Tuesday, February 27, 2007


I can't tell you how often I have this inner wrangling about how good my life and circumstances are versus the lives and circumstances of so many other people. I also wrangle with contentment. Sometimes I love stuff, sometimes I just want to throw it all away and keep what I need for today. Often I wrangle with wanting newer updated things for the home in the name of hospitality, only to realize that I have spiritualized my cravings for the twin idols of beauty and order as I define them.

Such has been the case for the past two weeks. Having been caring for sick family members or getting sick myself over a week ago, I've had a lot of "down" time to read, watch TV, play and work on the computer, think, and pray--all the things to contribute to the exercise of soul-searching. I've found myself whining and giving thanks within the same five-minute span.

Last night I watched the Oprah Winfrey special on the opening of her new Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. Oh, the tears that flowed as I watched these girls and heard their stories.One girl gets up at 4 a.m. every day to walk to the school bus ,through a very dangerous community where men and young guys slur sexual comments and threats at her. One girl lives in a shack no bigger than my son's bedroom with her grandmother and younger brother. The place has no electricity and no running water. How often have I complained, when seeing my neighbors remodeling their bathrooms, that I, too, would like to bring our master bathroom out of the 80s? One girl said sometimes her family eats just one meal a week--a week!--and drinks only water they've carried from afar. I complain that I hate to grocery shop because there are too many decisions to make and it's drudgery to put the food in the cart/put it on the belt/pack it or have it packed/pay for it/load it into the van/unload it to the house/load it to the fridge.
Never mind that I have five different grocery stores within a five-mile radius to choose from. Never mind that I have a van whose doors open with a remote push-button gadget--and close the same way! Never mind that I have never, ever wanted for food in my life.

Sometimes I find myself giddy with excitement when planning our next project. Paul is a capable handyman and can tackle almost anything he puts his mind to. He is a careful planner and budgeter, so our projects don't run away with our wallets. I am the dreamer and I can get lost in magazines and catalogs that show the kind of interiors that I think would make me comfy. Then, at other times, I look around and say, "Father God, is it a sin to say I feel too blessed materially? Why do I live in suburban America anyway? Is this any place to suffer? Can I really share in your sufferings here?" He has drawn my lines in such pleasant places, what can I say?
Sure, in my past I've known poverty, but I've always felt blessed. Even in college when I had a city apartment without a kitchen and did dishes in the bathtub and cooked macaroni and cheese on a 2-burner hot plate, I still felt privileged to have a place of my own and an income to afford my half of a $220/month rent. I still felt very privileged to be going to college at all.

As a preacher's kid in rural Kansas, we were poor as the sand on the town streets, but did I know it? No. The church and community were so generous with us; we always had a full pantry and invitations to lunch by Stella Moore or Marion and Lola Steinmetz. (The two most hospitable people in town were Stella and Marion, who were sister and brother. I would have loved to known their parents! Talk about leaving a legacy of hospitality! Just as a sidenote, Marion's affectionate name for Lola was "Katrina." It was hard for me in 2005 to hear "Katrina" and think of it negatively.)

I remember the days when family vacations were few and far between. My favorite one of all time, growing up, was the summer we went to Colorado for a week. Again, we couldn't afford it on a clergyman's salary, but a wealthy and generous lady named Sara gave Daddy $200 to take his wife and (then) three girls on vacation. We rode horses through Estes Park and ate those little Kellogg's one-serving cereals for breakfast while camping . I was too young and naive to realize that this vacation cost money. It wasn't until I was in my 30s that I found out who funded the trip. My sister told me. The next trip I took to Kansas I thanked Sara, as best as I could through my choked-up words and salty tears. She didn't remember having done that. It's so like her. But to this day, when someone mentions Colorado or I see those midget cereal boxes, I am inspired to make life a little more comfortable for someone else.

My wrangling always ends in praise; I don't want to give the impression I am sorry for what I have. God decides and it's up to me how to respond. It's just that, in my human wisdom, I want everyone to have it as good as I do.

Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, how I've proved Him o'er and o'er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, oh for grace to love Him more!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Winter Hush

A view of the trees between us and our neighbors to the west.

Russia Trip Update

I made a deposit today after getting a check for books I sold to a homeschooler in South Dakota.

Our grand total in the savings account is $1,113.00. We need $6000 plus $400 for visas, so as you can see, we are still far from our goal. But am I discouraged? Not at all. I love living by faith. Just LOVE it. I feel , at the tender age of 41, like the missionaries I've always loved reading about, whose hearts are pulsing to get to do God's work on foreign soil, but needing the support of God's people to get there.

Sarah has submitted a draft of a sponsorship letter. Paul and I will be reading it over this weekend and Sarah and I will address the envelopes and mail the letters next week. If you've already supported us financially and happen to get a letter anyway, please don't shoot us. We want to circulate specifics for how to pray for us.

I continue to offer a few fundraisers of my own:

1) Spring wreaths: if you'd like one for spring, please place an order now. I will grab up the best deals when I know ahead of time what people are hoping for. The lady I sold the books to wants to order a Gift Card Wreath for her daughter away at college who won't be able to come home for Easter. Ellen is going to tuck in cards for her daughter's favorite coffee shop, bookstore, grocery, and maybe the movies. Great idea, huh?

2) Personality wreaths. I love to make these. Think birthday or just-because. Tell me all about a special person for whom you'd like to have a special wreath. Maybe she's into accessories, gardening, reading, and cooking. Maybe she's a grandmother with lots of hobbies and grandkids. Or maybe that special person is a guy.

3) Coat of Arms Wreath. This is a new one. Tell me about your family. What would you say are some identifying marks of your family? If I were to make one for our family, I'd make a green leafy base and affix a guitar, a computer, a weight bench, some kiddoes, a basketball, and a Superman action figure. I'd put it on our front door.

4) Pen bouquets. Since I have a penchant for pens, I like to have one at the ready all the time. I borrowed the idea of pen bouquets from Mitzy, who saw it at a friend's house. Each pen is a "stem" to which I hot-glue silk flowers and leaves. You put ten of them in a vase or jar or tin, and voila! A pen bouquet! Ten pens for ten bucks. Colors to fit your decor, or to match the decor of a gift recipient. You provide the container or I'll do it for you for an extra five bucks.

5) Editing. My son says he'll pay me to write the whole paper due Monday for English. I reminded him there's a difference between writing and editing! Anyway, I will gladly exchange some red ink for greenbacks.

6) eBay. On a trial basis, I am giving things to Sacha to sell for me on commission. I may eventually get into eBay myself. Paul is researching it with me (translate: he's holding a rein on my eager-beaver enterprising until he is confident it would be worth my while).

7) Free lance writing. I am currently researching the magazine most likely to accept an essay I wrote after a team from our church went to Uganda. Any suggestions?

8) Food service. I had to take a vacation from the soup kitchen, so to speak, to care for my family's health. Soup season's almost over, but if you would like to request anything homemade, I'll see what I can cook up.

Thank you again for your ongoing support. It means a lot to have friends and family who are opening their hearts and wallets for the sake of the gospel. What else is more important, when you think about it? Like the song says, "You can have all this world, just give me Jesus."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sick but not lacking Humor

I posted this on my Kidbits blog, but I don't know how many people read that one. It's a log of many funny things that proceed out of the mouths of my babes, mostly my youngest's mouth.

I took him to the doctor yesterday when his fever hadn't subsided for two days . While I never actually took his temperature, I guessed it was at least 100, maybe higher since he was emanating heat from his body.

Of course, by the time we got to the appointment, he didn't feel warm to me.

The nurse took his temp. She said, "It's 97.5"

"That low?" I asked. "Hmmm!"

Joel reasoned out loud: "That's because I'm only 5."

The nurse chuckled, left the room, and in came the doctor. I like her because she asks the child to describe what's going on with their tummies, their throat, their ears, their poopies. Joel was fine talking about the tummy, throat, and ears, but when she asked, "Are your poopies like water or are they normal?" he pointed to me.

"You answer, Mom. "

"Joel, you can tell her, cuz I'm not sure. "

"They're normal," he admitted, as if divulging classified information.

She did a rapid strep test on him and one of the swab sticks got stuck in the roof of his mouth, poor thing. Dr. Y said, "I'm sorry, that's gross." She left the room after unsticking the stick.

As we were walking through the parking lot to leave, he said the same thing he did the last time we visited the doctor. "She didn't do a very good job. I'm still sick."

With all the compassion I could muster without laughing, I said, "Well, honey, she is a very good doctor, but only Jesus heals us. The doctor can only tell you what's wrong and give you medicine and stuff. It's up to Jesus to actually make you better."

"Well, I still say she's not a very good doctor. Listen:..." (He coughed to prove his point.)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

First Taste of Snow

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Hills,Thrills, and Chills

No matter their size, kids love the thrill of going down our back hill, no matter the "vehicle." It was too slippery--a sheet of ice--but they decided to "body sled" on their stomachs, "butt sled" (self-explanatory) , and go tubbing. Not tubing, tubbing. Stephen and friend Andy found Joel's old wading pool to be the safest ride for two down the hill. I'm not sure if it was more thrilling to slide down or wipe out! Getting back up the hill was hard for Stephen. He didn't have on winter boots; hence he stayed hunched like Big Foot, trying to stomp up the hill.

More pictures here.

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Joy Boxes

Four of the women of our care group got together at Mitzy's to make these joy boxes (aka "encouragement boxes.") last month. It was her idea to take a figurative idea and make it literal also. In the first chapter of Treasures of Encouragement, which we're making our way through painfully slowly at one chapter a month) there's an expression about filling another person's "joy box." Mitzy called me and asked what I thought about us having a craft night while discussing the chapter. I said, "If it's art, I'm in. If it's about encouragement, I'm really in. Need all I can get." (Had I already missed the point???Give, not just get. Give, not just get. Repeat as necessary.)

So we brought our own shoebox and other supplies. We really enjoyed our fellowship, and I sure loved the results. They were so bright and cheery, these little joy boxes. Mitzy made the one with the lattice work on top and "encouragement box" written on the side. Lauren's has the bright, bold cross in orange and yellow. Stephanie stenciled her life verse on her box. I cut out vintage wrapping paper of little children and animals--mostly, because they make me smile and remind me to pray for orphans, be kind to all creatures, and help moms with young children, which I believe is a growing and God-given urge for me in this season of life of freer hands and not a rigid homeschooling schedule anymore (hallelujah!). Another bonus: I got to use up a lot of 10-cent wrapping paper sheets I had picked up at a rummage sale three years ago!

Mitzy then gave us instructions: "Every time you hear or read or see something encouraging, drop it in your box. But be sure to drop things in other people's boxes, too." She set the example by giving us chocolates wrapped in jewel-toned foil, telling us we were special daughters of the King. She also gave us a verse printed on a 3x5 card. I had good intentions of dropping belated b'day cards into Lauren's and Stephanie's, proud of myself for having filled them out, but wouldn't ya know, I left 'em at home. Joy, joy. :) I'm starting to think they should make cards that say "happy birth month" or "happy birth year" for people like me, keen on well-wishing, not so great at follow-thru. Anyway, I have dropped encouraging emails I've printed off the computer into my Joy Box. I've put in some of Joel's drawings that he made just for me. I'll probably add some of the most uplifting posts and comments I read, or make copies of the pages from my journal that give me hope, boost my faith, increase my love for Jesus and His kin.

All in all, a profitable evening. We also had to go home and make a box for someone else. ( I balked at first in my spirit; it is sanctifying to me when someone says "You HAVE to do such and such" and besides, I still had ModPodge all over my fingers.) But I obeyed; I made one for my friend, Bonnie, decoupaged with all kinds of little magazine pictures of things that she loves or that remind me of her. In the making of it was more joy than in the making of my own. Bonnie adores it. That makes it worth the three hours it took to cut out and glue on a zillion little pictures of beaches, flip-flops, wild animals, little birds, strawberries, a chocolate Lab, taco dip, and other things that are so "her."

I'd encourage you to make a box (or two) yourself while it's still early in the year! But watch out for Mod Podge. It "sticks" around like a bad haircut for weeks.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Quiz Your Honey

My friend Kathy wrote an article with a quiz on our church's website under "Chick Chat." (Sidenote: my husband appears on that site's header, playing guitar. We have a dispute over who the other guy is. Josh or Jason? Someone please settle it for us, will you?)

Anyway, thought it'd be fun to take the quiz myself, and maybe tonight (if there's no basketball on) ask Paul his preferences. After 20 years of marriage, we still surprise each other by answering differently than the other one assumed. A few years ago, my friend Sandy made a list of over 20 questions for her hubby, Sal, not just about date night preferences but about things like "what is the ideal setting for you when you get home from work?" She thought it was a hot meal on the table. It wasn't. They had been married over 30 years! So, anyway, I'm gonna answer what my own date night preferences are, and then what I think his are. Then I'll get his real answers, if I can.

A Quiz to Find Out What He Likes

1. Would you rather be
a. surprised with an evening out
b. be picked up with no plan for the evening, just spontaneity
c. have planned together what activity you will be doing

MYSELF: A Mix of B and C. I love when he calls from work and says, "I was thinking we could go out for dinner tonight?" Almost 99% of the time I say, "AWww, that's great! Just the two of us, or the kids, too?" and when he says, "Just us," I feel like a high school girl all over again, planning what I'll wear and all that. HIM: Same, I'd say, cuz he does this fairly often.

2. When thinking of a fun day activity, what type of activity most appeals to you:
a. going for a walk around a lake
b. spending the day antiquing together
c. going to a movie

ME? B. LOVE shopping together for anything but clothes or electronics. I used to love antiques. Guess now that I'm nearly an antique myself, I prefer newer stuff. Going for walks happens in my fantasies. In real life, it takes me 3 steps per every one of his, so it's very sanctifying for both of us. I don't really like to be sanctified on dates, just wooed and wowed.
HE likes to go a LOWE's or Home Depot after dinner, usually for very practical reasons. "Need lightbulbs and furnace filters." Funny, you don't hear stuff like that when you're dating.But I love knowing that we share a home and a life where lightbulbs and furnace filters are part of life, and that he's always thinking ahead about things like that. He may not be the most romantic guy on earth, but he can sure turn me on with a trip to a DIY store, let me tell ya. :)
HIS ANSWER? (Again, this is a guess): None of the above. As I said, (A) is too sanctifying (B) spending the day spending money is bad enough, spending a day just thinking about spending money is the worst. A movie? He always says, "We'll wait till it comes out on DVD, then rent it at Redbox." (Do you see a pattern here?) He likes to be able to fast forward through the sex scenes, adjust the volume on the dialogue, replay confusing parts, etc. I usually fall asleep,except during tearjerkers or chick flicks, neither of which he'll spend more than a buck on.

3. What would be the most romantic dinner setting for you:
a. a picnic by a lake
b. an elegant dinner
c. a pizza parlor
d. a meal made at home
WHY? ME? (B) for sure. HIM? Same. WE both love restaurants. I am not at all wild about picnics. They're just a lot of work to pack, then you sit on the ground by a water feature where there's no bathrooms in sight (ie fit for a lady) , I'm lactose intolerant and pizza sauce gives him heartburn so we're not big pizza fans anymore. (D) Making a meal at home? I love to cook, but he always makes fun of my candlelight attempts. One time when were newlyweds, I had candles lit all over the house when he came home. He walks in and says, "You holding a seance, or what?" I burst into tears, blew out every candle, threw on the lights, and went to McDonald's. Without him.

And just for fun:
4. What way do you prefer to be flirted with most?
a. verbally
b. non-verbally (gestures and looks)
c. in writing
ME? I like to flirt with him with words. LOVE to flirt with him because he blushes so easily, is innocent as a schoolboy with his response, and rolls his eyes as if to say, "Will you ever change?" For example, last month I ran out of perfume and was on the hunt for a new one. He is very hard to please aromatically; most fragrances repulse him or give him a headache. So when I found one I like that I thought he'd also like (called Chill, by Curve), I sprayed it on at the store, came home and wrapped my arms around him from behind as he read the newspaper on the sofa. Sarah was on the laptop in the nearby chair. I said to Paul (should have whispered but didn't), "What do you think of this perfume, sweetie? Doesn't it just make you wish the kids weren't home?" He rolled his eyes, smiled sheepishly, and gave silent approval. Sarah said, "You're disgusting, Mom."

HIM? He will deny till his grave that he likes my flirtatious verbal and nonverbal overtures. They are reserved for him alone, and he's just gonna have to live with it. Can I help it God made me so affectionate????? :)

Consider yourself tagged if you've read this.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Enter Into His Courts with Praise

Yes, I enter God's courts with praise. This season I've also been entering into the rec council's basketball courts with praise. Here's why.

My Son's Yellow Lambourghini

Last post of the night; just playing catch-up on picture-posting . Somehow I posted to the old blog, but here it is if you want to see a recent acquisition to one of our sons' love of fast car collection. Not to brag or anything...:)

Sarah Gets Her License

On December 12th, Sarah got her long-awaited, much-practiced-for Maryland State Driver's Provisional License. I am just now getting around to posting pictures. For those of you who know I'm praying for my neighbor's salvation, she lives in the house you see in this picture. Notice my hanging basket in the tree? Above it is my visual reminder, a birdfeeder. Paul Buckley exhorted us to "Keep your birdfeeder full," a metaphor for providing regular availability to, and care for, those who may be finding "food" in the world, but never being satisfied until they come to Christ, the Bread of Life. Eventually, or when times are tough, they'll come to your "birdfeeder." I see this view (minus Paul's car) every morning while I'm having coffee with Jesus, and I pray for Susan.

Anway, back to the subject....

The morning of her appointment, Sarah wanted to practice parallel parking a few times out front in Paul's car. Little did she know I was taking pictures AND videotaping her from inside the house. She bumped the curb a few times, but it looked pretty smooth otherwise from my vantage point behind a living room window.

Later that morning, she did just wonderfully. Parallel parking was fast and easy. I'm sure it was God's grace, not her natural ability to park (nor my inability to coach her well) that let her breeze her way through the DMV.
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"Mom, A Bunch of Guys are coming Over"

I accidentally published this post , with pictures, on my old blog site. To see them , go to www.zztalks.blogspot.com. I have a lot of catching up to do picturewise, so won't take time to transfer that stuff over here.

Nehnehnehnehnehnehneh BATMAN!

No, Batman didn't show up at Joel's birthday party today. These pictures are from a batch I took back in the late fall and am just getting around to posting. (A little slow on the uptake, am I not?) Batman appeared in front of C-Mart in Joppatowne , followed by Kendall Ehrlich (our former governor's wife). Joel was actually quite scared of the life-size talking Batman, and I think having Batman touch his back and face really creeped him out. He much prefers the 3-inch plastic Batman he can toss into the toy box. The dads, however, appeared to be using their sons as excuses to get as close to the Batmobile as humanly possible. Joel in Paul's arms, and Ethan in Bill's.
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Mutual Admiration Society

Joel and Molly have a great relationship. Even though she outweighs him by 30 pounds, she knows her order in the ranks around here. She may be the most videotaped dog in the land, at least by a (then) 4-year-old.
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Friday, February 16, 2007

Superheroes En Route, & Other Stuff

I've been reading blogs but not posting or commenting all week in an effort to curb my computer time. I think it's helped a wee bit, but I can barely overcome the urge to encourage some of you when I read your posts.

It's also been a full week, what with going to a viewing in Delaware (thanks for praying; all went well) and having Joel's family b'day celebration here. (You can read his funny comments on Kidbits. I get so much pleasure of that kid, in case you can't tell. To laugh is such a gift. To make others laugh is also a gift. He has both.) Battling freezing temperatures and not falling flat on my butt on our driveway has been a major accomplishment. On Valentine's Day, I did a most romantic thing for my husband: cleaned our closet (except for the top shelves). Now he can actually walk in to our walk-in closet! I took "before" pictures; when I get those top shelves done, I will post "after" pictures. Following the tips in Simplify Your Life, our clothes now hang according to color, which, in Paul's case, means white, sage green, grey and blue. (He wanted to keep a pink and blue pinstripe shirt a couple weeks ago, but I told him he looked like a lollipop.)

Sold a couple of Valentine wreaths to men who wanted to bless their wives and support our missions trip to Russia. I thought more would sell, but that's okay. It's all up to God how these funds are raised. I'll post pictures soon. I probably have 400 pictures to download since December!

I've been enjoying Genesis, as always. What a conniving louse that Laban was. What a deceiver Rebekah was, no wonder Jacob was the way he was. Family tradition of lies, deception, and trickery. I was really thinking that Genesis would make for great TV. Who would you cast as Laban? Jacob? (Even his name means "cheater." Agh!) Rebekah? Isaac when young? When old?

Joel is having a superheroes party tomorrow for kids in his class plus a couple boys older and younger than he, that he just enjoys playing with. We have a lot of games in store and are hoping to find Batman mac 'n cheese or Superman or Spider-Man. Does Kraft have superhero pasta?

Basically I am stalling by blogging. If you're anything like me, the thought of a big to-do can be paralyzing. I still have cleaning, shopping, and decorating to do, not to mention cake making. So, now that I've put off the inevitable, I bid you farewell.

And do tell me who you'd cast for the various characters in Genesis. I say Nicolas Cage for Laban. That's as far as I've gotten.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Prayer Requests

Paul and I are going to Delaware tomorrow. Our sister-in-law's dad passed away in Florida a week ago and the funeral will be on Valentine's Day near his old home near Rehoboth Beach. Mr. John came to Christ late in life, but the change was very noticeable.

Would you please remember to ask the Lord to:

  • comfort the grieving
  • bring healing to anyone who had "unfinished business"
  • use the true believers among us to share truth where it's needed
  • protect us as we travel (not taking any kids)
  • protect our kids and keep the snow from falling till we return tomorrow evening
  • give Paul and me some rich and much-needed deep conversation in the car

Thank you.

One more thing: I got an email from Barry at Acres at Hope. He said that thousands of farmers who were affected by the Florida tornado a week ago are beginning to deal with the hopelessness and despair that set in after the shock of a natural disaster. Some farmers will never be able to afford to rebuild because they were uninsured or underinsured. Please, if you have any stirrings at all to give to this hardworking, deeply devoted Christian couple to help bring hope to these folk down south, please act on those stirrings. For those who have sent money or items, thank you so much. Barry and Lynne say they are blessed beyond words that they don't have to go empty-handed into the fields. For more info, please scroll down.

Friday, February 09, 2007


Please check out my daughter Sarah's blog. She is looking for fundraising ideas for her school's mission trip.

Also, if you're looking for a fun way that you can tell us little known facts about yourself in quiz form, click here. I tag these gals in alphabetical order: Ashleigh, Beth Young, Christina, and Danielle. Tag four people, in alphabetical order following the initial of your first name.

Drunken Tuscan, AKA I Don't Like Rosemary

This is New Recipe #3 in my quest to try 27 new ones in 2007. It's another Rachael Ray goodie from her Express Lane cookbook. I won't post the recipe until I've tweaked it, because after asking the kids who ate here last night (Sarah, Stephen, Joel) to join me in rating it, the average was only 2.8 stars out of a possible 5. (Joel's vote really skewed the average because he got all analytical on me. The noodles were "the bestest" which he gave a six even though I kept telling him five was the highest possible, the bacon a three, the mushrooms zero and the spinach zero.)

Basically you are supposed to pour a whole bottle of Chianti into the water that's to boil the pasta in. I didn't have a whole bottle of Chianti,and wasn't about to run and get some, but I substituted with 1/3 bottle of red cooking sherry. It also called for 2-3 sprigs of rosemary which I really enjoyed chopping by rockin' my mezzaluna. Moreover, it called for bacon to be chopped and cooked till crisp (yum) and onions to be sauteed in garlic. So far so good. Then add the spinach and two ladels of the wine water in which the pasta--I chose bucatini for the sound of it, but discovered it's just thick spaghetti-- has been cooked to al dente. Well, Joel just couldn't get enough noodles, even though he kept saying, "I don't like pasta." It's funny what kids say, isn't it? We had to tell him, "pasta IS noodles, Joel." (He still doesn't believe us.)

So it had WAY too much rosemary for me. About 3 sprigs too much. I love my dear friend whose name is Rosemary, and love the romantic sound of the herb, but I have tasted it and realize one thing: I don't like rosemary the herb . No way, no how.

Today I had leftovers which were better because I added a few of the last drops of A-1 steak sauce in the fridge, plus I put several shakes of fiery hot sauce all over it. Mmm.

Maybe I should rename it Drunken Mexican in Tuscany.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

On Overcoming Claustrophobia

I interrupt this series on Acres of Hope to talk about fears. Sacha posted about some of hers and it got me thinking. This is the time of year when I can't help but look back to five years ago when Joel was born. I have written much about my experience that was both the worst and best time of my life.

One huge fear I always had was claustrophobia. Elevators bothered me. Closets that I had to bend into to find stuff caused shortness of breath. (Which, if I was organized, wouldn't require digs of archaeological proportion, but that's a whole 'nother post.) The smaller the space, the faster my heart raced, the sweatier my palms got, the dizzier I felt.

So, when I gave birth to Joel and ruptured all my pelvic ligaments, it rendered me temporarily incontinent. (Okay, maybe that's TMI, but I have to say it for what follows.) The OB told me to give it two weeks. Then three. Then a month. I wondered if I would ever stop wearing Depends. I couldn't feel the bladder fill up because of nerve damage. I was angry-- no, make that furious with the doctor who had let me deliver after I had repeatedly told him that I felt I was literally going to "pop" something while pushing. I had told him this for at least a month and that I was already experiencing nerve damage because I couldn't lift my own right leg without help. It was basically paralyzed from my 8th month on. A C-section, I believed, would be safer. He doubted it since I'd had three previous normal, natural births.

Anyway, back to the incontinence. After five weeks on bedrest and still on crutches, I let my mother who is an RN, advocate for an MRI for me. She didn't want the southern muscles (my term, not hers) to atrophy while I was waiting for the OB to wake up and smell the urine. (Sorry again. Mine phraseology, not hers.) It was actually my orthopedic surgeon who wanted to know what was going on, and it was he who ordered the MRI.

So MRI day came and I was only a little nervous. This whole time I'm thinking, "No big deal. It's for pelvis, not my neck. I can handle having my butt in the cave."
Ignorance, as they say, is bliss. The bliss wore off faster than a bandaid in a swimming pool when the nice tech said, "Okay, now, Zoanna, we need you to scoot all the way down...a little more...a little more..." and I'm saying, "How much more?" and she says, "We need from your head to your knees..."!

"My head? I'm here for a pelvic scan." (Where did she get her degree?) She kindly pointed out what I already knew: I am short. And what I didn't know: the cave is long. I would have to go under, head and all.

That's when the sweat turned to tears. I felt so foolish. A blubbering, weak, chronically-in-pain, incontinent fool. I fought back the tears as she slid me almost all the way under."

"Stop!" I said, grabbing the front of the tube with one hand and clutching my sliding table with the other. "I can't do this .I can't do this. Please call my husband."

She touched my leg and told me she understood. I felt like saying, "Then YOU take my place from head to waist!" but instead I say, "May I please have a minute? Alone? I need to pray."

She left me alone, I cried, and called on Jesus. I knew I needed this MRI in order to put to rest some nagging questions and fears. But I had fears upon fears about the procedure itself. Not only did I have to go under, I had to not move AND it had to be on my back. Because of my injuries, lying flat on my back had been taboo and horribly painful since the birth. For the past five weeks, I had been ordered to lie on one side or the other all day, all night, except for walking around inside the house for a few minutes on crutches) but I could not lie on my back. Gravity would have to reunite my hips.

My condition was called Postpartum Pubic Dyastasis, which means that, instead of my hips expanding the normal two centinmeters for the birth and then coming back together right away, they popped open--the nurse literally wrote "pop" in my charts; does that mean I was once on the pop charts? Boo. Anway, they spread five centimeters and stayed apart. Such a condition had only been reported 11 times in OB history, and, miracle of miracles, the orthopedist I found four weeks afterward--for my oldest son's heel pain, not for myself at all--asked me to describe my problem and he diagnosed me over the phone. He had done a research paper on it at Wright State! He said, "I bet you're of Greek descent." (My first name's Greek, does that count?) "I bet you're about 5'2." (He was an inch shy of a perfect guess.) "I bet your baby was at least 9 pounds. " (Nine lbs, 3 oz.) "And I bet he's your first child." (Dr. Wright was Wrong and Surprised.) Where was this doctor's office? Five minutes from my house on the other side of Dunkin Donuts. Two more reasons to give thanks.

So here I was, afraid of not only this tight space, but knowing I wasn't supposed to move, but fearing the terrible pain from that position.

All I could say was "Help me, Jesus! Help me.... I love you! Help me." ( I am crying even as I write this, remembering in vivid detail the lights, the hard table, the big plastic magnetic resonance cave, the large, windowed wall separating me from the tech.) Some time in the course of probably two or three mintues, she came back in. I had had a peace wash over me, and once again God reminded me that if I make make my bed in hell, He is there (Psalm 139). Once more, the tech slid me, on my back, slowly and smoothly into the cave. She informed me that I was going to hear knocking like someone beating on a metal door or like gunfire on a trashcan. Comforting images. Did I want headphones, she asked? Yes. What radio station did I prefer? RBS, I said. What station is that? Christian radio, I said, 95.1 FM. I needed God's word more than I needed music, but I didn't formulate a prayer to that effect. God already had that detail planned, that I would need to concentrate on a sermon for a half hour.

For my pleasure, God had arranged the time of this MRI to correspond with RC Sproul's evening message. Remember, I had not planned on having my ears in that tube, so I certainly hadn't thought ahead to what I'd be drowning out the fearsome noises with. RC Sproul is a preacher I love to listen to, for many reasons: he is far more logical than I (I learn reasoning skills from him), he educates me in Latin, he cracks me up, his voice is deep and sonorous ,and he is doctrinally sound. He is so intelligent and such a good teacher that I feel like a Bible student in his class. I love that. I always loved Bible class. Well, not in 9th grade, but I digress.

I don't remember what RC was talking about. I just remember that it only took a few minutes for my heart to slow down and my hands to stop sweating. I was able to survey the plastic curving cave with wonder. Thanking God for modern technology and for living in a country where it was accessible and for Paul's good job that afforded us the insurance coverage for it, and for my church family who made living in a bed bearable by their daily visits and generous meals and some who even cleaned my kitchen and folded my laundry .For Sandy Browne who had dropped her early morning routine at home to come hold me while I cried at the news that I my pelvis was broken in three places and I couldn't roll over or sit up to go to the bathroom. For my mom who insisted on getting me an ambulance to ride home in from the hospital, and who stayed on the nurses' case in a nice but firm,take-charge way because I was too weak. For my dad who let me use his comfy car to go to my doctor visit in, who was not ashamed to buy diapers for his daughter, not just the new grandson. (Is it any wonder I named my Valentine baby after him?) For my husband, my precious, precious,precious diamond of a man . The man who lifted me from the bed to the wheelchair while all sorts of postpartum fluids drained from my body onto his shoes. The man who walked with the baby most of the night, every night, humming low repetitious tunes while I lay there in the rented hospital bed on my left side for two hours at a time, then on my right for two. The man who documented my pain meds like a resident in training. The man who came home from work and a long commute to a wife whose only contribution to the family was nursing the infant. (I couldn't even change Joel's diapers until Day 11, when I was strong enough to stand for the duration of a changing session.)

So my fears of the MRI? They were lifted. Not just lifted, but transported away and replaced with thanksgiving. My thanks were only interrupted by the realization that RC Sproul was teaching a very good thing, though as I said, I can't recall it! I came out triumphant, a victor over claustrophobia.

As I told Sacha in her comment box, " elevators now seem like wide, open spaces to me."

Praise the Lord. The Fear of Isaac has prevailed over many of my own.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Acres of Hope: Unique Needs

Just got a wonderful and helpful email from Barry Morgan, director of Acres of Hope. I will cut and paste part of it in order to paint for you the best picture of the situation I'm trying to mobilize help for. (That wasn't a very good sentence, but ---). Whatever he said in terms of thanks I forward with the same sentiments to you who are helping! I have highlighted for you if you need to skim.

Thank you so much for your faithful servant’s heart, your compassionate generosity and your swift and effective actions on behalf of the Kingdom during this crisis in Florida.
My wife, Lynne, has reviewed your wonderful blog and the new clothing and personal items you are so wisely requesting are exactly what is needed. We cannot receive used clothing items, as we do not have the extra volunteer resources or facilities to sort, launder or dispose of the unusable items. The costs we would pay in disposal fees for unusable clothing far exceeds any benefit received.

Other relief ministries and agencies are able to move into a residential area and set up a base of operations and have hundreds of families come to them to distribute needed items. At Acres Of Hope America we must travel, often long distances to locate the small farm families and remote rural residents before we are able to deliver help. Therefore, the needs of our relief ministry are uniquely different from general public requirements because the disaster needs of small farmers are different. Once we provide any essential food, water, clothing and personal items we then try to aid them with critical farm needs to get their farms secure and functioning again. This and the travel costs make our relief efforts much more costly.
Beyond meeting essential human needs, the small farmers often have critical needs for their livestock. Fencing, feed, seeds, feeders, fertilizer and small equipment have been blown away or destroyed. In addition, there are storm related veterinary costs, and animal transport costs to get the animals to safer pasture and return them back to the farms when conditions permit. We also try to meet the essential personal needs of any remotely rural families that we encounter while serving small farm families.

Zoanna, as I am sure your dear mother growing up on a farm in KS can attest to, small farmers, by their very nature, usually place a higher priority on the well being of their animals and crops than they do for their own comforts. Therefore, any critical farm related items that we are able to provide small gifts of money for the repair or replacement costs, mean so much to them in their survival to continue farming.
Now, that the search and rescue efforts have been completed, we are more freely permited to travel throughout the affected areas. From the estimates we are now developing we estimate that we may have as many as two hundred small farm and rural families that need assistance with clothing and personal items. This early in the crisis we do not yet have any estimates on critical farm related needs. We are also raising funds to replace and distribute Bibles.

Zoanna, since Acres Of Hope America does not usually function as a disaster relief ministry we do not have the very large sums of financial resources, nor do we receive any governmental funding, that disaster relief requires, especially for the critical unique needs of small farm familes. Therefore, financial gifts no matter how small the amount, are so very crucial to support our efforts in service to our Lord Jesus Christ. Your great blessings along with your Christian friends, of your prayers and the new essential items you are so generously shipping, will mean so very much to these desperate and grateful small farm and rural families who are going unknown and unreachable by most other relief providers.God bless you, from the deepest part of our hearts we thank you, your precious mother and your dear Christian friends for all of what you are so lovingly doing for others in service to Jesus Christ. Barry
Stewards In His Service For His Glory
Barry L. Morgan
Acres Of Hope America
8701 Blind Pass Road, 307B
St. Pete Beach, FL 33706

Monday, February 05, 2007

Care Kits to Florida: Update

Dear Readers:
If you would like to help with this effort, here's a list of things you could sign up for
1) someone buy 30 pks of pocket tissue (1.00 per 10 pack at Dollar Tree)
2) buy the same number of toothpastes as toothbrushes
3) buy a package of underwear in your own size, plus your husband's
4) buy a package of the kind of underwear you'd buy each of your kids
5) buy a pack of white socks that will transition to spring/summer
6) donate diapers or Pull-ups
7) bring your stuff to me in a box, not a bag, so I can reuse it for mailing if needed
8) give me 75 cents for every pound of stuff you donate. I can't afford the shipping on my own.
9) buy a hairbrush (again, Dollar Tree has them; I recommend soft-bristled)
10)buy deodorant, your favorite kind and your hubby's fave kind if you're married

Above all, in all, through all, before all, after all, pray. And then pray again. Those who show themselves merciful will be shown mercy.

Thanks. And I need these things by 10 a.m Thursday ,and please let me know what you're bringing so I can administrate this as well as I can for a person lacking in admin gifts.


Answer Came Fast! Please help....

I wrote to Acres of Hope right after schmamy left a link for me. They wrote back within 2 hours. Read this and be filled with God's love. Then leave a comment saying how you can help me. I will try to send K Kits Thursday. Most of the ones I have are for women, but I will take anything you can donate. New toiletries, new socks, new underwear, and clothing in good shape. Please help me with shipping if you possibly can. Do as you would want others to do unto you in such a crisis. You may bring stuff to my house, you locals, between now and Weds afternoon. Please, not between 3 and 6 tomorrow, tho', the Gummi Worm gals will be here.

Dear Acres of Hope,

If I sent down handmade tote bags filled with new toiletries, new underwear and new socks, could you distribute them? If so, please write back at this address and give me details about what's most needed. I can rally some Christian friends to help send maybe 20 bags. Need a snail mail address, too, please. Thanks for all you're doing to be the practical means of grace to these farmers.
Zoanna Z
in Maryland

Greetings Zoanna:

Thank you so very much for your kind and generous offer of the tote bags with essential supplies.

They are desperately needed and will be such a blessing. When you see and hold people who have lost everything and see how grateful they are for some blankets and bottled water, I can tell you that your practical gifts will mean so much to them. We know from experience that small farmers and rural residents are often the last to receive help in a disaster. Because of wonderful Christian servants like you the last will become first.

Thank you for allowing Acres Of Hope America to be a channel for your loving kindness, grace and generosity.

Our mailing address is listed below. We pray for God’s special blessings for Zoanna .

Stewards In His Service For His Glory
Barry L. Morgan
Acres Of Hope America
8701 Blind Pass Road, 307B
St. Pete Beach, FL 33706

Can WE Help the Homeless Floridians?

As soon as the tornado struck Florida a few days ago, I felt God tug at my heart. This is the "next disaster" that my mom said would come where Katrina Kits would be needed. I have a few left and keep toiletries, undies, socks and stuff for kids stocked in what we affectionately call the "homeless dresser" in our basement.

Question: anyone have an address of a church we could send stuff to and have it distributed? Anyone want to jump on board with me in sending these sort of "hope totes"? You can get lots of stuff at the dollar store or Walmart or Target. Think of what you use everyday in the bathroom to get ready. That and underwear and socks.

Please help! We might not have much to give, but such as we have at such a time as this--let's put our action where our meditation, as Danielle put it.

BTW, I'm curious to see you all tag yourselves after reading my Narcissism post (two posts below this).

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Breakfast Contest

Got a recipe for breakfast? I'm taking submissions for a contest. No, I'm not entering a cooking competition, just trying to put a little "umph" in the morning sequence. One of my goals for this year is to try 27 new reicpes, any category. I usually try dinner ones first. But I have to push myself to make breakfast more creative for my family. So, please submit! It can be cooked, baked, blendered (as in, it can be a blender drink), toasted, or doesn't have to be heated at all. Sometimes just a new twist on an old thing (like putting Brummel and Brown's berry cream cheese type spread on a New York bagel. That was a new one from Sandy Browne --with an "e," no relation to the food manufacturer--when we visited.)

Go for it.

All About Me: Narcissism Guess Tag, Part 1

Just finished a bowl of Rachael Ray's French Onion Soup with an Italian Attitude. Yum! Decided against making the chili since no orders came in.

Anyway, I started wondering what little known facts there are about you frequent readers. I love finding out tidbits about people. Sometimes I find myself thinking or saying, "I can see you doing that." Or "That really surprises me about you!" Those tidbits might be considered trivial, but I refuse to call them trivial. Every life is a masterpiece and every experience in that life, no matter how small, is like a brushstroke of God's magnificent paintbrush.

Here is a five-category test about me. Narcissistic? Yes. Nostalgic? You betcha. Nonsense? I hope not. This tag I made up.

Multiple choice. My answers are in the comment box.

1. Which dramatic role have I never had?
a. Rumpelstiltskin, title role, 4th grade skit
b. Amaryllis, piano lesson girl in "The Music Man", 6th grade, community musical
c Fairy in "Dance of the Swan" , 3rd grade ballet
d. Emily in "Our Town," high school play

2. On which athletic team did I never compete?
a. softball
b. field hockey
c. tennis
d. swimming

3. What kind of lessons have I never taken?
a. piano
b. riding
c. tap dance
d. etiquette

4. Which type of vehicle have I never driven?
a. stick shift car
b. dirt bike
c. pickup truck
d. ATV

5. What is my favorite genre of literature?
a. historical fiction
b. science fiction
c. romantic fiction
d. nonfiction

Tag yourself. Feel free to use these categories, or make up five of your own.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Test Your Vocabulary

Here is a 10-question quiz I made up for the fun of it tonight. (I'm a word nerd.) As you read it, list your answer (by letter) on a scrap piece of paper before checking your answers. (I will post answers in the comment box, so don't cheat.) I'd be curious to know your score! Don't worry. I promise all these words were new to me two years ago when I picked up an SAT prep book called 600 Words You Need to Know to Pass Your Exam.

Ready with your pen and paper?

1. procrustean (adj) ("pro-cruss'-tee-uhn")

a. violently demanding of conformity
b. unable to control one's love of pastries
c. wandering aimlessly
d. excessively talkative

2. xenophobia (n.) (ze'-nuh-foh'-bee-uh")

a. fear of heights
b. fear of arid places such as deserts
c. fear of strangers and foreigners
d. fear of precipitation

3. glabrous (adj.) ("glay'-briss")

a. robust
b. bald
c. eccentric
d. f ulfilling

4. soupcon (n) ("soup'-sohn")

a performance
b. synthetic silk
c. smidgen
d. tyrade

5. sycophant (n.) ("sick'-uh-funt")

a. a meandering body of water
b. a noisy, uproarious crowd
c. a misinterpreted word
d. a self-seeking flatterer

6. spoonerism (n) ("spoon' -er-ism":))

a. the transposition of initial or other sounds of words, usually by accident,
as in a blushing crow for a crushing blow.
b. a social blunder, as in slurping soup from a spoon
c. a verbal mistake that is thought to reveal an unconscious belief, thought, or emotion
d. a distinctive quality or style, as in behavior or speech

7. salvos (sal' -vohz)

a. round of applause ,accolades, congratulations
b. automobile parts
c. selfish ambitions
d. broken pieces

8. lapidary (n.) (lap'-uh-dair-ee)
a. ranch hand,farmer
b. clergyman
c. professional pilot
d. cutter/engraver of precious stones

9. lissome (adj.) ("liss'-um")

a. restless
b. flexible
c. lethargic
d. hilarious

10. anon (adv.) (uh-non')

a. always
b. never
c. yesterday
d. in a short time