Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Summertime and the living is . . . .

a. easy

b. quiet

c. full of change

d. all of the above.

The answer is a resounding "d."

Easy as Rick and I found ourselves at home alone with Patrick (the first time in his thirteen-year old life): one ballgame a week to attend rather than two or three; one meal to fix on the fly as I'm sitting at my computer working; one ticket price for The Dark Knight. Yep, easy and cheap(er) indeed!

Quiet as Rick and I found ourselves home alone with Patrick sans his nearly-twenty year old sister who loves staying up late and discussing profundities of life and faith and his eighteen-year old brother who routinely practices his double-pedal and real life guitar hero skills. Yep, quiet leaving me more than a bit melancholy at times.

Full of change as we sign our names to the sale contract of our home and look toward our future as a family in the NW suburbs of Chicago. A future we smile and greet with arms wide open and full assurance of what is to come. A hope hard won from all which has come before.

"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them." Isaiah 42:16

May you too find light in the darkness of change.

May you find smooth paths for your feet as you pursue your dreams.

May the irrepressible joy and peace of knowing there is a God who will never, never, leave you, inundate and saturate your life.

And remember, if you ever find yourself delayed at O'Hare International Airport or caught in a I-90/88 storm of Midwestern proportions, call or email! There will always be freshly-baked Tollhouse cookies and a friendly, cozy, "this close to Heaven" down comforter-laden bed to rest your frazzled mind and body.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Kick-Butt Spaghetti Recipe

My thirteen-year old, Patrick, is quite the cook. He eats up (sorry, couldn't resist) Iron Chef and a few months ago when I was checking in from a travel date he told me about a breakfast dish he had prepared for the family. "And the caramelized onions were awesome!"

Say what? Caramelized onions? "Where did you learn to do that?" I asked.

"Watching Bobby Flay," he proudly answered.

So...our goal, this summer as Mom and "only child at home" is to cook together. And Anthony's Pasta Sauce and Meatballs is our first dish. Oh. My. Word. Is it ever tasty! Right now it's simmering on the stove; the aroma wafting through the rooms and making us all drool. The spaghetti's about to drop but I wanted to get this posted so you too can enjoy.

And be sure to check back regularly as Patrick and I will be serving up more dee-lish items as the weeks progress. Now, go cook and prepare to swoon!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Jamie Lynn

I spent a couple of hours last night and today reading through the seeming inexhaustible critics, bashers, and pontificating bloggers voicing their thoughts about this young girl's life. I also read more than a few pre-publication spews and rants about Lynne Spears book, Through the Storm: A Real Story of Fame & Family in a Tabloid World; and they all pretty much fell into this one gargantuan online category: "Everybody Knows This Woman's Done Everything Wrong Just Look at Her Kids."

You know what I think? Shut-up, already. If I've learned anything over the past twenty+ years of parenting it's this: "Anybody" who thinks they know "Everything" is just "Somebody" who has yet to go through "Anything" with their own flesh and blood (or equally close loved ones.)"

Take me for instance.

In 1981, I watched the child from The Pit of Despair--and his name wasn't Brad. Drat. I watched this kid and all the while I thought, "I will NEVER put up with a kid like this when I'm a mom."

In 1985, I observed a slightly-overweight mother of two-toddlers walk into a Pizza Hut where I was scarfing down slices with my college chums. My jean size? A 9/10. My brain size? 0.09. Yes, I formed the following thoughts while watching her, "Geez, how hard is it to keep your post-pregnancy figure?"

In 1996, I was the mother of an eight, seven, and one-year old. Patrick, the baby, covered me in slobbery wordless "love you, Mommy!" kisses and Kristen and Ricky fought to hold my hand and snuggled up so close to my side that you couldn't have wedged a Power Ranger action figure between us. And I thought, "It's always going to be this good--this easy--and this close between all of us."

Eight+ years later, "Anything" tapped on my front door. (I shouldn't have answered!)

"Anything" is humbling.
"Anything" gets your eyes focused on the home-front rather than the relationships of those around you.
"Anything" sets you back on your rear and keeps you down on your knees.
"Anything" is the Great Equalizer.
"Anything" teaches you the Hard and Fast Rule of Everything Mothering: Outlast em'!

And that's exactly what I thought as I read these words last night, "Around here, everyone has the same focus," Jamie Lynn tells OK!. "The focus is family, and that's a good way to live." "Mama has been here a bunch," she said. "She wants to see the baby all the time. She told me the doctors are always going to be real strict and tell you, `Don't do this and don't do that.' Just follow your instincts. You're the mother and you know what your baby needs. That's what I've done and it seems to have worked."

You know what I think?

Good for you, Lynne Spears for outlasting your girls and sticking with them through their choices & your Mama actions--good and bad, private and excruciatingly public, well-received or despised.

Good for you, Jamie Lynn for choosing to step up when you could have easily (and with a lot less intimidation, no doubt) checked out of the consequences of an unplanned new life.

Good for you, mother and daughter, for closing ranks and dealing with "Anything" together as a united family front.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Love, Mom

I find myself writing near epistles to my two oldest as they work so far away from home this summer. Perhaps these thoughts will infuse your spirit and offer encouragement for the crappy day you just went through. Or project a ray of hope for the one which lies ahead. Maybe you'll want to cut and paste or forward this along to your own "sweet child" who is never too far from your heart. (Somebody grab me a Kleenex for pete's sake!)

First, my sweet child, some encouragement from God's heart:

"As you have received Christ Jesus the LORD, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude..." Colossians 2:6-7

"...But we urge you, brothers, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you: so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need." I Thessalonians 4:11-12

"For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone will not work, neither let him eat. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the LORD Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. But as for you, do not grow weary of doing good." 2 Thessalonians 3:10-13

"Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich." Prov. 10:4

"Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans will be established. The LORD has made everything for its own purpose." Prov. 16:3-4

"Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days. Many are the plans in a man's heart, but the counsel of the LORD, it will stand." Prov. 19:20-21

"The reward of humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, honor, and life." Prov. 22:4

Ah, bub, continue to submit yourself to those in authority over you--human and God. It is a PRICELESS lesson you are learning; if you will learn--that of working well despite how you feel or the recognition or lack thereof. You're going to have good days and bad days. Days your emotions scream, "This is exactly where I need to be." Days your emotions dry up and you are left wondering why on earth you decided to do what you're doing.

This, my sweet son, is life. Working it out real. Continue to pray God will direct your path from day-to-day. Continue to pursue discipline--taking thoughts captive--putting a Jack Bauer choke-hold on anything and everything that sets itself up against the high calling of Christ Jesus in your life. I know you desire to minister in a manner that you can see with your own eyes (and fairly quickly at that) and grow disheartened with the drudgery of dishes and steamy vapors.

I know.

But I know this more; it is in the back room of life that God works out His purposes and plans. I know it is in your faithfulness to the small things of scraping plates and refilling ketchup bottles and mopping floors that His heart is won to trust you with more. I know having an appreciation for hard work is one of the BEST characteristics you can ever attain as a man, future husband, and future leader.

Looking down the road of life, I won't consider you the greatest success because you drive a certain car, live in a certain city, or accumulate X amount of money in your bank account. No, as your mother, I will look upon your life and beam with the grandest pleasure when your life naturally demonstrates a willingness, nay, even an expectation, for being seated in the last row, rather than first; complimenting a waiter or waitress; leaving a tip in a hotel room with a note saying, "Thank you!"; and pro-actively looking for a way to serve another. That's when I will stand most proud.


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Rock & Roll Girl Post-script

How could I forget this?!

A few months ago I met the amazing James Young of Styx (Note: "JY" to his closest chums; I called him Mr. Young) compliments of my equally 80's obsessed author/friend/well-connected co-hort, Lorilee Craker. Ah, the memories stirred. . . .

Lady: 8th grade server at Brunswick High School Prom; pining for a few Senior boys--hoping one of them would suddenly discover me at the punch table.
Lorelei: Getting a dirty look from my mom when I sang out, "Lorelei, let's liiiive too-getha!"
Suite Madam Blue: My second run-in with a nameless melancholy feeling via musical orchestration. (Feed the Birds from Mary Poppins was my first.)
Grand Illusion: This was one of two first-ever 8-tracks I owned. Who-ha! Fooling Yourself. Come Sail Away. I let'em rip on my Panasonic-6 watt-Stereophonic sound system from P. N. Hirsch.
Sing for the Day: Cranking this up while riding with Jennifer Heisel to school and just feeling good.
Babe: The theme to my first Prom date in 1980; too bad my date was longing for another.
The Best of Times: Softball team school bus rides to games far and wide. Man, I loved my friends!
Kilroy was Here: Let's pretend this never happened, shall we?
Don't Let It End: Exactly how I felt, again, when listening to one of my favorite rock bands 20+ years later.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Faux Steve

I'm an unapologetic 80's Classic Rock kind of girl. Some of you may remember: Foreigner, Styx, and of course, Journey? How many summer nights did I spend belting out lyrics of Snow Blind, Urgent, and Fooling Yourself? (All the while ignoring the gargantuan mistake and horror of Mr. Roboto!) Indeed, my summer nights were filled with great music and no one sang it better than "I'm-convinced- he's-gonna-marry-me-someday-if-I-can-only-meet-him," Steve Perry.

My Steve was mine Faithfully. And my best-friend Cindy reminded me, "Julie, Don't Stop Believing!" So we purchased concert tickets and I really believed somehow, somewhere, the love of my seventeen-year old life would be waiting for me at the
Kansas City arena with Open Arms and at last, instead of living Separate Ways, Worlds Apart, we would be together. What can I say? Girl Can't Help It, she's in deep infatuation.

Fast forward twenty+ years down the Dixie Highway and note my last name is Barnhill, Julie "Happy to Be" Barnhill. Turns out I'll Be Alright Without You, My Steve, but when you're Stone in Love, it can be difficult. Somehow I soldiered on, came to grips with my adulthood and learned to deal with all of the above.

I was fine. Really. But then My Steve went and got older, threatened a hip-replacement, and QUIT Journey just as I getting used to being a 30-something with kids. The Party's Over, indeed. Year after year, thereafter I hoped and prayed My Steve would return. He teased. He threatened. He even whined (methinks embarrassingly so) on VH-1.

But still, no My Steve.

While speaking in the
San Francisco area I'd boldly ask if anyone knew him or could secure his email address. (What? Is there something wrong with that?) One woman's parents had lived across the street from his dad and possibly witnessed My Steve entering the premises. Another had a nephew who was a roadie during the hey-day of the 80's. Yet another said no to My Steve but she could possibly line me up meeting Huey Lewis.

Please. Huey's nice but no My Steve.

Imitator after imitator attempted to fill his microphone. Steve Augeri. Jeff Scott Soto. They should have just stayed home and played Rock Band. But then an item in The Wheel in the Sky of cyber-news. A hit of hope! A Six-Million- Dollar-Man-Neal-Schon kind of hope, mind you....

"Former fans, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster...with healthier hips."

Heart racing, pulse pounding, I dared to believe and clicked over and listened. Then I went to Wal-Mart (lone distributor and shiny waxed action alleys to "Swiftly Approaching Middle-Age Fans Formerly Known as Youthful & Cool") and purchased the album. I mean, CD.

Hello, Journey, my old friend! And to frontman Arnel Pineda and the future of more classic Journey sounds for my teenagers to belt out. Take it from this die-hard lover of classic Journey; this new guy's got the stuff. He's not trying to be My Steve (like anyone could) but he stares rabid believers like me in the eye and asks, Who's Crying Now?