Sunday, August 13, 2017

Learning perseverance, a personal lesson from a famous gymnast

Today we had the opportunity to meet the famous Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas. Oh, that was fun!

I try hard to steer my kids away from pop stars and famous people in general. I don't allow the kids to have posters of them in their room--not because I think they are bad or anything, but mainly, because it's so easy to idolize them for their looks, fame and money. And pretty soon, our lives seem to pale in comparison. It's easy to get off-track about what our life really is--and life is hard enough without getting caught up in superficial things.

But when it comes to Olympic Athletes, that's another story. These athletes have set a goal and worked hard all their life to get it. Their lives tell a story about working hard to get what you want. And my kids need these inspirations.

Now true, we can get this from the saints as well, and I do use the Saints as examples. But having a real life example who happens to be in your neck of the woods is too hard to pass up!

Meeting Gabby Douglas gave me a chance to tell the kids the little bit that I have heard about her. That she was an energetic child and was put in gymnastics to help burn off a little bit of her energy, only to discover that she had amazing talent. That she had a dream to get to the Olympics one day and had to work really hard to achieve that dream.

One thing I've noticed about my kids--they are all afraid of failure! I guess this is normal human fear, and I also have been afraid of failure. But the anxiety that I see from them over the possibility of failing is worrisome. Sometimes when they do fail at something, I'm actually glad. Because now that gives us the opportunity to work on learning to try again!

Gabby Douglas signing Anna's gymnastics uniform

I suppose that sounds weird to hear that I want my kids to fail once in a while. It's weird to write it too. But I think there's nothing worse than not trying because you're afraid of failing. And nothing more inspiring and rewarding to achieve something that you worked hard on. Not because you're good at it, but because you kept trying! That's inspiring to me.

(Worth watching! A cool video on Gabby Douglas "failures")

So yes, I use whoever and whatever I can to inspire my kids to keep trying. I don't mind them putting a poster up of someone who worked hard for something. Saints and athletes, that's what graces my walls.

Anna is in gymnastics and Lucy's in ice skating. Both are pretty good at what they do, but they're finding out the higher you go, the harder it becomes! The skills get harder, the hours get longer, the coaches get tougher. They expect more out of you and push you to do your best. That's good for the kids and they feel so good about themselves when they finally master something that was really hard for them to do.

Last week, Anna's coach couldn't pass her because Anna didn't master her Bridge Kick-overs. But, she gave Anna another chance: if she practiced all week and got that mastered, then she could move on to the next level.

Anna practiced for maybe a day. That skill did not get mastered.

And then, she met Gabby Douglas today! She had no idea who she was until I told her, and she was inspired enough to try harder with her Bridge Kick-overs. And she did it!

You see, this is all I want the kids to learn! To just keep trying. I don't care if they succeed the first time or maybe not at all. I just want them to try.

I've never been good at school. I remember in high school vividly studying tests and still getting D's. It was really hard on my self-esteem and I wondered why I was so stupid.

Now in my adult years, I can see that those tough times taught me about endurance and trying again and again. There were times that I didn't succeed but I couldn't fault myself for not at least trying. And I knew that if I ever had kids, that besides our Faith, that would be the one thing I would want them to learn: to not get tripped up on their ego and be afraid to try again.

Lucy's prayer tonight warmed my heart: "I want to be like Gabby Douglas and work hard on what I want. Except I don't want to be a gymnast, I want to be an ice skater."

Whatever she wants! Just so long as she tries her best. Then Mama's happy.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Max's Room--finally

Max's room is not actually finished, but I finally got the painting done. AND we got a door!

It doesn't have a doorknob, but it's a door!
Max's old door. Or what was left of it.

Here is Max's room from a few months ago:

Remember the weird stripe thing I had on the wall? Well, that is why it took me forever to paint his room. His walls are textured and so it made painting that stripe (I put two of them on) extremely hard. Even after all that work, it still managed to leak down the wall and didn't turn out really well.

But if you stand back and squint your eyes, it looks alright!
(I have never been a perfectionist.)

I know, I know. You're looking at these white walls and two stripes and thinking that it shouldn't have take two months to paint. But it did! (Plus, I ran out of white paint.) 

I had to wait for the stripes to dry in between coats. And then I had to paint over them again, and then let them dry. And then take off the tape and retape and do the next stripe and start the process all over again. And then there were just days where I just couldn't get to it...

He loves the history of Presidents too. I found this poster at Hobby Lobby.

Max had wanted green and purple for his colors. I couldn't do green and purple, it was just too dark. Plus, he chose a really dark green (but pretty!) So we made a compromise to have white balance it out and do purple accents (coming soon!)

He wants a "flag room." He's really been into World History lately and has taken an interest in all the flags of different countries. So I ordered some flags off of Amazon and we're going to hang them as a border around the room.

So his room is far from finished but I feel like it's finally starting to shape up a little. He was so excited about his door!

Some furnishing to help him be more organized comes next, and of course a bed frame and carpet. You see, it is far from over.

But, it's a good start.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Why Does God let Bad Things Happen? An honest question from my kids--and me

My kids asked me a tough question yesterday: why does God let bad things happen?

The tornado incident left the kids feeling very vulnerable and their perfect little world a little less secure. Though the tornado was far enough away from us to keep us from any real danger, they still witnessed a "monster" forming from the clouds reaching down to the ground.

I told them all the right things, that we live in a broken and imperfect world filled with the effects and consequences of sin. I told them that God loves us and intervenes often. But they pointed out that some people die anyway--some of them very good people. I didn't know how to explain that one.

The truth is, I had the same thoughts. Ever since I watched the tornado pick up Dorothy's house in The Wizard of Oz, I've been scared of tornadoes. To this day, I still have bad dreams of tornadoes chasing me. And right before my eyes, invading my safe little habitat and home, was a tornado rippling down to the ground like a string of confetti.

True, it was in the next city, but still close enough to see that it was coming to our town next. And also true, it was a weak one and didn't touch down for more than maybe five seconds--but another was forming in the sky. It didn't matter how weak or strong or far away it was. The fact was, the  tornado was there, stealing away the security and safety of our world, and God had not intervened.

Or had He?

It brought me back to the day I had my heart attack. Sitting on those steps, knowing I was dying and wondering why God had allowed this to happen to me. I had called out to him in my heart in broken snippets of prayers, but every word sincere. Would He intervene? Why was He allowing this to happen??

I'm always brought back to the same answer: for reasons that only He knows, He allowed me to experience death and then brought me back to life.

He allowed the little girl who was only sleeping, to wake up. (Matthew 9:24)

He allowed Lazarus to be dead for four days, only to be brought back to life again. (John 5-11)

He allowed a terrible storm to practically sink the fishing boat as He slept, only to rebuke it.  (Mark 4:35)

He allowed these terrible things to happen but always intervened.

True, good people sometimes die. Good people die from cancer and sicknesses, poor children starve, innocent people are wiped out in acts of terrorism. It's not fair and not right. But God still intervenes though we don't always see how.

I was woken up last night by Luke--who had previously claimed he wasn't afraid of the tornado--because he had a bad dream. I helped him back to bed but then I couldn't sleep. Over and over, I saw tornadoes forming from the sky and dropping down on top of us. Some tornadoes more than a mile wide and impossible to run from. I too, wrestled with the question: "Lord, why do You allow these things to happen? How can I trust You, when You allow good people to die?"

It was an honest question and I would even say a fair one, coming from someone who struggles with trust. Why should only the children ask it?

I woke up with a new thought. I can protect my children as much as I'm able, and I will do whatever I can to keep them safe--even run away from a tornado (again, with the understanding I wouldn't even try if it was close by!) But I can't guarantee them their safety. I can't guarantee there would be no suffering. In fact, I can guarantee that there will be suffering and only try to prepare them for it by forming a trusting relationship with God.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

"Why do you call Me good? No one is good--except God alone." (Mark 10:18)

No one is exempt from suffering. We all will one day suffer and die. That is our consequence of sin.

But God hasn't left us in this world to suffer alone. He sometimes intervenes and sometimes allows things to happen. But He never abandons us. And every "bad thing" that happens brings about good. That is God's will. The devil doesn't win, though sometimes it seems that he does.

The tornado was another reminder that this world is not our heaven. It isn't perfect and trustworthy. Our only defense is God.

My answer to my kids question? Become a great friend of God's and be faithful. He protects His own. He won't always prevent bad things from happening, but He will be there with us as we go through it.

The worst suffering ever is to have no God. And that is one suffering that hopefully, my kids will never know.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Not an ordinary Sunday!

I just got off of Facebook with a good chuckle.  A Facebook friend of mine posted a pretty picture of some daisies in her garden and wrote, "Oh, ordinary Sunday, show me your beauty!" It's funny how things change from one neck of the woods to the other. While her neck of the woods showed her flowers, rainbows and sunshine, mine showed this:

Max had been wanting to take the dogs to a park so I decided that this would be a good day before it rained. We had just all piled into the car and stopped at the library to drop some books off when I noticed there was a funny looking cloud in the sky. Not a tornado, but a strange lump that was hanging from the bottom of a cloud. I didn't think much of it and we proceeded to go to the park.

Not even five seconds later, I happened to look in the review mirror and I couldn't believe my eyes--there was a tornado streaking down in rapid speed towards the ground! It was like something that I have seen so many times on National Geographic and weather channels, and yet, here it was, right in front of me (well, technically, in back of us.) I began to say, "Oh God, oh God, oh God!"

Now I never say God's Name so the kids knew something was up. Odd that they didn't call me on saying His Name (Max especially), instead they all began to ask what was wrong. I choked out, "There's a tornado right behind us."

I am terrified of tornados. I have the same two bad dreams over and over--one of me being in a bad car accident and the other trying to outrun a tornado. And here I was, living one of my worst nightmares.

The kids looked behind us and began to cry. I feel bad about that--I am not calm in these situations, though I try with all my might to be calm. I encouraged them to pray and we all began to pray little snippets of the Our Father and Hail Mary's, asking for God's intervention. In the meantime, you can bet I turned the car in the opposite direction of the tornado and headed out of there!

From another source

I kept looking in the review mirror as we drove down the highway in the opposite direction, expecting the tornado to come bearing down on us any second. Even though I could still clearly see it, I was relieved to see that it was getting smaller in the distance. Just when I began to breath a sigh of relief, I saw another form and head to the ground! TWO tornados!
No lie, this is just like my nightmare, except that I'm at home. Everything will be calm and sunny and then I happen to look out the window and there are tornadoes everywhere, streaking down from the sky.
I shouldn't have said anything but I couldn't help it. "Now there are TWO tornados!" I said out loud, and the kids looked and began to cry harder. "Drive faster!" Max said, sounding scared, who normally loves storms and tornadoes.
"What happened to wishing you could see a tornado?" taunted Luke. Even then, I couldn't believe how Luke chose his moments for teasing.
I drove as fast as I dared. Apparently, the people ahead of us had absolutely no fear of tornadoes or didn't know that there were two on our tail. But as I drove and kept checking my mirror, I could see that the second tornado, which was pretty wimpy, had already disintegrated and that the first one looked like it was heading back up to the clouds. I kept driving anyway, I didn't want to be in a storm where tornadoes were forming. I had no desire to be in that situation again.
I called Dennis as I drove, who of course, had a hard time believing the story. The sirens had never gone off, which I thought was weird (and I still do) and so he thought that perhaps it was just a dust funnel or something. You know what they call dust funnels?? Tornadoes!!
Ok, anyway, he was convinced that I had seen something that looked to be like tornadoes but could see nothing on the weather radar. I looked too (I pulled over, don't worry), and saw absolutely nothing about severe weather or tornado warnings. I began to feel really stupid, wondering if what I had saw were tornadoes?
Thankfully, my pride was saved when Dennis forwarded me the pictures (seen on the blog) from other viewers both from Glencoe and Norwood. Thank goodness I wasn't the only one! Later, it was confirmed by KARE 11:

I looked up "landspout" and it's still identified as a type of tornado, but very weak:

A landspout, on the other hand, does not have all the same ingredients that a supercell tornado does. A landspout begins by horizontal tubes of air that get tilted upright by an updraft of a thunderstorm. Usually there are no wall clouds that are associated with landspouts. The look of the funnel is usually narrow and hard to identify until it starts picking up debris.
Landspouts typically are short lived and weak. However, some landspouts have been given the rating of EF-2.

By the way, this was definitely an EF-2

So that was our adventure for the day. Good grief, I don't know how God thinks I can handle all this excitement.

We are home now and the sun is shining. So now I can laugh and also agree with my Facebook friend, that yes, this Sunday is a beautiful one--but in no way ordinary!

Post Script:

I should add before I am scolded for outrunning a tornado (I already have been), that I could tell that the tornado was in the next town. Even though it was close enough to see that it was coming towards us, I also knew that it was probably about 10 miles away or so, and I had a good distance from it. Normally I would never put the kids in danger by trying to outrun a tornado if it truly was close by!

Also, I can't help but question that this truly was a landspout. I'm not meteorologist, but I saw the tornado forming when it was just a strange lump in the sky, and then forming from a downward spiral. It's said that landspouts usually start from the ground and go upward, while this started from the clouds and went downward.

I guess we will never know...(but I will always call it a tornado!)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

She did it!

After listening for about a month to Lucy go back and forth on whether or not she should get her ears pierced, I'm happy to say, she finally did it! Whew! These little milestones of growing up, fitting in, are so exhausting! I believe that I was more nervous than she was!

I had a hard time with this one. It seems like the kids are just growing up so fast. These past few years especially. Max has hit puberty and suddenly he's not longer a little kid but a TEENAGER. His voice has changed, and no, it's not British, like he was hoping.

Lucy is suddenly talking about ipods and shopping, browsing the clothes section instead of the toys. It hurts, it really does. Puts a pang in your chest.

I'm comforted by the fact that despite her growing so quickly, Lucy still wanted me to hold her hand during her piercing. (That sounds terrible.)

Well, it was either hold my hand or hold onto her stuffed pillow dog. When Luke said, "You're bringing that to the store??" I shot him a look full of daggers. Her grandpa already finished off her doll phase after saying she was getting to be too old for dolls; and I didn't want Luke embarrassing her about bringing her stuffed animal and finishing off that phase of her life too.

She chose to hold onto her stuffed dog plus my hands. I was so proud of her for going through with it. Not because I want her to wear earrings, but because it was something she really wanted to do. And she pushed herself to overcome a fear without any pushing from me.

It's funny how you can happy and sad that your kid is growing up at the same time.

Here she is before getting her ears pierced. Look how nervous she looks!

And now after.

So proud and happy and sad all at the same time.

My kids are growing up too fast. Please God, distract me with some dog training!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

How to make $$$, and the dog business, and the Garage Renovation

If you are thinking I'm going to tell you how to make money, you are mistaken. I'm just wondering if YOU can tell me-- how do you make $$$??? Because I really need it.

I was counting on a rosary order (yes, I'm still doing those), and the lady who is as flitty as a butterfly has once again flitted in with an order request and flitted out without paying. She checks in with me on her order about once every two months. That's right. Once every two months. This is one of the big reasons why I got away from rosary orders. People like this--non-serious buyers--exhaust a person's patience, and it's difficult to budget anything with customers like that.

(And no, I haven't bothered with making her order.)

I sent her an invoice but of course, I haven't heard from her and not sure that I will. My student loan payment is pretty much past due and I have no way to pay it. My rosary order was supposed to take care of that. So I'm at a loss of what to do.

As for dog training....I'm trying to figure out a plan. Trying to figure out where and how to start. Do I just jump in and hope for the best, or do I try to get some experience first? In the meantime, I'm still without money, so jumping in is very tempting. (Although, I almost always regret it when I jump into anything.)

What I've done so far "business-wise":

Created a business logo and brand. Do you like it?? Come to think of it, I think I've already shown this.

Created business cards. All ready to go! Just don't have customers to give them to yet.

Working on a website.

Ordered a t-shirt with business name. I know I didn't really have to do this but I feel more comfortable wearing a business logo t-shirt rather than try to dress nice all the time. Besides, I think it looks more professional.

And that's about it!

What I still have to do before I'm ready to go:

Launch my website.

Make flyers.  This seems so useless to me, such a waste of money. Mainly because I don't really pay attention flyers, I guess. But everywhere I go, flyers are the way to go for local businesses, I'm told. So I guess I will make them.

Buy the dog trainers business kit. I'm really excited about this. This will have all contracts, legal stuff and handouts ready to go. You can change the wording according to what you need and add your own logo and stuff. I would never know how to do it otherwise!

Become an APDT member. Again, I'm told that this is a "must" in order to be successful in dog training (or at least, it's very helpful. I guess nothing can guarantee you success!) This is for networking with other trainers, job finding, continued education and webinars.

And that's about it. There's still stuff to do but it doesn't have to be done right away.

And THEN, there is the marketing stuff. This is what I hate but the more I learn about marketing, the more I see that if I want this to work, I HAVE to market myself.

Do Meet-ups. This terrifies me, I'm not at all outgoing. I don't like chit-chatting with people, especially strangers. And yes, I do love dogs but I love training even more. I can't find any meet-ups with dog trainers though, only dog lovers! But this is where you can find clients and give business cards.

Create a Facebook Business Page.  Again, not looking forward to this. I'm terrible with Facebook networking.

Hang out at Dog Parks. Now this is my own suggestion for myself. I know it's sort of like a meet-up but it doesn't feel as staged to me. And it's pretty much the same thing.

Donating dog training services at dog rescues. This one is something I'm currently working on. This is mainly for practice. So far, no takers. But I will keep working. Someone's gotta want a trainer! (Especially for free!)

Find a dog training partner.  The more I think about it, the more I would love to have a partner in this. Trouble is, I don't know anybody and I live in the boonies. But this is where being a member of APDT comes in handy; you can find people to work with and trainers to collaborate this. But have I mentioned it comes with a $100 price tag? I'm told it's worth it, but that is why it's still on the "to do" list.

For now, that's it. There are more suggestions, more things I can do, but these are the only ones I can do right now. If I try to do too many things, I will have half-finished projects that I never finish, just like the half-finished projects with the house.

Speaking of half-finished projects, Max's room is still in the works. There hasn't been enough progress to show pictures, but I think soon I will have enough done that I can do an update.

But there's the garage.

Recently, Dennis spray painted the garage, and I have to say, it looks real good! I wish I had taken some more pictures of it.

Today he did the floor. Or I should say, he is planning to redo it. It definitely needs it. Every time it rains, the bunker floods because of the huge cracks in the garage floor.

So Dennis rented a sander and sanded the floor for about an hour. He plans to recoat it with some sort of sealer or something...or re-cement it again or something...or something.(I wasn't really listening, my bad...)

So I have no job and the job I do have, I'm not making any money, but at least we will have a nice new garage floor.

Priorities, people.

Next post, I hope to tell you about my full calendar of client appointments and Max's newly painted room.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

My bad luck saint: Joseph Cupertino

When life just seems to give me lemons, I do not make lemonade. I pray to St.Jospeh Cupertino.

Nobody had it harder than him, not even the martyrs. This poor boy was unwanted, unloved, and even those who had a good and generous heart found it hard to love him. He was dull, witless, strange and odd, "stupid" (their words), couldn't seem to learn anything. He had no ambition within him to do anything with his life and compared himself to a mule. Later in life, he even nicknamed himself Brother Ass. On top of all of this, he was sickly with the most annoying and disgusting illnesses. Not enough to kill him but enough for him to be a burden to others. Colds and even ulcers that would ooze and make a mess of him.

He flunked out of school even though he tried his best. He was made to be a shoemaker but couldn't make shoes. He was absent minded and would often stare off into space, trying to remember what he was supposed to do. His parents couldn't stand him and just wanted him to go away, because he was a disgrace to the family. He tried to enter a monastery to become a brother but was rejected by all of them. One finally took him in, but after a while, when they saw that he couldn't seem to do anything right, they kicked him out and stripped him of his garments. On top of this, he couldn't seem to find all of his lay clothes that he had come in, and so he was forced to leave only half-dressed. Dogs came after him and attacked him, ripping his clothes to shreds even more. He wandered the streets but because of his appearance and his strangeness, he was either beat up or ignored. He went to his Uncle who sent him to his mother, and he went to his mother, who was so angry that he was back in her care that she forced the Franciscans to take him back.

And so he was made to be a keeper of a mule, thus came the name Brother Ass. But soon despite his clumsiness, his strangeness and dullness, he found humor in everything, because he learned that everything bad that happened actually had something humorous about it. He took care of the animals, was happy to sleep on his bed that was a plank of wood, and took in the poorest of the poor that approached him. Soon, the brothers were seeking him out, attracted by his grace and love for others.

They decided to give him another try. And again, he failed at everything. And yet, somehow, by the grace of God, he was ordained a priest.

Soon, his "absent-mindedness" became a deep mental prayer where he lost all sight of everything but God. In these "fits" as he called them, the brothers would poke him with pins or burn his hands. When he would come to, he would awaken to find his hands either bloody or burned, although he never suffered pain. He would laugh about this too and say, "You see what my brothers have to do to awaken me from my fits! They have to cut my hand or burn them!"

And then, the most famous story of all, is when Joseph began to levitate. He levitated so often that it wasn't unusual to find him sitting in trees, or to suddenly levitate during a meal. At one point, when a cross was being erected onto a church, Joseph took the cross and flew into the sky and put it on himself.

He had the gift of healing and could cure the blind and make the lame walk. He had the gift of bi-location as well and was seen in many places at once. He had the gift of communing with the animals; he said the litany of Mary with the sheep with them "baaing" in response. In thanksgiving to the nus that lived nearby who he went begging to, he told them he would send a little sparrow to sing their morning and evening prayers with them. This little bird came every morning and evening for many months, as long as Joseph lived in the same area.

And then for some strange reason, Joseph was excommunicated though no one knows why--not even Joseph. He was held prisoner for ten years and during this time, Joseph simply spent it loving God. However, there wasn't much that could be done with his gift of bi-location--though he was held prisoner, he was still seen around the neighborhood.

Eventually Joseph died (after being released for the last six years of his life to the Franciscans), and his only request was that his body be buried in a location where no one would think to find it and to simply be forgotten. Because this was how St.Joseph knew how to live his life, even at the very end.

I failed my test the other day and was so tempted to give in to self-pity. It seems that I fail at a lot of things and sometimes I wonder if God is just "setting me up." But then I think of St.Joseph of Cupertino and  by perspective, no one had it worse than him. I simply can't complain.

More than that, I remember that God lifts up the lowly and this is what He did with Joseph. I guess we all need a saint who had it worse than us, that was "dumber" than us, that was a failure more than anyone I have known--including myself--to the point that even the religious couldn't stand being around him.

Rather sad, but true.

Thank you, St.Joseph of Cupertino, for willing to be that saint, for allowing God to keep lowly in the eyes of the world. For showing us what He will do if we are faithful, if we are patient, and allow Him to mold us in His hands. May we all have the deep humility that you have had, to be disgraced and humbled, at least once in a while.

And finally,  to be lifted up high in His hands, letting the world see what God can make out of us, despite our biggest disappointments and failures. That it's not about us at all--only Him!

St.Joseph of Cupertino, pray for us!!