Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016- The Emotional Roller Coaster

Wow- I can't believe this year is almost over. 

I'm both relieved and saddened- but mostly relieved.

We had six funerals. Six. and that was just the people we knew well- not including celebrities. Four which happened in a two week period. Two of the six were my mother and my husband's mom. Christmas was weird without them.

We have more more debt. We were gaining ground in the beginning- at least until summer when the funerals began. Loans had to be taken out. Too much month, too little money...again. Ugh. If it wasn't for the good stuff God gives (including sanity), we'd be in those padded rooms with the pretty white coats with long sleeves by now.

I'm hobbling like an old troll. Stupid knee. I still don't know what I did to it. My medical card expired and until I get a new one, I'll just keep on hobbling. The problem isn't my knee so much anymore- it's that lovely circle of life thing (or should I call it Circle of Aargh?)- your knee hurts, so you limp. You limp for too long, your hips hurt. You stay off the knee and hip and you gain weight, losing core muscle. So now when you stand for more than five seconds, your entire body spasms with joint and muscle pain. Thanks a lot 2016...I blame you for this!

But it does get better.

Our son was accepted to the college of his choice. This is one of those 'roller-coaster' events because we are thrilled that he made it, but wonder if he'll make it. We have to apply and pray for financial aid. If it comes through, great! If it doesn't? Well, Chic-Fil-A might be a good prospect. 
I'm also torn about my first fledgling taking wing out of the nest. I'm both proud and scared to death for him out in the Great Big World- especially since he has Aspergers and will deal with people who aren't so tolerant of others who think and act differently. 
But another part of me is cheering along with my daughter that he will be out of the house, not eating everyone elses food, and making messes- not to mention him sneaking his laundry (which he's supposed to wash) into ours all the time.
He also seems to think he'll find work as a math tutor right away (even though he'd be a freshman and no one will know him yet), or get a job in the cafeteria, because he can eat for free and get paid. Or so he thinks.
His experience on the job market for the past two summers has been "I can't apply if you don't drive me there" and "I looked all over and applied to Chic-Fil-A, but they haven't called me yet" (he applied once and never followed up, as his parents and his entire youth group suggested), so yeah, people will be beating down your door and throwing money at you to help them study what you yourself are learning and to eat anything you want in copious amounts. 

I have a feeling I'll be sending a lot of care packages next year. Either that, or he'll live on bologna and crackers until he graduates.

This is one of the hardest moments in a parent's life. Watching your babies awkwardly flutter off without flying after them. Or under them. Sigh.

But then you get into the good stuff.

We spent a week away from home for the first time in over four years (since my husband's work accident) in Indiana. It was a much needed downtime to spend with a very good friend and business associate of mine and her family, but also to get my husband away from work and ministry so he could get some rest. 

Yes, I said ministry. You can get exhausted doing for others on a constant basis- and now I know why pastors take sabbaticals. Sometimes even hospitality oriented people like us need to recharge the spiritual batteries!

I worked outside of my home for the first time in eons as a Lyft driver. Good for the finances, bad for the family, but we got some debt paid down. It also helped that I did odd jobs that brought in some unexpected but welcome fundage. These were very good things because we might not have gotten the loan for the funerals if I hadn't paid off a few minor debts.

Work and the funerals were the breaking points for another revelation. I'd been feeling like the kids didn't need me anymore, and that my husband didn't need me home as much since the kids were doing the bulk of the chores. So I started working to bring in extra money and so I could feel useful.
But when I realized I was working six jobs (two airport driving companies, Lyft, face painting, crafting/sewing, and writing/Assitant Editor), yet making much less than my husband even though I was working more hours than he worked, on top of caring for my ailing mother. It was too much. I considered change, but wasn't sure of I should stop- or could stop.

It was the funerals and the aftermath that made me look at life from a different perspective. Yes, we needed the money, but money would come and go- my kids will only be with me for a little longer and they still needed me. My husband still needed me. Even the cats needed me. And let's be honest here- it didn't help that the house was a wreck. The house needed me too.
After a lot of prayer, fasting, and listening, I decided it was best to stop Lyft (the one with the most hours- and wear and tear on the van), and concentrate on writing. Actually, it was God that decided for me- I'm just doing what He told me to do!

Then the really good stuff came along.

For the first time in history, I published a book. In fact, to this date I published three books. There might even be one more for sale by the end of the year, but I'm good with three! No, they aren't my stories or my other fully-written works, but they are really awesome journals and planner/journals I made with my very own brain and keyboard! These books are going to help fund the artwork I need for my non-journal/planner written books, so when the time comes, I'll have some great books for kids and women out there! 

The fact that I even had the synapses to figure out self-publishing is amazing- not to mention actually getting sales on those books within a few weeks- now that's the kind of roller-coaster I want to ride! If things go well, I might have my first storybook out in 2017. How awesome is that?

And last but not least, I surprised my husband at Christmas and got him a last-minute gift he's been wanting all year. He usually guesses what the gift is (he's exceedingly good at reading my mind and body language), but last week I was given a couple of big tips when driving and used them to order his gift lickety split- so even I didn't know I was getting it until the last minute! That might be the way to go from now on- if I get it right before his birthday or Christmas and not see him until that day, I can surprise him!
If he can't see me, he can't read me...right? I might be on to something here...

There isn't much left of 2016, but I believe it will end on a high note. This has to be the wildest ride yet, and frankly, I'd rather not have another year like this one- at least concerning the bad stuff. I think I need a week off just to recover from this year- maybe two!

Through the trials God has been with us every step of the way. I'm so grateful to Him and His blessings, and thank Him each day for the strength, comfort and provision He's given to us and those around us throughout the year. 

Advice for myself and my family next year? Slow Down. Rest. Enjoy. Always give, but learn to receive. 
Hospitality people have issues with receiving, did you know that? We get something and feel we have to give more in return! That's one reason we're so tired all of the time!  

Oh, and one more bit of advice to my dear husband and kids. Turn off the phones, computers, tablets and tech and once in a while, just be. Unplug from the world and tune into God- it's so worth it!

Goodbye 2016- I won't miss you much. Hello 2017- things are looking up!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Last Minute Everything!

I used to be one of those people you hate.

I used to have my tree up right after Thanksgiving, and had most of my shopping done by the first week of December because I'd been shopping all year long, stockpiling gifts and gifties for adults and kids alike. 

I was the one with dozens of cookies baked by mid-December (at least three kinds), along with banana breads, and jars homemade hot fudge, ready to put into adorable Christmas baskets for friends, family and guests.

I used to have everything wrapped at least a week early, because it was more fun wrapping closer to Christmas. Let's just say if I went by this particular mantra, I'd be ecstatic right now.


Nothing was done. Nothing. No buying. No baking. No decorations. No Christmas carols blaring from the speakers. No Christmas tree scented candles irritating our noses. Nada. There was no time, no money, no energy to do any of these things. These same things I'd done every year since the kiddos were small. The decorations are still up in the attic, and with my knee bugging me, they won't come down until someone comes home to fetch them.

Christmas came way too fast for my liking. Summer lasted forever, and Autumn was about three seconds- now it's Winter, the end of the year, and Christmas. I am so not ready for this!

At least until yesterday. Apparently everyone and their dog needed to get to the airport, stat, and I was the only driver available in the entire state of Pennsylvania. I had work, and lots of it, and most people were generous in the tip department. I had spending money for the first time in eons!

Not a ton of spending money, mind you, but enough so I could get a few things for my family. So yesterday I splurged on gifts for my husband and kids- and no, I won't say what I got- they might be reading this. (Nanny nanny boo-boo, hubby and kids!)

For the first time, I listened to Christmas music as I shopped. Oh how I missed this! Despite my stupid knee (which I admit, I was supposed to be elevating and icing instead of using it to shop), I came away from the stores with more than just purchases- I came away with blessings!

One store had everything 50% off- when the bill was rung up, I expected to pay the total price, thinking it was the actual price, and it was half instead! Apparently the register took it all off after the sales were totaled. If you heard someone cheer about 2:33 p.m. EST yesterday, that was me!

The second store I wanted to go to was way, way, way down from where I was. But when I checked my GPS, I thought it was a glitch- there was a new branch of that store open in the same mall! All I had to do was go down a few stores, and there it was- how awesome is that? 

I bought everything that I needed all in one place- and zip off towards home to rest my knee.

The house still isn't decorated, and the cookies aren't getting baked anytime soon (maybe Saturday), but at least I got a few things my family will love. Yes, I know it isn't all about the gifts, but I really do love seeing their faces when I give them something great (even if it's something they need, not want), and I found many unexpected great things for them this year!

Every year I get later and later getting ready for Christmas. I want back my time so I can bake all of those cookies, make hot fudge, and listen to carols on the radio. My kids won't be here forever (at least I hope not), but I want to cherish the moments I have with them as much as possible before colleges take them away. 

I hope next year I'll have the time to do everything at a slower pace. No more last minute Christmases, no more running around in a panic to get everything done in time. I don't want to be a grandmother before I get to spend time with my kids at Christmas!

I used to be one of those 'early bird' people you hated during the holiday rush. Now I can be the one that makes you feel better because at least you are closer to the finish line than I am- and that's okay! Just consider that good feeling a gift from me- because I didn't have time to buy you anything!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Nuts

There are some benefits for not having excessive funds for Christmas shopping.

I don't have to deal with the loonies out there trying to find a bargain.

Or so I thought.

For example, I went to a bulk store doing my regular 'chest freezer shopping' and saw people fighting over the last of the giant fluffy stuffed animals left on display. Apparently giant stuffed fuchsia unicorns are more rare than the actual beasts, and these people were almost at fisticuffs over it. A well-dressed lady in a fur coat won the battle, leaving unconscious bodies in her wake as she continued shopping. 

It was a stuffed animal, people. Seriously? Fight over something significant, like a foot massager or chocolates for heaven's sake! Oh wait- someone beat you to the punch. Medic on aisle three and seven please!

What is it about Christmas that turns people into frenzied maniacs? Even the Tasmanian Devil would be hard pressed to come out alive with a gift at this rate! As for me, all I wanted was a two-hundred pound pack of chicken breasts and a few gallons of milk. Oh, and those rotisserie chickens. Gotta get me at least one of those suckers.

I head for the roasted chicken section, only to find it was cleaned out 2.3 seconds before I arrived. The next batch would be ready in six hours. That's okay, I can wait. It would take me that long to get through the checkout anyway. So I do some more shopping while I wait. I consider getting a pallet truck instead of a cart when I hear the timer for the chicken go off, and I dash for the roasted chicken section once more- as does everyone else in the store.

I crash into the sausage display as I try to stop the momentum of my overladen cart, just as the guy starts putting the chickens on the shelves. People were taking them before the containers hit the sheet metal, but I waited my turn, since they were ahead of me. As I touched one of the last chickens to come out, this lady dressed to the nines with a fur coat snatches a chicken right from under my fingers, giving me a haughty and triumphant smile. Her cart is loaded with gifts for half the state; all expensive, and all fancy- including that giant fuchsia unicorn.

Oh no she didn't!

Have you ever daydreamed about what you'd like to have done instead of what you did? My imagination took over....

The fancy lady's smile faded as sparks emanated from my very being. How dare she snatch that chicken from me? She won that bout over the unicorn, but I will not be thwarted from my rotisserie chicken! 

With a primal yell, I body slam the well-dressed lady like a rampaging Pokemon, and snatch the precious chicken from her hands before the momentum throws her back about three-hundred feet. 

Sometimes it pays to be a big gal and understand the laws of physics. 

I was surprised by cheers behind me and turn to see the rivals of this well- dressed lady applauding my reaction to her greediness. Apparently she had the last of everything in her cart, and fought everyone and their reindeer to get it. At first I was elated. I was a hero! I stood up to a shopping bully and won! 

Or did I?

No, I didn't- but it was nice thinking about it as she walked off with my chicken in hand. I believe God would've frowned on the body-slamming, Pokemon thing though. 

Christmas Madness had almost gotten the better of me. And there wasn't even a gift involved! I just wanted homemade chicken salad for lunch.

Lucky for me the guy saw what happened and told me more was coming in a few minutes. He brought out the chickens and let me pick the one I wanted before anyone else since I was the first in line at that point. All done without carnage and skid marks down the aisle from a greedy woman's fur coat. 

It's so easy to forget why we celebrate Christmas when advertisers make everything sound so awesome. We want to make others happy, but when we're willing to body-slam a stranger three hundred feet down the aisle to get it- well, let's just say that isn't the spirit of the season God intended.

Just remember when making your purchases, you'll find a lot of Christmas nuts- but please don't become one- just deal with the ones in the fancy boxes covered in chocolate!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Within The Shadows

I wrote this a few years back and thought I'd share it with you!

Within the Shadows
by Beth Brubaker

Santa, sleighs and colors bright,
illuminate the dark of night,
but do not glorify the plight
of the baby in the shadows.

Oh, the glitter- how it shines!
From sparkling gifts and glittered twine,
distracting us from the Divine
the toddler in the shadows.

Songs are sung of snowman's tales
of reindeer's nose and Grinchy fails,
but no one hears His love prevails
from the child within the shadows.

Fam'lies gathered, parties planned
for feast of food and music grand
how can we see the pleading hand
of the child within the shadows?

Did we forget what God did lose?
He spent His Son to pay our dues
and sent His Son as a babe imbued
within a manger's shadows.

The child, when grown to man will give
His life for us so we may live
When we believe and then forgive
blessed by the Man in shadow.

The lights, the gifts lose their array
inane songs fade when He comes our way
and we can celebrate the day
He brought us from the shadows!