I am who I am…a pontification on a changing life

I am Jane Van Horn. While I am always a mom, my life changed 11 months ago when I left my career as a mom/wife/volunteer and became a full-time employee for a Fabulous church camp. I have struggled over the past 11 months trying to juggle the mom/wife/volunteer and employee “balls”.

The volunteer ball dropped. I could no longer handle that aspect of my life. I guess, luckily, one of my volunteer jobs was out at Camp Fontanelle, where I became employed. I took a diminished capacity in my Girl Scout volunteering. I went from being a leader and a volunteer leader manager and a product sales coordinator to just a product sales coordinator. My volunteering for my church almost completely stopped. Life Changed!

My children, being almost 16 and 18, do not need me in the same capacity as before. While, at least for the next 26 days, I have to drive to my daughter to non-school activities, my children are very independent. They handle doing their own laundry; they drive to school activities; they are able to prepare their own breakfast and lunch and can make dinner if I am not around. Life has changed!

When I was a stay-at-home mom, I always felt that I could be doing more. My home could be cleaner. My ironing could be done in a more timely manner. My files could be better organized. I was always cooking and baking and I was heavily involved in my volunteering and the lives of my children. I ran all of the errands for the family and felt I was the manager of the house. It was what I dreamt of all of my years as a youth and young adult. I was (am) a traditional woman. I wanted to be a “housewife” and mother.

What I found out after I started working full-time was that I was doing a great job as a housewife and mom! While I was not as organized as I wanted, life ran fairly smoothly in our household because my life revolved around making sure everyone was where they should be, on time and they had what they needed to get their job done, whether it was school, extra-curricular items or anything for my husband. WOW, how life has changed.

What these past 11 months have taught me is that I truly loved being available. I loved being the person that people could count on being there, doing “this” and organizing “that”. My going back to work, in an employment capacity, was always discussed. I think I was in denial that it would ever happen. When it happened, I thought I could handle it all.

I couldn’t/can’t be the person that I was for 18 years. I have not adjusted well and I am a work in progress. My new reality has not been a smooth transition for me, my husband or my children. I have let things drop. And my going to work full-time did not mean that they could pick up the things that I previously, did because they live busy lives as well. Life has changed and we still don’t know how it will evolve.

For those stay-at-home moms out there, keep doing what you do and now that you are making a difference in the lives of your families. Be confident in what you do, but don’t take lightly your responsibilities, you never know when your life may change.

I was blessed to be able to have time to spend with my children. I had six years where I was the homeschool mom. It was time that I will never forget. Our children are who they are, strong, independent, intelligent, well-rounded, of strong moral character partly, because I was there to guide them and be that positive influence. While I have not been the perfect wife, I tried to be available to make sure that my husband’s life ran smoothly. I was his secretary, sounding board, friend and lover.

While my circumstances have changed, I am who I am. I am still confident, interdependent, a strong believer and a person who wants to be the best I can be for the world. As my life evolves, I will see how this thing called life plays itself out.

Eleven months ago, I quit writing because of my life change. On this Ash Wednesday, my Lenten “give up” is not giving up but giving back. It is time to start writing again and trying to make sure my life evolution is directed by me and not a reactionary change.

Please be patient with me as I work on being the director of my life. For these 11 months, I have been reactionary. It is time to take back control. So while my writing is a little rusty, at least I am writing again.

Find your Lenten give back and work to improve your life!

How do we use our words?

I have a very diverse life. I have been blessed to experience many aspects of life. I have had full-time jobs, part-time jobs, and non-paying jobs. I am a wife, a mother a friend. And as I write this, I notice that my first three sentences all begin ‘I have’. My thoughts run to “how selfish am I to be thinking about what ‘I have’ instead of what I can do, or be, or give.’

And that makes me laugh because my family is very conscious of our giving both in time and finances to organizations and people who are less fortunate than our family. So why is it that I look at those sentences and cringe and think of the selfishness of the word have?

The first definition of have in the Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is…’to hold or maintain as a possession, privilege, or entitlement: to hold in one’s use, service, regard or at one’s disposal.’ The definition goes on but it never sounds positive. Further down in the definition it actually says that it can mean to ‘take advantage of: TRICK, FOOL (as in been had by his partner).’ One of the only positive spins I see in the wordage has to deal with marriage ‘to accept marriage’. No wonder I felt a little queasy after seeing the first three sentences I wrote.

So I go one step further and find Roget’s Thesaurus hoping for some affirmation that have is not a bad word and should not need to be struck from my vocabulary. I begin to think how hard it is going to be to find words or phrases that can replace the word have. I am somewhat pleased that the first word to replace have in the thesaurus is understand. Okay, that is a good word. The next word sends me in the dumps again…possess…ugh, the third word include, YEA! I continue looking at the thesaurus and see that there are over four and a half pages, or approximately 1000, have phrases in which the thesaurus gives alternative wording.

I don’t want to think that have is a bad word. I have many things and I know that means a lot in our ability to give. It says in the Bible (paraphrase) to those who have been given much, much will be expected. I believe that one reaps the other (my words) because I have, I can give. Because I give, I have. I do believe that I am blessed because of my trying to be of service to others.

You cannot give what is not there. I find time to give to volunteer organizations because it is important to me. When my children were young, I was their Girl Scout and/or Cub Scout leader. Before we started homeschooling, I volunteered at their school.

If something is important, you can find the time; you find a way to fit it in to your schedule even if it is stuffing envelopes at your home after the kids are in bed. I used to tell people why I volunteered so much was to make up for those who did not have the time. I did not have a full-time job so I was more flexible than those who worked full-time.

Sometimes, the unimportant things get pushed to the side temporarily. I think that is the personality of many women; they sacrifice themselves for others and say that there will always be time for themselves when their children get older.  While I would really like to spend my days quilting, there are more important things that I can be doing to help impact lives and our community.

I believe that I am doing all I can. I devote many hours to volunteering. As my children get older, my volunteer focus changes. They don’t need me as much anymore and their activities don’t lend themselves to needing me as a volunteer. But my giving does not stop, it just evolves.

In this season of giving, it would be nice if everyone took the time to look at their life, see how it impacts their family, their community, our world. If everyone, and I mean everyone, gave up one hour a week (on average) to help someone, to help an organization, think of the millions of hours that will have been given to better our world. It is just an hour, 52 hours over the year, just a little more than 1.25 of a work week, to make this place we call home, better.

Now don’t get me wrong; I am not asking everyone to restrict their volunteering to one hour a week. I would love it if everyone who is not already volunteering began donating an hour a week. I know there are people out there that do not give anything for one reason or another. Volunteering is not limited to adults, children as young as five can find something to do. The Girl Scout program and Cub Scout program provide many opportunities for service.

This is the only world I know. The way that I treat it, I believe, has an impact on how I live and feel and how the world and its inhabitants feel about me. If I see something that needs to be done and feel passionate about it, if I do not act, who will?

If someone sees a small fire and does not put it out, the end result can be destructive and deadly. How many small fires do we see throughout our day, that if we would just act, could be squelched and stopped in a short time? How many of those small fires are allowed to burn and destroy so much? We see it all of the time during the dry season. If someone would have not dropped that cigarette or made sure that their campfire was extinguished… If someone would have addressed their angry feelings, immediately, instead of letting them smolder and grow into a ‘forest fire’, what a better world we would have.

Think about the things that you have. Do you have enough that you could share just a little to someone or an organization that has nothing? Let’s take our positive haves and help out those that have nothing.

This is totally not where this blog was going today but this is where I was led. I hope that everyone has a chance to be led where they have never thought and make an impact in ways they could never imagine.

Luke 12:48 ‘But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone have been entrusted with much, even more will be required.’ (New Living Translation)

Bread Pudding

I said I might write about bread pudding today and decided it was a quirky topic and I should just go for it. Who knows how this will develop. We will go on this journey together.

I love bread pudding! Whenever I see it on the menu, I will order it for dessert. That is quite the commentary because I generally never order dessert from a restaurant. I then make a judgement of the restaurant based on how I liked the bread pudding. I do the same when it comes to eggplant parmesan in Italian restaurants and tamales in Mexican restaurants.

I like my bread pudding to be moist but not so moist that you can’t differentiate the torn (or cut) pieces of bread. It has to have the perfect consistency that doesn’t taste mushy in my mouth. It needs to be not too dry, not too wet. Just like Goldilocks, it needs to be just right.

It can be chocolate bread pudding or banana or just plain ol’ bread pudding. What is a delicacy, but really adds to my enjoyment, is a warmed rum butter sauce. In fact, I would say a standard bread pudding with a warmed rum butter sauce and oh yea, nuts sprinkled on top is the best of the best.

I guess I am somewhat like bread pudding. I am just a plain ol’ girl from the Midwest. I like to think that I have good values that are simple to follow; be nice, give back to the community through service, and raise a family that is respected by the community. I think that whatever you believe in, you need to be consistent and follow through. As a Christian, I believe I should be in church every Sunday. Yes, there may be days that I would rather stay under my nice warm quilts, but going to church is the least I can do to thank God for allowing me to wake up every morning.

I would like to live a simple life. How wonderful it would be to not be tied to a computer for communication or a cellphone for that same reason. How nice it would be to wake up in the morning and only need to worry about making the best home for my family and volunteering to make my community a better place to live.

All very simple. You know there has to be a but coming though don’t you…

BUT that is not the reality of our world. We need to be connected to our electronic world. That is just the way it is. If it weren’t for the internet, I would not be blogging and you would not be reading this post right now. If it weren’t for the cellphone, I wouldn’t be able to have a sense of security knowing that I can get a hold of my children when I need that connection. Our family has been able to learn about the world and our country because of our traveling. What a wonderful opportunity we have had that many have not.

Those things are the rum butter sauce and nuts. Without those extras, the food is good (life) but the extras help me appreciate everything that this world has to offer. Without the internet or our traveling, our world would be so small. I am so glad that we have been able to expand our children’s scope of the world because of those extras.

So while my simple rules for life are good, because of the rum sauce and nuts, my life does seem more complete. There are days when I just am bread pudding and have no toppings. I clean my home, run errands for the whole family, bake/cook and do all of those domestic things that I just love. More times than not, there is so much more going on that it gets crazy. There are days that not only is there rum sauce and nuts, but sprinkles and whipped cream or maybe a flambe’ is made by adding rum and catching it on fire. Those days when I have added a little too many extras, make me a little crazy and I feel overwhelmed. The simple life helps me appreciate those extras and conversely the extras help me appreciate when things are simple. In that way, my life is complete.

How is your life complete, are you a plain bread pudding or are you someone with a few toppings or an overload?

My coffee latte for the day was Almond Joy; chocolate, almond and coconut.

Twin Bing old-fashioned candy bar for an old-fashioned wife

Twin Bing, the name of my coffee today. It is made with Black Cherry, Chocolate and Macadamia Nut flavoring. I added a little coconut for added flavoring. The original Twin Bing is made with Cherry nougat, chocolate and ground peanuts. I did the best I could to match the flavor but there is no peanut flavoring that I can find.

Today was just one of those days. Not a bad day, but a day that went by quickly. My intention was to have it be a day of running errands. Go to the bank, the store, check on the cat that we are cat sitting. I wanted to get those things done today so I could spend the day home tomorrow and clean, organize, etc…

The day started late. I mean I was up before 6:30 but when I thought I would be out of the house before 8:00, it was well after 9:00 before I walked out the door. And instead of going to one bank, I went to two banks, one for my daughter and one for the GIrl Scout troop. I then had to go to the church because there was some Girl Scout items there that were dropped there for me, so an additional stop. Next was the post office. I dropped off a letter and a package and then headed south to Omaha. I thought I would be home by noon and it was 10:30 before I was even in the city. I guess my day was going to be longer than I had expected.

I stopped at the BP gas station where I had a coupon to get 5 cents off a gallon. Needed to use that with the price of gasoline these days. I had this brainy idea that I should call my girlfriend who works in Omaha and have her meet me at Nobbies to pick up items for the Girl Scout overnight. Nobbies (nobbies.com) is a local party store that is better known nationwide for their catalog/internet business, Oriental Trading (orientaltrading.com). It is the best place to purchase items for holidays and parties. Joan and I met and got the cute little Halloween craft items for the upcoming overnight. After we went our separate ways, I decided I was close so I would visit the cat that we are watching. While spending time in the home, my husband calls and asks how close I am to being able to go home. I told him I was just finishing up with the cat and I still needed to do the grocery shopping. He said that he needed me to go home and check to see if he really had purchased his deer tags for this season. He had heard a rumor that the deer tags were going to stop being sold as of tomorrow (ended up being not true) so I headed home to check. I told Kent that I would go shopping tomorrow.

That is what I like about my life. I am a wife. I do not have a full-time job so I can be around and take care of the family. I know that there are women out there that think I am so old-fashioned and I should “get a life”. But I like being able to be around and be the errand runner, the person that people can count on at any time of the day or night.

If I had a full-time job in an office, I never would have been able to take off time to run home and see that Kent had the deer tags purchased for the season. He was worried and being in Colorado, he would not have felt as ease until he knew that he really had taken care of the tags. Because I don’t have a full-time paying job outside the home, I was able to be a comforter for a friend who needed to get to UNMC in Omaha for her husband. She didn’t know her way around Omaha and she knew that I could get her there in a timely manner. I was there when my girlfriend had to make the decision to take her husband off of life support. I took care of her daughter when she just couldn’t handle it anymore. I was able to homeschool our children for 6 years, which has helped mold them to who they are today. If being available for the people I love, having the ability to drop things to help out, to volunteer for causes that are important to me makes me an old-fashioned woman, then that is what I am.

BUT… I am an independent person. While I do not make money that I could support myself, I have the personality of a business woman. I expect things to be run properly. I expect respect from anyone I work with in my volunteering, substitute teaching, my music work at church or all of the committees of which I am involved. I dress neatly and when necessary, professionally. I am polished in all I do.

People who know me, know one of my favorite sayings, “I wish I could live the Amish life.” And it is true, I love the sense of community that the Amish have. I like that they share their resources. I would love to have the ability to grow all of my own food, trade my goods for things that I cannot grow or make.

I have a garden, I make quilts (not as many as I would like). I can sew. I do not knit or crochet or have a garden the size I would like. I do have the ability to grow some vegetables in the winter as we have a greenhouse. I have actually made cheese and I regularly make bread for the family. I am an awesome cook (if I say so myself) and love to do those things for my family. I sing, cross stitch, am a pretty good organizer and have leadership skills. I can speak in front of 300 people and not bat an eye and I can teach young people how to develop their music talents with their voices and musical instruments. So with all of the domestic talents I have, I have just as many business-like talents.

Which do I like better? I have no favorite because, for me, they each compliment each other and when they work together, it enhances everything. I am who I am; Independent, dependent, interdependent. I love my life and the irony of everything I am and do.I am such a mixed bag and I wouldn’t change a thing.