Thursday, April 16, 2015

Prom, 2015

A girl. Her date. A fancy dress. Her friends. A beautiful day. This is our Prom Story.

Audrey was asked by her boyfriend to prom with a cheesy breakfast pizza prom-posal to which she said yes (and I said thank you because I had just finished up a long run and was starving). 
Then she and I dress shopped. If you recall from last year, we discovered prom dresses can  cost more than yours and mine wedding dresses did. That didn't change this year. However, armed with that knowledge we explored more avenues, found some disappointing dead-ends and walked away from more than one gorgeous but over-our budget dress before finding one. And we found shoes. And she already had jewelry she was willing to wear again. And the next day we ordered flowers. It was like a prom miracle!
Her date had to do some shopping too and oh the angst we (meaning the rest of us enduring her woeful tales) went through discovering how stores display their ties and that we (meaning her) don't like patterned ties but stores don't... blah, blah, blah... He (meaning first his mom and then her) finally found both a suit and a tie that coordinated. Bless us all!
The day of prom a pile of girls came over and overtook her bathroom and bedroom and street parking. There was hairspray, nail polish, curling irons, bobby pins, hairspray, makeup, jewelry and hairspray aplenty. It was as if Claires, Ulta and a department store dressing room collided. Their small group leader did the girls' hair while I consulted, helped make adjustments and fed them. Then all at once they scattered to pick up dates or be picked up and off we went for pictures. 

 We all met up again, this time with the boys and flowers and parents and siblings for pictures. These are the order of pictures that were on my camera and there is no use arranging them in any other order. 

I snagged this one testing out camera settings and lighting and such.
 This is one of the best candid ones. You see Audrey's natural gift for drama- some girls just have it. Also, let's note the tall boy's hair- some guys just have it. 
The three friends. 
 What the guys do while waiting for all the girl pictures to be taken.
 I'm really grateful someone suggested Audrey and I get a picture together. You see, I dressed up extra nice for the occasion. Not really. It was also the weekend of the Zumbro races and I didn't run it because of prom so I wore my shirt in honor of my friends who were. (I'll be back in two years, Zumbro, in two years.)

 And then someone's heels had to get stuck in the soft dirt. 
 Better lighting, more relaxed kids.

 We snapped picture after picture of friends, family, flowers before some final group shots.
 That lasted like two seconds. 
 The Grand March went swiftly along considering how many students participated and soon we were taking final pictures. All day, while the flurry of prom preparation whirred in the basement, Bill was prepping bikes and packing the camper for a race he and Ben were leaving for right after the Grand March but thankfully he cleaned himself up and loved on his girl. 

 They had a really nice night eating out, going to the dance, making good choices for themselves and for their friends, going to after prom and winning gift cards and giant tubs of candy, playing lazer tag, coming home super late and sleeping all afternoon the next day. 

The end.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Gift

We had glorious weather earlier this week. A parent chose to drive their car with the top down to pick up kids from school. I saw them and despised them. Them and they're fancy top-down car. Who are they anyway?

And then it struck me how my heart was so evil over such a nice thing to be able to have and to be able to do.

He was despised and rejected by men...He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn't value Him. Isaiah 53:3
 I've often pridefully thought that if I had been there in Jerusalem three thousand years ago, I wouldn't have turned against Jesus. I wouldn't have shouted with the mob "Crucify Him!!". But in that moment when my own sin flared up before me I knew I was a part of the crowd. 

But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. Isaiah 53:5
Today is the day we wrestle with the truth. It's heart versus heart. Jesus came for this very reason. Of all the days, this is The Day.

And this is also The Gift. 

This is where it doesn't make sense. We'll work to justify it, to reason it out but it always comes out lopsided. It was meant to be that way and it makes it even more beautiful.

You could again turn and despise it but don't. 

Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost! Seek the Lord while He may be found; call to Him while he is near. Let the wicked one abandon his way and the sinful one his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, so He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will freely forgive. Isaiah 55:1, 6-7


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Favorites: Podcasts and Their Hosts, Super Bowl Food

Here are some favorites for you this week. 

Podcasts: I love a good podcast. You know I already listen to Another Mother Runner and Trail Runner Nation. Amidst my podcast queue is The Big Boo Cast hosted by two women, Sophie Hudson and Melanie Shankle. Both are from the South and have the most delightful accents. They talk all manners of things: fashion, makeup, crackers and dip, football, furniture, music, etc. It's literally like listening in on their phone conversation. (I linked it to some podcast listing site but I download all my podcasts from iTunes.)

Blogs and Books: Besides their blogs, both Sophie and Melanie have written a couple books each. I wanted to tell you about Sophie's latest "Home is Where My People Are" a couple weeks ago so you could pre-order it but, well, things don't always work out as hoped around here. In any case, whether you did or did not read her first book "A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet" which I shared last March during Spring break and you so need to read it, I believe you will really enjoy her second book as well.

Melanie has written two books and her third will be released soon. "Sparkly Green Earrings "is about mothering. "The Antelope in the Living Room" is about marriage. "Nobody's Cuter Than You" is about friendship. Pick the first two up and pre-order her third and be prepared to share them with your friends. 

Super Bowl Food: As you know the Super Bowl has come and gone. I really enjoy the food that accompanies the game. I inquired of my Facebook friends what they were eating and the most common answer was wings. Nice choice, friends. Here at the Ward household we went with burgers. The kids always like burgers and they really like it went I make them into sliders, too. I leave the burgers pretty plain as far as construction goes. Then I fancy them all up with toppings. I draw on Ree for slider inspiration. While searching for tomato toppings I found one using sun-dried tomatoes and cooking them down into a tomato jam. Oh yeah! A great way to use up those tomatoes I preserved last summer. (Also, I am really digging Foodie with Family's blog. Her food is solid, the recipes are right on and her writing is real and entertaining.) An avocado basil dressing, caramelized onions and caramelized mushrooms finished off my burgers. I nestled in some potato wedges, too.

I'm going to call it good today, friends. There are so many links today that I'm going a little nuts. 

Can you spare a minute to tell me what you do about Super Bowl food? It seems that I feel the need every year to make something new. Every year I love coming up with something new just for the party. Do you do that also? What recipe won your Super Bowl party this year? 

Last year it was these Tator Tot Nachos Supreme. 

I just made a Super Bowl Party Food board on Pinterest.

I'll stop now.

Don't forget to leave a comment.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Joe Fox and Engage

I wrote this back in December but never finished it. The lesson I learned that day has stuck with me and it was time to finish it and share it with you.

Today I stood in line at a bookstore and witnessed a scene that made me sad. Actually it made me mad. Really mad.

I had popped into the bookstore to grab a couple of magazines to read during an upcoming road trip. I noticed there was a line to the cashiers and hoped it would dwindle by the time I was ready to check out. As it turns out, the line had not only not dwindled it had in fact gotten longer. I took my place in the queue and perused the impulse items. I noticed that the line was incredibly quiet and no one seemed to be engaging in any small talk. (As you remember from my 50k race, I like to indulge in the small talk now and then.) My wait was a little over five minutes before I reached the cashiers and was third in line.
It was then that a woman caught my attention, really all of our attentions. She was voicing her frustration that a busy bookstore with more than enough employees to wander around (and apparently bothering her) asking if she needed help couldn't seem to get a clue that maybe they should put some of those employees on more registers. She really laid into the guy while simultaneously saying it wasn't his fault but the manager's and also that this was the only bookstore in town so she had to shop there. She turned to the woman next to her and apologized saying it just had to be said. The cashier muttered a few things to her but that did not appease her. I believe she huffed out of the store but I don't really know as I think I might have momentarily passed out from anger, shock and disbelief that that really just happened. 
My mind reeled with what to do with the whole thing. Indeed, there was a line and we all were witness to the whole scene and the tension was thick. I could crack a joke but what would I say? Should I sing? We all know the best way to spread Christmas cheer is to sing loudly for all to hear. All it would take would be one zinger and we would all feel better and have put her in her place. Or something. As it turned out, I ended up being checked out by the same guy and I didn't say much. I was as kind as I could be, said thank you and gave him a smile. He was obviously still upset. I had planned on grabbing a coffee on the way out and decided he needed one as well. I told the woman serving me that whatever the cashier liked to drink I would buy for him. They had heard the whole thing also. I told them that no one ever should be treated like that and that if you are going to go shopping on December 23 you should expect to stand in lines. They said I was the best customer of the day and I said I wasn't.
I told the world via Facebook how it should be. But even that has made me sad. I spent the rest of the afternoon fuming and thinking about the whole thing and a few things finally came to mind.
For one, I really, really wish I had spoke directly to that cashier about the situation or at least said something more. I have been under scrutiny with an audience before and it is a hot feeling to have yourself be laid open like that. You desperately want out but what would help in the meantime is to know that someone is on your side. I can't speak for the other people in line, but I did not feel the same way as that woman. By not speaking directly to him, I feel like I conveyed I was on Team Impatient.
Secondly, I wish, wish, wish I had thought of how to diffuse the situation in the middle of it. I wish I had Joe Foxed it today. 

While this scene isn't directly related, its what played over in my mind while thinking through today. And what I mean by Joe Foxed it (my own made up term) is I wish I could have engaged the woman right there. It took me a good couple of hours to come up with what I wish I would have done, which was to start talking to that woman about what she was buying and whom the book was for and other such non-confrontational conversations. 

Engage seems to be one of the words being impressed upon me for this year. At first I thought that it would mean to seek out new relationships and get all up in them. But right now, over a month into 2015 and longer since this bookstore scene, God has shown me a little differently. I'm leaving my definition of engage a little more open and allowing Him to guide me through. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Madre Rides, Ride #1

Madre- Spanish for Mother
Rides- English for "to sit on and manage a horse or other animal in motion or to be borne along on or in a vehicle or other kind of conveyance" ( In this case- a dirt bike.

Madre rides a dirt bike.

The boys have been riding dirt bikes for almost five years now. Way back at the beginning Audrey and I also tried it. It was fun but we didn't stick with it like they did. As you know, riding dirt bikes became a passion for both Bill and Ben while I got more into running. While we were both connected by dirt (I like to say we are addicted to dirt), I became the photographer, cook, laundress, and support crew for their riding endeavors and never got back on the bike. It felt like a lot of work to help get them out the door so they could go do what they loved and I was okay leaving it at that.

Within a year or so, after hearing the stories of the boys, friends would ask if I rode. I said yes but soon that yes became distant yes. Yes, I had ridden before. Yes, I rode a couple times. Yes, but it's been a few years. Yes, but back when they first started riding and not anymore. I would have round and round conversations with Bill about riding but it always focused on riding to race and I came to a discovery about myself.
  1. I'm very competitive. Well, I just wasn't going to ride to ride. I was going to ride to race and I would want to win. 
  2. Which lead me to realize that would take a lot of time to get to that end. And I didn't like that. 
  3. And I felt like I was already behind.
  4. And I didn't have the proper gear which would cost a lot of money in exchange for possibly not a lot of commitment.
  5. And I'm pretty sure I came up with about another fifty excuses. 
Over beer and pizza with trail running friends this past summer, my friend, Heather, asked me why not? She was sure I could do it. I walked away with that little nugget of belief and challenge and let it turn over and over.

I ran the thought past Bill again and he didn't see why I couldn't. I was pretty much my own hang up. So a month or so later as we were packing up for a trip to Grandpa's and Grandma's I asked if I could bring some gear along to ride. We determined that Ben's 85cc would fit me well since we had sold the bike Audrey and I had ridden before. The next afternoon I geared up with my favorite compression socks (because I didn't have any other long socks), someone's old riding gloves (amazing that we still have matching pairs), an old pair of Bill's goggles, and Audrey and my old riding boots and helmet (all still safe to wear).

That's when I received my first riding lessons with a manual clutch. The first bike I rode a long time ago had an automatic clutch, which I couldn't have told you anything about because I didn't know any different. Ben's 85 (and the 65 that Luke rides) both have manual clutches. This is all old hat for probably most of you guys reading this or for anyone who has driven a stick shift car. (I have but I didn't like it at all. Sidebar: We once owned a stick shift car for maybe six months. I hated driving it but for budget reasons the price was right and it was mostly Bill's transportation. I drove it only when necessary. One day we had to run a quick little errand just a half mile or so away and I had Ben in the front seat. I stalled the car several times attempting to get it in reverse and back out of the driveway. Ben looked up at me and asked "Do you know what you're doing?"  I exclaimed "Yes!" but clearly even at three years old he already knew more about clutches and such than me. Shortly after that, in a very succinct manner (uncharacteristic for me) I laid out my reasons for not keeping the car and Bill was persuaded to buy an automatic car for our family.) So here I am, in front of my father-in-law, sort of kind of listening to my husband explain the whole of the bike. After many, many, many attempts I get it going with the clutch let out slowly while I twist the throttle in the right order. I manage a couple laps around the yard before coming to a stop. But guess what? I don't know how to stop properly. Do not fear. I did not gun it and head in separate directions apart from my bike. I just simply squeezed the brake and the motor killed. So lesson two. The clutch is everything. If in doubt, squeeze the clutch. 

Ben, watching, comments to me that I did a good job but I'll tell you what. I am straight up not having that much fun. My riding is jolty and bumpy and with fits of not holding the throttle steady and lurching forward faster than I would like. In reality I'm no where near the edge of losing control of the bike but I feel like I will any second.

This was a new undertaking for me and I came away from that riding experience learning a whole lot about myself. For one, it was unnerving to have an audience. The thing was the audience was composed of people who were only rooting for me. A big hinderance to my effort was focusing on what others would think. I shouldn't let that stop me from trying. Secondly, even though I knew I was a beginner, starting from scratch, I found I didn't have the beginner's mentality. It was super humbling to be lurching around the farmyard trying to navigate back brake, front brake, throttle and clutch. This was going to take more than time. It was going to take a lot of time. I had to take the lie of being behind and run over it. If I compared myself to the boys then, yes, I was behind. But I wasn't going to, I couldn't compare myself to anyone. If I was going to have to any fun just trying this out I was going to be okay with being right where I was at. I found myself being good with that. I found myself being okay with just learning to ride because I wanted to. Because I wanted to connect with my boys with what they love. Because there is something appealing about trying something new. Because uncovering things you didn't know about yourself is unnerving and scary and brave. Because taking yourself to the edge of your known bravery is a bold statement in believing in yourself. Not because I possess within me all the means to make it happen but because God gives me all opportunities to uncover and express His work in me. Clearly, I need more of Him working in me and more clutch work. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

2014 Hare Scramble Racing in Review

I didn't recap the boys' racing last year race by race. But here are photo highlights from over the course of the year. 

Bill took fifth overall for the year. Ben raced in a new class with a bigger bike. Luke raced less this year but enjoyed every minute. So did the rest of us. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Kingdom Cares International, Part 1

It's been a long while since I last wrote about Kingdom Cares International but that doesn't mean nothing has been going on. In fact, with the gifts and monies that have been contributed over the last years, much has been happening and God has shown himself to the people of Asikuma, Ghana and beyond.

Jake and Janel, along with two other couples including one of Audrey's small group leaders recently traveled to Africa. Janel is starting to recap their trip on her blog Team-Sullivan.

If you are like me, you need a bigger perspective today. As with me, I need to pull out from my tiny corner of the world where I am caught up in the everything of life and see God working out His details all around the world. Head over to Team-Sullivan for more.