Monday, July 30, 2007

Peace and Chaos

I think of all the things that I truly, truly, long to master and have command of at all times is organisation. I have a certain degree of organisation that makes me feel good about being organized until I see someone who is actually in constant command of organisation and order maintaining peace in the midst of chaos and then I'm just like, "ohhh-K." I feel better about the things that I've accomplished when I'm accomplishing them in organisation, I know that others feel better about accomplishing tasks in organisation and not in chaos. It's just that chaos creeps up on me slowly taking a little here and a little there until--WHAM! Chaos is in control and the peace of organisation is deposed on some island country. The two, well three main areas where chaos can get a hold of me are: my office, my closet, and my car. Other places I manage to keep a fair handle on peace.
Here is a photo of my office at the beginning of summer, for real! As you can see chaos is in absolute control of this space. I have to say that this is the messiest my office has ever been. I have explanations for every single solitary piece of the chaos running free and frolicking in my little corner of the world. The black cart contains all of the things that I needed to take home which had accumulated over the course of several months. The case of Clorox wipes and the box upon which the wipes rested were bought by another minister for my use in Children's Ministry. Did I take the time to walk to the place where they belonged and handle it--NO. Behind my desk you can see a pack and play portable crib as well as a doll house which was given to us by a member of our church who thought we might want it for Teensy.
As you walk into my office, immediately to the right are my two sitting chairs and the black book shelf I had to buy to accommodate all of the books I've amassed over the years. one could sit down because it had been loaded down with junk, all of which is useful and necessary to some part of my life, however should not be occupying a place in my office. All of this stuff has a place, a right and respectful place at home or somewhere else in the work room. The large board behind my chairs is an excel spread sheet I had enlarged, laminated, and mounted to foam board so I could post my teacher's on their and recruit. The pillows on my chairs are gingham check with bumble bees and black tassels--really cool and they really go well with the colors of my space. The boys have managed to destroy all but two of the tassels on each pillow which really drives me crazy, but when you have boys you have things like that happen.
Here's my desktop and the view I looked at every day for several months. I realize there are some who will look at this and say, "What's the big deal?" And others who are twitchily walking toward their phone book to look up a therapist because they just can't take the thought of living in that kind of chaos.

I have to admit that I was letting it get me down and affect how I was functioning with my day to day tasks. It was like a huge boat anchor around my neck and I was dragging all of this through my day. Much like my Mom, when chaos get a hold I tend to flail around and act as if I can't correct or change my surroundings which only makes it worse. That is until I, much like my Mom, get sick and tired of being abused by the chaos and take action. I have to do it on my time frame and at my bidding, but I do get it done.
Kendra and Mildred have both ridden me for years about my messiness and both have come to my rescue to salvage the clutter and make my office a nice and tidy place to live. Mildred's always comes with pursed lips of disapproval and lectures, yes this is NOT one of my many typo's you will see in this post I mean it to be plural. "William {please read this section with a pursed imagination} this is just devastating. You shouldn't let it get this bad...just put things back when you are done and take them back to where they belong and it won't get this bad. I just can't believe that you would let it go like this." That's pretty much how Mildred's lectures get reved up. Of course I'm standing on top of the tallest in hill San Fransisco about to "push" a person in a wagon off, that's how I mean you to take what I say about Mildred getting reved up. It's just a push off the tallest hill in San Fransisco.
I knew that summer was coming and I had two interns starting soon and I just couldn't let my office continue to grow. I had to do something about it. Chaos was about to get it's butt kicked and I was getting my kickers on! I went to the office late on Sunday night and began the process of removing the junk and putting things right with my world. The on Monday, went in early and completed the task to my satisfaction...not to perfection mind you but to my satisfaction.
See, this is much better. I can't tell you how many people want to turn the bottle upright that is laying on it's side, but I like it turned of and in front of the other bottle. I don't want it to be turned up or "fixed" this is how I like it. Of course, they are well meaning meddlers who feel like their way is with out a doubt THE best way possible. Bless their heart.

Here is the picture of my peace, while still a little bit chaotic, it is none the less peaceful to me. The pictures on the wall are all of my family, in black and white, with the exception of the big 8x10 which is in color. We are planning to get a family photo made with the whole brood, but our "roundtoit" has not come in the mail yet. When it does we'll be sure to jump in the car and head on to the photo house for our picture. When this picture was taken I had not tackled my desk--yet! I did get it done that day and have kept it fairly peaceful for my busy summer standards. I'll be doing my summer fumigation here in the next couple of weeks.

This is what I look at everyday that I sit at my desk. I love the sketches on this wall--just love them. They are from Fredricksburg, Texas and were picked up several years ago while Kendra and I took a break and got a way just the two of us. It's the last time we've done that, nearly three years ago. Each of these drawings are scriptures that an artist read and then envisioned the picture of that scripture in her mind. She drew the picture but used the words of the text as her drawing. I don't know if that makes sense or not, but they are really beautiful to me and I love them. The piece in the middle is a gift from Mildred. I love it very much too and took down a picture that these drawings lived around since they became mine. I'm not much of a change for the sake of change kind of guy so this was a big deal. I love the collage that Mildred made and love the saying. I think it looks cool there and makes the black really stand out. You just can't go wrong with a splash of black or red in a room can you?
I've also fumigated my closet recently and restored order to that chaos. My car hasn't been running in over a year and just sits in the front of the house on the road waiting for me to save up enough money to get it fixed. We are managing with two cars, but it's really hard. I'll get that fixed and then have to fumigate that.

Friday, July 20, 2007

That's going to leave a Marx.

This week we have been in full VBS mode. It started on Sunday with us decorating the building in preparation for Monday's launch. Kendra and I used to spend a week getting ready for VBS, decorating and preparing every little detail with countless hours being spent on making sure everyone had a great experience. With the addition of every child our investment time has been drastically reduced. We are now doing in one day what we would normally have taken a week to do.

Teensy was very content to be around the action, watching Mom, Dad, and friend scramble to pull off the decorations. The boys were running around the building getting into all kinds of mischief. Titus happened across some top hats and this Groucho mask that he made Chubbers wear, much to his disapproval. That is when the Eureka moment occurred. The brothers simultaneously came to the conclusion that Sister could be tortured into submission and wear the mask. Teensy is increasingly joyful and electrifies a room with her smile. She's just beyond herself with excitement anytime she sees her brothers around. She wore this mask happily, as you can see her smile behind the nose. She wore it for maybe five minutes. The boys were rolling on the floor, well we all were. Teensy wasn't sure what she had done but she knew it was really great which made her totally happy.

Watching our Teensy and the boys get into full sibling love and explore the world of their imaginations is just blissful to watch. I will look back on this picture and be instantly transported back to a happy time to a great place, not remembering how insanely busy I was or how stressed I was, because that will all have evaporated with the heat of time, I will have a solid memory of two brothers who totally adored their sister. These three are pure, condensed happiness to be around and I'm so proud that I'm their daddy!

"The first thing which I can record concerning myself is, that I was born. These are wonderful words. This life, to which neither time nor eternity can bring diminution - this everlasting living soul, began. My mind loses itself in these depths. "
Groucho Marx

Friday, July 13, 2007

Memory Lane: Grandmother's

Growing up there was always a huge difference between my Mom's family and my Dad's family. We tended to celebrate more with my Dad's family (Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.) than with Mom's, not sure why we just did. My Dad is the youngest of three (Jim, Beula Ilene, and Dad) children. My Uncle Jim lived in California with his wife and three children for most of my childhood and only moved "home" when I was 12 (they moved to Tulsa). My Auntie Ilene lived in the same town as we all did and had two children (Tiger (aka David) and Julie). She was married to my Uncle David--twice!

My Poppa, whose name I share with honor, was a widower before marrying my Grandma. In fact he had raised a family entirely on his own after his wife died. He met my Grandma when he was at a diner where she worked as a waitress, he was 50 and she was 20. They fell in love and married! My Poppas youngest daughter (Aunt Fern) was the same age as my Grandma when they married! We are talking 1940's here folks! That's a shocking age discrimination today!

My brain has been wanting to get a "Grandmother" story out for quite some time and I have been reluctant, but today is the day I give in and let it free. The reason I hesitate is because my Grandmother was...well she is mean. She's 91 now, but still has that streak of meanness to her. I think for my Sister and I it was the unbelievable favoritism she showed to Tiger and Julie over me and Sis. It was incredibly obvious that she preferred to be around Tiger and Julie and could care less if were around her at all. Christmas was always the same. Tiger and Julie got the great gifts and we got the...other gifts. My most memorable was the glove set I got with my sheet of stickers to monogram them! Our stockings were always filled with free toothbrushes she got from the Dentist office where she worked. We also had pencils in there and other ephemera that I can't remember.

I have two memories of staying the night with my Grandmother, both under duress because Granny and Robba were busy and couldn't keep us. I can remember watching the sun go down as I was tucked in for the night. I knew better than to get up, I had to lay there until the sun came up--LONG NIGH! On snow days Dad would drop me off at her house on his way to work so I wouldn't have very far to walk to school. This was way after Poppa died (he died when I was 8 years old) and she lived alone. Grandma's house was very cold and unwelcoming. She never really welcomed me with any excitement or enthusiasm just, "stay out of the way and don't bother me." Her radio played the local morning show with Herckemer P. Pushbroom (that wasn't his real name, thank God). It was always a crazy show with people calling in about a loose cow, or a "really good heater I got for sale". He would also read the school lunch menu everyday and make over it like he was reading the menu of a five star hotel. We weren't fooled!

Tiger and Julie called Grandmother, "Gam" which she happily welcomed and enjoyed being called. Lesa and I were not allowed to call her anything other than Grandma and were quickly corrected if we even strayed from Grandma. At Grandma's house we were allowed to play outside no problem at all, free as a bird. In the house was a different story. We were to stay in the living room and sit on the couch. We couldn't walk around or do too much to cause a stir, if we needed a drink or a snack we were to ask. "Grandma, may I have a drink?" "Didn't you get a drink before you came?" "Well...yes, but I'm thirsty again." "[Deep sigh] I guess...go get some water out of the tap" Opening the fridge was out of the question and Lesa and I were afraid to ask for anything and had just decided we would go forage for seeds in the yard.

On the rare occasions that Tiger, Julie, Lesa and I were together in the house we would look at how they ran through the house with wide-eyed, jaw dropped amazement. They ran to and from, opening the fridge, getting soda's eating cookies, amazing! Grandma never said a word to them. "Gam, I'm hungry" "Sugar, find something, don't leave the fridge open." Lesa and I sat there frozen only turning our eyes toward each other with our mental conversation going something like, "can you believe that they are allowed to open the door and run to and from the rooms like wild chickens?"

Our entire life, both Mom and Dad left the house way before Lesa and I got up. During the school year it was up to us to get up, get ready and make the bus on our own. There were times when we would miss the bus and wake up in a frantic panic driven scramble to figure out how we would get to school in time knowing that Dad would not be happy if we missed the bus again. Only in desperation would we call Grandma. "MMMMMMello" That's how she answered the phone, kind of warming up an engine to say hello. "Grandma, we missed the bus would you be able to take us to school." "What? Missed the bus..."on and on she would go lecturing us on how we should be more responsible and blah blah blah. We knew that the minute Dad got home there would be a phone call. "Larry, those kids of yours missed the bus again. I just can't pick them up every little whip stitch and take them to school" Dad would always apologize and then drop the hammer on Sis for her irresponsibility. We solved the problem by using my Mom's coin collection to pay for cabs. She had a ceramic rooster cookie jar on the fridge that had silver coins, and another cookie jar that had pennies. We would use that money for the cab. The driver was usually the same and always thought it kind of funny that he was picking us up, "miss the bus again?" "yes sir" "whose first, you or your sister?" Sis always went first because her school bell rang earlier. He usually stopped the meter at her stop and saved us some money. We knew it was odd to be taken to school in a cab, but it was a lot better than the alternative. We held that secret in until we were well into our adult hood and though it would be ok to tell.

I always pursued my Grandmother's love and still do to this day. My sister does not like my Grandma and doesn't have anything to do with her, that bridge was burned a long, long time ago. I never gave up and always loved her harder and pursued her move because I knew she didn't really love me. We sat together every Sunday morning. We picked her up for church Sunday night's and when my Dad drove the Gospel Chariot on Wednesday night we would sit with him on the bus and share a seat. I called her two and three times a week to just chat with her. I was determined that I would love her like I loved all of my family regardless of how she treated me.

When I left for school I started writing her letters, and we have been pen pals ever since. I left for school in 1992. I write her every Monday and she will write me back. I think we are close and I know she loves me, I've always love her. She has said that I am the only grandchild that knows she is alive because I'm the only one who calls or writes. I think after all of these years I have broken through to her heart and we have a love for one another that Grandparents and Grandchildren should share.

She has made me two quilts (one for High School graduation and one for College graduation) and a quilt for each of my babies. I have all of the letters that talk about the quilting process for each one of the kids and will pass along the letters and the quilts to Teensy and the boys and em part the memory of a Great-grandmother who loved them very much. That's how it should be.

I don't know what happened in her life to make her build such a wall around her love but there must have been something in her life to make her keep all of that inside and not share it with many. While most of my memories are of how mean she was and how much favoritism she showed there are also memories I have of her that are great--I love my Grandma unconditionally.

Once I was recruited to mow her yard and we were in the back yard getting ready to put gas in the mower. How we would get the gas from the can into that tiny hole we weren't sure. The foam cup from McDonald's looked like it might work so we gave it a shot. NOTE: Do not attempt to dispense gas into a foam cup! The gas reacts to the cup as an alka-seltzer reacts to water only faster! We still laugh about that. There was also another time when I learned how to change a tire, as I went.

Everyone has to make a conscious choice to love or not love someone. I wish my sister loved my Grandmother, but I understand why she doesn't. More people than not wonder why I love her. They just can't believed that I have any thing to do with her at all. For me I can't imagine not having anything to do with her. Everyday I know she is closer to her last day, and just don't want to spend the rest of my life regretting the fact that I didn't do everything in my power to build a relationship with someone I love. I have to own up to and live with my actions; I would rather spend my life without regret.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Mosquito Coats at Grub Fest

Since the beginning of Summer I have had a constant barrage of attacks from mosquitoes. Usually I fall prey to their blood thirsty cravings, but this year it has been exceptionally bad. I'm not sure if it has to do with all of the water that we've been getting, which is now standing all over the place, or if the mosquito's are just out to get me--probably both. At any rate I've counted over 20 bits on my left leg and ten on my right. The only time that I'm not wearing two shirts (I've been wearing a T-shirt under my shirts since college, yes even T-shirts!) is when I'm asleep and wearing my T-shirt and pajama pants...well I've had two bites on my back! Those blasted, nasty little buggers bit me through my shirts!

I can hardly step outside that I'm not immediately attacked. I feel them dig in and start swinging. I think I might know what it feels like for someone to go crazy because it's all I can do to hold it together when those things are all swarming and buzzing around. I've tried all of the repellents and none work. there might be some kind of home remedy that I've not tried but I've tried all over the counter contemporary preventions none of which work. Short of being dipped in DEET I've tried everything. I'm very anxious to ask the good Lord why on earth? Why? I can handle a lot of things, but mosquito's! I'm out! How long I will have to wear my mosquito bite coat I don't know. I my start wearing a bee keepers suit, but they will know a way around that one too!

We went to Fort Worth for Road MaP and had a great time this weekend. The charter bus was really nice and very relaxing. Not having to worry about driving is wonderful. I thought I might lose it as we arrived because nothing was ready for the arriving groups--no information. Not one question that I asked was answered and I kept getting these ambiguous waves toward directions that I needed to be headed. Since I was representing everyone on my bus I had to have the information when I couldn't get the information I got frustrated. A few deep breaths later it god organized. Turns out it was all good once the ball dropped and everything worked really well and smooth. I had my doubts and reservations however.

We were able to see a lot of friends that we miss. It's amazing to see how much they have changed when your brain is telling you that nothing is different even though one year has passed. Teensy was the big hit, naturally, and everyone was so excited to see her and actually touch this miracle they had been hearing about. Levi was second runner up since he had changed as well, he was only three months old when we left Fort Worth to start our move to Tulsa.

On the bus ride home we stopped at Dairy Queen. For those of you who don't know about Dairy Queen, it is a very popular Ice Cream store in Texas and the south west. I had one in Missouri growing up and know they were in Kansas, Arkansas, Texas just not sure how much they spread out. They have a full line up of burgers, dogs, steak sandwiches, fries, etc. But their claim to fame is the ice cream treats they come up with. Robba and I used to go to DQ to get a Peanut buster Parfait, mine hold was always hold the nuts, Robba ordered and would, "say I'll have the nuts you would put in his." We made a great team.

DQ's are not known for their efficiency or their cleanliness. Most are small town establishments that only locals frequent. I always feel kind of odd because you get a lot of blank looks and stares as if you were purple and wearing a yellow polka do suit. There is usually a team of teen agers trying to run the place with one very over worked manager making everything happen. I have yet to be in a DQ that someone doesn't call from "home" and want to talk to an employee about bringing home something. We are talking small...SMALL town. Some DQ's I've been to have the locals coffee mugs hanging on the wall so they can come in for their coffee and drink it out of their own mug. I had the new Kit Kat Blizzard and well...DQ can be as dirty and alien fraid as they want as long as they can pull that kind of stuff out of the place! Soooo goood! The employees were totally freaking out because a charter bus had just pulled up, I'm sure they were convinced that the whole bus was going to order food. They have things like: The Belt buster and Dude Combo to tempt your taste buds!

We stopped in Paul's Valley for dinner and the majority of the bus wanted to stop at KFC/Taco Bell. I would NOT have voted on that at all! I'm out on the whole combined restaurant thing simply because the smells never go together well. This establishment had a buffet. I am fundamentally opposed to buffets and especially buffets run by fast food giants who don't do quality as well as they do quantity. The worst thing on the whole spread (everything was either deep fried, yellow or white) was the KFC macaroni and cheese mixed with the Taco Bell taco meat filling! Buzzards on the gut wagon were turning their heads...pausing for a brief moment to contemplate the option and returning to the gut wagon. It was just all so disgusting and unmanned by the employees who were scrambling to get the orders filled by the drive through and counter help. Just gross! Buffets would be banned from the world, there are few exceptions to this rule--FEW!

There was one man grazing on the buffet spread who looked as if he had either worn the same clothing since the new year, or had been mowing a 40 acre yard with a push mower in the blistering heat. You could smell him coming, I'll just say that. At any rate he had this cough and a thing with his nose (he could have been a bugger farmer, ok!) and touched the tongs to retrieve his starched or fried goodies. There is no way in the world that I'm going to follow up my trip to the buffet and touch the tongs after that kind of defilement. No way.

I regretted my choice of food and have vowed to never frequent a Taco Bell again. I'm just done all done, thank you very much but I'm done. I remember the days when we went to Taco Bell and I could see the huge kettles of meat cooking away, fresh and the beans being mashed in house. Now all of that comes frozen from the factory that makes it and all you have to do is reheat it and serve it up. I'm out.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Well now...just where have you been?

I've been a busy little beaver. Summer's are usually very busy and hectic to say the least, I've ranted on about that too many times and regular readers are probably rolling their eyes collectively, "here we go again." Well you are spared, I'm leaving it at that. This Summer had some added stress because Kendra had surgery.

She has had an umbilical hernia for quite some time, for sure since we've lived in Texas, for sure since Levi came into our lives, but we can't really put our finger on just exactly when it occurred. About this time last year Kendra was increasingly uncomfortable. Her back was hurting more and more, she was swelling, and her hernia was getting hard and very sore. We didn't know if the hernia was creating a problem or if there was a tumor, never thinking that there was a baby hiding out inside Momma's tummy.

Kendra's surgery repaired a hernia the size of a cantaloupe. She has some complications which meant an overnight stay in the hospital. My family came to the rescue once again and rallied around us to help with Teensy and the boys as well as Kassie. I left Kendra in the hospital alone which really killed me. I am a dotting, hovering, petting, spastic caregiver. It drives her crazy, but I think she is getting used to it after 12 years worth of dotting, hovering, petting, spastic care. I knew that the nurses wouldn't be there to bound to her every need and be gentle like she needed. Getting up was the hardest part for her and very painful.

Just last Friday she was released to hold Teensy and that thrilled her soul, she's not yet able to hold Levi, or lift from the ground which means laundry is out of the question. Kendra is amazing in how she takes care of the house and kids. She usually has the washer running, vacuum's at least once a day, and keeps the boys out of harms way. I say she's out of the gate because she gets up and starts going without any "gearing up." As she's walking to a part of the house she's doing something on the way. I've said that if she ever felt good I'd be in trouble because what she does sick makes me tired just watching.

I made her some scones last night, Cranberry orange, to help her feel better. She just loves scones. We usually make some fruit butter go with them, but I didn't do that last night. Fruit butter is easy: real butter room temp mixed with your favorite marmalade or natural fruit jam. Mix it up and enjoy! These scones were from Ina Garten's wonderful world, I just love what she does with food. I haven't seen scones that were rolled and cut like biscuits, but these were. They are very tasty a definite keeper in our book.

I also did a week at Camp Impact. That's always a lot of fun for me. It rained every day, but none of the kids ever voiced a complaint, took it so well. I had to go to Target and get an umbrella, I don't take rain so well. For all of the years that I have been going to Impact I've eaten in the cafeteria with exception to Wednesday night which was pizza night. I like pizza, but not when it's been sitting in the hot sun for an hour--OUT! The food hasn't been exceptional ever, but I always ate it. Until this year. This year I ate there on Monday for all three meals and after eating dinner my body was like, "DO NOT PUT ONE MORE THING FROM THERE IN ME!" I ate out for the rest of my time which means I don't have to see a sandwich for a long, long time. This year I took 57 kids, a record for me. I hope take more next year and even more the year after. Big groups are exciting and fun for some reason.

I'm seeing a lot more troubled kids come to camp than years past. It's so sad to see kind of life that these kids escape when they come to camp. I can't imagine them living under the conditions that they do and hope that their camp experience is paradise. A place where they see men and women give them unconditional love and acceptance right where they are. I worked with one boy whose Mom was a drug addict when he was born and continued that life until he was removed at the age of five. His rage and anger over not being with his Mom was dominating his life to the point that he couldn't be irritated slightly, he was either not mad or Furious! By the end of the week we had made a breakthrough together and were able to openly share some of the pain he has on a daily basis. This camp was the first camp that he has ever been to that he wasn't kicked out. He made it and now has that memory of a time that he was successful and happy and made it. I hope that is a springboard for him to be successful in more things, small and big. He has the power to control his anger and can if he will just decide to do it.

Sometimes the best treatment for kids is to treat them the exact opposite way that they have always been treated. it takes them out of their automatic reactions and throws them so off balance that you can make breakthroughs. Instead of yelling and screaming and kicking him out of camp I said, "I love you and want you to stay." I also told him that I wasn't going to give up on him and that he could do it. There is frustration in knowing that I only had four days with him and won't have as much of a change to make a difference with him in his life, but seeds have been planted and he knows that somewhere there is a Mr. Will who loves him and know that he has the power to be and become much more than his world is allowing.