Monday, December 31, 2007

On New Year's Eve


We're all on the brink of a new year. Imagine.

I've made my usual resolutions--I'm a believer in making them. I mean, what's wrong with having sane, sensible goals to aim toward in a new year? After all, if you aim at nothing, you might just hit it. (And who wants that?)

Anyway, a resolution of mine which sums up all the rest is this: That I will cooperate with God more easily. You know, without whining first or procrastinating obedience for a time I believe is better or questioning just what good it'll all do anyway.

I believe there are levels of obedience and through the years God takes us into deeper levels. And well, I'd like to go deeper into allowing people to be who they are--and not voicing my opinions about their words or decisions.

All of that came to me when I saw a certain tv commercial and a bunch of bells and alarms went off inside my head. I thought, "I can't believe the people at Smuckers are serious!" (Hmm... I'm hoping it was Smuckers. I wouldn't want to go wild about them if it wasn't them. And warning--I'm about to go wild...)

Have you seen their latest ad? It's the one where two young boys are walking and one says, "Why doesn't anyone ever ask me what I'd like to do when I grow up?" And then the announcer says something like, "When your last name is Smuckers, you don't have to guess at what you'll be. You already know you'll continue what your family has always done. You'll make great Smuckers jams and jellies."

(Ok, I probably slaughtered the actual discourse, but that's the way I remember it.)

Anyway, isn't that horrible? I mean, what if the kid has a God-given ability to teach? Or to play the violin professionally? Or to build houses, be a missionary, design skyscrapers or be a funeral director? What, he must go into the Smuckers business whether he wants to, or not?

Well, I've seen that commercial twice and both times I have shuddered.

And yet I'm glad they made this commercial. Maybe it will shake-up more people than just myself and remind us all that the happiest people "out there" are those who use their God-given talents, abilities, personalities and giftings during the majority of their hours every single day.

And may it remind us all to let people do what they feel called to do, even if--to us--it doesn't appear all that wise. Or cool. Or smart. Or financially-best.

There's a lot of living which goes on inside a person's heart, in places where he and God talk things out. And heaven help any of us who believe we know a better way for someone else. After all, half the time we don't pause long enough to have our own chats with God at the table of our heart. But if we did, we'd probably see things very, very differently... and probably speak half as often...

... and feel a whole lot more free and happy.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


Something rather cool happened yesterday.

See, two years ago my parents mailed us an antique mantle clock before they came for a two-week visit. The pendulum to the clock came inside a small separate box so my parents installed it for us after they arrived. But I didn't watch them closely. The whole process looked rather involved with them standing over the clock so I went in the kitchen and prepared dinner.

Well. Because of our upcoming move, it was the clock's turn to be packed into a box and I thought I'd better remove that pendulum. But then that scene with my parents peering into the clock's back returned to me and I knew that, most likely, that pendulum wouldn't exactly just slide out. It was gonna be harder than that.

I was correct. When I mentioned all this to Tom he said, "Oh, I can get it out of there. Easy." Or not. He couldn't figure-out just where the screws were, either.

But alas! He did come up with the best idea. He said, "How about if you just pour a bunch of those Styrofoam packing peanuts inside the clock to keep the pendulum from moving?" I told him, "Hey! That's a terrific idea."

So yesterday I placed the clock on a towel upon our table, turned it around, then began pouring in the packing peanuts until the pendulum could no longer swing at all.

And that's when the rather cool thing happened. Suddenly it was as though my dad was standing behind me, chuckling. And I even think I 'heard' him say, "Well, that's one way to do it." As though he found it clever.

It was so real! I even laughed because, usually my dad, while upon this Earth, believed in only one way to do things. The right way. Which was, yes, his way. And well, he could get, shall we say, a little uptight if you chose a different method.

But you know? Yesterday while feeling like my dad was standing there, I remembered that he's different now. You know, after having been in Heaven for two months. He's much more relaxed and carefree. He's no longer burdened by the cares of this world, tiny or huge, the ones which still burden us poor schmucks left behind. As God will finish-up in each of us what He's begun, God has completed the work he began in my dad and now I'm certain he loves all sorts of variety.

And there in the dining room I received a very real sense of that change. And I enjoyed it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Woo Hoo! Happy Day After Christmas.


It's my most fav-or-ite day of the year.

What's not to love about this day after Christmas? There are leftovers--I won't have to cook. Late Christmas cards will arrive inside my mailbox. Tom and I can stay home and watch my new Family Ties Season 2 dvds or go see a movie--it's our choice. (Of course, we should pack a bit, too, since we're moving in 7 to 9 days, but hey...) I can spend today picturing our lovely yesterday and my family's faces as they opened gifts and sat around the dinner table. And recall the phone conversation with my mom and hearing a strength in her voice this first Christmas without my dad. Plus, the sun is due to shine here and melt our snow away during a balmy 41 degrees.

And I can relax and rejoice that I survived yet one more Christmas. :)

Yes, as with every December 26th, it's my most fav-or-ite day of the year. Some people get a let-down, where-did-it-all-go? feeling, but not me! No, I always get this antsy I-can't-wait-till-Normal-returns anticipation. I love Normal. Why? My own personal Normal feels rather like low-key Christmas 11 months out of the year. The way I like Christmas to be. The way I wish December felt, but usually doesn't.

I love Normal. For me, God makes Normal incredible because His presence is incredible. Year after year.

And that is my wish for you, as well, on this, my most fav-or-ite day of the year. That you always see Normal as the gift it truly is.


***
So what was your favorite Christmas gift this year? You know, besides having your family together and celebrating Jesus' birth, etc. :) Mine was the aforementioned Family Ties 2nd season dvd's. Tom and I watched tons of episodes last night and loved them all, the special feature interviews, too. There is no comparison between today's tv comedies and ones like Family Ties, Growing Pains, The Cosby Show, Perfect Strangers, etc. No comparison! So how terrific to have them on dvd.

Which reminds me, Perfect Strangers Seasons 1 & 2 is finally due out this February--hooray!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!


I just now placed the pumpkin pies in the oven and it's time to get Tom out of bed, but I thought I'd zip downstairs and wish you all a merry Christmas.

Yes, I meant to get back here yesterday and I would have except that we watched a certain movie, one called, Away From Her, and it made me want to just stay upstairs with Tom.

It was a movie Tom and I discussed all the way through (there were many silences in the film) and one which made us ask, "What would we do in that situation?". It was about an older couple who must deal with the wife's increasing Alzheimer's and the pain each spouse experiences with her approaching memory loss.

How odd, we thought, that it was written and produced by young Sarah Polley, she who is only one year older than our daughter. The movie was well-written, with only one scene which could have been left out (don't all movies have at least one?), though I'd not recommend it for children (too slow, confusing and boring for most).

But for Tom and I, it made us think and is making us think still. What would we do if one of us no longer remembered the other? How would we handle the hurt? How long would we wait before we admitted we could no longer handle the other's sickness?

But more (and here is my excuse why I didn't come back here as I kinda promised)--it made us want to just sit together and appreciate each other. While we still can. While things are as good as they are. The movie made us want to celebrate what we have while we still have it.

And that feeling will carry over to this Christmas Day and make it all the more special... and simple... and calm... and appreciated. And we'll remember that Life is not about getting, but rather, about gratitude of what God has given--and giving to others out of that.

Again, Merry Christmas to each of you who stop by here during your days and spend some time with me. You are appreciated!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve Morning Outside My House


Can you say, "Snow shovel, here I come?" :)


***

Oh, did you see the gorgeous gingerbread houses on Good Morning America today? I loved them all, but the brick and blue Victorian houses were my favorites, along with the snow globe one. So amazing!


***

I'll most likely be back later today to post something, but if you don't make it back here--Merry Christmas to each of my readers!

Saturday, December 22, 2007


For me, this is the best Christmas season ever.

I watched a segment on a morning news show today, a piece about HowToSurviveChristmasAndGetItALLDone
WithoutStressingYourselfIntoDebtors'PrisonOrInsanity
AndDon'tForgetToBreathe!

I thought, "How sad what Christmas has become."

And immediately I recalled those Decembers. Ones where I collected the new GetItALLDoneInTime magazine articles and kept a notebook stuffed with lists (lists lists LISTS!) and shopped ALL the stores while sweating in my winter coat then feeling chilled outside in the parking lot (and once spending days in bed with chills and the electric blanket dialed to Broil Till Crispy.) And I remembered doing Christmas decorating I didn't want to do or didn't even really like because it appeared cluttered to my eyes. And getting all upset because Tom had to work Christmas Day and turning down invitations to spend it with other families because I preferred to sulk at my home pity party.

Well, anyway, that news story this morning brought it all back.

And fortunately all those days are so very far away from me now and this year I've gone to the other extreme--finally I had the right excuses to try Christmas Light (as opposed to Christmas Heavy).

Online Christmas gifts came right to my mailbox and all my trinket clutter is packed away (actually, I gave 90% of our Christmas decor to Naomi). I wrote Christmas cards in lamplight only until it stopped being fun, then packed them away. I'll send the rest with a letter, even, in January during my Peaceful Vacation.

Yes, I'm taking a Peaceful Vacation in January. By then I'll be sitting in my tiny four-room house where I'll play at decorating and making it cozy. I'll gaze out the window a lot, lean back my head on the couch and watch scandalous amounts of tv (most likely) and forget that I ever stepped into Computer Land. I'm going to recuperate from this past year of changes and extreme up-in-the-air-ness and it's gonna be one awesome, soothing vacation, indeed.

You must know when to say when. You must know yourself and what is best for you. You must be true to the voices of God and Grace inside you, especially when other voices chide that the world will end if you relax and plead with you to keep up with everybody--or else.

I can't wait for my vacation. Yet in the meantime? Today, for instance? I'm actually anticipating tackling our basement--packing away or flinging away the paraphernalia-gone-wild of our happy times here. And when Debra is looking forward to clearing out her deep, dark, ghastly basement, well, you can be positively positive that Grace is all over her.

You can be certain another miracle is about to happen.


***
Need a peaceful place to go right this minute to spend some quiet downtime with God? Here's one of my favorite places to do that. (If you wish to hear music, turn up your sound.)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Everyday Magic



While looking through my archives for a certain post, I came across this one, instead, and thought I'd share it, especially since I've, once again, been thinking these same thoughts...

***
My life is filled with magic.

Now, I hope you are not one of those stodgy, straight-laced Christians who frowned when you read that sentence because you thought I meant black magic or Harry Houdini magic or pull-a-poor-rabbit-from-a-hat magic. Trust me, I didn't mean any of those.

No, I meant the kind of magic akin to imagination and dreams and delightful surprises on ordinary winter afternoons when snow is falling and logs or candles are burning in your fireplace. (I also meant fairies, but you go mentioning those and some people stare at you oddly.)

I wrote earlier that this year I'll be skipping the blogs which are written by people who feel they are called to suck and vacuum the joy and fun and freedom out of life. The ones which, last month, warned me that there's a dark, ugly side for Christians (and others) to the movies, A Christmas Carol and It's A Wonderful Life. Ones which said any parent who plays Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus and Easter Bunny with their children is a miserable liar and will pay a price. The ones who pounce upon and chew-up any fellow-Christian who has ever stood for a cause-from-the-heart or made a mistake. Yes, those are the blogs I'm avoiding in 2006.

And this, in part, is why:

Those blogs sound too much like the voices, the people Francis P. Church exposed in his column written to Virginia O'Hanlon (and to the world) in 1897--the people who "tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside." They are those who never, in this life, will see that "there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond."

And when Mr. Church says, even these hundred and nine years later, "The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see," well, I still stand and cheer along with those of you close beside me in crowds so thick, so wide-spread--so joyful--that they overspill the Earth until they touch bright stars and intermingle with the angels on the very edge of Heaven.

I am in that happy crowd of those who sing through the most ordinary days of the world... those lovers of the mysteries of rattles... the ones who see as the real heroes those who get up out of their chairs and Try, whether they succeed or not. Because Doers are the brave ones, the ones who deserve to speak, unlike Sitters who scowl and feel free to rip apart those who failed, never even thinking that at least they Tried. At least they got out of the safe Life's Observer Boats and tried to walk on water and do a new thing.

If you are a fun-sucking, Life-sucking, Light-dimming, grouchy old blog-writing Christian, I wish you a new morning when you open your eyes as though for the very first time. And I wish you the joy which comes from seeing your days in a new Light which reveals a kind of Living--a kind of magic--seen no other way.

***

Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." John 20:29

To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. Titus 1:15

Thursday, December 20, 2007


I don't know. I guess it bugs me when people run around 'God-izing' everything negative which happens to them. You know, when they blame God for their own sins, mistakes and failures. (A tad like the sign I saw in a fix-it shop once: "A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on our part.")

I'm not sure how it is where you live, but around my house, it goes like this:

Most of the time, if we are in debt, it's because Tom and/or I made some lousy financial choices.

And mostly, if Tom and I aren't feeling close to God, it's because we're ignoring Him and spending no quality time with Him.

And if we're unhappy with where we are in Life, it's because--when God showed us where to go--we chose a whole other route.

And if Tom and I aren't getting along it's because one or both of us is acting selfish.

And if we're suffering in certain areas most likely it's because we're fighting God on the changes He wants to make inside us. And not just giving-in and dying to self, after which the suffering stops. (Ever seen a dead person sit up and complain? Or throw a tantrum?)

As for me, I refuse to blame God for my bad/sad/mad days/months/years. And I will not put a 'spiritual label' on the hard times I bring upon myself or slap a Bible verse on them to justify my misery.

I will not credit God for my own poor choices. There's just too much of that going on already.

"Will You Kindly, er, Shut-up?"


This will sound odd.

I'm actually enjoying packing. I am loving decluttering--it's like I'm losing weight (I feel lighter, even) and giving away a third of my stuff feels marvelous. It's as though I'm flinging Christmas presents out to the whole wide world. And I'm so ready for this change--I don't mind doing what it takes to get it.

As we've prepared to move from this dear old house, I've felt relaxed. I've taken a thousand breaks--sat around and watched tv, even. Not been crunched for time. Enjoyed the signs of progress, you know, all those leaning towers of filled boxes.

When I follow Grace, Life is like that. Smooth. Like I'm able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Like I'm accomplishing a year's worth of work in only 3 months. Like I'm actually performing tasks which are physically impossible for me. (Or something like that.)

But when I follow my own bright ideas there's struggle. Stress. Whining, complaining and kicking of things. And nothing falls into its correct slot.

This week I told a friend that Tom may one day seek to go on disability. That his doctors have all said they'd support him, what with his post-polio problems, eight herniated discs and a spine like a roller coaster.

My friend then proceeded to tell me the nightmare stories she's heard, how it's taking people she knows two (or more) years to have their disability claim approved. How they're miserable, afraid and struggling to get by. How you have to get a lawyer and fight it out in the courts for a long time. And waste money.

After not too long I stopped her. I said, "Don't be so negative." After which she said, "Well, if you don't want to hear the truth..."

But I told her, "Here's the truth I believe. When something is God's idea, it works out fine. When anything is His plan, it happens, as long as we cooperate and do things His way, not ours, and if it takes a bit longer, well, that time is sweet, too. For 29 years Tom and I have experienced that. I choose to view God's successes in our lives, not other people's failures. I look at what the Bible says, not at how the world appears to work."

I can be such a rebel. But at times, you have to be. And you cannot allow people to lecture you into feeling afraid. Words are powerful, full of the power of life and death, and sometimes you have to ask people to keep their fear-filled, negative, doubt-inducing words to themselves. Sometimes you must ask your friends to knock it off.

Down through the years I've done that sometimes--and I've lived a peace-that-passes-understanding kind of life while others are kicking and screaming against brick walls which only God, Himself, can explode apart, sometimes with just a single word. Or a simple breath. And it's our faith--not our fear--which moves Him on our behalf.


***

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life..." from Psalm 23

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1

"The power of life and death is in the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit." ... Proverbs 18:21

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

re:Poor Ol' Rudolph


Sunday night our local Canadian tv station showed Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer and I smiled as I recalled this post from last year:

***
Okay, now I'm not trying to start some new, crazy movement nor am I trying to ban the song Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer (just in case you start thinking that's my aim).

No, I'm just making an observation.

The song, Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer bothers me and I can't help but roll my eyes each time I hear it on the radio. The movie (which I grew-up watching and loving), bugs me, too.

I mean, think about it... Here's this adorably-cute reindeer who just happened to be born with a bright, red nose. As if he could help it! And suddenly he grows up, goes to reindeer school and gets ridiculed by all his intolerant, bratty little schoolmates just because his nose is different. Just because his bright, cherry-red nose isn't small, dark and boring liking everyone else's.

And because of that one tiny difference, he's laughed to scorn and the majority don't take the time to discover that really, Rudolph, is a darn nice kid... uh, reindeer. He loves his parents, he's sweet and he just wants to be loved and accepted like everyone else at reindeer school. But no, that's asking too much. Even his teachers laugh at him.

But then, poof! Suddenly, Christmas Eve rolls in all foggy-like and since Santa can't see to drive his sleigh, Christmas is nearly cancelled. But then someone remembers that goofy little kid, Rudolph, the one with the nose like a huge red lantern, and Rudolph is whisked to the head of the reindeer pack and Christmas is saved, thanks to that funny little kid... uh, reindeer, who, just the previous week, was considered a royal loser.

Oh but now--now!--Rudolph is considered a hero. And then how the reindeer 'loved him' (if that's love, I'll take spaghetti). They even shouted-out with glee, because of course, now, Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer is going down in history.

But only now, only after he proved himself a useful member of society. Only after his 'disability' saved Christmas for all of mankind. Only after Rudolph became a valuable asset, a famous reindeer and a credit to his family and the entire world at large.

Give me a break!

Right there is the kind of stuff which is messing us all up, stressing us out and making us appreciation-hungry nuts. The fact is, Rudolph was valuable before that foggy Christmas Eve. He was a creation of God, a son, a friend, a member of woodland society and just a sweet little deer. And here is the truth:

Today you are valuable to God.
Today God loves you just as you are, famous or unknown.--for you are not unknown to Him.
Today God would have sent Jesus to die for you, even if you were the only person on Earth.
Today, with God, you are a winner, not a loser.
Today, you do not have to prove yourself to God. He knows your weaknesses and He loves you anyway. And He's standing ready to give you His strength in those areas.
Today, even if you overcame all your weaknesses, God would not love you any better than He does right this minute.
Today God is thrilled that you are His child and He wouldn't trade you for all the perfect, got-it-all together, famous, Christmas-saving people in the whole World.

Really.

And I hope you'll remember that.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Tons of This and That

So Tom and I went and saw Will Smith's I Am Legend on Saturday.

Oh my goodness. I'm glad we saw it, but it was 1,000 times scarier than the previews made it appear. Lotsa times I had to lift up the collars of my two shirts over my eyes because those Seekers of the Dark freaked me out. They didn't bother Tom much, but hours later (spoiler alert) Tom said, "I'm still thinking about that poor dog, Sam." I told him, "Hey, it was just a movie. That very dog is probably out working on another film right this minute."

Tom laughed. I think he felt better after that. Though I Am Legend was rated PG-13, I, personally, wouldn't take any child under 25. :) But like I said, Tom and I enjoyed it. Mostly. Will Smith's house and the manikins at the video place were my favorite parts.

***

You'd never ever guess what I did this morning on the floor of our kitchen. In my quest to declutter and pack, I went through a wicker chest of Naomi's baby clothes, books and toys. I held her tiny pajamas to my nose and inhaled--and got all teary-eyed with sweet memories. (Yes, like Debra did on Everybody Loves Raymond. I've seen that yard sale episode probably 5 times and cried each time, too. It's a mommy thing.)

But I pressed on and was able to keep only enough to fill a small box instead of the long wicker chest. The rest I put in a box for Naomi to keep and a bag for Salvation Army. But oh my--those baby clothes! Even after nearly 28 years they still get to me.

***

After my last post,Mari-Nanci asked why we haven't bought a snow blower, living in snow country and all... and well, I have a whole long list of excuses:

1. Up until last winter I didn't mind shoveling snow. Since I'm such a 'winter hibernator' it's the only real exercise I get and I'd probably gain 30 pounds each year if I never shoveled snow.

2. I hate the thought of adding more gasoline fumes to our already horrible air quality around here. I feel guilty enough just using a lawn mower.

3. We've said for the last three years, "Why get a snow blower? We'll just be moving South soon." Huh.

4. We (mostly I) didn't want to pay hundreds of dollars for something I could do for free.

5. A snowblower would take up space in our already-crowded shed and just maneuvering it past our carport and our car to the front of the driveway seemed way, way too complicated. Seemed much easier to just whip out a shovel from the basement.

6. I've heard a ton of horror stories about people losing their fingers and hands while using snow blowers. And well, knowing myself as well as I do, I'd probably be one of those people.

Need I go on? But thanks for asking, Nanci. I know you're just looking out for me. :)


Snow. Snow. Snow.

Razzle-fratz.

All day yesterday the snow blew down and all day yesterday I shoveled it from our driveway and walkways, trying to keep up.

At one point I sloshed back into the house, threw off my coat, gloves, hat and shoes then limped back to our Cozy Room and told Tom, "We have got to (pant, pant) get out of here! In the old days (pant, pant) the snow didn't seem so bad because I had the spirit of a young pioneer woman. But now I just have the spirit of a tired old lady who's oh-so-sick of snow. Arghh."

But nice things can still happen in the snow, too.

This dark morning at 5:30 there I was with my long black wool coat thrown over my robe and nightgown attacking the four-foot high mountain at the end of our driveway so Tom could get out and drive to work. Make that a four-foot high frozen mountain. But breaking through appeared hopeless and I considered asking Tom to help, yet because of the eight herniated discs in his back (I told you he had five, but I forgot about the three others), I just kept shoveling.

But alas! Our neighbor two-doors-down started up his snow blower, made a pathway through his own snow mountain, came down the street and cleared our huge pile of frozen snow away. Grateful beyond words, I waved to him. That wasn't the first time he'd done that for us, either, and I really should send him a Christmas card and perhaps some cookies. He'd come at just the perfect time--I'd been considering just trudging back into the house and telling Tom he'd have to use our car's 4-wheel-drive-whatever to back-up over that frozen mountain out there. And good luck.

Probably to our neighbor, helping me this morning seemed like a tiny thing, but it felt huge to me. So much so, that I feel like helping anyone who needs encouragement today.

You never know how far an act of kindness will spread.

***
For a recent pay-it-forward Starbucks story, go here. Read to the end because there's a twist, one I found inspiring, indeed.

"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously." .. II Corinthians 9:6

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas Gifts For My Readers



Since I like to keep Christmas as simple as possible, I am offering, again, the Christmas gifts I've given you, my readers, the last three years (with some new gifts added). I enjoy giving them early in case you would like to share some of the gifts with your own friends and family. (I will be re-checking the links throughout the day to make sure they still work...).

Wishing you all an early Merry Christmas... I appreciate your readership and friendship so much!


Printable Bookmarks

To watch free movies online go here:

Movie Flix

To listen, free, to old radio shows from the 1930's and 40's, go here:

Radio Lovers

To walk in and visit a beautiful cottage home, go here:

Becky's Cottage

For free Christmas gift tags and enclosures, go here:

Christmas Fun

To have fun trying on clothes online (forget those depressing dressing rooms! This is more like the days of paper dolls--and you are the doll.)--go here:

Lands End (Click on My Virtual Model to get started.)

To receive a free issue of Good Old Days Magazine (no credit card required), go here:

Good Old Days Magazine (Scroll down to 'Send No Money Now' when subscribing.)

If you enjoy Victorian photography, go here:

Victorian and Edwardian Photography

To download free charts and lists to help keep you and your family organized, go here:

Digital Women

For lots of cool old black and white photos from life in the 1930's, go here:

The 1930's

For free dollhouse accessory printables, go here:

Dollhouse Printables

To find amazing pictures to copy and paste into your blog or in emails for friends, go here:

All Posters

If you are into the fairy scene, go here:

Wee Folk Studio
Cecily Mary Barker

If you would someday like to visit 'Mayberry', go here:

Mt. Airy NC

If you were a big fan of 'The Waltons,' go here:

The Waltons

To read hundreds of classic books online, go here:

Page By Page Books

If you like vintage paper dolls, go here:

Betsy McCall
Dress the Digital Dolls (there's more than one page)

To receive a free issue of Reminisce Magazine (no credit card required), go here:

Reminisce Magazine (click on Bill Me Later when subscribing)

If you'd like to go window shopping in New York City, go here:

Beautiful Christmas Windows

Roger Ebert's List of 100 Best Films:

Best Films

To read inspiring stories:

Capper's Magazine

To visit a dollhouse castle go here:

Dollhouse Castle (Click 'next' to visit more rooms.)

All about homemaking creatively and on a budget:

Heart for Home

To make your own kitchen mixes:

Homemade Mixes

To visit an imaginative tea room:

Prudence's Tea Room (Click on photos to enlarge.)
***

If you'd like to do something kind for fellow bloggers, leave comments at the blogs of those who almost never receive comments.

Add blogs to your blogroll...it's a compliment when you do so.

If a blogger's writing has meant something to you this year, let him/her know.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Spirit: It's In There

These nights my neighbors' house looks like this.


These nights my house looks like this:


Heh.

If you peeked inside my house right now you'd see not one Christmas decoration. Well, only a few Christmas cards on the mantle, ones we've received in the mail. But that's all.

No, around our rooms you'd see labeled boxes in stacks and blue plastic bins and hutch shelves bare and dark.

But you know? The rebel in me is smiling. And I think I have more true Christmas spirit this year than in the last few years combined. I don't know. Perhaps some people just weren't meant to decorate for Christmas and bake scads of cookies and attend holiday parties or concerts or shop at crowded malls in December.

Perhaps I'm one of those people. But whatever, packing up the house where I've lived for fourteen years during this current Christmas season--and avoiding all the hoopla--well, it feels downright peaceful to me. Holy-baby-born-in-a-stable peaceful.

And too, I have no qualms about leaving this house where we've lived and laughed and loved (and occasionally fought like wild coyotes) for more than a decade. The house where I've lived longer than any other during my 48 years.

It's time to do that. To move away. Grace is so here to help me step out the door one final time. Grace-fully.

Oh, we'll have one more Christmas dinner here inside this house. Naomi and her boyfriend will come over on Christmas day and we will open gifts one last time inside these walls while listening to Christmas carols on the radio. And upon the table I'll set our Christmas plates and the holly tablecloth and red plaid napkins. And our gold grapevine Christmas tree will stand tall at the table's end, in front of the middle window where it's always stood before.

And in our hearts we'll say good-bye to this home which has sheltered us for fourteen good, very good, years. The years which took Naomi from junior high to age 25. The years which took me from a too-serious, complaining control-freak to a calm lover of Life and of God.

And then the following week we'll say hello to a whole new adventure... and thousands more good, grace-filled, happy days to come. Albeit in a different place. And that's ok--way more than ok--for I'm so ready for something new.

You'll find no pillar of salt here--for me, there will be no gazing back. I'll be following Grace, staring ahead at the back of her coat, and I can't afford to stand around all memory-eyed, missing where she leads me next.

Thursday, December 13, 2007



It's that time of year again.

Sigh.

For the last two years I've told Tom, "I refuse to move in the snow. I will not move in the snow. I will never move in the snow."

Never say never.


***

....back to writing and sending Christmas cards, something which always makes me feel as though I'm living fifty years ago... such an old-fashioned thing to do, especially since I'm sitting at our antique Hoosier cabinet in our kitchen under a cozy lamp and beside a little electric heater with the portable tv murmuring on the countertop.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Okay--just for you--this morning I dropped new batteries into our totally-neglected camera then braved the cold and the oh-so-slushy roads and took pictures of the house we'll be renting.

No Silly, not that whole huge thing. :) Just the front lower part. The tiny porch will be ours.

For the first time in like, forever, we'll not be squeezed in between two other houses. Hooray! That part was really beginning to 'claustrophobosize' me. There's even a whole empty lot (lawn) on the left side of the house which the landlord said we could use, even at the back where there's space for a garden(!). But we'll see... we don't plan on being there forever but hey... with the way things are going lately, who knows?

So here's another picture for you:


I appreciate you who have asked that I not store our computer while we're in the rental so you can view photos of how I'll decorate the apartment inside and still read my semi-regular posts. Really, I appreciate that.

But still... I need a break. Gee, do I ever. Living computer-free for a few months--and only using one at the town library twice a week--well, that sounds heavenly. Since around August, when I've opened my email box I've felt overwhelmed, as though Grace walked away and left me to handle things alone (uh-oh!). It's like all those emails scream at me to answer them--but instead of doing that--I've been known to shut it down and race away. You know, Scarlett O'Hara style-- "I'll think about it tomorrow."

But all those Tomorrows add up. Boy, do they ever. Along with even more email in my box.

Yet I'm positive that blogging is something God wants me to do. How do I know? Because I'm a very private person who likes to keep to herself. And well, you know how God works, don't you? Generally, He gives you assignments you'd never choose for yourself. Something so beyond yourself, that--unless you're operating in His strength--the whole thing will fail, flounder, crash. Big-time. But ten minutes of doing something in His strength, anointing and timing can accomplish more than ten years' worth of my own effort.

Anyway, all of that is to say you might not see any photos of the inside of our apartment. But you'll live. I promise. :)

And I will keep blogging. Probably I'll just transpose posts into my blog at the library from handwritten pages I wrote at home. Maybe two or three posts at a time which you can read all at once or spread them out.

Again, I just need a break from Computer Land. I need to remove that temptation, that feeling of having to check--often-- what's happening in this online world. I'm longing to return to much reading and to writing with a pen. And thinking my own thoughts.

And I know most of you understand....

Monday, December 10, 2007

Since I'm busy packing again today (or should be, anyway), I just thought I'd share something which I feel is so beautiful.

It's a mosaic birdhouse which Penny made for Kim. You can see it here or here.

I was enchanted and I hope you will be, too.

Oh, and did anyone else watch For One More Day? I taped it last night then got up very early this morning and watched it. Loved it. The old-time music was perfect and the way his mom had decorated her house in the late 50's was so very, very cool. Pastel greens and blues and yellows... I probably missed much of the dialogue during the guy's early childhood home scenes--I was too busy storing decorating tips in my head. Oh, and the storyline was terrific, too. :)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A Place to Rent


It's official. I now know that Grace is amazing.

Remember the one-bedroom rental I told you about? Well, on Thursday night Tom and I went and viewed it with the landlord. The tiny place was nearly perfect. The price was perfect (only $425 with heat and water included(!)). The galley-style kitchen was perfect (tons of storage and counter space, more than I have now). Even the laundry closet in the kitchen/dining area enchanted me because for 14 years I've done laundry in our deep, dark, dungeon-like basement.

After viewing the place, the landlord said he had another couple to show it to on Saturday morning and he'd call us around dinner-time that night.

But tired of searching for a house (and with time seeping away), we longed to grab him by the collar and say, "Listen. Forget that other couple. We'll give ya the first four months' rent right here on the spot!" But we refrained, went home, and tried to stay positive. And ok... I prayed that God would give us favor with the landlord. :)

Yet only one thing made us hesitate about the apartment--there's around twenty feet of sidewalk which Tom will have to walk along, which means, Debra's job will be to keep it clear of snow. I mean, actually, the landlord said he shovels it, but I know better than to rely on someone else to keep sidewalks ice-free enough for Tom, what with his bad leg and having to use a cane now, etc.

And too, we (mostly I) will have to return to clearing snow off of our car, but we (mostly I) did that for at least twenty years, so we (mostly I) will just do it again. But hey, this is a one-bedroom tiny place and since we'll be storing the majority of our junk, er, nicest things in a unit, what else will I have to do with my time? (Frankly, we're toying with just storing our computer and using the ones at the town library, instead. Which would free-up, oh, a thousand hours each week for me.)

So this morning--early-- the landlord called. He didn't even show the other couple the place--he said we could rent the apartment. He'd pretty much made up his mind about us after meeting us, he told me. (Maybe some godly favor coming into play there?).

But whatever, it's ours as of January 1st. After the call, I went to arrange the furniture in my mind inside the tiny living room--and I realized I'd already done that after returning home on Thursday night. Already I'd arranged the whole minuscule place inside my head, down to where I'd store our dvd's.

So where does the amazing Grace of my opening line come in? Right here--years ago, I'd have dreaded moving into a tiny one bedroom place in an old house with two other families. I'd have been way, way too insecure to do that ("what will everyone think?"). And I'd have needed all my possessions around me like good ol' Linus needed his blanket.

But now, today? I'm excited--and grateful. I can't wait. I can't wait to 'play house' in that tiny apartment on the other side of town. I'm actually anticipating finding a place for everything and putting everything in it's (mega-small) place. And I'm looking forward to making for Tom and myself, a cozy sweet home where we'll live for a few months while waiting to hear from God about where to go next.

And it's after seeing all these changes in my own head and heart that I know--absolutely--that Grace truly, truly is amazing.

Friday, December 07, 2007



Okay.

There's this verse in Proverbs about four things the author doesn't understand:

"There are three things that are too amazing for me,
four that I do not understand:

the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
...the way of a man with a maiden."

And here's what Debra would add:

"...and the way people put those silly, gigantic inflatable Santas, snowmen and reindeer on their lawns."

I mean, really. Come on.

Everyday I take my walk around the neighborhood and everyday I see poor ol' Santas sprawled across lawns like spread-eagle pancakes beside their deflated plastic friends.

I don't understand the Christmas cheer of that.

In my mind, I always imagine the abominable snowman, at night, tromping across all those lawns, committing mass murder. Or that Santa and his friends got so cold, they decided to impale themselves rather than take one more freezing long night while having to keep those goofy grins upon their faces.

It's like, what are people thinking? Who wants to blow-up gigantic plastic characters over and over only to wake up in the morning and discover them strewn, pancake-style across the lawn--again?

Not me, anyway.

So, I guess, like Solomon (or whoever wrote that part in Proverbs), there are just some things which must be too amazing for me to understand, as well. :)

In honor of this day's being the 66th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, I thought I would include this, below, which I received in an email. It truly does take just a minute to let one of our troops know you appreciate what they're doing.


***
Something cool that Xerox is doing:

If you go to this web site, http://www.letssaythanks.com

you can pick out a thank you card and Xerox will print it and it will be sent to a soldier that is currently serving in Iraq . You can't pick out who gets it, but it will go to some member of the armed services.

How AMAZING it would be if we could get everyone we know to send one!!! This is a great site. Please send a card. It is FREE and it only takes a second.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

re:Christmas Movies


Some things just cannot be explained.

Such as, two of my favorite movies which I LOVE. They are Home Alone I and Home Alone 2.

(Okay, stop laughing.)

No, really. If ever I need to get into a Christmassy mood, I put in one of those Home Alone dvd's and within an hour, I'm feeling like winter snow is a beautiful thing (living in the stuff, I tend to forget that). The music from the opening credits reminds me of sitting long ago inbetween Tom and an 8-year-old Naomi at the theater and feeling a marvelous sense of anticipation (and the rest of the music puts little lilting songs into my heart and head for days). Kevin's big house makes me want to redecorate my own (and I dream about renovating a house like his uncle's), the second movie almost convinces me to visit New York City, and both films make me want to gather with extended family who are all so far away.

So I guess I explained it a little, though many, many of you now have serious doubts about either my sanity or my taste in movies. Or both. :)

My other favorite Christmas movies which I've watched, like the Home Alone films, twenty or more times?

It's a Wonderful Life
The Snowman
Prancer
A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott version)
Ebbie
Bachelor Mother
While You Were Sleeping
Christmas In Connecticut
Miracle on 34th Street

And although Christmas isn't my favorite season, exactly, many of the above movies are ones I've been caught watching even in Summer. Or Spring., Or Autumn. There's just something about them, I guess. Something, yes, which can't always be explained.

But that's ok. Why do we feel we must explain or justify our likes, anyway?

***

Does anyone else love the first two Home Alone movies? Please let me know in my comment box. Those of you who hate them (or think you hate them), well, you don't have to tell me. :)

Oh, and probably most of you haven't seen The Snowman. I highly recommend seeing it at least once. The music score, alone, is worth the price of renting it.

***

P.S. Did I mention I also own the Home Alone cd? :)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


So there Tom and I were last night, shivering inside our car in a dark parking lot behind an apartment building with the heater running. We'd received a call from a landlord that morning saying he'd be showing an apartment at 6:00 which Tom had called about, and we were welcome to come by, if we wished. He didn't say call him back if we were coming, but well, we should have. But we were new to this finding a rental game (game?!) and didn't know better.

The guy never showed.

Anyway, there in the darkness we saw backs and fronts of endless apartment buildings and this one beside us had even been squeezed in sideways. I mean, its balconies did not face the street and more apartment buildings across the way like all the others. No, they faced the driveway beside it and a huge brick wall. (How romantic. sigh.)

I told Tom, "This place is dreadful. Simply dreadful. We've waited out in the freezing cold long enough. Let's get out of here."

So as we drove away from Dreadful Apartment Land, I thought, "And here I'd told Tom yesterday that I believed today would be the day we'd find a place to rent--that I could absolutely sense it. Huh. So much for that."

But a tiny glimmer of hope sprang up in my weary rental-seeker head and heart and I thought I heard, "Hey. I keep reminding you to follow Grace. Don't lose your joy. Keep believing." I whispered, "I know. I've been trying to anticipate finding something sweet, not dreading something only tolerable, but it's been hard..."

We drove around a bit more, ahhhed at the Christmas lights and drove past a few more (awful) places with leaning For Rent signs stuck in snow, took down some phone numbers, then drove home (while I felt like Susan in Miracle on 34th Street. You know, at the end where she's murmuring dejectedly in the car, "I believe... I believe....").

But alas! Inside our Cozy Room, we got a call from a different landlord. He described the house to us (a 'triple') and told us where it was located. Aha! It's in the neighborhood where, for the past year, I've felt a certain tugging of my heart whenever we drive through there. It's in the oldest part of town and frankly, a run-down, kinda-sad part, as well. But there's just something about that area. It's always been quiet back there, though it's on the edge of town and rather near railroad tracks (though you cannot see them). It's like a separate little world back there, a world which feels like it's not changed or advanced in 60 years.

And of course, I love that.

This morning we drove past the house and found it's on one of the cheerier streets, not all delapidated as some are in that forgotten corner. And the house, itself, appeared fine from the outside--we'd even have a driveway all to ourselves, and more, we'd be saving nearly $500 per month because heat and water are included and we'll no longer be paying any obscene NY property taxes (insert wild applause here).

We'd made an appointment to see inside tomorrow, but--with rentals being snatched up wildly lately--Tom even called the landlord today and told him we'd driven past the place and were very, very interested. Just so he'd realize our seriousness.

And we are serious, even though it has just one bedroom. That will only serve to complete the back-to-newlyweds feeling we seem to be going for in the latest phase/season of our lives.

And to think we did, after all, find it on Tuesday. While following Grace, I like to think.


***

"Only believe..."

"Seeing things that are not, as though they were..."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

'Skipping Christmas'


So far I am loving this Christmas season.

Why? Because I am blessed with fifty reasons why I can legitimately skip it this year. :)

No, really.

For me, Christmas has never exactly been 'the most wonderful time of the year' and I've shared my angst about it with you before, like here. Deep inside, I've longed to be brave enough, at least once, to skip Christmas (the World's idea of Christmas, that is), but I've always chickened-out. Downright caved-in to peer pressure (and all that).

But like I said, this year I have my excuses. Lots of 'em. Great big huge legitimate ones.

Like, we just might be moving into a whole other house during Christmas week (or extremely soon after).
I'm spending hours everyday now packing and decluttering. And searching for a place to rent.
My dad recently passed away and I'm still recovering from that.
Our Christmas decorations are all packed away. I'll not even be putting up our "Poof! Instant Christmas" gold grapevine Christmas tree. (Er, unless I change my mind.)
We're in the process of giving away extra furniture and selling some and taking some out to the curb... and I've still got ads to get out on bulletin boards.
And Tom and I are spending much time wondering just what we should do for the whole rest of our lives...

Need I go on? (Because, really, there's more.)

Oh, I'll send a few Christmas cards, but there'll be no 'family Christmas letter' this year. I've bought a few gifts online for Tom and Naomi, I'll give a gift card to my favorite single mom and a donation to a charity, as well. And while I'm packing, I'm watching the occasional Christmas movie on dvd... and humming Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas while taking walks around my neighborhood...and kneeling at my windows at night, looking out at the neighbor's Christmas display lights.

But that's gonna be about it.

This is my year to take Christmas off. And you know? I don't even feel the least bit guilty. Technically, I feel smart. Technically, I feel this is the right thing to do and God won't even mind.


***

P.S. Here's something else to add to my Keep It Simple list... I just returned from our local 'zap you back to the 1940's' supermarket where I bought a small coffee and sat at their tiny, warm cafe section while reading Christmas magazines, listening to carols and watching all the people around me. Ahhh... my idea of bliss!

"Unto you is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord..."

Sunday, December 02, 2007


This has been on my mind lately. I hope I can phrase things right...

I truly believe that sometimes we're not feeling well because we're making our own selves sick in 'small' ways.

When I was in my 20's, a young wife and mother, I confess I was one of those coupon queens. You know the type. They go to the supermarket and get $50 worth of groceries for around $5. And in a couple years' time I'd save a few hundred dollars through refunding. I even subscribed to a monthly refunding magazine.

Now, regarding refunding, I was honest only 85 (or so) percent of the time, but even less with couponing. Like, if a particular supermarket printed coupons in the newspaper, ones which stated, "only one coupon per family," well, I'd return to the supermarket a few times per week and use another of the same coupon, always going to a different cashier lest she recall me having already used that one-per-family discount earlier.

I know, I know... sounds like such a minor thing. But is it? I'd have to say--especially all these years later--no, it is not a tiny thing. Especially if God was there convicting me to only use one coupon as was stated clearly.

The problem? My head. It said, "Hey! We don't have much money. And groceries are too expensive, anyway. And everybody does this. And it's such a teensy thing. And the store won't even notice, what with all their paperwork and thousands of items on their shelves."

Yet here's what mattered most. God was convicting me not to cheat with coupons--but I ignored Him. And if I ignore God in one area, it becomes simple to ignore Him in others. My 20's and early 30's were often hard years for me emotionally--and well, duh. How ignorant to expect God to bless me in my disobedience (and my acting in fear, not faith)...

... and then wonder, "Why don't I feel quite right anymore? Why have I lost my joy? Why don't I feel as close to God the way I used to?"

And now, oh my--do you think I could live with myself if I cheated with coupons? Uh, no. Over the years I've asked God to do whatever it takes to help me retain my integrity. Whatever it takes. And well, you go and ask something like that and you'll experience a whole lot of humbling adventures. I'm warning you.

But I'd rather live no other way.

Other areas which appear tiny, but could actually be huge by ignoring conviction?

Taking home pens or staplers or towels (etc.) from our workplace, motels, places of business.

Sneaking that muffin or Sprite out of buffet-type restaurants (when it's meant only to be eaten inside).

Speaking negatively about other Christians--yes, even televangelists (the easiest targets on Earth, many who win thousands to the Lord every year).

Gossiping about people we know--giving our opinion about their 'mistakes' to our other friends.

Walking past someone who needs help (when God convicts us to stop and at least ask if there's something we can do).

Taking two when the sign says, "Take one."

Snapping rudely, regularly at our spouse.

Not letting the cashier know when she's handed over too much money with our change.

Expecting non-Christians to act godly and criticizing them in our blog when they don't.

Well, you know. That kind of stuff. For me, when I do any of those things, even though the act, in itself, appears small, I feel such enormous conviction--like a piano is being lowered onto my head.

And I'm thankful. For, largely due to that (I believe), my 40's has been my best, most enjoyable decade so far.


***
"...the little foxes... spoil the vines..." ... Song of Solomon 2:15


"For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." ... Matthew 12:37

"Love is patient, love is kind..." 1 Corinthians 13:4


So there I was at 5:45 this morning out in our driveway shoveling our first real snow. Probably just four inches of the stuff fell last night (but it looked like a foot's worth) and only if you, too, are a shoveler of snow does four inches sound like much. It certainly felt like a lot.

Anyway, Tom would be home soon from work so I needed to shovel at least enough for him to drive into the carport. And at first, there in the silent darkness, I muttered these words with each shovel load I scooped and threw, "We were supposed to (grrr) be out of here by now (grrr)!" For you see, last winter I found strength in repeating these words, "At least I'll never have to do this again. Next year (and beyond) we'll live in gentler climates."

So much for that.

But you know? The more I shoveled, the more invigorated I felt out there in the balmy 30 degree temperatures (a big warm-up from yesterday). I reminded myself that on Oprah they said shoveling snow for 15 minutes is like working-out at the gym for two hours (though, technically, I believe that's an exaggeration, especially if you're shoveling snow Debra's sane-slow-safe way). But still, that's encouraging to someone who desires to stay in shape, but who would wither and crawl away from the gym after any laughter at her extreme lack of coordination, I'm certain.

And when I'd shoveled out to the street, I stood there, gazed into the night sky, then at my neighbors' sleepy houses and appreciated the quiet... and all my hundreds of such winter morning memories. And it hit me--I was having, well, fun. Or a form of fun, anyway.

But only after I'd stopped complaining inside my head did I begin enjoying my task. Imagine that.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


On Thursday night Tom and I toured the darlingest little rental house tacked onto the back of a huge old brown home. We felt like newlyweds searching for a nest. Each room was tiny, clean, and I could just picture our 1950's Formica table in the kitchen below the large window with the view of a wall 10 feet away. The two bedrooms made the average prison cell positively spacious, but hey...

We wanted to tell the sweet young landlord at that moment that we'd take this cute place, (only $500 each month, with the heating included), but one aspect we realized would be a huge problem. We'd have to share the driveway with this nice couple, and with Tom's wild and crazy work schedule (and with the tons of snow due and not being able to park on the street) we knew we'd make the landlords insane with a constant game of "musical cars" (you know, like musical chairs).

But alas, it was fun dreaming about this dollhouse and imagining where each piece of our basic furniture would go (ala Laura Ingalls Wilder style in the book where she figured out how best to squeeze her family's furniture into their one-room farmhouse). We'll be storing the vast amount of our belongings in a storage unit during the months we'll be renting, living only with what we deem necessary.

In fact, I think what most excited us was returning to how our lives were 29 years ago as newlyweds. How was life back then? Simple. We owned so few belongings and had few financial responsibilities. Our only complication was learning how to live together peacefully.

But finally, I think we've figured-out how to do that.

So the tiny rental house appeared like a simplicity haven awaiting us and I think that's what brought out our smiles during the short tour. And I was glad, too, that somewhere along the years I became secure enough to not care what friends will think when they discover we're not only renting, but renting (most likely) a teensy place. Years past, my psyche couldn't have handled that. Now? My psyche couldn't care less.

And too, I realized that I won't have to travel to a whole other state in order to experience the new adventure I've craved. At least I feel I can wait some months. Something new and decidedly different will take place in my life right here in our same ol' area when we do find the right rental house. Relearning to adapt to a more serious form of simplicity (while living in a home not mine) will provide enough adventure for awhile, I'm sure.