I have not disappeared from the face of the earth…yet

For those who follow my blog, you will notice that I have been MIA for the last few weeks.

It is not writer’s block.

Nor is it due to a lack of live writing material taking place before my very eyes.

It really isn’t even because of the chaos of the holidays (although there was a LOT of chaos).

No. The reason is actually quite mundane.

My laptop screen fried.

Again.

For the second time in one year. (And no, it is not under warranty.)

I managed to cobble together a system that worked…sort of. By hooking up the laptop to a traditional (old)  monitor, I was able to use the laptop.

Yea, yea, yea.

But…there is always a “but”, isn’t there?

The contraption was set up in my so-called sewing/craft room (that in itself is a topic for another day). The room also serves as sleeping quarters for a napping toddler.

Hmmmm…access was an issue.

(And at this point, I will digress momentarily.)

Yesterday, we took down the Christmas tree and packed away the decorations inside the house. This freed up a wee bit of space in our not-so-spacious living room.

As a person who strives for perfection, this defect also applies to the positioning of furniture. Somehow I keep thinking I will find the perfect configuration for all the necessary pieces…if I just keep trying.

So, Superman helped me. With a smile, I might add. (Those of you who know him have never seen him without one, so it won’t carry the same effect as those who don’t. So don’t tell them, ok?)

Given all the things that go on in my house (gymnastics, battles for the highest spot in the room, trapeze flying, fort building, building block olympics, camping, dance competitions, along with an assortment of other activities that should probably not be enumerated), a good flow and jumping capabilities from sofa to love seat to whatever is essential.

I should probably add that I have long since given up on the “no more monkeys jumping” rule…enforcement became a full-time job. I know, I failed.

Sooooooo, we shifted our furniture around. And lo, and behold, there was just the perfect spot to move a desk that could house my laptop contraption in the living room!

Joy, joy, joy!!!

So, I am back. I bet you were all just holding your breath!

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Finally!

My daughter taught me to crochet about eight years ago. At the time, we lived in a condo, with a really pretty cottage-country bedroom. The quilt on the bed was very nice, one of those mass produced supposed to look handmade patchwork quilts.

It actually was quilted, pieced and all, just not that unique, but I really liked it. So I decided what we really needed to add the finishing touch to a really sweet room was an afghan laying at the foot of the bed.

So my NellyBelle taught me how to single crochet. If you read my last blog post you will remember my past as a perfectionist. When I began the afghan, I didn’t understand that the tighter the stitches, the harder it would be, the longer it would take and the more yarn it would need to fit my queen-sized bed.

And the first several rows of stitches have no spaces between them. NO AIR and NO LIGHT. Perfect if you live in Antarctica. I do not. I live in the swanky, humid, confused weather-patterned Midwest.

See those lovely, perfectionist stitches?
Clearly PRE-grandchildren…;)

We moved out of the condo. The lovely quilt became the guest room quilt and eventually fell apart. I experimented with many new color schemes, and eventually found the afghan in all its unfinished mess. I did a few rows and eased up on the stitches. It went a little faster, but I just couldn’t quite get the hang of the whole turning part. Or how to knot the skeins together when one ran out.

Starting to loosen up a little by this point…

I realized at some point that I really didn’t have time to finish it, so it got buried in a closet somewhere. Life has a funny way of forcing the readjusting of priorities and projects. No more of that Urgent-Important, Urgent-Unimportant, Not Urgent-Important or Not Urgent-Not Important quadrant stuff for making good use of time. Not in Nana Land, anyway.

NellyBelle has since married, finished her residency, had a baby, bought a house and made her own toys for her little guy. My afghan was still a sorry mess.

Meanwhile, Superman and I decided to dedicate a room to my sewing and crafting and dreaming and writing. While emptying out the entire room and closet, Superman found the incomplete afghan project. I decided it was way past due on finishing this thing. I had too much time invested in the crazy thing to just throw it away, and I wanted to at least finish it and be done. I attacked that afghan with gusto.

I loosened up on the stitches, and it actually made the afghan “feel” better–not so hot or heavy. I considered turning it into a dress, but realized I would be one long lasting hot flash, and the world is just not ready for that. Talk about global warming! (Now that I think about it, I think that global warming could almost certainly be attributed to how much longer women are living and how many hot flashes we are all contributing to the atmosphere. Maybe the scientists could come up with a healthy solution for that??? Like, TODAY?!?!?!)

Digressing…anyway, in the last three weeks, I have tackled the turning problems and the loose stitches, and how to join the yarn AND made up a finishing edge that doesn’t look bad. All things considered. I don’t know if it is even a legitimate stitch, but if it wasn’t before, it is NOW!

Don’t you just love the way I tripled the stitches to edge the thing?

So now I have an orange/brown/blue/cream bedroom. My living room is grey/green/blue/cream and the afghan is lavender/periwinkle/green/dk green/cream. Hmmmmm…

I think I am ready to start a SMALLER project now…

Don’t tell her, but I am giving it to my mom. She thought it was so pretty when she saw me working on it, and it will be just perfect for her when she gets a little chilly. I even made sure the loosened stitches wouldn’t let the toes sneak through. And my dad? Well, he can’t appreciate the colors but I would imagine she will share it with him too…

Contrasting the old on the right with the new on the left…sigh…so glad it is finally finished!

Gold

It’s all about the gold, isn’t? Gold medals, the gold standard…we attach a lot of value to the idea of gold…

Hearts are as pure as gold, silence is golden…

Women are accused of being gold-diggers…

Someone who is effective in making things happen is said to have the Midas touch…

So and so is “golden”…

Gold Medal flour…

Rod Blagojevich, former governor of Illinois, thought his position was golden because he would be able to sell President-elect Obama’s vacated Senate seat…and that cost him a lot more than a bag of gold!

The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow guarded by a lucky leprechaun…

Given the current events of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, I thought I should put forth my best effort in recognizing an amazing unsung hero…

I am awarding this gold medal as a shared award–kind of like a team award. This gold medal recognizes someone willingly taking full advantage of new opportunities for personal development–above and beyond their natural skill or interest. I can honestly say that this person has proven repeatedly that it has nothing to do with his personal interests or needs, but rather those of his behind the scenes partner.

Many years ago, this individual left his humble hut behind and attacked with gusto many new and uncharted projects that would have escaped him were it not for the impetus behind all those uncharted projects. He developed a love of digging up plants and moving them to other yet-to-be-dug holes. He discovered new ways of getting brand new clothing ruined by dirt and grime faster than anyone in history. He never met a paint brush he couldn’t leave without layers of clear-cut evidence of the history of his handiwork.

He has graduated from building plywood crates to ship appliances overseas to mastering multiple kitchen projects, even an entire basement. Becoming well-versed in load-bearing walls and their removal, he has come to expect a wall to come down in every home he has bought.

He is a painter extraordinaire, whipping out his paint gear and attacking the house with colors he can’t even pronounce, repeatedly.

There is only one remaining medal event for him–tree removal–but he is ineligible to compete in that event due to his past experience involving a ladder, a tree and a chainsaw. Because of his serious violations, he is forever forbidden from competing in this event.

So it is with great pride that I award the Gold Medal for Outstanding Taker of New Opportunities to my own husband, Superman. I joyfully share that award with him as the impetus behind those repeated opportunities to extend his knowledge and skill in areas for which he has no natural interest. Please stand and join me for the playing of our National Anthem.

Dirty Rug? Meet Your Master!

I have an area rug in my living room. When we moved into our house about 4 years ago, we bought new furniture. I intentionally chose the fabric to resemble the color of dirt. I knew little hands and feet and other things would attack it, so I THOUGHT I was being very smart by getting dirt-colored furniture. Ummm…didn’t work so well for me. Yes, it’s the color of dirt, but not all dirt is that lovely shade of dirt.

You would think I would have learned my lesson when I tried to brighten up the room with a camel-colored area rug. It was VERY REASONABLY PRICED. Translation? If it didn’t work out, I could almost treat it as a disposable. Right?

Well, I have tried to keep up with the spots and spills, but you remember when the gallon jug of water burst in the middle of the rug? The reason behind the wall coming down?  (For a refresher, check it out here.) Well, let’s just say that gallon of water did NOT make the rug any cleaner. Oh no, it just became a magnet for any free-falling, floating, unattached dirt and spills of goo and ick.

My daughter said I should throw it away. I was tempted, but I googled hosing down rugs, and guess what? It can be done! So, my sweet husband helped me roll it up and we hauled it out onto the driveway. He even laid out some plastic so that the rug wouldn’t be saddled with asphalt dust on the underside. Smart guy!

I proceeded to wet the entire rug down with the hose, then dumped my detergent on it. I must say, that detergent really worked!!! I had clean, bright, squiggly lines all over the rug where I squirted the detergent. Hmmm, probably should have diluted it with some water first. But I was undeterred. I got my broom and began to agitate the rug…mind you, it was almost 100° outside. Yes, I did it during our unseasonable heat wave.

No matter how hard I tried, those squiggly lines weren’t going away. I had the hose on full stream jet spray. You should have seen the disgusting run off. Ewww. But the rug still looked dirty. So, I brought out the stuff that does it all.

the one-two punch

Well, by this time, my daughter was handling the broom, agitating the OxiClean into the rug, then I lightly misted the entire rug. I let the poor, highly agitated rug take a break for a few minutes, then I let that rug have the hose, at the strongest stream I could manage. It helped, but not enough. There was no way that rug was coming back into my living room looking that way.

I must have muttered something about wishing I had a power washer, because I heard Stephanie say that our neighbors had one. I think she thought I was joking. She had already informed me that I truly was a Hoosier now, hosing down my rug on the driveway for the entire neighborhood to witness. I won’t tell you what I muttered back to her, but let’s just say it had to do with all the other “belongings” that regularly clutter my yard, driveway and garage. And they aren’t MINE.

When she went to borrow the power washer, the neighbors asked me what I was doing. I said I was watching my rug dry. And that I was getting ready to move a recliner onto the front porch to complete the Hoosier identity.

But guess what? That power washer did the trick! I watched that rug get clean right in front of my eyes…it was amazing! (I am letting the whole world know right now that I would like one of those power washers for Christmas. Or sooner.)

So I worked at that rug until I only had one corner left to clean. I cannot adequately communicate my excitement in this blog format. You really needed to HEAR me.

almost finished! note the contrast?

all finished except the drying

So I eventually decided that the rug was clean enough. It was pretty dark by the time I was done, but we still had to hang it up to dry. Ugh, that was an awful job–wet and heavy and bulky. Somehow, we got it up onto the railing, and my husband pulled it into a position for maximum drip drying. He is a master at the maximizing tough stuff so I don’t have to do it.

So I now have a lovely clean rug, and I decided it would go into our master bedroom instead of going back into the living room. The risks to the life expectancy of the rug are considerably less in my bedroom. Especially since I am replacing the door with iron bars. (I heard you…you suggested I pad the walls, too.)

But, as is the norm with me, that rug got me thinking about the spiritual lessons I could learn from this rug. Unlike a previous post about my favorite cleaner, this time OxiClean wasn’t enough to do the whole job. It needed help. Soap couldn’t do it, either. Even the hose was not powerful enough to get out all the spots. It wasn’t until I used the full power of the power washer, the right tool for the job, that the stubborn dirt and grime was finally washed away.

So often, we try all kinds of human solutions for problems. When you consider the sin problem,  there are all kinds of man-made solutions: helping people, donating money to charity, church attendance,  being a good citizen. There is nothing wrong with any of these things in and of themselves–they are GOOD things. But they can’t and won’t do the job of removing our sin problem. Like the power washer on my rug, the only thing that can remove sin is the blood of Jesus Christ. He freely offered His life to cleanse us from sin. God’s Word says that His cleansing is a free gift that has been given to us. We could not earn it or achieve it through our own efforts. There is no earthly answer to our spiritual problem. The spiritual problem requires God’s answer as the only solution.

Ephesians 2:1-10

J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)

1-3 To you, who were spiritually dead all the time that you drifted along on the stream of this world’s ideas of living, and obeyed its unseen ruler (who is still operating in those who do not respond to the truth of God), to you Christ has given life! We all lived like that in the past, and followed the impulses and imaginations of our evil nature, being in fact under the wrath of God by nature, like everyone else.

4-10 But even though we were dead in our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, gave us life together with Christ—it is, remember, by grace and not by achievement that you are saved—and has lifted us right out of the old life to take our place with him in Christ in the Heavens. Thus he shows for all time the tremendous generosity of the grace and kindness he has expressed towards us in Christ Jesus. It was nothing you could or did achieve—it was God’s gift to you. No one can pride himself upon earning the love of God. The fact is that what we are we owe to the hand of God upon us. We are born afresh in Christ, and born to do those good deeds which God planned for us to do.

I love the evidence of a clean rug. It looks amazing and new, like it has been given a new lease on life instead of being headed for the trash. But far more important and precious is the reality of my spiritual cleansing, for it has given me so much more…life that is eternal; a relationship with my own Savior; hope that is based on the completed work of Jesus Christ–not my puny, feeble attempts. And there is a peace that extends far beyond any words I may put together that leads me day by day, even moment by moment. And God’s hand is still outstretched, offering that gift. Have you accepted His gift of life?

Mercy Me, I Would Die for You

Go Ahead, Make My Day

I believe that I have shared about our love of trash day around here. We live on a circle, and on Thursdays three different trucks pass our house twice daily: one truck is for trash, one is for yard waste, and the last is for recycling. The trucks circle the block for one side of the street, then turn around and cover the opposite side of the block.

one of our favorite things

The little people in my house love Thursdays–all day long they stop their play to run and watch the trucks with their beep beep beeps and loud noises. You would think after a few trucks went by they would lose their interest, but they don’t. They run to wave at the men driving the trucks. On those days when we have an unusual pile in front of the house, they watch in rapt fascination as the workers haul it into the big dumper on the front of the truck.

It used to be that the trucks would pass our neighbors’ house and then pull over along the common area and empty to dumper into the back of the truck. The little guys couldn’t see the process too well, but they craned their necks trying to see what was happening. One day, the driver of the “trash” truck saw the little bodies lined up at the front door watching and he did a trash truck show for them, raising the dumper and emptying it RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE HOUSE! The kids clapped and waved and jumped up and down. They were SO EXCITED! The driver waved and drove on his way, but he had made several children very happy.

woo hoo

The following week, he did it again. And the next week, and he has continued putting on the trash truck show every single week since he saw the joy on the faces of a bunch of toddlers.

We love our trash truck driver. His name is Lamont and he works for Waste Management. He sings and smiles and waves, no matter what the weather or the quantity of our trash. Sometimes Superman goes out to talk to him and help dump the trash, or my daughter has taken him bottles of water when its been so hot. But this week, my husband and I saw something new.

It was about 7:30 AM and we were sitting in the living room while I downed my coffee. My husband had turned the sprinklers on to water the garden and the lawn in anticipation of the 100° plus temperatures we have been having day after day. My husband told me to look outside and we saw Lamont standing in the sprinkler trying to cool down. I forget what my husband said to him, but it was clear that he was welcome to cool off for as long as he needed.

As they chatted, Lamont shared that he was trying to finish his rounds as early as possible, not because of the heat, but because he was to sing in a wedding that afternoon. Bottle of water in hand, he headed back to his route with a wave.

My husband got on the phone and called Waste Management. We both got to tell a very surprised customer service representative how this man, our trash truck driver Lamont, had brought joy and happiness to us because of the way he approached his job. As we took turns sharing stories about his kindness, the man on the other end of the line was practically in tears. He said we had made his day by calling him to praise another employee.

It is a lesson to me about how easily we can build up another person, or take one’s service totally for granted. Lamont is a person who has come into our lives in a very unusual way, but we value him. He brings joy to his job, and joy to my little people, AND hauls away all the rotten smelling garbage that we generate every single week.

How thankful are you? Do you value that person that is almost anonymous but who really is a part of your world? Do you even recognize their presence? The service(s) they offer? Or do you limit your interaction with customer service departments to only your complaints?

Races

Psalm 34:3

Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.

This verse is inscribed inside our wedding bands. From the beginning of our lives together, my husband and I wanted to be reminded of our purpose in marriage–to glorify and magnify the Lord through our married life. Interestingly, this same verse is inscribed in my parents’ wedding rings, as well. The verse is a timeless reminder for me as a wife, and for me as a Christian. My journey through life is not as a soloist, but as a member of a group–Us.

June 21, 1980

When we live life unto ourselves, there is no Us. It is merely Me. I. Mine. That can be a very lonely place. When we are not joined together with others for the purpose of magnifying the Lord, we lose our sense of purpose and community. God’s design was not for Adam to be a solo act. Eve was specially prepared to meet the needs of community for Adam. Eve came along prior to the fall of sin. She was Good.

I believe that marriages live and breathe life when the focus is squarely placed on the Lord Jesus and His role within the marriage. He unifies the focus–when both the husband and wife are looking at Jesus with the mindset of bringing glory to God, it is impossible to be at odds with one another. It is extraordinarily difficult to be angry or impatient with someone when you are both praising, glorifying and honoring the Lord. Yet, when one takes the eyes off of the central focus, trouble very quickly ensues.

Hebrews 12:1-2

English Standard Version (ESV)

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Neither the verse in Psalms nor the verses in Hebrews  are intended for just the married crowd. These verses ought to be life verses for those who claim a relationship through Jesus Christ. We are reminded that we are running a long race, that there is a heavenly audience of witnesses watching how we run…Do we falter? Are we dragging a load of sin along with us on the track? What is our goal?

I hate running. If I had known earlier in life that the tightness in my chest was asthma, I might not hate running, but…I hate it. It scares me a little because I can’t breathe. BUT, God has fully equipped each one of His children for the race that they are running…and He wants us to finish the race He has set before us. Like Peter walking on the water, we can finish that race when our gaze is on the Lord Jesus.

I am feeling very sentimental today…Nathan and I are celebrating 32 years of marriage. Songs run through my head that were played or sung, images are burned into my memory of that day. I am so very thankful for a husband whose focus has been shared. Who continues to run this same race, not leaving me in the dust nor dragging me along, but who runs side by side, step by step, as we both race for the finish line. I am overwhelmed by the great love God shared when he blessed me with this man. So undeserved, but such a wonderful gift.

Do you run your race with endurance? Keep running. Don’t stall out. Keep your focus and gain the reward!

Still so happy together

What did you say?

This is one of those days when I wonder if voices should be granted to babies and toddlers. You know…when the only thing coming out of their mouths requires correction? Shhhhh….Hush….Quiet….Whisper….

Sigh…these little people do NOT have little voices. They are GREAT, BIG, LOUD, SHOUTING voices. Especially when other little people are STILL SLEEPING! Vesuvius doesn’t know the meaning of “quiet” or “shhh”…he does everything full bore and loud. Bam Bam usually responds a little better to redirection, but TODAY? Not. Even sensitive Bam Bam is following in the footsteps of that blasting volcano. (Who is 6 months younger, I might add.)

Can you imagine how quiet the world would be if no one spoke unless it was the right thing to say at precisely the right time, with perfect inflection, at the perfect decibel level? If there was never the sound of angry voices? Or impatient voices? No temper tantrums? Would there be wars? Arguments? Hurt feelings? Anger? What would that really sound like? Would we enjoy it?

In part, I can imagine…you know, the sound of the mosquitoes humming softly below the bird songs? When it is quiet enough to hear the cooing of the doves? The rustling of the leaves, the sound of the water gurgling in the creek? Today, I would most definitely enjoy the perfect balance of sweet voices intermingled with birds and bugs and dogs…in fact, if the voices of these little people were not so demanding and such constant reminders of the sin nature that accompanies the birth of each new life…sigh…

But today, I hear the cries of impatience, screams of selfishness, bellows of bad tempers…today, if I wore a hearing aid, I think I would throw it away. I could be like the old geezer on the porch shouting, “What’d ya say?”

And now, I must go. My very presence is being unceremoniously beckoned by a shriek. But I am going with that same gentle reminder for myself…are my words sweet? Am I speaking with just the right inflection? Am I bellowing and impatient sounding? I hope not. I wouldn’t want anyone to throw away their hearing aid because of the sounds coming out of my mouth…