Thursday, September 30, 2010

Homecoming Weekend

Photo credit: Waymarking.com

Well, the cake is baked. Dinner is ready. The house is clean. Sheets have been changed.

Aside from a couple of last-minute errands (new coffepot to replace the one I banged against the counter last weekend, perhaps?), I am ready.

My friends are on the road by now. One will be in the air later today. And five more members will be added to our happy family this weekend.

My 25th class reunion officially starts tomorrow, but since everyone arrives today, I say the party starts NOW.

I don't know what the weekend will hold entirely, but I do know there will be lots of laughter and tons of reminiscing.

Like about the time Jen got convicted and broke her "Who" album right in front of me. (I think she regretted it later.)

And the many times that Jen, Sue, Bonnie, and I laughed the night away in our suite Sophomore year.

Or the times that Jen and I spied on people having campus dates. (Yes sir, we did that. More than once. Pathetic? I think not.)

Oh yeah, we had fun. Those four years were some of the best of my life, and I love that my daughter is there now, making memories of her own.

I remember one time when I was in college, my mom was talking to me about my friends and she said, "These people will be friends for the rest of your life." I wasn't quite sure what she meant by that at the time since she had gone to a very large public university and wasn't really friends with anyone from college.

Now, so many years later, I look back and think about my mom's words so often. She was right. These people have been friends for almost 30 years, and I know we'll be friends for another 30.

I'm so thankful.

So if the blogging is sparse over the next couple of days, don't worry. You can be quite sure that I am having the time of my life with my closest friends that I never get to see. And you can also be quite sure that I will have a full report on Monday for you.

Don't forget about Fabulous Friday Food, though! I may not have much of a post, but I WILL have a link. Come play along and get some amazing recipes in return!

And have a great weekend. I know I will!

Shelly

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"She Gave Strength to the Weak and Courage to the Fainthearted"

Burford Cathedral, Burford, England

I’ve been thinking about words lately. Probably because our Women’s Bible Study started up at church and we’re studying the book of John this year. John starts out in chapter 1 with all this talk about words and “the Word” and the Word being with God and the Word being God Himself. It’s all kind of mystical and confusing if you don’t recognize that the Word is Jesus.

Do you ever wonder why the Bible does that? Speaks in mysteries, I mean. Why doesn’t it just come out and say, “Jesus is God. He was there when God created the world. He spoke words and made everything”?

But I also think about words because that’s just how I’m created. I love a beautiful phrase. I love interesting words. I love taking them apart and thinking about the origins of words.

A couple of my kids are like me in this way, so you can just imagine the fun conversations we have.

Yeah.

I’m also thinking about words lately because I need to come up with some. A lot, actually. I’m speaking at a women’s retreat in November, and they would like me to speak twice for an hour each time.

That’s a lot of words, folks!

Personally, I’d like to speak for about 10 minutes each time, and then run off the stage and bury my head in the sand, but that’s not exactly the type of speaker they’re looking for.

Some of the words are written, but not all. I’m having a hard time coming up with just the right things to say. I want to encourage. I want to challenge. And I want to do it all within the context of the Bible.

It’s a heavy responsibility, taking words and making them do all that. And it’s not one I take lightly.

Don’t get me wrong. I love to joke around and have fun when I speak. I love to make my audience laugh, and laugh we do. But when it comes down to the serious stuff, I want to get it right.

Because, really, God’s words are on the line, not mine. And they are powerful enough to change lives, I’m so aware of that.

Words can change lives. I just think that’s amazing.

The words I speak to my children can make the difference between a good day or a bad day.

The words I speak to my husband can lift him up or bring him down.

The words I speak to my friends can be either encouraging or discouraging.

The words I tell even myself can build up or tear down.

My words have an incredible power to do good or to destroy. What an amazing responsibility.

As I was looking through some pictures from our England trip this summer, I came across this one that is, I think, one of my favorites. It’s a grave marker or a plaque or something like that from a cathedral in a little town in the Cotswolds. The same cathedral where we found a bookshelf with books written by a couple of our friends.

Anyway, here’s the stone.



Just in case you can’t read it it says this:

In memory of
Elizabeth Popham Lobb
1852-1926
Who lived at the Quarries.
Burford.
She gave strength to the weak,
And courage to the fainthearted.

I’ve thought about her a lot. She must have been someone very special to be given her very own marker in this cathedral filled with art and statues and beautiful architecture.

I imagine that she was a church lady, but not just some mamby pamby lady who quietly served coffee (well, tea) to the men. I imagine that she spoke some powerful words into the lives of the people around her. I imagine that she was not afraid to tell the truth. I imagine that she said what needed to be said, but in a way that built up the people she loved.

I imagine that she was an encouragement to everyone she met.

I want to be that kind of woman. A woman who uses her words to give strength to the weak and to bring courage to the fainthearted.

Will you pray with me that I will find just the right words to speak at the retreat in November? Your words will then bring strength and courage to me as I prepare to bring strength and courage to others. Thanks.

Shelly

Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday Morning Madness

Good morning! Well, O.K., it's just barely past morning here, but I like the phrase "Good Morning" so much better than "Good Afternoon."

Just a little catch up, then a funny story, and then a follow-up to last Thursday's post.

Speaking of last Thursday . . .

. . . the last time I wrote. Anything.

I managed to make it through the day, but then woke up on Friday feeling like stinky cheese. Still, I walked the dog, took a shower, carefully applied my make up, dried my hair, and got dressed in my favorite jeans and top. I did all this to trick myself into not feeling like stinky cheese.

And then I did some errands. I even made homemade Honey Whole Wheat Bread and chili for supper on Friday. All in an effort to trick myself into thinking I was really healthy.

I was not.

I felt like stinky cheese.

And so, Fabulous Friday Food did not happen last week. I'm sure nobody missed it.

And not much happened on Saturday at all, except, of course, my weekly trip to the French Market. But aside from that, B and I scrapped our plans to go out to dinner because, well, I still felt like stinky cheese.

But I'm back!

Monday has dawned, and a very busy week is ahead of me. I am so excited about this week!! Want to know why?

Because I'm officially feeling old, that's why. No, not really, but all of the students over on the Wheaton College campus will think I'm old, along with about 200 of my classmates this weekend when we celebrate our 25th class reunion.

I totally remember being a student there, watching all the "old" people in their tweed jackets and nice clothes (well, compared to mine) heading into the football game. I remember feeling kind of sorry for them that their lives were almost over and their kids were grown up and in college now. And I remember thinking "Who wears a tweed jacket to a football game anyway?"

Well, I'm there now. I will don my nicer jeans for the game on Saturday and B will probably wear a tweed jacket (just kidding! We're not really the tweedy type.). But I know all the students (my own daughter included) will probably be looking at us, feeling sorry that our lives are just about over.

Little did I know then . . . and little do they know now . . . .

* * * * *


I have four friends staying with me next weekend, and I cannot wait for the reunion! We are going to have so much fun remembering crazy times, visiting our old dorm rooms (we have an "in" on our freshman floor), and wondering who all those fat, old, bald men are.

Jen is bringing her daughter (yes, you are!), but last week she threatened to make her stay home because of grades or something silly like that. Seriously? Grades? Who cares?

I guess her mom does.

Anyway, all of my girls have known Jen's kids for years now, and they love E like a sister. So when I told Maggie and Abby that there was a slim possibility that their friend might not make it to Homecoming, they were rightfully bummed.

And all because of a possible punishment.

So Maggie turns this over in her mind and finally says to me, "So, staying at our house is a privilege?"

Yeah, Maggie. Who knew?

* * * * *


So you're wondering what I said to Clueless Ray, aren't you?

"So what if I just don't agree with you?" he had the audacity to say to me after I spent 30 minutes walking through his terrible paper with him.

Well, after about 10 seconds and picking my chin up off the floor (honestly, I had never had a student talk to me like that before), I pretty much stammered out the words "Well . . . I'm the teacher."

That's right. All I could think of to say to this kid was "I'm the teacher." Kind of like the thousand times I had said to my own kids, "Because I'm the Mom, that's why!"

And then I followed up by telling Ray that he had two choices. He could either rewrite the paper, using the many (MANY!!) suggestions I had given him, or he could choose to do nothing and accept the D.

He took the D.

Shelly

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Clueless Ray




For some reason I was telling one of my favorite teacher stories the other day. It’s one of those stories that still makes me laugh and keeps me scratching my head, so I thought I’d share the love and make you laugh too. Or maybe scratch your head. One of the two.

It’s one of my top three favorite teacher stories (two of my top three came out of the same class, can you believe it?!). Maybe someday I’ll tell you the other two. One is equally, maybe even more, funny, and the other just kind of made me sad.

Anyway, this is the story I told to a friend the other day, so this is the one you’re getting.

First papers are always hard for college students. They never really know what the teacher is looking for, plus they bring all of their baggage from high school along with them, causing them to either be full of joy about putting words down on paper or full of angst about the whole process.

On the first day of class I can tell who is who—the joyous or the anxiety-ridden—because the joyous ones will sit in front of the classroom, beaming with pride, lining up their sharpened pencils, just waiting . . . waiting . . . for me to give the first assignment.

The anxiety-filled ones are in the back. Slouched in their seat, wishing they could be anywhere . . . anywhere . . . but in my classroom at that moment. Their faces, beneath their hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled up and over their forehead, reveal their complete dread of the first assignment.

Which is usually a narrative.

I like narratives. Can you tell? I’m writing one right now. I write them on most days, even Fabulous Friday Food days, because I just can’t seem to help myself. There are stories everywhere.

Narratives just aren’t that hard to write, and, as I always tell my classes, this is writing, not rocket science. I try to put them at ease, I really do.

When I get my first stack of papers, I’m kind of like those joyous few in the front of my classroom—I can’t wait to read them. Because I know that I’m going to learn a lot about my students in the lines of those papers. I’m going to learn some of their likes and dislikes, some of their fears and worries, some of their proudest accomplishments, and a little bit about their families.

See? Narratives are great!

And I’m also going to get to see who knows a little something about writing and who doesn’t have a clue. I know, you wouldn’t believe it if I told you, but some college students really don’t have a clue how to write.

Neither do I on some days, but let’s just not go there, shall we?

So, getting back to the student I was going to tell you about . . . let’s call him Ray. Ray was one of those hood-over-the-forehead-back-row-sitters who didn’t have a clue about writing. Not one. Clue.

Poor Clueless Ray.

I’ll let you in on a secret. He got a D on his first paper.

And that’s really, really hard to do in my class because I want to encourage my students. I want them to work hard and improve, but I also don’t want to drag them down into the Pit of Despair on the very first paper, so I usually won’t give out Ds on the first paper.

Lots of Cs and Bs, oh yes, but not Ds. And not that many As if you really must know.

But I’m also not heartless, and I always offer to sit down with my students to tell them how they could improve their paper with a rewrite. Rewriting is good. Just ask any editor.

Or any reader of blogs. I think bloggers think rewriting is overrated or takes too much time or something. And it does. But it’s worth it.

I should try it sometime.

So Clueless Ray got a D on his paper, but bless his heart he took me up on my offer to help him, so we did. We sat together after class one day, at two desks pushed together, and we walked through that really awful paper together.

Line by line.

Word by word.

Overused comma by overused comma.

FOR. THIRTY. MINUTES. On a three page paper. That’s 10 minutes a page, people!

In teacher time, thirty minutes is just about an eternity. It took every ounce of patience and strength I had to keep going as Ray just sat there and stared through the little round hole he had made with his hood.

“Mm hm,” he’d mutter every now and then. Or, “Huh.”

Finally, at the end of our time together, I pushed the paper back over his way and said, “I really think you can do this, Ray. You can make this a much better paper if you just follow some of the ideas I’ve given you.”

Clueless Ray just stared at the paper, which was marked up even more at this point.

“Ray? Do you have any more questions for me?” I asked.

“Yeah, just one,” he muttered. “What if I just don’t agree with you?”

Dumbstruck, I think I managed to say, “Excuse me?”

“What if I just don’t agree with you?”

So now it’s your turn. Finish the story. What did I say next?

Shelly

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

God and Dog

Remember last Saturday? How I guest posted over at (in)Courage? And I wrote about my dog? Sort of.

Well, one reader sent me this link, and I just HAD to share it with you.

It brought tears to my eyes because I could so relate. And because Thunder the Wonder Dog drives me absolutely crazy on some days. But she's still a gift.



Enjoy this today! And remember all the silly (and not-so-silly) ways God shows His love for you.

Shelly

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I'm Getting Sick So I'm Totally Stealing Ideas Today




Because I have a sore throat today (most likely the cold B brought back from Seattle last week) and because I'm putting off going to the gym today (should you really go to the gym when you feel terrible anyway?) and because I am out of ideas right now, I'm totally stealing an idea from Mary's blog from last week.

Mary stole it from someone else, so I feel completely justified.

Anyway, it was supposed to be a week-long blogging challenge to jump-start your blog, but Mary condensed a week's worth of challenges into one. She's a go-getter, that Mary.

Never one to be outdone, I thought I'd try the same challenge. So here we go. Cue fast-moving, challenging, frenzied music.

Monday's Challenge: Re-upload the first post you ever wrote on your blog.

"Yes, Another Mom Blog" was my first post in which I started to apologize for clogging the internet with yet another "Mom" blog, but then going on to tell you why I didn't care because my blog is all about me, me, me. Self-absorbed much?

Tuesday's Challenge: Re-upload a post you wish more people had read and explain why it was important to you.

Off the top of my head I would say that every post is one that I wish more people had read. I'm all about getting more readers.

But seriously, I think it would have to be this post I wrote about the woman with whom I shared a hospital room a few years ago. This was one of the most difficult times in my life, and yet the woman I knew very little about was going through something much worse.

Wednesday's Challenge: Re-upload a post with a title that you are particularly proud of and explain why.

"You'd think after 25 years of marriage we'd be better at it" was the title of a post I wrote last spring spilling all the silly ugliness of our random arguments. Totally meant to be a humorous picture of an imperfect relationship.

"It's All Kinds of Crazy Out There" is a title I liked, and still like, because it seems to sum up my feelings about the world today. Crazy. Nuts. Insane. All apply.

Thursday's Challenge: Write a new post about a woman who inspires you.

Yeah, well, that may have to wait for another day. I will have to give this one some serious thought, but just off the top of my head, all you moms who manage to juggle kids and a job-outside-the-home and church life and everything else--these are some of my heroes.

Friday's Challenge: As your last assignment to jump start your return to blogging, write about what blogging means to you. Why do you blog? What purpose does it serve you and how have you benefited from sharing a piece of yourself online this way?

Since I never really left blogging, do I still have to answer this question?

Actually, going back to read my first post has helped me see that I have grown and changed a lot in the past two-and-a-half years. I have seen how much GOOD blogs can do by reading the Compassion bloggers posts and by reading Kristen's posts about how her trip to Africa has changed her. Just last night I was telling B about her Mercy House project which is totally amazing to me.

I have friends who think they just don't have time for blogs, who really have no interest at all. That's O.K. But I have seen all the good that can be accomplished through blogs. I've personally experienced growth by reading inspirational blogs like Lysa TerKeurst's every day. I've made new friends who are a tremendous source of encouragement to me. And I hope I've been able to encourage a few people along the way.

God is using blogs, and it's wonderful and powerful to see.

Looking back on that embarrassing first post, I hope that my blog becomes less about me (although I'll still be writing about our wild life!) and more about the God who is there through it all. And I hope that this blog reflects Him more than it reflects me.

I'd love to know . . . what are some blogs that inspire you? Make you laugh? Teach you something new?

Shelly

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Word to Parents of College Students


I don’t normally keep my cell phone by my bed.

(Do you?)

But for one night last week I did, for lots of reasons.

Because we live in a flood zone.

And because we have a generator which is supposed to keep all the critical elements of our basement (like sump pumps) running when we flood, but which has been a little bit finicky lately.

And because one day last week our power went out for an hour on a nice, warm, blue-sky September day.

Go figure.

And because B was out of town.

And because B was out of town and since he’s the keeper of the alarm clock and I have no earthly clue how to set the correct time on his alarm clock which got messed up when the power went out and because I needed to be awake at 6:00 a.m. on the next morning . . . I slept with my cell phone next to the bed.

Can I just tell all you parents of college students, either currently or in the future, DON’T SLEEP WITH YOUR CELL PHONE BY THE BED.

Whatever it is can wait until morning.

Because on that particular night last week when the power went out and B was out of town and I didn’t know how to set the time on his alarm clock and my cell phone became my only source of time or alarm, my little text message alert went off.

At 1:22.

In the morning.

And in the 0.86 seconds it took to reach my cell phone to see who was texting me in the middle of the night I thought of about a thousand different ways my college student could be in trouble.

Maybe she had gotten into an accident.

Maybe she was deathly ill.

Maybe she had broken her leg in some freak human pyramid the kids were building in the dorm lobby.

Maybe she was just sick of all the socializing and needed to vent.

I couldn’t possibly imagine why my college student (of course it had to be her because WHO ELSE would text me in the middle of the night?!) would need me.

At 1:22.

A.M.

Want to know the nature of the emergency? I know you do.

I’ll let her tell you in her own words.

“Mommy can you bring me earplugs tomorrow?”

Sure, honey, I’ll bring you earplugs.

I'll be there at 1:22.

A.M.

Shelly

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Guess Who's Guest Posting at (in)Courage!!



I distinctly remember that day, July 2009, sitting in a windowless conference room during She Speaks when a couple of cute young gals named Holly and Stephanie launched a new website for women called (in)Courage. The site was being sponsored by DaySpring, a brand I was already familiar with, and it sounded like a really neat idea.

And then the "call" came. They were looking for writers. And they generously offered anyone in the room the chance to write for (in)Courage--we just needed to contact one of the girls to talk about it further.

I pondered. I hesitated. And in the end, I let my insecurity take over . . . again.

I didn't act on the chance to write regularly for (in)Courage, but recently, when they put out a call for guest posters, you can imagine that I jumped at that one.

And, guys, today is the day! Today I finally have something posted on (in)Courage, and I couldn't be more excited about it.

Please pop over there today and read it. And if you left me a comment over there, I will love you more than the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies I made yesterday!


Shelly

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fabulous Friday Food - Spaghetti and Meatballs, Cheater Edition

B was out of town this week, and on Wednesday when we talked our conversation went something like this:

Him: How was your day?

Me: Fine. Well, actually crazy. ThegirlsaregoingineverydifferentdirectionandIhavetogotocurriculumnightatthehighschooltonightand . . . *breath* . . . whydoesitseemlikeeverydayisjustspinningandspinningoutofcontrol?

Him: What?

Me: Sorry, I just panicked. The days . . . they just get so crazy once school starts. All the activities. And the homework. And the music practicing. ARGH!!

Him: So how was your day?

I know you have them. Days like mine. Days when everything seems to just be gathering speed right around dinnertime and you need some easy sustenance.

Comforting sustenance, but easy.

This week I took the lazy way out and made spaghetti and meatballs the semi-homemade way. Not the Sandra Lee "Semi-Homemade" way because, kind of like the Neelys, she drives me crazy. In fact, even moreso than the Neelys. I just can't watch Sandra, as sweet as she may be. She's kind of like a toothache that just never goes away.

Anyway, I'm calling this a cheater recipe because I went to our local meat market and bought their meatballs because, gosh darn, they are GOOOOOD. I have an excellent recipe for homemade meatballs that I make sometimes, but in a pinch, the meatmarket meatballs are really wonderful. (Someday I should just do a post on our meatmarket. Oh the joy it brings me!)

I also cheated by using canned tomatoes, but, frankly, I've never used fresh tomatoes to make spaghetti sauce in my life. Canned tomatoes are the way to go, baby.

Before I realized it, I was on my way to Spaghetti and Meatball heaven. Unfortunately, I got halfway through the process before I remembered to grab my camera. Oops.

So let me bring you up to speed before the pictures begin.

I basically browned the meatballs in a little bit of olive oil. Once they were nice and brown on the outside, I transferred them to a paper towel-lined plate.

Oh look! A picture!



I know, kind of gross to look at meatballs draining on paper towel, but, hey, it's a picture.

To the hot pan with all the yummy brown bits in the bottom, I added some chopped onion (about half of a large yellow onion) and let that get all soft and a little brown around the edges. Mmmmmm.

Then I added a couple of teaspoons of the already-chopped-up-garlic-in-a-jar (this is the cheater edition, remember?) and let that get just warm. Don't let garlic sit for too long in a hot pan or it will burn, and burned garlic is a no-no.

Then I added a small can of diced tomatoes that I had on hand and, again, let it get happy for a few minutes until it had turned a slightly darker color and bubbly. All the while, scrape the yummy brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

At this point, I noticed that I just happened to have about a half a cup of red wine sitting in a bottle right next to the stove. How convenient! And wine always adds a little something special to a dish, I think, so I did it. I added a little something special.



And let the sauce get even happier. For about 5 minutes.



See how dark and yummy it looks? Mmmmmm.

Let's add some more flavor layers.

Like tomato sauce--a big can.



And here's my favorite part. The herbs. Herbage is good.

This is my little herb garden. It brings me so much happiness throughout the summer. Pretty soon it will get too cold, and my basil will turn black, but for now, I'm still enjoying it.



Like I said, I've got some basil (a little top-heavy right now).



And some parsley.



And somewhere tucked away in there is some rosemary.



I also have thyme, but I forgot to take a picture of it. Mmmmm. I love fresh thyme.

So back to the sauce. I'm adding layers of flavor (I learned all about that watching The Food Network. I know you're impressed.). So I grabbed a handful of basil and another handful of parsley.



I chopped them up and threw them in too (along with some salt--always add salt along the way).



Then I added the meatballs back into the sauce. They're smiling at you!



Cover the pan, turn the heat down to a simmer, and walk away. Just walk away. For about an hour.



And then your kids will come home from school and they will sniff and say, "Oh, Mom, it smells SOOOO GOOD in here!"

Yeah, you're a hero.

After an hour, here's what you'll have.



Plate the whole thing up and enjoy!




Spaghetti and Meatballs, Cheater Edition

1 lb. meatballs (from your local meat market if you have one, otherwise make them yourself)
1 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 Cup red wine
1 28-oz. can tomato sauce
Fresh basil
Fresh parsley
Salt

1. Brown meatballs in about 2 T. olive oil in a hot pan. Drain on paper towel and set aside.

2. To the pan, add onion; cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add garlic; stir for about 30 seconds. Add diced tomatoes, stirring and scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan for about 5 minutes. (Add some salt at this point.) Add red wine; stir and allow to cook down for another 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce and fresh herbs, along with a little more salt.

3. Add meatballs back to pan, cover, and let simmer for about 1 hour.

4. Serve with cooked pasta.

Enjoy!

Now it's your turn! Add a link and grab some new recipes!




Shelly

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How Do We Hope?

I am surrounded.

. . . by despair.

. . . by unemployment.

. . . by sickness.

. . . by stress.

. . . by discord.

I am surrounded by difficulties these days it seems.

So many people I know are out of work that I’ve stopped counting.

I also can’t tell you how many people I know are trying, without success, to sell their homes.

At least two dear, faithful readers that I know of are dying. Literally dying.

I hear stories almost every day of something tragic going on in the lives of the people around me.

My heart breaks, aches, for the hurting that I know. There aren’t enough sidewalks to walk down nor enough hours in the day to pray for all the needs.

And then there are those near me who don’t know the saving grace of Jesus. Those who have never experienced true freedom, or peace.

My heart cries out for these who don’t even know the depth of their need.

And yet . . .

Juxtapose that with my own life, the life I live within these four walls.

A husband who loves me.

A home we can afford.

Children who are seeking after God.

A job.

Peace.

Blessing upon blessing seems to be heaped on my head, and I don’t understand why. Why, when those around me are hurting so much, does God choose this for me?

Why does my cup overflow?

Honestly? That doesn’t matter so much to me. I’m not complaining, really I’m not. I just wonder sometimes.

In a world of hurt, or even in a world of abundance, how do we hope? How, when the world seems to be spinning out of control faster and faster and faster and the needs seem insurmountable, do we make sense of it all?

We trust. We trust because there is nothing else to do. We trust because we’re commanded to trust. We trust because we don’t have the answers.

But God does.

He knows your despair, and He knows your joy. He knows your situation, even though nobody else does.

And He knows your greatest need. The world’s greatest need.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13.

Peace.


Shelly

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Renegade Craft Fair

Take one crystal clear blue sky, one cloudless free Sunday afternoon, one of the most gorgeous cities in the country and combine these with five cute girls (well, four cute girls and one cute mom) and what do you have?

My Sunday last Sunday!

My daughter, Kate, got the crafty gene, unlike her mother. In fact, so did her sisters. Don't know where that came from, but they all are artistic in their own special ways. Kate, in particular, has done some amazing work with papers and photography. You can see some of it on the blog she started over two years ago here.

And she reads craft blogs. Can you imagine? Craft blogs! Who knew?

But she kept reading about this event called the Renegade Craft Fair.

Renegade: 1. a person who deserts a party or cause for another. Or 2. an apostate from a religious faith.

What either of these definitions has to do with arts and crafts, I have no idea. Are they renegades FROM crafts or, probably more like it, from normal everyday life TO crafting? Whatever.

Anyway, last December we went to the Christmas show in Chicago and had a GREAT time! (I guess I didn't blog about it because I tried the little "search" button over there on the right and couldn't find it. What was I thinking?) So many wonderful indie artisans. It was so much fun and such a slice of life that I usually don't get to see.

Well, last weekend was the fall showing of the Renegade Craft Fair and this was no small deal. They shut down Division Street which, if you know Chicago you would know is a fairly busy street, and lined the place with probably 300 artisan booths.



See? Wasn't it a pretty day?

And pretty days just put me in a good mood, so I played the good mommy and allowed my children to eat cupcakes, croissants, and scones for lunch, all purchased at this amazing little bakery right on Division Street.



Alliance Bakery, I'll be back.

Each booth was decorated as the artist wished--some were cute, others just so-so. But I liked the rooster on this flag. And the booth was cute too.



Even the little flags to draw you into the booth were cute. I bought two pairs of earrings at this booth--probably because I loved the little flags made of old library cards.



And then there were the crafts themselves. Each hand made. Each unique. Each beautiful.

If I had an extra $185 I probably would have bought this purse. It was so well-made and just plain cool.



Same booth, cute little dolls.



For me, though, the most fun was watching the people who attended the Renegade Craft Fair. Believe me, we saw all types.

From the lady in the snake skin leggings . . .



To the street performer . . .



To the band . . .



. . . which only knew one song and drove me completely insane by the time we left.



Personally, I always think it's fun to see another side of life every now and then. Makes me appreciate the quiet world I usually live in.

Quiet indeed.

After about two hours of bumping into every form of tattoo, piercing, and crazy hair imaginable, Maggie looked at me and said, "Mom, I think I'm ready to go home now. I mean, this has been fun and all, but it feels like all the freaks and weirdos of the world are here."

"They aren't freaks and weirdos, honey," I replied. "They're crafters."

Eventually we did make it home to our cozy, quiet, sweet suburban life . . . where the ink stays in the pen and the only thing pierced is an earlobe.

Shelly

Why I love blogging - Part 2

I'm working on a post about our weekend, but until that happens, you just HAVE to go read about what God is doing in Kristen's life. Through BLOGGING!! It's so exciting.

Check out this post and this one.

I'll be back later. I promise!


Shelly

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why I love blogging

Because of posts like this.

And this.

And this.

Don't ever think God doesn't use blogs. He does. And I'm so glad.

Shelly

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I Remember


The events of September 11, 2001 have had a profound effect on me. I'm not even sure why because I did not know one single person who died on that day. (Todd Beamer was an alumnus of Wheaton College, as am I, but he was there a few years after me.) I think what really happened was that a sense of security, innocence, was lost in me that day, and I haven't been the same since.

That evening, I sat down and wrote a letter to my children because I knew that day was significant. Obviously we didn't have all the details that we have today, but I wanted to remember as many details as I could so that my girls would have a record of what we were thinking and feeling as the events unfolded.

Today I want to share just a bit of that letter with you. Some of it is insignificant to you, so I'm editing parts of it out. Some of it is just too personal to share, so I'm keeping that for just our family (I've also changed the names of two of my children, as I have always done). But for the most part I haven't changed much of the letter; I thought it might be helpful to someone to read my thoughts on that day.


September 11, 2001

My dear children:

This morning when you woke up the sky was bright; it was a perfect September day. You awoke to normalcy, safety, security. Within an hour, all of that was shattered. Nothing is the same anymore; the days will not be perfect for a long time.

I want to record this day for you because it is historic. Tragic, but also historic. I want you to know what you were doing and thinking and feeling. I want you to know how we have responded to this tragedy as a family.

As I said, the morning started out pretty normal for us. It was picture day at school, so Kate and Abby were busy taking showers, getting dressed, and making their hair pretty. (You both looked so beautiful, by the way!) We ate breakfast and listened to the radio just as we usually did. Dad was home with us for a while, then he left around 7:45. He said that he went to the barber shop before work, and as he was driving there he heard a news report on the radio that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. When he got to the barber shop he told the guys in there to turn on the t.v. because this very strange thing had happened. He said that as they were standing there watching the first pictures of what had happened, all of a sudden a second plane came into view and crashed into the second tower right next to where the first one had hit. Dad saw it happen live. After he finished up at the barber shop, he called us right away to tell me to turn on the t.v. I did, and saw what he had seen just minutes before. We were stunned, shocked, and didn’t know what to think about it all. I suspected terrorists right away, but really couldn’t comprehend what they had done.

And I had to think right away about how to explain all of this to you. I knew that many, many people would die. So I sat down with you right away and explained what I could about how some people hate the United States for religious reasons and that their religion tells them that they will go straight to heaven if they die in such an attack on the United States. I explained that this was, of course, a false religion and that the God of the Bible would never condone anything like what had just happened. We prayed together for the families of those who were certainly already dead. We prayed to the God who holds the entire universe in the palm of His hand. We prayed to the one true God who loves us, but who also hates the evil in this world. We prayed for comfort for the families, for justice over evil, for the quick return of Jesus to this earth so that this kind of evil and suffering would end. I tried my best to comfort you with the truth that God is sovereign and will ultimately reign over this world.

Almost as soon as we finished praying Dad called us again to see if we had been watching. No, I said, we hadn’t. He said that the Pentagon had been hit. I couldn’t even believe my ears! What next?! I got very scared and started shaking. I felt sick to my stomach. But I also felt a heavy responsibility to react in a way that wouldn’t make you guys scared to death. So once again I explained that the terrorists (I was sure at this point that it was terrorists) had hit an important government building in Washington D.C. I tried to stay calm with you girls. You went on your way, finishing getting ready for school. But I went to the kitchen where the Wheaton College radio station was playing. The woman who was announcing everything took a minute to pray over the air, so I prayed along with her and absolutely fell apart. I was wracked with sobs. I just couldn’t believe what was happening to our country. My sense of security was shattered. I think you were watching me, Abby, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t control my sobbing. You finally came in to ask me what was wrong and I was able to compose myself a little—enough to get you guys to school.

But just before we were to leave for school another tragedy. The tower in New York that had been hit second collapsed! All those people! Certainly thousands of people in that building. The enormity of the whole thing was just too hard to grasp. So much had happened in such a short amount of time. Again, I sobbed. Again, we sat to pray together before school.

Believe me, I wondered about sending you to school, but I really did feel it would be safe for you to be there, otherwise I would not have sent you. Your school was on lockdown, so the teachers ushered you straight into the building. They didn’t want groups of people standing around outside, I guess. I stopped outside of school to ask your principal if they were still having school and he said yes, that it would most likely be a full day. I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to leave you there, but I also felt like it wouldn’t do any good for you to be sitting around watching this horrible thing unfold on t.v. You needed some normalcy in your life, and school was the best place to get that.

After I dropped you off I took Maggie to Amy’s house. By this time I was shaking so badly I could barely make it into her house, and as soon as I saw my dear friend Amy I fell apart crying. We hugged each other for a long time and cried together. I ended up staying a while for coffee—I just needed to be with someone. As we were watching the BBC on her computer, John Major, Prime Minister of England was giving a speech about this tragedy, we all of a sudden watched the second tower of the World Trade Center go down. Right before our eyes! We both screamed and cried. How much more would we have to bear?! At this point I felt very certain that thousands of people would die. I stayed at Amy’s house for a while, but finally left to go home to take a shower. Maggie stayed to play with her best friend, B. Thankfully the three-year-olds were oblivious to anything unusual in their lives.

The coverage continued all day. Sometime in the morning we found out that a fourth plane had been hijacked, but had crashed in a remote part of Pennsylvania. That plane was, as far as we know now, either on its way to Camp David or to another historical spot in Washington D.C. (the White House?). I guess we’ll find out more about that later.

Today was absolute chaos. In our home, I couldn’t get a thing done. I think I managed to do two loads of laundry, but that was about it. I was glued to the t.v. I was, and am, depressed. I am stunned and don’t know what to think. It’s absolutely amazing to me that a group could coordinate such an effort.

As details have started coming out, it turns out that this group hijacked four planes, two originating from Boston, one from Newark, and one from Washington D.C. All four planes were headed for California, so they would be as full as possible with fuel. The pilots of these planes, as well as the flight attendants, were all killed so that the hijackers (they say there may have been three to five hijackers on each plane) could commandeer each plane. Each plane was expertly flown, hitting its target dead on. Except for the fourth plane which went down in a field in PA—I keep wondering what happened to that one. Did someone on the plane overtake the hijackers? Did the U.S. military shoot it down? I’m really wondering, but even so, I guess it was a blessing amidst all of this tragedy that it didn’t hit Camp David or the White House.

George W. Bush, our president, was in Florida this morning. Throughout the day he was taken to secure sites in Louisiana and in Omaha, Nebraska where there is a bunker for just such a possibility as today. Finally, late this afternoon, he was flown on Airforce One, with four military planes flanking his, to Washington. Grandma actually saw the planes go over her farm! She knew it was his because she saw four streaks in the air—and it had to be him because there were no other planes allowed in the sky at all. Pretty awesome, I think.

So tonight I’m wondering what tomorrow will bring. I’m wondering if there will be more attacks in the morning. I’m wondering if we’re at all safe. I’m wondering how our country will go on from all of this sadness. But even as I’m wondering I’m answering myself, “Hope in the Lord.” “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” Today I realized that apart from the Lord, we are never safe. Anywhere we go on this earth, we are not safe. But if we have the Lord, if we trust solely in Him, we have the security of knowing that we will live with Him forever. No, this earth is not safe. The Bible tells us that, but we in America don’t seem to take it to heart. Nothing like this has ever happened on the mainland. (Many people are comparing this to Pearl Harbor, but I think it’s worse, much worse.) But the truth is that in this world we will have trouble—God tells us that in His word. Our only hope is in Jesus Christ. My deepest prayer from this day is that people will realize where their only hope lies and put their trust in Christ. I pray for a great revival of the Holy Spirit in our land. Because a country that puts their trust in the only true God is a country that is great. Not the country with the strongest military or the biggest bombs. Only the country that puts its trust in the Lord.

Tonight as you sleep, I pray that you feel safe with your parents here with you. I pray that the events of today will not touch you as deeply as they have touched me. I pray that your sense of security will not be stripped from you as it has been from me. I pray that God will become more dear to you because of what has happened.

It was a picture perfect day today. The sky was crystal clear, the deepest blue late-summer sky. All was quiet until 8:00 a.m. Then the sky grew dark, and I fear it will be a long time before we see the sun again.

I love you all.

Mom

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fabulous Friday Food - Linguini Zucchini Stir Fry

Well, it's true confessions time. Two weeks ago I stood on the scale and saw a number I didn't recognize. At. All. Last week I started Weight Watchers.

That's not the only confession. Wait for it. . . .

Today I ate a cookie. And not just one.

I blame The Pioneer Woman for this because last week she posted a recipe for Hot Chocolate Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies and my brain right away said, "I must have these or I will die" because that's what happens to people on Weight Watchers. All of a sudden we must have all the foods that Weight Watchers says we musn't have.

Can I get an "Amen"?

Anyway, without a doubt those are THE. BEST. COOKIES. I have ever made. And, friends, I have made some pretty darn good cookies in my day. Just ask my hips.

But guess what, this post isn't about those cookies (even if they were the best darn cookies I've ever made). This post is sort of about Weight Watchers (which totally works for me--I've used it once before), but also about healthy, low-calorie, comfort food.

Really, Shelly, there is such a thing?

Why yes, there is. And I have just the recipe to prove it.

In fact, just for you I put this recipe into the magic Weight Watchers points converter and one serving of this dish is a mere three points. THREE POINTS, PEOPLE! That's, like, one Hot Chocolate Triple Chocolate Chip Cookie! Which would you rather have?

Wait a minute. Don't answer that.

Let's get to the recipe.

Little shout out to Mom here (again!) because she used to make this for us when we were kids. We loved it then, and my kids love it now. (Sort of. If it didn't have zucchini in it I know one child who might love it even more, but, alas, zucchini is the star of the show.)

Assemble your ingredients: linguini, zucchini, turkey kielbasa, peppers, onions, dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, sugar, and basil. Simple, huh?



Cook the pasta according to package directions, about nine minutes in boiling water.



While the pasta cooks, make the sauce by combining the mustard, vinegar, sugar, and basil. Set that aside for just a sec.



In a large saute pan, heat about 1 teaspoon of olive oil. You really don't need more than that.



To the hot pan, add the peppers and onions and cook for about 2-3 minutes.



Next, add the kielbasa and cook for a couple more minutes.



Now, turkey kielbasa is a little dryer than regular kielbasa, so if your ingredients start to stick to the bottom of the pan, either add a little more oil or just a tablespoon or two of water.

Next add the zucchini and cook a couple more minutes.



Finally, add the sauce to the whole thing and stir it around.



If the zucchini doesn't seem quite cooked enough for your taste, you could cover the dish for a few minutes at this point. I tried it; it works.

Finally, drain the pasta and toss everything together. Serve on . . . what? . . . a pretty dish, of course! Come on, your family's worth it.



Now, if you want to add another point to a pretty point-less (get it?!) dish, you could go ahead and throw some parmesan cheese on top. In fact, I would just go ahead and do that if I were you. It's really good that way.

Linguini Zucchini Stir Fry

8 oz. cooked linguini
-----
sauce:
1/4 C. red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried basil
----
12 oz. turkey kielbasa, sliced thin
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1-2 medium peppers, sliced thin
2 small zucchini, sliced thin

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Set aside.

2. Prepare sauce by combining the vinegar, sugar, mustard, and basil in a small bowl. Set aside

3. In a saute pan, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add peppers and onion; cook until tender. Add kielbasa; cook 2 minutes. Add zucchini and dressing. Cook a couple more minutes until tender.

4. Toss everything together with cooked linguini. Serves 6-8.

O.K., now it's your turn! Share your Fabulous Friday Food link here. And have a GREAT weekend!



Shelly