Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Recently, Cornbread and I have been talking about enjoying our journey - rather than focusing so hard on what we hope the end result of the journey is. I feel like this is something I need to work on in so many areas of life. Of course there is the seemingly constant struggle of our financial/Edward Jones journey - I feel like that is a continual process of one step forward and two steps back. Once we get a few months of stepping forward, we're reminded that - HEY! HEEYYY! This isn't so easy. You're not going to get off that easy - you don't get 5 years of struggle and then all of the sudden the struggle is done. You may get a reprieve here and there, but its not over, honey. Lest you think you might be past the hard part, here's a little reminder for you.

And a lot of times, I admit, those reminders make me turn to God and ask him what the heck is going on. Come on, God? Haven't we had enough? Aren't we over this? Can't we get some relief from THIS particular thing? I mean, really, its getting pretty old right about now. And by the way... what are we doing wrong?

But I have so many areas where I need to learn to live in the moment and enjoy the journey rather than focus on my anticipated end result. Hasn't that been my biggest challenge of parenthood? If you go back through all of the years of writing I've done, I find this struggle over and over and over. Wanting some freedom from the dependence of my children. Wanting to be free of feeling like I'm being smothered. Wanting some time for myself. Wanting them to grow up a little quicker because I know that as soon as they are all "these" ages, life will be easier. Its all right there in black and white - my ever present struggle. Not that I don't love my kids and love their ages, for the most part, but my struggle with being so highly depended on, while needing time to myself.

That journey has gotten exponentially easier... all three of my girls are pretty independent. I don't feel so smothered all the time anymore. Life IS easier in that regard. But right now-summer- is always difficult because of the lack of routine and the need to cart around 3 extra people in order to do anything and the boredom that they feel at times. So my continual struggle THIS summer is to enjoy each day instead of counting down the days until this thing or that thing. Luckily for me, we have quite a few plans for the summer so its broken up really well into 2 or 3 week segments until the next big family even occurs. That DOES makes summer-as-a-whole easier, but I still need to stop and enjoy the journey of getting there.

The journey - in all of our areas - is where the growth takes place, not the end result. It is the journey that is teaching our family to choose fun, free, family activities that build relationships rather than spending money to do stuff that occupies our time, but does not contribute to our family bond in a significant way. It is in the journey where Cornbread and I are learning to be dependent on an unseeable, sometimes seemingly distant God. One whomI feel like I'm constantly trying to convince that we are worthy of his blessings (I know that is bad theology... not talking theology here, but honestly relaying my feelings). In our journey - not the ambiguous end result - we continually have to offer our budget, our finances, our spending, our desires and thoughts to him and lay them and ourselves at his feet and stop giving him our options on how to solve the problems we think we have. It is in the journey that we learn that we have absolutely no control over any of this, so why are we holding so tightly to the idea that we can do it ourselves?

I feel like I've written this post over and over and over throughout the years. Its a lesson that I need to learn again and again. When I was a teenager, my parents used to tell me what they said went in one ear and out the other... THIS lesson feels exactly like that - it goes in one chamber of my heart and immediately out the other and barely spends enough time there to take hold and change me.

I have good intentions. I want to be like this, but somehow I ALWAYS get distracted.

Yesterday, in an effort to enjoy the journey of having small, but big kids, I brought them to the store and we got items to make root beer floats. Cost me all of $5 and it was exciting and fun and special. And I made sure that I didn't just make the floats and walk away while they enjoyed them... I didn't make one for myself, but I sat with them while they had theirs. This is a step in the right direction for me.

Today, instead of picking up my house, I am sitting outside, enjoying the beautiful weather, giving myself the absolute worst, messiest pedicure in the history of pedicures and later I will take the girls swimming at FFFN and maybe I'll actually get into the pool with them in an effort to enjoy THEM (I hate swimming in above ground pools). These are not big things, but it doesn't matter... its the art of enjoying life and what we DO have that matters.

I've struggled, this summer, with being a fully present and non-dismissive mom. I've been distracted, dismissive, selfish, and sometimes rude and snotty to my kids. And after recognizing that and trying to turn it around, I've realized how much happier I am when I am fully present in their lives and when I am intentional in my parenting and relationships with them.

Here's to a joyful and enjoyable July and August!

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Friends of ours are adopting a little girl from Ethiopia. They've gotten her picture, they're loving her from here. I try, but I can't imagine how it must feel to know that your child is across the world and you want to hold her and love her, but because of this thing or that thing in their government, you have to wait. And wait. And wait. They will be traveling to Ethiopia to go through the court process - they will meet her and hold her and love her and then they will leave her and go back a few months later to pick her up. Can you imagine?

We were with them last night. He had been to Uganda on a mission trip earlier this year. She has been passionate about helping orphans in this world for several years. They are committed to helping those who are unable to help themselves. He was telling us about how difficult it was to come back to this life of extravagance after being there, where running water is a luxury. He took a Ugandan man to Walgreen's a couple of weeks ago and he was in awe and told our friend that everything you could ever want was right in that store... Our friend was looking at the same items in disgust.

Its about perspective, right?

I'm frustrated that we don't have more money to give. That we WANT to give, but we just don't have it to give. Sometimes I ask God: "Why did you give us generous hearts, but not the means to be generous?"

And then I look around at all of this STUFF in this house.

Socrates - "The unaware life is not worth living."

How do I keep myself aware in all areas of my life? In terms of: not accumulating more? being fully present for my girls? not being envious of what others have that I can't have? not being bitter and resentful about not being able to live the way I WANT to live? not being grateful for what I do have? wondering when it is going to be our turn? wondering why the breaks don't seem to swing our way? How do I fall so quickly into complacency?

He said something last night that really resonates with me: after seeing their lives and how they live, he realizes that talking about and arguing about and debating about politics (or anything, really, we just happened to be talking about politics at that moment) just doesn't matter. Its all about living for God and doing what we can for his glory. Its about being more successful so we can give more - not live more. We live comfortably. We have all the food we could ever want, all the clothes, all the heat, a/c, water, etc. Others don't.

My burden this morning, is figuring out how I and my family need to change to become more aware.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer Regional 2010 - Day 4

Sunday morning reminded me why I do not drink a lot or very often. Ugh. A couple of hours of sleep, a headache, dehydration. Ugh. It was rough, but when the kids are involved you don't get the option of giving in and laying in bed for the morning. Its fine - I wouldn't want to waste my day like that anyway. We got up, got everyone ready and went to breakfast.

Our waterpark passes were good for the entire day, so we had decided ahead of time to take our time getting home. We went back to the waterpark after breakfast and then went back to our room for lunch and to pack up. We checked out, packed up the car and went over to mini golf place across the street. The girls had never mini-golfed and I think that it was possibly the cutest thing I'd ever seen. Between Skipper trying to figure out how to hold the club properly and Bugly doing whatever she wanted and Peek trying to size up the course and figure out the best shot, they were all adorable.

Until the 2nd hole.

Bugly was walking along the hole border like a balance beam and lost her balance and fell and hit her head on a large landscaping rock. I ran over and picked her up and laid her on my lap. Her eyes rolled to the back of her head and she seemed to start shaking a little bit. I immediately began to flip out, Cornbread, came and grabbed her from me and she came to and started crying. I continued to flip out and told him I didn't know what to do - I didn't know what any of that meant and we were out of town and I just had no clue what to do. Thankfully, our 8 year old had the presence of mind to run to the little shop and ask for help. The girlfriend of the owner happens to be a nurse and she came over and very calmly told us that she'd be okay and that we could take her to the hospital or they could call an ambulance. We opted to bring her ourselves to get her checked out.

Interestingly, even now she does not have a bump, a scrape or anything on her head to indicate that she hit it on anything. She has a scrape on her upper arm, but nothing on her head. The doctor at the ER determined that she was perhaps more dazed after it happened than actually unconscious. He felt she was completely fine, but advised us of what behavior to look for over the next 24 hours to indicate it was necessary for her to be seen again. He gave her some princess stickers, put a bandage on her arm and sent us on our way. It was the fastest er visit we've ever had.

When we got back in the car, we all decided that we'd like to go back and finish our mini-golf game. And even though Bugly had no desire to continue the game, she was willing to go back and hang out with us while we did. The owners were thrilled to see that she was okay and they gave us some coupons for free games and gave each of the girls a free slushie. It was a fun afternoon, but between the two younger girls, I think they were determined to have the owner hand the place over to us... Bugly kept walking on the edges of things and losing her balance, Skipper kept tripping over her own feet (in typical Skipper fashion).

We grabbed some ice cream after the game and made our way home. I figured they'd all sleep the whole way home, but I think Bugly slept for about 20 minutes and that was it. No one slept for the rest of the trip.

I am so happy that we brought the girls with us this year. We had a wonderful time with them and having them there did not change my experience at all - with the exception of not being able to go out running whenever I wanted, but I can handle that. These regional trips are just one of the huge perks that Cornbread has with his job. I am so grateful that we get these opportunities. But not only these mini vacations and the diversification trips, but he works for a company that has a philosophy that if you do what is best for your customer, success will follow. Ted Jones wrote an incredible letter to Sam Walton (of Walmart & Sam's Club) in response to Sam Walton telling him that if he sold his firm, he could be the richest man in America. Ted Jones responded by saying he already was the richest man in America.

“I have a wife who loves me in spite of all my faults. I have four dogs. Two love only me. One loves everybody. One loves no one but is still very loyal. . . . I enjoy my business. I love my farm and my home. I have a few close friends, and money has never been my God."

That is the founding philosophy of this firm. I am so proud to be a part of Edward Jones and I am so grateful that my husband is encouraged to preserve his integrity and character instead of do things to make money at the expense of his clients. I am grateful that he does not have to choose between money and what is right. It has been a difficult journey, but we have never considered abandoning it. We are fortunate and blessed to be a part of this and to take this journey. While it has been hard and sometimes very stressful, it was one of the best decisions we've ever made.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Regional 2010 - Day 3

The girls were so tired on Saturday morning. I had to wake them up to get breakfast (it ended at 9) and each of them begged to go back to bed instead. Being as mean as I am, I insisted we go to breakfast, so we went. Peek was showing that my dad's genetics have cleanly passed down to her as she commented over and over that it was "all you can eat" and had NINE pancakes and TWO little boxes of cereal. This child has the cutest little body and she can put food away like no one expects - I've had other parents tell me in amazed voices: "She ate SIX pieces of pizza" or "She had FIVE cupcakes". So she was very excited to go up by herself and get more and more and more. Sometimes I think the freedom is more exciting than the food.

Anyway... :)

Cornbread had meetings all morning, so we went back to the room, I bought some tickets and we went out to the waterpark. We were there for the morning and it was a loooooong morning for me. I like the waterslides, but I'm not a big fan of just hanging out in a pool and that is what Bugly and Skipper wanted to do. They were just a little too far away for me to let them play in the water by themselves while I sat and chatted with my friends. So it just seemed like the morning dragged. We got through it, Cornbread joined us around 12:00 and we went back to the room to have lunch. He took them to the beach, the outdoor pool and back to the waterpark while I ran to Target to buy Peek some new flip-flops (she lost hers the night before).

When I found them in the waterpark, Bugly wanted to go back to the room to take a nap so I took her back. I wasn't too upset about that:) I put her in the bathtub to wash her hair and she ended up playing in there with a plastic cup and a washcloth for nearly an hour (this child LIVES in Pretend World and can use anything as her characters). Just as she was getting out and was going to lay down, Cornbread and the girls came back. I quickly changed into my running clothes and went out. I was only out there for 23 minutes because the wind was pretty strong and going in every direction and I was sick of fighting it. The girls had gone to our friends room next door so Cornbread and I queued up our favorite tv program and sat down to catch up.

Saturday evening is always the awards dinner. This used to be the most awkward time of the weekend for us. Trying to figure out where to sit and with whom and then sitting with people we didn't know and trying to make conversation... it sucked. Think: wedding reception with people you hardly know, but no assigned seating. Also think: high school cafeteria. While the people are not cliquey like that, it just feels like that when you walk in the door and don't know people very well and know that they know others pretty well. We don't feel like that anymore as we have made relationships with most everyone in the room so we don't care who we sit with. We ended up sitting with Jay and Hilary and Kurt & Debbie and a new FA.

Entertainment for the evening was put together by two of the FA's. They put together a few Minute to Win It games and had contacted people beforehand to ask if they would participate. Mike had called me a week before and asked if I would be part of it and I had agreed. I figured I'd be nervous and embarassed, but Cornbread had told me to commit and go all in or I would look stupid, so I did. It was fun. I think there were 6 of us and we had to play games that made us look like idiots, but everyone loved it and we all had a good time. I came in 2nd to last place because I earned 0 points in the first game because my cups fell and I was out of the game.

After dinner we are always treated to an open bar by one of the product partners that comes to the trip. We went back to the room and changed into more comfortable clothes, got the babysitter and the girls settled and went back to the bar. As usual, it was a very celebratory atmosphere. Everyone is having a good time and really enjoying spending time with eachother. In the end, its fun because we all really genuinely like each other. Many of us closed down the bar and finally left. Cornbread and I went back to our room to relieve the babysitter and had an afterparty with Jay and Hilary in their room until 4:00.

The next morning was pretty rough;)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Summer Regional 2010 - Day 2

I'm sitting here at the end of Day 2 and even though there have been times when I've wanted to literally throttle one or two of my girls, on the whole this has been a very, very enjoyable mini vacation for our family. I enjoy going on vacation with the family, but it adds a layer of stress when there are so many other people that we want to spend time with and haven't seen in a while. The girls have been awesome and Peek and Skipper are old enough to go off on their own in the waterpark and the three of them together are old enough to be in the room by themselves if we're down the hall.

Cornbread woke up early this morning to workout. After he got back I actually changed into my running clothes, but decided to forgo the run in favor of walking together to a little bakery cafe across the canal for breakfast. It was a 20 minute walk to the cafe and the options promised not to disappoint (the grown ups). We settled on a spinach & feta scone (wow), a granny smith muffin with cream cheese frosting (had the fried chicken moment of granny smith muffin with cream cheese frosting almost immediately, but it was very good), a strawberry muffin and some chocolate biscotti. We ate outside overlooking the water, much to the complaint of our very hot little girls. Bugly spent breakfast under the table - she's no dummy. Predictably, we spent $22 on all of this amazing bakery food and they each ate one bite of each thing and didn't like it. We walked back and changed to go to the waterpark.

While hanging out with some of the other EJ people in the waterpark, we were talking about meals and food and our kids not eating and I decided to go to the grocery store to get lunch food. A better decision has not been made in recent memory:) I ran to Piggly Wiggly while Cornbread hung out with the girls in the waterpark. I grabbed enough food to feed 4 families of 5 for a week and we all had lunch in our room. Ahhhh - no spending a fortune on snack shop food and leaving all but one bite on the plate! Yea for me!

Cornbread and I had meetings in the afternoon and the girls nervously went to the babysitting room. They were a bit hesitant since they hadn't done this before and didn't know most of the other kids, but they did very well and are quite excited to go back tomorrow night for movie night.

While in the introduction meeting, each of the FA's had to introduce themselves and their spouse and tell us who they brought along on the trip. Cornbread graciously introduced himself and went on to introduce me and say that we came with our 3 little "mini Jana's. I don't think I had anything to do with them. She just spurted them out." This was met with a lot of laughter, but I am now known as the Spurter... very happy about that:)

He went on to his meetings and I went to the spouses meeting. This used to be a very uncomfortable meeting for me, but now I really enjoy it. There are so many wonderful women in the room that I adore and feel such a unique connection with. We are united in our support of our husbands and the firm and united in the struggles to get through the journey. Every one of us have been on the journey from step one - no matter where we are right now, we have been at the beginning and there is a certain camraderie amongst us that doesn't exist in other female relationships that I have. So it is a great - and short - meeting.

I grabbed the girls and we stopped for a little treat at the sweet shoppe in the hotel. Again, it was amazing and they each had one bite and were done. So they went off to the room and I stayed and chatted with EJ people as they came by. Cornbread joined me when his meetings were finished. I thought about going out for a run, but decided against it because of the wind. Jay and Hillary and their girls came back to our room and we got ready for dinner and headed out.

We had EJ provided buffet for dinner and lawn games, bonfire and s'mores afterward. There were several potato sack races between a lot of the kids and even some of the FA's got involved. There were a lot of sticky children running around having fun together. Many conversations. And our evening ended with some very tired children making it very clear that they were ready to go back to the room and go to bed.

Its nice to be away from home. Away from the responsibilities. Taking a break from feeling like we are never going to make it and we are never going to be comfortable. Being around other people who are there with us. Who are feeling it like us. But who recognize the hope along with us. Friends and colleagues who cling to that hope because we see others who are living the dream that we have. And those who are living it are real people who are interested and encouraging to those of us on this end of the journey. Because they have been on this end. At some point they clung to this hope. They are proof that persistence works and perseverance will win in the end.

It has been a good, good day.

Summer Regional 2010 - Day 1

Its that time of year again... we take off for a long weekend and spend it with our favorite Edward Jones families. I recognize how different this sounds from the first couple of regionals we attended. In 5 1/2 years, we have come to really love (some of) these people and look forward to spending this extended time with them every year.

We're back to Sheboygan, WI at Blue Harbor Resort this year. And this year, we have finally brought the girls with us. Much to everyone else's amusement... we have already heard many jokes about how "nice it is to finally SEE your children" etc. etc. I think there is a bit of jealousy laced in those comments:) We are fortunate to have parents that are willing to help us on these weekends. This year, however, since it was back at a waterpark we decided to brave it and bring them with us.

One thing I will say, though, in regards to not having brought the girls with us in the past: it really afforded us the opportunity to make and cultivate some great relationships with people in the region. We were not bound by nap and bedtime schedules. We didn't have to be back in our rooms at specific times. We were not pulled away from conversations by impatient children. We were able to get to know people in a way that we wouldn't have been able to do otherwise. And I wouldn't trade that for anything, because now we have actual relationships with many of them. At the same time, it should be noted that most of the places we've gone to in the last several years were not very kid friendly and if next year's location is not kid friendly, we may not bring them with us then, either.

Anyway... brought my laptop with me this year so I can work on Saturday morning, so I figured I'd update everyday rather than do a summary at the end (those are sooooo overwhelming for me to craft).

The actual regional has been cut down again this year to just F-S, however, we opted to again extend our weekend by one day and came out yesterday (Thursday). We left at 2ish and arrived around 5:15. The second I opened the car door, I knew I had to go running. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and the location is awesome - right on the lake & canal. So we got everything up to the room and I changed and went out for 4 miles. It was awesome.

We went down to the waterpark and found the other EJ people who had extended and chatted for a few minutes before embarking on the pizza party. The girls, though, were chomping at the bit to get in the water - and who could blame them? Pizza is nothing compared to water slides and pools! We spent the remainder of the evening in the waterpark and left when it closed at 9.

After getting everyone set in their pajammies and settled in their little boat-beds with Animal Planet going for them, some friends (Paul & Kim & Jay) came to visit and have a few drinks. It was a nice evening - just a few of us, hanging out, no agenda, no responsibilities and plenty of drinks to go around:)


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