Evie

Evie

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Minimizing. The 30-Day Challenge

My daughter and son-in-law are embracing minimalism.  Vaguely, I remembered hearing about the concept. It's a quest to live with less and not go down the path of major consumerism. The Minimalist web site defines minimalism as a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.

I know it can be taken to the extreme--like owning and living with 100 items or less. Good for those who do that, but that sounds like a mere survivalist existence. Not a lifestyle I wish to embrace. I don't want to choose between owning a camp stove or wearing makeup.  

For Matt and Paige, though, it's just about simplifying their lives. Having a two-bedroom home and two small children, they were feeling overwhelmed with the amount of stuff they had.  I completely understand. Until our oldest was in her teens, we raised our three children in a small one- and a half-story. Keeping a small house clean with kids is like shoveling while it's still snowing. I kept a relatively tidy house when my kids were growing up (except for the girls' room for which they were responsible and I avoided entering). It wasn't easy keeping the house from getting trashed. I was crabby much of the time as I was constantly picking up or telling my kids to put their toys away.  

A solution is to simply have less stuff. Paige and Matt are making great progress in purging their house of anything that, as Matt says, "doesn't bring them joy." Daily they send me a photo of something else they are tossing overboard.

They gave me the 30-Day Minimalism challenge to do with them. The challenge is to get rid of excess stuff for a month. The first day you get rid of one thing.  The second day, two things. Three items on the third and so on. By the end of 30 days, you'll have gotten rid of something like 930 items. You can donate, sell, or trash, but each possession has to be out of the house and your life by midnight. 

At first, I didn't think I needed to do the challenge.  Except for my buying high-end lattes (a habit I have been recently curbing), I don't feel like I'm into mass consumerism. If you walk into my house, it's usually fairly uncluttered.  I don't have many clothes, other than my work scrubs or what I get free at Gap with my reward points. I'm pretty good about making regular trips to Savers or throwing things we no longer use.

But then I realized there was a lot I could purge.  It's the junk that's been traveling with me every move I've made since college and after Dave and I were first married. Basically, stuff that is out of sight and out of mind, but feels somehow sacrilegious to get rid of. Semi-sentimental stuff I haven't wanted to tackle. Photos Dave took when he was doing weddings years ago. College textbooks. Music CDs and VHS tapes which we no longer have a way of playing. Binders of material from retreats and conferences we've attended. Duplicate photos of the kids. The pair of pants I wore in 1988 and said I'd keep until the day I could fit into them again. 

Recently Mom and Warren moved to an apartment in Lake City. I and my siblings helped her box up the things for the move. We had three piles. Toss, give away, or keep. When Mom was distracted, we stealthily put things in the toss pile. Much of it, she and Warren spied and pulled out and put in the keep pile. Their new apartment and small storage area are crammed full. 

I thought of what it will be like for our kids one day when they move us to assisted living. I joined the challenge.

June 1, I tossed the entire contents of the top left drawer of my dresser. I considered the drawer as one thing. It was full of mostly slips, negligees, and camis given to me at my bridal shower 31 years ago. Somehow, it seemed wrong to throw them. Why, I don't know. I haven't fit into them since our second year of marriage. And, good grief, does any one even wear slips anymore? 

Yesterday, I got rid of an old TV that doesn't get sound and a coffee thermos cup that leaks.

It might take me towards the end of the challenge before I hit the Rubbermaid tub holding the pants I haven't worn since 1988. Pretty sure I won't be able to get them up beyond my knees.

Join us if you like.  Let me know how it goes. The 30-Day Minimalist Challenge 











Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Cup of Joe

Sigh.  I'm only on Day One of titrating down on caffeine and my head is feeling soggy.

I love coffee. I really, truly love coffee. The problem is it's become all or nothing for me.  I've gone beyond drinking coffee in moderation to becoming all out dependent.  At home I drink three to four seizure-inducing cups every day.  With how thick I make my brew, this probably translates to seven cups to the average coffee-drinking Joe.

I could live with just being addicted to coffee.  It's not the worst vice, and it makes me happy.  But it's how much money I'm spending on finely crafted lattes outside of home that's the problem.

Dave and I do the Everydollar budget (it's simple, it's free, and it's gotten us out of debt--yay, Dave Ramsey!).  Every month I blow my coffee budget, usually within the first week.  I'm not going to tell you how much I spend.  It's embarrassing. Suffice it to say, if I quit buying Starbucks, I could get a new outfit every month.  Pretty sad, because my monthly budget for clothing is zero.  I could use a new pair of jeans.

At work, I get Starbucks.  Every morning I tell myself I'm not going to spend money on a cup of coffee that costs more than a gallon of milk. But then I always find a reason that I need a coffee treat.  (I'm feeling blue. I didn't sleep well last night. It's only Tuesday. It's Friday and time to celebrate. And on and on and on.)

I've tried finding cheaper alternatives.  But lesser substitutes won't do. Our work's break room has a Keurig.  To me K-Cup coffee tastes like not very good instant coffee. I've also tried bringing in freshly ground coffee and filling the reusable kind of cups.  The result is a not so awesome cup of slightly gritty swill.

I've brought coffee in a thermos. Tastes metallic. I've made iced coffee, which at home is pretty good, but halfway through the day is an anemic watery drink.

So, if I can't be satisfied unless I'm spending my future retirement on foo-foo drinks, it might be I just need to quit.  Or, at least stop until coffee once again becomes the occasional treat and not the life-or-death-gotta-have-it addiction that it is now.

I'm bracing myself for ice-pick headaches. My strategy is to regularly dose with Ibuprofin.  So far, my head just feels soggy.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Church Visitor

Last Sunday I visited a church on my way home from Madison.  I had spent the weekend with my daughter's family. Paige had just had her baby--our second granddaughter, Hazel Rose (who of course is beautiful in every way).  I was delighted to spend time with the new baby and Evie, our other adorable granddaughter.

I really wanted to go to church before I headed back home. Paige and Matt were staying home from church that Sunday. It was just a little bit too soon to go out with their newborn. After doing some research on the internet, I found one that I thought would be good. It was right on my way back home.

Visiting the church that morning was an uncomfortable experience. I don't mean to malign this church. The people seemed sincere. The worship was uplifting and the message Bible-based and challenging. However, I felt unwelcome being there.

It was partly my mistake. I should have waited for the church service. Instead I came in during the coffee fellowship, the half hour between Sunday school and the church service. When I got to the door, a man who I assumed was the assigned greeter that morning handed me a bulletin. No one else seemed to notice me. After standing around awkwardly for a few minutes, I made a beeline for the single-person restroom. It was just to the right of the coffee table. Someone was ahead of me. A person came out and the man went in. I waited for him to finish. (What do you do outside a bathroom door other than just stand there and feel weird.)

The foyer began to fill as people spilled out of the sanctuary. It wasn't a big church. A lot of people were older with gray hair like me, which told me they probably had been attending the church for a number of years.  I would have thought it easy to pick me out as a visitor. No one looked my way though or said hello. People stood in huddles chatting among themselves.

The guy wasn't coming out of the bathroom. It had been a few minutes. It felt like forever. I got a cup of coffee. He still didn't come out. Good grief. I decided my best bet was to wait in the sanctuary and try later.

I sat in an empty pew. I hoped someone would come and sit by me. Feeling conspicuous, I moved to the end of the pew next to the wall. I figured the pew would eventually fill up from the aisle.

Finally, a white-haired lady came over and shook my hand. I told her I was visiting after seeing my new granddaughter.  She smiled vaguely and nodded her head. As is my nature when I'm nervous, I started to blab. I shared that visiting a church was kind of scary.  She looked surprised. "Oh, really?" She then went up to join the worship team that was assembling up front.

I killed a few minutes by reading the bulletin. I got out my phone and texted my daughters about the situation.  They sympathized with me.  Both have had the same agonizing experience of trying out new churches. It's the worst, one texted back.

Finally--mercifully--the service started. Pretty routine. Announcements, then singing.  The songs were familiar, and I settled into worship.  Only thing I was a little emotional by this time--probably from being tired after sleeping on a couch for the last couple of nights and having a two-year-old wake me up to play at 4:30 in the morning. The main factor though was I was feeling bereft and lonely.

My eyes started to water as tears began to form.  Pretty soon the tears steadily riveted down my cheeks. Great. I was without a Kleenex.  I had unfortunately just tossed the one that had been wadded up in my coat pocket. Worse, I was trapped along the wall and couldn't get out unless I crawled over a row of people. I felt the eyes of the ladies next to me. The music ended, and the pastor instructed us to turn and greet our neighbor. I mumbled a greeting and then hastily scrambled out of the pew in search of Kleenex.

There was none to be found in the foyer. Toilet paper would suffice. The restroom was still being occupied. Yeesh, what was that guy doing in there?  Finally, I spied a stack of cocktail-sized napkins underneath the coffee table.  I grabbed a handful and tried to pull myself together. I was tempted to leave right then and there, but I had left my coat and purse on the pew. The preaching had already started when I climbed back over the row of people to get to my spot along the wall.

The rest of the service went by without incident. The sermon was good--on the subject of hell, never an easy topic to tackle. But the preacher spoke truth, and it gave me something to think about on the way home. Embarrassingly, I still couldn't stopping crying. At the end of the sermon, the pastor said there would be people up front who would pray for those in need. I was in need. It had been an exhausting hour.

Church was dismissed.  Going against the stream of traffic in the aisle, I elbowed a few people as I made my way to the two ladies who were standing at the front of the stage. So they wouldn't get the idea I was there to say the sinner's prayer, I quickly told them I was a believer. They asked how they could pray for me. I sobbed as I unloaded my heart. They pulled me into their ample bosoms and enveloped me with heart-felt prayers.

They were very kind and sincere. But I began to feel really hot. I was wearing my winter coat, and with being held in a tight embrace by two rather large ladies, I felt like I was going to pass out. If I did pass out, maybe people would just think I had been slain in the spirit.

The kind women finished praying for me. I gave them each a hug and thanked them. I then elbowed my way back up the aisle. I fell out of the church into fresh air. Other than still not using the restroom, I felt tremendous relief.

As I got on the highway to head home, I reflected on what it's like to be a church visitor. With a few exceptions, I have found it not easy to visit churches for the first time.

I have been a Christian for years and have been attending church since I was born. If I am uncomfortable being a church visitor, I realize how vulnerable it is for the unbeliever to cross the threshold of a church building. It's unfamiliar territory. If people aren't made to feel welcome, they may just never enter a church again.

There is one church visit that stands out as incredibly positive. When my daughter was in college she had to visit a Spanish-speaking church as an assignment for her language class. I visited one with her in Rochester. Even though I couldn't understand people's words, I have never felt so loved and welcome. People came up to us with big smiles, giving us warm greetings and hugs. They seemed sincerely happy we were there. During the service, a gentleman moved next to me and translated the sermon word for word. After the service, people thanked us for coming and told us to come again. These dear people who spoke broken English exuded the love of Christ. It was a powerful experience.

I pray that people who try our church for the first time might feel that same love.






Sunday, March 13, 2016

Dress Boot Camp

http://www.livestrong.com/article/1000674-pull-up-back-zipper-dress/
Oh, boy.  Here we go again.  After the ordeal of finding mother-of-the bride dresses for both daughters' weddings, I never thought I'd be doing it again.  This time as a daughter of the bride. Life is full of surprises.

My mom at 79 is getting married again.  Hers and Warren's romance started after Christmas.  In three weeks they were engaged. Everyone who hears their story can't quit grinning. What a delight to find love again at this season of life. 

My mom has her dress. She scored with the first one she tried on. She looks regal and radiant in it.  I told Warren he was going to have a beautiful bride.  He said he's counting on it.

Mom and Warren
I don't have a dress.  There is nothing in my closet that fits, save for two pairs of jeans. One badly torn at the heel, the other a hand-me-down that has a bleach spot on the knee.

I admit it, I've put on a few pounds. I don't blame myself entirely.  I let up on working out after Paige's wedding.  I told myself, "You know I wouldn't have to work this hard just to stay healthy."  I shared this insight with a friend.  She told me what no one should ever say to a woman who is working to stave off the inevitable menopausal pot.  "You know, Jacci, you could gain 20 pounds and you'd still be skinny." That's all I needed to hear. Twenty pounds came on with absolutely no effort at all.

So, here we are. I need to find a dress to wear.  Dress shopping is an activity that makes me want to curl up into a ball sucking my thumb. It's about as fun as getting a root canal, having a colonoscopy, or standing in line at Walmart.

The thing is I do have a dress in my closet that would be perfect. It's the one I wore for Brad's wedding last year. It was a small miracle I found it.

I procrastinated until the last minute to find a dress for his wedding.  I was in denial when I told myself that if I worked hard enough I could wear one of my mother-of-the-bride dresses.  I realized as the days counted down to the wedding that it wasn't going to happen. Unfortunately, the week before the wedding I was down for the count with the flu, in bed feverish and shivering. I was too sick to go shopping and wondered if I'd even be well enough to make the flight to California.

I made a miraculous recovery the morning Landon and I were to leave. I put on Facebook an urgent request to borrow a dress. Several friends graciously delivered dresses to my house. 

None looked too good. I had woefully misjudged my size. Since there was no time and no other options, I stowed three of the dresses in my luggage and hoped for the best. Maybe if I sucked everything in and wore a jacket I could make one of them work.

We made it to California and spent the evening with Brad and his family. The next morning I tagged along with the guys to pick up the tuxes.  I walked into the little boutique and saw a clearance rack of dresses marked 75% off.  I looked through the dresses, not daring to believe there'd be one that would work. 

There it was. A beautiful dress, in the right color, in the right (realistic) size, and 75% off to boot. It even had a little jacket that covered my granny arms. I went into the dressing room.  I held my breath. I got it zipped!  Hallelujah!

The neckline plunged a bit immodestly though.  Not to worry. A wedding guest staying at our hotel had baby-sized safety pins and a needle and thread.  Saturday morning she pinned the straps up and sewed the neckline of the dress to my bra. Voila!

Brad and Karen's wedding was beautiful.  I wept at the reception.  I felt so blessed and honored to be part of their day. Wearing a dress that zipped made it all the better.

When Mom and Warren announced they were getting married, I smiled. I wouldn't have to go dress shopping.  I'd wear the one I had found for Brad's wedding.  I just needed to get it altered and dry cleaned.

I tried it on this morning. Dang it. I can't get it zipped. 

Heavy sigh. I have eight weeks.  Dress boot camp starts tomorrow.  



Mother-of-the-Bride Dress #1
Mother-of-the-Bride Dress #2

Dress photo from http://www.livestrong.com/article/1000674-pull-up-back-zipper-dress/















Sunday, February 14, 2016

Never too late for love

Next weekend my sister and I are going with our mother to shop for her wedding dress.  Not a dress for my sister--she's married already. For my mother.  At 79 Mom is getting married again.  She's downright giddy about it.

Dad's been gone for three years now. Mom says Dad was her life. They were engaged when she was 16 and got married after Dad returned from the Korean war.  She was 18 and just finishing her senior year of high school. They were about to celebrate their 58th wedding anniversary when Dad passed away.

Even though Mom missed Dad terribly, she was determined not to hole up in her apartment pining away. She stayed busy, heading up activities at the assisted living center, leading a Bible study, traveling, and spending time with family. 

In the months leading up to this last Christmas though, Mom began calling me more often than usual--sometimes several times a day. She was lonely. She said she'd like a male friend, someone just to have coffee with.  Where she lives, the women outnumber the guys five to one. She said it would be nice to have a guy to talk to once in awhile.

Mom spent the holidays with her brother's family in Nebraska. When she returned, I casually asked Mom if she had found a guy to have coffee with.  She kind of hesitated and said there might be somebody but didn't give a lot of details other than he didn't drink coffee. I pressed her for more information. She told me he was 89, but he was like no other 89 year old she had ever met.  He had so much fire in him. Huh. I wondered what that meant.

A few days later, I stopped by her apartment. I asked if she had heard from that gentleman again.  He had actually stopped by that day. She told me who it was--Warren. We've been friends with Warren's family forever. I thought they'd make a great match. They know all the same people and have similar backgrounds. Warren had lost his wife just before Mom lost Dad.  

From there the romance progressed at an alarming speed.  For the next two weeks, I heard reports from Mom on how well they were getting along.  They could talk about anything with one another. She didn't think it was supposed to work this way at their age, but they were absolutely smitten. I thought it was cute. 
  
Mom told Warren she'd never get married again.  Well, that didn't last long.  By the third week, they were talking marriage. Mom joked with Warren that it was Leap Year.  On Leap Year, she said, the women get to ask the men to marry them.  Warren asked, "Well, are you?" Mom said, "Will you?"  And Warren said "Let's do it."

Two days later on Mom's birthday, January 25, Warren got on his knees and officially proposed. That afternoon they were picking out the rings and applying for the marriage license. They were told at the license bureau that they would first need to get premarital counseling before the license was issued. They could get a license without it, but it would cost considerably more. 

Since neither had gotten counseling the first time around, they figured it wouldn't hurt.  So with almost 123 years of marriage between them, they drove over to see the pastor to sign up for premarital counseling.

They stopped at our house afterwards. Mom was right.  Wearing a black leather jacket and hiking boots, Warren looked much younger than his age.  I say he's a Clint Eastwood-kind of 89. Warren still splits wood, works on his tractors, travels, and takes out his four-wheeler and snowmobile. He even goes hiking in the Rockies, for crying out loud.

I don't get many calls from Mom anymore.  In fact, I have to call her. She's too busy with Warren these days. Ten years older than Mom, Warren is going to keep her young.  

They are looking forward to the time they have together. Mom's getting her passport. Their first trip will be to Calgary for their honeymoon.

The wedding is set for May 7th. It will be just their children, grandchildren, and great-grands (whose numbers combined remind me of Abraham's descendants traveling across the desert).

Warren and Mom have their families' blessings.  We wish them much joy in the years ahead.  Who knew that mature love would be just as fresh and exciting as young love?



Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Choosing Life

Today is Brad's birthday. Thirty-one years ago I delivered this beautiful human being into the world. Brad is my birthson.

Brad's wife, Karen, shared this on Facebook today:

"Everyone should wish this husband of mine a very happy birthday today.  It is truly my greatest joy being married to you.  Having you in my life has shown me the riches of the love of Christ, how to never cease in serving others, how to be strong while being compassionate and tender and so much more. 

You never seek the spotlight but continue to serve, love, and live with God always before you.  I am so thankful to be on this journey of parenthood with you.  You deserve the biggest celebration of life today! ...

We get to celebrate this man today because an amazing woman chose to make a brave choice and give him life.  And a great family chose to raise this man in a loving way.  Today will be a reminder of the power the positive impact just one life can have on the world."


Brad and Karen are expecting their little guy in January
I have wanted to share the story of choosing life for a long time.  I've had many starts but can never find the words to tell a story that is so intensely personal it is almost sacred.  I'm realizing that it may be impossible to do the story justice. It's the story of adoption.  But it is so much more.  It's the story of everyone whose life Brad has ever touched. His parents. His brothers in California and his siblings in Minnesota. His grandparents, nephews, cousins, and all of his friends who literally extend around the globe.  It is the story of his life with Karen and the new little human being that will push his way into the world--their son.

Most of all, it is the story of God's astounding grace.

Maybe one day I will be led to share more about my journey in choosing adoption.  But for now I just want to say Happy Birthday, Brad!  I am so grateful that you are in our lives.  You are loved more than you can know.   All my love,  Jacci


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Not the sharpest knife in the drawer

Two weeks ago I paid good money to find out what I have suspected for awhile. I am no longer the sharpest knife in the drawer.

In the last few years I've been having increasing memory loss. I've talked to other women my age who say they have the same problem.  I think mine is worse.

It's like my brain is short circuiting. I can't find my keys, cell phone, cheaters, sunglasses, tennis shoes and slippers. People's names?  Forget about it.

Then there's that little piece of paper my husband told me he needs to keep.  I panic a week later when he can't find it and accuses me of throwing it away. I dig through the trash can in the garage and it's in a garbage bag amidst coffee grounds and egg shells.

And I misplace my car in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Which, by the way, is just one more reason not to go to Wal-Mart. I avoid it at all costs. It smells like cheap plastic toys and cardboard. I always end up spending $173 for the can of hairspray I come in for and which I forget to put in my cart. I feel sorry for the checkout clerks. Those poor souls get minimum wage and deal with crabby, rude people who see them as the last obstacle in their getting home.

Anyway. What was I saying?  I lost my train of thought. Which brings me to why I got tested for cognitive impairment.

I can attribute most of my forgetfulness to simple inattention. It happens. But losing what I am saying mid-sentence really bothers me. This happened some when I was younger. But eventually I'd remember, even if it was a few hours later. Not now. I've come to accept that my memory occasionally leaves the building like Elvis, never to return.

A few months back I read Still Alice which is the story of a woman who is a Harvard professor diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's at the age of 52--my age exactly. It makes me wonder.

My friend, DeAnn, works for a place that helps people increase cognitive skills. She works with kids who have ADHD and learning or relational problems. She also helps adults like me whose memory has taken a hike and can't find its way home.


Awhile back when I joke with her about having early onset, she doesn't laugh.  She says if I am really concerned about it, she has a coupon I can use to get tested at her school. I wasn't too keen on the idea at first. 

But then something happened at my women's Bible study that prompted me to reconsider. We were having our discussion time, and I opened my mouth to share what I'm sure was some profound nugget of wisdom. I said, "I think..."  I stopped. I didn't have a clue as to what I was going to say.  Everyone looks at me quizzically and waits. Nervously I make a joke that this is what happens when you get old.

I call DeAnn to make an appointment to get my brain tortured. I go to the school, where her boss gives me the hour-long test. It's like taking your ACTs but involves playing games, doing puzzles and reciting a series of numbers backwards. It wasn't fun, and I began to whimper halfway through it.

At the end of the test, I get my scores. In high school I wasn't valedictorian or anything, but I think I was smarter than the average bear. That has changed.

The results are displayed on a percentile chart compared with people my age. There are nine categories which test, among other things, memory and processing speed.  I score highest on Logic and Reasoning. I am in the top 75% of something called Word Attack (I guess I have a good grasp on word pronunciation). I don't score great on any of the others. But I am disturbingly low on Working Memory. The bar is scraping the bottom of the chart. 

I try to be philosophical about my results. After all, somebody has to be last. I figure I'm taking one for the team, but I'm blinking back tears.

The woman doesn't make light of my scores. No sense of humor. Instead she explains how memory and retention can be improved through training. I ask if I'm getting Alzheimer's. She said she doesn't think so. She says it's normal to misplace keys. It only becomes problematic when you can no longer remember what to do with the keys.

She explains the program. The personal intensive training sessions are designed to work your brain to exhaustion so that it has to create new pathways of learning (or until it cries Uncle). She shares success stories of adults who have had remarkable improvement with their memory. Even people who are super smart can increase their cognitive ability. One of their students has an extremely high IQ but wants to have sharper skills as she goes through med school.

At this point, I'd be happy to be sharp enough to slice a piece of bread.  I ask to see prices. 

DeAnn is encouraging me to do the training. I'll be able to improve my memory and recall. But the price is steep, and I don't like torturing my brain. It hurts. 

Meanwhile, I've bought an industrial pack of Post-Its to leave myself notes around the house. I'm doing Sudoku. I'm also playing board games with my 78-year-old mother. So far I haven't beat her in Scrabble once. True, she has been playing her whole life while I've just started. But still.  She's 78 and I'm 52. No fair.

I also have made an appointment with my doctor to find out if there is some kind of underlying cause behind my memory loss. Like maybe my medications are slowly frying brain cells.  

Or, maybe I'll find out I'm just a normal 50+ woman who has a lot on her mind and sometimes misplaces her car keys. But when I don't remember what the keys are for, I'm calling DeAnn to sign me up.