Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blog Peep Questions: Round 2

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It’s time for round two of Blog Peep Questions… the last one turned out pretty well for me, personally. I told you all how much I love sugar cereal and eat Honeycombs like popcorn, and my neighbor Candace shows up at my door with this:


which I can only describe as the largest freaking box of Honeycombs known to man.


And just in case you were ever tempted to ask the question, "What does Riley look like right after every photo you take of him?" this photo answers that question. Seeing him running toward me, licking his chops and expecting a Cheerio is standard form around here.

Since I said the word “Honeycomb” and suddenly received a ginormous box, I would like to start this session of questions by saying “million dollars.”

Can’t hurt to try, right?

Ok, on to the questions:

Does Riley have a middle name?
Yes. I didn’t name him with a middle name, but like all children [with or without fur] that get into trouble, middle names just sort of roll off the tongue. If you come to my house, you may hear “Riley Joseph!” a few dozen times. An hour. Sometimes when he’s barking at people in the parking lot I skip the first name and go right for “Joseph!” and it gets his attention better.

I tell my nephew Cooper it’s because we’ve had to say “Cooper Joseph!” so much that it just seemed natural… :)

Who is your favorite saint?
I came across St. Jane Frances de Chantal when we were studying saints, mainly because Jane is my mother’s name and I was looking up ones that related to my family. She felt called to be of service to people… even when she and her husband were financially in trouble [in France, in the 1600’s] she would serve food to anyone who came to her door. Often people would come back for more food, and when people told her she was being foolish she replied that she would never want God to turn her away for coming again and again with the same request. I liked that approach to life and the intentional way she went about living.

She also believed the secret of happiness was in losing, that we should "throw ourselves into God as a little drop of water into the sea, and lose ourselves indeed in the Ocean of the divine goodness." I didn’t fully appreciate that concept when I was younger, but I’m learning to appreciate that visual more and more.

On a side note, a little person I know who is preparing for his First Communion has been learning about saints. In religion class they've been making cards (like playing cards) of each of the saints to learn more about them. Of course, a lot of the more popular saints seem to be either virgins or martyrs (or both).

The other day, the little stinker walked up to his teacher, fanned out his deck of saint cards, and said, "Pick a virgin... any virgin!"

[I’ll go ahead and wait while you pick yourselves up off the floor.]

I'm his godmother and usually take credit for all of his cuteness, but I’ve decided to blame that one all on his dad. :)

Since you do digital scrapping, have you turned your handwriting into a font?
Well, Mary and Heidi, you’ll both be happy to know that I have! I created a not-so-perfectly smooth font that I used for awhile, but then I found a site that was asking people to send in writing samples. If she liked the handwriting she would make it into a font for free, and she happened to like mine. And it was a MUCH nicer rendition of the font than the one I had been using. If you want it, you can download it for free here: Pea Frankie. [My friend Jenny’s kids call me Frankie, hence the name.]

How do you come up with topics to write about?
Seriously, I get pretty nervous some days because not a lot happens around here to tell you about. I was on the phone today with my friend Kelly and after she told me about every detail of their fantastically busy weekend she said, “So, what about you?” And then we busted out laughing after a long pause and a reply of, “Well, I showered and Riley peed in the kitchen.”

In other words, I’m getting by on the skin of my teeth here, people! :) So feel free to keep the questions coming and I’ll do my best to keep you entertained…

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lions and Lambs

I’ve decided that whole saying about March “coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb” must not apply to us in the Midwest.

I was pretty sure the first of March was cold and icky around here [I looked it up; I was right] so I was anxiously anticipating that it would go out like a lamb… full of sunshine and warm breezes. We had a bit of that in the middle of the month, but on Saturday we started this:


and are supposed to have either rain or snow in the forecast all week.

I think Mary’s little lamb got lost following her to school.

Actually, I’m not that surprised because it is Iowa… and the weather is consistently inconsistent around here. The reason I’m paying so much attention to it is because every time it rains or snows I’m thinking of Vicky. If you read the comments you certainly know her… she and her family live in Moorhead, MN, and despite all of their constant sandbagging last week they ended up having to evacuate because of the rising Red River. And now, as I watch the snow fall and hear the rain pelt against my windows, I’m hoping their home stays dry and the walls of sandbags they broke their backs putting into place make all of their efforts worth the trouble.

As I read through her comments last week, so many people were amazed at the community sandbagging effort and shocked at how much people were willing to help. I couldn’t help but think back to last summer when the floods hit our town and devastated a city an hour away. It all happened about a month after tornadoes came through and caused total destruction down the road. Yes, weather changes on a dime here in the Midwest, but communities band together as well.

I wrote about it last summer… whether a crisis is happening or all is calm, I wouldn’t trade being in an Iowa community for anything. I know I’ve been so blessed to have great friends close by, to have met neighbors who are so caring and willing to help, to know that no matter what happens I don’t have to worry about how I’ll get by. I’ve always felt lucky that such great people have been placed in my life, but as I watched those events happen last summer I came to realize that there is something very “home-grown” about the care, kindness and empathy of people around here.

And I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Even if we do have to put up with a few more lions than lambs.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Flashback Friday: Perspective

Last week was spring break around here, and it was so interesting for me to hear about the plans people were making this year versus the last few years. You know, back when money wasn’t as tight for everyone, when jobs weren’t being threatened and the stock market wasn’t so scary.

Some people who always head to a beach were staying home, others who usually take trips were deciding that nearby water parks or weekend jaunts were enough this time around. Some took it in stride and some were seriously disappointed.

And then I found this old photo and thought, “It’s all about perspective.”


That’s a photo Mom took of Dad with us six kids at a hotel pool in Fort Dodge, Iowa. We lived in Algona and the trip to Fort Dodge, an hour away, was like taking a trip to another universe. I mean, they had a McDonald’s for crying out loud! [Algona has since grown with the times and sports a fast food place… but back then it was a HUGE deal.]

The term vacation was different back then… and I don’t think it was just us, either. I think it was the culture. We went to the lakes skiing in the summers and sometimes, like in this photo, we would take a winter break, drive to Fort Dodge and spend a night in a hotel so we could go swimming at the pool. I remember feeling absolutely decadent… going somewhere for no reason at all with the sole purpose of having fun. We were living high on the hog… as I’m sure you can tell by the pose I struck in my little pink bikini. As you can see, I was always very shy and reserved, even as a child. ;)

My point is, I’m so glad I grew up with the perspective my parents gave us. I’m glad I didn’t have crazy expectations and visions of entitlement. I’m glad a trip to McDonald’s and a night at a hotel pool made me feel like a rock star. I am so grateful that we never took special times and unexpected treats for granted.

I’m truly grateful for the perspective I was taught, because while I’ve never taken a beach vacation to Florida or Hawaii and I don’t consider spring break to be synonymous with trips… I thoroughly enjoy every break from the mundane I get… whether it’s a carpet picnic or enjoying a movie night… I still feel like I’m living high on the hog.

I’m just not doing it in a pink bikini.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Little Healthy Competition

And the winner of yesterday’s canvas (according to random.org) is:

Debra: Praying for that sweet boy ... love this quote and so true. Focusing on the comma and the great things that God has planned and that are to come, not the period satan would have us focus on called earthly circumstances. I read a verse in the bible that rattled my cage with truth ... Romans 3:4 "...Let God be true and every man a liar." The comma.

Congratulations!!!! Email me at gitzengirl@gmail.com with your mailing address and I’ll get the canvas off to you!

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For those wanting to keep up on Stellan, he had some very scary moments yesterday with lengths of time in v-tach, and also had one good period of about 45 minutes in a normal rhythm. It was a small reprieve, but his little body is working way too hard the other 23 hours of the day when he’s in SVT. You can keep up with him here, and Jess set up a blog as a prayer vigil where you can write messages here. Keep praying, peeps.

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This is the face of annoyance.
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But it’s not without good reason. Riley’s getting a little healthy competition… by the name of Ozzy.

I know, right? I want one.

My brother Hoody and his wife Patience made two kids VERY happy last Friday when this little dude came to live with them. Mom was at my house when I pulled up the email of photos and we both declared him the cutest puppy we’d ever seen…


…and we may have hurt someone’s feelings a bit.


In Riley’s defense, he was a darn cute puppy, too. I quickly retracted my declaration and gave him back his title [partially because I didn’t want a repeat of the episode when he peed on my foot].

But Ozzy does already have him beat in a few other areas. He’s a very chill little puppy [Riley was never chill… even as a pup. You know how they say puppies sleep a lot? Mine never did.] and hasn’t been whining at night [I had to keep one hand in Riley’s kennel while sleeping when he was a pup because he couldn’t stand not to have me touching him.]. I don’t know how housetraining is going for Ozzy, but I know how my quest to cure Riley’s marking in the kitchen is going, so I’m guessing they have us beat on that front, too. But Riley LOVES ME, man. I’m certain we’ve got that one in our column, for sure.

ozzy page

But they’re definitely giving us a run for our money.

Cooper said he can’t wait to have the “cousins” meet each other… and I may need to remind him that Riley gets a little jealous. And to not be alarmed if I need to put a muzzle on him and keep them in separate rooms and maybe sedate Riley for the length of the visit. But other than that, I think they’ll get along GREAT! :)

Someone, ANYONE… get the Dog Whisperer to my house.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

HDG: All About The Comma

hump day

With so many blogs around the web giving updates on Stellan right now, it’s reminding me of a post I did the day after he was born… about how his struggle made me think of the quote by Gracie Allen:
“Never put a period where God has put a comma.” So I thought it was fitting to revisit the concept today and make it into a canvas. [You can find updates on Stellan here: my charming kids.]

Keep praying, peeps. There is always hope.

Here’s the canvas for today’s giveaway:


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All About The Comma
[originally posted October 30, 2008]

“Never put a period where God has put a comma.”

This is the phrase that stuck in my head all day yesterday as we watched together to see how little Stellan was going to do after he was born.

The thing is, if Stellan's family would have taken the news from the doctors 23 weeks into the pregnancy and put a period at the end of that sentence, he might not be here today. They could have heard,
Your son's death is imminent." Instead, they put a comma at the end of that statement and heard, "Your son's death is imminent, so now what do we try?" And they tried, and they hoped. They didn't believe foolishly that all would turn out as they wanted and be easy just because they had faith. They believed that whatever was in God's will would be ok, but they wouldn't stop trying until He made His will known.

It's all about the comma.

I've had to remind myself of that from time to time. Ok, not from time to time. All the time. In reality, the odds of something great happening to improve my health are very slim. The odds are I'll keep getting worse. There have been new medications that can improve my quality of life, but my body has rejected them all. I've gotten to the point where I don't just react to wool and flowers anymore, I react to the air. To someone's lotion. To additives. To picc lines. To everything.

There are new drugs on the horizon that hold promise... but the moment I get excited about them a voice creeps in, "Those won't work for you, remember? Your body will reject them." And then I have to balance accepting my reality, with a comma.

Odds are that new medications won't help me, but there's always hope. Stellan's odds were against him, but they held onto hope. My friend Kelly is always changing the "ifs" in our conversations to "when." She's always reminding me that until something is done, it contains hope.

Stellan has me thinking about that today...

So I wanted to remind all of you to keep the commas in your lives, too.

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To win today’s canvas: simply leave a comment below to enter the drawing, and I’ll let you all know the winner tomorrow! [Only one comment per person, please. The drawing will end at midnight CST.]

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sweet Stellan

If you’ve been reading here awhile, you know about MckMama and her little boy, Stellan. We all kept watch together last October when he was born – healthy – despite the fact that he almost died when she was pregnant with him. And despite the fact that doctors were thinking immediate surgery would be necessary when he was born.

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He had a condition called SVT (supraventricular tachycardia) that kept his heart rate way too high, but he hadn’t had any reoccurrences since he was born… until now. Stellan had a bad cold, and when they took him into the ER his oxygen levels were low so they had to give him a nebulizer treatment. Nebs can often make your heart race (they certainly do that to mine) and it flipped him back into SVT, with his little heart beating around 290 to 300 beats/minute.

They’ve tried many medications to regulate his heart, some that actually stop his heart in the hope that it will go into a regular rhythm when it restarts. It works for awhile, but then it bounces back up to the high rhythm, and his blood pressure isn’t regulating either.

All this to say, blog peeps, that Stellan needs our prayers.


They are having a hard time with IVs, so they may need to do a central line, and the pediatric cardiologists have big treatment decisions to make. I’m praying for Stellan and his parents, but also for the doctors, nurses and staff that will be treating him. I’m praying that they have the knowledge, compassion and skill to pull him through this. I’m praying that God does great things for this little boy.

I’d really appreciate it if you’d all say prayers for him, too. There are so many of us that have fallen in love with this little guy…

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mental Health Movie Days

I’m convinced there are few things in life that can restore a person better than a lazy day of watching movies. I suppose it could be argued that exercise is more restorative… all those endorphins and air flow in the lungs… but sometimes simply being still with someone else can be just what the doctor ordered. Especially if you’re being still with someone you don’t see every day.

My mom called last Thursday night after Susie and the boys left and decided we needed a mental health day on Friday. That means pajamas, movies, take out and chatting. And just to set the record straight: she didn’t bring me chicken. It turns out the A&W makes a really great fish sandwich. :)

She and dad had rented the movie Australia and she’d been talking about it ever since, so we decided that should be the first movie  choice… and I LOVED it. It was totally not what I was expecting for some reason. I think it’s best described by putting Gone With The Wind and Out of Africa in a blender and adding a little bit of the chemistry and humor of Moonlighting… all mixed together and poured into this movie. The wide, sweeping shots reminded me of Gone With The Wind, and the storyline was so like Out of Africa… but it was the unexpected humor and random catch-you-by-surprise actions that kept pulling me in. I’d give it a thumbs up.

If nothing else, Hugh Jackman just became my new leading man crush. Who knew Wolverine could clean up like Clark Gable? Bless his heart.

Mostly I liked getting the chance to just sit and chat. Taking the time to talk about life – its changes and its trials and its blessings. And how all of those things can actually be one in the same. I liked the moments of talking about how much we miss Aunt Judy and remembering stories and looking through photos. I liked knowing that as we grow older we learn new ways to help each other and learn from one another.

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It’s good to grow up, and have mental health days with your mom.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Flashback Friday: Umm… Kinda

Does it count if I flashback to yesterday?

Yes? Maybe? Cool… because I’m gonna.

So, our college men’s basketball team rocked this season. They are Missouri Valley Conference Champions and went on to play Purdue yesterday in the first round of the NCAA tournament. It was a big day in town, and it was an especially big day at my house because I had company for the big game. Susie and her two boys [who I like to think of as my two boys and I let her borrow them] came over to cheer on our University of Northern Iowa Panthers!


We figured a carpet picnic was a great way to start off the day…


which was followed by a little one on one between Jonboy and Tyler…


and, of course, a little celebration dance was required for three-point shots and rebounds.


Susie, being the great mom she is, stood in for the missing basketball hoop when an instant replay of the dunk was required…


and the woman obviously has nerves of steel.

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She might be just a little loved by all the boys in the house… including the very jealous pup who didn’t like the fact that he wasn’t in the middle of all the photo taking that was going on.

The Panthers rallied and at one point cut their 14 point deficit down to 2 [don’t think we weren’t a little excited at that point], but ended up losing in the end 56-61. We were so impressed with their good showing, but mostly I just enjoyed the good company.


And that whole thing I posted on earlier in the week about learning to find enough joy within my four walls?

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Mission accomplished.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Way to a Dog’s Heart…

And, (according to random.org) the winner of yesterday’s canvas is:

Mandy: How about I list what I'm NOT fretting about? Nothing. I'm preparing for a cross country move. Packing a big house w/ 3 little ones is pretty close to impossible. I've been w/ out my husband for 4 months. We're back to square one financially. I'm not taking time for myself. I haven't picked up a bible in weeks. And some things medically aren't right. Life is eating away at me. I guess I need to BITE BACK! Thanks for giving us a place to lay it down. I forget how nice it is to hand it over to Him.

Congratulations! I definitely can’t help with the move and the kids, but hopefully the canvas will help make your new house feel like home. Email me at gitzengirl@gmail.com with your mailing address and I’ll get your canvas off to you!

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I pretty much tortured my dog the other day.

I think we’ve covered the fact (many times) that I don’t cook. In my defense, I have about as much stamina as a dying turtle so when I expend any tidbit of energy on something it’s most likely not going to be preparing a gourmet meal.

The only thing that doesn’t factor into that excuse is that I never knew how to make a gourmet meal to begin with. Unless it was one of those fancy frozen dinners with the word gourmet in the title to make it sound more palatable. Those I can make without a problem. Usually.

Because I’m not a whiz in the kitchen, all the fancy kitchen stuff never really meant much to me… you know, stuff like pots, pans, skillets. Whatever. I had them in my cupboards and they were used on the rare occasions I had people over of supper and we didn’t order take out, but more often than not they collected dust.

Another thing you may not know about me is that I have a real habit of giving stuff away. If you come into my house and like a random clock that has no sentimental value to me, you’ll most likely end up going home with the clock. One of my old roommates punched her husband when I went to their new home and he said he loved the bag I used to carry in some gifts for their kids. She knew the minute he said he wished they had one like it that it would be left behind for them to have. It’s really not about being generous or anything; it just seems silly to keep something unimportant to me if it’s important to someone else.

Back in May when I wrote my first post for this blog, I was stirred to do so because of the nearby towns that were destroyed by tornadoes. It was tearing me apart that an entire city was left in the ruins of what used to be their lives, their possessions, their memories. When you couple my grief for them with my tendency to give things away, you can imagine the spree I had through my home filling up garbage bags with anything I could think of. It wasn’t just clothes these people lost… they didn’t have books or jewelry or stereos or VCRs. They didn’t have purses or wallets or scarves or coats.

They didn’t have kitchen stuff.

Boy, did they affect the right girl. I had already gone through everything else in my home, and when my friend Susie came to pick up my donations I was in the process of going through my kitchen cupboards. I had pots, pans, skillets, cookie sheets, spatulas, mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, plates, platters … you name it. For a girl who did so little in the kitchen I had multiples of a lot of things and I knew I’d never notice they were gone. Susie helped me be a little logical about needing a few things just in case she came over and wanted to cook [I’m not kidding, that’s how she phrased it], and she really wanted me to keep the crock-pot that I had put in the pile to donate. I had only used it once or twice the entire time I had it and thought that was wasteful, so into the pile it went.

I really hate it when Susie’s right… but I ended up missing that darn crock-pot. Right and left I would have people telling me simple things I could do to make meals, and all of them ended with, “you just throw it in the crock-pot.” But I knew, in the end, some family without a kitchen was getting much better use of it than I ever would have.

One of my really good friends that I’ve met in this blog/twitter world, Brandy, is one that’s always thinking up little recipes I can’t mess up, and that don’t take more than a few minutes of energy on my part. She didn’t know anything about my giving away half of my kitchen supply, and had no idea if I was kidding or serious when I told her I wouldn’t try recipes that required more than a whisk and a spatula.

But one day, a few weeks ago, a package arrived at my door and it contained a fancy-schmancy crock-pot so that I would stop blowing her off and try some recipes. You know that saying, “What goes around comes around?” Apparently I’m living proof that it’s true.

Which brings me to my original point. [You all thought I’d forgotten my opening sentence, didn’t you?] The other night I put a pork roast in the crock-pot to cook. Because I grew up as the daughter of a hog farmer, there are few things in life that taste better or smell better than barbeque pork. Except maybe my mom’s fried pork chops, but you get the running theme here.

Because I don’t know my way around a kitchen and meat has barely ever been cooked in my house, my dog’s head nearly exploded for the four hours that meat was in the crock-pot. He stood guard in the kitchen… running back and forth to where I was sitting at the computer and freaking out. He was right in my face as his eyes searched mine constantly as if asking, “Don’t you smell it? What is it? It’s meat, right? I mean, you’d tell me if we had meat, right? Hmm? Hmm? Hmm?”

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I was cautiously waiting for one of my neighbors to call the humane society considering my dog laid on the floor and whined for the entire four hours as if being tortured by the smell of this foreign entity he’s waited all five long years of his life to enjoy.

Riley thanks you, Brandy, from the very bottom of his stomach.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

HDG: Fretting

hump day

I was trying to decide on a quote to make into a canvas for today’s giveaway, and the one I keep coming back to is this:

“It is such folly to pass one’s time fretting instead of resting quietly on the heart of Jesus.”                        - St. Therese of Lisieux


I love this quote… it’s one that makes me take a deep breath and get my mind in the right place. But it also sometimes slaps me upside the head and reminds me that I’ve been spending too much time fretting lately.

Fretting is a vicious cycle isn’t it?

Part of me thinks it’s ok… I’ve earned the right to fret a little, haven’t I? I went patiently (for the most part) through this past year, taking my lumps as they were given to me. I stayed inside all of last summer, feeling sick each time I attempted to open a door or a window because of my reactions to the air. I didn’t step foot outside of my home from July until March, knowing that if the air didn’t get me, I would certainly fall on the ice in those winter months. Not to mention the fact that everyone and their dog was sick, and I was trying to avoid pneumonia this year. It was just too risky to try to leave these four walls.

But I really didn’t fret (much). I was patient… but I fooled myself into thinking it was because I was being trusting. What I didn’t realize at the time was that my trust had conditions built into the fine print. I figured I could make it through a year indoors because I was certain, once we had a good freeze, whatever weird thing in the air that was bothering me would be killed off. I knew if I just waited again until Spring I would be rewarded with fresh air and sunshine. I was sure.

I was wrong.

And now I can’t stop fretting.

I’m trying hard not to. I’m trying so hard not to stomp my feet and throw myself on the ground, kicking and screaming into a fit of unfairness. I’m trying not to yell into the nothingness that I don’t deserve this. I’m trying so hard not to face the fact that I’m not going to ever sit outside in the fresh air, feeling the warm sun on my skin and watching as the silent breeze rustles through the hasta. I’m not going to sit on my patio reading while Riley snuggles up next to me, content with keeping one eye on the wrens in their birdhouse to make sure they aren’t taking up too much of his turf. I’m not going to wield my new camera while sitting in a friend’s yard… taking pictures of their kids and of the flowers, with the sunshine streaming through the lens.

I have to let go of those images that simply aren’t meant to be a part of my daily existence. And it sucks. I just can’t pretend that it doesn’t.

BUT, and there’s always a but, if I really trust my God… if I really believe that He loves me beyond condition and holds me gently, then I can’t stay fretting. And I really do trust Him. I really do believe. Which means I need to keep stepping forward in faith and remembering that there is plenty of joy right here within my four walls.

It’s not easy, but the only way I know how to move forward is to let it out and then let it go… and I’ll start by resting quietly on the heart of Jesus.


To win today’s canvas, leave a comment telling me what you are fretting about… what you are willing to lay down so you can instead rest quietly. [Only one comment, please. The drawing will end at midnight CST.]

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kiss Me, I’m Irish!

That’s shocking to you, I’m sure. Me with my curly reddish hair, freckles and pasty white skin. While I’m a mutt of many backgrounds – German, Swedish, Austrian and French – the Irish is the one that made my existence possible.

I’ve told you all before about my Great-Grandma Marie and her writing skills, but the thing you need to know about her today is that her maiden name was Mulligan… and her heritage meant more to her than you can imagine. When dad and mom were getting a little more serious in their dating and it looked like a future may indeed happen between the two of them, it became an obligation for her grandson to bring his girlfriend over for dinner.

A scrutiny dinner.

Unbeknownst to mother, she was getting a very serious once-over by a woman who wanted to make sure the right girl was going to be spending time with her grandson. Mom said the conversation went something like this:

Marie: “So, your last name is Grandgenett? Where is that from exactly… German? Maybe French?”

Mom: “Yes, both… but my mom was a Halligan.”

Marie: “Oh, dear! You sweetheart!”

Mom had it made in the shade… :)

And mom was true to her Irish roots when it came to St. Patrick’s day… she would have made Great-Grandma Marie proud. We’d get home from school and in the refrigerator would be our after school treat of lime jello with pears – in individual, fancy glass dishes to make it a special occasion. There would be green frosting on our cake for dessert and, a few times, I remember sauerkraut being served, but I try to block that part from my memory. The smell alone all but sends me running for the hills [apparently that’s one Irish gene I didn’t inherit].

And then there was the singing. We did a lot of singing.

Fr. McCarty was a good friend of our family, and I fell in love with him at an early age. He was so much fun and I felt bad he always lived alone, so at one point I offered to live with him… as long as he understood that all I knew how to make was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. [Not a lot has changed for me in the kitchen.] Yes, I’m probably one of the few people who can say my first love was a priest, but I thought he was the best. And he was like family to us.

So, when he came back from a trip to Ireland [with a name like McCarty, where else would he go?] he brought us a real Irish shillelagh (a walking stick) that became a prop in many a singing production. Songs that went like:

“Sure ‘tis the same old shillelagh my father licked a dozen men; As fast as they got up, beggora, he’d knock ‘em down again; And many a times he used it on me to make me understand; Sure ‘tis the same old shillelagh me father brought from Ireland.”

Sweet, gentle, loving souls those Irish were. :) But it was a hit when we sang it for the nuns at the hog roasts, I tell you.

Ahh… the good old days. St. Patty’s Day just isn’t like it used to be when I was kid… you know, back when we walked to school, uphill both ways, in the snow, barefoot… Oh wait, maybe that was a little before my time.

It must be the Irish in me that got that going…

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lazy Days of Golf…

As I sat emailing people about making canvases… checking on colors and styles and sayings… I had a revelation.

I still have a blog to write!

Usually I try to write a post on Saturday so I know I have at least one ready for the week… just in case I have a day when I’m not up to writing (that’s about as non-procrastinating as I get). Then I start in a regular routine on Sunday of writing for Monday’s post. But even if I don’t get a Saturday post written, rarely am I sitting here at 7:30 on Sunday night needing to finish the blog so I can watch Desperate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters.

This girl has priorities. Rob Lowe being one of them.

But let’s be real: emailing and organizing canvases did not consume my entire weekend. A huge chunk of my time was taken up (wasted) because I was watching golf. You heard me: golf.

It’s Tiger’s fault, really. He came back to the game, and even when he’s not in fighting form he’s entertaining as all get-out to watch. And there’s just something about the game that is so soothing to me. The sun is almost always shining in their magical land of golf… the grass is always green, there are beautiful water (hazards) and beachy sand (traps). And the entire time in this little paradise, people whisper their opinions and play-by-plays in a way that nearly lulls me to sleep.

For a girl who has never played a round of golf in her entire life, I have a bit of an obsession with it anyway. Maybe I can appreciate the relaxing qualities because I’ve never experienced the aggravation of a missed putt or a drive landing in the rough. Or maybe it’s because I’ve only ever swung a golf club twice in my life, and the result was near perfection. The bug bit me, and I just quit while I was ahead.


Back in the summer of 1997, my whole family was home for the weekend to go to my cousin’s wedding. It was gorgeous August weather, and my brother Hoody and sister Janette had brought their clubs home in case they had time to hit the golf course. Instead, they got out their clubs to practice in the yard and instantly had a group of little people wanting a chance to show off their skills.


I, of course, was in charge of the camera and got some cute shots of what was starting to look like a golf clinic for munchkins. They may have needed some work, but dang they were cute.


At one point, after all the little ones were done with their lessons, I asked Hoody to show me how to swing. He gave me a basic rundown… hold the club like this; keep this arm straight; this arm bent; follow through; head down.

So I planted my feet, wiggled my tush and hit the ball straight, long and directly out into the cornfield.

My brother was annoyed.

“Do that again” was the instant response… muttering under his breath and mumbling, “Can’t do that twice” one or two times. He put the ball on the tee and I drove it straight out into the cornfield again.

I might have strutted a little bit just for good measure. And then I quit while I was at the top of my game. I had learned my lesson when we went bowling for gym class in high school. I had never bowled before, and when I picked up the ball and rolled it down the lane that first time, I got a strike. But it was all downhill after that!

The real reason I never golfed again was because I was already having pain issues and the swing was not kind to my back… but it was still fun knowing I could do it. I really should try to learn more of the rules of the game I enjoy watching so much, though. A few years back I did learn, when driving a beer cart for a golf tournament put on by my church, that there are courtesy rules. Like not driving the cart on the greens. And not yelling and waving hello to people you know.

The whispering announcers may be relaxing on television, but from past experience I could surely teach them how to liven up the game a bit. :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Canvases for Sale…

Well, it’s only taken 9 months of you all asking me if you can buy one of my canvases for me to start thinking that maybe you’re serious. I know, sometimes it takes me a little while to catch on…

But the day has come! My mom is going to be selling them through her business, Interior Designs. If you are interested in buying a canvas you can follow that link, or simply email me at gitzengirl@gmail.com and let me know what you would like to have made. I’ve set up a Flikr account with some canvas examples: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gitzengirl/ so you can see some sayings, designs and the basic colors you have to choose from.

We’re going to be taking this on an order-by-order basis simply because there are times when I’m not feeling well enough to be up painting. So if you are ordering for a gift that you need on a specific date, I’d appreciate it if you could give me as much lead time as possible to insure the canvas is made and shipped out to you on time. Payments will be required at the time of shipping.

Here are the basic details:

  • the canvas will be one of three sizes: 6x8, 7x9 or 8x10… you can either request a size or I’ll choose which one fits the saying you’d like to have made.
  • there are examples of sayings on the Flikr site, or you can request a saying of your choice to be made.
  • all canvases, regardless of size, will be a flat rate of $27.50. ($20 per canvas, $7.50 for tax, shipping and transaction fees)
  • payments will be made through PayPal, and charges to your credit card will appear as Interior Designs.

Well, I think that should about cover it! If you’ve already sent me an email inquiring about canvases, I emailed you about this last night… so if you haven’t heard from me it most likely means I missed your original one and need you to email me again. :)

<center><a href="http://gitzengirl.blogspot.com/2009/03/canvases-for-sale.html"><img src="http://lh4.ggpht.com/_PcbFetmC_PY/SbqrtMk9NLI/AAAAAAAAAG0/H_M7-QY1jPg/s200/logo.jpg" /></a></center>

This should be a fun little adventure… thanks for beating me over the head and pestering me about this, because I’m not sure I would have considered it if it wasn’t for all of your interest. You blog peeps are the best encouragers out there!

Oh, and don’t fear… I’ll still be doing my canvas giveaways on Wednesdays. That’s just too much fun to give up! :)

[EDIT: I’ve added a code underneath the logo for those of you who asked about putting a smaller button on your blog. Thanks for offering!]

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Burrower

Man, I can’t tell you guys enough how much I love getting up in the morning to see what you have to say each day. And not just because you’re all so crazy nice to me, but because you all show up with your whole hearts. I have the coolest blog peeps that way.

Now, the winner of yesterday’s canvas giveaway, according to random.org, is:

Amanda: Yet another wonderful perspective, and another great quote (one I hadn't heard before). Know that you are making a difference, serving Him, and DEFINITELY making the most of the life you have. I am SO glad I found your blog (and love Hump Day Giveaway Wednesdays!) Take care.

Congratulations! Email me at gitzengirl@gmail.com with your mailing address and I’ll get your canvas shipped off to you!

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All of you who read the comments regularly know RobinRane… she’s one of the original regulars around here. Her daughter Stephanie had to have an emergency c-section and gave birth to a beautiful little girl, Elliot, on Tuesday. Ellie is a month early, but is only 4lbs. 2oz., and Stephanie has a condition called HELLP (weird acronym, I know) that has been affecting her liver, kidney and lungs. They both seem to be taking turns for the better, but it’s been a long couple of days for their family.

Robin has pictures of the most precious little peanut with TONS of hair up on her blog, and I thought some of you regular readers who know her might want to go see her first grandchild. A gorgeous little granddaughter, at that. And some extra prayers for Stephanie and Elliot sure couldn’t hurt. :)

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The following shots are of Riley, burrowing behind the blanket that’s tossed over the back of my desk chair… while snuggled on the pillow that rests against my low back. This is the position you can find him in almost anytime I’m sitting at the computer. He actually likes it when I lean back against him so he’s burrowed as much as physically possible. He’s so weird.

We have that weird thing in common, because I’ve been known to turn a fan on just so I can be cool enough to snuggle under blankets. And you know how they say that after years of being together, the dog starts to look like its owner, and vice versa?





I’m pretty sure if this pup could figure out how to hold a camera and turn it on me, this is exactly what I would have looked like all week. Well, the messed up hair, under a blanket, yawning part. I haven’t got that level of cuteness down yet.

Give us another 10 years and I’ll let you know if I get cuter or if he starts walking slower. Then we’ll know who really has the power.

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Side note: Tomorrow’s post may be of interest…

to some of you...

…who have been asking me a question repeatedly.

[It’s about canvases.]

But that’s all I’m saying...

…until tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

HDG: Choices

hump day

“God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with Him.”                                                                  - Jim Elliot

I’m going to touch on a topic today that I’m always a bit leery of addressing. I’m leery for a couple of reasons. One is because I’m not an expert on religion or the bible and have no interest in telling people what they should believe. The second is because I don’t like being judged, and this is a topic that I have been judged on in the past.

It’s about healing.

I think because I’m pretty matter-of-fact about my life, and because I seem quick to accept my fate, it gives the impression that I don’t think miracles can happen. And that’s not true. I believe in miracles, I believe in healing, I believe in a God that is so much bigger than I can imagine Him to be that anything is possible. I also believe that sometimes healing must not be what He needs for us, or it would happen to everyone.

Because God is so big, so out-of-the-box for me, I have no interest in making my life into something that wouldn’t serve Him. I have had people tell me that if I had more faith I would be healed. I’ve had people tell me that if I just don’t talk about being sick and move forward in faith as though I will be well, then healing will come from my faithfulness. I’ve had people tell me that I haven’t been healed because I haven’t told God to do it… being timid gets you nowhere and  declaring what I want will prove to God that I truly believe.

If those things are true… if that’s how it actually does work… then I guess I’m totally missing the boat. But none of those things, to me, feels right. I remember a religion class when I was in 3rd grade and we were learning about faith… how it is believing in that which we cannot see. We were talking about how God can do anything, but that we aren’t supposed to ask for proof, that we aren’t supposed to test God in that way. We are supposed to talk to Him, tell him our fears, our wants, our joys; but if we look at Him and say, “If you make such-and-such happen then I will believe in you,” that’s not faith… that’s Thomas asking to touch the holes in his hands.

For me, I tell God what I think would be lovely for my life… but I also tell Him that I am fully open to whatever He needs from me. I would love to wake up and never have pain again. I would love to open my windows and sit on my patio or go for a walk or swim in a lake. But I don’t want those things if they don’t serve Him. It’s really that simple. I know some people think that means I don’t want it badly enough. If it comes at the expense of fulfilling a purpose He may have for me, that’s probably true.

I had people from my church who thought I should go to Medjagory for healing. I believe miracles happen there. And I believe there are people who go with the purest of hearts and the most genuine intentions, who are not healed. I don’t think it’s about who puts their faith on the line better, I think it’s about fulfilling a mission. Some are healed because that miracle will spur some on to faith. Some are not healed because that suffering will help others in some way. I’m not big enough to know which should be true for me. I trust God to make that decision. I am open to either option and I believe if healing is meant for me, He’ll make that happen.

But in the interim, I’m not wasting a moment of what is by waiting for what could be. Well, I may waste a moment here or there… I am human after all and disappointment doesn’t escape me just because I know better. But I’m leaving the choice with Him. Right now I have a lot of pain, I have a lot of limitations, and I can’t go outside without suffering the consequences. That’s my reality.

If He chooses to change that reality tomorrow I will embrace it without question, just as I am going to deal with what is in front of me right now without question. It’s ok if you think I’m wrong to approach it this way. It’s wonderful if you took a different approach and experienced healing. All I know is that I’ve talked about this with God at length, and this is what I find to be peaceful in my heart. It’s working for me, this decision to leave the choice with Him. It may not look like it’s working out all that well physically, but it’s working out well for my spirit.


To win today’s canvas, leave a comment before midnight CST. No specific questions for you to answer today… just any old comment will do. :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Blog Peep Questions: Round 1

blog peeps logo

Hey there, Blog Peeps :)

Take one cute little Katie Pertiet-designed bird from my digital scrapbooking stash, partner it with some of your comment questions, and we suddenly have a fun little theme day on our hands!

Today I decided to take a bunch of random questions you’ve asked and answer with the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t blame me if it’s ridiculous… you all made up the questions… ;)

What is your favorite breakfast cereal?
One word: Sugar. I’m not a healthy cereal girl. The thought of Raisin Bran makes me gag. When my brother Jerry used to eat Grape Nuts I would have to leave the kitchen because I couldn’t stand the smell. Once I thought I would try Shredded Wheat to be healthier, and I ended up with the Frosted Mini-Wheats and then put sugar on them.

My all-time favorite is probably Lucky Charms. They really are magically delicious. I LOVE me some Captain Crunch but it inevitably tears up the roof of my mouth and I end up regretting having eaten it. And Honeycombs… oh, how I love Honeycombs. Those are best without milk, though… I could sit and eat Honeycombs out of the box like a normal person would eat chips out of a bag.

Chocolate or Vanilla?
In almost every instance I would say chocolate (especially when it comes to ice cream)… but not for cake. I’m a bit contradictory because my mom makes the best homemade chocolate cake you’ve ever tasted in your life. And I make a mean microwave chocolate volcano cake that is de.lic.ious. BUT, a white wedding cake with white frosting? Or white cupcakes? There’s just no contest.

Would you consider getting another puppy?
Grrrrrr…. (That was Riley’s response to that question.) Ironically, my brother Hoody’s family is getting a new puppy very soon. I’ve been getting photo updates of their Cockapoo, Ozzy, and he is so adorable he almost looks edible. And I would take another one in a heartbeat. There are a couple problems with that scenario, however:

  1. Riley would kill it. I wish I was exaggerating, but my little love of a dog is J to the E to the A to the L to the O to the U to the S. My friend Candace’s dog Martini is the only dog Riley likes, and even Martini has a limited lifespan on Riley’s tolerance meter.
  2. Dogs are expensive. Food, litter, vet bills and … if you are Riley … monthly medication expenses for his antidepressants.
  3. If we were able to remove the Riley-killing-it factor, the truth is we’d have to double his antidepressants because he wouldn’t know how to deal with the knowledge that he’s not the center of the universe. I think it’s best to just let him enjoy being king.

riley 2

Oprah or Ellen?
ooohhh…. that’s a good one. I have a fondness for Oprah mainly because my sister Janette and I had a Christmas that was unintentionally Oprah crazy. You know how Oprah has an “O” list in her magazine of her favorite things? Well, for a few years Janette’s Christmas gifts to me were created from her “J” list of her favorite things that year. It was so much fun. So she made her “J” list for me, and I got her Oprah’s 20th anniversary dvd’s with a lounging outfit to watch them in, and we both got each other Oprah’s Live Your Best Life books. We so should have gotten on her show for that.


But as much as all that is great, I would have to choose Ellen. I dvr both shows, but no matter what the topic or guest, Ellen puts me in the right mood for the day. And if I could get up and dance at the start of her show, you can bet I would. And that’s not even taking into consideration blindfolded musical chairs. Seriously.

Ok, so how did you like Blog Peep Question day? I think I’m liking it. If you do too, leave me any question at any time and I’ll keep throwing them in the mix! Now, I have to cut this short because I still haven’t made a canvas for tomorrow’s Hump Day Giveaway, and I don’t think you all want to keep me from that…

Monday, March 9, 2009

I Got The Homebound Blues…

Well, it’s official.

It appears that I’m now taking homebound to a whole new level. Or at least a level I was hoping to avoid. Permanent. An all encompassing, windows-and-doors-shut, not-sitting-in-the-sunlight or breathing-outside-air-again kind of permanently homebound.

It sounds dramatic, I know… like I should be joking and then coming around to my real point. But nope, what you see is what you get with this one, blog peeps. Homebound it is.

For those of you who are new to the gitzengirl blog, you may have missed out on some quirky revelations last summer. The revelation that my body had taken rejection to an extreme, and I was having allergic reactions to the outside air. The kind of reaction where I can’t breathe, I’m nauseous, my ears and throat burn, my eyes feel bruised and my skin itches.

But other than those little side effects, sitting outside in the warmth and sunshine was pure bliss. :)

I was hoping it was a temporary thing. We had flooding in the area this past summer and I was thinking that, once the deep freeze of winter hit, whatever was affecting me would be killed off. And it was, as long as everything stayed frozen. I was opening my window and turning on the fireplace when it was 20* outside and enjoying the crisp, fresh air.

But on Friday I had an appointment with my rheumatologist. The sun was shining, the temperatures in the 50’s and I was so ready to not only leave the house (something I hadn’t done since my last doctor appointment in July), but also try out the fresh air and the beautiful day. As it turns out, I’m still allergic to the outside world.

In all honesty, I’m wavering between intense disappointment and not being surprised at all. It’s been my experience that once I lose an ability I don’t usually get it back. Once I start reacting to something, it only gets more intense, not better. But still, I was hoping.

The doctor appointment was pretty routine. The nurses were thrilled about the beautiful warm day and I burst their bubble by letting them know it wasn’t going to last… I was in enough pain and feeling dizzy enough to know the weather was changing. In true Iowa fashion we had rain on Friday night and all day Saturday, and Sunday brought big flakes of snow. The constant change of temperature and weather conditions matched my constantly changing mental outlook as well.

I find it so much easier to skip over the drama and just accept what is… but sometimes, when I feel so sick from the allergic reactions and my body feels so badly from the disease, I find the drama sits in my heart a bit more. How lucky I am that the pup doesn’t mind laying on the couch watching a Harry Potter marathon on cable all weekend and pretending reality doesn’t exist. Tomorrow I’ll buck up and take it like a woman and all will be well.

riley border

For now, I’m going to cuddle with the dog and pretend like I still believe in magic.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Flashback Friday: Singing Days

Cards on the table: I got a little behind today and don’t have anything fantastic ready for a Flashback Friday. So I’m showing you a canvas AND playing you a song to make up for it. :)

His Eye Is On The Sparrow is one of my all-time favorite songs to sing. There’s something so comforting about it, and when I used to sing it I would invariably feel like something inside of me was broken open and released. I appreciate it so much, actually, that one of the first canvases I made has part of the song written out... it hangs in my bedroom as a little daily reminder that I’m never alone in all of this craziness.

So here is a recording of me singing His Eye Is On The Sparrow… I hope you enjoy this today, and know that you’re never alone in your craziness, either.

02 His Eye Is On The Sparrow  by  gitzengirl

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A New Use for the Pantry

Wow, blog peeps. I ask a question and you all show up with transparent hearts. You never cease to amaze me. It was so hard not to write back to each one of you yesterday, but entering myself repeatedly in my own contest seemed like the wrong thing to do. :) I want you to know that I went back and read them more than once and really had you all on my mind yesterday.

Last week when my faith sharing group met at my house, my friend Leslie had us all write down a worry and pass it to the person next to us. The thinking behind it was that we could let it go and give it to someone else to think about for us. That’s not what I intended to do yesterday, but I think that’s what happened as we all did that for each other in the comments.

And that’s why, when Random.org picked number 7 my jaw HIT THE FLOOR! The winner of the canvas is:

LESLIE [house on ranchero]: This is one of my favorite blogs!!! You have touched so many people with this specific one. I am so glad you have given all of us a very concrete way to break up our worries. Just sharing our worries with a friend breaks them up into more manageable pebbles. We all just need a good pair of shoes to walk thru the path of pebbles!! (See, I tell Bill this all the time when I buy a new pair of shoes.....IT'S ALL ABOUT THE SHOES!!) 

Congratulations!!! You can just get your canvas at the next faith sharing! :)

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I have had so many questions about the canvases that I paint and how I got started doing them [at least half of those questions were from Anita], so I got out my fancy-schmancy camera and took a few photos to show you!

There’s a couple of reasons I started making them. First, I’ve always liked playing around with scripting… changing my handwriting and making it decorative. My Aunt Mary got me a Crayola marker calligraphy kit one year for Christmas when I was little, and after that I was obsessed.

But the painting really started because there were so many other activities I used to keep myself busy with, which I no longer can do. One of my favorite hobbies was scrapbooking, but it became difficult to work on a page that included a lot of cutting and intricate work. I eventually switched to digital scrapbooking, which I really enjoy, but it still left me not working with my hands. And I missed that part.

I tried different things like crocheting, but doing that for five minutes would leave the joints in my hands crippled for days. And after I started doodling on my wall, I realized I could do the same thing on a canvas. It was really perfect because I have to take long breaks while waiting for the paint to dry, so I don’t overdo physically, and it gave me the opportunity to still do something with my hands.

This is the first canvas I did, which was really large, as a way to have all of my nieces’ and nephews’ photos up without having more picture frames sitting all over the place:


And after that, I was hooked.


As you can see, I’m really quite high tech about it all [did I just hear you laughing?]. That’s a photo of my dining room table with the canvases laid out, ready to be painted. And that black garbage bag underneath them is my high-tech drop cloth. :)


And this… this is my pantry. My mom finds it funny how I manage to have an art closet in this tiny condo, but I’ve definitely learned to utilize space. I use paint colors that match my house and have accumulated a few other colors along the way, which makes playing around with them a little more fun.


As you can see, I’ll grab anything from canning jars to water bottles to store paint in… my friends and family are starting to realize that paint and canvases are about the most exciting gift to give me. I’m easy to please. :)


For the record, the Hershey’s chocolate container doesn’t contain chocolate… just odds and ends that I want to try adding to the canvases. But I do get a little chocolate craving every time I look at it…


This is where I store the canvases I have made. All of those have been shipped out to Hump Day Giveaway winners, though, so it’s time to get on the ball and start making a few more.


And these are my essentials. I recently got some art brushes for Valentine’s Day, but as you can see, I’ll use anything that I think might make a nice effect… including that blush brush and eye shadow applicator that’s in the mix. Never let it be said I let anything go to waste!


In case you think I try to be glamorous… this is my painting outfit.  Crocs, sweatpants and the shirt I stole from Dad’s closet when I was in college and the grunge look was in. [Sorry, Dad. And sorry to everyone who I inflicted my grunge look on. I’m totally aware it didn’t work for me.]


And finally, the cute little step stool my friend Susie and her dad made for me. It was originally a plant stand that I needed in front of a low window, but since I no longer have a low window and it’s a rare feat for a plant to survive my presence [for a farmer’s daughter, I don’t have a green thumb], it’s now a step stool. And it comes in very handy when I’m having pain in my leg or hips and need to offset how I’m standing. Susie’s dad passed away a few years ago and it’s nice to have a little piece of him in my home.

Now, for all of you who have commented/emailed/asked about canvases and if they’re for sale…

We’ll talk about that soon. :)