Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Aftermath

It comes every year and will go on forever. And along with Christmas belong the keepsakes and the customs. Those humble, everyday things a mother clings to, and ponders, like Mary in the secret spaces of her heart. ~ Marjorie Holmes

There was so much we did in December and I planned blog all about it, but it did not happen. I have resigned to the fact that I cannot play catch up by posting on each event tucking back on a date corresponding to when it actually happened, because it would take me half of January, and then I would be playing catch up for another month, so this is a summary of what I had planned to do in December and some of what actually happened.

I planned to post each day of our advent calendar as it is provides a great deal of folklore—maybe next year.

I planned to tell all about the treats I made. The cookies: Gingerbread Men, Milk Chocolate Toffee Squares, Rich Brownie-like Cookies with Andes Thins Crème de Menthe Chips, M&M Sugar Cookies, and Pecan Sandies, also known as Snowballs here. The candy: Pumpkin Pie Fudge, Buttery Caramels, and Dark Chocolate Toffee—and even though it is not Monty's, yes, it is to die for, Ganeida. (More on that story here and be sure to read the comments too.) The white chocolate with peppermint was just something I added to the plate for something a bit different, but I did not make them. I gave some away to neighbors and to friends we visited.

I planned to take good ("good" being the operative word here) pictures of our Christmas tree, of the stockings I personally cross-stitched and had sewn years ago, of a few special ornaments most of which are handmade by my husband's mother, of the several nativity sets we have, of a particular nativity set I personally painted for my husband long ago that is always set up prominently under the tree in front of the presents to remind us of the greatest Gift of all, and of our Christmas Day with surprised eyes and happy faces. Unfortunately, I also tried a different setting on my camera, one that was supposed to be better for the lighting and it was not until after Christmas that I loaded them on my computer to see that nearly every one of them was blurry or out of focus! Fortunately, a few turned out well.

I planned to detail our traditions of watching the movie It's a Wonderful Life, drinking eggnog and eating cookies, while we decorate the Christmas Tree. Open another door on our advent calendar and read the folklore that is associated with each item found. How we place gold, frankincense, and myrrh—the first being a bracelet and the latter two being oil essences—before the baby Jesus in the nativity set on Christmas Eve to remind of us why we have this tradition of exchanging gifts and focus on the meaning of Christmas. This year, my husband read The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado, The Three Trees, and from a large shaped paperback book he has had since he was a child, 'Twas the night before Christmas on Christmas Eve.

I planned to share stories before Christmas like the fitting of a riding helmet, while trying not to give away that my daughter would be getting one for Christmas so she could take riding lessons. Then she saw another Breyer's horse she just had to add to her growing collection. We received many upon many catalogs with boundless delights and tempting toys for children. Each time she turn a page, I heard the words "I would like that for Christmas," which saddened me. The Princess was questioning the existence of Santa just a few weeks before, but it was clear to me that she believed still when she wrote him a letter asking for two things only: Riding lessons and a rag doll. My heart practically sang and sank at the same time. I was happy that she again had narrowed all that she wanted on her own down to just two things, but the latter one was a late entry, picked from one of those catalogs, and it was not available as I wrote in a previous post.

My husband is a softie. He found another one made even better than the one she wanted. He has great taste, I think some would say champagne taste because the doll he found was a Kathe Kruse's Waldorf It's Me Doll. Quite pricey, but I have to say the quality is outstanding. All 34 inches in height, of course, was brought by Santa, unwrapped and waiting for the Princess in a blue dress with jammies. She has been the Princess' constant companion, even has a place at our dining table. Every night she is dressed in her jammies to sleep with her and every morning she is dressed for the day. The Princess now wants to learn to sew to make more clothes for her.

The Princess also received two games: Bananagrams, which is like a solitaire Scrabble game without a board, and a Hot Potato. She is enjoying both very much. She received two Breyer's horses, one from us and another from her grandparents, who also gave her the riding helmet. The helmet in the darker light looked red and she was just a bit disappointed that it was not the color she really wanted, a metallic hot pink, but after she saw it in better light, she was very happy. I added the latest Mr. Putter and Tabby book to her collection. Although now too easy to read for her, they are delightful stories and I am hoping to keep the books so she has them for her own children. The third Ice Age DVD movie was also given to her and watched on Christmas Day. We went over the budget with Christmas, but this year we knew extra money was coming.

In the middle of the month, my husband had his review and he received a 4.5 average in most areas out of a possible 5 and he was going to get a bonus. The percent of all the bonuses would be smaller than they had offered in past years, but still my husband got the higher amount because of his review. Also, all the employees even up to the CEO had taken a pay cut for this past year, a percentage that increased according to their base pay. Because the company had done so well, all that money was to be paid to each employee also, but they would not reinstate the normal base pay for this year. Still, I am very happy that this company is fair and cautious with the economy as it is.

Then another big surprise, a check from the state of Georgia. They had held back a refund for a few years because of a modification to some returns for previous years we made and we had paid them all in full, but our returns had to be audited, apparently. We did not have to go in, just provide IRS records and wait for them to sync up. Well, finally they released our refunds for those years all at once.

With our extra bit of funds and having been so frugal for the last three years, we decided we could be just a bit extravagant for Christmas. At the last minute, practically, we decided to have pictures done. We have not had any professionally taken for all that time so it seemed to be a good idea. I doubted we would be able to get in, but they had an opening just two days before Christmas. Of course, they would need to be sent overnight to be received on Christmas Eve.

We gave a money and food to some people in need as we have not been doing much of that in the last few years. We still did not buy each other anything, well...our DVD player died in October, so earlier in December we bought the kind that not only plays but records onto DVD so our home video tapes can go digital.

Now we are looking forward to making a large payment to bring our debt down and that feels like a very, VERY good start of our new year!

~ Thank you, my Lord, for blessing us. I just cannot thank you enough. ~

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Mental Health Mask is Off!

The best cure for an off day is a day off.
~ Frank Tyger

To Whom It May Concern,

Please excuse me from my normal duties as I am having an abnormal inability to think, make decisions, or to...I cannot even remember what I was going to write now. And, I think my mask for appearing mentally healthy is too worn and broken to use right now. My body seems achy all over as if begging me to stay cozy under nice warm blankets. My motivation seems to have gone somewhere...without me. I have been falling asleep when I sit down in a chair for more than five minutes. I have not been blogging because it just seemed like one more thing to do that required thinking and sitting for more than five minutes! I have been feeling too tired to go to bed most nights. My daughter has the holiday fever cannot focus on her lessons and I want to cry just thinking about trying to get even a minute of math out of her. I have felt unusually burdened for so many people very burdened that I feel there is not enough hours in each day to do nothing else but pray for them all. I am sorry that I am not more of the woman I wish I was, but if I don't get some rest today, tomorrow I may complete lose my mind—actually, I am even not sure I still have it! How does one know she has not lost it if she has?


Yes, I AM taking a mental health day for me! Of course, my daughter is thrilled there will be no lessons. I am not sure what I am going to do today, I only know what I am not going to do. I have not blogged for weeks and I might do that, or not. This is why I need a mental health day, I cannot even make up my mind about what to do. Maybe I should just do nothing and rest, maybe I should do something that will make me feel better about my home, like clean up an area or two—particularly my desk! There is something therapeutic in mundane housecleaning if one has the energy to do it, but the question: do I have the energy? Maybe I should just help my daughter with her piano and cuddle up as she finishes reading a book that we absolutely must return to the library tomorrow. husband has a board meeting at the church and my daughter has a rehearsal at 2:00 pm for some little program they will be doing for Sunday service but then they are having a party afterward, as if she needs any more sweets than she has had. I need to return library books and pay my overdue fees, I think it was just one day I owe as I was late renewing them.

My husband is home next week because his company shuts down and he has to take a mandatory week's vacation and that is the week we finally have no plans so we all can just chill out. I think I may even get out a jigsaw puzzle to do and we will play games every day. We still have to wrap presents for the Princess and not all of them have arrived. I am thankful that we were able to be generous this year—even though I am sure that she gets too much as it is, still it is not everything she wants. When she was younger she would ask only for one thing, like her mama. Now she wants many things but when it boils down...well, on her own she wrote to Santa that she wanted these two things: riding lessons and a doll that is three feet tall. She didn't want that doll until she saw it in a catalog recently and she really wants one—what she really wants is a sibling and this is her way of a substitute I think—but of course they are out. Besides that clothes for the doll cost more than the ones I buy for my daughter (being that I buy consignment)! I would write more but I have a daughter that reads quite well and tends to look over my shoulder when I am blogging or proofreading so....cliffhanger.

Being that I have been so tired and mostly unable to do anything more than the necessities, I cannot believe that I reorganized my entire pantry last night, something I did not plan to do but it was necessary to find space to fit the groceries I bought. I actually looked at the dates on the labels to be sure the oldest were in front. I think I will make some kind of bean and veggie soup with noodles for our dinner so that we can get the older things out. The Princess will probably not like it and it is not my favorite either, but I have lots of cans of beans and tomatoes bought on very good sales that need to eaten. Even though I had plenty at home, yesterday I bought Muir Glen organic tomatoes for just 50 cents a can! They were on sale for $1.50 and there was a coupon for $1.00 each can. People always tell me how expensive organic food is but there are real deals now and then. I remember getting bags of Cascadian Farm organic frozen vegetables for as little as 20 cents each the same way and I think I got 50 bags of veggies during that sale.

Oddly, as tired as I was last night, it felt really good to reorganize the pantry and a part of the freezer. Now the kitchen food cabinets could use it too. I eyed them some last night and move a few things around, got to be late.

I am rambling and I know it; perhaps proof that I have not lost my mind completely and it actually "feels good" to blog again. Maybe I will finish a few others in draft mode that I started. It may be good therapy for my mental health.

~ My Lord, You are such an awesome God. I am ashamed of how I complain when I have so much when so many others lack. I don't deserve Your blessings and I am so thankful for them. Thank you for giving me this day to rest and recharge. ~

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

4-H at Christmas

Don't approach a goat from the front, a horse from the back, or a fool from any side. ~Yiddish Proverb

While my aunt and uncle were still with us, the Princess had a 4-H meeting as they always do the first Tuesday of the month. Since my husband had taken the week for vacation, he took the Princess this time; it was his first meeting although he has been to other events. For this one she was to bring a present that we chose off the Angel Tree to give to a chosen family: We had picked a toy for a two year old boy this year. The meeting was to be short, but only because they were to sing carols at a nursing home and then it was to Chick-fil-A for a free sandwich for the members and socializing.

A side note: I am not fond of fast food chain restaurants, but I have a soft spot for Chick-fil-A. They started here in Georgia. Not only are their advertisements with black and white cattle misspelling signs to get you to "eat mor chikin" adorable (although in reality that breed of cattle is used for milk, not meat) and their food is tasty, but the founder was decidedly Christian and still closes on Sunday and important holidays even to this day. They also train their employees to be very polite and help you with your tray, even when you really don't need it! These restaurants are always busy in this area...always!

Of course, I try not to pass up the opportunity to face paint when the Princess is involved in any festivities!

The following Saturday was the Christmas Parade. The adult 4-H leader almost canceled because it was so cold. The year before, our first, was very cold also, but this year was even worse.

I have to say that this is not the best parade in which to be with horses. You see, it has been customary that every entry throws candy to the children along the way and, of course, children run out from behind the tape and off the curbs to get the candy that lands in the street. The path for the parade narrows more and more as this happens. Our group is the first after Santa's sleigh, which is at the very end of the parade and, yes, he also throws candy too. By the time we begin walking the corridor, the lines are nearly nonexistent. Most people see Santa as the end of the parade. In fact, we were about half way in the parade area when people just started joining in and three men walked within a foot behind the miniatures—such are the actions of the foolish!

Just before we joined the parade, two members had been kicked. The first was because the side street, the one all the horse groups come up to join the parade, was not blocked off as it was supposed to be and cars were going down one lane. The problem occurred when two cars going the opposite direction approached each other in the one lane we were not occupying. A full-sized horse did not like that at all and kicked a girl walking behind him. She was not hurt badly as it caught her thigh and she was a good distance away—just a few more inches out and she would have been missed.

The second incident involved a miniature horse, the one my husband had been holding in the picture, actually. A man with a large bunch of white balloons approached our group and the girl holding the horse at the time had given him too much of the lead. The mini turned on her just enough to get a kick and he started to get a second, but other people grabbed them in time. This girl's lower leg was terribly swollen within just a few minutes. The kick had hit her just at the top of her knee, but the following week she was out at the stables and seemed to be healing fine—the blessing of prayers and youth!

I guess it is just inevitable that when children with horses are waiting for nearly two hours for the parade in freezing cold that they are not as on guard as they should be and none of these horses are parade trained. My aunt was in the mounted women's police and those horses were well-trained for parades, even to the point they had firecrackers set off under them without rearing or kicking, but you just never know what is going to spook a horse and parades are full of those unknowns. I was thankful that my daughter was in a safer place up on the float.

Then there was the skate. The 4-H Club rents the skating rink for the night, the next Thursday night! Those of you who know my schedule know how my Thursdays go. Well, add that I had to drop off my husband at the demo center-corporate offices and then pick him up after work, put away groceries, and fly out the door to get the rink on top of that.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I love to roller skate and I have been doing it since I could walk, but I took a bad fall on one knee about four years ago when skating that took its time healing and I have no problems with it at all now, so at this same skate last year, I skated and fell again. Although this time it was a rolling fall and I was not hurt at all—prayer does work. I decided I would do something else to occupy myself so I was not tempted to get out on the rink this time. I face painted all the members who wanted it for free. We forgot our camera this time so I have no pictures of this event at all but it was fun.

~ My Lord, thank you for hearing our prayers so that the girls healed quickly and that no one else was hurt during the parade. ~

Friday, December 4, 2009

Our No Hurry-Worry Thanksgiving

Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others...for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received. ~ Albert Einstein

I have been so focused on completing the Princess' room but not for the sake of my daughter alone, I was also preparing in anticipation of visitors. You see, my daughter had to be moved to the guest room while I worked on her room, which as always with decorating took me longer than I had hoped, but the Princess also had to be moved out of that room by a definite date so that I could get it ready for a visit from my aunt and uncle.

My aunt and uncle are very special people to me. I can never repay them for the kindnesses they have shown me, nor will I ever know all that they sacrificed for me, and I may never fully realize the person I was when they took me in and how it affected their relationship with their own children. When I was fourteen, they had me stay with them for what was meant to be just a couple of weeks, a break for both my mother and me to be away from each other, but the stay lengthen, and as start of school approached, my mother made it clear she did not want me back.

I was obedient for the most part, although my mother would probably argue against that—which was the real problem—we argued so much. I was very sassy and I did not respect her much at all. There are many reasons as to why our relationship had so completely eroded over the years, things my younger brother and sisters did not witness, thankfully, or do not remember well. I am glad they have enjoyed a closer relationship with my mother. Unfortunately, for my mother and for me, I had the memory of an elephant, as she wrote in my baby book. My mother not only had given up on me, but was ready to give me up and I was just as ready to go almost anywhere...but still it hurt so much to have my own mother reject me like that.

My mother's sister and her husband were my salvation. I lived with them for two years. I finally had a good understanding of what a loving and functional family is like, and how much I wanted and needed one. I wanted the loving relationships I saw my aunt, uncle, and cousins had for each other. No, they were not perfect people, but in my eyes there were no better people on the earth. I am sure it was more difficult than I realized back then on the entire family and my cousins may have suffered the most as they suddenly had to share their parents, who were on a pretty high pedestal with me.

The day of the visit finally came. They were stopping by on their way home from a wedding: their oldest daughter's daughter was married a week before. There had been much in preparations and knowing them as I do, I knew my aunt and uncle would be helping as much as they could. My uncle had also just weeks before had his gall bladder removed and still had not fully recovered from that. He was not quite as talkative as he usually is, but he did seem more rested and himself the last day. I suspected they both would need to rest quite a bit during their visit with us and so made no plans to do anything or go out anywhere. We found out that they had been doing so much riding around in a car for the past couple of weeks that they were happy not to do any at all while they stayed with us.

They came in by plane on Monday to Atlanta, our second largest airport in the U.S. We asked them to be sure not to try to walk it and they were escorted with my aunt in a wheelchair out to the pick up area—only their escort took them to the ticketing area instead of through baggage where we were, because they had no baggage except their carry-on. Well, the meet-up was awkward, but thanks to cell phones we found them.

We had delayed having our Thanksgiving dinner until the day after they arrived. All the time they were here, we had wonderful talks and they played with the Princess. They were quite tired and they napped when they needed to do so. My daughter, since she was just a toddler, has always been very considerate about letting people sleep during the day, playing on her own quietly without me having to tell her. Of course, as soon as one awakes she is back to her energetic and talkative self.

They left on Thursday morning, all too soon for me. They are are well into their seventies and still caring for and milking goats daily—even when I was younger they wore me out just trying to keep up with them! My aunt thanked us for our hospitality, which ironically I probably would not have learned if not for them.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for my aunt and uncle. For giving me time with them, for all that they have taught me and the little bit that I can give back to them in gratitude. More than that, my Lord, thank you for what you have given to us and that we share it with others. Still, I am ashamed that what I do in my gratitude is pitifully little. ~

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Holiday Kick-Off Recital

Without music, life would be an error. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The Princess was well prepared for the Holiday Kick Off recital. She played a Baroque piece in 2/2 time called "Fantasia" and a Christmas song, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." She did not do her absolute best. In fact, it was one of the worst performances she has ever done.

She was probably distracted by a boy who visited the bathroom and was not that quiet in doing so. The angle of the piano was so that the pianists faced the bathrooms and I watched her eyes twice divert from her music; when the boy went in and when he came out. She did fine during the noise and did not have a problem until a measure or two later, but it was definitely related.

At one point she played a wrong note a few times trying to get it right and then stopped for a just a few seconds—what seems like too many minutes to a mother watching her daughter struggle. She then backed up about two measures, a good starting point, and played it through as it was meant to be played. Mistakes do not frazzle her at all—she is a true performer. She does not get shaky like so many of the children tend to do nor does she show frustration. I am always proud of her, but this day I was proud of her because of her showmanship.

The Princess played the same songs for our church service a week later without any mistakes other than a bit of a shift in the timing, mostly because she started out playing one of them a bit faster than she should have. I don't think anyone really noticed besides myself.

I usually don't compare my child with another but I have to say that recitals are eye-opening as to how advanced she really is. The boy who was about a year older than she is and started six months before her was playing songs similar to ones she had played over eighteen months ago. However, he also has other talents that were put to use as part of the program that day. He was the comic relief doing cute "commercials" written by Miss Trudy, one sponsored by Miss Trudy's dog. The boy enjoys the limelight and was referred by the emcee as Mr. Personality.

I suppose there are no breaks when a child reaches this level in piano, or so it seems. We have picked out one of the two classical pieces the Princess will begin working on for judging in March and the spring recital in April. This will be the first time she has been judged so I am looking forward to seeing how she will do. The piece picked for her is doable, but purposely meant to be difficult. She amazes me how well she reads music now, but then she has had 4½ years of lessons.

~ My Lord, thank you for the gift of music and for this musically-gifted soul you have given to me. ~

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Christmas Tree Shopping

He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree. ~ Roy L. Smith

I really don't know how we manage to do this every year, but we seem to have this uncanny ability to pick the very coldest day after Thanksgiving to go shopping for a Christmas tree. This year was no exception and was one of the coldest.

We have gotten a tree most years from a place on a corner lot. They are nice people and the Princess loves to warm by the fire while sipping their free hot spiced cider, but they don't have the selection they once did. They used to carry at least three or more different species, one being our absolute favorite: the Noble Fir. My husband eyed this Frazer Fir, but had heard of Nobles being available at a well-known nursery just a few miles further.

We got our very first Noble when we lived in Florida and have been hooked on them every since. Grown in the Northwestern United States, Nobles have a beautiful, almost spruce like appearance, with soft blue-green needles on strong branches that are spaced well, almost as if in layers giving a lacy appearance, perfect for heavy and larger ornaments as well as the most delicate being displayed without much trimming needed. Nobles hold onto their needles well, in fact, they rarely shed their needles at all, and have a lighter, somewhat citrus scent. They also are slow growing and have very thick trunks, that peek through the spaces between the branches. Honestly, they just have the perfect traditional Christmas tree appearance. All of which makes them a bit higher priced than the more common Frazer Firs and Douglas Firs.

A few years ago Nobles were scarce. Retailers that had any were much higher in price than they ever had been and we were told that we would probably not see any Nobles for at least five years. Apparently, a drought had affected them profoundly. Then the people, from whom we usually bought our trees, just did not offer them at all anymore and we had been getting Frazer Firs from them for some years. It saddened us not to buy from them this year, particularly the Princess since we have been customers ever since she was born and we are rather a loyal bunch, but this year we decided we would prefer a Noble, if we could find one.

And, found one we did. The selection was limited, but we happened upon a beauty reasonably price. It was much bushier than they usually are and we have to do far more trimming than we have even done on any of the ones we have had in the past, but seeing glimpses of the trunk through the branches made it worthwhile. The base of the trunk just fit our stand. All is well. We brought it in that evening, which is odd for us, but with my aunt and uncle coming, we wanted the tree set up should we decide to begin decorating it before or while they are here. We have a tradition of enjoying the tree in its natural state for about one day and then with lights only for up to a week before we put on the ornaments.

Before we left on our tree hunt, we went out for dinner at Steak and Shake (with coupons in hand). We shared one each of their limited-time specialty shakes: White Chocolate and Peppermint Chocolate Chip. Of course, the Princess loves putting together the cardboard cars with all those fancy stickers. Nothing like a cold milkshake to get you really chilled on the inside before going out in the cold! What were we thinking?

~ Thank you, my Lord, for reminding me that every penny spent on Christmas frivolity is still income to people who count on it at this time of year and cannot possibly be measured when compared to the delight it brings to even just one child. ~

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pretty Pink

The very pink of perfection. ~ Oliver Goldsmith

Did I say the Princess' bedroom was pink? It is so pink that it glows into the hallway!!!

I am not done with it, but done enough she will be sleeping in her own bed again. I finally found a new very light pink ruffled bed skirt, although I would have preferred a deeper tone; a skirt was a necessity to hide the trundle. The sheets have a nice tiny rose print and actually fit her mattress because they have deep pockets and we have a memory foam topper on her bed. They were a bit pricey, but I like having better sheets. I went to Ross and found a off-white cotton blanket for $10 and a plush blanket in a dusty rose for $13, saving about $25 on those, so those with the sheets were within my budget. We are using the summer quilt I found for her a few years ago. Although I like changing between winter and summer quilts usually, we have nothing that matches the new pink décor and nothing much left in the budget for it, so the summer one will have to do for now.

I am having more problems with the windows. I made the last drapes myself and I am trying to avoid that, but everything even close to what I have found ends up about $100 more than I planned so....for now she has just the mini blinds.

The mural will not be done until after Christmas. In fact, I am thinking of not painting it on the wall at all. My husband services machines that can print huge things on any kind of medium and they also have a machine to cut it out. Very Cool Stuff! So, I am thinking of doing the graphics on the computer and having the demo room techs do it. That way it will be removal without having to repaint the entire wall. I do like the Celtic knot design in every corner that was done in a gold stencil. It shines nicely in the light, although it looks nearly brown otherwise.

I also have decided that we need a pin up board of some sort so that she can put her artwork up on it, instead of scattered throughout the room. It will still not be enough since she draws, colors or paints every day.

I have repainted the bookshelves, which I did not want to do, but found necessary after removing everything from the shelves. For unknown reasons, the paint just did not stick to the furniture piece well even though I used a primer that makes paint stick to just about anything. Whenever something was set on the shelves and picked up it took some paint with it or the bottoms of the old canvas covered books stuck into it and left part of the book on the shelf. So...this time I waxed the shelves after I painted them and it seems to have worked on the test piece, at least.

Then, it was deciding on the books. Of course, that is not a small task as I am looking over some of the books too easy for her, which she probably does not want to give up, and she has sooooo many books. Her grandmother bought her boxes of Weekly Readers and I have been given boxes of freebies from a former homeschooling family nearby and I have bought a few out of print book sets on Ebay a few years ago.

Problem: I have as many (or more) emotional attachments to many of those early readers. First, I read many of them to her from the time she was still an infant and when she was four, she began reading some of them to me. All those hours of holding her in my lap and turning pages with expectation and giggles. Reading books over and over again until we both had them memorized. I would remind myself that when she had picked a book for me to read for the 536th time that one day she would be reading on her own and these precious moments would be memories that I would never recapture. Now I am there....Now the books that I would have briefly hidden away for relief are now the ones with which I cannot part. They are so dear to my heart.

Solution: I had to find a ruthless way to determine which books would be challenging for her to keep on her shelves, so I was happy to find the AR Book Finder so I could type in the name of the book and see its ATOS Readability Formula and Interest Level without even opening the book and getting all emotionally caught up in those pages. I am keeping all books having a ATOS level of 4.0 and up, with the exception of certain sets of books which are borderline. Then I have two of stacks at least two feet high each. One stack are ones I which to keep and the other those that can go. Yes, it was time consuming, but actually it took less time to do it that way than trying to make the decision on my own.

We have added a collection of horses over the last year, so I am trying to quietly remove some of the excess of things and stuffed animals, but it is really difficult with an only child who sees every one of them as her personal friend. She has different favorites being carried around with her every few days. When she was a toddler still in the crib, she would take an inventory of every one that we allowed in the bed with her and if one was missing she would begin to cry. We had to regulate who and how many because once they were in the bed for just one night, she wanted them there every night thereafter. We could not find one of her latest friends once and it took her three weeks before she could sleep without crying over that one; we finally found it when we changed over from the crib to a toddler bed.

Anyway, now I am in the process of moving the rest of the Princess' stuff from out of the guest room either to go into her room or in one of three bags/boxes for trash, charity, or a yard sale in preparation of a 3-day visit from my aunt and uncle. They are coming in on the Monday after Thanksgiving so we will be waiting to have Thanksgiving with them.

~ My Lord, You watch us grow and delight in giving us gifts along the way as our Loving Parent. How difficult it must be for You who fathered us having similar memories when we think put things away thinking we don't need you, when we begin to make decisions without asking for your permission or advice. It was not until I became a parent that I realized how heartbreaking it must be for You to be rejected in that way. I wish I could only be pleasing to You and give you fond memories of us being together. ~

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Apple Country in Autumn

Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all. ~Stanley Horowitz

It has become a tradition to take a trip to the apple country in northern Georgia. This year we went a little too late to see the greatest splendor of autumn in the mountains, but it was still beautiful. Autumn just is beautiful.

We always visit this small scenic rest stop on the way. This place beckons us with an abundance of playful leaves and trees pleading to climbed by a giggling child. There is nothing there but a few picnic tables, a monument, and the view.

Then we travel further north for just a few minutes towards a town with a funny little name, Ellijay. We stop at a place called Panorama Orchards with its old country charm. Since we went on a weekday this time, it is not as busy and it took less time to look around. We purchased apple sour dough bread, cider, blueberry rock candy (which the Princess tightly holds in her hand until after lunch) and a few pecks of apples of three varieties to make apple pies and applesauce.

Afterward we went on to Fort Mountain State Park. We did not go up to the fort this time, but decided on the playground and picnic area near the lake. There was no one around as it was a school day, just one of the perks of homeschooling, although the Princess would have enjoyed playing with some children at the playground. Usually we run into a homeschooling family or two at this park, but not this time so we improvised. I have to say that it is difficult to keep the camera still when the dog's leash is around my arm and she is interested in testing the boundaries while I am recording!

For lunch, we had crackers with cheese and, of course, apples, then we explored a bit. We stopped at another scenic view spot on the mountain where I took pictures and was intrigued how the hills looked striped with evergreens among the few colored leaves left on bare branches of the deciduous trees.

Autumn is really a wonderful illustration of life. I know that science explains that the chlorophyll is lost so the leaves turn to the colors they would be without this green pigmenting chemical. Sometimes I wonder if knowing how it works takes away from the exquisiteness of autumn. To me, autumn displays the essence of the spiritual life. While the leaves become vibrant, the tree is stripped of its dressing and stands exposed until it is adorn in its new life. We are here to love the Lord, to grow in our faith, to be the radiance of His glory, and in so doing, die to ourselves exposing who we really are so we can be adorned in the Kingdom of my Lord.

Autumn is just truly beautiful.

~ My Lord, thank you for autumn with its colorful lesson about the purpose of life. ~

Monday, November 9, 2009

Full of Laughters

I am full of laughters. ~ The Princess

Whenever something really tickled her funny bone, my daughter would say she was "full of laughters." The phrase has stuck.

Today while we were traveling in the van, we played a word game: Mad Libs on the Road. First, it asks for a list of words based on the parts of speech and then someone writes the words from the list into a story.

One sentence went like this: You will tackle difficult (plural noun) with (adjective) skill and the confidence of a much older (noun).

Now the thing is you don't know the story when you select the words. You are just asked to list nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and so on. Sometimes the sentences make some sense, sometimes they seem silly, and sometimes they are just beyond hilarious.

This one sentence was the winner for our favorite of the day:

You are admired by your fellow diapers for your ability to ignite under quiet pressure.

Think about it....

 Are you full of laughters yet?

~ Thank you, my Lord, for the gift of laughter. ~

Friday, November 6, 2009

Behind the Scenes of the Church Website

The power of a website comes from the people using it, not the people making it.
~ Chris Edwards

I volunteered to design our church website. There are times I know that I can do something, but I don't know how I will do it. First, let me just say that I truly like designing websites. Well, I probably like the designing of the graphics and layout the most, but it is those little bits of code that make it all work that is the most tedious and challenging part for me.

This all started in 1995, many upon many generations ago in cyberspace, when I designed my first webpage—and I write "webpage" because that is exactly what it was: one long page that you had to scroll down to get to all the information. Back then it was just as expensive to host one webpage as it is to have an entire complex website now, and while you could do some fancy stuff, it was wiser not to because everyone was on dial-up and your website could take several minutes to load. Yes, the Internet certainly has changed and I have done a few websites since that first one, each one more complex than its predecessor.

Now, to make that one page, I first had to learn HTML (hypertext markup language) code, that is the foundation that makes the invisible but necessary formatting of the webpage for those you who are using only WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) composers that are so popular now. HTML code is still necessary to know and is used on most sites, although you don't see it. I still use the "Edit HTML" option the most when writing my blog, because I am used to viewing codes. Oh, and, besides HTML there are several other codes now!

All these codes mean more versatility and complexity. I like more versatility, but the complexity is a bit overwhelming at times. I am not going to bore you with examples and details, but let me just say that the rules that make a code work are rather finite and unforgiving. If you don't do what you are supposed to do, then it does not work like it is supposed to work. If you don't know what I am writing about, be thankful that the technology has advanced to give you the option of WYSIWYG, so you don't have to know.

That being said, a church website can be done in the old fashion way: a simple HTML website. With a few enhancements using CSS (cascading style sheets), there would be greater simplicity of the webmaster and a bit more versatility in the design. However, that makes it so that any time anything has to be added, removed, or updated it would have to be done by the webmaster. There is good and bad in that. The good side is that there is no one else messing with the code so it is less likely to be messed up and the bad side is that no one else knows how update information on the website should the webmaster be unavailable.

Solution? Content Management Systems (CMS). If you are a blogger like me, you have been using one. You can type up your information, press the submit bottom, and wah-lah!—it appears on the blog itself looking quite professional. You basically are just adding content to a shell program that does all this stuff with codes so you don't have to.

Problem? Setting up this kind of wonderful user-friendly system is the complicated part. I have never set up a CMS before even though I have confidence that I can do it given my past experience. However, there is a learning curve for any of the content management systems, but the one most versatile, of course, has the steepest. The beauty of it is, once it is in place, each department will be able to maintain their own updates. I have some very good ideas in mind, like it would be ideal if there is an update on the site that the information would automatically be emailed to the members instead of having to both separately. This is entirely possible with the right modules in place.

The part I am not sure about is the time factor. I have never done well with deadlines, particularly when I am being creative and trying to make it look and work like professional website should. There are just a myriad of adjustments to make from color to placements to spell checking and testing each change and I usually design some original graphics. My husband, who is on the church board, just mentioned it would be good idea to give an estimated date of completion and am sure I must have looked like a deer caught in headlights!

My mind reels with the holidays being upon us, my aunt and uncle are coming for a visit in a month; I need to finish painting the trim in the living room (not sure if this one will get done or not); we need to move the Princess back into her room and get the stuff from her room out of four other rooms; my whole house needs cleaned and decorated for that family visit; my daughter has a piano recital; she and I need haircuts; the piano needs tuned; I need to meet with another (this will be the fourth one) roofer to give us an estimate on our hail-damaged roof so that I can take that information to the Georgia Insurance Claims Department so our soon to be ex-insurance company will have to justify why my roof does not have hail damage when every house in my neighborhood does (a rant for another time, perhaps); baking holiday treats to give as presents; and still homeschooling along the way; an article due in a month; and now the church website....when will it be done?

All I can say is that I am working on it, even though no one can see what I am doing. I am going through that learning curve for this CMS stuff, but for now it is like one giant jigsaw puzzle to me. Eventually, the pieces will all fit together in place...eventually.

~ My Lord, guide me so that I keep Your priorities in my life and help me create the website my church needs. ~

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Are We Standing Firm?

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
~ Ephesians 6:12-13 (NASB)

My friend, Ganeida, wrote her thoughts on Halloween here and I have been contemplating the wide range of views from Christians on Halloween in addition to some of things we covered during our Sunday night study when we talked about what Nazarenes believe—Halloween is inconveniently not addressed at all in the manual, but it is a rather common practice for the churches to have a fall festival or "trunk and treat."

I would be the first to say that it matters more to the Lord what is in the heart of a person. I believe that, absolutely, without any reservation. Yet, there are times when I feel my spirit turns faster than my body possibly could. At times, something within me homes in on the spiritual realm, a state I often find quite disconcerting. Yes, upon occasion, I have detected demons within people and angels nearby as well. It is a sixth sense, some might say, but I say it is the Holy Spirit. I used to think every Christian had things like this happen to them, but the truth is the discernment of spirits, that is knowing what is demonic, angelic, or just human, is a rare gift. There are times I just seem to know when Christians have made decisions based on their understanding of the Holy Bible instead of being directly guided by the Lord. If our understanding of the Bible were enough to really know my Lord and His desires, we would not have so many different sects in Christianity. My Lord always meets us where we are, thankfully; He must for we rarely shed what comforts us to meet Him.

We pick a religion based on our ability to agree with its doctrine. We pick our place of worship if we like the people who go there and for its convenience, which truly is an important factor because it is difficult to be involved if the church is located too far away. We become involved with a church depending on the ministries it offers and how it ministers to us. We do all this based on what is pleasing to us and because my Lord meets us wherever we are.

I am going about this the long way around to say that as people we want it all. We want God to give us favor, but also not give up anything to which we have worldly attachments, even if those attachments are what keep us from what God desires and blessings He is waiting for us to be prepared to receive. I see this in many people surrounding Halloween. People want their children to not miss out on the fun of Halloween, perhaps because they have fond memories of it. Perhaps they were not raised in Christian families. Perhaps they were but their family did not see the harm. If their neighbors are going trick or treating, why can't their children as long as they do not wear scary costumes? It is just for fun. There is no harm in it. It is so far removed from its origins that it does not make any difference. Even if we are walking on the same street as other people dressed as witches, warlocks, fortune-tellers, zombies, devils, prostitutes, monsters, etc., certainly God would not be displeased if my child goes trick or treating in a cute, cuddly teddy bear costume...? Some Christians use the opportunity to hand out tracks or other Christian trinkets so the message gets out, but many have given up on that because it justifies the trickery.

Yes, Jesus went out among the sinners, but...He did not imitate them and He had a God-directed purpose for doing so, a mission. He had a message of God's love to deliver. He was preparing them for God's kingdom. He was out there meeting the people where they were to help them understand God's desire for them, to be with Him in His kingdom, to not focus on the worldly things. Have we set our face away from my Lord so much that we think Jesus would be out there trick or treating too? Are we not suppose to be like Jesus? I think if Jesus went out on Halloween, it would be the same message He has always given to draw us back to the Lord.

The Christians who celebrate Halloween obviously do not see it as a spiritual hook for their unsuspecting guppies. Each generation becoming more desensitized to the spiritual battles. Halloween is just bait. How can we trust our ability to discern between the spirits at any other time if we cannot see the subtle influences seeping into Christianity from trick or treating. Are we so "civilized" that we do not see the workings of spirits? Have we diluted what is spiritual to a lukewarm state thinking we are righteous in whatever we do as long as we bear the name Christian? Why is it that Christians coming from other countries are dismayed by how un-Christian we seem to be here in the states? Believe it or not, I have met a few with a calling to be missionaries here in the U.S. and their mission field is Christian churches! How is it that our missionaries can go to their countries tell them to shed customs and traditions stemming from ancient religions so ingrained in their own culture, which do not glorify the Lord, while we are trick or treating here? I can almost see demons dancing in the hypocrisy.

~ My Lord, thank you for meeting me where I am and for revealing Your kingdom to me as undeserving I am. I pray, my Lord, that all Your children will see the workings of the spirits, both good and evil, for what they are and walk in Yours ways with aching from the comforts of this world. May our desire be only to please You.~

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

All Week Long

A vacation is like love - anticipated with pleasure, experienced with discomfort, and remembered with nostalgia. ~ Author Unknown

This weekend was filled with activity. Friday night we had a meet-and-greet dinner at church with a prospective pastor and his wife. They traveled from Pennsylvania and want to move here closer to their family. He is used to a small congregation and would like to continue to be full-time. His wife would like to find as good as a full time job as she has now and they need to sell their home and buy another. It was a very nice evening and I am anxious to see what God will do to work out all the details if this is one He has chosen for us.

Saturday, we had a H-4 fundraiser, which did not do well. It was rather cold and we were there from just before noon to three o'clock.

Sunday was church service in the morning and Trunk-and-Treat that evening. Now before there are any misunderstandings, I still feel the same about anything to do with Halloween, as I wrote in October's Thorn, so I admittedly have conflicted feelings on participating in this version promoted by my church, however it is not on the day of Halloween itself, which probably is just a rationalization. Another would be, I let my daughter dress up and paint her face about anytime we want so that is not very different. Going from the back of one car to another, hmm, not sure I can rationalize that one except that the people who were there had come for the event so it was more like a theme party, rather than begging for candy from house to house. There were no scary costumes...but I did notice some of the decorations did have elements of the typical spooky or creepier Halloween theme than just an autumn, harvest, or fun one. That part just seems to sneak in, which makes wonder if we will do it again.

My husband decided to decorate the back of our van with an "All God's Creatures" theme and he only used a small sampling of the Princess' stuffed friends!

You see, I was not kidding when I said we had a Noah's Ark theme in her room for the last nine years.

The Princess dressed as...(Can you guess it?)...a princess. It went pretty well as it was not at cold as the day before. Besides candy being given to the children, we also had grilled hot dogs—thankfully, some protein to help balance the sugar.

After seeing the vast improvement in the Princess' attitude last week, I decided that I could take this week off from homeschooling to do the finishing touches on the Princess's bedroom. Hearing that she would be doing no lessons except piano, of course, the Princess was elated! However, even though she did not have much candy, Monday morning she complained of her tummy aching. She was a bit better after eating, but throughout the day off and on she would lie around. After a big disappointment that the cover of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang that we purchased at a consignment sale for $1 actually housed a tape of some TV soap shows inside, she chose to watch Babe in the Big City and then Babe—backwards, I know, but she was not feeling well so I indulged.

Last night the tummy ache was worse so I used more aggressive health treatments and she finally was relieved enough to sleep, but she was awake at five o'clock this morning again with her stomach hurting. I again gave her a treatment and she fell back to sleep. I suspect she will rise late this morning and I may have to do some cuddling with her and a book.

My husband is scheduled to work within a few hours' drive and should, should, be home in the evenings if all goes well. He was here last night at least. This is a nice change.

I have made a Celtic knot stencil design for the corners of the Princess' bedroom, but have not decided on the color, although I am leaning towards gold to pull in the colors in the ceiling fan and another furniture piece, which concerned me would not compliment the pink well alone. Hopefully, the Princess will agree, although that can be more iffy when she is not feeling well.

So...with all these unplanned developments that seem to be so routine here—the very reason why I don't do much planning—maybe I will get the painting done during this week as I hoped, maybe!

~ My Lord, please heal my daughter. ~

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Morning in the Dark

All humans realize they are loved when witnessing the dawn; early morning is the truimph of good over evil. Absolved by light we decide to go on. ~ Rufus Wainwright

I wake most mornings in darkness, not because I must but just because I most always have. I like the quiet solitude of the early morning before everyone else is up and with their conversation and noise making. It is not that I need time to wake up. No, my mind is active immediately when I realize consciousness. I have a rather active mind with many thoughts flooding in before my eyelids have unveiled my whereabouts. Within mere minutes I am up and out of bed, compelled by an urge that I cannot name, but that has been with me since I can remember.

In the dark of the morning is illumination.
In the quiet of the morning is beginning.
In the dream of the morning is awakening.

There is nothing so awe-inspiring as the dawning of an autumn day. For most of my life I have thought that every colorful sunrise I witnessed was a magnificent display of my Lord's artwork. I often wondered if He did it just for me; if anyone else really appreciated it; if it gave anyone, besides me, a better perspective of how small and helpless we all really are and loved by He who has the power to extinguish all life in a breath and, in spite of everything, chooses to grant us one more day of living.

The science of the sunrise is amazing in itself, although I prefer a description laced with a bit of mysticism. Think about it! Small droplets of water suspended in the air dense enough to form clouds of seemingly nothingness have the most powerful source of energy in our solar system radiating another form of nothingness called light on to them creating colorful shapes in the sky which change moment to moment with air flows, another force of seemingly nothingness, and the ever-changing angle of the sun briefly lasting while perceiver's line of sight is just right and is gone, just gone. It is nothingness. There will never be a canvas like it ever again. If ever there was something that shouts in silence of the nothingness, "God is here," this is it.

God is here....awaken.

~ Thank you, my Lord, for another autumn sunrise and for being here when I wake. ~

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stopping the Morning Insanity

Insanity is doing the same thing in the same way and expecting a different outcome.
~ Old Chinese Proverb

We have always started our day with breakfast, brushing teeth and hair, maybe a simple chore and then...piano. For the first three years since the Princess began piano lessons, we did the daily practice together, after all she had only just turned four years old when we began. We used a cute program called "Music for Little Mozarts." It was a fun time for us most mornings and eased us into the remainder of the day's lessons. Such sweet memories!

Even back then I rearranged the order of what lessons followed and even mixed them up from one day to the next, because random presentation works best with my daughter's learning style. However, piano has remained the first thing each morning for 4½ years and I am helping less than I did in the first years, but still supervising. Miss Trudy, her piano teacher, had been stressing that she needed to count for herself as the Princess' eighth birthday approached, just over six months ago. I also agreed it was time for her to be more self reliant and working on timing without as much help, although I do still help with that particularly when she is preparing a piece to be performed, so she can meet the deadline totally prepared.

However, I have a daughter who sees everything quite black and white, like the piano keys themselves. If her teacher tells her that I should not have to help her anymore...well, then she doesn't want me to help at all. (She is so much like I was!) So I would give her about 20-30 minutes to practice on her own, listening from a distance so that I knew where the trouble spots are and then I would help her identify the difficulty and smooth it out, planning for it to take just 15 minutes. Uh-oh! That means I am helping her and she would inform me, with authority, "Miss Trudy said I have to do it on my own," and then not cooperate with me at all.

Now Miss Trudy and I were friends before this little one was even a consideration, so that divide-and-conquer tactic is not going to work here with us. I have even called Miss Trudy a time or two to squash the argument so that my daughter would realize this. However, that did not stop her from dropping her hands from the piano and just sit there not practicing while I am sitting on the bench next to her. That quiet defiance! Those well thought out arguments with good use of logic and knowledge, but lacking of wisdom! That attitude! Yes, I remember being just like that and probably worse at her age. In some ways, it makes me laugh inside because it reminds me of me and in other ways it makes me sad because it reminds me that our relationship is changing as she is becoming more independent of me and most days it just frustrates me, although the mildness of that term only fits on the good days.

More days than not have become a struggle at the piano, so instead of spending 45-60 minutes, it becomes much longer and then followed by math, not her favorite subject, when we already have gotten off on the wrong foot. Most mornings are filled up with just piano and math alone squeezed in between the attitude adjustments that never really seem to solve the problem because it starts again in some varied degree the very next day. Every day we both braced ourselves as we went from breakfast with its hugs and kisses and conversation into the daily morning drama with the pouty face and crossed arms to end later in the day with apologies just before "can I go out and play now?"

On the mornings I did not help her with piano, we had much less drama and navigated the rest of her lessons more easily, but then she really was not pushing herself to get ready by the deadline for a performance. I also felt if piano was done later in the day that it would be given only a halfhearted effort by the both of us. Having prayed about this, how I don't want my daughter to push away from me in a manner that we might both regret should it continue, I think my Lord whispered the solution into my heart. She would practice on her own for a half an hour in the morning and then at the end of her lessons she runs through everything a few times working on the trouble spots usually for about 20 minutes in the afternoon, before she would go out to play, her big motivation for having absolutely no attitude while I help her.

We have tried this out the last two days and the difference is remarkable! We again have peaceful mornings with closeness. Even math is goes along more easily because I am not frustrated before we begin it, which was really concerning me as I used to tutor math and I know I have always enjoyed teaching it even with seriously struggling students.

This all goes to prove that my Lord has some pretty good advice He readily gives. Kind of makes me wonder why I don't ask for it more often.

~ My Lord, thank you for again opening my eyes to my quiet defiance, to my arguments, to my attitude of wanting to do it all my way without Your help. Thank you for showing me through this experience that You have a better plan for my daughter and for me than I could ever possibly have for either one of us. ~

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thank You for the Award, Ganeida!

Awards become corroded, friends gather no dust. ~ Jesse Owens

Besides not posting on my own blog, I have not been reading any other blogs lately either. Imagine my embarrassment when after a couple of weeks I finally popped in on Ganeida's blog to find that I had been given an award.

Award Rules:

1. Thank the person who gave this to you!
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link the person who nominated you.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that no one would really know.
5. Nominate 7 other bloggers & let them know they are nominated. Nominating is good.

Okay, here it goes:

1. See title.


3. Ganeida's Knots

4. Seven things about myself, eh?

  • I like doing jigsaw puzzles of Charles Wysocki's artwork.

  • I don't have the time (or space) to do jigsaw puzzles.

  • My favorite Christian author is Dallas Willard, but I tend to never finish his books just restart them over and over.

  • I wear rose-colored sunglasses, not only because bright sunlight makes my eyes water, but because I like how the rose tint makes all colors more vibrant.

  • I am puzzled about all the white hairs I keep finding because I still see a blond when I look in the mirror. Perhaps it is a residual effect from the rose-colored sun glasses?

  • For the first time in my life we have a dog, a Schutzhund trained German Shepherd (GSD), who is more my dog than my husband's, but the downside she warns anyone who comes near me--anyone, including my husband and my daughter.

  • I also have a cat who thinks he owns me, has outlived another cat and two dogs, is probably planning the demise of this GSD so as to outlive her also, and hates anyone to have attention from me but him so he does not think much of my husband or child either.

  • I love having beautiful gardens, but you would never know it looking at the ones I have right now.

5. Now for the last, I really don't know seven other bloggers since I am fairly new to it and I really don't have the time of late to read much or go blog-hopping to find ones I like, but I truly appreciate the thought, so if you are a blogger who happens by, please leave a comment and so I can get to know you too.

~ My Lord, thank you for those things that make each one of us unique and interesting. ~

October's Thorn

Other holidays have become less important. Halloween is the exception. It has become more important. ~ Howard Davidowitz

I have come to dread October. It really saddens me because autumn is my favorite time of year with all its colors and cooling breezes, but with it comes one holiday that I detest—a word I rarely use so when I do it is easily recognized that I really mean it.

For over a month, most movies featured on TV are horror films and I don't mean those old black and white films that became classics, but truly terrifying scenes in full color with blood and special effects that make them all too real. They would give me nightmares even today and I have no interest in watching them at all.

Our new next door neighbors began decorating for Halloween within days of moving in at the end of September. Even while they still have things to unpack from moving boxes in the garage, every front window is covered with a variety of ghosts, witches, and other Halloween decorations, lights glowing on the porch at nights, and tombstones in a fake graveyard. The boy thinks it is weird that we do not celebrate Halloween, just one more thing in a list of what he thinks is weird about us.

It all seems so innocence, even secular, to most people, including many of my fellow Christians, who have chosen to see it as just a fun dress up and candy holiday; I am not condemning their customs or beliefs. A few pagan acquaintances, particularly those of honoring Celtic gods, are quick to remind me of how many pagan symbols Christians have adopted into our own holidays and religions customs and there are many. Yet, there is no one holiday like Halloween, when scary, evil, and occult attributes are celebrated, or at least imitated, so openly and widely. I did not really like it that much when I was a child, as it just seemed to me that big kids found it fun and allowable to scare little kids or do mischievous things to people's houses.

While my husband points out to the Princess that it is going to neighbors to beg for candy, even the cute saying of "trick or treat" is actually a threat, something a child does not need to learn as appropriate to say even if he has no thought to follow through with mischief. It has also been a dangerous holiday. I lived in a city where trick-or-treating was banned for two years because so many children were being hurt by the "treats"—the trick was in the treat. Sick people.

I appreciate that Catholic church tried to create a Christian alternative to pagan celebrations by moving All Saint's Day from May 13 to November 1, hence the name Hallowe'en (All Hallow's Eve). Still, this holiday really does no honor to my Lord as I see it and for that reason we have chosen not to celebrate Halloween at all.

That being said, the older my daughter gets, the harder it is for her not to want to participate. Yesterday the Princess and her daddy went to help with the 4-H horse ride and games at the Haunted Junkyard during the early afternoon when the Halloween activities are not of a scary nature—not that this makes it more acceptable to me, but it is a compromise that seems to work, since my daughter is of the age to understand the difference and she loves being with the horses. Next weekend we have a choice to help there or at another location, a store called the Tractor Supply Co. The latter is my choice.

Next weekend among a number of other activities, my church is having a "Trunk and Treat," which is a poor play on words really, but the term seems to have stuck. The children can dress up and "beg for candy" from the trunk of each car. (I am describing this for my friends who are in other countries possibly shaking their heads in wonder as I imagine I might do myself if I did not live here to see it.) This is the first time we will be participating, and there will be other activities and food as well.

However, that does not change the fact that on October 31st costumed children will be knocking on our door, even though we leave our porch lights off and close the drapes. Even though we have never given out candy since we have lived here, they still stomp on our porch to knock as the dog barks. Little eyes try looking into the windows, as if this yearly ritual gives them the right to invade your privacy (which is why we now draw the drapes), and we try to ignore them hoping that they will not be the type of children to do tricks, as some do. We do not answer the door because once the door opens, there is a deluge of children thinking you gave some candy away even as the other children walk away saying we are not giving candy.

There is no other time we will see most of these children. Some are even dropped off in our neighborhood by van loads and do not even live here. They run quickly through the neighborhood and then pile into the van to go to the next one. Every child gets more candy than he should eat in a year!

I know. I sound like the Halloween Scrooge. I did warn you that I detest this holiday, didn't I?

~ My Lord, please keep the children safe and unafraid this coming Halloween. Next weekend may our church have a good number of children, who will learn about You. ~

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Whatever is Worthy

For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them]. ~ Philippians 4:8 (Amplified Bible)

I am again considering the person I want to be and how I am not that person. I want a simpler life. I want to be spending more of my time playing games with my daughter (besides doing lessons), working out, reading, writing, practicing music, creating artwork, doing needlework, studying the Bible, praying,...actually, I want to do all the things that make me feel drawn to my Lord. I want to walk with Him every day and in everything I do. That is what I want...or I think I want, but I rarely do, so I really don't want it, at least not enough.

Sorry, kid. You got the gift, but it looks like you're waiting for something. ~ Oracle (The Matrix)

I have been considering for what I am waiting and why I resist doing the things I really believe in my heart is the "real" me. I think television is one of my crutches (with the second being the computer). I enjoy sci-fi and with all the special effects they can do now, I relish it even more. So, is that who I am? A sci-fi technie or an artist? Can I really be both? Not that sci-fi is bad of itself, but it seems to drawn my mind away from my Lord, from the here and now, from quiet creative pursuits so that my mind is free to converse with my Lord.

This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. ~ Yoda in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

I feel I am never really "in the moment," but always looking beyond it or trying to escape from it and yet in each moment is my Lord.

I must confess that once the TV is on, it stays on until everyone is in bed, and it rarely is on before 4:00 PM, unless I am sick and cannot do lessons. We pretty much stick to just certain shows and we do not watch mindless sitcoms, talk shows, or soap operas. We do watch educational shows but not all the time and even though we are selective even many of the recreational shows we watch have elements that are not worthy to be in our thoughts.

When I am craving foods I should not, I set a time aside for fasting as it breaks that habit. I suppose I need to fast from the TV. In honesty, my daughter is mentally healthier in this respect than I am, as she will watch one show or movie and once it is done, she is off on creative pursuits like drawing or playing or decorating the house for a party she has planned, but I am still sitting there often or leaving it on for background noise—and the only reason I can think of as to why I do that is because I am lonely....No, that is really not it, even though I use that excuse in my own thoughts. It really is something to occupy my mind so that I can escape thinking on the things I should be, on my Lord. I am running away from Him. I have to face that. This is why I am lonely, I think.

TV occupies so much of my time and it is empty. It uses up time that I could be pursuing creative interests and actually producing something worthwhile. Now I can do some needlework while watching, but I then am not really watching it. I am in such a rut. I know in my mind that I am waiting to do things in the future that I could be doing now, but there is always an excuse.

I have thought about turning off the TV service for a few months again; we did that before when money was very tight. Then when we watched a DVD, it was what we chose and when it was over, the TV went off. We have a large number of DVDs of many genres and no commercials! I have to say that the commercials are alarming these days; we usually pause and then fly through them thanks to the DVR set up. It is nice to choose a movie on DVD and not have commercials to worry about. However, our regular DVD player is not working, so we cannot watch a movie or VeggieTales occasionally as a restful treat on a weekend or a raining day, although if we turn off the service for a few months we can use that money saved to buy a new one—something worth considering.

Many of the new and some of the older shows my husband or I would like to see, he can do on the evenings he is away or we can watch them online, as so many are now available to watch through the Internet that we really don't need a TV service, but the downside is that we also would lose access to the educational channels and shows. I suppose it comes down to I just need to regulate myself and cultivate the desire to seek my Lord more.

~ My Lord, I detest being controlled be my own self-imposed addictions. Please give me strength and guidance to become the person You would have me to be and be a good example for my daughter also. ~

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy

Growing old is no more than a bad habit which a busy man has no time to form.
~ Andre Maurois

September was a busy month for me and that is why I have not been adding posts to my blog.

The Princess and I went to four seasonal consignment sales which thankfully were spread out over five weeks this time. Last spring they all were on the same week. I spent over my budget, but this time I found so many nice longer dresses, it was difficult to pass them by. Although the Princess is actually size 7 slim, I bought many in size 8. Of them, most are a bit large, that is, wide in the shoulders, but the Princess doesn't mind. I was hoping to be a seller in two of the consignment sales, but I ended up only doing one. I will be receiving a $135 check in the mail within three weeks, which goes back into the envelop for personal expenses, from which the clothing money came.

My husband and daughter were both sick a few days with a cold-like flu and fever, but if I actually got it, it was so mild that it was just feeling a bit off a few days.

We had an unbelievable amount of rain in just two days time two weeks ago. Something like twelve inches in my county, which caused flash floods and water damage in many houses. These were homes without flood insurance. The Princess became a bit worried about our house when I showed her pictures on the Internet. I explained that we live on a ridge on the second highest elevation in our subdivision. If water gets up this high then there is something terribly wrong with entire the world. I am so glad we did not watch the news channels as she would have been in tears. We had problems finding a route to the airport because many roads were closed on that Monday, but we made it going the long way. The next day the highway was closed as well, so I am glad we did not have to go out that day.

The tent...well, my husband tried to scrub off the old waterproofing, but it did not work out too well, so this past weekend we decided to pack it away for now and work on it in the spring, hopefully. (Yes, it actually has been up in the garage since they camped out the first week of September.)

The Princess was so excited about the first day of autumn and was ready to start wearing long sleeve shirts, but had to change as it still is warm during the days.

I have finished the base coat in the Princess' room and it is now ready to start the decorative painting. The walls have the look of Pepto-Bismol right now, so I am looking forward to doing something more to it to make it look less like something you need to take for an upset stomach. Now that the consignment sales are over, it is my number one priority in our list of projects.

I had my dentist appointment yesterday. As typical of me often not responding to medication as expected, the sedation medication did not work well, however I was quite relaxed. Time did pass quickly for me, but I remember everything which is not typical, they say. I have to go back tomorrow as I found a few rough spots in the filling areas. I am pleased with how my teeth look, but I have concerns with the gums that are not going to be a quick fix.

I have written my article and submitted it before the deadline and I have sent in my monthly attendance records for homeschooling and tonight is a 4-H meeting, so it seems I am all caught up in my calendar--well, my housework is way behind but at least we look good on paper!

And...I did have a birthday tucked in the midst of it all, I think.

~ My Lord, thank you for being with me this past month and for the assistance you have provided for the families who lost so much during the rains. Thank you for one more year that I have been with my husband and daughter, and the blessings you have given us. ~