Friday, December 30, 2011

Finally Friday... celebrate smart


Celebrate safely.
Celebrate smart this weekend.  Be safe.  Have a designated driver or stay home.  Better yet... go to bed early and get to church on Sunday.  They say that what you do on New Year's Day is what you will be doing all year.  Be alive.  Be happy.  Be with the ones you love.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thursday Travels.... Poolewe, Scotland

     When I was (much much) younger, all I knew about Scotland was that the Bay City Rollers came from there.  Many years later ~ long after I had gotten over my teen lust for men in kilts and tartans (Well... I never outgrew the one for Sean Connery) ~ I went to visit my Mum and Sis in Poolewe, Scotland. 

     A portion of our trip was on a small commuter plane from Glasgow to Inverness that was entertaining to say the least... there was a group of drunken 'football' fans on the plane whose team had won and they sang team and school songs the entire flight.  Fortunately, the flight was just long enough for us to enjoy their celebration, but not so long that we became annoyed.  In Inverness we took a train to Gairloch where Mum met us at the station.  I hadn't seen her in twelve years and I felt like a child again.

     It was then that I truly fell in love with Scotland.   Water seemed to flow from the rocks, and while it was late October~early November it was bitter cold with no snow to show for it.  The hills were covered with a thick green grass, and rocks covered with moss.

     Sheep and the occasional cow freely roamed the small town on the northwest coast of Scotland.  It was a year before I stopped seeing bits of  sheep 'pebbles' on my shoes.

     There was just one radio station, three television stations and twice a year they all went down at the same time for 24 hours of maintenance.  There were no video rental stores, no movie theaters, and one or two pubs that closed at 10pm.

     Mum's house, just across a bridge on the outskirts of town, was within walking distance of the pub she ran.  Her electricity was paid for on a daily basis by putting coins in a machine in the back of the house.  She paid  enough most days to just keep the small refrigerator under the kitchen counter running, and maybe a few lights during the day.

      Almost all the roads were one lane... so if you rounded a curve on the hills and came face to face with a car going in the other direction, one of you would need to back up until there was room on the shoulder to pull over enough to let the other pass.  I think that I kept my eyes closed every time we took Mum's car somewhere.... okay, so some of those times I was sleeping because I never did get over my jet lag and hypothermia was setting in, but there were times when I was terrified because Mum drove like the devil was after us.

     We rode in the mail van to Gairloch (stopping to deliver mail along the way) where we caught the train into Inverness to stay a night in a bed and breakfast.  Another day we drove to Aviemore to spend a night with one of Mum's friends in a 100 year old croft house that had thick sod walls and roof.  It was the warmest I had been the entire trip, sleeping in a room heated by a tiny coal heater under piles of down comforters.  I didn't want to leave that bed.

     Now... remembering the beauty of the country, the friendliness of the locals, and the incredible history in every stone and building... I'd love to go back one day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Anonymous Encouragers...

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up."
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11 ~

     Mom sent me a Christmas box with lots of goodies in it... recipes... scented soap... some awesome cartoons to cheer me... and a newsletter called Blessings by Integrity Notes.

     The cover article was on Anonymous Encouragers and it was... well... encouraging!  There was also a quote in the newsletter that really hit home for me this past week.

"Things fall apart so that other things can fall together."
~ Anonymous ~

     I feel like I've been in the falling apart stage for so long that I don't know if all my pieces will fit together anymore.  But something happened recently at work which made me realize that maybe all the pieces aren't supposed to fit together again without a little help from my friends.

"I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!"
~ Psalm 27:13-14 ~

WeHeartIt


Sunday, December 25, 2011

A.D.D.

     I went to a new church this morning for Christmas Day services.  As always, it was right where I needed to be.

     Pastor Joe Rich spoke on "When God Messes Up Your Plans" and opened with "You can make many plans, but the Lord's purpose will prevail." ~ Proverbs 19:21

     He said that we often have Attention Deficit Disorder when God speaks to us because we've already made our plans, we've already decided what we want in life.  The truth, however, is that it is not God who is messing up OUR plans, it is US who messes up His plans for us.  God sees the bigger picture of what He wants for us.  We don't get in His way... we get in our way.

     "'I  know what I am planning for you,' says the Lord, 'I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you.  I will give you hope and a good future.'" ~ Jeremiah 29:11

     Even when we decide to change God's Plan A for us and go with Plan B... or C... or F... or P... God will always take our messes and turn them into good to fulfill His purpose for us.  That is His promise to us and it has always been His plan for us.

     When our lives become difficult, when we feel tired, worried, and scared... when we can't imagine that this is part of God's plans for us, we look for the easy way out... the Plan E.  As soon as we give up our faith and our trust in Him... that is when we mess up His plan for us.

     His plan is not for us to hurt, but for us to become stronger in Him.  To build our character, our values, our beliefs in something more than just material things and "instant gratification."

     He wants us to have a relationship with Him, not just a 'Simon Says' religion that you only play on Sundays and holidays.  He wants us to find the purpose that He has created us for, our talents and skills that will define who we are for Him.

     Our rewards when we do that are not things we can hold and experience now.  Our reward for our faith, love, and trust in Him is yet to be seen.

     "No one has ever seen, heard, or even imagined what wonderful things God has ready for those who love him."  ~ I Corinthians 2:9

     As the year comes to an end, whether it was good, bad or ugly, these three things remain truths that you can count on...
  1. No matter what you did or didn't do in 2011, God still has a personal plan for you and your life.  He still has faith in you, still loves you, still reaches out to you.
  2. He will never leave you.  He will never turn his back on you, slam the door in your face, or leave you stranded.  His love for you is everlasting.
  3. When you get to know God ~ when you have a personal one-to-one relationship with Him, when you seek Him out and open your heart to Him ~ when you discover the purpose He has for you and start living that purpose in your life.... you will be richer than your wildest dreams.  Because the real riches are not of gold or silver, big fancy houses, or cars that turn on at the sound of your voice... true wealth is the peace that you will find in yourself, in your heart, and in all of your relationships.
     Turn your A.D.D. into "A Daily Devotion" of your life to God.  Seek Him.  Find Him.  Know Him.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Dear Santa...

S. C.

     The year my father was in Vietnam was the year I first realized that there was no Santa Claus.  I do have to give Mom credit for trying to make the effort to keep my belief alive... but in the end it was what gave it away.

     Mom had cut boot prints out of white paper and left them on the floor from the fireplace to our bedroom doors where our stockings hung on the handles, and back and forth to the Christmas tree.

     On the gift tags for the presents Santa left under the tree, she had neatly printed "To Cindi, From S.C."

     The giveaway was that at the time, we lived in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Where there was no snow on the ground at Christmas.  So while the white paper boot prints were creative... they didn't quite fool my eleven year old mind.

     Santa's initials were the other giveaway.  They just happened to be the same as my Mom's.  S. C.  could have been Santa Claus but the handwriting looked just like Sib Clarke's.

     The Santa of my childhood disappeared that year, but I never stopped believing in the magic of Christmas.  It is more than just a time of year for getting ugly homemade sweaters, rock hard fruitcake, and perfume that makes the dog want to roll on you.

     The true meaning of Christmas is the gift we were given... a child born to save us from ourselves...

21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 
~ Matthew 1:21 ~

Friday, December 23, 2011

T.G.I.Friday...


Find someone to snuggle with and stay warm this weekend.





(photos found on WeHeartIt.com)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thursday travels... Mojave Desert

Photo by Tim Laman (National Geographic)
     Yucca brevifolia.

     That is the Latin name for the Joshua Tree, seen here in a photo from the Mojave Desert.  It is the only term I remember from my 'Natural History of the Antelope Valley' class that I took in the late 80's.  It stuck with me because it sounded like you were calling someone a name... much like the Robin Williams character did in his movie 'Hook' ~ "You two-toned zebra-headed, slime-coated, pimple-farmin' paramecium brain, munchin' on your own mucus, suffering from Peter Pan envy!"

     Later when I began reading the Harry Potter book series, it sounded like a spell being cast with a flick of the twig I used for a wand while reading to my nephews.  "Wingardium Leviosa!"

     When I first saw the Joshua Tree as I drove from LAX airport to Lancaster, California in September 1986, I thought it looked like some sort of alien tree.  It did nothing to reassure me that my move from Florida was going to be pleasant.  We crossed the San Andreas Fault that ran through the San Bernardino mountains.  It divides the Los Angeles valleys and West Coast, from Palmdale and the Antelope Valley High Desert.  All I could see was flat, brown, dry dust, tumbleweeds, and these ugly trees.

     Fourteen years later, in November 2000, I left the same way I had arrived... crossing the San Andreas Fault line without even looking back.  I had come to appreciate the diversity of the desert, the Joshua Tree, tumbleweeds, and the unique beauty of the Antelope Valley.

"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." 
~ Anaïs Nin ~

Lessons...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Advent...

Source
     It is the third Sunday of Advent and I love this easy to make calendar that I found online.  I had forgotten about the calendar similar to this that I bought in Germany several years ago.  It has numbered gold and white angels glued to the front of the clothespins that hang along a string. 

     I really like this idea of tiny gifts hanging from the pins!  What a sweet idea!  Tiny bags of candy, love notes, or mini ornaments to hang on the tree.

Source

     I remember as a child we had an advent wreath with candles that we would light each Sunday before Christmas.  I have one now,  but again, it is something put away in a box somewhere that I cannot find since we moved here a year ago.

     I'm looking forward to a time when there are no unpacked boxes ... and our home is filled with family for the holidays.  It has been far too long since I have spent Christmas with extended family in a home filled with laughter, love, and lights....

Thursday, December 15, 2011

You might be a redneck if...


... you use Tree Frogs for Christmas Lights...
      I just couldn't resist.  I found this picture on National Geographic:

August 17, 2009

Cuban Tree Frog, Florida

Photograph by James Snyder
This Month in Photo of the Day: Animals
This is a Cuban tree frog on a tree in my backyard in southern Florida. How and why he ate this light is a mystery. It should be noted that at the time I was taking this photo, I thought this frog was dead, having cooked himself from the inside. I'm happy to say I was wrong. After a few shots he adjusted his position. So after I was finished shooting him, I pulled the light out of his mouth and he was fine. Actually, I might be crazy but I don't think he was very happy when I took his light away.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What is your deepest wish?

     This morning's prompt from Jamie Ridler, while similar to one a few weeks ago about our greatest wish, made me think more deeply about both wishes.  Is there a difference between greatest and deepest wishes?  My greatest wish was for something global, something for others more than for myself.  So would my deepest wish be for something I truly wish for myself?  I find it difficult (still) to feel that I deserve good things.  It is easier for me to wish for (buy for, make for, think of) others than it is for myself.  That 'caretaker' personality quirk.

     What is my deepest wish for myself?

     I am on the edge of turning 50 ~ although my mother reminds me that I'm actually already in my 50th year... so I remind her she is in her 71st.  My health of late has been challenging from mistakes in the past (why couldn't I have worn more sunscreen?) and stress from worrying about financial constraints.  Book sales have slowed and I haven't had time to continue working on my next non-fiction book titled Rest Stops...On the Road to Something Better.

     But the truth is that in spite of the challenges in my life right now... I am happy.  I am content.  My needs are provided for.  True love finally found me.  My health issues could be worse than what they are.  We have a home that has water and power.  The car runs ~ rattles ~ but it gets us where we need to be.  I enjoy the friendship with my mother, and our renewed relationship.  While book sales are slow... they are still selling.  Maybe one day Trooper's Run or Eagle Visions will become a Lifetime Movie but if they simply continue to sell I am happy.  My dogs (my kids) are healthy and have finally overcome the insecurities from their previous abusers.

     My deepest wish for myself is that the next 50 years are as good, if not better, than my first 50 years.  That I become healthier, happier, and my needs continue to be provided for.  That my books continue to find eager readers, the car continues to rattle and we can maybe afford to get it fixed or get another.  That my friendship with my mother, and the rest of my family continues to grow.  That one day we might be able to buy a home on the water ~ whether beach, river, or lake ~ where we can enjoy watching the dogs run and dragonflies zip in the light of the setting sun.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Luke 13:13

"13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God."

     The healing touch of hands on us.  Too often we forget how much we need to feel the touch of another.  Whether it is a hug, a pat on the arm, or holding hands to comfort, touch is one of the strongest connections we have with one another.  It says so much at times when we have no words to offer.

     A study once claimed that you need at least eight hugs a day for optimum health, and eleven to grow.  Other studies have shown that being deprived of touch can significantly impact the emotional and psychological development of children, and the health of the elderly.

“Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”
~ Mother Teresa ~

     We may not have the power to make the blind see, or the crippled walk with our touch... but we can heal their hearts... heal their souls when we take the time to reach out and touch someone with a comforting hug, a hand held, or a gentle rub on their back that simply lets them know... you are there.  They are not alone.  None of us are ever alone...

29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone....” 
~ John 8:29 ~

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sleep in Saturday...

     I was out sick for three days of work this week.  Strep throat.  You'd think that after sleeping most of 48 hours over those three days I'd be wide awake.... Not!  At work yesterday I felt like I'd been hit by a truck and my brain was so fuzzy feeling that it took me several tries to remember all my passwords.  I should have asked my Secret Santa for chocolate covered coffee beans instead of peanut M&Ms.

     Needless to say, the weekend agenda will be following the example that the dogs set... sleeping late... taking naps... and going to bed early.  And because I have Monday off ... make that a three-day weekend to get well.

     It is amazing how a sore throat or sinus infection can make your entire body feel like it has been bulldozed.  Two days of fever requires almost a week of recuperating.  Unfortunately, the boss doesn't agree.

     One of these days, I'm going to have a job I can do from home, wearing my fuzzy pajamas, robe and slippers, curled up on the bed with the dogs snoring around me.  On days when I have web meetings, I can dress from the waist up and sit at my desk in my home office where I will look awake and the snore of my pug, Henry, won't be so easily picked up by the microphone.

     I think I shall begin practicing for that this weekend... a new book has been spinning around my brain and I need to get it out...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Finally Friday... holiday baking...

     I'm thinking of dusting off the Springerle roller that I bought on my Christmas trip in 2007 and cookie cutters this weekend.  It has been many years since I've dug out my grandmother's recipes for Lebkuchen, Pfeffernusse, and Springerle cookies.

Springerle

Lebkuchen

Pfeffernusse


     But I've found some pictures of cute sugar cookies that look like they would be more fun to make.

     I wish my step-daughter, nieces and nephews were closer.  We would have a blast making these!

     Christmas is about giving... sharing... believing... laughter... love... and sometimes finding it all in the warmth of a kitchen that smells like fresh baked cookies!


     I'm hungry!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What do you wish to be celebrating?

     Today's prompt from Jamie Ridler Studios comes with a "Happy Birthday to you!" wish.  It also falls on Pearl Harbor Day... which brings to mind so many things...

Source
     I wish to celebrate the end of wars, and the beginnings of peace.

     I wish to celebrate the lives of those lost, those found, and those alive.

     I wish to celebrate health, love, family, friends... and of course, my dogs.

     I wish to celebrate the bad as well as the good... because without those moments in life when things seem the darkest, I wouldn't recognize the moments that are the brightest.

     I wish to celebrate me... for surviving, thriving, and finally becoming someone I like, love, and respect.

     I wish to celebrate you... for all that you are to those in your life... for all that you are to you... and for all that you will be to those you haven't yet met... for surviving... thriving... and learning to like, love and respect yourself.

     I wish to celebrate life's moments... good and bad.

We never walk alone...

Source


10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
~ Ecclesiastes 4:10-12 ~

       When I first read this passage, I thought about all the difficult times in my life when I hit bottom so hard that it made my nose bleed.  I thought of those who had helped to lift me up, keep me warm, and defend me.  I realized that while some of those people came and went in my life, there has always been that third strand of cord that has been a constant.

     God has always been with me.  He has carried me when I thought I was walking alone, and when I was one of two... He was the cord that kept us tied together.

     It has never been God who has left us on the ground, alone, cold, and defenseless.  He is always with us, whether we believe or not.  He holds out His hand to lift us out of our despair, He wraps His arms around us to keep us warm, and it was His love for us that sent us His son to defend us against the evil that would have destroyed us.

     We are the ones who occasionally turn our backs on him, leaving His word on the ground, ignoring His outstretched hand, throwing back a cold shoulder, and leaving the armor His sacrifice made for us behind.  We are the arrogant ones who think we don't need Him, that we can walk alone through all that Satan throws at us.  We become self-righteous and indignant when someone tries to share their faith with us.  We shout out in anger at Him, "Why me?" and He waits silently and patiently until we realize... why not me?

     His love for us is always there, unconditional, patient, faithful, and forgiving.  All He ever asks of us is that we believe in Him as much as He believes in us.  That we reach up when we are down, and that we lift up those around us in His name.  That we wrap His warm assurance around us, and that we share that warmth with others in His name.  That we wear His armor, defend His name, and protect in prayer others in His name.

     He is the third strand that makes us whole, whether we are alone, or with another.  He is The One who does not break, The One who fixes us when we are broken.

     He is.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A slip of the tongue...

     The other day I overheard someone say "I appreciate you," when a short order cook in the little dining hall at work brought out his burger.

     "I appreciate you."  Not "I appreciate it," but "I appreciate you."

     It made me think about what a difference changing that one little word can mean to someone.  All too often we take for granted those in the service industry.  Waiters, waitresses, cooks, bartenders, janitorial services... those seemingly invisible people whose job it is to take care of our needs.  Sure, we might tip well at a restaurant if the service had been over the top excellent... or not tip at all if it had been bad.  But tips are sometimes just what goes with the job.

     Appreciation, however, is something personal.  Individual.  Direct.  Not something that might have to be shared with the cooks, bartenders or other wait staff.

     One little word that might change someones outlook.  One little word that might change someones attitude. 

     Try it out for size this month when all the hustle, bustle and commercialism of the season often wears on people.  Crowds are larger, weather harder, and everyone in a service job is overworked, overstressed, and under appreciated.

"The deepest principal in human nature, is the craving to be appreciated."
~ William James ~

"Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom"
~ Theodore Isaac Rubin ~

"I appreciate you."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Keeping an eye out for you...

     It was seven years ago today that I had my first of many eye surgeries to repair a retinal tear in my right eye.  I thought it would be a good time for an 'informational' post since often issues with our eyes happen so gradually that we don't realize we are having issues until it is too late.


Image source
      Cataracts... glaucoma... macular degeneration... retinal tears... the list goes on.  A web site I found for Eye Health and Blindness News provides a great resource for current information on how to care for your eyes. 

     I also can't stress enough the importance of yearly eye exams, even if you don't need or wear glasses or contact lenses.

     Certain medicines can have side effects that affect your eyes.  Prednisone can cause cataracts in some people (like me) and changes in your vision.

     If you are extremely nearsighted (again like me) you may be at a higher risk for a retinal tear.  I had been told to watch for the symptoms since I was a child.  When I saw the flashes of light (thought someone was playing with the lights in the hall at first) and the black dots (I thought they were ants on my desk), I knew to call the eye doctor for an emergency visit.

     While my surgeries to repair the tear went well, I believe that because I delayed being seen by a retina specialist ~ going instead to the emergency room at the hospital when 50% of my vision disappeared ~ I lost vision in my eye that never returned.

     Close your right eye for a few minutes at different times of the day or night and while doing different tasks (please not while driving!).  Welcome to my world.

     Your eyes are a precious gift... take care of them.

22 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
 23 Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” 
~ Luke 10:22-24 ~

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thursday travels... Christmas in Germany


Heidelberg, Germany

      Castles are magical, whether they are in Germany, Scotland, or Disneyland.

     Christmas 2007 I took my first boat cruise on the Rhine River.  It had been a rough year with the death of my father, and my divorce the previous year.  The last thing I wanted to do was spend Christmas alone at home.

     So off I flew to Germany, where Christmas was spent with 49 other passengers on our small boat.  The only snow we had on the cruise was in Heidelberg.  But the trip was healing.  Reliving memories of some of the places I had visited as a child, especially a trip to the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz where I was able to purchase the smallest bible in the world... a souvenir that I once had, but had lost over the years after we returned.

     One of my favorite childhood Christmas memories of Germany was Saint Nicholas' Eve (Dec. 5) ... when we would put our shoes outside our bedroom door to be filled with candy and toys if we'd been good... or coal and switches if we'd been bad.  Over the years it became the time when we would also find our annual Christmas tree decoration.

     Christmas has always been my favorite time of year, filled with magic and love.  A time when we rejoice in the 'reason for the season' and delight in the angels that appear... those that visit us, and those we become for others.

     Find your magic this Christmas...