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New Blog Address

http://shelleynoyes.blogspot.com/

Come see me!

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So one of my guiltiest pleasures is browsing Hollywood gossip sites. Usually I scan OMG for the picture galleries (I especially like the ‘What Were They Thinking?!‘ gallery…) and today I discovered Parade Magazine’s site. (You know the insert in the Sunday paper written for the over 60 crowd). Of course I had to read the article on Ashley Tisdale since ‘The Suite Life of Zack and Cody‘ still plays daily in our house–AND we know all the words to Sharpay’s song ‘Fabulous‘ from High School Musical 2.

Then I saw this gallery/article on “What Celebrities Would Tell Their Younger Selves.” As brain-mushing as this activity is, this article really got me thinking. So many of them said they would tell themselves to relax more, and enjoy the moment. After I read the article, I went out on our back deck with my coffee and thought about what I would tell my present self from my older and wiser self: Stop wasting your time worrying about how Sadie is going to turn out. Enjoy the fact that she is an only child instead of carrying around all this angst about it. Even if you think you are doing nothing with your life now, wait! You’re going to love what’s coming next. Oh. And you are so not fat right now!

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Summer Sabbath is what my church calls That Time In The Summer When Everyone Is Away. It is also my favorite time of the church year because we all cram into the church for one service. Usually we have three services–one contemporary, one traditional, and one for the college students–and I don’t especially like to choose just one.  In the summer I can sit in the balcony and look down and see people I never get to see during the year. Also, the style of services are combined so that there is a mix of formal with the informal: amazing organ music and classic hymns holding hands with drum sets and guitars. I like the fact that each of us in the community has to give up the right to ‘preference’, and just worship together.

Sadie, on the other hand, doesn’t especially enjoy Summer Sabbath because there is no Jr. Church. In the summer, Sadie is subjected to the torture of sitting through the ENTIRE service, instead of getting to leave after the offering (and before the sermon…) Five minutes into the service, she is rolling her eyes and sighing and fidgeting and asking How Much Longer???! So Dan has been packing a surprise bag for her each week filled with fun stuff for her to do–pens, notebook, little dolls etc. He also packs a little snack and a bottle of water.

So this morning, as the service is starting, Sadie is pawing through the bag, looking for something to share with her friend Emma. We are sitting in the first row of the balcony and Emma is six rows behind us. Sadie pulls a screwdriver out of the bag and cracks up. She stands up and holds it over her head to show Emma what her crazy daddy packed in her surprise bag. Then she pulls out a fortune cookie. And a piece of plastic tubing. And a gym sock. Each item she gets she stands up and shows Emma. By this time we are into the first song and I am laughing too–I had no idea what Dan had packed for her and I was wondering what she was going to pull out next. A bag of Apple Jacks. A little package of elastic cord. Binoculars. A kitchen sponge. A chocolate covered granola bar.

What on earth!? It was all just so RANDOM. I’m nearly snorting with laughter and then the older gentleman behind us taps Sadie on the shoulder and says ‘Who packed your bag?’ I was relieved to see a sparkle in his eye–he seemed to find the whole thing as amusing as I did.

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It occurred to me in the shower this morning that I am paralyzed by fear. Stuck stock still, feet set in concrete. I’m scared out of my mind. And here is what I am afraid of: that I will never change. That I will always be wondering where my motivation is hiding. Wondering what my problem is–blaming the stagnant patterns in my life on OCD, or depression, or my childhood, or something else external that I have no control over (my sister’s death…). Scared to death that if I start something–anything–that I will just run out of motivational gas and go back to wondering when my life is going to change. I have started and fizzled out so many times–the memories of pushing off and heading out full speed only to fail and stop lay on top of each other in my head like a pile of unmovable rocks–heavy and unyielding.

The other obvious related bullet I’m trying to dodge is failure. I haven’t written on here because I’ve been so fearful of having nothing to say. A friend of mine over at Snarkington Post told me wisely on facebook the other day: “Blog about being blog-blocked.” Good advice. Of course the conversation started because her sister, my dear friend, told me gently (and I quote) “Update your blog you wiener!” I would link to HER blog, but she too has been on hiatus (wiener!).

So I guess that is what I’m doing. I’m just going to start and be boring and make mistakes and sound stupid. I found this super inspiring blog yesterday by Christine Kane. Her tagline is Be Creative. Be Conscious. Be Courageous. I love that. Especially because I’m in need of some courage. She wrote this great post about taking imperfect action. How taking action–however imperfect–is better than taking no action at all. Which is where I have been hiding. Where it is safe (but boring and terribly unsatisfying…)

I want to look my fear in the eye and not flinch. I want to roll my eyes and shrug my shoulders and just dismiss it.

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Sadie: All moms are annoying. Kids don’t want moms.

Me: Hmm. I think kids would really miss moms if they weren’t there.

Sadie: Yeah, maybe other kids don’t want moms, but I do. I just wish you didn’t always tell me what to do. It’s very annoying. How would you feel if I said to you ‘Clean your room! All of it?’ or ‘Build a fort for me!’ or ‘Do my work for me!’

Me: I have never asked you to do my work, or build me a fort.

Sadie: I KNOW. But it FEELS like it.

Me: Well, when you become a mom, you can tell your own kids what to do.

Sadie: I definitely won’t be like YOU. I’m going to be a NICE mom.

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So I swiped my sister’s journals while I was home this weekend. I was looking for her CDs (that girl had more music than anyone I know…) and while I was rifling through her stuff (I’m getting used to it now–I don’t feel so much like a scavenger or an intruder) I found the journals. She didn’t like writing very much, so there were only a few–and I felt like I was ready to read them.

Side note: I did contemplate the ethical dilemma of reading her private thoughts. I pictured my own piles of journals and wondered: how would I feel if I was gone and someone read them? Maybe I’m a freak of nature or something, but to me, I want the people who love me to read them. I want Sadie to know what it was like to be me, and that life has ugly stuff and pretty stuff, and that everything that happens to us or that we think about or that we do is a part of what makes us human–beautiful–made in the image of God, yet fallen. And my reason for wanting to read my sister’s journals was that I desired to understand more of her than what I knew on the surface.

As the big sister I had come to some conclusions about her life(style) and who she was over the past several years that were not positive. Her seemingly constant neediness wore me out, and I was exasperated with her continual string of bad decisions. I assumed (in that annoying holier-than-thou way that I can sometimes (!) have) that because of the way she lived and the choices she made that she must not have really cared about God or her faith.

I am humbled and ashamed.

Reading her journals this weekend not only gave me insight into who she really was, but also revealed parts of me that are darker than I have cared to admit. I like to think of myself as understanding and tolerant. I also think I may be delusional. Because what I read–my sister’s most intimate prayers to God–showed me what a real human being looks like. One who struggles and fails, but who wants to be right with God. She prayed for me all of the time–almost in every entry. Meanwhile I was passing fierce judgment: why couldn’t she just live right? Like I did?

I was confronted with Grace again–that horrible, amazing truth: there is NOTHING I can DO to make God love me more; there was NOTHING she could have done to make God love her less. Neither of us could earn His love or lose it–no matter what did we did right, or wrong. It so has to do with Him, not us. Keeping the rules isn’t going to save me any more than breaking the rules was going to keep salvation from her.

What really blows me away is that God is still fond of me despite my pettiness, my arrogance, and my pride.

Now THAT is good news.

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I spent Columbus Day making grape jam with my friend Sunshine. She had picked mountains of Concord grapes at a local vineyard, and since I had already been through the jam-making process once before with Industrious Betsy, I was up for another batch (actually 5 batches…). The kids had the day off of school, and Sadie is good friends with Sunshine’s little girl, so I packed up two kettles, picked up a borrowed food mill, grabbed some snacks for Sadie, and we were off.

My favorite kind of day is when I get to live life with people. Making jam by myself couldn’t be NEARLY as fun as working with a friend. We pulled the grapes off their stems, rinsed them, and put them in a big kettle to cook down and get mushy. Then we ladled the slurry into a food mill–the kind with a hand crank (I’m sure Caroline Ingalls used one just like this–it hooks right on to a kettle) and mashed all the juice from the seeds and skin. So in case you weren’t counting, the number of kettles used so far: 2. Then we measured 5 cups of juice into a THIRD kettle, mixed that with a box of Sure Gel, and waited for it to come to a full rolling boil. At that point, we added SEVEN cups of sugar all at once and STIRRED CONSTANTLY until it boiled again for EXACTLY one minute. After that it was a race against the clock: get the hot jam into the jars stat (a big funnel helps) and one pours while one screws the lids on, and it has to happen while it’s hot or the jars won’t seal. So in the middle of the crucial get-it-into-jars-time, of course, the kids need something immediately: we want to paint, we need a snack, can you get me down from here?, I have to go potty…

After we finished the 5th and final batch, Sunshine and I sat on the back porch and complained about all our aches and pains from working so hard all day. See, I always thought I would like to be Amish, but after ONE day of Amish-y work, I was SPENT. How do they do it? Churn the butter, milk the cows, make the quilts?? The one thing I know is that they understand the power of Community. And I think that’s what makes their lifestyle so attractive to me. (That and the bonnets…)

Since I quit my job and started my domestic career (ahem), I’ve felt very alone and lonely at times. Which is interesting, because I know so many people who stay at home for various reasons–and we’re all in the same boat, doing the same things at pretty much the same time. I think I could be a good candidate to live in a commune–then we all could all fold clothes and unload the dishwasher together.

All this to say that I’m experiencing Community here, and I feel like it’s Christmas morning. Life together is one huge present to me from God.

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