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!"

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Okay, so yesterday I shared with you my most embarrassing moment lately. Actually, I'm not sure it's my most embarrassing moment, but it's definitely the most embarrassing moment I'm willing to share in such a public forum!
So now it's your turn. Come on, what's your most embarrassing moment? The time you and your friend were going to yell to the cute guy on the football field, but she chickened out at the last minute leaving you hooting all by yourself? Oh wait. That was me.
How about the time you tripped up the stairs going into the choirloft--right as the church service began? Wait. Me again.
Come on, help me out here! I'm not the only one to turn bright red, am I? What's your most embarrassing moment?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Is My face Red!

I think I've mentioned before that I'm not the most up-to-date person when it comes to computer technology. Frankly, I'm still surprised that I ever managed to start a blog! I enjoy some of the technological abilities that we have, but I'm still learning some of what I thought were very basic computer functions.
Take, for instance, our printer/scanner/copier. Not to be confused with our printer/scanner/copier/fax machine. I've done occasional scanning of some items with mixed results. Sometimes I get exactly what I want and sometimes I get nothing that I want. And it's not like I can trace my actions back to something I did differently, either. It's just that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.
This past week I decided to scan a letter and attach it to emails to a couple of friends. In this particular case, the letter didn't scan in as a document. Instead it scanned as a picture--of the letter. Don't ask me why because I have no idea! Plus, the first page scanned perfectly and--without changing any settings--the second picture only scanned the very center of the page that the letter was on. Frustrating to say the least!
So I finally got the letter scanned properly and then I attached it to an email. I usually doublecheck after I attach something, just to make sure I attached what I wanted to attach. In this case I didn't think of it though. I attached and sent that quickly. Then I started worrying about what I attached, so I went to my sent file to check. Sure enough, the letter was attached, but if you hit the button at the bottom of the page, the screen reverts to a couple of pictures we had on the computer. One of them is of Terry and me with those ridiculous striped hats on our heads. (See August 26th post.) There were a few other silly pictures, so I wrote a follow-up email apologizing for my stupidity and asking them not to hold it against me personally.
After I sent my follow up email, I ended up back in the sent emails again. I looked through my scan again, only this time it seemed to have attached more pictures. And these weren't pictures I took or stored on my computer. These were pictures of "celebrities" like Madonna and Paris Hilton. There was even a picture of an indecently dressed couple. That follow up email was even more embarrassing to write! So now I think I'm giving up technology. If I don't know how to do it by now, I guess it isn't needed.
For those of you that are wondering: the friend that received the photos along with my letter? Jan Allison. That's right. I sent pictures of Madonna and Paris Hilton to Mrs. Allison.
Anybody got a paperbag I can put over my head?

Friday, November 7, 2008

It's All My Fault!

So we have a new President. And one of the reasons this guy got in is because of blame. Everyone has to have someone to blame. Our economy is in deep trouble and someone must be at fault. So the majority of Americans blamed the current President. Our housing market is going belly up; it must be the fault of the current President. Credit card debt is out of control and may be the next financial sector that needs a federal buyout. It must be the fault of the current President. And that's why we have a new President from a difficult political party. A President whose beliefs and ideas of success are completely different and foreign to what we have now. Let's get rid of the bad guy.
There's just a couple of problems with that. Last time I checked, President Bush did not force us to buy our house. Neither did he hold a gun to our heads and force us to use credit cards.
We have such short term memory, we seem to forget that the economy crunch did not start and finish in the month of October. The housing problem did not come to a head in October. That's just when we saw the end of what had been a very long history of making bad decisions. President Bush did not make all those bad decisions. He didn't chose to buy houses we couldn't afford with loans banks had no business making in a series of deals that had no chance of succeeding.

We have the new President that we have because we no longer have individual responsibility.

Bad things happen sometimes. And they often happen as a result of bad or un-informed decisions on our part. But somehow we've decided as a nation that we should not have to bear the results of our decisions. Government is going to be the doting parent that bails us out every time we get in over our heads. No one seems to realize that government gets its money from our pockets. Instead of bracing ourselves, tightening our belts and getting ourselves out of the mess that we're in, we've decided to let government do it for us. Never mind that their way is not the best way. Or the most responsible way. Or even a complete solution to all the problems surrounding us. Government will take care of it.

That's the attitude that put Obama in the White House. And now, finally, we're going to have to reap the results of our decisions. Oh, no one sees that now, of course. But a few years from now we'll all be feeling the pinch. Including the people that don't own houses and think that somehow Obama will fix it so we don't have to pay for the gas we put into our tanks.

I'm praying that it's only a pinch we're feeling and not a chokehold that squeezes the life out of an entire country. I pray we can recover from this most dangerous decision of all.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Don't Take It Personally

I hate that phrase. "Don't take it personally." Can't you just hear it echo in your head? Usually in a voice that is part admonition, part incredulity. The tone asks, "Are you really going to take this personally? Seriously?"
The problem is, the only time you hear that phrase is when you ARE taking it personally. So now they're telling you, "Don't do what you're already doing."
I've heard that phrase a lot in the world of publishing. Actually, I'm not in the world of publishing (one of the reasons people keep saying that phrase to me!), but I'm trying to get into the world of publishing. See, I have this great novel that I've written. It's exciting. It's well-written (if I do say so myself). It's kind of Indiana-Jones-meets-Jason-Bourne. Not that I have an inflated sense of my own abilities. This book is a hit waiting to happen. It's a best-seller, easy. At least, people that know me and love me will buy it. Or read it if I give them a free copy. Or at least skim it if they get it as a Christmas gift. Or ...
But the world of Christian fiction is a small one. There's only so many publishing companies. They're only printing so many books per year. Agents can only represent so many people. They tell us that there's all sorts of reasons for turning things down: already printing or representing something similar; not taking on that genre right now; doesn't fit the direction we're going in, etc. And in conferences and how-to books we're always instructed not to take it personally. Rejection is a part of the business.
That is true. Did you know that the Left Behind series was rejected over forty times before Tyndale picked it up? And now look at it. I bet all those other publishers are kicking themselves now. (Just as they will be someday when my book hits the marketplace with a splash!)
But even knowing that, it's hard not to take it personally. There's a part of me in that book. It's a story that came out of my own little head. I poured myself into it. And so when I'm--I mean, it's rejected, it feels personal.
I'm certainly getting experience in rejection. In the past six weeks I've been rejected by three editors and an agent. So far it's not getting easier. The rejections have ranged from "not a good fit at this time" to "I can't have any more series right now, I need a stand-alone book". My most recent one said that I have an intriguing idea, but after looking at the concept, my writing style and industry demand, they have to turn me down. Another told me I have a good story and they wish they could add me, but there is a limited appeal in Christian fiction for plots set overseas as opposed to novels that take place in the U.S.
I'm working hard at not taking it personally. Each time I get a rejection I consider giving up writing since obviously I do not have a knack for it. But I think I might as well give up breathing. So I'll keep plugging away at it, trying to make connections, writing more stories, honing my craft. And someday I WILL get a positive response. Someday I WILL sign a contract.
And someday, some of you just might get a copy of What Time I Am Afraid under your Christmas tree. The book may be a gift, but the personal autograph inside will cost you dearly. : )

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Spiritual Disciplines

Someone made an odd comment on the fiction loop I belong to the other day, and it got me to thinking. They commented that they were giving up books (specifically, reading fiction) for the month of November in order to refocus on other things. That caused a flurry of comments on whether or not it was a good idea to stop such a positive thing as reading, even for a specific time period. From there came comparisons to giving things up for Lent. Two different posters commented rather blithely that they were Baptists and didn't observe Lent. Their attitude was, "What a relief! That's something I don't even have to consider!"
Now, I am a Baptist. I would be proud to say so except that pride is a sin. Otherwise I'd be proud to be a Baptist. LOL I don't observe Lent. But at the same time, the thought of giving up something for a specific amount of time--that idea rattled around in my brain for a while.
I have observed the practice of fasting at different times in my life. Fasting is giving up a meal or giving up food for a specific time period (such as twenty-four hours) with the idea of spending that time instead focusing on Bible reading and prayer, usually for a specific purpose. The Bible teaches this principle and even tells us that some situations cannot be changed without fasting.
There are other spiritual disciplines as well--disciplines that have been forgotten or distorted over the years to the point where good Baptists (sarcastic grin here) no longer observe them. But the general principles are still good. There's the discipline of solitude--getting away from people, multi-media and outside stimuli for a certain period in order to focus on some time alone with God. There's also the discipline of meditation--thinking, examining and studying certain portions of Scripture, or certain concepts taught in Scripture--in order to better and more fully understand God's Word. There's nothing wrong with either of these concepts, but they are sometimes equated with other religions. Religions that perhaps have distorted the original practice, or made it a requirement for certain spiritual status. I want to make it clear that, while these disciplines can help you in your spiritual walk, they are not requirements in order to be right with God. Salvation is still by grace, through faith.
And then there's the discipline I started with in this post: sacrifice. Without going in depth, let me say that sacrifices were done in the times of the Bible. Some were to atone for sins, but some were given as praise and worship to God. A sacrifice was just that--giving up something that was of worth. I'm not suggesting you build an altar and start burning cattle and sheep, but there are occasional sacrifices you can make. Again, the key word here is discipline. Can you discipline yourself to do without something that is important or enjoyable to you in order to focus more on the things of God?
Sacrifices can come in many different forms. I've heard of some people that would go without television for a week, sacrificing that time in order to focus on spiritual things. Some people have sacrificed sleep in order to participate in all-night prayer meetings. I've heard of other people giving up some food they enjoy: sweets, soda, etc.
Please understand, it's not that God takes delight in our depriving ourselves of things. The key word here is discipline. How disciplined are you? Discipline is a form of self-control.
I don't know about you, but I'm not so strong in self-control that I don't need to practice now and then.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Look Mom! No Hands!

When we got home from the emergency room, we realized just how little Joel would be able to do with both arms in a cast. Naturally the first item to take care of when we got home was the now insistent call of nature. Terry had to help him, but it didn't go very well. Suffice it to say that there was a lack of control, probably brought on by the urgency that comes when you hold back the need for much longer than you should have. They ended up with a fire hose effect and a lot of cleanup.
This all happened while I was at McDonald's. When I got home, we realized Joel couldn't eat by himself either. His older brother, Matthew, fed him his cheeseburger and fries, and I made a mental note to pick up some drinking straws when I went to the store next.
Joel was in some pain the next few days, but very good spirits. He tends to take things with a grin. His four brothers were all eager to help him--no one complained about helping him dress or feeding him his food. Terry and I held our breaths. We knew that all this good will couldn't last more than two or three days.
The boys were still willing to help Joel, but they lacked a little of the nurturing nature. I found Joel with shoes that didn't fit him and mismatched socks because whoever helped him was in a hurry. They were also in a hurry at meal times and they ended up trying to shove food in his mouth without giving him time to chew and swallow. Most of this was done with good-natured teasing. The boys slowed down and I made them redo mistakes in Joel's wardrobe. But there was one area that no one wanted to be involved with: personal hygiene. Terry's experience with Joel that first night had made all of them wary of helping him. Several times I found Joel jumping up and down, begging someone to help him go.
In spite of the handicaps, it took Joel only two days to figure out how to still play video games. I think his play time has slowed a little, but I'm amazed at what he's managed to do. He still moves through the house at top speed, and he's managed to trip and fall on the stairs several times. He tried inline skating too, but we put a quick stop to that. Can you say body cast?
After a week in the temporary casts, we went back to the doctor for more x-rays. The doctor was very pleased with what he saw. I didn't understand it, but several of them were examining the x-rays and agreeing that there was a "nice reduction" on the displaced bone. I assumed that was a good thing. They then put his permanent casts on--one green and one orange. Everyone assumes Joel is a Miami fan, but he just happens to like green and orange.
The good news is, the permanent casts are more streamlined and lighter than the temporary ones. Joel looks less like a mummy, and he has better mobility. Also, the temporary cast on his displaced arm went up past the elbow. The permanent cast is shorter than that, and Joel was thrilled to be able to unbend his arm again. The doctor said he wants to take another look in two weeks, and that the casts should be off in six weeks or less. It's still up in the air as to whether or not Joel can feed himself his Thanksgiving dinner.
The bad news is, the growth plate was injured in his right arm. They usually heal, but it means we have to watch closely because his right arm and hand could possibly not develop fully as he grows. That could end up in surgery and complications later on. The doctor said the chances of that were slim, but they want to monitor him just in case. That means x-rays about every six months for a while.
Joel's managing a lot more on his own now that his casts are smaller and lighter. He dresses himself, although he still needs help with buttons, socks and shoes. Matt helps him with bathing so he can keep the casts dry, and it's still hard for him to hold an eating utensil so we end up feeding him anything that's not finger foods. And then there's that personal hygiene thing ... I think the whole family will heave a big sigh of relief when those casts come off!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Life With Casts

The nurses in the emergency room had told me that we would have to wait for all that medication to metabolize in Joel's body before we could go home. Guess we were in for a long wait. Joel said he was sleepy, so I turned off the overhead light. He never did go to sleep. Instead he studied his casts and commented over and over that he didn't remember them putting it on.
"Do you remember them fixing your arm?"
"Yeah, that hurt. But when did they put the cast on?"
Had that been me in the bed, I would have curled up and tried to sleep off the medication until the pain woke me up. Joel chattered off and on and then asked to go to the bathroom. He told me over an hour ago that he had to go, but I'd seen the dregs of humanity that had been coming and going from the restroom nearby, and I really wanted him to wait until we got home. At the time we'd been there almost two hours so I was sure it wouldn't be much longer. But here we were an hour later and still with another hour or so to go before we could leave. I asked the nurse if Joel could go to the bathroom.
"It's really not a good idea for him to be up and walking around now. And we need to keep him hooked up to the monitors."
Then the nurse got a small bedpan/bottle out and said we could use that. Joel took one look and decided to wait until we got home. And I can't say that I blame him.
I made a few calls to update people on how he was. While I was distracted, Joel noticed the monitor in the corner of the room. I explained that the green line measured his heartbeat, the white line his breathing, and the blue line his pulse.
"My breathing?"
I was watching the monitor as I explained things to him, and I was shocked to see the white line suddenly go flat. I jerked around to look at Joel and found him holding his breath. He let it out in a big gust and then drew several quick, short breaths. The white line zigzagged obediently. Joel giggled and experimented with his breathing some more.
"Look! I made an "M"."
"There's a "W"."
"Boy, the line really went high that time!"
He continued to entertain himself, watching the line as he alternately laughed, talked, sang and held his breath. I finally made him stop. If they were waiting for decent readouts on the monitors before they let us go, he'd just extended our stay by several more hours!
It wasn't too long after that when he discovered he could make the blue line jump by wiggling the thumb that had the pulse monitor clipped to it. I knew exactly where he got this wicked sense of humor. He got it from his father. Sure enough, when Terry got to the hospital he was highly amused at Joel's efforts to entertain himself. He called Joel's Grandpa to tell him what happened to Joel's arms, and then explained the monitor situation. Joel's Grandpa was equally amused.
"Tell him to see if he can make the green line move," he advised Terry.
Since the green line represented the heartbeat, I put a stop to that idea quickly.
It was almost 10:30 that night when they finally let us leave. Since we had missed supper, Terry took Joel home and I ran by McDonald's to pick up a Happy Meal for our invalid. But when we got home, we discovered we had another problem.
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