Monday, December 31, 2012

2013--I'M EXCITED FOR YOU!

Make a wish

Less than 4 hours before the birth of 2013 I feel like the Tin Man with a new heart. What a glorious feeling to face a new year with a new heart attitude! I have no grandiose plans tonight; no big party to rock out at, no over-priced restaurant to dine in, and no depression, melancholy, or bitterness to taint the excitement of welcoming a new year. Yet, I'm expecting miracles--small and big--to blow my mind in 2013. I know that there will be ups and downs but I'm better equipped at facing them. 

Who would've thought that a tiny town in Mexico called Tecate would drastically alter my mindset on life? It was God's perfect plan and I've been set free of the prison I locked myself in for so long. If I could find a warm mountain at midnight I would throw my hands up in the air, twirl, and sing on it like Maria in the movie, The Sound of Music. Since I've returned from my mission trip in Tecate my heart has been overflowing with a deep gratitude for everything and everyone. Call it trite but it's true. 

The day I walked into my office and called out good morning you would've thought it was the end of the world. Actually, it was December 21st, the day the world WAS predicted to end. You see, I NEVER greeted anyone with a simple "good morning" when I walked into the office. I was known as the grouch and I'm sure harsher names were added behind my back. I now walk into my office with a deep gratefulness for the job I'm fortunate to have. I'm thankful for: my family who's tolerated my prickly attitude toward them, my boyfriend who had the courage to tell me I was negative even though it rewarded him with 2 days of the silent treatment, my kids who will always need me no matter how old they are, and the difficult people in my life who challenge me to serve unconditionally. 

I don't believe in making new year's resolutions; rather, I attempt at trying new things every year. Things that will dare me to be a better person. Last year, I forced myself to look for blessings in my life to cultivate my gratitude. Despite how discouraging or bleak life became I always found blessings to be thankful for every day. I took up the discipline of meditation again and the benefits have been remarkable on my well-being. In the summer when my heart was stirred to join my church's mission trip to Tecate I found the courage to step out in faith and heed the calling to go. 

A few days before I left for Tecate I finished reading a book called, The Traveler's Gift: Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success. The timing was perfect as I embarked on my mission trip with a fresh perspective and the lessons I learned were profound. Since then I've meditated on the 7 decisions every day. I won't have resolutions propelling me forward in the new year; I'll have the 7 decisions of success navigating my life through the unpaved terrain of 2013. 

  1. The buck stops here. I am responsible for my past and future.
  2. I will seek wisdom. I will be a servant to others. 
  3. I am a person of action. I seize this moment. I choose now. 
  4. I have a decided heart. My destiny is assured. 
  5. Today I will choose to be happy. I am the possessor of a grateful spirit. 
  6. I will greet this day with a forgiving spirit. I will forgive myself. 
  7. I will persist without exception. I am a person of great faith. 
HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL! 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR SERVING

Every September without fail it comes. The oppressive black shroud of funk that envelops my heart, mind, and body almost suffocating me for months. I don't anticipate its arrival but I prepare for battle once it arrives like clockwork. I arm myself with prayer, buck up with a good attitude, and delve into the word. 

Life happens and I lose. 

Unexpected expenses knock me down; illness sends a grenade in my vicinity; clumsy accidents cause me to almost lose my sanity; t.v. images of Black Friday madness has me ranting at humanity; commercials of Christmas sales in September make me nauseous, and mounting stress weakens my resolve to win the fight against the funk. 

This year I deployed a different, more effective tactic. 

I chose to be the change I wanted to see. Instead of complaining, ranting, and raving I took action. With an open heart, much prayer, and financial help from my daughter I was able to travel on a weekend mission trip to Tecate, Mexico with 87 people from Cottonwood Church. I was also given the important duty of documenting the entire trip with my photography. 

Love in action.

Every year Cottonwood sends several teams to partner with the churches in Tecate to serve the needs of the community. Serving others is what I've always called "love in action" and I was blessed to be part of a team who exhibited the true essence of serving. My team of 9 people: Robert, Julie, Patti, Irma, Sylvia, Justin, Victor, and Christabel, partnered with Pastors Filiberto and Lorena Ferreyra's church, Centro Cultural Cristiano. There was a cohesive element to our team that I've never experienced before. We worked together with the ultimate goal to serve without complaints, irritations, or grumblings. It was through our common love for God that we poured our hearts into serving the pastors and the community in Tecate. 

Upon arriving in Tecate on Friday afternoon we were immediately put to work by filling red bags with toiletries to be given to the community on our scheduled outreach the next day. We met with their Outreach team, split up into different groups, and walked the neighborhood streets knocking on doors to show people love and caring, providing prayer to those who requested or needed it. 

The inclement weather paused long enough for us to walk on unpaved, uneven, and muddy streets sometimes trudging up hills to reach houses nestled on top. We met families: single moms with young children, a sick older woman who prayed for someone to come and help her, young and older men, and grandmas taking care of their grandchildren. They were no different than us and we wanted them to know they were loved no matter what situation they were in. 

I noticed the hearts of the people who opened their doors to us were more open to what we had to offer than the ones I've encountered in California. The guarded expressions so commonplace at home was missing in the visages who greeted us in Tecate. Sure, they were wary; but once they realized we were there for the sole purpose of showing them love and providing prayer they opened up to us. 

"I seek wisdom. I will be a servant to others." ~The Traveler's Gift

My team had the privilege to help paint a hallway in Centro Cultural Cristiano Church. None of us expected to paint but we were ready to work despite the 40 degree weather and waning afternoon light. We unanimously agreed that we wouldn't stop until everything was painted. Afterwards, we took inventory of our appearance and laughed. Our clothes and hair weren't unscathed in our painting duties but none of us cared. I'm keeping these boots and never cleaning them as a tangible reminder to always exhibit a servant's heart. 

Lessons from Tecate

I learned...

  • the people of Tecate are beautiful inside and out. 
  • to "serve unconditionally and love abundantly." I can't pick & choose whom to serve. 
  • serving unconditionally is essential in attaining the true spirit of Christmas. What wonders it did to my scrooge-y bah-humbug heart. 
  • a team can operate with the heart of God as the common element. It was refreshing to be surrounded by people who didn't complain, was ready to work, and was willing to sacrifice their comfort for the sake of other team members. 
  • the most effective leaders are those with a humble servant's heart. 
It's Christmas morning and I'm still basking in the afterglow of last weekend's mission trip. Serving others in need is the gift of giving--the true essence of Christmas. I choose not to let the afterglow of the lessons I've learned dissipate into the murky depths of my busy and distracted life. In 2013, I'm going to make a conscious effort to sustain the life giving flow of my servant's heart. Merry Christmas, everyone! 





Team #1
Top: Victor, Justin, Pastor Filiberto, Pastor Ray, Irma, Robert, Pastora Lorena
Bottom: Julie, Christabel, Me, Patti, Sylvia


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

IN MEMORY OF SANDY HOOK ELEMENTARY VICTIMS


There's a reason why I don't watch t.v., especially the news. I don't usually write blog posts about current events despite how they've impacted my heart because I don't feel as if I'm an expert in expressing my opinion on certain matters. But what happened last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School broke something inside me as well as those across the nation. I'm a mother and a grandmother who's spent a majority of my days dropping kids off at school with the certainty that I'd see them at the end of their day. Somehow, the assurance of school being a safe place has been lost. I would want the memory of my slain child's life to be memorialized and the killer's identity to be forgotten. 

I haven't stopped crying, praying, and grieving with all of the parents and grandparents who have lost a child last Friday in a small town in Connecticut. I write this blog post to commemorate the names of each victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School's shooting. May their stars shine brightly forever.  

Morgan Freeman says it well...


"You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here's why.

It's because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine? Disturbed
people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he'll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.

CNN's article says that if the body count "holds up", this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer's face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer's identity? None that I've seen yet. Because they don't sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you've just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man's name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news." — with Amanda McDonald Shore

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

An excerpt taken from an article at Huffington Post: 


On Saturday, the Connecticut State Police released a list of the names of the 26 victims who were shot and killed at a Connecticut elementary school.
The victims are 12 girls, eight boys and six adult women. The victims, police said, were shot up close, multiple times.
The following is a list (as released by police) of the victims in Friday's shooting spree on the campus of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
Charlotte Bacon, 2/22/06, female
Daniel Barden, 9/25/05, male
Rachel Davino, 7/17/83, female.
Olivia Engel, 7/18/06, female
Josephine Gay, 12/11/05, female
Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 04/04/06, female
Dylan Hockley, 3/8/06, male
Dawn Hochsprung, 06/28/65, female
Madeleine F. Hsu, 7/10/06, female
Catherine V. Hubbard, 6/08/06, female
Chase Kowalski, 10/31/05, male
Jesse Lewis, 6/30/06, male
James Mattioli , 3/22/06, male
Grace McDonnell, 12/04/05, female
Anne Marie Murphy, 07/25/60, female
Emilie Parker, 5/12/06, female
Jack Pinto, 5/06/06, male
Noah Pozner, 11/20/06, male
Caroline Previdi, 9/07/06, female
Jessica Rekos, 5/10/06, female
Avielle Richman, 10/17/06, female
Lauren Rousseau, 6/1982, female (full date of birth not specified)
Mary Sherlach, 2/11/56, female
Victoria Soto, 11/04/85, female
Benjamin Wheeler, 9/12/06, male
Allison N. Wyatt, 7/03/06, female

Friday, December 7, 2012

OC ELECTRIC RUN

A week ago I woke up to the rain's angry knocking on my window. Dismayed at its presence I vowed it wouldn't dilute my excitement for the OC Electric Run 5K later that evening. It rained all day but finally stopped an hour before I left for Orange County. With high spirits I ignored the cloud-filled skies and remained optimistic when I drove into the OC Fairgrounds parking lot. 

Although I was disappointed with the course, decorations, and entertainment I had an exceptional time running at night with friends I hadn't seen in years. I wasn't concerned about running the race since my regular runs consist of 3 miles. What I didn't expect were the obstacles of deep puddles we avoided and the stretch of mud we slid/slipped/ran through.  

I was able to keep pace with my friend, Janice, and successfully avoided a face plant in the mud, sprained ankles, and bad falls. And just like the race we call Life it's always a blessing to be surrounded by good friends as we propel forward in our journey despite obstacles, setbacks, bad weather, disappointments, and unmet expectations.
 
  



Thursday, December 6, 2012

BIRTHDAY LOVE FROM MOM

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.” 
~Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Dear Maricelle, 

I've been sharing this quote with friends and thought it was perfect to commemorate your quarter of a century birthday! I wish I could have taken photos of you when you were here but these photos I stole from your Facebook will suffice. 

Kurt Vonnegut's words echo the sentiment of my daily prayers for you. Working in the health care industry is grueling; even more so as a R.N. I'm equally fascinated and repulsed by your work stories in La Jolla V.A. hospital. The word "tracheotomy" instantly triggers my gag reflex; yet, you speak about it with excitement. Ech! You've transitioned into your role as R.N. with fluent ease that never ceases to appall me. HA! I say that with admiration because I know it takes a special person to fulfill the calling of nurse and enjoy the work they do.

Prayers for work
  • I pray you will never allow the toils of health care to taint your heart with bitterness.
  • I pray your joy in fulfilling your calling will remain steadfast in your heart which will bless the patients you care for. 
  • I pray for discernment to keep your thoughts and mind crystal clear so you continue to make wise decisions in your job duties. 
Prayers for self
  • I pray you will continue to be good to yourself by keeping the wellspring of inner strength overflowing. You can't care for others if you don't take care of yourself first. 
  • I pray your heart will be filled with gratefulness for the blessings that surround you daily. I've learned it doesn't take much to recognize them as long as you look for them. 
  • I pray you will allow yourself to be human, to make mistakes, and to learn from them. It's okay to be imperfect. 
  • I pray you will remember to never allow others to ruin your day. The power you have is in your choices. Choose to have a good day even if everyone around you is miserable, cranky, and hormonal. 
  • I pray you won't be swayed by people with good intentions who rush you into meeting a life goal on THEIR time. Don't rush relationships, love, and procreation. Happiness will be your companion if you listen to your heart. 
Prayers for faith
  • I pray you will pursue God's heart every day as it will sustain you through dark times, uplift you in defeating ones, and encourage you when life is good. 
  • I pray you will never lose your gift of forgiving quickly. I envy that trait in you. 
  • I pray humility will cover your heart as you journey through this chaotic and busy world. 
  • I pray that you will have the courage to face your fears by knowing God will never leave you. He is always there. 
Your twenty-fifth year will bring unexpected surprises and adventures beyond your imagination. Live each day better than you did yesterday. 

I wish you a year filled with prosperity and more joy than you can handle! Happy Birthday!!!! 

Love, 

Mom 





Friday, November 16, 2012

PROUD TO BE A GIRL BOOK NERD

Thanks to my teen niece, Micaela, I've been introduced to an awesome tumblr site called Nerd Girl Problems. I feel as if I'm finally receiving therapy after all these years of being a book nerd. Recently, my cousin laughed at how everything I was obsessed with in the 80s is now uber-cool. Yeah, imagine my pain. So I'm sharing several Nerd Girl Problems with you today because vindication is mine! MINE! Need to get me a Nerd Girl T-Shirt and wear it with pride. Happy Friday! 




























Tuesday, November 13, 2012

FAITH IS ABOUT LETTING GO


Her high-pitched squeal delighted then froze me in silent horror as she jumped up and down on the bouncing contraption in the middle of the Cypress Swap MeetTethered to poles with rubber chords and a harness, my four year old granddaughter's fearlessness buoyed her higher where she "could see everything!"  Inwardly I was afraid the chords would snap and positioned myself underneath to make sure I'd catch her should an unfortunate accident occur. I've become the irrational and fearful kind of grandma hidden behind my mask of strength. Of course five minutes passed without a single mishap and Rylee's exhilarated smile lasted all day. She was confident in the tangible strength of the chords and harness that secured her. 

A few nights ago she and I were falling asleep in my bed when I heard her whimper. My heart began cracking before she uttered the words I knew were coming. "I miss my mommmmyyyyy! I don't want her to go out anymore and want her to stay home always!!!!" I had no words for her. No words of assurance or promises that I could force her mom to stay home and never go out. I could only offer, "Just pray, Rylee. Pray to God that she will stay home." But she wailed in despair, "It doesn't work! I did and it doesn't work! I don't even hear him!" 

How many times have I cried the same pleas? How many prayers have I given up on because they weren't answered on MY time? Like Rylee I long for something tangible to hold onto that would provide security and reassurance that life will turn out better than okay. When I'm free-falling from the skies I need a parachute, a chord, a harness to ensure my safe, graceful, and victorious landing on solid ground. 

I've floated in a weird emotional limbo the past few months where only a shell of who I am exists. Nothing invoked passion or creativity in me. Some might accuse me of undergoing a mid-life crisis and although it might be true the irony of my life lies deeper than a cliché. 

During my years as a single mom I was sustained by visions of my future life. I truly believed once my kids grew to adulthood I would be free to lead the nomadic traveling life I've dreamt of. I wasn't going to settle in one place but enjoy the variety of cultures and acquire friends from all over the world. I wasn't going to be needed by anyone thus allowing me to live my life unfettered. I feasted on this dream with a voracious appetite as I lay wasted in exhaustion and despondency while raising three teenagers. 

At 44 years old the reality of my life is far from the tattered and faded dream I've held onto like a security blanket. Not all of my kids have grown to be responsible adults accountable for their actions. In the quagmire of financial debt I put myself in I'm temporarily living with aging parents who possess the grace to take my ungrateful self in. I'm observing my child perpetuate the same mistakes I've made in raising her daughter. Most days I feel hopeless and powerless to "be the change I want to see in the world." 

I have a choice: continue sucking my thumb like a spoiled child holding onto the ragged remnants of my dream or release it from my grasp to make room for a better life. It's time to chuck the dream into the wastebasket of yesterday and accept with gratefulness the life I have today. I can't change the past; I have no control over my future; but I CAN appreciate who and what I have in my present life. I can yield to God and allow him to create a bigger dream far more vibrant than my human mind can muster. 


When hope abandons me, faith announces her presence. As with all security blankets my dream disintegrated with time. I must unclasp my fingers from the dream born out of desperate times and have faith that God is not deaf to my incessant prayers. With faith I have the assurance that he is the solid ground I land on despite the absence of a parachute and harness. 

Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (NIV)


Saturday, October 20, 2012

BIRTHDAY WISHES FOR CHLOE

Dear Chloe, 

Your birthdays come around too fast for my liking. It seems as if I just finished writing your last birthday blog post yesterday! Yes, you're an "adult" but I'm still trying to accept that I'm a mom of adult kids. 

I'm glad I was able to spend more quality time with you this past year even though your nose was glued to your phone. I want to thank you for bailing me out when I was in a financial bind and treating me out to dinner when I was stuck at  home. 

I've said this before, I'll say it again, and I know I don't say it enough: I'm proud of you. I also know that you believe being the middle child is the worse spot to be in the birth hierarchy. I beg to differ. Trust me when I say life wouldn't be the same without your personality creating perfect balance on the birth scale. 

You're doing your best with being the little munchkin's mommy who has you on a pretty glorious pedestal. I always say that humility b*tch slaps me daily in the form of a four-year-old. I think my face will permanently have the deer-in-the-headlights expression because of Rylee. A mom's laborious love is a bottomless well of unconditional terms. Our children will always want more of what we believe is freely and abundantly given. One day Rylee will understand your heart. 

I hope your twenty-fourth year will be better than the last. I don't have to tell you to have fun because you seem to have a year round Chloepalooza celebrating your life. Well played, child, well played. As long as you put your mommy duties above all else it's always good to celebrate who you are. 

For your 24th year these are my birthday wishes for you: 


  • I wish for the work of your hands to prosper. 
  • I wish for your heart to learn to let go and forgive. 
  • I wish for your health and healing to your young body. (And girl, let me tell ya, keep this up and you won't regret it in your 40s.) 
  • I wish for your mind to always be shrewd & intelligent so that your choices will reap beneficial consequences. 
  • I wish for your faith to be renewed and restored. 
  • I wish for your strength to come from knowing you don't have to be right all the time or fight every battle. Dignity begets strength. 
  • I wish for your soul to open up to true love. The kind of love that isn't rushed and one that accepts you, supports you, and encourages you. 
  • I wish for you to believe in yourself; wholly and completely. 
And these are Rylee's wishes for her mommy: 
  • I wish that she would always protect me from monsters from my dream and I love when she does and I'm not scared anymore when she does that. 
  • I wish that her birthday was so good and my birthday was so good and I will not cry. 
  • I wish that I don't have any dreams anymore when I'm big and small. 
  • I wish that she would always make a great wish because I like great wishes for my mommy and I love birthday cakes that are chocolate with a mermaid on it. 
  • I wish for my mommy to get a red laptop for her birthday and heart cookies. 

Happy Birthday, Chloe! 
Make each day count! 

Love, 

Mom and Rylee

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