If I Don’t Write It Down I’ll Forget

I'm trying to grease up these rusty brain cells of mine and get back to writing the occasional blog post–not a bad thing to do when one has, you know, a blog. I've been working on a post documenting the vacation we took over the holidays, but as the story involves abject humiliation, I've been understandably reluctant. (More on that later. Maybe.) Instead, here's a few random questions, comments, and general wondering-ments.

1. My daughter got a Puff the Magic Dragon book for Christmas, including a sing-along CD. And never mind that I am 37 years old with a mortgage and four children and a PTA membership card–I am unable to listen to that song without blubbering over my lost childhood and bereft dragons. But what in the heck is sealing wax? (Also, please do not tell me that song is actually about drugs. I-have-my-fingers-in-my-ears-and-I-can't-hear-you-la-la-la.)

2. Thanks to my patient and crafty sister-in-law, I'm learning how to crochet. I can't get enough of it! I'm not exactly good at it yet, but I can stitch the heck out of a rectangle. If you know me in real life, congratulations–you're probably getting a scarf this year. Please act happy.

3. Over the holidays I've been plowing through my reading list. This and this were both outstanding, and this was really good, too. This was a fascinating concept, but I thought it came up short at the very end–it's so disappointing when that happens. I'm reading this now, and this is next on the list. What's on yours?

4. American Idol is back underway, and can I just tell you how much I love the "Pants On the Ground" guy from the Atlanta auditions? Here's a great post about him, including his history marching with Dr. King in the '60's. (On the occasion that A Particular Son Of Mine Who Shall Remain Unnamed thinks it might be funny to try the whole droopy-pants thing, I remind him that I have a staple gun in the garage and I'm not afraid to use it.)

5. Does anyone reading this know anything about chronic headaches (possibly migraines) in children? One of my kiddos is struggling with this, but I'm not finding a ton of resources online.

6. Please remember to consider Compassion when you plan your giving for the Haiti crisis. Follow their Twitter feed for helpful updates. While you're at it, see Ree's great giveaway to help raise some more Haiti funds. Another great effort to raise funds is underway here.  Whatever you do, please give.

Have a good weekend, and remember to keep praying for our friends in Haiti.

What We Can Do

"Should we go there?" my eight-year-old son asked me last night as we sat and watched CNN as a family.

No, I explained, we shouldn't–we'd only be in the way.

But I know how he feels. Watching the epic destruction unfold leaves me sitting with a shaking head and a heavy heart, wondering what on earth I can possibly do. Hand-wringing won't help, of course; there is always a course of action, even when the path seems overwhelming.

:: Give. There are people on the ground with access to the tools to help–give to these organizations generously, until you feel the pinch yourself. If you've never been a giver before, let this be a wake-up call and a chance to stretch that part of your heart, and see how your life is changed when you sacrifice for someone else. Compassion has had a strong presence in Haiti for a very long time, and–praise God–their office still stands. You can be sure that your gift will be stretched and used to its very last drop. Here's a great explanation (directly from the Compassion folks) about why their model for disaster relief is so effective:

this disaster it is crucial that first responders receive support
quickly. Because Compassion International ministers through local
churches to meet the needs of that church's neighbors, and because
these church partners are respected aid workers in their communities,
Compassion is uniquely positioned to assess and meet the needs of its
sponsored children quickly. This is an advantage of our church-based
model in practice for more than 50 years.

:: Talk to your kids. Don't hide tragedy from them. Their world, unfortunately, is a scary place sometimes. Poverty and disaster should be jarring, and seeing it will help them grow into people who want to make things better. Pray together. Brainstorm as a family about things you can give up together to give more generously. Let them feel the pinch, too.

:: Live with intentional thankfulness. When I came home from Africa, I struggled with guilt–why am I comfortable when so many others aren't? I understand a little better now that I can channel those emotions into thankfulness, and I can teach it to my kids. I don't know why my kids are safe and my house is standing and our water is clean. But I will be thankful, and I will take opportunities like this one to re-tune my heart. So many of the things that occupy our minds are fleeting and unimportant. Let Haiti awaken us to a perspective that is laser-focused on what really matters.



Obama Knows Not To Mess With Lost :: Lost Blog
(Sweet land of liberty, and that's all I have to say about that.)

In the Name Of Awareness :: Why Mommy
(An interesting take on the Facebook "bra meme", from a breast cancer survivor. Via Melanie.)

Mabel :: To Think
(A beautiful tribute, from a blogging-turned-real-life friend of mine.)

Celebration Camp :: Volkswagen
(Soccer moms, get your soccer players to the computer and laugh out loud at this!)

She's Always Standing There :: Shaun Groves

Ho, Ho, Ho (and Other Things I’m Thinkin’)

A sheepish "thank you" to those of you who have dropped a note to ask if my lack of posting means that something is terribly wrong. 

Things are, in fact, terribly right these days–the book is done (DONE, I tell you, DONE!) and it's off to the printer. I'm so giddy with the new-found freedom that I've celebrated by alternately plowing through my reading list and learning to crochet (and by "learning to crochet", of course, I mean "looping  a bunch of sloppy knots, but gosh, it's fun.") The kids are out of school and they're helping me with holiday preparations (and by "helping", of course, I mean "not really helping at all, but gosh, they're cute"). We're staring down the barrel of an especially action-packed holiday season this year–details to follow, once all the dust has settled.

In the meantime, as a very tiring 2009 draws to a close, I find myself feeling a little reflective about this silly blog o' mine. It started as a hobby, grew into a "job," and it's mercifully, gently settling back into a hobby again, for which I'm profoundly grateful. I've learned so much about setting limits this year; perhaps I'll write on it once I grab hold of the right words. Thank you for bearing with me during a busy, chaotic year, and for the frequent doses of encouragement and laughter you've sent me at just the right time.

I just yawned, which reminds me that, yet again, I've stayed up too late, cramming in all the last-minute Things Which Must Be Done. The presents are sloppily wrapped, and the kitchen floor is covered with sprinkles from our (highly unsuccessful) foray into holiday baking today. The kids played too many video games, and the 8yo has been throwing up all evening. I sigh to remember how I was crabby when I should've been kind today, how I was rushed when I should've paid attention. I'm beginning to think my decades-long tradition of falling short at Christmas may actually be by design: if I had it all together, I suppose I wouldn't have needed a certain Baby to come and rescue me from my own messes.

So I'll sit here, picking cookie sprinkles off the bottoms of my feet, and I'll think about the manger. I'll say a prayer for peace and rest for those of you who are fighting hard battles right now–I know there are many of you.  And I'll think on this, by lovely Madeleine:

He came to a  world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Be merry, my friends–I'll see you back here in the new year.

Except For the Part With the Smokin’ Hot Laser In My Eyeball, It Was a Good Day

About ten days ago I had LASIK eye surgery. After 25 years of glasses and contacts, I'm now walking around with superhero vision; only 18 hours after my surgery, the doctor confirmed that my vision is now 20/15. And I've only been the tiniest bit melodramatic about it: I've tried to limit my shouting of "I CAN SEEEEEE!" to once every half hour.

I've wanted to do this for ages, and I've been socking away my pennies for over a year. Mostly, I've been summoning up my nerve. Because while this procedure was utterly painless (and–I'm not kidding you–eight minutes long), the thought of this procedure was horrifying.

Blades? Lasers? In my eyeballs?

Thankfully, I found a doctor I loved. Melanie recommended him to me, after he did her LASIK years ago. His name is–well, if you tilt your head sideways, his name sounds just like Dr. Einstein.

( This was a bizarre source of comfort to me; if someone is going to approach my eyeball with blades and lasers, I would very much prefer him to be named Dr. Einstein, as opposed to, say,  Dr. Griswold.)

Several friends have asked for a play-by-play of the procedure; they're considering it themselves and wonder what it's like. I'll oblige, but be warned: if you're super-squeamish about eyeball-related stuff, you might not want to read on.

I arrived at the surgery center at 1 pm. The only advanced prep I had to do was a few rounds of antibiotic eye drops. By 1:30 I was checked in, and they had "mapped my cornea" (read: I stared at a red light for several seconds).

I will tell you, in all honesty, I was really nervous. I was so excited about the procedure results, that I hadn't given much thought to the procedure itself. They seated me in a massaging recliner to wait my turn (nice, thanks). I was third in line; two other women sat rattling and vibrating in the chairs next to me.  We all smiled nervously at each other; it seemed like we wanted to wish each other well, but this would require acknowledging that there was about to be a laser shooting into our eyeballs on the other side of THAT WALL, RIGHT THERE.

Some things are better left unsaid.

A very kind nurse offered me an Ativan to calm me. Oh yes, please–my sweaty palms popped that sucker just as fast as I could. I closed my eyes and waited for the magical moment in which I would no longer care about the laser-in-the-eyeball issue.

That moment never came.

" 'Scuse me," I said a little too loudly, "I don't think this Ativan iz workin' 'n I might need another one."

(Hint: if you have enough nerve to ask–loudly–for another Ativan, then rest assured the Ativan is working.)

Even with the pharmaceutical help, I still felt nervous. When it was finally my turn, Dr. Einstein called me in. I thought about cracking a joke about the Theory of Relativity, but then I remembered that a) I don't know what the Theory of Relativity is, and b) I was on Ativan, so I summoned the good sense to keep quiet. He walked me to the laser table–it looked like something out of Star Trek. As I lay down, I had a brief moment of panic in which I almost–almost--stood up and said I couldn't go through with it.

But my kind astrophysicist opthamologist just looked so capable, I took a deep breath and went for it.

*Squeamish people,  stop reading here.*

They used tons of drops to keep my eyes both deadened and  moist. He did one eye at a time (the other one was under an eye patch). A tiny little metal contraption held my open (it sounds weird, but there was nothing to it). Then the good doctor gently put a small circular dealihoo right on my eyeball for a few short seconds–this was the flap maker. No pain, just pressure, and only very quickly.

This is where things got strange. He lifted up the flap–and I could actually see him doing it, though it was fuzzy. Combined with the Ativan, you can imagine that this was a little trippy. He pointed the lasers at my eyeball, warned me that my vision might black out for a second, and then pop! pop! pop! went the lasers for a few seconds.  He lowered the flap, and…done. That was it. He let me rest for a couple of minutes, then he did the same thing with the other eye.

Eight minutes after he started, I sat up in the Star Trek chair, and I could see  (SEE! I can SEEE!) the clock across the room. He gave me some funky sunglasses and walked me out to Hubs, who helped me into a chair to get my post-op instructions. I was of NO help at this point–between the Ativan, my giddy relief that it was over, and (most of all) my sheer wonder that my eyes were working, I just grinned like an idiot and nodded, and I counted the stripes on the wallpaper across the room.

Hubs was, thankfully, paying attention (and laughing at me), and he drove me home.  Per doctor's orders, he gave me a very strong sedative, darkened our curtains, taped some plastic eye shields to my face and put me in the bed. I reached out for him. "Oh please, stay in here and talk with me because I'm just so excited I know I won't be able to slee…." And this is when I feel asleep.

SIX HOURS LATER, I woke up hungry, and went downstairs for some food.  Still totally toasted from the medication, I stumbled all over house. "Look! I can see that clock from here!" "Look! I can see your fingers from here!" "Look! I can see the TV from here!"

Poor Hubs. The only thing harder to manage than a stubborn woman prone to melodrama is that same woman on massive sedatives. He corralled me back up to our room, where I once again conked out for many hours. When I awoke the next morning, to my astonishment, my vision was absolutely normal. I could see Hubs in bed next to me. I could see the alarm clock. I stumbled into the bathroom and I could see….wow, is that what I look like first thing in the morning?

And that's it. I'm ten days out now, and I couldn't be happier with the results. My eyes are a little dry, but that's to be expected. My vision is excellent. My night vision is taking longer to adjust, but I'm assured this is normal. I'm THRILLED.

So, there you have it. Nothing to be scared of at all, and that's coming from a certifiable wimp. If you're thinking of it, talk to your doctor. Save your pennies (it isn't cheap, and I think most health insurance plans don't cover it), but don't hesitate to shop around. I looked at several different places and the prices varied much more than I would've expected.

Oh, and one last thing.



Because Regular Pumpkin Pie Is Just Plain Dull

This a rerun–I originally posted this last Thanksgiving. But a recipe this life-changing deserves a rerun. Enjoy!
I come from a long line of women who do not like to cook.  I hold tightly to
this genetic predisposition to get the heck out of the kitchen as fast
as I can.  It is a fine heritage.(Incidentally, it was once a source of significant stress that I married a man who came from a long line of women who love to cook.  Their family recipes, handed down for generations, involve sifting things, and using thermometers, and grating lemon zest.  My family recipes involve instant pudding.)Truly, though, it is a lovely thing that my favorite family recipes are so simple.  The very best one is the one my grandmother made for Thanksgiving every year.  It is so unbelievably good–but be warned.  Once you eat it, you may never be able to go back to regular pumpkin pie again.

And before we begin, I should point out that the best part of the
deal is the little mini, tart-sized pie-shells.  Usually they are
located in the freezer section.  The day after Thanksgiving, I’d always
go over to my grandmother’s house, and we’d sit on her couch and eat
all the empty pie shells like potato chips.

Clearly, I also have a genetic heritage involving carbohydrates.


1 15-oz can pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ginger
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1 3.4-oz box instant vanilla pudding
2 cups milk

Blend all ingredients well, using a whisk.  Cover and
refrigerate until chilled.  Prepare small, tart-sized pie shells (both
the frozen pastry variety or the graham cracker variety work well).
Before serving, spoon pumpkin mixture into tart shells.  Top with
whipped topping and serve.


Candygram :: Inchmark

Can you name the corporate logos? :: Sporcle

Soothing Poster is a Sign of the Times :: New York Times
I love this poster–a small version of it sits on the windowsill over my kitchen sink.

The Art of the Paragraph :: CopyBlogger

What's for Lunch? Enter the Bento Box :: New York Times
Gorgeous. I'm not willing to wake up early enough to do it, but still, gorgeous.

OneWord :: http://www.oneword.com
Writer's block? Try this.

How To Make a Wall-Mounted Magnet Spice Rack :: the kitchn
Seeing as how I lost 45 minutes of my life searching my cabinets for ginger the other night, I think I should try this.

I Will Not Get a Dog

"I will not get a dog," I said. There's just too much craziness going on right now. Things are too busy, and I cannot possibly have another life form dependent upon me at the moment.

Never mind that children have begged and read books about canine obedience and have DVR'd The Dog Whisperer until it can't be DVR'd anymore. 

"I will not get a dog," I said. Someday, just not now.

Never mind that I really, really love dogs.

Never mind that my sweet eight-year-old boy loves dogs to the core of his being, and he's needed a boost of something special this year. 

Never mind that the book is almost done and a little whiff of Normal seems to be (Lord willing)  just around the corner.

STILL. Just can't do it, not yet.

I will not get a dog.


For reasons completely unknown to me, late one night my typing fingers made their way to Petfinder.

And I saw this guy:

He'd been living in a rescue for four months. 

I looked at his picture and tried to explain that I'M NOT GETTING A DOG.

His picture looked back.

And guess what?

I got a dog.

And I am entirely besotted. Deadline, schmedline–sorry, Editor O' Mine, but I can't work today because I have to sit on the couch with this puppy curled up in the crook of my leg. There's really only so much work that can be done with a wet puppy nose rested on your laptop.

He's one-half Corgi and one-half Havanese. His name is Toby, although in keeping with this family's tradition to bestow multiple nicknames on anything that moves, he's also known as Tobalicious, Toby Wan Kanobi, Totally Tobular, and Tober Meister Meister Tober.

The rescue organization did the best they could, but he was surrendered by a breeder–his first four months were spent entirely in a kennel. He is painfully timid, and the poor thing now finds himself smack in the middle of the Loudest Family In America. But the kids, to their credit, are so eager to woo him back to confidence that when they bicker over whose turn it is to cuddle him, they bicker in whispers, so as not to frighten him.

I love it.

In what has been a swirly season of book-writing, and a double-soccer season, and swine flu, and scout campouts, and a hundred other frantically frantic obligations that keep us out of breath, enter Toby, to slow us down. Love something together. Give of ourselves together, as a family, to pull this little guy out of his shell. It may be the sweetest time we've ever had.

So Internet, meet my Toby:


He's a 12-pound, eight-month-old bundle of Just Exactly What This Family Needed.

Compassion Bloggers’ Trip to El Salvador

Compassion Another team of Compassion bloggers leaves at the crack of dawn on Monday, headed for El Salvador–a trip made all the more compelling by the massive flooding there over the weekend.  Follow along with these bloggers (Molly, Kelly, Heather, Shaun, Keely, and Patricia) at their own blogs, or at the Compassion Bloggers’ hub site.

Please join me in praying for their safety, their hearts, and their families back at home. Pray that these bloggers will find the words to say what needs to be said and that children are sponsored.