One day this week, I'm going through every box and can in the pantry. The bathroom cabinets are next! This place is going to be purged!!
Monday, December 31, 2007
One day this week, I'm going through every box and can in the pantry. The bathroom cabinets are next! This place is going to be purged!!
Friday, December 28, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Meantime, (Are you ready for this???) Amani's daughter walks up with five pricey purses and a jacket with a fur collar and begins talking to mom in Persian (or maybe Pashto). After Amani's mom's purchases are paid for, the purses are plopped on the counter and Amani Jr. buys her things. At that point Amani apologized to MY BROTHER-IN-LAW!!!! "I'm soddi. Theese ees my fambily."
The upshot? The $10 coupon worked. I sinned in my heart, but not with my mouth!!! My facial expression was nowhere near Christian. And I repented being in a department store the day after Christmas.
I'm not sure what my problem is! I don't know if I'm living right, living on the edge, or falling off the deep end!!!
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!
Saturday, December 22, 2007
"I'll be home for Christmas" by Josh Groban
While I was out today, I stopped at a local Italian grocery store chain where I've recently been purchasing a few things. This one was at a different location than my usual. It was so European in flavor, customers and product, that I kept thinking about the stores in Budapest.
I think my mind went to Budapest because I was watching customers who were obviously from widely varied parts of the world: Asia, Eastern Europe, the Mideast as well as the U.S. Families were shopping for Christmas food and looking for traditional ethnic things they were accustomed to. It reminded me of our week in Hungary, looking for breakfast food in the store when we could not read the name of the product. "Is this cheese, Cream cheese or butter?" we'd ask one another. Sometimes we chose well; sometimes we ate sour cream with our bread and jam!
The shoppers would read the ingredients aloud to one another, ask questions and either nod or shake their heads. Since the labels and the conversation were in Polish, Italian, Slavic or some other language I could not identify, I only guessed at the content of their conversation. But I recognize that search for something to remind one of home and traditions while living in a new land. Been there, done that. It's readable in the faces, the anxious pose of the body, the pitch of the voice.
And then there are those American young men and women who are away from home serving their country. I want to remember them too, remember that in their loneliness, discomfort and danger they are protecting me and the freedoms we enjoy.
God this year as we celebrate, help me to remember to be thankful. Protect those men and women who are serving us well in far away places, giving us the privilege of living here in relative luxury. Give comfort and peace to those who wander far from loved ones and home. Help them to find solace in this hectic time. Give us all a thankful heart. God bless us everyone!!
History of Woodfield: Opened in 1971, it was the largest in the U.S. at that time and second in the world. It now ranks only 9th in size compared to malls in the U.S. It doesn't even get a mention in largest malls in the world!
Three days before Christmas, I head there. It was worth it. I have the prized Julie Morgenstern refill for his planner.
A day well spent. I wrote our Christmas letter, acquired two new microphone cords for the children's musical tomorrow, found a present for Bob and bought a few groceries. That all took....oh let's see...from 11 AM to 5:30 P.M. I'm tired!!
I will really try not to get near a shop of any kind until after Christmas!!!
Thursday, December 20, 2007
"Okay. I know this isn't your fault, but I've been in the line for twenty-five minutes. That isn't fast food. I could have had a 3 course meal at a full service restaurant (I named a fish place) by now. "
She sort of giggled...it was an obvious exaggeration. And said they were having trouble with the computer. What could I say to such a child.
"Well, let the manager know, they need to call somebody to fix something. I'm tired; I'm irritated; I'm no longer hungry."
And I left. Without the food.
Oh dear!! Was that just too rude? The poor child's face took on a sad look. I could just imagine my granddaughter there in 10 years.
There's no getting out of the lane once you're in it. On one side is the building; on the other side is a retaining wall. It's a trap!!! I should have known better than to try for fast food. So now I'm waiting for the potatoes to cook. I'm having hashbrown casserole at midnight!!! And if I'd just come straight home, I would be eating it by now!!!
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
(by the Oak Ridge Boys)
Sunday, December 16, 2007
It occurred to me today that that's exactly the message Mary received, so long ago. "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name, Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:30-33)
Which interpreted (PJ's Version) says, "Mary, you have company coming, very important company who will be very important now and in the future." Hmmm
Mary knew she wasn't prepared for this impressive guest to arrive, so she went to get counsel from her good friend and cousin, Elizabeth. Upon arrival, Elizabeth confirmed the angel's message and affirmed the value of Mary to the future of the Kingdom.
In response to Elizabeth's blessing, Mary responded with the very well-known marvelous Magnificat:
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name. " (Luke 1:46-49)
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts."
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty."
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers."
And Mary stayed with her cousin, Elizabeth, for three months. Together, they prepared to receive the promises of God: John the Baptist and Jesus. They cleaned house and prepared for Company.
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
We had an ice storm starting about midnight. The roads were a sheet of ice until after 9 a.m., so school was canceled. About 10 a.m. things were fairly passable, but the weather is bleary: gray, dreary and leaving me blue. So I decided to start looking for beauty as I drove. I shot the photos above, but it didn't help much. Pictures don't do justice to that tangible feeling of a gray curtain descending on everything one can see. Vision is dim; the light is dim. It feels like driving through a damp gossamer world of gray veils.
So I decided to go to my favorite spot in Elgin. Anytime I'm feeling blue, the beauty there cheers me us. So camera in hand, I stopped by a park on a rainy winter day.
Monday, December 10, 2007
A clip from the Christmas gathering at Rod's house. My other clips are too large and won't upload...so the Spanish one will have to do!!
I think I did something wrong -- I didn't mean for all the others to appear here too!! Hmmm. Just a little techno info can be dangerous!!!! Must figure out how to fix later. For now -- on to the next thing on my to do list!!!
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
The skateboard had been purchased the summer we returned from Ecuador. By then the boys were 6 and 7 years old. We landed back in the good old USA flat broke with what we could carry in two suitcases each, with two boys to feed, no jobs, no car, and no home. A former employer immediately gave Bob a job which included an apartment. We were grateful. Friends furnished the apartment with odds and ends of furniture, dishes and bedding. We were doubly grateful. Another friend loaned us a car for temporary use. What can I say? We have wonderful friends. Within a week I, too, was back with a former employer. We could breath. That first month, we could purchase groceries, gasoline and pay utilities. That was it.
Then there was trouble in the playground. The boys were too quiet, wanting to stay in the apartment most of the time (there was no tv, no video games). I could tell something was wrong. I inquired.
"The kids here won't play with us," they reported.
"Why not?" I asked.
"We don't have any toys to share."
"You have the Tonkas. You have Matchbox cars."
"But we don't have any BIG toys. We don't have bikes or hot wheels so we can play with them."
"Won't they share sometimes?"
"Not if we don't have any big toy to trade for awhile. They don't want to play with the cars we have."
So Bob and I discussed the situation and decided we could use the grocery money to buy skateboards. We'd have very little for food, but I thought I could just swing it. We told the boys that there would be no chips, no cookies, not even juice. Just plain cereal and milk for breakfast. Dinners would be rice and beans and maybe potatoes once in awhile. Lunch would be a sandwich or Mac and cheese. Could they do that?
Their response was immediate. "Sure."
So as soon as I got paid on Friday night, I bought two skateboards for $10 each. One was blue, one yellow, plain, but sturdy. On Saturday two ecstatic boys came in for a peanut butter sandwich at lunch. The skateboards were a hit. They were part of the social group now.
And when they unwrapped the almost forgotten old skateboards years later, we shared tears and hugs remembering those difficult, but joyful days. And gave thanks to God for his constant hand on our lives this and every Christmas.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Jungle BellsThis picture is not of Ecuador. But I promise the view from the kitchen window of our cottage looked just like this. Note the brown foliage in the palms. Those are banana palms. No one takes a picture of the bottom of the banana palm unless it has been recently pruned.
Outside our house the landscape boasted banana palms (nasty looking little things, not at all graceful like the tall slender coconut palms), and broad leaf "Elephant Ears" grew wherever a slight dip in the landscape provided a soggy spot. The Elephant Ears were beautiful (unlike the banana palms), but there was not an evergreen to be found. Not a pine, not a fir, not a spruce, not a even a cedar tree graced this spot near the Equator. So, being the persistent Southern girl that I am, I improvised. I wanted sparkle; I wanted Christmas green like I had known.
At the market I found some shiny craft paper with which to make decorations. For a couple of days, the boys and I made a sort of Japanese lantern from the paper to hang on our tree. I look high and low and could find nothing for a tree. Even at the fancy store in Quito where for exorbitant designer prices, they sold ornaments we'd find in discount stores in the U.S. , there was nothing remotely resembling a tree. So I made that too. I found cardboard, cut out two shapes of a tree, covered both with the shiny paper, slit the top of one and the bottom of the other and fit them together to make a three dimensional shape. Voila! We had a Christmas tree. The boys were excited to help place our little homemade ornaments on the tree. (It really doesn't take much to please a 3- and a 4-year old). This two foot tall wonder sat in a corner atop a small table. (The corner was necessary; it was just a tad wobbly!) Since I didn't have garland or lights, we popped popcorn and strung what they didn't eat on our baby tree. We finished off the decor around the house with some fresh greenery and candles.
That year I also discovered sweetened condensed milk. A large chocolate bar melted and mixed with the milk makes delicious fudge. We had fudge galore. A turkey was out of the question. First, I had no pan in which to bake one. Second, turkeys were terribly rare. Chicken was more costly than fillet mignon; turkey cost like gold. It would be about like trying to purchase an ostrich to bake for Christmas here. Not easily do-able. For Christmas dinner I sprang for a chicken; we had chicken and dumplings.
Christmas Eve has always been our family's main celebration. We usually ate hors' d'oeuvers and opened presents. I prepared a tray of mortadela (sort of like bologna or salami), cheeses and fruit. Not to mention fudge! I even made a few cookies one day when it wasn't too hot. Okay, it was too hot. I just made them anyway!! We'd paid department store prices for a couple of plastic trucks from the big toy store, the kind of trucks we find here in the dollar store. And I had saved a couple of Match Box cars we'd brought from the states. That finished Christmas for the boys.
On Christmas Eve, we sang carols, opened presents and ate to our heart's content. Outside, in the tropical air, stars twinkled, and armadillos scampered. Nearby on the mountain, spider monkeys screeched and puma's prowled for prey. It was a Jungle Bell Christmas.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
"The Burning Cloth"
The tablecloth was a gift, of sorts. It was beautiful; it was made by hand. It was just the kind of gift that I would have treasured forever. There was one problem. The giver and I have history. Aah, you say, history!
She was an addict with several children: two teen boys and two pre-schoolers. We had helped her off and on for several years. We'd talked to her about the Gospel. From time to time she'd be arrested for being drunken and disorderly, once for shoplifting. If we found out about it in time, we'd check on the boys. Made sure they had a place to stay. We had obtained furniture for her for one apartment when she had only the oldest two boys. On numerous occasions, we had brought food, clothes and other necessities.
But a few summers ago, she had received an eviction notice. She'd brought it for me to translate and explain. I carefully explained what it meant, highlighted what date the Sheriff would come and toss her things out if she had not vacated. We inquired if she had somewhere to go. She assured us she did; she and her current partner, father of the two younger children, would take care of it. I warned her again that things would literally be thrown out on such-and-such a date. She needed to pack necessities for the children and find a place to stay. She said she understood.
We were busy with other things that summer, other missions projects and didn't follow up until I got a call from one of the teen boys. The Sheriff had come that day, tossed out their stuff while mom stood by and wailed. Both boys were with a kindly neighbor and had nothing except the clothes on their backs. When they got home from school, they found nothing but garbage on the ground, he told me. Mom had managed to find someone to lend a truck and had some of the furniture in the back of the truck, but all of their clothes were gone. Less kindly neighbors had rummaged through everything and taken anything else usable. I'm fuming, "She can find a truck AFTER things are thrown out willy nilly! Why not before?" (I didn't say THAT out loud.)
"But she did, at least put some clothes for you in a plastic bag, didn't she?"
She had not. And I was angry. Angry that a mother had not bothered to prepare for the inevitable, had not attempted to protect her teenage sons. As far as I was concerned, she was derelict in her duty. "A change of underwear for her children, at least that," my brain kept sputtering.
I headed to the store, purchased clothing for the week. Eventually one of the boys moved in with us. He finished High School. The other moved in with relatives and had to drop out of school in order to support himself.
About a year later, she brought me the tablecloth out of the blue. It was something she'd said previously she could make for me if I'd just pay for the thread. I smiled graciously, told her thank you, tried hard to remember that she is an addict struggling to keep body and soul together, and paid for the thread. The tablecloth was absolutely lovely. I knew she'd done a lot of work on it, but it reminded me of a woman who couldn't care enough for her children to stick a few clothes in a plastic bag when she knew full well she would be evicted.
We've lost touch with the family. They've moved many times and haven't called in several years. The two older boys work, hold down jobs. As far as I know, mom still drinks and does drugs. The younger children would be teenagers now. I pray for them. Maybe Mom has learned to care for these children, but somehow, I doubt it.
Back to the beautiful cotton tablecloth with two nutcracker candles burning while we were in the other room opening Christmas presents.
Rachel looked up. "I think something's on fire in the dining room," she said.
"It's just the reflection of the candles in the mirror," I replied calmly.
"I don't think so. Something's on fire. I smell smoke," she insisted. And she got up to go look.
Then we heard a shriek, and I raced to the dining room to view my two nutcracker candles bend double, the flame now merged with the burning tablecloth. I turned to the kitchen, grabbed a pitcher, and filled it with water. (No, I still don't have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, but I do know it's a good idea to have one!)
Rob (my older son) quietly entered the room. Passing the buffet, he picked up the large silver platter of cookies and candy and sat it down on the flames. I scurried into the room with my water pitcher in hand to view a silver platter with smoke seeping out from the sides. Flames all gone. Fire out. Silver platter only slightly warm. Candy and cookies unharmed. The tablecloth, though, sported a 15-inch hole rimmed in black. The table also has a large smoked circle in the antique wood surface.
And every year, someone will look up from opening presents, glance toward the mirror in the family room and say, "Do you remember the year we set the table on fire.?" Then we all laugh at how everyone reacted. Rachel, who had sounded the alarm, stood mesmerized by the fire; I frantically filled a pitcher with water; Christy, Brad, and Bob watched from the kitchen door as Rob put the fire out.
And I remember the charred tablecloth that I tossed in the garbage and pray for a very lost woman who again has two teenage children.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Tonight, M has a party at Pump It Up. I slid down a larger slide more than once, and went in the big blow up basketball court and jumped around for awhile. I did land on my hindermost part a time or two, but nothing was injured and I had great fun. My body is more limber, my balance is much improved and my strength is so much greater in just over four months!
Glory Be to God! Jehovah Rapha!