Monday, November 30, 2009

You Push My Buttons, I'll Push Yours!

(Photo credit: Suat Eman)

Togetherness can be a wonderful thing. If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you know how I feel about my family—I love them with all my heart. I love being with them. I am so thankful for each one of them.

We’ve taken some great family trips with long stretches of togetherness, and they’ve been great. Being together for an extended time can be rich and rewarding and just what a family needs.

But sometimes it’s just not.

I’ll be honest. The togetherness of the past week got to me, and by the end of our week “off” I had had just a little bit too much togetherness. Seemed like every person in our house was pushing someone else’s buttons.

Especially mine.

I’ve spent the past several hours trying to figure out how this happens. How a generally happy family like ours just completely breaks down and has one of “those” weekends. I guess if I’m to be completely honest, I’ve been trying to figure out whose fault it is.

But, just like the kids’ saying goes, when I point one finger to someone else, I’ve got four pointing right back at me. The blame game just doesn’t work, and it sure doesn’t make anyone happy.

But here are some ideas I’ve had—no solutions, just thoughts. Feel free to chime in if you have any ideas why “those” moments happen.

- We were out of our routine, and sometimes this throws us off.

- I let stuff get to me that I shouldn’t have. Once the little things begin to fester, it just gets worse.

- As Mom, I can do a lot to set the tone for our times together. I just didn’t bother to do that this week.

- I was having a week-long pity party because it felt like we were the only ones who didn’t have family around for Thanksgiving.

- Hormones

- I did not take time to spiritually prepare myself each day. I felt far away from God this week when what I really needed to do was rest in His arms.

There’s probably a little bit of truth in each of these, but the last one really kind of speaks to me. I’ll need to do something about that today.

So how about you? How was your Thanksgiving? How did your family get along? And mostly, how do you get out of a funk? Comments, please!

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Week of Thankfulness - Day 5

Today's post might seem a little silly to you, especially if you're not a blogger, but over the past year I have become increasingly grateful for my little corner of cyberspace. I know, I know, it sounds strange even writing it, but hear me out.

Over the past year I have gotten emails from people I have never met who have told me that I've encouraged them in some way. Me? Encouraged someone? What a kick!

Over the past year I've met some people I never thought I would meet. People like my friend, Lysa, who has encouraged me so much in my faith and who has encouraged me to dream big dreams. People like Jo-Lynne and Tina who help me see what a blog can really become. And people like Sandy who has suffered a great deal and still has a wonderful heart for God.

I hope, hope, HOPE I get to meet more bloggers next year.

Best of all, my faith has grown tremendously in the year and a half or so since I've started reading the blogs of others. There is an incredible community of women (and men) out there who are passionate about their faith and who write about it so that others can be encouraged too. I cannot believe how much I've benefitted from being a part of that community.

I am thankful for the creative outlet that this blog has given me. For years I've had these rambling thoughts rolling around in my head. Sometimes silly, sometimes profound. But others in my life knew I needed an outlet--a way to be heard. I am so grateful to my mom who one day said to me, "You need to start a blog." And for Kate who followed that up a few months later with, "Mom, you really need a blog." And then for B who surprised me with a laptop for my birthday a couple of years ago--his way of saying, "Now get to work."

Since I've been writing this crazy little blog I have felt more like "me" than I ever have. It's like the piece of me that had been missing. The creative piece.

Finally, I am most thankful for each of you who pop in for a few minutes every day, read the sometimes silly, rarely profound, things I'm thinking about, and go on your way. Changed just a little, I hope. You cannot know what it means to me to have someone stop me and say, "I read your blog today." Wow. Humbling doesn't even begin to express it. (Embarrassing might be more like it.)

I have no idea what will happen in the year ahead, but you can be sure that I'll still be here, clicking away on these keys, and letting you know all the crazy ramblings that are in my head. Thank you for indulging me with your presence every day.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Week of Thankfulness - Day 4

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Last night our church held its annual Thanksgiving Eve service--one of my favorite services of the year because it's one of the only times we get to hear from the people of the congregation as they give testimony to what the Lord has done in their lives.

I should have brought Kleenex. That's all I have to say about that.

One of the hymns we sing every year is my favorite of all time. It's the hymn I've already told B that I want sung at my funeral--"Great is Thy Faithfulness."

Whenever I see that hymn listed in the worship folder I think, uh oh because I know I'm going to cry. And the girls all look at me, just waiting for the gusher to come. Last night was no exception.

All of the verses are wonderful, but the one that usually gets me is the last verse which goes like this . . .

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide.
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.

For some reason when I think of the "ten thousand beside" I just can't help thinking about the people sitting in the pew with me. I think of the way God has just poured and poured and keeps pouring His blessings out on me every day by giving me the family He has given to me. I can't believe I even have them in my life, I am so undeserving.

Today's the "big" day. The day we think of the things we are most thankful for. And with those "ten thousand beside" blessings in mind, I want to say how very thankful I am for my family.

For Kate who blesses me every day with the way she works so hard, never complaining. And whose cheerful attitude lifts me up every time I am with her.

For Abby who blesses me with her quiet strength and profound wisdom. I am amazed by the depth in this girl.

For Maggie who blesses me by making me laugh almost hourly. And for the way she has been searching out God in her life--and finding Him.

And for B who blesses me just by being him. Who has surprised me and motivated me and loved me beyond anything I could ever imagine. Who makes me look forward to the future and all that might come with it.

I am grateful for each one of you. I love you all so much more than my feeble words could ever say.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Week of Thankfulness - Day 3

I always say that if I get through this stage of my life with any friends left it will be a miracle.

Because, when I think about it, I'm not always that great of a friend. I'm in a busy stage of life. My kids are teenagers and a pre-teen. There are no playdates. Very few moments of lingering over coffee with a girlfriend.

And if I'm really honest I'd have to say that I've become accustomed to my solitude. I like being alone. I like being at home. I've become more and more introverted as I've grown used to this life as a stay-at-home mom (I know, I've been doing this for a while now, but it took a few years to actually get used to it).

Worse yet, I have grown to hate the telephone. I rarely pick up the phone to call a friend because I wouldn't want to be a bother. An intrusion. Everyone else is as busy as I am, right? I prefer a quick text or an email or a Facebook comment.

But that's not communication, really. And in order to maintain friendships you have to communicate, right? I'll admit it, I'm just not good at this these days.

So today, I'm thinking about my friends, of whom there are many, and I am so grateful. I'm grateful for those texts and emails and Facebook comments that let me know people still realize I'm alive and well. I'm grateful for the occasional phone call, even if it is brief and to the point.

I'm grateful for the girls in my small group who meet for lunch most Wednesdays. If it were up to me, I'd stay home, but these girls get me out and keep us in touch with one another.

I'm grateful for those friends with whom I do occasionally share coffee. I love catching up with their lives and their kids, and these times together make me hopeful that someday I will still have friends when all of our kids are grown and out of the house.

I keep a quote on my desk, a beautiful card which my sister-in-law, Julie, made for me which says this: "I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new" (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

This pretty much sums it all up for me. I am grateful for you, dear friends, every day.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Week of Thankfulness - Day 2

One day I was surfing. The net. And I came across a sermon I thought I'd want to hear.

So I clicked on the video link and started watching. Out came the pastor in his jeans and flannel shirt. He stood in front of a music stand with his Bible, I think. He started to tell a story . . . something that had happened at his home that week.

I waited for the message to turn to the Bible. And I waited. And I waited some more.

For a full 10 minutes I listened to this pastor rattle on about something completely insignificant before I had had enough. I clicked off the video.

He never opened his Bible.

And I realized, once again, what a special place our church is. It shouldn't be, really, because you'd think that every Christian church in America would place a high priority on preaching God's word. But they don't. Not all of them.

So today I am thankful for my church.

I started attending this church waaaaay back when I was a freshman in college. 1981. I was drawn to it for many reasons, but one that comes to mind immediately was its commitment to the Word of God. Every sermon for the past 28 years that I've been attending there has been centered completely around the Word. There is no mistaking what our church is all about, and I'm glad about that.

Yes, some people think it's dry. Some have left because they think it's just too boring. Some think it's too hard to understand. But to me, there is nothing more important that being fed a rich diet of the Bible. I have learned more, grown more, come to understand more about who God is just because of this commitment to the Word.

There are other things I love about my church. Their commitment to missions. Their commitment to the poor. Their commitment to plant churches.

But when it comes down to it, my thinking about all the rest of that stuff comes out of hearing God's word preached week after week. And so, I am blessed. And I am thankful.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Week of Thankfulness - Day 1

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and Thanksgiving week is very special to me. So every day this week I'm going to highlight just a few of the things I'm thankful for. I hope you enjoy it.

We had the privilege of attending a wedding this weekend. The bride became a friend of ours during our trip to Switzerland in 2008. She is a sweet girl who, last Saturday, married her college sweetheart.

Brought back memories, that's for sure.

I love watching the groom when the bride finally shows up behind the glass doors at the back of our church. Normally, when the groom sees his bride for the first time he grins from ear to ear--like he's going to burst with love and pride. But this time the groom did something I've never seen before--he burst into tears. Bless that boy, he took one look at his precious love and fell to pieces, actually wiping tears from his face.

I love that.

So what does that have to do with being thankful this week? Not much. I just really wanted to share that sweet moment with you.

But it does lead me to the first thing I'm thankful for this week. During the ceremony the bride and groom made a point of thanking their parents for bringing them up in Christian homes. This couple realized how important and special their heritage is. They realized that for the two of them to come from similar backgrounds is rare and something to be cherished.

And it made me realize, not for the first time, that B and I both came from homes that treasured our Christian heritage. We both had parents who made going to church a priority from the time we were young. We both had parents who encouraged us in our faith.

Lots of our friends did not grow up this way. I think they wish they had.

So today, I'm thankful that both B and I come from Christian families and that we both had parents who modeled for us what a Christian marriage should look like. I'm thankful for parents who took the time to teach us what's most important.

I'm thankful for a solid foundation that 24 years ago launched us into the world together. That heritage has made such a difference.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

VCG (i.e. Very Cool Giveaway)

HP TouchSmart 600 Giveaway

If there's one thing I've learned over the past year and a half of blogging, it's that the blogosphere is a pretty generous place. Today is no exception. Scribbit is giving away a computer.

A computer, people!

So click on the picture above to find out how to enter.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I Had a Choice

Last week I was in the grocery store. Early. Like, 6:15 a.m. early.

I was buying donuts for a group of 6th grade girls who come to my house every Friday morning for a Bible study before school. And, of course, little girls need fuel and what better fuel than Entenmann’s cakey goodness?

As I was going through the self-checkout line (because I was once again in the store in my sweats and no makeup) a young man who works in the store came up to me.

“What are you doing here so early?”

“Oh, just buying some donuts.”


“Well, I have a group of girls coming over this morning, and I want to make sure they get something to eat before they head off to school.”

“What time do they come?”


Really? Seven o’clock in the morning? Why do they come so early?”

So I explained to him that we have a little Bible study before school.

“Well, it’s too early,” he said.

I kind of laughed and said something like, “Oh, it’s O.K. We do our study, the girls head off to school, and I can get on with my day.”

And then he asked me the question I’d been dreading. “Why do you do it?

At this point I knew I had a choice. I could either just brush it off and say something like “Oh, it’s fun” or something like that. But I also knew I could use that brief moment to give this guy something to think about that day.

Now, believe me, I am the person who would usually choose the “Oh, it’s fun” avenue. It’s just too much trouble or vulnerability or embarrassment--I'm not even sure those adjectives describe it--to actually tell someone the real reason I choose to have eight 6th grade girls in my home at 7:00 every Friday morning.

But I’ve been trying lately to listen to what God’s telling me to do, so I took a deep breath and dove in. I said, “Well, I do it because I love these girls, and I love God, and I want them to love
Him too.”

He thought about that for a second, let it sink in, and then he said, “Well, I still think it’s too early.”

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sorry, B.

First year of marriage. One of our many arguments. Probably about who did more work around our teeny-tiny apartment.

Oh brother.

All of a sudden I hear something zing past my ear, flying down the hall. Was that a . . . shoe?


I admit it. I have a small, very small, itty-bitty problem with shoes. I love 'em.

Call me Imelda. I can never have enough.

But today I realized that 24 years after that first shoe argument, I still haven't changed. I still leave my shoes all over the house.

Here's what I found when I got home this morning.

This pair in the kitchen.

This pair by the front door.

This pair by the chair in the family room.

And this pair by the stairs.
Sorry, B. I can't seem to help myself.

Ten Things My Kids Say I've Taught Them

Over dinner the other night I was telling my girls about my “Ten Things” blog post from yesterday. (Hopefully they’ve read it.) So, since I was talking about the 10 most important things I hope I’ve imparted to them over the years, I decided to ask them what they saw as the 10 most important things I’ve taught them.

And now here is where I have one word of advice for all the parents out there: be careful what you ask your kids. Because the answers I got were not at all what I expected.

So, in no particular order, are the top 10 things my children have learned from me. According to them.

1. Stay away from electric fences. This came up because one time when we were visiting a horse farm I leaned up against a fence to pet a horse. Little did I know that the fence was actually TURNED ON, and I fell backwards onto the ground. Kinda scary.

2. When in a foreign country and someone asks you directions in a language you don’t know, DON’T PANIC and say something stupid like, “No speaka de French.” Enough said.

At this point Abby needed a little clarification. “Is this, like, something we’re supposed to learn from your mistakes?”

Um, yeah. Or not. Whatever.

3. “You taught us how to whistle grass between our thumbs.” And I’m happy to report that all three now possess this talent.

4. “Oh! I’ve got one! You taught us that trick where you spin a coin on the table.” Except that Maggie hadn’t learned that trick yet, so we had to spend 10 minutes showing her how to do it. She’s now up to speed.

5. There’s a little tooth brushing song I used to sing to them every night that goes like this:

“You gotta brusha your toothies
Every day.
You gotta brusha your toothies
In every way.
You gotta brusha your toothies
To fight tooth decay.
You gotta brusha your toothies
Every day.”

They tell me this is significant because they now teach that little ditty to the kids they babysit who love it.

6. Another singing lesson . . . and if you’ve never tried this, it totally works, unless you’re in a 10-digit dialing area . . . I taught them how to remember our phone number by putting it to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

It’s O.K. Take a minute and sing your phone number. It works, doesn’t it?

7. “You taught me how NOT to bowl.” Alright, alright. So I’m a terrible bowler. And I just might have accidentally crossed the red line one time and slipped on the oily floor and fell across two bowling lanes. Who knew that lane was so slippery?

8. Baking seems to be a big theme. I guess I do that pretty well, because two of my three have picked up this skill. The third has no interest whatsoever.

9. They said I taught them to respect their elders by fighting for the closest parking spot at the mall so that their grandmother wouldn't have to walk too far to the door. Yelling "Hey! I have an old lady in the car!" to the girl who stole my parking spot really drove that point home.

And finally, just as I was starting to feel like the only thing I’ve taught them was to try your hardest not to appear in public as completely dorky you are in private, Kate said this:

10. “Mom, look at that list. You’ve taught us how to have fun.”

I guess I’ve done O.K.

So tell me, what would your kids say you’ve taught them?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ten Things

A long time ago I attended a writer’s conference. The keynote speaker was a relatively unknown Christian writer who had an idea that he floated to us during one of his talks. Something about the rapture, the antichrist, and the end times.

Before Jerry Jenkins ever wrote the Left Behind series he had already written several books, including one that I bought at that conference called 12 Things I Want My Kids to Remember Forever. When he autographed my book I told him that the reason I was buying this book and not one of his 25 other books on the table was because the title of one chapter was “Women Work Harder than Men.”

Think about that for just a second.

I have loved that little book over the years. It’s the book I wish I could write for my own daughters. Because they are going to be leaving home really soon, and I have so much to tell them.

Anyway, when my Facebook friend, Jennifer, gave me a list of blog topic ideas, she asked me to write about the 5 or 10 things I want to be sure my girls leave the house knowing. I immediately thought of that Jerry Jenkins book and went to town.

I’ll tell you one thing, my list doesn’t have anything to do with sewing . It might have something to do with cooking. Or laundry—that’s pretty important.

But definitely not sewing.

I have to say that this was really hard. (Thanks, Jen.) How do you whittle down 18 years of training and teaching into a small list of 10 things? I mean, really, I could write a list of 100 things. But that might water down the significance of this little exercise just a bit.

So, here’s my list of 10 things I want my kids to remember before they leave home.

1. I have to say this first because it really is the most important thing: Know Jesus. Love Him with all your heart. Take Him with you wherever you go.

When you were little I always made you hold my hand when we crossed the street. When you got a little older you started to get embarrassed about that, and you shrugged me off. But very soon I won’t be there to hold your hand all the time. Hold on to His. And not just when you’re crossing the street. Hold on all the time.

2. Marry a man who loves Jesus more than he loves you. Because in doing that, he will love you best. After that, make sure your husband makes you laugh every day. Because, believe me, laughter can get you through some tough days.

3. Be kind to the outsider. We all know how it feels to be the person on the outside looking in, so try to include others. Bring people in. Be warm. Be welcoming. Be hospitable.

4. It’s not about you. Ever. I know this phrase has turned into a bit of a cliché, but it is so true. This life, this world, is so much bigger than you.

5. Debt is NOT your friend. It will suffocate you like a blanket and, once under that blanket, it’s really, really hard to get out from under it. Debt removes options from your life, and I want you to have options. Stay far, far away from the allure of debt, and the best way to do that is to live below your means.

6. Some stuff that people say matters really doesn’t matter at all. But then, there is some stuff that some people don’t care about that matters a lot. Life is often about having the right perspective.

7. Learn how to make a couple of dishes really well. Make them your signature dishes. That way, when you have company over you’ll have a recipe or two that you can make really well and you won’t have any disasters like the double-charred, hard-as-a-rock ribs I made for friends one time when your dad and I were first married.

8. Find a church and commit to it. This is your body, so do everything within your power to help make your body healthy and strong. Serve. Confront. Help. Unless there is heresy being preached, try to stick with it. You will be blessed so much if you do this.

9. Don’t complain. Now, I realize that I spend my fair share of time complaining about the weather, but I know I shouldn’t. There’s nothing I can do about the weather. But this is bigger than the weather. Nobody likes to be around a person who complains all the time. Instead of complaining, try to make the world a better place.

10. Finally, always remember that you are so special. Each one of you is so very gifted, and by that I don’t mean intellectually. Each one of you is so beautiful, inside and out. You love well. You give a lot. You are good friends. You have taught me so much. Never, ever forget how special you are because there will be some days when you won't feel special. You'll think that you have nothing to offer this world or the people in it. You'll wonder what you can do to make a difference. Believe me, just because you're here the world is a better place.

I know I said I’d give you ten things I want you to remember, but there’s one more thing. . . .

Never forget that I have loved you with more love than my heart can hold. It overflows. It spills over into everything I have done for you. And there’s more there. Always more. You are the work of my life, and I’m so very proud of what I’ve accomplished.


So how about you? What would you add to this list?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

There Will Always Be Cozymel's

Yesterday was crazy. Which is why I haven't been around much.

But crazy in a good way.

Now, I truly don't like it . . . at all . . . very much . . . when people use their blogs to recap their days, so I won't do that here. Too much. Except to say that I made meals for three families yesterday--ours included--and stood on my feet cooking all day.

But it was fun because I knew the people I would be feeding would be blessed, plus I kind of enjoy standing on my feet all day. Not really.

And I also don't like it when people use their blogs to tell everyone what they had for dinner because, really, who cares? Unless there's a recipe I can use accompanying said useless information. But, here again, I have to break my own don't-ever-do-that rule and tell you what I cooked yesterday.

Here you go:

Three corn casseroles. Three green bean casseroles. Three loaves of Honey Whole Wheat bread that was just about the best thing I've EVER made. One pork roast with roasted potatoes. And I heated up one Beef Brisket that I had made on Saturday. Oh, and for dessert, Pumpkin Squares because they are oh-so-easy and, well, yum.

So by the time I finished all that cooking and running around delivering meals (while running kids hither and yon all afternoon) I was pretty tired. I almost (almost) didn't feel like eating dinner, but that warm bread was calling my name. And who can turn down brisket? Mmmmm.

But the best part of my day was ahead of me as a few friends and I had made arrangements to get together at Cozymel's. You know what Cozymel's does really well, don't you? (wink wink)

Our group turned out to be half as big as it was originally going to be--four of the eight of us begged off at the last minute, which was kind of disappointing. These are friends I don't see nearly as often as I used to, and I was really looking forward to getting caught up with them. Still, it was great to get together with the other three who showed up.

As we sat together, sipping some frozen yumminess, getting caught up with each others' lives and kids, we started reminiscing about how we all met.

"You and I met when our kids were in kindergarten together." They're sophomores in high school now.

"Oh, I met you when you moved here--your oldest daughter was in my son's first grade class!" They're seniors in high school now.

Three of us have seniors in high school. Three of us also have sophomores. We have been "Hawthorne Moms" for more years than I care to count, and even though some of us don't have kids at our wonderful elementary school anymore, we stil consider ourselves "Hawthorne Moms."

I also thought about the many twists and turns our lives have taken. All of us have been through some pretty hard things over the years, some much harder than others. I wondered what might be ahead for us.

But one thing I knew, as I sat there with my friends . . . whatever happens in the future, we'll be there for one another. Maybe we won't see each other as often as we'd like to, but we'll definitely make it a priority to get together a couple of times a year. We'll still be enjoying Margaritas together, sharing lots of laughs, reflecting on our kids' years at Hawthorne, and supporting one another through life's tough battles.

We'll always be "Hawthorne Moms," and there will always be Cozymel's.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Good Reads

Last week was such a great week filled with wonderful posts that made me cry, think, and laugh, that I thought I would share some of them with you.

Melanie is one of my regular reads. She is so funny on most days, but I was so glad she decided to "get political" this week. Be sure to read through the entire post (it's kind of long, but when did that ever bother me?) because the best part is at the end.

And speaking of politics . . . my high school friend, Linda, has started a blog of her own. Way to go, Linda! I'm stealing this one from her (she linked to it earlier this week), but it's so good I want you to read it too.

You all know I like the Stuff Christians Like blog. That Jon makes me laugh so hard, and yet his blog is filled with truth. This week he decided to "go big or go home" and raise some money for Samaritan's Purse to build a kindergarten in Vietnam. Check out this post and this one and this one to see what God did with his dream. It's amazing.

Finally, I saw this site highlighted on the news last week and had to check it out just because I love its name: "My Parents Were Awesome." It's the brainchild of a guy who realized that before they had kids, his parents were pretty darn cool. He asks people to send in pictures and memories of their parents. It's such a cute idea. Of course, my kids' parents were never cool, but we DID have a life before kids.

Happy reading!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Congratulations, Maggie!

I don't know what it is, but on Friday I tend to look back at my week, try to remember what I did, and think about what I've accomplished (which is usually not much). And I think about the best parts of my week.

This week's highlight, most certainly, would have been Maggie's all-school play--her first play ever--which was held on Tuesday and Thursday. Can I just say that I didn't know she had it in her? Oh my, that girl was funny!

What am I saying? I did know she had it in her. Ever since the time in third grade when her class had a substitute teacher and she spoke with a British accent for the first half of the day just to mess with the sub's head. Pretty much ever since then people have been telling me I should get her into acting.

The play was a little one-act called "The Mystery at Throckmiddlemorton Manor." It was perfect for a junior high school production because it was short and silly and involved a lot of different characters. Oh, and a girl-fight. Can't have a junior high play without a girl fight, can you?

All the kids did a great job, but the one I watched most closely was my little thespian. She played the part of a French maid. Yes, I know that every mother's deepest desire is to see her 6th grade daughter on stage in front of her entire school with overdone makeup and bright red lipstick in a French maid's costume. It was indeed a proud mommy-moment for me.

She even did the accent because, you know, the costume wasn't enough.

Seriously, though, somehow the costume crew was able to find a decent looking maid costume that actually went down to my daughter's ankles. So maybe, rather than being a French maid she was really a Puritan maid. Named Hester or something like that.

Doesn't matter. The way she played it, she was definitely of the French variety.

After last night's performance we went out for ice cream, just the two of us. We talked about her experience, how much fun it is to act, and how she longs to keep this going through high school. She's beginning to see herself in this new role, actress, and she's liking what she's seeing. Her dreams are beginning to take shape.

All this acting talk took me back about, oh, 30 years to my own high school experience. I was in a lot of plays and musicals in high school. That was my thing, and I loved it. I think I even dabbled in community theater for a while. And even though I never had a lead role (most people I went to high school with would probably say, "You were in plays? Which ones?"), I had racked up the most thespian points and won the "Best Thespian" award during our senior assembly.

So who knows what will happen with Maggie. She may never try out for another play (although after last night I seriously doubt that), and I would be O.K. with that. What I talked to her about last night was the satisfaction of finding something she loves to do and doing it with all her heart.

Really, there's nothing better.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thankful Thursday

As I was waking up this morning, I could tell it was cold. Really cold. We've had some very nice days this week, so I'm not complaining about the weather. It is what it is (don't you hate that phrase?).

Anyway, I could tell it was cold, and then, in the fuzzy fogginess between sleep and waking, I heard that little click and then a whir and then a shoosh. The heat went on.

And in that brief moment between sleep and wakefulness I was thankful for heat.

And a comfy bed.

And a cozy chair.

And my favorite spot to sit.

For food in my pantry,

And good books to read.
I'm thankful for HOME.
Be sure to pop on over to Mary's today to read some more Thankful Thursday posts!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Thank you.

(I've never participated in Wordless Wednesday before ["wordless" just doesn't seem to describe me], but today I feel like I should.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The REAL Difference Between North and South

So I went to the grocery store last night. No big deal, right? Except that I never go to the grocery store at night. It’s just too risky.

Risky in that I just might have forgotten to put on makeup that day.

Risky in that I might not have brushed my hair before I left the house or even looked in the mirror all day long for that matter.

Risky in that I might just have spilled dinner on my jeans and didn’t notice it until I got to the store.

Risky in that I might not realize that I’m wearing the girls’ high school sweatshirt that screams “Mom” all over it.

See what I mean? Risky.

So while I’m running through the store, grabbing things quickly and keeping my head down, I started to think about the time my sister from Dallas came to Chicago for Christmas. We needed to make a quick stop at the store, so she waited in the car while I ran in.

When I got back to the car my true Southern sis commented on how “bad” everyone looked. Apparently where she lives, no self-respecting housewife would be caught DEAD in the grocery store with no makeup, dirty jeans, and a high school sweatshirt.

As we were sitting in the car discussing this big, important, life-changing difference between the North and the South, a woman drifted out of the store wearing a sweat suit (matching, I might add) and tennis shoes. Without missing a beat, my sister said, “I mean, look at that woman. She could have at least put lipstick on before she went into the store.”

Heaven forbid the produce man see your naked lips.

So last night I really was thinking about my sister and how embarrassed she would have been to run into me at the store. I thought to myself that at least I didn’t look as bad as the woman I saw a couple of weeks ago . . . in the grocery store . . . with FOILS IN HER HAIR!!!

I think that might have been an all-time grocery store low.

Until, of course, tonight. When I’m standing in line behind a young dad with two adorable little girls who pointed at my sweatshirt and said, “Are you a WN mom?” And I suddenly recognize the guy as one of my husband’s former college students who has gorgeous children and an even more gorgeous wife. Who would probably never go to the grocery store dressed in dirty jeans and a sweatshirt. And who would always put on makeup and brush her hair before going out in public.

When I got home I told B what his student said to me about being a WN mom, and without missing a beat B said, “Then he probably isn’t a very good salesman. He should have asked you if you were a WN student.” Just one of the many reasons I love my husband.

But, really, there was just no mistaking me for a high school girl. She would have worn lipstick.

Monday, November 9, 2009

My Weekend Brush with Fame

One day last week, as October was coming to a close, our local weatherman said that we had had precisely two (yes, you read that right)--TWO--days of sunshine during the month of October.

No wonder I was getting a little cranky toward the end of the month.

So turning the calendar to November has been a blessed relief, let me tell you. Who'd have thought we'd have a near-70 degree day on Saturday?

I'll tell you two people who never thought Saturday would be so gorgeous: B and Abby. Because two months ago when they signed up to run in a 5K race that was going to be held on November 7, they both said, "Oooh, I bet it's going to be cold that day!"

And as their biggest cheerleader, I thought for sure I'd be wearing mittens and a scarf, maybe even a hat (although I'm really not a big hat person) while waiting for them to come through the finish line.

I guess God got a little mixed up about the weather because Saturday looked like what October 7 should have looked like and October 7 looked like what November 7 usually looks like. Still with me? Anyway, it was gorgeous. We were all happy.

Know what else made me happy? My little brush with fame. There we were, waiting for the race to start, when the crowd started whispering feverishly. Turns out that Julio from the current season of "The Biggest Loser" was there to run.

Good little blogger that I am, I whipped out my camera and got a couple of shots for you.

Don't judge poor Julio for yawning (or was he talking?)--it was still early.

But doesn't he look great?

And one more brush-with-fame bonus. Remember Jerry of the Jerry-and-Estella team from last season's "Biggest Loser" show? He was the one who won the $100,000 prize for losing the most weight at home.

Well, Jerry was there too.

Still going strong.

A tid-bit of trivia for you: Jerry lives about three blocks away from me. I've seen him and Estella walk past my house before (our whole house erupts with shrieks of excitement when they walk by--"Oh my gosh, there's Jerry and Estella!!"), but I've never met them. I think they're kind of busy these days.

So Saturday's race was a huge success. Gorgeous weather. Lots of money raised for our local homeless veteran's shelter. A severely sprained calf muscle.

Oh well, two out of three isn't bad.

I think a certain man in this house may be hobbling around for a few weeks.

Friday, November 6, 2009

It's Friday - Time for a List

I feel like I pretty much wrote my heart out earlier this week, so today I just need a list. Here are a few things I've noticed, heard, read, or thought about this week.

1. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get your dog used to a time change? Especially a labrador retreiver that eats at specific times every day. The specific time her stomach says she should eat has now become an hour earlier. And as it used to be, she would start to bug me (i.e. follow me at my heels) about an hour before her usual feeding time which means that now she starts following me around at 3:00 in the afternoon, thinking she needs to be fed at 4:00 when she doesn't actually get fed until 5. Boy, I hope she gets used to this soon.

2. I heard the best marriage advice on, of all places, "Barefoot Contessa" this week. In fact, I thought it was so good that I rewound the DVR and listened to it again. Ina was doing a show about her 40th wedding anniversary to her beloved, Jeffrey. I've watched her show enough to know that they have a very sweet love story, so I took notice when she started talking about marriage.

Here's what she said: "People always ask me the secret to a good marriage. I won't say to work at it, even though that's what I'm supposed to say. We just have a good time together. He wants me to be happy; I want him to be happy. It's as simple as that."

After 24 years of marriage myself, I'd have to say she's on to something. Yes, there are some other things I might add, but I love Ina's idea of putting the other person's happiness ahead of your own. If we strip away everything else, that's pretty much what marriage is all about.

3. I get the Proverbs 31 Daily Devotionals in my email box every morning, and one day this week, Lysa TerKeurst wrote about rejection and how much it stinks. It was really good, so if you've been experiencing some rejection and need some encouragement, click here.

4. Speaking of Proverbs 31 Ministries . . . I'm just a little excited to tell you that their November issue of P31 Woman magazine arrived a few days ago and yours truly had an article published in it. Even though I've been writing for years and have had a few small things published, I consider this my first "real" article to be published in a "real" magazine.

Unfortunately, P31 Woman is not available online, so you can't even read my article unless you're a subscriber. If you want to subscribe or even buy a single issue (wink wink), you can click here.

Looks like it's going to be a nice weekend in Chicagoland this weekend which will be a HUGE change from the past, oh, five weeks or so. So I'll be outside enjoying the weekend.

What will you be doing?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I'm Thankful for Spanakopita!

It's Thankful Thursday over at Mary's place today, and I'm joining in the fun.

Today I'm thankful for my neighborhood. I live in a typical suburban neighborhood, but what makes it so special is the people in it. Over the years our kids have walked to school together, played in the leaves together, and trick-or-treated together. The adults have parties together. But we also attend holiday programs together and help each other take out the leaf bags.

It's a fun place. At any given moment, I can walk down my street and find someone to talk to. And in an emergency, I know that pretty much all of my neighbors would be here in a heartbeat.

I love my neighborhood and can't imagine living anywhere else. Unless anywhere else was someplace warmer. *sigh*

Anyway, today some friends from my neighborhood got together to make Spanakopita.The lovely Irene who lives down the street was teaching us. This sweetheart is "Yia Yia" to all the neighborhood kids. Everyone knows her, and everyone loves her. And occasionally Yia Yia gives cooking lessons to some of us non-Greeks. Bless her heart.

Today we met at Amy's house. This is Amy. This picture is blurry and doesn't do her justice because she's beautiful and sweet and smart and the closest thing to a sister I have living here.

This is Johanna. Johanna is a nut and tons of fun to be with. She also rolls a mean spinach pie.

And this is Yia Yia. Like I said, we all love her.

So, basically, spanakopita is spinach pie. You can make it in a pan or you can make individual triangles like we did today.

As every Greek recipe does, you start with butter. Lots of butter.

You also need filling. You can find out how to make this if you check out the recipe below.

And, of course, phyllo dough. This is the Greek country style phyllo which, apparently, is a bit thicker than regular phyllo.

So you cut the phyllo into thirds, like Irene's hands are showing us below.

Take the strips, one at a time, and brush them liberally with butter. Did you catch that? I said liberally.

Put a spoonful of filling at one end of the strip of phyllo and then start working it into triangles. I'd try to explain how to do that, but it would probably turn into a dissertation, so I'll just let you look at the picture and figure it out for yourself. Or make it in a pan, which is probably easier.

We put the individual triangles into foil pans like this with waxed paper between the layers. Be sure to brush them with butter before you refrigerate or freeze them. Because we haven't used enough butter just yet.

I guess all you have to do after that is bake them and eat them. Which we did. This morning. And, boy, were they good. Mmmmmm.

You can try these too because Yia Yia shared her recipe with me. She even said I could share it with you. I've typed it out exactly as it was given to me (except that the comments in parentheses are mine) so go ahead and give Yia Yia a call if you can't figure it out. How could you not enjoy all this buttery goodness?

Thea Irene's Spinach Pie

Makes one pan (approx. 15x11)

Step #1: Melt butter - 2 sticks (Well, already there's a problem because today we used 4 sticks.)

Step #2: Trim 2 bags of spinach. Take off most of the stems. Wash spinach and place in a large bowl (tear it into small pieces). Make sure it is very dry. (This is a critical piece of information.)

Step #3: Crumble 1 lb. of feta cheese (make sure it's good feta--Yia Yia does not like the flavorless domestic feta) and 12 oz. of cottage cheese (drained through a seive) into spinach. Add a pinch of mint and a pinch of parsley (we used about 1/2 bunch of fresh parsley) and 1 bunch of green onions sliced.

Step #4: Beat 6 eggs in small bowl and add this to spinach. Mix with hands until all spinach is coated. Add 1/4 cup Wesson oil and mix well. Add a handful of rice (yes, that's right--rice) and mix some more. (Yia Yia mixes with her hands.)

Step #5: Butter bottom and sides of pan

Step #6: Layer filo in pan. Butter each layer. Blanket it over sides so as all 4 sides are hanging over edges. First 4 sheets you do this and then 5th-10th sheets don't overhang, they get placed on the bottom of the pan only. Continue to layer filo, butter, filo, butter, filo, butter.

Step #7: Put filling over filo and spred out so it's all even. Make sure you get it in the corners. Sprinkle another handful of rice over the filling.

Step #8: Fold edges of filo over filling. Butter edges and layer remaining filo over spinach. Filo, butter, filo, butter and so on.

Step #9: Cut excess filo away from edges and tuck sides down to seal.

Step #10: Cut it into squares. Brush a little butter on the top.

Step #11: Bake at 350 for about 1 hour. The top should be golden brown. Start on the bottom rack and check in 1/2 hour. Rotate pan if necessary.

Step #12: Call an ambulance if you start having chest pains. (Just kidding--I threw that one in there for fun.)

Enjoy all that filo, butter, filo, butter, filo . . .

Bloggy Business

There's a lot of chatter out there. Blog chatter. About a certain blog conference that will be held in Nashville in February.

Seems like everywhere I turn in the blog world people are talking about whether or not they'll attend. And I'm getting the feeling that it's like junior high again--all the popular girls will be attending and all of us not-so-popular girls will be sitting on the sidelines watching.

Truth be told, I probably couldn't go anyway. My winter and spring are already getting filled up with various travel-related activities.

But here's what I'd like to talk about today: growing the blog.

If you're a blogger, I'd really like to hear from you about whether you've ever attended a blogging conference. If so, was it worth it? Why? If you've never attended a blogging conference, why not? What are your thoughts about blogging conferences?

If you're not a blogger, you can still help me out. Tell me what you think would help me grow my blog. And if you'd even go one step further by emailing one person who you think would enjoy reading my ramblings and sending them the link to my blog that would be completely amazing.

And finally, if you haven't noticed that little button off to the left that says "Follow" go find it and click on it. Followers make me very, very happy.

O.K., so now head on down to the place that says "comments" and talk to me.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

An Anniversary - Part 3

This is it. I promise. The end.

Because, really, who wants to hear someone else’s sick stories? I don’t.

But thank you for indulging me.

Today I wanted to share probably the biggest lesson I learned through my hospitalization and recovery at home. Those of you who know me well probably already know what it is.

It’s no big news flash that I’m a pretty independent person. I’ve always been able to take care of myself and my family without too much trouble. I’ve been known to go to great lengths to NOT ask for help at times.

So what happens when an independent girl suddenly finds herself not able to do even the simplest things for herself? What happens when she suddenly needs the help of other people just to get through the day?

She learns to ask for help.

Well, sort of. I had to come to grips, first, with why I have a hard time asking for help, and what I realized is that it’s mostly my pride. Pretty simple. Pride.

Pride keeps me from opening up. Pride keeps me from accepting offers of help. And pride certainly keeps me from asking others for help.

But I found myself in the most humbling state of my life, and I quickly realized, while lying in that bed, that I was going to have to start asking for help. It’s not like people weren’t offering—they were. Like crazy. But I honestly couldn’t think of anything to ask people to do.

So like me.

So I started small. One day prior to the surgery I happened to take a good look in the mirror and realized that my eyebrows had gotten out of control. Girls, we all know how embarrassing it is to be headed toward unibrow status, so I asked my friend, Margery, if she would please get me a pair of tweezers. Can’t go into surgery with eyebrows you can braid now, can you?

Margery hopped to it and brought me a pair of tweezers. The most beautiful tweezers I’ve ever seen. It might as well have been a gold brick; I don’t think I’ve ever loved a gift so much before. I’m happy to report that I’m still using those tweezers, and I think of my sweet friend every time I use them.

Next came meals. It became clear pretty quickly that B wouldn’t be able to keep up with the three girls, his job, and visiting me in the hospital every night. Life was quickly getting out of control on the home front, so receiving help with meals took so much stress off of him. Friends from church rallied and brought meals for week which turned out to be a huge blessing, even after I got home from the hospital because I couldn’t do much of anything.

Once I finally got home I had to ask for more help. For the first few days I knew I couldn’t be alone, but B really had to go to work (he had missed quite a bit of work at this point), so I asked a few friends if they would just come sit with me while my girls were in school.

When I think of it, this was such a huge sacrifice on the part of my friends. I mean really, who wants to sit around doing nothing with their friend who can’t do anything? But God provided in such perfect ways exactly what I needed.

On my first day home, my friend Micah came to be with me. She’s a pretty high-energy girl, so she took a look around and started digging in. She noticed a huge (and I do mean huge) pile of ironing, so she set up shop in the kitchen and ironed all my clothes. Happily. With a smile on her face. While I lay on the couch and watched. I still remember the sweet time of talking with Micah and feeling blessed beyond belief.

My second day home was a little harder. I started having some memories of the surgery, and I did a lot of processing and crying that day. But once again God knew what I needed because he sent my dear friend, Cheryl, who is a counselor. She brought me a box of Kleenex and listened patiently while I processed. She made me feel like everything was going to be just fine.

Not only that, but Cheryl folded my laundry. Since I know how much my friend just loves doing laundry, this was going above and beyond the boundaries of friendship.

She also did this.

God must have known that I needed to laugh that day.

As if taking meals, asking for tweezers, and allowing my friends to touch my laundry weren’t humiliating enough, there was one more thing God used to humble me and to teach me that asking for help every now and then isn’t so terrible.

On my third day at home, two friends, Kim and Jymette, came by to spend the day. Such good friends they are, I actually let them do the unthinkable. . . . they cleaned out my refrigerator! We still laugh about the fuzzy carrots and the green sweet potatoes. Talk about embarrassing.

I guess my pride problem was pretty big because God used all of these experiences to humble me and to teach me that sometimes I just need to ask for help. It’s still not easy for me, but when absolutely necessary I will and do rely on the help of others.

But Cheryl is never getting near my laundry again.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

An Anniversary - Part 2

Her name was Marge.

I never saw her face.

But I knew that she had blacked out behind the wheel and hit a tree which prompted the visit to the hospital which revealed that she was full of cancer. She didn’t have long to live.

Marge had never married, as far as I could tell, but she lived a rich life filled with loved ones. She had two sisters who rushed to her bedside and doted on her night and day. And a male friend named Jim who was a priest. One particular niece loved her very much and visited her often.

Others came to visit her too, parading past my bed. Staring at me. Wondering what kind I had. Wondering how long I had.

At first, their sympathetic stares confused me until I figured out that I was not just lying in a bed on any old floor of the hospital. This was Medical/Oncology, and the sounds emanating from down the hall proved it. Especially the middle-of-the-night sounds.

Traumatizing doesn’t even begin to describe my experience in that bed in that room on that wing of the hospital back in 2007.

For the first three days I shared a room with Marge, the faceless woman who was dearly loved and oh-so-scared. The only thing between us was a curtain and three feet of space.

I never saw her face.

I mentioned yesterday that my friend who worked at the hospital encouraged me to ask for a private room. And believe me, after three days of smelling the closeness of death in that room, I needed to get out. I needed a place where I could focus on getting well. A place where I wouldn’t have to explain that, no, I didn’t have cancer. I just needed to get well enough to have surgery.

It’s funny, though, that I felt guilty about leaving Marge. A woman I never really met. A woman I never really knew. A woman I never saw face-to-face.

I felt guilty. Because I knew I would get better. And I knew she would not.

I also knew that I had peace. I wasn’t sure she did. So for those three days I prayed for Marge. I prayed that she would know peace. That her last few days on earth would be joyful. That she would know Jesus in a very real way.

I woke up early on the morning I was to be moved—probably the anticipation, but more probably the nurses. We ate our breakfasts silently, Marge and I, and then I started reading my Bible, looking for any words that would bring me some comfort, some relief.

“Read to her, Shelly.” That nudge from God.

Oh no. Not me. First of all, I was not the kind of person who usually “heard” God’s voice and second, if I did sense God telling me to do something, I usually ran the other way.

“Read to her.”

I think I sat there with my Bible in my hand, dumbfounded. Dry mouthed. Incredulous because, really, God? I’m trying to focus on getting better here and you want me to minister to this woman?

“She’s dying.”

Well, yeah, there’s that. And I’m getting out of here, so she’ll never see me again. (You see how much I had to learn?)

“Just read to her.”

And so I said, through the curtain, “Marge? Are you O.K.?”

“I’m really scared.” I could tell she was crying.

“Do you mind if I read something to you, Marge?”

“No, I don’t mind. That would be nice,” she responded.

And so I read to her the words that I had opened to that morning. Psalm 34.

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.


I went back and re-read the portions I have highlighted here, hoping that Marge would find some comfort in these words. She thanked me and told me that hearing that had helped.

I told her I would be praying for her.

That was it. No big revelation from God. No thunderbolts from Heaven. Just listening and obeying. And going way out of my comfort zone to bring comfort to someone else.

And right there, in that hospital room, as I ministered to a dying woman, God ministered to me.