Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 30 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

I am thankful for my house. It's rather small and it could use some TLC/DIY/HGTV/Extreme Home Makeover kind of attention (ha!), but it has been a safe and comfortable place to call home for nearly the last fifteen years.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day 29 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

I am thankful for Grace thru Faith. I discovered that website shortly after Michael passed, and I have learned so much and been so blessed by Pastor Jack Kelly's teaching there. I look forward to checking in each evening for the daily Q & As, and I enjoy his weekly articles, and his weekly teaching on the Psalms. I don't have much time now that Michaela is here for in-depth Bible study and reading of any sort, so I appreciate being able to spend a few minutes each day (even with Michaela on my lap) learning something more about God's word.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Days 27 & 28 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

I was so preoccupied with my return to work yesterday that I didn't remember to post until I'd already climbed into be last night. Once I slipped beneath my flannel sheets next to my Little Baby Punkin I wasn't going to get up again. So today will have to be a twofer.

I am thankful for good neighbors. Sure, I've had an ongoing disagreement with my nextdoor neighbor about her dumb dog, but I am blessed to have several neighbors who are truly neighborly. The bachelor who lives next door is really helpful. He frequently brings in my trash barrels, and collects my mail when I'm away. Today, he helped another neighbor with their dog that had escaped from their yard. The couple across the street has always been so friendly to me. Today she came across the street as Michaela and I were leaving for the post office and we had a nice little chat. They are the kind of neighbors who keep an eye out on everyone's house. Two doors up is a sweet elderly widow. I remember good conversations with her husband before he passed a few years ago. She and I have gone to church together before, and she loves a little visit with Michaela and me. Lastly, three doors up is a woman (and her beau). She has built a beautiful house in the years she's lived there. I wish my house was as nice as hers! I love that she's a police officer - makes me feel secure.

I am also thankful for my health. There are so many people who live in chronic pain or with a chronic condition. I got a taste of what that's like when I was pregnant, and it really made me appreciate what it feels like to wake up each morning pain-free, and what it's like to live with good health most of the time.

Two more days, but much more than that to be thankful for!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Day 26 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

I am thankful for time to myself. I don't always use that time wisely, but it is refreshing to have some time to do whatever I feel like doing (or, more likely, to get some things done around the house!).

I was single and childless for so long that I didn't realize how precious free time was. In fact, I usually felt like I had too much time to myself and I frequently felt bored or lonely. With Michaela in my life, I appreciate the times she naps or goes to bed early. Now is one of those times. Thus this post!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Day 25 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

I am thankful for my nieces, Rebecca and Sarah.

Rebecca is now a sophomore in college. It has been such a pleasure watching her grow up from a shy little girl, to a confident, smart, and creative young woman. Rebecca has been a great help with Michaela. She stayed with us a night or two shortly after Michaela was born, and she's always eager to babysit. One of the things I appreciate about her is her photography abilities. She is really becoming a talented photographer, and I frequently ask her to document special times with Michaela with her camera. Just this week, she did a photo shoot with Michaela for our holiday cards and gifts. I'm not going to share my favorites just yet, but here's a fun one:

My youngest niece, Sarah, is a junior in high school. She has always been so outgoing and vivacious. Sarah dances ballet and jazz, and she's on her school's dance team. She's also a very good student. Sarah can talk your ear off about all the things happening in her busy life. She is a lot of fun.

Rebecca & Sarah

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day 24 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

I am thankful for the abundance the Lord has blessed us with. Today my family will sit down to a beautiful and delicious meal prepared by my sister and my mother. I know this will not be the case in every household in America today, and it's certainly not the case for so many around the globe. It's so important to be mindful of that, and to be generous with what we do have. Jesus said:

Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
Luke 6:38

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Day 23 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

I am thankful for travel.

Compared to Michael, I haven't traveled that much. He saw much of the world because of his job with PA. However, I have loved the opportunities I've had to visit other countries and other parts of these United States.

My favorite place stateside is Northern California with Tennessee being a very close second.

My favorite place abroad is France.

I am thankful for the memories I have of times spent traveling with family and friends, and especially of times spent traveling with Michael. He was the best travel companion!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day 22 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

I am thankful for the beauty of nature.

Today as I drove north on Pacific Coast Highway to get home, I was treated to the beauty of the Bolsa Chica Wetlands at high tide. One image of that scene that struck me and caused me to thank the Lord for it, was a small flock of small, white birds rapidly flying above the water nearly as fast as I was driving. They might have been catching bugs as they flew. I had some classical music playing on the radio, and it seemed as though the flight of the birds and the music were intended to compliment each other. It was a beautiful moment.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Michaela @ Six Months

 It was so hard to get this shot! Michaela is almost always in motion these days.

On Friday last week, Michaela turned six months old. Here's the lowdown on all things Michaela.

Growth: I'll get the official measurements on Michaela's length and weight on Tuesday morning when we see the pediatrician, but she has continued to grow like a weed. A couple of weeks ago, I took all the six month clothing out of her drawers and washed up the nine month outfits. She still wears some lines that are sized 6 - 12 months, but most of her everyday wear is Carter's. So that's the sizing I use to judge her growth rate. She's wearing a size 3 shoe, but she hardly ever wears shoes. It's warm enough here for socks to suffice. I did get her a pair of warm boots for our trip to Las Vegas last weekend. I do hope they will fit her for most of the winter, but who knows.

Update: On Tuesday, Michaela weighed in at 17.8 pounds, and she is now 27 inches long.  Our pediatrician said she's "perfect".

Feeding: Michaela has finally decided that cereal and pureed fruits and vegetables are okay. She's still not eating large quantities of them, but she's much more enthusiastic about eating them than she was just a couple of weeks ago. She's also starting to use a sippy cup to get used to drinking water. She mostly just holds onto the cup and and plays with the spout for now. That's fine. Just like her initial forays into eating cereal and purees, the sippy cup is just for practice at this time.

Sleeping: After about a month or more of not sleeping through the night and dealing with night terrors, we have just started co-sleeping. It has allowed me to get the most uninterrupted sleep since I went back to work. I always liked having her in her bassinet right next to me. Now she's occupying the top third of the right side of the bed, and it's comfortable for us both. Naps are still taken in her crib.

Fun Stuff: Michaela gives sloppy kisses and hugs these days. I think she gave her first kisses to my dad. So sweet! She really loves her grandparents, and she is blessed to spend time with them each week. Michaela loves tags. Any blanket or toy with a tag is of interest to her. My mom found a little "Taggies" blanket for her, and she just loves that thing with a slobbery kind of love. It can occupy her for long periods of time. Michaela is doing a lot of pre-crawling movements like pushing up on her hands and knees and rocking back and forth. She's figured out how to get over to whatever interests her by rolling around and using her arms to change the direction she's facing. Michaela also has lots to say these days. She babbles, and laughs, and squeals throughout the day. Such sweet sounds!

Overall, she is still a very easy and happy baby. Every day is filled with lots of good things and love.

Day 21 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

I am thankful for the friends I've made in the years I've been blogging. Blogging is a great way to connect with people you might never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise! I started my first blog six years ago, and I have met so many interesting, wise, and caring people because of it. In those six years, my life progressed from being a single trying to adopt from China, to a newly married trying to overcome infertility, to the wife of a cancer patient, to being a young widow, to being pregnant, to being a new mom. And, there have been others all along the way who were/are walking a similar path and had much empathy, sympathy, wisdom, and friendship to share. I have been so blessed by so many of you, and I have had the chance to meet several of you in person, too. Thank you all for enriching my life.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Day 20 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

I am thankful for rain. We had rain all day today, and it was a really good reason to just stay home and do very little.

However, if today had been a school day, I would not be feeling thankful about the rain. Rainy days at school are tough!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Day 19 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

I am thankful for music. It has always been a big part of my life, and because of music I met the man I would marry!

When I was a kid I started taking piano lessons, and I sang in the school chorus and the children's church choir. I still remember some of those performances and the excitement I felt then.

When I was in high school, I sang in the Concert Choir and the Troubadours. I have so many good memories of learning great music, traveling near and far for competitions and performances, and the wonderful friendships made. One of my dearest friends to this day, Kristina, was a fellow choir member.

As a young adult, I began singing with the worship team at my church. That's where Michael and I met! I wish that we had made more music together before he got sick, but we will do much of that in Eternity.

Lastly, I endeavored to sing and songwrite in the country music arena. I co-wrote the material for the CD I recorded in 2000, and using that as a marketing piece I was able to open for the Bellamy Brothers, Ricochet, Blake Shelton, and the subdudes at local venues. Fun, fun times! I only wish that Michael had been a part of those experiences.

These days, I make up silly songs to sing to Michaela. She seems to be musically inclined, and I can't wait to see what she decides to do with music in her life.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Day 18 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

I am thankful that today is Friday, and that I have the next week off from school. I am so excited to spend nine full days with my sweet little girl! And today she is six months old. I'll post more about that little milestone soon.

On another note, I am grateful that my parents are celebrating 45 years of marriage today. Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad. XO

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Day 17 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

I am thankful for dogs. Growing up we always had a dog and usually more than one cat. But I consider myself more of a "dog person" than a "cat person".

Buffy may drive me crazy, but she's just a high-energy, always-ready-for-fun Lab. She has been a good companion for more than eight years now, and I really appreciated her in the months following Michael's passing. She was just here for me.

I also fondly remember other canine companions from years gone by:

Heidi - my childhood dog - a white and black German shepherd. She was such a good family dog.

Vanilla - all I wanted for my high school graduation gift was a new dog as we had lost Heidi to old age a few months beforehand. Vanilla was a beautiful and really smart yellow Lab mix. I think all of my family members measure the other dogs we've had since to Vanilla's high standards of temperament. She was an angel.

Colvin - the first dog I adopted once I moved into my own home. She was a Rottweiler/Lab mix. While she looked imposing, she was a gentle giant.

Taylor - a beautiful black Labrador. She was as high energy as Buffy, but not anywhere near as smart. Sweet as can be, though.

Taylor and Buffy on the Fourth of July several years ago.

Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made. ~ Roger Caras

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Day 16 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

I am thankful for the following Bible verses:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. ~ Romans 8:28

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. ~ Romans 8:18

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. ~ Revelation 21:4

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day 15 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

Today is my Monday since I took yesterday off for our trip. It is hard to get up so very early every morning and leave Michaela with someone else (even if they are trusted friends and family members), but I am grateful to have a good job. I am also grateful that my job allows me to have a good deal of time off each year. Now that I have Michaela, those vacation times are like gold. They were always times I looked forward to, but now they are precious because I get to spend them with her.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Day 14 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

I am thankful that Michaela is a good traveler! We just spent the last four days out in the Las Vegas area with a large contingent of family members, and it was such a good time. She did so well on the long drive there and back, in restaurants, and during various outings. She's just a joy to be with. We took the Pack 'n Play for her to sleep in, but I ended up with her in my bed instead. That actually worked out really well for us, except that she moves around a lot in her sleep. She's a real bed hog.

Here are some photos from our trip:

Sleeping during the ride. I love to watch her sleep.

A burpy cloth can be fun to play with, Mommy!

Having lots of fun at the Bellagio.

Michaela's first carousel ride. She loved it!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day 13 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

Continuing with the "creature comforts" this weekend, I am thankful for dark chocolate. Lately, I have been savoring Trader Joe's dark chocolate sea salt caramels. Oh, my goodness! They are incredible. You must try them.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Day 12 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

This weekend is a busy one, so I'm allowing myself to be thankful for creature comforts!

I am thankful for flannel sheets. When the weather gets cold, I appreciate how the bed doesn't feel chilly when I first get in it. And they are so soft! Definitely one of the best things about this time of year for me.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Day 11 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

Today would have been our fourth wedding anniversary. I hate that we are not able to be together - especially on special days like today. Our time here on earth was just too short, but I know Eternity awaits.

Today, I am thankful for the perfect wedding day we were blessed to have, and every day I am thankful for the love he gave me.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Day 10 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

I am thankful for my mother-in-law, Marian.

She is a wonderful grandmother to Michaela!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day 9 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

I am thankful for other widows. What a weird thing to be thankful for! But, it helps to know people who have walked, or who are walking, this difficult path with strength, faith, and grace. They inspire me in so many ways as they face rebuilding their lives without their beloved husbands.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Day 8 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

I am thankful for Elizabeth, our nanny and housekeeper.

My dad, Elizabeth, and her husband at Michaela's dedication.

She cares for Michaela as if she is her own. Michaela is always happy to see Elizabeth when she arrives in the morning, and I get a full report in the afternoon when I get home of the day's events. I never worry while I'm at work because I know my precious baby is in good hands when she's with Elizabeth.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Day 7 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

I am thankful for books! Oh, how I love to read! I haven't read much since I had Michaela, but reading has been a joy for me since I first learned to read in kindergarten. I won the "Most Avid Reader" award when I was in third grade. I'm still proud of that! My favorite genre is historical fiction, and my favorite book series is Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. You can have your silly Twilight series. I'll take Jamie Fraser over Twinkle Toes Edward any day.

So, there is reading for pleasure, and there is reading for knowledge and personal growth. After Michael passed, I read several books that have had a profound impact on my grief journey. There are parts of these three books that have really stuck with me and that I go back to for encouragement whenever needed.

Although their loss was much different than mine, I learned a lot from the Chapmans' story. It is always helpful to have godly examples of how to weather the storms of life. The thing that has stuck with me from this book is the idea that Michael is a bigger part of my future than he is of my past. The short time we had here together will be eclipsed in quantity and quality in eternity. I remind myself of that on a regular basis.

Heaven is a thorough study of all that the Bible says about eternity. So many people have defined Heaven for themselves, or let some other person define it for them. I wanted to know what God's Word had to say about Michael's new home. It's not a place full of clouds and harps. It's a marvelous and eternal city:
Revelation 22:1-5  Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
As I read Heaven, and came to an understanding of the present heaven, the millenial kingdom, and the New Heaven and New Earth, I wanted to know more about biblical end times prophesy. Dr. David Jeremiah was preaching on that subject on his radio broadcast at the time, and so I picked up a copy of Escape the Coming Night.

This book helped me understand the book of Revelation and other end times prophesies, and I have found great comfort in knowing what the Bible has to say about these times.

Lastly, I love my Bible.

I use the New King James Version, because that's the version my pastor preaches from. I like how it reads, and I use a study version so I can learn more about what I'm reading. I have come to love studying the Bible, and I really enjoy Kay Arthur's Bible studies. I'm currently (and very slowly) working on a study of Acts with a good friend. Studying the Bible with others can be a wonderful experience.

So, there you have it. I'm thankful for books - books that capture my imagination, and books that nourish my spirit.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Day 6 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

Photo credit -

I am thankful for my church and my pastor. I believe the Lord led me to Cottonwood Church the year prior to Michael's diagnosis to prepare me for the hard times that would come. It was the first time I had attended a church led by a pastor that really preached from the Bible, and that has made a huge difference in my life. I have learned so much more about the Bible since I started attending Cottonwood.

Pastor Bayless has taught me about the God of the Bible and His nature. Therefore, when Michael became sick, I understood Him better and I could trust Him with our lives. I'm still trusting Him and drawing strength from His promises. No matter what the world throws at me, God is good all the time.

It was also through Cottonwood, and Michael's mom, that we came to know Pastor Ray. The Lord used Pastor Ray to minister to Michael and to lead him to the cross. A lot of my comfort comes from knowing Michael's salvation was secure and that I will see him again. Because of what Jesus has done for us, Michael is a greater part of my future than he is of my past. Someday my little earthly family will finally be together forever in the same place with the Lord. That is something to look forward to.

We don't make it to church as frequently as I'd like to, but we'll get to that point eventually. It is so important to me that Michaela grow up knowing and loving the Lord, and that we have friends at church with whom we can share the journey.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Day 5 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

This is my sweet friend, Teresa, and I am so thankful for our thirty years of friendship.

We met as freshmen in Mrs. Vena's English class and Mr. Smith's physical science class. I was always surprised that our friendship continued throughout high school because Teresa was cool, and I was most definitely not! After high school, we both worked at Disneyland in Tomorrowland for a time. We would meet at the park in the off-season and sign ourselves in for a few hours of fun. Those were such good times.

Teresa moved up to San Francisco at least ten years ago, and she has had me as a house guest many, many times over those years. We have spent many fun days together eating and shopping our way through the city.

Teresa shared in the joy of my marriage to Michael by being my bridesmaid, and she shared in the heartache of his illness and death by caring for us both. I'll never forget the ten days she spent with me after Michael went Home just loving me and listening to me.

This year we both became mommies. It has been such a joy to share this new season of life with such a close friend. I can hardly wait to see Teresa, her Toby, and their little son later this month when they come down south for Thanksgiving.

I love you, friend!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Day 4 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

Okay, so today's post is a light-weight. However, with all the sleep I'm not getting these days, I am thankful for this:

It makes a cup of coffee really fast and there's no clean up required. Michael gave me this coffee maker after we enjoyed using one during our stay at a posh inn on the beach in Cambria. Then he taught me how to steam and froth some milk with a little electric whisk he had, and now I can make my own latte every morning. It's a simple pleasure that I really enjoy.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Day 3 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

I am thankful for the love of my family. They have been there for me through the storms of life in the last couple of years, and they still do so much to support me on a regular basis. I don't know what I'd do without them.

My wonderful parents showing off their classic car.

My amazing sister. Seriously, what can't she do?

You don't choose your family, they are God's gift to you,
as you are to them.

Desmond Tutu

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Day 2 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

Beautiful Michaela

I am so thankful for my sweet baby! Her existence is truly a miracle after years of infertility and Michael's passing. I had nearly lost all hope of ever getting pregnant, but the Lord graciously granted me the desire of my heart when He gave me Michaela. She has brought me so much joy and a renewed purpose in life.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day 1 - Thirty Days of Thanksgiving

My friend Elaine has invited me (and anyone who's interested) to participate in a thirty-day commitment to blog about all that we are thankful for. I am probably insane for attempting to blog daily over the next thirty days, but I'll do my best. There's certainly more than thirty things to be thankful for, so that won't be the problem.

In a culture where we have so much materially, it would be easy to start with one of so many creature comforts I enjoy. I'm sure this will devolve to such things as the days go by, but I want to start out with the things that money can't buy.

The best thing in my life that has eternal value is my salvation in Jesus Christ, and I am so thankful for what He did for me on the cross. I'm just too tired to find the right words of my own to explain salvation and why we all need it, so here's a little cut and paste from Christianity 101:

The primary subject of the Bible is salvation. Jesus, from His conception is announced as the Savior. Saviorhood and salvation cannot be separated, since it is the role of a savior to save. And a savior is one who rescues another or others from a dangerous or threatening situation.

Salvation, in its basic definition, means to be rescued from some calamity or other dire situation. The Bible uses this term in a specific way to refer to ultimate redemption from sin and reconciliation to God. In this context, then, salvation is from the ultimate calamity of the judgment of God. It is Jesus Christ, the Savior, who "delivers us from the wrath to come" (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Scripture in no uncertain terms teaches that a day of judgment will come; a day where all human beings will have to stand in the presence of God to be held accountable for the life they lived. For many this will be a dark day of gloom and darkness. It will be a day when the wrath of God will be poured out on the wicked and disobedient. This day of wrath will be the greatest calamity in human history. Its terror and destruction will be beyond imagination. To be delivered from such a day is ultimate salvation. It is Jesus Christ, in His role as Savior, who rescues His people from this day of God's wrath.

In the Bible, salvation is spoken of in tenses of past, present, and future. We were saved from the foundation of the world; we were being saved by the work of God in history; we are saved by being in a state of justification before God; we are being saved by being sanctified or made holy by God; and we will be saved when we experience the consummation of our redemption in heaven.

A key aspect of salvation to remember is that it is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Salvation from start to finish is the Lord's work, not man's. Human beings cannot save themselves. Salvation is both of God and from Him. Ultimately, it is God who saves us from God's wrath, which will most assuredly come.
Salvation proceeds from the love of God, is based upon the atonement wrought by His Son Jesus Christ, is realized in forgiveness, regeneration, and sanctification, and culminates in the resurrection and glorification of all those who accept Jesus Christ as Savior.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for saving me!