Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Princess and Peer-Pressure

If it's very painful for you to criticize your friends - you're safe in doing it. But if you take the slightest pleasure in it, that's the time to hold your tongue. ~Alice Duer Miller

I remember the playgrounds at two different elementary schools. From first through third grade, I went to a school provided for a few small towns in a mostly rural area, except for the lake which was also a summer resort area, and then we moved to a small city where I finished my elementary years. I have to tell you that I was not prepared for the culture shock.

In those earlier years, the worst part of the playground was a group of boys who liked to think they owned the monkey bars and would often not let a girl on them, until the teacher would intervene, and there were barely a hundred children on the playground at the same time. The city school playground, on the other hand, had a few hundred children and was brutal with bullies. The language I had heard from my father, but I found it shocking to hear from such young children openly, without fear of the hopelessly outnumbered two or three teachers watching over us.

My daughter is homeschooled so she has not had such experiences. She has had very little exposure to bullies, a few times at the playgrounds of nearby parks, I suppose, but either her father or I have been close by. She knows that the only defense against bullies is simply not to be where they are so that has not been much of a problem. In the last couple of years, the Princess has been struggling the most with peer-pressure from neighborhood children. We did not use that term ourselves as we typically associate it with things like drugs, promiscuity, shoplifting, and bullying.

The Princess was struggling to understand why her friends were pushing her to do things, not bad things, just things she did not feel comfortable trying to do, and she just could not get a handle how to deal with it, regardless of how her father and I tried to explain it. However, she found a book at a consignment sale last spring that is meant for junior high school and up. In it she read about peer-pressure and identified that was what her friends were doing. Basically, children use peer-pressure as just means to try to make another child conform to whatever they want her to do. My child loves to make people happy, but she also has well-defined morals about right and wrong. This, however, was in one of those gray areas and she just knew it made her feel bad no matter what she did.

Outside the Princess likes to climb trees, ride her bike, have picnics, draw with sidewalk chalk, and play make-believe kinds of things. In fact, we currently have a make-believe house in the front yard she built using a few long branches propped by low branches of a tree to mark its corners and door. She is one to believe that she will uncover a dinosaur in the backyard or every piece of trash found in the dirt is evidence of some big mystery to be solved or there is treasure buried...somewhere—I do wish she would find it! The Princess likes some gymnastics (as I did) but she is not highly athletic, she prefers the idea of solitary exercises like lifting weights and stretching (not that we have done either lately). Normally, she is quite confident with her abilities and her interests and our differing lifestyle until...she is told that she is not any fun, or is stupid, or just to go home, or made fun of, or being called a cry-baby.

I have overheard how the girls play when they did not know I was listening, just to see if my daughter was being over-sensitive or even starting these episodes that make her feel rejected later. I know, at times, she can seem to be bit bossy when she thinks someone is doing something wrong—not just wanting her way, but the plainly wrong thing to do—because she is protective and sees rules in black and white with very little gray. However, most of the time, one of the girls just decides she wants things done her way and pressures the Princess. I also admit that my daughter is rather sensitive, she has a strong desire for everyone to be happy, but she is learning that she cannot be responsible for another person's happiness, particularly with moody girls, who change their minds on a whim.

No matter how mean they would get toward her, she did not retaliate. The one thing she had been doing in the past, to add to the problem, was staying too long after it started, empowering them to continue until she was in tears. She would stay because she was more concerned about being impolite or hurting their feelings if she left. I think because her heart works that way, she just does not understand that not everyone else has the same heart. We have spent hours explaining, just like horses and dogs need training, children do as well. Even friends, she must train them that their treatment toward her is not to be tolerated by simply leaving or coming to me so that I can say playtime is over. She had been handling it better for some months now.

Remember her last piano recital in the spring? The Princess was not upset about her frozen moments on stage afterward, instead she talked about her life off-stage. How her friends had been making her feel so belittled those last few weeks, and we think that may have been weakening her self-confidence then. She has asked me often in the past year before, if I had friends who did some of the things that her friends had been doing. I would say that children that did those things were not my friends and that I had very few friends even at her age, but I think friendships are far more important to her.

The Princess has decided she just does not want to play with one of the neighbor girls much anymore, the one who goes to public school. The other homeschooled girl and she get along well together alone. Even her mother has expressed to me over and over again lately how much she just loves my daughter. We talked about some of the issues our girls had been having with the third one and they were much the same, but they live in the same cul de sac so it is more difficult for her daughter to avoid the other, who seems to be, as she put it, manipulative, and her daughter is the youngest of the three, two years younger than the Princess.

The public school girl has been calling almost every day during the Christmas break to play but the Princess declines. I had been dealing with the mixture of emotions it stirs in me: sadness that she ever would need to feel that way, happy that she was regained her self-confidence, proud that she recognized she would do well without friends like that, and more.

She is finally learning how to build and hold in place those precious boundaries necessary to have good and healthy relationships. It has been painful for her and so very painful for me to watch for the past two years, but I also know it is a necessary step in her growing up and I am thankful that she had so many more years to enjoy childhood without such pressures than most children in schools do. She has a very sweet and kind heart, and she is now beginning to guard it on her own in a way that is honorable and becoming of a young lady.

~ My Lord, please continue to guide my daughter to make good decisions and live a life in honor of You. ~

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Christmas Blues

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.
~Burton Hillis

I become rather philosophical in a bluesy way at Christmas time, just in case you have not noticed. I think it is in part because I have family...but not really. The only family members who actually talk to me regularly are my husband's mother and my mother's sister and her husband, now and then a cousin or two, my aunt's adult children. I have felt on the outs most of my life, not even fitting in with my own family. Then, we are small in number. My father was an only child. My mother had one sister. My husband family has a similar situation in that husband's mother was an only child and his father had one sister.

When I lived in Florida, we spent some part of the holidays with my husband's family as my family is in Ohio. I was sad every Christmas season. I was sad because of the things that led up to my mother not talking to me for years...five actually. From the time my daughter was one until she was six. She finally called me (without hanging up on me) and we resumed having the type of one-sided conversations that made her comfortable and happy. As long as I did not talk, we could talk.

I forgave my father of the past and although the harm he did was far worse, it was easier in a way because it ended and he was no longer in my life. My mother, however, was an ongoing exercise in forgiveness of numerous things with which I struggled all my life until her death about three years ago.

My mother had been the center holding all the family strings. The connections I had with my sisters and my half-brother were mostly through her. My mother had some control issues, particularly with me. She would tell me she did nothing to hurt the relationships I had with my siblings, but somehow they always knew her side of the story in how I treated her badly and yet they knew only what my mother was willing to tell them. She would tell people I always brought up the past and there was a time that was true as I was often cut picking up the lasting shards of emotions from that past. However, at some point about twenty years ago when I was healing of it, I stopped. I had no need to talk about the past after the healing and forgiving, but I was still accused of doing so. At that point, I knew how to deal with my past whenever I stumbled onto a remaining shard, but the present was another issue. I was trying to find peace in it among people obviously still broken and being cut with their own shards of the past.

I wish I had recorded our phone conversations because no one believed me that it was my mother who brought up the past, not me. I found out, through my aunt, that my mother had told people we had the best conversation once...it was one in which I did not talk! So whenever she called I let her talk and I stayed silent about my own thoughts, my own hopes, my own fears...while she rattled on about hers for hours sometimes. I once counted that I spoke five whole sentences not counting the "hello" and "good-bye" and the occasional "oh" and "uh-huh" just so she knew I was still there on the phone. Actually, four of those sentences were questions and one sentence was to answer her question. As I began the second sentence, still in answer to the question, she interrupted me and talked another 20 minutes non-stop before asking if I was still there, so I guess she did not really want to know the answer. It became a game for me to say as little as possible and try to only ask her questions about what interested her--not to be mean, but for me to endure being a sounding board only. I could not help her so I tried to make her as comfortable as possible. She was still a hurt, broken woman carrying so much guilt and I seemed to bring the memories of her burdens back to her anytime she talked to me, even though I said nothing to cause it.

I think my mother made me the monster of the family to my siblings, just as she made her sister the monster to me. My aunt was always used as the measuring stick that things could be worse for me if I lived with my aunt. "I could send you to your aunt's and then you would learn how easy you have it here. You would find out what work really is there." My aunt did organize and her family did lots of hard work, but I did end up living with her for two years during high school and I loved it! I found out I was not lazy after all, as my mother often called me, I was just not well directed.

I have reached out to my brother and sisters over the years, less more recently. I helped each one of them financially in the past. There was a time it got to the place that seemed to be expected and may have been the only reason I was called, so my husband asked me to stop it. One sister would not accept my phone calls and, whether intentionally or not, she did not talk to me for twelve years after I told her I would not be giving her money to help with her bills one winter.

Not once have I been given assistance when I really could have used it or even just a sympathetic ear. I am not upset with them. I do not expect them to give me anything. I am sorry for them because it seems that they have not even considered offering anything just because I am their sister, as I offered them just because I am their sister.

There are also other big differences that did not help in us having common threads. Although one sister is just three years younger than I am, my youngest sister is eleven years younger than I and my half-brother is eleven years younger than she (twenty-two younger than I). The younger two grew up very differently than the older two. We just feel we do not have much in common.

This year I have decided to allow myself to grieve about my siblings. You see, I still secretly hoped that after our mother past away that we might connect as we had not done in the past. When I have reached out to them over the years, it was not mutual. I am going to be crying for the little sister who used to look up to me with her blue eyes and sweet smile in the blue butterfly skirt I made for her--she has grown up and has two teenagers. I will remember the day my mother with postpartum depression begged me to come to the hospital and I stayed with her for hours (while I had been dealing with a terrible long-term depression of my own); I will mourn at the memory of being the first in the family to hold my baby half-brother--he is now married with two children, last I knew. My other sister once told me that she blamed me for not protecting her from our father and I will be in tears thinking of the times she never knew that I did--she has a teenage daughter.

I know the steps I must take. I have done this before, but not about them. I held on to this hope that has been hurting me for years that we will connect and being reminded, as I address Christmas cards, that another year has past without change. I will keep the door open, ready to accept them with a healthier expectation that will allow them to be comfortable, like I did with Mom, because it will not disappoint or hurt me anymore. My expectation for us to be like a family will be gone. This will be the last year I will have my Christmas blues over the family of my youth that I never had, over nieces and nephews I will not know.

After I have gone through this grieving, I will be able to truly enjoy the presence of my family all wrapped up in each other, without that feeling that something is missing. That is the gift I am giving to myself, my husband, and my daughter this year.

Update:
After I had written this post out, but had not yet posted it, my youngest sister called me on Christmas Eve. I had sent all my contact information in the Christmas card I sent leaving that door open. During the conversation I found out that while she had talked to our brother and other sister more recently than she had with me, it was still months ago.

My brother has two young girls but is divorcing his wife and is involved with another woman who has children also. The sister closest to me in age left her husband and teenage daughter a few years back and had been living with another man, but it is unknown if she is divorced yet. My youngest sister accepted the Lord into her heart just eighteen months ago, truly good news to me!

~ My Lord, thank you for urging my sister to call me and tell me she has chosen to accept You as her Lord. I still need to grieve what was lost, what never has been, and probably will not be. Each year I have more distractions with my own family, but I have held on to this pain. I am ready to let it go now and give more of myself to my husband and daughter...and to You, my Lord. ~

Monday, December 26, 2011

Blue Note or Blue Screen Christmas?

I can understand people simply fleeing the mountainous effort Christmas has become... but there are always a few saving graces and finally they make up for all the bother and distress. ~May Sarton

The Blue Note Christmas 2005
I have an eighth note cookie cutter and every Christmas we always color them a pretty blue to remind us of Christmas 2005. Have a cup of rich, hot chocolate and a sit while I describe what I thought was the worse (and the best) Christmas of my life.

The Princess was just four and a half years old. She had been taking piano lessons for about six months and it was obvious from the beginning that she was destined to be a good pianist. Her tiny hands had been practicing on my Roland keyboard all that time, but we knew that to strengthen her fingers and develop her ear that she would need a real piano. I had seen an advertisement to sell off used pianos at a well known piano store in Atlanta, so we went to look hoping to find something worthwhile for under $2000 just a few hours before her very first recital--a casual coffee shop recital. We looked at the used ones and realized there was nothing worth having, but the salesman suggested a new one close to our price, just a bit more, but with a cast iron harp that would not warp.

At the recital she played simple songs with her right hand only, but she was just so relaxed yet poised--such a performer! Even one of the oldest students, who had taken piano lessons with Miss Trudy most of his life, expressed his surprise at how well that this petite four year old could play.

We returned to the store later as they had a very good sale going on because their Labor Day sale weeks before was terrible, since it was right around the time of the Katrina hurricane and the entire Southeast was impacted with trying to provide aid, bursting at the seams giving shelter, and dealing with gasoline shortages. The tone of the piano was nice, but after listening to the acoustics of a Steinway, costing as much as a house, nothing really compares. Still, it was a good piano and we purchased it.

Now my husband wanted this piano to be from Santa, so he devised this elaborate plan to have the piano suddenly appear on Christmas Day. First he would get a piano box from the store and place it in the living room covered up with a sheet. He would cut out a backside so we could simply slide it over the piano when it came. The Princess would see us put up this empty box and it would sit there for a few weeks until Christmas Day and then we would open it. This way the piano could be delivered at any time as long as I could keep her from seeing it being delivered.

So, we set a date for delivery with our salesman. Then we were asked to finalize everything with the sales manager, who listened to my husband's plan and suggested to have the piano delivered on Christmas Eve instead of two weeks before it, as that was a very common request. I had this strange feeling about that new plan. I thought our plan would be the best one as we would know the piano was there and we could have it tuned and ready by Christmas Day, but my husband decided that a Christmas Eve delivery would be better. So, the delivery date was reset.

My husband got a box later and we did as we planned. About a week or so later the salesman called and asked when would we like to set up the tuning. I told him that the piano had not been delivered yet, thinking that he may not have realized the date change. He called again about a week or so later and asked how we were enjoying the piano and again I told him the piano had not yet been delivered, but we were expecting it on Christmas Eve.

My husband's parents came to visit during Christmas so we were a bit distracted, but I began getting concerned when we did not get the phone call the day before giving us confirmation and an approximate time that the piano would be delivered. My husband said that they were probably very busy and would call that morning as they are supposed to do. Morning came, no call. By noon I began calling the delivery company, but after hours of trying to get a hold of someone, we were told all the deliveries had been made in the morning. There was no piano to be delivered to us.

This was the big present! The one we had planned so much around. My daughter had sat on a mall Santa's lap and told him she would leave a key for him so he could bring the piano through the front door--she has always been one to work things out like that, even then. Now those dreams shattered before me. That huge box in the living room was going to be empty on Christmas. I just went into my bedroom and cried and prayed and cried some more on my husband's shoulder. My husband had called the salesman, who was on his way to visit family out of state. The salesman told us that the computer records showed the piano had already been delivered and that is why he had called us, but he realized his mistake in not catching the error when I told him it had not been delivered, twice.

The salesman made some calls and after a few hours of trying to get past this terrible disappointment and stop weeping--this is what happens often when I rely on plans and have high expectations--we were told our piano would be delivered around 8:00 PM. I again went into my bedroom and thanked my Lord with more weeping yet fearing to hope.

Instead of going out to shop as we planned when the piano was to be delivered in the morning, I would have the Princess taking a bath in our big garden tub at the back of the house so she would not see or hear anything. The delivery men arrived later than eight and it took quite a bit of time to get the piano inside. The salesman probably paid lots of extra cash out of his own pocket to get the delivery company to deliver the exact model piano in cherry wood that was not the one set aside in the warehouse for us, the serial numbers did not match what was on our sales receipt and the delivery receipt, but the piano was in excellent condition.

In the morning we placed a large red bow on the sheet-covered box. After opening all her other presents, she was delighted to see her new piano, out of tune, but definitely materialized from her hopes into reality. To this day, the Princess does not know what a horrible-happy day that was for her parents, known to us as Blue Note Christmas.

The Blue Screen Christmas 2011
I hope you have some hot chocolate left because I may have another story that rivals the first one.

This Christmas had its similarities with the one six years ago. I call it the Blue Screen Christmas because the big present was in technology and everyone knows what the blue screen of death is, but instead of being focused on one thing, the real problems where mostly circumfluous of the new additions in technology and the Princess being sick.

Last year we had a very meager Christmas. As I was promised by God, this year has been a bit easier financially, but we had much to catch up, not with bills, thankfully, but taking care of broken things like the dishwasher and the vans and many other things. For this Christmas, my husband and I planned to get a Wii and Netflix. That was to be the big present.

However, my husband had this idea: while our twenty-some year old TV could be used, it would all be so much better on a HD, flat screen, wide screen TV. The prices were very good and we could get one that was Netflix ready, so we did not have to stream through the Wii. Technology is just advancing at lightning speed these days! My husband also mentioned getting a Blu Ray/DVD player; he had seen one for just $88. I just looked at him saying that we only have one Blu Ray movie that he had bought two years ago by mistake and they were too expensive, besides we were getting Netflix! We only really needed the Wii to stream it and play the sports games.

You have to live with my husband to know that when he merely mentions such things that often he has already gotten them. That is why whenever he just talks about something, I get nervous, and then he will say that I am getting upset over nothing, that he is just talking and he would not do anything without my agreement--Oh, yeah! What about the iguanas, the riding lawn mower,...(this list goes on and each has a long story)? Now I can add, the TV and the Blu Ray Player and...well, this is the story.

He did give me a bit of advance warning. He told me two weeks ago on Saturday evening about the TV and player. The next day's Sunday School lesson was about confessing to each other--such wondrous timing! So we had the TV in our closet and the first thing I thought of was that we now needed to go shopping for a console, because our old TV was a build in the console type. Another thing to buy, but he assured me he had it covered with the extra money he was making being on call the last two months. (His biggest confession was not the presents but what happened to the money he made that was supposed to be used to pay down our debts that I never did see.)

We went shopping at furniture stores on Thursday this past week after sending the Princess to her friend's house for a few hours, the one who had the cold; the Princess had already been well-exposed and was showing some signs of it so at that point it did not matter much. We found a cherry wood console for the price we wanted and purchased it. The console would be brought from the warehouse to the store for pick up on Friday the day before Christmas Eve. I began having a déjà vu moment there, but my husband assures me again it all will go well this time. It is obvious that the Princess is becoming sicker, so we did not go to our pastor's surprise birthday party that night.

Friday we wait for the call; no call. I asked my husband to please not wait until it gets too late as we did on the Blue Note Christmas. He makes the call. The console was not sent to the store--déjà vu. (I think we are cursed in this particular way.) Later on they contact us saying they had one we can pick up and my husband does that, leaving it in the van. The Princess is too sick to be playing outside, she was lying down, so she would not be seeing it there.

Friday night the Princess sleeps well and we wrap presents until 2:00 AM. Saturday she is lying around still coughing and sneezing, so it is obvious we will not be going to church that evening or the next day, which was a big disappointment for all of us. She had worked for weeks on "Still, Still, Still" to play Christmas morning. I will also have to cancel a horse riding lesson on Monday and find someone else to do chores at the horse barn on Tuesday.

Christmas Eve night, we hoped to set up the TV and all the components that night to have her see them first thing in the morning as if Santa brought it and everything was set up and working, even though the Princess informed us that she did not think Santa was "an electronics kind of guy." The problem: the Princess cannot sleep. At midnight, my husband gets antsy to begin moving things around. I decided that something needed to be done to keep the Princess from wandering out of bed in case she heard curious noises, so I lay with her in the daybed trying to help her sleep with my presence.

My daughter's room is situated so that she can hear way too much and we determined that it must be Santa so we need to go to sleep. My husband gets everything set up and the old TV in the garage. At 3:00 AM, when I am nearly at the end of my rope and in tears for my sick child and my own lack of sleep, he walks down the hall with a little blue pill, a OTC sinus medication that he says will help her sleep...I am not a violent person but at that moment I wanted to punch him in the face. Three hours since midnight, I have been staying up with my daughter while she suffered with coughing and difficulty breathing; NOW he brings something to help her sleep. He said he forgot he had them. We try not to use synthetic drugs, but he keeps some with him to use sparingly with his traveling and working in dusty environments. I agree there is a time that they are beneficial and, in this case, that would have been hours before he looked for them. Child was sleeping soundly in fifteen minutes and parents were out five minutes later.

Christmas morning was a late start, a very late start although I got up early to feed the furry ones and drizzle icing on the cranberry breakfast cake. All morning, though, I felt like something was missing, because we would not be going to church, I suppose. The Princess did not want to get out of bed, not typical ten year old behavior with presents waiting to be unwrapped, even with little sleep. She was obviously not her energetic self and she did not play with the Wii. We watched A Christmas Story DVD, a present to my husband to replace the one we used to have; we lost it letting someone borrow it, we think. The Blu Ray player enhances to near HD quality so the colors, details, and even the sound was just amazing. Yes, a very big difference! It is like when we went from a black and white TV with two snowy stations to color TV with cable, but in a 21st century way. We watched Avatar on it too--WOW!

Oh, and we found out that our Netflix-ready TV would work if we had a faster wireless router, so my husband went out this morning to get one. With electronics, it is never just this one thing and it all will work--never! Thankfully, some gift cards should cover the bulk of that cost and with that new router I will be able to move some things off my computer onto an external hard drive that I will access easily when home. My computer has been starting to have some problems because of hard drive space.

My husband is leaving early for the airport tomorrow morning, but he still got the new router in and working. He set up all the computers and the TV, which he did not think he would have time to do. The Princess and I watched a show streamed through Netflix and it worked quite well! Still, I wish she felt better and could play the Wii too.

Blue Note or Blue Screen Christmas?
My dilemma is my child is still sick so the latter is too fresh for me to be objective, so I am not so sure which one is worse. That is why I am asking you: Which Christmas do you think was the worse one, Blue Note or Blue Screen?

~ My Lord, thank you for the good and the bad years. One cannot be appreciated as well without the other. Please heal my daughter. ~

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Princess has a Christmas Eve Cold

The giving of gifts is not something man invented. God started the giving spree when he gave a gift beyond words, the unspeakable gift of His Son. ~Robert Flatt

Christmas Eve service is at 4:30 pm tonight, but we will not be there. The Princess has a cold with a slight fever and is lying on the couch alternately coughing, sneezing, and sniffling. She has been working for weeks on the song "Still, Still, Still" to play for the Christmas service tomorrow and I am not sure she will be able to go and even more concerned about her performing it well if she did. Of course, everyone there would be happy for her to play it after Christmas as well since it is such a lovely lullaby type of song.

I was looking forward to our church services this evening and tomorrow. We planned our entire Christmas around it. Today we are making our Christmas dinner, which we planned to eat around 2:30 PM. I froze the apple pies I made this week to bake one later today. My husband put the turkey in a brine overnight and it is now on the grill. I made the best sweet potato casserole I have ever made...not too sweet with pears and pecans in it. I never measure; it is a go-by-taste kind of thing.

Last night my husband and I wrapped presents until 2:00 AM and the Princess and I finished her daddy's this morning when he was out finding a replacement for our broken temperature probe that he uses for the turkey and I for my yogurt. We are ready...almost.

Tonight we will be up late again. We will be removing our twenty-some year old TV and replacing it with a cherry wood console and a modest flat, wide screen, HD TV. We will be adding our new Wii and DVD/Blue Ray Player. The TV, Wii, and Player are all Netflix ready and as of last night we have Netflix too. I tried it on my computer and was very happy with the selection and the definition. We hope to connect everything while my little Princess sleeps and have it all in place in the morning as if Santa brought it.

Yes, she still believes or, at least, she likes to pretend she does, it is hard to tell. She has a close friend, who is also homeschooled, but their family do not have anything to do with magic or Santa, so I think the Princess is just playing along with us at this point. Still, she wrote Santa three letters, one about what she would like, and then one for my husband and another for me. She asks for things she thought we would like, which was sweet, but not necessarily what we desired.

Anyway, the plan was she would see the new entertainment center first thing in the morning and we would go on to church--we are having a real birthday party for Jesus with cake, ice cream and games instead of a service!--then opening presents afterward, but that may all be different now. I almost wish we had it set up today so she could watch some new things while she is lying to rest and heal, but we have done without this sort of thing so long and she can watch DVDs. She did watch a few yesterday and this morning, but has chosen not to for now.

I am torn about the TV thing, though. We have been without TV service for about eighteen months and now we spent all this money for one. However, I do like watching what we wish to see on demand without commercials and we are running out of options with the DVDs we have. We also went for the Netflix DVD option. This service is so much cheaper than a regular TV service. Still, I am hoping we use it wisely.


This evening we will read the story of the Christ child’s birth. Then we will open vials of frankincense and myrrh oil essences to smell them before placing them in the Nativity set under the tree at the front, before the presents. This is a set I hand painted years ago. For gold, we use a gold plated bracelet. We do this to remind us that Christmas is in celebration of the birth of our Savior and that we only reason we give and receive presents to each other is because He was given these gifts.

I think it has helped my daughter to place more importance on the Gift more than the gifts and it has worked well for she has asked for very little in the form of presents all of her young life. The Princess decided to place a red sign on our front door under the wreath. It reads: We may have very few presents under the tree but the one in the manger is bigger than all the presents in the world combined.

~ My Lord, help us to give gifts with a loving heart and to use our gifts wisely and to always be thankful for the Gift you have given us. Please heal my daughter so she can attend church service on Christmas Day. ~

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

One Blog, Two Blog, Three Blog, Four

Your blog is your unedited version of yourself.
~Joshua Porter

Some friends of mine have more than one blog. To be honest, I have more than one myself, but the other two...well, I just never got around to starting them so I have them in name only, so to speak. One was to be devoted to homeschooling and the other was to be a daily devotional...but there is not one post on either one of them.

I frequently warn my readers that I am a mass of conflicted ideas. I like to organize, set up schedules, and even compartmentalize...but I get bored with the daily maintenance of keeping things organized, I tire of routines quickly, and I often feel compartments are too disconnected. Bottom line, I like setting up blogs, but I barely have enough motivation or time to keep up with just one...so how would I do three or even just two?

Knowing this about myself, I was surprised some weeks ago that I was again thinking that some people might be more interested in just homeschooling and less about the journaling of my daily life. Maybe I would snag more readers if I organized my blogs according to these main interests...it always sounds like a good idea. I have added book and product reviews because I enjoy doing them, but I was thinking that these things should have a separate blog perhaps. I recently disclosed one of my gifts and some of my thoughts on healing--a very big leap for me fearing I would yet again lose friends or at least readers. Oh, what about my favorite recipes, face painting, and art projects?

The more I thought about having multiple blogs, the more indecisive I became. Most people who have more than one usually do majority of their posting on one and the other(s) are not given much attention. Sometimes I wish I would just go have a talk with my Lord about such things first. I would waste much less time and spend time better focusing on what is important to Him. At some point I finally did that and God told me simply I am who I am. I am a Christian, a wife, a mother, a homeschooling parent, a writer (and blogger), a healer, an artist, a health and fasting advocate, and more. You see, the real thing was that I wanted to put that healer thing in another blog with a different identity, and even though I would disclose to some of my close friends of the other blog, I would (in my mind) still have a wall of secrecy about the whole thing.

Did my Lord think that was a good idea too? No. Why would He give a gift to any person and wish it to be hidden? How can God be glorified with gifts kept in secret?

As I read the first chapters of Healing is a Choice, a book I will review later, I had one of those moments of realization when I could see something from a differing perspective as if I were seeing if for the very first time. I was reading about how God always used people to bring about healing, that there was a connection between people for healing to occur. Throughout the book, thus far, connection is a key theme to all healing. I see this as an answer to a question that has plagued me for years.

Does God need people to heal people? Probably not any more than He needs us to pray when He already knows our needs better than we do, but how would it glorify Him if ordinary people could not do extraordinary things in His name?

My blog is ordinary and not popular, but it is about this one ordinary woman with many interests, gifts, talents, thoughts, beliefs, fears, desires, hopes, worries, activities, and duties, who has at times been a part of some very extraordinary things. If I separate the extraordinary from the ordinary, how can it really glorify God? How can I show people the gifts of the Spirit are real in the here and now if I do not use them or tell others about them? How can I help others to learn to listen to God if I keep silent about what my Lord has said to me? If I never report any of the signs and visions I have been given, who will believe God gave them and praise Him for answers to prayers?

~ My Lord, blogging has been one of those things that I hope I do to glorify You. Please let it continue to do so on this one ordinary blog. ~

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Looking Truth in the Eye

Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it. ~Blaise Pascal

Have I come to God with the faith of a child, trusting and honest? Would my beliefs withstand His scrutiny? Can I be as fearlessly honest with my Lord, with myself, with everyone, as my Lord has always been?

Ever since reading the book, To Be Perfectly Honest, I have been toying with the idea of making a resolution to be absolutely truthful for one year, actually for the rest of my life but I might chronicle my struggle with the first year here on this blog.

I usually do not make New Year's resolutions...well, I should say that when I have made such resolutions in more recent years, I did not make them public so that my failures would remain unknown. Resolutions are about changing habits, so the question would be is do I make a habit of lying? In all honesty, I have lied--such a very strange confession now that I see it in writing. I try not to lie, but when I have made the choice to do so I had a good rationalization like it would hurt someone more to tell the truth or it could be used against me. I pretty sure that my Lord would see my rationalizations as a thin veil attempting to cover the sin in my heart.

I do not like making oaths because I feel I would not agree to do anything that I should already be doing, but...again, in all honesty, I have not been doing what I should or else I would not consider making this commitment.

How honest have I been? Mostly, I am an honest person, but not all the time. I will tell myself that I was being tactful or just stretching the truth a bit or telling the story as I wish it had happened or protecting someone's feelings or just acting to make it work better for everyone. I have probably dozens of rationalizations that I have used to calm any guilt feelings.

I do not like hurting people's feelings with honesty, as righteous as it is. I have done it. I have lost friends by doing it--I have so few friends these days. I suppose I should think it is better to lose a few friends by being honest than to hurt my relationship with God through dishonesty.

Where does one draw the line with honesty? I suppose there should be no line, but...you know, this is far more complicated than it should be and I suspect that is because of my denial of dishonesty. I believe being honest will simplify my life and maybe it does after the veils of lies are shed.

You know that old axiom: Be careful for what you pray? I am almost afraid to pray about being honest. I just know that numerous situations will emerge in which I will struggle with being honest. Yet, I also believe I am being led to do this.

So, here I am ready to continue on with my journey to be more like Jesus than I have been. Would you like to come along...honestly?

~ My Lord, my faith is in You. I am unable to be honest on my own, only through You can I attempt to be a disciple of Your Truth. ~

Saturday, December 17, 2011

40 Years Ago and Now

Christmas is the keeping-place for memories of our innocence.
~Joan Mills

I love Christmas time, but I also do not like what Christmas has become. My husband and I often talk about how much the world has changed within our lifetime and have sorrows for our daughter, for the world she has been born into. It is so very different. She cannot have the world as we did as children.

Was it that we were so innocent? It was difficult for me to be innocent with an abusive father, who used manipulation and lies so regularly, but the world itself...I guess, in a way, I might have been sheltered from it. When I was ten, the age of the Princess, we did not have home computers and the Internet. Many phones were still on party lines and we did not have one. Some of the more fortunate people had color TV, but we had black and white. What did that matter, because there were few shows and only two stations that came in clear enough to watch at all.

It is so different now.

So many choices.

So much information.

So little personal interaction.

So much fear of people.

I knew our neighbors when I was ten. I did not know the term "community" but I lived it. We did not fear the world. Children were still encouraged to be polite when talking to strangers, instead being told not to talk to them or to run away from them.

Oh, I remember hearing about threats of war and fear of missiles and communism, but that was adult talk. The news may have been biased as it is now and I was unaware, but it seemed to me that mostly reporters just reported the news, but much of it then sheltered us in a way. I do not remember the words "rape" or "sex abuse" or details of a violent murder given on a newscast, certainly not like they are now. I supposed some would say there was more censorship, but I always felt it was out of respect for the family and friends that such details were not broadcasted. The news is not something I like for my daughter to hear in this day in age.

Christmas time is when I tend to remember the best things of my childhood and there were some good things even in my troubled home. Some of it was the presents, but what I remember most is that one special thing I wished for and making cookies with my mother. She and I had a difficult relationship, but I do remember making cookies with her.

I have shifted away from the "things" of Christmas. In fact, now the commercialism of it sickens me and even more so the secularism.

We cannot have Nativity scenes on public property without lawsuits.

We cannot call them "Christmas" trees because it offends someone.

I have nothing against saying "Happy Holidays" because "Merry Christmas" also sounds...well, I guess it sounds superficial to me, but it is the traditional good sentiment.

I do still like picking out a tree, decorating it, and having it light up my living room even though I know its pagan beginnings; God made the tree first. I still like setting up our Nativity sets of which we do have many, even a half-size one outside that you would expect to see displayed at a large church--my husband's present to himself to make his stand against wiping out Christianity from Christmas. I still like making cookies and candies to give away to our families, church family, and the few neighbors we do know. I still like having a few presents under the tree for my daughter, just for her, and a present or two for the family.

I am just so very thankful that we chose to turn off our TV service. I do not miss it at all now.

I am thankful that we have connected more with neighbors and our community.

I am thankful for the Internet and computers. I think we use them responsibly for the most part. My daughter has an email pen-pal that she met this summer at the Cave Spring Fishing Rodeo and they write to each other often. She also writes to her grandmother often. She does not even know how to surf the Internet, but I bookmarked safe websites for her. She has only a few computer games and plays them seldom.

Our Christmas has been downsized these past few years and I am glad for it.

I am also very glad that Christmas falls on Sunday this year. We are having a come-as-you-are casual, relaxed, family-oriented, home church style Christmas service. Our pastor wrote that he is coming in jeans, which if you knew him, you would realize how much that is just not like him. He wears suits and stepped down to wear a polo top with a casual slack and large cross necklace just recently. My daughter is thinking she would like to go in her pajamas, but I told her that I think we will have plenty of time to change clothes, but then she does have a very nice flannel red and green plaid gown....

We are holding off opening presents until after church. Actually, I wish that there was a church service on every Christmas day. I know that it cuts into family time, but I think it helps bring focus to what it really is all about. We have traditions on Christmas eve to remind us here in our home, but I am really looking forward to worshiping with my church family as a family. Perhaps that is because we have no family around? No...it is more than that. I want a piece of what I had as a child and some pieces I did not have. My father was against anything to do with church, but we as children did go to one now and then. I always liked it.

I want every Christmas to be a good memory for my daughter and this one in particular because she is emerging from childhood and beginning that awkward bloom into being a young lady. I know that one day, like me, she will wish she could recapture that which she would readily discard now in her struggle to adulthood. I know that our customs and traditions will influence her on the decisions she will make for her own family. I know that she will one day reflect on her childhood memories of this Christmas and I hope she remembers that we placed our worship of our Lord first, and the gathering with friends and family second, the joy for baking and giving third, and the most important present we receive is a symbolism of the gifts Christ received.

~ My Lord, I get caught every year in the hurry-worry of what Christmas has become. I tell myself it will be different next year and each year is a bit different, not always as I hoped. I wonder, my Lord, have I done in a way that pleases You? I feel pulled further away in the preparation and all the activities when I think I should feel closer to You instead. Help me to give my daughter the memories and pass on traditions that are pleasing to You and that she will hold close to her heart to pass on to her children and they to theirs. ~

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Product Review: Private Selection


As a BzzAgent, I was given three coupons to cover the total cost of one frozen appetizer, one frozen pizza, and one frozen dessert of my choosing out of the Private Selection® line of products found at my local Kroger store in exchange for this review. One thing I can say in favor of the Private Selection® products is they have wholesome ingredients, but individual items can be disappointing.

The appetizer, Southwestern Style Chicken Trumpets, was the tasty favorite of all three items. There were nine with a suggested serving of three per person. They were easy to prepare by placing on a baking sheet in a 400° oven for about 15 minutes. The trumpets were spicy enough to be flavorful, but not too spicy that my daughter would not eat them. In fact, she really liked them.

For the pizza, we chose the Margherita Napolitana. It was described as a "thin and flaky crust topped with grape tomatoes, perlini mozzarella, basil and stravecchio parmesan." I will say here that when it was described as a thin and flaky crust, it was very accurate. The perlini mozzarella was basically small blobs of cheese scattered on the pizza--I would not even call it a pizza actually. It bakes on the oven rack at 425° in just 8 to 9 minutes. It was suggested to serve three people. I suppose if one is on a low carbohydrates diet, this would be a good choice as it was tasty, but not filling and certainly not enough as an entrée for three people. I would put this in the appetizer category personally, cut in small squares.

Chocolate Dipped Cream Puffs were the dessert pick my daughter made. The 18-count box suggested serving of four per person and described its contents as "Delicious Bite-size Cream Puffs Filled with Whipped Dairy Cream, Sugar and Pure Vanilla and Drenched with a Chocolate Coating." These simply need about 30 minutes to thaw and serve. Anything coated with chocolate is good, but these definitely could have been so much better than they were. I thought they were basically tasteless, except for the chocolate. My husband, who did not read the box, said that they needed more vanilla and I concur. The vanilla flavoring advertised on the box is not noticed much on the taste buds.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tis the Season?

And if tonight my soul may find her peace
in sleep, and sink in good oblivion,
and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower
then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created.
~D.H. Lawrence

It has been warm for November and now December here, cool enough to wear sweaters, but not cold. My garden is still producing foods that seem to be happy with these temperatures. Yesterday it began raining lightly but all the day and today is much the same. I am glad to see puddles everywhere because we have been in another mini drought.

As the earth's wobble slows approaching the winter solstice, the days are long with darkness and short with light. Clouds have heavily filtered the blaze of sunlight for the last few days. It is the making of lazy days; ones that beckon sleeping in, taking naps, and going to bed early, generally just wrapping up sleeping at any time. I would like to do that today.

Most of my life I have been an early to bed and early to rise type, but it seems that this year I have made a seasonal shift...not that I start my mornings so late compared to others, just late for me. I would rise in the last hours of blackness and I now rise up before the sun is seen but its dawning is obvious. I also am ready to go to bed within just a few hours after night's blanket smothers out the daylight. Perhaps it is the not the season of the earth, but the season of my life...? Perhaps...

It could also be that I tend to wake up every night around 3:00 AM and sometimes it takes me a couple of hours to go back to sleep. My Lord and I have some good conversations, but it can make mornings a bit challenging at times, some times more than others.

Maybe is it the flu season thing, so many people are ill with colds, flues, and bronchitis. We are not sick but our friends are. I received a call from one two days ago and my own sinuses began draining within a minute as if I had her illness. She asked me to pray for her. She felt better the rest of the day, so she reported to me later. (I felt better as soon we had hung up and my mind busied on other things.) I was glad for her, but I felt that I was being affected by too many people. The Princess and I both just have low energy levels. We decided to pass on the 4-H activity last night of caroling at an assisted living home and going out to Chick-Fil-A for a free meal, one of our most favorite outings, but I just felt I could not be with all those people last night.

I really have so much to do. We had our carpets cleaned last week, even the art and craft room! We cleared everything out of that room and closet (actually it was my husband as I have been having a bit of back pain), placed the items in our garage where I usually keep our van, Dragon Heart, and we took trailer load to Goodwill. We brought other things back in and rearranged the office/homeschool room also. However, we have lots of odds and ends that are not yet put away, so those rooms are still a wreck. I could probably clear up everything in just one day, if I had more energy to do so.

Also we have Christmas baking to do and cards to get out. I need to get up now and get started doing something or just give into the nap...not sure which. I would rather like curling up with a book and nod off whenever. Yes...that would be ideal for me, maybe too self-serving.

~ My Lord, I thank you for days when I do not have to be anywhere or have to do anything but I really do have much to do. Help me choose wisely as to what I should do with the energy I have...and if You would be kind in giving me just a bit more, I would appreciate that also.~

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Book Review: To Be Perfectly Honest

Some people have imaginary friends. When I cut the grass, I have imaginary enemies. ~Phil Callaway, from Day 2 of To Be Perfectly Honest: One Man's Year of Almost Living Truthfully Could Change Your Life. No Lie.

Few books make me laugh out loud as many times as To Be Perfectly Honest: One Man's Year of Almost Living Truthfully Could Change Your Life. No Lie.--a book I received for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. Imagine a Christian man taking an oath to be truthful for 365 days with the intention to write a book about his experiences! I enjoyed quips of the author's life immersed in his unique twists of humor very much. I will never forget Day 182 when I could not stop laughing for twenty minutes, but it would not be funny unless you had read the days before about the ordeal of a watch bought at the Mongkok Market in Hong Kong. That is all I am going to say on the matter; you just have to read it for yourself.

Now, to be honest, since we are on the subject of truthfulness, I thought, at first, that Christians are truthful or at least try to be, but I learned through these journal entries written nearly every day that I could relate with this man's shortcomings, perhaps way more than I would like to admit. Who knew that a piece of me was inside Phil Callaway's mind!

This book really made me evaluate my truthfulness, not with profound wisdom and deep meaning, but with humor and even those embarrassing circumstances when we tend to avoid the truth the most. I will say that even though I could relate well, I do believe this is a book that men might enjoy even better. However, it was definitely worth the read and the only thing that would have made somewhat more to my liking would have been that it had a bit more depth at times.

~ My Lord, thank you for this lighthearted nudge to help me look deeper at my own twist of truthfulness and help me to be truthful without my on twist on it. May my truthfulness be Your Truthfulness. ~