Thursday, August 11, 2016

Changes

It's been a while since I last posted! There has been a lot going on lately.

The biggest change for me is that I have decided to become a dog trainer! Is that random or what??

Dog trainer. When I hear those words, I immediately think of circus dogs or  nerdy guys with clipboards and doggy pouches attached to them. (Sorry if anyone is offended by that.) However, this is the direction God seems to be leading me in.

The past few weeks a lot has happened; financial things suddenly changed into an emergency making us realize that it was absolutely essential that I find something--something--that I could do to help bring in money.

Dog training was not just something that I picked off the top of my head. Actually, it's the last thing I would have thought of. I had been looking searching for work through online ads and "Monster.com" for something that I could do and hopefully something that would be enjoyable enough for me to feel motivated by. But it also had to work with Dennis's work schedule and still have someone watch the kids, and there was nothing out there.

So we did a novena to Our Lady of Good Success. After all, "success" was what we needed. Not financial success, but something that would pull us out of this financial hole, and also something that I could do successfully and also keep my primary roles (wife and mother), well, primary.
So Dennis and I started the novena, and Day 1 was when "dog trainer" came to mind. I didn't really think much of it as an answer to prayer but just something that I could do "in the future."

Day 2 of my novena, dog training was coming more and more to mind. I kept rejecting it as "too easy". My pride wanted something more important than that. But in truth, I have loved training my dog, Joey. I discovered a real love for dog training and even better, it has totally paid off. I am not a "book person" and have never done well in school, but I totally devoured dog information wherever I could. I guess you could say that God had me start my education early, without even realizing it.

But to do it as a job. I didn't want that. I didn't even mention the idea to Dennis; I was sure he would laugh. But secretly, I began to research what it entailed to become a trainer; how long did it take, how much does a trainer make and so on. The more I read about it, the more excited I became.

dogtrainingclub.com


Day 3 of my novena, I began to realize that this "dream" that evolved within three days could be an answer to prayer for something I could do both for myself and also to help the family. Simple though it was, it was perfect for me. And it wasn't as easy as I had thought. Half of the education comes from experience and hands-on. You can learn a lot from books but dogs are the best teachers.

It's also very versatile, and it would work well with our schedule. As for money, you make according to what you know by education and experience, so the more you learn, the more you can charge. (That's why some dog trainers charge only a little and some charge you a lot!)

Anyway, at this point, I began to look into schools. Most training is done online for dog trainers. It was hard to find one that I could trust and also that Dennis would be convinced was "real" and trustworthy. I knew it was going to take a lot to convince him that this could be the answer to our prayers.

The other problem was money. We don't have it. Here we were in the worst financial slump ever and yet I had to convince Dennis to get ourselves out of it, I would have to go back to "school." After doing more research, I learned that you can go two different ways to become a trainer:

  • You can learn everything on your own by reading tons of articles and lots of dog books, volunteer at shelters for hands-on experience and get online certification. It isn't required to be certified in order to work as a trainer, but everyone feels a little better to know that you have learned enough to be certified, and chances are you will have an easier time finding work.
  • Or you can go through a dog training school where they will provide all the curriculum and what you need to know and more for you, and then get certified at the end.
For me, it was more comfortable to get my education from people who know what makes a good trainer great, and half the things they say you should learn are things that I wouldn't have even thought of on my own. They send you a "library" of books to study from with online curriculum and tests at the end of every phase. You speak to trainers who mentor you either by phone or Skype, and then you work with a trainer who comes to your area to work with you and dogs.

As good as it all sounded, it still seemed impossible for me because I knew we couldn't make those monthly payments. I needed at least $100 every month to take just the Beginners course--enough to get me started as a trainer (and then hopefully continue education towards a Master Trainer.)

Day 4 of my novena: out of nowhere, I got five rosary sales. All summer long, I have only had one or two sales. Now suddenly, I have enough to make my first monthly payment. I took this as a sign from God to continue. Now all I needed to do was convince Dennis. (By the way, after the five sales, I have not had any since!)


This is where unfortunately, we forgot to continue our novena, however, I felt we had our answer. I continued to pray for direction though. I finally presented my idea to Dennis. By this time, I had done my research on what it takes to become a trainer, found a good trustworthy school, and had a plan to help make ends meet. As I knew he would be, he was skeptical and cautious--but not as bad as I thought he would be.

Now, two weeks later, he is much more on board and even excited about our new plan. I am going to make the monthly payments on my own--trusting that God will provide me with rosary sales or other ways to make the payments. If I can't, my mom--who has been very excited about all this from the beginning--has promised to help if I can't meet a payment.

I have already started my education with an online study guide to get me started and have learned a lot of about puppy socialization. I'm learning a lot what I did not know, and discovering a lot of mistakes that we made with Joey in not socializing him enough. (He is a pretty fearful dog, but we are continuing to expose him to new things.)

Just waiting for the books now, and it's all I can think about.

Every day, I thank God for this new change He has brought into my life. When I realized that I Would have to go back to work, I was scared, because there isn't much I know how to do and there isn't much physically I can do, with my heart. With our complicated schedule and a special needs kid that still needs me to be around a lot, I didn't know how it would be possible to find work that would bring in any money.

I was scared we were going to lose our house, that's how bad it was. I was feeling like a burden to Dennis, another mouth to feed and bump on a log that couldn't do nothing.

But over and over again, God amazes me, astounds me, with His answers when we allow Him to take over our life. When we finally have the courage and humility to say, "You do it."

I am very excited to start this new journey in my life, and all I can say to God every day is "Thank you for changing my life~"




Friday, July 22, 2016

Patio "Backdrop" is up

This will be a short post. We got the patio "backdrop" up; three trellis standing side by side. (It will be nailed to the wall soon.) So easy, and really helps to fill up space on long walls.


Next, I will be taking advantage of this crazy hot weather and painting the floor!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Halfway there

After feeling like I've been getting absolutely nowhere on any of my projects (too many of them going on at once), I decided to focus just on the patio project for now. Also, summer is pretty short around here, we only have three months of summer to get everything done!

I am making some progress with making a new walkway. The best thing about this is it's something I can do on my own. I love getting rid of the old pavers that are cracked with mildew all over it.

A few weeks ago
Halfway done


I picked up a loveseat at Walmart. They went from $89 and are now down to $64. They are selling out fast though, so I figured I better pick one up now before they are all gone! The plant helps things look so much more homey and it was only ten dollars.




All we need now is the trellis for the backround.


I got the wall decoration from Micheals and stole the toolbox with flowers idea from a home improvement show.



The kids got the wall I just painted all muddy (though I'm not finished painting yet), and it does not wash off like you would think. Yes, I was pretty mad. But it did inspire us to buy some mulch.



It drives Dennis a little crazy when I do these projects halfway. You probably have already guessed that I have ADD, ha. But one day I am inspired to get mulch and the next week I am inspired to buy loveseats that are on clearance. It all depends on what's on sale at the time and if it works in the budget.

There might be a little part of me that is afraid to see it end too. I just love making projects.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

*That Moment* when God truly becomes God



There is so much happening in the world lately. Monthly terrorist attacks, freak animal accidents, natural disasters. Makes you stand up and take notice.

God.

Isn't it interesting how when these things happen, the world suddenly says, "Let's pray." Everyone turns to God, even those who don't believe.

I've been asking myself for years now why "this" is happening in the world today. Why the increase of tragedies and evil? The answer is simple, almost too simple: it is the result of sin.

Sin is evil and we can all agree that we see an increase of evil. God gives us free will and this is how we (though not all) have chosen to live our lives. And so, as a result: the increase of evil acts, natural disasters. Even strange animal behavior. It's the consequence of evil.

But with this horrible evil, the terrible tragedies, the scariness of the world, people are suddenly saying:  "God".

Those who don't believe even begin to wonder. Those who have ignored Him all their lives suddenly remember Him. And those who have pondered Him all their lives just know.

He exists.

I have an experience that happened to me a while ago; I don't often speak of it. It's too personal, too hard to explain. I don't know if people will really understand. But then, all these things that are happening in the world and the way people are starting to realize that God is truly God makes me think that maybe people will understand.

When words fail me, I use pictures.

Waiting


Not my house. And I've never owned a cat.



This picture above reminds me (sort of) my experience of waiting for help to arrive. It was dark out, and cold too, though I didn't notice the cold. I had just put the kids to bed for the night. I tucked them in and said I would see them in the morning like I always did.

I talked to my sister on the phone. We had just both had babies. I planned out Lucy's birthday party. She was going to turn four. I fed Anna, then only nine days old. As I nursed her, I thought about Christmas and the shopping I had to do.

And then just like that, I was having a heart attack. Put Anna down half-fed in her bassinet. Even then, with pressure on my chest like I had never felt before, feeling woozy and nauseated, I could hear her cries and feeling upset that I couldn't finish feeding her.

Somehow got Dennis to believe me that I was having a heart attack, not a panic attack. Together, we climbed the stairs to the front door, Dennis nearly dragging me, and we sat on the front steps and waited for help to arrive.

DYING



This picture above sort of explains how I was feeling on the inside. I found this after Googling "dying" and unfortunately, this is what I can relate to.

God had allowed St.Faustina to experience death without actually dying; but believed with all her heart that she was dying. "Dying is terrible!" she wrote. He allowed this for a special reason, though I'm sure it felt like a real mean trick to her at the time.

As we waited on the porch steps in the dark, Dennis talked to the 911 dispatcher.

 During this time I was fighting. I was fighting to live, fighting to breathe, fighting to just keep going. I was also fighting nausea, trying hard not throw up. I felt all sorts of things that weren't "normal", like the insane chest pressure (like three men sitting on my chest), a strange cooling sensation working it's way through my body (my blood flow slowing down) and the wooziness. But I knew that if I threw up, that would be it. My heart wouldn't be able to take the stress. I did end up throwing up later--when they did CPR on me. (It's said that is a pretty common thing.)

But inside, I was fighting despair, for the question wouldn't leave me:  "Where is God????"

Where did He go?

Why has He abandoned me?

Does He exist??

What about the kids?

What about Dennis?

Will he remarry?

Will she be Catholic?

How will they make it without a mother??

Regardless of how I was feeling, I believed simply from the sheer will of wanting to believe. Thanks be to God, for giving me this grace, even though I was completely unaware of it.

Darkness





The picture above shows nothing but black, not even a tiny bit of light. This is how I felt on the inside. Like God was gone. This is how it looks when there is no God. And if there was one, He abandoned me.

I tried to pray but He wasn't there. I couldn't form words in my head or heart. Everything ran together or were just fragments here and there. I had nothing. Nothing. It was truly death.

This is why I never tell people my story. It is too sad. Almost hopeless. The few times I have tried, people have become confused and upset, because in their lives, God has not yet "abandoned" them. It is disconcerting to them to hear such a story.


The End

As I sat on the steps, I knew I was dying. I could feel myself dying. I didn't even have the strength to sit up; Dennis was holding me up.

As I said, there was nothing but spiritual turmoil going on within me. I had my fears, my concerns, my worries. I was trying to figure out how this was all going to work, without me being with my kids anymore. I wondered what my kids would think when I wouldn't be there with them in the morning. It's funny how a mother never stops trying to take care of her kids, even when she's dying.

My voice had changed. I had been gasping "Where are they?" (the ambulance) the entire time but during those few minutes, my voice changed into something that sounded like a possessed man--totally inhuman. (This was from a lack of oxygen.) I remember feeling shock and fear at hearing myself, but continued to talk anyway, just for the sake of trying to stay alive.



And then, the worst finally came--my heart stopped. I was holding my pulse the entire time, which had been pulsating at a crazy pace through my neck, and then it was gone. I felt all over. Nothing.

"My heart stopped." I croaked to Dennis.

"It couldn't have stopped, you're still talking." Dennis said.

I wanted to clobber him. Of all the times to argue with me. But I didn't have the strength. Instead I asked one last time, "Where are they??"

And then, suddenly, a police car rounded the corner. I remember thinking hazily how it was strange he didn't have his sirens or lights on. I remember Dennis suddenly yelling out with relief in his voice, "There!" And a spark of hope suddenly pierced the night.

And then everything went black.

God




From here, I went to a "place" that was not an actual place, but I believe a state of my soul. Back to completely darkness, but this time, with lights that resembled stars in the sky.  Here, I floated in complete bliss and ignorance as the memory of my heart attack faded away, as well as memories of my family and even myself. I didn't have an identity; I only knew that I existed.

I had no worries or concerns; there was no sense of time. I felt one thing only. And that was peace.

Looking back on my experience, I can only relate to one thing. And that is a baby in a womb.



When I woke up from my ordeal, I had only one feeling left: and that was complete awe.



Not awe that I survived (though there was some of that too) but awe because I had That Moment.
That *moment* where I saw God.

I didn't see Him with my eyes or even with my soul. But I saw His power and might. I saw His awesomeness. I saw Him in fear. I saw Him as the angels do, with wings covering their heads. With His majesty and power. With some fear too, because it is difficult--impossible--to comprehend God.

It took me a really long time to start to pray to God again because I was so afraid. That fear that I felt was not part of God of course. What I should have had was some spiritual direction to help me through what I was going through, but every time I tried to speak of my feelings, I couldn't find the words. But God helped me through that time and helped me to trust Him fully, instead of just a little bit of at a time.

My last picture is of the Transfiguration. That moment when the disciples saw Jesus in all His glory. They began to sputter and chatter nervously, unable to contain their fear, joy and all emotions, they were so beside themselves.


And then God spoke and said, "This is my Divine Son. Listen to Him!" (Mark 9:7)
And they threw themselves down on the ground, because God had spoken.



So the world is going crazy, spinning around and leaving us dizzy, making us wonder where God is in all of this. Why is He letting this happen, why are so many good people dying. He's letting us wonder and ponder His existence.

That isn't such a bad thing.

But once we have made our choice once we make the decision as to whether we truly believe or not,  we will know that God is truly God. And like the disciples who saw Jesus clothed in lights and glory, we won't ever go back to wondering. Because we too, will have seen God. And that's how we will get through this time of darkness and chaos.

When bad things happen, I am back on those porch steps, waiting for help, waiting to be saved, and at times, wondering where God is.

But then He reveals Himself all over again to me, reminding me that this time is not forever. It's a time of testing, a time to ponder. And He is already won the battle, because He is God.

Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you after you have suffered a little. To him be dominion forever.
Amen.
 
 
Peter 1 5:8




Thursday, June 30, 2016

This is going to be fun (the Girls Room)

Hopping in between projects, we are back to the girls room...and oh, I have plans. I am super excited. :-)

A "before" picture. With wallpaper



After about three weeks, I have finally finished stripping off the wallpaper.



It was a messy and tiring job. Boring too! Unlike painting, stripping wallpaper makes things look worse as you go, not better.

Changed the curtains to a lighter material. Instant light.
But I have plans in my head that I'm getting increasingly excited about. The girls couldn't understand my enthusiasm. Lucy said, "But Mom, it's looking WORSE, not better!"


I beg to differ. While I wouldn't say the walls look nice, they at least make the room look less cluttered. Minus the mess on the floor, that is. Before, anything that we would tack on the wall looked too "busy" with the wallpaper pattern. In fact, now that the entire room is stripped of all the floral, it looks bigger.


So that is how the room is looking right now. And yep, I agree, it looks terrible!

The girls told me the colors they would like for their room: blue and purple. Lucy likes blue, while Anna likes purple.

I also took them to Hobby Lobby a couple weeks ago to "pick out" what they would like in their room--with the understanding that not everything they picked would be bought.

They picked out a few things that they liked, but what they both got excited about most was the Eifel Tower lamp.


I was like, really?? Out of everything in the that store, that was not something I thought they would be drawn to.

But here is what I am most excited about. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be gathering all the things I will be putting in their room--the Eifel Tower lamp (maybe--ok, probably), and a few other things that will look very cute in their room. I'm going to have them camp out in the boys room for a few days while I paint and they won't be allowed into their room at all. And then, the big reveal! I am  so excited!

I may or may not have been guilty of watching way too many home renovation shows.

It's going to be so much fun.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Letting Nature Teach Us

A strange thing happened the other day. God broke His finger through the heavenly clouds and reached down to touch my heart in a special way. Or at least, that's how it seemed.

I was in the middle of making supper when suddenly, without really knowing why, I felt prompted to go outside to look for a baby bird. Not even thinking about the strangeness of it all, I left everything half cooked and went out to the front yard. Then, as though an invisible hand reached down from heaven and turned my head to the left, and to my surprise, I suddenly saw a little baby bird.


My first reaction was one of surprise that there actually was a baby bird there, and then I felt dismay. I love animals but get nervous with anything that is helpless. I knew that the best I could do for this baby bird was to put it back into its nest and hope that the mother would come back for it.

After getting some help from a neighbor to help me with the ladder, we put the bird back into his nest, only for him to "fall" out again. "I think it's time," our neighbor said. "He's learning to fly. Not much we can do for it but let nature take care of it."

I didn't like this plan at all. I knew I wouldn't be able to focus on anything with a helpless baby bird hopping around our front yard. I worried our dog might get it. Or that one of the kids would accidentally step on it. Or that it would hop into the street and get run over.  But, like our neighbor said, we had to leave the bird to nature and allow it to run its course.

Still, I hovered by the window, watching for several minutes to see what would happen to the little bird who seemed content to sleep on our lawn. And to my amazement, I realized his parents had not abandoned it or forgotten their baby, but had been watching over it a short distance away, even coming often to bring it snacks.

"Perhaps this is why I felt compelled to look for a baby bird," I thought to myself. "Maybe God wanted to show me how He takes care of His own."  I still kept an eye out for the bird throughout the day though, as it alternated between sleeping and exploring its new surroundings. Only once did I have to run out to the street to save it from being ran over.

The day passed on uneventfully, and pretty soon, even the little bird was forgotten. We ended the day with going to Mass as we always do. But then I was in for my second surprise of the day.

Max, our twelve year old who altar serves, got the schedule for altar serving and was shocked to find an increase of altar servers on the list. On our way home from Mass, he worried and fretted, working himself into a frenzy of questions: "Who are all these people? Where did they come from?? Why are there so many names?? I don't think I should altar serve anymore. I don't know what to do! What do I do?! Why do all these kids have to be on this list?!" And on and on.

Lately, Max has been showing more and more fears and anxiety over social situations, to the point where it's impossible to take him anywhere. I have found that except for altar serving--his one "social event", there is no group I can get him to join, no outing I can get him to come to. I can't even bring him to the store without him nearly having meltdowns. Even going to the park is no longer an option as the different kids "popping in and out of nowhere" is disconcerting to Max. I have found myself increasingly worried about Max, about what this road of inclusiveness will lead him in his life if we can't get control of his fears. As he ranted on and on about the list of names, I found myself getting impatient and finally angry. I told Max to stop it, get ahold of himself, stop obsessing. We both went to bed upset that night.

I laid in my bed crying that night, though I didn't know why. I wasn't sure where the anger was coming from. I wasn't sure if it was directed at me, Max or just autism. All I knew was that I was angry. And suddenly, the memory of the fear and anxiety I had felt over the little bird came to mind
Max, our altar server!
when I realized there was nothing I could do to help him. And suddenly I knew where the anger was coming from.

I'm so sorry Max. There is nothing I can do for you. You are going to a place I can't get to. I used to be able to soothe you, comfort you, scare your fears away. But I can't do it anymore. I can't help you.

There was nothing I could do but commit Max to the Lord. For the rest of the night, I slept restlessly, waking up often with Max on my mind, praying and begging God to help Max in a way that I couldn't and finally would fall back in a restless sleep, only to wake up later again praying.

The next morning I woke up and prepared myself for listening to another long talk from Max about his fears over the list of faceless names.  I tried to stow as much patience as I could, prepared my heart to not become anxious as I watched my son slip further and further into the puzzling world of autism.

But as we said our morning prayers together, Max threw me for a loop yet again and then went on to stun me speechless. Instead of listing off his fears to God as he usually does (which can make for a very long prayer), he said:

 "Dear Jesus, I am a little worried about all those kids that want to serve in altar serving. Where did they all come from, Lord? It used to be just me and a few other kids. But now, all these kids are suddenly wanting to serve too. But even though I'm scared, I'm happy too, because all those kids want to serve You. And that is really good. I'm happy that they love You so much that they all wanted to serve You. Please teach them to focus on serving You and not themselves. Teach them they are up there for You, to serve You. Help them to be good examples of what altar servers should be.  Amen."

I kept my eyes closed, not daring to make a sound during this prayer. Outwardly, I looked the same, instructing the next child that it was their turn to say their prayer, but inwardly, I was saying,

"Thank you, dear Jesus. Thank you for taking care of Max, my own little bird. For going into a place where I couldn't go. Thank you for helping Max deal with his fears. For helping him understand what altar serving is really about. Thank you."

We got up from prayer time and proceeded with our day, and the list of names was never mentioned again. Somehow, during the night, God took care of Max as I watched and prayed from a distance. Not being able to help him as I wanted, but leaving him in the hands of God. And God had proved once again that He is faithful, how He watches over His own. I didn't have to worry. Max was not alone as I feared.

Later that day, Luke came running in breathlessly. "Mom!" he gasped. "I found the little bird!"

I felt my heart contract as I prepared myself for the worst. "What happened?" I asked.

"It flew away! It was sitting on our grass and when I got to it, it flew away! It learned how to fly!"

I couldn't help smile at the ending of God's lesson. Point taken, Lord. I truly had nothing to worry about.

















Thursday, June 23, 2016

Back to the Patio...

Back to the patio project...there is so much work to be done, I don't think we will be able to get it all done in one summer.


Sprayed down the walls, waiting for them to dry

But, small steps. That is the only way I know to get a project done.

I sprayed down the walls yesterday to prepare them for painting.


I actually didn't really have it in my plans to paint the walls. For me, I thought that the rustic cement walls sort of added to the "patio look." But people kept asking if we ever planned on painting the walls and I began to look at it through different eyes...



I began to see the knicks and marks and scars of the walls from years of neglect.



And I began to finally understand that no matter what sort of decoration I put in the patio, would never really "perk it up" with these bleak looking walls.

Good thing paint is a cheap fix!


I couldn't believe how much brighter it was just adding a fresh coat of white paint.


The walls are painted, but hold on, it's not done yet. These blank walls need some personality.



This wall is going to be our accent wall. When my brother visited us a few weeks ago, he had a great idea of buying trellis and using it as a backdrop. Wouldn't that look awesome??? I would paint or stain the trellis a dark brown color so that the white wall would show through real nice.

And then imagine a white wicker couch right in front of the trellis with some colorful throw pillows. And two potted plants on both sides.

This broken walkway is going to be completely uprooted.

I'm thinking a stone pathway would look real nice. But I have no idea what that would cost, so that's still up in the air.






This little step is overgrow with weeds. And even though you can't see it, there is a small tree stump that is growing right between the stones. The kids have learned to step around it but it's always a painful surprise to people who aren't expecting it. And a tripping hazard.

So I asked Dennis to remove it.


And he did!


It took some doing though, and we had the kids help as much as they could. The bricks were encased in cement.


Finally out! Look at all those weeds! I would pull them every so often but it was useless, because they were growing through cement.


Dennis even got the tree out! Now when we remake the step, it won't be there.

So there you have it. A lot of work done and yet, so far to go.