Monday, July 15, 2013

Athletics: It's never been easy for me. .

There was that moment when I came up over a small hill and I was thinking, "wow,  my legs are tight today."

The new route for my first long run in months has me on edge with anticipation.  I've run this neighborhood several times, but never turned off on the side streets.

And then I see it.   A hill that has a steady incline for about five houses and then a sharp incline right at the top.

And then I stop.  Just the sight of it makes me shut down.  Mentally, I'm toast.


REWIND to two years ago when I began my physical "fit"ness journey.  I was never good at sports. I lack the hand eye coordination that it takes to keep flying balls from smacking you in the face.  Or getting on the scoreboard.  My biggest claim to fame, sports wise, was in high school.  I played on the girls basketball team my senior year.  I practiced so hard to make that 3 point shot.  And in one game I actually succeeded, alas it was for the other team.  Im sure the running affected the lack of oxygen getting to my directionally challenged self.

Running.  I only swore to do that if someone were chasing me.  But after Type 1 diabetes entered my life to stay, I knew that I had to find some way to keep healthy and watch my children grow up.

It all started with running.  You can read about my Evolution in exercise here, if you'd like.

But to cut to the chase, I finished my first half marathon and then vowed I'd never run again.  Half-joking, of course.  I was tired of the training schedule, just in time for Winter.  That's all the motivation I needed to chill.

Then came spring and I had a new goal.  A triathlon.  I had found I loved swimming and was learning to like road biking.  So last month I finished my first triathlon (and am set to do my second one in two weeks in Nashville).  I survived the swim, endured the biking.  But what made me guess my sanity?  The run (at the end of the other two).

You see, I have a hard time with all things physical.  Not because I can't do it.  But because I believe that I can't.  Or I defeat myself in thinking I have to do it the same as someone else.  I have to be as fast as they are.


Im back at the foot of the hill.  The beast.  It's "nasty." 

Sure I could turn around and go back the way I came.  But I know there's no point. Im only going to hit another hill in less than a mile.  

So now what?  

This is the part of exercise that, I swear, it feels like other people have the edge on me.  And I just have to learn how.  I have to BELIEVE that I can do it.  

So right there at the foot of the hill, I have a pep talk.  Rachel: you can do hard things.  YOU can do hard things.  Rachel you can do HARD things.  You can kill this hill.  Who cares how fast it is.. just get up the damn hill.  

Here I am two years later after starting this journey and learning that when I stop challenging myself mentally I start to believe I don't have what it takes.  But today I learned a very big lesson: I have to give myself the freedom to move at my own pace.  Sometimes it's going to be faster than my PR and sometimes it's going to be "painfully slow."  But at the end of the day: it's ME doing it.  It's the journey.  It's the moment of pushing myself to believe.  It's the small victory that gives me the courage to believe the next time.  

 I love that no matter the time I have away from any one apparatus (swimming, biking, running) I can always enjoy the challenge of "getting back into it," knowing that it will get easier. 

 I just have to be willing to push myself up that hill.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

In which you start questioning your theology. . .

"Has it ever occurred to you that you might be wrong?"  

No. It hadn't.  

At least not in 33 years of life.  I mean, that's enough time to decide dogmatically what you are comfortable accepting as right and balking at the rest, right?  

So what happened?  Why did some of my theology change?  I consider that an easy answer: 

I realized I was actually able to ask hard questions. 

For the first time in my life I was told that I was safe, with God, to question things I had been taught.  Most people have this happen in college and then some abandon their faith.  Not me, I was secure in the Gospel.  No matter what changed in any of my views on God, the Church or The Bible, nothing altered the obvious anchor of my soul:  the birth, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and it's finished work to save me.  

However, everything else was up for debate. And that is an unnerving place to be.  Mainly, because other's aren't so comfortable with my questions.  Others don't feel the same freedom that I do to question long held traditions of thought that can easily be argued another way using another set of Scripture.  Some others can tend to focus so much on where I will land on a particular issue (that has been debated for centuries by Christians the world over) and forget to see what brings us together.  

I just said to a friend today: I'd give anything to go back to where I was three years ago.  Where I was much more willing to just take a position and believe I was absolutely RIGHT! And everyone who disagreed was simply, wrong. 

And seeing as how I don't want this post to be about "what" your theology "should" be and more about what to do if you start asking hard questions, let me tell you this:  BE BRAVE!  Trust that the questions or the doubt can not separate you from the love of the Father.  

Here is a quote from a gal I admire, Rachel Held Evans: 

"I’ve decided to quit apologizing for my questions.  It’s not enough for me to maintain my intellectual integrity as a Christian; I also want to maintain my emotional integrity as a Christian. And I don’t need answers to all of my questions to do that. I need only the courage to be honest about my questions and doubts, and the patience to keep exploring and trusting in spite of them.

The bravest decision I’ll ever make is the decision to follow Jesus with both my head and heart engaged—no checking out, no pretending.

It’s a decision I make every day, and it’s a decision that’s made my faith journey a heck of a lot more hazardous and a heck of a lot more fun.  It means that grinning monster, doubt, is likely to stick around for a while, for I know now that closing my eyes won’t make him go away. It means each day is a risk, a gamble, an adventure in vulnerability and trust, as I figure out what it means to follow Jesus as me, Rachel Grace—the girl who cried for Zarmina, the girl who inherited her mama’s bleeding heart and her daddy’s stubborn grace, the girl who digs in her heels, the girl who makes mistakes, the girl who is intent on breaking up patriarchy, the girl who thought to raise her hand in Sunday school at age five and ask why God would drown innocent animals in Noah’s flood, the girl who could be wrong.
It means I’ve got a long race ahead of me, but I’m going to run it with abandon. I’m going to run it as me. Because I think that’s what God wants—all of me, surrendered and transformed, head and heart engaged."
(read the entire post here)

Ultimately, that is my heartbeat.  To remember that it's okay to be vulnerable. It's okay to disagree with those that you have long since been in unison.  It's okay to be wrong.  The wonderful thing about a life lived with God is that it is never stagnant.  I will be learning and re-learning so much over the next (however many) years I have left.  But I want it known that I wholeheartedly believe that God will redirect me as needed.  The pendulum will swing with less force and settle in the middle at times and then at other times, it will fling wildly to one side.  But I will never be dogmatic in anything accept the preciousness of the Gospel of Christ and it's power to change my life.  

For now, I will go back to consuming Mere Christianity by C.S Lewis to help keep me grounded by that anchor. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

My return?

Over a period of three days I've had two different people ask me when I planned on "returning" to my blog.  

I laughed.  

It's quite complicated.  

But not in the "oh I have four kids and a crazy schedule" complicated. 
Or the "it's summer and we are never in one place long" complicated. 

No.  It's more about the fact that I've truly been at a loss as to what in the world to say.  

I love writing.  I really do.  And I keep a journal regularly at times.  So I do have some form of an outlet.  Not that I would ever assume to pour out those thoughts on a public forum.   But I think I've been at a place where I don't ever.ever.ever.ever.nay, ever want to come across as though I have something to enlighten you with.  

But in that tightrope of being vulnerable to share parts of my journey on a public forum and the desire to encourage others, I realize that sometimes it's probably best that I just not write at all.  

I could also just keep it to the facts but who wants to hear about someones endless checklist of things accomplished or derailed? 

Alas, I guess that is the nature of most blogs anyway.  

In a nutshell my checklists would include (since my last post in, eh hem, February): 
*My eldest finished his first semester of public school (and 1st grade). 
*We went to Disney. 
*Our car died on the way back from Disney.  Long two days followed.  
*We had to buy another van.  Which I love, btw. 
*My baby turned 3. 
*My oldest turned 8. (today!)
*My little sister got married.  (who's feeling old?? Not me). 
*My hubby started graduate school (who's gonna pray for me over the next two years?)
*I surrendered to the purchase of an insulin pump so no more daily injections. 
*I just completed my first triathlon last weekend.  Absolute blast (and another post entirely). 

And I think that sums it up.  I feel like I'm forgetting something.  Oh well. 

I have a lot of things that I am trying to process and hopefully those will result in future posts.  But for now, I will leave you with some picture cuteness.  If anyone is still following this thing.. give me shout in the comments.  


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Moms, take a chill pill.. and keep it real!

Recently I lit up my Facebook wall because of a challenge I offered: Take a day to post pictures on social media that show the "not so glamorous" parts of your day.  Keep it real.

No pictures of the kids playing perfectly together, the house cleaned, the healthy snack you are about to consume, the hair so perfectly done.

Nope.  Just pics of what you think would be so embarrassing for you if someone walked in your house right now, except.. put it on Facebook.

The idea caught fire and as people started tagging me in their photos it was beginning to look like an episode of "Hoarders" on my wall.   And I loved it.

So did most everyone else.

I've learned that a lot of us function out of some false patterns of thinking.  And I really did this "dare" to try and expose those shaming thoughts.

Theory 1: Most of us think we are the only ones that don't have "it" together.  Whether it's our house, our kids or our marriages, a lot of us think that we are alone in the struggle to do "it" all.

Theory 2: We feel that if we were to actually #keepitreal we would experience rejection, judgement and shame.

So then the pics started coming in..

First, there was the Laundry situation:

 Then there was the house:

And then of course, the kid situation: overwhelmed momma's allowing tv (even on pretty days, GASP).

Here is some reality to my theories.

Theory 1: Most of us think we are the only ones that don't have "it" together.  Whether it's our house, our kids or our marriages, a lot of us think that we are alone in the struggle to do "it" all.
Very quickly, the comments started pouring in, "Wow, so I'm not the only one whose house looks like this?" "Oh girl, my kids have watched three shows today and it's only 9 am" or "Well, you would feel right at home at my house because it looks the same way."  Very quickly, once people started #keepinitreal, others were able to come into that vulnerability and keep it real too.  Once "other" people posted pictures, it gave courage to someone else that they could post as well.  The tension is being willing to give the "gift of going first" to someone else.  And this isn't just on social media, but in real life.  In our relationships, being able to invite others into our reality is what makes depth and meaning come alive.  We stop the cycle of thinking we have to have "it" together when we realize that we aren't the only ones who can't.  

Theory 2: We feel that if we were to actually #keepitreal we would experience rejection, judgement and shame.  
As those comments showed, as soon as someone empathized with anothers' "chaos" it was freeing to then admit you had any yourself.  And being the one vulnerable enough to post a picture allowed some freedom when that other person said, "Hey! That looks like my house."  Y'all, I ain't gonna lie, watching an episode of Hoarders makes me feel better about the piles going on in my house.  But the truth is.. I still got junk.  There is a reason why inviting people over to my house is commonly known as the best motivation to get my house clean.  Because I may not be able to handle the (assumed) rejection, judgement and shame that I think will be given if they saw my house "as is."  

I will never forget the first time I made a point NOT to apologize for my house being a mess when someone came in.  The guest was only coming over to drop something off, but as she left she said, "It is so nice to know that I am not the only one whose house isn't always tidy."  It was freeing for her, and freeing for me as well.

I will also never forget the time a neighborhood child came in to use my bathroom and upon leaving said, "Um, your bathroom really needs to be cleaned."

Of course I responded, "YES! It sure does.  Would you like to clean it?"

I'm just gonna do what I can and #keepitreal.

So you tell me, what do you think?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My life in a random post

Things here have been crazy.  Two week of sickness and hopefully everyone is on the mend.  In two weeks we've had:

             *one with ear infection and cough
             *one with ear infection and pneumonia, needing THREE breathing treatments
             *one with bronchitis and croup
             *one with bronchitis, vomit & diarrhea for 48 hours, needed IV fluids @ hospital.

Yes, I will be happy when spring is here.  This is what our past two weeks looked like:

And to top it all off, two weeks of sickness could only mean that it be Alabama's most wet winter EVER.  It has rained for what seems like an eternity.  This has left a rambunctious toddler and dog inside my house for endless hours a day.  You can guess what that means.

It also has given time for me to be still long enough to read and think (when the kids are napping).  And I've got some random thoughts I still need to process. But I can try to post them and document them here.

1. I actually don't mind sick littles.  It's what it brings that drives me crazy: home bound, no exercise, plans put off.  In a perfect world I would see those things as a good balance but I must admit, by day 10 I am utterly D.O.N.E.

2.  I saw my oldest (sweet boy) be rude to a girl on the neighborhood playground.  She asked how old he was and then she said, "oh I'm 7 too" and he snarked "I don't care."  In that moment I realized that no matter how "sweet" a boy is, he is rude when he has NO idea how to talk to a girl.  I know it's universal, but it just brought to my attention the world I have entered: teaching my boys how to talk to girls.  And preferably NOT by being rude in place of insecurity.

3.  I realized recently that my baby girl gets overlooked a good bit.  She is very compliant and plays well on her own.  So that means that when I am left dealing with a demanding toddler or a emotionally explosive sensitive 6 year old, she is off on her own.  And I desperately look forward to having next school year to just be with her while both older boys are at school.  I simply can't wait to lavish her in some momma time.

4.  Confession: I only like to snuggle with my dog when she's had a bath.  And she has very little understanding of personal space.

6.  I have grown weary of all the FB pics I post.  I am working on an effort I wanna call "Reality Bites." It would be all the less than glamorous aspects of my day.  With humor of course.  Because even my "worst" day of jumbled mess is still better than most. But it's still good to live reality on the social networks lest everyone think my life is more glamorous than it is.

7.  I haven't run/swam/worked out in 2 weeks.  It is having terrible effects.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A year in review..

Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 35.

A National Holiday.  At least in my family mind.

Ever since I was a little girl, I remember my birthday being a big deal.  Maybe it was because I was the baby and the world revolved around me (sadly).

But even as an adult, I LOVE celebrating my birthday!

And after my "30th" debacle (in which I was not happy), I am happily embracing EVERY year since.

My 34th year was full of huge milestones:

* In February I decided it was time to get fit.  I started exercising and eating better (dieting) and lost 16 lbs by December.  (pic on the right was in Sept).

* I set out to become a runner. And I did it!  I started with a 10:30 pace in February and now run an 8:30 pace as of December.  While I put a lot of hard work into this goal, I simply could not have made the improvements I did without my running partner (and trainer), Kristen.  I met her when we joined our lifegroup at church.  And she was eager to encourage me to get fit and exercise (she is, by trade, a spin instructor and a personal trainer).  And all the time we spent working out really turned into a beautiful friendship that I am so very grateful to have.  Love you New Jersey!

                                     (here we are after my very first time running sprints.. sweaty mess!)

* I ran some great races with my husband.  This was a first for us.  And it was awesome.

                                          (the Kenya Relief 5k)

And one of my favorites was the Warrior Dash!  a 5k with 10 obstacles included! 

*I ran my first Half Marathon!! 

* I got my first Tattoo! 

* We got a dog! 

*I had my first getaway with my husband in a very long time. And we also went ziplinning, which was also a first!

*And one of the biggest, and most difficult for me, milestones was my oldest child going "off to school."   

There was so much more that happened this year that was wonderful like the birth of my new niece, Eva Graciela, and the fact that I can now swim up to 2 miles (in training for a triathlon) and I have made some really amazing friendships that are icing on the cake.

All of this makes me sure that my 35th year will be even better!  I am claiming it as the "YEAR OF THE PULLUP!"  Yes, while I can run long distances, I have ZERO upper body strength and hope to be able to do some pullups by the end of next year.  Also, I will be competing in my first triathlon(s) as well as doing the Tough Mudder in April. (watch the video below):

IM CRAZY, RIGHT?? Thankfully I've already started training and Kristen is helping!!

While I am getting older.. I REFUSE to "get old."  Gotta keep moving!! Gonna push myself to new limits and watch as I accomplish things I never dared to do in my 20's!

I'll keep ya posted!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

My exercise in transparency.

If you haven't read the post "in which the homeschooler goes to school.."  you may want to catch up before reading today's post.

I wanted to share where I was emotionally/mentally/spiritually through this process.  It may encourage some and dumbfound others.  Either way, I'd like to chronicle it as a "stone of remembrance" for future days of doubt.

Let me start by laying down a quick foundation for this post.  I know that the topic of school choice is  quite controversial.  Not just in way of personal convictions but in philosophy of education.  I get that.  So let me be clear on some key points before you proceed rummaging through my scattered thoughts:

1.  I love homeshooling.   My philosophy of its benefits in education and how wonderful it can be has NOT changed.  I still believe strongly that it is a noble venture and should be approached with extreme numbing down of expectations.  Did that confuse you?  Well, those that homeschool will know what I'm talking about.  Rarely does it look like what we expect it to.  But the benefits far outweigh, for most families, the cons and when done well, the child thrives.

2. I am speaking about myself, not you.  I will keep all my statements focused on "me, myself, or I."  Please hear my heart on this: this post is not trying to persuade you in any direction.  It is merely me sharing where I have walked.  If you feel encouraged, great!  But it is NOT my desire to make you feel inadequate, proud of yourself or anything in between.

3.  I desire respect from all sides of the discussion.  There is enough GRACE at the cross to realize that this topic, while important for families to decide, is not critical to salvation, sanctification  or the furtherance of the Gospel.  Therefore it is not a dogmatic discussion.  If you care more about where you land on the subject than you do for the people involved.. I encourage you to take some deep breaths and step away from the topic.

Okay, so that's done.

I will acknowledge that I like to be in control.  Not in a "in your face" kind of way.  Just a tad bit more subtle.  And to be honest, I have learned (about myself) that as a professing believer in Jesus Christ.. I struggle to realize how much I pat myself on the back for said "appearance" of control.  All the while, professing that I really do believe that God is the one who is Sovereign.  Big picture.  Yet, I struggle with the personal application of that truth.

So when I realized that I was deeply in over my head, beyond the "God never gives you more than you can handle" farce, I was ready to relinquish some control.   The truth is that I can definitely put on myself more than I can handle and have the danger of not wanting to appear that I can't handle it, so I will take on stress that God does not intend for me.

I knew two months ago that I was not being consistent with Jorge.  Our home chaos (just during school) was enough to make the most willing teacher and student have a nervous breakdown.  And then there was the fact that he asked me if he could go.  And his reason had nothing to do with an unhealthy attachment to his family.  He wanted to LEARN, in quiet.  Without the 2yo screaming and the 4 yr old whining and fighting with the 6 yo.  And the mom constantly interrupting the learning to put out another squabble.

On the morning of my "aha moment" what hit me was the thought: "I can't do this anymore." That is truly THE single most difficult thing for me to admit.  I didn't feel like a failure.  No. I had taught two kids to read, basic math facts and potty trained three kids (the latter being the most noble!).  No, I didn't feel like a failure.. it was the thought of "this isn't working anymore."

I sat on the couch and cried.  Not because I wanted it to work, but because I knew that no matter how much more I tried it wasn't going to work.  I cried because I was sad that what I knew would work would go against my dream.  It would go against my comfort zone.  It would mean..

.. I would have to trust Him.  

Then I cried because I realized that I didn't trust Him.

I felt as though God was calling my "bluff" and calling me out on yet another area of my life that I thought was "just fine."

Who would watch out for my baby?
What if someone hurt his feelings and I wasn't there to comfort him and remind him of the truth?
What if he forgot the foundational truths of his faith in the moment he needed them most?

You see, in my mind most mommas fear what other kids will teach their kids on the playground: like body parts and sex.  But that stuff is common knowledge in our house.  Yes, my 6 & 7 year old know the basics of sex.  They know things that grown adults refuse to talk about with their teenagers.  But that's just how we've done things in our house.  So that's not my concern at all.  Besides, any thing mentioned on the playground is open for discussion with us.  (Shoot, it's likely my kids who would be "teaching" the other kids on the playground).

No, I had concerns about my son remaining sensitive to the things of God, if he isn't being taught those things all day.  And I'm not talking curriculum here.  Not a Bible class.  But a "you get in a fight with someone and we get to bring the Gospel in to that discussion immediately"kind of way.  I was uncomfortable that I would not be there to "fix" that for God.  You know, me, His ambassador to my child. (said, tongue in cheek).

But in the middle of those What If's God whispered, "He's mine, Rachel.  I made Him.  I am responsible for changing his heart.  I will speak those truths to him, yes, even at 7 years old.  He wants to follow me and I will be faithful to that! Can you believe that I want to?  That I'm capable?"

If he goes to school someone can hurt him and create a deep wound that can remain for life: "Yes, Rachel. But I am the God who can restore and heal." Besides, do I really think that I can protect him from this his whole life? No.

If he goes to school I don't have as much time to teach him more about the love of the Father: "Yes, but I am with him always.  I speak those things to him.  And you reiterate and give him examples."  Besides, this certainly has made me more intentional THAT is for sure!

I honestly didn't have a problem realizing it wasn't working.  I have always said that I would reevaluate each child each year.  When it was time I had NO doubts he would be fine educationally speaking.. it was me that was struggling to relinquish my control over my concerns for his spiritual growth. Because, as parents, we have very little control there anyway (internally speaking).

There are some that would argue (heck, I used to be one of them) that keeping your kids home allows for a safety net of protection long enough to secure spiritual foundations in a child's life so that when they leave your home they are able to withstand the questions that will come to their faith.  I understand that, I really do.  But I have to believe that if God can bring two individuals from broken homes, no Christian faith of their own until college and very strong influences from the world, to now have a thriving relationship with Him and a passion for the Gospel and a desire to lead their four children into a family and faith life that they themselves did not have.. that God is strong enough and big enough to handle my son going to public school for 1st and 2nd grade (and beyond, if needed).

I would have never, in a million years, expected to follow this path.  But given my specific set of circumstances that led us to decide this was the best option for right now, I am trusting that the Lord is leading our family specifically.  He is giving us wisdom and discernment as to the needs of the moment as well as trust that He is able to redeem as well as orchestrate the heart of our children. And reminding us that He is not limited or bound by the place where our children receive their education.

This is not to say that there aren't specific challenges to making those foundations prevalent, and it does take way more intentional living than I have previously experienced, but it is worth it.

Our family is thriving and the stress level has gone down considerably.  I am able to enjoy my time with the younger three and Jorge is able to learn and grow in areas that I was not able to pull off.

I appreciate all the prayers and support and I look forward to what the next year brings!

Thanks for sticking around long enough to read that. Any feedback you have is welcomed!!

Just keep it respectful!

We went LOCO and got a dog..

It only took 10 years of  my husband nagging me plus two years of his recruiting the children to nag and I finally caved agreed.

It started as any other day.  Chaos.  Children whining and fighting.  A mother already in over her head with four children.

Perfect idea to add a dog into the mix, right?

Well, a friend on Facebook was asking for help.  There was a dog at a kill shelter in GA that would be put down the following morning if no one adopted her.

When I saw her picture.. I was convinced she would be our dog.

She looked sweet in the face.. and downright scraggly in the second picture.  But just knowing that she could get a second chance at a family who would absolutely adore her, made me excited.

I called my hubby at work and told him about her.  And that if he were willing, I would call right then and make the verbal commitment to get her.

He said to go for it.

So I did.

After that we had to wait about five days until we got her.  So we prepared.

We got a crate:

Which doubles as a nice stowaway for children..

We also had a family vote for the dog's new name.  In the running was: Lola, Stella and (Eva's suggestion) Passy Gassy.  Stella won by a landslide.  But because we did have one kid fighting for "Lola" we ended up agreeing on "Stella Lola Garcia" and she would be called Stella, and on occasion.. Passy Gassy.

And when we went shopping the night before for toys.. I felt like I was shopping for my children.  I was very excited.

We drove to Montgomery the next day to pick her up at Ashleigh's house:

The kids immediately loved her and Stella did GREAT in the car.

She had her first bath AFTER her first swim in the creek by our house.

She loves all the kids but has attached herself to the oldest, my very own dog whisperer, Jorge.

While it took about three days for her to stop growling at the kids, she has figured out how to get relaxed even in the chaos.

Her favorite respite is her crate. I am very thankful for that.  The kids have learned this is the "no touch" zone.  When Stella is in her crate she is telling us she wants a "time out." 

And of course the couch is her favorite spot.  But so far, she wants to rest ALONE. She happened to get one of the most affectionate families on the planet, but we are patiently accepting that, while she loves rubs and snuggles at her choosing, she prefers to sleep alone.  Maybe one day that will change and we will be begging her to stop laying on us.

Her torture is her own doing.  She simply can NOT stand the kids playing outside without her.  But as a puppy, she doesn't quite get that she can't nip and bite at the kids when they play.  Of course, she is playing as well, but she outweighs all of my children.  So they ask me to bring her in when they plan on running around the yard.  The temptation is too much for her.

The first three days were terrible, for me.  It was more difficult than I imagined, what with having to train FOUR children to leave the dog alone as well as training the dog about her new life here. After all of the difficulty and the daily chewing of everything in the house, she is a sweet dog.. I realize that.  And she is actually a very obedient dog, very willing to please.  And I am very thankful for her willingness to love me even after I've repeatedly gotten on to her.  There is so much we are all learning that there has had to be plenty of grace to go around.

But she is worth it.

She just better stop pooping all over my yard.  I have to clean shoes at least three times a week.

I know, that's wishful thinking.