Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hodgepodge: High Alert, High Winds, & High Maintenance

A quick Hodgepodge for me this week, if you know me. Thanks for thought-provoking questions again, Joyce.

1. Do you think the world became a more dangerous place on September 11, 2001 or are we just more aware of the danger? How has your own life changed as a result of that day?

The danger preceded 2001 by about 6000 years. I'm not sure exactly when Cain killed Abel, but that was the first act of terrorism. I personally felt suddenly vulnerable on 9/11, mostly because I always thought the CIA had more "I" than "C" or "A," if you get my drift. I know for sure I'm more suspicious of certain skin types than ever before, something I hate in myself, but it's reality. Pat-downs and shoe-removal and wondering if someone else's mouthwash is gonna blow up our 747 to Wichita. Yeah, I think about it more often. And I think about it when I see military helicopters practice maneuvers overhead near my house. I have certainly wondered about the Ravens game at home on 9/11 this year. I fear for a sister and her husband who live in Arizona where the bad guys with guns outnumber the good guys with them. And I try not to buy anything that says "made in China" because I think they're overtaking us one purchase at a time. I wanted an Italian-leather purse for my birthday. Well, I found one, but guess where it was made? So guess who is carrying her same purse from last year (a purse made in China before my skepticism reach its summit). I cringe every time I "have to" buy something I need that's made in China.

And honestly, I'm not sure that the earthquake on the East Coast was an act of God. I'm normally skeptical about conspiracy theories, but I have heard that there is technology capable of causing earthquakes. What do you think? Is there a fault line that runs under DC or isn't there? I'm not even sure what sources to trust when it comes to looking up the truth about geological facts. Who is behind Google anyway?

2. Did you think your parents were too strict when you were growing up? How about in hindsight?

They said "yes" as often as possible, not "no" when it was just a mild inconvenience or if there was no good reason to deny us something. So when they said 'no' it was easier to take. Sometimes I wanted them to say 'no' when I wanted to get out of something, but they made us learn to make some decisions on our own. I still do that with my husband, but he asks, "Why do you have to have a reason? If you don't want to go, don't go. Why do you have to have other plans?"

I wish my dad had been more strict when I was a teenager. He had been such a virtuous young man with good intentions and purity that I really think he thought more highly of most guys who were NOT AT ALL like him. He also trusted me too much.

3. Share one random but candid fact about yourself.

I'm a pretty open book on my blog, so I'm not sure what's left to tell. Random but candid? Hmmm. I yell way too much. But haven't I said that, too? If you want to know 24 other random, candid things about me, go here. But why would you want to?

4. Would your nearest and dearest describe you as simple or far too complicated?

Far too complicated, but then again, he grew up with all brothers. He didn't have a clue when we got married how a woman thinks and feels about so many things at the same time. (He still has to buy a clue most of the time.) He doesn't understand why my hair is so important to me, why it matters which heels I wear with which dress, why I want to be told often that he loves me (not just shown with "stuff"), why I let people in front of me at the store, the highway, or at restaurants, why I prepare for hurricanes that are overhyped, why I don't notice certain noises the van is making, and on and on.

5. What is your favorite stadium or carnival food?

Cotton candy. I like it so much, it can cause tunnel vision and make me the butt of
a practical joke


6. Tornado, hurricane, many of these natural disasters have you experienced? Which do you think would be the scariest?

Well, after the past nine days, I can say all three. Scariest? Earthquake, hands down! We had no preparation, no warning, nothing. Just stood there minding our business when the house began to shake and the floor rumbled 'neath our feet. At least with tornadoes, we can hit the basement, and with hurricanes, either evacuate or board up or hunker down. With a quake, it all happens "in the blink of an eye" and all you can do is pray and hold on. It strips away every shred of self-sufficiency you pride yourself on and hold dear. Hurricane Irene was supposed to hit us hard, but didn't. Hurricane Isabel was supposed to go out to sea, but came into the Chesapeake Bay with a sudden fury. I have friends who had to be resued by boat from their second-story window. Another friend of mine lost her mentally-disabled cousin when he went out for a walk that day and was drowned in the surge on his sidewalk.

7. Labor day weekend is approaching so a work related question seems appropriate. Growing up, did your parents assign you regular chores? Were you paid for doing those chores. If you're a parent do you assign chores to your own children? Why or why not?

At age 9, my mom taught us to clean the bathroom. A rite of passage that didn't come with gifts, just rags and Comet. When we were little, we worked together on Saturdays to dust, vacuum, and clean our rooms. When we were teens, our rooms had to be clean by Friday night if we wanted to go anywhere on the weekend. When my mom had my baby sister and I was an 8th-grade cheerleader, my job was to do the breakfast dishes before leaving for school, or I couldn't go to practice. I didn't take Mama seriously, and she came up to school and took me out of practice. My coach said she'd bench me during the next game if that happened again, saying a captain should set the example of obeying her parents. It happened again. I got benched. The other girls it was harsh. But guess what? I learned to do the dishes before I left the house from then on! I don't always learn the first time.

We also had to feed the dogs and horse, mow grass, scrub floors, put laundry in the machine per my mom's very strict orders. (We weren't allowed to fold because she was picky about her right angles and folds. We got to put her neat stacks away, though.) We started getting allowance in seventh grade but had to pay for most of our things with it (and it was piddly, let me tell ya). The allowance wasn't withheld, but privileges were if work wasn't done. Kind of like salary--you still collect a paycheck, but don't count on a promotion that might give you a more "fun" life from having more money. I think they were wise in their philosophy.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Your very first childhood memory says a lot about how you respond to life and people in your life as an adult. I believe that.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Had I Really Believed: Thoughts after Hurricane Irene

The tree that made me nervous.

"The bigger they are, the harder they


Hurricane Irene posed a bigger threat than she actually delivered to our neck of the woods. (My husband thinks the government hypes it so that we will become more dependent on them. Obama, did you notice, was making sure we knew he'd do a better job with FEMA than Bush did. But I won't wax political; just sayin'.)

Mind you, Irene was not a just a sneeze either. She took out power to much of our state, and some people still don't have power. We lost it for about 15 hours in our neighborhood, but there were still a lot of major traffic intersections that aren't working yesterday, so they are treated as 4-way stops. I am proud of my fellow drivers for how we all looked out for one another (or ourselves), politely and carefully.

Many Maryland schools which were supposed to open Monday are still closed. That includes my daughter's school where she was to start student teaching this week. She's fine with the delayed opening because, once she starts, they're not allowed to take off for anything except death.

Before Irene hit, I did most of the prep work in the family because I was the most concerned Not hyperventilating, but wishing the rest of the family felt equally concerned so as to help me. (Yes, you detect a whining Martha here.) My son Steve helped me secure our outdoor furniture. He also corraled three little flashlights. I brought my beloved potted plants indoors and left the rest outside that I was either not afraid to lose or were too heavy to blow in 50 mph wind . (Actually it was an experiment on my part. "Will it stay or will it blow?" Report at 11.)

I bottled water for drinking but didn't fill the tub. Had I really believed we'd not be able to get showers for days, I would've taken the extra step. I also packed all the snack food from the pantry into grocery bags and had them ready to carry to the basement. I also packed candles with matches with the food bags.

I put tennis shoes into a bag for a couple of us in case we had to escape through the walk-out basement. Had I really believed that would be our only escape route, I would have packed sturdy waterproof shoes for everyone.

As of Saturday 10:30, right after my hubby and son had been there for music practice, the pastors decided to cancel Sunday church. At least the practice is a worship experience; it's not like it was waste of time. Had I really believed this was going to be The Big One, I would have asked them to stay home. Knowing them, they would have gone anyway.

Saturday afternoon into evening we got a lot of rain. The winds starting really picking up around 10 pm , so hard that I feared our 100-foot-tall, 2-foot wide, dead maple would crack and topple onto the house. After all, the ground was also saturated and the earthquake a week prior had surely shaken the roots, no?

I was absolutely convinced we'd have a power outage, at the very least. By God's providence, I happened to check the bottom drawer of the fridge where I had put some thick steaks and forgot about!! Horrors!! But they were still fine, so I quickly cooked all of them in the oven. If nothing else, we could eat cold roast beast by candlelight for three days.

By 11:00 pm my hubby was concerned enough about the wind and trees to consent to having us bring twin mattresses to the basement. Snack bags and bottled water, too. Dee exclaimed, "Woo-HOO! A family sleepover!' Ironically, Paul did not bodily go down there; he kept watch in front of the TV on the main level while alternating between guitar and Sudoku playing . If he "frets," it's on the guitar. Teehee. But he was not really fretting or he would have taken his guitar and the dog downstairs. (Reilly is not allowed on the basement carpet since he treated it like a Spot-a-Pot upon his arrival to our home.)

Tornadoes were being spotted within two hours of us. Sarah, Joel, and I went bodily down to the basement. (I grew up in Kansas and lived through tornadoes. I don't mess around.) Had I really believed a tornado would rip through our immediate area, I would have dragged everyone by the ankles down the steps. I decided to leave their whereabout in God's hands. They're adults, after all, and get annoyed with my control freakishness.

At midnight the winds had subsided, and the mattress got hauled to the family room for Paul . But the wind picked up into gusts at 12;30 and I was nervous. Really nervous. Okay, I was scared and anxious. Near tears. Begged the older kids to at least move to the front of the upstairs to sleep, away from the woods. Nope, they declared themselves "fine." Their peace was annoying to me, until I realized, "Their faith is bigger than yours, Zo! You raised them to trust God, and now they do, in this very real storm. What about you? Go to bed and pray, woman!"

So I did. I lay down, alone, in my bed. Texted my sisters of my worry, asked them to pray, and closed my eyes. The Lord showed me I was being like Peter in the boat, saying "Do you not care that we are perishing?" You would have thought we had 200 mph winds and a tsunami at our door the way I was shaking inside. Finally, I surrended. "Okay, Lord, I choose to trust You. You love us more than we love ourselves, and that's a heck of a lot." (Yes, I say "heck" to God in private prayer.) "You won't let anything happen to us that You won't hold us through . If we die, we're all meeting You face-to-face. If we don't, we'll suffer in Your hands, but at least we won't suffer out of Your hands. Please calm the storm outside and the one inside of me and let me sleep."

Just like that, like a whisper, I was asleep.

Next day, very little damage. A few branches down, and seven inches of rainwater in the bucket. No power. But that was okay. There was daylight, and we had snack food. We kept the fridge shut to preserve food. Five people took hot showers. By 5pm I wondered about the fridge food and I also needed a shower, so I took one and then drove to Steve's girlfriend's house. He was helping them clean up fallen limbs. They did not lose power. And they graciously offered us their generator. So praise the Lord, when we brought it home and plugged in the fridge, we discovered eveything was still semi-frozen. No food lost whatsoever, and our water was still hot so Joel and I got hot showers.

Our power came back on at 7:30 . Cheers!!! High fives!!! Light all around. No more toileting by candlelight, although it was a nice ambience while it lasted. The power came on while Ben was out getting more gas for the generator. Meanwhile I heated up cold steak, boxed mashed potatoes and garden green beans. Even popped open a bottle of wine to celebrate power (both natural and supernatural!) . I prayed a prayer of thanks, half choked up, for God's protection and peace (even though my peace swayed like the trees at times) and that this hurricane provided a semi-boot camp for how to prepare for the next one.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurried, Unedited Pre-Hurricane Post

Yesterday was my birthday and it was lovely. I'll blog about it later. Most of the day I was prepping for Hurricane Irene. I don'[t think it will have a great effect, and I'm tempted to be one of the wait-and-see people, but I keep thinking of the proverbs which say things, essentially like "a lazy man sees a lion in the streets and says there's a lion in the street!' (but does nothing about it) or a man who turns on his bed like a door on his hinges. I want to be able to hunker down in the interior of the basement (we have a drum room completely enclosed, no windows or doors, if we have windows we think would shatter by blowing debris).

Just to update my non-Facebook friends who might happen to read this and wonder how we're faring here in Maryland.

Thus far, fine. It's calm right now. BGE crews have already called in crews from other states so that in case of power outages, they can restore it quicky. We have brought in the patio chairs into the garage and have things in the house to eat. I made bread and dinner this morning since the stove would be nonfunctional , obviously, if we lost power. Raw eggs don't do ya much good, either, so I combined them with overripe bananas. Found out our dog is scared of the bread machine. I guess it makes a faint barking sound and then knocks if there's not enough liquid. He was barking, growling, and hiding between me and other counter. Silly dog.

The cars have been gassed up and we have a few batteries for flashlights. Not many, but if we can find some more in stores, we might. I'm not worried about that. We have candles and matches for light.

I'm going to the funeral of a believer this morning and I'm sure that will put things in perspective once again. A godly elderly man who lost his wife a year ago has now gone to be with the Lord--and her.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Earthquake! for Real! Right Here!

It happened on Tuesday, August 23, just two days ago. My nine-year-old son and I were standing in the foyer of our house at about 1:55 pm. He was holding his piano lesson books, and I was holding the keys and my purse. We were arguing about piano books. I thought he only had been given two and he was insisting on three. It was only his second lesson, and since the first one was here, we had never been to the teacher's home. She lives on the nearby military base and we had agreed she'd meet us near the gate and escort us in with her ID. We were supposed to be there at 2:10. I was yelling at Joel, "Now is not the time to be thinking of a missing book!"

In a split second, my first thought was, "Reilly must really be upset about me yelling. He's rattling his crate!" Then I noticed the large picture in the foyer trembling. Then it felt like the whole house was shaking, so my second thought was, "Loud thunder on a sunny day?!" Thunder under our feet, not just the walls? Living close to the proving ground, I had a third thought, "They're really testing a big one today!" and in a fourth thought, "Terrorism!" and in a fifth thought, "Earthquake?!" It happened so fast and Joel got a really scared look on his face.

"Let's get out of here, Mom!" So we did. Neighbors were on their front lawns. We all said the same thing, "What was THAT?" and all concluded an earthquake. How weird! On the East Coast!

The cell phones were jammed. I couldn't get through to my husband or kids, so I texted. That went through! Sarah was in a meeting for student teachers, and the menfolk were at work. Paul's office building shook so badly the fire alarm went off and everyone made a beeline for the exit. Things were falling off shelves there. The shaking at his office lasted a good 30 seconds, and got more violent as it went on. Steve didn't feel anything where he was, but doesn't know why. Sarah said one teacher had just been told by a fellow teacher to please stop shaking her leg, so she did, and yet the shaking continued.

We got to what I thought was the correct entry gate on post. It was closed. I told Joel, "This close to DC, I bet they're on high alert." Come to find out, I had my directions wrong. The teacher's mom (and good friend of mine) came and met us at the correct place. A previous student's mom had been there during the quake and she started yelling, "Jesus is coming! Jesus is coming!"

You know, that thought crossed my mind, too. But scientists confirmed it was indeed an earthquake whose epicenter was in southern Virginia but whose effects were felt as far south as the Carolinas and as far north as New Jersey. For me, I always thought I'd be super scared during an earthquake. I wasn't. I was uneasy, unsettled, because it just felt weird. We live in Maryland, not California! We have other natural phenomena here often, but this was our first earthquake ever. Weird.

A funny email I received the next day said the quake was "our founding fathers rolling over in their graves." I heard things like "Obama's Fault" who said no, Bush's Fault, or the sound of a 14.6 billion dollar check bouncing. Gotta love the humorists in the crowd, keeping it light.

And now that a Category 3 hurricane (Irene) is threatening the East Coast in the next few days, I am wondering. Am I ready? I don't mean materially or mentally, but spiritually. Am I prepared to meet my Maker? Absolutely! My faith is not shaken by these natural "disasters" or threats thereof.

Am I prepared for a flood? Not really. Power outages? Sort of. Am I worried about either? No. Call me naive or too trusting, but I believe God is going to shelter us and provide for our every need. He always does. Even if He leads us all the way Home while our earthly home crumbles or washes out to sea, we will be safe in His arms.

Besides, I have a birthday to celebrate Friday and, if nothing else, we have cupcakes and bottled water to survive on.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hodgepodge: Multiple Choices, Senses, and Personalities?

Welcome to this week's spicy, dicey Hodgepodge questions from Joyce.

1. What is something that bothers you if it's not done perfectly?

Crooked-hanging pictures and curtains. In order for me to really relax, they have to be at a certain height, centered, and be both straight and plumb. Our first house was a darling old 1930's duplex with "great bones" and "character" as they say in the biz, but what bothered me badly was that nothing was straight or plumb. Pictures were always going wonky on the walls, and my husband's attempts to hang border near the ceiling usually ended with us saying, "Never again. Our next house will be brand new." (It wasn't. Our next house was a 1940's colonial. Slightly bigger. Much wonkier.)

2. Do you think a 6th sense exists? Explain.

Absolutely, if by "6th sense" you mean "keen intuition, hunch, ability to perceive beyond the five natural senses" (thank you, Wikipedia). To explain, however, I want to be careful how I say this; I don't believe anyone except God "knows" anything for sure, whether perceived by natural or supernatural senses.

I believe that almost all humans possess an innate ability to sense when something is "just not right" or "creepy" or "unnatural." I believe that most parents are given an extra dose of a sixth sense to know when their kids are in trouble or pain or need help, even when they aren't in sight or they're out of earshot. It often "comes out of nowhere" such as when a mom is doing dishes and is suddenly struck with the thought, "They need protection!" or when a father says to his daughter, "I can't give you an exact reason, honey, but trust me on this. I can't quite put my finger on it, but something's not right about this situation. I don't want you to (fill in the blank) or go (fill in the blank)." (Of course, some parents have none, for they lack it on a personal level, but that's a whole 'nother saddening, maddening post.)

When it comes to sense, mothers do one better: We have a seventh sense! It's called MotherGuilt, which I am positive is the generic name for HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin)-- the pregnancy hormone. The thing is, instead of being expelled with the placenta at birth, it latches onto every cell in a mother's body and stays there till her dying day. So, it's the truth: women have more sense than men!

3. Do you say your goodbyes slowly, quickly, or not at all?

It depends. On the phone, it can take me three or four attempts at goodbye to hang up with a good friend. In person, if I'm sad to leave a person I'm with, I dilly-dally getting ready, just to postpone saying the parting words. When I'm forced by the clock to catch a plane or to keep up with my less-sentimental hubby, I usually give quick hugs and try to crack a joke to cover my true emotions. That said, if parting is not such sweet sorrow, I can get the heck outta Dodge pretty dern quick.

4. On a scale of 1-10, with ten being hot hot hot, what level of spice do you like in your food? What's your favorite 'spicy' dish?

Twenty years ago, I could do a 9 but now I'm about a 5. My tastebuds can handle it hotter, but my GI tract rebels. My favorite spicy dish is chile rellenos. I always tell my husband, "I like my food like I like my man--hot, hot, baby!" (He rolls his eyes in an "oh, puh-LEASE" way.)

5. What is one of your all time favorite commercial jingles?

The old jingle for Alka Seltzer was a classic favorite of mine: "Plop, plop. Fizz, fizz. Oh, what a relief it is..." I remember when I was a little girl, my mom used to drink it when she was studying. We didn't buy soft drinks, but she would drop those seltzer tabs into water and we girls would huddle around her glass and watch and listen as they bubbled up with that "shooey-shooey" sound. (Poor kids' entertainment at its best.)

Although, hear me out--Alka Seltzer is TERRIBLE for spicy-food indigestion. It just puts those spices back on the northbound train where they often get stuck during the ascent. Bread and milk are much better absorbers. But if ya really need to belch, by all means, plop-plop and fizz-fizz.

6. Plane, train, boat or auto...your preferred method of travel?

For zippin' around town and within a three-hour radius, I find the auto most practical. For distances beyond four hours, I prefer a plane. In fact, I love to fly! (I was watching "Marriage Ref" the other night and the "problem" was one we as a couple can so relate to. Her husband was the pragmatic breadwinner and she was the visionary globetrotter. Her dream was to see seven countries a year for the rest of her life. Sounds great to me! The main differences between her and me? She wasn't a mother, and when she felt like seeing the world, she'd pack her bags and fly--without him, to Egypt, Dubai, Finland, wherever! Be still my wanderlusting heart! I wouldn't enjoy traveling alone ,though. Half the fun is sharing the adventure and memories, right?

I get a huge thrill at taking off, landing, sitting in clouds, viewing landscapes that resemble the board in the game LIFE. Little tiny cars, cloverleaf highways, gridded farmland. I love the thrill of seeing people I haven't seen in a long time and meeting fellow bloggers in real life, bloggers like Laurie in Kansas and Rachel in the baggage claim of the Dallas/Fort Worth airport! But mostly I love flying because of the adventure, the "where to next?" and "what if?" questions. I love having to answer the in-your-face question, "What if this plane crashes?" and to realize I'd probably die and that's all right because I know where I'm going--straight to heaven.

7. What is something you take for granted?

Freedom of worship. I seldom wake up on Sundays and think what a privilege it is not to have to hide in fear of being caught, imprisoned, or killed. I don't think about it at our mid-week meetings. What a shame to admit that I'm often thinking of what I'll get out of those gatherings, what I'll wear, who will be speaking or singing. God, help me be more mindful of my Christian brothers and sisters who share pages of scripture--literally, in dark basements and deep jungles. Cause me to pray for those who "are in chains" across the globe, and cause them to pray for us in America who take our faith and freedoms for granted.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I finally decided what position to take at the school. I'll be teaching art to the combined 5th/6th grade class. It's a volunteer position until funds become available to pay me. Thank you to those of you who prayed for wisdom. It was a harder decision than I thought, and I woke up this morning still oscillating!

As for the paid jobs, I called the senior home-care company and asked some questions and answered some, too. The nice gentleman who took my call says this kind of work sounds like something that would be a good match for me. In my nervousness, I said, "I think it would fit my personalities very well." I then had to back-pedal real fast: "I mean--I don't have multiple personalities, I mean I think it would fit our personalities--the client's and mine!"

Oh, boy. Nothing like using the term "my multiple personalities" on a cold call.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"You're the Only One..."

My son said to his fiancee, "You are the only one I'd get out on the dance floor for." Here's a look at the two of them having fun at her friend's wedding this past weekend. Aren't they cute? And so in love I can hardly stand it. :) Dee will be my second daughter in the spring. Can't wait. They have found their soulmates in each other. Ben is so happy, and he makes her smile wide when they're together and sad when they have to part for the week, since she lives out of state. I will be glad when they are happily married in March. So will they!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Job Offer

Much has transpired since Thursday of last week. I got a call from the principal of my youngest child's new school. (The school is brand new, opening in just over two weeks! It's a Christian school we are really excited about.) Before you start thinking it's bad news to get a call from the principal's office before the first day of school, let me explain. It's not about my child.

The principal offered "good news and not-so-good news." The good news is, I can teach any art class(es) I want from 1st-8th grade. The not-s0-good news is that they can't afford to pay me yet. Funds are too tight, but when the funds become available, I would get first crack at the paid position. She asked me to think and pray about it, talk it over with my husband; I agreed and said in the interest of time, I'd let her know Monday (today), knowing that we'd need to get the proverbial ball rolling with plans. I was so excited just thinking about teaching again!

My husband said it's okay with him, provided I don't spend "an inordinate amount of time preparing" every week. He knows my tendency to throw myself headlong into things I love but which don't pay a cent! At this point, I need to earn some common cents to help pay the tuition (still have two kids in college as well).

I am drawn to grades 4 through 6, since that's where my art and history experience lies. As for content, I am more drawn to what's being taught in 7th and 8th (survey of American history).In teaching the classical model, my lessons will correspond to the students' history classes. As for being able to familiarize myself with my son's class, I could teach 4th. But the boy said, "Nah, that'd be too much like homeschool." Hmph.

If you're the praying kind reading this, would you mind giving me feedback? I am gleaning wisdom , insight, and prayer from every source possible.

The other job possibility I've looked into is doing non-medical, in-home senior care. I've always loved spending time with the elderly. Last night I submitted an application and cover letter to a local company offering jobs like this. In my letter, I described the ideal job for me: doing art at home with seniors! Nothing like being specific, huh? Hey, at my age, I have pretty much figured out who I am, what I enjoy, what I have to offer, and what I stink at. I don't have to bring in big bucks, just consistent ones with a good attitude. I probably don't have enough years left in me to waste on joyless pursuits.

That's the microcosmic news from Lake Zobegone.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Family Photo Shoot at the Beach

It was just the five of us for this photo shoot. I really wish the whole gang could've been there. But alas, I am thankful we had a vacation and were able to take most of our kids and a special someone. I feel truly blessed to
be able to get away to the beach almost
every year. Living this close to the ocean is nothing short of glorious; after a week of sand, surf, and sun,
my soul, mind, and body let out a long, satisfied, "aah." I'm refreshed and exhilarated all at once by the beauty of the sea which God holds in the palm of His hand!

On the last evening, we hit the beach for perfunctory family photos. In my fantasy, we'd all be dressed in white tops and khaki shorts, or some variation on a noticeable theme. But once again, this is my family we're talking about, and they think coordinated dressing is hokey. We compromised. I asked if the guys could wear white or grey, and the gals a pop of color with khaki skirt or shorts.

No amount of hairspray could compete with the juggernaut called Wind. But I was determined to get pictures "come hail or high water," as my Baptist preacher daddy says.

And voila! Outtakes and goodies alike. Mostly outtakes, because we all know "there's one in every crowd...."

This one was insisting that he doesn't know how to smile for pictures. Uh-huh. Right. I spy with my little eye the one in this batch. Can you? And can you surmise what the middle-age-looking parents are saying to him?

Pictures courtesy of Ambrey Z (a different Z last name).
(Seen here, courtesy of yours truly.)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Now's a Great Time for Shoebox Love

Almost every year for about 15 years, our family has participated in this meaningful outreach. It's the official kick-off to Christmas in my heart, and it usually starts in August. (The only thing I do early for Christmas, honestly.) It starts when the back-to-school sales hit because that's when I start putting pens, paper pads, crayons, pencils, a sharpener, an eraser--into a shoebox, the very shoebox I have when buying that new pair of tenners for my child.

I like to put the empty shoebox in the cart and add things to it as I shop, to make sure they fit inside and that the lid will go on easily. (I have discovered the hard way that sometimes the big packaging on small items prohibits easy packing.)

I am always praying for God to give me an idea for one special item that would be truly meaningful for the exact child this box will go to. Of course, I never know for sure, but I have peace when God whispers, "size 5 shoes for her," that He will see to it that I find size 5 shoes in my budget ($4.83 on clearance is what I found one year!) and that a girl somewhere in the world who is needing size 5 shoes will get this box. It might be that her mother had been praying for new shoes to replace the worn-out ones of her ever-growing daughter. At any rate, I get super-excited thinking about how the Lord "connects the dots" in His sovereign way with Operation Shoebox.

I also like to include a necklace for a girl, a watch or wallet for a boy, and of course, a Christmas card with a personal note.

One year my daughter actually got a note back from a little girl in Ecuador who received Sarah's shoebox! The letter came in the summer--six months after Christmas!--and oh, was it ever one of the most exciting pieces of mail we have ever opened! It doesn't happen often, and it's not the reason we do OS. But it certainly felt good to read how much one shoebox filled with love meant to a little girl on another continent.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

12- Day Meal Plan

If you're looking for my Hodgepodge answers, scroll down. Today is a two-post day!


This meal-plan post is a frame of reference for me and I thought others might like to glean
ideas from it if you're stuck in a culinary rut like I was until today.

We are now well stocked with a variety of foods, thanks to some great specials I found and my daughter who did a bang-up job organizing and inventorying the stuff we already had
on hand and the things we shopped for together. She's a gem. My diamond girl--really,
her April birthstone is diamond. If that's not precious, I don't know what it is.

Anyway, back to the meal plan:

Weds: chicken fajitas & fresh fruit salad
Thursday: Combat Training Wraps *
Friday: Spaghetti w/ meat sauce, garlic bread, green beans
Saturday: California Pizza
Sunday: Burgers on the grill - refill propane tank
Monday: crab cakes, baked potatoes, broc/cauli medley
Tuesday: Don't Invite the Rabbi, Just the Pasta*
Weds: venison chili & cheese wraps
Thurs: Scavenger Special (leftovers)
Friday: Brazilian steak salad (need fresh asparagus, baby greens), mashed potatoes
Saturday: shrimp linguine, roasted brussels sprouts, bread
Sunday: Chinese out

*Recipe here in one of my old blog posts.

While I have your attention, I am seeking recipes that are family hits with you. We are trying to slim down and prefer fresh meats and produce or frozen veggies (not canned). Got suggestions? My family members (5 adults and a kid whose favorite food is sushi) will eat (or try) almost anything. I am especially keen on trying veggies fixed as yummy side dishes. I tend to get stuck with the same old, same old, veg-wise. Again, looking for recipes you've made, not links to things that look good but haven't passed your own taste test! Thank you in advance.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Vacay, Day 1, Which Started At Night and Took a Sharp Right

I always say life is going by in
a blur, and here's a picture to prove it.

Steve is 20 already. My third-born. The boy who was our baby for ten years. The child I wasn't sure I could handle when I already had children ages 2.5 and 1.5. The one a fellow crisis pregnancy center counselor assured me would bring great joy and fun, a child whom God had prepared from the foundation of the world for His glory and our delight. How right she was! Steve is young man wise beyond his years, with a terrific sense of humor, and a loving, encouraging, peaceful demeanor. He handles the truth of scripture with skill, discernment, and passion. He goes out of his way to help people without complaining. He uses his God-given gifts of speaking, writing, music, leadership, serving, and teaching at every opportunity. People older than Steve have said they want to be like him when they grow up. I'm one of them. We celebrated his birthday with simplicity on our family vacation in Myrtle Beach this year.Well, not the whole family. Ben couldn't go because of work, nor Dee because Ben wouldn't be there. It would have been ideal to have all eight of us together, but this is one of those things a parent of young adults has to come to terms with. You raise them to be responsible, hard-working citizens of society, and when they become those citizens, you can't have them with you whenever you want. When they're little, you sacrifice "me time," and when they're older you sacrifice "us time." Time with them. It's hard both ways, but I found myself longing for the days when they were about 12 when I got both "me time" and "us time." That stage after diapers and before driver's license was nearly blissful, as I recall.

Anyway, back to the story...

Steve was on a physical low but a spiritual high. He said there is nothing as exciting in the whole world as to lead another person to Christ. He had the joy a few times this summer, and each time it reinforced his desire to be in ministry.

Ambrey had been away, too, in ministry, having spent five weeks in Zambia. She returned August 4th, Steve the 6th, attended her future sister-in-law's shower on Sunday the 7th at 4 pm in Pennsylvania, and came back down to our house at 8:45 pm. We were loading the van for vacation (which resembles putting a Rubik's cube together if you want any legroom at all). Poor girl, she was ex.HAUST.ed. We left at 9:15pm --only 15 minutes later than we planned, so a record for us!

Sarah drove the first three hours, Paul the next three . I took my driving shift from 3:30 to 5:00 (when I am normally asleep, so that should tip you off as to what a wild ride we had on them thar country roads, honey.) We would have taken a straight shot down I-95, but someone put the wrong address in the GPS. (I can't stand those things, so it wasn't me. I prefer printed directions, but I chose to shut up and drove.) I just followed the directions around twisty turns in the night, scared stiff the whole time, thinking surely a deer, bear, or redneck was gonna jump into my path. But I only hit one thing: a dead possum. At least I think it was a possum. A very gutsy move to re-hit a pre-hit.

I was no more comforted when I wasn't driving until I took a second row seat where I couldn't see what was in front of me. God used the obstruction to show me something: that not being able to see the road ahead is a good thing. Sometimes seeing what's in front of us would scare us out of adventures with Him. And besides, even if we get hurt or frightened, He is there.

That nervous energy kept my reflexes sharp even when my ears weren't. Somewhere after the 834th row of pine trees along a narrow stretch of asphalt, I didn't hear the drone of the GPS lady say, "sharp right turn in point 2 miles." Woops. Sorry, folks. Didn't mean to startle you awake. Are we still all together?

After some necessary stops to relieve both bladder and bones, we checked into our condo
without incident. Paul and I slept three hours until the house phone rang like a smoke detector. Grrrr. The kids slept through it, of course, the kids who had slept most of the car ride, too.

I grabbed my requisite cup of coffee and settled into a chair on the balcony. The view of the Atlantic Ocean, though distant beyond the adjacent campground, refreshed my soul. The sound of lapping waves, the smell of salty air, the sight of gleaming sun in the sky..."it's all too wonderful for me," as Emily from "Our Town" would say.

We enjoyed views from our 4th-floor balcony. Our condo overlooked a campground adjacent to the resort. (I hope no one in a trailer below could see me in my nightie above when I went out to sip coffee and read in the morning. If they did, I'm sure they're home now blogging their disgust.)

When we were finished lazing around the house, we hit various other places to laze around--lazy river, pool, beach. "Wherever and whatever."

Steve the Birthday Boy got to pick where to have dinner. Being too tired to head out, he opted for a simple meal in. So Paul and Sarah hit a local grocery store and fetched a rotisserie
chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans. Ambrey, his always-thoughtful girl, had brought along a Happy Birthday sign and some HB napkins. Steve didn't care about cake. So that was that. A wild ride, a day of nothing but sleeping, sunning, fun, rotisserie chicken,
and I think a walk on the beach before a movie on the sofa.

That was Vacay Day 1.

Stay tuned if you dare, and grab that second cup, as only I can write a post longer than the vacation itself.

Monday, August 15, 2011


I'm in a slump and I've been here for a very long time. I'm miserable, actually. Yesterday my husband asked what my goals are. I have none. Me without goals, I know. Strange. I have tried and failed so many times I am on the brink of giving up with my goals--weight loss, housekeeping, you name it.

I want to know where I fit in, what I'm supposed to be doing, and whether anyone gives a crap.

The teaching job didn't materialize. The school can't afford to hire me. They have given the art class(es) to someone who is already hired to teach other classes as well. So ,for the first time since 1993, this August I am not planning any lessons or field trips. I'm not updating my professional wardrobe. I'm not emailing parents about school supplies lists.

I'm not excited about much of anything. I feel like I'm just observing everyone else enjoying new things or relationships.

I'm lost. I feel utterly out of my element. I have always worn the mantle of teacher and loved it, whether it was a homeschooling teacher or a classroom teacher. I help my husband teach once a month a church (3rd and 4th grade class, combined), but that's it. While I enjoy it, I'm not satisfied. I think I feel like a golden retriever without anything to fetch. I'm listless and looking for purpose. Being Suzy Homemaker doesn't cut it for me. I can only declutter and clean so much before I find myself saying, "This is dull-- and besides, who cares?? Really ,would anyone's life be that much better if my house were spotless?" I cook well enough to satisfy stomachs. I keep laundry pretty much done or in varying states of doneness.

But that stuff doesn't bring me the kind of high that planning lessons does. I love studying history and relating it to geography and art and Bible all at the same time. I love seeing what kids create with pen and paper or paint and canvas. I love having a little stack of tests to grade, especially the essays where they come up with some really clever answers. I enjoy helping kids learn new skills. I love the discussions about presidents and artists and entrepreneurs. My heart gravitates to the academic environment and all things school, sans math. (Math and I had a fling a 9-month fling called Geometry class back in the day; he was the one exception to my "math gives me cooties" motto. One math teacher friend burst my bubble when she declared, "Well, geometry is not real math." What is it, a touched-up, magazine model?)

Anyway, I can't stand this feeling. I have other issues to deal with, issues too private for the internet, but this one I can talk about. This lousy feeling that I'd rather be thriving in heaven than floundering on earth. In some ways I feel like my work on earth is done.

Friday, August 12, 2011

They Got Me Good

Today in Myrtle Beach it rained, so we all went shopping. Our first stop was at a decent indoor flea market. I wandered around mostly alone until time to leave, when I caught up with Steve and Ambrey. They sort of shadowed me while I browsed and waited for Paul and the others to meet us.

At one point, Steve pointed to a bright red machine what was swirling some fluff around and around. I saw a woman and a little girl standing near. Steve said, "Hey, Mom! Wanna get some cotton candy?"

"Yes! I LOVE cotton candy! I've been wanting it this whole trip. I can't remember the last time I had cotton candy. You guys want some, too? "

"Sure," he said ,taking Ambrey's hand and following a few paces behind me, or so I thought. Little did I know they were hanging back far enough I couldn't hear them. I took out my wallet to see how much cash I had. Two bucks and change.

I approached the machine and the lady and the girl she was with. The cotton candy looked quite white instead of pink of blue, and not wispy but a bit chunky, but I thought maybe it was just white cotton candy of a thicker nature. I'm game. My tasters were set.

"Excuse me," I said to the lady. "How much is the cotton candy?"

She put an arm around my shoulder and said, with a sweet South Carolina accent, "Oh, honey, this in't cotton candy. It's stuffing for animals. You wouldn't wanna eat it."

I turned around to see Steve and Ambrey doubled over, laughing. I said "YOU PRANKED ME! YOU GUYS ARE SO BAD!"

I turned to the lady, who I think was holding her chortles inside. "That's my son and his girlfriend" I said to her. "They got me good."

"Oh, they're jist rotten," she said, snickering.

When we caught up to Paul and the rest, Ambrey and Steve could hardly contain themselves long enough to tell the story. They all got the biggest guffaw at my expense. I don't think I'll ever live this one down.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hodgepodge Wednesday on Thursday with Sand Between my Toes

I'm gonna "wave" hello to the Hodgepodge host, Joyce, from the comfort of a beachside condo. Yes, I'm on vacation, and yes I'm a day late with these answers, but I have time on my hands, people. Traveling with mostly college kids does have its benefits. So, let's see what this week's Hodgepodge contains, in addition to sunshine and waves.

1. If you could work for any one government agency which would you choose and why? (if you're in the US here's a helpful list)

I had time to think about this, and in fact, called my powerful imagination into play and changed my name to Pollyanna for the duration of my answer to the question.

I would work for the Department of Motor Vehicles. Why? Because I would turn it into a place where people want to go, not a place they dread. I would set up the place with a hair salon and make-up booth so that people would never look ugly on their driver's license. I would also have movie stations : one for action-adventures, one for chick flicks, and one for kids. If you come in on your birthday, you'd get free cotton candy. There'd be a mini-library of donated books so you could take your read with you if you didn't finish while waiting to renew your tags. Currently most of us can read an entire shelf's worth while we're there. I might add animal balloons to the fun for the kids.

2. How difficult is it for you to forgive someone who refuses to apologize?

Very hard. I don't let go of hurts easily, but if someone shows remorse it helps me along a lot sooner.

3. What is your favorite meatless supper?

Stuffed shells.

4. Wednesday August 10th is National Lazy Day...will you be celebrating? If so, tell us how so we can be lazy too.

I was playing in an oceanfront pool for several hours, then I ate grilled cheese, took a nap, and went out to a lovely dinner with the family, came back and watched "Soul Surfer." Today I spent a couple hours in the Lazy River. Is that lazy enough for ya?

5. As a child did you have any special back to school traditions and if so, what were they? If you're a parent did you carry on those traditions with your own children?

My mom took us shopping for a few new dresses (we went to Christian school where there were no pants allowed and not a uniform). One year I was put in charge of the shopping bag containing sixty bucks worth of new clothes. I absent-mindedly set it down and it got stolen. Read my lips: No new dresses for us that year.

As for traditions with my kids, we homeschooled (the older boys through 12th and 11th grades, respectively, our girl all the way through) so they didn't get school clothes . I made a tradition of photographing them on the first day of each new year. Each child "got to" ("had to"?) hold up their favorite new book for the shot. I don't know who felt more tortured--me or them, but I will carry on traditions long after they cease to be fun. L'chaim!

6. Write a summer tongue twister.
Buxom bronze broads in bikinis beckon and beguile bowlegged boys on beaches and boardwalks.

7. Would you be interested in observing a surgery or do you turn away when the nurse brings out the needle?

Yes, I could handle it, but only if I turned my head for the initial cut. I can't understand how one human can cut another. I actually once watched a doctor put 27 stitches in my son's leg in the ER. (Ben fell out of a tree and landed on thin plywood which broke in half and ripped his upper thigh open.) I asked the doc as I look on, "What's that white bulbous stuff?" and he said, "fat tissue." Oh. Ew .That jagged piece of plywood sure cut in deep! But I was fascinated. My boy was on the verge of fainting, but I was okay.

Speaking of surgeries and "Soul Surfer," did any of you notice something really odd about the scene in which Bethany's dad was in surgery for a knee replacement? The doctor is about to cut into the patient (no nursing staff around, just the surgeon, but that's not the oddest part) . Suddenly a frantic nurse barges through the OR door. She says ,"Doctor, we need this room STAT! A teenage girl is coming in . Shark attack!" and the patient--Bethany's dad--sits up and says, "Who is it?" My observant husband said, "What? No anesthesia for a knee replacement surgery?"

We had a good laugh about that .

8. Insert your own random thought here.

My daughter's compassion moved me last night . Paul treated us to a swanky-but-underpatronized restaurant, and he was carrying a hefty Restaurant dot com coupon, of course. Sarah observed that our waitress was probably a single mom (she had three kids and no wedding ring). When she urged her dad to tip her extra well, he had already signed for the bill. But after hearing his daughter's perspective, he tucked some additional cash in with the credit card slip on the way out. Sarah clucked her "I'm proud of you" cluck and said, "See, Dad. Underneath all that frugality is a generous heart." He just smiled.

Thursday, August 04, 2011


I'm ready to see my little boy after a week at camp.
It's too quiet here. What was good for a day or two
--uninterrupted hours to myself, to write, to work, to clean--
no longer appeals. I long for his voice asking me
questions, giggling, singing when he thinks I'm not listening.
I can't wait to hear about his experiences. Intriguing
and amusing he is, in his story telling. The words he
uses seem, at times, too big for a nine-year-old.
Like when I asked him if he'd be taking his
everyday Bible, he said, "Nah, it's too cumbersome."

I'm ready to see my big boy again, too.
My young man who turns 20 on Monday.
(Really, Lord? Will I really have three children
at least 20 years old?)
I'm ready to hear how God spoke to him, and
through him, into the young lives of hurting,
hungry kids in a remote log cabin atop a
wooded hill in a state we call "P-A." I'm ready
to hear him jam out on the drums again in
the basement, to hear him sing praises in
the shower.

I'm ready to see his girlfriend again. These
ladies my sons hold dear , I hold dear. It's
a rather unexpected thing for me. Always
wondered if I would understand what it means
to love like family someone my child falls
in love with. But I get it now.

I'm ready to witness the moment they behold
each other again after eight long weeks. If I
feel like a balloon about to burst with joy and
relief, how must they be feeling?
She was in Zambia for five of those weeks,
without no telecommunication.

She texted me from DC
when her first of two remaining flights
landed back
"home". She would've called him first,
of course, but Steve gets almost no cell
service where he is. She had not talked
to him yet. She said she's dying to see him
Saturday night. She was about to board the
next flight to Texas
for a mission team debriefing
so our texts were of the hyper-
informational type and then "See you soon!"

But I twisted her message in a very cruel
tease that only a son's mother can pull off.
During a Facebook chat a couple hours later,
I said to Steve, "I have some news from her.
"She decided to stay in Africa another month."
There was a pregnant pause. Then he wrote,
"Really? Why?"
And I said, "She fell in love with someone else.
A black drummer."

"Ha ha," he replied.

"'I had you going, didn't I?"

"um, well, I could see her staying another
month in Africa, but was trying to
figure out how that'd
work with school. The whole black drummer
thing, though? No. LOL."

We both know she is
way too smitten with my son to march to
the beat of a different drummer. Sometimes
I think her heart beats in time with his.

I am ready to go on vacation. We're heading
to the beach as a family next week. All of us,
including the white drummer boy and his girl,
minus our oldest and his bride-to-be. I am
sorry we can't all be together. Sunbathing
on southern sand. Soaking up views of the
grey-green Atlantic from
our balcony.

Ahh, summertime on the East Coast.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Hodgepodge: Lyrics, Jerks, and Hotties

It's Wednesday again, and time for my favorite meme. Thanks, Joyce, for generating great questions each week. Although, did you realize there are no food questions this time? We foodies notice stuff that that.

Remember, readers, you can join in, too. Come on, the water's clean and the people are friendly at this pool. All you's gots to do is read my answers, then hop over to Joyce's and link up there. The questions are actually posted on her site on Tuesdays, so it's easy to cut-and-paste to your blog. I mean it when I say I'd love to read your answers. Or at the very least, your comments!

1. Share a favorite song lyric.
I better not see 'I can't think of one' on anybody's paper. That's an automatic F in the Wednesday Hodgepodge you know.

Just one? I love lyrics and could write a whole list of favorites, but I'll save them for a whole 'nother post. I'd have to say that it's mighty hard to beat the words of the old hymnwriters who so eloquently convey biblical truth. Since I often have to fight condemning thoughts, I hold dear these lyrics:

"My sin (oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!), my sin--not in part, but the whole, was nailed to the cross and I bear it no more! Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, oh my soul!" --Horatio Spafford, It is Well with my Soul

2. When was the last time someone yelled at you?

Do you mean a loud-volume, full-on yell, or a scolding, or a tone of "I'm irritated with you"? The last one that affected me enough to stick in my memory was this guy on the 4th of July. I was alone with Joel in the van, trying to find a parking place to watch fireworks (my hubby is not a celebrater of much). The show had started early and I was half-distracted by the booms and beauties in the night air whilst meandering nervously through crowded neighborhoods.

I followed a midsize white car in bumper-to-bumper traffic up the hill of a side street that was jam-packed with fellow patriots. But I saw a guy in a Ford F-150 coming DOWN the hill, pull over closer to the opposite curb, and get out for what I thought was a better view of the sky. But no. He proceeded to wave his arms and toss his head about at the white car's driver. In a thick Baltimore accent he starts out with "Hey, buddy, if you doan back down, I can't git frew here, and I was here first." Then he got closer to my vehicle and kept ranting. "Lady, I doan know whatchu and him think you's doin' comin' up iss hill, but if you and him doan back down, I can't git my truck down and I was here first." I wanted to say, "So what? You can't make me ," but actually I was afraid he could make me if push came to shove.

Wisdom prevailed over my tongue. No small miracle there. I started backing down, watching out for cars, motorcycles, strollers, mopeds, bikes, crazy kids and half-looped party-goers. I have a hard enough time keeping my wits about me when I'm going
forward in traffic like that. When I finally let the Mouth and the truck his size squeeze past, I waved (a full wave, not an unChristian salute) I double-parked, opened our candy and drinks, and got out just in time to catch the Grand Finale.

3. Money, fame, happiness...are they mutually exclusive?

For the most part, yes. You can have money but not fame or happiness, although money has been known to bring smiles and ease worries. However, some people become more uptight with more money, or can't handle a lot of money any better than they handle a little money, so disillusionment, fear, and guilt accompany wealth. Fame? I would think there are spurts of happiness in being famous, but the lack of privacy seems to snuff out a lot of happiness for celebrities. I have personally known poor, happy people, and rich, happy people.
The thing they have in common is that they find joy in giving . Whether they give away their only cookie or endow a million to a children's hospital, the happiness is in the giving.

4. What is your favorite dish to prepare for family and friends that doesn't require turning on the stove, oven or an outdoor grill?

Premarital Counseling Cake. Some would call it Ice Cream Cake, but it was such a big hit with an engaged couple we were counseling a few years ago, that they sort of requested it every time they came over. Simply line a pan (8x8 or 9x13) with ice cream sandwiches, spread a layer of your favorite ice cream over that, then a layer of Cool Whip, and then top it off with Hershey's syrup. Cover and freeze till ready to serve. What makes it extra versatile for groups is that you can write a message with chocolate syrup if you use the squeeze bottle kind. Heck , for that matter, write a message to yourself on it and forget family and friends. Just kidding. See the last line of Answer #3, substituting "cake" for "cookie."

5. The first week of August is National Simplify Your Life Week. What is one thing you could do this week to simplify your life? Will you do it?

Hire a maid. No.

6. On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being 100% and 1 being not at all) how tuned in are you to your country's national political scene?

Ehh--I'd say a 6. The more I know, the more twisted my stomach gets.

7. What are your final parting words to the month of July?

Dear Mr. July,

You took the baton way too fast from little Miss June, but oh how seamless the hand-off (I can tell you've been practicing for years) --then kept running as fast as your 31 legs would carry you. I try not to make comments about appearance, but you were hot. I mean, smokin' ! Only the grill could compete with your hotness. Of course when you're hot, you attract a lot of fans. And air conditioners.

I played hard-to-get around you, preferring to chill inside with my smoothie operator. Thanks for bringing a crowd, though .It was great to have a family reunion as you rounded the 1/4-mile marker. And thanks for the ripe peaches at the end. The cobbler was pretty good, but I wish I'd made a dreamy, flaky pie from the bounty you delivered. Goodbye again, July.
Thanks for being part of the 12-person relay team. Now that you've passed the baton to Mr. August, can I be honest? I like him better. He's hotter than you and he brings me birthday presents!

8. Insert your own random thought here.

For a blog about some truly happy, but poverty-stricken kids and my friends Bonnie and McKenzie who have ministered the love of Jesus Christ to them in Zambia, check out these blogs;

Both young ladies are from my church; Bonnie left in November and has now applied for a 3-year visa. McKenzie left in June for 5 weeks. McKenzie will be home tomorrow, and Bonnie is coming back in November for a couple months with her roommate , Lord willing, who has no other family except Bonnie. Let your heart be warmed as you read real-life accounts from people I know and love.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Miscellany Monday with Gratitude

Linking up at a blog called "lowercase letters" for Miscellany Monday. I am not only listing 8 randoms today, I am also grateful for all of them. (I'm having trouble getting the cute button to work. Sorry, Carissa.)

One. Going Green in a Smoothie Kind of Way.
I made this one today from things that had to be used up: Peach-Ginger Smoothie
1 cup canned peaches
1 fresh peach
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 handful of ice
2 handfuls of fresh spinach
1 slice of cucumber & 1 slice of nectarine for garnish, because I just love garnishes.
Two. New-to-Us Patio Furniture. Free.
My husband has a wonderful, kind, friendly, and generous friend named Curtis. When Curtis and his wife bought a new table and chairs for themselves, Curtis offered us the old set. Can I tell you it's an answer to prayer? Not only is it classy and in good shape, it ha
s an umbrella and doubles the amount of seating on our deck. Now we can have a large group over without dragging camp chairs and kitchen chairs from hither and yon. THREE. Fresh herbs.
I simply marvel that God makes so many different gorgeous variations on the shape and shade of leaves. The beauty of basil.
FOUR. Having my whole family--everyone--finally, on board with better eating resolve. For health. For taste. For wedding. It's a joy to make things like this Caribbean Chicken Salad and have everyone appreciate it.

FIVE. Bright red petunias that ask for a little water and lots of sunshine and return the favor with daily cheer.

SIX. Almost 33 child-free hours, just my silver-haired sweetie and me.
From noon on Saturday when Sarah took Joel to camp, while Steve was in PA and Ben was in NJ,
we had a glorious, wonderfully quiet, relaxed nest. He cut the grass and called it a day. I washed about 347 dishes and utensils by hand because the dishwasher wasn't acting right and all the "clean" dishes came out with dried-on gunk, so I scrubbed them manually, and called it a day. We just chilled, and for dinner brought home a Maryland crab cake platter and a cheesesteak sub. (Okay, so the better-eating resolve is kind of evolving! Sometimes an indulgence is merited, as in the name of celebrating a no-kids-home weekend.)

SEVEN. Cake Balls. I'd never heard of them until Kelly at Through the Water, wrote a "controversial" post. So cute that her choice of a "controversial post" was about cake mixes vs. made-from-scratch cakes, and how some people get cranky at the mere mention of cake mixes!

I was going to make a 13x9 of Steve's favorite yellow cake with chocolate frosting so he could enjoy a mini-birthday party with friends at camp. But, since I had other things also baking (I was in a mood) the cake got a bit overdone. Not badly, but it turned out "not pretty." While it cooled, I read blogs. Lo and behold, the solution to my problem was literally at my fingertips! Cake Balls are simple, messy, and the perfect way to delishify a flop.

Cake Balls:
-Crumble up a baked boxed cake
-Add a can of frosting.
-Mash it all up together in your hands and form balls.
-Freeze the balls. I read you can freeze them for 15 minutes to six hours. I froze them for four while I did other things. They were perfect to work with--no crumbling.
-Melt 3 large Hershey bars in the microwave with a little bit of milk. The milk gives you a good sheen.
-Roll each ball in melted chocolate. (Work quickly. The chocolate hardens fast.)
-Refrigerate on a tray for 15 minutes. Serve or seal as you desire.
-Enjoy the taste and the compliments!

( Did I mention these are messy? At first I felt like quitting, but then I realized there was no turning back and just declared it an adventure. I can get through almost anything if it's called an adventure.) Besides, Joel was having a blast with the camera.

I didn't get a shot of the finished product. But I can say that they passed the test kitchen's approval! And they were a big hit with the counselors.

EIGHT. My son (the supposedly wise camp counselor) spent his time off Saturday jumping off a 30-foot cliff into water below! I found out from his Facebook status, and let me tell you, it made my palms sweat and my heart race. Had he told me ahead of time, I probably would've retched. I thank God He didn't let Steve die or be paralyzed for life.