"You can make anything by writing."

-- C. S. Lewis

Monday, July 30, 2012

Girliness Galore

Ryley’s birthday party was this past weekend. It turned out much differently than we had pictured in our minds, but I think everybody still had fun.

Ryley and four of her friends went to “Sweet and Sassy,” a little girls’ boutique, for pedicures. We were late because of a mishap with a pile of dog poop by our van. ;-)






It was pretty cute, and Ryley was at the height of her glory!

Then we took a ride in the pink limousine….




Waving to passers-by…




Daddy was such a good sport!


Then the ladies at Sweet and Sassy were so nice to let the girls walk the runway and have a little fashion show, even though we didn’t pay for a party package.

Ryley and the A’s….Alyssa, Amirah, Abby, and Amy!




On our way home, one of the girls couldn’t find her MP3 player, and she blamed another girl for losing it. We pulled the van over in a parking lot and asked all the girls to wait outside while Ryan and I tore the van apart looking for it. In the meantime, the first girl said it was the worst day of her life, which Ryley took way too personally. Three of the girls ended up in tears. We did finally find the MP3 player.




A couple of the girls spent the night, and Ryan was very close to calling some parents to come claim their daughters around 11 p.m. Lots and lots of estrogen. Lots and lots of drama. :-) But one little girl left Ryley a note saying it was the best party she had ever been to! Despite the high emotions, Ryley really does have sweet friends, and we enjoyed getting to know them better.

On Sunday I took Ryley to see “Fiddler on the Roof” at a local performing arts center. It was sooooo good. We were really impressed! An old friend of mine from college was performing, which really interested Ryley!


And that wraps up her birthday week. I still can’t believe she’s nine. ;-)



Time flies when you’re having fun, I suppose. :-)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Snapshots of Real Life

Here are my guilty pleasures of the summer:

Iced coffee…so delicious! Pour over ice and then add a little bit of whipped cream on top. Mmmmmm.  :-)


Cheap popsicles…Ryley and I are addicted!


Downton Abbey. Oh, how I love thee. I powered through all 16 episodes. Even Ryan loved it.


And just regular pleasures (not-so-guilty):

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood… “I really like Mr. Rogers,” Ryley says. “He asks lots of questions.”

Concerts in the park… Just hours before the movie theater shootings just a couple miles away, we spent a pleasant Colorado evening in a park, dancing to big-band music with hundreds of other Aurora residents. And we felt completely safe.


A kids’ festival at the Aurora Civic Center, where President Obama ended up speaking at the victims’ memorial, just a week later.


And apparently, relaxing foot baths in the privacy of a messy room…


That’s real life right there!

Also, wonderful guitar progress! She loves it, and we are so glad. :-)


A couple of weeks ago we went to the Olympics Training Center in Colorado Springs.


Ryan and I are huge Olympics fans, so we watched some of the qualifying events for swimming and gymnastics about a month ago. We knew there was a training center in Colorado Springs, but we had no idea it allowed visitors. Apparently they have 140,000 visitors per year. And what better time to go than now??? Plus, it’s FREE. :-)


I love this….



We went on an awesome tour of the facility.


If we had come earlier in the day, we might have seen the men’s gymnastics team practicing, but unfortunately for us, they had the afternoon off.



We tried not to be too disappointed that we didn’t see many athletes….We just saw some boxers. But it was pretty cool to see where the athletes train and live. Apolo Anton Ohno lived there for eight years. Plus, the excitement in the air was pretty thick!




Yay for the Olympics! May the games begin.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ryley Turns Nine

Ryley turned nine today.


And in what has literally seemed like a blink of an eye, we’re halfway to 18. We’re half done.

Oh, I know we’re never actually done parenting; our parents still have a daily impact on our lives in a variety of important, wonderful ways, not the least of which is prayer. But assuming Ryley leaves home and goes to college right after high school, we have reached the halfway point of her childhood…of her formidable years at home.

When I was pregnant with her, I signed up for BabyCenter.com e-mails, which sent weekly updates about the growth and development of our unborn baby. Even after Ryley was born, we continued to receive weekly e-mails featuring growth updates and parenting issues we may be experiencing. They were really helpful. Ryley was surprisingly right on track and in sync with the e-mails….She rolled over for the first time on the very same day I received an e-mail titled “Your Baby Could Roll Over Any Day Now.”  And the e-mails continued. I had no idea how long they’d go on. Sometimes I read them; sometimes I deleted them without reading them. Just two weeks ago, as we were having some trouble with “interrupting,” I received an e-mail titled “Teaching Your Eight-Year-Old Not to Interrupt.” Perfect timing once again. And then, sadly, a week ago, I received an e-mail basically saying, “Good Luck. Your Child Is Almost Nine. This Is as Far as Our E-mails Go.”

And I cried.


We had a wonderful few days celebrating her birthday.

Last night we had dinner with my aunt and uncle at the Spaghetti Factory. She opened some wonderful presents, including three prairie bonnets that my grandma sewed for her!

A night cap:


A work bonnet:


And a church bonnet:


Also, isn’t that a gorgeous sundress that my aunt sewed for her? Ryley is never lacking for people who love her. :-)

Today has been a perfect day. Ryan and I both took the day off work. We picked up Ryley’s best friend Amirah and went to a miniature water park…big enough to have a lot of fun, but small enough to still be cheap AND let them run around without fear of anyone getting lost.





We all swam. We all got a lot of sun. We are all very tired. :-)


I am so glad we took Amirah. That hadn’t been the original plan. We watch her a lot because of her mom’s crazy work schedule, and sometimes because of some hard things that have happened to her, she can kind of be moody. The last thing I wanted was for Ryley’s birthday/family day to be ruined with bad attitude and moodiness. I kept having this tug on my heart that we should invite her, but I just kept fighting it. It’s our family day, after all.

Then I had this amazing conversation with her mom on Saturday, where she told me that she’s so glad her daughter has us in her life…a stable family environment where she can see what a family is supposed to be like. I am not free to share all the things that she said, but I gained new understanding and clarity about the situation, and I felt God expanding my heart right then and there.

Oh, Jesus. With all of our faults and mistakes and imperfections, we are not a model family. But we thank Him for using us anyway.

God showed me how we have been praying for more than seven years to expand our family….for God to give us more children. And here is a little girl right in front of us who needs a family – maybe not literally, but metaphorically and spiritually, for sure. God has put her in our lives for a purpose. 

So, Option A: we could go to a water park and Ryley could be lonely as she plays by herself; meanwhile her friend sits at home, also lonely.

OR, Option B: we could invite the little girl who needs a family; Ryley’s no longer lonely; Amirah’s no longer lonely; we learn an expanded definition of “family” and spread the love and hope of Jesus.

Option B, it was. And there was no moodiness. It was actually extremely peaceful and pleasant all day long. God was and is at work. :-)


We are so grateful for Ryley’s life….What an amazing gift she is to us!  Happy birthday to my sweet, sweet girl. It’s been nine years of incredible blessings, and there’s still a whole lot of life yet to live. :-)

Saturday, July 21, 2012


It is so crazy and surreal that national news anchors have set up camp in our little corner of the world….that we see our familiar landmarks and stomping grounds on national TV….that our community is going through this horrific experience. It’s crazy and horrible and so, so sad. It doesn’t seem real. You hear about this stuff, but it never happens in your neighborhood, you know? My heart breaks for each family, for each story…for the very thought that there are parents going from hospital to hospital with pictures of their kids, saying, “Have you seen my son?”

Just to state the facts, we live four miles from the Century 16 movie theater. It’s the halfway point between our house and Ryley’s school. That’s our theater. I took Ryley and her friend to see “Brave” there a couple of weeks ago. Before that, Ryan and I saw “The Avengers,” and my mom took Ryley to see “Madagascar.” In the eight years we’ve lived in Aurora, we’ve probably seen 20 to 25 movies at that theater, including our special memory of Ryley’s first movie ever when she was uber little, “Curious George.”

Ryan’s restaurant is very close to the gunman’s apartment – so close that he was part of an effort to provide lunch to the SWAT team and bomb squad yesterday. He’s part of an effort to provide lunch to apartment evacuees and Red Cross workers today. When they saw the suspect’s picture on the news, Ryan and his employees recognized him as a frequent customer. It’s crazy to think how many times danger walks in and out of your life, and you don’t even know it.

As Ryan said last night, in any setting, in any environment, we’re never promised tomorrow.

It makes me want to do more…to use every moment of my life more wisely. It makes me want to share Jesus more freely with the people in my community. Somehow I hope that after this horrific event, people’s hearts may be more primed to hear of His love. Just this morning, I had a wonderful conversation with Ryley’s best friend’s mom. It’s a start.

Jesus, please use us here.


I have to admit that it has been an emotionally overwhelming few weeks for me, in every aspect of my life.

As for Ryan’s dad….The hospital in Tampa had said that though his body was healing from the bypass surgery, there was very little they could do for his mind. They believed he would come back in time, but it was beyond their capabilities. They recommended that he be transfered to a facility that could offer him the therapy he needs for mental restoration. But somehow around the time that he was transfered, his incision re-opened, and upon examination of it, it was discovered that his sternum was broken as well. They took him back to the ICU in Tampa where he awaits surgery this week to repair the sternum with plates and bolts.

It’s seriously the never-ending saga! Poor guy. Ryan’s stepmom Linda says he seems to be more aware than he has been, but because of the trach in his throat, he is unable to talk. He tries anyway, and she says it’s heartbreaking to watch. We feel so bad for him…how frustrated he must be at not being able to communicate for the last month and a half. More than anything, Ryan misses talking to his dad. He had to fire someone at his restaurant last week, and the one person he wanted to talk to about it was his dad…the man he looks up to for professional advice.

Ron’s always in the back of our minds, in the forefront of our minds, and in our constant prayers. We pray for his peace of mind, we pray for his healing, we pray for Linda’s strength. It’s heart-wrenching.

On the good side of this situation, however, I have seen so much spiritual growth and maturity in Ryan in the last few weeks. He seems at peace with the situation overall. We’ve had some long discussions about the “will of God” and interpreting what that means and how we are supposed to pray.

I have to admit that many times I have questioned why we bother praying at all, if God’s going to have His will anyway. I got so excited when I read “The Lord’s Prayer” recently in Luke 11 (NIV), and the words “Thy will be done” were left out.  The rest of the passage is also very good about prayer…about asking God for what we want. I thought, maybe the modern Church has added “Thy will be done.” Maybe Jesus never meant for those words to be there in the version of the prayer we’ve all memorized! Here I thought I had come across some great spiritual discovery. But then Ryan reminded me that there is also the account in Matthew, where the words “Thy will be done” are included.

The truth is that sometimes we pray, and things don’t turn out the way we like. We’ve prayed for Ron’s healing, and it has been far from quick; in fact, it has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions and confusion and heartbreak that requires constant submission to God’s will. So is God taking His time in this so that we all get the spiritual growth that we need in the long process? Is His will that we walk through this situation for our personal growth of character? And Ryan reminded me that the purpose of praying for God’s will is to align our hearts with His plan and what He wants to do. Because His will is perfect.

This situation with Ryan’s dad has us constantly surrendering him to Him. We don’t know what the outcome will be, and we don’t know how long of a process this will be. Weeks? Years? But this line from Ryan’s favorite book and movie is a constant source of hope.

Regardless of what happens, this is not the end.


We enrolled Ryley in diving lessons at her request. Remember that debacle? She’s been asking for about a year. But since she’s started, she’s been dealing with fear of going headfirst into the water. She admits it’s fear, and she admits it’s unexplainable and unfounded. It was so bad that she would cry and throw fits as we prepared to go to the lessons. She would cry days in advance at the very thought of diving. She would cry at the lessons themselves. The fear of diving was crippling her. In fact, it was ruining the summer.

I know you probably think we’re horrible parents for making her go through with it. :-)  Let me tell you: as parents, we were torn. We never want to force her into a situation where she feels unsafe. We never want to force her to do what we want and not what she wants. But she had wanted this. We paid money for it. And we refuse to raise a quitter. She’s a good swimmer, and she loves water. It’s not like she’s drowning. The fear was totally coming from the devil.

“Consider it pure joy when you go through trials of many kinds because the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so we can be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – somewhere in James

We weren’t going to let her out of it. Just like we can’t get out of the situation with Ryan’s dad, we really felt like Ryley needed to walk through this situation too.

So Ryan spent a good deal of time reading through James with Ryley one evening, and they spent a lot of time praying. Oh my goodness. Let me tell you: that evening had started out so badly, and within an hour, the entire atmosphere in our house changed. The peace of God filled our home. Ryley has gone to three diving lessons since then, and it has been amazing. No tears. No screaming. Just perseverance and bravery, as well as a teacher who understands and is being kind.

Thank You, Jesus.


In the midst of all of this, my workplace has been insane. In fact, I am going in this afternoon, on a Saturday, for four hours just to play catch-up in (hopefully) what will be peace and quiet.

I work every day 8:30 to 3:00, and there is so much crap to deal with that I often start freaking out at 10 a.m. that there is literally not enough time to do everything that needs to be done before 3:00. I could probably work 50 hours a week right now, and I am squeezing it all into 32.5. There’s so much pressure; I can’t even begin to describe it.

Let’s just say this….The environment is so intense and stressful that not a word was mentioned about the theater massacre all day yesterday because we did not have time to think about it. We’re probably the only workplace in all of Denver that did not speak of what was happening just a few miles away. From the moment I walked in the door, I was under intense pressure.

I know. It’s just roofing. Tell our customers that. They get awfully witchy.

Please be nice to your local roofing contractor. You have no idea.

A couple of weeks ago I was feeling like I just might walk out and leave it all behind. And God just impressed upon me about my steps being ordered of the Lord. I started praying for that specifically…that He would order my every move in that office. And it was peaceful for awhile, as I prayed that every day.

But then, my mind got on my father-in-law and the situation in the movie theater, and I forgot to pray. And my days were horrific again.

So my work life is insane, my personal life is heart-wrenching, my daughter is struggling, my community is heart-broken. I’m just floating from crappy situation to crappy situation.

I’m learning that it’s worth it to spend quality time in prayer every day. It’s worth it to give the days to God. I literally cannot handle it on my own.

We’re surviving. We’re making it.

But all the glory goes to God.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Fireworksless 4th

It’s amazing, the resilience of the human spirit. In the last few weeks we’ve been a little impressed (and felt a lot guilty) at how easily we can adjust and cope and move forward in our lives, in spite of the fact that Ryan’s dad lies in the ICU in Tampa, Florida, three weeks after heart surgery, in an encephalopathic state. It’s honestly surreal.

From afar, we rejoice at the reports of the slightest progress (he nodded in response to a question; he held up two fingers on command). We pray constantly for him. Ryan calls the hospital for updates, and we text back and forth with my mother-in-law. Ryley sends get-well cards. But then, we go to work and daycare, and we live our lives. We have company, and we laugh and go out to eat and watch movies. All the while, there is this little nagging ache in the depths of our hearts…this fear of the unknown and this wondering if things will ever go back to the way things were, yet this resigned acceptance that this may be our new normal, indefinitely. And then we feel guilt for all of it. It’s his dad, after all.

Tropical Storm Debby hit Tampa while Ryan was down there. The flooding was crazy, keeping Ron’s wife from visiting the hospital for four days due to road closures.


Oh, the dichotomy between that and what we were dealing with at home in Colorado, all over our state:


While Ryan was gone, I did my best to keep Ryley’s mind busy and her life normal.

We ventured over to Golden on a Saturday so we could attend the play “The Princess and the Pea.” I love children’s plays at Heritage Square because admission is super cheap, and they involve the audience in their performances.



We also went to the Farmer’s Market in downtown Golden, because I heard they had free horse-drawn carriage rides. She loved that.



That day was a perfect example of the mixed emotions. Ryan was feeling so alone and discouraged at his dad’s bedside, and we were texting and talking off and on all day. Yet here Ryley and I were having a “grand old time.” Again, it’s amazing our ability to adjust and cope.

When Ryan got home, we celebrated his return by going out for ice cream. Because that’s what we do. :-)


My parents came up this last weekend, on their way to my grandma’s house for the 4th of July. It was so wonderful to have them here, and even though it was less than 48 hours, we felt like we jam-packed our hours together with good quality time!

We surprised my dad with a little day trip to Greeley, Colorado, to the Greeley Freight Station Museum. We would highly recommend it, even for people who are not into model trains. It was really, really well done:






I love this picture of my parents. :-)





So today is the 4th of July, and it’s probably the most depressing one we’ve ever had. Because of the wildfires, fireworks are outlawed this year. Ryan has had to work, so Ryley and I have spent the day baking and relaxing. We’re trying to do little things to celebrate:

Like Jamberry Nails



We’re also making American Strawberry Shortcake, where the shortcake has been dyed with blue food coloring. So with strawberries and whipped cream, it will be red, white, and blue. That was all Ryley’s idea! Fun, fun. And hopefully yum!


Ryley has just finished the nine-book series “The Sisters Grimm,” which we stumbled upon at the library when looking for a good book-on-tape for a road-trip she was taking with my mom a few weeks ago.  I thought it looked “dark,” but it’s not! The illustrations make it look a whole lot darker than it is. It’s kind of along the lines of Shrek or Hoodwinked. Ryley buzzed through the series over the last three or four weeks, giggling her way through each and every book. I had to use two libraries (our city and county) to get all nine books, but it was worth it. I finally figured it out: she has a crush on Puck, one of the main characters! She thinks he’s hilarious. Better a crush on a fictional character than a real one -- at this point in her life, at least. :-)

I am coming to terms with the fact that Ryley and I have very different interests when it comes to books and movies. She is not nearly as obsessed with Little House on the Prairie as I was at her age (she refuses to finish the books), and she views Anne of Green Gables as downright boring. She’s a different girl than I am.  I’m slowly learning to be ok with that and to just be grateful that she likes to read and then be happy for her when she finds a series she really likes. She’s definitely her own person, and she is extremely opinionated and stubborn. :-)

By the way, minus the nerdy looks, this is her, completely:



Work is getting crazy now that the insurance claims are starting to roll in. On top of all the normal drama, one of our company vehicles was stolen over the weekend, with an estimated $7,000 of roofing tools inside. My Monday was insane, as a result, and I kind of lost my temper.

“Joy, there’s drama at every workplace,” my boss had to remind me.

“Um, not this kind of drama,” I retorted.

I had to apologize later. I understand that there’s drama everywhere, but I can’t help thinking that my life would be relatively drama-free if I worked at home, alone, writing books. :-)

I am so good at compartmentalizing. Over the past few years, I have learned how to leave my work at the office and completely enjoy my evenings and weekends. Maybe a little too much. Because the problem is that on Mondays, when I walk in, everything hits me like a ton of bricks, and I think, “Oh yeah. This again.”

On that note, we wish you all a very happy 4th of July!  We appreciate your continued prayers for Ryan’s dad. Thank you!