Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My Dog is Sick

It has been a while since my last post. My dog is sick. We found out last August that he had lymphoma and had some big decisions to make. We could try chemo therapy which is expensive and may or may not work, or give him steroids which will work for a while. Either way, no one will give a serious prognosis, timeline, etc. mostly because they don't know. My 90 pound (originally, that is.) Golden Retriever is just one of many who get cancer. As a matter of fact, Goldens are in the top 3 for breeds who get cancer. So the age -old question is, why? Why do kids get diseases, and why do nice people get hit by trucks and have brain tumors? If you are a dog lover like me, you will get the Why Golden Retrievers? They are the most loving and devoted, sweet tempered darling dogs ever. Why isn't it a breed that bites, or attacks? Why not a little known foreign breed that has a tendency toward cancer? Why is it my big oafy Georgie who anticipates my every move, who follows me around the house and loves to ride in the car and hang his head over the back seat next to the heads of carpoolers who ride with us? My dog is my best friend in so many ways. He doesn't judge me when I put off the dishes or laugh at me when I sing loud with the radio. He looks at me adoringly and pushes his paw at me relentlessly to pet him. That's my dog.

So we have been doing chemo therapy now for over 8 mo. Thank God Georgie had absolutely no side effects, felt great and the cancer went into remission. I actually secretly enjoyed going to the specialty vet center for his treatment because of all the different kinds of dogs, (and different kinds of owners for that matter) I would see. I love dogs. Little ones, fat ones, 3 legged ones, ugly ones... bring em on. Each time I was waiting for Georgie, I petted and cooed with all the other doggies in the release room, and chatted knowingly with their owners. Georgie ran and ate and jumped into the back of my Expedition and even went into the pool! In March, his round of treatment was complete and he was in remission. Our Dr. couldn't say what to expect or how long as each dog was different, but he looked good and had responded so well, our hopes were high.

Three weeks later he stops eating. He developed a hollow cough that sounded like he was going to throw up. He did throw up some, but I knew in my heart it was his lungs. He was listless and his eyes were suddenly vacant. This was not my dog. He returned to the Specialty vet center where they removed fluid from his chest, hydrated him, and found his cancer was back. He had to stay over night, which he had never done. I was truly worried he would pass away right there of a broken heart thinking we had abandoned him. My doctor is an angel however, an assured me that he was not in a kennel, but laying on the floor of the procedure room nose to nose with her own dog and people all around. I can't say what a comfort this was.

Usually when he came out after his treatment, I could hear his nails on the tile wildly rounding the corner of the release room with a poor attendant at the other end of the leash holding on for dear life. Then he would either jump up, his paws literally on my shoulders and kiss my face, or he would jump into the seat next to me and put a paw on my arm. This, as you can see, is no ordinary dog. The day I picked him up after his hospitalization, I didn't hear his nails. He pulled around the corner of the release room, and seeing me came over, his weakend back end swaying and collapsed at my feet. I let out such a sob, I really embarrassed myself in front of the waiting room occupants. I literally broke down right there. I love that darn dog so much it physically pained me to see him like that.

They had given him a new type of chemo injection while he was there, and I was hoping he was having a reaction to it. His mouth was a little foamy, he was tired and not hungry. Even with the Prednisone this time, his appetite was scarce. I called the doc to see if he was truly reacting to the chemo, and she said no. He was probably getting ready to go. Go? Go where? I am not ready, I thought. I will never be ready. I kept looking at him. Are you really ready boy? He would try to do his doggie smile, but just lay on the cool tile of the kitchen.

Then the bawling began. I have had good dogs in my life. Our German Shepherd Tascha, what a great dog. Our Chow Chow, Meg, loved her. \I had been through this before. I remember my dad taking our Tascha to be put down, and he came back 30 minutes later with her still in the car. I guess it's a family thing. So I cried and cried trying to thank God for the gift of such a loving, intuitive companion. I didn't bother begging for the Lord to keep Georgie around a little longer because I knew I wouldn't want him to be in pain. I hand fed him bits of ham and cheese. We petted and massaged him gently. When he made his way upstairs to my room, I just sat on the carpet with him stroking his face over and over. For 8 years he has been an intregal part of our family. He is one of us. In some ways, he is the best of us. I tried to get him to take the prednisone with the ham, but he balked. Finally, I hid it in a soft chunk of butter. He loves butter. I went to bed that night half expecting him not to be breathing when we awoke the next morning. I texted my dog loving friends to pray for me as I was devastated. They did. I know they did.

I opened my eyes to barking. It wasn't the tinny little dog bark of our other pup, Penny. It was Georgie for heaven sake. What? He was standing at the back door barking at something and waiting to go out and pee.
I let him out and he seemed more steady on his feet. He peed for what seemed like ten minutes and almost jogged back into the kitchen. He ate a treat. His eyes looked like he was behind them again. Penny sniffed him carefully in confusion. Like us, she knew he was not well and had given up the rough and tumble play they usually participated in. Georgie was alert, he was weak, but he was back! I called the doc and she laughed. Maybe the prednisone kicked in. Who knows?

No more chemo. Georgie takes the steroids, and although he seems older and more frail, he is still with us. For how long? I don't know. I have had my miracle and I am not asking questions.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Flippin' Future of Our Kids

Recently I wrote an article for this blog entitled; "Don't Get Smart With Me." It suggested that there are different types of smart and some kids have trouble showing their particular kind of "smart" within our standardized testing and classroom confines. I talked about some very famous "smart" people who did not fit the school mode. I referenced Edison, and Einstein, for example. I was very encouraged by my findings and hoped whoever read the article might think twice about how they see intelligence and ability in others. I still do.

Having a teenager at home who is looking toward graduation and very unsure about what comes next, I have been trying to be encouraging, calming, even non judgmental when she throws out ideas regarding her future that make me want to scream, "WHAT? Are you crazy? No way. Not if we are footing the bill, not if you live here, not if ... Are you crazy?" I try to feign a smile and say that nothing must be decided today and not to pigeon hole herself as a student or non student. I try to remember some very good advice given to me many years ago. "Love your children for who God made them to be, not who you want them to be. The more you try to tweak them against their nature, the more frustrated everyone is." Ah, what a beautiful thought. But wait a minute, I don't think my mentor meant putting up with frivolity and laziness and kooky plans to find themselves somewhere along P.C.H. watching the sunset. Isn't it my job as a parent to push my child back into the right lane, to protect them from ideas that are not so realistic?

I would literally fight tooth and nail to make sure each and every child is evaluated fairly,and given his or her rightful chance to show their gifts and their capabilities. I am still a huge advocate for taking another long look at how we teach and how we test. What I am most sure of though, is that it is the desire for knowledge that makes life rich. The quest to understand and be enlightened in your faith, your perceptions, your grasp of history, and culture, and art is what heightens our enjoyment and fulfillment in our relationships and in our behavior and contributions to the world.

Too bad the age at which we graduate from High School is nowhere near the age that we understand the importance and the blessing of a good education. We are expected to make these big educational decisions at a time in life when all our hormones and frontal lobe want to do is have fun! I was no different. I was more concerned about how my bangs were feathered than my math test. I came out of High School and floated into Junior College with no real plan yet for transfer, or specific career. I knew I wanted to write; that's about it. Looking back though, somewhere deep deep down I had a strong sense that continued schooling was not a question for me. It had to be accomplished.

One of my teachers in High School always warned us, "If you don't get an education, your options are limited. Pay attention. Work hard, or you'll be flippin' the burgers." Any time someone was goofing off in class, or late, he'd just say, "Yeah, keep it up. Flippin' the burgers." We even used the phrase on each other when we did or said something silly. "Flippin' the burgers." Obviously with no offense intended toward any person who flips burgers, I want more for my daughter.

I watched an old episode of "Freaks and Geeks" the other night. It is a look at high school teens in the 80's. The show was under the direction of Judd Apatow and starred now famous faces like James Franco, Seth Rogan and Jason Segel. The character of Lindsay is a smart, capable student who is choosing to dumb herself down to fit it with the cool crowd. Her guidance counselor will not stand by and watch her demise, so he follows her with college applications and pleads with her not to throw away her chances at a great educational future. In a pivotal moment in the hallway, Lindsay turns to her counselor and says,"Not everyone who's smart goes to college. Look at Einstein and Thomas Edison." "And Frank!" points out the counselor excitedly. "Who's Frank?" asks Lindsay. There is a momentary pause, and then he answers, "The guy who pumps my gas."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Teach Your Kids About the Real Easter Story

Looking for a hands-on way to teach your children about the real Easter story? Consider getting a set of Resurrection Eggs. They are each filled with a symbol relating to Easter. There is a guide to explain each piece and it's importance in the story. We use them every year.

                                      Check discount stores, christian book stores and your church.

Pre Easter Hunting Fun!

It's Almost Easter...

Have some fun with those empty eggs before next Sunday!!
Spell out in capitals something special you will do with your kids..
GET  ICE CREAM      PARK     BAKE COOKIES   whatever
cut out the letters and put one each in the eggs and hide them. 
When all eggs are found, put the letters together to spell out the clue. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sing It Mama!!

My bible study gals and I were recently brainstorming ideas of worship. We were complaining about our distracted natures and the difficulty to stay focused. One of the ideas was not just listening to Christian music which is powerful in its own right, but to pick a few hymns or songs that really move you and play them loud and sing along. I know David sang out to the Lord often. There is something about belting out a great hymn in your kitchen, or your car, or while you are putting on your mascara when you're alone. 

I am thinking it wouldn't be bad for my kids to hear me now and then. When I sing along with the hymn I am attaching, my dogs look at me funny. I get goosebumps every time, and can hardly keep from choking up not only at the beauty of the voices of Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill, but the emotion I feel singing along from the bottom of my heart. 

Try it! Let Him know you love him, even if you can't read your bible today for more than 5 minutes because you get sleepy. If you are struggling to pray because your thoughts are scattered. Maybe all you need to do is:

                                                                                               Sing It!!

If you want to download this song in audio, it is on an album of country artists singing hymns which is great. It is called How great thou art. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ladies Who Lunch

It's funny, on one hand we are, in many ways the most entitled, spoiled generation ever, and yet we don't allow ourselves to enjoy a leisurely, lovely lunch with a friend because we are too "busy" for that.
Maybe, if we remembered the incredible value of sharing a meal, sharing our hardships and joys with a good friend, and then walking away to let someone else do the dishes...we might do it more often.
 You don't even have to wear hats!

Today I met a wonderful friend at a sushi restaurant where the poor waitress must have asked us ten times if we needed more iced tea or diet coke. That gives you an idea how long we sat there. This is not a friend I talk to every day, sometimes not for a month. No matter. There is a knowing. There is a mutual adoration, respect and deep affection that is reignited the instant we are together. I am genuinely happy to see her, can't wait to hear about her family, her highs and lows, the new and the old. Her eyes light up when she sees me too.

*If this sounds hokey to you, you need a new friend. I can't explain the gratitude I feel when I think of the girlfriends my God has blessed me with. It is one of the great joys of my life.

So, with ice tea and diet coke disappearing from our glasses, sushi being savored and shared, we discussed everything under the sun; our wonderful,challenging, exhausting kids, husbands, things we are working on, things we are not too successful with, hopes, worries, faith, health. There were rounds of spontaneous tears, some crazy laughter, some quiet conversation. Mostly, we were just being a friend to one another. We could say what we are proud of and ashamed of, what we are confused by and what we know to be true. I think I will donate to a good cause in the amount of a two hour therapy session I no longer need to schedule. There is nothing like a real friend to remind you of your good character qualities and encourage you away from the less desirable ones. She knows you don't really hate your kids or want to strangle your husband. She knows they are your everything, otherwise they could never drive you this nutty. If you put yourself down, she laughs and brings up something great you've done. She shares her good one liners with the kids, and listens quietly when she know no advice is needed, just a caring look and an "I get it," sigh.

Lunch with my friend is just what I needed today. She is so smart and funny and genuine. If she likes me, I guess I must not be too hopeless. Give yourself the gift of friend indulgence. Call a friend and make a lunch date today. You won't regret it.

* Watch your iced tea intake. I almost had a potty accident driving to the groomer to pick up my dogs after the lunch. I never wanted to get up and go during our conversation. What am I, 4?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

God's Not Dead

Taking my son and his friends to see God's Not Dead... a movie in theaters starring Dean Cain and Kevin Sorbo. Heard it was good. Let you know.  5:15pm Sunday, March 23rd.

Ok. So, quick tip. If you are going to keep food in your purse to take into the movie because you didn't have time to eat it before... probably shouldn't make it sushi. Don't get me wrong, the sushi was good, it's just that eating it in the dark can be dangerous. As I popped a slice of California roll into my mouth, I was feeling proud of myself for making a better choice than the greasy, fried or other choices the kids made. Sadly, my pride was quickly replaced by an overwhelming sense of stupidity as I reached into the styrofoam box pulling out what I thought was the last slice of California Roll but was actually a blob of fresh ginger and Wasabi and quickly popped that into my mouth. Now if you are not a sushi eater, you may not know that Wasabi is a very spicy Asian mustard and fresh Ginger, although delicious, is not really to be eaten in a clump. Thank heavens I had a large bottle of water. I am thinking no more sushi at the movies. 

God's Not Dead. When we exited the theater after the movie, we ran into my son's fourth grade teacher who informed me that she read that this movie,,, without much hype or advertising was number three for the weekend. I felt so happy about that. 
The movie was really good. The acting ( aside from the boy's girlfriend) was quite good and the direction was good. It is difficult to tie several stories together to one theme without making it feel choppy, or too contrived when the stories converge. I really liked that the main character, Josh, was a fairly mild mannered guy. I imagine Jesus himself was not a foot stomper, or a loud, imposing person. Josh made his point through his faith, his intelligence and his passion. It was his trust in God that gave him the strength and courage to stand up to his Philosophy professor who insisted all students start the term by signing a declaration that God is dead. This was meant to explain away the atheism they would encounter in the Philosophers they would study. Josh just couldn't bring himself to sign that declaration, and that is where his uphill battle began. 
The movie also touches on many other subjects such as greed and materialism, religious oppression, cultural differences, and an almost viament hatred for Christianity. 

My favorite character was the black missionary who was visiting a local pastor and kept reminding him that God is Good all the time, and all the time God is Good.  He was so peaceful and gently convincing. There was a short but interesting appearance by Willie Robertson of the Duck Dynasty clan which I thought was unexpected. He is really likable and believable. 
The movie ends with a performance by the Newsboys, who I had heard of , but not really heard. Loved their music. I'll have to check it out. 
The movie challenges you to text God's NOT dead to all you know. 

Here's my recommendation Take your kids, go with your bible study, or your MOPS table. Bring some tissue. Fill your heart and mind with something good and wholesome and have some good discussion afterwards. 
I asked the boys in the car on the way home if they would have stood up to the professor. The boys said, "Zack would."   Zack is my kid. I am not entirely sure that was a vote of Christian confidence or an expression of the obvious ( he is a talker, and isn't afraid to say things which can be troublesome at times)
Zachary assured me when we got home that he would indeed refuse to sign that declaration because "it is the opposite of what I believe Mommy."  

God is good all the time, and all the time, God is GOOD!

Easter Decor to Display or Give

Are you crafty? artistic? creative? talented?  Well, even if you're not... think about trying one of these.
An Easter Birdhouse!! It can be as easy or ornate as you like, and something you work on a little each day, or finish in an hour! Soooo cute as a decoration or to give away.

FIRST  Visit a craft store like Michael's, Joann's, or Hobby Lobby. Get one or more paintable wooden birdhouses.

NEXT  Decide what medium or mediums you want to use to decorate it. Let's talk about options:

1.  Paint   Acrylic paints work well on wood.
2.  Stamp  Stamps and the right ink can be used also.
3. Decoupage:  You could use stickers, magazine cut outs of eggs, chicks, a cross, bunnies, flowers, etc.
                        and paint over all with Modge Podge. Magazine cut outs of phrases like Happy Easter or
                        Spring can be added too.
4. Cover:  Paint the house with glue and cover with finely cut Easter grass, confetti, moss, wood chips,
                leaves, etc. then finish with a bow, or little eggs around the bottom or a birdie on the roof.
This one has lace, rhinestones, paper flowers, and a fabric fence with a pom pom chick peeking out. CUTE!

They sell unpainted little houses that look like churches too if you want to go that route.
Or.. you can just paint the house a pastel color like pink, mint green, or yellow and sprinkle with flaked glitter. Add a few foil covered chocolate eggs and you have a darling centerpiece!
Look at this fancy one!! Paper flowers, butterflies, birdies, pearls, lace and bows. What little girl wouldn't love this in her Easter Basket, or collage one herself to display on the mantle.

The important thing about "Creating" is to have fun, to try something new... not to expect perfection. 

Heck, Have a birdhouse decorating party with some friends. Give them to an Assisted Living Center for the elderly to enjoy. 
Let your kids create, watch The Easter Beagle together, bake some bunny shaped cookies. 
Have Fun!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Make a Fairy House!

Spring sings of flowers and gardens and birdies and such. Especially if you have a daughter, consider making a Fairy House in your backyard. Find a little spot near a tree or under a bush that you can easily reach. Flatten the dirt with a spoon or small shovel and sprinkle with blades of grass, flower petals, or even moss from the craft store. Outline the area with pebbles or bark. You can even make a little fairy bed of leaves and petals if you like. The fun is in the discussion you have with your child while preparing the fairy house. "How big do you think a fairy is?" "What do they eat?" Where do they go during the day?" etc. There are lots of fairy books available at the library. Check out a used book store to hunt down a child's fairy book or even a well read copy of Peter Pan. Watch one of the Disney Fairy movies.

* Here's the real fun! Tell your kids that the fairies need a place to sleep in the garden, so you are building a house in hopes they might pick your garden (or patio, or porch... whatever you have.) You can check the fairy house each day to see if one might have been there. Are the leaves of her bed moved? Is the blueberry you left eaten? Make a little blanket of fabric, put a small solar light nearby. Remember making things for your Barbies? Have fun with it. Make sure if you leave a berry, that you remember to take out a small bite when no one is looking. The thrill on the faces of your kids is so worth it.

* If you really want to get fancy, you can buy little pieces of fairy sized items at a nursery, or check out this fairy door sold in the Victorian Trading Catalog. Super cute.
Did you know Fairies leave teeny tiny notes? Did you know Fairies leave behind sparkles? Did you know that Fairies can leave teeny little gifts like little jeweled rings and bracelets? (party favors work great)

When a Fairy has finished her work in a particular garden, she may leave a goodbye note or a trinket and be on her way. Fare Thee Well Little Fairy, and come again next spring!!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Everything's Coming up Green!!

I know, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated here in the states for just a few reasons:
 1. An excuse to drink green beer
 2. An excuse to pinch someone
 3. A reason to wear green 
 4. A reason to cook a big pot of corned beef and cabbage
 5. A great reason to bake Irish Soda Bread. 

Consider some of these fun family ideas:

1. Call your kids by name with a Mc or an O' in front of it. 
   i.e. My kids would be McDarcie and O'Zachary
2. Make a leprechaun trap with an empty box,a stick to hold it      up, and either gold coins or lucky charms left underneath to 
   tempt the leprechaun.When kids are away,take out the coins,      and drop the box. Let the kids find it. That naughty    leprechaun took the gold!! Finally, on St. Patty's day,take 
   out the coins, but leave a treat..a green lollipop,green
   beads or funny glasses.(party store has it all) 
3. Make little green cupcakes with white frosting and gold 
4. Cut out four leaf clovers and hide them around the house. 
   When one is found.. a prize is won. 
5. Make green playdoh. 
6. Leave little signs that the leprechaun has visited.( a chair  
   on the table, a picture hung upside down, a vase of flowers
   in the fridge... etc. 
7. Play Irish music. 
8. Read an Irish Folk tale. 
9. Watercolor rainbows and pots of gold. 
10.Have tea and cookies.     

More Mad for British TV and Movies

Really? Downton Abbey is over already? What kind of a "season" is that? Listen, I grew up in the 70's and 80's and even the 90's had the same TV programming schedule. The new seasons used to begin in September, just like the school year, October at the latest. We used to look forward to the first shows of the season because we had waited all summer to see what would happen next. In the summers were all reruns so you could watch the shows you missed during the season. There was an order to the world!  Now there is no knowing when something starts, when it is over, if it is returning, let alone which of a million channels it will be on.
 I have to say, the Downton Finale was pretty darn good. That Mr. Barrow, what a weasel. So are they coming back in a few months, or a year, or what? How long was this "season" anyway? Seems like only 6 or 7 weeks. Well, in the mean time, have you seen "Call the Midwife?" It's fantastic! Season 1 and 2 are available on DVD or streaming on Amazon. The contrast of the happy go lucky music of the fifties and the dreary streets of the East End of London is a great backdrop for this series about young midwives and nuns working in the lower class areas after the war, each week offering more than just plots to be acted, but life lessons, tears, and laughter. I am loving getting to know the characters, especially Chumley, the overly tall, often bumbling nurse who is in her own way the strongest of them all. Like other British series which are so vastly different from anything being produced here in the states right now, I feel as if I am reading instead of just watching the episodes. There is a depth and building of characters that pulls you in and makes you want to follow them, not just the stories. 

The Devil Runs the DMV

Welcome to the Department of Motor Vehicles 

If this photo brings back any memories for you, I am sorry to remind you of such a sad time in your life. I was describing my Wednesday at the DMV to my bible study girls, and they insisted I blog about it. Lord help me, I had no appointment. I usually try to deal with any and all DMV business at the Auto Club office near my house. We had recently been forced to visit the San Clemente Ca office for my daughter to take her permit test. This is the office we usually choose. It is near the beach, which somehow takes a bit of the sting out of going. It doesn't seem to be as crowded. Right now, it isn't open. Building refurbishment or some such. 
My daughter's driving test was approaching, and although the registration on her car "to be" had long been paid, we still needed the license plate tags which were held up by a proof there was no lapse in insurance when we got the car. The gal at the AAA had told me I could only take care of this issue at the DMV office itself. I shuddered, and immediately put it off as long as possible. 
Well, there was no more time. Those tags had to be on the car for my daughter's test. So, Wednesday mid morning which I was told was a good time, (there is NO good time to go to the DMV) I headed for the DMV office in Laguna Hills, California. I got in a line much like the one pictured above.There were at least 40 people in the line outside the building, another 20 or so inside the building. And that was just to get to the desk to get a number!!! I spent two and a half hours making small talk with the people in line around me, people watching (whoa!! they let these people drive??) and shifting from one foot to the other on the hard cement. I was tired and my stomach was growling. I started to smell a mix of bad breath and slight perspiration... maybe it was mine. Gross. 
I briefly showed the man at the info/number desk my paperwork and explained my dilemma very quickly feeling jabbing eyes all around me calling; Hurry up Hurry up! He said O.K. and handed me a number. B082. 

So, here is my monster mistake. I asked the man how long the wait would be now that I had obtained my number. Gargantuan Error. Huge Blunder. Enormous screw up. Get the idea?

He answered quickly, "At least an hour." and went on to the next victim. 
Oh! I thought brightly. Oh good! I thought foolishly. I have time to run to the little restaurant 3 doors down and grab a bite. And that's what I did. I gave myself only 35 minutes just to be safe. and returned quickly to the DMV and plopped in a chair awaiting my turn. As I fidgeted in the plastic seat, I noticed I did not recognize any of the faces from the people who had been in line with me. Where did they go? There must be at lease one here somewhere. Oh! there's the balding guy with the grey pants... no, that's not him. Wait, the lady with the stroller. Oh. There are loads of ladies with strollers. No, none of them were here. Did I miss my number? How could that be? I was only gone... then I knew it. For the first time today, maybe in DMV history, and the precise day I came, the line with numbers went faster than expected. This is a miracle! This is unheard of! This... totally sucks. I missed my number and now I have to go slinking up to the side of the information desk where you are instantly invisible and dodging the dagger glances of those in the official line. I have to ask the man if I missed my number, which will likely encourage an Are you kidding me, lady look from him, and an  Are you an idiot?  look from anyone in line who overhears me. I feel like yelling, "No, I am not kidding, and yes I am an idiot!" before I even get up to the desk. I nervously and a little too loudly and the guy if I missed my number. As is suspected, he looks at me with a mix of pity and disgust. He checks. "Yah, they called that a while back." A while back? I was only gone 35 minutes. " You told me it would be over an hour." I said weakly. He just looked at me with droopy dog eyes and said, "It went faster." 

The man handed me a new number. B108. Great. Not only am I now 26 B numbers behind, they are calling mostly A and H and some C's. Ugh!
One and a half hours later, an electronic voice calls B108. I jump up from my catatonic state and head for window 6. The lady behind window 6 takes my paperwork and smiles at me. "Oh!" she says. Uh oh, I think. 
"You can't clear this in a field office," she continues. "You need to go on line or call this number (pointing to a number on the sheet the AAA have given me) and get a claim number. She smiled and gave me back my paperwork. I was stunned. I spoke quietly and through clenched teeth. "I have been here for four hours," I told her. "I showed my paperwork to the man at the desk and he gave me a number." I said. "Why didn't he tell me I couldn't do this here?" I think the woman could tell I was about to go postal at the DMV. She smiled carefully and asked, "Do you have a phone?" She suggested I go outside and call the number on the sheet, and if I can get a claim number I could come directly to her window and she would help me. 
I went outside. I plopped on the steel bench and pulled out my phone. 4% battery. A digital voice on the other end of the line said, "The waiting time is now one and one half hours. Please leave a call back number or stay on the line." 
I jumped in my car. It was about 3pm and if I could retrieve this number on line, I could race back and go to her window and be done with this nightmare. I called my daughter at High School. "I can't pick you up." I screamed accidentally. "But Mom, what am I supposed to do?" "Figure it out." I said quickly and hung up. 2% battery. 
I flew to my mom's house which is closer to the DMV than my own and asked to borrow her computer real fast, it was an emergency. She said she thought I had been at the DMV that morning. The look on my face must have said it all, because she left the room and told my dad to leave me alone, it was important. 
My hand shook a little as I typed in the address on line and navigated the site. It asked for a pin number. I had no stinking pin number!! Another hurdle. I called the AAA office and explained my plight. The angel on the other end of the line lead me back to sanity. "Use this number," she said sweetly, "and I will stay on the line with you and we'll figure this out. She must have sensed my desperation. We got the claim number, and I think my blood pressure dropped 10 points. The AAA woman said I didn't need to return to the DMV and that she could finish the job at her office which is near my house. I drove there in a fog. TEXT: I got a ride home. Oh good. 1% battery. 
The lady at the AAA office took care of everything. She printed and stapled and put everything my daughter would need into a special envelope. She told me that gal who had told me to go to the DMV with this issue had since been let go. "Oh really." I offered, no emotion whatsoever. 
When I arrived home, my daughter asked annoyed, "Where have you been all this time?" I wanted to say hell. I imagine hell will have long lines with completely uninterested employees and windows where they tell you "Sorry I can't help you get to heaven after all." And then they make you get in a new line. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Don't Get Smart with Me!

There are all kinds of smart. 
Smarty Pants:  A know it all, quick of tongue
Smart Alec: a mocker, makes fun at others' expense
Smart Mouth: someone who talks back, disrespectful
Smarty Farty:  Really is smart... but knows it and annoys
Street Smart: knows how things/people/situations work through experience and intuition

What is smart in our society? I can't tell anymore! Used to be a B average or better was smart. 
Now you can be an A student, but technically you're still not as smart as the AP student who gets an A and extra grade points. Now that's smart. The new Core Curriculum is trying to focus almost solely on Math, Science, and Technology. When we compare ourselves to other nations, these seem to be the academic areas we focus on. Granted, these areas are the source of industrial development, medical discovery and technological advances as well as complicated weapons and warfare subjects I don't even want to think about, but who will bring the beauty? Where will our writers and poets and artists and musicians come from?Will we lose our thinkers, our pastors, our dreamers?  If we practice educational tunnel vision, who's genius do we lose in the process? 

Albert Einstein, who is acknowledged world wide as a genius, was not in AP classes. Quite the contrary, 
He skipped class, and was known as a daydreamer and a goof off. His father passed away while Einstein was in his 20's believing he was a disgrace to their family. Can you imagine?

Thomas Edison is known for a quote about genius being "99% perspiration and 1% education."
He invented the light bulb: the universal symbol of ideas for heaven's sake!

Abner Doubleday is given the incredible distinction of having discovered the game of baseball. 
Think about it. He was an average student, with an average drive. What an immense impact he had on our culture! 

Abraham Lincoln is touted as the "smartest president ever." He had extremely little formal education, taught himself the law well enough to pass the Bar exam, and lead our country with honesty and integrity. 

I am guessing every one of these people had a little "smarty pants" and "street smart" to them. Smart comes in all shapes and sizes, all ages and colors, all backgrounds and experiences. Because we struggle with attention issues in our family, I have many times felt like shaking teachers, or coaches, etc. and yelling, he/she is really smart! These kids are creative and intelligent, clever and funny. They are caring and intuitive and capable! It just so happens that they don't listen too well, and they are disorganized and scattered, do not do well on standardized tests: often square pegs for the round holes we call our education system. I pray their smarty pants, street smart ways will help them like it helped Einstein and Lincoln. There has to be room in our world for Einsteins and Edisons and Van Goghs and Emily Dickinsons so we can enjoy not only the technical capabilities,but the beauty of the human mind. Make room for the dreamers and the thinkers and for my kids and your kids who may be square pegs that will change the world!!

* you can't have smart without "art"

Easy Easy Irish Soda Bread

Here is an easy recipe for yummy Irish Soda Bread. Eat it with butter and a little jam, or with a stew or corned beef!!

1 1/3 cup buttermilk
3 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar                        * add a fruit...raisins, golden raisins, currants, dried cranberries
2 T. salt
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
4 T. cold butter diced.

Sift dry ingredients together, and incorporate butter with a fork.
Slowly pour in buttermilk and mix gently until dough holds together.
Fold in fruit

Turn out on floured board and shape into a circle, patting flour all around the loaf.
Score the top with a 1 inch deep X
Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

This recipe is delicious with savory or sweet and especially with a nice cup of tea.
* Makes an easy and wonderful gift too!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

St. Pattie's Jello Surprise

Did you know the 99 Cent store has LOTS of pressed glass that is perfect for Jello Creations, and you don't have risk your fine crystal? Jello in a fancy glass is magical for kids and adults alike. 

Mix 1 large instant Lime Jello, add 1 cup boiling water (dissolve the Jello in that first), and 2 1/2 cups of 7up or lemon lime soda. Fill fancy cups 1/2 full of plain Jello and chill. Mix the reserve Jello with 2 scoops of lime sherbet and chill in a bowl. When the cups are set, spoon the Jello, Sherbet mixture on top and continue to chill. (4 hours total) Top with Whipped Cream and a cherry or a few sprinkles. Yummerooo. 

Quirky Kitchen

I love to cook. I like collecting old church and women's club recipe books with the tried and true recipes people actually made for their family and friends. I like to try new recipes and even make up some of my own! 

Probably my greatest gift in the kitchen is being resourceful. I can make something out of almost nothing. Or... I can make a few somethings out of the same thing! Confused? Check out my resourceful ideas for boneless chuck roast. (pot roast)

So... OK... We start with pot roast, which is basically a chuck, rump, or shoulder roast cooked in the crock pot or pressure cooker or on the stove. 
I usually begin any roast by cooking down some onions, and carrots in a little olive oil so they carmelize a little first. You can't really get that "browned"flavor if you just throw all ingredients into liquid.  I like to brown my roast on all sides as well before I put it into the long cooking pan it will be in. 

The following veggies are nice with pot roast: onions, pearl onions, carrots, celery, turnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes. 

Season your roast well. Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and I like a little paprika too. Once it is browned on all sides in olive oil, transfer it to the crock pot, pressure cooker, or dutch oven on the stove. 

To make the liquid your roast will cook in, you have choices. 
*For a tomato base, add one small can tomato sauce, and three sauce cans of water. 
*For a savory base, add 1 large can beef broth, a beef boullion cube crumbled into a cup of water, and an herb like parsley, or thyme. 
*For an Asian base, add 1 can chicken broth, 2 T. Soy Sauce, 1 T. brown Sugar and a touch of sesame oil. This recipe is great over rice. 
*For a Beefy Base, add one large can of beef broth, and a cup of water with a packet of brown gravy mix dissolved in it. 
*For an onion base, dissolve 3/4 of a packet of onion soup mix into a cup of water and pour over meat. Surround meat with veggies and pour a can of beef broth in. Sprinkle the last third of the onion soup mix over the top . 

**BBQ Beef is easy too. Brown your roast on all sides and transfer to long cooking pot. Pour 1/2 cup of water, and 1 cup of BBQ sauce into the pot. 
Cook as you would just the roast. Tear meat when tender and serve on warmed buns. Deeelish. 

**Beef Stew is really good with Chuck Roast pieces you cut yourself. Add like sized pieces of carrot, celery, potato, onion, brown gravy mix dissolved in water, and a dash of worcestershire. Yumaroo!

**Teriyaki Beef. Slice roast thinly before cooking. Add directly to the pot with a touch of sesame oil, thinly sliced onion, carrot, green pepper, and pineapple if you like. Pour in juice from large can of cubed pineapple, 1/2 c. teriyaki sauce, some black pepper, and a dash of soy sauce. This too is yummy over white rice, or mixed with angel hair pasta and sesame seeds. 

**Left over Pot Roast!!  Shred beef for tacos or burritos. Cut beef into a dice and make beef and barley soup. Cube the beef into small pieces, cut veggies smaller, add more cubed potatoes and make some beef gravy. Put all of this into a pie shell and you have a wonderful beef pot pie.

More to come later in the week. 
Happy Roasting!!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Grandpa Gone

I lost my grandfather better known as Ota,  a couple of weeks ago. He was 91. He lived an extraordinary life fighting in World War II, returning to find his mother as a refugee living on a farm in Austria. Remarkably, in that area, he met my Grandmother, a war widow with two small children. They married, had a son together, and 6 years later left for America on a cargo transport ship over the Atlantic. The trip lasted two rocking, wretching weeks before they landed in New York. With only $500 in his pocket, 3 children, a wife and his own mother, they quickly boarded a train bound for California. Awaiting them was a German host family who had made a similar journey, were now settled and would be their home base until they could get jobs, a car, etc. 

1 month later, my grandparents moved their brood to an apartment. Ten months later they bought their first house. Amazing. Everyone who could work, did work. All those pay checks were combined to help the family prosper. 

My grandfather could be coarse, even grouchy in his ways. He never hugged us as his grandchildren, but mellowed over the years. He was generous and smiley with his great grandkids, and played a positive role in our family which at its most numbered 26. He adored my 93 year old grandmother and cared for her up until a week before he passed from cancer. 
He drove, shopped, even played tennis until 90. A priest came to the house a few days before his death and gave him the sacrament of the sick and prayed with family members. My sister and I, who are strong Christian, prayed steadily for his salvation too. I imagine him in heaven now with a sweet soul and free from pain and worry. 

His memorial service was simple, but nice; a good turnout, considering the age of the deceased. Some came toddling slower than others, but not one had a wheelchair or a walker which amazed me. This generation that had seen war and poverty and earned their "American Dream" with blood sweat and tears were all walking and talking and eating and smiling. They are survivors. They are people who have seen it all. They came to send off one of their own. 

I hope my children took in even a tiny hint of what my grandfather achieved, the many discoveries and changes he had witnessed in his life, and also how he died, at home, surrounded by family in peace. When I think about all I want to achieve yet before I die, I too will try to keep in mind that which is most important: Salvation, Family, and Peace. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Quick Lovies this Valentines Day!

Leave a sweetheart candy in someone's pocket
Put a love note in someone's lunch. 
Have kids decorate post its and put them in 
Dad's car for him to find. 
Make a handmade Valentine for your child. 
Play love songs. 
Eat red foods. 
Call Grandma
Say I Love You in Different Languages:
German: Ich Liebe Dich
Spanish: Te quiero
Smurf:  I smurf you

Valentine Hidden Riddle

Use heart shaped paper cut outs to write clues. Hide the hearts around the house and have the kids guess the Valentine treat in store for them. 

Making heart cookies: Bake, Mix, Cut out, Sprinkles, Flour, 
Sugar, oven. 

Strawberry Ice Cream Floats: 7up, ice cream, cups, straws, cold, fizzy.

Valentine Fruit Salad: Strawberries, apples, bananas, melon
                                                      *If you like, cut the fruits into little hearts with a small heart                                                          cookie cutter. This salad is also really good with a cup of                                                                  yogurt or cool whip to coat fruits. Yummy!

                                                        Make Valentines: paper, lace, scissors, glue stick, stickers,                                                             etc.

Friday, January 31, 2014

You Had me at Jel-lo!

Ah the often overlooked, underappreciated dessert we know as Jello. Kids love Jello. Jello is fun, low in calories, versatile, and has endless possibilities. Here are some basic rules for Jello.
1. When adding fruit or other ingredients, cut the water a little to ensure a good gel.
2. Make sure water is boiling so the Jello dissolves completely.

Here are a few Jello recipes to put in a champagne flute or wine glass and surprise your little Valentines with.

Strawberry Surprise
Make a large box of Jello according to instructions. Chill Jello in a mixing bowl. When firm, put Jello into a mixer with a whisk attachment and add 1/3 tub of Cool Whip. Whisk these together until well mixed. POur the parfait mix into fancy glasses and top with a little poof of Cool Whip and a few pink and red sprinkles. Return to fridge for about 1/2 an hour. Your little Valentines will be thrilled when they see their fancy dessert!
Cherry Orange Fantasy
Make a large box of Cherry Jello cutting down 1/4 cup water. When Jello is dissolved, 
add 2 scoops orange sherbet and stir to melt.Pour into a fancy glass.  Refrigerate four hours. 
Top with Cool Whip and Red Sprinkles. Mmmmmm

Strawberry Banana Jubilee
Make a large box of Strawberry Jello according to instructions. Add sliced fresh strawberries and bananas. 
Pour into a 9x9 baking dish and chill until firm. 
Mix a box of Vanilla Pudding according to directions. When set, add one cup Cool Whip to give it some fluff. 
Spread pudding mix over the firm jello and return to fridge to set. 
You can top with cookie crumbs, sprinkles, or sliced strawberries. 
Cut into squares to serve.  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Great Valentine Books For Kids

I am sort of a book goober. I like books. I love books. Real books. Paper and binding and little water stains from where I read in the bathtub and a coffee spill books. I love love love children's books. Having been a teacher a long time now, I have some favorites I thought I'd share. These are books to be read over and over and treasured and talked about. Enjoy!

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble  by William Steig
Every family should own this book about a family of donkeys who's only son dissappears. Little do they know he has encountered a magic pebble which he accidentally used to turn into a rock. What follows is a feast for the eyes and the heart.

The Jolly Postman  By Allan Ahlberg    Available on Amazon
This is the cutest book about a post man that delivers mail to all sorts of characters. It has actual envelopes on the pages where kids can open and pull out the mail for that character.

The Kissing Hand  By Audrey Penn
This is a great story about a mama raccoon and her baby who she sends off to school with a kiss on his hand for comfort. Darling!!

**More to come later in the week. 

Valentine Fun !

I think Valentine's Day can be as much or more fun for kids as adults. Keep them busy this Valentine season with a few of these ideas:

Message in a bottle:  Have you child draw a picture or write a note to someone they love. (grandparents love this)  Roll it up and place it in an empty, dry, water bottle with the label removed. You can add paper hearts, or curling ribbon, or a tiny bit of glitter to the inside of the bottle too. Replace the top and tape it in place. Place a large white label, or tape a piece of white paper with the address of the recipient on it onto the bottle. You can actually take this to the Post Office and send for around $1.50. How fun!

Valentine Pancakes and Sprinkles:  Want to enjoy a real Valentine Breakfast? Pour pancakes into heart shapes. (they don't have to be perfect, kids don't care!) Instead of syrup, put a squirt of Whipped Cream, and strawberries, or pink sprinkles. Serve with strawberry milk. If you really want to go all out, Place strips of bacon wound into heart shapes on a baking sheet and bake until crisp. Leave a little love note under each plate.

Do The Top Five:  This is good for every day use by the way, but especially appropriate for Valentine's Day. Have your child hold up five fingers. Explain you are dong the "Top Five" These are the top five reasons I love you today. Have the child fold down each finger one by one as you tell them, softly with lots of eye contact: "I love you because you...."  (suggestions: are funny, kind to your baby sister, really good at soccer, a great helper, a good tooth brusher, etc.) Be creative and specific. I like to use number five to say they are my gift from God.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Welcome to Quirky Blessings!

Check in often for :
*Family Fun Ideas
*Recipes and Cooking Techniques
*Faith Talk
*Thoughts on Life
*Crafty Creations
*Great Deals            
*Good Books                     
*Soul Challenges

"That they may know you alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth." 
Psalm 83;18

Quite Quoteable!

You will notice I use lots of quotes in my posts. I love them. I think quoting songs and movies and books and even teachers I have had, and  preachers I admire gives your discussion an extra spark. I even have some "quotes" of my own that are well known only to my family and close friends. We won't go there now. I thinking quoting someone or something ( if not done purely to be some inside joke or snobbish "I know everything" attitude) is to give it a little honor, to show you were paying attention. I like that idea. I listen to others and pick up on their little sayings and fave phrases. It's fun.

I had a big birthday last year. I got several books, two of which where quotes and phrases and life lessons from The Peanuts and Dr. Suess. I guess someone has been paying attention to me, too. Thank you. I feel very honored and loved. Some entire books even read like quotes upon quotes. Anna Quindlen's Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake is a book my friend sent to me. "Rings True" said the post it note attached. Boy, she wasn't kidding. A book of quotes and thoughts by Fred Rogers, (that's right, you know him as Mr. Rogers!) is a beautiful reminder of what being a parent is all about. Then there is Gift From The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Get yourself a really pretty copy to leave on a coffee table, and a beat up copy to read and reread and reread and reread. You get the idea. She talks about nothing much and everything all at the same time. It's one to treasure.

So see if you agree with me. There are few things worse than throwing out a quote in conversation and nobody gets it. Wait... even worse is if they look at you like...Huh? I don't know whether to be embarrassed for them or me, or angry I am hanging with people who are not groovy with the quotes.For heaven's sake, don't explain it, that makes it even worse! It is right up there with talking away to your friend, or husband at a store and when you look up he/she is long gone making you look like you were talking to yourself. How lame. Have you ever tripped and almost fallen in the mall or a parking lot and caught yourself at the very last moment? You quickly swing around to see if anyone saw you and suddenly this uncontrollable giggling starts because you find yourself pretty funny. I once went to the movies with friends and left the theater to use the Ladies' room. Returning to the theater, I slipped (for what seemed like forever, arms flailing, feet grabbing desperately for traction) and eventually caught myself before I fell. I was so embarrassed and immediately got that case of silly laughing thinking about how I must have looked. When I reentered the theater, I took my seat next to my friends in the middle of a sad drama. Every 30 seconds I would start to crack up for no reason. I knew it was wrong. I knew it was disrespectful to every viewer who wiped their eyes as the mother withered of cancer. I hate cancer too. I loved this movie. I thought it was beautifully acted and wonderfully written and the truth is... that made my slip even funnier. Knowing my behavior was so inappropriate was suddenly freakin' hilarious. Oh well. Here's a quote from that movie.

"It's so much easier to be happy, my love. It's so much easier to choose to love the things you have...and you have a lot, instead of always yearning for what you're missing or what you imagine you are missing. It's so much more peaceful."  Kate Gulden, One True Thing

I like to use a form of that quote on my teenage daughter. Powerful. I have watched this movie maybe 20 times or more over the years and I still can' t believe I had the audacity to giggle in the theater.*

Simply Mad for British T.V. and Movies

Well, if you are wondering what in the "Sam Hill" I am talking about...( by the way, my friend Julie had a neighbor named Sam Hill and I always had this overwhelming urge to say really loudly.. "What in the Sam Hill?" Yah, like he never heard that before. Oh, I digress.) There is more to life than Downton Abbey. Don't get me wrong, I watch Downton Abbey. Loved last season. The first episode of this season was sort of all over the place. The second episode much better. But darlings, there is more where that came from.

 Upstairs we have a Roku player attached to our TV. It is a little box the size of a deck of cards approximately that is hooked into your HDMI cable. It has its own remote and is really fun. You can use it to stream everything from Netflix to Amazon prime and Hulu, to games and all sorts of other cooking and news and religious stations.You can use its little remote to play Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy and Angry Birds. We play Wheel of Fortune as a family and fight and crack up and then tell the winner he or she was lucky.

The Roku also streams (you have to pay for it... but shoot, it's a LOT less than a movie out) a channel called Acorn TV. It is all British broadcasting. (Why is it called Acorn? I don't know. Do the Brits like acorns? Is the president of the station a squirrel lover? I'm at a loss.) Acorn TV offers mysteries which are subtle and dark and not at all like our American cop shows. It offers miniseries, and comedies and dramas. It's cool. You can also stream through an X Box or through your computer.

Amazon Instant Video also offers British programming. One of my personal favorites is The Forsyte Saga which was a novel generally thought of as we think of romantic fiction today. I found it much deeper than that and the performances were amazing. If you enjoy British film and TV, check it out. PBS is our go-to here in the states for British TV and miniseries. I just can't get into Mr. Selfridege. Maybe it's Jeremy Piven. I like him. I just can't see him as a proper-
type gentleman in any way. I LOVED The Bletchley Circle. It was a 4 or 5 part Who Dunnit with a group of brilliant women who used to work for the government during the war cracking codes. After living as civilians for some time, they reunite to attempt to solve a mystery together using their penchant for breaking codes and finding patterns. It takes place in the 50's which I loved too.

I know what you're thinking. Dude! You sure watch a lot of TV! Well, I want to assure you that I am honestly watching less television than I did when we just flipped through channels in the evening and many times watched either whatever garbage was on, or I would zone out a little on House Hunters and Property Brothers one episode after another. No offense to those individuals that are truly excited about the pink tiled bathroom with a 30 year old toilet and want that "open concept" feeling. Oooops, snarky. I find I am watching what really interests me. I am choosing a time to sit down and really enjoy the program, or I stream it to my computer and watch while I am cooking or doing bills... whatever. It is certainly less brain dissolving than most of what's out there. A lot of it too is derived from literature, which I can appreciate since I was a English/Writing major.

Maybe you are a TV snob and don't watch TV or only watch the news or the weather channel or something like that. If so.. move on to the next article. Otherwise, Downton fans, I will keep you properly posted (posted! that's a good one) on the developments regarding British cinema. Cheers!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

It's Sooooo Me

This photo makes me smile. It's The vintage apron, the turquoise, the cross. Well, everything but the measuring tape. I don't enjoy measuring all that much. A little Boho, a little Retro, a lot of  funky fun. Now if I only still had a waist like that! 
 Rita Wilson was on a talk show where  she said we should all have a little description of our style. That's how we stay authentic through every changing trend. Four words to describe your style.

  I quickly thought about my close friends and tried to describe them. I wondered how they would describe themselves. I wondered too whose description would be more accurate? Now there's a thought.
 Anna Quindlen says getting older makes you ask yourself, "Who am I, REALLY?" and "What do I REALLY believe?" It is thrilling to think I am getting to a place in life when I might be able to answer...frightening too of course. Let's see,

** Boho,Retro,Comfy, Romantic**

I'll have to ask my girlfriends and let you know. 
In the mean time... share your FAB FOUR !