Monday, December 29, 2014

The Plan Breaker

Have you ever watched the movie Evan Almighty, when Evan tells God he has all of these plans, and God just looks at him amused, then cracks up, laughing hysterically?

Right now, God is cracking up- at me.

The car died. There is no money for a new one. I really liked our Hyundais Elantra GLS wagon. It was like a purse on wheels. We took nine day camping trips up the mountains in that thing and managed to pack it to the brim with what we needed. I wondered of it used to be a clown car. But they don't make them anymore, and there was nothing else I really wanted- sedans don't have big enough trunks for a nine day camping trip, after all. 

Normally, I'd be a raving maniacal mess right now. But god gave me peace over it, so I thought that was the end of His blessing, and started making plans for living a carless life. 

I began looking forward to it, because we could take what we'd put into the car and put it into paying off debt and maybe have a little fun with the "extra". Granted, there wasn't going to be a lot of "extra", but if I pinched enough pennies, we could splurge a little once a month at the bookstore or going out to eat.

This is when God started laughing.

I started to get blessings. Little blessings- some of my crafted items had sold on Etsy. Someone is commissioning me to create a medley of personalized parody songs for her wedding. Other possibilities have been popping up here and there for expanding my humor ministry. Then someone gave us an unexpected gift to help towards the purchase of a new car.

After hugging them to death, I set the funds aside and still made my plans. 

I think God like messing our plans up, just to remind us that we aren't the ones in charge- He is. And when He messes up our plans, it's always to do something better for us. But sometimes we forget that or just don't see it. Like me. The more I think I'm in charge, the more God laughs and messes up anything I have supposedly set in stone, like this current situation.

We got a phone call.

It was from a dealership. Apparently my husband had contacted them about a vehicle he had only mentioned to me in passing, and I dismissed it because there was no way the dealership was insane enough to finance us. We were just keeping our heads above water as it is!

But after a few calls back and forth, we got the call. Financing was approved. We can go see and get the vehicle at any time. 


My husband grinned like a Cheshire cat. I could hear God laughing all the way from heaven. And my plans were completely useless. By the time all the financing is done, this should only cost about twenty dollars more than our old Hyundai. And we're not getting a car- this sucker is a mini van! We plan on checking out our used Hyundai Entourage mini van on Wednesday (because my husband is doing overtime for the next two days), but we hope to be the new owners as soon as we see it.

The Plan Breaker was at it again- messing with all my nice and neat plans. And if He's going to mess with my plans by letting us get this van, then He must also have a way to help pay for it. So I'm not going to worry and just accept the blessings He chooses to give me. (okay, so I won't worry as much because I'm really good at not listening to Him and worrying, but you get the idea.)

Though I'm still going to plan on how to use that mini van!

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Devil Wears Cleats

This has been a rough month.

It's bad enough that the budget in our household is tighter than an acrobats undies during the Christmas season, but with all the other wonderfulness on top of it ("wonderfulness" being the epitome of irony at this point), I have to admit- the Devil is wearing cleats and jumping on us with both feet.

In the beginning of the month, my husband had a bout of severe exhaustion and was out of work for almost a week. So when the plant shuts down between Christmas and New Years, he has to work part of the week because he used all of his allotted days off. 
I had pain in my right shoulder for a long time and was told over and over again that it was tendinitis, so no lifting for me with that arm, lest I rip something important and need surgery. So I overcompensated and wound up spraining my left forearm. When the MRI results came back for my shoulder, I was diagnosed with Osteoarthritis. So I didn't need to overdo my ding-dang forearm. It was going to hurt anyway, dagnabbit.

It wasn't all bad, however. We prayed for blessings and got them- God let the money stretch so I found some great stuff for Christmas at the thrift store, and then my husband was getting a Christmas bonus! YAY!

The next day, the car died.

When I say died, I mean died. Dead as a doornail. Kaput. The timing belt broke and decided to shred the engine. The family that does all the running-around for ministry was now stuck. How was my husband going to get to work? How would we go food shopping?

I know I prayed to God about the need to walk more, but this was not what I meant!

Normally news like this would send me into a panic. Yes, I only got the car once a week to go food shopping, but this was our only car, and we've been living paycheck to paycheck- so it's not like we can just go to Bubba's Auto Mart and pick up a couple more Hyundais.
That night, I was lying next to my husband and something occurred to me. "I don't remember when the Devil had jumped on us so fast after being blessed," I said. "We must be doing something really right."
He chuckled and held me closer. 
I sighed. "Remember that movie, Facing the Giants? The guy said 'in the good times I will praise You, and in the bad times I will still praise You.' Let's do that right now."
And we did. We praised Him for the peace we felt in this mess, We praised Him for the blessings of being able to work during the holidays when the company could have said "No" and suffer the loss of income, We praised Him for the Christmas bonus, the fact that I got the gifts before the car died, and all of the little things God does for us each day.

Then we went to sleep.

I'm going to confess something. As true as this story is, That doesn't mean I'm happy about it. I'm so not happy. I really liked that little Hyundai wagon, and they don't make them anymore. I run a bread ministry and I'm the main driver for picking up the bread. Our church and the local families need that bread. I cried when I was praising Him because my husband works so hard just to keep our heads above water and doesn't need anymore stress. 

I'm hating the situation, but I'm not going to hate God for it. The Devil would be dancing in his cleats if I did that. I'm not a perfect Christian- I'm not even a fantastic Christian. I'm just your semi-normal calorically-challenged individual that loves God and needs Him on a daily basis, or I'll fall apart. 

This has been a rough month. If I wasn't leaning on God, I'd be a hot mess right now. Trust me.

When I told a family member about my situation, she asked "Are you sure you're doing things right? Maybe God is telling you you're doing things wrong by letting all this bad stuff happen."
I gave that some thought. Was he trying to punish us? I didn't think so- if He'd wanted to punish us, why were we feeling so peaceful, like God was smiling on us? I think if God was upset with us, we'd know it- big time.

There's good news though! When my church heard about all this, someone lent us his truck for the weekend so we could get our food shopping done. Because of my husband's bonus we could buy enough food for several weeks (since we don't know when we can go shopping again). People offered to do some bread pick-ups for my ministry until we can wrangle up another vehicle- and my husband found that he can get a ride to work and take a train home, so he can work those overtime hours during the holiday.

The devil wear cleats. But God's cleats are bigger and have the devil's name on each spike.

God is indeed good. And I praise Him for it.

Happy Birthday Jesus! And thank You for all the gifts!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ham Radio

I was invited to be a guest on an internet radio station.

At first I was terrified. Who was I to be on a radio interview? I've never done a lick of stand-up, no TV commercials, and haven't even made it on to the news. But he wanted me on his show anyway, because he thought I was funny. What I really am is a complete and total ham- and he wanted me to be funny on the air.

Egad, the pressure!

He listed me a a comedienne- Me? Oh, no, no, no..I'm a humorist. Comediennes need to be funny every few seconds, while I'm a storyteller- I need a few minutes to be funny. But he insisted that i would be good enough for his show. 

I studied on how to be a good radio guest. I learned tips and tricks to keeping up the conversation. I learned what not to do, like say a lot of "ums" and leave dead air by pausing too much before answering. I was ready. When the time came, I called in.

At first I thought we had a bad connection, but the hosts mike was on the fritz and only worked sporadically. The co-host was good to go though, and all I had to do was repeat what I though the host said, just to make sure I and the listeners understood before I answered. He sounded like he was stuttering, but we managed to muddle through 40 minutes of the hour-long program. I thought I did only a few "ums" but all in all, I was doing well. I even spouted a poem I'd written called "Ode to Baldness".

Then the air went dead.

"John?" I paused a moment. 
Nothing. I tried to buy time. "Come on, John, the poem wasn't that bad was it?"
Nothing from the co-host either. Egad.
"Okay folks, I think we lost John."
Then the co-host popped on "I'm here!"
"Aaugh! I think I killed John!" (unfortunately this part was edited out of the broadcast)
"Nah, his mike probably died." the co-host replied. Then we continued the show.

John popped on a few minutes later- he had to call in on his own show! But at least his voice was clear now, and we completed the interview, having some laughs along that way.

Apparently he liked what I did, because he suggested I start my own radio show. "What would you call it?" He asked.
"Oh that's easy- Footprints in the Mud!" I replied.
"I'm going to keep egging you on to do this Beth", he said. "You have a great radio voice."
I, being the ham I am, lowered my tone a few notes, doing my best "announcer" persona, "Why, thank you, John!"

After we finished the show and I hung up, I gave his suggestion some thought. Could I be a radio show host? The idea has merit.

Though if I did, they might have to redefine the definition of "Ham" radio!

What do you think?

Here is a link to the show if you want to listen :

Monday, December 8, 2014

Meowy Christmas

It happened. As an early Christmas gift, we now have a new kitty added to our chaotic family. I named her Tinkerbell.

I should have called her Schizo. Or Sybil.

I first saw her at the shelter when I took Scootch in for a checkup. This little kitty had pure black silky short hair, with golden orange eyes. She reached out with her little paw, playing with me without using her claws, and I was enchanted. I asked to see her and we were put in a room. She was a total doll, playing and letting me pet her- even her tail. She was sweet but not overly friendly- she was more interested in playing, not cuddling- but that was to be expected since she was only 2.5 years old and stuck in a cage all day. 

After a few conversations with my husband to form a game plan, I went to the shelter to take her home. She entered the carrier without a fuss, and didn't utter a single sound on the way home.

The second we brought the carrier in, our boys wanted to see what was up. She hissed. We took her upstairs. She was going to reside in my daughter's room for most of the time until they got used to each other. Cats don't get along at first- she needed to get used to the sights and sounds of a new home, and my boys needed to get used to a new girl in the house.

We let her roam about when everyone is home for just a few hours each day- eight eyes are better than two, and the worst that's happened so far is growling, hissing and a few staring contests. The funniest part is that our boys are scared of her!

She comes down the stairs and they run. Yet when I come near her she runs. Tinkerbell seems to be bonding with my daughter (which is what we wanted), but she doesn't seem to like me. At least not yet. I hate this part of the bonding process because I have to be patient- and I'm not a patient person. I'm used to being able to charm animals, but Tinkerbell is slow to warm up to me. She likes my husband though- at least, until he pets her too fast- then he's rewarded with a swat.

She'll lay down with us one minute, and the next make a dash upstairs for no reason. Crazy cat.

I found her lying on my daughter's bed the other day and reached out to pet her. She was into it at first, but then tried to nip me. I tried easing my hand near her and she placed her paw on my hand, claws extended just enough so I could feel them. I got the hint and removed my hand. Slowly.

I know it will take time for her to get used to us. She was adopted before and returned, and I won't allow that to happen again. But I really do hope that she calms down and becomes the sweet little cat I met in the shelter. But for now, I'll have to play Kitty Referee and Master of Distractions to avoid any serious fights.

Maybe if I rolled myself in catnip...?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Boomerang Blessings

Unexpected blessings are awesome.

A friend of mine is caring for three children, and was feeling a bit overwhelmed. So we invited the whole bunch over for dinner and encouraged the kids to play games that didn't involve any techy gadgets. The three kids (two girls are tweens, one boy is mid single digits), rolled their eyes when my kids sat down with them to play cards and board games.

The eldest girl wasn't paying attention much to the jovial chaos, playing a game or texting on her phone. But after thirty minutes, all five kids were into a hilarious bickering over the rules of one particular game, because my son was trying to change the rules in his favor- and everyone knew it- including my son.

He didn't care. He's sixteen, has Aspergers, and thrives on conflict. His grin was wider than the Mississippi River as he went toe to to with each of the kids, including the youngest boy. When the first hour was over, they were having a blast! They switched to a new game, this time it was Battleship- though all three kids were surprised that the game didn't have all the sounds and electronics that the newer versions have. 

Yes folks, we actually have games that don't require batteries. Call Guinness World Records. 

In the beginning, we were blessing my friend and her kids. In the end our kids were blessed with company, we were blessed with the sounds of laughter and kids who weren't bored, enjoying themselves. By the end of the night, everyone went home or to bed tired, but smiling. Even the youngest had been begging to come over the next day to play again. 

We invited them back two days later, and this time we made homemade french bread pizza. They had a blast playing all kinds of silly card games and spent the next four hours at our house like they were there only a few minutes. Oh there were some snarky remarks made during heated debates over the rules, but since we adults were in the next room to hear everything (and correct any bad behavior), things settled down pretty quickly and fun ensued once more.

By ministering to others, they had in turn ministered to us. Which was an unexpected but delightful boomerang blessing!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Leftover Day

Traditions have to start somewhere...right? So we've decided to start a new one.

We call it Leftover Day.

Thanksgiving is the time for family. We make a ton of food, eat a ton of food, then talk about all the food we ate. Most of the time there are leftovers, and many questions as to what to do with all of the food before it goes bad. I have teenagers, so I my leftovers don't usually last very long, but I remember having leftovers from past Thanksgivings.

I noticed some of my friends didn't seem thrilled about being with family for Thanksgiving. In fact, some dreaded it because of all the drama that ensues. Since this holiday is geared towards family, even with the drama potential, no one really wanted to not go over for the traditional family Thanksgiving meal.

So I devised a solution.

We invite several friends and people with no family over on the Friday after Thanksgiving for Leftover Day. If they have leftovers they bring them, or bring a side dish. We make an extra turkey, and one or two side dishes (if we weren't hosting that year), then have a second Thanksgiving with friends. Everyone has their signature side dish or dessert, so we all get to try something different at the Thanksgiving table, and maybe share a few new recipes. Any unwanted leftovers are boxed up and sent to the local shelter or to local families in need. 

I always manage to have enough left over to make turkey salad for lunches for work and school, my fridge is cleaned out, and no food will go bad. I get to spend some extra time with friends, and there's no pie daring me to eat it. 

Oh yeah, this is going to be a new tradition in our house!

Would you be willing to try having a Leftover Day? If so, I'd love to hear how it went!

Monday, November 17, 2014

MRI Yi Yi!

Once upon a time I had a shoulder. It was a good shoulder, but it got strained and decided to go on strike. Now I no longer have a shoulder- I have this creaky old arm hinge that hurts whenever I try to lift stuff.

I asked for an MRI. I got an X-ray. X-ray said the bone was fine. Duh. I already knew that. This wasn't a bone issue, medical people- even you told me it was a tendinitis thing. But let's waste some fundage anyway by taking useless pictures of perfectly healthy bone. Sheesh.

Only after the X-ray was I allowed to get an MRI. So I took my permission slip and off I went to schedule an appointment.

I've never had an MRI before. Oh, I've heard tales of claustrophobics having panic attacks and people not knowing they had metal in them (like a pin they swallowed in the second grade), but I watched House and Bones and knew that those machines weren't as small as my friends had told me- they seemed roomier on TV. After all, TV doesn't fabricate...right?

The TV people lied.

Everything was hunky dory as I lay down on the little bench, trying to keep my bulk from slipping off the sides as the technician screwed on a shoulder holder thing that reminded me of a really weird-looking C-clamp. This was to keep my shoulder from moving during the photo shoot.

They laid a cotton blanket on me that was thin but warmed me up in a jiffy- especially nice since the room was below freezing. I really want to know where they sell those things- I want one to slip between my sheets on winter nights!

I also had a firm pillow tucked under my knees to make things more comfortable. Back spasms are bad if you have to lie still for forty minutes. I was given a panic button to summon the tech if I needed anything. Now it was time to stick me in a tube that reminded me of the casket shooter that shot Spock's body into space in Star Trek: Genesis.

As my head went in I was also concerned I might reenact Mr. Incredible's entrance into the travel pod in The Incredibles. A few more pounds and that might have actually happened!

My body parts that tried to slide off the sides were suddenly scooped up and pressed against the very tight walls of the machine. Oh sure, my shoulder had some support now, but was squished against the C-clamp and the wall. Looking up only rewarded me with a close look at frosted glass that glowed like a small sun. 

To hide the impending noise of the machine, I was gifted with earphones. Before the earphones were put on, I was given ear plugs. Talk about an oxymoron. But the best part was that my ears were already half plugged with wax (yet another health issue from the Wonderful World of Old), so I could barely hear the music from the 80's that I'd requested. 

But I'd heard that machine. 

I imagine it would sound the same from the inside of a dryer that contained a pair of sneakers. Thump, thump, thump. I hit the button several times to ask for her to turn up the music, but my requests fell on deaf ears- or the button she gave me was a fake one. I suspected the latter. I closed my eyes and thought happy thoughts- like how I was eternally grateful not to be claustrophobic.

Believe it or not, I fell asleep.

The sound of my own soft snoring woke me, and the tech clicked in. "How are you doing in there?" she asked. I think she thought my snores were me having labored breathing from a panic attack. "I'm good- can you turn up the music please?" But I heard a click after "I'm good" and the music remained muted.

So I fell asleep again.

The machine stopped and started a few times, and she kept announcing every four minutes that another four minutes had passed. And each time, she woke me up. Apparently I didn't need an update- I needed a nap.

Then it was over and I was extracted from the machine. My shoulder was killing me. It didn't like being shoved in a C-clamp and a Star Trek tube for forty minutes and let me know most insistently. 

I was helped into a sitting position, and my head spun. "Oh, that's normal," she said. "You'll be fine in a few minutes." Then she tried to rush me to stand and get out of the MRI room. I put a hand up and warned her to give me a minute- unless she wanted to try to pick my bulk off of the floor all by herself. She waited a minute until I was ready to stand. Smart lady.

I went into the changing room and slid off the robe, then spent the next ten minutes trying to get dressed with a shoulder that refused to cooperate. I did not want to go out into the real world without certain undergarments (at my age, gravity is not my friend), so after a struggle and a lot of awkward twisting, I finally managed to get dressed. Then I got the heck out of there.

I should be getting the results this week. I have to wonder what MRI really means. Personally, I think it means Majorly Rectal Irritant, which means a pain in the posterior- or in my case, shoulder. But you get the idea. Please keep me in prayer, Dear Readers- I need them!

Monday, November 10, 2014


I know why God gave me children, but why did He have to give me teenagers?

These people think they know everything- and thanks to technology and new math, most of the time they can prove it. But I have questions that need answers!

Why can a teenager program my new cell phone in 3.2 seconds, but can't figure out the proper setting for a dishwasher?

Why can a teenager talk or text friends on the phone forever, but can't remember what they did at school for eight hours?

How can teens make themselves a four course breakfast, but can't remember to put the food away?

How can teens be up at the crack of dark to go on a trip, but can't manage to crack an eyelid when the alarm goes off for school?

How can they understand new math but don't understand the simpler, old math?

Why are we parents considered dumb as stumps- until we brainstorm a way to get them out of trouble?

Why do teens think spelling isn't important, but get mad when no one understands their written work?

Why are teens okay with spending money- unless it's their own?

And why, King, of Kings and Lord of Lords, can't these teenage people clean up after themselves when they make a mess? I don't care if it's their rooms, the couch, or the kitchen- the house seems to be their personal dump site!

I really wonder if God was dealing with Adam and Eve as teens in Eden. "I gave you a garden and all I said was 'Don't touch that one tree'...and what do you do?" Then God places His hand to His head and sighs, muttering to Himself, "Thou shalt not kill...thou shalt not kill...I need to write this down...."

So God decided right then and there to invent The Mother's Curse- because He wanted them to have kids that act exactly like they acted.....

Teens. Can't live with 'em, can't sell 'em on Ebay. But you gotta love 'em, because you're the only one who can brainstorm them out of trouble....


Monday, November 3, 2014


That's it- I'm going to start a commune.

I'll start with friends and get them to move to a plot of land several hundred acres square. We'll build luxurious houses that are solar and air powered. There will also be a huge communal pool- because having one hundred separate pools is just silly- because we'll be spending all of our summers together anyway.

Since we'd have all the acreage, we'd start an organic, self-sustaining farm complete with farm animals and in-ground fish tanks for talapia, perch and any other good-eatin' fish that would provide all the fertilizer for the huge greenhouses so we can grow stuff all year long. I know it can be done- I saw a guy from Milwaukee grow a million pounds of food on a mere three acres!

Families will work together- everyone would trade skill for skill- you help me clean, I cook for you, you fix this for me and I handle your taxes- everything within the commune would run fairly smooth using the barter system. 

The best part is the kids would always have someone to play with and the at-home parents will have real grown-ups to talk to. We're talking major happy potential here, people.

For the public, we'd have stores for the produce, restaurants serving fresh organic food, and stores for homemade goods and crafts. If done right, this could be a self-sustaining neighborhood!

Okay, so the idea isn't a new one. The Amish have been doing this forever- without the cool pool and solar panels. But it's still a good, viable idea. Especially if you can get enough people in on it. 

So...who wants to start a commune with me?

Monday, October 27, 2014

If I Had One Wish

If you had one wish, what would it be?

Have you ever been asked that question?

I decided to give this question some seriously deep thought. What would I wish for? Other than more wishes, that is.

Then it came to me. If I could have one wish, it would be to understand any language, whether it be spoken, written, or signed. 

I could go on and say "so I can do a world of good for mankind" but that wouldn't be the entire truth. I would be cool to truly translate ancient Egyptian writing, read the original biblical texts, and translate the new math, but if I was really honest? I just want to understand what multi-lingual people say on the bus.

You know what I'm talking about- those people talking to their friends (quite loudly) about some adventure or drama they experienced- and just when they get to the good part, they switch to a different language!

"Well I told Niko that he was crazy, and I wasn't going to put up with his stuff anymore. And you know what he did next? Gouda mezzah pala blork zazzer remmy snark!"

How rude! Don't they know that people are trying to eavesdrop? And you know someone else was recording it on their phone. Unfortunately my stop comes up before I can ask the video guy for his contact information, so now I'll never know what Niko did. Dang it.

God does fill many wishes, but I seriously doubt He would grant me that particular one- simply because He knows I would be using it more on the bus than to better the world. 

Still, it would be cool to know what people say- especially about me as I walk by. You know they do this when they stop speaking English, look at you and giggle, then switch languages when you get in earshot. Just once I would love to hear what they really said, and respond sweetly in their own language. Just seeing their expressions would be priceless. Just thinking about it makes me grin.

 Now you tell me- what would your one wish be?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Shouldering On

Once I had a shoulder. It was a nice shoulder, soft, flexible, and strong. Then I went to the gym and used an above-the-head weight machine. This is a machine I've used many, many times before, and my shoulder never complained. But one day it happened. 

My shoulder had enough and I heard a lovely little Pop!- and I could no longer use the weight machine.

A few months later it felt tons better, and I had to pack up a three-story house by myself. some of the boxes were 70 lbs. but I did it, and my shoulder never said a word.

At least until a few months after the move. It started out as a tiny whimper, a small whine, and infinitesimal grumble once in a while. I continued doing my mom, wife, and homemaker thing, and rested it when it started complaining a little too much, which wasn't often. That was two years ago.

Now my shoulder is a cantankerous, cranky old nag that refuses to leave me alone- and hinders me from doing the simplest of chores. Lifting a frying pan has become hazardous to my well being, and grocery shopping is torture. So I went to my clinic. I went to my clinic for over a year for the same issue, and they kept telling me the same thing over and over. It's tendinitis. Stop lifting stuff.

I am a mother, people. You know as well as I do that if I don't lift it, no one else will. But the pain got so bad that for a while, I did stop lifting stuff. So now I sit here, still in pain, and a house that looks like it was hit with a garbage truck.

I had had enough.

My next appointment warranted a slightly veiled threat to the intern. If you medical people don't stop looking at the outside of my shoulder and start looking at the inside, you are going to have one very large, loud woman to deal with- one who can sing very bad opera. The intern (I never get the resident doctor) relented and scheduled me for an X-ray. An x-ray. Two seconds ago you're telling me it's tendinitis, next you're setting me up for an x-ray. X-rays are for bones, you twit. Not tendons. Why give me an x-ray?

The clinic intern replied, "It's procedure. If we don't see anything, then we'll do an MRI."

Procedure. Translate that into "Let's waste even more time and resources doing something that might kinda-sorta tell us what might possibly be wrong before we do something that could actually help you" and you get the idea. Clinics have a lot of "procedures", hoping you'll get frustrated enough to go away.

But they underestimate me. I'm a very stubborn, large woman who has two teenagers. I have enough body mass and gumption to wait out your silly "procedures". And I'll sing very bad opera while I wait. 

Last week, I had my x-ray in record time. I think the intern told the tech of my opera skills. This makes me very happy.

My x-ray review appointment will be this week. Let's see what the pretty picture is and if in fact there is anything worth seeing- or will they finally break down and schedule an MRI?

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of "Shouldering On"- when I divulge the test results!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cook vs. Chef

I am a cook. My husband is a chef. Neither of us has been to culinary school. He's a natural, and I had to learn from others- and sometimes from him.

What's the difference between a cook and a chef? Allow me to break it down for you:

A cook makes simple meals with a few stocked ingredients.
A chef makes elaborate meals with five hundred thirty-six ingredients that need to be bought fresh that day.

A cook uses one pot to boil water.
A chef uses twenty-seven.

A cook usually uses no more than two pots or pans to make a meal.
A chef uses every pot, pan, baking sheet, mixing bowl, utensil, and kitchen gadget to make a meal.

A cook cleans the kitchen as the food cooks. 
A chef never cleans or rinses anything and tosses everything in the sink and on the counters.

A cook has a dirty apron and a clean kitchen when the food is done.
A chef has a clean apron and a kitchen that needs a HAZMAT team when the food is done.

A cook's food taste like it was from mom.
A chef's food tastes like we got it at a fancy restaurant.

A cook usually has leftovers.
A chef never has leftovers.

A cook, at the last minute, can make something edible out of hot dogs and spaghetti.
A chef, at the last minute, can use what's in the fridge to make a brand new, fantastic recipe worthy of publication in Food and Wine magazine.

A cook hates it when the chef accomplishes the above and complains to all of her friends.
A chef loves it when he accomplishes the above and brags to all of his and her friends.

I am a cook. I cook all week, sometimes twice a day. My husband is a chef who cooks twice a week, usually on the weekends. Thank You God that he doesn't cook more often- I don't think the kitchen (or I) could handle it!

Monday, October 6, 2014

School and Crossbones

What on earth are the schools of today teaching our children?

I grew up on Phonics. My kids are pushed through the school system and still have trouble spelling the simplest of words.

I could do simple math and add a column of numbers together within a minute. My kids are learning a convoluted five to seven step process that a nuclear scientist would have trouble deciphering, no less my simple-minded self. Trying to teach the kids my way? Teachers beat me out every time. Teachers know more than me, they say. I believe that's true- especially when it comes to new math- but at least I can add a column of numbers without needing a ream of paper.
One math teacher berated my son for trying to do a math problem in his head instead of using a calculator. His reason? "Because he took too long". Even though he got the answer right, he was disciplined by the teacher and told if he did it again (therefore delaying class) he would get a detention. (this was a few years ago.)

I know what real food, healthy food really is. The school system just allowed all kids to eat for free. Free food, everyone! So my daughter fell for it. The other day she told me she was hungry. Why? Because her lunch consisted of a bun with a slice of tomato, lettuce, mustard and mayonnaise. They consider this healthy?

I was going to suggest they start a school garden to help teach kids what good food is, but the government is starting to ban home gardens- would my petition even get through the red tape?

Health classes consisted of a few slides and a lot of giggles, blushes, and pointing, but at least we learned how our bodies worked. Now they teach about sexual orientation, birth control, and other things I won't even mention on this family-friendly blog. But none of it had anything to do with how our bodies worked. Why do kids need to know that from a teacher? Just teach them how stuff works, please, and let me do the rest, thank you.

And many schools allow kids to bring in movies to watch on occasion. Movies? Some aren't even appropriate for kids, no less in an environment for learning. The only movies we were allowed to watch were educational like Disney cavemen teaching about music, or serious documentaries about historical disasters- not Harry Potter and Sponge Bob! One lunch lady commented that she played a kids movie during lunches to keep the kids quiet- they made too much noise when talking to each other. This is possibly the only time in their day they get to talk and the adults want to stop it?

Schools teach kids there is no easy way to solve a problem, to always use a calculator instead of your brains, and eat what we tell you, because we say it's good. Why socialize when movies can be played, and yes, sex is okay if we give you birth control. Egad.

My question to the schools is this- where are the classes for economics to teach budgeting and being responsible with money? Where are the cooking classes, the sewing classes that teach you to make a simple meal or fix a tear or  put on a button? Where are the classes that teach how to build bird houses, bat houses, and "off grid" mechanics to help our lessen the carbon footprint on the environment? Those are classes the kids need!

We need to start shouting, sister and brothers of the school system. We need to start fighting for Phonics, simple math, and letting our kids use their brains and talk things out with each other. We need people in the system to guide kids when things get out of hand in the lunchroom- Teach them respect for others and how to get along without a screen constantly in their faces. We need to teach them what a serving is, what is good food, and how to grow it.

We can teach them a lot at home, but let's face it- the kids spend nearly eight hours a day in the hands of strangers under someone else's agenda. If we just sit back, they will take over and eventually we'll have no say over the matter. 

Either that or start a series of community home school groups!

Monday, September 29, 2014

One Flu Over the Cuckoo's Nest

A few weeks ago, I had the flu.

It wasn't the bad one, with the hacking and coughing, but the one with the fever and feeling comatose for about two weeks. I also didn't want to eat. I ate because I needed to. You stop eating, you die- it's a survival thing. I liked living, so I ate- but only when I had to.

Last week, I had a doc's appointment. This is the part where they weigh me and shake their heads as they write that nasty three-digit number on my chart. But this time the number was significantly smaller.

Fourteen pounds smaller.

This is quite uncommon for me. I never lose weight when I'm sick. Ever. In fact, most times I gain weight. I've been seeing a nutritionist and I've been behaving myself concerning portions and food, so that might factor in some of this weight loss, but I'm sure barely eating for two weeks has a little something to do with it too.

I was ecstatic! 

When the intern came in and looked at my chart, we discussed what was going on. As soon as he heard I'd had the flu, the first question he asked was "Do I want a flu shot?"

I gaped at him, incredulous. "Are you kidding? Absolutely not!"

"Do you want to get sick again?" He asked.

I replied, "Dude, I lost fourteen pounds! What do you think?"

He just smiled and shook his head, making notes in my file.

I really don't want to get sick again (and I don't do flu shots anyway), but he didn't need to know that...right?

All in all, getting the flu was a good thing. I learned that I can survive on a lot less food that I thought, and portion control is no longer an issue. I even went to a buffet for a party the other day and had one plate. One. This was a buffet, people. An all-you-can-eat extravaganza of shrimp, steak, and roast beef, and I had a single plateful. I was satisfied, and I stopped eating. I was very proud of myself.

Maybe getting the flu wasn't so bad after all!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Flowers in Your Time Garden

We've all done it. We look at our schedules and all we see are appointments and "things to do". Kids need to go here, Husband needs to go there, you need to go here, there, and everywhere. Even the pets are busy. And by the end of the week, we're exhausted without really understanding why. 

Life used to be basic and simple. What happened?

Weeds have grown into the Time Garden of our lives. We just never noticed them until they grew through the flowers.

If you're anything like me, you're schedule gets full pretty quickly. It's easy to fill in all of those blanks with busywork of weeds...right? White space is a bad thing- especially when it shows up on our weekly calendars.

But there's the rub. We leave that space open instead of filling it with flowers. Flowers are things we do to wind down, regroup, and relax. If we planted flowers, the weeds would have no where to grow!

We need time out of our days to spend with family, down time to rest, read, or go for a walk; it doesn't matter what the activity is, but it needs to be something you enjoy doing. And if it isn't planned out the second you see that blank schedule page, it simply won't get done.

When I plant flowers during my week, I actually get more done because I feel energized. The stress is much less that it was (stress is never ever gone, because I'm a mom), and I'm a nicer person to deal with. 

Oh, but when I don't plant flowers....look out!

I used to feel my life was out of my control- so much to do, and so little time for fun! But when I plan the fun ahead of time, I do have more control. And life is better.

It's not easy stepping back from a busy schedule to one that actually allows you to breathe, but the effort is worth it. And it is an effort. It's hard for anyone to change from the faster pace that they're used to.

This week I have a lot of chores to do. The house is a wreck and I have writing deadlines. But I also plan on going for walks and having a friend over for tea this week. That time will be cherished and will keep me from getting too stressed- and that in turn makes my family happy.

Because we all know if Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy! And that, my dear readers, is the honest truth. I need that down time to remain sane.

Please plant those precious flowers on that blank schedule before your week begins- and watch the blessings bloom!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Don't Downplay The Yays!

When we were born, our parents celebrated everything we did, because we were doing it for the first time. When we were older, new achievements were set and accomplished with applause, wide grins, and cheers of "You did it!" and "Way to go!" ringing in our ears.

Ah, the glory days. We knew them well.

Now that we're adults, there never seems to be much to cheer about- unless you want the office fist-pumping for your last trip to the bathroom. Nah, I didn't think so.

People don't tend to celebrate the little things anymore, nor report them to friends because the triumph seems so small an accomplishment. But inside we are disappointed that no one else noticed and gave us some form of acknowledgement.

A perfect example for me was when I came down with the flu and could barely move for several days. Any effort was a huge one, and even a small walk from one room to another left me shaking and dizzy. Yet I kept trying, glad that I wasn't a complete amoeba, and moved a little farther and a little better every day.

My son watched me closely as I made my way from the kitchen to the living room couch. I thought it was just to make sure I got there without falling, but when I sat down, he let out a cheer. "You did it Mom! You made it all the way without stopping this time! Good job!"

Darned if that didn't make me grin and feel all happy inside. He knew I was really sick, and he also knew I'd needed help making the same trip the day before. And making it across the room by myself was cause for celebration.

I'm not just talking about when we're sick. I'm also talking about the little things we accomplish each day. It could be something you've never done before that takes a step in the right direction, getting more things off your "To Do" list, beating your son at chess (finally), or even stepping out of your culinary box and making something new for dinner. If it makes you happy, that's all you need to cheer!

Don't shy away from cheering someone else in their Yay moments. 

A friend of mine called me all excited that she had just learned how to make homemade mashed potatoes. Now, I make them all the time, but she is a microwave mom, so this was huge for her. I cheered her on like she had won the Superbowl all by herself. Now she wants to try new recipes and I'll be there to help and cheer her on.

You might have done their particular Yay moment all of your life, but it's a biggie in their life, and therefore should be celebrated.
Don't downplay the Yays in your life and in the lives of those around you. Encourage each other. Celebrate the little things. It might just make someone's day!

Monday, September 8, 2014


It isn't easy getting out of a rut. Sometimes you need to walk away from a situation to see things from another angle. It's hard to see where you are if your eyes are plastered against the wall. 

In this case, life itself was in a rut- doing the same things every day, all day. I don't care if you're a housewife like me, or a businesswoman, we all wind up getting frustrated when spinning our wheels. 

So, we planned a camping weekend. 

We had a three-hundred square foot cabin that consisted of a bathroom and shower, and the main room was also the bedroom- for all four of us. My husband, me, and my two teenagers. You foresee no problems there...right?

Now for you hard-core campers, it might seem a great luxury to have working plumbing in a small cabin, but let me enlighten you- a woman over forty can't always make the quarter-mile trek to the public bathrooms in time, and teenagers (especially boys) must take showers or no one will be able to breathe. Breathing is a good thing- you want to do that. A lot.

There was no kitchen. Everything was going to be cooked over a campfire or on the camp stove. I spent and entire day making meals for the trip, just so I wouldn't have to cook when we arrived. Hey, it's my get-away too! Throw it in a pot or on the fire, and we're good. I was ready.

Except I didn't make a packing list. I always make a packing list. And my husband was in a hurry to get going. He's always in a hurry to get going. After we unpacked, time was wasted buying things I had left at home. Note to self- make a list next time- your memory has more holes than a colander shot with an uzi.

Living in so small a space is good for the short-term. We learned that wooden bunk beds creak a lot, so we moved my restless son's mattress to the floor after the first night. We learned that every one of us snores. We also learned to shut it out so we could sleep. And neatness was not only a virtue, but a necessity- especially in the middle of the night when you're trying not to kill yourself as you head for the bathroom.

By the end of the get-away, the cabin seemed quite spacious, and I even came up with a few cool ideas for turning walls into table space, and using other space-saving devices that would improve living conditions had we ever had to live there. 

Just as we got used to everything, it was time to go home.

We arrived to what seems now a mansion, and everywhere I look I see luxuries...and mess. I also see many opportunities for personal growth as a mom, wife, homemaker and writer, now that I have on my perspectacles. They help me see things that I never would have seen in my rut.

I'm excited. I have new plans to make, new ideas to try. And, thanks to God, a new perspective on how better to serve Him through my family!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tap That Potential!

Have you ever had someone come up to you and say, "You have so much untapped potential!" 

Have you ever answered, "Yes, but..."

It's happened to me, and I've given that answer....many times.

So what's stopping me from being the best I can be? What's stopping you?

I bet it's the same thing- fear.

We don't do our best because we fear. We doubt that we're good enough. We are afraid of living up to a higher standard. We are afraid that the higher we reach, someone will find out we're not really so great and expose us to the world as a fraud. We are afraid that they're right, and we're just trying to fool everyone- including ourselves.

Fear is that knotted mass of sticky goo we put in the keg hole to keep us from getting hurt. It isn't easy being the best we can be, whether it's a talent (or several talents), an attitude, or whatever else people can see that's great in you. They see diamonds, but you can only see the coal. A little pressure and you can be something fantastic, but pressure can hurt, and many of us aren't willing to take that risk. 

Risk is scary.

Friends get frustrated with me sometimes because I never seem to tap into what they see as potential. But the problem is I can't see it, or if I do, I'm not willing to step out of my comfort zone and endanger my fragile inner being to the harshness of the world. But there are times I think I can do what others say I can. I begin to believe that maybe, just maybe, my friends are on to something. And I start believing that I can pull it off, whatever it is.

There comes a time in this life that we need to tap that potential, and see where it goes. It's scary, but it's also exciting. When I look back on my life I don't want to see a lot of "what ifs"- even if I fail, I will be a better person for having tried. Doing nothing does nothing. You can't grow a garden if you don't plant the seeds- even if you have no idea how to till soil, you learn by opening the seed packet, and play in the dirt.

It's not like I have to tap my potential with a sledgehammer. I can tap it with a hammer and a small nail if I want to. I can always widen the hole afterwards. In fact, I probably will. I might just keep that sledgehammer handy just in case I get really brave- but for now a small hole will do.

Someone once said, "Courage is not the lack of fear- it's doing what you need to do in spite of it." Tap your potential. See what happens. Either way, the results will allow you to grow in unexpected and wonderful ways. 

Now where did I put that hammer?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Multi-Tasker Headgear

It's not easy being a woman.

It's especially not easy when you're a multi-tasking woman. Actually, that may be the most redundant sentence in the universe, because all women are multi-taskers- even when we're not trying to be.

Who else could wear so many hats, yet not break her neck? Even if we don't have kids, we usually have more than one task going on at the same time anyway- we just have more time to devote to those tasks.

Some hats may seem like one hat, but they aren't. They resemble those hats you see in a Dr. Seuss book, where one hat has a bunch of tiny ones under it. These hats have sub-hats!

For instance:

     Husband Caregiver
     House cleaner
     Personal Shopper
     Incubator for the next generation

     Cow (when they are babies)
     Cash Cow (when they are teens)
     Toxic Waste Manager
     Cook (making meals from hot dogs and spaghetti, not the fancy stuff when you used to be a Chef)
     Greased Piglet Handler (aka wet, soapy, kid wrangler)
     Taxi Driver
     USO Expert (Unidentified Stinky Object)
     Actress (especially when the kids need a monster to "kill")
     Financial Guru
     Lunch Lady

     Acrobat (especially in high heels)
     Computer Expert
     Psychic (you know the boss will be here any second!)
     Phone Operations Expert
     Office Machine Repair Guru

...and this is just three hats. This post would never end if I mentioned all of the hats we women wear. 

Men have hats too:

Helloooo Wife!

Men are smart enough to take off a hat when they're done with it. Not us women, nooooo....we need to keep those hats handy just in case we're needed for something- like a Zombie Apocalypse. You know you have a hat for that, too....don't you? (especially if you have kids!)

Monday, August 18, 2014


I've seen some pretty weird things on the Internet. What I don't understand is the newest fad- Challenges. The latest ones are:

Challenges like teens lighting themselves on fire for fun. 

Making videos of certain body parts moving (and I don't mean ears or noses!)

And this latest thing that's even gotten adults doing it- the Ice bucket Challenge. People dumping ice water on themselves instead of giving a certain amount of money to a charity. Some are even congratulated for their bravery when doing it.


None of these things build character- in fact, some of them are downright dangerous and can cause permanent damage. I'm all for fun, but this is borderline crazy! Are kids really that bored with life that they invent new ways to maim themselves? 

Apparently so.

"I'm really bored. Let's find something cool to do- Hey, I know! Let's grab some lighter fluid and burn ourselves! Oh, let's be smart about it and stand in the shower first- of course I can turn on the water and hold my phone at the same time- I'm not an idiot."


"I want people to respect me for my talents. Watch me show off my (name body part here) so they can see how awesome and talented I am!" 
(for the record, popularity and "likes" on Facebook don't equal respect, kiddo).


"Oh look! This charity needs help. I can't donate, but to help spread the word of their needs, I'll post a video of me dousing myself with ice water- this is going to do wonders for them!" 
Um...why not take those bottles of ice water and sell them so you can donate to the charity? What good will posting a video of yourself wet and shivering do to help those in need? 

It makes no sense to me. I hope I'm not the only one.

I'd rather light a fire on my fire pit and invite a hungry family over for a cookout.

I'd rather see you dancing and singing with joy to God- that I will record and happily put on facebook!

And I'd happily dump several buckets of ice water on my head and post it to Facebook if everyone who watched it would donate to a charity. That is a challenge I wouldn't mind doing (and I hate cold water!)

Before doing any "challenge", please think before accepting- I don't care who you are, what age you are, or if you like or hate the color purple. Use the brains that God gave you and accept only those challenges that make you grow into a better person- not a human torch/porn-star/soggy-Popsicle!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Heart-Colored Microscope

People are funny creatures. 

We look in the mirror and see nothing wrong, but look at others with a microscope. We find every flaw, every blemish, every negative aspect, then act accordingly. The media and social networks don't help us curb this tendency.

But, what if we looked beyond the faults, the bad behavior and the negativity? What if we looked at people with a heart-colored microscope? What would we find?

We'd see the cranky old neighbor has a desperate need for companionship.

That nasty little boy next door has no one to talk to, and lashes out in frustration to anyone that tries to get close.

The homebody housewife down the street is just very lonely, and would love it if someone just said "Hi" and invited her over for coffee.

And the lady at church who keeps to herself, is just shy and doesn't know how to act around a large crowd- like a congregation. She would love to chat, if only someone would extend an invitation.

What if we looked at others and saw even a speck of humanity beyond the bad? God said that even a mustard seed of faith is enough. And such a tiny seed can be seen so easily through a heart-colored microscope!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Breaking the Fear Bone

I went to the Greater Philly Christian Writer's Conference this week- it was chock full of classes, workshops, sessions and appointments- so much so, that I need a few days to recuperate after I came home!

The classes were awesome (though I missed the main one I wanted to attend due to appointments- good thing Torry Martin said I could buy his book- Shameless Self-Promotion!) I did manage to get an appointment with him, though. I had to admit, seeing him face-to-face, I wanted that long red hair he has. Gorgeous! Since the appointment we had was only fifteen minutes, I asked the only question I was desperate to have answered, "How do you get up on stage when you're scared to death?"
His answer? "Just go up and do it."

Egad. the man was a hack. Where was the list of breathing exercises? The "Rah-rah-you can-do-it" speech? The "Just call me anytime day or night and I'll help you launch your career" support? And why didn't trumpets from God sound when he said these supposed words of wisdom? I took this all in stride and thought maybe, just maybe I could learn more from his classes. (And his hair really is that gorgeous in real life).

Ah, well. Maybe the rest of the week will be fruitful.

It was.

Occasionally I was given the opportunity to bless others. I was looking for a seat for services when I noticed one lady rubbing her arms and shivering. I asked if she was okay and she mouthed the words "Peri-menopause cold flash". I smiled, because at that very moment I was having a major hot flash, so I offered to sit next to her. After a few minutes she smiled and leaned in to whisper "Thank you, I'm much warmer now!" 

Just using what God gave me, sweetie...just using what God gave me. In the meantime, the audio faculty was sitting in the booth above me toasting s'mores over my head. I was glad to help.

Sometimes you learn lessons outside the classroom, and blessing others can mean blessing yourself- in unexpected ways.

After overhearing some of the faculty lament over how stressed they were, I shared with them my "100% Surefire Way to Get Rid of Stress and Nervousness". Marlene Bagnull, the Ringmaster of this particular circus, liked it so much she asked me to show my technique to the entire audience of conferees during the morning services.

I'm sorry....what?

Go up in front of everyone, and do my silly little technique? Didn't this woman know when I get up in front of a crowd, I'm somewhere between bed-wetting and a near-death experience? Apparently not. Then God whispered in my ear.."Remember what Torry said."

Just go up and do it? Oh please God, tell me you're kidding! My knees went to jelly just thinking about it!

So stop thinking about it and just do it.

Yes, Sir.

Marlene was nice enough to give me a code word that would cue me to "interrupt" her announcements. Otherwise I would have just sat there and forgot what I was supposed to do. I tried boosting my confidence before the announcements.

Just get up and do it. You can do it. You can. You might need a mop afterwards, but you can do this. Just thank God that the floors are tiled and not carpeted.

Then Marlene said the code word. I was up!

Inside I was a mess of nerves. So nervous that I didn't even use my own technique to get rid of it! But I got up, did my spiel, and was surprised to hear...laughter! And applause! I did it! I did it! I just got up and did it!

Torry Martin is a GENIUS! I'm buying all of his books!

The best part? After I did my technique, you could feel the entire room settle down- the tension was gone. I had helped the entire audience relax and settle their nerves. God is good, and my wall of fear crumbled into dust.

That fear has been a wall that's been up since I was in grade school when I froze on stage dressed as Shirley Temple (I was the only kid with naturally curly hair). It felt weird not having that wall there anymore. 

Oh, I had "battle nerves" after I sat down next to Marlene (I was shaking like a jackhammer), but an excitement ran through me that could only be God and the Holy Spirit saying "WOOHOO!"

During the rest of that day I had people coming to me and saying they saw their classmates using my technique before class. I was so tickled! When one person did it, everyone laughed, and it helped a lot of people settle down for their appointments (which can rattle anyone's nerves)! 

When Marlene began to play my video that evening, I heard soft gasps of delight as my face showed up on the screen- the conferees remembered me and were looking forward to the video. They loved it, and those sitting next to me made me get up and take a bow. I was grinning from ear to ear and my face felt flushed- and this time I wasn't in the middle of a hot-flash.

I felt like I could really reach out and touch people's hearts. I really could "just get up and do it". The wall of fear was down, and I could see the sun shine for the first time in decades. And it felt good.

Thank you Marlene, for putting up with an over-exuberant nutball. Thank you conferees, for being willing to laugh, to share, and for all the congratulatory hugs and handshakes. Thank you Torry, for listening and giving simple but powerful advice. You are so not a hack- but I still want your hair. I just wish I could have told you all this in person! (Not the hair part but the other know what I mean!)

I have some nibbles on my book proposals, so I'll be working on them this week. As for this breakthrough? I'll be working on what to do with my new found confidence (and yes, something to do with those techniques I was talking about)- so watch out, world! Here I come!