Saturday, December 13, 2008


"The solution to adult problems tomorrow depends on large measure upon how our children grow up today." ~Margaret Mead

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." ~Proverbs 22:6

"Don't try to make children grow up to be like you, or they may do it." ~Russell Baker


I've heard it's not just a river in Egypt.

This morning I was making muffins, minding my own business, when I overheard a televised conversation that made me smile and feel sad (and slightly nauseous) at the same time. One character (I didn't look to see who) said something about it being another character's birthday and how they should throw him a party. In response, an overly-enthusiastic (yes, I'm using myself as a benchmark), lanky, animated rabbit exclaimed:


I swung around on my heel, whisk in hand, and stared the T.V.

(That's how I know all about the rabbit.)

"Did he just say, 'Carrot-TASTIC?'"


My children were not thrown off by the silliness one bit. I, however, considered throwing up.

But, then it struck me how carrot-tastic it would be if my children loved this stuff forever.

When we figured out that God was calling us to Papua New Guinea, and that (for the most part) Ukarumpa is a "Mayberry" kind of place to grow up, I was thrilled! It won't bother me at all to take my children away from the most of the grow-up-too-fast influences of American culture. Besides, it's obvious that they were made to romp through the tropical hills with half a dozen friends, barefoot and fancy-free. (If you know my kids and their shoe-avoidance techniques, you know what I mean.)

But, now, in preparation for leaving, and because we have nothing else to do, I am tasked with looking for smallish items to take for up to four years of birthday and Christmas gifts for said kids. No, we don't have to, but they do recommend it, as it can be difficult to get things there. I have looked some and even collected a few things, but I find myself waffling between things I know they would like now and having to project into the future to when they are preteen and teenage. (This is where the denial comes in.)

When my daughter was about six weeks old, I naively told my mother, "I wish she could stay this little forever!" Sage that she is, my mother responded, "Then you would never get to enjoy her changing and growing through all of the different stages! No, you don't really want her to stay this way forever." (She didn't even mention it, but eventually I figured out that when babies grow up, there comes a time when you no longer have to change diapers! Now that's carrot-tastic!)

So, yes, I do want them to grow up, but like most parents, I don't want them to grow up too fast. That said, though, what will my fourteen year old daughter want to get for Christmas? And how in the world should I know that when she's nine?

I need some suggestions, friends. My daughter (who currently likes books, crafts, science) will turn 11, 12, 13, and 14 while we are there and my son (who currently likes Legos, and yes, that is all he wants) will turn 8, 9, 10, and 11. Any recommendations you can offer would be great! (But, please don't be offended if, eventually, I delete your comments on this one. My kids sometimes read my blog.)

Thank you in advance for dispensing your knowledge my direction. You're "carrot-tastic!"

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Oh, nuts. This recipe is addicting!

Many, many years ago I cut a recipe off of a box. Well, I cut lots of recipes off of lots of boxes, but the one I am looking at right now most likely came from a Pillsbury Yellow Cake Mix box, because that is the only name brand ingredient on the list.

It sounded really good, and I have thought several times about making it, but I never have. Probably because I don't normally stock yellow cake mix in my pantry "just for such an occasion." But, I was needing a recipe for tomorrow, and flipping through my notebook, I decided this one had served its time and finally deserved a chance.

Turns out, it's a winner. Not only of the 1980 Pillsbury Bake-Off, but of my taste buds.

And my heart ... (but I really shouldn't mention that because it probably sounds weird to you (but only because you haven't tried them, yet.) Oh, and because my husband might get jealous.)

The best thing about this recipe is it has no calories and no fat!! Isn't that great!? Oh, wait ... nevermind. That was water.

Anyway, I am going to let you in on my little secret because I need some accountability, people. And so you can make your own and leave mine alone. And because if I don't do something, I'm gonna sit there and eat the entire pan.

So, in this season of "needing good recipes to make and take to holiday parties" and such, I offer you:

Salted Peanut Chews

BASE: 1 yellow cake mix, 1/3 cup margarine or butter (softened), 1 egg, and 3 cups miniature marshmallows

TOPPING: 2/3 cup corn syrup, 1/4 cup margarine or butter, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1 (10 oz. package) peanut butter chips, 2 cups rice cereal, 2 cups salted peanuts

1. Heat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, 1/3 cup butter, and egg; beat at low speed until crumbly. Press in bottom of ungreased 13x9 inch pan.

2. Bake at 350 for 12 to 18 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with marshmallows. Return to oven and bake 1-2 minutes or until marshmallows just begin to puff. Remove and cool while preparing topping.

3. In large saucepan, combine all topping ingredients except rice cereal and peanuts. Heat, stirring constantly, just until peanut butter chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and stir in cereal and nuts. Immediately spoon topping mixture over marshmallows; spread gently to cover. Refrigerate 1 hour until firm. Cut into bars. Store in covered containers.

The only change I would make to this is "Have your husband store in a covered container somewhere where you won't be able to find it."

Oh, wait ... Honey, don't you dare ...... I mean, just because you're jealous it doesn't mean you have to do something hasty, right? Honey ... ?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

We've Turned a New Page

"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." ~Victor Hugo

"The more that learn to read the less learn how to make a living. That's one thing about a little education. It spoils you for actual work." ~Will Rogers

I found it akin to a weight being lifted off my shoulder.

Don't get me wrong. I think reading to your children (well, my children, not me reading to your children, although that would be fine, too. Nevermind.) is very important. My husband read to our first born while I was still pregnant with her. It was amazing how she would react when he would read her little board books. She would get excited and jump all over the place. It was quite hysterical, albeit occasionally uncomfortable. And since then, too, we have read infinite numbers of words over countless hours to both of our kids.

Oh, to have all that time back ...

But, I digress. (And I have to insert here that even if we could get the time back, we wouldn't want it. The trade-off isn't worth it.)

My husband and I both love books, and have wanted to pass that passion on to our progeny as well. By four months old, our daughter would sit in our laps for hours and look at pictures while we read words to her. Our son, on the other hand, couldn't have cared less.

I worried about it some when he still refused to sit still for a book at a year old.

Oh, woe is me! What have we done wrong? What if he never learns to love reading??

Waah, waah, waah.

But, my self-imposed agony was premature. He did, in his own time (at about 18 months), begin to bring us books and climb in our laps to have them read to him. And last fall, at age five, he sat through chapter books meant for older elementary students and relished every adventure.

"Twenty-One Balloons," "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler," "The Island of the Blue Dolphins," "The Cricket in Times Square," ...

Now? Not so much.

We've tried lately to renew his interest in books like that, but if it doesn't have pictures on every page, and preferably in full color, then he's not interested.

Our daughter learned to read in Kindergarten and has devoured every book put in front of her since then, including, most recently, the ominous and often intimidating "The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow." Good story, but whoever identified that to be on a 5th grade reading level needs to have his head examined.

Our son, ironically, actually read earlier and faster than she did. By the time he started Kindergarten, he was quite adept at picking through an early reader. Fifteen months later, he is quite fluid, and can read even better. But he doesn't unless he's forced to.

He has to read a minimum of fifteen minutes a day for school, and I'm telling you, in August, when school started, it was like pulling teeth. Not that he couldn't do it. No, he was very good at it. He just didn't want to.

Until now.

I don't know how long it will last, but yesterday I found him snuggled up in our bed with a stack of Berenstain Bears books. You know the ones ... "The Berenstein Bears and the Green-Eyed Monster," "The Berenstein Bears Visit the Dentist," "The Berenstein Bears and the Prize Pumpkin," "The Berenstein Bears Go On the Campaign Trail for Sarah Palin ..." (oops - that last one's not out yet.)

I secretly watched him as he read with intensity on his cute little face. I could see his lips forming the words as his eyes scanned the page back and forth. He was ... READING! WILLINGLY!

And I have proof. Bwaaaa haaa haaaaa!

Last night he brought me the stack of books and asked me to read to him. (Yes, the same books.) I made a deal with him - that I would read some to him if he read one to me.

Now, I don't know about you, but I have a difficult time staying awake when I am reading out loud. I don't think it is the books that do it, though if I am reading them out loud, it's pretty safe to bet they aren't actually that stimulating. One exception: I used to go to a nursing home to read the Bible to a blind, elderly lady and I would yawn every nine or ten verses. It was pathetic. I think, and this is just my theory, that it's the reading out loud that is the problem. I believe it has something to do with taking quick, shallow breaths and not getting enough Oxygen for long periods of time.

Of course, it doesn't help when you're expected to lie in a bed, snuggled up to a little heater child, and read ... while actually staying awake. That could be the problem, but (and Mom, stop laughing at me), I am sticking with the Oxygen theory.

It's much more sophisticated.

OK, so I read him three books, and even stayed awake for 2 1/2 of them. (The kids always know when I start falling asleep because my normal reading style takes on more, shall we say, dramatic pauses. Oh, and my brain makes up bizarre, random stuff that my mouth then says without me knowing it. That might clue them in, too.)

So, anyway, I finally muddled to the end of the third book and passed the baton to my son. He decided he would read to me "The Berenstein Bears Lend a Helping Hand."

I breathed a sigh of relief and snuggled up to his shoulder to watch him read. That was a mistake. Next thing I knew, he was shoving me off from where I was drooling on his arm and crawling out of bed.

"Hey, buddy, where you goin'?"

"I quit. You keep falling asleep."

Hey, give me a break. I'm sleep deprived from all those years of lending you a helping hand. And, oh yeah ... from writing a novel ... which, by the way, I might want someone to read someday, so you'd better keep practicing, boy ...

Friday, November 14, 2008

New Math

Just because it's hilarious ...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Writer's Block

"One reason I don't suffer Writer's Block is that I don't wait on the muse, I summon it at need." ~Piers Anthony

"The number one secret of being a successful writer is this: marry an English major." ~Stephen Ambrose

"Any fool can write a novel ..." ~J. G. Ballard

You may not have noticed, but I haven't posted in about three weeks. It's not because I have nothing to post about. No, this family has plenty of fodder. It's that I couldn't construct acceptable paragraphs with which to share that material. I have an unwritten rule that I only want to post stuff that ... wait. It's unwritten for a reason. Nevermind.

Anyway, I am a little bit of a perfectionist (okay, a lot of a perfectionist) and I couldn't string together words to make a single sentence that worked for me.

I definitely had writer's block.

So, what's the best thing to cure writer's block? How about creating a 50,000 word novel (approximately 175 pages) in 30 days?

Yeah, that's what I thought, too.

But the dry-witted coordinators over at won me over. As they put it, "[NaNoWriMo values] enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft. ... Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly."

I decided that is just what I need: a reason to write junk; a method by which I can foil my own perfectionistic tendencies; an insane goal that will steal my sleep. You know, 'cause I have nothing else to do.

I registered my intent last Thursday.

I am just shy of 10,000 words.

But it occurs to me now that if I make one of my characters blog about writer's block, I can copy and paste this entry and add 276 words to my total. Yeah, so, um, excuse me. I have a novel to write. See you in December.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Psssst ... Your Epidermis is Showing

" It is clear enough that you are making some distinction in what you said, that there is some nicety of terminology in your words. I can't quite follow you. " ~Flann O'Brien

"The reproduction of mankind is a great marvel and mystery. Had God consulted me in the matter, I should have advised him to continue the generation of the species by fashioning them out of clay." ~Martin Luther

Now, I am certain, in my vast reading audience, that at least a few of you learned this phrase and used it repeatedly in elementary school. Where did the first kid learn this? It could have been a biology student who whispered it to several seventh graders during lunch, who likewise used it to horrify their second and third grade siblings that evening over dinner. It could have been a result of parents who were trying to teach their kids “correct terminology” for the skin of the Homo sapien corpus. Who knows.

I do see a trend in my generation of parents who are teaching their kids “correct terminology.” While this is generally considered to be a good thing, it does create room for some uncomfortable situations that make you wish they were simply teasing each other about their epidermises. My daughter has educated more than one of her friends on occasion, the most memorable being when she was three and corrected her four-year-old friend as he referred to the primary distinguishing part of the male anatomy. (They were watching me change my infant son’s diaper, so it was perfectly appropriate that they should be discussing the subject. Just thought I should clear that up.)

Two years later, my son asked his preschool teacher during a diaper change (it was holiday season) if Baby Jesus had – well, that particular part. Once she recovered from choking, she hit the question back into his court, saying, “Well, he was a boy, so what do you think?”

“Me think he do,” he replied with a smile of confident satisfaction.

(There is a second part to this story, but in an effort to be family-friendly, you will have to ask me about it later if you really want to know.)

Let’s just say, by 2:00, the story had made the rounds among the teachers (most of whom were former co-workers of mine at that same fine institution.)

Pick-up time proved to be a moment of great motherly pride.

Another time, my daughter’s assured choice of vocabulary sent my own mother to blushing. Sorry, Mom. =)

This week, my daughter’s fourth grade teacher stopped me in the hall after school. “I have a great story for you,” she said. “We’re studying living organisms in science class …”

Uh oh.

I braced myself.

“We were talking about how one of the distinguishing characteristics of a living organism is the ability to reproduce …”

Now I was looking for a place to hide.

“… and out of the blue, your daughter said, ‘Well, what if your parents don’t know what that means?’”

I still have no idea what she meant by that, and subsequent conversations with her revealed nothing except that she (perhaps conveniently?) remembers the whole story differently. I’m sticking with the teacher’s rendition here, though, because it’s priceless.

“I was going to just let the comment go,” she continued, “but D.Q. turned to her and said, …

“Well, they had YOU, didn’t they??”

I’m thinking, if anyone needs help sharing the facts of life with their elementary student, just let me know. I know a class of fourth graders who might be glad to help. =)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Hay, now, focus … focus …

“The world is full of people looking for spectacular happiness while they snub contentment.” ~Doug Larson

“I have learned the secret of being content in any situation; whether well-fed or hungry …” The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 4:12

Contentment is not one of my son’s strong points. He is a man on a mission.


Mom, I’m hungry.

Can I have a snack?

I want a peanut-butter banana now.

Mom, I’m still hungry.

Can I get some milk?

I want something else to eat, Mom.

Can I have some pepperoni?

But, Mom, I’m starving!!

And all of that within a 45 minute period, mind you.

Though it is not uncommon for his "mission" to involve food, even in other areas of his life, the boy is single-minded; he always has been.

I pray frequently that God will capture, tame, and use this trait for good. While it can frequently be frustrating or annoying to me at times, I know that he has the potential to get his head and heart wrapped intensely around following hard after God. Truly seeking Him first, and His righteousness, if you will.

We went on a school field trip to a farm on Friday.The agenda included learning about how pumpkins grow, a hayride, some games, roasting marshmallows, and a take-home pumpkin for every participant.

I’m convinced there’s something about being “down on the farm,” that releases the “boy” in boys, and the hay and play barn was an especially big hit. I wanted to take some pictures, but I’m really not sure what I was thinking when I decided to actually enter the barn (filled with approximately thirty running, jumping, playing kids). As I rounded a stack of bales, I spied my son showering another student with an overflowing handful of hay. This particular child did not seem very pleased, and his glare clearly displayed his irritation. I immediately shuffled over to help the boy brush the mess off, while at the same time chastising my child for committing such a heinous offense. As I recall, the conversation went something like this …

Me: “Hey! Stop that!” (My child began scooping up another handful, so my intensity increased rapidly.) “Don’t throw hay on someone unless he wants you to; do you understand?”

Him: “OK, then I’ll throw it on YOU!”

I wonder now, if I had chosen a different pronoun, if my son would behaved differently, but under the circumstances, he acted on impulse, delivering the hay even as he delivered the words.

When I emerged from the barn moments later, all of my little Mommy friends gaped in some sort of mock horror.

“Oh no! What happened to you!?”

Yeah, like you can’t tell.

I’m sure the hands clasped over their open mouths were really to hide their “ha, ha, you asked for it by going in there, you silly girl” snickers.

With the exception of the joy he found in the hay barn, my son spent the better part of the day discontent with whatever activity we were currently participating in. Instead, he asked me frequently when he would get his pumpkin. He was unsatisfied with my “right before we leave” answer, and with the “so we don’t have to carry it around” logic.

We have to eat lunch now, because we won’t have time once we get started.
“We’re going to get pumpkins, right? Can I have mine now?”

Come on, it’s time for the pumpkin growing video!
“Boring. When do we get our pumpkins?”

OK, now we're moving over to do the scarecrow-dressing race.
“I want to go get my pumpkin now.”

Look! We get to roast marshmallows!
“I don’t like marshmallows. I want my pumpkin.”

Yeee-haw! Time for the hayride!
“But when do I get to pick out my pumpkin?”

Yes, he was obsessive. Yes, it was distracting to him, and frustrating to me. Yes, he would probably have had more fun on the farm if he’d enjoyed the rest of the activities, too, but I think there is a lesson for me here. My son spent the entire day focused on the reward he would receive at the end. I'm talkin', the dude was fixated.

I do believe God wants us to find the joy in the journey of life. But, along the way, how frequently do I settle for what I like to call "contentment", but what actually leans more toward complacency? How often do I find my focus slipping from what, or Who, really counts?

“Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” ~Colossians 3:1-2

(If you look reeeeeealy closely, you can see the long-desired prize - a "ghost" pumpkin!)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Well, I, For One, am Completely Floored!

“No new projects at the moment. There are restrictions to how much I can take on. And I need to finish those that I am committed to do before thinking ahead. But I'd rather they take final shape before we talk of them.” ~Amitabh Bachchan

“The way to push things through to a finish effectively must be learned.” ~William Frederick Book

“There are two kinds of people, those who finish what they start and so on.” ~Robert Byrne

And the crowd goes wild …

I could go on and on about how it took me five weekends, and then some, to install my laminate. I could rant about the baseboards that fit better before they came off the wall than they did going back on, or pout because there are still five small pieces that I cannot seem to locate. I could bend your ear about reducer boards that don’t fit like they propose to or the fact that the whole idea of snap-together flooring means that one, hypothetically, should not have to utilize wood glue. I could choose to whine about the relationship between my hacking cough and the insane amount of sawdust in my garage or the (obligatory) hammer-smashed fingers.

But, I won’t. Because that would just be annoying.

First of all, let me say that kids are amazingly sound sleepers. You would think that repeatedly hammering on the outside of the wall to their rooms would bring them to consciousness, but no. Not so much.

That said, much to my husband’s chagrin, I determined to finish the floor last night. And I did. (Well mostly, but I won’t go there. Let’s just say it’s done.) This morning the kids and I celebrated. I celebrated being “done” and the kids celebrated that their mom was released from an all-consuming task.

(Don’t enjoy the revelry too much, guys. Think: caulk, paint, …)

Thank you to all of you who loaned me power tools, encouraged me, gave advice and suggestions, left inspiring comments, asked me (repeatedly) about my floors, and just overall gave me a good-natured hard time. You are truly, um ... gifts.

So, come on over and have a look.

Oh, and the broom is in the garage; feel free to sweep up the confetti while you’re here. I’m going to take a nap.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tok to Me

"Yes, we are all different. Different customs, different foods, different mannerisms, different languages, but not so different that we cannot get along with one another. If we will disagree without being disagreeable." ~J. Martin Kohe

"We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary." ~Booker T. Washington

Back when we were "headed to Cameroon," a Haitian friend at church began trying to teach me French. I'm not sure if he noticed or not, but every time I would see him he would end up teaching me the same phrases over and over again. It is my opinion that I don't really have a "thing" for languages, if you know what I mean.

I say I am not sure he noticed because last Sunday at church he told me that he just knew I "have a better mind for learning languages" than my husband does. (excuse the outburst...) BWAAAAA HAA HAAA!

I disagree

All I really mastered was "Bonsoir, Messieur," and "Comment ca va?" Just enough to get him to rattle off a paragraph or two of meaningless French, in response to which I would smile hesitantly and reply, "Pardon?"

Today, for the first time, I got to hear a taste (sorry to mix senses) of the language we will learn in PNG, a Pidgin English called "Tok Pisin." In this two and a half minute YouTube video, a Papuan woman (woman = "meri") tells the story of the seven days of creation. Though you probably will not catch every word, if you listen closely, you can follow the story.

Just as a refresher,
Day 1: Day and night
Day 2: Heaven and earth
Day 3: Separated water from land
Day 4: Sun, moon, and stars
Day 5: Water and air creatures
Day 6: Land critters (including humans - what was he thinking?)
Day 7: Sittin' back in the easy chair with his feet propped up, holdin' a cold drink, eatin' chips, and watchin' football on the big-screen


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Progress at the Power-Tool Black Hole

Welcome to my side of the galaxy. Be careful to dodge the debris.

With apologies to those from whom I have borrowed power tools, we am now on our third weekend of this project that really should have taken two days. I skipped last weekend entirely, putting as much distance between the floors and my hormones as possible. Oh, and trying to figure out how to proceed.

To answer your questions, no, I have not pulled out the floor I previously installed, yes, it still moves to some degree, yes, I did try leveling the rest of the floor before I started laying planks, yes, the table saw works beautifully, no, I have not cut off any appendages, yes, I plan to finish the last 200sf of the task before deciding what to do about the first 300sf, yes, this part has many more angles and requires significantly more cutting, no, I will not come help you install your laminate, yes, I will tell you enough so that you can learn from my mistakes, yes, I have tracked Ike for an entire week, yes, I am disappointed that we did not get more of Ike, yes, I am a weather junkie, no, I do not have a long lost cousin named Allison in Cleveland, and yes, I am finished with this post.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Match Made in Heaven?

"Few people even scratch the surface, much less exhaust the contemplation of their own experience." ~Randolph Bourne

"Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely." ~Auguste Rodin

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." ~Matthew 11:29

I love a challenge. On my own terms, that is. This is why I start these outlandish projects such as tiling (having never tiled before in my life.)

My husband is always more hesitant, asking, “Uh … are you sure you want to rip that [baseboard, linoleum, carpet, etc, etc] out?”

Yes, I do. Because if I don’t I will never fix it.

Excuse the random comparison, but I am like that with socks, too. If a sock has a small hole, it is wearable. If a sock has a large hole, but stays on the appointed foot, it is still wearable. Therefore, I cannot throw away an old sock unless it is completely beyond use or repair. What, you ask, if it is getting close and, though most sane people would just throw it away, it doesn’t meet my definition of destroyed? Aha! I destroy it! Yes! I must rip the hole in the sock so that it is, say, large enough to step completely through, and then, and only then, can it be disposed of. The same holds true for undergarments, T-shirts, and the like. They must pass the point of no return before they can be trashed.

As for home improvement projects that are beyond my expertise or skill, well, I can Google with the best of them, … and follow instructions. I made a few minor goofs with the five tile projects back in the spring, but I was able to get them straightened out, or at least repaired so the error was all but unnoticeable.

Yes, a challenge I like. But, after this past weekend, I have to say I have met my match.

There really are no other words to describe it: I have met my match.

After several false starts, true starts, rip-outs, and re-starts, I believe we have made just about every error we could possibly make. On Saturday, the day I originally hoped to have the entire project knocked out, I retreated several times to my son’s room (most rooms were inaccessible, blocked by various living room furniture pieces) in tears. I will spare you the details of the fits I threw, but let’s just say, I gave up for good. Repeatedly.

(living room in the kitchen)

Each time, the surrender lasted approximately 5-10 minutes before my other personality, Mrs. Stubborn Face, emerged, determined that she would not be beaten by this ridiculous project.

Mrs. Stubborn Face would set her jaw and grit her teeth and try, try again for, oh, say, 20 minutes before Ms. I-Can’t-Take-This-Anymore would take over and run crying down the hall.

Mostly, I just wanted to set the whole house on fire.

Sunday, my husband and I (with the kids’ help, yes) managed to get the entire Living Room (about 60% of the job) finished and the furniture replaced. I even washed the curtains that had been hanging for almost four years without being laundered. Life was grand.

Then we began to notice the soft spots. By Monday evening, I couldn’t stand it anymore.

“I can’t live with this,” I told my husband. “I am going to have to take it out and fix the floor.”

It was his turn to consider burning the house down.

Meredith, remember the conversation we had late last week? About how wonderful I am? (Sorry, everyone … please don’t read anything into that. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give my friend Meredith a good laugh.)

Another friend asked me what I thought God was trying to teach me through all this.

What? That I should have slit my wrists on Friday?

If I have indeed met my match, I do hope it is a match “made in heaven.” I’d hate to waste such a “great experience” (uh-huh) and not have learned something that was divinely inspired. While I am still working on it, I have identified a few of the lessons God may be trying to get me to learn.

1. There is no substitute for having the right tools.

2. Measure twice, cut once. (Oh wait - that was Genny.)

3. I still have some residual “fear of failure” issues.

4. Sheer stubbornness cannot replace “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

5. Never schedule a project with this much potential for stress during hormonal surges.

6. I can’t do everything.

7. I can’t do everything … and it’s okay.

OK, Meredith. You can stop laughing now. =)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

All Torn Up Inside

"You look at the floor and see the floor. I look at the floor and see molecules." ~Dan Aykroyd

"If God wanted us to bend over he'd put diamonds on the floor." ~Joan Rivers

OK ... this can't wait any longer. I see Genny is trying to steal not only my thunder, but the clever blog titles as well. (It's okay, Genny; I'll share. I like you! And seeing as neither one of us knew the other was installing flooring this week ...) I finished all of the tiling between January and April, and I keep telling people that this will be the last major "project" we will undertake while living in this house. But I'm pretty sure we'll have to paint, too.

The kids have wanted to be in the thick of the "wood floors" from day one (they've been practicing their sock-sliding techniques). Being the wise, cautious mother I am, (it had nothing to do with being a control freak ... really ... you gotta believe me), I shooed them away at first, warning them about the dangers of nails and tack strips and crowbars and carpet knives. Soon, though, my husband handed a hammer to a kid and let him/her pound the crowbar under a baseboard. That was all it took. Soon they were ripping up carpet and carpet pad, pulling nails, and prying up tack strips with the greatest of ease.

My husband was reminded of a book he read some time ago about a man who tended to get his whole family involved in large "projects" such as this, and how good it was for them as a family. We shall see. So far, the kids are having fun, and I have not slit my wrists. Things are looking good.

As of this morning, the boxes of floor have now spent more than 48 hours "acclimating" to the environmental conditions of our home, and I have a scratchy, sore throat and an aching back. I told my husband that every time we rip up part of the floor, I wake up with a sore throat. I think I may be allergic to dust ... or concrete, one. And as for the back, my mother gave me good advice once. Loosely summarized, "Comes a time when you bend one way to get down and you have to remember to reverse the motion to get back up; otherwise you kind of get stuck in that position." Great advice, but I always forget until I do get a crick in my back and by then I can no longer access the file in my brain that holds the instructions for reversal. It's getting old.

Guess what we're doing this Labor Day weekend? After I get a hot bath, of course.

Genny, let's be in touch, eh? Oh, and can I borrow some o' that Benadryl? =)

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Stellar Performance

“Ye stars! which are the poetry of heaven!” ~Lord Byron

“How lovely are the portals of the night, when stars come out to watch the daylight die.” ~Thomas Cole

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.” ~Philippians 2: 14-16

If there is one thing I miss living in the “big city,” it is the stars. I don’t mean those on the order of Paris Hilton and Tom Cruise. I don’t care how “hot” they are, they will never match the intensity of the flaming balls of burning gas flung into space some millennia ago by the Creator.

Sometimes I sit outside at night in the hammock and peer up into the sky. It’s true that if you sit long enough, your eyes will adjust, especially if the flood light on the school next door is burned out. Still, you can’t help but recognize that you are only perceiving a fraction of what’s really out there.

But, drive 20 miles west of town and voila! Millions of points of light decorate the heavens.

I have long been familiar with God’s covenant with Abram. As part of the deal, God “… took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’” ~Genesis 15:5

I don’t think he meant that his descendents would be burning orbs of hydrogen and helium. He was referring to the number of stars Abram could see. And think about it – it would not have taken a long hike to get away from the few campfires, and his view would have been completely unencumbered by neons, fluorescents, and incandescents. Imagine the numbers of stars he would have seen. I am certain that God chose a clear night to make his point.

I heard a Rich Mullins song the other day that I have heard many times. You know how sometimes you stop and really listen to lyrics and something you never noticed jumps out at you? Well, the song, “Sometimes by Step,” includes the following line. I suggest you really take it in …

“Sometimes I think of Abraham, how one star he saw had been lit for me.”

Now, I don’t have any idea whether or not God literally placed one star in space for every person who would ever call him Lord. But, the line gave me cause to stop and consider again that God had me in mind from the beginning. Perhaps it was that on Day 4 God pulled out a large mixing bowl. After he whipped up a bunch of star batter, he grabbed his Stellar Scoop and started digging in, but instead of placing them on celestial cookie sheets, he threw them to the far corners of the universe.

This one’s for Abraham … there goes one for Moses … and here’s Daniel’s!

James and John … my dear friend Paul … Mary … and yes, even Martha gets one.

Martin Luther … Adoniram Judson … William Wilberforce … Cameron Townsend!

Ah, this makes a great Billy Graham star! And this one’s perfect for __________ …

Insert your name there and read it again. Can you see it? God is flinging the stars into space.

God is celebrating you.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Confessions of a School Supply Junkie

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” ~2 Corinthians 5:17

“Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” ~Matthew 9:17

“Organized crime in America takes in over forty billion dollars a year and spends very little on office supplies.” ~Woody Allen

I’ve been comparing notes with some of my teacher friends lately, and many of them, like me, love school supplies. Is there something about the love of college-ruled paper and three-ring binders that predisposes someone to gravitate to an educational setting?

I mean, there is something about the feel of a brand new bottle of Elmer’s glue.

And did you realize construction paper has a smell?

Twenty-four colored pencils are infinitely better than twelve.

And markers … do you keep them in the original carton or sort them neatly into the pencil box? What a quandary!

Spiral notebooks, folders, colored pencils, poster board, crayons … and don’t get me started on scissors!

Every August when I was a kid, I used to set all of my new school supplies on my bed and sort, sort, sort, all the while thinking about what the first day of school would be like. As my friend observed when we were shopping for supplies for our campuses the other day, it was kind of like Christmas! Still is, except now we purchase dry erase markers, manila folders, three-hole punches, copy paper, ink cartridges, and correction fluid. Though I seriously don’t need anything else added to my job description (already well-rounded with “other duties as assigned”), sometimes I envy Sarah, our office-supply-order-and-purchase gal. Some people have all the fun.

So, what does all of this say about me, and others like me?

Well, can you say “type-A?”

I purchased supplies for my own children a couple weeks ago. First, we checked our needs against the school-supply stash I have in the closet. (Those glue sticks and spiral notebooks only go on sale for ten cents once a year, you know!) Then we headed to our local Target. I grew concerned when the kids seemed more interested in everything else, including harassing each other, than they were with the pencils and rulers. After quick stops at Office Max and Wal-Mart to complete our list (now, why couldn’t I find everything in one place, that’s what I want to know), we carried our loot into the house.

“Come here guys … let’s get this stuff together!” I called cheerfully as they disappeared down the hall.


I began to scatter the supplies out and it looked as if Santa’s bundle had exploded in the living room floor. I was anxious to get started. Actually, I was anxious for the kids to be as excited as I was about these crazy pens and binders and backpacks and boxes. “Kids? Who wants to get their school supplies together?”

They really didn’t care.

Alone, I sorted my kids’ school supplies and placed them in their backpacks, ready for the first day of school. They were completely unconcerned that they had just missed an awesome opportunity to sort, sort, sort, as well as catch a glimpse of a peculiar obsession in their mother.

Now that I think about it, I don’t know whether to be disappointed or relieved.

Though also a first born, my husband doesn’t get it either. (He’s much less inclined to type-A-ism than I am.) He doesn’t understand why we can’t just use last year’s crayons. (There are only two missing from the box of twenty-four, after all.) Now, I did salvage what I could (paper, rulers, scissors, a zipper-binder, one of the backpacks, etc.), and my kids (okay, I) would be fine if they only had gently used supplies. But, there is something about the newness of it all that calls to me, its voice persuading me that each year students should start school with a clean slate in more ways than one. New supplies are somehow symbolic of getting off to that fresh, new start.

Hopefully I don’t take scripture out of context when I draw the following parallel, but I’m grateful God feels the same way. What if, when we gave our hearts to God and made Him our Lord, He said, “That’s really cool! Now, do the best you can with what you’ve got. Good luck!”

No! He says, “If anyone trusts in me as his Lord and Savior, he is a new person. The old things are gone and he gets to start over with brand new supplies!”

Bottom line, (other than the risk, hinted at in Woody Allen’s quote, of priming potential future members of organized crime rings) starting a new school year with new or used supplies really wouldn’t matter in the long run. But, we could never make it if God left us to start our new life in Him with the same heart, mind, and spiritual resources we had the day before.

Behold, all things are new.

Monday, August 18, 2008

This is Getting Old

“You know you're getting old when all the names in your black book have M. D. after them.” ~Harrison Ford

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” ~Isaiah 46:4

It’s happening.

I am officially falling apart.

No, I don’t mean psychologically, though I am certain a strong case could be made for that, as well. I mean physically. The other day one of my sixteen-year-old students said something about me being “older.” I don’t think she really meant it that way, but I couldn’t let her get off scot free. With a dead-pan expression on my face, I said, “You mean, older than dirt? “Oh no,” she replied with a smile. “You’re younger than dirt.” Gee, Crystina. Thanks a lot.

I do wonder how much of it is a mental thing, seeing as how the big 4-oh is looming a mere four months out on the horizon. But, you know how it is. (Okay, some of you know how it is. The rest of you can text message with Paige about us codgers you have no choice but to associate with.)

Wiry, gray hairs sprout up at your temples and eventually begin spreading like kudzu, snuffing the life out of every pigmented follicle they come in contact with.

After sitting in a comfortable chair (or any chair, for that matter) for thirty minutes, getting up requires two tries, a push off the arm rests, and a slow groan while your back and legs fuss at you for daring to straighten them out.

You no longer worry about the cat getting a hair ball from grooming himself, and start to become concerned that if he spends too much time on the bathroom floor, he might choke on yours instead.

Your feet ache walking barefoot inside when it’s cold outside.

After years of steady, regular rhythms, some of your natural processes seem to be trying to adopt the cadences of several different drum corps at once. Eventually they will get tired of trying to find the beat and just quit altogether, and you don’t know which to wish for.

Instead of eye shadow and body shimmer, your skin begins to be decorated by spots and dots, freckles and speckles, scratches and patches of various colors, shapes, sizes, and textures. You’re now taking recommendations for a good dermatologist.

You spend ten minutes looking for the sunglasses on your head, the keys in your pocket, and the reason you walked into this room in the first place.

You are frequently unable to access common files in the recesses of your brain. You know, the ones labeled “Names of Good Friends I’ve had for Years,” “My Address and Telephone Number,” and “Who is the Vice-President of the United States?”

Your eyesight fails, forcing you to grow Go-Go-Gadget Extend-a-arms just so you can read your various prescription bottles. (OK, those of you who know me well, stop rolling your eyes. Yes, I am blessed to still have 20/20 vision, but I expect it could go at any time. I’m just preparing myself …)

Several years ago, after much related experience with their own parents, my parents asked us kids to do them a favor. They told us, though perhaps not in these exact words, to make them just stop talking if they ever got to the point where their failing health issues were the focal point of most every conversation.

Fortunately, we have not yet had to put my parents out of their misery, as they have, for the most part, spared us the gory details of their physical deterioration. Sometimes to a fault, though, as we have found out many times after the fact about this procedure, that test, or the other worrisome situation.

I always wondered why God chose for Jesus to die at age 33. Is it some magic number? Was he in the prime of his human life? Would he have ‘fallen apart’ over the next few years? I mean all of this with the utmost respect; I am not trying to be trite at all. I seriously wondered when I turned 34 whether I was taking on some sort of additional responsibility or something. What were the implications of “outliving” Jesus?

I have no real answer to all of this. I am simply musing. But, I am encouraged by God’s promise to Isaiah quoted above: Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he … who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you, … sustain you and … rescue you.”

I have made you.

Wow. This body that always seems to have something irritated, healing, oozing, peeling, aching, scaling, wobbling, paling, struggling, sagging, tightening, dragging, stretching, dropping, straining, stopping – God designed it. He knows its capability and its limitations.

I will carry you. I will sustain you.

Even when my body is weak and aching, he will continue to support and uphold me. When I feel I can’t keep it going, he will sustain me. He doesn’t say he will always make the effects of growing older go away, but he promises to carry me through it.

I will rescue you.

He has rescued me from Hell, and he will ultimately rescue me from my body. As our pastor occasionally says (and I loosely paraphrase), “Some day you will come to my funeral and the preacher will talk about me being in that box, but don’t you believe it! The shell will be in the box, but the nut will be in heaven!”

I know we should care for our bodies, but when it’s all said and done, they are only tools - jars of clay that become cracked and broken with normal use. I can only hope that the implication of that breakage is that the Spirit seizes the opportunity to ooze out in greater and greater measure.

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(Updated 13 April 2013)