Friday, August 28, 2009

Organization 101

If you've followed this blog with any frequency at all, you've probably guessed that I'm not much for organization. That's not to say I don't want to be organized because I do. I'm just not very ... organized about being organized. Of course I try. For instance, I make a list before I go to the store. It's usually on a scrap of paper that I found and more than once I've lost the list on the way to the store. I organize drawers and cabinets, only to have them become a mess once again. I organize my schedule, but then lose my calendar. Or forget to look at my calendar. In June, during VBS, things were so hectic and there were so many details to put together, I did a whole spreadsheet with what items needed to be done, when they needed to be done and who was supposed to do them. But then I never had time to look at my spreadsheet again until VBS was over.

So I decided to do a series of posts about organization. Each post will cover a different are of life that needs to be organized, and I will be asking you to give tips and ideas on that area that's helped you.

The first post is in the area of household chores. Do your kids do any? Do each of your kids have assigned chores, or do you just assign a job as it comes up? Do you simply check as needed, or is there a checklist you fill out to make sure things get done every day? What about if it's just you and hubby? Any division of household labor there? How do you keep this area of your life organized?

Even if your children are grown, feel free to share what you did when they were at home. Or what your mother did about chores when you were growing up. Or just what you imagine would be the perfect way to handle this, even if you don't have kids and never want any. Any and all suggestions are welcomed. And maybe we can all help each other to get a little better organization in our lives.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Unpleasant Growth

Yo may remember that Sunday night after church I was frantically downloading my husband's files from his somehow damaged computer. When I got home I downloaded the files from the flash drive to our desktop. Terry was leaving early in the morning on a trip, and I knew he needed help getting some of his things together, so I was hurrying through my chore when Nicky, my nine-year-old, came into the office. I was a little annoyed because I had just told the boys to start their showers and get ready for bed. Now here comes Nicky telling me he thinks he has a boil.

I know, that's a really weird thing for a kid to come up with. Our family got lots of boils while were living Uganda. Nicky doesn't really remember them, but he knows the kids talk about the agony once in a while. (Personally, I have a whole new perspective on the book of Job. But that's another post.)

I told Nicky to show me his "boil". He pulled his shirt up, and there was a huge red welt on his side that ran from his stomach to his back. Worse, the welt was sitting on top of a large swelling that stuck out from the side of his body. It was also feverishly hot.

Usually when the kids show us some physical problem such as broken bones, gaping cuts, etc. I go into damage-control mode. I suck in my breath, and begin speaking in very calm, rational tones (as opposed to the normal every day hysterical ones), acting like it's not a huge deal while hurrying to get medical treatment. But this one threw me. I sucked in a breath and said, "Oh my goodness!" loudly enough to draw several others into the office. Each one that looked had the same response: "Whoa!"
Terry took Nicky into another room with better lighting. Then he turned to me and said, "This is not good. We've got to get someone to look at this right away!"

I agreed, but I certainly wasn't looking forward to spending the rest of the night in the emergency room. Especially since we've gone almost a year since visiting there. Then I remembered that one of the ladies that joined our church this summer is a pediatrician. And she had just given me her number at church that night because I was supposed to call her this week. Unfortunately I couldn't find the slip of paper with her number on it anywhere.

"Just go," Terry told me. "She'll understand." I knew she would, and I knew I had no choice, but I still didn't relish banging on someone's door at 10:30 at night when I hardly knew them. Still, I bundled Nicky in the car, and off we went.

I should mention that Nicky, as the youngest, struggles under the impression that he does not get enough attention. So when something comes up that calls attention to him, he tends to milk it for all it's worth. He told me as we went to the car, that now his legs were hurting. I was already worried about the fast growth of this whatever-it-was, and I panicked, thinking the poison of this unknown attack was working on his legs--maybe paralyzing him. "Your legs hurt?" I asked.

"Yeah. I had to run up the stairs to get my sweatpants before we left."

Sigh. As we drove to our friend's house, I asked Nicky for details. When did he notice this growth? (His story kept changing from that morning to right before he got in the shower that night.) Did it itch? (Maybe. A little.) Did it hurt? (Yes.) Was the hurt on the skin or down deep inside? Was it a stabbing pain or an ache, or what? He answered yes to all questions and kept changing his mind about whether it was on the surface or down deep. I see therapy in our future.

Much questioning finally revealed that, after the Sunday evening church service he went out to play with the rest of the kids. And sometime during the evening he was laying on the ground. I theorized that something had bit him, although there was no visible bite mark. Nicky was adamant that nothing had bitten him, but that yesterday he felt like he had bugs all over him. (I don't know where he gets his imagination!)

When we pulled up to the house, it was dark and I inwardly groaned. We were going to pull her out of bed. As we got out of the car, Nicky commented that it hurt to turn. Then as we walked up the sidewalk, he said this thing was now messing with his mind. I stifled a laugh, which he took offense to, and then he told me he was serious because it was making him dizzy. He was walking pretty straight and I'm not sure he actually knows what dizzy means, so I didn't take him too literally.

Thankfully, the pediatrician was not in bed and was very gracious about us showing up on her doorstep with this huge growth. She even laughed at the fact that I lost the phone number she'd given me just two hours ago. After examining his growth, checking his vitals and asking some questions, she finally told us it looked like hives. Except that there was only one. It was a hive. In a weird spot. For no apparent reason. She agreed that he'd probably been bitten by something and she gave him benadryl. She also gave me her phone number again in case things worsened during the night. (This time I plugged it directly into my phone.)

All's well. Simple problem, simple solution. We thanked her and headed home, stopping at Walmart to pick up some underwear since the laundry hadn't been done that weekend and my husband had nothing to pack. But it was the perfect weird ending to a weird evening.

The swelling was down by morning, and his "hive" has almost completely gone away. Nicky is fine, except when you ask him how he's doing. Then he puts on a long face and says maybe it's hurting again. Or itching. I'd believe him if he were actually favoring the side with the hive.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Computer Illiteracy

This weekend was interesting as far as crises and challenges go. l thought I was going to get a rare day to putter around at home. It started out that way, but around 4:00 Saturday, Terry called me. He was on the way home, and he had a problem. He had both sermons for Sunday, plus his Sunday School lesson almost completely finished before Saturday. He was out and busy all day, but late in the afternoon he settled back into his office at the church in order to tweak his sermons and do some final studying.

His computer wouldn't work.

Windows wouldn't open at all, and he kept getting a "corrupt" message. He was nearly frantic. So he brought the thing home for me to work on, and he borrowed Matt's laptop. He had to reconstruct both sermons and his Sunday School lesson that night. No easy task, I can tell you.

Now, I'm not much of a tech person, but I do try to keep up with a few things when it comes to maintaining the equipment. I regularly run anti-virus scans and spyware scans. At least, I did it on my desktop. (That was before I got the incorruptible imac!) I also loaded anti-virus protection on Terry's laptop, but he never remembered to run it. If I got hold of the machine for a while, I'd run it, but it went with him almost everywhere, so I didn't get the chance often.

In truth, we don't know that a virus caused this malfunction. We just know it has some sort of a hard drive problem. I researched stuff on the internet and then I tried everything I could think of, but no success. Sunday afternoon we got several tech-minded men to try and help, but nothing worked. Finally, after church, one man got it running. But he refused to tell anyone what he did. He simply said that it was running for now, but there was no guarantee it would start up again the next time it was turned off. With that in mind, I sat in Terry's office after church Sunday night, downloading all of his files onto flash drives and CD's. Thankfully, we were able to get just about everything he has saved (but not back up) on his computer.

Of course this happened about sixteen months after we bought the laptop. Equally of course, the warranty ran out in March. Not sure what we're going to do, but it's obvious there are still some problems with it.

So I'm turning to you, dear friends. How good are you at maintaining the efficiency and life of your computer? Are you up on all the latest or do you flounder and hope you might be doing some good? What recommendations do you have for helping this not to happen again?

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Male Point of View

This week I'm going to give you our courtship from Terry's point of view. I don't think it's coincidence that I took seven weeks to tell mine, and I'll cover his in just one week. Typically, guys don't say as much as girls. If you'd like to read my side of the story, you can go here to read part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six, and part seven.

After high school, Terry went to a small Bible college about an hour from his home in Michigan. He spent two years there, plus one summer traveling with the drama team. Unfortunately, the faculty and administration of the school were caught up in a lot of political scrambling. By the end of the second year, the college was not the same and Terry was pretty disillusioned. He ended up living back with his parents, working in a metal tubing factory and drifting away from the Lord. By his own admission, he hated his life. He would go into work when it was dark and by the time he left his shift, it was dark again. This continued throughout the summer and into the fall. Finally he decided that this was not what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to make some changes and start getting back into the Lord's will again.

Terry had a fairly serious girlfriend in high school and through those first two years of college, even though they went to different schools. When he stopped living for the Lord, their relationship suffered. Eventually the girlfriend broke off their relationship and started dating someone from her college. One of the first decisions Terry made was to go back to college. He also decided that he was going to get back together with his girlfriend, so he chose to go to her school. Which also happened to be my school.

Terry arrived with high hopes and the expectation that he and The Serious Girlfriend would be back together within the week. But two things happened in that week. One, he saw how much The Serious Girlfriend cared for the guy in her new relationship. Two, he saw how many other opportunities for dating were around. So he asked out the tall, gangly girl, the girl with the googly eyes and the girl with the donkey laugh. None of those made for a second date.

You've already read how hard it was for him to get a second date with me. But I wasn't the only one in the way of our relationship. Terry set his sights on me and decided he liked me. But when he decided to date around, he made three rules for himself. He wouldn't date a freshman. He wouldn't date a preacher's daughter. He wouldn't date to get serious.

Strike three.

So if he had all these requirements that I didn't fit, and if I wasn't exactly being the most agreeable person to date anyway, how did we end up together?

First off, if you know Terry at all, you know he's determined. When he hears something can't be done, that just challenges him to find a way to accomplish it anyway. He does not give in to defeat, and he's a very outside-the-box sort of person, so there's always tons of ways for him to attempt to accomplish whatever he sets his mind to. But his determination is not the only reason we're together.

Sometime before Terry and I met, he spent some time praying that God would show him the person he should marry. Not too long after that he dreamed that he was driving at night in his car. Two people were with him, one in the front and one in the back. He turned to the girl sitting next to him, she smiled at him and he knew that was the girl he would marry. Terry always remembered that dream, but it wasn't like he had a vivid picture of the girl. Nor was he using that dream as his criteria for dates. But shortly after he and I started dating, my sister and I started catching rides with him to and from church on Sundays and Wednesdays. I always rode "shotgun", and my sister rode in the back seat. One night as we drove back to the dorms, I laughed at something he was saying. And in that moment he remembered his dream and the face of the girl came sharply into focus.

He saw me in his dream before he ever met me.

From that moment on, he knew that I was the one. Thankfully, he did not tell me that at the time because that probably would have sent me running in the opposite direction. But that's why he kept going even when I didn't give him much encouragement. He had enough faith in us for both of us.

Come to think of it, that's pretty much the way our married life has gone. And I'm more than okay with that.

I want to thank Rachel at Musing of a Future Pastor's Wife for starting this carnival. I've enjoyed reading the other stories, and I loved heading down memory lane and thinking over the beginning of mine and Terry's romance. Thanks for the memories!

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Dreaded Potluck Dinner

I have a confession. I am not all that confident in the kitchen. You'd think after twenty-three years I'd have the hang of it by now. You'd think after three years in Uganda where I made absolutely everything from scratch, I could hold my head high.

I can't.

It's not that I'm a bad cook. I mean, take a look at any of my boys and you can see that they're not about to starve to death. I can put a tasty dinner on the table. And I love to bake. I don't do it often because I'd have to lose more weight than I'm already working on, but I love to bake. I'm just not really confident in the kitchen. I've had my share of "oops" and things.

I think part of my problem is that I just don't really enjoy cooking. I'd much rather be reading. In fact, sometimes I have a book in my hand while I'm cooking. Come to to think of it--that could by why I have a tendency to burn things. But I really didn't get some of the standard domestic genes that most women have. I won't go into every gene that I'm lacking because this post is about cooking. And my ego can only take so much at one time.

Since I'm not confident in my cooking, I tend to mess it up when I'm cooking for other people. And I really got nervous when we moved here to Florida. Our church has a fellowship once a month. Okay, so I could have one or two "potluck" ready meals that almost always turn out right and then I'm good. Except that here they always have a theme for the fellowship. One night it might be Italian, the next month tex-mex. Then we might have soups and stews or a pasta night.

If the theme weren't intimidating enough, the women in this church can cook! They turn out some mouth watering dishes that have me hiding my head in shame. One lady usually makes homemade rolls for the fellowships. Two others could run a catering business if they wanted to. And then there's me. When it comes to food, I don't aim to be the best or have the tastiest meal. No, I set my sights a little lower. I aim to have a middle-of-the-road dish. I know my dish won't be the one in demand, I just don't want to be the dish everyone avoids on the table. If people aren't going to be looking for which dish I brought because I'm so good, then I don't want them looking to see which dish I brought so they can give it a wide berth. Yessiree I absolutely crave mediocrity.

Unfortunately, I don't always hit my very modest goal. I haven't had any huge errors on fellowship night, but I'm not always as mediocre as I'm shooting for either. It's become a standing joke (one I started, so don't pity me) that I complain about people not taking enough of whatever I brought. I really started questioning my abilities when one dear soul suggest that, as the pastor's wife, I already had so much going on that I ought to be excused from bringing anything to any of the fellowships. Now, this person meant it sincerely and he or she was being incredibly sweet. However, when you tend to look at things in a warped way (and I do), it fit perfectly with my knowledge that I'm not at the top of the pack in the kitchen.

Last month we had an ice cream fellowship. Along with the homemade ice cream, we had sandwiches and chips. Now, I've made my share of homemade ice cream before. If we wanted ice cream in Uganda, we made it ourselves. Problem was, it always had a very weird taste to it. I chalked it up to the powdered milk that we had to use, but whatever. So I wasn't going to volunteer to help make the ice cream. But sandwiches! Come on, who can mess up sandwiches. This would be a night when I could hold my head up high. I can make sandwiches with the best of them.

Or not.

I chose to make tuna sandwiches. And because not everyone likes onions or pickles or dill in their tuna, I simply mixed together tuna and mayonnaise. I even packaged each sandwich in an individual ziploc bag so that it would stay fresh. No one knew who had brought the sandwiches, but still everyone seemed to be walking right by my offering to get at other, more appealingly displayed sandwiches. I ended up taking half the sandwiches home. Plus, everyone else gave us whatever leftovers they had as well. (Pastor's family with lots of kids = we always get the leftovers. Yea!) The next night one of the men commented to my son Matt that he felt bad for us having to take all those sandwiches. Matt told him that we really didn't mind--they all ate them anyway. (Including mine, but he didn't spell that out. Come to think of it, I think they fed a lot of my sandwiches to the dog.) But still, the man went on. He felt sorry for us because some of those sandwiches were horrible. One set of sandwiches had absolutely no taste at all. It was like eating cardboard. Really? Matt asked. Which ones were those?

The ones in the ziploc bags.

Matt didn't tell the man that he'd just insulted my sandwiches. But Matt thought it was highly amusing when he told me about it later. Apparently they were bad enough that the man has mentioned them again a time or two.

Maybe I should have tried peanut butter and jelly.

But hey, don't feel too badly for me. We've had another fellowship since then and no one complained about what I brought. I even got a few compliments on it.

I brought the ice.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lunch Politics

When I was growing up, I attended a small Christian school where we had assigned tables at lunch. One high school boy and one high school girl were assigned as the "host" and "hostess" of the table. It was their responsibility to maintain behavior at the table during lunch. All students had to stand behind their chairs until we were lead in prayer for lunch. Then the boys had to help pull out the girls' chairs. (There was a huge punishment if they tried to get cute and yank the chair out.) When someone was through eating, they had to ask the host and/or hostess if they could be excused. Every six weeks the table assignments were shuffled and you found yourself at a new table. Clicks weren't allowed to form or grow at the lunch tables, everyone was required to mix and mingle with everyone and table manners were taught and required to be used.

Even now I have no problem with this system. While not perfect, it did teach manners and it avoided a lot of problems that can arise in school lunchroom situations. For instance ...

When we came back from Uganda, Matt and Steph were going into ninth and seventh grade respectively. When they enrolled in the Christian school, there were a lot of adjustments to make and a lot of things to learn. One thing to learn was lunch room protocol. They'd been at school for about a week when Stephanie started complaining about the lunch room situation. Seems there was a "cool" table in the lunch room. And she wasn't included at it. The cool table was for the older kids. The cool kids.

Seventh Graders were not cool.

So Stephanie decided to take matters into her own hands. She determined that the next day she would sit at the cool table. She would force her way in. Obviously she didn't think it through completely. After all, you can't force people to view you as cool. And no matter how wrong the cool click was ... well, her plan didn't go so well. The cool crowd made it clear she wasn't included.

In comforting Stephanie I reminded her that she doesn't have to be accepted by the cool people to be worth something in the eyes of people that really matter. And really, most of the kids at that table were disliked by everyone else in the school. I told her to remember what she was feeling at that moment. Because she wouldn't be in seventh grade forever. Someday she would be at the cool table. And it would be important how she treated other kids, not just her peers at the table.

You know, Stephanie got to the point where she was well liked by just about everyone in the school. There were snobs above her in class and snobs below her, but they all liked her to some extent because she was friendly with everyone. Something she might not have learned had she had access to the cool table.

Life so often hands us situations that are unpleasant. But somehow it's those situations that help us learn and grow the most. What about you? Is there a situation in your life that helped shape you into the person you are today?

P.S. The winner in my giveaway is ... Amy at Filled With Praise! Congratulations, Amy! I'm send you my copy of The House That Cleans Itself. Hope your house enjoys it as much as mine did!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Birthday Celebrations

I was so late posting yesterday because I was busy celebrating my birthday, and today I wanted to share a few special things about my day.

First, I live in an all-male household. I don't wait to see if any of them remember my birthday because I'm afraid I would just be setting myself up for disappointment. Instead I send out little messages for a week or so before my birthday--"Anybody know what Monday is?"

The boys picked up the hint fairly quickly. And then I asked them how old I would be. The three youngest agreed that I was turning forty-one. "Good!" I enthused. "Let's use your numbers!"

"Wait," Nicky said. "I think I remember you turning forty-two last year."

"I did. Now I'm going backwards."

My boys agreed to lie about my age. Instead they spent all of Sunday walking around at church telling people, "It's my mom's birthday tomorrow. She's going to be forty-three, but we're saying she's forty-one." There are times when honesty is not necessarily the best policy.

The boys decided that they wanted to do something special for my birthday so they told me they were planning to give me breakfast in bed. When I pointed out that I usually left for work before they got up, they decided they would have breakfast in bed in honor of my day. I quickly reminded them of the no-food-outside-the-kitchen rule.

The boys asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I told them I wanted a clean house. When they didn't believe me, I went on to reassure them that's all I wanted. I even cleaned my room and bathroom on Saturday as a present to myself. My boys' response?

"You really need to get a life, Mom!"

They card the boys got me has Snoopy on the front. It talks about when you need someone that cares and believes in you and you can trust, etc... you either need a lot of people or one wonderful mom. All the boys signed the card with a little sentiment of some sort. Nicky signed it, "From the one you love the most and that got you the card." Nothing like giving credit where credit is due.

All in all I had a wonderful albeit testosterone-filled day.

By the way, I haven't forgotten the contest I posted, but I don't have the winner's name with me while I'm writing this post. I will definitely announce the winner tomorrow!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Will You--Ask Me To Marry You Already!

Today--well, tonight really because I'm so late posting--I want to tell you how Terry proposed. But if you missed any of the rest of the story, you can go here to read part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, or part six.

This series is a part of this carnival. Go here to read some other fantastic love stories!

About four to six weeks after I first told Terry I loved him, we got another free weekend to go visit my family. During that time Terry had been in contact with my family through phone and letters to set up something special. At his bidding, my married sister asked if we could go on a double date with her and her husband while we were home. She suggested we head into downtown Chicago, see the sights and go out to dinner. It sounded like a lot of fun, and I was looking forward to it.

I didn't really suspect anything until Saturday afternoon. My brother-in-law called and asked to speak to me. When I got on the phone he very carefully explained that he wasn't feeling well and he was going to have to cancel on us. I didn't really get too disappointed because I was busy trying to figure out why his phone call was so elaborate. It would have been more natural for my sister to call and explain that her husband wasn't feeling well. Or it would have been typical for him to call and leave a message saying he couldn't make it. To make a big deal about speaking to me personally was just out of character for him.

Terry didn't give me a chance to think things through any further. When I told him about Joe's call, he asked if I wanted to go anyway. I said sure, so we headed out. I directed him to the parking lot my family always used--just a short walk from Michigan Avenue and the John Hancock Building. We went to Watertower Place and then headed up to the observation deck of the John Hancock. I don't even remember where we had dinner--that just wasn't the highlight of the evening.

On the way back to the parking lot, we had to pass the Hyatt Regency. That is the most elegant hotel I'd ever seen. From the grand piano showing in the window to the doorman in full uniform, I always thought it was a wonderful place. There is an "L" shaped road next to the hotel--I don't know if it's actually a road or if it's just part of the hotel property, but on that road were a lot of horse-drawn carriages. As we passed, Terry stopped and asked if I wanted to go for a ride. Before I knew it we were in an enclosed horse-drawn carriage, riding through the city.

It was so wonderful, and of course by then I was seriously suspecting that something was going on. We rode and talked, but he never said anything. I was really beginning to wonder if he wasn't going to propose after all when he looked out the window and commented that we were down by the lakefront. Suddenly he sat up straight and looked at me. "Hey!" He said. "Do you remember ...?"

"Remember what?" When I turned and looked at him, he smiled and asked, "Will you marry me?"

"Yes!" I answered, and then he kissed me as we rode along. I don't know how long the ride was after that, but when we got back to the hotel, Terry told our driver that we'd gotten engaged. He smiled like he heard that story all the time.

I assume we drove back to my parents' house that night, but I think the car was probably powered more on our emotions than by gasoline. When we walked in the house at home, the whole family was there--including my sister and her husband. That's when I found out they had set the whole thing up in advance. Terry thought it would throw me off if we planned a double date.

Terry wasn't able to afford a ring until after Christmas, but we still told everyone at school that we were engaged. That Monday at chapel, the president of the college was chatting a little during announcement time. He suddenly looked up and said, "Hey, did anyone get engaged this weekend?" I don't know why he asked that--we didn't know him personally or anything. We both blushed bright red and gave our friends a good laugh.

Terry gave me a ring right after the new year, and we were married that summer. I should mention that, early in our relationship he had said he wanted to be engaged by Christmas and married the following summer. You may remember I told him there was no way I would agree to that. We were actually engaged before Christmas (October to be exact) and married the following summer. We just celebrated our twenty-third anniversary this past June and if I had to do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat.

Next week I want to tell you a little of the story from Terry's side. Why was he so persistent? Why did he have so much patience in light of the way I dragged my feet? Those of you that know Terry know that he's not a paragon of patience, so how did he manage to keep at it until I say the light? : ) Turn in next week for the final installment!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Top That!

"My dad's bigger than your dad."
"My mom is taller than your mom."

Did you ever watch kids when they're playing together? Seems like one of them always tries to best the other with something. It doesn't matter what it is, but we've got to have something better than someone else does. "I threw up more than you did." "I broke more bones than you did." I don't know how this competition starts even in a sandbox, but hey, everyone's got to have some claim to fame.

But we're supposed to grow out of that stage, aren't we? And yet so many of us don't. We might be a little more subtle when we're older, but we still want to top someone. Only now we're more subtle about it. Someone tells a funny story about what their child did. We offer advice from an experience (a much funnier one, I might add) that our child went through. Someone tells a funny story about being sick. We can offer sympathy as we tell how much sicker we were.

Hey, we only get fifteen minutes of fame. We've got to try and grab all that we can get in that time. And anyway, we all have stories of family lore. The ones you rehearse every time you get together over the holidays. What good are they if you can't share them?

One woman I know will actually take someone else's stories if she can't use her own to top anyone. I tell a funny story about kids. She doesn't have any little ones, so she'll tell me a funny story about someone else's little ones. If I've got a sickness story or a hardship story, she always tries to go one better. Sometimes I have an almost overwhelming urge to throw sand at her.

As for me, I try to keep my stories in check. Except for here on my blog because, after all, it is my blog. Besides, I've learned a few things. Such as the fact that there is always someone who has a better story than I do. For instance, if I comment on the thirty-two hours of labor I went through to bring Matt into the world, I'll inevitably be telling it to the woman who went through three days of labor when her triplets were born. Together the triplets weighed forty-seven pounds and they used the jaws of life to extract them. My morning sickness stories are topped by someone who was so ill during pregnancy that they had to be hospitalized because they were dehydrated.

There are ways to twist a little knife in while topping someone's story. Bigger is almost always better. Bigger sale at the store. Bigger size of the car, etc. Souvenirs add authenticity. Back up your "more stitches" story with a scar you can show around. If you're claiming to have the most kids, either have them around or at least be able to show pictures so people can really grasp how busy your household is. Stick with your own experiences. If I tell a malaria story, don't try to top it with the story of someone in your neighborhood who had dengue fever. It's not your experience so it loses its punch. The only exception would be if your cousin had dengue fever. Because then you own the story by relation.

And remember, the best stories always throw in a little weight issue.

"I had morning sickness so badly I lost twenty pounds." "My babies were so big that after they were born, not only did I not have birth weight to lose, but I was twenty pounds lighter than before I got pregnant." "Congratulations on losing twenty pounds! You should be proud of yourself because that's really hard to do. I know it was when I lost forty."

As for me, I never tell a story in order to top someone. If a story can't stand on its own, then what's the point of it anyway. I'm glad to listen to your trip of a lifetime. (I trekked the Amazon.) I want to hear about the worst flight you endured. (I swung vine-to-vine through the jungle.) Tell me about the unique foods you ate on vacation. (At night we fried grasshoppers for a crunchy treat.) Describe the best (or worst ever) hotel you stayed in. (We made and slept in tree houses in order to protect ourselves from wild animals.) Tell me about the huge spiders they have in that country. (We fought off poisonous snakes with a machete the entire time.)

Come on, give me a "top that" experience in your comments. Take your best shot. If necessary, suspend reality.

And by the way, I lost twenty pounds on the trip.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tornado Cleaning

We've all done it, right? Tornado cleaning. It's where you suddenly get a call from someone ten minutes away, saying they're going to stop by in a few minutes. And you race through the house picking stuff up, putting it away (or throwing it in a closet) and trying to make it look like you always sit in a spotlessly clean house for no reason at all. Yeah, no one believes that, so why do we try for it?
The worst tornado cleaning is when the doorbell rings. A peek out the window or peephole is followed by frantic scurrying, and whispered shouts at the kids to "move this junk out of here!"

Okay, so maybe I'm the only one that lives in that sort of chaos?

Last week my husband told me we had a missionary coming through that would be staying in our guest room for a couple of days. That was fine with me--that's why we have a guest room. Before we got down to the nitty-gritty of cleaning for company, I was told that the missionary had put off his trip for a week. But he would be arriving on Tuesday instead of Wednesday.

Still not a problem. Our weekend was full, but I knew that Monday nights we usually had nothing going on. I would clean then. Terry had to work at the church Monday, and I asked him to take the boys with him because they occasionally need parental influence in their lives. He agreed, but then Monday morning (twenty minutes before I left for work, mind you) he said,

"You know, I was thinking about the boys and I believe I need to leave them home today so they can get some things done around here. After all, the missionary family will be here either this afternoon or this evening."

A surge of adrenalin shot through me. Followed closely by an overwhelming desire to kill the man that stood in front of me.

"No, you said he was coming tomorrow. 'He'. Not 'they'. You said 'he' was coming on Tuesday." I could only hope Terry had his days mixed up.

"Well now they are coming today." I could tell by the look on his face that he knew he had messed up. I could also tell he wasn't about to take any flak for it at the moment. Truthfully, did it matter? Obviously the important thing to focus on was the dirty house and the imminent company. Also obviously, I wasn't ready to prioritize yet.

"When did you find out they were coming today?"

He hesitated. "Thursday? Friday? Saturday? I can't remember." This was all muttered as he walked away from me.

So that was it. I had to leave for work, and the company could very well be here by the time I got home. I hurried down the hall to the boys' rooms and woke them up. This was a time to call in all favors. This was time for them to step up and apply all the lessons they had been learning. This was a time to begin paying back all those hours of labor I went through before they were born.

I've had emergency help-me-clean moments before, but the boys have not always caught the vision or the urgency of what needed to be done. Fortunately, Monday was not one of those days. They cleaned. They washed sheets and made beds. They picked up and vacuumed. There were still things to do when I got home. No dusting had been done. Dishes still needed to be washed. But bathrooms were clean. Most items had been picked up and put away. The company obliged us by not showing up until much later that night. We got everything done. They came. They stayed. They left today.

My house was not spotless. But it was definitely cleaner than it had been. And anyway, I'm tired of striving for perfection. We are not perfect people and we actually have to live in the house. It is impossible to keep it completely clean. It is unnatural to keep it completely clean. I don't think anyone expects it to be completely clean. (Especially people that actually know us!)

So I'm trying to lower my expectations a little. I'm not June Cleaver and I never will be. I can live with that.

But still, I just wish we could get a little underwear washed once in a while.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Degrees of Hypochondria

Are you one of those glass-half-full people or glass-half-empty people? When something happens do you think about how much better it's going to get or how much worse it's going to get?
I think hypochondriacs are glass-half-empty kind of people. You know, they feel a twinge or a pain and they always wonder (or imagine) how much worse that's going to be. It's never just a pain with them. It's always a precursor to something worse.
I think most people have tendencies toward hypochondria at some point in their lives. But they manage to keep it under control. They keep their paranoia to themselves. These people are also good at burying their heads in the sand. They get a cut on their hand or arm and a day or two later it starts hurting. They wonder if it's getting infected, but they hope that by ignoring it, the cut will heal on its own.

These people usually die quickly.

Then there are people that are not so private about their phobias. They have a twinge in their side, and they know it's appendicitis. At least, they're pretty sure it's appendicitis. Just to be certain they will consult with everyone in a three-block radius to see if they think it's appendicitis. They might joke once or twice about it, but mentally they're planning who is going to feed their cat while they're in the hospital having surgery. This will happen until they realize that the pain is on their left side and their appendix is on their right. Then they will laugh it off, but privately wonder if they have a tumor.

These people tend to die quickly because they are annoying the people around them.

The worst degree of hypochondria are the full-blown hypochondriacs. If it's out there, they're going to get it. And it will be bad. In fact, it will be worse than anyone else that has ever had it. These people are actually able to worry themselves into an legitimate health-endangerment situation simply by the power of their worry.

These people are also the most fun to mess with. I know one of these people. If someone near her is sick, she will develop symptoms within twenty-four hours. An ache or a pain will send her to bed for two days. She's loads of fun at parties. Fortunately we don't live near her. But we do talk on the phone on a regular basis. Did you know you can actually catch a cold over the phone? Apparently you can--even over a bad connection. I've talked to her before when I had a bad cold. She developed symptoms the next day and called to let me know I had given her my cold.

Well, I refuse to feel guilt. Her cold only lasted until the next phone call. I waited a month or so and then when we talked again on the phone, I coughed and sniffed and hacked my way through the conversation. I wasn't really sick. I just put on a good show. Wouldn't you know it? She got sick again the next day. She caught my imaginary cold.

I wonder what would happen if I told her I was pregnant.

These third degree hypochondriacs usually live very long lives in spite of all their illnesses. In fact, even when they're at death's door, they dance back and forth across the threshold a few times. I guess all their diseases have increased their resiliency.

As for myself, I'm typically of the ignore-it-and-it-will-go-away persuasion. So far that works for me. What about you? Any hypochondriac leanings? What degree are you?

P.S. I'm not really pregnant. Just wanted to clarify.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Marriage Story

So there we were at my folks' house for the weekend. I cared a great deal for Terry, but the thought of making a lifetime commitment was so overwhelming I didn't have the courage to do it. So I went to bed crying and praying. I finally ended up telling God that if He wanted me to say "I love you" to Terry, He was going to have to make me do it because I couldn't do it on my own.

Can I just say, God has a sense of humor. Apparently He knew how young and foolish I was and He took my prayer literally.

The next morning Terry came back over and we sat in the living room with my brothers (I had three of them) while my mom fixed breakfast. I do remember that she made monkey bread--excellent stuff and totally loaded with calories. (It's the details that make a story special, isn't it?) : ) A good night's sleep had gone a long way toward relaxing everyone and easing the emotional tension, and we laughed and joked until my mom called us to the table. My brothers scrambled out of the room quickly. I stood up to follow them, but Terry grabbed my hand and said, "Hey. I love you." I smiled back and answered, "I love you, too."

And then I clapped both hands over my mouth. What had I done? What had I said? Was it just a reflex response or did I really mean it? Was I really committing to this man for the rest of my life? But then again, hadn't I prayed that God would make me say it? Those words certainly hadn't come from me!

We sat there staring at each other for a moment, and then Terry asked cautiously, "Did you just say what I think you just said?"
Ever the coward, I pulled my hands away from my mouth and answered, "What do you think I just said?"
"You said 'I love you'." Terry has never been one to let me off the hook about anything.
"I guess I do," I told him. "I love you."

We both floated through breakfast, but then Terry disappeared for a while when we were through eating. I found out later that he'd gone down to my dad's office to ask for his permission to propose to me. He told Terry that he ought to wait until I knew for sure what I wanted, and was shocked to hear I had suddenly decided that I loved him. Deciding he would never understand the female mind, my dad said that if we were both sure than we had his blessing.

I think Terry wanted to seal the deal before I changed my mind again. But in spite of the rush, he wanted to do everything right. So while he had a girl that loved him and permission from her dad to propose, he didn't say anything else about it that weekend. Instead he planned carefully for a romantic proposal that I would be proud to blog about one day. (I'm sure that wasn't his goal, but hey, I am enjoying this.)

In the meantime, "I love you" came more and more easily for me. It took a month before we had another opportunity to head to my parents' for the weekend. Little did I know that Terry had been in contact with them quite a bit before then.

Next Monday covers the proposal, I promise! And the week after that I'll tell you a little bit of our story from Terry's side. (Don't worry, our memories match.) In the meantime, you can go here to read part one, part two, part three, part four, or part five.

This series is a part of this carnival. Go here to read some other fantastic love stories!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Summer Favorites

I was tagged by Pilar Stark to list five things I like about summer. So here goes:

1. I like air conditioning. What can I say, I'm into comfort and coolness.

2. I like ice cream. See #1 reasoning. Fudge Nut Brownie is the best, but I can also go for cookie dough ice cream.

3. I like not having school. I liked it when I was a kid and I think I like it more now that I'm a homeschooling mom!

4. I like staying up late. There's just something great about sitting up watching a movie, knowing you don't have to get up in the morning. Of course, this summer I'm working full time so I haven't really enjoyed it, but there's always the dream of staying up late. Even when I fall asleep at 9:00 p.m.

5. I like fresh fruit. There's something so fun and light about it. Especially after the fudge nut brownie ice cream!

So who am I going to tag? How about Ingrid at Reaching Brazil, Beka at Bluegrass Bass Player, Aliene at Meditations and Memories, Amy at Filled with Praise, and Lois Lane at Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.

What about the rest of you? What things do you like about summer?

One thing to like is giveaways. Go to this post and leave a comment for a chance to win a book, The House That Cleans Itself. Winner will be picked Thursday, August 13th.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Club Membership

I was reading my Bible the other day when I noticed an interesting phrase. John 12:35 says, Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. I found the phrase walk while ye have the light really interesting.

In our Operation Go program, we've had twenty-eight people accept Christ so far. That's an average 4-5 people a week. Some of them seem to genuinely want a relationship with the Lord. Others of them seem to look at it like fire insurance. "I don't really want to change or be different. I just want my ticket out of hell." They're in the club, but they don't want to enjoy the benefits of membership. In John 8:12 Jesus told His disciples, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. In both verses you see an action verb. Walk. Follow. If Jesus is the light (and He is) then we are supposed to walk in Him and follow Him. Salvation is not an insurance policy. It's a life commitment. Don't get me wrong. You're saved the moment you place your faith in Jesus Christ. Your sins are forgiven and you're on your way to heaven from that moment forward.

But to truly have a relationship with Christ, it takes some effort. Look at John 12:35 again. Walk while ye have the light lest darkness come upon you. The verse here implies movement of the Light. Not that Jesus will leave you or you will lose your salvation. But the Light is moving. If you don't move with it, you're going to be swallowed up in darkness. The verse in chapter 8 promises that if we follow Him we will not be in darkness.

Now I don't know about you, but I hate the dark. Complete darkness is smothering, and I get very claustrophobic with the lights off. It doesn't matter how much space I've got around me. If it's totally dark, I can't breathe. And I find it very difficult to walk. I've stubbed more than one toe trying to navigate through a dark room. Why would you want to live your life that way? Why would you want darkness as you make your decisions in life. Why not move through life with enough Light so that you can see where you're going?

What about you? What are some ways you're making sure you're walking in the Light? What do you think walking in the Light means?

Don't forget about my giveaway! Leave a comment on this post about organization, cleaning or sympathy ... and you'll have a change to win a copy of The House That Cleans Itself. Believe me, my house was revolutionized once it read the book! : ) Your name will be entered for every comment you leave. And if you get someone else to make a comment, have them mention your name in their comment and I'll enter you again for the drawing! Winner will be announced on Thursday, August 13th.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I Want It All, But I Don't Know Where I'd Put It

I give up. I admit it. Not only can I not have it all, but I wouldn't know what on earth to do with it all if I did have it. People tell me I have a busy life. With our five boys, duties at church, working full time, homeschooling, writing, cooking, cleaning ... the list is endless. But is my list so different than yours? I don't think so. Name one person who doesn't have too much to do in a day. So why do we still think we can be Superwoman? Who even wants to? After all, if you've ever watched The Incredibles, you know capes are dangerous. I could be Wonder Woman instead, but quite frankly, with both hands full all the time I wouldn't have a hand free to keep the suit from slipping to indecent levels. And anyway, bracelets were never my thing.
People sometimes say that you need to prioritize. Okay, but what happens when more than one thing hits top priority? I mean, my job is a means of income. I certainly don't need it in order to be fulfilled. On the other hand, I do have to show up every day or they don't pay me. I can't just cut out of work because some cooking needs to be done.
So then people tell me I'm just going to have to cut back. I tried that, but my family seems to think that cooking is a priority. As for cleaning, if I don't do that then eventually the health department is going to shut us down. Although climbing over the mountains of laundry we generate each day would definitely help with daily exercise.
Some self help books say you need to get your family involved. They already are. They're involved in generating the mess, needing the education, demanding to eat ... they do help around the house. Sort of. If I tell them to. I mean, if I tell them exactly what I want done and to what degree I want it done. Then they help. Or they do half of what I ask.
So I'm turning to you, dear friends. How do you manage all that must be done? Have you made conscious choices to cut things out of your busy life? Or do you somehow juggle everything? Do you drop the ball once in a while? How often?
I really want some help here so I'm going to do a giveaway. Everyone that leaves a comment within the next week (by August 12th), will be entered in a drawing to win a book. This book is called, The House That Cleans Itself. It didn't do me much good because I couldn't get my house to read it.

Just kidding!

I did get some good tips out of this book and some things that helped me some in the organizational department. So, if you'll share a comment, some advice, a few tips, some encouragement--whatever--your name will be entered in the drawing. Leave a comment. Tell your friends to come leave a comment. Get the most organized people you know to leave a comment. Help me be Superwoman. Or at least Batgirl. (She didn't have any super powers, but she did have a motorcycle and a cool utility belt!)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Spiders, Snakes and Bees, Oh My!

Some weird things have been happening to me lately, and I'm beginning to wonder if I'm a magnet for trouble. Or at least reptiles and arachnids.
I have a fear of all things creepy. And crawly. And creepy crawlies that fly. I have a fear of a lot of things. And somehow they just seem to be coming out of the woodwork lately. First off, I was getting ready for work one morning when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. That something happened to be a very large spider crawling on the wall above the mirror. The spider's body without the legs was the size of a quarter. And the thing was hairy. I was totally freaked out. In truth, it could have been a lot smaller and I still would have freaked out, but I felt I really had an excuse to be a wimp this time. It was still pretty early, but there was no way I could finish getting ready with that thing crawling above my head. It was moving pretty fast too. So I woke my husband up and told him there was a spider in the bathroom so big, that if he killed it on the wall, he'd end up having to repaint. Terry's used to my drama and exaggerations, but like any knight in shining armor, he crawled out of bed and went to face the dragon. Okay, it was just a spider, but it was big enough to breathe fire! My fears were justified when he walked into the bathroom. The first thing he said was, "Whoa. That is a big spider." I stayed in the bedroom while he did battle. I don't know how he dealt with it, but he assured me the thing was both dead and gone. And he didn't have to repaint either. I've seen no further spiders in the house, but believe me, I keep an eye out.
There is a man that comes by work every couple of weeks to wash and detail cars for people. Last week when he showed up I decided to splurge and have him do my van. He did a great job, but he told me while he and his assistant were cleaning the inside of the van, a big hairy spider crawled out from under the dash. He said he took a flying leap out of the van when he saw it. His assistant freaked out so much he dropped the vacuum and spilled dirt all over the place. I listened intently as he told me, and then I got to the heart of the matter.
"You did get rid of it, didn't you?" I'm nothing if not sympathetic.
"What?" He hesitated and then, "Oh, yeah. Sure. We took care of it, no problem!" Why was I not reassured?
Since then I dread climbing in the driver's seat. I know I'd have an accident if that thing crawled out at me while driving, but I'm almost having accidents anyway as I'm constantly on the lookout for it. I feel prickles on my legs and feet all the time while I'm driving now. If we could afford it I think I'd try to talk my husband into trading the van in for another vehicle, just so I wouldn't have to worry about it anymore.
And then there's the snakes. One dropped off the front door at work and almost landed on one of my co-workers. Then it coiled on the porch and faced the front door like it was waiting for its next victim. We took to going out the side door and walking around the building in order to get to the parking lot. But apparently the snake decided waiting outside wasn't enough. Last week one of our coworkers headed to the restroom. We heard several sharp slaps and I wondered out loud if he was killing a bug. We all scattered in terror when he came back into the office with what was left of a snake dangling from the paper towel in his hand. He said he used the heel of his shoe to crush the head. I stared in horror as someone speculated that perhaps there was a nest of snakes around somewhere. I think this one looked a lot like the one on the front porch, and I think it was lurking in the bathroom, waiting for a victim.
It's very difficult to work a full day without going to the bathroom, but I'm managing.
And then today it was the bee. I stopped at a McDonald's drive through (I was ordering the fruit salad, thank you very much) when a bee flew in the window and right past my face. It settled away from me on the sliding door on the opposite side of the van. The line at McDonald's was long and creeping forward slowly, and it was raining. But I risked a slow motion accident and soaked the inside of my van because I crept along with both front windows open. I drove with one eye on the bee and one eye on the car in front of me. (No mean feat, I can tell you that!) I got more antsy when the bee started pacing back and forth across the window. As soon as I got my salad I pulled over into a parking spot and prepared to do battle. I unlocked the doors and planned on opening the side door to let the thing out. I also removed my shoes so I had a weapon in case the bee got aggressive. I fumbled with the door and the bee flew out into the open as soon as it opened. But I was parked near a bush, and I almost let in two more bees, trying to get the first one out.
I'm trying desperately not to assume that all of nature is now out to get me. I scan walls, ceilings and corners whenever I enter a room. I drive with fear and trembling. I think I've had about all of nature I can stand for a while.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Following God's leading

Okay, I have to say a word to those of you who fussed because I left you hanging last week. If you think about my story, I left Terry hanging, so why wouldn't I do the same to you? : ) Yes, I was cruel. No, I didn't mean to be cruel to him. Yes, I did mean to be cruel to you. I've changed in the last twenty-three years. : ) So enough with the hangings already. This is supposed to be a love story. If you want to go back and read parts one through four, the links are at the end of this post.

So I went off to work after telling Terry that I was confused and I wanted to break up with him. I worked four hours and dreaded heading back downstairs to meet Terry for supper. I knew he would have one of two reactions. Either he would try to bully and joke his way into getting us back together, or he would be angry. I was prepared for either response. I was so confused about everything, and I just wanted all the confusion to end. When I met Terry for supper, he seemed quiet, but pleasant. He suggested that we enjoy our meal and save our talk for afterward. I agreed although I have no idea how either of us managed to eat anything. After we finished we found an empty spot to sit and started talking. I was nervous. I'd already had my say and I just wondered which route Terry would take in our relationship.

Turns out he didn't joke or get angry. He told me that after I went to work he went back to his dorm and spent the entire afternoon praying and reading his Bible. He said he wanted to honor God with our relationship and he wanted to follow God's will for our lives. He read some Scripture to me that night, but I honestly don't remember which verses he used. All I knew was that this man sitting next to me was someone wonderful, and I knew right then that it was God's will for us to be dating. (Is your heart melting? Mine is, just remembering.)

I'd been calling my sister with updates through those first few days, and she was used to hearing me say things weren't going well and I didn't know how much longer I could hold up in this relationship. I called her the day after Terry and I talked and shocked her by telling her that I thought I was falling in love. Terry was still telling me he loved me all the time, and I was beginning to care for him more and more every day. But there was still a problem. I couldn't actually come out and tell him I loved him. I had determined I would never say those words except to the man I married. So saying them to Terry was tantamount to saying I was going to spend the rest of my life with him. Was I ready for that? How did I know if I was really in love? The importance of those words weighed on me so much that I literally backed myself into a corner. I couldn't say them. They were too huge. It was too big a decision. As much as I cared for Terry, I couldn't take that final step.

I should mention that, while I was sent to college to get my MRS degree, I was never really taught exactly how to get one of those. And the romance stuff I saw on television and read in books really didn't help because it wasn't real. I had just turned nineteen and I had no idea how to make the really big and important decisions in my life. Terry had no such doubts. He continued to tell me he loved me. He also told me that he would love to get engaged by Christmas and married the following summer. I told him I didn't see how that was possible. If we married the following summer, we would have known each other for just a little over a year. How on earth could you possibly decide to spend the rest of your life with someone you'd known for such a short time?

About a month later we spent a weekend at my parents' house. We had a great time, but underneath everything were the unspoken words I couldn't bring myself to say. Terry was more frustrated with me than he'd ever been, and I think he would have loved to have strangled the words out of me. After he left that night (he was staying with my sister and her husband) I had a long talk with my parents. My parents assured me that when I was truly ready, I would know and I shouldn't commit myself until then. Talking to them really didn't help though because I needed an answer now. So I went to bed crying and praying. "Lord," I whispered. "It's such a big step. I'm not sure I"m ready for it. No matter what I feel for Terry, I don't think I'll ever be able to take this step on my own. It's just too big and scary. If you want Terry and me to marry, Lord, you're going to have to make me say it. Because I can't do this on my own."

Tune in next Monday for the next installment. In the meantime, you can go here to read part one, part two, part three, or part four.

This series is a part of this carnival. Go here to read some other fantastic love stories!
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