Friday, February 27, 2009

Flashback Friday: It’s Not Just the Meat

You all know by now that the one consistent thing about my blog is that I don’t seem to have a filter. Which means I often tell you the most ridiculous, idiotic things about myself.

Today will be no exception.

First of all, it wasn’t until quite late in life that I realized Lenten obligations was a Catholic thing. I was in college before I realized that not all Christians prayed the rosary. In other words, I may have lived a bit of a sheltered life. But Lent was such a big deal in our lives growing up, and since I went to a Catholic school and most (if not all) of my friends were Catholic… it just never really occurred to me that it didn’t hold the same requirements in all Christian denominations.

When I was little the thing I remember most about Lent wasn’t necessarily what we gave up (candy, gum, pop, etc.), it was more about the way we would eat. On Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent there was no eating meat and no eating in between meals. And when you’re a kid and eating supper, thinking about not eating again until breakfast seemed like the most insane notion in the world.

We were a family that had snacks in the evening… ice cream or popcorn or something… so dinner time turned into extended sessions as we all took just one more helping of this or one more helping of that. The rule was that once you left the table you were done, so it was often the dilemma of deciding to go in the other room to watch Dallas and Falcon Crest… or show of all shows, Knots Landing… or stay at the table for one more helping of tuna casserole to tide us over for the rest of the night.

We maybe needed a refresher course about the starving children in Africa, but at the time we saw it as a huge sacrifice.

Not eating meat wasn’t as difficult because we happened to love salmon patties and tuna casserole and creamed asparagus over toast. No, not eating meat was only a problem when I wasn’t sure what meat was.

There was one Friday in Lent when my brother Jerry and I were in town and stopped by McDonald’s for supper. He reminded me it was Friday and that we couldn’t eat meat, we went inside, ordered and went to the car with our bags of food. He pulled out his fish sandwich and looked at me funny when I pulled out my chicken sandwich.

I told you it’s Friday and not to order meat,” he scolded.

“I didn’t!” I exclaimed. “I ordered chicken!”


[This obviously would be another one of those idiot moments… I swear to God I’ve never been blonde. Although at least then I’d have an excuse…]

I choked down the chicken sandwich and worried the rest of the night about the “meat” now sitting in my stomach. A few extra Our Father’s and Hail Mary’s were inevitably said that night… I was a kid that did not suffer guilt lightly.

The great thing about our household is that we didn’t follow rules without knowing why. Mom and Dad were good at talking to us about how we should decide what to do for Lent. We understood that we needed to give up something that wouldn’t be easy, that would be an actual sacrifice, so that we could keep ourselves more mindful of the sacrifices Jesus made for us. A little rumble in our bellies was a good way to bring our focus back to the reason it was rumbling… giving up ice cream or chocolate wasn’t just something we all compared notes about at school, it was something that reminded us every time we reached for it and pulled our hands back that our sacrifice was small compared to His.

As I got older, the things that were given up for Lent were more to bring focus on ways to better myself… things that could be let go of and not picked back up after 40 days was the intention… ways to better my life and keep me on course for better living. And some years it wasn’t about giving up, but rather doing something… or both. There were years I joined a bible study or helped in the kitchen at the Catholic Worker House or became more dedicated to praying the rosary every night. Some of those habits I still continue and some fell by the wayside, but every Lenten season is a chance to more purposefully recognize the suffering on the cross and the ways our own lives could be changed to be more reflective of Jesus.

This year I’m not giving anything up, but there are things I want to work on that I have had a hard time committing to up to this point. For my physical self: physical therapy. For my spiritual self: scheduled, set-aside time with specific prayer for others rather than just random moments. For service: ways I plan to be more present to others who may need encouragement.

This year I’m making it about doing, becoming and reaching out. I know (now) that a Lenten sacrifice isn’t an obligation for everyone, but if any of you want to make a commitment of your own until Easter, leave your comment with your intentions and I’ll put you on my list to pray for.

And remember, it’s Friday. NO CHICKEN.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I Love Jesus, But I Drink A Little

And the winner, according to, is: [insert drumroll here]

Brandi!!! (brandiandboys): i LOVE this one!!! you're just getting better and better. what's your favorite ice cream???

To answer your question: my all-time favorite ice cream would be Blue Bunny Goo Goo Cluster, which is chocolate ice cream with a marshmallow ribbon, chocolate covered peanuts and caramel revel. I haven’t had it in years and now I’m craving it! :)


***** ***** *****

I was reading back through the questions I’ve been keeping track of, and so many people email to ask me how I stay happy being confined to the house all day. I have covered so many of the reasons that I have to be happy and choose joy in the little things, but one that I haven’t talked about is the fact that I watch Ellen all the time.

I swear, people, that show is so fantastically funny. I love it so much I actually tried to convince Susie to have the kids play blindfolded musical chairs at Jonboy’s upcoming birthday party… but she nixed the idea for safety reasons.

But no matter how many guest she has on or how many ridiculous games she plays… no clip has ever been funnier than 88-year-old Gladys and her first phone conversation with Ellen. Because I’m telling you peeps, when I’m 88 I’m still going to love Jesus, and I’m still going to drink a little, too.

Just as a side note, growing up we had good friends of our family by the names of Orville and Gladys. And Gladys’ daughter nicknamed her “Happy Butt.” Think about her name and the nickname for a minute. Trust me, you’ll laugh.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

HDG: Being Reduced

hump day

You all have heard me talk about my friend Susie here on the blog quite a bit. She even goes crazy and comments every now and again, and she posed a great question when I had given you all free reign to ask me any question you could think of. This was hers: I can, and have, pretty much asked you anything I'm wondering about, but there's always something that I wonder (worry) about when we get off the phone. When we talk and I complain about the 'little' things in my life OR, in contrast, when I talk about the wonderful day I may have had, do you get at all irritated? - be honest! Because I get off the phone or the computer and think - Oh my goodness, Sara would probably love to have MY problems. OR I think - I just rambled on about all the fun things I did today - why didn't I just keep my mouth shut. I know you 'say' that you want to hear all about my life and my boys and you always say that you live vicariously through me, but I'm always afraid that when I tell you these things I hurt you a little... it's so hard because I want to share EVERYTHING with you - but the last thing I want to do is hurt you. Remember - be honest - I won't be offended.
Love ya lots. Suz

Yep, that’s my Suzaluza… just one more example of why I am constantly telling you all that I have such amazing friendships. It’s truly a gift because we are all so much more concerned about each other than we are ourselves… and I’ve come to realize that it’s the key to a good relationship. If both parties always care more about the other person than themselves, everyone will always be taken care of with love and compassion.

It’s why I fight so darn hard to stay independent… I could never imagine leaving here and being without this family that I chose to create in my friends.

Regarding her question: I can only answer it for myself. I would imagine people with illness and restrictions all react differently when other people’s lives can remind them of their own loss. But for me, #4 on my list of life goals says: To love what I have and not yearn for what I lack. That goal, that decision I came to, is one of the reasons why I am never hurt by hearing about Susie’s day, or anyone else’s. They don’t make me yearn for what I don’t have, but instead I love what I do have through them.

The other reason is because, while I may be physically different, I am emotionally the same person. And nothing in life makes me happier than when other people are happy. And nothing will stop me in my tracks faster than someone who needs my ear to listen. If everyone stopped telling me their happy moments… I wouldn’t have that joy in my life. I truly and sincerely live vicariously through each and every success, joy, piece of gossip, and video of their kid’s concert that they bring into my world. Just ask my parents… when I talk to them on the phone and they ask how things are going, I regale them with stories of my friends and their kids and their lives. Because sharing in what is happening with them is what is going on with me.

Megan, my friend Kelly’s daughter, used to call me and play her piano recital pieces over the phone. I would answer, the piano would start and I’d sit and listen for as long as she played, and then tell her how amazing she was. When she did that, I got to be a part of something outside of my life. When Suz tells me about the hectic morning they had [they always have hectic mornings :)] or tells me funny stories about her day with the kids… she makes me a part of her life.

I can be changed by what happens to me. I refuse to be reduced by it.                                               ~Maya Angelou

And my friends, by complaining when they stub their toe, or telling me about the fun night they had going out to dinner together… they let me know they wish I was there. They make me feel like me. The same person I was to them before I was sick. The one who listened and gave them advice and laughed with them and cried with them. If anything was held back, they would be holding me back… and then I would be reduced by what has happened to me. Of course I long to be with them in all of those moments, but feeling like I was with them is the next best thing.

I’m not bothered when someone gets a paper cut and complains about the pain. Paper cuts hurt. Friendships are not competition, and the levels of pain don’t matter. Pain is pain. Struggle is struggle. Joy is joy. And getting to participate in lives that can be lived in ways mine never will … that fills me up, gives me purpose, gives me reasons to celebrate and reasons to console. By letting me fully be a part of all of their life, they help keep mine from being reduced.

[Suz, your life is important and precious. And I wouldn’t want to miss a moment of it.]


To win this canvas, you’ll need to leave a comment before midnight CST today. And since it worked so well to have a question to answer for today’s post, your comment has to contain a question for me… silly, serious, random, personal, ridiculous… it doesn’t matter.

Only one comment per person, please… and I’ll let you know the winner tomorrow! :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Camera Shy?

The blog mascot and I were hanging out on the couch the other night watching LOST for the second time, because I like to make sure I haven’t missed any important little subliminal messages they leave throughout the episodes. Needless to say, the second time around Mr. Riley got a little bored.

_MG_4755 “If she hasn’t figured out by now that this show is never going to give definitive answers, she’s a lost cause. Pun intended.”

_MG_4757 “Oh, good Lord, woman. Is it really necessary to whip out that camera every time you are the least bit bored with your life? I’m not just here for your amusement, you know.”

_MG_4759 “Although, I might like a little attention every now and then. And let’s face it, the peeps from the blog come here for me, not you.”

_MG_4767 “Never let it be said I don’t give the people what they want…”

[note from the author: take one look at the smile in that last picture and tell me he wouldn’t be the alpha dog at your house, too…]

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Voldemort of Illnesses

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.                                                 -Proverbs 27:1

I started laughing when I read this passage.

I had talked to my friend Kathy on the phone the other night and we spoke in our usual, very careful, code that allows us to talk of something without boasting… or even so much as letting the word escape our lips.


It’s my own personal Voldemort – the illness that must not be named.

She said, in her subtle yet knowing tone: “Uhmm… it’s almost the end of February. You know? Don’t say it. But, you know?”

Yes,” I replied, as I heard her knock on wood and I tried to remember if the salt should be thrown over my right shoulder or my left, “never seeing human beings is really paying off.”

Because I’m not actually superstitious, I feel like it’s safe to tell you all that this is the first winter since 2003 I haven’t either been in the hospital or had home nursing come to my house because of pneumonia. It’s the first time I’ve gone a full year without getting that major illness.

I haven’t had to spend a week in the hospital. I haven’t had to have nurses coming in and out of my house every day. I haven’t had to worry about infected picc lines and breathing treatments. And, above all else, I haven’t had to have rosephin and steroid shots in my hips for 14 consecutive days. And, believe me, my hips are thanking me for it.

That great result hasn’t come without some very diligent sacrifice. I stopped trying to travel home, which was beneficial from a pain standpoint, but also because the strain of it wore my body down too much. I’m certain not going out in public helped from a germ standpoint, but that was an unintentional side effect of not being able to breathe the outside air, I’m afraid. But the hardest part: my friends have had to stay away. A lot.

I have gone months at a time when the only human beings I came in contact with were Dawn, who cleans my house, Linda, who gets my groceries, and Ron, who delivers my prescriptions. Winter is tough around here with colds and viruses and flu bugs… and the plain and simple truth is that someone could walk in here with an ear infection and I can get pneumonia. So when my friends are healthy, I am the happiest woman on the planet. Suz was just able to visit last week for the first time in ages… her cough seemed to hold on forever. And my friend Jenny and I have decided to stop trying to plan a lunch date because, inevitably, the day before she’ll get a cold. A cold that doesn’t lay her out in bed or stop her life, but one that would end up doing that to mine.

So, after I hung up with Kathy the other night I sat down to check some blogs and got on Twitter to chat with a few people, and it occurred to me that this technology, to me, is the same as when people have children. At some point they sit back and say, “What did we ever do before these people came into our lives and kept us so busy? We must have been so boring…”

I sat there and thought, what would I have done all last summer and this winter when I became so confined? Life would have been so boring. So tedious. So lonely. But I get to come here every day and read your comments, which mean more than you know. I read your blogs and have conversations with total strangers who have become dear friends.

I have never had a year where I’ve been more isolated, and it happened to be the year that I’ve met the most amazing people. Thanks so much for keeping me sane, peeps… my life must have been so boring before you came along!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Flashback Friday: It’s a Yahweh Chewyday

This is a pre-post warning: You all may not be able to handle the cuteness. Seriously… don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I’ve told you all many times that I have the cutest nieces and nephews on the planet… and I’m sure some of you have rolled your eyes thinking that I’m biased or something.

Let me assure you, I’m not. I know cute when I see it. And now you can see it, too.

IMG_0859 lc

My nephew Christian, who is also my godson, is Cute with a capital C. He’s also pretty darn animated with a spunky personality. And he’s also been pretty darn obsessed with the Catholic church since the moment he came out of the womb.

We all thought it was so cute that his favorite toy when he was little was a rosary, which he referred to in his little boy language as a Yahweh Chewyday. He could tell you which church was a Catholic Church, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist… while you were driving by in the car. Kind of like a built-in tour guide of religions.

This is a video I shot of him when we were home in May of 2003. It’s in two sections… one where he tells you about his Yahweh Chewyday, and another where I caught him walking around the yard processing while singing his own church hymn. You can hear him as he’s on the basketball court at one point singing “Christ, Our Lord!” [and I apologize in advance for the annoying commentary by me; apparently my voice is WAY over animated when talking to children]:

christian rosary from gitzengirl on Vimeo.

We’ve all experienced many a church service in the living room presided over by Christian (or as he sometimes referred to himself: Pope Christian), and my favorite parts were always the homilies. Especially the ones where he told us what God was thinking about his siblings that day. Very insightful.

The best story is one my mom told me a few years back… they were visiting Christian’s house around the time when Pope John Paul II had passed away. Mom walked into the living room and Christian was laying on the floor with a coat draped over him, being as still as a church mouse. Mom asked what he was doing, and he replied in a monotone voice:

I’m the Pope. I’m dead.”

But of course! How could she have missed the news?!?!?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Speaking of Haircuts…

_MG_4806 “Uhm… excuse me, Miss Wanna-Be-Dog-Whisperer?”

_MG_4808 “I know I let you think you have the power sometimes so you feel a little more ‘Alpha Dog-ish’ but I think I’m going to have to lay down the law here. I’m only 5 years old, for heaven’s sake. This beard I seem to be growing is what we canines like to call ‘premature aging’.”

_MG_4731 “I don’t think I need to remind you about the bad hair day I had a few weeks ago, do I? Seriously. CUT. MY. HAIR.”

_MG_4835 ***** Fast Forward Forty-Five Minutes *****

_MG_4972 “Ahhh… see, now this is what I’m talking about. You get much less frazzled when I look cute while I’m being ornery. Trust me, this was as much for you as it was for me.”

_MG_4964“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do… these canvas winner names don’t get drawn all by themselves, you know. Don’t worry, we can pretend you’re the alpha-human around here as soon as I make this announcement…”

The winner of yesterday’s canvas is:

STEPHANIE: Snuggle time with Dylan.

Congratulations! Email me at with your mailing address and I’ll get your canvas sent to you! :)

Thanks for playing along everyone… I loved reading every one of your comments yesterday. You all have such precious moments to savor and I learned something from each and every one of you.

And in case you’re curious… I cut a good three inches off my hair yesterday and am pleased to tell you that it happened before I took my meds, so I was alert and aware of every cut. It’s so much less stressful waking up in the morning when I REMEMBER the reason my hair is shorter! :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

HDG: Can I Borrow a Scissors?

[Total side note: my godson Tyler called last Wednesday after Susie showed him the photo on the blog, and he whispered into the phone: “Pssst… is Hump-Yay Giveaway!” Cutest mispronunciation ever… Love that kid. Ok, now back to the task at hand…]

hump day

I need a haircut.

Really, I don’t think my hair has ever been this long in my life… not that anyone would ever know since I always have it in a ponytail or a messy bun. But the ends need trimmed and the layers need shaped up and the length needs to be shortened.

And now that the thought has popped into my head, I know I need to cut it tonight… because the last time I had the urge to cut my hair and didn’t follow through I took my Ambien and woke up the next morning with a good five inches cut off my hair and no memory of having done it.

One of the hazards of the Ambien haze.

I’ve been cutting my own hair for quite a few years now… just another one of those things you don’t consider until you’re homebound. Going to a salon where they bring you a glass of wine and massage your scalp while they cut your hair was so relaxing… it almost makes my eyes go heavy just thinking about it.

But now, leaning my head back with my neck on that shampoo bowl sounds like torture. And sitting still in a chair while someone takes their time to try and tame my curls isn’t such a relaxing prospect. The car ride to the salon over bumpy, potholed streets is enough to make me want to stay home in and of itself.

This totally isn’t a complaint… just one of those weird facts of life that I never considered before I got sick. Not unlike the recent challenge of maneuvering my crutches and my laptop while trying to sit in another room and type. Everything in life requires thought and planning in order to make it work, so when a moment in my day works with ease I’ve learned to stop and really savor it… like a little moment that was crafted and gifted especially for me.

So today’s question for the Hump Day Giveaway Drawing is: What little everyday moment in your life are you going to stop and savor today?


Leave your thoughts in the comment section (only one, please) before midnight CST, and I’ll let you know the winner of the canvas tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hopelessly Devoted…

At the beginning of this year I took the one little word challenge… deciding to concentrate on a word to keep me focused throughout the year rather than a resolution I would inevitably break within the first week. I chose the word “devotion” and so far it has proven itself to be a good fit for me.

In some areas.

When I thought of the word, I was focusing on things that included my spiritual growth and relationships. I ended up ordering a chronological bible that separates into 365 daily readings to keep me on track, and I’m happy to report that so far so good… I’ve been doing my daily readings and assume by the end of the year I will have the bible completely read. If that has ever been a goal of yours, and you’re like me and need someone else to tell you how to achieve it, I would absolutely recommend this version to follow along.

As far as relationships… the fact that I still need to write thank you notes from Christmas might mean I’m failing in that department. But I also realize devotion has to be tempered with what I am able to do physically, so I’m hoping thank you notes three months late will still be just as fun to get. :)

The problem with having one word keeping me focused every day is that it brings up issues I’d never considered. Having a word like devotion can be applied to so many areas of life, and it can even be applied to areas I would just as soon ignore.

Physical therapy, for example.

I used to be so devoted to it. Whether I was feeling good or not, with the exception of pneumonia or a migraine, I did a routine. I might alter it here or there if the pain was too much, but I at least gave it the old college try. And then somewhere along the line I realized I wasn’t in college anymore and the idea of trying started feeling awfully tedious.

“When a man is sufficiently motivated, discipline will take care of itself.” 
                                               ~ Sir Alexander Paterson

Now, you would think I would be properly motivated to do stretches and strengthening. Something as simple as wanting to be able to move and function should really be enough. Back in the day, when I thought there was no way I would ever slack on this, the therapy caused pain… but I am coming to realize that pain doesn’t seem to have limits. Neither does loss of mobility and energy, because all of the above seem to be increasing rather than reaching their limits.

But in the last six months or so I seem to have reached mine.

Now my thinking is:
Reaching down to pick up Riley’s water bowl: physical therapy.
Climbing into bed: physical therapy.
Climbing out of bed: physical therapy.
Throwing Riley’s toy: definitely physical therapy.


The only problem is that my doctor may disagree with me. And the idea that I could lose mobility because of my own lack of devotion is infuriating. But the reality that I’m going to lose that mobility either way, as has been proven over the last few years, is discouraging.

All of this is to say: be careful what word you pick to keep you on track throughout the year. It may reveal things to you that you’d rather have left alone.

Take it from me and the exercise ball I’m about to inflate.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My Funny Valentines

Silly me.

Here I was last week thinking I didn’t have a Valentine, only to find out that I had sixteen little Valentines thinking about me. My friend Deb’s 1st and 2nd grade class had made me special notes and gifts on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it never occurred to me to expect something on Valentine’s Day. And not expecting it made it so much more fun.


Isn’t that the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen? I did some rearranging on my fridge and now the handprints of my class are front and center for me to admire every day. The note on the top says: “Let us hold your heart in our hands. This is where your heart needs to be. Our love for you will always be true. You are part of our class family.”

Yeah, it pretty much made me melt, too.


The students have been working on learning how to write poems and, let me tell you, I think they did a phenomenal job. They each made me individual valentines with original poems, and a few even included Riley in the process: “This little puppy is so sweet. His name is Riley and he asks for a treat.” Now that’s dedication to detail!

Another said: “This puppy of mine is great and kind. He gives you kisses, a lot at a time.” Good, right? I’m pretty darn impressed with the little stinkers. I hope they’re having fun doing these projects, because they absolutely mean the world to me. I have been so blessed to have such great friends like Deb who think of things like this to do for me, but to have that extend out to such sweet little kids is above and beyond.

The fact that they threw in some chocolate didn’t hurt, either. :)

This last photo is just so you all don’t think I’m exaggerating when I tell you that Riley tries to get in every photo I take:


This photo can be summed up by the line: “his name is Riley and he asks for a treat.” Yep, they knew what they were talking about in that poem.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Flashback Friday: And They Danced

I was trying to think of something to write about today that would both fulfill the Flashback Friday theme and somehow tie in Valentine's Day. And I drew a blank... seriously, not one thing was coming to my mind. Being the single girl I am it's not like I have big plans to fill you in on, and it's not like I could flashback to the day I was swept off my feet since my feet are still planted firmly on the ground.

And then I remembered the second post I published on this blog, one that speaks to love more clearly than anything else I know. So here is a repost on this Valentine's Flashback Friday... hope you enjoy:

sara dad dancing
Me and Dad dancing at my sister's wedding, 2003 

The kitchen, as in most homes, has always been the gathering place for my family. Some credit it to the smells of food wafting through the air, beckoning anyone and everyone to come and fulfill the curiosity their stomachs have forced upon them.

Others say the kitchen is essential to a family because it’s where the most time is spent preparing to formally sit and enjoy one another. Why wait to sit at the dining room table when you can sit on the kitchen counter, sneak samples of the cuisine, talk until everyone is trying to be just a shade louder than the other, and be consistently on whichever counter mom needs to be clear at the moment? This inevitably forces her comment, “We do have other rooms in the house, you know!”

But, of course, we all know deep down the commotion would be missed and it is sometimes said with an edge of pride that her family has grown up and the grandchildren are now carrying on the tradition. While all these are compelling reasons to hold the kitchen as the room of high esteem, none come close to competing with my mind’s eye of my childhood in that old farm kitchen.

The hustle and chaos were ever present. My sisters and I would chide my brothers — who were never required to cook or do dishes — that if they stayed in the kitchen they would undoubtedly turn into girls. No matter what the commotion, regardless if the television was blaring or if the radio was silent, my dad would come up behind my mom — standing at the sink or stove or counter — and they danced.

They danced. Dad would hum a tune or click out a beat and they would dance as though six children weren’t running and talking and creating an atmosphere of Mardi Gras on Fat Tuesday.

They were experts in tuning out the world, until I came around. Until dad felt that tug on his leg. Until mom gave dad the knowing grin and I was scooped up between them. Dad would have just showered and the smell of his aftershave would wash over our small little circle of three. Mom would wink at me and we would begin the dance, the twirls, the spins. We would begin what I felt, but was too small to articulate, was my own world.

The dance would eventually end. The potatoes would boil on the stove or the phone would ring, and the universe would put my other little world on pause. But it was never on pause in my mind. Even today, when life seems overwhelming or uncertain, and that sense of security feels just beyond my reach, I can close my eyes and smell the smells of my youth. I see that old kitchen and my young parents, and I rest comfortably in the knowledge that at home in the new kitchen, my older parents are still dancing.

So if you ever wonder how to give your child security, how to teach them the presence of love, how to show them to live in the here and now — show them you love each other. Show your child you will forever love them by forever loving one another. Turn to your partner in the midst of chaos, in the midst of fear, in the midst of uncertainty, in the midst of love — and dance.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thank God for Dogs

First thing first... We have a winner! I have to tell you I love giving stuff away... If at least 50 of you keep commenting each week we can go almost a year before you all have one and are sick of seeing canvases
all the time :) Until then, this is fun!

So, here is this week's winner, via

AuBien: I have a house for sale right now. It's been on the market for 7 months. We've had MANY showings and only positive feedback on the house. And not one offer to buy it.
We have many of our children's toys and home "clutter" boxed and stored at in-laws to make the house seem less cluttered. We have changed our decor to neutral so as to appeal to more people so as not to distract from looking at the HOUSE instead of our decor. We have to keep the place almost spotless all the time because the market is SO competitive right now. We have our house listed WELL below it's actual value because we know we can't sell it at actual value in this market.
I'm struggling with letting go of the idea that I'm ready for it to sell so it's time for it to sell. God's timing is not my timing. And letting go of my timing is not as simple as I would like.
And when I read your posts I feel like I have no right to be selfish about this or anything else. I know I need to let go of that also and it is easier to be convicted than it is to change my thinking.
Thank you for sharing your gift and thank you for the chance to win a canvas!

Congratulations! Email me at with your mailing address and I'll get your canvas in the mail.

BTW: Did you guys see in the comments that my brother Hoody thought for a minute I was going to give away my car? Cracked.Me.Up.

***** ***** *****

I think we've covered that my dog might have a few issues. The fact that he's on antidepressants to keep him from biting everyone that comes within a 2 ft. radius of me should probably be the first clue. The fact that I've wondered if the Dog Whisperer and Super Nanny would do a crossover show just to help him might be another.

But, while I might pull my hair out once in awhile, the fact that this pup was absolutely, undeniably and inexplicably created just for me... the fact that he sometimes knows before I do when I'm physically having a harder time... is why he's still blissfully happy despite the fact that he has an insatiable desire to mark in my kitchen.

IMG_1324 2
That, and the fact that he's so damn cute.

My vet decided a few years ago that my sweet and ornery pup is very in tune to the fact that I've gotten sicker over the years. Nothing proves this more than when I have migraines. Often if a migraine lasts for more than 2 days, Riley starts throwing up along with me in what I assume is some show of sympathy or solidarity.

To take it a step further, his power of observation goes up exponentially the actual day a migraine is going to hit.

He was so unsettled on Friday, which is not like him. He'd jump on the couch and get comfy only to start whining and jump back down to find another spot to rest. He'd sit on my lap, jump off of my lap ... and whine. I couldn't figure out what he wanted, what the problem was, what was hurting him.

Then I started getting a bit of a nagging headache. But the weather was warmer and my energy was better than it had been, so I was sure it was fine. But the headache was there... and I felt a little nauseous. I tried the sliding glass door, which was finally unfrozen, and breathing that fresh air without incident for the first time in eight months gave me the jolt I needed. Headache or no, I was fine.

Oh, but that pup knew better. We went to bed and the right side of my head felt like it was going to explode or implode... or both. And the rest of the night was spent trying to make myself get up to get my meds. Trying to roll over, trying to sit up, but knowing if I do my head is going to rocket off my neck and go through the ceiling or, better yet, I'll throw up. So we just laid there. And every once in awhile he'd leave the spot where he was curled up next to me and sniff around my head and lick my temple. The dog who never licks my face was trying to tell me he knew exactly where it hurt and that he'd really like to help.

That move right there forgives a lot of idiosyncrasies. That move makes him the best dog to ever walk the earth.

So, sometime around noon the next day I forced myself to get up. I ate what I could and I took my meds, and while we laid on the couch he continued to whine at me... until 45 minutes later, when the meds finally hit my system. When it still felt like my head was pulsing on the pillow but the sound of the throbbing finally stopped echoing in my ears, my sweet pup laid his head down and fell fast asleep. Every two hours when I'd sit up to take another pill he'd sit up, wait patiently, and then curl up next to me to sleep away the day.


The temperature had changed drastically, and that is when my migraines inevitably hit. And as I tried my hardest not to let myself anticipate the coming months, remembering back to last spring when the temperatures constantly changed and thunderstorms constantly rolled through and my body felt like it was a crash test dummy experiment gone wrong, my dog reminded me that I don't have to do a moment of it alone.

He's a genius, that dog. An empathetic, sympathetic, telepathic, loving little genius who makes me sane even when I'm really not.

Thank God for dogs. Or, more accurately, thank God for my dog. But please don't refer to him as such should you ever come visit... I don't want to burst Riley's bubble and make him think he's anything less than the human he is so determined to be.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

HDG: License to Let Go

hump day

It's Hump Day Giveaway time! I had a few people email to tell me the new theme made them giggle like a junior high boy... to be honest I tried to think of a million different names, but the response to this one just cracked me up so I stuck with it. Feel free to giggle to your hearts' content, peeps... I won't tell anyone.

***** ***** *****

Not to beat a dead horse or anything... but did I mention I can open a window and breathe fresh air right now?

Just making sure you didn't miss the memo.

I'm sitting in my living room with the door wide open writing this post, thinking back to Friday when I sat here enjoying fresh air for the first time in ages. Susie had called on her way home from work and, of course, I was excitedly relaying to her my fantastic news. We were trying to think back to how long it had been since I could have a window open and she recalled that she knew exactly when it was. The last time I went anywhere without breathing issues was on June 12th... the next to last day I had to renew my driver's license.

Susie and I almost share a birthday; I'm her elder by 2 whole days since mine lands on the 13th and hers is on the 15th. And I really appreciate that fact every year when the girls and I get together for supper and they all remind me that I'm the ancient one of the bunch. Of course I remind them it also means I'm wiser, but they seem to enjoy the beauty that comes with youth too much to care.

It was almost a month to the day that we celebrated my birthday when Susie called as she and the boys were out running errands. She was telling me about some event that had happened while getting her license renewed and my heart almost got stuck in my throat. Having not driven anywhere in ages, it didn't even occur to me to check my license... and sure enough it was expiring the very next day.

Now, originally this story started out funny. We both panicked and she told me that she and the boys were just bumming around all day, so they would grab lunch and then come pick me up to take me to get it renewed. I was bustling around as fast as I could to change and get presentable for the ensuing photo... my main concern being the fact that five years ago I took a really good driver's license photo, and now I had been on steroids and looked like Theodore, the fullest-cheeked chipmunk of the bunch.

So when Susie picked me up in the sweltering Iowa heat, and I had on a sleeveless turtleneck, I thought she was going to drive right into the building because she was laughing so hard at me. My theory that the turtleneck helped cover up some of the steroid look of my neck only made her laugh harder. And through the insanity of all of this, reality still hadn't hit me.

My friend was picking me up to get my driver's license renewed because I could barely walk to her car on crutches, let alone drive. My biggest concern was what my photo was going to look like and that I didn't want to retake a written test that I barely studied for when I was 16, for fear I wouldn't pass.

Can you say denial?

It wasn't until we were pulling into the parking lot that it dawned on me. It wasn't until that moment I looked at Susie and said, "You know... I couldn't pass a driving test. They'd watch me try to get into the driver's side of the car and tell me no before I ever turned on a key."

Her eyes got sad and she said, "I was wondering if you were going to mention that."

I can still feel the knot in my stomach that I had eight months ago. That realization that I was like my Grandpa Joe when he had Alzheimer's and they had to hide the keys to his truck because he wouldn't hand them over ... he didn't want to let go of that part of his life, and couldn't accept the fact that it wasn't safe.

But my brain kept thinking... what if? What if they come out with a new medication and I suddenly do better and then I could drive and it would be harder to convince them to give me a license? What if the summer was better than the spring that was supposed to be better than the winter that I had hoped would be better than the fall?

What if?

Which is the only excuse I have for entering the DOT, trying to act like it was totally normal to walk in on crutches, and getting my license renewed. It's the only excuse I can give for answering all of the worker's questions honestly... until he kept asking me about my disease. Asking me if I ever jerk in pain, if it would be a problem when driving, if it was something I was concerned about. And I stood there, sweating in my turtleneck because I was trying so hard not to jerk in pain from the nerve zing that was pulsing in my leg... and I told him the only truth I could... that my doctors hadn't put any restrictions on me and they knew all about my condition.

I didn't mention the fact that we had never discussed if driving was a good idea or not.

To put your minds at ease... I didn't so much as open a window to my condo the last eight months, let alone go for a joy ride. My car has sat in my garage with a dead battery for almost a year now. Driving was something that I hadn't been able to do for a long time, but it wasn't until I stood there - feeling the burning realization - that I knew I had yet one more thing in my life I had to let go of.

I love this phrase: "Blessed is the person who finds out which way God is moving, and then gets moving in the same direction." It took me until January to finally make the decision to let go of the thing that kept me from moving in the direction my life had already headed. My nephew Thomas is turning 16 this summer, and since they need to get a car and I need to get rid of one, it was a pretty good match. And truthfully, knowing that it is going to someone I love makes it easier to let go than if I just put an ad in the paper to sell it. I don't know why, but it is.

What matters about this story is that the minute I let go of the notion that I needed life to change, rather than to change my life, the knot in my stomach went away. The moment I stopped trying so desperately to walk against the tide my life was flowing, I was relieved.

So, on this "Hump Day Giveaway" I made a canvas with the saying that helped me let go of something I no longer had a use for:


To win the canvas, leave a comment about something you have let go of, or need to, to make your life more manageable. You can comment until midnight CST and I'll announce the winner tomorrow!

Oh, and if you've already won previously, do keep playing. I'll be doing this every Wednesday so there are plenty to go around, and if you win more than once you can give them as gifts!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ahhh... Fresh Air

Friday was a happy, happy day. Even though it was the night my migraines started, it was still monumentally positive in my book.

Why, you ask?

Because for the first time in 8 months I sat with my door wide open and breathed in fresh air without any sort of negative effects. Well, other than the fact that it got really cold. :)

But my skin didn't itch, my ears and throat didn't hurt, my lungs didn't inflame and my breathing stayed normal. And I remembered how amazing it feels to breathe fresh air, hear birds chirping despite the snow and cold, and feel the tingle of cool air on skin that hasn't felt it in way too long.

I also got to remember what Riley smells like when fresh air hits his fur... because he was just as happy to be cold and sit in front of an open window as I was.

Obviously, with temperatures as cold as -30 degrees, whatever was in the air was killed off some time ago... but not even I am so desperate to breathe fresh air that I would sit in a house exposed to -30 degree temperatures! Even if I was, the problem is that the screen door, which is the only thing keeping Riley from running free into the icy mess of a parking lot, was frozen open. So on Friday, when it got up to a balmy 39 degrees here in Iowa, the screen door unfroze and slid closed with ease... and my pup was the first one in line to let me know about this exciting development.

_MG_4768 "Do you see it? Do you feel it? The outside is still there!!!"

_MG_4769 s-t-r-e-t-c-h     "Man, a dog could get used to this..."

_MG_4778 "Do I see a little crack of light? Could it get me outside?"

_MG_4780 "Maybe if I shove my nose in there far enough
I could squeeze through somehow..."  

It actually got up to 50 degrees here on Monday and will be getting colder later in the week... it's also rained a little, and all of these changes in the weather that should have me sitting in front of that open window have instead left me not feeling so stellar. But even if I don't get to enjoy the 50 degree reprieve, I'm going to be more than happy to bundle up and leave my door open when the stable, colder air comes back. Because I don't know what spring will bring for me.

My hope is that whatever made my lungs react so badly last year will not come back when the thaw happens. My dream is to spend every day sitting on my patio reading a book with a happy pup curled up next to me. Riley's dream probably involves the family of wrens that take up residence in my bird house, since it gives him something to guard me against... to each their own.

But regardless of what happens this spring, I am savoring every moment of cold, crisp, winter air.

And I'm trying to learn how to take deep breaths again.

***** ***** *****

Reminder: Don't forget about the canvas giveaway tomorrow!

Monday, February 9, 2009

He's Even Cute with Bad Hair

bad hair day

Hey, all... I'm fine; just had a migraine all weekend and need a minute to get over the fun migraine hangover that inevitably follows. Of course, if I had been at all prepared I would have had some posts pre-written and ready to go, and you would have been none the wiser. But since that was what I had planned to work on this weekend... you get a photo of Riley with bad hair instead!

But hey, at least now you know what he looks like after he's been playing peek-a-boo under the blankets and pillows. Say it with me, people...

:) I'll see you back here with a fresh post tomorrow.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Flashback Friday: My First Boyfriend

You all think you're in for some juicy tidbits, don't you?

All week long I've been using some questions Tam posed on her blog to inspire my blog topics for the week... with the exception, of course, of the major twin news that trumped all other stories. Quite frankly, they could have announced that the President decided to give every citizen a thousand dollars to spend willy-nilly and boost the economy, and I still would have been all about the twins.

Granted, I might have been all about buying them bigger presents, but they still would have been the main topic of conversation.

But when I opened her blog the other day and she posed a question about the identity of my first boyfriend, this picture was one of the first things that popped into my mind:

dad me ring

That's my dad, giving me a ring for Christmas when I was a little girl. The photo was taken in his office at the hog farm, and I truly have no idea why that would be the location he chose to put a tiny little ring on my tiny little finger... but it's another great example of the "what" mattering more than the "why" or the "how."

Because this picture embodies the character of my dad. He is a man who is filled to the brim with love. He's the guy who would get on the floor to talk to you, who would be interested in your stories and would take the opportunity to tell you how loved you are, what makes you special and what makes him proud. He's also the dad who would tease you mercilessly, tickle you until you begged for mercy and climb trees to hang homemade swings, only to get stuck trying to figure out how to climb back down. He has always been a big kid, which made being his kid a whole lot of fun.

I was obviously too little to remember being in this photo, but I can imagine the story he was telling to keep me so entranced. I can hear him, all serious, "Now, if a guy would just be extra careful with a little ring like this you won't lose it... there were pert-near 30 rings in that store, but this one was the prettiest." Because every good story dad tells has to have the phrases "if a guy would just" and "pert-near" in them somewhere.

Mostly, I love that this photo isn't taken under a perfectly lit Christmas tree or when we were all dressed up to go to midnight Mass. I love that he stopped in the middle of his day, dressed in his farm clothes... his snap-front shirt that surely had a pen and a tiny notepad in the left front pocket and his smelly jeans with a holder for his pliers on his hip... to let me know that I was his girl. He knew how to savor his moments, and I'm so glad I have the photo so I can look back and savor it, too.

All my other boyfriends had no idea what they were getting themselves into... that first boyfriend of mine simply made it impossible to measure up.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

If You're Happy and You Know It...

Crimenetly, peeps!

We had a competition going on at this little ol' blog! :) Of course, when the stats and comments went sky high it didn't take me long to figure out that my friend Jess had told her readers about my little giveaway... she has some seriously dedicated bloggers and it was so fun to read comments from all the new visitors.

Here's the thing... if I wasn't already happy, you all would have easily put me in that mood after reading about the moments that brought smiles to your faces this week. And since it was so much fun, and so many of you commented, and because we are celebrating TWINS after all, I've decided to give away two canvases [which will be mailed out as soon as I make the second one]. :)

Without further ado, the winners are:

 John (one of my few male commenters): I am a twin with a couple of set of twin nephew. One thing that made me happy this week is that someone cleared the sidewalk in front of our house this week. Bless them!

Sarah Markley: Happy, "baby" is turning three this week. Watching her enjoy her birthday for the first time has made me very happy!

Congratulations! :) Email me at with your mailing addresses and I'll get your canvases off to you!

*****   *****   *****

All day yesterday I had a question that Tam posed on her blog running through my mind: What is your biggest fear?

Ironically, it fit perfectly with all of your comments about what made you happy because the only big fear I have [other than mice, snakes and, of course, bats...] is that God has a purpose for me and that I'll somehow miss it. A fear that if I'm not diligent, if I'm not intentional, I will one day be caught not paying attention and the opportunity to fulfill what I'm supposed to do on this Earth will pass me by.

Why did I have this in my head when I was reading about how happy you all have been this week? Because I was so impressed with how much you all were paying attention. Oh, there were some big things that brought joy to your week: finding out you're pregnant for example... that's a no-brainer, can't miss, knock it out of the ballpark kind of happy!

But so many of you were happy because of your child's giggle. Or because your husband cleaned [that woman has some people feeling pretty envious about now...]. Your laundry was finished, you were happy over your friend's good fortune, you were able to be helpful to a family member or you made connections at a bible study.

YOU, my blog peeps, are living with intention. You're paying attention and not letting the little things pass you by. And it makes my fear of "missing the moment" dissipate when I see all of you savoring your moments and reminding me to do the same. The next time any of you are having a bad day, I recommend reading all the comments that were left yesterday, because they were simple, everyday moments that probably happen to each of us all the time... if we're paying attention.

And... since yesterday was so much fun, I've decided to start having "Hump Day Giveaways" on Wednesdays every week... or at least until I run out of blank canvases. :)

I'd better get to painting...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


They're here! They're here!

Those of you who have been reading for awhile know all about my good friend, Nicole. I've told you about her love for New Kids on the Block, our experiments-gone-wrong with walkie talkies, and more recently I spilled the beans that she was pregnant with twins.

And now, she is no longer pregnant with twins! Yea!!!

The world now has two more beautiful little girls gracing its presence... and I'm not sure it's physically or emotionally possible for me to be more excited than I am. As hard as I've tried, I think they've totally nixed the idea of letting me have one of the babies come live with me here, but I suppose it's understandable that they're kind of attached to both of them.

Anyway... I'm so excited about our new blessings (yes, I realize I have nothing to do with them being blessings, but I'm saying "our" anyway because I already love them enough to claim ownership) that I'm going to do a spontaneous giveaway to bless one of you!

Here's what you can win... this 9x7 canvas that expresses how I'm feeling today. That EVERYTHING is a miracle:


All you have to do is leave a comment before midnight and tell me about one thing that has made you happy this week. Then I'll use the handy-dandy and tell you the winner tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Easily Embarrassed?

Ok, so yesterday I was reading Tam's blog and she asked everyone to tell their most embarrassing moment... and since then I have been DRIVING MYSELF NUTS trying to figure out what mine is.

I even called Susie, figuring she could tell me at least a dozen embarrassing moments of mine off the top of her head.

But we're drawing a blank here, people.

Don't get me wrong... I think we've established over the last eight months or so that I can be a total idiot. I'm crazy gullible and have done ridiculous things. But I'm realizing that I just must not be that easily embarrassed... the memories that should be in that category we instead thought were just funny, not "hide in my closet in humiliation" embarrassing.

I swore in a microphone in front of the entire church. Totally not embarrassed... I definitely got red in the face but it was because I laughed myself silly. We've covered multiple examples of my gullible nature. But that's something OTHERS should be embarrassed by, since it was their cruelty that led to my being duped.


I'm thinking maybe people can only be embarrassed if they are out of touch with the reality of who they are. If you open your mouth and make a fool of yourself, but are already aware that the odds are good you'll make a fool out of yourself at any given moment anyway... you pretty much take it in stride. If, on the other hand, you're not prone to being an idiot by nature, you're going to be more embarrassed when something idiotic happens.

So, blog peeps... let me make this clear: I'm kind of an idiot, so consider yourself warned. Don't be taken aback when I tell you about the time some friends and I went out on the floor during halftime of a boy's basketball game in high school and did some "cheers" to entertain the crowd... and being that I was barefoot at the time, when I landed a great Herky jump with my toes curled under and dropped to the ground having broken two of my toes... I still wasn't embarrassed. It was a dang impressive jump.

Don't be shocked when I tell you stories about being a bit tipsy at a bar when the karaoke guy played "The Battle of New Orleans" at the request of a friend of mine and I kept interjecting, "Oil, that is..." in places because I thought it was the theme song to The Beverly Hillbillies

Cuz people, I'm a dork. There's just nothing embarrassing about that...

And for the record... they are kind of similar:

(Battle of New Orleans... "oil that is" sounds right when inserted at :35)

(Beverly Hillbillies theme song)

How about you? Are you easily embarrassed or are you in touch with your inner dork?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Amazing Grace

It was recently brought to my attention that, while I haven't been to many concerts in my lifetime, I have gone to the oddest collection of concerts. In order, I've seen:
  • Whitney Houston
  • Def Leppard
  • Amy Grant
  • Elton John
Weird, right? I've always known my taste in music is eclectic, but this takes it to a whole other level. My entire family went to see Whitney when I was in junior high... we were pretty high up in the nosebleeds and at some point my brothers Jim and Steve went looking for better seats. During a lull in between songs when things were relatively quiet we heard, "I love you, Whitney!" and we all looked at each other knowing immediately the voice was my brother Steve.

He didn't really love Whitney. He just wanted to be the guy to yell it.

Def Leppard was a total accident, and one of those times it was really good mom was busy and not at home. I was a freshman in high school and Steve was a senior... I got a call from my friend Lisa that she had just won tickets on the radio and if I could be at her house (that was 15 minutes away) in a half hour I could go with her. I ran to dad and asked if it was ok, and he did the "dad-shrug" and said sure.

It was only as Steve was giving me a ride to Lisa's house that I found out he had asked mom weeks before if he could go to the concert and she said NO. Not only that, he was supposed to go with Lisa's boyfriend. So here I was, three years younger than him, going to the Def Leppard concert and sitting with his friends after mom told him he couldn't go.

Dad learned to check in with mom after that.

Amy Grant and Elton John were both random concerts ... but were both ones I actually chose myself and not by accident. The Elton concert was just him on stage with a piano and I could go back and relive it every night he was so good. We had seats off to the side of the stage, and that man reached into a tub of ice and grabbed out a Diet Coke after almost every song. Honestly, I was waiting for him to accidentally belch in the middle of Crocodile Rock but, professional that he is, he held it together...

Obviously I didn't take advantage of my love for music before I couldn't sit through concerts anymore or I would have gone to a lot more of them over the years. But there have been a couple of times when my brother Steve and his wife Patience have gone to concerts and he's called me so I could listen in through his cell phone. Usually you can't hear much over the crowd screaming, but there was one Billy Joel concert where the sound was so darn clear that I spent half the night singing along to the phone while listening to his classics.

It was a night I was incredibly grateful not to be on Candid Camera.

This past Friday night the phone rang and I couldn't get to it, but when I checked my messages I heard none other than Chris Tomlin singing Amazing Grace. Now that's a phone message you don't delete right away. My sweet friend Jenny had gone to the concert and held up her phone, leaving me a five minute message so I could enjoy the concert with her.

Have I mentioned to you all lately that I have the coolest friends?

So, I'm no Chris Tomlin. And I never did concerts. But I did have the opportunity to do a few recordings that I've told you about before. So, close your eyes, pretend I'm on a cell phone and imagine I'm letting you listen in on a concert from my past. Here's a little a cappella Amazing Grace, sung by me a long time ago, to start off your week: