Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Princess Turns Eight

You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing. What! Is it nothing to be happy? Nothing to skip, play, and run around all day long? Never in his life will he be so busy again. ~Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, 1762

Today is a homeschool holiday. My one and only child is now eight years old—well, technically around 7:30 tonight. I let her sleep in for as long as she wanted this morning--truly rare in my home. Unfortunately for the Princess, we are not actually celebrating until the weekend and we are housebound as my husband is working in town this week (so far), therefore he has the van. There will not be much more I can do to make it a special day today other than suspending lessons and just spending some time doing things together we would not normally do and just letting her play.

We were promised nice weather all day with a bit of warm in the afternoon. I am planning to start working on the garden beds a bit at time, now that we have been having near normal levels of rainfall this year. Today I started with the first one people see by the road, the one around the mailbox which fills up with variegated vinca surrounding a purple clematis on a trellis. Grass has encroached the bed as the last two years of drought stunted the usually vigorous vinca. I would rather have had Black-Eye Susans in that bed as a contrast to the clematis, but it just never really did well there.

The Princess has always enjoyed gardening, but even more so since we read The Secret Garden recently. Beside helping me, the Princess amused herself playing outside dragging out every outside plaything she could find. She talked about how everyone must be wondering why she is just playing outside instead of doing lessons. The post lady certainly knew for the Princess blurted it out as she handed the mail to me.

The Princess also looked for all the bird nests in our trees. A dove has been sitting on her nest in the lowest fork of our cherry tree (not the kind that produces fruit) trying to be invisible by not moving, but so low we cannot help but see her. We heard the neighboring hawk when it got the notion to announce its delight of gliding on the air currents far above, but did not see much of it because of all those leaves on the trees! Spring is not a slow process here. It seems to be a flurry of blossoms starting with the hailing of daffodils in the first week of March and ending with the dogwoods and azaleas in mid April. Then as you look around, you realize that all is dressed as summer has come.

I started out in the cool of the morning, but being that this garden is on the east side, I was in the sunlight--In truth, I was in the sunlight longer than I should have been. We took a break and I made Pina Colada smoothie mid morning, which we slipped on the front porch. While I was making them I noticed that my arms were showing a bit of color and I knew I needed to wrap it up for being outside today soon. So after the smoothie, I finished my work on the the mailbox garden and then we went inside. I asked the Princess to pick a DVD to watch and she picked Honey, I Blew up the Kid.

While she giggled through the movie, I treated myself for sunburn. My arms, as it turns out, were not the worse parts—my knees were really red and really hot. So, I treated first with baby butt cream, our name for diaper rash cream, to get the benefit of zinc oxide. Later I alternated with aloe vera gel and shea cream. Typically, sunburns for me are not painful, unless I have clothing or something directly irritating the area, but the heat with the alternating sweats and chills can get to me!

My husband came home with a bouquet of flowers for the Princess and was kind enough to make dinner, because by that time I was not feeling very well; sun sickness, I think. Afterward, the Princess and he played around in the spa while I stayed inside, out of the sun.

It may sound like the day was not particularly special, but the Princess was excited about her smoothie and playing in the spa and, of course, getting out of lessons, these were the highlights of her day. Oh, she also received an invitation to a friend's birthday party for the weekend after this one, which she talked about for an hour, I think, starting over when her father came home. Obviously, she was really excited about that. Her grandparents called to wish her Happy Birthday while she was in the spa also.

The Princess is so easy to please, really. She told us that all she wanted to do for the day was spend time with her family--her MA (the sound a baby goat makes) family--and that is exactly what we did. (Ever since we stayed with my aunt and uncle three months ago, she has been making goat sounds and calling us that, to the point it is beyond annoying, but like everything else, this phase will pass and I will feel all so sentimental when I think of it someday--but, today, I cannot wait for that day!)

It seems as though it could not have been eight years ago when this child was placed into my arms for the very first time, my Lord. Thank you for this precious soul in my life. Please continue to cultivate me into a better mother according to what You wish me to be. I can always use a weeding out of things encroaching on my garden of relationships and a pruning back of me so that my Master Gardener is glorified.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Holiness and Peace

Holiness, not happiness, is the chief end of man. ~Oswald Chambers

During Sunday School this morning, questions suggesting a relationship between holiness and peace were presented: Can one have peace without holiness? Can one have holiness without peace?

These were not easy questions to answer. Someone brought up that neighbors can live next to each other peacefully without having holiness, which spurred a lively conversation, ironically suggesting that we also could have holiness and not peace. All this was going as I tried to explore my own feelings on the lacking peace.

I really had not considered this relationship before, so I wanted to give it a bit of thought. It just seem to be the "right answer" that the closer to my Lord I am, the more holy I would be and the more peace I should have, but that seemed to be leaving something out. I have noticed a tendency of apathy in some people, who practically worship peace or peaceful co-existence.

My thoughts then turned toward Jesus, who was definitely not apathetic!

Was Jesus peaceful? Certainly, He portrays to most people a peaceful, even passive, nature. However, He was hardly peaceful when he went after the money changers in the temple. In fact, one could say He disturbed the peace, yet He was always holy.

My thoughts are that one can have holiness and spiritual peace with the Lord, but without holiness there cannot be spiritual peace. However, in having holiness, one cannot really have peace with the world. There will be conflict. There will be unrest. As long as there is sin, there will be strife between that which is holy and that which is not.

My Lord, thank you for giving me a place of peace and rest with You. Thank you, also, for my unrest with that which does not glorify You.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Recital Covers

All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. ~Pablo Picasso

My dear friend Trudy relented to my insistence, the feeding of my creative inner child indulgence, so that I could again design the covers for her spring recital. This year the recital is only for the older children, so my Princess will not be performing in this one, but I still wanted to design the covers, actually to prepare the entire program, but she had someone else already lined up to do the program layout.

This particular one had to have a touch of sophistication as it is a formal recital, however I was hoping to add that feeling of spring. I had different designs in mind, but some did not look as impressive in print as they did as graphics on the computer. Then I found a couple of graphics that just hit me and I immediately knew what I wanted to do with them: layering! The design was easy and took very little time using Paint Shop Pro. I sent the layout for approval. So far, so good.

With the designed approved, the color of the paper had to be decided. Trudy wanted a pastel and I was leaning towards green for spring, because a soft green would blend with the half tones and not look too dull, nor pop in contrast, but everything I saw in the solid color pastels was just too bright for what I had in mind. I found a specialty paper that was just what I wanted. Now the real test would be if Trudy liked it. So, with a number printed and folded, I delivered them to Trudy yesterday just before the Princess' piano lesson. She said she liked the color very much. Now to just fold the inner program and correlate while she taught my daughter.

This fever for doing Trudy's programs all started when she asked the Princess to draw a picture for the coffee shop recital last autumn. The coffee shop recital is very casual and artsy. To reflect this, Trudy often asks a student draw something for the cover. We were quite honored that she asked the Princess, because was only seven years old--well, she would correct me here and say "seven and a half."

For whatever reason that I cannot remember now, I ended up doing the program as well, which I found to be interesting with all those last minute changes, but certainly enjoyable! The Princess decided to draw a boy throwing leaves because it was autumn, although the leaves had not yet begun to fall and it was rather warm yet. After I did the layout for the program, I decided that the theme from the cover could be carried on into the program itself and so I asked the Princess to draw leaves throughout the entire thing.

The Pianothon is also a dressy event, but it takes place in a mall at the first part of December when most people are doing their Christmas shopping. Although it is in a less busy area of the mall, it is noisy with people walking by and other distractions.

Christmas music ranged from reverent religious to cute children's songs, so I thought the program would do well with a clean look and just a bit if whimsy. This time I was to do both the cover and program layout, I thought of blue snowflakes on white throughout the program with a very stylish font. Each page was designed so that the snowflakes did not interfere with the information.

Each one has been a joy to do!

My Lord, You are the Ultimate Artist. We could not have music or art if you have not created it first. Thank you for my daughter's talents and for the opportunity to use what You have given to me.~

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Baby Stepping Out of the Clutter

Housework is what a woman does that nobody notices unless she hasn't done it. ~Evan Esar

On my blog entry "The Decluttering of Me," I stated I was determined to work on decluttering my home. I formulated a rough plan to work on it a bit every day. I can get a bit compulsive when I make up my mind to clean up my home, to the point that I will forget or put off all else, becoming completely exhausted.

This time I am determined not to get obsessive about it, because that does not change the habit of allowing it to get the point that it feels overwhelming. My goal is to change some habits. So, with that in mind, I cleaned up the kitchen and the bathrooms over time. I even cleaned the inside of the oven! It is not that amazing that I cleaned--as there is an amazing part to all this--but that in the three weeks since I have kept what I had cleaned in good shape with nice clean surfaces, while beginning to work on other rooms or just small areas a bit at a time and I am not exhausted! My office area is slowly getting decluttered so I feel better about working at my desk. It is working so far.

Previously, I would clean and clean and clean, be exhausted for days, possibly with a back pain flare up so I was unable to maintain it or treat myself by not cleaning and let it all build up again to that overwhelming state. This time I am determined to make a lasting change.

I have to admit that I have been using a crutch: FlyLady. I cannot say that I do it exactly the way suggested, but I find the website to be highly motivating. Now I actually look at those pockets of clutter instead of ignoring them. I now consider how I feel when I look around a room. If something is not making me feel good about what I see, I pick it up to put away or give away or throw away.

I was planning to have a yard sale, although we have found yard sales to do poorly here compared to were we lived in Florida, but our church is having a rummage sale in a couple of weeks to raise money for our building plans. Here is where I struggle with giving...yet again. Unless I have a yard sale this weekend, which of course I did not plan to do, I would not be able to have one before the church has its own. I was hoping sell some things to put that money toward our debt and then give what did not sell to the church, which is in a higher traffic area, however that will not really work now. On the other hand, I cannot possibly go through everything to put in the church rummage sale so it is likely that I will still need to have a yard sale later on. Knowing how poor yard sales do here, they rarely seem worth the effort, but with the change in the economy, it could be different this time.

What to do? I suppose I should pray, as always!

My Lord, I struggle so much with giving, yet I ask You to give even now. Please give me wisdom about knowing when and what to give and peace in doing so.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My Pastor

Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish. ~Esther 4:16

My pastor, bless her, was in the middle of a very good sermon last Sunday. As she weaved the threads of her sermon together, she worked up to an analogy of having several children and loving them all, although they are all so different. This was to make a point, of course, and she was at an intense and serious segment of her sermon. Then she quite unexpectedly asked, "Who could say they have a favorite child?" At this point, I am sure, there was meant to be that ever poignant pregnant pause so we would pondered this profound precept. However, my husband and I turned our eyes toward each other briefly, half in disbelief of such an opportunity, as my hand shot up! Proof we were really listening to the sermon, at least, as the laughter rang out behind us and those in front turned their heads to join in. Having only one, I have the rare privilege of having "a favorite child."

I so enjoy seeing my pastor's smile when she realizes the unexpected response received was in answer to the question as she had phrased it. She is so good-natured. It was obvious that she did not plan to have any comic relief at that point, but she recovered well.

Our pastor is an amazing woman. Even with three children and a husband working second shift and her debilitating illness with hospitalizations, she managed to complete her schooling and is going before the ordination board this week—tomorrow, in fact.

I was not raised in a Christian home originally. In my teenage years, I was a member of my aunt's Baptist church and I well know the arguments against women pastors. Later, my husband and I were led by the Lord to the Church of the Nazarene, which has always ordained women, although all the churches we attended through the years had men pastors, until we changed churches last year. I began changing my mind about men being the only ones called by the Lord to pastor a church when I heard the testaments of a few women pastors, particularly the woman who became pastor of my aunt's church, the one I attended years before. Her story of wrestling with the Lord against becoming a pastor, rather than being a missionary in a foreign land, was most convincing. Who can question such a calling from the Lord?

Esther did not just break tradition, she broke the law! Perhaps a silly law to us now, but certainly one with a serious consequence: penalty of death. Esther was bold, but she first sought the Lord on the matter and asked others to do the same before she did it. Again, I say, when it comes to women being pastors who sought the Lord, fully aware of the prejudice that would be against them, particularly here in the south, who can question such a calling from the Lord?

My Lord, You have been so gracious to our church and our pastor. Please bless her upcoming ordination.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Lisping Phase

The sublimest song to be heard on earth is the lisping of the human soul on the lips of children. ~Victor Hugo

The Princess lost the second front top tooth late Sunday night, when she should have been sleeping because we all had to get to the airport for my husband's early flight and, of course, she was quite tired in the morning so we were destined to have a greater challenge doing the day's lessons,...but let's not go there.

I sometimes miss those wonderful milestones that always delighted me during those infant and toddler years, but there is no going back. Now, the Princess is about to turn eight years old—In just one week, in fact!—and has finally lost the second of those front top teeth, as I did at this age.

I had to overcome a real lisp problem when I was a child and it was not cute, but hers will be a short phase disappearing as the new teeth emerge, and one is peeking out already. I have those same mixed feelings of missing what was and looking forward to what is to be, while trying to savor what is.

Oh, she is so very cute lisping multiple syllable words!

Most children go through this at younger ages, but members of my side of the family are late to lose those baby teeth proving once again that while she takes after her father in looks, she is mine on the inside.

Smile and lisp on, my sweet baby, while it lasts!

My Lord, thank you for this child You have placed in my care. As I see her maturing, I am in a constant state of amazement.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Changing My Expectations

I don't have expectations. Expectations in your life just lead to giant disappointments. ~Michael Landon

Anger always comes from frustrated expectations. ~Elliott Larson

A wise man once told me that to change something in someone else, you have to change something in yourself. It worked so well that I married him. Well, to be quite honest, it worked after we were married the most and the practice of it is what saved our marriage in the first three, rather turbulent, years.

I am the type of person who could take an argument to the death, in a manner of speaking. I would lose sight of my objective and just try to win, which resulted in me losing...with my husband. I could win and feel more unsatisfied than before. It took me some time—too long a time, really—to understand that my underlying objective was not winning the argument, it was to win my husband's heart. Back then my husband would say that I had control issues, but I would say I had a trust issue: I didn't trust him to be in control because he would not trust me and listen to my counsel.

That is what I really wanted: to trust him and he, me. In my twisted mind, I thought if I win the argument he will see that I am right and he will eventually trust me. What I failed to see at the time was that we were both demanding trust from the other. Demanding a person to trust you never really works. Like a puppy chasing its tail, we were chasing a dream that would constantly elude us. Worse, the things we both wanted the most--respect, trust, and love—were the very things being destroyed in our futile attempts to demand them.

In essence, we were both demanding for the other to change, but we were not changing ourselves. Isn't that the way of human nature? Give in to me and then maybe I will trust you? Then there is the Lord, Who asks of us to accept His nature instead. Jesus wrapped up every command, every law the Lord had ever given into two simple ones: Matthew 22:37-40

And He said to him, "You shall love the Lord our God will all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

Did I really love my husband? Well, I certainly loved him when it was easy to love him. That is not what Jesus meant though, was it?

Jesus also commanded me to love my enemy, Matthew 5:43-47. He obviously meant that I was to love my husband even when he was unlovable, just like I would like him to love me when I was being unlovable. That meant that I would show him love even when he showed none back. For that to really work, I would have to release him from the expectations I had about how he should treat me to prove his love or even that he would love me at all. I would need to just love him whether or not he gave any indication at all that he loved me. I would have to stop trying to make him see my side for him to want to see my side. This was not something I would do short term or even with the expectation that I would get what I really wanted. This had to be a true commitment. (Sigh.)

What I came to learn was that releasing my husband of the expectations I had placed on him gave me nothing to be angry about regardless of how he behaved. Even if he wanted to argue, I had no need to do the same. I did not wish to argue, I wish to be loved. This was not apathy, it was focus on a goal and, oddly, freedom.

That is the secret. When I really have no expectations on other people, I am not controlled by the very expectations I placed on them. In other words, if I expected my husband to clean up the kitchen sink because he made it a mess and he did not fulfill my expectation, even if he did not know it, then I would feel compelled to react. Without the expectation, there is no disappointment. There is no anger. There is no injury. There is no reason to blame. There is no reason to even grumble. There is freedom to choose to just clean it myself or not to. Simple.

Eventually, we had nothing much to argue about. Eventually, we learned to really trust each other. Eventually, we both really respected each other. Eventually, there was no question that we really loved each other.

I cannot say that I have no expectations whatsoever on my husband these days—we always expect more from those we respect, trust, and love the most and he qualifies—but they are more reasonable expectations, I think. I don't expect him to know my unspoken expectations, although one will slip by me once in while. The moment things begin to heat up, I ask myself if I am upset because he did not meet one of my expectations and, if that is it (most of the time it is), was it fair to him, or did he even know I had that expectation (most of the time that is a "no").

I have applied this philosophy to all my relationships and I must say that I do not get hurt by other people very often now, certainly much less often than I have in the past. I have learned that the real freedom from being disappointed and hurt is not loving less or pulling away, but to have less expectations on others. That way I can enjoy the person for who he or she is, rather than what I want the person to be to me.

I changed something in myself. I have chosen not to have expectations so that I have the freedom give my respect, my trust, and my love to whomever I chose without concerns about whether or not they are deserving. It is a lifelong commitment, but then didn't my Lord do the same for me? For you?

My Lord, thank you for showing me how to release my expectations on others and for understanding the blessing it gives to me. May others in need of this freedom from their expectations be given this gift.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cell Phone Slavery

Apparently we love our own cell phones but we hate everyone else's. -Joe Bob Briggs

It is amazing how technology sneaks into our lives. We are seduced by its promise to make things better for us. It seems to make work more efficient. It seems to make life easier. We master it....that is, we seem to master it until it does not work and then we come to the terrible realization that it masters us. Our dependency on it has become so complete that we have become slaves to it.

What brings on such thoughts, you may ask? Yesterday my husband flew into New York to work. I had not heard from him all day, which is not unusual when he goes to the customer first and begins fixing the machine with which they are having difficulty. It is tradition that we talk every night around our daughter's bedtime, if he is in the country. We call him, if he does not call first.

Last night, the Princess called him to say good-night and had to leave a message. Typically, my husband will call back immediately, even while she is leaving a message, but that did not happen last night. I allowed her to stay up an extra fifteen minutes waiting and then I tried again myself, also leaving a message. The Princess went to bed and we prayed together, which is what Daddy does when he is home.

I watched an hour TV show I had started to record just an hour earlier, I prefer to watch recordings than live—It is so nice to fast forward through those commercials and watch it all in only 45 minutes instead of an hour! Then I tried to call again, still no answer. Now I am getting a bit concerned. At 10:30 p.m. I looked up the email message he forwarded to me with all his travel itinerary and called the hotel. After allowing it to ring about twelve times, someone answered and confirmed that my husband had just checked in thirty minutes ago. My call was put through to his room and my fears faded away with the sound of his voice. His cell phone, for whatever reason, was not working, he said. How dare his cell phone not work!

You know, for years I resisted cell phones because of health factors associated with electromagnetic radiation, but eventually I relented not just for convenience, but out of necessity. Just try finding a working public phone these days! However, the average phone call for me on my cell is under two minutes, most of them are under one minute and I usually only use it about once or twice a month and only my family and a handful of people have my number. When I use the cell, it is for just telling someone I will be late, coordinating with my husband where to meet, or to get some directions because my GPS is not getting me there. (Yes, I have an old model of one of those too.)

My cell is on my purse, not on my body. I do worry about how much my husband is required to use his and how it is always clipped on at the waist, but now I worry more if it does not work, because in my mind, it is more than just a means of communication, but it is part of him—or he is part of it. Perhaps we all are being integrated into the Matrix with every upgrade in technology that makes our lives more convenient, thus more independent on it.

Think your not a slave to technology? Just try going a week without using any of it at all.

My Lord, let me not be a slave to technology but to use it wisely. Thank you for being with my husband at all times, whether I can talk with him or not.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Resurrection Day

A strangely reflective, even melancholy day. Is that because, unlike our cousins in the northern hemisphere, Easter is not associated with the energy and vitality of spring but with the more subdued spirit of autumn? -Hugh Mackay

This quote has meant a great deal to me since I now have a friend, Ganeida, living in Australia. Although I knew the southern hemisphere has opposing seasons to the northern hemisphere, I do not believe that I really thought about how Christmas is a summer holiday and Easter a fall one for them.

In many ways, I think Easter has become too lighthearted of a celebration. Why did Christians ever begin to call it "Easter" rather than Resurrection Day? Perhaps that is why the movie The Passion of the Christ was so moving; It made all that is Easter quite real rather than just a day of festivities. I think sometimes we try to shelter children too much against what my Lord suffered. Perhaps they would view Easter quite differently if we called it Resurrection Day and they did not have a bunny and eggs and candy. The early Christians did not have these traditions associated with the Lord's death and resurrection. Perhaps it should be a more reflective, even melancholy day.

In truth, I am more guilty than most. My daughter was in two egg hunts. One at our church that I described in my previous post and another yesterday. Our next door neighbor has been inviting the Princess over for an elaborate Easter egg hunt with her grandson, four years younger than my daughter, after church services for the last several years. One of the family dresses in the bunny suit and the eggs are not filled with candy, they are filled with money. She is such a generous person and it is very sweet of her. I gave her a plate of my Easter cookies this year, but it is nothing in comparison to what she gives my daughter. This year she received over $10 and two movie tickets with no restrictions!

I will continue to teach my daughter about the true and serious meaning of Resurrection Day, but I also have a philosophy about people, which I believe follows in the spirit of what Paul wrote, so I allow people to be generous with what they have from wherever they are on their own spiritual journey and be graciously accepting. I hope that my daughter learns to be more gracious than I.

On the serious side, the Princess played "Give Me Oil in My Lamp" on the electric keyboard during the offertory. She played it flawlessly and with a peppy beat. It seemed appropriate since my Lord promised to return after His resurrection, we should be ever prepared in our hearts for the moment, keeping oil in our lamps.

My Lord, there are no words that suffice for the sacrifice You made. Please let the children see You as much greater than the bunnies, eggs, and candy so common in our traditions. Let Easter in my home be remembered as Your Resurrection Day and that we are well prepared for Your return.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Saturated Through to Saturday

To show a child what once delighted you, to find the child's delight added to your own - this is happiness. ~Joseph Priestley

I don't know where to begin! Two weeks ago my husband was working in Orlando, Florida and things were rather complicated, so he offered to stay over last weekend to visit his parents saving the company some money instead of flying him back and forth. During the time he was there, his father ended up being admitted into the hospital, thankfully it was mostly as a precaution and he was there only a few days.

My husband then flew to Cleveland, Ohio on Wednesday and was planning on coming home early Friday, but plans were changed again and he instead drove to Columbus, Ohio on Friday and was planning to fly home that evening. Still another change, he would not be back until Saturday morning, and this caused a bit of a quandary about picking him up at the airport.

Now most weeks, this would not be a problem, but this weekend was Easter.

The week before I had purchased about eighty plastic eggs and filled them with candy. On Tuesday evening, we dropped off about fifty of them at the 4-H Horse and Pony Club meeting place so they would be used for the Spring Fling: 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. was spoken for in our Saturday schedule.

Also, on our schedule for Saturday, was an hour event for children at our church with a story, craft, and egg hunt from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. a bit of a conflict in time there, but we planned to leave the Spring Fling early. I dropped off about thirty eggs at the pastor's home on the preceding Thursday morning at the beginning of our usual errands for that day.

In the meantime, I tried to shop to get some of those special things that magically show up on Easter morning even though the Princess was with me the entire time. Usually, my husband and I play tag team between the responsibilities of taking the child and the holiday shopping, but he had, inconveniently, not been home for two weeks.

I really don't know what I was thinking, perhaps I just look for ways to complicate my life...? I decided to add making cookies when I saw a sweet cookie cutter set with a lamb, bunny, chick, flower, and butterfly earlier in the week while out shopping for the candy to put in the eggs. I decided to make these cookies on Friday, but I also decided that we needed to do a bit of shopping that day. When we came home and had put everything away, I was finally ready to make the cookies that we would bring for the adults at the church and for our neighbor on Easter. It was then that I finally looked at the place where I had left out two sticks of butter to soften to realize they were not there. No wonder, Hanah, our German Shepherd dog (GSD) looked so guilty when we walked in the door. Normally, I would have put the butter in a safer place before we left, but I had completely forgotten about it. Odd thing, I did not find any of the wrapping or even a greasy spot anywhere. At least, she cleaned up everything well.

So, then I needed to wait a bit for the next two sticks of butter to soften. We were doing tender butter cookies as a cut out, which requires the dough to be rolled out between wax paper sheets and then placed in a freezer for about 15 minutes, before the cut out process. This way they hold their shape making them look quite uniformed and they are easier to move to a cookie sheet without tearing and then there is the icing, a high gloss that takes a few hours to completely set. We started before my daughter went to bed, so she could do all the cut out part, which requires to knead the remaining together, rolling out again, and then refreezing. She was in bed while they were baking. After they cooled, I did the icing which used about twice the milk and corn syrup suggested, but they looked very professional and tasted great. The recipes I used are here: Pope's Valentine Cookies and Sugar Cookie Icing. (It takes about 1½ of the icing recipe to do a batch of the cookies and they all fit on two large baking sheets as these cookies do not puff much.)

The unfortunate part is the length of time it took me to make these particularly tasty morsels. Besides cleaning up from the baking, I had two other things I really wanted to clean up before I went to bed for the night, so in FlyLady style, I set a timer for fifteen minutes and went for it. It was then just after 1:00 a.m., but I was not able to just sleep right away, so I read a bit. Right now I am in the middle of Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars, a book I had read when I was a young teenager that I have been wanting to read again for years, particularly after my aunt gave me my grandfather's set of first editions--the same set I read those many years ago.

Of course, it was obvious on Saturday morning that I had not gotten enough sleep. With bags under my eyes, I woke a bit later than I hoped and we hurried out the door after 8:00 a.m. We—mostly me, that is, because the Princess was off doing what I would have been doing if I were her—helped set up for the Spring Fling. The Princess was hanging out, as much as she could, with the horses. Later she did help with the egg hunt inside the store where we were located.

I wish—I so do wish, considering what I had chosen to wear—I could write about how lovely the day was with a warm sun and a gentle cool breeze. It was supposed to be nice just like that, but the weather predictions had changed, I was just too busy to think to check. It was windy and cold and cloudy. Fortunately, the cold does miraculous things with making bags under the eyes disappear. Unfortunately, for a woman with a light sweater over a short sleeve shirt, there was no sunshine showing through at all. Still shivering two hours later, I called my husband to see if he was on the ground yet, in hopes that he would be my knight in shining armor by stopping at home to pick up warm jackets for the Princess and me. Since we had plans when his plane was due to arrive, he arranged to rent a car for the weekend, as he rents cars for work so often that there are weekend discounts and other perks. Not only had his flight arrived, but he was at the office; sadly, I would endure yet another hour.

The turn-out was not what we had hoped at the Spring Fling, but that gave me more opportunity to talk with one woman, Melanie, who was doing face painting, even though she had the busiest booth later on. The Princess was her first customer getting a unicorn on the cheek and then later on we went for scrolls on the other side. Melanie shared how she recently started and the cost involved. She is also a homeschooling mother and was hoping to do face painting as a means to get debt free (another Dave Ramsey fan) and pay for homeschool curriculum. We had many other things in common as well.

My husband finally arrived...with our jackets! My hero! We had not seen him for two weeks and almost all that time we had been keeping a secret. The Princess had lost her top front tooth and he noticed right away. Now, with Daddy in tow, the Princess had some fun jumping in the inflatable and riding Red. I had asked her to wait until he got there so he could see her doing those things.

I enjoy encouraging an artist to be creative, so I decided to have Melanie paint my face as well, before we left when she was not busy. I told her to pick a design that she had been wanting to try, after all it washes off with soap and water. She was tickled saying she would do it for free, but all the money she took in went to the club so I paid. I am thinking that I could do face painting for the upcoming rummage sale at the church with proceeds going to the building fund. The church also does a booth in the fall at a park and other church activities. I have been very excited about the idea ever since! I am sure that the Princess would not mind me practicing on her.

We left the Spring Fling at 1:30 p.m. to get to the church for the activities there. The Princess rode with Daddy—and what a ride! He rented a convertible, so he turned the heat on full and had the top down. She was thrilled! As I said, there are cool perks when you rent cars often. It cost us less for the two days than it would cost others to rent a less flashy car for one day.

At the church, fourteen children, not counting the teens who were helping out, made a craft and hunted eggs. While the children were crafting a bunny on a popsicle stick, I passed around cookies to the parents. The Princess collected many eggs, all with candy, of course.

Afterward, my husband decided to try to fit in a haircut taking the Princess with him. That gave me some time to finally shop alone without the child, if you know what I mean, being that Easter was the next day. Then I spent some time watching the season finale of "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" online that had been preempted due to the tornado warnings in the area the night before. When my husband arrived home, he began his laundry as work would be sending him to New York on Monday.

We all were so tired that we decided to go out for dinner, so we all had sushi with the Princess and I still adorned with painted faces. Then it was bath and bed. All in all a very good day filled with horses, art, and whimsy—such are some of my child's delights and they are still mine as well.

Thank you, my Lord, for giving me the chances You provide to share my delights with my child, who finds them them delightful as well.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Grave Story

Love lies beyond
The tomb, the earth, which fades like dew!
I love the fond,
The faithful, and the true.
~John Clare

My mother passed on a few months ago. It was no secret, no secret at all, that she wanted to be buried next to my brother's grave. Christopher had died tragically when he was nine, nearly 40 years ago, and my mother let everyone know from that time on that her final resting place was to be right next to his.

When we were at the cemetery for a brief service—it was very brief as series of snowstorms left at least a foot of snow covering everything and the bitter cold wind swept over Ohio right then—I looked around at the landmarks I recognized, even so, and I thought that it looked as though we were not quite in the right area. Of course, my brother's grave stone was probably buried in the surrounding snow piles plowed to clear the area for the tent and the tent is usually placed off to the side anyway. I was a bit concerned at the time because the actual burial was not going to take place at the graveside service, but I thought her husband would have told them where she wanted to be buried and would oversee it later.

Because they had noticed, sometime after the snow cleared, that the plot in which my mother had been placed was not right next to my brother, my aunt and uncle made some inquiries yesterday. It was confirmed that my mother had been buried in the wrong plot--not even one belonging to her. So, she will have to be moved, but her final resting place will be exactly where she wanted it. Since it was the cemetery's mistake, there will be no charges.

My concern at this point is not about the moving of my mother's burial vault, but of how this news might be taken by other members of the family. My youngest sister, in particular, took our mother's death very hard and I fear it may be like opening a wound for her. It has been suggested to me that I wait until it is done before I say anything, this is something I need to talk to my Lord about.

No matter what, this reburial must be done. We really have no choice in that, so I am concerned that it would do no good upset my sister about it. My uncle and aunt will be there to oversee it to be sure it is done correctly this time. The main thing is that my mother's final resting place will be next to her son as she always wanted.

Personally, I would not want all this fuss about my remains. Cremate the body and, if anything, have a prayer for those still living who have yet to come to know the Lord. Then celebrate life's journey and my homecoming to my Lord! As the time approaches when we celebrate the empty grave and my Lord's resurrection, my thoughts are: A grave is not a final resting place.

My Lord, thank you that our true resting place is not in a grave, but with You.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Misty Pathway

Faith is to believe what you do not yet see; the reward for this faith is to see what you believe. ~St. Augustine

While in prayer on Saturday, a dear friend of mine received a vision about me, which she called to share with me just last night. The general meaning seemed clear enough, but the means of how it is to happen...that is the yet-to-be-seen mystery. It is right there before me on a clearly marked pathway, but hidden from my sight...in the mist. It was a vision promising delight.

The Lord has given me visions at times. Some have been warnings, one even saved my daughter from injury. Others, most in fact, have been encouraging, perhaps because I seek my Lord the most when I am discouraged and frightened.

I am so undeserving of my Lord's favor, yet He has given me a gift and today is a better day as I walk with faith on the path before me...into the mist...into the promise...into the vision...towards the delights I cannot yet see...believing they are there....believing I will see.

My Lord, thank you for the gifts you have given me and will yet give me. I ask, my Lord, that You will continue to guide me and keep me close to You.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Those Pesky Attendance Records

The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government - lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.
~Patrick Henry

The state of Georgia is one of the more homeschool friendly states, meaning that there is some regulation on homeschoolers, but it is not really invasive, thankfully. Basically, the law requires that we cover certain subjects for the equivalent of 4.5 hours a day for 180 days. We are required to have nationalized testing done every three years beginning with the third grade, but we don't have to send them in, just have them on hand, along with an annual report of progress. There are other requirements, again nothing too demanding or invasive, like an annual letter of intent to declare I am homeschooling so that my daughter is exempt from the compulsory school attendance laws.

There is one thing that Georgia homeschooling parents must do that is not done in any other state, I believe. Monthly, we must send in attendance records. Monthly! Now there are other states requiring attendance records yearly or for each semester, but not monthly. It is kind of ridiculous that we have to send in anything stating which days our child was in homeschool at the first of every month, because homeschooling is quite often nothing like traditional school. We don't always sit at a desk or table for hours, rarely in fact. There is no bell to start and finish a particular class. My daughter watched a lunar eclipse late at night and she has been learning the mathematics of capacities while preparing recipes, both have been a part of her education. We homeschool a bit every day at all hours. That said, these attendance records don't really mean much as they cannot possibly be a reliable means of reporting what is really going on and they probably just get filed away without being scrutinized. (For that I should be and am quite thankful...but I don't want to give away my secret just yet.)

Knowing all this does not change my aversion of being required to report anything at all to any agency of the government, especially regarding educating my own child in my own home, which I feel should be a constitutionally-protected right of privacy. People will say that homeschooling is legal in every state, but the reality is that homeschooling is not legal in most states: it has been legalized through licensing in every state that places any requirements on it. In other words, it is illegal to homeschool unless you meet with the state requirements to homeschool. There are only two states that come to mind where homeschooling is truly legal, Texas and Alaska.

It saddens me that our society does not understand freedom the way our forefathers did. We have been raised to believe that driving a car is legal and there was a time that people drove on roads without a license, but that time has passed. Now it is illegal unless the state has issued you permission in the form of a driver's license (and to add insult to injury, you have to pay to get that permission).

Ah, well. It is apparent that we are a society mostly educated in government schools. So much for it not dominating our lives and interests!

Here's my dirty little secret: Somewhere in the back of my mind, this unsavory morsel of resentment sits waiting until the day that I prepare the attendance records to send to the local school superintendent. Then it springs forth unexpectedly to make its mark, send a little message, speak its mind, and in so doing embarrass me all on a simple form in permanent ink. Moreover, it also blinds me to the fact that I have, yet again, allowed it to happen even though I checked over the form thrice and sighed relief that this time, this time, finally it will be absolutely correct. HA!

It seems that every attendance record I have sent in for nearly two years has at least one error on it. I did not check the right days, or I did not add up the days correctly, or I date it wrong, or I check the wrong month that I am reporting, or I don't sign it, or I misspell a word, or leave out a number when I write the address, or I forget to send it in until a week later—obviously, I am blinded to the largely written and highlighted reminder on my calendar as well. Then, without mercy, my blindness is lifted the next month so that I can see the last month's error now blazing at me with neon-light quality. I have sent in replacements now and then, but then they probably just go into a file cabinet somewhere and no one really cares. Still, my embarrassment lingers.

Today I prepared the report for March (a bit late) and found that for February I checked off some wrong dates—again!

My Lord, every day I am met with reminders of my imperfections and I thank You for them. They humble me and remind me that government is also flawed, because it is made up of people, who, like me, are imperfect.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Decluttering of Me

Man must choose whether to be rich in things or in the freedom to use them. ~Ivan Illich

I have been thinking quite a bit lately about how I feel about my home. In some areas nearly everything is neatly organized and put away, but in others there is clutter—you know, all those things that seem to just accumulate over the years.

Before moving to our present home, my husband and I lived in a small mobile home. We had accumulated things over the years there and we felt crowded, but this house still seemed empty when we moved all that stuff with us over ten years ago. Then we added a child and the stuff accumulated twice as much in the next ten years!

I have been thinking of all the things I really want to do, but have not—and why not? Instead of feeling comfortable, inspired, and content, I find that I often feel uncomfortable, burdened, and unhappy in my home.

I am not suggesting that I want my home to be a sanitized showcase that never looks lived in, quite the opposite. I am suggesting that my home should be a personalized showcase of my family, our lifestyle and our interests. When we walk in the door, we should feel good about what we see. Right now, though, it is not a place of comfort for me, and I think it is because it does not reflect the lifestyle I really want, it does not reflect the person that I want to be.

On my quest to make my home a place of comfort, I decided to clean out my kitchen cabinets some months ago. One in particular bothered me having air tight containers of all sorts, bowls, and casserole dishes becoming cluttered regardless of how I rearranged all its contents over the years. It just had too much in it and some had sentimental ties. My husband's grandmother gave us identical sets of casserole dishes in addition to another set we already had. I decided to get rid the older set and a larger dishes from one of the identical sets that we had not used in the last decade nor were likely to use in the next one; I still would have the sentimental ties with one full set.

After I reorganized everything back in that cabinet, I felt inspired to do the other cabinets also. Surprisingly, the rest of them were in good shape, not as time consuming or labor intensive as I had imagined. It seems I had judged the state of every kitchen cabinet as being overwhelming because that one cabinet that bothered me the most, it was key in forestalling the clean-up of all the cabinets. Once my kitchen had been cleaned and rearranged, I also felt a renewed interest in preparing food, cooking, and baking.

Amazing how that happens, isn’t it? When you clean and rearrange a room, it seems the first thing you want to do is be in that place more. It is inspiring! I naturally wanted to maintain it better and all my kitchen cabinets have stayed well organized for months. Kitchen Mission accomplished!

Being a homeschooling family, we have bookcases full of books. There is not a room in our house that does not have a stack of books in it somewhere—perhaps clutter to some, but comfort to me. On my night stand, I have at least five books at any given time, more often I have more than that. I have six large bookcases filled. The books on these shelves are neatly organized in categories with an inviting appeal, but I realized recently that I have been shunning those books. I have not even looked at my bookcases nor had I cleaned them for some time. I was feeling uninspired, even blocked when I thought about looking for a book.

Why didn’t I even look at my bookshelves anymore? I had reorganized them just a few months before and I remember feeling highly inspired then as well. Oh, but look—boxes! When I had been focused on cleaning out other areas, I placed boxes filled with items for a yard sale in front of the bookcases. Although I could see my books neatly arranged, I had to lean or step over those boxes with all that stuff in them. It was meant to be temporary situation, but it had changed the way I felt about my entire library. I realize now that I had created another barrier, after the previous barrier of books in boxes had been removed and the books arranged on the shelves.

I also realized that the most used areas of our living space are free of unnecessary clutter, I still have pockets of clutter all over my house in the places we don’t use as much. Do you see the pattern here? Sometimes that clutter just gets moved from one place to another, but wherever it goes it creates a barrier. It is a vicious, unending cycle, if I let it be.

I found that clutter freezes me up in my art studio and exercise/workout spaces also. I realize now that I have to make an extra effort to mentally hurdle those blockages, but it is draining for me, so it is easier just not to bother with it at all, but then I stop doing what gives me the most enjoyment as well. The clutter limits me and I allowed it to shape my lifestyle! Now, though, I have had enough of it! I am on a quest to hunt down and break down all these mental barriers in my home.

Now that I have identified the problem, it is all going in a yard sale to be scheduled very soon and what does not sell is going to charity—not back into my home! What does not promote the lifestyle I want to have is being cleared out so that I can have an inspiring and healthy home for my desired lifestyle.

To help me see this project in bite size tasks, I made a mind map using a free program called XMind. It is functional, easy to use, and even fun, for me. It really has helped me organize my thoughts and tasks, which is its purpose. One day, though, I would like to make one of those colorful mind maps with artwork. Some are really quite beautiful. Here is one I found on decluttering:

Please, my Lord, bless my efforts to make my home comfort and reflect the lifestyle I should be living according to Your Will.