Wednesday, December 31, 2008

no big deal

For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning- though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered. ~ from Psalm 90
This afternoon Bobby and I took advantage of the extended days for the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the NC State Museum of Science. It was a little disappointing, (an hour long exhibit for six pieces of a scroll?!?) but at the same time enjoyable and informative. One of the neat things was the English translation of the scroll or papyrus on display. This particular one listed several passages, so I made a mental note to look this one up when I got home.
Sometimes I hate how quickly time passes and how little it seems I can accomplish. New Year's Goals? Yeah, maybe I'll actually get one accomplished, and if I do that's a tremendous accomplishment! I really like this passage from Psalm 90 (the above is the NIV translation, which I think is what they were using on the tablet), as it reminds me that God's view of time is not the same as mine. He asks for my best, not perfection on the world's timetable. And that is SO refreshing and freeing.

Monday, December 29, 2008

get your house in order

My grandmothers were very clean people. My mother thoroughly enjoys cleaning, though she doesn't quite hit the same level my grandmothers were on. I don't enjoy cleaning, but I do like things to be clean. I've almost given up on neatness.

One thing that they all instilled in me is the crazy concept that your house must be in order before you go somewhere big - like a vacation or something. After all, you could die in a car crash or have to go to the hospital, and then people would go into your house and find it in a terrible mess. Who wants to be remembered by that?

So up until this past year, I would sometimes be up almost all night not only trying to get things packed up, but also trying to totally clean house as well. Or should I say, make the house presentable?

The Chinese had a horrible superstition that my mother and grandparents would have enjoyed. Spring Festival (the Chinese New Year based on the lunar calendar) required EVERYTHING to be cleaned top to bottom before the new year began. After all, it was exceptionally bad luck to take old dirt into the new year. The ladies would clean like mad and almost wear themselves into a frazzle cleaning before the big event. And my students were mortified to find we didn't have such a custom. Many of them assumed that was why we took such a long Christmas break in America...to clean for the New Year.

I've thought about both of those traditions/customs off and on the past few days. Partly because I actually had several days off of work, thanks to Christmas and the weekend falling back to back, and I used some of that time to actually straighten up some things that were in desperate need of attention. I've actually cleaned out five kitchen drawers (and yes, I crazily tend to ignore the big things like sweeping and mopping and go for the minute details that no one else will see).

I was supposed to clean Grandma White's house the weekend before she entered the hospital for a routine surgery, but due to various reasons it didn't happen. She told me we got it clean enough the last time and it wasn't how she wanted to leave it but it would have to do. She had other things in the house to get in order. She died in the recovery room. My other Granny, whom we called Rea-Rea, died in her sleep. They said her house was meticulous. The dishes were washed and in the drainer with the cloth over them as she taught us, the broom was in the hallway, and as always, everything was spotless. They both had their houses in order. Me? I've left instructions that when I die no one is to enter the house until someone comes in to clean.

I don't think I'll ever reach the "cleanliness is next to godliness" mantra. I'll probably never once reach the Chinese level of cleanliness before a New Year. But I might actually manage to finish cleaning out all the kitchen cabinets. So if I die and you come to my house to weep and mourn, overlook the floors and dust, but you can check out my organized kitchen cabinets and pantry!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

spoiled selfish

It's not often I get to go shopping (a.k.a. browsing), so when my sister called Friday and asked if I could meet her and the girls Friday I was thrilled. There were several things I wanted to look at, and thought this would be the great opportunity to have bonding time with my nieces.

hahahahahahaha What was I thinking?

Gone are the days when my nieces were predictable little people whose personalities were blatantly obvious and they were very easy to shop with and for. Deja vu to the '80's where I exasperated my mother to no end, only this time I was in the adult shoes. I didn't have any objection to anything the girls picked out or wanted to try on; they did a great job of choosing modest clothes that met their own personal sense of style. And there's part of the rub...I can't quite figure that style out. If I get the "look" right, the colors would be wrong, etc. They weren't rude or snobby about it, but I could tell by the facial expression that Aunt Monica was Soooo out of touch. And after almost three hours of standing in line, fighting traffic, and observing, and getting a headache, I had yet to look at one thing I was interested in. I noticed my sister didn't look for anything. Talk about an eye opener! I knew my life was scheduled, but I had never realized how, well, selfish it is. I enjoyed the day; I learned a few things about my nieces, but I also had to constantly focus my mind on the girls as people with individual wants, personalities, and needs. Today when I spent part of my time shopping my youngest niece, I was reminded again of the change, and realized how quickly that day is coming/has come when she will no longer be thrilled with what I predict she wants, for her developing personality will be trying out new things and changing.
I don't want to be a stuck-in-the mud person. But I also recognize for us to maintain a somewhat sane balance in life's rat race, we must stick to our rigid schedule. Bobby's disability and my stretch for some semblance of order demands it. And yet somewhere in this structure, I also recognize the need to flex myself in ways that aren't happening. People with large families develop that flexibility as there are multiple personalities to contend with. In our household, there's just two people to make happy: me and my husband. And most of the time that's fairly simple. Six weeks out of the year when the kids come, that dynamic changes considerably. And I struggle - bad. I want my life back in order, I want my job back in order, I want my relationship with my husband back in order....I want, I want, I want. We're supposed to be thinking about New Year's Resolutions, which I quit doing many years ago, but I'm contemplating that maybe some changes are in order. Having kids in the house for 6 weeks should make me realize how selfish I am...but a shopping trip? Guess I've got more to work on than I wanted to admit.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Eve Gift

A few years after my grandfather died, my grandmother stayed at our house to spend Christmas Eve with us (the entire extended family would come for Christmas day). She actually came up on the 23rd, and shocked me and my siblings by jubilantly waking us up Christmas Eve with a "Christmas Eve Gift!" shout. Come to find out, it was a tradition in my Mom's family when she was growing up, and evidently in my Grandmother's childhood home as well. There wasn't an actual gift given, but was just the game of seeing who could say it first. We thought it was funny, and it became a game we took on. The remainder of her life, we would always try to call her Christmas Eve, but she realized it had to be one of us or her other grandchildren, and started answering the phone with "Christmas Eve Gift!" It became a challenge to try and say it as soon as we thought she had the phone to her ear.

Two years ago, like this year, it was our turn to have Christmas in NC instead of AL. So I made my Christmas Eve phone calls, and took up Granny's habit of answering the phone that morning with "Christmas Eve Gift!" as Dad had already got me. Only halfway through my list of people to check off, Bobby's niece called. We don't have caller id, so I had no way of knowing who it was. There was a dead silence on the other end, and I quickly realized I had a non-AL relative on the other end. I started laughing and tried to explain, but got a drawn out, "OoooKay" as if to say "Aunt Monica is totally crazy." Bobby suggests we should get caller id just for Christmas Eve, and the crazy thing is: I actually briefly considered it!

So if you for some weird reason have to call me tomorrow and I answer with a loud "Christmas Eve gift!", the proper response is to say something along the lines of "Christmas Eve gift to you, too" or "I'll get you next year!" I'm really not expecting a gift.

So now you know!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

the grinchies

Today is one of those days when I should be singing, "Joy, joy, joy JOY to the world!"
My cousin Sharon is still alive and has shown rapid improvements: she's off the ventilator, has had dialysis cut back to 2x a day, is totally and fully alert, has her memory, and is off most pain medicines.
The Bryan clan is going to Meadow restaurant and lights tonight.
I have my tree up and 2/3 of the nativity set unpacked.
2/3 of the Christmas cards are done.
1/3 of the dogs' underground fence has been rerouted.
I was able to work only one hour late to get everything I needed to get done finished.
I have tomorrow off, and we'll leave for Myrtle Beach as soon as I get us packed tomorrow.
A good chunk of the laundry is done.
So why do I feel like the Grinch?


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

tales you don't tell your Dad

Once upon a time and not so long ago, there was a very shaky pier. It was so shaky in fact, that at least one of its owners feared instead of fishing for fish, she might one day have to fish for her husband. So they called the people with magical tools and knowledge of pipes, wood, and water to come and majestically replace the battered and worn pier with new wood and a different platform.
The work began, and the waters receded from the sides of the pond.
The old majestic pier was chopped down, and tree roots and empty fishing nurseries appeared also known as old tires and barrels. Deer tracks became prevalent in the mud, and the scooped pools of renowned fishing beds were brought to light, revealing the hatcheries of numerous eggs from days gone by.






















And the waters subsided some more, to the point that the building of a new and glorious pier could begin.
With the recession of the waters came a wondrous discovery: the stream that fed the pond.
Now mind you, this is not just any old stream. It is a stream that has managed to continue past the building of the nefarious beavers and their two dams. As seen below, dams are not the cutesy dwellings as seen in the Chronicles of Narnia, nor are the creatures themselves nice and cuddly. For the sake of time in this story, we'll just call them mutant rats. And these mutant rats take trees and limbs and strip the sides of a pond bare to build a monstrous mess. Then they pile mud in around the mess, which will then produce growths of grass and seedlings and will acquire layers of pine straw. Quite sturdy the ugly little constructions are. Which is part of the reason I've never understood my father's admonitions to stay away from such creatures and their habitats.
So on this particular beautiful December day, to celebrate for the first time ever in the history of our marriage the ability to walk the entire circumference of our property, I embarked across the beaver dam. Halfway across, a mud pit was encountered. Perhaps it was a flaw in the dam, or the entrance to the beaver's home where their ancestral skeletal remains or an old arthritic mutant rat was sleeping. Maybe beaver dams are really not that structurally sound and the supports just gave way beneath my feet. But whatever reason, one leg was stuck almost knee deep. I lean forward to pull my leg out in hopes of keeping my shoe on, and my other leg sinks to the knee. I feel the mud seeping in.
You know how people talk about their lives flashing before their eyes? Mine didn't, but I did have a multitude of thoughts flash through my brain at one time. If I keep trying to save my shoes, my hands are sinking in this as well. My camera costs more than my shoes do...keep your waist above water. There could be snakes in here. A beaver could be here! They have sharp teeth. These sticks could trap my leg. Bobby can't see this spot from the house, and it's another 45 minutes before he gets home. This water is cold. Would he hear me if I yelled? Why can't this just be water underneath instead of muck and wood? What's Bobby going to say when he finds out I've lost my new orthopedic shoes?
I escape, shoeless and breathless. I temporarily pause and debate crawling back and attempting to retrieve my shoes, but sanity overrides and I gingerly make my way back to the house.
And as if to mock me even more, the first tree within grasping reach is one the beavers have chewed. A plant grows from its top, giving it the appearance of a planter combined with a bird house - a symbol of home.
And with that simple touch of irony, I go home and do what I should have been doing in the first place: putting up Christmas decorations.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday Morning Reflections

There's times when I don't have a camera, but there are certain images ingrained in my brain. Here's my mental scrapbook from yesterday:

Photo #1: Jessica Reese standing and rocking Baby Jesus backstage to the beat of We Three Kings Of Orient Are.

Photo #2: Josh McLean grinning, looking at his costume, then drawing his arms back into a karate stance.

Photo #3: Justin turning his head left and right to see what's happening around him while I'm trying to place his headpiece on his head.

Photo#4: Jasmine asking me for a candycane because my "daddy" wants one. I asked her if it was for the guy in the wheelchair, and she nodded and said, "yes, for your Daddy." I laughed and told her that was my husband. She then insisted that he eat it, which he couldn't because it had paper on it. Josh McLean stepped in to help, and then got in trouble for having sticky hands! Serves Bobby right for picking on kids about their candy!

Photo #5: The primary girls going through the hand motions of Away in a manger, and the boys belting out their parts.

Photo #6: Dress up time in the nursery.

Photo #7: Jonathan's facial expressions as I teased him about his Christmas list while he helped me set up communion.

Photo #8: Michelle's smile as she calmed down.

Photo #9: My finally up and ghastly lit Christmas tree. I ran out of lights and mistakenly bought a strand of colored lights instead of clear. 3/4 of my tree has clear lights, and the top part has multi-colors. But I'm too tired and ready to get it done and over with to go back and redo. And it will probably save me time because i won't be as inclined to sit and smile and look at it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday Sharon update

The dr met with my cousin's family today, and is thankful that the hemorrhaging has finally stopped. They are stopping the sedatives and since she has shown some signs of alertness he is going to try and stop some of the pain medicine in hopes that will help. The infection has moved into the bloodstream, and the dr has warned that she will be in critical condition for some time. Her sister took little Jake home from his hospital yesterday, and made a recording of his cry. When the played it for Sharon today, her eyes snapped open and she grinned very big. She's also motioning that the ventilator is uncomfortable. They are still giving her blood, and she is still on dialysis. Please join me in praying for a complete recovery, and in rejoicing that the prayers of God's people have prevailed when the doctors were saying she would not survive through Friday.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

time

It's strange how one minute you can have a frantic to-do list checking off in your brain, feeling both exhilarated and exhausted at the never ceasing tick of the clock, and then in one minute it can all change.

Yesterday was one of those days. I was pleased with how my to do list was continuously getting checked, feeling as if I were headed in the right direction. Then I called my Mom, and as I heard her tears, my heart lurched, and ever since my head and my heart have been riveting from one bunny trail to the other, feeling as if so much of life is so unimportant.

Thursday my cousin went to her doctor, and was told that due to an infection they were going to induce that afternoon. Hours after giving birth to a healthy baby boy, she was airlifted to B'ham, her husband being told at departure they didn't expect her to make it. She is still in critical care. All last night while listening to people talk about babies and pregnancies, my mind is pondering if Sharon will make it, what her life will be like physically if she survives, and wondering how her husband is coping with a child in one hospital county, a wife at death's door in another, and a daughter with relatives. How do you explain to a child that Mommy left home okay but will now be in the hospital for a while? It seems I constantly hear the news of mothers killing their children, but a godly woman will be taken, leaving her children behind. I know that thanks to sin we live in a broken world and broken things hurt, but sometimes I just wish things didn't seem so out of whack.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hawaiian Pie

Crust:
1.5 sticks of butter
1 tsp sugar
1.5 c crushed graham crackers

Crust Directions:
Melt butter. Add sugar and crackers, firmly packing in 11x13 pan or dish.

Pie:
3-4 bananas
1 can Eagle Brand Milk
1/2 c lemon juice
2 T sugar
1 large can crushed pineapple
1 large cool whip
Optional: chopped nuts and cherries

Pie Directions:
Slice bananas onto the crust. In a bowl, mix milk, juice, and sugar. Spread over bananas. Drain and spread pineapples. Put cool whip on top. If desired, decorate with chopped nuts and cherries. Refrigerate. Eat!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas goodies

Realistically I won't have time to bake any this week, but these are some of my favorite goodies my Mom or Grandma always made at Christmastime.

  • tea cakes - I LOVED making these at my Aunt Linda's because she would let us eat the dough. Mom would only let us eat the tiny portions of scraps left over at the very end. And speaking of scraps, evidently most people don't roll them out and cut them into various shapes. Most pictures I found online were circles or were not what I remember as tea cakes.
  • Instant Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
  • Ritz crackers & peanut butter coated in chocolate - both white and dark!
  • FUDGE!
  • Hawaiian pie - Pineapples, bananas, nuts, cool whip, sweetened condensed milk - all on a buttered graham cracker crust....YYYUUUUMMMM!
  • chocolate covered pretzels
  • fried apple pies (individual size) - This was my Grandma's speciality, but something I haven't quite mastered. My big apple pies are okay, but not these small ones.
  • sausage balls

Mom also made something she called Martha Washington Candy, though it wasn't my favorite. Bobby's family has peanut butter balls (a peanut mixture, coated in chocolate of course!) which I absolutely love, homemade peanut brittle, which is also awesome but I haven't ventured into the challenge of making, chocolate chip cookies (and no matter what I do or how many tips she gives me, mine NEVER turn out like Mrs. Bryan's!), and my older sister introduced me to Oreo balls - oreos crushed, mixed with cream cheese, then coated in chocolate.

Is it any wonder why Mom always thought we had enough sweets on hand at Christmas and I didn't need a birthday cake?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

so very very true

It's been a LOOONGG but very good week. Between all the craziness of life, in the middle of the current whirlwind, I had an unexpected break yesterday. A trip that some of us planned months ago happened up on the calendar. I looked at my to do list, and thought about canceling. And then I thought about why I wanted to go, how long this date has been circled in its square in PEN, and said "I'm going." We left at 7am, arrived at the Concord Mills mall at 10am, shopped until 5pm, then headed home, stopping for supper, of course.
So this morning I'm sitting in church, not only tired, but VERY sore from all that walking and evidently carrying my too heavy purse and bags (I'm not kidding...even my arms were sore this morning!), thinking about what needs to be done, how I don't have any Christmas decorations up, and a myriad amount of other things, all the while trying to pay attention and ask God to settle my chaotic mind. And then lyrics from a song I've known since childhood just really grabbed me.
The world treats you mean, Lord.
Treats me mean, too.
But that's how things are down here.
We don't know who you are.
You have told us how.
We are tryin.
Master, you have shown us how, Even when you were dying.
Just seems like we can't do right.
Look how we treated you.
But please Sir, forgive us, Lord.
We didn't know it was you.
Sweet little Jesus boy, Born a long time ago.
Sweet little holy child, We didn't know who you were.
Does that not sum up our world today? All my silly fears and feelings of inadequacy, my constant struggle to not only feel but to show Christ's compassion to those who are in need (specifically the ones who brings things on themselves) or to those who just simply irritate me...aren't all those things brought about because I'm not recognizing the King of Kings for who He truly is? A very sobering thought, but also so very reassuring. We can't get it right, but He is faithful to forgive me...those mercies that are new every morning.
So maybe I won't get to decorating my house for Christmas this crazy week, or baking Christmas goodies, or writing Christmas cards, but that's okay. I know who He is and I know that I am his child. If I can just keep that forefront in my mind this week, I think I can deal with those things "down here."

Friday, December 5, 2008

it's all in the genes

My Mom claims that I had normal sleeping patterns as a baby until the dr gave me an antibiotic when I was sick. He told her it might make me sleep more. It didn't. What it did do, according to my Mom, was confuse me as to when it was night and day, and she claims I've never been straight since. All I know is that I am not, and have never been, a morning person.

I never quite know how to answer someone when they ask me what time I get up. Our alarm goes off at 5:45am Mon-Fri, at 6am on Sundays, and Saturdays depends on what we have to do. Note I said our alarm goes off. That doesn't mean I wake up. It's not uncommon for me to wake up with a very bad pain in my shoulder or neck where I've (unknowingly, of course) turned off the alarm clock then scooted as far away from Bobby's pointy elbow as possible, meaning I'm about to fall off the bed. I've even been known to get up and answer the telephone, and a few times even talk to the person before I wake up. That's never a good feeling when you wake up with a telephone in your hand and someone on the other line.

Now, having said all that, my parents very seldom let us "sleep in". Sleeping in meant being up by 8am. So while I consider 8am late (and my husband thinks the day is half over at that point), my energy level is far from its potential at that point. I guess you could say my schedule is like this:
5:45am - shut off the alarm
6:00-6:15am - get up to shut Bobby up
6:25am - hit panic mode and start rushing
7:20am - hopefully Bobby's out the door and I start getting ready
8:30am - I head to work
10:30am -I'm wide awake, ready for a snack or second breakfast and ready to go
4:30pm-6:30pm - Don't sit still or I'll fall asleep
8:30-9:00pm - start getting Bobby to bed
10:00pm - I've got my second burst of energy and have to decide whether to lay there until I fall asleep or do something until I get tired (or until 11:30pm, whichever comes first).

As a teenager, I used to think that it would be neat if the whole world operated on a late morning late night schedule. Especially those mornings when my little sister, whom I shared a room with, got up at 5:00am just to wash and dry her hair for school. (Remember the big bangs days of the '80s?) But then years later I spent a week in Thailand where it's that way. I discovered that I still wake up fairly early because that's what my body is trained to do. And while I don't mind staying up late and sleeping in, there's something to be said for eating breakfast either as or after the sun has woken up as well. These mornings before sun up, well, they aren't even for the birds.

does that answer your question, Sara?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

so much to do....

If I quit my job, quit cleaning house, quit doing laundry, here's what I'd do with all my free time:
  • Art -all those little idea starters in that drawer? On canvas or paper. Who knows? I might even try one design in every single medium I could think of!
  • Read - that pile of books on my dresser that I keep thinking I'm gonna get to... :O) They'd be replaced by new ones (because I'd have time to finish those, of course!)
  • Quilt - Not only would I finish Bobby's quilt, but every single quilt idea I have sketched out, or tucked away somewhere in my brain, or have actually bought material for - they'd all be finished. Yeah, dear, I know....there's not enough time in a year for all my project ideas.
  • Sew - the only sad part is that 2 of my 3 nieces would no longer be thrilled with home-sewn clothes.
  • Create - I've always wanted to make a dollhouse...how cool would that be?
But since I can't quit laundry and I only clean now when I have time or absolutely have to, and I probably shouldn't quit my job, I'll continue to tackle things in small increments. Hence, my December goals:
  1. Sew - finish up the few costumes for the children's play. (Deadlines, aren't they wonderful?!)
  2. Quilt - Get Bobby's quilt pinned and into the frame, and at least DECIDE about a quilt for Andy and Amie. (Realistically, this won't be ready for their June wedding!)
  3. Read - Um, that book our ladies' book club read by Elizabeth George about our minds? It's 3/4 read, so let's finish that thing and get that off my dresser!
  4. Art - finish that one big painting I've started.
Most likely, these goals will fall into the same category as my August goals: to be continued...but hey, I might get at least 1/2 of them done, right? There's always hope. (At least we know I HAVE to finish goal #1!)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

one of many reasons why I'm not a girly girl

My brother and I share the same sense of humor. We both immensely enjoyed Calvin & Hobbes growing up, and I imagine if he reads the comic strips now, Pearls Before Swine would be on his reading list. Get Fuzzy is also at the top of my list.
And sometimes that sense of humor poses a dilemma...like buying presents, for instance.
My brother is engaged to be married on June 13, 2009. My older sister and I discussed having an outdoor shower for camping, fishing, or tailgating gear since those are all things Andy & Amie like to do. My little sister opposed. Mom just shrugged. Then after taking a realistic look at all of our calendars and remembering the distance factor, there's no way we can throw them a shower at all. Which is really sad. When asked if there was anything she needed (keep in my mind they both have apartments/trailers), Amie smiled and said they were going to register somewhere. So I go online to Target, and find several household items that both my brother and I would not only find amusing but would actually have in our homes:

I think this tissue holder is hysterically funny. My husband would not. He would not even let me add his name to such a gift. My sisters would laugh, but they would never ever buy this, much less put it in their homes. But what would my future sister-in-law do? And there is my dilemma. She's fashionable, much like my little sister, but she also hikes and fishes and watches football, like my older sister. Two out of three. Dare I hope she could match all three of us and possibly share mine and Andy's sense of humor? I fear she'll be like most girls and not have the same sense of humor. I may break down and change my mind and buy some frilly little crystal bowl that she'll only use on special occasions, but I doubt it. And if we do the pounding like someone has suggested (for those of you who don't know, a pounding is where you take staples and canned goods to someone's house), then I will continue the FWBBC shower prank of providing a nice big box of canned goods -with all the labels removed. And since my little sister didn't like all the poetic hints I taped to hers (I was TRYING to be nice), they'll just get the plain old naked cans.
Decisions, decisions.


Monday, December 1, 2008

home again

There's absolutely nothing like going home...except maybe returning home and settling back into a routine. This Thanksgiving reminded me of the many things I have to be thankful for:
  • parents who not only love me, but taught me how to walk in Truth

  • family who practice the story of the Good Samaritan, and not just hear it

  • my church family

  • the rich life of America - adequate roads, vehicles, hotels, restaurants, well-stocked grocery stores, houses with extra bedrooms & heat, etc.

  • police & EMS crews - who actually respond to calls in a timely and mannerly fashion

  • my job - I'm part-time but still have vacation hours!

  • Dr. Pepper

  • the diverse beauty in our nation

  • the small smidgen of artistic talent humans receive from God, as we display in architecture, design, artwork, etc

  • Alabama winning the Iron Bowl!
  • my brother-in-law graciously allowing us to crash at his house to watch the Iron Bowl on his nice tv
  • my brother-in-law allowing me to quickly use his internet to catch up on things
  • a week without internet or cell phones at Mom & Dad's
  • a husband who graciously drives 12 hours one way to spend 5 days with his in-laws and never complains!
  • and so much more!
and now it's back to the whirlwind of Christmas celebrations: costumes, plays, choir pieces, decorating, cooking and FUN! Fun! fun!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

little by little

Little be little, inch by inch, by the yard it's hard, by the inch-what a cinch! Never stare up the stairs, just climb up the steps - little by little, inch by inch!
The first time I heard that song I thought it was silly. But as we sang it often on Wed nights, I began to appreciate the fundamental principles that it teaches - Never, ever give up. Or, as the Bible says, Be ye not weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. or at least it goes something like that.
Early Monday morning we will begin the never-ending journey to Alabama. Okay, so it's not really never-ending, but it feels a lot like it. And somewhere between Thanksgiving Day and the Iron Bowl on Saturday, my family will celebrate Christmas as we won't be together on Christmas Day. That means all Christmas stuff for my family needs to be finished by TOMORROW, and my Mom's birthday present (for Tuesday) also needs to be ready for departure.
Somewhere along the way, I got this brilliant (or not so brilliant) idea that I could duplicate a nativity set I bought at a craft show for my parents. Here's a pic of it unassembled:


Now, keep in my mind that one of my big sister's characteristics that always INFURIATED me growing up was that she thought she could do ANYTHING. The words can't, impossible, too expensive or too hard were NEVER in her vocabulary. Now, she would read up on things or talk to people for advice, but she would jump in feet first and tackle whatever it was. She failed in a lot of things, but she was also extremely successful in many things as well, SIMPLY BECAUSE SHE HAD THE COURAGE TO TRY. Unlike me, who would look at something, sigh, and think it was impossible because I didn't know how. Somewhere, somehow, I think I've adopted some of her characteristics these last ten years.
I convinced a skeptical someone to go with me to Lowe's, buy the plywood, then I hauled it home and traced around my pieces. Using my jigsaw, still new in the box from last Christmas, I hit my first snag. It didn't work properly. I sent an e-mail to the company, who told me to call a 1-800 number for tech support. Looking into the cost of postage to mail the thing back to them, I discovered I could buy a new one for almost the same price. So I head to Lowe's after work on Friday, and discover one slightly more (but with better instructions). Here's my new toy:
It cuts wonderfully (note: it does, not the cutter) I don't think my gift giver was thrilled that I purchased another one, but drastic times call for drastic measures. So I started cutting, and finished this afternoon. My pieces look great, though they don't exactly fit together very well

It's leaning toward the front and the back isn't exactly on the ground. oops! And I ran out of paint, so I guess it will go unpainted and finished, and my Dad can help me paint it this week. Won't he be excited?! (haha) And now, all I have to do is finish Mom's scrapbook for her birthday...
My Dear Understanding Hubby says that I have no concept of time. I like to think of it more in terms of climbing a mountain - little by little, inch by inch. And maybe one day I'll arrive.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rest

A friend of mine in college often talked about working on a car with his Dad in high school. Invariably, they would be temporarily stumped by a problem. My friend would be exasperated, and then his father would sigh and say, "We need to go get a piece of cake." My friend always thought that was ridiculous, but his father would not be swayed. After cake and coffee, they would go back out, and find a solution to the problem. While I'm neither a coffee drinker nor a mechanic, I do think there's a lot to be said for resting our brains.
I had one of those brain rests tonight. A few friends joined me for a purse party, and it was neat just talking and sharing. I needed the break from all the computer problems and busy to do list that I have. :O) I guess I could say I needed a cake break.
So tomorrow its back to the grind, and while I like to think everything will once again work like clockwork, the reality is some things will click, and other things I will have renewed mental energy to tackle. And other things I will simply shove to the back of my desk and work on after Thanksgiving break, whenever a new idea presents itself, or right before its deadline!
On a side note, the '09 Read Thru the Bible brochure that was giving me such fits the other day is going to work after all! I met with the printer yesterday on some other projects, and showed him the layout before I left, and turns out they CAN fold something that small. YEEAAAHHHH! Once I get a small .pdf shot of it I'll try to post it.
and...it's supposed to snow tomorrow AND TOMORROW IS FRIDAY! TGIF!!!!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

realistically out of sight

Sigh...
to successfully complete NaNoWriMo, from now 'till the end of November I would have to write 6,500 words a day. Realistically, I don't think it's going to happen. But on a brighter note, I've written 3,200 words more than I would have done had I not started this endeavor. So while I won't reach the 50,000 mile novel mark, I'm a whole lot closer than I ever thought possible. Who knows? Maybe I'll have a creative burst of energy in December and finish the thing. (HA!)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

the grumblies

Today should be a Monday. I was up late last night unsuccessfully attempting to load our scanner and printer. Then today, a new brochure I had designed decided it was NOT going to fold properly. So after researching folds and measurements and templates, I have once again worked before I thought and ended up with a useless product that I must now re-design and re-create. bah HUMBUG!

On a happier note, I JUST SAW SNOW! It was beautiful, and I was about to inform our Human Resources person that in Alabama we go home where we belong when it snows and then it stopped. But it was neat to see.
So now I'm going to fold up this stupid little non-working 2009 Read Thru the Bible brochure and work on business cards. Maybe I'll have a better idea tomorrow.




Sunday, November 16, 2008

brain surgery

Well, the lobotomy on our computer is almost complete. I've re-installed half of our needed software (I've been questioning how much of this is really a need), installed a few e-mail addresses into the address book, and am about to call it a night. Tomorrow morning or after work I'll tackle the rest of it. It is so good to be back in my world of cyberspace!!!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

being bad

I've never allowed myself to check blogs at work before, but our computer at home is dying and I figured I could do it just one time until ours is fixed. If you don't hear from me in a while, you'll know why.
BUT, there are some very momentous things happening in and around the Bryan household (besides our computer dying) and I just thought I'd share them:
  1. I AM A GREAT AUNT!!!! as of 5am this morning.
  2. OUR ROAD IS GETTING PAVED or at least the part up to our driveway. They surveyed one day last week (and how many times have they done that in the last 2 years?) and when I came home Tues night there were "Road Closed" signs up. When I came home from work yesterday I had to take a detour because there were huge machines tearing down trees along the right of way. YEAAHHHHHH!!!!!
  3. I was very pleased to hear on the news this morning that the man President-elect has asked to consider being Chief of Staff has family members who live in Israel; AND CALIFORNIA PASSED THE BAN ON GAY MARRIAGE!
  4. Ten years ago Monday night Bobby and I got engaged.

It seems like there must be something else, but it escapes me. Until my link to the e world is restored, this is good-bye. :O(

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sat morning

http://www.nasher.duke.edu/elgreco/

Saturday morning we joined Jay & Betty Mashburn in Durham to tour the El Greco Exhibit: Art During the Reign of Philip III of Spain. I found it very interesting and enjoyed it thoroughly, though I would have preferred there not been quite so many people there so we could have taken our time and moved through the gallery without saying "Excuse me" for every step. The historical slide presentation made all the artwork even more interesting, as it gave the historical background for the time, as well as the pieces themselves. I think that was Bobby's favorite part. I was going copy my favorites from the website listed above to paste here, but it won't let me. And they only show two of the ones that I really truly liked. Ah well, life goes on!

Don't forget to go vote tomorrow if you haven't already. I am just SO excited this election is FINALLY almost over and that I will come home from work on Wed and not here ANY political voice mails or have any postcards or fliers in my mailbox. I just want to get this show on the road so everyone can either rejoice or moan and then get on with life. :O) How's that for good 'ol worn out patriotism?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Saturday afternoon/evening

I'm going to do this backwards and post Sat afternoon first, and tomorrow I'll share about Sat morning. For this post we're traveling to the NC State Fairgrounds...






First you had the lines: It started at the Jim Graham building, went up beside the Dorton Arena, curved down the midway and toward the little round building (as seen above), turned and went back up and around the Dorton Arena (as seen to the left), looped back down to the Mid-Way and was still growing as the doors opened.

Once inside, we were treated to good 'ol bluegrass music. Every single Republican fundraiser or rally I've attended in NC has had either bluegrass or country music played by local musicians.


Inside the Jim Graham building, there were no seats except for three small sections of bleachers, and everyone stood for nearly two hours waiting for the lines to pass security and the lady of the hour to show up.
John McCain's nice saying that plays up his military background, but one that also makes me feel like Daniel in Babylon. As I used to tell my Chinese friends, I'm a Christian first, and an American second.

Cary's "Joe the Plumber" (actually named Mike) spoke about why he was supporting McCain.

My favorite sign of the night.














The unhappy press corp who kept their arms folded in front of them most of the time.
Gov. Sarah Palin with husband Todd





And as they exit the building (you can barely see her hairdo in the far left of the pic) people are still passing caps and t-shirts forward for her to sign. Her husband did a lot of signing too, though whether he was putting her name or his I don't know.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

the race is on

When the frost is on the backyard, and the hulls start opening wide;
It's time to harvest pecans...watch those dogs' deep dive!

Wednesday's Pecan War Totals:
Monica 15
Linus 4

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

edification


2 weeks ago at work, we had to send files of graphics we had created to another church. It took almost 2 days to pull everything they wanted and then condense it to a sendable format. I was also a little frustrated by the whole concept. It's common practice that anything you design for the company you work for is considered their property. So if you design a logo for a business, you charge a higher rate because hopefully that logo will be in use for years and years to come. If you simply design a letterhead, it doesn't cost quite so much because that gets updated periodically. Anything you know that will get multiple uses has a higher fee. Then you have my situation, which is an hourly rate, and because it is a church, is substandard pay for the industry. Again, a common practice. Yet it frustrated me a little bit that something I had spent weeks creating was being given away for free. I agree with the principle. Ministries should share resources. And I totally agree with that. But when I stop and think about all the churches who are using my designs, and my pay is already lower than average to begin with, it makes me feel as if my work is cheap or worthless. And yes, I do hear Mom's voice whispering, "Kingdom work has heavenly pay" but that doesn't comfort a whole lot when I spend hours on something that I know will be given away without any compensation in any form or fashion. So we sent all the files. Turns out this church has its own graphics department, AND the Adobe software we use, so they wanted the original files to modify (and for a design firm to turn over original, modifiable files, that would cost an arm and a leg). I typed a nice sweet e-mail, and grudgingly sent them. Last week I got the above flowers delivered to my office with a very nice thank you. As stupid as this sounds, those two days I spent giving away my work to another church suddenly didn't seem so outrageous. It's nice to be appreciated, and it was nice knowing that someone recognized what was "above and beyond" my job description without me ever saying a word. Now if I could only get a raise.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

to write, or not to write

NaNoWriMo starts Nov 1. If you're reading this and thinking, HUH?, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. You sign up at their website, and on Nov 1 you start an entirely new piece of work and write like mad for the entire month. Your target goal is to have an entire novel, or 50,000 words written by midnight on November 30. Not a polished novel mind you, but a rough draft. You can work on an outline or character chart before Nov 1, but the novel itself cannot be started until the first of November. I signed up last year, and was all pumped and excited, only to tell Bobby and get this response "And when do you think you're going to have time to do this?" I was able to fit in daily writing for about a week, and that was it. I'm still in a quandary over whether or not tackle it. A part of me says go for it, the other part of me says it would be absolutely insane. I mean, Nov 3-5 is out. By the time I get home from work on the 3rd, set-up for election day, work an insane amount of hours on the 4th, then work a normal day on the 5th, followed by church, I will be drop-dead tired by Thursday afternoon. So technically the 6th is out, too. And somewhere in that month I'll be in AL not writing for several days, along with thinking children's Christmas play and Christmas music. But there's still that little voice inside me crying out "You can find 15 minutes a day to write." Hahaha. As Bobby likes to remind me, my concept of time has never been realistic.
So if you get really bizarre blogs starting next week, you'll know I've gone insane and taken the plunge into NaNoWriMo.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

a madhouse

On my way home from the ladies' get together, I had a few errands to run at White Oak Shopping Center. As I make the first turn, I see sign after sign after sign: 10%, 20%, 30% off! Going out of Business Sale! Linens-N-Things

Linens-N-Things is one of those places I shop when there's a really good sale or someone has a bridal registry there. At holidays and special sale days, you can get nice tablecloths for a great price, and sometimes sheet sets as well. So I went, and SLOWLY maneuvered my way through the crowded aisles to browse. The sale prices aren't knock-down-dragout sales, but I am a little sad to the store go. Part of that is because I hate to see empty buildings, though. Now, if they will only put a quilting/fabric store or a bookstore there. Wouldn't that be awesome?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

holiday birthdays

December 23, 1972 had a full moon -a perfect night for a young adult Sunday school class to go hayriding and Christmas caroling. After the music, they congregated at the pastor's house for a potluck meal: ladies in one room, men in the other. As my Dad took his first bite of dessert, a lady came in and told him he had to go - my Mom was in labor. After everything was cleaned and put away, a group of men followed the hay from Dad's truck to a nearby hospital. I've been told they managed to get to the nursery and sang, "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" though my Mom disputes that. All I know is that has never been my favorite Christmas carol.
As a child, I sometimes hated having a birthday so close to Christmas. Parties could never be held on your birthday, and sometimes you had to accept Christmas goodies in place of a birthday cake. On the other hand, I never had to go to school on my birthday, and many times my Christmas and birthday present got combined, and I got a bigger present than a normal birthday would warrant. By my teen years, my birthday often meant a last minute rush to Birmingham for the whole family to spend the WHOLE day Christmas shopping. Though the day was VERY long, it was neat because that was about the only time our family ate out. Otherwise, our family tradition of the birthday person chooses the birthday meal continued. As an adult, I don't mind having a birthday near the holidays. I like Christmas, I enjoy everything being festive and decorated, and it means every other year I'm guaranteed having my birthday with my family. But I never know how to answer (other than yes) when someone asks me what I got for my birthday. Birthday and Christmas come too close together to remember what was what. I may have gotten one big thing, or two things that go together, or I may have several packages under the tree and I get to choose one to open on my birthday. So Sara, how's all that to say...Bobby is a great gift giver, but I don't remember which ones were Christmas and which ones were birthday gifts.

Monday, October 20, 2008

things we do for love

Saturday we had a baby shower for Bobby's niece. As I was making the mints, Bobby asked what else was on the menu. After I recited off the litany of items, he responded with "No peanut butter?! This shower is for Hannah! What's she going to eat?" (Hannah has had stomach problems over the years and has been unable to tolerate many foods, but peanut butter has been her staple.) Despite my assurances that she would enjoy the foods we were having, he was adamant that I needed to make peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for the shower. Even though I protested that NOBODY took that to a shower, he persisted, and informed me I could make them dainty with my little cutter. And so I did. To my surprise all but 3 were eaten. Who'd a thunk it?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

my warped mosquito theory

For some bizarre reason, there are some of us placed on this earth to be mosquito food. Mind you, that is not our sole purpose, but it is definitely high up on the list. I've met a few others like me - you can go outside in almost any weather and within seconds hear the buzz. Sure enough, when you go inside, little red or white lumps are amassed any place skin has shown. Meanwhile people like my dear husband can be outside the same amount of time, at the exact same time, exposing the same amount of skin AND NEVER GET A BITE. My little sister was the same way. Which leads me to my very unscientific and untried theory. Naomi and Bobby both are salty over sweet eaters. Given a choice between potato chips and chocolate, they'd both take chips. Well, Bobby might take both. Present them with either buttered popcorn or chocolate, they'd take the popcorn. Me? Chocolate. Anyone who knows me wouldn't even ask, they'd just offer the chocolate. So my warped mosquito theory is that there is something genetic going on here that makes my body crave sweet things, and maybe that is why mosquitoes crave me.
And for those of you wondering, yes, I'm writing this having had little sleep and also having had real sweet tea at supper tonight. Caffeine can do wonders. Whether those wonders are good or bad we'll save for another discussion.

Monday, October 13, 2008

little girls and dresses

Next to sponge rollers, I can't think of anything I disliked more as a child than wearing a dress. I was reminded of that again on Sunday. As always, a certain young tot needed to use the restroom, and seeing as Middle School toilets (our church is renting a school building on Sundays) are NOT easily accessible to two-four year old little bodies, lifting a child up onto the seat is required. It's one of those times when you want to be an octopus. There's this tiny little person with a beautiful, frilly dress and a long sassy bow - that takes both of her hands to hold up, and she could probably use a third. About the time she manages to get her dress out of the way, she looks up at you with one of those deer caught-in-the-headlight looks and lets go with one hand as she attempts to maneuver her tights and undies. So I hold the dress and bow while she shimmies, then she wads her dress into small bundles. About the time I get her on the seat I realize her bow is coming undone, leaving a trailing line right towards the open toilet. And people wonder why we leave the flowing, beautiful dresses behind to our childhood.
And for all these people who talk about teaching beauty, modesty, and decency to our girls: did you know that most Christian schools who require dresses also require for the girls 3rd grade and under to wear SHORTS under them? Little girls love to climb up the slide. They climb on the monkey bars - and turn flips --all in a dress. And little boys, even though they know absolutely nothing, will look and giggle.
Sometimes I wonder what I would do if I had a little girl. Would I attempt to dress her up? My Mom would probably say that if I ever had a little girl, she'd pray very hard that the kid would be prissy (because I wasn't and I'm still not) and gave my little sister quite a hard time for being so. But realistically, even if Bobby and I could have children, any child of ours would be crawling up the back of his chair and jumping off or turning flips, and I just can't see that in a dress. While I'm not athletic, my piano teacher used to laugh and tell my Mom to make me do my lesson either first or last (there were three of us taking) so I could either get it over with and head outside to climb her oak trees, or let me climb until dark and then I'd be having lessons when I couldn't play. Wasn't Mrs. Nunly nice and understanding? It's just too bad they didn't make nice dress pants for girls when I was little.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

motivation

There are days when I reach a point when everything seems futile. Then the smallest thing happens and makes me realize just how blessed I truly am. Today was one of those days.
My cousin sent me a forwarded e-mail, and I decided to google it and see if the story was true. It's not only true, it was even more amazing than the e-mail suggested.
To read and see the works of an amazing artist who overcame numerous obstacles, visit this website:
http://www.paulsmithfoundation.org/
It's well worth the browsing.

Friday, October 10, 2008

unusual pm events

Monday: Precinct Transfer Official Training (and I FORGOT to take the dogs to the vet!)
Tuesday: Greenville, NC - NC GOP Victory Rally


Senator Elizabeth Dole (we were in the overflow section at the Stadium instead of in the Gym)







Pat McCrory and Elizabeth Dole addressing the outside audience.

Wednesday: Nursery at church
Thursday: Hospital visit and housework and Survivor!
Friday: choir clinic...and an afternoon visit from Robert!

Saturday:housework, choir concert
Sunday: church
Monday: Statutory Election Training
Tuesday: take the dogs to the vet since I forgot this week
Wednesday: church
Thursday: SURVIVOR and absolutely NOTHING!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

conspiracy theories

It happens every election year, but given the high interest in this year's presidential election, I've heard more crazy theories than ever before.
From election day training & the dr.'s office:
the Democrats:
1. You know, voters will be showing up to campaign at the poles, and when they go in to vote all the Republican officials are going to tell them to leave because they can't campaign in the polling place (wearing t-shirts are buttons IS allowed in Wake County inside the polling place as long as they're coming in to vote and not mill around). We're going to lose all these votes because people won't know any better and will leave. They'll do everything they can to stop us from voting.
2. They keep calling him "Hussein Obama" to make people think he's a terrorist (we won't comment on the fact that IS his middle name). You just watch, they're going to get him killed.
the Republicans:
1. They do it every time there's a black person on the ballot. They drive vans to the nursing homes and get all these mentally ill people and bring them in then "assist" them in voting. All they're really doing is getting extra votes. That's how they're going to win the election.
2. If ___________(any Democratic candidate) gets in office, then no one can afford health care, afford to retire, all your gun and religious rights will be totally stripped away, blah, blah, blah, blah.
and my conspiracy theory of the day:
Duke University Clinics intentionally make you wait at LEAST an hour after your appointment before they call you back, then you wait at LEAST 30-45 minutes after the nurse sees you before you see the doctor, then you wait 20 minutes to check out, so by the time you get back to your vehicle, you're required to pay at least $3 just to leave the parking deck. I'm sure someone in the parking deck is either getting a kickback or is bribing the doctors somewhere in there. It's gotta be a conspiracy.
Our crazy human nature: if something doesn't go according to our beliefs or plans, there's gotta be a conspiracy somewhere.

Monday, October 6, 2008

hmmm

Who decides what goes in the news?
Who decided that even though Russia has decided to conduct live missile tests from Oct 6-12 (the first time since the 1980's) in the Arctic Circle (across Belarus and near Alaska) and it's being reported in England, in Israel, and in many other countries, that it wasn't newsworthy for America?
And why did we send a battleship off the coast of Georgia the day before Russia announced these tests?
Are these tests retaliation for that act as Israel claims?
Is it simply Russia flexing its muscles as England claims?
And why are our presidential candidates keeping mum on this issue?

october weekends

Seeing as we have something EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND for the rest of this month, we spent this weekend very selfishly, and enjoyed every minute of it.

Thursday night, while Bobby was away at a meeting, I watched VP debates and finished marking off his quilt top.

Unfortunately, the material I have for the backing isn't quite enough, so I made a quick trip to Cary after work Friday to find something else. Then it's rush home so we can head to a Pat McCrory fundraiser. I'll comment on political fundraisers and whatnot later.

Saturday, we headed to an "antique country auction" which was a bit of a joke. We looked around, and then headed home. On the way back we stopped at Clemmons and walked the tree trail. We were both a little puzzled by this tree, especially when we started seeing several like this. Then Bobby spotted a small one that had a vine wrapped around it. Evidently the tree finally outgrew the vine, but not without the vine leaving its mark.


This is the strangest mushroom I have ever seen. All my sideshots of it turned out fuzzy, but it seemed to grow on the sides instead of in the middle. And my favorite thing to find as a child: the homes of pretend little people or Winnie the Pooh. Don't you just love the little window at top!

I don't think I'm quite up to the 2.2 mile trail yet (especially if I have to push Bobby's wheelchair over roots!) but I think we'll get there eventually. Meanwhile, the countdown has begun. 7 weeks to Turkey Day, the Iron Bowl, and Sweet Home Alabama!

Friday, October 3, 2008

the artistic side of fall

One of the many artistic things I enjoy seeing in the fall is carved pumpkins. There are many detailed faces, carved smiles, unusual positions, but my favorite is the creative designs. Here's one that someone spent a LOT of time on:



the death star from Star Wars!
http://www.fantasypumpkins.com/2006-pumpkins/deathstar1.jpg
there's many variations of this on the web
http://www.productdose.com/phpwiki/uploads/Tyler/99927813144d5f02e14eb77a5a851015_pop.gif
I love the fact that they used the stem for the nose instead of cutting the stem portion off...how creative!
http://img.hgtv.com/HGTV/2007/07/12/halloween_carved_pumpkin_w609.jpg

Very creative! I would have NEVER thought about carving the world into a pumpkin! www.coyoteblog.com/.../2006/11/my_pumpkin.html
Now, I don't know if that is real food inside the pumpkin, but this is a VERY creative carving. I've found this on many sites in many forms without credit, so I don't have a link to post on this one.

And for my all-time favorite:
I've seen several variations of this one. There's one that has the eyes with slits and it makes the pumpkin looking as if it's really in pain and sick. But that one is copyrighted with a watermark on the picture so I'm not going to post that one. This is close enough.

There's a lot of other creative carvings out there that are just downright sick, but these were some of my favorites. I've only carved a pumpkin once. It's not all that easy. And not wanting to be wasteful, I saved the actual pumpkin and made pumpkin pies, which I discovered I'm not all that crazy about. I wanted to try again this year, but with the dogs I'd be surprised if it lasted a night. That's too much work and time to have my little savages rip it apart or eat it. So I'll be content to browse the net and see what others have done.