Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Is the new learning curve called tragedy?

This post comes with a forewarning. Read at your own risk.

1. What happened in Newton, Connecticut couldn't be an uglier, sadder occasion.
2. I am in no way likening dementia to a personality disorder. The only commonality I draw is where they occur, in the mind and it's inherent mysteriousness.
3. My heart breaks into many small pieces in thinking of the beautiful babes who lost their lives on Friday.

The mind. Ironically, it's the place where all we know is held, yet the organ that remains more mystery than fact. As my father's mind slowly self-destructs he loses bits and pieces of himself. The somewhat stoic, hardass business man disappears and is replaced by a chatty attention seeker wishing to make your acquaintance. The man you see before you today is no trace of the man from just three years ago. His name remains the same, he continues to live in the house he built a decade ago, his looks are almost identical (minus a touch of dishevelment). You see, the brain, it's not a simple yes or no, black or white. In fact, it seems to be a big blur of ROYGBIV with a side of metallic sparkle.

As sad as the tragedy in Connecticut is and forever will be, I will be the first to say, the mystery of the mind -and furthermore, treatment of structural and hormonal disorders. And maybe -just maybe- this is what it took. Just as our family needed an altercation, lots of screaming and tears, and a police visit to understand the disturbances taking place in my father's mind. Would we have done absolutely anything to avoid those terrifying minutes that took place on August 26th? Hell yes. In a heartbeat. But instead of focusing on motive, blame, and sadness, we realized we needed -absolutely needed- to rethink dad's treatment with his best in mind.

I spent the most time in the hospital with my father during the four days of his stay. From the moment I saw him in the emergency room, life, as I knew it, changed. He was tired, too skinny, and confused about the happenings of the day. But the thing he knew most, no more medicine. None. No pills, no needles, no supplemental drinks. Just let him be.

And for the first time while sitting three wide on a hospital bed, we heard him. We heard his refusal. Not only that, we accepted it. Instead of listening to the doctors who so wished to keep on keepin' on, we started to choose what dad wanted.

No one else was here that afternoon to see the pain, the terror, the turmoil. But they have opinions. Do something more homeopathic. Try hyperbaric chambers. You really couldn't make it just three more months? You're giving up. But the doctor's said there's a fight worth fighting here. I can't believe you can just let things go like this. Do the meds and he'll live for years. How sad for you.  

I wasn't there in Connecticut. I couldn't even begin to understand Adam Lanza's mind. The terror of those students and teachers is unimaginable. But, from California, I can say, we must learn. It's critical. If we don't learn now, only more terror will meet us. I know because the afternoon of August 26th was not isolated. There were signs, signs gone ignored. Conversations and moments left unattended. It took pure, unadulterated fear in the utmost of our being to hear the cry for help within my dad's soul. How could we have been so dense?

There are 26 beautiful souls who were faced with a fear to which I have no ability to relate. However, I do believe in the deepness of my heart, they would say -teachers and students alike- the man who came wielding weapons wanted -needed- to be heard. As many articles regarding Lanza's mental health discuss, he displayed odd behavior for years. There must be a space opened where honest, non-accusatory conversations can occur in order to best help mental issues.

One day my dad will no longer remain in our care. He will be moved from the home he built into a care facility where professionals, who are trained to deal with dementia, can assist him around the clock. Although we handle many of his quirks and odd behaviors in stride, one day he will be too far progressed for our abilities. It would be an injustice to keep him here in our mediocre care when there are facilities to keep him safe and healthy. So the same goes for other disorders of the mind. A child displaying withdrawn, anti-social behaviors may need professional attention -not due to any parents', teachers', physicians' fault- but because the mind is full of dark, mysterious crevices to which many are not attuned.

Seek help for the sake of your loved one, or maybe even yourself. But also, seek help for those around you. For friends, family, and innocent bystanders who are in touch with you. I promise it will reap benefit and reward in your life, as it has in my dad's, my family's, and mine.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Celebrating Mama Bird Day 12.12.12

Yesterday was a very special day. Not just because of the cool triple number repeat date... But because it was my Mama Bird's birthday! Yep, Happy 12.12.12 Birth-Day! If you've checked out my Instagram, you already know we were enjoying an All American Dinner at the local All American Diner... It came with a restaurant-wide birthday announcement. So fun!


(there was an angry, I-just-got-stabbed-in-the-thigh face theme throughout the night)

 
It only seems appropriate to share some of the biggest lessons learned from the birthday girl!
(This is not an exhaustive list... You'd be reading for days if I did you the honor of putting them all together)

1. Exercise is, in fact, important to sanity and regularity (even if staying in bed because it's so damn cold at 6:00 am seems more "healthy").

2. When in doubt, wear a scarf. They're always stylish and take your outfit up a notch... Or three.

3. Entitlement is ugly and only hurts you. Instead have a spirit of joy and thanks. Even in the trenches of loss.

4. Accessories so often make the outfit. Don't skimp. And, even more importantly, don't OVERDO it or you just look like a flasher at Mardi Gras.

5. The process of making - be it mod-podge, bedazzling, sewing- is therapeutic. So create, create, create. You'll bless someone with your creations in later days.

6. Chocolate chip cookies are the cure for any and every bad thing.

7. There is joy in grief. And more practically, a sense of humor can, in fact, be honed and grown in times of sadness.

8. There's no such thing as too many shoes.

9. Who cares what they think? Whoever they are should love ridiculous humor. If they don't, it's them that's missing out.

Lastly, but not least:

10. Moments and memories last for life. So make them. Cherish them. Sit in them and marinate.

So many years of joy and sadness, winning some and losing some, learning and loving all the same. You're a rockin' Mama Bird and wife. But more importantly, we -and I'm speaking for the masses here- have been changed for the better by your God-loving, country bumpkin, crafty spirit.

Girl, forty-nine never looked so good.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

We're Here... We're Back... Though We Never Really Left!

We're still here! 
Mr. T and me!
See... we're here. 

And looking dead sexy. 

We don't always wear glasses, 
but when we do they belong to my beloved Gramcracker. 
These puppies were fashionable... 
Ok, not since the 1970s. 
But who could pass up the opportunity to put on Gramcracker's sweet frames! 

There's lots of feelings,
memories, 
moments, 
being made. 

I'm sort of writing about them.
But there's this weird thing happening where they make more sense
after steeping for two weeks. 
Maybe my thoughts are like a fine wine.
You know, better with time? 

I miss you.
You miss me.
It's mutual.
'Nough said.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Sticky Note Series: Be Bold

Lately, I've been spending time reflecting on what I want to live my life remembering... In hopes that keeping these principles mine, someone else will learn from them.

What better way to remember than Sticky Noting (a noun/brand gone verbal) them to my fridge and computer and bedside table and bathroom mirror and dashboard? Then, I realized you might care. And when I think you'll care, I share.


Amber, be bold

Regardless of what you do, do it boldly.

Everyone is just as nervous, just as seeking success, just as wishing for the best in every way, shape, and form, as you. So throw yourself into it, whatever it may be, and do it. Big, bad, and bold.

Be it your writing, your running, your reading, your cooking, your faith, your friendships. It'll be best in bold. And someone will be affected, caring, and changed.

That goes for you too reader. You, you, you. Are you getting this? Bold. Badass bold. Let's pretend we're big ol' granite bolders rolling around making this earth more bold and more beautiful. (catch that reference?) 

Go forth and bolderize!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Shit is Lost.


In turning over a new, more honest leaf on my blog, I find myself paralyzed by fear at night. Seriously, hot, sweating fear that tastes salty on my lips and bitter in my throat. It leaves me cold and hot and hurts my insides from my heart to my stomach. I can shudder imagining indifference. I let it hamper me.

I know judgement and shame and pure f-ugly -which is worse than just plain ugly in my book.-but I'll take those any day over indifference. Over a lack of caring. Over not giving a shit.

I am so scared that will eek into this place and I'll hate my choice to do this, this putting words out for others to read, absorb, love and even hate. I let those fears of nothingness stop me dead in my type. I will write hundreds of words then my fingers will twitch with judgement-fearing anger and BOOM, delete, gone, never to return.

"Stupid, stupid, stupid" screams through my mind, red, hot and mean. The little girl named Confidence curls up in the darkest recesses of my mind and prays for quiet like an abused child cowering behind a couch for safety.

Too much credit is being given, not many come and read. But those who do. What if they don't like it? Can't stand the questions, the feelings, the death, the life? What if I'm doing this all in vain?

The problem is that I care way too much about people who don't give a shit. Not just about me, but about God, about life, about themselves, about us.

I give a shit. About me, about God, about life, about you, about us. That's where the fear begins. Because I give a shit. And this can't be in vain or my shit is lost on us.

Any feeling -in the positive or the negative- is the purpose of thise. Stirring something in you, anything. It's the indifference, the not giving a shit, that terrifies me for your sake and for mine.

Monday, October 15, 2012

If We're Being Honest, That's What We're Doing Right?

As you've noticed, if you've stuck around for any time or mosied through past posts, things are changing around here. I've spent four years blogging -intensely and not-so-much- in search of what makes me proud to post, what pours from the depths of my heart and soul, and what sneaks out into the universe and makes one person a little bit better. It seems, of late, that I'm onto something.

People, most of who see me regularly and are my Facebook friends, are reading. And responding. Maybe only responding to me and not applying it to their own lives. But isn't that where it begins? By just a little movement in a single direction... Then the movement gains momentum and next thing you know you're all over the place and messing yourself up -in a good way. A good, messed up, multi-directional way.

Then, as I stumbled around the interwebs like a drunken frat boy, I fell upon this from Frugal Mama. I'm not so much frugal, or a mama, but she's right. Aptly titled Don't Read This if You Want Your Life to Stay The Same, I am changed. Emboldened, if you will.

I long for my words to resonate in the hearts of many and to change the way people do life. But how?

I want you to learn to laugh and cry at the way life is a good, messed up, multi-directional thing that, sometimes, leaves you lying on the floor in a heap of ughhhhhh wishing you knew that just one day was going to go as you planned it.  But how?

That said, I'm writing a book. About what? I don't know just yet. But I've been keeping it a secret. To be honest -because that's what we're doing right- I'm sort of embarrassed... Or maybe more like gunshy about it. What if you think it's dumb? Or already know that you aren't going to read anything that is authored by Amber Thomas?

Once again with the honest theme.
I just barely told Jason that I'm serious. You know, sometimes I joke to test his take on it, but the other night while we lay in the darkness of mid-night, I said,
"Jason."
Praying he was sleeping too hard to hear me...
And he -now why is he awake too? -replied, "Yes, what now?"
(To be honest, this isn't our first mid-night serious talk)
"I'm going to write a book."
I know his face though it's dark. Large blue eyes rolling wildly about in their sockets wondering why the hell 2:00 am is the perfect time to talk like this.
Silence.
"But really, I am." -my cheeks are burning out of sheer nerves. Suddenly, the 40 degree night feels sweltering.
(Yep, we're married, we've been together almost 4 years and I can work myself up into a blushing panic awaiting his support)
"That's great. If you don't mind, about what?"
Damn it. He wasn't supposed to ask that part yet.
"I don't rightly know. I just need to. A need, you know, like breathing, or talking, or kissing, it's a need."
"I think you'll do a good job."
Whew. Blood reroutes to my brain and the flush in my cheeks fades.
"That's it. You can sleep, or lay awake silently, or whatever you were doing before this."

You see, just barely told him. And, strategically at night, so then if he asks if it's a dream, I can say, "Yes, you looney toon, I didn't want to have a 'here's-a-new-goal-I-have" talk at 2:00 am. In fact, I was sleeping so soundly at that point even an anvil dropped from the sky couldn't have woken me."

But, it wasn't a dream. It's reality. I need to write. And I've started. It'll be a book. And I'll want you to read it. Or, at least, buy it and let it gather dust on one of your shelves so I can feel good about myself.

And while you anxiously await more of me in novel form (or at least you do, mom) encourage me, call me out, check in and make sure I'm making things happen. Why? Because I know you're reading and you've got big dreams of your own... And we both know a little encouragement goes a long way.

So here are my goals in plain English, because I'm being honest and so they're written out for reference later, by you or me:

1. Write a book.
2. Write a book that changes someone's life that will in turn change someone else's life... So on and so forth.
3. In a little way, change the world for the better.

That said, I've been contemplating a new name for this space, something more... literary, more me, more fitting. Although it'll always be Mr. Thomas and Me, I want it to be more about doing life out of love and in love too.

Finally, you've got to have dreams too. And, remember, we're being honest here, so share. Email me, comment, text, whatever you've got to do and share your dreams. I want to encourage you like you do me. (I'm counting on you already, folks.)

Dream on my dear dreamers. Dream on.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Girl Meets Shame. [Part 1]

As long as I can remember my cup runneth over. Not with God's goodness and grace. Not with love, mercy, joy. Instead with immense shame and guilt. 

Fifth grade marked the start of my sensitive battle with shame. I moved to a new school. There were the cool girls who everyone wanted to know -boys, girls, teachers, students, parents, everyone. And I was the new girl. One of the girls befriended me. We grew close and she brought me into the group. I was ecstatic

For her birthday the coolest of the cool had a sleepover. Seventeen girls in all. We piled our bags in one room while we enjoyed the festivities of the night swimming, cake, ice cream, gifts - you know, the elementary school birthday routine. 

Then night fell. 

This was my first sleepover, but I let no one know. They'd been sleeping over for years. And here I stood, the naive virgin -little did I know this would be my role for another decade of life. The horror stories of what would happen to the first one asleep started... Panties frozen in the freezer, hands dipped in warm water resulting in a wet bed "accident", shaving cream on the pillow. I didn't sleep a wink. I laid awake for hours enduring waves of shivering panic and unrequited fear

As the sun rose, I began to relax. Breakfast, goodbyes, and my mom at the door. I lied and said it was fun, I loved the girls, I couldn't wait for school on Monday. My heart ached for home. For a locked front door. For anywhere far, far away from those girls. 

Monday comes. School is as always. Then it's time for lunch. A couple of things were forgotten from the sleepover. A stack of red beaded bracelets. A pink Limited, Too hoodie. A pair of small purple Itsy Bitsy-brand polka-dot panties. Phew, I forgot nothing. 

"Amber, aren't those yours?" As she holds up the small pair of underwear. My heart drops. Denial, though true, looks like lies. Acceptance, though false, insures teasing. I'm damned. 

Denial. She insists. I deny. Giggling starts. It's no longer one, but three, four, five. A chorus of "They're yours." My virgin heart breaks in my little chest for the first time. Shame shatters my hope of being a "cool" girl - later I realized that's not really what's cool, but at eleven it feels like the sky is falling

To this day, the words itsy and bitsy drip with shame. They reduce me to an eleven year old girl who rode home from school in tears the Monday after the AlphaGirl's birthday sleepover. I find my heart bitter, pained, shamed because I wanted to be one of them. And they brought me in, only to feed on my unencumbered trust. 

I met shame in fifth grade. But I've maintained a deep-seeded relationship with shame for many years.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Dementia don't care, but more importantly, I'm Good.

(This photo has nothing to do with this post... But I liked it -the book in a boat and the picture- so I'm sharing it with you)

I've had this weird phenomenon going on in my life. This funny thing I promised I'd never do, yet I'm doing, but not doing - all at once.

You see, I promised I'd never be one of those church people that says, "Oh things are good." when people ask how I'm doing when really things are in shambles behind the scenes. Nope, I would never be a faker and hide my emotions.

But then, this weird thing happened. 

You see my dad is dying. Dementia doesn't care about his five kids, his doting wife and their almost 26 years of marriage. Dementia doesn't care that we still have things we want to do or that it'll hurt like hell to put my dad in a care facility when things get too burdensome. No, the crazy, nastyass dementia badger don't care, it don't give a shit. (Please tell me you get this and Jason and I aren't the only one's laughing at this ridiculous video**)

Back to the point, my dad is dying as a result of sick and twisted dementia. And I'm good. Things are good. Genuinely. Honestly. Good. 

Would I give my left arm and right leg to have him better? You bet your sweet booty toots. But, his brain isn't sticking around. In fact, he's losing his mind slowly, but detectably. And things are good. Because he is happy in spirit and body and mind. And because He is happy with the way our family is clinging so, so desperately to the everlasting joy and unfathomable peace that He is so gracious to bestow upon us.

I'm good. I mean it. I am loving my father in a way I never imagined possible. And I'm doing so in the big and little moments as I never would have without this death sentence.

Do I make sense here? I'm saying I'm good when I know more words are expected. But really, I am good. We are good. And I'll share lots of words with you, but it's also a lot of heaviness and that can feel burdensome. I've never been about burdens. I guess that's why I'm good. God's shouldered the burden and I'm basking in His goodness. Join me? 

P.S. A little bit of business, I'm still cooking and crafting... And I'm keeping the recipes in a book, I just have sort of changed directions here a bit. Give me some time to decide how this little place will be heading... 

**Tiny side note: the more I listen to the voice over of that video I realize I could write the same script about dementia and it would take over parts of the brain... Maybe I will be the next YouTube sensation! 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hello, Thank You, and Goodbye

Today marks a month since dad was hospitalized. It seems like forever ago and like yesterday all in one lump.

And today seems the perfect day to say hello, thank you, and goodbye.
These are to you -so figure out who you are and know, I'm thinking of you by name.
And I mean my words.

The Hello

To Those Who've Come In to Say, "Hi, You Can Do This" or at Least Stopped By To Read,

Thanks for stopping by. For coming near to us and welcoming us into your hearts. We all feel so lucky to have you here to see God's goodness and glory in its fullness. To share this as a family is special, to share with a growing net of amazing, wondrous people is positiviely indescribable.

And if you haven't said "Hi" yet, don't be shy. We don't bite, but we do cry hot tears of sadness and frustration, we do laugh with wreckless abandon when it's inappropriate, and we love vulnerability.

So, let me end here,
Hi to you too. Thanks for stopping by, please make yourself at home.
Amber
-----
love lover
lymes hater

The Thank You

To Those Who've Been There "If I Ever Needed Anything",

You win because you meant it. Your grace, your sweetness, your tangible love and caring does not go unnoticed. One blessing that has come in all this madness is seeing a group of friends we call family and family that's the best of friends gather around us and hold us up when the days feel too heavy.

You've encouraged, you've inspired, you're on our team. And we are thankful.

Thank you from the tippy top and bitty bottom of our hearts,
Amber
-----
love lover
lymes hater


The Goodbye

To Those Who've Gone,

I know, this death thing, it's awkward, especially because it's happening slowly and surely. And it's weird seeing us all knowing that it isn't going to be a happily ever after. I understand your discomfort.

I hope this is the only reason you've gone. Because it's weird, too weird to endure.

As you leave, please know, there's no anger, no hostility. First, because it is uncomfortable. Second, because in this I've learned life's too short to be angry. To hold a grudge.

I hope you know, in our hearts, you'll always have a little home.

Goodbye just for a short time,
Amber
-----
love lover
lymes hater

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I'm sorry. I'm not sorry.

At 3:03 this afternoon I sent this to my mom in a text:
"And you'd rather do it this way than the way he was trying for on that day."

That day, already an entire month ago, being the day my dad's sweet brain became overwhelmed and he lost touch with reality. He thought people were out to get him, some of those people being us -his family. He wanted it to end. And his solution had become to withdrawal from us.

Who cares how. Or when. Or why.
 All I care about is his failure in doing so.


In sharing our news with friends and family, they seem to look on us with pity and shower us with sorries. And while we appreciate the sweet words and sentiments, we all feel so odd being sorry about the new course our life has taken. Somehow in the shadow of the way my dad has ailed, the years of sadness and fighting, and our newfound love and zest for life after his emergency, our new normal seems perfect. 

There are things for which I'm sorry.

I'm sorry we didn't do things bigger earlier in life. But I'm not sorry he's going to head to heaven earlier than we planned. I'm sorry I let the little things bug hormonal, high-school me when I should have been loving on him. But I'm not sorry I get this blessed time to spend with him before he goes home to His Heavenly Father.

I'm sorry that I'm not sorry about death.

Knowing his brain will be restored, his body cleaned of the ravaging bugs inside of him makes me joyful for him. His masterful business brain will be back. His wits restored. His dry sarcasm enjoyed by all his heavenly hosts.
I'm sorry that I'm not sorry about my dad dying.

I have never been to a funeral. Not once. I've never experienced death. Did I imagine my first time would my dad's? No. But we have this beautiful moment of time where we know he's going to die and we can soak up every little morsel of joy with him. Through this time of transition, I have come to see bits and pieces of God's greatness. And that makes my heart swell with pride. I know my dad's untimely passing (whenever it does occur) is going to be a beautiful -brutiful- occasion where God will sit among us. And, I believe, for a few hours, God will come nearer to us as He welcomes home a good and faithful man while we bid him farewell.

I'm not sorry he's headed to His Father's home.

There's this glorious place dad will be going. I just know it. In fact, a little piece of me is jealous that He gets in on the God-paradise before me. But, a big, HUGE part of me can't wait to live out his leagacy. I already know when it's my time to join him in Heaven, he will be up there heading some of God's greatest projects. He'll make sure the floors are flat, the concrete mixed just right, and the laborers (though I imagine they have a cooler name in heaven) getting what they deserve for their hard work.

I'm not sorry we'll be here to honor him and, more importantly, Him.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lyme's Lesson [2] Prayer & Your Heart

In March 2009, we started the long journey of finding a cause
and cure for my dad's memory loss.
Three years later we marched on fighting Lyme's Disease and
learning more about ourselves and God every day.
Here's number two of seven bits of knowledge we've picked up along the way:

Prayer may not seem to change your immediate circumstance, but it will change your heart.


I wrote all seven of my Lyme's lessons out before my dad was hospitalized. Before we stopped fighting Lymes and started embracing dementia -as much as one can embrace such a condition. I considered not publishing them... But realized God's fullness is furthered in the way these lessons, both learned and not yet mastered, are playing out in our daily lives. 

The number of people praying for my dad's mind and our family's fight is far greater than I can imagine (this I know by the outpouring of emails and calls in the last two weeks). It's undeniable that he -we- is covered in prayer.
 
Prayer is a funny thing -not in the ha, ha, ha way- but in the way it reveals the vastness of our Lord and the deep-as-a-puddle-in-the-midst-of-a-heatwave knowledge we have of God and our very own self. 
Boy oh boy, have we prayed.
For healing,
for hope,
for continued faith,
for strength in our weary hearts,
for answers,
for more of this,
for less of that,
for anything and everything God has for us. 
 
We found our prayers perfectly described in Psalms: 
 
"Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven." -Psalm 107:28-30
 
It's simple enough.
 
But the storm wasn't settling. The waves were quieted. Why God? You seem to have forgotten us, left us to fend for ourselves and we aren't yet ready. Why? Damn it. Why? And then, He did it.
 
He showed us that what we thought was the insurmountable storm was, in fact, the pre-storm. The part where the pavement starts to smell hinting of the rain to come, where the drizzle starts and the wind is a-blowing. But you don't ratchet down the hatches because you ain't seen nothing yet.
 
Yeah, we were crying out "wolf" and didn't even know it. We were holding onto an idealized miraculous recovery while ignoring the dark clouds outside our wide-open windows. But then He did it.
 
We didn't get the picture perfect present we were asking, pleading, begging God to bestow upon us -healing and full restoration of my dad's mind and body. In fact, we got something more, something larger, some small glimpse of His vastness and our place within that enormous, glorious place.
 
What He had worked out for us was, in fact, far more glorious than our little cliche, of-this-world, happily-ever-after story. (more on this tomorrow) Through years of indignant prayer where I asked God for what I was sure was best for me, my family, my dad, I ignored the lesson God so wanted for me to grasp. Prayer isn't about me.
 
Rather than pray about my wants, needs, wishes, desires, I need to flip my prayer life on its head and pray for His glory, His plans, His kingdom. For my receptors to be on high alert so I can catch His messages both large and small. For my stubborn heart and head to relinquish control and enjoy His majesty. For whatever end our story has to be one that reveals His goodness and grace.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Celebratory Sangria


How about a sweet sangria to end summer...
And to celebrate a time of joy.
I know, what a change of pace from just two days ago.
We have joy in God.
And in love.
(and to be honest, Mr. T and I are off to celebrate our one year anniversary this weekend!)
And having dad home.
And family. 
And the end of summer and the start of fall.
A change of seasons to remind us the way God renews - not just earth, but us too.


Ingredients
A bottle of white wine
Gingerale
Oranges
Raspberries (even frozen work)
Peaches (again, frozen works) 

Directions
Add parts white wine and gingerale to your liking.
I did about 75-25 wine to gingerale.
Toss in your sliced oranges, raspberries and peaches.
(If you use frozen, they chill the sangria for you!) 
Leave in the fridge for about two hours.
Enjoy! 

I couldn't wait the two hours after getting home from work, so I tossed in some ice cubes.
Not as good as I was hoping.
Find something to celebrate this weekend folks.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dear Glennon, God and You, Readers of my Blog

This post was originally an email sent to Glennon of Momastary
After clicking send, I realized it might help make my last post, and most likely future posts, more comprehensible. 
And if you haven't met Glennon, you must. 


Dear you -reader of this blog, this post, my words.

I don't even know where to begin, the last week and a half seems like a mystery complete in it's bizarre cast of characters as much as it seems to be a "whole picture" perspective of the last three years. While I long to share every last morsel of emotion, every last detail of the timeline, I also long for privacy in this time of challenge.

You see, there's this amazing lady named Glennon, she writes amazing words about ordinary and not-so-ordinary things... And she says brutiful. Beautiful and brutal. Makes sense enough, doesn't it?
Brutiful. That's it. Seems simples enough. But it's not. You see, my family and I didn't "get it" totally until two weeks ago Sunday. We've been fighting Lymes Disease. By we, I mean, my dad's infected and there are five kids and their three spouses, and one wife all wrapped up in helping him get through this evil debilitating disease. His memory shot, his words muddled, and his heart motivated, we fought. Until the meds wreaked havoc in his mind and he lost control of his body. Police and paramedics came. Four days and three nights in the hospital later and we get brutiful. That place where the devil sneaks in, does his damage and, yet, God prevails in His night in shiny armor way. Brutiful, we get it.

After asking WHAT IN THE HELL JUST HAPPENED? forty times, we realized that God turned our heads in a new direction, slapped us on the butt and said, "Go get 'em slugger." And now we stand over home plate hoping to hit the fastballs and curveballs that life's so damn good at. Unfortunately, none of us were big baseball fans, much less players, and all feels so overwhelmingly glorious. Like we've been given an opportunity by God that's entirely out of our league and simultaneously perfectly tailored to our strengths and skills. -How does He manage that? He's so darn good at that too-much-and-just-enough thing.

Here we all sit, in the wake of tragedy, trauma, bruty and we wave our WTF flags furiously about and yelp for God's attention, for His answers. We laugh. We cry. And we fist pump with an almighty AMEN! We turn to one another and ask, "How in the world did we end up here?" Yet, we thank Him for every change, every bit of wonderment and confusion and love and frustration.

Mostly I want you to know that love wins (not my original words, but those of God and, so aptly put, by Glennon as well). The nurses, the doctors, the emergency room staff... They all knew my father and my Father are loved. Every single person who came into my dad's room knew that there was something special about him. They felt Him in the room with us. In a beautiful, brutiful way. Bringing dad home, refusing the meds to kill the Lymes that were poisoning him, and instead of pumping him full of chemicals we are choosing to enjoy the love we have for my dad - as daughters and sons and a wife - oh, how brutiful. Love wins has become our mantra. So much so we're getting it etched into our skin just below our hearts at a tattoo parlor on Friday. We believe it. Because Glennon and God said it, He proved it, and we get it.

Love wins. Always.

amber

fellow monkee
love lover
lymes hater

Saturday, September 1, 2012

That Thing Life's Good At

This may be the most incomprehensible post ever.
Or at least the first of many that you and I will struggle to make sense of.
I long to write, to put something out there for you.
But life is doing that thing it does so well,
changing.
And it makes me uncomfortable.
And frustrated.
And longing for more and less all at once.

We spent this last week in the hospital with my dad.
This man.
(He always does that with his smile thing... Talk about a model)
Talk about hard.
Our family was broken.
We spent three years fighting a disease that had a hold on my dad
and on us. 
Each and every one. 
His body revolted on Sunday and he got sick.
The ambulance came.
We cried and worried and fought with God.
We sat in a link in the ER holding hands.
The three of us.
Linked like a small chain.
Praying.
Wishing.
Wanting more and less all at once.

And then He did something amazing.
He did what the bible says.
He provided.
I've heard God provides more times than I've showered in my life.
(And that's a lot, I'm a clean person)
But I saw it happen. In every moment.
He does.
At times he provided more and at others less.
He provided all at once.

Doctors, nurses, family friends.
They showed up.
They spoke words to us that were not theirs, but His.
They cried with us.
No dumb trite words telling us it'll be ok.
Just promising to be what they've always been despite life's changes.
They laughed at our corny jokes to try and make light of darkness.
They felt the weight.
The pressure that's making us God-diamonds.
And they helped settle the dust so we could shine.
That we did.

He will be glorified.
We are determined.
In grief,
in joy,
in frustration,
in calm,
in routine,
in change.
In all the life brings, He will remain.
And His glory continues.
(as will this story)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Lyme's Lesson [1] Grace

In March 2009, we started the long journey of finding a cause
and cure for my dad's memory loss.
Three years later we march on fighting Lyme's Disease and
learning more about ourselves and God every day.
Here's number one of seven bits of knowledge we've picked up along the way:


Sometimes grace is grin and bear it -not ballerina beautiful.

For as long as I can remember I've been a tripping-over-myself-kind-of-girl.
It could never be blamed on long legs or growth spurts, it was due to my lack of grace.
Never would I make it as a ballerina. Never.

Then I go to church and there's this grace thing again. I immediately assume I lack it.
Little did I know, grace isn't always pointy-toed, tutu-clad beauty.
The grace I've met has been a God-given miracle.
It's the ability to stop whining and keep trucking.
It's holding tight to that last sliver of hope because you've learned to fight.


"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline."
-2 Timothy 1:6

I know God's grace is upon us, but it does not place us in a protective bubble.
We are not unscathed. 
There's beautiful bumps and bruises that remind me of the battle we've, so far, endured.
I believe He made us to take major impact, to bend without breaking, 
to rise up and fight when pressed down upon.

My goal is not just to fight the good fight but to do so until I have nothing left in me to expend.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9, God says,
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
His grace covers and protects the wounds that mangle my flesh.
My angry words and ungrateful heart revolt against His plan, yet He keeps me roped in.
While I want to scream and shout and run away singing, 
"Run, run as fast as you can, you can't catch me I'm the Amber Whoa-Man!" 

He provides grace. He also provides opportunity to grow, to stretch, to change.
Without added pressure, diamonds are not formed. The same goes for us.
Without added pressure, we cannot be a gleaming God-diamond in the rough.
We will just sit a deposit of invaluable minerals longing for more. 
But, He provides grace. 
In the little penny-on-the-ground ways, and in Statue-of-Liberty monumental sorts.
My point is trials will come, you will be stretched and pressed, 
just know, 
His grace is enough. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bad at Blog and Beach for Dog

I've been trying to reign in exactly what I want my blog to be.
I am so talented at so many things I've really had a tough time.
(insert snarky sarcasm detector blaring and blinking red here)

Speaking of blogging...
I believe every body is good at something.
I also believe every body is not good at something.
To take that one step further,
No body is good at everything.
The one thing I'm not good at:
fashion blogging.
Holy Hautelook, I love looking at girls that dress nice.
And are put together.
And wear heels with no abandon.
However, you will not catch me doing so.
Why? -you ask.
Let's see.

1. The only trend I am consistent at rocking is running clothes.

2. I've got short legs and a long torso...
This means most clothes don't fit in the way they were meant.
(i.e. not all pants were made to be cuffed, but all of mine are)


3. I own two pairs of heels.
And one pair is so untouched its dust bunnies have dust bunnies.
(did you know those things mate just as rapidly as cottontails? true story.)

4. You have to take "cool" pictures of your outfits in "cool" places.
Two problems here:
a. I don't do autotimer.
I know, practice, practice, practice, but no, I don't.
b. In expending on point (a.) I need a photographer.
I married a computer engineer.
He's really good at engineering computers...
Not pictures.
(this is also ironic because it's 110 degrees at a water park,
not "cool" weather, but a "cool" place
and still un"cool" clothes)

5. I'm awkward.
You read that right.
AWKWARD.
(I mean who isn't awkward with a floppy fish-out-of-water
but really, I'm always that odd)
6. I have a really cute dog whose wrinkly face never goes out of style.
So, I opt to exploit her good looks and charm rather than
attempt to pull myself together.


P.S. Speaking of dog.
We took her to dog beach.
Talk about a HORRIFYING experience.
Homegirl HATED the water.
Like HATE.

Please note the arched back to keep her torso as far away from the ocean as possible.
Oh, and we got her up to her chest then she wouldn't walk.
Yes, HATE.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Gracefully Deficient



I struggle with grace.
Not the trip and fall, skinned knees, achy wrists kind of grace...
(Although I've sported scraped knees for years)
The ungrudgingly loving, forgiving kind of grace.
The kind of grace that is so characteristic of Him.

You hurt my feelings,
betray me,
insult my family,
question my marriage and relationships,
and you face the silent treatment.
Or, in extra-special cases,
you face the kill-'em-with-kindness treatment
that is built on a foundation of bitterness and pure anger.
I believe you can't kill with kindness
if your heart of hearts just wants to kill.
And turns out, God addresses bitter roots in Hebrews: 
"See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; 
that no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, 
and by it many become defiled." 
-Hebrews 12:15

But there's another side to this...
I don't grant myself grace.
I'm just as hard on me as I am on all of "you".

Check this: 
I miss one day of the new bible study I've started 
and I'm ready to give up on myself.
Misstep one way on my diet and BOOM 
I'm sure my thighs are expanding at an exponential rate.
How many times have I put my foot in my mouth?
Hundreds... And I can probably recall more than half of them.
Why?
Because I beat myself up for the misspoken words.
Because I can't stand the way everyone else seems so together
and I'm just falling short over and over again.

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, 
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 
Through him we have also obtained access by faith 
into this grace in which we stand, 
and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
-Romans 5:1-2

The part that's the hardest, I know it's not true.
I know everyone is struggling, 
isn't measuring up where they want to,
isn't making the impression they intended.
But I've let the devil get a big enough foothold to convince me otherwise.
He's told me that I'm wrong while they're all right.

This is my first admission documented for all to see.
I'm thinking I'll end this best with a little prayer.... 

God, 
I pray that I see other's how you see them.
But more than that,
I pray I see your perfect creation in me, 
your fingerprints in my every action,
your hand molding me inside and out. 
I pray I can focus on all of the beauty,
the greatness,
the glory that surrounds me
in order to bring my focus back to you.
In your name,
Amen

Do you struggle understanding the vastness of His grace? 
Or His love? Or His strength?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Post for Which There is No Appropriate Title

Warning:
I'm going to start this post and sound like every other
complaining, writer's block suffering blog writer.

Promise:
I'll end it without being unoriginal (ish).

Consider yourself warned
(and promised).
Stick with me?

It's been 36 days since I've typed a single word for Mr. Thomas and Me.
36 days of bipolar blog feelings.
I'd think about Mr. T & Me and long for something, anything to write,
but would come up with three words.
"I've got nothing."

Then I'd think about my break and love the lack of pressure to write
but would come up with three words.
"I miss writing."

I don't know who pays attention here.
Who reads my words and feels annoyed, challenged, tickled, bored....
But I do know the numbers.
How they seemed small. Insignificant.
I wrote to feel important to someone, anyone, and everyone.

(Don't get me wrong I get plenty of attention at home;
but I long[ed] to be one of those big, cool, sought-after bloggers)

I felt immense pressure to show off my food, my home, my life, my dog.
To be crafty, original, snarky, fun.
And from the pressure grew frustration.
With my imperfections, my tired self, my not-enough-hours-in-a-day schedule.
So I quit cold turkey.
Told myself to get it together.
Figure it out.
Set my priorities straight.

I took some time to hang out with my husband.
To read some books.
To watch the Olympics.
To relax about the schedule, the series, the snapshots.
And to learn more about my God.
Yes, just Him and I.
Hanging out, sharing stories, all the fun, over a cup of joe kind of stuff.

And then, last night, 35 days later, it clicked.
I'm writing for Him.
He gave me this love for words, written, verbal, the like.
My hands were made for pen and paper...
Or keys and screen.
So, I write.
No pressure.
Just for His glory and my enjoyment.

I write because He's got something.
More than something.
And to be honest, so often, I'm boring and I've got nothing.
He's going to spice up my life.
(Colors of the world... Every boy and every girl... Please get the song reference)
And I promise to share it
Whether it's consistent or not.

You want to hang around... Sweet. I'd love it.
Not your cup of tea?
 I'll miss you.
(really, really)

But this place is for His words to come out of my not-so-politically-correct mouth.
I promise not to beat you over the head with a bible.
In fact, I just want to share my take on things.
And I'm still cooking, so food will abound.
And, come on, what's Amber without a splash of sarcasm.

How about a picture for the road?
An angry turtle ready to coast in the pond...
But forced to stay in a tub.

How about two?
My new bangs.
I know, lame picture, but I feel edgy for once in my life.
Yes, I need to get out of the house more often.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Call me Green Thumbs.

Once upon a time
I bought a dozen seed packets and went to town planting a garden.
Mr. T rocks and put together the drip system.
And we worked the soil.
Then we planted those seeds.
Watered like crazy.
And crossed our green thumbs.
WHOA.
Maybe we shouldn't have crossed our fingers soooo tightly.
Because it's all kinds of green in our garden.

From the tomatoes...

To our green beans...
(and their Halloween ribbon that is going to help them grow!) 

Zucchini plants starting themselves out strong... 

While we wait for everything else to grow I was beyond excited
to see some beet shoulders looking mighty strong...

I guess I couldn't contain my excitement and I pulled them up...
Washed my beets and my hands,
roasted those puppies,
and enjoyed them in a salad.

Trust me.
Yum.
It's the first time that I've got to eat something I grew.
Delicious.

All I can say is we're going to be
eating beets, green beans, and tomatoes galore
this summer.

After all of the garden work,
it's only appropriate to enjoy something cool.
And sweet... 
How about a chocolate popsicle treat? 
(did I mention these are clean? ....yep, you heard me right)

Fudgey Goodness Bars
adapted from The Little Red House


Ingredients
1/2 cup frozen banana pieces
2 cups chocolate almond milk (unsweetened)
1 can pure coconut milk
1/3 cup cocoa powder
Coconut sugar (to your taste)

Directions
1. Add all ingredients to a blender.
2. Blend, blend, blend.
3. Dip your clean finger in for a taster.
4. Sweet enough? Pour in molds.
(If not, add more coconut sugar and blend again)
5. Freeze.
6. Get your lick in' tongue ready while basking in the sun.
7. Enjoy! 

Confession:
I had a little bit extra that wouldn't fit in our molds.
I drank it.
Like chocolate milk. 
And loved every drippy drop.
No joke.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bragging and Bacon Bits

Holy smokes two and a half weeks has managed to
just disappear into the twilight in the blink of an eye!
So it didn't just disappear, but I did.
But I'm back.
And the marathon is over.
Wheewwwwww.
Yes, I can breathe deep and enjoy some more free time.
(except I now have a head cold so breathing deep is challenging)

Before we go on any further can I brag for two minutes...
Just two, bare with me please.

Here we are at 4:23 am.
Yes, and we are IN the finish line parking lot.
That is an hour from our home.
That means we left the house at 3:23 am.
Which means we were up at 3:15 am.
Holy heavens it was early.

Here's our whole ensemble.
 This is as close to an outfit post as you're ever going to get. 
We always dress matching on race day.
And most days when we go to the gym together.
Everyone there calls us the twins.
You read that right, everyone.
We may be famous in our own minds.
(emphasis on: in our own minds)

Last shot...
Us after 26.2 miles of runningness.
Yes, we both ran the whole, entire way.
My legs were tired.
Not hurting me, but NOT interested in keep on keeping on once I hit mile 21.
There were still 5.2 miles left.
But I did it.
And somehow one of the race photographers got a picture of me smiling.
He is my hero.
One day when people look at the picture they will think I was so happy.
Little do they know....

And I'd hate to give you a post with no recipe...
So I've got a quick one for you!

Sauteed Salty-Sweet Snap Peas


Ingredients
(There's really no specific measures here, I just proportioned how Mr. T and I love it)
(These proportions included LOTS of bacon bits)
Snap Peas
Dry white wine
Bacon (Cut in pieces)
Dates (Pitted and sliced)
Pepper (to taste)

Directions
1. Cook bacon as directed on package (or how you do it on the regular).
2. Remove bacon from pan and pat dry with paper towels.
3. Reserving bacon fat sautee snap peas (with stems removed) until softened.
4. Add sliced dates and bacon bits.
5. Sprinkle with pepper.
6. Add dashes of white wine to deglaze.
(You don't want the juices to get too thin,
but do want it to be more of a dressing than a glaze on the beans)
7. Enjoy! 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Truth be Told

Some days instead of feeling like this
You know... Waking up ready to take the world by the soccer ball
and score from the half way line.

I feel more like this.

Ready to drop my head on the wooden floor and not move all day long.
Like "Hey sun thanks for coming up, but today's already not my day and
boy, oh boy, could you move across that sky a little faster?" 

Lately, it's been feeling more like the saggy head,
lazy bodied,
today's not happening,
kind of day.
But over and over again.

Does it help when I read other blogs and they're lives appear so perfect?
You know, delectable recipes that make my mouth water,
two kids who can speak three languages and don't ever eat with their hands,
hair that never blows out of place
and clothes that I could only wish to compliment my figure.
Nope.

It's not perfect up in this blog.
Yep, Mr. Thomas and me.
I'm usually rocking flip flops and dry shampooed hair in a messy knot.
My skin breaks out like a hormonal pre-teens.
And that's just my outsides...
My insides, oh golly.
The days where I feel like a chubbo
 (my affectionate name for fat days)
vastly outnumber the days I feel like body rockin'.
(Shout out to LMFAO -am I for real?)
My bible may very well be collecting dust with how often I neglect it.
I can only imagine my God's frustration with me.

But He breathes life, strength, and spirit into me on those days.
Yep, THOSE Friday the 13th-esque days.
Where doesn't matter what you do it's just not happenin' for you.
He comes in, offers beautiful solace and grace to a hot mess of a gal
who'd rather find comfort in a honkin' bag of 100th birthday celebration Oreos
than in the words of her wondrous creator.
She who realizes the bible will make her better,
but leans into the sugary, guilt-inducing combo of chocolate crunch and sweet creaminess
of milk's favorite cookie because...
well, because she's a heathen.


"My flesh and heart may will fail, b
ut God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
-Psalm 73:26

No disrespect by editing this verse.
More reminding myself, I don't have it all worked out.
I know there are going to be messy, ugly days.
Those messy days will outnumber the pretty, put together ones.
But He will provide my strength and portion.
Oh, my God is good.

So, here's to throwing out the cookies
(or at least enjoying one on occasion rather than by the package)
and enjoying Him, His spirit in you, His joy, goodness, and glory.

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