Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Not exactly ready for a side part

Yay! After one week, we finally have some hair!
We didn't want to have grassless head guys.

Don't forget to double click for a closer look. :-)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Take Heart Single Parents

Parenting is challenging. A single parent faces extra challenges in raising children. Often we hear the dire statistics of lower academic performance, social behavioral problems, and other risk factors with children from nontraditional homes. However, if you are a single parent, have a blended family, or adopted children, I want to encourage you.

Something that I had not thought about came to my attention through a video series, Parenting is Heart Work by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller. In the Bible we see that God often used children from nontraditional homes for special work. Here are a few examples. I am sure there are more.

Samuel grew up in the temple, probably seeing his parents just one time each year. God used Samuel as a judge and a prophet. He played an important part in uniting the tribes against the Philistines. He anointed two kings of Israel—Saul and David.

As a baby, Moses was adopted by a princess and grew up in Pharaoh’s court. God used Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt to the Promised Land. He also received the Ten Commandments from God.

Joseph was born into a polygamist family—the 11th son of his father and the oldest of two children born to his mother. His mother died when he was young and then his older jealous brothers sold him into slavery when he was still a young boy. God used Joseph to provide for Egypt and the Israelites during a seven year famine.

Daniel was taken from his family as a young boy and grew up in the Babylonian court. God used Daniel as a prophet giving him visions and dreams for the people of his day and for us today regarding future events.

Queen Esther was an orphaned Jewish child raised in Persia by Mordecai her uncle. God used Esther to become a queen and help save the Jewish people from being wiped out of the Persian Empire.

Becoming a parent brought me great joy. As a widow, I was aware that God promised to be the boys’ father. Psalm 68:5 says, A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. I remember one time talking to God while watching my son struggling at a baseball game. I said, “God, you are his Father, don’t you want him to get a hit?”

My mother-in-law quoted James 1:5 to me on more than one occasion when I talked to her regarding parenting. The verse stayed with me. Sometimes in my impatience, I said, “God, I need wisdom here, real soon. Please help me.”

My sons lost their dad at ages 10 and 12. I worried for my boys. I was concerned about them having good male role models. I fretted that the fun person in our home had died. As a single parent, I was often inadequate. However, God is using both of my sons today. They are good dads. They are both involved in sharing Jesus with others and encouraging believers. I don’t take any credit for my sons. Just as in the examples above, it is God that develops children for his work. And yes, even children from nontraditional homes.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20, 21

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pondering This . . .

Last night we went to Anthony Lawton’s performance of The Great Divorce at Wheaton College. Lawton, a Philadelphia actor and playwright, adapted Lewis’s story for the stage and performs this one-man play himself. He plays many characters-generally two at a time dialoging with each other. His expressions and actions were convincing, effective, humorous, animated. It was an excellent performance.

I originally thought that I was going to a drama of C.S. Lewis’s life story. I was disappointed when I found out differently and I did not want to go because of the topic of heaven and hell. However, I was so glad that I went. It was more than just a story about heaven and hell. It was very thought provoking.

I think that C.S. Lewis and others as well have warned that this is only a depiction of thoughts. Lewis and other scholars are not saying that this is what heaven and hell are really like. This novel is fiction—a dream. I am going to paraphrase play lines because I cannot remember them exactly. Okay, so much for any disclaimers, here are some of the things that I found particularly interesting regarding heaven and hell.

In hell, whatever the ghosts wanted, they imagined, and it happened but it had no substance and was transparent and of no value to them. Their houses were large mansions of so many rooms but did not keep them dry from the rain that constantly fell.

This is one part that struck me and why I am tagging this post for widows. Heaven was real and solid and indescribably beautiful. But the ghosts were not able to enjoy it because it was so hard to them. It hurt them because it was so real. Heaven usually seems ethereal and spirit like to us. Sometimes we forget that heaven is real. It is good to be reminded of that especially those of us that have a loved one in heaven.

And dear widow friends, I also liked thinking about this. The people or “solids” in heaven, some were robed and some were naked but not less adorned. They were ageless but with glimpses of frolicking youth or wisdom. I have imagined what we will look like in heaven. I know we will have new bodies and that we will be recognized. I wonder how old we will be. . . but heaven is timeless.

Hell and Heaven are retroactive so to speak. “This moment contains all moments.” We will see heaven as a glorious extension of earth and it will all fit into place. I love that idea.

The ghosts that took the bus to heaven had the option of staying in heaven. In fact, messengers were sent to them to encourage them to stay. However, almost all were not willing to give up every control and become empty of their self and surrender and gain entry into heaven. One man wanted to go to heaven but not on charity—only if he could earn it and get what he fairly deserved. One woman did not want to give up control of someone. The heavenly helpers instructed the ghosts from hell that they could accept heaven and all of its joys and become solid people but they would not be able to keep even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell. I found myself really wanting the ghosts, pulling for them, to just give up their efforts and useless stuff and enjoy wonderful real eternity. I was reminded that we cannot hold on to anything—not our rights, our plans, our health, our wealth, even people. This is the particular part that was thought provoking for me. What does that look like practically for me? How do I empty myself of self? I have been thinking about that often since seeing the drama.

The following Jesus teachings came to mind:

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mark 8:34-36)

When Jesus heard that, he said, "Then there's only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me." This was the last thing the official expected to hear. He was very rich and became terribly sad. He was holding on tight to a lot of things and not about to let them go. Seeing his reaction, Jesus said, "Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who have it all to enter God's kingdom?” (Luke 18: 22 -25)

Matthew 13: 45-46, is a short story about the kingdom of God. This story is told as The Precious Pearl in one of my very favorite children’s books, Stories Jesus Told by Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen. The story tells about the merchant that gives up everything, his money, his house, his three fridges and freezers full of food—everything except his felt hat with the floppy feather because it is his favorite—to get the wonderful white pearl. Finally he has to give up even his favorite hat. Here is how the story concludes:

Hooray! The pearl is his at last. Jesus says, ‘God is like the merchant’s pearl. It costs everything to know Him. But He is worth more than anything in the world.’

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Never ever again. I promise!

It took me awhile to get the courage to write this blog. Tuesday, Steven, David and Jessica came to my house because they did not have school and Patti was working. Steven and Kent had dentist’s appointments at noon. I was to take Steven for his dentist appointment and Kent would be dropped off by his friend’s mother at the dentist. After his appointment, he would come home with me and the other children.

I had not prepared for lunch before the children arrived. I knew that all of them like tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I decided to drop Steven (12 years old) for his appointment and then run to the Jewel which is two blocks from the dentist office for some soup and cheese and then go back and wait for the boys. Jessica and David did not want to go with me to the Jewel because the dentist office is fun. They have movies and a computer with games. These children are exceptionally good kids. I remembered when Patti went to a doctor appointment and follow ups following foot surgery, the receptionists often marveled at how nicely her children behaved. I was not going to be gone very long and so I dropped all three kids at the dentist office. Much to my embarrassment, when I got back to the dentist, Patti was in the waiting room. The receptionist had called Patti to come because the dentist will not work on any child if there is not a responsible adult in the office. Patti, inconvenienced and on her lunch break, responded graciously saying, “I was a little surprised that you would drop the children off here alone.”

I did replay that several times in my mind. I totally should have known not to drop the children off! I am thankful for mercy. The children were still able to have their checkups. Patti did trust me with the children for the rest of the day.

This is the best part. Last night with three other couples, someone happened to share a story about not using good judgment so I shared this story. My dear friends said that they might have done the same thing. Times have really changed since we had kids. They related other times where people do drop their children off—the barber, the library, swim lessons, etc. Also, the Jewel is very close to the dentist’s office. They laughed at my irresponsibility and understood. Isn’t that what friends are for!

Now, just in case Patti reads this? I am not going to ever, never, ever do that again!

This loosely relates:
I love this blog by Nicole.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Three cheers for step grandmas!

My niece Dawn and hubby Rick are celebrating the birth of their sixth child—a girl! We are all so very thrilled about this new little Madelyn Kay born on January 22nd. With four sons and one daughter, Ellie, soon to be nine years old, we just thought a girl would be so nice. However, Dawn and Rick decided not to find out the sex of this little one until she was born. Dawn’s theory was that if they found out early that it was a little boy, they would be disappointed. However, once the baby is here and healthy, they would fall in love and it wouldn’t matter if it was a boy or girl. And then she came. And she is female and darling and beautiful and dearly, dearly loved! You can see for yourself.

If this baby would have been a boy, his middle name would have been Walter after Grandpa Great—Dawn’s grandpa, my dad. Ellie is named after my mother’s name—Elizabeth. My mother died 24 years ago and my father remarried nearly 19 years ago. Since the baby is a little girl, Dawn and Rick decided to give her the middle name honoring my stepmom-Katherine. It is an honor to have any child named because of your name. (One time a family named their son, Bradley, after my son because he was so admired by their other children.) I just don’t think it happens very often though that a stepmom or stepgrandma gets honored by a namesake. This is something very special for Kay but also for me and for all other steps. Congratulations Kay for being who you are and thank you to Rick and Dawn for showing such sweet honor.

I do have to tell one sweet story about one of my stepgrandsons. Grif is now almost 12 years old so this happened a long time ago when he was in kindergarten. I had picked him up from school and we were having lunch together. He said, “Grandma, did you know you are not my dad’s mother?”

“Yes, actually, I was aware of that. Your Grandma Dee was his mother but she is in heaven now with Jesus and I am your daddy’s stepmother.”

Grif looked absolutely horrified! “Well” he said, “You’re not evil or anything.”

“Thank you, Grif. Not all stepmothers are evil. I know it seems that way because Cinderella had an evil stepmother but not all stepmothers are evil.”

After thinking just briefly, Grif gave me a happy smile. “You’re right, Grandma, not all stepmothers are evil. Actually you are nice!”

“Thank you, Grif.”

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Yahoo! She got that wrong!

Yesterday in the midst of dirt and grass seed and craft supplies and four children, I got a phone call from a realtor asking if she could bring someone by today to see our home. Now mind you, our house is not listed with a realtor, nor is there a sign in the front yard. However, I did tell our Bunco group and a few other people that if someone were to give us a good offer on our house, we would sell because we are ready to downsize. But I haven’t quite got Bob figured out.

Bob talks seriously about selling our home. He talks about having me make a brochure and sticking it in our front yard. He talks about listing our home with a realtor. He mentions that although everyone perceives that houses do not sell in January, in fact, many homes do sell in January. He talks about getting someone in to strip our kitchen wallpaper and paint. But when I arrange to have someone look at our home, he does not like it. He thinks it is not ready yet. But I argue, “If they are ready to buy now, why don’t we let them take a look?” Because he says, “We only want serious buyers.” Okay, but we were not serious when we came to look at our home and we bought it the same day. My argument is, “What do we have to lose?” I think his argument is, “We are not ready to have people looking.”

With all of that in mind, I told the realtor that I would like to check with my husband first. Bob was not in a position where he could take a call so I left a message. About this time I did some fantasizing about our house selling and me telling Bob, “Guess what? I sold our home today!” My dear cousin, Lynn, actually did that! She was having a garage sale and sold her home! Her husband came home after work and that is exactly what she said, “Guess what? I sold our home today.” Imagine that!

Then I started thinking about the Proverbs 31 wife. She buys; she sells; her kids call her amazing; her husband is proud of her. Wow! Then I thought of the football cheer, “Charge!” I was so psyched that after not hearing back from Bob for about a half hour, I called the realtor and said, “Sure, bring your buyers to see our home. What time would you like to come?”

Later Bob called. I told him. His response was less than enthusiastic. “I don’t think you should let anyone see the house until Krystyna cleans.” Krystyna cleaned Bob and Dee’s home many years ago. When I married him, he told me that Krystyna came with the marriage. I was thrilled. She is great but she is not scheduled to come and clean here for another ten days. I told Bob, that I was sure I could handle it. Hmmm the phone was pretty quiet. Nonetheless, I was undaunted.

So today, I polished and shined and swept and washed the kitchen floor on my knees. I shoveled the driveway and then shoveled most of it and the sidewalks again. I even cleared the deck, in case the buyers wanted to get a better look at the backyard. And then they came.

They looked and inspected and opened cupboards and closets. They even inspected pictures because the woman said, “You have many grandsons but only three granddaughters.” They went in the basement and the garage. They looked and loved it. Well actually, they did not actually say that but those were the vibes that I was getting. The woman did say that she liked my decorating.

Nope, no offer. I haven’t heard back but get this. When they were in the entry way putting their shoes on to leave, the woman actually and truly said this, “I can see you are a neatnik just like me.” I am not kidding! She really said that! Those were her exact words.

I cannot wait to tell Bob! I feel just like Eliza Doolittle—well almost.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Displaying Our Wares

Every once and awhile, someone tells me that I am creative. I am here to confess, that all of my creative ideas come from someone else. I sometimes adapt but mostly I have few original thoughts. When I know that I am going to have grandchildren over, I love to peruse the latest issues of Family Fun magazine. It is a great bargain at around $10-$15 per year! (Thanks to my sister-in-law, D’Ann for my first subscription.) I can always find a few creative ideas for crafts or fun things to do. On page 88 of the February 2008 issue of Family Fun, is the project that we did today. It is one of the ideas from the authors of Kids Concoctions books, John and Danita Thomas, called Grass Head Guys. First you decorate yogurt containers like bodies of little people. Then we put 2 tablespoons of grass seed and a cup of potting soil in a ladies knee high nylon stocking. We carefully bounced the stocking in our hand until it formed a ball. Then we knotted the stocking as tightly as possible and cut off the stocking top leaving about a 4 inch tail—maybe not that long. We attached googly eyes on the head with a glue gun and used a permanent magic marker to draw a smile. We filled our yogurt containers with water. The stocking tail serves as a wick to water the grass seed. The directions say that you should check the water level everyday to make sure that the yogurt container is at least half full. We really hope that the grass grows so our little people will have hair. If so, we will take another picture. Even bald, they look too cute!

Morgan and Jessica and I did another Family Fun project on Sunday when we were together. We wove cloth baskets using 9 yards of 1 inch cotton piping cord and strips of cloth cut in ½ inch strips. The directions for this project can be found on page 28. The weaving took us quite awhile to complete. I cut all of the strips of cloth and it was hard to keep up with the two girls. When I did my basket, I pulled the cloth a little tighter and thus my basket turned out much firmer. The girls wanted to add a handle to their basket. I was surprised how quickly the girls caught on to the process. We think the baskets look cuter if you use all of one color first and then all of the second color and so forth rather than mixing the colors as you go. Do you think we could get rich on homemade chia pets, cloth woven dinner roll baskets, and local natural honey at a French Market booth? Hmmm. . .probably not.

Monday, January 21, 2008

What a Doll!

This doll, Morgan is about to celebrate her 10th birthday. It was my special privilege to have a Grandma Day with Morgan on Sunday and Monday. Morgan Dee is such a delight! I enjoy so many things about Morgan! She is creative, dramatic, and such a girl! She is sweet, thoughtful, and responsible. She is passionate, empathetic, and idealistic. She makes me smile. She is easy to love.

I love that Morgan loves American Girl dolls. I loved AG dolls as soon as I learned about them years ago and could not wait until I could buy one for a granddaughter. As a little girl I always loved babies and dolls and little kittens and spent hours playing mommy. I begged and begged for a new doll when I was twelve years old for Christmas. Of course, I did not receive a doll although I hoped for one until the last present was opened. Mother had decided that I was too old to play with dolls anymore. Much later, when I was grown with children of my own, my mother told me that she regretted not buying me a doll that year. Me, too. It was nice know that. All that is just to say, it is with great pleasure that I get to see Morgan loving a doll. I understand!

Much to my disappointment, my stepdaughters-in-law, requested that I not buy their daughters an AG doll—for very good, practical, logical reasons. They are both wonderful and wise mothers! Susan wanted her own mother to have that special privilege which I totally understood. I will wait and see if there is an opportunity to buy an AG doll for Lilly. However, I won’t get my hopes up because early indicators are that she has very little interest in dolls. She is more likely to want a light saber, or a pirate’s sword, or a witch’s hat.

In November while looking for items for the Christmas Teas, I was in a resale shop and saw an American Girl doll with several outfits. I stood and pondered,“Should I? Should I not?” for some time. I left the shop but I just couldn’t stand it and so after one more stop, I went back in and bought this sweet little Molly (or so I thought--with her glasses and outfit) for me for when children come to play. And so it brings me great joy when Morgan and Jessica come to my house and bring their dolls and play with my doll. They have totally adopted her as a sweet little cousin for their own dolls. When the girls are together, the dolls go out to eat with us, have beds beside their beds on pillows at night. The dolls are read to, misbehave, fed, get cleaned up and have their outfits changed several times per day depending on our activities. The dolls are nurtured and loved. My heart is full as I watch them play!

And that was Morgan’s choice for her Grandma Day—to have Jessica join her on Sunday and stay overnight and do projects and play with the dolls. Then on Monday, Jessica went home and to another birthday party and Morgan and I went into the city with Morgan’s AG doll, Carly and with Molly. We went to a the Lincoln Park zoo, a horse show--The Quadrille at the Noble Horse Theatre, and then took Molly and Carly for a visit to the American Girl Store. Morgan wanted us to check if Molly could get her hair styled or a new head so that she would look a little better. What we discovered was that my doll is Samantha! A true case of mistaken identity! Definitely not Molly because Molly has gray eyes and Samantha’s are brown. Of course! We should have known that! She is one of the early American Girl dolls and looks completely different than today’s Samantha but she is definitely Samantha. At the doll hospital, they recommended that we leave Samantha exactly as she is or just style her hair because she is more special because she is not new. Morgan immediately renamed her, Sami—even though it was hard to give up the name Molly.

As I was driving Morgan home after our special day, Morgan said, “Grandma, you need to take care of Sami. Change her clothes and take care of her.” I asked if I could take care of Sami like one can take care of Webkinz. If you put Webkinz to bed, they can sleep and you don’t have to take care of them again for up to three months. Morgan plead on behalf of Sami. “Grandma, you need to take care of her more often than that!” Which is why—I am explaining to you—I just got Sami ready for bed. She looks darling. She is tucked in warm and cozy and dreaming of playing with Carly again soon. Thanks Morgan for all of the joy! Don’t grow up too fast! Happy Birthday!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tween Tour Tips for the Chicago Boat, RV & Outdoors Show

Location: McCormick Place
Qualifications of the Guides: ages 10, 11, 12, & 13;
Knowledge based on two years of attendance
Good order: To avoid the longest lines and give everyone an opportunity at their favorite event.
Life preservers: Get there early so that you can get a free life preserver. Go in the main entrance on the far left as that is where the line forms for the free life preservers.
Wii fishing game: There are two games going. Get in line immediately after you receive your life preserver. It is difficult but we had some catches.

ATVs: Go straight to the ATV’s on the lower level ASAP. The line gets long if you wait until later. The older boys (and dad) can ride the big ones and that line was short and went really fast. The younger boys have to ride the smaller ATVs and that line was longer. Still the wait was not long at around 10:30 a.m. You do not get to drive as fast as you want but it is still fun.
Pretzels: Look longingly and Grandpa catches on pretty quickly. We like them best with salt.

Fishing Pond: When your time is up, go right back in line over and over. There was no wait because we did this early enough in the day. We used some of our uneaten pretzels as bait and that seemed to help.

Casting Area: Go to the area where lures are given as prizes for casting in the hoola hoops. We all just took one turn doing this. They taught us the slingshot method. It was pretty fun.
Huge RVs: We climbed into and through several huge RVs. It was fun to investigate every inch—the bedrooms, bathrooms, neat ways that the counters and tables covert to other uses, the TVS, etc. They had some rules about climbing on the ladders which were disappointing.
Free Bandana: Close to the escalator before you head up to the boats.
Fishing boats: Pay attention when Dad and Grandpa are looking at fishing boats. It is a good idea to give some subtle hints on what would be nice and make sure that the motor is big enough that it could also be used to pull slalom skiers. You know that they would like to do that but they just haven’t taken the bait yet. It is a good idea to keep encouraging them.
Large yachts and/or houseboats: These are really fun to climb in and through and imagine how it would be to own one. At least one of us can really see ourselves buying one of these instead of a house when we are grown up. It would be so cool to live like that and have all of that privacy and luxury and be on the water all of the time! We thought the port holes in the top were pretty cool. On one of the large boats there were three port holes. Some of our favorites were the Silverton 38, Sport Bridge and Convertible.
Lunch: We brought our own sandwiches and cookies and just bought drinks. We sat on the picnic tables by the canoes but skipped the canoe rides. They are boring and the line goes really slow.
RC Boat Drag Strip: We watched this for a bit but decided not to wait in line. The boats seemed to be malfunctioning lots while we were watching. It looked like fun. Maybe another time, we would hit this early in the day.
State Farm area: Remote control boats and video car racing games—where three of you can race at a time. It was not too busy so we got multiple opportunities to do both activities as much as we wanted with minimum wait time. We all got prizes and they were pretty good—bags, key floats, water bottles, etc. One prize was an IPOD but no one had won it yet while we were there.
Expo area booths: We did those pretty quickly just going down a couple of aisles but Dad did end up buying a cool hammock that he had been thinking about since the prior boat show.
Big boat tour: We decided to look at one last big luxury boat. We had to wait in line for that for ½ hour but it was really good. Then it was time to go home.
Car ride home: One of us brought The Book of Useless Information by Noel Botham which kept us entertained for a good portion of the trip home.
That’s about it. Have fun!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Regarding Mountains

Donna was prepared. Her family was prepared. When facing a mountain, we knew that we needed to go forward and up. We were at peace knowing that God is with us on our journey.

But today we are breathing a sigh of relief. I am delighted to report that early this morning, Donna was given good news. Her biopsy is negative and further testing is not even necessary. Praise God! We are grateful and relieved. Sometimes God moves mountains.

But as for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.

My mouth will tell of your righteousness,
of your salvation all day long,
though I know not its measure.

Psalm 71:14-15

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Can't stop admiring my organized labeled basement!

After my containers were filled, I was not content. My handwriting is poor and the masking tape labels did not measure up to the stellar job that I had just completed. I work hard at not being a Messy. I went to Staples, Office Depot and Office Max looking for some large labels. I need removable labels because I change my mind on label names. A box filled with Christmas lights one year might get put in the Christmas candles box next year. The best I could do at those office supply stores were diminutive removable file folder labels not befitting my hefty containers. I checked on Amazon.com and found what I was looking for but it took me several searches so I thought I would pass on this information. The labels that really work great are Avery 6464. Do not confuse them with Avery 5164 because those labels are not removable. I ordered my labels on Friday and had them on Monday! I was rewarded with a happy hubby smile.

Containing Myself:Tips

Thinking that people might start looking in my closets, I decided to get organized. Humiliation is a good motivator for me. I had always used cardboard boxes of various sizes—preferring the large boxes from copy stores for reams of paper because they have good lids. However, since I wrote the contents with magic markers and then crossed out the writing various times, I had to actually dig through boxes to locate my stored items. This time, I decided to go with clear plastic containers.

  1. No matter what, you will spend a small fortune on the large plastic containers. However, they do vary quite a bit in price. If you are not in a hurry, it is worth shopping around and worth watching for sales. I have to act when the spirit is motivated because organization for me is a bit like dieting. It only happens for me when the switch is turned on and I still don’t know after all of these years what flips the switch. When I went out to buy bins, I was focused. I was willing to go through high wind, rain, snow or sleet to get my containers. Cost was not an obstacle until I started off right away at the Container store. Whew! It was like running into a brick wall at full speed! Goodness these are glorified boxes! However, I recovered and came home with 30, mind you 30, containers! And that was just for the basement. I had already organized one of the closets. Target did happen to have some on sale but still I am wondering if we should consider raising our home owners insurance.
  2. Not all containers are equal. There are many sizes and shapes. Some containers have slanted sides. I do not know why? One of my daughters-in-law is very particular about lids. That did not seem too important to me—maybe I will regret that later. There are many choices. I did not buy any bins from Wal-Mart because someone else had bought out most of the sizes that would work for me. Cost was similar to Target. I wanted to buy where there was a good supply so that if I ran out, I could get the same kind. I think some of my hubby’s characteristics are rubbing off on me. He would deny that I am sure. Measure the height and width of your shelves before leaving home. I got lucky on this one.
  3. The best quality bins were from the Container Store. I bought a few from there to see if I liked them better. I found the plastic is better and less likely to crack but decided that I could live with a lesser quality.
  4. Look at every container even if you are hurrying. It is faster than a return. A couple of the containers that I bought from Target in the middle of the pile, already had cracks in them.
  5. When they politely say at the counter, “Would you like help getting these to your car?” Say, “yes.” I didn’t and so I know my husband will soon be saying, “Where did you get that bruise?”
  6. If your husband is a “neatnik”, prewarn him, “This is going to get worse before it gets better.” Say that many times. If he comes home in the middle of the day, to check on your progress, have smelling salts and water nearby. Bob did not faint but he did go white on me.

My first projectBeginning the basement project
Making progress

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Lord Our Provider

We are distressed for Donna again. She had a biopsy today for breast cancer. It will be a couple of days until we know the results. It is hard to wait and wonder. Donna agrees completely with an email sent to her by our brother, Lowell, “Jehovah-Jireh either way but we will pray for the best.”

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Bob is doing his part to clean out, give away, and downsize our stuff. He put old or no longer needed tools on the garage table and then invited his sons to come and take any they would like to have. Kevin brought his three sons—ages 13, 12, and 10 to get some tools. The boys came carrying their own toolboxes. They received more than a few tools. They also received a history lesson.

Bob’s grandfather died when Bob’s father was four months old of a burst appendix. At that time, his grandmother, Elizabeth lived in Ottowa, Canada. She married Alfonse Riegert, a carpenter, when Bob’s father was four years old. Grandpa and Grandma Riegert never had any other children. By the time Bob was born, Grandpa and Grandma Riegert had moved to Chicago. Bob went a couple of times a month to Chicago to visit his grandparents and often stayed overnight in their tiny apartment. He can tell you all of the stops on the train, and what transfers he had to make. It took two hours to get to Chicago. With Grandpa Riegert’s help and tools, Bob constructed many toy boats and learned how to saw straight. Some of the tools that Bob gave to his grandsons belonged to his Grandpa Riegert.

“Grandpa, what is this?” was repeated over and over and Grandpa McDonell was happy to demonstrate the tools for his grandsons. Here are a few examples that were new to me that Bob told the kids about.
An easy out is used to get out a broken bolt. A nail set is used to finish carpentry so as not to leave a muletrack. The grandsons learned about a ball-peen hammer, star drills, friction tape, plumbers tape, cotter keys, flux soddering, a triangular chalkline, hand crank drills, wood chisel sets and a double spine roller tool that is still used today. They had never seen a Lufkin folding ruler. Grandpa demonstrated how to make a cut line. He also told them that after time the joints loosened ever so slightly so in order to get an accurate measurement, you have to really push against something with the ruler when measuring so there is not any extra space in the joints. He informed them of the use of the axe head and the hammerhead on a drywall hammer. There was a little metal box with steel posts with the numbers 0-9. You use them for engraving numbers on wood or metal or other materials by holding the post where you want the number and giving a quick hard pound with a hammer. While Bob was busy with other things one of the grandsons needed to try that neat trick. I forgot to take a photo of the boys and Grandpa. However some random numbers forever etched on our work table is an image to remind us of those special moments in the garage.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

And a Good Night to You

My husband frequently uses little sayings to make a point.

More ___________ than Carter's little liver pills.

Cuter than a bug’s ear.

He was vacinated with a victrola needle.

Hold her Newt. She smells oats.

How cold is it? It is colder than a well diggers earlobe in the Klondike.

Good Gracious, Gertie!

Today Bob was talking about something that he would really like to buy. I didn’t think that we needed it and so Bob relented. He said, “Like a hot flash, it will pass.”

Later when referring to a couple of phone calls, he said, “They are just tire kickers.” He must of heard that one from one of his early jobs as a car salesman.

About the only phrase I remember is from one of my favorite movies Princess Bride. I often repeat it to Bob before we go to sleep. I will let you fill in the blanks. “Sleep well, and dream of ________ ________.”

Real Men . . .

My dear hubby, Bob, and I and three other couples will complete a 10 week Bible study this week. On the cover of the workbook, are the words, A Women’s In-depth Study. Not only that, the study is 14 years old—which is totally reflected in the corny introductions of each lesson and in the hair and dress styles. From time to time we chuckle at things in the dated video. Even so, the men have faithfully completed every lesson. Since he travels, Bob often does his study on the airplane or in a business club room. He is not apologetic and says that he has learned much. All of the men say that they have enjoyed the study. Bob is willing to do another study whether taught by or for men or by or for women as long as the focus is on God’s word. These men also eat quiche and drink tea. I don’t think they wear pink.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Chew On This!

Tonight at a meeting at church, I learned something really vital. I must have been dozing or on vacation when this important bit of information became common knowledge. It was mentioned offhandedly tonight as if everyone but I had prior knowledge. Probably, I intuitively knew it also, because it is something that I often do. Now that I think about it, I must have known that it was effective. So just in case you were as unaware as me, here is the scoop: Chewing helps organize and calm the nervous system. Look at this great list of suggested items to chew: chewing gum, fruit leather, licorice, gummy bears, or crunchy snacks such as pretzels or carrots. Yahoo! Feeling a bit muddled in the mind and having used all of my elixir, (See this post.) I rushed home and made some popcorn (that comes under crunchy snacks). I was an eager, willing and happy guinea pig. (Pun intended.) Now I am writing a blog and so therefore my mind must no longer be muddled. The empirical data on this important theory has just been tested. Based on personal observation and experience, it is accurate. Ain’t life grand!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Beep (pause) Beep (pause) Beep

You know those cars that have safety back-up sensors. They detect objects behind the car when you put it in reverse and alert the driver by specialized beeps. Here is how they work:

The first zone is the safe zone. By being silent it assures you that there is not an object in the immediate vicinity.
The second zone is the caution zone. This zone typically is set to start when an object is 2-4 feet away and is noticeable by a constant beeping sound.
The third zone is the warning or stop zone. This is typically set from 6 inches to two feet. When an object gets this close the beeping sound will change pitch and will increase speed alerting the driver to stop.
The fourth zone is the crash zone.

Here is how it works with retirement.
The first zone is the safe zone. Mostly we do not think about retirement too much.
The second zone is the caution zone. We talk to financial advisors. And the phrase, “After retirement, we won’t be able to. . .” becomes more frequent.
The third zone is when we downsize to a smaller home and talk about a retirement date.
The fourth zone is when a gold watch is awarded, and everybody kisses and hugs and you go home and mostly stay there. (Actually I just made that up about the gold watch and the kisses and hugs.)

So I have been hearing the retirement beep (long pause) beep (long pause) beep, for the last six years. I have gotten rather accustomed to it and was quite able to tune it out. However, lately the beeps are getting higher in pitch and closer together. (It may just be that the Christmas bills have come in.) However, after listening last night, I think we are somewhere between the caution and warning zone.

Bob has asked me to get the house ready to sell! Yipes!

Monday, January 7, 2008

My Baby is 30 Years Old Today!

Dad and Brad--a long time ago

This picture reminds me of Brad's daughter, Lilly.

Brad was just a couple of weeks old when the Chicago area had a big snowstorm. The weather stayed cold and the snow did not melt for a couple of months. Then the following year in 1979, Chicago area had huge record snows again. Perhaps that is why Brad was such a cuddly, snugly, affectionate child. Or maybe that is a characteristic of second born children. Either way, Brad was a joy. He loved to play and have fun. His daddy called him his little buddy. Brad loved to do whatever Dad did whether it was shaving, or washing the car or playing with the train set or playing sports.

I know without a doubt that today, Dale would be so proud of his sons. Our sons are both so different from each other but both boys remind me of their father. Since this is about Brad, let me list a few similarities between Dad and Brad. Dale was a great father. Brad is a great father. Dale loved our church. Brad loves his church. Everyone always said of Dale, “He works hard and he plays hard.” The same is said of Brad. They both loved/love to play and vacation and laugh! Dale liked watching, “The Three Stooges.” Brad liked “Dumb and Dumber.” Dale was outgoing and loved getting together with friends, especially church friends. The same is true of Brad. Both were/are loyal. Dale and Brad was/is a person of integrity, could/can be trusted and wanted/wants to do the right thing. Dale worked on home projects. The night before his death, he was working on making a bathroom in our basement. Brad also does home projects. To name a few: Brad built a deck, tiled the bathroom, and put a new wooden floor in the kitchen and family room. When I am with Brad, I often recognize a gesture or expression that is so much Dale. Dale loved it when people told him how much Brad looked like him! Brad loves it that Jackson and Lilly look like him. Both daddies tried/try to be good providers—their names both suggest that meaning. Both were faithful men and loved God, their wife and kids, and lots of other people, too.

The December after Dale died, I had a difficult day at work where nothing seemed to go just right. Our neighbor, Mrs. G., was in the hospital and told me that she would really love to hear some Christmas music. I had bought a cassette for her and Brad and I shopped and found a cute little red tape recorder to take to her. When we presented Mrs. G. with the gift, the tape recorder would not play. It was so frustrating! I really did not have time to take the gift in the first place and was running late to pick up Andy from a school practice. Then I was supposed to feed the kids and get Andy and two friends to his junior high youth group. It just seemed that the day was not going well. Brad knew of my frustration and said, “Can I try to fix the recorder.” I replied, “It won’t work, Brad.” In my heart, I said, “God, didn’t you want Mrs. G. to hear that Christmas music?”

After we got home from delivering kids at church, Brad brought the red tape recorder to me saying, “Mom, I fixed the tape recorder! It works!” Sure enough, we tried it and it worked. After congratulating Brad on fixing the tape recorder, Brad said, “Mom, do you think I am just like Dad?” I answered, “You bet, Brad, you are just like your Dad.” We had time to get in the car and run over to CDH one more time and deliver the tape recorder and as we left the hospital, it was playing Christmas music.

That night I complained a bit to God about my frustrating day. It was as if a still small voice said, “I wanted Mrs. G. to have that music player but first Brad needed to know that he was just like his dad.” Of course!

Wow! Thirty years since his birth! I sure do love that man, my son! God has been faithful. Brad is much like his earthly father and his heavenly Father.

Happy Birthday, Brad!

More recent picture of Brad and his family

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Dicey Stuff

I guess it started with Bunco. I don’t like to miss a party so last fall I joined our neighborhood bunco group. Bunco is a game of chance requiring no skill except keeping the dice on the table when it is your turn to roll. Our Bunco nights are really about laughing so much that enough endomorphins are produced to keep us smiling for the next week. Bunco is also about good desserts and hors d’oeuvres so that our pants fit more snugly for the next week.

Then I was introduced to competitive Yahtzee where winning and losing scores are recorded and there are rules about rolling the dice and strategies are secret. That is from Matt—new husband of Carrie—daughter of our neighbors, Jim and Cindy. After every game the high and low score is recorded in itsy bitsy tiny print in the boxtop. It is their family tradition and involves a game almost every day.

Last night, neighbors Mary and John, (their real names) brought a hostess gift in a tiny package. After it was opened, we six neighbors rattled and shook out dice playing Pocket Farkel for the next two hours. It was amusing to have to say, “Oh, no, I guess I farkeled,” or “Sorry friend, you farkeled again.” Bob reminded us of a goofy old saying, “I’d rather be a smart feller than a ___ smeller.” (He made a big hit when he told that to three of our grandsons ages 10-13 years old a few weeks ago when one of the grandsons gave occasion for that comment. The boys nearly rolled on the floor laughing.) Farkel, rest assured, has nothing to do with that. You farkel if you do not roll a five or a one. It doesn’t take much to make us laugh. We had a great time. John and Mary’s rules add a bit of competition and fun. For example, everyone should start with a dollar or so of dimes. Then whenever someone farkels, you have to put a dime in the pot. If you get a Royal Farkel, you have to put 20 cents in the pot. The winner at the end of the night takes home the pot. Last night Cindy would have gone home with $3.60 except that we didn’t have enough dimes. I recommend this game. It really is lots of fun and does involve some strategy. If your eyesight is still okay, I recommend Pocket Farkel. The little canister fits easily into the smallest purse so you have something to do whether at Starbucks or at the airport or any place where you wait with a friend. It is a great little multigenerational game. So go ahead you may just turn the corner.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Debriefing Christmas

I argued with myself yesterday regarding writing one last Christmas blog. Andy and Amy went back to their home in NC yesterday. It is hard for me to move on. While taking down the Christmas tree I played an old Kenny Rogers cd.

Come and gather around at the table
In the spirit of family and friends
And we'll all join hands and remember this moment
'Til the season comes 'round again.

Let's all try to smile for the picture
And we'll hold it as long as we can
May it carry us through
Should we ever get lonely
'Til the season comes 'round again.

May the new-year be blessed with good tidings
'Til the next time I see you again
And we'll all join hands and remember this moment
And we'll love and we'll laugh
In the time that we had
'Til the season comes 'round again.

If we must say goodbye
Let the spirit go with you
'Til the season comes 'round again...

So as that song played, One Last 2007 Christmas Blog won the argument. So here’s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of my Christmas.

Good: Hors D’oeuvres recipes
These three simple and delicious recipes made a hit.
Next year: I will use them again.

Crab Spread
1 pkg cream cheese
2 cans crab meat
1 jar shrimp & seafood sauce
Layer these on a flat dish or Christmas plate.
Serve with crackers.

Artichoke Dip
1 can artichoke hearts (drained and chopped)
12 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
dash garlic salt
Mix together and heat at 350° for 25 minutes until bubbly. Serve with rye chips or crackers. (Be careful not to get the mayonnaise on the sides of the dish when heating the dip.)

Christmas Guacamole Dip
16 oz. container prepared guacamole
8 oz package cream cheese
1 cup sun-dried cranberries or cherries
Juice from one lime
2-3 large T. chopped cilantro
Mix all ingredients together and serve with colored corn chips.

Bad: We did not get a family picture of Andy, Amy, Ryan and Jacob. The above picture was taken just before they went through security at the airport today.
Next year: I will take a family picture of Andy, Amy, Ryan and Jacob at the first possible opportunity and continue to photograph them as a family at every possible opportunity.

Ugly: My Christmas sweater—that I will admit to putting on one time before I carefully folded it and put it away. I really had wanted a Christmas sweater for a long time before I got one and then I was so happy to have one.
Next year: I will try to throw it out or maybe that will be the following year. (I am still not 100% convinced.)

Good: Playing with the nativity sets with Ryan.

Next year: We will play with them again and again and Jacob can join us!

Bad: I did not build a snowman with Ryan or take him on a sled ride.

Next year: If there is snow of any kind—even if it doesn’t pack, I will do whatever it takes to make sure that we play in the snow!

Ugly? Dryed up poinsettias.

Actually, they are still a little pretty. I am having trouble coming up with another ugly. Maybe it is time to stop playing this game.
Next year: I will try to give my flowers a drink more regularly.

Good: Everything else.

My grandkids, relatives and friends, the gatherings, the worship services, the decorations, the snow, the lights, the music, the cards, the games—everything was wonderful!
Next year? I am not sure that anything can surpass the joys of this year.

Great: God’s great gift to us in sending His Son.

The words of a verse of a song called Christmas Makes Me Cry by Mandisa and Matthew West was on the radio a few times this season and particularly spoke to my heart. This Christmas, I was reminded that we are richly blessed and undeservedly, but incredibly, loved!

I think of Mary and the virgin birth
And I’m amazed at how much
God thinks we’re worth
That He would send His only Son to die
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Grief Thoughts and PS I Love You

Disclaimer: Before I write about this movie, I do want to say that the movie is rated PG13 with good reason. I certainly do not endorse many things in the movie nor do I see them as healthy grieving. Read the reviews before you see the movie. Also, what I write will spoil the movie for some of you. You know who you are so read no further.

Grief, like childbirth or other life experiences, is unique and different for every single person. Even so, sometimes we are encouraged by another person’s story. When we hear stories of similar reactions or responses, we began to realize that we aren’t crazy and that life will get better. The movie, PS I Love You, made me think back to my grief when Dale died.

I would have loved getting random letters for a year! As it was, I reread all of the letters that Dale sent me for two years while I was in college. I reread them in the first few months after his death and tried to discipline myself to only read a few per day. I was so grateful to have them! It was also a strange coincidence that for Valentine’s Day and our anniversary, I got flowers given to me for the first several years. They were not from the same friends. The givers did not realize how special their gift was to me. One time I was just in a grocery store on Valentine’s Day and they were giving out roses! I pretended that God was caring for me and reminding me that I had been loved.

In the movie PS I Love You, I related a bit to Holly watching old love movies. I had a song on a cassette that I played over and over. It was called, He Who Began a Good Work in You. One line said, You are His treasure and He finds pleasure in you. When you are a widow, you feel like no will ever treasure you again and find pleasure in you. It was good to hear that God loved me and I wanted to believe it so I played the song over and over and when I was alone, I sang the words.

Holly felt Gerry’s presence and then grieved for that feeling when it was becoming dimmer. For maybe up to a year after Dale died, I still felt his presence. I didn’t talk to anyone really about sensing it because I knew they would think it was weird. Much later, I talked to some other widows and realized that they had the same experience. It was assuring to know that I was not crazy.

I liked wearing Dale’s t-shirts as night shirts and I kept his last bottle of cologne and put it on night shirts to smell him and remember him for a very long time—years. I understood in the movie that Holly would want to wear Gerry’s jacket.

I sometimes had trouble receiving and rejoicing over others good news especially pregnancy, or birth of a baby but not always. It hurt my feelings though if friends hid their good news from me because they thought it might be hard on me. I was not predictable.

Fantasy was a relief from the present. It wasn’t anything serious as I always knew reality from fantasy. Before I went to bed, I played a game with myself. I would try to decide if I could have Dale back for one day only this week or this month, which day would I choose? What would we do? What would I wear? I liked to fall asleep imagining the day. I also read novels for escape. I read books from cover to cover because for a little bit while reading, I could forget everything.

I remember how hard it was to do daily chores because no one cared and no one was coming home. There was no joy in cooking because no one thanked me and raved on how good the food tasted. Fortunately for me, a college girl moved into the house with the boys and I needed to force myself to keep going. Still I often felt like I was drowning.

I heard Holly say, “I am old.” I felt old. Everything good in life had already happened to me.

I knew that I needed to grow up. Learn to do things—bills, yardwork, put gas in the car, put a chain on a bike. I felt sorry for myself. It sometimes made me angry. However, afterwards I got a sense of accomplishment.

Like Holly and her mother, I remember feeling like my situation was so different from women that were divorced. At first, I wanted to separate myself from them. It wasn’t long though until I discovered precious friendship in those relationships. Some of my friends that were divorced, best understood my grief. They were also grieving.

Eventually, I began to think that I changed. I was different than the person that I was when Dale died. I was more independent. I could make decisions and I even liked making some decisions. I began to feel more like a person that had abilities and something to offer. I felt more adult and more creative.

If you are a young widow, I recommend this movie. You will find a few areas that you identify with. You will know you are not crazy. You will cry but it will give hope as well.