Saturday, September 24, 2016

It's Time to Say Goodbye

Everyone that knows me knows how much I love summer. If I could live year round in shorts, a tank top and flip flops, I'd be the happiest girl on the planet. Maybe all the planets. But as it turns out, where I live summer comes and then it goes and I have to say goodbye for another (too many!) handful of long months.  We had a phenomenal summer in southern Ontario this year, beginning with the first backyard barbeque/birthday party we had the weekend of May 28th.  It was 99 degrees that day. Fahrenheit, that is. (If it were 99 in Canadian degrees, I'm sure you'd have heard about it long before now. I like hot weather, but 210F is a little out of my comfort zone.) The pool was busy, the sandbox was busy and plenty of ice cold beverages to go around as the heat of the day gave way to the gorgeous orange sunset and the firebowl was lit up for an evening of s'mores, music and laughter (and mosquitos - it's just a package deal). And that set the tone for the summer of 2016.  Hard to believe that was almost four months ago but the crispy brown leaves in the sandbox tell me it most certainly was.

So as I set out to begin my annual end-of-summer clean up of the back yard and get it ready for all the trees to lose their leaves and then a long, snow-covered winter, I found some pretty awesome little souvenirs.

• Hotwheels cars partially buried in the mulch near the fence, patiently waiting for a little boy to find them and race them as fast as they can

• Pink, blue, yellow and red mostly deflated birthday balloons that found their way into and under the bushes after a birthday party... almost as if they were hiding, waiting for another child to find them and play with them just one more time

• Colorful plastic straws, bubble wands (and empty bubble bottles) & popsicle sticks buried in the sandbox

• Hair ties, sunglasses & metal s'mores skewers, in various places around the fire bowl. Leftovers from an evening of good times where the solar lanterns started to fade at the end of the night

I collected all those things and then rinsed off every plastic sandbox toy and placed it back in the bright green bin. One by one, summer fun went into the bin. I raked all the leaves out of the sandbox and then put the cover on.  I turned and looked at the bin and this is what I saw.  The shark/whale dude made me smile. 

If these toys could speak, here's what they'd have to say:

"Thank you so much for playing with us this summer! We had so much fun helping you build castles and tunnels and mountains and caves. You even took us to the pool and threw us in there! Wheeee!! Our time is over for now, but we wish you a happy Halloween, a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day and a great spring break!  You'll have lots of other toys to play with all winter and spring but we'll be back next summer, and we will be so excited to see you again, Jocelyn, Connor, Hailey, Roman, Landon and Liv.  Please bring Aleah with you too so we can have fun with her also! Grandma and Grandpa will make sure there will be even more of us for you all to play with.  Much love, The Sandbox Toys"

So off they go into storage until then. We plan on having a couple of autumn bonfires before the weather really turns but our time in the refuge of the back yard is quickly coming to a close. 

So until then... Goodbye Summer 2016, you were supremely wonderful. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Think it Through

It never ceases to amaze me how many times I've wanted to start a blog post with

"It never ceases to amaze me..." Mostly because, God is pretty incredible and never stops amazing me.

Today while at the grocery store my heart was heavy over an issue my husband and I seem to disagree on. It's nothing earth shattering but it's one of those issues we've discussed many many times and while it seems like we agree on it at the time, and during discussion, in practice it seems like it takes on a different interpretation. In other words, it seems like we agree verbally but his actions appear to tell a different story.

So I was frustrated with him. I wanted to talk about it again with him and was going over in my head how I would bring it up without sounding like a nag and how I was going to really get him to come around to my way of thinking (because of course, I'm right about this issue and he knows it).   I hadn't really come up with a good way to broach the subject again when suddenly the thought popped into my head  "what am I missing?"  Immediately I wanted to reject the idea that I was the one missing anything. No, it had to be him. He had to be the one that was wrong and I had to be the one that was right because... pride, I guess? No no, it couldn't be that, because he had already said he agreed with me.  So it had to be some other reason he was wrong in his actions.  Surely it couldn't be me?!

Of course the more I thought about it as I walked through the store shopping and then putting bags in the van I realized it was sinful pride rearing it's ugly old head causing me to be so adamant that I was right and he was wrong. I also knew it was the Holy Spirit convicting me of my sinful, selfish, prideful thoughts and  I decided to submit my thoughts to the possibility that I really was missing something and that's exactly how I chose to start the conversation with him when I got home.

The conversation went incredibly well, and lasted for nearly an hour while the groceries sat right there on the counter.  As it turns out, after I explained to him my frustration with how we agree verbally, his actions appear to disagree he was able to explain why and it made perfect sense. I was in fact missing something, and the most ironic thing is, it was something I once said to him about my own actions and I never even thought of applying it to his actions.  So even though it turned out I was actually right (we both were), I was also very wrong in my attitude about the whole thing.  Holy Spirit Conviction 101.

I wanted to share this because it matters a great deal that you search your own heart about your motives, your attitude and your thought process about things before you ever open your mouth.  You can be 100% spot on about something but if your attitude or your approach stinks, no one cares and no one is going to want to listen.  I knew if I came home and just dumped my thoughts on my husband it was going to put him on the defense (naturally, as it would me if he did the same).  I'm glad I took the time to mull it over in my head because that was the time the Holy Spirit used to convict me.  These are all things I already know, but they're also things I tend to very easily forget.

In this day of social media and breaking news that seems to be so tragic and emotional, it's easy to not stop and think before we react and usually with an emotional reaction instead of a well thought out one. That's almost never a good idea.

Just some food for thought.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Party Planning 101: RSVP

I've mentioned the importance of the RSVP before here at the blog but it's always timely to mention it again.

This past week we sent out these invitations for our youngest daughter's birthday party. As always, with the designs I create for personal use or for commercial use, there is an RSVP line for guests. Of course I've blocked it out here because the entire world is not actually invited :) but it's there for all the guests and their parents to see.

Here are some really really important reasons for parents planning a birthday party for kids, to hear from you, as the parents of kids who have been invited:

1. Basic party planning.  Parents need to know ahead of time how many paper plates, cups, goody bags, goody bag contents, etc. to buy.  If it's a sleep-over or a camp out party, they need to know how much space to reserve or how many extra blankets or pillows to have on hand. Adequate accommodations for all the guests is the goal.

2. FOOD.  A couple of huge categories here.  One is allergies and the other is vegan/vegetarian. These days, a lot of kids have particular food allergies and other kids have a vegan or vegetarian only lifestyle and that's important for the parents planning the party to know about well ahead of time. You don't want any of the kids to feel left out in any way, so knowing this information ahead of time can be very helpful.  It's a simple matter of talking to the parents and discussing alternatives for food planning.

In our case, with this party we're planning on having burgers, hot dogs, fruit salad, cupcakes and ice cream and one of the girls attending is vegan (no meat products and no animal by-products).  I already knew that so I talked to her mother (who RSVP'd) to discuss alternatives for her dinner as well as her treats. Of course we want all of our daughter's guests to have a fun time at the party so making a few small, simple changes here and there, makes that happen. None of the kids have food allergies but if they did we'd make sure to make those exceptions as well.

So whenever your child receives a party invitation, be sure to RSVP and let the parents planning the party know your child will be there, and be sure to mention any concerns you might have. And for the party planning parents - make sure you get back to the guest's parents ASAP and ask those important questions: are there any food allergies I need to be aware of - or are there any other dietary concerns?

Most parents these days understand different food situations and will be glad to work with you to make sure all the kids have a great time.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

It's OKAY to be Proud to be an American

Some years ago someone commented to me that it's unChristian to be patriotic the way Americans specifically, are patriotic.  When I pressed for specific details, comments about barbecues, fireworks, celebrations and general revelry and often drunkenness were given as examples. Because clearly, American Christians are the only people on the planet that engage in celebrating this way. (insert eye roll here)  While I certainly don't advocate for drunkenness I can attest to nearly 20 years of living in Canada and being among Canadian Christians who celebrate Canada Day in nearly the same, identical way Americans celebrate the 4th of July. Food, family, fun, fireworks. I say "nearly" the same way but I can't honestly think of anything that's different.

Every year as the 4th of July approaches, I see more and more condemnation of celebrating.  As if, being proud of your heritage and the people who helped craft our country's beginnings is something to be ashamed of. The older I get the more opportunity I have to think about this and just have to wonder if some of these folks who look down at being patriotic have really missed an important point.

I was raised by a single mother who taught her children the value of hard work, being honest, loving God, and getting along with folks.  I am proud to be Estella's daughter and I am not ashamed to say it. Her influence and her teaching and her passion about things were passed down to me and I'm honored and better for it.

She was raised by parents who taught her the value of hard work, earning your keep, taking care of your own, and putting family first.  I am proud to be the grand daughter of Harry and Zora and I am not ashamed to say it. Their influence on my mom, and on myself as well growing up, were passed down to me and I'm honored and better for it.

Their parents, and their parents before them, and through several generations back, my people have come from a long line of folks that had strong moral values, religious beliefs, a strong work ethic and passed them on to the generations after them.  Granted, not all of them were like this I'm sure, but plenty of them were.  There were pastors, teachers, seamstresses, factory workers, carpenters, machinists, homemakers and farmers peppered all through my family tree of generations past. I can trace my line on both maternal and paternal sides back to England, Scotland and France going back just under 900 years. On both sides, my family came to what is now the USA in the late 1600's and they stayed there. They lived there, worked the land, raised their families, and taught them values they in turn passed down to their children, and on it went.

This is my heritage and I'm proud of their hard work, dedication, and the values they passed down from one generation to the next. While we originally came from another place, there are 300+ years of Americans in my blood line on both sides of my family.   These people were in many ways, no different from all the men who's names are associated with the US Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence. They came to the new world, they stayed there, they lived & worked there and they died there.  They would have believed these words from the Declaration of Independence that state

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

These words of the US Constitution:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

And these words from the Bill of Rights:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Celebrating your heritage or being a patriotic person doesn't take away from one's Christian faith, in any way.  No more than celebrating your mother's birthday does.

Of course we're not celebrating the current state of the country today (there's not much there to celebrate, to be honest) but we're honoring and remembering our heritage and that's always a very good thing.  Lest we forget our very own history.