Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Arte Y Pico Award

I want to thank Ruth at Ruth's Visions and Revisions, for sharing this truly beautiful award with me. According to the rules, I must -

1) Pick five blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, in no matter what language.
2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
3) Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
4) The award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of Arte Y Pico blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award -- which is here. I present this award to the following bloggers:

Kate at Chronicles of a Country Girl - her blog is just beautiful and very interesting as well.

Kathie at Island Sparrow - she lives on Prince Edward Island and has such wonderful photography and information about the island where Anne of Green Gables was set.

Wanda at Brushstrokes From the Heart - Wanda is an artist and it shows. Her blog is lovely and inspiring.

Kathy at Destination Sanctification - Kathy doesn't blog often, but she blogs well, always with something interesting.

Louise at Home is Where the Heart is - her blog is chock full of interesting posts, photos, information and all kinds of fun stuff.

Thank you all for the beauty and interest you contribute to blog readers like me!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Seven Things About Me

Ruth has tagged me to tell 7 things about me, and they don't even have to be unimportant! So here they are and how would a bunch of you like to play too? If you do, please let me know.

1. In high school, I took a photography class that included developing our film in a darkroom. I really liked it, and my teacher entered me in a local photography contest. I got a first place and a second place. After our marriage, my husband and I continued entering and placing in contests.

2. I have been married 30 years this December to my best friend, lover, soul-mate, confidante, the one who makes me laugh and makes me think, the smartest, most interesting human being I have ever known.

3. We homeschooled our boys from Kindergarten through High School graduation. It took 20 years and it was hard work for all of us. But it was also fun and rewarding, and they are so worth it. They turned out like their dad, so obviously it worked out well!

4. I knew I wanted to go to college from the time I started first grade, but right after high school I decided to get my MRS. degree instead. Which of course I had been determined not to do, but when you meet the love of your life your dreams sometimes change. My husband promised some day he'd send me to college, and when I was in my early forties, he did. I got my degree in 2004. And a really cool side note is that my oldest son went to the same college and we graduated together on the same day, both with honors.

5. I inherited good genes and everyone thinks I am much younger than I am. This can be amusing, but it can be a little weird - in college everyone thought my son was my husband! Freaky. My husband likes to call me his trophy wife. I kind of like that, but I won't mind when I look my age and everyone knows I am his original model!

6. Before the age of 10, I moved with my family constantly. I was in 3 schools by 3rd grade. But at the age of 10, we moved in to the neighborhood I'm in now. I lived with my parents to the age of 18, moved to another house on the same block with my new husband where we rented for 15 years, then we bought the house across the street where we've lived for the past 14 1/2 years.

7. I have long, brown, straight hair parted in the middle. I get it trimmed once in awhile so it doesn't get too shaggy at the ends, but otherwise, I just brush it and (in winter) leave it hanging, or (in summer) put it in a ponytail. If I'm feeling really fancy, I'll use a pretty barrette to pull it partially back, and if I'm feeling really hot, I'll put it in a bun. I have never colored it, and now at 47, it is beginning to get silvery, sparkly threads sprinkled throughout. I toyed with getting it colored when the first ones appeared, but my husband begged me not to and my son showed me in Proverbs 16:31 where it says "A gray head is a crown of glory; It is found in the way of righteousness." So I left them alone, and to my surprise, I like them. I realize they will proliferate and take over at some point - and I intend to let them. I hope to have a beautiful crown of soft, white hair some day, like my grandmother.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Walk Around the Block - A True Story

The humid heat smacks me in the face like a steaming wet towel as I step out the door onto the porch. I stop a moment, absorbing the heat and squinting in the brilliance of the day. Sweat pops out of every pore and my grandmother’s voice plays in my ear, admonishing, “Ladies perspire.”
Yes, grandma, but I am perspiring ferociously! Dodging fire ant hills, I start across the yard to the road for my daily walk around the block. I wave to my nearest neighbor, whose daughter was my first friend here when I was the new kid on the block. That was 33 years ago, when I was ten. Everything is familiar and familiar is comforting. But as I near the corner, I spot a dozen or so unfamiliar adolescent boys, and there seems to be an argument of some kind. I hesitate briefly, considering turning and going the other way.
“No, it’s my neighborhood and I refuse to be afraid!” I tell myself firmly, secretly wondering if I’m being foolish. I keep walking as I consider this, and have just decided that the foolish thing is to be afraid, when an older teen punches a younger boy, hard, in the side of the head. The electric tension of confrontation is palpable among the boys and they come alive. I sense that things are about to escalate, and am no longer thinking of myself as my usual indignation against bullies gains the upper hand in my mind. Although I am only a few yards away now, none of the boys seem to be aware of me.
“Shall I call the police, or are you going to leave him alone?” I call. The boys, barefoot and carrying fishing poles, begin to disperse. The victim heads off down the street alone as the older boy, the one who punched him, puts on a show for my benefit.
“Come on, Louis, we’re friends, right? You’re okay, right?” he calls to the retreating boy, all the while chuckling and winking at the few friends still hanging around. I turn to see the effect this has on Louis, as the older boy calls, “Hey, Louis, you want some of this?”
An explosion sounds and I jump, grabbing my heart and gasping, “Oh!” It is nearly the fourth of July, so I assume it was a firecracker, and turn with laughing eyes to the boy I am now right beside.
“Wow, you scared me!” I exclaim as I meet his eyes, and at that moment catch something in my peripheral vision. Turning further I see, in his left hand, a gun pointing up at the sky.
Chuckling, he turns to his remaining friend and exclaims, “Hey, I scared that lady!” as he heads through the ditch and back to his own neighborhood. My mind tries to explain away what just happened, and I try to convince myself the gun was a toy. But having raised boys, I am familiar with a wide variety of toy guns, and none of them would have made a sound like that. Besides, I’d seen it clearly and it was real. I continue walking, past the old tree fort, and see Louis, who never even paused, jump a fence and go into a back yard, where several adults acknowledge him briefly and continue talking and visiting with each other. He sits down in a lawn chair, and then meets my eyes with a level gaze. I gaze back
into his eyes and smile warmly, but I don’t stop walking or say anything, remembering what it is to be a preteen who is glad to be safe but doesn’t want to lose his new freedom by alarming his family. I am strangely detached from what just happened.
“It’s not as if it’s the first time something like that happened here,” I think as I turn the corner. On my left is the Wilson’s old home, and my mind goes back to the summer I was 12. All of us kids spent a lot of time at the Wilson’s house, chiefly because there were rarely any adults home and also because five kids lived there. My mom let me go, because she was right next door and what could happen? Not much did happen until the day I arrived to find Sam from across the street sitting at the breakfast bar playing with a handgun he’d managed to sneak out of his Dad’s bed stand. The boys all thought it was funny as he pointed it around the room at different objects and pretended to blow them away. The girls thought it was dumb and possibly dangerous.
“It’s not even loaded,” Sam pointed out in exasperation. Just then the door opened and Sam’s friend, Chuck, came bounding in. Sam, grinning, pointed the gun at him and pulled the trigger. The gun roared to life and Chuck stumbled back, stunned.
“You shot him! I thought you said it wasn’t loaded!” I yelled furiously at Sam.
“You shut up! He didn’t mean to! He feels bad enough without you yelling at him,” Danny Wilson screamed at me. He shoved me and I shoved him back.
Someone finally decided Chuck should sit down. He was just standing there, with a small hole beside his nose and another one behind his ear. A few minutes later medics came rushing in and whisked him off to the hospital. He grew up and went in the Marines. I guess if you’ve been shot through the head you don’t have anything to fear from the Marines.
A mockingbird gently brings me back to the present, serenading me with lovely trills and calls, inviting me to play Name That Tune, and I whistle back to him, still thinking about kids and guns and neighborhoods. A lot of the old families from my childhood are still here, but some of them have moved. “The neighborhood has just changed too much,” they say sadly, shaking their heads at what once was. But the rest of us stay, and all in all, it’s pretty much the same as it always was. The faces are all brown from the Florida sun, but now there’s a richer variety of chocolatey-brown tones, Americans from everywhere around the world. Flocks of children still play, though their parents call them to dinner in a smorgasbord of languages. The woods that surrounded us have made way for development, but the road is still full of bicycles and dogs, and kids still fish in the pond at the center of our block. Things aren’t always perfect, but they never were. It’s just a neighborhood, like any other neighborhood. Coming full circle, I’m home.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Death, Where Is Your Victory?

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones." (Psalms 116:15). I've been thinking about death a lot lately. Now that may sound morbid and not in keeping with the verse on my masthead, but hear me out and maybe you'll change your mind. I've observed a lot of people lately who knew their lives on this earth were severely numbered, and I've been impressed with the grace which we they lived their final days. None of them had a death wish. On the contrary, they had full lives with families they loved and wanted to stay with. But they also had faith, and that made all the difference. One man, Scott, used his final months to teach joyous Bible studies on heaven. When told how courageous he was, he disagreed. He was, he said, just semi-literate. He could read - he read the Bible and he chose to believe it. I thought about that a lot. I think he's right. When a fireman runs in to a burning building, or a soldier goes in to a war zone, that's courage. But if you told your child to get in the car and after a long, hot, tiring car ride he would arrive at Disney World, would he be courageous to get in the car? Our Heavenly Father is telling us, take my hand and I'll take you to Heaven! Taking a hold of His hand is not courage - it's Faith! Everything is different with faith.

"For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21) One woman finished her missions training still not sure where she was meant to go. She prayed and agonized over her decision. Then she was diagnosed with stage IV cancer - and she was amused that God had already chosen the hospital and then hospice as her mission grounds. Because when you have faith in God, you believe what He tells you and you put your trust in Him. You live for Him while you are here and you trust Him to lead you home to your reward.

Of course, death wasn't the original plan, but Jesus won the victory for us with His death, burial and resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15: 54b, 55...57) - "Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?...but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps you think it would be easier to believe if someone would come back from heaven and tell you about it? But Someone already has! His name is Jesus Christ. He came from heaven and He told us all about it when He lived among us in the flesh. When He left, He made a promise. "Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also...I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me." (John 14: 1-3; 6). Like Scott, and so many others before me, I choose to believe it. My prayer is to live for Him here and live forever with Him there.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hurricane Season!

Well, it's summer, and that means HURRICANE SEASON! I used to think it was just a chance for the merchants to make money in the off-season, by scaring us natives into buying batteries, tarps and bottled water. Ever since 2004 when Charley hit, we take it all a bit more seriously. At first it seemed to be a non-event like so many others. It wasn't but a Category 2, and it was headed north of us anyway. Then, on August 13th, as we sat down to lunch and some sports, the weather man broke in to breathlessly announce that Charley had veered south and was coming in too close for comfort. About the time we absorbed that news, he added that it was upgraded to a Cat 3. My hubby and older sons headed to the garage to prepare plywood for the windows, and while they were out there Charley was upgraded to Cat 4! Yikes, this was getting serious! They put the plywood sheet over the last window in a fine, sharp rain, like needles on the skin, and then the electricity went off. Hurricane Charley blew sideways to the house, and a wooded lot beside us spared us quite a bit, but we watched out the front door as tree tops swirled in circles, all around one way, back around the other, SNAP - and the whole top of the tree crashed to the ground. Then the wind veered around straight at the house and we rushed to shut the door and put towels under it to keep the rain from blowing under - it veered again and we watched some more.

By evening it was all over. Everyone in the neighborhood emerged wide-eyed from their houses, checking to see that others were ok, comparing notes and looking at all the trees that had either snapped off, or come completely up by the roots. My mother's lavender jacaranda tree had fallen over as if a giant hand had laid it gently down, brushing her front door at the top and a vehicle on each side, harming nothing. Other neighbors weren't so lucky, but no one was injured at least. That night we lit a whole lot of candles and played poker to take our minds off the stifling heat, listening to the concert the happy frogs were giving in the cow pasture out back. The next day everyone got busy, people all over town helping each other clean up yards, distribute ice and water, and tending to each other's needs. We cooked up the food out of the freezer so it wouldn't spoil, sweltering over a camp stove with baggies of ice on our heads. After a couple of days, our electricity was restored, but others waited weeks, and those on wells had not water either. Blue tarps sprouted on roofs like mushrooms. Most of the traffic lights were out, so everyone had to drive very carefully, using the four-way-stop method. Before anyone could recover fully, within the next month, three more hurricanes hit Florida. Then the next year, Wilma hit and we had to put on a new roof after that one. No hurricanes have hit us since, unless you count the winds of change in the insurance industry that hit us hard following the storms! But I no longer look on preparation as an unnecessary hassle. If we don't need the things we've stockpiled, someone else is bound to. When that happens, we all donate gladly, our sincere empathy mixed with relief that we were spared.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Saturday I got some very exciting news! I'm being published in Reader's Digest again. This is the third anecdote of mine that they have accepted, and since they say they get a quarter of a million submissions a year and only accept a few hundred, I'm pretty happy. Not to mention that they pay incredibly well, too! I'm not a Stephen King fan, but I do like his take on being a professional writer. He says that if you write something and get a check in the mail for it, that you can drive to the bank, deposit, and pay your rent with, then you are a professional writer. I don't really feel like a professional yet, but this along with some other successes I've had gives me hope that I could be someday. Thanks for letting me share my good news!

Friday, July 11, 2008


(Everyone seemed to get such a kick out of my disaster cakes, that I thought I would put a post back on that I originally ran in January, back when no one was reading this anyway. Hey, it's summer - the traditional time for re-runs! Enjoy.)

Well, Mom’s party was great. Everything worked out perfectly. Except for the cake, of course. I have finally accepted the fact that I make the worst cakes on the planet. Well, no, that's not really it - the cakes always taste amazing. It's the way they look that is the problem. I can do everything well up to the point where the cake comes out of the oven. I have a whole series of disaster cakes. There's the avalanche cake and the mudslide cake, depending on if it is white or chocolate. I have a volcano cake and an earthquake cake. The cakes stick, or they are uneven; one layer slides slowly off the other, or the cake splits in three parts and the icing runs into the middle. Oh, speaking of icing, it's my other problem. The first time I made buttercream frosting I was 13 years old, and I put in too much milk, causing the icing to run down the cake in rivulets. Now I err on the side of caution, and the icing is too thick to spread.

Aware of all my cake shortcomings, I decided to just go basic for the party, baking in a 9 x 13 pan, icing it with (thick) chocolate icing and tossing pink and white heart sprinkles all over the top. That actually worked out pretty well, but then, flush with success, I decided to make cupcakes. Not the big ones, the little, tiny ones. Usually I just spray the muffin tins with non-stick spray, but for some reason I thought it would be more "professional" to grease each little cup by hand. So I baked the cupcakes and only realized my mistake when I pulled them out of the oven. The over-filled cups mushroomed up, and because I hadn't gotten spray all over the top of the tin, the tops of the muffins stuck fast. I began scraping the edges of each with a spoon, to loosen them, and managed to get the tops off. Now they were in two parts and the tops looked dreadful. My husband rescued me by suggesting I cut the tops off neatly with a knife. Now what? I plopped a dollop of nice, thick icing on each muffin bottom and put it's top back on, creating "FrankenMuffin Surprise." They looked like they were aptly named, but tasted wonderful. The icing in the middle really was a nice surprise and they were the perfect size. They were a big hit at the party. Who knows, maybe I'll open a bakery some day with my horrible looking wonderful tasting treats.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Goofy Tag

A short time back, Kathy tagged me with this goofy game of which she had hilarious results! I finally decided to give it a try, although I took small liberties. Such as I can't remember my 5th grade teacher's name, but will never forget Mrs. Lacy in 2nd grade! I hardly ever wear shorts or pants, but I am as I do this post, so I put that, and I swear I usually eat a healthy breakfast! If you want to play, please entertain us! Update: My teenage son informs me that a Star Wars name should be the 1st 3 letters of your 1st name + 1st two letters of last name, then 1st two letters of mother's maiden name + 1st 3 letters of town you were born in - making mine Trawa Hamad - just in case you care.

1. YOUR ROCK STAR NAME: (first pet & current car),
Timmy 300M

2.YOUR GANGSTA NAME: (fave ice cream flavor, favorite cookie), Vanilla Crinkle

3. YOUR “FLY Guy/Girl” NAME: (first initial of first name, first three letters of your last name), T-Wal

4. YOUR DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal), Red Mustang

5. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you were born), Darlene Madison

6. YOUR STAR WARS NAME: (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first), Wal-Tr

7. SUPERHERO NAME: (”The” + 2nd favorite color, favorite drink), "The Coral Cocoa"

8. NASCAR NAME: (the first names of your grandfathers), Glen-Bob

9. STRIPPER NAME: ( the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy), Jasmine Kisses

10.WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother’s & father’s middle names ), Louise Hubert

11. TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME: (Your 5th grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter), Lacy Laredo

12. SPY NAME: (your favorite season/holiday, flower), Independence Rose

13. CARTOON NAME: (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now + “ie” or “y”) Strawberry Shorty

14. HIPPY NAME: (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree), Cocoa Puff Mahogany

15. YOUR ROCKSTAR TOUR NAME: (”The” + Your fave hobby/craft, fave weather element + “Tour”), "The Reading Rainstorm Tour"

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Independence Day Celebrations

Independence Day is, without question, one of my favorite holidays. First there is the major, solemn significance it holds in my heart - freedom from tyranny, freedom of religion, and pride in flying our flag high! (There is only one time we really blew it regarding flag flying. It wasn't July 4th, it was May 31st. It was our son's birthday, and we gave him a pirate themed party. We really get caught up in birthday celebrations, and we had the bright idea to fly the Jolly Roger from the flag pole. Unfortunately everyone forgot that it was also Memorial Day!).

Independence Day is also one of the most fun holidays to celebrate. The day is spent swimming, eating watermelon, playing games, and even pranks. (The kids actually always begin at least a week in advance, doing things like putting the snap-pops under their father's car tires so that when he left for work early in the morning, it would sound like a drive-by shooting!) As the day passes in to evening, everyone's thoughts turn to fireworks. Sometimes we all go downtown to see the big fireworks show. Unfortunately, it seems the years we choose to do that, God decides to put on a fireworks show of his own, in the form of a spectactular thunderstorm, that supersedes the city's show. Usually we throw a big family party, and grill out, and the kids keep checking to see if it's dark enough yet. Their Grandma always gives them sparklers to entertain them, and they love to write their names with the glowing sticks. I always have to bite my tongue to keep from forbidding them, due to a childhood accident involving a bad burn - ok, I grabbed one out of the wrong pile once, and it was blazing hot because someone had just put it down, supposedly spent, but still very hot. But my kids always love them, so I just try to look the other way.

Finally, at the twilight's last gleaming, everyone jockeys for position to watch whatever fireworks we were able to come up with that year. The men set up the show at the end of the driveway, and my boys were each so very excited when they got old enough to help! For some reason that never bothered me the way sparklers did! It is always very hot, and we are all fanning ourselves and smacking mosquitoes, but nobody wants to miss a thing. The year my hubby ran extension cords and set fans up outside was a big hit! The fireworks show is always the highlight. The guys usually start from smallest to biggest, and the "oohing" and "ahhing" get progressively louder as the fireworks do. All up and down the street other families are doing the same thing in their driveways, and sometimes we can see some of the larger ones from some of the bigger shows too, high in the sky. Finally we get to our grand finale, and everyone breaks out in spontaneous applause. By then it is late enough for the more, shall we say, patriotic neighbors to begin what amounts to a re-enactment of the Revolutionary War. (The kinds of fireworks they use are not really legal for the average person to have around these parts, but if you are willing to sign a paper that you are using them in some sort of railroad work, you can buy them). Everyone begins gathering up tired, dirty children and heading home through the rocket's red glare and bombs bursting in air, they proclaim this the best year ever,.
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