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Archive for September, 2011

Memories are funny things. There are some details of the past that we remember, and other details are forgotten forever.

Twenty-two years ago today I went to a high school football game. My brother was playing on one of the teams, and my fiance was coaching that same team. It was a perfect autumn day … the sun shining brightly, the air crisp, the leaves on the trees in the early stages of turning from bright green to hues of gold and red. It is a day I remember so well, because it was the day of the biggest argument of our dating relationship … the day before our wedding.

I have no idea what we were arguing about, I can only remember the intensity of the emotions I felt. Obviously, whatever it was that had vexed us was resolved, and the following day I met him at the end of the aisle, where we traded in our individual lives for a future together.

The memories of our wedding day decrease with each passing year. If there are this many fewer memories after twenty-two years, will I even remember that I am married in twenty-two more?

But, what I do remember are the vivid broad strokes of our day.

I remember that our wedding started late, and it wasn’t because I was trying to be fashionably late … our soloist was flying into New Brunswick from Toronto, and his flight was late.

I remember that the pastor we had to marry us thought he was at a preach-a-thon … he spoke for about an hour after the processional, before actually marrying us.

I remember that my mother in law wore gray … much cheerier than the black that her mother wore at her wedding.

I remember that, as I looked at my groom awaiting me at the end of the aisle, he was gray (like his mother’s dress), and looked as though he might pass out … so much for the groom’s look of awe at the brides glowing beauty …

So, not all memories are so sweet 😉 but, alas, my memories of our wedding day were also not all so depressing.

I remember a twinge of regret as my dad ‘gave me away’ to my groom.

I remember how confident I felt as I repeated my vows, and said ‘I do.’

I remember that when my groom slipped his ring (a most simple band) on my finger I could not imagine a more wonderful, a more exquisite piece of jewelery in the world.

I remember gladly signing my name on the marriage license.

I remember driving off to our honeymoon (a trip, by car, of over 3000 miles … one way … and hubby wonders why I have little interest in road trips), reliving the details of the day, together.

The memories of that day fill my mind and my heart at times like this, when we remember and celebrate our corporate survival, and our hope of many years to come.

Happy Anniversary Hubby

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As I sat at my computer, staring, hoping that some inspiration would fall from the skies for the next blog entry … nothing fell. It was the first time, since I wrote my first blog entry (way back in March of 2011), that I didn’t have a clue what to write, and it was really beginning to get me down.

So, I decided to reread a few posts of blogging past. It was in rereading my very first blog post, just-a-regular-day, that I was inspired to write again.

My very first post was written and published on Thursday, March 10, 2011. In it I wrote about the regular, mundane details of a regular, mundane day. I wrote about awakening, working, shopping for produce, making dinner and going to bed. I spoke of how easily I can become bored with regular and mundane.

One thing I had said, from my blog post, caught my eye … “There are many ‘what ifs’ in each and every ‘regular’ day. They are the what ifs that, if they were different, if they altered, my regular day would be catastrophic, disheartening, life-changing.”

When I finished reading it, I looked at the date of it again, March 10, 2011 … the day before (really just hours before) the magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan, which was followed by the tsunami that took the lives nearly 16,000 people. For so many the ‘what ifs’ of that day altered their ‘regular’ day, profoundly.

The events of that day, which probably started so regularly for most there, altered the course of the future for tens of thousands of people. There were those who died. There were those who were injured. There were those who lost family members, friends and colleagues. There were those who lost their homes. There were those whose place of employment was lost. There were those who lost crops. There was so much loss!

Their day began as regular as any other, but it ended in catastrophe, disheartening, and it was so life-changing.

I wonder if the days, the weeks, the months following the events of that day … did/do people there ever dream of a regular day?

A day where the alarm goes off at the same time.

A day where you bid farewell to your family in the morning, fully anticipating the end of the day reunion.

A day where you go off to work.

A day where you have to shop for produce.

A day where you make dinner.

A day where you fall into bed, tired, and ready to do it all over again tomorrow.

A regular, boring, mundane …

… real, beautiful, satisfying, worth-living for … LIFE.

I am so not going to allow not knowing what to write about get me down again … maybe I’ll just write about my regular day.

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It is a rare thing for an athlete to have both a gifting for speed and for endurance. The short track runner needs to have the human equivalent of fuel injection … they need to start fast and keep it going to the end. The marathon runner needs to be able to pace his or her self … it is a long run, and so their energies need to be spread out over a longer period of time, running consistently until they cross the finish line.

Endurance has become, in our society, a word associated primarily with athletics. I am no athlete, but I do know that my natural tendency in living is that of the short track runner.

I can start well, I have amazing energies for short term projects (and if they are long term, they are still sitting, unfinished, in a closet in my house), I am fantastic at responding in a crises, I am a confident trouble-shooter. I struggle to know how to be balanced, I struggle to start anything slowly, I can easily shelve any project or problem when I get bored of it. I struggle to keep going when I cannot see the finish line.

When I think of the word endurance, I think … marriage.

This week hubby and I will celebrate twenty-two years of marriage together. To some we have already run a marathon (amen to that), and to others we have only completed a short track event. To us … it depends on the day 😉

Twenty-two years is more than half of my life (I was married  w  a  y  too young, at twenty … now your brains are all doing the math). I have quite literally grown up with my hubby. We have gone through our twenties together, we have gone through our thirties together, and now we are speeding through our forties (he, of course, is speeding through them MUCH faster than I). We have had the joys of sharing the births of our three children, and the sorrows of losing five others. We have moved, quite literally, from east to west, together. We have loved and learned and lived … together.

When we were first married, we were both so into it! We were so focused on each other, on making sure that we were meeting each others needs. We wanted to please each other, we wanted to love each other. As life has moved on our focus on each other has been back-seated by the million and one other important things in life … children, jobs, home, yard, church, friends, etc., etc., etc. It is so easy to see the motivation behind the Barbara Streisand and Neil Diamond hit “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” …

She                                                                                   He

You don’t bring me flowers                                        You hardly talk to me anymore
You don’t sing me love songs                                     When you come through that door at the end of the day…
I remember when you couldn’t wait to love me
Used to hate to leave me
Now after loving me late at night                              When it’s good for you, babe.
When you just roll over and turn out the light…    And you’re feeling all right
And you don’t bring me flowers anymore

Those memories of early in the relationship ‘short track’ love, can be a great and horrible wedge once you are into the endurance run of ’til death do us part’ marriage. It is so easy to remember and reminisce about the new (and young) love stage of relationship. Often it is easier to remember it than it is to maintain it. And it is easier to remember what your spouse used to do for you and I, than to remember what you (I) used to do for them.

This marriage thing … it is definitely an endurance run. And, it is a tandem run, as well … it means that the success or failure of your marriage is dependent on both runners giving their all, all the time. Keeping pace with where your partner is heading. Being alert to possible ailments or distractions, for yourself, and for your partner. It also means that, at times, you will be the stronger one, and you will need to pull them along when they are weak, or ill, or just not on top of their race. But another key element to running the race together is rehydrating, refreshing each other … sometimes that refreshment comes from being apart, but usually it means making time to be together.

Like water to a weary runners body, time away, as a couple is not just a nice thing to do, but it is necessary if the marriage is to be kept alive. Sometimes it can be accomplished as easily as taking a walk together, or going to bed early and locking the door (there is nothing so disturbing to adolescent and teenage children, as a closed parents bedroom door, BEFORE they go to bed … their response is equal to the classic ‘heebie-jeebies’ … personally I am thinking of investing in a ‘do not disturb’ sign … just to keep shocking them … I figure my goal in life is to shock them before they shock me 🙂 … but, I digress). Sometimes it is a dinner out … not with another couple, but alone, making eye contact and talking. And, sometimes it is a day or more away, together, to reconnect just as a couple, and rediscover what it is that drew you both together in the first place (sometimes that is more advantageous than what is keeping you together presently … if it is not a happy and productive leg of the marathon).

So, we pace ourselves, my hubby and I … and hopefully we can make a time of refreshment possible … so that we can keep pressing on to the finish line … together, in tandem.

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My first thoughts when I awoke this morning were I don’t know if I can walk to the bathroom, and I need coffee. The two thoughts go together too.

Yesterday, for the first time in over a month, I walked my favorite trail … all of it. It took over two hours, and it was great (it was great to be done, maybe not so great while doing it 😉 ). The weather was hot and humid, the trail was full of walkers and bikers, and we did it … my beast and I.

The poor beast was panting hard on the second half of our walk. Just as her tongue was dripping from her hard panting, I was sweating like a stuffed pig on a spit (was a pretty pair we must have been).

On our first half we did take a few breaks, so that the beast wouldn’t collapse on me (of course there was no danger of me collapsing … ). We would walk down to the rivers edge (which was much farther out than a month ago. Heck it was much farther out than I had ever seen it) so that she could cool off in the water, and get a drink at the same time.

There were many people standing on the rivers edge, fishing. It was a day to be out, a day for people to enjoy what might be a last day of Indian summer. A day to enjoy the beauty and wonder of nature … the sun, the fresh air, the leaf laden trees, and all of the other beauties outside.

As we turned started our second half, we were confronted by the sign to the right … that did not make for a confident walk back! Seriously, I did not need that! I already have paranoid thoughts whenever I am walking in the wilderness (like down my street) about being chased by a bear … I did not need confirmation that they were actually in the same area that I was in! What made it worse was that, shortly after seeing that bright and foreboding sign, I saw a tail on the pathway (and I am sure that it was not there when I passed that way just moments before). A squirrel’s tail … without the squirrel! I was now in a desperate state. So, I did what any well-adjusted, mature, woman in my right mind would do … I texted a picture of the sign to hubby, so that he would know how I died. And his response … was about a half hour later! I could have been bear poop by the time he responded! So much for sensitive, hubby!

Alas, the beast and I did survive the potential of a bear attack 🙂 .

But then, just as I was feeling as though we were safe from calamity, my beast started making all of the signs of needed to poo. And I, of course, was ready! As she squatted, I untied the poo bag from her harness (I know making her wear her poo bags is the equivalent of me wearing toilet paper around my neck, out in public … but, she is a very self confident dog). And when I started to put the bag over my hand … there was a hole in it … at the end (where my middle fingers would be … yuck). Alas, I was like a girl scout, and was prepared for anything! I had two bags! So, I doubled up, scooped up, tied up and we continued on.

We had a very uneventful second half of our walk (minus the anxiety-provoking sign and hole in the poo bag incidents). I am not sure which of us started to sprint-walk once the van was in site, but I know that both the beast and I were overwhelmingly thrilled to see it. The beast settled into the back seat, and did not move again until we got back home.

And we both slept well that night … with our minds full of the beautiful visions of our walk, and the sense of accomplishment of doing something that allowed us to exercise and enjoy the beauty of creation.

And my aching body … it pales in contrast with how wonderfully my soul feels.

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The seventh season opener of our favorite (only) television show was last night.

Hubby, our eldest daughter and myself are committed viewers of Criminal Minds. None of us are really television watchers, but this one show keeps us coming back for more. We all love the drama, the plots, the actors (one of us is more inclined towards Derek Morgan …), the humor, and the quotes.

I still miss Gideon (who was only part of seasons one and two) … the most fantastic character the shows writers have ever created.

Reid is definitely the most changed characters of the show, over the past six seasons … going from a pre-mature ‘doctor’ to a mature professional.

Emily Prentiss and Jennifer Jareau are returning this season … J. J.’s departure was simply a … stupid decision (sort of like Gideon’s … just saying), and Emily has returned from the dead (oh, how they know how to open a new season).

Last season ended with Aaron Hotchner possibly leaving the B.A.U. (Behavioral Analysis Unit … actually there was the possibility that any of the characters might not return for season seven), but really the show could not continue without his brooding good looks, so back to frown and continue being a man of quiet authority is he.

David Rossi is back again too … the character who is over-qualified for his job, and could be replaced without anyone blinking an eye (maybe Gideon could come back, to replace his replacement?).

And, last but not least, Peneolope Garcia the computer geek-pro, who is so not a behavioral specialist. She’s just a girl making her magic going where no one else could go before on the internet super highway, being ‘mom’ to all of her co-workers and loving her brown sugar. She ‘humanizes’ the day, when the team is dealing with the de-humanizing acts of the unsub. (unidentified subject/bad guy) of the day.

Oh, there have been other characters who have come … and gone, from the show … but they have not been missed (except … well, you know).

So, we are back to our autumn routine of work, church, school and Criminal Minds … Criminal Minds being the most relaxing 😉

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I am pretty certain that cinnamon buns are my favorite comfort food. I have been know to awaken in the middle of the night muttering, “I need cinnamon buns.” I have also been known to go for a little evening drive, and arrive home with cinnamon buns for the following breakfast … minus one (or two, or … ).

They cover almost every quality of what it is to be a comfort food. They are carbs., they are sweet, they are slightly spicy, and (if you know, like I do, that there is no other way to serve cinnamon buns) they are to die for when fresh from the oven. The only thing they are missing is chocolate (maybe chocolate could be drizzled over the tops of them). But, sometimes they are topped with cream cheese icing … can you say culinary heaven?

When I was back in New Brunswick this past summer, I was reminded that (how do I say this gently?) … New Brunswickers make better cinnamon buns! At a family potluck gathering my cousin made and brought these delightful, mouth-watering, sweet and flakey pinwheels. They were made in the way I remember, not from sweet bread dough, but they are made with something more closely resembling biscuit dough. And they are so very delicious.

I do not remember my mother making these wonderful treats very often, but my memories of them are very vivid and warm and sweet. When I was a little girl my mother would make them with raisins … but I have wisely not continued with that tradition.

So, because I believe in sharing from the bounty of deliciousness that I have been given, I am sharing my recipe for these tummy warmers.

In a large bowl combine 2 cups of flour, 4 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 teaspoons of salt. Now  w  a  y  back in the stone ages (when I was growing up) people would have next cut shortening into the dry ingredients … but, my twist on my mom’s recipe is to use 1/2 cup of butter, cut into the dry until the dough resembles oats. Stir 1 cup of milk into the dough.

Now turn the dough onto a floured surface, and roll to a 12″ square.

Then, the fun part. Either the butter, then the sugar, followed by the cinnamon can be layered on the dough, then it can be rolled up. Or (and I like this better, because then the ingredients are all combined, and ready to infuse into the dough as one), cream 1/3 cup butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon until well combined. Spread over the dough. Then roll the dough into a log, pinching edges.

Cut into twelve pieces, placing each into a greased muffin tin. Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 14-18 minutes.

And, of course, serve warm 😉 (is there any other way?)

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Passion

Someone asked me this week how I can find time to write a blog.

We do have a busy family of seven. There is hubby and I, two daughters, one son, plus the newest arrival of a brother and sister from China, who we also call our son and daughter. I also took on full time work this September. Hubby is a busy, in demand, pastor of a great church family. Our kids are involved in various activities. And … then there is the beast …

So, yes we are busy, and finding time to write a blog is not easy.

But, for me, to take (to make, to carve out) time each day, five days a week, to write … well it makes my days proceed with more ease, more fluidity, more … purpose (and writing forces me to walk, because the opportunity to exercise, breath deeply and enjoy the calling of God’s creation give me wonder to write about). Because I know this to be true, I cannot stop writing, for fear that I will not function as well, as healthily, as … purposeful.

I have discovered that my passion of writing (albeit with dreadfully poor grammar) is something that I must force myself to do, in order to receive it’s benefits. Although the practice of writing makes my heart beat with passion, it is still a habit that I must discipline myself to do, because my love of it is not enough to keep the passion going.

Have you ever been … passionate? I’m not talking about another person (although that is okay too … well, if they feel the same way about you). What I am talking about is the thing or things that make you feel like you are successful, not because of the outcome of doing them, but because of how empowered, how energized you feel while doing them. The thing you do that makes everything else you do in living your life (from making dinner, to wiping noses, to picking up beasty poo) better, more enjoyable.

Within each one of us is a passion, a unique calling in our life to fulfill. For some, it might be their job. For some, it might be a daily task that they love to do (one of my friends loves to clean … go figure … and so she now does housecleaning for others … and I am eternally thankful, every Wednesday … actually, I bet she has another passion … maybe she has been to shy to share it). For some it is a hobby that they share. And, for others a hobby that they do not share. I bet that for most, it is something that they are scared to admit, or don’t know it yet, or … something that they know they like, but they do not make time for it in their lives (like me, for far too long).

I encourage you, from my own experience, seek it out, carve time out of your busy schedule to regularly practice it.

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Hi, my name is Carole, and I am a control freak. For those who know me, you did not need  for me to admit it in such a formal, public way to know how true my statement is.

Yes, I like to do things ‘my way’. Yes I like to be the final word. Yes I have been known to pick out my hubby’s clothes (he ignores my choices of course … did I mention I am, perhaps, not the only control freak in my house?). Yes, I have been known to take the toilet paper roll off and put it back on (the right way), and I have repositioned dishes in the dishwasher, and I have re-folded towels that hubby folded (the wrong way), and so on, and so on, and so on.

And those are only the examples that were right on the top of my head (and I would admit to publicly). Imagine how much more I could tell if I actually took time to think about it?!

Being a control freak is easy, being aware of it is humbling, trying to live and think differently … not so easy.

I wonder, did it come from nature or nurture? I am an ‘oldest’ child, and being in control is a trademark of the oldest child. But, maybe it is also part of my innate personality, and will be impossible to completely exterminate.

However I developed these control freak habits, there are ones that I want to make sure are not controlling me, and making me into someone that even I would despise (kind of sounds like I want to control the control freak within me … where will it stop? I really do need professional help! Now I am controlling the controlling part of me? But, I digress).

One of the trademarks of a control freak is not just having things go their way, but being the one who is ‘right’ in conversations. This is NOT a good characteristic for someone who wants to have friends! For someone with a strong controlling nature, biting ones tongue may be the only cure (if, of course, you can attain the forethought to bite at the right time … ha!ha!ha! ‘at the right time’ … get it? A control freak thinks they are always right … but, I digress … again).

But maybe, rather than causing life-long lacerations on your tongue, there is another way. How about repeating over, and over, and over again in your head … ‘what is more important, being right, or my relationship with the person I am talking with?’ Wow! That hits in the gut, now doesn’t it? But it works! When I remember that question, I find that my conversations are far more kind, far more fair. I find I hear more, speak less, and think of the persons heart and soul over my need to be … right.

Imagine, a control freak beginning to see that someone else is more important that their need to be right … what a concept! This could change a person, this could change a family, a workplace, a community … the world … But, the most important change is that of the heart, of a cold, cruel control freak.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath,

but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Proverb 15:1

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Working as a support staff, in a high school, everything about what is my job can change from one year to the next.

Last year I worked fifty percent, this year I work one hundred percent. Last year I worked with three students, in grades ten, eleven, and twelve. This year I work with five in grade nine, and one in grade eleven. Last year I worked off campus part of my time, this year I work only on campus. Last year worked with my three students, primarily out of class. This year I am in class almost all the time, and assisting all students who need it. Last year two of the students I worked with graduated, this year there will be no graduates among the students I work with.

It was like starting a new job when school began last week (and I am sleeping solidly because of it)!

Since the start of school, I have to say I have been missing last year, and all that was familiar about it. I miss the quick, cheeky tongues of the the older students, I miss interacting with business people to set up work experience opportunities, I miss the interactions with the parents (moms) of the students, I miss the challenge of out-witting the older students who lived to be late to class, or look at life through a half-full cup … I simply miss the individual students … period.

It would be so easy to say … last year was so much better than this one. As is always the case, what we know is more appealing, more comfortable than what we do not know, and what is unfamiliar to us. It would be so easy to start looking at the school year through a half-full cup …

But, a new broom sweeps clean! And my undiagnosed ADD thrives with change, novelty and challenge.

I have been getting to know the personalities and habits of the new students that I work with. I have been able to see how unjaded high school freshmen are to their senior counterparts. I have been getting to know classroom teachers, whose classes I have not been in before (or for a long time). I have been challenged in having to think out of the box in classroom settings, according to what assists the students needs best.

In all of this there is an excitement to this new year! There is a blank slate effect that I get to be there with the students as they begin their high school career.

The other day, one of the students said, “Mrs. Wheaton, will you work with us until we graduate?” And, on the inside, I smiled, because the thought of that excited me immensely. The thought of providing consistency to students who often thrive in consistency gave me something to hope for … for them, but for me too. But, the nature of this job is that change is inevitable, and there are no guarantees of what next year, let alone three years from now, will look like. But, for now, I know that it’s going to be a great year!

And my focus is to begin with the end in mind, so I will work with them as though I will see them through to graduation. And, together, we can learn so much.

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Like all people, I have had ups and downs. There are times when life is lived with exclamation marks, and times when it is lived with question marks. There are times of struggle and there are times when struggles seem a million miles away. There are times when we desire to live forever, and times times when we beg the Creator to take us now (I think I must have been reading Ecclesiastes lately).

Have you ever noticed that when things are going well, you rely on others less? It’s because your needs are simple, and can be met all by yourself … you don’t need anyone for anything.

And then when things are really not going well, we need others, we need help. But, for me, even if I need and even want to rely on others, I struggle to know who and how to ask for help. Heck, I struggle to even recognize that there is help out there.

I was reminded of this the other night when hubby and I were out to a restaurant for dinner. As we were talking to our server, she mentioned that she was having pain in her back, that had been keeping her from sleeping at night. When I mentioned a product that I had found to be helpful in the past, she said, “of course! I have used that in the past. I guess I was thinking so much about the pain, I couldn’t think of a cure.”

As she continued talking, I found my mind thinking about her statement, “I was thinking so much about the pain, I couldn’t think of a cure.” And I found myself thinking, isn’t that how it is when we have pain … any pain, in our life? When we hurt, physically, emotionally, spiritually … in any way, the pain takes over our thinking, our reasoning, our troubleshooting  abilities. And we often fail to see the cure, the help, the solution for the pain (or at least ways to ease or lessen it).

When our pain is not a physical pain, we need a pain reliever that is specifically suited for that need. What we have to do to relieve our non-physical pain, is to allow ourselves to be held, to be embraced by someone … bigger, stronger.

For a child, there is no greater pain relief than the warm embrace of his or her mother, and father. It always amazed me how my child’s tears would disappear when I held them. In the same way our spiritual father can wipe away our tears, when we allow ourselves to be taken in by his warm and loving embrace.

Just like when I hold my suffering child, the holding may not take the suffering away. But what being held by creator God does, is that it allows one who is so much stronger, so much bigger, to hold us, comfort us and soothe our weary hearts. His arms around us, His presence in our lives reminds us that the Creator of heaven and earth cares about our heart aches.

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