Dec 28, 2008

can't... seem... to... blog...

Hello one and all. I trust your Christmas was filled with love and laughter and peace and joy.

We had Christmas in our family, too. Why haven't I written about it?


a) My brain is so fried every December by the time Christmas rolls around, all I can do is sit, stare, and drool. (December is nuts in my office, what with all the peeps wanting to have surgery whilst they are on vacation from work or school and while deductibles are met, yielding the highest insurance benefits of the year.)

b) My dear husband got this flu bug thing that landed him in bed on Christmas Day.

c) My dear husband shared his flu bug thing with me, and I'm now buying stock in Tylenol Multi-Symptom cold products.

d) my attention has been mostly focused on my new little toy. Oh, I've had it since just before Thanksgiving, but that isn't nearly enough time to learn all about it and explore the various apps one could download.

e) I have developed an addiction to playing Demon Solitaire on my new toy. Or WordWarp. Or Wurdle. Or Pyramid Lite. Or Bejeweled. Or any other mindless yet stimulating game.

Let me know how YOUR holiday was. I promise I'll write about ours soon.

Well, if I can break away from... playing... with... the...

Dec 14, 2008


Tonight my family went to see Gloria! at our church. Can I just say... A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

We enjoyed EVERY second of it. We had awesome seats (what a story there!), and couldn't have asked for better ones. I took a few pictures with my iPhone.

Me-Again and her family came.

Dad and Mom came with us, too.

The 500+ voice choir and full orchestra rocked the house.

This year, there was a special guest. We had an up-close-and-personal view of him. We sat, um, pretty close.

Those feet? They belong to Daniel, my nephew who sat next to me. That round black and white thing a few feet away? The satellite stage where The Guest played the piano and sang and entertained.
Yeah. We were close.

And here he is at the piano, literally a few feet away. John Tesh.

He sang "It Wouldn't Be Christmas Without You," a song he wrote for his wife, Connie Selleca, to whom he has been married 17 years.
See that red streamer at the edge of the stage? At the end of the very first choir number, all these shiny streamers in different colors fell from the ceiling into the crowd. One landed right at the edge of the stage.
As soon as he finished the number he was playing, he came around and stood in front of the piano. He leaned down and picked up the streamer and then held it out to me saying, "Oh, a streamer fell. Ma'am, is this yours?" "Why, yes. Yes it is," I answered with cameras rolling all around. (DVD available on the church's web site in about four weeks!) My brush with greatness as David Letterman would say.

Next, John (we're on a first name basis now) called a seven-year-old little girl named Carly from the audience to help introduce his band. So cute!

He read his very own 2008 version of "Twas the Night Before Christmas." It was humorous and poignant. So what that his face is all washed out by the bright lights in this picture. HE WAS RIGHT. IN. FRONT. OF. ME.

His three instrumentalists and one vocalist (well, technically one person was an instrumentalist AND a vocalist) did a few numbers right there at our feet.

At the end of his final segment, he challenged the congregation to employ their gifts to help others and recognize our own personal ministries. He was great, and his love for the Lord was evident.

What a night. What a great night. It was...


Dec 12, 2008

The Mantel

When I was growing up, I always loved to visit my grandparents' homes. They were always full of wonder and interesting and different things than were seen around our house.

My dad was raised by his grandparents. They were the sweetest people. Most knew them as Stewart and Eugenia (or "Eugie" for short). I knew them as Nana and Gimpa. (Yes, Me-Again, I know. If I said "Stewart and Eugenia," I should've said "Gimpa and Nana," putting both references to them in the same gender order. But we didn't call them "Gimpa and Nana;" we called them "Nana and Gimpa." Deal with it. Love you.)


They lived in this big ten room house at 1829 Belleville that they purchased in 1926. (Picture taken in 2007. Still looks good!)They raised my dad in it and still lived there by the time Me-Again and I came along. We loved to explore the attic (the two small paned and gabled windows at the top) and wander through Nana's pantry to see what goodies might be awaiting us if she hadn't just made a fresh batch of her famous custard. Oh, how I'd love to have some of that custard now!

Visiting Nana and Gimpa and PawDad (my dad's dad who lived with them in his later years) was especially fun at Christmastime. Everything sparkled and was so lovely... a fantasy land for a little girl. In Nana's huge dining room, there was a table in front of the tall window that held the most wonderful ice skating scene made with a mirror, rolls of white cotton and darling plastic "skating snowmen" whose knapsacks held real lollipops that good little girls were allowed to sample. It even had little green pine trees that stood in the snowy cotton to complete the outdoor scene.

Perhaps our favorite thing in the house was The Mantel. Its crowning glory was the nativity scene she placed in the center. Nana bought in 1908 for PawDad's first Christmas. Every year she put it up with care, and she even wrote out directions for placement of each figure in case someone else had to put everything up in her absence. They included such details as placing the camel with the broken nose facing a certain direction "as if he was wandering off" so the broken part didn't show so much. Dad still has those written instructions.

Eventually Nana gave Daddy that nativity and Santa's sleigh with white plastic reindeer that went on one end of the very long mantel. (The other end had a gorgeous white church with a rotating color wheel in front of it. We loved watching the colors change. I'm sure one of Dad's cousins has the church now.) The nativity has been displayed on the mantel at Mom and Dad's house all these years since, and this year, it is 100 years old. One hundred years old. A century has passed since these small figures where purchased by a loving mother for her firstborn. I didn't realize it until just recently, but that mantel manger scene was part of the faith legacy of my family that was being passed on to me, even before I was born.

Check out these pictures.
PawDad (my grandfather) is in the center, and Gimpa (my great-grandfather) is on the far right. The nativity is behind them.
Taken the same year, this picture cracks me up. So serious! I always remember Nana as jolly and happy and one who loved to laugh. Front row starting at left is my great aunt Ida Belle (PawDad's sister), my Nana who is holding Baby Gail (Ida Belle's daughter), and that cute little guy on the end is my dad at age ten. The back row left to right is my great uncle Stewart (PawDad and Ida Belle's brother), my PawDad, and my Gimpa. Again the nativity is behind them.

This picture was taken when my mom and dad had been married for just six months. Still newlyweds! Left to right, my Nana, Uncle Stewart, Uncle Buck (Ida Belle's husband), my PawDad, Aunt Ida Belle, my dad (seated on the arm of the chair), and my oh-so-serious mom. The little girl in front is one of my dad's cousins, but I'm not sure which one.

Here's the nativity as it looks at Mom and Dad's house in 2008. Dad put the reading lamp in front of it for photo lighting.

Here's Santa's sleigh with the reindeer. Never mind that the reindeer:
a) are of different species and sizes.
b) are 30 times larger than Santa himself.
c) have beady little red eyes.
Obviously Nana used her imagination in combining reindeer and Santa sleigh pieces she came across over the years. It makes me smile just to think about her and the many funny things like that she did over the years.

I'm glad this nativity came to reside with us. Nana died after we'd moved from Virginia to Texas. I was in my early teens. Gimpa and PawDad had both passed on by then, and I never went in that beautiful old house again. I hope the people who live in it now can somehow feel the warmth and love we always felt inside its walls.

Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas, you beautiful old nativity scene!

Dec 5, 2008

I Am Second

Have you seen it?

Have you heard about it?

It's time you did.

"I Am Second."

I've had the immense privilege of being in the audience to hear Josh Hamilton speak. Chris Plekenpol was the key note speaker at a fund raiser I attended last year. Rick Briscoe is the pastor of the church where Studly Man was formerly a member. I have first hand knowledge of how real Stephen Baldwin is because of how he and his wife partnered in ministry with and ministered to friends of ours whose toddler son was dying of cancer. Jason Castro (no relation!) is known in these parts to be a talented young singer from American Idol AND a man who loves God. Tony Evans is one of my all time favorite pastors and teachers, and he is a frequent guest at my church. Rod Bayron has been with our team into juvenile prisons.

They are second.

Are you?

Nov 26, 2008

I'm Thankful

I'm thankful that God loved me SO much He sent His only Son to die in my place. Grace so undeserved.

I'm thankful to live in a country where I'm still free to worship and live my life as a fully devoted follower of Christ, a privilege I don't take for granted and pray will remain.
I'm thankful for godly parents who love the Lord first, then each other, and then their children in ways that have always pointed me toward Jesus. They have sacrificed so often for me and for my sister.
I'm thankful for a loving sister who is an amazing, talented, wonderful Christian woman and friend. I'm thankful for her newfound (found again?) happiness with her husband.I'm thankful for her kids, the two greatest nieces and greatest nephew God ever created. They are joys!
I'm thankful the Lord added to my family by giving me the wonderful gift of my precious Studly Man. He makes my life complete.
I'm thankful for Studly's folks who have embraced me as their own and show love so freely.
I'm thankful for Studly's sister and her precious family who are wonderful examples of sacrificial love. (All four kids are adopted.)
I'm thankful for Studly's brother and his wife who bless us with their kind hearts.
I'm thankful for one very energetic and loyal BigDog and the joy she brings to our home.
I'm thankful for her little brother who makes me smile every day with his sweet cuddles.
I'm thankful the Lord sees fit to use us and that big dog in minstry to bring His love to kids who need to know Him.
I'm thankful for a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church that is not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, refuses to compromise the Truth, and reaches out to the world with His love.
I'm thankful for an amazing friend who has known all my secrets for 30 years and loves me any way.
I'm thankful for a wise friend who sees the best in me even when I can't.
I'm thankful for a sisterhood of friends who hold me accountable and encourage me to follow Jesus.
I'm thankful for my job and the privilege of working with some awesome ladies.
(no, of course that's not me... just the only picture I could find of a woman working at her desk.)

I'm thankful for all my bloggy friends and their wonderful encouragement in my life.
My prayer for each of you this Thanksgiving is that your heart and home be filled with love and joy as you count your many blessings from above.

Nov 18, 2008

Making Thanksgiving Special

As I mentioned in the previous post, I love making Thanksgiving a special gathering for my family. Any time we have together is precious, but especially so when everyone recognizes and is focused upon just how precious that time is.

I usually employ my printer to make formal invitations and mail them to each household and to family friends who may be joining us for dinner. My family deserves my very best effort, more than any other guests I'll ever host, and I love creating an atmosphere where memories can be made.

Here are some examples of past years' invitations.

This year, I didn't do invitations, but I still wanted to do something special for everyone. Every now and then I surprise myself and actually come up with a craft idea that turns out well (not my strong suit). In doing "something special" this year, I also solved an age-old problem: a way for everyone to keep up with their drinking glass! (I had a side agreement with my dishwasher to try to lighten the workload a little.)

I bought some glass beads and wire loops to make "beverage ID" markers. Then I went on a mission to find a charm that somehow represented each member of the family. Here's what I came up with:

Paw (my dad, the grandkids call him "Paw") - he's been teaching the Word in Sunday School for as long as I can remember, and his wisdom and knowledge have blessed us all.

Meegoo (my mom; Meegoo is what the grandkids call her) - she's the sweet and loving heart of our family, the one whose heart feels our joy, our sorrows, and everything in between.

Leslie (Studly Man) - a) he's lived all over Texas and/or b) he's the man I had to move all the way to Texas from Virginia to find. (I looked for a dog paw charm, but they were sold out.)

Me - I'm the family whale lover. My dream vacation is to go on a whale watching trip.

Joe (my brother-in-law) - he's the band director at a local Christian school and quite a talented saxophone, clarinet and flute player. He's also an excellent arranger and plays in a professional jazz quartet.

Megan (a.k.a. Me-Again, my sister) - she's the choir director at the same Christian school and is also the organist at their church. She's a private voice and piano instructor, and she sings like an angel. She directs the North Central Chapter of the Singing Women of Texas.

Rachel (my eldest niece) - she's our Texas Longhorn. She graduated in May with her bachelor's in biomedical engineering and is currently back at UT in graduate school.

Cammie (my youngest niece) - the child can text message with her eyes closed or while she's explaining the theory of relativity. (She's a music major, following in the footsteps of her talented parents, but there weren't any other music charms!)

Daniel (my nephew) - he's a junior in high school (yes, that same Christian school where his parents teach) and is a talented basketball player. His school colors are green and gold. BTW, he's just recently been thrust into the position of point guard, but he's really an excellent center.

Kei (Rachel's significant other) - he's a scary smart aerospace engineer whose family is from Hong Kong. (Rach, please don't hit me if I got any details wrong!)

Ben (our dear friend and best man in our wedding) - he has the biggest heart for missions I have ever seen. He's a loyal prison ministry dedicate and has recently founded another ministry to feed villagers in Africa and Romania in a most unique way. Check out his web site.

So there you have it. My homemade beverage-ID-charms-with-significance.

Now if I could just get those place cards done... Come back soon to see those.

Stretching Thanksgiving Dinner

It's hard to believe it's

a: Wednesday again (time for Works for Me Wednesday over at Rocks in My Dryer)


b: just a WEEK before Thanksgiving!

I love Thanksgiving. I love all the planning and cooking and setting a beautiful table. It's fun to really go all out for the big day. Use the china! Use the good flatware. Use real glasses. No sense in saving the "nice things" for a special occasion. The family all around the table together? That IS a special occasion! There's no group of people I'd rather host, and no better reason to gather than to give thanks to the Lord for His enumerable blessings in our lives.

My mom and my grandmothers and great-grandmother always put together wonderful Thanksgiving feasts over the years. A lot of work? Indeed, but a labor of love always. Along the way, some shortcuts were discovered. (That is why you came here, isn't it?) Here are two of my favorites.

It should be known that my dad LOVES Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, dressing, the trimmings. He not only loves it on Thanksgiving Day, but long afterward. But instead of eating turkey dinner every meal for three or four days, my mom figured out how to keep us from getting tired of it AND make her life easier in the busy days that follow Thanksgiving.

Our family tradition for the dressing is a yummy bread and celery variety that my dad's grandmother made. Mom learned how to make it, and it has been a favorite part of the meal for as long as I can remember. Because of its consistency, it is easy to form into patties about the size of a hamburger patty. Instead of a large pan for cooking, the patties are put on cookie sheets and baked. Because they are smaller this way, they cook more evenly. And the best part? They FREEZE easily! Mom will stack two or four patties together, put them in an empty bread bag or container, and freeze them. Then on a busy day when dinner time is looming, she only has to take out as many as are needed for one meal and reheat them.

The second idea is along those same lines. Ya know that amazing gravy made from the giblets? Mom freezes it in ice cube trays. Once frozen, she pops them out of the trays and stores them in Ziploc bags. Then when she needs them, she simply gets out a few frozen "gravy cubes" and thaws them in the microwave. One cube is usually enough for one person, but certainly more can be used if desired.

Turkey meat doesn't freeze well, so a small, fresh (and maybe already cooked) turkey breast from the grocer's deli section will be just the right amount to put with the dressing. Toss a salad or add a vegetable or two, and voila! A wonderful Thanksgiving dinner - again - without all the prep and clean up! This way ALL the food prepared for the big family meal gets eaten, and none is thrown away. It also prevents the I-am-so-sick-of-turkey-and-dressing-I-can't-see-straight feeling that inevitably comes with standing at the refrigerator for the three days following Thanksgiving.

I hope your Thanksgiving is full of love and joy and blessings.