Thursday, May 29, 2008

Today IS Something!

I can't believe all this stuff happened today!

We can celebrate Democracy Day with the Nigerians and Oak Apple Day with folks in the U.K.

As fellow Virginians, we can reflect back on hometown hero Patrick Henry, who gave a speech today denouncing the Stamp Act, in which it is believed he said, "If this be treason, make the most of it!" (Can he come back for a re-enactment at the post office someday? Stamps are going to be as high as gas prices pretty soon.)

Sir Edumund Hillary (no relation to the Democratic presidential candidate...that would be a stretch, wouldn't it?) and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest for the first time today.

Bing Crosby recorded the classic "White Christmas," only the best-selling Christmas album in history, for Decca Records. And his "Road" pictures partner, Bob Hope, came into the picture a few years prior to that.

And a few other folks of note also showed up today: auto racing legend Al Unser, Sr.; former U.S. president John F. Kennedy;
Ebenezer Butterick, inventor of the tissue paper dress pattern (where would my sewing be without him?); and former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent....

Not to mention and eclectic mix of entertainers (I'm reserving judgment here), including General Hospital's Tony Geary; Procol Harum keyboardist Gary Brooker (would we know a "whiter shade of pale" without him?); Toto bassist Mike Porcaro;
rocker Melissa Ethridge; actress Annette Bening; "dark" movie and The Simpsons theme composer Danny Elfman; Facts of Life big sister Lisa Whelchel; "Scary Spice" Melanie Janine Brown (yikes!); and Rebbie and LaToya Jackson (these Jackson girls came on the same day, six years apart--OOh!)

But, truly, TODAY....the event to celebrate is MY HUSBAND'S BIRTHDAY! We've been "going out" for 24-1/2 years now, and May 29th doesn't mean anything else.

Gifts never come close to anything that you would really like, but I hope you know that I love you and celebrate you!

(And I didn't tell anyone how young or old you are today. But you do share the exact same birthday as someone listed above. Not telling....)


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"Checked Out" on the Self-Check Line

I was ready to write a story about the death of customer service. My car dealer fixed my brake light (see the blog) but couldn't seem to reset the computer on the car. So, I still have the "brake light" error message lit up in green. You would think this would be the last thing on their checklist before "Bill customer big bucks." So, I am extending them grace. (Wish they could do the same for my warranty.)

No, maybe customer service is not completely dead. Oh, sure, we're eventually going to pay $25 per bag so our luggage can fly less-than-coach on an airplane, but not everything is flying south.

I love the self-checkout at the grocery story. I am probably fulfilling some kind of dream, like working for the post office. There's just something about scanning your own items and having the system beep and say, "Place the item in the bag." It's an "I can't believe I get to do this" phenomenon.

Well, I was happily scanning away at the Kroger today. I think the system was unhappy with the fact that I was so slow. It kept saying, in its nice computer way, "Please wait for the attendant." Joseph (not his picture) was very nice and used his PDA to get me back to scanning quickly. I bought wine, which meant I had to show him my ID. I had a coupon, which he needed to scan through his PDA. All the while, he smiled and said nothing--just letting me live it up with my scanning.

He helped me load a bag in my cart, had me sign my receipt and wished me a good day. And I left unbeknownst to me one bag short!

I had parked my car about as far away from the store as you could be. (Because I was visiting a nearby store, I parked equidistant between the establishments). I had just about gotten the cart to the car when I heard the cry of "Ma'am! Ma'am!!"
Wouldn't you know, it was for me!

Joseph was yelling across the parking lot, carrying my stray bag. I thanked him profusely, because it really was quite a distance to walk. He just smiled more and said, "No problem."

And what had I left behind in the plastic bag turnstile? Lunch tubs of pasta shells with meatballs and chili, peanut butter crackers and fruit bars--supplies for the "emergency preparedness box" we have for power outages or bad-weather situations.

I don't know if Joseph knows something I don't, but I do know that I would definitely go back to the self-check at Kroger. Because if I'm "checked out" again doing the job myself, I want Joseph to be on hand, smiling with his PDA...probably shaking his head at me....

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Two sides of the same crumb

Side 1
I cleaned the toaster the other day. Even though we have a very cool secret drawer that collects crumbs, inevitably, crumbs get stuck inside the toaster and never fall all the way down to the drawer. So, I turn the toaster upside-down and beat the sides, which always dumps out more crumbs. I looked at all of the crumbs sitting in the sink, then I rattled the toaster and continued to hear more crumbs. (sigh!)

It all reminded me of the struggle with sin. I can rid myself of sin--through Christ--by confession and dumping those bad things I do (a.k.a., repentence). But, inevitably, there remain some crumbs of sin left behind--unconfessed things, things I haven't been able to completely repent of, things I don't even know I'm doing wrong.

"If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us." --I John 1:8

Still, even though the Bible confirms that the Christian cannot be a habitual sinner (I John 3: 4-10), that doesn't mean it's good to house crumbs in my toaster.

Side 2
After meditating on my own crumbs, I was quickly reminded of a Bible story in which a woman's love of crumbs brought her great blessing. (Needless to say, crumbs are not sin in this analogy.)

A Gentile woman had been following Jesus and said, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed." Jesus didn't respond to her right away, and His disciples just wanted her gone because she was creating such a ruckus. But, she continued, bowing before Him.

"Lord, help me!"

This time, Jesus answered her: "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." This all sounds perfectly horrible, unless you understand the language and expressions of the day, and the fact that Jesus was trying to draw out for the benefit of His disciples and others (including us) this woman's faith.

"But she said, 'Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table.'

Then Jesus said to her, 'O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.' And her daughter was healed at once." (Scripture from Matthew 15: 21-28)

Had this woman given up, believing that the Word of the Lord, the Bread of Life, could not be for her, her daughter may never have seen healing. And she, a Gentile, fed on and was nourished by the "crumbs" of Jesus.

Faith of a mustard seed. Crumbs from the Master's table. He uses the small things for great purposes.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

7 Facts About Me

I've been tagged by Chatty Kelly. So I will now post 7 facts about me.

1. I love the color BROWN, as in coffee, chocolate, cocoa, dirt....
2. I used to be an on-air radio personality in Upstate New York and, besides my maiden name, used the names Sue O'Neill and Awesome Sue.
3. My boyfriend in high school and I decided to cross-dress for a Halloween party. (I was a great date and brought him a bouquet! I did think his makeup was a bit much. But I looked like a young Paul McCartney with a mustache. Of course I have pictures.)
4. I answered God's saving call on my life as I was driving to Sam's Club to shop on a Sunday. (I was bawling with happiness, much to the chagrin of my fellow Club members.)
5. I am an unbelievably self-controlled window shopper. I have problems once you get me in the store. (Just ask my personal shopper! "She won't try on anything--What's her problem??")
6. I used to do Chinese fire drills with my high-school youth group. (And I liked them!)

7. My kids bring out the best and the worst in me. I'm still trying to figure them out; us out. Being a mom just isn't what I thought it would be, and truthfully, who can know what being a mom is really like until you become one? God's plan is one of a kind, and I'm so glad that He chose me to experience this special role of a lifetime.

Tag--You're it now! If you read my blog and want to join in, read the rules below. I'd love to know seven things about each one of you! Leave a comment and let me know if you'll post, so that I can come by!

1. List these rules on your blog.

2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Let me know you're playing by leaving a comment on my blog.

4. If you don't blog, list your 7 facts in the comments section.

Guess I get a night off from developing something totally original. Would like to give credit to whomever started this chain, but.....I don't have that much time to check out ALL THOSE BLOGS! (Whew!)


Friday, May 23, 2008

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE........*conditions still apply

"If you kiss me, you will be skinny."

Daughter #2 is at it again--twisting up a phrase in a funny way. (Oh, to be true.) Unfortunately, the phrase she's twisting up usually goes like this: "If you hit (pinch, kick, bite, insert other painful physical response here), you will go to time-out." (Although she can repeat this line, too, she's still learning what it means.)

It's the classic "If...then" statement, perhaps most strongly tied to mathematical equations or scientific hypotheses (or baseball fields, as in the infamous, "If you build it, they will come"). It's called a conditional statement because for a result or truth to be realized, certain conditions must exist.

a figure has four equilateral sides and four right angles, then that figure is a square. If you buy three boxes of Fruity Sugar Loopies, then you can receive 50 cents off the purchase of a fourth box. (And who doesn't want that? The discount, at least.)

What may not compute is how a God who is unconditional love can still have conditions for those He loves. It's one of those semantic stumbling blocks. God's love IS unconditional--His love. But the God of the universe still requires action on the part of His creation. Not that His love for us will ever change, but the blessings we receive within that love relationship can come conditionally.

"...(If) My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land." II Chronicles 7:14

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and (then) will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." John 1:9

God can surely act without a response from His loved ones. But think how He must feel when His loved ones read His Word and respond out of obedience. We will never be able to love God unconditionally, but that doesn't mean we weren't called to love. He wants us to love Him with everything we possess--"our heart, soul, mind and strength." Deuteronomy 6:5

So, although God's love for us is forever unconditional, God's working in our lives can come with strings attached--heartstrings.

How do I love Thee? Shall I count the ways?

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, (then) I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." I Corinthians 13:1

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cooked or...?

"Why should I do something I've already done?"

I have to give David Cook a lot of credit for his performances on American Idol last night. Unfortunately, I think Simon Cowell's kiss-of-death remarks will probably shut the 25 year old out of the title, but the show's finale was the best I have seen in the six years I've been watching.

I'm sure the judges will talk a lot about song choices as they reflect back tonight, and David Cook will get dinged for not picking songs that were more in the Idol pop direction. (I have to admit that his version of I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For was a bit tentative, to side with Randy. But an awesome "push note.") The song composition choices were both weak, and both contestants did their best with what they had--applause to both for that.

But, with the final song--contestant pick--Cook goes for something new that reflects "who he is as an artist" and "a different side of David Cook," to use judgespeak, while David Archuleta goes with the "safe" choice of Imagine, which scored him big points back during the Lennon/McCartney show. In the end, Simon called Archuleta's performances a "knockout."

Still, I have to look back on David Cook at the end of his Collective Soul number, emotions starting to take over, and what he said to Simon.

"I've looked at this whole thing as a progression," he said. "Why should I do something I've already done?" Then, he quickly and thoughtfully added that he understood Simon's point of view about the strength of a repeat performance, such as Cook's versions of Hello or Billie Jean.

And if you noticed, Simon gave David Cook a very quick wink.

You can look at this part of the Idol story in more than one way. (See my friend Kelly's blog for a different look at David Archuleta (Only a Boy Named David.) But for me, yeah, of course it's about singing. But to see someone who finds joy in the "progression" is to see someone who understands and appreciates something about this life that we're given. We'll see how it all turns out tonight, and in the years ahead, but for this moment....

Gotta give you your props, Dawg...David Cook rocked!

*10 p.m. EDT add-on: Welcome to your new title--American Idol--David Cook!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

VA Coincidental

When you choose to believe that God is in control of EVERYTHING, then you cease to believe in coincidence. But, that doesn't mean you don't recognize when there is "a remarkable occurrence of events or ideas at the same time...," as the dictionary defines 'coincidence.' It's just that when the dictionary says coincidence is something that is "suggesting but lacking a causal relationship," you know otherwise.

I direct a handbell choir, which is a true calling and blessing in my life. Last night, we played a concert for patients at a local rehabilitation facility. We are enjoying the opportunity to play "on the road" because it puts us in contact with people we don't know and gives us the opportunity to minister to them through our music. We like to close our concerts by giving the audience the chance to ring the handchimes. We have special "music" that we have them play by color; the words of a song are highlighted with green for ring (go) and red to damp (stop) the chime. What we didn't expect last night was that we would encounter an unusual number of "coincidences."

One of the ringers said that she played with a patient who had lived in Hanover, Germany. "My son is doing a report right now on Hanover, Germany," she said. "Is that weird? I'm thinking about sending him over here to talk with her."

Another ringer shared an enormously joy-filled smile. "I just played with a blind woman!" she said. Truly, she had been holding the patient's hand with the chime in it throughout the song. What were we playing? Amazing Grace. "I once was lost, but now I'm found. Was blind but now I see." I had never thought about what would happen if a blind person received color-coded music. But, it wasn't about the music now, was it? And that patient had an equally enormous joy-filled smile on her face.

Then, as we were packing up to leave, a gentleman in a wheelchair rolled up behind me. He asked if we knew Poughkeepsie. Well, you don't hear the town mentioned in central Virginia regularly, but, having gone to school in upstate New York, I knew the town. Then, it dawned on me that I had just seen the word Poughkeepsie. It was on the last piece of music we had played. The piece had been arranged and dedicated to a bell choir in Poughkeepsie. I shared this information with the gentleman.

"My daughter plays with them," he said, as I showed him the name of the choir on the music. The Tower RIngers is one of the "star" performing choirs from that area of the country, and the gentleman said that he had accompanied his daughter on a number of those performances and that she really loved being a part of the group. He was quite familiar with the music!

As I reflect back on last night--thinking about how we all just looked at each other in wonder, sharing these stories--it also came to mind today that, sometimes, the coincidences are not as "happy." One of our ringers had missed the last two practices due to family obligations. She called just before our performance to say that she wouldn't be able to play, as her brother-in-law was in very serious condition at a hospital and that she was told by doctors that he might not make it through the night.*

The two weeks of her absence provided the opportunity for other ringers to learn and play her part. Who knew that they would have to do so in a performance situation?

"O Lord, You are my God;
I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name;
For You have worked wonders,
Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness."

--Isaiah 25:1

One of our pastors at church has adopted a new blessing to use at the close of services. It begins, "You go nowhere by accident...." His Word confirms over and over that He IS in control of EVERYTHING, and that He would reveal His plans to us in the form of such "remarkable events" shows just how wonder-full He really is.

*Continued prayers for this man as he did survive the night and a transfer to a more fully equipped medical center, for peace and comfort, and for God's perfect faithfulness in provision.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

What's the Attraction?

I just finished making another curtain. This is a simple lined panel made of scrap denim fabric. (I may have exhausted my jeans patch fabric with this project! See last night's blog.) It's hanging in the garage, as you might have guessed. The plan is to block out the late-afternoon sun and, perhaps, keep the garage cooler this summer.

What I like about this project is not the curtain (although I worked hard to put in nice hems). No, what I love is that the panel is hung on a magnetic curtain rod, which is critical since the garage door is metallic. I didn't know about magnetic curtain rods until fairly recently, and all I could think about was how drilling holes for the supports would leave a permanent defect in the door (assuming any next owner wouldn't want my denim panel on the garage-door window). To me, that's the big attraction.

I revisited the laws of attraction with Daughter #1, who just took her big science test the other day. Opposite poles attract. Like poles repel. It seems like the craziest notion ever. Why would two things that shouldn't go together actually bind to each other? And vice versa?

But, we all know this is true, scientifically, and I think it's true relationally as well. And, you know, even spiritually.

Attract literally means "to draw to." In the science experiment, if north and south poles are in the same magnetic field, there is a physical "drawing to" that you can feel if you hold onto the magnet and the object it's pulling in. Relationally, what is it that attracts us to other people--spouses, friends, co-workers? Often times, we see something in someone else that we don't have. We share something in the "field," but our opposite natures attract us with a curiosity--an interest.

In a relationship with God, one is drawn in by the "magnetic" power of Jesus.

"'And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.'" (John 12:32)

In saving the world from the consequences of sin, Jesus created the way--a new kind of "magnetic field," if you will--for us to be eternally attracted. And as a sinner, being on the opposite pole from the Lord, I need to know that I can be drawn in to Him.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Hole Truth

Perhaps some might gather that I'm in the hole, as in unable to afford a decent pair of jeans.

I'd offer instead that my holey pants reflect a whole-hearted glam.

On the whole, I like my jeans. Some would go whole-hog for finding the perfect pair for the perfect occasion. I'm more holistic in my search--finding the perfect jeans for my whole life.

"You could shop wholesale," they might offer.

But the satisfaction of being holed up to sew one's own patches is a whole lot better than jeans money burning a hole in one's pocket.

"But, they look so...hole-in-the-wall."

"Do they not fit my wholesome appearance?"

"Truly, you could hit a hole in one with a pair of Raven Denims."

Try as you might to pick a hole in my stance, you'll have as much chance of getting me to change my view as you would trying to push a Holstein.

I'm wholly uninterested.

So I patch my holes, and my jeans are whole again, because only God should be holy!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Light Warning


The green display has been up there for about a month and a half. My car has a system that lets you know when things go wrong with it and what's wrong. (Wish the kids were that easy to read!)

The day after I brought the car into the dealer for service--THE next day--the warning panel said, "Check brake light." I had a brake light out on the left side. (Sigh!) Decided to ride it out, literally, rather than head back to the dealer, as we were on our way into road traveling for Spring Break.

Got the oil changed after the trip and the guys nicely pointed out that I had a brake light out. "Yeah. I'm going to take it to the dealer," I said, wondering how much longer I could go without heading back to the dealer.

Until today, that is, when a police officer turned on his flashing lights behind me as I was on the way to preschool with my daughter. I thought I had kept under 25 through the school zone. Maybe my registration sticker fell off the license plate again? Or maybe I forgot to put the registration sticker on the license plate again?

"Your left brake light is out," he said, as I was scrambling to give him the license and registration card. I just nodded. He went to run my information through the system, or whatever it is the officer does when he takes your stuff.

"It's your left brake light," he said again, returning my cards.

"Thank you," I said. "I'll have to get that fixed." And off we drove.

So, my light warning got me a light warning from a different source. Am I not a potential danger to drivers on the road if not a potential accident waiting to happen to me, my kids and my car? As much as I didn't enjoy being pulled over, I had a very gracious officer "tell" me that I am not safe. Yikes! I am making an appointment with the dealer.

And how many other "light warnings" are going off that I'm either missing or that I see regularly and ignore. What does that mean for the folks around me? The Bible calls these "stumbling blocks," and they are not welcome things.

"Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!" (Matthew 18:7, italics mine)

Leading others to do wrong--or to "blindly" go about accepting a wrong situation--is cause for grave concern, pun intended.

Did I say I had made an appointment with the dealer?

When life gives you lemons, make...(spill)...OH!


It started with lemonade for snack. Innocent enough.

"We should bake something today," I said to Daughter #2, who is home from preschool. She had been talking about lemons all morning, because she now has a thing for how the dishwasher soap smells. ("Mmmmm.....Lemon!" she croons.)

So, I found the recipe for Lemon Loaf (The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook). I knew we didn't have a lemon in the house, but we had lemon juice--good enough.

Well, no sooner had I found the recipe than I heard the plastic cup hit the table, followed by the sound of dripping. Lemonade on the table, #2's skirt, her chair and the floor. This after my husband joked that we should track how many spills happen at our kitchen table! And lemonade isn't milk, if you know what I mean. (That Pledge shine is really a sticky puddle of lemonade to the touch.)

Got #2 cleaned up. We pulled out lemon juice and the rest of the ingredients and cooking tools to start our baking venture. I measured flour, baking powder, salt and sugar, and poured them into the bowl. Her favorite part is the stirring. I gave her the fork to stir with (per instructions) and let her go.

Well, no sooner had I put some tablespoons and measuring cups in the sink than I heard the sound of flour hitting the floor. It was more like a very large tablespoon (or 3) but it made quite a sound.

"Be careful!" I said.

She started back in, and this time, I saw the flour fly. (Note: flour sticks great to lemonade.)

"OK!" I said, and took the bowl.

Well, no sooner had I taken the bowl that I finally looked at her and realized the problem. If you read my Mom's Day post, you know Daughter #2 is in a cast--her stirring arm! Now she never said anything about stirring being tough. She just tries to be ambidextrous all the time...not letting her "lemon" get the best of her.

"This is all my fault," I said. "This is Mommy's mess."

So I cleaned up all the dishes, and I swept up the flour and mopped away the lemonade. And an hour and a quarter later (plus a little more for lemon drizzle icing--which I let her brush on), we had warm Lemon Loaf and big smiles.

The moral? When life gives your preschooler a lemon, don't cry over spilled lemonade. Make Lemon Loaf and value her zest for life.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Curtain Call

I saw a great dish towel at Target a couple weeks ago.

"This would look so great in the girls' bathroom," I thought. (They have a sea life-themed bathroom.)

"But we don't need dish towels in there." (I've moved the girls' play kitchen outside, and no one is quite ready to wash the real dishes yet, so what would they do with them?)

But, a short curtain--cool!

So, in a zippy stitch across with the sewing machine, I hemmed up the top of the towels to make pockets for a curtain rod. A tension rod fit neatly in the window frame and allowed for me to make the curtains an atypical length--just the length to fill the space.

As much as I enjoy sewing and crafting, I could not create the fish motif and embroidery on the towels. But I was mighty gleeful over the prospect of turning a towel into a curtain.

As Robert Frost said in a poem, "
Take what is given, and make it over your way."

Sometimes the joy is not in creating an original. After all, "
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.." (Ecclesiastes 1:9) But, taking what there is, recognizing the beauty of that, and then discovering something creatively different and wonderful is where the real joy is.

God made you an original, and He takes joy in you every day! And I'm glad He gives us the opportunity to be creative in our own ways.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Using Your Resources Creatively

Daughter #1's Mother's Day gift/card truly shows how much she loved studying Economics in school. My card came with the colored background poster and three envelopes--Human Resources, Natural Resources and Capital Resources.

I opened HR envelope first and found three lovely ladies. Next, I opened natural resources and found many cutouts of flowers, trees and rocks ("for a stone walkway," she said). The capital resources envelope held the wheelbarrow, rake, gardening gloves and even a bag of loam. (We've been studying soil for school also.) Pretty cool paper doll set, if I do say.

She never fails to surprise me (in good and not-so-good ways). She loves to make these stenciled paper dolls. She loves school more than vacation! And she surprises me by taking everything that she learns--the academic and the insight into others' personalities, likings, talents and gifts--and making it into something unique, memorable, personal and fantastic.

My ongoing quest is to help her use her invaluable resources to bring her up into a lovely lady.

Wish that was as easy as stencil, cut and color!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Kids Shine Best on Mom's Day

Children have a certain way
of growing bigger every day,
But these little hands and this special smile
will stay in our hearts a long, long while.

What I especially love about daughter #2's artwork is that she did it with her left hand and arm. (Her right one is in a cast right now!)

Someone once shared the idea of taking a mental snapshot of what your children's features look and feel like at certain ages, because it is so easy to forget from whence they came. I think that's why I'll always have room in my heart (and storage boxes...until that precious album gets made) for this kind of artwork.

Happy Mom's Day!
A "today" to remember, when God brought something special into your world.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Kids I Keep

One of the things I do during the month is to take care of some kids who don't live with me!

The Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) program at my church is one of the things that helped me get established after I moved to Virginia, and one of the things that kept me going as a young mom. To be able to give something back to other young moms going through similar circumstances--like watching their children for a few hours--is one of the small things I can do to make something of today.

Here's a short video I made with the kids and some of their fellow playground mates.

Moms, thank you for the privilege--they're great kids!