Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas highlights

Our Christmas shopping trip to the Galleria and the REI camping store was a great idea, if I do say so myself. Singing carols and playing silly car games, lots of trying on clothes and oohing and aahhhing over the Christmas sales and decorations, trying out sleeping bags and studying backpacking tents, eating a tasty dinner at the Outback, one last stop at a Super Target, then more goofiness in the car on the way home pretty much covers it. A win-win for everyone; much less wrapping for me and zero stress in figuring out what to give, each gift was a perfect fit, and we had a whole day of fun together (although Catherine and I acknowledge that the guys probably didn't enjoy the mall as much as we did)!

Waffle night at Memaw and Grandpa's house, complete with their new addition, an eight-week old Bichon Frise puppy named Gus, who was the much-cuddled center of attention.

"Doing Christmas" with the kids, and later having Christmas Eve gumbo with Leafy and Dwayne.

Christmas Eve candlelight service at church, celebrating the birth of our Saviour.

Christmas Day brunch at Memaw and Grandpa's house. The meal was heavenly, the company delightful, and the afternoon of Wii Fit championship games was downright hilarious. I am proud to say that although I stink at most of the games, I totally rocked the ski jump and hula hoop contests, beating out every single other family member there. :-)

Just some highlights of our family time together. We did a lot of the usual things in between all the Christmas festivities -- playing games, watching movies, just hanging out together. For some reason, we got a huge kick out of playing spoons around our kitchen table this go 'round. I have a sore shoulder to show for my valiant effort to not come up spoonless -- small price to pay for fun and laughter!

I hope your Christmas was blessed and that the memories of fun and family keep you warm all winter long! Now to enjoy the last few days of 2009 and be mindful of how God has brought us through to another year. Are you ready for 2010?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kel in the Kitchen, Part 2

Can you stand one more? Last one for awhile, promise. I was baking for Christmas the same day I tried the RVMLWBG recipe (see previous post) and got a little crazy with the camera. My husband wasn't sure what to think when I was arranging my creations for a photo shoot! So here are my pies -- buttermilk and pecan -- and my ginger cookies. I got the buttermilk pie recipe from my sister-in-law, and the pecan pie recipe is my mom's Christmas legacy. The ginger cookies are a Christmas tradition in my household and my kids have come to expect them. (They are hidden at the present time, along with the spritz cookies I didn't photograph, so as to last until my married kids get here tomorrow evening!) I will spare you the recipes, as these aren't too hard to come by in most cookbooks.

I may not be blogging again until after Christmas. My computer is in the guest room where my kids will be camping out. May you enjoy a blessed Christmas and remember the Reason for the season!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Kel in the Kitchen

I'd have never considered myself a foodie...but given that I've recently begun browsing through cookbooks, appreciating foodie blogs, scouring recipes on The Food Network, and hankering to spend some time in the kitchen...I just may be coming out of the foodie closet. It's true...something in the movie Julie and Julia spoke to me! It's probably just a phase that's borne of too many quickly thrown together meals here lately. I used to love trying new recipes and creating an appealing dinner for my family, but now that we are down to two and I've doubled my workload outside the home, plus indulging in my Zumba instructing passion twice a week along with the preparation time that it requires, not to mention just coming off of two months of pageant rehearsals and performances, I've found myself in somewhat of a cooking rut. I set out to remedy the situation this week and discovered three new recipes to try. Today, in between baking Christmas pies and cookies, I made Roasted Vegetable Meatloaf with a Balsamic Glaze and stored it in the fridge until time to bake it for dinner. Now I have never been a big meat loaf fan, but this recipe intrigued me. It's our youngest son's first night home for Christmas break, so it was a good time to make a nice meal to celebrate. My family loved it! I even managed to photograph the beautiful veggies that went into the mix -- zuchinni, red pepper, yellow pepper, and garlic -- before putting it all together. The end result is pictured also, which I served with steamed broccoli and brown rice. I tweaked the recipe a little bit by leaving out the ground pork and doubling the amount of ground veal, using shaved parmesan rather than grated, and I threw in some extra panko bread crumbs because the mixture was so moist it was hard to form into a loaf. The extra crumbs held it together well. I also split the recipe into two loaves so I could freeze one. I baked the two loaves together for an hour. In true foodie form, I am including the recipe for your enjoyment. Bon Appetit!

Roasted Vegetable Meat Loaf with Balsamic Glaze
courtesy of Bobby Flay and The Food Network

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large zucchini, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 yellow pepper, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, smashed to a paste with coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal
1 pound ground beef chuck
1 cup panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan
1 cup ketchup, divided
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add the zucchini, peppers, garlic paste, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper, to taste, and cook until almost soft, 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together the eggs and herbs in a large bowl. Add the meat, bread crumbs, cheese, 1/2 cup of the ketchup, 2 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar, and the cooled vegetables and mix until just combined.

Mold the meatloaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Whisk together the remaining ketchup, balsamic vinegar, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Brush the mixture over the entire loaf. Bake the meatloaf for 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas surprise!

I love Christmas, and I love surprises, but the two together are exponentially wonderful. This time last week, I was still anticipating what was to be the annual "Christmas surprise" trip to take place the next day. I work in two top-notch dental practices, one of which treats the staff to a day trip, destination unknown, sometime in the month of December. It wasn't too hard to figure we were headed for San Antonio once we got on the highway, but where exactly we would end up and what we'd be doing was still a mystery. The cold and drizzle ushered us into the downtown area as we circled around trying to find a place with enough clearance for us to park the 14-passenger van. We were right there in the heart of San Antonio, at the Riverwalk, bordered on one end by the Rivercenter Mall, where I figured we were going. But as we made it around yet another block, I noticed a giant moving van-sized vehicle with a huge Lion King logo painted on its side. For one brief instant, I imagined that a Broadway play might be on the agenda, but soon dismissed the thought, as it just seemed too extravagant to me at the time. Finally parking our van, we stepped out in our coats and with umbrellas, awaiting instructions. That's when we each got a card wrapped in a red envelope, with something strange and foreign written on the front, along with our names, and underneath that was another name in quotes. I recognized the foreign greeting as something African (which turned out to be Merry Christmas in Swahili) -- and as we compared the names, we soon realized we'd each been given a name of a Lion King character! We WERE going to the Majestic Theatre! To see THE LION KING!! I could hardly contain myself. I'd seen the fabulous costumes on television numerous times and thought of how I'd love to see the musical on Broadway, and I was about to get my wish! Our first stop, however, was the Rivercenter Mall. We had been given some spending money and our mission was to buy ourselves a gift in an hour and fifteen minutes. We were one happy group of women! I have to say though, this is not my usual M.O. when it comes to shopping. I take my time mulling over every pro and con before making a purchase of any kind (which is why my husband rarely accompanies me). I looked for some slouchy boots, but none of them fit just right. I found some nice shoes on sale and bought them, only to have buyer's remorse when I discovered the cutest brown jacket shortly afterwards. My solution was to buy the jacket, too, with my own money. Problem solved! Next we had a mouth-watering meal at the Iron Cactus restaurant on the Riverwalk...appetizers, entrees, desserts, all shared as we each wanted a sample of everything. Admiring the Christmas lights and decorations from underneath our umbrellas, we made our way to the Majestic. What an appropriate name! The theatre is absolutely beautiful and was worth the trip in itself. The three hours that followed were nothing less than magical, dazzling, breathtaking -- we are talking goosebumps here, people. I tried to drink it all in -- the colors, the costumes, the sets, the singing, the dancing, all the details. A week later, I'm still amazed that I was actually there! I have yet to figure out what I've done to earn the privilege of being named after the most ridiculous hyena in the play - "Ed" - but no matter. For THIS Christmas surprise experience, I would have answered to just about anything!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Silver Bells

We may be wrapping up the 25th anniversary of The Victoria Christmas Pageant, but tonight's no different from any other final performance night of pageant -- we are looking back, amazed, at what God has done with six weeks of rehearsals and a few hundred willing participants. Mixed feelings abound; we long for a relaxing night at home and some much-anticipated rest, yet it is bittersweet that our gift of love to our community has been unwrapped and thoroughly enjoyed. The anticipation and adrenaline rush of delighting our audience is at its close for another year, and while that in itself is fabulous fun, its not what brings us all back together year after year. Neither is it the bond we form as a church family. It's hearing story after story of the impact of the gospel message. It's seeing the light come on as people understand the baby in the manger is indeed the Savior on the cross, risen to give new life to those who will believe. It's experiencing answered prayers. So while we pack up the stage, the sets, the props, and the costumes, the heartbeat of pageant will continue pulsing, carrying us through to other ministries and a new year in which to share the Gift. Merry Christmas, Victoria!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Good medicine

Ever been awakened in the middle of the night not knowing what hit you, but suddenly aware that you've been blindsided, totally caught off guard? That's my experience in the wee hours Sunday morning, after blissfully drifting off Saturday night for some much-needed rest. Out of a dead sleep, I woke myself up shivering uncontrollably, and the more aware I became, the more I realized this was not just a case of needing another blanket (which would be odd for hot-natured me anyway). The thermometer and my increasingly achey body confirmed it. Despite being the hand-washing, ever-cautious germ queen that I am -- I was SICK.

I must admit I stayed in denial for a few moments, but not for long. Fever, chills, headache, cough, all out of nowhere convinced me to get up and try the homeopathic flu medication my friend Lori swears by (even though my research has found that there are as many people crying "sugar pills!" as there are people who use the stuff), along with a tall glass of Emergen-C thrown in for good measure. I realized in short order that sleep wasn't coming anytime soon, so I decided to have a serious pep talk with my usually strong immune system, which went something like this: "Okay, c'mon body, you can do this. You are working hard to rid me of this intruder and you can DO this. Keep it up. Do not give in. We are stronger than this bug!" Then I spent the rest of the night praying. The timing of this couldn't be worse, what with our week-long Christmas pageant beginning unofficially Sunday night and then on to the real thing on Monday. I asked God to work his healing power in me, knowing full well He is capable and willing...unless, unbeknownst to me, He had plans to keep me praying for pageant instead of playing the parts I had rehearsed. So I gave him my anxiety as best I could and tried to sleep.

About that time I felt a familiar longing sneak up behind me and take over my emotions. One would presume that at forty-something and a year and a half past saying "see you later" to my Mom when she departed this earth, I would not still wish for her loving care and concern when I'm ill. This is the first time I've been acutely sick in two years, but I am here to tell you, it matters not that she is no longer with me in body. Passing the night feeling like a train had run me over and then backed up over my hurting body again for good measure, I wanted my Mama! I write this not to garner sympathy -- I write this as a testimony to the bonds of love and care that run so deep they last a lifetime. Sure, it's kind of sad, and maybe a little pitiful, but when it comes down to it, I wouldn't trade those hard feelings for anything. They bring back memories to treasure. I laid in the darkness, asking God to just show me her face, and there she was, in my mind's eye, caring for me once again. Feverish hallucinations? No. Just sweet comfort from my childhood.

God also brought to mind something I had just read in a book, a true story I am enjoying very much (will post about it when I've finished it). Instead of waking my sleeping husband to comfort me further, I prayed, "God, you are with me, helping me." Relaxing came easier when I kept this powerful thought on top of all the other things swirling around in my head. I think I drifted off for an hour or so, somewhere around 5:00 a.m. I was so tired all day Sunday and not really up to par, but for the most part, all symptoms subsided during that day, without ever taking a single fever-reducing medication.

I'm still not sure what it was, but it was short-lived. I certainly hope there is no "next time" any time soon, but I will use the homeopathic medication again. I will cheer on my immune system. And I know I will most definitely find comfort in the Lord and in my mother's legacy. Isn't it just like God to bring to mind our blessings even when we're in misery? I love that He loves us like that. :-)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Something to think about....


Yes, I am STILL in my robe, gawking out the window, running out on the patio from time to time to get a closer look. It's snowing, for real, and it's starting to accumulate a little bit! With a hard freeze in the forecast tonight, if this keeps up....who knows! Maybe there'll be enough to play in this time tomorrow. One can dream!

It's really coming down, whatever it is!!

There's been an excited buzz all around town this week, ever since the weather gurus started talking about the possibility of snow sometime today. I was wakened by a phone call from my husband who left the house earlier than usual today, asking me if I was watching it snow. Naturally, I was, for once, sleeping in, partly due to the fact that I was twired at bedtime (tired, but wired) and couldn't drift off until the wee hours, and partly because it was darker than usual in my house for this time of day. Curiosity got the best of me and I crawled out of my deliciously toasty bed to see for myself. I may have seen a flake or two! As the morning has marched on, though, the "winter mix" has begun to really come down. I have been trying to figure out exactly what's in the mix. Looks like mostly raindrops with a smattering of big snowflakes to me. Everything is melting as soon as it hits the pavement, but with the arctic air that is supposed to make an entrance this afternoon, it's possible we might see a little dusting on the ground sometime later today if the mix turns more snowy. For now, I am glad I have nowhere to go, a beautiful twinkly Christmas tree to admire, a soft, snuggly spa robe to wear, and a steaming cup of coffee to sip while I keep one eye on the sky. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


A much-loved pet is great medicine for a host of ills, don't you think? It's hard to beat the warm fuzzies from a happy little dog who acts like the world turns on my arrival, every single time I come home from anywhere, any time of day or night. So eager to please, and so easy to please, he likes nothing better than sitting in my lap, drinking in all the attention I can give him. Our Charlie has been part of our lives for five years now, amazingly. He caught my eye at the Adopt-A-Pet kiosk in the mall when I'd gone to get a close-up look at a mini schnauzer featured in the newspaper. I saw Charlie first. He was a little black and white, curly, scraggly dust mop, shyly wagging his tail, looking up, but sort of cowering at the same time. I was drawn to him right away, but with determination I went to have a look at the schnauzer I'd come out to see. He was pretty, all right, but he immediately began to bark at every single passerby, tugging on his leash with all his might. I opted to visit with the dust mop. As soon as I sat cross-legged on the floor and lifted him into my lap, he settled in and thunked his little head down on my leg and let out a deep sigh as if he was home. What did I do at this point? Bawled like a baby! Big ol' tears just slid down my face as I explained to the concerned volunteer that if I didn't know better, I'd have believed that this little guy was channeling our previous dog Max, who we'd lost due to sickness and old age nine months before. I hadn't been interested in getting another dog until that very day. And the silver mini schnauzer I had wanted to see was not my dog at all. The timid but friendly, scruffy little schnauzer mix, who was believed to have been abused and neglected in his two years of living, was mine. He picked me; he stole my heart the moment he let out that contented sigh and relaxed in my lap. Home we went. We got rid of the long, scraggly dust-mop 'do, and soon his look started to match his perky personality. It took a while for him to get over his skittishness, but when he did, he really did! Now he's valiant protector and defender, official greeter, exhuberant playmate, critter chaser, cozy snuggler, and faithful shadow, all in one. And, thanks to a God who cares about the details of our lives and who knew we needed each other, he's all ours!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Baby J!

So to pick up where I left off....

Despite a lot of walking, walking, and more walking, things stayed pretty much the same until the wee hours this morning when it was time to go to the hospital. I woke up to several text messages from my sister who has done a fabulous job today keeping me informed. I managed to go to Bible study, sing in worship ensemble, listen to the sermon, greet lots of visitors and old friends in town for the holiday, and have a family lunch in between all the ping-pong texts. I'm happy to announce the arrival of my great-nephew, Mason Judd, who was born probably about the time we pulled out of the church parking lot on our way to the deli. Isn't it amazing how miracles can take place just like that, right in the middle of an ordinary day?


(I wrote this Saturday afternoon, posted it, then took it down so as not to steal anyone's thunder....reposting it today.)

After receiving several different phone calls at various odd hours of the day and night the past few weeks, I finally got THE ONE that I was expecting each of those times this morning -- in the form of a text so as not to wake the entire family. It seems that during the night, as I tossed and turned for some reason I have yet to figure out, wishing to go to sleep, my niece was also awake 300 miles away timing contractions. Perhaps on some subconscious level I was having sympathy discomfort, because try as I might, I could not relax and drift off until sometime after 3:00 a.m. The text came as I poured myself some coffee, trying to jumpstart my groggy self. My sister and her husband were on their way and hoped to arrive before their much-awaited grandson. By my estimation, they completed the journey within the past hour or so and I have yet to receive an update! So as my family and I have dragged from the attic our Christmas tree and decorations, fussed with the lights, gave up on several strands and gone out to buy more, put them on the tree along with some shimmery golden ribbon, and put up about half the ornaments (while pausing every now and then to laugh at the movie Elf which provided the ambience for our Christmas decorating), part of my consciousness has been straining to hear the phone ring or the signal telling me I have a new text message. It's starting to wear me out! Getting lunch and eating together and now typing this new post has been somewhat of a distraction...but I am about to give in and call for an update myself. Maybe I should ask Santa for some patience for Christmas! ;-)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Which are you?

I woke up grinning this morning, thinking of all those bleary-eyed treasure hunters who, since WAY before the crack of dawn, are madly pursuing their prized Black Friday deals, following their mapped-out strategies to the "T" and gleefully marking each bargain off their lists...while I snuggled in for another hour or two of blissful sleep in my warm, comfy bed. Don't get me wrong, I laugh with them, not AT them, feeling their accomplishment -- even enjoying hearing about the adventure from those friends of mine who join the chaotic masses -- but I've never, EVER traded a quiet, delicious morning of waking up slowly in a peaceful house the day after the Thanksgiving hustle-bustle for one standing outside shivering (or sweating, whichever the case may be), waiting for access to shop till I drop. It's just not my style. I like to save a buck as much as anyone, but I prefer to lose my sanity a little later in the season with the other procrastinators! The fact is, my little ones are now adults and although they are good at providing lists from which to choose a Christmas gift, they don't compose them until some time after the Thanksgiving break. So even if I craved the Black Friday experience, I'd have to do so blindly, guessing at what my family would like to have for Christmas, and THEN I'd end up having to take it all back for an exchange when the lists came rolling in. Not gonna happen! So as I sip my coffee this morning, this time with a dollop of whipped cream left over from yesterday's desserts, I smile and think of those who are braving the crowds and hopefully boosting our economy at the same time. Happy Shopping! Feel free to share your best buys with me and I promise to share in your joy! :-)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's the night before Thanksgiving and all through the house....

Just thought I'd share that I am pleasantly intoxicated by the heavenly smells wafting through my house right about now....warm pecan and apple pies cooling on the counter...mmmmmm. It's a crisp fall evening too, so thankfully we will have a somewhat nippy Thanksgiving day tomorrow to set a proper autumn-ish mood for the holiday. This is not always the case where we could just as easily have been 85 degrees with humidity hanging heavily in the air. It's kind of hard to dress the part when really the most sensible thing is shorts and flip flops! Tomorrow morning I'll finish the dressing, put together Paula Deen's Not Yo Mama's Banana Pudding and bake the sweet potato souffle. The rest has been divvied up between two other households. I guess it goes without saying that we aren't exactly trying for a Weight Watcher's Thanksgiving! The food will be great, no doubt, and we'll all eat more than we should. But the best part, dished up in lavish portions, will be fun and laughter with loved ones we don't see nearly often enough. So I hope tomorrow doesn't rush past us like most days -- and I wish the same for you and yours. Enjoy. Savor. Not just the delicious feast, but whoever is around you enriching your life. Counting my blessings and hoping you are doing the same. Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


It was a surprise gone slightly awry since I wasn't home for it -- nevertheless! -- how exciting that our youngest made it home for Thanksgiving a whole day early! I was getting the last of my holiday groceries when he called to ask, "Where are you?" You know that weird in-limbo feeling you get when the gears are turning but it feels like they're in molasses? I got that as I asked him the same question. When he said, "At home", I knew he meant home home, not college apartment home. Of course, the happy homecoming with hugs all around and a some good dinner conversation was about the extent of it before the revolving front door went into full operation. He's here....he's he's here again with a friend in they're off to another friend's house....and so it begins! I'm so glad that I was already planning a two-hour vigil in front of the TV for the Dancing With The Stars finale so he didn't have to feel guilty about ditching us for his buddies! ;-)
These are the holidays, college student style. We're off to a good start!

Pageant Pig Update

Imagine my surprise last night when, at the first combined adult/kid, full run-through pageant rehearsal, I looked up to see little Applewood Smoked Bacon (have I mentioned his name before? It's Apple, for short) peacefully nestled in the arms of a young fella right up on stage with about a hundred other kids! The key word here is PEACEFULLY. Not squealing at a decibel level sure to cause permanent hearing damage. Not frantically wriggling with determination to gain his freedom. Just lying there calmly like he knew he was on display, the only detectable movement in his little piglet tail, wagging away as if he was a contented puppy. A contented puppy who has doubled in size since I last laid eyes on him two weeks ago! I haven't had the opportunity to ask his "mama" how this transformation has occurred (the change in his temperament, not the enormous growth spurt - that I can figure out on my own), but rest assured, I will. For now, I will just remain the proud bystander who played a miniscule part in this rising star's acclimation to humanity. Look out, Babe. Your competition is gaining on you!

Sunday, November 22, 2009


It's funny the wide variety of life stages there are amongst our friends who are our age. I have friends who have been grandparents for some time now, some who are having fun with late-in-life blessings, and some who are now traversing life in two stages at once. My husband and I happen to fall into the category of empty-nesters since our children have flown the coop and are away at college. Our oldest will soon finish up his masters degree, so he and his wife will likely be pulling up roots and landing somewhere new for him to settle into his career as a civil engineer. Grandparenthood may not be too far down the road for us, but I am totally content enjoying where we are today. I have one friend who amazes me with her intense desire for a grandchild as she's still bringing up the caboose of her four children -- somehow the blending of two roles in that way seems foreign to me, probably because it hasn't been in my experience of family. Whenever that stage presents itself, I'm sure I will be obnoxiously enthusiastic to anyone who will sit still long enough to hear all about it! But I've spent so many phases of life looking ahead to the next, all the while trying to talk myself into savoring the one I'm in, knowing that once it's gone, it's gone -- so I'm purposing to taste empty-nesterhood like I'd taste a fine wine or an exquisite smooth, dark chocolate. No guzzling or gulping. Just taking my time and living in the moment. They (whoever "they" are) say women turn introspective and more intuitive as they walk into and through the years of midlife. I think "they" are right. There's more time to think; there's less need to be in a rush, always moving forward, always thinking one step ahead. We tend to hear a lot about the negatives of growing older. Maybe slowing down a little scares us that we could be at the beginning of a rapid downhill slide! But pacing ourselves a little, just enough to take life a day at a time, even a season at a time, sounds pretty positive to me. As someone who's always been in somewhat of a hurry, I'm grateful to live in the moment as often as I can manage it! And even's totally a God thing. I'm asking Him to walk me through each day, each season, seeing life with His eyes. Sometimes I actually step aside enough to allow Him to show me. How about you? I'd love to hear your perspective on the stage of life where you find yourself today. Wishing you joy in the journey...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Getting my feet a little wetter...or: Won't You Be My Blogging Neighbor?

This morning I took a few moments to read through some of the "how-to" information on to see how I could enhance my blogging experience -- with all of 14 days under my belt! I didn't do much research before embarking on this new venture. I have to say that this site could be aptly nicknamed Blogging for Dummies - even I have been able to figure most of it out by myself, amazingly! So part of what I learned was that I should move my list of followers up higher on the sidebar so that it's one of the first things readers will see, and also that I should beg shamelessly for my readers to sign up to follow my blog. Hmmmm....I tried the first suggestion and hated the way it looked. I like my layout the way it is, which is not surprising, considering I've rearranged my living room furniture ONCE in ten years. So now I'm on to the shamelessly begging part: Please, oh please, OH PLEASE PLEASE follow my blog!

That did not feel right either.

The way I see it, if someone is interested in my musings, he/she will be back. If not, no amount of begging is going to make someone I probably have never met boost my writer's ego ;-). To be truthful, this is an outlet that is satisfying to me even if my words sit here all by themselves, with only their author for company. It IS fun to interact with the rest of the blogging world, I admit. So if you are so inclined, feel free to follow! I am just getting the hang of following myself, but I am learning, and I just may follow you back. For sure, leave your comments; I love getting them. And that is all I have to say about that! ;-)

Friday, November 20, 2009

(Guilty) Pleasures

Normally I chastise myself for getting sidetracked from the ever-important to-do list, especially when it's something basically non-productive that's sucking me in. Not today. For some reason, my finger-wagging, frowning inner taskmaster is surprisingly absent. Or maybe I'm just experiencing some success at totally blocking her out for a change. At any rate, today, so far, has been a day of guilty pleasures, minus the guilt. The rainclouds obscuring the sun allowed me to slumber much later than usual without the beaming wake-up call I'm accustomed to. The weather somehow makes it seem that the world is taking a it's okay for me to dally at the computer, sit and ponder everything and nothing, fix myself a delicious (and healthy) batch of protein pancakes, have that second cup of coffee, and half-listen to a bunch of gabby women on TV solving the problems of the world as I dally some more, still in my pj's. All without shame. This is a phenomenon that doesn't happen often, so I felt it blog-worthy. Yay for days off work and rainy mornings!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Looking backward

So last night was a typical Christmas pageant practice -- lots of shuffling around, starting over, overdramatizing just to crack each other up, trying to remember to sing while also trying to remember our choreography, and just the general hijinks that are part of the pageant rehearsal experience. This time, though, instead of hanging around shooting the breeze for awhile or playing with the piglet (who has mysteriously been a no-show since the mad church pig chase....see previous post), we were corralled into the conference center to do our part in a video being prepared for church Sunday morning. I was asked the following questions: Can you share a special Thanksgiving memory? What are you thankful for? White or dark meat? That last question was the easiest to verbalize, for sure. (Dark meat, for those of you who wonder...I'm a leg woman! LOL) Of course, I did come up with an answer for the others, but I'm not the best at thinking on my feet, especially with a video camera staring me in the face and the goofy expressions of my entertaining new music minister distracting me. I awoke this morning with several answers which would have been so much better, naturally -- I mean, come on, I have ALOT of Thanksgiving memories to sift through by now, and mentally flipping through those files takes some time! Participating in the video, although it was mostly against my will and I wish I'd had more time to ponder my answers, did serve a purpose for me personally. It got my gears turning in a different direction. The holidays can get so crazy with all the planning that has to take place to pull them off! My mind, as usual, has been focused on such things as: When are we getting together with this side of the family? What about that side of the family? Do we do traditional turkey dinner or something different? What part of the meal am I going to provide? Who is coming into town? Where will they be staying? Which day should I get my cleaning done? What's the best strategy for getting IN and OUT of the grocery store in record time? This kind of thinking, although necessary, can just zap all the sweet anticipation out of any holiday family gathering! Can I get an "amen" from all you women out there? So to pause for a moment amidst all the list-making and mental somersaults to let my mind drift to Thanksgivings past has been therapeutic for me. Some memories have drifted up from my subconscious that have delighted me and made me smile. Some have had me shaking my head and laughing at something I thought I would always remember as disastrous. Others are bittersweet and bring with them a pang of homesickness, of longing for simpler times, of missing loved ones who no longer grace our lives with their presence. Don't get me wrong, I'm still planning -- just with one ear tuned to the heartbeat of holidays past, and with the expectancy of even more to treasure when all is said and done. How about you?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Opening my eyes

I'm generally a neat freak who tries to keep clutter to a bare minimum. I can't think straight with too many stacks of papers needing attention or laundry lying around waiting to be dealt with. It seems there is some cosmic connection between a cluttered space and a cluttered mind, in my case. However, please note that I said neat, which is not to be confused with clean. I can ignore a little dirt and dust longer than I can the clutter. Maybe that's because clearing the clutter somehow automatically makes things feel cleaner...I don't know. So this past weekend was a bit of an anomaly for me in that I noticed for the first time in weeks that our shower was in need of attention. Our shower doesn't get cluttered, and since we remodeled our bathrooms a few years ago, it is less of a dark cave and more of a glassy, breathable space; so it seems to stay sparkly for days on end until I notice, with dismay, that it has suddenly, it seems, turned into a mildew farm. There is an obvious reason for this. While showering, my mind is usually occupied with planning the day ahead, reviewing Zumba choreography, mentally singing through my praise music for that week's worship service (okay, sometimes it's not just mental singing), thinking through my grocery list, or some such thing which occupies my mind enough that I am oblivious to the state of my surrounding until it is growing fuzzy stuff at an alarming rate. So I set out to remedy this situation this Saturday, armed with bleach water and lime stain remover. I discovered more than I bargained for as I moved the shampoo, conditioner, razor, and shower gels out of the built-in tile shelf. I started to feel light-headed and wasn't sure if it was from the fumes I was creating with the cleaners or from trying to hold my breath as I held a hand towel over my face, but regardless, I was feeling bad enough to call my husband who was having lunch with some golf buddies after their morning game. I warned him that he might find me in the back yard passed out on the patio furniture if things didn't improve quickly! Thankfully, I was still conscious when he got home a few minutes later, and was able to complete my mission and admire the results not too long after that. Sometime during this episode, I was struck with the thought that neglecting the shower too long was similar to what spiritual neglect can do to a believer. (Most people probably think about this while weeding their gardens, a much less disgusting analogy, but I ignore those even more than I ignore my shower, so we won't go there.) While I was multitasking in the shower all this time, getting physically clean and mentally conquering many a mountainous to-do list, the mildew was creeping in, making a stealth attack. By the time I actually gave a conscious thought or look to what was happening, it had taken over and was making great strides behind my back, so to speak ;-). Only until I moved things around and really inspected my surroundings did I find the worst infiltration. I became overwhelmed with the chore, in more ways than one. When we live our lives on autopilot, running from one task to the next, we lose sight of the little things taking root in our character while we aren't looking. As much as I desire to live a conscious, examined life, and as much as I've tried to teach this to my own children and to other people's children as a youth worker in my church, I can still become so distracted by life that I neglect to allow myself the time to look inward, to listen to the Spirit within me, to apply the cleansing Word of God, to watch for spiritual mildew setting in. I think I will never look at my shower-scouring job the same again and I am thankful for the object lesson whispered to my soul that day.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting -- Psalm 139:23-24.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Full circle

It happens every time, it seems. A band comes out with hit song loved by millions and it's overplayed on the airwaves, resulting in a bad after-taste of sorts given enough passage of time. There is one song, though, that has been around for over seven years and can still be heard on a daily basis which has yet to succumb to that category for me, and I got to hear it live last night -- "I Can Only Imagine" by MercyMe.

It was February 23, 2002, and I'd gotten into my car to leave the hospital on the day that my Daddy breathed his last on this earth. My Mama, my sisters, and I had circled around him, and though he was not really conscious, we had hoped to ease his pain of letting go by somehow joyously walking him through that portal to eternity with his Lord. He'd suffered a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's disease and we'd grieved his passing from us long before this day, so our sorrow was mixed with a sense of relief for both him and for us. "I Can Only Imagine" had begun to play in the instant that I turned the ignition. At the time, the song was still fairly new and it seemed to be God's gift of love to me, helping me to keep my focus on my Daddy's freedom from physical and mental bondage rather than my own sadness. Sure, I cried a bucket of tears, but they were healing tears. Now each time I hear the familiar introduction, I embrace the feeling I had on that day, and I picture my Daddy, and now my Mama, too, in Heaven. And as for the question the song asks...I believe my Daddy knelt before the Lord, just as he did every time he prayed. My Mom? I think she danced. :-)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

And look! It doubles as a vertical scrapbook!

My refrigerator is messier on the outside than it is on the inside. I have a hard time weeding out old photos and old news, so what happens is the new stuff gets magnetized along with the old stuff, and pretty soon it's a big random mess of faces and stories of people I love...which is not necessarily a bad thing. It's especially crazy around May and June when all the graduation announcements come flooding in; I've had the same senior photos up for so long that some of the kids still being displayed have graduated college! So if you were to study my refrigerator right now, among the pictures, thank-yous, and invitations, you would find a postcard from Paris. Yes, THAT Paris, NOT the one in Texas. It's been up there for several weeks now and I imagine it there it will stay for months to come. To me it symbolizes timeless old friendships that are alive in our pasts in spite of seeming neglect. It came to me as a consequence of this wondrous age of the internet, of facebook, of this world of technology that I was dragged into kicking and screaming, but have now grown to embrace (no snide comments from my kids, please). Teri is a friend from our family-growing, Tate Springs Baptist Church-going, living-in-Arlington days. We were part of a circle of friends in our twenties, young marrieds having babies and get-togethers, in the same Bible study on Sunday mornings. Teri, her husband Scott, and their children moved away before we did, if memory serves me correctly, and we'd lost touch over the years. That has all changed with the advent of facebook. I have enjoyed getting back in touch with Teri and reading her blog, "Girl Meets Paris". She, in fact, is partly responsible for the blog you are reading now. I love reading how a trip to Paris changed her perspective on life, and she has reawakened a long-cherished desire in me to "meet Italy" and see how that affects MY perspective (more about that later). The postcard is actually my prize for entering her blog contest -- a souvenir for me of Teri and Scott's most recent trip to France. I love seeing it hanging there on my fridge every day, reminding me of precious days gone by and of beautiful days to come, and the blessing of a friendship revived. Love you, Teri!

Monday, November 9, 2009

If you give a pig a granola bar....

I'm pretty sure that when I chunked a Kashi "Tasty Little Chewy" in my purse a week or two ago, I never dreamed I'd use it to catch a runaway baby pot-bellied pig loose in the worship center after pageant practice. But this was one clever little runt and he managed to evade a handful of adults and one child for quite some time. His "mama" lamented that if only she'd brought his food....and...well...voila! Never underestimate the power of being prepared to nibble at all times. I have to back up a little and say that Lindsay (my friend and blogging tutor) and I have become quite attached to the little oinker, and as of tonight, he returned our affections, much to our delight, as he stepped out of his kennel of his own accord (well, okay, we may have coerced him a little with his blankie, but it WAS of his own free will) to nuzzle our pant legs and chew on our fingers. That was when Lindsay and I decided to see just how attached he is to us by walking away from him and seeing if he would follow. He followed all right, but soon decided to enjoy his newfound freedom, and the mad church pig chase was on. I haven't laughed so hard in a long time and I realize now that THAT should have been the subject of my video! I know...I day he'll be a big ol fat snotty snouted, drooly side of bacon, but right now he is the cutest little thing!  See for yourself!

An occupational hazard of the best kind

I happen to love my two dental offices where I practice my profession, but this morning was sheer torture for me. Not because of the miserable migraine that has persistently reared its ugly head for the past four days. Not because of a particularly difficult patient load. Not because I ran behind schedule -- that would do it, all right, but not today. Why then, you ask? Because today's pick of the radio stations has played one Zumba song after another, sometimes even back to back! Hips Don't Lie...Smooth...I Gotta Feeling....Boom Boom Pow (I use the edited version of course!)...and the best/worst of all...Say Hey (I Love You). Don't get me wrong, a little mental Zumba never hurt anyone, but can you imagine the angst of holding sharp dental instruments in someone's mouth, concentrating on the removal of a tenacious calculus deposit in a location of difficult accessibility, when without warning, your favorite samba song starts to play? Or imagine being in the middle of a detailed educational explanation of the progression of periodontal disease, when, Heaven forbid, Shakira all but belly dances into the room? Torture, I tell you. I had to fight the urge to throw down my suction tip and water syringe and run to the sterilization room across the hall to just DO IT. But please, oh please, don't anyone touch that dial! ;-)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

You gotta start somewhere....

Writer's block on the very first blog post just can't be a good sign, so I am thinking of this entry the same way the owner of a brand-spanking-new car would think of that inevitable first "ding" -- just getting it over with so I can relax and get to the business of putting some miles on this baby -- minus the road map. Buckle up and enjoy the ride. ;-)