As Susie mentioned yesterday, there is a ‘bend in the rail’ for this blog. This week is the final chapter of Pages From Stages.
Just a little over four years ago, I met my dear friend Sara through an online critique group hosted by American Christian Fiction Writers. Through Sara, I connected and became friends with these other lovely ladies…Susie, Julane and Kathy. In 2012 we came together to start a blog where each would share about faith, laughter, tears and triumphs from our own ‘stage’ of life.
I’ve enjoyed learning about my fellow bloggers through their writing over the last 2 ½ years and the dialogue we’d have about each post. While our blog is ending, our friendships will continue. Each one has so many wonderful gifts and are a treasure to me.
I’d like to thank our readers who have joined us. Special thanks to Jeannie and Ian who regularly commented and encouraged us! I also appreciate the friends and family who also let me know when they read a blog post or bought a book that one of us reviewed. Writing and trying to get published is not for the faint of heart, so every bit of support goes a long way in keeping us from giving up.
Also, I must thank my wonderful husband, Grant, for listening to me read my blog posts week after week. He is the one who gave me the courage to stop dreaming about becoming a writer and to actually take the steps to get there. Over the years, he has happily taken care of the kids when I attend conferences or need some time with the fictional characters I’ve created.
The journey of life has many seasons…some filled with joy and others with sorrow. No one has ever promised us an easy life, but we are promised that we are never alone. I thank God for being with me through the many stages in life and for His unending love. It is because of this love I can run the race with perseverance looking to Him, “the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).
Though this journey ends, I look forward to where another will begin.
This past weekend we celebrated Thanksgiving here in Canada. The weather where I live was sunny and warm, making a gorgeous backdrop to the golds, oranges and reds in the trees. Today is a little more typical for fall…overcast and windy.
Over the last several weeks, my husband and I have been working on new landscape in front of our home. It’s mostly done but we will add the finishing touches in the spring.
The two new additions we are most excited about are the new Pin Oak tree and the Burning Bushes. Buying them at this time of the year allowed us to see how pretty they will turn every autumn. Too bad I didn’t think of taking pictures when the sun was out this weekend when the red really popped…but this should give you an idea.
With this change of season, I thought I’d share one of my favourite fall soup recipes. I made this up one night with what I could find in the house and we enjoyed it. Hope you will, too.
Sweet Potato & Pear Soup
- 1 leek chopped
- 1 Tbsp of fresh ginger chopped
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 medium sweet potatoes
- 3 Bosc pears, peeled and cubed
- 3 ½ Cups vegetable stock
- ½ tsp of cinnamon
- ¼ Cup of cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté chopped leek and ginger in melted butter until soft. Add sweet potato and sauté for 3 minutes. Add vegetable stock. Bring to boil for 10 minutes. Add Pears. Continue to boil for 10 more minutes. Stir in cinnamon. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and puree soup (either in blender or with wand). Add cream and serve!
Just recently I discovered “amigurumi”. My fellow yarners may be wondering what rock did I crawl out from beneath. Apparently, this trend has really caught on over the past five years and I just found out. Thank you, Pinterest.
There are many definitions of amigurumi online but basically it is a Japanese word used to describe the art of knitting or crocheting stuffed animals or inanimate objects. The word is derived from a combination of the Japanese words ami, meaning crocheted or knitted, and nuigurumi, meaning stuffed doll.
My son is really into the solar system so he asked me to crochet Saturn. While I couldn’t find such a pattern, I did discover a crochet pattern for amigurumi spheres and added rings. Here we have the sixth planet from the sun!
A cousin just had a baby shower on Sunday. The baby’s room will be decorated with a pond theme (frogs, ducks and turtles) so I thought I would try Felix the Frog. (See pattern here: http://lilleliis.com/free-patterns/felix-the-frog-free-pattern/)
It’s been fun learning how to create amigurumi stuffed toys. I think I’m “hooked.
Am I the only one to just have learned about amigurumi?
This morning I was just adding the finishing touches on a speech that I have to deliver on Thursday. I don’t mind public speaking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for a stage and a podium wherever I go. I also get sweaty palms and a racing heart sometimes before I speak. But as a parent advocate for families with special needs, I’ve had to learn to put the fears behind so I can get a message across.
Recently, I read an article from a psychology website about the fear of public speaking. It rated this fear as the number one phobia, followed by the fear of death, spiders and darkness. Public speaking isn’t for everyone, however, in most professions you won’t be able to avoid at least speaking in front of a group at some point.
So here are some tips if you find yourself in an unavoidable situation of where you will be either public speaking or at least facing a large group:
- Keep in mind that people aren’t there to make fun of you. Most people are listening and aren’t sitting there wondering why you won’t lose weight, nor thinking how ugly your shirt is, nor focusing on that zit at the end of your nose. In fact, there will be a lot of people who are admiring your courage. Focus on your message instead of what people might be thinking about you.
- Remember, people are listening. Most people sitting in an audience are there because they have some reason to be. They want to know what you have to say.
- Know your audience. (Usually this is point number one, but I think it’s important to put fear aside first so you can prepare with a clear head.) Find out who will be in attendance so that you can tailor your message to them.
- Know your venue. I find that I will prepare a different message if I am sitting in a circle of 12 people than if I am on stage addressing 200 people. It affects the tone of your speech and your style of delivery.
- Arrive early. It’s always good to arrive early to test equipment and just get a feel for the room.
- Be prepared. Of course you will feel silly if you don’t know what you are going to say. But if you have rehearsed and made good notes, then you will feel more confident.
- Know how much time you are expected to speak. Don’t go over your limit, that is when people start looking at their watches. Be respectful of others’ time.
- Use definitive language. Good: “Good Morning. I am happy to be here because I want to tell you about….” Bad: “Sorry you had to get up so early to hear little ol’ me. I kinda want to share with you, if you don’t mind listening, about something sort of important to me….”
- Where comfortable clothes and shoes.
Now, go break a leg! (A figure of speech, don’t really break anything!)
What are some of your public speaking tips?
Dear Special Needs Mom,
You were ahead of me in line at Costco. You had a cart with two older children and a load of groceries. Behind you was your own mother pushing a cart that was empty except for a lovely young girl sitting in the front.
She had on a pretty pink summer dress and no shoes. Between her hands she held a long black sticker with the number “10” stamped down it in a neat row. No doubt she pulled it off some clothing item and you decided to pick your battles and let her keep it. She held the sticker close to her eyes and a then up in the air in triumph—twisting and turning that sticker as though it were an exotic treasure.
And she babbled to herself in a sing-song like manner with words that I couldn’t understand, although she was old enough to be understood. But you probably knew what she was saying. I tried to make eye contact with her and engage her, but she stared right through me and around me.
I looked at you and smiled. You smiled back but your eyes gave away your weariness. Your hair fell out of your ponytail and you pushed it behind your ear as you continued to unload your cart.
The cashier grabbed your bag of chips and said you’d have to select another, after all, they sell them in bulk…you can’t buy just one.
Your shoulders slumped in defeat. “Sorry,” you told the cashier. “I’ll have to just leave it. I can’t run to the back of the store for a second one.” Your eyes darted toward your daughter. You knew that even a small change in plan would be too much for her.
Your mother offered to run back, but you just shook your head. “I’ve got her and we can’t do it.”
How I wanted to hug you and tell you that I’ve been there. I know what it’s like—a simple shopping trip can be like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. The simple and mundane things in life can sap what little strength you have left some days. I wanted to applaud you for bringing all your children out together, taking the risk that it could go wrong and then to endure the glaring stares of those who don’t know.
I wanted to tell you to hang in there. Remember all her successes, no matter how small. I wanted to remind you that your daughter is beautiful and perfect just the way she is. I wanted to tell you that as long as you try your best, you are not failing as a mother, even if you feel that your best is not enough. Believe me, it is.
I wanted to say that this road we walk may be complex, but the rewards are high. There is beauty in learning to give your time, strength, energy and resources to those who can only give love in return. There is great joy in serving the vulnerable. And though it may be hard to lose independence, we have an opportunity to learn about interdependence and the richness in community.
I just wanted to let you know you are not alone. Not ever.
There is One who doesn’t promise to magically make all our challenges go away, but He does promise to be with us every step of the way (Heb. 13:5).
We need to feel the strength of others around us. We need others to help us and return that help when we can.
But sometimes others just can’t be there.
Some days that promise from Christ is all we have. And for me, that is enough.
Another Special Needs Mom
So here we are, the second of September. The day after Labor Day. The first day of school for many. Two-thirds of the year has passed. Six weeks until Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving and in 12 weeks Americans will have their turn with turkey and pumpkin pie. And dare I mention that are only 16 Saturdays before Christmas?
The point is, the year is flying by.
One author posted yesterday that September 1st is the new January 1st. I would have to agree. A new starting point. And this time of year always finds me reflective.
What were my goals this year and how am I doing with them?
What goals do I need to scrap?
What do I need to start doing?
Have I been paying attention to my ‘word’ for the year?
These goals are not always about doing or trying to conquer the world. They may be about doing less and just being. Perhaps it’s realizing that certain things are taking a lot of my time and energy when they should be taking less. And maybe those things that need more of my energy have taken a backseat. Relationships need nurturing, too, and shouldn’t always be sacrificed on the altar of projects/productivity.
How has this year been for you? Crazy, too?
If you are feeling like you’re carrying a heavy load, Jesus wants to offer you rest.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. – Matt. 11:28-30 (The Message)
If you think your priorities are out of whack, Jesus has a solution to get things back on track.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matt. 6:33 (NIV)
If you need direction, He’s got that covered.
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. – Psalms 119:105
If this year has left you in a tailspin, feeling all alone, there is One who is crazy in love with you and promises that nothing separate you from this love.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)
Hang in there. This year is nearing to an end – 2014 can be a year worth remembering.
I know some of the kids in the States have returned to school already and some are waiting, like us in Canada, to start on September 2nd.
(Random fact: We have Labour Day in Canada, too, but we just kept the ‘u’ in the word.)
This is the last week for me at home with my boys before we all settle into routine again. They go back to school; I return to my job. As the days count down, I’ve been reflecting on what I’m grateful for this summer. Here are my top 10 things:
- Beautiful weather. It was cooler than usual, but so comfortable with low humidity.
- Visiting family. We had a chance to travel to see relatives from around Ontario all the way to Wisconsin.
- Slower pace. No homework at night and no packing lunches in the morning.
- Bike rides.
- Reading books with my boys. Every summer I pick a book or two to read aloud to my sons. Admittedly, I enjoy it more than they do, but I hope one day they will look back and remember the stories with fondness—or at least our time together.
- Family walks in local parks. (My youngest son, however, informed us that his legs have a pathological fear of family walks. He can prove it because he has a note from his brain. But once we get to the park, he really does enjoy it!)
- Birthday parties for my youngest. Why do the babies of families always seem to have more than one party?
- Celebrating my wedding anniversary. On Saturday, it will be 17 years since my husband and I said, “I do”.
What did you enjoy the most this summer?
It was the fall of 1990. A cold, crisp morning and I was headed out the door before the sun was up. A clarinet case in my one hand and a school bag slung across my back. Another concert band practice this morning. If I hurried, I could catch the early bus in time and avoid the 30 minute walk to school.
Gazing down the busy road, I was relieved to see wide-set headlights and the white-ish glow from the city bus. I could use the break from a long walk. Climbing up the steps of the bus, I flashed the driver my pass and slumped in the nearest seat.
It would be a long day. Student council meeting at lunch and yearbook meeting after school. My mother was worried that I took too much on. I was also involved in church activities, in addition to taking violin lessons and a dozen other projects as they came up. But I liked to be busy and so did my friends. We liked involvement and getting things done. I’d be fine.
I rested my head against the large, cool window. Shafts of light spread out from the rising sun between the houses and buildings lining the road. I smiled. Autumn was such a beautiful time of year.
I turned my gaze upward to admire the trees. Instead seeing gorgeous golds and reds, I found nothing but bare trees!
Pressing my hands up against the window, I looked up and down the street. I couldn’t be! Turning my head, I strained to see the trees on the other side of the street. The exact same thing. The rising sun created long eerie shadows of tree limbs stripped of their foliage, like a scene from a scary movie.
How did I completely miss the leaves changing colors…and then falling from the trees? Could it be possible that I was so busy that I didn’t even notice the change in the environment around me?
Autumn was my favourite season. Leaves changing colors was a highlight of the year. That majestic burst of color in the fall was like Nature’s last kiss before hibernating for the winter. And I missed it. It would be an entire year before I could witness the beauty of fall.
I was filled with a profound sadness for what I lost out on that year. What else had I missed?
As I got off at school, my sadness was soon eased by a grateful heart. Grateful that I
had experienced this lesson now, at 17 years old. How many people would go through life missing the changing leaves and not realize the lesson until it was too late? I promised myself that I would never let that happen again.
When fall approaches, I watch those trees and remember that lesson I learned in so many years ago.
What’s a lesson you were glad to learn in your youth?
Last year I decided that it was time to de-clutter. I tried out a few organizing ideas that I found online or suggested by friends. In general, I’m doing a lot better. But honestly, I still have a ways to go.
Ten years ago we moved into a ranch style house because our oldest son uses a wheelchair for mobility. The previous owners built the house so that all the living space is on the main floor. This is perfect for our family. The owners also built a basement the same size as the upstairs. We love our spacious unfinished basement, but it also poses problems. With that much open space, you can imagine what happens when you are living a busy life.
“What should we do with this?”
“Stick it in the basement.”
“What about this pile of old board meeting notes?”
“Who do you think needs these old toys/clothes from the boys?”
“Not sure right now, put it in the basement.”
Yes, the basement has become this incredible catch-all. I’ve seen those reality shows about hoarders, and my basement looks like it was arranged by Martha Stewart in comparison. In fact, after watching one of these shows I feel much, much better about my mess. Yet, it is still a mess and it should be cleaned.
I was able to get a jump start on this goal when a friend agreed to take some of my stuff to her garage sale. I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare but managed to grab enough things to fill the backseat of her compact car. Surprisingly, it brought in $50.50. It’s not so much the money but the satisfaction of knowing these items aren’t collecting dust in the basement anymore and has become someone else’s treasure.
Continuing with the clean up, on the weekend I noticed an ad in our community paper. A group is collecting gently used book for the Terry Fox Foundation which supports cancer research. Great! I have a week to collect up books.
Discussing de-cluttering with one of my friends, she remarked how we work to collect all this stuff and yet, when we get rid of it, we feel so much better.
It is inevitable over time that children will outgrow clothes. Toys that once provided hours of creative play are no longer age-appropriate. Even as adults, we can outgrow our clothes, too. It’s just taking the time to thoughtfully move our belongings on.
I’m not sure what my next step is except to make sure I bring in less!
What are some of your best de-cluttering tips?
Recently we hosted a Cousin’s Sleepover at our house. My husband and I love having the cousins over as much as our kids do. Popcorn and a new movie at night: my husband’s famous pancake breakfast in the morning. And in between….lots of giggles and not a whole lot of sleep.
Before the cousins arrive, I remind my kids, “Don’t forget the sleep in the sleepover.” When they and their cousins get a little older, I’m certain they will make fun of me for saying that. It will become, “Remember what Aunt Cherie used to say”, followed by a burst of laughter.
But I don’t mind. It’s all in fun.
When I was a young girl, I loved sleepovers at the home of my cousins or grandparents. I long for my own bed now, but staying overnight somewhere else was fun as a kid. The late nights, whispering in the dark and starting the next day together. It was a time of bonding. We did harmless things that we still laugh about today.
No, not a lot of sleep happens at a sleepover. But what does happen is the creation of childhood memories.