Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hodgepodge: One Giant Leap for the Year

Can you believe it's already the last day of the second month of the year Two Thousand Twelve? I think the date February 29 is so cool . I have friends who celebrated 52 years of marriage on their 13th anniversary because they got married on this date .

Let's leap onto the next lilypad of Hodgepodge questions From This Side of the Pond, shall we? Get your cup of coffee, your spot of tea, or your Bud. Weis. Er, whatever you want to sip on to toast this special day as you read my answers and then hop around the worldwide pond of Hodgepodgers today.

1. The Hodgepodge falls on the last day of February this year, a leap year. How will you spend that extra day?

If you must know, I have a to-do list that is packed solid:
-Drop boy off at school
-Deliver crockpot of soup to church
-Get eyebrows waxed
-Buy a shaper (My hubby says, "You mean a girdle?" and I say, "They don't call them that anymore. A girdle is for old ladies, which I'm not. I'm middle aged and need my shape shaped up a bit under my dress for the wedding."
-Buy a strand of pearls (which, looking in the mirror, reminds me of the phrase "casting your pearls before swine.")
-Pick boy up from school
-Paint my nails
-Attend ladies' meeting
-Pack up my art lesson and stuff for Thursday's class

2. What has recently required a leap of faith on your part?

My brother-in-law's cancer diagnosis and the ensuing tests, surgeries, and what-ifs that accompany such a trial.

3. We're one week into the season of Lent...are you marking these 40 days in some way? Giving something up or adding something extra to normal life? How's it going so far?

No, I've never really observed Lent. I grew up Baptist/Methodist/sometimes Jewish/Episcopalian, you name it, so my traditions flexed. But if you count a wedding as adding something extra to normal life, then yes, but it has nothing to do with Lent. Except that we're giving up a lot of money .

How's it going so far? Okay. I'm just really, really, REALLY glad I'm not the mother of the bride. The stress this week about what we're responsible for as the groom's parents has been getting to me, as well as the stress of knowing I can't forget to pack anything because the wedding is two hours from home and we're going up there the day before. Plus I'm not wild about the haircut I just got. Grrr.

4. When was the last time you sat beside a fire?

It was a Tuesday in early January. I got as close as I could to the fireplace at Panera when I met my hubby for a dinner date. I think it might have been the one and only night of such wannabe winter weather in January, so maybe we were just there to celebrate White Precipitation Day??? The wet powder fell from heaven and dissolved on the sidewalk like communion wafers in the mouth as we sat near the fire "mmming" and "ahhing" our "You Pick Two" of tomato soup and a portabello sandwich." The fire was just for ambience: more like an extra on a Hollywood set than a leading role.

5. Surf and Turf is on the menu. Do you order as is or do you ask for just the surf (lobster), just the turf (steak), or a menu so you can select another option?

I order by my mood, but Surf and Turf is often very fitting to my mood, for sure. If lobster were the only "surf" choice, I'd take it, although I much prefer jumbo lump Maryland Blue Crab. The steak would be cooked medium.

6. If you could have any television program back, not in reruns but in new episodes, what program would you choose?

Hmm, that's a toughie to answer. Leave it to Beaver, Lost in Space, or the Andy Griffith Show. I think I'd go with the Beave, since our youngest likes the show, too. And he sort of reminds me of Beaver when he is sorry for getting in trouble with his teacher. Last week he was telling me after school that he lost his stamp for inappropriate talk. I asked him what he said. "Well, Mrs. K is always telling us she's the Queen, that her chair is her throne and stuff like that. We were walking out for recess and I was first in line behind her, and I said, 'I'm walking behind the royal behind.' "

She reprimanded him, made him miss some of recess, and took his stamp away for the day. (A stamp is what they get on their calendar for good behavior.) He was really sorry for saying what he did because he loves and adores his teacher. He just didn't think before he spoke and wanted a laugh from the class. It was all we could do not to laugh as he explained and confessed.

7. They say an elephant never forgets. These days would you say your memory is more like an elephant or a gnat?

I had to read the question twice because I forgot the first part of it before I got to the end.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Speaking of leaps, I heard about a program called FROGS that I want to get involved in. FROGS is a clever acronym for Friends and Relatives of Great Students, and is a mentoring opportunity at the school across from our church. Volunteers go in and read and study with the elementary aged kids. I can so picture myself enjoying that since I love schools. I do. They rev my engine. And I love helping kids succeed academically. And I have time on my hands. So it seems a perfect fit for me in this stage of "what to do that's meaningful in life now that I'm not a young mommy or a homeschooler or staying up late nights with teens whose day starts at 11 pm with a need to talk or college kids who need me to edit their papers or cut out 16 Easter bunnies for a seasonal preschool learning game?". Now I have time in between helping grade 32 math papers as a "favor" for my daughter-turned-first grade-teacher, fixing dinner, teaching art, folding laundry, blogging, running carpool, scrubbing toilets, and zoning out on Facebook. I think I can leap like a frog in my schedule right now--after the wedding, that is. After a certain Handsome Prince marries his beautiful Princess and begin their "Happily Ever After" story.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Jesus at the Intersection

Saturday afternoon, around 1:30, I was coming home with a trunk full of groceries when I approached an intersection near home. There at a popular corner stood a young man and young woman, bundled up tight against the cold wind. She was holding a cardboard sign that said "Homeless and Hungry." I was two lanes away and the light was about to change.

What's strange about this scene is that I live in an area where you just don't see homeless people on the streets. At least not within a ten-mile radius of my house that I've ever seen.
There are plenty of homeless people in our county, but for the most part they live in poorer communities.

I would have been taken aback except that I have been praying that God would show me needs in my neighborhood. Show me needs, and soften me, God. That's what I'd been praying. I had become myopic and lazy. And honestly, when I let myself "go soft" to see needs in the past, I have regretted the depth of overwheleming grief and sadness, and sometimes anger and a sense of helplessness about changing the world or making a difference at all. I have also been duped by people who "work the system" and I was leery about being duped again.

So as I sat at the light, not seeing too many roll down their windows to hand out money or food to this couple, I thought, "Would I? I mean, this county is prosperous, so these kids could just be getting movie money or something." But in the next moment, tears began to pool in my eyes. "No one in their right mind would be standing out in this freezing wind if they didn't have to." And in the third moment, still waiting for the light to turn green, the Lord spoke to me. "This is an opportunity to love Me." It wasn't about who was holding the sign, it was about Jesus and he was clearly saying, "This is your answer."

I drove home trying not to cry, with groceries that needed to be unloaded. When I walked into the house, I told my husband that I felt compelled to give this couple a hot lunch, to get them out of the cold at a fast-food joint. Was that okay with him and did he want to go? Yes, it was okay, but no, he wouldn't be going with me because he had promised our daughter he'd take her to pick up a headboard she bought off Craigslist. A bed, I thought. We all have comfy beds. Where will this young couple sleep tonight? I didn't feel guilty, I felt blessed. That's new, I thought. Always in the past I thought I should renounce prosperity and just feel guilty. But God has not given us blessings for us to feel guilty about. He has "drawn our lines in pleasant places," and I felt very thankful.

Before I left again, Paul asked if I was going to give the couple some money, and I said no, I only had a dollar on me anyway. If they were truly hungry, they would take my offer of lunch. What they needed in the moment was warmth and food, and maybe a ride to a homeless shelter. I could do that, and I wanted to.

I got back in the car and drove toward the intersection where I'd seen them ,hoping they were still there.

To be continued...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Gold or Pearls? I Want Opinions

Company Girls, and anyone else who wants to cast their vote, I am asking a favor.

My turn at being mother-of-the-groom is coming up just two weeks from tomorrow! Wow, does that ever sound close now! Here's what I want your opinion on: what type of necklace I should wear. The two options I think I have it narrowed to are gold (haven't chosen the exact necklace) or a strand of pearls (not chosen, either).

The color dress I'm wearing is deep wine. Think Cabernet Sauvignon. Shoes are champagne. (Sounds like my wardrobe has a drinking problem.) If you have a problem with the booze imagery ,think eggplant, which also aptly describes my shape, but I really don't want anyone to chime in on that part of the post with opinions, thank you very much.

The dress is velvet with a high scoop neck. (Which leads to the question, do you know how hard it was to find a modest formal dress that wasn't overly matronly or frumpy?! I'm sure the groom will thank his mama for covering her tatas.) There is a lace jacket over the dress (long sleeved) , the same cabernet color as the dress.

I will be wearing a pearl ring that my husband gave me for my first Mother's Day. It makes me a bit teary-eyed to write that sentence, considering that on my first Mother's Day, the groom was my first baby, and he was only about 6 and 1/2 weeks old. Now he's 23 and 6 and 1/2 feet tall. My, how time flies.

Why does every topic about the wedding lead my thoughts right back to that one single thought: My, how time flies. ???

Anyhoo, opinions from my cyber friends are appreciated.

I have taken pictures and will try to upload soon. Technical difficulties are hindering my endeavors, but you all are imaginative and can probably advise without photos.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hodgepodge: Highway Drama and Trauma

Joyce has asked another batch of questions to the Wednesday Hodgepodge!

1. February 22nd is National Be Humble Day...what makes you proud? What keeps you humble?

Proud in a good way? I'm proud of my children. Proud in a bad way? How much time do you have? What keeps me humble? Embarrassing myself after a pride-fest!

2. Where is the catch-all (aka dumping ground) in your house?

There are a few: 1) the first counter you come to upon entering the kitchen. It's the mail catcher, for starters. Another catch-all is my bedroom. And the back of the basement tends to catch what we can't decide what to do with when it's it in the way upstairs.

3. Do you make it a point to visit State/National Parks when you travel or even in your own hometown? What's your favorite?

No, not really. I have some fond memories, though, of hiking the White Mountains in New Hampshire seven months after my last child was born. My closest friend at the time moved up there with her family to help plant a church, and we missed each other greatly. I had wanted to visit sooner, but from February 14th to September 15th, 2002, my body would not have been able. I had torn all my pelvic ligaments giving birth, the SI joints were out of place and chronically painful, and my bladder was permanently damaged and half-paralyzed. The drive up there was but a dream, let alone doing anything physical once we got there. However, in October we went because....drumroll, was a celebration of the miracle of my healing on September 15th. It happened in an instant that Sunday after church when a man and his wife laid hands on me and prayed. I didn't think I'd ever walk without a limp, or at the very least without pain, let alone go for a three-mile hike in New England, but God decided on September 15, 2002, to touch my body and make me whole again. To this day, I talk about the "mountaintop experience" I had after being in the lowest valley.

4. How would you define honor?

To place high value upon in the mind, with the mouth, and with deeds.

5. Angel's food or Devil's food-which cake do you prefer?

Angel food cake is in my top three flavors of cake! It has an addictive quality to it--light, sweet, spongey, slightly gooey.
One year our care group was having an Ebenezer Dinner (Ebenezer meaning "thus far hath the Lord helped us.") These dinners were times for remembering God's faithfulness in the past six months) and I made an Ebenezer Cake (which is what I called it). It was a storebought angel food cake which I cut in half through the middle, added a layer of orange filling, then glazed and sprinkled with chopped pecans. I then filled the middle of the ring with fresh peach-tinted roses because I just adore cakes decorated with real flowers! I miss those Ebenezer dinners. Our "log keeper" would pull out the prayer log and read the prayer requests that had been mentioned, and answered. It would lead to discussion, and sometimes tears, but always to appreciation for the love of our Lord Jesus who hears our prayers.

6. What's the most recent road trip you've taken? Where did you go and how many hours did you spend in the car? Do you like to zoom to your destination without stopping or leisurely wind your way there with stops along the way? What is your car snack of choice?

Our last road trip was to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for vacation last summer. It was one wild ride, begun at 9 pm and ending around 6:30 am, and since someone typed the wrong address into the GPS, the drive became a labyrinth of scary back roads, speed bumps at 68 miles an hour, convenience stores that weren't, and other memories I've repressed in order to maintain a semblance of sanity.

Hubby likes to zoom, and since he is the command man at the wheel, zoom is what we do. He drives like he lives life--with the destination clearly marked. Life is a mission, and so is a vacation. I would prefer to stop and gather rosebuds while I may, or peruse art shops and wineries along the way. (I convinced him ONCE to do that--at Assateague we went to an art shop, and at Gettysburg we went wine-tasting because it was just us. The clerk who waited on us was a transvestite, but that's a whole 'nother blog post. He-she only added to the long list of hubby's Reasons Not to Stop the Car on the Way There.)

My snack of choice? I'm not sure I have only one. Sometimes I want cashews, other times Oreos, and sometimes grapes. My hubby has to have sunflower seeds (Ranch flavored). He cracks them open with his teeth and uses a plastic disposaable cup as a spitoon. Yup. That's how my man rolls.

7. Recent headlines told how a preschool child in NC had their packed lunch from home taken away and a school lunch substituted by a school inspector who deemed the homemade lunch unhealthy. Reportedly the parent was then billed for the school lunch (chicken nugget meal) although an update to the story says the parent was not billed. The inspector was conducting a routine inspection of the classroom-he/she was not there solely to peek in the lunchboxes. The packed lunch contained a turkey and cheese sandwich, an apple juice box, a bag of chips, and a banana. You can read the story here. Your thoughts?

Oh, you are getting me on one of my soapboxes with this question! Where to start, where to start? First, I will say that sounds like a typical lunch I might pack my fourth grader. Second, bravo to the mom or dad (or child) who actually packed a lunch with protein and fruit instead of Lunchables or something really crappy. I am a firm believer in parents having authority over any school authority, and even if the lunch was something another person would deem "unhealthy," the choice is the parents', not a government official's. Uncle Sam has no right to tell people what to eat; I don't even think they should be sanctioning what fast food restaurants should offer: let the people decide! As for the child being offered a chicken nugget meal instead. Seriously? I bet chicken nuggets are far worse than lunchmeat, or at least no better! My daughter works in a public school and she is appalled by what the school offers for breakfast and lunch to the kids.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Last night I went to bed hearing a medevac helicopter flying close overhead. It's never good when you hear that sound. I commented to my son that there must've been a bad accident nearby. This morning, as I began to read Facebook posts, I read horrible news. The car accident involved three cars. A Cavalier with three siblings in it crossed the double yellow line, sideswiped a Toyota, and then spun into the path of an oncoming vehicle. The siblings' car split in half upon impact, ejecting two of the kids. All three of the siblings were pronounced dead at the scene. Two were in their 20s, one was 17. The other drivers suffered varying degrees of injuries. On top of the trauma, when the first medevac copter landed, its engine caught on fire. The flight medics were unharmed. This accident took place about five miles from my house.
I cannot, cannot, cannot imagine being the parents who had to learn of this tragic, sudden, horrific loss of their three children at once last night. Lord Jesus, come quickly!

The Man You've Become

I spent some time this weekend trying to find the perfect song to dance to with my son at his wedding . Let me tell you, moms, if you need a good, cathartic, two-Kleenex-box cry, this is the exercise for you. Make sure you are not wearing mascara, and if you need a shoulder to cry on, don't be alone.

I listened and then told my husband to come here, I needed a hug. "I need a moment," I told him. He put his arms around me, not knowing what I had just been doing. Poor guy, this woman of his just starts crying out of nowhere?

He patted my back and stroked my hair once, and then said, "Okay, that's been more than a moment. It's been like six moments." Somehow I managed to tell him briefly what was on my heart, something about letting Ben go that's really hitting me right now.

He said, "That's what we raise to kids to do--leave home and be independent." I said, "I know, but..."

"I know" is not what I meant in the moment. (Or in my six moments.) What I really meant in my heart was, "We raise them to leave us? Are you kidding? That's a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, to just have a kid after 23 years "up and leave ya!" That's what I was really thinking.

That, plus, "I'm so proud of him and I'm so happy for him." There's always a plus.

Anyway, here is the song I believe I want to dance with him. It expresses my heart in a way I wish I could have written. Grab a Kleenex, or two, or the whole box. You're gonna need it if you're a mom, especially the mom of a son on the verge of getting married! Get ready to have
" a moment." Or six.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Daybook Entry, 2.19.12

An entry inspired by The Simple Woman's Daybook, which I'm writing at 2:05 a.m. on Monday after having a had a three-hour Sunday afternoon nap.

Outside my window...
Pitch black, cold, with invisible snow that was supposedly coming. Winter has just been pretending this year. Meanwhile, the daffodil stems are five inches high and I'm itching to do some major projects, so it must be spring.

I am thinking...
about what I've been reading tonight. It's a book called Forever by Paul Tripp. We aren't made for this world, but for the next--for eternity, and we suffer from what Tripp calls "eternity amnesia". We try to harness on earth what only Jesus and eternity in Heaven can give, but we forget, and so end up trying to pack in everything we can while we're here. We put too many expectations on other people. We overspend, we overeat, we overentertain ourselves.

I am thankful for...

my husband's remarkable improvement in his energy level. He made breakfast, lunch, and dinner yesterday of his own accord, and did likewise today!

From the kitchen...

nothing. Did I mention it's 2 a.m.? But I must say I have been loving to make mashed sweet potatoes lately . It's my new "thang."

I am wearing...

a long-sleeved T-shirt from the American Red Cross with the slogan "It's Hip to Give" on it. Plus a pair of pajama pants in which I have plenty of hip to give. Want some?

I am creating...

a mental list of things to create. I most recently made a scrapbook for my parents for Valentine's Day/ my mom's 70th birthday. It's a collection of 50 years of marriage and their 50th celebration party pictures. She declared it "a treasure that I will go through again and again!"

I am going...

to get my hair cut on Tuesday. This is my last 'do before the wedding, and I am feeling extra pressure. I shouldn't. I should sit back and relax, as always. It's not like I'm the bride or anything, right? Change my style or keep it the same, only shaped up and trimmed a bit?

I am reading...

see above. I just finished one called The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Oh, my goodness, was that ever a page-turner. It's about a Pakistani who lives in America long enough to attend Princeton and get a lucrative job in New York shortly after 9/11, and who has a romantic relationship with someone whose old boyfriend dies but is still very much alive in her mind, to a crippling point. The narrator both loves and is angered by America, and his perspective is definitely thought-provoking, yet disturbing at places. The end becomes an unexpected thriller. The only caveat to reading this is that there is an intimate scene between young lovers--TMI for the unmarried person, I would say. When I picked up the book, I plunged right into chapter one, not realizing it was a novel. That made the ending quite a spine-tingler!

I am hoping...

to regain an interest in spiritual things soon. I've become lukewarm.

I am hearing...

just the hum of the computer and the clicking of my nails on the keys.

Around the house...

I just did an intervention on my bedroom. It had a drug problem. (Things got drug in there and needed to be drug back out.)

One of my favorite things...

is the anticipation of going shopping for a piece of jewelry. I love bling and want something to go with my dress for the wedding.

A few plans for the rest of the week...

Tomorrow is another day off school. We had off Friday, too, since we haven't any snow days yet. Yay! Tuesday, I hope, will be a day of pampering. Besides my hair, I'm going to get a pedicure AND have a gift card to use for it! Wednesday I would like a date with my hubby. We haven't had a real date since...???...yeah, I forget, so it's time. Thursday I will teach art that is finally NOT in the Renaissance period any more, but in the early 1800s. I like that MUCH better. Friday? That sounds too far away to think about. Because now the clock says 2:37 a.m. and I am not in planning mode.

A picture thought I am sharing...

Our chillins when the Youngest, now 10, was just a beebee.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I Didn't Go AWOL; Hodgepodge Brevity

So I thought I was just going to take a break and come back here Tuesday, but my laptop is nearly kaput and we need to back it up and not use it until that happens, or else risk losing a lot.

I've been reading facebook and blogs (and commenting a teeny bit) on the little tablet we have, but it's kind of a pain, and I can't post on Blogger with it. Probably a good thing. I have had a huge lot on my proverbial plate this week, both logistically and emotionally. When I'm on overload all I want to do is escape to sleep, blog, read, eat, run (as in away). Sometimes I pray, but why is it that all I can sometimes muster is "Help, Lord!"? And why is it just sometimes -- a last resort when I have at my disposal more than I could ever ask for or even imagine, since my God is exceedingly and abundantly able to supply all I need?

I have been concerned, not in a funny way, about my memory. I am not recalling some of the simplest things. I'm forgetting what I said to whom and am always asking, "Did I tell you this already?" because I know how annoying it is to hear the same old story from someone who just loves to talk. Or I remember an event or a conversation in a way that no one else remembers it, so I'm wrong. I try not to take it personally when it feels like the people in the right are ganging up on me, but it feels like I'm acquiescing and aging at the same time (giving up control and losing control at the same time). It's one more way the Lord is showing me my mortality and His omniscient sovereignty. I should probably take a class to get my brain working harder, to force it to engage like a muscle.

Emotionally the cancer diagnosis hit me hard yesterday. The call from my sister-in-law came just before a big combo party I was hosting for my mom's 70th, Joel's 10th, and Sarah's graduation/new job combo celebration. My brother-in-law has a long road ahead in fighting melanoma. And those in the fight with him feel rather inept, especially from a distance. My husband also received word from his doctor that his lungs are hyperinflated, which is an early sign of COPD. Are you kidding me?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease? Isn't that a smoker's disease? My man is a runner and has never smoked! How can it be? Well, I am praying that it isn't so, that the pulmonologist will say it was merely bronchitis that swelled his lungs. I will deny and deny and deny until I hear it from two sources. Or three. Or fourteen hundred. That's how I am.

Okay, I'm at the library and promised my son I'd be off at 4:30. It is 4:30, so I'll keep my word.

Anybody want me to answer this week's Hodgepodge late?

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

It's Cancer

One of my brothers-in-law has been diagnosed with malignant melanoma in his scalp. He is having surgery tomorrow (Thursday) to remove as much as possible and see if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. We are praying that God will have mercy in this situation. If you are a praying person, would you please join us? Thanks. Please also pray for his wife, children, grandchildren, and other family members as we process this sobering diagnosis and treatment options.

I will be taking a little break until Tuesday of next week for a variety of reasons.

Hodgepodge: Reminiscing and Romance

1. What is something you are loving right now?

My daughter's excitement over getting hired to teach first grade full time. She will be starting this Friday. What a blessing to land a position literally a month after her graduation ceremony! The school is exactly the kind she's been praying for (an economically-challenged, low-performing school where kids seem to need extra TLC). But oh, boy, she's got a learn to learn! She will have 32 students and has to learn all their names, which isn't easy, considering some of the names sound like what you hear when you drop a handful of silverware on a tile floor.

She has been "teaching" since she was a little girl. (Here's a picture of her with her great-grandpa when she was five months old.) I remember how, at the tender age of five, she used to line up her stuffed animals and dolls on her bed and situate them attentively against the wall. Each one would get an imaginary pencil in their paw or hand. I'd eavesdrop outside Sarah's door and hear things like, "Mandy, are you yistenin' ta me? Sit up stwaight. Bobby, are you payin' tension ta me? Diss is not pway time, it's cwass time." (Her older brother used to say, "Mommy, she's not teaching. She's bossing!")

2. Paris, Venice, New York, and Rome are considered four of the most romantic cities in the world. Which one would you most like to visit?

Talk about a hard question to answer! The French Impressionist, French-speaking dreamer in me would love to see Paris. However, I have not given up on my my greatest travel dream which is to see Italy with my husband, and when we do (I'm not even letting myself say "if" but "when" ) we will include both Venice and Rome. If I had to choose, that would be hard. The romantic artist and historian in me wants to see Rome, but the artist and lover in me says Venice. Pressed for just one, I guess it'd be Venice. When we return, I will be sure to blog ad nauseum about our "Rome antics" and "Venice vistas."

3. Are you a romantic?

Absolutely! Such a romantic that I gave birth to my last child on Valentine's Day. I didn't choose the day; I had to be induced because he was over 9 pounds at 38 weeks, and the only time slot open in Labor & Delivery for me was February 14th. That ended up being wonderful, because Valentine's Day had become my favorite holiday over the years, thanks to my daddy, Lyle. He has always honored my mom and us girls every year with chocolate and heartfelt cards. We would wake up and find those things at the breakfast table, and then as adults await his gift in person at the door or in the mail, depending on where we lived.

I always felt I couldn't thank him enough. I knew I was going to name our last son after him but the bonus of having that baby on Valentine's Day allowed me to place Joel Lyle into my father's open and eager arms. "Here, Daddy. A Valentine with your name on it." If my dad was a balloon he would've burst from joy at that moment.

4. What's your favorite love story made for the Big Screen?

"The Notebook" ranks up there because it pictures the love of a man for his wife
who has been stricken with Alzheimer's. He is loyal, patient, and kind long after she has forgotten him or their story. It reminds me of my grandparents when they lived across the hall from each other in the nursing home. Grandpa would say, "Kathryn, here are our grandchildren. They've come for a visit. You remember Rachel?" Grandma would smile and stare blankly at my older sister and ask, "Who do you belong to?" And my sister would say, "Your son, Lyle." No recollection in her face whatsoever. Grandpa would touch Grandma's arm and say, "Lyle's family used to live in Alden when he was a minister, you remember?" And she'd say, "Lyle was a MINISTER?" Oh, the heartbreak. I remembered the days when she'd go on and on about how she loved having a son in ministry. Ironically, she remembered me, and how we used to play with baby dolls in the metal camper behind their house. I think it must be because Grandma and I were like two children playing together, and she remembered childhood things, but the fact is I was nine and she was about 59 when we played together.

5. Everyone loves Pooh bear and friends...which character are you most like and why? Click here for help in answering this question.

Kanga. According to the quiz results, I am "warm and loving and great with children. But kids know not to misbehave around me or I'll put them in time out." Hmm, see answer # 1 for someone who might be Kanga, Jr !

6. What's the best chocolate something you've ever eaten?

Triple Chocolate Layer cake made by my friend Sharon. It is a chocolate cake with chocolate pudding, chocolate chips, and chocolate frosting. Technically that's a quadruple chocolate cake, right? You serve it warm and the chocolate is like sweet lava in your mouth. I think I could eat it for lunch right now.

7. Share a favorite quote about love.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." That's exactly what Jesus did. He did the ultimate laying down of his life after 33 years of dying to himself day in and day out.

To me, it's easy to think of jumping in front of a Mack truck or a bullet to save my husband's or child's life, because "perfect love casts out all fear" and I wouldn't stop to think about myself. I'd just do it with everything in me, out of love. But to lay down my life in small ways every day by choice has been quite the test of love, and often I've failed. Yet they still love me after decades of failures and maybe a few successes? And vice versa.

8. Insert a random thought here.

A couple weeks ago I posted the "dream dress" my girl steered me to, as she was squelching major guffaws all the way to the rack. (We were at this bridal shop in NJ for my future DIL's dress fitting.) This "dream dress was ugggggggleeeeee!"

But I failed to show you the really, truly dreamy-romantic dress that my daughter would love to wear someday. It's one I would wear if I had it to do over. (Click to see details. This one is stunning!)

I can't wait to get a new battery for my Nikon so I can get back to taking pictures with good lighting and better resolution than my easy-peasy purse camera. Nonetheless, this dress is a work of art, and merited a picture of any quality.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Hands of God, Michelangelo, and Half-Grown Kids

A couple of weeks ago I assigned a drawing project of the human hand. Students (all 5th and 6th graders) had to draw their non-drawing hand as it rested on the table with the index finger touching the thumb. For all of them it was a first experience at hand drawing, and super challenging.

Drawing hands is advanced work, but we were studying Renaissance artist Michelangelo who considered himself primarily a sculptor, not a painter. He is arguably the greatest sculptor of all time. (Think "David.")

Yes, he was the mastermind and master artist who painted the Sistine Chapel in Rome, but he only consented to doing the job because Pope Julius II asked him to, and just don't say no to the Pope.

Can I get an "Amen" if you're glad that Michelangelo said a subordinate "yes" to this rhetorical request?

I try to throw in tidbits of trivia as I teach, and often it's of the culinary sort because I'm often hungry as I work off calories handing out art supplies. Did you know that Michelangelo hailed from Caprese, Italy? I asked them. No, they didn't. Well, have you ever heard of a caprese salad? No, they hadn't, so I told them it has the three colors of the Italian flag--tomato, basil, and mozzarella. Jot that down in your memory, I say; you never know when you might need it to answer a final Jeopardy question.

Moving on to the real reason we gather every Thursday, which would be to learn the grammar of art, as my principal says...

I was impressed with my students' tenacity, as well as the results by these novices, but in fairness did not grade this piece. After all, the first time I drew a hand (maybe three years ago?) I would have received a citation from the Art Police, not an A, B, or C.

The main thing I want to impart to my students whether in art, history, geography, or English, is the greatness of God. (I am so thankful to have the privilege of teaching in Christian schools and homeschool co-ops in which I can speak freely of His greatness.) In this particular lesson, students learned to appreciate God's creative design of the human hand by looking at it in detail--its creases, knuckles, curves, texture, nails--as well as how difficult it is to replicate the hand using a pencil, paper, and forty minutes on the clock.

(They also learned that their teacher's hands include age spots, wrinkles, and more fatty tissue, but they graciously didn't point those things out. I did it for them.)

Naturally, I couldn't resist being corny as they finished their drawings. "Give yourselves a hand. You did a great job today."

The corn is what keeps them coming back. I'm sure of it.

Friday, February 03, 2012

22 Words

Inspired by a blog called 22 Words, by Abraham Piper....

Last minute invitation to a marriage seminar this weekend fills me with hope, gratitude, and giddy excitement even after our silver anniversary.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Hodgepodge: Love, Pain, and Head-banging

On the first day of February, my true love gave to me ... nothing.

But Joyce gave me (and a few hundred of my closest cyber friends) a new batch of Hodgepodge questions to ponder and answer.

1. It's that most wonderful time of the season! Do you complete your own returns or farm that job out to the professionals?

Well, I don't personally do them, but my hubby does. Doing taxes involves math, to which I'm allergic. But my pentagenarian man is really good with all things financial, and I trust him implicitly. (He's kind of my personal Dave Ramsey, sans facial hair and southern accent and maybe a few million bucks.) With regard to taxes, the only things I do are:
1) itemize the things that I put out for the charity trucks
2) file the tax-related mail that comes in this time of year
3) sign on the bottom line when he has done the hard part, and about six weeks later,
4) spend whatever I can get my grubby little hands on.

One of these years we might farm out the job of doing taxes, but it would be to our son the accountant, and he owes us a lifetime of pro bono work. Not that I'm keeping track or anything.

2. This next question comes from Kansas Bob...he posed it in his response to something I asked in an earlier Wednesday post and I asked him if I could add it to the Hodgepodge some day. Today's the day....

Which do you think has changed you more-love or pain?

Great question. Some of the world's best minds come from Kansas, or spent time there, did they not?

I'm glad we get these questions a day early so that I have time to ruminate, or I might I have to give a Miss America answer that always begins with, "I think that...."

Love has been most effectively shown to me when I'm being a pain! That is, the people who have loved me in spite of my egregious sin (Jesus, parents, husband, children, close friends) have proven that love lasts and is real. I've been changed by pain, certainly, but to a lesser degree than by love. (For example, I don't cry as much as I used to, and I think that's because I've grown callous as a way of blocking pain in certain relationships. I have become more understanding of people who suffer with chronic pain, loneliness, isolation, depression, fear, and longing for death as a result of some of the things I've suffered in my life. But I have also been more aware of the precious love and power of the Lord and His presence and the joys awaiting me in heaven when I change perspectives (usually with the help of others who get in the trenches and love me through the tumult and ugliness). Love goes deeper and wider and higher than any pain ever has.

Now I have this cheesy Andy Gibb song going through my head: "Love is higher than a mountain, love is thicker than water."

Moving right along...

3. Tangerine Tango has been named color of the year for 2012. Your thoughts? Would I find this color anywhere in your house? How about in your closet? If not, will you be adding this color to your life in some way in 2012? If you're not sure what tangerine tango looks like click here.

Okay, I have to admit to a midlife moment. When I read "Would I find this color anywhere in your house? How about in your closet?" I was thinking, "Umm, no, I didn't paint my closet that color."

That color is cool and fresh, and I have seen it liven up kitchens and bathrooms, but if I were to wear it, I'm fairly certain I'd resemble a tangerine on steroids, which has never been my best look.

My closet is beige, by the way .My wardrobe, on the other hand, is full of autumn colors, not fruity summer ones.

4. Are you a collector? What do you collect and does it get admired, used, and/or dusted regularly?

I have one main collection-- treasures from around the world. They don't get used or dusted regularly, nor admired except by me when I dust. Or maybe by first-time visitors, but only if those visitors initiate conversation about them. I don't pipe up and say, "Hey, wanna see my collection of treasures from around the world?"

( True story: When we were a young and poor married couple, we were invited into the home of a couple a smidge older who were making six figures and whose idea of hospitality was having folks over for dinner and then taking them on an unsolicited tour of their spacious home where they pointed out every luxury we could only dream about/covet. Oh, yes, nice...your jacuzzi in the basement, adjacent to your complete home gym, gun collection, theatre, ...and oh, what's this outside your waterfront property? A crab house with guest quarters sitting in front of your boat slip? I determined then and I there I never wanted to be a hostess-turned-tour-guide. It pretty much filled me with such envy I could hardly eat dinner, which of course was a six-course feast served on fine china. From China, not Goodwill.

Boy, that was a long description of someone else's collection, huh?

I have another, smaller collection, to which I've put a halt. That collection is white ceramic pitchers, and I choose from among them to use as a flower vase whenever I get a bouquet, so the answer to "used frequently?" would be "not frequently enough!"

5. February is National Heart Month...besides a green salad, what is one tasty heart healthy dish you like to prepare?

Baked Apple Oatmeal, a recipe from my friend Briana. It would be more heart healthy if I wouldn't graze on it all day when I make it. It's tasty enough to seem like a dessert.

6. When was the last time you had car trouble?

About six weeks ago the engine on the van (which has almost 120K miles on it) was being chuggy-sluggish, doing that jerky motion whenever I changed gears. It made me suspect the transmission. Come to find out, it was just water from all the rain getting in where it didn't belong. A few days of sunshine cleared it right up. For free. (My husband's mood cleared up as well when the engine improved, because he'd just had to shell out $800 for brakes and some sensor thingy that controls acceleration on his car.)

7. Have you been more demanding on yourself lately or less? Is that a good trend?

More, and yes.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

What's a mother to do with her class clown of a boy? After school today, we were driving to piano lessons and the youngest (9 years old) started with a confession.

Him: Mom, I got in trouble today.
Me: Oh, for what?
Him: For banging my head on the pew in chapel.
Me: During the message?!!
Him: No. During prayer.
Me: HONEY! You know better than that!! Why did you bang your head on the pew?
Him: To get people to laugh.
Me: Did they?
Him: Yeah, some of them. But not {the principal}. She took me to her office, made me write a letter to you and Dad about what I did--you have to sign it--and she made me apologize to
Pastor D and ask his forgiveness.
Me: Did he forgive you?
Him: Of course, Mom! He had to. He's the pastor!
Me: Well, what exactly did you say to him?
Him: I don't know exactly, but I can tell you pretty close to what I said.
Me: Okay.
Him: I said I was sorry for disturbing people during chapel by banging my head on the pew.
(Pauses, thinking.) But Mom, maybe I should have said "disrupting" instead of "disturbing."

Me: What's the difference?
Him: Disturbing is when people leave the door open when they go to the bathroom.