Tuesday, July 1, 2014

{Tuesday Tip: Display Words}

I close my eyes and picture my childhood home. Which isn't super difficult, now that I think about it. Because that's where we happen to live now. But I picture my mom's decorations and I see words. Words of truth displayed on walls, words like "Give us this day our daily bread" in the kitchen and verses like, "A merry heart doeth good like medicine" cross-stiched with love or Colossians 3 posted on the bathroom mirror as a family memory challenge.

One display puzzled me for a number of years. It was uber-70s in its design. Carved wood with a mirror behind it, showcasing three crosses and the word Heisrisen. The crosses should have served as a rather strong clue, but my little kid brain somehow decided that Heisrisen must have been a beer brand. I remember pronouncing it in my mind with two long "i" sounds and a hard "s": Hizerizen. Very beer like. Probably German. One day it dawned on me. It was not one word but three: He is risen. My relief was acute.

Jamie, too, remembers a specific sign in his childhood home. It was needlepoint bearing the phrase, "Home is where your heart is." In place of the word "heart" was a heart shape and instead of a period at the end, the artist chose to have a little ladybug punctuate the statement. This caused Jamie's younger brother to assume that the sign was trying to convey a rather different message: "Home is where your love is bugged." Which is pretty accurate, don't you think? We should all have such a sign.

I was recently at a friend's house, and it was inspiring to see the number of words and phrases she had tucked around her home. A verse written on the bathroom mirror for the kids to see while brushing their teeth. Words over the kitchen table, encouraging a young reader to remember consonant blends. Framed verses and words of truth displayed for all to see.

My beginning-of-summer family challenge. Fridge reminders can also prompt discussion around the dinner table.

Her displays prompted me to go back to my own drawing board and take stock. It was time to add some new words to our home. I do have a few verses and quotes and reminders here and there (some permanently framed and others on chalkboards -- or simply taped to the fridge -- to change from time to time), but I've had several ideas simmering in my brain that needed to actually happen.

I have a Pinterest board titled "Words" for just that purpose. If I come across a verse, quote or poem that especially resonates with me, I add it to my board and start to think about how I might display it. One idea, which I hope to implement fairly soon, is to use my own kids' quotes as decoration. (I've kept a notebook ever since Drew started talking to record some of their more memorable -- and often hilarious -- comments.) A little phrase or question by a four-year-old can be captured on a blank canvas. How cute is that?

An inexpensive plate from Ross propped up on a dollar store display rack. Easy-peasy! (Looks like I need to update my poem.) Also a fun way to write birthday and holiday messages for the kids.

But the idea that I was most recently determined to finish is for our room. Last year I marked a verse in my Bible from Song of Solomon that I really love: "This is my beloved and this is my friend." I knew I wanted to hand letter it and display it somehow, but my creativity stopped right there. It was sparked once again when I found a blank, fabric covered board on clearance at Kohl's last month. I asked some artist friends for their recommendations as far as what kind of ink I should use and how to best letter the words (that overhead projector continues to come in handy), and I'm pleased with how it turned out.

Little Miss was enthralled with the whole process, so I found a few burlap-covered boards at Michael's that the girls are eager to use in their own room. I look forward to seeing what they come up with. And I look forward to starting on my next project which just begs to be displayed near the kitchen china cabinet. The words? Bethie's first prayer: "Father, for the tea. Amen."     

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Sunday, June 22, 2014


A couple of posts ago I left us hovering between Kansas City and Chillicothe. I know you're eager to finally get there, and so am I. So if you'll just hop into the car with us, we'll continue on our journey!

The freeway took us through a number of interesting sites, such as the birthplace of Jesse James, the town of Lawson (which I appreciated for obvious reasons), and the home of J.C. Penny (as in, the actual guy). Before long we arrived in Chillicothe and were warmly greeted by Jamie's family. I instantly knew that this was a place where one could just be. Time didn't race by. There wasn't a schedule to keep. We could sip our sweet tea on the porch and linger and visit and reminisce.

I smiled over the stories that were shared, picturing Jamie as a little boy running through acres of grass, shooting bullfrogs and catching fireflies. We visited some of those places, too -- old homesteads, farmland, and the cemeteries that were an important reminder of the family heritage and ties to the past.

We discovered one of these ties while visiting the Chillicothe Museum. To begin with though, the whole of downtown Chillicothe is quite charming. An amazing artist has painted a number of murals, depicting the town's rich and unique history. One distinction is Chillicothe's claim to fame as the home of sliced bread. The slicing machine was even on loan from the Smithsonian, so we knew that a trip to the museum was definitely in order.

But the museum also featured a section devoted to the Chillicothe Business College, which Jamie's grandmother attended. We found a yearbook and thought, "Wouldn't it be neat if we could find her?" Jamie wasn't sure of the year, but we started looking and, sure enough, there she was -- in the first yearbook we opened, 1939. Something about that discovery made our Chillicothe roots reach just a bit deeper and cling just a bit more firmly to that place.

The real joy, of course, was visiting with family. As I mentioned, this often meant leisurely visits on the porch. Long past sundown, we lingered and chatted. Insects hummed in the deliciously warm night air and thunder rolled occasionally in the distance.

At one point in our conversation on the first night, I was distinctly aware of a loud buzzing around my head. Not wanting to offend the Chillicothe wildlife or draw unnecessary attention to myself, I attempted to discreetly brush it away. It wouldn't brush. I finally flicked it away and tuned in to the conversation once again. The buzzing resumed, and when Peggy jumped from her seat and started beating the thing away, I knew that it was okay to offend the Chillicothe wildlife. We batted at that thing until it landed on the ground, where Jamie dispatched the creature with a swift stomp of the foot. I cringed and asked, "What on earth was that?" I was casually informed that it was probably a June bug.

Friends, there are moments in life when one must face unexpected -- and sometimes unpleasant -- realities. This was one of those moments. You may know that one of my nicknames is Juni. This name lends itself to being turned into other nicknames. Such as June Bug. That night I learned that this endearing appellation does not refer to a dainty butterfly or a cute ladybug-type creature as I had always assumed. No, it refers to a hideous scarab beetle which makes a sickening crunch as its exoskeleton succumbs to the weight of a human shoe. I try to remind myself that my mother was probably unaware of this when she smiled upon her little June Bug skipping blissfully through childhood.

While reeling from the blow of this harsh reality, there was a balm on the horizon. A balm in the shape of another insect. A flash of light shone in the distance and I thought, "Could it be?" And before I could ask anyone to confirm my suspicions, it was gone. But I still like to tell myself that I saw my very first firefly that night in Chillicothe.

Another highlight was our visit to Jamie's cousin's home. (I think he's a second cousin. Or second cousin once removed. Or twice removed. We'll just stick with cousin.) The acres of beautiful land and the warm spring sunshine beckoned and we enjoyed four-wheeling while exploring the property. Jamie was also promptly put to work.

He later jumped at the chance to test the firearms. I was content to sit among the trees, sipping my tea while visiting with family.

Content, that is, until I passed Jamie firing a .22 as I was heading into the house. He called, "Wanna give it a try?" I hesitated. The thing was, I sure did wanna give it a try. I demurred. The family encouraged me and before I knew it I was grabbing earplugs and watching my husband load the gun for me. Turns out I can hit a target. And I like it.

Our last night was quite a treat as we enjoyed a special meal with the whole family: Lowcountry boil. The tantalizing ingredients boiled over the outdoor flames and, when cooked to perfection, were dumped onto the newspaper-covered table. We dove in and ate. And ate. And I discovered that not only do I enjoy target practice, but I also enjoy eating with my hands. Sometimes one must step beyond one's comfort zone to really appreciate the good things in life.

We visited late that night, about thunderstorms and haunted houses, bats on the loose and how the tomatoes were coming. Then Judy surprised us all with a childhood treat: Dilly Bars. We grinned and nibbled as quickly as we could, trying to catch the sweet ice cream before it traveled down our hands. Thunder rolled in the distance and a bunny scampered across the lawn, no doubt headed straight for Peggy's garden. The wind was picking up as we headed in for the night, and as we drifted off to sleep the skies overhead were filled with an eerie yet lulling torrent of wind and rain.

The morning came all too quickly and it was time to finalize our goodbyes, some of which we'd made the night before. Goodbye to Everett and Judy and their warm hospitality, entertaining stories and ever-ready supply of tea (Judy knows me well); goodbye to Peggy's engaging smile and the tenderloin sandwiches which Jamie remembers so fondly from childhood; goodbye to Mark and Shawn and their peaceful, welcoming acreage brimming with adventures and merry dogs; goodbye to Hilary and Blake and Greg and everyone else who made our stay so memorable.

Of course goodbye to one family meant hello to another. Our kids were eager for our return, eager to hear our stories. And we were eager to share. As Jamie wove his tales and I described this new-to-me part of the country, it didn't take long before they, too, had come to a unanimous conclusion: "We wanna go to Chillicothe!" And we know that, when that time comes, we'll be welcomed with open arms.  


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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

{Tuesday Tip: Pocket Workouts}

The other night my mom and I were standing in line at a yummy taco joint, trying to decide between the veggie and the chicken. As we were waiting, I mentioned a recent plan of mine. I had heard of a friend that did push-ups while waiting for her tea kettle to boil, and I thought how brilliant is that? So I started using that boil-and-steep window to fit in a few exercises.

While describing my plan, my mom's eyes widened and her eyebrows shot skyward. She blurted, as only my mother can blurt, "Pocket workouts!" I paused. I scanned my brain for an appropriate response, but nothing came to the surface. Perhaps she was referring to a new pocket guide for workout programs?

Thankfully, her enthusiasm produced an explanation. "I do the same thing! I find little pockets of time in my day and do workouts!" My mom loves to name things and she loves efficiency. So it came as no surprise that she came up with "pocket workouts." It also came as no surprise that she began to demonstrate. "I do lunges when I flat-iron my hair! You know how long that takes." And she proceeded to lunge and straighten her hair with grace and ease while we continued to vacillate between the veggie and chicken. I gingerly demonstrated my calf raises and we thought that waiting in line would be a perfect place to practice pocket workouts. If it wasn't so embarrassing.

Although I don't tend to do pocket workouts in restaurants, I do find that the boiling and steeping of my afternoon tea is an ideal window in which to fit a 10 minute strengthening routine. I jotted down a few exercises and posted them above the stove. So now, when Polly puts the kettle on, Polly gets movin'. I begin with some barre exercises (using the counter as my "barre") to work my legs, and then move on to a series of push-ups, jumping jacks, planks, calf raises, chair dips, and squats.

Ideally I try to find two or three other windows throughout the day to do the same reps, but even if I don't, I figure that 10 minutes during high tea is better than nothing . . . right? Of course the kids make fun of me, but they're probably just jealous of my rock solid core.

* * * * * * * 

Speaking of children, you will be relieved to know that my worries are over. (Read about my embarrassing history in my last post.) My son is so much more capable, willing, and level-headed than I.

Speaking of capable sons, Sunday was a day full of blessings for me. It was a joy to watch Drew on drums during morning worship. It was especially meaningful since it was Father's Day, and my dad is the one who got Drew interested in the first place. Boy do I love these guys.

Sunday also happened to be our 18th wedding anniversary. As Jamie says, we now have an adult marriage. I still feel like I'm playing house, waiting to grow up. But maybe that's just how life is. I sure do love this man. And my, but we were young.

May I share one more thing? My sweet patooties had their piano recital last night. I was so proud of them. They practiced for hours and hours and did a great job. Aidan learned "He's a Pirate" from Pirates of the Caribbean just for me, and he rocked it. (He rocked his other songs, too, but I just love that he chose that one for me.) Little Miss was determined to learn five songs for the recital ("Is that a record, Noni?") and boy did she "Let it Go." She plays with such poise and confidence. Sweet babies. I'm thankful they love it so much. 

The piano hasn't been quiet today, even though the recital is over. It must be in their blood. That's totally okay with me.  

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

{Keeping Score}

Sunday afternoon I had one of those experiences that brought to light some of my less glamorous idiosyncrasies. Now, in order for the following to make some sort of sense, I'll remind you that I tend to be somewhat . . . introverted. It's also helpful to know that I'm rather sensitive. My husband would say that I'm highly sensitive. He's probably right. My sister would quote Mrs. Elton: "She's a Very Fragile Creature."

I don't want to dwell too much on over-analyzed personality labels, but, as Dickens said in A Christmas Carol of dead-as-a-doornail Marley, "This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate." And so I continue.

Jamie plays basketball on Sunday afternoons with a church league in Camas. I've only been able to go to a couple of games, but they're fun and it's great to see him enjoying something he loves to do. Well this past Sunday the teams were quite small (four on four, poor panting guys) which meant that the cheering section was also quite small. As in, there were three wives and a miscellaneous slew o' children. (Ours weren't among them.)

Generally, willing score and time keepers emerge from among these women. I like to avert my gaze when these women are appealed to. Because why on earth would I want to do that? You'll perhaps recall that there were three women scattered across the bleachers. This meant that most of us would have to be involved this time around. A sense of foreboding filled that gym.

The refs and players looked to the stands as the warmup ended. I could hear them talking. "We'll need a scorekeeper." My gaze? Averted. So averted. I pretended to be really busy. Unfortunately I had nothing in my hands, making my ruse less effective. I glanced toward the other women. One was making her way toward the timer. She'd been snagged, the poor dear. I wondered if I should go ahead and volunteer the other lady. She only had half a dozen kids milling about her, clamoring for her attention. Clearly she would be able to focus on keeping score. Yes, it should be her.

And then my husband glanced my way, eyebrows lifted, hopeful. What could I do? I smiled, picked up my purse and gingerly stepped toward the score flipper-thingy. (I don't even know what it's called. This is how qualified I am.) We were seated in those awkward, mostly folded up bleachers, so they were even more difficult to navigate than ordinary bleachers. And they had protruding bars to cross. And I was wearing a skirt. I approached a bar, wondering if I should swing (Gene Kelly style) to the left or to the right. I chose left. I promptly knocked over the timer. This is a loud thing when it happens in a gym. A ref was quick to put it back in order and reset it ("I don't think it's broken," he mumbled) and I blushingly assumed my position behind the horrid score flipper-thingy.

The game started and I was incredibly relieved to note that the team colors matched the score cards. Red and blue. I could do that. But it was the math that concerned me. All that adding. Our team suddenly hit their first shot and I scooted to the edge of the bleachers, confidently flipping over a two. Not bad! The ref looked my way and shook his head, pointing. Perhaps I had the colors mixed up? I peered over the top of the score flipper-thingy. This was difficult. Those numbers. Upside-down and backwards. The ref pointed and pantomimed, trying to keep his eye on the game. And then I got it. I had flipped the wrong two. I had given us 20 points. Blushing yet again, I moved the ones instead and put the tens back.

Never have I been so focused on a game. Never have I counted by twos in my head for so many minutes in a row. Never have I so feared the occasional three pointer. This meant turning three flaps on the correct side, and when it involved changing the ones and the tens, well, it was just a lot to think about.

The minutes ticked by. (The dear girl next to me had her finger poised, ready to smack that timer. She was a calming presence in my time of trial.) I began to get my groove. I began to grow accustomed to the strong vinyl scent that wafted my way every time I flipped a number. It was only slightly unnerving that whenever a basket was scored ten men looked my way. I know they were looking at the score, but still. It was like they were grading my math homework or something.

It was around halftime that I was feeling fairly confident. It was also around this time that one of the larger players sat down on the bleachers nearby, shaking the seat and knocking over the score flipper-thingy. Of course it totally looked like I kicked it over. I had no idea what the score even was. Thankfully, the refs did. With their help, I brought the score back to its proper place and hoped that those final 20 minutes would be uneventful.

The guys, meanwhile, were panting and sweating. Four on four is rough. Their threes weren't as accurate anymore (that was okay with me) and even the twos were becoming few and far between. It made my vinyl-scented job easier, I must say. And then my phone beeped. A text. My poor nerves. There was just no way. No way I could read it and keep score at the same time. It beeped again. I ignored it. I had to remain focused. 

Finally, the buzzer sounded. I released my shoulders (which had been in knots for an hour), checked my phone, and breathed a sigh of relief. I did it. I kept score. I did math with a dozen people glancing my way every two seconds. And so I overcame. In that tiny little situation (which, to many of you would be a walk in the park) I had no choice but to do . . . and I did.

Jamie and I walked out of that gym, smiling and exhausted. Unfortunately, we were also defeated. Our team didn't even win. But don't ask me what the final score was. I honestly have no idea.  

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

{Mama Meets the Midwest}

"We're not in Kansas anymore!" I quoted the familiar line to Jamie as I puzzled over the unusual whitish hue of the highways. And then I caught myself. "Wait -- we are in Kansas!" I laughed, but from time to time I still caught myself starting to say it out of sheer habit as other unfamiliar sights caught my eye.

Last week Jamie and I packed our bags and boarded a plane, sans kids, for a trip to Kansas City. (Naturally, this prompted me to burst into song with alarming regularity. "Everything's up to date in Kansas City!" I'm sure Jamie loved it.) His cousin was getting married and had asked if he'd do the video. We were delighted to go, especially since Jamie has been wanting to show me this part of the country -- his childhood summer playground -- ever since we got married.

It was a pretty quick trip, but we packed in quite a bit. Yet it didn't feel rushed or stressful. It was wonderful to visit with family (most of whom I'd only met once or twice, if at all) and to see the sights and hear the sounds of the Midwest. And, as much as we love our children, it was special to have that time away as a couple.

Our first day swept us into rehearsal dinner mode (the bride and groom ordered a taco food truck to cater and it was amazing and so much fun!), and the following day was the wedding day. But before the wedding, Jamie had a very important stop to make: we needed to have ribs. We grabbed his brother, Peter, from the hotel and headed toward Oklahoma Joe's. Everyone else in town had the same idea. (Apparently they have this idea daily -- it's quite famous.) We waited in line for almost an hour before ordering. But it was worth it! Ribs and shredded pork, onion rings, coleslaw and sweet tea -- we did it all.

And then we were off to the reception venue. Peter and I were in charge of the twirling little flower girls during wedding prep. By "in charge," I mean that we sat and watched Frozen together and guarded their coiffed curls with our lives. I'm no stranger to the movie, but since my girls are a little bit older, I wasn't prepared for the number of times the girls would rise from the couch to dance and sway and act out their favorite scenes with amazing accuracy. It was fascinating and darling. As little girls tend to be.

"Do you wanna build a snowman?"
I asked if I could take her picture. I think she assumed I wanted to photograph her new do.
The wedding was lovely and meaningful. I got to man a camera since Jamie wanted a couple of angles. (This meant that I pushed the button and stood there. I'm pretty sure I nailed it.)

Jamie and his cousin, Eric, the groom.
Jamie and Peter

And then the happy bride and groom were whisked away to the reception hall where we enjoyed visiting and dancing and wonderful refreshments. I met lots of family and tried to remember names, but whether or not I got the right name with the right face, I felt welcomed and loved.

The next day we headed out of town toward Chillicothe, stopping to visit with missionary friends on the way. I didn't know what to expect in a small Missouri town -- I certainly didn't expect to fire a .22 or get attacked by a June bug -- but I knew I was in for a great adventure. But more on Chillicothe next time! 

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