20 June 2008

For Better or For Worse...again...

Okay, I didn't post this because in ANY SHAPE OR FORM do I think I'm called upon to babysit my grandchildren too much - if anything, I don't get to do it often enough. But I LOVED the universal "conundrum" we ALL have as mothers and grandmothers with leaving our children with others. "For Better or For Worse" has been one of my favorite (and steady) comic strips throughout it's entire run. Lynne Johnston has allowed her characters to AGE, something no one else has done. My Jennifer and her Michael are about the same age. My Tim and her Elizabeth are close in age. Okay, my Chris and her April are about 10 year apart but still, it's a third child, right?

Elly was pregnant when I was pregnant. She had toddlers when I had toddlers, Michael was getting married around the time Jen was getting married. I've always felt that she was my dear friend whom I visited with each day. And now Elly and John are grandparents. Mike and I are grandparents. It's a little one-sided I guess since I'm always reading about HER (albeit fictional) life and family (the first "blog"?) but can't tell her about mine. But the simple truth of the matter is, her (Lynne Johnston's) observations about human nature, motherhood, child rearing and sibling rivalry have always resonated with me in a day BEFORE blogs and cheap phone calls, before we moved back to the USA again. My mom would send us the anthologies every year for Christmas. Mike and I would literally fight over who got to read it first knowing FULL well whoever read it first was going to end up reading most of it out loud to the other - it was THAT good for us!

Whenever Lynne decides to "hang up" her pens and let the strip end, I will be one mournful soul who will have to re-read the anthologies to get my "daily dose". If you've never read her, you can get it online here. And you can read archived strips as well.

Enjoy...and relate!

19 June 2008

More weather today...

We had another "gully washer" today. You could see it looming on the eastern horizon and I hoped it'd "hit" and be over with by the time I finished my grocery shopping. I was going to H.E.B. to lay in stores for our company this next week, and, seeing the storm approaching, decided if I was going to be bombarded by nature, might as well be in the aisle by the Sugar-Free Peanut Butter minis!

And "hit" it did! Thunder directly overhead. Fritzing lights. You could hear the hail on the roof of the store. It was DARK! All of us looked nervously at each other trying to be cool and act like we ALWAYS calmly shop in the middle of "Armageddon".

I have to admit I looked around the VERY OPEN store and wondered where does one go if a tornado hits? I decided I'd knock folks down making a beeline for the little office in the middle of the store behind the deli.

Me and the salami. We're good.

18 June 2008

More Things Mom Never Told Me

We had some fierce storms tonight. I was half-way home from mid-week Bible study when it hit - on a very narrow road with deep gullies on each side. Hail. Driving rain. Horrific flashes of lightening. I was really praying Mom had already made it home before it hit (she had).

Anyway, I finally get home. I get in the house and try to get the dogs to go do their business with Armageddon going on outside (they were smarter than that - no way were they going outside). Then it started - the flicker, no juice, flicker on, wobbly lights, no juice, on again, off again...then dark. Fortunately, as the exorcist thing was going on, I had started lighting candles "just in case". Once I knew it was off and not coming back on until the electric company repaired it, I started finding all my candles on the first floor so I'd have several rooms illuminated (and I could actually READ by candlelight! I wasn't going to watch TV, blog, listen to music or even go to bed since once all the lights came back on, I'd be awakened by the blinding light!) And boy, was it ever QUIET! The storm had blown over by now.

This is where I learned something relevant. I should keep a full compliment of UNSCENTED candles around, tea lights, votives, whatever, for JUST such an occasion. My house now REEKS - of Penhaligon's English Ivy, Crabtree & Evelyn Rose, Caldrea Tobacco Rose, White Barn Company Sandalwood, Kenneth Turner Original Scent, plus about 6 other scents. Singly, they are LOVELY. In a chorus, the scent is, well, "out of tune". I'm actually having to air my house from "over-candle-ation".

I guess you could say I had a scent-sational evening...

Lost in the Vast Wasteland of Expatriate Nomenclature... (or "WHAT did you say?")

As those of you know, we lived overseas almost 20 years of our nearly 32 years of marriage. We started in England, went to Norway, several domestic transfers later ended up in The Republic of Trinidad & Tobago and ended our "tour of the world" back where we began - in England. One of the things you learn fast in a foreign country is to acclimate to the language and customs as much as you (in some cases - morally) can. Resisting said language and customs is to doom yourself to a life of quiet despair and self-imposed isolation. Okay, maybe not that dire but it's not good. I know - I tried it once and it wasn't pretty. But there is an "ugly underbelly" to learning all this nomenclature - it gets into your brain's "hard drive" and, even though you've long left the country behind, traces of that file are still in your brain and can't be totally erased!

As we lived in the London surrounds for half of that time overseas, it is "British-isms" that are firmly ingrained in my psyche. I get odd reactions from people all the time for my turn of phrase. And it's not because I'm trying to be some sort of "global snob" either - I promise! I even mix my terminology in the same sentence! It's become a sort of "Anglo-Yankeese" if you will.

Some examples:

1. Go into a restaurant and ask for "the bill". Odd look. "You want your check?" they say. Well, DOH!

2. Again, in said restaurant where I have not finished my dinner and would like to take it home. I ask for a "takeaway container". Odd look with mouth agape from server. If Jennifer is with me, she looks sympathetically at the server and says, "She wants a To-go box." Is it rocket science that I want to TAKE AWAY my food??

3. I still look for a "car park" but always take the elevator instead of a "lift". I never did get the whole "lift" thing down - always thought that had something to do with Playtex bras or shoes for short men.

4. I ask about "petrol" prices. But I always buy "gas".

5. The other day, talking to Mike about finances, I asked about a letter we needed for our tax file in case the "Inland Revenue" ever audited us.

6. I put trash in a "bin" but never put "rubbish" in said bin.

7. I ask Mike if he wants "a coffee" rather than a cup of coffee but I go to THE hospital, never "to hospital"

8. I asked someone where the local D.M.V. was - they didn't have a clue. (DMV is Department of Motor Vehicles vs. the DPS here)

9. I have never referred to my female dogs as "bitches" although I may have used the term to describe a celebrity once or twice. But I do like to take my dogs for "walkies"!

10. I have been known on occasion to be "gobsmacked".

11. When affirming a statement Mike has made, I'll often say "Quite!" or "Indeed!" Here, I must admit, we are poking a bit of fun at our Anglo-cousins. It's just too much fun...

12. Mike has a "CV" - I forget that is also a resume.

13. I still "post" letters instead of mailing them. But I always check the "mail box" not the "post box".

14. I go to the "grocery" instead of "the store".

15. I talk on a mobile phone - NOT a "cell"

16. And I still get in a "queue", not the "line"

17. I often say "Cheers!" instead of "Bye!"

18. I look for rawl plugs at the DIY (Do It Yourself) instead of molly bolts at Home Depot.

I9. I go on "holiday" instead of "vacation" sometimes. Here is a photo of Tim and Megan "whilst on holiday" together in the Cotswolds in 2002.

20. And I enjoy a "lie-in" as many mornings as I can! We just have a "big breakfast" of eggs and bacon instead of a "fry-up".

21. Fish and chips are still fish and chips - thank goodness for some commonality!

22. We don't drink so we never went down to "our local".

23. Futher to #2 above, we sometimes opt for a "takeaway" vs. "fast food".

24. A queen is still a queen to me - Elizabeth is Royalty; Elton John is a queen. Some things never change. :)

So I'm hopelessly lost in my own little between-cultures world. My children know what I mean, and most of my friends do too for the most part seeing as how most of them have been to visit me at least once while I was in other climes (trying to win the record for the most use of "most" in a sentence). You can spot a former expat by a turn of phrase usually, leading to a conversation that starts with "Did you happen to live in.....?"

My car tag is a vanity plate - TEXPAT. I've had more than one person ask me what that meant (an expat who moved back to Texas) but former expats always know. Great way to meet fellow-language-challenged people! Indeed.

So when next we speak, bear with me if I say something that you don't quite understand. It's probably just my inability to differentiate between the two worlds I've lived in. Either that or my brain is smoothing out - I'll go with the former. Quite.


Beware of the Killer Penguins (or "Just when you thought it was safe to go in your backyard"...)

We live on a golf course with lots of woods and lakes. So we often get "critters" wandering into our yard. We have rabbits (not good for the plants), snakes (not good for my nerves), and mice (not good for anything in my opinion). I ranted and raved in the patio at 1am one morning trying to find the offending must-be-huge frog that was bellowing outside the windows and doors - only to find an itty-bitty toad (who knows, maybe the BIG ones are tenors while the little ones croak bass?) And more than once I've heard Izzie (our youngest miniature schnauzer) frantically barking and doing a little meerkat mob dance to find that she was "worrying" a snake away from the porch (good girl, Izzie! Just don't get your snout bit!)

So I let Izzie and Shelby out last night before bed. It was midnight. Soon I hear frantic barking, barking, barking! Alarmed at what (or WHO) might be out there, I look out the window to see what the commotion was about. I could see Izzie near the master bedroom bay window but, as she seemed to be barking at the boulder in front of it, I assumed she was fussing at a frog or some other critter. She kept dancing around the edge of the boulder, letting whatever-it-was know in NO uncertain terms that SHE was there and was having none of it! As it was midnight, I called her back in so our neighbors would still talk to us when we next meet and not talk about us to everyone else! It took some doing to get her to let loose of her fixation on whatever was out there but I thought nothing of it as she came back inside the house.

This morning I let both dogs out as usual. Soon I hear the barking again and assume it's someone next door (they've been putting in a pool and landscaping - any of the workmen warrant a stern warning that security is on premises and not to forget it!) I glanced out after awhile to see who was next door only to see that Izzie was barking at the boulder again.

Now yesterday I had moved some things around in the backyard trying to tidy up some things, make the hoses more accessible to the hanging plants, etc. So I had forgotten about one particular item I'd moved elsewhere. So imagine my laughter when I finally figured out what Izzie had her back up about. THIS is what she was protecting me against:

So BEWARE of sunbathing penguins - they are so vicious you know!

16 June 2008

Things Mom never told me...

I am 51 years old. I have done countless loads of laundry. I have stripped and remade countless beds. I'm a veteran. I've been in the "trenches" for almost 32 years of marriage.

So how did I miss this? NEVER wear lipstick when remaking the bed! I'm doing that whole "swoosh" thing to get the top sheet "floated" over the bed? Next thing I know, the sheet flies up in my face and there's a mark. Sigh.

Vanity, vanity.

At least it's not on my husband's collar...or worse, there by someone else...

For real??

My uncle sent me this photo that my cousin took in Davis, California. Perhaps they'll stock the breastmilk testing strips too?

15 June 2008

The Golden Rule

I was checking my emails and rota of blogs I read before heading to bed and found this blog entry by Lots of Scotts. I found that I had quite a bit to say on the subject and left quite a long "comment". Upon reviewing it, I felt compelled to address the topic in my blog as well as it is something that I find to be a common dilemma amongst parents - how to reconcile the discipline and authority we have as parents with this very famous scripture which has been given, somewhere along the way, the title The Golden Rule. So indulge me as I share my reply with you on this topic. Because I believe that the development of a child's spirit should, as HGTV likes to tout in their advertising, "Start at home!"

The "golden rule" as we call it (Matt. 7:12) is part of a LONG sermon by Christ encompassing many topics, basically challenging the prevailing "party line" that had developed over many, many years by Jewish priests from the law. He was laying the foundation for the new kingdom, the church, which was soon to be established in Acts. This one particular scripture is commonly singled out and not seen in "the whole cloth" which give it more connotations that it would have singly.

I believe there is an assumption contained within the golden rule that the treatment WE wish to receive is based on a spirit of "what is best for my spiritual and mental well being" vs. "I'll do this so I'll get this". It's directing a proactive vs. reactive action. We are charged, as parents, with bringing up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Nurture - that's what we all want. It's what tomes are written about. It's what gets all the press.

But "admonition" - that's the one we don't want, don't seek and, as the Brits say, "get our knickers in a twist" when we receive. I do not believe that the Bible contradicts itself so, by taking the whole, and laying these commands within the context they are given, we can know what we are to do. We treat others with respect as we also wish to receive. And that admonition? We can lay it down carelessly or carefully which is where that golden rule comes into play.

Children are told to obey their parents. And parents, while told to discipline their children, are also warned against doing so in a manner that is counterproductive.

Eph. 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

So the many "pieces" make up a whole. None can stand alone.

Hebrews 12 starting at vs. 9 sums it up well -
9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

The experience a child has within the family, respecting, loving, obeying, being cared for and disciplined by the parent is SO CRUCIAL to going to that NEXT step in adulthood of being part of God's family - respecting, loving, obeying and being cared for and disciplined by the Heavenly Father. I find it so marvelous this plan that He has.

This is a subject near and dear to my heart. And one that I think it very misunderstood and wrongly applied too often.

Happy Father's Day, Mike!

This is me with my mom and dad and sister in Lubbock back in 1959.
The ONLY time you'll see me in a two-piece! Yes, that's me waving
"Hi!" to you, Mike. Yes, I'm the cute brunette on the left - and I
always knew I'd find you.

Ah, it's Father's Day! And what is the love of my life, my Chief Friend, and the father of my children doing this glorious day of recognition? He's on a flight to Amsterdam. In all fairness, when the trip came up months ago, he did suggest that I come with him - he'd take some vacation and we'd go to London as well for a few days. That was before our Disney trip in January and the US Dollar went belly-up against the Euro. So rather than spending our retirement for a 10 day trip, we decided...hmmm....no. Sad but true. And today became the only day available on the church rota to host a baby shower for Crichelle (Jordan and Jaxon are still in Texas Childrens but are doing really well - either almost to or at 5 lbs - see www.jclarry.com for details!).

So Mike flies to Amsterdam. I host a baby shower. Not the most auspicious way to spend the day for HIM (but I'll get a couple of those cute little Delft houses KLM give out - yeah, me!). But when he gets back, THAT'S when the goin' gets good! Tim and Megan drive down Friday night with Kennedy and Lleyton for a vacation here. Then Jennifer, Ben and Luke fly down on the following Wednesday to join the party already going. On the following Saturday, we head up to Keller with Jenny and the boys to have a week's vacation getting to see Chris, Jenjer and Mirai. On July 4th, Mirai will have her 1st birthday part at Mike's folks house as we celebrate Independence Day. So I'd say the best is yet to come!

Jennifer, Tim and Chris - I hope you realize how much you mean to your father. Even though he was "on the road" or working long hours as you were growing up, he never flagged in his love, care, concern and prayers for you. And the joy he's known watching you grow to adulthood and finding spouses of your own is beyond compare. Jason, Jenjer and Megan - I hope you know that you are considered our children just as if you were birth children. You have been prayed for since your spouse's youth. Your journey as spouses and parents are of paramount importance to him (as well as myself) and Mike has frequently expressed his deep desire that he have a lifelong close and loving relationship with all six of his children. And to have given this man all these grandchildren is beyond expression! He feels so very blessed, I assure you.

Psalms 127 states it so very well:

3 Lo, children are an heritage of the
Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

Happy Father's Day to the man who made me what I am today - a mother (as well as an extremely blessed woman!) :) And Happy Dad's Day to Jason, Tim and Chris - par excellence in the Next Generation. Watch and learn, boys. Watch and learn.

14 June 2008

Further to Father's Day...

Don't send a lame Father's Day eCard.
Try JibJab Sendables!

What in the WORLD??

I was at Babies'R'us yesterday I found this:

Upspring Baby Milkscreen Home Test

What is it you ask? It's a strip that you use to find out if there is alcohol in breast milk before you feed your baby! Evidently, you can go booze it up but being the "responsible" parent that you are and all, make sure you don't intoxicate your baby by passing on alcohol in the breast milk! Which of course makes me wonder about who is taking care of the baby while you're getting all this alcohol out of your system? I admit I am flabbergasted...I would say speechless but my current rant runs counter to that idea.

And I thought the greeting cards by Hallmark about divorce took the cake....

12 June 2008

A lovely evening...THURSDAY evening...

One of the perks of being an empty nester is the ability to go out to dinner and a movie without having to procure the services of reliable childcare. Thursday evenings have long been our "date night" although we aren't always able to take advantage of it due to scheduling conflicts. It all started when we lived in the UK the first time (1981-1985) and were learning to live outside of our home country. It was a time fraught with many misunderstandings, much longing for the perceived "familiar", long hours for Mike in London and long hours "in the trenches" with three children for me.

After more than a few mud slinging "conversations" (some of which involved dishware or whatever happened to be close by), we decided we needed QUALITY time to discuss our disagreements. So "date night" was born. Come hell or high water, Thursday nights meant scheduling a "child minder" (which is what they were called then - which I always found a bit backwards - shouldn't the child be doing the minding?) and we'd head out. We might have an argument the entire time, but, by golly, we'd at least have it uninterrupted and get it settled! Now I don't want you to think that we were on the brink of despair or anything. But we WERE only 24 and 26 when we moved to England the first time - with a four year old - and a 7 month old - and soon another one on the way. And for some reason I had it in my head that since ENGLAND was a country that spoke ENGLISH, well, we'd all be on the same page, right?


First of all, it was the Queen's English - not Yankee English. And I didn't know Queen's English. I resisted it with all my might initially. OUR children would eat COOKIES, not biscuits! WE would put our trash in a TRASH CAN, not a rubbish bin. And goodness knows we drink a CUP of coffee, not "a coffee". Everywhere I turned, I was either annoyed or giggling at some different use of the language. "Whilst", "amongst"...other than "angst, if a "st" were at the end of a word it was supposed to be part of an address, right? And "To Let" instead of rent?? I kept thinking there were an awful lot of toilets in London till I figured out it was "To Let" instead. Oh, and a toilet was a W.C. or a Lavatory then. If you asked where the Ladies Room was, you'd get a blank stare. And why did we eat a "TAH-coe" with a "toe-MAY-toe" but THEY ate a "TACK-oh" with a "ta-MAH-toe"?

Then there was getting used to what most Americans like to call "driving on the wrong side of the road". It can be terrifying THINKING about it but once you get behind the wheel, it actually all seems to make sense! The driver is always near the center of the road so once you actually do it, it does come very easily. But, I didn't try driving for about three months - so dwelt on it for three months. I had nightmares of crashing into oncoming vehicles or scrapping the sides of the stone hedgerows usually on either side of the already-too-narrow-for-normal-cars-to-drive-in country lane.

And then there was the house itself - different heating system, different plumbing system, smaller appliances than I was used to - all so, pardon the pun, FOREIGN! I didn't know that a boiler heated not only the radiator water but all the water for the house so you used the water heater only in the summer - when you didn't need to use the radiators. So I put BOTH on and ended up having nothing but hot water in the entire house when the excess of hot water from both sources backed into the cold water storage (up the in attic - another learning curve). I KNEW something was wrong when the toilet water was hot!

Then there was the issue of recognizable food. Today, foods are much more familiar to the global traveler due to increased exports, international restaurant chains, so much travel, food channel recipes, etc. We are constantly looking for new cuisines today but back then, I'd have killed for a typical American hamburger, grilled, using AGED beef. It wasn't to be found and, being pregnant, I was having cravings that only a trip back to Texas was going to satisfy. Believe me, if there had been a chicken fried steak to be had in the breadth and width of the British Isles, I'D HAVE FOUND IT! The dairy aisle was especially fraught with confusion - single cream, double cream, Devonsire cream, cream fraiche, extra double cream...seriously? And bacon - back bacon, rashers, cured, uncured, streaky, danish. Sigh. I'd do a typical American weekly shop which always elicited curious stares by the other patrons. Back then, most British homes had what we'd call a mini-bar fridge and they'd go to their local grocery and buy only what they needed for that day! Our company did provide an American sized fridge/freezer so I was able to do the "big shop" once a week. I had total strangers come up and ask me if I was having a big party - or how many children I had. I felt like a circus attraction! "Come see the GIANT American Lady pregnant with TWINS buying an entire trolley of groceries! You won't believe your eyes!"

All these things were being thrown at us and we were ill prepared for it. Mike was working very long hours (it was his first supervisory position) in addition to a long commute (60-90 minutes each way), I was having morning sickness and trying to navigate my household in unfamiliar territory as well as figure out how the medical community operated, finding an Ob/Gyn in a country where midwives typically delivered babies. So we had some "tense moments". In the course of endless discussions about what was going on, we discovered what we like to refer to today as "truths". I thought Mike had it "easy " in that office where everything was seemingly done for him. Mike thought I had it "easy" being able to be home with the children and enjoy that freedom. I was jealous when he'd go on business trips, stay in an hotel and be on expense account. He was jealous that I didn't have to travel and got to stay home where he'd rather be. We both did our unfair share of blaming the other for not "making it easier" on the other or "understanding". And we both were frightened that we might not be successful at this living overseas things - and we hate defeat. More than once that song from "The King and I" would get in my head - "Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect, And whistle a happy tune, And no one will suspect...I'm afraid!"

I did a lot of whistling.

In the middle of all this, I went into premature labor with the twins - three times in fact. The last time, my waters broke and there was no going back - only "holding off" a bit with medication. So on September 22nd, Chris and Ben were born, 3 months early. Within 5 hours, we had lost Ben and things weren't looking good for Chris - so poorly, in fact, that the hospital decided to move Chris to a hospital with a better equipped SCBU (Special Care Baby Unit - a precursor to today's NICUs) in Oxford. We had no family there. I don't think our parents had even applied for, let alone obtained, passports. And we were being ambulanced to Oxford - 30 miles from where we lived and about 55 miles from London.

But as usually happens, our church family came to our rescue. They contacted the church in Oxford who immediately came to us and helped support us emotionally. Phone calls were constantly being made to us by our brethren at the Wembley congregation in London (where we were members) giving us support, telling of prayers offered on our behalf, asking how to help. We had decided to hire a nanny for a few months with twin coming and she had reported for duty ONE day before I went into labor - she had to literally hit the ground running (which she did with great aplomb!) She was "gobsmacked" (amazed) by the outpouring of love from these church brethren - she'd never seen anything like it! (by the way, she wanted to know more about these people and what motivated them. She became a Christian herself later on that year after studying with Mike and now is married to a minister and has two children of her own - but that's another blog...)

We suddenly had clarity. We knew what was important. And we knew how much we needed each other. We were so very grateful to our Christian brothers and sisters as well as the doctors and nurses who helped us, and I started looking at England in a totally different light. I still am in contact with some of the "sisters" (nurses) who were at Wycombe General Hospital then even though they've moved on to other things (one created the National Bereavement Trust, helping parents through the loss of a child - she was interviewed when Princess Diana died). I was able to stay at the hospital the entire time Chris was there. They had "Mother's Rooms" and felt that mothers and children shouldn't be separated - for which I will be eternally grateful. I came to know the staff at Wycombe General in a very intimate way, talking with then in the wee hours of the morning feeding Chris. We started embracing our new home and her culture instead of resenting/resisting it. And in the process found that acclimating to our new environment was infinitely less painful that stubbornly holding onto the old one.

After we got Chris home and life settled down to a low roar, Mike and I decided to institute "Date Night" on Thursdays. Be it a movie, dinner, theatre in London or just time to talk uninterrupted, Thursdays were sacrosanct in our household. And we were known to, on occasion, circle the block a few times until the lights were off in the children's bedrooms upstairs. Those were the nights when we toasted our victories, discussed and analyzed our failures, planned our future, dreamed our dreams, discussed our children and enjoyed each other fully. It was OUR time.

And we still enjoy Thursdays. We try to go out every Thursday when we can. We've been able to discuss how those dreams came true, which ones we're still working on, how we came to appreciate what our family means to us. We can have those talks anytime now - again, empty nesters. But Thursdays just seem "more specialer" as the kids used to say.

So I hope you have a Thursday of your own in whatever form (or day!) it takes. Time for reflection is always good. Time for rejoicing or sorrowing is good. Time carved out for each other is beyond good - it is essential. Hats off to Thursdays for us! Hats off for time with your best friend, your Chief Friend.

06 June 2008

Drennon Look-alike Meter

MyHeritage: Look-alike Meter - Geneology - Family name origins

I don't have photos of Mike and I uploaded to iPhoto from when we were in our early 20's (when Tim was born) so just had to use ones from this year. Jen and Megan were doing this so thought I'd play with it a bit.

Another "Tagged!"

I've been tagged. Rules: Answer the following questions about yourself. At the end of the post you pass on the questions to 6 other people. Write them a comment telling them that they've been tagged and ask them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know that you've accepted the challenge and refer to your post.

Here it goes:

1. What were you doing 10 years ago?
Wow, 10 years ago. That would be 1998. And I was in the Republic that WILL be named, Trinidad and Tobago. We had moved there in Jan 1997 leaving Jennifer stateside for the FIRST time - not good for me. The boys were teenagers then, on an island, in a new (and NOT improved) international school, in a country where the "10 Commandments" were really the "10 Suggestions" and where countless conversations between myself and spouse were pertaining to the word "logic" and it's absence in said Republic in most areas of life, liberty and law. We were probably in the process of coming back to Houston for the summer months so I could see Jennifer, the boys could see their friends and go to camp, I could eat Mexican food and drive around without fearing for my life from a careening mini-bus in said Republic. I was also only 41 which sounds SO young now!

2. Five items on today's "to do" list:
-Sleep in (check)
-Eat lunch out (check - bonus points for inviting my mom along)
-Buy groceries (check again)
-Update Quicken (when someplace hot freezes over - NEVER get to that one!)
-Cook a rare home-cooked meal for my husband (groceries above purchased so hopefully this one will happen....but it's early yet...)

3. What snacks do you enjoy?
Raw almonds. Strawberries - fresh and sweet. Homemade sugar-free Blackberry Frozen Yogurt (okay, that's technically a dessert but this time of year a spoonful or two during the day HAS to fall under "snacking" category...)

4. What would you do if you were a billionaire?
What makes you think I'm not already? (why do I hear rolling, loss-of-bladder-control laughter in the background?)

Okay, if I were a billionaire, I'd first get with our financial adviser to set up the best possible way to grow and tax shelter the funds. Then I'd find a bunch more missionaries that need support to work in their chosen countries. I'd set up a university scholarship for children of missionaries to pay for US expenses when they return for college. Then I'd set up a family foundation with a "salary" each year so Mike could retire for good. Then I'd set up trust funds or those 529's (or whatever they're called) for each of the grandchildren's university years. I'd buy each of the children a souped up Honda Odyssey Touring Mini-van, with all the bells and whistles. I'd build homes in the Austin and DFW areas so we could live near the kids and grandkids. And that's just the beginning...

And I'd STILL shop at Target, Neimans Last Call, TJMaxx and Marshall's. But we'd eat out a LOT more! :)

5. Where would you live?
Oh, already addressed that - in the Austin Hill Country divided by time in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

According to the rules, I am supposed to tag six other people for this thing. But I know only 4 other people who blog enough to possibly follow through with this so I tag Jennifer, Megan, Rebekah and Emily.

05 June 2008

Debbie Downer Strikes Again... or "Why is Everyone So Testy??"

I was reading online about Cheney's "joke" and reading all the reactions made me think about how, as a nation, we are so easily offended by just about anything! I don't know if it's the pending recession, the media exploiting the sensationalist quotient, our lifestyle of having much more than we really, truly need or a combination of all, but I've started noticing just how upset Americans get about almost anything! I think the energy we've expended on expressing our displeasure has become epidemic in proportions as well as become a national pastime. Which of course makes me wonder - how do we appear to the rest of the world? As a bunch of rich, snotty, spoiled children who have more than just about anyone else as a nation but yet are STILL discontent? How do we appear to our children, the next generation of Americans?

We gripe about other people's expressed opinions and how they shouldn't say things (although the freedom to say that is one of the tenants of our Constitution), we berate government officials with their ineptitude, we blast oil companies for "raping the coffers of society and decent, hardworking people all in the name of exorbitant profits" (although I know for sure some of the naysayers are shareholders of said companies and certainly are happy to deposit their dividend checks), we snipe about how people dress, or their weight, or how they keep or don't keep house. It's an endless litany of negativism. And I know I've done (more than?) my fair share of gritching and moaning.

But how much are we improving upon what we gripe about and how much are we aiding in the "fulfillment of self-prophecy"? In business, we are told to visualize what we want 10 years from now (where we'll be financially, emotionally, career-wise) and that keeping that picture in our head subconsciously keeps us working towards that goal. I believe that the polar opposite is true as well. When we live in a mental "downer" environment, NOTHING is going to work out! We are self-defeated before we even hit the front door, or in most cases, before our feet hit the floor getting out of bed.

So I'm thinking today about how much I, personally, am adding fertilizer to the "downer mentality" our nation seems to be raging with. Am I helping or hindering? Do my actions and words speak for promise and improvement or are they compost to the movement for discontent with anything and everything? How much energy am I expending in my "righteous indignation" for things totally out of my control to the detriment of doing things positively and having good, happy thoughts which will bring peace and contentment not only to myself but to others I am in direct contact with? It takes an enormous amount of energy to be mad, as anyone who's had a lover's quarrel will tell you. And even MORE energy NURSING that hurt and resentment. My personal opinion is that America needs to let go of all this negative energy, quit comparing ourselves to our neighbors and do what we can when we can but let the rest of it just GO!

Gas prices are high. They may well continue to be high or higher. Bottom line - either you pay it and drive or cut down on what you're doing. It is NOT a God-given right, in the Constitution, that Americans get really cheap gasoline even though we have been blessed with it for decades. People will say unkind things. But if we let them define WHO we are and HOW we act, their mean-spiritedness will have won out. If we constantly criticize our officials, bosses, the driver in front of us, our children will likewise learn, at the feet of their parents, how to be critical and discontent. I truly believe that as a nation we have elevated 'discontent' to the status of "virtue", thinking that we will appear to be "enlightened, educated and contemporary" in our national consciousness to the rest of the world that we have lost sight of the real prize - peace within, opportunity to improve ourselves, harmony with others, endless material blessings. Shame on us! Democracy gives us rights - but are we going to exercise this liberty to the detriment of ourselves, our families, our good mental health?

The Bible simply states that "a little leaven leaventh the whole lump". So ask yourself - am I "good" yeast or "bad" yeast?

04 June 2008

Flying these days...

A friend had sent me this awhile ago and then I read in Big Mamas blog about her experience with American Airlines and the baggage charges. So I just had to post this! :)

02 June 2008

Spray-away Monday - A Favorite Things Post

I did not have any luck with my Wii internet connection (numerous) attempts but feel vindicated as it turns out the ethernet plug behind the TV in the living room is dead as a door nail! (whatever a door nail is...) So I was just butting my head against a wall for nothing. The wireless attempts were not successful because I have too many electronics around the TV that interfere with the signal making downloads too slow.

So at least I know WHY it doesn't work. Validation is important you know. I need to know WHY I'm going crazy if I'm going crazy. So I don't go crazy you know...

Which leads me to another Favorite Things post (don't ask me HOW it does, we were just told to have a lead-in to our main topic when I took English and I'm pretty much a stickler for rules...)

So this Monday's post is brought to you by the letter "S" for SPRAYS! Yes, cans of compressed air that make our life easier, more efficient, more bearable...until we can't breathe due to ozone layer thinning, opening, whatever it's doing that someone with a Ph.D., with too much time on their hands and too many research dollars in their pockets, keeps telling us about.

First Spray-of-the-Day:

Sprayway Stainless Steel Cleaner.

Sprayway® Stainless Steel Cleaner - 2/15 oz cans
I don't know how many of you have Stainless Steel appliance - those gorgeous, gleaming behemoths of modern industrial design without which (we've been told) it is IMPOSSIBLE to resell our residences soemday - but the term "stainLESS" is a misnomer in my illustrious opine. Simply wiping off a spill on stainless steel will leave a streak that glares like pink lipstick on a white business shirt collar! When we moved into our current residence, the builder advised me to use WD-40 to clean all those SS surfaces - works much better than the products in the grocery store or BB & Beyond - but that SMELL! It IS made from fish oil so what do you expect? WELL, my dear friends, I got a can of Sprayway Stainless Steel cleaner, and notwithstanding Vanna White not here to wave her hands at a can of the stuff, while dressed in a lovely evening dress - it is WONDERFUL! Finding it can be a bit of an exercise - I found my first can (you always remember the first...) at World Market. In Keller. Not in Katy. Which means I can't run out of it when I'm home. Only on vacation. But I digress...the stuff is about $6 a can and works on all sorts of things metal. I used it on our outdoor grill, on the fridge, the double oven, the cooktop (stove top, hob, whatever we call in the good ole US of A) and love it! And it doesn't smell. Yeah! Okay, just did an online search and the stuff is available at Sam's Club.

Second Spray-of-the-Day:

Pure Citrus Orange Air Freshener

Pure Citrus - Air Freshener, Citrus Blend - 7 fl oz

Jennifer put me onto this one. It doesn't cover odors. It doesn't compete with odors. It gets RID of odors! Forget Oust or Fabreeze or any of those other losers. Unless you have a raging citrus allergy, this is the only spray you'll need! It's full of (surprise, surprise) essential oils from citrus. It's non-aerosol (which I can't figure out since it DOES spray out - but more like cologne does, not in a continuous "if you forget to take your finger off you'll run out in a hurry" spray). You get it at Walmart. Believe me, I have the relatives to, ahem, put this product to the test and it ALWAYS works!

Last but not least, a cosmetic item. Third Spray-of-the-Day:

Bioelements Power Peptide Spray

Bioelements Power Peptide

What can I say about this amazing product? I could say this spray tonic adds youthful radiance with licorice root, white tea, and palmitoyl tri-peptide. It revitalizes skin with renewing peptides, boosts moisture, brightens, and refines skin tone. No artificial colorants, synthetic fragrance or animal by-products. Not tested on animals.

But that would sound like I was reading off of an ad for the product - which I was actually. I got this in a sample kit last Fall and fell in love with it. After cleansing your face, instead of a toner, spritz this cooling spray all over your face and "upper chest" (can't spell that french word "decolleta-whatever") and immediately follow with your moisturizer(s). It makes your moisturizer go SO much further (as in you don't need as much) and it makes your skin feel wonderful! Win-win!! It's a bit pricey at $36 but it lasts a long time.

There are other sprays I use - Pam, hairspray, shoe deodorizer, but they just didn't make the cut not being overly remarkable in my book. So here are my top three for what it's worth. Stay tuned as other "favorites" will be showcased in the near future. But rest assured, you will not get any fashion advice from me - save THAT one for Big Mama.

Happy Monday - is that an oxymoron?