Chasing Contentment

Sunday, January 27

One of the grooviest things about living here is the library. I know that sounds dorky (and I adored the libraraians at our branch of the library in Louisiana), but it's an amazing library. They've got online access & I can request the books I want to read, and those books will be delivered directly to the little e-branch near our house.

Because I've been able to easily get books I'd wanted to read for a while, I've been doing a lot of reading lately (especially with the writers' strike ruining tv).

I recently read "I Sold My Soul on eBay" by Hemant Mehta. Mehta is an atheist who put an auction on eBay offering to go to any church or combination of churches the winning bidder selected for a specific amount of time.

Jim Henderson, pastor and author of "Evangelism Without Additives," won the auction and journeyed with Mehta through nearly a year of worship services. It was remarkably interesting to see how Christian services are viewed by unbelievers. It was equally remarkable that I agreed with many of the things he noticed about those same services.

When Mike and I left Louisiana, we left a bad work situation that unfortunately also touched our spiritual lives. We were both really quite ready for a break from organized religion, and most especially, from the denomination of our past.

I've written here more than once about how we need to find a church home, but it's been so difficult to do that. We visited church services in denominations not of our own, and it was confusing and unsettling. Each of these churches was lovely, and the congregations were warm. But there were all of these questions that weren't quite answered.

And so, we're talking about this point about revisiting our former denomination and seeing if we are able to find a place where we can worship without feeling uncomfortable.

It was refreshing to read the book and know that despite the distance I've felt between myself and God these last couple of years, my faith wasn't dependent upon the answers Mehta is asking to receive. I understand that faith is about belief and about trust and not necessarily about answers.

And I suppose that's what I keep coming back to in this life... I don't have any of the answers to the multitude of questions I have, but I do have faith in the One who does. And maybe for the moment, that's enough.

[  posted by Chel on Sunday, January 27, 2008  ]

I'm a notoriously paranoid mama. I watch SVU. I read the paper. I know things can happen to kids. So my kids have to play in the back yard and can't go for walks in the neighborhood alone. I stand outside the men's room and wait for Griff if Mike isn't with us, and I give him a time limit... after which, I'm opening the door and yelling in for him. My mama paranoia has no shame.

A nice little boy moved in down the street last week and is in Griff's class at school. They've been playing all week, and I'm delighted for Griff to have a friend close by. I'm all for his little friend playing here at our house. Invite the whole darned neighborhood if you want! But Griff going there freaks me out. I've met the boy's older brother but neither parent.

But the two of them begged me this afternoon for Griff to go there, and Mike (the NOT paranoid parent) told me it would probably be okay, so I said yes. Now, I sent Griff down there with my cell phone in his pocket and instructions that I would call him in 30 minutes to come home (under the claim of needing to finish homework). And I'm trying to remember that Griff's God's child before he's mine and that he'll be fine.

But confidentially, I'll be delighted when the buzzer goes off and signals 30 minutes so I can call him home.

[  posted by Chel on Sunday, January 27, 2008  ]

Saturday, January 26

Once again, I've proven why I'll never excel at my job... I really enjoy staying home way too much. I needed to go to work today, but instead I stayed home and played with Mike and the kids. I'll regret it later, but it was really lovely today.

AND... tonight is Paige Davis's return to "Trading Spaces." I can hardly wait. TS used to be appointment tv for us. Mike and Josh used to joke about me and Mandy signing us up (since we lived next door & all) and then me whining about the work once we got picked (I'm whiney about manual labor).

I'm hoping that it's as wonderful as I remember it. Of course, if it is, it'll just refresh my crush on Doug, but whatcha gonna do?

[  posted by Chel on Saturday, January 26, 2008  ]

Thursday, January 24

This week at work has been hard... much like last week. I've now received two verbal warnings in as many weeks, and while another supervisor on the floor told me that nothing verbal counts against me, I've been a little wigged out.

Late this morning, the nurse from Griff's school called to say he had eaten some peanut butter and was in her office. She did everything right, and I rushed from work to drive over to get him. He seems fine... the Benadryl seems to have done the trick... but I checked him out anyway. And so we're home. And I know that leaving early won't help me any at work. But I don't know that I care at this point. With Griff looking and feeling okay, I don't so much mind an afternoon off.

I'll pay for it later, of course, but for now, I'm good.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, January 24, 2008  ]

Wednesday, January 23

The visit with Aleece was wonderful... just what I needed. It was a lovely little bright spot in a couple of ugly weeks at work.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, January 23, 2008  ]

Friday, January 18

My friend, Aleece, flies into Orlando tomorrow morning to spend the weekend with us, and I can hardly wait. We're going to have a girly day tomorrow... shopping at the LUSH store... long, lazy meals... massages... all sorts of fun. We'll laugh and cry and share and just enjoy being together. It's been way too long.

This is Eliza, me, and Aleece during her last visit here.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, January 18, 2008  ]

Wednesday, January 16

It's been a week. I've had such a hard time, feeling discouraged and unsure. I've been sad and cranky.

When we left the conference at Griff's school last week, we were so encouraged. Yesterday, we got an email telling us that the assistance we were promised for Griff wouldn't be coming along. Apparently, he doesn't qualify because he's been labeled as 'gifted.' Lovely.

His teachers told us that without the assistance, they don't expect him to be able to pass the FCAT this year. Now, thankfully, this year, he doesn't have to pass the FCAT in order to pass the fourth grade. But Griff puts a lot of his self-worth in his intellect and grades, and we're really concerned that if he fails the FCAT, it's going to be a real blow to his self-image.

So, add the Griff saga to the fact that my supervisor keeps implying that I may not have a job in another month or so unless I shape up, and you get a tired, stressed Chel. (Now, one of the really amazing things about this is that so very many of my co-workers have really rallied around me, to tell me that they don't believe this situation is warranted... to assure me they'll help me through this... just to be encouraging.)

The other day, one of my co-workers commented on how positive I always am, and I told her that I believe that there's a God who is planning my life and that I believe that He's working for my good regardless of whether or not I can see His plan. And that really is true, even when I'm having a tired, discouraged week like this.

Then, today, my desk partner said something about taking her daughter to see "Annie," and I said that I hated "Annie." When she asked why, I told her Annie was perky & that I don't like perky people. She just grinned as she asked, "Have you looked in the mirror lately?"

Me, perky? No way. I don't like perky people. So she did a poll of the people in our section and the section next to us (on the agreement that if people said I was perky, I'd buy her a caffeine-free Diet Coke), and they ALL agreed I was perky. When I disagreed, this voice from over the cubicle wall yelled, "yes, you are!" And now, I don't even know the woman that voice belonged to.

I told my desk partner that people couldn't think I was perky ... I've been tired and discouraged and cranky this week. She said, yeah, but that's just work stuff. You're still perky, even this week.

In my world, in my head, this has been a really lousy week. Really lousy. But the people around me... thankfully, see God in me. It has to be His light. Because I'm just completely sure that it isn't me.

(But I'm not perky.)

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, January 16, 2008  ]

Monday, January 14

I don't need to be the best. I'd like to be my best. But sometimes, it's hard to even accomplish that. I had a hard day at work Friday, and I've had a hard time bouncing back.

In my former life, I was good at my job (at least that's the way I remember it). And in this life, I'm not. I'm getting better (or I thought so before Friday), and I swear I'm working hard at it. But Friday afternoon, my supervisor told me that my scores weren't good enough and that she was putting me on a coaching plan (which is my workplace-speak for gotta get better or gonna get the invitation to find another place of employment).

So maybe it's not that bad. But it's not good. And it was so disappointing to me to think that I thought I was getting better only to discover that maybe not. Now, my scores aren't bad, but they're not good, I guess. Anyway, discouraging.

Several of the sweet girls who are in my section are up for promotion, and when they get promoted, I'll miss them a fair bit. They really are the only Florida friends I have. Again, discouraged.

And we returned to the unanswered question of why... out of all of the requests I've made to God through the years... why He chose to answer my prayer to work in a secular environment doing something new and different. Well, now that I've been doing this for a year or so now, I have to say that new and different sucks. And working with other Christians is way underrated. Still on the discouraged.

So anyway, it's my discouraged week. And I'm trusting that next week will be better.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, January 14, 2008  ]

Wednesday, January 9

We had a conference with Griff's regular teacher, his gifted teacher, the county occupational therapist, the school guidance counselor and someone else (who I never could figure out who she was or why she was there) to discuss Griff's progress and whether or not he needs OT and such.

Mike and I have had some difficult email conversations with his regular teacher of late, so I was a little worried. But it went really well. I was astounded at how gracious they all were about what needed to be done. The OT recommended several accommodations that I think will help Griff in so many ways.

And the things they are going to put in place are things that will help him with the FCAT, too, which is such a relief.

They all also suggested we have some further testing done, which we will. They suggested that if certain things are diagnosed, we may be able to put some other assists into place, and we're just so thankful for all of the knowledge we've gained about Griff and how to help him.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, January 09, 2008  ]

Sunday, January 6

I've done some thinking, and I've come to the same conclusion I always do when I reconsider the subject of blogging... I want to continue to blog for myself, not necessarily for tons of people to read (which is good, since I think I have about four readers). Blogging is an easy way for me to think through some of the things going on in our lives, and it's way easier than a diary (think of how green it is... all that paper saved).

But just like I enjoy moving the furniture around in the house periodically, I'd like to get a new blog design every now and then. My problem, of course, is that I'm an idiot when it comes to all things techhie. So I'm trying to decide if I stay with Blogger or move to WordPress. And what sort of new look do I want? What images would reflect me?

Anyway... if anyone has any suggestions, I'm more than open to them.

[  posted by Chel on Sunday, January 06, 2008  ]

Wednesday, January 2

As I'm starting new things in the new year, I think it's time to revisit my 1001 Things in 101 Days list. I was a little surprised when I realized that the 1001 days will end during 2008. It seemed like sooo long when I originally made the list. Now, of course, it seems like not nearly enough time.

(Originally posted Jan. 3, 2006)

Chel's 101 in 1001
1. Learn yoga.
2. Read 100 books (I'm keeping a record of the books I read with LibraryThing. In 2006, I completed 25 books, which seems like way too few, but it was a hard year for fun. 12/28/06... I completed 27 books in 2007, which, again, seems like not enough, but again, not such a fun year. 1/2/08).
3. (DONE) Learn to make an edible pot roast (I've been given several lovely recipes, and I've tried some myself with reasonable results. In the end, I did find one recipe that rises about the rest, as least for me...Hormel makes this really good roast in gravy that heats in just 7 minutes in the microwave. Perfect. 12/28/06).
4. Read the Bible through in two different translations (I've begun reading through in "The Message" already.).
5. Memorize the books of the Bible.
6. Find a new job that will better utilize my God-given talents.
7. Take a long trip (four days would feel long to us) alone with Mike to somewhere neither of us have ever been.
8. Take a family vacation somewhere that would appeal to all four of us.
9. Be able to run two miles (at one time, not as a cumulative endeavor over the 1001 days).
10. (DONE) Sell my handmade jewelry. (I sold a necklace off my neck at a birthday party last weekend... Jan. 28, 2006. I participated in an Arts Fair last fall, which was interesting if not completely successful... I've begun to see my jewelry as a creative outlet that if it sells is fine but is mostly just for me.)
11. Write at least one short story every six months ... my math is bad, but I think that would be about five stories in the 1001 days (I've done maybe two... not so swell. 1/2/08).
12. Pay off all credit card debt.
13. Accumulate savings equal to three months of our salaries.
14. Begin a college fund for Eliza.
15. (DONE) Attend Mike's doctoral graduation ceremony. (May 19, 2006)
16. Grow herbs (mine tend to die before we can cut and eat them).
17. (DONE) Create a photo wall in our house of favorite photos. (I've put all sorts of great photos in this new house, and they have really helped to make us feel at home.)
18. Frame a really great piece of art created by each of my children. (I've done one of Griff's... still need something of Eliza's.)
19. (DONE) Hold a friend's baby (In September '06, I held little Ella, and I held Olivia in January '07.).
20. (NOT SO MUCH) Keep a list of answered prayers (I started this but didn't keep up with it... it never felt quit right to have a list of tickers, as if I was keeping track of God.).
21. (DONE) Take weekend trips with girlfriends. (April '06 - Aleece in New Orleans, Memorial Day '06 - Mika & Tara, June '06 - LeeAnn)
22. Take weekend trips with my brother and his family.
23. Learn basic sign language.
24. Write greeting cards & convince Aleece to illustrate them.
25. (DONE) Buy furniture Mike doesn't put together.
26. Volunteer.
27. Create a jewelry project folder. (working on it - June '06... whenever I find pictures of jewelry I like, I put it in the folder, saving them as inspiration)
28. Grow cucumbers.
29. (DONE) Paint all the trim in the house. (April 1, 2006 - Mike actually did this so we could put the house on the market, but I'm going to count it anyway.)
30. (DONE) Spend a weekend with Mike in New Orleans. We've always had amazing visits there & I hope for a post-Katrina New Orleans that is better than ever. Maybe that will happen in less than 1001 days. (We spent the night in New Orleans the night of Mike's doctoral graduation. May '06)
31. (DONE) Have my cholesterol checked for the first time (The Red Cross here checks it for free when you donate blood. Mine was a hair high. Nov. '06. And now it's back in the normal range. 1/02/08).
32. (ONGOING...THIS SHOULD NEVER BE FINISHED, RIGHT?) Give money to charities that mean something to me. (I've already contributed to St. Jude's Childrens Research Center and the Special Olympics of Louisiana. Jan. 2006)
33. Walk with my family in the next two March of Dimes Walk America events.
34. Take Griff to art exhibits and expose him to new forms of art.
35. Take Griff to the theatre.
36. Splurge on tickets to see a really good ballet.
37. Participate in at least one book club-type group.
38. Be able to walk two miles without any breathing problems (carrying my inhaler would be perfectly acceptable).
39. (DONE) See an Astros Spring Training game with Mike. (Griff and I each saw three. Mike saw four! And we're planning for more in a couple of months.)
40. (DONE) Take Griff to see an Astros game with Mike. (April 8, 2006 - my 36th birthday ... with Mandy and Josh)
41. See a movie at The Moxie.
42. Ask a professional writer to review one or more of my short fiction pieces. (Ok, I asked earlier this month, but she declined...I'll keep trying. 4/06 I asked again & got turned down again. I'll keep trying.)
43. (DONE) Attend Griff's baptism (Feb. 5, 2006).
44. (DONE)Share Christ with an unbeliever. (God's put me in a position in this new job where I have lots - far more than I ever would have expected - of opportunities to talk about Him.)
45. (NOT SO MUCH) Read Mike's dissertation. (Ok, let's face it. I'm never going to do this. No sense pretending. 12/28/06)
46. Adopt a soldier.
47. Find a church that ministers to each of us, that will encourage each of us to grow in our faith.
48. (DONE) Buy a house & create an environment in which my family can feel at home quickly (June 06 - moved in... still working on the homey feel).
49. Begin a travel fund to use to fly back to La. to see friends.
50. (DONE) Plant sunflowers. (Eliza actually planted them, so we'll see if they grow. Update... they didn't grow. We'll try again.)
51. (DONE) Buy Eliza a tricycle.(Her Grannie D and Pawpaw Jerry gave her one this spring. '06)
52. Find a new favorite pizza place.
53. Forgive myself.
54. Embrace my body for what it is and for the wonder that God gave it.
55. (DONE) Buy a piece of art from my artist friend, Kate, to hang in our new house. (June 12... Kate sketched a very special piece for me, and I will treasure it forever.)
56. (DONE) Potty train Eliza (woohoo! We're there! 12/06).
57. (DONE)Buy Eliza a 'big girl bed' and redecorate her room. (She loves her new big girl bed.)
58. Inquire about selling my jewelry in specialty shops.
59. Promote the website with my jewelry.
60. Read the 'Chronicles of Narnia' books to Griff.
61. Finish reading the first 'Harry Potter' book to Griff.
62. (DONE) Take Eliza to see a live-action theatre production - Dora, Disney or the like (Stacy and I took Eliza and Hannah to see Care Bears Live back in July).
63. (DONE) Have Griff tested again for eggs. And again each year until he isn't allergic or they determine he always will be. (He's not allergic any longer! Woohoo!)
64. (DONE) Get a sitter and go eat crawfish with Mike before we move. (Done!)
65. Make a special piece of jewelry for my mom.
66. Watch 'Band of Brothers' with Mike.
67. (DONE) Take the kids to SeaWorld (We went a few weeks ago, thanks to a generous gift from my sister-in-law's mother 12/06).
68. (DONE) Get a library card. (I love, love, love our library here!
69. (DONE) Hang my Gran's stained glass pieces (We've hung all three & they make me smile. 12/06).
70. Celebrate little events.
71. (DONE) Give Griff a great birthday party here before we leave. (June 9/10, 2006 - We took Griff and his friend, Will, out of town for an overnight trip as his party.)
72. Take a beading class.
73. Listen to friends.
74. Enroll Eliza in a dance class.
75. Encourage Griff to find something he enjoys doing - other than video games. (We've tried Cub Scouts & are now moving on to tennis.)
76. (DONE) Put Mike's Astros baseball cards in a binder. Or several binders. (June '06 - He did this himself.)
77. (DONE) Send Christmas cards. (I made my own scrapbook-y cards this year. 1/2/08)
78. (NOT SO MUCH) Keep a gratitude record during my 36th year. (I need to buy a pretty binder this weekend & start doing this.)
79. Say Thank You often.
80. (DONE) Read the last 'Harry Potter' book... I'm already anxious for it. (Loved it!)
81. (DONE...SORTA) Add 20 new recipies to my rotation. (We're now addicted to My Girlfriend's Kitchen, so that counts.)
82. Practice the 3Rs (thanks to Jack Johnson)... reduce, reuse, recycle.
83. Finish reading "The Great Deluge" even though it's difficult to read.
84. Make a new friend.
85. (DONE) Lower my cholesterol to a reasonable level. (I'm working on it. I lowered it 15 points & I'll have it checked again this week when I give blood. Update... within an accepable level. 1/2/08)
86. Take the kids to the drive-in theatre. (Mike and Griff have been, but Eliza and I haven't.)
87. Clean and decorate the back porch.
88. (DONE) Landscape the yard.
89. (DONE) Have professional portraits taken of the kids. (Who knew the pro would be Mike?)
90. (DONE!) Paint the inside of the house in Chel colors.
91. Become proficient in my new job... earn a promotion.
92. (DONE) Find a new favorite date-night dessert spot with Mike. (I've found lots actually.)
93. Send flowers to friends when there is no occasion but a genuine affection.
94. (SHEESH) Receive one small blue box. (What was I thinking? I can't put something on my list for someone else to do. Ugh... Chel.)
95. Send more thank-you notes.
96. Attend local festivals. (We went to this fabulous arts fair on Mother's Day & I am delighted with the local opportunities around here.)
97. Make handmade cards.
98. Have guests for dinner.
99. Finish an important scrapbook.
100. Have the blog redesigned if I choose to continue with it.
101. Tell people how much they mean to me.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, January 02, 2008  ]

Tuesday, January 1

Happy New Year!
It's amazing to me that 2007 is already gone. While it was still difficult in a lot of ways, it was also sooo much better than 2006 that I am very excited to see what 2008 holds for us.

I like to start new things on new days/weeks/months/years, and I always have a list of resolutions. Generally, I like to say I'm going to 'get my life in order,' which makes Mike cringe. So because I like him a fair bit, I agreed to only two new changes at a time. That's fair, right?

Now, I'm a short girl and more than a bit chubby. That's okay, I guess, and I'd be swift to tell a short, chubby friend that if she was healthy and comfortable, she was fine. I do have a bit of a double standard for myself.

So, anyway. My first goal is to lose weight, but only in the context of living healthier. I need to exercise more and eat better. I'm not giving up anything I like (chocolate). I'm just adding healthy stuff to our lives and seeing where that takes us. Ideally, I'd like to lose four to five pounds per month, but if I don't, I don't.

Since we moved here, I've had lots of shifts in my relationship with God. At first, I was angry with Him. And then, I was pretty sure He was angry at me. And by the time I figured out neither of those was true, I had simply fallen out of touch with Him. Like an old friend with whom I had simply gotten out of the habit of calling or writing... I loved Him and trusted Him but just wasn't talking to Him any longer.

And I used to really enjoy prayer, said more than once that it was the part of Christian living that I was good at... but then, I wasn't even doing that.

And so my second goal is to get back to that daily time with God. I miss that. And I know from experience that I do best when I have time with Him often. In that time with God, I plan to begin praying again, both for myself and for my family but also for those people for whom I care. I always felt closer to those who were far away when I spent time with God talking about them.

Now, I know that it takes however many days or weeks to make something habit, but just to be safe, I'm giving myself all of January and February to work on these things. I'll add two new goals in March. And I'll post my progress here to try to keep myself accountable.

And maybe I'll sneak in a couple extra while Mike's not watching.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, January 01, 2008  ]

Of course, if I was going to make a list of all the things I needed to do to get my lie together, it might go something like this... (in no particular order, of course) ...
1. Keep the house picked up.
2. Dust.
3. Figure out why I blog and whether or not to continue (this is a big one for me right now).
4. Pay off the Christmas credit card bills.
5. Make more jewelry.
6. Plant a veggie garden.
7. Save to go visit friends.
8. Organize my craft supplies.
9. Take more baths.
10. Read more.

Come on, now, in every good improvement list needs a couple easy ones like 9 & 10. Oh, and drink more caffeine. Now that research has shown caffeine can assist with warding off Alzheimer's, there's no reason now to drink a bit more Diet Coke and chai tea.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, January 01, 2008  ]