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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Officially "Annie"

The very first person to call me Annie after the judge declared it was the clerk downstairs that was handling my paperwork.  Before the name change I was only known as Annie in personal settings.  If you were calling me Annie, then you knew me.  Anita was reserved for people that didn't know me - doctors' offices, banks, insurance companies, etc.  So when the clerk called me Annie there in that very official setting of the courthouse, it felt very strange - nice, but strange.  It felt like my personal and professional lives just collided.  That was Monday.

Today is Wednesday, and I've had two days to get used to the idea of Annie being my real name now.  I don't have a nickname!  I really love it.  Changing my name has been a lifelong dream.

All my life I've had to wonder when was the appropriate time to tell someone that I go by Annie.  Does it even matter?  My OB, yes, he should definitely call me Annie.  My dentist, I only see him twice a year, so why bother?

Today, however, I had a dentist appointment, and the assistant kept calling me Anita.  It felt so weird and wrong.  That wasn't my name anymore.  So after about 3 or 4 times, I finally told her about the name change.  It does make me feel like a bit of a freak - I mean who changes their first name?  But I'm thrilled nonetheless.

The whole process, for which I was so nervous, was very routine and boring.  My court date was Monday morning, and I waited through several divorce hearings which lasted a total of about two minutes each.  About 6 divorces were declared before my name was officially changed by the judge.

After that I had to go to the DMV with my 3 year old and 10 month old and wait 3 EFFING hours!  It was awful.  I thought I was going to grow old and die in that room.  People were congratulating their cell mates fellow waiters when their numbers were called, like they won the lottery.  A huge surge of endorphines ran through my body, and I praised God Almighty when mine was called.  I couldn't stop smiling.  Forgive my politics, but I couldn't help thinking that every single voting American should get their licenses renewed before voting in the next election (think of the DMV as a doctor's office).  I digress.  ;)

So then I applied for my passport, which was a much more quick and pleasant experience.  And now I'm ready for my trip to Prague in January!  (Yes, I got the passport rushed!)  I'm so thankful for this whole journey, what God has taught me and who He's creating me to be.  Thank God for being a work in progress!  I love my life - silly and naive as I might be sometimes.

ETA: And if you're wondering why I changed my name, then read here.  :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

I'm selling!

So at the advice of my sweet friend Creative Carmella (check out her necklace named after me!), I decided to go with Big Cartel to sell some of my crafty crafts.  Who knows if they'll actually sell or not, but hey, we'll let the market decide, right?

With Big Cartel you can only sell five things at a time (for the free membership, of course), so that is perfect for the just-tryin'-this-out-to-see-if-it-works kinda gal.

The first things I'm selling are a few of the wedding items that I made for the yellow and grey wedding.  I did consider doing other crafts for the Christmas shopping season, but I really am too busy right now to add something like that to my plate.  I'll definitely do that when I have a less full plate, and I'll let you know!
So anyway, if you know of anyone planning a yellow and grey wedding, let them know of my little shop!   More to come!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Two Weeks

So I've been sick for two weeks now, and I think I might go crazy.  AND my very first half-marathon is in two weeks from now, and I haven't run in two whole weeks.  AHHHH!!!

I had a cold for a week that turned into a sinus infection for another week.  And lucky me, just yesterday I got a stomach bug.

I'm really tired of not being able to do my normal routine.  I have felt like such a lazybones driving to and from school when I live so close.  I have NO energy.  Did I mention Michael has been out of town since Tuesday, so I have no backup.  :(

Poor, poor me.  Anyone feel sorry for me yet?  :-P  Just kidding.  I know it could be worse.  And hey, if I have to walk some of my half, then I have to walk.  Whatevs.  Just venting.  ;)

Oh!  And I changed my design one more time.  I think I'm going to keep it.  Opinions?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wet Paint

I'm attempting to update my blog design, so if you see some funny stuff, you'll know why.  I'll tell ya when I'm finished.  ;)

ETA: Okay, well, I just went ahead and changed my privacy so that no one could see while I edited my blog.  A couple of people asked what the deal was, so I hope I didn't scare anyone away!

Anyway, I'm never really confident about big changes like this for my blog, but I think I like it.  I know you probably wouldn't tell me if you didn't like it, but if you have any suggestions, I'm all ears!

Is it easy to look at?  Visually appealing?  Easy to read?  Hard to read?  Did you like the old layout and design better?  Do you read in Google Reader anyway, so it doesn't matter?

ETA: Okay, so I changed it again.  I can't decide on a permanent look, so I decided to go for a Christmas look for now.  Alright, I'm going to bed now.  :-/

ETA:  Of course, I changed it about 50 more times after I wrote the last line.  No more Christmas because I didn't want to have to go through this again for a long, long time.  It is now way past my bedtime.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Christmas Love

At my silent retreat, we got lots of notes and handouts and whatnot, and the following was a printout that the Spiritual Director just put in there for us to read.  She didn't talk about it or anything, and I think it may have even been an email forward that she received.  But this one little email forward changed my life, for real though!  It's not just for Christmas but for everyday life.

Read it and be inspired!

CHRISTMAS LOVE - paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13 
If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator. 
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook. 
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing. 
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point. 
Love stops the cooking to hug the child. [This is the line that got me.  How many times have I totally chosen dinner prep over the feelings of my sweet children?] 
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the spouse. 
Love is kind, though harried and tired. 
Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens. 
Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way. 
Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can't. 
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 
Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of LOVE will endure.
P.S.  Wanna know a secret (that I forget sometimes) - kids are more secure and less whiny when you give them the love they need and don't ignore them.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I gotta be honest about my priorities...

The silent retreat that I went to a couple of weekends ago was so skillfully designed.  The spiritual director, Liz, that led the retreat was such a wise woman.  She didn't preach or twist our arms, but she led.  She led me into hearing God's voice speaking to me specifically.  So when she did a talk on balance, I heard God speaking to me about the priorities in my life loudly and clearly!

First she said that, "Burnout [that's what I was in] is a result of being out of balance."  Okay, got it.  So what do I do about that?  She then asked, "What needs to be emptied from your cup so that God can fill it up?" So I started really thinking about my priorities and what fills my days.

I won't go into all of it, but blogging was definitely something that I analyzed.  I love blogging; I really do.  It fills a need in me to express myself creatively.  I love writing.  I'm a grammar nerd.  I love thinking about life.  I love sharing what I learned.  So okay, check - it's a priority.

But as many of my fellow bloggers know, if you want followers, sometimes you have to read a whole bunch of other blogs, too, as a means of networking to grow your own blog.  This can be quite daunting, especially when there are 100+ posts in your Reader each night.  There started to be many of which I would just look at the pictures or would skip entirely.

It's frankly too much for me to keep up with.  So I started asking myself why I was doing it.  Well, I do certainly have a specific set of blogs that I read religiously - a mix of family, friends, bloggy friends, and favorite blogs that inspire me.  All of the blogs that I follow are good, and I really enjoy them, but I just can't justify spending the time on them anymore, especially when I could be doing other things that would be more fulfilling for me and my family.

And here's the other deal.  You know how all these big bloggers say that you have to network and do linky parties and comment and yada yada yada?  Well, doesn't that just get you followers that are already bloggers?  So you just have a large group of bloggers that are following each other for the sake of having a large following?  It doesn't quite make sense to me.  Why run yourself ragged for that?  Because you know that all of those other blogger/followers are just skipping through your blog posts, too.  Do you know how many times I've gotten comments that the commenter so obviously didn't even read the post (but they commented because they wanted me to feel obliged to visit their blog)?  Don't you want mostly non-blogger followers?

And what's the point for me anyway?  I don't get any cash out of the deal.  So I'm running myself ragged for...a number in my sidebar?  A high number of pageviews in my stats that no one sees except me?  Pride, perhaps?

So anyway, all that to say that I'm cutting back on the amount of blogs that I follow.  Please don't be offended, but I gotta do what I gotta do.  And you do, too.  :)  So like I said, if you're a family, friend, bloggy friend, or blog that inspires me, then I'm going to keep following, so no worries.  ;)  If you're feeling like me at all, though, I do urge you to honestly answer for yourself, "What's the point?"  

P.S. You can apply this to Facebook and Twitter, too.  Eeek!

ETA: I'm a little concerned that I came across as ungrateful for my current readers/followers.  I promise you I'm not.  I love that people actually want to read something that I thought about and wrote.  It humbles and blesses me more than you could ever know.  I just wanted to admit my failing - that I was following TOO many blogs just for the sake of getting more followers, and that's pride.  Boo for pride.  :(

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Silence and Solitude

A couple of years ago I took this "weaning vacation" when Levi was weaning at 16 months (worked like a charm, by the way) to a spa retreat in Austin.  I went by myself for 4 days and studied the discipline of silence and solitude.  It was awesome.  I did spa treatments, went swimming, did yoga classes, painted, and read and journaled a LOT.  It really recharged my batteries and gave me vision for my life at home.

Well, I needed some alone time again, but the spa retreat was pre-Dave-Ramsey-rocking-our-world, so we decided to do something a little simpler this time.  I went to the Montserrat Jesuit Retreat in Lake Dallas.  I'm not Catholic, but they're welcoming of anyone with an open mind.  I did grow up Catholic (albiet just nominally), so it was a bit nostalgic for me, which I liked.

When I first got there I was a bit nonplussed.  It's a monastery, so it's quite...simple.  The dorms were built in the sixties, and there's nothing fancy about them at all.  I started regretting my decision as soon as I walked up the steps.  It was no spa, y'all.
So I kept an open mind and unloaded my stuff into my room.  The room was nothing to write home about, either.  It had a twin bed, a recliner, and a desk - all outdated.  But again, I kept an open mind, because if it would have been all updated and bed-n-breakfasty, then I would have wondered why a religious organization was being so frivolous with their money.  (I stumble with judgmentalism - sorry.)  
'Who cares,' I thought, 'I don't have to answer to anyone right now! No cooking, no cleaning, no whining, no cares!'  Disclaimer: I love my children, but there was certainly a reason I needed to get away - for their own good!  

So my full intention was to go by my own schedule and not really participate in the scheduled classes and teachings and masses that they had planned.  I did go to the first orientation given by Father Ed so that I would know the lay of the land, and I unexpectedly fell in love - not just with Father Ed (he was so awesome and special - what I imagine Brother Lawrence to be like - my favorite Catholic mystic) but with the retreat center, too.
There was such a sense of calm and peace there.  Everything there was put there with the intention of it bringing you peace, silence, and solitude.  It was beautiful and restful.  Father Ed said that at other silent retreat centers that he's been at, there would be signs everywhere reminding you of the vow of "SILENCE".  But at this center, instead they have signs that say "LISTEN".  Isn't that beautiful?  And I certainly heeded that.  
There were chairs and benches everywhere placed in places ripe for reflection.  It's on Lake Lewisville, so there is plenty of space and beauty with which to reflect on God's beauty.

There was SO much that I learned while there, and to try and share it with you at the tail end of a post just wouldn't do it justice, so I'll save it for more installments.  :)  All in all - I couldn't recommend it more!  I hope for both Michael and I to go yearly (at separate times, of course).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why Do Bad Things Happen?

Hello friends.  First let me say that my silent retreat was amazing.  I really didn't expect that it was going to be as amazing as it indeed was, but I will write about that another day.  I learned so much and was so overwhelmed by how good God is.  It's really crazy how much you can listen when you're not talking.  But more on that another day.

Today, however, is a sad day.  I woke up with an extremely sore throat, so much so that I was on the brink of tears and have felt awful all day (achey, fatigued, etc.).  So when my sister called me a little while later, I didn't answer and let it go to voicemail.  On the message she said there had been a death in the family, so of course I called her back immediately.

On November 4, 2004 my beautiful, godly, strong, amazing cousin Julie died in a motorcycle accident at age 37, leaving behind a husband and three children (14, 12, and 10, or thereabouts).  She lived in West Virginia, and she and her husband had been out riding looking at the gorgeous fall leaves in the winding West Virginia country roads.  Her death was devastating, and no one could understand how God could will that to happen.  It didn't make sense at all.  To this day I'm still at a loss.

Well, this morning (November 8, 2011) her eldest daughter that had been 14 when she died (now 21) was found dead by her father in her bed.  To say that it's sad or devastating or anything else is just an understatement.  How can one family handle such heartache and pain?

At the retreat I was on, the retreat director (an amazing 77 year old woman of God and former therapist) said that when people would ask her why God allowed bad things to happen her response was always that the best gift that God could give us was free will.  And sometimes people use that free will to make bad choices.  Sometimes those bad choices affect other people.  Free will is quite messy, but I think it's the best of the two options.  I've often thought that same thing.  

The other thing a friend of mine told me a few weeks ago is something her priest told her: "Life is hard, but life is good."  True, too.  We appreciate the good all the more after we experience the bad. 

And the thing I always hold onto when bad things happen to good people and you want to ask, "Why did God allow that to happen," is that God never promised us that bad things wouldn't happen; in fact He promised us quite the opposite.  He said we'd definitely have trouble in this world, but we can take heart in Him.  He can be our comfort, our shelter, our peace, our kind, loving Father.  And then there's Heaven....ah, Heaven, the ultimate place of peace for the weary soul.

This song sums up perfectly what I feel.  I can't hear it without sobbing.

by Natalie Grant
Two months is too little
They let him go
They had no sudden healing
To think that providence
Would take a child from his mother
While she prays, is appalling
Who told us we'd be rescued
What has changed and
Why should we be saved from nightmares
We're asking why this happens to us
Who have died to live, it's unfair

This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held

This hand is bitterness
We want to taste it and
Let the hatred numb our sorrows
The wise hand opens slowly
To lilies of the valley and tomorrow

If hope if born of suffering
If this is only the beginning
Can we not wait, for one hour
Watching for our Savior

Rest in the sweet peace of Christ in a place of which I can't even imagine the beauty and wonder, sweet, beautiful, little Jessie.  I love you, and I long for Heaven to see you and your beautiful mother.
9/23/90 - 11/8/11

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My Silent Retreat

So do you ever want to yell at the top of your lungs to your kids to "SHUT UP!!!!!"?  No?, neither....totally not...ever.  Just kidding, I know you do.  ;)  And I do, too.  That's why it's important for me to leave them every once in a while.  The last time I left them Levi was just 16 months, and I was weaning him.

As the story goes, Michael came home from work, and I said, "I don't want to be a mom anymore."  So he sent me to Austin to a spa and spiritual retreat center for 4 days.  It was so awesome...and so freaking expensive (that was pre-Dave Ramsey brainwashing).  So this time we're scaling it back, and I'm going to a Catholic retreat center for a silent retreat.  No spa, but I can jog to my heart's content!

I'm really looking forward to it, and it couldn't have come at a better time.  When I registered for it, I didn't think I'd be ready to leave the baby, but he's pretty much weaned now (yes, I cut it early - don't hate).  And I am SO ready for a break.

I'll be gone from Thursday night to Sunday, so I'll be unplugged from the internet!  Yay!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Reading Rainbow Cake Party

Samuel, our 5 year old, was going through this reading book that we LOVED to learn to read.  The adult basically just reads everything in red in the lesson, and the book does all the work.  By the end, your kid can read.  It's uh-mazing.  So we told him that whenever he made it through the entire book that we'd have a reading party for him.  Well, he was reading so well in school that we quit the book because he already exceeded it.  The book gave him an excellent foundation with which to really accelerate his learning at school.

So we had his reading party today!  We invited three of his buddies from his class over after school for some "Reading Rainbow Cake" to celebrate Samuel learning to read.  (Mimi came over to celebrate with us, too.)  :)  By the way, I didn't even try to explain "Reading Rainbow" to the kids because it would have made me feel too old.  
It was Michael's idea to make this achievement into a celebration, and I thought it was genius.  What a hallmark - knowing how to read.
It was a simple, little party.  We just had cake and strawberry smoothies, played and ran around a LOT, read a couple of books, and sang some silly songs with the guitar and shakers.  The perfect little playdate, IMHO.  :)

So even though you've seen these a bazillion times, here's mine.  I thought it needed more icing in between the layers, but I'm an icing addict.
It was a lot of fun making it.  I can't wait until Levi and Isaac learn to read so that I can make it again!  By the way, my kids LOVED helping with this cake.  Mixing the colors was the best part - good teaching moments, too ("Which two colors make purple?", etc.).

Did you celebrate an academic milestone in your family?  I wanna know!!!
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Headphones at the Gym and My Dorkiness

(I wish I had a source for this, but I don't
- it's everywhere, though.)
So if you ever want to expose me for the big dork that I am, watch me at the gym while I have headphones on.  I wasn't wearing them for a while because I have to listen for the announcement, "Will club member Annie please come to the kids' club?" because Isaac is usually wailing for his Mama.  But now I have decided just to tell them I'm wearing headphones, and they'll come get me.  Novel, nes pas?

Anywho, so I wore them for the first time in a long time on Sunday morning, and I tell ya, I was so motivated to run on the treadmill with my own music blasting in my ear.  Turns out that my body will run faster and faster if I pour in a little Mumford and Sons, Stavesacre, Oasis, and Cranberries.  Like really, I kept increasing the speed as the time went on.  Increasing!

The only downside is that I feel SO incredibly restrained because I would really like to sing out loud and use my hands to express the music in large, sweeping gestures.  What?  That's totally normal, right?  But that's what I do in the car?  But, what?  Someone might see me, you say?  Ah, yes, I have been sighted by a friend dancing to "Dynamite" once, and yes, it was quite embarrassing.

So I do hold back and restrain myself, but if you look carefully, my face will ever so slightly be expressing the emotion of the song, my lips will just so subtly be mouthing the words, and my arms will air drum only when I think I can get away with it by it looking like a natural running motion.


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