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Friday, December 29, 2017

Creating the Beaten Path

When we moved into our house in November of 2013, we had a talk with our back yard neighbor. There was a chain link fence across our property in the backyard and if there was no way through that fence, the kids who went to the elementary school (K-2) would have to walk about three extra blocks out of their way to get to school.

She was very nice to say the kids could walk through her yard when they were going to school. I asked her if she minded if we put in a gate so they wouldn't have to climb the fence and ruin it. She was more concerned about their safety which was so sweet. I put out word on Facebook that I was looking for a chain link fence gate and got two people respond that we could have one that they wouldn't be using.

Well, it went well for a few years. Zachary walked it for a half a year until he started 3rd grade at the intermediate school a mile away and Matthew started kindergarten. Fast forward another couple of years and Matthew is at intermediate school and not longer attending the elementary.

BUT...First year of high school for three means that three freshmen are walking through the back yard to the high school which is located on the next block past the elementary school. Not only are they all walking to and from school before and after, but to evening practices and meetings and everything else that high schoolers have on their schedule.

It was just the other day before the kids helped David pull in the patio furniture for the winter did I realize that we may need to have another talk with the neighbor and promise to reseed her lawn. Talk about a beaten path! I guess they will have to start zig zagging a bit to keep from killing all of the grass!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

High School Concert Band and Choir

We have two in the high school concert band. They had their first concert now a couple weeks ago. I had pictures uploaded to my computer to write about this then, but this month has been a whirlwind with all of the activities before Christmas.

I very much enjoyed the music as I worried about Ryan and how he was going to do having just gotten his two bottom wisdom teeth pulled 3 days earlier. It certainly wasn't comfortable for him but he never complained. He rarely does. He is in the back there with the euphoniums.

Dawn sits right on the end of the clarinet section so that is nice, I can always find her, beautiful in her concert dress. I know that I sometimes get lost in the busy-ness of our home, but I really do love listening to the music as they have grown older. I love who they are becoming.

It amazes me what happens each year as they keep playing and singing. They learn so many things when they are not with me. I love that, and I also find myself feeling like they come home with sides I don't even really know. That will happen more and more as they lead more of their own life. I am grateful that they are talkers and they share a lot of what happens when they are not home. I treasure those moments.

The choir sang too and I have three members of choir this year. Ryan made his way through the songs again with a painful jaw. He is pictured in the row second to the top, the third one from the left in the left picture below. Dawn and Stacey are both in the picture on the right. I love seeing them all up there singing. My very favorite thing is that they sing around the house more too.

I hear melodies and harmonies and it makes my music heart happy. It was fun too to jump up into the choir when the MHS choir alumni were invited to sing "Sing We Now of Christmas" with the choir. Dawn motioned me big to come join them so I did. It was fun. Then the community was invited to join them for the Hallelujah Chorus and so I stayed and sang with my girls and some other friends who also jumped up to sing along. "For the Lord God Omnipotent Reigns...Hallelujah!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas Day Highlights

This year Baby Jesus was found in the Clue game. After ten clues, some of which were a little harder than previous years. Christmas morning starts the same every year at the Sloan house. Dad gets up to make the omelettes that he very meticulously prepared for on Christmas Eve. As we finish breakfast we open the last Jesus Tree gift and after reading the verses, we hang the "presents" on the tree.

"Envelope! It is an envelope! Where does Mom
keep the envelopes?"
By then, every kid of course has peeked under the tree at the nativity to see if Jesus is there. He isn't on Christmas morning and from the first clue, they are lead all over the house answering riddles, looking up Bible verses or just trying to figure out where Mom may be sending them.

This year, the big kids sat around on their rear ends and sent their little brothers around the house. David is always saying I am too easy so he helped and together I think we got a good mix of easy/hard. This year Jesus was in the game of Clue. As I was writing the last clue to send them to Baby Jesus in the game, David said "Roman soldiers / At the Cross / with the nails" in "Clue" fashion. It really was all for us that He came, He walked this earth and he died. We have so much to be thankful for.

I have a few Christmas Day memories of 2017 that I would just LOVE to share!

Merry Christmas from all of us!
Us old people in our jammies too!

Zach's turn
Tool guy!
Only a sister knows how much you love
Merry Christmas...how about a head lock?
A thankful girl...for every book in the box...and such an interesting combination of
books in Dawn's box this year!
Matchy matchy!
Three boys...more head locks! 
"As Seen On TV" comes through with an awesome gift
that Matthew really loves! Who knew!
It is another year to put in the memory book as we paused today to enjoy each other and the traditions that we love as a family. God has blessed this couple when 20 years ago we celebrated our first Christmas together. We had not celebrated Christmas as children and have funny memories of that first year when we bought white corded lights for our Christmas tree! Every year after that we remembered that the lights with white cords go outside or inside to decorate and we want to get the lights with a green cord to string on the tree.

SO much has been celebrated and experienced in those 20 years. A lot of worshiping of the God of the universe who came to this earth to be with us. I was listening to a sermon by Warren Wiersbe the other day as I was getting ready for Christmas. He was preaching from Romans 8. He had five points from the text. 
  • v.31 God is for us
  • v. 32 Jesus Christ died for us
  • v. 33 God has justified us
  • v.34 Jesus makes intercession for us
  • v. 35-39 God loves us and nothing can separate us from His love
I have learned a lot over these years about these very things. How God does this and what that all means for us. I have come from a place that Warren Wiersbe explained this way "If you are 'keeping' yourself saved, you might not be saved at all." I believed for awhile in my life that I had to keep myself saved. It is done, it is the finished work that Jesus came to this earth to accomplish.

He ended by saying "Do you have the witness of the Spirit of God in your heart?" I have tasted and seen the truth of this baby arriving in Bethlehem and what His footsteps on this earth mean to every single person who believes that all of the things the prophets foretold has come true in Him. It is finished because He came.

It is a story for the ages. John MacArthur, in one of his sermons leading up to Christmas this year was reading the story of Jesus' birth "'There has been born for you a Savior' and isn't that what we still should be telling people?"

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas 2017

It has been hard to write these past few months. But today, the Christmas lasagna is in the oven and I have time to reflect. It has been a very different Christmas season this year for a variety of reasons. Different from last year for sure because I have hair and I have more energy to keep up with the activities and the plans. A year ago I was looking forward to 2017, a year of marking the end of cancer treatments and a year of healing and strength.

Somehow along the way, that got derailed. 2017 went by way too fast. And, I spent too much time focusing on the wrong things. Philippians 3:13 "...But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on to the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." It was one morning that David was sharing in Genesis with the children about Lot and his wife. She turned back to look, God told her not to. She became a pillar of salt. God's Word is living and active. Thankful that the punishment for looking back is not a pillar of salt for everyone, it pierced my heart.

There has been more stress than we have had as a family for a long time but also, there has been a lot of trusting in God for things we couldn't see that had nothing to do with cancer. In fact a couple times I remember crying and telling God that I was good at being sick, trusting Him, leaning on His faithfulness for this life and whatever He had planned for the next. But what do I do with THIS?!

I would not have imagined this time last year that we would find ourselves at Thanksgiving time without a church home. To have a place to worship with the body of Christ has always been a priority in our family. David and mine growing up, and now in our own family. Trusting His leading to where He would have us be has left me a little out of sorts this year. It has also in a good way reminded me that when the ground below me is shaky, His hands are catching me, holding me, steadying me, reminding me that He is my foundation, my unshakable Rock.

Substitute teaching has taken over much of my stay-at-home-mom week. I set out each week saying I will work only three days in a classroom and two days at home and then I get a call to see if I can work and have a hard time saying no. The problem is, I have not done a very good job of delegating some of the things around the house to those who are here when I am not.

There has always been, or I have always found the time to ponder, as I have always loved the verse in the Christmas story, in Luke 2:19 "But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart." I love to ponder my Lord at Christmas as he condescended to the earth in the limited body of an infant. This year, I pondered a lot during the "specials" after taking the class to PE or music. It certainly was different.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow...I pray that I will feel like writing again, and sharing now and then. It truly has been a whirlwind this 2017 and with the kids out of school and David off of work, I am glad that we can be together to enjoy the rest of the year!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

2017 Fun Gift #2

When I picked Zach's name for the "Open one present on Christmas Eve drawing" at our house I was not thinking of anything in particular as I stashed his name in my nightstand waiting to attach it to the gift I would eventually be giving him.

It was only when I went downstairs to work on something in my sewing room that as I was moving things around I found his Garfield sweatshirt. Now, this sweatshirt was made by a friend of our family when my brothers were young. I think it was a gift to my brother Johnse when he went through his "Garfield" stage. A couple years ago my mom gave it to Zachary to wear because he had become a Garfield fan.

I remember last spring when we packed it away telling him that he wouldn't be able to wear it next winter because it was already looking too small. He gave me that fretful look. He hates thinking of getting rid of anything and something especially meaningful to him, it is very stressful for him. I expound a little more about that here.

Quickly my mind went to the idea of cutting the Garfield out and using the back of the sweatshirt along with it to stuff it into a pillow for his bed. I was pretty sure that he would love it. Giving him a way to keep something he treasures is one of my missions as his mom. 

As I started working on it I found a 16x16 pillow form under another pile of stuff and thought I would just make it to fit that. I had a gold t-shirt in a box that I was going to take to Goodwill and thought about making the stripes and of course for Zachary, anything that has his name on it is even better!

I was so pleased with how it turned out and to know you have hit the nail right on the head is such a great feeling! I know this will turn out to be on the top of my 2017 Christmas memories!

Friday, December 22, 2017

2017 Fun Gift #1

Anytime I have fun leftover yarn to make granny squares I do! And then when I have enough to put together I use my Caron pound skeins of yarn to join them into an afghan.

This one went with Matthew to school for his teacher for Christmas. We love her and he has been thankful for her in his classroom this year. I know God answers our prayers when we ask Him to put our children with the right teacher for them.

I love to know that someone we care about will open a gift and be over the moon surprised. For those who crochet or like me, need something busy to do with their hands while the family has movie night, these things don't take long to come together.

These last couple of years I haven't been as on the ball to work up these yarn balls into squares but have had a blast this fall seeing how the artistry of it forms in my hand as I put the colors together. There really is no bad combination.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

It Starts Today

Today is the first day of the rest of my life...
  • I am going to be organized, put together and know where everything is within 30 seconds of needing it.
  • I am going to have a dinner on the table every night that is fully balanced with everything my family's bodies need for their day.
  • From now on all of my children's school pictures will be perfect with no need of retakes.
  • I am going to be caught up with laundry, grocery shopping and scrapbooks.
  • I will have all events from the smallest practice to the largest show choir competition plugged into the family calendar AND read the minds of all of the family members who have forgotten to add their events on every given day.
  • I will have children ready every week for their piano lessons each week.
  • Every child will be properly trained to come home from school and do their chores without being told.
  • I will be ready every time there is a charity event with things to donate with a happy heart.
  • I will magically be able to help my children who over commit themselves to be two places at once because I have honed that art to perfection.
  • I will read, delete and send each email in a timely manner.
Yeah, right! I have had some time off to live life and get back to "normal" I don't think that "normal" has quite been obtained, but I know that we are moving in the right direction. I certainly won't be doing all of the points above because I wasn't doing that before I got sick, but it was fun to think about it and laugh at how some days I actually think that perfection is obtainable. I set myself up with expectations that are way too high and truth be told...life is too short!

Another reminder came today when I read the news that Nancy Zieman had passed away after her battle with breast/bone cancer the last couple of years. I cried. She was an amazing woman who did so many great things inspiring some fun projects through the years. Just on the way home from our trip to Door County for our anniversary in August, we got to stop in to Nancy's Notions in Beaver Dam, WI to purchase a few goodies on my list.

I don't know how many hours I have watched of her show and videos that have helped me to learn a technique or two. I will always be grateful for her full proof way to make alterations to patterns in order to make custom clothing that fits mine and my daughters' bodies. I just made two of her patterns for my nieces graduation last May. You can read more about her here in her obituary or if you are interested in her life, you can find her autobiography here. She also left a touching goodbye in her last blog post in September.

I will always smile when I think of my son Ryan walking into the living room while I was watching an episode of "Sewing With Nancy" and say "Hmm, looks like you are watching Sewing With Nancy." (When I sit down to catch up on my DVR'd episodes it is Mom's time for the tv!) He would then proceed to sit down on the couch and try to watch with me. After about five minutes and a couple of comments "looks fun", or "you think you are going to make that?", he would get up and go find something else to do. He tried. If you want to talk about a woman who was focused and driven as a business woman with an incredible creative impact, her story is a good one.

A life well lived. Not perfection, just lived well, no matter how long you have on this earth.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Strands of Strength Video

I will do anything to promote this great group of people. It is October...breast cancer awareness month. The reason we all see pink in October is because someone went through this terrible experience called breast cancer and said "how can this be done better?" How can the doctor visits, the recovery, the chemo treatments, and every other thing about this mess be made better?

Over the years money has been raised and the treatments have gotten better, the time spent at home verses the time in the hospital while going through chemo has gotten less, and the people that hold you up as you walk (or some days crawl) through it have given of themselves even in their own choosing of their profession in ways that can not be described by words.

As I watch this video again, I hear these stories and I rehash our own. Cancer takes so much from a person, from a family. I have struggled, been struggling over the past few months trying to figure out what normal is now. Mostly with a body that just doesn't do what it used to do. I have not felt like writing. I hate that.

Yesterday I got a link to our video that was done for the Strands of Strength fall fundraising lunch. I wanted to share it with all of you. I would not have imagined with all of the lights and awkwardness of being in front of the camera that the video guys would put it together so well.

The reason that you may not see as many people walking around looking like sick chemo patients is because of this group of people who saw a need and have worked tirelessly to help those who lose their hair to cancer treatments. You can't really imagine losing your hair until you do. Trust me, I thought about it all last July and August knowing that in September it would be gone but yet, I had no way of imagining what it felt like to look in the mirror and see every single time what cancer had taken from me.

Thank you Strands of Strength for helping me to be able to leave that all in the bathroom mirror. Thank you that I could walk out of my bathroom and live the most normal life possible each day. It really has been such a blessing to us all!

Monday, September 4, 2017

You'll Find Me in the Kitchen

I wasn't expecting that a week full of canning tomatoes and cucumbers would bring me to the places in my mind that I went this past week. Not realizing how activities or events can bring on memories, I jumped into my tomato canning as always, excited to put away goodies for my family to use all through the year.

It was the crazy busy canning week last summer when my hair was falling out. As the first batch was processing this year, I remembered how I sat on the computer in my kitchen a year ago and summed up the event along with all of the emotions that go along with losing my hair.

Funny how in the morning on Saturday, I grabbed what is left of my scarves, the denim blue colored one, and threw it on over my short hair for canning day. It will probably be my canning day headwear for years to come just because it is a memory that makes me thankful. It was my favorite one of the scarves because when I put it on, it stayed in one place and I never had to think about it. That is what you need, not only when you have lost all of your hair, but it is also nice to have on canning days.

Matthew and I started with the cucumbers. Many of them were way too big and I hate to waste things. So we cut them up and tasted a bit of each one and when they weren't bitter, I just seeded the big ones and sliced them into spears. We did seven quarts like that.

I did sweet relish in pints. I love my sweet relish recipe. It is great in tuna, egg or chicken salad, potato salad and a few other things. The cucumbers that were not "spear friendly" got processed and made part of that big pot of relish. When that was done, there were 13 pints and 7 half pints.

As I wrote about above, Saturday was tomatoes. 11 quarts of salsa in the morning and 12 quarts of spaghetti sauce in the evening. Of course there was harvesting on Saturday too, so I had a new big basket of cucumbers and more tomatoes. I love doing this for my family and so thankful that I can!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Ode to Marissa

And so it was years ago, on a trip home from Iowa to Georgia when we got the call. We were only half way home, stopping over at my sister's house in Kentucky. Marissa Mae had come, only hours after we had left. With my sister and her husband we had actually stayed a day longer in Iowa on our winter visit in hopes that we would be around to welcome her in person. But, work schedules and her schedule didn't allow for that.

So many years, so many memories and Marissa is off to college. What can I say about my very first niece that can describe the way the world is different with her in it. At least our world, those she knows and those who love her. I can say I am thankful for her energy and excitement and I know that wherever she goes will be a better place because she is there. She set the bar pretty high as nieces go.

I have some fun memories that make me smile when I think about Marissa.
Sharing balloons with Stacey
Getting to know her new little cousin Dawn
Some snuggling on a visit north
Building a foundation for a great relationship with
And why not a big hug?

Telling her daddy all about her birthday
party! (This is my very favorite picture!)

Buddies at church
Taking a nap at Auntie Jody and Uncle Dave's
house in Georgia
And most recently...a May graduation party.
As we grown ups experience time flying by faster and faster each year I realized while we were celebrating with Marissa the night of her party that she is number two of the next Bushlack generation to leave the nest. Jake started it all but two years flew by to get us here and Marissa's send off.

Once again we gathered and wrote our well wishes and prayers for her as she left for college last week. I see a whole group of kids growing much faster than we grown ups want them to. This will happen now every couple years for many more to come with nieces, nephews and a few of our own sprinkled in. Some years more than one, or more than two at a time. As I was going through old pictures it was just like yesterday.

I also realized something when I got home from the party in May...I had been too busy to stop and pick up some of her graduation pictures. Hopefully she still has a few to share! I know that she will succeed at anything she puts her heart into and I can't wait to see what the future holds for this beautiful young lady. I am blessed to be her auntie.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

To the Ballgame

Thanks to Aiming For a Cure, we got to spend last Sunday afternoon at the ballpark. It was a beautiful day for a ballgame!

Cheering on the Kernels! (Looks like I need a cool
pair of sunglasses)
The Party Plaza, all the food and drinks they can eat!

Some enjoyed the shade of the party plaza!

What a bunch of goofs!

I finally got Zachary to join us in the bleachers

Kernels win!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Broken In With 10,000 Steps

I am doing my best to be active and to start exercising more as my doctor says. I was able to report yesterday at my appointment that I have indeed exercised. I have been able to get out and walk and ride my bike and get on my elliptical. I even had a couple days last week where my phone step-counter read 10,000 or a little more.

Problem was, my shins hurt. Bad. I got a blister on each foot the first day I was out. But...look at this beautiful trail. I never knew where they went but I have had the chance to go down each turn and get acquainted with the middle green areas of my city.

David and I decided that after six or so years of wearing the same tennis shoes we should actually invest in some good shoes once again. So, since Famous Footwear is doing their BOGO sale as they so conveniently do before school starts, we left in pairs David / I and Ryan / Matt. So four of us so far have new shoes. I got $10 off in the sale and another $5 of rewards.

So, even though my 6:30 a.m. goal of getting up to walk usually turns out to be more like 7:15 a.m., I got up and put on my new shoes. LOVE THEM! Grey camo with hot pink trim is fun and the support while I walked was great. No sore shins and no blisters!

I love to walk on the trail with the only problem being that the tiny pieces of gravel get into my shoe. But, if I wear thicker socks, I don't notice it so much. I get to put in my ear buds and listen to my podcasts I am so hopelessly behind in.

I am not big into how many steps I have walked in a day, my goal is to just get out into the beauty of God's earth and walk. I love my new shoes and think that I picked them out well.

Although this isn't helping the number on the scale at all, it is doing a world of good to my soul. The path was pretty quiet this morning. I did meet Ryan and the cross country guys on my way back doing their Thursday run. And I saw my elementary P.E. teacher out on his morning walk as well. There were a couple of bikers but other than that it was peaceful and quiet on my walk. I am thankful for the things I have learned in the last year. I think back a year ago when I was recovering from surgery and looking ahead to when I would be starting chemo.

The Lord has taken our family on quite a journey this year. I have loved the feeling of my muscles working in ways they haven't in a long time as I take my steps along the path. It was a great morning breaking in new shoes. After the first 10,000 steps I am excited for all the rest of the steps I will take in them.