Monday, August 31, 2009


Lest I forget one of the most precious things I heard on vacation this year, I jotted it down on my Kidbits blog. That Joel o' mine can be such a sugar pie sometimes.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Memoirs of Second Grade

We lived in a rancher in Kansas City when I was in second grade. I remember it well. It sat back a little ways from a busy street, Barry Road.

It was the year we got our first puppy, a purebred Sheltie we named Lassie. She was only $75 because she had a broken leg which was in a cast, but she was sweet and beautiful. She yelped and whined all night long for three nights, and Daddy told us to just ignore her and for goodness sake, don't let her in bed with you. We obeyed, but it was the longest three nights of my childhood.

Second grade was also the year I went by my middle name, Marie. We had moved to Kansas City in the middle of the school year, so everyone in school was already connected to their clique. I was the new kid in town, wore glasses, had curly hair in a straight-hair era, was poor but didn't know it, and hated my weird first name. Hated it.

I asked Mrs. Schmidt one day if I could go to the bathroom and she kept saying "wait till I've handed back all the tests." She would call up three students at a time to hand back their tests, alphabetically by last name, but it felt like by first name, I had to pee so badly. I was wearing a fashionable yellow maxi dress that day (as fashionable as poor kids can be) and stood at her desk while she handed back my test. All the while a warm yellow puddle gathered between my shoes on the floor. I was standing there with two other kids, petrified. That's all I remember. I've repressed what happened next.

I do remember it was the same year my parents took in an abused wife, Norma (not her real name) with her three children. I think Vince was 13, Debbie 11 and Darlene 10, something like that. Every night Vince had to pull out the sleeper sofa in the living room and put it back every morning. I slept in a room with my two sisters and Lassie. Norma and her daughters shared the third bedroom, somehow.

I remember the hot, early summer day the father, Jed, showed up out of nowhere, demanding his children back, threatening to do something if Norma didn't comply. All six of us kids had been washing the station wagon in the driveway. Daddy came out of the house and Mama quickly gathered us like chicks from a falcon's swoop. I wondered if Jed had a gun or something. I had never seen my father scared before that day nor look so valiant and strong. My mom made us wait in a back bedroom while Jed and Daddy talked. Ted was big and angry and wore a business suit. I never knew a daddy could be mean till I saw Jed; I thought only nice people like my daddy wore business suits. It all seemed so wrong. It was all wrong. Jed took his family back, including Norma. I never saw them again.

Norma, we found out later, became mentally ill and wrote demonic letters to us girls which my parents destroyed without letting us read. Then when I was about 14, she mailed a new batch one day. I wish I'd never read it. She claimed to be a prophetess with the power to take us away from our evil parents. I tore up the letter, cried, and had nightmares for weeks. Shortly thereafter I heard Norma had shot herself to death.

That was the only traumatic thing I remember about living on Barry Road. My sweet memories include the only neighbor I remember from that place. Mr. Van was his name, and he lived next door in another rancher, with just his wife. I remember thinking how big their house must have seemed to them compared to a house the same size with nine people in it, and wondered if they were lonely. I don't remember a single thing about Mr. Van's wife, not even her name. When the crab apples fell off the tree, all over his backyard, Mr. Van asked me if I'd like to earn a nickel to pick them up and put them in paper sacks. (They call bags "sacks" in the Midwest.) I can't recall if he paid a nickel for each crab apple or a nickel to fill the sack, but being an outspoken people-pleaser, I agreed. We were poor, I was bored, had nothing better to do. And, I was a better recruiter than employee so I figured it'd be easy money. As always, I roped my little sister Andrea into helping me. Now that I think about it, it was probably a nickel a sack but it sounded like a good deal at the time, especially since I did more talking with Mr. Van and his quiet, forgettable wife while Andrea did the actual work. Some things never change.

But I digress.

We were never allowed by my parents into Mr. Van's house. In fact, I do appreciate now how protective my folks were without smothering our social lives. Somehow picking crab apples and talking in the yard with a couple who took a shine to us created a warm bond. I remember the day our moving truck pulled away from the house, onto the busy road, past Mr. Van's house, and toward our next house far, far away. My parents kept calling the U-Haul a moving van, and I kept crying, "It's not a van. There's only one van, and that's Mr. Van, and I'm going to miss him so, so much! Why do we have to keep moving every time I make new friends?"

Saturday, August 29, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like ...Football

According to Stephen, "Ben's people" are coming over tomorrow. Eleven of them altogether, to "kick off" their Fantasy Football season. This league will dominate Ben's attention, I'm sure. Will he do more accounting of the UB class type, or keeping columns straight based on the gridiron?

I remember the early days when Ben got into Fantasy Football. I really thought it was just child's play, nothing to lose sleep over or prioritize in one's work or school day. How wrong I was. We were homeschooling at the time, and I think Ben was in ninth grade and aspired to become a sports journalist. Recalling stats and scoreboards came as naturally to him as belching. At his young age, he gained respect quickly among the pigskin junkies at church. Skilled in the art and science of trading players, Ben got used to taking first or second place--even among the old married guys.

One of those old married guys (okay, YOUNG married guys) was a swell pastor named Jason Reyes. A die hard Ravens fan, he wasn't about to be shown up by some high school kid. One morning, right in the thick of a history lesson, the phone rang. It was Jason asking to speak with Ben. He sounded cordial, as always, but on a mission, also as usual. I was seriously curious about why Jason needed to speak with Ben. Normally a pastor speaks with the parents first on weighty matters, which I supposed this most certainly was.

I handed the phone to Ben and proceeded to do what any good mother does who wants to keep tabs on her kids: I eavesedropped.

Weighty matter, my behind! (And yes, I mean that in more ways than one.)

Jason had called to trade a player! Ben wasn't fazed by pastoral pressure, either. I heard him pause to consider, counteroffer, laugh, withhold, and finally seal the deal.

Anyway, Ben is now captain of this league and is therefore hosting a big subs-and-wing shindig after church tomorrow. He did all the grocery shopping for it (the guys put money toward it, as is the custom on these things). He's cleaned the basement, set up a table including a tablecloth (I'm impressed!). Looking forward to the excitement in the house tomorrow. I won't be here (can't handle the T Zone--Testosterone Zone--) so I'll be escaping to a bridal shower. The Estrogen Zone.

I have to say I really enjoy watching my children's gifts and talents on display. Ben's organizational skills and social networking (as he loves to call it) tickle me. His collection of money up front for the food and drinks, his bravery to try cooking wings on his own, and his leadership ability in the whole matter. I really am an ardent fan, much moreso of my kids than of football. But a little (or a LOT) of loud, deep, happy voices chatting while picking players from a hat is a pleasure to even the girliest of moms.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Myrtle Beach Memories 2009

Pictures are forthcoming, but I wanted to record my memories of our vacation while they're still fresh. Because, as we all know, at MY age, things are slipping fast. Here are the bullet points from the beach.

1. The van's problem was diagnosed and fixed the same evening, and so minor it embarrassed Paul. It was a dead battery. Though he had charged it plenty, Paul thought it was something else since the battery was only bought 8 months ago. Ron swapped it out; the new one cost nothing as it was under 12 mos old. Ron only charged us $25 for his time. Hallelujah! Paul was feeling "a thousand percent" after his fever broke the day before we left. As for my hairdresser, haven't heard back. I need to call again. IF I don't get her, I'm calling the dog groomer. I coudln't stand my bangs in my eyes, so I trimmed them myself; my hair has gone from Llaso ApZo to ShihTZo.
2. We had perfect weather. Left Sunday morning and had nothing but sunny skies in the upper 80s/lower 90s till our return trip Thursday, and only then it sprinkled in the early evening.
3. It was great to be able to leave the house and dog (who seems just fine now) in the care of our older boys. Ben and Steve couldn't go (or didn't really want to) because they had to work and had already taken time off for their own beach fun back in the early summer.
4. Joel made a bracelet--er, watch--out of gummi bears he stuck together on his wrist. He used only the yellow ones and called them the Golden Brothers. Got a picture of it on Sarah's camera phone. Such a proud jeweler.
5. Our room at the Caravelle was on the 15th floor directly facing the ocean. Splendid views of the Atlantic. Nothing like seeing and hearing God's great majesty on display while trying to concentrate on His Word from the balcony in the morning.
6. For the third year in a row, we got to spend the week with our friends, the Grants. They had just their three youngest kids with them (ages 6-12), whom Joel adores. This year their condo was only 9 blocks from ours--superb for making get-together plans on short notice.
7. Sarah surprised us with an unexpected blessing. She offered to babysit all the kids so that John, Renee', Paul, and I could go out on a double date.
8. We took her up on the generous offer Tuesday night and went to the Key West Grille at Broadway on the Beach. Ironically, it had been recommended to us by a hostess at a different restaurant who told me on the phone that it's quieter and a better atmosphere for a double date. It was sort of my pre-birthday birthday dinner.
9. Had a very sweet but very bad waitress at that restaurant. Maybe she was just new, but it took 4 requests for sugar before she brought John sweetener. He said "sugar, not sweetener" and she ran around till she found some. She told us the chicken satay appetizer fed six, but the little lean-to presentation of kebabs had only five skewers. John asked her what the 6th person was supposed to eat, the rice?-good thing there's only 4 of us here. I asked for a Mai Tai. She didn't know what that was, but I knew the bartender would, so directed her to him for the contents thereof. It was good but not especially pretty. I like pretty drinks. Renee' ordered a pineapple/ham pizza without cheese. The pizza came smothered in mozzarella, so she had to send it back. We were nearly finished before her remake arrived. Thankfully her husband and mine found plenty to talk about; they both love guitars and music in general. John had just invented a microphone for drummers to use in tight spots, and had the starry eyes of a mad scientist the whole night. Paul, who is usually a man of few words, asked him question after question. During dinner, we spotted our friend Seth from church. His wife Crystal, was with him at a nearby table. What a wonderful thing. Made me wonder what heaven will be like, saying "hi" to brothers and sisters we knew from another context in a place of feasting and friendship. We also talked about our kiBoldds, but what a mixed blessing it is to be at this stage of life. Our youngest can swim well and so we're not panicked in the pool--we can actually relax, but our oldest are in college and able to choose whether to join us for vacation. It's a bit sad that they declined. But it's happy for the younger ones who have more of their parents' attention (and money) and aren't lost in the grown-up world. It felt really good to get all gussied up with lip gloss and jewelry and shiny sandals, and have three solid hours of uninterrupted adult conversation and not be a parent on the clock for a change. Thank you, Sarah!!!!! The evening ended with a fireworks display over the water, a spectacle that beat the 4th of July hands-down. In my egocentricity, I kept thinking how special it was that they'd shoot off this fantastic show to usher in my birthday.
10 . For the first two and a half days, we did pretty much everything Joel wanted to do. On the third day, he got angry when I told him Dad and I were going to do thus-and-such before he could do this-and-that. He pouted and then said something I had to squelch laughter about. He said, "But Mom, you've already BEEN a kid. You've already HAD your fun." Hmm. Guess at 44 you can kiss good times goodbye. You're washed up and over, all amusements are behind ya.
11. On Wednesday morning, my birthday, my sister Rachel called from Texas. She must've had to work because it was 8:10 a.m. I jumped out of bed to answer my cell phone, which by then had clicked over to voicemail. Oh well. If ya snooze ya lose. I went back to bed for an hour and, when I really got up, Paul and Joel sang the first line of "Happy Birthday" to me. Sarah rolled over on the Murphy bed and said, "oh, yeh, happy birthday." Mm, such enthusiasm, I could hardly contain the well wishes. By noon I'd heard from Steve (who'd been texted a reminder by Sarah) and by 10 PM, Ben texted me an HB wish (also reminded by the girl). My two other sisters, Andrea and Jill, called as well. I think my parents forgot.
12. Thanks to our hubbies, Renee' and I got our now-annual, hour-long, professional massage. This time we returned to a place called Celestial Spa and both agreed it was The lady who owns it has a Christian symbol on her signage. The therapist, Fatima, who treated me, is of Arabic descent. She asked me about my name. I told her it's of Greek and Hebrew origin. I couldn't help but think "hey, an Arab giving a Jew a massage. Only in America, right?" But I didn't say anything, of course; she literally had the upper hand(s) in the situation.
13. I got the tan I wanted, and never had a painful burn. I've grown wiser over the years. The first day I use a little lotion, the second day more, and the third day I apply Blue Lizard, a super-strong sunscreen the pediatrician recommended when Steve was going to Mexico. I wanted to be able to enjoy the massage completely, and that I did. Sarah didn't listen and Paul told me Joel didn't really need it. They all burned. How old does a woman have to be before people listen to her sage advice?
14. I learned the hard way that it pays to plan a menu down to the spices necessary when on vacation. This year I said, "Ah, we'll just buy food down there. Some shrimp and pasta with spinach, bacon, and onions. Perfect!" Well, it would've been, had we had a little SALT, and PEPPER, and GARLIC at least. How lame. The only reason we ate it was that we were so stinkin' hungry by the time I served it at around 8:30. I also had a senior moment (coming more often nowadays) while cooking. The only baking sheet, per se, was a shallow roasting pan and its metal drip pan. I had a whole pound of bacon to cook (some for dinner, rest for breakfast) so I said to myself, "Great, I'll cook all the bacon at once in the oven. " Normally that's a brilliant plan. But as I said, the kitchen was understocked on proper pannage, which didn't bother me, seven minutes later... the smoke alarm blared. Paul bolted from his perch on the couch and silenced it with a swift wave of a towel. He opened the oven door to observe of my brainless act: bacon grease dripping through the holes of the drip pan onto hot coils. "How many years you been cookin?" he asked. I had to remind him that his wife is one smokin' hot woman, what can he expect? He failed to see the humor as he had to do the towel wave three more times while I, smokin' Mama, wedged a pink flip-flop in the front door to let copious carcinogens escape the condo.
15. On the evening of my birthday, we went out with the whole Grant-Zub entourage. Ate at the Texas Roadhouse and had another long, leisurely evening wining and dining, with the adults on one end, kids on the other. They sang the entire bithday song to me in the parking lot. Lovely memories.
Except for one--on day two, a kid literally put the "poo" in "pool" which meant no swimming the rest of the gloriously hot day. Other than that, we thoroughly enjoyed our R&R in MB, SC.
16. There was an ice cream every day in the adjacent parking lot that played, among other songs, Christmas carols. I found it pleasant, actually, to hear "O Come Let Us Adore Him" next to "Oh My Darling, Clementine" in August.
17. And Joel is now the happy owner of two hermit crabs whose names change daily and for which I have zero affection.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Tomorrow we are supposed to leave for vacation. Not all of us; the older boys have to work and have already had their beach bumming time this summer.

But I have some concerns to pray about.
1. Will our van be fixed in time or will we have to drive Plan B (Paul's car)?
2. Who will be the chief driver? Paul is running a fever. He thought it was a sinus infection, but now is convinced it's a virus. He's had chills and congestion all morning. I love to drive, but if I know our destination is more than an hour away, I get very sleepy in the first 15 minutes Doesn't matter if I'd had a full night's rest or not.
3.Where is Ruth, my friend and hairdresser? I can't get hold of her. My concern is now only 10 percent vanity at this point, but 90 percent wondering why she hasn't returned my calls. I phoned her 10 days ago, and three days ago, and yesterday. It's not like her. I've tried both her cell and home phone.

The good news is, Molly appears to be fine. No more yuckoes since yesterday. The photo was taken by Joel a couple years ago, I think. He was on a kick of photographing her "sniffer." I chose this photo for the post because I think she looks "concerned."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Dayenu: The Canine and Car Version

I woke to the sound of Sarah's voice. "Mom, do we have a bandanna I can tie around my nose? The dog crapped three times in my room and once in the basement."

Thus started my day. Is this the beginning of the end of my sweet dog's life? Two days ago Molly had an accident in the basement. She is nine years old and we've had her nearly seven. She has had maybe five accidents in seven years, but three this week. I hope she just got into some bad trash. But I don't know.

And, as if yesterday's vehicle problems weren't enough," I thought this morning as I climbed into Steve's un-airconditioned Jeep to take Sarah to work, "it'd be pretty funny (NOT) if something went wrong with this one." I had to do some returns, follow the tow truck to Ron's garage, pick up some groceries, and call for a hair appointment. (With this shaggy mane in my face, my new name is Llasa ApZo.)

I discovered when starting to load the groceries into the back of the Jeep, the hatch doesn't work either.
I discovered that now, not only do the back right door and hatch not work, the right front door doesn't either.

Just as I was saying the words "as if they weren't enough," God quickened my spirit to the words of a song we sing at Passover. It's called "Dayenu," which means "it would have been enough." The song is upbeat, a prep to the hallel (praise) section of the haggadah during the seder. The words recount God's miracles to Israel. The Jews say, "it would have been enough if God had only taken us out of Egypt, but he parted the Red Sea. It would have been enough if He had parted the Red Sea, and not drowned the Egyptians behind us. It would have been enough if He had punished the Egyptians but not led us through the wilderness."

After singing 15 stanzas of "it would have been enough," one's heart can't help but have praise for God.

So I determined that I would come up with 15 stanzas (okay, one-liners) to help me see my car and canine problems from a posture of thanks and praise.

1. If God had only given us one good dog in our family, it would have been enough.
2. If God had not given us a second great dog after Lady, it would have been enough.
3. If God had only given us Molly for a little while to comfort us, it would have been enough.
4. If God had only given us Himself to comfort us, it would have been enough.
5. If God had only given us the van to take us everywhere we need to go, it would have been enough.
6. If God had only given us the Kia to take us everywhere we need to go, it would have been enough.
7. If God had only provided one honest auto technician ("don't call him a mechanic," says his wife), it would have been enough.
8. If God had only let us break down on the side of a safe road at dinnertime, it would have been enough.
9. If God had only chosen a produce stand for us to break down in front of, it would have been enough.
10. If God had chosen me to be a single mom with no one to call for help except Himself, it would have been enough.
11. If God had chosen a husband for me who had only compassion and no ability with jumper cables, it would have been enough.
12. If God had chosen a time for the van to break down when that compassionate husband with
jumper cables was not already close to the produce stand when we called him for help, it would have been enough.
13. If God had not provided a merciful care group member to bring Sarah home a few hours later, it would have been enough.
14. If Ben didn't have his own car, it would have been enough.
15. If I didn't have a blog, but only my mouth to praise God with for blessing us with sweet hounds and extra wheels, it would have been enough.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

What is Going on with our Motors???!

Yesterday was a normal day driving-wise for Sarah. Drove to work, no problem. Drove around town a while, no problem. Drove to JoAnn's and her car decided to leak buckets of antifreeze and overheat big time. I picked her up awhile later and when Paul got home, we filled the coolant thingy with water and got it home. Today Sarah followed me over to our trusty master technician, Ron, for him to fix. No biggie. We had the van. I could take her to work tomorrow if necessary.

So, with the van, we took care of a couple pre-vacation items. On our way home, Sarah wanted to stop for produce at a roadside stand. No problem. Got our cantaloupes, teeny cherry tomatoes, and an onion. Piled back in the van. She turned the key. Nothing happened. Well, actually something pretty kooky happened. All the lights blinked, the CD popped out, and all the dials on the dashboard starting spinning. It was hilarious to see the speedometer go all the way around. "I'm going to get a picture of it at 100," she said. "Sarah, that won't shock anyone. They already know you can do 90." "True," she laughed, "let me wait till it's at 120!"

Laughing aside, we had to call Paul who, thankfully, was on his way home from work. He tried to juice the battery with jumper cables. Nothing. Nada. Poor guy, one car dies on Wednesday, another on Thursday. He tried before and after dinner, to no avail. We just bought the battery in January, and the problem appears to be electrical. So Ron got another call.

I do hope he can fix the problem easily and quickly--as in by Saturday evening. We want to take it on vacation with us--a nine-hour trip each way. We have Paul's car if needed; it's comfy but Sarah and Joel are the only kids going and they are looking forward to taking turns getting the whole back seat to sleep on, and enjoy some movies en route on the DVD player. We've gotten so spoiled by this van on long trips that I am wondering what we'd do without it. God knows our needs. This is just a want--ease and comfort, so I don't even think I should pray along those lines, should I?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Metaphorically Speaking

Metaphorically speaking, I am a balloon full of helium.
I am a racehorse at the starting gate.
I am a NASCAR driver strapping on her helmet.

That's how I felt today after submitting my art supplies order for school . After weeks of scouring websites, books on hand, and resources from the library, I had put together all my plans for fifth and sixth grades, and most of the ones for third and fourth. I also had the joy of adding first and second grade materials to the long list. Now all I can do is wait for class.

Literally speaking, I am teacher who is super excited about school starting in three weeks.

Driving home from school today I kept thinking, "I wonder if every teacher gets this excited?" It feels like waiting for Christmas when you've got some great gifts picked out for children and can hardly wait for their eyes to light up. The comments I anticipate are along the lines of "Wow! This is so cool!" and "I LOVE this project! Can we do it again next week?"

I also have a great joy in welcoming the new first and second grade art teacher. She is my very own daughter, Sarah! When I was offered the job, I considered that one hour means four in art teacher time (planning, set up, clean up, hang up, grade). I also considered that my first love is third grade and up, no matter what subject. And I considered that, in order to get better at what I already do, I shouldn't take on more work. I was torn because I really love to teach art , and my almost second grade son was begging me to teach his art class .

Why? I had to ask him.
"Because I looooove you," was his reply.

Sweet and sentimental, yes, but would it propel me through 36 weeks? No. Before I said no to the principal, I prayed that God would find us just the right person who was eager about it. I was only feeling guilty for not being gung-ho about it. My philosophy, though, whether adopting a child or a pet or a job is, "Don't take it just because you feel sorry for it." I was feeling sorry that the kids might not have an art teacher, but I had no peace about it.

Thankfully Sarah had just come home from camp and was thinking schoolish thoughts again. She is studying to be an early elementary teacher (K-3). It's her first choice of ages. She also has been wanting more work experience to put in her portfolio. So when I asked her, she was thrilled. Best of all, Joel gets his "second mom" for a teacher. When I told him today while we were driving, I thought he was going to jump out of his van seat and kiss my neck.

So now, metaphorically speaking, there are three helium balloons in the house,
three racehorses in the starting gate,
and three NASCAR drivers strapping on their helmets.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

First Fifth of my Life: Three Influential Women

Pondering some thoughts from my Bible study recently, I wrote down the influential Christians in the first fifth of my life. That is, birth through age nine. Not that I'm quite 45-- I have a year, a week, and a day before that's official, if the Lord tarries--but I rounded up.

My first fifth of life was chock full of Christian influences. Of course my parents were the strongest ones, but three women stand above the rest in my spiritual formation in the early years. I remember a couple of people from as far back as preschool Sunday School. The little old lady named Miss Inie was my first outside-the-family model of Christ to me. (Maybe she was only 45, but she seemed like a chubby, elderly, soft old grandma to me.) Week after week she welcomed me to Sunday School and I LOVED sitting in her lap. I don't remember a thing she said, but I'll never forget her love.

The second woman's influence affected me before I was born, but I never knew her. I only knew her husband. He was a gentle, quiet old widower named Mr. Krueger. The kids all knew him as the Candy Man. Every Sunday after church he held out a brown lunch bag full of lollipops and little wrapped sweets. Of course we had to ask our parents-- who often used the candy promise as leverage before church and sized up our rewardability afterwards. I usually got candy. (I'm sure there was more grace on my parents' part than good behavior on mine.) It was Mr. Krueger's wife for whom I get my middle name, Marie. While my mom was pregnant with me, she had decided to name me Zoanna Susan, for two of her best friends. Marie Krueger told Mama several times, "Now, as soon as that baby's born, I want to bless it. I want to be the first to bless that baby." On the weekend of August 26th, the Kruegers went away to celebrate their anniversary. During dinner at a restaurant, Marie died suddenly. When my mother heard the news, she was crushed in spirit, but felt as if Marie had already blessed me by wanting to bless me. Her influence was so precious that Mama changed her mind about my name and called me Zoanna Marie. She saved "Susan" for my younger sister Andrea's middle name.

The third influence in my first nine years was a woman named Lois Long. She lived right next door to us in Alden, Kansas. Mrs. Long was always smiling and very hospitable. When I was in third and fourth grade, she started up a Good News Club in her home. She invited girls and boys who wanted to study the Bible and learn more about God to come over every week during the summer and sit and read and talk about scripture. I think she served ice cold lemonade and sometimes cookies. I don't remember what I learned from the Bible, exactly, but I learned how it felt to have my spirit cared for by someone other than my mom and dad. It meant more to me than going to Sunday School in that I didn't take it for granted. I felt special, like an elite youngster who was valued so much that a busy adult made time in her weekly schedule for me and a bunch of other elementary school kids, and never seemed bothered.

I felt such love from her that I believed she would actually want to attend my little sheltie puppy's funeral. Tot was only ten weeks old when I came home from my friend Barbie's house. Mama said Tot had turned over flat on her back legs in the air, yelped in pain for ten seconds, and then died--right there in the doggie pen outside our house. I cried and cried. I loved my fluffy little Tot. When I went door-to-door in our little neighborhood inviting people to the funeral in our backyard, Mrs. Long was kind and didn't laugh at me. She didn't come, but she must've been so gentle about her "sorry" that I didn't feel stupid for asking her to the "service".

When I went back to Alden for a visit several years ago, I stopped in to visit Mrs. Long. She insisted I call her Lois, but I couldn't. No sooner had I reintroduced myself than Mrs. Long welcomed me in, offered me a seat in her living room, and asked me about my life, my family, and what I had been reading in scripture. It was almost as if I had never moved away-- just gone away-- for a very long vacation, and was back telling her about my travels, which of course included Jesus.

There were other influences in my first nine years, but those three--Miss Inie from preschool, Mrs. Krueger before I was born, and Mrs. Long when I was on the brink of the second third of my life-- are on pedestals in my memory. I thank my God upon every remembrance of Miss Inie and Mrs. Long, and for the blessing of being blessed by a godly woman named Marie before my birth.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Be a Company Girl

For at least a year now, I've been a Company Girl. Simply put, I enjoy visiting Home Sanctuary, a blog by Rachel Anne Ridge. She is a down-to-earth Christian sister who admits that cleaning is not her greatest passion in life, but who understands that everyone can do a little something every day to make home more of a sanctuary.

Rachel Anne is a funny wordsmith with a knack for motivating homemakers to do one Small Thing. Sometimes the ideas are for cleaning and organizing, sometimes for how to put romance back in your plaid-flannel-pj's-of-a-lovelife, sometimes for stirring our minds to dwell on one lovely thought.

In other words, becoming a Company Girl is not so much about home work (though that is a part of it); it's usually a ticket to fun or a prompt to think in terms of sanctuary within your four walls. Check out the link in my sidebar. I enjoy thinking of myself as one of a group doing things, even when I'm alone. So today I shall be trying to get "off the chain" as I untangle my necklaces, sort my earrings, and round up my bracelets in my jewelry box. Thinking about that makes me oh-so-glad I passed up yet more accessories this weekend. Now if my tongue only had as much restraint as my fingers.

OH, and one more cool thing about Rachel Anne: she gives daily points for doing each Small Thing! At the end of the month, the Company Girl with the most points wins something good--or if she is in a tie--there's a drawing.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Please Pray for Matt

My husband's brother Gary died at age 33 from a ruptured aorta. We didn't know what it was then. His mom died one year later, three weeks before our wedding. The manner of death was so similar that Paul's brothers and their children (and Paul and our children) decided to get genetic testing. The diagnosis is a condition similar to, but not exactly like, Marfans Syndrome--a connective tissue disorder.

The worst part of the syndrome is indeed the enlarged aorta that develops dissections over time. Think of a balloon that you scratch with a dull razor over time. Eventually these tears cause the balloon to pop. Two of Paul's brothers have had a surgery to put a sleeve over the aorta. Many of the Zub kids have been on medication. Ours, thankfully, are okay.

But Gary's son, Matt, who was only seven when Gary died, is now 30 years old, and needs the surgery. He went in to Hopkins with chest pains and the very doctor on call at the time was Dr. Levy who knows our family's condition well and has worked personally on our case. He saw Matt when he went in (let's just ask "what are the chances?" outside of a God-ordained encounter?) saw that his aorta is dangerously enlarged. Matt is morbidly obese and hasn't had medical intervention prior to this. He is scared, he is questioning eternity, and he needs Jesus. The surgery is just over a month away.

Paul's brother Gerard has taken the lion's share of responsibility and care whenever Matt has had questions about life, death, health, and God. I am grateful for that. Matt's younger brother, Mike, also has great spiritual and physical needs. Naturally having lost their dad and grandmother to this disease is cause for alarm in them. It's a huge megaphone we believe God is using to get their attention.

Please pray for us all. It's hard to think about, to watch family members suffer, but we know it's not the worst news. The worst news has already been announced: they are sinners who have thus far rejected the cross. We pray the best news--that Christ died for them and offers them forgiveness and relationship with Him--lands on open ears.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Stormy Seas

My heart is not calm.
Beneath the facade is an ache I can't ignore,
pain that swells with each breath.
Hurts that don't go away.
Needs that aren't fulfilled.
Grey clouds cover my soul.

I need, once again, to know beyond a doubt,
and would love to hook my feeling to that knowledge,
that I am loved with
an everlasting love.
This love will last longer than childhood.
Or motherhood.
Or marriage.
Or death.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Today's Graces

So far today I've experienced a lot of grace.

From nine till eleven I had one of my nearly-5th grade art students come over and do a practice run on some art projects. She was itching to get of the house; her mom was itching as well.

Called a friend but she said she was out to breakfast, could she call me back? I was glad to hear she was out to breakfast; she needed the break.

After that I went to the furniture store to buy the botanical print (originally $179 which I got for $17 plus tax!). ANd I didn't have to deal with the designer I let go on Monday. It was an answer to prayer for relief. I hate conflict but I hate avoiding it even more!

Then I dropped off two bags of junk at Goodwill and ventured inside while I was at it. Saw the sign for Midnight Madness (starts at 8pm) and everything is half off. So I will go back for tongiht the things I saw I want: a Degas print (to reframe), an old framed world map, and a leatherlike ottoman for the basement that has a hinged lid, great for storing our plethora of blankets.

While there, I also spotted a lovely leather Giani Bernini purse for 12 bucks. It passed the sniff test just fine, but I kept going back and forth. 'Do I need this or want this? It's a great purse! But I have a bunch of great purses. How about if I buy it tonight?" But I stood in line anyway, convincing myself it's awfully hard to find this great a handbag anywhere for $12. Then, just as the lady ahead of me was finishing her transaction, I stepped out of line, put the purse back and caught the eye of the lady BEHIND me. I looked at her and said, "I don't need another purse. I really.don't.need.another.purse.
She exclaimed, "I'm so proud of you! I really am!' You'd have thought she was my husband's alter-ego the way she carried on. I smiled and said, "That decision just took every last ounce of self-control."

I am also happy to recall that I lost another 1.6 pounds yesterday. That's 19.6 total. My next goal is "22 by 44"- 22 pounds off by my 44th b'day (two weeks from y'day).

I also tried something I've never eaten before: a fish taco. It always sounded gross whenever Paul ordered it. But I was really hungry for Mexican while I was out, so picked up a taco trio from Baja Fresh--one shrimp, one chicken, one fish. I ate the shrimp and the fish and brought the chicken home from Sarah. I must say it was quite good.

What graces have you experienced today? I know mine don't sound superspiritual, but they are: self-control, answered prayer, fresh faith, encouragement. Sometimes they just don't come from Galatians, but from Goodwill.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Working on it

My blog redo, that is. How do I get the "cutest blog on the block" sign moved out of the way?

I want to remove that pen picture in the header, but every time I click on Edit (header) in the dashboard layout, nothing happens. It's stuck. The other buttons work. Can anyone help?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It Would Sure Be Nice if...

Relatives remembered to call on birthdays--yours and your kids'.

Adult always acted like adults and pulled their own weight.

Designers actually designed for you rather than handed you a computer layout and told you to go home and use tape on your floor to measure out where you think everything should go.

We still had potluck dinners at church.

People would email personal stuff more often: not always funny forwards, requests for money, or their political agenda.

Readers of this blog would all leave comments.

My kids wanted to go on vacation with us badly enough to ask off work.

Every pound I lost would stay off without work.

People would call just to say hi and not just when they want something.

Portable phones would recharge themselves no matter where you left them.

Hospitality were prized more than busyness.

My family members would verbally acknowledge the things I do right.

Neighbors knew each other like we did in the old days.

Barking dogs were silenced after three minutes by their owners or police or God or someone.

People could ID every state on a US map.

The hairstyle I wanted would create itself every day and stay that way till I was ready to change it.

We had a different person in the Oval Office. I've never been more afraid for our country than I am right now.

People wouldn't call me a grammar snob just because I love to see apostrophes used correctly. I mean, if you know how to cut a straight line, would you want me to call you a scissors snob?

I'd shut up.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Making Lemonade out of Cardboard

Do you ever write angry blog posts and then delete them, or at least save them to drafts, ashamed to admit the depth of your negative feelings? I have drafted at least three such ones this weekend, and realize it's time to take my lemons and make lemonade.

I decided that, instead of keep on stewing about how crappy the customer service has been from my so-called in-home designer, I am going to take her place. (Oh, I have every intention of confronting the manager and the designer and saying they oversold me and expect me to do what the pro is commissioned to do. But I don't expect it will change the outcome. I think they have bigger spenders to deal with and our little job isn't worth much of their time.)

Now armed with the fire of disappointment and the courage from fellow bloggers and my family to attempt this project on my own, I am embarking on doing something I've always wanted to do and never before had the gumption: try my hand at an interior design presentation board.

This box, cut to 12x16, will represent my family room. I'll make the walls sage green, the color we plan to keep in here. I'll print out pictures of all the furniture we've picked so far, plus some we haven't. I'll sketch in some lamps, throw down a carpet sample, fill in the sliding glass door area with a woodsy scene to simulate our pretty view outside. Then I might just treat myself to a shopping trip at Joann's for some new window treatment fabric and maybe, just maybe, find a pair of pillows that would look absolutely splendid on the new leather sofa.

Am I forgetting any details? If you've had experience with interior design/decorating boards, please let me know if there's a simpler way. I tend to complicate things in a unique way.
I can do this. Eat your heart out, Lynda Carter.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Birthday Blessings to a Blessing of a Son

Dear Stephen,

You are 18 years old today.

I can hardly believe I just wrote that.
Eighteen years.

This morning I was remembering the evening in late December of 1990, in an "upper room" of the Greater Baltimore Crisis Pregnancy Center. I was a volunteer counselor; it was my calling to minister hope and peace to women who found themselves in (or got themselves into) seemingless hopeless situations. Yet, here I was, happily married, mother of two toddlers, at Christmastime, terrified and waiting for a pregnancy test to run.

One of my coworkers, Candace Grasso, sat across the table from me and took both of my hands in hers as I wept and told her my fears. Three kids in four years? What would people think? How could I possibly handle three? Why would God choose me to mother a third child when I felt so lousy to the two already in my lap? Postpartum depression nearly killed me after Sarah was born. I can't go though that again! I can't do that to another child! How would he turn out with a mother like me? I had neither hope nor peace in that moment.

Candace listened. I don't remember anything she said except this: "Zo, all you see is the here and now. Just think: this child could grow up to be the next D.L Moody or Billy Graham."

And then a miracle took place in my heart. Candace read the test result. "Praise the Lord, Zo. It's positive." All the fear and dread was suddenly replaced with hope and peace. I can't explain how it happened, but in a flash, I was filled with an eager anticipation to meet you, my third child. However, unlike what Candace said, I didn't think you'd be a "he" but a "she" and I would name you Hope. (Guess I got that wrong.)

I could not fathom how easy you'd be to raise. You were a very happy, easygoing baby. Not a crier, not sickly except for repeated ear infections. You slept well, ate well, played well. You smiled all the time. Basically every mother's dream, especially after the nightmare of a colicky child and depression. You could memorize anything, including the first book I read a hundred times to you. Remember Bobby's Zoo? You can still quote it! We'd all get the chuckles hearing you race through it. You loved to sing with Sarah. The two songs I remember you singing most were "Jesush Yuvs Me" and "The Fwoot of God'sh Shpirit." Jesus called you His child at such an early age that you've been deeply convinced all your life of His love--and have borne much fwoot from that conviction.

Fast forward to this morning. It's 7:30 a.m. and I open my Bible study book, Believing God. The title of the day's text is "One Believing Man." It is a brief biography of none other than Dwight L. Moody. As he set sail for America from England, Moody received a verbal blessing from a London evangelist named Henry Varley. Varley told Moody, "The world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to him."

Fully and wholly consecrated. That sure does describe you, Stephen. I have never known a teenager with the thirst for God's Word that you possess. It's uncanny the way you soak up scripture. By your bed is always the Bible, and resting on top of it is a book of theology, doctrine, or discipleship.

You love being at the church. Love it to the point I could say, "Zeal for his Father's house consumes him." A few weeks ago you went to men's reading group at 8:30 a.m., and at 11:30 you weren't yet home. I called you and asked why you were still there. You were cleaning bathrooms. To me that is the penultimate mark of humility: cleaning public toilets. Nothing is beneath you because you realize your lowliness in the the presence of a holy God.

I have seen this past year a mindboggling array of ways God has used you: as a drummer who truly worships with joy, as a camp counselor to 4 and 5 year olds, as a children's church helper, as an encouraging blog writer, as an employee at a Christian bookstore , as a computer problem-fixer, as a godly older brother to Joel and younger brother to Ben and Sarah, as a sound techie, as a student who proclaims his faith on campus, as an example to men more than twice his age, as a son who gives wisdom, peace, and hope to his parents.

This year I have heard, over and over, confirmation of what God spoke to me through Candace while you were being formed. The confirmation runs along the lines of your having the heart of a pastor and preacher. Just think...DL Moody...Billy Graham.

Those were two of the greatest evangelists who ever lived.

And I think of you as the third, on the cusp of a widespread ministry.

For reasons I'll only discover in heaven why I was chosen to mother you, I am deeply humble.
Blessings to you, my Third child. You are, by America's definition, a man now. By God's, you were a man years ago.

Truly, "the world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him."

All my love,

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Disappointed. Now What?

The moment I had been so excited about this week finally came, but what a huge letdown.

It was about our family room design appointment at a local furniture store. Three weeks ago Paul and I wandered in and took our sweet time looking around. Found a sofa we loved on sale. Then went to another store and found a recliner we loved. The second store's manager told us we could get a free in-home design done complimentary if we were going to buy a "reasonable amount" of furniture. I asked what the designer would do. She comes to your house, I was told, and takes measurements, talks to you about your tastes in style, color, fabrics, and then goes back to the store and scours the resources (pieces in the store and in catalogs). Then (again, this was all told me by the manager) she brings you in to see her presentation. "Ever watch Designer's Challenge?" Yes, I do. Love it. "It's like that."

The designer came out and spent time measuring the room and sketching it and talking to me. We agreed to the "worldly" look. In addition to maps and globes, I like clocks, foreign words, the alphabet. We like cherry wood, leather with nailhead trim on the seating, wrought iron and mixed metals. Need better lighting. Want to keep sage green walls. Plan to put in a fireplace. Yada, yada. Lots of information. She took lots of notes. She also told me it would be helpful to go down to the larger showroom and make a list of things I like there to give her an idea of my style.

I did that within the week. Took a good hour and 15 minutes, pen in hand, jotting down item numbers and even sketching some of them. Got excited thinking I could hand her my style choices and she, the professional, would pull a whole room together, editing what I gave her to fit the room. Even got excited about some of the lamps on clearance for ridiculously low prices.

Went back last week and the designer was on vacation. The manager took me upstairs and she kindly and patiently showed me the 90% off stuff. I adored a certain coffee table with wrought iron legs and a coppery top. I tagged a botanical print originally $179 for $17. Asked the mgr if I should buy it then or just put it with the other things I found to consider when the designer came back. She said wait.

Okay, so tonight I was all kinds of excited to go see our presentation. In my mind I am expecting something akin to Designer's Challenge, except with one board, not three to choose from. I'm expecting a large presentation board with a sage green background and pictures from the catalog of some of the pieces I selected plus a few the designer found for me. I was expecting that she'd show me physically this piece of art, that mirror with the French words, my chosen coffee table, etc.

What did I get? Two room layouts on paper, one showing a fireplace in the center of the back wall with the furniture this way, a second with the FP in the corner, the furniture that way.
No drawings, no pictures, no accessories, no window treatment ideas. She hadn't even looked at the back page of her notes where the manager had written down the 90% off stuff. It was news to her that the botanical was quoted to me at 17 dollars. The tag on it said 59. She also asked me if there was a sofa I liked there and I said stylewise yes, comfortwise, no. I liked the one across the street and was ready to buy it, and put accent pieces from this store with it. She told me to get her that information. I reminded her I had given it to her when she was at my house, or could she just go to the computer and look up the other store's website for the dimensions.

Oh, boy, boy. Now what? I am so disaappointed. I feel like I've done 87 percent of the work and she's done 13. There is no contract, mind you, but I do feel obligated to keep going with her plan, even though I feel like she hasn't worked very hard and I don't get the feeling she's going to. Paul said she doesn't have the personality for the job. I mean, not that everyone is Candice Olson, but this woman didn't even call me by name, misspelled our last name on her blueprint, and really didn't smile the whole time. I need wisdom, and patience, and a new perpective. What I expected and what I got were miles apart.

What would YOU do?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Testimony of a Food Prisoner Set Free

It is not easy to break habits, and I cannot say I've arrived. I think I'll always been just one sleeve of Oreos away from a return to Egypt if I don't continue to think about God's love and comfort. That's really where the battle is: the mind. And when I remember His love--and really, really think on how much He wants to love on me till I'm fully satisfied, I don't binge. My testimony is this: since April 29, 2009, when my walk in repentance from gluttony began, I have only "stuffed" myself twice. Twice in three months. I cannot tell you what a miracle that is. I used to eat to the stuffed point every single day, sometimes every meal. I just never knew satisfaction, that I could quit at a certain place before my stomach was in rebellion, my brain numb, and my heart filled with guilt.

I am on the verge of tears as I write this because it's the first time in almost 16 years I have felt this way. At the age of 28 I started spiraling downward emotionally and expressed it "outwardly" with food. I probably would've been a fatso long before that had it not been for my metabolism. I was still in bondage then, but thin. I think , looking back now, that gaining weight was what God used to show me my idolatry. I couldn't look in the mirror or at pictures of myself and feel free of shame.

But now, although I am still very much overweight (and have 80 pounds to go to my healthy, ideal weight) I look in the mirror and see a miracle. Someone else might see a fat girl, but I see a prisoner who's been set free and loving life in the outside world! Now losing weight is just a matter of fact and choice; I'm not a slave to my appetite anymore. I am free! Free to love the taste of food without depending on it for comfort or a temporary high. Nobody but God could do this. Nobody.

Last Wednesday night we had ladies' game night at church. On the snack table were loads of sweets and plenty of junk food. On the drink table, sugar free lemonade and water, maybe other choices. In the past, I would've made a beeline to fill a little plate with brownies, salsa and chips, cake, you name it. But Wednesday night, even after smelling it, seeing it in motion (being eaten), hearing people tell their recipes, and reaching the 8:30 habit of reaching for food (hungry or not), I was still not in the least tempted to eat any of it. All I can say is: this is not of my willpower. It's the power of God.