Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Six Quirky Things...

Sarah tagged me on a day when I had ten spare minutes to blog, so I'm going to get right on this!

1. I drink Diet Coke. Period. Don't try to slip me that ol' Pepsi sludge, 'cuz my tastebuds will recoil instantly. (My dear friend Elizabeth has her husband -- who actually works for the "other company" -- slip to the drugstore in the dead of night to buy a six-pack for me whenever I'm in town. Now THERE'S a true friend!)

2. I don't watch televised sports. Not even the Olympics. It was the only premarital agreement my husband and I permitted ourselves: If he would limit himself to two games a year, I would ensure that he got to watch those in style. (I gave him some wiggle room these past two weeks.) I have been known to watch ballroom dancing competitions -- Craig and I met while ballroom dancing. But it's not the same thing.

3. I like to play Scrabble. And canasta. Unfortunately, it also brings out the competitive side in me ... and so it's not always easy to find a willing opponent.

4. I tend to be extremely loyal once someone has won my admiration or trust. Unfortunately, the flip side is also true -- I have been known to write off those who hurt me or someone I love, or piss me off sufficiently. Forgiveness is always a good thing ... and yet, I also find that sometimes a bit of mental or even physical space is good for the soul.

Photo credit: Artist is Mary Calkins. Order print here.

5. I name my cars. "Elvis" was my first car because it would shake, rattle, and roll. "Kiko" was next, my sporty little Toyota Tercel. This time we named our GPS instead of the actual car: Gertrude Penelope Saxton (photo courtesy of Sarah, from JSIFS Road Trip 2008).

6. Speaking of road trips, this brings me to Quirk #6. Although I like security as much as the next person, I find that nothing is quite so invigorating as a spontaneous road trip somewhere. Yes, even with kids. If I have $100 to blow, I'd rather DO something with it than buy something tangible with it (other than a tank of gas and a fresh DVD to keep the kids quiet in the back seat). Which is a good thing, since my family and friends are spread all over the country.
I tag ... whoever wants to do this! Please send me a link and I'll post it here. Have a great day!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Week in a Word: "Whew!"

Craig just walked out the door, to spend one more week in California.

I miss him already. So do the kids (Chris hid upstairs, as though he thought that if his dad didn't actually hug him goodbye, he wouldn't be able to leave at all).

Initially I had made plans to leave the house on a road trip with the kids ... but in the end, I realized it was simply too much. What we needed most was not frantic activity, but settled peacefulness. Road trips are always better with Dad, anyway.

So, we're going to take it down a notch. Maybe a day trip to Henry Ford Museum or the water park. Bake some cookies. Work in the schoolbooks that have lain dormant all summer. I might even crack open my German text. Anything could happen.

A week to connect with my kids before school starts.

A week to shift gears, to relax, to bring order and calm to a place that by all counts has become rather ... disordered and chaotic.

And in the spirit of connectedness ... I think I'll give cyberspace a break for a while. See you next week! Why not use the time to catch up at EMN or BYM?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Prayer Challenge -- for Our Troops

Lisa Wheeler, Vice President of Maximus, sent me this e-mail today, and asked me to pass it along. Thanks in advance if you are willing and/or able to help:

Maximus just got brought as part of an unbelievable, but powerful challenge – the distribution of 2 million prayers cards in honor of our troops by September 5th.

We know the best way to make this happen (and to make the beautiful prayer written by an Army Chaplain efficacious throughout the country) is to unite our churches and their communities.

The prayers cards are completely free including postage and delivery. All we need is the commitment from the church, school or organization to accept the prayer cards and distribute them to their parishioners or members on the weekend of September 6th and 7th.

A website will launch this week called http://www.unitedinprayer.com/ and will feature the prayer as well as additional resources for churches to unite and pray for the men and women serving in our Armed Forces.

Please, please, pass this on to everyone you know. They can contact us with the
information on their order for their church or ministry. We would need the

Name of church
Street Address for mailing
Contact Phone Number
Contact Email Address
Number of prayer

Please email us at Maximus at this address:


or call us by phone – 678-990-9032

You may ask for: Ashley Walker, Lisa Huber, Nick Shaw

Thank you!!!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Memento Mori

This morning I got a note from Kitchen Madonna, wondering if she'd missed the post in which I talk about my newfound zest for life. What would induce me to join a gym (my goal is 20 pounds by Christmas), shift gears professionally, and re-evaluate my priorities with such uncommon clarity for one who was always juggling 20 projects at any given moment.

I looked back and realized ... sure enough ... I'd completely forgotten to actually write about this personal epiphany. Go figure. So here goes...

There is nothing quite like the deaths of two friends -- both of whom were just my age, one of whom left behind a five-year-old son -- within a single month to make a person take stock. The early Christians had an expression: Memento Mori (remember death). This was not a morbid preoccupation with the Grim Reaper, but a mindset that helped the Christian to evaluate all of life with an eye on that which is of ultimate value: Family. Relationships. God. Heaven.

Twenty or forty or sixty years from now, what will people remember about me?
* The books will have been long out of print, the magazines reduced to landfill.

* Our possessions will have been sold off, divided up, or simply worn out.

* The hours of cleaning and cooking and washing and organizing (surely after decades of homemaking, this time will have added up to hours, minutes at a time) ... all slip by, unnoticed.

* But the people who knew me well -- my children and my husband, other family and close friends. The ones whose birthdays have been passing without a card, while I rush to correspond with this or that church group. They are the ones who will remember ...
They will remember me either as someone who cared enough to invest in them, or as someone who just went through the motions on her way to "more important" things.

So ... in honor of my friends, I choose to make better choices. Take care of myself. Take care of my children. Take care of the things that will matter -- 20 or 40 or 60 years from now.

Memento Mori.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

When a Pet Dies: Letter from Heaven

My mother-in-law passed this on to me today. I warn you ... it's a tear-jerker. So go grab a tissue and a cup of tea, and settle in. This information might come in handy one day! (If anyone can help me with the original source, I'd be happy to post it.)

Our 14 year old dog, Abbey, died last month.The day after she died, my 4 year old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. I told her that I thought we could so she dictated these words:
Dear God,
Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick. I hope you will play with her. She likes to play with balls and to swim. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her. You will know that she is my dog. I really miss her. Love, Meredith.
We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven.
That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.
Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, 'To Meredith , 'in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, 'When a Pet Dies.' Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had w ritten to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:
Dear Meredith,

Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help. I recognized Abbey right away.

Abbey isn't sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don't need our bodies in heaven, I don't have any pockets to keep your picture in, so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.

Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you. I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much.

By the way, I'm easy to find, I am wherever there is love. Love,God

On Birthdays

Today I am forty-something. Never you mind how many somethings. I didn't tell the lady today at "Curves," and I'm not going to shout it out into cyberspace, either.

Craig has been gone for almost two weeks, and the kids have noticed (I had a few days with him in Sacramento, but he worked most of it). I know there are husbands who are away from home much longer -- my neighbor's husband has been serving in Iraq since May. I have no right to complain. But I'm going to anyway. Hey, it's my birthday.

The kids are doing their best to make it a happy birthday, anyway. I have a whole stack of "Hapy birfdy Mommy" cards, with mermaids and superheros by the dozens. Sarah is insisting on going shopping for a cake with candles later. I'll probably let her pick it out, since she'll be eating most of it.

There are bright spots. Another neighbor came by this evening to mow the lawn. All three acres, bless him. Tomorrow I start my personal goal of exercising three times a week (under supervision) with the hope of losing 20 pounds by Christmas. It all came to a head a few weeks ago, when I got a fun portrait done for my husband for our anniversary, and I did not recognize the woman staring back at me from under all those chins.

Twenty pounds by Christmas, God help me. And before the end of the year, I'm going to get my WHOLE living room painted. Maybe the dining room, too.

Hey, I have to do SOMETHING in that room that doesn't involve eating. Might as well beautify the place.

I want my husband home. Have I mentioned it's my birthday?!

Happy Birthday to Me!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Sacramento Dreaming

Whenever I go to any new city, I immediately hunt around for its best teashop. My favorite places are a trifle old-fashioned: comfy upholstered seating, real china (mismatched place settings suit me best), tiered pastry trays, scones with Devonshire cream, and tiny sandwiches with crusts cut off. Perfect to while away an hour or two with a good friend or good book.[1]

I was in Sacramento this week, spending our ninth anniversary with my husband while he was on a business trip, and after lunch with Lisa Hendey I wandered Old Town until I found what I was looking for: The Earl Gray Manor and Tea Salon. Carefully arranged settings in art deco d├ęcor; aromatic brews (mine was lavender and mint); generous helpings of freshly prepared produce and baked goods; knowledgeable, friendly staff – and it about broke my heart when they told me they were going out of business the following week. Old Town had changed, it seemed, and business was sporadic. Times were tough, rents were high … and it seemed that most people considered afternoon tea a luxury they could ill afford. So sad.

That afternoon I had borrowed a book by Wanda Urbanaka and Frank Levering from the condo where my husband and I were staying. It was entitled Moving to a Small Town: A Guidebook for Moving from Rural to Urban America, and its basic premise is that people are beginning to realize the beauty of the slower, simpler life – a life based on relationships rather than acquisitions. One paragraph caught my eye:

“…It is our disregard for the details – for the rituals of life, the nuances of living small – that has gotten us into trouble in the cities. The devil is not in the details. The angel is in the details, the angels of significance that constitute our lives, that make everyday life sacred, mystical and holy” (p.20).

As I read, I felt a certain restlessness creep in, a disturbance in my “inner wah” that made me realize that the authors were speaking directly to me. Now, my husband and I are not exactly urbanites – we live on three acres within a stone’s throw of blueberry bogs and raspberry brambles. And yet, I do not live what anyone could consider a “quiet country life.” There is always something to do, somewhere to go, someone to tend to. And I’ve found that more and more often, it is the urgent rather than the important that has been getting a disproportionate amount of my attention. Something had to change. The time has come to let go of certain good things, that God might fill my hands with something better.

Later this week at “Silent Canticle” I’ll post more about the “letting go.” But for now, let’s just note that it is in the rush and hassle of life that we miss out on the great moments of relating, of relationship-building. If we cram our lives too full of busyness, the really important things tend to slip through the cracks all but unnoticed. And just as inevitably, our stress level rises.

The other day on “Heart, Mind, and Strength,” Greg and Lisa Popcak talked about angry mothers, how we often don’t realize just how high our “default” stress levels are because we are not tending to our own needs – spiritual, physical, or emotional/mental. We spend our days and nights in a perpetually reactive state, and do not return to a place of inner peace and rest. And so it is no wonder when we begin to fly off the handle, or react with extreme and disproportionate emotions to the stressors of family life.

Does this sound like you? When was the last time you got out your pretty teapot, poured yourself a cuppa … and just let yourself breathe?

[1] This week I learned that this delicate repast, combined with pots and pots of tea, is actually known as “low tea” because it was served on low tables (“high tea,” it seems, is a tray of meat and cheeses, such as you would serve to the menfolk after a day’s work in the fields).