Friday, January 30, 2009

Seven Quick Takes Friday

-1-

It's been such a good day today that I thought I'd just continue my good day streak with a stellar blog post. Really, nothing special happened, but I got a lot done. I got kids to where they needed to be this morning without too much difficulty. I spent a little time reading my Bible and praying. I cleaned a good portion of my house, including (and I'm so embarrassed to admit this) the leftover Christmas stuff from one corner of my bedroom. I picked up Maggie for lunch and spent a nice hour with her. I went to the gym for an hour.

See what I mean? This day is just clicking along like clockwork. Days like this make me so happy. It doesn't hurt that the sun is shining like crazy.

-2-

Just to add to this good day, I'm going to a movie tonight with some friends. We're going to see "New in Town" with Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick, Jr. From what I can tell from the previews, it's about a girl from California who travels to Minnesota to cover a news story, but she's never been in snow and ice before. Basically, it's a movie about the weather, specifically winter. I've just got to say that I'm a little wary about this one because anyone who knows me knows how I feel about winter. I guess I'll be easy to spot in the movie theater--I'll be the one who's all bundled up, but my teeth will still be chattering.

-3-

Two men who did more to damage the reputation of the state of Illinois in the past year than ever before got their comeuppance (as my grandma would have said) this week. Our big-haired, big-talking, big-spending governor, Blago, got kicked out of office yesterday. It's sad, pathetic, and eerie all at the same time.

But just this afternoon I heard that the 24-year-old "fiance" of 56-year-old Drew Peterson walked out on him this morning. She probably watched "Nightline" last night and realized she was next on his hit list. Again, sad, pathetic, and eerie.

-4-

I have a problem with my hair. I am completely conflicted about which product to use on it. Underneath the sink in my bathroom I have about four different products that I use on a regular basis, from gel to styling spray to straightening cream, but it seems like every day is different. Some days I only use one thing; other days I combine a couple. Some days I like my hair; other days not so much. I have stick-straight, very thick hair. What would you recommend?

-5-

Is is just me, or does stuff like this bug you too? The other night I was watching the news and this is what the weatherman put up on his graphic: "BLUSTEREY"

-6-

I wanted to show you my favorite spot in my home.



It's a corner of my bedroom. The picture doesn't do it justice, but this chair is, I have to say, gorgeous. And comfortable. The lighting is perfect, shining down on whatever I'm reading. And I have my basket of books and stuff I'm working on. Many of my blog posts are written from this spot. And many naps are taken in that chair.

What's your favorite spot in your home?

-7-

I'm so excited because tomorrow I get to act like a grownup! I'm going to put on grownup clothes, eat grownup food, and have grownup conversation. B and I are going to see C.S. Lewis's "The Screwtape Letters" in the big city. It's going to be great, I just know it, but I have to make a confession to you here and now. Even though I majored in literature in college, and I even have a master's degree in English, and I've read lots of C.S. Lewis's books, I've never read "The Screwtape Letters." Hopefully B can translate for me. And I'll bring you a report next week.

Thanks again, Jen at Conversion Diary, for hosting such a fun event.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Only in Texas

I love Texas. Over the years I've spent a good amount of time there.

I've learned a thing or two about Texas and Texans over the years. The first thing you must know is that if you weren't born there, you're not really a Texan. Even Jenn, who has lived there for 25 years isn't a Texan. (I guess she's an Illinoisan, but who wants to claim that these days?)

Texas is also very diverse. I mean, imagine, Aggies and Longhorns living in the same place!

And those Texans, boy do they love their mascots.



One thing I find a little strange about Texas is their trees. Seriously, how is that a tree?



Even though I thought I knew a thing or two about Texas, I'm still learning. Last weekend I learned a couple of new things.

First, those Texans are punny!



Actually, getting that picture was a really funny story and it led me to the second thing I learned last weekend.

Jenn was driving me through the countryside when we saw that sign. Being the blogger that I am, I just had to get a shot of it, so Jenn turned around and went back. We headed back down the road a bit and then had to turn around again, so we pulled into the parking lot of a small store.

Interesting place, I thought. There were two garage doors, one on each side, and a place to drive into the building, kind of like an oil change place. As I was looking at the building, trying to figure out what it was, it hit me. The bottles lined up on one side, the ice chest on the other, and the Miller Lite neon sign kind of gave it all away.

"Is that a . . . it couldn't be . . . a DRIVE THROUGH LIQUOR STORE?!" I nearly screamed at my sister.

"Yeah, haven't you seen one of those before?" Jenn nonchalantly answered.

Ah, no.

Only in Texas, my friends. Only in Texas.



Of course, there was one photo that got away--a picture that would go so perfectly with the one above.

As we were speeding down the highway (another thing I know about Texans--they drive fast!) I saw a sign unlike any sign I had ever seen before. It read: "Beer To Go."

What?! Where's that camera when you need it.

"Yeah, ah, give me a Big Mac, some fries, and a beer to go."

Only in Texas.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

And the winner is . . .

Kimberly Gravin! Congratulations on winning a copy of "Rest" by Keri Wyatt Kent. Please send me your email so I can contact you.

Thanks to everyone who left comments!

And have a restful day.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Need Some "Rest"? Read This!


Church. Football. Soccer. Throw in a birthday party. Or maybe a recital. How about a committee meeting? Or even a little work? And then off to church again. For many people, that’s a typical Sunday.

Are your Saturdays any better? Do you have any day in the week that you feel is different from the rest? A day to truly unwind from the busyness of your life?

If you answered “no” to any of those three questions, you need to read Keri Wyatt Kent’s latest book, “Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity.” Keri encourages anyone with a too-busy lifestyle to slow down, take a look at your life, and try doing it God’s way.

Keri doesn’t suggest a legalistic, do-nothing-on-Sunday approach. She encourages her readers to search their hearts, search Scripture, and then decide with God what needs to change.

In light of this post that I wrote last week, I found it interesting to read the following in Keri’s book: “Maybe you are lonely: you believe people who care are scarce. But a scarcity mindset never brings us closer to God’s abundance. Maybe that’s why you keep yourself so busy and why you never rest. Because rest would feel lonely. Which is exactly why rest is so important. In resting, you experience the abundant grace of God, a lavish gift never earned, only received. His presence relieves our soul loneliness in a way that no one and no thing ever could.”

In a recent interview, Keri said this:

What is Sabbath, and what is its purpose? What do you mean by Sabbath Simplicity?

Sabbath, first and foremost, is a gift from our loving God. He invites us to take a day to rest from our labor, so that we might engage in relationship with him and with others. Its purpose is to refresh us physically and spiritually, to celebrate our freedom, to draw us close to God, and yet to remind us that we are not God.

God commanded us to Sabbath, to stop. But Sabbath-keeping is also a spiritual practice or discipline. All disciplines, (like prayer, solitude, etc.) create some space for God in our lives. Just as we have a lot of latitude in other practices (we can pray any number of ways, for example), we have freedom in how we practice Sabbath. My book offers a lot of ideas, and real-life examples, of how to approach this life-giving practice.

Sabbath Simplicity is a sanely-paced, God-focused life. It’s a lifestyle that includes the practice of Sabbath-keeping, but goes beyond just taking a day off. IN a way, it’s living out what Jesus told us to do in Matthew 6:33: See first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Sabbath Simplicity seeks God first.


What are some simple steps anyone can take to seek Sabbath Simplicity in their own lives?
The first step is to assess the current pace of your life—what activities have you and the people you live with said yes too. How hurried are you? You can’t figure out your next step, really, until you know where you are starting from. You may have to get very concrete and write down your schedule and look at it. Because your activity level during the week is going to affect your Sabbath.

Second, choose a day that you will keep Sabbath. I recommend Saturday or Sunday, and go from sunset to sunset. The Old Testament Sabbath was from sunset on the 6th day of the week to sunset on the 7th day—although as I explain in detail in the book, their ancient calendars were different from ours.

Third, choose one thing to refrain from, one thing to engage in. For example, refrain from housework or running errands, and engage in reading a spiritually challenging book, or playing with your kids. Start with small steps, and think about building your Sabbath Simplicity life a little at a time, gradually. After a few weeks, add another thing you will refrain from, and another thing you’ll engage in. Pray and listen, let God shape your Sabbath practice. Make your relationship with him the focus. Allow yourself flexibility.


Didn’t Jesus set us free from the law? If so, do we even have to practice Sabbath at all? What did Jesus say about the Sabbath?
By that argument, it would be okay to kill or commit adultery, because we are free from the law. What Jesus set us free from is being saved or in right relationship with God through the law. We’re saved by grace, not by law keeping.

So we won’t be saved by Sabbath-keeping, but it is still how God invites us to live.

Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for people. If God makes something for you, it’s a gift. He said it was not about the rules, but relationship. It’s a spiritual practice that brings us close to God.


Think you need this book? Leave me a comment by Wednesday (along with an email address so I can get in touch with you) and you’ll be entered to win. I’ll let you know on Thursday who the lucky winner is.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Girls' Night Out in Houston!

I always say I'd rather have someone give me a trip, or an adventure, than jewelry or "stuff." Boy, does my husband know me well, because for Christmas this year, he and my sister got together to surprie me with a trip to Texas for a Girl's Night Out which featured Lysa TerKeurst, Renee Swope, and Kate Gosselin of "Jon and Kate Plus 8."

What a great evening! These pictures don't really do it justice because, well, we weren't right up next to the stage. We did have pretty good seats, but my camera just didn't pick everything up as it should.

Anyway, here's my kindred spirit, Kate. We don't share the same taste in hair styles, but we do share such traits as a strong personality, determination, and an occasional lack of patience with those around us.



Seriously, though, I loved hearing her story about God's faithfulness to their family and how she leaned (and still leans) on Him throughout her "interesting" situation.

At the end of the evening there was a short Q & A time with all the participants. I wish this section of the evening had been longer because it was a lot of fun to listen to those chicks banter.


From left to right it's Lysa TerKeurst, Renee Swope, Aeisha Woods,and Kate Gosselin.

On Friday morning I attended a very special breakfast with Lysa and a few other bloggers. Being new to this whole blogging thing, I was a little intimidated, but Lysa, with her sweet and gentle way, made me feel very comfortable and "at home" with her. I'm not too much into idolizing people, but Lysa has been a real inspiration to me.



Finally, here's a picture of our entire Friday morning breakfast group:

Front row: Lysa, Vern from Inspired Looks, Linda from Mocha with Linda, and Paula from Wrinkled Shirts.
Back row: Lindsey from A New Life, Me, Melanie (a.k.a. Big Mama), Holly Good (Lysa's assistant and all around great girl), and Sandy from God Speaks Today.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Head's Up!


Just wanted to give you a head's up that I will be hosting a giveaway on Monday. I'll be interviewing Keri Wyatt Kent about her newest book, "Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity," and I'll be giving away one copy of her book.

I went to college with Keri--we were both literature majors--so we've been friends a long time. (Senior Seminar with Dr. Hein was especially exciting, but that's another story.) She's written several books, but this one is especially compelling to me because it's about, well, rest, which is something I like. A lot.

Seriously, though, it's a relevant topic for our day today, our busy families, and our sometimes stressful lives. You'll want a copy, that's for sure.

Please stop by on Monday to learn more.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Remember the Victory Tour?

Back in the '80s, when B and I were first married, Michael Jackson went on his Victory Tour of 55 cities in I don't know how many days. However long it took him, I just remember it was a whirlwind tour.

That's how I feel this weekend. I'm taking the Victory Tour of Texas.

I arrived in Dallas on Wednesday and had dinner with my two sisters, Jenn and Jodi. Jenn and I left on Thursday morning and drove to Houston for a Girl's Night Out with Lysa TerKeurst and Kate Gosselin of "Jon and Kate Plus 8."

[There will be plenty more on the GNO next week, but suffice it to say that since I'm already kindred souls with Kate I absolutely HAD to be at this event--even if it meant flying and driving a long way.]

Friday (today) has been spent in Houston, knocking around a bit, visiting my younger niece's college, and spending some time with her.

Tomorrow we'll head to Jenn's oldest daughter's school (Gig 'em Aggies!) for a QUICK visit, and then to the airport so that I can go home. To the cold. Have I mentioned that it's been in the 70's every day since I've been here? (sigh)

Anyway, like I said, it's been a whirlwind tour, but it has been great. Because, you know, Texas is unlike any other place in the country. Where else can you get waffles in the shape of your state? Where else do they embed stars into the sides of their highway ramps?

Where else can you find a huge armadillo?



And where else can you get a "sammich"?



Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Are you KIDDING me?!



The only athletic injury I ever received happened when I was downhill skiing as a sophomore in high school. On my first run that day I wiped out and knocked out my two front teeth.

Real athlete, huh?

Never one to be deterred by a little cosmetic mishap, I've definitely gotten on the sticks again, but never the little, tiny, skinny sticks.

But after six, yes, SIX days off school (don't even get me started on that one) the girls and I were climbing the walls, so we decided to head to our local golf course to enjoy a nice, relaxing afternoon on the ski trails.

All I can say is, "Are you KIDDING me?!" Fun, maybe. Relaxing? No way.



This is Maggie, but it might as well have been me all tangled up in my skis. Oh, and did I mention that I fell right as we hit the trail? Literally.

At least it was a beautiful day.




And we did have a great time together.

But I kind of wish I had been heading here:



Monday, January 19, 2009

In the Blink of an Eye

Kate and B aren’t home today. They left last night to drive a few hours to a state that doesn’t even border ours to visit a college that we know very little about.

It’s her first college visit.

On Saturday night, as I was going to bed and Kate was in her usual spot in front of the computer doing her last check on Facebook and catching up on blogs, I stopped to kiss my girl goodnight. I looked into those big, blue eyes and saw in them the little girl I knew not so very long ago.

And my heart pulled just a bit.

“How did you get so big so fast?” I asked as I stroked her beautiful, silky, brown hair in much the same way I would have when she was young.

She didn’t have to say anything. We both knew the answer.

Overnight.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Complain? About the weather? Who, Me?

I wish I could take a picture of cold.

Instead, I just give you these. Because, you know, I love winter and all and I want to record this blessed week for all posterity.







(See the -7 in the lower left corner? That was the actual temperature at 3 in the afternoon yesterday. This morning when I got up the actual temperature was -18.)

Enough said.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

On Time

I just have to tell you this story because it’s true. This really happened.

If you live in the Midwest, or if you’ve ever visited the Midwest, or if you’ve ever even heard about the Midwest, you can appreciate the cold weather we sometimes get here. I’m talking kick-me-in-the-gut-I-can’t-breathe kind of weather. It’s what we’re experiencing this week.

It was exactly one year ago, on a bitterly cold January day, that I was running errands. Why was I running errands when the wind chill was 25 degrees BELOW zero? Because my husband’s birthday was coming and I needed to get him a gift.

I had bought the gifts and was headed home on that minus-25-degree-wind-chill day when I got stopped by a train, which, in itself is nothing new because rumor has it that 75 trains every day go through our town.

As I sat in the line of cars waiting for the gates to go up, I looked at the clock in my car—it read 2:45. I needed to pick up my daughter at school at 3:00, so I contemplated my next move. I could either stop by my house and drop off the packages, then go pick up my daughter. Or I could just head to the school and wait, taking a 10 minute breather.

Suddenly, something to the right caught my eye. It seemed like a flash of pink or orange or yellow. I glanced up ahead of me and off to the side of the road and noticed a small woman, huddled down in the snow. She wore a winter coat, no hat or gloves, but underneath the coat I could see the bright fabric of some type of ethnic costume.

She looked to be Chinese or Vietnamese, but whatever her ethnicity, she was definitely not from around here.

The train had gone, the gates went up, and the line of cars began to move. As I crept past the woman, I noticed something startling—she was not the only person crouched down in the snow. She had a little girl with her. And the girl didn’t have a hat or gloves either.

Maybe they’re waiting for a ride, I thought to myself. Hopefully their ride will come soon.

As I neared the train tracks, I felt a nudging. I can’t explain it, but something inside of me thought, Help her.

“Sure, Lord, I’ll help her. I’ll pray,” I thought. “God, this woman needs help. Please help her.”

There. Done. I drove on.

About a block later, there it was again. Help her.

“But Lord, I don’t want to help her. I don’t have time to help her. I have to pick up my daughter in 15 minutes.”

And, to my shame, I kept driving.

About three blocks down the street I felt another nudging, a niggling, bothersome thought in my head again.

Turn around.

Oh boy, this was serious.

I was nearly in tears. I was frustrated. I was scared. And I was mad because I really didn’t want to do this thing that God was clearly calling me to do.

To be honest, I usually just ignore these kinds of “thoughts,” especially if they are inconvenient or ill-timed. But I had recently had a conversation with a friend who has become much more intentional about listening for God, and it made me want to become more intentional about it too.

So on this cold winter day, I knew without a doubt that the nudging in my head, my heart, whatever, was definitely not from me. And I turned around.

I headed back toward the woman in the snow, hoping her ride had arrived and she would not be still crouched there with her little baby girl.

But as I came up and over the tracks, I spotted her. Still there.

I knew that if I pulled up to her going the direction I was currently facing she would be on the left side of my car, so I decided to go around the block so that I would pull up to her on the passenger side. This would give her ride a couple more minutes to show up, I stupidly thought, even though I knew in my heart that I was her ride.

I drove around the block. As I turned the final corner my heart sank to see her still sitting there.

“O.K., God, I get it. Please help me to do this thing you want me to do,” I quickly prayed.

I pulled up next to her and rolled down the passenger-side window. “Do you need some help? Do you need a ride?” I called out to her.

She shook her head and seemed to say, “Yes.”

“Get in,” I said as I waved her to my car. “It’s cold out there!”

The tiny woman smiled as she climbed in my car and settled her little girl on her lap. “Thank you,” she said as she looked at me.

“O.K., so where are we going? Do you speak English?” I asked.

She shook her head and said something like, “Wah ses doh ses veddy fah.”

Uh oh. I had no idea where we were going, but it seemed like we would be going "very far."

So, motioning with my hand, I asked her if she could point the way to where she was going.

“Yes, yes,” she replied.

We headed back down the street, toward the train tracks and she immediately said, “No, no” and gestured to the right. Ah, I was supposed to turn right. So I backed up the car and headed in the right direction.

We continued on, she was pointing, I was praying. I had no idea where we were going or how long it would take to get there.

“But, God, I know you want me to do this, so I will take this woman wherever you want me to go.”

We drove on. Past a school. Crossing a busy intersection. Toward the opposite end of town from where I lived and where my daughter would surely be waiting for me at her school, wondering where I was.

But that didn’t matter. I was on a mission from God, and I was determined to fulfill my duty.

Suddenly, just as I began to REALLY wonder where we were going, the woman got very animated, pointing wildly to the left.

“Wah ses doh ses veddy fah!”

“Here?” I asked. “You want me to turn here?”

“Yes, yes!” she nodded her head and pointed some more.

We turned into a neighborhood of townhomes, a neighborhood that I’d never driven through before, and I looked up to see the words “Valley Forge” on a street sign.

“Valley Forge? Do you live on Valley Forge?” I asked.

“Yes, yes! Wah ses doh ses.”

And, as if God was putting His hands on my cheeks and turning my head, I glanced over to the house to my right and saw 1626 Valley Forge. So that was it!

“Here?” I asked. “Is this where you live?”

With her face lit with recognition and an enormous smile, the woman pointed to the house and said, “Yes. Wah ses doh ses veddy fah!”

We pulled up to her door and she climbed out, her beautiful little girl clinging to her hand, smiling at me broadly.

What does one say at a moment like this when you can’t communicate well but it seems something needs to be said?

“God bless you,” was all I could muster.

“God bless you,” she smiled and bowed in return. The little girl waved as I drove off.

It’s hard to describe the emotion of what I had just been through. The frustration, the fear, the lack of communication on both our parts, the sense of being completely out of control. Those emotions and more bubbled to the surface as I pulled away, tears streaming down my face.

I prayed one more prayer for this dear woman and her child, “Lord, please help them.” And I realized that He did.

I quickly drove to my daughter’s school, hoping she would not mind if I was a few minutes late. But when I arrived at our meeting spot, I glanced at the clock in my car—“3:00” the numbers read. I was on time after all.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hang in there!

I honestly don't know where this week has gone. I have a million blog ideas rolling around in my brain, but I just haven't had a minute to sit down here and write them down.

I think my brain is frozen.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to post a couple of pictures of the mountains of snow surrounding my house. If you don't live here, you just can't comprehend how much snow we have right now.

Too bad I can't take a picture of the temperature.

Anyway, I wanted to say a quick hello and to ask you to bear with me. Tomorrow, I promise, I will be back with a true story about the cold and me and God. Believe me, it will be worth the trip back here.

Oh, and I just wanted to say a quick THANK YOU for reading. This morning I was at church and two different people came up to me at different times and said, "I really enjoy reading your blog." Honestly, it kind of blew me away. I didn't think anybody but my mom and sisters read my blog.

If you've read this blog more than once, would you just leave me a quick comment telling me hello? You can comment anonymously, but it would be fun for me to hear from you.

Stay warm. I'll see you tomorrow!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Just random . . . but only for 30 minutes

I'm sitting in my family room--all's quiet after a nice dinner with the family--watching the snow come down sideways. A fire is roaring in the fireplace because it's cold, really cold, outside. But it's not as cold as it's going to be soon.

B and I are waiting to watch "24," not because it hasn't started yet, but because we have to wait until 30 minutes after it starts so we don't have to watch the commercials. Having written that down it sounds totally ridiculous, but see, with "24" you just don't want to stop watching it. And besides, the commercials might just give you time to come down off the adrenaline rush you've been on and that wouldn't be good. "24" is a good show for adrenaline if you're looking for that kind of thing.

Anyway, I'm watching the snow out the transom windows, thinking about the few days that have just passed and the few days to come. Both leave me feeling a bit . . . frozen.

I'm chilled to think about my mom, sad, and my uncle, devastated at the sudden loss of his beloved.

And I'm absolutely frozen to think about the days that are coming. A blizzard tonight. And then bitterly cold temperatures to follow. I'm not so good with the bitterly cold. Frankly, bitterly cold scares me just a little.

I think I'll stay here on the couch for the next few months. And watch "24."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

She says it so much better

My parents are arriving today to attend the funeral of someone they loved very much. This woman, whom I never had the privilege of meeting, died unexpectedly, tragically, earlier this week. It will be the kind of funeral you don't want to have to attend.

I've been thinking about the circumstances all week, trying to figure out what to say, if anything, when I came across this post by Antique Mommy. She says what I wanted to say so much better than I could ever say it.

Go read it and then come back.

Two things about Antique Mommy's post really struck me. First, "There’s nothing like going to a funeral to point out the folly of Next Time." Or to that I would add "next week" or even "next year." There are things in my life that I have put off. Big things that I would seriously regret if I never did them. And now I see, because she has articulated it so well, that the putting off of these things is folly (good word!).

Second, toward the end of her post she says this, "This old falling down farm house takes time out of the realm of the abstract, where Next Time seems reasonable, and puts it squarely into the concrete where no one is guaranteed a Next Time." Having experienced deep loss at a young age, I live with the sense of this statement every day. No one--no one--is guaranteed a "next time."

Procrastination is folly. I speak this to myself today more than I speak it to you.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Watch out you little pink bunny!

Cookies, baklava, apple cake, cheese grits, filet minon, ham, chocolate, egg cassarole . . . you name it, we ate it this Christmas.

Ever felt bloated when you woke up in the morning? That's how I've been feeling lately. Don't get me wrong. I love all those foods. I love to eat. But I don't love what all those foods and all that eating does to me.

So yesterday I did something I haven't done in a LONG time . . . I went to the gym.

When I say long time, I mean a LONG time. More than just one season of American Idol. Maybe even more than one season of 24.

See, last year wasn't much of a work-out year for me. After some health issues early in the year, I took it easy for a while. Then I led our Switzerland team, so I got busy. Then our fall schedules took over our lives, and I just plain got lazy. My regular work-outs went by the wayside.

But this was the week that I was determined to get back at it. And yesterday was the day.

I got up at the ungodly hour of 5:45 a.m. Did some cardio and some sit-ups and got home just in time to get the older two to school at 7.

By 8:00 I was already showered, dressed, and had (gasp!) made my bed.

By 9:00 I had gotten Maggie to school, thrown in a load of laundry, and cleaned up the kitchen.

By 10:00 I had started a pot of homemade spaghetti sauce.

At 10:30 I ran a few errands.

By noon I was home, ate a really healthy lunch, and worked on some volunteer work I needed to do.

Are you seeing a theme here yet?

By 12:30 I had cooked noodles and was beginning to assemble a lasagne for dinner.

By 1:00 I was mixing up a cake and folding more laundry.

And on and on it went.

I checked the mirror to see who the woman was who took over my body. Yep, still me.

I picked up the girls from school, went to a meeting, ran more errands, finished making dinner.

And on and on it continued.

Yesterday I got more accomplished and felt less tired than I have in a long, LONG time. That's right. You got it. The difference was the work-out.

Too bad it had to happen at that ungodly hour, but if that's what it takes, I guess that's what it'll have to be.

And you know what? I don't even care (that much) if I don't lose any weight. The energy I had yesterday made even getting up at 5:45 worthwhile.

One Goal for 2009

Someone in the next room sounds like Marilyn Monroe. I don’t know who it is among the eight or so teenagers in there doing Karaoke, but someone’s got the sultry thing going on.

Wow.

One person I’m pretty sure it isn’t is my daughter. She doesn’t do anything subtly, quietly. No, you always know when Kate’s around because she’ll be the one having a great time, laughing louder than everybody else, enjoying every minute of life as only she does.

Kate never glides gracefully into a room, she barrels. She doesn’t just laugh, she guffaws. She doesn’t just “like” something, she “LOVES” it.

My oldest teenager embraces life like the Puff-a-Lump bunny she embraced when she was a baby—she never lets go. When “Booey,” as we called it, became just too shredded to take to bed anymore, I put it through the wash and quietly tucked it away in the basement. But the level of shredded-ness just proved that Kate loved that bunny fiercely, just as she loves life today.

She seems to have come out of the womb grasping for the brass ring. She knows better than just about anyone that life has so much to offer. She doesn’t understand what “down days” are because, frankly, I don’t think she’s ever had one. She is, without a doubt, the most “up” person I’ve ever known.

I have learned so much from that kid over the past 17 years.

• I’ve learned that if you are taller than everyone else in your entire middle school, you might as well use it to your advantage.

• I’ve learned that if you make some personal goals, like, say, to get good grades, you might as well work hard to get the best grades you can.

• I’ve learned that working hard is a good thing.

• I’ve learned that it’s important to be a good sister every day.

• I’ve learned that if you’re going to London you might as well just go to Paris too.

Every day that karaoke-singing, belly-laughing, big-hug-giving girl reminds me to embrace life, to embrace friends, to embrace family, and to love them with all the enthusiasm I can muster.

It’s 2009. I hope this year I can remember this one simple lesson that my oldest daughter has taught me.

Monday, January 5, 2009

She Likes Me, She REALLY Likes Me!

I’ve tried about thirteen different ways of starting this post, but none of them seem to do it justice. You see, I’m letting you in on the big reveal today. I’m showing you the gift I got this year that just undid me.

First of all, let me say that I love all three of my girls with every bit of my heart. Each one is special in her own way, and each one tries her best to make me feel special every day.

I am blessed. Beyond belief, I am blessed.

So it doesn’t seem quite right to single out one of my girls for doing something special for me, but today I’m going to do just that because I think you’ll appreciate it almost (but never quite) as much as I did.

About two weeks before Christmas, Maggie went into panic mode. She had known for a few weeks what she wanted to make me for Christmas, but she hadn’t started working on it. Finally, she got herself set up at a desk in the basement and started working. She worked for hours, all by herself in the basement—everything was top-secret. Should I happen to head downstairs for something, Maggie would yell, “Mom, cover your eyes! Don’t look!”

So I played along. I figured that if Maggie was working so hard on my gift, I surely would want to be surprised by it.

Now, here’s the “bad Mommy” confession . . . I was a little worried. I mean, a homemade gift from a 10 year old—how great could it be, really? And what would it be? I figured she was drawing me a picture; it would be nice, for sure, but I’d probably open it and say, “Oh, Maggie, that’s nice. Thank you so much.” And then I’d file it away and forget about it.

That’s my selfish self talking, and I know it. The selfish self that I despise so much but who keeps popping out at the worst possible moments.

Well, good news—my selfish self got a good kick in the butt this Christmas when I opened the actual gift that Maggie made for me.

Are you ready? Here it is:



And here’s the back side:



Christmas morning stopped dead in its tracks when I opened this most precious of gifts. All of that hard work and secrecy in the basement had turned into a calendar that Maggie made for me which read “12 months, 12 reasons to love Mom.”

Each month lists a different reason why my girl loves me. Wanna hear them? I knew you would.

January – “Reason #1: Your warm, motherly hugs.”
February – “Reason #2: You being FUN!”
March – “Reason #3: Friday – home for lunch day!!!”
April – “Reason #4: You help me grow in the Lord.”
May – “Reason #5: You love me SO much!”
June – “Reason #6: You really care about me!”
July – “Reason #7: You want the best for me.”
August – “Reason #8: You’re a great cook!”
September – “Reason #9: You’re the best mom ever!”
October – “Reason #10: You cheer me up when I’m sad.”
November – “Reason #11: You’re supportive”
December – “Reason #12: You’re my mom!”

Now, I’m not much for tears; I try to hold them in as much as I can. But on this Christmas morning, leafing through the calendar that my precious daughter had painstakingly made for me, the calendar that reminds her and me every month of why I do what I do, the floodgates opened and I wept tears of joy, gratitude, and love for this little girl who loves me so much.

Never was a mother so humbled.

Never was that selfish self proven wrong and kicked so hard to the corner.

I’d like it very much if she’d never come back.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Seven Quick Takes on My Holiday

Thanks to Jen for hosting our party every Friday! Pop on over there to read the Quick Takes of others.

-1-

Thank goodness for computers, the Weather Channel, and my husband. Why? Because otherwise we may not have made it to Dallas at all. Without each one of these we would have been snow- and ice-bound in Chicago and that would have made me very cranky indeed.

But thanks to modern technology and a quick-thinking husband, we realized our plight and left at 5 p.m. a day earlier than we had originally planned. Had we left the next morning we would have been stuck. Thankfully, we made it without any trouble at all. (The same cannot be said for the pickup towing a camper that hit a pothole on an icy patch of highway and flipped completely over on its head. The accident held us up for about 30 minutes in downstate Illinois, but I’m sure our inconvenience was NOTHING compared to theirs.)

-2-

I have officially decided that my official “favorite” Christmas song is officially “Feliz Navidad.” I don’t know why, but it just makes me happy and jumpy and smiley every time I hear it. The words don’t mean much—just a simple Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year—but the melody. Oh, that melody. Jose Feliciano really knew how to kick it up for Christmas, I’m telling you.

So this year I let my family know the secret I’ve been hiding all these years. “Feliz Navidad” makes me happy, yes it does. And every time it comes on the radio now we (meaning B and I) turn it up loud and we shake and shimmy and dance in the car (as much as we can while being buckled into our seats). This embarrasses my teenage girls to no end, but I’m officially here to tell you that as long as they play that song on the radio at Christmas time, I’m going to sing it out.

I just hope that maybe someday my girls will forgive me . . . or maybe even understand.

-3-

On Christmas night, after a full day of revelry (by which I mean gift-opening, game-watching, Wii-playing, and good-food-eating) we sat around looking at each other, wondering what to do next.

“Let’s go see the lights!” all five cousins proclaimed in unison. They had been out until midnight on Christmas eve, stuck in a traffic jam (so they claimed) while looking at Christmas lights in one particular neighborhood.

Finally, after a little cajoling, we (13 of us in all) crammed our over-stuffed, over-rested selves into two cars and drove halfway across the Dallas metroplex to see one house with a spectacular light show.

And let me just say . . . it was worth it.

-4-

A small note-to-self regarding day-after-Christmas shopping: next year go to Williams-Sonoma FIRST because they tend to run out of Winter Forest soap and lotion and the world’s best turkey gravy.

GRRRR.

-5-

Never see a movie about a dying yellow lab when your own wonder dog who looks exactly like said dog in said movie is 900 miles away. Trust me on this one.

-6-


The adults in our family have a tradition—we draw names and do a sort of Secret Santa thing for each other. Usually we have one of the kids do the drawing around Thanksgiving time and then mail the names in separate envelopes to each person.

This year we decided to draw names while we were together (since who knows if that will happen again until Christmas of 2009). How’s that for prepared?

So now I have a full year to buy a Christmas gift for my person. Knowing me, I’ll still be looking around on December 23, trying to figure out the best gift because I am a complete idiot when it comes to buying gifts. I’d just like to say I’m sorry one year in advance to my person.

-7-

And speaking of the best Christmas gift . . . tune in next week when I’ll reveal to you the best Christmas present ever. You won’t want to miss it. I may not be so good at the gift giving thing, but there is someone in this family who really knows what a mama wants.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Too much

Too much . . . food . . . family . . . friends . . . fun . . . flinging of the remote controller . . . fighting the crowds at the mall . . . candy . . . cookies . . . chocolate . . . car-riding . . . Christmas lights . . . movies . . . munchies . . . merry-making . . .

Not enough . . . blogging.

But it’s a new year. The kids will go back to school soon; B will go back to work. My house will get clean one of these days and the laundry will get finished. And one of these days I’ll have some extended time to think about all the fun with family and friends I’ve had these past few weeks.

In the meantime, I think I’ll put my feet up and watch some football and eat some more bad food and enjoy the time we have left together before life creeps in again. I'll be back soon; I hope you will too.

Happy New Year!