Tuesday, December 07, 2010

What we're doing for Advent

Even though my little girl is really small, and doesn't yet understand the mysteries of the incarnation, I wanted to start laying a foundation now that will help to focus our minds and hearts on Christ during this season.  I want to serve her by not tempting her to love things more than Jesus, because I know that battle will spring up in her heart on its own accord without help from me.  I want her absolute earliest memories of Christmas to be not just the teeming pile of gifts she cannot wait to open, but the whole Advent season and the activities that take place.

Here is what we're doing this year:
Susie making Baby Jesus eat his birthday cake.

1. First Day of Advent, I pulled out her new Fisher Price Nativity set.  We keep it out in the living room, usually set up under the tree.  I try to play with it with her every day, making Mary kiss baby Jesus and the angel sing "Glooo-oooo-ria" and the animals make their noises.  My plan is to only get this toy out during Advent, so they will remember it as the years go on, and look forward to playing with it.

2. Books -- we started last year by giving Susie a little board book for Advent called The Special Baby that very simply tells the story of Christ's birth.  I got that back out a few days ago, and then yesterday gave her a new Advent book, The Animal's Christmas Eve which is an old Golden Book we found at Half-Priced books.  It's perfect for her "listening" level this year.  It rhymes, and has all the animals, and she asked me to read it like 5 times this morning, so I know she likes it.  I saw her flipping through it and heard all the animal sounds (at our house, the animals are NAMED their sounds, for the most part.  Except "horsey" which is a very new word for her).  My plan for this tradition is to build our little Advent book collection each year and get them all out to read just during this time of year together.  I think it could be really fun as kids get older and they are various ages.  We could do one book a day or something, once we get enough.  For now, she likes reading the same things over and over so this works!

3. Christmas songs -- when I was a little girl, we would sing Christmas songs by the tree before bed, so I did that with Susie last year.  This year she's not always keen for me to keep her pinned down, so we don't do it every night, but I have been singing lots of Christmas songs about Jesus.  If she's in the mood, she does the motions with me to "Away in a Manger" and often mouths along the words (not the real ones, she pretends to know it) with us.  Of course there are all kinds of fun Christmas songs like "No Place Like Home for the Holidays" that I enjoy hearing each year, but I really want to feed our souls by making songs about Jesus what we sing and listen to as much as possible.  

4. Advent Calendar -- I've misplaced my nice big Noel Piper calendar, and plan to make one for next year.  Since I don't have that, we are just sticking on the little footprint stickers to this, and making that our little calendar.  Counting the days until Christmas hasn't been a thrill for her yet, but it's good for me to do!

5. Coloring -- crafts are just a bit too much for Susie right now, but that girl could color all the live-long day.  I'm printing off some nativity coloring sheets for her so we can talk about the pictures while she colors.  I also found a $1 activity book that comes with stickers and coloring pages to pull out close to Christmas.  I'd love for those people and animals in the Christmas story to become a part of her life like Curious George, Cat in the Hat and Woody (from Toy Story) -- those are all her favorite characters.

6. Family Devotions -- Josh is reading selections from Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus  aloud after dinner.  We don't do it every night, but they are really good.  I have been reading a few in my own devotions, as well.  I appreciate how focused on Christ the readings are.  Several days ago I read part of a sermon by George Whitfield during which I was very convicted about my neglect of the poor.  It's certainly not too late to look into getting this book to read this Christmas season!

Of course we're doing other Christmas traditions and baking and shopping things too, but these things are good for me to do too, not just for Susie.  By working hard to help her learn about the baby in the manger, I am forced to keep my focus there as well.

What are you doing to make Christ the center of your holiday?  I'm be stockpiling ideas for future years!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Our Little Family

I'm excited to share that the Lord has blessed our little family, and He is causing it to grow!  I am coming to the end of the first trimester of a second pregnancy, and we will find out if we are going give Susie a little brother or sister next month!  Lord willing, we will welcome a new baby into our family by the beginning of June next year.

Praising the Lord for his goodness.  He is the giver of life and all good gifts!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Going to the Heart Doctor

Going a different route with this week's post.  It's really more about me, but my mom as well. 

Today I was thinking about my mom quite a bit.  I went to the pediatric cardiologist, and as I sat filling out the paperwork, I looked around and thought of how many forms like those my mom had filled out for me.  I was thinking how I used to go visit my cardiologist every December when I was a girl, and we would travel to Cincinnati to Children's Hospital for the appointment, no matter where we lived.  Today there were flurries falling, and with the Christmas season coming, I could remember those days so well.  When I got old enough to care, I would choose to wear my favorite outfit on that day.  I knew Mom and I would go downtown, just the two of us, and usually we would try to meet my Aunt Sandy for lunch, if she were available.  Aunt San worked at Children's Hospital as a surgical nurse, and it was so fun to meet her in her scrubs, and the three of us go eat in the cafeteria together.  I knew Mom would let me get some sort of fun and yummy cafeteria dessert to eat, and it was great to sit and listen to Mom and Aunt Sandy talk.  It was rare to be alone with two grown-ups in those days. :)

I can't help but wonder if Mom had a hard time with those annual visits.  I know that fear and worry was something she battled her whole life.  She used to post Bible verses up around the house to meditate on, to help her with her worry.  She never acted nervous, that I can remember, but then again, I never had anything but glowing reports.  Still, I'm sure that there was some aspect of fear or worry each time we went through the EKGs and Echos.  Perhaps she wondered if my heart was still functioning normally.  Perhaps she was afraid she'd hear something other than "see you next year!" at the end of the appointment.  If so, she never let on.

Dr. Benzing and me when I'm about 9 or so
I loved to walk into the Pediatric Cardiologist's office, and hear the nurses and doctors comment on how grown up I was getting.  Amazingly, many of them had worked there when I was very small, or even when I was first born, and so they remembered us year after year.  Those kind of comments are just music to a little girl's ears!  I enjoyed the cold and sticky EKGs -- they were somewhat fun to me.  I loved meeting with Dr. Benzing (yes, my cardiologist had the same last name as we did -- we were distant relatives), and hear his soft-spoken assessment of my ticker.  It was like I had accomplished some great feat by growing another year and still having a good heart.  As a little girl, I felt somewhat proud of myself (as if I had anything to do with it!).  It never entered my mind that I'd hear anything negative at those appointments, because I never had.  It also never entered my mind that it might be difficult for my mother to re-enter that arena year after year.  

I was not fearful, because Mom did not appear to be.  And I'm really thankful for that.

Here is a post I wrote about my birth and heart surgery.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thinking about Christmas Cards and Why I Love Shutterfly

I recently read a magazine article contemplating why people send photo Christmas cards every year when we share pictures throughout the year on Facebook, blogs and through e-mail.  The writer considered it a waste of money, and time.  It made me really think about sending Christmas cards, and wonder WHY it is that I want to do it anyway?

I think it's because I LOVE getting people's Christmas cards!  I especially love it when you send us one that has a family picture on it -- we often leave them up for months, or at least tack them on the fridge long after we take down the Christmas decor.  Last year we put our cards up around the doorway to the kitchen, and Susie, who had just started on solids, would sit in her high chair and grin at all the people smiling at her from their cards!

My favorite company to order cards from is Shutterfly  If you have ever ordered anything from them, you KNOW they have exceptional quality!  Their site is really user friendly, too.  I ordered Susie's birth announcements from them, and even splurged to get the really special beautiful cards I wanted.  I have ordered invitations, Father's day cards, prints and photo books.  Their quality never disappoints! 

Check out some of their Holiday Cards they have this year -- they are always coming up with new and AWESOME things!! Here are a few of my favorites:

This one unfolds to show a picture timeline of your year -- so you can add pics and tell what your family did that year.  LOVE IT!

Just so classy!
This would be super cute if you had the perfect picture to go.  I'm thinking a baby laughing???

Of course, I'm not going to tell my VERY favorite!  I'd rather keep it a surprise until my Christmas card comes in the mail!

Project 52 -- Date Night #5

Saturday night Josh and I dropped Susie off at a babysitter, and went to see the new Harry Potter movie together!  While driving in the car, we tried to remember the last time we'd gone to a movie together. . . yep, it was the last Harry Potter movie!  Last summer, when Sus was tiny.  I think it was the first time she'd gone to a babysitter.

Anyway, in an effort to make out date lowish cost (movies are SO EXPENSIVE) we went to the 5:55 show so it still counted as a matinee!  Also, I packed cans of soda in my purse for us (ok, some frown, I know, but we still gave the theater plenty of money).  I did buy us a big popcorn, though.  Some things you just can't replace (at least for us).  We packed sandwiches to eat in the car to save time and money (because the movie started so early).  It was really really fun!  The theater was packed, so I had to lean over to Josh a little since the guy next to me was certainly taking up more than his share of our armrest. :)

I'm guessing we might pull out another movie date night -- the new Narnia movie comes out next month!

Linking up with Simply Modern Mom's Project 52.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Importance of Read-Aloud

I had to write a topical speech for my class, and I thought I'd post it here.  I'm sorry that it's in speech form, and not too easy to read, but I hope the content is at least somewhat interesting! If it helps, you might want to read it out loud in my voice.  In front of a mirror. . . :)

Intro:  On a snowy blowy day in January, the winds blew drifts around our big house in the Wisconsin countryside.  I sat in the front living room with my brother and sister, listening to our mother read to us from a thick chapter book.  The room was golden and glowing, not just from the sunshine that fell through the window, but also from the story we all soaked up together.  We could sit, lay, or cuddle as Mom’s voice read on and on.  And when it would stop, we’d all beg for just one more chapter!  We loved having her read to us, even though we were all certainly old enough to read the book ourselves.  It was more than the story that we loved, it was the togetherness, and the way her voice brought it to life.  I would like to share with you some of the joys and benefits to reading aloud to your children.
I.                    Who? Everyone!  As much as possible, gather the children together for reading
A.      Babies and toddlers – a child is never too young to be read to!  Begin by reading even just a few pages or short board books to your littlest ones.
B.      Younger children – benefit from hearing stories they would not be old enough to read themselves.  Early readers can learn to love books and reading because they are engaged in stories they would otherwise not yet be able to access.
C.      Older children – don’t stop reading aloud just because a child can read for himself.  You are still modeling good reading habits, and engaging your older children in the story.
1.      Reading aloud to older children can keep a child-like spirit in them, teaching them a “willingness to be enchanted” (C.S. Lewis) that is lacking in our modern technologically-driven world.
2.      Reading aloud to older children can give you opportunities to reach their hearts in ways directly speaking to them cannot.  A story can touch us deep inside, and make us think about deeper things.
II.                  What? Your options are unlimited!  There are more good books to read than you will ever have time to uncover.  Here are some suggestions:
A.      Classics
B.      Books that Build Character by William Kirkpatrick has many good suggestions
C.      Think outside the box – I’m thankful my mother read us Treasure Island and other “boy books” that I would never have chosen to read to myself.  She also read us all of Little House on the Prairie books, which I’m sure my brother wouldn’t have chosen!
III.                When?
a.      Start young – keep going til they leave the nest
b.      Every day if possible.  If your children go to school and you don’t see them all day, try to read together before bedtime at least.  If they are still at home or homeschooled, find a good restful time that everyone can relax and enjoy, like after lunch.
IV.                Where?
a.      In a golden living room
b.      On Mommy and Daddy’s bed
c.       Around the table after dinner
d.      Get creative!  Build a pirate ship, take a quilt outside under the apple trees, make a tent in the basement. . .
Conclusion: You will never regret the time you invest in knitting your children’s hearts together when you read aloud to them.  You will be building memories for them to hold onto for life!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Good Night, Sue -- Chapter 6

Susie was a little mommy.  It may have been that she had little sisters (and she got another one when she was nine years old -- Sandy).  Or it just may have been the way God made her, to care for the small, the weak, or just anyone who needed loving.  Each night, before Susie went to bed, she put all her dolls and toys to bed as well.  Even if they were just on the floor, or on a chair, she couldn't bear the thought of them going through the night feeling cold.  So she would cover them all up -- and be sure to get their feet nice and covered (because it's the worst to have cold feet while you are sleeping).  If she didn't have enough blankets for them all, she'd use spare pieces of fabric or clothes.  Once everyone was all tucked in, Susie could rest easy.

She was also very creative.  Sometimes a little girl cannot fall asleep right away at night, even if she is actually tired.  Sometimes she would be the only one having trouble falling asleep, and she would play this game while she waited.  She would pretend that she was a queen, and the bed was her throne, and the whole bedcovers were her royal robes.  They spread out from her in a wide, lovely flow, just like a queen's long gown should fill her throne room.  This worked especially well when she was sleeping at her grandmother's house, in a big big bed with old fashioned bedcovers.  Those worked very nicely with a stately touch that a queen's robe needed.  She would lie very still so the dress would not get messed up, and imagine her throne room full of courtiers, and entertainers until she got sleepy enough to drift off. . .

Years later, when Sue was a mommy, she was still big on tucking her children into bed.  Gretchen and Anna would call "Mommy, will you come tuck us?" if they had been in bed very long without her coming upstairs.  And if there were any fears related with sleeping, she had creative ideas for how to overcome those keep-you-awakers.  For instance, when Gretchen was afraid of housefires, her mommy told her that their cat Peaches, who always slept on the end of their bed was their own little fire alarm, and that was all the assurance she needed.  She told all her girls the idea of pretending to be a queen, and it was a fun game for them to try as well.  Read here for more ways Emily was helped by her mommy when she had a hard time sleeping.

Linking up with Mommy's Piggy Tales (and for those of you who are interested, also finishing my YAY posts this weekend:  getting engaged and married!)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Project 52 -- Dates 3&4

So I noticed over at Simply Modern Mom, she has some rules for Project 52, that we haven't been very good at abiding by.  For example, you are supposed to do something different at each date, and now we've done 3 movie night dates.  Well, I'm thinking that for us, that rule just might not work too well since we've been having our Friday night dates after Josh gets off work, and a movie is just about all we have energy for!  But, I've decided to put a bit more thought into this week's date, and maybe borrow Tiffany and Nathan's idea from this week.

Here's what we did:

Date #3 Movie night with cookies:  Friday night Josh brought home the new Robin Hood movie after work, and I made cookies for us to munch on.  I thought we would both need a snack to stay awake, but it turned out that I was so into the movie that I could NOT fall asleep.  That was not Josh's problem, though I think he did better than usual, and woke back up near the end.  I filled him in when we went to bed, but I think he was a little drowsy.  He did later point out that "this Robin Hood movie is way more historically accurate.  For one thing, Robin Hood is a human instead of a fox".

Date #4 Bookstore and intern small group:  Saturday night we actually had a babysitter!  We dropped Susie off at our preaching pastor's house.  Our pastor's wife had offered to watch Sus for us sometime, and it kept not working out with our schedule, so we were glad when it did!  According to Diane, she was a good girl the whole time, which was great (you never know with babies -- you could leave a fussy all evening and it be a nightmare for the sitter).  Josh and I first went to Half-Priced books to walk around and look -- it's one of our favorites.  We didn't buy much, but I found an old Golden Book to give Susie for Advent.  After we left there, we had dinner at another one of our pastor's homes and had a great time in small group with their family and another intern's family.  My husband Josh is interning at our church this year, and our discipleship pastor hosts groups of the interns each month.  It was great to go as a couple and just relax and be together knowing Susie was in good hands!  We love our church and are so thankful for the families our hearts are knit with there!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

At the grocery store -- Chapter 5

When Susie's mother took her girls shopping at the grocery store, sometimes she would let them have a special treat.  When they first went into the store, Mother would give them each a box of animal crackers to hold while they were in the store.  The little red box decorated like a circus train car would hold their fancy so Mother could do her shopping in peace.  Of course, Susie and her sisters were only allowed to keep the box of crackers to eat if they were good in the store.  One can only imagine how devastating it would be to have your crackers put back on the shelf when your sisters were allowed to keep theirs.  Susie greatly treasured holding her own little box of animal crackers.  She loved how it rattled with the promise of the menagerie of animals it held inside.  She was always sure to be good and helpful to Mother so that that little box of crackers was hers to keep!  And then! How fun to open the little red box and discover the assortment you had!  You could trade your elephants for your sister's lions, if you wished (lions are the best, of course).

Susie must have learned loads about taking your children grocery shopping, for when she grew up and became a mother, she always took her children along with her.  From a young age, they were given tasks in the store to help with, and by the time they were in late elementary school, they could divide up her list, and take 3 separate carts around the store to cut the shopping trip down by quite a bit!  Sue always took the produce and dairy sections, her son Nathan took the frozen, and Gretchen and Anna went together through the grocery sections.  They had seen their mother choose sizes and brands so often, that they knew just what she would want them to get!  And instead of animal crackers, they liked to choose Hostess fruit pies -- chocolate for Nathan, cherry for Gretchen and lemon for Anna.  And they liked those just as much as Susie liked her animal crackers.


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Project 52 -- Dates 1&2 in the same weekend!

I have been following Simply Modern Mom's Project 52 for weeks now, and Josh and I have been planning to start our own weekly date nights, but just hadn't started.  Until this week!

Date night #1:  Friday night we somehow forgot that Josh got off work at 9:00 (instead of 11), which was a pleasant surprise!  Josh suggested getting a Redbox movie on his way home from work, and I was super excited.  We watched Toy Story 3, which we both really enjoyed!  I will say I probably enjoyed it more, since Josh fell sound asleep partway through. . . So, because this was a last minute date, we didn't put a WHOLE ton of time into planning things, but it was still fun and good to actually have our first date night!  And I love a surprise, so that alone made it special for me.

Date night #2: Saturday night we had a second movie-after-Susie-went-to-bed, and this time we watched Robots -- which was hilarious!.  Since we planned this date, I actually took a few minutes to declutter the living room while Josh was putting Susie to bed.  I also made us homemade "Blizzards" with vanilla ice cream and leftover Halloween candy!  YUM!  I have to admit, once Josh polished off his blizzard, he fell asleep.  It's ok.  We've been married for nearly 10 years, so I'm pretty used to him not making it through a movie with me.  He even falls asleep in the theater (sometimes).

Now that we have started, we have to keep up the streak!  We are planning another date for this weekend!  WOO HOO!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Gretchen Meets Josh -- the start of our relationship

I've missed so many weeks of "My Young Adult Years" that I was linking up to on Mommy's Piggy Tales, so I decided to do 2 last posts -- one about meeting and dating my husband and another about our engagement and wedding. People want to read that stuff, right?? :)

Except for the first couple of months in college, I did not date anyone.  I went ON a few dates to required functions, and I was interested in a guy or two from time to time, but generally, I was a girls' girl.  I had a handful of guy friends, but being sort of a loud girl (in more ways than one -- all you had to do is see my colorful vintage wardrobe), I wasn't the greatest at making a good impression on many of the guys I knew.  I did go through a period of time feeling like I would never get married, and had to fight for contentment because quite a few guys were interested in my sister, or my friends. . . so I'd feel like "when will someone come along for ME?"

Gretchen Meets Josh
Second semester of my Junior year, I was signed up for a dreaded science class.  I had put off those classes so long because I was never good at science, and I was afraid of taking them.  When I walked in the door, a guy I knew said "GRINCHIN, come sit by me!"  He was a loud guy who liked to say my name wrong.  Sure, why not, I'll sit by him, I thought.  Moments before the class began, the prof came over and told him "Matty, you already took this class.  You were in it last hour.  You're not in it again!"  So all of the sudden, I was sitting alone in a class where you needed a science partner.  I saw another table with my friend Heather and this guy named Josh who dated a girl in my dorm.  "I can sit with them" I realized, and joined their table.  It only took a few minutes before I realized that this was Josh Neisler, a different Josh from the guy who had a girlfriend -- of course I didn't ever get them mixed up after that!  

Here are two things Josh told me the day we met:  "You're OLD!" he said when I said I was a senior (I was, credit-wise).  But I was 20 and he was 19!!  Not exactly old.  Also, when my long hair got caught on the bolts of my chair and a few strands ripped out, he said "sick. . . "  I sure thought he hated my long hair!  Well, no worries about having to make an impression on this guy!!  Nothing to lose!

I could tell right away that Josh was really smart, and that science was pretty easy for him.  Before our first test, I asked if he would mind helping me study, and we sat and talked in the library for quite a long time, which was great!  I liked a guy who could really talk!  Amazingly, I ended up getting a better grade on my test than he did -- probably because I was so freaked about it, and he figured he could wing it and do fine.

Our First Date
A few weeks later, our mutual friend Scott found me outside the library and asked me if I would go as friends to an event with Josh if he were to ask.  I told him I probably would.  Less than an hour later, Josh found me in the Student Center and asked me to go to the Symphony in Milwaukee.  I can remember right where I was standing, underneath the stairway across from the snackshop.  I was so flattered he was asking me to something GREAT like the Symphony, something that cost MONEY and wasn't required to attend!  When I told my mom about it, she asked me if I was excited, and I told her I bought a new dress for the date!  HAHA!  I guess so!  I still have that dress -- don't wear it, but I thought it was sort of special, so I kept it.  Black with little flowers on it, in a very popular late 90's style (I thought it looked 1940's -- whatever!).

The night of the symphony, the guys came to pick us up (we had to drive as a group to Milwaukee), and I could tell right away Josh was anxious.  We had to go back to his dorm because he'd forgotten our tickets, so he was ticked at himself.  We waited in the car for what seemed like QUITE  a long time. . . as they tore apart their room looking for the tickets.  Turns out, they were in Josh's suitcoat pocket the whole time.  So when he came back to the car, he was furious with himself. . . which translated to me that he wasn't thrilled to be with me!  We missed the opening movement, but as the music played, he relaxed a bit, and we were able to whisper a bit about the music.  I love Milwaukee symphony, and it was beautiful.  The man sitting in front of us told us we were very rude and we talked the whole time, but I am certain we didn't because Josh still was giving me (or himself?) the silent treatment for the most part.  We took a picture afterward. . . you can see his smiley face. . . We stopped for coffee on the way home, and he just drank water.  Wow.  I had been totally willing to enjoy this date, but it seemed like he was killing it in it's tracks.  
I'm so glad I made sure we took a picture!  We have it as a record!

Later that night, I talked to my friend Stephanie about it (she was back working for the school, and I worked as an RA in her dorm).  She suggested writing him a thank-you note just to let him know you had fun.  That wasn't as forward as a phone call or something, but still let him know you weren't mad or something.  She was so smart.  That started a series of note-writing back and forth between us.  AH. . . those were the days of free inter-campus mail, and it was so fun to go check your boxes between classes to see if he'd left a note!  Josh called me a few times as well, and one time, not long after our first date, he told me something I will never forget.  He told me that his roommates gave him a pretty hard time about asking me out.

"Gretchen BENZING?  Do you really think you can HANDLE her?" they had said to him.

"Wha. . what did you say?" I was afraid to ask.  I could only imagine he'd said "no" or worse, an arrogant "YES, I can handle any girl!"
"I said, what do you mean?  What's to handle?" he replied.  And I knew then and there that he saw me differently than other guys had seen me.  What was to handle?  She's not too much.  Not too loud.  Ohhhh. . . I think I started falling in love right then!

Other things we liked to do
Josh obviously got over the bumble on the first date, and we started hanging out a lot more, talking in the library, "studying" together, etc.  We didn't eat meals together or go to church together or sit in chapel together, though, which were the typical things dating couples in college did.  We generally took it pretty slow, and kept hanging out with our separate groups of friends -- until we really clicked with a mutual friend, Melissa Szydlowski (we called her "Sid").  She was the perfect person to hang out with both of us, because it took off a little pressure from trying to impress each other.  We mainly hung out in the Student Center and talked together. 

Josh and I would both go to the Nursing Home ministry together on Thursday nights.  It was my society's ministry (we had societies with ministry focus in college in the place of sororities and fraternities), but everyone was welcome to join.  I was so impressed with how well Josh interacted with elderly people.  I really admired how he was good with kids, too.  I had not met a whole lot of guys who was good with both ends of the spectrum.  It quickly became a requirement for my future husband.
A Dating Couple
Right before spring break, I had some doubts about a possible dating relationship with Josh.  We had had talks about moving forward, and he was planning to come home with me for Easter and talk to my dad about dating me.  But I was interpreting his easy-going laid-back nature as not being a good leader, and it scared me that I was getting in a relationship I should avoid.  I told him frankly right before we said goodbye for break that I was rethinking our relationship, and I was going to think things over while we were gone.  He looked really sad, but he just said "well, ok, let's pray together about it."  When I got home, I told my mom everything and showed him a letter he'd sent home with me.  I can't remember what the letter said, but Mom about cried and told me "I like him."  As that week went by, I had a big change of heart.  Josh was smart, and didn't call me until the end of the week, and by that time I was missing him big time.  I read a passage in Proverbs that said "With-hold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it." which convicted me that I was with-holding my affection from Josh just to protect myself.  I needed to do him good, and trust the Lord to guide my steps.

After his Easter visit, where Josh asked my dad if he could date me (Dad gave him a copy of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" in response), we considered ourselves a couple.  We felt like we had gone about things in a proper way, talking through whether or not we were pursuing marriage before we started "dating".  Josh's family came to visit us right after that, and it was fun to meet his parents and sister Melissa.  I had been SO nervous about it, but they were all normal and nice.  His parents took us to eat on State Street in Madison, and I remember we held hands in the van on the way there.  WOO WOO! (You have to understand that any physical contact AT ALL was not allowed at our school, so holding hands in front of his parents was really our only option).  

A Change in Relationship
From my college scrapbook
At the junior/senior banquet, Josh and I went together with Sid and Scott, and it was one of the most fun nights of my whole college experience.  I'd gone dress shopping with Sid for the occasion, and we found a fun 20's style swing dress for her.  I remember being so tired that night from staying up all night the night before, that I was drinking coffee at the banquet (coffee was new to me at this point).  Josh suggested adding just a tiny bit of sugar to take off the edge of the bitterness, and I told him that I would always remember him the rest of my life as I drank coffee because he was the one who taught me to like it.  He said "Maybe I'll be the one to pour your coffee for you."  I thought that was SO sweet and romantic!  You know how it is!  Saying those little things that make those big promises. . . 
The dynamic in our relationship changed dramatically when our friend Sid graduated.  Suddenly, the three of us was down to two.  We loved hanging out with Sid so much, and it took a bit of adjustment to just hang out together. We both stayed for summer school, and we started finding out how to hang out just together.  It was the start to a new chapter in our relationship . . . 

To be continued. . .

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Classic Susie Stories -- Chapter 4

Like many little children, Susie sometimes did not want to obey her mother and daddy.  One time, she had a harder time obeying than usual -- and what transpired will always be known as:

The Popsicle Stick Story
Susie was eating a yummy Popsicle, and when she was finished, she did not want to throw it away in the garbage can, so she just set it on the edge of Mother's table.  

"Throw your stick away," Daddy told her.
"No." Susie dared to say, and she even dared to smack the stick so it would fall onto the floor.

Daddy leaned over and picked it up and put it back on the table. "Throw it away," he repeated.
She knocked it down again and still refused.

Daddy was a firm disciplinarian.  He swatted her bottom.
She cried, but refused to pick up her stick and throw it away.
Over and over, Daddy would pick it up, and she would knock it down, and she would get another swat.  Finally, after a rather long battle, Susie caved.  She could tell that Daddy would win, no matter how long the battle raged.  She weepingly carried her stick to the trash and threw it in.  

"Now look at that," Daddy said, "You hurt my hand because you wouldn't throw it away."

Susie looked at him with a totally serious face and said "Not as much as you hurt my tail!"

Sometimes Susie could be a little bit dramatic, as all little girls can be.  She did not like getting hurt, not one little bit!  Here is a story that illustrates what might happen if a dramatic moment got the better of her. . . 

The Apple Peel Story
Mother was sitting by the kitchen table, peeling a bright red apple.  She had the amazing talent of being able to peel an apple in one, long, spiraling peel.  This time, she must have broke off a bit of that long peel, which fell to the floor.

Susie came into the kitchen with bare feet.  As soon as she ran by the table, she stepped on the small bit of apple peel, which stuck to the bottom of her foot.  Not too long later, she happened to notice the bright red spot on the sole of her foot.

Immediately she ran shrieking through the house: "I'm BLEEEDIN', I'm BLEEDIN'!!!" she shouted at the top of her lungs.  It never dawned on her that she could not feel any pain in her foot.  She just knew what she saw.  "I'm BLEEDIN'!!" she wailed to her mother, who, upon examining the foot, removed the piece of apple peel and held it up for Susie to see.

"It's just a bit of apple peel." was the calm explanation.

Maybe Susie felt a bit silly then.  But she probably felt better if her Mother let her eat some of that long, spirally apple peel. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Early College Friends

At an early football game.  You can tell the one girl was not a student, as she is wearing a divided garment.
One of THE biggest highlights of college was the friends I made.  Of course, most people probably feel that way.  I absolutely LOVED the girl talk in the dorm, the borrowing clothes, the fixing each other's hair for special events.  I met so many really great girls at Maranatha Baptist Bible College.  I could NEVER mention all of the friends that meant so much to me!  Here were a few from my Freshman and Sophomore year, accompanied by more selections from my scrapbook.

At a Christmas party in Illinois with Gould 202 girls
The girls in Gould 202 became close friends the semester after Stephanie left (she was student teaching).  They were right next door, and their room was like a bunch of sisters chilling together.  Donette Winterland and I found out we were friends when I told her I liked her "Jesus Freak" t-shirt (which was SO not allowed to be listened to).  We then began a discussion about versions of the Bible.  She read the NIV, so we clicked right away. HAHA!  She invited me and her roommates to come stay at her house for a weekend in downstate Illinois, which made me feel utterly grown up.  I recall the drive home when we were belting out Alanis Morissette songs at the top of our lungs.  I was really feeling like an independent college girl then!  I have such a vivid memory of sitting down and eating nearly an entire pound bag of peanut M&Ms in room 202 the afternoon after white glove, and gossiping about who-knows-what senseless information.  I do not claim to have always used my time wisely, especially not my freshman year!

My sister Anna, Mary and me by our Christmas tree
Mary Fetters was one of Donette's roomates, and was close to me all through school.  She came home with me for Thanksgiving my Freshman year, and it was so great to share my family and world outside of college with her -- she was such a sweet and funny friend, and I just could never get enough of hanging out with her.  Mary worked hard at a home for the mentally handicapped, so her weekends were often filled up with working double shifts to pay for school, but we managed to fit in trips down to the Pinecone gas station where I used the Shell gas card my dad gave me to use to fill up, and buy us pizza and pop for supper -- and maybe one of those HUGE rice krispie treats, or apple fritters.  It was our Sunday night before church ritual.

Another 202 girl was Heather Bailey.  She had super long hair and at first I thought she was shy or something.  But she was super smart and funny, and after she got to know me, we really had a good time.  Heather and I had weird, rambling conversations while studying in the library.  It was something like streams of consciousness -- which we were really into while studying Psych together.  We had a great idea for a book of some sort which took place during World War II and contained all sorts of random things that fascinated us.  She made "boy watching" quite the fun sport for us all, and was always ready to tell stories about whomever she had currently had a crush.

Andrea tatted me that lace, and I framed it with pictures of us
I met Andrea Nash my freshman year, but I spent a lot more time with her the following year.  Andrea was so like, and so unlike me.  We had both been homeschooled, and were from Illinois, and always had classes together.  But she, unlike me, was quiet, and sweet and not considered a loudmouth or know-it-all.  I loved Andrea for how we were different, and somehow I just knew I should be MORE like her.  We always sat together in every class we shared, and tried to share a class every semester.  We also had a tradition of getting our picture taken with our professors at the end of the semester -- they probably thought we were psycho, or maybe they were just flattered that we liked their classes.  I remember one TERRIBLE day for me in school -- I was so distraught about something that I could not refrain from crying when class was about to begin.  Andrea insisted that she walk me outside, and then listened to my sobs, and then suggested that I skip class and go take a nap (I was sort of out of my mind at the moment).  I will ALWAYS remember her kindness to me, and her truly helpful friendship.  The fun thing about Andrea is that 7 years after we graduated from college, we found ourselves back together again!  Our husbands attended the same Seminary, and we are members of the same church now!  Andrea is still a dear friend, and I suspect, always will be.

Isn't it amazing how the people you meet in college influence the kind of person you are becoming?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Susie's Early Childhood Days

 Marching off to her kindergarten class, Susie wore a button pinned to her sweater that said "I Like Ike".  She must have gotten the button from her mother, since her daddy voted Democrat, and probably did not like Ike.  Nonetheless, it is a pretty funny thing for a little girl to wear a campaign button to school!  She attended Hartwell school in Cincinnati, which was built in 1923, and was partially destroyed by a tornado in 1969.

When Susie was a little girl, her mother sang her this song in the bathtub.  This song is about your pruney fingers and toes, and how the water makes them all wrinkled:

"No matter how young a prune may be, he's always full of wrinkles!
A baby prune is like his dad, but he's not wrinkled quite so bad.
We have wrinkles on our face; a prune has wrinkles everyplace!
No matter how young a prune may be, he's always full of wrinkles!"

When she was very young, her mother used to bounce her on her knee and chant this little song:

"This is the way a lady rides, hobble-dee-hoy, hobble-dee-hoy." 
faster: "This is the way the gentlemen ride, hobble-dee-hoy, hobble-dee-hoy!"
very fast: "This is the way the Indians ride, hobble-dee-hoy, hobble-dee-hoy!!"

And you almost fell off the knee by the time you got to the Indians riding.
Susie probably learned the words to all of Mother's songs so well because they were sung over and over to several children.  When Susie was 5, she got a new baby sister, Donna!  Now there were three girlies in Susie's family.  And she was the biggest sister, which of course, is very important.
Susie, Katie, and Mother holding Donna

When Susie grew up and became Sue, she was just like the little girl in the "I Like Ike" button.  She never missed an opportunity to vote, and made election night a big party for her family.  The night she had her stroke, that eventually took her life, the doctors asked her several questions to see what she could remember.  They asked her who the president was, and she couldn't remember his name.  "I can't remember," she said, "But I know I didn't vote for him.  He's too liberal."  Even in that condition, she could remember exactly where she stood politically, which was pretty amusing to her family.

For several years, Sue worked at the polls for several elections -- long, sometimes dull days of handing out ballots, and then collecting and protecting the counted ballots to ensure the voting was done without mistakes.  I am sure that she did not think her task was boring, because it was important.  She was dedicated to her community and her country.  She really was "All American Sue".

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fall pictures

I've been looking forward to taking pics of Susie this fall.  It's been super hot until just recently (still pretty warm in the middle of the sunny day), so the pictures have just finally been able to start.  Here are a few favorites:

We actually stopped by this tree just for the photo op.  The trees are not quite as brilliant this year.

At the pumpkin patch. 
Right now, her 2 favorite phrases are "Oh, WOW" and "All right!".  She was running around "oh wow-ing" the pumpkins the whole time at the pumpkin farm.  What a funny kid.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Susie's Big Move

For the first three years of her life, Susie lived on the farm with her parents, near to family and close friends, and so Susie grew up surrounded by cousins.  As evidenced by the plethora of her baby pictures in an era where a family camera was not a common household item, she had plenty of attention from her family.

This picture says Baby Sue with Johnny (who was a cousin)
When Susie was three years old, her family moved north, to the bright lights and hustle and bustle of the big city:  Cincinnati, Ohio.  As was common in the post-WWII era where men returned from war with new skills and experiences, Susie's daddy had gotten a job working for General Electric in the city. He was quick at learning how things worked, and how to fix things.  Cities were booming at this point in America, offering G.I.s better opportunities for advancement and careers than a rural life did. So when Daddy went off to work in the city, Susie settled into a new life in a new house with Mother and her new baby sister Kay.  

Crosley Field in the early 1950's
Mother liked to listen to baseball games on the radio as she did housework, since this was before television sets invaded every household.  Several times a season, Crosley Field would have a "Ladies Day", where female fans could be admitted for a lower ticket price. Mother would dress in a nice dress, gloves and hat, and take the bus with a friend down to the ballpark to watch the game.  She always referred to the ballpark as "Crosley Fiel' ".  It is funny to note that while Mother loved sports, Daddy never took an interest.  In fact, even after they had a television in their home, Mother would still listen to the games on the radio in the kitchen because Daddy was not interested in watching them on T.V.  Susie inherited her mother's love for baseball (and football, and other sports), as well as her zesty cheering for the home team. 

Having a little sister no doubt changed Susie's world more than moving from the farm to the city.  Suddenly there was a new person to share Mother and Daddy with.  But also, there was a new sister to play with and have for a friend!  Sue cherished her relationship with her sister Katie her whole life long.  They shared a bedroom, sat up many nights talking late after dates, and one day they married guys who were good friends.
Katie and Susie with their grandparents whom they called "Papa and Mama"

Amazing that God gave Sue lots of daughters when she grew up.  Some people "get girls" and she was one of those people!  She was always someone to notice your stylish pair of shoes, or your cute new hairstyle. She taught her children how important being friends was, that no matter where you lived, or what new situation you walked into, you would have your siblings to be your friends.  
A fun late '60's picture of Sue and her sisters -- she is in the middle in the blue skirt and wild top

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Going off to College

From the 1st page of my college scrapbook -- the snowmen picture is our dorm room door which won the Christmas door decorating contest
When I was a 18 years old, I was not homesick in any way, shape or form. I'm sad to say that when I left home in the backseat of my parent's minivan, my heart did not twinge for those who would miss me, because I was TOO DARN excited about my adventure. Really, nothing daunted this excitement. I was not afraid of the rules (I chose to go to Maranatha Baptist Bible College, which seemed pretty strict to me compared to how I grew up), or the dress code or the classes or making new friends. I was just excited to do those things.

My P.C. (Prayer captain -- sort of a room leader) was one of the first people I met there and was a SUPER fun and bubbly senior named Kathy. She was a cheeleader and turned down scholarships for cheering to big schools to come to MBBC. She was tiny and spunky and could do 3 back flips in a row in our small dorm room (after we rearranged our furniture to our liking). She was known as "Flipper" because she could do a series of back flips the whole length of the basketball court.  I picked the bunk underneath Kathy, and waited to meet my other roomies -- there could be up to 6 girls in a room. Only 2 more ended up joining us, so we had much more room than many other rooms.

Kathy studying on her "magic carpet" bed.
Like I mentioned, I was fearless. I was so green, never having been to school before this. Kathy was the perfect girl for me to room with because she was godly and cheerful and not emotional or boy-crazy. I probably didn't realize at the time that she set a really good tone for me of what life could be like in that sort of school. Kathy studied and worked hard, but had a great attitude and treated everyone kindly. She helped me to like Math (I'd always hated it, but ended up getting a perfect grade on my final -- including all the bonus points!), and running (always thought I'd hate it, but Kathy showed me the joy of a runner's high right before you have to settle in to study).

I also had a friend, Stephanie, who lived on my hall from my home church who had been at MBBC a few years before me, and was kind enough to let me follow her around as I became acquainted with everything. Steph was also a good friend for me to have. She stood by me when things suddenly got rocky during my first semester and helped me understand when I had trouble with girls. I don't remember anything specifically, but apparently I had my feelings hurt over something, and I said to Stephanie "I don't understand why people don't like me! I'm nice to them! They think I'm being fake!" Steph sighed and said "Gretchen, you didn't go to school. Welcome to 'Girls 101'. This is your first exposure to it." HAHA! Looking back, I probably came on too strong and wanted to be liked by EVERYBODY. It took a while for me to just find my niche and study and work hard and not worry about being the most popular girl ever.

Steph and I doing our nails and some sort of yogurt hair treatment -- I did love getting to know the girls in the dorm!
One thing I appreciated about both of these older girls was their ability to be young with me. Steph lived in another room, but she'd hang out with me and Kathy from time to time, and we called Kathy's top bunk "The Magic Carpet", like from Aladdin. Kathy could jump up onto her bunk in one leap, from the floor, even though she was so short. Stephanie and I were so tickled, for some reason, to hang out and laugh together on Kathy's "Magic Carpet"!  Sadly, the picture of that has been ripped out of my scrapbook!  I think I took it out for something in Stephanie's wedding (just a guess).

I could write a million things about people I met my freshman year, but I'll save some of those for the next chapter.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

All American Sue is Born -- Chapter One

Helen and Curtis Wilkinson were fascinating people.  Curtis persuaded Helen to elope when she was just 15 years old, shortly before he had to report for active duty in Europe.  While he was learning to jump out of airplanes alongside the bravest men in the world, Helen was at home, singing and playing her guitar with her father and sister Mildred to earn gas ration cards.  He saw the Eiffel Tower and other sights in Europe, and she helped with the tobacco crop in rural Kentucky.

When Curtis returned home to Liberty Kentucky, it was not long before the two became three.   Helen was at home in their one room home on the farm when she went into labor.  In that rural area, it was common for a woman to give birth at home rather than in a hospital.  Helen was 19 years old when she had her first child -- a tiny baby girl.  It was June 20th, 1947.

They named their precious girl Bonita Sue.  Bonita is Spanish for pretty, but she was never called by that name.  To them, she was always "Susie", and a sweet Susie she was indeed.

One can just imagine Helen holding her precious child on a hot, still summer night.  Perhaps she thought her daughter looked like her handsome husband, Curtis.  Perhaps she counted her little fingers and toes, and hummed soft little lullabies.  Perhaps she planned all the adorable little outfits she would sew for her girl, and take her around to show to all her family and friends.  Perhaps she looked down the road at the years ahead and the myriad of conversations she and Susie would have.  She would be her forever friend . . . 

Changing her first baby in a perfect little nursery
I cannot say for sure what Helen felt or thought at the sight of her child, but knowing Sue as I did, and seeing her as a mother, I imagine that she must have been mothered by someone who loved her very dearly.  For you see, when Susie grew up, she wanted to be a mother so very much, and waited to become one for a very long time.  When the Lord finally answered her prayers for a child, and then again, and again and again, those children were loved as the most precious gifts she could have ever received.  Sue was a new mother at 29, and endured natural childbirth and inducement when she had her last baby at age 45.  Babies were a part of Sue's world her whole life long -- before she had her own, she and her husband would borrow other people's babies to hang out with, and after hers all became teenagers, she adopted the whole church nursery as her extra grandchildren.  Of course it is easy to love sweet and cute children, but for Sue, she loved them all, even those who were harder to love.

And she loved to hear the news of someone getting a baby.  Whether it was a young mom finding out she was pregnant for the first time, or a woman who had long been unable to have children adopting a little one, Sue would share in their joy just as if it were her own.  She once gave a silver spoon to a friend who had never had a child when she found out she was expecting.  "Your baby deserves to be born with a silver spoon in it's mouth" she told her.  That baby was taken to heaven before she ever saw this world, and I now have that precious silver spoon in my baby's room.  

Sue Wilkinson was certainly not born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but she had the love of her young parents. . . and was rich indeed.