A New Season

At the risk of sounding like a real loser, here's my 2014 health resume.  In just the past seven weeks, I have experienced a kidney stone that ultimately required surgery, a virus that hit me the day after my surgery, and am now fighting a staph infection, which I am earnestly praying will not require a hospital stay (seeing as I'm sure that's where I picked up the bacteria in the first place).  I have been put on my butt.  From pain and fever.  Multiple times.

I don't like being on my butt.  At all.  I like to be useful.  And being on my butt just gives me time to think about how useless I am.  Then I cry.  So, I've cried a lot and had to accept help a lot.  And that's just not something I do.  I've got a little bit of a pride thing.


This morning, Abby woke up before anyone else, and when I met her in the kitchen, she was fully dressed in the brightest tank top and shorts combination she could find in her closet, with a ponytail in her hair and flip-flops on her feet.  I said, "Don't you look like spring?" To which she replied, "Why do you think I picked this outfit?  I'm going to go see how warm it is outside."  Right then.  At 7:15am.  Apparently, to Abby, the advent of spring is a pretty big deal.  She was literally bouncing with excitement over the new season.

At that moment, I decided that I was glad that despite the fever from the staph infection, I somehow got through a full school day with the kids the day prior because I didn't have to feel as guilty about making The First Day of Spring an official Sheppard Family Holiday.  For our "school" holidays, you don't have to brush your hair, put on matching clothes (or even change out of your pajamas), wash your face, keep your hands clean, or wear shoes, and getting dirty is just a sign that you did it right.

The rule for the First Day of Spring was "If you're inside, you're doing school.  If you're outside, you can play."  I'm not trying to brag to those of you who seem stuck in an eternal winter, but it was pretty much the most beautiful first day of spring I can remember.

These even peeked open for us.  Literally today.  I think God planned that just for Abby to make it even more special.

We enjoyed the sunshine that ushered in the new season.  I think even the birds had a little extra pep in their step today.
This little number was a team effort on the part of Ben and Abby who collected all of the scarves in the house to create a pulley system for sending "mail" between the different parts of the playground.  My only question was - Why do we have so many scarves?  Umm, we live in Georgia.  (And I'm just noticing that Ben was absent from the backyard for the duration of the picture-taking.  Clever boy.  He avoids the camera like his mother.)

We're just so glad she finally has enough hair to get "bed head."

I was fever-free for twelve hours.  And we made the most of them.  (We even got in a math lesson...score!)

I am ready for spring.  But more than that, I'm ready for a new season.  I truly feel like God is trying to get my attention with these random ailments.  And I'm praying that with this new season, He will open up my eyes to the message He's trying to get across to me.  Discernment.  That's what I need.  He might very well just be telling me I need to rest.  Or maybe it's that I need to trust Him a little more and myself a little less...you know, the pride thing I mentioned.  Maybe he's trying to tell me to stop being annoyed by people who seem chronically sick by making me into one of them.  (Hey, I've never claimed to be nice.)

I wish you all the most beautiful of spring times, especially those of you who seem to have fallen under Elsa's curse this winter.  Steal some moments to just take it all in.  I never cease to be awed by the rebirth of spring.  God's creation, man.  He was good at it.

I'm Not a Self-Righteous Know-It-All, but I Play One on the Internet

Last Friday, the day of the thirty-second turned three-hour task, I got angry at my kids. 

For wanting to eat breakfast.

I struggle every day with selfishness, pride, entitlement, and jealousy (even though wisdom that comes with age has helped me to grow up and get over this one to some extent).

I raise my voice.  A lot.  Then I feel guilty.  Especially when it makes Noah cry.  Then I feel like the worst mom ever.

I am quick to judge, slow to love, very quick to anger, and even slower to forgive..especially myself.

Transparency is important to me.  I have no claims to perfection.  I am so very far from perfect.  I think if you know me in real life, you are 100% aware of this.  Because, well, it's obvious.

One of my vices is the internet.  I feel captive to it.  It's really kind of embarrassing to say it that way.  I'm enslaved by what is going on inside my computer.  True story.  I'm aware of it and I'm taking strides to wean myself off the addiction.  But the truth is, I mostly want to be rid of the misrepresentation.

I am so quick to jump to conclusions when I read things on the internet.  If I stop by someone's blog or read an editorial or a tweet or a status update, it takes about five seconds for me to assume that I know everything there is to know and to draw conclusions and make diagnoses from a mere snapshot of that person's life and experiences.

Maybe I'm the only one who does this.

It's probably my insecurity showing, but I end up second guessing my entire life because of innocuous Facebook posts about kids reading at age three or potty-training at 18 months or winning Olympic gold medals and what have you.  We weren't meant to do this to ourselves.  We were created so wonderfully unique.  Why do we always think we have to fit into someone else's mold?

When I post a status update or blog or share an article, I am giving a small snapshot of myself.  It doesn't represent the big picture.  I feel like if I share successes or victories (large or small), I'm bragging.  If I share struggles or difficulties, I'm admitting failure.  If I ask for prayer, I'm being self-serving.  If I laugh at the expense of my kids, I'm being defamatory. These things, of course, are not true, but I can see where others might view them in this light.  Because that's what I do.

I can attempt to be transparent all day, but at the end of it, I've still only provided a snapshot.  I don't want to misrepresent myself.  Who I am cannot be described in 144 characters, even several times a day.  As much as it pains this introvert to say it, what I need, what I crave, are friends with whom I can be completely honest about my shortcomings and my successes.  Friends who care to know the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Instead, what I find I mostly have are Facebook interactions with people who haven't seen me in twelve years and with whom the only communication I've had is one of heated tone over what I thought was a fairly un-debate-worthy Facebook share.  How that happens, I don't even know. 

So what is the solution?  Grow thicker skin?  Turn off the computer?  Unfriend people I haven't seen face to face within the past couple of years?  Get over myself?  I don't know, probably all of the above.

I just don't want to spend my life misrepresented and misunderstood.  I think the only remedy for this is good, old-fashioned face time.  And not the app.  Real, live people.  Over coffee and chocolate.  I've got the good stuff.  Come on over.

Do you struggle with any of this?  What do you do?  And please ignore the irony of me seeking wisdom from my internet friends. 


If You Assign Yourself a 30 Second Task...

Friday Morning.

I woke up, fed Noah, and waited for the four other kids to traipse over to my bedroom where we start our day out with lots of hugs and a cartoon from under the warm comforter.  (Turns out a king sized bed fits one adult and five kids just perfectly.)

Seeing as how it was Noah's "three month birthday" and all kids were present and in seemingly good humor, I decided to snap a photo of the growing lad with his big sisters and brother.  Easy.  Done.  They were even all looking...kind of.

I sat down to complete what should have been a thirty second task - download the picture from my camera card to my computer.  As luck would have it, my card reader (which has been on the fritz for a while) didn't recognize the camera card.  I remembered that we bought a new one a few weeks ago, but I didn't remember where we put it.  Determined to complete the "thirty second task" I searched high and low, in drawers, even in the attic with the Christmas lights that I knew we bought at the same time, only to find it on the "camera bag shelf" where I should have looked in the first place.  Except...that card reader didn't work either.  At this point, I'd invested about thirty minutes into the thirty second task.  The cartoon was over.  Bellies were hungry.  There were simultaneous, urgent demands for Juice! and Milk!  But, alas, I did not waver.  With my eyes set on the goal, I properly ignored my thirsting and hungry children and pressed on.  With the two card readers, I tried a different laptop.  No go.  Ten more minutes gone.  I moved to the desktop computer in our office, but I don't know the passwords anymore because I haven't used it in three years.  Call Sam at work.  No answer.  Ask Ben.  Get logged in finally only to find that the built-in reader on the monitor doesn't recognize the card either.  Give Ben a ten second lesson how to make waffles and continue on.

Frantic and now worried that I might never get to see the pictures we took of our first full family vacation to Disney World (oh, by the way, we went to Disney World in February), having seemingly forgotten the reason I started this task in the first place, I finally remembered that I can plug the camera directly into the computer.  Only, when I try to copy the files "Windows Explorer" encounters some obscure, un-fixable error and has to restart.  No go on the copying.  I tried "importing" (a fancy computer word for "copying") and it finally worked.  Five minutes later all of my photos from the past two months were on my computer.  I could share the sweet picture of my Noah boy and his four big sibs.  Wait.  The internet was down.

Frustrated and nearing tears.  (Over a photograph, mind you.)  I persevered until, finally, at 11:21am I uploaded the picture.  Yes, that's right.  At least three HOURS after I set out to do it.

Is this a noteworthy story?  Not really.  So why am I sharing it?  Because sometimes it feels like every thirty second task I set out to do takes three hours.  I have a backlog of ideas to write about a mile long, things I want to do around the house, with the kids, for others, but every day I first have to feed, clothe, bathe, teach, and enjoy my family, maintain general sanitary conditions, and strive for some a small semblance of order.  These things alone don't allow for thirty second - turned - three hour tasks...or even thirty second tasks, to be honest.  Maybe time management isn't my strong suit (it's not).  Maybe motherhood has given me attention deficit disorder (I truly believe it has).  Maybe I just wanted to pat myself on the back for having the wherewithal to complete one, simple, innocuous task for what feels like the first time since 2003. 

Some days are just like that.  I'm calling it a teachable moment.

"See kids, perseverance pays off.  And you might never have learned to make waffles on your own otherwise."

To sum up...this is why I don't blog a whole lot.

God Bless, Friends.  Enjoy your season.  Wherever you might be. 

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