Saturday, September 30, 2006

My Old Book Collection

All this talk about books lately got me thinking about my old book collection. When I was in college, I used to go to a lot of book sales. I'm sure my roomies dreaded seeing me return from the "bag" sales! Somewhere along the way, I got interested in old books. Mostly old English, literature and history textbooks. But I also have a thing for old poetry books and literary classics. I have a few more scattered around the house but here's a picture of the majority of them. One of them, on the life of President Andrew Jackson, was published around 1872.

The shelf is not bowed; it just looks like it, the way the light hits it. And aren't the bookends just adorable? A little Chinese boy and girl set I picked up at a flea market years ago.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Five Ingredient Friday: Spaghetti JMW

Spaghetti JMW is a longtime family favorite around our house. Growing up, my mother often made this dish which she referred to as "Spaghetti John's Mother's Way" - the way my dad's mom used to make spaghetti. At some point, I decided the name needed to be shortened, hence Spaghetti JMW. It's quick, it's easy and it works with a variety of pastas & meats. (To my knowledge, we've never written this down before so pardon the estimates)

1 lb. cooked pasta (spaghetti works, but I've also used penne and macaroni)
1 large can whole tomatoes (stewed tomatoes also work but I prefer the chunkier whole ones)
1/4 - 1/2 lb. Velveeta cheese, sliced (the light version works just fine)
1/2 lb. bacon cooked and coarsely chopped (1-2" pieces) (do not overcook!) (I've also used kielbasa or turkey kielbasa)

Empty tomatoes into a bowl and crush by hand. Cover the bottom of 9x13 pan with some of the juice. Layer pasta, tomatoes and cheese until pan is full. Sprinkle chopped bacon over the top. Cover and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, then baked uncovered a few more minutes until bacon is crispy.

I've also made this in a crockpot, and I think it's equally delicious with turkey sausage or kielbasa, sliced into 1/4" medalions. My mom used to use cover the top with whole sliced bacon and then drizzle the bacon drippings over the top before baking. I think it's easier to serve and it with chopped bacon and I skip the bacon drippings.

Now I'm hungry but it's 2:00 am.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Great Amounts of Work

"Great amounts of work can only be accomplished by great amounts of hard work."

I don't know where I heard the above statement, or perhaps it's just something I've always said to myself. But in recent days, this seems even more true. In a department of twelve customer service representatives, we're down to nine, and one is transitioning to another department shortly. Two girls don't really factor into the mix because they handle the international business. So there's six of us to handle the majority of the domestic order volume, and on any given day, up to three of us could be out of the office! Pretty unbelievable. Most of the others work four ten-hour days and enjoy a day off each week. I tried that for a while but I hated getting home at 7:30 most nights, so I went back to five eight-hour days. But I still end up staying late or going in early a few days a week in order to keep my head above water.

So why do I mention this? Mainly because I've been reminded lately that there's no way to accomplish much without much effort. My house doesn't clean itself; it only reflects the amount of effort I put into it. Corel Paint Shop Pro doesn't reach out and grab my photos and create graphic surprises for me; I get no more out of that software than what I put into it. I know some people who like the results I've had with Weight Watchers so they've joined up too. But they're not getting the same results. Yet. Joining WW is not the ticket; success lies in our willingness to apply the ideas and change our eating habits.

I tend to look for the quick fix sometimes; don't we all? The exercise video that's sure to help you tone up, the how-to book guaranteed to make you a master, the Bible study that promises a more balanced life or an enhanced relationship - none of these on their own will accomplish squat.

I've been taking a serious look at some of my goals - the ones I really believe God would have me attempt - and asking God to help me identify and apply the missing piece - action. So what accomplishment is waiting for you to achieve it? And what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Works for Me Wednesday: Classics Edition

So Shannon is hosting a WFMW Classics edition - where we post our favorite tip. I don't know if this is a classic, but the following is one tip I think about over and over. So from this past August: Half is Nice. And be sure to check out all the other classic tips at Shannon's this week by clicking the above link.

A little late; nevertheless I had a thought today that I thought might be of help to others so I'm passing it along. It all started last fall when I read Mary Hunt's (of Cheapskate Monthly fame) new book entitled Live your Life for Half the Price. I was left with one major impression: the merit of reducing our requirements for living by half. That may sound radical, but as I started implementing it in financial areas, it made more and more sense to me. For example, I tend to buy in bulk when certain items are on sale. I've learned that I can get to the grocery store again, so buying just what I can use in a week or so has helped me save money and eliminate waste. Waste. Nope - make that "waist"!

Fast forward a few months. I joined Weightwatchers - the actual meetings - this past March. I did it in the past online, but I don't think I truly revamped my eating habits then.
Something clicked this time. See, I come from a long line of Italian women who know how to eat and like to eat good. We like our food! We like our Greek hummus and Italian stuffed peppers and German latkes. I wasn't cutting it on rice cakes and fat free half & half. Then it occurred to me - eat what you like, just eat half. I think this has made all the difference. A sandwich tastes much better when shared with a co-worker. Applebee's offers most of their salads in a half size, and Panera has a great "You Pick Two" option with your choice of soup, salad or half a sandwich. I'm also trying to remember that usually the the small size latte or coffee will more than satisfy me.

Another area where thinking in halves has helped me is with my to-do list. I'm finally realizing I don't have to get it all done tonight! Especially not after a long work day. The laundry can sit if it has to. I don't have to make a gourmet meal every night; I can save that new recipe for another night. And it's perfectly okay to buy and serve premade hamburger patties when I'm having a picnic.

So there you have it - Half is Nice. It works for me!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fluff post: In Search of the Perfect Yogurt

I've been relying on yogurt as a filling staple since I started on
WeightWatchers. Now that I've reached my goal (and holding), I don't
need the one-point-nothing-worthwhile-in-them-ultra-lite versions. So
I've actually been reading the labels in search of a healthier version
and I'm shocked. It's true - the fat-free versions are loaded with
sugar - high fructose everything under the sun. Ugh!

I think I've finally settled on StonyFieldFarm's naturally fat free
variety. (A little bit of fat doesn't bother me, but that's all they
have). It does have sugar - but the real thing; I can live with that.
It's a bit more pricey but I only eat it 2-3 times a week so I can
live with that too. For some reason, the only yogurt flavors I like
are the berry ones. I tried their raspberry one today and yum -
actually less sweet and syrupy.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Positive Quote of the Day

Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many--not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some. -- Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English Novelist

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Fall Into Reading

I'm joining up with Katrina in her Fall into Reading challenge, to set a goal of reading over the next few months. Katrina assures me even two books qualifies for the challenge. I almost didn't do this because my pile kept growing and I spent wasted a couple hours this weekend perusing my bookshelves at home looking at all the things I want to read. Not to mention the time spent looking for my camera card thing-a-majiggy so I could upload pictures.

So here's a picture of my "to-be-read" pile and a bit about these books:

  1. Every Woman's Marriage by Shannon & Greg Etheridge. I'm about a third of the way through this book and it's an honest look at things women unknowingly do to sabotage their own marriages. Shannon's forthright sharings about her own shortcomings coupled with Greg's perspective on the situation make this a very palatable read on a tough subject.
  2. Two-part Invention by Madeleine L'Engle. I loved her previous two books in the Crosswick Journal series and this one focuses on marriage so I'm looking forward to it. I'd call this introspective non-fiction, or semi-autobiographical.
  3. Aunt Dimity and the Deep Blue Sea by Nancy Atherton. Oooh I do love a cozy English mystery and I was tickled to see a new Aunt Dimity mystery at my library this week. Can't wait to dive into this one!
  4. Cure for The Common Life by Max Lucado. Haven't read anything by him for a while but it's been calling my name. Here's what B&N had to say: "You don't find meaning in your work--or you're one of the 80 percent who don't believe their talents are used. What can you do? You're suffering from the common life, and you desperately need a cure. Best-selling author Max Lucado has found it. In Cure for the Common Life he offers practical tools for exploring and identifying your own uniqueness, motivation to put your strengths to work, and the perfect prescription for finding and living in your sweet spot for the rest of your life."
Now I know that's only four, and that's an even number and even numbers are bad things, but that's my final answer. The fact that 3 out of 4 of them are library books should keep me on track. I'm a really fast reader and will most likely read more than these but this is what I'm committing to!) Later this week: my prized book collection.

It's not too late for you to make a list and join up with the rest of us. Leave a link at Katrina's blog if you do so others can check out your reading list!

Thursday Thirteen: Thirteen Things on my Birthday Wishlist

This is really just for my husband. I always tell him he's perfectly welcome to read my blog but surprisingly, he'd rather cut wood or work on the house! So with the big day coming up next month, I'm of course taking Katrina's advice and offering a wish list to make his shopping easier (actually this is a giant conglomerate list to last him the next several months, Christmas and anniversary included). But he'll have to come here if he wants to see it!

  1. Flowers delivered at work. Now Mike is the greatest when it comes to surprising me with flowers but generally we both just prefer being able to enjoy them at home. But I've spent some long days at work lately and I think flowers would be the perfect thing to brighten up my dreary cube. Besides, when we first started dating ten years ago, he sent me flowers to work and I just loved it!
  2. A bread machine cookbook. Here's one I'd really like and it can be had used (actually it can only be had used!) But there's always this one too: 250 Best American Bread Machine Baking Recipes.
  3. A Corel Photoshop book. Corel Paint Shop Pro X Revealed looks really good.
  4. A Josh Turner CD.
  5. Billy Ray Cyrus' newest CD.
  6. Nicholas Nickleby on DVD - this has to be my favorite of all Dicken's stuff and an awesome screen version.
  7. 84 Charing Cross Road with Anne Bancroft. A book and DVD to feed my love of all things books, since the story is about a transatlantic relationship between two bibliophiles (or bookgirl, as my husband would say!)
  8. Leaving, how about a drive in the country to enjoy the fall foliage?
  9. Tiramasu. I'm way, way, way overdue for a piece of tiramasu!
  10. As long as I'm having dessert, might as well do coffee somewhere.
  11. After we have dinner with Steve somewhere. I need some red meat!
  12. Oh yeah, now that I fit in that little black dress again, could we go somewhere I could wear it? While I fit in it and before I have to have it made into a handbag!
  13. An evening in front of the fireplace watching our wedding video and looking through our album.
Well, I hope this makes it easier for you, babe. Save your head-scratching for your master's classes. And I'll take care of everyone else in our family who has a birthday between now and Christmas (I think we're up to 9 now) and you just worry about me! Love you!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

To Blog or Not to Blog

To Blog or Not to Blog - say that in the goofy accent Mandy Patinkin uses in the Princess Bride and you might just crack yourself up.

Seriously though. Do you ever wonder if you should hang up the keyboard? I was feeling like that tonight and then I read this post at Shalee's Diner. Please - go read this post. And think about it - you never know who you might bless with your words (be they blogged words or otherwise).

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Monday, September 18, 2006

In honor of my 300th post . . . 100 things about me

  1. As the story goes, I should have been a David (my parents were sure I'd be a boy).
  2. I'm glad I'm a girl. Most of the time!
  3. I had exit issues as an infant - again, as the story goes, my parents couldn't think of a name for me for a few days after I was born. Very unlike today when names are often determined months in advance.
  4. I never liked my name as a kid. It seemed too mature for a little kid like me.
  5. I always wished to be called Katie.
  6. But I do like Dianne now. As long as you spell it right.
  7. Two "n's" is phonetically correct, you know.
  8. That's important to someone like me, an English major!
  9. Or at least I wanted to be an English major.
  10. But the college I went to required you to have 2 teaching fields, rather than a major and a minor. Go figure. That was the least of the weird things about that college!
  11. Back to my name. I am one of 3 Di's in my department at work.
  12. We all sit in a row. And it's a real pain when customers call and ask for Diane.
  13. One of the others is moving to a different department next week. But wait - that's not about me!
  14. Anyways, to help eliminate confusion, I go by "Dee" to customers.
  15. So I'm having an identity crisis.
  16. Which is kind of funny in itself. Because the abbreviation for "identity" is "I.D." and when I was a kid, my little sis couldn't pronounce my name and she called me "ID" - and that has stuck with my family for years.
  17. So enough about my name right? Well, anyways it's only my dad that still calls me I.D.
  18. But he also has a song for me. It's to the tune of "Little Brown Jug." "Little I.D., how I love thee . . . "
  19. And then I chime in.
  20. He usually whistles this to me.
  21. And he hugs me right in front of everyone at church, which is funny to us because he's an usher and probably ushers shouldn't be hugging the women! But he was my dad first!
  22. But first he was my mom's beau.
  23. I only have a few pictures of my parents together from years ago.
  24. Not because my mom isn't a shutterbug. No way - she's always taking pictures (or having them taken).
  25. But because when I was about 12 years old, our home burned to the ground.
  26. Not just our home, which was a mobile home. But also the house we were building next to the trailer.
  27. Thankfully none of my family were home that day.
  28. We moved back in the following December, and my parents have lived there ever since.
  29. And "there" is "out in the country." Way out. Like at least ten miles from the nearest pizza shop!
  30. I've been married nine years to my sweetheart.
  31. My sister and I both began dating our spouses in September, got engaged in February and were married in October.
  32. And both of us married guys with last names beginning with "P" so our initials are both DP now.
  33. I've never traveled west of Chicago.
  34. But I have been across the Atlantic twice.
  35. Once when I was four, my mom and gram took my sister and me to Europe on the USS Rotterdam and we caught up with my uncle who was studying there.
  36. And ten - no make that sixteen - years ago, my mom and gram and I went to Ireland.
  37. I'd go to Ireland again in a heartbeat.
  38. But I still have no great desire to travel west of Chicago.
  39. Although I wouldn't mind seeing my old roommate from college.
  40. There were three of us freshmen in a six-room, and we found it odd that we were all born in October, just days apart, and had all been valedictorians of our senior classes.
  41. Of course, that's not saying much for me, seeing as there were only ten students in my graduating class.
  42. Although I did work hard for the honor, a goal I set for myself in seventh grade.
  43. Did I mention my birthday is in October?
  44. I only mention it because it's my favorite month of the year.
  45. Which falls of course, in my favorite season.
  46. I'm pretty pleased that all the mums I planted last fall came back this year and are ready to burst forth with color. And they're huge!
  47. And hey, I'm halfway through this list.
  48. And so are you. I think you got the short end of the stick!
  49. I can speak a bit of Spanish and a bit of sign language, both of which have gotten me in trouble.
  50. When we were in Ireland, a group of French people at a dinner show were asking if anyone spoke French. And I let on that I spoke Spanish. Big mistake because I ended up having to interpret most of the evening for them - a difficult feat with my rusty Spanish.
  51. And once in my late twenties, I offered to interpret the midweek service for a deaf young man.
  52. Later that week, he called to ask me out.
  53. Which wasn't a big deal, except he called using TTY - the deaf phone service, where someone else actually does the talking for the deaf person.
  54. I'm afraid it freaked me out a bit. And no, we never went out.
  55. But then it doesn't take much to freak me out.
  56. Ever since I was a kid, I've had these weird nightmares where I wake up screaming that a bug or snake or spider is attacking me.
  57. Which is weird, because growing up in the country, I'm really not afraid of bugs or snakes or spiders.
  58. In fact, I'm the resident bug and spider killer here for my self-proclaimed city boy.
  59. He will admit he doesn't like bugs. But it gets pretty bad when he tries to kill the bugs in my nightmares, instead of just waking me up and consoling me!
  60. I'm a country girl at heart. Give me wide open spaces and stars in an expansive sky above at night.
  61. But I'm married to a city-boy (who doesn't like bugs).
  62. When my husband and I were looking for a house, we had to compromise between my need for space and his need for close proximity to all things pizza. So we live in suburbia.
  63. Which I'm kind of okay with, because I do have a huge backyard, surrounded on three sides by woods and nature.
  64. We have all the wildlife you could wish for: deer, rabbits, groundhogs and scores of birds.
  65. And we live four doors away from his parents, which surprisingly I'm okay with that too.
  66. We're both very close to our families, which is one thing I really love about my husband.
  67. I have two nieces and four nephews.
  68. And thankfully, all of our parents are still living.
  69. I don't know where I'd be without my parents.
  70. But even more, I don't know where I'd be without my Savior Jesus Christ.
  71. I became a Christian when I was ten years old. I still remember that day as if it were yesterday. But that's a whole 'nuther post!
  72. I hate most housework, but I do love a clean house!
  73. I love to garden. Well, perhaps I should say I love my garden. Right now my front flower bed is so overgrown, I see hear my little asters peeking out from behind the the dying black-eyed Susans and purple coneflower blocking their view. No one would know I love to garden.
  74. But the birds like the seeds from those plants. So that's my excuse for letting it go for now.
  75. I love to cook. I have since I was about eight years old.
  76. I think I'd rather cook than eat.
  77. But even more so, I love to read cookbooks and cooking magazines and recipes.
  78. I especially like specialty cookbooks. Like my Jan Karon Mitford Reader & Cookbook. Or my 1001 Lowfat Soups and Stews. Or recipes from different nationalities.
  79. I guess in general you could say I love books.
  80. I love collecting books almost as much as I love reading books.
  81. As far as collections go, my passion is old books. Specifically old history, literature and poetry books. I have about twenty such tomes in all, my prize being one on the life of Andrew Jackson, written in the 1870's!
  82. Is that about me?
  83. Some other things about me. I'm a perfectionist. A little too much at times.
  84. But I can be pretty laid back at the same time. Go figure.
  85. I don't mind dressing up once in a while, but I hate anything polyester, silky blouses and heels.
  86. I am most comfortable in a nice pair of jeans. As much as I love my shorts and going barefoot in the summer, it sure is great to haul out the jeans and sweatshirts come fall.
  87. But t-shirts are my other wardrobe essential. But not just your everyday t-shirt. I really like a good soft high quality t-shirt, such as the Life is Good line. Or t-shirts from places we go. Unfortunately I see nothing wrong with spending $20 on a good t-shirt. But then I've had some last ten years or more.
  88. I really don't even like to shop for clothes. It's much easier to shop online or wait until my mom decides to clean out her closet and hope some of the fallout looks good on me.
  89. But if I do go shopping, I want it to be with my sister.
  90. I might be addicted to blogging.
  91. I've been blogging since June 2004.
  92. But in addition to blogging, I recently started my own (albeit floundering!) writing business.
  93. And I have about gazillion magazine article ideas started.
  94. And I'm attempting to learn HTML and Corel Paint Shop Pro.
  95. I'm beginning to think I might have a short attention span.
  96. I tend to start a lot of projects and never finish them.
  97. But I sure do have fun starting them.
  98. I started this post two weeks ago.
  99. But that's okay, because I just actually reached 299 posts the other day.
  100. And this makes 100 things you probably didn't need to know about me! Aren't you glad I didn't go for 300? Whew, me too!
P.S. I'm not sure if Blogger includes draft posts in this number but hey - who's counting, right??

Saturday, September 16, 2006

What's the Worst That Can Happen?

I swear, if worrying were an Olympic event, I could win the gold, hands down. Over the years, I've perfected my abilities in this area to peak performance. I've gotten so good at it, I no longer just worry about real problems. I can imagine situations to worry about. Honestly, I can.

Just recently, I got a call in the morning from my friend who rides with me to work. She didn't need a ride that day (it was my first day back after being off for a few days). Guess what I thought. "Oh, Jenn must be sick - I should pray for her." Nope. I assumed I might be let go (they do that a lot where I work!) and someone told her not to ride with me so I could go when I got the pink slip! Now if that isn't the biggest bunch of hooey . . . ! You'd think I could write a best selling novel, with an imagination like that.

I have to say, I reached the place where I realized I was driving myself crazy with worrying. Needless worrying. In recent months, weeks, days (hey, I'm just a work in progress!) I've adopted a little mantra that helps me avoid making mountains out of molehills. I say to myself:

"What's the worst that could happen?"

And then I think it out to that end. What's the worst that could happen if I run out of gas? I'll call AAA. I may be late for work. I may have a lot of messages when I get back to the offices. I may have to stay late tonight. But I'll survive.

The other day when my obsessive tendencies revealed a (literally) gaping problem in our bathroom tub, I was tempted to fall apart. Then I asked myself the above question. And proceeded to answer it. We might not be able to take a bath or shower tonight (okay, my inlaws do live 4 doors away). Our bathroom might be out of commission for a while. (Hmm, a visit to my sister seems in order). Mike might be upset. (Yeah, well he'll get over it, he still loves me, and besides, he has a right to - he told me not to remove any grout!) We might have to chunk down some money and call in a professional (ugh, we don't really have money budgeted for that right now, but we'd survive). Or maybe, just maybe - I can tackle this myself (which I did and it's holding, for now!)

I realize taking this to an extreme could be dangerous. I can't just have an "I don't care" attidude about everything. Nor can I avoid facing the just and natural consequences of my actions. But I'm learning that in my worrying, I can blow things so far out of proportion that I fail to focus on and fix the problem anyways. Once I think through the situation, I'm usually able to stop and pray about it.

I know there will always be stressful situations from time to time in my life. But I also know that God does not want me to live in a state of constant panic. Nor does he want me to invent situations to stress about! He wants me to experience the perfect peace that comes from focusing on him. And that's what I want too.
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Stay in the Soil

"Think about yourself as a little seed planted in rich soil. All you have to do is stay there and trust that the soil contains everything you need to grow. This growth takes place even when you do not feel it. Be quiet, acknowledge your powerlessness, and have faith that one day you will know how much you have received." Henri Nouwen

It's impossible for one single metaphor or analogy to sum up the entire Christian life, but every so often you run across one that just sticks with you. While I know perfectly well that God is at work in my life, and that it's not about my efforts on his behalf but rather his efforts on my behalf, sometimes it's so hard to stay put. To really abide in him. I want to jump out of the dirt. Prove myself worthy of his love. But the expending of these energies just leaves me exhausted.

I know the responses God requires of me are simple:
Submission. Obedience. Confession. Adoration. All my activity needs to be within those bounds. It's kind of like a never-ending circle, where I hear his voice, act in obedience and continually humble myself before him. I get off track when I fail to listen to his voice. When I act out of my own initiative, to please myself (even in doing good). Or worse, when I look back at what I think I've accomplished and heap accolades upon myself (or seek them from others), instead of keeping my eyes on him in praise and adoration.

It's hard to stay in the soil. But if I really believe he is sufficient and continually working out his plan in my life, I won't want to be anywhere else.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Barb wants to know . . .

how you met your sweetheart? Katrina kind of covered this in a great post on friendship today. Go check out both of them if you get a chance, then share your own if you're willing. You can post a link at Barb's site.

Well, at thirty, I was pretty much convinced that singleness was my calling. My mom told me to pray for exactly what I wanted in a guy, and, coming off the heels of a bad relationship (hmm, the word heel seems to fit well there!), my top prayer request was to meet a guy from my own church. So there, God, I thought to myself. See what you can do with that one. Because at the time, I knew of not one single guy at my church.

I guess God either has a great sense of humor or can't resist a challenge! Within weeks, I'd joined some friends in a Bible study. That couple was very motivated to get some singles activities going and that summer was a buzz of volleyball games, par-3 golfing and lots of other activity. All of the sudden it seems guys were coming out of the woodwork! One guy in particular caught my interest but I was pretty convinced he was just Mr. Nice Guy to everyone. I mean, he only carried my golf bag around the course because he had such good manners. Nothing more, I was certain.

On Labor Day, he picked me up (cuz he was going the same way - Mr. Polite) and we rode with some friends to a local amusement park where we met a bunch of other friends. We walked into the park and I saw all these single girls in our group, and immediately moved away from Mike, knowing that he probably didn't intend to hang around me all day. He followed and I think I moved away again, until he finally asked, "you're riding with me, right?" I didn't know it beforehand but that was our first date. The man had a plan! We got engaged on Groundhog's Day (cuz he knows I LOVE Groundhog Day for some silly reason) and married in October.

Oh, the church thing? I almost had a problem with that. See, I'd never actually seen Mike at my church. Turns out he worked a lot of weekends. But he assured me he'd seen both me and my sister there and just assumed we were not interested in guys or something. I swear, I never saw him. But God knew all the time!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Tone Deaf

I realized it before the worship team had finished the first stanza of the opening song. "She" can't sing. Maybe you've been there - you're all set to join the melodious throng lifting their voices in praise to God, when a nearby voice belts out the words with no regard for tune or pitch.

I'll admit, I was distracted at first. Then the music seemed to fade away and I began thinking about that phenomenon known as amusia, or tone deafness. defines tone deafness as the inability to discriminate between notes. Someone who is tone deaf simply can't distinguish between notes. It may be that they lack the musical training to reproduce the music they hear, or they may actually be genetically unable to "hear" the music as most of us do.

I tried to focus on the music, yet it seemed God wanted to speak to me through those off-key notes. I wondered, how well do I hear God's voice? Can I distinguish his voice from the distractions around me? Am I in tune when he speaks to me in his still small voice, through the beauty of nature? Do I discern his voice through admonitions from caring friends? Or do I crowd out his voice by focusing on the worries and concerns of the day?

How sad that someone may be unable to enjoy music, but even sadder is the inability to hear God's voice. Thankfully, spiritual tone deafness can be corrected, and we can learn to be in tune, read to listen when God speaks to us. Here are some things we can do to that end:

  • Practice being quiet. Make it an intentional part of your day. Get some time away from the phone and TV. For me, this means getting away from books and blogging as well.
  • Learn to recognize God's voice in the uncomfortable or unpleasant situations.
  • Make some of your prayer time just quiet time.
  • Get outside. I always find it easier to listen to God when I'm outdoors, away from the many distractions on my to-do list.
  • Take time to meditate on Scripture or key passages in books on the Christian life. I tend to zip through books but I'm learning to take my time and reread sections that speak to me, even highlighting them or making notes as I go.
God isn't rude. He won't interrupt us. But when we're ready to listen, he wants to speak to us.
Pay attention, Job, and listen to me; be silent, and I will speak. Job 33:31
Tag: Devotional Thoughts

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Most Embarrassing Moments

So someone has decided that it would be fun to share our most embarrassing moments. Already I'm laughing my head off at Barb's and as soon as I post mine, I'm headed over here to link and sit back and read all the others there. Here, in no particular order, are some of the moments that made me want to stick a bag over my head:

1. In junior high, I got out of class to use the bathroom. On my way back down the steps, my high heel caught on the carpeted step. I fell forward but my feet remained up on the step. Luckily I grabbed the handrail and kept from falling on my face, but I was stuck hanging there until the principal happened by and rescued me from my precarious position.

2. I have a bad habit of falling asleep in vehicles. I totally lose neck control, and tend to slobber. I even fell asleep on the way home from dates. Once in college, the campus bus was toting us girls to church and as usual, I conked out. Unfortunately I was on the front aisle seat. When the driver hit his brakes at the red light, I flew into the stairwell and my books went everywhere. He had to put the emergency brake on and help me up. My seatmate invited me to change seats with her but I assured her that my embarrassment would keep me awake for the duration of the ride. (The driver, a security guard on campus, was rather cute.) No lie, we had a repeat offense at the next red light. I could not look that guy in the eye ever again!

3. Again my sleeping habits got me in trouble on a bus. I flew to Chicago and took the 2 hour bus ride to Merrillville near the college. Only I fell asleep and ended up at the terminal in Gary, Indiana! I don't know who was more frightened, me or the bus driver who found me asleep on his bus.

4. Once in between classes at college, I noticed what I thought to be a snake right on the floor. I screamed loudly to notify everyone around me, before realizing my belt had fallen off my skirt. I picked it up and slithered away.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Meme: Famous in my own lunchtime

Katrina tagged me for what looked like a fun meme "Famous in my own lunchtime." (Honestly, I don't know what that means but it looks like fun!

1. What do you like most about where you live?

We live about 15 minutes from everywhere and anywhere - or at least it seems like it to me, having grown up out in the country where even the pizza shops wouldn't make deliveries! And yet we have a double deep lot and our backyard is surrounded by mostly woods so I enjoy the spaciousness and bit of privacy it affords.

2. Is there anything strange about where you live?

Well, this house actually. The one and only former owner of fifty years did some things that left us scratching our heads, like building an enclosed porch on the back of the house that we can't get to from inside the house (we affectionately called it the room to nowhere) and he put insulation on both the rafters and joists in the attic (a big construction no-no for reasons I'll skip here). And he was a wood freak. Our kitchen, already tiny enough to fit in your daughter's dollhouse, was covered with this really nice wood - over the bulkhead, over the stove . . . just weird. His name was Jack, so we call it "the house that Jack built."

3. What's one of your all-time favorite music albums, and why?

I get on kicks. My favorite album during college was the Muppets Christmas one. Now you have to understand that I went to a college where most music beyond classical and hymns was contraband. My two freshman roommates and I played this tape all year long (I'm not sure it was ever approved but nevertheless!) It still brings back memories for me. But on a serious note, a few years ago my husband got me Revival in Belfast for a St. Paddy's Day surprise and I've probably listened to it 100 times over (I now own Revival in Belfast II as well). It combines that traditional Irish sound with meaningful lyrics that resonate in my heart long after the CD player has been turned off.

4. Did you have a passion for something as a kid that you still have now? (If not - what is one of your passions now?)

It's a largely unfilled passion at this point in my life but I'd have to say art here. If I wasn't reading as a kid, you'd likely find me drawing or painting or doing calligraphy. I have a cupboard under my steps that's full of unfinished arts and crafts projects that I fully intend to get to some day!

5. What do you like most about having a blog?

I enjoy having a place to spill my thoughts in an accountable manner. It stretches me. And I love the community as well - getting to know other bloggers as I go along this journey and being reminded that I'm not alone.

They'll kill me but I'm taggin' my mom and sis who seriously need to get with the blogging program (maybe they just need a topic!)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Missing You

I thought I'd been missing new posts on a blog I enjoy, and so I posted a comment to the author letting her know I'd been missing her and perhaps Blogger was toying with her feed or something. I was saddened to hear that her father had passed away unexpectedly.

This started me thinking, do we have any responsibility in this bloggyland to the cyber-relationships we form? It's impossible to be "all things" to "all bloggers" and yet something in me says even though the relationships are distant and many, we should at least be sensitive to the bloggers whose blogs we frequent.

It's easy to get into a reciprocal mindset in blogdom - you bless me and I'll bless you. It's equally easy to forget there are real women behind those neat graphics and witty posts. Real women with real families and real burdens. It's okay to just pop in and say "hey" sometimes, even when the blog hasn't been updated in a week or several days, and there's no laugh or sage advice waiting there for you. And maybe take one or two of those bloggers to heart, if even just for a short while, and bear them up in prayer. And it's equally okay to let your hair down at times and let people know you're going through it, as some bloggers have done recently.

Well, nothing profound here tonight. Not much can come from an afternoon spent in the bathtub! Perhaps just an outloud challenge to myself to remember, once again, that it's not all about me.

A Multitude of Sins

I've been working on this post this afternoon while in the bathtub. Unfortunately, I've not been in there enjoying a nice long soaky bubble bath. Instead I've been looking at this mess and trying to figure out what to do.

We've known for a little while that the wall behind our tile is "soft." So my husband asked me to caulk over the grout today, just until we can get this problem taken care of. He was very clear in that I should not try taking the tile off the wall, just caulk over grout.

For some reason, I have been appointed chief caulk and grout girl around here. Perhaps because his mother always did that kind of stuff. Or perhaps because I am good at it. I did the countertop in our gameroom as well as the entry way down there. And I've repaired the bathroom tub when he put new faucets in a few years ago. I really don't mind the detailed and time consuming effort it requires.

But . . . I couldn't just "caulk over" old stuff. No way. I had to dig out all the old stuff first and clean it properly. I promised myself that I wouldn't get carried away, but obviously I did. Now it's 6:00 pm and my husband will be home from school in about 3-1/2 hours. Uh-oh.

Well, as you can see, my husband was absolutely right in that I should be very careful not to remove any tile. Basically because the plaster wall behind it is becoming non-existent. If you need a visual, picture brown sugar. Yep, nice and crumbly.

I don't know if this will work or not. But I cut a piece of vinyl siding (that's another current project in our house) to fit the gap and spooged construction adhesive on the back and squished it in place (thank goodness my husband is addicted to Liquid Nail and all manner of construction adhesives and we have plenty of it laying around!). Next I spooged more adhesive on the back of the tile (yes, I cleaned them first, silly!) and jammed them in there. Then I said prayers. Lots and lots of prayers. I hope the stuff starts to set enough so I can caulk the seams before someone gets home tonight. And I hope the darn things don't pop off in the middle of the night. And I hope someone doesn't mind taking yet another bath.

Is there a spiritual thing in all this? Well, does there have to be? Just kidding. Of course there's a lesson for me. Something about looking good on the outside when what's underneath is a mess. And something about how even when you think you have it all together, don't. Because another mess will surface before you know it. Because houses and humans have that in common - the falling apart thing. I'm glad I can rely on the grace of God to hold me together.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Friday Night at the Movies (on Sunday night)

Susanne at Living to Tell the Story mentioned that Barb at Chelsea Morning had linked to Mommie Dearest who was hosting a movie review of sorts, inviting us all to post our top 5 all-time favorite movies. I do love a good movie, and am eager to see what movies others recommend, so I'm all over this one. Although it's next to impossible to stop at just five, since I don't BUY a lot of movies, I've narrowed it down to five I've either bought or would like to buy (reviews complements of Netflix):

1. The Princess Bride. Yep, I own it, and have watched it, along with every single minute of bonus footage, several times over. In this enchantingly cracked fairy tale, the beautiful Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright Penn) and the dashing Wesley (Cary Elwes) must overcome staggering odds to find happiness. Giants, swordsmen, six-fingered counts, murderous princes, Sicilians, pirates, rodents of unusual size and even death cannot stop true love from triumphing. Mandy Patinkin and Andre the Giant costar in this modern classic.

2. Finding Forrester. I only saw this once but it was one of those rare movies that actually evoked tears in me. It's on my list to buy. I think the reason I love it is twofold: first, it's about a writer and second, it's about a young man's struggle to rise above his circumstances and much of the story takes place in the classroom - a place near and dear to my heart. Reared in the Bronx projects, high school basketball star Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown) harbors a passion not usually associated with jocks: He's obsessed with reading and writing. Realizing Wallace's exceptional writing talent, William Forrester (Sean Connery), an award-winning novelist turned recluse, decides to mentor the youngster. Wallace and Forrester soon find that a common passion can forge an uncommon bond. (One more comment - I'm embarrassed to divulge what an effect this movie had on me. Being the reader I am, I immediately got on the internet to find out more about William Forrester. Um, uh, duh - fictional character. I was so disappointed!)

3. Sense & Sensibility. Another Jane Austen classic I am ashamed to admit I never read. When my husband and I were dating, we saw this together at the cheapo theater and I was so impressed that he sat through a chick flick. (Do you think he was doing it to impress me?) We both got a kick out of the "elusive Mrs. P" and he still has a note in his wallet from me, counting down the days to when I would become "Mrs. P!" This tale of 19th century etiquette and ethics chronicles the troubles and triumphs of the marriage-minded Dashwood sisters: sensible Elinor (Emma Thompson) and romantic Marianne (Kate Winslet)

4. Beaches. My sister and I watched this when we shared an apartment as schoolteachers. When we weren't attending a HS basketball game, you could find us curled up on our secondhand sofa with Chi-chi's salsa, a bag of oreos and a good flick. We both bawled our silly eyes out over this one. And I still think Bette Midler is a great actress. Cecilia (Bette Midler) and Hillary (Barbara Hershey) have a lifelong friendship that time and physical distance can't touch. Although Hillary is an unprepossessing W.A.S.P and Cecilia's an aspiring Jewish nightclub singer, what began as an improbable friendship on the Atlantic City boardwalk becomes an unbreakable bond that's tested repeatedly -- especially when the chips are down and Hershey faces the ultimate battle.

5. Bandits. I think this was one of the funniest, cleverest movies I've ever seen. Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett were just hilarious together. I think we saw this three times in about as many months. Bank robbers Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton battle over the affections of a woman (Cate Blanchett) they kidnap before one of their big heists. Adding insult to injury, they then force a TV show host to cover their 15 minutes of fame while they go on a bank-robbing spree -- Blanchett in tow -- and gain notoriety as "The Sleepover Bandits."

6. (Can I sneak one more in here?) The Man Who Knew Too Little. Next to Groundhog Day, this is probably my favorite Bill Murray movie, and it's one of those safe movies that's nice to have on hand when you're not sure of your company's preference. Iowa video-store clerk Wallace Ritchie (Bill Murray) opts to celebrate his birthday with younger brother James (Peter Gallagher). But James, an aggressive businessman, has an important dinner meeting planned. He gets rid of Wallace by giving him a ticket to the Theatre of Life, an audience-participation show where an unfortunate case of mistaken identity leads Wallace into -- among other things -- a web of espionage.

If you decide to share some of your favorites, head on over to Mommie Dearest and leave a link. I'll be over to check it out post haste!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

You've Got Mail

You’ve Got Mail!

Yep, the movie. Anyone else like that one? I’m watching it for about the 3rd time tonight, and I finally figured out why I like it so much. Nope – not because Tom Hanks stars in it. And not because Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan appear together, although I really liked Sleepless in Seattle. Not even because I really love Meg Ryan’s wardrobe in this movie (I even own a grey pleated skirt like she wears in one scene). And not even because I really love the soundtrack to both of those films.

It just hit me tonight. I like it because it’s about a bookstore. Duh! Oh and possibly because she loves Pride and Prejudice and I’m determined to love that book too (once I finish it!) I mean, she owns a bookstore! What could be better than that? My friend I always say our dream life would be to own a little bookshop. I’d definitely want it to have designer coffee though, and be more than just a children’s bookstore. But wouldn’t that be awesome?

So . . . what's your favorite chick flick?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Thursday Thirteen: Everyday Miracles

Thursday Thirteen: Everyday Miracles

The other day I posted some of my thoughts about miracles. Since then, I’ve been thinking about the “little” (but not so, really) miracles I overlook in my life. Technically it’s Friday am (yep, another 4:00 am post – what’s up with that?) so I’m not going to bother linking to TT but I thought I’d toss these out for my own personal benefit. Like David did in Psalm 103, I need to take time to think about the abundant blessings in my life.

  1. A God that loves me no matter what and sent his Son to die for me

  2. A husband who truly loves me and loves to take care of me

  3. A best-friend relationship with my sister

  4. A home of our own

  5. A work partner I truly enjoy working with (we’re on customer service teams at work)

  6. Two paid-for, dependable vehicles (albeit aging!)

  7. Two beautiful nieces and four adorable nephews

  8. A sweet relationship with my dad

  9. A mom who sacrificed much for me and my sister

  10. A sister who remains my best friend to this day

  11. A decent relationship with the in-laws!

  12. The cut-in-pay my husband took with a new job recently – amazingly enough – has not affected us like we expected. Actually, his checks seem like they’re getting bigger!

  13. Thirty years of knowing Christ as my Savior