Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day Is Finally Here!

To say this week has not gone according to my plans would be a major understatement.  I didn't feel well Sunday night but I attributed it to being tired - surely a good night's rest was all I needed!  Monday dawned bright & early with a long To Do list & a queasy stomach.  And so goes 24+ hours of my life.  I doctored myself up as best as I could, dutifully munched the toast Mike fixed, & prayed I'd be well enough to go vote.

God is gracious.  I woke up this morning with a broken fever & no body aches.  I had the strength to get cleaned up, drive to the polls, wait in a short line, & cast my vote.  What a privilege!  I pray it's something I never take for granted.

Recently as I was reading my Bible I was taking in some of the Old Testament accounts of Israel & Judah.  Talk about political upheaval - kings were coming & going & wars were starting & finishing fast enough to make my head spin!  And this is what I wrote in my journal:
I have been reminded that from the very beginning God has been in control of the kings & kingdoms - He determined who would be established & who would fall.  The Lord always honored those who obeyed & those who humbled themselves & repented of their disobedience.
And so it is today.  May American leaders have the wisdom to humble themselves & repent of their disobedience.  And even if they do not, the Lord is still in control.  He will still work out His plan.  As an American I probably will not be able to confidently say, "It's all going to work out; it's all going to be OK!"  But as a daughter of the Most High King, I certainly can say "All is well.  The battle is already won & my future is bright with the Light of Heaven."

I hope you were able to go out & vote today.  God bless America. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Not Giving Up!

I took on a big project yesterday.  It's a project that I've taken on for the past three years with varying degrees of completion/success.  The Project = Raking the Leaves.

Oy.  Autumn is a beautiful time of year but the shedding of leaves has to be part of the curse.  God help me if I have to raise my arms, lift anything, or grip anything tomorrow.  I.am.going.to.be.SORE.

But it's all done - the leaves have been raked & bagged! 
 I even mowed the grass!

It's still not a prize winning yard by any means.  But I am grateful that the Lord granted me the time & the strength to get it done!  And I'm most grateful that it only has to be done once a year *grin*

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Bit of An "Ah-ha" Moment

I have really kind of struggled this week.  It's been a physical/emotional kind of struggle.  No matter how much sleep I get, I'm tired.  No matter how much I get done, it feels like I'm wasting time.  No matter how many job searches I do, I can't seem to find the place that could be the right fit for me.  And then there are people in my life that I love who are also struggling.  And being the person that I am, when I hear about those other struggles I try to pick them up & carry them, stacking them on top of the burdens that are already weighing me down.

Oy.  What a way to live!  I'm pretty sure that this is not the abundant life that Jesus talks about giving to us.  But you know, I wasn't even aware of what I was doing until I had a conversation with Mike today on his lunch break.  

I was asking him if he thought I should see our doctor to check out whether or not I am struggling with depression.  Yep, it's kinda been that bad (that's part of the reason I have been hiding out from this space; who wants to read sad junk all the time?!).  I told him that some days I feel like I don't remember how to smile & when I try to, my face just feels twisted.  

Of course, Mike was loving, kind, & supportive in his response.  He told me I could if I thought it was necessary.  He told me there was nothing wrong with exploring the situation.  And he told me he knew how I felt because he had been in that same place before.  He calls it feeling 'blue'.  

Somehow, after he told me that I wasn't comforted.  I was kind of mad, actually & so, so sad.  Where is our joy?  Why are we so sad?  What are we missing that the Lord is trying to work out in us?

As I drove home I had a miniature pity party fit.  I cried & told God that I really just missed my mom so much.  And that I just wanted a job, for crying out loud!  And hadn't this been enough?  Wasn't He going to fix anything anytime soon?!

And I don't know what brought these thoughts to mind, but I started thinking about Thanksgiving.  Most of my Thanksgiving thoughts so far have been to fuss & worry about how we are going to plan & pull off the family meal because Mom was the genius behind all of that.  But today I actually had some genuine Thanksgiving thoughts.  I wondered, If I really start trying to be grateful for what I have, rather than mourn what I have lost, will I recover my joy?  Will I start to have some hope?  Will I learn to trust God?  Because I am really struggling with that...

And you probably really don't want to know where my thoughts went from there because it will just highlight to you what a freak I am.  I thought, Maybe I can list 1,000 gifts by the end of the year!  I'll be just like Ann Voskamp!  And I'll post them here on the blog every day!  Then I got to trying to do the math in my head...there are 61 days left in the year, 1,000/61=I-have-no-idea-but-it's-a-lot!  And then I got real with myself & admitted that I can in no way commit to posting here on the blog every single day.  I'm just too scattered for that.

Then my mind went into an even scarier place: I thought, I'll get on Pinterest & find some sort of Thanksgiving chart thing to make where Mike & I can daily list our blessings!  That idea is nuts for so many reasons, number one being that I don't have even a single sheet of construction paper in this house & number two being that Mike truly feels that stuff like that belongs in a elementary school classroom & not in our home, plastered on the kitchen wall, for example.

So I guess maybe I just need to make a change in my thinking.  And I know that the Lord will help me do that.  He already has, truthfully.  Right after I came home from meeting Mike on his lunch break (a perk of unemployment that I'm so grateful for) I came home & started raking/bagging the leaves in our yard.  As you all know, this is a somewhat exhausting chore & awkward (dumb leaves, GET.IN.THE.BAG!).  But as I raked & piled & scooped & bagged I thought about how we have a yard!  we have trees!  we have a rake! & bags! I'm healthy & strong enough to do the job!

Maybe what I'm finally beginning to learn is to "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."  I Thessalonians 5:18

Because "all circumstances" includes the death of your mom, the loss of your job, the disappointment of expectations, the death of dreams, all circumstances = ALL circumstances.  And the Lord wouldn't ask me to do it if He couldn't help me accomplish it.

So I'm putting on my Turkey hat & starting the work of being thankful.  I hope you are, too!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

It's hard for me to believe it's Halloween already.  Hard because that means...

I've been unemployed for two months

I've been job hunting for a month & had absolutely no success

Our first Thanksgiving without Mom is merely weeks away

Our nephew Caleb will be officially a teenager in only 19 days (yikes!!)

And I haven't been on here posting anything for ages!

Hopefully I'll be around a lot more frequently in the next couple of weeks.  I have notes everywhere of different things that have happened, lessons that are being learned, & photos that are marked to be shared here.

But until then, Happy Halloween!  Everybody stay safe & enjoy the treats, avoid the tricks!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Counting It Down & Packing It Up

Part of me is very confused over my sadness with my job loss.  I've been unsatisfied with my job in many ways over the past couple of years.  There have been big issues (not enough work to do) & little discomforts (the early shift, the many miles driving, the cold air conditioning running all.year.round, sharing a bathroom with six men), so one would think that I would more readily embrace this change.  And it wasn't a surprise.  There had been concerns that led to suspicions which led to rumors which finally lead to the actual announcement - the doors are closing.  In two days.  Wow.  And the unexpected sadness of losing my job has settled into my soul, right next to the lingering sadness from saying goodbye to Mom.  As I've been stripped of them both, I realize how much security & sense of who I was & what I was worth as a person came from that relationship with Mom & my job here at Cardinal Health.  I know that is not how the Lord wants me to define myself & it's not how He wants me to claim my security.  He should hold that place in my heart & life.  And only as He strips them away from me do I realize how He has been displaced.  Many lessons to be pondering as I pack it up & prepare to hang up my lab coat for the last time...in two more days.

I've spent some time today packing up my office.  It's funny how many personal items have migrated into this work space.  There's artwork from nieces & nephews...pictures of family & friends dear...reminders of who my God is...& little keepsake gifts given to be flipped through daily...
 And now my space feels so bare.  It's like this desk could belong to anybody - not just me.  *sigh*

In between the packing of my personal things & the packing of the impersonal things of the lab - syringes, paperwork, tools, & other odds & ends not necessary for our final two days...in between all of this busy activity I have let my mind drift over promises I know that I need to cling to now.  Otherwise, next week when there is no job to go to I will just stay in bed & mourn.  Mourn this year full of challenges & difficulties.   Mourn my losses & pain.  I don't want to do that.  I want to learn to rejoice in my times of suffering.  I want to learn to offer the sacrifice of my praise.  I want to learn to lean hard into the One who cannot be moved.

If I don't learn these things, then what has all of this been endured for?

 The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; 
blessed be the name of the Lord.
Job 1:21b
 Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
    teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are the God of my salvation;
    for you I wait all the day long.
Psalm 25:4-5
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing 
 Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things 
and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 
 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own 
that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, 
the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 
that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, 
and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.
Philippians 3:8-10
 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
     his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
     great is your faithfulness.
  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
     “therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul who seeks him.
  It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3:22-26
 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
    for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
     till the storms of destruction pass by.
 I cry out to God Most High,
    to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
Psalm 57:1-2
For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, 
that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, 
for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Hebrews 13:14-16
 For the mountains may depart
    and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
    and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
Isaiah 54:10

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Little Happy...

In case you were worried that I sat at home all weekend crying into my socks about Mom's birthday, I'll give you a little rundown of how we handled the occasion as a family.

We ate (of course!).  Instead of the normal family dinner at Mom & Dad's house we went to Olive Garden.  Who doesn't feel better about life & the world in general when they have a belly full of noodles?
Beth & I were there, too.  We were just too busy snapping pics of everyone else to actually get in any pics ourselves.  It was a nice dinner with a sweet waitress & even sweeter fellowship.  Balm for our souls.

And Aunt Ruth shared an answer to prayer.  She has Lupus (like my Mom) but she has had it manifest itself in some different ways.  She almost lost her vision this past year due to sudden, severe dryness of the eyes.  She has been carefully treated & monitored by an excellent eye doctor.  She has progressed well & just this week she was told that she is nearly fully recovered & can now space her check-ups out to every six months rather than every two months.  God is good.

And as my Monday morning dawned today, my last Monday at my job, I was tempted to be very sad & more than a little angry that I have no choice in this situation.  But then I heard the raindrops falling on our roof & I couldn't help but rejoice in another answered prayer - almost an entire inch of rain fell this morning.  Hallelujah!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Happy Birthday To My Momma

Today would have been Mom's 63rd birthday.  I would have called her & wished her a super happy day.  We would have all gathered for a dinner at their house with probably hamburgers on the grill & some cake with ice cream for dessert.  There would have presents, laughter, & lots of hugs.  This pic is from last year & I can just hear Mom giggle as she tore through the paper.  Maddie is standing by to help, of course.  It's so hard for me to believe that we are done celebrating her birthday.  But I will never be done celebrating her life.

Happy birthday, Momma...I'm holding my memories of your loveliness close in my heart. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Six Months...A Somber Milestone

Six months ago today I woke up to a nightmare.  And truthfully, some days, sometimes even most days, I feel like I'm still trapped in a nightmare.  Dad's frantic voice over the phone...the numb horror of realizing Mom was already gone with no last minute goodbye, no last hug, no last touch...when six hours earlier I had been talking with her on the phone.  It all happened so fast.  She was just gone.

And the past six months have crawled by.  I know that in time the Lord will help me deal with this grief.  I'm not angry anymore (at least not most of the time).  I can get out of bed, go to work, fix dinner, clean the house, fold laundry.  I can function most of the time.  Most of the time you could look at me & never know the sadness that I still carry around in my heart, trying to choke out my joy.  Sometimes it wins, but not always.  The Lord's grace is always with me & there have been so many faithful friends & family who have prayed.  I know it's so because I've been helped. 

Over & over today I've rehearsed the different things I'd say to Mom if I could.  It reminds me of when I was in college.  I would talk to Mom every Sunday night.  During the week I'd list all the different things I wanted to tell her about or ask her about.  I didn't want to forget anything because my mom was the type of mom that you could tell stuff to.  And Mom knew all of my stuff.  If I could talk to her today I'd say...
~I miss you.  Every day.  And I cry so much - I know you wouldn't really like that.  I need your 'stiff upper lip' lecture.
~I'm losing my job, Mom.  What am I supposed to do now?  I'm trying not to freak out but it's really hard.
~We're trying to get stuff together to do a craft fair.  I wish you could come visit us there...I always loved it when you showed up to my stuff.  Because you always did.
~I got my hair cut short!  I finally did it.  I know you wanted me to do it ages ago; I was just too chicken.  I wish you could see it.  And I've decided to embrace the gray; the dye has been kicked to the curb!  You'd be happy to see my silver streaks!
~Sometimes in church I stop singing so that I can listen for your voice.  Sometimes I swear I can hear you.  And it's the prettiest sound I've ever heard.
~I'm starting to despair of my housekeeping abilities.  How in the world did you keep our house so clean & uncluttered?!  I need your help.
~I didn't get any flowers planted in the front bed this year.  You weren't here to go to the Apple House with me to pick them out.  I got rid of the weeds but it's just this huge blank spot without you to help.
~Dad told me that I could have your purple leather purse.  I've been carrying it everywhere.  Every place I see purple I think of you & how it was your favorite color.  
~Your birthday is Saturday.  I think I will make a white cake from a box with butter cream frosting made with margarine - just like you liked it.  
~I love you.  So much.  You were the best momma a girl could have had.  I miss your quiet, confident faith & steady guidance.  You never spoke loudly or acted forcefully but you had tremendous impact.  I hope someday that I can be just a tiny bit of the wonderful that you were.  

August 2011
Mom's Birthday

Holiday World Family Vacay 2011
Showing off our Skee Ball winnings.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Life Changing Announcement...

Lately I've been kind of hiding out.  I had some news to share but it was the kind of news that you can't broadcast to the general public (or even to your close blogging friends) without making sure that all parties involved were notified.
And no, I'm not pregnant.
And no, my marriage isn't in crisis, we aren't changing churches, selling our house, or anything like that.  

I'm losing my job.

The news wasn't wholly unexpected.  Our pharmacy has always been a small one.  We have always had less than 20 customers.  
Just a quick note for those of you who don't know me in the real world: I don't often talk about the details of my job but I am a Nuclear Pharmacy Technician for Cardinal Health.  For the next 10 days, that is.
Anyway, we're small, always have been.  But in the last year our business has shrunk even more.  So has the business in our field, overall.  I'm not sure what all the factors are that play into the loss of business & it would likely bore you if I tried to explain what I do know.  The bottom line is that I will be officially unemployed as of September 1st.  
It's a weird feeling.  I wish that I could say that I'm full of enthusiasm about all of the new opportunities I could pursue.  But honestly I kind of feel like the hits just keep coming & that this has been the worst year of my life.  That's just my dumb emotions talking & nobody wants to listen to their whining.  Instead I've been trying to think of the things about my job that I won't miss - the long solitary drives (sometimes in scary winter weather), the early morning shift, the long afternoons when I usually don't have much to do, cleaning the pharmacy & surveying for contamination (my least favorite job), billing, filing...
And I'm trying not to think about the things I'll miss - drawing up doses, running quality control tests on the drugs, processing white blood cell labeling tests, my funny all-male coworkers...
*sigh*  Change is painful but God knows I'd probably never leave this job unless He moved me.  I suppose He wants to move me.

As far as future plans go, I'm just not sure.  I was blessed to receive a severance package so there is a little less urgency about finding another job.  I have made myself many checklists of projects that need to be completed.  I'm going to spring clean our house, Dad's house, & both of our cars.  I'm going to make a couple of lunch dates with friends.  I'm going to have my friend Missy visit for a few days (all the way from Vienna - yeehaw!).  
One of the most exciting plans I have for September will be to help Mike get ready for our first festival.  We will be setting up a booth at a nearby fall festival to sell some Christmas ornaments & other varied crafts.  Stay tuned for more details of Young Archer Woodcrafts.  I can't wait to share some pics of what we're making & all the details of where you can see our products!  It's been a long time coming & the free time that I'm going to have is giving us the extra push we need to get things underway.

I'm grateful that I don't walk the path of this life alone.  The Lord has already given me some good promises from His word about how He leads His children.  I know He is faithful.  I hope that I can be faithful to Him & not worry & fret during this time of change.  I'm also grateful He's given me Mike.  His patience & calm spirit have been such a help during my freak outs.  Yeah, those happen.  I'm quite given to freak outs - anybody else?  If you think of it, keep us in your prayers, bloggy friends.  We appreciate it more than you know.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

'Zag, Pharm Girl Style

All of my life I've been a fan of food.  There's no surprise in that statement, is there?!  

Anyway, I like food.  And pasta is food & lasagna is pasta & so that means I'm a fan of lasagna (affectionately referred to as 'zag).

Still with me?

As I've gotten older & become much less grossed out by things like vegetables, I've taken the meat out of my 'zag & replaced it with veggies.  Our go to recipe for 'zag includes ricotta, mozzarella, mushrooms, & spinach.  Usually I have frozen spinach but I've discovered that if you get fresh mushrooms & fresh spinach, saute them up with a little olive oil & butter - oh my!  You'll never get a bag of frozen spinach ever again!

This past Saturday at the farmer's market I saw several stands with some lovely little eggplant (eggplants?).  The only time I have successfully cooked with eggplant I made a huge dish of vegetable moussaka.  It was fabulous but took approximately 23 1/2 hours to make.  Slight exaggeration, but you get the idea.  It was scrumptious but very involved & definitely not weeknight cooking.  But that eggplant just looked so pretty there at the market & I was itching to buy one but just not sure what to do with it other than admire it for being so purple & pretty.  So I asked one of the vendors & she told me that she likes to use eggplant for lasagna rolls.  Hmmm...sounds good to me!  She explained that if you buy a small eggplant, slice it quite thinly, & roast it with a little bit of olive oil before 'zagging it up, that it isn't necessary to salt it & do that whole mess when you have to draw out the bitter stuff.  I was convinced that I could do it so I grabbed a pretty little purple guy & last night I got to 'zag making.

The 'zag on the left is the roasted eggplant 'zag;
the 'zag on the right is our usual standby.
I set out to make two smaller 'zags because Mike is usually somewhat culinar-ily adventurous, but I wasn't getting the whole eggplant-is-cool-let's-give-it-a-try vibe from him when I announced the dinner plans.  It was a good thing I made both, because he didn't try even one little bite.  Chicken.  Shame on him.

Anyway, I'm not going to give you a real recipe-recipe.  I'll just give you a synopsis, in case you want to give the eggplant in your farmer's market a little try!

Slice the eggplant thinly & arrange on a baking sheet.  Coat lightly with olive oil.  Put it in the oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes a side.  Make sure it's getting quite tender.  In the meantime, cook enough 'zag noodles to make a bottom layer & a top layer in your baking dish.  Also, gather your ricotta, mozzarella, mushrooms, sauce (we use Ragu Super Chunky Mushroom) & some Italian seasoning is a good idea, too.  When your eggplant is ready, just layer your 'zag in the pan.  I put some sauce on the bottom, the noodles, then a mishmash of eggplant, the cheese, the 'shrooms, the seasoning, & the sauce.  Then put on your top layer of noodles & this is when I pour on a ton of sauce.  I don't know why; I just do it that way.  And then I top it with a lot of mozzarella.  You can never go wrong with lots of mozzarella.  Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes (depending on how toasty you like your top cheese to get).

Ta Da!  Roasted Eggplant 'Zag, Pharm Girl Style!

If you try it & like it, let me know!  If you try it & hate it, you don't have to tell me *grin*  And if you have any suggestions for how to use eggplant, definitely let me know!

Thursday, July 26, 2012


The days have been a little crazy lately & I've been hiding out, living life & thinking on some things that will come in later posts...but for now, here's some snaps to show you a bit of what's been going on!

Mike & I celebrated three years of marriage.
God is so good.
There is no other man on earth for me.

Drives for my job have taken me past this building several times.
I wish I worked in a building that had flowers cascading over it.
Such beauty.

Other drives for work had me commuting to the Big City for a week.
I'm glad, glad, glad that it's over.
Interstate highways & construction just don't mix well.
We've been eating good stuff like this southern Indiana grown melon from The Big Peach.
Thanks, Dad!

And this is the grand sum total of our harvest (so far!) of our
14 tomato plants.  Yep, 14 plants & 2 tomatoes.
Summer isn't over yet!
I've driven to work under skies this brilliant...

& ended the day on our front porch gazing at skies this full of fire.
We've been getting some projects done...

like this cedar 'house' for our lawn mower & some tools.
I'm crazy happy that we no longer have a lawn mower on our front porch!

I'm also crazy happy about this pull out shelf system we installed in
my one big kitchen cabinet.  I had been saving my Discover card cash-back
rewards to purchase a Lowe's gift card.  After the giftcard this shelving
system only cost us $17!  $100 was covered by Discover.
We've had a couple of rainy moments...but no rainy days.
The drought of 2012 drags on, trying, building, & stretching
the faith of so many of us.
They predicted rain for today.  We got about three minutes of
downpour this morning but nothing else so far.
Will it or won't it?
Only God knows.
And I've had short hair for more than six weeks already!
I went in last week for my first trim.
I still love it.
And I'm still shocked when the gas station clerk or the clothing store
clerk stop me & ask, didn't you used to have longer hair?
How do they remember me?
Kinda scary...sorta sweet...another reminder to be a bright light for Christ.

And that's the news from our corner of the world! 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Going For The Gold!

If you know me at all, you know that I'm not really competitive.  I don't know if it's a self-defense mechanism because I'm not super good at much of anything or what.  When it comes to contests/games/whatever, I just usually don't get too much of a fire under my hiney, if you know what I mean.  But every once in a while something hits me just right & it.is.on.  Like Donkey Kong.

It's county fair time around here.  The 4-Her's have really got it going on this year.  My niece Maddie has something like 19 projects on display, including her two pigs, Christmas & Bob.  My nephew Caleb has nine or ten, including his two pigs, Paco & Porky.  Say that ten times fast, Paco & Porky, Paco & Porky, Taco & Torky...it's not easy!

Anyway, I'm not one of those adults who gets their craftiness together & exhibits at the fair.  My sister did this year though & her stuff was fabulous - a violet, some blackberries, a wreath she made - all beautiful & blue ribbon worthy.

The thing that tripped my trigger this year is a little King Arthur Flour sponsored brownie making contest.  I kind of waited to the last minute to get some inspiration together for what I wanted to make but I think I came up with a fairly good idea - Coffee Infused Brownies with Hazelnut Streusel Topping.  I was thinking that coffee & chocolate go together fabulously & that the best coffee has some hazelnut going on.  I wanted to stay away from the whole peanut butter or cream cheese or oreo or nutella influences.  I figured that I needed to be a little more creative.

I searched online for a basic brownie recipe & then I tweaked it to make it a little more intense.  Here's the recipe with my tweaks:

1 cup butter
1 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 T hot water
2 T instant coffee
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Then I made up this streusel topping (it's pretty basic):

1 cup hazelnuts, chopped
scant 1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup raw sugar
1 T cocoa
4 T butter

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9x13" pan with foil & grease lightly.  In a large mixing bowl, melt butter.  Add cocoa & blend well.  Add sugar & mix well.  Dissolve coffee in hot water.  Pour into cocoa mixture & mix well.  Add eggs one at a time & beat in well by hand.  Stir in vanilla, flour, & salt.  Pour into the baking dish & spread out evenly.

To prepare the streusel, place hazelnuts in a food processor & process until chopped well.  Pour hazelnuts into mixing bowl & add flour, raw sugar, & cocoa.  Mix well.  Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until you have pea-sized pieces.  Spread over brownies.

Bake for 30-35 minutes.  Cool & enjoy!

These are seriously pretty good (not that I'm prejudiced toward myself or anything!).  Rich, chocolatey, coffee-infused, crunchy hazelnuts, & yum...I'm seriously going to win.

Actually, probably not but that's all right.  They were super fun to make & share.  So make some, share some, & have some fun this weekend!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Introducing the 'Cherry Bird!'

I'm having some focus issues today; please tell me that I'm not the only one.

Recently here at work things have been kind of slow. By slow I mean we only dispensed 8 doses today.  And that type of slow translates into hours of trying to keep busy day after day while wondering if I will be employed next week or next month.  It's a bit sad really.  When we first started working here my boss & I made jokes about whether we could stand working together for the next thirty years or so since we are close to the same age & that time frame would get us to retirement.  Almost ten years in, we can't make jokes about it anymore.  I've hesitated about saying anything on here regarding the situation because all I can do at this point is speculate.  And with these long slow days, I've got plenty of time to speculate!  

I've been trying not to dwell on the 'what ifs' & 'maybes' & 'if onlys' & 'I wishes' & all of those other unproductive thought patterns.  And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I know I struggled with these things before Mom's death but it's much harder now.  That's no excuse; it's just the reality I'm dealing with.  The work still has to be done to try to align my thoughts & thinking patterns with God's.  And He'll help me do it - if I'm willing & we all know that is the tricky part.

So while I've been here at work today I have tried to occupy myself with some grateful/joyful/happy thoughts that have nothing whatsoever to do with loss/grief/worry/anxiety/fearofimpendingdoom.  

And the best part of my day so far...the Cherry Bird!

I know this pic isn't the best, but if you could see this
thing in real life you would holler, "Cherry Bird!!"

I hope that your day & your weekend is full of Cherry Bird goodness!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Holiday Hangover!

I've mentioned before that Thursdays feel like the second Monday & man!  This week that is especially true!  I've got holiday hangover big time - so sleepy & tired!  I feel like I have just been bounced back from the cruelest short little weekend.  But, thankfully that isn't truly the case & I only have about 10 work hours left before I get a real weekend!  Yeehaw!
I had a super nice Independence Day (I hope you did, too!).  I got up early & met Beth for a run.  I struggled through the heat & some foot pain (dumb bone spur!!).  We managed to put in three miles running & just over a mile walking.  Can I just say that even though it is a bit of physical torture, spending that time with my sister is just the best. After we got done I took my sweaty self home to get cleaned up & do my 4th of July party cooking!  I finally made one of my pinterest recipes, quinoa salad with black beans, avocado, and cumin-lime dressing.  It was super good, if I do say so myself.

We got loaded up & headed over to Mike's sister's house.  It's where I've spent the 4th of July since Mike & I have been together.  It's Independence Day but it's also my father in law's birthday & we have to celebrate!  Gwen & Jason have a pool so we all want to be there enjoying the water, especially since it's been so hot.  Interestingly enough, I didn't struggle too much with missing Mom yesterday.  I think it's because I had already gotten used to not celebrating with her.  I did wish I could have called & had a little chat with her while cooking.  And sadly, I never made connections with Dad.  He worked & then he went to a party at Beth's house & we just missed each other.  I've got some blueberry muffins for him so I'll have to pop by tonight & see him for sure.

Some of Gwen's garden treasures...
Independence Day, for so many of us, is a time to see our family & friends, fire up the grill, jump in the pool, eat watermelon, light fireworks & just enjoy a day of being together.  Just like every other holiday it can become so easy to forget why we have gathered, why we have been given a day off from work & our normal responsibilities.  During the party yesterday I checked my facebook & instagram feeds a time or two & truly enjoyed the posts from friends that recalled my mind to the true purpose of the day.  One of my IG friends posted a pic with this quote:
The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America.  I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.  It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.  It ought to be solemnized with pomp & parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, & illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
~John Adams to his beloved Abigail
I think John had the right idea.
God bless America, land that I love...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Strengthening Rain

Can I let you in on a little secret?  Every time I sit down to write here I feel like my thoughts should be much more organized.  It's a wonder any of my posts make sense...if you could see the mess whirling around in my head right now - yikes!  Sometimes it keeps me from writing; I second guess myself & say that surely someone else has written about that exact same thought & surely they have expressed it much more effectively than I ever could...but, some days I get over myself & actually put fingers to keyboard.  Because some things just boil up inside of me until they are let out.  Such is the case today.

The past I don't know how long, week or so, I have really struggled with the lack of rain & the unrelenting heat.  I don't mind a hot day; usually I enjoy the heat much more than other folks.  But the weather we have had this summer is unusual & that's nothing you don't already know.  And the heat is exhausting.  And the lack of rain has left me unsettled, too. I've actually fought some anxiety over it.  

It goes a little deeper for me than just being concerned about my tomato plants.  My dad is a landscaper.  In weather like this his work dries up just like the leaves & the grass.  Most years this would be troubling because he would be bored & their finances would be a little tight.  This year, the first year without my mom, in my estimation it's much more devastating.  As I put my watchful eye on my dad my chest tightens with concern.  And I know that in my mind I am making the situation worse than it probably is, but I worry - long lonely evenings were bad enough before but what if his days become long & lonely & empty, too?  What if I have to see my dad even more broken, unable even to work though he wants to?  So I cry & worry & try to come up with solutions & I pray, begging for rain, begging for a break in the weather.  And then I called dad & asked if he could please help us with our yard?  Tackle some weeds & let me pay him.  He agrees to tackle the weeds but we are still debating the pay.

He came over yesterday driving his big blue truck loaded down with his various weed dealing tools.  He walked the yard digging & spraying & reassuring me that we could make something lovely out of the mess we have - providing we get some rain.  And I watched him work & we both sweat through our clothes & my despair just mounted.  The lack of rain & the heat & the continued struggles in my heart & in our family to just cope & keep living...it all makes me feel somehow like the end of the world is bearing down upon us.

Dad finished up his work & we chatted for a few minutes & I wanted to ask him to stay for supper but I didn't have a plan for what we would eat or even when.  I asked him anyway but he declined like I sort of knew he would.  He left with a wave out the window & Mike sat with me on the front steps while I quietly cried out my despair on his strong shoulder.  He comforted me with his silence - there were no words of impatience or correction, just a deep understanding of my weak faith because after all, there is not one of us who hasn't had some struggle like this.  

Eventually we get up & go into the cool house, have some supper, & move about our evening activities.  I was in the kitchen starting a batch of muffins.  He was in the living room finishing his supper.  I glanced out the window & saw RAIN.  At first I was confused because the sky was still bright blue but it was in fact raining.  I squealed & I hollered & I ran into the living room & out the front door right into the cool shower. I let it dot my shirt & make my toes slippery in my flip flops before I came back to the porch & Mike took some pics with his phone.  Lovely, beautiful, wet, cool rain - what a gift, what an answer to prayer, what a balm for my vexed soul.  

The shower didn't last long - maybe five minutes but it was followed later by a thunderstorm that hailed on our new car & left me sopping wet while grocery shopping.  But I pushed my cart through the too-cool air conditioned store, my damp hair sticky & clumpy with wet hairspray, wearing a smile.  I know that one evening of showers can't undo all the drought like conditions we have going on here.  I know that one rain doesn't equal a break in the weather.  And I know that my dad's phone hasn't been ringing off the hook today with customers who are now ready for him to get started on their yards.  But I do know that those little raindrops last night restored my hope.  Maybe things in this life will never be straightened out & maybe the end of the world is breathing down our necks, but through all of it, my God is by my side & when my strength in adversity is faint & small, His has just begun.  I can do all things through Christ...(Philippians 4:13).

Friday, June 29, 2012

Something To Ponder

In my little office (that isn't really an office it's more of a break room type of area), I have a little flip calendar of inspirational sayings.  It was a gift from my friend Amanda & I have flipped through it every year since I got it.  There are some favorites in there that I always anticipate & then there are the other quotes that seem brand new each time I read them.  I blame my bad memory on a vitamin deficiency.  You can claim the same excuse, if needed.  
Anyway, I flipped the page this morning & this little gem greeted me:

And I kind of caught my breath & furrowed my brow & blinked hard.  Hours later I still have to furrow my brow & blink hard because this truth struck me hard.  If there is one thing about 2012 that rings true for me, it's that I do not know where I am being led.  The Lord has dragged me kicking & screaming down paths that I never, ever would have chosen.  And even as I type this I know that I have brought a lot of additional heartache upon myself because of the kicking & screaming.  It's hard to go to the Lord for comfort when I am stiff-arming Him & daring Him to do something else that will again shatter my illusion of control over this life. I have been challenged to examine whether or not I love & know Him.  I think I thought I did.  But I also think that my knowledge of Him & love for Him have been shallow & academic, at best.  Yes, I have experienced God; I've seen Him work - answering prayer, providing, comforting, & sustaining.  But I have also been complacent, withdrawn, & independent when I thought I had things in my life under control.  And during that time I have forgotten Him - who He is & what it means to love Him & trust Him.

So, here I am again trying to sort out the twisted mess that has become my thinking.  I can only ask for His help & start leaning on His guiding arm.  And you know, I had better learn to lay off of the kicking & screaming.  Submission is a hard lesson, but a worthy one.  And the list of worthy lessons that I need to learn & apply is a long one!

Here are some verses from the Psalms that have been a help to me this week.  Maybe they will encourage you, too.  Hopefully I'll check back here sometime & see that I've made some progress on this journey with the Lord.  I guess time will tell...
*I've added italics to the phrases that I really want to remember.

Psalm 73:23-26
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 43:5 
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

Psalm 84:11-12
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!

I hope you all have a blessed weekend & if you are struggling through some things like I am, keep up the good fight of faith.  And challenge me to do the same.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Since I have been on the evil side of a funk lately (& let me tell you, there is no fun in funk) I think it's time for a little attitude adjustment.  Nobody likes a grouch or a complainer or a crankypants.  Oh, & I'm certain that it's not God's will for me to be this way.  
It's time for a bit of a focus shift.  I'm purposely taking my eyes off of my To Do List so that I can write this post.  I am more than a little overwhelmed with things that need to be done & that is a huge part of my crankypants issues.  I also still miss my mom much more than a little.  I know this will never go away but I do look forward to the sharp edge dulling down just a bit.  And so to put away some of my grouchy issues I'm proposing a refocus - time to think about my blessings because they are many.  I hope you'll join me!

::This pic is overflowing with things I'm thankful for.  It's from last night when I got to meet Beth for a run.  We took a lot of time to just work out & be together.  It was so good to just talk & laugh & relax.  We got rained on while we were running.  It wasn't a lot of rain, but I'm grateful for every drop.  As we were leaving to head home we saw this rainbow.  A gorgeous reminder of God's faithful promise to never flood the earth. When I see a rainbow I think of that promise but I also think of the many other promises He makes & faithfully keeps.  Wow.  The clematis is a pic Beth sent to me from her garden.  Talk about beautiful.  That intense color would have made Mom squeal.

::Psalm 43:5
Why are you cast down, O my soul, & why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation & my God.
I read this verse in my quiet time this morning.  And it really fits where I am right now.  I struggle with feeling so low & so agitated.  I do feel hopeless about several things in my life.  But this verse helps me remember that the valleys don't last forever.  God is still with me & I will hope again & I will praise Him - I can praise Him for my salvation no matter what.  My life won't always be what it is now.  There is hope, even when my emotions lie to me & tell me that hope is gone.  I must listen to truth, not emotion.

::As I continue reading in "Heaven" by Randy Alcorn I am so encouraged about eternity.  It's incredibly comforting to learn about what the New Earth will be like.  I never really anticipated Heaven before because I erroneously thought it would be completely foreign with nothing I would recognize.  As I've done more study I have learned that isn't the case.  The book has been a blessing.

::I'm grateful for church & times I can worship, even with tears streaming down my cheeks.  This past Sunday I was not having a good day.  A friend who spends most of her year in Florida came home & she was upset about Mom, missing her & another church family member who died recently.  That was all it took to make me come undone.  There were tears & sniffling & digging for tissues, but there was still blessing in worship.  I'm even grateful for hymns about Heaven & other hymns like, "God Will Take Care of You."  I break down just about every time we sing but the words go straight to my soul & remind me of my incredible Lord & all He has done for us - in this life & the next.  How can that not affect me?  It didn't use to; it does now, in a mighty way.  And I'm grateful.

::I'm grateful for rest, & Fridays, & a weekend ahead.  Yes, I'm going to run myself ragged with chores & activities & getting ready for the new week, but at least I won't punch a time clock for two days.  Hopefully I get the house cleaned, the laundry caught up, & other junk like that.  I'll also go on a canoeing trip with the youth group from church.  I already know that canoeing will be super fun - even if there isn't much water due to our lack of rain.  Just being outside is happiness to me.  So I'll make my to do lists & try to plan the weekend & strive for some sort of balance.  It probably won't work but I'll give it a shot & try to enjoy myself along the way!

::I'm grateful for some new running shoes.  My feet have been hurting like who had it!  The other running shoes I was wearing just weren't making the cut.  I haven't had them for very long (maybe six months) so I just hated to spring for another pair ($96!) but it had to be done if I was going to keep running or if I was not going to destroy my feet.  I picked out a new pair of Mizunos yesterday & on last night's test run they performed fabulously.  My feet are happy, I'm happy.

::I'm thankful for Mike.  He puts up with my moodiness like no other person who has ever known me (& he bears the brunt of it, poor guy).  I know God made him just for me because any other man would have left running & screaming by now.  Marriage isn't easy; it's hard work.  And I'm grateful I'm with someone who is so worth the effort.

Kind of a rambling, wordy mess but it was just what I needed to think through today.  What blessings are you focusing on today?  It might mean I'm just a little bit nosey, but I'd love to hear all about it!