Thursday, February 28, 2008

A New Blogging Friend

I’ve added a new link to my Friend Blogs at the right.

Sarah is my cousin Candice’s best friend. Sarah, Candice, and I all went to high school together, but since they are two years younger than me, I never really got to know Sarah all that well.

Read what I wrote about Sarah recently in this post.

Thankfully, through Candice, we’ve been able to reconnect. I’ve found Sarah to be hilarious, insightful, and a person who lives her life with the utmost conviction. She’s a dear sister in Christ, and I hope we are on our way to becoming even better friends.

Stop by her blog, if you get a chance, and welcome her to our circle of blogging friends!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Cold Smackdown

I am loving this glorious Midwestern winter!

The record setting snowfalls, the glorious bedecking of nature in pristine white, and the gentle quietness that envelops a cold winter’s evening.

Wait. Scratch that last one.

Brett and I have NOT enjoyed a whole lot of quiet in this frigid winter. In fact, we were alarmed one cold night when we heard vandals attacking our siding with baseball bats.

“Vandals! They must be attacking our siding with baseball bats,” were my exact words.

My husband, roused by the banging and clanging, envisioned our teenage attackers armed with spray paint cans. Lurid visions of Prairie Grass Growers splashed across our garage in neon danced in my head.

(We, um, don’t mow our lawn very often, and that was all I could think of for neighborhood vandals to mock.)

I talked Brett out of going out into the blizzard with his little friend (and by that, I mean, “say hello to my little friend,” if you catch my drift).

Instead, we both pulled on our matching Puffy Coats, hats, mittens, and boots to trek outside and face our attackers head on.

Clutching flashlights, we carefully circled the house. We must have looked insane to any observant neighbor. A tall man and a fat woman walking in large circles around their own house.

We were gender-reversed Boris and Natasha.

With no sign of Moose and Squirrel.

Of course, our neighbors should be used to our strange behavior. We also carry flashlights in our bedroom to light our way, because we’re too lazy to walk the seven steps to turn on the lights in the dead of night.

I’m perpetually nervous someone might see the flashlight glow, and knowing we have no children who would foolishly play with flashlights, call the police and swear burglars have invaded our house and are currently rifling through my jewelry box.

Those burglars would be mighty disappointed, if that were indeed the case. They might even leave US money.

After four circles, and two false sightings (tree sapling, me), (lawn spinner, Brett), we were stumped. Back inside, we heard the same cracking sound.

Convinced the teenagers were back, Brett took another lone trip around the house to no avail.

Back inside, together again; we realized the cracking sound must just be a quirk of our house. Since that night, we’ve come to expect what we call the Bat Attack every time the temperatures fall below freezing.

The day after our brave trek around our house, my neighbor flagged me down in the driveway as I was trying to leave for work.

“We saw all these footprints around your house this morning. My husband thinks someone may have been casing your house.”

I paused for a moment. “Actually, that was us.”

Shock and surprise registered across her face. “Whatever were you doing out in the middle of the blizzard in the middle of the night?”

I thought for a second and finally told her the whole long story. I left her with eyebrows raised and a neck tilt that had me suspecting the next time vandals attacked our house, the graffitied message might read, “Moose and Squirrel Haters Live Here.”

And that my friends, is yet another reason why our neighbors think we’re so weird.

(I think they may be right.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Remember the Corded Phone?

This started out as a comment and turned into a post. If you’d like to know how it all got started, read the comments from my last post.

I've been meaning to do a post about how irritating it is that technology is moving at the speed of light.

Learn one thing and immediately, it's obsolete. Seriously, I can't keep up, and heck, we can't afford the new stuff anyway.

I remember when I started working in graphic design (way back in ’00). It took me a while to learn the design program software. Within just a few months, everyone was sending us new software to sample. I went to training after training where the latest and greatest in production software was touted.

Since then, I’ve attended at least a hundred trainings, each complete with new, updated software.

It just stymies me that there is just SO much to know. Frankly, I don’t know how anyone can keep up. It changes so fast.

Where do people get the money to shell out for new phones all the time, huh? We hang onto our phones until something actually happens to them. We can’t take photos, videos, or even text.

Truth is – I don’t want to. But in this business, you have to try to stay on the forefront of emerging technology.

Sometimes, I want to scream, “I DON’T WANT TO KNOW IT ALL!”

And, in truth, it seems so unknowable.

I was struggling with this the other day, talking to another designer who is many years my senior. I asked her how she keeps up with all the new technology.

“I’m not afraid to say ‘I don’t know’ when I really don’t know,” she told me. “I have a finite mind. We all do.”

It gave me a little peace of mind to hear that from someone as accomplished and fantastically talented as she is.

I’m not anti-technology, Lord knows, but it just evolves so fast.

At work, 50-something moms keep up with their college-age kids by texting. Their kids text them all the time, since (according to one mom), “No one wants to get caught talking to their mom, but if they’re texting, no one knows.”

And what is it about always having to stay connected? There are times I don’t want anyone to know where I am. I don’t want people to get a hold of me.

I used to like hearing the phone ring at home. Now, with phones ringing all the time – annoying little songs – and I cringe at the first tinny tone.

It’s just one thing after another – BAM. BAM. BAM.

I know there are benefits to constant contact. When I was in my car accident, pinned to the driver’s seat by the steering wheel, I was grateful to have a cell phone. I called 911, my husband, and my mom. That day, I was indebted to technology.

But, also because I know how to use THAT particular technology. I don’t mind learning new things, and this blog has been a heaven-sent opportunity for me. But there are days I feel like I’m on the verge of sensory overload.

Do you think the world will ever slow down? Just a little?

Because today, I’d like to unplug, sit back, and listen to silence.

Dang it! There goes my phone!

Added addendum:
I used to think it was just me – my own fault for choosing a career in communications.

But I’m learning sensory overload is everywhere. My husband's a laborer – a common laborer – and his work life is guided by the evil E-2 Time Tracker. Each forklift is guided by a super-computer that tracks every piece of inventory and sends off alarming little beeps when something isn’t tracked immediately.

So, I guess it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do. Sensory overload can affect you!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Still More

Here we go again…

Things That Annoy Me

14. People who type in all capital letters.
15. People who don’t use ANY capital letters.

(Those people who type "i this" and "i that" drive me absolutely, foaming-at-the-mouth insane.)

I hate what texting has reduced us to. A nation of lazy idiots.

(Yeah, yeah, and YOU hate people who don’t use complete sentences. I get it.)

That’s just gr8.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Nap Time

My parents were big fans of “the nap.”

When I was growing up, the Trotter’s Sunday routine consisted of church, dinner, and an afternoon nap.

This does not mean, of course, that I took a nap. But both my parents went down for the count.

Mom often retreated to their bedroom with a smiley announcement, “I’m going to take a nap!”

There was a ton of subtext under that cheerful announcement however, which told us NOT to wake Mom in the event of a phone call, fire, or the Second Coming.

Dad would also zonk out, usually in front of the couch with the newspaper spread across his lap like a faithful dog.

I would escape to my own fortress of solitude after having successfully stolen the funny pages. I’d scour the comics (my favorite was the whimsical Calvin and Hobbes), laugh at Dave Barry, and wonder at the soap-opera problems of the Ann Landers set.

All to the soaring symphony of Dad’s loud, proud snoring.

I’m sure my parents made me take naps when I was very young, but my memory has not recorded any time in particular when I was told to take a nap.

For some reason, my parents figured I would figure out when I needed a nap.

I remember a time when I was working on second-grade homework. I was angry and frustrated, unable to understand the problems or achieve an answer, in spite of my mother’s patient help.

I threw down my pencil in disgust and burst into tears.

I remember Mom looking sympathetic and then feeling Dad’s strong arms wrap me in a bear hug.

“What’s wrong, honey?”

“I just can’t get it. I don’t understand it!”

“You and Mom have been at this for a long time. Maybe you need a brain break. How about you get some extra rest, and you can work on it in the morning.”


I was convinced I’d never have time to finish my insurmountable multiplication before heading to school in the morning. Nothing frightened me more than facing my teacher, the taciturn Miss Bull, with empty homework hands.

“Well, if you go to bed now, you’ll have no problem getting up a little early. In fact, if you DO go to bed now, you’ll probably wake up refreshed and invigorated!”

Only Dad could make an early bed time seem like a trip to a water park.

“Okay, okay” I grudgingly agreed.

I remember waking up the next morning, stumbling my way to the kitchen, and finding my school books - along with orange juice, two smiling parents, and my absolute favorite (and allowed-on-Saturday-only) breakfast of chocolate Pop-Tarts.

I took confidence in my parent’s confidence that I COULD do it, and spent the next hour finishing my homework. I believe I received an “A” on that particular assignment – a feat I attribute in no small part to my parents and the nourishing Pop-Tart breakfast.

This may also be why I often reward myself with food. But that’s another story.

Things were not the same way at the Boehm home, my aunt’s home, the amazing place I was blessed to have as my “second home.”

Aunt Kathy had four children to my mom’s one and ruled her roost under the iron-clad rule of “Because I said so.”

This is not to mean my Aunt Kathy was in any way a cold woman. To the contrary, she was a warm, welcoming presence. Her laughter prompted laughter from anyone within earshot, and her love and compassion knew no bounds.

But as a parent to four, she and my Uncle Billy employed a lovingly structured, disciplined approach to child rearing. Their obvious desire was to raise considerate, thoughtful, and self-sufficient children.

They succeeded, of course, and my sister-cousins and BJ are all of the above with many more wonderful qualities I could not record if the ink my ocean, the sky my scroll, and all that jazz.

However, their parenting style clashed with my parents’ style of explaining why they did what they did. In fact, in all my years, I don’t believe I EVER heard; “Because I said so,” fall from the lips of either parent.

Mom tells me I was a self-motivated child, so she and Dad didn’t worry about creating a structured environment for me. She also says I was never rebellious (I’m also suspicious of this claim), and that they never needed to come down all that hard on me.

So, it was with some wonder, my Aunt Kathy regarded me on the many occasions I haunted her halls.

I remember one time in particular when she called the five of us in from playing outside.

“Time for naps!” She announced with her trademark grin.

As my four cousins obediently, somewhat somberly, headed to their bedrooms, I headed for the living room.

“Ann-Marie, I said it’s time for your nap.” My Aunt Kathy followed me into the living room.

I grabbed a book from the coffee table and climbed onto the couch.

“It’s okay, Aunt Kathy. I’m not tired.” I announced and started to read.

In what must have required great strength of character, Aunt Kathy gently removed the book from my hands and fixed me with a thoughtful look.

“I didn’t ask if you were tired. I said it’s time for your nap. Your cousins all went to take THEIR naps.”

“Well, then THEY must be tired.” I reasoned. “I’m really not.”

I smiled up at Aunt Kathy, still not understanding her obvious consternation.

“Ann-Marie.” Her voice had changed subtly, taking on a tone every kid in the world understands, “Go to Charity’s room, and take a nap.”

“Okay, but I’m really not tired.” I explained once again, uselessly, as I headed to my cousin’s room.

I climbed into Charity’s bed. She was still awake and regarded me with raised eyebrows. I may not have understood what had just happened in the living room, but she sure did.

Undaunted, I began to whisper how I wasn’t tired, and how obviously she wasn’t tired, so why did we both have to stay in bed. I advocated strongly for evacuating the covers to play dolls or read books.

Charity – strong, obedient first-born that she was – resisted my attempts at mutiny. I was passionately into my second whispered argument when Charity’s eyes widened and her eyebrows rose in alarm.

I rolled over in bed to discover my Aunt Kathy standing in the doorway, hands on her hips, a secret party to my willful plea.

Immediately after, I was marched to a darkened living room where I spent the remainder of naptime on the couch, swaddled in a quilt, completely awake and not a little incensed by the injustice of the arrangement.

Later, Mom and Aunt Kathy had a phone conversation. I was privy to only half of the conversation. But I gathered words like “disobedient” “naughty” and a new one – “instigator.”

Mom had a stern talk with me afterwards. Even if I wasn’t tired (and I beat that particular horse to death during the conversation, believe you me), I was still to obey my elders. I wasn’t to question them, unless they were asking me to do something that would hurt myself or others.

Then Mom delivered the knock-out blow, “Your father and I are very disappointed in your behavior today, young lady.”

The comment pierced my heart like an arrow. I immediately burst into apologetic tears.

In spite of my behavior, Aunt Kathy welcomed me back with open arms. She said nothing of what had happened previously, and before long I was out playing with my cousins in the backyard.

When Aunt Kathy called us in for naps, I marched valiantly into the house. My expression might have resembled a woman about to face the firing squad, but I went silently to the couch.

I waited patiently for Aunt Kathy to turn off the light, after she returned from seeing my cousins to their rooms.

To my ultimate surprise and delight, Aunt Kathy didn’t go for the light switch. Instead, she came to the couch, smiled at me, and dropped a book in my lap. She put her fingers to her lips, and I understood the universal sign for quiet.

It became our little secret.

My respect and love for Aunt Kathy grew out of how she handled sticky situations with grace and kindness. How she accepted me, without always understanding me, and sought a relationship with her niece that would glorify the God they both believed in.

Of course, things have come full circle now.

The Soderstrom’s Sunday routine consists of church, dinner, and a nap. Brett even jokes that if I don’t get a Sunday nap, “The whole week is just RUINED!”

But I like to think that I nap because it does just what Dad promised all these years ago – leaves me refreshed, invigorated, and ready to face what lies ahead.

And, somewhere, somehow, I like to think my grown-up addiction to naps makes my dearly-departed Aunt Kathy break out happily in her trademark grin and let loose one of those remarkably contagious (and oft-missed) belly laughs.

This nap’s for you, Aunt Kathy!

Friday, February 22, 2008


Today a co-worker (not for the first time) tracked me down and tried to ask me spiritual questions.

Now, I know I should be rejoicing at her interest in spiritual things, or at least, in why I am so “weird.” But instead, I became very nervous and quickly found an excuse to run off and finish up some work.

It all began during a friendly discussion yesterday when I casually mentioned my pastor doesn’t like to use the word “luck.” When my co-worker questioned why, I pointed out we believe everything in life is pre-ordained by a sovereign God.

She seemed genuinely stymied, and said something to the effect that was a “shocking” thing to say. She went on to say that if everything in life is pre-ordained then there is no hope – what will be, will be (and all that jazz).

I was uncomfortable talking so openly about this. Mainly, of course, because I am not a theologian. Secondly, because I’m not so sure myself how the balance works in the whole free-will vs. pre-ordination see-saw.

My experience in witnessing is more along the friendship evangelism model and mostly includes the words, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”

When I witness, the emphasis is put on Jesus’ sacrifice, death on the cross, and miraculous resurrection. Truth is, I’m a bit simplistic in my understanding and trust in the Bible and its absolute authority in my life.

I’ve never wanted to delve deeper. I’m an empathetic person, so my connection to salvation is based on how God works personally – not in the nuts-and-bolts of theology.

I suppose there is also a generational difference. My generation is of the “Live and Let Live” tolerance, acceptance, etc. variety – and I’m afraid I’ve bought into that myself at times.

Having to explain something so technical and theological, in defense of my own beliefs, seems unnecessary – “I believe it, and it’s good enough for me” is my thought (and I know many others in differing religions who feel the same – in today’s day and age, it’s a hard argument to get past)

So, when someone tracks me down and wants to talk specifics about pre-ordination, free will, and the existence or non-existence of luck, I’m out of my bailiwick.

This particular co-worker is very intelligent and of the deep-thought variety, so I’m scared of messing up. *If my explanation is what lies between her and salvation, I fear my inevitably weak explanation.

Which so far has been, “It’s, um, complicated. Oh darn, my lunch is over. See you later!” And I skitter off to my office praying for forgiveness, even as I sink into my desk chair in relief.

The fact is that I did study theology in college, but I studied it to get through college. To me, the basics were good enough, and when I shared the truth with people, I could relate on a personal level how God has worked in my heart.

However, there are those smart people out there- much smarter than I - who need facts, figures, and small-scale models to figure out the “whys” in life. And my co-worker falls into this camp.

I also have trouble with offering defense, since my basic premise is, “’Cause the Bible said so!” If my opponent or even eager listener doesn’t give credence to the Word of God, then my argument (as it is) falls apart.

So, then do I start by proving the Bible is the true? And how do I start that explanation?

I guess what I’m looking for here is HELP! How do I explain pre-ordination, a sovereign God, and why life pre-ordained by a sovereign God would not be hopeless, robotic life?

If you are of a theological bent, please help! This co-worker is insatiably curious, and I can’t help thinking this is a clear sign from the Lord that I am supposed to DO something.

Please offer guidance!

*Obviously, I know my explanation would not save anyone, and God can use my words to His glory any way He wants. I’m speaking of my own fear of human failure, based on my lack of knowledge.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Living with Tob Was Easier

Mostly female post ahead, along with WAY too much TMI. Mental images may be burned into your subconscious. Read at your own risk. You should NOT read if the words belching, sex, bathroom, naked, or spit offend you (if they do, you must not know me very well).

Getting married is a big adjustment.

However Brett and I dated for four L-O-N-G years before we got married, so we figured we had quite the advantage going in to our living together arrangement

(By that I mean living together after we were married, since Mom will have a coronary if I don’t point that out, and losing one parent to a coronary is quite enough, thank you very much).

We spent most of our college dating years traveling to either Rockford or Geneva to spend the weekend at his house or mine.

Neither of our parents were overprotective, so he slept in his room, and I slept in the guest room (reversed at my house, of course, because he didn’t bring his bed with him, and my parents wouldn’t have made me sleep in the guest room).

In fact, I like to joke my parents were TOO lax, since they would often leave the two of us alone on the upstairs couch watching TV, turn off all the lights, and go to bed in their downstairs bedroom. Talk about an open invitation!

At Brett’s house (I can’t believe I’m admitting this!), I would sneak out of the guest room and go snuggle with my honey bunny in his room from 2:00 – 6:00 a.m.

Mostly we just talked and kissed. I had the best form of birth control – the fear of how disappointed my parents would be if I had pre-marital sex. Brett’s self-control had a lot more to do with the fact that getting pregnant would seriously affect my future earning potential.

And yada, yada, yada – it was wrong to have sex before marriage.

But (seriously) fear of disappointing parents (me) and fear of being poor (him) kept us on the straight and narrow!

But the point I’m trying to make is NOT that you should NEVER, EVER let your kids have the kind of freedom we did (we’re SURE not going to), but that in spite of our four years of weekend-living-togetherness, there were some major changes.

I think what you really learn in those first couple of years is what’s okay to do or not do in front of the other person.

Some things weren’t difficult. After all, Brett and I were together a lot on the weekends when most of us are very relaxed. Belching and other…noises…were not unfamiliar or weird. My family never had a stigma about it, and goodness knows I grew up yelling “Mom!” and “Dad!” accusatorily enough that I could hardly put on any fancy-pants airs.

But I soon learned that Brett and I had very different boundaries.

I, on one hand, like privacy in the bathroom. It is my alone time. So, the first time Brett came crashing through the door to talk to me after work, I screamed, “GET OUT!” He was shocked!

Probably because I could not even get him to CLOSE the door when he used the bathroom. He would tell me about his day, ask my opinion, and every so often ask the question, “Can you come look at this?”

No one ever wants to hear that question coming from the bathroom, even if it is about why the faucet is leaking.

However, my inhibition did not extend to undressing. When we were first married, I often undressed in our room with the window shades wide open.

Let me qualify this. First of all, our apartment was on the second floor, and our window faced a wooded area of Rock Cut State Park, not other houses (and no walking paths for those of you who were about to point that out).

But it drove Brett nuts! (This is a man who will only undress in the dark with all the shades closed).

I told him, “Look, if it’s that important for people to go and buy binoculars that can see around corners just to see me naked then the burning damage to their retinas will be their own punishment.”

I also don’t like to brush my teeth at the same time as someone else. Brett does, and after having his spit end up in my hair on more than one occasion – I was done with it. (Brushing together, I mean. I still brush. Just by myself.)

As I type this last thing, I realize I have a gazillion more difference that I must share! But the post would drag on F-O-R-E-V-E-R, so I shall stop for now, and label this Part 1.

Thursday Thirteen

13 Things That Annoy Me

1. Deadlines

2. Sportscasts

3. Chauvinists

4. Political commercials

5. Constant throat-clearing

6. People who wear pajama pants in public

7. Misbehaving children (and their parents)

8. Those ugly plastic shoes that are so popular

9. People who use “impact” as a stand alone verb

10. Toenail clippings on my living room end tables

11. People who assume they’re busier than you are

12. Having to chose between healthy or convenient meals

13. Skinny people who complain about not being able to gain weight


As many of you know – and you know because I have bragged about it on many, many occasions – my Uncle Jimmy was in the FBI.

Growing up that was the coolest thing to tell people.

He is my Dad’s only living sibling, and when I was growing up in Rockford, the “other” Trotter family was growing up in Richmond, Virginia.

I didn’t see my Trotter cousins much, just a handful of times over the years, so it’s been great to re-connect with the other side of my family through the internet, specifically through blogging.

Uncle Jimmy – he goes by “Pappy” (apparently it’s a southern thing to nickname everyone within an inch of their lives) – started a family blog, and more recently started a political blog. Pappy (weird to type THAT) has a wealth of knowledge about government and our country in particular thanks to his life spent in service to our country.

Now, you know I am no political dynamo, but I know there are those of my friends out there who ARE. So, I encourage you to stop by and check out the new Trotter Political Chat blog and give your two cents.

The more comments, the better!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Cereal Killer

Last night I stopped by Wal-Mart to pick up a few things.

I was in the cereal aisle when this boy, about 7 years old, started walking down the other side of the aisle. He put his arm out so it was exactly behind the first cereal box, then he boldly strolled down the aisle with his arm outstretched, as one box after another toppled to the floor.

By the time he was done, at least 15 boxes had been knocked down.

I just stood there dumbfounded. Eventually, I graduated to sputtering. I could not believe a kid of his age was bold enough to be that destructive - In a public place. In front of an adult.

I was on the cell phone with Brett at the time, and I said the first thing that shot into my head.

“Sometimes the best argument for birth control is children.”

I didn’t just say it; I think I kinda shouted it. I heard a muffled cough behind me and saw a man raise his eyebrows before grabbing his cereal box and heading back to his cart.

Probably thinking, “What a horrible child hater!”

Meanwhile, I’m knee-deep in damaged cereal boxes.

The boy had caught up to his mother and teenage sister by this time. His mother was passing the aisle where I still stood glued to the floor in shock.

“Did your brother do this?” She demanded of the teenager.

“I dunno,” said the bored, hoodie-clad girl.

“You were supposed to be watching him,” her mother accused.

“Whatever,” replied the teenager as she walked off to look at clothes.

“Go pick those boxes up,” the mother told the boy.

Then she LEFT!

I watched, stunned again, as the boy did exactly what his mother told him to do. He picked up each box and flung it back on the shelf. By the time he was done, it looked like a 3 ½ foot tornado had taken on the Wal-Mart cereal aisle. And won.

I stood in the aftermath and marveled. Eventually, I just shook my heard. Not my problem.

I started down the next aisle. Where I ran into the man who had passed me moments ago.

He gave me an acknowledging wave and smiled. “I agree,” he said in a voice barely above a whisper.

I grinned all the way home.

The Poster Police

I’m very, very fortunate. I like what I do and appreciate my job.

One of my favorite things to do each year is act as a judge in the Women in History Poster and Essay Contest. The contest is held in honor of Women’s History Month in March which is when the winners are announced.

To participate, 5-7th graders choose a woman in their lives to honor. Students design a poster and write an essay; both of which are judged on specific criteria by community members.

Judging the contest is always enjoyable. Generally the other judges and I sit around a large table looking at one poster/essay combo at a time, examining the poster, reading the essay, and scoring the participants.

Not having children myself, this gives me insights into how children today think, write, and design. I also have to say, as a writer, I find myself searching for talent. I am never let down. Many of the essays are bright and funny (sometimes even intentionally).

You can also tell which students have an artistic bent by the caliber of their posters. I remember my posters in school having a clumsy, minimalist feel. Art was not my bag, as they say. Many, many people say this, in fact. I am the exact opposite of an artist!

Back to the contest - each year I find myself laughing at some of the sweet, endearing, and often not-well-researched parts of the essays. Whether it’s spelling, grammar, or just a little modern common sense, these kids have the stuff to make me giggle.

This year’s gems included:

“When my grandma was growing up, there were only 4 channels on TV. Not like the millions of channels we have today.”

“It was very ruff when my grandmother was growing up. She says that time was very tuff for her.”

“My Great Aunt hated having to clean the chicken coop as a child. “I was discusted!” She told me.”

“Important historical events in my Nana’s life included the Golf War which is still going on today.”

“My Grandma’s favorite music group was the Beetles. They were popular back then.”

“My grandmother remembers the historical event of man landing on the moon in 1969. She remembers it because my grandpa was building a camper in the garage that year.”

“She had to wash all her own clothes, because there were no laundry matts back then.”

I was actually close to crying with laughter at several points during the judging!

I also thought it was interesting that several of the women being interviewed mentioned how much women’s rights have changed over the years. In particular, I remember one woman who told her grandson that women “weren’t allowed to do anything like today,” and that if she could go back and change anything, she would wait to get married and go to college.

Almost all of the women interviewed had married young, and when asked if there was something they would change, almost all said they would have waited until they were older to get married.

I found that particularly interesting. You can imagine why.

Anyway, you can see why I enjoy this part of my job so much! Hope it makes you smile, too.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sweet Old Lady

If you look up Sweet Old Lady in the dictionary, you would find a picture of Mrs. Dorothy Kemp.

When I was growing up, Mrs. Kemp was the prominent piano teacher in our circle of acquaintances. She took children from all walks of life and brought music into their lives.

(Not me, of course. Mom had already recruited my talented Aunt Jan for my piano training, and after one brief recital, I told my parents that I and the piano were not destined to be lifelong friends. After my torturous performance at the recital, I believe they were quite relieved to hear I didn’t envision myself a blossoming virtuoso.)

Even back then, Mrs. Kemp was so full of Jesus’ love and joy, she seemed to float a few inches off the ground. In time, though, her back became hunched, and she held on to her walker, as she shuffled to as many events as she could.

Over the years, I’ve glimpsed her at visitations, funerals, wedding, receptions, open houses, and special occasions. With her extensive roster of former students, she was always on one invitation list or another.

The other thing that set Mrs. Kemp apart was her desire to spread the Good News. She always had a tract in hand and would slip one into your hand, quick as lightning.

I remember on more than one occasion, a recipient handing the tract back, saying, “I’m already saved, Mrs. Kemp.” They’d smile at her, obviously believing she suffered from dementia.

She’d look up, genuinely return the smile, and say, “Well, then pass it on, dearie. Pass it on.”

On Saturday, Mrs. Kemp went to be with her beloved Lord and Savior. I’ve no doubt she heard the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And perhaps immediately secured a pianist position in the heavenly choir.

If you remember Mrs. Kemp, and if she added a light of blessing to your life as she did mine, please stop by this link (Rockford Register Star) and sign the guestbook.

My sympathies go out to her family, friends, and loved ones.

She lived a godly life, left us all an example, and struck a note of wonder in all she met.

Monday, February 18, 2008

People in Power

Have you ever played “Hot Potato” with the Holy Spirit?

You know, He convicts you with a sin, and you lob the hot potato sin towards the closest rationalization.

“Well, Holy Sprit, I wouldn’t fall into temptation if it wasn’t for, um, the media. That’s right Holy Sprit. You need to convict people in the media for tempting me.”

And you think to yourself, “Ha! Got rid of THAT hot potato.”

Then, of course, you look down to see the hot potato burning a hole in your mittens. And realize you never really got rid of it at all.

Conviction is painful. Even more painful is swallowing pride.

I am, by nature, a people pleaser. You would not think this by reading my blog.

That’s because I’m way braver and much more passionate in cyberspace than I’d ever be in person.

I don’t even like to merge in traffic.

Believe it or not, for all of my bluster about this and that, I actually subscribe to the live and let live policy. I’m very polite, and if I don’t agree with you (in person, that is), you’d probably never know it.

Well, until you read my blog.

What I’m getting at is that I’m actually very personable (or I’d like to think so) IN person. But, in cyberspace, and in my head, I’m outspoken.

I’m also very proud of my personal beliefs and much more stubborn than most people know. I like to think I’m right, and there are certain things I know for certain I AM right.

To have those thoughts challenged, or in this case, cause conviction is very painful. Sort of like peeling back a wound to see what caused the infection. It hurts but is necessary for diagnosis – to find the right treatment to heal the wound.

This morning I had one of my personal, rock-solid, to-the-core beliefs challenged. The Holy Spirit convicted me gently, kindly, but all the same I was reeling from the very clear reprimand.

Other than my parents, I have never respected my Christian leaders. Not really.

Before today, I would have said that none of them were worth respecting. They were fine people and all, but nothing special. They’d done nothing for me to take notice.

I guess I shouldn’t say I didn’t respect them, but instead, I just thought they were praised and lifted up when they were no more special than you or I.

They were people. Just like me. Just like my Dad. I didn’t see why everyone was always applauding them, giving them cars, paying off their houses, acting like sprinklers of gold went off every time they opened their mouths.

I thought it was too much. I saw the pedestals and despised them.

We suffered just as much as they did. We gave up things for the cause of Christ, and no one was paying off our house or buying us cars.

No one sang our praises.

And, of course, as you’re reading this, another ugly truth emerges.

I was jealous. I’ve always been jealous of the special treatment heaped on those in ministry, I suppose. It’s just been so deep-seeded I’ve never honestly realized it.

I wanted to be in that spotlight. Those people were JUST like me, and yet somehow, they managed to be revered.

Oh, I suppose part of it was jealousy that only men can rise to prominence in the church.

And perhaps, that is in part, why I struggled mightily with why God must love men more than women. Well, He must! Why deny women the honor and glory that was heaped so generously on men?

Women are the footstool, the helpmeet – an accessory, as fleeting and useful as a pair of old shoes compared to men in the ministry.

Or so I used to believe.

Another termite burrowing into my contempt of spiritual leaders was the five year experience that plunged my father into a deep depression.

A pastor caused this, but now I believe it was not purposely.

But then. Oh, but then, I believed him fully culpable. As I watched my strong, godly father wither under this man’s flawed teaching, I lashed out.

I said awful things. Untrue things. Heartless and cruel things about this man.

But, for a long time, I felt they were justified. After all, hadn’t the experience robbed me of a strong father for five long years of my childhood?

Many years later, I realized this struggle plunged my father into the Refiner’s fire. The trial and God’s grace to emerge from it victorious, made my father joyous in his faith, confident in our Lord, and a bright shining witness for the cause of Christ until the day he died.

My wrath against pastors and people in spiritual leadership conflicts with the pastor worship that takes place in many Evangelical churches.

To this day, I’m still not sure if I despised my spiritual leaders to go against the flow, or if I truly felt they were all undeserving, manipulative hacks who’d wormed their way into the hearts of unsuspecting, stupid sheep who brayed blissfully at their every word.

Whatever the case, I’ve long held this opinion. Sometimes silently. Other times, I’ve willfully, verbally torn down leaders who I felt did not deserve the praise heaped upon them.

This is not to say I’ve no respect for pastors. There were several pastors who I respected. But none I worshiped.

When my cousin Aaron became a pastor, he noticed a change in my behavior. Finally, he said, “I feel like you hate me because I’m a pastor.”

Shaken, I realized that was a tiny bit of how I felt and whole bit of how I was acting.

So, that’s my secret. Jealousy. Anger. Selfishness. Hate. Bitterness.

And, while I guess I’ve known it for some time now, I’ve never felt the need to address it.

After all, now we attend a church where those feelings are rarely agitated. Thanks to an exceptionally humble and transparent leadership staff, I now understand how people - who are susceptible to the same sins I am - are the perfect people to minister to my own spiritual needs.

But, I’ve continued to hold on to my own feeling, knowing in my heart that’s the way it MOSTLY is – when it comes to church leadership.

Until today. Until the Holy Spirit exposed my sin, and I saw the ugliness I’d been harboring illustrated perfectly in the Word.

The passage is Numbers 12:1-16. The story is of Aaron and Miriam. The brother and sister of Moses had been instrumental in God’s plan to rescue the Israelite people from Egypt. But it wasn’t good enough for them. They wanted to know and make known they were equally as important as Moses.

They chose a small issue – the ethnicity of Moses wife – to provoke argument and level criticism against Moses.

Excerpt from Today in the Word (my devotional book):

“They might have had a problem with his Cushite wife because of her ethnicity, but really it was an excuse to put Moses on trial.

What was so special about him? Surely, he was in no way different from them. After all, he was their baby brother! They dismissed any claims he or others might have made to his special divine privilege or authority.”

Ouch! Sound familiar?

It goes on to say:

“What is particularly notable about this story is God’s action to defend Moses. God didn’t force Moses to explain his own legitimacy. Although Moses was a leader who made no apology for representing God, he was also the kind of leader who had a reputation for authentic humility.”

God punished Miriam with leprosy, but Moses pled for her life. The Lord banished her from the camp for seven days in disgrace before she returned.

I learned several lessons this morning. Perhaps the most touching was that Moses would speak out for his sister’s life, even after she had tried to discredit him. To me, this shows Moses’ true humility and leadership. He was truly a godly leader who cared about his flock.

I also realized the Holy Spirit was convicting me about the way I looked at spiritual leaders in the church. Not only was I to realize that God placed them where they were, I was to pray for them, love them, and encourage them.

Of course, this does not mean anyone is pedestal-worthy or perfect, and discernment when dealing with one’s leaders is always important.

However, the jealousy, anger, bitterness, and years of built-up resentment were all sin. And the Holy Spirit handed me one hot potato after another.

To say I was ashamed isn’t enough. I was instantly convicted and asked for God’s forgiveness.

Teaching this old dog new tricks will be a process, I think, but seeing how the Lord chose to work in my heart today brought me great joy – He truly cares about the secret sins no one would ever see. In His time, His perfect way, He chips away at this old heart, refining His child.

Those hot potato sins will be burning through my mittens for the rest of my life. But at least, instead of trying to throwing them away, I’m learning to rip ‘em open and examine the contents for my betterment.

(Although, I’m relatively sure real hot potatoes taste much better than conviction.)

Especially if you add butter.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Etsy Ecstasy

I found the COOLEST site today! It’s Etsy and seems to be a giant craft fair online – only so much cooler. That description really doesn’t do it justice.

You HAVE to try the Time Machine feature! It’s sort of like Tom Cruise in Minority Report with all those cool screen graphics. I had a ball!

I typed “bunny rabbit” into the search feature and was amazed with what came back. Such ultra handmade goods!

I would totally buy things for my house/self if (a) I had the $$$, and (b) Brett wouldn’t kill me for making him live in a “gay” house.

Seriously, I DO NOT KNOW where he picked up “This is gay”/“That is gay” language for something being lame.

I mean, I KNOW teenage kids say it, but 38 year old men?

(I have to say it bugs me beyond end, since it’s discriminating, and if I get all bent out of shape about it and do the wife lecture, then he’ll be annoyed. That said, I’m hoping it’ll blow over.)

Speaking of what kids today are saying, did you know the latest teen girl catchphrase? If two (or more) girls are talking about another girl that they don’t like or think should change, they say, “She should go to rehab.”

I can back this up! First, I have it on good authority from two moms, and I heard it myself the other day from one of the teenagers I work with in my girl group.

We were talking and laughing, and she gave me a kidding shove, and said, “Oh, just go to rehab!”

Seriously! It’s all the rage.

Well, for two seconds, anyway.

Check out Etsy!

Road Rage

The roads are terrible.

Snowfalls are nearing record totals, and the constant salting of the roads has corroded all major traffic arteries with jagged potholes. Driving to work today, I felt like a military convoy on the roads in war-torn Bosnia.

Sing it with me -
'Cause we gotta little ol' convoy, rockin' through the night.

Yeah we gotta little ol' convoy; ain't she a beautiful sight?
Come on an' join our convoy, ain't nothin' gonna git in our way!
We're gonna roll this truckin' convoy, cross the USA.
Convoy. Convoy.

The tire stores, body, shops, and snow removal companies are raking it in this year, that’s for sure.

I haven’t been all over Rockford yet, but the roads I HAVE been traveling on are just terrible.

Alpine in the stretch between Spring Creek and Riverside is a HAZARD. When Brett and I took Alpine after Megan’s play last Saturday, I felt like I was in an action movie as Brett swerved dramatically from one side of the road to the other to avoid the deep ruts.

I wanted (desperately) to look out the back window and yell, “Hurry, they’re gaining on us!” An overhead chopper right about that time would have been awesome.

Up for second worst road is Riverside in the stretch between North Main and North Second. Imagine, if you will, driving with three blown tires – BINGO – that’s Riverside by the bridge!

Driving that stretch will also introduce you to Lady Liberty and Male Lady Liberty. These are two people hired by Liberty Tax Service (in the North Towne Mall) to dress as the Statue of Liberty and stand outside in the cold, calf-deep in the snow, waving to passing motorists (who are often also angry motorists due to Riverside’s condition), beckoning them to step inside and get their taxes done.

Just what I want to think about as I’m driving on a dangerous road, worrying about my tires, and lamenting my recently frozen windshield wiper fluid.

Yep, getting my taxes done sounds REAL appealing right about then.

And I always feel sorry for the Liberties. I mean, they stand there in pouring rain, driving snow, and frigid temperatures, just to try to get one person to use the tax service. It’s almost cruel, in a way.

I tell myself maybe these people REALLY needed a job, and this was all that was available. And I suppose, if that’s it, then that’s it.

But it’s not exactly a cheerful thought pulsating in my mind as I struggle down Riverside in the dark.

Auburn Street has its fair share of potholes, as well, and (for now) comes in third on the list.

I’m trying to avoid the worst of it (one accident every 29 years is enough for me, I’d say). If you know of any pitted roads in Rockford, Roscoe, Machesney Park, or Loves Park, please let me know!

Or join my convoy…

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Three Amigas

Brielle, Candice, and I enjoyed a Valentine's Day party at Culver's with Mom, Grandma, Aunt Jan, Aunt Louise, Megan, and Jacob. Tammy stayed home with Caleb who is ill.

We had a wonderful time exchanging small gifts and sweets. Mostly, we just enjoyed holding Brielle! For more photos and the full scoop, check out Mom's blog.

Biker Babe

I’m copying an idea from Alice to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Shout out to Alice! The story of how I met my husband begins…

When I was seventeen, I hated boys. Especially boys my own age. My experience with the bullying, arrogant boys in my Christian high school had left me sure it was God’s will I remain single.

I even remember praying right before I headed off to college.

Dear Lord, You have made it evident it is Your will I remain single.
Please help me to make godly, female friends at college.
Help me not to be jealous as they get boyfriends, date, and get married.
Help me to be satisfied with my life as a single person.

I went happily to college envisioning my exciting future ahead as a feature writer for the Chicago Tribune. I would live in a high-rise building in downtown Chicago, write about interesting people, and make lots of money. I imagined I would have a little dog and enjoy living as a single girl in the big city.

When I got to Moody, I was surprised to learn there were actually NICE guys. In my entire experience I had only met two nice guys. One was my best friend’s brother, and the other was a boy I met in drama camp. Every other guy in my life had been a jerk.

At Moody, our dorm floor was paired up with a floor from the boy’s dorm – our “brother” floor. As I sat and ate dinner with these guys, I was impressed at how kind they were.

After a while, I developed what I thought was a “special friendship” with one of the guys. When he ended up breaking my heart, a scant two months after college began; I realized my initial vision had been correct.

I swore off men, again.

I went on with life, content. I had a fantastic, hilarious roommate, great friends, and my classes were challenging and exciting. I still ate dinner with our brother floor, laughed and joked with “the guys,” but I had lost interest.

In November, RACO (Resident Activities Council) created a social activity for the entire campus – Get Your Roommate Or Friend A Date, GYROFAD, for short. For weeks, the whole campus talked about GYROFAD (which is easier to say than type, I’m discovering).

The idea was to set up blind dates for the entire campus. If you thought a guy in your Systematic Theology class would be perfect for your roommate, you’d engineer the setup. And so on. The whole campus set the whole campus up on blind dates to take place on GYROFAD night.

I had a few friends approach me, but I was NOT interested.

A few days before GYROFAD, my friend Valorie came to me in a tizzy (if you knew Valorie, you would know this word fit her to a T). She’d set up a blind date for a guy on her brother floor with this girl he REALLY wanted to go out with, and in return he’d set her up on a date with Rick, this guy she REALLY wanted to go out with.

The other girl had unexpectedly become ill, and Valorie was worried her date with Rick would be called off. She begged me, “You’re the only one without a date. Please! Please!”

Valorie was (of all things) hard to say “no” to. So, I reluctantly accepted, figuring it would be another experience to chalk up.

As Valorie and I headed to our dates, I was already starting to think of ways to cut the date short. After all, I wasn’t even the girl this guy WANTED to go out with. Maybe we’d wait until Valorie and Rick went off on their own, and we could go our separate ways.

When we stepped inside the Arch, I saw two guys leaning up against the wall. The first guy had light brown hair, neatly combed back, deep blue eyes, and was dressed in a nice sweater and jeans.

“Well, maybe this won’t be so bad after all,” I thought, smiling broadly.

I didn’t know what Valorie saw in the other guy, though.

He was freakishly tall with shoulder-length hair, severely slicked back. He had a mustache/beard combo that left just his nose, eyes, and forehead visible on his face. He wore a black biker jacket and cowboy boots with spurs.

I would NOT have been surprised to learn his name was “Spike.”

The thought crossed my mind that maybe Valorie liked bad biker dudes. I turned to Valorie, just as she introduced Biker Dude as “your date, Brett.”

My date? MY date?

If looks could kill, Valorie would have been taking a dirt nap.

Within minutes, three normal-looking people and a Biker Dude were on a double date.

After a half-hour, Valorie and Rick decided they were hitting it off well enough to go off on their own. Leaving me and Biker Dude alone, looking at each other.

“Well,” I said. Planning the next words to be, “I guess I’ll see you later.”

But before I could get them out, Biker Dude asked if I wanted to go out for hot chocolate. He smiled at me (all I could see were teeth), and I thought, “What’s the harm in that?”

As we sat on the top floor of a scenic Chicago restaurant sipping our hot chocolate, we talked about our lives. Before I knew it, half the night had passed.

We raced back to Moody, barely skating in before curfew.

My roommate asked me how the date went.

“He was a nice guy.” I commented, thinking I’d never see him again. I figured he’d eventually make a date with the girl he’d wanted to go out with in the first place.

So, I was surprised when he called the next night and asked for another date.

Over the next four years, we dated – cried, laughed, screamed, argued, agreed – and chose the path that led to love, engagement, and marriage.

Our blind date was God’s perfect plan and I thank God every day for giving me Brett.

Behind the biker jacket, spurs, and all that hair was an amazing man. Brett is kind, sensitive, loving, affirming, patient, affectionate, a good listener, and actively loves me every day.

However, I still maintain I never needed a man.

Apparently, what I needed…was a Biker Dude.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Wrong Guy

Uh-oh! I voted for the wrong candidate!

October sent me this link to find out who I should vote for, and when I took the test it said I SHOULD have voted for Barack Obama.

Oh well. Now I know.

Wait, I’m a Republican! Or am I? Now, I’m so confused!

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Most Wonderful Wife Am I

The other day, Brett was sacked out on the couch watching TV.

I had been running around doing laundry, dishes, and whatnot (how does whatnot take up so much time?). I was upstairs – upstairs, I tell you - and the man I married yelled up the stairs.

“Babe, could you grab me a soda?”

Mind you, he is maybe ten feet away from the refrigerator while I, on the other hand, am on a completely separate floor.

Sometimes, instead of being snarky (or submissive – ha!) the theatrical side of me wins out.

I couldn’t help myself at that point. I rushed down the stairs and threw myself over his relaxed body.

“Oh, my darling! Please, please do not get up! I could not LIVE with myself if you had to serve yourself. Oh my baby! “

My husband, who at first was thrilled I had suddenly draped myself all over him, looked confused, “What?”

“Don’t! Oh, don’t get up! Allow me – Nay, permit ME to serve you!”

I sashayed the ten feet into the kitchen, popped a top of Coke, poured it over a mug of ice, and served it to my husband.

His eyes were sort of wide, as I stood there awaiting his reaction.

“Thanks,” he said, settling back down, still looking at me suspiciously out of the corner of his eyes.

Satisfied I had made my point, I went upstairs to finish the laundry.

About two hours later, we were getting ready for bed, and he looks at me like a light just went on.

“Wait, were you being sarcastic earlier?”


Friday, February 08, 2008

Sneezing, Sniffling & Sawyer

The tickle in the back of my esophagus has finally grown into a full blown, painful sore throat. I feel like I swallowed a tennis ball and was force-fed foam peanuts to pack around it.

Which I’m forced to sneeze back up every few minutes.


I really should have seen it coming. For a couple of days now, I’ve been talking like Peter Brady in that episode of The Brady Bunch where his voice changes.

The “Bunch” is worried about pubescent Peter’s unpredictable voice, since they have a big singing gig coming up. Thankfully, they write a new song – I remember lyrics about something changing, rearranging… something – that reflects how all things in “nature” change. Young Peter chimes in on the chorus, and all is saved.

Life is not like The Brady Bunch.

In MY life – real life – my sore throat prevents me from doing one of my favorite things – talking. I’ve had to develop a crude sort of sign language to communicate with my husband.

By crude, I don’t mean making swearing motions or anything. Just pointing, nodding, or gesturing. And occasionally...grunting.

It drives me crazy to be denied access to my vocal chords.

(And overhead, angels sing in relief. I’ll bet the Holy Spirit’s job is so much easier when I can’t talk. I’ll just bet.)

One of the most wonderful perks of working for a non-profit is the generous allotment of sick days. My cold started in full force on Wednesday, but my office was closed due to the 12+ inches of snow that was currently in the process of falling.

So, thanks to the snow, I’ve only had to take two days off.

It has not been vacation-like in any way. Mostly just downing tea and lemon, and then spraying tea and lemon during the occasional sneezing seizure.

And, of course, I can eat a wide variety of food. Jello. Soup. Tea.

I’m just going to hate nursing home life, aren’t I?

(Who am I kidding? With my health history, I’ll never make it to a nursing home!)

Anyhoo, back to the present, Brett was an angel last night.

He brought me mashed potatoes and gravy from Culver’s, along with a 3-scoop hot fudge sundae. All of which I COULD safely eat. (All of which is also on the absolutely-worst-things-you-can-eat-health-wise list of my South Beach Diet book.)

I’d tried to make tuna earlier for lunch, but it was like trying to mash up and eat a cactus, so I was really hungry by dinner time.

I battled boredom in a number of ways.

First, I exhausted my Netflix options.

I watched four episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (Season 1). Every time I watch Star Trek, I get the warm fuzzies. My dad and I were avid fans back in the day, and we spent a large part of our time together on the couch watching Sci-Fi.

One thing that gives me great pleasure in Dad’s passing is that he is now personally navigating the final frontier. (Which is not space, in my opinion, but the vastness of the Heavenly City.)

Secondly, I watched four episodes of Sliders (Season 3). It’s fun to look back on how primitive the computer generated graphics were in the 90’s. I remember being awestruck by that show when I was a kid. I loved it!

Plus, 90’s-era Jerry O’Connell is a pretty boy and uber-adorable. Actually, 00’s Jerry O’Connell’s not bad to look at, either. It’s as if he knew he would eventually end up married to a supermodel.

I’ve always had a thing for pretty boys – look at my fondness for Tom Welling and Colin Farrell.

I also watched Fight Club, which I’m guessing would be WAY too violent for most of my blog readership.

I, of course, loved it!

“The first rule of Fight Club is that you don’t talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is that YOU DON’T TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB!”

This line delivered by Brad Pitt was so powerful that I’m thinking of making it my personal slogan. Or would if I was planning on running around getting into fights.

The movie had a great twist (which I couldn’t fully enjoy since I had looked up the ending long ago on

Still, the movie itself was great. Edward Norton is excellent, and Brad Pitt fully loses himself in the complex, Fight Club starter Tyler Durden.

I spent the majority of the second day watching TV. Since we don’t have cable, this is not nearly as much fun as it sounds. Over the course of my three days, I have been drawing some conclusions about network television.

First, there are too many commercial repeats. I saw the same commercials so many times, I began repeating the lines.

Which is probably EXACTLY what they want me to do.

Jerks. I hate being a statistic.

Several commercials have also managed to get under my skin.

The first is the Dairy Queen Talking Lips commercials. The Dairy Queen symbol is a red sort of oval shape which the geniuses in marketing have made into giant animated red lips with bright shiny teeth.

Now, this sort of mouth looks like it’s wearing lipstick and therefore feminine – very feminine. So, somebody tell me why the Diary Queen Lips speak in a man’s voice.

A man’s voice!

It’s so obviously out of place I end up feeling like the lips have some sort of gender crisis, and spend all my time worrying about that, I don’t have time to listen to the rest of the commercial.

The other commercial wasn’t necessarily poorly done; it’s just that the product looks gross. It’s Arby’s New Italian Sausage Sub. The visual shows the sausage being cut in half, length-wise, and placed on a bun. Ewww…

Of course this could be because I have an aversion to sausage, hot dogs, brats…any kind of cased meat, really.

I mean, you just don’t know what’s inside that casing! It could be horse or dog or part of an animal that was never meant for human consumption. I just…eww…can’t think about it right now.

And I certainly don’t want to be assaulted with the visual version on TV.

Moving on, I also drew some general conclusions:

Dr. Phil is a self-righteous toad. Who died and made him in charge of the human psyche?

Oprah thinks clutter is making me fat. I think she may have a point. (After all, if it’s clutter, no one can blame me right?)

The Ellen Show totally made me want to dance, and the way I’ve been feeling, that’s pretty miraculous.

Jack is a jerk. (Sorry, Cindy! Team Sawyer here) I mean, Kate is MORE than capable of taking care of herself. In fact, I dare say she’s street smarter than Mr. “Hey, I’m a surgeon with a God-complex.”

She’s saved Jack numerous times and more than entitled to know what’s going on. So, the chauvinistic surgeon gives her an “It’s okay, babe” WINK (What kind of a guy winks? Condescending jerks, that’s who!) to let her know he knows something she doesn’t!!!

No wonder, she gives him the, “What’s wrong with you, idiot?” look.

I’ll just bet just about now she’s wishing she went with Sawyer.

C’mon LOST! Make Jack a tiny bit more likeable will ya? I’m starting to root for BEN over here, for crying out loud!!!

Oops, I’m running out of steam here. And tissues.

I leave you with a Swedish blessing:

May my cold
Not be your cold
May you never
Have to swallow a tennis ball;
Gulp foam packing peanuts,
Listen to Dr. Phil
Or be trapped on an island with JACK!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Reading for Rutabagas

I was clicking through Alice’s links again. I should not do this.

I inevitably compare my blog to the likes of Beth Moore and James MacDonald. Both of whom have fancy-schmancy blogs, and while I know they are famous Christians, I am not sure exactly for what.

I mean, I know books and stuff, but as my reading addiction lends itself to Paul Johnston, Lee Child, and JD Robb bloody/suspense/action/mystery novels, I’ve not personally experienced their literature.

(Except for my underwhelming take on the introduction of 12 Extraordinary Women that prompted my cousin Aaron to cyber-smack me upside the head. View the cyber-smacking here.)

Note: In the process of posting this, I have discovered 12 Extraordinary Women was written by John MacArthur, not James MacDonald, but I think this perfectly demonstrates my ignorance in Christian book writing/reading.

In college, the world’s best Communication Professor, Ms. Billie Sue Thompson (don’t let the down home name fool you. She’s one sharp cookie) told us there are two different kinds of reading. One kind will enrich you, teach you, and make you a better person. The other kind is junk food for your brain. She recommended we develop a strict 90/10 policy when it came to reading in our lives.

It was easy to follow this advice IN college, where reading textbooks is the key to surviving (or cheating, but let’s not go there). But, I have to say post-college; I’ve allowed my brain to gorge itself on the aforementioned books.

My brain is now a sluggish couch potato munching on whodunits like donuts.

My friend Joy is probably unaware of my aversion to all books that make me think about…well someone not mysteriously getting thrown under a car in a dark parking lot. Over the few years we've know each other, she's given me several books in the vein of actually learning something spiritual enriching.

Pre-Joy, I read a book about submission. It was written by a previous feminist who had discovered the joy of being domesticated. Her first name was Bunny. In spite of my love for the lagomorphs, I could not take a woman named Bunny writing a book about submission at all seriously.

I laughed my head off. Seriously. I was home on a semester break, and Mom had to check on me to make sure I wouldn’t swallow my tongue.

However, Pastor’s endless plugging of spiritual-type books from the pulpit (I don't expect him to plug Jack Reacher or anything), and the dawning realization that I have failed to heed my favorite professor’s sage advice, have prompted me to enter the Christian self-help, mucky-muck about spiritual topics, reading hullabaloo!

This is not to say that Angelic and Demonic Influence on the Field of Missions, Especially in Africa Where It Gets Very Dark at Night will be the first book I reach for in that perfect hour I have for reading before bed.

I’ll probably still reach for Odd Thomas or Silent Joe (those are book titles, by the way, and not strange men hanging out in my room at night).

But, I’m giving the old college try to reading books that are not Starburst Jelly Beans (drool, Starburst Jelly Beans!) to my brain.

Thankfully, Joy has given me a book on modesty. (This is not a veiled insult, as I believe Joy thinks I am modest. I think, in all fairness, my puffy coat makes me the most modest person in the world). I already read the first chapter, and to my surprise it was quite good. Several reasons:

a.) The author’s name is not Bunny.
b.) I didn’t not fall asleep while reading (this happened with several tries at reading C.S. Lewis).
c.) I did not drift off into wondering what was on TV.
d.) There was nothing to send me in choking fit of rage or tongue-swallowing laughter (the bad kind).
e.) I understood the author’s point of view and have since felt like she is writing specifically to me.

By comparison, of course, if the book was Bad Luck and Trouble, I would have finished it an hour.

Still, I am looking forward to reading more. This is a promising first step for me!

Over the next few years, perhaps Joy and others who wish my spiritual well-being can throw a few healthy rutabagas in the Snickers salad of my reading life. I’ll welcome your recommendations.

Please don’t recommend anything snore-worthy. Anything with explosions or illustrations would be a good start. I have to start slowly, you know. You can only eat an elephant one piece at a time. (Not that you should EVER actually eat an elephant).

Note: Do not recommend Through Gates of Splendor. I read that book in high school and am still traumatized. Also not on the table are Joshua Harris books. At least not yet. I’m still trying to forgive him for I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

If you have a spiritual book that has touched your life, and after reading this post, think I could read and comprehend (two very different things, my friends). I’d love to hear them.

I’ll plan to post a review of my modesty book when I finish it.

In ten years.

In a Long Time

When Mom and I were in the delivery room with Candice, I decided to use Mom’s camera to take the first baby photos.

I didn’t know how to use Candice’s camera, and (to be honest) I felt it would be tacky to make her demonstrate her camera mere moments after issuing another human being from her person.

Mom eventually made a CD for Candice of the first baby photos. Brett and I decided to drop it off at Candice’s this Friday. We did this mainly because someone (me) couldn’t wait to see that cuddly little mass of cuteness again.

When we got to Candice’s, I got to feed Brielle. This was a very big step for me.

Don’t laugh. Those of you who know me – know I have a phobia of babies. Especially newborns.

This stems from when I dropped a newborn on her head.

I was only 14 years old. I was working in the church nursery, and someone assumed I was competent enough to handle a newborn. However, I was unprepared when she suddenly squirmed, and I dropped her. Right there on the nursery’s (thankfully, carpeted) floor.

I was mortified, embarrassed, and convinced I had killed a kid. Props to the baby’s mom for not going ballistic. She quickly rescued the baby from the floor, did a swift check for injuries, and then smiled at me with a, “Looks like she’s fine.”

She was an absolute angel to not yell, scream, or even walk away angrily. But, from that teenage moment on, I’ve been petrified of holding newborns. Their little heads just flop around, and they are unbelievably tiny.

Mostly, I’ve been able to say, “No, thanks.” when people ask if I “want to hold the baby.”

If people persist, I tell them my actually-dropped-a-newborn-once story. I like to tack on that if the incident had ended differently, I would have spent my high school years in juvie, as opposed to Berean (though I doubt the two were ALL that different).

But when Candice announced she was pregnant, I thought, “I have got to get over this fear!”

Candice was great at encouraging me. “I know you’ll do great with Brielle,” she said, without even a hint of fear that I might drop her. Right after Brielle was born, Candice carefully and patiently walked me through the process of how to hold the baby, and transfer the baby from arm to arm.

She didn’t laugh at me, or imply the fact that I knew squat about babies after 29 years was something to be ashamed of.

So, when we stopped by on Friday, she asked if I wanted to try feeding Brielle.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“It’s not hard,” she promised. She handed me my sweet niece (I’d like to proudly add I had no problem handling her this time!), and showed me how to feed her. Moments later, I was enraptured at watching the many faces of Brielle! It was so sweet.

I even burped her, although Candice says I need to work on patting Brielle’s back harder.

“I don’t want to give her a bruise!” I said.

“You won’t!” Candice assured me.

I held her for a while, before she fell asleep, and I got to examine that adorable face, little hands, and exquisite toes! I was in “Aunt” heaven!

After Brielle was asleep, Brett wanted to hold her for a while, and it was the cutest thing to see my gigantic husband with such a tiny baby. A-dorable!

Later Brielle went down for her nap, and Brett and I enjoyed hanging out with Candice, her best friend Sarah, BJ, Maria, Uncle Billy, and Lina. We talked, had pizza, and watched TV on Uncle Billy’s MASSIVE big screen – all while comfortably ensconced in Uncle Billy’s new micro-suede furniture.

It was nice to getting to know Sarah. We were actually in high school together, but she and Candice were two years younger, so I didn’t really know her all that well. In high school, two years make a big difference. Although, Sarah did date a guy in my class, so I was vaguely aware of her. We really hit it off last night, and the three of us girls laughed and laughed.

Later, I told Brett it was like being back in college when all I did was hang out with my friends and laugh. I didn’t realized how much I missed it until last night.

BJ, as always, managed to entertain us with movies, YouTube videos, and manic photo-taking with his camera equipment.

Maria, Uncle Billy, and Lina put up with the laughing lot of us amazingly well. They even joined the “party.” I told Candice that Lina kept smiling because, “She’s glad HER relatives are SANE. Unlike us crazy people!”

It was a really fun Friday. More fun than I’ve had in long time. I miss hanging out in a group and just laughing, talking, and trading good-natured sarcasm with pros like Sarah, Candice, and BJ.

Sarah and I even had the chance to delve into spiritual topics for a while, and I was reminded how wonderful it is to have the spiritual bond that can cross any divide. We didn’t agree on everything (guess who talked about women’s “roles?”), but we did agree on the MAIN POINTS, and it was a truly enriching discussion.

It’s so wonderful to have Christian friends, where there isn’t that “wall” that exists with non-believer friends. You can literally talk about anything!

I wanted to post this experience, since it left me feeling so refreshed and happy about being with family and friends.

I don’t ever want to take that for granted.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Plan B

Candice called me in the middle of the week to tell me about her doctor’s appointment.

“The doctor thinks the baby’s going to come this weekend. But I think she’s going to wait until next week.”

“Wouldn’t the doctor know?” I asked.

“I think the doctor wants it to come this weekend, since she’s on call. Sarah’s coming in on Friday night, and we’re going for pedicures, manicures, and stuff like that, so I can look great when the baby gets here next week.”

“Sounds great! Are your sisters going to be here?”

"They’re planning to come on Thursday. I know I’m going to want Sarah and my sisters in the room with me, but if the baby comes this weekend, would you and your Mom be okay being in the room with me?”

“Absolutely!” I tried to contain my excitement at both the honor and the prospect!

We chatted for a few more minutes about her pregnancy, the baby, and the upcoming few days. Later on that night, I told Brett we were on “Red Alert” as Plan B and that both of us were to keep our cell phones on AT ALL TIMES, just in case Candice called.

Thursday night found us in the Emergency Room at SwedishAmerican Hospital.

I had chest pains, although I was pretty sure it was my usual bout with costochondritis (which basically means “chest pains”). It’s completely harmless, although not painless. However, the immediate care clinics will not see you for chest pains, as only hospitals have the equipment necessary to diagnose heart attacks (chief symptom = chest pains).

And, actually, I’m okay going to the hospital since, let’s face it, we all know the Big H is coming for me sometime.

So, Brett and I spent six hours waiting to see an Emergency Room doctor (after I was given an immediate EKG to determine the Big H was holding off for now).

Actually, it wasn’t so bad.

We played Hangman for a while. At least until Brett said he thought I was being a little sadistic (I think it’s cute to make X’s for the eyes and have the little tongue wagging out of the mouth, and not – as my husband said – the sign of a sick mind.)

He insisted we switch to the Wheel of Fortune kind of word guessing – complete with clues such as Person, Place, or Thing.

His words were Springfield, justification, and battleship. My words were bungalow and Liberia, before we hit a slight blip. I maintained cannibal was a Person, while Brett claimed it was an Occupation.

Our discussion on the matter prompted a laugh from the gang member sitting across from us.

He told the front desk he “cut his hand with a piece of glass” while working in construction. However, the fact that he was shoved out of a black moving van which then sped away anonymously, made us doubt his claim.

Plus, Swedes (the hospital’s nickname) is not in the greatest area of town.

By the time we saw the doctor, it was almost midnight. It was after 12:30 a.m. on Friday before we got home. We fell into bed, exhausted.

At 6:25 a.m., I heard a consistent buzzing.

“Nobody ever calls me on my cell phone.” I said out loud, as I fumbled for the phone. Just before I hit the answer button, I realized exactly WHO would be calling me.

Sure enough, it was Uncle Billy! They were at the hospital, and Candice was in labor.

I should have been sleepy, but the baby news had my adrenaline pumping.

“We’re having a baby!” I yelled at Brett. “Hurry! Hurry!”

I dialed Mom’s number. “How fast can you get dressed?” I shouted breathlessly.

“What? Oh! Oh! Candice is having her baby. I’ll be ready!” (Mom and I are so psychic; it’s a little scary.)

I would probably have driven straight to the hospital in my Indian casino shirt and ratty sweats, if Brett hadn’t insisted on taking a quick shower.

“You could, um, change,” he suggested.

“Right. Right.” I hurriedly changed, brushed my teeth, and put my lipstick on. I didn’t want my new niece to see me for the first time with no make-up.

I insisted on driving to Mom’s (“You were a woman possessed,” my husband feels the need to add). The two of us talked excited all the way to the hospital, while Brett dozed.

When we got to the hospital, Candice was in a lot of pain. But, after the epidural, she felt SO much better, and we were able to talk for a while.

Uncle Billy told us Candice’s sisters were on their way. “They just couldn’t wait,” he told us. They’d packed up and were on their way from Tennessee. Sarah was still on the road from New Jersey, so Plan B had been called into action!

The nurse told us that sometimes the epidural causes the body to relax and the baby to come quickly. She was right! Within only a few hours, Candice was ready to push. It happened so fast that a midwife was called in, just in case the doctor didn’t make it on time.

Thankfully, the doctor arrived shortly thereafter, rapidly putting his scrubs. “I’m sorry,” he apologized. “It’s your first baby. I thought we had more time!”

I have to say, as a side note, it was so sweet how he introduced himself to Candice as she was in the middle of a push. It was like they were old friends meeting at a party. He was so jovial and genuinely warm.

Just a few more minutes later, the most beautiful little girl in the world arrived! Miss Brielle was stunning on arrival, and while Mom and Candice were dry-eyed, I cried like a baby.

Although not louder than the actual baby. Wow, what a set of pipes!

It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Truly a miracle. I found myself in awe, thanking God for His perfect grace. That even through the Fall, childbirth could be so magnificent.

I hope I thanked Candice enough for her gift of allowing me to be present on the day she became a mother. It was a great honor and one of the most special days of my life.

The rest of the weekend was a whirlwind of phone calls, Charity, Colleen, and Sarah’s arrival, and a flurry of baby-related activities.

On Sunday, when Brett and I were finally coming down off the “baby high” we’d been on, we relived the experience, already laughing at ourselves. Apparently, I was little hysterical with joy, while Mom was “calm and steady like a rock.”

I know the Boehms always think Mom and I are a little dramatic and a little theatrical. For solid down-to-earth people, they put up with us amazingly well.

But I also know Mom’s heart broke a little bit that her sister Kathy, Candice’s mom, couldn’t be there to welcome her first grandchild into the world.

“Maybe God’s pulling the clouds back, so your Mom can see you right now,” Mom told Candice in the middle of her labor. I nodded enthusiastically.

Candice gave us “the look” (the one I get from the Boehms all the time) like, “Okay…dramatic!” But she nodded quickly before another push brought us Brielle.

Later, as I sat holding my warm, snuggly little niece, I thought maybe Mom and I were wrong. Maybe Aunt Kathy got to meet Brielle before all of us. Maybe she saw her granddaughter before any of us could. In heaven.

Then I said a little prayer that, Lord willing, Brielle and her grandmother will meet again in heaven someday.

At the end of the day, I thought again of what rejoicing there will be - far beyond the joy of that amazing room - when we are all together again!