Sunday, January 27, 2013

Baseball Is Good For Our Marriage

I haven't always loved baseball like I do now. And I certainly haven't always known the game of baseball like I do now.  But you see, there was once this guy I was dating and he loved baseball, so I ended up going to a lot of games, asking a lot of questions, honestly just trying to show interest and be a good girlfriend.  I ended up falling in love with the guy...and the game.

After several years, many sunburns, hundreds of innings and perhaps a thousand questions, baseball is now a  passion and pastime for me and Trent and one that we so enjoy together.

We have an annual ceremonial watching of the movie Bull Durham to ring in every new baseball season, and we quote the movie for the rest of the year.  "Something going that far oughta have a dang stewardess on it."  "The next one is a fastball.  And when you speak of me, speak of me well."  When I visited Rach in Durham last summer, I was ecstatic about seeing the town that is the setting for this special movie.

We follow our Baylor Bears and have made treks to Houston, Austin, Fort Worth and College Station (where we weren't sure if we'd leave with our lives) to watch them play. We have frozen our noses off and baked in the sun. Trent has even adjusted ministry related trips for meetings and such in order to catch some away games.  

We rode the high of the Bears' 24 game winning streak last season that broke records and gave us many near heart attacks.  Then we both said some choice words and shed some literal tears when shortstop Jake Miller had the chance to roll up a textbook double play to send us to Omaha but botched it, sending us to a disaster of a third super regional game, nixing our chance to go to the College World Series.

We have plenty of discussions about the differences between the new regulation BBCOR bats vs the old BESR bats, lament the fact that the new bats just don't have that classic clank noise, but acknowledge that they take the ease out of home runs which brings games down to small ball which we prefer anyway.

We have sat through about 14 hours of baseball in one weekend at the Houston College Classic...on more than one occasion.

I have sat apart from my husband in the stands for the last several innings of an otherwise stagnant game because when I left to go to the bathroom we scored and when I left to get a snow cone we scored.  I believe in Jesus but I also believe in baseball and there was no way I was going back to my stagnant seat.  We won that game.

We carried a stinkin' beaver stuffed animal around for the duration of last season...   If you are familiar with last year's magical season and the phrase "Feed the beaver!" then you will understand why we carried a toy beaver named Bearver to games for three months.

I now know instinctively when a ball comes off the bat towards the shortstop with a runner on first that it should be a double play and find myself shouting "roll 'em up!". I know when it's a good chance to bunt.   I get frustrated when coach Steve Smith starts his typical freak outs about halfway through a season, messes with the batting order, pulls seniors out and generally screws everything up.  I was stoked when he didn't do that last year and stuck with what was working. I know to not mention or draw attention to a no hitter when it's in progress. I know that if Steve DalPorto takes off his cap or batting helmet, his hair looks like Elvis and I know that if you buy the biggest size snow cone at the ballpark you get a flower necklace for free. I cannot for the life of me, however, figure out a hit and run, no matter how many times Trent explains it.

We are currently counting down the days until Baylor starts up again (19, if you are wondering).  Trent just asked me across the Starbucks table what I am blogging about and when I told him he said "That's my girl."   

Baseball is a major part of our marriage.  It's not just a passive hobby.  It's no longer something that Trent loves and I just kind of follow along with for his sake.  It's a legit part of our relationship, our conversations and our time spent together.  And it is so. much. fun.

Do you have something like this in your marriage, something you share and love to do together?  If it is baseball for you too, come join us at the Baylor ballpark!  We'll even buy you a snow cone.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My Goals For This Tax Season

Tax season is upon me.

This will be my sixth tax season...holy moley, time flies when you're plowing through tax returns.  Historically, tax season is a time when I stress out, break out, veg out, eat out, and let our house get out of control.  This year I've determined to set some goals, tax season resolutions if you will, to try to maintain some semblance of sanity around here.

Take care of business
I'm going to tackle each day at work with determination and vigor.  Pity parties about long hours lead to unproductive hours and that defeats the purpose of working the long hours.  I will make my daily to-do list at work and slash as many things off of it as I can each day.  I will extend grace and helpfulness to the interns that come ask questions at inopportune times, or just lots and lots of times.  I will keep trying to get over my fear of talking to strangers on the phone.  I will kick those tax returns' butts.

Take care of our money
I am very fortunate to have an employer who pays us time and a half for overtime when not all employers in our industry do that.  Thank you employer!!  Working lots of extra hours x overtime pay rate = lots of extra money during tax season.  We typically get into a habit of eating out way too much during tax season because a) we have said extra money, b) there isn't much time to get groceries and c) there isn't much energy left for cooking at the end of an 11 hour work day.   But this time around we really want to be smart about our extra money and throw as much of it as we can to debt payments.  The current target is Trent's car note and it better take cover cuz here we come.

Take care of our home
I'm not exaggerating when I say that our home turns into mass chaos between March 15th and April 15th especially.  The end of tax season is bad, very baaaad.   "But Anna," you may ask, "I thought you host a weekly Bible study and that forces you to keep your house clean?"  Well...about that...let's just say that during the spring we just hope and pray that our Bible study group doesn't open any strategically closed doors, venture past the kitchen into the den or look in the general direction of the floors...  We also have a very understanding group who offered to share host duties last tax season.   But anyway.  This chaos at home stresses me out and parks a giant cloud over my attitude, so I have determined to try to keep things under control.  I'm not talking deep cleaning, I'm just talking damage control.

Take care of  myself
One thing I am meticulous about during tax season is going to bed on time and I am determined to continue that.  When you arrive at work at 6:30 am for 2.5 months, you have to make sure you get enough sleep.  So after 9:00 pm, you will see no more of Anna Pie.   I've got the sleep thing down, since it is my superpower after all, but I need to work on a few other things.   I need to exercise and I need to eat normal food.  I am planning to go to Jazzercise on Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings at the very least.  I am also going to grocery shop regularly enough to have some fresh fruits and veggies, yogurts, cheeses, good sandwich meat and healthy snacks around at all times.  I will not become addicted to french fries like I did last tax season.  I will not.  I will not.

So, here's to my sixth tax season.  I need to bust out the construction paper and make a new tax season countdown paper chain...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Family, Honor, Tears, Laughter

We got word last Sunday night that Trent's grandfather was dying.  He passed away on Wednesday night.  We called on our youth group parents and our former summer ministry intern to step into our shoes and run the youth garage sale fundraiser while we headed to Trent's hometown for the funeral over the weekend.  

I have fortunately not been to many funerals in my life...  When I was a little kid I didn't really understand what had happened or why my infant brother didn't make it.  When I was a teenager I wasn't close to my Dad's friend and didn't feel the loss like Dad did.  But now I'm an adult, I understand, I feel the loss.  You might think this loss was not personal for me.  It wasn't my own grandfather that passed.  I never knew him before alzheimer's took the real Pawpaw away.  But Trent is a part of me and Trent's family is now my family so yes, it was a personal loss.   

This was an exhausting and emotional weekend, but it was such a good weekend too.  I thought many thoughts, said many words, saw many people and noticed four things that really stood out to me.

I saw such love in Trent's big, wonderful extended family, such connection.  All nine siblings were together for the first time in a while and cousins drove or flew in from all over.  There were extra people staying at Trent's parent's house and it nearly felt like we were re-doing Christmas, minus the twinkle lights and the snow.  

The honor and respect shown to Pawpaw throughout the funeral service overcame me.  He was a World War II veteran.  His casket was draped with the American flag, which two young soldiers folded carefully and respectfully and presented to Mawmaw at the grave site. Another young soldier played Taps and Uncle Gerald, a Vietnam veteran, stood and with a shaking hand, saluted his father. 

Of course there were many tears.   Losing a loved one creates a surreal ache and it's impossible to avoid the sadness, even if you know that person is in a better place, no longer suffering.  But amidst the tears were hugs, soft words and hope.

Also amidst the tears was laughter and lots of it. Many stories were told of Pawpaw, Mawmaw, the 9 kids, the 19 grandkids, the 23 great-grandkids.  When you have that many characters in play, you're bound to find some hilarity, and sure enough, we did.    This is the piece of the weekend that stood out to me the most.  It wasn't a gloomy weekend full of sorrow.  Yes there was some quiet hurting, but also joy and hope.  

I'm pretty sure that's how Pawpaw would have wanted it to be...

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Some Things You Don't Know About Anna Pie

Sometimes I blog instead of clean my house.

I have lots of interior design and decorating ideas.  I just don't have the time or money or know-how to tackle them.

I usually have 23 to 30 blog post drafts started at any given time and wonder if I will ever get them all written.

I didn't order a big bridal portrait to frame in our hallway until we had been married for 3 years. It made me feel vain to order it then.

I think bubble baths are a waste of time.  I take one about twice a year because it's supposed to be a pampering, relaxing thing and I figure maybe I should give it another try, but after a few minutes I realize my neck hurts, the half of me outside the water is cold and I'm bored.

I am obsessed with our personal debt reduction plan and my obsession has paid off big time.

Someday I want a yellow kitchen.  Not the faded yellow wallpaper we currently have, but nice bright painted yellow.

I am terrible at mental math like calculating a tip.  Terrible.

I love my little kitty cat so, so much.  Recently I couldn't find her in the house for a long time and I was so scared that she had gotten out, I was sobbing.

I think throw pillows are stupid.

If you come to our house and see closed doors to some rooms, it's partly because we don't want the pets in there but mostly because those rooms are probably a mess.

Sometimes I lay awake at night composing blog posts in my head.

If I look at the time on an analog clock or watch, it sticks with me, but if I look at a digital clock or watch, I immediately forget what I saw and have to look at the time again.

I would usually much rather spend an evening at home with my husband than a night out with anyone else.  No offense.

I miss our motorcycle.  I really liked being a biker babe.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Our Theme Song, aka Air Guitar & Purple Paint Powder

I posted this video on Facebook a few weeks ago but I want to share it again here with a little more explanation for why Trent and I can't watch it enough times, why we have been singing bits and pieces of this song for weeks, why we have been mimicking synchronized electric guitar jumps and drum crescendos, why we are considering buying paint powder and having a rainbow celebration on a beach... Ok maybe not that last one, but I have found myself wondering where you buy that stuff.

Please take a moment to watch this music video.  Even if you don't have as much of a place in your heart for adoption, orphan care and foster care as we do, just watch it for the smiles and the unspeakable joy found on these sweet faces.  (If the video won't play in this post, double click on the video title to open it in another window.)

For those of you who can't watch the video at the moment (or are skipping over it despite me urging you to watch it!) here are the lyrics:

Little hands, shoeless feet, lonely eyes looking back at me
Will we leave behind the innocent to grieve
On their own, on the run, when their lives have only begun
These could be our daughters and our sons
And just like a drum I can hear their hearts beating
I know my God won't let them be defeated
Every child has a dream to belong and be loved

Boys become kings, girls will be will be queens
Wrapped in your majesty
When we love, when we love the least of these
Then they will be brave and free
Shout your name in victory
When we love, when we love the least of these

Break our hearts once again
Help us to remember when
We were only children hoping for a friend
Won't you look around
These are the lives that the world has forgotten
Waiting for doors of our hearts and our homes to open


If not us, who will be
Like Jesus to the least of these
If not us, tell me who will be
Like Jesus to the least of these


We will love the least of these
We will love the least of these...

This has become our theme song.  I first heard it on the radio a few weeks ago and immediately looked it up on Youtube when I got home so Trent could listen to it too.  We love it.  It sums up what we believe in, what we are trying to do, what we want our lives to be about. We will love the least of these. Even amidst the frustration of losing our agency and finding our whole foster care plan on pause, this song has been a source of joy and encouragement for us.  

I want you to ask yourself the challenging question that this song asks:  If not us, who will be like Jesus to the least of these?  If not YOU, who will be like Jesus to the least of these?

While you are pondering that, don't mind us. We're just over here smiling, singing, playing air guitar and throwing imaginary purple powder into the air...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Foster Care Pause Button

Remember that time in November when y'all asked how our foster care process was going and I posted saying "It's not", but really it still kind of was?  Well, some of y'all have asked recently how our foster care process is going and the answer is once again "It's not", but this time it's really not.  We are officially on pause.

When we got word in mid December that our agency's Waco office was closing down, we took a while to try to scramble and figure out what we needed to do.  We did some research, talked to some people, made some calls.  We heard from some people that told us we MUST work with an agency and not directly with DFPS, that it is essential to have that support network and buffer.  We heard from others that told us we should NOT work with an agency and should work directly with DFPS instead, cut out the middle man and therefore cut out the potential for information getting lost in transition.  

We mostly ended up really confused and discouraged.  So we decided to just enjoy Christmas.  Which we did.  

Then we moseyed back to our foster care mess and landed on a decision.  We are on pause.  You see, we had it totally worked out to where we would finish at least most of our paperwork and in-person training before the end of January, if not all of it.  But now we are back to square one and staring in the face of me working 55 hours a week for tax season and Trent working until 7:30 or 8:00 during the upcoming spring ministry semester.  That doesn't jive well with house inspections and home study interviews during the day time and training classes that all start at 6:00 pm.  We could stress and and not sleep and annoy our employers by being randomly gone and be ready for a child in April, or we could pause for a few months, then push to get certified pretty quickly after tax season and be ready for a child probably in June.  That's not a huge time difference.  

For those wondering, yes we have asked ourselves the question "If we don't have time to get licensed and ready to take care of a child during the spring, how will we have time to actually take care of a child during the spring when this busy time rolls around again?"  Believe me, we've asked ourselves that question a lot.  We don't entirely have an answer to that other than we will have about half a year of experience caring for said child or children by then.  People in accounting have kids. People in ministry have kids. Those kids have appointments and get sick and need their parents at random times.  It's part of being a family.  Our kids will have court dates and birth parent visits and will need us at random times.  Our family won't look like most out there, but we'll still be a family.   

Monday, January 7, 2013

Thank God For Clutter

I posted a status on Facebook this past Saturday that said:

Today, Trent and I are decluttering our house with reckless abandon.  Our belongings should await their fate with fear and trembling.

We came up with this:

And that does not include the giant pile of tools and random workshop stuff that Trent has sitting out in our shed that is ready to go too.  These piles are headed to the youth garage sale fundraiser at our church (8:00-2:00 on Jan 19th for you locals).  Most of this stuff survived our giant purge when we moved into this house.  Most of this stuff survived the garage sale I had in 2010.  Well, it didn't survive this declutter tornado.  Watch out.

As part of our bedtime prayer that night, I said "Thank you God for blessing us with enough belongings that we are actually able to come up with piles of stuff to get rid of."   In a nutshell, thank God for our clutter.  It's a sign that we are blessed with everything we need and then some.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Dear Men: Are You A Good Man?

Dear Men,

As usual with these "dear men" letters, I have a story or two, then something important I want you to think about.

A few Sundays ago I got to my Sunday school classroom early, in order to have time to eat my donut and drink my chocolate milk before class started.  My teacher, Tony, was already in there, finishing up preparing the lesson.

"Morning Anna.  How's Trent?  I saw his car up there but haven't seen him around here yet today."

"He gets here early then takes the church van to pick up some of our kids that don't have rides."

"Trent's a good man...I hope when I die, people will say I was a good man."

Fast forward a few days to Christmas with Trent's family.   At one point I heard Trent's mom, Grander, talking to her two year old grandson, Asher, while she was changing his diaper.  It went something like this:

"You know what Asher Boy?  Your daddy is a good man...

...and your Poppa is a good man...

...and your Uncle Trent is a good man...

...and you know what we hope you grow up to be?  A good man."

Asher echoed "A good mee-an."

This little exchange warmed my heart.  Our sweet nephew already has lots of good men pouring into his life, being an example for him, teaching him how to grow up and be a good man himself.  And he's only two years old.  Just think of all the lessons and experiences and memories still ahead of him with all the good men in his life.

So men, here is my important question for you to think about:  Are you a good man?

Do you show love and respect to your family?
Are you an example of responsibility, hard work, and perseverance?
Do your actions portray goodness, kindness and ethics?
Are you committed to your faith and to your Lord?
Do you make time for slides and dump trucks and legos?
Are you aware of the little eyes and hearts that may be looking up to you, searching for what it means to be a good man?

Blessed to have many good men in my life

Friday, January 4, 2013

Vacation Money Saver - Go To The Beach In The Winter

As I mentioned in this post, Trent and I dropped off the earth for a few days of vacation in Galveston over New Year's Eve. It was a great time together and, gasp, I didn't even take a single picture to share here. But I wanted to share with you guys one way we save money on vacations or getaway trips.

We go to the beach in the winter.

This is the second time we have gone to Galveston together for a vacation and not a mission trip.  The other time was November of 2011.  It was then that we discovered how CHEAP it is to stay in a beach town in the winter.   They practically beg you to come stay at their hotels during the off season.

Example:  For this New Year's trip, we stayed at a Travelodge hotel.  Not the swankiest of hotel chains, I agree, but hold on.  This hotel was very nice, had a microwave, mini fridge, desk, sofa, free wifi, free breakfast including make-your-own Texas shaped waffles and, the kicker, was a half a block from the ocean.  Cost per night in January: $36.   

Ok, now for all you beach bums out there that are yelling at your computer screen:  "But Anna, if you go to the beach in the winter you can't swim in the ocean, or lay out on the beach and get a tan!"    That's fine with us.  In the winter you can still take a nice stroll on the beach and see a beautiful sunset on the horizon.  All the restaurants will still serve yummy food and drinks.  Meanwhile you won't have to hunt for parking or wait for a table.

So, you beach bums can go in the summer and fight crowds, nurse a sunburn and get sand where it doesn't belong.  You can also stay in the same Travelodge hotel we stayed in! Cost per night in July: $149.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Books I Read in 2012

Lunch break blog post!

I read more books in 2012 than there were months in 2012.  Whoa.  I'm not entirely sure how that happened amidst all the general craziness of our life, but it's true.

I read:

A Light to My Path by Lynn Austin
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Emma by Jane Austen (a re-read)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (a re-read)
The Color Of Rain by Michael & Gina Spehn
Sense And Sensability by Jane Austen
The Diary Of A Young Girl by Anne Frank (a re-read)
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Kisses From Katie by Katie Davis
Another Place At The Table by Kathy Harrison
The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Ok, technically I finished The Help at 12:01 am on January 1, 2013, but I think that's close enough to count it on my 2012 list.  Right?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year's Resolution 2013

My new year's resolution for 2013 is simultaneously simple and complicated.  It's not about stuff or time or working out or things I want to do for myself.  It's about my faith. Well, really it's about our faith, since Trent and I are in agreement on this one.

Our resolution is this: to listen, answer and trust.

Short and sweet.  But loaded.  We want to listen for God's call on our life, to answer that call and to trust Him to guide us through whatever lies ahead this year.

We have had glimpses of listening, answering and trusting already during 2012...when Trent decided to take a second job working with inner city youth, when we decided to pursue foster care and adoption...  We are learning that trusting sometimes involves frustration and waiting.  We are figuring out that just because God calls us to something doesn't automatically mean it will be easy or make sense. 

Our hope is to continue to learn and grow, listen and answer.  We believe God has a plan for us, held carefully in the palm of His hand, and we want to trust in Him as He slowly peels back his fingers one by one and reveals it to us.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 New Year's Resolution Update

If you are thinking I disappeared and dropped off the earth...I did.  Just for a few days.  Trent and I escaped to Galveston for a few days of vacation and took the vacation part pretty seriously.  We haven't really made much contact with our regular world since Sunday and it has been great.   But I figured I should log back in to real life and do my annual new year's resolution posts.

My one new year's resolution for 2012 was to see Steph more, since she is only an hour and a half away in Dallas.  Sadly, I can't report a huge ton of success for this one.  Just a little bit.  We made a good start at the beginning of the year but then I guess my tax season, her case load,, excuses, excuses.   We saw each other three times in 2012.

January - While in Dallas for three days of tax CPE, I met up with Steph and Tammy at a cute pizza place called Dough for dinner and what turned into about 2.5 hours of great conversation!  

February - I trekked up to Dallas for a slumber party at Steph's apartment.  We did some crafty projects and stayed up past my bedtime.  

November - Another CPE trip to Dallas this time and I got to have dinner with Steph on her birthday actually.   It took me an hour and 15 minutes to drive about 8 miles from my hotel to the restaurant and it took Steph about 2 hours to drive from the location south of the metroplex she was working from that day, but we were finally united over wine and delicious food at Maggiano's.  And I forgot to take a picture...

Steph just bought and moved into a house, so I think that calls for a trip up to see her and get a tour of her new digs before tax season kicks in.  We decided seeing each other shouldn't just be a new year's resolution but rather a long standing policy.