Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Money-Saving Tidbits

We have really tightened the proverbial belt. I have come up with a budget and seriously need all the help we can get to cut expenses here and there.

Most of us know the traditional ways to cut little costs (turn off lights, limit errands, shop sales and thrift stores). I'm wondering what you all do that may not have occurred to me, or that I may have done but could be out of the habit of doing.

Here's a few examples of ways I save:
1) I save an old fabric softener bottle, and when I buy new, I pour half into the old, and dilute each bottle with water. Never have a static cling problem, and clothes smell great.
2) If I use a dryer sheet, I tear it in half. Same results as above.
3) I use grocery bags instead of lunch bags. Stephen doesn't complain.
4) I always check the price per pound of meat on every label of the cut of meat I want. Can't tell you how many times I find price differences. One roast will say 3.79/lb while the one right behind it says $3.59. Mars is particularly bad about mismarking meat. I told the mgr last time I was in there that about 3 of the packages were one price (lower) and the rest were higher. Ergh.
He set out to change it.
5) I'm not too proud to ask. Okay, sometimes I beg or grovel. I've blogged about the big stuff I've gotten free (dining room hutch and buffet). In a recent example, I came away with candles, a fall wreath, a crock pot cookbook, and a centerpiece for my dining room table. All for free.
6) Once in a great while, we use coupons. You pay $3 or $4 and can print off a coupon worth $25 or so. Great way to save money (if you follow through) and check out restaurants you otherwise might not.

Looking forward to hear of your creative cost-trimming methods.

Q & A Wednesday: Personal Assistant

Question du jour:

If you could have any kind of personal assistant specializing in one area, to help you any time or all the time, what would you ask them to do for you?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Decorating Question: Window Treatments

I seriously need window treatments in my kitchen. I kinda liked having nothing there during the summer because it's so bright. (Our house backs to woods so it's very private all year.) But now that winter's here, I need to warm up the windows a bit.)

Our kitchen adjoins the family room. It's one big space, really. In the family room are sliding glass doors. In the kitchen is one small window above the sink and in the eating area is a large window.

What I have now above the sliders is a remnant of fabric I just love. It's burgundy with a small floral and leaf print, drapes loosely, and hangs down about maybe 20 inches. It's all I have of that fabric, it was last on the bolt (originally bought it --for only $4-- to make into a couple pillows but liked it better as a window topper).

So, question: Should I try to find coordinating fabric in a plaid or stripe, and do all 3 window treatments the same, or leave the slider topper as it, but use separate-but-coordinating fabric in the kitchen. Remember, when you look at that back wall (about 34 feet --17 FR, 17 Kitchen) your eyes take in all three at once.

The walls are painted sage green and the crown moulding is pure white.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Who Shall or What Shall?

35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

I read this yesterday and for the first time in my life, a little tiny pronoun caught my attention. It is the pronoun who. Since it seemed strange to refer to things with the pronoun reserved for people, I examined it closely. Not that I went into a Greek study or even looked at notes in the margin. Not at all. Suddenly it occurred to me that "who" refers to living things, and don't those awful things like trouble, danger, hardship, seem to have a life of their own when they strike? I mean, they seem to grow, bite, entangle, withhold, blind, confuse, give off odors. Same thing real live bad guys can do.

They are real even if they're not alive. That's the point. But they can never separate us from the love of God.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The 27-Thing Fling Revisited

If you've ever visited, you have probably discovered her 27-Thing Fling idea. I've written about it here before as being one of the most motivational tools I have used in housework.

In a nutshell, here's what you do. Carry a trash bag around the house and throw away things, keeping count till you reach 27. (I strap one of those ubiquitous blue grocery store bags to my wrist, and when it's full, dump it and use another. ) If you're still inspired, do the same thing with stuff that just belongs elsewhere. Rather than pick it up and run to the room where it goes, simply put it in your bag like your're picking apples, and then when it's full, do the retail version of dealing with "returns," going from room to room with your full bag. That way, if you get interrupted, you know at least which room you already returned stuff to.

Try it. Don't feel pressured to do more than one fling a day. But I'm telling you, I feel so much lighter and my house looks tres better when I do the 27-Thing Fling. In fact, I'm signing off now and starting a fling in this cluttered space I call my home office! It's a room no bigger than a freestanding stove , but somehow my stove stays junkless and this room doesn't.

Adios, from the new Queen of Fling!

Bread Pudding Recipe, Anyone?

Paul wants me to make bread pudding soon. In 20 years of marriage, I've never made it. Can you believe it?

I saw a recipe for Pumpkin Bread Pudding in the lastest issue of Guideposts, which he saw , but preferred something more traditional. In fact, he said, "Can you find a gourmet bread pudding recipe?" He grinned just saying it.

I laughed. "Isn't that an oxymoron? I mean, bread pudding is poor man's dessert. The thing that makes it gourmet for a poor man would be the raisins."

"Ew, no! Definitely no raisins."

So, I'm asking you fellow bloggers to help me out, please, on this one. I much prefer your recipes over scouring online. Thanks!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tell All or Just Think It?

This morning in co-op I was teaching my beloved kindergartners how to draw a lion. Mind you, it's a fantastic lion--that is, out of your imagination. So my encouragement to them was, "Don't worry about how real your lion looks when he's done. He's gonna be fantastic. Maybe cartoon-like or storybookish or from a wild movie. Don't worry about his legs being in proportion to his head, or his tail being too skinny or whatever."

But I did want them to follow my directions so that the entire lion would fit on the page.

Here's what happened. One boy (I'll call him Eddie) didn't exactly track with me. He was kind of jumping ahead and drawing his lion without looking up. So one of his lion's eyes was about an inch round, the other 4 inches. The face and mane were enormous, taking up nearly the entire landscape of the page. When it came time to draw the legs, they ended up teeny tiny, and he put pinhead dots for toes on the fierce creature. So cute!

The little boy sitting two seats away , who tends toward realistic renditions, said this: "Eddie's picture looks bad." Well, I promptly scolded him as kindly as I could . "Honey, that's not nice. I said these lions would be unique, and fantastic. We never say someone's art is bad."

A little girl sitting between the boys blurted out, "That's right. Even if you're thinking it's bad, you shouldn't say it."

Marie and I had to turn away and stifle our laughs. The things these kids say! The little boy with the wild 'n crazy lion has a wild 'n crazy imagination, and let me tell you, his creature was my favorite because of its distorted face, flippy whippy tail, teeny weeny toes, and puffy muffy cheeks.

My Brain Test is Spot-on!

I normally don't give much credence to these online personality tests, but this one couldn't be more accurate. It's almost scary how precisely it describes me. I got it from Beth's blog. Try it and see what it says about your brain! (I'm relieved it didn't come back with, "Zoanna, we cannot analyze your test. Are you sure you have a brain?"

Here goes the analysis:

You exhibit an even balance between left- and right- hemisphere dominance and a slight preference for visual over auditory processing. With a score this balanced, it is likely that you would have slightly different results each time you complete this self-assessment quiz.

You are a well-rounded person, distinctly individualistic and artistic, an active and multidimensional learner. At the same time, you are logical and disciplined, can operate well within an organization, and are sensitive towards others without losing objectivity. You are organized and goal-directed. Although a "thinking" individual, you "take in" entire situations readily and can act on intuition.

You sometimes tend to vacillate in your learning styles. Learning might take you longer than someone of equal intellect, but you will tend to be more thorough and retain the material longer than those other individuals. You will alternate between logic and impulse. This vacillation will not normally be intentional or deliberate, so you may experience anxiety in situations where you are not certain which aspect of yourself will be called on.

With a slight preference for visual processing, you tend to be encompassing in your perceptions, process along multidimensional paths and be active in your attacking of situations or learning.

Overall, you should feel content with your life and yourself. You are, perhaps, a little too critical of yourself -- and of others -- while maintaining an "openness" which tempers that tendency. Indecisiveness is a problem and your creativity may not be in keeping with your potential. Being a pragmatist, you downplay this aspect of yourself and focus on the more immediate, obvious and the more functional....

Here's the link.

How in the world does it work? It's just a multiple choice thing where you look at diagrams or a pair of words or numbers, and click the answer that corresponds to your opinion. I hate clicking on "neither" (so non-committal) but in a couple cases, I had to.
I also kept thinking, "How could someone see anything BUT this relationship?" Obviously they do, or it'd be a math test! In fact, my least favorite question had a fraction in it. Grrrr.

Try it for yourself! I LOVE these kinds of tests. Quick and easy, with no right or wrong answers. That's my kind of test.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Camera Bags, Blessing Bags, and Windbags plus Q&A Weds #1: Adventure

This is one of the "misc" category posts . Lots of little things to say or ask. Here goes.

1. I need a new camera bag. The one I have now has a broken latch on the front, meaning I have to carry the bag like a football under my arm for real security. I would like recommendations on a bag that will hold a Nikon D50 (an SLR) body plus 3 lenses of average length, a charger, a point 'n shoot, memory cards, and anything else a hobbyist will undoubtedly grow into. Also, does anyone recommend a backpack type camera bag, a shoulder strap kind, or one with both options. Why?

2. I'm waiting for a contact person in San Diego that Bethany is putting me in touch with. I'm wondering who, among you, want to send relief aid if this contact comes back and says, "Yes, please help!" And are you inclined to buy items yourself if I make a list of suggested things, or prefer to give me shopping and shipping money (PayPal, check, cash, anything but your firstborn)? (Note: the picture here of Amanda Joy with Katrina Kits in 2005, was taken on my old cheapy digital. I can't believe I used such a piece of junk, but it was better than nothing and I didn't know how good "good" can be with a great camera. My apologies to Amanda for the poor quality, but she is photogenic even with the worst of cameras, is she not?)

3 I'm gonna start a "Q&A Wednesday" series. When I have guests over who don't know each other well, or who could dominate the conversation at the table (read: windbag, which can be me), or tend clam up, or stay completely superficial for an hour, I try to have prepared a bowl of questions sitting near the center and tell everyone at the start, "Some time during the meal, I'm gonna ask one of you to pass the pepper, the butter, the rolls, et cetera. I'm also gonna ask someone to pass the questions. The one I ask will pick one, read it silently and decide if you want to answer." (At this point the nontalkers give you the mortified Judas-Iscariot-at-the-Last-Supper expression. Then, after I stop giggling at this predictable reaction, I say, "If you don't like that one, pick a new one." (Non-talkers exhale at the relief of getting to choose.) I try to mix it up, some light and funny, some about memories, some about dreams of the future, some that will honor one or more people specially (usually the person across the table, I say on the question paper).

So, let's get to know each other better ,shall we?

Today's question: What is the most adventurous thing you've ever done? Feel free to expound on it. (Was it scary? painful?fun? wise?stupid?)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Calling all Merciful People

As fires rage out of man's control in Southern California, we who stand afar off in safety have an opportunity to show mercy. I am in the process of finding a contact person to receive our "Katrina Kits." I still have a few of these handsewn fabric drawstring bags left.

What I need are sponsors, people to step up and say, "Yes, I'll give money for toiletries and shipping. Just say when." Well, if anyone reading this can put me in contact with a Christian in the SoCal region who you think would take the shipment and distribute it to anyone in need, let me know. This is a great time for the gospel to be shown. A few tubes of toothpaste, some deodorant, a washcloth, soap, nail clippers, hair scrunchies....yeh, it sounds small, but I have emails from back in Katrina days saying that it was a HUGE blessing.

Please let me know ASAP:
1) Can you give $10 per bag straight to me?
2) Can you give me the actual supplies ?
3) Can you put me in contact with a Sovereign Grace Chruch out there in need? Specifically a name of someone who is at a safe distance so that FedEx would deliver to their zip code?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Training Wheels for Motherhood

Going through motherhood at this stage is a big test for me. In particular, mothering a tall, dark and handsome 19 year old son into adulthood before I'm gray or bald. Or both.

You think when the babies are older, life will be so much easier. No diapers, no 2 a.m. feedings, no wondering what's wrong with them because they can tell you. You feel like your schedule will forever be tied to naptime. If only you could have some alone time. Or more time with your husband. Or with friends, uninterrupted.

Then, before you know it, you've passed through the stages of diapers, potty training, shoe-tying, and carpools. You've driven to their practices, cheered them through T-ball, soccer, baseball, and lacrosse; given up Saturdays at home to watch them score home runs. You knew all their friends, their friends' moms, and maybe even what was going in on their friends' moms' lives because you chatted with them on the sidelines long before anyone heard of email, let alone used it to the exclusion of live interaction.

You held your boy in your lap and read him books. You played wiffle ball in the backyard together, and caught fireflies on dark summer nights. He'd fall down a gravel driveway. You'd brush off the gravel, clean it up, and put a Band-aid on his boo-boo. You told him he was gonna be okay. He hugged you and said, "Thanks, Mom. "

He believed everything you said, and let you hold him during thunderstorms.

Even when Dad took the training wheels off his bike, you held the back of his bicycle seat in a death grip. While he pedaled and wobbled and finally took off on his own, you couldn't quite picture the day when you'd have to let go of him again and again, trusting that God never loses His grip on His children. He may extend a very, very long arm on the back of the bike seat, but He never lets go. He doesn't grow weary; He is always patient and kind.

Then the day comes when he is not riding the little blue bike you found on clearance at Wal-mart, but he's making payments for a jet black sports car that takes off every morning with supersonic speed. Sunroof open. Music blaring.

Instead of chocolate milk, he stirs up a protein shake for breakfast. Thankfully not at 2 a.m. He buys his own formula and, like a little boy, still wants to show you his muscles, except he's coy about it, coming shirtless to the dinner table.

He doesn't ask for lunch. He buys it at Wawa, and then says after two weeks he's gotta start taking his own lunch, saving money, feeling healthier.

You don't hold him during a thunderstorm; your relationship has become one.

The pantry contents go from zero to sixty after one grocery pitstop, yet "there's never anything good to eat around here." You are sorely tempted to buy the plaque that says "Bed and Breakfast: Make Your Own," but have this distinct feeling that such sentiments wouldn't reflect the servant attitude you know model all the time. Ahem.

I trust--I have to trust or I'd totally fall apart--that He who hung the stars in place and calms the angry sea and shuts the mouths of lions and opens the womb of barren women can and will bring me (us) through this test. For right now, God is keeping the training wheels on my bike, because He knows I'm still pedaling and wobbling down the sidewalk of motherhood. Good thing He's got a very, very long arm. Maybe when I learn to ride a real bike (as in when my kindergartener is almost 20), maybe then I won't fall so many times?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Restless Spiritual Legs Syndrome

I have a good friend who suffers with RLS--Restless Legs Syndrome. Some nights she feels she's gonna jump out of her skin. She can't sleep, read, or concentrate on anything else until her meds kick in and her legs settle down.

Spiritually I can identify. For a long, long time I've had Restless Spiritual Legs Syndrome.

I so much want to be a full-time missionary overseas where life is bare bones simple. But my husband is not called that way (that I can see) and I am discontent with the same-old/same-old.
I want a big adventure, something to do with my life that might actually mean suffering for the gospel. My suffering is usually self-induced (you know, waawaawaa, poorly-attended pity parties). My life is way too comfortable but I feel more distant than ever from people in my sphere of influence. What's wrong with that picture? I can't always discern the cause (physical, mental, spiritual, all of the above). All I know is there is a restlessness inside of me that won't quit. A longing to make the most of what God's given me, to have eyes to see my blessings, ears to hear, an obedient and patient heart, a desire to see Him increase and my self decrease, a great desire to see suffering of children CEASE worldwide. I've grown tired of hearing and talking about doing but not actually doing more. I can only hear so many messages, attend so many Christian functions (albeit good ones like care group and ladies' meetings). The most satisfying thing is getting outside the local church and into the local streets with the life-changing message of salvation. I've tasted it and want to tell someone. Not tell them to come to church, but to come to Christ, and then they'll figure out (thru the Holy Spirit's power) that they need fellowship.

For Restless Spiritual Legs Syndrome, it's easy to want to just jump from thing to thing. To not be still and know that God is God.

But like my friend, RSLS won't subside until the meds kick in. I know that my spiritual medicine is God's Word. It's my balm in Gilead. Time to take another dose!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Girl Time is Great Time

Just a quick update on what's happening here. Barb got in on Tuesday night. We gabbed a little and then fell asleep. Yesterday we went up to Lititz and did some shopping. (More like looking.)
This morning she accompanied me to co-op and helped me teach kindergarten art. She realized she is better suited for other callings, but I think she did very well. (Matthew Tritt learned that red, blue, and yellow are primary colors, whereas orange, green, and purple are "sanitary" colors.)

This morning I kissed Paul goodbye before his business trip to San Diego. Tonight we had a crab
feast--Barb's favorite Maryland treat--and then watched a chick flick. Tomorrow's plans: none except to take Joel to gym, then a short hike at Gunpowder Falls for some more talk time. Saturday? Scrapbook mania!

Having fun on someone else's vacation!

Monday, October 15, 2007

All I Need is All I Want

Wish I was always postured to say that. But today I realize my need for grace.

My best friend is coming from Kansas tomorrow!! Yippee! But my house is not ready. BOOO!
Thankfully my heart is ready for her. It's always ready to receive her. She is kind, compassionate, funny, sensitive, wise, knows me better than any other close friend except Paul.
And loves me anyway. We have a history together that dates back to third grade. She befriended me even though my dad was "the preacher" in a small town of maybe 200 people. Some kids avoided playing with a PK, assuming they'd get ratted out. But Barb and have secrets of troubles we got into that "the preacher" has never found out. No, I'm kidding, I started confessing one Thanksgiving while all my sisters were there to add to the pile of sins (mine AND theirs!). My dad's typical line when he can't believe something is "Oh, forevermore!" and he just laughs. Not his precious girls! My mom has always tried to believe the best, but she is far less trusting of flesh than Daddy is. So, that said, she figures Barb and I got into trouble that's best left back in 1975. We suffered natural consequences and pangs of guilty conscience far worse than a paddlin' would've given us.

I'll tell you the smokin' in the barn story some other day.

Anyway, back to grace. I need it. I want it. My house needs attention. Laundry needs to be folded. The van is in the shop getting new brakes, so I am housebound, which is good so I don't run off and avoid my duties in the name of grocery shopping. That can wait till tomorrow, after Bible study, which I really want to attend, provided I'm ready for Barb's arrival.

My Paul is leaving Thursday for CA so I need to pay him extra attention. (I already did his ironing and washed dress socks, so I think he's set to pack. I watched a movie with him last night, Evan Almighty, which I can recommend with 98% confidence. I seldom watch movies, let alone recommend them. This one's good; for all the humor, it made me grateful for Jesus my Ark of Salvation, the only Door to God, my Protector in the floods of life. It also motivated me evan-gelistically. How many comedies do that?)

Please pray I prioritize correctly. I had my quiet time this morning in which, by 8:30, I was able to agree with my husband on something that I was in disagreement about when he left at 7:30. It's a matter involving Sarah's recent decision that may result in her having to drop a college course she's halfway through. Pray for mercy on her professor's part. But even if her prof doesn't change his mind, I have a peace that I have respected her dad's input on the matter. I tend to be a fighter (thought the prof wa heartless not to see a freind's grandma's viewing as a legit reason to skip a test) but I eventually saw the prof's point of view, saw some error on Sarah's and my part, and realize it's gonna be a mercy call at this point. You can read the hardship on her blog, Homeward Bound.

I see glimmers of hope, like a robin's eggs in a spring nest, regarding the difficult test I'm "taking" from God now. It's good.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Got Clothes to Donate?

Real quick reminder to local folks: I am going up to the GAIN warehouse in PA tomorrow (missionary reunion of sorts!) . If you have been setting clothes and shoes for this purpose, please email me to arrange pickup.I'll be in Constant Friendship between 3:30 and 4 today but leaving my house by 12:30 for gym and errands. If you need my cell, call Mitzy or Kelly. They have it.

One more thing: I have been reading your comments and appreciate every one of them. Your prayers are being answered and when I get the green light to blog again at length, I will tell you about it. Still very much a work in progress, with the hardest part yet to go, but I see signs of new life.

My best friend from KS is coming in on next Tuesday! Spending lots of girl time together while Paul's in California will be such a lift! You know how it is. There is nothing quite like having that one special girlfriend who knows you, loves you, warts and all so much that she is willing to take her vacation time and hard-earned money to fly to see you. It's been a long, long time and this is an answer to prayer!

Anyway, if you've got donations of clothing and shoes, let me have 'em today! Label your bags; I will bring you a tax receipt form for you from GAIN.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Parting Company in Many Ways

It's been a terrible time for me emotionally lately. Suffice it to say I am dealing with death and loss on several fronts.

  • One friend's mom died Wednesday, another Saturday. Viewings and funerals, florists and food prep, have dotted my calendar and made me ponder again the vaporous quality of life.

  • I had a breakdown yesterday between grief, fatigue, my own very ugly and constant sin and grave sense of failure, and fighting with my family two hours before we were supposed to have friends over last night, one local and one from NC who's been visiting Sacha. (Kristin went on the missions trip with us.) I ended up cancelling with Sacha and Kristin, even with my table set and some Russian nesting dolls lined up as a reminiscent centerpiece. The family was feuding so much I asked Ben's football friends to leave.

  • I will be trying to break free from computer bondage and die to myself that way. Not sure how long it'll take, but I will take a blogging break at the very least; have to keep email up-- it's the only way some people communicate. I'll be taking more initiative to reestablish good communication with my family.

  • Death to old habits in other areas that need new life: my physical body, my house, my prayer time, my lifelong goals.

That's what's going on here in a nutshell. (I am the nut; the house is my shell. Both need prayer!)

So, if I don't comment on your blog for awhile, it's because God is winning here. As Dave Harvey said yesterday from the pulpit, "This is Only a Test." The design is wonderful, but the process is hot, stinky, and painful.

Farewell for a while, friends.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Gotta Get to C-Mart ! (Sale ends Monday)

Local gals, Mitzy told me about C-Mart's warehouse sale. You gotta get over there. Shoes and boots, name brand, perfect condition -- FIVE BUCKS. $5. Lots of sizes, including wide widths. (You have to dig through big boxes full of shoes that are rubber-banded together, but for the most part all the boxes are clearly labeled by size.) I bought 4 pairs for less than I'd have spent on any one of them.

Clothes are dirt cheap, too. (They're on hanging racks, don't worry.) I didn't have time to search, but Mitzy found sweaters and pants for five dollars each for herself. Kids' clothes , winter coats, 50-75% off the lowest price. I saw some that would cost just $6.50. It made me want to buy every rack for orphans and homeless children. Ah....if I were wealthy, that's what I'd do.

I saw some home dec stuff. Everything's final sale, BTW.

For those who want Halloween costumes, I picked up a Spiderman suit (not five dollars, but half price). Joel's facial expression was worth every penny when I gave it to him. Quick as a blink he hopped into the suit and mask. He's been swinging from housetops and rescuing old ladies from oncoming Mack trucks ever since.

For those who don't know, the 'warehouse' is in the far right corner of the store thru the double doors. This is the C-Mart at the corner of Rt 40 and Joppa Farm Rd.

I might see you there Monday!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Run Fast Up the Side of a Trench

My heart is aching and I'm miserable. Combination of sorrow and regret, bad memories, hard decisions, strained relationships, trouble sleeping at night, drowsy during the day. Death and disease in loved ones is all I've heard about for a week solid.

I've been a yo-yo about taking a job. My dear friend Kathy is at her 90-year-old mom's bedside in ICU. Sarah's co-worker's mom overdosed Sunday on pain meds and hasn't come out of a coma since. My husband's co-worker has been diagnosed with leukemia. The kids I carpool lost their grandmother yesterday. I lack motivation to homeschool. The pastor and his wife whom I've felt closest to for a long time are moving out of state. Needing surgery to repair that which has been severely damaged for five years. Not enjoying my home like I used to. Distracted in my quiet times. Longing for the simple pleasures I once enjoyed. Extremely irritable.

Needing prayer, needing to confess sin, needing to repent, needing sleep, needing relief from sorrow, healing from old wounds, wisdom for decisions, comfort for sadness. Needing hope. Needing Someone who is All That and More. The Great I AM. My Everything all the Time.

This week in Bible study, Kay Arthur in her video on "Lord, Heal my Hurts," drove one point home:

Run to God, Jehovah-rapha, the one Who heals you.

My tendency is to run to the "arm of flesh"--that is, to people and things that will put a Bandaid on my spiritual cancer. Things like food, medicine, TV, computer, books, hobbies, even sisters in Christ. How often I cry out to my friends first for help. They can't heal me; they can only point me to the One who can.

Please pray I run to Him first and fast. I may be in a trench, but I know how to get out: Run fast up the side toward Jehovah-rapha.

Mo and Tabletop Happiness

You met Flo in an earlier post. This is Flo's cousin Mo. When Sarah brought the two of them home, I had a hard time choosing which one would sit on the wreath, and which would sit in the little wicker chair next to the front door. So starting with the girl, I did the ole "Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo." Mo told me he's too manly to
sit in a ring of flowers anyway. He'd rather sprawl like a redneck in the chair with a cheekful of chew, but I said, "If you're gonna live at our house, you gotta live by our rules. Lose the chew."

Rather than go back to Michael's, he kicked his habit. Normally, they say, it takes 21 days to lose an old habit or form a new one. I'm so proud of him; he went cold turkey.

He hasn't given us any trouble yet, nor has Flo. If they do, I can beat the stuffing out of them.


With scissors in hand, I chose petals and posies,
Made an arrangement, a new Zo Z's Cozies.
They're all from my yard, except for the fern,
In a rustic, retro teapot I picked up in Abingdern.

Tall zinnia on the left, petunias dressed in white,
Short mums in the front, butterfly bush for height.
Leaves of flowering plum I kept upon their twigs,
Such joy that I have harvested long after springtime digs!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Just Hold their Hand a Bit, and Show them How

I think I've found the job I really want: tutoring at the local college.

Actually, it's not so much tutoring as handholding, from what I gather. I got a call back yesterday from a very sweet gal named Jenny after I'd inquired about whether they needed someone in their writing lab. As it turns out, they're looking to fill a position in the Communication Skills Center. "We are trying to help students become independent learners," she said. "A lot of students just need help learning how to study. How to pull the main ideas out of their reading. How to organize their notes, make self-study guides, prioritize assignments, that kind of thing."

"That's pretty much what I've been helping my own kids do for 15 years. " Maybe I should've bragged on them (they are my resume', after all), telling how well they manage their time between school, work, church, home duties, and social lives. How, once they hit ninth grade, I sat down on Sunday nights with them and said, "Here's what's due Friday, here are our outside commitments, and if you want to go to so-and-so's on Saturday, these must be done. It's up to you to fill in the blanks." Some chose to plod, others to double-up so Friday was free and clear except for gym. Taught them how to manage to their time so I wouldn't be holding their hands in college. (Academically, anyway!) Sometimes I fell into nagging, but that was rare (I think??).

I told Paul after the call that the pay is good and the hours are flexible. I can work around all the kids' schedules, not miss Ladies' Bible study or care group, can work Saturday if I want, days or evenings. It's really quite attractive.

Philosophically it bothers me that public high schools seem to emphasize team work and group projects to the exclusion of independent study. Not to mention that their students are constantly reminded when things are due. (Same goes for private schools.) My nephews on Baltimore City schools were not allowed to bring home books; if the books got lost, who'd pay for new ones? So here's the rub: after this group-minded subculture called high school, kids walk into their freshman year of college and suddenly they're expected to know how to study on their own, turn assignments in six weeks later without reminders, and juggle work and play with school. It's culture shock.

Help acclimate someone to a new culture of sorts? I can do that. I'm a global girl! I will applaud them for coming in for help, will pray (silently of course) for their success, and do what I can to help them learn not just new information, but how to dissect it, distill it, and dole it out in tests and papers. Sounds good to me. Please pray it works out.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Angels on Overtime

On September 11th, Sarah was in a car accident. You can read about it in her own words on her blog, Homeward Bound. It frightened me, but she wasn't hurt, nor were any other cars involved.

Yesterday I dropped my 16-year-old son Stephen off at HCC at 4 pm for the second of three driving session with his instructor. During that time, I ran errands and took Joel to the duck pond. Gorgeous day, I was absorbed in the beauty of the pond, the mallard ducks, the Canada geese, the joy on Joel's face and the softness of his face close to my mine. After praying a brief prayer that Stephen would learn to parallel park easily, I dismissed thoughts of his outing. The afternoon sun and breeze carried me to Kansas in my mind. (Some go to Carolina, I go to Kansas!)

"So, how'd it go? Was the parallel parking parallel?" I asked, upon greeting Stephen and his instructor, Dave, at six.

"Oh, yes, it was parallel," said Dave. "And the driving was ...exciting."

"What do you mean?" I asked. "Rolling stops? Strange turns?"

"No," said Stephen, "like almost a head-on collision."

"What? What!!" I searched their faces for an explanation.

The instructor said, "It wouldn't have been Steve's fault. He did everything right." Dave went on to describe what happened.
"We were on 543 . A small car heading opposite us slowed down to turn right, but the big Dodge Ram truck behind that guy was barreling down on him. Instead of slamming on his brakes, the truck crossed the center line to get around the little car, and came right into our lane. Steve swerved to the shoulder to avoid him, and the guy behind Steve did, too. If Steve hadn't done that, I'd hate to think what--"
"Did you have to use that extra brake?" I asked Dave.
"No, in this case we needed speed, and that's what Steve gave it. He did it so well."
"Praise God!" I said, "praise God. He protected you both."
Dave nodded and smiled. "We were really lucky. Really lucky this time."
"God protected you, " I restated, not acknowledging luck.

I don't know why God did that for us. It certainly is not the story of friends close to me whose teenage son was killed in a head-on crash. As I drove Stephen home on Wheel Road (the one on which Sarah had her crash), I felt tears well up in my eyes. Relief. (He's okay!). Gratitude. (Thank you, God!). Pride (Stephen, you thought so quickly!) Fear ("It could happen again, and will my child survive?) Sadness. (Why did Donna's son die?)

"He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep you in all your ways." I thought, "when it comes to cars and my family, Your angels have been working overtime." Flashbacks to the year 2000: I was hit twice--, once in January, once in August. Last year Paul was T-boned on May 11th, and struck by a hit and run in June. Paul's accident in Baltimore was at about 5:30 pm. Little did I know, a half hour later, in Philadelphia, our friend Tim Barranco stepped into the path of a speeding train.

Paul was not hurt. Tim died.

I don't understand it. I never will. All I can say is, I am thankful, I am so very thankful that God has again protected my family physically. I can no more keep them alive by keeping them out of cars than I can by standing at their bedsides while they sleep, but I am tempted to think I have that kind of control. Shame on me for thinking that. Let me instead, O Lord, continue to give You thanks for the countless times your angels do your bidding that I'm not even aware of.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Harmonica for your QUIET times?

Yes and amen!

Leanne, whose blog is called Learning to be a Student (see sidebar, I couldn't get the link to work), just asked about quiet times and what helps.

I told her that I recently discovered my son Joel's harmonica. It's a real one--metal, not plastic--that I gave him as a baby; wanted to nurture his musical bent. (After all, I had prayed while he was in utero, Dear Lord, please make him an evangelist and a musician.) He "played it" (slobbered with an occasional note coming out) from the time he could sit up and has since found the piano, the drums, the guitar, and the harmonica again. (Not to mention his beautiful singing voice with nearly perfect pitch.)

Friday he brought his harmonica to me during my devotions. I played "Amazing Grace" and immediately my heart was lifted. Not completely unburdened, but certainly more God-centered. How often my prayers are about me. It's terrible to be in conversation where the other person only ever talks about herself, doesn't ask how you're doing, doesn't notice your body language, or remember any details from your last conversation. How often am I like that with God?

Anyway, I digress.

Buy a harmonica. This one cost six bucks at Music Land. (By the way, don't buy a plastic one. Make it metal. Your baby can't swallow it and it's made to be slobbered on. Once they get the hang of making music, you want the sound to be "real" not "plastic" or else it'll discourage them.)

You don't have to be a musician to play one. Exhale on one note, inhale for the next one.

In/out/in/out , pretty soon you'll figure out
Not just a/b/c/d and e, but "Amazing Grace" and "Jesus Loves Me."