Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Of Mistletoe and Men: A Weekly Giggle

Last night, I did some Christmas decorating. Not much, just a little. The family is campaigning for a real tree, while I'm pretty certain that cleaning up an endless supply of evergreen needles would turn me into a grumpy old man named Ebenezer who walks around muttering bah, humbug all day.

We love the experience of going to the tree farm, riding a tractor trailer with bales of hay for seats, selecting and chopping down a tree, and hauling it to the nice people who shake and wrap it for transport. While they do that dirty work, we go visit THE BEST SANTA IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD, get hot cocoa or cider, pay for our tree, watch a model train go round and round, and visit a few of Santa's reindeer. When we're finished, so are the nice people who shake and wrap trees, and who then tie our selection to the top of my car.

Who would not want this experience every December? In fact, I think I just talked myself into it.

Or not.

Oy, the needles!

Anyway, last night I hung a ball of artificial mistletoe over the kitchen entry from the back hall. My hope is that it adds some color to our otherwise colorless kitchen and draws attention to the fact that we have extra-tall cabinets to match our 9' ceiling.

Hanging the mistletoe had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that I love kissing my husband under the mistletoe every bit as much as sipping cider while watching THE BEST SANTA IN THE WHOLE WORLD take my children on his knees and treat them like his bestest friends for life.

Nothing whatsoever.

So when George noticed the mistletoe after dinner and called me over to it, I dashed into his arms. I was expecting a chaste kiss in front of the kids, but no, my romantic hubby wanted a real kiss and came at me with clear expectation of that.

I squealed "ewwwww!" and turned away.

Our firstborn fell apart laughing. "You got owned," he told his father through his guffaws. I began giggling uncontrollably because my ewwww was completely misinterpreted, and that was just so gosh darn funny.

Poor George. You see, I had just eaten a Pepperidge Farm Orange Milano cookie. Bits of it were still floating around in my mouth, and all I could think was what an icky surprise awaited my dear husband when he French kissed me at that particular moment.

See. Ewwwwww!!!

I'm still chortling this morning because it brought back memories of another episode of uncontrollable laughter. Back in our Boise days, before Nick was born and when my boobs were still perky and my waist was still tiny and my butt was still firm and my hair was still dark brown, George and I went for our regular walk around the ball fields in our neighborhood. We were discussing men and women and infidelity, and I saw the perfect opportunity to fish for a compliment.

I said, "Well, I can't imagine any man other than you wanting me."

He replied, "Susan, men really aren't that picky."


After a brief, Arctic silence, he realized what he had said and started back-pedalling. "That's NOT what I meant! I'm sorry!" etcetera. While my first instinct was to milk the moment for what it was worth, I ended up dissolving into helpless giggles.

And that's why we've been married 25 years: because we can stop laughing.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gratitude Journal #114

Today, I am grateful that Daisy's last post-op check went very well. She's recovering superbly from her knee surgery, but when Dr. David came in to examine her, she wriggled enthusiastically, whined, and tried to burrow into his crotch. He looked at me and said, "Oh, yeah, now I remember. She's 'special.'" His wife bred Daisy, so it's all her fault.

Our "Special" Furry Girl Looking Slightly Demonic

Today, I am grateful for a full and exciting November:

Jack had his 3rd Grade Music Performance, which included audience-participation line dancing.

Happy to Teach Us the Dance

Big Bro, Not So Happy

Nick celebrated his birthday, with dinner at P.F. Chang's, Lego castle-building with his dad, and a day at the Columbus Zoo.

P.F. Chang's
Lego Castle Building

My 45th birthday came and went. I don't like odd numbers, but this one wasn't so bad, even if there was entirely too much cleaning going on. I am super grateful for friends and family who sent me cards and emails and phone messages and packages for my birthday. And I am grateful to my husband for grilling me the best ribeye steak I've eaten in years. YEARS, people.

Picture by Jack

Today, I am grateful that the house is fully ready to show. Now, we just need to keep it clean.

Today, I am grateful for the Thanksgiving break and for today's return to what passes for routine in our lives.

What are you grateful for today?

Thinking about Decor

To decorate or not to decorate? That is the question. My house is staged and ready to show. Everything is as perfect as I can make it...excessively clean and orderly. What buyer wouldn't jump at the chance to live here?

Problem is, the staged house is exceedingly difficult to live in and maintain. Exhausting, really. And now that I've got it where I want it, I question the rightness of holiday decorations.

Wait, wait!!!!

I think there's a pin on Pinterest to cover this very issue!!!!!!!!

Sadly, I pinned this because it's an ideal I can never hope to attain. Telling me not to think too much is like telling Daisy not to eat dish towels. Not. Gonna. Happen.

I didn't ask the staging folks about Christmas decorations, and I am scared of messing up their good work in cluttering the place with Christmas paraphernalia.

This situation feels oddly familiar. When we were selling our house in Rapid City, I used a very light touch with Christmas decor. That's when I bought my little 6.5' slim fake tree. Keeping up with needles from a real tree seemed deeply impractical under the circumstances, and our living/dining room already looked small, with low ceilings. That artificial tree was beautiful, though.

Unfortunately, our current house has really high ceilings (9' in the library and dining room, 18' in the family room). If I understand rightly what the staging folks said, a 6.5' tree will look silly. But no way in hades am I cleaning up after a real tree, nor will I spend hundreds of dollars on a bigger artificial tree.

Add to this the fact that unpacking Christmas decorations is a messy business, and time-consuming. As a result, I was feeling very Scrooge-ish when it comes to holiday decorating. Bah, humbug.

My thoughts, however, can't stay off the subject decorating the new house. What will I do with window treatments? How will we decorate the bathrooms? What sort of rugs do we need for the living and dining areas? Where will my great-grandparents' antique bedroom set go...Nick's room or the craft room? What art will I put on the walls?

The new house is a blank slate of possibilities. I can't wait!!

Since I simply must wait until someone buys this house, it's time to get to work decorating for Christmas, no matter how Scrooge-ish I feel about it. Here's my thinking on the subject which all stems from the belief summed up in another pin from Pinterest.

1. This time of year, people will expect Christmas decor. I don't want potential buyers thinking we're a house full of Scrooges.

2. Several things the staging company said seem to apply to Christmas decor as well. First, put interesting stuff in sight-lines to draw people into rooms. Second, highlight the main features of rooms...the mantel in the family room, the island in the kitchen, the bay window in the breakfast room, the reading nook in the master bath. Third, use color to draw the eye. Fourth, don't use accessories that are smaller than basketballs.

3. We can't put a fence around our tree like last year to protect it from Daisy, the Goat-in-Retriever-Fur. A fence would not only look stupid but would draw attention to the fact that we have a dog...not a great selling point. What to do about this problem? Hmmmm. Need to think about this some more but feel certain a gallon of bitter apply may solve this dilemma nicely.

4. This is my favorite time of year because it marks the celebration of the greatest gift ever given. The commercialism and excess rampant at this time of year detracts from the joy for me, but lights, evergreens, ornaments, ribbon, and nativity sets definitely enhance the joy. Since I want and need the joy, some sort of decorating is about to happen.

No matter what the staging company says.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Things I Do Not Understand

Why bad things always come in threes. George had his front bumper damaged by a flying tire tread on the interstate. My car required hundreds of dollars of repairs. WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT????

How children keep coming up with funny stuff all the time without even trying. For instance, Nick, who is twelve, was talking about a girl whom he likes. Jack, who is nine, asked, “Is she smokin’ hot?”

Why certain things in life are so stupidly complicated. I’m thinking of filing tax forms, buying and selling homes, choosing bread at the grocery store, sorting socks, and renewing Norton Antivirus in a household with multiple computers.

Quantum mechanics and string theory.

Why chocolate makes me feel good and fat at the same time.

How a person cannot like cheese. I mean, I get not liking fennel or blood sausage or star anise. But cheese?

Why on Halloween we hand out two giant bowls of candy and my children bring home two giant bowls of candy. At what point does this make sense?

Horror movies. And zombies.

Why every issue of National Geographic doesn’t contain an article on the Middle Ages. This month’s article on the Anglo Saxon treasure hoard found in a farmer’s field is wonderful and made me want to read Beowulf again.

Why I stay up extra late when George is out of town even though I KNOW I will deeply regret it the next morning at 6:00 AM when I have to wake up my son to get him on the bus.

Why my dog eats twist ties. And rocks.

Why any human being would possibly find a pair of bright red fake testicles to be an appropriate thing to hang from a truck’s trailer hitch. I saw a pair on a truck in the Walmart parking lot, and honestly, why?

How I can watch a movie about Anne Boleyn and be horrified when she gets decapitated at the end. Duh.

What, if anything, is going on in my dog’s head.

How my children can completely ignore me until I get on the phone or need to get something done, and once they have completely sabotaged my activity, they suddenly no longer need or want me at all.

Fart jokes.

Why my dog ate a bar of Dove soap and then spent the next day (Thanksgiving, ironically enough) barfing up pleasant-smelling barf.

Casual sex. (This one will get me some interesting hits on Google searches!)

What sorts of things do you not understand?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Weekly Giggle: Bulbs and Balls

First, a personal update about bulbs.

The for-sale sign went up yesterday. George finds this deeply weird, which strikes me as weird seeing that the whole move-to-a-new-house idea was his. But that sign signals for me a slow-down in the break-neck cleaning pace. I'm taking a few hours today to make something in my craft room.

Because I can.

Yesterday was my birthday. To celebrate, I attempted to change a blown bulb on our 19-foot ceiling with the 11-foot extendable bulb changer I purchased at Lowe's for the occasion. I climbed our step ladder, seated the attachment around the floodlight bulb, and started turning. To my horror, the entire light fixture came out of the ceiling.

"But it's my BIRTHDAY!!!" I wailed. "Things like this are NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN!!!!!!"

But they always do. To me.

Of course I couldn't detatch the bulb changer from the light without getting my own two little hands up to the ceiling, so I propped the bulb changer on a convenient window ledge, climbed down the step ladder, and dragged in the 18-foot extension ladder from the garage.

I believe we call this "bringing out the big guns."

I climbed the ladder very carefully and prayerfully ("Please, God, don't let me die on my birthday") and removed the bulb changer from the bulb. I dropped the whole dang thing to the floor, hoping it would break and I could revel in its demise, but sadly, it didn't so I'm going to try to return it to Lowe's today.

Then, I removed the dead bulb, carried it carefully and prayerfully down the ladder, got a new bulb, went back up the ladder, installed the working bulb, and seated the fixture back into the ceiling. I came carefully and prayerfully ("Thank you, God, for not letting me plunge to my death off this stupid ladder") down the ladder.

I held my breath as I turned on the light, but it worked.  It actually worked.

And now I feel like a hero. The Hero of the Bulbs.

Second, a link to a story about balls.

I've frequently linked to Lowering the Bar on the Weekly Giggle because, well, it's an hysterically funny blog. The most recent post is no exception. Enjoy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Stephen Ministry Information

I've had several requests for more information about Stephen Ministry, so here are some main points.

1. Stephen Ministry is a world-wide, confidential caring ministry based in St. Louis, MO. It is inter-denominational. Their website is HERE.

2. It offers extensive, extremely high-quality training to those who want to provide Christ-centered care for people who are hurting. Stephen Ministers receive 50 hours of training from Stephen Leaders within their congregation who have gone through intensive training themselves. Once commissioned, Stephen Ministers have ongoing training throughout their service in the form of twice-monthly continuing-education meetings. There is no online training, though online support is available to those who are already trained and commissioned.

Stephen Ministers are not counsellors, nor do they offer advice. They are trained to listen and support people during times of pain. When that pain becomes excessive and professional counseling or medical care is required, Stephen Ministers can only serve a person with the permission of a doctor, psychiatrist, or other professional counsellor who is caring for them. Stephen Ministry training covers ways to help those who are having trouble bearing the "ordinary" suffering of life, and we are not trained to serve those suffering addiction, those in prison, or those suffering serious mental illness.

3. Stephen Ministry is NOT a preaching ministry, nor do Stephen Ministers promote particular points of doctrine. Stephen Ministers do NOT bang people over the head with the Bible. Care receivers need not be Christians to receive Stephen Ministry care, and it is the care receivers who establish what level of discussion--if any--about the Bible and God and faith takes place in the caring relationship. Stephen Ministers, however, spend a great deal of time in private prayer and Bible study as they care for others. The care receiver may not feel a connection to Christ, but the Stephen Minister can't imagine caring without that strong faith that Christ is the healer.

4. Stephen Ministers are not trained and then cut loose to work on their own. Peer supervision gives them the support they need to care for others whose pain may at times feel overwhelming. During peer supervision, which takes place twice a month at the same meetings as continuing education, Stephen Ministers share non-identifying details of their care receivers' situations and ask for advice and help on how to provide the best care possible. If the peer supervision group sees areas of concern (say, the Stephen Minister is over-identifying with the care receiver), they will offer guidance and support to keep the Stephen Minister on track. Peer supervision also helps Stephen Ministers make referrals to professional services (social services, professional counselling, medical care, etc.) when needed.

5. Stephen Ministry is confidential, and this sometimes unfortunately makes Stephen Ministry feel like a secret society within congregations. Stephen Ministers do not discuss their care receivers outside of peer supervision, and even in peer supervision, names are not used and identifying details are not shared.

Care receivers, however, are free to discuss their Stephen Ministers as they wish. Some will introduce their Stephen Ministers to their friends; some will avoid their Stephen Ministers in public because their pain is deeply personal and they need that care to remain confidential. In some cases, care receivers share things with Stephen Ministers that they have never shared with anyone else. To do this, they need to trust their Stephen Ministers completely.

6. Going through Stephen Ministry training will change your life. It will help you help others who are in pain, and empower you with the confidence to lean on God as you touch others you encounter in daily life who are suffering unbearable pain. I recently had to call a friend whose adult daughter died in a horrible car accident. For the first time in making such a call, I felt God's guidance and no fear or anxiety that I would say the "wrong" thing. I felt only sorrow and compassion for this wonderful woman going through this horrible loss.

Stephen Ministry training got me to this point by giving me the tools to speak the truth in love, to listen with prayer and compassion, and to take my cues from the person suffering. When we are no longer self-conscious and worried about what to say or do (which throws our attention to ourselves and not others), we can truly listen and care for others. Christ is in charge, and we're just here to help Him show His love for His children, because as He told the disciples at the Last Supper, "I give unto you a new commandment, to love one another as I have loved you."

There are many ways to love as Jesus did. Stephen Ministry is just one calling among many. If you feel that call, I encourage you to answer it. If you need a Stephen Minister, please call your local churches to locate a Ministry in your area.

I'll be happy to answer questions about Stephen Ministry in the comments.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gratitude Journal #113

Today, I am grateful for the progress we made this weekend toward getting our house on the market.

Today, I am grateful for the United States Postal Service.

Today, I am grateful for the marketing design company that's coming tomorrow to offer up suggestions for furniture placement and simple improvements to (hopefully) make our house more appealing to buyers.

Today, I am grateful that Jack's ritalin is working so very well with no side effects.

What are you grateful for today?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Where Has My Mind Gone?

In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry discovers Dumbledore's pensieve, a device that allows the headmaster to siphon off thoughts and look at them outside his brain. He tells Harry that it's useful when he has too many thoughts.

I want a pensieve.

My head is so crammed with thoughts that my memory circuits and gross motor coordination are suffering burnout. I remember, years ago, a virtual stranger telling me to be extra careful as I prepared our second house for sale. She said that stressed and busy people are so preoccupied with their thoughts they forget important things and get careless with their bodies. She recommended lists and staying centered in my body as I worked.

Before I started my Crazy Cleaning Witch frenzy on Monday, I reminded myself of this woman's sage advice and then promptly did the following:

1. I found the kids' Halloween cards in a box in the craft room. Forgot to give them on Halloween as planned.

2. I forgot an entire conversation about financials George claims we had. Suspect he had the conversation with his imaginary wife Bambi, who runs marathons, and has red hair without a lick of gray and large ta-tas. I hate her.

3. I forgot Jack had fed Daisy and thus committed the grievous mommy crime of entering a child's bedroom after he's supposed to be asleep. Remembered just as his eager and very awake face lit up that yes, he did indeed feed Daisy that afternoon.

4. I dropped a small bookshelf on my toe. No damage done, but as I had told myself "Don't drop this bookshelf on your toe" before I picked it up in the first place, I felt pretty stupid.

5. I have a bruise on my thigh. No idea where it came from.

6. I scraped a knuckle and cut a finger and didn't notice either until sticky blood caught my attention.

7. I decided to wait until Friday to move heavy stuff to the basement so George, who has Friday off, could help. Wait. That's actually sane and sensible.

This morning, George came downstairs and asked, "Do you remember telling me you sewed the button back on my brown pants?"

"Sure," I said.

He laughed. "Well, you didn't."

I clearly remember sewing that darn button on months ago. My brain is now telling me I've accomplished things I haven't in an effort to whittle the to do list down to something manageable, which is a clear indication that I need professional help. Pretty soon, when my house is ready to go on the market and I win my gold medal for "Best Staged House of 2011" Award, I'm going to find a psychiatrist and demand valium with a whiskey chaser and sleep for a week.

Maybe my mind will come back to me.

I think I'm going to need it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cleaning Device Makes Woman Giggle with Glee

Wow, y'all have dirty minds.

Anyway, I used my carpet cleaner for the first time today, and I am giggling with glee. I feel the power of suction and the joy of pouring out nasty dirty water in a corner of my yard. Whoever said you can't buy happiness never bought a Bissell ProHeat 2x Multi Surface Pet Steam Cleaner.

This floor was gross. Now it's not. Sadly, the Bissell ProHeat didn't fix the small hole that Daisy nibbled into the carpet, so it's no miracle machine. But I'm very satisfied with the job it said it would do: easily steam clean carpet.

Truth in advertising should be applauded, don't you think? 

For tomorrow, I'm going to clean more carpet, tote more bins to the basement, generally give myself sore muscles, and deeply regret not asking Bissell to pay me for this endorsement.

Gratitude Journal #112: My Mantra for the Next Two Weeks

Today, I am grateful for this picture I pinned on Pinterest. It's the new wallpaper on my computer.


I have two questions for you.

1. Speaking of coffee...our last batch of Coffees of Hawaii Maululani Estate is disappearing in record time, and with all our expenses over the next few months (new fridge, anyone?), I need a, ahem, less expensive brew. Any recommendations for a good medium roast that won't break the bank?

2. Speaking of fridges...in the new house, the dishwasher and microwave are stainless steel with black accents. We have to buy a refrigerator but are hesitant to buy stainless because we've heard such nightmares regarding keeping it clean. Black would look fine in the kitchen as all the accents (cabinet knobs and trim) and cooktop will be black. Any experience with either? Also, we're thinking freezer-on-bottom. We definitely don't want side-by-side, but we've never had a freezer on bottom. Can anyone tell us about pros and cons of that?

Thanks for your help!

Today, I am grateful for my awesome readers who are so encouraging in this new adventure. Your prayers are very appreciated!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Where Do I Start?

The past month has been unbelievably stressful for me. George decided that we needed to look into buying a new house. He had lots of very good reasons for this, but OH MY GOSH YOU WANT TO DO WHAT?!?!?!?!

You see, I truly hate making big financial decisions. Even worse, the thought of putting our current home on the market for sale--with all the back-breaking work of cleaning, purging, and staging a home--makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and suck my thumb.

I'm not exaggerating.

And then George took me here:

My Dream House: A Ranch with a Finished Walk-Out Basement

While the stress remains, I certainly was hit with a full-blown case of IWANTTHATNOW!

Let me show you a few of the highlights.

Three garage stalls, large concrete area for basketball

Back yard

Kitchen from breakfast room

View from breakfast room to family room and front door

View from dining room

Basement walk-out

Huge recreation room...ping pong table, here we come!

Basement wet bar

Breakfast nook

Garage with cute little boy

We signed a bunch of papers yesterday, and although the deal isn't completely done since we have to sell our house, we feel pretty good about this move. The new home is just about ten minutes from our current home and is in the same school district. I will have to transport Jack to keep him in the same elementary building for the next two school years, but that's fine with me.

I'm not sure how much I'll be able to post on my blogs until the sign is in the yard, which shouldn't take more than two weeks. Please pray for me as I am now fully into Cleaning Witch Mode to get our house ready to sell. Sometimes it's really useful being an*al-retentive, obsessive compulsive, and this is one of those times.

Perhaps I should ask you to pray for George and the kids. They'll be living with me!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Words, Words, Words: A Triple Dose of Things to Think About

First Dose

Last night, at our Stephen Ministry meeting, Stephanie shared a story about what happened after her mom told her children, "When you help people, good things happen to you."  What a great life lesson to learn from your grandma.

Stephanie encouraged her two boys to donate some of their Halloween candy to be sent to the troops in Afghanistan, and they gave so much candy it had to be weighed in two separate piles because the scale wasn't big enough for all of it. The collection group paid for donated candy, but the boys agreed with Stephanie that the group should keep the money and use it to help with the cost of shipping the candy overseas.

A few days later, Stephanie was notified that one of her boys had won an MP4 in a drawing held by the group. Stephanie reminded the boys of what their grandmother had told them. Lesson learned.

When you help people, good things happen to you. You won't always win a cool electronic device, of course, but still. It's sorta worth the effort for a chance, isn't it?

Second Dose

This morning, when I logged onto Happy News, I found this quotation:

"Just as a cautious businessman avoids investing all his capital in one concern, so wisdom would probably admonish us also not to anticipate all our happiness from one quarter alone." Sigmund Freud

A succinct corrolary to Freud's wordy observation is "Expectation is the mother of disappointment." When we expect too much happiness from one part of our lives (a person, a career, marriage, parenthood, material items), that one part is destined to disappoint us. Life is far too rich and diverse and ever-changing to allow for this sort of narrow anticipation.

Plus, when we suffer the extreme disappointment that follows extreme expectation, we might grow bitter and angry. I have known several people whose bitterness and anger made me wonder what sort of disappointment they had suffered, what kind of happiness they had anticipated and failed to receive.

Do not become like these bitter, angry people. Open yourself to life and its diverse sources of happiness, whatever direction they come from.

And that ties in nicely with the third dose of words for the day.
Third Dose

I had to share something from Pinterest because I must pretend I get something meaningful and valuable from the hours I spend scrolling through pictures there. This week's pin of interest may be a bit edgy, but I think the attitude expressed here has a lesson for me, a lesson about not worrying and not stressing and just grabbing the good in life and hanging on for an exciting ride. Maybe you need this lesson, too.

Go forth and Carpe!

Please share some time in your life when you experienced the personal benefits of helping people, or when you carped the hell out of a diem.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Weekly Giggle: Career Clusters

Nick, who is almost 12, filled out a Career Cluster questionnaire at school. Here's part of his response:

You rock, my young Jedi.

You need to learn when the truth is probably not the best answer.