Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lessons Learned

This is another old post from my blog in August 2007. As 2009 comes to an end I have been thinking about lessons learned and Ebenezers built so I thought I would share this one again.

In the time of Moses when a nation went into battle they sent a banner bearer ahead of them. The banner was announcing the nation coming to war. I imagine it was often intimidating to the nation being attacked to see who was coming. The banner said these warriors come in the name of the king.


In Exodus 17:15 the Lord is described as Jehovah-Nissi which means the Lord is my Banner. For a long time I wasn’t sure of the significance of this description. However, once I understood the purpose of the banner my eyes were opened. God is telling us He is our banner; He goes before us in battle. No matter what happens in our lives, God has already been there.

In 1 Samuel 7:12 we see Samuel setting up a memorial stone. The Israelites had just been delivered from the hands of the Philistines by God. So, Samuel set up the stone as a way of remembering that thus far God had helped them. He called the stone Ebenezer.

I have always loved these two passages of scripture.

Today as I was cleaning carpets at my house I was contemplating all that has happened in my life in the last year. I have walked every step of the road from there to here, but I was totally astounded when I looked back and reflected on it.

Last year this time I was in a sweet situation. I had lost a little bit of weight. My employer had just closed the local office and set me up with a home office. I had also just avoided being laid off for what seemed like the hundredth time, although I think it was closer to four times. With my notebook computer and cell phone I could work from my house or my parent’s house, or the local Starbucks for that matter. This was a great setup for me as it allowed me freedom to help my parents while continuing to work.

In January 2007 all that changed. Just days after the holidays I found out I was being laid off. As traumatic as being laid off can be I was thrilled to have an opportunity to take some time, regroup and decide where to go from there.

Early in February 2007 I came down with a common cold. I was miserable, but figured in a few days I would be good as new. Well, in a few days I was in excruciating pain, my eyes were throbbing, and my neck was so stiff I could barely move. I decided it was time to be seen by my doctor. Hours later, after having a spinal tap done, I was in isolation at the local hospital with a life threatening illness. I had bacterial meningitis and sepsis. I spent the next six days in a hospital bed. My insurance had just run out at the end of the previous month. I was hoping I had COBRA coverage, but wasn’t quite sure how I would pay the mounting bills.

Because of my illness I missed a writers conference I was scheduled to go to. The registration fee was non-refundable. Despite an effort to convince the organization that it wasn’t by choice that I backed out at the last minute, they would not refund the money.

During my time off I spent much time with my parents. My Mom’s illness has slowly robbed her of the ability to do much at all. She needs constant care and Dad willingly, patiently, and lovingly provides that care. I was able to help lighten his load by being there.

As June came to an end, Dad went for a routine stress test which led to a heart catheterization. It was during the cath that they found massive blockage in five arteries. He was not allowed to leave the hospital and had open heart surgery two days later. The recovery time has been extensive and I have been ever present to help in the last two months.

Today, I am physically half the person I was this time last year. Having struggled with my weight all my life I decided last fall I needed to get healthy and make changes to help prevent heart disease. In the aftermath of Dad’s surgery I am acutely aware of how important those changes are to my well being. The benefit of making these changes has been a slow, steady, safe weight loss.

Nine months later I am still looking for the right employment situation. It has been a sometimes frustrating experience. Often I have trouble finding opportunities suitable to my education and experience to apply for to meet my unemployment requirement. There have been interviews where I knew I wasn’t the right person for the job. And there have been interviews where I hoped to get the job and didn’t.

Looking back at the path of the last year I see strewn along the way the Ebenezers. I see how my illness coming in the COBRA election period allowed me to have insurance coverage for my hospital stay. I see how my being off work and spending so much time with my parents made the time Dad was in the hospital easier for Mom, she was used to having me around. I see how God protected my father. Dad could have had a massive heart attack at any time. Thankfully, we found the problem before that happened. I see how being inspired to get healthy has changed my life. And I see how God’s timing and planning has allowed me to be free from employer obligations during this time of my life. So, I have built my Ebenezers to remember how much God has done for me.

Today, because of my Ebenezers, I proudly wave the banner of Jehovah-Nissi. He has been there in every situation this past year. Without His presence and protection the situations of the last year would have overwhelmed and defeated me. Loving God hasn’t meant I don’t have problems in my life. Loving God has meant I do not face those problems alone. I envision Him riding before me along my life path with His banner proclaiming, “She is mine. You can try her, but you can’t beat her. I stand with her today and always.”

My year end wish for you, dear reader, is that you have Ebenezers in your life to look back on and that you ride confidently into 2010 knowing that God has gone before you. Happy New Year!

Photo copyright 2009 Thomas H. Fickas, Jr

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ending One Year and Moving into the New Year



Photo copyright 2009 Beverly Seng

The sun is setting on 2009. As 2010 looms many people are thinking about what they hope and dream will come in the new year. New year’s resolutions are made and goals are verbalized.


I have recently read a couple of blog posts that laid out clearly and concisely what the posters want to achieve this year. Their readers know exactly what these folks are working towards this coming year.

I am still in the process of finalizing my goals. A few years ago I made a goal to try something new every month. You can read more about my adventures by reading any of my Year of Living Adventurously posts. This year I have toyed with making 12 goals in 12 months. I am still waffling on what exactly I want to do.

However, I do have one firm goal in mind. Every year the Christian Writer’s Guild hosts Operation First Novel. This contest is open to any unpublished author. The grand prize is $20,000 and a contract with Tyndale House to publish their novel. I have had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with 2008 and 2009 winners Jennifer Erin Valent and CJ Darlington. I have experienced how this contest has changed their life.

So, this year one goal I have already set for myself is to have my novel ready to submit to the contest. The deadline for submissions is October 15, 2010. This gives me 288 days to work on finishing the manuscript and then editing, revising, and polishing. It’s a big project. 288 days sounds like a lot of time, but the only way I will succeed in finishing is if I break my goal into smaller chunks and set deadlines for myself. The other thing I have learned about goals is to tell them to my friends and family so that there will be accountability. Now that I have published it for the entire world (theoretically) to read I have more to lose if I drop the ball as I have in years past.

My hope is that this time next year the sun will be setting on a year of hard work and success at this goal.

Friday, December 25, 2009

For Unto Us a Child is Born

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold,  an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. ~Luke 2:8-20

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Anticipation

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7

Two days and counting. In my world today the landscape is covered in a fresh blanket of snow and I can feel the peace of Christmas surrounding me. As Liz Curtis Higgs said on Facebook this week, "The world holds it's breath in anticipation."

May the same peace fill your life today.

Monday, December 21, 2009

How big is your God?

Ironically, all last week I was pondering a post on time management. There has been so much going on lately with work and the holiday season and all I just can’t seem to keep everything together. Well, my time management skills couldn’t even get it together enough to get a post done on Friday. I just was too overwhelmed last week to keep up with my own deadlines. As a writer missing deadlines is not a good thing anymore than it is in any other job field. So, as I have thought and thought about this post I came to realize I don’t have any words of wisdom, just questions about how to make it work in my life. But, I came upon this post I wrote for another blog I used to post on and decided that its advice was timely. Anyway, here you go….


Life snuck up on me all at once this week. It was really just little things, but so many of them that I began to feel overwhelmed with them. I have been waiting the outcome of an important decision this week and it didn’t come. For the first time ever I had to pay taxes at the end of the year and then found out that my electronic debit couldn’t go through and so I am late on my payment; now I owe interest and penalties. The same day I found that out I learned by debit card number had potentially been compromised. And then I came home to find the homeowner’s association had decided to paint the woodwork on my house green. Mind you, I do like green; I just don’t think it looks great or goes with the style of my house. All these things by themselves wouldn’t have been too bad, but they came all together and by the end of the week I just wanted to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head.

Do you ever have weeks like that? They are frustrating for sure. This morning I was reminded of the verse in Romans 8:31 - “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Such truth in that little verse. The things in this world often threaten to overwhelm us. Still, God is in control. I reminded myself that God knew what the answer to the decision would be even before I realized a decision needed to be made. He knew about all of the things that would hit me this week.

The trick to this verse is that knowledge of it isn’t enough. I can say all I want that if God be for us, who can be against us? Until I make that verse a part of me they are just words. Until I believe and accept that God controls all the words just lie there in my mind. I have to take those words to heart, believe, and trust. When I do that the power begins to infiltrate my life. Romans 8:35-37 goes on to remind us:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:

"For Your sake we are killed all day long;

We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

Shall tribulation, distress, delayed decisions, late IRS payments, stolen bank card numbers, or crazy house paint separate us from the Lord? No, they cause bumps in our road, but they really don’t change the journey. We are still conquerors and God is still in control.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New Book

Today I opened my mailbox and found my copy of Thicker Than Blood. It was almost as exciting as if it had been my first book. CJ Darlington is the winner of the 2008 Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer's Guild Operation First Novel contest.

I haven't met CJ in person, but I have become acquainted with her through the Christian Writer's Guild. I admire her determination in making her dream come true. This book has been 15 years in the making and is finally here.

In January I will be participating in a blog tour with a review of the book. More information will be coming in the next few weeks. If you can't wait to read my review, Thicker Than Blood is now available for sale at Amazon.com and other bookstores.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Postless

So, here it is Monday and I am sadly, forlornly postless. What can I say? Remember about a month ago when I was stressing out every reader out with my count down to Christmas? Sigh, it is now 10 days to Christmas and in my world there are no cards, no cookies, no wrapped presents. Come to think of it, there is a rudely lacking pile of presents. And, yes, pile is an understatement. How did I get so far behind!?!

Life, that is is how. It happens and sometimes with a venegence. I thought on and off all weekend about what tantalizing bits of intelligence I should post today for you, my dear reader. But, here it is 10:40 pm on Monday night and there is no post. I am brain dead after a busy day and a marathon 2 hour mind numbing meeting followed by a commute that included almost getting rear ended because of some yahoo towing a truck with another truck but not very safely. And then there was the whole man walking ON the very dark highway in dark clothes that almost got run over and very nearly caused this girl to have a heart attack. That was followed by a solid hour of trying to figure out how to create a list of the haves vs the have nots for  my very sweet coworker who needs the info but doesn't realize it's not been stored in any format that makes for easy retrieval and analysis.

There you have it, I am postless tonight, but apparently not whineless. I am very sorry; I will go to bed now and come up with something juicy and intriguing for Wednesday's post. Please say you'll forgive me and come back soon....

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ransomed and Called

But now, O Israel, the LORD who created you says: "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine." ~Isaiah 43:1


This week has been one where a lot of things had to get done. It was a busy week and that was complicated by the cold temps and snow that hit our region. The sub zero temps did a number on my battery and at a time when I should have been focusing on work and getting things on my To Do List done I was trying the get the car jump started and get a new battery installed. At the end of the week I felt buried under everything. Honestly, I was feeling overwhelmed by life.

Then Thursday night I read this verse. It’s not new to me; I have heard it many times before. This time though the words resonated through my soul. They have been echoing through my life the last couple of days. Since they encouraged me I wanted to share them with you, my reader, in hopes that they encourage you also.

I have a friend who says that even in worship we Christians are self centered. Worship is about God, but we make it about us. Think of songs that say things like, “I could sing of your love forever.” I agree with her, but in this case I have to say that changing the verse to a me focus really made it personal. Try it.

“I am not afraid, for I am ransomed (some versions use the word redeemed). I am called by name, and I am His!”

In the grand scheme of things like dead batteries and contracts needing to be sent out the door at work this is what is most important. I have been redeemed and called by name. This wasn’t a mass operation. God called me by name and He redeemed me. And today I am resting in the fact that whatever happens in this world, I AM HIS!

Friday, December 11, 2009

I haven't forgotten

My post today will be late. I wasn't able to get it done yesterday as it is still percolating. Please come back later to find my words of wisdom ;-)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Baby Its Cold Outside!

The wind is howling around the house. The front glass door is covered in beautiful frosty snowflake designs that look like I have decorated for Christmas. For days now the temperatures have dipped down into single digits and then into negative digits. There is much talk on Facebook about how cold it is and can minus 2 actually be a temperature? Apparently it can because tonight the weatherman very seriously said, “It’s going to be 9 below, but I think these models are running a little warm so it will actually be colder than that.” To which I responded to no one in particular, “How can you use the word warm in the same sentence as 9 below?” Neither the cat nor the weatherman answered me.


With the frigid temperatures and snow the roads have been virtual skating rinks and I have been stranded in my house. Working hard, but stranded nonetheless. You’ve heard of cabin fever? I am pretty sure that if you Google it right now you will see a picture of me.

When I got done working earlier this evening I decided to begin work on a project I am making for a Christmas present. All the TV shows are reruns. I paid some bills. I ran the trash out to the dumpster and checked the mail all the while wearing flip flops…not a smart move since it is still the night the weatherman said 9 below was little warm. It’s okay though, I have feeling in my piggies again.

It’s not like I don’t have anything to do, but again, I have the cabin fever. So I was playing on the Internet tonight and decided to search for interesting words. I love words. I especially like words that tickle my tongue as I say them or sound cool when I throw them into conversations. Words like my co-worker’s favorite word – ironical. It just sounds good coming out of the mouth and causes a feeling of satisfaction. How about conqueror? This is one of those words that sounds like it means business. I love conquering things and being a conqueror.

So, courtesy of Dictionary.com here are some other words to use to describe the current weather state. Frigid, gelid, frozen, freezing. Gelid – very cold, icy. Also arctic, glacial, polar. Baby its cold outside!!

In my search I came upon a web site called World Wide Words  and found some great words. Ones we have all heard like bodacious, discombobulate (another fabulous sounding word), and cheapskate. Here’s a few more to whet your curiosity:

Humicubation – lying on the ground, especially in penitence or humiliation. I laughed when I came to this one because the description that goes along with it started “Once again we are in the realm of inconsequential words whose tenuous hold on existence is maintained by people who create lists of obscure words for our enjoyment and edification.” So you see, I am not the only one!

Kerfuffle – commotion or fuss. When out on the lawn there arose such a kerfuffle I sprung from my bed to see…

Lippitude – which sounds to me like something a sassy teenager with an attitude giving his mom a hard time. “I am not pleased with your lippitude, young man.” But alas, it actually means soreness of the eyes. I had lippitude earlier today when I had my new bifocal contacts in for a few hours.

Macaronic – of verse consisting of a mixture of languages. I love the way this one sounds although I can’t think of time when I would ever use it.

Yep, cabin fever is running rampant right now. But now that I am done with my stultiloquy (foolish babble) I will sign off.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Amazing Forgiveness

Have you watched the show The Amazing Race? It is a reality show where teams of two race around the world in an attempt to win a million dollars. The teams are pushed to their limits and tested in ways most people never have to experience. Each week they race to be the first team to reach the mat and to not hear the words, “I’m sorry you have been eliminated.”


This year during the race one team was a newly dating couple. As such they were still getting to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. What they liked and didn’t like. During the first legs of the rate they worked well together and met multiple challenges with teamwork and grace. Then they came to the leg of the race where they had to slide down a large water slide. By this time Canaan knew that Mika was deathly afraid of water and heights.

For many minutes Canaan tried to encourage Mika that she could do this, but her fear overwhelmed her. She tried and couldn’t do it. She got up from the slide. Canaan tried to reason with her. He understood her fear, but he also knew that if they didn’t do this part of the race it was all over for them. She tried multiple times. She prayed. She cried. He tried his best to convince her. Then, he lost his temper.

Another team came up so Mika and Canaan had to step aside and let them go. Canaan told her he would see her at the bottom and then went on down the slide. She knew that not participating meant losing the race and potentially losing the relationship. All she could see, though, was her fear and in the end she walked away in tears.

She found Canaan sitting at the bottom of the slide. They went on to the pit stop for this leg of the race and were told by Phil that they had been eliminated from the race. Mika was devastated. As they stood there on the mat, though, Canaan showed his true colors as a Christian.

There in front of thousands and possibly millions of viewers he forgave Mika. He knew what it was like to face his fears and have the fears win. He said to Phil, “I am forgiven and so I can forgive Mika.” What powerful words. He could have been angry. She cost him the chance to win a million dollars. He wasn’t angry. He wasn’t willing to walk away from the relationship. He offered to Mika the same grace and forgiveness that he has been offered by his savior.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Life in the Balance

Life in the Balance is an intensely emotional and beautiful book written by Thomas Grayboys with Peter Zheutlin. Thomas Grayboys, MD was a cardiologist in the prime of his life and career when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. Insult was added to injury recently when he was also diagnosed with Lewy Body Disease.


Through his own experience he relates how these diseases have affected him, his family, his friends and his colleagues. He speaks candidly about the changes not only to himself, but also to his relationships.

At times emotionally wrenching, his book beautifully describes the journey he and his family are on. This is not a journey any wish to take. Dr. Grayboys bravely allows the reader into his and his family's life.Allowing such intimate access is his way of fighting back. This book brings light to Parkinson's and Lewy Body Disease. It is a valiant battle in the war against dementia.

Despite the tough emotional nature of this book I highly recommend it. It depicts how dementia invades a person's life and ravages them. It answered many questions for me about my own mother's journey through Lewyland since she never talked much about it.

I was especially touched by the following passage found on page 177 of the book. "Parkinson's and Lewy body disease have taken much of the density, richness, and texture from my life, and moved much that was once within my grasp to a place beyond my control. However, between the limbo of illness and the anger and despair it often spawns, there is a better place - a life beyond illness still to be lived."

Dementia steals much from everyone involved. It can't steal our hope if we fight against it.

This post was originally posted on May 1, 2008. Since I have moved my blog here to Blogger and I have new readers I thought I would post it again.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's Time to Get Your Merry On!

23 days until Christmas!! Today in honor of the holiday season I am posting a little blurb I wrote for the local newspaper in 2006. The picture isn't the greatest, but since it is what the story is all about I decided to go ahead and post it.



I always thought the ornaments were old fashioned and wondered why we kept them on our tree year after year. If it were my tree, I would buy more fashionable ornaments. I was young and didn’t see the value in those old ornaments. Today there are only two ornaments remaining from the set. They now appear priceless in my opinion. Every year I look for those ornaments on the tree. They tell a story of family and love and many wonderful Christmas memories.

Christmas 1960 my parents were young and newlywed. Having just embarked on their journey, they had none of the traditional Christmas items. They walked five blocks with the snow lightly falling to the store to purchase ornaments for their first tree. I can imagine my parents holding hands and enjoying the snow. In my imagination they are planning Christmases to come. They have no idea what the future holds but they face it together.

Every year for the last forty-six these ornaments have graced our tree. They have traveled to six states and two foreign countries. They have seen hard years and years of plenty. There they hung as four children were born and raised. They have seen a daughter-in-law, two sons-in-law and six grandchildren join the family. If these ornaments could talk, they would tell many stories. The most amazing story would be the love of two people tying their family together for generations to come. Truly, the value of these ornaments has increased over the years. Someday they will break but the bond of the family will last forever.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A month of thankfulness has tested me.

This month I have tried to post something each day that I am thankful for. About day nine I hit a wall and didn’t quite know what to be thankful for. Can you imagine something so silly? I mean, seriously, I know how blessed I am. It should be easy to post something each day.

Finally I realized that I was struggling because I was trying to find profound things to appreciate in my life. By life isn’t about profound things. It’s about the little things. And my life is full of lots of little things that I take for granted because I am looking for huge things to be grateful about.

This weekend I read “The Noticer” by Andy Andrews. It is not a long book; only 156 pages long. An easy read, the book has a profound message that dovetailed perfectly with my thoughts today as I face the end of my month of thankfulness. On page 13 the character of Jones says:

“’When you focus on the things you need,’ he went on to explain, ‘you will find those needs increasing. If you concentrate your thoughts on what you don’t have, you will soon be concentrating on the other things you had forgotten you don’t have –and feel worse! If you set your mind on loss, you are more likely to lose….But a grateful perspective brings happiness and abundance into a person’s life.’”

Aha, finally, it got through my thick skull! It’s all about perspective and my perspective has been skewed. I have been focusing on what I don’t have and not what I have. Because of this blind spot in my vision I have had a hard time being truly thankful for how blessed I am.

So, here at the end of the month I have a new perspective and I am going to work hard to keep my eye on the important things in life. The last line of the book…”That has been the greatest gift we received, the gift of a new perspective…..from an old man named Jones.”

Indeed, the book was a great read and thanks to Mr. Andrews I have been given the gift of a new perspective. I encourage you to read the book also. You can find more about Andy and purchase this book by visiting the Andy Andrews Web Site

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday

If the LORD delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. ~Psalm 37:23-24

Today I am thankful that the LORD upholds me with his hand and though I stumble I cannot fall with his help.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

I am thankful for lazy Saturday mornings that start with sleeping in, reading the newspaper, my sweet kitty cat, a nice glass of Diet Pepsi in the morning, and family dinners.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday

Today is Black Friday; the day that retailers usually get out of the red ink on the ledger books and into the black. Today is also the day that thousands – or is it millions? – of people will wait anxiously at store doors for the melee to begin. Remember the Mervyn’s commercials from years ago? Open, open, open.

I don’t like to shop in crowds regardless of the deals I might get. So, while I don’t know exactly what I will be doing on Black Friday I can tell you I won’t be going anywhere near the mall or any other store. Some people, though, take their Black Friday shopping very seriously. We’ve all seen the news reports on Friday evening of people brawling over the latest trends like Cabbage Patch Dolls, Teddy Ruxpin, Wii, and Zhu Zhu Pets. In years past there have even been people trampled and injured in the mad rush. I wonder if it’s all worth it.

Below is a little story I wrote last year for the Faithwriters Writing Challenge. I thought it adds a little perspective to Black Friday.

Paper Stars

“Mommy, mommy, the car’s on fire!” David stared eyes wide as the smoke poured out from under the hood of the little blue Civic.

“No, sweetie, it is just hot and that is why it is smoking. Come on into the church with me to see if they will let us use the phone.” Megan tugged on David’s hand impatiently.

Inside the church she picked him up and sat him on a chair. “Now stay right here while I go over there to make a call.”

“Okay, Mommy.” David sat swinging his feet, watching a tall man put construction paper stars on a Christmas tree.

Hopping down from the chair David ran over and tugged on Sam’s sleeve. Sam smiled at the boy and handed him some stars. “Do you want to help me by hanging this on the branches down there?”

“Sure, what’s your name, mister?”

“My name is Sam. What’s your name?”

“My name is David, I’m five years old, Mom and I were going to the store when our car got hot and started smoking, I thought it was on fire but Mom said it was just hot.” David sucked in a deep breath after this revelation spilled from him.

Sam smiled and said, “Well, I am glad you were able to come in here so your mom could use the phone. I sure needed some help with this tree.”

“So, why ya putting paper stars on the Christmas tree? Can’t the church afford real, store bought ordaments?”

“Well, now David, this is a special tree. These paper stars are the Christmas wishes of boys and girls just like you.”

“Christmas wishes like when you sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what you want for Christmas?”

“Exactly like that. Each star on this tree is from a child whose mom and dad can’t afford to buy them presents.” Sam knelt down next to David.

“Then Santa comes and reads the wishes and brings toys and stuff to the kids?”

“Not Santa,” Sam hung another star on the tree. “These stars are chosen by the people of the church and they buy the presents.”

“But why would they do that? Don’t they want to buy presents for their own kids?”

“They do want to buy presents for their own kids, but they want these children to feel loved too. So, they go to the store and pick out presents and wrap them up. That way the kids have presents to open on Christmas morning.”

“Wow, I bet the kids on the stars feel really loved.” David grinned.

“Yes, they do! That’s why people take the stars.” Sam put the last star on the tree.

“When all the stars have been taken off, then the Christmas tree will be bare.”

“When it’s empty we will put store bought ornaments on it and all the people will bring the presents they bought and put them under the tree before they are delivered to the children.”

“That’s so cool.” David turned to his mom who had had just walked up. “Hey Mom, let’s take a star so we can buy a present for a kid who might not get a present.”

“David, we can’t take a star. Mommy can only afford to buy presents for you this year. Come outside to wait for Uncle Joe.” Megan pulled David towards the door.

“But Mom, if we don’t take a star a kid might get up on Christmas morning and not have anything under the tree.” David pulled away from his mom and ran back to the tree.

“David Michael Jones, I told you no. I can’t afford to buy toys for other kids. Now come on.”

David looked at Sam and then his mom. His eyes filled with tears. “Mom, these kids need to feel loved. Can’t we take a star? You can buy them something instead of buying me stuff. I want this kid to have my present. Please, Mom?”

Megan’s face softened into a smile. She reached down and hugged her son. “You are sweet to think of other kids. Pick a star and we will go to the store right after I get paid tomorrow.”

David grinned. He held his star tightly in his hand. “Nice to meet ya, Mister Sam. Thanks for letting me help you.”

Sam reached down and ruffled David’s hair. “Thank you for helping me. You have a fine boy here Mrs. Jones.”




Today I am thankful that I haven't had to go out to the stores on Black Friday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

Today I am thankful for long, holiday weekends!

Family Caregiver Stamp Petition

I never understood how hard being a caregiver for a family member was until I had to take over for my Dad when he had his surgery.  It can be emotionally and physically draining, but also intensely rewarding. I would like to see more attention given to family caregivers. They need all the support and encouragement they can get.

In recognition of the work family caregivers do President Obama declared November 2009 National Family Caregiver Month. Unfortunately the month is almost over. Fortunately, the appreciation can continue on.

There is currently a petition to the USPS for a Family Caregiver Postage Stamp. You can sign the petition and show your support by visiting the petition web site and submitting your information.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

Today I am thankful for meetings that end early on days that are packed with meetings. A few extra work minutes are always nice.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

Today I am thankful for my friend, Maggie!

Tammy the Turkey

Way back in another century known as the 70s when I was yet a schoolgirl I wrote my first book. It had a printing of one, but I still have the book. It sits among my writing references in the bookshelf on my desk. The program I was in at school took 10 fifth graders through the process of writing a book.

I wrote a delightful story (yes that is a little shameless self aggrandizing) about a poor little turkey who was attempting to avoid becoming someone’s Thanksgiving dinner. The original title was “Tommy Turkey.” When I floated that title at dinner one night a couple of Toms objected and demanded I rename the book. So much for poetic license or creative freedom or whatever you call it. I bowed to the pressure and renamed the book “Timothy Turkey.”

Saturday morning one of the above mentioned Toms gleefully asked me if I had heard the news earlier this week. Not sure I knew which news he was referring to I asked, “Which news?”

“The story about Tammy the turkey.” He replied with what I am pretty sure was the hint of a grin in his voice. If said Tom was a man who giggles I am pretty sure he would have at this moment.

Apparently I was out of the loop last week and missed the breaking news that Tammy the turkey was seen for several days near the tollbooths on the New Jersey Turnpike. Rumor has it she was trying to hitch a ride out of town in search of a safe place to wait out Thanksgiving week.

At the end of the riveting “Timothy Turkey” Timothy meets a cute little girl turkey and lives happily ever after. Maybe Tammy the turkey was just trying to get home to share a Thanksgiving Tofurkey with her boyfriend, Timothy and that is why she was on the Turnkpike.

Regardless of Tammy's reasons for being there, this Thanksgiving I will spend the week trying to live down the glory of having a turkey share my name. Just what my siblings need, more fodder for teasing me!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

Today I am thankful for the coming holiday season - for all that means and the opportunity to celebrate with friends and family.

Sunday

Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

I am thankful for pre-lit Christmas trees, carpet cleaners, and cornbread :-)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Random Thoughts of Triviality

1. This morning the sky over the mountains was dusky gray as I left for work. The not yet set moon cast a silvery back glow and the rosy glow of the sun had yet to make an appearance. It gave me a serene yet eerie feeling.

2. I have a hard time not taking a dare so when I read a blog that started I DARE YOU I knew I had to join the fun. So, this morning I referred to my coworkers as Bob and made one Bob almost choke on her breakfast when she laughed over it :-)

3. I don’t really like chocolate candy unless it has something yummy mixed in like peanut butter, nuts, or caramel.

4. On the corner near my house a Christmas tree lot has sprung up. My own brand new pre lit Christmas tree sits in its box waiting patiently to be put up. And I have pulled out some of my favorite Christmas CDs which will be placed in the CD player in the Sheriff (thus named because I needed a Tom Hanks related name for my car and he became Sheriff Woody, the character Tom voiced in "Toy Story") so I can sing along at the top of my voice as I drive to work.

5. This morning I saw one of those white decals on the back window of an SUV. It was a picture of a viking or barbarian. I was instantly transported back to 11th grade algebra with Mr. Daniels. I sat in the very last seat in the 2nd row to the left of the classroom door. In front of me sat Kevin, the Senior Class President and next to me was Dave, the goofy, adorable football player. Dave called himself “Acid the Barbarian” and drew pictures of himself that looked just like the decal. These two guys laughed and joked with me as if I was a peer. I was a shy, socially awkward teenager and this meant more to me than they will ever know.

6. I met Dave’s older brother two years ago after Mom died. He is the manager of the cemetery where we buried her. There was no way to hide the fact that they are brothers they look so much alike. He told me Dave had turned into a real egghead when he went to college and had graduated with multiple degrees. In the past 26ish years he has become a happily married man with two kids, but according to his brother is still the goofy barbarian :-)

7.  Today I lost one of my favorite earrings - one that my brother rescued from the drain pipe in my parents bathroom two years ago - down beside one of the seats in my car. I can see it, I just can't reach it. This frustrates me.

8. These thoughts came to me during the day on Thursday and though I have the urge to come up with an even 10 thoughts I think I will step outside my box and stop here.


Today I am grateful for people in my life who have helped to shape the woman I am today.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude


I am thankful for steaming mugs of rich, sweet coffee to start the day :-)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Life Has Become a Comedy of Errors

There are many mornings when I wonder about the wisdom of getting up because I just don’t do mornings very well. Last week there was a day when I got up on the wrong side of the bed. I had a niggling feeling I should go back to bed, but honestly I have that feeling a lot and I just can’t give into it every time it happens…I would be unemployed and homeless. So that morning I went about my business, fed the cat, got dressed, and headed to work.


I was deep in thought and cruising along the highway. For once I was going to be early for work and was thinking, “Girl, you rock.” Then I saw them; the dreaded red and blue lights that signal impending doom. As the trooper passed me going the opposite direction I glanced over and saw him signaling me to pull over. So much for being early.

“Where you going in such a hurry?” He casually asked me after introducing himself.

“Um, work.” I said hoping he might be nice to me.

“Why you going so fast? Running late this morning?”

I had the presence of mind to not say, “Well, sheesh, I wasn’t until you decided you wanted to meet me.”

He then kindly explained that anything more than 10 miles over the limit and he HAD to give me a citation. Then he asked me to contribute a large sum of money to the state budget. As much as I was disinclined to give the government any more money than I already do he had a compelling argument that included the words court summons and arrest. I resigned myself to not buying a new Beijou purse at the party that weekend.

I arrived at work, still mostly on time and would have a few minutes before my first meeting. The elevator arrived at the floor, the door opened six inches and the alarm went off. I had to laugh. What else could I do?

With the help of the other person in the elevator we were able to push the doors open and get out. Woohoo! But I forgot that trouble comes in threes. During that meeting an itchy rash developed on my upper arm and itched like crazy. Hives caused by stress maybe?

I managed to make it through the day without any other tragedy. I laughed it off and went along my merry way. Yesterday life struck back at me again.

This time I was late for work when the cat urped his breakfast right in front of me as I walked out the door. I cleaned it up and dashed out the door. A stop at the gas station was in order since I was on E and wouldn’t make it all the way to work. The only problem with this scenario is that my gas door was frozen closed. Not a little, but a thick layer of ice sealed it shut on three sides.

It was then, on a freezing cold morning, jabbing the ice with my key trying to loosen the gas door that I realized that my life had become a comedy of errors. I had fleeting visions of a studio audience hee hawing over my foibles. Have you ever seen the movie “The Truman Show” with Jim Carrey? Truman was a man living in a TV show that was being broadcast around the world. He didn’t know he was living in a fake world or that people watched him as he went about his life. People laughed and cried with him and waited to see each day what would happen as he went unwittingly about his business.

I couldn’t help but think of that movie this week. I could imagine people watching and laughing as I poked at the ice while muttering under my breath.

Okay, so maybe my life isn’t interesting enough to keep people riveted to their TVs to watch the “The Tamara Show.” But, you gotta admit I do seem to have enough interesting things to keep my life exciting and keep me laughing. And when you’re stuck in an elevator or cleaning up cat puke laughing is better than the alternative :-)

Tune in next week to see what happens to Tamara next!
Today I am thankful that I live in a country that allows me to worship freely the God that I love.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

Today I am thankful for TV shows that make me laugh out loud! Laughter does a soul good :-)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

Saturday night we did the usual church and family dinner. Then after my sister and the kids had gone home Dad and I sat and watched "Cat Ballou." It was a relaxing, fun evening.

I am so thankful for my Dad. He has always been there for me and supported me in all my endeavors. He is a great man and I love him so much.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Snow blanketed the ground this morning when I got up and today I am thankful that the landscaping people come and clear the walks when it snows.

Sunday - Zephaniah 3:17

“The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." ~Zephaniah 3:17

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

In my part of the world it is drizzly and gray today. The threat of an impending snowstorm looms over the coming hours. I live in a semi-arid climate where we are still under outside watering restrictions. So, this drizzle and snow is a welcome gift from heaven and I am thankful.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

I went to the eye doctor today and found that what I have been suspecting is true. My arms are too short. I have reached the point in my life that I need bifocals. Don't I feel old!

Seriously though, I have my sight and for that I am thankful.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

I am grateful for the support and encouragement of authors who have walked this road ahead of me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

I am a crazy cat lady. I don't have a whole lot of cats although I often have a whole lot of crazy going on in my world.  But I have this one sweet, adorable kitty cat. After a hard day at work coming home to see him sitting at the door waiting for me is such a great thing. He really has been a perfect addition to my life and such a joy to have. As I write this he is laying on the back of the couch just watching me. Yes, having Wilson in my life is something for which I am very thankful!

Determination

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.  ~Mahatma Gandhi


Have you heard about Cha Sa Soon? I heard about her on the radio this morning and didn’t know whether to be amused or inspired.

According to the radio report Cha Sa Soon is a 68 year old woman in South Korea who was determined to get her driver’s license in order to support her business. She took the written test which required 60 out of 100 correct t in order to pass. She took it once and failed, twice and failed, three times and failed. Turns out she took the test 950 times before passing!

She does still have to pass an actual driving test before getting her license. Can you imagine, though, the perseverance it took to continue going to take that test? She knew what she wanted and she went after it. Cha Sa Soon certainly has an indomitable will.

While I am not sure I would want to drive the same roads as someone who had to take a driver’s test so many times I tip my hat to this spunky lady. Her story should be a lesson and encouragement for us. She never gave up and finally attained her dream. So, the next time I try and fail I will remember Cha Sa Soon and try again.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

Today I am grateful for new attitudes and good friends to encourage me through the rough spots.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude?

So, here’s the deal, today was a stinking hard day. It started out with an impossible email and got tougher from there. All day I chewed on thoughts of this post and it was just like chewing on shoe leather. Not that I have ever chewed on shoe leather mind you, but I imagine it would be tough and stringy and the more I chewed the tougher it would get. It was just one of those kinds of days.

All the way home I considered gratitude and my attitude toward it. I have much to be thankful for. My life is full and I have everything I need. I have a good job, a house, a car, clothes on my back, food on my table, money growing towards retirement, the love of my Savior, a very sweet kitty cat, a loving family, many friends, etc, etc, etc. Do you see what I mean? How could I not be grateful?

And I am thankful for all these things and so much more. But here at the end of the day I sit in front of my computer and wonder at the fact that I have had trouble with posting something to be grateful for each day. And, it’s only the 9th of the month; there’s still 21 days to go.

As I read back over my Attitude of Gratitude posts they feel trite and simple. I wrote them and still I wonder if there is any true sentiment behind them or if they are just words on a computer screen. It makes me kind of sad really. My heart should be brimming over with everything.

How is that we can be so quick to forget the good things and take them for granted, but hang on to the bad things? As I drove home I tried to feel something other than the frustration of a day full of trials. Try as I might everything that came out of my mouth fell like rocks into my lap. (Yes, I was talking to myself about this during my commute….it’s one of those crazy things about me.)

I cranked up the music and sang along with the praise music on the radio station. When that didn’t work I turned the radio off and talked to God. I explained to Him how I felt and my guilty feelings at not mustering much thankfulness today. I know He heard me and I was a little disappointed that my confession didn’t produce the cup runneth over feeling I was looking for. But then again, I think God is trying to get something across to me through this. I am sure it has so much more to do with than this little blog. What it is I am not yet sure; someday, hopefully soon, I will understand. Until then I remember that my Jesus loves me even at times like this and for that I am grateful.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Thank God for Little Boys

Today I am going to a baby shower for my friend whose baby is due in January. This sweet baby boy is a long awaited answer to prayer for my friend and her husband. They are so eager to meet their wee little bundle of joy.

I love babies. I don't have any of my own and probably won't ever have any of my own, but have thankfully been blessed with having many babies in my life through friends and family. There is something about a new baby that fills my heart with joy and hope in the future.

Thank God for little boys and little girls!


Sunday Thanksgiving

Let us come before him with thanksgiving. Let us sing him psalms of praise. ~Psalm 95:2

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

I am appreciating my quiet Saturday morning at home after a busy week.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ft. Hood

I have been thrown off kilter. Yesterday was peppered with  minor annoyances and as I left work I was frustrated. Driving out of of the parking lot at work I heard the first talk of things happening at Ft. Hood. My afternoon had been so full I hadn't heard anything prior to that.

As I drove home I gathered bits and pieces and my heart became heavy with grief for the people who were involved in the shooting and their families. Suddenly the drama of my day was revealed for what it was...petty and not worth stewing over.

When something like this happens it is hard to understand and it devastates so many....the people involved, their loved ones, the emergency responders, and indirectly all of us. We grieve and we wonder if anywhere is safe. We try to make sense, but there is no sense in an act like this.

My heart and prayers go out to the injured and the loved ones of everyone involved. As I considered my quest to be more thankful this month I contemplated what I could say today in light of this. There is one thing that I know is true today. I am thankful for the men and women of the Armed Forces who put themselves in harms way every day even as I am saddened that harms way came to what is supposed to be a safe place and at the hands of a fellow soldier.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Great Macaroni War

So, here’s a bit of truth about me – I hate surprises. Not all surprises, just the kind I know are coming. I certainly don’t mind the ones that comes out of the blue. “You’ve done such a great job; here’s a ginormous raise to show our appreciation.” (Phil, Gary are you reading this!?!) I’m quite all right with those unexpected events.

But surprises like Christmas presents under a tree? It drives me absolutely batty. I am not a patient person and all those wonderfully wrapped presents beckon to me and torment me. As a child Christmas time was torture for me.

Yes, every year I would try to find new and clever ways to find out what my presents were. I would scope out all the hiding places in search of unwrapped gifts. Once they were wrapped it became a little more challenging, but I persevered. I soon became quite adept at unwrapping presents and then rewrapping them so no one would know that I had peeked. To this day you can find me shaking gifts as soon as they appear under the tree.

Several years ago my brother had my name in the family gift exchange. My gift came with a warning to open upside down. It was heavy – I had asked for books – and it rattled; an intriguing combination for sure. When I opened the package macaroni spilled out explaining the rattle and marking the start of The Great Macaroni War. My brother may have won that battle, but the war was far from over.

I retaliated the next year with a sweet little box loaded with macaroni. To keep it from rattling I folded a piece of cardboard and stuffed it on top of the pasta. I taped the lid down, tied a blue bow around it and sent it off to my unsuspecting brother. Silly boy had become complacent and had no idea what was about to happen. Cue evil laughter…

Later my brother’s son took up the fight and packed one of my presents with macaroni. You gotta love a kid like that! But, he was no match for me. I fired back on his next birthday with a gift card encased in a CD jewel case, filled with birthday candle confetti, and super glued closed. He vowed his revenge and began plotting.

That Christmas I received a present on which my nephew had very sweetly written, “To my favorite aunt.” I beamed with pride as I pulled the paper off to find a package wrapped in duct tape. Under the duct tape were several layers of plastic grocery bags, more duct tape, and more grocery bags. I laughed as I unwrapped and unwrapped and unwrapped…

I definitely have a formidable opponent, but I am crafty. I am wily. I will not be outdone. Every year around this time darling neph and I begin trading jabs about macaroni. No one knows when the next scrimmage will happen, but the anticipation hangs in the air.

The Great Macaroni War seemingly has become a family tradition. Family traditions are not only fun, they tie us together and strengthen our bonds. Because of our traditions and strong bonds our family has supported each other in tough times. It is comforting to know I can always rely on them. And I don’t even mind not knowing what will happen next in the Great War!


Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. - Ecclesiastes 4:12

Attitude of Gratitude

Tammie is thankful for a good job in this tough economy.

(Wow, me thinks Tammie spends too much time on Facebook and can't stop referring to herself in third person!)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

Last night as I drove home there was an incredible almost full harvest moon. It glowed white against a dusky blue sky that was tinged with a slight pink glow as the sun slipped behind the mountains. I only wish I had my camera to capture it on film to share with you. I am thankful for the beauty of our world.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Diagnosing Dementia

Diagnosing dementia can be a frustrating experience. Currently the only way to know 100% what kind of dementia a patient has is to do an autopsy at the time of death. Not knowing exactly what type a patient has can mean a process of trial and error to find the right medications to help them. Finding a way to definitively pinpoint dementias will lead to improvements in patient care and provide clues to help in finding a cure.

Recent studies by the Mayo Clinic have shown promise in using MRI technology to identify patterns of dementia in the brain. An article published at Science Daily states that 90 patients were involved in the study and that beginning results showed a 75%-80% accuracy rate. More study is needed, but the beginning results are promising.

While this technology is still new and needs more study it is another step in the right direction.

Attitude of Gratitude

Today I am thankful for living in a country that values freedom and independence.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Attitude of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. It comes every year, but somehow seems to sneak up on me and I suspect I am not the only who feels this way. This year in order to extend the season I decided to focus on giving thanks throughout the month of November.

So, today being the first day of November I thougth about what I am grateful for. There are so many things to appreciate about my life.

One thing I am thankful for is the beautiful Indian Summer weather we enjoyed today after a week of snow and cold. (Of course, I was thankful for the snow days that weather brought earlier this week!)

What are you thankful for?

Fall Back

O Israel, hope in the Lord From this time forth and forever. ~Psalm 131:3


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Remembering Mom

Two years ago today my mom passed from this life on to the next. The last years of her life were punctuated by the horrors that Lewy* brought. Today, however, I choose to not dwell on those times and instead dwell on the amazing woman that was my mother.

I have so many good memories of Mom that it would take many, many blog posts to cover them all. Here are some that come to me today….

*Putting together my “grown up lady” Halloween costume one year.

*Sitting in the Granada on her birthday waiting into the wee hours of the morning for the tow truck to come and tow my brother’s Mustang. Someone had cut the battery cables while I was at work and we were concerned that the person may have been planning to come back and steal the car if we left it sitting in the parking lot over night. (Have you thanked me for saving your baby, big brother!?!)

*Mom being so excited about being a Grammy, but being “too young” to be a grandma. Thus she became GrammyMommy to six grandchildren.

*Her laughing at me and teasing me for years because I tried to outdo her by making a perfect angel food cake from scratch….still haven’t managed to accomplish that one!

*Late nights in the trailer park in Altus when she let me get up after the girls were asleep. That was when she taught Thomas and me to play Canasta, when we tried silly experiments like what Dr. Pepper tasted like warm, and when we had our first talk about the birds and the bees.

*Coming into the living room the summer I lived with her and Dad to see them sitting on the couch holding hands, still so much in love after all these years.

*Her telling Dad, “You’re a good man, Charlie Brown.”

*The laughter she shared with her five crazy sisters.

*The long walks we took in the evenings after dinner the summer I lived with her and Dad before moving to Oregon.

*Her beautiful smile and indomitable spirit.

Mom was loved by many and I think I speak for my siblings when I say that we were incredibly blessed to have her as a mom.

I love you and miss you Mom, but you live forever in my heart.

*Lewy Body Dementia – for more information visit the Lewy Body Dementia Association

Friday, October 30, 2009

I'm the Short One

I came around the corner of the grocery store aisle on a mission to find the Diet Pepsi and almost ran over a little lady with my cart. She was standing in the middle of the aisle and when she saw me she smiled.


“Can you help me?” she asked. Then she pointed at some bottles on the very top shelf.

She could barely reach the shelf much less the bottles. All she needed was for someone to get several bottles down for her. For one brief moment I felt tall! I helped her and went about by business.

As I finished my shopping I couldn’t help but be amused by that incident. You see, rumor has it that my siblings got all the height in the family while I got all the brains and beauty. Okay, so it’s not really a rumor, but just something I say. While I am not overly short I am the shortest among my siblings. I am not the one people usually ask to reach things on the top shelf. In fact, in my kitchen I have a little stool that I made in 8th grade wood shop. I use it often so I can reach the top shelf of my cabinets. Nope, I’m usually the one asking for help.



This incident made me think. I view certain aspects of my makeup as weaknesses and other aspects as strengths. After helping the lady in the grocery store I realized that’s not necessarily the case. I am what God created me to be. I never know how He may choose to use me; sometimes it will be in what I consider to be my strengths, but others it will be in what I consider to be my weaknesses.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Snow Day

Woohoo, snow day today! It’s not often the company I work for closes because of weather, but we are getting lots of snow around here these past few days. Today has been reminiscent of those school time snow days that we all loved as kids. Such possibility they held. So far today I have read the newspaper and worked on the puzzles, caught up on some reading, checked out some of my favorite blogs, snuggled with my kitty cat, and thought about some of the “grownup” things I should do like maybe cleaning the carpets or balancing the checkbook. Instead I decided to make a list of some of the things I am thankful for.

1. Having a warm, cozy home in which to ride out this snow storm.

2. Having a job to have a snow day from.

3. My sweet Wilson who is currently curled up on my bed taking a nap. When I walk into the room he will look up, un-tuck one white paw and wave at me. Such a sweet boy he is!

4. The beauty of the landscape covered in snow (I appreciate this more when I don’t have to be out on the roads that aren’t so beautiful covered in snow!)

5. Wireless Internet access that allows me to connect from anywhere in my house.

6. Not having cabin fever because I can connect with the outside world through the web and my phone :-)

7. My family.

8. A God who loves me.

9. Good books.

10. Diet Pepsi

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How Many Pairs of Shoes Does a Girl Need?

How many pairs of shoes does a girl need? I don’t know the answer to that. What I do know is I like shoes; I have a lot of them. People who know me might be surprised by this statement since I tend to wear the same shoes over and over. But, I have had an obsession with shoes since about the 10th grade. Way back then I bought a really cute pair of blue corduroy flats for $7. Then I gave them to my sister and had her give them to me for Christmas! Since then I have accumulated more shoes than one girl can ever wear and periodically give them away to Goodwill.

Today I was watching the news and there was a story about Blake Mycoskie and Tom's Shoes. According to the web site Blake is the Chief Shoe Giver for Tom’s Shoes. The news cast said Blake describes himself as a Social Entrepreneur. He’s using his business skills to do something for the less fortunate. He traveled to Argentina in 2007 and came back with a desire to help the children he met. Tom’s Shoes, which stands for Tomorrow’s Shoes, grew out of that. The goal is to give one pair of shoes to a child in need with every pair of shoes purchased. “One for One. Using the purchasing power of individuals to benefit the greater good is what we're all about.”

Shoes for a good cause, a girl can’t beat that! I don’t own a pair of Tom’s Shoes yet, but Christmas is a coming. Maybe I will buy a pair and tell the family member who has my name for the gift exchange to consider my gift done :-)


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday






The LORD redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:22

Friday, October 23, 2009

64 Days to Christmas!

Just a friendly reminder! I know some folks aren't wanting to think about it, but I am one of those freaks who puts my tree up early in the season (no, it's not up already, but probably in a few weeks) and begins to play Christmas music before everyone else. I love the sights, sounds, and smells of Christmas. My one wish is that everyone, myself included, would slow down at this time of year and enjoy the season. It's too easy these days to get caught up in the trappings of Christmas and forget to just relax and appreciate all the good things about the this time of year. So, I am sorry if I caused you stress by pointing out that there are only 64 days left 'til Christmas. Don't think about it as only 64 days left; think about is as 64 days to have fun and celebrate!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Blog, blog, blog

Have you noticed the preponderance of blogs on the internet these days? All it takes to get your thoughts out to the world is access to a computer and a connection to the world wide web. As I was reading a blog today I realized a couple of things. One is that I enjoy reading other people’s thoughts and their blogs. Two is that the world wide web is a really accurate description. With the advent of blogs the world is a little more connected.

Some people think blogs are a waste of time and are only for the narcissistic. I admit that I can get lost in time while perusing blogs, but I often come away changed by what I have read. Many bloggers have a list of their favorite blogs and with a click of the mouse you can jump off to read another blog. I haven’t made a blog list here yet, but I thought I would share some of my favorite blogs. So, here they are in no particular order.
Sunshine Days  is written by a young lady who goes to the same church as I do. We have never met, but I found her blog through a friend. What I love about this blog is that the writer shares her world in an unassuming way. Her Christian faith shines through, but also her humanness. She is what she is and is not afraid of that.

Scribble Chicks is a fairly new blog started by five Christian women authors. Their tag line is “A bunch of us pecking our way through the publishing world.” The women range from multi-published to a new author whose first book hits the shelves in January 2010. They have a theme each week and each one posts her thoughts on the theme. It has been great to read about their triumphs and challenges as they peck their way through.

Thoughts From Along the way  is written by a friend’s brother and his buddy. Jeff writes a little more often than Scott, but then again Scott is the father of a new baby and even I know that takes a lot of time. What I enjoy about this blog is the casual way faith is interwoven into the conversation. Jeff writes with a transparency that often hits me right in the heart. His faith is a down to earth kind of faith. He doesn’t get caught up in the trappings of religiosity but lives out his belief day to day.

Michael Hyatt is the CEO of Thomas Nelson Books. His blog is full of helps for writers. I like his no nonsense, pull no punches kind of style. He says it like he sees it.

Wanna Be Published, written by Mary E. Demuth is another help for writers. She provides great insight into the struggles would be writers face.

Terrible and Beautiful is another blog of a friend of a friend. Lorri is a young mom fighting a courageous battle with cancer. Hers is “a daily weblog of cancer, God, and life.” Despite having never met Lorri I have a great deal of respect for her. She has taken a horrible situation and sought the beauty that exists in life. She is determined to rise above the cancer and has chosen to keep living each day to the fullest.

And no blog list would be complete without a shout out to my new favorite author, Jennifer Valent.  Jennifer is the author of Fireflies in December and Cottonwood Whispers. In her blog she parlays her thoughts on the writing process. Her easy to read style shines through on her blog. By the way, if you haven’t read her books, I highly recommend them!

So, that’s a little taste of the blogs I follow. When you get a chance, feel free to cruise on over to visit with my web of "friends” and see what you think.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Catch Some Zs - Dementia and Sleep

Back in the 90s I decided it was time to go back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree. I was working about 70 hours a week between a full time job and a part time job. I was carrying a full-time work load at school. And I tried to still have a life around all of this. In the interest of getting everything done I cut back on sleep. I told people that I thought sleep was overrated and that I was weaning myself. During the week I would often sleep only two or three hours a night. Then on Saturday evening I would crash and sleep for hours. I managed to keep this schedule for a while, but then weird things began to happen.

Slowly, one by one I began to do strange things. I called to purchase a plane ticket and I couldn’t remember how to spell my name – the same name I had been spelling for about 30 years! Then one day I put soup in the microwave and when it was done the microwave was empty; my soup disappeared. I found it a while later in the drawer of the microwave cart where I put it instead of in the microwave. One night on my way home from work I stopped at a stop light and then couldn’t remember if I should turn or go straight. The final straw was the night I almost had an accident on my way home from school because I had traveled into the opposite lane of traffic and didn’t even realize it. Thankfully I didn’t cause an accident, but I finally knew that I had to cut something out of my schedule in order to get more sleep.

In our society today sleep is often the first thing people skimp on when their schedules get busy. Truth is I still do skimp. It’s hard for me to get a full 8 hours of sleep. Over the years, though, I have learned that sleep is more important than most of us think. It is not just lazy time; our bodies need it to be able to function. Lack of sleep has been linked to poor cognitive performance, diabetes, and increased body fat to name a few. Now research is showing that sleep deprivation may play a role in developing Alzheimer’s dementia.

Recently a research team at Washington University in St. Louis found that depriving laboratory mice of sleep increased levels of amyloid beta in their brains. Amyloid beta plaques are found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Further study is still needed to determine fully what this means. However, understanding this connection will allow for better identification of people at risk for dementia as well as increase the possibility of finding a treatment for the disease.

So, while we don’t know for sure the role of sleep deprivation in dementia I think getting a few more z’s each day couldn’t hurt. Maybe I will go take a nap….



Michael Purdy. Sleep Loss Linked to Increase in Alzheimer’s Plaques. September 24, 2009 (accessed October 17, 2009) http://mednews.wustl.edu/news/page/normal/14696.html

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pampered Chef Party

Woohoo! I love Pampered Chef and tomorrow is my sister's party. Guess I might have to replace the melted rice cooker, but I am also excited to purchase some pie making items to assist me in my quest to make a great pie :-)


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Do the Next Right Thing

Just do the next right thing. These words were spoken to me by a coworker once. She had heard them in a sermon. It sounds so simple, but is it really? Should it be easy? What does it say about a person if it’s not easy for them?

Just do the next right thing. The phrase came back to me recently and it has me pondering. Why do people find it so hard to do the next right thing? Mind you, I am not just throwing that out about people in general; I include myself in that question. Maybe it’s because we aren’t sure what the next right thing is. Or maybe it’s because we are overwhelmed about what it might take.

Sometimes it’s easy. We know the right thing and we know that we can’t not do it. Someone is hurt and needs help. Finding a wallet with a wad of cash in it, but also with identification of the true owner. Often we don’t have to think because the next right thing is innate. We just do it.

But what about those situations where there isn’t a right or wrong, just a choice? What about those situations where not doing it something terrible isn’t going to happen? These are the ones that I struggle with. Is the next right thing to sell my house and move? Is it to apply for that job that caught my eye?

And then there are the opportunities where the next right thing is going to be hard or take us out of our comfort zone. Fear can get in the way of doing the next right thing. It can hold us back and keep us from fulfilling the things we were destined to do. Fear can thwart our desires to move beyond our current life.

Earlier this week I wrote about Katie in Uganda. Katie is doing the next right thing every day. I don’t know Katie personally so I don’t know this, but from reading her blog I suspect she doesn’t question she just does. She knows what the next right thing is and she moves forward. I would love to sit down with Katie and talk to her over a cup of coffee. Does she fear? Does she waiver in her resolve to help? Does it come easier the more she does that next right thing?

Katie’s story got me thinking about my own life. I have known for some time that God has called me to the fight against Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). Before my Mom died I felt God also calling me to love and support the people who are care givers for loved ones with LBD and other forms of dementia. During the last years of Mom’s life I saw firsthand the toll that exacts itself on care givers. I watched as Dad gave his all to take care of her despite the weariness he experienced. I saw Dad keep doing the next right thing. I tried to share the responsibility with Dad so he could refresh and reenergize. As I did this I realized how many people are struggling to give the care that is needed and I felt the desire to help lighten that load.

For two years I have suspected that I should do something about this, but fear has held me back. What if I can’t do it? Will I have the strength that is needed? Will I have the time? It keeps coming back to me, this next right thing. I can hide from it for a while but then along comes a thing as simple as a blog by a young girl in Africa and then there is no place to hide. So, this week I did the next right thing. I signed up for the support group facilitator training offered by the Lewy Body Dementia Association. I submitted my information to the coordinator so she can post it on the web site. I don’t know what the next right thing is, but I am going to finish the tasks related to the training and then I will have an idea. I don’t need to know all the answers right now. I will just do this right thing and then do the next right thing.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Amazima!

When I have a free moment I love to read other people’s blogs. There are people out there who have awesome stories to tell and who share those stories with the world through the technology we have available. I have many blogs that I follow and my Windows Vista has a handy dandy little gadget that pulls the most current updates and posts them on my desk top. Each time I turn on my computer I can see if any of my favorites have been updated. I have actually been planning to do a post on blogs that I enjoy reading so I can share them with you. Then, last week, a Facebook friend posted a link to a blog and I decided I just have to share this one first.


When I first visited the Amazima site I was taken in by the picture in the header and the blog tagline…”on earth as it is in heaven.” I proceeded to read the post that I had linked to from Facebook. The story captivated me and I spent quite a lot of time perusing the blog and being more and more affected as I went. This website is testament to one girl’s desire to show the world love and to make one part of this earth as it is in heaven.

Amazima Ministries International was started by nineteen year old Katie Davis. Katie visited Uganda, East Africa in 2006 and was touched by the orphans she saw there. The plight of these children wasn’t something she could forget. In 2007 Katie gave up everything she had in the United States and moved to Uganda to minister to the poor. At an age when other girls are thinking about college, careers, and boys Katie could only think of those poor hearts that have no one to love them and nurture them.

The reality of how much Katie has sacrificed is evident in every post. She writes honestly of what one would consider the challenges of living in a third world country. Yet she takes it all in stride when the electricity is out for a week at a time or she finds she has a parasite in her digestive tract because of the unsanitary conditions she encounters. Nothing about her life is the same anymore.

What did you do Saturday night? My regular Saturday routine is to go to church with my Dad and have dinner with the family. It was my turn for dinner this week and I managed to cook dinner without burning up one of my modern appliances. Every Saturday Katie feeds 200 children dinner, she bathes them, and she loves them. They have a huge slumber party with children sleeping all over her house. In the morning she feeds them a warm, hearty breakfast and sends them home refreshed. Every Saturday night she does this. I cook dinner for my family of five only once every three weeks and sometimes that seems like a lot. I am in awe of this one young girl that I have never met.

Katie is 20 years old and she has a family here in the States that love her very much. She misses them and loves them. In Uganda this 20 year old has a family of 14 orphans that live with her and that she takes care of every day. This is a huge responsibility for anyone, much less a 20 year old living in a third world country. But every day she gets up and she continues on. She is determined to love these children with everything she has.

Among the many things she has learned while in Uganda is that there is no public school system and that it is expensive for children to go to school. Katie decided to change that so she created a sponsorship program that currently sends 400 children to school. She decided she needed to build a school for the children so she found land near her home that she can buy for $6,000 and she set out to find a way to raise the money. More information about helping Katie can be found on her website, Amazima Ministries International.

I knew there had to be some meaning behind the name of her foundation. Amazima is the Lugandan word meaning the truth of Christ. What an appropriate name for this ministry. Katie is out there every day showing the truth of Christ. She is his hands and feet in Uganda. She is His love pouring forth to the orphans who need it most. She has given her life over to Christ so that He can work through her. The truth of Christ is that if we all listened to Him our lives would probably be very different; I know mine would.






Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thoughts for a Sunday

I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
~Psalm 9:2




Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Great Pie Caper

The text had three little words on it…I like pie. It made me laugh. I had been texting my sister about this idea I had for a blog series and was talking about learning how to make a really perfect pie. But, how would I eat as many pies as it might take to hone my pie making skills? I had the brilliant idea of taking the pies to work and letting my coworkers sample them. Apparently my family wants to sample also!

Why pies you ask? Well, because I love pie and because one of the characters in the novel I am currently writing (and which I hope becomes my first published novel) is a pie baker. As I was thinking about my work and looking for ways to stay inspired to keep writing I realized that I am not a pie baker and so I was a little tongue tied when it came to writing specifics about my character making pie. I can do cookies, cakes, brownies, and bread. Making a great pie crust, though, isn’t something I do well. I began to think about practicing to see what would happen if I really tried. Then I remembered seeing the movie “Julie and Julia.”

Like many bloggers I was inspired by the movie to blog more intentionally. Julie Powell was looking for a subject to blog about. She decided to cook her way through Julia Child’s cookbook and document her progress through a blog. The movie really was kind of cute as it toggled back and forth between Julie as she cooked and blogged and Julia Child as she worked many years to write her famous cookbook. I went home thinking I wanted to do something fun that my readers would enjoy. Now, mind you I never set out to write a food blog. It was never my intent to cook my way through a cookbook. I am not trying to copy the movie. I just know it is said that an author should write what she knows. I don’t know pies, but I can do the research. Pies just made sense to have fun with and I was able to tie it into my writing. The idea grew until it had become this great pie caper.

The novel is actually the coming together of two stories that I had been playing around with for a while. The first one I started on a Sunday afternoon a couple of years ago. It was while I lived with Mom and Dad during the months after Dad’s quintuple bypass. We had pie for dessert the night before and I had pie on the brain. The left over pie in the kitchen whispered my name and I was trying to ignore it. I pulled out a pad and began to write. The original story really didn’t have anything to do with pie, but then suddenly one of the characters made pie.

That character used a term for the pie crust that I heard from a coworker’s husband; he called the crust the pie bones. I laughed when I first heard it, but soon appropriated it and made it my own. I may be crazy but it makes sense to me; maybe only to me but then again I may just be more evolved than other people :-) When you think about it a human without bones would just be a big old blob and a pie without good bones is just a big old blob also. And, pie bones made my mom laugh so I used it often to see her smile and hear her laugh. To be truthful, while I do like pie, my favorite part of the pie is the bones. I could eat the crust without any filling and would be perfectly happy.

Just a few months ago I began working on another story that came to me as I drove to work one day. As I played with one scene over and over in my mind I realized it wasn’t working because it needed to be combined with my pie story. Pretty soon the two tales were twisting together into a major theme and I began to think of making them into a novel. That’s how it all began.

Now I had a work in progress and an idea to keep myself inspired. I went to the bookstore and bought a very large book called The Pie and Pastry Bible. It’s huge! And it has lots of tantalizing recipes and pictures that make me just want to eat pie. It has all kinds of hints and helps to making the perfect crust. Did I mention the book is huge? I am a little intimated by the whole process. The book talks about all the right ingredients and how important it is to keep the dough cool enough in order to make the perfect flaky crust. Oh my! I haven’t tried any of the recipes yet, partly because I haven’t had the time, but mostly because I fear failure and I realize I may have to make a lot of pies before I get the process down pat. But, never fear I am going to overcome my nervousness and give it a go. If you have read my last post about melting my rice cooker in the microwave I assure you, I will do my very best to not burn down the house in the process!

As I try the recipes I will blog about them here, take some pictures of pies that I really made (the picture here is a piece of pie I bought premade), and in the process give you a taste of my novel. It is my hope that the morsels I give you will make you want to run right out and buy the book when it is published….if I can do that, it will indeed be a great pie caper!


Monday, October 5, 2009

I'm Melting, Melting

Okay, not me, but a kitchen utensil....


This week I was working from home and decided I would make some rice to go with my lunch. I used my Pampered Chef Microwave Rice Cooker; measured in the rice and added water. Made sure (so I thought) to put plenty of water in so it wouldn’t cook dry. Punched the buttons on the microwave and went back to work. Sometime later I smelled something bad and went into the kitchen to check what was up.

The timer showed 3 minutes left in the cooking cycle….I really couldn’t remember when I put it in so I don’t know how long it cooked. Smoke poured out of the microwave when I opened the door. I reached in to grab the cooker but couldn’t touch it because of the heat. Meanwhile, Wilson was in the living room coughing because of the fumes. Using hot pads I tried to move the cooker out of the microwave, but it was melted to the microwave turntable. The outside of the container was sticky and soft. Inside the rice was charred and the clear plastic disc that went in the top to hold in the steam was completed melted through. Thankfully I didn’t have to call the fire department!




It was one of the colder days so far this year and when I opened the windows to air out the house the heater began to run. It continued to run for an hour as I had to keep the windows open to clear out the noxious smoke. I found the cat upstairs on the bed with his nose tucked beneath his paws in an attempt to not have to breathe in the awful smell.

I never had rice for lunch that day. The reek of burnt plastic still lingers in the house and I dont' know if it will ever come out of the microwave. The microwave cooker has been dumped in the trash. I would like to say it was a defective product, but it was Pampered Chef and I know that it couldn’t have been defective. Besides, I have used it many times over the two years I have owned it and I have never had a problem with it. Sad to say, it was more than likely operator error….I either didn’t put enough water in it or put it in for way more time than I thought, probably both.

So, it is no secret that I can be somewhat dangerous in the kitchen. During my short tenure as a Pampered Chef consultant I managed to do several crazy things like sending almonds scattering all over my hostess’ kitchen and then there was the trip to the emergency room because of an unfortunate apple wedger accident. Come to think of it, the majority of my emergency room trips have been the results of kitchen accidents. But, I am brave and I like to cook so I will continue to try things in the kitchen and hope for the best :-)