Thursday, December 31, 2009

Successful Resolutions

You've got fifteen hours left. That's plenty of time. Get out a piece of paper and start writing something. Anything. How can you not go into the new year without some resolutions? Certain items in your life where you have resolved to do better?

Last night at church I was amazed at the number of people who said they don't make resolutions. When asked why, they said it was too hard to keep them. Most of the people did however have goals for 2010. I'm not sure I see the difference, but whatever. I've been doing some thinking on this subject, and I have some practical suggestions on how to have success at keeping your resolutions. Or goals. Or whatever you want to call them.

Let's take a look at a standard list of resolutions, shall we? What's usually on there? Probably something about losing weight. Perhaps something about taking on a new challenge (learning a language, starting a hobby), maybe some improvement plans (be a better mother, daughter, housewife, etc.). How often have we made these resolutions and then found at December 31st that, if we even remember where we put our list, we haven't fulfilled anything? Why are we a bunch of losers?

We're not.

The problem isn't you. The problem is the resolutions. They're vague, they're ambiguous. It's harder to hit a target if it's fuzzy and out of focus. So how do we make resolutions that we can honestly keep?

First, set specific goals. Don't say you want to lose weight. Say you want to lose XX amount of pounds. If you want to be a better housewife, specify what makes a better housewife. And obviously it would not be the same things in every case. But say you want to be a better housewife by keeping your house cleaner. That's a little more specific. It gives you a better target to shoot at.

Secondly, you need measurable goals. If you decide you want to get fit, spell out in your resolution how often you're going to be exercising. If you're going to have a cleaner house, you might factor out chores for each day in order to stay on top of things. Give yourself a way to measure your success.

Thirdly, you need achievable goals. If you set impossible standards for yourself, you're setting yourself up for failure. If you spent 2009 as a couch potato, don't make it a resolution that you're going to exercise an hour a day seven days a week in 2010. Instead, perhaps you set that you will engage in some sort of physical activity (beyond reaching for the remote) for ten minutes every day. Or you could decide that twenty minutes a day, three times a week will fit into your schedule. Give yourself something you can actually achieve.

Fourth, (or maybe this should be first) commit yourself to keeping your goals. That's the difference between a list of goals and a list of wishes. Determine right now, before the new year starts, that you will keep the goals you make for yourself. Don't let anything stop you.

Fifth, do a little checkup at the end of January. How're you doing on those resolutions? Were you a little too ambitious? Or so easy on yourself that you're already bored? Did you get waylaid by a big trip and then the 10 days with the flu? This checkup will enable you to get back on track, or adjust your goals as you see how they work.

Always keep track of your progress, and then have a little mini new year on July 1st. You're halfway through the year. Have any resolutions fallen off the grid? Do any need to be expanded? For instance, if you've been faithful in 10 minutes a day of physical activity for six months, it might be time to kick it up a notch.

I hope these ideas help you have a more successful 2010, resolution-wise. And I hope all of you have a very Happy New Year.

NOTE: Due to a wedding and some traveling in the next couple of weeks, I may be in and out of blogworld, but I won't leave you hanging. I'll do some reposts on those days. Hopefully they'll be few and far between.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ending the Year with a Random Dozen

Here's the final Random Dozen questions of the year. If you want to play along, just click the link.

1. Do you find it gross to share drinks with family? Friends?

I was raised to never drink after someone else, family or not. Then I had kids and sharing became a way of life. However, I still get the glass first!

2. What have you learned this year? (You didn't see a question of that weight coming, did you? At least not for #2.)

I learned that if I link up with something like Random Dozen, I only have to come up with four blogposts a week instead of five.

3. When do you dismantle the Christmas decorations?

It's probably best to have them down before Easter.

4. Something you wish to accomplish before the end of 2009 is:

Getting ready for 2010.

5. How do you feel about winter (after Christmas)?

I'm okay with it. The sixties and seventies are a pleasant change from the humid nineties of Florida in July.

6. Have you participated in after-Christmas sales?

No. I get enough excitement out of after-Christmas returns.

7. Do you have plans for New Year's Eve?

Are you inviting me over?

8. Is there anything special awaiting you in January?

You mean besides the whole new-year-fresh-start-everything's-new-again-and-you-have-a-whole-brand-new-chance-to-mess-things-up? Not particularly.

9. If your life this year was a movie, what category or genre would it be? (Romance, Comedy, Drama, Thriller, Suspense, Farcical, etc.)

My life would be a trilogy. It could be more than that, but fourth and fifth sequels usually don't do well at the box office. (Do you really think anyone's going to watch Rocky XIV?) My trilogy is mostly action-adventure because I am, after all, married to Indiana Jones. But there's also a lot of drama, a little suspense and enough humor to make you buy the ticket for the third movie.

10. How much time per day do you spend blogging? Please do not lie. I will know.

I think you can figure this out by reading my posts. It's kind of obvious when I'm in a hurry.

11. Who runs your household?

Now this is a loaded question. And I'm not sure I understand it completely. Do you mean who runs the household as in who manages the schedules, pays the bills and gets dinner on the table on time? Because nobody around here does that. If you mean who makes the ultimate decisions and who "wears the pants in the family", I'd have to say my husband. I'm a firm believer in submission because submission is ducking so God can hit your husband.

12. Share one hope/dream for 2010.

I want to be published. I must be published. I will be published. Now I just have to write the book. (If you're an agent or an editor, I'm just kidding! It's already written! Hello? Call me!)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

How'd You Do This Year?

Sunday morning's sermon got me to thinking, which is a good thing because that's what sermons should do. And since we have the best pastor in the world (I'm not a bit prejudiced, even though I'm married to him) his sermons always make me think. But this past Sunday he challenged us to look back at the resolutions we made at the beginning of 2009. And then he asked us how we did. Ouch.

So how did you do? Did you accomplish the things you set out to accomplish this year? I did well on some. On others? Not so much. As I looked over 2009, I see both successes and failures. Not everything about this year turned out the way I wanted it to. But I can't change anything about that now. There are only a few things I can do with my goals for 2009.

The first is to realize that the year isn't quite over yet. As my husband said on Sunday, when you come close to the finish line in a race, you don't slow down and coast across. You reach deep within yourself and give that extra bit of effort. I've still got three days left to this year. I can't afford to let them slide by and decide to face life again in 2010. If I want a great start to next year, I've got to have a great finish to this one. I need to do my best to make these next three days count.

I also need to study this past year. What went wrong and why? What did I learn? And just as important, where have I improved? What went right this year? It would be easy to focus on all the things that didn't work, but that's not encouraging. Sure I need to learn from them. I need to see if I can find ways to improve so that those failures become successes in 2010. But I also need to take into account the things that went well. The encouragement from those things can go a long way towards helping me achieve more in 2010.

Thirdly, I need to examine my goals and resolutions from 2009. Which ones were a success and which were failures? What goals do I need to set for the new year, and how can I make sure they are accomplished by this time next year?

When I've finished analyzing the year and myself, I need to do one more thing. I need to turn to my Heavenly Father and find out what He thought of this year. Where did I fail in His eyes? And more importantly, what does He want me to accomplish in 2010? Then I need to ask Him to help me do it.

Because without Him, my efforts are nothing.

One last thing I want to encourage you to do. Put Christ at the center of 2010. No matter what you accomplish or what great things happen, you will not know true happiness or contentment unless He is the Lord of your life. My prayer for you is that, by this time next year, you're closer to the Lord than you are right now.

And that's the best way I know of to make 2010 a success.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Very Boyd Christmas

We had an absolutely wonderful Christmas Day, and I hope you did too.

Our boys were a little excited about Christmas, especially since they got a Wii this year.

After giving them all their other presents, we pulled out the four small, wrapped accessories that came with the Wii. There was one for each of the four younger boys to open. When they realized what they were holding, they went ballistic.

We did manage to get a decent picture of the boys, posing in front of the tree. Behind Nicky's head you can see the huge bow on the tires that Matt got for Christmas. The younger boys got a Wii, the grown up one got tires. How life changes when you enter adulthood!

Terry got the tires Christmas Eve day, and then sat up until 2:00 in the morning, waiting for Matt to go to bed so he could bring them in. For some reason he maneuvered them all the way to the back of the tree. Also on Christmas Eve I wrapped the Wii accessories and told Matt to put them at the back of the tree after the boys went to bed. Matt forgot until Christmas morning. Then he dashed into my room, grabbed the presents and raced downstairs. I knew what he would find if he went behind the tree, so I ran after him shouting, "Wait!" Too late. He got to the back of the tree and came to a dead stop as he realized what he was looking at. He was still surprised by his tires, just not in the way I envisioned.

I got one picture of our tree before all the wrapping paper started flying.

I have no pictures of the absolutely perfect Christmas dinner because I was cooking instead of working the camera. I did have some help though. All the boys drifted in and out of the kitchen by turns. As one finished a job, he would drift away and another came to take his place. I don't think they planned it that way, but it worked out perfectly, and I always had an extra pair of hands when I needed them.

We had friends over for Christmas dinner and just enjoyed eating and chatting together. We played Balderdash (probably the first time in more than a year) and I won. (Naturally.) : ) We also watched G Force. Once you get past the whole guinea pigs as spies thing, it's a cute movie.

The best part of Christmas was being with people we loved. I so missed the ones that couldn't be here, but we did have an absolutely wonderful Christmas Day! I hope yours was great too.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all have a wonderful Merry Christmas. Remember in giving all the presents that you also need to give your presence. Don't get so wrapped up in what needs to be done for the holiday that you forget to actually enjoy the time with your loved ones. Good advice. I think I'll do that myself. See you Monday!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

'Tis The Season

"Tis the season for lights to quit working as soon as you string them up.

'Tis the season for the star on top of your tree to stop working.

'Tis the season for your fifteen-year-old to climb on the window sill in order to smack the star so it works.

'Tis the season to have two different Christmas parties at your house in the same week.

'Tis the season to lug around Christmas cards in the sadly mistaken belief that you will finish getting them addressed and mailed before the 24th.

'Tis the season to get sick and lose your voice before the Christmas cantata.

'Tis the season for you to alternate using the heat and the air conditioning. On the same day. (In Florida, anyway.)

'Tis the season for a live frog to show up in the toilet of the nursery bathroom Sunday morning.

'Tis the season for a three year old not to see the frog before using the facilities.

'Tis the season for me to realize I've bought six presents for one child and only two for another.

'Tis the season to be so busy you send your twenty-year-old son to shop for groceries for Christmas dinner.

'Tis the season to wonder if you're going to be serving Kraft macaroni and cheese for Christmas dinner after said son finishes grocery shopping.

'Tis the season to enjoy an unexpected half hour, watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas (cartoon version) with your ten-year-old.

'Tis the season to realize you're probably better off if you don't get a chance to make all those Christmas cookies you've been thinking about.

'Tis the season to enjoy being with people you love, even if the holiday is not everything you'd hoped for.

'Tis the season to realize that not every Christmas has to be Currier and Ives perfect.

'Tis the season to realize that your family will enjoy a tired but happy mom and less holiday fuss more than a perfect Christmas with a cranky mom who never stops to smell the poinsettias.

'Tis the season to realize holiday imperfections make great memories.

Merry Christmas to all my blogging friends. Now if you'll excuse me for the rest of the week, I've got an imperfect holiday to enjoy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Pause for Station Identification

Hello! This is Jill's computer. I thought I'd post a message since I don't think she's back from Christmas shopping yet. Lucky for her the stores are open all night! I hope she gets me something good. She'd better since she's been neglecting me so much lately. I'd like to see her give her blog a facelift, but hey, I'd settle for a mouse pad!

I'll be lucky if I see her at all this weekend. They're having another Christmas party tonight (the second one AT OUR HOUSE this week!) Which means I'm going to have junk piled all over me that was cleaned up from other areas of the house. Nothing says Merry Christmas like being shut into a dark office while the party is going on!

I also happen to know she's got cantata practice tomorrow morning. Just between you and me, she needs all the practice she can get. She still can't find half her notes! Her only saving grace is that, when she's lost her way in the music, she fades out. At least she doesn't throw everyone else off!

So there you have it. I'm pretty sure she'll be back Monday. I think she's going to blog about grooming tips for the holidays or something like that. In the meantime, I'm going to dig through all these bags she dumped in the floor last night. I think I see my mousepad!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

In View of the Holiday: The Just Plain Awful

Christmas is nine days away and I'm getting a little desperate. I still have most of my Christmas shopping to do. Now before you completely panic for me, I have to say that our main Christmas gift this year is one big gift for everyone. Then the presents under the tree will be things they need, like jeans and underwear. But still, someone has to buy it. And I'm not sure when I'm going to get the chance.

But my last minute scramble for presents brings to mind one of the true horrors of the Christmas season. Those dreaded gifts that you get (or give) when the giver is absolutely desperate. The deadline is fast approaching and you have to give something. There's nothing worse than the obligatory gift you must give to someone whose on your Christmas list, not because you like them, but because you must give something. then there's the people you really love, perhaps are related to by marriage, but you have no idea what to give them.

How often have you given the desperation gift? There was no satisfaction when you purchased that gift, thinking of the happy look on the face of the recipient. Instead, there was a relief that at least you would not be empty handed when the gift giving began. With the last week before Christmas looming, I just want to remind of several things that you need to steer clear of when giving those obligatory gifts.

1. The self-improvement gift. Just because Aunt Reamie needs to lose weight doesn't mean that she will appreciate the exercise ball or the gym membership. Nothing says Merry Christmas like a gift that points out the flaws in your life.

2. The gift masquerading as a treasure. This would be the remote control caddie that has a spot for a family picture. Or the caddie made of material that drapes over the arm of a favorite chair. They may be convenient. They may be used. But neither caddie is going to be a trigger that makes the recipient think of you every time he changes the channel.

3. The food gift. Hey, I liked baked goods as much as the next person. But for the most part a Christmas gift of food says, "I had no idea what else to give you" or "thinking of you makes me hungry". Not the most positive message to send.

4. The multiple gift. This one is where you find a real bargain and pick up dozens to give to all the unimportant people in your life. Like the B grade movie on DVD that you wrap for your mail person (a seventy-year-old balding male in shorts and knee socks), your hair dresser (a seventy-year old blue haired lady that leaves you reeking of her perfume), and your babysitter a seventeen year old that reeks of your perfume). They have nothing in common so why would you give them a common gift?

5. The underwear gift. Just don't. I don't care who it's for. Unless you gave birth to them and they still live in your house, undergarments are never appropriate presents.

6. The if-it's-good-enough-for-me gift. There's not a whole lot of truth to the idea of giving a gift you want for yourself. I'd love a gift certificate that gives me a free pedicure at a spa, but that doesn't mean it's the right present for my boss. Especially since he doesn't often wear sandals.

7. The making life easier gift. Just because grandpa finally stepped into the twentieth century and bought a DVD player, doesn't mean he's ready for the universal all-in-one remote that will turn on his television, play his DVD's, help him choose his music and turn off his ceiling fan. All those buttons are confusing. Besides, at his age getting out of his chair and walking to the DVD player to hit the button gives him some much needed exercise.

8. The age inappropriate gift. Grandpa doesn't need an ipod either. 'Nuff said.

9. The sequined gift. Sequins are just not a good idea. Some people are okay with it, but it's a judgment call. And nine times out of ten it's the wrong call.

10. The live gift. Let's face it. Lady and the Tramp was cute, but how many people in real life will be thrilled to see something breathing when they pull off the wrapping paper?

So what about you? What kind of panic does this last shopping week raise in you? Have you ever received (or given) a gift that didn't quite fit?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Let It ... Fog?

It's snowing in Central Florida this morning! Well, not really. Actually, we've been having near record high temperatures: mid-eighties during the day. But it's close to Christmas and it's just not right for it to be this warm.

So this morning when I headed out to my car, the fog was rolling in. It's very heavy this morning and hard to see more than a few feet in front of you. If you squint at it just right (which I'd advise you not to do while you're driving) it almost looks like a snow storm. Sort of. In the distance.

To increase the illusion, I turned the air conditioner on high in my car. Then I pretended that it was really cold and the car hadn't had a chance to warm up yet. It really seemed to be working. The fog seemed to be getting thicker, and the illusion of snow more real.

Then I realized that, with the warm moist temperatures outside the car, and the cold air inside the car, my windows were fogging up. So I turned on the defroster and the windshield wipers and the illusion was gone. I was still in warm, muggy Florida.

But for just a moment, I was dreaming of a White Christmas. *Sigh* So what's the weather like in your neck of the woods?

Monday, December 14, 2009

A View of the Holiday: The Absolutely Crazy!

When it comes to decorating for Christmas, there's a thin line between going all out and going crazy. A very narrow margin between enthusiastic and excessive. Just a sequin between fun and weird. And way too many people cross those narrow lines.

So how do you know if you've gone too far? How do you know if you suffer from excessive Christmas decorating and an overindulgence of the season? Just ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do you have to use a separate jewelry box/dresser drawer/closet to store your Christmas jewelry?

2. Do you remove every knick knack or item in your living room that is not red or green?

3. During the holiday season, do you find yourself wearing clothing that lights up?

4. Does your exterior decorating tend to cause traffic to back up in your subdivision?

5. Have you ever actually left your house wearing a reindeer-antler headband?

6. When the season's over, do you have to dig through mounds of green and red socks before you can find a pair of basic white ones?

7. Do you replace your comforter and pillow shams with a Christmas themed one each year?

8. Do you insist on decorating the entire house, right down to the holly sprigs on the toilet paper?

9. Is there a crocheted (or plastic) Santa head that you use to decorate the handle of your toilet bowl brush?

10. Do you work "Ho, Ho, Ho" into every casual conversation?

11. Do you have more than four of any particular Christmas decoration? (i.e. Christmas trees, wreaths, mistletoe)

12. Have you baked enough cookies to put Keebler out of business for at least a year?

13. Are you actually fond of fruitcake?

14. Do you consider it a highlight of your Christmas season to design your Christmas newsletter?

15. Do you buy presents for the daughter of your mail delivery person? (Just because.)

16. Do you do spontaneous caroling? (breaking out into Christmas songs at work or in the mall?)

17. Do you make your children or pets wear Santa hats when you head out?

18. Do your presents have to have at least four different kinds of ribbon and a grouping of bows before you consider them wrapped?

19. Do you have more than one complete set of Christmas dishes?

20. Does your clothing or jewelry tend to break out into Christmas carols occasionally?

I'm not saying you have a problem, mind you. Enthusiasm can be a good (annoying) thing. How much do you think is too much? Where do you draw the line? Don't be afraid to share because I'm certainly not one to judge. At least, not until I change the batteries in my earrings.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, Stephanie!

Today is a day that was supposed to happen ten days ago. Nineteen years ago today I gave birth to my daughter--our one and only girl out of six kids. I was actually pregnant with Stephanie for forty-one and a half weeks as she was ten days late in coming. Funny, I always hold over Matt's head the fact that I was in labor for thirty-two hours with him, but I don't think I ever tried to guilt Steph much about waiting that extra ten days. : ) I probably should have as I was so totally miserable at the end of that pregnancy. I endured almost three weeks of people saying, "Are you still here?" every time I showed up for church. I finally started answering with, "Oh, I went into labor last week, but I stopped it with the sheer force of my will because I like the way I look!" I was not the most pleasant person to be around that last week of pregnancy.

But it was all worth it when I held my baby girl in my arms. I went into labor the day before I was supposed to be induced, and twelve hours later our girl was born. Because she's the only girl and she has five brothers, her daddy has always called her a rose among thorns. For awhile that was even her email address. Whenever people would realize the dynamics of our family, they would inevitably say, "You poor girl!" I finally told people to stop telling her that. After all, God designed our family and I refuse to believe that He designed it imperfectly. I told Steph that not too many girls could qualify to become a Boyd. Even I had to marry in order to become one. How special and unique she must be that God chose her to be the one sister in our family.

Needless to say, Steph's upbringing was unique because of our family layout. Stephanie could hold her own with any and all of her brothers when it came to wrestling, climbing trees, playing on the trampoline or even riding a motorcycle or ATV. She could also give her dad a run for his money in a hot wing or jalapeno eating contest.

We've tried to train our children to be each other's best friends. A person ought to be able to count on their siblings to back them up. One time at school Matt got into an argument that almost resulted in a fist fight. Stephanie was in the room, and I asked her later what happened and what was going through her mind during the argument. She told me, "Mom, I was on the edge of my seat. If "A" threw a punch, I was ready to jump in and help Matt!" Another time she watched as a girl we didn't actually approve of got a crush on Matt. Steph rolled her eyes at the flirting that ensued and then privately told the girl in no uncertain terms what she could expect if she did not treat Matt right. Fortunately for the girl, Matt lost interest before too long.

In spite of a mostly male household, Stephanie was also all girl growing up. She is older than four of her brothers, and while she hoped and wished for a girl each time I got pregnant, by the time I brought a baby home from the hospital, she was ready to step in as their second mother. She begged to be allowed to feed them, change them and care for them. She cuddled them, sang to them and occasionally dressed them up as if they were her very own life-sized dolls. When Luke was in kindergarten, he was supposed to be picked up when his class ended at noon. The school at our church had a policy that, if you were any later than fifteen minutes in picking up your children, you had to pay $5. We lived next door to the church and so it shouldn't have been difficult to pick him up on time. But one day I was busy feeding the baby, and lost track of time. Eight-year-old Stephanie got a look at the clock and realized it was almost 12:15. She immediately grabbed her own little purse and ran next door to pick up her brother. I don't think she had $5 to pay, (and the teacher wouldn't take it anyway) but she was determined to pick her brother up and take care of any responsibilities along the way.

God has blessed Stephanie in so many ways. She is an absolutely beautiful girl, but I don't think she ever believed that, even though people told her all the time. She also has a beautiful voice, and can sing both soprano and alto. When she sang publicly for the first time at a competition, her rendition of "The Value of One" stopped everyone in their tracks. I have always loved to hear her sing.

God also blessed Stephanie with a great deal of brains. : ) That girl has always studied hard and carried very high grades. During her sophomore year of high school, Stephanie began having a lot of physical problems and she missed a great deal of school. Determined not to get behind, she studied and worked hard. She was not only able to complete her work that year, but she also made mostly A's in doing so.

There's so much more to my daughter, but at least I've given you a small idea of the wonderful and unique person she is.

Stephanie, my prayer for you as you begin this next year is that you will always love and serve the Lord with the dedication and determination that defined who you were while you were growing up. It's not always easy to follow God's plan for your life, but I want you to remember that He wants the best for us. You'll never regret making a decision to follow Him. I'm so grateful He created someone as special as you, and I'm so incredibly glad He allowed me to be your mother. I love you. I miss you.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Random Dozen!!

And it's time again for a dozen random questions about me that you never thought of until you saw this list but now absolutely cannot go on until you know my answers.

1. Which physical trait do you now accept--maybe not love, but accept--and no longer feel extremely self-conscious about?

I'm okay with the gigantic wart on my nose. My humpback still bothers me, but I refuse to have another cosmetic surgery after the last did that thing to the left side of my mouth. You know. The thing. Yeah. Not going there again!

2. This week Meredith Baxter Birney, best known as the mom on the favorite 80s sitcom "Family Ties" came out of the closet, which led me to formulate this question: Who do you think is/was the best TV mom?

Just for the record, coming out of the closet does not a good mom make. But then again, you have to give her points for getting in the closet. I can't even shut the door on mine.

3. Do you speak any foreign languages? Are there any you'd like to learn?

Parlez-vous Francais? Sprechen sie Deutsch? Parli Italiano? Hablas Espanol? Actually, I don't speak any of those languages beyond the above questions. I do know a smattering of Swahili, Atesso and Japadohla, but mostly just the greetings. But I'm great at igpa atinla! My son, Nicky, had his own language. All the kids at school called it "Nicky language", but to my knowledge no one else was fluent in it.

4. Who is your personal hero?

Okay, by personal hero, do you mean a superhero that shows up whenever I yell for him, or turn on my bat signal? 'Cause I don't have one of those. (Superhero, that is. I do have a bat signal, but I don't use it. Why would I want to call a bat?) I used to like Wonder Woman although that costume was ridiculous. And what good is having an invisible jet if you're not invisible when you're in it?

5. What is one holiday food that you find extremely difficult to resist over- indulging in?

One? Seriously? Like this holiday season isn't stressful enough, now you have to make me choose just one delicious food that I'm allowed to overeat? Now I'm stressed out enough that I think I'm going to have to have a lunch consisting of Christmas cookies.

6. Tell me about a Christmas decoration that has special meaning or sentimental value.

Well the Christmas tree has always meant a lot to me. And I'm very fond of the Christmas wreath. But I also like the smaller things, such as the Christmas soap dispensers and holiday bathroom towels.

7. How do you feel about snow?

We don't really talk anymore. It was nothing specific that drew us apart, but I moved away and snow didn't care enough to follow me. It's not even like it had to move down here, but an occasional email or a call on Christmas Day would have been nice. Apparently our relationship wasn't as deep as I thought it was. I'm bitter, but I try not to dwell on it.

8. On average, how many hours of sleep do you get each night? Not that I'm jealous of any number over three or anything.

Would this be hours of uninterrupted sleep or just sleep from the time you turn out the light until the alarm clock goes off? Because I usually get five hours, but it's not always uninterrupted. Sometimes nature calls during the middle of the night, you know. And then sometimes I wake up because I was having this really horrible nightmare about someone trying to poison me with a needle to the back of the neck. Or a horrible nightmare about a murderous doctor who just found out that I know she did it, and therefore she's stalking me through the hospital. Or a horrible nightmare about a plane crash and then someone is killing off all the stranded survivors. (I'm not making this up! I dreamed this long before J.J. Abrams did!)

9. Tell me about your first crush.

It was delicious and cold, with a delightfully sticky orange taste, and little ice crystals forming on the can. : )

10. You're stuck in a room for 2 hours with only a chalkboard and chalk. What will you write/draw?

If I'm stuck in a room for 2 hours with only a chalkboard and chalk, I would probably be writing "I will not throw spitwads at the teacher" 2000 times.

11. Do you dress for the current temp or for the day's forecast?

I think a better way to phrase this question would be, "Are you shortsighted, or do you plan ahead?" Shortsighted people are toasty warm in the morning, but sweltering in their warm sweater and boots by noon. People that plan ahead tend to shiver in the morning, but they deal with it by drinking Starbucks and enjoying the mid-seventies that come later in the day.

12. Favorite Christmas movie is?

I really like White Christmas. Oh, and there's also that movie about the murderous doctor that's stalking someone through a hospital on Christmas Eve ... wait, I think that was my dream last night.

If you want more answers to random questions, or just answers that make sense, click on the link at the top of the post!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A View of the Holiday: The Bad ...

Yesterday I covered some of the fun of the season: watching Christmas movies! Today I'm moaning about some of the stuff that's not so fun.

Do you send Christmas cards? And if you do, what type of sender are you? What? You didn't know there were different types of Christmas card senders? Sure you did.

There's the type that picks a beautiful card. They write a long, chatty newsletter on red or green paper, filled with the events their family enjoyed throughout the past twelve months. Their list of card recipients resembles Santa's "nice" list in length, but they still take time to write a little personal note in each card. They have holiday stamps and seals to adorn the envelope, and you usually receive their card within a few days after Thanksgiving. Are you one of those? You know, the annoying ones?

Then there's the kind of people that pick out a great card. They don't usually have as long a list, but they write a little personal note in the cards they send out. They collect the cards that come to them and display them in a beautiful Christmas arrangement that not only adds to the decorations, but also shows people just how many friends they have. And somehow all of their friends send just as beautiful a card as they do.

Rushed people also do cards. They scramble to get all their cards done on time, but it's usually about halfway through December before they're all out. They sign the names of all their family members on the card, although if they have more than two children, they're likely to simply sign "Bob and Jane and the kids", rather than writing out all the kids' names. They might use holiday stamps, but in a pinch they'll use a plain one, just to get the job done so they can move on to other things.

Then there's the people that buy the box of assorted Christmas cards at the Dollar Store. You can recognize them because that's probably why you have a penguin or a kitten on the front of your card. That's what was next in the box. Their Christmas card list consists of anyone who sent them a card this year. Every time they get a card in the mail, they pull another card out of the box, slap on an address label and mail it off--right up until Christmas Eve.

The last group is the well-off ones. They have beautiful embossed cards printed with a wonderful message. The printing includes the signing of their name, so they don't actually have to write in any of the cards at all. And their secretary stuffs the envelopes, prints off the address labels and uses the company postage meter before dropping them in the mail.

Which type of card sender are you? Which type do you think I am? : )

See, here's my thinking on cards. I have to do them. I want to get a lot of Christmas cards in the mail. I want the physical proof that people actually like me and are thinking of me during the holiday season. Even the ones sending pre-printed cards--I envision a little gleam in their eye as they see my name and address on that label. They thought enough of me that they spent the money on the card and the .44 postage (it is .44 cents still, isn't it?) in order to send the message that they were thinking of me this season.

With that in mind, when you get my card you can know I was thinking of you. Even if the card does have a puppy curled up next to the fireplace on the front. Even if I sign it "and kids". Hey, when you've got as many as I do, you could do serious physical damage to your wrist trying to write out that many names that many times.

As for the letter or the little personal notes? Well, if you want to know what we've been up to throughout the year, follow my blog. Or sign up to be my facebook friend. (That would have to be after the new year, when I actually have a facebook page.) Let's face it. My life isn't that interesting anyway. And I like to stay humble. Sometimes those Christmas letters are just a means of letting everyone know you went to Europe for the summer. Good for you. Where's my souvenir?

See, if you haven't heard from me all year or I haven't heard from you, there's probably a good reason for it. Don't try to make our friendship into something deeper. Be content with the fact that I at least think enough of you to think of you this time of year and hope you have a Merry Christmas. But to be honest, I don't really need to hear that you did have one.

And if you want to know how my holiday season turns out, keep turning up here.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A View of The Holiday: The Good ...

The next couple of days (two? four? As many as I feel like?) I wanted to cover different aspects of our family's holiday time. Today I'm covering some good stuff I like to do during December. I always have to catch a few Christmas movies, but there are three that top my list. They are absolute must-sees every year. When I was growing up, we had to wait for them to come on the television, and my mom and sisters and I would have to stay up however late in order to see the movie. Now, thanks to DVD's, these movies are available for my viewing pleasure on my timetable. And I enjoy them every year.

The first movie I always watch is Christmas in Connecticut. Barbara Stanwyck plays Elisabeth Lane, a writer who has a regular column in a popular ladies magazine. Elisabeth writes about the best recipes and how to decorate your home for Christmas. She advises on marriage and on babies, and the circulation of the magazine goes up when Elisabeth announces she's having her own baby as well. Things could not be better for Elisabeth until her boss decides she needs to give an injured sailor a real Christmas in her country home. The only problem is, Elisabeth has no home in the country. Neither does she have a husband, a baby or the ability to cook. Elisabeth spends her holiday frantically trying to fool her boss and the sailor as to her true state. Things don't improve when she ends up falling for the sailor, who thinks Elisabeth is a married woman.

I also love watching Holiday Inn. Bing Crosby plays Jim Hardy, a showbiz guy who loses his fiancee to his best friend. So Jim decides to open up a club in Connecticut, the catch being that it is only open on holidays. He finds a beautiful woman to help with the singing and dancing. Then Jim's old friend Ted shows up, having been dumped by Jim's former fiancee. Ted falls for Jim's new woman too, and woos her with a movie offer from Hollywood.

Both of the above movies are great, but my all time favorite is White Christmas. Who can resist the singing of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney, as Bob Wallace and Betty Haynes? The two characters fall prey to the clumsy matchmaking attempts of his business partner (in search of "forty-five minutes all to myself") and Betty's younger sister. Along with the shenanigans of Phil Davis and Judy Haynes, there is the backdrop of the guys' attempts at helping an old army general make a go of his Vermont Inn. Gives me warm fuzzies just to think about it.

So that's my list. But what about you? What movies do you watch every year? Which ones are needed in order to make your holidays complete?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tis the Season - To Advertise

You know how some commercials just stay with you? The advertisements that tug at your heart or make you laugh and tap your foot--the ones where you have to stay and watch, even if you've been waiting for a commercial so you could run to the bathroom?

With the Christmas shopping season in full swing, the advertisements are hitting an all time high. There's a radio commercial going on right now with the top ten reasons to buy a car at Christmas. I love top ten lists, and this one made me laugh. Three of the reasons were: the perfect stocking stuffer for your garage; the one gift you know won't be re-gifted; and three words: new car smell.

But for every great commercial out there, there's hundreds that make you grown or that just stink. Some commercials are so awful, they almost become an anti-favorite. When I was growing up, there was a local remodeling company that ran an advertisement. It showed two young adults (clearly not professional actors) sitting in a car. The "actors" barely restrained themselves from looking at the camera as they recited their lines in monotones. Instead of voice inflection, they used hesitation and stilted speech to get their message across.

Girl: Randy. could. this. be. Aunt Carol's. house?
Man: (Good imitation of William Shatner in Star Trek) It. looks. like. it. Except--a lot. newer.

Now picture the couple with self-conscious grins through the entire commercial. It was so awful it cracked us up. We recited the lines to each other at random just for the fun of it.

As always, in addition to the great advertisements and the terrible ones, you have the dumb ones. This year the dumb ones seem to fall into two categories. The first ones are the commercials with the too-little-too-late disclaimer. These are the commercials that tout a website or a phone number for kids to call. They make the entire commercial so exciting that no child could possibly say no. Then at the very end, in a hurried voice, the announcer quietly reminds the kids to ask their parents before they call or go online. Yeah, right. Like that happens.

It's bad enough when the advertisements target kids, but I think it's even worse when they air an alcohol advertisement, and then quietly remind people to "drink responsibly". Stupid phrase. This morning I heard a commercial for a tourist gambling franchise. The commercial was filled with people cheering, laughing and having fun. At the end the announcer said, "If you have a gambling problem, dial 1-800-admitit." I am not making this up.

Not quite as seriously bad, but equally annoying are the dumb commercials that use words in ways they weren't meant to be used. Nouns do not show action, people. They cannot be used as verbs, no matter how hard you try. I suppose in some ways that association has worked. For instance, for many years people "xeroxed" something when they wanted to use a copier. But that doesn't always work. Have you ever "kleenexed" your nose? "Ovened" your food? I didn't think so.

There is a restaurant in the area called Pollo Tropical. It's my understanding that pollo (pronounced po-yo) is "chicken" in Spanish. This restaurant has a commercial that ends with the words, "It's time to pollo." Seriously? It's time to chicken? What does that even mean? That is one of the stupidest phrases I've ever heard, and yes, it actually keeps me from eating there.

Kohl's is one of my all time favorite stores, but right now they've even gotten on the stupid bandwagon. Their catch phrase this year? "The more you know the more you Kohl's." What? I've never "Kohl's"ed anything in my life. I wouldn't know how, and I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be appropriate.

What I'm really afraid of is that society has dumbed down so much that these commercials actually make sense. Well I won't have it. Someone has to take a stand for intelligence and grammar and the English language. I guess that someone is me.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to secretary by computering my reports.

So what about you? Got a favorite commercial or one you really hate? Share it here!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Making A List and Checking It Twice

Every year, whether for birthdays or for Christmas, I always have my children make a wish list. Near Christmas time I carry these lists in my purse, so that if I happen to be at a store with some good sales, I can haul out the lists and hopefully get something they actually want. These lists can get pretty specific at times as they start indicating preferred colors, sizes and accessories. (We're talking toys here for the most part, btw.) Last year and this year we simplified a lot of the Christmas shopping because we got one big gift that the entire family could enjoy. Then the presents under the tree consisted of needed items such as clothes and/or shoes.

Price has no limit on these Christmas lists from my kids. They're usually long lists with absolutely every "wish" thrown in. They start with the stuff that they know is a possibility, but then they progress to things like cars and expensive electronics. They don't ever get those expensive things, but I always get a kick out of how literally they take their wish lists.

This year I'm doing my own list. And in the interest of taking "wish" literally, my list has no price tag either. So for what it's worth, here's the top ten things I want for Christmas.

1. A book contract. Nothing too complicated. A three book deal with the option for movie rights. And I get to say who plays me.

2. A house that truly cleans itself. If you can have a self-cleaning oven, I don't see why the fridge can't clean it's own shelves and throw out old leftovers. And why shouldn't the dishwasher unload itself? I'd like to see my appliances pulling their own weight.

3. A Honda CRV. I've always wanted an SUV and quite frankly, these crossover deals do nothing for me. Why would I want to buy what looks like an enlarged station wagon? I want something that actually looks like it should have four wheel drive.

4. Snow on Christmas Eve. I realize this is a long shot in Florida, but I never said this list was rooted in reality.

5. Exercise equipment that makes me lose weight just by looking at it. Hey, if I can gain ten pounds looking at a dessert table, getting it off should be just as easy!

6. Christmas lights that actually work. Bonus would be outdoors lights in the bushes that don't burn out two days after you spend the time putting them up.

7. A great looking pair of purple heels. Because I've always wanted some.

8. Something to wear that matches the purple shoes. Otherwise, what's the point?

9. A green thumb. My plants always look a little brown around the edges. Okay, some of them look brown all the way through.

10. A trip to Europe. First class, of course. Backpacking across Europe is not my idea of a good time. If I need to find myself, I'm sure I could do it in a five star hotel.

So what about you? Got any wishes this year? Join the fun and let your imagination run wild!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Random Dozen!

I know this is two posts in one day, but I've already missed several of these and I wanted to go with this one.

1. Which Wizard of Oz character are you most like?

I am most like Dorothy because I like to be the star, I love red shoes, and I know several people I'd like to drop a house on.

2. When you're deciding what you're going to wear each morning, which item do you select first? Why?

I select the under garments first because people tend to stare if you put them on last.

3. What kind of animal do you think the world could live without?

I know it's a reptile and not an animal, but I think the world could live without snakes. I know I could!

4. How many Christmas trees are in your home?

Only one at the moment. I want more than one, but I'm afraid the boys would think more trees mean more presents.

5. Would you prefer to be emotionless if it mean you didn't have to feel a heartbreak?

On one hand, heartbreak can build character. On the other hand, I think I have enough character for now.

6. Do you ever experience holiday let-down or depression?

Absolutely. Every single time I didn't measure up to the perfect holiday experience it was a let down. I finally dealt with it by killing off my inner Martha. Try it--it's very therapeutic.

7. Do you like Michael Jackson's music?

I like his "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause". That's about it.

8. Why is it that we never judge people who have their teeth fixed for cosmetic reasons, but every other cosmetic procedure has a stigma?

Perhaps because getting your teeth fixed does not enlarge them beyond what nature intended.

9. Enjoy horseback riding?

I do, but I can't speak for the horse.

10. Shoes--practical or stylish?

Oh so totally stylish, baby! I'll endure pain for pretty shoes any time!

11. What was the name of your first pet? Feel free to post a pic.

The first pet I remember us having was Chocolate, a chocolate lab. She had puppies on Thanksgiving Day. My mom was not pleased. Chocolate did not stay long at our house.

12. What percentage of your Christmas shopping is done?

I'm sorry, but I can't answer that question because it implies the use of a mathematical equation. I'm already suffering from a raging headache trying to figure out how much is 30% off of something that costs $29.99, and then calculating whether I'm actually saving money when the item was priced at $19.99 last month. I'm just stunned to realize that "X=5" does not work for every mathematical situation.

Click the link at the top if you want to see more random dozen answers!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Leggo My ... Legos?

I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving! Thanks to so many people who called, emailed or posted. I really appreciate your thinking of me and praying for me. We did have a wonderful holiday, and I thought I would share a few pictures.

I think I got these in opposite order, but here's some of the aftermath of the Thanksgiving meal.

And this was the big decision on which type of pie to have. My boys solved the problem by having multiple slices of every pie. I'm not sure our hosts had any food left in the house by the time we headed home.

This would be the clean up crew.

And this is the cooking crew.

I never realized before how much legos have had a part in our holiday celebrations. But as I watched the boys turn our hosts' living room into a lego factory, I realized that this has happened quite a bit through the years. Gotta love the legos.

And finally, my part of our Thanksgiving dinner. After reading this post in memory of my Mom, our hostess decided that I needed to make the mashed potatoes. Truth be told, I did learn to make mashed potatoes from my mother. However, in the past few years the only time I've made "real" mashed potatoes was at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Other than that the speed of life has demanded instant potatoes. So I felt the pressure to produce something wonderful. I was running late Thanksgiving morning and didn't have time to peel the potatoes before we left, so I ended up peeling them in the van on the way over. I had ten pounds of potatoes to peel, and it took most of the ride. And no, I did not drive while peeling! The most telling part was, while our hosts found it amusing that I'd peeled on the drive over, they were not particularly surprised. I don't even want to think about what that says about me.

Suffice it to say, the potatoes turned out perfect--creamy, lump-less perfection. Now if I'd only remember to take a picture of the finished project ... or had someone take a picture of me peeling on the go ...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends. I am so thankful that I have some of both around for today. But I also have both family and friends that I can't be with today. I want you to know that I'm thinking of you, I'm thankful for each of you, and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving as well.

My love to all.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Vegetative State

The past couple of weeks have been a flurry of activity and emotional trauma. I dealt with it by doing hard, mind-numbing work like shampooing carpets and completely cleaning out, washing and rearranging all of my kitchen cabinets. (I'll have you know our vitamins are now alphabetized). It's been a busy fall, and I think everything finally hit me last night. I made enchiladas (using venison, mind you!) and then sat down to read a book while they were in the oven. I ended up falling asleep, but fortunately the boys know what the timer on the oven means and they rescued dinner before it burned.
I slept on the couch until a little after 8:00. When I woke up, the only thing I could contemplate was whether or not it was too early to go to bed. Since most of the enchiladas were gone, I fixed myself a sandwich and then curled up in bed to watch a movie. My husband was in the living room while I was sleeping, and then he came upstairs with me, but he was mostly reading and studying for the Wednesday night Bible study.
It occurred to me as I turned out the light that I had vegetated for the entire evening. I started to say I had lived as a carrot, but then I thought, given my hair's tendency to curl up and stick out, maybe I more resembled broccoli. As for my husband? I think he resembled a rutabaga for no other reason than the fact that I like saying rutabaga. My husband gave me the tolerant smile he usually gives when I make no sense and then kissed me good night.
I like having vegetable night. Next time I might be a cauliflower. My thought-provoking question for you is this: if you were a vegetable, which one would you be?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Disappearing Month

You hear it all the time these days. Everywhere people are saying that they're cutting back. They're economizing. They're downsizing. We have to save every resource and make it last for just a while longer than we used to. We have to cut extras out of our lives and live more frugally. And just in case you have troubles doing that on your own, the government will help you. They will tell you where to cut back. They will tell you which natural resources you have to save, even if it means returning to the dark ages. If this health care bill passes, they will tell you which diseases are worth treating, which people are deserving of treatment, and which people we ought to let die for the good of the masses.
I think I've figured out the next place that the government is going to tell us to cut back. I've been studying this for a while, and in my professional opinion, I think that the government is going to downsize the calendar. I think we will soon hear of a bill proposing that we remove one month from the twelve we usually use in a year.
It makes perfect sense when you think about it. That's one less month that they have to send out welfare checks, social security, or make medicare, medicaid or WIC payments. That's one less month that government officials have to pay salaries to government employees. One less month they have to use in factoring vacation time and sick leave.
It would be good for us too. Just think, a thirty year mortgage (providing you're one of the few people that qualifies for one these days) would actually be paid off in twenty-seven and a half years. On a more personal front, for females that's one less month of--you know--per year. And who wouldn't be happy with that?
The only question really is, which month do we do away with? It can't be January. We need that for new year's resolutions. Plus, Martin Luther King Jr's birthday is celebrated then. We don't want to be accused of being politically incorrect. For the same reason we can't get rid of March. St. Patrick's Day. All of Chicago would be in a uproar because then they'd have no reason to dye the river green. We can't do February because that would put cupids out of work. And the card companies. We have to keep April because without Easter we'd have no reason to get dressed up in new dresses and we'd have no reason to eat tons of candy. May has to stay because of Mother's Day. And no one wants to get rid of summer months. We need September because that's when school starts, and we can't get rid of October because of the huge Halloween holiday. Naturally, we also need to hang on to December because of Christmas.
When it comes right down to it, November is the month that has to go. It's boring, it usually has bad weather. We'd probably all be better off if the calendar went right from October to December. But wait, you say? What about the holidays in November?
I'm glad you brought that up. Let's look at November's holidays, shall we? First, we have Veterans' Day. Hey, I personally appreciate the contributions of veterans as much as the next person. But let's face it. National pride and patriotism are on the way out. If we keep celebrating our war heroes, we might alienate some third world country that resents our power anyway. We don't have acts of war or terrorism anymore. We have manmade disasters. We could celebrate Disaster Control Day, but that could easily be slipped into August. There's not much happening that month anyway.
The other holiday in November would be Thanksgiving. And we don't want to remember that holiday anymore because that epitomizes our failure as a nation. We've managed to corrupt the true meaning of Easter and Christmas. We've enlarged and celebrated Halloween until it's becoming a major national holiday. But somehow we just haven't truly been able to mess up Thanksgiving.
Oh, we've tried. But gluttony and sporting events couldn't quite erase the thankfulness this holiday inspired. We tried connecting it to the biggest sales day of the year. And sure, we got some people who gave up Thanksgiving in order to sit in lines all night, waiting for stores to open at 5:00 a.m. But still we couldn't get rid of that thankfulness. It's hard to corrupt thankfulness. It's almost impossible to commercialize it. We've even had people try to distort history and take the thankfulness out completely, referring to the holiday as the day we celebrated "sticking it to the Native Americans".
The only way we're going to get rid of this holiday is to do away with November all together. I've noticed that some stores are already doing that. The first week of November I couldn't find any fall decorations to save my life. Christmas decorations were up in the store, and they were even playing Christmas music. I think removing November from the calendar would just be the official gesture to what's been going on for years.
I don't know about you, but in our house, we plan on celebrating Thanksgiving for a good many years to come. For one thing, I'm going to be grateful that God hasn't given our nation everything we actually deserve.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Strawberry Pie and Lifetime Traditions

This picture is four generations of women in my family. The lady on the left is my grandmother. The woman in the middle is my mother, holding my daughter. And I'm on the right.

Some of you may have noticed that I haven't been around for the past week. There's a reason for my absence, and the reason is this: strawberry pie.

You see, I lost my mother one week ago today. It was unexpected and overwhelming, but Mom went to be with the Lord late last week. I spent a lot of time thinking about my mom the past few days. Remembering, pondering. Mom taught me some pretty wonderful things when I was growing up. Here's just a few of the things for which I'm grateful.

Mom taught me that you do what's needed. Whatever life may hand your way, you follow through and do what needs to be done. People are counting on you.

Mom taught me that family comes first. I can't remember a time when she wasn't thinking or doing something for someone in our family. She worked hard to make sure that we were comfortable. That we had what we needed. That we were happy. Whether it was a Christmas full of traditions, or just an extra blanket on the bed at night, Mom always saw to everyone else's needs.

Mom taught me to honor my husband. For years I watched her honor and reverence the man she married, and that set the standard for the way I've tried to treat my own husband for the past twenty-three years.

Mom taught me that some events were special. Birthdays were always big at our house. For one day, the birthday girl (or boy) didn't have to do any chores. They got whatever they wanted (within reason) for their birthday supper, and they got the cake of their choice too. Even though I always seemed to ask for something difficult, like homemade chicken and dumplings, Mom came through.

Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, Mom and my sisters and I spent the day making Christmas cookies. We played Christmas music and turned out hundreds of different kinds of cookies. I still use some of her recipes, and although I don't always make the cookies the day after Thanksgiving, I always have Christmas music playing, and I always think of Mom.

My mom was a great cook. As the youngest of three girls, I didn't always get a lot of cooking time in the kitchen. We all had to help get meals on the table, but a lot of the time I was relegated to setting the table or filling the ice with glasses. Mom did teach me how to make mashed potatoes, however. To this day I take pride in creating mounds of creamy, lump-less perfection.

When Terry and I got engaged, we joked some about the fact that I didn't really know that much about cooking. But my mom was not about to let one of her daughters start her own home without being prepared. So in the six months between our engagement and our wedding, Mom taught me to cook. I made sure to ask how to make all of my favorite dishes, although they never quite turned out as good as hers did. My mom wanted my culinary education to be thorough, so she even taught me how to make pies. I spent all of one afternoon laboring over a homemade strawberry pie. I think she took as much pride in the finished product as I did.

Years later I taught my own daughter to make biscuits from scratch. (In Uganda, everything was from scratch!) Typically, it wasn't any time at all before Steph's skill surpassed my own, but I still took my own form of mother's pride every time she produced biscuits for the table.

My mom was the epitome of the perfect housekeeper and the perfect lady. I fell far short in both areas, something that amused both of us, I think. She thought my mistakes were funny--and they usually were. But even though I never quite got as good as she did, I don't think I disappointed my mother. Because her love for me wasn't based on what I was able to accomplish. Her love was based on the fact that I was her daughter. I understand this love because this is what I feel for my own daughter. Stephanie may have disappointed me a time or two, but my love for her has nothing to do with what she does. I love her because of who she is.

And that may be the best thing of all that my mother taught me.

I love you, Mom. I miss you. Thanks for being you.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Military Policy

My boys have been arguing a lot lately. I know it's not unusual for kids to argue, but their fighting has taken an unusual turn and I don't like it. It seems that nowadays, most of the arguing is done because someone "did" something to someone else. And the offended person is angry, not just because of what happened. No, they're angry because they assume that whatever happened was on purpose. They actually believe that their brother intentionally tried to hurt, annoy, anger them without a reason. Now, admittedly, sometimes that's the case. But I hate the instant conclusion that someone as close as a brother would deliberately do something mean. Sometimes things really are just an accident.
I blame all this on political correctness. I really do. See, political correctness assumes that if you do or say something politically incorrect, you did it on purpose. You're trying to hurt someone. Why would anyone want to live their lives assuming others are trying to hurt them? What's the fun of having a chip on your shoulder? I don't get it, but apparently there are so many people out there with the chip-on-the-shoulder motif that we've had to institute political correctness in order to deal with it. We've had to curtail and watch what we say and do lest we offend anyone and then the world will think we did it on purpose.
Obviously political correctness is not the perfect answer. But lately I think we're coming to see that it's actually a dangerous answer. In the first place, it seems to breed entitlement issues. If everyone thinks everyone else is out to deliberately hurt them, then they're always crying for restitution when someone says something unkind. I'm not a fan of unkindness, but hey, it happens. It's not always intentional. Move on. But instead we have people starting up lawsuits because someone said something mean to them. And then other people start lawsuits because their feelings were hurt in a much greater way than the people in the first lawsuit, so surely they should get something too. We've actually raised an entire generation (or two) to believe that people owe us something because they (in most cases) accidentally insulted us.
Political correctness is also dangerous because it smothers truth. Sometimes things need to be said. Issues need to be handled. But no one will say anything because they are afraid of, at the least, being perceived as insensitive. At the worst, they will be perceived as an ignorant lout who should pay for the "emotional damage" they inflicted on others. Now, I realize there are ignorant louts out there. There are people who are warped enough to want to inflict emotional damage. But I believe they are the exception, not the rule.
Political correctness breeds entitlement issues. It smothers truth. But we've learned in the last week that it also costs lives. The Ft. Hood killer (PC versions would say he's the "shooter" or the "alleged shooter". He killed people. Other people saw him do it. He's a killer.) is a follower of Isl*m. He spouted wild-eyed rhetoric apparently throughout his career. He gave a presentation that sympathized with suicide bombers. He encouraged the military to remove m*slims from military action in the Middle East on the basis of being conscientious objectors. He even warned that having m*slims in our military fighting m*slims would cause "adverse" events. Now there's an example of political correctness for you. Perhaps we would have listened had he actually said "we'll kill you" as opposed to hinting of adverse events. Oh, wait. He got a little more blunt than that. In his presentation praising suicide bombers he said, "we love death more than you love life." That's right. He said "we".
So if he said all these things and was open about his feelings, why was he still in the military? Worse yet, why was he a psychiatrist who was helping our military personnel? Why would we want someone like this messing around in our soldiers' minds? The answer is we wouldn't. However, no one wanted to blow the whistle on him. Why? They didn't want to get sued. They didn't want to be accused of discrimination.
We ended up with an entire group that buried their heads in the sand, lest they offend someone who wanted to kill us. This is not the brightest military policy I've ever seen. It could well be the stupidest. What other army in the world would take in people related to or close to their enemies and have them serve? Not only that, but we seem to actually try to reach out to these people and put them in positions of danger to us because we want to show how "diverse" we are. What we're actually doing is showing how stupid we are. What we actually did was allow political correctness to kill thirteen people and wound thirty others.
It's time for us all to grow up. Yes, there are people out there that actually want to hurt us. If they're spouting extremist rhetoric, take the hint and deal with it. Let's quit trying to play nice because they're not going to return the favor. There's no amount of apologies or money that will change the mind of extremists. They're out to hurt us. They're out to kill us. Let's forget trying to keep from hurting their feelings and deal with the threat.
Political correctness will never be enough to pacify them. It could well be enough to destroy us.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Random Dozen

It's time for another random dozen questions. Below are my answers. Feel free to put some answers of your own in the comments. To read more answers, click on the button.

1. What was the last song you listened to?

Actually I don't know the name of it. It was something about wanting to know what love is. It was on a commercial for the new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie that's coming out. The three chipmunks had just encountered girls, and there was a lot of dreamy-eyed staring going on. And since this is a dozen questions, I'm going to refrain from getting into the whole love-is-not-the-squiggly-feeling-you-get-the-first-time-you-see-someone thing. I'll save that for my kids.

2. Have you ever had “buyer’s remorse” over anything?

Once or twice I've bought something that was a little small, thinking it would be an incentive for me to lose weight. That was really stupid and a total waste of money. By the time I got down to that size, the outfit would be out of style anyway.

3. What is something in your life that you are thankful for now that you didn’t think you would be at the time of the event? (Something that seemed ill-timed, inconvenient or hurtful which turned out to be a good thing)

Believe it or not, I'm thankful for our dog. (At least most of the time.) Our household is so full and so busy, I didn't think we needed another pet, but Sonny is absolutely adorable. He plays hide-n-seek with the boys and he actually grins when he's enjoying himself.

4. Do you watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade every year? If so, do you have a favorite float or balloon?

We used to watch it every year when I was growing up. It was as much a part of Thanksgiving morning as football was for Thanksgiving afternoon. I've kind of grown out of it though. I love all the traditional stuff, but I hate the commercialization it's turned into. I want to watch a parade, not a few floats in between each of the new tween or country acts that show up to perform. And please don't get me started on the commentators. They may be absolutely brilliant actors, news anchors, etc., but the illusion they try to give that we're all sitting and watching this together makes me glad these people aren't visiting at our house for Thanksgiving.

5. Share a quote, scripture, poem or lyric which has been an inspiration to you lately.

"Life is hard and then you die, so eat your breakfast." I guess I can't really say that inspired me lately since I'm the one that said it. It came out of my mouth in response to one of my kids whining about something. They've threatened to put this saying on my tombstone.

6. This is meant to be a fun question, and this is a G-rated blog, but please share a “guilty pleasure,” something that you enjoy that’s probably not the most edifying, time-worthy or healthy thing you could be indulging in. Did I mention--G rating?

This is a difficult question. See, I don't like guilt. And if something makes me feel guilty, it sucks all the joy out of the "pleasure" part of it. Plus, I'm not sure I know you well enough to share what I would enjoy that would make me feel guilty.

7. What Thanksgiving food are you looking forward to?

Obviously there's the turkey. And the homemade stuffing. Mashed potatoes. Gotta have the green bean casserole. My boys look forward to the orange salad. My husband likes the stuffed mushrooms. Everyone likes the cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Ham rolls are an absolute must. And we've gotta have a relish tray of olives and pickles. My husband likes both the pumpkin and pecan pies. The kids like the chocolate pie and apple pie. Obviously it's hard to choose. This year I'm mostly looking forward to not cooking since we're going to someone else's house for dinner!

8. What is your favorite book to read to children, or what was your favorite childhood book?

My favorite childhood books were the Nancy Drew series. Could not get enough of them. If I'm reading to my kids, I love reading from the Bloodhound series by Bill Myers. They're so funny, and they also teach some good Biblical truths to kids.

9. Do you collect anything? (Feel free to post a photo.)

Years ago I used to collect music boxes. Most of them were destroyed by one too many games of football or wrestling in the living room. Now I collect some Boyd's Bear stuff. I also collect shoes. My goal is to have a pair in every color known to man.

10. Gift bags or wrapping paper?

When we went to Uganda, I took gift bags with us because I couldn't get wrapping paper over there, and gift bags are reusable. Now that we're back here, I'll use a gift bag if I'm giving to someone outside the family. For family, especially at Christmas, it's wrapping paper, baby! With all the ribbons and bows and trimmings. It's an enormous job, and you can tell when we're getting towards the end because the "extras" tend to get a little sparse.

11. Share an after-school memory from when you were younger. What was your routine like on an average day?

After changing my clothes and doing whatever chores I had to do, I would watch an episode of Batman. Yeah, the one with Adam West. Then I would go outside and ride my bike or play football with the boys next door. That was all before I was twelve. I held a part time job after school from the time I was twelve until I wasn't in school anymore.

12. True story: Once, in a job interview, I was asked this question and told there would be no clarifying; I simply had to answer the question: “When you’re fishing, do you feel for the fish?” So what about you? When you're fishing, do you feel for the fish??

In the first place, I don't like fishing. In the second place, no! Do you feel for the chicken when you buy eggs? Do you feel for the cow when you buy milk? Better yet, do you feel for the cow when you buy ground beef? Why on earth would you be fishing at all if you have any sympathy for the fish? (My husband shot Bambi's mother, and I'm proud of him!)

Fall Festival

We had our annual Fall Festival at church this past Saturday, and it was a lot of fun.
Here's the cake I entered in a contest.

I lost (and rightfully so) to this cake.

Here's my husband taking a dive in the dunking booth.

Paul enjoying the horseback riding.

And Joel enjoying the moonbounce. That's Nicky in the background.

All in all it was an absolutely wonderful day spent with family and friends. I just wanted to share a few pictures with family and friends from the blogging world. Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, November 9, 2009

How Smart Are You?

The following short quiz consists of 4 questions and will tell you whether you are qualified to be a professional. Scroll down for each answer. The questions are NOT that difficult. But don't scroll down UNTIL you have answered the question!

1. How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator?

The correct answer is: Open the refrigerator, put in the giraffe, and close the door. This question tests whether you tend to do simple things in an overly complicated way.

2 . How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator?

Did you say, Open the refrigerator, put in the elephant, and close the refrigerator? Wrong Answer.

Correct Answer: Open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe put in the elephant and close the door. This tests your ability to think through the repercussions of your previous actions.

3. The Lion King is hosting an animal conference. All the animals attend...except one. Which animal does not attend?

Correct Answer: The Elephant. The elephant is in the refrigerator. You just put him in there.

This tests your memory. Okay even if you did not answer the first three questions correctly, you still have one more chance to show your true abilities.

4. There is a river you must cross but it is inhabited by crocodiles, and you do not have a boat How do you manage it?

Correct Answer: You jump into the river and swim across. Have you not been listening? All the crocodiles are attending the Animal Meeting. This tests whether you learn quickly from your mistakes.

According to Anderson Consulting Worldwide, around 90% of the professionals they tested got all questions wrong, but many preschoolers got several correct answers. Anderson Consulting says this conclusively disproves the theory that most professionals have the brains of a four- year-old.

I flunked the quiz completely. How did you do?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Myth Recipe

Here's the weapon. Er, I mean recipe. Handle with care!

You will need:
2 cups butter
4 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 cups sugar
5 cups blended oatmeal
24 oz chocolate chips
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 eight oz Hershey bar (grated)
4 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla

Measure oatmeal and blend in blender to a find powder. Cream butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and soda. Add chocolate chips and Hershey bar. Roll into balls and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes about 112 cookies.


Friday, November 6, 2009

The Neiman-Marcus Cookie

There's something about fall weather that always makes me want to bake. The crisp, cool air, the apple and cinnamon candles I start lighting, the shorter days ... something about all of them just begs me to bake.

Now, I'm not Paula Dean (shoot, I'm not even a distant cousin of her dishwasher), but I've got a few baked goods that I like to turn out. Thankfully, even if I wasn't in the mood to bake, Stephanie usually was. One of the things we both like to make are Neiman-Marcus cookies.

You may have heard of the urban legend of the NM cookie. (How could there be an urban legend about a cookie?!?) Some woman was supposedly eating at the lunch counter in a Neiman-Marcus in Dallas. (Or fill in your favorite big city here.) She loved the cookie and asked for the recipe. After some reluctance, the manager sold her the recipe, but charged the woman's credit card for $250. They wouldn't give her money back, so she vowed to plaster the cookie recipe all over the internet so they could never take anyone else like they took her. identifies the story as a myth, and the Neiman-Marcus website even addresses it. They said they didn't even have a cookie recipe when that story supposedly came out, but in response to the legend, they developed one and gave it away for free. It's posted on their website.

It's a funny story, and it probably helps the recipe go further, but to be honest, this cookie needs no help. In fact, the recipe I'm going to post is not even the "official" NM recipe. It's the recipe that supposedly went with the myth. But it beats any other cookie ever made. Hands down. I do feel the need to post a warning: this cookie is tremendously and immediately addictive. You will not stop at one. You may not even stop at one batch, and this recipe makes a lot of them!

Stephanie once made these cookies for a bake sale that the volleyball team was having. I guess she inherited a bit of her father's business savvy. She knew that the cookies would sell, but she wanted to make sure she got the most money she could. So she gave away the first cookie to anyone that came to her table. Knowing the tremendous power of the cookie, she knew those free cookies would not be a waste.

In fact, the only time these cookies weren't a hit was when we took them to a potluck dinner at church. And that was really my fault. Stephanie started making the cookies that Sunday afternoon while I fixed dinner. After we got everyone fed, I took over the cookies, and Steph moved on to making some other things for the fellowship. I picked up right where she left off, but the cookies had a different consistency when I put them on the pan to bake. They also had a different taste. They were edible, but that's about all you could say for them. (Sadly, that's true of many of my culinary attempts!) Steph backtracked through the recipe and discovered that I'd left out the brown sugar. We both laughed my mistake, and decided we could always bill the cookies as sugar-free.

But that's the only time this cookie hasn't lined up cookie connoisseurs around the block. So please promise me you will be careful with the weapon I'm about to place in your hands. Use it wisely.

Unfortunately, I just realized I've gone the distance on this post. I'll have to actually post the recipe tomorrow. Yes, I know it's Saturday, but I'll post it anyway so you can have a bake-a-thon this weekend. In the meantime, here's to cookies, baking with your daughter, and sugar addicts around the world.
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