Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Like most of you, I am having fun playing with my new Christmas gifts. Hubby got me this lovely set of Jane Austen books, they are really beautifully done. I'm learning to use my new GPS which is an absolute life-saver since I could get lost in my bathtub! So far I have only used it to go places I already know how to get to, and it is so much fun to 'mess with it's head' and deliberately turn the wrong way, etc. to see what it will do. It always recovers and redirects admirably, so it is going to be great when I really need it. Especially to get back home again! I seem to be able to find my way places, only to be unable to find my way back home again, which can be most distressing. I got one of those really cool Kitchen Aid immersion blenders, too, and I can't wait to use it. Smoothies and soup, for sure, with recipes out of my brand new "Cook's Country" cookbook!

We have had an extremely good year in 2008, so this is a fond farewell to the year. We aren't going to have a New Year's Eve party, opting for a New Year's Day party instead. I don't always do New Year's resolutions, although I did when I was young, and my mom kept some of the more hilarious ones to blackmail me with! But this year I have several that I am extremely resolved about. I haven't really written them down, and don't intend to share them in any great detail, at least not in advance - that is such a jinx! But I have considered making a needlepoint that says "Write - Exercise - Garden" as a reminder. Of course, I don't do needlepoint and learning is not on my resolution list, so I will have to just do these things regularly until they become indispensable habits. I have enjoyed the modest publishing success I've achieved so far, and I'm hungry for more! So writing, and submitting, needs to become more of a priority. I want to be healthy, and exercise gets me there, so that's non-negotiable. And I would like to have my whole yard transformed, slowly and steadily, into a garden with paths and resting spots, and that will take a lot of hard work. So I am actually looking forward to this new year, full of promise and potential accomplishments. One last party, and then I will get back in to a routine, including a blogging routine. I have awards to accept, and loose ends to tie up, and I'm sure I'll have new experiences to share; not to mention reading all of your blogs! Happy 2009 to all of you friends I've made in this past year!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Happy Anniversary, Beloved!

Today I'm looking back on 30 years of marriage! Happy Anniversary to the man who swept me off my feet - as much as I loved you then, I love you even more now. It just keeps getting better!
Here's to the next 30 years!
(Hubby's 50th birthday was Friday, the day after Christmas. And, this is my 100th post!)

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Gift Has Already Been Given

Christmas a little hectic this year?

Take a deep, prayerful breath and a moment to remember what it's all about...
A Blessed and Merry Christmas to you!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hymns of Special Meaning

Ruth asked me to post five hymns that have meant something significant in my life, and I really tried to follow the rules. I went through the hymn book and I was strict with myself. "Only the really important ones," I told myself firmly. I ended up with a list of 43. This wasn't going to be easy! Back to the drawing board. I thought hard about what was really important to me, why hymns touch me so much.

I realized that for me, it is all about a relationship with the Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). There is a song called "Happiness Is the Lord" that has the line, "Real joy is mine, no matter if teardrops start, I've found the secret, it's Jesus in my heart," that kind of sums up my religious philosophy. I know a lot of people are Christians because they want to go to heaven some day, but I gotta tell you, even if we just lived and died here with no hope of anything after that, I would still be a Christian. When I was a child, I discovered that Jesus loves me and and I made a choice to put my hand in His. My life hasn't always been easy, far from it at times; but it HAS always been joyful! I believe what God says in His Word, because Jesus is the Word, and I trust Him completely; plus He sent the Comforter to help me understand it.

Hymns have always helped me remember the gospel, exhorted me to live it, given me a way to praise Him, comforted me when I was scared, and given me HOPE! I have narrowed it down to 12 choices, and I'm afraid that's the best I can do! I will not attempt to put the words to the hymns here, but I have linked to the lyrics.

"Jesus Loves Me" was the first song I learned as a tiny Christian. It gave me the gospel in a nutshell, and taught me to trust Jesus and believe the Bible.

I learned "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" first at church, then to a different tune at church camp. It was very comforting to know I had a Friend I could depend on, that was always there for me even when others had let me down badly.

"Trust and Obey"and "Count Your Blessings" are songs that taught me how to live as a Christian, and shaped my reaction to things that happened in my life. The only thing that puzzled me is the part in "Trust and Obey" where it says "I will walk by His side in the way." I always wondered if I shouldn't get out of the way!

My mother called "Heaven Came Down and Glory Filled My Soul" my song. She'd play it for me on the piano, my sister would sing harmony, and it is the one song I would belt out confidently!

"He Lives" resonates with me because my heart is so full of the love and presence of Jesus in my life and heart. He is a very real Person to me, Friend and Savior.

"Love Lifted Me" is all about salvation, and though I felt the presence of God from a very young age, I still made a conscious choice to accept Him in to my heart. I was very aware of how lost I was without Him, and trusted Him completely to save me.

Once I was saved, I loved the praise songs, such as "Praise Him! Praise Him!" and "He Keeps Me Singing." Great is His Name and Greatly to be praised!

We had an amazing piano player in our church, a lady by the name of Alice Mayhew. A beautiful, godly woman, and a professional piano player that could make you feel like you were already in heaven! I loved when she played "Wonderful Grace of Jesus," and then everyone would begin singing, and it was so rolling and majestic, the men and women singing different parts that gave it a richness that made me feel like my heart was going to come out of my chest and float up to heaven on its own!

"It Is Well With My Soul" is a beautiful song that always makes me cry, and that's before I had even heard the story behind it! It is a sad, beautiful, soul-stirring story of the trust a bereaved father had in his Lord and Savior even after his children had been drowned while coming by ship to join him. The story is here.

"Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee," besides being stunningly beautiful all on its own, also has a great deal of meaning to me, because this is one of the early songs my youngest son learned to play on the piano, and it's one we share a fondness for.

You can click on the names of the hymns to go to a page with lyrics and/or tunes. I pray God has richly blessed the writers of the hymns that give testimony, admonition, guidance, hope and praise to His Holy Name! They have been a rich source of blessings, teachings and strength to me in my Christian walk. And now I hope they will be a blessing to you!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Goodies and Recipes

I got fooling around with my banana bread recipe and created something great, just in time for Christmas! Following is the recipe for Banana Nut Craisin Bread. Rich and moist and flavorful, I think you're gonna love it. And it goes really well with a glass of eggnogg!

Banana Nut Craisin Bread

3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1+1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
3 Tablespoons milk
2 Tablespoons eggnog
4 ripe, mashed bananas
1 cup chopped mixed nuts
2 cups Craisins

Heat oven to 350 degrees
Mix first 4 ingredients in small bowl. Cream sugar with butter until light and stir in eggs. Beat in bananas, milk and eggnog. Beat flour mixture into banana mixture thoroughly; stir in nuts and craisins.
Divide evenly between 2 greased loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour, cool and slice.

Speaking of great Christmas recipes, the fabulous Christy of The Daily Dish held a recipe contest and my Grandma's Old-Fashioned Peanut Butter Fudge made the cut. Grandma made it for family, friends, and to sell at all the community events in Madison, Indiana. And I won some Lindt chocolates, too, how cool is that! Christy is posting a recipe a day from now 'til Christmas Eve. There will be lots of great things, and it's possible another of mine might appear, too. As an added bonus, Christy reduces the sodium in her recipes, but leaves the "delicious!" This is helpful to so many, many people who can't have sodium (like me!), and she does this site out of the goodness of her heart. But that doesn't mean there are no expenses, so if you can, out of the goodness of YOUR heart, consider leaving a donation to help with her costs.

(Here's a pic of my Grandma selling her fudge.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Chain Reaction

(Now when everyone is worried about the economy, politics and gas prices, it might help to remember that we've been here before, so to speak. When I was a teen in the 1970s, we had gas rationing, which caused the following now humorous day. The photo is my sis and me in 1976. I'm the brunette on the left in the coral dress, she's blond, in the flowered dress).

As the Dean of Students read the excuse my mother had carefully and thoroughly written out, she began to laugh. The more she read, the harder she laughed. “Please excuse my daughters from school yesterday,” it began…
“Don’t ride the bus tomorrow,” our friend Cheryl told my sister and me. “I’ll give you a ride to school.” This was fine with us! So the next morning we waited for Cheryl to show up. And waited. And waited. Suddenly she showed up at our door, and we thought we were in business. But when she came in, we realized she had walked…and she did not look happy!
“Where have you been? Where is your car? What’s going on?” we quizzed her as she caught her breath.
“My car won’t start. I tried to call you, but you never answered.”
“Our phone never rang,” my sister explained as Mom went and picked it up. Sure enough, it was out of order.
“What are we going to do?” wailed my sister. “The bus will be gone by now!”
“Come on, girls, I’ll take you,” Mom offered, and since we were in a hurry, she didn’t even bother to dress. We didn’t get out of the driveway, however, before she realized we were running extremely low on gas. “Oh, great!” she exclaimed. “Oh, well, at least it’s our day. We’ll just have to get gas on the way.”
This was the mid-70’s and an energy crisis was in full tilt. President Carter had declared energy saving measures, such as turning off the lights in rooms you weren’t using, and gas rationing. You could only get gas on certain days of the week, and luckily it was our turn. So Mom pulled into the first gas station she came to. It was full-service, which for the younger among you means employees of the gas station actually came out and pumped our gas for us, so we would be spared the spectacle of Mom pumping gas in her curlers and pink bathrobe. Unfortunately, we had all forgotten one tiny but crucial detail. Because of the rationing, people were siphoning gas out of other people’s cars, so my step-dad had installed a brand new lock on the gas tank. One for which he had the key, at home on his keychain.
“Well, we simply do not have enough gas to get you girls to school!” Mom concluded. “You’ll just have to try again tomorrow.”
And home we went, where Mom wrote the note the Dean decided to frame and hang on her wall.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Good Tidings of Great Joy!

And behold, an Angel of the Lord stood near them, and the brightness of God shone around them, and they were struck with a great fear. And the Angel said to them: "Do not be afraid. For, behold, I proclaim to you a great joy, which will be for all the people. For today a Saviour has been born for you in the city of David: he is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."

And suddenly there was with the Angel a multitude of the celestial army, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will." (Luke)

A Blessed Christmas to all of you! (The angels were made by our sons many years ago, and I still put them out every year.)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Customized Scattergories

Sparky tagged me (and everyone else who reads her blog!) with a list of questions I'm supposed to answer. I took some out and added some in, so mine is a little different from hers. Go to her site to see the original, and if you want to play, you can use hers, mine, or make up your own! Here goes!

Who do you look the most like in your family? I don't look at all like anyone in my family, although there is apparently a distant cousin I've never met that I favor.

Do you like your handwriting? Uh, no, it's horrible. If I hadn't learned to type, few people would be able to read what I write.

Do you prefer pants or skirts? Skirts almost exclusively.

Smooth jazz or rock? Smooth jazz

Do you have kids? Yes, 3 amazing sons here and one in heaven

What is your favorite lunchmeat? Turkey, but I also like "roast beast"

If you were someone else would you be friends with you? I think I would, I'm pretty friendly. I KNOW I'd be friends with my kids if we'd been kids together

Are you sarcastic? I can be when I'm trying to be funny

Are you good at telling jokes? No, I'm the worst, I usually end up telling the punch line first by mistake and then I get all confused

Do you cry easily? Didn't used to, but the older I get the more tender I get

Do you have your tonsils? Yep, that is one of the few things left, lol

Would you bungee jump? Oh, yeah, and sky dive and hot air balloon and parasail and... but my hubby has made me promise to wait until he's gone, so I'll be one of those 90 year old daredevils!

Who has been your favorite President in your lifetime? President Reagan

What is your favorite ice cream? Ben and Jerry's New York Super-Fudge Chunk. That, or plain vanilla from Publix

What's the first thing you notice about people? Their eyes and smile

What is the last movie you went to the theatre to see? Madagascar II just a few days ago (IMAX!)

What book are you currently reading? "What Matters Most" by Luanne Rice

Who do you miss the most? Our 3rd son

Shoes or barefoot? barefoot

What color do you prefer, red or blue? RED

Who was the last person you talked to on the phone? My mother

What was the last thing you ate? Pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting, yummy!

What is your least favorite feature? My eyes

What do you listen to? Oh, my, it depends on what I'm doing. Relaxing with my hubby, "Romance in Rio" or Chris Botti's "A Thousand Kisses Deep"; working is College Fight Songs, cooking is Big Band or fiddle and banjo, cooking for special occasions, Charlotte Church, doing dishes, hymns... to relax I like techno and when I'm playing board games with my son, we listen to Christian Contemporary. There's a music for every mood!

Favorite scents? Lilac, cinnamon, vanilla, Brut

Hair color? Eye color? Brown

Favorite sports to watch? Hockey, baseball, rodeo - or soccer and tennis if my sons are playing!

Scary movies or happy endings? Happy endings!

Movies that make you laugh or movies that make you think? BOTH

Who is your newest favorite singer? Michael Buble, esp. "Sway" and "Everything"

Do you have a special talent? I am amazingly good at diagnosing people's illnesses and ailments

Monday, November 24, 2008

HodgePodge, Treats and Happy Thanksgiving!

Things are hoppin' but they are all fun things. The pink marble tile for my new bathroom is being installed (by my brother) and it looks mahvelous! Our son found it for us, 12 x 12 tiles for 50 cents a tile! Wow! He's the sultan of deal-finders! I'll tell more about the bathroom later, with pictures, I promise!

I got not one, but TWO awards from Sparky!!! They are above and below:

Aren't they cool? I am honored...

Kathy at Destination Sanctification and I, did a swap for our birthdays. Hers was November 1st, so I got her package to her right before. Mine is November 30th and my package came today! WOW, what a lot of lovely, darling, pretty smelling things! Soon I'll do a post just about the swap! (I'm starting to get a backlog - I still have to do our Sea World trip and the hymn meme! Soon, I promise!).

Well, I will of course be busy all this week, cooking, cleaning... and sealing marble tile, of course! So a very, very Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, enjoy your feasting and family and remember to Count Your Many Blessings. (There, Ruth, I worked a hymn in!) I don't know about you but I have soooo many to count! ( To all of you who live in places that don't officially celebrate Thanksgiving, don't feel left out. Just roast a turkey, invite your family over, and take a day to celebrate all the amazing blessings God showers you with all the year long. A day to say Thanks to Him for everything, and to really hold your family close to your heart - it's not just an American or Canadian thing when you think of it that way!)

(Update: I just got the Superior Scribbler award again, from Bob at Rhymes With Plague, a fun, informative blog I think you would like very much. I am thinking that Sparky and Bob must have seen my handwriting at some point, let alone my prolific doodling! Thanks, guys!)

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Ugly Daughter

(I hope you enjoy this true story about a good friend and I the summer we were 12 years old...)

"And this is my ugly daughter," announced Mrs. Hamilton with the calmness born of repetition, as she pulled her 12 year old forward.
I'd gone with my mother to the modest ranch-style house next door to meet the new neighbors from Georgia. Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton met us at the door and it was evident at first glance that, from the scuffed toes of his dusty work boots to the roots of her dyed hair, they were complete opposites. After introducing himself as Claude and inviting us in, taciturn Mr. Hamilton returned to his comfy little "den" in the Florida room. Although he didn't say much, kindness was evident on his plain countenance. Mrs. Hamilton led us on the grand tour of her new home, laying newspaper down before us as if it were her coat over a mud puddle; or in this case, under a mud puddle, since it was her carpet she was trying to protect. As we stopped near the tiny formal dining room overlooking a living room with plastic covering the sofa, three young southern belles appeared from the back bedrooms. Mrs. Hamilton introduced her oldest daughter, Ginger, who displayed the tartness of lemonade in her witty speech. Next came shy little Melanie, sweet and refreshing as a tall glass of iced tea on a hot summer day. When she came to her middle daughter, the pride left her face. I looked curiously at the one who was my age, the one who'd been introduced in such an awfully matter-of-fact way.
Bonnie Claudette looked me straight in the eye and I was startled to see the mischief and intelligence dancing there.
"Take me as I am," she seemed to say, "and let's see where it takes us." That was one of the best bargains I ever made. Bonnie's features may not have added up to traditional Southern beauty, but her personality, imagination and sense of fun made her a peach of a friend.
Her name told the story, really. She was optimistically named Bonnie, which means beauty. But her middle name, Claudette, after the father she favored, was more descriptive of her outward appearance. Bonnie had six toes on each of her completely flat feet. She wasn't skinny, exactly, but she had more angles than curves. Her mousy brown hair frizzed uncontrollably out of its overworked barrette. She had rather bad skin, possibly because she wore a thick hedge of makeup to hide behind. Her large, brown eyes might have been her one beauty had she not had the misfortune of being born severely cross-eyed. By the time I met her, many surgeries had corrected this, but the ugly glasses she wore had lenses as thick as the proverbial coke bottle, creating a weird aquarium effect as if her eyes floated behind them. But Bonnie also means fine, good, robust. These things, I came to discover, described her perfectly.
Perhaps because she had known such casual cruelty from her own mother, Bonnie was very kind to others. She laughed a lot and had many friends. We'd have sleep-overs at her house and she was the perfect hostess. We stayed up late to watch really old horror movies, laughing ourselves silly over the goofy special effects. Our favorite was the Frankenstein hand, scrabbling across the floor while its intended victims stood patiently, screaming hysterically at their fate. "Stomp on it!" we'd yell at the screen. "Run out and close the door!" Giving up on them, we went to the bedroom to hold a beauty pageant, using Bonnie's bed as the runway. We shared our secrets, and then she would whisper, "Watch this," and yank open her bedroom door, causing her eavesdropping mother to fall against her. We laughed together later about the lame excuses her mother gave, but she never allowed bitterness to take root.
Bonnie loved to bake cakes as much as I enjoyed making cookies, so we decided to open a bakery when we grew up. But her real passion was boiled peanuts in a can. She craved them, and I know it was greatly to my credit, in her eyes, that I developed a love for them too. We walked to the little corner store, gathering bottles along the way to redeem for change. We worked hard at this, patiently searching out bottles that had been missed by the other, less ambitious children. Often full of muddy water, we poured out what we could and left the caked-on stuff for the poor, beleaguered store personnel to deal with. When we had enough, usually about 75 cents worth, we could buy a can of boiled peanuts! Clutching our prize with delighted anticipation, we hurried home to the can opener. Eagerly cutting open the can, we reached deep into the slimy interior with our fingers, pulling out soft peanuts that had been boiled in the shell and left in this preservative for brave, southern enthusiasts like us. We ate them with relish, sometimes finding triple nuts that were our version of four-leaf clovers. To our future bakery, we mentally attached a lean-to full of cans of boiled peanuts for our personal sustenance. You can take Bonnie from Georgia, but you can't take Georgia from Bonnie, and this relic from her upbringing was one she relished.
Her imagination made our friendship rich within a secret world all our own. When we played tennis in the road, we weren't two awkward pre-teens. Oh, no, we were Chrissy Everett and the identical twin, Missy, that we invented for her. Our feet were so tough that the hot road sizzled to no avail, and so bad at tennis that we spent most of our time chasing balls in the ditch anyway. The sharp sting of really dry sand spurs only hurt for a moment before we licked our fingers and pulled them out.
When the sun got too hot, we went in and wrote mysteries together. We allowed Chrissy and Missy to be our heroines, but evidently they were better at tennis, because after a few pages we left them to their frightening fate. We were sidetracked by a club we were forming. This was serious business, requiring an initiation, secret code and clubhouse. We decided it would be easier to agree on everything if we were the only ones in the club, voted on it, and it passed unanimously. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon coming up with a two-part poem that was our secret password. We tried it out the very next day. I went to her house, knocked, and was met by her mother. This dampened my enthusiasm briefly, especially when she informed me that, "Bonnie can't play."
"May I please talk to her just for a moment?" I begged, and she relented slightly. Leaving me outside in the carport, I heard her admonishing Bonnie to hurry and get back to her work. Soon Bonnie appeared. Self-consciously aware of her mother listening nearby, I quoted my half of our password poem. Bonnie, eyes dancing with mischief, quoted her part flawlessly. A look of triumph passing between us, I left to work on an invisible lemon-juice letter and Bonnie went back to her chores.
"Look, all we have to do is hold it over a candle," I explained the next afternoon, showing Bonnie her invisible letter. We got the candle from my new wax sealing kit and tried it out, amazed as the letters began appearing on the page. Then we each chose a seal for important club documents, a butterfly for her and the initial "T" for me. That important task taken care of, we began our search for a clubhouse. Luckily it was a Saturday, so we could give our full attention to this matter.
Bonnie's sense of fun was always ready to bubble to the surface, so her idea to use my step-dad's old john-boat as our clubhouse ended up being an hilarious adventure. In many ways, it was perfect. It rested in a shady corner of our yard, had two seats, and we were allowed to use it. The only flaw in its design was a multitude of hiding places for seedy characters like roaches. In fact, it had apparently been appropriated for a roach motel. Unbeknownst to us, they were all sleeping off a night of revelry that very moment. We climbed in and got settled for a meeting, and a few sentries came out to investigate.
"EEEEWWWWW!" we screeched, jumping up. This rocked the boat, so to speak, and a few more alarmed inhabitants came running out in their nightclothes. Well, we weren't going to stand for this! This was our clubhouse and they would simply have to go.
Impulsively breaking off small branches from a pine tree, we began swatting at the roaches. They ran out of the boat; we were winning! Except they kept coming. How many could there be, after all? If we could hurry the process, we could get back to our meeting. So Bonnie climbed up on the back seat and began jumping up and down. This drove the interlopers out and I beat them enthusiastically with my switch. Unfortunately, this caused them to flow over the side of the boat in a fleeing stream, eliciting screams from me and wild laughter from Bonnie. Grossed out, but determined to prevail, we switched places and continued our assault. But there is a reason why roaches survive and we discovered it that afternoon. They multiply and divide, and then they conquer. Our jumping legs and flailing arms could not hold up long enough to defeat them all, and we finally fell in an exhausted heap -- far away from the boat -- at which time they all filed back in and resumed their naps.
But the very next afternoon something wonderful happened! Bonnie's dad, whom we both much preferred, decided to go visit his side of the family on their modest farm, and he invited us to go along! This was too wonderful to be true! First of all, he was taking his truck, which meant we could ride in the back with the wind beating us into a disheveled mess, but even better than that was -- chickens! We had for some time been enamored with the idea of ink jars and quill pens, and had actually gone so far as to purchase tiny bottles of ink with our allowances. But quill pens seemed to be in rather short supply and most birds had the good sense to stay far away from us. This would be our big chance and we didn't intend to blow it. We arrived at the farm, pushed our wildly misplaced hair out of our wind-chapped faces, and got down to business. The grownups were busy, so we wheedled Bonnie's cousin into letting us attempt to get chicken quills, fresh from the factory! A good-natured boy, evidently much amused by us and ready for some fun, he quickly agreed and led us to the chicken pen.
The chickens were out pecking and strutting and doing their little chicken things. The element of surprise was on our side. They didn't act overly alarmed when we stepped into the pen, just "ba-awk"ing a greeting and then ignoring us. We each picked the chicken whose feathers we found the most beautiful and began sneaking up on our prey. This was going to be easy, we thought elatedly, reaching for the business ends of our chosen chickens. Just as we grabbed the tip of a feather, each of our targets hopped indignantly forward, looking as if they'd been goosed. Moving a little more quickly, we tried again, but this time each chicken exploded into movement, eluding us again. We looked at each other questioningly, as Bonnie's cousin chuckled delightedly and called his little sister to watch. Lips tightening in determination, we began running, our quill pens managing to stay just out of reach on the backs of their owners. Round and round we ran, chickens squawking, cousins holding their stomachs while rolling with laughter, and indulgent adults gathering to monitor the situation. They suggested we periodically switch targets, so as not to run the chickens to death. At this point, we were willing to settle for any quill at all, so we agreed, causing us to lurch and spin as we tried to grab any chicken in sight. Eventually our strategy paid off, as an unsuspecting chicken, lulled in to a false sense of security because we were chasing a different bird, allowed himself to stray into the path of our grasping hands. Flush with victory (and running), we climbed wearily, but triumphantly back in the truck, quill pens in hand. Those became our official club pens, used for writing notes, letters and creative stories. There was plenty of time for thought since we had to dip them in the ink every other letter or so.
Bonnie and I had so much fun together that I could never remember that she was considered ugly. It was rather fitting that her glasses magnified her eyes, luminous with kindness, intelligence and fun. I've heard that beauty is only skin deep, but under a thin veneer of weak flesh, Bonnie's beauty lay like a vein of gold, solid to the core.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Happy Birthday to Our Middle Son!

This Saturday, November 15, 1982 marks the day this little dimpled charmer joined our family. Full of mischief, impulsive and curious, he filled our home with laughter. He used to make his own toys out of paper and sticks, and now,twenty six years later, he is a skilled craftsman. Happy Birthday, Honey, we love you!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

On a Lighter Note...

(Okay, time for another story I've written for you. This one is fiction, based on the old childhood classic "Three Billy Goats Gruff." Enjoy!)

Three Tough Chicks From the ‘Hood

Mrs. Beasley pulled her shawl more tightly around her shoulders as she entered Detention Room 1-A. “Robert didn’t even want me to teach the literature course,” she chuckled to herself, thinking of her overprotective son.
“Mom,” he’d lectured, “once you cross that bridge, you’re entering a different world. I’ve heard that school isn’t even safe! It may be a girl’s school, but they have some real tough chicks over in that neighborhood.” She’d laughed at him, thinking she was a tough old biddy herself! Wouldn’t he have a fit when he found out she was substituting in Detention! Mrs. Beasley wrote on the chalkboard, tacked some things on the wall, and sat patiently waiting for the students to arrive.
Just then the door creaked dramatically as it was eased slowly open, finally revealing the timid eyes of a teen-age girl peeking around it. She took in the frail woman at the desk, and seeing Mrs. Beasley gazing back at her with interest, she quickly averted her eyes and scuttled past the desk as if afraid she’d be squashed like a bug if she went too slowly. Choosing the farthest seat from the front, she sat down quickly and looked at her lap.
Mrs. Beasley quietly observed her sole student, slumped down as if to make herself smaller. Her paperwork said the girl was in detention because she would not participate in class. The girl’s hair was looped and swirled elaborately around her small head. Her makeup was applied flawlessly and a bit dramatically. A series of increasingly larger earrings cascaded down each ear. Her animal-print blouse began with criss-crossing straps, became form-fitting in the bust and ended with a fluttery scarf-like point over dressy black slacks. Her feet were enthroned on 3” platform heels with gold cords affixing them to her ankles. As Mrs. Beasley took in the full picture, the girl seemed to shrink from her gaze.
“Well, shall we begin our assignment?” Mrs. Beasley asked softly, but the girl jumped as if she’d shouted.
“No,” she quavered, a small note of panic in her voice. “Please, let’s wait for the others. My cousin will be here soon.”
“All right, I suppose we can wait. I only hope your cousin is as stylish as you are, dear,” Mrs. Beasley commented casually. A strange look composed of pleasure and suspicion struggled across the girl’s features. She sat up a little straighter, placed her hands carefully on her lap, and studied an old playbill of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” featuring a fashionable actress in elaborate costume, with frank interest. Mrs. Beasley quietly waited.
Suddenly the door banged open and a screaming young lady flew, laughing, into the room. Before the door could slam shut behind her, an eraser zoomed across the room, smacking the window on the far wall, a cloud of chalk dust hanging suspended above it in
the vibrating air. A young face, eyes crossed and tongue out, appeared briefly in the small window set in the door, causing the girl to laugh even harder. Suddenly aware of Mrs. Beasley observing her, the girl said, “Oops, hello!” and with a wave of her hand to her shy cousin, she flopped into a seat in the front. “I suppose we have to sit and be quiet for an hour,” she spoke flippantly to Mrs. Beasley, mischief dancing in her merry eyes.
“Oh, no, not at all,” Mrs. Beasley replied, nodding toward the chalkboard.
“Oh, no way!” the girl shrieked, noting the slogan there. ‘She who does not work, neither shall she leave,’ was emblazoned in Spencerian penmanship. “You mean we got to work? In detention?” as if detention were strictly a leisurely activity.
Mrs. Beasley smiled at the girl’s incredulous look. Indeed, you couldn’t not smile at this pixie, and Mrs. Beasley could plainly see how the girl must have disrupted the class, resulting in her detention. “Well, we better get started!” she began, but the second girl was shaking her head no before she even finished speaking.
“No, we got to wait for my friend. Can’t start without her,” she insisted.
“Okay,” Mrs. Beasley acquiesced. “ I only hope she has the delicious sense of fun you bring to the class.” The girl’s eyes widened in disbelief. She sat quietly contemplating this for a full five minutes, when the door opened, revealing a tall girl with a commanding presence. She stood calmly surveying the room. She absorbed the atmosphere for a moment, taking in the frail, quiet substitute, the timid, lovely girl in the back and the merry, exuberant girl in front. She read the chalkboard, glanced at the playbill, and spent a few moments on a poster of Sally Field in “Norma Rae.” She even noticed the eraser thrown to the ground. After she’d satisfied herself with looking, she sauntered into the room, the unmistakable challenge of authority in her eyes that had landed her in detention in the first place. She chose a chair in the exact middle of the room, and instantly the other two girls joined her, one on each side. In a clear, commanding voice, she stated, “I’m here. We can start now.”
“Ahhh,” breathed Mrs. Beasley slowly, with evident satisfaction in her tone. “A natural leader. How wonderful!”
The girl looked questioningly at Mrs. Beasley to see if she was being made fun of, but Mrs. Beasley beamed back at her with such delight that she relaxed. “What would you like us to do?’’ she asked.
That afternoon, walking back over the bridge to her apartment building, Mrs. Beasley smiled at the memory of the three girls’ enthusiasm as they read the parts in the play she’d brought with her. “How funny to see the looks on their faces when they found out I was the actress on the playbill!” she reminisced joyfully. “Now, when I have them in literature next term, they’ll set the tone for the whole class.”
Mrs. Beasley had a rollicking good time teaching literature at that school, and those three girls became her best students. The other teachers, who sat and glared for an hour at the silent kids in Detention, could never figure out what magic enabled her to manage those three tough chicks from that ‘hood!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President-Elect Obama

"First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:1-3

"Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God, and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you, for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil. Wherefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants, of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor." Romans 13:1-7

The election is over and our new President has been chosen. He's not the gentleman I wanted because of deep fundamental differences that are of concern to me. But there was a huge voter turnout, 83.6% in our county alone, and I respect the results, the position, and the man. President-Elect Obama has earned my support, both by the majority vote and also by his own very inspiring acceptance speech. He has a calm demeanor that I think will be reassuring in these hard times. John McCain's concession speech was also extraordinarily gracious, giving me hope that he will continue to do the good work he has traditionally done in the Senate. Both he and President-Elect Obama set a tone of civility and respect for others that will be very refreshing if it catches on in Washington.

President-Elect Obama has a great deal to contend with and will need our sincere prayers for his safety, guidance and wisdom, as well as our patience as he learns how to lead such a diverse yet united country. For the next four years, as far as I can without disobeying God, President-Elect Obama has my support.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


It's hard to find time to post when I'm busy, but at least I'm doing interesting things to post about... eventually! This is just a catch up post to tell you some of the things we've been up to.

I've gotten in some good drum sessions since I was inspired by the Percussion Summit. It's a lot of fun, and a bit of an outlet to jam on my snare drum, all by myself in my kitchen. None of the neighbors have complained so far. Some one asked me what I wore - hubby won't let me post pics of myself, but here are the clothes, anyway, some of which I bought on our pre-percussion shopping trip! I wore the gold sandals that I already had, with the coral tunic blouse, below, and a navy "skinny skirt," which you can just see in the photo with the red blouse, which of course I couldn't resist getting.

I have been presented with two new awards! I love awards. They make me feel special, which is always a nice feeling.

The first one is from Merle, and I am very honored to receive the Million Dollar Friend award from such a sweet lady!

The one above is from a new friend, Sparky, who has a fun blog that I "wuv" too!

There were some rules, which I am going to shamelessly and blatantly break, with apologies to the above ladies. On the other hand, what I really want to do is pass them on in reverse, to Merle and Sparky! Merle, "I Wuv Your Blog!" and Sparky, you are my new "Million Dollar Friend!"

A few weekends ago, we had a 3-day weekend in which we were supposed to patch, paint, garden, do laundry and grocery shopping and cleaning, deliver birthday presents to a niece and a nephew, and a million other things we thought we could squeeze in. So when my hubby woke me Friday morning, I was ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work. But he surprised me by saying, "Let's go to Sea World instead!" Well of course I said "Great!!!" We'd gone there for our honeymoon 30 years ago and had hoped to go back in honor of our 30th anniversary, so that's what we did, and we had a marvelous time! I'll tell all about it next post. Right after I get caught up on patching, painting, laundry and groceries, gardening, birthdays...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Leslie and the Aliens

(Lots to say, no time to say it! For now, I thought maybe you'd enjoy a true story I wrote a couple of years ago.)

Because my sister was older than me it was only natural that she was smarter. I learned a lot from her. For instance, I learned that I was adopted. My parents had never told me about this, and in fact denied it when I asked, but then my sister had warned me that would happen.
"They don't want to upset you," she explained. "So they'll never admit it. But I remember it well! My parents and I went for a walk one day." Here she paused and looked at me to see if I realized the idyllic life she'd given up for me. "And there you were, floating in the sewer."
"How could I float if I was so little?" I questioned breathlessly, picturing my pitiful little self drowning in a sewer as a baby.
"Oh, you were floating on a log," she said airily, "and I found you. We all felt sorry for you so I fished you out with my umbrella and we brought you home. I've had to pretend like you were my sister ever since!" she finished with a sigh.
Naturally I appreciated the sacrifice she'd made for me. But just in case I wasn't grateful enough, she let me in on a weighty secret that burdened her young mind terribly.
"There are aliens, you know," she confided in a nervous whisper one day, as our kitten streaked across the bed.
"Really?" I quavered, making a grab for my sock just as the kitten attacked it and getting scratched in the process. "What are aliens?"
"Oh, they are monsters from space," she told me, "and they are mean!" I let go of the sock to suck on my scratched finger and the kitten disappeared under the bed with it. "If you don't do exactly what I tell you to do, they'll come and you'll have to go to space with them and be mean, too!"
"Why do I have to do what you say?" I inquired indignantly.
"I'm only telling you what they said," my sister said, hurt. "I'm warning you!"
"How do you know this stuff?" I inquired skeptically.
"Because I'm the only one who can understand them. So I'm useful."
"Well, I just won't go with them," I decided, but she shook her head sadly at my futile defiance. "They'll turn you in to one of them. Then you'll have to go."
"How?" I demanded shortly, a little fed up with these persistent aliens. I looked under the bed, but the kitten was up in the mattress springs destroying my sock. I got back on the bed and began bouncing, hoping to drive her out.
"There's something you have to drink," she started to explain, but I interrupted her.
"I won't drink it!" I avowed.
"Sure you will," she predicted, "after awhile, when you get thirsty enough. They won't give you any thing else to drink."
And that, it seemed, was that. Leaving my other sock on the bed, I went off barefoot to play. Leslie suggested we play "princess," That sounded good - until she informed me I had to be the prince! I started to argue, but then I remembered the aliens. I played prince. Later, she got to be Batman and I had to be Robin. It was a long day.
The next day, I suggested we play Mousetrap. "No, we're playing Chess," she announced. "Let's play jump rope," I'd beg. She'd get out pick-up-sticks. Eventually my mother began to notice my cheerful acqueisance to everything my sister wanted and one day she took me aside privately.
"You know, you can do what you want once in a while," she said, trying to pull my hair ribbon out from under the coffee table where the kitten was tearing it up. "You don't always have to do what your sister wants." She pulled her hand back quickly and reached for a magazine.
"No, I want to do what she does," I quickly answered, watching her poke at the cat with the magazine. "Especially since I'm adopted, you know."
"Tracie, you are not adopted," my mother said through gritted teeth.
"Mom, you know I'm not a baby anymore," I said. "You can tell me the truth."
"I think I hear your sister calling you," she said. She laid the tatters of the magazine on the table and left the ribbon to the kitten.
This went on for quite a while. One night, after our story, prayers, our drink, a trip to the bathroom, the bonus story my sister always shared with me about monsters, another drink, a swat for refusing to stop talking, and another trip to the bathroom, we settled down to sleep. Our backs were touching all the way down to our cold little feet to prevent anything from grabbing us from behind. We'd jumped into the bed so quickly and from such a distance that even the monster under the bed that waited each night to grab us by the ankles and drag us under for his dinner, had given up and gone to sleep. Aware of my parents on guard in the living room and the kitten closed up in the bathroom for the night, quietly shredding toilet tissue, I drifted off.
"Ow," I yelped. I'd been startled awake by something sharp poking me in the side. I tried to turn and look, but got poked again. "Leslie," I hissed in a whisper, but got no response. Sleepily rubbing my eyes, I got up and pushed the curtain aside. Moonlight poured in and I turned to the bed. My sister had vanished! In her place a small fury was twisting and turning, all claws and teeth and strange, hissing sounds.
I stared in disbelief for a moment, and then it dawned on me. The aliens had gotten mixed up! They'd missed me and gotten her by mistake! I burst out laughing and laughed so hard my parents came running from their room to see what could cause such mirth in the middle of the night. The light went on and the alien turned into our kitten! She'd been sprung from her confinement by none other than my sister, failing to shut the door tight after her last visit. My sister herself appeared, having been taken in to my parent's bed after a bad dream.
The spell was broken. I no longer believed in aliens. I no longer waited on my sister hand and foot. She didn't have a willing slave any more. Instead, we grew to be friends. One day she even admitted that I hadn’t been adopted after all.
“Nope, it was really me that was adopted,” she confessed with a melancholy smile. “I was a princess in Egypt, and you were my loyal servant. One day my kingdom was attacked by enemies. You managed to escape, and...”

Monday, October 20, 2008

Don't Worry - Here's Why!

"For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?

And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life's span?

And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith? Do not be anxious then, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?' For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

But seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Matthew6:26-34 (New American Standard)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Don't Worry. It Doesn't Help.

I tend to be one of those people who doesn't worry about much. Now, don't get me wrong, I am very concientious and responsible. But I don't WORRY. I don't fret and stress, and I'm not afraid all the time. I figure we might as well LIVE until we die, otherwise we might as well be dead anyway. I do pray a lot, but then I tend to let God decide the outcome, and since I know He knows what He's doing, I don't have to try to "help" determine the outcome "my way."

But I don't want to be stupid either. I make sure the stove is turned off when I'm done cooking, lock the doors before I go to bed, and drive as safely as I can. And lately, now that my sons have moved on and I'm here alone a lot, I try to be a little more aware of things. Gardening is one of those things I have to be a little more careful about.

When I garden (or any thing else, for that matter) I tend to forget to pace myself. I just go full bore until I'm ready to drop. But besides being accident prone, I'm not as young as I was, and I've gotten myself in to some trouble doing that. The most recent and serious was heat stroke. I'd been mowing in the hottest part of a Florida summer day, and I began to feel chest pain. I stopped mowing and went in to drink water and cool off, but I couldn't get cool - instead I got nauseous and dizzy, progressing to violent vomiting. I have some health issues with medications that exacerbate the problem, so I was one sick puppy. I recovered, but it left an impression, not only on me but on my doctor and hubby! So now I have to take precautions - and I do! I watch the heat, wear a hat and sunglasses, stop to rest in the shade and drink water, and keep only one battery for the mower, so when it runs out, I'm done.

When I go out to garden, I've begun taking water, a chair, my cell phone, and lately, my keys. I got a scare from a vagrant one day, and I realized any one could go in to the house while I was out working in the garden and I would never know it until I was locked in there with them. So I try to take the proper precautions.

But you know, it's a fine line between proper precautions and living in fear. Today was a good example. I took all the many things out with me that I could possibly need to stay safe and healthy while weeding my plumbagos. But then I had the problem of what to do with them. In typical impulsive fashion, I didn't think it through. I just stuck the keys and cell phone in my shirt (you know, ladies, the ever present "purse" that resides there!). I gardened happily for quite a while, serene in the knowledge that I'd covered all the bases. Until I was nearing exhaustion and decided to finish up and go in. That's when I realized I didn't have my keys anymore. At some point gravity had played it's little prank, and they were gone! I am not known for staying calm in situations like that, but I did! I (calmly) walked around to all the places I'd been, looking (calmly) for the keys. I didn't find the keys, but I did give some thought to the thick piles of weeds I'd clutched to my bosom and then thrown over the cow pasture fence. But I didn't dwell on that thought. Finally I gave up and called my husband. About that time I suffered my ultimate humiliation as I realized I DID have pockets in these shorts after all! It was the OTHER shorts that didn't have pockets.

My husband called my son, who was closer, and who I couldn't call because I had never put his new number in my cell phone, and he came to rescue me. He not only let me back in my own house, but he even found the missing keys for me. Lying in plain site about 2 feet from where I was sitting in the shade in despair.

So what have I learned from this? That I'm a hopeless and impulsive clutz. But actually I already knew that, so what ELSE did I learn from this? I have no idea. On the one hand, being "safe" didn't work out so well, as it so often does not. (How many people shoot a loved one thinking they are a burglar, or are suffocated in their own air bag, or die in a fire because there were bars on their windows?). On the other hand, I was rather glad I had my cell phone with me. And my water, for that matter. So I basically learned I was right all along (don't you LOVE when that happens?); that I need to take precautions, but not worry too much. Pray, leave it in God's hands, and LIVE until I die. At which time I have a sneaking suspicion that the angels will be laughing so hard from whatever ridiculous way I end up dying that they won't even be able to greet me right away!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Happy Birthday to Our #1 Son!

Twenty Seven years ago, this little darling with the punk rocker hair and the huge blue eyes, came to join our family. Now he's 6' 5" of manhood. His eyes are still amazing, and he's still sweet! Happy Birthday to our firstborn son, who filled our lives with so much joy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

All is Well on the Floor Project

The flooring project is going quite well. It's mostly finished, except for trim and transitions. The laundry room is coming along nicely too, and the platform is built.

Haven't begun the new bathroom yet, the den (man cave!) needs trim and bookcases, and the guest bathroom needs painting, also the back porch... are you ever really done? Especially when you have a bad case of what my friend calls "While I'm At It" Syndrome!

It doesn't help any that every one is leaving! Our oldest son, who is going to do the phone and computer networking stuff, is going to Georgia for the weekend to do some hiking and camping. Well, it's his birthday tomorrow so he gets a buy, I guess. Our middle son, who is doing - well, just about everything! - is going to Galveston to help with the clean up. Even our youngest son, who isn't currently working on his parent's house, is leaving Tuesday for 2 weeks in Bulgaria and Greece! (For a missions conference and retreat). At least my camera gets to go. My camera is well-traveled.

Please forgive me for not visiting and leaving comments much right now, I'm SWAMPED! And don't even get me started on what all the poor garden needs. Well, actually, do get me started, or stuff is gonna start dying. I need to do some industrial-strength weeding. When I surface for air, I'll come visit again, I promise.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Remodeling Conundrums

You never know where things will end up when you are remodeling,

But a Queen always finds her throne.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Becoming Gracious

I have given a lot of thought to the way I want to grow old. My mom said she was going to live to be 100 so matter of factly the whole time I was growing up, that I just thought that's what one did. So I've always intended to live to be 100. I will be 50 in a few years and it feels like I'll be able to re-start the odometer and do the whole trip over again, so I definitely don't feel old yet, but I assume at some point I will be officially an old woman. Instead of being horrified by that idea, I want to grow in to it graciously. I've known some grand old women, beautiful and gracious and comfortable with their age. They are wise, wonderful, kind and funny. Intelligent and accomplished, too, with very interesting stories to tell. They wear their crowns of white hair as regally as queens and I admire them greatly. That's the kind of old woman I want to be, and I figure it won't just happen. No, I will have to work toward it every day as I build my life decision by decision, choice by choice.

I have always been fascinated by Scarlett of Gone With the Wind fame. She secretly wishes to grow to be exactly like her gracious, self-sacrificing, servant mother. Scarlett is portrayed as self-centered to an amazing degree, willing to do anything that will advance her own welfare to the detriment of anyone who gets in her way. But every time she makes a bad choice, she reassures herself that some day when it is more convenient, she'll be kind, worry about others before herself, sacrifice for the common good. She puts off every good choice to a tomorrow that never quite comes, never realizing that with every bad choice she makes she goes the opposite direction of where she wants to end up. That made a huge impression on me growing up. I came to realize that every single choice I made was a building block in the person I would become. Kindness and self-denial are not concepts to be discussed but character traits to be developed by practicing them time after time, when it is least convenient and hardest to do. But if I practice being gracious throughout my life, I am confident that some day I will grow to be like the women I so admire.

"A gracious woman attains honor. Let (her adornment) be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. Strength and dignity are her clothing and she smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." (medley of Proverbs 11:16, 1 Peter 3:4, Proverbs 31: 25, 26) This is what I aspire to.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Election Experiment

I love all the drama, debates, and excitement surrounding the election, but when all is said and done, whoever is voted in will be my President and Vice President, receiving my prayers for their well being and wise decision making.

I wish more people would take voting seriously. I don't understand people who say it doesn't make any difference anyway. If we don't vote, then of course it doesn't make any difference! We have a representational government, and the only incentive the people in office have to represent us instead of themselves is knowing we are paying attention to what they do and voting accordingly. I heard some foreigners saying everyone should be allowed to vote in America's Presidential election, because we couldn't be trusted to make the decision that affects the whole world. That made me mad, but I had to acknowledge that we don't take the privilege as seriously as we should. If 30% of eligible voters actually turn out to vote, it is called a good turnout. Rubbish! What would happen if 100% came out? Believe me, it would make a difference.

Let's do a little experiment. No matter who you favor, please, go vote for them, and take as many friends and neighbors with you as will agree to go. Let's see what happens if there are HUGE numbers of voters turning out DEMANDING to be represented! It is our privilege, right and DUTY!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9-11-01 Memories

September 11, 2001 was already a weird, tense day before the planes ever left the ground. For me it was, anyway. After 20 years of staying home to school my children and keep my home, I was headed out to find a job. All summer my husband had been getting sicker and sicker, and no matter how many doctors I took him to, nobody could figure out what was going on. After a summer of trying to spend all my time taking care of him and preparing myself for whatever we might be about to face, I finally knew I had to go to work. I was sick myself, at the thought of leaving him alone and untended, but if I could bring some money in, it would at least be one less worry for him. (It would be a year before we got the diagnosis of encephalitis due to a virus similar to West Nile, and 2 years before he could even begin to think about returning to work).

So I went to one interview, along with a little orientation. I tried to pay attention, but I was thinking of my husband, and also of my robust grandfather, who'd been taken suddenly ill the day before. Finally it was time to head to my second interview at an attorney's office. It was a bit of a drive, so I turned the radio to the Christian station and set out. But the Christian station seemed to be doing some sort of skit or something out of the ordinary. They played a little music, then broke in and said a plane had hit the World Trade Tower. Then shortly after that, they spoke of a second plane. I thought they were doing a take off on "War of the Worlds," possibly trying to show people what it would be like if the end of the world came and they weren't spiritually ready, and I was quite indignant. It seemed irresponsible to frighten people that way. I was looking out the window at everyone going about life as usual, nobody seeming distressed in any way. When the third interruption came on, saying a plane had hit the Pentagon, I'd had it. It suddenly occurred to me that if I changed the channel, I could find out if there was any thing to it. I adjusted the dial, fully expecting the other channels to be calmly playing music. But of course that wasn't the case, and I tried to absorb the reports I was now hearing on every channel I hit. By the time I reached the attorney's office, I was shaking. I watched a lady walking her dog, a man doing landscaping work in the median, cars coming and going. Finally, I dialed my cell phone to see what my husband had heard. He'd been trying to relax and was unaware of anything happening. I told him to turn on the t.v. because we were under attack. He couldn't imagine what I could mean, but he flipped on the t.v. and in a very subdued voice, said "Oh, no," and I knew it was true. I told him I'd be home as soon as I could, and it was then he told me he'd just gotten a call that my grandfather had died that morning.

I went in to the interview with eyes full of tears and a head so muddled I couldn't even remember my social security number, flubbed a test I was given, and stumbled through the interview. Finally I could head home. But on the way, I passed the Red Cross office and decided to go in and donate blood. It was a madhouse, and for the first time I could see footage on the little t.v. in the waiting room. After way too long for my nerves, I was called in, but my blood pressure was so high by then that they wouldn't let me give blood after all. I headed home and in to the arms of my husband and sons. I got a phone call letting me know I had gotten the first job, at an insurance adjuster's office, and I would begin the next day, so I just had to put everything going on in my life in to little compartments in my head and learn a new job to support my family. I didn't really have time to process anything. No one in the family could fly to Grandpa's funeral, or even have flowers sent, due to the planes all being grounded. But I had a picture in my head of my Grandpa, bustling about in Heaven greeting all the new arrivals, the way he did at church, with a smile, a handshake, and a warm, friendly word.


9 - 11 - 01

We will NOT forget...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Percussion Summit 2008

I am a happy girl! Recently my husband surprised me with tickets to Percussion Summit 2008. As if that wasn't wonderful enough, he made a quite a date out of it! First he took me shopping for appropriate attire. The event was held at the Naples Philharmonic, which is quite the ritzy place. They did loosen the dress code somewhat for this event, but we didn't want to look dowdy. So it was off for a day of shopping and lunch, too. Then on Saturday we took a scenic route down to Naples a few hours before the concert. We strolled around the Waterside Shops, which feature places I've only heard of, such as Cartier's, Tiffany's, Louis Vitton and restuarants whose menu offerings I couldn't even pronounce. There was a live band and a beautiful, meandering fountain of sorts, more like an elaborate stream, flowing along through varying configurations of blue tile, surrounded by benches and greenery. We went to dinner and then to the show.

We had fabulous seats, 10 rows back, front and center. We could see everything and there was plenty to see. The entire stage was set up with percussion instruments of every description. Snares and bass, tom-toms, gongs and cow bells, marimbas and sets and timpani, finger bells and cymbals and steel drums. Different sets featured different arrangements of instruments and ran the gamut from lullabies (!) to marches to Earth, Wind and Fire and Harry Belafonte arrangements. The headliners were Gordon Campbell on a large set and Taku Hirano, the premier hand drummer. Both have performed and toured and recorded with just about every big star you've ever heard of, everyone from Barry Manilow to Fleetwood Mac, Kenny Loggins to Chaka Khan, Sean "Diddy" Combs to LeAnnRimes to Jessica Simpson to Earth, Wind and Fire. And let me tell you, they were GOOD! Amazingingly good. The concert went an hour before intermission, where we stretched our legs and heard people ordering Chardonnay; then there was another hour of pure entertainment. All of it felt like about 20 minutes, I was enjoying it so much. The place was packed with enthusiastic people as diverse as middle school boys to elegant dowagers, and they all joined in a standing ovation, earning us a great encore.

But finally it was over and we had to leave. I felt like a kid on a roller coaster, saying, "I wanna go again!" On the way home we stopped for what my husband dubbed "a decadent dessert," something called Caramel Apple Crisp alamode and basically it was "diabetic coma on a platter." Boy, was it good! Then it was home and to bed, lulled to sleep by the steel drums still reggae'ing in my head. My husband really knows how to show a girl a good time!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

For Your Viewing Pleasure...

Amaryllis among the ferns...

Crepe myrtle among the plumbago...

Hibiscus in the sun...

Enjoy the last days of summer!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Masked Bandit Discovered!

First we noticed food was missing. Then, after we tried to secure the food better, the vandalism began. Finally, last night, we caught the thief red-handed. Late last night we heard soft noises on the back porch and when we got there, a masked bandit in a thick, grey coat, in the very act of stuffing food in to his mouth, froze and gazed at us in fearful surprise at being caught. We froze too, and he suddenly had the presence of mind to make his escape. He turned to run off, and just before he disappeared from sight, he turned and looked me right in the eye so plaintively that my heart melted.

Perhaps I've been reading too much Dickens lately, but when someone is stealing food only, one assumes abject hunger drove him to it. And then, the little fellow was so cute - for he was small, although perhaps fully grown. But obviously, something must be done. So we are no longer going to be able to keep the cat food on the back porch. Kitty doesn't like to come in any more, but with such a desperate character afoot, perhaps she'll think better of it. And then the raccoon will have to find an honest way to feed himself!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Super Commenters, Unite!

Wowsa, another award! Nothing like a Frog Super-Hero to save the day! This is from the lovely and generous Carol at Charli and Me, who honors me with her special notice, and entertains me with her blog posts.

I'm supposed to pick 7 of my closest blog buddies to pass on the honors to, but I just can't do it. Everyone leaves such sweet, interesting, kind and much appreciated comments here that you all truly deserve this award, so I pass it on to all of you! (and there are at least eight commenters!)

So friends... this frog's for you.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Death by Pudding

I want to share a really scrumptious recipe with you, called Oreo Pudding. I must warn you, though, this is one rich dessert! Not to mention it's addictive, so it's probably best to make it for a family reunion, church potluck, boy scout troupe, or any other large enough gathering that you won't go in to a sugar coma nibbling on it by yourself! Also, it is really important to make it at least 24 hours before you want to serve it, maybe more, because it needs to set and chill thoroughly. If you have a child to make it with, they will love crushing the Oreos for you, too, as long as you don't mind them licking off their hands between every cookie. Ok, here it is! And I promise you, it's worth it.

Oreo Pudding

1 small pkg. of Oreo cookies, crushed
1 large container of Cool Whip (12 oz)
1 8-oz pkg. of cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
2 small boxes vanilla instant pudding
3 cups milk

Mix last five ingredients together with an electric mixer or a whisk. Layer with crushed Oreos and pudding mixture. Top with crushed Oreos. Chill in fridge very, very thoroughly, for a day or two. Serve in small dessert dishes. Share!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Awards, Awards, and More Awards!

Look, beautiful awards! Carol at Charli and Me has the most fun blog, I love it and I bet you would too. And she's generous! She shared this Kreativ Blogger award with those who visit her blog regularly, which I am happy to do. I would like to pass this on to

Anne at Nikkipolani because she has a beautiful, creative blog for sure.

She also shared this award, called A Perfect Blend of Friendship, which is just darling and so appropo for the new friendships I am forming in blogland! Who knew there were so many lovely people in the world? This one goes to

Kathy at Destination Sanctification for being an instant and enduring friend!

Then there was this Tree of Happiness award. Notice, "It is scarcely a small plant, which depends on you to grow firmly and strongly. Plant it on your heart, water it with smiles and kindness, feel the aroma of it's flowers, savor the sweetness of it's fruits and protection under it's shade whom you love." And along with posting it, I am required to share 6 things I am happy about right now! The only hard thing about that is that there are so many more things to share! I think I'll do like those who are told they have 3 wishes are said to do - the first thing I am happy about is, all the bazillions of things that I am happy about! Here are some others...

1) The love and care of my precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ
2) My wonderful, amazing, talented, funny, loving, protective husband and sons
3) Being spared the wrath of Fay
4) New flooring throughout the house
5) Being surprised last night by my hubby, with tickets to the Percussion Summit!!! (More about that later)
6) New friends reaching out to me with a cyber hug, putting a smile on my face on a day when they don't even know how badly I needed it! (August 21st is a sad, melancholy day for me - let's just say for now that it is a memorial day. Finding out yesterday about these awards was - well, good timing)

This one I am sharing with Cheryl at Cherdecor for always looking on the positive side of things!

And last but not least, "I love your blog" award is from both Carol, my kind new friend whose blog I also love and from Louise, of Home is Where the Heart Is fame! Louise has such a wonderful blog and everybody loves her blog, so it was quite an honor to receive this from two such illustrious ladies!

This one has the usual rules, linking to those that gave it to you and passing it on being the most important parts - and I would like to pass it on especially to an "old" friend of a few months,

Daffy Tracey at Approaching 40

and a new friend,

Betsy of My Five Men

both of whom have warm, friendly blogs and warm, friendly personalities!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

All's Well That Ends Well

Now back to our regularly scheduled lives... Fay has gone away, without leaving heartache in her wake. Ok, I'll quit now. My parents are fine, though they got it worse than we did, rocking in their little RV and hearing of tornados a few miles away. Today all is back to normal. That's the weird thing about hurricanes anyway, it's not afterwards that's a problem, unless they nail us. It's not during either, which is usually pretty exhilarating. It's before!

There is nothing straightforward about preparing for a possible hurricane. We have days of warnings, sure, but hurricanes are notoriously rebellious, going where they will and not where anyone thought they would. That makes running from them a dicey proposition. You must board up your house, provide for your pets, miss work, head out in to murderous traffic on one of the few roads out of Florida, and figure out where to go, and hope there is an available hotel room. Going south or east means possibly getting hit worse than if you stay put, but going north could have the same effect, not to mention the thing could miss Florida altogether and you've missed work for nothing. Plus there are the unexpected things, like this Monday when a tanker exploded north of Tampa, closing down northbound I-75, the main evacuation route.

Or you can stay home. Which is frankly far preferable, but exhausting none the less. We were running around trying to get the right amount of bottled water and canned food for at least 3 days, which doesn't sound like a big deal, except I didn't know if it would just be the 2 of us, or if any of our sons would come, not to mention the grandparents. We had to fill the car tank, because there isn't always gas after a storm, but lines were very, very long. The station we were at was out of regular gas, but we were able to get premium. Next, batteries - Walmart was out completely, but BJ's had plenty. We had to decide whether or not to try to run the generator if the power went out. We didn't have a generator when Charley, Frances, Jeanne, Ivan and Wilma hit, but then we got one and this is our first opportunity to use it. It's not an easy decision, because not only does it cost $40 a day in gas to run it, but more people died from carbon monoxide poisoning from their generators than from any of the 5 hurricanes I mentioned. The heat was oppressive too, the air still and heavy. Monday I spent cleaning up the yard and porches of possible projectiles, doing laundry and dishes in case there was no water or electricity for a few days or weeks afterwards, making ice, cleaning house, cooking food that might spoil, checking on family, and a million other details that needed tending to. At one point, I grabbed the carton of ice cream, removed the lid, poured syrup inside and began eating. Hey, cleaning out the freezer is an essential hurricane-preparedness task! Plus storms make me hungry.

Storm day was actually kind of cozy. Very dark skies, lots and lots of rain and strong wind, and much cooler temperatures, added to our exhaustion from preparing, made it a good day to laze around taking video of cows in rain, among other activities, like eating! Thankfully there was no real harm done, so today we are rather sluggishly trying to get up to speed - and burn off all the calories Tropical Storm Fay brought with her! They say there is another one forming - but I don't want to think about it. Maybe tomorrow, said Scarlett.

Thank you once again for your prayers and well wishes!
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