Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Washing the Gray Out

I have gray hair. I have a lot of gray hair. I hate to admit it. I hate seeing it in the mirror. On the one hand, I'm only forty-two. It shouldn't be this gray. On the other hand, I am forty-two. It's natural to have some gray hair.
The fact that my hair is curly helps hide some of the gray. I've noticed when I blow dry it straight (or as straight as Florida humidity will allow) the gray is much more noticeable. I also cover a lot of it with a coloring shampoo and conditioner by Aveda. I started out several years ago with their Black Malva product. It covered the gray well, but it darkened my hair. I didn't even really notice it until others started commenting on it. My hair's dark brown anyway, but this made it black. My husband didn't like it either, so I started looking for something else. Aveda has a Clove shampoo and conditioner that's supposed to be for brown hair, so I started using that. I was pretty happy with the results until a few weeks ago. I found a family picture taken about four years ago, and I was shocked to see how much lighter my hair color was. So I started looking around for another alternative.
Some of you may wonder why I don't simply get it colored and be done with it. I won't get a professional color job for several reasons. One is, I can't afford it. Another is, I can't even get my hair cut on a regular basis. I don't want to go from almost completely gray back to dark brown every three months because that's how long it would take me between treatments. I'd like something a little more subtle.
So how about over the counter coloring? I've looked at them. I checked out advertisements and what they claim and they offer. I've even stood in the aisle and tried to find one that matches my hair color. Or--at least--the hair color it used to be. But I'm afraid. What if I do it wrong? What if it doesn't "take"? I knew a lady that colored her hair on a regular basis. One time she ended up with a dark purple tinge to her hair. Her beautician said that happens occasionally after using home products for a while. Terrific.
So the shampoo seemed to be the best solution. Only I'm darker than I want to be. Aveda's next lightest offering is Madder Root, which is actually for red hair. I don't really have much in the way of red highlights, but red does run in my family. Maybe it'll lighten the brown back to the shade it was before. So I gave it a try. Whereas the Clove conditioner was dark brown, almost black, the Madder Root is--orange really. That was scary. So I used it. I couldn't really tell much difference. After a week, I finally noticed that my hair seemed to be getting lighter. But then I took a real close look in the mirror. It's getting lighter all right, but it's not turning red or brown. It's turning gray! The Madder Root is not doing anything to cover my gray. I no longer have strands, or even threads. I'm not sure I even have streaks of gray. I have full-fledged gray hair. I felt older just standing there.
Today I went and bought some more Clove conditioner. I'd rather be too dark than too gray! And I think I'll make another trip down that hair coloring aisle. After all, millions of women color their hair every day! How hard could it be?
I hate dark purple.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Getting Organized

I'm working this week on getting organized for the new year. I really like things organized and arranged in their place. I just can't seem to achieve that in my own personal life. I usually keep some sort of a calendar or planner in my purse. It gets used sometimes more than others. My last one was a two-year, so this is the first time since 2006 that I'm looking for a new one. I like the month-at-a-glance pages. If it's a weekly calendar, I'll turn the page and find something from the following week that throws me off. I need to see the whole month at a time. Plus, I have to organize my kids schedules in with mine, and then I have to coordinate everything with my husband's schedule. Since he's a spur of the moment guy sometimes, that's not always easy. Then, too, since he's a pastor, he can get a last minute call and suddenly everything's out the window. I don't mind too much, but I need my calendar so I can see just what went out the window. : )
I like organization in my house as well. I just don't always achieve it. I use shelving and baskets and the like to try and organize under sinks and in closets. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I suppose if I labeled everything, the others in the house might actually put things where they belong. Maybe I'll get a label maker this year.
But back to the pocket calendar. Do any of you use a calendar or planner or anything? How do you stay organized? If you use one, what features do you look for? What works for you and why? Help me get organized this year! My family will thank you!

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Time To Rest

The past six weeks have been so hectic, haven't they? Do you sometimes feel like you are in fast forward mode through the holidays? Someone asked me earlier this week what I had left to do before Christmas. I didn't even know. This year I'm been taking one thing at a time. For instance, I focused on the ladies' Christmas meeting. When that was done, I focused on special music we had coming up. Then there was the adult Christmas party. Then the cantata. I told the woman who asked me that I didn't know what I still had to do for Christmas. For that day I was focusing on finishing work so I could go home and cook dinner. The rest would come later.
Fortunately, everything fell into place and all the "musts" of Christmas were done on time. True, I was up until 1:00 Christmas morning, but it got done! Even that was enjoyable, though. There were presents to wrap, and my two oldest boys helped wrap while my husband took charge of filling out tags and placing bows. We got it done in pretty short order.
I also wanted a clean house. I tell my kids every year that's all I want for Christmas. Thankfully, they don't listen and get me presents anyway. LOL But somehow I just enjoy the day better if I'm not looking at everything that needs to be cleaned and cared for. So the day before Christmas (the first day I didn't have to work) I told my boys I wanted some help because I wanted a clean house for Christmas. Joel gave me a very sweet smile and said, "Yeah, you know you're not gonna get that, right?" I gave a sweet smile right back. "The house will be clean. Of course, if I have to do it myself, I won't have time to wrap presents or make cookies for the rest of you."
I had a clean house for Christmas.
This year was difficult because it's the first time we weren't all together for Christmas. I was dreading the day without Stephanie, who is not able to get home for the holidays this year. Thankfully, we had some dear friends who, I think, sensed how hard it would be. They invited us over for Christmas dinner. When we got there they absorbed us right into their family. We had a fantastic, traditional Christmas dinner that I didn't have to cook. We chatted and laughed and teased and joked. We played games and did dishes and munched and nibbled and watched movies. When it got dark we piled into the van and drove to the most fantastic light display I've ever seen. Traffic was backed up all around, but we got out and walked through the neighborhood to see this house. The owners of the house have a walkway they set up so that you can actually walk through their yard and see their displays up close. Then we headed back to the house for leftovers and more cookies and brownies and pie. We finally left about 10:30 last night and headed home, all the boys falling asleep on the drive. It was a perfect, perfect day.
And now it's the day after Christmas. I feel no post-holiday let down. There's no press of things that need to be accomplished in a short amount of time. I slept in a little bit, although not as long as I would have liked. I'm off work for a while and my boys are off school, so we have time to just relax and enjoy ourselves and each other.
I doubt I can vegetate for an entire day, but I can managed a few hours without a problem, easily. Next week we have some New Year's celebrations to go through. I have to pack things up for Stephanie to take to college since she's starting her first semester in January. There's a few projects around the house that I want to tackle. Christmas decorations to take down and pack away.
But for today ... today I'm going to breathe. I'm going to rest. I'm going to enjoy my kids and my house and the wonderful weather Florida offers at this time of year. It's almost like a second Thanksgiving. Except without the turkey. Today I'm enjoying life.
Happy Day-After-Christmas. I hope it's as restful and trouble-free for you as it will be for me.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I hope each and everyone of you have a very blessed day. Merry Christmas, and thanks for spending a little time with me on my blog. God bless you!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Shopper's Version of "'Twas The Night Before Christmas"

Following along with yesterday's blog about Christmas shopping, I thought you might appreciate this shopper's take on "'Twas The Night Before Christmas". I didn't write it, but I like it all the same.

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the town
Shoppers were busy, speeding around.
A gift for Aunt Martha, a bathrobe for dad
And a Tickle-Me Elmo was not to be had.

I was buckled tight into my seatbelt with hope
That I had not yet reached the end of my rope
And with a great twist, my car key did turn
From my driveway I sped, and I made rubber burn.

And through the bright streets, all covered with lights
I sped like a rabbit, all shiv'ring with fright
I searched high and low, through the streets I did weave
To find a store open this late Christmas Eve.

The toy shop was closing. I raced to the door.
I begged and I pleaded, I cried and implored.
But I was condemned, some more I would roam
For all the employees were going straight home.

Home was the place that I wanted to be
But alas there was nothing but air neath the tree.
So I sped to the Wal-Mart for some last minute shopping
The parking was jammed, the store it was hopping.

I pressed into the store through an exiting crowd,
A large mass of people, all noisy and loud.
Like locusts these people had shopped with great care
And left all the shelves quite empty and bare.

I found an employee who stood by the door,
And grabbed at his vest, lifting him from the floor
"Just five measly gifts! I don't care what they are!
I'll give you my wallet! I'll give you my car!"

"We have nothing left," the poor man did squeak.
"We won't get a shipment 'til later this week."
I ran to my car and my heart did melt
I kicked at the tire and then shouted, "Won't someone please help!"

But time was a wasting as darkness fell down
Merchants were closing all over the town.
The toy store, the book store, the Wal-Mart, oh my!
The Good Guys and Best Buy, and Sears was my cry!

And now I was feeling the worst of my fears;
My children would hate me for twenty-five years.
A sign in the distance my eyes did catch
"Open 24 Hours" there was no lock, no latch.

For Tommy a Slurpee, for Ann a Slim Jim.
A liter of Diet Pepsi for my lovely wife, Kim.
A dozen of donuts for my big boy Matt,
And a Snickers candy bar for Paul and his cat.

In just a few minutes I got my shopping done,
And headed right home for some holiday fun.
As I turned at the corner and drove out of sight,
I thanked 7-11 for being open all night!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Losing My Edge

I've always had a love/hate relationship with Christmas shopping. I actually enjoy going out and shopping for gifts for people. I love finding that perfect present. One year I got Matt a big set of art supplies. He has some talent, but he's never really developed it that much. I was so thrilled to find a unique gift that suited him. Another year I found the perfect leather coat for Stephanie. She had wanted one forever, and I watched sales and hoarded coupons until I got a great deal on it. Her squeal of excitement on Christmas morning was worth it all!
On the other hand, I've had my share of flops. Times when I've shopped and shopped and wracked my brain, but the present still came up short. A piece of clothing I never seen them wear, or a bag that I never see them use. We've all missed the mark a time or two, I'm sure.
I usually start my shopping in the summer. Hey, I have six kids! I can't afford to buy everything between Thanksgiving and Christmas! The Disney store usually has a huge sale of all it's summer stock in June or July. Since we live in Florida, stocking up on summer t-shirts and pajamas is a good thing. I also buy their socks--they make great stocking stuffers. As I see stuff that might work as a present, I pick it up little by little. Of course, then there's the problem of remembering what I have. I usually try to make sure all the kids have the same amount of gifts. But sometimes I end up having to combine a couple of things into one present to make that happen. Occasionally I'll have to split a set into two parts to make an extra present. But somehow by Christmas Eve it all gets sorted out.
Wrapping all these presents is another chore in itself. As the kids have gotten older, they've helped, but ... if it weren't for my friend, Tammy, my kids would have no presents to open. For several years I made a point of storing all my presents at her house. My closet is only so big, after all. Then I'd go over one night and we'd spend hours wrapping everything. My last year in Alabama, Tammy wrapped most of my presents herself. Then she invited Stephanie over for an evening, and they got the rest done. I'm really spoiled, aren't I?
Well, this year I've done very little shopping at all. We decided to buy one gift for the family, and then the rest of the presents would be things that are needed like clothes and shoes. So I've picked up a few of those things as I've been out and about. I haven't stepped foot in a Toys R Us this year. Neither have I visited Books-a-Million. I can't remember the last time I've walked into a Kohl's. (I like that store. I should probably rectify that problem soon.) And while I've appreciated that I have less on my plate because of our present this year, still I kind of miss it. At least, I did until this evening. When I got off work I had to run and pick up a few things. Traffic was horrible. Stores were crowded. Parking lots were full. (I thought we were in a recession?!?!?) And now I'm just glad that I've avoided most of that this year. It's been nice for a change.
Now, about those after Christmas sales ...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Cookies

Here is a recipe for one of my favorite types of Christmas cookies. I'm going to be making some of these this week. They're delicious, but they also look so Christmasy!

3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. softened butter
1 tbsp vanilla
1-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
nuts, chocolate chips, maraschino cherries

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla. Work in flour and salt until dough holds together. If dough is dry, mix in 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk.

For each cookie, shape dough by tablespoons full around nuts, chocolate chips or a cherry to form a ball. Place about one inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until set but not brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool. Dip tops of cookies into glaze. Decorate with coconut, nuts, colored sugar, sprinkles, etc.


1 c. sifted powdered sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
Food coloring

These are called Bon Bon Cookies. I usually split the glaze into 3 or 4 different bowls and use different colors: red, green, blue, and sometimes white. It looks very festive and they are yummy!

Because my family is picky, I usually decorate the top of the cookie so they know what's inside. I put a nut on top for a nut filling, chocolate chip for a chocolate chip filling, and then sprinkles for the cherry filling. You could also use coconut or dates for the filling as well.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Boys Will Be Boys Part II

Nicky, my nine-year-old, has a mustache. Not a hairy one, but a mustache, nevertheless. While I was cooking dinner, Joel came down to announce that Nicky had been using a razor. Why? Because it was there. He's got a pretty good cut on his upper lip. Looks like a red Hitler mustache. He also has a raw patch on his cheek where he tried to shave.
Nicky got the scolding and discipline needed for his actions. But he still had to endure the teasing of his brothers. They started joking around the dinner table. They gave him "Heil Hitler" salutes. Matthew started using Star Wars statements adjusted to Nicky's situation.
Terry told Nicky not to do it again, but that all boys tried that once in their lives.
"Sure," said one. "I cut my lip in the same spot. Just not as bad."
"Who shaved their legs?" One of the boys asked.
"Who shaved their eyebrows?" Another one teased.
"I shaved my face and my legs."
That last confession caused silence to fall on the table. Everyone stared at the speaker (you'll notice the names have been withheld to protect the guilty.)
He looked around awkwardly for a moment and then said, "Once. I shaved them once."
Great. they play with razors and long to use them right up until the time they start developing facial hair. And then suddenly it's a huge imposition for them to shave. It's almost a daily battle to get them to shave. And they say women are fickle.
Maybe not fickle, but at least when we cut our legs shaving, the bandaid isn't so obvious!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Great Minds Think Alike

I've talked a lot about how guys don't understand women and women can't understand men. But I'm here to tell you that, occasionally, my mind and my husband's do run in sync.
The road that leads to our house from the church heads directly toward Lake Monroe. Just before it gets to the lake, the road starts a gentle curve to the left. At the last minute, the road suddenly curves a little more sharply, and if you're not paying attention, your vehicle could go shooting off the road and into the lake.
Wednesday night after church, Terry and I were driving down this road. It's actually a very beautiful route, especially when the full moon is shining on the lake. Terry was driving a little fast around the curve and I could just see our van shooting out into the lake. As a fiction writer, my mind immediately jumped to "what if" and I got to thinking about a scene that would involve something along that line.
"How deep is that water right here?" I asked.
"Not sure." Terry answered. "It's probably pretty murky, though, that close to the shore."
"I mean, how deep is it if a vehicle runs into it? Will it sink? Float? What?"
My husband never batted an eyelash. "Oh, that's about 4-6 feet right there. You could get out of the vehicle no problem. Just climb on the roof of the car and wait for help."
"If the alligators don't get you first."
Now obviously I was thinking along story lines, but I didn't tell my husband that. After asking a weird question such as that, he didn't stare at me or scold. He fell right into working out logistics with me.
It was just really special that we could fall right into discussing something such as that without one thinking the other is weird.
Maybe it's just weird that I find it romantic for us to plot a vehicle running off into the lake and people scrambling to the top of their car to avoid getting eaten by alligators. Hey, it's not a bouquet of roses, but it'll do. What more could you want than a husband that understands you occasionally?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Boys Will Be Boys

I didn't see my boys much yesterday until supper time. I had to work extra hours, and they went with their oldest brother to the church. Matthew was doing some painting and the boys went along to play for the day. So at supper, Nicky comments to me casually, "Mom, my head was squished in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich today."
I looked him over, but he had no peanut butter or jelly on his head.
What happened?" I looked at Matthew.
"It's a funny story," he says.
"So tell me."
"Nicky spilled some coke all over the place."
"It was on purpose." Joel chimed in.
"No it wasn't!" Nicky argued back.
"It was an accident," Matthew clarified. "But it got all over Joel so Joel tossed some soda back at Nicky."
As a rule we discourage food fights. Nothing good ever comes of them. Matt and Steph still talk about the spaghetti food fight they had years ago. I still don't find it funny.
"I told Nicky to clean it up." Matt continued the story. "So he had this big wad of sopping wet paper towels." Here Matt starts laughing so hard he has a hard time finishing.
"Where does the peanut butter and jelly come in?"
"I'm getting there. Nicky headed to the kitchen to throw out the paper towels, and he met Joel coming out. So Nicky smacked Joel right in the face with the soda-soaked towels."
"I had to wash my face." Never something my boys enjoy.
"And the peanut butter?"
Matt shrugged. "I told him not to do that to his brother and then I smacked his head down into the sandwich on the counter."
All the boys are laughing hard now.
"I had to wash my face and my hair." Clearly a punishment that had make an impression.
"So basically you punished Nicky for doing something to Joel by doing almost the exact same thing to Nicky." I wasn't really sure how that worked as punishment as opposed to retaliation.
Matt helps out with his brothers good-naturedly, but I have to wonder sometimes what he's teaching them. I have to wonder what else goes on those four hours a day when I'm at work. I would never allow this kind of behavior when I'm home, and they wouldn't think of doing it when I'm home.
I think the boys have adopted the Vegas motto: What happens away from Mom, stays away from Mom.
While I don't condone that line of thought, I do secretly wonder if I'm better off not knowing some of the things that go on. If they're reasonably healthy and uninjured, maybe I should just leave it at that.
As a footnote, I should tell you that all of them had to take a shower last night. I figured that kind of behavior deserved extra punishment.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Have A Wonderful or Happy Politically Correct Holiday Season

Does anyone else get bugged by this, or is it just me? Christmas is an international holiday, isn't it? So why are we so afraid that celebrating it in a traditional way will offend someone? Every year we hear about some store that won't put up Merry Christmas signs anymore. Their employees have to say "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings" to customers instead of Merry Christmas. They (whoever "they" are) are so afraid that someone will be offended if they know we're actually celebrating *shhh!* Christmas!
Now, I'm not into deliberately offending people. But as I move about this Christmas season I see a lot of people observing--well, they're observing some sort of holiday right now! They've put up lights. The stores are jammed with people shopping for presents. They're going to seasonal music concerts and putting on plays and cantatas. So if they're not celebrating Christmas, what are they celebrating?
Beyond my rant, here's what I really think. I think--in this country at least--we have a very loud minority. Someone who doesn't believe in Jesus is offended that we do. And now everyone is worried that more than one person will be offended.
Why do I think it's a minority? I can look around me and see how many people are celebrating the holiday. It's definitely a majority. Granted, many of them do not understand the true meaning of the season, but they still celebrate it. They just think a fat man in a red suit is at the center of the holiday. Of course, since being overweight is almost becoming a crime, I expect Santa's image to be made over within the next few years. People will be leaving tofu snacks and soy milk for him by the fireplace. And he'll probably have a tan from hanging out in the Caribbean during his off season. But hey, I think I'll save my thoughts on Santa for another post.
The thing is, people are hungry and searching for something. And this is a wonderful time of year to introduce people to Jesus. Most people want to know something about Him. How do I know? Well, there's a church not far from here that does a "Journey through Christmas" every year. It's kind of a living Nativity, but it goes all the way through Jesus' death, burial and resurrection. They provide live Christmas music, singing and instruments, and skits and puppet shows to the people lined up waiting to be taken through the tour. The end of the tour is at a room with a replica of an empty tomb. The pastor of the church takes about ten minutes to give a clear presentation of the Gospel of why Jesus came.
Journey Through Christmas drew about 1500 people last year during its three day run. This year, they had 1500 people show up the first night. Their street was so backed up with traffic, they had to call in extra police officers to deal with the excess. They had over 150 people make a profession of faith that night. Through their three-night run, they had over 6000 people come through. Over 600 of them accepted Christ as their Saviour. People are hungry. They want to know the truth.
I have nothing against the phrases "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings". I just always considered them part of Christmas tradition. But now I find myself exclusively using the phrase "Merry Christmas". It's not so trite to say that Jesus IS the reason for the season. And I refuse to be ashamed of the fact that He is in the forefront of our lives. Christmas is the perfect time of year to bring up why He came, and we can't let a few people shame us out of this wonderful God-given opportunity to share Christ with others.
So MERRY CHRISTMAS, everyone! Give someone the gift of Jesus this year!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Looking At Christmas Lights

One of our favorite things to do this time of year is drive around looking at Christmas lights. It's always so awesome to see how creative some people can be. Or how garish they can be. Whatever. It's fun to look anyway.
There's a subdivision that I like driving through on the way to church. Some people go all out in decorating. One house has a lighted pig with a Santa hat on. I don't get it, but the kids always look for the "pig house". One house always strings lights across the entire surface of their roof. They also have tons of lighted figures and even a small ferris wheel in their yard. An animated, lit train circles just inside their fence. But they don't have everything up yet. I keep wondering what they're waiting for. In another ten days it will be Christmas, and then what's the point?
Another great thing about lights is the "Jones effect". Someone gets a lot of lights in their yard and their neighbor has to keep up so they put a lot up too. There's a stretch of three houses in this subdivision that seemed determined to out-do each other. The display is fantastic! We have a Jones Effect in our subdivision, too. At the far back of the subdivison is a cul-de-sac with three houses competing for biggest light bill. It's a pretty cool sight as well.
One of the best displays I ever remember was in Alabama at the Mill Creek Crossing subdivision. There a house had the legs and feet of Santa sticking out from their chimney. Giant Christmas presents were staggered across the roof and into the yard as if Santa dropped them. My kids always loved to see the Santa house.
Across the street from us, the people have hung giant Christmas balls in their magnolia tree in the front yard. At the base of the tree are three outlines of electric presents in blue, green and red. One thing I've had to get used to here is Christmas lights on a palm trees. It seemed weird last year, but I think the idea is growing on me.
For a couple of years now I've hung icicle lights on the outside of our house. This year I also decided to put some colored lights in our bushes. Side note here: our bushes are scruffy and overgrown at the same time because I don't know anything about pruning or taking care of them. But in the meantime, we had two sets of blinking lights that had 16 different variations. The lights were blue, green, and red. After I strung them through the bushes, only the blue lights worked on the bushes and only the green and red ones worked in the tall bush/small tree at the side of the bushes. So yesterday I got out there and strung some more colored lights so we wouldn't look so pathetic. Our home is not one of the showpieces when it comes to looking at Christmas displays, but it is fun and it is ours.
Sometimes I think this outside decorating can go too far. I once knew a family that did such a huge display, they were featured in the paper every year. But the display (including music) sucked so much electricity that they had to get up and do their laundry at 5:00 AM in order to conserve electricity for that evening display. I don't love Christmas lights that much!
So what kind of displays do you usually see? Or what displays do you remember as standing out in your mind from sometime in the past?
As a postscript, I'll say that I hate those big blow up things that people put in their yards. At night it looks cool, but all during the day you have to put up with what looks like a giant deflated balloon on the grass. I'd rather have something that looks good twenty-four hours a day!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Please Pray

I want to say thanks to those of you who popped by the blog this week. I know it's not been the wittiest or funniest week I've ever had, but I appreciate your coming by anyway.
It's been a tough week. Someone I care about deeply is going through a very real trial right now. They want to do right; they've made the decision to do right. And yet, Satan is throwing everything he's got in their way.
I'm asking you to pray for them. Pray for God's grace and wisdom. Pray for peace. And pray for a hedge of protection around them right now.
In a moment of complete selfishness, I'm asking you to pray for me too. I'm fully aware of the principle in the Bible of sowing and reaping. But I had no idea just how hard it would be to watch someone reap such a bitter harvest. They're doing right now, but they still have to reap from the sowing they've done throughout the rest of the year. Their pain is tearing me apart. Pray for strength for me and wisdom as I try to be a help to them.
And thank you for caring.

It's All In The Timing

They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, so here goes: My name is Jill and I'm habitually late. I mean all the time. To everything.
I know it's a bad trait to have. I know it sets a bad example for my children. And I'm really trying to fix it. But see, this is a long-standing problem. When I was in college, I was always late for dates. My steady waited patiently--sometimes half an hour or more--for me to show up at our meeting place in the main building of the campus. I married the guy, and he's not nearly so patient now.
I don't even know how this happens. Usually when I have to be somewhere, I figure out how long it takes to get there, and what time I have to leave the house. And yet still I'm running late. Sometimes it's a matter of oversleeping, but not often. I get up at six, and I'm still usually late for work at ten. And no, it does not take me four hours to get ready. I have my devotions in the morning; I check my emails; I blog, if I haven't already done that the night before. I also get the boys started on their schooling for the day. I do a little housework in the morning.
I always try to be conscious of the time, but somewhere, somehow it gets away from me. I'll glance at the clock and realize that half an hour has passed without my realizing it.
I've tried different methods of curing myself. I tried setting all the clocks in the house five minutes ahead. That never worked. I just always calculated that I had five extra minutes to do what needed to be done before I left. Then I'd take six minutes. Or seven. So I tried setting clocks ahead fifteen minutes. That worked somewhat. For a while. I was still late, but I came closer to hitting the mark. But everyone in my house complained that they never really knew what time it was. So I set the clocks correctly. Of course, I probably should have told them I was doing that. They all started thinking they had fifteen extra minutes, and suddenly they were running fifteen minutes late.
I've tried hurrying. Rearranging my schedule, budgeting my time. None of that worked either. Something always came up at the last minute and I'd still end up being late.
I think I miscalculate how long everything is going to take me.
The problem got worse when we moved to Florida. It got worse because now I'm the pastor's wife. I CANNOT be late to church! I'm getting there in the last five minutes before the service starts, which is too late, but at least I'm there before it starts. But I can't seem to get to any other scheduled events on time. I'm always late for choir. I arrive at the last minute for the monthly ladies' Bible studies. And I always vow I will do better. But how?
I finally decided to add fifteen minutes to any schedule I have. If choir starts at 5:00, then I try to focus on it starting at 4:45. Then I focus on the fact that I have to leave the house by 4:30. So then I focus on getting ready at 4:15. Some of my friends tease me that I live my life in fifteen minute increments. But even here I see a flaw. I plan on leaving the house at 4:30 to be at the church by 4:45. It takes between fifteen and twenty minutes to get to church, so if choir really started at 4:45, I'd still be late! But if I plan on leaving at 4:25, I won't leave until 4:30 anyway. I know myself. And it seems silly to plan on leaving at 4:15. That's actually forty-five minutes before choir starts. And that also cuts further into an already short Sunday afternoon.
I just read the previous paragraph again, and it reads like a word problem in advanced math. I think I've finally hit on the crux of this whole issue. It involves numbers. It involves math. I'm an English and history person. I don't get the entire concept of math. My single piece of advice for my children when they struggle with math problems? X always equals 5. Maybe I'm physically incapable of being on time because I'm physically incapable of dealing with numbers. (Never mind that I actually work in an accounting office!) Perhaps I'm not really at fault for this whole on-time thing anyway! It's intellectually beyond my grasp.
But then again ... I guess it's back to the drawing board. My name is Jill and I'm habitually late. And I can't do math.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

God's Christmas List

Do you have anyone that's hard to buy for at Christmas time? Someone who either has everything, or their wants are so technical or detailed that you dare not shop for them? Or worse yet, someone who says "I don't need anything" when you ask them for gift suggestions. Yeah, like that's going to go over big on Christmas morning when everyone else is unwrapping presents!
In my devotions this past week I came across a short list of things that God wants. It started me thinking about the celebration of Jesus' birth, and what I needed to get Him for His birthday. I hope you'll bear with me as I share some of the things I learned.
Micah 6:6-8 says,

Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD required of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

The author is frantically scrambling for a gift fit for the Lord God of Heaven. He starts out with what everyone is supposed to give: burnt offerings. Pure, specifically chosen calves to offer to the Lord. Then he progresses to extravagant gifts: thousands of rams; ten thousand rivers of oil. Gifts that would truly be a sacrifice to give. Things that really cost the writer something. Or almost everything. Then he even goes on to suggest the most extreme gift of all. Would it take the gift of his firstborn in order to satisfy the Lord? "The fruit of his body for the sin of his soul?" As huge as that is, somehow it seems fitting when you consider that He gave His only begotten Son for us.

But then in verse 8, we have the answer of the Lord. He wants no extravagant gift. Nothing that attempts to match His own unmatchless generosity. He wants only three things. He wants us to do justly. Just do right. Make the right choices. This could be a huge as following His call to the mission field, or as small as having the humility and unselfishness to offer to work in the nursery on the night of the Christmas cantata. Just do right.

Then He tells us to love mercy. My dictionary defines mercy as "more kindness than justice deserves". We can do right, but that doesn't mean we do it with kindness. Sometimes it's hard to be gracious and kind when people really don't deserve it. But then again, doesn't Jesus set the ultimate example for that as well? If He can show more kindness than justice deserves on such a grand scale, can't we do it in our every day lives? But He doesn't just say to do it. He says to love it. Love is a pretty strong emotion for something we give so grudgingly, if at all.

Finally God tells us to walk humbly with him. In addition to meekness, the dictionary defines humbleness as showing consideration or respect. Quite often we show respect to someone by letting them go first. Do we show God the respect He deserves by putting Him first? Do we put Him first in our time or our money? Or do we put Him first in giving Him ourselves? I'm afraid so often we just give Him the leftovers.

Notice that He prefaces His list with the observation that He has shown us that which is good. He's given the example. Often when I'm telling my husband what I want for Christmas, I mark pages in catalogs, or write down specfically in what store and what aisle and what section the item I want can be found. God has given us a clear example to follow in what He expects of us. We don't have to attempt these things on our own. To do so would be foolhardy. As we "walk humbly with the Lord", He shows us how to live in such a way that we will please Him.

As you go about your Christmas shopping this season, don't forget to follow God's shopping list. Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. A short list, but an important one. Give Him what He wants for Christmas.

Monday, December 8, 2008

C is for Cookie

So I was thinking about a Christmas gift I could give to all you blogger buddies. I decided to post some of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes for you to enjoy. Here's one of my favorites: Bon Bon Cookies.

3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. softened butter
1 tbsp. vanilla
1-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
nuts, chocolate chips, maraschino cherries

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix powdered sugar, butter and vanilla. Work in flour and salt until dough holds together. If dough is dry, mix in 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk.

For each cookie, shape dough by tablespoons full around nuts, chocolate chips or cherries to form a ball. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until set but not brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool. Dip tops of cookies into glaze. Decorate with coconuts, nuts, colored sugar, sprinkles.


1 c. sifted confectioners' sugar
2 tbsp cream
1 tsp vanilla
Food coloring

These are some of my favorite Christmas cookies. They not only taste delicious, but they look really festive. Enjoy!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Because I'm The Mom

My boys think I have special powers. And I encourage that thought.
Somehow, I seem to know everything. Not just information stuff, but everything they're thinking. Everything they're doing. Everything they're thinking about doing. They don't understand how I know these things. And I don't explain it to them. I tell them it's "because I'm the Mom." I tell them that God tells Moms things so they know how to deal with their kids. And that's true. But God tells us stuff in different ways.
First off, I used to be a kid. That concept is totally foreign to my children. They can't wrap their heads around the fact that I was once ten. That I might have contemplated doing some of the same things they try to pull. I know how a ten year old (or a nine year old, or a twelve year old, or a fourteen year old, or a seventeen year old, or a nineteen year old) thinks, because I used to be one.
Another thing they don't realize is that none of them have mastered a poker face. Most of their thoughts are right there in their expression. I can tell whose guilty. Whose sad. Whose upset. It's right there on their face.
I also know how they think. I gave birth to these children. I've watched them grow. I've watched their personalities develop. I know which of my children is most likely to not flush the toilet. (All of the boys!) I know which one is going to spill juice and not bother to clean it all up. I know which one is guilty when I hear the cat meow in protest.
The thing is, since I know generally who did what, I speak to them as if I know specifically who did what. Nine times out of ten, they rat themselves out because they think I already know.
This proved true the other day when I got home from work. I was hurrying to fix supper, and I leaned against the counter to reach something in the upper cabinet. The edge of the countertop was sticky, although the top of the counter wasn't. I grumbled at poor work ethics, cleaned the counter and went about my business. But then I opened a cabinet beneath the sticky counter. The cabinet doors were sticky, too. Both inside AND outside. That cabinet holds all my plastic bowls. Sure enough, there were orange juice drops and puddles in almost a dozen of those bowls. Someone had spilled orange juice. They had wiped up the counter, and the floor, but they had completed skipped the cabinet.
I called everyone downstairs and asked who had spilled orange juice that day. They were astounded. How did I know anyone had spilled anything? (They spill every day!)And how did I know it was orange juice? Nicky confessed. I showed him the cabinet and the bowls and made him clean up the mess. Even with cleaning, he still wasn't quite sure how I knew he had spilled something while I was gone. Poor boy. One day he'll have some kids of his own. Then he'll have the great knowledge that comes with being a parent. Then he'll have eyes in the back of his head. Then his kids will never get away with anything because he can say, "Because I'm the Mom."
Oops. I guess he'll be the Dad. So maybe he never will figure out how the female figurehead in the family knows all that she does. Maybe he'll always believe that it's simply because she's the Mom.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mood Swings

We all have them, don't we? I mean, isn't that women are known for? And obviously there are physical reasons for them. It's not just a psychological phenomenon. I hate having my feelings dismissed as a mood swing, even when I know that's actually what it is.
Guys just can't deal with the moods, can they? Although, they have their own as well. But we'll not get into that here. Since I have so many boys in my family, I do try to keep my mood swings to a minimum. Even my youngest boys seem uncomfortable and/or tolerant of my moods. I hate both responses because they have moods as well, but whatever. I said I wouldn't get into that, didn't I.
The reason I'm blogging on this is because I've had a few mood swings lately. I was talking to my oldest son, trying to impart a little wisdom into his good-looking--albeit occasionally thick--head. He was listening with a patient air of tolerance that infuriated me. I refuse to be patronized or tolerated, especially by my own children. I got angry, finished my diatribe with a sharp comment and returned to making dinner.
Unable to read emotions very well, my fourteen year old asked me if he could make something else for himself for dinner. Whatever we were having that day was not his favorite, and he just wanted to make some mac n' cheese so he would have something he actually liked on his plate. But to ask at that moment was a rejection of everything I had been working on for most of the past hour. (Not that I'm over-reacting at all!). I snapped at him that, if he didn't like what I cooked, find a restaurant somewhere. Then I headed upstairs to cry in peace.
Now, I don't cry in front of my boys as a rule. Not because it's not a valid emotional outlet. And I don't want them to think that boys never cry. No, my problem is, I don't want to use tears to manipulate them. I just don't want them trained that way. But this time, the tears came before I was in the privacy of my room. I had a good cry, mopped up and went back downstairs. Everything was very quiet. Furtive, sideways glances were shot in my direction followed by bright, phony smiles.
"Hi, Mom."
"Love you, Mom."
"Can I get you something, Mom?"
"You look beautiful, Mom."
See what I mean? Apparently a natural male tendency is to say or do anything in order to make the tears disappear. I don't want them to feel that they have to compliment me if they know I've been crying. I don't want them groveling. At least, not for that reason. : ) Everyone walked on eggshells for awhile until it was clear that Mom was herself again. Then, no one remembers what set me off in the first place. No one except me. Whatever I was trying to get through to my sons--don't be patronizing to women; don't criticize what someone cooks for dinner--is completely written off as a "mood swing". They don't seem to grasp that I actually had some valid points they needed to think about.
But I know these points will come again. And hopefully, I'll deal better with it then. Hopefully I won't be in the middle of a "mood swing".

P.S. I'm sorry this post is so much later today. I guess you could chalk it up to a mood swing. : )

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Weather Update

To follow up on my earlier post from this morning, now it is a very pleasant 68 degrees here in our part of Florida. The sun is shining, the grass is green, the sky is deep blue ... Okay, so this is why we live in Florida!

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Do you remember that commercial--I think it was for hair coloring or something--where the model looks at the camera and says, "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful." Yeah, that always annoyed me too. While you don't need to worry about getting a line like that from me (unless there's a big laugh attached to it) I guess I could use my own variation of that line.

Don't hate me because I live in Florida.

Through November and December, our weather is mostly clear, sunny and in the seventies. Most Floridians say "This is why I live in Florida" when discussing the weather this time of year. Some friends of mine (waving at everyone in Alabama) are in the South, but they're still further north than I am. They're dealing with cold weather and snow and sleet. I was raised in the Midwest. Snow this time of year seems normal to me. We lived one year in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. By December 1st of that year, we'd already had a record 107" of snow.

We don't get snow in Florida. We don't get freeze warnings in Florida, usually. But last night it did dip down into the upper 30's overnight. Even that wouldn't be such a big deal, but we didn't have the furnace on. I think we ran it twice last year. This year, so far, we've just thrown extra blankets on the bed and probably slept better for the cooler weather. It still warms up around seventy during the day. This morning when I got up, it was quite chilly inside the house. So I finally turned on the furnace. I'm writing this while inhaling that wonderfully burnt smell that you get the first time the furnace runs in the winter.

It's funny to watch people that have lived down here for a while. Anyplace else that I've lived in the States, sweaters don't come out when the temperatures are in the seventies. But they do here. Some heavy jackets come out when we hit the upper fifties or lower sixties. This year, I wore a sweater when the temperature was in the low seventies. I think I'm getting conditioned to the more tropical weather. I'm cold this morning--I even put on socks. But I also know that I'll be able to run around later in the day without a jacket or coat. I used to think that was horrible. I loved the cold weather. Now I love cool weather. Cold weather bites and stings you. Cool weather is pleasant. I like not having to bundle up in scarves and hats and mittens. In fact, some people here just throw on a scarf with their sweater.

So don't hate me because I live in Florida. Just think about next summer. You might be enjoying warm weather, while we'll be sweltering down here. The humidity will make it feel like it's raining--even inside your clothes. We pay for all this pleasantness now. We pay for it next summer. But for those of you in cooler climates, remember this: you can always layer on more clothing, blankets, coats, scarves, etc. In the summer in Florida, there's only so much you can take off!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Dreaded Christmas Cards

Do you do Christmas cards? Sending cards has been a tradition from when I was little. I can remember my mom doing them. More importantly, I remember the long lines of cards she set out that we received from other people. How wonderful to be remembered by that many people at Christmas! The only caveat was, if you wanted to get cards, you had to send cards.
I didn't do so well at the sending cards for a long time. I always tried to write a little added message in each one--something personal to that particular person or family that would be receiving the card. That takes a long time. I don't do that any more.
I know some people do a Christmas letter to put in their card. Somehow I never thought our year's worth of activities were interesting enough that everyone else would want to read all about them. And then what happens if you don't have much to put down? Who wants to be depressed at Christmas by being bored with their own recital of that year's events? No letter for me. Some people I know send a letter instead of a card. It's nice to catch up, but the letter doesn't look nearly so nice as a card would, hanging on the wall near my patio door. Maybe this year I'll just include my blog address with my Christmas cards. Then people can catch up on the hysterics of the Boyd family all year round!
I'm picky about the cards I send, too. I usually prefer a winter scene of some sort. I also want it to say "Merry Christmas" and not "Happy Holidays". No political correctness for me! And no Santa Claus stuff. He is NOT the reason for the season. (I should mention here that this is my criteria for the cards I send out. I will still cherish your card if it has Santa Claus and says Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings.)
Some years I struggled through my cards and finished them the day before Christmas. I dutifully mailed them, knowing that no one would receive them until after the holiday. It's the thought that counts, right?
And what about the list of people you send them to? How does someone qualify to receive a card from you? I have relatives, friends, our church family. But once in a while I get a Christmas card from someone that I didn't send a card to. When that happens, I quickly pull out an extra card and send one to them as well. I'm not the only one that does that, am I?
Do you send cards to people you don't like? You know, that obligatory "if they don't get one they're going to be hurt" concept? I'm pretty sure I like everyone on my Christmas card list. Life's too short and this little tradition is too involved to waste time and postage sending cards to people I don't like.
So in between the other things going on this week, I'm going to do be doing Christmas cards. What about you? What's one of your holiday traditions that you can't do without?

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Strange Sense of Humor

Guys have a really weird sense of humor. Have you ever noticed that? This past year I've had the opportunity to study the male humor up close. Sometimes closer than I wanted to, and for longer periods. Being the only female living with six guys, I do occasionally have to remind my boys that this is not a locker room or a boys' dorm.
I do find it amazing the different things that guys find funny. For instance, you know that little smile that comes on a week-old baby's face? The one where everyone says, "that's just gas"? For guys, that smile continues well into adulthood. The daughter of a friend of mine is expecting her first baby, a boy, in January. I wrote her a list of things she should know about raising boys. One of the things I mentioned was that food and drink coming out the nose was always funny. I mentioned that to my nineteen year old and he cracked up. I thought he was laughing at my wit until he said, "It really is funny. I don't know why."
The male humor is unique. After all, do you see girls going around to friends saying, "Pull my finger"? How many females get together because they want to watch a Three Stooges marathon? It just doesn't happen.
The picture with today's post is from a Disney movie that came out sometime in the 80's. It's a funny movie about a scientist-type geek that gets to travel as an astronaut to Mars. I watched it. I laughed. I moved on.
My boys watch it on a regular basis. My husband watches it on a regular basis. Every time they watch it they howl with laughter as if it's the first time they've seen it. Most women I've talked to think the movie is funny, but stupid. Most men talk about how it's the funniest movie they've ever seen. Naturally, it has flatulence jokes. There's a laxative joke. There's a lot of physical humor. There's a monkey. All key ingredients to making a great guy movie, I guess. I still don't get it.
I think the next time Rocketman comes out, I'll go upstairs and watch a musical. Or a chick flick. Or the paint peeling on the walls. There's only so much guy humor I can take.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Christmas Shopping

I have a confession to make. I've gone shopping the day after Thanksgiving. Not only have I gone, but I've actually liked it. It seems that, with most people I talk to, they shudder at the thought and swear that they would never do something so foolish as to shop on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
I don't go every year. After all, you have to be in the right frame of mind. You've got to be searching for the bargains, enjoying the Christmas atmosphere and viewing the shopping crowds as a part of the experience and not a hindrance to the experience. And you have to be sensible. I will not give up part of my Thanksgiving evening to go stand in a line all night long for an electronics store that opens at 4:00 a.m., drawing crowds with the promise of a fantastic deal when they only have an actual number of six sale items in stock. No sense there at all.
I've never actually been at a store when it opened. The times I've gone, I've headed out about 6:00 or 6:30 in the morning. I go with specific items in mind and search for the sales and bargains. A few of those years really stand out in my mind. One year my mother-in-law commented that she'd never shopped on the day after Thanksgiving. So went with a friend of hers. We stayed out all day and didn't get home until late that night. I had very little kids then, so that day was a treat. Another year, I went myself with my three small children. It was not the year that I enjoyed the most. Two years ago I went with my two oldest children. We went to the mall and really enjoyed the time together.
When I was growing up, stores were not open twenty-four hours a day. Except on the day after Thanksgiving. We had a store named Zayres that advertised a thirty-six hour sale. So my mom, my two sisters and I would bake Christmas cookies all day long. About 10:00 that night we cleaned up the kitchen and headed out to the store. We usually got back home about 2:00 in the morning. I don't ever remember getting a bunch of shopping done, but it was spending time together that we enjoyed.
I don't plan on going out to the sales tomorrow. We're supposed to put up Christmas decorations, and then I have to make some munchies for people coming over tomorrow night. I guess every year is a little different for me.
What about you? Got any after-Thanksgiving-traditions in your family? Do you flock to the stores on Friday or shudder at the thought? If I change my mind at the last minute, who knows? I might see you at the mall today!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope that everyone of you has an absolutely fantastic day today, no matter where you are or who you're with. I just want to take today's post to list a few of the things for which I am thankful:

1. I'm thankful for God's gift of eternal life.
2. I'm thankful that God loves me enough to care about what I'm going through.
3. I'm thankful for my wonderful husband.
4. I'm thankful for my six wonderful children.
5. I'm thankful for a fantastic church that has made us feel at home from day one.
6. I'm thankful for the opportunity to serve the Lord.
7. I'm thankful for all that God gives us--music, colors, wonderful scenery, deep emotions.
8. I'm thankful for friends that love me no matter how cranky I get.
9. I'm thankful for the wonderful house He's given us to live in.
10.I'm thankful for each one of you that stops by here every day to read my blog. There's a million other things you could be doing. Thanks for taking time to visit with me.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Totem Pole Relationships Part II

Here is the final half of the story:

With that thought in mind, Jan cheerfully prepared for the holiday. She scrubbed everything in sight, unwilling for Patty to find anything to criticize. She baked and cooked for days, determined to make this holiday a delight in every way. Oblivious to Jan’s true motives, Ray was thrilled that his wife was working so hard to make the family holiday something special, and he enjoyed being the guinea pig for the new recipes she tried.
Patty and Robert arrived the day before Thanksgiving, warmly welcomed with a cup of coffee and the smell of cinnamon and apples hovering in the air. Jan maintained her smiling attitude as Patty insisted she smelled a sour odor in the kitchen. As Patty rooted around in the refrigerator, looking for the source of the odor, Jan continued to work on Thanksgiving preparations while urging Robert and Ray into the living room for whatever sports they could find on the television. The next morning Jan was up before dawn and her pleasant mood continued as she cooked a big breakfast and then cleared the dishes on her own. She greeted Frank and Sherry with a smile when they arrived and even gave Patty a supportive squeeze when Sherry was introduced. Jan didn’t even mind slaving in the kitchen while everyone else made awkward small talk in the den. There had been long bouts of silence for the first hour or so, but now everyone seemed to be loosening up a little. She even heard a few polite chuckles drift through the doorway, for which she was genuinely glad. She really liked Sherry, in spite of her age and the other things against her. She knew what it was like to have Patty turn her animosity on full force and she wouldn’t wish that on anyone, least of all someone like Sherry—a quiet, shy woman who huddled in her new husband’s shadow. Jan almost felt sorry for the agony Sherry was going to have to endure.
“How’s it going?” Jan whispered hopefully as Ray came out to the kitchen to refill everyone’s glasses.
Ray smiled down at his wife, unaware of her motives.
“It was pretty bad at first,” he answered quietly as he pulled ice trays out of the freezer. “Mom was predictably horrible, but she seemed to warm up some after you brought out the appetizers. You know those shrimp puffs are her favorite.”
“I know,” Jan all but crowed. “I hope I can keep her satisfied at least through the meal. Poor Sherry doesn’t know what she’s in for.”
Ray shrugged and scratched his nose thoughtfully. “I’m sure that Mom had in mind to really make Sherry’s life miserable,” he admitted. “But Sherry looked so much like a deer caught in the headlights that I think Mom didn’t have the heart to tear into her. They were actually finding something in common to talk about when I left.”
Jan looked up in amusement. “Really? What on earth would they have in common?”
“I think they were discussing whether Ben Gay or Mineral Ice was better on backaches.”
“They’re comparing aches and pains?” Jan laughed in disbelief. “I guess there are some advantages to marrying a woman almost as old as your mother.”
“They were also comparing grandchildren stories,” Ray leaned over and dropped a kiss on Jan's head before continued to drop ice cubes into the glasses. “And I think I heard them making plans to hit the holiday sales tomorrow. You're really the one that's bringing them together. I'm so proud of you, Jan.”
Jan stopped in her tracks as a steel ball formed in her stomach, four months of smiles and pleasant dreams turning sour in a moment. This couldn’t be happening. “Th-they’re going shopping?” She asked.
“Ray, dear, what’s taking so long with those refills,” Patty demanded as she breezed into the kitchen.
Jan stared at Patty, unable to move. Unable to blink. “You’re going shopping tomorrow?” She managed faintly.
“Sherry offered to show me around,” Patty answered as she took over Ray’s job. “She’s so sweet, isn’t she? And who ever would have guessed that she’d be so tiny!”
Patty’s air was innocent, but Jan felt the sting of the verbal dart all the same. With an effort she adopted an equally casual attitude.
“And whoever would have thought you’d be able to compare stories of your grandkids with your daughter-in-law’s? I guess you two have a lot in common, being from the same generation and all.”
Ray shook his head and left the room as the women faced each other.
“Would you like to come with us tomorrow, Jan?” Patty smiled. “I think it would be fun for the three of us to shop the mall together.”
Jan swallowed. Maybe all wasn’t lost after all. “I’d love to—" she began, but Patty went on enthusiastically.
“I know you usually shop in the women’s department, but would you mind if we looked at the petites tomorrow? I’d like to try and find an outfit to give Sherry. After all, we want to do all we can to make her feel a part of the family, don’t we?”
And that quickly, Jan was back at the bottom of the totem pole.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Totem Pole Relationships Part I

In the two days before Thanksgiving, I thought I'd share a short story I wrote a couple of years ago. I should probably warn you--it is humorous, but it does not have warm fuzzies. Hope you enjoy it!

The Thanksgiving holiday always gave Jan a migraine. Any get together with Ray’s family was a reason to break out the aspirin, but holidays accelerated the agony to a whole new level. Ray had watched with a mix of sympathy and amusement over the years as Jan and his mother struggled to co-exist in a relationship that was doomed from the start. It was clear that Patty felt threatened by Jan’s entrance into the clan. The only woman in the family, she ruled as queen over her husband and two sons for years, and she did not welcome the competition from another woman. Especially an outspoken woman like Jan. In typical underhanded fashion Patty had an indirect insult for everything from Jan’s housecleaning habits to the thirty extra pounds she put on during their thirteen years of marriage. Jan, for her part, was not about to take her mother-in-law’s backhanded slights lying down, no matter how much it bruised the older woman’s ego. The result was an unacknowledged battle every time the two women were in the same room. The verbal thrusts and parries were as much a part of family tradition as tinsel on a Christmas tree.
Jan was grateful that her in-laws lived 10 hours away and that visits were limited to once or twice a year. She hated the continual tension that was present when she and Patty were in the same room, but more than that Jan hated that she could never win these power plays. Although she gave her best in these battles, she knew that she could never really come out on top. Ray’s mother had a way of making life miserable for everyone if she didn’t get her way. Her habit of taking emotional hostages insured that in most cases family members did not side with Jan on issues. “For the sake of peace” Jan had resigned herself to the position at the bottom of the family totem pole. At least, she was resigned to it until Frank turned the family upside down.
Two years younger than Ray, Frank was the baby of the family and, in Jan’s opinion, a professional slug. Twenty years of adulthood had produced two failed marriages, one bankruptcy and a string of unsuccessful jobs. Most of Frank’s failures could be blamed on his refusal to take any responsibility for his actions. In spite of the aggravation he caused them, the family still doted on him and continued to pick up the pieces every time Frank was down on his luck. For that reason, they were all shocked when a month ago Frank announced that he had gotten married again.
“At least he has a job this time,” Ray muttered when they found out the news. Jan and Ray both winced with each additional detail that Frank shared. Sherry’s husband of thirty years had passed away less than a year ago. Sherry and Frank started dating just three months later and now six months down the road they were ready to live happily ever after. Apparently Frank’s job as a fast food manager afforded them all the support they needed as Sherry didn’t have a job. But then, she did have her late husband’s insurance money. The most shocking detail of the whole affair; however, was Sherry’s age. Whereas Frank was thirty-nine, Sherry was all of fifty-one.
“She got married the first time when you were nine,” Ray exploded. “Her daughters are closer in age to you than she is! She’s a grandmother for Pete’s sake!”
Frank, with his ability to ignore reality, chose not to be bothered by any of those details. They were in love, he maintained, and that made all the rest unimportant. They were meant for each other and so they had gotten married and that was all there was to it.
Breaking the news to Ray’s parents had gone about as well as could be expected. Ray’s father, Robert, was furious at his youngest son’s latest mishap while his wife had burst into hysterical tears at the description of her newest daughter-in-law. And that’s when Jan had the brainstorm. With so much grief and anger in the family, what if Jan could be the one to bring them all back together again? That had been the motivation for her offering to host the family’s Thanksgiving holiday. Frank could introduce his new wife to his parents on neutral ground, she maintained. They could ease tensions with the good will feelings of the holiday and either side could retreat whenever they felt overwhelmed. After much discussion, everyone agreed to the proposal, although Ray later accused Jan of losing her mind. Jan merely smiled benevolently at all of them and ignore her mother-in-law’s solicitous, “Are you sure you can get your house clean by then, dear?”
Deep down Jan congratulated herself on her own cleverness. She was glad to try and smooth things over, sure, but she also knew there was no chance on this earth of Patty ever accepting Sherry as a daughter-in-law. They had less than ten years between the two of them, after all! And in all this mess, there was an opportunity for Jan.
Sherry, by virtue of her age and her position as Frank’s third wife, was now taking over the bottom spot on the totem pole. Jan only had one direction in which to move, and that was up. Sherry’s arrival in the family improved Jan’s own circumstances, and Jan’s assistance in easing Sherry into the family could only help. She was going to come out of this smelling like a rose no matter what else happened.

Monday, November 24, 2008

That Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner

What is your perfect Thanksgiving dinner? What is the one dish (or entire meal) that you can't do without on Thursday?
We always have a pretty traditional meal: turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cornbread dressing, green bean casserole, creamed corn and jello/cool whip/mandarin orange salad. But we also put a lot of emphasis on the "extras". We always have stuffed mushrooms, ham rolls, deviled eggs and a relish tray of tiny dill pickles and black and green olives. For dessert we'll have pumpkin pie and chocolate pie and we'll usually have a third choice: pecan pie or apple pie or something like that. The kids would not let me get away with leaving out any of the extras. I'd like to find a good sweet potato casserole recipe, but since most of them are loaded with sugar it's probably not a good thing for me anyway.
So what about you? What's an absolute must for Thanksgiving dinner? And how about those of you that are overseas? Do you celebrate Thanksgiving? What are you missing this year? Where are you substituting or "making do"?
I want to hear from you, but I also may get some ideas before I go grocery shopping this afternoon. : )

Friday, November 21, 2008

Getting To Know You

Okay, I feel like I've done a lot of crabbing and complaining this week, so today's topic is just for fun. I'm going to tell you five things you probably didn't know about me. Then I want you to leave a comment telling me five things I didn't know about you.

1. I am a mystery shopper.
2. A dentist pulled my four front teeth when I was seven. I was toothless for the next two years.
3. I'm afraid of the dark. (Some suspense writer, huh!)
4. I love shoes--especially high heels--and I want a pair in every color I can get my hands on.
5. I had chicken pox when I was fourteen. It's the reason I started wearing makeup.

See? That didn't hurt! And look how much better you know me. : ) Now it's your turn. Don't keep me waiting!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Voice of Experience

Learning from your mistakes. Increasing your knowledge. Benefitting from the experience of others. Isn't that what makes going through mistakes worthwhile? What good are trials if I'm not better on the other side. Or smarter. Or something.
I try to learn the lessons of life and benefit from mistakes. But see, one of my problems is when I try to help my children learn from my mistakes. Somehow they don't seem to grasp the lessons that were so clear to me. I am constantly amazed that they know so much in their teenaged wisdom. I tend to vocalize my surprise as well. "Fine. Don't listen to me. Never mind that I'm twenty (something) years older than you are. Never mind that I was once a teenager. I'm sure I have nothing to offer in this situation that would be of any benefit to you at all."
Sarcasm suits me.
One of the reasons I don't get their extensive knowledge is because I never thought I had that at that age. I was afraid to go against advice and experience for fear I would regret it. I was fairly certain that in any given situation, almost everyone knew more than I did.
I can remember one time--actually it was in my adulthood--that I didn't listen to the voice of experience. And I regretted it. That was when we were on our survey trip to Uganda, East Africa.
We had spent a three-day weekend at the Rock Hotel in Tororo, visiting some villages there and holding services on Sunday. We were on a scouting trip, looking for a place to begin our future ministry. During that weekend, the hotel only had electricity part of the time and they did not have running water. We ended up taking basin baths and by the time our weekend was over, I was definitely feeling less than clean.
We headed back to Kampala--seven of us--in a five passenger Isuzu Trooper. Over dirt roads. Without air conditioning. It was a four or five hour trip, and I was not looking forward to it. One of the missionary wives with us pulled a long scarf out of her purse and draped it over her head, tucking in all her hair. She offered another one to me, but I declined. I was filthy already. I was hot and I didn't want something wrapped around my head and neck. I wanted to feel the wind (hot and sticky that it was) in my hair.
As we got closer to our destination, I envisioned taking a relaxing shower and changing into clean clothes. The men had promised to take us out to a nice restaurant that night, and I was looking forward to enjoying a few comforts I had always taken for granted. (Electricity and running water, for instance.)
On the outskirts of Kampala, I discovered that we were headed directly to Fang Fang's. One of the most elegant Chinese restaurants in the country. I quickly whipped a brush out of my purse and attempted to pull it through five hours of tangles. Dust billowed out with every stroke. (I am not making this up.)I finally managed to tame most of it down into a headband. I wasn't even going for well-groomed here. Just reasonably tamed.
Inside the restaurant the waitress brought us a tray of warm, wet towels to wipe our hands. I was ashamed of the dirt that showed on the white towels, but my hands felt so much better for having been cleaned. I took a furtive look around and then used the towel on my arms, as well. I'd never realized how heavenly clean could feel! There was one clean towel left, so I grabbed that one to use on my face and neck. Yes, I was not sponge-bathing at the dining table, but I really didn't care. I piled the grimy towels back on the tray, embarrassed at how dirty they were. I could have saved so much trouble if I'd just used the stupid scarf, like I was told. I didn't listen to the voice of experience.
That little incident taught me a lesson. And I'd like to share it with my children, but they're busy not listening to the voice of experience either. I guess they'll figure it out when they have to use finger cloths to wipe all their dirt away. And then maybe some day they can share their life lessons with their kids. I hope I'm there to see them not listening as well.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Communication Between Mars and Venus

If you've ever read the book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, then you understand where my title came from. Terry and I have been married for over twenty-two years. (Over half my life!) I know his likes and dislikes; I know even most times what his reaction will be to certain situations. I know his goals, his desires, his fears.
But even after all that, there are times when he is clearly speaking another language; a language for which there is no interpreter--at least not one that a female would understand.
Just this week we were discussing a certain situation and the three options we had to chose from: A, B, or C. I knew Terry was leaning toward C. It was the option he brought up even before C could be an option. (He tends to think outside the box.)
So the other day I asked him which he thought would or should happen.
Well, I think C is the worst thing that could happen."
"A is the best option. That's what I'd really like to see happen."
Okay, I was sure that just the week before he told me A was not possible, and he didn't care for A anyway, so he didn't care if it didn't happen.
"So if we don't want C, why are we pursuing it?"
"I didn't say we don't want C. C is most probably what is going to happen."
Sometimes, in the art of good conversation, I try to repeat what I thought the other person said, just to check that I'm understanding him correctly. I tried this with Terry. I could tell he was getting frustrated with me.
"That's not what I said. You're twisting my words into something else because you're not listening." This was said with a patronizing smile on his face.
I mirrored his smile with one of my own.
"I'm listening. You're not communicating very well."
The conversation died after that.
Several days later I commented that "So-and-so liked option C. They thought it was the best choice."
He spread his hands wide. "That's what I thought. I'm glad they agree with me."
I was still struggling to understand. "But you said--"
He groaned in frustration. "That's not what I said!"
I finally realized this was an issue where we would never see eye-to-eye. Or maybe we do agree, but we'll never know because we're not speaking the same language. At any rate, best or worst case scenario, I think we're going to end up with option C. He thinks so too. I think.
Men are from Mars and women are from Venus. This is why guys like the Three Stooges and most women find it silly or extremely irritating. Since I like to write, maybe someday I'll write a book that translates martian into venutian. Provided I ever am able to decipher this language myself, that is.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Learning Something New

Don't you love learning new things? I--don't. I'm not very adventuresome, and I don't like being nudged--or thrown--out of my comfort zone. But at the same time, there are things I wished I knew, so occasionally I will take that leap to attempt to improve myself.
This week that leap involves the piano. I can already play both piano and organ ... adequately. Meaning, I can use either instrument to accompany the song service at church and my playing does not hinder the singing. I only play occasionally, when the regular piano or organ player can't be there, and my goal is to be good enough so that people don't notice I'm playing. Sometimes I achieve that and sometimes I don't. I can play hymns, but I really struggle with arrangements.
I finally decided I needed to improve on this skill. So I told my husband I wanted Majesty Music's Hymnplayer series for Christmas. I'm pretty sure just having those books sitting on my piano will make me a better player. (insert wicked grin here.)But seriously, eventually I will open them and hopefully learn to improve.
In the meantime we had an evangelist and his family here and his wife plays the piano. She had several good songs that she played that week for her family to sing, and I asked if I could take a look at her music. Most of it ended up being plain white sheets with the words to the song handwritten on them. An occasional chord was penciled in. Oh great! She was one of those. The kind that can play anything. Then she told me she could teach me to play by ear.
Okay, in the first place the whole mental image cracks me up. But aside from that, I was pretty sure that playing by ear came naturally. Either you had the talent, or you didn't. I don't. But then she explained that anyone could do it, and she showed me how. It has to do a lot with music theory (which I never learned) so I didn't pick it up instantly. But I understand the concept, and I dare to think it's possible. If I can learn to do this, then I should have no problem the next time someone asks me if I can play in a different key. Neither should I have a problem accompanying someone who wants to get creative and change keys for the second verse. If this works, I could be one of those people that can play a song without music, spontaneously, without a problem.
I could actually advance from a second-rate musician that's good only as a fill-in, to someone who actually has true confidence and ability when they need to step up to the instrument. I could actually be good--or at least slightly more than adequate.
Now, it will take a little practice before I can hone this new-found information into actually skill. I'll let you know how it goes.
And I still want that Hymnplayer series. It needs to be sitting on the piano, just in case.

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's All In The Timing

Timing is so important to things, isn't it? There's good parts about timing: being somewhere on time, having the right tool or accessory just when you need it, getting up on time, etc.
But timing can sometimes stink, too. Have you ever been missing a shoe or an earring? You hang onto the one piece you have of the set because you know eventually you will find the other. Finally, a year or so down the line, you toss the shoe in an effort to get a little more organized. Only a day or two later, your new organizational skills help you find the mate. Bad timing. Or you come across that receipt for a Christmas present twenty times. You even put it in a safe place. But after Christmas when you need to return the gift, you can't find the receipt for anything. You know it was right here, you can even picture how it was laying on the table, but it's nowhere in sight now.
Our bad timing had to do with our air conditioner. Thursday I came home from work, and as I went up the stairs, the heat and humidity slapped me in the face.
"Why is it 79 degrees up here?"
No one knew because I'm the only one that usually messes with the thermostats. My husband checked the unit inside, and then went outside to check things out while I watched the temperature climb to 80. We finally came to the consensus that the air conditioner wasn't working. (Aren't we smart!)
It was after five, so any call to a repairman was going to cost more than the usual high fees that we couldn't afford. So we decided to wait to call until in the morning. We turned on ceiling fans, opened windows and slept in 82 degree weather that night.
Now, I know some of you living in other countries are thinking, "Big deal! We never have air conditioning!" To those of you I would say, "Been there, done that." In Uganda it averaged between 90 and 110 degrees and we did not have air. Please don't think I'm whining. (Even though I know I am.) I can live without air, but if we have it, I think it should work!
The timing part of it is this: Thursday through Saturday we had record high temperatures for this time of year. But a cold front was supposed to come through Saturday night, and this week we're barely going to make it into the 70's. If the air conditioner could have waited two more days, we wouldn't have needed to suffer! (Not a big fan of suffering, in case you couldn't tell.)
When the repairman came the next afternoon--why is it they can never get there in the morning?--he said all the ducts were blocked and it would cost $500 to fix it. We don't have that kind of money. So my husband paid the $90 thanks-for-stopping-by-and-being-no-help-at-all fee and sent him on his way. Then he proceeded to take the unit apart and clean it himself. He was absolutely filthy and he couldn't get it completely cleaned out, but he did get it clear enough so the unit would work again. He turned the air back on after I got home Friday, and then we spent the next hour wandering from vent to vent, trying to see if air was flowing. We also watched the thermostat anxiously. It dropped to 79.
My husband had to take the teens in our church to an activity that evening, so he showered and left, instructing me to "keep an eye on that thing". I checked it every half hour or so, looking at the thermostat, pulling the door open to stare at the unit (don't know what good that did) and sniffed the air to make sure nothing was burning, or blowing up, or anything like that. The thermostat dropped, degree by degree, until it was finally at comfortable levels again. Terry was very proud of himself when he got home that night.
Sunday morning I woke up to 49 degree weather outside. I doubt we'll need the air conditioner this week. But at least it's ready for the next weather surge. And since it's a timing issue, we'll probably have record high temperatures around Christmas time!

Friday, November 14, 2008

God Answers Prayer

Many of you know some of the Boyds' family situation from this past year. It's somewhat of a private matter so I won't go into the details here. Suffice it to say that Satan has been battling long and hard in our family, and for most of this year it looked like he was winning.

But God is still in control.

We haven't won yet, but we're beginning to see God working in some pretty marvelous ways. We desperately covet your continued fasting and prayers for our situation as it isn't over yet. But it's so good to see the hand of God in circumstances.
We're praising Him tonight, and then continuing in the battle ourselves. Our God is an awesome God!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Favorite Season

I couldn't even decide which picture to post, so I posted both of them. I just love this time of year! Autumn has always been my favorite season. I grew up in the Midwest, and fall always meant cooler weather and light jackets, football, and gorgeous colors all over the place. It's a time for apples and apple cider, hot soups and stews and lots and lots of baking. I make more banana bread and cookies at this time of year than any other.
There's nothing that takes your breath away like a cobalt blue sky, clear bracing air and the fantastic colors of changing leaves. But then again, I also loved the gray, cloudy days with a cold wind whipping by. Those were the days to curl up in the afternoons with an afghan and a good book, while a pot of something hot and tasty simmered on the stove.
I have a confession to make. I'm already listening to Christmas music. To me, the holiday season starts sometime in October and just kind of flows right through Thanksgiving and Christmas and into the New Year. When I was growing up, my mom always broke out the Christmas music when we saw the first snowflake. It might have been one or two tiny flurries, but it was occasion to listen to that special music.
When we lived in Alabama, we'd have to wait a long time for the first snowflake of the season. So I started listening to Christmas music the first time we had a cold snap. You can see your breath on the morning air? Time to listen to Bing Crosby!
Here in Florida we don't often see our breath on the morning air. And it's unusual for the thermometer to dip down into the sixties this time of year. But I still get out the Christmas music by the middle of October. Some things never change.
So what about you? At this time of year do you have an overwhelming urge to wear wool and plaid? Do you suddenly desire to crochet or knit afghans? Wish you had a fireplace? (Or fire up the one you do have?--even if you have to crank the air conditioning way up so you can enjoy it?)
As for me, I've made four loaves of banana bread in the past week, and I'll probably make more tomorrow. (The rest is already eaten. Five boys, remember?) I'm working on an afghan, and I'm strongly leaning towards potato soup and chili for tomorrow night's supper. All while listening to a little Perry Como! Happy Autumn!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Sick Sense of Humor

My son picks up dead people.
I know how that sounds. But before you start searching through the Yellow Pages for exorcists, let me explain. Matt now has a job picking up dead bodies. Oh, but it gets better. He got the job from the petting zoo lady who helped kids ride horses at our Fall Festival this weekend. Can my family fall into the bizarre, or what?
Okay, so here's the story. Told as only a good story can be through the Boyds' sick sense of humor.
it seems in addition to running a petting zoo, the lady also runs some other businesses. One of these businesses has contracts with several different funeral parlors. When it's time to transport the deceased to the funeral home, this lady does the job. She told Matt she'd pay him per job.
I must admit, I was irritated at first. After all, I've been praying for Matt to get more work. But if I keep that up, am I now hurrying people off into eternity? You must admit, there is a moral dilemma here.
So today Matt told me he had a meeting with the dead people. Actually, he had a meeting with the transporters of the dead people. I think accuracy is pretty important in this case! When they get a call, they have one hour to get to the--scene of the deceased. So when Matt gets a call, he has ten minutes to get dressed in his black suit and meet his partner. It was suggested that Matt always carry a suit with him in his car since they never know when their services are needed.
Who knew there was this whole arena of service needed in our world? To think that there are men (or women) all over the country, carrying suits with them as they run errands to the post office or the grocery store--just waiting for a call to go in to work.
On the plus side, I'd think there isn't much in the way of training needed for this job. And I imagine these employees don't get a lot of customer complaints. Then again, they don't get repeat customers either. And their services sure aren't advertised by word of mouth.
When Matt got home and told us about his new job, we responded in typical Boyd fashion. Matt said his employers pick up about 125 bodies a month. We figured how many bodies that would be a week and how much money Matt would be earning as he's paid by the job. Then my husband's face lit up and he asked Matt if he needed a helper. "We could take care of this together," he said.
"How?" Matt asked. "You kill them and I pick them up? Job security?"
Someone else mentioned that true job security in this field probably meant having a contract with the Mob.
We then discussed the fact that Matt probably needed a special ringtone on his phone so he would know when he was needed for work. The usual choices were mentioned including taps and that "dummm-dum-dum-dum" that happens in overly dramatic movies. I finally suggested that, since he was trying to get enough money for Christmas, his work ringtone could be "It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas". Probably not the best choice as far as good taste goes, though.
So now Matt is a--well, what do you call someone in his line of work? A dead-end taxi service? A corpse courier? How about after-last-minute transportation? A mortality engineer?
All I know is, I want him to stop answering the phone with the following message: "City Morgue. You stab 'em, we slab 'em. This is Stiff speaking!"
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