Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I Think I Found It!

The toy that can survive Tucker...Nylabone! I'd seen these at Walmart, rather unassuming dog toys, sort of bland, uninteresting. If it didn't appeal to me, I wondered what on earth would my dog want with it? They're hard nylon bones, plastic looking. Not soft or squishy. Not squeaky or chewy. Hard and uninviting, cold. A few people had recommended them, but Kongs also got great recommendations for serious chewers and Tucker can eat a Kong like I can eat cake. And the Nylabones are considerably less expensive than Kongs, so how could they possibly be better? But seeing we've run the gamot of every other so-called 'indestructible' toy created for dogs, I decided to give in and see what Tucker would make of these new hard, nubby bones.

I picked out the large rhino bone and didn't realize that they're actually flavored. The rhino is bacon flavored, other toys are chicken, beef, or liver flavored! There's a bunch of different sizes and styles of Nylabone toys-some almost resemble teething toys and key rings like you'd give babies. I may have been mistaken about this product line after all, but the true test was yet to be seen at home. What would Tucker do with his new rhino Nylabone?

So home I went with my groceries and Tuck's new toy. He'd been curled up napping in his crate, slowly stretchs out his front legs, pink tongue curling languidly in a big, teethy yawn. He ducks his head coming out the door, he really has gotten tall, and still bumps his shoulders, body wiggling hello as I scratch him all over, stumpy tail wagging butt and he pushes against me for more love. He follows me out to the kitchen, hopeful there's some sort of treats tucked in with the other groceries, something special just for him. He's spoiled and he knows it!

I unwrap his new Nylabone, doubt still lingering in the back of my mind. Surely he'll look at me like I've lost my mind, "What am I supposed to do with...with....this?" that look will say. He gives it a sniff, and another, then gently takes it from my hand. Instant head to stump wiggling and a throaty gurgle of puppy happiness, he bounds off down the hall to show off this new toy to Sweet Pea and Ruby. I have to dig out treats and chewies for them as well, now jealous that their nutball sibling has some great new prize he's rubbing in their faces...

Tucker spent most of the day with his Nylabone. He's made some minor scratches in it but nowhere close to chewing any part of it off in a chunk. He seems really happy with this new toy and I'm impressed with its obvious durability. I think I know what Santa's going to fill Tucker's stocking with at Christmas...maybe the house stands a chance after all!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Advent Begins

Life gets back to normal today, or at least as normal as life can get around here--haha. Thanksgiving break is over so Mr. Michael heads back to school. Hubby works late tonight and I'll be spending the greater chunk of the day restoring the house to some semblence of recognizable organization and de-dog hairing the floor and furniture.

I've been contemplating dragging out the boxes of Christmas decorations but find myself hesitant to offer up more indigestible chew toys for Tucker. He's gotten so tall, he can reach anywhere we might try to put up a nativity scene or a set of candles, hang a wreath or string lights. No where is safe anymore, except maybe the top of the fridge. It's a little disheartening. We may only stick to outside lights and decorations this year, with a late tree and stockings going up in the basement right before Ashlee and Kyle arrive the week before Christmas and baracading the steps with a baby gate to keep Sir Crazy Pup upstairs until Christmas is over and the tree and ornaments are safely packed away for another year.

I've managed to make great progress shopping and wrapping but haven't baked even one batch of cookies yet. I should have three weeks of baking under my belt at this point and a good stash of sweet treats stuffed away in the freezer, but nothing...A good dose of snow could possibly motivate me to head into the kitchen and begin Betty Crockering, but I can't convince this rain to freeze into flakes. Perhaps a revamping of the baking list is in order for this year, a paring down to just the favorite treats. We could all use a few less temptations this time of year anyway, right?

We start our Jesse Tree devotions tonight, I'm looking forward to that. I drew our tree on the dry erase board and Michael added a title and a few little drawings already, as excited as me to begin. I've begun my own Advent calendar doodles as least we should be in for a colorful journey over the next four weeks as we look forward to the greatest gift ever given, the arrival of our Savior come Christmas Day.

Each day Michael will draw an ornament on a branch related to that day's devotion

His title =0)

The beginning of my calendar

Monday, November 28, 2011

So Loved

So much that I’ve been reading lately in books and devotionals confesses God’s amazing love for me, for all of us. A while back I read Francis Chan’s Crazy Love, then more recently, Rob Bell’s Love Wins. I’m currently in Song of Songs in my morning Bible time, which oozes God’s love. Devotional after devotional speaks of how much God loves us, how much He wants us to wake up and LIVE in the awareness of that love.

We run about, so busy in our day to day lives. We go to church every Sunday, attend Bible studies. We have our morning quiet time, reading Scripture and remembering our daily prayers. We volunteer and act the good Christian act. But are we fully living in God’s love? Do we really appreciate the immense intensity of how much He actually loves us?

If we could be more aware of just how much God truly, deeply, passionately loves us and opened our hearts to really experience that overflowing wash of love, released ourselves into feeling, soaking, breathing that love and actually living and enjoying the intensity of that kind of relationship with God-imagine how that would change the face of our world? Can you picture how others would view Christians then-these crazy, happy LOVED people…and to possibly embrace the thought that God loves all of us that much—not just the 'good' ones who show up for Sunday services every week…every single one of us.

You know how you feel in the first few months of a new romance? For those of us who’ve been married a while…try to remember those early days: the tingling, the excitement, the rush! You feel like you’re dancing on air, as light as a feather, everything sparkles and the world is so beautiful…remember? God loves us like that. Do you know it? Can you feel it? Imagine the world if we could all be aware of that love….

A couple videos from Francis Chan to really make you think:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Few New Traditions

One thing that's hard to do when you move a lot is to settle into community traditions. I've done better this year with finding local seasonal activities for our family to enjoy with the help of Butler's Calendar of Events. Last night we went to Light up Night downtown and watched as they lit the tree in Diamond Park, then walked up and down Main Street enjoying the stores' decorations and lights, carolers singing, and soaked up some of the spirit of the upcoming Christmas holiday. It was a beautiful night and we brought Tucker along with us--it'd been a while since we'd taken him anywhere. He had such a great time being loved on by all the kids and grown ups! We definitely need to take him out and about more often.

Earlier in the day, I had dug out an old copy of A Christmas Carol and, like we did reading some of Poe for Halloween, Michael and I started reading Dickens before bedtime last night. The book I found even includes some of his lesser known Christmas classics-The Cricket on the Hearth and The Chimes, and a couple others to keep us reading all through December!

We're also going to start our Jesse Tree Advent Devotional this week. Since my printer decided to go on the fritz, I wasn't able to print out the entire sixty-eight pages (a little much...) But managed to pare it down to a more reasonable twenty pages and a wonderful friend offered to print it for us. For our tree, I plan to draw bare branches on our kitchen's dry erase board then have Michael draw on the ornaments every day. I think he'll get into the art aspect and I know I'll really enjoy seeing his creativity fill in our tree. I'll do my own Advent calendar doodling in my daily planner--yes, I'll post pics as they both fill in!

For our weekly letter/postcard challenge, I did send a letter off to my penpal, Janine, in the UK, then sat down and created a Christmas postcard to send out into the world via Postcrossing. I bought a set of watercolor pencils a couple years ago and never got up the courage to actually try them. I suffer blocks like that-totally psych myself into doing nothing. Well, no more. I'm deciding to be a little braver. It's a very simple design, but I colored it in then was fun! I have more ideas I want to try and having this little success under my belt definitely encourages me to try my hand at more!

Hopefully we'll break out the decorations soon, though I'm not sure how well all that will do with Tucker the Insatiable. I'm afraid he'll eat everything we put up! We've decided to put our tree in the basement for a couple reasons: I don't plan to heat our back porch like we did last winter, save some on our utilities, and Bill spent a whole day downstairs finally clearing out leftover moving refuse and organizing everything else that couldn't simply be tossed or donated to Goodwill. It's a whole new world down there! We have this huge room, complete with our old TV and an electric fireplace-I think it'll make for a nice, cozy Christmas morning--if we can keep Tucker upstairs until then so he doesn't destroy the tree and all the trimmings! Life has certainly never been boring since he joined our lives!

Wishing you all a very happy and blessed Advent season. Take the time to enjoy some new family traditions and make great memories for years to come!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Feast from Leftovers

I think one of the greatest things that comes from Thanksgiving, aside from family time and reminiscing, is the leftovers! Who doesn't love hot turkey sandwiches, slathered in gravy, turkey ala king over biscuits, or turkey potpie, and batches of heartwarming turkey stock? That was my mission yesterday. Mom gave me the carcass from Thursday's dinner, and since there were only six of us for dinner, that bird still had quite a good bit of meat left on it! How lucky was I?

I pulled out my big roaster (since my stock pot somehow ended up as a rain catching bucket that Tucker's drug from one end of the yard to thinking soup in that might not be the best idea...) Parked it across two of the stove's burners, filled it with one carcass swimming in clear, cold water. I cranked the heat up to boil as I chunked in carrots and celery and onion, a couple bay leaves, a healthy heap of garlic, a smattering of peppercorns and--I'm so excited!!--a good palmful of Crazy Jane's pepper mix. A friend from TN, who's owned his own restaurants, shared that secret with me a while back, but I couldn't find Crazy Jane's anywhere--until this year! I happened upon it at Friedman's of all places! I had forgotten I'd run out of bay leaves a while back and there wasn't any chance of getting me into Walmart mid-afternoon on Black Friday! So I popped into the grocery store instead and, viola! There sat Crazy Jane--I could've sang a chorus of hallelujah right there, but Michael was with me and he's at that age where he embarrasses easily, so I did my best and contained myself until we got back out to the car and I bounced gleefully in my seat the whole way home! Yes, I am that's part of my girlish charm...

After the roaster's goodness had come to a boil, I turned it all down for a nice, slow simmer for the next few hours. The house filled with the heavenly aroma of turkey-fied deliciousness. Tucker would sneak in the kitchen, his nose all a-quiver...Sorry puppy love, this soup is not for you...No soup for you!! Poor Tuck...

Bill and I are still fighting this miserable cold, but fortunately Michael seems to be over it. What better for a winter's cold than a steaming bowlful of homemade soup? The Mr. requested turkey rice. I had attempted to buy him chicken rice the other day, but it was cream based instead of brothy and he didn't like the wild rice, and complained that it was bland. So turkey rice I made after divvying up the simmered down stock into four more separate containers to stow in the freezer downstairs for future meals and cold care. He must've liked my version better than the canned, he ate two bowlfuls. Makes a mama happy.

We still have a fridge stuffed with more turkey, stuffing and gravy. Sounds like an easy dinner for tonight or tomorrow. I have no idea how the slice of pumpkin pie managed to survive this long...though it won't now that he's had a reminder that it's in there waiting for him. All I want is the whipped cream--mmm!! Aaahhh, next up: cookie time!

Friday, November 25, 2011

No Black Friday Here

One blessing of having a cold and dosing oneself with nighttime cold medicine is the inherent gift of a full night's sleep--aaahhhh....Even after waking up at two to let Tucker out, I fell right back to sleep with nary a second thought as to the midnight madness going on in the dark at Walmart, Target, and the mall...Nope, I soundly slept right through all the retail insanity this year. Mind you, Michael had different ideas and about quarter to four he flicked on the hall light to announce HE was up and ready to head out--for what? Nothing. We need nothing this year that would lure us out into the wee hours of the night, so I don't feel bad about not taking him this year. I admit, it was fun after we made it out of Walmart intact last year, even in the freezing cold, drizzling rain, splashing through dark glassy puddles, and winding our way to a hot breakfast at McDonald's, savoring victory over a caramel mocha latte and hot cakes swamped in syrup, eavesdropping on other shoppers stopped in for a warm up break and caffeine recharge, wondering where our next line of attack would take us. And we did hit up a few other stores, unsuccessfully, but only because we'd already bought the one thing we'd gone out for: Michael's DS at Walmart. There was really no need to continue, but lemming-like, we followed the crowds until the sun came up, then headed home to whisk Daddy out the door to work as we climbed back in bed to warm our weary wandering bones for a few hours until someone had to do something about starting the day normal...Aahh, memories!

Not so this year. My head is too stuffy to want to be out in the mad mobs, procuring more germs and spending money on unnecessary gifts...Most of my Christmas shopping is already done and anything I still need can wait for a much more reasonable hour of day, when the sun is up and the air is warm, and the crowds have taken their craziness home to bed once more.

I need to go grocery shopping later, swing by Petco to pick up peanut butter chewies, but that's the extent of my list for the day. Of course, Cyber Monday is just around the that's my kind of shopping--home, in my jammies, no crowds, no check out lines, just a quick click on the credit card--dangerous is what that is!! Better to double check those lists and budget bottom lines before hitting the laptop--happy shopping, all! May you find exactly what you need!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Winter Bugs

Early Thanksgiving morning and we're all under the weather with stuffy heads and scratchy throats. Bill and Michael have both been sniffling and sneezing for the past few days, I finally succumbed to the cold germs yesterday. We sipped on chicken soup both for lunch and dinner (well, I had stuffed pepper soup for lunch since I wasn't feeling the yuck until later in the day...but was quite happy for simple broth and noodles come dinner.) Everybody dosed with nighttime cough and cold medicine before bed, dragging weary, achy bodies to snuggle warm and cozy under covers. This creates a lose/lose/lose situation...

We could choose to keep our germs to ourselves and spare the rest of the family from getting sick, stay home and miss Thanksgiving dinner. No turkey, no gravy, no mashed potatoes piled high, no...pumpkin pie...buried...under a mountain of whipped cream...This option would also grant us the title of ungrateful, self-centered, and thoughtless to not attend the family celebration.

So, then, should we show up sick, germie, and contagious, thereby infecting my mother before she leaves for Florida, I will no doubt hear about it for the next several months. We're always sick in her book. Michael gave my dad a cold the Christmas they came to visit after he'd been diagnosed with cancer. It went into pneumonia and you would've thought I had intentionally injected him with the virus myself, the way my mother went on about it all winter long that year. I even heard comments from other family members about how we had gotten my dad sick...My mother is an eternal study in learning patience, peace, and forgiveness.

What to do? I guess for now we'll wait and see how everybody feels a little later in the day. I'm out of soup, but no doubt Walmart is open and most likely empty with everybody waiting until Black Friday begins at midnight. Not interested in any electronics this year, just a couple cans of Campbells Chicken 'n Rice...maybe a jar of Vicks to open the sinuses some. Meanwhile, there's always hot lemon water with honey and a bag of Halls lozenges to soothe sore, scratchy throats...

To offer thanksgiving and praise to the One from whom all blessings flow, I'm posting a video of David Crowder's "O Praise Him"--great song! Thank you Lord for all the blessings you have granted us this year--your love, your grace, your peace. Amen.

And don't forget to download the One Thousand Gifts free app!
one thousand gifts app

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and we are heading to my mom's in Pittsburgh to celebrate with family and eat ourselves silly. I am thankful to be home after so many years of living too far to come home for holidays. Thanksgiving for three (and one too small to make much of a dent, if any, in the bounty spread atop the table) was always rather sad. Occasionally we'd be blessed to celebrate with friends, but there's always an ache in the heart to be with those you're missing so many miles away.

Mom won't be home for Christmas this year, she's heading to Florida for the winter as soon as she can hightail it out of here. She had hoped to be gone before Thanksgiving actually, but cataract surgery postponed her travel plans. Now she just wants to make her break before the snow begins to fly. Godspeed. I know she's missing her friends.

We'll have Ashlee and Kyle home for Christmas, you can't buy a better present than that. I know Bill misses the rest of his family. We haven't been to Massachussetts for Christmas since Michael was three, I think? We've never made it for Thanksgiving...It'd be nice if we could make that happen one year soon. Bill's parents are both in their nineties and even though Mom no longer knows who any of us are certainly doesn't mean Bill isn't missing her any less. The nephews are all growing the family with grandbabies and I could use a good baby fix!

I pray you all have a wonderful family-filled Thanksgiving tomorrow and enjoy the bounty of God's blessings through the the entire holiday season and the coming year, too. Below is a link to download Ann Voskamp's new One Thousand Gifts app, free over the holiday for both iPhones and Android devices. You can quickly and easily post daily gifts you are thankful for and share in an ongoing Twitter feed of God's showering gifts.

one thousand gifts app

"Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;
His love endures forever."
~Psalm 107:1

A prayer doodle for my sister having endometrial ablation surgery this morning.
Keep her in your prayers today for a successful surgery and speedy recovery!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stephen King

I grew up on Stephen King. For most of my teenage and young adult life, he was the only author I'd read, and I read everything that man put out--devoured every word, lived in every world, shivered through every nightmare. More than anything I wanted to go to Bangor, Maine, to (stalk) meet this master of horror. His imagination sheer genius, utter brilliance! He, should the truth be known, is the real reason I want to be a writer. To create such realistic characters and drama on paper, worlds that draw you in and suck the very breath from your lungs, leave you hanging precariously on the edge of your seat, gnawing nails, afraid to turn the page but even more afraid to not turn the page, scared witless and breathless. He leaves me in awe.

I have to confess, I haven't read any of his books lately. I gave up the horror genre several years back. Though I think Dean Koontz is more to blame, I found it left me paranoid and sleepless, the language too coarse for my taste anymore. I felt like I had grown out of that phase of my life. I simply let it go.

But looking back, those were some of the most fun books I had ever read. No matter how unrealistic or bizarre, the ride was always unforgettable. He has a new novel just recently released earlier this month, 11/22/63. If I didn't have an already daunting stack of books to read, I think I might be tempted to give it a whirl for old time's sake. I just might put it on my wish list to pick up at the library later on...why not?

I still dream of going to Bangor and hanging out groupie style by the King estate...maybe some day...Thanks for the passion, Mr. King!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Our Ruby

I haven’t given a Ruby update for a while and I’ve had a few friends inquire about how she’s doing. She’s actually been doing fairly well. The swelling and irritation in her ears has finally gone down and the black goo from the antibiotic cream the vet had given her is slowly growing out from her gorgeous fluffy white coat. She’s not had any further sinus issues (knock wood) and the crusty skin around her nose appears to have completely healed. She looks good!

I wonder if her hearing is beginning to go now. If I let her outside and call her later on to come back in, if she’s not facing me, she acts as if she can’t hear me calling her. Even if I am only a couple feet behind her, she’s oblivious, staring off across the street, waiting for the neighbor’s cat to dare to appear for a good bout of mad barking, to some unknown end. Maddox could really care less and takes his time perusing the flower beds on the hunt for moles and chipmunks. Yeah, bark. Whatever. Maddox is all cool attitude. That really sets the dogs off. Tucker is sucked into the drama as well. Silliness. All bark, no bite. Maddox is unimpressed.

Ruby spends most of her day sound asleep with her head hidden under my bed. Perhaps the bed hinders her hearing when calling her for dinner. It seems lately she needs gently woken and reminded it’s time to eat. She slowly, arthritically lumbers down the hall to the kitchen and plops herself down heavily in front of her bowl, lazily munching kibble and pumpkin. Then, with great effort, lifts herself up to make the return trek to under the bed. Some days if that seems too far, she’ll detour to the livingroom and curl up at the end of the loveseat in front of the heat and a/c register. She knows the good spots! Soon enough she’s snoring contentedly, dreaming doggie dreams of thick cut steaks and cats that don’t taunt on opposite sides of fences.

My Ruby girl, my heart. She’s not giving up without a fight. I love you Boo!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Christmas Shopping

Wednesdays are Date Days in our house. That is Bill's usual day off during the week and since Michael is in school, we save the expense of paying a babysitter, and enjoy lunch out, which is typically considerably less than eating dinner out. It fits better into our budget and we still get to enjoy some time together, just the two of us. We might go shopping after lunch for a little while until it's time for Michael to arrive home on the bus after school, or we can work on projects around the house, whatever the week's needs dictate. This past week was some Christmas shopping.

As the one in charge of the family budget, Christmas and birthday shopping fall mainly on my shoulders. And, yes, I even do most of my own Christmas shopping, which is more convenient since Bill works so much and has little time for extra excursions. I know what I want, how much we can afford to spend, and have more time to shop for the best deals. Bill gets mad that he doesn't get to surprise me, though. Isn't enough that he gets to be surprised at what he bought me? Apparently not...

We entered the mall through Dick's Sporting Goods. It's one of Bill's favorite stores with all sorts of Steelers apparel and golfing goodies. I like the running gear but I'm too cheap to spend what they charge. I could easily whisk right through Dick's and get on with more realistic shopping, but Bill likes to linger. He doesn't get to shop often, he savors his time in the store. (I can't go to Lowes with him either...painfully slow browsing over tools and hardware and manly-man what nots...I have dinner to cook, dear!) But! On the way out of the store something caught my eye, hanging on that ever tempting endcap at the check out...Oh so clever, these display planners are! Breath caught and my heart skipped a beat and I grabbed Bill's arm, eyes all little girl big, "I want THESE for Christmas!"

I LOVE squishy socks. You know those thick, plush socks, kinda like slippers but not (I don't like the ones with the grippies on the bottom because the grippies hinder indoor ice skating on bare wood and tile floors--a girl needs to slip 'n slide!) They come in all sorts of wild rainbow color combinations. I usually stock up on squishy socks every fall, a good half a dozen pairs as that's all I wear through the winter. I love my squishy socks.

So, there, hanging on the check out line endcap, was a selection of some of the finest squishy socks I think I've ever laid eyes on. Yaktrax Cabin Cozy Socks. Actually knit on the outside then plush lined and aloe infused, heaven for your feet--I didn't even want to take my hands out of the socks, they felt so good! These I must have for Christmas!

"I hate you," he said. "You always have to know everything you get for Christmas!" Hate is kind of harsh coming from the one who promised to love you forever, in squishies and in health....those are the words, right?

I understand he wants to surprise me and it's not that I don't appreciate it. I do! I just fear his idea of surprising me will be some exorbitant piece of jewelry that we can't afford and that seems senseless when the only places I'd really get to wear it are church, Walmart, and Aldi's. Squishy THOSE have a place in my life! And so much better for our budget! Yaktrax are on sale right now at Dick's, buy one get one free for $11.99! Yeah, that's my kinda spending! I picked out two pair, purple and pink striped with snowflakes, joy overflowing my heart and squishy sock soul. I'll wrap them and stuff them under the tree for Christmas morning--I know just the box I'll use, too!

He did buy me something the other day, texted me that he was buying me a Christmas gift. I remind myself to NOT look at the Discover statement when it comes in the mail so I won't ruin whatever surprise he's gotten for me. I need to give him that much and trust he won't go too overboard with spending. Truly, he knows better. The real issue is me giving up the control for once and letting him have a little leeway. After all, it's only money, right?

 Yaktrax Cabin Cozy Sock - Dick's Sporting Goods
The most wonderful squishy socks in the world!!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Facebook--Good or Evil?

I confess I am addicted to Facebook. I fought the whole MySpace obsession when that was hot-is it still? I never hear anything about it these days. But Facebook...hook, line, and sinker. I tried to give it up for Lent this spring and did pretty well for several weeks. Then something happened with my sister-in-law and the quickest way for me to get in touch with her was to message her on Facebook...that was all she wrote. I was back in like a junkie relapsing after rehab...

It is nice to see old friends from high school and from all the myriad jobs I've had over the years. The kids and now grandkids (friends' and relatives'--not mine! Not yet...hopefully not for a good long while...) Reading about triumphs and tragedies, praying over injuries and surgeries. I even learn quite a bit, too--bird and dog training pages offer videos; health, diet and fitness pages present new recipes and workout encouragement. Favorite product pages give links to discounts and coupons. The site even sends birthday reminders so you don't miss any of those important dates. There are definite bonuses to using Facebook. But there are a lot of drawbacks, too.

Language, people--language. I hide friends who have to swear in every status update. Gossip runs rampant. Negativity and hate spew. Reading some of the daily posts can be truly draining. I do have one friend who posts daily "Silver Lining" updates, which I love but am dismayed at how many of his 'friends' respond with negative retorts. Then there's video viruses and spam hacking accounts...

And the games! I got drawn into Farmville for a while, then there came Cityville. I even went so far as to create two more Facebook accounts because I needed more 'neighbors'. Now I play Sims Social. I would love to stop, but I just can't seem to help myself. It's my guilty pleasure. My neighbors need me to visit and send them gifts so they can advance to the next level and buy more things to increase their home's value. Virtual materialism at its finest...So not good...

I at least try to limit myself to only playing Sims after other priorities for the day are done. I limit checking in on everyone's status updates to morning and the birds' play time since I'm in the office with them, and the computer's there...I keep the laptop put away during the day because it's all too tempting to log in and browse a while...then see who sent me what on Sims....and before you know it another hour has slipped away, wasted.

There has to be a better way to stay in touch with friends. The more 'convenient' we make life, the more lost we seem to get. Does anyone else feel that way? Letters went to phone calls, then to emails, then to texts, and now status updates on Facebook. I almost never send emails anymore. If you want to know what's going on in my life, I figure you'll hear about it on FB. Real relationships, commitments to friendships fall by the wayside for the sake of convenience. I really miss the slower pace life had when I was growing up.
Children Reading

Friday, November 18, 2011

Controlling Our Tongues

I went to a Bible study last night at my friend's house and the topic we talked about was controlling our tongues. Not something I'm very good at and I've been trying to work on bettering for a few years now. Any progress I've made has been painfully slow and then quickly erased in a moment's frustration and flash of anger. Words biting, caustic, harsh and hurting, lashing out at the hearts I love most: my husband and my son...Regret and guilt overflowing my own heart mere moments later.

This morning, as I woke and was greeted by three warm, wiggling, squirming, treat-monging pups, scratching cheeks and butts, whispering lovey baby-talk good mornings and kissing furry foreheads, I wondered why it's so easy to gush sweet talk and love over our pets but more often so hard to do the same with the people who share our lives and our hearts? Don't they deserve that treatment even more? I somehow have more patience with my seven month old Boxer mix who eats anything and everything that isn't bolted down, destroying and mangling anything he can get in his mouth, than I do with my son, my child, whose heart and mind is my greatest responsibility to nurture and protect. My husband, who gives me his whole life, has to listen to my rants and ravings about family arguments and nagging about getting this or that done around the house. I have no doubt my two guys hear more negativity out of my mouth than anything positive or encouraging...and that really, really needs to change.

So, how do we change what comes out of our mouths? I plan to begin by praying on it. If something is causing a rant to rise up inside, just waiting for Bill to walk through the door at dinner time to unload upon, I will instead offer it up to God first. Let Him hear me out and cleanse my heart, fill me with something brighter and encouraging for my family's ears. I also pray for a more patient heart with Michael, to be more open to listening instead of being so ready to jump down his throat, remembering how easily I love on the dogs and share some of that gushiness with my two guys as well.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Snail Mail!

I love getting mail. I used to have a bunch of pen pals from all over the world: Australia, Sweden, Norway, England, Germany, Russia, Africa...And the stationery/sticker/pen addict in me gloried in finding the prettiest papers, cutest stickers, and coolest colored pens for writing. And of course, I'd have to get the grooviest stamps at the post office, never the boring standard stamps! Then,, as always, got in the way.

Writing letters takes time, and focus, and being a mom, time and focus are a tight commodity. Slowly, however reluctantly, I let my pen pals fade away. There just wasn't time to sit and write. I'd tried whipping a letter off on the computer once in a while. It was quicker, it just didn't seem as personal to me, though. So, I stopped writing and the letters from all around the world stopped showing up in my mailbox. I miss that. A lot.

Then this morning, I somehow stumbled across the 52 Weeks of Mail challenge on Facebook. The objective of the challenge is to mail one letter or card every week for a year. I love that! So, of course, thoughts of pretty papers and stickers and stamps dancing in my mind, I signed up! I actually have a small pile of letters sitting in my stack of "Stuff to Pay Attention To" here beside me on the kitchen nook bench. I figure it's a great place to start with the challenge.

Then! Then, from the Facebook challenge page, I found a link to Postcrossing (, a website where you sign up to mail postcards around the world and for every postcard you send, someone from somewhere else in the world mails one to you! My first postcard will go to the Netherlands. I can't wait to see where my first one will come from!

I've also been encouraging Michael to write to some of his old friends from Ohio and Tennessee the past couple of years. He may only scribble a few short lines and add a drawing if he's feeling artistic. But he loves getting mail as much as I do and I think it says something special to get a handwritten letter in the mail, however short or scribbly--someone took the time to sit still for a few moments to think of you.  Plus now we have Kiran to write to and Michael just jotted a quick page for him the other day, complete with a self-portrait drawn at the bottom--I love it!

So, maybe you remember how good it felt to get an unexpected card or letter in the mail. Maybe you'd like to join the 52 Weeks of Mail challenge on Facebook (we're about a month late in joining or so but, better late than never and who says we have to stop once the original 52 weeks is up?) Or check out Postcrossing, toss a note out into the world and see if one comes back your way. Give yourself and someone else a reason to smile when they open their mailbox and pull out something besides a bill or more junk mail...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Letting Go

The bottom sort of fell out of everything last night. We, my sister and I, had apparently asked one too many questions and got the door slammed in our faces. Our uncle has taken a time out from our lives for a while. Whether or not he’ll come back around, only time will tell.  I respect his decision, though it hurts to let him go.
There is a fine, fine line between the adoptee’s right to know vs. the birth family’s right to privacy. It has been made very clear to us that our birth mother has no desire to reconnect with us. Truth be known, I have no desire to reconnect with her. Never have. But does that give her the right to deny us a connection with family who may want to know us? I understand and respect the fact that this family has been traumatized terribly by alcoholism and abuse at the hand of my maternal grandfather. Siblings had been so torn apart, they still don’t talk to each other if they can avoid it. And here comes my sister and I trying to gain access to a family that doesn’t want reminded of each other, let alone those who were given away. So what do you do?
I guess what is now clear is that we must respectfully accept the decisions made to keep us out. We know who we are, where we came from. That’s all we get. In fact, it’s a lot more than most adoptees get. How we got this far is half luck, half miracle. Sealed birth records intend to keep families apart forever. Right or wrong, sometimes it’s for the best. I think this is one circumstance that it is for the best to just walk away and let it be.

I pray for my family, for healing, for peace. I am thankful for the family I’ve been given and for friends who are the family I’ve chosen along the way. I pray I can finally find my own peace to let this go. I pray.

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
~Lamentations 3:24

I won't miss you. I will miss who I thought you were.
- Anonymous

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Different Strokes

I love my sister. We are two completely different people, raised in two different families with two different life experiences. That's not typical for sisters. Normally you're raised together with the same parents, same values, same expectations of life. But being that we were given away for adoption as babies, our lives took totally different paths and we are just beginning to unravel and appreciate those differences in making us who we both are as adults today.

My sister was sexually abused growing up and continues to battle with depression. She goes to therapy every week and takes prescriptions to help her get through her dark times. I dealt with emotional and psychological abuse from my mother, and still do, though she'll flat out deny it if you confront her. I've tried many different ways to come to terms with the damage she's done and part of the fact that she doesn't acknowledge her wrong doing has made it even harder to forgive and forget. But, that is what I am called to do as a Christian, so I pray and give it to God. Some days are better than others, but that's true for everyone, right?

My sister thinks I should see a therapist. She seems to think everyone needs to see a therapist. That works for her and it's wonderful. I'm happy for her that she has that outlet. I'm not a therapy kind of person. Talking to a stranger who's not walked in my shoes seems senseless. I don't care how many college degrees they have hanging on the wall, they really can't understand my life if they haven't lived it. And it seems the answer they want to slap on every issue is to dish out anti-depressants. I've been down that route befpre and pills are not my fix-all.

To me, God is my therapist and prayer my prescription. If anyone knows my heart, it's God. If anyone can heal my heart, again, it would be God. Not another imperfect human sitting on the chair across from me, handing me a box of tissues and refilling my Prozac. (Haha--I keep flashing on the Geico commercial--Yellow makes me sad...You know what makes me sad? YOU DO!! Michael and I would play that one over and over on the DVR busting a gut...The only commercial I'd actually stop to watch...but, I digress...) Not to poo-poo the whole therapy thing--if it works for you, great. It's simply not for me.

Anyway, this all came up yesterday on the phone. She thought I was upset about deciding not to contact our aunt or younger sister, but I'm not. I truly have peace with that. I've lived my whole life without them and have done so quite happily. I have no doubt that the remainder of my life will be just as happy. You can't miss what you never had, right? Not a big deal. Affording Christmas, the possibility of moving, these things are weighing more heavily on the plate. So, I give it up to God and pray for His will in His time and appreciate my daily bread. Life is good.

I lift my eyes up to the hills-
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
~Psalm 121:1-2

Monday, November 14, 2011

Today's Lesson

As much fun as it might be to Zumba to 'Linus and Lucy' while making chili for dinner, I don't really recommend it. As I Zumba'd across the kitchen floor, shaking and swaying to a sassy Salsa step, the can of black beans I'd propped in the electric can opener finished its orbit and promptly dumped into the open silverware drawer below. Black bean juice splattered the wall and pantry door and puddled on the floor. Sweet Pea was quick (for a Basset) to lend a hand, or rather a tongue, to help clean up my mess, lapping away at the grey juice that trickled down the cabinet front. I dumped out the silverware tray and washed all the forks, and knives (fortunately the spoons had been spared), scooped a pile of beans from the drawer and gave it a good wiping, swabbed the wall, cabinet, and pantry door while Sweet Pea endeavored to lick the floor clean. Poor thing ended up with black bean juice all over her ears-yuck! Ah well, better a few calories burned than none at all. And fortunately there were plenty more beans going into the chili, so the few that spilled shouldn't even be missed. That silverware tray was overdue for a cleaning anyway. All's well that ends well...

I don't know where my day has gotten to. It's almost two in the afternoon and I've barely made a dent in the laundry, beds are still stripped bare, and I've not dusted a thing! I thought I was off to such a great start: breakfast parfait at six, run on the treadmill at seven, even in the shower, dressed and ready to drop Bug off at school before scooting to Walmart and Aldi's for the week's groceries...then it all kinda just went off the radar from there. Next thing I knew it was lunchtime, then had to toss the chili in the crockpot (and down the kitchen wall), more laundry, and knew I better sit and blog before the day was completely out the window! My To-Do List still waits, looking at me sarcastically, wondering when I might get around to scratching a few things off...I might just have to make it wait a little while longer for having such a poor attitude! After all, who's the boss here? Huh?

I applied to be a Child Ambassador for World Vision (um, there's a couple of you who might be getting phone calls to verify I'm not some chili wall throwing psycho nut case--Tom and Diane...cover for me??) I don't know what all that entails, other than organizing a day at church to talk about child sponsorship and trying to recruit sponsors, but something made me fill out the application. Why not? Maybe this is what I'm meant to do (again, Bill shaking his head, sighing...I'm so thankful he loves me...I love you, dear!!) After all, Target didn't want me...Who knows. Whatever's meant to be will be, right?

All right, I really should get going. If it so moves you today, click on over to World Vision and take a look around their website. You might just find a child who needs you, or another way to help if you can...even if it's just to pray for a child waiting on their site. It could make all the difference in the world.
Famine no more

Sunday, November 13, 2011

At an Impasse

I've got this notion rattling around in my head (insert husband's sigh and shaking of head...muttering ,"Now what?" under his breath...) My birthmother, aunt, and younger sister are all on Facebook. I pull up their pages, stalker-like, looking for pictures, faces that resemble mine, or status updates that let me into their lives, however vicariously. Curious.

What is it that stops me from contacting them? My birthmother, well, she doesn't want to know me, so I wouldn't bother wasting my time on her. But my sister? My aunt? Don't I have the right to know them? I do...but do they want to know me, my other sister? And there's always that adage again: be careful what you wish for...Do I really want to open that Pandora's box? Some days I do--toss whatever fear or caution to the wind, and just post a message on their page, let the cards fall where they may. Other days, I shrink back...afraid of what that box might hold after all. Just be thankful for what I've been given with my sister, brother, and uncle and their families. They're a great gift, greater than I ever thought I'd have of my birth family. It's just this puzzle beckons to be completed, odd pieces put in place, to see the whole of what's been torn apart, perhaps allow healing. If that would ever be possible with Charlotte so adamant against reunion. But who made her queen? What gives her the right to control the entire family and say who's 'allowed in' or not? As if Andrea and I aren't worthy on some level. Worthy? Rebellious child inside me balks, angry and resentful. She gave me away, signed away her rights to tell me what to do or not to do. Why should I let her stop me now?

This quote, from a writing prompt site, turned up in my inbox this morning: “We are always getting ready to live, but never living.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson. That applies to my life on so many levels. All the writing practice, but never publishing. Computer studying, but for what? Wanting my family, but not willing to take a chance on what might be waiting in response. You only get so many opportunities in life and they don't wait around forever. Life does pass us by if we don't step out and live it. Who will win? Charlotte? Fear? Or me?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Little Perspective

I have a few problems this morning. I've not been sleeping well this past week with the time change. I wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep. I drag bone weary through the remainder of the day. Then, my cell phone died. I can't text anybody and Michael busted his 300 series finally at bowling--blew it out of the water at 320! I had to borrow my friend's phone to text hubby the news. And the leaves!! I've raked and raked and raked and after I thought I was finished, I look out only to see the yard covered in another brown blanket of more fallen leaves...ugh! They're still falling!!

Really? These are problems? I can't sleep but I have a warm bed to curl up in at night and half a dozen cute fuzzy blankets to wrap around me with snowmen and snowflakes and Santa with his reindeer...I have a roof over my head and a furnace that churns warm toasty air through every room in my house. Oh, and don't forget the stack of books piled up on the nightstand--the problem there? Which one to read tonight...gosh.

My cell phone died. Never mind my tablet runs just fine--games and Facebook, Weatherbug and email all at the tap of a finger...I can easily message anyone for now until I get the phone situation fixed later today. And there's always the house phone. Still...such an inconvenience. Poor me.

And the nerve of those leaves!! I've busted my back raking day after day, bagging and hauling and dumping them over the fence...The fence. That surrounds our yard. Behind our house. Our house cooled and protected by all those trees with the leaves that keep falling...where I hang birdfeeders and suet and complain because the squirrels steal the seed faster than you can bat an eye.

I've been following a blog this week about a mission trip to Ecuador. My uncle posts pictures of his trips to Nicaragua. I see what real struggles are, read heart rending stories of families praying for sponsors to help them provide food and medical care for their children. Sponsored children get three meals a week. Three. Meals. A week...a week...My cupboards overflow with PopTarts and cereal, buns and bread and pitas so I can have my choice.  Big brown eyes with round empty tummies, mothers' hearts breaking, and I can have my choice. Children growing up in dumps, living in squalor--cardboard and plastic sheeting strapped together, slopped in mud, to make a home. A home! Filth like I've never known in my life. Poverty eating the hopes and dreams of precious little hearts.

Who am I? Who am I that I have been blessed with so much? What have I done to deserve all that I have been given? My child has never missed a meal--he may not have wanted to eat what was put on his plate, but there has always been food. His dresser drawers need shoved closed because they're so full. When he runs a fever, the doctor is a phone call away (even if the cell phone isn't working and I have to call on the house phone...) I have a medicine cabinet full of Tylenol and Pepto and Triaminic Cough Strips. I can zip to the store and buy ginger ale and crackers and chicken soup. I don't even think twice about it. I'm blind to how easy my life really is.

My problems? Not problems. Eye openers to blessings. Gateway to gratitude. There's a little boy on the other side of the world who I am blessed to help. I think how little I can actually do for him in the midst of all that I have and it doesn't make sense. Why--why have I been given so much and him so little? My problems? Not problems. I am humbled and grateful and hopefully more aware of all that I have been given and all that I can do and give in return.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Another Too Early Start

These dogs are going to be the death of me. I was fast asleep and dreaming, no doubt I could've stayed fast asleep and dreaming had Sweet Pea not barged in the room at three o'clock and started her incessant whining. Really? I shooed her out of the room and shut the door behind her. Too late. Tucker was up and wanted out. Someone shoot me...please! The thought occurred to me then that it might possibly be snowing-the overnight forecast said we had a fifty percent chance of snow. So, fine, I dragged my weary self out of bed, tugged on slippers and pulled my robe from the hook on the back of the bathroom door, sludged my way to the porch door to let Pain in the Butts #'s 1 and 2 outside, looked up at the frozen dark sky...nothing. Not so much as a flake or flurry. Fantastic. Slid back inside to the kitchen and turned the coffee pot on while I went scrounging for my morning materials: Bible, journal, laptop. Sigh...another long day...

It would be great if I was cognizant enough at three a.m. to actually do something productive, but no one is cognizant enough for any serious thought at so early in the day, er, night...I mostly space out, brain frozen like the sky, not even a flake of thought fluttering about, nothing getting in, nothing getting out. Even coffee has trouble just hurts, physically hurts, being awake in the dark. I'm tired! This is not productive time for me and non-productive time is wasted time which in turn creates cranky time, very much a downward spiral for the day.

Three hours later I'm finally capable of doing something. I've finished my reading and journaling, perused several blogs and jammed a few more ideas into my head of things I want to do (oh, that list is frightening!), filled out menus for the weekend and corresponding grocery list, checked the Butler calendar for adventures to fill the day since dear sweet child o'mine (to be read slightly sarcastically as he's been up arguing with me for a while now...ugh!) is home from school for Veterans Day and a bored whiny child does not mix well with a tired cranky mom so Distractions! are the key for the day. Oatmeal is simmering on the stove and Zumba follows shortly thereafter...maybe. Skipped the workout yesterday from feeling like a squashed roadkill's not feeling much better. We'll see on that mark.

I think we are heading to Portersville today to check out a Christmas Open House at Nicolette's Tailor and Gift Shop. I have no idea where Portersville is, the map shows it close to McConnell's Mill and Moraine--two of my favorite places here, so even if Nicolette's bombs, we're right smack close to something cool anyway. I'm just a sucker for groovy little gift shops and Christmas Open Houses...nothing like sparking the spirit a little early! (Sticking tongue out at all the early Christmas scrooges!) (Okay...that's from being up too early today...sorry)

So, to all the veterans and those currently serving our country at home and overseas, I offer a huge thank you for your service and sacrifice that allows the rest of us to sleep (albeit however shortly) peacefully in warm beds at night and enjoy all the freedoms we so readily take for granted.
"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."
~John 15:13

A verse doodle I did yesterday--not crazy about the bottom flower, but it can only get better with practice...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Gift of Love

I wanted to make a little bookmark or something to send Kiran, the little boy I sponsor through World Vision. You’re allowed to send the kids small, flat things in the mail: pictures, postcards, bookmarks, stickers, etc. And  I’ve started this prayer doodling thing, so I thought I’d do a prayer doodle of his name with a hand and foot, as the first suggested prayer World Vision gives to sponsors is to “let me be the hands and feet of Christ to help provide a path to a better life through His love.” I always thought there was an actual Scripture that referenced the hands and feet of Christ, but I discovered there isn’t—it’s from a Catholic prayer, adapted from Scripture about the body of Christ. So that kinda through me for a loop since I wanted to reference the actual verse. Then I looked up the meaning of Kiran’s name which is ‘ray of light’ and that really touched me. I thought Kiran is a ray of Christ’s light in my life, shining love and hope into my heart. You think it’s the other way around-what we’re doing for them, but really it’s the opposite. I look at his picture-this sweet boy with those big brown eyes and my heart melts. I whisper prayers of God’s love and peace for him, for me, worlds apart yet joined in this love, this opportunity to be the body of Christ. Now what to draw for him? I’m thinking a lighthouse with the verse from Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world…Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” I wish I knew how to translate it to his language-if I knew what language he speaks…Hindi? I tried the Google translator but I’m afraid it won’t be right and I’ll have said something wrong. I’ll just leave it to the interpreters on that end to translate it for Kiran and hope he understands the love I send with it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

On the Other Side of the Wall

I like Tuesdays. I usually don't have to be anywhere. My weekly shopping is typically done on Monday so I don't worry about hair and make up as I don't plan to see anyone other than Bill and Michael and the critters. It's an easy day: workout, shower, chores, and plenty of time to work on something productive, ie: writing, computer studies, that sort of thing.

Yesterday morning went quick and smooth. I finished up the day's chores and even managed a good hour of leaf raking before it was time for lunch. I had all afternoon to myself (with no TV calling me to lounge away the time!) I washed up the morning's sinkful of dishes, pulled out the laptop and decided I'd look for a writing contest I could maybe try to enter.

That was probably the wrong place to start. I've only been blogging for a couple months, I haven't even given thought to any 'real' writing (like I know what that means...) So when I pulled up the list of writing contests on Writermag's website it felt like someone had punched me in the gut--what was I thinking? I had nothing to offer on a professional writing level. Okay, do 'professionals' really submit to writing contests? I would think it's primarily amateurs, but still...I'm hardly even an amateur-I'm a beginning beginner. I don't even know where to start! I felt completely intimidated, overwhelmed, and discouraged. I closed the browser and opted to pull out my Office Word 2007 book and work on learning more about tabs, inserts, shading and borders. No writing for me.

As the afternoon wore on, I started thinking about maybe heading back out into the real world, giving up and getting a job. Who was I kidding--me, write? I felt maybe this opportunity had passed me up. I'm not destined to be anybody, just a mom, a wife, a minimum wage paid cashier-if I could even manage that. Target had sent me an email in response to the application I had put in a couple weeks ago: "We are sorry to inform you that we are unable to offer you a position at this time. Thank you for your interest in Target." I had applied for a part/part-time position, thinking the holidays are coming up, a little extra cash couldn't hurt. I can't work much, only during Michael's school schedule, so no evenings or weekends. I only wanted two or three days a week at most. But, no, that wouldn't work for Target. Thanks anyways. Whatever.

I swept my defeated attitude under the dog hair covered rug and finished the day. Picked up Michael from the bus, supervised homework, microwaved veggie burgers and baked beans for dinner, crocheted a little on the sweater I'm making for World Vision's Knit for a Kid program, and dragged my time change weary butt to bed while Bug stayed up, played his PSP and watched Spongebob until Daddy would get home and sent his little body to bed as well. Tomorrow was another day...

It's moments like this where I'm left wondering about what direction my life is meant to take, which way does God want me to go, that He speaks to me (thank goodness or I'd really be a mess!) This morning it was through one of the daily blogs I read-(in) You can read the day's post here: I shed a few tears, refreshed with His hope, encouragement and love. Maybe I can write, maybe it's not too late. At least I'm not ready to give up just yet...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Something New

I've been wanting to begin memorizing Scripture for at least a couple of years now. There's a handful verses I know by heart, but I'd really like to learn more, much more. I'm so impressed with reading some of these daily blogs about families who read Scripture over dinner and memorize verses together. It's such an incredible gift to share with your children and to bond your family together in God's Word. So I've decided to recruit Michael to be my memorization buddy and I think he's as excited about it as I am.

I surfed for a website with a good set of Scriptures to start with and finally came across Fighter Verses. They have a full five year plan of weekly verses to memorize as well as iPhone and Android apps to download (both free and paid) to send a weekly verse straight to your phone or mobile device. I decided to start the five year plan with Michael and will do the extra verse on my tablet myself. They also list great suggestions to help kids memorize their verses and one that really grabbed my attention was to learn the Scripture in sign language. I taught Michael sign language as a baby since he didn't actually start talking until after he was three years old. He picked up signing in a flash but once he was speaking on his own, we left the sign language behind, forgotten. How much fun would it be to learn all over again, this time incorporating God's Word!

So this morning I scrambled the web looking to find a good ASL site and found ASLpro. It has video signing dictionaries-both basic and a religious dictionary, as well as common phrase signs. Brilliant! Our verse this week in Deuteronomy 7:9 "Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations," I found the signs for each word of the verse and practiced them until I had it down pat. I can't wait to show Michael! Learning the signs I think actually made remembering the verse a whole lot easier since you almost have to mentally visualize the signs that go along with it. So cool. Two gifts in one: memorizing Scripture with Michael and learning sign language together again! I love it!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Christmas Bust

I've been tucking away Christmas gifts for a few months now. I have a stash, well, had a stash, up on the top shelf of the hallway linen closet. Way out of Michael's nosy reach. Or so I thought. The shelf had been a great hiding place for the past year since we'd moved in. It's pretty high up so a good glance from the kiddo wouldn't reveal anything I'd tucked away up there. When I'd ground him from specific toys: cars, his DS, radio, whatever-it would go up on the shelf until the grounding was over because I knew it'd be safe from any attempts on his part at retrieval. He never even knew anything was up there. So, come Christmas shopping last year, I would just stuff the bags up on the shelf until it was time to do the wrapping. Then I'd have to move the packages either to my closet or down in the basement for more strategic camoflage. I could bury packages under clothes and purses in my closet, or tuck them behind the still unpacked boxes of miscellaneous knick knacks that had been abandoned after the move. It was perfect. He never saw anything and Santa's stellar reputation remained in tact.

Shopping away, I'd had a few presents and a bag of stocking stuffers hidden up on the shelf in the hallway closet. I'd also stored some extra school supplies in there, trying to keep them out of Michael's busy hands. I thought if he'd need more pens or notebooks or erasers halfway through the year, we'd be in good shape. All was well and good until Mr. Nebby Nose somehow got it into his head to investigate this top shelf way up out of his reach. Independence can be a great thing to instill in kids until it comes down to helping himself into places he shouldn't be digging around in!

"Mom! I found some Gogo's in the hall closet! Are they for me?" Excitement and glee exuding from his voice at this new found treasure stash! My heart stopped for a second or two then raced sickeningly as realization dawned on me that he discovered my Christmas hiding place! Now what?? How to cover my tracks and explain why there were Gogo's in the closet? I was busted...I had no choice but to give him the booty.

"Oh, I was going to surprise you with those and now you found them yourself!" Trying not to sound too suspicious, but not happy that the little bugger had forced my hand. I tried my best to be casual, cool, calm..."What else did you find up there?" Trying to calculate a quick inventory of everything I had bought and stuffed away for wrapping days...fortunately I hadn't bought any other little goodies for Michael yet. More grown up gifts remained hidden, still bundled in the store bags I'd brought them home in. Whew!

"Nothing. Can I have the Gogo's?" Careless, oblivious, completely unknowing he could've uncovered so much more.

I sighed as I relented and let him have the little toys. I figured I could grab another pack at Walmart later on for his stocking. I've had to rethink my hiding places now. Big boxes hide packages in the bedroom, buried under out of season clothes. And there's still the basement. Dark down there, he can't reach the light in the laundry area. Good. That'll still work. Finally safe to go back to the stores again and recommence Christmas shopping...Santa strikes again!

Finding Time

I've decided to give up TV. I kept looking at the list of things I want and need to do every day and week, thinking, 'When?' When could I possibly find the time to do all of these things? I already get up early to have personal time to accomplish things that I can't typically do during the chaos and distractions of the day. I've been staying up a little later trying to get in more reading time, only to find myself tired the next day and unwilling to try to add a little more into an already packed day. How to find more time then? I started thinking about my TV time. All the reality shows I watch are completely irrelevant to my life: Project Runway, America's Next Top Model, Top Chef, Next Great Work of Art, now Project Accessory--really?? None of these shows have anything to contribute to the direction I want to take my life. Cooking shows just make me want to eat and gain weight (counter active to trying to stay fit), super skinny model shows make me hate the way my middle aged body looks (discouraging even after all the time I put in to working out and eating healthy), and as much as I love Tim and Heidi and Swatch, I really don't need to watch the ridiculous drama unfolding every week on the runway and I certainly don't care about accessories. Gone. And Greys...the show only makes me aggravated anymore. They're dying all the guys blond--did you notice McSteamy last week? Who's next, Derek? I'm over it. My life won't change if they manage to get Zola back, or if Alex finally becomes human, and I just can't take watching Christina and Owen anymore. Gone.

Now I have time! Reading, writing, studying, Christmas planning time without worrying about how many shows I have on the dvr that I need to catch up on, stuffing my listless face lounging on the couch in front of the TV. I'm excited! Now, it's not 100% gone. After all, ABCFamily's 25 Days of Christmas will soon be on and I'll saddle up for my favorite classic reruns and movies. And I decided not to give up the two shows we watch as a family-Big Bang Theory (I love Sheldon!) and the new series Grimm. But, eliminating all the others frees up a huge chunk of time which should be a great start for me. Now let's see what I can manage to accomplish with that gift!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Giggles in the Dark

I can hear them down the hall. Michael smirking back a laugh, half giggling through his nose trying to be quiet in the early morning. Tucker, noisier, wiggling in and out from under the bed. He's really too big to get under the bed anymore but that doesn't stop him. He'll squeeze himself under, then cry when he can't get back out again. I have to get him to lay on his side and slide him out skinny-wise, pink tongue kissing thankfulness all over my face, stumpy tail butt wagging at freedom. Back under the bed he scrambles...It's tempting to leave him under there, maybe he'd learn not to get under if he can't get back out on his own. But I always save him, so why not.

Maybe that's part of where I go wrong with Michael. I always save him. It hurts to watch him learning painful lessons, even though I know it's essential to life. I need to step back, hard as it is breaking this mama's heart, and let him fall and learn to pick himself up, not slide him out skinny-wise when he's found himself in a tough spot of his own choosing. I somehow have to learn to harden my soft mama heart against pathetic, sad puppy cries and little boy growing pains, knowing the sooner they begin to learn life lessons aren't always going to get fixed by someone else, then maybe they'll learn to better avoid these traps that trip before the traps are to big to be fixed by Mama...Funny how their lessons somehow become our lessons first.

Two wild wiggle worms under my bed

My Christmas Cactus in mad bloom for the fourth year in a row-I love this plant!

Baby from the mama Christmas Cactus, transplanted last spring, first bloom--love it!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Praying in Color

I stumbled across an interesting book and website this morning while bebopping through some links on other sites. I went from Holy Experience to Mama Monk's blog which led me to look for a book on the Benedictine Rule on Amazon and after loading a few books into my shopping cart (don't worry Bill, I'm not actually buying any of them...yet...Oh how well you know me!) Somehow from Benedictine books, I found myself looking at some art and creativity books and one titled Praying in Color by Sybil MacBeth really caught my eye. Realizing this is not the best time to be buying books with bills from kidney stone surgery now coming in on top of looming Christmas shopping, I decided to download samples to my Kindle for the time being and leave the actual books waiting on my wish list instead. Praying for Color wasn't available for the Kindle, so I took a quick look at the sneak peek of the few pages Amazon would allow, and realized I didn't need to actually buy the book (sorry Sybil) The gist is simple. You have a name or names of people you want to pray for, or a subject such as hurricane victims, or the names of God, or even a scripture you'd like to memorize. You start with a simple shape or write the name(s) out and begin to doodle other shapes from there. Add some colored pens to brighten the page and viola! You've just doodled a prayer. I'm sure there's a lot more to the book than that, but if it'll save me from spending $12 I don't need to right now, I'm happy to make a quick start from there and run with it on my own! You can check out Sybil's website and her prayer doodling here: Maybe it'll inspire you to break out your colored pens and paper and doodle a prayer or two. It's also a great idea to get kids praying-you can hang finished prayer doodle art work on the fridge for a quick reminder of those on your prayer list or a refresher of the scripture you're working on memorizing. Give it a try! I'd love to see what you come up with if you want to post links to your doodles here!

These are some of Sybil's doodles:
Pray using your computer
Pray for one person
Pray for a group of people.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Black Friday

Now that we're well on our way into November, Christmas shopping season is truly upon us. I'm contemplating whether or not I want to join the consumer chaos of Black Friday again this year. Bug and I went out last year for our very first Black Friday adventure and I was overwhelmed, to say the least, at what we encountered so early in the still dark day.

As much I love Walmart, I try to get in and out of there by ten-thirty in the morning. Any later than that and the store is ridiculously crowded, check out is super slow, and my patience peeters out the window trying to navigate through cart crammed aisles, senior social hour, and cranky cashier service. (I miss our Jason from TN, the super nicest Walmart cashier ever!! They should have him train every cashier employed in that company or somehow find a way to infuse his joy and kindness into the rest of the staff. The world would be a much better place with more of Jason to go around! Anybody from around Oak Ridge, TN reading this, I know you know who I'm talking about--holla!!)

So...take the normal post ten a.m. craziness of Walmart and multiply that by at least fifty and schedule it at three in the morning when no sane human being should be out and about, wallet in hand and ready for bargain battles, and this is pretty much what we found last year as we ventured into Black Friday mania. It's crazy! Every parking space in Butler Commons was full, AND it was raining, freezing cold and miserable. But we braved it all to get Bug his new Nintendo DS that he'd saved his birthday money and allowance for to replace his old one that he'd broken in a temper tantrum over losing at some game he'd been playing. I'd never seen so many people crammed into one place at the same time, especially so so so early in the day! I'm not a fan of crowds. I'm not a fan of anything at three in the morning. I wondered what possibly possessed my brain to think that this was a bright idea as we traipsed through puddles in the downpour, coats clutched at our throats against the cold, and crammed into the crowded huddle of the electronics line that wound its way in and out of the shoe department and waited our turn to grab the DS of Michael's choice. Then after waiting for what seemed like forever (little did we know...) we had to fight our way back up to the front of the store to wait for another eternity at the check out to pay for said DS. Most people were in good moods, laughing and giddy over the sweet deals they had found. Still, there were those few who wanted to try to cut in line, complain over misunderstood ads, grump and push and moan...ugh!

Finally purchase paid and back out into the cold dark night we went. Where to next? We were far too geared up to try to go back home and it was still a little early for some of the other stores to open for their Black Friday morning sales, so where else is there to head other than McDonalds for a quick plate of breakfast and a hot cup of coffee to warm chilled bones and brains? We hung out there for a while, sort of dazed at this new shopping experience. Michael's face was all aglaze over the thought of his brand new shiny DS he had waiting in the car. Other shoppers poured in, sat sipping coffee, eating hashbrowns and egg mcmuffins while waiting for the other stores to open. Little by little we each leaked back out into the night, ready to get in line at another set of doors, hoping to score more bargains while the getting was good.

Bug and I stopped at a few other stores. Honestly we didn't buy much at all compared to the rest of the crowds around us. Tired and sleepy eyed, we finally headed back home as the sun started brightening the early morning sky. The rain had at least stopped even if the temperature hadn't gone up much. Bug was happy with his big purchase and I was happy that he was happy. I was also happy to be getting away from the craziness and heading to my favorite place: home...and coffee and my pillow and blanket....

Do we really want to do that again this year? Bug says an enthusiastic "YES!" Eyes all alight with the thought of spending money, money, money! I have to admit, there is something contagious that caught hold of me last year and I find myself thinking...maybe...Another middle of the night excursion with my little guy with a still dark breakfast at McDonalds over coffee, hot cakes and buttery syrup could be fun. Maybe we'll head to the mall this year instead of Walmart, see what kind of crazy deals we can find just a little past midnight...why not?

Oh look, someone left me some chicken! How thoughtful!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chasing the Clock

I'm having one of those mornings (and the fact that it is now well after lunch and I'm still stuck in the 'morning' ought to be an indicator of just what a morning it's been...) I woke up late, which set me behind a good hour and a half already. I didn't sleep well, my brain was too busy thinking most of the night. When we stopped at the ATM yesterday to take out the money for Tucker's crate, the transaction receipt showed a much lower account balance than what should have been in there. That set me off for the rest of the day and into my night. I kept recounting the math in my mind, which is not my strong suit in the first place even on the best of days, and I tried to reassure myself there was a simple explanation; there was enough money to see us through the end of the week until payday--after all, what did we need? Milk, chewies for the dogs, and dental floss. Ingredients for dinner were already waiting in the fridge and pantry, lunches packed...Still, my OCD brain was not willing to let this discrepancy go without a fight and a thorough investigation of the account statement to see just where the mix up came from. So I tossed and turned most of the night, fretting subconsciously, then somehow fell asleep enough to oversleep...augh! Not how I needed to start my day!

So, once I got through my morning Bible reading and devotionals (late or not, I'm simply unwilling to compound an already bad start by neglecting the one thing that grounds me in some semblance of peace for the day!) I pulled up the checking account online and looked to see if I could spot any unfamiliar charges or something I might have missed, but nothing really stood out to me. I'd have to wait to check it on the desktop against the register in Quicken. Then, realizing I had two months of statements that I somehow never bothered to reconcile, I set about taking care of that (another good half hour of the morning gone...) and found my discrepancy from sadly two months ago! How I managed not to bounce any checks over that course of time is nothing short of a miracle! Transferred a little from savings to make up the difference and at least wiped that anxiety off the morning's board.

Well, now I'm running two hours behind at this point. Choices stacked up in front of me, which way do I want to take my day? Do I work out and miss the morning Bible study at church or rush through the shower before I had to get Michael to the bus and pray I had enough time to do something with my hair and face before racing like mad to make it to church on time? I don't know about you, but 'racing' through anything in the morning is absolutely my least favorite option. And, I've been so off with my work out schedule the past few weeks from having a broken toe and non-conducive mood swings, add to that facing the giant bowl of Halloween candy in the kitchen every day now, the clear choice would be to eat a healthy breakfast, get Bug to the bus and haul my ever increasing butt to the basement for a couple sets of circuits and a round of Zumba. Then shower, fluff, and a quick trip to my home away from home, Walmart!, before back to feed the birds, let them out for a little play time and hopefully manage to get a handful of chores done and some raking while the weather's still dry....Whew...I'm still trying to catch my breath!

I don't know if I've done myself much of a favor starting this new 'daily habit tracking' chart for November. Today it just feels like added pressure to squeeze in as many accomplishments as I possibly can on top of starting the day frazzled. But, if I can remember it's simply a guideline and not really a requirement, that it's to keep me moving in a positive direction rather than sitting stagnant, then perhaps there's hope. If I can remember to remove fingers from keyboard and fold them in my lap for a moment, closing my eyes and inhale deeply while breathing "Jehovah Shalom" a few times, my racing heart will slow, the knot in my shoulders will loosen, and the corners of my lips curl up in a smile. The Lord is Peace.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Little Suntan...Spray?

I am not a big fan of the sun, er well, at least not of summer heat. I like things on the cooler side and am thankful for air conditioning come July and August as the temperature and humidity soar outside. And you all know how excited I get when the snow starts to fly! But I'm also not a huge fan of tanning. I was born all pale and pasty. I don't see a reason to try to change that, especially considering the possible consequences: early wrinkles (they show up soon enough without any encouragement!) and worse, skin cancer. Yes, I smoked for twenty-three years and still face the possibility of lung cancer--but I quit over six years ago and do everything in my power to remain healthy. Why invite another form of cancer for the sake of vanity? I don't get why people dish out so much money to lay in tanning beds only to put themselves at risk. So a warm, bronze glow to your cheeks can be flattering to the complexion. Buy a little bronzer. It's cheaper. And non-carcinogenic.

But I drove by a salon the other day that now offers spray tanning. I suppose if I were ever to want a tan, that would most likely be the way I'd go. No heat, no wrinkles, no potential cancer (unless maybe from inhaling the tanning chemicals?) But I'm curious, what does one wear to be spray tanned? Your bathing suit? Doesn't it get all spray tanned too then? Does it come out in the wash? I read it can turn your toe nails orange--now that's attractive. I guess that would be a big hit down in Tennessee's Vols country--go Big Orange! Oh my...

Well, chances are I'll never have this service done anyway. I'm just not the girly-girl mani-pedi, tanning type. I can paint my own nails if I want them done. I don't do massages either. I don't like strangers touching me, especially thank you! I'd rather spend my money on more tangible things like food or books or Zumba shoes...To each their own, I guess. Isn't that what makes the world go 'round?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Today's Writing Exercise

All right, fidgeting done, all last minute need to do’s are done, there’s nothing else to do but get down to business writing something productive here. At least that’s the plan. I’ve decided from now on, time permitting, that I shall sit down and write some sort of exercise until I become inspired to write something publishable, or work on a piece to send for a competition—something! I’ve done too much of nothing! Then, once I manage to write, I intend to work on my computer books, try to get a little more studying in. No phone calls, emails, Facebooks, games, etc. until the real work is done.

Today’s topic from A Writer’s Book of Days is to write about casting a spell:

Several years ago, in the relationship previous to this, my marriage, I confess I finagled in witchcraft and did actually cast a spell on the boy I was seeing at the time. I truly believe the motto: Be careful what you wish for. Especially in regards to using black magic-honey, it can only turn out bad…Where to begin?

His name was Tom. My sister-in-law had fixed us up on a blind date. The two of them worked together in a grocery store and had been friends since high school. Tom was a funny, energetic guy, kind of cute, all American looking, and not seeing anyone after his last relationship had gone bad.

I was floundering hit or miss in the single world after bailing on my second marriage disaster.  I was seeing two delicious older men-Paul, who lied about being wealthy but he looked like a Richard Gere knock off. Oh gosh, I can’t remember the other one’s name all of a sudden! He was a painter, older than Paul but yummy in a Hubert Keller kind of way. Oh…sexy and divine. Sadly , neither of these relationships held any future promise, fun as they were, and when Cathy suggested a date with Tom, I thought why not?

We fell quickly into dating regularly although, looking back, I don’t really know why, other than perhaps we both wanted something to call a relationship? We had nothing in common. He was an alcoholic and drug addict, faking living a normal life. I really must’ve been grasping at straws. He loved wild parties, drinking and doing coke. I had already had bad experiences with other drug addicts—why I didn’t go running mad in the other direction is beyond me. I refused to get high or drink with him and he got tired of my sobriety. We had an embarrassing fight in the middle of a friend’s party and I decided to call it quits. Or did I? Ridiculously, I wanted him back.

There was this little shop around the corner from where I worked at the time called Hocus Pocus. It was a magic and witchcraft shop with all sorts of candles and spell books, tarot cards and crystals. A couple friends and I would hang out in there at lunch time, browsing books and wasting time. I indulged my curiosity and bought a few spell books. I’d take them home to my little Shadyside apartment (I loved that place!) and peruse spells, whispering this incantation or that, never thinking it’d amount to much. Until Tom and I broke up. Now it was serious.

I found a spell to bring back a lover’s affections. Or at least to torture him until he couldn’t bear to be without you anymore. Candle lit, needle in place, I said the spell every day. Every day until things started to get weird in Tom’s life. His grandmother fell and was hurt fairly bad. His brother was almost killed in a car accident—thank God his two little boys weren’t in the car at the time. Cathy knew I was working some sort of mojo over Tom and begged me to stop. Tom finally called me to ask me out again and I put my magic books away.  I had gotten my wish.

Oh, had I just left things well enough alone and gotten on with my life. I gave in with the drugs once we were seeing each other again and the next five years were a blind fury of sleepless coke filled nights, near overdoses, a trip to jail for Tom, stealing, and lost jobs. Not a single thing I could look back on and be proud of. He finally proposed and I said yes even though I knew in the deepest part of my heart I wouldn’t marry him. Still, I bought a dress, booked a hall, photographer and caterer, the plans moved forward.

The only light in this whole mess was marriage classes since we were planning to be wed in the Catholic church that Tom had grown up in. We attended weekly classes and something happened in my heart. I wanted more than anything to be sober. I prayed fervently for God to give me the strength to find my way out of the dark black hole I had dug for myself the past five years. Instead of reading witchcraft books, I started reading about Buddhism and even went to hear the Dalai Lama speak one night when he came to Pittsburgh! What an incredible night that was, a turning point in my life.

I continued to pray that God would help me get out of that mess, that wreck I had made of my life. He gave me the strength to finally get sober and say no to anymore coke. I found myself wanting to be away from Tom and spent nights and weekends with family and friends so I could escape the insanity. The spell had finally been broken.

Not long after, God sent Bill my way—my husband and father of our son, Michael. I have never been happier. I’ve grown so much closer to God in the past eleven years, my life has made a complete three-sixty. Blessings shower over me daily, I’m so thankful to have been given this second chance. Why I want to write? To maybe make that difference in someone else’s life, to help them find their way to God, to peace beyond understanding. To give back some of what I have been given at the foot of the cross. Amen.