Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Joy

17 years ago I was in a hospital in Valdosta, Georgia to give birth to The Princess. I woke up that morning in the early stages of labor. But my doctor and the hospital were 1 hour away and since this was the 3rd baby, I wasn't about to fiddle around until the contractions were 5 minutes apart. Grandparents had already arrived for the Christmas holidays since traveling across 3 states in my condition was out of the question. So we left the boys with the grandparents and headed to the big city. By the time we arrived at my doctor's office, The Princess changed her mind. She wasn't quite ready yet to make her appearance. Since she was full term and everything indicated that she could change her mind, we decided to encourage her along with a little help from the P drug. A few hours later she came into this world very bright eyed and with a head full of blonde hair. Our Christmas Joy. Long awaited, much anticipated.

17 years later, she's still a joy...and she's still living life on her own terms.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Working from home

Thanks to modern technology on a snowed in day in Iowa, I can still work from home. I'll miss getting dressed up and putting on makeup (currently in my jammies, sans Clinique). I'll miss the friendly banter around the office halls (but Yammer is a pretty close second to being there). I'll miss the food, oh the goodies! We have some dedicated bakers in our church that make sure the staff is kept fat and happy during the holiday season. I'll miss the whirl of activity associated with the last working day before Sunday. We have a saying around our place, "It's Monday, and Sunday's coming." On Fridays there are bulletins to fold and brochure racks to fill, table displays to arrange and all manner of preparing the building for what may happen between Friday and Sunday.

This weekend is one of those extra busy times around church. Some of our wonderful musicians are presenting a Big Band Christmas concert tonight and Saturday night. This year they are adding the vocal stylings of some of my good friends and can I say...dang good singers. Our church has a blended worship style. Brass line Sundays are some of my favorite. Maybe it's the rebellious Baptist Preacher's Kid in me but I like the kind of music in church that makes you want to break out into DANCE.

OK, tangent over.

But there are advantages to working from home (other than the aforementioned jammies and no make-up). I can really multi-task when I work at home. Two loads of laundry are already in production. Dinner is thawing out for preparation. A few dust bunnies have been vanquished and I can take a little nap and no one will know!

What I didn't realize is what all I miss in my little neighborhood while I'm at work. Since it is an official SNOW DAY, there are kids out playing in the snow. The ones with mean mothers are shoveling the driveway before they can play. Since we live on a cul-de-sac we are the last to get plowed out by the city trucks so it's painful to watch those kids efforts diminished with one giant sweep of the big trucks blades that leaves a 2 foot snow wake right at the entrance of your driveway. Kid are resilient however. They shovel it out of the way and proceed to make a snow fort in the accumulating piles along the street.

At some point mid-morning, I heard the distinguishable beep, beep, beep of a delivery truck backing up into what sounded like my driveway. Drawing on my best Gladys Kravitz impersonation(Bewitched TV show reference), I ran to the window to see what was happening. This is what I saw:And knowing that it's my hubbies favorite store, I said to myself "What has he gone and done?" This would certainly pass for Santa's Sleigh for my guy. But alas they were backing up into my neighbors drive and not mine where they proceeded to unload their goods.

I guess I'll have to drop by in a little while to see what they got. Just kidding. I think I'll go take a nap, this working from home is tiring!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Open House, part 2

Christmas decorating is like buying presents used to be for me when my children were very young--I just can't seem to find a stopping place.
With the main level being sufficiently dressed for the holidays, I only needed to put on the snowmen collection in the lower level then I could sit back, relax and eat bon bons. I started collecting snowmen a few years ago when I lived in Texas. It didn't make much sense then while living in a region that rarely saw snow--I just thought they were cute. My friends thought I was a bit "off". Then we moved to Iowa where hand rolled snowmen can be seen adorning yards from Thanksgiving to Easter. One year, after a significant snowfall, my kids built a snowman on the deck that looked into the kitchen/breakfast area. They did it up right--it was about 4 1/2 foot tall and was complete with a face, scarf, and a hat. That thing startled me every time I walked into the kitchen. I was glad to see that Frosty melt away. So here's the snowmen collection (which I must say usually stays up until March because...we live in Iowa):

That's it... I was done.
But then I started thinking about College Boy returning home and I wanted to fix his room up. You know welcome him to a warm, comforting, clean place that didn't look like his 4 dude apartment. So I found this old reindeer collection and that sparked the "Recycled Masculine Lodge Theme" for his room. The tree is from his older brother's dorm days, the ornaments are from early days of marriage, the wicker love seat was rejected by The Princess because I picked it up from a neighbor's driveway (they were giving it away). I recovered one of the pillows with an old piece of Christmas fabric and displayed the reindeer collection on the bed and love seat. The book is one from the kid's collection and was one that gave College Boy one of his childhood nicknames. I'm sure he will be overwhelmed with nostalgia and give me a big hug and a kiss for all the trouble I've gone to in creating this themed room OR he will shove everything out of the way as he dumps his laptop, back pack, and dirty laundry in the room where he once hid out from the world (or just his parents). Maybe you will appreciate it:
"NOW I'm done!", I said to myself as well as announced it to all those around.

Then on THURSDAY College Boy called to say that College girlfriend would be coming home with him ON FRIDAY for the weekend. Well, I couldn't have a guest in the guest room without some kind of Christmas decor. So, I pulled out another Princess reject and decorated this little white tree with gold, silver and multi-colored miniature balls. I KNOW she will appreciate it because she's a girl and notices those little touches and... well, you know, I am College Boy's MOM.

Well friends, now I am done. That completes the tour but I wanted to give you a look at my front porch as you leave. Thanks for stopping by again. Take care and drive safe.

And because this is Iowa, that is not Department 56 snow strategically scattered about. It's real, it's getting deeper by the hour, and it tomorrow it will need to be shoveled.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Open House

Welcome friends. It's a frigid evening here in Iowa but the last of the recent ice storm has cleared from the streets and sidewalks and is ready for a new snowfall. A fire is going in the fireplace and the subtle scent of evergreen is in the air. A pot of hot mulled cider is brewing on the stove. Come on in and join me my friends.

Most of the pictures I'll post were taken without flash to create that evening glow effect (it also masks the dust that may or may not be visible in the flash of light).In the entryway, the banister is wrapped with greenery & lights. Brass ornaments purchased years ago in Georgia, are hung along the greenery. Our family tree is in the front room. I love the smell of fresh trees but haven't had one since we moved from Georgia 15 years ago. Our ornaments are a collection from over the years. Every year each family member gets a new one to hang on the tree. It's a very nostalgic event as the ornaments are hung year after year. Here are some of my favorites:

After Christmas I hope to purchase another artificial tree for the family room that I can decorate with a theme each year. For now, I decorate the mantle with greenery, lights and my Willow Tree nativity. Some gold ribbon and star shaped boxes softens the scene and gives it a little glow.

This is the first year to decorate this table. This summer I was convinced that I needed a bigger table when I found a good deal on this one. It pulls out to a big square for entertaining. I've pulled it out to entertain a couple of times but it's a two person job even with a butterfly leaf. Most of the time it stays this size. Any time of year I like simple tablescapes that can be picked up quickly to accommodate a school project or family Scrabble challenge. Same goes for the island decorations. The large, flat granite surface is an ideal place for cookie baking, a buffet table or gathering spot for friends. In real life it catches the mail, the grocery bags and anything else that needs to be dumped when you come in the garage door.

Thanks for stopping by. There's more to see so check back soon.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pity Party

Be warned, you are about t0 enter the whine zone.

I'm usually a positive, upbeat person but there are occasions that deserve a good whine. My husband is out of town for business and this afternoon it started raining/freezing rain on top of the packed snow that had accumulated on our driveway. After running a few errands after work, I arrive home to find that I am all alone as The Princess has gone to a local coffee shop to study with friends. "Don't worry", she says when I call to warn her about the road conditions, "I'm not driving." Yes that alleviates ALL my concerns to know that she's riding with her sweet but equally inexperienced driving friend. So I must shovel/scrape the dark...and in the cold. Are you feeling sorry for me yet? Yeah, I know--it's a hard-knock life.

The wind kept blowing my hood off (the coat is really cute but the hood is more ornamental than practical) so my hair got wet. This combined with the over abundance of product that my hair needs to look decent when I'm days away from a cut and color and this was the result:

So I'm wet and cold and home alone then I realize that it's trash night. So once again I have to shuffle down the driveway to put out the trash can then one more trip for the recycle bin. There's no rule that says it has to go out the night before pick-up but when I weighed the choices, I figured putting it out tonight while I was already wet and cold(and annoyed) was better than tomorrow morning when I'd have to get out of my warm bed and run out in my jammies and coat.
I know, I really don't have anything to complain about. There are people in this world with no driveways, or shovels, or Redken products. I should buck up and count my blessings. Build a bridge and get over it. I think I'll just go do what any mature woman in my situation would do:
I'm going to dry my hair, put on my sweats, make some macaroni & cheese (I might even eat it right out of the pan)...because I am home alone and there's no body to tell me I can't.

That's all. I'm done. Thanks for listening.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

What's in a Name?

I've been watching football. I wouldn't call myself a fan or claim to be all that knowledgeable about the game but I watch because my husband loves it. I watch with him because his love language is something akin to quality time but he calls it "proximity". He likes having me around--in the same room-- whenever he's doing whatever he's doing. This is sometimes difficult for me because I can think of a dozen productive things I could be doing. So when I'm trying to speak his language, I sit and watch football with him. I was more of a football fan when my oldest played in high school or this past fall when my daughter was on the sidelines cheering her high school team. I get into the game when I have a connection with the school or when I know the the players names and numbers.

There's this kid who plays for the Texas Longhorns. I love his name-- Colt McCoy. Now that's a football kind of name. I wanted to know more about him and for the sake of accuracy in blogging, I Googled him. Turns out, that as a redshirt freshman in 2006, Colt McCoy was the starting quarterback for the 2006 Longhorn team. That year he threw his 27th touchdown pass which was enough to break the UT school record for most touchdowns ever thrown by a quarterback in a single season. Colt McCoy was named College Football News Big 12 Player of the Year in 2006 and was named the quarterback to their "All Freshman Team". Wow, what a way to start your college career!

"Colt" is his nickname (or so I read) but I can't help but imagine that there weren't some early premonitions on his parents mind as they gave him a name like that. Did his dad bring a football to the hospital to place in the kid's crib? I bet he played Pee Wee football and his mom didn't say things like "be careful" and "don't get hurt". As a little boy, did he wear a longhorn t shirt and dream of playing for University of Texas? Oh wait, that could apply to many little boys in the longhorn state. So what set him apart? Talent? Determination? Destiny? Whatever it might have been, to be so successful he's had to keep his purpose and goal before him. No distractions, no ambivalence. He's living up to his name.

There was another baby boy, a name and a purpose determined before his birth:

"This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son,
and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus."

Talk about living up to a name--Immanuel, God with us.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

You Snooze, You Lose

When our family is all together, my mom likes to make a big country breakfast. Biscuits, sausage gravy, real bacon, eggs or egg casserole, and something sweet that varies from gathering to gathering is a sample menu. Its been a favorite event for everyone in our family but especially the men folk. This year, our Thanksgivng gathering was small and some physical challenges dictated that my mom's menu and presentation needed to be scaled down. It was still good and far more elaborate than my typical poptart and cold cereal offerings. One of my children who isn't much of a breakfast person anyway chose to sleep in that morning and missed the delicious feast. While the rest of us were filled and fueled far into the afternoon, this child was "starving" before the next feeding. With all compassion and sincerity of heart I responded to their despair with, "You snooze, you lose".

After perusing all the Black Friday sale ads, I determined that there wasn't any bargain worth getting up at 3:00 AM. So I slept in. Later I saw the GPS unit we were looking at purchasing was $97 at Walmart if you were there at 5:00 AM. I'm sure they were sold out at 5:05 AM. I shrugged my shoulders and declared to myself, "You snooze, you lose".

After a week of listening to the new Casting Crowns Christmas CD, I finally "got" the words to "While You Were Sleeping" by Mark Hall:
Oh little town of Bethlehem
Looks like another silent night
Above your deep and dreamless sleep
A giant star light up the sky
And while you're lying in the dark
There shines an everylasting light
For th King has left His throne
And is sleeping in a manger tonight, tonight
O Bethlehem, what you have missed while you were sleeping
For God became a man
And stepped into your world today
Oh Bethlehem, you will go down in history
As a city with no room for its King
While you were sleeping, while you were sleeping

United States of America
Looks like another silent night
As we're sung to sleep by philosophies
That save the trees and kill the children
And while we're lying in the dark
There's a shout heard 'cross the eastern sky
For the Bridegroom has returned
And has carried Hid bride away in the night
America, what will we miss while we are sleeping
Will Jesus come again
And leave us slumbering where we lay
America, will we go down in history
As a nation with no room for its King
Will we be sleeping
Will we be sleeping
United States of America
Looks like another silent night

You snooze, you lose.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Walk to Remember

Our recent trip south for the Thanksgiving holidays included a side trip. The Princess wanted to take an official college visit to my alma mater- The University of Arkansas. This thrilled her father and I and elevated her among her older siblings to the status of "the favored one". My husband graduated from another school in the same state but it's one of those places that even if you didn't officially "go" to school there--you are still a fan. The youngest of children in the state are dressed in red and are taught to "call the hogs" which has nothing to do with pig farming.

It was a beautiful day on The Hill as our entertaining student guide showed us through the campus complex. Maybe it was just me but it seemed that the buildings had gotten further apart and the inclines steeper than I remembered them being. It was fun tracing steps to some familiar places and seeing them new through my daughter's eyes. She showed a respectable amount of interest in the tour, loved the made to order pasta bar in the dining hall (that has definately changed since my days there), and made a significant dent in our bank account at the campus bookstore stocking up on hog wear (which also has nothing to do with Harleys). If the pasta bar, new red wardrobe, and campus cute boy count wasn't enough, her dad tried to seal the deal with tickets to the annual day after Thanksgiving football game against LSU. They tailgated with the cheerleaders, sat in the rain and called the hogs on to victory.
I braved the Black Friday crowds which were not as scary as the prospect of out of state tuition and sending my baby 432 miles from home.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Thanksgiving Mishap

Our family gathering this year was quite the grown up affair. The "kids" in our family range between the ages of 16-26. We are past high chairs, bibs and nap times. The kids have graduated from being entertained by grandma's collection of little golden books to thier ipods and laptop computers. Conversations included catching up about their high school activities, college courses, the job market and pending wedding plans. No one had to be tended to, watched over, or put in time out. It was all so serene that our defenses were down. We calmly put the finishing touches on the the final dinner preparations and were called to gather for the blessing to begin.

We forgot there was a "baby" in the group- one that did need watching - a curious, black cocker spaniel mix named Nelson. Nelson was hungry and resourceful. And tall enough to reach the dessert table...

This was the scene of the crime:

And this was the culprit:

We had a good laugh, rescued what was left of the pumpkin pie...and put Nelson in time out.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Packing Perfectionism

I should be packing. We are leaving in a couple of days and my suitcase is empty. This is uncharacteristic for me as I am a strong believer in advanced packing. My strategic strengths run full throttle when it comes to packing suitcases. I leave the driving/flying details to my husband, suitcases and snack bags are my domain. Or were. For some time now, my husband and children have been responsible for their own personal effects. While they may scoff at my over-preparedness, it is rarely I who arrives at our destination without underwear, shampoo, or matching socks.

A couple of years ago I was introduced to the concept of wardrobe capsules. It has transformed the way I shop, pack, and organize my closet. I start with a capsule- basic pieces that will work together in the same or similar color palette. In choosing the capsule, I have to factor in the "where" and "what" of our trip. The "where" is usually firmly established in regards to specific location but it also includes factors such as weather and casualness scale of said destination. The "what" is sometimes less established and creates some packing dilemmas as I consider all the potential scenarios that play out in my mind. For example, what if we get a last minute invitation to the White House for a last- blast- before- the- new- occupants- move- in- party? I should pack for that...cause you just never know. Actually, and more morbidly, my "what-if" scenario most often involves a funeral and whether or not I have a proper and solemn enough outfit if the occasion should occur.

There is also a process to packing--a method to my madness. It involves lots of floor space. I have to lay it all out by day & activity complete with the proper "foundational garments", accessories and shoes. Once I have it all organized, I can start the packing. Plastic baggies are also my friend. I haven't invested in the vacuum sealed ones yet but even the standard Ziploc ones do a great job at keeping things organized and clothing items arrive less crumpled. I found some new packing hints here that I intend to incorporate this time. The final step for me, is to pack it to the hilt. If the pre-selected and coordinated clothing items do not fill the entire suitcase (and I do not anticipate shopping on my "what" list), then any and all remaining space is filled with all my "what if" items. This has perhaps created, on occasion, a few strained muscles and additional airline charges but overall has served me well.

I have now motivated myself to clear the closet and go get packing. Tell George and Laura to forward my invitation.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Home for Holidays

I am looking forward to the Thanksgiving holidays. My two "not yet out of the nest" children are out of school the entire week and we are headed "home". When I talk about going "home" I am referring to where our parents now live. Home for my husband is a small town in south central Arkansas where all of his family has resided for ages. My husband moved only once--from the country to "town" when he was in 6th grade. He even commuted to college for the first 2 years. He grew up with all of his grandparents and cousins in the same town. Thanksgiving with his family will mean lots of traditional Thanksgiving fare (his mom has been cooking for weeks) and lots of relatives. I remember being overwhelmed with all the people during those first holiday visits. The holidays with my family will be quieter and less traditional. So as not to duplicate my mother-in-law's traditional turkey dinner, my side of the family celebrates our Texas heritage with Mexican food or BBQ at Thanksgiving and a shrimp boil at Christmas. With no extended family in the area and depending on my brother's family schedule, it is usually a smaller seating arrangement. They are both equally enjoyable times of celebration.

I may speak of home as where my parents now live--and it home because of them-- but for me, "home" isn't any ONE place. You see, I am a PK (preacher's kid- yeah I know that explains a few other things about me) and over the course of my childhood, there are several places I've called home. Most of what I remember of the small East Texas town where I was born and lived until I was 3 except is vague memories stimulated by family photos. It must have been a great time in my life though-- as the first born child, I had the focused love and attention of my parents and according to my mother, was spared multiple spankings during church services when well meaning church members would rescue me during the service and give my mom a break.

We moved to Arkansas when I was three and that's where we "got" my baby brother (at least that's the way I understood it to happen). We lived next to the church building- this arrangement had its burdens(noisy parishoners) and blessings. One time the local radio station held a contest where the first person to bring a church bulletin to the station van parked behind our church building would win a prize. I do not remember what the prize was, I just remember falling and skinning my knee in my effort to be the first one there. I remember filmstrips in Sunday school class and Vacation Bible school crafts. Mrs. Kelley was my Kindergarten teacher and she taught me how to cut with scissors. I loved her gentle voice and did not like it when I had to move to first grade where I had Mrs. Hale for a teacher. She was old and mean and I thought her name was spelled "Hell" (if you speak southern you will hear the similarity). I did not have to endure Mrs.Hale/Hell for very long because we moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas in the middle of first grade. Elementary school, piano lessons, roller skating parties, Brownies & Girl Scouts--I have great memories of that time and place. It remains, to this day, my favorite place to have lived (I even returned there to attend college some years later).

I spent my middle school and high school years in the Houston area. It was the best of times and the worst of times. The big city had many opportunities, experiences, and temptations and I dabbled in it all. I didn't know that I needed to be rescued from that place but God delivered me out of circumstances and relationships that I could not shake on my own by moving my family back to Arkansas. It was not the big city opportunities that would most affect my life but was God working through a committed youth group in a Baptist church that would forever change how I lived my life. Through their witness, I realized that I had been playing church and not fully committed to following the One I said that I trusted as my Savior.

The course of my life was forever changed. School choices, marriage, career, ministry & children would all be altered by that one choice--a lifetime commitment to following Christ. I've called 5 more places "home" since that time. Going home for me means visiting all of those places and people God has used to mold me into the person I am today and the being grateful for the impact they have had on my life.

So how about you--where or what is "home" for you?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Brain is Still on Vacation

I think my brain must still be on vacation because I'm drawing a creative blank these days. I gotta shake it soon though because the holiday season is just around the corner and will require a good amount of mental stealth to negotiate through the next several weeks. I'll save a few brain cells by not fretting over a Thanksgiving feast--we are headed down south to spend Thanksgiving with family. I get to eat my momma's and momma- in- law's down home good cooking for the week. That's reason enough right there to be thankful.

Thanksgiving really does not get the full attention or respect it deserves. It's become the forgotten holiday squeezed in between Halloween and Christmas. At our Walmart they were putting out the Christmas decorations before they had Halloween leftovers on the clearance aisle. "Rushing the season" my momma used to say but I think that had more to do with my wardrobe choices than the over-commercialism of the holidays.

Being brain dead, however, has not prevented me from my pre-holiday shopping (shopping like breathing is an automatic reflex for me). While in honor of Thanksgiving I'm not ready to decorate my house for Christmas or start playing Christmas music, I have purchased some new Christmas music to put me in the mood as we travel the many hours over the river and through the woods on the way back home from Grandmas house. Twelve hours in the car deserves some serious music.

This is a no-brainer that truly embraces the holiday spirit.

I'll be back when when the gray matter regenerates.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Making Connections

My husband travels quite a bit. He always takes a book with him on the airplane so he does not have to talk to people. I don't get out much and take a book with me on the airplane just in case there isn't anyone to talk to!

On the 2nd leg of our return trip from Hawaii, my husband and I were not seated together. I was on the very last row next to a pleasant looking woman and a quiet guy that I assumed was her husband. I'd been on a plane since 10:30 pm the night before and wasn't quite sure how my appearance or breath was holding up so I was not my usual talkative self...until I noticed the reading material on her lap.

A couple of years ago, a dear friend hooked me on the fiction of Karen Kingsbury. I've read most all of her series books and had recently purchased, Sunset, her last book in the Sunrise series about the Baxter family. I had saved it for poolside and beach reading knowing that it would be an uplifting and entertaining read during my vacation. I finished it on the last night of our stay.

As I settled into my assigned seat on the airplane, I saw that this gal next to me was reading a previous book in the same series by Kingsbury. Now Mrs. Kingsbury's books have a straightforward Christian message and are filled with God's promises from scripture brilliantly woven into the story line. It was a good chance that my seatmate was a believer but I did not want to make assumptions. Before the pre-flight instructions were given I broke the ice and asked if she was a fan of Karen Kingsbury books to which she answered in the affirmative with a sweet southern drawl. A southerner! I knew we'd have a good conversation then!

However, as the flight attendant's helpful (but already heeded) instructions rambled on, sleep deprivation overtook both my seatmate and myself and our conversation gave way to hopefully silent sleeping. It wasn't until the last 30 minutes when we awoke and were able to resume our conversation. As we maneuvered through the generalities of where are you from, where are you going- etc, we found out that we both had been in Hawaii to celebrate birthday milestones (hers a few years short of my 51 years), that we both had 3 children (hers much younger than mine and all still at home) and that we both worked in church ministry. Once the ministry word was spoken it was a free for all discussion of the challenges of balancing family and ministry, being a woman in ministry, and seeing a ministry through changes and challenges. It was a brief conversation but we made a connection and I hope that it was as encouraging for her as it was for me. 1 Peter 3:15 admonishes us to be ready to make a defense to everyone who may ask us to give an account of the hope that is within us. I'd like the way The Message phrases that verse:

Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you're living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.

I'd like to think that I would make the best of any opportunity I have to interact with other people wherever those conversations may take place.

I Am Blessed

I may not know what day it is or what time zone I'm in but I do know that I am blessed. It has been an extraordinary week in beautiful surroundings. I am grateful for new experiences that have expanded my horizons and stretched me out of my comfort zone. I am in awe at the variety of God's creation. I am thankful for friends who share out of their abundance and for the love and provision of my husband of 28 years. It was good to have time to rest and re-energize.

It was good to be home even when our plane had to be de-iced before leaving the Twin Cities and when the wind chill factor made the short walk/run from the airport terminal to our car unbearable even in my warmest vacation ensemble ( capris & a jean jacket).

It was good to be greeted at home with homemade brownies courtesy of The Princess and a cleaned kitchen and house as well. It will be good to sleep in my own bed when the jet lag wears off and I finish re-setting all the clocks in the house from the time change that occurred while we were 2 time zones away.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

"Thanks for the swim lessons mom" or The Adventure Continues, part 2"

My mom is deathly afraid of water. She was an east Texas sharecroppers daughter who didn't have many opportunities to learn to swim and is just one of those people who prefer their water limits to standard sized bathtubs. However, recognizing the limitations and ridicule this fear of water created in her life, she was determined that my brother and I would learn to swim. I must have inherited some of that fear from my mom because I remember a somewhat traumatic experience when after a few lessons I was forcedto swim in the the deep water. I didn't like that I couldn't touch bottom. I did learn to swim that summer but limited my excursions to the 3 & 4 foot depths.

When I was a teenager, my parents purchased lake property in east Texas for a getaway from the Houston rat-race. We had friends with property nearby and they had a ski boat. Their daughters could all water ski and I wanted to learn how. My dad informed me that I would have to learn to swim in water over my head before I could learn to water ski and so I went to the fatherly school of advanced swimming lessons--also known as throw your daughter off the swimming platform and let her figure it out. Note: I may have over dramatized his methods but that is how it felt at the time! I did learn to swim in deeper water and eventually water ski and have enjoyed doing both over the years.

This week I got an opportunity to test those deep water swimming skills even further with an excursion out to a remote island to snorkel. It was the best experience ever! Thanks to Frank and the crew of the Pride of Maui (and 40 bucks for the rental of the underwater digital camera), I was able to see some spectacular coral reef, exotic fish and sea turtles on my vacation adventure part 2.

Thank you mom for making me take the swim lessons and for the way it has enriched my life ever since.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's All Good

I have lived to see my birthday come to an end. It started at 6:30 AM with a van ride to the top of Haleakala with Bob our tour guide. Bob was a little crusty and crude and my initial impression did little to alleviate my concerns that he was the best person to trust with my personal safety. But as the trip up the volcano progressed and he entertained us with his bad jokes and vast knowledge of the area, I relaxed and decided to go with the flow. Once we reached 9700 feet we had this gorgeous view of the crater created by the last eruption of the volcano.

Have I mentioned that I am afraid of heights? I've come a long way in my fifty-something years on this earth but my knees get wobbly and my stomach does flips whenever I get to the edge of a sheer drop. Grasping tightly the railing, I held my breath and squeezed the button to get the shot. If this is what it means to live life on the edge--thanks, but I'll stay back on the flat even ground. So then Bob shows me where we are headed:

What you can't see is in this photo is before you can get to a reasonably flat and safe stretch of road, there is a series of swithchbacks down the side of this mountain/volcano. We were told that to maintain a schedule and not to impede the other traffic on this highway, we must maintain a speed between 18-25 mph and hoping that the opposing traffic heading up the mountain stayed on their side of the yellow line. I was most certainly headed to my early and untimely death. Bob assured me that he had never lost anyone in his 18 years of leading the tours down and I was determined not to be the one that ruined his perfect record!

Bob fit us for bikes & helmets, lined us up, gave us last rites, I mean final instructions and we were on our way. The basic rules sounded simple, "Keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the handlegrips, your feet on the pedals and your butt on the seat". I aspired to all that and added, "stay on the right side of the handlebars". I have never experienced such a rich and sustained prayer life as on that first 30 minute leg of the trip. Though it was not deep and theological, I do believe that my prayer of "God help me, I don't want to die" was heard my my loving heavenly Father. I made it to the lunch stop and would live to eat another meal.

The second part of the trip was less steep and I was a bit more confident in my skills and our leader. I actually got to the point of enjoying the view and loosened my grip on the handlebars enough to see blood return to its normal circulatory path. When we finally reached the end, this was our view from the beach:

I was happy to have completed the challenge and was happier still when we ended the day like this: It was all good!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I May Die on My Birthday

It is appointed unto man once to die. I know that and I trust my Maker with whatever day that may be for me. However, I do not live my life in such a way that would bring the end any sooner than is ordained for me. That is why I refrained from this ride at Cedar Point Park this summer:
Yep, 420 feet straight up, straight 120 mph. I could not do it and can't believe that I let the final fruit of my womb ride the thing.

Okay, back to keeping it safe...
My husband and I have been invited to join some friends on their anniversary trip to Maui. Lest you interpret the lack of an exclamation point in the previous sentence as lack of enthusiasm--let me assure you that I have visualized my toes in sand for several months now, may or may not have done the required amount of sit-ups in order to be seen publicly in a swimsuit, and searched every website in the internetty world regarding things to do and see and eat on said island. I have also packed and repacked a dozen times! That could also have something to do with the recent extortion tactics by the airlines to charge for each piece of luggage that you check. Regardless, I am very excited about this trip!!!!

The friends that are letting us tag along on this romantic vacation ARE the adventurous type. Just last year, she organized an all gal trip to hike the Grand Canyon. They hike, snorkel, sky-dive (i made that part up but I bet they would) --you get the idea. My husband's idea of a vacation is a cup of coffee, his laptop, and some serene setting. My idea of vacation is spas and shopping and dining on anything I don't have to cook. This could be interesting for all of us.

This is what they have talked us into doing...on my birthday....for fun. Bicycling down a volcano.

I've read the brochures, reviewed all the safety guidelines, beefed up the life insurance policy and agreed to go. It will be a great birthday...if I live to tell about it.

Getting Ready for Goblins

I'm not sure it's christianly correct (I just made that up) to like Halloween...but I do. Not so much the culture of the holiday--just the candy and costumes. Maybe it's my theater background but I've always loved dressing up in costumes. Once past high school musicals and community theater, I didn't have an outlet for costuming until my children came along. I couldn't wait for the first pre-school Halloween party when I could get creative for the occasion. My lack of sewing skills required me to be creative. I also had my standards--no store bought costumes. If it couldn't be glued, stapled, or pinned--it didn't get made. There was great joy when I discovered the magic of Wonder Under (that tape that you iron on -- still my friend today for quick hems and seam repair).

One year Firstborn son was a dinosaur made from a purple warm up bottoms and top from Walmart (probably the girls department but we won't tell him that 20 years later). I stapled spikes made from felt squares down the back of the shirt and covered one of his ballcaps with material, glued on big scary eyes and made teeth from white felt squares that hung from the bill of his cap. I was so proud..he was so cute (I mean scary). My favorite year for costumes is captured in a sweet picture of all 3 kids on the front porch of our Georgia house. Every year I put it out to remind me of that slice of time in our lives. One pirate, one Peter Pan, and baby Princess was Minnie Mouse--all from things we found around the house!

It's been a couple of years now since The Princess has gone out trick or treating and since I've had the opportunity to create a costume. My Halloween custom now is to buy all our favorite candy (just in case there are leftovers) and relive days gone by as we sugar up the neighborhood kids and stand in the doorway to see what wondrous costumes their creative moms have wrought ...or bought.
Even though she's outgrown the trick or treating thing, The Princess just HAD to make our traditional Halloween cookie.

Here's the recipe:
1 pkg Nutter Butter cookies
1 pkg of Almond bark (white chocolate)
mini chocolate chips

Heat Almond Bark in the microwave
Dip Nutter Butter cookies in Almond Bark (nearly all the way or all the way)
Lay on wax paper
Drop 2 mini chips on for eyes
Let harden & eat. No trick, just treats.