Tuesday, December 25, 2007

'Twas the night before Christmas...

This has been a good Christmas, but tough emotionally. Just can't get past the idea that it may be years before I celebrate this special holiday with my kids again.

In the last few meetings we've had, Ivan has shared about the Hephzibah House in New York City. It started out as a training place for women who wanted to be in ministry. Part of that training involved hosting missionaries who had said all their goodbyes, gotten rid of everything except the few things they had packed in steamer trunks, and were just waiting for their ship to come in so they could leave for the mission field.

Ivan's been sharing that this is where we need to be, mentally. We need to finish getting rid of all our stuff, pack the few things we're taking with us, and begin the process of letting go of 'home' and all that goes with it...saying goodbye.

It's a lot tougher than I thought it would be. Not normally one to cry easily I find myself dissolving into tears at the mere thought of leaving my kids. And I use the term 'kids' loosely. They are 21 and 26 years old, and the oldest is married!

What I should focus on is how thankful I am that we're a close family. And unlike those early missionaries who left, never to return, we will have regularly scheduled home ministry times every two to three years. Plus we've got awesome technology that will allow us to keep in touch via e-mail, via phone services like Vonage or Skype, and I think we'll even be set up to do video stuff.

And while we won't be physically with the kids in the years to come, we can still share these special times via modern technologies. And I'm also sure we won't be alone; we just don't know yet who will be a part of our circle of friends who might celebrate with us next year.

I have been thinking about the gift thing and it shouldn't be too difficult. Online shopping will allow me to find exactly what I want, and I can have it shipped to the appropriate recipient. Or I may do some shopping before we leave and have the opposite sibling hold onto the gift until it's time to present it. When it comes to gift giving, I will find a way. Mere thousands of miles won't stand in my way! And I can always imagine the looks on their faces as they open their gifts :-) Thinking about that has me smiling again, the tears retreating for the time being.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Came Early

I have finally entered the 21st century! My family went in together and got me a new iPod for Christmas! I haven’t had much time to play with it yet, but my son did show me how to download podcasts. Hopefully I’ll remember his instructions, since they came late at night and I didn’t write them down. I already have enough stuff downloaded to keep me entertained for hours, though!

We got one for my husband on his birthday last January and he LOVES his. When he’s doing what he calls ‘mindless’ jobs (painting, maintenance type stuff, driving) he listens to messages from favorite pastors, music, and even classes. Having grown up in a foreign country, he really enjoyed an American history course he downloaded FOR FREE from a university.

So I’ve been sort of jealous :-) Okay, really jealous. And I’ve mentioned I’d like one, too. Mentioned it just a few times. Okay, I’ve mentioned it a lot. Even so DH still had to ask what I wanted this year. You see, he has to be really listening. And I’m never sure if he’s really listening or not, and that’s why I have to repeat myself. Repeatedly.

I have rather lofty plans for my iPod: furthering my knowledge base, increasing my intellect, growing as a person.

So I can’t wait to download some favorite songs by Percy Sledge, episodes of The Closer, and a good whodunit audiobook. There’s this whole unexplored cyber world of entertainment out there!

But for now I’m set with podcasts from The Splendid Table, Coffee Break and my pastor’s recent sermons (being on the road as missionary appointees means we’re hardly ever at our home church so it’s a treat to be able to keep up with Pastor’s messages online).

So now I just have to get into the mindset of remembering that I have an iPod. I swept all the floors this morning in silence. It wasn’t until I was done that I remembered I could have been listening to one of my podcasts while wielding the broom. This could take some getting used to.

And now it’s time to mop…and learn more about food from the entertaining Lynne Rossetto Kasper.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Playing The Game with Family & Friends

Unearthing the presents I’ve been buying and stashing all year is a bit like having Christmas early. “Oh, I’d forgotten I bought that!”

So I’ve just been having fun wrapping all the loot with paper and ribbon I bought last year after the holidays. Amazing what a nice fluffy bow can do for a humble gift!

Which reminds me of a game we used to play when we were group home houseparents. Our clients were all teens and really enjoyed this game. I’d buy a bunch of cheap items, usually at dollar store type of places, but sometimes I hit sidewalk sales or even picked up new items at garage sales. Nothing cost more than $5 and most much less. The object was to not buy quality but quantity!

I’d wrap everything up as elaborately as possible and pile all the gifts in the middle of the floor during our group home Christmas party. Passing around a small dish, each person would roll the dice and if they got either a 7 or an 11, they could pick a gift out of the center. They were NOT allowed to open the gift at this point. The game continued until all the gifts were taken from the middle. Then the fun really began!

I would set the timer but no one else would know how much time was left so the game shifted into high gear and they were practically throwing the dice to the next person in order to go more quickly. But now if someone rolled the 7 or 11, they could take a gift from someone else. For whatever reason, certain gifts were highly coveted and would go back and forth a lot. When the timer went off, everyone was able to keep the items currently in their possession and open them.

What never ceased to amaze me was that the ‘gag’ gift never failed to be one of the most coveted! Over the years the gag gift included a pack of toilet paper, a box of rocks, several cans of sauerkraut, and one year a box of absolutely nothing. But it sure was wrapped pretty :-)

We’ve also played that game with friends, with other staff, with family. It’s just a lot of fun and in the odd instance someone doesn’t get anything, there’s always a gracious few who share. No matter the crowd. And when we were houseparents we noticed a lot of negotiating after with gifts changing hands even more times.

I always tried to have three times the number of gifts as we had players.
So if you’re trying to think of something to do, something to get the blood pumping and the laughter roaring, this is the game!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

[Wish they all could be] California Girls

Growing up I loved the Beach Boys. Although I never quite got the whole California thing. I mean, didn't they know they could be swallowed up by the earth any minute? Kentucky was a LOT safer with no fault line running underneath. Granted we didn't have any cool surfing places but we did have plenty of good fishing and swimming holes. So I never really had a desire to Go West.

Until my sister moved there.

Now I'm glad I did.

California is SOOOO beautiful!

And not even the slightest tremer occurred during our stay.

Such a good visit with my sister and her family! It was an excellent way to use some of those accumulated miles :-)

Packing as much as possible into our week, we visited Lake Tahoe, Sacramento and San Francisco. Did not make it to Ghirardelli Square in San Fran BUT I did buy a big ole bag of Ghirardelli chocolate at Costco in Sacramento -- does that count?

In San Fran we hit Pier 39 for a bread bowl of clam chowder and the cousins took a ride on the carousel, with Tina helping 4-year-old Emily climb to the second level and up on a horse. Tried to take some shots of the harbor and Golden Gate but our camera isn't so great on shots in the dark. The next afternoon we took a walk in Chinatown where Tina had oh-so-much fun shopping. An excellent spot for some bargain hunting :-)

Our trip to Lake Tahoe on Friday was timely as that area got a couple feet of snow over the weekend. Even on Friday there was close to a foot of snow on the ground. Our photos don't really do justice to the scenery -- it was spectacular!

During our visit niece Kitty performed in a shortened version of The Nutcracker. She was adorable as both a soldier and sugar plum fairy. A burgeoning thespian following in cousin Tina's footsteps :-)

The reason we were able to go was because we didn't have any meetings for the middle of December. But we ended up being able to share in two different churches while in California! Both pastors are on our mission's Board so we knew them, but still it was awfully gracious of them to give us time in the midst of all the Christmas 'doings'. (Thanks Pastor Steve and Pastor Rick!)

In my last post I mentioned some of the travel travails on our way home but didn't mention the trip out there. Because we woke to freezing rain the day before our flight and the news that it was to keep up until the next morning, we decided to head to the airport as quickly as possible and stay in a hotel with shuttle service. Of course we weren't totally surprised to get to the airport early the next morning and find out our flight had been canceled :-( After standing in line for over an hour (plenty of time to think about how awful it was probably going to be to try and get on a different flight) we found out they'd already re-routed us, leaving only an hour later! AND THEN we were put on an even earlier flight which allowed us to make an earlier connecting flight in Chicago. So we were only about half an hour later than we would have been if we'd made our original flight! How amazing is that?! Go United! :-)

All in all, a remarkable trip jam packed with memories and fun times.

And now we're home, facing the still daunting task of preparing for the move to Argentina. I spent most of today going through stuff in the basement. Two large black garbage bags full of stuff we don't want, and nobody else would either. Seven boxes packed and in the car ready to take to Goodwill. And two boxes shifted to the corner where we're putting stuff to take with us. A very satisfying days work!

And that doesn't even take into account all that Ivan got done today in his corner of the basement. :-) Go Ivan!

Most of the gifts are wrapped and I carried up the boxes of Christmas decorations. Hey, it's a start!

Worthy of "Additional Security Measures"

Aren’t I just so special?

Yes, I’m being facetious.

On our flight home from California on Tuesday I was chosen for “additional security measures” and since Ivan was traveling with me, he got the special treatment, too.
Besides being pulled aside and patted down, our things were checked for explosive residue. This entailed opening up my purse and the carry-on where I’d discretely tucked a package of sanitary napkins in the zippered side pocket. The security person left it tucked in. But helpful hubby, in his haste to zip everything back up whipped the bag around, flinging sanitary pads in every direction.
I blushed, but said nary a word as I quickly scooted around the security area picking up pads and stuffing them into my purse.
So I started out a little on the flushed side.
Then the terminal where we waited for our delayed flight was hot. Very hot. In preparation for the frigid Michigan weather we were returning to, I had dressed in warm clothes that included my long silk underwear.
At first I gently perspired as any proper southern woman will do. Hot flashes increased my discomfort. Beads of moisture appeared upon my brow. I pushed the sleeves up on my sweater. Then I took the sweater off. I used my boarding pass as a fan. I was beginning to feel a little bit desperate about the situation.
When they called our names to come to the counter area so we could get our seats assigned, I started to call Hubby and Daughter but discovered my cell phone was missing. I had been entrusted with all our paraphernalia while they accessed the free internet. So I had to haul all our coats, my purse and the carry-ons down the terminal a ways to where they were hunkered down on their laptops. Between the extra exertion and the anxiety over the missing phone, my heat index was rising faster than the Dow Jones used to. I had a bit of a meltdown actually. In my panic about the phone, I turned my purse upside down and dumped everything in it onto the seat.
I carry a large purse.
It was full.
Of everything I needed for the flight.
Including those sanitary pads I'd recently picked up in security.
Hubby's eyes got big, but he wisely said nothing.
What is there to say to a crazy southern woman having hot flashes in an airport while waiting for a delayed flight in a terminal that has to be eighty degrees and who has just discovered she can't find her cell phone because it's GONE?!
Boarding eventually began. But unable to stand it any longer, I finally hightailed it into the restroom and quickly disrobed, taking off the offending long underwear. Ahhh, relief!
Once on the plane, things began looking up.
Our seats were in the first aisle in economy, leaving us with lots and lots of leg room. Nice!
Great for our legs, but poor Hubby’s shoulder was really aching at the end of that four hour flight from being squashed into the middle seat.
So imagine our pleasure when we got on the last flight and found we were by an emergency exit door with only two seats instead of three, leaving not only extra leg room but also arm room. Yippee!
The two hour drive home from the airport went smoothly but, boy, were we wiped out when we finally pulled into our driveway at 2:30 a.m.!
So the trip is over and we are home.
It was good.
I will write more about the actual time in California later. And post pictures. Promise.
But after operating on just four hours of sleep, I am succumbing to the lure of my bed.
Good night.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

I'm Nutty about the Nutcracker

Saturday did not go as planned.
1) Woke up really congested -- AGAIN.
2) Had to go back to Wal-mart for the third time in two days to get yet another thing for our mailing. And didn't have time to do all that needed to be done so the mailing won't get out until Monday. At least Monday.
3) Saturday morning was so busy that I didn't have time to sit down and talk to my daughter, who didn't have to work and was actually home.
4) We stopped in Ft. Wayne on the way to my in-laws, just long enough for the weather to turn really bad. So the last leg of the trip to their house which normally takes 35 minutes took 2 hours and 15 minutes. Ivan couldn't use the brakes because the back of the car would start sliding so he had to put it in and out of drive. Scary!
5) I got a post written last night and discovered that while I'd been typing, the internet had gone down.
Whine, whine, whine.

1) It warmed up considerably overnight so the ice was melted and the traveling was much easier.
2) Had a good time with the folks at Living Gospel Church in Nappanee this morning. Ivan shared during the combined adult Sunday School and then we enjoyed a great message by Pastor Mike.
3) Lunch with our son and his wife at their house in Elkhart. Yummy Chinese!
4) Lots of folks came to the reception we had at our home church this evening to celebrate Jon and Natalie's marriage. They had a small private wedding on the beach in Florida back in August, but we wanted to have a time to share with the church family. It's taken a while (four months, to be exact) but we finally found a time that worked into everyone's schedule.
5) BEST OF ALL, my family gave me my birthday gift tonight, a couple days early. We're ALL going to see The Nutcracker Ballet next Saturday!!! I'm so excited!
There's a story behind the gift. I had gone back to college when the kids were little and one course required attending a certain number of concerts and musical events. As students we got a break on tickets which was really nice. Anyway, Tina was four the first time I took her to see The Nutcracker Ballet. We sat in the balcony on the end which was great because she couldn't sit still and pretended to be a ballerina in the aisle during half the performance. We enjoyed it so much that we made it a Christmas tradition to go every year. And we did for eight years.
We've seen a variety of performances, from really professional to amateur productions that dance schools put on. I've enjoyed them all!
Then one year I couldn't find a performance close enough to be practical and so we saw a Christmas play at the local college instead. Then we went to Africa for a year. And the tradition was lost.
Since then we've been just once. I organized a group of moms and daughters who went a few years ago. It was a lot of fun and I think it could have become a regular event but honestly, I just didn't have the time to organize it the next few years.
And Tina doesn't enjoy it as much as I do any more.
So for lots of reasons I haven't been in a while. I mentioned a while back that it would be nice to go this year, since it's the last chance for a while. But again, life's been pretty hectic and I never got beyond looking online to see where they might be having it.
When I opened my card tonight and saw the tickets, I got so excited! We're going out to lunch, catch the matinee performance and then go out to dinner. Life is good :-)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Caffeine Withdrawal

Yesterday was a LONG day. We left at 7:30 a.m. and got back around 10:30 p.m. Hubby was feeling pretty miserable by then, his throat quite sore and the cough seems to have moved into his chest.

Stumbling into the kitchen this morning I was dismayed to find we were out of regular coffee. I'd used the last of it yesterday but totally forgot and we didn't have time to stop and pick it up anyway. So... I made a pot with the decaf and tried to pretend it was regular.

Didn't work. Ugh. Within an hour I had a caffeine withdrawal headache. Took aspirin. Didn't help. At 10 a.m. I popped open a can of diet Coke in an effort to mainline caffeine into my system.

Didn't work. Now I know why. My system is used to coffee. Coffee has more caffeine than any other beverage (except those weird energy drinks), about 110-150 milligrams per cup.

I learned this interesting fact when I cracked open a book from the library: "Life Is Meals: A Food Lover's Book of Days" by James and Kay Salter. The info about caffeine is found on January 4th.

I also learned that in Turkey coffee was so essential that denying a wife her coffee gave her 'grounds' for divorce (LOL I love puns!).

I'm a bit of a coffee snob. Not a big fan of Maxwell House. My favorite is Millstone's hazelnut flavored beans that I grind in the store (one of these days I'll invest in a grinder of my own). Cooks Illustrated did a taste comparison of supermarket brands a while back and Millstones was ranked pretty high. But we've tried coffees from all over and have found, in general, we favor a mild to mid-roast bean done in a drip machine or french press.

And both hubby and I are partial to hazelnut creamer. Other flavors just wear thin after a while but we've found that hazelnut never gets old. Problem is: this stuff is getting more and more expensive! When we started using the creamer it was around $1.50 for the large container. That's jumped up to over $3 which is just flat out painful! We tried to wean ourselves off, trying hazelnut syrup or just sugar. But we didn't enjoy our coffee nearly as much, and after much agonizing decided this was an area where we'd splurge and just get the creamer. Since we typically drink only one cup each morning, it's not so bad.

Can't handle caffeine in the evening, so we keep regular and decaf on hand. I once had a cup of Turkish coffee at a Greek Festival at ten in the morning. I was still awake and totally wired the next morning at 3 a.m. Even in college I couldn't handle it.

Hubby drank too much recently and literally got sick. He had the shakes and felt really weird, and it took hours before the symptoms subsided. Realized later he'd had the equivalent of eight cups of coffee and doctors agree that four cups a day is the limit before starting to experience a caffeine overdose. At least he didn't have to go to the hospital like the girl in this article.

All this talk about coffee makes me want a cup and I DO have decaf. Hmmm, think I'll go make a pot.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Recliner Kind of Day

We came home from Indiana yesterday, still groaning from the excessive food intake on Thursday. And I kept it to one plate! Honest. Plus I ate nothing after the pie we had at 4 p.m. (and then only one piece!). Just can't put it away like I used to, nor would I want to. Even so, I felt like the Goodyear blimp all through Friday.

Hubby wasn't feeling so great yesterday so he went to bed early. Unfortunately the extra shut eye did not help and he awoke with a raging cold and sore throat. Poor guy! Worst possible time to get sick. Although we've had meetings pretty steadily all fall, tomorrow is the first (and only) full day scheduled. He's teaching Sunday School, preaching in both the morning and evening services, and we'll be gone from early until late. :-(

So we're pumping him full of Shaklee products: Immunity 1, Nutriferon, Defend & Resist. He's lounging on the couch and going over notes for his messages while I sit in the recliner and began the tedious work of catching up on data input.

Whenever we visit a church we offer a sign-up sheet for those interested in receiving our prayer letters. I hadn't added new ones from the last few churches so that had to be done. And I'm editing the existing address book to include any and all info we might have on folks already 'in the system'. I'm about 3/5 of the way through that. BIG job! I had no idea until recently that my yahoo account offered the option of organizing the info into a format for snail mail labels. A great feature when we want to send something (like new prayer cards) instead of just the standard prayer letter via e-mail.

So this is a recliner kind of day, typing while the laptop keeps my legs warm, surrounded by (1) rolodex, (2) personal address book, (3) church directory, and (4) local phone book. All necessary as I expand that database to include addresses and phone numbers. Given my propensity for being uncoordinated, getting up for potty breaks is a study in hilarity. Each time I carefully move said items so I can set the laptop on the side table, enabling me the freedom to get out of the chair. BUT each time I either knock something over, catch the computer cord in the chair, step on a stray piece of paper causing me to slip while trying to stand up... You get the picture.

My klutziness is legendary. Really. *sigh* You see, it's inherited and no amount of care on my part seems to make a lick of difference. I learned this cruel fact early on, at the tender age of 14. We had moved back to Kentucky when my mom got really sick and lost her job. We hadn't been back long when she sent me to the store for a few things. It's a small town (population less than 800) but having moved there from the Detroit 'burbs, I hadn't yet learned that everyone knows everyone. So I do my shopping, and head to the checkout lane. Suddenly I'm grabbed by a very old, sort of shriveled up toothless man who starts jabbering in a language I'm still trying to learn (commonly known as Southern English). To say I was freaked out is an understatement. But for the huge smile on his face, I would have been even more frightened. Finally I began to understand what he was trying to communicate. He was saying, "Yer Georgie's girl ain't ye?! Ye walk jest like 'er!"

So there you have it. As I discovered, being descended from the Stidhams meant I walked a certain way -- like a drunkard. Some can trace their family back to the Mayflower, or at least to some prominent person. I come from a family of klutzes who walks into doorways, trips over their own feet, and who are unable to do anything in a straight line. In my case it goes even farther. I can't eat a meal without spilling something down my front. I can be counted on to knock something over even from a distance of several feet. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to injuring myself (slamming fingers in doors and so on). And, as evidenced from today, I cannot rise gracefully from a recliner.

But boy am I hot when it comes to data input! Lightening fast fingers skim the keyboard! So let's just look at the positive, shall we? Focus on what I CAN do. And pray that I manage to get this posted before I knock the computer onto the floor and lose all that I've just accomplished.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Mechanics of Mashed Potatoes

With fifteen of us crowded around the table yesterday, I obviously didn't hear all the interesting conversations. But I learned of one while talking late into the night with Daughter.
Apparently there is a level of engineering involved in 'building' the perfect Thanksgiving plate. And her brother achieved just such a perfect plate yesterday. Daughter has always been impressed with everything big brother does; that hasn't changed in the 21 years she has been his little sister. But she was totally wowed by his construction expertise yesterday.
You begin with the mashed potatoes, piling the mound smack dab in the middle of the plate, carefully creating the perfect crater for gravy, and then adding the remaining items in a clockwise fashion around the edge of the plate until there is nary a spot of plate showing through. I understand it was truly a marvel of engineering.
But Daughter is a chip off the old block and, following in the footsteps of her father and brother, she showed her resourcefulness when, shortly into the meal, disaster struck. "My moat broke! My moat broke!" she shouted. With nary a thought for her own safety, she dived in and quickly repositioned a large chunk of stuffing that immediately staved off the tidal wave of gravy from washing over the other food items. (Not that this is a bad thing, since everything tastes better with gravy, but it's the principal of the thing.)
Stuffing is a particularly good construction material because it is already glutenous from time spent inside the turkey breast. And it works a lot better than trying to re-position mashed potatoes which is sort of like the man who built his house upon the sand, or the little piggy who built his house with straw. Just not the most stable or sturdy building material.
So now you know how to both build the perfect Thanksgiving plate AND save the day when you moat breaks.
Unless you're like my husband who just goes ahead and pours gravy over everything to begin with.
Whatever floats your boat in the gravy of life.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Last Thanksgiving (not to be confused with the Last Supper)

Our last Thanksgiving in the U.S. for a few years. *sigh*
I did really well and haven't gotten emotional like I feared.
It helped that it was a fun/funny kind of day.
We drove down to my in-laws yesterday, hauling yet another load of Tina's things. It's a really good thing that she's moving into the basement apartment at her grandparents because she has so much STUFF and will have way more room here than she would have had if she stayed in Michigan (she had a small studio apartment lined up).
After I got the turkey in the oven this morning I started working on her bedroom curtains. She bought some great fabric at Joann's last week when the clearance fabric was an additional 50% off. Oh yeah, I raised that girl right!
She's going for a cottage look in her bedroom and bath and it's looking fab. u. lous! We combined two white fabrics for the curtains. The panel tops are a lovely white on white embroidered linen and the bottoms a luscious Christopher Lowell lightweight velvet. She is using clips on rings to hang them, so she can easily switch out curtains when the mood strikes her.
I finished the last seam as everyone started arriving. I can't remember when I've ever gotten my timing down so well before. Nope, because it's never happened!
I like cooperative dinner efforts when no one person is burdened with a lot of work. I made the turkey and stuffing, then the gravy from the drippings. Others made the mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, roasted root vegetables, layered salad, pumpkin pie and pecan pie. Yummy!
After stuffing our faces with the main course, we filed downstairs where Ivan had set up the projector. Earlier he started going through old slides, transferring them to the computer so we could have a 'slide show' from long ago. My in-laws were missionaries for almost 50 years so of course they have lots of slides!
Dad cannot remember anyone any more, and mom has a hard time remembering names but between Ivan and his sister, they were able to figure out who half the people were. And the rest of us had fun making silly comments.
"Isn't that Lyle Lovett?"
"Sure looks like Donny Osmond to me."
"Oh, those are the Johnsons." (how did my daughter know this? it really freaked me out until I saw that behind the family was a wall plaque reading "Johnsons" LOL)
We also enjoyed figuring out which decade the photos were taken.
"Definitely 60s!"
"I don't know, looks sort of like the 40s but could be early 50s."
"Ooo, I had glasses like that! The kind that looked like you had them on upside down."
Ivan had been working on this for a couple of hours, so it was a LONG slide show. By the time we finished it was obvious that nourishment was in order so up the stairs we tromped for pie.
Have I mentioned the pecan pie? My DIL made it, and it was AMAZING! She said she used the Martha Stewart recipe for pie dough which calls for LOTS of butter. Oh my goodness, I could have eaten the whole pie by myself! Unfortunately there were 14 other hungry folk who made short work of both pies and the Pepperidge Farms Milano cookies. Oh well.
My son and DIL brought their new puppy with them. He's four months old and 35 lbs.! But he is a cutie; black lab and shepherd mix so you just know he's gotta be smart. I forgot to ask how the cats are taking Leo's arrival. Natalie has had Dickens a long time, Libby a couple of years, and we know how most cats feel about dogs. They've had Leo a couple of weeks and I'm guessing Dickens still hasn't come out of the closet yet. That's his coping mechanism for any kind of change. Libby is a feisty little thing and has probably made it very clear that although Leo may be bigger, she's still the boss!
While cleaning up I made some comment about making a particular food for next year, and then said, "Oh, you can do that because we won't be here." SIL said, "I hadn't thought about that! Even though I know you're leaving in a few months, I just hadn't thought about you not being here next year."
Yep, that's how I am a lot of the time. I stop myself just about every day to remind myself I won't be here to do this or that because we'll be gone by the time it comes around. Not just holidays, but things like concerts and plays coming up, seeing the lilac bushes bloom in the spring (reminder to self: ask Ivan if they have lilacs in Argentina), older friends who winter in the south and won't return until after we're gone...
I really am excited about going! But I do get a little melancholy at times thinking about what I'll miss here. Mostly my kids. Friends and family. My home church. The public library. Free concerts at the college. Barnes & Nobles. Goodwill. Yard sales. Highway rest areas.
But for tonight, I'm just thankful for the really great day we've had and the blessing of having spent it with family.
God is good!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving 1967

Thanksgiving 1967 sticks in my mind. I was almost 9 years old and we'd made it through the Detroit riots unscathed, having moved out of our house for most of the summer and in with friends across town. As a single parent, my mom didn't like leaving us home with a young (late teens) babysitter while she went to work evenings in a restaurant. Even after the official riots were over, things simmered for months and you never knew where trouble would break out. Things were pretty quiet in our neighborhood but just a couple miles away buildings had been burned and looted.
We moved in with another single mom and her kids and went from having plenty of space and a nice yard, to living in a 2 bedroom trailer and no yard, right next to a busy street. The oldest of the 7 kids was 12, the youngest 3. Both moms worked the 2-10 p.m. shift but it was half a block away and we were expected to behave ourselves without benefit of a sitter.
It was with this same family that we celebrated Thanksgiving that year. Having moved back home when school started in September, my sister and I were excited to be reunited with our 'summer' family for Thanksgiving. The nine of us, plus some of their extended family, crammed into the tiny dining room in the trailer. With all that body heat in such a small space and the oven going full blast, it got so hot we had to open the windows even though it was a typical cold November day in Michigan!
I'm sure we had a traditional turkey dinner, but I don't really remember the food. What I remember was how much fun we had playing in and around the trailer. I remember how the youngest stripped down to his underwear during the meal and no one thought it odd (except me). I remember there was lots of laughter and the feeling of being cocooned in that tiny trailer. The wind whipped outside, scattering the few leaves left on the trees, but inside it was warm and cozy.
As a child I didn't fully understand what transpired that summer, but sensed my mom's uneasiness and a feeling I recognize now as fear. In 1968 we moved back to Kentucky for a few months and I think it was a coping mechanism on her part. I can't even imagine what it must have been like for her to contend with raising two kids on her own during that scary time.
But that Thanksgiving all felt right with our world and the 'warm fuzzies' from that day will be with me always.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Christmases Past

Reminiscing over Christmases past brings to mind some of my favorite gifts. One year my younger sister and I were delighted with a kitchen set and we had so much fun hosting dinners and tea parties for friends and cousins.

I absolutely LOVED my Imagination Dollhouse and enjoyed hours of moving around the wee little pieces of plastic furniture inside the transparent, brightly colored house and acting out what I thought of as a 'normal' family. That's one toy I wish I'd kept to pass on! It was practically indestructible (really good plastic!) so I'm pretty sure it's taking up space in some landfill and will never degrade.
I've gone through a few sewing machines over the years but my first one holds a special place in my heart. Received the Christmas I was nine, it was a toy but it really could sew and I made lots of doll clothes with it. That same year I got an EasyBake Oven and wasted a lot of batter attempting to make little cakes. Not sure if it was the oven or my lack of baking skills (which hasn't improved much) but very few cakes were ever edible.
My last doll was a beautiful bride doll which was immediately placed as a decorative item on my bed and never considered a toy. Remember how we'd set the doll near the top of the bed and spread her gown over the pillows? I named all my dolls and stuffed animals, and the bride doll became 'Barbara'. A few years ago I found one just like her in a nearby antique store and got really excited until I saw the price tag: $75! I can be as nostalgic as the next girl, but my parsimonious nature would not permit such an expenditure.
In recent years one of my favorite gifts was a heated mattress pad that goes under the sheets. What could be better than climbing between toasty warm sheets on a cold winter night? And the remote car starter was another very well received gift, especially useful during cold weather. That came the Christmas after my husband's gift was cleaning out the garage so I could actually park in it (who would have thought you could use a garage for that?!) on cold winter nights [noticing a trend here with gifts designed to make life easier during the winter?].
Considering that I LOVE giving gifts, it's no surprise that I like getting them too :-) Wonder what will be in my stocking this year? Perhaps I'd better go work on that list for Santa...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

DVD Success!

Darling daughter Tina was successful in putting together the DVD presentation for us! Since I had laryngitis, she recorded the script as well (which is from my point of view). We sound enough alike that only people who know us really well will be able to tell the difference :-)

She worked on it right until the last minute on Saturday. My hubby sat down with her toward the end and they figured out some cool features to add a little pizzaz -- like the rain effect for the photo of a street scene on a rainy day, and stardust scattered over the princess picture. Fun!

So we shared it on Sunday during our visit to a church in Indiana and got some very positive feedback (all due to our daughter's exemplary technical skills!) so that was encouraging. Once I figure out how to load it, I'll share it on this blog.

Tuesday was a good day as anticipated, EXCEPT for that all day 'foggy brain' feeling. While cleaning up after supper last night I realized I'd forgotten to put the chicken into the chicken casserole for dinner! Notice: I didn't remember until I was CLEANING UP! LOL

But in spite of the foggy brain, I did finish a small quilt project. I promised an 11-year-old friend I'd put together a kit so she could make a quilted pillow cover. I made a sample cover (pictured below) and cut out the pieces for her kit. Always happy to help/inspire future quilters! I picked bright colors for the kit to go along with the happy dog center.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ease-y Day

Today was a good day.

Slept in…way in, until almost 9 a.m.!

Very nice after getting home quite late last night. We decided to drive home after the evening service, rather than waiting until this morning. Just wanted to be back in our own bed.

I was inspired to make an apple puff pancake for breakfast. Yum!

Eased into the day. After hubby carried in everything from the car (hadn’t felt like doing it when we got home so late) I finally started the laundry.

Wrote some thank you cards, took care of some e-mails, caught up on my favorite blogs…but at a leisurely pace.

Tonight I cooked up a chicken and de-boned it, plus made a coffee cake for tomorrow. It’s quilting Tuesday and I want time to actually sew rather than spending most of the time in the kitchen.

Tuesdays are great! I get to spend time with friends and work on quilting projects. We laugh, we eat, we sew. Good times!

So I expect tomorrow to be a good day as well.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Don't Dis Me!

Once again we are attempting to create a short DVD to present our ministry in churches. It has become a bit of a joke because our numerous attempts over the past three years have all ended in disaster. Words that come to mind: disheartening, discouraging, disappointing…it’s like we’re being ‘dissed’!

So while I’m sick this week (read: good excuse to avoid housework and anything else deemed labor intensive) I’m kicking back in the recliner and seeing how far I can get in the process of creating a DVD before I hit the wall. Catch the note of cynicism?

First obstacle: The program we’d hoped to use isn’t working. After creating a file of all the photos and graphics I want to use, I began importing them. Less than half-way through, the program quit responding and that dreaded “error has occurred” box popped up. Tina suggested some possible fixes. Nothing worked.

So Tina said that if I got the script ready, tonight after she gets home from work she’ll help me create the DVD on her computer (a MacBook). She can use her flash drive to move the file of photos from my computer to hers. Oh, if it were only that easy! In theory it should work but I know from experience that something can – and will! – go wrong. Very wrong.

Will we be dissed yet again? Stay tuned for the eventual outcome.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Why It's Important To Move Once A Year

I am engaged in the dismantling of my life…as I’ve known it.

Preparing to move overseas, we sort through the accumulation of 28 years. That’s how long we’ve been married and amassing STUFF. Since we’ve decided not to take any furniture or appliances, and very little of the remaining extraneous items, that means –


for a limited time only

featuring everything from

cozy kitsch to convenient contraptions

FREE for the taking

So far our kids have been the happy recipients of most of our surplus. Wasn’t it convenient that our son and his new wife recently bought a house they need to fill with furniture? And that our daughter is moving into her first apartment in January and can also use a few of our favorite things? Funny how God times these circumstances!

But although it’s easy to part with these things, I must also admit the emotional drain from memories associated with them. For example, the coffee table is just wood creatively put together in a nice big (heavy!) form that’s convenient for piling on things, propping your feet, or using as almost anything except a coffee table (it has never held a ‘coffee table book’ and rarely been used decoratively, period). But oh the memories!...of playing games around it, doing craft projects at it with my daughter, and kicking back with friends with a pizza or two sitting atop it. When I called my husband to come help me haul it home from an auction, he was stunned at the sheer size of it (3’ x 5.5’) and scoffed at putting it in our small living space. But even he came to agree that it is one useful piece of furniture! And my favorite thing about it? It was old and scarred with use when I bought it, so I haven’t had to worry about messing it up!

Homes are smaller in Argentina. If the coffee table is a little big for our place here, it is definitely too big for there! So I don’t begrudge my daughter inheriting it early, and I know she’ll get many years of useful service from it. It’s not that I’ll miss the table, so much as I’ll miss what has taken place at the table over the years.

The bulk of the memories flooding back with various and sundry items involve our kids. Who aren’t kids any more, of course. But still. So it makes me happy that they are taking most of the things and will continue making memories with them.

But boy is it hard work getting rid of stuff! Just the sheer volume is overwhelming. I had always considered us fairly un-materialistic but I’m revising that thought as we wade through. It causes me to remember how well we managed with very little the year we spent in Africa. AND it makes me determined to make do with less in Argentina.

So what are we taking? Books, books, and more books. Since there are no public libraries I am taking my own library with me! With that in mind, I’ve been scouring library sales, used book stores, and the internet for books I can read and re-read. I did pare down my collection in the beginning, getting rid of anything that didn’t fall into the “might read again” category. I took almost 600 books to a used book store and another 200 to my library (all they could take as they don’t have a lot of space to store books for their semi-annual book sale fund raiser).

And we’re taking some household items. Friends in Argentina recommended we take bedding and towels. While you can get it there, the good stuff is very expensive. I’ve been tracking sales and catching deals whenever possible, stocking up on bedding (sheets, blankets and bed covers) and towels. White towels. Which may seem strange but there is a method to my madness. White can be cloroxed to stay white and white goes with anything. Which is a very good thing in Argentina as they tend use very colorful tile in the bathrooms – and where the entire bath is usually tiled, often in competing colors.

Plus I’m going to invest in a good set of pots and pans (hopefully one that will last the rest of my life) and I’ll take a few things from my current kitchen. I have a really amazing hand crank can opener. My sister gave it to me before we went to Africa six years ago and it still works as good as the day I received it. As does the way cool vegetable peeler she gave me at the same time. You know how most peelers get dull after a while? This never has! I’ll also take the silicone bake ware set Beth bought me for Christmas a couple years ago. (It’s great having a sister who buys such great gifts!)

We’re taking clothes, of course. And being the thrifty shopper that I am, Goodwill gets most of my business. Why pay big bucks for something you can get for a fraction of the cost? I’m picky and the things I buy are gently used or new. Many a time I’ve found items with the store tags still attached. It’s a joke in our family that we plan vacations around Goodwill stores J And it’s true that we have been to Goodwill stores in almost every state we’ve ever visited. But our favorite is still the one in Battle Creek, less than an hour from our house.

You can see we are getting rid of much more than we’re keeping. This is a good thing. I just wish we’d been better at keeping things pared down all along. It would have made this process of dismantling a lot easier. Now I remember why it was so easy to move back in the early years of our marriage. We moved nine times in the first nine years, and each time we moved, we went through and got rid of stuff. Of course it was easy to move! We had very little to deal with until we settled down here in Michigan 19 years ago. Let this be a lesson to you! Just make sure you move once a year!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Where's A Hot Flash When You Need One?

This morning I dressed for the lovely fall weather we've been having. Oops! It's nasty and rainy and I've been cold all day. Where’s a hot flash when you need one?

We’ve been home for only 10 of the past 30 days. While traveling we did not have easy access to the internet; it usually meant looking for restaurants with free wi-fi. And when we did get home, our internet was SOOOO SLOW. After using a local company for six months with repeated assurances that the speed would improve, we finally gave up and went back to cable internet yesterday. It’s smokin’ hot!

Friday I took a day OFF and enjoyed working on a craft project. It began with the idea to use photos transferred to fabric. Add some embellishments and you end up with a fabric scrapbook page. These are photos of Ivan's folks, when they were in college and on their wedding day.

Some highlights of the past month:
We spent few days in Ludington. Friends with a cottage on Lake Michigan have been so generous over the years! We did the math and realized we’ve been going there for ten years!
We went to a one woman play at Spring Arbor University; a very powerful play that is a “dialogue about love”. After the playwright’s father was sentenced to 22 years in prison for being a pastor in Communist Romania, the rest of the family was sent to a Russian gulag. Revolving around his mother’s experience, “an Eastern European Juliet set during the times of darkest dictatorship and without a Romeo.” If you get a chance to see it, this is well worth your time!
Spending most of last Sunday with our son and his wife. We really enjoyed the morning service at their church, and then had fun just hanging out. They make a great team in the kitchen and lunch was delicious!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Going Full-Time

I got back into my study on Colossians this week, after a hiatus while my sister was here. My modus operandi is to study on my own, check out the Greek words, look at it within the context of the surrounding scripture as well as tearing it apart phrase by phrase, and then when I’ve exhausted my own study, I turn to commentaries (I like Matthew Henry) and books (for this study I’m using Treasures of Wisdom: Studies in Colossians & Philemon by Homer Kent Jr. and Be Complete, Wiersbe’s “be” book on Colossians).

My pastor recently started a Sunday morning series on Romans. He likes to do book studies and it will probably take him two years to go through the book. Romans is so “meaty”! Since we are rarely at our home church, we’re trying to get the messages on CD to listen to later in the week. Yesterday after we dropped my sister and her girls off at the airport we stopped in Ann Arbor on the way home. I picked up a nice fat journal at Barnes & Noble to use for my note taking as I listen to his messages on Romans. I know it will take a really fat journal! But I’m really excited, since I love the way my pastor preaches/teaches AND because it’s the book of Romans. Good stuff!

Ivan officially finished at The Manor this morning. We started out 19 years ago as houseparents in one of their group homes. We had up to six mentally and emotionally impaired teens at any one time. Some stayed just a month or two, but we had others for several years. Nine years later, when our church called Ivan to be a part-time associate pastor we moved out of the group home and into the parsonage. Our boss at The Manor asked Ivan to stay on to maintain the facilities. They had ten buildings at that time, but over the years they added several more, and Ivan went from being the lone maintenance guy to supervising a crew of three others. It’s been a good job. They’ve allowed a lot of flexibility over the years which allowed us to do more in ministry.

But it’s time to move on, and we realized if we wanted to get to Argentina in February or March, we had to spend more time building our support team. So now we’ll be “doing” deputation full-time. It will be great to have more time for one-on-one meetings with pastors. And we look forward to a lot more traveling, spending several days helping out in a church rather than just blowing in and out for one service. There might be some additional changes coming up as well, but I’ll wait to see what happens before I say anything about that. Regardless, some major changes and adjustments coming up!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Girl Time

My sister and her two girls went home yesterday. We had such a good visit but now it’s raining and I’m feeling sad (why is it so much easier to feel sad on rainy days?). We plan (hope!) to be heading to Argentina in February or March. Currently we live in Michigan and they live in California so, yeah, this was probably our last visit for several years. That’s hard! Oh dear, I feel the tears coming.

Okay, on to happier thoughts…

While they were here we had something going on every day. My nieces are 4 and 6, so I invited other little girls over one day for a “tea” party. Since none of the girls really like tea, we made punch but still used the teacups. Happy compromise :-) Another day we got together with other moms and kids at a friend’s house for a play date. My nieces loved tromping through the woods, seeing pigs and tiny kittens and great big dogs, jumping on the trampoline, and just plain having fun!

Our local library was participating in Read for the Record so we attended one of the story times and the girls had a blast listening to “The Story of Ferdinand” and making paper puppets. The ice cream was an unexpected treat, although since it came right at lunch time (our bad for picking that particular reading time) the girls weren’t very hungry when we got home. So we just packed ‘em up and headed for Battle Creek. My sister LOVES the store Tuesday Morning and hasn’t been to one since she moved to California last year. We spent a happy couple of hours scouring the store for good deals, made better by the additional 50% off all the already-marked-down items. I stocked up on a few Christmas presents. That gave me a warm fuzzy that for once had nothing to do with menopausal hot flashes :-)

My son and his wife came up on Saturday and my daughter didn’t have to work so we had a Family Day! Just hanging out and enjoying time together. We did go out for ice cream and Jon brought a new game he taught us to play. The girls loved all the attention from their older cousins!

Our county fair began on Sunday which is (I think) the best day to go. The rides aren’t operating yet so it’s a LOT quieter and not nearly so crowded. Also, if you take your bulletin from church, you get in FREE! It’s our family tradition to eat our way through the fair. This year we began with vinegar fries. For the uninitiated, these are freshly peeled and deep fried potatoes that we slather with vinegar. Goes great with fresh lemonade! Proper protocol involves eating, looking at an exhibit, eating some more, then checking out another exhibit, and so on, until we’ve worked our way from one end of the fairgrounds to the other. So between noshing on vinegar fries, corn dogs (hot dogs dipped in fresh batter and deep fried), and elephant ears (bread dough flattened into rounds, deep fried and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon), we saw all the animals, humongous vegetables, photographs (my daughter had entered several she’s taken this past year), and quilts. (Have you noticed everything we ate was deep fried??!!) Anyway, the girls enjoyed all the food but I’m not sure they appreciated all the exhibits we dragged them through :-)

The one exhibit they did enjoy was the quilt display. That’s because I had entered my most recent completed project, an appliquéd quilt of my oldest niece. They thought it was pretty cool to see her “picture” hanging with all the other quilts. I was surprised but pleased to see a blue ribbon attached to it! Now I have to finish the one of my youngest niece one of my many UFOs (unfinished fabric objects).

It sure seems quiet now that they’re gone. I got used to little girl giggles and squeals :-) Oops, starting to feel sad again. I think I need to get up and get busy and stop thinking about how much I miss them!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Why I'm Just A Southern Girl

Kentucky is my birthplace. I embrace memories of "smokey mountain" mornings when fog created a faery land and in its thickness you could smell the smoke of wood or coal burning stoves, from which bubbling sausage gravy and puffy brown biscuits emerged ready to satisfy the appetite. Scuttling down the steep gravel drive to wait for the school bus and seeing it emerge from the fog, big, yellow, belching exhaust. Simple suppers of soup beans, corn bread and greens. Sitting on your porch with neighbors and catching up on the gossip from up the holler. Strolling down to the store where you could buy everything from bird seed to bib overalls to any food or cleaning item, fill your car with gas, and see if you had any mail since the store owner became the postmaster by merely moving from behind the grocery counter to the locked cubby hole in the corner with its iron bar window. I especially enjoyed the times we had a little extra money and we could buy a nickle's worth of pickled bologna (about 3" of ring bologna about 1-1/2" in diameter). The shop keeper threw in a few saltine crackers to go with it, and we'd wash it down with an RC cola (Royal Crown for those not in the know). Back then Pepsi and Coke wouldn't deliver up in the mountains so RC was the only choice. And if we were really good, we got a Moon Pie for dessert. Life didn't get much better than that!

I spent part of my growing up years in Kentucky, and the other half in Michigan, where I re-located again about 20 years ago (more about that in another post).

But I'm getting ready to be Just A Southern Girl again! Only we're moving a little farther south than Kentucky. Like way, way, way south to Argentina -- which if you're good at geography, you'll know is as far south as you can go. Argentina and Chile make up the southern cone of South America.

This is, of course, a huge move for us.

It started many, many years ago. I won't bore you with the details. But in the past few years God has re-directed us firmly on this path. Along the way my husband, Ivan, has served as an associate pastor at our church, we spent a year in Africa filling in for missionaries who needed to come home on furlough, and now are in the process of preparing for full-time church planting in the Punilla Valley, which is in the center of the Province of Cordoba, which is itself in the heart of Argentina! People sometimes get confused when we tell our story, because they try to figure out why we're going to Argentina if we spent a year in Africa. (Although we've met a few who are NOT good at geography, and they don't know there's a difference.)

The simple truth is, God used that year in Africa, that "pressure cooker experience" as Ivan likes to call it, to teach us things in a short time that we couldn't have learned anywhere else. And He is taking us to Argentina because that is where we best fit into His plans. Simple, no? Yes!

Ivan grew up in Argentina as an MK. He knows the people, the language, the culture. He'll be able to "hit the ground running" when we arrive there next year. Not so for me. After two years of college level Spanish, I'll need to spend the first year in intensive language acquisition. Whether it's not having a bent toward languages, being my age (approaching 50), or a combination of the two, but learning Spanish is HARD WORK! But as Ivan likes to point out, I like to talk too much not to learn!

We hope to be in Argentina by March of 2008. Some ask how long we'll be there (especially those who knew we spent the one year in Africa). This will be a permanent move. At least until health, age, or whatever conspires to make us retire. We're in this for the long haul. We may be middle-aged, but we've still got a few good years left in us :-)

And that's why, once again, I'm Just A Southern Girl.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007