Thursday, December 30, 2010

Eat. Laugh. Shuffle. Shop. Pound. Repeat.

That title explains what's been happening around here for the last week and why I haven't had time to write. I have been busy, y'all!

Eat: There was eating on Christmas Eve. Then further eating on Christmas day. Then there was more stuffing of the face. Then there was a nice dinner out with my parents. There was mass consumption of Oreo balls, Irish Cream cake, homemade turtles, Christmas cookies, dipped pretzels, lemon bars, potato salad, Italian beef, pork loin, mashed potatoes, breakfast casserole, potato pancakes, and more. Someone needs to superglue my mouth shut. I don't need to eat another thing for at least a week. I feel half sick just looking at that list! But it sure was good.

Laugh: We laughed with friends and family on Christmas Eve. We laughed with our children and family on Christmas morning. We laughed at movies. We laughed during card games. We laughed while we ate. We laughed so much that I really wish laughing burned more calories than it does. Then I wouldn't be forced into using the superglue.

Shuffle: Of course, we played SCAT. That's a given in my family. Nickels were bet and the pot was won--I am a dollar and some change richer--yea, me! But we also dusted off the Uno deck. We used to play with my dad's family all the time and my dad had a reputation for cheating. And not just the throw down a 9 on a 6 kind of cheating, either. We played so fast and were all so busy gabbing, my dad could throw a blue 8 on a yellow 2 and call it green and nobody would catch him. We are all much more careful around him these days. This is the first time Mary has joined in at the table and she was hilarious. At one point, after winning a hand, she stood up on her chair, shook her little booty around and did a victory dance. She fits right in, that one. And the words "ninety-four"--said in a sort of drawl/sob (niiiiineteeee fooooaaaahh!!) have become a catch phrase around here since my mother was stuck with that after one hand.

Shop: I am not normally a big shopper. Well, Goodwill excluded. I don't like to walk around malls and see what's what. I have never shopped on Black Friday. I stay holed up in my house and let other people have the screaming deals and swarms of humanity. But. My mom and I like to go out to a few specific places on the day after Christmas and see if there's anything worth our trip. We always go to Hallmark, because she can pick up her Christmas cards for next year at a discounted price. We always go to a little independent gardening/decorating/tea room/landscaping shop not far from my house. I always give my kids a new ornament when we are putting up the tree and this shop has been a fabulous place to find unique and beautiful ornaments at a good discount. The owner is so sweet, and I always get a good deal because she just wants it sold so she can head south until April. We also head to a couple of clothing stores that we love and usually find one or two things to spend our money on. This is alot of shopping for me. But with my mom along, it is a fun time.

Pound: You have all heard me lament about my mudroom and its lack of functionality. Because of the height of the hooks and lack of shelving, my mudroom always looks as if it has barfed up coats and boots and backpacks and sports equipment. Starting the day after Christmas, my beloved and my dad spent three days building cubbies/coat hooks for my mudroom. There has been pounding and sawing and sanding and nailing. It has scared the bejeebers out of the dumb dog. I almost felt sorry for her. It makes me silly with glee. It is all finished but the painting. I will show it to you in all of its beautiful glory next week.

And how about you? How did you spend Christmas? What did you do that was fun? Goofy? What was your favorite present? Do tell.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Longfellow Knew. Do You?

I have always been taken with Longfellow's poem/hymn "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." This year, after hearing it at my daughter's advent program, I was struck by it anew. This verse in particular caught my attention:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead; nor doth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with Peace on Earth, Good-will to men."

It was a reminder for me that even when God is quiet, He is not absent. He is not dead. God is here, with us, a Living God. He is still in charge, still in control, still loving us no matter what.

I pray that on this Christmas, you are amazed by Him. I hope that you are surrounded by the Love that came down from heaven and put on flesh, for you and for me. I pray that you know--deep in your bones know--that living, loving God.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Love Comes In All Shapes

When I was visiting my folks over Thanksgiving, my mom and I went for a walk. At one point along this walk, I looked down and spotted a piece of asphalt shingle in the middle of the sidewalk. It caught my eye because of its unusual shape.

I stopped to pick it up and then caught up to my mom. "Hey!" I panted. "Look at this! What does this look like?"

"A shingle," she replied, unimpressed.

"Yes, but look at the shape! What does the shape look like?" I pressed.


"AFRICA!" I squealed. "It looks like Africa!"

My mother was not as worked up over this as I was. Clearly she didn't understand the potential here. I had found an asphalt shingle. In the shape of Africa! Just lying there on the sidewalk. Why, think of the possibilities! I might possibly find all the other continents too--although I will have to study up on the individual shapes of Europe and Asia, as I am used to seeing them connected on maps--and then I could display all of my wondrous finds for the world. Everyone would be amazed.

When I explained this to my mother she cracked up. The woman has no vision. (Kidding, mother. I love you.) So I told her that when we got back to the house, I'd show it to everyone. I was certain that everyone else would see Africa right away and that at least one or two of them would be like-minded at the miraculousness of it.

Well, I was partially right. A few responded like my mom did with "It's a shingle." But some other creative geniuses with brilliant minds like me of the others saw Africa as well. Nobody, however, was as taken with the serendipity of the find as I was. We did have a fun time talking about how I might find a South America shaped rock or a candy wrapper shaped like Australia and then I could have this very cool mixed media display.

I decided to keep the shingle. And even though I joked about it, I made up my mind to keep my eyes open for the other continents because I am, as I might have stated somewhere before on this blog, slightly unbalanced. Unfortunately, in all the business and chaos of packing up my family for the drive home, I left my shingle behind. I figured that it would wind up in the garbage bin.

I hadn't counted on my sister in law (Uncle Grumpy's wife, who cannot, by any stretch of the imagination be called grumpy. In fact, by comparison, she is downright chipper!). When the family sat down to open gifts at our family Christmas, this past weekend, my mom announced that Aunt Chipper had a presentation to make. Aunt Chipper reminded everyone of my weird and slightly off-kilter joy at finding a shingle in the shape of Africa. She then proceeded to hand me a gift bag. When I opened it, it contained this:

I cannot lie. I cracked up. I also thought it looked pretty amazing. Aunt Chipper explained that when I left it behind, she called my parents and asked if they would keep it so she could frame it, explaining that she had a frame. Then my mom chimed in and said that my dad did the matting and that Aunt Chipper forgot the frame, so my folks framed it. We all laughed as this is sort of typical for Aunt Chipper. But who can blame the woman? She's the mother of six children. She's just a little busy.

I really do love the gift. And aside from now feeling like I really do have to find the other continents to go with such a neatly framed gift, when I look at it I feel some other things. I feel supported by my family. I know that whatever I pursue in life--even a quest for the continents made from garbage--my family will back me up. I feel joy, because I am fortunate to have a family that gets along and has a good time together. I feel love.

Who knew all that could come from an Africa-shaped asphalt shingle?

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Tradition Continues

When I was growing up, the adults on my dad's side of the family held a Christmas grab bag gift exchange. This wasn't for nice generic gifts though, this was a gag gift exchange and the worse the gift, the better. There were plenty of truly awful and uproariously funny gifts over the years, but the best had to be what the family called The Lady in the Bathtub.

The Lady was found (by yours truly when I was about 8) at my elementary school chili supper/white elephant sale. She was a wonder to behold; the lady was sitting in an old claw foot bathtub and she was submerged from the waist down and wearing nothing but a very large hat decorated with fruit. The bathtub and hat were painted gray while the lady and the bathwater were painted a glossy black. The lady was an older woman who was amply "blessed." Yes. She had enormous boobs. And the only bit of color on this whole darkly painted ceramic form was the fruit on her large hat and her breasts--which were painted to look like daisies, with the nipple being the center. All in all it was rather um, striking. And funny.

Our entry into the grab bag that year was The Lady in the Bathtub. It was wonderful. And she became a tradition. Whoever got the lady would keep her for a year and then wrap her up and put her back in the exchange. It became a bit of a contest in creativity to disguise her come gift giving time so that people wouldn't dodge her due to the size of her box. Someone put a slip of paper in a small box that read "You are now the owner of The Lady in the Bathtub." Someone else kept her out of the running one year to lull everyone into a sense of false tranquility. Unfortunately, as the grandchildren grew up and lives got busier, we stopped having a Christmas get-together with my dad's family and the grab bag exchange was no more. I don't know what happened to the Lady. But she is a fond memory for my family.

These days, my side of the family does our own gag gift exchange. There have been some memorable gifts--the Guy Fieri hat my dad won and the badly hand-painted Chief Illiniwek ceramic wall hanging come to mind--but there hasn't been a gift of the caliber of The Lady in the Bathtub. Until now.

Meet The Owl Family.

Why yes, yes they are made up entirely of seashells! And yes, those are googly eyes! So, um, special!

I found these lovelies a year ago at Goodwill and my heart began to race. I just knew that they had the potential of becoming another Lady. Last year, when I put them in the grab bag, I was excited to see who would get them. I was also really hoping that it wouldn't be me or my beloved. I didn't want them coming back home. Fortunately, my brother, Uncle Grumpy got them. He was not amused. He hated them on sight. It was perfect.

He tried really hard not to take them home with him. In fact, he left them behind at the last minute on purpose. Then, my loving mother hid them in the bag containing my children's presents and they went undiscovered until we got home.


Not to be deterred, we made sure to bring The Owl Family back to our next family gathering last Easter and Maggie was assigned the task of hiding the Owls in one of her cousin's suitcases. She did and we were elated when we got home after that visit and The Owls were not among our stuff.

Then, in August, right around her birthday, Maggie received a box in the mail from her cousin. She thought, "Cool! Jill sent me a little something for my birthday!." She didn't think it weird that her cousins had never sent her something before for her birthday and she just went ahead and opened it. The Owl Family sat there snugly in the box staring creepily up at her with their big googly eyes and a note that said "No tag backs".

Curses! Foiled again!

This time, The Owls went back into the exchange, but disguised as a slip of paper informing the recipient of the great gift they received. Guess who got them? Did you guess Uncle Grumpy? HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

He did his level best to hide them in my parent's house so he wouldn't have to take them home. He would have succeeded when he hid them in my mom's china cabinet, but my eldest nephew saw them and said "Why are the owls in Grandy's china cabinet?"

Yes. He and Maggie should not be let loose on the world. (Just kidding you two! You are both brilliant and I love you!)

At that point, everyone was on their guard, keeping an eye or a hand on their bags as we were all packing up to go. It got hidden three times and discovered twice, just in time. Unfortunately, the third time was the charm.

As my family and I were walking out to wave goodbye to Uncle Grumpy and his family, he was pulling out of the driveway in a hurry. He rolled down his window and yelled, "Have fun keeping The Owls in Indy!!!!" His children where hanging out the windows laughing and hooting with amusement and unfettered glee.

When we got to the van, there were The Owls, perched on the front seat, ready to go home with us. Again.


In the confusion of packing our things into the van and saying goodbyes, I hadn't locked the van. Then again, I didn't think I had reason to since we were in a safe area and around family. Boy was I wrong! Lesson learned.

Also? Uncle Grumpy, just so you know. It. Is. SO. ON!!! You'd better keep checking over your shoulder, because you never know where or when or how The Owls will show up. They're creepy that way.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

All This Beauty

It was supposed to be fun. It was meant to be time together to enjoy the beauty of the lights. It wasn't. Everyone was tired. Final exams and progress assessments and holiday shopping and busyness had made us stressed out and cranky. A short jaunt in the car had devolved into a long, argument-filled, tear-inducing ride.

"Look!" my beloved would point out. "Those lights right there are really pretty!"

"Hey!" I'd call out. "Those people have lights in Colts colors. And they even have a lit up horseshoe on their door!"

"Wow," declared my husband. "Those are really bright. See?"

"Ohhhh..." I'd whisper. "Those are beautiful!"

"All this beauty and it's free to us!" we'd say, delighted.

It was to no avail. It didn't matter. Everyone was stuck in their own little bubble of misery and they couldn't see the good things--even when they were pointed out to them--because they were unwilling to be moved.

Soon enough, my beloved and I were sucked in. There was some yelling. There was some martyred sighing and some muttering of self-pitying phrases. The whole van had become a black hole of hard feelings and stony hearts.

Eventually, apologies were offered all around. One apologized to another for hitting. Someone else apologized for yelling. Yet another offered an "I'm sorry" for impatience. We all apologized. We all forgave.

It could have been fun. It could have been beautiful. But it wasn't. The whole experience was marred by our own selfish behavior; our own inability to see past our own noses.

After we arrived home and had everyone settled in to one activity or another, my mind couldn't let it go. My heart was pricked and my spirit was heavy. How often had I done this very thing to The One who had given me so much? How often had I refused to see the Beauty because of my selfishness?

"Look!" He'd say. "See this mercy? Isn't it amazing?"

"Hey!" He'd call out. "Do you see the abundant love and care and provision I've given you?"

"What about that grace?" He'd ask. "Isn't it beautiful?"

All those gifts and they are free to me! Lord, help my mind and heart and spirit be quick to see them. Forgive me for being unwilling to see past my own nose. I want to always be moved to whisper "Ohhhh! Those are beautiful!"

Monday, December 13, 2010

Random Thoughts On A Snowy Day

We have an Elf on the Shelf. Do you know about the Elf? He is a little elf that sits someplace in your home and each night "magically" travels to the North Pole to report to Santa about all the good and not so good things that you do and every time he comes back, he finds a different place to perch. This elf is supposed to help your children be a little better behaved at this very exciting (and fit-inducing) time of year.

Apparently our elf (named Ned) has his work cut out for him, because someone around here *coughMarycough* is having a very hard time with her behavior. She has seen more of her room than usual because she has become a big ball of sass. Sassy enough that when remind her that Ned will report both good AND bad behavior to Santa, she replies with a very emphatic 'I DON'T CARE!"

Can I just state here for the record that if the phrase "I don't care" died a very sudden and violent death, well, I wouldn't care?

Also, I cannot tell you the number of times that someone* has had to jump out of bed either very late or very early to make sure that the elf finds a new location to perch? Stupid elf. He should move his own damn self. Magical, my booty.

*You know that that someone is me, right? I didn't really need to spell that out for you, did I?


I grew up in Central Illinois where there is a sandwich called a horseshoe. It is an open face sandwich consisting of toast topped by some kind of meat (usually a hamburger patty, a chicken patty, or shaved ham or turkey) which is in turn smothered in a delectable cheese sauce--NOT CHEEZ WHIZ-- and then topped by fries. Delicious? Absolutely. Healthy? Um, not so much, which is why I only make them about once a year.

Most people here in Central Indiana have never heard of them, but I think that they would go over big.

Now, this next bit is seemingly unrelated, but bear with me. My husband used to own a couple of guns. I had never been around guns growing up and had only seen them on the hips of police officers. When we were first married, my beloved took me to a firing range and taught me how to shoot. I shot a .22 and it was a very fun, very powerful, and curiously freeing experience. However, when we started a family, we decided that they served no purpose in our home and my husband sold his guns.

Recently he has taken to perusing the Sunday fliers for Dick's and Gander Mountain and wistfully declaring that he "needs" a gun. My reply is always the same: "Have you met our son, Sean? We don't need a gun. That's a combination that never needs to be seen." He then responds that he needs it for protection or for the end of the world when he will have to defend our home from looters or Tea Party activists. I usually end the discussion with "You'll shoot your eye out, kid."

Lately however, I have been rethinking my argument. I am thinking that my beloved and I could go into business together and we could serve the hungry gun enthusiasts in the area. Here's my idea: we open a combination lunch counter/guns and ammo store. We'll have a very limited menu. In fact, we'll only serve horseshoe sandwiches. We'll call the place Horseshoes and Hand Grenades.

Whaddaya think? Will we make a million billion dollars and be able to afford college for our offspring?


Snow days for my children=awesome.
Snow days for teachers= a surprise, much-deserved day off.
Snow days for me= a sudden urge to brave the negative windchills and build my own igloo to move into. By myself. Alone.


I just finished making homemade turtle candies and I defy you to find a better combination of things. It is a flavor trifecta of perfection. And if you get to enjoy one while looking out the window and watching your child build a snow fort? Well that's just bonus perfection. (It is too a term!)


I think the writers for "The Middle" have a camera hidden in my home.


My husband is much nicer than I. He spent an hour or so this morning snow blowing our driveway and the walks and driveways of some of our neighbors. Even the crazy, nutbar, neighbors that don't think much of us.

I would have spent that time thinking of ways to write, um, "stuff" on their snow. In urine.

Yeah, his way is probably nicer.


I think that every weather forecaster should be required to live in a Northern state (Minnesota, Michigan, Upstate NY, Montana, etc.) for several years before they are let loose on the public. That way, they don't spend a solid week talking about a big storm that might be coming that might possibly bring snow in amounts that haven't been determined yet but could be measurable. Maybe. Possibly.

After they have plugged block heaters into their engine during the winter, then they can forecast.* After they have shoveled out of 20+ inches of snow, then they can forecast.* After they have thrown warm water into the air and watched it change into ice crystals, then they can forecast.* After they have had a governor cancel school for an entire state, then they can forecast.* After they have driven a vehicle across a frozen lake, then they can forecast. ** Until then, they need to remember: it's just snow. We live in Indiana. It's December. Snow happens. Two inches is not a lot--even when the wind is blowing hard, chances are pretty good that things will get better in a few hours. There is not really any reason to spend 20 minutes of a 30 minute news broadcast talking about the what-ifs. (Can you tell this subject makes me a little cranky?) And yet they suck me in every time.

*All things that I did when living in Minnesota.
** Something that I saw others do but was waaaaay to chicken to attempt while living in Minnesota.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go calm myself by eating a turtle. Or seven.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Life, It Is So Fun*

You know how there are times in your life that there is so much going on, so many things happening, so much news to share that you are just breathless in the midst of it all and don't know where to begin?

This isn't one of those times. Ahem.

I am sorry to say that the most interesting thing I have to report is a rather aggravating case of plantar fasciitis. Would it make it more interesting if I told you that it's totally self-diagnosed (I had a consult with Dr. Google, who, by the way, completely concurs with my diagnosis) and that I am now an expert in taping my own feet? No? Well, you might change your mind about that if you saw me actually trying to tape my own feet. I have to get rather acrobatic with myself and it turns out that I am not so bendy any more. I guess if I injure myself whilst taping my feet that could sorta kinda be entertaining but I dunno, saying that you injured yourself in a foot-taping accident lacks a bit of glamor, don't you think?

I can report that the dumb dog has been given the most evil gift ever. It is a jingle collar. What's a jingle collar, you ask? It's a piece of elastic wrapped in red and white velour--a canine scrunchy, if you will--that has bells attached around it. It is a torture device for the dog. When she wears it and hears it jingle, she looks behind her and runs as if she were being pursued by a rabid gopher. It's seriously hilarious. Guess who gave it to her? (Insert maniacal laughter here.) I couldn't help myself. It was calling my name from the shelves at Petco. I just thought it was cute and that the dumb dog would look festive in it, I didn't know that it was going to freak her out. That was just a lucky bonus. But I'm not cruel. I've only put it on her twice. I'm saving the real fun for Christmas when she can wear it and tear around the house and knock people over.

I can also report that the Christmas lights that I've put up in several places around our home are conspiring to make me crazy. They were all working perfectly when we put them up. Now they are taking turns burning out and dying--but only half a string at a time. You'd think I'd have wised up and purchased several boxes and kept them stashed here so that I'd have them when the lights decide to fizzle out. But that would be what a smart, sane person would do. I, on the other hand, have made at least three trips to big box stores to purchase a new string of lights. I am a jeenyus. Nothing makes me lose my will to live faster than having to stand in line at a store that has 35 register lanes but only four of them are open.

And do you know what else is fun? When the credit card you pay off every month through electronic banking somehow hasn't posted yet and so when you are paying for your stuff--the single box of lights among that stuff--with the credit card that you think has a zero balance, it comes back declined. So fun!

Know what's even more fun than that? When you scratch your head and ask the clerk to please run it again because it must be an error and the clerk runs it and then says loudly "You denied," to which you reply, "That must be a mistake. We pay off our cards monthly. Would you try one more time?" while nodding apologetically to the man behind you in line.

And the most fun is when the clerk runs it, then says very loudly so that people in the other three open lanes can hear, "YOU DENIED!" while giving you the stink eye. So fun! Yeah.

I can now report that that problem is resolved and that instead of doing more Christmas shopping, I stayed home. I'd like to tell you that I did some wrapping or baking, but what I really did was watch "Elf" while I taped my feet. Nothing screams Christmas like Will Farrell and sports tape.

Don't ever let anyone tell you that I don't know how to have a good time.

*Only if today is Opposite Day.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Before And After: Who's Crazy Now?!

Remember this?

She's all finished and sitting in my entry hall. I may be crazy for taking it on this time of year, but my crazy got some good results. I love her. I shall call her Blanche because she reminds me of a southern belle who was forlorn and past her prime, but with a little care became a beauty once more.

Also? Blanche is very handy to have around since Goodwill came last week and carted out my old dining room table and china hutch. I needed some place to store the very few things that I kept after cleaning out the hutch and Blanche is happy to oblige. Gotta like that in a girl piece of furniture.

What? Don't you name your furniture? Truthfully, this is the only piece of furniture I have named in my home. But I think it fits. (Will you think I'm crazy if I tell you that while we haven't named furniture, we did name our van? Never mind. Don't answer.)

I was lucky that all of the hardware was in good shape. I was able to spray paint it with oil rubbed bronze paint. It photographed black, and it is dark, but it's not really black. I used some paint I got free from Glidden to paint her and if she gets scuffed up--which, let's face it, in this house is likely to happen this week--I'm okay with distressing her a little bit. I think she can take it. So this project cost me nothing but what I paid for the cabinet ($40.00 at Goodwill) and a few hours of my time since I had all the supplies I needed already, leaving me a little extra green to use at my discretion. (Hello, nice bottle of wine to add to my Life List!)

Now, just so you understand, there will be no more of this project madness until well after the holidays. I have stuff to do--stuff that involves making Oreo balls and Irish Cream cakes so that my family will not feel neglected over the holidays.

And who will ever know if some of those Oreo balls disappear on their way into the freezer for safekeeping? Shhhh....

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Crazy Continues

Who doesn't spend several hours hot gluing hundreds of coffee filters onto a wreath? What's that you say? Sane people? Oh. Well then.

I am definitely insane. And I've lost several fingerprints due to glue gun burns. If I ever wanted to commit a crime or disappear to Brazil, now is the time, since I don't think I can be identified through fingerprints any longer. identity, sipping frosty adult beverages on the beaches of Brazil...things to ponder...

Anyway! I needed something to go over my mantel this holiday season. Usually there is a very large, very pretty picture of tulips over the fireplace, but somehow the colors orange and green don't scream Christmas, do they? So after seeing these beautiful coffee filter wreaths around the Internet, I decided to feed my insanity by making one.

I am happy with how it turned out. It's large enough to fill the space and it looks nice with my white mantel. It's just how I pictured it in my head. I fully intend on making a smaller one with natural colored coffee filters. AFTER Christmas, that is. I am crazy, but I'm not barking mad. Shut up.