Sunday, December 30, 2007

Cowboys Pictures

Go Cowboys!

Sonny, Randy's dad, was hunting with a friend a few weeks ago and mentioned how he'd always wanted to go to a Cowboy's game. The friend whipped out his cell phone and called his friend, Jerry, and within minutes had 4 tickets and a parking pass to the next game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Unfortunately because of health reasons, Sonny and Corienne were not able to go, so we asked two of our good friends Stan and Eric to go with us. We sat on the 20 yard line on the the 3rd row...right behind the Cowboy' the same section with their families.
Now Randy and I are not huge football fans and I couldn't help but think the whole time that we so did not deserve to be there, but we were all beside ourselves. It was overwhelming and so...big.

Stan drove us there in his big Ford SUV and did a very fine job. He is quite an aggressive driver, but I will say that everything he did was legal. He saved us a lot of time.
We lost the game, but we didn't really care. I don't think anybody else cared either, because it seemed like everyone else was just so happy to be there. There was a girl that was right behind us that yelled. The whole time. I mean didn't miss a minute to cheer on the 'boys and ask the other team where they were going (i.e. "Where you goin'?! Nowhere!). Her husband was obviously embarassed, but she insisted that this was her birthday and she'd never get this opportunity again. We didn't mind so much after that.

It was the opportunity of a lifetime and I don't ever think I'd be able to fully describe the feeling.

Friday, November 30, 2007

What Graham is Thankful For

Graham had an assignment in class to write all that he was thankful for. This is what he wrote:

I am thankful for my family because they take care of me. I'm thankful for my computers because I have something to do when I get bored. I'm thankful for God because he made me and a place for me to live in and he gave me my mom and dad and my sister and everything else. I am thankful for church because I get to worship God and I have friends there. I'm thankful for my teacher because she teaches me (way to suck up there, Graham). I am thankful for my education because it teaches me to be smart. I'm thankful for Jesus because he died on the cross for me. I'm thankful for cars because they get us places faster (this is where he was done, but still had more paper left). I'm thankful for me because I am not an animal (see what I mean?). I am thankful for shelter because if I did not have shelter I would die. I am thankful for healthy food because it helps me live (if only you would eat it). I am thankful for water because it also helps me live. This is what I am thankful for.

I'm thankful for a kid that loves Jesus.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Best Darn Rock

Since Randy and I have been working in the Young Professionals at our church we find ourselves trying to counsel people on things we don't really know anything about. For instance, being single and 30-something, buying a house on your own, still trying to get out of your parent's house, dating, etc.

One of those things that I just couldn't seem to grasp was the "I-really-thought-this-guy-was-the-one" thing. I mean you either know or you don't. I knew. I knew right away. Even when I didn't know, I knew because I remember praying for somebody like Randy.

About 5 years ago the company Randy had been working at, Macromedia, closed their Texas offices and tried to move everyone to San Francisco. After a good laugh at the thought of moving there, Randy started looking around for another job in the metroplex. Through a friend he found a contracting job with a game company called Ensemble Studios. After two years they had to shut down the department he was working in, so once again Randy was forced to find something else.

To get a job at a game company is like trying to get a job in acting. I mean, an acting job that actually supports you, like movies or TV. Many people want to do it, but only a very few get the chance. So for Randy to even get to spend two years in the gaming industry, at a company with a major title nonetheless, was incredible. But alas, it was not meant to be. His next job would be the one that would really mold him.

Insurance. I know. To go from rock star status at Macromedia to almost seeing the promise land at Ensemble insurance software. And thus began the "Dark Ages" at the Varnell house. He did everything but throw himself in the floor and throw a temper tantrum like a 3-yr-old. It was a very trying time for all of us. We couldn't understand why God would make us go backwards.

I don't know when it happened, but somewhere along the way there was a change. Randy decided that he was going to be the best insurance software tester there ever was. He decided that he was going to be "content in all circumstances" (Proverbs 4:11) . He decided he was going to stick around and figure out what God was trying to teach him.

Not long after his resolution, he was promoted to manager of his team. Things really took a turn, not just at his job, but in his heart and soul and in our family. He became a better Sunday School teacher and better husband and a better dad. He would interview with other companies to try and find a better situation, but nothing would pan out. We'd be a little disappointed at first, but then we'd realize that God's got something better.

Today Randy started his new position at a very successful game company in downtown Dallas. He went from being over 5 employees to 40 in Dallas, LA and Russia.

This past weekend Randy spoke at a singles retreat and one of the sessions was on solitude- about being in the desert. Sometimes God puts us in the desert until all doubt is gone or until we've learned what we've needed to learn in order to move on (Numbers 14).

Looking back over the past three years it's so obvious why everytime Randy had a job interview it wasn't the one. We didn't understand it at the time, but now it makes so much sense. God wasn't finished with us. Randy hadn't learned everything he needed to learn. I never gave up on Randy having his dream job. It was pretty plain to me that God was testing Randy and preparing him for something amazing, but sometimes it's so hard to see the big picture. It's like when you're 8 months pregnant and you think you're going to be pregnant...forever!

I can't remember where it came from, but because I've done so much theatre my mom and I talk about having small roles in the play. We call them "rock" parts- like a children's play where a kid has to dress up like a rock and sit there because the teacher can't think of anything else to do with him. She'd tell me "go be the best darn rock you can be" and then eventually you'll get your starring role.

From one dream job employee to another- get ready for your close-up and standing "O" babe. Love you.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Lesson

Rachel had a history fair project that she told us was due on Friday the 26th. Then she told us that it would be due on the 24th. Monday she comes home and says "Actually it's due tomorrow (the 23rd)." She'd already spent some time researching her topic, The Battle at Marathon, so the grunt work had been done. She decided that she wanted to do a power point and that her friend Shelby was going to help. Monday had come and all we had were some notes. She had signed up for the fair over a month ago.

Randy and I scolded her for waiting till the last minute, something that she keeps having a problem with. I thought she should drop out because the last thing I wanted was for her to submit something that looked thrown together. Randy said that she should go ahead with the project and that it would be a good, but hard lesson for her to learn. She'd get there and the other projects would be well thought out and polished and she'd have to deal with a bit of embarassment that her's was a last minute project.

I agreed with Randy. There's a scripture in Proverbs that says, "Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways."

Rachel won first place. *sigh*

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fun with Groceries

Rachel had to stay after school today so Graham and I went to the grocery store after I picked him up from school. He wanted to go look at all the fun Halloween stuff but I decided he needed to stay with me and help.

My dream is to be the only one in the grocery store shopping for the rest of my life. If I had a wish from a genie, that would be it. There's always those couple of women who have hours to shop and need to look at everything and read the labels. Okay, that's me sometimes, but at least I try to stay out of people's way and not park my cart in the middle of the aisle so that others can't get through (deep cleansing breath). Anyway, I realized what time it was and that I had about 7 minutes before I had to pick up Rachel from school. So we rushed to check out and I decided that instead of standing in line it would faster to go through the self checkout line.

Normally, the self checkout is fast and I'm pretty good at it...but only, it seems, when I have all the time in the world and about three items to check out. This was not one of those times. It wanted to know if the item was bagged and if not was I going to bag it. In my haste and frustration I told Graham to get the full bags and put them back in the cart. I also told him he could scan the gum I allowed him to get. He began to do both.

I was so frustrated trying to scan my groceries and in such a hurry that I was not paying attention to anything but getting everything scanned and bagged. I heard Graham say "uh oh" and assumed that he was referring to my problems with it taking an eternity to scan the groceries.

Now let me pause here to impart a life lesson. When your child says "uh oh" always, always find out what the "uh oh" is for. Even if you think you know, ask. If they're standing in front of you and drop their gum out of their mouth and it lands on the floor and they say "uh oh", go ahead and ask them "what's uh oh?".

Graham then asked me if I was frustrated. They've learned that when mom and dad are frustrated it's better to wait for questions and comments until mom and dad have gotten their self-control. I replied as nice as I could, "Yes, Graham. I'm a little frustrated. These groceries don't seem to want to scan." He was wringing his hands and it looked like he was really in a dilemma.

He said, "You know when you told me to put the bags in the cart?"


"Well, I put them in that other ladies cart that was right here (at the end of our line) and she left with that cart."

I had just paid for everything. He had no idea what she looked like. Finally, the nice young man who worked at the store heard our situation and helped us look for the lady. She was gone. We looked at the receipt and I was able to go get all the groceries that was missing. Thank you, Wal-Mart.

Fortunately Rachel's teacher has a great sense of humor and we had a good laugh.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Sleepover

Rachel had her very first sleepover this past weekend.

3:15pm Rachel has student council meeting after to school, so Graham walks home with friend #1. Upon entry into the house, Graham asks if he can get himself and friend #1 a snack. I agree.

3:17 Graham and friend #1 are sitting on the couch watching Disney. Sitting at my desk viewing the back of the couch I notice how close their heads are. Upon further inspection I see that they are sitting next to each other...very close.

3:25 I ask Graham if he has a crush on friend #1. He assures me that she is a friend and not a "sweetheart".

3:30 Pick up Rachel from school

5:00 Pick up friend #2 and head to nail salon.

5:30 Arrive at nail salon 15 minutes late to be greeted by a frustrated and weary Asian receptionist that is mumbling in Vietnemese. I share the same weary smile already feeling the effects of being in a car with 3 ten-year-old girls and an 8 year-old boy.

5:32 Pam calls telling me she's been called back to work and cannot pick up Graham from the nail salon as we had planned. Graham is fine with this as he intently watches friend#1 get her manicure. The ladies in the salon think he's adorable and asks if he wants his nails done too. Graham is conflicted as he watches the girls get little designs painted on their nails, but testosterone wins out and he refuses.

6:00 Still at nail salon. Randy calls to say he just left downtown Dallas and will stop at home to get changed and then meet us all the way out in Frisco. Through a gritted smile I tell him to please hurry.

6:30 Arrive at Steak-and-Shake. Our server, Melanie, greets us to take our order. She looks non-plussed and I sympathize with her. She asks what we'd like to drink. Rachel- chocolate milkshake, Graham- chocolate milkshake, friend#2 coffee mocha milkshake (I ask if this would be okay with her mother and she assures me that it would be...I make a judgement call in favor of the milkshake), friend #2- banana, no chocolate, no banana, no chocolate, no...Melanie sighs deeply and looks at her watch...banana it is.

6:36 Randy calls to say he's left the house and will be there as fast as he can. We order our food.

6:40 Rachel opens presents and proceeds to open all the packages of markers and paints that friend #2 gave her. After a "look" from Melanie I explain that it's not a good idea to open it all up right there.

6:55 Randy arrives just in time for us to pay the bill and head to the movie theatre. We are late for the movie.

7:15 A paycheck later I hand everyone their movie ticket and we head inside. Pam has met us there.

7:18 Randy inadvertantly embarasses Graham in front of friend #1. Graham cries and hides. I explain to Randy the situation between friend #1 and Graham. This only heightens the situation as Graham holds to his position that friend #1 is just a friend and not a "sweetheart".

7:35 Friend #3 finally arrives fresh from soccer practice. By the time she and I get to our theatre she has asked me 42 questions about the evening so far. I assure her that she's not missed much, remembering that the other girls will fill her in on every last detail.

10:00 We arrive at our house. Graham is safely with Pam at her apartment.

10:45 After playing "spies" the girls declare they are hungry. I'm not sure what I was thinking, but there was not much food in the kitchen that 10-year-old girls would enjoy. I find a box of macaroni and cheese and begin to boil the water. Meanwhile the girls are passing out Rachel's old ballet costumes and writing the story to a ballet to be performed.

11:00 I attend the impromptu ballet (which turned out to not be half bad...this is Plano...they've all had at least one year of ballet).

12:30am Randy, the nightowl, declares he's tired and is going to bed. I put a movie in, turn out all the lights and go over the boundries of the house.

7:15am Friend #3 has to leave for a soccer game.

9:45 Friend #2 is taken to play rehearsal. Hannah Montana is requested and all sing to the top of their lungs.

2:00pm Friend #1 is finally taken home...much to the chagrin of Graham who finally admits there might just be...something there.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Yard: 1, Randy: 0

I am genetically deficient.

Yes, it's true.

Somewhere, down in the lines of code that make up who I am, carefully stirred amongst generations and generations of my ancestry, someone dropped a part. Cracked an egg. Fed the last piece of the puzzle to the family dog.


I speak of yardwork.

My mamaw--my father's mother--she could grow anything. I swear, the woman could put rocks in pots and water them, and before long, she'd be taking pieces of plants to neighbors because her living room looked like a botanical experiment gone awry. My mom's family are farmers, for goodness sake. And while chickens don't usually count as vegetable matter, the very fact that they cut a living out of valley in northwest Arkansas should stand as clear evidence that they and the land lived in peace and harmony.


I'm at war with my live oak trees.

Flashback seven years ago. I'm house hunting with Carrie, my beautiful (and also organically inept) wife. What do we look for? No, not the luxurious master bathroom so evident in track housing in North Texas. Not a stable, termite-less foundation. Not even an attic you could move around in to change a filter in the AC.

We wanted trees.

Not mini Home-Depot-purchased play-trees that contractors plant with every new home to assuage some environmental regulation. No. Big-honkin' defy-Texas-heat trees. And we got 'em. Three. Ginormous. Huge-antic. Umbrella. Trees.

Now, let me explain to you what they mean when they label these particular trees "live oaks". By "live", they mean living. By living, they mean intelligent. Oh, yes. The trees watch us. Not in some friendly "we love you" way. No, no. They watch us. When we least suspect it.

Let me illustrate.

Once a quarter, I feel guilty enough that I'm the only unretired green-thumb-certified ex-pro-gardener on my block, and so I drag out a truckload of well-battered lawn tools to begin my battle:
  • 5 horsepower Murray mulching Mower (sometimes even starts).
  • Weed eater (change cord every five minutes).
  • Edger (shrieks like a cat in the washer).
  • Hedge trimmers (actually, I think these work)
  • Clippers (missing a spring and are too dull to cut wet spaghetti)
  • Gloves (check for spiders)
  • Rake (screw loose; head randomly spins or detaches for fun)
  • Extendable tree-pole saw (with trick "bendy" saw head)
  • Leaf blower - vac (permanently "on"; plug in and chase)
Occasionally, I also add a ladder to the carnival, which I'm certain voids part of my medical insurance, if I were to check the fine print.

And thus begins the dance.

I mow. I blow. I cut. I suck. I scoop. I bend. I trim. Usually for four or five hours, as time distorts itself, speeding up to be sure I never have time to do everything in one day. I ignore the heat. I fight off rabid fire ants. I pay great attention to detail!

Somewhere, as the sun is setting over the California coast, and I am returning my arsenal to a tangled jumble of extension cords in my garage, my yard looks as good as it will look. Which is to say, if you took a picture of our Cul-de-Sac, our yard is the one which makes me understand just a bit of how homeowners associations came to be. Despite my best efforts, I still go to bed fearing that tomorrow, the President will fly over and declare our home a national disaster area. At least then, maybe I'd get some federal funding.

And there, in the quiet still of the night, when my body is reminding me that it's tired of maintaining an active metabolism...that's when they strike.

The trees.

I remind you, they are named "live oak trees". They are cunning. Cleverest of all trees, the live oak abides by no rules of seasonal leaf-shedding. No! It cannot be! They are the non-conformists of the aboreal world. Green-year round, they shed their small thick leaves only when they wish.

And their shedding dreams are no more fulfilled than when my lawn is clean and free of leaves. The earthy scent of freshly-raked soil; the aroma of trimmed grass; the acrid lingering reminder of an electric leaf blower with a short--this combination, this chemical conconction of my efforts triggers something primal and vicious in my live oak trees.

And that is when they strike.

With the new day, I arise to see the fruits of my efforts, which were unobservable in the darkness under which my labors ceased. I open my front door, peering through my frame-of-a storm-door (by product of a rock and a malicious weed-eater)...

...onto a yard of leaves. No, that is unfair. It's not always leaves. I misspeak of the tree. No, no. In the fall, it adds a generous mix of non-rakeable acorns. In the spring, it's the little snaky strings of tree-poop, which layer our yard like new-fallen yellow snow (God bless Claritin). In the winter, it adds sticks and twigs to the mix for extra fiber.

They win. I give up. The battle goes to the trees. No, I will continue my efforts. A neighbor once shamed me by taping a sign to my door: "Take pride in were you live". Yes, just like that, spelling and all. And I have learned! I may not be talented, but let that not stop me! Next quarter, I will again arm myself! I will fight the dirt and the flora.

I will lose.

But that's alright.

I've made a deal with the sprinkler.

Next summer...the trees are done for.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How our words abuse us!

Anyone who's been on a date knows how easily your words and intentions can be misconstrued to embarrassing results. Take that setting, and remove all of those wonderful cues of interaction that our brains process without conscious effort--subtleties in spoken tone, facial expressions, body language, etc.

Guess what you have?

Email, forums and chat!

I've seen time after time that unwanted conflict creeps into electronic communication when one of two things happens:
  • Someone tries to type a mail with clever and subtle sarcasm that isn't conveyed with the words they use,
  • someone reads into the message tone and meaning that it was never intended to have.
Those misunderstandings escalate rapidly and spiral far out of control, and cause relationships to collapse.

There is one good way to try and avoid this, though:

Be over-sensitive to your own writing.

Be flat-out paranoid about ways you communicate. If there's ever a question, be clear instead of funny. It'll save you heartache.

At the same time:
Be cautious about how you allow other people's writing to affect you.

A lot of times, reading something a second or third time, and thinking of it from several angles of intent, will give you a completely different interpretation of what someone meant. If you are still unsure, ask them PRIVATELY before escalating and arming in public.

Bottom line: realize that written communication is rarely clear. Very, very few people write with skill enough to communicate correct intention. It always pays to clarify before engaging any interesting emotions.


Our word for the week, thanks to our new Sunday School curriculum at church, is "inititive". The kids and I have been talking about ways we show inititive- seeing something that needs to be done and doing it. This morning our devotion said that showing initive was obeying God.

Now, I've learned over the past several years how to motivate the kids into doing something. Rachel is hard. She needs to impress someone and be reminded many times of how great she is. Graham, on the other hand, will do anything for a buck. So this morning I told them if they can come home from school and tell me how they showed inititive today then I'd give them a quarter and they can buy a pencil tomorrow.

We prayed and then Graham followed me back into my room so I could fix his hair. He said with all sincerity and conviction and not an ounce of drama in his voice, "Mom, you don't have to give me a quarter, because we don't need to be rewarded for something we're supposed to do anyway."

Dear God, thank you for a son that "gets it" more than me sometimes and forgive me for ever expecting payment or reward for obeying your Word.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Funny Rachel

So we made it through the first week of school. On the first day Rachel came home with half an eyebrow. Apparantly there's a game involving stickers and ripping them off your face.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Back to Life

I'm sitting here at my desk at 7:46am on Monday morning, the earliest I've been up in many weeks. I actually got up at 6:15. The house is quiet with the exception of Matt Lauer quietly in the background and the hum of the air conditioner. Peace.

I just got back from dropping the kids off at school. First day. New backpacks, new outfits, new pencils, new outlooks. Fresh haircuts, milk money and a whole list of things mom forgot to get for this very important day. First time parents dropping off their kindergartners wiping away tears with video cameras glued to their eye sockets. I laugh quietly as the fathers in their business suits drag away the moms as she's waving "bye bye" to her little precious one. The little precious one is literally rolling his eyes and waving "bye bye" over his shoulder as he spots a soccer buddy. Good luck finding a parking space, because this is the one day that most parents walk into the classroom with their child.

Anticipation. Excitement. All kinds of activities to do. But then that's just me. I think I may have hurt some feelings this morning with how over-the-top chipper I was. I have been waiting for this day for the past month. A whole month filled with "I'm bored" "she hit me" "it's too hot" "I'm hungry" "I'm bored". I piled my kids in the car and dropped them off at the front door of the school wishing them well and trying to embarass them as much as possible yelling out "I love you!" and "Make good choices!" They run.

There are two different parents- the good ones that make this day a special one for their child and walk them into their classes and make sure they find their lockers and desks okay. And then there's us- the vets- the ones doing the happy dance in our cars as we barely hit the brakes to let the kids out. The ones with days already planned of projects we didn't get to all summer and lunches with friends we haven't seen for weeks. The ones snickering at those other parents... because it wasn't long ago that we were wiping away tears and sending them off to another day of firsts.

Happy first day of school Rachel and Graham.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

At the Rodeo

Mom and Dad took the kids to the Ft. Smith rodeo over the summer. Graham kept that bandana over his face almost the whole time. He loves being the bandit. That's Rachel's "tough" look. She just can't pull that off- she's too sweet.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Alright already

Yesterday Randy and I celebrated 13 years of marriage on the 13th. Good thing we're not superstitious. Randy reminded me that in 13 years from now our kids will be in college if not already done.

We had a nice quiet evening, thanks to our friend Jill who stepped in at the last minute to watch our kiddos. We went to our favorite resturant and, as always, reflected about where we've been and where we're headed. We had the fun discussion of what could we do better and the things that we do really well. We promised to go on a trip soon, just me and him, because we haven't done that in a while. I'm looking at my calendar and October of '09 is looking promising. Just in time for our 15th!

Randy is currently working for EMSI where he is manager for the QA team. He also teaches the Young Professionals at our church, The Heights Baptist in Richardson.

My first job is being mom to Rachel and Graham. In my spare time I write for The Skitguys and travel with another drama group called Skitzo. This summer I did 8 camps in 6 weeks. It was a lot of fun, but hard to be gone from home so much. I'd like to say I'm glad to be back to a normal schedule, but I'm not sure we ever have a normal schedule.

Rachel is 9 and will be in the 4th grade. She really likes piano and singing in her choir at church. She now wears the same shoe size as Aunt Pam and a friend of ours assures us that she will grow into them.

Graham is 8 and the resident soccer star. He'll be in the 3rd grade and we are praying for his teacher to have a really good sense of humor. He also has a computer keyboard permanently affixed to his hands.

I have never been very good at journaling. Everyone keeps saying that I should start a blog. Not because they're particularly interested in what I have to say, but because they have one and so should I. It's like being in jr. high all over again!