who walks through difficult circumstances even today -- is that, well, WE'RE STILL HERE.  Our church is recovering.  Our marriage is good.  Most days, we still like each other.  A lot.  Our daughter, who very rarely still has night terrors and panic attacks, has become a remarkable young woman.  Remarkable.  

There are places where we feel vulnerable, hurt, tired -- but -- we're still here.  Broken, sometimes doubting, but still coming.  Still praying, seeking, asking.  And that is faith.

God is God, and we are not.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"Entertaining" is NOT My Thing

Admittedly, I'm not Martha Stewart (because everyone thinks she's boring). 

"Entertaining" is not my thing.

When I got married 18 years ago, I had no culinary skills.  Zero.  Zip.  Zilch.  My mom says I just never showed interest in such things.  Fair enough.  

We once invited a friend over for steaks.  Apparently, I didn't know that the Piggly Wiggly made marinades in little packages for .75.  So, I marinaded those steaks in Pancake Syrup.  Creative?  Maybe.  Tasty?  Impressive?  Nope.  Not even to poor, college students.

When you come over to share lunch with me, I know that you do not do so because my kitchen skills are so unbelievable (all though you might describe them as such).  I ASSUME you come because you value spending time with me -- just as my invite is my expression of how much I value you.  

I won't be serving Fennel-Crusted Lamb on Toast or Queso Fundido with Chorizo.  Actually, I quite regularly offer my friends Egg Salad Sandwiches.   Chicken Salad if I'm trying to be fancy.  And you know what?  My friends sit down with their simple fare on paper plates just as happy as if it were Crab Salad with Avocado and Tostones.  At least, I think they do!  And, on the right day, with the right person, and the right conversation -- an Egg Salad Sandwich can be quite extraordinary.  Encouragement.  Refreshment.  A life touched.

Christmas always brings out my celebratory side.  The decorations, the music, the food,  -- all communicate that something special is happening. I feel especially drawn to encouraging others this time of year.  Not just friends, but my family too.  

Of course, my family, like most is MORE busy than usual this time of year.  Billy coaches basketball MOST nights of the week/weekend...right through Christmas.  Schools schedule parties and concerts.  My business is growing and my highschoolers are studying for finals and making college visits.  Church, shopping, wrapping, mailing, etc, etc, etc.  So...I never get to all that I'd like to do.  INFACT, I find myself simplifying more and more each year.  Presence of mind and a peaceful heart are great gifts to give myself, my husband and my children, yes?

This year in particular, time and financial restraints have forced me to settle on 2 events.  My brainstorming list looked something like this...

Hosanna's 16th Birthday Party
Gingerbread House Party
Dinner Party for Friends
Cookie Decorating Party with Eli's friends
Movie Party for Teens
Christmas Caroling Party for my music students and their families
Pinterest Party
Free Trade Party

So, here's my FREE tip for the day.  Consider it your Christmas gift from me.  Really, it's one of my best.  Here it goes. DURING THIS BUSY SEASON, WHEN YOU HAVE EVENTS TO HOST, PLAN THEM BACK TO BACK.  I know.  I know.  At first read, you think I'm crazy.  

We have planned Hosanna's Birthday Party for Friday night, The Christmas Caroling Party for my students for Saturday night.  Here is the BIGGEST PRO:


Ah ha moment.  Now, you see my wisdom?  

I will keep it simple.  Hosanna's party, at her request, is Open House style with light "christmasy" snacks for 2 hours.  Then, her best friends will stay later for a relaxed movie night.  This allows our extended family, our beloved youth pastors and their kids, Hosanna's friends with jobs AND their families to come and go as it's best for them.  It's insures I'll have plenty of space to accommodate people as they all won't be here at the same time (ideally).  And, it gives her some extra, quite time for Hosanna with her bestest friends.  Perfectly perfect.

My Caroling Party for our music students and their families will involve A LOT of people.  Frankly, standing room only in the upper level of my house.  I've announced that the price of admission is a plate of goodies.  I've asked EVERYONE to help.  When a mom recently said, "What about paper goods?  Can I bring those?"  My answer is "Yes".  When another mom texted and said "I know I'm late with my RSVP, can I still come?  I'll bring 2 plates of goodies!"  My answer is "Yes".  Even my neighbors, "Can we offer the carolers Hot Cocoa and Candy Canes"?  Yes.  Yes.  And Yes.  I will re-wash the table cloth, set out my Ooey Gooey Butter Cake that I will prepare the day before, straighten the pile of Christmas Carol Songbooks I made a few years ago, plan our route through my neighborhood (while it snows btw) and that will be that.  The natural way of things will take it's course.  People will visit.  Catch up.  Make new friends.  Our vocal students will lead us in a "warm up" -- we'll savor some Christmas goodies -- and then donned in winter coats, hats and scarves we'll make our way out my front door in the snow and up the street to sing carols for the neighbors.  We will end at the home of our neighborhoods newest members.  They lost their previous home, everything including Christmas decorations, in the fires that ravaged parts of Colorado this summer.  We will belt out a rousing rendition of "Frosty the Snowman", and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town".  We will enjoy the moment as we sing "Silent Night" under the stars and end with a heart felt "We Wish You a Merry Christmas".  As we make our way back to our cars, I will know that we, I,  have not done anything impressive.  Our group will not have been THAT "entertaining".  But, others will have felt joy, encouraged, refreshed, valued.  A life touched.

Now, as YOUR Christmas gift to moi, how's about you leave a comment with YOUR best "entertaining" tip!

Merry Christmas Everyone!