Sunday, December 10, 2017

Christmas gift ideas for the impossible people to shop for

Cozy blankets, slippers, or pajamas

During the year, I do not do much shopping for pajamas since the kids need clothes more, so I buy them for their Christmas Eve presents. The kids love pajamas! Henry in particular, has always loved anything cozy. He has even asked for a cozy rug for his birthday to keep by his bed so his feet hit something soft when he gets out of bed! So for Henry, I am buying him his own cozy blanket. He also asked for a bean bag, which I am considering (they are usually $30 which I think is too much for a beanbag.)

Share a present

I'm doing this thing where I give a gift card to "share" with someone else. For instance, I'm giving Lucy a gift card to Caribou where she can use it to buy hot chocolate for herself and a friend.

High quality...something

This is the time of year when I might buy someone something they already have but of better quality. For instance, during the summer, we don't bother with shoes since the kids are always going barefoot anyway. When school starts, everyone needs new shoes, so they get regular $20 shoes at Target. But at Christmas, I might upgrade to the shoes they really wanted--which usually is more than $20. 

I do this with tools as well. I know nothing about tools and I think Dennis has all the tools he needs. I can't afford to buy him the real expensive stuff, so I might just upgrade one of his tools. For instance, for his birthday, I just bought him a light that also works as a magnet, bright light and hazard lights (supposed to be used for changing tires at night so you don't get hit by a car.) Who knew one little light could do so much?

And for Lucy, she loves ice skating and has been bugging me to get her "real" ice skating pants--the professional stuff. Normally she just goes in sweat pants or leggings. But this year, I bought her the pants she really has been wanting and considering the good quality, they weren't that expensive (only $45!) 

One item from the wishlist

For the kids, I usually will buy one item that has been on their wishlist forever---technology not included. I just can't afford things like cell phones and ipods--plus, they already have so much of that stuff at school.

But I will get them that one expensive Lego kit they have always been wanting. (Luke) Or a stereo with a favorite CD. (This would be Max.) 


This is for the person who says they "never want anything". This is my mom. She has been saying this for years. One time I actually took this seriously and didn't get her anything. That doesn't work so well either, because then they think you just forgot.

One thing even the "never want anything person" needs is food! Yes, I am giving in and getting my mom the Mason jar food. You know, the "make your own cookies" or "make your own brownies" mason jar. But my mom can't eat chocolate, so I might do the "make your own salad" mason jar.
She is a tough one to buy for, my mom.


Usually it is my mom that buys us tickets to the Science Museum, or her favorite--the History Museum. She has been dragging me to museums since I was a kid and now she's doing it to my kids. (But the kids love it.)

She used to love going to the Chanhassen Dinner Theater with my dad but now that he's gone, she doesn't go anymore. I have been thinking of doing the "share a present" idea for both Lucy, Anna and my mom to go to a show together. This is a little pricey, but it the show doesn't start until March, so we have a little time.  

How fun would that be?!

And so goes my Christmas shopping. I'm not done shopping yet, as I still have Anna and Henry to buy for, but little kids are easy, thank goodness. The biggest thing is to not let the stress ruin my Advent, and so far, it isn't. After all, it's Jesus's birthday, not ours! 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Why I'm still here, eight years later.

Sometimes God acts in a whisper and sometimes He acts in thunder. That day, December 1st, He acted in thunder.

For eight years now, I've woken up on December 1st, thinking to myself, "I shouldn't be alive." I shouldn't be here, making my kids breakfast, making doctor appointments, making dinners, arguing and laughing with my family, going through times of heart ache and happiness. I shouldn't be making this journey anymore; my time should have been done eight years ago on December 1st. I should have died at the age of 35; I should have a gravestone saying I died in 2009. My family should have celebrated eight Christmases and Thanksgivings without me. They should have all celebrated their birthdays without getting gifts or cake from me. I shouldn't have a place at the table, or my favorite throw on the couch that I use for naps. Dennis shouldn't still be sleeping on his side of the bed, or be asked to sleep on the couch because he snores. The kids should be getting school lunches, not home lunches, because Dennis hates making lunches. I shouldn't be here.

This is what rings though my head every year on December 1st. It is a mystery and miracle that I am alive. I do not feel sadness or any emotion other than awe on these anniversary. Awe that God acted so intentionally that day. Awe that I am still here.

When I was recovering, people would say to me, "God must have big plans for you!" And I looked for those plans. For years afterwards, I asked God, "What plans do you have for me?" Because it had to be big, for God to act so dramatically in my life. There had to be a reason why He would let me die just to bring me back in the same day. There had to be a reason. I needed a reason that I could attach this craziness to. I had to find a reason so I could say, "That is why He let me live!" And the mystery would be solved.

But nothing big happened. I continued to live my life and pretty much picked up where I left off. Still, I looked. Henry was born--and I thought maybe that was the reason. But it still didn't make sense. Why did the trauma of what I went through be necessary for me to have Henry? I would have had Henry no matter what. I had always been open to life.

The answer came quietly to me throughout the years. This is where God acted as a soft breeze, as a whisper--whispering the "big plan" to me in my ears through little snippets of my life. And yes, the plan is big--so big, that at times, I feel I can't do it. I need God to accomplish it.

To be a mom. To be a wife. To continue on with my vocation, but to embrace it. I had not fully embraced or even believed in my vocation as a wife and mother before my heart attack. I had always wanted to be something more. Even now, eight years later, I still struggle with "ordinariness" of my  vocation. I struggle with embracing it. Because though it's rewarding, it is also a difficult vocation. To do the same thing every day, to be with the same people I love, every day. To be sacrificing, every day. It is hard. It is full of suffering--though with happiness and joy too. But the constant call to love, is hard.

The other day, Anna--my little heart attack baby, I call her--gave something up of her own free will to ease someone else's hurt. I was there when I saw her make this sacrifice and when we were alone, I asked her, "Did it hurt to do that?" She nodded yes. I told her, "Then you have loved."

And this is my calling, God's "big plans", to love.  In His mercy, He spared me and gave me a little more time to try to get this thing called love done right. I have not loved freely, I have not yet loved until it hurt. I have not always chosen love. There are times--too many times--that I still choose me. I choose comfort, "me time", alone time. Loving can be very hard--those times to love when there is no reward is when love is truly love with no self-love in it. That is love. I haven't yet accomplished this love in my heart, so I'm very thankful for the extra time God has given me. It is humbling to be here, knowing that I'm not "ready".

I'm here to finish what I started. To live this life that God gave me to the very fullest and the very best that I can. Because when that time comes for me to die--again-- I too, will be asked, "Did it hurt?" And I hope that I can honestly say that the answer is yes.

Because then, I will know that I loved. And that I finally did what God set me out to do.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


Lots of disappointments have happened lately. Many small things but hard, nonetheless. I feel like God may be trying to tell me something.

I ran into a slump of depression for a few days last week. I just thought I would be doing better with my dog training.  I have spent a lot of money on advertising (FB ads, Adsense ads, posters) and gotten zero results from it. I've also spent a lot of time learning about SEO (which is hard and a pain in the butt) with zilch reward. No bites, no nibbles, nothing. It's hard not to get down about things like that.

But, perspective. This week is a little different. Whereas last week I felt like I didn't even have the strength to lift my head much less keep a smile on my face, this week I can see things differently. I feel hope. I'm not sure where it came from, if I just came out of my slump or what, but I feel like things will eventually get better. Eventually I will get a client. I don't know how or where they will come from, and I'm not sure what else I can do other than what I am already doing, but if God wants this, He will have to bring the people. And the dogs.

Then I lost the diamond to my wedding ring. Oh, this was hard. I am extremely attached to my wedding ring. I do not get sentimental about things but with my wedding ring, I do. It is special to me. The first piece of "real" jewelry I've ever gotten, the first jewelry present from a boy. My engagement ring, my wedding ring, sauntered together as one. My engagement ring reminds me of happy times, easier times and younger times. I've lost it twice before and miraculously found it, but I've never lost my diamond before.

I was trying to get Ace to get downstairs and was pushing him because Henry the dog was still with us and Ace and Henry do not get along. I didn't realize that Ace was upstairs at the time so I quickly opened the basement door and shoved Ace downstairs. He resisted and my hand scraped against the doorframe as I shut the door. My ring took the brunt of it all and when I looked down, my diamond was gone.

We suspected it bounced down the stairs and landed somewhere in the basement. We swept the floor and looked through the dust pile, moved the dryer, sorted through the laundry, looked in every nook and cranny. But it's gone. Maybe one day it will show up but wherever it is, it's not visible to the human eye. I think that it may have fallen into one of the deep cracks alongside the wall of the house.

At first I was really upset. We spent three hours looking for the diamond. And of course, we prayed to St.Anthony, St.Joseph and Our Lady of Good Success. I called on my Dad, my grandpa, all the souls in purgatory.

But after a while, I began to think, why should I get my ring back? Why should I always have to get what I want? Shouldn't God ever be able to say no to something I want in my life? This came to me as Luke and I were looking for the diamond. I didn't want Luke to feel disappointed that our prayers weren't answered in the way we wanted, so I told him, "It might be that God wants something more from us in this." And I guess that's when it hit me. God was saying no to me at this time. For some reason, He wanted me to learn something more than getting what I wanted.

I didn't like it but I felt peace with this answer. I'm confident that this came from all the saints and souls that I called on for help. I know how silly it is to be so worried about a diamond when there are bigger things going on out there. But these saints once cried over silly things too. It's part of growing in holiness, learning how to accept God's "no".

That doesn't mean that I haven't stopped looking for my diamond or that I have stopped praying that I will find it. In fact, I have a novena to Our Lady of Good Success ('cause I'm gonna need it to find that diamond!) But I'm not frantic over my diamond. After all, I still have the ring and I'm glad I do have it. Diamonds can be replaced (although, I have no idea how we will save up for one seeing that it was $930.)

Two big disappoints this past few days! I know in comparison to many, these are small things. Maybe that's why God doesn't give me big crosses. But for now, it seems to be all that I can handle.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The St.Joseph Post

I've been meaning to do a post on St.Joseph for a while but never know what to say. He has helped me so much in the past and I've promised him that I would do something to spread devotion to him. So, a post is what I can do. This may be random though, as I don't have anything specific to talk about.

I think about him a lot. On bad days, especially. When I struggle with temptations stemmed from weariness of body and soul which affects my patience, which also affects those around me. I am tired of trying to be patient. It's exhausting.

When I feel "not worthy"; whatever that means. Not special, not intentional, not noticed. All those things that we tend to crave as human beings, wanting to leave a mark in this world and yet, realizing we are so insignificant. Do others see how hard we are working? Do others notice the progress we've made? I struggle with these temptations as well, knowing that they don't and more than that, my temptation of wanting to be noticed stems from pride. Did St.Joseph struggle with these temptations too, as he lived with the two most perfect people in the world? What was it like for him? These are usually my thoughts of St.Joseph.

I think of him especially now, when Advent is right around the corner. In a world that no longer wants to "wait" for Christmas, St.Jospeh was forced to do so. To act without having much of a plan, except to somehow get Mary to a place to have her baby. And then in the end, not even being able to give her that. I think about this when my own plans don't work out. I had a good plan, it seemed reasonable, but for some reason, God didn't want it. Then He comes up with something "better" that doesn't seem better at all, and I'm left in confusion. I think about St.Jospeh in things like that. Did he feel frustration like I do?

Humility, constant humility is the only conclusion I come to when I think of St.Jospeh. Always being wrong or outdone in holiness. It must have been bitter-sweet, living with Jesus and Mary. A joy, but maybe a suffering too. Always knowing that he would be the one that was the sinner.

And yet, this man, who is barely mentioned at all in the Bible, is the strongest saint in heaven. He is the saint that literally befriends us on earth. This is how my love for St.Joseph started. It didn't start with a fascination for him, since he didn't seem to have much of a story, and I prefer to read about saints with some "meat" on them. I didn't give much thought to him at all. But during tough times, my mom would often say "pray to St.Jospeh."

My devotion came about slowly. I would pray to him for help in certain situations and be very surprised by how quickly he acted. Like having my own personal helper in heaven. I had never had a saint reach out to me the St.Joseph did.

At first I prayed to him in trivial matters: a lawn mower that wouldn't start. The car door that wouldn't close. A lost item I couldn't find. Even a time when my debit card wouldn't go through because there was a glitch in the system. He answered immediately to every request.

Soon my petitions went a little deeper. Putting a baby to sleep who refused to go to sleep. Asking for help in a parenting need. Asking for help in a lonely time. Asking for help in a time when I wanted to give up.

I began to wonder, why did he want to be my friend? This is what it seemed to me; that St.Jospeh wanted to be my friend. It seemed a little presumptuous to think that way and I didn't mention this to anyone until now. But this is exactly how it felt--St.Jospeh wanted to be friends with a simple housewife, stay at home mom and dog trainer that couldn't find work .

He wants to be friends with the "common man" because he was and is "the common man." St.Jospeh understands what it's like to be us. He is one of us. He had to live the most agonizing life of all---to never be "good enough". To want to please and possibly even impress Jesus and Mary and always falling short.

He was described as a good and humble man, but if St.Jospeh had to live as we all do, then his holiness didn't come easily. I believe that he relented more than he fought but he must have had his battles, his inner temptations. He too, had to "fight the good fight."

And so, that is how I became friends with St.Jospeh and my friendship with him grows every day. I don't always pray to him but I do seek his help often. He is probably the one saint that I feel completely understands me, feels my pain, understands my discouragement, and prods me out of self-pity--not matter how justified I may feel. I can be "naked" in front him, not giving him pretty and holy words, but lay everything out without feeling shame of my lack of faith. He understands. But he does push me to go on.

He is my friend from heaven and he can be yours too. Pray to him with mechanical problems, financial issues, parenting problems, and spiritual dryness. You may just be surprised as I was, how quickly and swiftly he comes down from heaven to help the common man.

Friday, November 24, 2017


We hosted Thanksgiving this year. I can see why people want to take turns doing this. It's fun to do things "your own way" but it's also a lot of pressure. My biggest worry was the turkey. It was ok. Not what I thought it would be ($20 in ingredients and it still tasted like just turkey) but it did the job in feeding everyone.

I was happiest with my centerpiece. I give credit to the crafty moms on Pintrest. Everyone needs to have a crafty friend when it comes to things like this.

I found some leaves 80% off at Hobby Lobby last week and used those for garland and stuffed them in an old vase. And then I cut some leaves off and glued them onto mason jars with candles inside. I liked them so much that I'm saving them for next years Thanksgiving.

Lucy made the Pilgrim hats. Again, credit to the crafty mom on Pintrest.

That punch? Doesn't look so good but it WAS so good. Again, you know who the credit goes to. I am writing down the recipe in case I forget.

2 gallon Apple Cider
1 bottle of caramel syrup
1 Tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice

I had to fill up the punch bowl twice, so I'm glad that everyone liked it. Or maybe everyone was just thirsty. It was pretty dry.

That is only about half of my nieces and nephews on our trampoline. Look at that thing sag. I was worried they would bounce right through. I'm glad everyone had fun though.

And then we had a puppy play date with Henry the dog that is with us for the week and our neighbor's dog Ruby. For those who love dogs, this was fun. (For those that didn't love dogs, they stayed upstairs, ha!)

Not everything went perfectly. I accidentally melted a whole thing of butter when I was trying to defrost it, so we had to use it as dip. No one seemed to mind. And the turkey was a major disappointment to me. But oh well.

I was happy it was over, no offense to anyone. It was just really exhausting. It left me thinking, who am I trying to impress? And why?? Really, who cares? All people want is to be able to eat and spend time with one another. Even though I knew it was silly, I couldn't help feeling the doldrums yesterday. I felt down, and I didn't know why.

Then Max said a very simple but heartfelt prayer that helped. I listened very carefully, maybe because it was something I needed to hear. Anyway, I think I can copy it down nearly word for word:

"Jesus, Thanksgiving was GREAT! The food was so good and I ate until I was stuffed. I loved seeing everyone and I'm glad they came. Jesus, I hope they know I really enjoyed it that they came to spend Thanksgiving with us. I hope we can do this every year at our house. Jesus, please let everyone know I'm really grateful they came."

Well, that is the point of Thanksgiving, right? Not about impressing everyone but being together. I know this and we all know it, but somehow we all get caught up in the frivolous things. So it was good. Our Thanksgiving was good. We had a lot of fun together.

But, sorry Max, I don't think we will be hosting this every year, lol.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The possibility of becoming a Saint

A request from my brother Jerry,  to write more articles for Peanut Butter and Grace to bring up more sales for my Little Flower book. And so I write this following article as a rough draft for the website: 

Photo credit: Franciscan media

Is it possible to become a Saint? I asked my kids this question this morning.

 The thought of the possibility to become a Saint is staggering to me--about as possible as becoming Wonder Woman or Super Girl. A list of imperfections start running through my head, along with a sense of shame. Shame that I would consider that I could ever be that good and holy.  And yet, I believe it. Yes, I believe it is very possible for me to become a Saint. Not because I have the "credentials" but because I know God loves me.

And here is how it all started with the kids this morning.

I asked them to rate themselves from 0-10 about whether they thought it was possible to become a Saint. (Note: not the same as asking them if they think they could become a Saint, which leads them to judge themselves as worthy of that title--but about the possibility.)

Five year old Henry rated himself a 10.  Yay, Henry!

Max (13) rated himself a 5. Not bad.

Lucy (11) rated herself a 6. Even better.

Luke (10) rated himself a 3. Not great, but I'm glad he was honest.

And Anna (8) rated herself a 5.

I told the kids what I rated myself: 10. Their eyes nearly popped out of their heads.
A ten?? Wasn't that a little presumptuous??  Did I really consider myself that worthy to become a Saint?

Not worthy.  If I judged myself on my worthiness of becoming a Saint, I would give myself a 0, as everyone would. No one is worthy. That is why the Saints are gifts to us--they were not worthy either, but because of their great love of God, He made it possible. Is it possible to become a Saint? Yes, very much so. Because all things are possible with God. Does God desire us to become Saints?? Yes, of course He does! And so, it must be possible.

If we could just get off the bandwagon about worthiness, more people would try for sainthood. It is because I am unworthy that He loves me so. I am like that fish (what's it called?) that people buy to keep the fish tank clean. I'm not even part of the school of fish, haven't even made it there. Just there to keep the fish tank clean. Yet, He loves me anyway.

I watched the kids as they took all this in. They seemed to be contemplating not the odds, but the possibility, that they could become saints. Yes, they all seemed to agree, it could be possible they could become saints. And yet, it seems so impossible to us. We are so filled with ourselves that we forget what God can do with impossible people.

(It was also discussed that I was not talking about becoming canonized saints, as God can only make that decision, but simply souls who love God so much that they go straight to heaven.)

Now that the kids realized that their possibility of becoming a Saint was a 10--despite their faults and short-comings, my next question was: how do we become saints??

By being faithful, was one answer. By having lots of faith, was another. By love! Someone shouted and they all agreed. By loving God, they all said, seeming confident in their answer.

Even deeper, I told them. They looked at each other in confusion. What could be deeper than loving God?

How does that love start? Where does it come from? How do we fall in love with God? It must start somewhere.

It was much like the chicken and the egg question. Which comes first? Who loves first? What inspires us to love?

The kids all got it at the same time. By God loving us! They shouted.

Isn't that wonderful? I was so glad they found the answer. Normally I don't like my kids shouting, especially in the dining room (it echos) but I was glad they shouted the answer with enthusiasm.  How simple. We become Saints by accepting that God loves us.

What does Fr.Gregory always say in his sermons? I asked them.

Jesus loves you! They shouted again.

Why does he always say that??

Because then we can become saints! They shouted again.

And realizing how much God loves us only causes us to fall in love with Him. And once we fall in love, we are willing to do anything for Him. Love our neighbor, love our enemy. Do the dishes. Clean the floors. Put away the laundry. Limit our computer time. Avoid sin. Use the sacraments often. And most of all, love Him to the best of our ability.

Is it possible to become saints? I asked them again.

Yes! They shouted (this was getting ear-numbing.)


Because God wants us to become saints, because He loves us!

And that, is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Basement

The day after the first day of school, I went downstairs and found that Dennis tore off all the paneling. I have no idea what prompted him to do this. Maybe I missed something. Apparently we're going to start a new project? At any rate, I didn't care, because I hated that paneling.

For a long time, the paneling stayed off. The kids decided to "help" Dad by taking off all the insulation and put it neatly on the floor. Why is my skin itchy? They would ask. Ace decided to use the insulation as a bed.

After Dennis put all the insulation back on, the reconstruction continued.

This is the wall that we see when we do downstairs. There's no insulation here because this wall leaks pretty badly. I haven't checked in with Dennis about why there is no yellow insulation, but my guess is that it was ruined by water. He put this Styrofoam insulation in instead.

Then he covered it up with drywall. Yay--no more paneling!

The paneling of the walls continue. It's amazing how drywall can give your basement an updated feel.

Then one day, Dennis asked me which would I prefer: a totally walled in stairwell or partial? 
In typical husband and wife communication style, I had no idea what he was talking about. We were making a stairwell??

Again, I didn't care because it's the basement and I was glad we were finally doing something about it. I preferred to be able to see the kids when calling them rather than having to run all the way down and around the corner, so I picked partial wall. 

And so the banging and sawing continued, and drywall dust was everywhere. 

Even Ace was covered in drywall dust.

And so the stairwell is now put up. Still a work in progress. 

Dennis asked me why I don't just do before and after pictures. Because that's boring! I think it's more fun to see the work in between. 

And so, the unexpected basement project continues. Thankfully, Dennis has clued me in a little more on where he's going with this. Also thankfully, I approve (although I'm not sure it would matter at this point.)

To make the "wasted space" (as Dennis calls it) more usable, he's going to build closets under the steps and also near the office. Sounds like a good way to use empty space! Anything to make the house more sellable is good with me--not that we are moving any time soon, but I always think ahead when it comes to house projects. 

And so that is the basement project. Updates and drywall dust coming soon.