Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Look Back At 2008

As 2008, comes to a close I pondered writing my obligatory resolutions post for about 2.3 seconds but decided that since I won't keep them anyway it would be a waste of time. Instead, I thought it would be F-U-N to take a look back and revisit some of the biggest stories of 2008.

1. The United States had an historic presidential election with the Republicans presenting their first ever female vice president candidate and the overwhelming majority of US voters electing the first black president to office.

2. Governor Blagojevich of Illinois was arrested on corruptions charges for trying to sell Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder. This absurdly arrogant man is still thumbing his nose at every single American by refusing to relinquish his Governorship and going so far as to 'appoint' Roland Burris to fill the seat even as the Senate Dems vow to overturn his appointment. O'Reilly would call him a pinhead and I have to agree.(I can only imagine the 'mouth on the forehead' look this must cause Helen.)

3. New York's Elliot Spitzer's Governorship came to a screeching halt when it was brought to light that he was buying sex through an illegal prostitution ring. He 'got off' easy since no charges were filed against him. (Did I miss where prostitution was made legal in New York or something?)

4. China hosted the Summer Olympic Games and Michael Phelps became a record-setting swimming phenon winning a total of eight gold medals. That is awesomeness and he has a really cool mom.

5. Congress passed a $700 BILLION bailout for the financial world with no strings attached. Meaning the banks don't have to give an accounting of how they spend MY tax dollars. This ticks me off.

6. Oil hit $100/barrel then dropped to $40/barrel when the global recession hit.

7. An Iraqi reporter threw a shoe (at Bush). He should have thrown it at Blagojevich.

8. Plaxico Burress shot off his mouth in the off season about his football contract and then shot off his loaded gun while it was pointed at his foot.

9. The Duggar family welcomed their 18th bundle of joy.

10. Gas dropped from $4/gallon to $1.59/gallon (at least in Bend anyway).

11. I made some really cool friends and you can read their wickedly funny blogs by checking out my Blog Roll. (OK, maybe this wasn't Foxnews or CNN big, but it was to me.)

12. Paris is still Paris and now she has the Barbie Car she's always wanted, complete with monogrammed leather seats and pink wheels. Ridiculous.

13. Foreclosures are at an all-time high and unemployment is soaring.

14. Someone Googled 'Tom Cruise Carbonara Opera' and landed on Buzz By Annie's. Seriously. Maybe Tom Cruise makes a couch jumping amazing make-you-sing-like-Pavaroti carbonara but I'll take him on any day with my own recipe. I'm throwing down the challenge. Have his people call my people.

These are just a few of the highlights and lowlights of 2008. While it seems that there were more lows than highs this year, I like to dwell on the fact that I have my family, friends, health, home, happiness and a relationship with a really cool God that is bigger than any news going on in the world. I wish you all a very safe and blessed New Year and I hope you are filled much peace and happiness in 2009.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Some Of My Favorite Christmas Pics

This year, Christmas was quiet and relaxing and that is very ok with me. The one bummer was that my son was in another town with his dad, so I have no Christmas pictures with him in them(therefore I'm going to post a picture of him from last Christmas). It was just Jon, Kenzi and me and we spent Christmas eve and Christmas morning over at my parents. I'm going to post some of my favorite pictures from Christmas 2008. Enjoy!

Me and my kidz...!

Mmmmmmm...Kenz and Jon sharing a treat!

Enthusiasm for opening the gifts!

On our way to Grandma and Grandpa's house...


The best parents in the world!

Me and my sweetie!

Me, ma and the beeg brother...

The girlz....

Boz loves Christmas at Grandpa's house!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Snow....Snowing....Snowing Some More....

So it's snowing like crazy here and I've been 'chatting' with Mare in Africa. If you can believe it, there's not a lick of snow in Nigeria. I know, hard to believe. So, I thought I'd share a little video I took this morning of Boz out in the snow. It's snowing twice as hard now and we're expecting up to 12". Madness. Here you go Mare - it's a virtual winter wonderland! Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Diggin' The Apple Cake

For Christmas we are having a brunch instead of the traditional turkey, ham or prime rib feast (although I'm second guessing not having prime rib now that I mention it). Anyway, this past weekend I decided to try out a new recipe to see if it would be included in the brunch and it most definitely will. I'm not a big sweets eater but this apple cake was awesome. The recipe is very basic so even Katdish can bake with success. There are fresh chunks of apple in all that goodness and it's topped with brown sugar, cinnamon and a warm vanilla sauce. Yeah, you'll be smiling down to your toes.


1 cup Oil
2 cups Sugar
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla (use the real stuff - not imitation)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups apples, chopped (gala or granny smith)

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
dash allspice

Vanilla Sauce:
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup butter
2 teaspoon vanilla (the REAL stuff)

For cake, beat oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla together. Stir together dry ingredients and add to oil mixture. Blend. (it will be very stiff - almost like cookie dough). Stir in apples. Press into a lightly oiled 13"x9" pan.

For topping, combine all ingredients and sprinkle over cake. Bake at 350° for 35-45 minutes.

For vanilla sauce, blend sugar and flour together in a saucepan. Whisk in whipping cream. Add butter and cook over medium heat, whisking often until thickened. Add vanilla and stir. Serve cake warm with vanilla sauce.

No Fair Wear: Still Time To Vote For Your Favorite Saying

Yes, it's true. The polls haven't closed yet and there is still time to vote for your favorite No Fair Wear saying. I'm sure Sherri will be clicking like a mad woman tonight to stack the vote in her favor. I'm allowing you to vote as often as you'd like, so start clicking and give Sherri a run for her money. (By the way, the poll is located on my sidebar. Shouldn't be too hard to find.)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Cleaning House for Christmas

I've been in my pre-Christmas funk the past few weeks and had some pretty serious conversations with the only one patient enough to listen to my ramblings and rants. That would be God. He knows that Christmas is hard for me because I feel guilty that my children have to spend their Christmas apart because of divorce and broken relationships. He knows that I wish we could be one big happy step family with everyone accepting each other, but we're not. He knows that I want my children to have fond memories of holidays spent together but there is too much animosity and unease between certain members in our house. He knows I wish my kid's dad and I could get along for their sake, but we don't. He all and I want him to fix these things.

As I pondered all this stuff, I realized that I really want a lot from God for Christmas. But what am I giving Him? He doesn't ask for much, just my love, trust and faith that He knows what he's doing and to let go and give Him control over it all. Have I done my part to make sure I'm giving everything I have to God no matter what my circumstances may be? Am I only focusing on what I don't have(yes) instead of what I do have(no)?

I think every now and then I have to stop and take an inventory of what's on my heart and put it all back into perspective. As I came to this realization, this song came on the radio. I love God's irony and how he likes to use unconventional ways of speaking to me.

Sure, my life isn't perfect and our family is a little more water and oil than peanut butter and jelly. But here's what I know for sure:

-God loves EVERYONE in this blended family of ours.
-My children know without a doubt that I love them unconditionally.
-Jon has been like a father to my daughter and loved her when she needed it most.
-God has always provided for and taken care of us.
-I have family and friends that are very precious and dear to me.
-Jon and I love each other and are committed to our marriage.
-God's plan is big and mysterious and I'm not always 'in the know', but that's how God works and He knows what He's doing.

Yep, it's time for a good house cleaning...just in time for Christmas.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Merry Christmas From Me And The Hee Haw Gang

It is beginning to look a heckuva lot like Christmas here (as seen from my office window today) and as we are all endlessly scraping our cars, slipping and sliding on the ice covered roads and revelling in our sub-zero temperatures, I hope you are staying warm and enjoying the reason for the season.

Because Christmas is a time of spreading cheer, I wanted to share a little ditty that I created with you in mind and hope that you enjoy it as much as I have. (Sherri and Helen, this is especially for you.) So turn up the volume and here's to it putting a smile to your face and a sparkle in your eyes.

Merry Christmas from the whole Hee-Haw gang!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Weather Outside IS Frightful

The great town of Bend is experiencing a deep freeze and with the wind chill factor we're enjoying a balmy -8 temperature. Seriously. Go outside for more than 14 seconds and your nostrils freeze. It's that cold. Up to 8 inches more snow is expected and the kids are praying for another snow day tomorrow. The parents are not. My one thought today as I looked outside at the swirling snow was, 'why didn't I book a flight to Mexico for Christmas?' I can't decide what I prefer more. This....

Or this....

I do know that the kids can get creative in the snow and why pay outrageous fees at the local ski resort when you can have a snowboard ramp in your very own backyard. The boys built this last night. Jon started talking about the roof and trailers and jumping... I saw a trip to the ER so the boys had to settle for 'off the deck'. This is Jaketacular catching air off the jump. Sweet.

For those of you who would like to cast your vote for the No Fair Wear t-shirt saying, I've posted the poll on the sidebar. Have at it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Its Beginning to Look a Lot Like CHRISTmas and Other Stuff

I woke up to the first big snow of the season today. It's been bone dry and the mountains have had absolutely no snow. So this is a good thing...but...I have several very important people who are traveling the mountain pass today and when I looked at the 'RoadCam' it's a complete whiteout. If you wouldn't mind saying a quick prayer for my daughter who will be on a bus full of coaches, wrestlers and stat girls heading home from the coast, Jon, who was over visiting him mom and my brother and his family (wife and 12 kids) who are headed home from California and will be traversing the Siskiyous. (Thanks!)

On Fridays, after work, it's a mad dash home for me because I love the weekend. My mind starts racing from the moment I walk out the door until I pull up into the driveway. Ah, home sweet home. Because it's your lucky day, I thought I'd give you a glimpse as to my thoughts on the 8 minute ride home and how I do 'katdish' in my head.

Whoa, that person has a Bend High sticker on their car. Sweet glory days. Whoa, (two cars down) that person has a Bend High sticker and an Obama sticker. Not cool. Don't they know only Republicans go to Bend High? I wonder who drives it.

How exactly do you pronounce the governor(is a lower case 'g' like giving the middle finger? Should it be uppercase?) of Illinois' name? Blogosjevetsky..Blagoblabojovich, Blewitbigtimeuhvich...

What would Ted Nugent do about the dogs next door that keep coming in our yard and chasing after us? Kill em' and grill em'? Hey, that would be a cool show for someone that is a hunter/chef. And why did I wonder what TED NUGENT would do? Weird.

I think the only carrots I have in the fridge are the ones I bought at Costco that taste horrible. Even with ranch. So I can't put them in the stew. Maybe I should just do goulash again. At least I'm home alone tonight so I don't have to cook.

That was totally ridiculous when Tom Cruise sang Blue Suede Shoes on Jay Leno. What is wrong with that guy? Is he doing the 60's in his head?

Why does the wife of ex read my blog every day? That's like creepy stalker stuff. If she doesn't want anything to do with me why does she care about what I write? Why did I even think about that?

What the heck does Helen the Hungarian look like? She's going to show up to our party in a veil because she wants to mess with us. Dang. Maybe she'll do her 'mouth up to forehead' look for us.

Is Steph from RCD in Deliverance, GA? I should pray for her family if they ever go rafting.

Is every lame driver on the road when I get off work? And why is this guy going 25 in a 35? He should be going 40 because I have to get home so I can leave again and pick my parents up at the airport. 5:25pm. Can I pass on the right?

Why don't I call her Kathy? Katdish sounds cooler anyway. She's brave to take a picture wearing THAT. I'm too vain.

I should do a post about dam stuff.

That lady (next to me at the stoplight) looks sad. I wonder what her story is.

I think Jon was bummed I didn't go with him today. I'm selfish. I need to go visit his mom more. I should have called him before I left for the office lunch party so he could put the studs** on the Tahoe.

Darn, Killian already left with Grandma Wilson. I won't get to see him. I need to give the kids some money to take their Grandma and Grandpa Wilson out for a Christmas dinner.

Wow, Boz is happy to see me.

There you have it. Katdishing in my head about all that is useless and trivial.

And a note about studs**. For those of you who have no idea what those are, it is not a bunch of people driving around with hunkorama on their cars. They are tires with sharp little metaly things that stick out to help the car go better on the snowy roads. Most people put them on November 1st whether there is snow or not so that they can help create jobs for road construction crews by ruining the roads. Jon puts them on only when he drives the mountain pass. Just doing our part to save tax payer dollars.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

No Fair Wear Is Here

It's here! It's finally here and it's big and it's huge! After 20 years of being an 'idea', we have the logo and are officially launching No Fair Wear! And we're inviting you to be a part of it!

What is No Fair Wear? Ever heard the whine of a sweet, precious child as they wail 'Nooooo faaaiiiir'?(Bummer...What are you going to do?) Well, No Fair Wear is everything in life that isn't fair. Yep, that's right. Life isn't fair and we're telling you all about it.

So, how can you be a part of No Fair Wear and what's in it for you? Well we are looking for some sassy, sarcastic and humorous (KEEP IT CLEAN!) sayings to put on adult and kid t-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, hats and much, much more. If your sassy, sarcastic and humorous submission is selected you will receive an incredibly awesome t-shirt with your saying and some really cool No Fair Wear stickers to give to all of your friends. How brilliant is that?

So get those creative juices flowing and give us your best shot!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Impatience Is Not A Virtue

If impatience were a virtue I'd have that one nailed down. It has never been in my nature to be overly patient and I think part of it is my Type A personality (if you know anything about Type A, the first characteristic of said person is time urgency and impatience. Go figure). Patience is definitely something I want to have more of and I realize that in order to perfect that virtue I need to practice it. Not just for a day, but possibly days, weeks, months... You get the picture.

My friend Bo recently wrote a post on waiting. Waiting takes patience and we've already established that I am in-lack-of. I want to wait in eager anticipation of where God is taking me and wait in complete humility and silence as I listen for God's voice directing me. But I don't like waiting. Period. And instead of waiting patiently and listening for His voice, I usually end up having a conversation with God that goes something like this:

Anne: God, I've been waiting patiently and I think I've got it all figured out so how about you go ahead and share 'the plan' with me so I can get started on this thing.

God: Silence.

Anne: Uh, God, I'm still here waiting and I know you hear me, which is really cool because you're not like me who can just pretend I didn't hear you(when my will doesn't want to do something you're telling me to do, but maybe we can deal with that one later), so maybe now you can share that really cool plan you have for me, with me. I mean the clock is ticking and with the way stuff is going in the world I'm feeling a little sense of urgency. I'm sure you are too. Right?

God: Anne, you've been waiting 6 minutes.

Anne: Wow, has it been that long?

It's easy to want to jump the gun and get ahead of myself instead of just revelling in what God is doing with me. I start to feel pretty good about something and then 'wham' I take a 'devils in the house' hit and I realize I'm not as well off as I thought. I know it's because I haven't waited long enough for God to 'sift' me because I'm human and that causes discomfort and I can be very insecure about whether I'm really valuable enough for God to love me the way He says He does. And, I'm just flat out impatient and usually run before I walk. I think my comment on another one of Bo's posts about how faith is like the leaves in the fall and whether one is a clinger (not wanting to let go when God wants you to) or a jumper (you are willing to let go) sums me up pretty well. "I am a jumper by nature, but sometimes I get impatient and don’t always ‘wait for my color to change’ and I’m the one green leaf laying on the ground." (Oh, it can be a lonely world out there.)

Having the patience to wait until God says go takes a lot of faith. Having faith while being an extremely Type A control freak takes a lot of work. The good news is progress is being made because I'm figuring it out. Slowly but surly I'm recognizing the places in my heart that need the most work and I think that feeling God's conviction about things is a big step in moving closer to his will for me. I know that I need to cling a little tighter to God and let go of the things that give me a false sense of urgency. I know God loves me and whatever insecurities I have are not from Him but the one who wants to destroy the relationship I have with God. I know that I put a lot of pressure on myself and feel a tremendous sense of judgement towards myself whether it's real or not. It comes with the high expectations I put on ME and not ever living up to those expectations and feeling failure for it.

I'm learning to accept my humanness and to not beat myself up when I fall but It's not an overnight change. I don't know that those around me totally understand it and at times feel like that one little leaf that jumped too soon. I also think sometimes, that is where God wants me. If I don't have the distraction of all the others around me it's easier to hear the one voice that truly matters.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Call

So last night I got THE call. The one every parent with a driving teenager dreads. It goes something like this... (in a very shaky, scared voice) "Mom, I've been in an accident." In the few nano seconds it takes to register what I've just heard and before I can ask, "Are you OK?" that feeling of your stomach falling down to your feet hits like a dump truck full of pig slop. To be honest, it's kind of a blur from the time I fired off in rapid succession "Did you call 911? Where are you? Did you call Jon? Are you ok(again)? I'll be right there." to pulling up at the accident scene.

By the time I pulled up, Jon was there with my daughter as well as a police officer and by the grace of God no one was hurt. For which I am very thankful. I told Jon today that it was so hard to talk to the officer because it was cold and I was scared, nervous and shaking like crazy. I vividly remember trying to talk to the paramedics in a very slow, deliberate voice because I couldn't stop shaking. Weird.

I think we learn a lot about ourselves in situations like these and as parents we can go into the 'what if' mode when our children are faced with scary circumstances. Jon was faced with something similar a few years ago and while I could empathize with him I couldn't completely understand how he felt about his kids being in a car wreck...until last night. I have played the 'what ifs' in my head and it has done nothing but bum me out. I can still feel my daughter shaking as I wrapped my arms around her at the scene. I have run the gamut of emotions and am shocked at the uncontrollable crying. I think it's just my way of letting go of the stress of the situation and the feeling of overwhelming gratitude I feel towards God for protecting not only my child but the driver of the other car. Last night was proof that the prayers of protection I pray over my children are being heard by an extremely loving and protective God who holds us in his hands.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Its Just That Good

Because I am feeling extremely domestic diva this week, I thought I would continue with the food theme and give you yet another new recipe to add to your repertoire. This is by far one of the easiest 'Mexican' dishes you can make and will put you in the throws of green chile utopia. Seriously. I whip this up and then let little Mrs. Crockpot do her magic while I'm at work. I have simplified this recipe especially for those of you who don't have a lot of time to slave over a hot stove.


2 lbs. boneless pork roast cut into cubes
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt (heaping)
1 teaspoon cumin (heaping)
1 teaspoon chile powder (heaping)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 garlic cloves minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large can (28 oz or so) green enchilada sauce

Put cut up pork in a large bowl. Sprinkle with flour, salt, cumin, chile powder and pepper and stir to coat. In a large skillet heat olive oil. Add garlic and stir for about 30 second. Add pork. Cook in skillet until pork is browned, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a crockpot. Add green enchilada sauce. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Before serving, to thicken the sauce, put about 1/2 cup of sauce in a bowl and whisk in 2 tablespoons of cornstarch or flour. Stir back into crockpot and let thicken for a few minutes. Serve in a bowl topped with cheese (medium cheddar or pepper jack), sour cream and tortillas on the side.

Since I am always looking for new recipes, please feel free to share a recipe of your own and let's keep them simple (nothing with 82 ingredients that I have to purchase online because they are specialty items, like water snake or mad black wiener dogs). So here's your chance to show your domestic divaness and pick up a few new recipes to boot.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

This Is Just So Us

So Jon and I had a Saturday all to ourselves which is a rare occurrence. By late afternoon we decided to head out and pick up a few movies to watch while we ate dinner. As I have mentioned in the past, Jon and I have this uncanny ability to have deep, meaningful conversations at the drop of a hat no matter where we are. We've literally solved much of the worlds problems this way. Like our conversation as we were driving home last night.

Jon: That guy really needs to turn on his headlights.

Anne: Yeah, I flashed a UPS driver last night when I was taking Killian to meet up with his dad.

Jon: You flashed a UPS guy?

Anne: Yeah. With my headlights.

Jon: Your headlights. Niiice. So it's OK if I just start flashing the FedEx lady when she shows up at my work?

Anne: His lights were off and it was dark.

Jon: You know that's what the Crips do for initiation. Drive around with their lights off until someone flashes them. They chase the person down and shoot them.

Anne: The UPS driver isn't in the Crips.

Jon: Hey, everyone wants to be a somebody.

Anne: (Sigh)

Jon: I got a call from Cris when he was working in the government and it was THE weekend that the Crips were doing their initiations. He said that if we saw people driving around without their headlights off not to flash them.

Anne: So there are Crips in po-dunk Albany, Oregon?

Jon: Well, not Albany but, you know, the big cities.

Anne: I'll keep that in mind.

So after we got home I proceeded to make Jon's most favorite meal in the world. Pasta Carbonara. If you've never had it, you need to. It's one of those dishes that I hope we get to eat in heaven and if it's not on the buffet table now, I'm hoping by the time I get there it is. It's just THAT good. And easy. Because it's your lucky day, I'm posting the recipe so that you can give it a shot yourself.

4 large eggs
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I actually do about 3/4 cup)
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (make this one at least 1/2 cup)
2 garlic cloves, minced (I use about 4 cloves. Garlic is good!)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (more is better)
4 oz thinly sliced pancetta (Italian bacon), finely chopped (I use regular bacon)
12 oz egg fettuccine (the fresh stuff is better than the dry)1 medium bunch

Whisk 4 eggs, both cheeses, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in medium bowl; set aside. Cook pancetta(bacon) in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 7 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to small bowl. Reserve skillet with a small amount of the drippings.
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Return hot pasta to skillet you cooked the bacon in(off heat). Immediately add egg-cheese mixture, pancetta (bacon), and 1/4 cup hot cooking liquid; toss to combine, adding more cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls to moisten as needed. Season to taste with salt and more pepper, if desired. Cover to keep warm.

I chopped up some spinach and threw that in when I was tossing the pasta. I like to eat healthy and I figure the spinach cancels out the fat from the bacon and cheese, so it's basically a fat-free dish. (At least that's how I justify it in my mind). Jon and I ate the whole thing and had a lovely red wine to go with it(I know, I know, white with THAT kind of a pasta dish, but I'm a rebel and prefer red.)

Oh, and you can skip renting 'The Assassination of Jesse James'. While the pasta was amazingly fabulous, the movie was not.

Friday, December 5, 2008

TGIF And Friday FUN

It's TGIF at Buzz by Annie's (as well as everywhere else in Bloggerdom) and that is a very awesome thing. I don't normally do those crazy fill-in-the-blank and forward type emails, but since we are getting ready to kick off the weekend, I thought I would throw caution to the wind and do something extremely dangerous and fun. Yes, that's right, F-U-N!

You can play along by cutting and pasting the following into the comments section and see what wacky, crazy and downright ridiculous names you can come up with and possibly fall in love with. So, happy Friday and all that jazz.

1.YOUR ROCK STAR NAME (first pet, current car):
Sweetie Pie Tahoe (Sounds kind of like an exotic dancer or something)

2. YOUR GANGSTA NAME (fave ice cream flavor, favorite type of shoe):
Rocky Road Sarto (That is truly 'gangsta')

3. YOUR NATIVE AMERICAN NAME (favorite color, favorite animal):
Red Cat (Sounds more like an energy drink)

4. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME (middle name, city where you were born):
Katherine Bend (I'm glad I'm not an opera star...eessshhh)

5. YOUR STAR WARS NAME (the first three letters of your last name, first two of your first name):
Bir An (Sounds like something we say in Bend because it's so stinkin' cold in the winter)

6. SUPERHERO NAME (2nd favorite color, favorite drink):
Silver Corona (Ok, I just may have to change my name!)

7. NASCAR NAME (the first names of your grandfathers):
John Milton

8. STRIPPER NAME (the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy):
Rose Butter Cup (I am not going to make any sarcastic comments about tip$...)

9. TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME (your fifth grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter):
Dauble Dallas (I would never get the forecast right with a name like that..)

10. SPY NAME (your favorite season/holiday, flower):
Summer Smellslikebread (Hey, if I had a favorite flower, that's what it would smell like)

11. CARTOON NAME (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now):
Raspberry Robe (Can you say l-a-m-e?)

12. HIPPIE NAME (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree):
Hash Ash (!)

(Hopefully my 'lurker' in Palo Alto will play along?!)

Have an awesome weekend!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Letter To A Special Mother In Law

Dear Loretta,

I want to begin by telling you what a wonderful and beautiful person I think you are. You have spent your life serving others because of the enormous amount of love and compassion you have in your heart. You have been so faithful in serving the Lord and you have touched many lives with your ability to put others ahead of yourself.

When you suffered a stroke in July it was horrible for your family to see you in the hospital bed, and then to have you in a nursing home so that you could be cared for was, and is even harder on them. I can't imagine how it feels for you to be independent one day and totally dependant on others for all your needs the next. If Jack, Jon or Jill could change it all and have you healthy and home they would do that in a heartbeat because they love you so much.

When we came to visit at Thanksgiving and it was just you, me(and Bozley)sitting in your room, we had a lovely conversation. Even though you can't communicate with words and I was the one doing all of the talking, you were listening to my every word and I could tell from the expression in your eyes, the gesturing with your hands and by the smile on your face that you were enjoying yourself at that moment. (Bozley was glad to see you too!) It was great seeing you laugh when Jon started singing in his 'Zion Mennonite' voice because you knew what he was poking fun at. There were several times I caught myself watching Jon when he was watching you and it was in those moments that I could see in his eyes just how much he loves you and cares for you.

I know that many times, if not daily, we have all wondered why God would allow such a beautiful, thoughtful, giving and loving person like yourself to endure the kind of stroke that you did. What is his purpose for taking away what you love doing most, which is serving those around you and making you completely dependant on others for all of your needs. While we can't always grasp or understand why God's plans are what they are, or why God has chosen for you to go through the things He has, I do know that He loves you more than anything and holds you in the palms of His hands every minute of the day. We don't have to understand His ways, we just have to trust that His plan is being played out according to His purpose.

I know this Christmas for you and your family will be very different from Christmases past. You have always enjoyed serving others by preparing the feast, wrapping the gifts and gathering your family around to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Instead of being the 'servant' to those around you this year, it is going to be our turn to serve, bless and love on you. I want you to know that in the few short years that I've known you, I have enjoyed being around you, the chats we've had and the laughs we've shared. I'm very thankful that I am married to your son and that he is a part of mine and my children's lives. I continue to pray daily for God's peace to be upon you and that you will feel His joy and love in each and every moment of the day.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

In The Not So Spirit of Christmas

So, for the past three days I've been writing and deleting, writing and deleting, writing and deleting because nothing is coming out right. It's not that I'm in a writers slump, believe me, I have a lot to say. It's just trying to say what I have to say without sounding scrooge, bah-humbug or overly sarcastic. This is, after all, the season of 'nice'. And I want to make sure I project nice in a most...well, nice way.

The thing is, it is a most true, unfortunate and sad fact that I'm just not really that into Christmas anymore(insert 'gasp' here). I know, I know, for shaaaaaaaame. It's not that I don't want to celebrate the birth of our Lord, who walked the earth preaching the gospel, performing miracles and then died for ME. I do, I really, really do. But my heart is just not that into it anymore.

I mentioned that last Christmas I didn't even have a tree. In fact I don't think I hung one decoration (unless you count the Christmas lights on the outside of the house, but they were still there from the year before. Jon is very proactive that way.). It was a big disappointment to my kids and I was disappointed in myself. This year though I have vowed to put up a Christmas tree that will put the Griswolds to shame and I even plugged in the outside lights(although I blew a fuse - but half of them still work) because I want my kids to be surrounded by some semblance of Christmas cheer.

This all sounds so crazy coming from someone who used to do up Christmas in a grand way with decorations, big dinners served up on my very best china and Christmas music playing in the background. Seriously, it was right out of a Thomas Kinkade postcard. But such is not the case anymore and I would rather skip the formalities, have a quiet day at home(or on a beach in Mexico) and move painlessly into the new year.

Excuse me while I go call my therapist...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Christmas Gift Giving Guide From Buzz By Annies

The Christmas gift buying frenzy is in full swing as proven by Black Friday newscasts showing ridiculously long lines of people waiting to get that buy of the season. In a most unfortunate incident an employee at a Long Island Wal-Mart was killed in the crush of early morning shoppers and to those who were involved in that, shame on you. Seriously.

As I have mentioned, I'm not big on the day-after-Thanksgiving shopping melee, but to those of you who are, I have not problem with that. I'm just not into getting up at 5am to fight over half-priced socks at Freddie's. I am, however, a huge fan of online shopping. It literally is shopping at the push of a button, or a few clicks of the mouse. So, for those of you who would like to avoid the crowds, it's time to give Christmas shopping from the comfort of your own home a try. Here are a few suggestions for buying the perfect gift for that loved one or dear friend.

1. The Sarcastic Ball

Some of our friends and family need a little abuse now and then. If you are not around to dish it out, the Sarcastic Ball will do a lovely job of taunting them with sayings like, "ask me if I care" and "yeah right". With over 20 sarcastic saying this is the gift that keeps on giving.

2. Chicks Dig You Bowl

Get that special man in your life pumped up with a daily dose of affirmation by giving him the 'Chicks Dig You!' bowl. Catchy phrases like, 'You're the Man!', 'You're Handsome!', 'You're Strong!' and 'You're Charming!' will help to raise self-esteem and build confidence. He'll be a new man before you know it. Available in several colors.

3. The Coughing Ashtray

Perhaps you know someone who has struggled with smoking and would like to quit. Here is your chance to show them just how much you care and that help is on the way. Give that smoker the gift of the Coughing Ashtray that looks like real lungs. Each time the smoker places a cigarette onto the ashtray it activates a real-life simulated disturbing coughing and screaming fit. Now that is saying 'I care about your lungs'.

4. Lookin' Good for Jesus Virtuous Vanilla Lip Balm

Here is a way to help that special someone be worthy and be noticed with the Virtuous Vanilla lip balm. This lip balm comes in SPF 182 for those moments when the heat is really turned up. They will be tight with Christ by looking their Sunday best with the Virtuous Vanilla Lip Balm.

5. The Boyfriend Arm Pillow

Now your favorite gal pal will never feel lonely again with the ultra snugly Boyfriend Arm Pillow. She can curl up on the couch with this comforting arm that will wrap around her as if to say, 'I'm sorry work was rotten today,' or 'No, you pick what we watch tonight,'. This is a gift that truly says, 'you're not alone'.

6. The Benefit From My Opinion Cards
Do you ever feel as though people just don't understand where you're coming from? Well now is your chance to tell people just what your opinion is with these fabulous opinion card books. Each book contains 47 tear-out cards that allow you to give those around you some much needed advice whether they need it or not. Never again will they wonder what your opinion is.

These are just a few of the insanely precious gifts that I plan on giving this Christmas season to those lucky ones in my circle of friends and family. What are some of your favorite gifts that those around you be receiving this Christmas?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hail Hail The Gang's All Here

This past Thanksgiving was one of my most favorite. Ever. It was full of laughter, kids, more kids, even more kids, my family, good food and kids. I was with those who I share my life with and whom I love dearly. So, I thought I would give you a glimpse into my very big family (my older brother Matt has 12 kids and he and his wife are my heros, let me tell you!). So here's to family (Helen, raise your glass!).

The cousins from top to bottom... Killian, Taylor, Kenzi, Olivia, Ethan, Claire, Gabe, Merri Grace, Evie, Wade, Abram, Ally, Eli, Ezra, Madeline, Brenton...whew!

Kenzi, mom, me, dad...

My beegest bro Scott(holding Oliva) and my 'just big' bro Matt(with all the kids)...

Kenz, Jon and me...

Kenz and Killian...

John Matthew, John Taylor and John Dennis...


...and Gabe giving a wink!

Ye Old Christmas Quiz

So it's the day after Thanksgiving and I'm already feeling a little bit Scrooge. (Could be the fact that I spent all morning at the DMV, one guy tells me to do one thing and after going back and waiting half my life again the gal tells me that was not the correct answer. So all that waiting for naught and Jon is now on his way to the DMV. Oregon is one of the lamest states ever.)

I promised my friend Sherri (who writes an awesome blog) that I would answer her Christmas quiz and post it on my blog today. I am going to apologize up front should there be an unusual level of sarcasm or scroogeness in my answers.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Mostly envelopes. I'm big on gift cards since we have all teenagers and they prefer to pick out their own stuff.

2. Real tree or Artificial?
I want to get an artificial tree because I can't stand how the pine needles start falling off immediately. I didn't even have a tree last year. Yeah, can you say l-a-m-e.

3. When do you put up the tree?
IF I buy one as soon as I purchase it.

4. When do you take the tree down?
The day after Christmas. See note on pine needles in question #2.

5. Do you like eggnog?
Depends on what is in it.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
A Raggedy Ann doll. I still have it.

7. Hardest person to buy for?
My step-kids, so I pretty much leave it up to Jon.

8. Easiest person to buy for?
Kenzi. This year she has requested no gifts, just money. Teenagers...

9. Do you have a nativity scene?
I actually have two but haven't seen them in about three years. They're in a box somewhere...

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
I haven't done either in almost five years. I will add that to my New Year's resolutions.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
Bad perfume.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
It's a Wonderful Life.

13. When do you start shopping?
Any day there aren't huge crowds. I never go the day after Thanksgiving because people are so ridiculous.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
I don't think I've done anything so low as that but I've witnessed my daughter receiving a gift that has kept on giving.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Oyster stuffing and sweet potatoes. (Just kidding. I knew that would freak Jon out.)

16. Lights on the tree?
All white. When I have a tree.

17. Favorite Christmas song?
Traditional stuff like, 'O Holy Night', 'Joy To The World', etc. But I'm not ready to start hearing that yet.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Both. But, this year we will probably stay home because we don't have the kids(except Kenzi) until the day after Christmas.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's?
Sleepy, Dopey, Doc, Sneezy... and Rudolph.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
When I was a heathen it was a bow, but now that I'm a better Christian it's an angel.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Depends on when we have the kids (yeah, blended families...) and where we are, yada, yada. But most of us like to open gifts on Christmas eve because we are so impatient that way.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?
Pushy people and hearing kids saying 'I want...I want...I want....'. People have totally forgotten WHY we have CHRISTmas in the first place.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color?
I prefer silver and blue with white lights on the tree. When I have a tree.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner?
Is this #15 re-worded? I'd prefer prime rib with oyster stuffing and sweet potatoes. (Ok, just the prime rib.)

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?
World peace. (But since I'm a realist and know that won't happen - and it's a cheesy answer anyway, I'll take a new washer and dryer.)

26. Who is most likely to respond to this?
Everyone who has already responded...

27. Who is least likely to respond to this?
Nobama and NSYNC.

28. What was your most memorable magical memory from your adulthood?
I'm still waiting for it. But I'm sure it will involve a sleigh ride, moonlight glistening on the snow, snowflakes on my eyelashes and Bing Crosby singing in the background.

29. Have you ever been involved in a Christmas gift prank?
No, but my grandma's birthday was April 1st and I always wanted to make a cardboard cake for her.

30. Favorite Christmas Cartoon?
Peanuts, of course.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I will be away from 'ye old computer' for a few days and wanted to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving. I have much to be thankful for and will most definitely be pondering the following things (and more) in the next few days:

I'm thankful for,

A most gracious and forgiving God who loves me no matter what.
A husband who is the love of my life and my best friend.
Children who bring me great happiness and whom I love more than words could express.
Family and friends that are an incredibly important part of my life.
Good health and good cheer.
The sunrise this morning.

Of course my list could go on and on. I hope you also take time to reflect on the blessings in your life and let those around you know just how important and loved they are.

Blessing to you my friends!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Where In The World Are You From

I have this really cool thing on my blog that shows me where people are from who visit my blog. Country, state, even down to the city and internet provider. I have had people from all over the world stop by - from places like Hungary and other European countries, Canada, Africa, India, China, Turkey as well as throughout the United States.

So now that you're stopping by my blog, I'd love to know who you are and where you're from. Feel free to leave your blog site (I allow shameless promotion of your blog on my blog!) so myself and others can check it out.

Sherri, you wanna go first...?!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Writing On The Ground

I had an interesting conversation with my mom today when she joined me on the drive to take my son to visit his cousin for the week (2 hours each way, so plenty o' time to chat). I guess I've always had this idea that when I get to heaven there will be time each day where it will be like one big 'Q & A' session. I'll ask God about all the 'mysteries' of life and he'll finally tell me the answers. It'll be the ultimate 'Ah-Ha' moment.

In my mind, one of the biggest mysteries in the bible is in John 8. You know, the story where the sneaky-dirty Pharisees bring the adulterous woman to Jesus and tell him that 'the Law according to Moses' states she should be stoned to death. It was a trap so that they could have a basis to accuse Jesus. Like I said, sneaky and dirty. But Jesus was on to them and instead, bent down and began writing on the ground. He also threw a great verse at them; 'let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.' And then he wrote on the ground some more.

So what did he write on the ground? The bible never tells us, so this is where I have to use my imagination and take a wild guess. I'm pretty sure that Jesus didn't just all-of-a-sudden have the urge to doodle ichthus', or start a rousing game of tic-tac-toe or that dot game where you try to make boxes. No, I think, based on how quickly the Pharisees 'disappeared' that Jesus may have been writing their names and sins on the ground.

Will I ever know the answer? Like I said, I've often thought that we'll have to opportunity to ask when we get to heaven. My mom on the other hand had an interesting comment about that. She thinks we'll just know. Her belief is that because we will have new bodies, minds and the ultimate knowledge of Christ that we may very well just know the answers to what mystifies us. I have never thought about it like that but she definitely has me thinking now.

So what's your take on this? What do you think Jesus wrote on the ground?

Will there be the ultimate 'Q & A' session or will we just know?

PS - On a different subject... As some of you know, my mother-in-law (Loretta - which is interesting because that is my mom's name also) suffered a severe stroke in early July. She is in a nursing home and totally dependant on others for all of her needs. It has been so difficult emotionally for the family because Loretta has always been such a giving and loving person and there is always the question 'why her?'. We have to trust that the Lord is in control and has this precious person firmly in His loving arms. My husband has started a web site about his mom with updates, a 'blog' and a place for visitors to sign the guestbook. He would love to hear from you and share any encouragement with Loretta that you would pass on. You can visit Loretta's website here and we always appreciate prayers and words of encouragement from you.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cake and Goulash

So my day started off at 5:20am when Jon got out of bed to literally throw the 'stupidog' out the door. We have hardwood floors and(apparently he needed to go outside since about, oh, 4:30 or so)for an hour he was running across the floor - '' up the stairs to our room, down the stairs, across the floor, ''. You get the idea. Once the coffee is started there's no going back to sleep, so... I'm up!

I wanted to make Helen's Hungarian Goulash and have the folks over for dinner as well as test out a new cake recipe and since I was up...

The cake I was going to attempt was from my latest issue of Bon Appetite. It has like 42 layers of chocolate cake, ganache, white chocolate something-or-another and marshmallowy stuff on top. (Disclaimer: I have a passion for COOKING, not baking). I whipped up the devils food cake from scratch and in the over it went. About 15 minutes into baking I smell the smoke. Dang. The cake is over flowing and next thing I know it's like 'smoke-a-palooza' in the house. Seriously. Every fan is going and all the windows are open. Did I tell you I have a passion for COOKING and not baking? I had stuck a cookie sheet under the cake pans and this is what I pulled out of the oven. Yeah...looks like something from the 'stupidog'.

I like to take any opportunity I can to mess with and freak out my 16 year old daughter - because that is the kind of gal I am - so I took some of the cake from the cookie sheet and planted it on the floor of my daughter's room (See Exhibit A). Ignore the mess, she's 'reorganizing' her room. But take a look at the 'pile' near the stool. When she got home, first thing she did was yell to Jon that Boz had pooped in her room so Jon takes a napkin, picks up the pile, and takes a bite. It is most unfortunate that I don't have a picture of her face, but it was priceless. And that is how we mess with our kids.

Needless to say, the cake turned out fine and was kind of like a death by chocolate type of thing. It was supposed to have this marshmallow, peppermint frosting, but since I don't really like either, I made some whipped cream and topped it with that. Yum! (See Exhibit B).

The real highlight of the evening was having my parents over for homemade goulash. 'Helen the Hungarian' was kind enough to share her recipe (here's a shout out to my Hungarian sistah!) and my dad gave me the ultimate compliment when he said 'my Grandma Szabo's tasted just like this.' Well, Helen, here are some extremely happy Hungarians with a big ol' plate of incredibly tasty goulash(and a fabulous wine to go with)!

And more happy family...(Mini-me, my mom and dad).

Good food, family...

Good times.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Part Deux Of The Challenge To Love

What an interesting day in my little corner of the world and as I was thinking about it on my way home from work I couldn't help but practice my new habit of being thankful - and today, I have a lot to be thankful for.

I was reading through all of the comments from my earlier post and couldn't help but laugh (I know, it's a SERIOUS situation) because of the irony of it all. What the enemy intended for evil, God literally threw it right back in his face(I love it when he does that). And I have some wonderful friends out there who are extremely generous with their encouragement and love - and that my friends is hope.

As I turned the final corner before reaching my house do you know what I saw? A rainbow. Seriously, a RAINBOW. It was like God just said 'Hey, I'm big, and loving, and here, and protective and I will take care of you. Always. I've got your back.' And you know what? There was an army of 'got your backers' out there today. I am so thankful for Sherri, Bo, Helen, Mare, KATDISH and Beth and all of the emails, and prayers and encouraging words. I felt an incredible amount of love being poured out and yes Bo, I did have a pretty awesome day! The really cool thing in all of this is that I have a circle of friends that extends clear to Africa and it just proves to me how little I am compared to the incredibly big God I serve.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Challenge To Love

Today I was challenged in a way I have never been before and quite frankly, it stinks. I was told flat out by an individual, "I hate you". And to be honest, that is the first time that's happened and I hope it's the last. I could 'feel' the extreme degree to which it was meant as I read those three words and in my mind, I pictured the person as they were saying those incredibly hurtful words.

To me, a heart full of hate is the death of a heart. A heart full of hate can have no room for love, joy, peace or hope; four things that contribute to a truly abundant life. I am extremely saddened by this and for this person because the hate is like a cancer that has affected everyone in this persons life. Hate is the epitome of evil and when I think of what it does to one's heart and how it seeps out and destroys people, their lives and and those around them it's a sad realization that this world is full of this horrible thing - and it hit very close to home today.

I know from experience that it is easier to hate, be bitter and store up unforgiveness than it is to forgive and to love. And to be honest, in my extreme humanness, there was a part of me today that wanted to curse this person out of hurt. But I don't want to be like that again. I've dealt with some very harsh realities where unforgiveness and bitterness are concerned and learning to deal with it and give it to God is one of the best things I've ever done. For me, for my husband, for my children and all of those around me. I'm not 100% totally out of the woods so-to-speak, and I daily lay those things before God, but I recognize when I'm under attack and today was one of those times. I have come a long way and I'm not going back.

I know that the Bible says in Proverbs 10:12 - Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs. To me, living in love sounds so much better than living in hatred and I want all of the love I can get. I want to be greedy when it comes to love and I think God is OK with that because He's willing to give as much as we'll take. I pray that this person who is hurting will allow themselves to start being filled with love and learn to let go of the hate. I don't know if we'll ever make peace, I can only hope and pray. I do know that God is huge and bigger than this and no matter what he loves us both and I find an amazing amount of peace in that.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In The Spirit of Thanks

There are things in my life that I sometimes take for granted. I don't mean to, but I get into the groove of everyday life and it just happens. I don't want to live a 'granted' life, I want to live a thankful life. So, I have decided to start a new habit of taking a moment each day to really reflect on what I'm thankful for. I hope that it will lessen the grantedness and help me to see just how lucky I am and what blessings I have.

Here are a few things that I am thankful for.

1. That I love my husband more each day and we we have a great time together no matter where we are or what we're doing.

2. Being able to wrap my arms around my kids and feel their arms wrapped around me.

3. The awesome relationship I have with my parents.

4. Sitting around with my whole family and laughing about growing up in the small town of Bend.

5. That my kids are secure in knowing how much I love them.

6. Being in perfect health.

7. Lifelong friends that no matter how long it's been since you've seen them, it's just like it was yesterday.

8. 70 degree sunshiny days in November.

9. A coffee pot that always works when I push the button first thing in the morning.

10. Hearing my children laugh.

That's just a few on my list and I could go on and on now that I've gotten started. So what totally awesome things would you have on your list? I'd love to know.

Here's to new habits!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Arizona Here I Come

So I'm off to Arizona to visit my friend(that I've known since 5th grade) and her awesome family. It's 80 degrees there. Niiice! Steph told me tonight that she's treating me to a spa day on Saturday at some fantastically uber-gucci resort (uber is not normally in my vocabulary, but I've wanted to use it like cool people do and it seemed appropriate here) and then it's girlz shopping trip. Yesssss!

In my absence, please feel free to wander on over to a blog written by my very clever, witty and yes, sarcastic(I knew I liked her) friend Sherri. She likes to have fun, so a word of caution to the fun-haters...beware!

Carry on...check.

See ya in a few!

Gifts For Christmas

The Christmas season is fast approaching and promotion of Santa, sleigh bells and Deck the Halls is upon us like the 'Blizzard of 1942'. I don't actually know if there was a blizzard in 1942 but if there was, I'm sure the town was in chaos. Imagine a time in Bend without snowplows running all through the night and chemical ice melt on the roads to ruin your car. Unthinkable.

No doubt you've been pondering what to buy those loved ones (and maybe not-so-loved ones) for Christmas. The budget is probably tighter than years past and even so, not just any old gift will do. If you want to know what NOT to get that special someone, please visit the blog of my good friend Bo. For those of you who want to give that beautifully wrapped present with a magnificent bow atop, here are some ideas for you and best of all, they're free. FREE.

The Gift of Patience.
Holidays can be a crazy time with people rushing frantically around like a great mob of lemmings that push, claw, scurry and crawl their way over each other just to jump off of a cliff into the sea. It's senseless. When it's the half-price sock sale in Freddie's the day after Thanksgiving, instead of tossing people aside to get to the box of socks try extending a little patience and throw out a smile to those around you. There are enough socks for everyone. When the kids are whiny and tired and you still have a million things to do to prepare for the in-laws visit, take a deep breath and extend a little patience. Maybe they just want some of your time. Cherish it. When the turkey comes out undercooked and the potatoes boil over, the gravy turns out lumpy and the oyster stuffing stinks up the whole house, when your spouse asks if they can do anything to help, remember, they just want to help. Pour yourself a lovely glass of Merlot, take a deep breath and extend some patience to those around you. It's really not about the meal but time spent together. (Just have a backup plan. And good wine.)

The Gift of Forgiveness
It's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, hurrying to-and-fro and worrying about what to get the kids. But what if you took the time this Christmas to extend the gift of grace to someone who needs your forgiveness. Not only are you giving the incredible gift of freeing someone from the bitterness with which you hold on to them, but you are receiving the gift of freeing yourself from the hold bitterness has on you. What if you picked up the phone and called that mom or dad that you haven't spoken to in years because as a child they did something that hurt you and you've been carrying that around in your heart ever since. What if hearing you say, 'I forgive you and love you' is what frees them from the guilt of not being the parent they thought you deserved. Maybe it's a son or daughter that has taken the wrong path and burned you in the process. What if your words of 'I forgive you and love you,' are going to be the turning point in their lives that puts them on the right path. Maybe it's a spouse, ex-spouse, friend or family member who has prayed so desperately for you to reach out in grace and forgiveness. What if your forgiveness changes their lives. What if it changes your life. The gift of forgiveness is priceless for the giver and receiver. What if.

The Gift of Compassion
There are a lot of hurting people in the world that could use some compassion and you are the one that can give that to them. Maybe it's the exhausted and frazzled mother behind you in the checkout line with three little children that just needs a friendly smile and some simple conversation. What if you picked up an extra meal in the drive through and gave it to that homeless man or woman holding the sign on the corner. It's easy to say they should go get a job, but you don't know their story and that one kind gesture of compassion eases their struggle just-that-much. What if you volunteered to serve a Christmas meal to the hungry and touch just one life by caring enough to do that. Maybe it's taking a name off of the Tree of Joy and buying a gift for a child that otherwise won't receive any. You may not see the excitement in their face on Christmas morning but your compassion will reaffirm to the family that there is goodness and generosity in people they don't know. Amazing.

The Gift of Love
Love is an incredibly precious treasure that we could use more of and I think the Beatles were on to something when they sang 'all you need is love'. Loving others gives them hope, faith in something good and perhaps perseverance to get through whatever trial they may be facing. What if you throw caution to the wind this Christmas season and spread the gift of love to people with reckless abandon. Maybe you don't tell your spouse or kids everyday you love them because 'they just know. But what if everyday you were to put your arms around them, look them in they eye and say those three words of magnificence 'I love you'. Hearts would be melted! Maybe you know of someone who has fallen on hard times and doesn't have enough money to pay the electric bill or food to feed their family. What if out of love you made sure their house was going to be warm for one more month and their children were going to have food in their bellies. That would give them hope. Maybe you have a co-worker who is going through a hard time and giving them ten minutes out of your day to just listen and be there for them is the little bit of love they need to make it to the next day. That would be truly selfless. Maybe you know someone who is hard to love but it's because they have endured things in their lives and they feel unlovable. Maybe you reaching out to them in love will be what helps to restore their broken heart. That would be incredible indeed!

What else could others use more of that we can freely give? Challenge yourself this holiday season to give more 'free' gifts and see what happens in your own heart. You may be pleasantly surprised!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Honoring Veterans

If you know of someone who is a veteran and has so selflessly served in one of our armed forces to give us the freedoms we so richly enjoy, please be sure to acknowledge them today.

And to all of the brave men and women who are serving at home and abroad that sacrifice so much for the freedom of others, thank you for all you do. You have and continue to make a difference in this world.

Treasures We Hide

I'm sure you've heard the old saying 'What do you want to do when you grow up?'. I know that is something I talk a lot about with my teenage daughter who will all-too-soon be graduating from high school and leaving the nest to make her way in this world. When I was little I had dreams. And they were big. I was going to be an actress, and a doctor, and a stunt woman (seriously) and even a missionary. I used to imagine all of the things I was going to do and the college I was going to go attend to receive my PHD of Missionary Doctor Actress Stunt Woman. I mean they could use one of those in Africa, right? Well, my life didn't exactly turn out that way and UCLA was not to be.

For the past several months I have been reflecting on where I am, and where I want to go, where I need to go and what exactly does God have for me. I have felt stuck in a rut. I realized that all of the dreams and gifts God has given me have been shoved to the side so that I can just get through the day as safely as possible. I've thought about what has kept me from attaining these dreams and using my gifts and what I need to do with reckless abandon to realize my dreams and put my gifts to use. So, at the lovely young age of 37, I asked myself "Self, what do you want to be when you grow up and how are you going to make it happen?".

I had never really thought about anything in my life as 'hidden treasures' until last week, when I came across two different posts that presented very different views on our 'hidden treasures'. The first post I read was by a blogger-friend who is a very spunky (and I think somewhat sarcastic - so I REALLY like her!) mother of three grown boys named Sherri. She challenged me to really look inside myself and see what I may be hiding from others, or at least think I'm hiding, that I can't hide from God. It's probably the fear, and pride and insecurity, or maybe the rebellion that creeps in when I want to do things my own way and not God's way. It's that little devil on my shoulder named 'Control Freak' that lies to me and tells me to take the reigns when things start getting sketchy instead of trusting that God is in complete control and I need to have the faith to believe that. It's something that I've been working to 'clean house' on the past few months, but thanks Sherri for putting that twist on it (that was kind of sneaky!).

The other day I was reading a portion of a book written by a lady who helped rescue a 'street kid' on a visit to Africa. Her name is Janine Maxwell and the book is It's Not Okay With Me. Janine's account of her trip to Zambia and the rescue of Kantwa is extremely compelling and I encourage you to visit her website and read the third chapter of her book. She describes how on her first visit with Kantwa on the streets she gave him her socks and when they went back the next night he told her he had hidden them so no one could see them but him. They were his treasure! Amazing, that a pair of socks were so important and meant so much to one little boy and what kind of treasures has God given us that we keep hidden? Can you write creatively? Are you good with loving people? Do you have a gift for cooking and could take meals to families in need? What are you gifted with but don't use because of one reason or another.

This has been a huge challenge to me and God is really stretching me and asking me to do some things that require me to 'get out of my boat', or my comfort zone so to speak. I am going back to ministry school winter term. I don't know where God will use me or how, but I feel that is part of taking care of my hidden treasures. I have become involved in Amani Life Project and feel like maybe God is going to take me other places with that, but for now I'm trying to use my gifts there.

So what do you hide? What do you have buried deep down that keeps you from living a ridiculously abundant life?

What gifts do you keep hidden that God intended for use? Is there something that really drives you that you absolutely love? Should you be sharing that with others?

I challenge you to look inside and see what treasures you have hidden. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find.

ps - Check out Sherri's recent post on Rap Music and her extremely insightful thoughts on the music and rappers. Talk about stretching!

Monday, November 10, 2008

50,000 Shoes In 50 Days

The 50,000 Pairs in 50 Days Challenge
This is a really cool charity campaign taking place and a great way to help those less fortunate. Just $5 buys two pairs of shoes and you could possibly be selected to hand deliver those shoes to a person in need! How great is that! To learn more about this awesome thing you can visit Soles4Souls or 50,000 Shoes

I dare you to make a difference!