A Thousand Little Celebrations

imageThrough this winter season we have almost constantly had a jigsaw puzzle in progress.  We have traditional puzzles for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I like these old favorites because they are family puzzles, meaning they consist of three different sized pieces in the same box.  We would line up the children on one side with the big pieces and the parents on the other side with the small pieces.  The middle ground was a compromise between the two.

Now that I wear bifocals, my favorite side is the one with the big pieces.  In this age of instant gratification I enjoy finding pieces quickly, especially after you work the puzzle for a while.  I want my puzzles to be like my life – more fun than work.

During the after-Christmas sales, I found a puzzle with an enticing picture.  Macaroons.  Yum.  Makes me think of Paris…..  I guess I was so busy thinking about Paris that I failed to give a second thought to the fact that the puzzle had a thousand pieces.  A thousand little pieces.  A thousand little pieces that did not have my preferred distinct variations in pattern or color.  It also would take more than a day or two to complete, all the while sending subliminal messages activating my sweet tooth and releasing my inner cookie monster.


The frame had been complete for several days and we were at the point where it typically starts to come together a little easier.  Only it wasn’t.  I begged Bob to let me put it away.  He was relentless.  I wasn’t having fun.  My back hurt.  My eyes were drying out.  My laundry was piling up.  I hadn’t brushed my teeth in days.  I was consuming massive amounts of cookies and coffee.

I thought about the frame.  We had picked through all thousand pieces to put it together first.  Unfortunately we had missed two pieces as the cruel puzzle maker had somehow managed to craft those pieces to look nothing like an edge.  So wrong.  But we had enough to work with.  We could begin to fill it in.

Bob continued to remain steadfast and refused to let me throw the puzzle back in the box and burn it.  I watched him work diligently, happily placing one or two pieces and giving each a triumphant tap as the picture began to come together.  He not only didn’t mind the challenge, he liked it.  That has always amazed me about him, I thought as I rifled through the box wondering if maybe I was color blind.

I needed an adjustment (not chiropractic, though that wouldn’t have been a bad idea after several days bent over a table).  So with the next piece that I found I celebrated.  Not just a little tap on the piece, but a hip, hip hooray.  Completing this puzzle was going to take commitment and a thousand little celebrations.

I’m happy to tell you that we did complete it.  Then I quickly gave it away.

There is something else that I have completed recently.  It started out as a bunch of characters, mental pictures and words in that brain box of mine.  Slowly the edges began to come together and then the picture started to gain focus.  There were a couple of key missing elements to the frame but with the help of my friends and family I was able to discover them.  Soon I had a completed work.  My book.  I completed the middle-grade novel that I have been working on for the last nine years.  After a few minor edits, I’ll attempt to enter the world of published authors.  I plan on starting that process in May.  This is one big celebration for me.  It’s even better than placing a puzzle piece.

Great Joy

I would love to share a picture with you.  The picture would be what joy looks like.  But that is challenging to capture in a photograph.  It is even more challenging for me since my camera went missing.

Of course, there are numerous devices which I own that I could use to take photographs.  I’m typing on one right now.  But for me the best options for achieving the perfect picture are found on my Nikon camera.  I love this camera.  We bought it before we went to Europe two years ago.  It has a wi-fi setting on it so I can move the pictures miraculously through the air from the camera to my iPad.

Since at any given time this camera may have priceless photographs on it, it falls into the category of things which I hide from burglars.  Recently there have been several break-ins in our area.  These usually occur during the daytime by means of a door being kicked in.  The thieves target empty houses.  At our house there is almost always somebody home, so I don’t worry too much about it.

Inevitably though, the house had to be emptied of people.  It was just a matter of time before we all had some place to go at the same time, leaving our driveway empty, which in my eyes was like posting a “Welcome” sign to hooligans.

So, I hide things.  Laptops, tablets, jewelry, cameras.  Usually I remember where I hide them.  Sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes I don’t even remember that I hide them, which brings me to my camera.

We had a family gathering and I went to get the camera.  Hum, I must have left it in the other room, I thought to myself.  Immediately that feeling of dread came over me.  I must have hidden my camera. I wonder where.

I spent the next several days ransacking my house, much like a burglar would have done only neater.  After three days I’d say my house was more organized than ever.  Drawers are clean, cupboards are orderly.  I would take a picture to show you only…..

I prayed that God would show me where my camera was hiding.  I prayed this several times.  I guess God wanted me to get my house organized.  Plus, God wanted to show me something about trust.  I needed to learn to trust Him more.  I could argue that the items I hide are items that are of sentimental value or, in the case of electronics, have things that are difficult to replace stored in them.  Financial records, pictures, the book I’m writing.  Good argument, but I still realized I had to trust all of that with God.

On Tuesday night I prayed before I went to bed.  I asked God to show me where the camera was the next day.  I didn’t want to pressure him, but I was spending a lot of time looking for it.  Hours.  Days.  I felt unproductive and frustrated.

The next day I continued my search, organizing along the way.  No camera.  That night Bob and I were packing things for our trip to Arlington National Cemetery.  It was time to place his father’s ashes there.  I had resigned to the fact that I would be using my phone to take pictures.

Earlier that day I took a flashlight and shined it in dark places in my house to see if that elusive camera in its black case was hiding in a corner or something.  This was to no avail.  For some reason I picked up that flashlight again, aimed it into a corner of my bedroom and voila – there was my camera!

I was giddy with excitement.  I grabbed Bob by the arms and did the dance of joy (a la Balki and Larry from the 1980s TV show Perfect Strangers).  I rejoiced.  I thanked God.  Bob looked at me like I was weird.  (That happens a lot.)  But he rejoiced with me, too.

God gently showed me that I need not fear or be crazy protective over anything that I think I need.  He will supply all my needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).  Therefore, if I need something, anything, He will make sure that I have that.  I can trust him.

Then it hit me.  What great joy our Heavenly Father has when one of us who was lost is found.  The light of Jesus shined into the darkness that was my life and I was restored to my Heavenly Father through his shed blood.  Now that’s joy.  Even something to dance and shout about.



Hey, Baby, It’s Relatively Cold Outside

Today is January 28.  Feel sorry for us  Floridians yet?

Today is January 28. Feel sorry for us Floridians yet?

It’s wintertime and I’m cold.  I will not dwell on that, though, because it’s important to me that I don’t complain all year long.  Our summers in Orlando start in May and continue through October.  By the time August hits I’ve just about had it with the stifling, unending, humidity and heat.  That is the time that I will complain.  And, I’ll continue to do so right on through October.

For now I will be brave through our grueling, semi-chilly, sunny January days.  Days when the temperatures are so low that I am forced to wear socks.  Days when I’m forced to use the seat heat in my car (though not the actual heat as that would be overkill).  Days like today when I need to drink hot tea and sit by a fire for warmth as I write.

Oh sure, I could be outside.  It’s not exactly frigid.  But figuring out how to dress is confusing to me.  It’s bright and sunny so I need my sunscreen if I’m in the sun.  Plus, should I wear a heavy sweater or a long-sleeved shirt with a scarf?  Perhaps a short-sleeved shirt with a heavier jacket would do the trick.  If I go in the shade then I need another layer of clothes.  Am I going to be active or sedentary?  So many questions!

My indoor view - flowers from my son, Jesse.  Thanks for encouraging me to blog, Jesse.

My indoor view – flowers from my son, Jesse. Thanks for encouraging me to blog, Jesse.

I choose to stay indoors for now.  It’s simpler and far less distracting.  Who can concentrate with the breeze making melody as it gently moves through the wind chimes?  Not to mention the singing of the birds as they nestle in the trees.  My orange tree is putting out buds and that alluring orange blossom scent is starting to fill the air, too.  Florida winter!  It’s calling my name and I must answer.  Excuse me while I grab my sunglasses and head outside.  It will be May before I know it.


Where is Jesus?

The last of my father-in-law’s possessions was spread across my dining room table ready to be claimed by his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as keepsakes and reminders of him.  This was his collection of animal figurines and carvings which he collected from around the world and which were very dear to him.  Also included was a crèche complete with Mary, Joseph and a manger in which to lay baby Jesus.  Every Christmas he would display the crèche with all of his animals surrounding it.

Somewhere along the way Jesus must have gone missing, not unlike the time when Jesus was twelve and Mary and Joseph had traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover.  On the way home, you may remember, they thought he was in the company they were traveling with and it took three days to find him.

The comparison breaks down quickly, but it does come to mind that sometimes one thinks they have Jesus and they really don’t.

IMG_2652Anyway, one of our sons chose the crèche.  The figures have wonderfully expressive faces and are stamped with Italy as their country of origin.  Jesus looked a little off to me.  He wasn’t made of the same material, but it was something about his eyes that gave him away.  We turned him over and there it was.  Jesus was made in China.  I’m guessing he was purchases in a Dollar Store and added to the scene like an understudy in a play.

This troubled me, but we figured lots of people display manger scenes without Jesus in the manger all through the Christmas season.  Then on Christmas morning He miraculously appears.  This hatched a plan to look on E-Bay to find a baby Jesus that was fitting to sit with his Italian-made parents.

IMG_2654I wasn’t comfortable throwing made-in-China baby Jesus away.  It seemed wrong somehow.  I figured we should put him some place where I could remember where he was; so just in case I didn’t find a suitable replacement, the manger would not sit empty on Christmas.  I put him in the china closet.  You know, China/china – I should remember that.

Then it occurred to me.  Bob and I are going to Italy in the spring to celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary.  I can look for Jesus there.  That would be awesome.

So, this year if you come to my house on Christmas, please do not look too closely at Jesus in the manger.  We have hope that next year he will look a lot better.

I would encourage you to look for Jesus where he may be found this Christmas.  He is there at the mere mention of his name.  He is no longer a baby in a manger.  He is the Prince of Peace and our Savior.  Merry Christmas!

Luke 2:11-12:  “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you:  You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”



Four for Four, Plus One More

Our family has been a buzz of activity over the last few weeks.  It all began earlier this year when our youngest son met the girl of his dreams.  Now, there was a lot of pressure on him because our older three kids have amazing spouses who love them and fit in with our family like they were hand-picked by God, which we believe they were.  So, when Scott met Julie, there was a lot at stake.  It didn’t take long before we realized that she is wonderful.   Over the Thanksgiving holiday he proposed and she said yes!  So it looks like we are going to be four for four in the kid-in-law department.

But that wasn’t the only thing afoot.  Our son, Joe, and his wife were expecting their first child.  He came a week late but arrived on December 6, healthy and beautiful.  They are living with us temporarily, so our lives have taken a bit of a return to earlier times.  We live in the same house we lived in when Joe was born.  So just when my baby who is 27 is getting ready to get married, we are transforming the house for our grandson.

Before Thanksgiving my house was overrun with my father-in-law’s furniture, which we pulled out of storage so Bob could refinish it.  You may remember that he was blind so there were quite a few spills and rings from glasses marring its finish.  So arranged among my regular living and dining room furniture, we had a large credenza with bookshelf, two dressers and two nightstands.  There was also a pile of artwork resting in a corner of the room.  We suddenly had too much stuff!

I was desperate to clear out the excess because not only were we getting ready for our grandbaby, we also were going to need a spot to put our Christmas tree.  I was determined it would not go on top of one of my father-in-law’s dressers, but that was looking like a viable possibility.

A few days before Thanksgiving we were able to consign and/or sell his remaining furniture and transform the living room and dining room back into something we could live with, even if that does include a sofa in the dining room.  Clutter stifles me, distracts me and gives me an excuse to be unproductive.   When the excess was removed, happiness and contentment returned.

Christmas tree and baby paraphernalia are all set up.  Notice no bedroom furniture in the living room.  Victory!

Christmas tree and baby paraphernalia are all set up. Notice no bedroom furniture in the living room. Victory!

Now all I have to do is finish my Christmas shopping, do some baking, clean the house (again), wrap the rest of the presents and finish the book I’m writing.  Last week I decided I would not panic until Tuesday (today).  So far I’m not panicking.  I guess I’m procrastinating doing that, too.

Thank you, God, for Red Lights

I was heading to my son’s house to stay with my grandsons for a few days.  It had been a busy morning and I left my home an hour later than I had planned.  I needed to be there by 2:30 to receive the boys from the school bus, and I had to stop at Costco for gas.  It was 2:05 when I finished filling up.  There was plenty of time, except I needed four things from inside the store – four things that were just steps away.  If I could be in and out in 10 minutes, I would just make it in time to get the boys.  Of course, getting in and out of Costco in ten minutes would be a major miracle.  I was up for a miracle.

I was back in the car at 2:18; that was thirteen minutes, which was a major accomplishment for me but only a minor miracle.  As I drove down SR436 I prayed that I would get to their home before they would.  I knew it was tight.  I felt like God was saying, “Trust me.  Be at peace.”

That meant that I didn’t need to give in to anxiety and wouldn’t need to go 80 mph when I got on I-4.  I was at peace.  (The thought of a delay due to getting pulled over by the police occasionally crept into my mind.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.)

file4281249501933 (1)I met one green light after another.  I thanked God for the green lights.  I knew he was using them to get me there on time.  Then I came to a red light.  I thought about the boys.  God gave me peace.  He didn’t say I would get every light green.  He only told me to trust him.  That meant that even if they had to wait for me, he was caring for them.  So, I thanked God for the red light.  After all, he was in charge of that, too.

I pulled into their neighborhood and had to go through the security gate, where three trucks were lined in front of me.  I sat there waiting as a school bus rolled by me.  One of the trucks went through and another school bus passed.

Finally I got through the gate, it felt like it took forever, but it was only about four minutes.  I turned onto their street and there were the boys – one house away from their home.  I would have beaten them home if they hadn’t broken into a run when they saw me.  I am amazed at how God cares for his children.  He gave me just the right amount of green and red lights to get me there in a timely manner, but most of all he gave me peace that I could trust him with every detail.  I just love that.

Dumb and Dumber Pre-View

Think about the last 20 years of your life.  What has happened?  How have you changed?  Do you remember where you were 20 years ago?

Because we were responsible parents, Bob and I were sitting in a movie theater watching Dumb and Dumber.

Twenty years ago Bob and I had four kids at home, ages 15, 13, 10 and 7.  We were in the throes of parenting.  Our oldest two had broken into the teen years.  Everything was shifting.  We were going from navigating our children through Disney movies to a pop culture which we weren’t comfortable with and which we didn’t want influencing them.

IMG_2554-0Before the kids could go to a movie, Bob and I would go see it and give it a thumbs-up or down.  This was a pain sometimes.  We didn’t particularly want to see Dumb and Dumber, but we were told, “Everyone was going to see it.”  Our oldest assured us that he could handle it (my least favorite phrase ever).

So we slinked into a Friday afternoon matinée hoping no one would see us.  We grabbed our popcorn and diet coke and braced ourselves to watch a stupid movie.

Now, I am good for an easy laugh.  I write a humor blog for goodness sakes.  But I was not prepared for this movie.  Bob and I laughed so hard we almost fell out of our seats.

Our kids were waiting at home for the results.  We came home and told them, “This was one of the funniest movies we have ever seen.  We laughed until diet coke nearly squirted out of our noses.  You would love this movie, but you can’t go see it.  It’s crude and inappropriate in so many places.  We’re sorry.”

There went our Popular Parent award.

Now our kids are all grown.  Full disclosure – we own this movie (though we won’t let our grandchildren watch it.)  So can you guess what we’re doing this weekend?  That’s right, going to see Dumb and Dumber To.  It’s not to preview it for our children; we want to see what old age is like for Harry and Lloyd.  We need to answer the dramatic question – Did poor little Billy get scarred for life by holding a dead bird which had its head taped on?  And will we ever know what became of that little home-wrecker Fraida Felcher?  Mostly, we want a good laugh with a little story wrapped around it.

Our youngest son Scott has offered to go see this first and make sure it is suitable for us.  We assured him we can handle it.



Saving the Day in a Hallmark Store – It’s NBD

I had an amazing moment in a Hallmark store wherein I was able to help two ladies out of a dilemma.  I noticed these ladies, who were about my age, in deep conversation about a decorative license plate.  After several minutes, they crossed over to where I was and asked me if I could read it.  Neither of them could figure out what it said.


Without so much as a second thought, I said, “Cutie forever.”  Well, I hadn’t heard that many accolades aimed in my direction in years.  They high-fived me and were giddy with excitement over my interpreting what is the present-day equivalent of reading Egyptian hieroglyphics – abbreviation speech.  You would have thought I pulled them from a burning building.  This must be what it feels like to be in a “state of fabulousness.”

Yes, I had cracked the code.  It was really NBD (no big deal).  I felt like I had received an award as they went on and on about how smart I was.  I remained humble.  I didn’t want to let them know that it was really 2EZ a problem to solve.

ATEOTD (at the end of the day), as I reflected with my husband on just how awesome I was, he was nearly speechless.  Finally, he said, “UR.”

“Y2K (you’re too kind),” I replied.

NTS (note to self), maybe my high school dream of being an interpreter can still come true – forget Spanish, knowing Abbrev Speech will be much more valuable.


The Woes of Car Shopping

I mentioned in my last blog post that Bob and I had been car shopping.  I think that is responsible for my recent gain of a few pounds.  I can’t blame it on the stress of shopping or on the fact that we were running around too much to eat properly.  I blame it on Nissan – in particular on a salesman at a local Nissan dealership.

We had been scouting out the different compact SUVs and were interested in Nissan’s version, the Murano.  A young salesman took us out on the lot.  He was noticeably wet behind the ears.  He pointed to a Quest and said, “This might be what you’re looking for.”

“Uh, I think that’s a minivan,” I said.

“Oh, you’re right.  Sorry.  This is the one you want to see,” he said as he aimed us toward a Murano.  “Yes, this is the Milano; it’s a great little vehicle.”

He opened it up for us and let us sit inside of it.  He showed us the engine and told us all about it.  “The Milano will give you a smooth ride and, of course, the Milano gets great gas mileage.  We sell a lot of Milanos.”

Less Crunchy than an Automobile

Less Crunchy than an Automobile

Finally I couldn’t take it any longer and said, “You should probably know that this vehicle is a Murano, not a Milano.  A Milano is a cookie made by Pepperidge Farm.”

He was quite embarrassed but that didn’t stop him from continuing to refer to the car as a Milano.  Not once did he use the proper name.  Between that and realizing he didn’t know the difference between a minivan and an SUV, we were out of there.

Question:  If a car bears the name of a cookie, even in your mind, does that mean it could be a crummy car?  Probably not, but it’s pretty bad when car shopping puts not-so-subliminal messages in your mind that make you binge on cookies.

Who Am I? (A Deep Question to Ponder)

I don’t know what to label myself anymore.  It used to be so simple.  I was a stay-at-home mom.  While raising my children I have had numerous cottage businesses, but my true love was being a stay-at-home mom, caring for my husband and four children.  Now, my kids are grown but I still stay at home (technically I do a lot of things out of the house – it’s not like I’m locked in here).

So, what label should I give myself now?  The question is always coming up – what do you do?  Honestly, I hate that question.  Your job only tells others so much about you.  Maybe you’re an engineer like my husband.  Does that mean you are a scientist working in front of a computer designing things?  Maybe you build bridges or work in a nuclear power plant.  Maybe you take care of a building.  All of those things fall under the heading of engineer.  So telling someone you are an engineer doesn’t offer much, except that you excel in math and you probably have people ask you to help with their computer.

When I told people I was a housewife that didn’t mean I was married to my house.  In the same way, telling people I was a stay-at-home mom didn’t mean that I was always home.  This brings me to a situation I recently found myself in when Bob and I were car shopping.  We sat down at a dealership with a young man.  And I do mean young – his mother may have had to drop him off and pick him up.

He looked at Bob and asked what he does for a living.  Bob’s answer was easy.  Then he asked me, “What do you do?”

I answered, “Have you ever been to a circus and seen the cats performing in between the big acts?  I train cats.”

“Really?  You mean lions and tigers?”

It took a lot of training to get him to do this.  Not!

It took a lot of training to get him to do this. Not!

“No, domestic cats.  The ones you see jumping through hula hoops, pushing baby carts or climbing ropes and crossing tight wires.”  (I don’t know why I said that.  I had not planned it in advance.  Bob just sat there staring at me, probably wondering where a whopper of a lie like that came from and questioning everything I ever told him.)

The young salesman didn’t miss a beat.  “I didn’t know cats could be trained.  I have two I’d love for you to spend some time with.”

“Oh, yeah, cats can be trained,” I said with confidence.

Honestly, I don’t know where this story came from or why I perpetuated it; but telling it was the most fun I have ever had while car shopping.

Finally, after looking at Bob whose eyes seemed to say, “Who are you,” I confessed that I was having some fun with this guy.  He was good-natured about it, but he was trying to sell us a car.  We didn’t buy from him.  I wasn’t about to buy a car from a person who bought my cat-training story.   He simply couldn’t be trusted.


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