Earlier today, I wrote a really frustrated sad article about how much I'm struggling with Logan and his school work which I never published and have since deleted. I'll spare you that rant and just leave it at - we're struggling. Some of it has to do with executive function disorder which deals with organization, working memory, and attention. I constantly feel like I'm behind in some way. Like I'm treading water wearing a weighted vest.
Something else I'm struggling to accept is that I can't do it all. This year I had grand dreams of learning French, reading a big stack of books, learning to play the piano, getting into shape, keeping my house clean, making crafts for a PTO event, and keeping on top of writing letters to family and friends on top of writing my blog, preparing two more historical presentations, and working on a side writing project. I tell myself that because I'm not working full time all this should be possible, but I'm so wrong. Instead, I find myself shriveling in, depressed by my lack of progress. I've been successful at getting into shape and am currently training for the Detroit half-marathon in October. Yay! But the time spent training has got to come from somewhere and my other efforts suffer. I'm slowly trying to accept that I can't do it all.
So my greatest struggle right now is being content. I've been trying to find contentment, but can't when I compare myself to other moms or chase unattainable goals. So how can I find contentment? What is the secret to finding contentment in the midst of turmoil? Fortunately, Paul told it to the Philippians in his letter to them. "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."
This verse isn't about winning a sporting event or doing your best. It's about contentment in any and every situation. It's the secret, the key, the linchpin. So I can live contentedly in the situation God has placed me in and I can accomplish what he wants me to. Just so we're clear, this isn't easy though. I'm not quoting a quick verse then heading of to a perfect person soiree. The struggle is real, but at least I know the secret to success.
So tonight, I hope you find yourself in positive circumstances, but if not, I'll take this opportunity to share the secret with you. Christ gives strength.
"Hacks" are all the rage these days. The internet allows us to share tips and tricks for how to make life easier. Some of the life hacks I've seen are pretty sketchy, but some have proved quite useful. The parenting hack I'm sharing today is one that Jason and I stumbled upon long before becoming parents.
Let me set the scene. We were at Greenfield Village. It was Thomas the Tank Engine day. We didn't know that it was Thomas day when we had decided to attend and we didn't even have any small children with us. The crowds were oppressive, but we made it in and since we had come a distance to visit we stayed. For the most part we avoided the large creepy train (sorry - I've never been a fan), but we were surrounded by children wearing all sorts of Thomas gear. At the end of the day we sat watching the Sir John Bennett clock chime 5:00. Behind us sat a little boy wearing all sorts of Thomas the Tank Engine apparel, holding a Thomas the Tank Engine balloon, and eating an ice cream cone. We overheard his parents talking about how fun it had been to ride on Thomas and see him in action. Including Village admission and swag these parents had probably spent at least $200 on Thomas themed activities that day. Then it happened. The dad asked his little guy this question, "So, what was your favorite part of the day?" Waiting to hear something that including the word "Thomas" the parents were flabbergasted to hear their child say, "Ice cream!" "Ice cream?!" the dad exclaimed in a high and slightly frantic voice, "We could have stayed home and had ice cream!"
At that moment I thought, "Note to self. Skip the expensive day out and get ice cream."
Because of that experience we opted to embrace the little moments and opted out of the stress of big events that parents feel pressured to participate in when Logan was very young.
I don't mean to contradict all the other stuff that I've said about experiencing things, but when it comes to toddlers and preschoolers, save your money for future trips. This doesn't mean they shouldn't go places, just that you shouldn't spend time and money on expensive places they won't truly appreciate. Little ones need to get out and see the world, but they also need naps. This can make activities difficult and exhausting for parents. Below is a list of activities that are toddler or preschool friendly versions of more extensive activities.
This morning I have one quick question for you. WHERE DID THE SUMMER GO? Can you believe it? Logan's first day of school is August 19! I've already got his 2019-2020 school calendar and have entered all the dates in my Google Calendar app. I've filled out out forms galore and our new school uniforms should be arriving this week.
All this school prep makes reminds me that we have so far to go on our bucket list. As I said during an earlier post, I don't ever intend to get the entire list complete, but we still have a LONG way to go this year. As I look at all the things we haven't done, I try to remember what we have done. Well, so far this summer has been full of a lot of family activities. We went up north to a family wedding, my sisters came in to visit for a week, and we spent a few days up in the Thumb of Michigan during the week of the 4th of July. Once I realized that we've been busy just not busy doing the things on my list, I relaxed knowing that time spent with family is time well spent. We've listened to old stories, made new memories, and shared many a meal together.
We also have several things that are "in progress" like reading books which we've attacked with renewed vigor after seeing all those back to school forms. I've been working on all kinds of craft projects including how to use my new Cricut Maker. I'll talk more about my favorite craft projects at a different time though.
This summer has been a good one. I strongly believe in making the list and pushing myself and my family to do things, but sometimes, other things come up and we do those instead. That's okay. The time with family, making the most of spontaneous opportunities, and embracing the time we have is what makes for a memorable summer. Time is a fleeting and fragile commodity. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. How we use it demonstrates what we believe about God and what is important to us. There's only a few weeks left! How will you spend the rest of your summer?
Did you do anything to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing? I gathered Logan and his buddy Derek who is staying with us and played a record I found in my Great Aunt Inez's collection. I read them Nixon's contingency speech which he would have read if they had been unable to get off the moon. Knowing that they didn't know if they would be able to leave the moon's surface but they went anyway is mind blowing. The courage it took astounds me. After discussing the courage it took to explore the unknown we sat and listened to the broadcast as if it was 50 years ago and we were gathered around the radio. Of course we had the convenience of listening to everything all at once from take off, to "the Eagle has landed," to the moon walk. In real time it took several days, but the boys did seem to enjoy the chance to participate in history.
My favorite part of this album is that it includes Kennedy's speech about going to the moon. It was given at Rice University in 1962.
"Not because they are easy, but because they are hard." This. This is so inspiring. Too often we shield both ourselves and our loved ones from hard things to make life easier. But in doing hard things we grow, we learn, we find adventure, we find ways to help others.
What do you do because it is hard? That's the question I asked myself after hearing Kennedy's speech and the question I challenged the boys with. I've never thought about it this way, but I think this is why I've run marathons and why I like to do new things.
So now it's your turn. What will you do simply because it's hard? What will you attempt just to do it? What will you challenge your family to do? Comment below and let's inspire each other to greatness!
As I write this I am sitting in front of what is known as the "Rosa Parks Bus." It is the bus that the famous incident involving Mrs. Parks refusing to give up her seat took place. In my research on the American Woman Parks' name has come up several times.
Let me back up. This week Logan and his buddy Derek are participating in Day Camp at the Henry Ford. The Henry Ford is like Disney World for history nerds and is a must see. The Henry Ford is made up of multiple institutions the main two being the Museum of American Innovation and Greenfield Village. When Henry Ford created them his goal was to tell history from the perspective of the average American. History is about presidents and important figures, but it's also about the innovations that impact our every day lives. Both the Village and Museum are dedicated to celebrating those innovations and honoring our nation's history.
So, back to the bus. In just the few minutes it's taken to type this, almost 50 people have climbed on and off the bus. A docent inside tells the story of that December day in Alabama and points out the seat that Parks refused to give up. The children inside excitedly vie to sit in the exact spot then skip off happy that they've experienced a part of history. There's even a Scandinavian tour group with professional film equipment filming about it. I have no idea what they are saying but it’s interesting to watch them explore the history of our country.
In my research about American women, I've come across Rosa Parks several times. Each time I've read that she is brave because she sat. When I read this it's felt like something has been missing. There were several people before Parks who were arrested for refusing to give up their seats which made me wonder what was different about their story. They sat. Why don't their names go down in history?
Oddly enough the answer came when I was reading the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. In the chapter referring to habits of societies, Duhigg explains that Parks was a unique individual because of her character and her community involvement. "Parks' many friendships and affiliations cut across the city's racial and economic lines. She was the secretary of the local NAACP chapter, attended the Methodist church, and helped oversee a youth organization at the Lutheran church near her home. She spent some weekends volunteering at a shelter, others with a botanical club, and on Wednesday nights often joined a group of women who knit blankets for a local hospital. She volunteered dressmaking services to poor families and provided last-minute gown alterations for wealthy white debutantes." He goes on to connect the facts and mentions that the previous riders who refused to move were arrested, but nothing came of it because they were unknowns, yet when Rosa Parks was arrested it caused a ripple through the community. She had invested her time in the community and that community came to her support.
But all that community doesn’t explain my discomfort with celebrating Rosa Parks for "sitting." Duhigg, after detailing Parks' community involvement, explained that the former leader of the Montgomery NAACP and a white lawyer named Clifford Durr bailed her out of jail. Community leaders had been looking for a case to challenge bus segregation and with Parks' sterling reputation they believed they had found a worthy cause to take to the courts. Parks' husband was initially opposed to the idea because he knew the danger she was putting herself in. Her husband's warning, "The white folks will kill you, Rosa," was not an empty worry. Threats of violence and death were common for those who dared to alter the status quo, but despite the possible danger, Parks allowed her case to be the rally point for the protests and the boycott. Both she and her husband lost their jobs and received multiple death threats. Yet, she didn't give in and she allowed her case to move through the courts. Eventually, they moved to Detroit hoping to start over after losing so much.
There! There it is! Now, I am beginning to understand what was so remarkable about her. She shouldn't be remembered as a woman who sat. She should be remembered for 1.) Her kindness and community involvement. 2.) Refusing to move despite knowing the possibility of arrest or physical violence. (I was told by the docent that the bus drivers often carried clubs or guns to enforce the rules.) 3.) Standing and allowing her arrest to be used in the court case that changed a city and became a major event in the Civil Rights Movement despite the costs. Too often we relegate people's stories to a paragraph and forget that their lives are as complicated and as deep as our own.
Rosa Parks' story is one of compassion, community, and courage. She didn't receive the notoriety she has today until much later in her life. In our culture of instant gratification, it is important to share that standing up for something and being remembered rarely happens for those who don't have a depth of character. We need to remember that standing for what you believe in is not easy and will likely not lead to fame and success, but doing something because you believe it is the right thing to do may just change the world.
Rosa Parks visited the Greenfield Village in 1992. These photos are of her at the Mattox House.
What flag are you waving today? Here in Michigan, we wave flags during college football season that define our loyalties. During a fall, drive through a suburban neighborhood you will see houses proudly waving the flag of the University of Michigan, Michigan State, or some other Michigan school which claims their allegiance. Every once in a while you will encounter some brave soul who is bold enough to wave the hideous white and red of Ohio State. Ugh, they're the worst!
Those college football weekends are fun. They represent a century-old tradition of watching a great game and rooting for one's team, but recently, I've noticed a trend in flag-waving that I find disturbing. Drive through a neighborhood or look at flags waved in stores and you will see a myriad of flag variations. There are rainbow themed flags representing LGTBQ citizens, there are thin blue line or thin blue and red line flags representing the police and first responders, there are half-rebel flags representing the "rebel nation," and the list goes on. With the recent controversy, there are people wearing and displaying the "Betsy Ross flag" to show their dislike for Nike and the values of their company.
But what is the purpose of a flag? Back in the day when I was engrossed in learning about the Civil War, I read a lot about flag bearers. They would carry the flag of their regiment and men would even throw down their rifle and pick up the flag should the flag bearer fall in battle. Their flags were important for both morale and communication. The flag gave them something to rally around and they would give their life for it. (Read more about this here.)
If you question the importance of flags, watch the TED Talk at the end of this post. It is one of my absolute favorite talks ever. Roman Mars talks about city flag design and after watching no one can claim to be ambivalent about any flag.
Flags are unifying and they draw people together. So let's talk about today. Today is Independence Day. It's a day to celebrate the United States of America. You aren't happy with her currently? Guess what? That's the best part of the USA. We have rights secured by our constitution that guarantee us the right to free speech, press, religion, and peaceful assembly. Don't like what you see? Do something about it! I was recently contacted by a friend about a petition drive she is working on! Love it! I am not able to run it myself, but I will support her, sign, and encourage others to do so as well. That is what made us unique so long ago. We are a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
We can debate and rage, but we must come together and unite on the fact that we are Americans. Lincoln, quoting the Bible, said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand," and those words are true today. Today, my house is intentionally waving the current stars and stripes. We will wave the flag that represents us all. Let's rally around the flag and be proud of being Americans today.
Since November I have lost 15 pounds. For about the past 10 years, but particularly since we moved from Chicago, I've been steadily gaining weight. Nothing crazy, just a slow gain. I've run a few marathons in that time period and tried several diets. I could prevent quickly gaining, but still felt the weight as it settled in for the long haul. When I discussed this with people I got a few different responses the most common being the following: 1.) You look fine! Don't worry about it. 2.) Do you want to buy this product or join this group to help you?
My answer to #1 was that although I appreciate the compliment, I want to feel comfortable in my own body and I currently didn't. I had started to reach the point where when out with Logan and he would say, "I'll race you to ____." I would say, "No, no running for me." Declining a spontaneous race is normal when I'm not dressed for a sprint or when I'm carrying a load, but that wasn't why I was beginning to regularly answer, "No." It was that I didn't have the energy. My body wasn't able to keep up and I just wanted to do nothing. That's when I knew things had to change. I'm not interested in crazy weight loss, but I want to feel good. I want to feel strong again. I know aging takes a toll, but I'm not giving up yet.
My answer to #2 was that I'm very skeptical about promises made by any company or diet. I am also a total loner when it comes to fitness and don't really enjoy working out with other people. My workout methods are effective, but somewhat inexpiable. The best way I can put it is that when people come with suggestions I have a Ron-Swansonish-I-know-what-I'm-about attitude. I know what I'm capable of and push myself to do that. Twice, only twice, in my life have I felt the aggressive "PUSH IT" that I hear from trainers. It is no coincidence that I've also had to seek emergency medial help twice. Twice. (Both are pretty good stories, but those are for another day.) Another issue with diets or plans is that I am a ridiculously picky eater. I don't like fish or seafood along with a plurality of other foods. I love many fruits and vegetables, but often they are the ones left off the list of particular diets. Travel also makes eating a particular diet very difficult. Munching while driving keeps me awake and focused and eating healthy while at restaurants can be quite challenging. Finding time to squeeze in fitness further complicates staying healthy on the road.
Anyway, all that to say, I needed something that I discovered on my own, that was flexible, and that worked with my health issues. (They are ridiculous and may or may not be discussed at a later time. ) So how did I finally loose weight? Well, the answer starts the same way most of my answers for life's problems start - I read a book. The book was In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. He lays out a case for the health benefits of actual food which he describes as either plants grown by the sun or meat raised on natural diets. This part of the book was interesting, but not necessarily life altering. What got me was his discussion of intentional eating. He stated that when asked to describe chocolate cake in one word, Americans most often used the word guilt while the French most often used the word celebration. He argued that there is nothing wrong with enjoying cake or treats in reasonable amounts while surrounded by family in friends, but that there is something very wrong with consuming cake when alone and depressed. He also discusses the importance of eating at a table and focusing on what is being consumed rather than scarfing something down in a rush. He admits that this may not always be possible, but it should be a priority.
The concept of intentional eating - considering where my food was coming from, where I am consuming it, why I'm consuming it, and who I am consuming it with - was revolutionary. I became okay with saying no to sweets when I was really looking to satisfy an emotional craving. I didn't have to say no to anything, but rather in moderation can enjoy a variety of delicious foods without eating the toxic "low whatever-the-current-trends-say-to-avoid" food products.
Every now and then I gain a bit (this morning after a fun weekend I am up slightly), but when that happens, I don't berate myself or fall into a cycle of self-loathing and punishment. I just go back to healthy eating and enjoyable exercise. I've also read The Omnivore's Dilemma also by Pollan which discusses how we solve the oldest question, "What should we eat?"
Eating is both an individual and a communal pursuit. How we eat is something that each individual must consider and answer for. It is also something that we do with others as we prepare food together and make decisions where to shop. If you think that intentional eating as a goal sounds over dramatic then look at 1 Corinthians 10:31 "Whether therefore you eat or drink or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God." As I reexamined this verse I realized I needed to live it out and in the words of Robert Frost "that has made all the difference."
This post was suggested by Logan. I'm always talking about Friends Group, but have yet to write about this amazing group of people so here it goes.
Our church, Five Points Community Church in Auburn Hills, hosts a Wednesday night special needs ministry called Friends Group. The group has been around for decades, but I have only been attending Friends for the past two years. From what I understand many of the friends started attending as children and continue to come as adults.
I asked to be a part of the group to push myself outside my current comfort zone and to connect with others at church. Before joining I would walk by and hear them singing, "This Little Light of Mine," "Jesus Loves Me," and "The B-I-B-L-E." I love singing those songs with the children's church! They were also always clapping and cheering too. It seemed the group was always having so much fun and I wanted in.
As soon as I got there I noticed a few things. These friends LOVE Jesus. If we don't talk about Him right away they might get upset. These friends say, "I love you," freely and with absolute honesty to each other unless someone is upsetting them. Then they will say, "STOP! I don't like that." They are all a bit different, but aren't we all? They don't care how different you are you will be embraced. Never met you? That's okay. They will still greet you and maybe even invite you to their birthday party. I can't help but wish more people were so inclusive. They can sing "Amazing Grace" like nobody's business. Seriously, they belt it out and while they are singing, I can't help but tear up at their sincerity. They ask questions when they don't know the answer to something and don't feel embarrassed. A favorite memory was seeing a man with special needs standing outside the bathrooms looking a bit frantic. When he saw me he asked, "What do I do? I know I'm not a woman, but I'm not sure if I'm a man. I'm a boy. Where do I go?" I assured him him was safe to use the men's restroom and he went in.
Since first joining the group, I've had the privilege of leading singing and teaching the lesson a few times. The lessons are simple, but it reminds me that we have a simple faith. Yes, one can spend their entire life studying scripture and learning about God, but it comes down to believing, trusting, and following God. I'm constantly challenged by their pure love for Christ and the excitement they bring to learning. And their prayer requests! Each night we ask the friends what they want to pray about and many list not only family and friends, but first responders, soldiers, government officials, and others. Because they have to depend upon others to care for them, they don't struggle with the concept that they must depend upon God. They need help and know it.
So often our culture celebrates those with differences but sometimes this group of the most amazing people ever gets looked over because they are different in a different way. Disabled. Sometimes those differences are scary or leave us feeling uncomfortable. Individuals with special needs are unique and wonderfully made. I believe that God is good and that He is in control. How I treat those with special needs around me is a reflection of that. Do your actions toward those around you reflect your beliefs about God?
If your church has a special needs ministry I would encourage you to get involved however you can. Start by praying for the group and greeting them with a friendly greeting. Listen to them and minister in any way that you can to their care givers. If your church doesn't have a special needs group, maybe you should ask why and look for needs around you. If you live in Southeast Michigan you can help by supporting Dutton Farms where my friend, Kevin (pictured below) works. Tonight he was sporting two medals he earned at the Special Olympics. Dutton Farms is an organization committed to helping adults with disabilities by advocating on their behalf, educating individuals and helping them find their strengths, and helping them find meaningful employment. They are hosting an open house June 20, 2019. Come out and show your support! They sell handmade soaps, candles, bug spray, and much more.
So these are my friends. If you don't have friends who love you and love Jesus like this you should definitely get some!
The video below tells a little more about Dutton Farm and at the end features an interview with one of my favorite friends, Jimmy. He loves his job, but more importantly he loves the opportunity to contribute to society and earn wages in return.
29 years ago I had a pit in my stomach as I dreaded my approaching birthday. Okay, maybe I wouldn't say I was dreading my 11th birthday, but I was upset. Why? Well, when I turned 10 someone - I don't know who - commented that this was the last year I could show how old I was with my hands. I was taken aback. Maybe it was my introverted self who loved the ability to communicate my age (common conversation fodder for adults) without having to speak. Whatever the reason, I found this number "11" just so uncool.
Tomorrow I face another uncool number. I know it's just a number, but I don't like saying because it sounds like the number of a person who has their life together. The number of a person who has a career and is progressing toward some end goal. I, on the other hand, am someone who is still trying to figure out what to do. I don't have all the answers yet. Maybe answers aren't what aging gives you. But when I stop and consider my life I think maybe I've found a few of those elusive answers.
Last week in my post about summer break, I emphasized that school does not have a monopoly on learning. Summer can be all about the best kind of learning. The kind of learning that expands the mind. The kind of learning that leads to interesting places and people. The kind of learning I hope Logan will continue with for the rest of his life.
There are two parts of our summer bucket list this year. I want to visit some interesting places and try some fun things with Logan, but I also want to work organizing some areas in the house, improving math skills, and strengthening language skills. When considering academic work over summer break, I like to think of it as bonus time. We had too much homework for me to add on more during the school year so summer is the perfect time to learn a few things that will help with next year. I also want to play some fun games that teach as we play such as the periodic table battleship and the Pringles ring.
The second part of the list is all about the go. I'm currently obsessed with my National Park Passport book and I want to collect several stamps available in our area. Detroit is part of the Motor Cities National Historic Area so several museums offer the National Park Passport stamp. On the list below, the areas with the available stamp have the green letters next to them identifying what they are. (Key below). Will we make it to all these places? Absolutely not, but we will have fun trying and often we get to them during days off school and weekends.
Without further ado, here is the Gies 2019 Summer Bucket List.
Visit Niagara Falls
Visit Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural NHS
Take piano lessons
Visit Whiting Forest
Clean out guest room closet
Visit River Raisin NBP
Study Men and Women in the Word with She/He Reads Truth
Learn about the law of diminishing returns with ice cream
Visit Cranbrook Gardens
Go to a baseball game
Host a class party
Day camp at the Henry Ford
Visit Stahls Automotive Foundation NHA
Ride bikes to downtown Rochester
Family game night
Visit the Edsel Ford House and Gardens NHA
Play the license plate game
Visit Cambridge Junction Historic State Park NHA
Build an egg drop
Visit the Detroit Zoo
Read and complete Big Life Journal
Visit the Toledo Zoo with Fougeres
Family movie night
Memorize the definitions for the parts of speech
Visit Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes NL
Jackson Pollock Painting
Visit Yankee Air Museum NHA
Play periodic table battleship
Visit the GM Renaissance Center NHA
Build a LEGO fortress
Visit Meadowbrook Hall NHA
Visit Michigan Military Technical & Historical Society NHA
Make a Pringles Ring
Plant giant sunflowers
Read a biography of Bob Ross
Finish London puzzle
Visit the Detroit Historical Museum NHA
Finish toy puzzle
Visit the Detroit Institute of Arts NHA
Memorize times tables
Read Treasure Island
We're ready to grow and go!
NHA - National Historic Area, NBP - National Battlefield Park, NHS - National Historic Site, NL - National Lakeshore
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."