Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Doing Christmas Differently

I was lying in bed last night thinking about Christmas. On Saturday our family - the kids, their spouses, John and I, celebrated Christmas together. It was a fabulous day filled with food, fun, gifts, games and laughter. It couldn’t have been a better day. Even the days leading up to Christmas were good. Well, not the day I had the kidney stone, but the rest of them, were fairly stress free. It could have been the drugs, of course, but once I determined I wasn’t going to get it all done, I quit trying to be super-woman and enjoy the season. My cards have yet to go out, but they will. I didn’t get gifts to everyone I wanted to, but I will. Due to some ill-timed consumption of caffeine last night, I had plenty of time to lie in bed and think about ways to do Christmas differently.

Doing Christmas differently has been on my heart for years. I always seem to get crazy in December, and why? I mean is that what God had in mind when He sent his Son to earth? I don’t think so. But, I’m a traditionalist and it’s hard for me to change something as huge as Christmas. Last year we changed how we give gifts within our family. Less wrapped gifts and things like gift cards in the stockings made for a FAR easier time of shopping and wrapping. And, no one died from the shock. But, because I love Christmas so much I always want to do more. I have friends to whom I love to give gifts. And then there are neighbors that I love to bless at Christmas, and people I work with that I love. But my intentions and my time don’t always come out evenly.

So, as I was thinking the other night, here is what came to mind. I need to radically change the way I do things. Where is it written that we can only give gifts at Christmas? What if, instead of taking pumpkin bread or fudge to the neighbors in December, I gave it to them in March? Does it not taste just as good then? In fact, wouldn’t it be more fun to have them all in for tea and send each person home with a loaf of bread? And, wouldn’t Feed My Starving Children (or any charity for that matter) appreciate my help just as much in September as in December? I know the food shelf is desperately in need of food in the summer so why not give then instead of at Christmas? Why do we, as Americans, suddenly become so benevolent in December? Is it to make up for our lack during the rest of the year? I say, let’s change things up!

My new plan is to do Christmas all year. I’m making this public so I’ll be sure to follow through on my plan. And, I want to invite you to join me. Every month I will tell you what it is I’m doing “for Christmas.” Some of what I do will be in preparation for December. My goal this year is to be done with all major Christmas stuff by December 1. That way I can actually enjoy the Christmas season - the parties, the lights, the music, and even the television specials. Plus, it will eliminate last minute panic caused by snowstorms and kidney stones. The other thing I’m going to do is re-think how I do gifts for friends. I’ll let you know about that as 2009 progresses.

This blog is getting long but I want to give you some ideas to start you thinking about next year. One of the things I liked best about our Christmas this year was the creative gifts our kids gave. Paul and Erin, knowing that I love to write, gave me some books specifically designed for writers. It showed some real thought to come up with such a creative idea and I loved the thought as much as the books. We got a most interesting gift from Adam and Heidi. They gave us a goat and two chickens! Well, we actually got plastic figurines of said goat and chickens (phew!) and the real animals went to a needy family in another country. The figurines are to remind us to pray for that family who will now have access to goat milk and eggs, which will provide not only food, but additional income. Both of those gifts were a huge blessing to me!

So put your thinking cap on and join me in 2009 as I “do Christmas differently.” Feel free to share your ideas with me, too!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Birthday, Jesus

Merry Christmas! There isn’t much time for blog writing on Christmas day so I thought I’d share with you the lyrics from a song I’ve been hearing on the radio for the past month. It’s by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, but the primary voice is that of a little girl, with a bit of a lisp. So cute! Here are some of the words:

Happy Birthday, Jesus
I’m so glad it’s Christmas
All the tinsel and lights
And the presents are nice
But the real gift is you

Happy Birthday, Jesus
I’m so glad it’s Christmas
All the carols and bells
Make the holidays swell
And it’s all about you

Happy Birthday, Jesus
Jesus, I love you

What more is there to say? Enjoy the day celebrating His birth!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Too Cold for Christmas?

I doubt I’ll ever forget a moment that happened on Christmas Eve nearly 25 years ago. The temperature outside was 20° below zero. I can’t remember if that was the wind chill or the actual temperature, but seriously, does it really matter? It was just a comment, really, nothing worthy of noting, but sometimes a funny comment just refuses to leave your mind. It was close to 10:00 p.m. as our choir gathered in the church basement to get ready for the Christmas Eve service. We were all standing around putting on our choir robes (which are truly the ONLY one size fits all garment) when Ken walked in to join us. His wife, Char, who also sang in the choir, seemed to be missing. When asked where she was Ken quipped, “Char doesn’t do Christmas when it’s 20 below.” It just cracked me up, I don’t know why.

As I was out Christmas shopping today in temperatures hovering around zero, I couldn’t help but think of Ken and Char. Ken died two years ago, but I do wonder if Char is “doing Christmas” this year. I might just give her a call.

As for the shopping, I don’t remember when the last time was that I went shopping this close to Christmas. I walked into Kohl’s and figured, by the number of people standing in line, that they were surely giving something away for free today! It’s hard to believe the economy is poor when you see all those people spending money! There was only a shortage of one thing that I could see, and that was crabby people. People were polite and patient as they made their way through long lines to pick up their last minute gifts. Maybe faces really do freeze in this weather, but at least they were frozen in the happy position. It was indeed, a Christmas miracle!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Celebrating a "Half-Birthday"

I’m not sure our son, Adam, is aware of this yet, but today is his half birthday. Twenty-six and a half years ago, just four days after I turned, um, older, Adam was born. And yes, ever since that time, we’ve had two birthday cakes in one week. It’s the best week of the year! This year I must have been busy eating cake because I forgot to blog about our wonderful son on his actual birthday, thus, a half-birthday blog.

Adam has pretty much been smiling since the day he was born. He even has a pretty good fake smile that he can plaster on his face when he is sad. It doesn’t fool me, but I’m sure he’s used it well on those less wise than his mother. When he was a kid even his teachers would comment on his persistent smile. Now that he is grown and moved away, I miss seeing that smile every day.

Adam does not take after me in the financial areas of his life. He’s way more disciplined with a budget than I could ever hope to be. Let’s just say that all of our children have learned how to budget on their own. I think we did a pretty decent job of parenting, but accidently skipped this one important lesson. Perhaps it’s because John’s financial plan was to save everything we made and mine was to spend it all.

Adam is also an amazing photographer. Gifted with a digital camera for college graduation, he spent many hours reading the manual, and other photography books, to learn about his new interest. This must take the same kind of discipline that is required for budgeting, as it would drive me nuts. Whenever I buy anything new and electronic, I usually wait for him to come home, read my manual, and explain it to me. Anyway, after he’d read about his camera, he’d leave the house to go out and take some pictures, come home, load them on the computer, and analyze what he’d done right and what he’d done wrong. He ended up with some pretty cool shots. You can see his work on his website.

In just a few days, Adam will celebrate the first anniversary of his marriage to Heidi, the love of his life. That’s why I’m fairly certain he hasn’t remembered his half-birthday. So happy 26½ years of life, Adam! We love you!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

We Interrupt this Christmas Season . . .

This was to be my week. My week to finish up the Christmas shopping, get the presents wrapped, write our Christmas letter, and take care of all of the other things that make Christmas happen. Then, of course, there is the laundry that is falling out of the hamper, the grocery shopping, some work to complete, and the regularly scheduled appointments, etc. I even had some blog writing time in mind. But, there was an interruption in the regularly scheduled programming.

Monday was my day to wrap the gifts that need to be mailed. It didn’t get done as quickly as I’d hoped but at least when the day came to a close, they were sitting by the back door waiting to go to the post office. As I finished this project around 11:00 PM, I noticed a sudden, excruciating pain in the lower right region of my back. I’ve had pain there in the past, usually due to muscle strain, so I took some ibuprofen, grabbed an ice pack and went to bed. It didn’t help. By midnight I was considering a trip to the ER, but seriously, it was 9° below zero in our neck of the woods, and who in their right mind would want to go out? By 2:00 AM, I cried “UNCLE!”, and proceeded to drag my husband, the doctor, and as it turned out, the x-ray tech and lab tech out of bed in the sub-zero temps for a little “please make me better party” at the hospital. The doctor is my new best friend. Within five minutes of her assessment of my condition she said “let’s get her some pain meds.” I’m fairly certain I proclaimed an undying love and debt of gratitude at this point, but I can’t be sure.

After two and a half hours, four x-rays, numerous lab tests, a CT scan, and another shot of some wonderful pain medication, it was determined I had a kidney stone. And yes, they are as painful as people describe them. I left the hospital with prescriptions, a handful of pain killers for the next day, and a few other items that probably fall into the category of “too much information.”

I’m happy to report that I only needed three of the pain pills they sent home with me, though I might need some more when the bill comes. I’m almost back to normal, but what about Christmas? As you may have guessed, nothing has been crossed off my list since Monday, and December 25 is closing in. Now it seems that snowstorms are on their way to add to the festivities.

Today, I got an email from a friend. She too has been quite sick and she wrote that instead of asking God “why?” she is asking Him to show her what she needs to learn during this trial. She is WAY more holy than I am! I’m just trying to survive, not figure out life’s lessons. But, of course, there are always lessons to be learned, and mine actually came as I started typing this blog. You see, I seem to be under the mistaken notion that Christmas will only happen at our house once I’ve wrapped the presents, made the cookies, sent the cards, etc, etc, But the truth is Christmas will happen even if none of that gets done. Christmas actually happened over 2000 years ago when a tiny babe was born, who would be the Savior of the world. That’s all that really matters; the rest is just a sweet way to remind those that we care about how much they are loved.

Which reminds me, what can I give my new best friend, the doctor?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Celebrating 177 years!

Today is Harold Holte’s 90th birthday. He is my father-in-law. This past weekend we drove to Baudette, Minnesota to celebrate his birthday and also my mother-in-law, Emily’s, 87th birthday. Between the two of them, they have lived a total of 177 years! That’s a lot of life!

Two, of our three sons, and their wives were able to join us for the celebration and we were fortunate to have a little over an hour to visit them by ourselves. It’s not that we were trying to be selfish; it was just good to have some time to visit without the crowd that can sometimes overwhelm them. It was their first chance to meet our newest daughter-in-law, Heidi, as traveling to the wedding last December wasn’t possible.

It was fun to hear Emily and Harold share stories that our kids had never heard, parts of which I didn’t even know. The told how they met in New York City while they were both serving in the Navy. Harold did clerical work during WWII and Emily was in the WAVES secretarial pool. Their first date was to a Barnum and Bailey Circus. Our kids were trying to remember what actually qualified as their first date with their spouses and were afraid that someday their grandchildren would ask them and they wouldn’t know. I’m sure by the time they reach 90 they can figure out something to make up!

Harold and Emily have been married over 60 years. (I’m not sure of the exact number but it’s close to 63.) After they got married, they moved to St. Paul, where three of their seven children were born. In 1950 they moved to Baudette and have lived there, in the same house, which has seen many additions, for 58 years! Harold grew up in Baudette, but Emily, she was a city girl, having been raised in St. Paul. Not much has been said, but I’ve gotten the feeling at times that the adjustment to small town living was a challenge for her. I can imagine!

They have been great parents for their kids, and have loved their sons-in-law and daughters-in-law as if they were their own. They’ve seen trials and heartaches, joys and triumphs. It was a joy to honor them as they celebrate a joint 177 years. Emily actually has 10 more days to make it to 87, but she’ll get there. Her 58 years in Baudette have made her one strong woman!
We didn't put 90 candles and 87 candles on their cakes. The fire Marshall wouldn't allow it.

Emily and Harold were so excited to have all seven children at their party.

Adam, Heidi, Paul, and Erin, with Grandma and Grandpa Holte

This is the farm house where Harold grew up. This home never had a well, though in later years did have a tank of water to supply the house.

The kids just had to get a picture in front of Willie Walleye, Baudette's mascot. It was -7° so there was some fast picture taking going on! When they were little this picture was taking in the summer time.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Learning to Believe in Miracles

Two weeks ago I wrote about Lacey, a young woman from our church who was fighting for her life. Her diagnosis seemed bleak, yet God told me to trust him. So, I prayed for a miracle. I have to say that a miracle seemed impossible. Of course, that would be the very definition of a miracle, now wouldn’t it?

In addition to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Lacey was fighting a very serious fungal infection in her lungs. She required a substantial amount of medical intervention and even with all of that available to her, the doctors weren’t holding out much hope. I am excited to tell you that today, Lacey is home. She is still fighting her cancer, but the lung infection is gone. You can learn more about Lacey on her Caring Bridge Site. I’m sure she’d appreciate your prayers as she continues her cancer treatments.

God has shown me a lot through this whole thing. You see, I have such a limited view of God. I make up my mind about what God can and can’t do, based on what I see in my own little world. I don’t see the big picture. It’s akin to looking at a tide pool and deciding that the whole ocean looks like this little three foot area. God has shown me that I need to quit putting Him into a box based on my limited experiences. I need to understand that His plan is WAY bigger than my capacity to grasp it. And, I need to believe in miracles. Not just believe, but ask for them and then, watch and be amazed!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Thanksgiving Story

Warning: if you are inclined towards being a vegetarian you might want to skip reading this blog. Of course, if you do, you’ll miss my grandmother’s classic Thanksgiving story.

As I was getting the turkey ready for Thanksgiving, I suddenly had a flashback to when I was a little girl. We spent most every Thanksgiving with my Grandparents Gall, as they lived just a few miles from us. We either went to their house or they came to ours. And nearly every Thanksgiving, since I was old enough to hear such a story, my grandma would tell of one particular Thanksgiving from her childhood.

My grandma grew up on a farm in Missouri. Well, now that I think of it, I’m not exactly sure it was a farm, but I do know that her family raised turkeys. As you’d expect back in the early 1900’s, these birds were not pets, but family food. (Come to think of it, I've never heard of someone having a pet turkey, but nothing is out of the realm of possiblity, I suppose.) The problem started, I think, when my grandmother named the turkeys. Thanksgiving rolled around and my great grandmother spent the day preparing the meal. I would venture to guess that a big Thanksgiving meal in those days, while probably much simpler than what we have, was still a major undertaking.

What came next probably sent my grandmother to her room for a week. With the bird fully dressed and sitting beautifully browned in the middle of the table, the family bowed their heads to give thanks for their meal. As soon as grace was over my grandmother breathed a huge sigh and said, “Well, we’re having Daisy for dinner tonight.” As my grandmother tells the story, no one ate that night.

My grandma died over 20 years ago but this story still cracks me up. As you may have guessed, I heard it more than a few times. I’d love to hear it again. So do me a favor this Thanksgiving; if you are fortunate enough to still have a grandma that tells you her favorite stories time and again, please listen and give your grandma a hug. Most of all, have a fabulous Thanksgiving. We have much for which to be thankful.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Baaaaby!

I can’t believe it! My baby boy is 21 years old today! How did this happen? He was just born! As with all of my kids, I can still relive the entire birth story for you, but I won’t. Scott’s birth, however, was the most adventuresome. Suffice it to say that he was born as John was parking the car in the hospital parking lot.

Our little Scott, though never really little, is now six feet tall and cracks us up nearly every day, not always on purpose. He’ll be spending his 21st birthday in Portland where he attends college. We miss him like crazy and can’t wait to see him at Christmas!

Scott, being the youngest by five and a half years, spent many hours watching his big brothers’ athletic or musical events. And, he spent a lot of time in the car as I ran the other kids to and from said activities. He always managed to stay entertained, generally not with the actual game or concert taking place. And, if he was ever too bored, he would just goes to sleep. That trait has actually served him well through his entire 21 years.

We are grateful to have him in our lives, and even more grateful that he knows Jesus and his serving Him well. Happy Birthday, Scott!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How Do I Pray?

My heart is heavy tonight. You see, as I write this, a dear, sweet, young woman from our church is fighting for her life. Lacey has been battling cancer for over two years now. She received the diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma the week after I first met her. Tonight, she is battling a lung infection and quite honestly, things don’t look good. Her family has asked everyone to pray for a miracle, so I am praying. But, I’ve got to be honest. I don’t really know how to pray when things look so bleak. What I have learned though, is that when I ask God the tough questions of life, He doesn’t ignore me, but He answers me. So, tonight I asked Him, how do I pray for a miracle for Lacey when things look so bleak? And, to be honest, I’m guessing that God could tell I was a bit miffed about the situation. But, I know He is big enough to deal with my somewhat angry question.

God showed me that most importantly I have to trust Him. He loves Lacey even more than I do, and more than her own family. He reminded me that He is holding her in His arms and walking with her through this hard night. And, he encouraged me to never, ever quit asking him for a miracle, even when they seem impossible. Thus, I will pray. I found a verse in Psalm 61:2 that I’m modifying a bit to use as a prayer for Lacey. “O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer for Lacey! From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead Lacey to the towering rock of safety.”

If you are so inclined, please join me in praying for a miracle for my friend, Lacey. I am trusting for God’s very best for her!

Monday, November 17, 2008

In Need of a Dream Interpreter

Do you ever wake up after having a dream and it seems so real that it scares you? I had that happen to me today. I don’t put much stock in dreams but I have to admit, the one I had early this morning was just so upsetting. It must have been the Nachos Nuevos I had at Applebee’s last night. Of course, once you start trying to explain a dream to someone you realize that they never really make any sense.

I haven’t posted much lately and yesterday a friend commented on that fact, so today, you are stuck with my dream life. And, after nearly a whole day to ponder my dream, I have determined, that the panic I was in this morning really just adds to the hilarity of the dream itself. You see, in my dream, I was engaged to a man, yet apparently married to my husband, John, at the same time. (Please don’t judge me. I was asleep when all of this was going on, remember?) Apparently, in preparation for my marriage to this guy, I was attempting to make some beautiful new curtains and placemats for my house. His family kept trying to help me. Only problem was that everything they helped with turned out looking horrific. Additionally, though they were nice people, they were just very, very odd. And, there were kids everywhere – they weren’t mine. Probably the worst part of the dream was the engagement ring. It was a hideous looking lacey flower that stood about two inches tall and wide with some little diamonds in the middle. I guess I should give this guy credit for not forgetting the diamonds! I didn’t want to hurt his feelings but I simply had to break up with him. I mean, I did after all, already have a beautiful wedding band and a great husband.

Maybe that’s what the dream was all about. Just a little reminder from God that I’ve got a good thing going here and I should never take it for granted. It’s either that, or a suggestion to skip the Nachos Nuevos at 9:30 p.m.!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Know Thyself

Yesterday, I took an online test to find out a little bit more about myself. Earlier this year I took the Strengths Finder survey (which was quite helpful) and the most recent test I took is called the Life Languages Evaluation, put out by the Life Languages Institute. I always find these tests interesting and look forward to what they are going to tell me about myself. An added benefit to these surveys is they explain how to best work with people who, shall we say, have opposite personalities. Where, I want to know, were these surveys when I first got married? Let’s just say, I’ve learned a lot about working with opposite personalities, through trial and error, right here in my own home.

So, here is what I learned yesterday. I am very verbal! Who knew? If you are raising your hand right now, you may put it down. Yes, it’s true, I am verbal. When my husband is asked what kind of degree I attained in college he tells people I majored in talking. I try explaining to him that my degree is in communication but he seems to think that is the same thing.

Of course, with every positive about a person’s traits, there are negatives. So, just for the record, even the non-verbal types have negatives. For instance, they can be challenging to carry on a conversation with at times! But, I actually found one of the negative traits about me quite humorous. My test results say that “when excited, fatigued, or stressed, you may find yourself prone to exaggeration.” NO WAY! I NEVER exaggerate. The very idea of this stresses me out!

O.K., so I didn’t really learn a LOT about myself from this test. No wait, I did. What I learned is that I do know myself pretty well. I guess after 53 years of living with me, I’ve learned a little something. Now I just have to trust what I know and, as they say, accentuate the positive.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Breathtaking Moment

Let me start this post by first saying that I'm not a big fan of winter in Minnesota. I'm not all that fond of summer either but I do love the fall and the spring. So basically, that gives me about three months of happiness with the weather each year. Mind you, I'm happy most of the time, but the weather doesn't really contribute to my state of happiness.

If you live in Minnesota, you most likely woke up this morning to find a little of the white stuff covering your lawn and maybe a bit in the trees. It's a sign of things to come and even though I'm not a fan of winter, I still do enjoy the first snowfall.

There is a quote that says "Life isn't about the number of breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away." This morning, I had one such moment. In the midst of a normal morning, I was on my way to the workout center and I drove to the bottom of my street and turned towards downtown Cannon Falls. (Downtown Cannon Falls, by the way, is approximately three blocks long and is about a half block away after I turn my corner.) As I turned the corner and looked out at the hillside to my north I literally gasped at the beauty of the evergreens perfectly flocked in a delicate layer of snow. I don't think I've ever even noticed the trees being there before. It was simply stunning, at least for me in that moment.

I love those breathtaking moments, especially when I am able to see them amidst the ordinariness of my everyday life. God is so amazing in the ways He blesses my days. I love that!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Live the Dream

It’s been a busy week and I haven’t had time to blog, but I didn’t want to leave you thinking that toilet seat covers and fleur de lis were all I learned about on my trip last weekend. The conference I attended was called “Live the Dream.” There were some great speakers, and they all had something to say about living our dreams.

April Simons reminded us that God is our biggest cheerleader and wants us to see our dreams fulfilled. Who doesn’t need a cheerleader? She also reminded us that if God calls us to do something, even though it may seem impossible to us, He will equip us to do whatever it is He’s asking us to do.

DeLynn Rizzo encouraged us to protect our dream by giving it to God. If the enemy can destroy your dream, he can destroy your destiny. I really appreciated this advice. I’m currently working on my own God dream and while what I’m doing excites me, I have to rely on God EVERY day to keep me from getting discouraged.

Christine Caine told us to be prepared. Though we all have dreams of what we’d like to do, our main purpose is to be ready to do whatever God calls us to. I may have big dreams but I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that first of all, it’ll take God to pull them off, and secondly, if I don’t end up where I think I’m going, I’ll end up somewhere way better because ultimately God is in control.

Probably my favorite speaker of the weekend was Dino Rizzo, pastor of Healing Place Church (where the conference was held.) Dino talked about how women fill a role in God’s creation that nothing else fills. He reminded us that what is important is not our station in life, size, hair color, age, etc. but that God has a plan for each of us. I have spent a lot of time thinking I can’t do something because I’m too old, too heavy, not pretty enough or I don’t have the right connections to get something done. Well, no more. I am moving forward in what God has planned for me and I know that whatever that is will be way more than I could possibly imagine.

I am grateful that God not only allows me to dream but provides the path for me to follow to pursue the dreams He has put in my heart.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Things I learned in Louisiana

I just returned home from a women’s conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I was doubly excited about this trip because in addition to getting to hear some great speakers, I knew I’d also get to see a part of the country that I’ve never been to before. Of course, before I left some of my friends felt obligated to tell me about the giant spiders and cock roaches that flourish in the southern humidity. Thankfully, I didn’t see any creepy crawly creatures. But, there were a couple of things I noticed that you might find intriguing if you’ve never been to that part of this great land.

When I first get off of a plane I immediately look for the closest women’s room. Not because they fascinate me so much but because you never know when the next one will avail itself to you. I was a Girl Scout. I like to “be prepared.” Anyway, the New Orleans airport has a most interesting contraption in their restrooms. The seats of the toilets are covered in plastic. When I first saw it I thought, “Hmmm…that toilet must be out of order,” so I proceeded to the next stall, only to find the same situation. Once I gave a brief glance at the directions I realized that, at the wave of your hand, this plastic cover is designed to rotate around the toilet seat to provide an always fresh and sanitary spot for you to sit, thereby eliminating the need to fight with the tissue paper covers which have become a treasured part of every woman’s public restroom experience. I must admit, I was a bit skeptical at first. How did I know for sure that this plastic was not just circling its way around and around the seat, never really producing a clean product? Before leaving today I had the opportunity to read the ad in the stall describing how it all works. It’s complicated to explain but try to picture a spool of plastic with the open end wrapped over the back left side of the toilet seat, pulled around the seat to the right side and threaded onto another spool which will eventually become the throw away section when the clean side is empty. Kind of cool, but I think it’ll take a little getting used to. It’s these little things in life that fascinate me and provide me with ways to keep you totally guessing what I will possibly write about next on this blog. I’m just so sorry I forgot to take a picture for you!

The other thing that I found interesting in Louisiana was the number of Fleur-de-lis I saw. They reminded me very much of the Boy Scout symbol so I was kind of confused to find them everywhere. I saw them on bumper stickers forming the letter I in the word “faith,” I saw them on car windows, on necklaces, in boutiques, everywhere. Finally, when I saw it on a necklace of one of the conference hosts I just had to ask about its significance and why I was seeing these things all over the city. Here is where my lack of knowledge regarding the area becomes VERY apparent. While I knew that New Orleans had a French quarter, I hadn’t really considered the fact that it’s because a lot of French people live there. Apparently, the Fleur-de-lis symbol is big for the French and, for most Christians (at least the French ones), it represents the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then, after Hurricane Katrina it became a symbol for all of Louisiana that New Orleans would be restored. Well, the people of Louisiana have one thing straight. It will require the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to restore not just the people of New Orleans, but people all over the world.

The things I learned from the conference I will save for another day. It’s probably more interesting than the toilet covers and the Fleur-de-lis, and certainly more inspiring.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Nurture

I believe it was back in June that I promised my blog readers a review of the book Nurture, by Lisa Bevere. Thanks to a “weather related detour” on my flight home from Boston last month, I was finally able to finish the book. I spent most of the flight reading and the extra 15 minutes of flight time was the exact amount of time that I needed to get it done. I was probably the only one on the plane excited about the delay.

I was feeling rather sheepish about taking over four months to finish a book but as I sat on the plane reading it I realized that the message at the end of the book was PRECISELY what I needed to hear at this point in my life right now. I love the way God works those things out.

My opinion is that Nurture is a great book. It isn’t an easy read, or at least it wasn’t for me. Perhaps it’s because it’s packed full of lots of nuggets of information to think about and really shouldn’t be rushed through. Actually four months isn’t really a long period of time for me to get through what I refer to as a “Christian Living” book. Some of them I never finish.

So, what makes this book good and worth reading to the end? It’s Lisa’s encouragement for women to nurture each other. I couldn’t possibly tell you about EVERYTHING in the book but I think the dedication at the beginning of the book pretty much sums up the flavor of the book. Here are the words from the dedication page. “This book is dedicated to every woman, regardless of age, who longs to make her connection with other women and touch the world she lives in but does not know how. You, beautiful one, are an answer, not a problem and we need both you and your contribution. May these words help facilitate what you need to begin to see your life enlarged on every level. May the God-gifted treasure within you flourish as you find your voice and place as one among the many women who even now watch for you.”

So, if the dedication has piqued your interest then I suggest you go buy Nurture, and a highlighter, and get busy reading. Whether it takes you four weeks, four months or four years, I believe that God might just have a nugget of information for you, too.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Too old? - Nonsense!

I spent the last two days at the Women of Faith Conference. You know how some women go to a conference and they tell you it was a life changing event? I wish I could say that there is always something HUGE that changes in my life when I go to a Women of Faith event, but there isn’t. But every year there are a bunch of little things that renew and build my faith. This weekend was no exception. In fact, I’d even say it was the best Women of Faith event to which I’ve EVER been. No big moment, just a whole bunch of little ones.

There were a ton of great stories this year, including an amazing testimony from Mandissa, former American Idol contestant. Boy, can that girl sing!

But, the story that really touched me, actually occurred at the pre-conference. Jan Silvious, author and speaker, told a story about her mom. Jan’s mom was a very active senior until the day she fell and broke her hip. The doctors were not able to fix the break and Jan’s mom spent the rest of her life confined to her bed and a nearby chair. BUT, she lived in an assisted living apartment (though she preferred to call it a retirement apartment) and every Tuesday, this 87 year-old woman put on a nice top, her make-up and a lap robe, and was wheeled out into the lobby of the care facility. There she taught a Bible Study for the others in her building! I LOVE THAT! Most of the women who attended her study were quite hard of hearing, and probably couldn’t see much either, but they came to talk about Jesus. That is just so cool!

Why do I love this story? A few years ago I sat with a very depressed woman who told me that she was sure that God was done using her for the purpose for which she’d been born. This woman was in her 40’s! Are you kidding me? I don’t think I’ll ever forget that conversation. I assured my friend that God had SO much more for her and when He was done using her, THEN he’d take her home. Jan’s mom is proof of that.

I think I also love this story because, well let’s face it, I’m not in the beginning years of my life, and though people would probably say I’m middle aged, I’m fairly certain that I’m not going to live to be 106 (you do the math.) Despite that I believe that God has some amazing things planned for me. It’s easy for me to talk myself out of pursuing the course that I believe He has me on because I think I’m too old. Almost every day I can slip into the “what am I thinking?” mode, and I have to stop myself and remember that God will equip me for everything He’s called me to do, regardless of my age.

In the same morning session of the Women of Faith Pre-Conference, Pasty Clairmont said this, “As long as there is breath in your body, God still longs to show you one more thing.”

So, can I say that my time at Women of Faith was life-changing? No. But, I can say, without a doubt, it was faith building and exactly what I needed for today.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Don't Miss It!

Every Wednesday morning I go to Faribault for Mom’s group. To get from my house to Faribault I basically have to drive through the countryside. Though I may feel differently about this drive in the dead of winter, it has, so far, been an enjoyable part of my Wednesday mornings. Last week the thing I noticed most were the “amber waves of grain.” Seriously, they were really amber and it was some sort of grain (what, I can’t quite say.) I couldn’t help myself, I broke out singing “America the Beautiful.” I dare say you might have joined in had you been with me. Or not. I have an odd tendency to break out in whatever song I feel fits the current circumstances, which can, at times, be quite inappropriate. I’ll be great when I’m old. They’ll probably have to muzzle me in the nursing home.

This week, the grain was past the amber stage and had moved more into what appeared to be the dead stage, but the trees, oh my! They were unbelievable. I drove along thinking, “God, you are one amazing artist!” The oranges, reds, and yellows, amidst the dark greens were stunning! I know you’re probably thinking, “Uh Nancy, the trees do this every year,” and of course, I know they do, but seriously, it’s easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention. Every year God puts on this amazing art show for us and we start to take it for granted. Plus, if you think about it, the "pretty" part of fall lasts MAYBE a month, which when totaled up is only about 6.5 years of our lives. That is less time than the average American spends watching television in their lifetime!

My point is - don’t miss it! Here in southern Minnesota we are just hitting the peak season. Go out, enjoy it! If you live in the city, take a drive out in the country and enjoy the amazing beauty of God’s handiwork.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Encounter with a Fence

I heard a man speak a few years ago and tell the story about when his wife backed their BMW out of the garage with the passenger door still open. This little mistake on her part caused some major damage to their BMW, as you might expect. When she called her husband to tell him what had happened he told her to call the insurance agency and file a claim. She said, “Well, aren’t you mad at me?” to which he responded, “Did you do it on purpose?” Of course, she said no and his response was, “well then why would I be mad at you, it was an accident.” Last Saturday evening I suddenly found myself wishing I was married to that man. Not really, but I did have a bit of a blonde moment.

I was at a retreat at Lake Geneva Christian Center in Alexandria. As part of the retreat team I was helping with clean up at end of the weekend. One of the things that needed to be done was a bunch of tablecloths needed to be hauled from the worship center to a building on the other side of the road. The plan was that we’d load them into my car, along with a couple of other things, and then I’d drop them off at the building on my way out of town.

Between the road through the camp and the worship center there are two very wide sidewalks, and a grassy area surrounded by a wooden fence. These sidewalks are wide enough for a Suburban to drive up. I know, because there was already a Suburban parked by the worship center doors. In general, however, these sidewalks are only used for walking, or perhaps a golf cart. But, since I knew the Suburban would fit between the fences and up the sidewalk, I decided that driving my little mini-van up the sidewalk would be the simplest way to get the tablecloths into the car. If you’ve never hauled commercial tablecloths before, let me tell you, they are quite heavy, so my goal was to save steps on my already blistered feet.

Clearly, I underestimated the amount of space my car would need to make the turn onto the sidewalk and before I knew it I heard a horrible crunching sound coming from the right side of my van. To make matters worse, my van was now stuck and wouldn’t move forward or backward without resistance. There was only one person around who saw the whole thing. It was one of the young girls who worked in the retreat center cafeteria. She is clearly committed to the well being of the retreat center because her first words to me were “Don’t worry, you’re fine. The fence is still standing.” Gee, thanks. That was the first thing on my mind. I didn’t really find the humor in that statement until about three hours later and once I did, I couldn’t stop laughing.

In retrospect, it would have been better to call John and tell him about the accident while the tears were flowing, instead of waiting until after my severe case of the giggles started. The news might have been better received were it not punctuated with bursts of laughter. It’s not that he yelled at me or anything, it’s just that he didn’t quite catch the ACCIDENT part of the whole situation right away.

The morning following the accident John read a story in the paper about a woman who burst into tears when her kids accidently broke her treasured tea cup. The kids were stunned to see their mother crying and her daughter finally asked, “Do you love the teacup more than you love us? That stopped the mother’s crying as she assured her kids that they were way more valuable to her than a tea cup. John made me read the story and then looked at me and told me that he loved me more than the van. I knew that all along but it was nice to hear. In the end, it’s just stuff. I think God allows accidents into our lives sometimes to remind us of that truth. Our “stuff” is never more important than the people in our lives and certainly not more important than our relationship with Him. It’s good to have a husband who recognizes that truth . . . . eventually.
How is it that one little fence post can do so much damage?

The worst part of the damage was behind the sliding door. I think that's why it was so solidly stuck in place. I did, by the way, manage to get it unstuck. I figured any more damage wouldn't really make a difference so I just gave it a little more gas and it moved. In a few weeks, it'll all be a distant memory.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Finding More Than the Kennedys

I’ve been home from my trip out east for a week now but I have one last picture (o.k., maybe three) to share with you. I meant to post this WAY earlier but you know, life has been busy, blah, blah, blah.

On our way back to Boston last Tuesday we decided we still needed to see Hyannis Port, site of the Kennedy compound. It was basically on the way to the airport if you didn’t mind an extra mile or fifteen. Of course, finding the Kennedy compound is much like searching for a stealth bomber. It seems to be totally invisible to the naked eye. We did come upon a road that clearly stated that we should not enter it, which sometimes doesn’t deter me, but since there was mention of surveillance cameras I decided it would be in my best interest to turn around. Though I doubt this was the Kennedy compound, I like to pretend that I was very, very close. Why, I don’t know.
What we did find, and were able to view, was the JFK Memorial garden. It was a beautiful site overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and best of all, it was free to visit, which was good because we were out of money at this point.
Right next to the JFK memorial was a Korean War Veteran’s Memorial. That too, was a beautifully crafted memorial. As I approached this Memorial I found a man sitting on a stool leaning over working on the brick sidewalk. Many of the bricks had names engraved in them and I figured he might be replacing a brick or adding a name. As I approached him I asked him if he was adding a brick (I’d been behind him up until this point so I wasn’t just being dense.) He told me no, he was just cleaning out the grass between the bricks. I was somehow sure this wasn’t a paid position and inquired if he was just volunteering his time. His answer gripped my heart. He informed me that yes he was volunteering his time because he’d served in the Korean War with some of the guys for which the Memorial had been erected. For a few minutes I was choking back tears that I couldn’t quite explain. Here was a man spending his day “taking care of his friends” who had long since left this earth. What a testimony to his respect for his fellow soldier.
Once I knew it would be safe for me to attempt to utter a word without fear of having to stop midstream to hold back the tears, I simply thanked the man for serving our country. I took his picture as a reminder of the sacrifice he made in a war fought before I was ever born. I know nothing more of this man other than the obvious fact that he has a servant’s heart. One which blessed my day.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Most Unusual Sound

My friend, Debbie, and I are staying on the bay side of Cape Cod. It is unbelievably beautiful. It's exactly as you would expect the Cape to look, but with more trees. But, what has been most interesting to me is the sound that the water makes when the tide is going out. When I first heard it I just couldn't figure out how to describe it. The best description that I could come up with is a sort of sucking sound. It's almost like the sound you would expect if you could record the ocean and then spin the record (the old black vinyl kind) in reverse, much like they used to do with the Beetle records.
I don't know why but I just love this little fence along the sand. Perhaps it's because it reminds me of the picture on the website for the place we are staying.
When the tide is out you can always find people out on "the flats." It's fun to walk out there, but seriously, there's not a lot to see. The most fun part of it is hearing how annoyed the seagulls get when you walk near them. I'm sure they'd be more excited to see me if I were carrying food for them but since I'm not, they just squawk to let me know that I'm in their space.

You can't beat a view like this.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Pilgrims Landed Where?

Driving from Boston to Cape Cod took us right past Plymouth, where the famous Plymouth Rock stands. Plymouth Rock is supposedly where the pilgrims, who came over on the Mayflower, first stepped foot in the New Land. Of course, the rock has been moved a couple of times, dropped at least once, and is now a little bitty boulder by comparison to what it once was. And, according to some people, the pilgrims really landed in Provincetown, which is across the bay from Plymouth.
I had been warned not to bother stopping as it is, after all, just a rock, but it was lunchtime and we were there so why not take a peek? It seems we picked a bad time. At some point in time a portico was built over and around the rock, I believe to protect what is left of it, and the government picked this summer to do repair work on it. So, our view of Plymouth Rock was through a piece of plastic, with scaffolding all around it. Wouldn't you know? I actually think our view was more fun. At least it was more unique.

Plymouth Rock through plastic. Still more fun that High School history!

This is the line of people waiting to view Plymouth Rock. Once people saw it they just walked away shaking their heads saying, "you don't want to miss that."

A replica of the Mayflower given as a gift to the US from England in the 1950's. This is NOT a Holland America Cruise ship!

I would have made a lousy pilgrim. They say there were over 100 people on this ship. I think it's smaller than the combination of my living and dining room. Granted I have a rather larger living and dining room but I've had, at one time, about 50 people in there and we could hardly move! How bad must your life be to sign on for this trip? Yet, there were people of all ages and genders, two women gave birth, and many were sick and dying. You wouldn't have had to throw me overboard. I would have willingly jumped!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Way better than High School history class

My friend, Debbie, and I decided to cash in some frequent flyer miles to take a trip to Cape Cod. Being as this is our first time to the northeast we decided that we should see some of the historic sites of Boston while we are here. We arrived on Tuesday afternoon and decided a trip to Harvard would be the perfect thing to do until our luggage decided to join us on our adventure. We headed out using the amazingly well organized Boston subway system called the “T”. We had to ask several people for directions along the way but everyone was really nice and very helpful. Wait, haven’t I always heard about how rude people are on the east coast? There goes another stereotype out the window.
I can't explain why, but it was just very fun to see the Harvard campus. I have to say that I was a tad bit disappointed. Aren't the buildings supposed to be covered in ivy? Or is that Yale? We only found one side of one building covered with ivy. What's up with that? But, otherwise it looked just as I thought it would. One of the buildings was built in the 1600's. That is just impossible to fathom!
Inside the gates of Harvard. Look at all those smart people milling about.
We were a tad bit disappointed that the banners were falling down but this is the building that just said "Harvard" to me. The ivy covered walls are on the other side of this building, which I believe was originally the chapel, and still has services on Sundays.
Three hours after our return to our hotel, and three phone calls to NWA finally produced a reunion with our luggage. The bell hop who brought our luggage to our room was quite amused to find out he was now my new best friend.
Wednesday was our day to review our high school history lessons and tour the city of Boston. Somehow history takes on a new meaning when you are standing in the spot it happened. Of course, being over 50 might play a part in my new found interest, but whatever, it's pretty remarkable to be in the location where so much happened and the fact that there won't be a test at the end of the trip makes it all the better.
Old North Church, is the oldest church in Boston, built in 1723. It is most famous for the signals sent from it's steeple (one if by land, two if by sea) the night of Paul Revere's legendary ride.
This cracked me up and made me sad at the same time. Every family had it's own pew box. The wealthier you were, the closer to the front you got to sit. The poor and the black sat in the balcony. That kind of discrimination must grieve the heart of God. The part that cracked me up was the individual pews. It's one way to contain the children I suppose but how do you ever get to "bond" with the other members. Of course, you wouldn't want to skip church because then everyone, including the pastor, would KNOW you were missing. This church still holds Sunday worship services.
The Old North Church was primarily used by the British who occupied the Colony. This, the New North Church, now St. Stephens, was the church used by the colonists. It also happens to be the church where Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy was baptized in 1890.

The Boston Public Garden swan boats. Yes, we rode them. I think we were the only ones on the boats without children. We were getting tired by this time and figured this would give us a chance to sit for awhile. I sort of thought that our boat driver would tell us a few things along the way, but no, he just pedaled.

This may sound strange, but before leaving home I prayed that God would orchestrate our days. Knowing that we would have a limited amount of time, and hoping to spend a limited amount of money, I just wanted to get the most "bang for my buck," if you will, out of our trip. While there were moments today when I was wishing that God hadn't orchestrated quite so much walking in our day, I just found it very cool that we happened along this sign on our way back to the tour trolley. I considered staying and witnessing to the people who passed by, thinking that perhaps there would some day be another plaque here saying one of them came to know Christ at this location and they'd be a famous evangelist, but there really wasn't anyone around and there was still a lot to see.

This is actually the back view of the Old State House. On the other side is a balcony where the Declaration of Independence was first read to the public. Every year on the Independence day it is read at this site. Wouldn't that be cool to witness?

Brownstone apartments. A view from the 50th floor of Prudential Tower.


While this view of the Leonard P. Zakim-Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge doesn't really show you how it spans the Charles River, it was still my best shot of the bridge. This bridge, opened in 2003, is the widest cable-stayed bridge in the world and boasts a total of 10 lanes for traffic. It's an amazing structure.

Thursday we head to Cape Cod. We'll see if I can tackle the Boston traffic and make our way there without getting lost. Hopefully I'll have more pictures for you later in the week.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pay to Weigh?

John and I spent the weekend in St. Cloud. He spent most of Friday and Saturday learning more stuff about eyes. I spent most of the weekend loafing around in the hotel room. It was wonderful, at least for me.

On our way out of town today we stopped at a truck stop just before getting on the freeway. While John put gas in the van I used the restroom. I know, that may border on too much information, but it’s the restroom part that was funny. Inside the restroom there is a HUGE scale. Seriously, do people really need to weigh themselves in a public restroom? It gets better. On the scale it said “highly accurate weight measurement.” Are you kidding me? They want me to pay 25¢ for a “highly accurate measurement?” I’d be more likely to pay 25¢ if the scale had advertised, “Guaranteed to boost your self-image. This scale weighs on the light side.”

In all fairness, this scale doesn’t just weigh you, it also promises a daily message. Perhaps if the message said “you are the most beautiful woman in the world,” I would be interested in parting with my money, but my guess is that it would, more likely, give me diet tips. The last thing I want to invest in is a sassy scale.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know

This blog marks my 100th blog. Who knew I had so much to say? (Those of you with your hands up can put them down now.) I once read that on your 100th blog you are supposed to write 100 things about yourself. Seriously, no one needs that information about me. But, my friend, Kim, recently posted what she referred to as Meme on her blog so I thought I’d follow suit.

So, here’s what I want you to do. I know there are some of you out there lurking, reading my blog and never commenting. Let me know a little about yourself by leaving a comment. Either pick one category and tell me your five favorite things in that category, or share one thing from every category.

It’s not hard to comment, just click at the bottom of this post where is says comment. Write your list in the box, fill in the word verification with the crazy letters written above that square, then either fill in your Google account information, or click on name or anonymous. Then click “publish your comment.” I’m sure these directions are redundant for many of you blog readers but it can be tricky for newbies.

Here are some of my five favs!

5 things under $5.00 that I couldn't live without
(seriously, I could LIVE without them, I just wouldn’t want to.)
Orange Tic Tacs - in fact, I believe I’ll go have some right now
Dasani water
Hershey Bar
Soap – seriously, no one should live without soap
Deodorant – so glad I don’t live in Europe

5 favorite movies
Return to Me - great music, great story
Sound of Music (- can’t get enough of that cute little Gretel
The Bee Movie - it just cracks me up
You’ve Got Mail - ah, the chemistry
Mama Mia - weak plot, great music

5 favorite baby names I love
(haven’t really considered this for years! Some of these were ones we considered and didn’t use – boys just shouldn’t be named Karen)
David
Joel
Karen
Elizabeth
Lauren

5 songs I love
Today is the Day - Lincoln Brewster
The Stand – Hillsong United
Bring the Rain – Mercy Me
Orphans of God – Avalon
I Will Lift My Eyes – Bebo Norman

5 life changing moments
The day I got married
The day I gave birth to Paul
The day I gave birth to Adam
The day I gave birth to Scott
The day I took the Strengths Finder test

5 current obsessions
Chocolate – this is NOT a new one
Shoes that look cute and actually feel good, too
Clothes
Good books
Writing

5 places I want to go
(there are really more than five but if I have to decide)
Swiss Alps
Vermont in the fall
Cruise of South America/Antarctica - this is really more than one place, but it’s just one trip and would allow me to say I’ve stepped foot on every continent.
Washington DC
New York City

5 appliances or kitchen tools I could not live without
Washer
Dryer
Dishwasher
Oven
Sharp Knives

Friday, September 5, 2008

Building my Faith

I've been in a bit of a funk lately. I'm not particularly fond of "funky" times, but they do happen and I try to just ride them out. A funny thing about times like this is that I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that getting into my Bible, and immersing myself in God's word, will be the best thing for me and, at the same time, it's the hardest thing in the world for me to do. Why is that? It's like knowing, when you are sick, that if you take some really yummy tasting medicine you'll get better and being too lazy to get out of bed to take it.

Thankfully, God has alternate plans for lazy people such as myself. Yesterday, God lovingly sent two people my way to encourage my faith. This all happened in the grocery store parking lot of our small town. This, by the way, is the same grocery store that I've whined about many times in my blog. It's the only one in town.

The first person God sent my way was a friend who recently lost his eye to cancer. I know, you are wondering how in the world this encouraged me. Keep reading, I'm not there yet. My friend shared with me the incredible love that filled him as he awoke from surgery. He knew that it was because of the prayers of so many people. He'd been told by his doctor that the procedure for the removal was really quite simple, medically speaking, but terribly challenging for the patient emotionally. I can imagine! Yet my friend stood there, just a week after surgery, totally in love with Jesus, knowing that God would use all of this for His glory. God had orchestrated so many things surrounding his diagnosis and treatment that continually reminded my friend of Christ's love for him. I know God will use his story, he already has. Oh, and the really cool part, my friend had a full body scan to determine if there were any other areas of cancer. They found a spot on his liver. This caused a bit of discouragement and worry, but also a lot of prayer. He was quickly sent to whoever it is that specializes in this type of cancer, another scan was run, and the spot was nowhere to be seen. There is no doubt in my mind, or his, that this was a miracle of God.

As we stood there talking, a former neighbor came over to talk with us. Well, truth be told, he came to talk to my friend, but I'm sure he was thrilled to talk to me, too. Anyway, this man's grandson lost his leg in Iraq, or maybe it was Afghanistan, but you know, somewhere over there. Again, this doesn't seem like a faith building story, until you hear about the young man's response. Two things struck me while hearing it. One was the fact that the Marines had just recently started using a new type of transportation in the war. I can't tell you what they are called but they are being used instead of Humvees. Apparently, this young man's unit was hit during an attack by the Taliban and their vehicle sustained immense damage, causing the loss of this young man's leg below his knee. Had they not been driving this new type of vehicle, they would have all lost their lives.

The second thing that I heard was even more amazing. This young soldier called his mother from the hospital shortly after losing his leg. He said, "I know that everything happens for a reason and I'm glad to be alive." What an amazing attitude!

So, even funks happen for a reason. A little attitude adjustment, and some time in God's word, are definitely in order. I have much for which to be thankful, and a loving God to remind me when I forget.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pop or Soda?

As a Minnesota transplant I’ve noticed a number of terms here that we just simply didn’t use in southern California when I was growing up. If you live in Minnesota you’ll be able to guess some of the more obvious ones like “you bet” or “oof da”, which seems to be losing its popularity amongst the younger crowd, but you get the point. Then, there are the pronunciation differences in words like “roof”. When most Minnesotans say roof it sounds more like the sound a dog makes when it barks than with the long “o” sound that you’d hear in words like choo-choo train. I will admit to having changed my vernacular over the years so that now I have this sort of half Minnesotan/half west coast kind of accent that baffles the best of linguists.

I don’t know when it was that I actually started calling soft drinks pop, but it’s been the term I’ve used for many years now. So much so, that when I visit other parts of the country I’m not really sure what to call it in order to get my point across. If I say, “what kinds of pop do you have?” in the south, I’m afraid they’ll ramble off the different types of guns they sell!

Someone, who apparently feels that what people call soft drinks is a vital issue, actually did a study on it and determined the terms used all over the country. This map has details from each county throughout the United States and how the people in those counties refer to soft drinks.

Click here to see a larger version. The people in Alaska and Nevada seem to have differing opinions throughout the states. How do they manage? Is there a potential for soft drink wars in those states?

The thing that cracks me up the most is the number of states that refer to all soft drinks as Coke. I’m sure the Coca-Cola people are happy, but isn’t that confusing? “Would you like a Coke?” “Sure, bring me a Dr. Pepper.” I’m going to the East Coast next month. Out there it's soda - besides practicing a Bostonian accent (like I could ever pull that off), I’ll have to remember to call it soda. Maybe I’ll just drink water.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Baptism

Our church practices what’s known as “believer’s baptism” and every year at our annual church picnic a number of people are baptized. This year, John decided to be one of them. He grew up in the Catholic tradition and was therefore baptized as an infant. I grew up Methodist, so was also baptized as an infant, but did a believer’s baptism at a Baptist church I attended in high school. (It’s not that we’re church hoppers, it’s just that God has taken us through many paths on our way to the one we are currently traveling.)

I was excited for him but I really didn’t think I’d be so emotional. Pastor Anthony told me afterwards that he thought they’d have to come down and help me, but I made it through. Before each baptism the pastors spend some time talking to the person who is going to be baptized. I’ve always wondered what it is they talk about. Is it deeply spiritual, are they just telling them to plug their noses, what? So, I asked John what it was they were saying. No kidding, this is what he told me. “I told them that I’d always planned to be baptized by Billy Graham in the Jordan River but I finally decided that wasn’t going to happen.” Where does he come up with this stuff?

In addition to the baptism, the whole picnic was a blast. Great food, perfect weather, and I got to hang out with some of my most favorite people in the world.


John is apparently cracking jokes with the pastors before his baptism.

All smiles with Pastor Anthony Richards and Pastor Justin Mack.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Diving

I spent part of tonight watching some Olympic diving. I love the diving but I seriously have to wonder who comes up with this stuff. Did someone just say one day, “why don’t we put a platform 10 meters above the pool, tell some unknowing fool to do a handstand, then push himself out, twist around a couple times and land in the water with perfect form?” I can tell you what would happen if I tried to do a handstand on a platform 10 meters above the water (or anywhere really). I’d either fall off, hit my head and land comatose in the water, OR I’d land flat on my back on the platform and would be forced to lay there, cameras focused on my contorted face, as I waited for the paramedics to arrive.

When I was in high school I was on the swim team – junior varsity. In other words, I wasn’t a star swimmer, but they let me try. I must admit my favorite part of being on swim team was getting to have a chunk of a giant Hershey bar before the meets. Apparently, the sugar in the bar was to give us extra energy. Whatever - just pass the chocolate!

At one point, I decided that the divers were super cool and looked so graceful going into the water. I should be a diver. I talked to our swim coach and she agreed to let me try it out. It looked so easy. Of course, I would start on the low board. I’m not sure how many dives I actually did, but I clearly remember when Mrs. Warren, my coach, told me to go on the board, turn around, jump backwards, then dive forward into the pool. I got on the board, turned around to face backwards, and considered the idea of jumping backwards and then heading back TOWARDS the board. After several moments of standing there doing nothing, I looked at Mrs. Warren and said, “You know, I don’t think I really want to be a diver after all.” I think she was relieved.

Sure, I may have given up being super cool, or winning an Olympic Gold, but at least I don’t have a huge scar across my forehead. Besides, if I ever won a gold medal, I’d be the one standing on the podium bawling. My face would be red and scrunched up, snot would be running out my nose, and any semblance of super coolness that I might have acquired through the years would be totally lost. I think I made the right decision.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Alum or Paprika?

Though I had some plans for this afternoon, they ended up being cancelled. That left me with the dilemma of what to do with all my free time.

I decided there are a few things in my house that need some organization. O.K., that is a humongous understatement. There are great quantities of organizational projects staring me in the face. I decided to pick the one that was bugging me the most. While this narrowed down my options, it still left me choosing between my bedroom closet and my spice cupboard. I know it sounds strange, but I can spin that stupid lazy Susan around five times looking for the desired spice. Since I don’t much like cooking anyway, the “spinning time” only added to my frustration. So, armed with some new “spice information,” I tackled the cupboard.

First of all, let me share with you my “spice information.” The McCormick Company says that ANY spice of theirs that is in a tin (other than black pepper) OR was packaged in Baltimore, MD is at least 15 years old. The life expectancy of ground spices stored in a cool, dry place is 2 – 3 years and, for leafy herbs it’s only 1 – 3 years, depending on the herb. That information eliminated the alum and paprika from my cupboard right off the bat. I wasn’t so surprised to have unused alum because, seriously, what do you use that for? According to the package, which by the way, is still in pristine condition, it’s used for pickles and relishes. Alrighty then, that explains why I have an entire unused container. Perhaps it was a shower gift when I got married 33 years ago!

Upon taking stock of my spices, I discovered that I had doubles of allspice, bay leaves, dill weed (I actually had three of these), garlic salt, nutmeg, ground mustard, pepper, poppy seeds, crushed red pepper, tarragon leaves, and peppermint extract (which technically isn’t a spice but still, I have two.) I had to throw away a few jars of spices packaged in Baltimore, MD, and then a few that I would clearly never, ever use. Once, I decided on what to keep, I alphabetized them all. This may sound a bit over the top but I had my spices in alphabetical order about 20 years ago and I loved it. Then, my girlfriend, who loves to organize, came for a visit and talked me into putting them in “spice groupings,” such as “Italian spices,” ”pumpkin pie spices,” etc. It sounded like a good idea but I later discovered that this method only works for people who know what goes in each category. I haven’t a clue. When I make spaghetti, I use Ragu. It comes pre-spiced so my Italian spices sit idle.

After the “spice group stage,” I’ve had 18 years of a completely disorganized stage. I know this exact time frame because it happened when we remodeled the kitchen. In my frenzy to get the kitchen items out of my dining room and back into the cupboard I just threw the spices in with a promise to someday alphabetize them again. And today, it finally came! It was WAY more fun to make dinner tonight. I mean, I still prefer to order out, but hey, I found every spice I needed in one spin or less.

It’s still possible that there are spices in my cupboard that are more than say, five or ten years old. Wouldn’t you think they’d label them with an expiration date? It would surely up their sales. Maybe I’ll send McCormick a letter – someday. In the meantime, do you think I could get big money at the antic store for the tins of alum and paprika?



Before organization!


After organization - finally in alphabetical order again.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Olympics are Killing Me

I’m having some issues with the Olympics. I’ve mentioned in my previous blogs that I’m a fan of the games and I hate to miss my favorite sports – Swimming, Gymnastics, and Diving. My issue, however, is that I haven’t been to bed much before 1:00 a.m. for the last week! I’m too old for this! Apparently, I’m not the only one having issues with sleep because on tonight’s Olympic coverage they gave tips for dealing with sleep deprivation. Tips like “tell yourself you only need four hours of sleep” (yeah, that will work), “stay hydrated”, and one of my personal favorites, “wear sunglasses to cover up your red eyes.”

Add to the lack of sleep the stress of the close races, the disappointment of some interesting judging, and it appears that I could be dead if this goes on much longer. Thank goodness there are only six days left! Then, I’ll have time to watch the events I’ve had to record and another four years to rest up.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Super Suits

Tonight, the United States swimming team won the gold medal in the Olympic 400-meter medley relay, making it the 8th gold medal for swimming superstar, Michael Phelps. I have to admit, I was pretty stressed just watching the race from home. I can’t imagine being his mother in the stands. I’m excited for Michael. They are calling him the “best Olympian of all time” and sure, that’s good for him. But more importantly, he dared to dream a big, bodacious dream and he made it. It makes me wonder what the rest of us could do if we really dared to dream.

Another interesting turn in Olympic swimming is the breaking of 20 world records. They say it’s because of these fancy, new Fastskin LZR Racer Swimsuits. Supposedly, they help reduce the drag in the water and make Michael Phelps "feel like a rocket in the water.” That could be, though I do wonder if anyone has actually measured the pool in Beijing to be sure it’s truly 50m long. What I really want to know is if these suits are available for other applications? For instance, could there be a super suit for cooking, laundry, and cleaning that would allow you to get all those jobs done in record time? I want one of those.

I heard a funny story today about former Olympian Mark Spitz who won seven gold medals back in 1972 while I was busy wondering if he was too old for me. He had (as any middle age woman knows) a mustache back then, which is unusual for any competitive swimmer. The Russian coach asked him about why he had a mustache and wouldn’t that slow him down? He admits to feeling a little impish that day and told the coach that the mustache allowed the water to deflect away from his mouth, helped raise his rear end, and made him bullet shaped in the water. Even though he’d intended to shave it off before competition, he kept it and won the seven medals. The next year all of the Russian swimmers had mustaches. Spitz’s iconic mustache was apparently the 1972 version of the super suit.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Living your Strengths

Warning – potentially long book review ahead. Actually, it’s a review of two books, maybe that’s why it’s so wordy.

I bought the books Strengths Finder 2.0 and Living Your Strengths for the purpose of figuring out what I’m going to be when I grow up. I think it’s time. I first bought Strengths Finder 2.0 because of someone’s recommendation. Then, I was told that Living Your Strengths was written for people who worked within the church environment, so I bought it. Both books include a code to allow you to go online and take the Clifton Strengths Finder assessment. The basic premise is that we all have innate talents and when we add skill and knowledge to the talents it develops our strengths. So, in fact, what the assessment is really looking for are our inborn talents.

I absolutely loved these books. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous when I went online to take the test. I mean, what if I got all done and it turned out that my real talent was something I hated doing? How horrible would that be? Would I then feel obligated to spend the rest of my life creating spread sheets when I’d really rather write a book? But, I was both relieved and surprised at what I thought was a pretty accurate assessment of my strengths. You’d think it would be possible to make the test say what you wanted it to say but really, it’s not as easy as you might think. I wonder how they come up with this stuff? Figuring that out is not one of my strengths.

There is an age old adage that says “you can be anything you want to be.” It’s true, of course, but a bit misguided. Sometimes that old adage has us thinking that we should work really hard so that we can be the best at something for which we really have no talent. My conclusion from this book is that while we can be anything we want to be, we can be so much more if we learn and develop our strengths. One of the books uses the analogy of the famous Notre Dame football player wanna be, Rudy. Rudy, for those of you who haven’t seen the movie, wanted, more than anything, to play football for Notre Dame, but he really didn't have much talent in that area. Rudy talked the coach into giving him a spot on the football practice team. (You really need to see the movie to get the whole story.) At the end of the movie, Rudy gets to play for five minutes of the last game of his senior year. It’s a great, feel good story. BUT, imagine what Rudy could have done if he’d put the same effort into an area where he had a real talent? Joe Namath, on the other hand, had a great talent for football, put forth an extreme effort, and is now known as being one of the best football players of all time.

Suffice it to say that this book encourages you to develop your innate talents and work in those areas. What a concept! And the best thing about working in the area of your strengths is that it gives you the freedom to quit trying to be someone you were never created to be, and start being the person God created you to be. I would highly encourage everyone to get a copy of this book, read it, take the assessment test, and start living their strengths! God may have some amazing things waiting for you that you have never considered. Or, better yet, you may feel totally affirmed in the areas you are already using your strengths. Whatever you do, don't wait until your over 50 to figure this out!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Not Shocked, but Definitely Dismayed

If you didn't see them, you most definitely have heard by now that the Opening Olympic Ceremony was incredible. I mean, you'd have to be living in a bubble to have missed the talk about them. But tonight, I read an article regarding some lip-syncing going on during the ceremony. This news saddened me, not because I'm so opposed to lip-syncing, but because of the reason the decision to lip-sync was made.

If you saw the ceremonies, you'll remember the adorable little girl with pig-tails singing and smiling her way through "Hymn to the Motherland" as the Chinese flag was brought into the stadium. But, as it turns out, it wasn't her voice we were hearing. Apparently, a contest was held to determine who would sing this particular song, and a little girl named Yang Peiyi was chosen to sing. But, at the last minute, it was determined that she was not pretty enough to sing at the opening ceremony. (Yes, you read that right.) An executive member of the Chinese government decided that Yang did not fit the image they wanted to portray of their country, due to her buck teeth. Mind you, Yang Peiyi is a beautiful little girl, it's just that she is 7 years-old and her brand new teeth don't quite fit into her mouth yet.

I realize that the Chinese government is not known for building self-esteem in their nation's children, but seriously, this is a crime! It makes me wonder if China, and even those of us in the United States, wouldn't be better off, if little girls and boys were encouraged, instead of discouraged. And, can I just say to the Chinese officials, "if perfect teeth, perfect hair and perfect facial features are what brings you pride, perhaps you need to consider pulling some of your athletes out of the competition. Why should the rules be different for the athletes?"

Yang Peiyi, you are beautiful, and you have a dynamite voice. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Freaky!

The Chinese are very big into numbers. Apparently, the number 8 is a good number because the Mandarin word for eight (ba) sounds very similar to the Mandarin word for wealth or prosperity (fa). This is apparently why the Chinese officials chose to start the Olympic opening ceremony at 8:08 p.m. on 8-8-08. And, it seems that some 16,400 marriages in China began on August 8. From what I read, there isn’t actually any kind of a ceremony that day for the couples, it’s just the day that they go to the courthouse, pick up their marriage certificate and “poof” they are married.

Now, on the American side, there was a baby girl born in Fergus Falls, MN on 8-8-08 at 8:08 a.m. weighing in at 8 pounds 8 ounces. What are the odds? And now, for the somewhat freaky part; I posted a blog on August 8 regarding the start of the Olympics. I realized after the fact that it was my 88th blog post. I’m not really into lucky numbers, and I certainly didn’t have the forethought to plan it as my 88th blog, so as I said, I just find the whole thing a bit freaky!

It doesn’t really matter what date it is, I still love the Olympics. My favorites are swimming, diving, and gymnastics so these first few days have been awesome!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

33 years

Today, John and I are celebrating our 33rd wedding anniversary. I’m sure that there are some who placed bets that we wouldn’t make it this long. We are quite opposite, to be sure, but we started this marriage with a promise to see it through to the end, and we aren’t the type to break our promises. The other day, I was talking with a friend and she commented how, after 30 years of marriage, she had finally learned that there is no use trying to change her husband. I don’t think I actually quit trying for 31 years, but I did eventually figure out this important truth. There is no way I’m going to change John. Heaven knows I’ve tried, but you know what? Once I gave up trying, I was a lot happier. I’m sure John was, too. My comment to my friend was, “all those people getting divorced after 25 years of marriage are just giving up too soon. If they could just hold on for five more years, they might make it!”

There is a Bible verse in Titus 2:4 that says “These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children.” It seems, much to my dismay, that I am now one of the older women. This means I need to pass this truth onto the young girls in my life. Quit trying to change your husbands. It’s not going to happen. Learn to appreciate what’s good about them. Or, as my former mentor, Linda, told me, “stop looking at the hole and focus on the donut.” I’m glad I did. I love my man!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Let the Games Begin

I love the Olympics. I’m not sure why. I mean, in general, I’m not a sports fan. But the Olympics seem so much bigger than sports. Tonight I’m watching the opening ceremony. It is nothing short of amazing! What I’ve loved the most is watching the children. I can’t help but be reminded of little Jack that I met in China while visiting in 2006. We were visiting a Chinese, upper class, Kindergarten classroom. Jack, who also had a Chinese name, that I can neither pronounce nor remember, was 3½ at the time. He stole my heart. as I sat by watching him color. He would color for a few minutes, then get a great big smile on his face, look at me, and speak very quickly in Chinese – he could have spoken slowly but, it wouldn’t have helped my understanding. After I affirmed whatever it was he’d just said, Jack would go back to his coloring. As we left the classroom that day I was nearly in tears. I knew I’d never see Jack again. I felt the Lord speak to me as I left and remind me that even though I’d never see Jack again in this world, I could pray for him. And I have. I fully expect to meet up with Jack in heaven someday. I can’t wait to see him.

Jack is on the right side of this picture. How could I not fall in love with this adorable little guy?

As I’m typing this the Olympic athletes are walking into the stadium. The announcer has said that, in the past, 87 of the 204 nations that participate in the Olympics have NEVER won a medal. Tonight is their moment in the sun, and they are well aware of the fact that they most likely will go home before the week is out. But, for this moment, tonight (more correctly, this morning), these Olympic athletes are all together. And, I guess that’s what I like about the Olympics. For a few short days, it seems as though the world is getting along. I know they aren’t, mind you, but it appears that they are, and I love it. I love the pageantry, I love the spirit, and I’m amazed by the hard work put forth by all of the athletes. Their dedication to their sport is nothing short of incredible. Let the games begin!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

First Thursday Fun Fest

There were big things going on in Cannon Falls tonight. First of all, our bank had free brats (the edible type, not the undisciplined children type) and "fixings", so yay, I didn't have to make dinner! Who can pass up that opportunity? Then, the downtown merchants had some sidewalk sales; plus there were bands, artists selling their goods, and a whole plethora of local people. Good times.

As we headed back home, John looked at me and said, "How many votes did you get tonight?" I looked at him quizzically. He tells me I work the crowd like a politician. He's sure I could win if I'd just run for something. Well maybe, until they all figure out I know nothing about politics, and that, in fact, my brain starts to misfire when the subject comes up.

The local police had a booth at this shindig. They passed out a list of things that I should have packed in a backpack in case of emergency. They call it the grab and go bag. It should include, in addition to the normal emergency items, a set of comfortable clothes, a lightweight blanket, an extra pair of shoes and a minimum of a gallon of drinking water. Oh, and a good book, playing cards and crossword puzzles. What I want to know, first of all, is where do I buy a back pack large enough for all of these items (the list is quite extensive), and secondly, who is going to carry it for me in the said emergency? I mean seriously, it's going to weigh over 50 pounds by the time I get it packed. And, what if by the time the emergency comes the clothes are too big, or worse yet, too small? Everyone in the family is supposed to have one and we are supposed to keep it by our beds. Are you kidding me? I'm supposed to keep a 50 pound back pack next to my bed where I can trip on it in the middle of the night? And then, I'm supposed to remember to grab said back pack should I need to evacuate quickly in the event of a fire? Wouldn't it make more sense to just put a wallet next to my bed and stick a couple hundred dollars in it to buy this stuff with once the emergency happens? In the event of a global emergency, I can't really imagine that my one gallon of water is going to make a difference between life and death. Who comes up with this stuff?