Saturday, February 27, 2010

Please Pray

for my uncle who lives in Honolulu. The tsunami is heading his way, and I'm concerned for more than his physical well-being. I think my dad also has a cousin and family there.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Gratitude List, Feb 8-14

Alden cookbook
peanut butter cookies (Mrs. Fair's recipe)
the color green
New Orleans Saints' victory in Super Bowl
watching Paul and Joel snuggle

example of commitment to God in Amy Carmichael's life
safety pins
healthy debate at dinner regarding family size
taker for our old fridge

fresh hash browns a la Paul
power outage for ONLY an hour
firefighters and other emergency personnel
Paul saying "no" to Ben re: snowboarding today
Lean Cuisine Chinese food when I'm in a pinch ("pinch" meaning "craving")

34 sunny degrees
Hot Hands hand warmers
long, hot baths
real Chinese food
prayer that combats fear

boys' safety to and from PA, snowbooarding
wisdom from a fellow teacher
listening to Joel read
baby green salad
pizza delivery

opportunities to bless others
ability to plan
knowing that pain is a barometer of love
"new" fridge from the Smiths

Arie's message on joy
Gary B's compassion
8 years of loving my Valentine baby
cards and chocolate from Paul and my dad
the Smith family

Gratitude List, Jan. 30-Feb 7

God's protection of us on icy roads
free-flowing conversation
Double T time with Bonnie S .
Easy Grade Pro application

Sarah's cookies
piano lessons long ago
family's commitment to serving church
bread machine
grace to (nearly)memorize Habakkuk 3

decent tires
nail clippers

encouragement of recited scripture
others' forbearance of my mistakes
pre-cooked bacon
ability of body to heal itself
color of eastern sky in the morning

God is one God, my All in All
cheese of all kinds
hot lunch fundraisers
Paul's gift of leading worship
catching a wife winking at her husband in a crowded room

songs of praise to God
example of Stephen, the first Christian martyr
I can't earn my salvation
never having to return to life or suffer to atone for sins

windshield wipers
shock absorbers
books on tape

sense of hearing
safety on slick roads (see a pattern here?)
beautiful snow
undergound power lines
tax return

neighbor who helped us w/ his snowblower
Joel's initiative in shoveling front porch
family working together to dig out
faith worth dying for
childhood memories

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Love-Hate Relationship with the Stuff of Life

My body and brain feel like mush.

But I have managed to remove everything from my kitchen bookcase and give it a deep dusting treatment. My preference would be to get rid of the bookcase altogether. It's big (too big) , oak (my least favorite wood), and tends to collect way more than books, if you know what I mean. The older I get, the less I like STUFF. Books, office supplies, Lego creations, art paraphernalia. I tried to figure out where to move the shelf to, but there is no better place. It would attract stuff no matter where it landed. And it is functional where it is. I mean, we do often use the office supplies, and I to refer to my art teaching books, and it is kind of cool to display a jumbo "Dad helped me with this" Lego aircraft carrier once it's been assembled.

But oh, boy, after visiting my friend Emily's house and seeing what a clutter-free environment looks like, I am so motivated to dejunk again--with a ruthless vengeance.
Why do I have love-hate relationship with stuff? I am not nearly as sentimental as I used to be (in fact, sometimes I teeter on the cynical when I'm around saps), so I've gotten better. I can throw away the thing someone gave me without feeling I've thrown away the person.

But I am not a minimalist yet, either. I want to be.

I am far less enamored of "stuff" than I used to be, but far from where I want to be. Why do some people have a lot of clutter and others don't? Is there more to maintaining "clean and clear" surfaces than just habit? I mean, I have to be in a real MOOD to fling it in the trash or the Goodwill bag.

Please explain your view of the "stuff of life" in your experience. I don't think that having "stuff" is inherently wrong, but I long to understand how some humans manage so effectively to keep clutter to a minimum even when they admit to wanting more of whatever it is they do like in terms of stuff?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Enough Pink

I knew I'd get tired of it pretty fast, especially as bright as it was.

Green is still my color of choice of the moment, and I found this background over at Cutest Blog on Block. My eyes rest much better now.

I am tired and ready for a long, long sleep. Just the thought of more snow on the way tonight makes me want to bury myself under a pile of blankets with a good book and a cup of hot tea.

I think I"ll do just that, right after I sleep. Sure, it's only 6:27 pm, but sometimes when sleep calls your name, you just can't say no. Other times, you just don't want to say no. That would be now. My honey's out of town, so I am off-schedule. Staying up late, getting up early, rinsing, and repeating.

Good night, world.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I'm not MIA

I'm just on overload right now. Plus, the washing machine isn't working and my dude isn't around to fix it, so I may be hitting the laundromat in a few days. (Which I love. I have this strange affection for laundromats. Really.)

Please keep praying. I have a deadline in two days and the thoughts aren't quite "gelling."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Craving Color

Although my previous blog background had a simple yet sophisticated understatement of grey and white, I just couldn't take it anymore. Too closely matched to the snow and the dirt that is now uglifying our snow piles.

Eighty inches of the white stuff since December 19 has been our total here in Maryland. I admit to loving being part of this historic "winter event," to have it literally right outside my window, but I am now craving colorful flowers and the color green like never before. I think that's why I love my new celery bedsheets: green is a color I haven't seen on the ground in weeks.

And, once in a while, I like a pop of pink. In small quantities, pink is good. It's a bit much in a whole room or a whole outfit on most people, but I like it here and there to accessorize. So, while the pink on this background might be excessive in a week or two, for now I crave bright color and it does the trick. (I found other backgrounds with less pink, but they were striped and I can't take stripes. Too hard on the eyes. Ditto with dots. Besides, I like change. Most of the time.)

Speaking of change, our pace changes today. We go back to school finally! Haven't been there since February 5th! The rest of this week, thank God, our county has 2-hour delays, which means we get to ease back into the routine. That's a pleasant thought. I was not ready for the jolt of early mornings and long days of being "on" mentally.

Hope all's well on your plot of God's green (or some other color) earth today.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


What do think when you hear this word?

Saturday, February 13, 2010


It's not any one particular thing, but a collection that have all met at the corner
of Down and Cast in my heart.

Tomorrow my baby turns eight. I can't get over how fast the years since his birth
have passed. The eight before his birth seemed unbearable. Longing for a child, another child, any child, is an indescribable pain. The joy I felt in having him, however, more than compensated for the agony of waiting. Yet I mourn the fleeting
passage of time as I realize I don't have a "baby baby" left at all.

Tomorrow is also Valentine's Day, and I'm feeling low. It has always meant the world to me that my dad has given each of his girls such love and tender affirmation throughout the year, and that he is gifted in expressing his positive emotions verbally--a rare skill from males, in my limited experience. Why am I feeling low, then? I think it's because I know in my heart of hearts there may be well be only enough Valentine Days left with Daddy as I can count on my fingers. I hope I'm wrong.

Feeling low because tomorrow I have to say goodbye to a precious student of mine.
She and her family are moving to Belgium, so this could well be the very last time I ever see her. I have been holding back my tears. What really hurts is that we haven't had this past week to spend with her or to give her a proper farewell party. We were snowed in and had no school at all. Thankfully, my co-teacher Cheryl and I got out today and decided on a collection of stationery for her, and I've added some of my personal scrapbook paper (which was always a big deal to her to choose from whenever I had special class projects requiring fun paper). I've also rummaged through and wrapped a large variety of my stickers for her to share with her siblings. They might need something to occupy themselves on the long flight to Europe.

Her leaving has brought back a flood of sad memories of when I moved a very long way at her age. Our family packed up and moved from Kansas to Maryland, closing the door on what I still consider the two most perfect years of childhood a girl could ever have. Whereas I could see nothing good about our move, "Mandy" is seeing their move as an adventure, which it is, and I adore her sunny outlook. Her smile and sweet nature are daily graces to me. I wish I'd told her so more often.

Anyway, I am feeling low. I could use your prayers. Tomorrow I will cry and try to remember all the good and wonderful things I have to celebrate instead of dwelling on my losses. To love is to ache once in a while. That's what my heart is doing today.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Coming Soon

A post for anyone having Zo withdrawal. HA! Got much to be thankful for, much more snow to show, but have no energy right now. I'm okay, just not especially in a writing mood. So I'm probably pregnant.


Monday, February 08, 2010

Fastest Meal Planning for a Month I've Ever Done

Check this out. I may never go back to old ways. Took me all of ten minutes to fill in the calendar with general meal ideas. And I got 100 points for it. Very cool.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Graphic Nature in our Neck of the Woods

My favorite season to photograph is winter. No matter where
I turn, I see lines and shapes that form beautiful images, too beautiful
to articulate. Not even a camera does it justice, but from the comfort
of my home, I have taken the following shots. What is so cool is that
I did not use any special settings nor edited these with any software.
I just have a good Nikon D50. God did the rest, right down to the lighting.

The way the snow piled and drifted up on manmade objects intrigued
me. Check out the wicker chair that looks like a pig nose.

Not sure yet if this snowstorm broke the record of 28 inches from 2003; the verdict is still out while weathermen argue about it. We didn't open our doors to put a measuring stick into the drifts, but if I had to guess, I'd say we got 26 inches at my house anyway. Nonetheless, it was deep, cold, and gorgeous.

Little Man with his Snow Shovel

Following in the footsteps of his dad and older brothers, Joel took a snow
shovel and helped to dig us out. No one asked him to clear off the front
porch; he just took the initiative. I thought it was too cute. When I peeked
out the front window with my camera, here is what I saw. He didn't see me
until I accidentally bumped the window with the camera. (Last picture.)

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Taking Flight

Perhaps it's because we're snowed in and have found out that BWI is closed until Monday, but I am feeling very homebound. I've been having urges to fly to distant lands.

My spirit is longing to take flight, not just my mind. To worlds unknown, to places I've never explored but only imagined through the power of books and pictures and others' experiences.

I sometimes wonder if my wanderlust and my longing for heaven come across as discontentment with my present life. Well, sometimes I do long for escape for the sake of escape. But I think, down deep, God gave me the heart of a foreign missionary because I don't crave the tourist spots; I want to work with orphans and share the gospel with old people like I did in Russia. I'm really wrestling with staying put and viewing my own home and workplace as mission fields.

Yet, I've been encouraged this week while thinking about mission work in the home. How grateful I am that I've gotten old enough to see that the seeds I sowed as a young mom have grown and reproduced through the ministries my adult children are involved in. That is very comforting. I did wonder when I was in my early 20s if my work mattered, if reading Bible stories and singing scripture songs with my own children could possibly compare with "going global."

Thank You, Lord. I see now. And my heart takes flight with joy.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Ready for More Snow, but Eager for Spring

Hunkering down this weekend, I think. Snow is predicted in feet, not inches. I have groceries, medicine, bottled water, games, books, clean clothes, hats....oh, but no waterproof gloves for Joel. He has cloth, but not vinyl ones that fit.

I went to Target today for food and gloves (along with 40,001 other women who were "looking well to the ways of their households" so they could "smile at the future"). Target was sold out of boys' gloves.

Church is being delayed to 2pm if we get snow, but I am fairly certain we won't be able to get up our hill even if we can get out of our driveway. Will there be a Superbowl party at our friends' house?

I love snow, but not to drive in and not to be in, quite honestly. Makes lovely pictures and for some romance, but I am just about ready for spring. One more good snow and I'm eager to see crocuses push up through the dirt under the flowering plum tree out front. This isn't a complaint. I'm thankful for all the beauty of snow, that we've never had a power outage, that we've had the means to buy plenty of food, that we have helpful neighbors who are willing to take chocolate chip cookies as payment for snowblowing our driveway, and for a host of other things. I'm just saying it's not the season that I like to see last a long time. That's all.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Clarifying, Smoothing Over, or Digging a Deeper Hole?

Unlike graded college essays in which I intentionally stated a thesis and then reread the entire paper to make sure that every paragraph supported that thesis cohesively, my blog posts often run willy-nilly through woods and streams of consciousness like the meandering of a brook in summer.

Such was the case with my most recent post, I do believe. My intent was to say this:

To list a fact such as "We cloth diaper" on one's blog profile comes across as petty and potentially divisive to the casual first-time reader who is both a mother and a guilt-prone woman (which may be redundant). That reader was me (or, to be grammatically correct, "That reader was I").

My intent was not to make a case against cloth diapering. (Cloth diapering has indeed come a long way, baby. I'll grant you that.) My point was that this blogger's three-word fact, though probably intended to draw in mothers of the same ilk--or should I say "cut from the same cloth"?-- managed to drive me to ponder the power of words.

From three little words came a plethora of memories--the worst being of heavy guilt (heavier than wet, poopy, bleachy diapers) from soiling the universe to failing to keep a lid on my pungent temper.

The stream of consciousness did, however, lead to a few pleasant memories.

1) thankfulness for that baby boy who was born on the first day of spring 22 years ago, thus ushering in more blessing and guilt than I was capable of imagining
2) all the times I heard "what a happy baby!" and I believed it was 50% because I changed his diaper so faithfully and cared for his every need (ahem!) and 50% because I was always smiling at him, which is where he learned his social networking skills early on (ahem again!)
3) my sensitive husband who can stretch a buck farther than any man I know, but who took my mental health into the cost analysis (or was it his mental health?) when he blessed me with the liberty to switch to disposable diapers (as opposed to heaping more guilt on me).

In conclusion (oh, what a terrible way to conclude a paper!) I will say that the blog-profile statement has raised my awareness yet again, of how words, by their very nature, include and therefore also exclude, certain meanings. Therein lies the rub-a-dub-dub.

Monday, February 01, 2010


Is "We cloth diaper" such a big deal that people feel the need to put in in their blog profile? I came across it while tooling sites of people I've never met, and just skimmed their introductory, get-acquainted lines. It's strange what three little words can do to your mind.

"We cloth diaper" gives me horrid flashbacks.

We cloth diapered 22 years ago because we thought it'd be cheaper. But boy, oh boy.

By the time I:

took off the wet diapers (I had to double them since they were thin)
rinsed them,
flushed the yucky solid stuff,
transferred the gross diaper to a bucket beside the toilet that held bleach water,
hauled the heavy bucket (or usually it was Paul who did this job) down two flights of steps to the basement laundry area,
pre-washed the diapers in hot water,
washed them through another hot cycle with bleach,
rinsed them twice to make sure all the bleach was out,
dried them,
folded them,
and finally put them away (like I had time to do that!)...

I had spent well more than the cost of a disposable diaper in time, personal energy, hot water, bleach, laundry detergent, and electricity than it would have cost to buy disposables. But guilt kept me from switching immediately.

I remember how guilty I felt no matter what: if I thought about the billions of disposable diapers in the landfills across America, I knew that our own thousands would be contributing to an already out-of-control pollution problem. If I thought about the mega gallons of bleach I'd have to use to get the worst of the diapers super clean and white (the only way I could bear to use them), I was dumping toxins into the local waterways. If I didn't change my baby right away as soon as he peed, I dealt with the guilt of neglect. If I did change him right away, I felt guilty from the anger of thinking, "But I just DID this less than an HOUR ago and I haven't even FED him since then!"

I do remember feeling guilty that if I asked Paul if we could switch from cloth diapers to disposables (which, at 25 cents apiece seemed like a lot on his $16,000/year salary), I was just being selfish. If I didn't ask, I would surely lose my mind in a bucket of poopy bleach water soon enough.

Finally I broke and asked in all timidity, "Honey, can we please start using disposable diapers all the time?"

Without blinking, he said, "Sure! I think it'd actually be cheaper than running the washer and dryer so much."

It was the single most liberating sentence he has ever uttered. It was the equivalent of those three little words every woman loves to hear.

So to read that this woman over at such-and-such a blog is espousing the cloth diapering thing? All I can ask is, "Does her husband really love her????"