Blog Down Time

February 29, 2012 | My Jottings

I just received a note from the company who hosts my blog notifying me that they will be upgrading their servers on March 1, beginning at 8:00 p.m. EST, and the changeover will take up to 14 hours. That’s if there are no problems. So I don’t know if this blog will be up on March 2nd or not, but I just thought I’d put something up now in case nothing is accessible for a day or two.


Monday Matters

February 27, 2012 | My Jottings

1.  We finally got some measurable snow, and everyone I know is glad about it. It snowed all day yesterday. The weather folks say there’s a larger system moving toward our area, due to arrive on Wednesday, with the potential to dump “tremendous amounts” of snow, so I will keep my faithful readers posted about that.  🙂

2.  Today is a special day, provided my eighth grandchild cooperates. The ultrasound that Sharon will have today should reveal if a sixth granddaughter is due in July, or a third grandson. Any hunches?

3.  Clara turned 10 recently and for her birthday she got to choose three things she wanted to do with me. One of them was to go on the Timber Twister. It was about 20 degrees (minus 6 Celsius) so it wasn’t unbearable, but the wind was whipping and with the windchill factor it felt like it was way below zero. I hadn’t brought a hat so I used my scarf to keep my ears and face warm as we hurtled down the mountain. The first time down I just wrapped the scarf around my neck, but I had an ice-cream headache almost instantly. The second time down I tried to wrap my long scarf around my neck and around my ears and around my forehead, but the wind still made it shockingly cold. We had fun though! The cold kept most people away from the Timber Twister so it seemed like we were the only ones on the mountain — we whooped and hollered and made a good memory. You can click here to see a short video of a partial ride on the Timber Twister (in the winter), and of the same views Clara and I saw. Clara wanted the little photo keychain they offer as a memento, and we’ve chuckled over the picture because I think I look like a Muslim grandma when really I was an almost frozen grandma. I have one of my arms up too but it’s hard to see in the picture.

4.  Yesterday we had a family potluck here at our house. Sharon and Chris brought a tender beef pot roast with onions, carrots and fresh savory herbs, Jeremy and Carolyn brought a Caesar salad with her yummy homemade dressing and some rosemary rolls, I made my Stuffed Baked Potatoes, and we also had raspberry bars for dessert. Later the kids played outside in the snow after dinner and got soaked, so when they came back inside, their wet socks and jeans went into the dryer while the whole brood ran around in their underwear.  🙂

5.  I just finished a beautifully written book. It’s called Lying Awake by Mark Salzman and I didn’t want it to end. I love it when I find an author whose writing is so fantastic, and then I learn that he/she has other books to try. What are you reading these days? I’d love for you all to leave a comment with any recommendations.

6.  My sister-in-law Christy is coming to visit us in March, and I’m so looking forward to seeing her. She and I will be spending two days at Pacem in Terris. It will be the first time Christy has been there, and my fourth. I’ve never been in the winter, however, so I’m excited to experience my little hermitage with snow and silence all around.

7.  The older I get, the greater my desire to pray grows. Maybe this is the Lord pressing on my heart, or maybe it’s because I see how limited human influence can sometimes be, and how powerful prayer really is. Or maybe it’s both. Anyway, over the years I’ve tried many ways to make prayer a part of my daily life, and I have felt mostly a failure at it. Not that I don’t pray — I do. But I’ve desired to have an extended prayer time every single day, and while it’s not a challenge for me to read my Bible and find a feast there, sometimes prayer has been hard for me. So I started praying about prayer. And I realized that I think better when I write something out. I used to write out my prayers years ago, and am not sure why I laid that practice aside, but I’m going back to it now. Except now I have something new I’m very happy about. I started thinking about what kind of prayer journal I wanted, to suit my needs and the way I think, and I realized there probably wasn’t one out there exactly like the one I want. So I gradually designed my own and I love it. I’ll take pictures and share about it here soon. I’m finding that I’m so irresistibly drawn to spend time in prayer, which of course is just time spent talking to (and hopefully listening to) my Savior, and this is such a miracle to me. Thank you Lord.

8.  Yesterday Sara came a bit late to our potluck because she had a prior engagement — she was a princess for a day. A Fairy Princess Ball was held in our city to raise funds for families of children with cancer who come to our medical center for treatment. The little girls came with their mommies, all dressed up, and there were several fairy princesses helping. Sara was Cinderella. One sweet little girl with an adorable dimple (I can’t remember her name) asked Sara if they could have their picture taken together, and after they were done she asked Sara questions that sounded like she might have really believed Sara was Cinderella. 🙂

9.  Today we have a monthly Foster care provider meeting we must attend. We learn about the latest news with Foster care licensing changes, potential documentation requirements that affect how we keep track of the things the state requires of us, and upcoming events and activities that our Foster gals might enjoying being a part of. It’s wonderful to have a group of people to gather with who understand the varied blessings and challenges of Foster care. Michael always likes to go out to lunch at an Indian restaurant downtown after our monthly meetings. We eat lentils and garbanzos and eggplant in multi-colored curried sauces that are so mouth-watering, we try to sit in a corner each time we dine there, so our eye-rolling and moaning isn’t a spectacle. (Not really, but almost….)

10.  As part of my efforts to donate one thing each day during 2012, here are my seven things for this week. A clipboard, a large multi-outlet plug, a pair of fuzzy blue socks with non-slip rubber strips on the soles, a pile of unmatched-for-years socks, an ace bandage, some chandelier lightbulbs, and a teeny pair of dull scissors. Anyone out there doing the same? I know my friend Pen (who got me started on this project) has diligently kept up with her plan too. It’s quite nice to see kitchen cupboards, bedroom drawers and linen closet shelves slowly become emptier and more organized. And there isn’t one thing I’ve donated or tossed that I’ve missed or been sorry about. My daughter Carolyn mentioned that recently she was taking part in a “47-thing fling” and went around her house with a large plastic bag and was able to find 50 things to donate!

11.  The cold and snowy weather seems to call for a pot of soup, so I’m thinking about making that for dinner. I think I could live on soup, salad and crusty whole grain bread.

12.  In early March I’ll be giving away a new book on the blog, and I’ll bet it might take some of you by surprise. It was written and recently published by my dear friend Denel’s husband Jerry, and it’s called A Sack Half Full, a touching and hysterical account of his brave journey through testicular cancer. It’s a first here on the blog — I’ve never written the word, uh, testicle in any of my posts before and it feels like some kind of watershed moment, don’t you think?

13.  So what are some of your Monday matters? What do you have going on this week? What is the weather like where you are? What book have you been reading? What have you donated? What’s for dinner at your house?

Thank you so much for reading, and I hope your week is woven with hope, joy and peace.

Sometimes a girl just needs her mom.

February 23, 2012 | My Jottings

Today is the anniversary of my mother’s death. She left this earth and moved to heaven nineteen years ago.

I need my mom these days. I need her more than I ever thought I needed her when I was young and oh-so-smart and independent.  

I want her to know my grandbabies.

I want her to see Clara’s drawings and her trusting, tender heart. I want her to feel Mr. McBoy’s strong hugs and see how Sooterish he looks. I want her to see what a blend Elijah is of his parents, and how funny he is. I want her to see Mrs. Nisky’s beautiful coppery hair and eyes, and watch how intent she is when she does her art. I want her to see how unique and delightful Vivienne is, and hear her sing in that silvery little voice. I want her to see Li’l Gleegirl and marvel at her cheerfulness and smile, and how truly heartening her four year-old presence can be. I want her to see Audrey, and laugh at her antics and energy and contagious smile.

I need to talk to my mom about Michael. She loved my husband so much, and he loved her; it was quite the mutual admiration society. I want to cry on my mama’s shoulder a little bit about the death of a few dreams.

And oh, how I would like to see her reaction to how my daughters are doing these days! Could she ever have guessed that her own boundless creativity would skip a generation and flow so strongly through their veins?

I want to take my mom to Sharon’s yarn studio and watch as Sharon gives her a tour. I want her to feel and see the amazing yarn her granddaughter creates. I’d like to watch my knitter mom as she watches my knitter daughter. I want to sit in the front row of our local community theater with my mama, and watch Carolyn perform in a play. I want to see my mother get all teary when she hears her granddaughter sing and act, and I want to reminisce with her about how even as a little girl Carolyn was so entranced by musicals and old movies. I want to take my mom to the flower shop where Sara works and show her the incredible gift she has with floral design, how the owner of the shop calls Sara’s skills “white-hot” and hear my mom oooh and aaah over her granddaughter’s craft. I want to watch my mom observe Sara’s energy and organizational skills, which would be so dear to her heart.

I want to tell my mama about the traits I love in my daughters, how they’ve grown up, who they are inside. She would revel with me as I told her about the many things I love about their personalities.

I want my mom to meet my sons-in-law and see what kind of fathers they are, and how blessed we are to be able to know and love them. My mom would hug and kiss them both and comment about their heights, because if she had lived to see her granddaughters to adulthood, she would have worried about them marrying men taller than they are. That their husbands are taller would have pleased my quirky mom. It would have been something that caused her to exhale and say with much relief, “Thank you Jesus!”  🙂

Sometimes a girl doesn’t know how much she needs her mom. A girl can love her mom a lot, and still not know what a treasure her mother is. Sometimes a girl has to be a mom and a grandma herself, to fully realize the value of  her own good mother.

Nineteen years is a long time for a girl to be without her mama.

A Lenten Prayer

February 22, 2012 | My Jottings

I found a prayer for the beginning of Lent and have added to it and adapted it to express my own heart’s cry today….

Dear Heavenly Father,

It feels like we are embarking on a Lenten journey together, you and I. 

I want each day of Lent to be one of quiet remembrance, and I want to be ever aware of my need for redemption. I want to remember how much I need you in my life and how even though you redeemed me when I was twelve years old, I am still in need of your redemptive work every day. I want to remember this clearly all throughout every day during this Lenten season. Help me, Lord.

On this special day, Ash Wednesday, may my small sacrifices in withholding things from my life be a way to clear away the clutter in my life to see you more clearly. May my longing for things that are not in your plan for me, help me to focus my life today on you and on others much more than on myself. Let me be aware and prayerful for those who suffer so much more than I do.

Lord, I know there is darkness within me and around me. Sometimes it seems so dark it’s overwhelming and paralyzing. Bless these coming days with your Word — let me hunger for what you have to say more than any sugary treat I think I must have. Let your light shine in the darkness. Help me long for your light until we celebrate it six weeks from now when Easter arrives. 

And even though I do not attend a church where ashes can be pressed onto my forehead, I ask you to place your own hand upon me today, helping me remember where I have come from and where I am going. Help me remember what you did for me and do for me, and just how sufficient you really are. I forget so often, Lord.

May I willingly acknowledge to you my sins, not blaming anyone else. May I be aware of my deep need for your loving forgiveness and grace, and lavishly extend the same to everyone in my life. 

I ask you to have your way with me during this Lenten season, dear Lord. Lead me into prayer and communion with you. And may whatever you do in my heart, soul, mind and body, be everlasting.

I love you Lord Jesus. Help me to love you more and more.

Your daughter,

This Joyful Season

February 21, 2012 | My Jottings

Growing up in a Baptist church, I never heard much about Lent. What little I did hear was from my Catholic friends, and from them I learned that giving up chocolate was what God wanted of people during the Lenten season. I didn’t get it, didn’t think it applied to me because I wasn’t Catholic, and hardly gave it another thought until I reached middle age.

Now, I’m not a Baptist, not a Catholic, and am not sure how I would describe myself regarding denominations at all. I say I am a Christian. That seems safer than to say I am a follower of Christ, because when I’m completely honest with myself, do I truly follow Christ? Sometimes I don’t think I do at all.

But I want to. No matter how selfish or complacent I can sometimes be, regardless of how discouraged I get that I’m not behaving and speaking and loving in the ways my Savior would call me to, there’s always a part of my heart that’s turned toward Him. He is never far from my thoughts. I am continually aware that He is with me, beckoning me closer, further in, down lower…and I long to go where He leads. Until my selfishness and laziness rear their heads again and I make the choice to do what’s easier for me, not necessarily what’s best for His kingdom.

I observed Lent last year and gave up reading books during that time. I may not have a full grasp of what it is to observe Lent, not having been raised in that kind of denominational tradition, but the desire to take part is strong in me. I want to offer the Lord something that is costly to me, something that isn’t easy. This Lenten season I’m putting away my iPad.

I love my iPad. It’s light and portable and fits inside my purse. I take it with me when I’m in various waiting rooms for the many appointments our Foster residents require. I play Words With Friends on my iPad, mostly at night before I go to bed. I also like a couple other word games, and Sudoku. And a very occasional game of Angry Birds. I like being able to check my email in the car while waiting for prescriptions at the drive-up window at Walgreens. I like reading the news, checking the weather forecast, and reading books on my iPad. I love checking in on my favorite blogs. Sometimes, however, I have found that I spend too much time on my little computer. I don’t know if I just love word games or if it’s a form of escape from the challenges of life, or if this little technological wonder deeply touches my inner nerd.

Whatever the reasons are that I spend at least an hour a day with my iPad, I’ve decided to devote that time to something else. It might be prayer, it might be sleep, it might be memorization, it might be walking on the treadmill, it might be knitting, it might be none of those. I don’t know yet. I just know that beginning tomorrow, my iPad will be stowed in a drawer for a long while.

I also bought a book of daily Lenten readings called Bread and Wine — Readings for Lent and Easter, recommended by one of my favorite bloggers. I look forward to starting each morning with this, helping me to set my mind’s course for the day.

Here’s a sort of lengthy (but worth reading) excerpt from the book’s introduction:

“Dorothy Sayers writes that to make the Easter story into something that neither startles, shocks, terrifies, nor excites is ‘to crucify the Son of God afresh.’ Certainly that would have been unthinkable for Jesus’ first followers, who experienced it firsthand: the heady excitement of his entry into Jerusalem, the traitorous cunning of Judas and the guilty recognition of their own cowardice, the terror of His slow suffocation, and finally the disarming wonder of an empty grave and a living body resurrected from the dead.

As for us, His latter-day disciples, few would deny the magnitude or drama of these events. But how many of us embrace their pain and promise? How many of us, even at Easter, give Christ’s death and resurrection any more attention than the weather?

To observe Lent is to strike at the root of such complacency. Lent (literally “springtime”) is a time of preparation, a time to return to the desert where Jesus spent forty trying days readying for His ministry. He allowed Himself to be tested, and if we are serious about following Him, we will do the same….

…put another way, Lent is the season in which we ought to be surprised by joy. Our self-sacrifices serve no purpose unless, by laying aside this or that desire, we are able to focus on our heart’s deepest longing: unity with Christ. In Him — in His suffering and death, His resurrection and triumph — we find our truest joy.

Such joy is costly, however. It arises from the horror of our sin, which crucified Christ. This is why Meister Eckhart points out that those who have the hardest time with Lent are ‘the good people.’ Most of us are willing to give up a thing or two; we may also admit our need for renewal. But to die with Christ?

Spiritual masters often refer to a kind of ‘dread,’ the nagging sense that we have missed something important and have been somehow untrue — to ourselves, to others, to God. Lent is a good time to confront the source of that feeling. It is a time to let go of excuses for failings and shortcomings, a time to stop hanging on to whatever shreds of goodness we perceive in ourselves; a time to ask God to show us what we really look like….

…and yet our need for repentance cannot erase the good news that Christ overcame all sin. His resurrection frees us from ourselves. His empty tomb turns our attention away from all that is wrong with us and with the world, and spurs us on to experience the abundant life He promises.

‘Christ must increase, and I must decrease,’ the apostle John declares, and his words resonate through the readings collected in this book. The men and women who wrote them faced the same challenge we do: to discover Christ — the scarred God, the weak and wretched God, the crucified, dying God of blood and despair — amid the alluring gods of our feel-good age. He reveals the appalling strangeness of divine mercy, and the Love from which it springs. Such Love could not stay imprisoned in a cold tomb. Nor need we, if we truly surrender our lives to it.”

I know it might sound a little pathetic, giving up an iPad for Lent. But I want to make an effort to prepare my heart for this joyful season, and sometimes it’s “the little foxes that spoil the vineyards.” (Song of Songs 2:15).

How about you? Do you observe Lent in any way? Do you give up something for Lent? What has Lent meant to you in the past, and what does it mean to you today? Here’s a good (short) article about why we might consider observing Lent.

May you be blessed in this joyful season as well…

Coming soon

February 20, 2012 | My Jottings

I have a few unfinished blog posts saved that I would like to start working on, and maybe this will be the week for that. But since there are already ten appointments on the calendar for this week, maybe these drafts will go unfinished for a while longer. I just never know around here.

Here are their prospective titles:

Forenoon Repast with the Droops
The Bank of God
The Clown Birthday Party
Humiliation on the William A. Irvin
Half as hard and twice as good
Ugly Brown Shoes
When Crumbs are a Feast
Isn’t Selfishness Fun?
Angel Unaware

Once Upon a Toile….

In the meantime, here are this week’s seven items that have now left the building:

Most of these books I enjoyed very much; some I already have another copy. One book I was surprisingly ambivalent about considering how loved it is by one of my very reliable recommenders. And one book was so awful that I couldn’t wait for it to be over. Seven things less in this house, as part of my effort to give away 365 things in 2012….it feels good.

Do you have a blog? Even if your blog is already listed in my sidebar, would you leave a comment today with your blog link in it, or even a link to one of your favorite posts, so we can all enjoy it today?

Thank you so much for reading, and God bless your week….

Saturday stuff

February 18, 2012 | My Jottings

Yesterday Mr. McBoy came over for his two-hour Friday time at Grandma’s house. He and I finished reading Treasures of the Snow a couple of weeks ago, and have now begun reading Banner in the Sky, which I’m very excited about. During Sara’s last year of home schooling she and I read 54 books together, and Banner in the Sky was one of them. I almost didn’t read it — the cover and the first words and the subject matter didn’t interest me, but I’m so glad I did. It was one of those amazing books that touches the heart and when read aloud, inspires from the listener these words, “Will you pleeeease read one more chapter??”

Mr. McBoy and I sat on the living room couch as I read the second chapter aloud, and he was absolutely transfixed. I had tears running down my cheeks as I read — in Chapter 2 already! Each book I read to him has a theme we’re focusing on, and Treasure of the Snow’s themes were forgiveness and how to open the door of one’s heart to Jesus. The themes from Banner in the Sky are courage, endurance and resourcefulness.

Then we went over the Bible verses we’re memorizing together. We drilled each other until each of us got them right, and high-fived each other when we did. This month’s verses are: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” from Psalm 139:13-14.  I couldn’t help thinking about the word “knit” in that Psalm, and how appropriate that is for Mr. McBoy’s family, as his new baby brother or sister grows bigger and stronger until he/she makes her appearance this summer.

Mr. McBoy and I talked about his hockey team, about the wood he carries and stacks for their family’s wood stove, about his two much-loved dogs Rosie and Lucy, and the book he was reading the previous night right before he went to sleep. Somehow I think Dr. Proctor’s Fart Powder doesn’t have quite the lofty themes as Treasures of the Snow and Banner in the Sky, but I can’t say for certain since I haven’t read it. Yet.

Then we worked on some brain training games from Lumosity. A friend told me about this and I downloaded the app so I could have something productive to do while I sit in the many doctor’s/dentist’s/podiatrist’s/ psychiatrist’s waiting rooms our job requires. Turning 50 and finding that the mind is more sieve-like than ever before has been disconcerting; going through the exercises with this app has been fun and even helpful. Of course Mr. McBoy’s brain is just fine, and his scores were fantastic and I think he had fun with it.

We also played two games of Farkle before his daddy came to pick him up, and he whooped me. Then we sat and worked on place value for a few minutes, so he could easily write the number one hundred million, four thousand seven, filling in the digit places with the correct zeroes. He certainly has a head for math and can do a lot of complicated figuring in his head already. Mr. McBoy always leaves me with a hug that makes me so glad I’ve lived to be a grandmother.

Last night Michael and I watched the movie “Of Gods and Men” and I found it intense, inspiring and fascinating. Michael slept through most of it so I can’t be sure we share the same opinion. At one point he woke up and asked me to put the movie on pause and change it to channel 37 so he could briefly check the score of the Minnesota Timberwolves basketball game.  🙂

Just a few minutes ago Michael left with his good friend Steve for Shell Lake, Wisconsin, where they’ll be staying overnight at Steve’s parents’ house and ice fishing on the lake. They have a portable shelter they pull out on the lake, and they sit inside of it while they watch the small hole they’ve drilled in the ice, waiting for a walleye to swim by and take the bait. Zzzzzzz….

Today, all the grandbabies will be coming over (with their parents) to celebrate Clara’s 10th birthday, which was yesterday. She requested that I make one of her favorites, Green Macaroni and Cheese. You can click here to see my world class recipe with photos — it’s very gourmet.

After the party is over I will go to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, do a load or two of laundry, attempt to tidy up my messy office that I never seem able to keep organized, and figure out what to fix for dinner.

With Michael gone overnight I have a pleasant picture of what my evening might look like. After I clean the kitchen I’ll put my plaid flannel nightgown on early, light this candle in our bedroom because it smells amazing, turn on some soft music, work on my CBS lesson, play a game or two of Words With Friends on my iPad, and then settle in for a few chapters of a good book. Which book? I don’t know — I have a pile to choose from on the side of our bed. And then I will write for a while in my gratitude journal, and drench my mind in all the ways that God blesses, helps, challenges, loves, instructs and provides for His people. That I am one of them never ceases to amaze me. His mercy knows no limits.

How about you? What will you be doing this weekend? I hope yours is blessed beyond measure….

This is what I looked like when I heard the news

February 16, 2012 | My Jottings

A couple of months ago, at our family’s Thanksgiving dinner table, we heard some news.

No one had a camera in hand right then to take pictures of our faces when we all heard the news.

So I used my Mac’s Photo Booth feature to take my own picture as I re-enacted what I think I looked like when I heard the news.

Up until now I haven’t been able to freely share the news.

But now I can.

I think I should let my oldest daughter Sharon tell it in her words, though.

If you’re interested in knowing what made me look like this when I heard the news, click over here to Sharon’s blog.

She tells the news in a much more creative and humorous way than I could ever tell it.

She calls it her “super top-secret surprise announcement.”

And then, after you’ve scrolled through her goofy photos to get to the news, I’d love it if you come back to tell me what you think of the news!

Wednesday’s Word-Edition 79

February 15, 2012 | My Jottings

“Lord Jesus,

I am blind, be thou my light,
ignorant, be thou my wisdom,
self-willed, be thou my mind.

Open my ear to grasp quickly the Spirit’s voice,
and delightfully run after his beckoning hand…

Fill me with peace, that no disquieting worldly gales
may ruffle the calm surface of my soul…

O that I may love thee as Thou lovest me.…”

~Prayer from The Valley of Vision

A sweet memory

February 14, 2012 | My Jottings

Recently, as Sara and I were looking through some old scrapbooks, I came across the photograph below, and was instantly transported back to September of 1981, when I turned 24 years old.

Two months earlier in late June of 1981, I had left the warm state where I was born and raised, and moved to northeastern Minnesota. I was concerned about the coming winter, since I knew it would be cold and snowy and I had never known cold and snowy.

Two months earlier I had married a man I’d only spent time with once. To see a poem I wrote about all of that, you can click here.

Two months earlier I was not pregnant. In September of 1981, on my 24th birthday, I was.

My first year in Minnesota was glorious and horrible. I was so happy to be married to Michael, but I was so sad to have left all the friends and family I had known. I was hopeful about owning our own home someday since Minnesota’s real estate prices were more affordable than SoCal’s, but a little leery about renting a house in an “interesting” part of town. I was so grateful to be able to stay home with my two little girls instead of working full time, but I wondered how we’d make it if Michael’s work was often seasonal. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, I guess you (or Dickens) could say.

On my 24th birthday I was in the kitchen making dinner, with music playing on our stereo and my little girls playing in our side yard. It took me a while to register that a horn was honking outside, and I went to the living room to look out of our large front window.

This is what I saw:

Michael, my husband of two months, in his work truck, just coming home at the end of the day from his carpentry job.

When I saw the spray-painted sign he had made and tied to his ladder rack, and when I envisioned him driving several miles home with that message attached to his truck for all to see, I laughed and smiled from ear to ear. I asked him to stay put while I ran inside to find a camera.

Thirty years have passed. We no longer live in that rented house where our daughter was born. I’m not afraid of Minnesota winters anymore. I am blessed with wonderful family and friends. And of course that truck bit the dust long ago, and it has been several years since Michael has done that kind of work.

But…he still calls me Honey.