"We're all just fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make." – Jerry Ellis

Archive for the ‘rants’ Category

(One of the Reasons) I Miss 80s TV

scarecrow_and_mrs_king

Recently, I’ve been re-watching an old favorite TV show of mine, Scarecrow and Mrs. King.  Anyone under age 40 probably doesn’t even remember it.  It was a spy-type of comedy that ran four seasons from 1983 to 1987 about an ordinary housewife, Amanda King, played by Kate Jackson (Sabrina of Charlie’s Angels for you 70s TV show fans) and Lee Stetson, aka Scarecrow, played by Bruce Boxleitner, a seasoned spy for “The Agency”.  Completely by accident, Amanda is recruited by Scarecrow to be a spy, albeit in a courier-type capacity at first.  Of course, eventually she becomes a key player in all types of Russian take-downs.  After all, who would believe an ordinary DC housewife would be a spy?

Can you begin to see what I miss?

The willing suspension of disbelief.

True confession:  I am not a big fan of Reality TV.  Sure, I watched American Idol (whatever happened to David Cook anyway?), love ghost hunting and true crime shows and all things HGTV, but the Writer’s Strike of 2007 ruined a lot of TV for us who didn’t mind believing premises that were, ahem, a little far-fetched.

In the 80s, shows that featured a good guys vs. bad guys storyline were everywhere.  In the 80s, it was easy to feature the Russians as the bad guy in every spy flick.  It was the Cold War!  We did not have a bunch of Russians protesting outside of a studio somewhere saying they are being misrepresented in American TV.  And it made life simpler.  We had pay phones instead of cell phones, typewriters instead of computers and crazy notions about impropriety.  It was the day of the cowboy in the white hat versus the villain in the black hat.  As I write that I realize that now even having colored hats is politically incorrect.  If I’ve offended, I apologize.

I hate the PC movement.  It’s probably because I am not a hateful person—either that, or I’m just an idiot.  If I had to be honest, I’d say that there were always certain characteristics that, growing up, I associated with the bad guy.  (No offense to the PC crowd who thinks it could be a bad “girl”, which could very well have its own innuendo.)  The person who was a liar, spiteful, a thief or was anti-American was not to be trusted.  So many stories today feature the person who is a liar, but for good reason; the meanie who was just misunderstood; the thief who just needed a break; or anti-American…because, gosh, we can’t think that we are better than anybody else—Americans are such an arrogant bunch.  But when I watched a show where the criminal happened to be a certain ethnicity or race, I didn’t relate the bad guy in the show to anybody who fell into the same demographic.  Maybe because I saw the show as…fiction.  Corn was a vegetable and thrown on dinner plates as such.  Who wants a show about real life? (Corn is a starch, only broccoli is a healthy vegetable. Throw out the green beans-they aren’t going to add years to your life. Mom vacuums on Tuesdays.  Stop perpetuating untruths!)

It’s not that I don’t appreciate nuances in storytelling where characters are deeper than what they seem.  I like watching movies and shows that stretch what I think I know.  I just miss the simple bad guy vs. good guy premise.  Throw in a little sexual tension (NOT rolling around in the bed after knowing each other a whole two hours), mystery and some comedy and I’m sold.  I’m simple like that.  So yeah, I miss 80s TV.  Magnum PI. Simon and Simon. Cagney and Lacey. Moonlighting. The A Team.  Somehow they had a way of having horrendous crimes, but didn’t seem so dark.  They were okay with throwing us couch potatoes a taste of the darkness of human nature—murder, rape, revenge—but making it seem like it was just another day at the office for our heroes.

There are a few shows out that are a great throwback to those times.  I love the show Castle, which just ended last year.  Who wouldn’t want to believe that a fiction crime writer would be part of a New York homicide detective team?  His theories on cases alone were entertaining.  Or Bones, where a Forensic Anthropologist would be on the front lines chasing down bad guys?  Now that I think about it, I think that show ended, too.  But when I watch shows like that, I can see myself thrown into the action.  Can’t you?  It’s fun.

And why I like TV.

Like Walter Mitty, I could be the hero.  Me, ordinary City employee and Mom, Amy.  I could save the day.  Be the unassuming hero in my ordinary town.  It’s fiction.  I’m okay with it.  In fact, I embrace it!  I am free to not associate any of the bad guys in the script because the story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in the production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.

I do miss my 80s TV.  Maybe it’s because I was just a kid, and things were simpler when I had that naiveté.    But it sure seemed like a lot more fun, and less of a statement.  So go check out shows from the 70s and 80s.  Relax, enjoy.  Don’t read into it too much.  You may find yourself slightly entertained.  And that, in today’s reality-heavy TV, is a gift within itself.  Enjoy.

 

Velma, the Fraidy Cat

Velma again

After not having a cat for several years, this past March our family adopted a cat, Velma Kelly.  We kept the name that the animal rescue place had given her (she and her siblings were named after characters in the musical Chicago) and it seemed to suit her.  I’m not sure exactly what made me decide to get a cat that chilly day.  Erin and I had worked at a Girl Scout Cookie Booth in front of the Petsmart store, and when we were finished, we decided to take a look at the dogs and cats they have up for adoption.

When I first saw her in the bottom cat cage, her markings caught my eye.  I thought she was a beautiful little kitty.  I started talking to the woman from Heartland Animal Shelter about her, quickly dismissing the notion we’d ever own a cat again.  Several years ago we had taken in Darrell’s grandmother’s cats when she moved in with his parents, and while I loved them and all their silly feline-ways, I don’t think Darrell ever really connected with them.  Cindy Lou, who was such a sweet, laid-back cat, lived to be over 21 years old.

“We have two crazy dogs at home,” I told the lady from Heartland.  “I’d feel sorry for any cat we’d bring back to the house.”

Well, as it turned out, she was this cat’s foster mom, and they had dogs, too.  “Look,” she said, pulling out her phone.  And there was Ms. Velma, snuggled between two dogs on the couch.  The wheels began to turn.  Could this little kitty be the newest addition to our home?

I went on to explain how our two knuckleheads (my affectionate nickname for the collective Chester and Grendel), were awesome at our house, snuggling with us on the couch, fun to play with and overall great, loyal companions, but lacked social skills with other dogs, and sometimes people.

“Velma loves to sit on your lap and watch TV,” she told me.

Hmmm…I love to watch TV with snuggly pets! I thought to myself.  Visions of me planted on the couch surrounded by my furry friends started to form in my mind.  It was my version of Snow White and her birds and bunnies doing the housework—minus the effort chores take, of course.  “Can we see her?”  I asked.  After bringing up the dogs to make sure they’d be compatible and convincing my husband she’d be perfect for us, two hours and about $250 in cat paraphernalia later, we had ourselves a cat.

 

us on adoption day

Our family, minus Tyler, on adoption day.

Sadly, my Snow White fantasy remains unfulfilled.  I have yet to even get her to stay in the same room with me, let alone sit on my lap.  Velma is quite the Fraidy Cat.

I would say that it’s not without good reason.  The dogs, though not vicious towards her, are a little too curious for her liking—Grendel especially.  He watches her perched upon her cat tree in the family room and whines.  And he never misses the opportunity to give her a good chasing when he can.  To give you a visual, it’s all toenails for brakes across the slick floor followed by ass over teacups.

Grendel head through kitty cat door

This is a regular view from within her sanctuary (Erin’s room) for Velma. They say curiosity killed the cat…but what about the dog? She doesn’t even scratch his nose with her claws.

 

To give her sanctuary, we put in a kitty cat door opening into Erin’s room.  Erin is her human.  For the most part, she’s the one who feeds her, cleans out the kitty litter and as a result, gets all the snuggles I crave.  It’s very heartwarming to see Velma adore both Erin and Emily.  She lets them rub her belly and sometimes carry her around with them.  I’ve tried to be friends with Velma, but still she fears me.  It may be because the first two or three days she was home I was tasked with grabbing her out from behind any furniture, or it may be because she associates me with the dogs.  In any event, even though every time I reach my hand out to her, purposely giving her treats in my outstretched hand, she runs away as if I had just dumped boiling oil on her.

It reminds me of a story I heard a long time ago about a non-believer and some birds.  I searched for it and found it to be a Paul Harvey story.  The story goes that there was a man who was a good person, but found the Christmas story of baby Jesus in the manger hard to swallow, so he opted to not attend Christmas Eve service with the rest of his family.  After his family left, some birds had hit his window trying to get in during the snow storm.  He wanted to help them, but after various ways of trying to get them to safety, realized they were afraid of him.  The thought occurred to him that if he were a bird, they might be more willing to follow him and let him show them the way.  And he had his lightbulb moment of truly understanding the Christmas story.

I’m not sure Velma would like me any better if I were a cat, but I wish she would at least see that I only want her to be a happy part of our family.  Erin was gone this past week on a Mission Trip with Youth Group and now is in Florida with our friends, so I’ve been trying to take advantage of Velma’s loneliness.  The first time we took her to the vet for a checkup after we brought her home, the vet’s office bribed her with baby food.  Since she seemed to like it, this past week both Darrell and I have been trying to coax her to us with little spoonfuls of baby food chicken and gravy. When I feed her, I stroke her silky fur and tell her what a sweet kitty she is.  I play laser pointer with her and let her chase it until she’s worn out.  I sit on Erin’s bed and dangle the kitty fishing pole toy in front of her face to let her bat at the ribbons.  I keep the dogs at bay.

Friendship Goals

Velma’s obvious fear of me and other benevolent people has held her back from moments she might enjoy if she would just relax and not be afraid.  It’s frustrating, but in some ways I can relate a little.  While I’ve never run from the offer of tasty snacks, I have run from opportunities because of a fear of the unknown.  I am guilty of living in my comfort zone because stepping out of it brings the risk of failing and having to say, “That was a mistake.” Who wants to do that?  Or what can be even scarier at times—what if it is successful and I have to keep it up?

Fear has its place.  It keeps us from holding umbrellas on hilltops under trees in lightning storms and hanging out in dark alleys with wads of cash hanging out of our pockets.  But it can also hold us back from our potential—what we were meant to be.

I still haven’t won her over, but I think Velma’s at least accepting me as an Erin substitute this week.  With cats, I’ve learned not to try too hard—they are definitely the ones that like to play hard to get.  Friends have given me hope by saying that they’ve had cats that took over a year to get comfortable in their homes.  While I’ve resigned myself to the fact that she may not be sitting down on my lap and watching TV any time soon, I’m not convinced she won’t ever enjoy hanging out with us in some capacity as her trust in us grows.  Until then, I’ll celebrate the little victories with her like the few times she’ll sit on the stairs and watch me type on the computer.  Who knows?  Someday my Snow White moment with my furry friends may come true.

Velma with toy

Update:  I wrote this three days ago, but was waiting to do a final edit before I posted it.  In fact, it was still pulled up on my screen.  Velma must have read it and felt sorry.  Last night, I decided to read my book in Erin’s room to spend more quality time with the cat.  I didn’t get much reading done, because the game turned into her getting in between me and the book.  So I stopped trying to read and just scratched her behind her ears.  Long story short, I ended up sleeping in Erin’s room to keep the cat company and she is now my best friend.  I was tired this morning after Velma pawed and purred in my ear all night, but I had a thought that maybe the lesson here wasn’t just about fear holding us back.  Maybe it’s about meeting others who are unsure or timid wherever they are, including within their comfort zone, so that trust can become a part of the equation.  But I suppose that’s a whole other post.

Velma

More Thoughts on Bamboo Part 2 – Forget the Panda

potted bamboo

I never thought there would be a need for Part 2 of Bamboo Quest, but here I am, almost two years later and the battle between nature and woman continues.  I wrote a post that spring about my ongoing struggle with the bamboo I had planted based on the romantic notion of “The Fern and the Bamboo”.  I learned a tough lesson—don’t plan landscaping based on cheesy, albeit meaningful, poetic stories about nature.  You can read it here.

In the year between the first attempt at getting rid of it and now, it grew back.  The stalks themselves were not thicker—in fact, they got almost skinny-asparagus-looking, but there were many more of them.  I had spent hours digging up the stalks, presumably by the roots, to eradicate the bamboo from the side of the house.  Ironically, I believe that it actually helped aerate the remaining roots, because it spread up to the side of the house even faster, rounding the corner into the front landscaping.

Last summer, busy with Tyler’s graduation, not to mention completely frustrated with my inability to wipe it out, I just lived with it, trying in vain just to keep it contained to where it already had grown.  The best (or maybe the worst) thing about that side of the house is that I don’t really ever see it like I do the side next to the garage.  It’s times when I am cutting the grass or getting out the hose that I am reminded that I need to do something about that crazy bamboo.

Lilac

Must conquer bamboo before it strangles my Lilac Bush!

Late this winter, I started to plan what I was going to do about it.  I watched You Tube videos of people telling how they managed to get rid of that invasive plant.  One video I watched with a method I wanted to try was smothering it. The guy doing the video told of how he had left a piece of plywood on the ground and when he moved it a couple of days later, the bamboo had died.  I envisioned laying down thick, black plastic and putting gravel on top.  It seemed like a very do-able method, even if it involved a lot of gravel shoveling.  My fear was that this bionic plant would manage to pop right through the plastic anyway, and it’d be even harder to get to with the plastic barrier.  Another method, told to me by a friend who is actually a plant ecologist, was to cut it back close to the ground and pour full strength, concentrated weed killer in the stalks.  That seemed like an even better plan, and although I don’t like that it will be some time before I can plant anything there again if I sterilize the soil, I liked the idea of dousing it with the weed killer and spending the summer re-spraying as needed until it doesn’t come back.

So yesterday, I tackled the bamboo full force once again.  I prepared by going to Home Depot and buying the largest container of Round Up concentrate they sold as well as a long machete.  The machete purchase worried Darrell a bit.  Mostly because I think he thought I’d lose a digit or two—he knows me pretty well.  I had this idea of going all “Ghengis Kahn” on the bamboo, like a mighty warrior defending the homestead.  Instead, it was a pathetic version of sword-wielding with me slamming the machete into the toughened stalks and nicking them a tiny bit.  I could almost hear the bamboo laughing.  I changed my game plan after about a half hour of getting nowhere, and grabbed my little hacksaw that I use for cutting thicker branches when I’m pruning trees.  I’d grab a handful of bamboo, and saw at it like it was one large branch.  It went much quicker than individually cutting stalks and pulling them out, and left me with little stubs of bamboo sticking out of the ground.  With this method, at least when I was finished it looked like there had been some progress, even if it does grow back.  Rain was forecasted for the afternoon, so I hurriedly poured straight up Round Up concentrate directly on the stalks.  “Bottoms up,” I told the stalks.  I really hoped they were in a drinking mood.

Before - Right

Before

After - Right

After

This morning when I took a look, the remaining stubs had yellowed slightly, but didn’t look completely worse for wear.  I suppose only time will tell if it actually poisoned them completely.  I vowed to myself that I would make it a point to check on it throughout this season to see if there seems to be places where it’s getting its second…make that its third…wind.  Like any problem, hoping it will just go away on its own doesn’t work.  Again, another life lesson taught to me courtesy of yard work.  I never stop seeing metaphors for life in the yard and garden.

Before - Left

Before

After - Left

After

When I was finished, I saved a few stalks of the bamboo and put them in a pot.  I want to be able to be remind myself of how a seemingly small act like allowing something as innocent and seemingly beautiful as a slender stalk of bamboo into my space can turn out to have extreme repercussions that take a lot of work to remedy.  For now, that side along the house will remain minimal and barren, until the solution has run its course and I once again can plant something shade-loving (and much less invasive) there.  There is a bright side to this journey with the bamboo, though, in addition to those free life lessons it’s provided me.  Next winter, when it’s cold and nasty outside and I start getting the plant catalogs in the mail, I have a whole side of the house to design and plan.  Maybe a variety of Hostas or some native plants like False Indigos or Blue Lobuia.  And I’ll do my research in the plant section, not the poetry section.

Bags

In the Belly of the Whale (or Big Fish-depending on how literal you are)

Mug

When 2016 was just around the corner, I made a list of things I wanted to do in the new year. Not resolutions really, more like goals.  Like every year in recent years, I wanted to bring in more organization to our home and purge clutter, be healthier and train for another half marathon.  Oh yeah, and get a solid direction for this little blog.

Over a quarter of the way through the year, I’ve been organizing my office, training for the GO! Half Marathon, which I ran this past Sunday with my daughter, Erin, and trying to make healthier choices for meals (well, sorta).  What I’ve been avoiding like the plague is the direction of my blog.  You may have noticed this little hiatus as I noodled for a bit what it was I was going for in my posts.

Who was I writing for? How much family/personal info is too much? How often should I post? What’s my goal in this? Do I really have the talent/energy to actually work on it?

If you’ve ever blogged, I’m sure you can relate.  When I’ve read articles and books on blogging (probably my first mistake), generally they are geared towards people who want to earn money from a blog or have some area of expertise they’d like to share. Not really my audience.

I started looking at what type of person would be interested in my blog—this goofy, Midwest Mom’s take on people and events in my life—and got stuck.  And then self-doubt crept in.  As the weeks passed and I did nothing with the blog, I told myself I was only trying to gain perspective on where to go next, and these things take time. I continued reading other blogs that I feel are similar to mine and tried to define what it was about those posts that I enjoyed so much.  Like a flowery romance novel with unrequited longing that I devour, it’s the relatable -people thing that pulls me in.  I love reading other people’s life experiences and thinking, “Hey, that’s me!” Or “That was a brave thought to put out there.” Funny, because if you read about why I started my blog it’s one of my main points.

Still, I felt I needed to be more purposeful about what I was blogging about.  I posted nothing—I wrote them, but I never put them, or myself, out there.  I trashed them and I couldn’t finish them.  The Lighthearted Dragonfly seemed like a pointless, silly endeavor.

Shelving something that was at one time something that brought me tremendous joy and fueling of hope wasn’t easy.  I prayed about it, asked God what it was He wanted me to do. It went a little like this:

“Inspire others,” He whispered.  “In doing so, even if you don’t mention my name directly, you will glorify me.”

“I’m not good at that,” I told Him.  “People will think I’m pious and stereotype me as a squeaky clean Christian.”

At this point I picture God just shaking his head.  “So what?”

“Well, I won’t get followers and I won’t get to write posts about hilarious and dirty misunderstood lyrics.”  (I think God would roll his eyes here, because He knows how I much I love to laugh over mistaken lyrics.)

“Uh huh.”  I thought about it some more and why it would never work.  I hid away from the computer, and writing in general.  I applied for full time positions where I work part time now and didn’t get any offers.  I busied myself with marathon binging on “Criminal Minds” and ghost/paranormal shows.  I played lots of games on my phone during the time I used to work on the blog.  The couch became my ship sailing away from the very thing I felt I was led to do.

And despite the fact I thought I was getting away without doing the blog or any writing, I got a touch depressed.  It wasn’t a real fish belly I was in, but it was similar.  It was a prison of unproductive, wasted time, feeling purposeless and just standing by waiting for life to roll on by.  When someone would ask me about my blog, or writing in general, I felt embarrassed for having failed at it.  I would see pictures of dragonflies in odd places.  And this verse came up in my life, all over the place, again and again.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to proper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

I started thinking about Jonah (ironically, that story came up a few times, too.)  In no uncertain terms God had told him exactly what He wanted him to do.  If you remember the story, Jonah didn’t really feel up to the task, and tried to get away on a boat to hide from God.  It took ending up in the belly of a whale to get him to wake up and follow directions.  Was that what I was doing? Running from God’s plan for me?  I didn’t want to end up that way!

I started writing posts, again only half finishing them and never posting them, but with the idea that I needed to do this.  I’m not saying I’m in the same league as Jonah by any stretch, but in the smaller manuscript, God’s Plan for Amy—you may have heard of it—I think there may be a chapter about a little dragonfly blog.

So I’m getting off the couch and back up on that horse (yes, I really do like clichés in my imagery!)  I won’t pretend to know the big picture, but I hope that you will follow me and check out the blog now and then.  If you were a follower before, thank you for your patience; I’m still here!

I couldn’t end this post without giving a shout out to some of my fellow bloggers that have inspired me to do this thing again.   Almost all of them I’ve never met, I’ve just read their blogs and enjoy what they have to say.  A big thank you to them for showing me that writing about things you love—from life from the perspective of a young person finding her way, wonderful stories of families and genealogy, to the single dad going to seminary after serving as a Captain in the Air Force sharing his opinions and struggles.  Each one of them have made me want to continue doing something that can, at times, seem like a fruitless pursuit.  Please keep on writing!

Bloomin’ Flower           Moore Genealogy

The Baby Perks               Tali Norfalli

Captain’s Log               Rookie Notes

StoryShucker

(You may need to hold the CTRL key to get the links to open!)

Amy’s Favorite Things

This past week Oprah Winfrey announced seventy-two items that she absolutely loves on her 2014 Favorite Things list. As only Oprah can get away with (and still be seen as the woman who can relate so well to her fans) many of the items are beyond the reach of the average person’s budget. Like dog beds that are in the price range of $445-$710 (hypoallergenic, of course—in case it’s your dog with the allergy problem instead of you). She does have some less expensive items on her list, like her book What I Know For Sure; it’s only $25.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hater. I’d put my own book, if I had one, on my Favorite Things list, too! I actually admire Oprah Winfrey and find her to be a classy gal who has had to endure, among other things, the media’s morbid fascination with her weight. Still, I couldn’t help but see her favorite things and think that I had at least ten favorite things that everyday, practical people could actually buy for themselves or a loved one without having to finance them through a two-years-same-as-cash deal. Besides, I always wanted to write my own version of Rodgers and Hammersteins’ My Favorite Things from the Sound of Music. I even invite you to sing my list if it puts you in a cheerful mood.

In no particular order:

 Costco Chocolate Chip Cookies. For the record, I can’t remember a cookie I didn’t like, but chocolate chip has to be my favorite. Emily and Erin do a great job whipping up homemade cookies from scratch, as does my mother-in-law, but if it’s going to be store bought I love the chocolate chip cookies from Costco. For one, they’re big, so I can get away with saying I only ate one cookie. They are soft and have those big, chunky chocolate chips in them. They never last very long at our house.

Holiday Printed Paper Towels. Simple? Yes. But some reason I love to pick up a roll of Bounty at Halloween or Christmas with the cute little holiday designs on them. Sometimes I have to settle for just getting the printed napkins, but either way they both make wiping countertop messes more fun somehow. It’s the little things…

 60-Second Instant Nail Color. I don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to painting my nails. This product lets me paint my nails and get on with life sooner without the risk of smudged polish. Of course, a gel manicure from the salon is even easier, but when I’m going to do them myself, quick-dry is the way to go. Plus, it’s a bargain compared to Oprah’s nail colors on her list—a set of nine polishes for $144. Although hers are vegan. (Why does nail polish need to be vegan? Who eats nail polish?)

Speaking of non-vegan…

Wurstmarkt. Wait, you say…a sausage supper made the list? Let me tell you, this is no ordinary church dinner. Held the first Saturday in November at Immanuel Church for over 70 years now, this meal is one you can write home about. As I’ve mentioned before, my home church is located in Ferguson, Missouri, where a lot of unrest has taken place. There was talk of cancelling the event this year due to the protests, but they ended up holding it anyway. Attendance was down from years past, but the important thing was that they carried on. The sausage, the mashed potatoes, the pie…yes, Wurstmarkt definitely makes the list.

My Nike Running hat. I bought this hat several years ago and it makes running in the cold possible for me. It’s just a plain, black hat made from lightweight, moisture wicking material—definitely not sexy, but it keeps my ears warm and holds the heat in by my noggin. Last December we ran the Hot Chocolate 5K run in a “feels like” temperature in the single digits. Between the little hand warmer packets I stuck in my gloves and my hat, I stayed warm the whole time. Can’t run without my hat in these Missouri winters.

My Keurig K-Cup Brewer. For years I saw these at Bed, Bath and Beyond and thought they were ridiculously wasteful. Then I got one for Christmas two years ago. As the only coffee drinker in the house, it’s perfect for me, because generally I only drink a cup in the morning and sometimes one in the afternoon. I love that there are tons of flavors to pick from. My favorite seasonal one is the Pumpkin Spice. When I top the coffee with some whipped cream, a squirt of caramel sundae sauce and cinnamon sugar I can close my eyes and actually pretend I’m at a Starbucks. Blissful!

Nike Structure 16 running shoes. I discovered these little gems about two years ago after coming off a foot injury that sidelined me almost two years. I am an over-pronator with a high arch, but thanks to these shoes, I was able to run and train for four half-marathons without re-injuring myself. This is coming from the person who tried cortisone shots, as well as prescription and non-prescription orthotics. They’ve since retired the Nike Structure 16, and have moved on to the newer generation, the Nike Structure 17; I give both these models the credit for allowing me to continue running. These are probably one of my more expensive “favs”, but in the long run are definitely cheaper than doctor office visits and being in pain.

My crockpot. Insert your brand/size crockpot here, but I think crockpots are God’s gift to busy families. There’s nothing like the feeling of putting your roast and veggies together in the morning and being greeted with its delicious aroma when you get home from work. All you have to do is take out the cooked food and it’s chow time. It’s like a little magic genie makes dinner for me when I’m not home. Also good for cooking up chili and soups, the crockpot is the absentee chef’s best friend. What’s not to love?

My tablet. I have a middle-of-the-road Samsung Galaxy. It is awesome. Before that, I had one of the first generations of the Nook offered by Barnes & Noble, which is an unfair comparison. I liked reading on that device, although the screen was not lit and you could only read BN book formats on it, but on my newer tablet I have apps for both Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble, so I can read either format on it. Plus it’s color. And I can play Candy Crush on it and actually see the little candies on the screen, which is much harder to do on my phone (an LG Optimus that I also enjoy).

Air Wick/Glade room freshening candles. Oprah’s list had a four-pack of holiday candles for $240. Let me offer you a more affordable option. Go to the air freshener aisle at Target or Wal-Mart and pick up either Air Wick or Glade candles. Offered in seasonal scents, they burn cleanly, last for hours and are quite the bargain at a couple bucks apiece. If you’re like me and love the scent of lemon no matter what time of year it is, you can get them on clearance after the season is over and have scented candles on the cheap. Get a little crazy and mix it up—burn pumpkin candles in April and cranberry ones in August.

So that’s it, ten of my favorite things. My list may never be printed in my own magazine or talked about on the radio, but I won’t go broke enjoying these finer things in life. There were several other favorites I had to cut, like gel pens and office supplies to narrow it down to only ten items, but I humbly realized that I’m not Oprah, so I don’t get to have 72. I also don’t have Oprah’s clout to save you 10% when you use the “DRAGONFLY” discount code. If money remains an obstacle, remember there’s always the free favorite things in which we can all agree, beginning with raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.

 

Is It Empty…or Just Blank?

Blank checks. Blank stares. Blank slates. Blank computer screens.

Depending on your perspective, blank can represent the fresh possibility of unchartered territory or the frustration of having no direction or understanding.

Our family’s calendar this weekend, although not completely blank, does have some open time slots. A Saturday morning free from scheduled obligations provides for me a reprieve from the usual hustle and bustle of our household. As much as I love the things we do, sometimes I just want to stay home and catch up on laundry. Not many people’s picture of bliss, I know, but there’s something very therapeutic about having the luxury of getting those everyday tasks caught up all at once.

Yet, while these blank spaces on the calendar represent precious freedom to me, I realize that to others they represent something else entirely. I remember when I worked at a retirement home that the residents didn’t always look forward to the weekends for that very reason. During the week, we had classes and events full of social interaction most of the day, every day, but the on the weekends there would only be a few scheduled activities. For some of these folks living alone in their apartments, two days without something on the schedule brought up an unpleasant feeling of loneliness or worse—meaninglessness. These chunks of open time, are they blank or just empty? Apart from perspective, they are neutral.

Two of my favorite things are a brand-new, pretty notebook and a smooth gel pen. When they’re new, they’re blank—but they’re not empty. I just haven’t put anything in them yet. Because in writing, the empty kind of blank can be terrifying. The dreaded writer’s block for me always makes me question if every ounce of my creative juices has begun drying out. Confession: I have pretty, blank notebooks with cute gel pens fastened to them that are…well, empty. There’s a weird part of me that thinks that if something’s written in a gorgeous little notebook, it has to have some sort of worthiness to it. I know, I know, I should think of those notebooks as a stomping ground for my ideas, not museum paper. But if I only jot down one or two ideas, that spanking new blank notebook becomes a half-finished one—at least in my head. And completing or revamping a half-finished anything is a whole other blog post!

The difference in perspective between blank or empty can sometimes be boiled down to one word—fear. If I fear that marring a notebook with trivial or unfinished thoughts will forever curse its pages, I’ve already lost the battle. My attitude makes a huge difference as to what can be viewed as a challenge versus a burden. (Not that controlling your attitude is easy, but it is possible and a great place to start.)

How about you? Do you have a blank in your life that you’ve been seeing as an empty? Could the artist’s canvass before you be disguised as that stagnant, barren place holding you back? It’s definitely something to think about—whether it be time, notebooks or even that white wall in the dining room.

 

Endings and New Beginnings

As a young Sunday Schooler, we used to sing a little song:

I am the church, you are the church,

We are the church together.

All who follow Jesus, all around the world.

Yes, we’re the church together.

The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple,

The church is not a resting place, the church is the people.

 

Over the past few years, big changes have come down the pike for the church I’ve gone to my entire life—a church blessed with long-standing tradition. I was christened at Immanuel as a baby, confirmed there in eighth grade and took my marriage vows in that beautiful sanctuary. My three children were christened there and two of them have gone through confirmation there. I love the people at my church. A lot of them are relatives, and those who aren’t blood kin certainly feel like they are to me. They have seen me grow up, they know my parents; they’ve celebrated with us in joyous times and mourned with us when we’ve suffered loss. We pray for each other and serve together.

Immanuel started over 126 years ago as a German community church. In fact, services were in German until the War, when pointing out your German heritage was not a good thing to be doing. We still have an annual Wurstmarkt (sausage supper) the first weekend in November. My great-grandparents were a part of the founding members, and my entire family—grandparents, great aunts and great uncles, aunts and uncles and cousins of all “once-removed” status attended church there when I was growing up. At the time, our family was an anomaly because we commuted over 45 minutes to go to church, as we lived in St. Charles and the church is in Ferguson, Missouri. But since my childhood, many of the families that attend church there have also spread out across St. Louis and St. Charles counties and commute to attend services and activities. To have a “commuter church” to this degree is a rather unique situation.

I feel compelled to tell you this brief history because to many people who have either grown up attending various churches or never went to church at all, loyalty to one particular church can be hard to understand. Most people who moved that far away from their church would have found a new one closer to home-especially forty years ago. My parents tried several nearby churches, but none of them had the people that made Immanuel what it meant to them. But what a long commute to church meant for our family then was less involvement with the activities in church outside Sunday morning service. As a youth, I didn’t participate in the Youth Group activities, except for Confirmation, because we just didn’t live very close. So when my own kids were getting to an age to be more involved in Youth programming at church, I didn’t really notice when they weren’t interested in participating.

All these years later, we were still commuting to Immanuel. Until recently. The slow, steady emotionally pulling away from our church began a few years back when the man who was our pastor for over thirty years suddenly retired. We all missed him, especially his wonderful sermons, but I always felt like it was a storm we as a church family could weather. I don’t feel a blog is the appropriate place to go into detail all that’s happened since then, or air any dirty laundry. But the end result is that while Immanuel is still that beautiful church building with a history rich in tradition full of people I love, I feel like all of the unrest has become a huge distraction to the faith development of its members.  My kids are missing out on being a part of an active, thriving youth program.  Despite how that may sound, I am not angry about any of it; just terribly, terribly sad.

Because I miss trying to avoid the delicious donuts while visiting with my friends and family on Sunday mornings in the church basement. I miss our beautiful hymnals that have been so well-loved some have the backs taped together to keep the covers on them. I miss saying “debts and debtors” in our Lord ’s Prayer and reciting the Apostle’s Creed. I miss hearing the choir’s descant and my uncle’s beautiful voice singing “To God Be the Glory”. I miss when we pray for our hospitalized church members together in worship. I miss the kids playing basketball in the gym after church. Those things, like my love for my church family, will never change—they are now a part of my physical and emotional make up—a fiber in my being that will never be unbound. I could go there next week and breathe in that entire experience and feel God’s love for me deep within my heart.

Experiencing other worship services has made me feel disloyal to those people who nurtured my faith all these years, and loyalty is something I cherish. I feel guilty because it’s easy when I attend services elsewhere to focus on the message. I feel uplifted because there’s no emotional baggage with these other worship services because there’s not the history. I see how attending a church within my own community is giving back to my neighbors and it brings me joy. I see ways to become involved at church in more than Sunday morning worship and it scares me. I see my daughter asking to go to Youth meetings with her friend at a nearby church and I feel like I’m doing the right thing. All of these things—they’re about me. And I’m trying to see how to make them all about God.

Still, I’m not ready to say that this is a definite ending or beginning just yet. My heart will always be with my “home” church. My prayer as a woman of faith is to have discernment in knowing which way to move forward.  Standing at this crossroad in my life, I am reminded of yet another song—a hymn from my youth:

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!

Thou art the potter, I am the clay!

Mold me and make me after Thy will,

While I am waiting, yielded and still.

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