Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Girl Who Won Me Over

The Fantasy genre of reading material is not my thing.  I like the concrete world of humans, not elves, goblins, fairies or hobbits. I want to learn something - something clear - about my world. I do not want to lose myself in another world that takes away real estate from my brain cells. I want to exercise my imagination within the confines of the box God has visually created for me. I don't need any more stimuli.

However, I married a man who LOVES fantasies. He enjoys the craziness of other worlds and likes to escape the all-too-real one in which we live.  Because of that, several of my children, if not all of them, also enjoy a rich imagination and thrill at visiting other worlds created by authors.

Recently, my two girls and I had to read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente for a book club. It was the first book chosen to read, picked by some other girls in the club. We got about halfway through the book and my daughters disliked the book so much, they begged out of joining the book club. I let them off the hook, thinking the book was a little young for them and also because I secretly agreed that the book was strange.  Thinking that was the end of our newest read, I put the book back on the library shelf in our home, waiting for it's due date to come.

But then...

I couldn't quit looking at it. I wondered what was going to happen to the main character. I figured it would turn out well in the end, but how?  The descriptive writing was smart and funny. It was colorful and intriguing.

I asked the girls if they wanted to finish the book, just because.


Well, I hate to put down any book in the middle of it. Even bad books I like to give to the very end. I look for any redeeming qualities.  The author worked hard to share themselves and I want to give them every chance I can. Isn't that the heartbeat of a reader?

Of course, I finished reading the book, and I'm secretly thinking about reading the second and third to continue the adventure.  I've enjoyed one other fantasy book in my lifetime, but this one was also fun. It was weird enough to be discombobulating, but grounded enough to keep up with the plot.  It's the wonderful, descriptive moments that kept me coming back. Here are a couple of my favorite.

"The trouble was, September (our main character) didn't know what sort of story she was in. Was it a merry one or a serious one? How ought she to act? If it were merry, she might dash after a Spoon, and it would all be a marvelous adventure, with funny rhymes and somersaults and a grand party with red lanterns at the end. But if it were a serious tale, she might have to do something important, something involving, with snow and arrows and enemies. Of course, we would like to tell her which. But no one may know the shape of the tale in which they move. And, perhaps, we do not truly know what sort of beast it is, either.  Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble." (pp. 35-36)

"She (a portrait) wore an ivory crown and a smile so wide and kind September felt she could love that lady all the days of her life and never feel cheated, even if the lady never looked twice at such a poor, shabby soul as September. In the painting, she seemed to glow. That is what a grown-up looks like, thought September. Not like the grown-ups in my world who look sad and disappointed and grimy with work and bored with everything. What do the storybooks say? In the fullness of her strength." (pp. 91-92)

The book was strange and confusing at times, but wholly likable. Ms. Valente is a talent, for sure.  She has given me a second fantasy book to enjoy.

Who knows? Maybe my tastes are growing.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Jan Karon's latest book

I received Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, Jan Karon's latest book, for Christmas. The book resumed the Mitford series and we get to check in on all our favorite characters: Father Tim, Cynthia, Esther Bollick, Dooley, Hope Murphy, Louella and more. On the cold evenings of January, it was a delightful read and I was pleasantly satisfied when finished. New folks were added, mysteries solved and relationships grown.

Some of my favorite quotes:

"You love him, I can see it."
"More than anything."
That alone should be enough, he thought, but of course it never is. Courage has to come in there somewhere, and perseverance and forbearance and patience and all the rest. A job of work, as Uncle Billy would say it, but worth it and then some. (p. 337)

I often wish loving my spouse were easy, but if it were easy, I don't think I would cherish the relationship as much as I do now.  It takes work, but I agree with Uncle Billy, it's worth it!

"Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it...." (p. 339)

Ha! I guess if I died reading Somewhere Safe...I would have looked good. Food for thought about what we leave behind (thinking of those journals that contain more griping that goodness.)

"Sleep in peace, God is awake." (p. 377)

So true! Why don't we remember that He doesn't take a break, forget or not care?

He's got it under control.


"We are all fixing what is broken. It is the task of a lifetime." (p. 421)

Amen! Thank goodness, as believer's in Christ, the "fix" is not ours. He does the work; we do the cooperating.

If you've enjoyed the Mitford series, light fiction books, you will enjoy the latest addition. If you haven't read any of the books, start from the beginning. You'll make some NC hill-country friends you'll wish were real.

You can see what I've read on the "Books Read in 2015" page at the top of my blog. You may find something that interests you.

Have you read any good books yet in 2015?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Scripture Memory 2015

I have participated in the Siesta Scripture Memory Challenge a couple of times, but I have never made it to the end of the year! At first, I thought, "Nah, I'll just do it on my own," but really, is there ever an excuse to not be held accountable for spiritual disciplines in our life?

So, I added my post to the Living Proof Ministries blog here and jumped into Scripture Memory 2015 with gusto!  Want to join me? Just click the link and follow the directions. 24 verses - 2 a month! You can do it!!

I'll be tracking my verses on a separate page above. Let me know if you're joining the challenge and we can encourage each other along the way.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Good-bye 2014!

At first I was surprised how gleeful I felt in closing out 2014, but as I look back over the year, the reality of what occurred made the sendoff evoke more of a "duh" response.  

I haven't blogged for months. The life I have been living has been difficult so that sharing ANYTHING, whether it be about my circumstances or just disconnected trivial fodder, was impossible.  Some of my readers are directly impacted by the same experiences so even if I wanted to get on my blog and share my point-of-view, it would have probably been misconstrued and caused more problems.  So, I greatly longed to just have 2014 come to an end! Hasta la vista!!

There have been many lessons learned in 2014 and I wish I could have seen beyond myself to share them with you along the way, but this has probably been the second hardest year of my life. I just didn't have it in me to share the journey, except with a few close friends and family. I've often questioned whether it meant that I could truly be vulnerable, transparent, etc.  There have been a lot of questions and life lessons, but in it, I have grown fond of the phrase in Luke that says Mary, the mother of Jesus, "pondered these things in her heart." That's what I've had to do over and over again. 

You live through hard times, you ponder what it all means and it can sometimes feel like you will never leave the dark cave.  I miss blogging and reading the blogs of other friends/family, but I could never seem to find a way out of the dark and get back to the lightheartedness I enjoyed in the sharing of everyday life.  Then yesterday happened...the last day of the year.

I ended up in the emergency room about 7:30am. I have bad knees, and while sometimes they've slowed me down, they've never stopped me in my tracks. Yesterday I could not bear weight on my left leg and the pain was about a 12 on the 1-10 scale. So off we went to the ER.  I'm so thankful that there were not, as far as we could tell, any torn ligaments, but the x-ray did reveal several problems, the most comprehensive diagnosis that I have moderate-severe osteoarthritis. I was told my episodes with my knees were not going to get better, only worse and that I needed to make friends with an orthopedist. I was sent home with heavy-duty pain meds and instructions to rest. 

The last day of the year gave entertainment to all who had any interaction with the highly-medicated me. From the hospital receptionist when asking for my credit card to pay my co-pay and asked if "she could get that for me?" and I answered, "Oh, sure, you want to pay my bill?" (Mark gasped a little!) to my daughter who said that in my sleep I said, "I want to get in a long boat with Ashley and eat corndogs." What??  I also asked why the cow's nose was so long (not a cow in sight!) and asked if I could purchase a devotional for one of my daughter's Jr. High male friends. She assured me he probably already had one and I answered like a scolded two-year-old, "Ok, fine!"  Dec. 31st was filled with laughter at my expense, but I know it had to be pretty entertaining. I do remember saying, "I think I'm a nicer person on drugs!" Let's hope not!

While it made a memorable end to 2014, overnight I gave up the narcotics and switched to OTC drugs so I haven't been quite as entertaining today. Thank goodness!

Somehow yesterday's events summed up my year for me. 2014 was hard and painful, but if you didn't find something to keep you laughing and give you hope, you weren't going to make it. People have been helpful along the way and maybe that's what I should have written about, but sometimes the pain is so overwhelming, you can only hold on to the hope for yourself. It's beyond you to share it.

I pray that 2015 will bring a little more rest and healing. The Lord has been ever faithful in 2014. He HAS healed those who I dearly love and were near death. He has carried us to a new state and a completely new way of life. He has been a friend that sticks closer to a brother when there were no friends readily available. He has given me purpose when what I thought was my purpose was taken from me. He has given me a joy and hunger for Him, because when you desperately need Him, HE CAN BE FOUND.  He has promised His love is far greater and far more reaching than my own so that when I don't have any more to give, He is there to fill in the gaps.  He IS faithful!

So, while I emotionally can't rehash the events of 2014, I look to 2015 with joy and praise Him for what He will do. It will surely be filled with His amazing works, no matter the circumstances.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Peek into the Duggars

Image from

I went to a discount bookstore recently and picked up the book, Growing Up Duggar written by JimBob and Michelle Duggar's four oldest girls: Jana, Jill, Jessa and Jinger.

I don't know if you're a fan of the TLC show "19 Kids and Counting," but our family catches the show off and on. I thought the book, written about relationships, might be of interest to my girls, but after reading it, I think they're a little young for some of the sections.  It would be a good read for a high school girl.

I did love some of the parenting techniques JimBob and Michelle have used in their home. One of the most innovative ideas, which our kids are too old for now, is right before they have Bible time together each evening the younger kids play the "Obedience Game" with Mom and Dad. They meet at the couch and one adult gives a specific child a command, "Jennifer, run and touch the end of your bed, then touch the front door knob and come back as quick as you can!"  Jennifer stands up and says, "Yes, Sir (or Ma'am), I'd be happy to do it!"  This helps them get some energy out before they have to sit quietly during Bible time and it also helps them to practice quick and happy obedience. What a fun way to practice doing what you're asked.

I find the parenting techniques talked about in the book truly centered on Biblical principles and Mark and I will be rereading the book to see what ideas we can use in our own family.  While we may not have the same convictions as the Duggar family, I found the book to be grace-filled and a wonderful testimony for the Lord. It was a refreshing read and I think they've done a wonderful job raising their children and being a light to the world.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Lifetime Ago

Wow, since the last post in May I feel like we've crammed a whole lifetime into the past few months. We've had multiple hospitalizations for family members, a BIG move to Charlotte, NC, a change in everything for us - house, jobs, church, friends, homeschool groups, a grandmother who moved into our home, and a college son who returned home.  I mentioned to a friend that I didn't know if I would continue to blog because I still felt a little numb from all the changes and yet, I also didn't want to rehash any of it. You know what I mean? You just want to keep moving in a forward direction!

There are two women in my life, a sweet sister-in-law and a dear friend who moved to another country, who have enjoyed reading my blog and so, for them, I'm back.  There's sadness in thinking about not sharing our farm life with you anymore. There was always an adventure to be had, but we followed the Lord's leading and He is giving us new adventures!

Our first Sunday in Charlotte we hit a local BBQ joint and I knew we were truly in the south when I saw the beverages of choice. Too bad I don't like tea! The BBQ was delicious, but we haven't quite gotten used to the sweet tea choices available to us everywhere.

We were very excited when we stumbled upon Steak-N-Shake!  We used to frequent the eatery with my grandmother when we would return to Illinois for a visit. When you just need a greasy burger or a creamy milkshake, Steak-N-Shake fits the bill!

The girls have found ways to enjoy their new house - forts on the stairs!

We spent a semi-drizzly day at Mrytle Beach - our first time, but not our last!

A little rain didn't stop us!

However, our craziest adventure was when we dressed up for Pirate's Day at Krispie Kreme!

We purchased a Duck Dynasty beard for Rhett (he walked through Walmart like that!), and although we didn't sport long beards, we did our part. (even Grandma!)

It was worth it; we took 5 dozen doughnuts home - for free!
(The college class at church finished them off for us.)

Life is starting to take on a routine. 
It's all different, but we're doing our best to embrace new friends, new places and new opportunities!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Busy for What?

I'm an avid goal maker and I've kept records of monthly goals that I've set for the past two years. Don't worry, I'm not "super-something" I'm much better at making goals than I am at achieving them. However, having a plan is in my DNA so I have plans... in an organized binder. Sheezh.

Anyway, in March I looked back at the Aprils/Mays of 2012 and 2013 and found that I didn't really accomplish much. I wondered why and thought I would take 2014 to try and figure it out.

Here it is, May 5th, and I've got the answer. Everything winds down for me during those two months, every extra curricular, that is. We have parties, plays, sports, graduations, work events, birthdays - you name it, we cram it all into April/May. Usually every weekend is full and I move from one major event to the next, wondering when I will catch a quiet moment.  I start resenting all that needs done to pull of the next big thing, when I really just want to spend a little one on one with those I love. Needless to say, goals don't stand a chance.  Sure, some of the busyness is self-imposed. Spring arrives and you just want to do something!  I just have too many somethings to do!  It seems many women I know feel the same way.

We long for summer days, thinking that life will slow down, but then you'll hear us in September wondering where all those summer days went.

I have to admit, I'm kind of sick of waiting for life to slow down. Life happens and with kids it's usually at a frantic pace. The laundry and cooking are always beckoning, throw in some sickness (love ya' allergies) and end-of-year events where everyone is appreciated with a homemade gift and it feels like the pace we find at Christmas! However, in May there isn't a sparkly tree to enjoy before collapsing into bed.

I find I just want to make some meaningful memories. The typical end-of-school-year traditions help us track time, but how many award ceremonies can our photo albums hold? As adults we more than likely don't have our childhood trophies and or fabulous memories of closing ceremonies. Obviously, I enjoy seeing my kid's participate, but I don't want to fill up all my time with activity that doesn't have lasting meaning. That includes my goals, too.

I want to be purposeful and personal when thinking about what I really want to spend my time doing. I want to have friends over, make smores around the campfires, lay on a blanket and look at the stars. I want to make homemade lip gloss and play dough. I want to read books with two tween girls who snuggle their just-showered wet-heads against my shoulders. I want to turn OFF the tv. I want to ride a tractor and listen to inspiring Christian music so when I get off all sweaty and dirty, I just don't care because I've spent time in worship. I want to be brave and swim in the pool even when it feels like an iceberg should be floating by.

Life. I just want to create memories that we all will cherish. I don't want to let another month go by where I've faced all that's come at me, but I can barely remember anything that was worth cherishing.  I want to enjoy my family and friends.  I want to enjoy life.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Pranks and A Clearing of the Mind

Well, we survived April's Fool Day around here.

My younger two girls have really embraced the pranking on April 1st and they drew their Dad into the melee.

The first prank I came across was a new lock screen on my IPhone.

Instead of a sandy beach, I saw this.

Ugh! Shudder. 
(I actually jumped a little.)

With glee, they assured me that was just the beginning of the pranks. Great.

I took them to Grandma's/Art Class and came home for a few peaceful hours to get some work done, when taking a break I found this.

It's a mixture of peanut butter and chocolate. 
It smelled good, but looked nasty!

Of course, each of the toilets in the house were left the same gift, except their bathroom, of course.

Washing my hands was somewhat challenging. They had removed the liquid hand soap and replaced it with bar soap. The bar soap was covered with clear nail polish so it wouldn't lather! I thought that was pretty ingenious.

We were going to grill hamburgers for dinner so the girls put a large plastic rat under the grill cover. Yuck!  That drew Dad into spirit of the day!  Next thing I know Katie is getting sprayed by the sink sprayer in the kitchen; Dad had put a rubber band around the handle. 

We enjoyed a lovely dinner and watched a couple of shows together. 

At bedtime I went to grab my water bottle out of the laundry room so I could take my evening meds. I took a sip and gagged! Katie had added pickle juice. Gross!  Katie made me a new water bottle, but I had to laugh at getting pranked once more. So gross!

Soon after, I hear Katie screaming from their bathroom. Mark had partially taped the faucet and it sprayed down the front of her when she went to brush her teeth. Usually Tara beats Katie to the bathroom, but she didn't last night so Tara made it through the day without getting pranked.

Tara assured me that she's bummed about not getting pranked so we'll have to see. You don't need a special day to share your love in a tricky way, right?!

On to the song of the day.

April 2: A Song that helps you clear your head

When it's time to pay bills or reconcile the checkbook,
I put on flamenco music. 
Lyrics are too distracting,
but Ottmar Liebert keeps my head clear and spirit up.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Song that makes you Happy

Well, so much for the picture challenge in March. I have a lot of pictures on my camera, but somehow the process of connecting the camera to the laptop, transferring jpegs, editing photos and creating a post was just a little overwhelming. Sigh.

My daughter is going to try another 30 day challenge in April focused on songs.  While I enjoy music, we'll see if I enjoy it enough to keep up with a 30 day challenge. I'm going to give myself permission to participate when I feel "inspired"and skip the posting when nothing comes to mind.

I think you can learn a lot about a person by listening to the type of music they enjoy. I hope this will give you a little insight into who I am and if you have a ready answer to the prompt, please, feel free to share it in the comments. I would love to add some new tunes to my IPhone this month!

April 1: A song that makes you happy

Immediately I thought of Josh Wilson's Jesus Is Alive. I absolutely love this song!  I listen to it year-round to the dismay of my son, who introduced it to me.

One of my favorite lines: "When your tiny heart started beating for mine" (I have hand motions!)

The bridge at minute 2:04 is ridiculously awesome.
If you ain't shoutin' after that, something's wrong!

Happy Song! Yay!

Friday, March 14, 2014

It's All In The Eyes

March 14 Photo Challenge: Focusing On Eyes

Ashley's Eye!

This isn't even one of my own pics, but it is my favorite eye photo. 
She has light blue/green eyes, but used a photo edit to make them yellow.