Thursday, February 28, 2008

When Mommies Get Sick

When Mommies get sick, they make their own soup and buy their own medicine. When Mommies get sick, butter isn't replinished and favorite T-shirts do not get washed. When Mommies get sick, dinner won't wait, and neither will Biology homework.

And when Mommies get sick, it is inevitable that their seven-year-old boys opt to smack the neighbor boy over a basketball fight. Then a bra-less sick Mommy with a Darjeeling stain on her own shirt gets to meet the abused neighbor's Mommy for the very first time. Here's hoping I feel better soon...


Not that I'm dying, but if I were...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Waiting ^ 3

You may have noticed my blog has been a bit fluffy of late. I've not been baring my soul, as I am prone to do. I wanted to acknowledge that and to say that though I've been a bit silent on the deep issues, they are still actively ongoing in my heart. Lately, what I've been dealing with is a shift in plans, things that I expected to go one way actually going in the opposite direction. (Why exactly is that the theme song of my life?)

It is probably not coincidence that the focus of my study this week has been on waiting, sitting, being still and obedient, not succumbing to emotion, and abandoning lofty ambitions. I'm not really going to go into it a whole lot at this point because I don't know what to say about it all, and because even when I'm on my face crying out for clarity in direction, all I get it wait. Frankly, if I have to wait for answers, so do you. (Primarily because I don't know what to tell you as I've not even been clued in myself.)

The bottom line is everything I had planned (notice, I) has been overturned. I was anticipating an answer about a step in the future last Wednesday, and on Monday night before the final word, James called me to a decision I didn't want to have to make. Not because I don't want the result of the decision -- I do -- but because I don't want the process.

We discussed in length the burden on his heart, and some options with regards to my day-to-day should the plan come together as hoped. On Tuesday while out running errands, I called him to say if the plan was meant to be, I could defer my enrollment at UTA in the fall. I could sit out for a year, taking a French or Sculpting class at NLC for fun, which wouldn't consume my time, but would allow me to remain an active member in the Honor's societies to which I belong. So you see, I participated in the new plan, and proved that I was willing to put my own plans on hold for this other one.

But I already had a plan in motion -- something on which to fall back if the one James was holding to did not come together. I knew no matter what with the new direction James wanted to travel, I had something to do come August. Though I was willing to embrace and submit to the plans of his heart, I knew I could fall back on my own. However, as soon as I committed to his plan, as soon as I mentioned an alternate course in my journey, my plans fell through. And not for any good reason, as in me making it safely through a first trimester, but rather because of timing and mail delays and policies that are upheld, apparently, no matter what.

In a nutshell, here's how my plans dissolved: my acceptance letter to UTA was dated four days (or two business days) after an unposted deadline requirement for the three scholarships I had been guaranteed. If I want to have access to that money (which I do, which is why I delayed my attendance this semester), I'll have to defer enrollment, sit out another year, and take one class each semester (maybe a French or Sculpting class) to remain active in the Honor's societies to which I belong in order to access that scholarship money in Fall 2009. Sound familiar?

Ultimately, I'm okay with the shift in any of these plans. More than anything, my heart's desire is to do what God requires as opposed to what I want to do. For me, school is something to do, a positive way to use up otherwise empty hours in a day. Finishing my degree is a good goal, but I don't necessarily feel compelled to any one thing that requires me finishing that degree at this time. James' other plan does come with a looming deadline, and perhaps it really should be the priority right now, though I'm fine with waiting on it to. I want God's plan for my life, whether it be A or B or an altogether different C. I want to walk out his will, and I most certainly don't want to be on the receiving end of this:

"'Destruction is certain for my rebellious children,' says the Lord. 'You make plans that are contrary to my will. You weave a web of plans that are not from my Spirit, thus piling up your sins. For without consulting me, you have gone down to Egypt to find help. You have put your trust in Pharaoh for his protection. But in trusting Pharaoh, you will be disgraced and humiliated..." (Isaiah 30:1-3)

I rather prefer this instead:

"The Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says, 'Only in returning to me and waiting for me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence will be your strength... the Lord still waits for your to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For he is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for him to help them. O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'" (Isaiah 30:15, 18-21)


Waiting, Lord...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Condiment Dispute

I read this opinion list today at The Shoebox Blog, and I'm pretty sure I disagree with it. In my opinion, nearly everything is better with ketchup -- that is, as long as the ketchup is Heinz.

Things Not Made Better By Ketchup:

by Allyson

1. Hives
2. Chocolate Cake
3. Political essay
4. Fettucini Alfredo
5. Cap'n Crunch
6. Sexism


photo credit here

For the Write Reason

Not long ago, I would have sworn to anyone who asked that I was the world's unluckiest person. Throughout the course of my life I've won very few contests and drawings, and could probably count the prizes I've accumulated in all of time on less than my ten fingers. Truth be told, I've historically proven to be a big ol' loser. Lately, however, it seems I've been winning things right and left, and sure enough, I've won again!

Lysa TerKeurst at Proverbs 31 Ministries recently sponsored a giveaway for her book For the Write Reason, which is, according to TerKeurst, "a fantastic resource for aspiring writers and even includes a section on writing book proposals that get noticed by publishers." Unless the prize was a wad of cash or magic weight-loss pills, I'm pretty sure I could not have won a better giveaway. Thank you, Lysa -- I'm so excited to read it!

If you've not yet checked out the Proverbs 31 Ministries site, you should. In addition to having a fantastic blog, TerKeurst is the author of many books, as well as the coordinator of the She Speaks conference -- a conference for women who aspire to be Women's Ministers, Christian Writers, and Speakers.

Monday, February 25, 2008

You Can Do It

In the mail this week arrived my copy of the book You Can Do It!: The Merit Badge Handbook for Grown-Up Girls. This is the book I won in the Winter Giveaway Carnival from Fabric of My Life. The cover reads, "Dare to dream, Learn something new, Do something just for you!" That sounds fun, right? I'm very excited to read it!

Book Synopsis from Barnes & Noble:

You Can Do It! is the vision of Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, a heroine of United Flight 93 and a woman who was an inspiration to all who knew her. Lauren's dream was to create the ultimate self-empowering resource, a book to help women of all ages realize their dreams. Inspired by her beloved Girl Scout badges, nurtured to publication by her family and friends led by Lauren's two sisters, Vaughn and Dara You Can Do It! is the merit badge handbook for every grown-up girl who's said, "I wish I could..."

Jam-packed with practical advice, here is step-by-step instruction and kick-in-the-pants encouragement for achieving 60 exciting badge activities. Start your own business, go back to school, speak in public, play a musical instrument, fix the car whatever the ambition, each activity features a female expert to mentor the reader and guide her to success with clear how-to, practical resources, and the wisdom of experience. Learn a new language with Susan Carvalho of Middlebury College, take a great photograph with Lauren Greenfield, climb a mountain with Annapurna expedition leader Arlene Blum. These 512 can-do pages are about dusting off fantasies, overcoming fears, and achieving long-held desires. And to top it all off, the book includes 60 colorful badge stickers a fun reward for goals accomplished. With its warm and encouraging message, You Can Do It! will help women everywhere discover that, yes, they can!

Show Me to Your Shechem

Abram passed through the country as far as Shechem and the Oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites occupied the land. God appeared to Abram and said, "I will give this land to your children." Abram built an altar at the place God had appeared to him."
Genesis 12:6-7


At one point in the Bible Study I'm doing, He Speaks to Me by Priscilla Shirer, we're asked to define our Shechems -- the places where God has obviously shown up in our lives. I listed a number of things in my member's book, but since the focus of my blog (thus far) has been me working through pregnancy losses, I thought I'd share my Shechem of pregnancy success (along with some bonus tidbits of adoptive child acquisition). It's a story of miracle upon miracle knit together with strands of miracles, and an experience that's completely beyond me. It's a story that I hardly believe is my own.

When James and I had been married a year, we decided to start trying for a family. We'd had enough of sleeping in, weekends away, and Saturdays on the golf course. We wanted spit up and dirty diapers. I made an appointment for an exam and we began our journey towards conception, if you know what I mean. Before my exam, however, in a whirlwind turn of events, we had the opportunity to take in a 9-month old foster child -- a little boy called Bub (not his real name). Over the course of a couple of weeks, we completed our foster care paperwork, did our home visit, began parenting classes, and took in the boy. The very day after he came to live with us, I went to my preconception appointment.

We'd been trying for a little while when I saw the doctor, and when he asked about my last cycle, I told him what I knew -- that it was a little abnormal, that I'd had spotting more than a normal cycle. Without a physical exam or any urine tests, he said it was probably nothing, that I probably didn't know what I was talking about. They he did an ultrasound and stated that I had PCOS (though I had regular menstrual cycles and no symptoms of PCOS) along with endometriosis (though I have no pain at menstruation or otherwise) and that I would need surgery to even begin thinking about having a baby of my own. I left that appointment brokenhearted, with instructions to call back two weeks later to schedule the surgery. (They had to wait until CD1 again to do blood work before they could proceed with the surgery.)

Two weeks later and nothing, so I called the office. When I told them I hadn't started my period, they asked if I could be pregnant. "Not according to your doctor," I said. "That's the whole reason I'm calling you." I was told to come in where they would do a urine test as a precaution and then give me an HCg shot to kick start my period. I worked at an architectural firm at the time, so I finished some projects and took a late lunch.

I dropped by the doctor's office, gave my specimen, and was called into the lab. One nurse prepared my HCg shot, while another began filling the dropper to process the urine test. She dropped and waited, then shook the test. She looked at it, and whispered to the other nurse. The other nurse picked it up, turning it this way and that, and then turned to me to say I was pregnant.

"WHAT?" I asked, nearly shouting.

"You're pregnant," she said, in the most nonchalant way possible.

"Are you sure? How is that even possible? The doctor said I couldn't get pregnant without surgery, which I why I'm even here at all!" I was still nearly shouting in a combination of disbelief, relief, and excitement. Then I started to cry in a really loud and disgusting way. She looked at me with concern.

"Don't you want to be pregnant?" She asked.

"Absolutely, I just didn't think I could be," I replied. My mind whirled, and I knew immediately that I'd been handed a miracle. They ran blood tests to confirm, and based on LMP, it turned out that I was already pregnant two weeks earlier when the doctor sat smugly telling me there was no way I could conceive without months, possibly years, of medical intervention. I took the rest of the day off, went to James' office to share the good news, and from there we called everyone we knew.

I got a call the next day that my progesterone level was dangerously low, and without supplementation, I was at risk for a miscarriage. We took care of that, and I progressed beautifully. I continued working, we continued fostering Bub, and life was really lovely.

In the meantime, the crazy doctor referred me to his colleague, a doctor who specialized in high-risk pregnancies. Though this was my first pregnancy and I wasn't considered high-risk, my sister had struggled with recurrent loss and an incompetent cervix, and he didn't feel qualified to manage my care. We began seeing the new doctor and I liked him right away. He was very conservative and gave us an ultrasound at every visit (standard care with many peris).

At 21 weeks, we sat in a room waiting for our ultrasound. I sat swollen-bellied kicking my feet, and I commented to James, "You know, we've had a really uneventful pregnancy. We should be really grateful for that." He'd not been a part of my life when my sister went through her childbearing struggles, so he really didn't know what I meant. He sort of grunted in agreement and turned the page in his magazine.

A couple of minutes later we were called to the ultrasound room. We chatted with our doctor and his resident assistant as they prepared the ultrasound wand. It was business as usual, really. We measured the baby and watched a few kicks, and then to finish, he scanned my cervix and stopped. He measured, and he measured again. Then he said, "We need to take a closer look at this," so he prepared the transvaginal wand.

Though he now worked in silence, I was oblivious to the fact that anything could be wrong. He finished up, cleaned up, and had me ready myself to go while he stepped out of the room. "But wait here," he said, "we need to talk." Cluelessly, James and I waited, and the doctor returned with some paperwork. He began to tell me that my cervix was nearly completely gone. It had thinned completely and was about to start opening. As he spoke, my brain ceased to function. He'd scheduled me for surgery the next morning ... needed to place rescue cerclage ... emergency ... baby could die. Of all things, I asked about work. "Oh honey, you're through working," he said. "Even if all goes well, you're on bed rest at home until this baby is born."

We left the office in a complete daze. James made me ride home with the car seat in full recline, and I spent the rest of the day on the couch. We called friends who called friends and everyone we knew began to pray. The next morning, we went in for surgery, and in standard form, we were told all the risks, including baby's death or my own. As a very private person, I was more terrified of having surgery down there with who knew how many people minding my business, and that part was as bad as I expected. (Surgery techs and various other people introduced themselves to me from the other side of the drape while I waited, already in stirrups. You can imagine how overjoyed I was to make their acquaintance.)

The cerclage placement was a success, and after a brief time in post-op, I was allowed to go home. I was given strict instructions about activity levels, or rather, the lack thereof. The next two weeks were uneventful, but at 25 weeks when I went back into the office for a scan, I was found to be tearing through the cerclage. My cervix had thinned again, and was pulling against it. I was put in a wheelchair, and James was told to rush me straight back to the hospital, and this time to L&D.

Once there, the nurses got me changed and into bed, and hooked up to all the standard IVs. The heartbeat monitor was placed, and I waited. Later that day, the doctor came by to check me, though he really didn't tell me what was going on, other than the fact that he'd prescribed steroids to help the baby's lungs develop in case we were to deliver early. He really didn't indicate that we probably would. The process was a lengthy one, and I was in L&D for four days in Trendelenburg position (feet above head).

After four days, the doctor had me moved to the antepartum wing where he informed me I would live until I gave birth. I'd been in the hospital for four days already, and was absolutely stir crazy. This guy wanted me to be here for another 14+ weeks? (At that point, I was a little over 25 weeks pregnant, and was thinking I would go to 40 weeks.) That was precisely what he thought.

I was still to be in Trendelenburg on strict bed rest which includes all sorts of privacy invasions, like sponge baths, catheters, and so on. My mom moved in with James to help take care of Bub, and James split his day between work, the hospital, and home. I missed out on being in my cousin's wedding, but I got really good at Dr. Mario on a TV/Nintendo combo the nurses brought to me from the children's wing. My sister brought a laptop from her husband's office where I was able to order baby clothes and other goodies online. The nurses shared their takeout menus letting me order with them whenever I wanted, and would bring me magazines, balloons, and flowers that were left behind in other rooms. Friends and family came to visit, and would sit with me for long hours.

My friend Denise was the absolute best. She would bring me fast food and new pajamas. She painted my toenails and did my hair. She stayed with me while I struggled to stay awake (as you can imagine, it's nauseating to lay upside down. I was given Phenergan to not puke and tear my cervix, and it knocked me out every time. She waited until I would wake up.) She even went with me when some of the nurses convinced to doctor to let me be wheeled outside in my giant hospital bed -- which is very embarrassing, by the way. (I laugh now when thinking that the nurses wheeled my huge bed [not a gurney] through the entire hospital to park me on a sidewalk by a main entrance. The nurses would then leave Denise and I alone for about an hour before coming back to get me. I know people walking by had to think, "Boy, we'd better pay out bill, or they will literally put us out!"

I was in the hospital for nine weeks. When I say that now, nine weeks doesn't seem so long, but I went into the hospital in February, and didn't go home until May. I missed all of March and April, and if I had to, I would do it again and again.

As I approached 34 weeks and remained both pregnant and stable, my doctor and his three colleagues were completely stumped. They each congratulated me on my progress, but one doctor made a statement that made the whole process worth it. (I hadn't had the baby yet, so I really didn't know first hand that that would do it for me as well.)

I'd grown to know the four doctors in this practice very well as they took turns rounding with me every day in the hospital. One doctor in particular was very scientific and very skeptical. He'd not been rude to me about my religious beliefs, though he knew I believed God had given me the miracle of this baby, and sustained me every single day. Instead, he sort of disregarded the faith on which I relied. The day before I was to be dismissed, though, it was his turn to round with me. He came in, looked me over, and when he finished noting my file, he leaned against the wall.

It was then he said, "You know, we're all so surprised you're still here. You were supposed to have that baby at 25 weeks when you got here. In fact," he said, "we weren't even sure if you would make it to the hospital before giving birth." I was stunned, completely stunned. Until then, I'd lived in a bubble of oblivion.

He continued, "Your cervix was tearing through the cerclage. There's nothing holding that baby in but the one little stitch. But nine weeks later, you're still here, and you shouldn't be here. I have to think there's something more at work here than I thought there was before, and I am really amazed."

I affirmed my beliefs to him and told him exactly what I believed about still being there, and that time he didn't shake his head at me. He seemed to take it to heart. He wished me well and went on his way, and I felt blessed to have seen a life and system of beliefs changed, even if just a bit.

I was released from the hospital at 34 weeks because my doctor felt the baby was safe even if delivered that early. I was sent home for what was supposed to be three more weeks of modified bed rest with plans for cerclage removal at 37 weeks. At 36 weeks, though, I had a sharp pain across the top of my uterus. I called the doctor's office and was brought in for a non-stress test. I wasn't having contractions, but as one of the colleagues was preparing to send me home again, I began to feel lightheaded. She had her back to me at the time, but when she turned to me, she look puzzled. She asked if I felt OK, and I told her I felt woozy. She said she thought I was developing pre-eclampsia right there. According to her, I looked like I was swelling, and needed to go back to the hospital for blood work.

I went back to L&D, got all strapped in again, and waited on lab results. My doctor came in later to tell me everything looked fine and that I could go home in a few minutes. He would write the discharge paperwork at the desk and would come back to let me leave.

While I waited for him, I disconnected myself from the heartbeat monitor to go to the bathroom. When I finished, I returned to the bed, hooking myself up again on the way by. About fifteen minutes later, the doctor came back to tell me I wouldn't be going home after all. He said when I hooked back into the monitor, he noticed a deceleration in baby's heart beat and there wasn't a good recovery time. He showed me on the strip, and said after all that we'd gone through, he didn't feel safe letting me leave. At that point, I had two options:

(1) I could return to the antepartum wing for a week. At 37 weeks, they would move me back to L&D, remove my cerclage, and induce me for delivery.

(2) That night, at 36 weeks, he could remove my cerclage and induce me for delivery.

After nine weeks in the hospital, and fifteen total weeks on bed rest, there was no choice. We made some phone calls while he changed, and a couple of hours later, I was on my way to having a baby.

As for labor itself, it was tricky. I didn't respond well to Pitocin through the night, and I didn't respond well to the pain medicine. Both were turned off. The next morning, the doctor discovered I'd been left with a great deal of scar tissue on my cervix and wasn't dilating. He ordered an epidural, though I was only at 1cm, and broke apart the scar tissue and my water. At that point, I began dilating rapidly, and gave birth at 2:25 P.M. before he even finished tying his gown. He caught Gracie by a foot and an arm.

Because I was at 36 weeks gestation when I delivered, the NICU team was on hand as standard procedure. Even though Gracie was officially a preemie, she weighed in at 7 pounds 10 oz., and had great APGAR scores, and they didn't know why they were there at all. She roomed with us and went home with us 24 hours later. (I wasn't interested in the two hospital days my insurance provided, and was forced to wait even those 24 hours. We were packed and waiting long before we were allowed to actually leave.)

Never, ever has there been a day that I've looked back on even one portion of that pregnancy experience and had regret. Absolutely every single moment with Gracie has been a blessing to James and I. We cannot and do not want to imagine this Earth without her, and strongly and continually affirm that she is a miracle straight from the hand of God.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

In Which Responsibility Doesn't Matter

Bub got a brand new bike for Christmas. Nearly every day since, he has been on that bike. Each afternoon, from the moment his homework is finished until dinnertime, he is either out riding his bike or harassing me to go riding. He lives for the freedom found in those two wheels.

One day, Bub came in from bike riding and had been at home for some time waiting to eat dinner. When I went outside to store the bike for the night, I realized it wasn't in our yard. I asked him about it, he said he'd left his bike laying on the sidewalk at the very end of our street in the cul-de-sac where he and his friend Ramsey practice curb-hopping. Together we walked to the cul-de-sac and home again, and Bub got an earful there and back about how we take care of our things; how we keep them safe; how we don't leave them lying about in the neighborhood, but rather put them on our porch right by the front door until we're ready for them to go into the garage once again. I warned him that even leaving a bike laying out in the yard could tempt someone who wanted to take it (though our cul-de-sac street is daily littered with bikes and scooters far more expensive than the ones our children own).

Amazingly, Bub took my words to heart. Every day, he'd ride his bike, and when he was done, he'd park it on our porch so close to the front door that it often tripped me as I went out to put it away. Since that day in the cul-de-sac, Bub has been very responsible, and his bike has been perfectly safe.

Today, I spent all morning working on homework. Though I generally try to not work on homework over the weekend, I had to complete a project with a deadline. Because of the program I was required to work in, I was bound to the computer in our game room (as opposed to my laptop). I believe the kids noticed my predicament (of a deadline and a spacial limitation) because they thought it would be great to play post office six feet from my body. They wrote and delivered "letter" after "letter" after "letter" to me, waiting until I read every word and commented on their good spelling, improved handwriting, thoughtful content, and so on, each and every time. Then, some of their stuffed animal recipients became hard of hearing, so they played in their loudest possible voices. It was really fun, which is why I made them stop playing their fun game and go outside for some sunshine and bike riding. I'm mean and cruel like that.

After a brief time in the out of doors, they were ready to come back in. They'd been wind-whipped and needed some lunch. As they came in the door, I counted two bikes at our porch. Gracie's was nearly against the door, and Bub's was just behind hers: front wheel on the porch, back wheel on our walkway. They were inside for less than an hour when we decided to run some errands as a family. We stepped out to put the bikes back in the garage, but discovered only Gracie's remained. Someone walked into our yard and up to our porch to steal Bub's bike. Can you believe it? Here are a couple more things that make the situation even more ridiculous:

1.) Neither of our children's bikes are very expensive. They're great bikes, and the kids just love them, but they're a couple of average-priced models from Wal-Mart. When we discovered Bub's bike to be missing, we drove up and down our street to be certain one of the neighbor kids didn't "borrow" it, and at house after house, there were really pricey bikes laying on the sidewalk or in the street. Bub's average-priced bike was up next to our house, and this theft very risky for a less valuable product.

2.) Bub's was the lesser attractive of the two bikes on our porch. From the beginning, Gracie's bike was so much cuter than Bub's. His was a fine bike, but her bike is as cute as can be. Additionally, Gracie creeps around on her bike, and hasn't launched it off of anything. Bub has already ridden the wheels practically off his bike. His tubes have been patched, he's broken a foot pedal, and already dirt has found a permanent home in every crevice. Again, just compared to the other bike on our porch, Bub's bike (as one obviously well-loved by a busy little boy) was a less valuable product.

These two facts really puzzled me all day, but as I thought about them, I came to this conclusion: in an effort to prevent getting caught, a bike thief probably wants to steal something that blends, that doesn't stand out. In all probability, it's that reason that Bub's bike was chosen out of all the ones on our street, and even among the ones on our porch. Now we have to decide what to do for Bub. There's not really a lesson to be learned here that should delay us in purchasing a new bike for him. Surprisingly, he wasn't careless with his belongings and did precisely what we told him to do to keep his bike safe. In this situation, his responsibility didn't matter. We'll probably wait a few days to make sure it doesn't turn up somewhere, but by next weekend, it will have to be replaced. That will give us ample time to devise some new ground rules.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

He Speaks to Me

I've been participating in a women's Bible study at church, and let me tell you, friends, it is in-tense. I've commented before that I don't believe we were moved to this new church by chance or on accident, and access to this study is yet another thing that solidifies my perception of intention. As our curriculum, we're using both a video series and the He Speaks to Me member guide by Priscilla Shirer. The focus of the study is preparing -- or positioning myself -- to hear God's voice.

Shirer is a preacher's kid, a wife, and a mother of two young children. She's also a graduate of Dallas Baptist Seminary with a degree in Biblical Studies. She approaches her students gently by writing in a fashion that's unintimidating and easy to process. In light of that, she teaches in an expositive way: breaking the scriptures down, taking them back to their origin, explaining them completely, and applying them fully -- in essence, handing the reader chunk after delicious chunk of spiritual meat.

I began participating in the study for totally selfish reasons. We're new to this church, and the way you become not-so-new and a church becomes home is to get involved. This study was one of the things I signed up for right away. While the topic seemed interesting, I had no idea it would be so life changing. After all, God guides my every step, and I hear His voice, so what more do I need to learn about that?

Evidently, I -- the smug one -- have a great deal to learn. Through the first half of this study, I have been pressed to trek all over the Bible, and have seen connections in scripture I've never made before. New things are being revealed to me. Faults within me are more clearly defined. I really feel like my Bible has become a brand new book!

I have loads to share about what I'm seeing and learning. In addition to my regular responses, my study guide is full of my own jotted notes just for you, various sections throughout are tagged with the circled word BLOG. Before I can get to the sharing, though, I'm dealing with a bit of application, and that's driving me inward for a time. The section I'm on at the moment is one on Obedience, and as I'm being called to that in two or three specific areas at present, the timing of my being here couldn't be more perfect.


"The secret things belong to the LORD our God,
but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever,
that we may follow all the words of this law."
Deuteronomy 29:29


"Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
Matthew 4:4


"Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it."
Luke 11:28


"But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. So, as the Holy Spirit says:

'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert...'

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said:

'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.'"
Hebrews 3:6-8, 12-14

Nothing

"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow -- not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below -- indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Romans 8:38-39 NLT

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Quirky Quote

So, I thought it would be fun to enter this quirky quote contest, since I'm so full of it and all. I can enter twice, but I primarily want to enter one of my favorite literary quotes of all times. This angst-ridden quote made me laugh out loud when I first read it, and though he's often quite a snot, I have deep admiration for Holden Caulfield. For more fun quotes, check out the contest at An Open Book.

"Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody.”

~ J.D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye

WFMW: Frugal Tip for Eating Out

It's Works for Me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer, and I thought I'd post a frugal tip for restaurant dining. One area where we struggle to remain true to our frugal ways is in the area of eating out. We love dining in restaurants, and me probably more than James. It kills me when kids meals cost more than a whole-family meal prepared at home, but every once in a while, eating out is something we feel we just have to do. There you go -- the secret's out.

We do, however, eat out in a frugal-ish way with the help of The Entertainment Book. When we plan to eat out, we choose a type of food we want, and then scour the book for local restaurants at half price. (Most of the restaurant coupons are for buy-one-get-one-free entrees.) One Sunday after church, we ate at a restaurant we'd been dying to try, and for both of us to eat and to bring home another complete meal of leftovers cost $14.00 plus tip. Not too bad at all...

In addition to restaurant coupons, there are coupons for various forms of entertainment (movies, theme parks, putt-putt golf, festivals, etc.), for travel, for auto repair, for hair styling, for groceries, and more. You can generally look at your local book before buying it, and they can generally be found in grocery stores, drugstores, or bookstores like Barnes and Noble.

As for us, we picked up a 2008 book before Christmas with a coupon (yes, I used a coupon to buy a coupon book), and though it still cost $20.00 even with that discount, that amount of money and more was saved within the first week of Entertainment Book ownership. (Our daughter's ballet school had a coupon for 50% of one month's tuition, so we saved $25 immediately.) Because we've used the book so much already and it's only February, I picked up a second copy two weeks ago at Barnes and Noble where it is now being sold at half-price. (Part of me wonders if I should get a third... we'll see.) The current special on the Entertainment Book website is $10.00 off retail PLUS a $25.00 restaurant gift certificate.

Whether you eat out often or hardly at all, this book will certainly keep your entertainment budget in check. For more maybe even better tips, check out the Works for Me Wednesday list at Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Gift of Love


"The roses, the lovely notes, the dining and dancing are all welcome and splendid. But when the Godiva is gone, the gift of real love is having someone who'll go the distance with you. Someone who, when the wedding day limo breaks down, is willing to share a seat on the bus."

~ Oprah Winfrey
O Magazine, Feb. 2004




My Valentine's bouquet is at its loveliest point, in those beautiful last days before deterioration. The blooms are swollen and deeper in hue, the floral perfume is more fragrant than ever. Thank you, my darling, for this gift of love, and for the gift of real love we share every day. I'm so glad you are mine...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Birthday Girl


This weekend was spent with my sister and niece who came to town to celebrate my niece turning 18 tomorrow, a fact I'm still struggling to wrap my mind around. In my mind, Chelsea made it to seven and there remains forever and ever. It's easy to trick my mind, trapping her there, even when I myself have a seven-year-old. When I'm with her, however, I'm reminded most clearly that she's now an adult, and by that, I am deeply disturbed.

Stuck at Seven


In celebration of her last weekend as a non-adult, we spent the weekend behaving very casually. There was a good bit of lounging around, plenty of junk food eating, some sleeping in and a great deal of shopping. We planned to spend all of Saturday shopping for a prom dress, but found the perfect one at the very first store we went to. We spent the rest of the afternoon browsing through clothing stores at an enormous outlet mall and came home for a family dinner of fried chicken and mashed potatoes.

After church on Sunday, we went to IKEA to shop for dorm supplies (as she goes to University in the fall -- ACK!), we browsed at Barnes and Noble, we saw a movie, and we went to a Sushi restaurant with the most horrendous wait service. Back at home, we sang an out-of-tune birthday song with accompaniment by a boy on a pink plastic piano. We ate the ugliest store-bought birthday cake, lettered crookedly and featuring mustard-colored frosting and gaudy flowers. After everyone had gone to bed, I subjected her to the obligatory after-school-special sort of talking to about choices and decisions*, though she is the most level-headed teen I've ever known. Then she and I watched an hour or two of ridiculousness on Comedy Central, laughing together at exactly the same things.

They left this morning with compliments of a fun-filled weekend, but I honestly wish I could have done more to celebrate this milestone in her life. I would like to have wrapped up the very best parts of the world as a gift, and would have still found it to be lacking. I love that girl -- she is the absolute best. We're thirteen years apart, but despite an age difference, we relate so closely. I could rehash all of our joint experiences, but suffice it to say that she has been an absolute blessing to my life. Happy birthday, my sweet girl.



* She found out on Saturday while she was here that someone in her life (a boy who was more than an acquaintance, but less than a close friend) just died Friday night from an overdose. Though there's no question in my mind that these sorts of behaviors is something she personally avoids, it's possible that this boy died while experimenting. She'd not known him to be a drug user, and was surprised by his death. My badgering was more about being conscious of the world around her than it was about withstanding peer pressure. I'm so grateful that she's so wise, but good gracious -- it's so frightening to send a girl into the world!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Good Conversation

Apparently, Valentine's Day has been the subject in school lately and Gracie and Bub had a dinnertime argument last night about Cupid and his arrow. There was no argument between the two about the fact that Cupid's arrow would stab an in-love person in the heart. (ouch!) The argument was whether or not someone could physically survive such an assault. Gracie argued that they could because I've been stabbed in the heart by Cupid and I was in front of her, living and breathing and cooking dinner. Bub, on the other hand, wondered if I've ever really been in love. Such complicated matters. In the meantime, as they come to some conclusion, may your Valentine's Day be happy, and may you be assaulted by Cupid and live to tell about it.

I love Valentine's Day. It's my favorite of all the sub-holidays (you know, a non-Thanksgiving/non-Christmas reason for gift-giving). One thing I get especially excited about during the season of love is the introduction of Conversation Hearts. Really, who doesn't love a good conversation, particularly if it's stamped on a chalky little ticker?

There is one odd little personal factoid that probably should have gone on my weird list, but it didn't. This one's a bonus. Consider it my Valentine's Day gift to you. Though I love Conversation Hearts, I only eat the white ones. I buy enormous bags and pick through them to get every single white one out, all of which I hoard away and share with no one. (My children even relinquish their white Hearts without provocation -- aren't they just so sweet?) Every remaining Heart is then handed off to James, to the kids, or to random passers-by with my fondest regards, but I always, always, get the first pass through.

Though I only eat the white ones, I enjoy reading the sentiments on all the others. Most of the messages are so corny, and lately I've found a few to be downright rude. Regardless, the half-printed hearts that were meant to say one thing, but that say something altogether different, are the best of all. In honor of Valentine's Day, I saved a few of the non-white, crummy, half-printed hearts, and want to share their ridiculous conversation with you here...



"URA GE" -- I know you are, but what am I?!

"AND" -- And what? How rude.

"ILU" -- Well, ILU U 2.

"M. M." -- Yummy.

"ME" -- Why so selfish? What about me?

"NICE GIP" -- Thank for noticing. It's new.

"ANGER" -- What are you trying to say?

"Blank" -- We really need to improve our communication here.


HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Weird times seven

My friend Amy tagged me for another meme. This one is "Seven Weird Things About Me." Let's see what I can come up with.

1.) I cannot hear alarm clocks. I hear brand new ones for a little while, then I begin incorporating the noise into dreams, then I tune them out altogether. Before I married, I had to buy a new alarm clock every two to three months. Now, James wakes me up for everything. Even when he travels, he calls every morning to make sure I'm awake. If he's unavailable to call me for some reason (i.e., flying) and I have important morning plans, I will occasionally stay up all night long. I can hear the phone, thunderstorms, and children creeping down the stairs, but I cannot hear a clock screaming in my ear. (Even weirder, my mom is exactly the same way, so she has a clock that vibrates her bed. Who knew something like that was genetic?)

2.) I cannot sleep on airplanes, or on any other form of public transportation. From time to time, I talk in my sleep, and I've been told I'll hold complete conversations. As a result, I cannot bring myself to sleep in public. Generally, this not sleeping in public is not a problem, but when I traveled for mission trips, I always had terrible jet lag.

3.) I overslept on my first mission trip, and I still hear about it. My first mission trip was with a group of youth from various churches all over the state of Oklahoma. We went to England to share our faith in Religion classes in public schools, and we stayed in private standard rooms at The Strand Palace Hotel our very first night overseas. Because I can't sleep on airplanes, I had horrible jet lag. Said horrible jetlag coupled with the fact that I don't hear alarm clocks, and I overslept. Really overslept.

The entire team had been up and around for a long time. They'd eaten breakfast, repacked their belongings, and loaded on a double decker bus for a sightseeing tour. During the final headcount before departure, my youth pastor realized I was missing, so he came back into the hotel to knock on my door. I didn't hear him. He knocked louder. Still nothing. He actually had to go get the manager to let him into my room so he could shake me awake (all while the entire team waited on the bus).

As if I wasn't humiliated enough by oversleeping, and by having to have my room broken into, and by rushing to throw on clothes, pack up my stuff, and hurry down to a bus filled with people waiting just for me, my old youth pastor still thinks it hilarious to bring it up to me every single time I speak to him.

Though it's been fourteen years, and though I have the opportunity to see or speak to him maybe once a year, the fact that I overslept in London begins our conversation every time. "Hey, you been oversleeping lately? Snort, Snort, Guffaw." Apparently, some jokes never grow old.

4.) Lots of random weird things happen to me or around me, and I don't think they're at all weird. Weird is my normal. I have a somewhat distorted perspective, I guess, and I think that must be pretty weird. It's difficult to describe, but the frequent weirdness that is my life troubled James deeply in our first few years together. Now he's used to it, and my weird normal is a major source of entertainment for him.

5.) I worked as an eBay Powerseller for a while. Several years ago, James and I began selling some things on eBay for fun, and when we started seeing a hefty profit, he left a job in radio advertising to work full-time from home with me.

Many sellers specialize in certain things like books or boy's clothes, but because of the aforementioned weirdness that is my life, we specialized in oddities. We would buy and resell peculiar things, and had the very best time doing it. Though we sold all varieties of goods, our best selling items included polio braces, prosthetic legs, and silicone breasts. We opted to stop when our kids became obsessed with playing garage sale and post office, and James returning to a real job post eBay is how we ended up in Texas. I still sell things on eBay occasionally, but now I do it primarily for special projects.

6.) On a far too frequent basis, I make up weird lyrics to popular songs and sing them randomly. In fact, I do it so much that I just asked James on Sunday if my song-singing was weird. "It's quirky," he said. I hope that's better -- you know, cute, instead of just odd. Right now my strange lyrics make my kids laugh, but I know before I know it, that particular quirk will be the thing that makes them roll their eyes and sigh heavily.

7.) As a bargain hunter, I don't have a problem picking up generic goods. However, I'm particular and unyielding on two name brand grocery items: Peter Pan Creamy Peanut Butter and Heinz Ketchup. When I moved to France on missions, I took one suitcase and one backpack full of all of my remaining possessions on the Earth, and 1/8 of my suitcase was filled with Peter Pan Creamy Peanut Butter, which I ate on baguettes in Paris. You can imagine how ecstatic I was when I was recently able to stock up on my love for free.

As for the Heinz, I carry packets of it in a cubby in my car so I'm prepared at every drive-thru. However, when we go through the drive-thru, I seem to migrate towards restaurants that serve Heinz, like McDonalds and Long John Silvers. (I didn't realize that until just now.) Additionally, I keep a huge commercial-sized container front and center in my fridge because you can just never have too much. (Even weirder, when Gracie was a baby, she was afraid of two things -- cows and ketchup. She was screaming scared, which was so strange! Fortunately, she's outgrown those irrational phobias and my love for the Heinz can rule again.)

You think I'm kidding, but I'm not.



So, thanks for playing along! Feel free to take this meme as your own. To be all official and whatnot, I tag my cousin Emily, my sister Christy, my husband James, and my friend Jennifer.

Hey, Babbit!


My new friend Babbit the Blue Rabbit arrived in the mail yesterday, and has now taken up residence on the shelf in my scrapbooking room. He was handcrafted by an Awesome (Sometimes) Mother, and I won him by substitution in the winter giveaway carnival. Though he misses his old friends, he's getting to know some new ones...

Thank you Awesome Mom -- you really are awesome!

Pictures of Egypt

This song really speaks to me right now...

Painting Pictures Of Egypt by Sara Groves



I don’t want to leave here
I don’t want to stay
It feels like pinching to me
Either way
And the places I long for the most
Are the places where I’ve been
They are calling out to me
Like a long lost friend

It’s not about losing faith
It’s not about trust
It’s all about comfortable
When you move so much
And the place I was wasn’t perfect
But I had found a way to live
And it wasn’t milk or honey
But then neither is this

I've been painting pictures of Egypt,
Leaving out what it lacks
The future feels so hard,
And I wanna go back!
But the places that used to fit me,
Cannot hold the things I've learned
Those roads were closed off to me
While my back was turned!

The past is so tangible
I know it by heart
Familiar things are never easy
To discard
I was dying for some freedom
But now I hesitate to go
I am caught between the Promise
And the things I know

I've been painting pictures of Egypt,
Leaving out what it lacks
The future feels so hard,
And I wanna go back!
But the places that used to fit me,
Cannot hold the things I've learned
Those roads were closed off to me
While my back was turned!

If it comes too quick
I may not appreciate it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?
And if it comes too quick
I may not recognize it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Rushed


I spent time at a friend's house today learning to make this adorable domino necklace and keychain. I made the keychain for myself, and I made the necklace for Gracie (and oh yes, Gracie starts with an "R" in real life). My friend generously shared her supplies and wisdom, the project was so easy, and it took mere moments to create such cuteness. When we were finished with the craft, she and another friend left for a lunch date, and I declined a dining invitation in favor of errands to be run.

While on my way to Target to pick up a filled prescription, I sat idling in a left turn lane waiting for the light to turn green. Now, I don't think it's a secret that I can be a scooch aggressive when I drive, so it's not like I was sitting at the stoplight filing my nails. Despite my readiness, the moment the light turned green -- and I mean, the moment it turned green -- the truck behind me honked his horn. People, I had not even had time for the neurons in my brain to fire informing my foot that it was time to stop braking, and this guy was already honking at me. I glanced in my rearview mirror, wondering why he was in such a hurry, and moved forward to get out of his way.

That display of impatience reminded me of a sales pitch I heard last week. During a spare moment, I stopped at a big box store to look at a little electronic widget I was considering as a Valentine's gift for James. There were three brands of this particular little doohickey, and as I compared the three myself, I ruled out the least expensive one. The midpriced model was $10.00 more expensive than the lowest quality option. The third option was $20.00 more expensive than that. I couldn't see any clear differences between the remaining two, so I called a sales person over to help me. Though he gave a very thorough spiel on both models, I still couldn't distinguish a clear difference.

I asked him outright, "What specifically makes this one $20.00 more expensive than the other?"

"An on/off switch," he said.

"A what?"

"An on/off switch."

"And what else?" I asked, because surely that couldn't be the only difference.

But it was. The on/off switch was the single difference.

Apparently, the more expensive model was fitted with an on/off switch that provided instant results, as opposed to the less valuable on/off button that required an 8-10 second press. According to the sales man, busy businessmen do not have 8-10 spare seconds in their day to turn their little toy off. Because they're so swamped with the business of business, they toss them to the side, still on, leaving the battery to run down and rendering the widget unusable. I kept pressing him for more, but increadulously, that seriously was the single difference between the differently priced two.

Internally I was thinking, I'm the woman who spends hours clipping coupons and scouring ads to save 35 cents on cheese -- am I seriously being encouraged to pay $20.00 extra dollars so my hubby can spare 8 seconds? I have no opposition to an on/off switch, but I seriously cannot imagine someone with a need for such immediate results that $20.00 more dollars would actually be a good value (though I'm sure people spend it for that reason alone).

I chuckled to myself as he continued on, but immediately realized I have the same expectations with spiritual things. When I don't have those immediate results, when I have to wait out the press, I think I'd much rather toss it all to the side, rendering every part of it useless. Oh, that I would have the strength and patience to just wait.


"Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming.
See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop
and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.
You too, be patient and stand firm,
because the Lord's coming is near...
As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered.
You have heard of Job's perseverance
and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.
The Lord is full of compassion and mercy."
James 5:7-8, 11

"But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have,
we must wait patiently and confidently."
Romans 8:25 NLT

Friday, February 8, 2008

Snippits of Randomness

Life has been generally hectic around here the last couple of days. James has been traveling all week, so the kids and I have been fending for ourselves. In the midst of the craziness that ensues when he's gone so much, I've had a Biology test and an Algebra test, and need to continue moving forward in both classes without so much as a break. I'm hoping to accomplish a lot in both today so that Saturday and Sunday can be restful. So, because I can think of little more right now than Nitrogen Cycles and Quadratic Functions, here's a list of randomness...

-- Gracie made the front of the line at the bus stop once again, and this time I let her stay in the spot close to the road. I know she won't run into the street, so she's safe in that regard. Plus, there was a car parked on the roadside in close proximity, and people racing by are more inclined to not hit other cars than they're inclined to mind children. I felt with the parked car at her side, she was pretty safe. Anyway, she did not budge from her spot, not even when the rest of the line clustered around another little child who had a glowing MP3 player. (She just craned her neck from her position to catch a glimpse of that which was so interesting.) That day, she boarded the bus with her head held high and hasn't vied for the primary position since. It makes me think something's been set right inside.

-- College Algebra isn't as bad as I anticipated. As a rule, I would say I'm horrible at math, though in my head I can price an item at a 66% discount, triple a coupon, and find the value of the sale item minus the coupon in nothing flat. I guess it's fair to say that I'm good at everyday math, but in honesty, I've struggled in nearly every formal math class I've ever taken (the single exception was Sophomore Geometry where I averaged a 99.8% all year). When I opted to retake College Algebra this semester after my first attempt 13 years ago, I was quite concerned I would be in way over my head. James swore he could help me and would tutor me at a very reasonable rate (hardy-har-har), but it turns out that I remember more about Algebra after 13 years than he does after 25. Though the thought of the class completely intimidates me, and though I know there's no chance I'll score better than a B, I have actually enjoyed the refiring of the neurons in that part of my brain, and am convincing myself the problems are no worse than a Sodoku puzzle -- a form of math torture I subject myself to on every vacation.

-- James was caught in a Microburst during the landing of his outbound flight on Wednesday, which is the second time since December that he's been in danger while flying for work. To right the plane, the pilot "popped a wheelie," according to James, and they were diverted to Louisville, KY. for a safer landing. James said an on-board basketball team screamed like a bunch of enormous girls, overhead bins dumped their contents, and the pilot was visibly shaken when they were finally allowed to disembark. Fortunately, they were only about midway through their original descent, otherwise, Wikipedia says this about what their fate may have been:

A microburst often causes aircraft to crash when they are attempting to land. The microburst is an extremely powerful gust of air that, once hitting the ground, spreads in all directions. As the aircraft is coming in to land, the pilots try to slow the plane to an appropriate speed. When the microburst hits, the pilots will see a large spike in their airspeed, caused by the force of the headwind created by the microburst. A pilot inexperienced with microbursts would try to decrease the speed. The plane would then travel through the microburst, and fly into the tailwind, causing a sudden decrease in the amount of air flowing across the wings. The sudden loss of air moving across the wings causes the aircraft to literally drop out of the air. The best way to deal with a microburst in an aircraft would be to increase speed as soon as the spike in airspeed is noticed. This will allow the aircraft to remain in the air when traveling through the tailwind portion of the microburst and also pass through the microburst with less difficulty, although it is possible that for light aircraft, the descent rate induced by the microburst will exceed their maximum climb rate, leading to an unavoidable crash.

-- Because of the pressure I feel right now to succeed in my classes, I actually turned down a weekend away. The kids are spending this weekend with their Nanny, so James mentioned renting a lake cabin as an early Valentine's gift to one another -- he'd even scoped some out online! While I was impressed with his thoughtfulness and would love to get away, I'm in a busy part of the semester building up to midterms. Since I'm not very science/math minded by nature, it's all very stressful for me, and I don't think I could just go away and truly disconnect, thus a wasted excursion. Also, he's been away from home all week and wants little more than a few nights in his own bed. So, instead of going away this weekend, we're going to stick close to home (so I can continue working on assignments) and are planning on some day outings: a trip back to the flea market (I believe they re-open this weekend, now that the rodeo is over), to The Kimball to see a Early Christian Art exhibit, and to the movies to watch 27 Dresses (or something equally sappy). Because of said assignments and all of these fun plans, I will resume blogging again next week (that is, if I can force myself to stay away). Have a super weekend!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Free Books

I was picking through the Works for Me Wednesday list at Rocks in my Dryer, and Becky at The Fun Blog posted her access to free Christian fiction books.

Apparently, one can sign up at no charge to be a reader/reviewer for the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, and will receive free Christian fiction books once a month in the mail. When you read the book, you can either review it or post an interview with the author on your blog. You also have the option of posting a pre-prepared statement about the book, if that better suits your needs. (For example, you really want to say something nice about the book, but just can't.)

From what I understand, the only books reviewed in this alliance are books that are either on their way to the publisher, or have just been published. I believe there's a good chance that if a book has made it that far, it would be worth looking over -- particularly at no cost.

More About MeMe

I've been tagged by Britni at Playful Professional for this meme. I'll tag the necessary people (at the bottom of this post), but feel free to take this on as your own, tag or not. Leave a comment to let me know if you do so I can come by and read.

THE RULES:
** Post about the meme and link back to the person that tagged you.
** Go back to your archives and link to your five favorite posts.

Link One: must be about family
Link Two: must be about friends
Link Three: must be about yourself
Link Four: must be about something you love
Link Five: can be anything you choose

** Tag five other people (at least two must be new acquaintances so that you can get to know them better).
** Let the person know that you tagged them by leaving a comment saying something like: I've tagged you. Check out my blog for details.
** Readers, don't forget to read the posts and leave comments - lots of comments.


And off we go...

At first, I was really excited about this meme. After all, I was chosen because someone wanted to get to know me better, and who doesn't appreciate that? (Britni won my giveaway, so we've only just met.) However, when I began looking back through posts to list my favorites, I realized just how dismal I often am.

Most of you who read here know intimately what a very difficult year it's been for me and for my family, as many of you know us in real life. We've been through a great deal of unexpected situations of late, and to plaster on a happy face in the midst of such great upheaval would be silly. Additionally, I believe I've made it clear (see the disclaimer to the left) that this blog is like a journal to me -- a place to be honest and to record the things I'm working through. Then, in turn, it will serve as an Ebenezer -- a place where I can look back to the darkest of days and remember how God brought in the light. (In I Samuel 7:12, Ebenezer means "stone of help," and in that particular situation, an Ebenezer was meant as a marker to remind Samuel of the ways in which God had helped him.)

Occasionally, I've thought of limiting the posts on this blog to the lighter and the brighter aspects of my life, focusing only on that which is fun or funny, but my personal writing time is very limited, and I'm more concerned with jotting down my reality as opposed to limiting what I mention to feel-good fluff. With all of that in mind, here goes the meme. I don't think it will depress anyone too much.

Link One: There was a tie between this post about my siblings, and this one about my husband, who just happens to be stuck in Louisville, Kentucky today after another very scary airplane experience and a diversion for safety. The airline is now trying to decide if their airplane is still functional, and James may miss his dinner meeting, which is in a completely different state.
Link Two: My friend Amy forced me to start blogging. I complained here, but now I'm totally addicted. She still lets me talk her ear off.
Link Three: By Definition is a post about how I perceive myself.
Link Four: This post is pretty inclusive: I love being a mommy. I love spending time with my kids. I love introducing them to amazing things and expanding their little brains. I love doing awesome things for free, and the DMA is free on Thursday nights.
Link Five: Again, a tie. This post was my first foray into using my blog as a journal, truly pouring out the darkness of my heart. This post is one I just love, and one that made me realize I may truly be addicted to blogging (considering how I wrote it while wrapped in a towel, still dripping from the shower that sparked the thought in the first place).

I'm tagging these people:
Elizabeth at My Sweet Blessings
Amy at For What It's Worth
Randi at Dukes' and Duchesses
Tara at Think Out Loud
Bear's Mom at Someone Being Me

How Much More

Yesterday morning, Gracie waited alone for the bus as Bub stayed home to complete the "Fever-free for 24 hours" requirement before returning to school today. She was alone outside, except for me. I waited with her on the porch. No one else was outside yet, neither at our bus stop nor at the one down the street.

We discussed her plans for the day, and then excitedly she said, "Maybe I can be the first one at the bus stop!" Without so much as a goodbye, she turned and ran away. I called after her, "Hey, what about a kiss?" She ran back to me, realizing on the way that she was leaving me behind. That caused her to whine a bit and cling to my fuzzy pink robe. I bent to kiss her, and then hurried her back to the stop. She looked at me and whimpered, but I responded by asking, "You wanted to be first, didn't you?" She remembered her plan, and excitedly ran away.

When she got to the bus stop, she was standing a little too close to the road, so I waved to her to step back a bit. Cars fly down the road in the morning dark, ignoring and endangering the children waiting for school. Nothing -- not even the work schedule of my neighbors -- is so important as to risk my Gracie's health and well-being.

As she obediently took that one big step backwards, a generally unpleasant little neighbor girl came clomp, clomp, clomping towards the bus stop. I turned to look towards the other stop to see how close the bus was. When I looked back, Gracie was running towards me, and the unpleasant girl was standing in the spot very close to the road, the spot I'd made Gracie scoot out of, the spot that now made up the front of the line.

Ever the sensitive girl, Gracie was so heartbroken by her displacement. She cried and clung to me, deeply wronged by the neighbor girl's decision. I wanted to scoop her up and rush her inside. I wanted to cuddle her and coddle her and protect her from the big, bad world. Instead, I hugged her and wiped away her tears, and encouraged her back to the bus stop. I want to protect my girl, but more than that, I want her to grow and to blossom and to be able to handle things that come her way, both good and bad. I want her to know that I'm here for her comfort, but equally, I want her to be able to stand on her own two feet.

As I watched her bravely wipe away whatever tears were left and walk back to second place, as I watched her behave politely towards the girl who'd stolen her position, as I watched her wave to me once again while she gracefully boarded the bus, I felt so proud of the girl she is and the girl she's becoming. Considering the situation as a whole, I thought "how much more" does my Father want to scoop me up when I'm hurting, but instead lets me learn a lesson? "How much more" would he rather shield me from the big, bad world, but instead, leaves me to live in it, behaving with grace? (Luke 11:13)

I spent a good bit of time a couple of days ago fashioning a bellyaching post about how painfully directionless I feel at present. Here's an excerpt from the whiniest bit:

In the midst of my day, I talked to a friend, who, with her four-month-old, has secured her position as a stay-at-home-mom for many years to come. I, on the other hand, live in limbo. I’m a mom, and I stay at home, but I don’t parent on an all-day basis. I’m a student, but I’m an at-home student in my thirties, and that’s quite different from being an on-campus student in my teens or early twenties. I don’t travel like I once traveled, and I often don’t do things that once comprised major aspects of my personality. With regards to school, I’m completing a degree that I’m not sure I’ll ever use, and I don’t even know what I want to be when I grow up.

I feel like I’m between the seasons of my life – that itchy, watery part of change. I’m suffering from spiritual seasonal allergies and I find myself allergic to life. My chief complaint in the midst of this misery is that there’s no tablet to take, no magic pill of direction available to me, and I’m frustrated by the fact that I have no idea what comes next, or if I’ll even like it.

This is not a complaint of ungratefulness. I am extraordinarily grateful for the abundant blessings that have been heaped upon me by a living and generous God. But the matters are separate. I feel lost and unguided, wondering what in the world I'm to do next.

Now, I know what I’m to do spiritually. I know that I’m to “Trust in the Lord with all [my] heart and lean not on [my] own understanding….” I know that when I “acknowledge him… in all [my] ways… he will make [my] paths straight,” but gracious, don’t I do that? Am I not absolutely clear that it is “in him [I] live and move and have [my] being"? "Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me." Tell me then, why is it that I feel trapped in this in-between state, this purgatory? Why is it in these dark passages do I feel like I have no direction at all? (Proverbs 3:5-6, Acts 17:28a, Psalm 54:4)

It's true that I don't have a clear direction right now, and that lack of guidance can be frightening and frustrating. As anyone else, I don't like it one bit. And I'm sure that just as Gracie struggled this morning and I struggled to resist stealing her away, my Father watches me, wishing he could just make all things right. It should be said that making it all right, making it all easy, is something He absolutely could do, it's just not something He will do. He is a good and gracious God who longs for me to find my feet, and I'm a grumpy, directionless housewife who thinks she'd be really happy with a glimpse at a spiritual GPS.

I'm really trying to be upbeat in the midst of this nothing. I'm trying to be forgetful when there is need to be. I'm trying to capture my thoughts and count my blessings. I'm trying to do everything "right" with regard to my response in the midst of this shadowed journey, but I could really use someone taking me by the hand in a very obvious way, if only but for a few steps.



“I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.”
Psalm 121:1-8

(Yeah, but when does He hand out the maps?)




"Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, if you turn to Him then with praise, you will be welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away." -- C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

"There are few things more crucial to us than our lives. And there are few things we are less clear about. This journey we are taking is hardly down a yellow brick road. Then again, that's not a bad analogy at all. We may set out in the light, with hope and joy, but eventually, our path always seems to lead us into the woods, shrouded with a low-lying mist. Where is this abundant life that Christ supposedly promised? Where is God when we need Him most? What is to become of us? The cumulative effect of days upon years that we do not really understand is a subtle erosion. We come to doubt our place, we come to question God's intentions towards us, and we lose track of the most important things in life. We're not convinced that what God has to offer us is life. We have forgotten that the heart is central. And we had no idea that we were born into a world at war." -- John Eldridge, Waking the Dead

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Substitution is just as sweet...

So, I've been chosen as a substitute winner for the giveaway at Adventures of an Awesome (Sometimes) Mother, perhaps because I'm nearly absolutely shameless in practically begging for cute blue bunnies. I participated in a bit of internet arm-twisting, if you will. But hey, it paid off! (Here are the comments. You can scroll down until you see my lovely face and make the call for yourself -- too shameless, just shameless enough, should I exercise some restraint next time?)

Regardless, Babbit the Blue Rabbit is coming home to stay. Here he is hanging out with his friends.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Hey, I'm Not a Loser!

Earlier today I finally connected with the winner of my blog giveaway -- Britni, from over here. It turns out she won SIX blog giveaways in the winter carnival, which I think is completely unfair and a mark of some terrible societal imbalance. Perhaps she won so much because she's just as cute as can be and random number generators prefer cuteness. Perhaps she won so much because she's not quite as disgruntled as me, and it's a better attitude that random number generators want out of their winners. Who knows? Either way, she won six times, so I had to comment that I didn't win this round, not even once, though I spent a whole night visiting blogs and entering contests.

I no more than clicked "submit" on my comment to Britni when I got an e-mail notifying me that I won You Can Do It!: The Merit Badge Handbook for Grown-Up Girls from Fabric of My Life:



(Considering that I'd already spent the better part of the evening writing a pitiful post about how absolutely directionless I feel at the moment, and how I could really use a map on something, anything, I thought the timing of my winning notification was quite humorous. Perhaps I'll revise the previously written post into something less pitiful and post it here tomorrow...)

Giveaway

I don't know why I'm increasing my competition. Perhaps I'm actually nicer than I often appear to be. I just thought you'd like to know that Annie at taking a step. towards my dream. is having a great book giveaway. Pop on over to play along...

Not So Superbowl Sunday

Bub is normally as active as they come. His inner spring is often wound up tight, and he goes non-stop quite alot. Saturday, though, was very suspicious.

We woke up early (since my kids don't really get the concept of sleeping in), and as a family, decided to spend our morning picking through some goodies at the Habitat for Humanity store nearby. We ate breakfast, but Bub wasn't very hungry. We left for the store, and Bub was very still and very quiet in the car, instead of participating in his normal brand of automotive sibling annoyance. We browsed around the store with him behaving in a completely calm and obedient manner, so we complimented his behavior and asked if he felt well. "Yeah," he said, and we continued on.

We came home midday, where I worked on some homework, while James napped watched basketball. (The Aggies won, by the way. Whoop, or whatever.) Bub remained very still, and very calm. I felt his head, but it wasn't warm. He still said his ear and throat hurt only a little, but really that he was fine. As day moved into night, all of the quiet made me feel truly concerned that Bub was indeed getting sick, so I e-mailed a friend whose birthday party we were scheduled to attend to warn that we may be staying home. Bub went to bed and straight to sleep very early and on his own.

Sunday morning, though, he seemed better. His energy and appetite seemed to have returned when he asked for two peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast. As he began eating, I e-mailed the party-giving friend to let her know that I must have been too premature in my potential cancellation and that we would definately attend. But only half of one sandwich was eaten, the calm came back, and James and I again worried that we'd been too quick in calling things well. We waited a little while more, and when he began to complain more about his throat and his ear, I took his temperature to find it at 102.7.

With a feverish Bub sick at home, we missed the birthday party, a Superbowl Party, and the semester opening of our new community group, but we spent some quiet and calm quality time with the children. We missed 99% of the Superbowl when we opted to watch The Game Plan instead (a movie I picked up with my free RedBox rental code), but we had a fun family movie day and saw a movie that we all really enjoyed. (The movie ended a few minutes before the Superbowl ended, so James got to watch that crazy comeback, and felt like that was probably all he needed.) Bub got some much needed rest, and Gracie and I spent time making a Valentines mailbox for her upcoming class party. Then today, she took the bus by herself to school, bravely choosing that instead of my offer for a ride.

It seems that our not so Superbowl Sunday turned out to be pretty super after all...


Friday, February 1, 2008

Promotion

Let it be widely known and proclaimed throughout the entire universe that my husband has gotten a promotion, effective today. Yippee! Well, the internal paperwork is official today, and payment on the promotion begins when three more contracts are officially signed by the doctors and hospitals who have agreed to placement arrangements. So, though his paycheck won't be affected until the contracts are in, the pay on the placements will be retroactive to today. Yippee! (James is a physician recruiter who places doctors from all over in opportunities in the upper-midwestern portion of the U.S.)

He's been working towards this natural internal promotion for a while now, and was 1/2 a placement away from meeting the goal a couple of months ago. Unfortunately, because the way the placement credit works, when he didn't get that 1/2, he had to place another three for promotion qualification. (He couldn't just have a 1/2 placement credit the next month to qualify.)

That's as confusing as can be, I know. The organization of his company, which is totally legitimate, is arranged similarly to an MLM scheme, the legitimacy of which is highly questionable. He's tried to explain the pay structure to me in detail several times, leaving me to reply, "just tell me when you'll bring home more money." My friends, that time is now.

This month, several doctors took the jobs he had to offer, so at one fell swoop, he's been promoted and will be given a very attractive commission check at the end of March. After that, our monthly income will increase by about 20%. What a tremendous and undeniable blessing!!


"Then Peter replied,
“I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism."
Acts 10:34 NLT

"And my God will meet all your needs
according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:19 NIV

"...it will be given to you.
A good measure, pressed down,
shaken together and running over,
will be poured into your lap."
Luke 6:38b NIV

"For God does not show favoritism."
Romans 2:11 NLT

Sweet Samples

I've been reading through Frugal Fabulous tonight, where there is a number of links to free samples and offers. You should go through her site for lots of great deals, but in the meantime, I wanted to post a couple of my favorites here:

For a Free Copy of Homeschool Enrichment Magazine, click here.

To get a Free Movie Rental from Redbox (the rental station at Walmart), click here.

For a Sample Pack of 3M Transparency Film, click here. (Great for craft or home improvement projects.)


Thanks to Katie for these great links. Now, here are a couple more sample offers I compiled -- Enjoy!

To recapture your youth (teehee!), try this or this.

This is cute. For a free pregnancy wrist band, click here.

Clothing for Keeps

It has been our hope that our children will grow into generous adults. We've been working to instill an attitude of gratefulness and a spirit of giving within their wee little hearts. Today, I read the story of this young woman and her generosity towards foster children as she developed a boutique called Keeps. I hope that the concept of generosity settles within my children as its obviously settled in the heart of this child.

Frugal Recipe: Cake Mix Cookies

Gayle at The Grocery Cart Challenge asked for frugal snack ideas, and I have to admit, I probably provide more prepackaged snacks than most frugal moms do. We often have fruit snacks, packaged granola bars, and box cereal on hand for quick and easy snacks, though many of my snack purchases are limited to what I can get really inexpensively (like at the 99 Cents Only store) or for free (by combining coupons with sales). For example, I just bought a 6-pack of mini boxes of organic raisins for 9 (yes, 9) cents, and you cannot -- at least, I cannot -- make six snacks for less than 9 cents. I know I could generally make from scratch more servings of something than I'm given in multipack of snacks for my $1.00 (or less), but every once in a while, it's about convenience. (I love cooking, I just don't love cooking. Particularly not all the time.)

In addition to those cheap convenience things that come and go as sales and coupons come and go, here are some other more frugal snack food options we consistently rely on:

muffins
yogurt
pretzels
raisins
fresh fruit
chopped veggies
boiled eggs
popcorn
cheese slices or sticks
banana slices with sugar-free chocolate syrup
frozen fruit/berries (purchased on markdown and frozen from fresh)
crackers with peanut butter
whatever baked goods I'd made throughout the week
tortillas (with butter or with cheese)
toast with jam
croutons (my kids are strange)
graham crackers
mini marshmallows for a special treat (when bags are $1.00)
leftovers or soup if the children are really hungry

A fun, easy, frugal recipe I thought to share is one my Aunt Laura used to make. She'd make up a batch of Cake Mix Cookies (recipe below) to have on hand for a quick and cheap treat, and cake mix can generally be found very inexpensively when purchased with a coupon. Aunt Laura would prepare two or three batches of batter using different flavors of cake mix, then she would roll each of them into a tube shape, wrap them in an empty bread bags, and store in the freezer. She'd slice off a few thin slices of various flavors as needed, and bake only was required to satisfy the hungry children at her house. Our favorite flavors: strawberry, chocolate, or french vanilla!

Cake Mix Cookies

1 (18 1/4 ounce) box cake mix, any brand, any variety
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 cups chocolate chips, other chips, or other mixins (optional)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

** Combine cake mix, oil and eggs in a bowl and mix well.
** Stir in chips and nuts, if using, or other mixins as desired.
** Drop by teaspoons on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes (or roll into a tube shape, pack in bread bag, freeze, and cook slices from frozen at the same temperature for the same 8-10 minutes, or until crispy around the edges).
** Upon removing from oven, let the cookies stand on sheet for two minutes, then cool on racks, and serve!

For more frugal snack ideas, check out the other posts at The Grocery Cart Challenge, or at this Biblical Womanhood post on the same topic from back in October.

9 Cent Raisins

Baking Chips for a Bargain

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