Sunday, July 26, 2015

Blank Slates

Having a blank slate is sometimes as daunting as it is exciting. -Joe Madureira

Since I had taken such a long time away from my blog, lost all but a very precious few my regular readers (when I had precious few to begin with), and thinking about my last post of my daughter's visualization of a garden in need of tending, I am again playing around in the background with new themes for my blog. In all the years I have had this blog, I have not change its theme, partly because it took quite a bit of coding to make it appear the way it had, but mostly because I just never made anything I liked better. However, it has looked dated to me for the past three years and maybe that is in part why I have not been posting, it nags at me that I want and should change it. I have been identifying things in my life that work like obstacles for me and this feels like one of them.

There are three things I decide to do when met with one of my mental/emotional obstacles: remove it, change it, or not deal with it now because other things have higher priority at the time. I took out ignore it on my list, because I am trying to change my ways and not only recognize an obstacle for what it is, but take time to examine and identify why it is an obstacle. Still, I tend to choose the delaying one too much of the time, because I have previous ignored too many of the obstacles I had. The obstacle list is whittling down though as I am making myself familiarize with the obstacle before deciding to put it off, so it will then nag me until I do something about it which is usually sooner than later.

At first I planned on the blank slate approach for my new blog style. I looked at other blogs and have seen some I dearly loved. They have a fresh, smooth, clean style, but when it came down to choosing colors, layout, font, and all the other extras--well, the new theme would be all those things that I liked in the other, but it just felt like it was it was designed by someone else for someone else; it was not me...not at all me.

Then I thought about what I still like about my blog style, what seems ageless and classic to me and what does not. Being real with myself does not mean that I have to toss out everything I already like, but changing what I do not. 

So as much as I like other smooth, clean, fresh blog styles, I really do not like smooth as much as I love textures. I like a clean style with personality, not sterile, boring, and white. I love the colors and textures I currently have in my backgrounds--that could change as I work on a new style, but for now I think will use what I have in new ways, freshening up my style but not tossing it completely.

Some of those old widgets have to go too. Some are not working and others need to be updated or replaced with better ones.

It will be a process. Hopefully, a therapeutic one rather than something I wish I had not started.

Thank you, my Lord, for allowing us to be renewed each day, each moment, in Your love and forgiveness, yet still be ourselves.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Princess' First Visualization

The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps - we must step up the stairs. ~Vance Havner

There comes a time that a mother realizes that her child is venturing out and having her own experiences. Although I realize that all her life my daughter has had her own experiences, much of them including me and now many are far removed by distance or hidden in the depths of her mind and heart. It is a healthy, subtle change, expected with her maturing, but at times I realize that my daughter is out with friends and I really do not know everything she is doing, what she is talking about, or what she is thinking. We rarely pray with her at bedtime now, but I remind her when she comes to say good-night to "talk to your Lord." I say that because I want her to make the transition from praying at Him to talking to Him to even conversing with Him. I can tell her about how to do it, remind her to do it, but her relationship with God is now her responsibility to cultivate.

I have no doubts that she has strong ideas of right and wrong, but I wonder about the closeness of relationship she has with the One who gave her those morals. She seems to be trying to find her way and I see it as a good thing, because her faith, her belief, her love for God has to be her own to deepen the root so the vine will flourish. Thankfully, my daughter is still rather open about whatever is on her mind...the "whatever" is what I sometimes find disturbing, but I just smile, listen to her, listen to my Lord, give her any advice that could be helpful to her, and then pray...a lot!

The church we are attending has a very active youth group, but it is not all socialization, fun, and helping with the younger children, although there is much of that. This is a church that strongly focuses on the personal relationship with God and using spiritual gifts. Yesterday, my daughter told me that the youth were asked to visualize walking to a garden, going through a gate, meeting with Jesus, and asking Him about what what He likes about them and to give them something He had just for them. She was somewhat disturbed by what she saw and knowing that I had been given the  interpretation of dreams and had been given visions at times, she told me about her visualization.

She was in a hospital gown with a wrist band. She was walking toward the garden gate that was old and worn, but still worked. The garden was completely dead. She met with Jesus who told her that what He liked about her was her "talents," but He did not give her anything even though she asked a few times.

The youth had all talked about their own visualizations and the Princess, of course, was disturbed that Jesus did not give her anything and by the other signs.

At first I found her visualization quite disturbing as well! My mama protective instincts were on high alert:

  • A hospital gown--my child has never been ill or severely injured, so was this a warning?
  • A dead garden--death all around!
  • Jesus gives her nothing--nothing?

Getting past my instinctive emotional response and putting it before my Lord, I was shown how much promise and good there was in the visualization. I believe it was to prompt her and guide her to having that closer relationship with God I wish for her, so I found it encouraging and I hope my child did as well as I told her what I felt God was trying to tell her.

The hospital gown and the dead garden were linked in a way. They both symbolized that she need tending to, spiritually speaking. Jesus told her that He liked her talents, but I know that she is not yet really using those talents to His glory as I know she could and should. Perhaps using those talents is what will make the garden alive and beautiful. Jesus gave her nothing, not because He has nothing for her, but because she is not yet ready to receive it...AND (this is the really exciting part for me) He wants her to keep coming back and asking for it.

She is being challenged or tested, which leads me to think that the gift will be of greater worth.

I suggested to her that she continue with the visualization and I believe that the garden will change eventually, maybe she would even tend to it herself, and keep meeting with Jesus asking Him for the gift He has for her. I believe that one day He will give her the gift.

~ My Lord, thank you for what was a disturbing vision for my daughter. You know her so well. She is going to want to fix it, make it right, and that means she will be seeking Your heart, which is my greatest prayer for her. ~

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Homeschooling My New High Schooler

Behind every great kid is a mom who's pretty sure she's messing it up. ~Unknown

For the last year, I have felt stuck while many people around us were having positive changes in their lives...and this was going on while I was dealing with feeling older by the month, obviously due to my old cat, Jamie. I felt frustrated and stuck in many ways, but the physical tiredness and aching also worked against me in taking on anything of much significance. Since April, homeschooling was even too much effort. I was gearing up for May, but then...well, that is a story for another post.

Homeschooling, to my daughter's joy, just was not happening, although I was working on homeschool preparation on some mornings. Because we usually homeschool year around with no defined start and stop school periods going at whatever pace that works for each subject, most of the prepared curricula we use, like for Latin, Koine Greek and vocabulary, is staggered. So, we may be starting a new book in Greek, be in the middle of the one in Latin, and just started a new one in vocabulary. Each of these subjects needs planning and has preparation items I make: I print out flash cards for the languages and now also make the vocabulary flash cards ones online at Quizlet because it is such a versatile program and it creates quizzes too.

Since I abhor dry, boring textbooks for the most part, especially for history, I have been creating our curriculum using various resources. I usually do it in chunks of time periods and I have to say that it is quite an undertaking, but when I have it together it is really great, tailored well for my daughter. So, history has well-planned assignments when I finally have them done. We are trying to squeeze in a wonderful civics program also, a textbook but written by homeschoolers for homeschoolers and interesting. Although it is targeted for middle school, I can tell you that it is more in depth than what public school high school students are learning.

I explained all this so you would understand what happened in April. When subjects are loosely staggered and not well planned, it apparently is possible that many of them can end within three weeks of each other. Eek! History, Latin, Greek, and vocabulary ended and I had nothing prepared! Some was started but not finished. Also, I have my plans in a program called Homeschool Tracker as well as the records of work done and grading for all the subjects, except when I get behind with my record keeping and--yes, I am also behind...again.

After much prayer, we will be continuing with the Home Study Center for just two 9th grade classes: Physical Science and Algebra 1 Part 2. She made all A's on her report card except for Technology in the first semester, she was one point shy of the A, but her average was an A for Engineering and Technology. However, this year the only other class that would fit in our schedule would be Engineering and even though she scored quite high in it last year--a surprise to her--she did not enjoy it so much that she really wanted to take the class this year.

The Home Study Center loses a number of students going into the high school years. Most of the boys in my daughter's class last year will not be returning, probably in favor of accredited private or public schools. Sad because the program at the Home Study Center is excellent. In some ways too excellent: it is very time consuming and makes it difficult for us to get my homeschooling in. Also, my daughter and I both wrestle with priorities between their assignments and mine weekly. I looked into some other homeschool schools, but some only allow full time students taking all their core classes and most are two days a week, deal breakers for me.

There is one that is on Tuesdays not far from her current school called Timothy Ministries. They have no requirements about number of classes or what kind. It is a bit more affordable, especially the science class because they do not have the cost of an expedition tagged on it. They also have a wide variety of classes, core subjects, of course, but mostly electives, including violin. The downside is every class for all grades is on Tuesday, which means many of the classes overlap each other.

My current dilemma with the Home Study Center is not the classes--we have everything set as to schedules with her piano lesson in between her algebra and science classes on Monday--it is with a program that they call Serving Leaders. This year, the Princess was invited to be a Training Serving Leader (TSL). This is really an amazing program! Servant Leaders do many things like help in the classes and take notes for students that are absent, because being homeschoolers our schedules need flexibility and many of the families travel. TSL's meeting on Monday nights from 5:30 to 7:30 and then they are required to also help with the elementary classes and/or clubs, which means we have to go a second day. It is a big commitment in other ways for the parents also.

The Serving Leader program earns up to six high school credits on its own if the child is in the program all four years. It also teaches the teenagers to pray aloud over other students, give encouraging words in their critique of a student's presentation performance, and look for ways to be helpful with a servant's heart. There is no church program I have ever seen that instills this in teenagers as well as their program. They also create their own plays and have their own praise and worship band for performances on the science expeditions.

If we lived within 15 minutes of the school, there would be no question...even 35 minutes could work, but being over an hour away.... Another family, whose daughter has the same name as my daughter and the Princess called the girl her twin the first day of school two year ago when they met, because they both are artistic, love the same things, and have long brunette hair, live half way between us and the school on the route I take. They offered to help me out so I would not have to drive the whole way in on a second day, or pick her up after the TSL meeting, if I have to go home to take care of the dog when my husband is working out of town (which is most of the time). She understands because her husband has the same type of job. However, they also are not sure that they can work in the TSL requirements within their own schedule and they have a younger daughter (with the same Biblical name as our dog) that is a student there on Fridays being homeschooled also. It would not work for them well, unless her oldest is there on Fridays the same time as their younger one.

They have been praying about the situation for themselves because the younger one did not get as far in her studies as they hoped this year because of the commitments required to the Home Study Center just for the classes and her older daughter only took the science class last year. The mother is just terribly torn over the I have been. If we do it, homeschooling will really only take place three days a week and even then it will be a squeeze, because Tuesday mornings are going to be a drag for the both of us, particularly if my husband is away. On the day she would be helping with a class for at least an hour an a half which we cannot pick...well, that is three hours with unproductive travel time alone because my daughter can get motion sickness when trying to read; we listen to CDs on history and audio books but she would rather read the book. So besides the mileage and gas, we are talking 4½ hours for that alone and not much time between that and daily piano practice to homeschool. It really would put a serious hole in my lesson planning. Besides the other family and I need our daughters be be coordinated to assist with the the same class or the same times for us to help each other out and the policy is we do not get to choose the classes.

So, TSL may not be feasible at all for us. I would be fine with that. My daughter said she would be fine with it either way. I am just not so sure she will feel the same when school starts and the TSL students talk about what they are doing and she is not included. On the other hand, having more freedom with our schedule, she could spend more time with her "twin" who already seems to have a servant leader's heart.

Sometimes I wish God would give a shout rather than use His quiet voice when I have a dilemma like this.

~ My Lord, I am seeking your guidance. Please make it known clearly to me. ~

Monday, July 20, 2015

19 Years with Jamie

As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat.
~Ellen Perry Berkeley

As you can see, I have not posted in half of a year. Much has been going on in that six months and it is my intention to tell about it all, but today I am writing because this is the day we decided that the deteriorating health my 19-year-old cat was causing us all to suffer, him most of all and me second. Being empathic has its downside and for the past year I have had increasing abdominal / digestion issues. While I did not have persistent diarrhea as Jamie did for the past year, I still felt like I should. I was waking every morning for the past four months with everything hurting. I was in tears about this as I told my husband about it a few weeks ago, that I was not shaking it, and the pain and tiredness was affecting my ability to function physically during the day and maybe even my mind somewhat. I felt just plain...well, old.

Knowing that I do not shake things that I am picking up from another person, particularly one I am around often, my husband suggested that it was coming from Jamie. I did not want to accept this, but I knew it was true. Jamie was barely holding his weight; he had lost muscle tone as old cats do and I could feel most every bone in his body. My husband began talking to me about it being his time and I would say not yet, but this last week, I began feeling a change, like Jamie's health was about to take a turn and worsen quickly. Although, this morning he seemed the same as he has for the last few months in energy and mobility, I still felt there was a change that we had not yet seen. We had made the appointment with the vet for this afternoon, but I was still hoping that I would feel differently before then.

My daughter asked about having the vet look him over and maybe give him medicine, but some days he could barely digest food without problems; I just knew that giving any kind of medicine would probably do more bad than good for him at that point. The vet's assistant said as much considering his age without our prompting.

Jamie has never been good at traveling in cars. The trip to the vet was one of his worse experiences and he was quite a mess when we arrived. We cleaned him up and wrapped in a towel holding him like a baby, I entered the office. Jamie in his younger days would have been protesting and fighting me all the way, but today he just let me hold him without a struggle or a sound.

It is very difficult to say good-bye to a furry friend that has been with you for nearly two decades, but I just kept musing how only a cat that annoying could live so long and I hope that heaven is ready for him! I picked Jamie at an organization called Friends of Strays in Florida. He was half-grown and caught my attention with his personality when he picked up my husband's keys and began to walk off with them as if he owned them. When he came home with us, he decided he owned me and he was very demanding of my attention when he wanted it, which was always when it was the least convenient time for me.

When I did not drop everything as he wanted or did not allow him on my lap, he would do something right in front of me that he knew I would not allow, like jumping on top of the hutch of my desk, or messing with papers on my husband's desk or walking on the kitchen counters or the dining table. I would yell at him telling him to come to me, which he would do with this vocal protesting all the way--sometimes across the entire room--that was reserved strictly for this ritual. He then would jump into my lap and I would scold him, sometimes even giving him a few pats on the rear end. During this whole routine he would purr and I think he even smiled, because now he was exactly where he wanted to be and would snuggle up in my lap.

Jamie was no dummy.

Jamie loved those little mice covered with rabbit fur that rattled. He would chew off their rabbit fur tails. He would fetch the tailless mice when I tossed them across the room and bring them back to me. He would play with them by himself if he had to, but he liked an added degree of difficulty, like them being just barely in reach under or behind furniture. I once bought him a bag of twelve mice like this for Christmas only taking one or two out each time because he would lose them. When we could not find any of them I would begin a serious search and I found six under the oven once. However, Jamie has not played with anything that took more effort that a couple of smacks with a front paw for years.

Jamie always barely tolerated children, dogs, and other cats, actually pretty much anything to which I gave my attention other than him, so that list must include computers too. My daughter has a scar right next to the outer corner of her eye; she was toddler when she got that one and thankfully it was a hair's breadth from catching and ripping the corner. She also has three scars on her chest from when she picked him up and he decided he did not want to go downstairs for the night; she was older and feeding him then, but he had not quite warmed up to her. Despite his first impressions of her, the last few years he was sleeping with her until we would take him downstairs to the office in the basement. We did this only because in the morning he would often not bother to make it to the cat box down there and leave us a present on the carpet or even the bed. Oddly, he had always made it to the box for urinating, for which I am thankful.

Jamie had quirky ways. When he was young, he used to run to the front door at the sound of a doorbell and look threatening as if he was a dog, even beating our Collie, Jasmine, who was over friendly to everyone. Jamie would even attack people sometimes, but when our first German Shepherd, Sasha, grew up, he took the alpha position from Jamie and his loud bark would send Jamie cowering to the downstairs. He became leery of strangers at the door from that time on.

Jamie would bother people who did not like cats or were allergic, although most people did not have as much reaction to Jamie as they did other cats. He would check out strangers and their belongings, sniffing purses and sometimes jump in their laps and look at me to see if I was jealous. As soon as I called him over he would come, unless the person did not like cats; he seemed to enjoy torturing them more. If I was doing something so I could not let him be in lap at the time, he would sit on my husband's lap and glare at me until I move in such a way he thought he could squeeze onto my lap. He also had this way of sneaking up slowly as if he did not know that once he stepped on me, I would know he was there no matter how he approached me.

My absolute most terrifyingly favorite thing that Jamie would do, when he was younger and still able to jump great heights, was to jump on me. He would do this if I was standing up talking on the phone and not paying attention to him (when obviously he wanted my full attention). The first time there was no warning, I just suddenly had a cat at my chest sliding down with nails out slicing through clothing and skin. I began to know his body language to recognize what he planned to do and I even used to run away from him until I would let him corner me and then I would catch him in the jump. It saved my skin and I think he like it better too. It have been some years since he stopped this, but he would still stretch up on my legs as if to say he wanted to be up there and I would pick him up.

Jamie also loved to play hide and seek. So did Sasha. The problem I could not play it with the two of them because our 70 pound Sasha would run over poor Jamie, so I would only play hide and seek with Jamie when my husband took Sasha outside. Jamie caught on fast and would look for me as soon as Sasha headed for the door, meowing to beg me to play the game.

We thought Jamie had become completely deaf--maybe he did for a time--he was definitely hard of hearing. It was very easy to startle him these last years without meaning to do so. A startle had become popping his head up from a nap and looking around with wide eyes. This was definitely a more mature method than his younger days when when he would jump at at least a foot straight up from all fours and it was always as much as a surprise to me what would scare him as it was to him. Jamie being surprised was always something would send me into deliciously lasting giggles.

When he was young, he expressed his fear of things by challenging them. His first experience with a vacuum cleaner was beyond comical. Apparently he did not like the noise it made at all and he ran away. Once it was turned off, he slowly approached it, circled it, crouched, gave it two slaps and ran away. He did this several times for the next 30 minutes varying his technique one way or another, sometimes he would run past it with one glancing blow, sometimes he boldly square off and jump at it, and so on. He never did like that vacuum cleaner.

I have always told people Jamie was the most annoying cat I ever had and he was the longest living also. It is amazing how big a hole in my life a furry annoying thing can leave when absent.

Jamie, vibrant at age 9, on my lap, where he always wanted to be.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for bringing Jamie into my life. Thank you for protecting my daughter from his jealousy and teaching her that she can change a heart set against her with her love. Thank you for a husband, who is more of a dog person, caring and loving this cat. Thank you for the laughs, the hugs, and even the scratches. Thank you for keeping him for me. ~