Friday, August 31, 2012

Quick Check-in list of Ten

  1. Still here. 
  2. Super busy prepping for school. 
  3. Today is housework catch- up and errands.
  4. My mom has had complications from eye surgery. Please keep her and my dad in your prayers.
  5. I was asked to consider teaching sixth grade math. I replied with "the absolute value of no. "
  6. My computer programming son said that an absolute value changes a negative to a positive, which is not what I meant. "Absolutely no" is what  I meant to say cleverly since I had to say no. Absolute no does not equal the absolute value of no, which confounds me. Further confirmation that I should not teach math. 
  7. My second son, of whom I spoke in number 6, gets a last hooray at the beach this weekend. I am jealous. Absolutely. 
  8. We had no vacation this summer. I am bummed.
  9. My oldest son and DIL hosted birthday dinner for me earlier this week. That was special.
  10. It is hard for me to tell I even got my hair cut six days ago. 
I hope to get a chance to blog more thoroughly this weekend. I will have to lift my head out of the art history of the 1500's first. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Jottings

No time for a full-length post. Some of you are saying 'thank you."  You're' welcome.

Once again, my ever-present list to fall back on:

1 . Today is my daughter's first day back to school. She is in first grade. As a teacher!  Loves it.
I overheard this conversation this morning as she and her brother (21) were getting ready for work.

Her: I am so excited today! 
Him: Glad someone is.
Her: Hey. You chose the money, I chose the joy!

2.  I go back today for Teacher Prep Week. Gotta see what supplies, if any, we have to work with.
I will be teaching 10th and 11th grade art. This will be a first for me. I've taught high school Enghsh before, but this is brand new territory. Send up a prayer!

3. While you're praying, please remember my parents.  My mom had eye surgery on Friday and has been in tremendous pain ever since. Nausea, too. My dad called last night asking ( begging?) me to pray right then and there over the phone. I've never seen him cry, but I can just about hear it in his voice when he is beside himself. He is so tenderhearted and caring, he would do anything to take the pain so she doesn't have to bear it. I've always said my daddy is Jesus with skin on. My parents are going to the surgeon today (as I type this) for the scheduled follow-up visit. I hope he can offer some practical help and guidance. The first eye surgery (other corneal transplant) went very well. I hope the donor tissue isn't being rejected. I offered to go over and be with my parents but my dad said there's really nothing I can do  , nothing anyone but God can do to relieve the pain and nausea. Mama couldn't even keep down a dry cracker.

4.  I  had a loverly birthday yesterday. Will post pics when I can.

5. I got my hair cut on Saturday after holding out for two months. I booked the appointment two months ago (that's how popular this guy is) based on a friend's high recommendation. Her hair always looks great after Mario cuts it, but she can only afford him once a year .So I thought I would treat myself to a whoopdee doo haircut and style but forgot to ask how much it would be.   Don't EVER EVER EVER make that mistake.   I was sitting in the chair and this guy is nice and professional, not chit chatty at all, so to fill the silence I asked, "How much is a haircut and blowdry, anyway?"  His answer ?  Eighty-five dollars. 

Yes. 85. That's not a typo. I could not enjoy the haircut one more second after that. In fact, I started
having bowel distress thinking of my sponsor child whose family makes $180 a month for a family of five in Brazil. I literally felt I was committing  a sin.   The hair? Yes, it's nice, but not 85 dollars nice.
I came home and  my hubby said, "I thought you were getting a hair cut."  ERRGH.  To make   matters worse, I was late to the appointment because it never occurred to me that this was Moving In Weekend up in collegetown where the salon in.  Plus there was a water main break in front of one of the campus. Couple that with a bottleneck roundabout and metered parking. I did impress myself with my parallel parking skills, however. Normally I am challenged by perpendicular parking, but God's angels steered my van right between a Mercedes and a Honda CRV and no one got bumped!

Ththththhth that's all folks, Happy Monday. Don't mind my typos. I am not wearing glasses and I'm in a rip roaring hurry .

 I guess I can make a full length post out of a list, after all, can't I? :(

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Thrilled to Perform. Not.

A few weeks ago our youngest participated in his first ever piano recital. Doesn't he looked thrilled?  I didn't take pictures while he was playing in case that would mess him up or make him nervous.  His teacher is a very talented young lady
whose mom and I are coffee buddies. We chat on the back screened-in porch during the lesson.
Our son wants to quit piano, but he has a gift for it, so we are "forcing" him to
keep with it even though Miss Natalie is moving soon. 

Friday, August 24, 2012


Spiritually speaking, for the past two years I feel I've been shut up inside a chrysalis.  Having the potential to fly, but not flying.  Being protected, but feeling bound. Taking nourishment, but remaining unsatisfied.

A chrysalis is the cocoon-like wrap that envelops a butterfly caterpillar. It's a strange mix of ugly and beautiful, strong and delicate.  From a distance, nearly invisible. Up close, laced with detail and purpose. 

I now feel that I am about to emerge from this cocoon.  I have been through the larva and pupa stages of young marriage and hands-on, hard-work motherhood. Nights when sleep fled at the sound of a baby's cry, and days when I sat in a puddle of tears wondering if my sanity and polysyllabic vocabulary would ever return to me. Mornings around the breakfast table reminding the boys that napkins aren't just for girls, followed by afternoon car rides from piano lessons to soccer practice, from birthday parties to youth group, from basketball games to driver's ed.   Nights when kids piled onto our bed or sprawled across the floor just as our heads hit the pillow and asked if we could pray for them because temptations were overwhelming, and they were tired of fighting the devil and their own wrong desires. Nights when they had the car keys but the car wasn't in the driveway by curfew.   Special occasions punctuated by bouquets and perfume, Windsor knots and shiny shoes.

I have seen one of my offspring take a wife,  two earn college diplomas, and three find full-time meaningful work.  Just typing that sentence causes me to catch my breath. My work should be nearly finished, and yet I have a good eight or ten years left to launch the last child into  "the real world" where his siblings dwell.  Not that I'm rushing it. I'm not. But I do feel as if the once-thick boundaries of my life are now thinning, nearly  threadbare from stretching and straining to find identity in this awkward stage between caterpillar and butterfly.

God is stirring something in my heart, something new, something that will transcend circumstances.
I sense this fluttering, a rapid beating in my chest, the kind that mixed equal parts excited and nervous. What is my purpose and what are the details that will give wings to it? When will I see this metamorphosis ? When will I emerge from my chrysalis? When will I fly ?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hodgepodge and Hiding Spots

Let's jump right in!
1. Aloha! On August 21, 1959 Hawaii officially became a US state. Have you ever been? Upon arrival would you prefer an orchid or a hibiscus to tuck behind your ear?
Hibiscus.  It's one of the most memorable flowers, quite symbolic of  a vacation in Hawaii. Not that I'd know.

2. Since we're talking tropical...what's your favorite food or beverage made with pineapple?

Pineapple ranks up there among my five favorite foods. I like it plain, with cottage cheese, on a salad, in a variety of entrees. I like it on  a train, in a bus, or on a boat....But I'll say pineapple upside down cake is just about my favorite way to eat the glorious fruit.

3. Do you believe in soul mates? Explain.
Yes.  Soulmates know each other at their best and at their worst and love each other. come what may.  I could explain more, but I didn't get enough sleep last night.  My soulmate started snoring while I was still awake, and I also had a hard time turning my brain off.

4. Share a memory about the house you grew up in.
Well, I lived in 13 houses by the age of 11 (my parents loved to move), so I'll pick a house with some of the best memories I have.  We lived in the parsonage in a little town in Kansas when I was in 3rd and 4th grade.  My dad pastored the Methodist church.  Each floor made a complete loop of adjoining rooms. On the first floor, one would enter  the house most commonly through the back door-- the kitchen door--, turn right into the dining room, keep going into the living room, hang a left through the bifold doors into the family room and then make a sharp left through an entrance to a teeny tiny, dark hall that we called The Secret Passageway. Only the file cabinet was stored there; the hall was otherwise clear, so we used it often to get from the family room into the 3/4 bathroom. 

I don't know if the shower stall had plumbing issues or what, but we never used it. My parents kept a stack of moving boxes  in there (full and sturdy),  and simply pulled a shower curtain across. It made a great hiding place for unsightly boxes .  Naturally that meant it was also a popular refuge for a child playing Hide 'n Seek.

One day (probably a Monday during a winter vacation when we couldn't play outside and the day my dad was always off)  we girls and our two friends, Cherie and Brenda, started a game of Hide 'n Seek in the house. My older sister was It.  The three of us hiders scattered, and Cherie ended up sitting up on the stack of boxes in the shower stall, curtain pulled. She could peek over if need be, or duck down out of sight.

My dad, who is such a thinker that he gets rather absorbed and focused on something in his mind, tends to be aloof about his surroundings at times. He went into the 3/4 bathroom, locked the doors between the kitchen and the Secret Passageway, and began to use the toilet.

Cherie heard everything. The doors closing, the seat being lifted, the pee being peed, the lid being closed, the toilet being flushed, the hands being washed and dried, the doors being unlocked, the preacher walking out of the bathroom. She was so mortified that she had witnessed the whole thing with her ears from her perch on the boxes, as she stayed ducked down behind the shower curtain. She stifled every urge to giggle or gasp for the duration of the natural episode. 

We didn't tell my dad for years, and when we finally did, he laughed till he cried. 

5. Are you comfortable with silence?
Depends.  I have to have silence in order to fall asleep at night, and I love silence when I'm trying to read or concentrate.   But there are certain silences that disturb my soul to recall. The silence of the
sonogram technician as she moves the wand around my pregnant belly trying to find a heartbeat.
The silence of children who have gotten into mischief.  The silence when I've called a child who doesn't come to me in a big department store.
6. You spot a giant spider on your bedroom wall...what's your next move? (all spiders are giant, right?)
First move is  not a move. It's a freeze position, accompanied by a muffled scream. If I think that my attack will result in a sure kill with hubby's tennis shoe, I would grab that. If not, I would grab hubby himself  and call upon his chivalry.  If the spider is hairy, he gets the shoe regardless of size. In  a pinch, I will grab a massive wad of paper towels, hold my breath, and pounce on him, squeezing the spidery life right out of him,without apology to anyone who might think I just smashed their great grandfather.

7. My idea of fun does NOT include ______________.
noisy crowds, heights, spinning around, or the possibility of death 

8. Insert your own random thought here.
I am thoroughly enjoying my daughter fix up her new classroom. If she blogs, I will link so you can see for yourself and imagine being in a 1st grader's shoes.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Funnies from my Fifth Grader

My soon-to- be fifth-grader was playing a video game today with a real-life buddy online .  I overheard him say this:

"Books? No, books are not a hobby for me. They're just decoration."


Yesterday he and I were talking about making wares and selling them for income. 

"You are so creative, " I said. "I bet you could make a lot of different things as you grow up."

  "I should become an entrepreneur," he said.

"Yes. I can definitely see you becoming an entrepreneur.  What would you make?"

"A lot of money," he replied.


His older sister took him out to dinner and a movie while my hubby and I went on a date.
While at the restaurant, they were seated next to a table full of giggly and obviously flirtatious teenage females.

He said to his sister , "That's what you get when you have a table full of girls and one guy as the waiter."


When school starts up again on September 4th, I'm going to miss his many doses of daily humor that he sprinkles throughout our days.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Got Stairs?

God's Love Ladder...take one step at a time :)I saw this on Facebook.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

How Many Shirts Does One Man Need?

After getting rid of a mass quantity of my own clothes last year, and a few more "eh" pieces a few weeks ago, I looked at my husband's side of the closet. He has a lot of shirts there. And not only there, but also hanging in the basement.  Mind you, they all hang neatly, but still....

I asked him how many  shirts he needs. Serious question, because he has  a "thing" for buying shirts the way I used to have a "thing" for buying costume jewelry.   High quality, low cost, but still....

Not satisfied with the number I gave him, he said, "Ask on your blog! Let's see what other people say." 

Let me give you a summary of his lifestyle that calls for various shirts:

1. He works in corporate America, wearing business casual almost daily.
2. Sometimes he has to wear a suit and tie.
3. He plays guitar on our worship team at church, and wears business casual for that, or sometimes dresses down to a polo and jeans.
4. He works out or runs six days a week.  He wears a T-shirt for  that.
5. He's a handyman but seldom paints.
6. He never goes shirtless, and never wears an undershirt around the house.
7. He travels a few times a year for work. Wardrobe is suit and tie and/or biz cazh, depending on the reason for travel.

Given those factors, how many shirts do you think he NEEDS? 

How many short-sleeved dress shirts? How many T-shirts? How many long- sleeved shirts? How many polos?  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thursday Thirteen

When all the randomness of life needs a bottle to contain it, a list helps.

1.  I just heard this song for the first time; it's called Come to Me, by Jenn Johnson.  This morning it   washed over my scattered soul like warm bath water. I can see it becoming a favorite.

2.  Yesterday my principal called and gave me my class assignment.  It's a class that will be well suited for drawing and painting.  I am really excited! Mum's the word on specifics, but I am just so relieved that she didn't put me in my son's fifth grade class. Any mother will tell you that it's always hardest to teach your kid when he's in your class.  That was true from kindergarten to tenth grade, I found out. My high school kids were in a writing and SAT prep class I taught for homeschoolers  many moons ago, and they pointed out all my nervous habits on the ride home--or sometimes in front of the class. "Mom, did you know that when you're trying to think of the right word or way to say something, you stomp your foot? And you shove your hair behind your ear when you're nervous." Gee, thanks . How about being as observant of your schoolwork?

3.  Tonight we are settling, refinancing the house at a lower rate on our mortgage. Every little bit helps, right?  Funny how a whole number less in front of a decimal spells thousands of dollars saved over the life of a loan.  My hubby is very good at the details of such things; all I do is show up and put my Joann Hancock on a mess of papers.  Works for me!

4.  I visited a church a couple weeks ago and was really moved by a certain thing they do. Every Sunday after church, they serve the town's homeless people right there in the back of the sanctuary.
This church excelled in making me feel welcome, from the greeters to the usher to three or four ladies afterwards who extended a handshake and  seemed to take a genuine interest in me.

5.  Sadly, I have found that most churches I've visited are not that welcoming.  The official greeters greet, but in three of the four other churches I visited, no one except the greeters reached out to me, a newcomer.  My daughter remarked to me that maybe the pastor should be told that folks are coming and think the sermon is really good, but the people aren't friendly, so visitors aren't inclined to revisit a "cold" church.

6.  If you are doing a Bible study right now, and enjoy it, please recommend. For the record, I like Beth Moore a lot.  Not a big Kay Arthur fan. I need to get into a ladies' Bible study this fall. I have sorely missed fellowship of that kind.

7.  The other night I found a very good pork recipe.  It's intended to be grilled on hot coals, but I put it in the oven.  For each person: one boneless porkchop, a handful of diced green and/or red bell peppers, a ring of pineapple (or chunks), sliced red onion, a drizzling of teriyaki sauce, and some black pepper, and two pats of butter.  Lay the porkchop on a piece of foil and then layer on the rest, ending with the sauce. Then tightly seal the foil. Bake for 35-40 mins at 400.   (I made my own teriyaki sauce; who knew it was so easy?)
Top shot: before butter and teri sauce. I got 5 foil packets of chops to fit into a 9x13 pan.  The reviews from the family?  Harshest critic said it's all right. Hater of pork said it's  a 3 out of 5.  Another person said best pork she's ever had.  I said, "Verygood and will do again, maybe on the grill, but will marinate it several hours first next time."
8.  I found the recipe for both the pork and the sauce on a site called Big Oven, which I can't wait to check out.  It looks like it has everything I want for organizing, right down to creating the shopping list  by aisle! You can even scan handwritten recipes in, and it converts it to typed writing. How  DO they do that?

9.  Fundamentals of Drawing, or Watercolor Florals?  I want to take one of these classes at the local community college this fall. 

10.  My mom is having her second eye surgery next week. A corneal transplant. I get all choked up thinking about the donor's family. Did their loved one die of natural causes, or was there a horrible accident? What loss did one family have to endure so that my mom can regain her eyesight well enough  to be able to read and function normally? I am incredibly grateful and humbled.

11.  It appears our family will not be going on a  summer vacation this year, which makes me very sad. I don't feel like I've really been refreshed until I get away from these four walls for a week.  A melanoma diagnosis in the family has made my man rethink how much sun he wants he really wants in the name of relaxation.

12.  But we have had many, many great vacations in the past, while friends and extended family have not had the good fortune.  So I try to keep that in perspective. I'm not entitled to a vacation, I just think I am. Big difference .

13.  The other day my youngest (10) was troubled about something on his leg. "Mom, is this a zit?"  he asked.  I answered, "Looks like it, yeah."  To which he replied, "CRAP! Puberty!"

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sponsored and Happier

Thanks be to God for leading me to finally deciding which child to sponsor.  I know it could have been as easy as saying to Compassion International, "Pick one for us--a 9 or 11 year old boy from South America," but it wasn't in my heart this time to just be random.  (We've done it that way before, which was fine, but this time was different.)

I specifically asked our youngest son his preference. He said either a boy one year older or one year younger than him. Someone with similar interests. I wanted to find a child whose bio indicated he was fatherless.  And as a bonus, I preferred his birthday be about six to eight weeks from now so that he could receive a birthday card from us at about the same time they chose a gift from us for him.I wanted him to know by his next birthday that he has a sponsor.  For a time I considered sponsoring a boy from Zambia, but I had no confidence that he would write to us and that was really important to us. Compassion guarantees at least two letters a year. We've typically received more like four or five.

After a few weeks of on-again/off-again searching the Compassion site, I was considering several boys whose bio fit "kinda-sorta-but-not-really" and I felt there was a boy who just wasn't showing up on the list yet.  Maybe I had the wrong continent?  I also expanded the search to Asia, for reasons I wasn't quite sure.

Call me silly, but I was so betwixt that I asked on Facebook for people to give me the number 9 or 11, and a South American or Asian country.  I didn't tell them what it was about. They were not to look at other comments first. My plan was to see if either  number (representing child's age) AND country would be repeated.  If so, it would confirm what I was sensing, that the boy would be one from Brazil, age 9 or 11, and fatherless.

However, the one boy I considered had "all opposite interests" from my son (his words).  In my heart of hearts, I felt this child needed to be one whom my own child would feel a sense of connection through common likes. My boy is NOT into marbles and singing (not singing in public, that is, although he has a beautiful voice and perfect pitch and can remember ALL kinds of lyrics).

My Facebook comments did indeed have a repeat answer:  Brazil.   :)  One said 9, the other 11. 

Imagine my sheer joy when, late last night, I searched the site again for any updates or additions. I'm not sure why, but this boy named Marcos, whose picture I'd never seen before, just kept tugging at me. He is 11, from Brazil , and the bio says "lives with his mother." He likes soccer and art, two of my son's interests. (I like soccer, too, but only as a spectator. I'm all over the interest in art, though!)

And check this out:  his birthday is October 3.  Perfect amount of time for us to get a birthday  card to him and let him know how happy we are to be his "godparents," as they like to say.  (I was really tickled every time our last sponsor child would begin her letters, "Dear Godfather Paul.")   I am eager to send him little stickers and such to brighten his day.

This desire to sponsor a new child was on my 101 in 1001 List, so now I can happily cross it off, and get on with the joy of communicating with our "new child."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hodgepodge: Of Allowance, Ancestry, and Audience

Hello, again, and welcome to Volume 89 of  the...

                                            with your hostess, Joyce, and me, Zoanna, your friendly
Joyce's questions this week got me thinking, but not too hard, which is fine because my thinker is on strike, rebelling at all the back to school signs around town.  I know I'm a teacher and everything and should be excited to go back, but I'm not yet. Still loving the lazy hazy days of summer.

1. I included this quote (attributed to William H. Danforth) in my blog post yesterday... "The best cure for a sluggish mind is to disturb it's routine." When was the last time you 'disturbed your routine' and how'd you do it?
Yesterday I disturbed my routine by sitting down to the piano to just play music from my head and heart. To see if the song that I know is deep within me would come out. It's on my 101 List to write a song, and ever since I went to a songwriter's circle (for wannabes) a few weekends ago, I can't shake the feeling that there is a song waiting to be written. 
Seems everything I  create while sitting at the piano comes out as a cross between a hymn and a movie soundtrack.   O For A Thousand and 76 Trombones ....

Never mind.

2. What's your favorite fried food indulgence?
About once or twice a year I get a hankering for Kentucky Fried Chicken.  And when I go to a fair or carnival or beach, I love funnel cake. Again, that happens maybe once a year.

3. Did you have an allowance as a kid? What did you do with it? Do you give your own kids an allowance?
My parents started giving us allowance when we were in seventh grade. It was six dollars paid to us every two weeks when Daddy got paid. With it, we had to buy whatever clothes we didn't get at the beginning of the school year,  plus pantyhose (we went to Christian school where hose were mandatory for girls), stationery, soda, gas for the vehicle when we drove it,   movie tickets, and so on. Basically everything that  wasn't room, board, and tuition!  I spent all of it except what I tithed (thirty cents a week). 
My husband and I  were inconsistent about allowance  and had a hard time figuring out what to outright give our kids versus make them pitch in  for "because you live here"/ "because you're a member of the family" and what jobs were above the norm that they could earn money for.  I think we decided that there was a list of routine jobs they had to perform every day satisfactorily, and we gave them them three bucks a week.  We made them set up three jars, though: tithing, saving, spending. Tithing and saving each had to be a minimun of 10% of their earnings.  We modeled it in real life for them, so they knew we weren't making them do something we didn't require of ourselves. To this day, all our kids have good financial habits.  They have savings, they spend frugally on themselves and generously on others, they don't go into debt, and they are faithful tithers.

So, despite our inconsistent measures and confusion about "the right way" or the "best way" to do allowance, the principles of the three jars stuck with them for life.  That makes me smile.

4. What's something you wish you knew more about?
Everything! Oh, my goodness, how can I pick just one something?  I can't, so off the top of my head, here's a random list.   1)  my late in-laws'  lives   2) my parents' childhoods   3) songwriting priniciples  4) how to draw people out of their shells   5) how to do many different art techniques  5) basics of automechanics  6) genetics  7)  simple technology  8) astronomy   and 9) how certain decisions are made and the true motives behind them, especially decisions that rock my world . 

5. Is there anything you feel too old to do anymore? If so, what?
Yes. Ice skate.  My balance, joints, and resilience are well past their prime, so a fall on my blessed assurance wouldn't be pretty. Pretty hilarious for onlookers, yes, but I think it could mean weeks of traction and therapy of various sorts. Not worth it.

6. What's a song you think has a great first line?
"It is Well with my Soul."  The first line goes. "When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll...whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, 'It is well, it is well, with my soul.'"   

7. Who are you writing to/for when you create a blog post? In other you write, who is the audience in your head?
Great question.  The answer to that has changed over the past seven years since I started blogging in January of 2005. Back then, I wasn't really aware of the world wide web wideness  when I wrote. My audience seemed to be mainly people in my circle of friends, mostly locals in my church. They were the only commenters and seldom comment any more, for reasons unknown to me.   Waaa.
But when Hurricane Katrina hit in August of 2005 and I wanted to do something from home to help in a practical way, I discovered the world's wideness!   I simply asked if others would like to help me sew drawstring bags and fill them with toiletries and toys for victims because my parents had a connection with a Messianic pastor down in Texas.  I figured two or three ladies from church who like to sew would join the club. Well, a young woman in France, who has an international sewing blog, happened providentially to read my post, and --as one thing led to another-- women from 14 countries as well as women from my own church, sewed 269 bags which I filled using donors' money.  That's when I realized my audience was much bigger in reality than the five or six people I "saw" in my head as I typed.
Nowadays, even though I know the audience is bigger than in my head (because some people never comment but let me know they read it daily or every now and then), I think the audience I write for are mainly the women who read this blog and comment. But I am always vaguely aware that anyone could read it (my principal, my students, my neighbors, my pastors, my extended family) so I have become a bit more vague about certain things I write, and not as self-disclosing, and not as opinionated lest I alienate readers who might otherwise enjoy or be served by something here.
My, my, that was certainly a long answer to  a short question! Maybe I should have tried to limit my words to eight like I did last week!
That said, when my posts get really long and I am tempted to say, "People hate long posts! They will see it and click right off," then I remind myself I am writing for myself. This is my journal and I am probably the only one who will revisit posts anyway, so they can be however long it takes me to get my words out of my system! Which explains why I am still tapping along after seven years!

8. Insert your own random thought here.
My second son got a great birthday present: a job offer for the school year at the branch of the company where he is currently an intern.  Not only that, when he told his current boss, she and HER boss both told him to be sure to check back with them in April or May because they might have something lined up for him next summer!  I am so happy for him. And I must say, he looks mighty handsome leaving home in his professional clothes in the morning, and coming home looking like  a man who enjoys his life and work, because he does!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sweet Times in Hoboken, Part 2: The Bake Shop

The GPS, despite my absolute hatred of it, got us to Carlo's Bakery on Washington Street. One block before the bakery we saw a really long line in front of CVS. Renee' joked that that was the line for the bakery.  The next block had a short line in front of the bakery, which I thought was much more reasonable--perhaps 25 people.  I couldn't imagine why in the world 80 people would be standing in front of CVS, but we soon found out.

Renee dropped me off in front of the bakery with the seven girls and then parked the van in a nearby garage. We got in line behind the 25 people, but were quickly asked if we had a ticket. No. Well, then, cross the street and get one. The guy is handing them out in front of CVS/ Office Depot. It's a good thing the predicted rain didn't come. It's a good thing the sun wasn't beating down on us. It's a good thing we were under an overhang for shade. It's a good thing the folks around us were in good spirits and not obnoxious complainers. It's a good thing there was a steady breeze and that there was a bottle of water in my purse. Had any of those factors been different, the wait would've been dreadful. 

But there was also a very entertaining employee about 18 or 19 years old named Izzy who, despiite a speech impediment and thick glasses, was extremely self-confident and outgoing and really kept the crowd in a good mood. He divided us into two teams and promised he'd bring out 14 cannolis, and would award one to each person who answered a question about Buddy or the show correctly AND raised their hand.  We had birthday girl Mary would watches the show all the time.  Her question was "What is Buddy's real name?'"  She knew it. (Do you?) Cannoli for Mary!   She also got a free cupcake for her birthday.
Izzy was a funny one. He pointed to one of our girls. and starting asking cheesy pick-up lines. "Are you  from China? Cuz I'm China get your numba!"  She asked him (mind you, loudly for the whole crowd to hear), "You got a library card? Cuz I'm checking you out!"  He said, "Did it hurt....when you fell from heaven?"   It was all very fun and harmless because we were right there. All for laughs which really helped pass the time.

What didn't help pass time was the stupid excuse for shoes I'd made that morning. Ballet flats that tend to pinch my pinky toes.  Miserably tight, and not a wise choice of venues to remove them. So I suffered. The line moved ever so slowly, but after an hour and twenty minutes, we were ushered across the street and into the short line. It reminded me of the long line to get through security, only to wait again for the boarding line to be called. Except there were no chairs.

We stood in the short line and the girls took pictures of each other and kept talking about that cool guy Izzy.  A man in a pink shirt approached and asked where the back of the line was. I pointed across the street to the new line of 80 people and said, "Between CVS and Office Depot." He chuckled at my (supposed) joke and then asked someone else. I watched him. That person pointed to the CVS line and the man in the pink shirt disappeared.
From my vantage point in line, I just watched random people  go up to the shop window and peek in, or pose for pictures.  Isn't it fun to see what people choose to wear?  Or maybe fun isn't the right word.  Maybe you can substitute your own word choice.

At last we saw Buddy. Okay, not Buddy himself, but his likeness. Isn't he friendly looking?

And then we stood in yet another line, but at least we had cool pictures to look at.

Then came time to place an order. Everything looked so pretty, so yummy, so fattening. And nothing had a price tag because I'm sure that if people had to count both calories and cost at the same time, Buddy wouldn't have as much bread and butter. Besides, I'm sure that all the tourists must be thinking the same thing I was: "I'll probably never get back here, so might as well get everything I want now." So yes, Renee and I started in with the "I'll take one of this and two of that and three small of that and one large that....'

 I ended up purchasing a sampling for the family: with a piece of tiramisu, a serving of strawberry covered cheesecake, a vanilla birthday cupcake with chocolate icing, two chocolate covered cannolis, a nut bar, two lemon biscotti, and a crumb cake. Everything tasted good, the cheesecake excellent, but the chocolate cannoli was the best, and I am not normally gaga about that dessert.

While waiting for our orders to be filled (which is an impressive display of self-control under pressure in that tiny, bustling, chaotic shop of cell phone paparazzi), birthday girl Mary got her picture taken with Buddy's sister Madeline and Grace. They are very warm and gracious, just like what you see on TV. 

And then there is his sister Mary.   She bustled in behind the counter like an entire gaggle of geese and honked out in her annoying New Jersey accent, "Does everyone know who Tim McGraw is? Well, this is his mother. She came to pay us a special visit today. Everyone say hi to Tim's mom."  (Hi, Tim's mom.)  Then my friend Renee' asked sister Mary if she'd get a picture with daughter Mary.
Well sister Mary ignores her and instead lifts the lanyard she's wearing.  It apparently held a backstage pass to the concert that night. In a very "nanna nanna boo boo" voice, she exclaims, "I get to see Tim McGraw's show tonight."   She might as well have added, "and you don't, ,so hahahahaha."  Renee says later to me, "Isn't she just a little bit old to be acting like that? No wonder Buddy fired her."

Anyway, Renee's daughter Mary got her cake (I missed a picture of it). Vanilla and chocolate layer with purple fondant and flower-power daisies on the top and sides. It's called "Groovy" and tasted amazingly moist and flavorful. Even the fondant tasted so good I didn't realize until it was gone that I'd actually ingested something that usually tasted like sugared wax to me.

We ate lunch at Johnny Rocket's a few blocks away. My poor feet. What a blister I was developing on the pinkies, but thankfully my attitude wasn't starting to blister.  My bladder, by contrast, was starting to throw a fit. Two and a half hours is just about its limit.  I headed toward signs marked "Restroom" and couldn't help but notice how all the girls all looked adorable sitting at the red diner counter; I wanted to take a picture, but given the circumstances, what I wanted more was to do some de-briefing in the bathroom, and then come back to the table and kick my shoes off, Which I did. Sweet relief in more ways than one.

We ordered burgers, Philly cheese steaks, fries, Cokes, the typical Johnny Rocket's fare. Mary was clearly having a great time, as were all her partymates. A third friend of ours   (who had joined us back in the  CVS line when we first got there, sat and talked and talked and ate and talked some more. When the food was gone, we still just sat there. When your feet hurt and your back is tired and you're finally in air conditioning, and have washed up in the ladies' room, you kind of just want to sit on your launch pad for another rotation of the sun. 

But alas, we decided that since we were so close to being able to see the Statue of Liberty, let's do that next.

Sweet Times in Hoboken, Part 1: The Drive

My fun, loyal, and spontaneous friend Renee' called me last Thursday and asked if I'd like to go to Hoboken, New Jersey with her.  Well, with her, her birthday girl Mary ,and six of Mary's cronies. For two years Mary had wanted a birthday cake from the TLC's iconic bakery called Carlo's.   Does the name Buddy ring  a bell? The Cake Boss ?  Yeah, that Buddy.  The bakery was named for his father who passed away after decades of serving the Hoboken community some amazing baked goods.

Of course I said yes after checking my intensely jam- packed social calendar. Not. The only thing happening the same weekend was our son's 21st birthday, but between older brother's and SIL's party for him on Friday night, and his girlfriend's pool party on Saturday afternoon, my maternal input would be scarcely missed.  I am only the woman who gave birth to him, diapered him, fed him, chauffeured him to every  practice, game, or performance, took him to the ER more than once, homeschooled him from K-10th grade, edited his papers for college entrance, yada yada. No big deal.

But I digress. And I jest. I was more than happy to know that the older brothers got to hang out, and that so many people wanted to celebrate this young man I'm honored to call my son.

Back to the post...

I am a big Cake Boss fan.  Buddy is one of the most likable people on television, and I'm sure he's like that in real life.  I hoped to see him in person, but I had my serious doubts I'd get that close to the celebrity, but I wouldn't mind breathing in the same sugary air he's been breathing for eons.

Renee and I and the wonderful girls--our own  Magnificent Seven-- piled into Renee's big van and headed north.  Their music choices were an eclectic mix of Justin Beiber and praise music. Mostly Beiber.  How long did you say this ride would be? Three and a half hours? Can I change my mind right here on the interstate? I was thinking it's her party and I'll cry if I want to, cry if  I want to.  Actually I was thinking, these are really sweet girls and I remember being a teeny bopper once upon a time. It was going to be a happy day; I could feel it as we rolled on down the highway.

Before long, I found out the real reason Renee' wanted me along: to drive over the bridges. She is deathly afraid she'll drive right over the edge and drown in the river below. So she hugs the inside lane and breathes heavily when she has no other choice. She tried to tell me this time she'd be fine. Only once did things go black on her, she said. Black? Okay, that does it. I'm driving over the bridge. We switched places and I took the wheel . I lifted my palms up toward the view ahead and asked, 'Isn't it beautiful? This bridge. It's pure art, what with all the lines and curves..."  She interrupted me and begged me to please don't take my hands of the wheel again.  Comical.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Going Lulu

It's been a long year since last August.  New school, new job for me, new changes in family dynamics.  I really want to get away.  We haven't been away as a family to really unwind together for over a year. To me, that's a long time. Sure, we've been out of state for a wedding and a family visit, but that's not the same. I want to get in the car or --better yet--on an airplane and go a new place with new scenery and a boat. Lord knows I really want to go on a boat.  Not a big boat, not a cruise liner, but on a pontoon where I can troll around, do some fishing, and just lollygag. With a friend who will talk to me. My husband is not a talker and would find three hours on a boat with me quite tiring, I believe. Just sayin.'  I would find three hours of silence lonesome.

I would love to find a friend who would like a good mix of talking, being quiet, and would hook the worms for me. I hate worms and have no desire to actually keep a  stinky, scaly fish to eat. I just love the joy of casting a line, waiting for a bite, and then reeling one in. That's all. Catch and release. I'm remembering Lake Wilson. My friend Barb and I went there a couple years ago and just enjoyed being together, pretty much the only ones there. I sat on the picnic bench and journaled as I admired the cool blue-green water that I could see through near the sand.  It was like rippling topaz.  She stretched out on a beach blanket and read a mystery book.  We both wanted to stay longer, but decided to go to a little 'folk art museum"  out in the boonies, a place recommended to us by the proprietor of the B&B where we stayed. What  a gigantic letdown. Ever wish you had just followed your heart? The "art museum" was basically a collection of people's junk put together to make kooky looking dolls, not-so-funny toilet trinkets, and imaginative but ugly jewelry. And that was just the
foyer area. For a tour, we would have had to shell out six bucks each. Really?  What a rip-off. The "curator" went on and on about these were "local craftsmen and women with real talent and an eye for whimsy."   Whimsy. Is that a synonym for junk?

Anyway, we cut our losses and had a better time at the 50's type "diner" next door, enjoying the classic American burger, fries, and a Coke. 

So maybe I'm just feeling cheated a little. A lot. Trying not to be jealous of friends who have been to
the beach, the lake, distant shores, or SOMEWHERE fun and/or peaceful.  Even my own kids have been "off and doing" with their friends this summer.  The older ones, that is. The disjointedness of having an almost-empty nest is actually more challenging than taking a bunch of kids on vacation. They have their own schedules, their own money and transportation, their own idea of what constitutes fun, and at this stage, parents are not part of the equation.

If I don't get away, it will seem like one school year just blended in with the next without refreshment. I need to be refreshed and recharged. I do that best on the water, away from home, and with a friend.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Diary of a Recovering Hoarder

Written Saturday, Aug 4.

It's 6:20 and I'm alone, tired, and feeling accomplished.  My hubby took the boy to our oldest son's place to swim in the community pool on this sweltering, humid day, and then the three of them were going to play golf.  It's always a highlight when the little brother gets to be with his big married brother. He kept calling it a "guys' day."

My daughter drove to Ohio with two of her friends, and today they are having a girls' day out with the friend they went to visit. 

My other son is at the beach with his girlfriend and her parents. I guess it's a couples' day out for them.

So, I looked myself in the mirror and asked, "Do you want a self's day out?" Self didn't answer, so I took it as a no.  Self took one look at her bedroom closet and made a big decision.  This would be the second of 12  days I get rid of 27 things.  (This kills two birds with the proverbial one stone; purging 27 things  12 times is on  my 101 in 1001 List.  Is that enough numbers to throughly confuse you and your third cousin twice removed?)  

A few years ago I came to realize that I had a big problem with stuff. Liking stuff too much. Collecting stuff. Thinking about stuff. Taking care of stuff. Ignoring stuff. Storing stuff. Stuffing stuff.  It's not like stuff was piled up everywhere; I could usually contain it or close doors or drawers on stuff.  I could push it to the perimeters and make things presentable. It's not like I was saving gross things or germy things. No, I wasn't the classic hoarder that we've all seen on TV.  I wasn't dysfunctional nor did I collect rabbits, cats, dogs, or chickens.  

But there was always the nagging feeling that I had too much, and I was failing to evaluate its importance. The task of deciding what to get rid of was overwhelming, so I blocked it out.

Occasionally I would get fed up and donate a bunch of stuff to Goodwill or a charity that sent a truck to my doorstep.

I read decluttering books. (Stacks of them.)
I read decluttering magazine articles (then kept the magazines).
I argued with hubby about what constitutes clutter and what doesn't.  (Of course his memorabilia is  clutter to me, but mine are keepsakes..Ahem)
I thought my generosity atoned for my greed.

Then a transformation began to take place. I don't remember exactly when, but God got ahold of my heart at  a deep place and revealed that I had a serious trust poblem.  He also showed me that I had made a lifelong habit of justifying my keeping of stuff.  

For example, I doubted that He would supply all my needs, so I saved stuff in order to take care of myself.  I justified it by saying I was just planning ahead.

I feared losing my memory, so I hoarded pictures, even blurry and dark and insignificant ones.  I justified it by organizing all my photos by year, and only tossing the super bad ones. Never mind that others would never be worthy of a scrapbook or frame.

I doubted God's love and other people's love for me, so I saved greeting cards of every kind--happy birthday, thinking of you, get well, secret pal, Mother's Day, Merry Christmas, and happy anniversary. The affirming words would be there on my closet shelf in the event people stopped telling me I meant something to them.

I saved all kinds of things, from hotel soaps and shampoos to outgrown winter coats of the kids'  I rationalized that I could give them away to some poor soul in need someday. Psychologists call this a savior complex.  I called it "just being thoughtful and merciful." What I failed to tell myself the truth about was that, nobody how many things I supplied to other people in need, I would never be their Savior.  And if I were to be asked to meet a need someday, would God not supply it for me to give? Saving a little is fine, but deep in my heart of hearts, I knew I was clutching and amassing stuff in order so that I would always be needed.

That was the reality and mentality I thought would be mine for life. Bondage to stuff with no way out. 

But, thanks be to God, He had mercy on me and broke the chains.   I would like to say that the change was so immediate and forceful that I got rid of all my stuff within a month of Goodwill trips. Or that there was a sudden shortage of full-size shampoo somewhere in the lower 48 states, thus rendering my one-ounce hotel bottles the saving grace of dirty hair everywhere.

Nope. It wasn't that easy, but it was a start to a new way of thinking.

Thinking the truth.

 Believing the truth.

What's the truth?

1. God has always taken care of me and always will.
2. He will take care of everyone else, too, even if I never lift another finger to help.
3. He will love me forever, even if no one else does.
4.  Other people do love me, but they are flawed like me, and fail to express their love verbally often just like I fail to do.  Let people be people and just be the kind of person you want to have in your life.
5.  The best pictures in my memory are clear as glass.   The next-best ones are in scrapbooks or frames or on my blog. 
6.  Forgetting people and events someday if I get dementia, as painful and scary as that might be for me and others to realize, can't compare to the pain I cause the Lord every day when I'm in my right mind/ Daily I  forget His benefits (His blessings).  Forgetting, biblically speaking, is choosing not to remember.  If I don't choose to remember them, I have forgotten them.

Those guiding principles have helped me enormously with the emotional and mental blocks of dealing with stuff.  But practically speaking, there is something I gleaned from Fly Lady , and that is the 27 Thing Boogie.  I call it a 27 Thing Fling because I like it better.  Simply go through your house (or area you want to purge within the house) with a bag and start flinging stuff in . Trash the obvious trash.  Count pieces of trash. Take a different bag or box for giveaways. Keep counting where you left off with the trash. When you get to 27, stop. You will notice quite a difference.

I did that today in my master bedroom closet (a walk-in).  Started at 1:30 and kept working at it till 5:30 .  I pushed through the clutter until I had my quota of 27 things and a much-improved closet that can now breathe.

It feels good. Today it was better than a girls' day out or a day of swimming in the maddening sun, or
playing golf (which I don't know how to do and have no desire to learn). It was better today than taking a nap or a drive.  It feels good to walk in victory over a besetting sin (that of mistrusting God) by letting go of the lies that evidence themselves in the mounds of stuff. 

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Hodgepodge 88 and Happy Bday on 8.8


This is a very special day.  I gave birth to our third child, an 8-pound boy, 21 years ago.  He had one single curl at the nape of his neck, and I felt his name should have to do with his head, in a biblical leadership way.

We named him Stephen, which means "crowned one," and I have to say he has been crowned with many blessings, including a cute face below that crown, a good mind inside that crown, and some adorable wispy curls on top of that crown that made him look like Einstein until the age of two. That's when his daddy heard someone say, "Oh, what  a cute little girl you have" and the only child with him was his cute little boy.   Out came the scissors to the crown of "baby Feegan" (as his older sister called him).   

There are 8 questions in the Hodgepodge. Oh, boy, all these 8's. So how about this? For a self-challenge, I will keep all my answers to 8 words today.  No more, no fewer. Think it's possible?
Let's see.


1. In an effort to combat obesity, the mayor of NYC has plans to ban the sale of large sugary drinks (anything over 16 oz.), initially in restaurants, movie theatres, and street carts. Corner stores would also be affected if they are defined as food service establishments. You can read more here . Your thoughts?
Government shouldn't decide who sells what to eat.

2. Art festival, music festival, food festival...which would you most like to attend?
An art festival with a large, sugary drink.

3. What are you irrational about?
I might get sucked under a moving escalator.

4. Do you feel confident you'll have a comfortable retirement?
I think so. We've saved  a good bit.

5. What's been your favorite Olympic moment so far?

(Not ever, just in the 2012 Summer games)
 James won first ever medal for Grenada. Gold!

6. What would you label as the messiest room in your house?
Until today, my daughter's. Relocated to her classroom.

7. Do you follow your heart or your head?
It's changed from heart to head over time.

8. Insert your own random thought here.
I'm not used to limiting words. Go me!

Friday, August 03, 2012

SWD 8.3.12

  Simple Woman's Daybook 

Outside my window...
I don't know exactly. And I don't want to know. It's pitch black out there and the woods are deep and the spiders are crawly and the snakes are slithery and the moon doesn't want to be seen tonight.

I am thinking...
that trying to find a vacation home for just three people should be a whole lot easier and cheaper than finding one for six or more. But the truth is, being the parent of an "only" is a lot harder for finding entertainment than when his older siblings were always able to go with us.  The feeling I get when I look at these places online is mostly lonely.  I don't know that I'd enjoy a vacation without the vigor and zest and laughter that four children and a couple friends brought to the "down time" at base camp, so to speak.

I am thankful for...
dental floss.  I seem to need it more these days.

From the kitchen..
tonight I played a game of Monopoly with my boy.  I  had properties and houses all OVER the board and, despite many acts of fiscal mercy on my part,  wiped him OUT!  I was reminded of the time I asked him in the car what he wants to be when he grows up. He said, "Rich."  So you can imagine how he responded to being bankrupt by his own mother.
I am wearing...
a purple polo and a pair of tan shorts that I'd never wear in public.
I am creating...
more free space in the home by ruthless purging of stuff.  I am really starting to loathe "stuff" and crave simplicity.
I am going...
to bed soon. It's past 3 a.m.
I am reading...
Battlefield of the Mind.  So far it's spot-on.  I'm not a huge Joyce Meyer fan (mostly her delivery) but she tells it like it is.

I am hoping...
that God drops a vacation plan and rental property into my lap so I give up this frustrating search.

I am hearing...
the celing fan whir. Niiiiiiiiiiiiice. 

Around the house...
I go, day after day, night after night,  wondering what next? What is happening next in my life?  I feel half washed up, and half rarin' to get on with a new adventure.
One of my favorite things...
is watching my dogs dream while they sleep .They run and they bark in their dream, but in real life it comes out like paddling feet and  muffled squeaks.
A few plans for the rest of the week...
To figure out this vacation or lack thereof. All I want is a house on a lake, and to go boating, and have a lovely time disconnecting from the world and reconnecting with my man, and try to make good memories with  the little guy who gets lonely and would rather play video games than just about anything. I HATE video games!! Have I said that a time or two on here??
A picture thought I am sharing...
I am still pictureless. since my computer crash and I'm not sure where the ones that made it to CD are. 
 But here is a mental image for you.  My boy placed his hand on his head today and said he wished life was like a game of chess.  "Why?" I asked.
"Because as long as I kept my hand on my head, I  wouldn't make a wrong move. "