Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer Lovin'

After VBS wrapped up on Friday, we ended the most structured part of our summer break. I am happy that we will not need an alarm clock on a regular basis from now until September.

Saturday morning, Michaela took her first ice skating lesson through our parks and recreation program. Here she is moments away from stepping on the ice for the first time:

She was fearless! As soon as one of the teachers came to get her on the ice, she was all in. Granted, she had a "seal" to hold on to in order to balance. Unfortunately, her teacher realized that her boots were worn to the point that they didn't give her the support she needed to stay up on the blades. We'll make sure that we get a better pair next time.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A New Place to Call Home

Image from robinwardillustration.com

No, I am not buying a new house. (Although that would be so nice...)

I'm talking about a "church home".

First a little background.

I have been a wanderer in regards to churches. After I left the church at which I met Michael, it took me several years to get over some hurt I'd experienced there, and to even want to go to church again. At that point the Lord led me to a church that felt enough like my former church so that I immediately felt comfortable. I ended up attending there for several years and became involved in a fledgling singles ministry and the music ministry. It was what I needed at the time.

I wasn't dissatisfied with that church, but when Cottonwood opened in it's current location in 2008, I noticed that their services included Wednesday night. I had always loved Wednesday night church, and the church I was attending did not have a midweek service. So initially, I only walked into Cottonwood wanting a midweek service to attend.

My first visit to Cottonwood was a bit of an eyeopener. What I remember the most was that EVERYONE had their Bibles with them, and many even had notebooks, highlighters, and pens. The congregation was serious about God's Word, and so was Pastor Bayless. I was a little embarrassed because I hadn't taken my Bible to church since I was a kid, and I rarely read it. I don't really remember the topic of study that night, but whatever it was, I liked it.

The next time I went to church, I took my Bible! I couldn't believe how much I didn't know, and how much there was to know. I was hooked. My growing knowledge of God's Word and His nature really helped during our struggle with infertility, and eventually Michael's illness and death. It was Pastor Ray (from Cottonwood) who witnessed to Michael and led him to make a decision for Christ.

I love Cottonwood. I love the warmth of the people there. I love the pastors. I love the music. I love the teaching.

However, Cottonwood is a mega-church. It is very, very large. As I looked ahead, I was concerned that Michaela would be overwhelmed by the size of the Sunday School and youth groups, and that she wouldn't have a strong connection to the kids and leaders in those groups.

So earlier this year, we visited a couple of churches close to home. The first one was just too small, but the second one was just right - large, but not gigantic. It was the very same church where I had attended GriefShare after Michael passed. I liked that the pastor(s) taught from the Bible as much as Pastor Bayless did, and I liked that the Sunday School (even for three-year olds) included a Bible time. While the church facilities are older than the other churches I've attended in the past, it reminds me of the church I grew up in and I like that feeling. There are many opportunities for involvement that fit Michaela and me, and our schedules.

I signed up to volunteer at VBS this week in hopes that we'd both make some connections, and that the Lord would confirm that this is the right place for us to be. The people I've interacted with this week have been so welcoming and inclusive. This morning, I was reintroduced to a woman who had been in my GriefShare group back in 2010. I didn't recognize her (she's lost 80 pounds!), but she remembered me and my story. Everyone has been very gracious. Volunteering has helped me learn the campus, and not get lost in the hallways. Ha! That is a big part of feeling at home, though.

So, I'm happy to say that it appears that we have found our church home. I hope that we will both be spiritually led and fed, and that we'll develop some lasting friendships.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

On Fathers Day...

Dear Michael,

We talked about you today, as we do most days. We were on our way to church, and I knew the pastors would say something about the significance of the day and honor the fathers in the congregation. I was kind of dreading it, to be honest with you. I know how blessed I am to have my dad here, but you were supposed to be the dad in our little family. Before we pulled into the parking lot, I said, "Happy Fathers Day in Heaven, Michael."

And your little girl said, "Happy Fathers Day, Daddy." Sweetest thing ever. I know you heard her. I don't know how that works exactly, but I know you heard her.

She skipped happily into the Sunday School classroom, and I hurried off to the service. Sure enough, there were some jokes about fatherhood, and some serious talk about the importance of being a good father. They showed a video of fathers and grandfathers having memorable moments with their children and grandchildren. The tears ran down my face. There wasn't a single person in that room who knew me, or knew my story. If anyone else saw those tears, they probably couldn't have imagined exactly why I was moved to tears.

Before church this morning, a sweet friend sent me this touching video as a kind gesture on this day to acknowledge all that's on my shoulders. And yesterday some of your family members had wished me a Happy Fathers Day, as well. I appreciate the kind gestures, but it doesn't feel right to me to claim anything on this day. I am her mother, and that's enough for me.

Today was supposed to be your day - Fathers Day. I cried because of all that can't be. The gift she made in her Sunday School class, she gave to my father. The cards and gifts we shopped for weren't for you. The other men in our lives - grandfathers, uncles, and cousins - are very good to us. But they aren't you.

So, yeah. That was Fathers Day. Way harder on me than on her, thank goodness.

Love always,

Friday, June 19, 2015


Wednesday was the last day of school. I don't think I'd ever been so happy to see a year wrap up! That's not to say that I didn't have a good class, because I did.

Anyway, this summer break is much, much needed. It will take me a couple of weeks to decompress. Initially, I had big plans for yesterday, but it ended up being a day where we did some practical things (grocery shopping, house keeping) on a very slow schedule. Michaela decided to dress herself in the morning. She went in and chose her own outfit, and ended up accessorizing with necklaces, bracelets, and rings. She's really exerting some independence!

However, by mid afternoon, Michaela was bored and I was tired of playing Crazy 8s with her - she LOVES her card games!

So we headed out for some frozen yogurt. Michaela is all about chocolate - chocolate everything. She had chocolate yogurt with chocolate sprinkles. Most of it made it into her mouth, but she left a good deal on the table, and wiped what dripped on her hands on her shirt. Napkins (or, mackins as she calls them) are optional!

Then we headed over to Rancho Los Alamitos. Here in Long Beach, we have two historical ranchos. After the mission system dissolved in the early 1800s, the land in California was parceled out in enormous land grants. What remains of the original ranchos here are many of the original buildings, and just a few acres of land. Our ranchos are historical sites, and they are toured by thousands of local students every year.

The fourth grade curriculum is all about California geography and history. Having taught fourth grade for fourteen years, I had toured both ranchos before. They are free to the public, and there are docents available. We chose to wander around on our own since I know a lot about Rancho Los Alamitos, however we were unable to enter the residence without a docent. I figured that Michaela wouldn't be all that interested in a docent-led tour at this point in her life. So no big loss. The grounds are beautiful, and they gave us a good long walk.

I think we'll be back another day. Once inside the gates of the rancho, it feels like we've entered another place far, far away from suburbia. We are also going to visit the other rancho in town, Rancho Los Cerritos, one day this summer.

(For even more beautiful photos of Rancho Los Alamitos, click here.)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

I'm Back!

I never meant to step away from here for five months. Every time I thought about blogging, I just didn't feel like I had anything to say and/or I just didn't feel like it.

And then there's Facebook...

When I started blogging in 2005 or 2006, I made many friends and enjoyed reading their blogs and commenting on a regular basis. Then we all migrated to Facebook, and most of us let our blogs go. We reduced our thoughts and experiences to a sentence (or two, or three) - the Cliff Notes version of our lives.

For me, Facebook became a huge time sucker upper. While I love keeping in touch with my friends and family there, I just spend too much time doing so. A few weeks ago I decided that I'd get off Facebook for the summer, and use my blog and Instagram to share our summer adventures instead. Last night I deactivated my account.

So here I am! I am working with Faith to freshen up the blog. I can't wait to see what she designs for me.

I'm going to miss my Facebook buddies, and I hope they will find me here and check in (and comment!). Maybe I'll make some new friends as well.

So here's to a Facebook-free summer!