Dec 4, 2011

Dear Kids 5

Dear Kids,

Send the "Hoarding..." film crew home and bring me all the empty hangers from your closet.

Love,

Mom

Nov 25, 2011

Dear Kids 4

"Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for." - Epicurus

Nov 24, 2011

1000 Avocados

I read this story online. I am not the author, but wanted to share it with you.

1000 Avocados

A plantation owner, somewhat foolishly accustomed to bartering with God, prayed for a good harvest. He pleaded thusly: "Dear God, if You would please bring me a great avocado harvest, as a service I will give You 1,000 avocados from the harvest."
God granted him a great harvest.

Thus, the plantation owner loaded up a thousand avocados in his wagon and had his foreman deliver them to the temple. Along the way, the foreman was pestered by two little beggar boys who pleaded for an avocado to ward off their hunger. "Shoo, shoo, go away," said the foreman, knowing that the plantation owner had loaded exactly 1,000 avocados.


The hungry little boys ran alongside the wagon and continued to beg. Finally, the hired hand relented and gave each of them an avocado. He thought to himself, who would count all these avocados and know that two are missing from a thousand?


But the plantation owner had warned the chief overseer of the temple to count the avocados to make sure that the foreman had not sold some along the way. He found out that two were missing and had been given to beggars and the plantation owner fired the foreman. That night the plantation owner had a dream. In his dream, God came to him and said, I have granted your prayer for a great harvest, but you have not kept your agreement.


The plantation owner pleaded his case, But God, I took the avocados to you just as I said. God replied, Well, I am sorry that you are in error my friend, because so far, I have received only two.

Nov 19, 2011

Dear Kids 3

Dear Kids,

USPS "Track & Confirm" is not a substitute for a properly written thank you note.

Love, Mom

Oct 31, 2011

Who Changed the Lyrics?

I love hearing The Star Spangled Banner sung at the beginning of ball games. I listened to several renditions before the recent World Series games (go Cards!!!) and I heard, then heard again, what sounded like "through the perilous fight..." and I was sure I misheard. I looked at the closed captioning and it also said "perilous fight."

What? It was "perilous flight" when I learned the song back in the 60s. Did I learn it wrong?

Wikipedia says "fight."

usa-flag-site.org says "fight."

scoutsongs.com
says "fight."

But who knows if the second and third got their info from the first? Teachers don't let students use Wiki as a source for a research paper, because they're often wrong.

Like now.

More research is in order, and I'll post an update when I have an answer.

What puzzle has you researching an answer today?

Oct 30, 2011

Shepherd Me, O God

One of my favorite hymns is "Shepherd Me, O God" by Marty Haugen. It's not just about grieving, although it is appropriate for a funeral. The phrase "from death into life" has implications for the living as well. How do we get out of the thoughts, actions, habits, and mindsets that bring death to our spiritual condition? We need help. We need direction. We need a shepherd.

Humility is what allows us to ask for help. Here are Marty Haugen's lyrics. Below is a youtube link to an awesome vocal. Enjoy.

-----------------

"Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life."

"God is my shepherd, so nothing shall I want,
I rest in the meadows of faithfulness and love,
I walk by the quiet waters of peace.

Gently you raise me and heal my weary soul,
you lead me by pathways of righteousness and truth,
my spirit shall sing the music of your name."

"Though I should wander the valley of death,
I fear no evil, for you are at my side, your rod and
your staff, my comfort and my hope."

"You have set me a banquet of love, in the face of hatred,
crowning me with love beyond my pow'r to hold."

"Surely your kindness and mercy follow me all the days of my life;
I will dwell in the house of my God forever-more."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQqJF-2ijhg&feature=related

link to video

Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life. Amen!

From what do you need shepherding today?

Oct 24, 2011

Tribute to My Brother

Hankie alert. I have never read a better tribute to a brother.

----------
My Brother
by Dan

He was my best friend.
He was my evil twin.
He was my alter ego.
He was my guardian angel.

You know the little cartoon devil that sits on your left shoulder? And the angel that sits on your right? Tom could find a way to be either, and often at the same time. When he predicted we were going to get in trouble, darned if he wasn't right!

On a summer day, he was in his element. There was always going to be some fun. Tom, in fact, had a special genius for fun. In a previous life he was Abner Doubleday. One summer day, he invented a game using my baseball bat, chunks of concrete and a highway under construction. Funny, he always included my baseball bat for that kind of stuff. But the entertainment value was always worth the price of admission. Following him for one summer day, you could get to know the man.

He probably invented disc golf. I remember playing it with him for the first time at least 25 years ago. Now they build courses for the game. Tom's games never had to be complicated, though. A mostly round rock and a target of any kind was fodder for a new game design. Very creative. Can you make a rock skip 12 times? Tom could. And we'd take turns trying for 13 until the sun went down.

The most improbable things fascinated him. How long it takes to boil beer out of a bottle cap in a camp fire (answer: about 3 beers). The color of a leech when dipped in alcohol (answer: white). Tom, the scientist.

Once, as if to prove to God and me that he was a versatile fellow, he fired up a bulldozer on a construction site. He was 15. He moved it about 3 feet, and shut it down. Mission accomplished.
He was a very competitive person in the play world, and a cooperative one in the business world. He introduced me to one of his customers, who he obviously got along with real well, even as he was kicking that customer's butt in a trivia game. Some customers have a problem with that. Tom was too easy to play with.

Some of his shuffelboard throws defied gravity.

He was in his element also in family matters. He could quote the house rules by the time he was 4. And didn't mind enforcing them either. Sometimes he would use mom words and dad voices. Bizarre, scary even, but effective. He was the oldest. He knew when it was up to him. He always had that responsibility thing going on.

Many of his best insights were after our bedtime. Maybe he thought better in the dark. Most times I was glad to stay up and chat. I learned about his experiences that way. Who he rode with that day, what they saw. How he felt.

He was an Eagle Scout. A trailblazer of the highest order.

He knew how to beat me. I may have been a better golfer, I'll never know, because he psyched me out every time. Okay, maybe he was a better golfer. I enjoyed every game I ever played with Tom. Monopoly. Touch football, Parcheesi, Jarts. We were bowling when 10 pound balls were too heavy, and our shoe sizes had just started over. And bowling was 10 cents a line.
I wanted him on my team. We all did. He was a winner.

He could put 99 tree frogs in a minnow bucket and get it across the Canadian border (with the border guard's blessing, no less). You can't teach talent like that. You are born with it.

There was the time "we" sold my Buffalo Nickel collection, because who the heck would ever think that a nickel folder was worth more than a pile of nickels. Better we spend them at the hobby shop. Besides, that last one I needed to complete the collection wasn't going to materialize any time soon. I've never been much of a collector, but I do collect memories. This and all my memories of Tom are worth every coin in the Denver Mint.

There are many stories of Tom, and I promise keep telling them. If you know some good Tom stories, please add them to mine.
He has no doubt, by now, challenged Saint Peter to a game of "Stretch" using pocket knives; and probably has The Apostles scheduled for a game of "Acey Deucy" by tomorrow night.

We are blessed by the memories he has left us, and we will all miss him. I hope we all remember him as the caring, loving person, a great friend, brother, and family man. I do, but I especially like to recall the summer fun. Don't tell Dad about the bulldozer.

Please join me in the celebration of Tom.

With love,

His Brother Dan

Oct 4, 2011

Slow Down!

The constellation Orion has been in the sky for thousands of years. I always look for the belt, the 3 stars in a row, to find it in the sky in the fall & early winter months, in the wee hours as I pick up my morning paper off the driveway.

Well, for 20 years or so I've looked for it. Before that, I didn't know it was there. I didn't think about it. It was always there, but I didn't have time to look. That is, until I was 9 months pregnant and had to trot out to get the morning paper with a porch covered in ice and snow. I sloooowly went out for my paper, and as I slowed down, I looked at the stars. I thought, "Hey, cool! Those same stars will still be there, and my unborn child will be looking at them long after I'm gone."

It was beautiful and majestic. I wished I'd noticed it sooner.

I'm glad it's not too late.

There are some changes coming in the Liturgy of the Catholic Church. ("The" Church.) The beauty and majesty of the original translations has been watered down post-Vatican II, and they're bringing back the beauty and majesty of the original.

People are so used to reciting the prayers by rote. As they read the new missal, they will now be forced to slow down and think about what they're saying. They'll be forced to think about something they've been too busy to notice before....

H'mmm. Not a bad thing.

What will you slow down to notice today?

Sep 23, 2011

Sowing and Reaping

A friend who, for years, had a lowly job has now come into a better financial position. She told us of an incident that happened years ago whereby she was treated in a rather dismissive way by a real estate agent at a social event. Her husband also had a story to tell of how he was snubbed by a financial planner at a social event, because the planner wanted to "work the room."

This husband and wife, as I said, are now in an enviable position of requiring the assistance of a real estate agent and financial planner, both of whom stand to reap substantial commissions in an economy where it would be most welcome.

Guess who they're not going to call?

The seeds were sown long ago. The agent and planner will reap an empty harvest, because they were more interested in money than relationships.

People will not remember what you say. They will not remember what you do. But they will never forget how you made them feel.

Don't forget to be kind. Some have entertained angels unaware. (Hebrews 13:2)

Where will you sow your seeds of kindness today?

Aug 19, 2011

Optimism

Yeah, it's hard to stay positive in the face of adversity, but without hope, why would you even get out of bed in the morning?

No reason to. If it doesn't get any better than this, what's the point?

I'm looking forward to better. I know better days are coming. They always do.

Life is full of hills and valleys. Just when you think you're as low as you can go, it gets lower. Then higher. And when you think it won't get higher, it does. And then low again.

Stop basing your happiness on your circumstances, on the degree of highness & lowness in your life. Start making up your mind before you ever get out of bed that it's going to be a great day. Then see what happens.

To what will you look forward tomorrow morning?

Aug 12, 2011

The Power of Life and Death


The power of life and death is in the tongue. (Prov 18:21)

If a child says, "When I grow up, I'm going to live in the ocean and grow long rabbit ears to propel myself around" do you respond "Wow! That sounds exciting! Tell me more!" or "Don't be silly. You can't breathe under water. ..."

If a child says, "I want to be a teacher when I grow up" do you say "Really? What subject would you most like to teach?" or "They're a dime a dozen. You'll always be broke."

Which response gives LIFE to the dream?

Which response KILLS it?

Whose dream will you encourage today?

Jul 23, 2011

Waiting

When you were a child, your mother may have hung up an Advent calendar to help you count down the days until Christmas. 24, 23, 22, 21... down to Christmas Eve, and then, voila! It's Christmas!

Adults don't get the same privilege. We spend a lot of time (days, months, years) waiting for something to happen, with no way to know how close or far away that day might be.

Could be tomorrow. Next week. Next year.

Keep waiting.

Wish God would hang up a calendar for us. But that would make the wait easier, and that's not quite His style, is it?

For what are you patiently waiting today?

Jul 12, 2011

Backwards People

Beware of backwards people.

In 2 days, I watched 3 different drivers back up - and not look where they were going. One caused physical damage, two very nearly did.

Why would you not look where you were going?

I feel obligated to drive defensively, because not everyone is as conscientious as I. I look where I'm going. I move purposely and deliberately. Others wander. Backwards, forward, sideways, whatever.

Not me. Forward. Onward. Ever onward. Purposely. Deliberately.

Not saying that I'm right and they're wrong. My way works for me. It just seems that I have to be more careful of them than they do of me.

Look out for backwards people.

Of whom will you be cautiously aware today?

Jun 21, 2011

Chocolate

The Easter candy is gone.

The Mother's Day candy is gone.

I'm declaring Summer Solstice a chocolate-buying holiday.

Jun 3, 2011

Don't Feed the Kitten!

Before the flames begin, I have nothing against kittens. We own two cats (or maybe they own us?) and they are members of our family. I love them. I take care of them. As every mom knows, every pet a family acquires is one more job for mom. "Oh, but I'll take care of him - I promise!" only carries water until something more interesting comes along. Sigh. But that's not what I'm talking about today.

If you're a suburban or small town family, you might at one time or another, have a stray cat wander around your neighborhood. If you feed the kitten, what happens? Feeding a kitten doesn't make him go away, does it?

He knows where he got food last time, and he'll be back tomorrow (or sooner) for more. It's said that the person more likely to do you a favor is not the person who owes you a favor, but the one who has done you a favor. H'mmm. So if I do the kitten a favor and feed him, he won't do anything for me, but come back and expect more?

Makes me want to stop feeding the kitten.

I have friends who are kittens. They want, they need, they know who is a sucker for a sob story. The problem is, the circumstances (poor choices and excuse-making) that caused the need in the first place didn't change, so therefore the need is never ending. By enabling the friend not to change, I am doing her a disservice. She won't grow up - why should she? I expect better behavior out of my children. Why do I tolerate it in my "friends?"

As I drove to work a couple days ago, I saw, on a corner of a busy intersection, a small (dirty) white little kitten. Licking its paw, it was cute and pathetic. I wanted to throw my car in park, run and scoop up the kitten and take it home, and then be late to work.

Fortunately, wisdom won out. God said "Connie, you cannot do everything I want you to do, if you let yourself be drained by the kittens." I heeded the Spirit, and drove on to work, contemplating that perhaps it wasn't a kitten at all, but an angel manifesting as such to drive home a point.

That would be just like God. I got the message.

To which kittens will you say "No" today?

Apr 16, 2011

Give Us Barabbas

It seems that people end up in a bad place because of bad choices. They give up the thing they want most for the thing they want now.

I want to save for college, but I want this Coke & fries right now.

I want a long and happy marriage, but this coworker is very attractive.

I want to lose weight, but one donut won't hurt, and besides, I've been so good - I'll reward myself!

The crowd in Matthew 27 shouted for Barabbas to be released, not Jesus. Pilate went along with them. Each of them wanted to be popular, to fit in, to go along with the crowd (mob.) What did they give up?

Probably something they wanted most.

What will you say "no" to, today, in order to get the thing you want most?

Apr 13, 2011

Dear Kids 2

Dear Kids,

No, I will not join Cityville so I can "send" you stuff. If you've got that much free time, please vacuum the living room.

Love,

Mom

Dear Kids 1

Dear Kids,

Send the "Hoarding Buried Alive" film crew home, and bring all the empty hangers from your closet to the laundry room.

Love, Mom

Mar 31, 2011

Extreme Makeover Post Office Edition



The Post Office is not home, but if you spend enough time there, it becomes your home away from home.

My home is as clean as I decide it should be. Ditto my work space. Since I'm currently doing an assignment at the Post Office that keeps me there 40+ hours a week, some beautification was definitely in order.

Dejunking is an obvious first step in beautifying. How can you see a garden unless you clear out the weeds? Boxes of junk, old papers, obsolete forms, piles of bent paper clips (tell me again why we're keeping these?) reflect an "I'll get to it later" mentality. Or worse, "It's not my job."

Later, of course, never comes. And unlike moving a household, when people leave employment, they don't take junk with them. It's left for the next person to oversee.

After the dejunking comes cleaning. Relocate the dust bunnies and bug cemeteries. Get some cleaner on the windows. Scrape the sticker residue off the counter (I recommend Goo-Gone.)

Once the junk was gone from inside the lower cabinets, there was room to move things from the counter top to the lower cabinets. Imagine - everything I own doesn't have to be in sight! How clean and uncluttered the counter top looks when all the unnecessary papers are filed below. They're still accessible, but no one wants to look at them constantly. Not me, and certainly not the customers.

The garden is just a blessing to the community. It's "above and beyond." I've been warned that the flowers might get stolen (I suspect a long-eared "thief" took a bite out of one of my rose buds...) but that's between them and God. I'm just called to be obedient.

Ready?

Move that bus!


Next time you're at 36578, come visit us. And don't forget to stop and smell the flowers on your way in.

What beauty will you add to the world today?





Feb 27, 2011

King Cake

NOTE! You may NOT prepare and serve this before Twelfth Night (Jan. 6) or after Mardi Gras Day!

If you're not in New Orleans and you don't feel like mail-ordering, you can always make your own. Here's an excellent King Cake recipe, provided courtesy of Chef Emeril Lagasse.

  • 2 envelopes active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1-1/2 cups warm milk (about 110°F)
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 5 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 4 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1 plastic king cake baby or a pecan half
  • 5 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Purple-, green-, and gold-tinted sugar sprinkles

Combine the yeast and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the melted butter and warm milk and warm water. Beat at low speed for 1 minute. With the mixer running, add the egg yolks, then beat for 1 minute at medium-low speed. Add the flour, salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest and beat until everything is incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, forms a ball, and starts to climb up the dough hook. If the dough is uncooperative in coming together, add a bit of warm water (110 degrees), a tablespoon at a time, until it does.

Remove the dough from the bowl. Using your hands, form the dough into a smooth ball. Lightly oil a bowl with the vegetable oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it to oil all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and 1 cup of the confectioner's sugar. Blend by hand or with an electric mixer on low speed. Set aside.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using your fingers, pat it out into a rectangle about 30 inches long and 6 inches wide.

Spread the filling lengthwise over the bottom half of the dough, then flip the top half of the dough over the filling. Seal the edges, pinching the dough together. Shape the dough into a cylinder and place it on the prepared baking sheet seam side down. Shape the dough into a ring and pinch the ends together so there isn't a seam. Insert the king cake baby or pecan half into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough.

Cover the ring with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm, draft-free place. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Brush the top of the risen cake with 2 tablespoons of the milk. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the icing. Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons milk, the lemon juice, and the remaining 3 cups confectioner's sugar in medium-size mixing bowl. Stir to blend well. With a rubber spatula, spread the icing evenly over the top of the cake. Sprinkle with the sugar crystals, alternating colors around the cake.

The cake is traditionally cut into 2-inch-thick slices with all the guests in attendance.

YIELD: 20 to 22 servings

Feb 14, 2011

Valentines

Another great Hallmark Holiday is upon us: Valentine's Day.

Buy candy for the kids (the Christmas candy is gone, right?)
Buy paper cards for them to exchange at school. (Everyone gets one; no one gets left out.)
Buy chocolate for yourself.

Now you're talking!

I'm too practical to fall for sappy sentimentality. If you buy me a dozen roses, I'll whack you on the head with them, because the Termite Bond just came due and I'm down to $65 in the checkbook! I love that my spouse and I are on the same page. He doesn't buy me stuff, and I don't buy him stuff. We just love each other.

Here's your valentine: I less than three you.

With whom will you share practical love today?

Jan 28, 2011

Let Nice People Be Nice

Nice guys want to be helpful.

Guys generally want to be heroes.

If you need a guy's help, then accept it graciously. I don't have upper body strength, and so welcome manly muscles when I have to turn a stuck screw or lift something heavy. I welcome the help of someone who has abilities I don't have.

Being prideful ("I can do it myself!") doesn't help you, and it cheats him out of the opportunity to use the gifts God gave him.

Being a good receiver is as important as being a good giver.

Whose help will you receive today?

Jan 23, 2011

Setting Goals, Part 2

We talked about setting goals that are within our realm of priorities. Now let's think about setting achievable goals.

Look at Miss America. I admit, I wanted to be Miss America when I was a little girl. Having acquired wisdom, however, I see that it was not ever going to happen in my lifetime. Anyway, Miss America always says in the interview that her lofty goal is "World Peace" "End Hunger" "End Illiteracy."

Is Miss America going to achieve world peace? No. Not for lack of wanting, but that's not in her sphere of influence. Can she be at peace with God, her neighbor, herself? Yes. Can she end world hunger? No. Can she shop for a food pantry or work on distribution day? Yes. Can she end illiteracy? No. Can she teach a 5 year old to sound out a few consonants and vowels? Yes.

I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. And what I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do. - Edward Everett Hale


Your goal should be within your sphere of influence. Maybe I don't have time to clean my entire kitchen, but I can clean out the pencil drawer. Broken into smaller chunks, an "impossible" task becomes entirely doable.

What achievable goals will you set (and accomplish) today?

Jan 18, 2011

Setting Goals

"Many people go fishing all of their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after." - Henry David Thoreau

"How many men spend the young years of their lives trying to climb the corporate ladder and when they get to the top, they realize their ladder's leaning against the wrong building." - Joyce Meyer

"If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." - George Harrison

Do you know the difference between urgent and important? Most people get so caught up in the urgency of life, living from crisis to crisis, that they fail to see what is important, yet neglected.

Slow down. Refocus. What will bring satisfaction, at the end of your life: taking care of urgent things, or important things? The phone ringing, or the child who is anxious to tell you about her day? The deadline at work, or the awards ceremony in which your child is recognized?

Set your goals thoughtfully. Don't sacrifice the thing you want most for the thing you want now. Urgent things have a way of distracting us from what's important.

On what important things will you stay focused today?