15 October 2011

I am moving...

...not out of the Valley of the Sun, but to a new blog. 

Whether you're visiting for the first time or have been a regular reader, thank you for pausing a moment at my blog.  I am in the process of transitioning to a new location, so please follow the link and visit me there.

Welcom to the new Spotts in the Valley of the Sun.

Happy reading!

13 October 2011

This Could be Me

Height: 5 2 ft Weight: 98 lbs
Pant size: 0
Shirt size: S

I am so glad that the above picture shows the girl's body but not her face, because this easily could have been me...when I learned I was fat at about age 12.  In fact, I was actually 96 lbs, and though I wore a larger pant size (probably more like a 4...I've never been a size 0 in my life), I was still shaped very much like the girl in this picture, and I had achieved my full height of 5'2". 

I was told I needed to lose two pounds in order to wear a certain coveted outfit...and I lost the two pounds, and I wore the coveted outfit.  I did not realize that in order to continue wearing the coveted outfit, I had to maintain the two pound loss, or the outfit was off limits.

And so began my life as a chronically overweight woman.

"You is kind. You is smart. You is important." --The Help

This picture was posted on FB this morning, and it reminded me of perhaps my favorite quote from The Help, said by Aibilene Clark to Mae Mobley in a loving and sincere attempt to counter the criticism and lack of love Mae Mobley received constantly from her mother.  I thought this was some of the best advice -- especially parenting advice -- that anyone could get.  If we could remember only the last point - to speak kindly - we would be far, far ahead of the game in almost every circumstance.

The biggest disservice any parent can perpetrate on their children is the act of criticizing them, vilifying them, relentlessly point out their faults, speaking to them disrespectfully and unkindly, in the name of love.  The attitude that "I only say this to you because I love you" is a poor excuse for deliberately hurting our kids with our words.  To ask "Who will tell you if I don't" presupposes that even as young people, we are not our own worst critics.  It assumes that even as children, we do not hear and internalize the unkind words directed at us in the name of love

How can we believe that??  How can we forget how we were ourselves as children...hurting when spoken to unkindly, believing what we were told because a person in authority had said it, thinking our faults are huge and glaring because they have been pointed out so often, gradually learning that a raised voice and harsh words are part of what love is?  How can I forget this and perpetrate these behaviors on my own child?

I am choked with remorse at the thought that I might have done these very things, because I became short-tempered and annoyed with my child's failure to listen until I yell.  I have taught him that.  I have, by my own words and actions, let him know that he can ignore me repeatedly until I finally raise my voice.  It's my fault.  I am the parent.  I am the adult.  I am the one that is supposed to love him, guide him, train him, and mold him into a responsible member of society, and more importantly, into a man who loves God and puts Him at the center of his life.

I don't want to be that person, that kind of parent.  Not only am I failing myself, I am failing my son, and I am failing to fulfill the most important job of my life, to train up my child "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."  I don't know how to parent in a way that will show Christ to my child...every day.  I don't know how to reflect Him properly, and it grieves me...desperately.

I feel like a lazy, shiftless, poor excuse for a parent.  I am not qualified for this job...this responsibility.  I thank the Lord that he has gifted me with a husband who is a wonderful and involved father, who buoys me up when I fail, and who encourages me to strive to be the person God created me to be, not only as a woman, but particularly as a wife and mother.  That is the greatest calling of my life...the calling to which I come willingly...the calling at which I fail repeatedly and magnificently...but my calling nonetheless, and God has promised to faithfully provide the ability and the means to fulfill it.  I know that in the twilight of my life, I will be able to look back and see that he has been faithful to that promise.  It is my job now to (with God's help) commit to being the wife and mother He has envisioned.  I know I can't do this adequately...not even close...but even through the gigantic failures that are sure to propagate my attempt, I hope to (once in a while) be the reflection of Christ that my son needs to see.

11 September 2011

I Remember

Yesterday as I was reading different thoughts & posts online, I ran across the following comment:

Not into the whole "remembrance" thing this weekend, because I love looking forward instead, but this beautiful creature is too awesome not to share with everyone! You rock, Guinness!
Guinness served at ground zero after the 9-11 attacks. This brave boy is now a 14 year old retiree. Dog Bless You, Guinness. Tune in to Dog Bless You tomorrow for the premiere of our 9-11 tribute on the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation.
It made me so sad, not because this person was highlighting a profile in a dog's courage (a beautiful tribute), but because there was an underlying snarkiness to the remark, a tinge of negative judgment toward all of us who have remembered with heavy hearts each year, and whose hearts are particularly full on this 10th anniversary of the worst attack on U.S. soil.  Our country was targeted, savagely & brutally attacked ten years ago today, and left stunned & reeling in the wake of it.

I will never forget it.  I can't.  Every time I am reminded of that sad day in our nation's history, I am transported back to that morning at 8:47am as I am driving to work, listening to the morning music program, and I get a call from my brother, who says "Where are you?  A plane just hit the World Trade Center.  Turn on the radio!"  For the rest of that day, and days after, I was rooted to the news...on the radio, on TV, on the internet, in the newspaper.  I had to watch...I had to listen...I had to sear it into my memory and make it a part of me.

Our country was rightly...and righteously...outraged.  How could someone hate us so much, just for our way of life?  We were (momentarily) cohesive in our grief, our anger, our indignation, our resolve.  For a few brief moments we were a nation undivided, mourning the loss of so many innocent lives, proudly hailing the heroic actions of so many individuals on that sad day, understanding that their decisions were instrumental in saving lives while they were losing their own.  For the briefest second we all...every one...supported our President as he spoke out loud what was in all of our hearts & minds.

How can something that united us so completely when it happened divide us so intensely a decade later?  How does a President who was in office barely eight months get the blame...virtually in its entirety...for this act of terrorism?  How is it that ten years later...ten years in which we have not been attacked once within our borders...we are less safe according to some than we were when it happened?  How is it that the act of remembering, of honoring, of memorializing those whom we lost has become so controversial?  How is it that it has become more appropriate to look forward, to leave the whole incident in our past, than to stop on its anniversary and mark the moment, if only to reconfirm to ourselves that this moment in history should never be repeated?

I remember.

I am comforted that, providentially, this tenth anniversary falls on my day of worship...that I will mark it not only by remembering, but also by knowing that God in his sovereignty has used this most devastating of events to turn hearts to Him, that he has shown his immense mercy and grace through the myriad acts of selflessness, kindness, and fortitude by all who responded, who cared for the hurt & broken, and who demonstrated the overwhelming compassion and love our fellow Americans have for each other.

I remember.

I will always remember, and on this day & every day, may God continue to bless the United States of America.

05 August 2011

Randomly Ruminating...part 2

Things I've grown to like (that I never realized I would):
  • The Desert (it's the dry heat)
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Carrying a backpack
  • Doing laundry (ok...stretching a bit, but I do like my washer & dryer)
  • Vacuuming
  • Audiobooks (actually, I LOVE these)
  • Skype
  • Sushi, raw oysters & runny(ish) eggs
  • Having very short hair
  • Deep tissue (painful, bruising) massage - because I feel immeasurably better afterwards
  • Some rap music
  • A drama-free life
  • Being a little out of step with the mainstream
  • Living in the Southwest
  • Making lists

Things I've grown to dislike (that I never realized I would):
  • Most veggie meats (I grew up on them...now...kind of blech)
  • Talking on the phone (for the most part, I'd rather text / FB / IM / email)
  • Having long hair
  • Uber-long books
  • Pumps (very uncomfortable for me - much prefer wedges & platforms)
  • Being a packrat

Things I've decided I want (or need) to do more:
  • Pray
  • Read
  • Write to / visit my long distance friends
  • Work out
  • Spend more time with my local friends
  • Organize my time, my stuff, my house / car, and my life
  • Say what I mean, mean what I say
  • Travel
  • Explore the Southwest
  • Take pictures

Things I've decided I will not do anymore:
  • Eat Lima beans
  • Try to prop up one-sided relationships
  • Fail to clear the air when it is needed
  • Wear pantyhose
  • Be embarrassed by silly stuff
  • Fly Delta (if I can help it)
  • Suffer foolishness or guilt unnecessarily

I want to be better at my life.  More on that...and other things...tomorrow.

04 August 2011

Randomly Ruminating...

...my brain is full of non sequiturs.  Read on...

In the midst of registering my sweet little man for school this year, I got to cogitating.  A great education is completely unrelated to how much a school may (or may not) cost to attend.  Really good schools can cost a small fortune (McCallie & Girl's Preparatory in TN), or they can cost next to nothing (Great Hearts Academny in AZ).  I mention these schools because they are the ones I know, and their reputations are not earned by the $$ that goes into the school, but rather by the stellar graduates they produce - on a regular and consistent basis.  This is a great thing, because it means that a top notch education is available to anyone who has the wherewithal to seek it out and obtain it.

I have had a singularly frustrating week this week, and it has been largely due to the ineptitude of government.  It all started with needing to get licensed here in Arizona, and get our cars registered here.
  • Monday (Day 1) - Arrive at the DMV that really isn't the DMV because it is third-party outsourcing.  Can they register my vehicles?  No...systems are down statewide.  Went to Phil's office to print the sheef (reem?) of registration paperwork for Cody's school, filled it out & dropped it off, only to learn that I had forgotten one essential item - his birth certificate.  Aarrgghh!!
  • Tuesday (Day 2) - Took the birth certificate to school.  Hooray - officially registered now.  Arrive at the "not really the DMV" only to learn that I could still not register our vehicles.  This time because neither vehicle is in my name, and because I need to have emissions testing done on mine.  I don't suppose this information was available on Monday, right?  OK, what about getting my license?  Not there, but the licensing office is down the road, and I'm given a map...to the COMMERCIAL licensing office, which of course does not apply to me.  OK, where do I go?  Back in the direction I came from to the Motor Vehicle Division...oops, wrong again.  This is another third-party that only does tags & insurance...but hey, it's cleaner than the first one, and I'll go back to it when I have my documentation.  Cross the street to the DMV (finally) only to find it overflowing with people because of the system failure on Monday.  In an building with 133 maximum occupancy, they were at or exceeding those numbers.  It was packed, hot (because the a/c was fritzing), stinky (what do you expect?), dirty, and noisy.  I tried, but when I realized I LEFT MY LICENSE AT HOME, I gave up and left.  Aarrgghh...again!!  Too late to do emissions.  Went to Walmart to get Cody's school supplies, and two hours later (and some $$$ later) we got home...exhausted.  
  • Wednesday (Day 3) - Forgot to get Phil to sign the paperwork for the tags, and he's in downtown Phoenix all day at a job site.  My bad.  Got the emissions testing done, then off to TJ Maxx (my favorite store...yay!) to get drawer organizers for the gargantuan task of getting my kitchen organized.  <-- Progress, but this is going to take a while.
  • Thursday (Day 4) - SUCCESS...FINALLY!!  Not only did I get both of our vehicles registered (wow, was that expensive), but I also am officially licensed to drive in the state of Arizona.  While this is all good, it does highlight the complete inefficiency of government.  Why could not most of this be done online?  It was just paperwork and fees, for heaven's sake.  As a reward to my long suffering 6yo, who patiently accompanied me on all of these excursions, he is now happily playing in the Chick-fil-A playground while I'm taking advantage of their Wi-Fi and drinking a (well-deserved) Diet Dr. Pepper. :-)
In light of the above, I am even more thankful than I already was for the relaxing weekend we spent with our much-missed friends, the Kriegs.  What a fun time we had...celebrating sweet Cody's 6th (yes...6th) birthday with a yummy meal, a "made with love by Mandi" birthday cake complete with dinosaur decorations, and a birthday present worthy of the happiest of happy dances (Rex from Toy Story 3).  We also got to see the Detroit Zoo, which was a cool outing made even cooler by a fabulous dinosaur exhibit, had yummy Mexican food for dinner, and then watched Sherlock Holmes (a fantastic movie).  The kids & guys got to swim while we grown-up girls got pedicures & laughed riotously over yummy Pei Wei food.  An evening of pizza & kidlet movies (Mater's Tall Tales and Three Little Pigs & a Baby), then church the next morning that fed my soul with a good Sunday School lesson and great sermon.  We hauled a** to the airport (with a quick stop at Culver's for lunch), and made it through security with lots of time to spare.  Kudos to Mark for the outstanding driving.  We are so thankful for y'all, and can't wait to return the hospitality (we recommend a winter visit!).

So as I'm sitting here watching my kiddo play and letting my ice cream melt, I am thinking once again about last night's Skype call to my parents, and how surprised I was when Taylor came in to say hello because his voice is so much lower than it was the last time I saw him.  That is a rather sad testament to how long it has been.  At least a year and a half, maybe more...

It is HOT outside this week - fluctuating in the 108-116* range.  Ridiculously hot.

I am way behind in my reading for this year, making it very likely impossible to reach all of the goals (or complete all of the challenges) I set for myself.  My main reading goal is always 100 books, not counting any of the reading I do with or to Cody.  I'm about halfway.  The best I've done in the past 5 years is 84 books in a single year, and this is a paltry number compared to some readers I follow, who complete each year with 200-300 books under the belts.  I want to hit my target at least, and I'd like to do that every year.  There is still time to ramp up the effort, so I'm going to try.

I've gone up from a 1.25 magnification in my reading glasses to a 1.5 this year.  Aging sucks.

My interest has been piqued in kinesiology...specifically how it could benefit me with some of the health issues I have.  I've wondered...because when things seem to be long term or chronic, and medication seems to be a permanent fixture, it causes me to ponder if there are other (more effective) solutions.

Since it's past 4:30pm and I've yet to open a box today, I'll leave this to be continued...hopefully tomorrow.

07 July 2011

Revamping the "To Do" List

My "To Do" List looks a little something like this:

1. Pack, pack, pack, pack.
2. blood work - procrastinating...
3. Mammogram - again, procrastinating...
4. Haircut / color - this short hair is awesome, but the haircuts come much more frequently.
5. Did I mention packing?
6. Fold / put away laundry (or perhaps pack it...)
7. Clean as I pack (yay...so fun) --> Today's job!  BLECH!!
8. Do some fun things with the young man.
9. Get my coupons in order - and continue collecting - so I can start using them the "right" way. ;-)
10. Pack the house up so we can move.  Have I mentioned that?
11. Exercise - more? again? regularly?  Lifetime Fitness IS cool...
12. Take my computer back to the repair shop to fix the power plug AGAIN.
13. Get the young man signed up for swim lessons at the Verrado pool (since Lifetime has a wait list).
14. Cook and freeze spaghetti sauce. Rescheduled...yay!
15. We moved to our new house on July 16.  UNpacking has commenced...and will continue until everything has a place, or a new owner, or a price on it for our upcoming (and very necessary) garage sale.  We have too much stuff!

WHERE is my motivation today.


Oooooooohhhhhhhhh....there's a good book to read! EXCEPT THAT I'VE LOST IT!  {found it under the newspapers when I was packing)

(REALLY easily distracted)

01 July 2011

I have met the enemy...

...and it is me.

It's strange, the things that provoke you to write.  I have felt really introspective the past couple of weeks, in part because what I've been reading has been causing me to reflect a lot on the state of my heart and my relationship with God.  Flannery O'Connor's stories will do that to you.  She has a way of zoning in on the crux of a person's character with laser-like precision, and it is uncomfortable when it's a character defect that you possess.  And I possess a lot of them.  Talk about an ability to point out hypocrisy...and heresy...and faithlessness...and (thankfully) redemption.

All of the O'Connor stories I've read lately have talked about judging others harshly.  They illustrate (painfully) the folly of judging others while failing to judge oneself.  They expose the heresy of failing to recognize our own shortcomings while continually pointing out those of our neighbors...our associates...our coworkers...our peers...our fellow church members...our friends...our families.

I am such a hypocrite.  I have committed this heresy a million times, every time thinking that I am the wronged one and therefore not in the wrong.  I was wrong.

A family member remarked to me a couple of years ago that he "only makes efforts with those who make efforts" with him.  I was astonished that he would admit that, because it struck me as so petty and judgmental.  And let's face it...it was.  I was inclined to think at the time that he was selfish and shortsighted...that if he continued along that path, that he would be a lonely person because he would alienate so many people with that ungenerous attitude.  That is not how friendships - nay, relationships - work.  Placing the burden of "making the efforts" on the other party...always...creates such a lopsided relationship that the effort to sustain it becomes too great to maintain.  I know this because I've been there.

And, as has become sharply and painfully clear to me in the past few weeks, I've exhibited the very characteristic I have judged harshly.  What have I been doing, trying to pick the splinters out of others' eyes while ignoring (or not seeing) the beam in my own?  I've been the damaged party...sure...but I've been the damaging party too.

Is it learned behavior?  Maybe.  It doesn't help to see others in your own family doing this.  But the real culprit is a fallen world...a world that is so infused with sin that we don't half recognize the egregious offenses in ourselves.

I am struggling to forgive some excruciatingly painful treatment in my past...treatment that engendered in me years of rage, depression, uncertainty and bitterness.  I was the wronged party.  I had (and have) a right to feel all of these things.  But...but...  At what point will I be able to stop pointing the finger of judgment and recrimination, and (truly) forgive it?  Apologies have been made.  Sincere ones.  I am grateful for them, and gratified by them, but I am failing miserably at my part in the equation.  How do I do it? 

I have not made the efforts I am supposed to...not consistently.  I don't reach out voluntarily across the divide.  I do keep an arm's length.  I often allow the efforts at maintaining the relationship(s) to remain one-sided.  I do not trust that it will not happen again, even though I "believe" that it won't.  I am almost confident that the other shoe will not drop...almost...but I am still waiting for it.  How do I trust that we are finished with it?  How do I do that when I am weak and fearful?

In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi said "the weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."  So true, and in this situation I am the weakest of the weak.  But couple that with Psalm 73:26 which states that "my flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the STRENGTH of my heart and my portion forever." (emphasis mine)  A no brainer, right?  Yep...in a sinless world.

Myriad sources discuss forgiveness, in every possible light, but I think it was C. S. Lewis who described forgiveness as something you must do again and again, every single day, because until your heart has truly forgiven, the results are only temporary.  What a perfect analysis of what forgiveness is and how to do it.  It makes Matthew 18: 21-22 crystal clear...forgiving seventy times seven is not to forgive 490 times, but to forgive repeatedly until forgiveness is real.

The marching orders are to make the effort.  Every day.  Reciprocation great, but not required.  Because it is not about the other party...it is about my heart.  Your heart.  Our hearts.

I have met the enemy, and the enemy is me.

God, and God alone, can change me.

29 June 2011

I just get teary...

...thinking of how caring and generous my friends are to me.

They challenge my mind,
share their joys and fears with me,
and in general make me feel valued.

They open their home to my family,
feed me,
pray for me,
care for my child,
and miss me when I'm gone.

It touches me deeply,
and I can't explain adequately
how full my heart is because of this.

That is all.

10 June 2011

What Got into Me?

I have neglected this blog for a while now (last post in April...good grief!).  I've been reading and reviewing books, and generally haven't been ultra-inspired to write off the cuff for a while.

It's funny what triggers the need to write. So many times it's something that is so small as to seem ultimately insignificant, and yet it can touch off a flurry of thoughts that...sometimes...make their way into something coherent.  That's the case here, I think, and it all started with the question "What got into you?"

Let me explain.  We (hubby, son and I) were spending some time with family one evening in the midst of packing up all of our belongings for the final trek out west.  Sitting around the table, eating dinner & talking, and someone noticed my wrist...or rather, the pink ribbon tattoo that now resides there.  The questions:  "What have you done to your wrist?"  (show the tat.)  "What got into you?"  And the comment that touched off the frenzy of (unspoken) responses in my head:  "Probably the same thing that got into ___________" (who apparently has some artwork on his shoulder that has not gone unnoticed).

GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!  Because the implication was that I had simply gotten a whim to do something out of the ordinary (for our family) or that would cause a reaction....the implication was that I am shallow, and that I chose to ink my skin just because I could.

Not true.  Not even a little bit.  So here I am now, feeling a need to explain my decision(s), not because someone made an assumption that appears to diminish me, but because a comment to that effect was made in a setting that included my parents.  Whatever differences of opinion we have on the merits (or demerits) of tattoos, one thing is for certain...I do not want my parents assuming that I chose the art I did for shallow reasons.  That is NOT ME.  If they know me as they say they do, they know this to be true.

I am feisty, and emotional, and passionate.  I think deeply.  I like to do fun things, to enjoy my life, and to express myself in ways that are meaningful to me.  But bottom line, the artwork on my body is personal, it is a way I express myself, and (most importantly) it makes a statement about what is deeply important to me and where my allegiances are, and those things aren't remotely shallow.

So about the pink ribbon tattoo on my wrist:  my husband's family has been quite heavily touched by breast cancer.  Most recently his sister...my sister-in-law and friend...was diagnosed with breast cancer, went through two surgeries and radiation, and is now (as far as we know at this point) cancer free.  Praise God for that!  I have friends whose families have been ravaged by breast cancer.  I hope and pray for a day when there is a cure for this, and all, cancers.  They are a scourge.  So, as a reminder to myself to be personally vigilant, and as a show of support to friends and loved ones who have been touched by this disease, I have a pink ribbon.

Additionally, on my right ankle I have a cross, with Psalm 73:26 written above it, which reads "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."  What a magnificent statement of faith that David wrote!  It absolutely captured my heart and soul and has become a talisman of sorts for me.  When I forget that I will fail, and fail mightily, without the grace of God, that tattoo on my ankle is a visual (and effective) reminder that GOD never fails, and that only by putting my trust and faith in him will I be sustained.   It is also precisely what anyone fighting the cancer fight needs - to know with certainty that God is the strength of their hearts and their portion forever.

Whatever else there is to say on the subject is a discussion topic for another day.  For now, I will end with this:  "From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. (Gal 6:17).  Amen to that, and may God be glorified through this and all that I do.