"You can make anything by writing."

-- C. S. Lewis

Sunday, February 21, 2010

We Were This Close to Tiger

So the company I work for is part of an elite Farmers Insurance preferred contractor program that has made my job extremely complicated over the last year. The program has very high performance standards, and in short, it's my job to oversee it all and make sure that we keep in good standing. Public relations at its best.

The business trip I took this week was to attend the program's annual convention in Jacksonville, Florida.

And this is where we stayed: The Sawgrass Marriott Resort and Spa.


Each morning, we would leave our luxurious hotel rooms, take the elevator down to the lobby, have some breakfast in the restaurant, then grab coffee at the Starbucks before continuing down the grand hallway to the convention center. And then we'd grab Starbucks again on our way back up. :-) Easily one of the nicest hotels I've ever stayed in, if not the nicest.

Apparently this is a very famous golf resort and is the site for one of the big PGA tournaments.

The day after we left, Tiger Woods held his infamous press conference on the very grounds. How crazy is that??

Anyhow, I really, really enjoyed the convention. It's a crazy comparison (and you'll have to hang with me for this), but it reminded me of Disney World. You see, in the course of my work week, I probably talk on the phone to any 10 of the program's 75 employees. I also e-mail them constantly, since I pretty much have to document every customer conversation I have. So we office girls have built these long-distance phone and e-mail working relationships with 75 people we've never seen. It drives us nuts, and I have to admit that we sometimes try to track people down on Facebook just so we can get a visual to go along with the voice.

So the entire time we were there, we were glancing at people's nametags, looking for familiar names. Leahh would tug my sleeve excitedly and whisper, "That's Joyce!!! Joyce Olson!" Or we would meet someone that we knew the other was looking for and drag them across the pub to introduce them. It was crazy. We were treating people like needles in the haystack -- like novelties. "Ohhhhhhh, you're Jackie! It's so nice to finally meet you!" "Oh, David, have you met Joel yet? He's the tall guy over there. I know he's dying to meet you! Come on; I'll go with you!"

And it reminded me of Ryley's autograph book at Disney World, where we would stand in line for an hour just to finally meet Mickey Mouse or Cinderella or the Fairy Godmother. :-) But in the end, there were only two people I wanted to meet that I didn't get the chance to, and I now have faces to go with the majority of names in my head.

Also, being there and listening to their vision and reasoning for doing things a certain way helped me to gain confidence in my ability to continue to work with the program (and succeed in doing so). I don't feel like they're quite as mean as I first thought. They're just people, too, trying to keep their jobs. :-)

It was a fun trip....good to see new things, learn new things, meet new people, etc. It was Anna's first time out of Colorado, hence her first time to see the ocean! And my very handy I-phone helped us find the beach in the dark at 11:30 p.m (the ocean is ominous and spooky when you're stumbling toward it in the pitch black!) and later track down some touristy spots that I first visited with Ryan when we were dating 14 years ago. :-)

Good times all around.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Ryley Chronicles: Keeping the Rooster Away?

Every day it's something new. When Ryley was just a baby and I was feeling fairly confident in my parenting abilities, Rick (my boss at the time) gave me a little parenting insight: "Just when you think you've got it down, your child will move on to the next stage and present an entirely new set of challenges for you to overcome." Rick passed away last fall, but his words come back to me every time I realize Ryley has reached a new phase in her development as a person. They probably always will. :-)

We were watching Ryley's friend on Thursday evening, and the two of them were playing "house." Except... the two of them have very different views on family structure. Ryley wanted to be married with a baby, while her friend wanted to be a 16-year-old who still goes to high school and has a baby. To put it lightly, Ryley was horrified.

"That's not how it works," she told her friend. "There have to be parents. You can't be in high school and have a baby."

Her friend didn't argue; she just stomped off. That's when I overheard and realized what was going on. So how do I reaffirm Ryley's friend that her own three-generation single-parent family (grandma, mom, aunt, cousins -- but no adult men) is ok, yet still protect Ryley's six-year-old innocence? This is the question Ryan and I discussed late into the night. At the time, I came up with the quickest solution possible -- to distract the girls from the issue by telling them it was time to play something else.

Later, after the friend had gone home, I braced myself and asked Ryley more about their disagreement. Ryley wasn't phased. She said it was no big deal and that she wasn't concerned about it because she knew she was right and her friend was wrong. I decided not to probe any further and just leave it at that. :-)

But it's going to come up again. Next week? Two years from now?

I feel like the longer she stays in the dark on this subject, the more solid her morals will be in the longrun.

Once Ryley's innocence is lost, there's no getting it back. And that makes me want to cry.

Her innocence is something I want to fight for and protect, with everything I have.


While I was in Florida this week, Ryley expressed to Ryan her interest in becoming a farmer. She was talking about all the dairy cows she would have, and Ryan suggested that she could also have chickens and sell the eggs.

"No!" she responded. "Because how would I know that I wasn't selling eggs with baby chicks in them??"

"Easy," Ryan said. "Just keep the rooster away."

Immediately, he wished his words back. Ryley doesn't leave questions unanswered. She wanted to know what that meant. And once again, Ryan found himself riding that fine line between lying to our daughter to protect her innocence and giving her the answer to her question.


Last weekend, her class had a Valentine's Day get-together at Chick-Fil-A. Ryley was very concerned because one of her friends is a vegetarian, and she was afraid that she wouldn't be able to eat with everyone else. I had assured her that her friend's mom would figure it out.

So, we parents were sitting together and talking, and the mom sighed and made a comment about how she hated that her daughter had talked her into getting chicken nuggets. I decided to seize the opportunity to ask, "So are both of you vegetarians, or just you?"

She answered, "You know, it's kind of like religion -- you don't force your beliefs on your kids. You want them to come to their own conclusions. Do I want her to eat flesh? No. But I ultimately want her to make her own decision."


"Raise your child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."

I thought the shot at religion was interesting. Yes, I want Ryley to make her own decision to follow Christ. But if I don't introduce her to Him, how will she ever know Him?

And if you really believe what you say you believe, you will teach your children that what you believe is right.

These are the issues we are facing as parents right now. I want Ryley to be solid...to have immovable morals. I want her to know why she believes what she believes. I want her to, above all, seek after a relationship with Jesus -- like what I have...like what Ryan has. I want her to love her vegetarian friends, her friends from single-parent families, her Hispanic and black and white friends. I want her to love everyone and show His love to each and every person, regardless of their background. And I also want her to know what's right and wrong. It's not ok for her to have a baby at 16. When it happens to other girls, does God work it out? Yes. But it's not ok for that to be ok. Right?

"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

My father-in-law recently gave Ryan some interesting advice. He said that we should keep Ryley as busy as possible, getting her involved in constructive activities. If she likes swimming, let her swim. If she likes the piano, let her play. He said he felt like my parents had "figured it out" in keeping me so busy through high school. I didn't have time to get myself in trouble. There was no idle time for me to be hanging out with boys, looking for stuff to do.

He's right. I don't know whether or not that was my parents' intent, but it certainly worked. :-) And I am thankful to them for constantly providing me with constructive activities and opportunities that kept my mind active. I have found this truth to be self-evident for me: "The busier you are, the better you focus, the better you do all around."


So Ryley is growing up. There's nothing we can do to stop time, though we certainly wish we could try!

Her daddy took her on a date to the Spaghetti Factory while I was gone:

Ryley was very interested and reverant about the fact that her daddy's and my first date was at the Spaghetti Factory. :-)

But while Ryan's intent of the date was to show Ryley how boys should treat her, Ryan said he spent most of the time reminding her how she should act. :-)

We have so enjoyed watching the Olympics! Ryley loves it. But two comments she's made in the last week have stopped us cold:

About snowboarder Shaun White: "Wow! That boy looks like both a boy and a girl at the same time! You don't see that very often, do you?!"

About skier Bode Miller: "Oh, he looks handsome and nice....But not as much as daddy!"

There's no going back now. Our little girl notices boys' looks.

I expect this stage to last awhile. God, help us. :-)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Things I Saw Today

And now I'm going home. Yay! :-)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ryley Stories

1. This week, I am traveling "on business," you might say. I am en route to Jacksonville, Florida, to attend an insurance conference with my boss Joel and my co-workers Leahh and Anna. I've been looking forward to the trip because it is a break in the regular routine, and it is a "doable" 58 hours away from Ryan and Ryley.

Then today.... Ryley woke up at 5 a.m., crying that she didn't want me to go. It broke my heart. But by 8 a.m., she was chipper and brave again, and she helped me pack my bag, all the while talking my ear off about all the wonderful things I will see when I am flying. And when I dropped her off at her friend's house, she turned to me with those big, green eyes, forced a wobbly smile, and said, "Mommy?"

"What, sweetie?"

"See you on Thursday!"

It was her way of saying, "I'm fine. You can go." I loved her for it. I walked away, and I was the one with tears in my eyes.

2. Yesterday, I was attempting to clean Ryley's room. I often do this when she is otherwise occupied because, frankly, she slows the process down. So I am cleaning, and she walks in. She looks around, finds what she came for, and starts to walk out.

"Ryley," I said, "what are you up to?"

"Not making a mess," she answered. :-)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Life is settling in now. Work is slowing down somewhat. Our household has established a mid-winter routine in which the house has remained clean for almost two weeks. We practice spelling words. Mail gets read and filed on a daily basis. We find time for recreational reading.

A welcome lull in a sure-to-become-busy-again life.

Now that I have time to think my own thoughts again, I have been happy and relieved to discover that my muse has returned. I built a fire in the fireplace tonight, and as I arranged the logs and watched the flames lap them hungrily, my thoughts wandered to pioneer women tending to their wood stoves...I wondered if they, too, found joy and fascination in watching the movement of fire. How sad is it that I have been so consumed and preoccupied with work for the last seven months that I haven't really thought? How sad is it that when I flip through a file on my desk, I am relieved to discover notes/documentation in my handwriting of conversations I had that I cannot now remember? I have come to put a lot of trust into detailed notes I left myself months ago.

Even so, the depth and capabilities of the human brain continue to amaze me. When I thought my mind could not take any more stretching -- when I thought I was beyond the capability of learning anything new -- I did. When I didn't think I could multi-task anything else, the Lord organized my thoughts and ordered my steps. That is my prayer every day now...that God will continue to bring order to my mind. And He always does. It's just cluttered chaos without His help.

I have come up to breathe. At last.


Ryley is growing up. It's hard to believe she is in the second half of 1st grade. She finished her first "chapter book" tonight, snuggled up next to me on the sofa in her puppy pajamas.

As parents, we are facing issues we're unprepared for...like bullying. We don't want to be the parents who blindly believe their child is always in the right. On the contrary, we know Ryley has many faults. But she also has a good heart, and we just don't think she has it in her to instigate hatred. We pray that God gives us perception and wisdom as we deal with her and her little friends. I don't remember the cattiness starting this young....

All I know is that it is becoming more and more apparent to her (and to us) when there is a lack of Jesus in a person's life. It's not so much that we can tell when Christ is present; but we have become painfully aware of His absence in their lives. I don't understand why, but the void is easier to determine.

I spent 10 minutes the other day speaking encouragement and God's Word into Ryley's non-Christian friend who had been grumpy all evening and was saying how ugly she was. A six-year-old who thinks she's ugly? If that's how she feels about herself, no wonder she has relationship problems at school. The bullying suddenly becomes the least of the concerns. And I don't care what her parents think; when she is with us, she is going to hear what God thinks about her...that He created her and that she is beautiful. And even moreso, I desire for Ryley to be built up in the Spirit....to have on her whole armor of God -- to be a light in the darkness. When her friend said those things, Ryley spoke up so boldly and said, "You are so smart and funny and pretty. That's why I like you!" I had never been so proud of her. Ryley's words to her friend probably did way more than mine did.

The other day, Ryley and I were talking about our upcoming trip to Mexico (more on that another time!), and she said, "Mexico is going to be the best day of my life...better than DisneyWorld! The best day of my life. Except... Except when Jesus comes down and we all rise up to meet Him. That will be the BEST day of my life."

Have I told you how much I love my little girl? :-)


So here are some pictures from the last few weeks.

Ryley had gotten a new dresser for her birthday last July. Then Santa brought her a matching desk. So, a few weeks ago, when we found out that her bedroom set is being discontinued, we simply had to get the last piece....the canopy bed!

I made the canopy out of six yards of tulle, for $6. It was created on a whim, and Ryan and I were so proud of ourselves for our thriftiness!!

Then, as life slowed down, I made good on a promise to let Ryley use her cookbooks to prepare a complete meal for us. She was such a big girl, and she was so proud of herself. Ryan took her shopping for ingredients, and I served as the ever-helpful sous chef. :-)

She made sparkling princess punch...

Homemade applesauce...

And spaghetti.

The pictures don't make it look as appetizing as it really was. It all turned out very delicious. :-)

There are many more recipes in both cookbooks, so something tells me that this is not the last we will hear from Chef Ryley. :-)

Good night!