Thursday, December 28

Thursday Thirteen #11

This post originally appeared on By Hook or By Cook.

Maybe you're getting ready for a new diet. Or maybe making all the traditional holiday food has gotten you bored, in any case, here are

Thirteen places you may not know to look for recipes

Celestial Seasonings: recipes for cooking with tea
Panera Bread: I didn't expect a bakery to offer bread recipes
Iowa State's Tasty Insect Recipes: especially for my MK friends
Seussville: 3 recipes for green eggs and ham recipes from the US Government
UPenn's African Cookbook: recipes and cooking tips
Williams-Sonoma: seasonal recipes and entertaining ideas
San Diego Zoo: kid's recipes A-Z
National Hot Dog & Sausage Council: didn't know we had one
10· NativeTech: Native American technology, art, and recipes!
11· Jersey Fresh: recipes from the NJ Department of Agriculture
12· National Watermelon Promotion Board: sandwiches? entrees??
13· Colonial Williamsburg: anyone for rabbit-free "rabbit"?

Check out other thirteeners at

Monday, December 25

True Community

This goes out to a couple of friends who I believe wish to remain anonymous. Let me tell you their story.

For years they have been close friends to one another and several months ago they were engaged to be married. Unfortunately, a job loss and some other events caused the wedding to be postponed, twice. One of them just lost another job, and the other is able to work only part time and receives disability compensation. These are not wealthy people.

On a recent Sunday, we all gathered together for lunch after church as is our custom. Our friends had paid for our meal, and I gave them what cash Adam and I had. It was not enough to cover our portion of dinner, but it was all we had available. I wasn't told this, but I happened to see the total.

Later that evening, after we'd returned home, I was fishing something out of my purse and I discovered a $10 bill.

"What's this?" I asked myself. I pulled it out and saw another wad of cash beneath. I found all the money we'd given to our friends, plus some extra. One of them had tucked it into my purse when I wasn't looking.

I feel humbled and amazingy blessed. To think that we are in a position to receive charity from these friends, who are in no firm financial position themselves, is uncomfortable. Yet, to see quite clearly how much they care for us and want to offer the little they have when we are struggling...that is an incredible honor.

Thank you, my dear friends. You have shown me a true example of how to be more like Christ in this season of giving. I am loved and honored and blessed to know you.

"And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need." (Acts 2:44-45, NASB)

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 22

Unexpected Grief

I wrote this a few days ago, just for myself, trying to figure out why I wanted to cry all evening. I don't know if other women feel this way, in the midst of things. I've never talked with anyone else about it. Maybe it's common, but one more of those things we don't share with each other.

I didn’t think I’d feel this way. It’s like I’m losing a baby. As if I really have been pregnant these past several days and now I no longer am. I never considered that losing a dream can seem just as traumatic as losing a child—even when it’s only a temporary loss.

We’ve been actively trying to conceive for almost five months now. I know that’s not really very long in the scheme of things. But it never occurred to me that it would take any time at all. It didn’t the first time. Long before I figured I was ready for a baby, God had already blessed us with our daughter growing inside me.

It took a while to get back to thinking about another one. Many months passed before I was ready and willing to try. Raising one child has been so overwhelming at times, I haven’t known how to even imagine having another.

Then we started trying. After my first full cycle, it became clear I wasn’t ovulating. Pretty hard to get pregnant when half the parts are missing. I had to work my way through that. Feeling like I wasn’t a “real” woman. I wasn’t good enough to have another baby. I was being punished for all the years I’d joked about parents who only wanted one child and how everybody needed a sister or brother.

I started to feel better about it. Relieved that the pressure was off. I had more time to get ready. Until last month. I spent a week wondering if I had ovulated. My temps were up. I might have. Then, another round of anovulatory bleeding.

This month, I was ever so much more careful to make sure there weren’t other factors inhibiting my correct analysis of my body’s signals. It was still a bit confusing. But I was pretty sure I’d ovulated last week. So, again I sat. And stewed. And wondered what God was thinking sending an ovulation in the midst of the holidays. I’d been getting used to the idea of not getting pregnant until after the first of the year. Yet, I figured it was pretty certain I’d have a confirmed pregnancy before Christmas.

Until today. Today, it’s pretty clear I’m not pregnant. Again.

How can I miss a child who was never even conceived?

Thursday, December 21

Thursday Thirteen #10

Thirteen things that make it Christmas (then and now).

Then: Christmas started the day after Thanksgiving, dragging the big box with the artificial Christmas tree and box after box of ornaments, lights, and silvery tinsel garland out from storage. It was our all-day project to match up the color-coded branches, test every string of lights, unwrap each fragile ornament from its nest of paper toweling (often in a print that had been discontinued years before and was yellowed with age).

Now: We celebrate the 12 days of Christmas (beginning Christmas Day and ending with Epiphany, January 6th). The tree and all the decorations go up on Christmas Eve. And the tree is real--even if it's just a small potted one from Target.

Then: Presents collected under the tree from the day it went up until they were opened Christmas Eve. We did have to wait until Christmas Day to open our stockings, though.

Then: Beautifully crocheted stockings (made by my grandmother, I think) were hung for each of us kids. They were filled with trinkets and treasures, and always at least one Avon-brand lip balm, all wrapped individually with Christmas paper.

Now: Stockings are strictly decorative. Our daughter is young enough she doesn't really understand either "the stockings were hung by the chimney with care" or the concept of opening lots of little presents. We may fill them someday, but we haven't yet.

Then: Dad would put on easy listening radio while we opened our gifts, one at a time. Either Dad or one of us kids got to be Santa each year, passing out presents from both sets of grandparents and the aunts and uncles in addition to our parents and each other.

Now: Christmas doesn't come in packages anymore. That's not just a philosophical line either. We're just as likely these days to get a check in the mail or a gift card (or just a greeting card) from our parents and siblings, rather than packages to be unwrapped.

Then: Christmas dinner included turkey, stuffing that had actually been stuffed inside the bird, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce from a can (I was a teenager before I realized there was any other kind), and two homemade pies, pumpkin and usually blueberry for my sister who claimed that one piece of pumpkin pie was enough for her in a year.

Now: If we do it up, Christmas dinner is chicken, green bean casserole, potatoes, dressing, and homemade cranberry sauce (which I've discovered is incredibly easy to make, and much tastier than the canned variety).

Then: Christmas stollen (a sweet yeast bread studded with candied fruits and nuts) made in big batches that Mom mixed and Dad kneaded. We'd have some when it first came out of the oven, then Mom would warm it up for breakfast over the next several days. YUM!

Now: My husband doesn't think it's very tasty. We've only made it once. I'm working on him.

Then: My parents used to give each of us a special ornament for the tree every year. Often they had the date on them and for several years we got the flat brass ones with our names etched into them.

Now: Adam and I have continued this tradition, with a minor caveat that the ornament should be particularly representative of that year. Last year, for our daughter's first Christmas, we chose an ornament that is symbolic to the meaning of her name.

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Sunday, December 17

The Sickie

I'm having thoughts of Peter Falk, in his role as the grandfather in The Princess Bride.

The three of us have been experiencing various levels of yuckiness and exhaustion all week and this morning it seems like it would just be nice to have someone come over to read a story to me, just because I'm sick. I could cuddle down in the covers and drift in that lovely place between asleep and awake while still dreaming.

Actually, I think we all have or are getting or are getting over having the flu. Which means that place between awake and asleep, at the moment, is either too hot or too cold, uncomfortable in pretty much any position, and (at least in my case) whiny.


On that note, I should probably try to get some more sleep and see if I'm feeling up to going to church later today. Although, maybe it would be better for everybody else if we stayed home and kept our illness to ourselves!

Have a blessed Sunday, and may sickness stay far from your homes.

Friday, December 15

"Approved Unto God"

Special thanks to Judy Callarman who's comment inspired this post.

I often have an idea about what I want to say. Maybe God's been teaching me something that I really want to share. Or He's been trying to teach me something and I don't want to learn, so I'd rather talk about it and get some sympathy. And sometimes I just have some churned up feelings inside that seem to be fighting each other and the only way they get resolved is for me to sit down and write them out until they make sense.

But I hadn't thought of it as much of a spiritual discipline. And I've certainly been a mite surprised everytime I've gotten a comment or e-mail about how something I've said has touched someone else's life. But maybe that shouldn't be so surprising.

Today's reading from My Utmost for His Highest is all about working out what you have to say in order for God to bless others through your words. Go ahead and read it. I'll wait here.

Finished? Wasn't it great? Didn't it totally seem to speak right to bloggers, even though the Rev. Chambers lived in a world where blogging was as unimaginable as...well, something I don't have any words for because I cannot even imagine it.

It's just like he says, "Struggle to re-express some truth of God to yourself, and God will use that expression to someone else." God really does work in mysterious ways sometimes. Who else would use the words of a man who died 89 years ago to speak straight to my heart this afternoon?

So, thank you to all of you who work and struggle to get the words God has given you out there so that I can read them. Even when you may not think you have much of great value to say, it may still be just what someone like me needs to hear.

Thursday, December 14

Thursday Thirteen #9

Thirteen ways I felt like a badmommy today

1·I was annoyed to hear my daughter awake after only 10 hours of sleep (usually she sleeps nearly 12).
2·I (unknowingly) left her in a messy diaper for at least half an hour after she'd had a bout of not-so-happy bowels upon waking up.
3·When I offered her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, she only nibbled, so I took it away and ate it myself.
4·That was the only protein I had until about 7:00pm (I'm hypoglycemic).
5·I put her down for a nap at 1:30 and let her play in her crib, not sleeping (but not fussing, either) until after 3:00.
6·I yelled at her when she pushed her finger into the Christmas cookies I was making and she broke one.
7·I yelled at her when she pounded on the computer table and knocked down the receipts I had in a pile ready to be entered into the checkbook.
8·I yelled at her when she started pulling papers out of a binder I needed for my meeting tonight.
9·I yelled at her various times when she got in my way, pulled my hair, tried to climb on me or otherwise acted like a normal 21-month-old.
10·I called her over to apologize for all the yelling and for a moment she looked scared to come close.
11·I didn't make any dinner for her (I let Daddy be in charge of dinner).
12·I didn't finish two of the five projects I set out to accomplish this morning.
13·And none of the five involved cleaning the house.

In all, we had a not-so-good day. I guess that doesn't really make me a badmommy, just a humanmommy.

Today, I failed. A lot.

Which is funny, because just last night I was having a conversation with God about how I really have trouble letting go when I do something wrong. Apparently, He decided to offer me a crash course today.

Amy's seminar in letting go of your failures and moving on with your life: You're Human, Get Over It. Space is limited, register NOW!

Check out other thirteeners at

Peppermint Cookies

This post originally appeared on By Hook or By Cook.

My friend Wendy's family makes special cream cheese cookies every Easter. But their original recipe calls for almond extract rather than peppermint. I think the peppermint tastes better, and it's much more festive for Christmas cookies.
click photo for larger image        

1 c. sugar
½ c. butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ t. salt
½ t. vanilla
½ t. peppermint extract
1 egg, separated
2¼ c. all-purpose flour

· Blend sugar, butter and cream cheese until creamy.
· Add salt, vanilla, peppermint, and egg yolk. Mix well.
· Stir in flour until well blended.
· Chill dough 1-2 hours or overnight.
· Roll out dough for cut-outs, or form 1" balls and flatten on cookie sheets.
· Brush cookies with beaten egg white for a shiny gloss or to add sprinkles.
· Bake at 375°F for 7-10 minutes until lightly golden.

Wednesday, December 13

Fluffy (uh...make that "Flaky") Post

I found great site set up to have silly fun for a good cause.

Go make a virtual snowflake over at Popular Front's Snowdays Page. Each snowflake created between now and the end of the year is equivalent to about .4¢ and for each 250,000 made, Popular Front will increase their donation to the Salvation Army by $1,000.00.

So get going and be a flake create a flurry today!

Check out one of mine while you're there, #3586223.

You can also click through to the site using the button on my sidebar. I will leave it up through the end of the year.

Tuesday, December 12


A few days ago I started thinking...I have a number of recipes and crochet patterns and other crafty ideas that I've put together over the years. I really like to cook (when the kitchen is clean) and craft and crochet. And one of my favorite things about each of those is to come up with new ideas. New patterns, new recipes, what-can-I-do-with-this-sack-of-pine-cones kind of stuff.

So, inspired by my friend Angela over at Purple Puzzle Place who started a food-allergy cooking and recipe blog to share some of the inventive recipes she's created to keep her family fed...


I give you
By Hook or By Cook!

UPDATE: By Hook or By Cook is no longer an active blog. Posts have been imported and combined into Experience Imagination.

For those of you who may be interested, I have posted the pattern for the scarf and mittens I featured here a couple of days ago. Now you can all make some for yourselves. Unless you live somewhere too warm for such things.

But then you can crochet and donate them to a charity that collects warm clothing for the poor and homeless. Maybe I should research those and post a list on my new blog....

Monday, December 11

Winter Scarf & Mitts

This post originally appeared on By Hook or By Cook.

These are a quick and easy pattern and they look great when you're done!
click photo for larger image        
Materials used
•2 skeins Yarn Bee® Fleece Lite in Quartz (each 5 oz, 108 yds)
•K crochet hook (6.5 mm)
•F crochet hook (3.75 mm)

7 dc=3", 5 dc rows=4"

Finished size
Scarf: 5" wide x 50" long
Mitts: 5" wide x 9" long

Skill level


ch 14
Row 1: dc in 4th st from hook, dc in ea st to end (12 dc)
Rows 2-54: ch 3, dc in ea st to end (12 dc)
Tie off and weave in ends.

Note: Scarf uses one full skein of yarn.


For palm and fingers, ch 8
Rnd 1: 2 dc in 4th st from hook, dc in ea next 3 sts, 3 dc in next st, turn to work in back loops of ch, dc in ea st, join with slst (12 dc)
Rnd 2: ch 3, [2 dc in one st, dc] repeat around, join (18 dc)
Rnds 3-6: ch 3, dc in ea st around, join (18 dc)
Rnd 7: ch 3, 17 dc, ch 6 (this will be the thumb opening), join (24 sts)
Rnd 8: ch 3, dc in ea st around, join (24 dc)
Rnd 9: ch 3, 17 dc, [decr, dc] twice, join (22 sts)
Rnd 10: ch 3, 8 dc, decr, 8 dc, decr, dc, join (19 sts)
Rnd 11: ch 3, dc in ea st around, join (19 dc)
Switch to smaller hook.
Rnd 12: ch 3, dc in ea st around, join (19 dc)
Tie off.

For thumb, sc 8 st evenly around thumb opening, join with slst.
Rnds 1 & 2: ch 3, dc in ea st around, join (8dc)
Rnd 3: ch 2, using decr method, begin dc in ea st around, keeping last loop on hook (you will have 8 loops after final dc), join all loops in one st, closing the top of the thumb.
Tie off and weave in ends.

Dry and Weary

I try to manage it every morning, but some days just take off with a speed of their own and what I try doesn't always make it to what I do.

What is "it" you ask? Why Bible reading with my daughter, of course. Lately it's been the most devotional time I've had. We've been working through the psalms one (and sometimes only part of one) per day.

A couple of days ago we hit Psalm 63. And when I say "hit" I mean as in "me, like a ton of bricks." Let me share some of my thoughts and responses to these powerful words.

I've often wondered about why God leaves us alone. Not theologically, I mean, He's promised never to leave us. Yet sometimes, He doesn't talk much. My prayers just seem to be drifting out there. God seems really far away.

David says, "I've worked up such hunger and thirst for God, traveling across dry and weary deserts." (v1)

It had never really occurred to me that maybe He just wants me to miss Him. To remember Him. To let absence (or perceived absence) make the heart grow fonder.

"So here I am in the place of worship, eyes open, drinking in Your strength and glory. In Your generous love I am really living at last! My lips brim praises like fountains. I bless You every time I take a breath; my arms wave like banners of praise to You." (v2-4)

That sure isn't the place I've been for the past several weeks. How is it that we understand the idea of discipline and continuing to do something whether or not we are emotionally invested when we're talking about reading the Bible, attending church or prayer meetings, but when it comes to worship and singing there seems to be this idea floating about that it's only "real" when I feel like it?

"If I'm sleepless at midnight, I spend the hours in grateful reflection." (v6)

Don't know about you, but I'm generally not grateful to be sleepless, whatever the hour. Sleep is a highly valued commodity here at our house. My first thought upon waking in the middle of the night generally isn't, "Praise God! More time to worship You." Perhaps it ought to be.

"Because you've always stood up for me, I'm free to run and play." (v7)

Isn't this the very picture of a confident child? I don't think I'm a confident princess (daughter of the King). I find that trust is often hard to come by and I feel weighed down by the cares of the life in this world, rather than free to play.

"But the king is glad in God; his true friends spread the joy..." (v11)

When strangers look at me, do they see joy in my face? Am I glowing and empowered by the work of God in my life? Am I spreading the joy, not just in this holiday season, but throughout the days and years of my life? Do people want to spend time with me? Do they want to know what makes me different? Am I different enough that people notice?

Friday, December 8

Wild Rice Casserole

This post originally appeared on By Hook or By Cook.

I have no idea where my mom got the original recipe, but my guess is it came off the side of a can of Campbell's® soup. Growing up we called it "Chicken Rice Casserole" despite the fact that it's made with beef.
click photo for larger image        
5 c. chicken broth
¼ c. wild rice
1½ c. white rice
2 lbs. ground beef
2 medium stalks celery, diced
3-4 mushroom caps, diced
2 c. half-and-half

· Bring broth to a boil in a medium saucepan.
· Add wild rice and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
· Add white rice and simmer, covered, for an additional 15 minutes.
· Meanwhile, brown ground beef and drain, reserving 2T fat.
· Sauté celery in reserved fat 5 minutes or until translucent.
· Add mushrooms and sauté an additional 10 minutes.
· Combine all ingredients in a 2qt. casserole dish or 9x9 pan.
· Bake at 350°F for one hour.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size about 1⅓ c (143 g)
Serving per Recipe 6
Amount per Serving
Calories 397     Calories from Fat 49
% DV
Total Fat 6g
     Saturated Fat 1g
     Monounsaturated Fat 2g
     Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 4mg
Total Carbohydrates 77g
     Dietary Fiber 9g
     Sugars 20g
Protein 14g


International Conventions

This post originally appeared on By Hook or By Cook.

I should mention at the get-go that I'm in the U.S., so for all you international visitors who are used to measuring food in grams and hooks by millimeter and so forth, I mostly don't do that.

Check out the following links to get the conversion information you need:

Also, just so you know, I don't knit. I won't be offering knitting patterns and I can't answer knitting questions.However, if you're interested in trying to convert crochet to knit (or vice versa), you can check out these sites:

Crochet Pix

Several people commented that they wanted to see photos of the scarf and mittens I crocheted. Since I'm not up for working on the in-depth spiritual post I started yesterday, I thought I'd just post those.

Here is a photo of the set. The scarf is about four feet long and the mittens are big enough to fit my hands, but also Adam's hands (which are considerably larger). I made them for a friend who did some babysitting for us a few weeks ago. The scarf is payment-in-kind for the sitting. She also celebrated her birthday recently and I told her I'd make her choice of a matching hat or mittens. She chose the mittens, which I was kind of excited about, since I'd never done mittens before.

For those of you who are into such things, I thought you might appreciate a detail of the fabric, as well, so here it is.

Both the scarf and the mittens are double crochet throughout (with the exception of the thumb joining) and made with Yarn Bee Fleece Lite in Quartz.

Thursday, December 7

Thursday Thirteen #8

Thirteen highs and lows of my week

1·It snowed! Now I can go out and play.
2·It snowed. Now we have to clear off the driveway and sidewalk.
3·We brought dinner to a family with a new baby and I got to hold her.
4·I filled out at least a dozen custom forms to mail five packages.
5·I got locked out at the post office while carrying three large boxes.
6·I discovered it's illegal to send nail polish through the mail.
7·At bedtime, my daughter lay down and let me cover her with a blanket.
8·She went to sleep without fussing.
9·I made hotel reservations for the out-of-state wedding of an old friend.
10·I figured out how to crochet mittens that match the scarf I'm making.
11·My meeting tonight is actually next week.
12·Adam broke out the peanut butter kisses I'd been saving.
13·I've had the opportunity to blog again.

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Monday, December 4

Life in the Crazy Lane

Life has just been terribly (or wonderfully) busy these past couple of weeks. Adam's parents were in town the week of Thanksgiving. Having the built-in babysitters was fabulous, and of course, it was great to spend time with Mom and Dad, too. I'm now officially jealous of all you parents who have grandmas and grandpas living close by and willing to take your kids for an afternoon or everning every once in a while. Sigh.

Our expected houseful on Thanksgiving Day turned into a modest five as several guests were unable to make it at the last minute. So, the 17-pound turkey we'd purchased gave us lots of leftovers. Turkey and stuffing, reheated. Turkey sandwiches. Turkey corn chowder for a potluck dinner at church. Turkey with eggs for breakfast (actually, I only tried that one once. My daughter ate the eggs and left the turkey). And an excellent turkey-rice casserole, a twist on a yummy comfort food growing up.

Last week, I thought I'd have some lovely recovery time. The in-laws were headed to the other side of the country, the dishes and feast-day clean up was begun.... Then I started my work project for the website I design.

At first glance, I thought I could get it done in a few hours over a couple of days. Ahaha haha haha! Try 30 hours over six days! But it looks really nice now. I just have a few finishing touches I need to add, but I'm officially still on vacation from that today. Ahhh.

And one more thing to add to the mix, I'm on the Missions Team at church and we were getting Christmas packages ready to send to the missionaries we support. I was going to shop on Friday, then Saturday our whole team met to wrap and package all the gifts. But then it snowed on Friday. Some places were reporting 18 inches! Driving Adam to work in the morning took almost two hours (most of that time we were stuck in the snow in an uncleared parking lot--our daughter helped and encouraged us by sitting in her carseat chanting "Go! Go! Go! Go!"). After dropping him off, we started our shopping at a favorite superstore. Three hours later with a basket full of presents, I discovered that I'd left my wallet at the house. I almost started crying right there in the check-out line. Eventually it took two more trips back to the superstore and another to a local Christian bookstore in order to get all of the presents purchased for the next day.

The wrapping end of things went very well, however. My team plus a couple of additional volunteers, fueled with apple cider, coffee, and bagels, wrapped, ribboned, and packaged gifts for 4 families and 24 individuals. And we were done right at noon, exactly on schedule.

One last piece of business. Jenny over at Home is Where You Start From has tagged me for a meme: Six weird things about me.

One disclaimer before I begin...most of these things, I don't think are all that weird, but other people (mainly my husband) have told me so.

1. I enjoy sleeping in a cold bedroom in sweats and several blankets. If my nose is cold and my toes are toasty, I'm a happy camper.

2. I often like to eat something sweet followed by something salty. I completely grossed Adam out one night when our bridge group was over and I served dark chocolate followed by black olives. Yum!

3. The stock market makes no sense to me. How can all of these number-crunching, show-me-the-money types have come up with a system that is entirely dependant upon the reputation of companies and the fears of the public? I just don't get it.

4. I'm a bit of a math nerd. My favorite part of math in high school was geometry proofs and I still like long division.

5. I know all the words to the original Gilligan's Island theme song (beginning and ending credits). I also know what words changed in the second version.

6. For a while, in high school and college, my favorite movie was Tango & Cash with Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone. I think I even owned the video at one point.

So, there ya go. I'm a strange one, living a crazy life. But you love me anyway, right?

Thursday, November 23

Thursday Thirteen #7

In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, I'll share:

Thirteen little things for which I am thankful

1·My daughter (who isn't even three feet tall yet)
2·Our lovely home
3·Double Stuf Oreo® Peanut Butter Creme (YUM!!)
4·Having my in-laws over for dinner (they live 10,000 miles away)
5·My paycheck
6·My car (especially with the price of gas again on the rise)
7·Clorox® Disinfecting Wipes
8·Our local petting zoo (just the right size for the preschool set)
9·Our spinet (given to us by friends and worth a lot more than free)
10·Channel 23 (think Nick@Nite® without the cable)
11·Baby-swapping evenings out
12·Disposable sippy cups (six to a package)
13·A holiday that requires us to stop and say "Thanks"

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!!

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Wednesday, November 22

What You Find Under the Couch

In preparation for having Thanksgiving dinner at our house, Adam and I spent the day cleaning up and washing dishes while his parents took our daughter out for an adventure on the play equipment at the mall. One of the areas that really needed weeding out (no, not literally. It wasn't quite that bad) was under the couch. I found cracker crumbs, four pieces of a beading toy, three books, a CD case, cracker crumbs, two spoons, a juice tumbler, a plastic bag, cracker crumbs, the computer cord for my digital camera, a rubber funnel, two DVDs, and cracker crumbs. Lots of cracker crumbs. Have I mentioned that my daughter's favorite game lately has been to finagle an almost-empty box of crackers from her mother's hands and dump the remaining snacks and all the crumbs all over the couch, the floor, or wherever she happens to be when the mood strikes?

But the really exciting find was the cord for my camera. You see, earlier this afternoon, I had found the CD-ROM with the software for downloading photos from the camera on to the computer. I'd been looking for that since we first set our computer up about four months ago. And today I finally found it, sitting inconspicuously on a bookshelf.

After a small dance of joy at the treasure I'd unearthed, I quickly began digging through the mess of papers and books underneath the computer table. I was sure that was were I'd last seen the cord to connect the camera to the computer. But it was nowhere to be found. Instead, all I got for my trouble was three telephone DSL filters, an AV cable, and some computer cord I can't identify, but I'm sure came with the CPU.

I had been all ready to download (upload?) the photos from my camera to the computer because our memory card was full and I wanted to clear it before Thanksgiving tomorrow so I could get some nice family holiday photos.

Numerous sighs and groans followed my fruitless search. Adam suggested, "You'll probably find it under the couch." If I really thought he'd turn out to be right, I'd have looked under the couch first thing. But I didn't actually expect anything to turn up there, so I went about my cleaning from one end of the room to the other, finishing with the couch.

Yet there, in the last place I was planning to look today, I found precisely the item I needed. Sigh. But now I have the wonderful opportunity to share with you these lovely photos of my daughter. And the camera is all ready for the Thanksgiving family portrait that will surely grace the mantle. If we had a mantle.

Sunday, November 19

Third World Thanksgiving

I had never heard of the concept before this year. Suddenly, I keep seeing references all over the place, but when I tried to Google "third world thanksgiving" I only found information about one organization's fundraising banquet, an interesting article about daily life in poverty-stricken countries, and one site that had a video link which didn't look quite savory, so I left before I figured out exactly what it was showing. Therefore I offer you my own primer.

How to host a Third World Thanksgiving

Basically the idea is twofold: better understanding of and offering tangible assistance to those living in poverty (whether in the Third World or not).

Step one...Invite lots of friends over. And don't forget your family, too. Make sure everyone knows you are having a non-traditional dinner to raise awareness, as well as funds, for the hungry.
Step two...Shop for food. Go to your favorite grocery store with a list of all the ingredients you would need to buy in order to host a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for all the people you now have coming to your house. Price all of the items on your list. Buy only rice.
Step three...Cook dinner. Measure one cup cooked rice per person.
Step four...Enjoy the party. Spend a few hours sharing with family and friends the many blessings in your lives for which each of you can give thanks.
Step five...Share the wealth. Write a check for the amount you would have spent on your traditional Thanksgiving dinner (as calculated in step two). Send it to a worthy charity working to combat poverty and hunger in the Third World or right here in North America. Suggest to your guests that they make donations of their own.

A few charitable organizations working to feed the hungry:
Church World Service
City Mission World Association
Food for the Hungry International
Samaritan's Purse
World Relief
World Vision
  † on-line donation available

Another site worth a look:
The Hunger Site
In less than 5 seconds, visitors can click on the "Give Free Food" button and, at no cost to them, send food (one cup per click per day) to the hungry in countries like Bosnia, Lebanon, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Honduras, Mozambique, Eritrea and the United States—anywhere there's a need. The staple food funded by The Hunger Site is paid for by site sponsors and is distributed to those in need by Mercy Corps and America's Second Harvest. 100% of funding from sponsor banner advertising goes to our charity partners. Sign up for email reminders and give an additional two cups of food!

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I need to say Adam and I are not hosting a Third World Thanksgiving on Thursday. We are having a traditional turkey with all the trimmings. I thought this idea was just too good not to share, even though I'm not participating this year.

But keep your eyes open. I may be back for an Eating Less Easter in a few months. Fair warning to those of you who live nearby. Keep your checkbooks handy!

Saturday, November 18

Leave Me Alone

Regular readers (it's so cool to know that some of you read my humble little thoughts regularly!) may have noticed a dearth of deep, insightful comments lately. I feel bad that I haven't been making any. Mostly, I've not been having many deep insightful thoughts. Just dealing with the day-to-day trying to get everything together and keep it that way.

For Adam's birhtday I got him a gift card to one of our favorite coffee spots. The real gift isn't so much the card, but that I'll be sending him off on his own several times to use it. We have an ongoing battle to each get enough time to ourselves in the midst of busyness.

Alone Time is a concept I never really thought about as a single woman. Very rarely was my life so full that I needed to take time out just to be with me. I'm more an extrovert than an introvert anyway, so generally spending time with people is energizing to me. And when I did need a moment to myself, I just closed my bedroom door and voilà instant Alone Time.

Getting married, I thought, back before I was married, meant spending all your time together. I managed to cling to that illusion throughout our dating relationship because it seemed that was all Adam and I did as a couple, spending hours and hours together every evening, before reluctantly tearing ourselves away to go home, get some sleep, work a little, and wait impatiently for the time we could be together again.

Nobody told me to expect times I would want him to go away. I certainly never did. Expect it, I mean. When we were first married, Adam was unemployed, and I was working part time, so we spent nearly every waking hour, and all the sleeping ones, together. After a few weeks, I started feeling really upset and frustrated and I wasn't sure why. One day, it suddenly dawned on me. I was used to having big chunks of day, especially right before bed, when I spent time alone. And I hadn't been doing that since we'd gotten married. I thought it was a bad thing to want to be apart. Now, I recognize that, though God made us to live in community, that doesn't mean we are supposed to spend 24 hours a day, every day in their company.

Recently I was reading something (I'd link to what it was, if I could remember) that talked about Jesus taking off by himself to pray. The idea was that if Jesus needed Alone Time, surely the rest of us do, too.

So, I'd like to encourage myself and the rest of you, especially as we are entering the busy holiday season, take some time out. You don't need to spend it in Bible study and prayer (although those are good options, too) just get away from what you spend everyday doing and try to look at life from a new perspective. And when we come back, may we truly enter into the joy of the holy days.

Thursday, November 16

Thursday Thirteen #6

Thirteen harmlessly addictive ways to play on the internet

Jigsaw Puzzle of the Day from JigZone

Pop the Shrimp from Red Lobster

Foxcentration from Bill Amend's Web Page

Simon from Neave

JACKSONPOLLOK.ORG from Miltos Manetas

Checkers from Fun Ranch

Tantrix Puzzle from Tantrix

Daily Crossword from The Washington Post

Click 'N Slide from NCBuy GameHouse

Museum of Childhood Kaleidoscope from The Victoria and Albert Museum

Tetris from 2DPlay

Island Mini-Golf from TBS

Connect 4 from Milton Bradley

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Tuesday, November 14

Happy Happy Birthday, Baby

Today is Adam's birthday. Not having sound on my computer, I'm always a little wary of the free e-cards you can send. I remember back when it was just internet postcards with a single static image and your message underneath. Ah, the good old days. I sent him my own card this afternoon. I love playing around with Photoshop®.

I hope today is a special day, my love. I am so very glad you were born. You have my love, always.

Monday, November 13

Grace Around Fire

I haven't made a real home-cooked meal in a while. Mostly because our kitchen is a mess and one of the things I seem to have caught from Adam since we've been married is his aversion to cooking in a messy kitchen.

But tonight I felt like making something new and different. So I thawed some chicken and paged through my More-with-Less and Extending the Table cookbooks looking for chicken and rice recipes. I finally settled on a peanut soup recipe from More-with-Less to which I added chicken, rice, and garlic (since the books are copyrighted, I won't post the recipe here, but you can purchase your own copy, here. Peanut Soup is on page 217).

The real fun could now begin. First, the knife I had wasn't working well with the chicken. I already had a Band-Aid® on my thumb from an earlier run in with a knife (no pun intended), and now I was getting raw chicken juice all over my hands. Yuck.

Next, I was searing the chicken a bit when I noticed a small flame outside the burner ring. When I bent down to investigate, I saw a ladle that had once been neatly situated in the center of the stove between two burners was now melting into the flame under my sauce pan. I pulled up on the pan, immediately turning off the flame. When that didn't solve my problem, I reached up into the cupboard for an open box of baking soda, remembering the dire warnings my home ec teacher had given us about spreading a grease fire with water. Since I wasn't quite sure the content of the plastic-looking handle, I didn't want to take any chances.

Unfortunately, sprinkling baking soda over an open flame is not the most efficient means of dousing it. Once the box was emptied, the flame continuing unabated, I decided the best course of action would be to grab the ladle from the serving end and plunge the flame into the sink.

The problem with that plan was a simple matter of unfinished laundry. Both of our oven gloves are in the wash. I tried grasping the metal end with a dishtowel, but I wasn't able to get a decent grip on it. Additionally, by this time, the melted portion of the handle was dripping down onto the chrome plate below the burner. I was not at all certain that lifting up one end would ensure the other followed.

Finally, in a moment of inspiration, I remembered that we have a fire extinguisher on the shelf above the microwave. I pulled it out and searched quickly to find the directions for use. (As an aside, this is not the course of action I recommend. If you have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen--a wonderful idea in itself and highly recommended--make sure you know how to use it before you need it.) Following the instructions on the label, I stood six to eight feet back and squirted a short blast of whatever was inside onto the stove. Instantly the flames went out. It was kind of fun, really.

Once the excitement was over, I still had dinner to make. I briefly considered throwing my hands in the air and letting Adam finish it, but, by then the meal was nearly complete, so I scooped out the half-cooked chicken, washed the excess baking soda out of the pan and began cooking again.

By the way, the soup turned out pretty yummy. I'll have to repeat my experiment again sometime. Minus the steps involving runaway flames, of course.

Thursday, November 9

Thursday Thirteen #5

Thirteen random acts of kindness (all true)

1·On my first Mother's Day after my mother passed away, One of the volunteer leaders of our church youth group bought me a bouquet of flowers because she knew I would be having a tough day.

2·In college, a friend gave me $928 to pay back rent and utility bills so I wouldn't get evicted from my apartment.

3·When my car broke down about an hour outside of Cincinnati, a woman took me into her home, fed me dinner, drove me to the airport, paid for my ticket home, and mailed two boxes of stuff from the car.

4·When my grandmother passed away unexpectedly and I had to drive across several states to go to her funeral, a friend's boss (who owned a deli) sent me off with a free sandwich and chips so I wouldn't have to stop for lunch.

5·While I was away for the funeral, my roommate cleaned my bedroom and finished unpacking for me.

6·As I prepared to leave grad school, I casually mentioned to my brother that I was considering moving to his area. He offered to let me live with his family until I found a job and my own apartment.

7·When my brother-in-law started a new job with a computer company, he and my sister FedExed their old CPU and monitor to me at no charge.

8·While I was between jobs, two former managers called me in to do temp work for their new organizations.

9·Friends from church gave Adam and me their tickets to a popular concert series when they were unable to go suddenly.

10·Another friend from church opened her home for our rehearsal dinner on the eve of our wedding.

11·We were given a matching crib and changing table from a woman we had only met IRL a few times, but knew from an on-line message board.

12·One of my best friends went against her boss's orders to take an extra day off work so she could be with me the day my daughter was born.

13·When Adam and I went to a play several weeks ago, we were "upgraded" to second row center seats by a woman who couldn't use her tickets.

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Wednesday, November 8

A Wonderful Present for My Birthday

Now that all the elections are over and done with and it's all been decided (at least "unofficially" by the AP and television networks), I can spend a moment talking about politics.

I should begin by saying, it was a great birthday present that after yesterday all those horrid negative mud-slinging opponent-bashing ads are off the air. Hooray!! Unfortunately, like a cancer, I know they are only in remission until the campaigning season begins for the next election. I give it a year, tops.

You should check out the post Ash wrote about a common sense approach to politics. He makes a good point about not needing to agree with a candidate on every single issue if you feel he or she is a person of integrity.

I really don't understand some people. I have heard talk about voting for this or that candidate because she's pro-life or he's against the legalization of marijuana. Since when does a single issue define a candidate or a race? And, are these people truly willing to vote for an unscrupulous person simply because he or she is willing to vote their way on this one issue?

Now, I do understand in many cases the issues seem cluster together. The pro-choice, affirmative action, universal insurance candidate against the pro-life, lower taxes, tightened border security candidate. But, I still wonder. What if you agree with a particular candidate on a number of issues and you respect him or her, yet, he's pro-life and you are pro-choice? Would you not vote for him because you disagree on that one issue?

And while I'm on my soapbox, who are these people who vote for a candidate because of his or her negative ads? As I have heard many times, the reason we keep seeing negative advertising is because they are effective in garnering votes. Maybe I'm just strange that way. The more negative ads I see from any given candidate, the less likely I am to vote for that person!

If you have thoughts on these issues, I invite you to share them in the comments. I really would like to better understand how others process this information and come to their decisions. (Thanks!)

Tuesday, November 7

Famous People Born Today

  • Marie Curie (1867) Nobel Prize winning Physicist
  • Leon Trotsky (1879) Bolshevik leader, assassinated in exile
  • Heinrich Himmler (1900) Nazi leader, death camp founder
  • Albert Camus (1913) Existentialist writer and philosopher
  • Billy Graham (1918) Christian evangelist and teacher
  • Mary Travers (1937) Folk singer of Peter, Paul & Mary fame
  • Joni Mitchell (1943) musician, songwriter, and painter
  • Dana Plato (1964) Actress, known as Kimberly on Diff'rent Strokes
  • Amy (1975) Yours truly
Okay, so I'm not famous. It's still my birthday today. No special celebrations yet, but Adam may be planning something for early next month. I told him to surprise me. Meanwhile, I just got my daughter down for a nap, so I think I'll take one, too.

Have a special day today.

Monday, November 6

Multiple Cooking Intelleginces

Learning styles and theories of multiple intelligences fascinate me. Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor the inclination to keep up with all the new research (that was one nice thing about grad school, research was made really easy). So, in a half-hearted effort to add more research, I offer my totally anecdotal theory of cooking.

The way I see it, there are two different styles of cooking. One is the French Chef method, which is all about recipes and directions and going out to buy the right ingredients in order to make the best dishes. Then we have the Two Days 'Til Payday method (a.k.a. the Mom method) which is to survey the contents of the cupboards and the fridge then concoct a dish out of what's available. If what you make tastes good, all the better.

Adam is definitely a French Chef cook. He loves complex recipes requiring unusual ingredients and elaborate techniques that, quite simply drive me to distraction. Me? I prefer to dump it all in a bowl, mix it up, and toss it in the oven at 350°. I'm a big fan of casseroles.

For me, cooking is a creative activity. Say, I have about-to-spoil chicken breasts, wilting carrots, droopy celery, and expired-yesterday milk in the fridge, a canister of cornmeal on the counter, and a clean casserole dish (trust me, some days this can make a difference!) in the cupboard. It takes some imagination to mentally convert all that, along with a few other staples, and come up with a chicken and vegetable casserole topped with cornmeal biscuits.

Yum. In fact, we actually do have all those things in our kitchen right now, except for the clean pan. Maybe that's what I'll make for dinner. Adam was supposed to cook tonight. In fact, he's been supposed to cook dinner ever since last Thursday, National Men Make Dinner Day. Maybe I'll let him off the hook again tonight though. He can make it up to me tomorrow (hint, hint).

And maybe I'll even make another batch of blondies. I made these for a football potluck we went to last night (the Bears lost...there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth). I discovered this morning, the blondies are even more yummy refrigerated overnight.

Peanut Butter Blondies

¾ cup peanut butter
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1½ cups flour
½ cup chocolate chips (optional)
½ cup chopped peanuts (optional)

Step 1: Mix all the indredients together.
Step 2: Spread into a greased 9 x 13 pan.
Step 3: Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until the center is set.

Now this is my kind of recipe! It should be, I suppose, since I wrote it. If Adam were writing it, there would be several more steps and you'd have to beat the eggs separately and mix ingredients in a specific order. And if you were really a gourmet foodie, you could probably tell the difference between his batch and mine. But since gourmet and I have only a nodding acquaintance, I prefer the easy way.

I Want to Win!!

Jenny over at Home is Where You Start From is hosting a contest to celebrate her 100th post. Check her out and leave a comment for your chance to win!

And while you're there, check out some of her posts, too. She has a lot of good things to say and some fun photos of her family and animals.

Sunday, November 5

Negative Interpretation

I subscribe to a verse-of-the-day service from K-LOVE Radio, a nationwide network of Christian radio stations based out of California. Every morning I get a verse in my e-mail inbox. Lately, I've been using them as a jumping off point for my morning devotions, which are about as likely to be in the morning as any other time of day.

Today's verse hit me pretty strongly. Samuel is concerned about anointing David as king of Israel. Saul is already king, and a mighty warrior to boot, but David is just a kid yet. "But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Don't judge by [Saul's] appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'" (1 Samuel 16:7, NLT)

That last part of the verse stopped me in my proverbial tracks this morning. I had been thinking as I was waking up and getting out of bed that I should write something about fighting again. About how it's so easy to fight with the man I have pledged to love and the child who needs my love the most. So easy to lose my cool and yell at them in a moment of frustration.

Last evening was supposed to be simply a lovely time to celebrate a birthday for one of my best friends. She had a group of us meet her at a special restaurant and we all shared a meal together. And, that part of it was a good time.

Unfortunately, we've been a bit under the weather at our house, and both Adam and I were heading into the evening not feeling our best. I don't know if this is how it works in everyone's marriage or if we're just special this way, but when I am feeling especially high maintenance (during illness or times of unusual stress or whatever) but Adam is not stepping up and pampering me a bit more than usual I start sniping and complaining at him.

It's rotten and unhealthy and terribly passive-aggressive, so of course he jumps right in and gives me more of himself because he knows I'm hurting.

Uhm, no. Being of a sinful nature himself, he gets all defensive and starts snapping back at me. Then, if we're not careful, our little sparring session soon escalates into a full-blown argument, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing good.

Studies have shown there are particular danger signs that can be seen across the board in troubled marriages. The authors of the book Fighting for Your Marriage label four as: escalation, when the fight starts about a small issue and soon has exploded into WWIII; negative interpretation, taking an innocent comment and reading into it an insult; withdrawal/ avoidance, not being willing to discuss controversial topics; and invalidation, suggesting a partner's point of view is worthless.

People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

As Adam and I have reviewed the four signposts, we have found our biggest problem lies in the area of negative interpretation. Both of us are quick to jump on the defensive when the other might possibly have said something to suggest we may not be quite competent. Which was exactly our problem last night. Both of us were not looking toward the heart of the other, to what we meant when we spoke, but only at the outward appearance of the words, especially as they reflected our own poor thoughts of one another at the time.

I am not always a literalist when it comes to Bible interpretation. I don't know if God created the world in six 24-hour days. And I don't think staying up all night so that the sun doesn't go down while we're still angry (Ephesians 4:26) is necessarily the wisest course. Last night, even our apologies seemed to stir up more conflict. So we quit talking for a while and got some well needed rest. This morning, feeling better after a full night's sleep, it was much easier to apologize with sincerity and not simply duty.

Early in our relationship, Adam made a comment to me that I found rather startling. He said it amazed him that our conflict could actually bring us closer together. On the surface, that doesn't make any sense, and literally interpreted, it shouldn't. What he really meant was working through our conflict together brings us into a more intimate relationship. Which, while it takes more effort in the moment, is so much nicer than sitting back and pretending you don't have problems.

Saturday, November 4

I've Been Quoted!

My friend writes the blog At A Hen's Pace. Recently she welcomed me to the blogosphere and stuck
    a big ole quote
from me in the middle of her post.

I feel important now. Let's not discuss that in too much depth, shall we?

Friday, November 3

My Mother the Charity?

When I was a kid, my mom bought me a book entitled The Sick of Being Sick Book. It was one of those paperback collections of silly things to do when you're home sick and bored with staying in bed. I thought it was great fun at the time.

Now I need a different book. Maybe The Sick of Having to Take Care of Other Sick People Even When I Feel Sick Book. Or perhaps The Sick of Having My Daughter Shy Away from Me When I'm Trying to Wipe Her Nose Book. How about The Sick of Not Having Sick Pay and Holidays Book?

Motherhood isn't really a job. It's more of a charitable contribution. At a job, you have pay, benefits, and holidays off. Not to mention merit raises and retirement plans. But charitable gifts by their very definition do not allow for tangible compensation.

I'm not complaining, exactly. I knew what the deal was when I signed on. No days off. I get it. I just didn't realize how demoralizing no days off can truly be.

To quote Huey Lewis and the News:
    I need to change my disposition
    Change my point of view
    I need time to figure out what I want to do
    Believe me when I tell you it gets a little rough
    We work a little harder but it never is enough
    I'm not afraid to say
    I'm a total loss
    All I want is a couple days off
Unfortunately, the best we're able to do in our house at the moment is a couple hours off at a time. Which is nice, while it lasts. But...all too quickly it's over and there I am back to being Mommy again.

Please tell me, all you moms of more than one child, how do you manage with two or three or six sick kids? When you're getting over being sick yourself? And you're husband is just coming down with it? And you need to get away, but there is no away to be gotten? And why is it don't they pass out medals for this? Or at least let you take it off your taxes?

Motherhood is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. "No goods or services were received in consideration of this gift." Sounds about right to me. Now where do I go to incorporate?

Thursday, November 2

Thursday Thirteen #4

I enjoy reading, when I get the chance. Mostly I've been nose-deep in fiction these days, since I find it a lot easier to be interrupted from the light and fluffy. But once in a while, I do read an outstanding work of non-fiction, so I thought I'd share with you:

My thirteen all-time favorite non-fiction books (in no particular order)

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things by Robert Fulghum

I've read most of Fulghum's books. This was the first. I like what he has to say, even when I don't always agree with his philosophy. Definitely worth taking a look at if you never have or reading again if it's been a long time.

The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman

I first read this book when I was very single. It's not just for married people. That said, Adam and I do use the information we've read here nearly every day (or at least, we should). A warning, however, do not expect your spouse or anyone else to speak exclusively in your love language. I know couples who have broken up over this.

The Cornbread Book: A Love Story with Recipes
by Jeremy Jackson

A bit of a goofy title, but a really good cookbook. I think I've tried all the basic cornbread recipes and a few of the not-so-basic, like cornbread popovers and popcorn pitas. Yummy food and a laid-back narrative with some history thrown in for kicks.

Sacred Marriage
by Gary L. Thomas

A tough but excellent read! Tough, not because it's hard to follow the language, just because it makes me squirm as I recognize how much selfishness there really is to overcome before I can truly love selflessly.

More Than You and Me: Touching Others Through The Strength of Your Marriage by Karen & Kevin Miller

Since I know the Millers personally, I wouldn't have bought this book except Adam wanted it (sorry, guys). But if you don't have them to consult, it does have lots of good information about finding the mission in your marriage and how to work together serving God.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health by Toni Weschler

If you are wanting to be pregnant, trying to keep from being pregnant, ever thought about getting pregnant or just want to understand more about how women's bodies work, you must read this book.

The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two by William & Martha Sears

A nice alternative to the "What to Expect" series. I don't completely subscribe to the attachment parenting theory, but there is a lot of good solid basic medical and developmental infomation here too. A good one to have on the nightstand when it's 2:00 AM and you don't know why your kid is crying.

The Message®: The Bible in Contemporary Language
translated by Eugene H. Peterson

This version of the Bible helped me to really understand why Wycliffe Bible Translators do what they do. Eugene Peterson worked to translate the Bible into the "heart language" of millions of teens and young adults (and me, since I really don't figure in to either of those categories any more).

The Mother Tongue:English & How It Got That Way
by Bill Bryson

I first read this book in high school. It follows the development of English as we know it. Very informative, and way funnier than any text book I have ever read. If I end up homeschooling high school some day, my kids are reading this book.

The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are
by Kevin Leman

This is the very first systematic look at personality that made any sense to my family dynamics. I am a youngest child, but my next sibling is eight years older. No wonder I'm confused! Lots of interesting information for families of varying sizes.

Traveling Light: Releasing the Burdens You Were Never Intended to Bear by Max Lucado

I'm a big Lucado fan in general, but I'm especially fond of this one. It goes through the 23rd Psalm, teaching about how to rest and carry on, with out carrying it all. And, in a small way, it brought Adam and me together before our first date (but that's a story for another day).

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
by Phillip Keller

This was recommended reading in the study guide section of Traveling Light. Very useful information about what the various verses mean, from somebody who actually knows sheep.

When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It's Time to Go Home
by Erma Bombeck

I bought this at a used book sale for about 75¢. I have read it at least three times since then. My mom got me started on Erma Bombeck when I was only about 10. She's just funny in a very down to earth way--especially for those of us who are at home with our kids.

Check out other "thirteeners" at

Wednesday, November 1

Life in Theory

My virtual life is a whole lot easier to live than my actual life. Maybe other bloggers have noticed this, too. I can't remember ever having read about it, however. I just find it a lot simpler to write about my philosophies and my faith than to actually live it out day to day and moment to moment.

Grace seems a little harder to come by, somehow, at the time when I really need it.

Adam and I got into a fight tonight when he got home from work. I was tired and I think I'm getting sick and I hadn't had enough protein (I'm hypoglycemic). Also, our daughter is sick and has been whiny and clingy all day. None of these things excuse my behavior, but maybe they help to explain why I started out in a bad mood.

So I started yelling and fussing and complaining. And Adam fretted right back at me. He wanted to know how I could have just finished writing about God's grace but be so angry and defensive toward him. That really didn't help me feel any better. I had a lot of thoughts, but didn't really want to share them with him at the time. It felt too personal just then. The last thing I wanted to do was make myself vulnerable in a moment when I was feeling hurt.

The truth is, I just find it so much easier to believe in what I say in theory than in actual fact. It's a lot easier to talk about God's grace than to live it. Especially when I'm sick and tired and protein deprived. Grace seems a little harder to come by, somehow, at the time when I really need it. Or maybe the problem is, I just don't feel like showing grace in those moments.

Adam, I'm really sorry I blew up at you. That's twice this week that I've taken out on you what has little or nothing to do with you. I wish I could be as good a wife in real life as I like to think I am on line. I love you. Please forgive me.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses

Today is All Saints Day. Having been raised a generic protestant, I never really thought much about the day. We didn't have saints when I was a kid, so celebrating all of them made as little sense as celebrating none. It's only been lately that I have, to borrow a phrase from my friend Joel, "discovered my inner Anglican."

I'm not entirely sure what the official Church stance is on saints. Since I wasn't confirmed as an Anglican, I didn't learn such things, and since I tend to credit what I personally believe over the official decree of any given organized body, I haven't bothered to research it much. That said, I found some fascinating history on the internet today.

The Anglican Church has only ever canonized one saint: Charles I, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 1625-1649. He was apparently rather unpopular as an advocate of the Divine Right of Kings, a doctrine he used to justify setting taxes without the consent of Parliament. He was also on the throne for the first two of three conflicts making up the English Civil War. He was eventually overthrown and executed for high treason.

In general, not the sort of man I would think to look up to. However, let me offer some more history. What about these people?
  • One man took his family away from their home, no sure destination in mind. They moved to a country where they knew no one and lived as nomads for 60 years.
  • Another was raised in wealth and privilege but gave all that up when he committed a murder and ran away to hide in the desert.
  • A prostitute housed enemies of the state, then helped them escape undetected by the authorities.
  • A king found himself in love with a married woman. He seduced her and, when he found out she was pregnant, killed her husband to cover it up.
You may already have recognized these examples as Abraham, Moses, Rahab, and David. All lauded as heroes of the faith. These are just a few of the people Paul mentions in Hebrews 11. He recounts their continued faith in promises they never saw fulfilled in their lifetimes.

So much of what I learned in church as a child was about being good. While we certainly shouldn't instruct kids to do evil, this sort of teaching just seems out of proportion to me. God didn't come to earth for us to worry if we're being good enough. In fact, exactly the opposite is true. He came to make sure we never again had to worry about being good enough, because He was good enough in our place. He freed us from the fear that our past, our mistakes, our deliberate sinful choices would keep us far from Him.

Paul further exhorts his readers, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (Hebrews 12:1, NIV).

So many people who have gone before us are cheering us on as it is now our turn to run the race of life and faith. And they aren't all flannelgraph pictures like I saw in Sunday school. Lovely peaceful images who look like they'd never done a hard day's work in their lives. No, these were real people who knew how difficult life can be. They committed mistakes, they made bad choices. But they were forgiven. They are now held up as examples of what true faith is.

Today is a chance to honor all the saints. And to recognize that we are all the saints. Sainthood is not something handed down from on high upon the deserving few, but on the UNdeserving many. It is just as available to each person, regardless of our own merit, or lack thereof. We are all worthy of the honor of sainthood, simply because God loves us. In the words of Pigpen: Sort of makes you want to treat me [and yourself] with more respect, doesn't it?

Tuesday, October 31

Half a Can of Leftover Orange Hairspray

What on earth shall I do with half a can of leftover orange hairspray? And sparkly two-inch false eyelashes? And what about the glitter blood?

Yup, it's that time of year again. Adam decided to go to work in costume this morning, hoping he can win the contest at his office. They have with some pretty nice prizes. He's Burning the Candle at Both Ends. I wrapped his torso in wax paper and sprayed his hair orange. I used gold and red paint on his face and made a construction paper flame to attach at the bottom of his costume.

The reason we have eyelashes and blood is because while I was looking in the halloween make up section for red or orange face paint, the only package I could find was a make-up kit for "Flame Fatal." The glitter blood did make a nice outline accent.

I've gone back and forth with the whole idea of Halloween. When I was a kid, we grew pumpkins in our garden, so the holiday always started off a week or so early as we walked down the road with a wagon full of pumpkins to give away to our neighbors.

We always carved a pumpkin (or two or three) and set it on the front porch with a candle burning in it's mouth. We roasted pumpkin seeds and, until I felt like I was too mature, I used to go trick-or-treating.

But Halloween didn't seem as ghoulish as it does now. I don't remember anybody in our town decorating their yards in fake spiderwebs or coffins full of dismembered body parts. And this was before giant inflatable characters were sold at Wal-Mart.

I guess I simply miss Halloween being about fun and dressing up and candy. Maybe its just that I've grown up now and I see that fun isn't always just fun. People can take fun and make it rude or evil. Sometimes kids will smash jack-o-lanterns or egg houses. And, though it's not as common, there are cults that consider Halloween a high holy day, commemorating it with real blood and death. And those aren't things I want any part of.

The question is: Can I celebrate the fun of Halloween without aligning myself with the more sinister aspects? Just because others choose to celebrate evil on this day, does that take away my opportunity to celebrate good?

No, I've decided it doesn't. There is nothing inherently evil about dressing up in a costume and eating candy. And, while I may not think trick-or-treating is such a hot idea when I don't know most of our neighbors, we do have the option of attending a costume party or our church's fall festival.

We went to that this past Saturday and really enjoyed ourselves. Maybe we can get more into the games and activities when my little ladybug is older. Plus, she'll understand the costume thing more. And stop trying to chew on her antennae.

Besides, I miss the pumpkin seeds. Fresh roasted pumpkin seeds are so much better than the packaged ones, even the yummy ones they sell at Trader Joe's. And maybe one of these days I'll actually make a pumpkin pie starting with real pumpkin.

Hmmmm...Thanksgiving is coming up...

Sunday, October 29

Complaint and a Blessing

I can't figure out how to get this message to the people who really need to read it, so I'll just tell you, my wonderful readers all about it.

First off, let me offer an apology to any of you publishing with the original Blogger (not the new beta one). I have been visiting you and reading your blogs. You've had a lot of interesting things to say. I've tried to comment. And that brings us to the crux of our little problem here.

I don't seem to be able to leave comments on any blogs still running on the original version of Blogger. I can write the comment, sign in under my username, even preview it with my new little photo, but when I click the button to publish, I get this error message: "We apologize for the inconvenience, but we are unable to process your request at this time. Our engineers have been notified of this problem and will work to resolve it." Well, if the engineers have been notified, they sure aren't solving it any too quickly because this has been going on for several days now! Grrrrrr.

And not all of you have e-mail links on your blogs or profile pages, so I have no way to contact you.

Hmmm...or maybe you're just walking the company line, since the reason I can't seem to get in touch with Google is because they don't have appropriate address links posted either.

On a positive note, Adam let me go to bed really early last night (I think it was about 8:00) so with the time change, I woke up at 5:30 and have had several hours of lovely time all to myself. Ahhhh.

Saturday, October 28

The Value of Mountain Dew

In my growing up years, I learned a very poor lesson about my own value. While my parents didn't set out to specifically teach me this, I learned that I was most valuable when I had something to offer. That is, if I could help out in some way or give something of myself or my own, then I had value, but coming to the table empty handed meant I wasn't worth as much. Although formally I was taught that Christ died for us all because He loves us so much, that lesson never really had the chance to sink into my heart, contrary as it was to my daily experience.

As an adult, I have begun to explore what it means to be under grace (Romans 6:14). When God chose to save me, and the rest of the world, it wasn't because we were pretty. Or talented. Or good. Or in any other way accomplished. And that's the whole point. If we could accomplish the means of grace on our own then why did Christ die?

In Romans 5:8, Paul puts it this way, "But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him (MSG)." I like the way Eugene Peterson has translated that phrase. Christ loves us, He loves me, because He chooses to do so. God thinks I have worth, just because of who I am, when I am unable to do anything for God.

I was sitting in a Bible study one evening in college, when this point was made by my friend Matt. He was drinking a bottle of Mountain Dew at the time. It had occured to him while he was buying the drink that this bottle of Dew was worth the 99¢ he spent on it. If he hadn't thought it was worth the price, he wouldn't have been willing to pay it. In (almost) the same way, God payed for us with the life of His Son, telling us, "You are worth as much to Me as My own Son."

Now that I am a parent, I can look at my daughter and recognize, at least in part, how God must look at me. There is a lot that my daughter is not able to do on her own yet. She cannot dress herself or make her own lunch or even change her own diaper (though a mother can dream). I don't expect her to be able to do all of these things because, developmentally, she is simply not there yet. I don't love her less because I have to stop whatever I may be doing to go change a messy diaper. I may not be excited about it, but I don't blame her for making a mess in her pants. She simply doesn't have the skills to keep from doing so at this point.

So many times, I get down on myself because I've landed face first in the metaphorical dirt. Again. I wonder at God's ability to have patience with me, one more time, making the same mistakes again. Yet, maybe that shouldn't be so surprising to me. God knows, clearly better than I, what I am capable of doing. He is not shocked that I can't keep my pants clean. He does not have the same unreasonable expectations of me that I seem to have of myself. He knows I'm prone to anger. He knows I get easily frustrated when too many demands are placed on me at once. He's okay with that. I am the only one who thinks I need to be perfect right now.

I've said before that I'm not a happy process girl. I like to see results. I've been trained in sociology and research methods. I like quantitative data. But life is mushy. My ducks refuse to stay in their row, and I exhaust myself lining them up over and over and over. Perhaps it's time just to let them roam the barnyard. I am not perfect. Repeat after me, I am not perfect. I am not supposed to be perfect yet. God isn't done with me yet. When I try to be perfect on my own, I'm just interfering with what He's trying to teach me in my imperfection.

May we all recognize our many blessings today.

Friday, October 27

On-line Billpay

I just finished setting up my checking account to pay bills on line. I don't know why I didn't do this before. Well, kinda. I like writing checks. Ever since I was little. My parents used to graciously allow me to write out their checks once in a while, when I'd gotten old enough to do it properly. I also remember getting a couple of boxes of leftover checks when we'd moved and set up a new account. I got to write out all the checks I wanted.

Thinking back, I've always been kind of a "form" nerd. It gives me great pleasure to fill information into little boxes. I actually enjoy doing my taxes. I know. I should probably be shot at sunrise. But doing all the calculations and finding all the places I can take more money's fun!

When I was a kid, my dad brought home a bunch of extra address cards from his office. They were printed on one side with a form for change of address or something. The other side was blank. He figured I'd like the white side to draw or color or keep notes. And I did. But I also filled out a fair number on the address side, too. I even got out my old manual typewriter (and, yes, it was old even then) to type in names and addresses on some of them.

I will miss writing checks. I guess I haven't given it up entirely. There are a few people I don't have appropriate information to enter them in yet. But, still, this is the end of an era for me. I think of my daughter growing up...she'll never be able to see Adam and me sitting at the kitchen table, carefully recording bills due and checks written in a blue fabric-covered three-ring binder. That's what my parents used. They used to sit down together to pay bills. Maybe they didn't every month, but I remember it that way. Adam and I...I don't think we've ever paid bills together! When we talk about budget stuff, it tends to start fights. Like most couples, I suppose, fighting about money, children, and sex (according to the research, those are the top three fights married couples have), while really fighting over something else entirely.

I remember reading somewhere that the very first "check" was just a handwritten note on an envelope that a man took in to the bank to cash. Can you imagine that today? A lot of places you write checks to don't even deposit them as checks anymore, but EFTs (electronic funds transfers). The history of money is really pretty fascinating. First you traded services, then goods, then certain goods (such as precious metals), then coins were made, then bills, then checks, and debit cards, which are really just numbers stored in a database, anyway. So, now maybe I'm more in touch with the database.

At the very least, I figure I'm saving the family almost $5.50 a month in postage. If look at it yearly, that's more than $65.00 a year. And that's enough for an extra date night. Woohoo!

What do you think, my love? Where shall we go?

Thursday, October 26

Thursday Thirteen #3

I'm planning to make chili for dinner. I don't really use a recipe, I just have some basics and then I add to that whatever we may have in the house. So, for my 13 this week, I thought I'd share:

Thirteen ingredients to make a yummy chili

1·Ground beef (I use about a pound)
2·Onions (1 large or 2 small)
3·Bell pepper (I use a green one that I can't eat raw)
4·Dark red kidney beans (I cheat, I used the canned kind)
5·Black beans (if I've thought ahead enough to soak some, 1/3 cup dry)
6·Tomatoes (crushed ones out of a can, a big 28 oz one)
7·Chili powder (I don't measured it, just add enough until it smells right)
8·Salt and pepper (to taste, they don't smell as much)
9·Unsweetened cranberry juice (or you could use wine, about 1/4 cup)
10·Cornbread (great use for stale pieces, one under each serving)
11·Sour cream (a dollop atop each serving)
12·Cheese (sprinkle over the sour cream)
13·Chives (sprinkle on top of the cheese)

Check out other "thirteeners" at

Wednesday, October 25


I used to play this game with myself. I would try to imagine all the bad things that could happen and what I would do in case they did. Once upon a time, I thought it made me feel better. This was back when I still figured I could control the world. Now, I mostly just pretend like I can.

I read a story tonight, well, I skimmed it and looked at the photos. It was about a little boy who had a heart transplant, but he had a bad reaction to the transplanted heart and after several weeks of unexplainable complications, he died. I started to cry.

I realized as I was crying and asking God why He allows such hard and horrible things to happen to such little people...I'm scared. I want to know I can do everything right and put all my ducks in a row and tape my daughter up in bubble wrap and always keep her safe. But I can't do that. No matter what I do, I can't ensure her health and safety every moment. I don't have the power to control her environment to that extent. Though she'd probably enjoy the bubble wrap for a while, pop-pop-popping with every move.

I've read somewhere that becoming a mother is discovering what it is to live with your heart outside of your body. That's a hard thing to do. Especially when my little heart annoys the heck out of me and all I want to do is yell at her. Or maybe bop her on top of her cute blonde head.

Several months after my mom's death, we were cleaning out her closet and sorting through what to save, what to toss, what to donate. I found a letter from me that she'd kept in her jewelery box. It basically told her that I loved her, because I knew I didn't say it enough. I'd written that letter several months before her death, in the midst of some teenage rebellious act or another. When I found it, I started to cry. I cried because it had meant so much to her that she had saved it in a place she'd see it every day. I cried because, what if I hadn't written out my thoughts to her?

Death rarely comes at opportune times. I learned that lesson the hard way. Still, the lessons of caring for others and showing them how much you love them on an ongoing basis...they often get lost in the shuffle of trying to live my life. So I yell at my daughter. I scream at my husband. I wish I could have more time alone just to do what I want, when I want. And then I get scared that something will happen and I will feel horribly guilty for the rest of my life that I could have said something nice, I could have taken the high road, I could have opened my heart a little bigger...but I chose not to.

I've never read the book What's So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey, but I think about the title a lot. If you were raised as a Christian or even just around them, you probably have heard the song "Amazing Grace" hundreds, if not millions of times. It's so familiar it seems to lose all meaning. But, grace is amazing. God chooses to love me ALL THE TIME. Not just when I'm being good. Not just when I'm loving my family well. Not just when I pass out fliers for Him on the street corners (which is a relief, because I've never done that). When I'm at my worst, yelling at my daughter, screaming at my husband, arguing with God that I could really run the world better, plotting revenge against the driver that cut me off, He looks at me and He loves me.

And that makes me cry, too.