Sunday, December 26, 2010

J.J. Heller

Christmas has passed, and I hope that you all had a sweetly blessed time celebrating with family and friends.  I had intended to get a CD by this artist for Christmas - no biggie that I didn't.  However, this morning I went online to check on an order status, and began listening to the snippets of song samples available.  Shades of Alice following the White Rabbit!  Isn't that the way it goes once we begin internet surfing?  I went further by looking at this young woman's website and found this wonderful boxed set.  A set of five CDs for $44 plus free shipping.  Apparently, on one of the CDs there are only five songs, but they are all Christmas songs, and after listening to them, I was captured.  For those of you looking for music that turns your daughters hearts toward worship, I offer this for your consideration.

I bought it this morning.  J.J. Heller is folksy and lyrical (like some other popular artists out there today), but with messages overflowing in relationship with the Lord.  I'm looking forward to bringing them out one at a time in the coming year and listening to them with my girls - if I can bear to pace myself.

And look, she has a "real woman" blog as well....

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Entry

Well, the NPR Three Minute Fiction Challenge finally ended and the winner was chosen.  To say that my paper was not among those mentioned would seem as though there must be the taint of sour grapes upon my words, but there simply isn't.  I had a really great time writing a piece of fiction again after many years' hiatus.  It held all the fun of an assignment's parameters - without the pressure of a grade.  We were given the first and last lines, which I have underlined, and a limit of 600 words.  I didn't like my title, so I'm leaving that out of this post.  Any suggestions?

Some people swore that the house was haunted, although everyone knew the niece delivered groceries to her back out in these hills once a month.  That’s just the kind of wicked thing kids would come up with, spinning tales to add delightful pleasure to torment.  No one else ever drew near, and her world held safe and secure as it had for the past twenty-eight years.  Only the monthly exchange of food and essentials for the waste she bagged up to be removed broke the routine of her days.  Library books traded in and out on her niece’s card.  Occasionally they would exchange small talk, but what was there to say, really?  Her niece didn’t read.

She looked out the hazy window from her one chair, pausing her rocking at the end of a sentence, mid-paragraph.  The niece’s visit had been three days ago; however her ears caught the unmistakable intrusion of tires.  Instinctively, she took her glass of water, wiped the ring of condensation from where it had rested on the window sill, and stepped back into well-known shadows.

An old can-opener of a Buick crept close; it’s every advance whispering secrecy and shame, even in this remote place.  Ever so slowly it rolled to a stop.  She could see waxen hands behind the windshield, clenching and unclenching the steering wheel.  The door uttered audible protest and two tennis shoes emerged, resting lightly on the gravel.  The steady hum of the sun continued.  A girl emerged to stand unsteadily on white legs, her movements painful and jerky.  Opening the back, she pulled out an oblong swaddling of pale fabric and limped into the sagebrush.  The swaying straw grasses caught one another as she crouched down like a rabbit, murmuring soft and vulnerable words.  After long moments, the rhythmic scratching song of crickets rose with her and she returned to her car.  Nothing would change.  The door slammed shut with a muffled oath and the ignition turned over; she circled around and drove off, the dust barely rising behind her.

Behind the grey clapboard of the house, the controlled beating of the older woman's heart continued.  Eventually she took measured steps toward the window, scrutinizing the faded scrub some twenty feet or so from her.  A world away.  She lifted her glass to her lips and drank.  As she returned to her chair, it gave a simple wheezy sigh, receiving her with companionable familiarity. 

She turned the pages, her every sense crackled sharply to what lay outside in the chasm of distance.  In the hours following, all other accustomed sounds were muffled by the silence that met her ears, straining for a vibration unusual to the norm.  Dinner was eaten in regular solitary stillness.  Cleaning up and preparations for bed passed like the steady count of an old clock. 

Deep in the dark blue of night a mewling, poor and faint, stroked its finger over her sleep.  She remembered that softness.  She knew.  Two tight fists were struggling within the cotton folds of that bundle in the dark.  Life was wrestling, pleading to be recognized.

The worn floorboards creaked in anticipation beneath her bare feet as she walked slowly forward and peered out.  Nothing was ever the same again after that.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Yo' Mama's Chicken Soup

My husband has been asking me to make chicken soup lately.  'Tis the season for it, I suppose.  We have been relatively healthy in our house as Old Man Winter has approached, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – and chicken soup seems to be one of those magically special somethings that attend to both, as well as bringing comfort and joy to one and all.   I made the traditional standard chicken soup for years; but some time back, in my efforts to improve upon the time-honored ingredients in the “holy trinity” of mirepoix, I began bringing a bit more oomph to my golden elixir.  The naming comes from my passing this on to my own children, to be made for their future families, time in perpetua - as well as my sons' penchant for 'Yo Mama jokes.  My personal favorite was a sign outside of a restaurant which read, "Your Mama Eats Here". 

Making your own broth for your soup’s base feeds the taste buds as well as the body and soul.  For newbies to healthy cooking, I strongly encourage you to start here.  The first ingredient substitution was to exchange the humble potato for its sweet bright orange cousin.  Garlic is highly favored in our home, and is routinely added in triple the called-for amounts.   Including it and a lemony stump of ginger to the broth heightens the flavor.  I also began adding spinach, the safe green choice for those first venturing into gourmet dabbling on their own.  This time, however, I had a bag of mixed mustard and turnip greens in the fridge, and a new favorite was born!   The leaves are delicious, but the real treat were the ribs, which add a nice sort of bok-choyish crunch to the soup.  Those are the staples, with a little bit of this and that added from what we have on hand.  I forgot to add leeks I’d purchased this time, but I did drop in some frozen corn and zucchini cooked til al dente – delicioso!  I always add a generous squeezing of juicy lemon at the end for a delightful extra zing of flavor and Vitamin C.  I am purposely not labeling amounts – just use what you like and make this your own!  I read a wonderful book called One Bite at a Time by Rebecca Katz.  I am on my fifth round of checking this book out of the library, so I clearly just need to buy it.  She created what she calls the FASS Trick - which are the elements of taking a food to the YUM level.  I now cook with this mental reference always in mind.  If something's missing, its one of these four.
F - fats   A - acid   S - sweet    S - salty  

Ok, on to the cooking!     

Chicken, onion, celery, carrots, bay leaf
1)      1)  Begin by boiling your chicken with the veggies and leaf for broth – homemade is always best.  Once the chicken in tenderly cooked, remove and allow to cool on a plate for de-boning.  Separate into healthy bite-size pieces, not to shreds.  Remove the veggies and toss (I give the carrots to the dog) - they’ve done their job of imparting their goodness to the broth.

Sweet potatoes, zucchini, corn, greens, ginger, garlic, olive oil, sesame oil, sea salt.
2)      2) Slip the piece of ginger and minced garlic into the broth.  Peel sweet potatoes and chop into bite size pieces and add as well.  While the potatoes are gently boiling, add chopped greens to a medium hot pan holding a drizzling of olive and sesame oils each.  Cook til nicely wilted and add to the soup.  Chop up zucchini and add just before the potatoes are done.  Pour the frozen corn in, allow to reheat back up, then put the chicken (which should have cooled enough to be de-boned and waiting now) back in.  Salt to taste, and don't be afraid.  Soup needs some salt.  

A little hint: your soup may be a bit oily on top from the chicken skin.  I place a paper towel on top at the end of cooking to absorb the grease.  Two rounds should do it, and it makes for a “cleaner” soup.

I also like to chop up cilantro and add prior to serving.  A dribble of sriracha or other hot sauce is yummy too. Serve and share.  To your health!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Look Ma! No Hands!

Huzzah!  Like many out there, while I am not a complete babe in the woods when it comes to the internet and all things computer-wise, neither am I very adept at quick navigation.  My boys love to tease me with the eternal explanation that it all has to do with the mystery of the giga-bytes.  I am an explorer who is thrilled by any discovery or victory I accomplish.  The RSS feed on the sidebar is one such triumph for me.

Big smile!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Rate of Exchange

When we brought our daughters home, we tried to think ahead as much as possible.  Prior to bringing them to church, M and I discussed how certain things would go.  Who knows why some things come to your mind, while others never enter into discussion until they present themselves in the course of our days and then we must decide ‘what to do now?’  One of those things we considered prior-to was whether or not we would have the girls join in communion.  We’d let our boys participate as soon as they were able.  But like many things, upon reflection, we realized we simply did so because “everybody” seemed to.  We didn’t have quite the understanding of it as we came to later on – like a good many things.  So we decided that in order to be clear about what communion is, we would hold on allowing the girls to take it until the day when they understood it and had accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.  We were a bit taken aback when those in our small church dedicated the sacrament of communion to our girls that first Sunday we brought them with us.  It was a dear act meant in love, and we allowed them to join in, of course.  However, since that time we have not.

Such a decision leads to so many other considerations and clarifications for us to redefine and crystallize what we understand these things to mean to us.   Salvation became one of those items  - when and how does this come about exactly?  We needed to be able to put it in a very clear way for our girls so that they could best grasp what goes on in a person’s life with respect to Jesus.  The way I came to explain it is that it is an exchange.  Jesus has given His life for me, and when I came to this realization, in gratitude and love I responded by accepting that gift of sacrifice; in turn I gave him my little life to change, transform, and use as He wills from that day foreward. 

This morning I considered this question – how much do we want of Jesus?  I was always an introspective child, and I knew from early on and for many years that I had two particular battles that needed to be fought regarding Jesus.  The first’s focus was, just who was He?  Was I really going to buy into the claims made about Him?  Could I truly believe with all my heart?  ‘Cause I knew, of course, that He would know if I were faking it.  The second came to this issue, how much was I willing to give Him?  This duo played King of the Mountain in my heart and mind for years. 

At times trust and doubt vied for supremacy when it came to the matter of faith; many other moments were spent wrestling with the fact that I knew I just wasn’t ready to cash in my ALL.  There was simply too much I still wanted to do without someone else meddling with it by giving me any confining boundaries of which I should not pass.  I knew Jesus had plenty of those waiting for me, and I also knew full well I wasn’t ready to submit to them – or Him either. 

As often  seems to have to happen, life-shaking crisis came into my life.  I did not turn to the Lord with uncertain hope.  In all my muddlings, I knew that it was me who was having to do the sorting and figuring out of things.  God was not confused.  He knew exactly who He was.  I turned to Him and asked for the filling in of faith where my swiss cheese belief fell short, trusting that He could and would do it – and He did.  The first battle was over and done.  The Ruler of Creation loved me and took me in, and I was all amazement and thanks giving.

The remaining challenge, how much of myself I brought to this exchange, was less clearly decided.  I can honestly say I thought I gave everything to Him that day.  But as one day rolled into another, it became clear that I was amazingly deceitful.  Little bits of this and that were tucked away here and there, and I would find a snatch of the Old Me now and then.  Years of intimacy had established a nonchalance among my sins so that they’d just stroll on up and swing an arm over my shoulders like an old boyfriend, giving me a familiar squeeze and a wink.  However, with my life given over to the rule of my King now, I found He would not so easily allow ‘gluttony, lust, gossip, spitefulness, etc.’ (you know the gang), to play with me and my life anymore.   “Who is this?” he would ask with all the fullness of His love and truth.  Sometimes I tried to avoid His gaze, but eventually our eyes would lock, and one way or another my sin would be sent on his way post-haste.

Ultimately, it can be no other way in The Great Exchange.  With the passing years there have been a mounting number of times that my Savior has had to respond to the unannounced arrival of the unwelcome, uninvited, and unwanted imposters that try to lay claim to my heart, mind, and character.  With each skirmish, more of this little life is brought out in humbling fiery sacrifice.  Changed, transformed, and used.  What I didn’t know before The Exchange was this.  All that I held onto in comfort and self-gratifying love that I now lay before him and see go up in flames, it is never what is best, or for my good, or of any lasting value.  And what He does with those sacrifices is beyond what I could ever do or create or experience on my own.   This is real living.

I pray for a day of The Great Exchange in my girls’ lives.  But for those of us who have already had that momentous day, I just have to ask, “So, how much of Jesus do you really want?”   I think it’s a good question to greet the moment with, don’t you?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Picture This

This is a little something for me.  It's only $20, so its certainly something I could actually get for myself in real life.  I put it into my empty box of pretties because of what it represents to me, more than for the exact contents - which are still unknown to me at this point.  Creativity and time and a unique representation of yourself drawn from within, exiting my means of your hand, onto paper, in words and pictures without overbearing self-consciousness.  This book is Lynda.  What would the cover of my book look like?  And what would fill its pages?

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Arose around 8:30.  Made some french press coffee and drank it from handle-less tea cups.  I've found that I really prefer coffee in that smaller "dosage".  Checked e-mails and responded with rejoicing to a few fellow homeschoolers - one with a father who received a leukemia free biopsy, still needs prayer for an infection, but is feeling well; another whose brother-in-law was the victim of a near fatal car accident about three weeks ago - and was released to come home yesterday.  This is a miracle.  He has a lot of work ahead, but he is alive and home, and that was all extremely uncertain for a while.

9:00AM  Watched a bit of the Macy's parade with my kids before heading for the kitchen and leaving them to it.  I'm making a persimmon cheesecake that needs to get baked so it has the time to cool.  Just got as far as pressing the crust into the springform pan before Q took the oven over for roasting chestnuts for the stuffing.  Ah well, cleaned up the kitchen a bit while listening to part of a wonderful series Chip Ingram is doing on knowing if you are in love prior to marriage.  Michael popped out to the deck to check on his turkey brining in a cooler out there, then back to join the kids.

In our family, we all participate in the Thanksgiving dinner preparations.  Once the parade is over, people will be drifting in and out of the kitchen all day, contributing to the feast.  This year my husband (who staunchly has guarded our traditions over the years) surprised us by suggesting we come up with new recipes across the board.  Once Q challenged the sacred cow, Jiffy corn bread stuffing, and our leader didn't cave on this new direction - we knew this was for real.  So we scoured the internet and our cookbooks, and presented our recipe proposals for approval at a family meeting this past Sunday.  Everything is the same, but different.

The line-up is as follows:
M - the Turkey - using a new brine recipe containing honey, salt, vegetable broth grilled over smoky hickory chips outside
Q - will be doing two stuffings, of course.  One utilizing sourdough bread and sausage, the second one will be based on homemade cornbread and containing chestnuts.
D - mashed potatoes will be replaced by potato crashers
A - assigned the pumpkin pie replacement, she came through with pumpkin creme brulee!  I can't wait!  She also is giving corn pudding a go.  A southern staple which has never graced our table to date will be having it's debute today.
R - ok, we had to go get him from college a day ago, and he is sleeping until noon today.  Anticipating this, we gave him the assignment of the green dish - so he will be tutored in making a simple salad.
L and Mom - we will be bringing oatmeal sweet potatoes to the table, the aforementioned cheesecake, and a ginger-pineapple punch.

The day is interspersed with small delightful bites of life.  Sweet - my sister Tania and I play a game of chat tag, never quite connecting in actual time, but speaking to and listening to one another anyway.  Nourishing - I whip up a pineapple blueberry smoothie to sustain me and share a few cups with others.  Savory - Little L rubs the sweet potatoes with oil and wraps them, placing her packages to bake for our recipe to be finished later in the afternoon.  Peppery - some nudges to the less cooking-inclined members of my brood to pitch in as befits the day and occasion.  Saucy - my sister-in-law responds to my family wide invitation for all to come to our house this year.  They won't be able to make it, understandably.  Goat farming isn't the sort of deal you can just call in a neighbor for.  I am disappointed, but simply loved hearing from her.  Cleansing - around 2:00 I take a shower, dress, and then settle for a bit of respite on my bedroom loveseat, reading The Book Thief and tearing up with tenderness.  Rich - as R urges a spontaneous gathering of hands, so happy to be home.

Later on, we gather around the table.  It is full with food, fuller still with my family.  R finds our dinner music - always a big thing for the guys, D reads from the bible, Papa prays, and then we eat to satisfaction and contentment.  (Some of us to a bit beyond that.)  We all share at least one thing for which we are thankful.  Although this is a tradition, I always think that some my kids would usually rather we not do this.  I have to keep my list to just a few things.  I am so, so thankful.  M and I leave our children giggling and messing around at the table in the afterglow of the meal.  I wash some dishes, he carves the turkey and says to me, "I think we just see things differently than they do."

I agree, and I'm glad of it.  We talk about what that says about us, and it is deep and meaningful, and we savor the knowledge that we can understand these things together.  We are grateful to be here and now.  It is not perfect, but it is a gift of deep importance and consequence, and as such we treasure it all dearly.

Gratefully indebted to His unmerited favor, this is a day of thanks-giving.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I am currently reading the organic God by Margaret Feinberg.  For some reason I can't quite put into words, each time I pick it up, I feel a thrill of anticipation.  The reasons remain inexplicable because I have been a fractured reader, I must confess.  Honestly, I will have to re-read this book in order to do it justice.  However, today I read a chapter to my girls for our time of devotion.  Earlier in the week I'd shared an excerpt with them from the previous chapter.  It was during an evening of winding down on our recent Science Trip to Tybee Island and dove-tailed delightfully into our experiences in exploring His creation.  They had sighed in appreciation.  That's always good.

Today's chapter was equally inspirational.  This chapter literally breathed.  I felt connected and drawn along by the words as I walked through it with my daughters, glancing up to make eye contact, like holding hands as we ventured into a forest of thoughts.  They scribbled notes as I spoke, and I reveled in the joy of seeing this.  Each chapter focuses on a quality of God, and those who know all three of the fairer sex within our home might find it humorous that this particular one was titled: unbelievably stubborn.

It's ok to smile.

The author, Margaret, speaks of a book she has read and then passed along to her husband titled The Burning Word. In it, she learns of a rich Jewish tradition called midrash which invites deep exploration - including study, reflection, and debate - of the Scriptures.  From the book:
"Midrash reads the Hebrew Bible not for what is familiar but for what is unfamiliar, not for what's clear but for what's unclear, and then wrestles with the text, passionately, playfully, and reverently.  Midrash views the Bible as one side of a conversation, started by God, containing an implicit invitation, even command, to keep the conversation - argument, story, poem - going.
In Hebrew, Midrash means to search out.  Midrash asks the reader to find those quirky, oddball Scriptures and inconsistencies and try to make sense of them before God.  It challenges us to explore that which we do not know in order to better understand the One we want to know.

Midrash invites us to have a little chutzpah with the Bible....  I am invited into the depth of Scripture - to trade in a surface understanding for a deeper grasp of a passage's meaning.  Sometimes when I finish midrash, I discover that I know less than I thought I did, but even in that, I actually know more than I did when I started."

Yes, yes, yes!  I feel like I have found the word I didn't know was out there for this particular aspect of a living, vital thing called relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit God.  He wants us to interact with Him.  The fact is, when we are really honest we have to admit that we come with lots of questions, with loads of hang-ups and baggage, and we're not quite sure that He would really want to get into certain things with us.  And when we are really totally honest, we admit all of that and wonder if He is really up to all we could bring to Him.

I know that there have been times when I have wondered if He can really handle me and all my stuff.  But what I've found when I have finally gotten myself to that place where my desire for Him outpaces the fears and doubts of my own heart - is that He can.  In point of fact, He really is able.  When I have stepped out, sometimes in faith, at other times more in hope, He has caught me, been enough, seen me through, given me answers, and provided richly. The last line in the old hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness comes to mind, "Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside." He is more than able.

And He invites all my midrash.  All I can say is, thanks be to God.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Brushstrokes on the Sky

Driving around my county today, the skies were absolutely breathtaking.  I was having my own private showing of the grandeur of the heavens with every twist and turn of the North Carolina roads.  While a few sprinkles came my way, most were far off and I gazed at the wash of rainfall over the cloudy visage.  Every time I see distant rain I remember the first time I ever noticed the sight.  It was in one of my Mother's paintings.  The land of enchantment's wide open space met with a gorgeous red mesa, classic Southwest beauty.  Near the tabletop of earth, the grey brooding thunderclouds drifted into sweeping downward lines of the paintbrush.

I asked Mom what was happening in that change of shadow and mist; she answered with the simplicity of the little word, rain.  Even today, the sight always reminds me of a painting where I learned to recognize this particular stroke of God.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Dios Consolare a Forza

Dios Consolare a Forza - God's Comfort and Strength. The words are written in green above my kitchen sink in my Mom's beautiful script. It is a place of prayer.

My hands sink into the soapy suds and I spend the next half hour or so washing and scrubbing things spotless. There are some chores in which I especially find the silver lining of indulgence. The satisfaction in doing them carries a bit of the feeling of privilege. As I work to remove the film of food and grease, rewarded with leaving each piece squeaky clean, the act of being able to set just this small space right brings me a settled contentment.

Humming along to the Christian radio station, I tenderly join in harmonizing to Lead Me by Sanctus Real. Remembering the difficult early years of my marriage, our lostness without a clue as to how to find our way to all we'd wanted when we first wed and made those impossible vows. Prayers of thankfulness for all the Lord has done fill my mind, and they flow into requests for my children and their future spouses, that they would all seek His provision and guidance. May they never take lightly the honor allowed them to seek the Lord of all for assistance and ability to walk rightly with another, and I pray they will perpetually seek his storehouses.

I listen to a familiar and beautiful recount of God's handiwork in the history of time and man. It is a wonderful 'bible in song'. I impulsively raise my hands and a bit too loudly resound, "He died for my sins, and He rose again!" I suppose that really can't be sung too loudly, can it? None of my children come looking to see what's got me so worked up so I guess I'm alright. Mama's praising.

The other night, I lay in bed trying to pull my diverse and sundry thoughts together and make them behave and sit quietly while I spent time considering my God and Savior. His majesty. His wonder. His glory. They refused to comply, and time and time again I would realize I had once again unwittingly followed after a wandering one. I chastened myself for such inept focus. How can one not realize the truth in, "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak?" As is my overstimulated mind, at times behaving just as a wayward child distracted by the butterflies and clouds of thought.

But as I praise the Lord in melody, I know He smiles at his scatter-brained child. The words above me were chosen because of who He has shown Himself to be. Compassionate, never failing, forgiving, hope granting, mighty to save.

Rinsing my hands and drying them, I know that more than dishes have been cleansed and refreshed at my sink once again.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cocoa Butter Lotion Bar

It seems that eventually every family has to contend with the issue of what to buy extended family for Christmas, or more specifically WHO to buy for. Some are able to maintain the giving with the growing of the family, others choose to limit it to one another's children, and then there are those who decide that their own brood is as far as the giving can go. Many varieties of happy mediums exist out there as well, although they can be a long time coming. Too often I hear people complaining around the season of the huge number of gifts they must get. Really? I mean, before we get to Christmas again, let me ask you - really?

Growing up in my home we drew a single family member's name out of a hat and were supposed to keep it a secret until Christmas. Eventually, Dad was the only one still trying to keep his recipient's identity hush-hush, and it became the devilish delight of his children to spoil his ability to do so by sharing our names with one another. Ah, holiday memories and traditions... let's just say that we didn't get our wicked sense of mischief from our mother.

As we grew up, we maintained our gift-giving custom, extending it only to the added spouses. That way everyone has one person for whom to give a gift. Anyone who is able to give more is welcome to, but there's no obligation to do so. Some years it can happen, other's not. We all understand how it is.

A few years ago I taught my girls to sing "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music, which spawned an idea we have incorporated into our gifting tradition options on some years. We all have little things that we just love. Why not share them with one another? Really, it can be anything. One year my sister T sent us all a tin of cuticle cream. Another, I sent everyone a little box of Jelly Belly popcorn jelly beans with a few licorice ones thrown in. My sister E sent us a bag of Lindt white chocolate truffles. The limit is usually roughly $5 a gift.

So, last year my brother and sister-in-law sent each of us some samples from their neighbors at Cross Timbers Farm. We all enjoyed the goat's milk soap tremendously. However, the wonder product wound up being this stick of Cocoa Lotion Butter Bar. My sister E has used it on blemishes with great results which prompted me to encourage one of my daughters to try it as well. She did and thought it worked pretty good. But she also used it on the horrible mosquito bites on her legs, as well as old scars she has from previous years bites and her incessant scratching. The pediatrician has guilted me about them to the point where I have sometimes just had her wear pants in the summer heat so as to at least protect her somewhat.

Well, a little while back my daughter commented on how that stick has helped her legs. I took a look and was amazed! Her legs haven't looked this good in years, many of her scars have healed and faded completely. The stick is completely natural and I don't know which ingredient or combination of them has made such an improvement in her skin, but I highly recommend this product.

Sometimes the "favorite thing gift" you give becomes someone else's treasure as well. Maybe it will be your's too! Oh, and my brother and sister-in-law have begun their own homestead business as well - Old Paths Homestead.

Woo-Hoo! I'm a Winner!

I skip most of the blog give-aways that I come across, but I decided to enter the recent one hosted by Keeper of the Home. The offering was the book Herbal Nurturing from Frugal Granola. I just love both of those blog names. Well, this morning I found I was one of the three winners!

I look forward to learning more from this book about the ways to attend to ourselves without necessarily having to use medications from our local CVS pharmacy. I have been turning over in my mind thoughts on a unique home-ec series to conduct with my girls. This will do wonderfully as a resource for part of that course.

Thanks so very much, Keeper of the Home!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Browsing Borders

Last night I took a trip to the nearby Borders with my husband and one of my sons, enjoying what amounts to an upgraded library visit for me. Not to take anything away from our local libraries, who get much more of my patronage; and quite honestly, my money, as I pay fairly routine library fines. Worth every penny.

It's just that I get a pumpkin spice latte at Borders. After a bit of relaxing family chit-chat, we disperse to our various aisles and settle in to the time-honored tradition of browsing and scanning. Sometimes I even do the unheard of and read the end of a book that piques my interest, but I never intend on buying. I love the liberty of the entitlement to look through things, taking care to leave it well-intact for its future purchaser, with the complete lack of obligation to leave with anything. It feels healthy. There is a time and a place for laying down your money, but it need not be each and every time you enter a business establishment.

I must get a little book that fits into my purse one of these days. Fishing through my bag, I dispersed one receipt to my husband and found one for myself. We use these for jotting down things. His were notes on what he read and didn't want to forget, mine were of books I might buy at a later date. Among these:

When Forgiveness Doesn't Make Sense - a subject I have met and walked through, yet still wrestle with helping others to grasp
Captivating - to better understand our mystery
More Beautiful You - looks like a great girl's devotional
9 Things You Simply Must Do- for our good and the good of others
Forgotten God - Have you read Crazy Love?
No Small Snakes - Great hook of a title, and up my alley
Praise Habit - Funny and identifiable
The Sacredness of Questioning Everything - He's big enough, and this looked very smart
Spiritual Secrets to Weight Loss - I didn't agree with all of this (big surprise), but it seemed like a sincere cheerleading support of a book

As I read and perused, my head nodded or I laughed out loud. I hear that the field of journalism and its kind is dwindling. I hope that is not so. There is so much joy and satisfaction within the pages of a book. And as much as I enjoy the advantages of the screen for various things, it is an entirely different sphere of relating and operating. It does not replace a book.

Uncharacteristically, I actually left borders with a book in a bag. I decided I couldn't leave without The Organic God by Margaret Feinberg. I truly hope it is a book that will nourish and grow me, and that I can pass on to another. There is such a grace and weight of particular importance when a book is given to you, especially if it was read first, don't you think? This particular book seems made for that.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Time and Space and Imagination

It has always been important to me to not be the modern-day family. While I am glad to take my kids here and there as needed, the emphasis has always been on "needed." I recall the first year we began homeschooling, comforting my sons with the promise that fall soccer season would soon be over, and we would be able to concentrate just on school and outside play again.

This year we have two regular outings during the week. One is spent doing volunteer work for two hours, and the other is for the art lessons I prayed would be provided for A. It is a lengthy drive for the latter, but the lessons are an hour and a half long, and the teacher is a gifted Christian artist, so I find the sacrifice well worth it. Plus, it gives L and I some individual time together which is treasured by us both.

More than casting envious glances at the Joneses, my eyes tend to look back wistfully at my own childhood. There are any number of fond memories of skating and biking and swimming and games of kickball and freeze tag. But my favorite "growing up" year was the one we spent living on the island of Crete. I was nine.

There were no other American families stationed there when my Dad accepted his appointment. However, my gypsy Mother was not going to be left behind for a year or more, especially at a time when she was expecting their sixth child. So once Dad left, she sold the house, boxed up our things in storage, packed us all up, and we went sailing through the skies to be reunited as a family on a far distant shore. She homeschooled me and my two younger sisters, with two little ones underfoot, and soon after our arrival gave birth to the last baby - in a Greek hospital amidst people who knew no English. From the fertile soil of these memories sprang the courage to homeschool my own children (half in number at the time) many years later.

We had such amazing freedom! We lived in a village called Kounoupidiana (translation: cauliflower, ???), and roamed its length and width and breadth, and a bit beyond its borders as well. At our little girlfriends' houses we did our best to fork snails out of their shells, and ate soup containing the heads and feet of chickens as well as the familiar parts. We saw women gathering greens for dinner out of what we considered "empty fields." We raised fertile chickens and cats and rabbits and experienced all manner of strange situations that come up in animal husbandry. Shepherds herded their flocks of sheep through the village. We drank goat's milk delivered by a village woman each morning. I attended my first wedding - a Greek one - and it formed my impressions of what a wedding was like... lots of crowding forward. Our favorite place to go was the nearby olive grove, a beautiful gnarled woodland on its own, ripe for the imaginative creativity of childish minds. And when Mama wanted us, she rang her large brass bell and we came running home. I have chosen to share just a few memories from among the garden of delights that remain within me; my roots, as it were.

I have my own bell now, yes I do. ;D A friend purchased it for me on a trip years ago, and I have used it many days to call my own children back from their play. Times and the world have changed since I was a child, but we have tried to give our kids as close to an upbringing as we were blessed to have. We have lived in a few places that have had nearby woods for my kids to explore with compasses and lanterns and packed up lunches.

We are big fans of the Food Channel, and have all been impressed by the recent show, Chopped! We cheer our favorites on in this fast-paced, challenging contest. Our most beloved was a contestant by the name of Johanna who wanted to win in order to go visit her Grandmother in France. She was so sweet and humble and gifted. I wanted to bring her home here. So this past week, my girls have created their own version of the show during their outside time. They choose four different ingredients: three from the yard and a piece of chalk. They and their friend from across the street create fantastic and unique assemblies for a dinner entree and call one of us to be the judge. We take it all very seriously (and in great fun), and choose from among them who will be Chopped. The remaining two chefs get to duel it out for the dessert round, then call us to judge this as well.

And none of us misses where we might be driving to instead. It is my hope that afternoons and days of freedom will leave a deep and lasting impression upon my children's minds; that they will work good things into the fertile soil of their memories for the day when they will be nurturing their own children in years to come.

And if they want, I'll buy them each a bell.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

He Rescues The Downtrodden

I found a recent article in this month's Family Circle to be quite enlightening. Titled Too Cruel For School, there were a number of comments and statistics given that shed light beyond what I think the author even intended. Throughout the entire piece, the numbers were given to show the increase in any and all number of bullies and their attacks. 'In a 2009 study, researchers asked teachers whether they thought children's ability to get along with one another and resolve disputes had improved over the last decade, stayed about the same, declined slightly, or declined significantly. Their response was overwhelmingly negative: 75% of educators perceived a significant drop and 25% said they saw a slight decline.'

Now I understand that this is simply a matter of opinion, but these are the people who spend the most time with our nation's kids Monday through Friday - if anyone would know something about how they are behaving towards one another, you'd think it would be them, wouldn't you? And as far as how kids are conducting themselves during the times their teachers are not watching; well, I'd wager that most kids do not improve their responses and reactions when no one is around to correct them.

One of the selections chosen to boldly headline a caption was this: "In our enthusiasm to make our children smarter and stronger, we've forgotten they need time and opportunities to learn how to be competent social beings, which is every bit as important as knowing algebra and grammar." We are all painfully familiar with the common refrain of how poorly our schools are educating our children and ill-preparing them academically for life after high school. But now I'm reading that simply turning them out to be well-behaved and honorable members of society has fallen by the wayside as well. Not something I did not expect, but it is still so awful when the suspicions are verified to be true.

Here's a shocker. According to the 2010 Study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, do you know how much time per day the average child between the ages of 8 and 18 spends connected to smart phones, laptops, or other technological devices? Seven and a half hours! And that does not include the additional 1.5 hours spent texting. I'm not sure if television was included in 'plugged in' time, to be quite honest. But the grand summation is more than a full time job - 63 hours a week. "The time young people spend engaged with technology is time not spent playing on the playground, or learning verbal cues and face to face skills, like maintaining eye contact," says Gary Small, a neuroscientist at UCLA and author of iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind.

I found it interesting that these specialists, experts, teachers, and parents have all kinds of programs (many, very expensive) that they have found, have tried, or are willing to take a gamble on. 'But even the best of such programs are no silver bullet.' I would whole-heartedly agree with that. Even for parents such as myself who give our lives in an effort to not only educate our kids at home, but even more importantly in order to train them in the way they should go; we have no guarantees. I could not help but feel for the grasping heartache of parents who see their children in such a negative spiral and still leave them in the hands of others.

Lest anyone think that we are immune to bullying tactics and maneuvers within the homeschooling environment, let me assure you that even here the story is as old as Cain and Abel. I just recently had to have a couple of conversations with my own children and their friends. Tough girl attitudes, intimidation plays, demeaning and minimizing of a person's value, even threatening fists had come in to play. This is, unfortunately, our all-too-human nature. God desires to remake us. Our children have to be shown that a better way, His way, is a very real option.

I have been having the girls memorize some parts of Psalm 119, and we have been discussing it each day. This is no guarantee, no "silver bullet" as was mentioned. And yet I share the Lord's word with them, and trust Him to water the seeds that are being planted. In this lies my faithfulness, and the power of the Living God.

When someone treats another person in a demeaning or unkind way, it is always wrong. Our kids need to know that the Lord desires our delight in His ways at all times. They are not to be a passive audience, to watch or laugh, to allow it to continue by anything they might do or not do. His word is not simply for us to know, but to understand as a calling of the highest order as those whom He calls to follow in His steps. At times, we are to be the means of His rescue.

*How can a young man keep his way pure?
By living according to your word.

I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.

I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.

Praise be to you, O LORD;
teach me your decrees.

With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.

I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.

I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.

I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.

*Psalm 119: 9-16

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


I suppose most of America heard about the mother who spoke up against the explicit lyrics being taught to her 6-year-old daughter - just a few weeks ago. Anyone happen to catch the article on the young cheerleaders in Connecticut who protested the skimpiness of their uniforms' appearance? It sure caught my eye. In this day and age, anyone taking issue regarding the decency and appropriateness of public appearance is quite a rarity. I must admit, I have inwardly shaken my head at what I can only conclude is naivete' on the part of parents who encourage or go along with their daughter's enthusiasm to pursue cheerleading. Sure, I understand team spirit and the fun of rah-rah-rahing your side to victory. But once again, the times and ways of our culture have left this particular pursuit wide open in just about any way you might choose to imagine.

Cheerleading has been an issue for me for years as the Mother of sons. Remotes must always be in hand during sports events so as to quickly switch away from half-time temptations. But having daughters who are now of an age to participate (and having had to decline) has brought it more to the forefront. I could go on about how this past-time encourages exhibitionism, but can a true argument even be made that it does not? As I looked for a picture to adorn this post, I had to repeatedly minimize the screen as my husband, grown sons, and impressionable young daughters walked near me and my computer. What a job of stealth it was to lightly scan all the scantilly clad and suggestively (no, erotically) posed women in order to find an image of innocence that I think is what most parents are envisioning when they let their little girl don her "uniform."

Seriously, take a peek (parents) at what cheerleading has become. Are these the aspirations you want to encourage in your daughter? And even for those cheers and the girls who shout them out with smiles and real earnestness, I still have to say, "Come on. Your jumping around and high kicks create more of a distraction for men and boys to overcome than they inspire them to root for the team."

Reality Check

Friday, October 1, 2010

Faerie Organics Foundation and Blush

This was my first purchase with Faerie Organics and I have to share. I bought Medium Beige and Medium Golden Foundation, and True Blush and "Sun Kiss" Bronzer/Blush. I am a fan of mineral foundations and of natural products that come without planet-harming chemicals. Today I went with the Beige foundation and True Blush and was absolutely pleased with the soft finish. I had my choice of Airbrushed or Maximum Coverage; I chose the former. They are right, a little goes a long way. I used a very small amount with a light touch and the coverage is perfect. I can't wait to experiment with other products they carry.

The foundations offered come in a wide range of colors and you are certain to find a few options that will suit absolutely any skin color. There is also a White Mix Color "Adjuster" that you could use to tweak your choice, if necessary. And take a look at their bountiful lineup of blushes! This was harder to settle upon than which would be the best foundation match. Their colors are gorgeous.

Speaking of Color - they have two categories of eyeshadows. While I am more of a "au natural" girl and can't see going for the high pigment option, personally, there were a vast number of choices to tempt me among their regular eyeshadows and shimmers.

Additionally, Faeire Organics offers a very unusual service - foundation combo samples for a penny plus shipping! They come with 2 foundations (in any finish), sun goddess faux tan and sheer veil. What's not to love?

On a heart of servanthood note: I was surprised to find that they'd sent me two of each of my foundations. In the note they sent, they explained that they were out of the size I ordered, so they'd sent me two of the smaller containers - a full 10 gm more. Also, when I wrote and informed them that they'd accidentally sent me the wrong item color bronzer, they responded right away telling me to keep it and they would send me the one I'd ordered in the first place.

I look forward to trying more of their good-for-me-and-you products in the future! Five butterfly kisses to Faerie Organics!

Saturday, September 25, 2010


A little more tweaking this evening perhaps, and I think my Three Minute Story is set to be sent off to NPR. Not sure if I should or not, I had my son, D, look over it. "Be gentle," I urged. What if his response led me to... oh, anything that created more work for myself. Tomorrow is the deadline, after all. He's leaving his until then. Show-off.

Later on he came to me and gave me some feedback and we discussed it. There were areas where I chose to be less than descriptive, and he looked for more details. He peppered me with questions, and I explained the intentions and purposes behind my choices. Then I left to meet a friend for an appointed coffee date, using the drive to muse and ponder.

I'm not sure what I'll do just yet. I don't know if I'll know until I return to my story and re-read it tomorrow morning. But I came to some realizations. With a word limit such as has been given, the temptation is to say, "Well, how much can you really expect to do within 600 words? I can't really create all I'd like to. It can't be done. I only have 600 words, after all." This is Point A.

But great writers work in another realm, Point B, and say, "I have to make it work within those 600 words." The limit is a fact from which creation is called forth and gives defining distinction to the form.

One who aspires to be a great writer reaches for Point B from Point A and responds, "I have to at least try to capture something original and real within these 600 words."

That's me.

Friday, September 24, 2010

This Is Not Zen

As I sat in the chair at Great Clips today with a hairdresser who alternated between silence and shouting nasally in my ear at her co-worker, the full reality of 'leaving myself for last' nestled comfortably into my lap and looked up at me.

"So, what are you doing here?" he asked with his big, knowing eyes.

I thought. Images of my own dear Mother many years ago, always denying herself, evidenced by her three interchangable pantsuits hanging in the closet; the seven weeks of hair growth showing clearly at my roots; my finger, naked these past three months since I lost my wedding ring, despite my husband's urgings to replace it; my etch-a-sketch glass lenses desperately needing to be tossed; my busy schedule with time for exercise getting 10th place, meaning it rarely gets in the game; my CRV's defunct air-conditioning to which I respond by rolling down the windows in this hot Carolina heat; my lagging replacement of matching socks (nobody sees my feet most of the time anyway), my ultra-stretching or complete missing of my makeup foundation; the way I've learned to extend and wait and do without.

It's what I come from. We tear up our own old clothes and use these for our cleaning rags, we always run water in our shampoo, conditioner, detergents and soaps so that the inside of the bottle is thoroughly clean before throwing it out, we pull cotton balls into smaller pieces so as to get the most use out of them, we wear our jeans several times before washing, we always cook enough to have leftovers and often get "creative" with the third and fourth rounds, we never throw away something we don't care for - we use it until done and learn from that purchase not to buy that again, and we always look for the sale, coupon, discount, and off-season deal. This is not only very familiar to me - I dearly believe in it. All other choices seem wasteful and go against good stewardship in my heart.

"So. That's all there is to it?" was his calm response, as my ultra-quick cut was completed and I walked out, running my fingers through my still dripping hair.

Where does being comfortable with yourself as you are meet with up with caring for yourself as you know you are to care for others? When does the realization that so much of this is dross cross over into a lack of love (being a verb) for yourself? How does one distinguish between whether you are being satisfied and uncomplaining or a lazy martyr? I don't know if I've got that figured out yet. One of those things I'm still working on.

The thing is, I'm usually pretty content with what I have and what I don't. And I know that sooner or later I will get to what needs getting to. What doesn't will fade away. I could just as readily write up a list of those things I have, and for which I am thankful. I guess, well, I guess sometimes I just get a bit embarrassed by things that shouldn't matter, and wonder if they should matter more.

Like I said, I'm in a constant state of straining to conciliate the 'now and what is' with 'who I am'.

*Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
"Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.

This truth is greater than any momentary self-consciousness, discomfort, or frustration I may struggle with. Working through it or not, this I know.

*Hebrews 13:5

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Type-Trash Is My Friend

I have a half an hour to write before I shoot out the door for the evening.

Well, after ruminating for a while I tossed my initial idea for the Three Minute Fiction out. I came up with a secondary story, sat down and began tapping away, intermittently back-spacing, cleaning up as I went along. My right hand was really getting rather sore with all the deleting I had to do. Writers always have that proverbial trash can nearby, hoop shots and slam dunks filling and overfilling it. But things have changed and in this day and age we hit backspace and erase over and over again. I have dubbed it type-trash, not wanting to let go completely of my old imagery.

I have written a full 528 of the allotted 600 words, leaving what I hoped was a decent amount of room for deleting, revising, and polishing off. But five full days have gone by and my thinker has been tinkering, and coming up with much more major changes than I'd expected. It's a good thing I still have another four days because a pretty sizeable shift in my scenario has developed. Ah well, I wasn't completely sold on Story Two anyway - and I knew it, but I figured anything was better than nothing.

Still do.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Three Minute Challenge

Three hours there, three hours back. I drove to Raleigh yesterday to visit R, take him to lunch and soak in the dearness of him and how the Lord is working in and shaping him. Truly priceless, and I treasured every second.

The drive there was given to out-loud prayer, first and foremost. I love the cloister of communication my car becomes when I am out and about. A long drive is perfect for uninterrupted conversation, pleas and requests, the savoring of thanks.

Then I called my Mom and we gadded about all the happenings in our concentric circles of family, sharing our concerns and joys. Sisters, brothers, children, mamas and papas - we covered them all with a quilt of love and care, shaking our heads over the lines in laughter or the bearing of burdens.

It wasn't until the drive back that I actually turned on the radio. News and events and special pieces were given my attention as the asphalt flew beneath me and the sun began its descent for the day. As I listened, my ears tingled. A true gem was being shared. Have you ever heard of NPR's Three-Minute Fiction Challenge? Well, last night the bell for Round Five was rung. The first and last lines of a short story are given, and it is up to you to fill in the body - which cannot exceed 600 words. Oh. My. Gosh. How fun!!

The first line is: "Some people swore that the house was haunted."
The last line must be: "Nothing was ever the same again after that."

Rather pedantic, but oh well. Mentally, I began considering this proposition. I envisioned pulling out a wooden drawer full of door knobs, digging through them as I looked for my story. Why door knobs? Symbols of openings into closed off rooms, I suppose. It quickly became apparent there would be no time for development, immediacy would be elemental. One or possibly two characters only. Who would they be? Regarding the story itself - Genre? Setting of time and place? And what would precipitate the last line? I dismissed the miraculous as being too abstract and quite honestly, unbelievable, to most of today's audience. The weird or macabre would probably receive a better reception, but my days of foraying into those realms are past.

I think I know where I'm going, or at the very least I at least have an idea. That's the first step. What a brilliant invitation!