Thursday, June 30, 2011

I Can See Italy From Here, After All !

Last night my husband and I went out to dinner to celebrate his Big Five-O. All the kids had commitments elsewhere, so I had him all to myself. I like it that way sometimes. Those green eyes meeting mine. The conversation uninterrupted by, "Dad. Guess what? Guess what?"

But hey, guess what?

We talked about Italy , and it's back on the map. Well, technically it never left the map, but it's back in our conversation. We had just bid the notion farewell for this August because of the cost to go then and also because it's the worst time to be in that country. And when we wrote it off, we entertained thoughts of a cruise instead, for half the cost. We also had people suggest places like Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and other points of interest with in our borders.

But, we concluded that we really DO want to see Italy more than go on a cruise and want to do it before we're truly old and decrepit. (He said this as he propped up his gout-ridden left toe beside me at the restaurant table.) We really do want to mark our 25th anniversary with it. We would rather take Joel on a tour out West and not connect it w/ our romantic getaway. Besides, hiking out West in August doesn't appeal to either of us. Hiking uphill doesn't either. That's work, not relaxation for us.

As it stands now, we are shooting for Italy in the best month to be there: April. We could probably get our older kids to watch Joel, it'll be after the stress of Ben's wedding in March,
and it will give us time to sock away a bit more cash for it.

So, I am very happy today. Makes me crave garlic, onions, and Roma tomatoes just thinking about it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wednesday Hodgepodge and My Husband Turns 50 !

Just had to throw that in there. Might have pictures later in the week if I break my own blogging rule. Which I'm allowed to do. It's his party and I'll blog if I want to, blog if I want to...

Okay, this week's Hodgepodgery.

1. What makes you stand to your feet and cheer?

Any excellent performance. I have to really love it to give an ovation. Or I'll stand for a person I admire and respect, usually someone who has affected me personally. I don't stand just because everyone else is standing; today's audiences aren't too discerning. I think they stand too easily for mediocracy. Also I stand for soldiers and veterans, but my throat gets stuck with emotion so I don't "cheer" except from my heart. Outstanding games, and I cheer embarrassingly loudly if they involve my kids. Any stellar recitation, especially long passages of scripture, for it's God's Word I'm cheering as well as the person quoting it at length.

2. What's your favorite patriotic song?

The Star-Spangled Banner. I cry.every.single.time I hear it.

3. Do you believe that opposites attract? If you have a significant other are you opposites?

Yes and Yes, most definitely. To name a few of our differences:

a. He is tall and I'm short. b. He's a saver and I'm a spender. c. He likes to be alone, and I love being around people. d. His perfect vacation would consist of going back to the same familiar US beach, hearing live guitar music, drinking fine wine, dining on good eats, working out, and watching TV. Basically being at home with a beach and guitarist-other-than-himself. Mine would consist of a passport, hearing my honey serenade me, drinking fine wine, eating good eats, playing tennis on a "good knees day," going swimming, taking a romantic, moon-lit walk on the beach, and beating him at Scrabble. Which I never do. He whoops my can every time with 89 points on three-letter words. Sometimes he makes me want to duct tape his brains to mine. e. He values pragmatism. I value aesthetics. f. He works out every day or runs. I ...well, let's move on...

4. You're going to get a behind the scenes look someplace...where would you like that someplace to be?

Okay, so when I read the question the first time, I read "You're going to get a behind..." and I started panting, "And? and? it's going to be high and tight?" I really had my hopes up that it was a fantasy question.

Well, I guess it is, but my behind has nothing to with it.

Anyway, behind-the-scenes look someplace...Goodness. That makes me think and I'm really tired right now. Part of me wants to see how the Duggars live when the cameras aren't on them. I can't stand thinking that such a sticky-sweet wife and mom with 20 kids exists. I would love to witness a real-live disagreement and see how they handle it.

5. How far would you have to travel to ride a carousel (merry-go-round)?

You mean if I enjoyed going round and round on fake horses instead of cantering on a real one from point A to point B? Well, I'm sure there are carousels closer to home, but the only one I can think of is about 2.5 hours away at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

6. When was the last time you saw fireworks? What was the occasion? Do you enjoy fireworks?

I saw fireworks at my cousin Craig's house in Texas on New Year's Eve 2010. They have hosted year after year, but living so far away, I've never attended. He and his wife weren't going to do it this year, but when they heard I (and other family) were traveling to TX over the holiday, they "pulled out all the stops."

Unfortunately, at 5 pm, just as guests were arriving to their home, their little girl fell out of a tree and broke her arm at the elbow. I can still picture the lower half of her arm dangling like a marionette's limb from the joint. So they left the party to the rest of us (we're the confident, "we can handle this eating stuff without hosts, don't worry" types), and took their daughter for emergency orthopedic surgery at the hospital where my cousin works. The fireworks were a wonderful memory followed by any ever fonder memory--listening to my aunts, uncles, cousins, sister, and Texas friends singing hymns in 4-part harmony around the firepit.

All good memories except for sweet little Carolyn's voice, "Daddy, I think there's something wrong with my arm."
He and his wife put so much love, time, and money into planning for us and their friends' great time...and then missed it!!!!

7. Of all the 'beauty products' you own, what item do you consider to be the most overpriced?

Ounce for ounce, it's a curl enhancing liquid by Jonathan (a Beverly Hills stylist who had his own TV show for a while). I watched how he tried for months-- or was it years?--to perfect his own product line. I think he succeeded. Standing O. Soft curls, no frizz, no goop, and it smells good.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I have changed this answer so many times it's no longer a random one. I am swinging from the very petty (I spray painted lamps) to the burdensome (my mom's new diagnosis of Motion Intolerance). Nothing is coming out right, so I'll quit here. While I'm behind. The scenes.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Arrivederci, Roma

We've decided not to go to Italy in August after all

Yes, we--my husband and I--have agreed to delay our trip to Italy. Indefinitely.

The reasons are many, but the two biggest are seasonal and monetary. After really digging in to researching for a trip (including word-of-mouth "advertising") it appears that August would be the worst month to visit.

It is usually hot, and most of Europe goes on holiday, which means many of them go to Italy, and many Italian business owners (hoteliers, restauranteurs, shopkeepers) close their doors to get their own R&R. Some hotels are not air conditioned. I don't do heat very well; Paul doesn't do crowds very well.

Granted, a romantic getaway should involve some hot and sweaty activity. (You people! I'm talking about spelunking, and if you don't know what that is, look it up!)

We've been told that September is the ideal month. Cooler. Shops open. Less crowded. However, it's just not an option because of school starting. August was our only month when we have built-in child care, thanks to our gracious and generous daughter, who was willing to take on that responsibility after the summer classes at college are over.

Who knows? Maybe God will send us a windfall and the opportunity to take our dream vacation sometime after we've celebrated our actual 25th anniversary. But if we were to go now, we'd have to go into debt to afford the costs which are twice in August what my sister Jill paid last November. I regret having gotten my hopes up based on the amazing deal she got-- $1200 per person, airfare and hotel included!

Am I disappointed? Of course.

But--here's a more than a tidbit testimony for ya-- I have a peace in the midst of the disappointment. That part is an answer to my prayer: "Father, give me a peace to accept whatever the outcome without getting angry."

If you knew how closely disappointment and anger are in my emotional make-up, you would realize what grace has been shelled out in this decision. It was actually I who said first to Paul, "I don't think Italy in August is such a wise idea." Normally it's the other way around, Mr. Finance putting the facts to Miss Wanderlust. It was not the Typical Me begging, whining, and having a tantrum over not getting what I really wanted.

Yes, it's only taken 45 years and 10 months to get to this point. (Ask me in late August how I'm doing.)

Arrivaderci, Roma. You shall remain but a dream. And a song. Perhaps I ask-a my groom-a to serenade me with thissa, on our anniversary date-a, which might be more affordable at the Bel-Loc Diner-a than in Italia, anyway-a.

Ciao, Tuscany, at least in my fantasy.

Bye-bye-uh, Venizia, temporarily. I pray for the day we can spend an afternoon...or two...or seven, enjoying your splendor and beauty.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Summer's Upon Us Like a Huge Wave Upon Two "Exchange" Students

I said I'd only blog two days a week. This is the second of two already, like it or not (I say to myself). Who knows, I may have to stack posts on top of each other on a single day.

I am using my blogger license to start this day with Wednesday Hodgepodge .

However, I am going to really discipline myself to answer each of these questions in two sentences or fewer. I think I can, I think I can.

1. Summer's here-whoohoo! What's your favorite sight, sound, AND smell associated with summer?

My favorite sight is probably speedboats on the lake pulling tubers (as in people in tubes, not potatoes and turnips--that WOULD be a sight!), favorite sound is the ocean lapping against the shore, and favorite smell is a toss-up between salty sea air and chlorinated pool water. Can't get enough of that H2O.

2. Fireflies or lightning bugs...what are they called in your neck of the woods?

Lightning bugs. They are the only kind of bug I like, and I adore God's ingenuity with each "light up" against the summer night sky.

3. What is something from the past week that reminded you of your childhood?

Watching my husband try to fix the vacuum cleaner (again) reminded me of how my dad could seemingly fix anything when I was a girl. From Barbie doll appendages ripped off her body, to a bicycle chain loosed from its bearing, everything went straight to Daddy to fix; no wonder the first time I knew I was "falling head over heels" for my hubby was when he fixed a too-big live Christmas tree into a too-small apartment I was renting.

4. Define 'the good life'.

Hmmm, great question, even though it's technically not a question, but an imperative. "The good life" is nothing without the hope and promise of eternal life, so it consists foremost of having an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ; beyond that I personally include the following in the definition of "the good life": an intimate marriage with someone of the opposite sex, a best friend of the same sex, children with whom to share love, life, and a legacy, a generosity of spirit, the ability to forgive and keep forgiving others, the assurance that all is well with my soul, and I would have to throw in daily bread, an occasional pedicure, and plenty of make-up to cover the flaws that have crept to my face after having lived a mostly good life for 40-some-odd (very odd) years.

5. Tell us what we'd see if you took a snapshot of your desk/work space?

Well, essentially I have multiple work spaces--but then again, the whole house and yard are one huge work space-- nonetheless I shall narrow the scope of my answer to my writing desk next to my little "worship center" (AKA the living room sofa). Currently on that writing desk (pictured below at a time when it was tidy) sits a lamp with a Roman numeral shade and ceramic books as a base, a phone hook sans phone, several journals, a mess of pens (for which I have an obvious penchant), a few books, a couple of Bibles, some greeting cards I designed, some mail heading to my friend Bonnie in Zambia (above, with her Zambian pastor, who visited our church just before Bonnie left in November), some wedding-wear-for-the-derriere coupons from Target, a screwdriver for the aforementioned vacuum fix, a Gus and Grandpa book, a portable photo printer, some stray Legos, and a stack of glass coasters. Are you sorry you asked? Are you thinking, "That's either a huge desk or a very cluttered small one"? You're right, but I won't say which choice you're right about.

Okay, that was more than two sentences. Blogging police, here is my license and registration...

6. Peaches or watermelon...yes, you have to choose.

Peaches. I like them raw, in yogurt, in beverages, in dessert , on a boat, on a train.... Can't say watermelon is quite as versatile, but it is yummy.

7. Ever been skinny dippin'? Is that too much for the Wednesday Hodgepodge? Rest assured we won't need details...unless of course you feel you must but remember, this is a family friendly blog so keep it G rated.

Skinny dippin', no I haven't, but came dangerously close to being exposed when my best friend Kelly and I (summer after 10th grade) decided to exchange bikinis in the Atlantic. Somehow, by the grace of God (and boy, was it crazy to call upon that grace after such willful scheming) , while standing up in chin-high water, a ten-foot wave about to bear full down on our half-bare necessities, we managed a partial exchange, and washed ashore together--with her wearing a green-and-blue polka dotted top and zebra-striped bottoms, and I wearing the reverse.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

The sermon on Sunday meant more to me than any I've heard in a very long time. Perhaps in a future post, I will share my notes from the message by CJ Mahaney called "When Christians Doubt," summarized with the biblical advice from Jude 22: "And have mercy on whose who doubt."

Monday, June 20, 2011

Family Reunion Frenzy

Funny how one little Facebook message can propel you from slow-mo to full-speed-ahead. I was in slow-mo as long as I was just thinking it'd be nice to have a family gathering of all my husband's brothers and their spouses and offspring, since it has been quite a long time. Paul is turning 50 in a few days, but he is anti-party. Seriously, remember the day The World Was Supposed to End last month? The next day he said to me, "Good thing that wasn't my last day on earth. I did the three things I hate most in all the world: helped someone move, did yard work, and went to a party."

Naturally he had to meet and marry someone who celebrates things like having Ten Great Nails at the Same Time.

Anyway, back to the Facebook message. I clicked on a message from his oldest brother who lives in Ohio. It said, in short, they're coming to visit the Maryland/Delaware contingent of the family the week of July 4th.

No sooner had my reply, "Great! Can't wait! " and "Paul's 50th" were out of my mouth--er--into the keyboard--that it has come to my attention that we will be hosting a Not a Party But Family Reunion. We have the privilege of being centrally located (okay, not centrally, but between!) the family branches north and south of us, and have room enough to spread out.

This Not a Party But Reunion looks to take place on probably July 10th!

One of his brothers said, "a crab feast and beer" to celebrate everything from the summer birthdays to the kids' leaving, to Ben's engagement, to family coming in from out of town. Things like dentures and Depends got (dis)honorable mention as well in the prep department.

Why is it that words "out of town guests" make you look around your house and declare everything old, ugly, dirty, or in need of fixing up? Seriously! Our carpets look like dropcloths. The sofa pillows resemble matzah. And every door that squeaked or pipe that groaned yesterday is suddenly shrieking and bellowing today.

So, a family reunion in less than three weeks' time to plan! That's how we roll. If this family had a year to put a reunion together, we'd still put it off till the last three weeks. If we had all summer, we'd pull it together on Labor Day. But we plan rather abruptly after long hiatuses (hiati?). Someone either dies suddenly, or someone sends a two-line message: "We're coming in the week of __________." Then all of a sudden we clear calendars, counters, and carpets of as much clutter as we can and thrust ourselves into Planning Mode ,which usually starts with "what to eat? what to eat?" and "How can I whip this house into shape in three weeks after talking about it for three years?".

Hence I am looking around the house, and in the mirror, and seeing outdated things that probably won't or can't be fixed in three weeks' time. But that's okay. We need to get together. Someone just had to get the proverbial ball rolling. And someone else gets to clean like mad, spruce up the yard, maybe paint a bedroom that's about seven years overdue, and send out a mass email listing all the what-to-eats and whatever else she deems important, like date and time, perhaps.

Friday, June 17, 2011

When It's Time to Change, You've Got to Rearrange

Does anyone remember that song from "The Brady Bunch" ? The kids wanted to audition for a radio song by singing something together. But there was problem; Peter was going through puberty and his voice was changing. The change was embarrassing because his voice would crack mid-song . The solution to the embarrassment was to change songs, and they actually wrote a new song for the audition. Rather than fear the hormonal change, they emphasized it with spunk and humor.

The only lyrics that stick with me from their song are these:

"When it's time to change, you've got to rearrange."

Every time they said "change," Peter's voice would crack. (A little too predictably, but hey, it's television. Creative licensing at its best. Or not.) It made for another episode of can't-get-enough-of-the Bradys for this Greg-smitten girl.

At this juncture of my life, my "voice" is cracking, too. The way life's always been is about to change. We will be parents-of-the-groom in the spring, both vehicles (mine and my hubby's) have about 112,000 miles on them, the mold-ridden master bathroom must be remodeled for health's sake not vanity's (although we are getting a new vanity, tee hee), and our youngest son will most likely be attending a private Christian school in the fall. Oh, and yes, we want to go to Italy for our 25th. I think I've mentioned that a time or two! And we want to do something substantial for my parents' 50th.

Like my husband, I see a whole bunch of dollar signs.


If we are to continue with our goal to live within our means, then I have to start supplementing the income. And to be honest, I am ready. I am ready for change, to get out of the house more, be in a social environment, find work that I pray is fulfilling, not just "a job," and still be able to care for my home a few days a week. (I do like being at home, and I'm not a "career-minded individual" by any means. I just want to be busier enriching other people's lives, and contribute to the family coffers now that it wouldn't mean neglecting children's needs.)

That is not the only change for which we are about to rearrange. I want to start now by giving up some computer time for higher priorities. I haven't been doing a good job of homemaking lately. I haven't gotten in better shape physically. I haven't gotten involved in serving outside my home except for Sunday School once a month and the occasional meal taken to a sick person's family or to help someone out with child care. (My parents thus far have been self-sustaining, running each other to the doctor and skipping about town...well, as much as two arthritic seventy-somethings can skip.) In short, life has been too comfortable and it has proven detrimental. This "comfort" has added to, not relieved, depression. Isolation is not good.

So for the coming several weeks, I'm rearranging my priorities. A little experiment, you could say.

I want to
-do more fun things with my nine-year-old
- tackle the nagging jobs of cleaning and organizing around the house
-scrapbook some more
-find the fixtures, paint, tile, etc, for the bathroom job
-meet with friends face-to-face, on purpose, for girl-time
-concentrate on the being the kind of wife I'd want to be married to if I were him
-look for meaningful work for the new school year
-exercise 4x/week for starters and eat better
-spend time in prayer and Bible study, not just "devotions"
-limit blogging to 2 days/week, Facebook just 30 minutes a day (yes, computer time has been in control of me, not the other way around, and that form of "socializing" is not healthy) voice cracks now.

Sing with me, Cindy, Marsha, Jan..

When it's time to change, you've got to rearrange.



Monday, June 13, 2011

Hodgepodge: Beloveds, Balderdash, Bugs, and Body Color

Say hello to Joyce after you read the Hodgepodge from my lodge.

My answers may be a bit more on the serious side this time.

1. What is one thing on your bucket list? If you don't have a bucket list, let's pretend you do.
The most important one: learn what it is to forgive, truly forgive from the heart. At the moment I am actively seeking help to change so that I can die in peace. Not that I'm planning to die soon, but one never knows the day nor the hour.

2. What makes a good dad?

In a nutshell, the combined qualities of
the special dads in my life: my father-in-law (pictured here with Ben, 1989), my father (see photo below), and my husband (see photo above).

Not in a nutshell, a good dad is...
a man who loves to spend time with his children and sacrifices his comforts for them, talks to and listens to them , disciplines them in love, protects them from all kinds of dangers--physical, emotional, spiritual--, takes them to church and doesn't just drop them off, shows by example how to care for others, prays for them and with them, is not afraid to be unpopular with his kids in the name of setting boundaries, laughs at their jokes, says "I love you and I'm proud of you" with those exact words, gives them lots of opportunity to find their strengths, provides financial and emotional support for them, maintains a high code of moral conduct,
admits when
he's wrong, asks forgiveness when he has hurt or failed someone, takes his kids places they enjoy going, leads his family, teaches his children skills he has acquired even if they don't want to learn at the time and, above all, loves their mother .

3. Are you afraid of insects? If so, which ones?

Yes, I am. I am creeped out by most things that crawl, hop, buzz, or go "crunch" under foot.

4. We're barbecuing. What's on the grill at your house?

If you mean for Father's Day, probably nothing. My dad is vegetarian and my husband would appreciate a juicy steak. My father-in-law passed away in 1992; if he were here, we'd probably do Polish hot dogs, German potato salad and watermelon on Saturday. Our older sons won't be in town, so that's sad, but we will do something.

I am just feeling sad about the whole thing--most holidays have lost
their appeal to me, frankly-- and all you asked about was what's on the grill. We'll probably end up at an Italian restaurant after church. Or maybe not. I would love to give my honey a day of not thinking about money (which is like asking a bird not to think about flying). Going out for Father's Day lunch where he pays is a bit like asking a mom to do the cooking on Mother's Day. We haven't made plans except to send my dad an Edible Arrangement.

5. Do you believe that playing is more important than winning?
I love to win, but I'd rather lose to a great opponent than beat a lousy one.
Whether it's Scrabble, tennis, or Balderdash, I love stiff competition. I hate to be on teams with people who don't play to win, who "just want to have fun" if points are being kept. I despise games of sheer luck; I hope this attitude changes before my future grandchildren ask me to play CandyLand.

6. Do you tan? Use self-tanners? Visit tanning salons? See your dermatologist once a year?
I tan easily from the waist up, so I look a bit like an upsidedown lightly toasted marshmallow (in more ways than one). Use self-tanners? Heck, no. I have done many a vain thing in my life, and many a tacky thing, but Vain + Tacky = Not Attractive. No tanning salons for me, either. (Can you say "insta-cancer"?) I don't have a dermatologist and hope I won't. I rather enjoy having people mistake me for my daughter's sister.

7. Five years ago I never would have imagine that________
2011 would bring so many tests of my faith, so many heavy things that challenge my beliefs in rapid-fire succession, as well as abundant "feel-good" blessings and opportunities.

8. Insert your own random thought here.
Today my youngest and I went to the duck pond with stale bread and old Ritz crackers. I needed that...
to watch him delight in seeing a blue heron perch on the pier,
to hear him say "aww, Mom, awww, look at those cute baby geese,"
to let him "lead" me by walking ahead of me, fending off the more aggressive male geese with a curtain rod we took for protection.

(Doesn't everyone use curtain rods in self-defense against fowl play?)

Miscellany Monday: Pranks (Plural) and Other Things Brought to You by the Letter "P"

Miscellany Monday @ lowercase letters

+++++ ONE +++++

Passports to Pretty Places

My hubby is filling out his passport application! It's fun to see his handwriting on this most official of documents! That means my dreams are closer to reality and if you know me, you know I'm a dreamer with goals, not just a dreamer-dreamer! Most of me is very excited, but part of me is staying in denial so that if our trip to Italy doesn't pan out, I'm not crushed by disappointment. I don't do disappointment very well. Understatement of the year.


Providing for His Pretty

Our son Ben and his fiancee are looking for an apartment to rent when they're married. I can't believe I just wrote that sentence. Words like these still seem surreal. Wasn't it just last year that we were talking about T-ball game strategies, the reasons why we (are supposed to) use napkins instead of shirt fronts at the table, and how to give a proper handshake? Now my future daughter-in-law sits beside me on the sofa, heart all aflutter as she shows me photos and blueprints of apartments they looked at this weekend, and tells me about closet space and community pools. Meanwhile our son bemoans the cost, cheers the proximity to work and Dee's future school, and debates the pros and cons with us of renting vs. owning a home. Okay, moving right along (no pun intended, really!) ... too much emotion gunks up the keyboard.

"Prospective Parents"

Our daughter Sarah, whose major is Early Childhood Ed, has taken a keen interest in the new school where her little brother will probably attend this fall. When I read the email to her that "the meeting is for prospective parents," she replied, "Um, you guys aren't prospective parents. You're already parents. I'm pretty sure there won't be any prospective parents there, unless they're getting a really early start on their kids' education!"


Paddle boats and Practical Jokes

Here's my funny editor-girl going paddle-boating with her friend, Kerry, at the Inner Harbor last Saturday night.

Sarah, Kerry, Steve, and Ambrey all went to the Inner Harbor for Kerry's sake. She had never been (she's from out-of-state). So those four kids (they'll always be "kids" to me) piled into the van and went to Baltimore for a night on the town. All four love practical jokes, so they conspired to pull a fast one on passersby--tourists who just happened to be in the "right place at the right time." The joke would be that Steve would take Ambrey to the water's edge, get down on one knee, and propose marriage. The main difference would be that he'd pretend to mutter some heartfelt words but end with "Will you ...take a picture with me?" She played right along, hands waving in mock shock, wiping fake tears, the whole bit. (I don't know what's funnier, the prank, or the girls' laughter while videotaping it.)

Some people did stop and stare, but there was no dance mob. Maybe next time?

The real joke was on ME, though, because when Sarah was telling me about it the next day, I didn't catch the part that Ambrey was in on it. I thought Steve was pranking Ambrey, and I said, "Oh, that's just mean! Poor girl! Look at her waving her hands and everything!" (I tried uploading the video, but it's giving an error note, so I'll try again later. Stay tuned.)


Following in his brother's humorous footsteps, Joel decided to pull a prank on Steve, who'd be going back to his apartment to pack up for the summer away. Joel sneaked out to the Jeep while his brother was showering, and proceeded to write messages on his windows with window chalk. I was laughing right along with him.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hello, Projects; Farewell, Stephen

If I don't make the time to do my projects, they won't happen. So I have designated this coming week (today through next Friday) my Personal Project Week. In seven days, I want to accomplish the following three things:

1. Paint a Welcome sign which sits in my front garden. It's all white and features a hummingbird and flowers. She needs paint, and I have an itch to apply some.

2. Paint the pair of thrift-store lamps I've had for over a month. I was so happy to find a PAIR with nice shades which need no makeover themselves. These lamps are tall enough for good reading in the family room. (Diddn't take a photo.)

3. Deep clean my living room. Woo-hoo. Don't be jealous of the glamorous life I live. I have been procrastinating for a very long time, and I'm sure the job won't take more than two hours at most.

Perhaps if I have enough projects to keep me busy, I won't think so much of how hard it will probably be, once again, to say farewell to my second son who is going away for a summer camp job. He leaves Sunday and gets back in August. I am actually hurting more for him and his sweetheart this time around, because they have an amazing relationship. She will be going to Zambia for a month, beginning in early July, so at least they will have respective missions to focus on whilst parted one from the other. I am just not looking forward to Sunday and the pain of separation--my own or theirs. But how grateful I am that they are each investing in God's kingdom this summer in concentrated ways, not wasting their youth and vitality on idle activities.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

First Grade Proverbs

A 1 st grade school teacher had twenty-six students in her class. She presented each child in her classroom the 1st half of a well-known proverb and asked them to come up with the remainder of the proverb. It's hard to believe these were actually done by first graders. Their insight may surprise you. While reading, keep in mind that these are first-graders, 6-year-olds , because the last one is a classic!

1. Don't change horses until they stop running.
2. Strike while the bug is close.
3. It's always darkest before Daylight Saving Time.
4. Never underestimate the power of termites.
5. You can lead a horse to water but How?
6. Don't bite the hand that looks dirty.
7. No news is impossible
8. A miss is as good as a Mr.
9. You can't teach an old dog new Math
10. If you lie down with dogs, you'll stink in the morning.
11. Love all, trust Me.
12. The pen is mightier than the pigs.
13. An idle mind is the best way to relax .
14. Where there's smoke there's pollution.
15. Happy the bride who gets all the presents.
16. A penny saved is not much.
17. Two's company, three's the Musketeers.
18. Don't put off till tomorrow what you put on to go to bed.
19. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and You have to blow your nose.
20. There are none so blind as Stevie Wonder.
21. Children should be seen and not spanked or grounded..
22. If at first you don't succeed get new batteries.
23. You get out of something only what you See in the picture on the box
24. When the blind lead the blind get out of the way
25. A bird in the hand is going to poop on you.

And the WINNER and last one!

26 Better late than Pregnant

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Hodgepodge: S'more'sy, Outdoorsy Stuff

Linking up again for one of my favorite memes, Wednesday Hodgepodge, from one of my favorite bloggers , Joyce, who writes From This Side of the Pond. I'll try to be brief this time. (Cough, cough.)

1. Do you and your family enjoy camping? What do you enjoy most/like the least when it comes to family camping? When was the last time you camped?

No, not particularly, although we have a few good memories of camping . My husband was trained as a Boy Scout in such adventures, and has the skills for them still, but doesn't enjoy the tent set-up, building fires and keeping them going, fighting mosquitoes, or listening to complaints. We don't all like the heat, some of us are scared of things that go "bump" in the night, one of us was pregnant when her air mattress sprang a leak, and shortly thereafter her bladder nearly sprang one. That all happened long before the dawn said hello, so she had to contend with the belly bump, the bump in the night, and the bumps that were called rocks beneath her deflated bed . Then had itchy bumps when the trip was over . That was the summer of '88 and we were at Cunningham Falls in Western Maryland.

However, I have sweet memories of:
- our little baby, about 23 inches long, in a big hammock under a shade tree .That baby is now 23 years old, and taller than some trees. (See previous post--he's the engaged one.)
-keeping warm together in sleeping bags
- my husband and his best friend Gary doing the dishes after making breakfast of bacon and eggs on the Weber grill without any long utensils. I can still picture their long ,skinny legs wearing those 1980's cut-off shorts and t-shirts that should have been retired during the Carter Administration.
-Watching our daredevilish friend Jerry take his hang-glider to the highest cliff and then sail through the air . (I couldn't watch anything after the part where he strapped into the glider.)

Favorite thing about camping? Sitting around the campfire when you're in love--with a certain someone or a group of people who all love Jesus and love to sing worship songs. Those things can temporarily obliterate the intoxicating scent of Deep Woods Off.

2. Did you attend a summer camp when you were a kid? Is that a happy or not so happy memory?

No, I didn't attend summer camp. Never really wanted to. Never missed it. Never had a burning desire to send our kids to camp either, for fear of what might happen. We only sent one child to camp and that was last summer when his brother and sister were counselors, and one was in his own cabin so I had a trust about that arrangement .

3. Over the course of your life, what have you probably spent more time pondering than anything else?

Love. Why God loves me. Why certain people seem to be good at loving, and others aren't. What makes two polar opposite people fall in love. How a mother can love a second child as much as her first when she fears it impossible during that second pregnancy. Could I love again if I lost my husband? Would I love God if he took everyone and everything away from me? Does anyone feel loved by me?

4. Which of the seven natural wonders of the world would you most like to see? There are many lists of 'wonders' but this is the standard natural wonder list-Mount Everest, The Great Barrier Reef, The Grand Canyon, Victoria Falls, The Harbor of Rio de Janerio, Paricutan Volcano and The Northern Lights.

Grand Canyon . It's on my bucket list. I just pray it's not where I kick the bucket. My clumsiness is Reason #1 why it's the last thing on said bucket said.

5. What was your first real job?

I was a waitress at Woolworth's. Anyone remember that store? The little restaurant part of it was quite diner-esque with its vinyl-clad booths, cheap coffee, and retirees whose patronage you could "set the clock by." I was fresh out of high school. What I remember most were three things:
1) my feet had NEVER hurt more than at the end of my first day there
2) spilling all four drinks I was delivering to one table--spilled right into the people's laps.
3) smoking. I picked up the habit because "everyone did it." But I didn't smoke in front of anyone. I was too scared of being seen by people who knew me (ie Christians, my parents, neighbors who thought well of smokeless me). I smoked to and from the job in my sister's orange Ford Pinto, and spent a lot of my tips on Juicy Fruit gum. I quit the habit after three months when I no longer had access to the Pinto. Funny thing is, every now and then I still want to smoke a cigarette. I haven't lit up in over 25 years, but the thought crosses my mind now and then. Maybe one of these days I'll find me a pair of waitress shoes and a Pinto, grab a pack of Kool Methols (do they still make those? I know they don't make Pintos anymore.) Oh, and Juicy Fruit. I'll stock up on Juicy Fruit.

6. Lemonade or Sweet tea...which do you prefer on a hot summer day?

Lemonade. I just love it. I like tea, too, but fresh-squeezed lemonade or even good ole Country-Time is my best beverage on a hot, summer day .

7. What is something that always brings a smile to your face?

My husband rubbing up against me when he has to "squeeze by" in an empty space that is clearly big enough for twelve people.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Is there such a thing as a discrete nine-year-old boy?

Not in my house . Yesterday he needed a shower before his older sister took him anywhere in public. My husband and I were ready to venture out on a late-afternoon date, and he told our boy that there was a clean pair of underwear in the basket in our room, so put them on after your shower. Boy nods. As we head to the car, the boy heads up to the bathroom. The engine starts, and we see our boy leaning out an upper-story window, some fifty feet from the car, waving for our attention. We cut the engine off and stick our heads out . " What do you need, honey?" I call out.

He calls back loudly, so all the neighbors can hear: "DAD? DAD! WHERE'D YOU SAY THAT UNDERWEAR IS?"

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Our Son is Engaged!

On May 21, our oldest son, Ben, took his lovely girl, Deirdra, to their favorite spot on the trail, a picnic lunch in one hand, her hand in the other, a gorgeous ring in his pocket, and happy intentions in his pounding heart. She had no idea it was coming because several of us "back home" had told her things we were doing which made her think, "They wouldn't go to Philly or New York or a church meeting if they knew we were getting engaged this weekend!"

He had prearranged a pleasant spot near the water to spread out the lunch he had made and packed for them (such a sweetie) and she toted our only pink blanket (her favorite color, and more romantic that our baseball blanket). He had also pre-arranged a hiding spot in the trees for Dee's twin sister and brother-in-law to take pictures without notice. (I don't have those pictures from Siobhan yet, but trust me when I say they're something out of a summer chick flick!)

When they got back to the house, it was just me, Joel, Luke, and Siobhan waiting. Paul had gone to help friends with their big move. I got to hear all the juicy details that a mom is a bit more "into" than a dad, anyway! And I got to shoot a whole bunch of pictures of the happy couple.

It was funny watching the sisters take a gazillion shots of the ring. Ben did a great job choosing the perfect gem for Dee. (Siobhan helped; after all, who knows Dee better than her twin sister?)

In the one picture (sorry I can't line the captions up right today) Dee is pointing to a black smudge on Ben's shirt. That's mascara, she said, when I asked if she cried. "We were laying on our stomachs on the blanket and I was saying, 'Babe, it's just so hard to know how to plan for the future...for school, where to live, being apart so much..." and then she said, "Suddenly he sat upright and I'm like 'that's strange but I kept talking, and he got up on one knee and asked, "Well, would it help you to plan if..."and he pulled out the ring and said, "Will you marry me? I don't know what he said after that, I was just crying and shaking." I asked, "Well, do you remember saying "yes"? She DOES remember that!

Dee's mom hosted an engagement party in New Jersey (Dee's home state, about 1.5- hour hours north of us) that very evening, so it was a packed day. Packed with love, sunshine, love, excitement, a move, love, yard work, pictures, love, food, drinks, love, fellowship, driving, rain, love....

Friday, June 03, 2011

In Transition

No one ever prepares you for middle age. They joke about it aplenty, what with the birthday cards making light of certain body parts heading south and losing the compass when they get there; the knees making noises akin to the sound track of a B-rated horror film; and the face having more chins than a Chinese phone book.

No one tells you that after 25 years you might wake up one day and find that your children are the people you raised them to be--healthy, well-liked, God-fearing, independent adults. You're okay with the healthy, well-liked, G0d-fearing part, and you like the sound of "independent adult,' but the reality is, "independent adult" translates into the scary reality that "they don't really need me any more."

You also wake up to find that you haven't really learned how to do life with your spouse without the kids at the center. You thought you did. You thought you knew each other, and you thought that someday when you have grown kids that you'll be scot-free and happy as a lark to go and do as you please.

And you think that the passage of time will mean that all your demons will have given up on you. They will want fresh blood to prey upon. You will be mature in Christ and so good at wielding the armor of God that the dark forces that threaten other marriages and families won't come near yours. After all, you've homeschooled for nigh on two decades. You've taught Sunday School since the Ice Age. You've attended small groups ever since Jonah got thrown overboard.

Then suddenly you find that your days are marked with sadness. Your nights with insomnia. Your friends, where are they? Why aren't they calling? Why, with all this time on our hands, aren't we getting together more than we did when our lives were dictated by baby naps and toddler baths?

I'm not handling it well. Maybe menopause is mocking me. Maybe I have been naive or in denial that probably more than half my life has been lived and I can't relive it? I am not accepting the givens very well. I find myself jealous of the younger crowd, of people who seem happy and well-adjusted at my age. Or are they just not telling it like it is? Are we masking how hard this is to have spent the last half of our lives investing in our children and --now what? Where to from here? Who is the stranger who shares my bed? What does he see in me anymore? What is my purpose, and how do I manage emotions now that I don't have the responsibility to manage as many needs that made me feel needed?

Argh...the conversations in my head.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

A Moving, Funny, Inspiring Clip of Roger Ebert and His Post-Cancer Self

I found an online video clip about Roger Ebert when looking for something else, and it has made me grateful for something I often take for granted: the ability to speak, and not just speak, but to do so with my own natural voice (even though I'm not fond of my own voice), together with a working jaw, tongue, salivary glands, teeth, and a mind that coordinates my thoughts with others' in conversation. To be able to control the timing, volume, and inflections of one's voice is such a gift.

Check out this clip. It's not short, but it's powerful. It has also reminded me that I don't need to speak more loudly or more slowly just because the other person can't speak quickly or in a normal pitch back to me. They aren't deaf and haven't lost intelligence. The assumptions we make in our subconscious mind when processing language and verbal communication!
This is absolutely amazing. And to think the man has had seven--count 'em , 7--carotid artery ruptures and many surgeries following cancer.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Ride, Bride, Cried, Snide

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Thanks, again, Joyce, for hosting a fun and thoughtful meme. I always look forward to reading the questions that you've come up with-- and the variety of answers they invoke.

1. Have you ever been to the capital of the USA-Washington DC? If so what's your favorite site? If not, what site would you most like to see on a visit to that city someday in the future? Is it even on your list of places to visit?

Yes, I have been a few times. As a child, I loved the Air & Space Museum because I was obsessed with the adventures of Amelia Earhart and Charles Lingbergh. I dreamed of taking a ride in the Spirit of St. Louis! I also loved the Museum of Natural History because of the Hope Diamond (being a bling lover started with that mammoth stone in the glass case guarded by ominous men in uniform). As an adult, Ford's Theater captivated me since I'm an Abe Lincoln fan, and because the docent picked my children to help him reenact the final scenes of the President's death. For the boys, it was all about the gun, of course.

2. When did you last attend a wedding? Are there any weddings on your summer calendar? Were you a summer bride? If you're single is summer the season of your dream wedding?

I was not a June bride. Wanted to be a July bride because June was so common, but my parents insisted that since we'd only known each other 3 months when we got engaged, we had to wait a year so as to allow to "iron out any wrinkles." I didn't think either of us had wrinkles. Ahem!

The last wedding I attended was on May 7th when my dear friend, Sacha, got married. We have been in the same church a long time, but it was on a 10-day mission trip to Russia that we really bonded on a deep level. Her parents are dear friends. Her mom, Carol, is quite the intercessor. She prayed for weeks (months?) that it would not rain for Sacha's outdoor wedding. God heard Carol's prayer; it could not have been a more beautiful day with temps in the upper 70s, light breeze, sunny skies. It only sprinkled for literally five seconds, which seemed more like a spray of "holy water blessing" on the newlyweds and their guests.

Here are some pictures. Carol is in a wheelchair (no thanks to MS) and she's all smiles. It was sad, however, in the sense that three of Sacha's grandparents died within 13 months of the wedding, and so only one grandfather was there. Sacha wore her grandmother's wedding gown; the hat blew off as she came down the aisle. Her dad snatched it up and carried it along. Comic relief at a moment when most of us were getting really choked up--including my husband who admits that the closer his kids get to marriage, the harder time he has "keeping it together" at weddings. (Old sap!)

3. What is your favorite way to eat strawberries?

With shortcake and whipped cream. I also have a Weight Watchers recipe for Strawberry Trifle that basically layers cubed sugar-free angel food cake, lowfat ricotta & strawberry yogurt whipped together, sliced strawberries, and lowfat Cool-Whip. Talking about it makes me want some. Now.

4. What is one thing you are especially looking forward to this summer?

Well, if we can pull it off (or should I say, "if God wills"?), our 25th anniversary trip to Italy!

5. Do you use/like the self scanner at the grocery store?

Yes, but my love for the self-scanner is conditional, for sure. Since I prefer to shop for 15 items or fewer at a time (if you've been around the blog long enough, you know I LOATHE the grocery store), then the self-check is the way to speed on through. That is, until things decide not to function as I want them to. I find myself making snide comments to the deaf robot when she says, "Move your the belt." I answer her, "Move YOUR bananas to the belt!" And when she says,"The bagging area is full. Please bag items before continuing to scan." I say, "You call that full? I call it just getting started." I hate to go back and forth, back and forth.
But I like when a kind bagger comes along and offers to assist. I always take them up on it.

6. Share a favorite piece of common sense advice.

Better to close your mouth and have people think you're a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt.

7. Barefoot, flip flops, tennis shoes, sassy sandal-your first choice for summertime?

Barefoot as often as possible, though it does make for reptilian feet. My hubby is not fond of sharing the bed with an alligator, but what can I say? I am a hillbilly at heart. I can walk on hot pavement and thistles in these calloused soles! Flip-flops next, although they sometimes result in "trip-trops" for me.. I only wear tenners when exercising or working in the garden with
spades and blades.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I'm eager to have my middle two children back home today after their 5-day getaway to Florida for a conference called NEXT/ mini-vacay. I'm so proud of them for handling all their own registration, flight, hotel, shuttle, and food details on their own. All grown-up like.