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Group presentations. One of my least favorite memories from high school!

My ninth grader was assigned his first group presentation in history class with two other boys he knew from his previous school. They were to have one week to work on it, but the illness of one combined with unexpected snow days left two of the three of them with one class period to prepare. I had encouraged them to talk on the phone while school was out and to at least map out a plan of what they were going to do. They did talk some, but I think the lure of days off was too great.

However, he came home from school Thursday confident that they had put together a nice Powerpoint presentation, which he had on his flash drive, and he just needed to make a poster. Being the cautious and somewhat fatalistic mother, I asked if they had made a backup copy of the Powerpoint file. No, his partner didn’t have Powerpoint at home, so they hadn’t seen any reason to make two copies of it; my son had the only copy even though the other guy would be giving the presentation. It all made sense to them.

We made the poster, did our evening activities, and went to bed. As we were walking out the door in the morning, I suggested that he double-check to be sure his flash drive was in his backpack. It wasn’t.

There was a ten minute flurry of activity as every couch cushion, pants pocket, and bed cover was overturned in a frantic search for the crucial two-inch long device. No luck.

As I saw his eyes filling with tears and the panic squeezing his throat, I knew that I had a choice to make. I could deliver the mommy lecture that was on the tip of my tongue and ensure that he left the house feeling defeated, or I could use the opportunity to teach him some valuable life skills.

So, taking a deep breath and fighting back all of the I told you so’s clamoring to escape my throat, I said, “Okay. You’re about to learn a great lesson in adaptability!” I quickly grabbed a coffee-table book that we own on his subject and told him to head to the van. His presentation was in his first period class, so there really was no extra time.

On the way, I had him write out whatever details he remembered from the powerpoint and think about how to use the pictures we had. I shared my own experiences of speaking “off the cuff” and assured him that the most important thing was to appear confident in what he was saying, and that I knew they would be fine.

Deep breath.

There was just enough time to run into the school library and print out a couple more important pictures. The first bell rang. The printer didn’t work. With the librarian’s help, he got the pictures printed, with two minutes to get to class. “Confidence,” I said, as we parted ways. “You can do this.”

And he did.

He told me that afternoon that all three guys were able to divide up the resources they had, deliver their talks, and no one else was the wiser. The teacher even told us at parent night that they had done a nice job.

As I watched him walk down the hall that morning, I felt like the mother bird screaming “Fly, fly, fly” to her fledgling on the ground as the hungry cat lurks nearby.

He did fly, with only minutes to spare, and those wings are getting stronger every day.

fledglingflying1

Perhaps you have seen this story circulating before, but I read it for the first time recently and thought it was worth passing along.

Carrots, Eggs, And Coffee

A certain daughter complained to her father about her life and how things have been so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and she wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed that just as one problem was solved another arose.
Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen, filled three pots with water and placed the fire on high. Soon the three pots came to a boil. In one he placed carrots, in the other he placed eggs, and in the last he placed ground coffee beans. He let them sit and boil, without saying a word.
The daughter sat impatiently and wondered what he was trying to do. She had problems, and he was making this strange concoction. In half an hour he walked over to the oven and turned down the fire. He pulled the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then he ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her he asked. “Darling ,what do you see,”

Smartly, she replied. “Carrots, eggs, and coffee.”

He brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. Her face frowned from the strength of the coffee.

Humbly, she asked. “What does it mean, Father?”

He explained. “Each of them faced the same adversity, 212 degrees of boiling water. However, each reacted differently.”
“The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. But after going through boiling water, it softened and became weak.”
“The egg was fragile. A thin outer shell protected a liquid center. But after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.”

“The coffee beans are unique however. After they were in the boiling water, it became stronger and richer.” “Which are you?” he asked his daughter.

When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond?
Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?

Are you like a carrot, normally strong, but after facing pain and adversity, do you wilt, become soft and lose your natural inner strength?


Are you like the egg, starting with a malleable heart, but changed by the heat? Did you have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, your outside shell looks the same, but on the inside are you bitter and tough with a hardened heart?

Or are you like the coffee bean? The bean does not get its peak flavor and robust taste until it reaches 212 degrees Fahrenheit. The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. As the water gets hot, the coffee beans release their fragrance and flavor.

If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity?

Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

This weekend was an eye-opener for me. I attended my first ever blogging conference, sponsored by Blissfully Domestic and One2OneNetwork, and got a taste of just how popular blogging has become and of what a techno-dinosaur I really am. My geeky husband was probably surprised to learn that I now have computer envy – me, who relies on him for all of my html code needs. I’ve been perfectly content with my hand-me down laptop until I spent a weekend with all the latest and greatest. Hmm… new laptop, or school tuition payment….

Facebook became my friend several months ago, and I thought I was pretty progressive. I was introduced to Twitter at this conference and was simply amazed to watch a roomful of women communicating with each other all day long without actually speaking. Yes, there was lots of talking going on as well, but the amount of online conversation, even during speakers and performers, was just mind-boggling to me. I succumbed to the pressure and opened a Twitter account, so please come follow me, @wisdompursuit, as I attempt to join the party.

Because women bloggers are becoming recognized as a powerful marketing voice, there were several prominent public relations specialists in attendance, including John Andrews, the social media representative from Wal-Mart. He discussed the value of the Eleven Moms blog and offered to send two people in attendance to South by Southwest. Okay, I admit I’m getting old; I had no idea what that was when he offered it, but the crowd sure got excited! One of the lucky winners was Robin of Pensieve, so be sure to see what she has to say, since I, techno and music dinosaur, will not be attending.

Thanks to Barbara Jones of One2OneNetwork, we were treated to a sneak preview of a soon to be released Disney project called Yanni Voices. It is a stunning concert of up and coming talented young singers who have put words to some of Yanni’s best music. We thoroughly enjoyed the wide-screen show and I highly recommend watching the debut on PBS in March, and attending live if you have the chance. The real surprise came afterwards, though, when two of the singers, Nathan Pacheco and Ender Thomas, walked into the room. A room full of baby sling-wearing “mommy bloggers” was suddenly transformed into a teenage swooning party. Yes, they were very talented singers, and yes, they were cute, but in the almost-young -enough- to-be-my-child sort of way. Not in the I’ll-just-die-if-he-speaks-to-me sort of way. At least not for me. I’ve moved on to a different phase of life, and I think it shows in the one comment I remember from their appearance. Nathan Pacheco told us that the one thing he wanted us to remember about him was this:

A mother carried her son to her dream. You mothers have more power than you know.

Kudos to Mrs. Pacheco, wherever she is. There is a mother who was dedicated to being a mom, and it paid off for her and her son. She has accomplished what I am striving to achieve – launching a child into the world who is pursuing his dream, confident in who he was created to be, and thankful to the people in his life who helped him to get there.

We were encouraged this weekend to consider why we blog and what we hope to accomplish with it. For me, blogging is a way to process my reflections on life and share them with others in the hopes that together, we can journey through life with a clearer purpose and end up at our destinations surrounded by people who love us and who are cheering us on as we arrive.

Who’s up for the journey?

Isn’t that what we all dream of- a beautiful life? Coming to the end of our days with no regrets, no major goals unfinished, and at peace with our world and our Maker? But many of us get caught up in the rat race of life and decide, usually by default rather than conscious choice, that we just don’t have enough time, energy, money, talent, or ______( you fill in the blank) to have the life we always dreamed of having. So, we settle. This is just the way it is, the best I can do, we tell ourselves. And we stop trying. But what if that isn’t true? What if, in just a few minutes a day, you could begin to have the life you always dreamed of, one step at a time? Would it be worth it? Would you give it a try?

Your diamonds are not in far distant mountains or in yonder seas; they are in your own backyard, if you but dig for them.

Russel H. Conwell

I had a busier than usual holiday and post-holiday season and am just this week stopping to pause and reflect on the goals I want to set for this year. Pulling out an old friend, Simple Abundance , by Sarah Ban Breathnach, I resolved to read through it in the coming months and put her ideas of Simple Abundance and authentic living into practice in my home and in my life. I am inspired by beauty, and can feed my soul by creating a new beautiful space somewhere in my home.


For me, part of a Beautiful Life is having a Beautiful Home, at least in the rooms we use frequently. Just because I cannot hire a designer to make over my rooms every few months, all is not lost. One of my favorite ways to spruce up my home on a tight budget is to utilize the principle of Use What you Have Decorating. By simply moving a piece of furniture or an accent piece to another room, I can create a whole new look without spending a dime. My husband and I have collected pottery since we got married almost 19 years ago, so I’m always trying to display the pottery without it looking like a pottery studio. My family of bookworms has filled far too many bookshelves in our house, so I experimented this week with using books as part of the decor intermingled with the pottery.

I’m pretty pleased with the results and have completely changed the look of my family room without any major purchases. I feel at peace and content when I sit in that room, and it feels warm and inviting to my family and friends. Now that’s a beautiful life!

Breaking news in our house last night – my freshman son, Latin scholar and ignorer of all things nonacademic at school, has a fan club. What does this mean? I’m not exactly sure, but it is apparently the way that high school girls at his school indicate some type of interest in the boys. His good friend had one last semester, with some of the same girls. This fan club is not something they encouraged; it just sort of happened to them- I think the girls picked the most innocent and uninterested boys. At least one of the girls happens to have each class with him, and they are constantly asking him questions about everything except school. We intentionally tried to hold his “Affirmation of Manhood ” ceremony before too many of the raging teenage hormones kicked in. I think we succeeded on that count, as he sees any attention directed at him by these girls as just “weird”.

What’s a mother to do? I laugh and tease, a little, as he is obviously embarrassed by their attention. I’m surprised and a bit apprehensive, as I always imagined him as the geeky late-bloomer. And I wonder -are they truly interested in him or is it some kind of cruel trick? I know what a bright, kind, and compassionate person he is, but is that what they see?

I realize this is just the beginning of a whole new world of relationships with the opposite sex, a world that Mom cannot be a part of if he is to continue to develop into the man we want him to be. Sure, I can offer advice when asked, but it is a path he will have to navigate on his own.

Just when I was feeling comfortable with his new levels of freedom at school, somebody started snipping more of those apron strings!

There is nothing better than a bowl of hearty soup on a cold day – and we have a cold day in Tennessee today! It will be down in the single digits tonight, and yet for all the shivering and high heating bills, we don’t get the fun of any snow. Oh well, at least we can enjoy snuggling together and warming up our insides with something yummy!

One of my family’s favorite winter soups is hamburger vegetable soup. The beauty of this soup, besides how easy it is to make, is that you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand and it always turns out great. l always double or triple it so it will last at least an extra day. Give it a try; it may become a family favorite in your house, too!

Hamburger Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:

1-1/2 lbs hamburger meat

1-2 onions

2-3 cloves garlic

1 can tomato puree

1 box ( 4 cups) beef broth

4 cups of vegetables: your choice of carrots, celery, green beans, corn, peas, lima beans, chopped potato

salt, pepper, basil, bay leaf added to taste

Directions:

Brown hamburger meat with onions and garlic. Add tomato puree and beef broth. Bring to a boil and add vegetables. You may need to add more broth or water if you add a lot of vegetables. Simmer for about two hours. Serve with fresh bread or crackers and a salad.

My older son surprised me tonight; his first real attempt at poetry brought tears to my eyes. The students were instructed to imitate the style of George Ella Lyon’s poem Where I’m From. What I thought would be simply an intellectual and creative challenge became a poignant insight into the significant memories from his childhood – probably made all the more powerful since we just recently celebrated his transition into manhood. Though I’m sure it is more meaningful to those who know him well, I nonetheless thought it worthy of sharing with you today.

Where I’m From

by Calvin Scott

I am from books,
from H. G. Wells and from paper.
I am from the plastic cube in my backyard,
with so many colors and textures
and sounds.
I am from Tom Sawyer
and Great Expectations
I remember their words
as if they were on a page before me now.

I’m from wind-up toys and Lincoln Logs
____from Julia and Katherine.
I’m from the hyperactive
____ and the lazy
from Catch up! And Slow down!
I’m from lights and songs
____ and incredible joy
____ and perfect peace and contentment.

I’m from Robert and John’s page,
a banjo and wooden carvings.
from the fishing rod and the river
____ where first I caught a fish,
the mountain I hiked with my father.

Behind the chair there’s a door
full of scrapbooks,
so many faces, so many places
all there, when I remember.
I am from those moments–
from all the little things in life–
an empty page in the history book.

Here is a video my husband made of our son for his Affirmation of Manhood ceremony. It is set to Toby Mac’s song Lose Your Soul on the Portable Sounds album.

I took my son shopping for a suit yesterday. It was no great surprise that the suit he had worn to a wedding three years ago was too small, but I was hoping the jacket from last spring’s banquet would fit. No such luck. Teenage hormones kicked in over the summer, and he is at least four inches taller than he was last spring, so shopping we went.

As we browsed the racks of suits on sale (“Do I really have to try these on?”) and picked out jacket, pants, shirt, tie, and shoes, he mentally began adding up the cost of this outfit. He knows that most of his clothes come from the 80% off sales racks and are usually under $10. “Are we really going to spend more on this outfit than you spend on a month’s worth of groceries?” he asked, surprised. “No,” I replied, “but probably more than I spend for a week’s worth.” “Wow!” he responded thoughtfully. I turned and faced him, looking him in the eye, and said, “This is important and we want you to know that.”

Now, I do not intend to say that spending more money makes something more valuable, but I do believe that making the effort to dress more formally on some occasions lends an air of importance to the event. A bride will sometimes spend thousands of dollars on the dress she wears for a few hours to mark what should be the most significant event in her life. We want our son to see this evening of transition into manhood as a significant turning point in his life. Having everyone dress up makes the occasion more memorable and marks it as different and more special than an ordinary get together with friends.

Our society has become so casual that what were the markers of important events for previous generations have been lost. Casual Friday has become casual everyday, contemporary church services mean wear your blue jeans; no suits allowed, and when is the last time you saw someone dress up to get on an airplane?

I am all for any effort to reduce the number of days when I am expected to wear pantyhose, but I think we’ve taken this casual thing a step too far. Wearing uniforms at school and dressing nicely at work promote a sense of value for the effort put forth that day. Dressing up in suits and “special occasion” dresses will make our Friday evening celebration just that – a special occasion. Besides, just think how handsome my son will look. It’s enough to make this mother want to cry!

Scurry, scurry…frantic fury. The past month has flown by in a blur ! Despite continued attempts to keep our schedule manageable, there are still seasons of busyness because some invisible law dictates that once in a while, everything our children want to do and every event involving extended family or friends must all occur within the same limited time frame – and often at the exact same time. Ever been there? Thankfully we are nearing the end of a six week frenzy.

I regret that for me this year, Christmas seemed but a stepping stone on my quest to reach the end of the harried period. Since one major event is still looming on the horizon this week, it overshadowed in my mind what should have been a glorious celebration of Christ’s birth. I am grateful for the Lord’s mercy, even as the Martha in me continues to anxiously cook and clean in preparation for the big day.

No, I’m not talking about a fabulous New Year’s party ( though someday, I’d like to do that too), but rather a celebration in honor of my oldest son. Many other cultures have a wonderful ceremony affirming the growth of their children into young men, and my husband and I are trying to create a similar ceremony for our children. We believe in part that these markers help dispel some of the typical teenage angst, as these young people are affirmed as the maturing adults they are becoming. Our hope is that we can call our son to a higher path in life by surrounding him with adults who see him as he is, affirm who he is becoming, and challenge him to strive for greater things.

Our younger son asked if this was an “official” celebration and when I asked him to clarify, he replied, “Well, you know, a birthday party isn’t official because you have it at home; is this going to be at home or somewhere else?” In case you’re wondering, this will be an “official” celebration!

His next question was “Why are we cleaning and working so hard if the party is somewhere else?” Apparently, he was oblivious to the fact that even though the official celebration is being held elsewhere, Mom is still the official caterer, party director, and bed and breakfast hostess for out of town guests.

I am officially crossing things off of my to do list each day, recognizing my limits and dealing with the fact that I won’t get the bathroom repainted before my company comes nor will the expanse of thick wet leaves disappear from my backyard anytime soon. The constant rain over the last few weeks has seen to that.

But we will have a wonderful time with family and friends, our son will know he is loved well – and I will finally be officially off-duty for a while!

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