Saturday, December 26, 2015

Crocheted Wreath Ornament

November and the first half of December found me ill and not doing a heck of a lot.  Not sure if it was a strange cold or if I've developed an allergy to something but I had horrid post nasal drip that kept my throat irritated and me coughing.  I coughed so hard I broke a rib!  It was rainy most of this time and when the weather started to dry up I started to feel better.  Christmas Eve the rainy weather returned and so did the post nasal drip and cough...

One little thing I did, though, was make these wreath ornaments for several of my friends as a Christmas remembrance.  There are a few similar ones floating around the internet.  Well, actually I remember seeing them from before the internet was such a big deal... but mine is a bit different than any I've seen before.

Crocheted Wreath Ornament
All rounds in light sage green with a red bow and hanger.

Directions:  Ch 4, join with a sl st to form a ring.
Round 1:Ch 3 (counts as first dc).  Dc 19 into ring, join to beginning ch 3 w/sl st.

Round 2: Working in FRONT loop only, *ch 3 sc in next st.*  Repeat *  * in remaining 18 sts. Join to back loop in first st w/sl st.

Round 3: Working in BACK loop only, *ch 4 sc in next st.*  Repeat *  * in remaining 18 sts.  Join w/sl st.

Using a coordinating color, weave a thread around the tops of dc from Round 1 and tie a bow at either top or bottom of wreath as desired.  Trim thread ends.  Tie a loop to the back of the wreath for a hanger if using as a tree ornament or use a small safety pin to attach to your coat lapel.

Try using different shades of yarn.  Use shade 1 for rounds 1 and 2 and a coordinating shade for round 3.  For example, light and medium green with red for the bow and hanger.  Or white for rounds 1 and 2, light blue for round 3 and dark blue for the bow and hanger.

Have fun making your own or message me if you'd like to purchase some for Christmas 2016! $1 each or $10/dozen + shipping.

Monday, October 12, 2015

For My New Master Suite

As I'm preparing to move, I find myself deciding on what pieces of this life to take and which to cast off.  That's true of mental and emotional stuff as well as the stuff of daily life that you can put your hands on and, to borrow one of my Mom's phrases, "feel the fabric."  There are items from each and every room that I'm choosing to retain or to repair and repurpose to go with new items I'm adding to the mix.

In the Master Suite, I'm retaining the color of blue that we'd started with to decorate in that room.  I'm going to tone it down to a lighter shades of that blue but I am keeping the blue.  Also the furniture, the one set of sheets that actually fits that bed, the soap dish/dispenser/toothbrush holder set, some funky little knobs to hang towels, and the outer shower curtain and rings to hold it up on the bar.  I have bath poof that's the right colors and I found cotton yarn on clearance at Walmart a couple of weeks ago that also matches and I've been making myself some luxury washcloths.

It's those washcloths I want to show you today.

If you want some for yourself, they are really very simple to make.  You only need to know how to crochet a chain (ch) and a single crochet (sc) and use a slip stitch (slst) to connect it all together.  These are the very most basic stitches and the first you will learn if you take a crochet class or get a "teach yourself how" book.  So this is a great beginner project because you use basic techniques and can quickly complete something that's both pretty and useful!

Select a 100% cotton yarn and either an F or G hook to work with.  The brand of yarn I used is Peaches & Cream.  To start, make a loop and pull a thread up through for the first stitch.  Ch 33.  In the 3rd ch from the hook, sc once then ch two, skip over the next two ch from your beginning row and sc in the 3rd ch from the hook.  Repeat this sc one, ch two process back to your beginning loop.  You should end up with a sc in the last ch.  Ch two and turn. Sc in the ch two space you made in the previous row, ch two.  Repeat across row, and for each of the next 23 rows until you have a square.

To make the edge, ch 1 and sc 3 (to turn the corner) then sc in each stitch along the edge - be sure to put 3 sc in each corner to maintain the square shape.  Connect to first sc with a slst.  Ch 1 and sc through both loops of the first st of the previous round, ch 3 and then sl st together to form a picot, sc in each of the next two sts and then make another picot.  Continue around entire edge of washcloth.  Slst together and tie off.  Use a yarn needle to tuck threads into work.

That's it!

After a couple of these, you can almost make them in your sleep.  It's that simple.

But aren't they pretty?

And you can machine wash them with like colors in a gentle cycle so the care is also very simple.  Many people use this pattern (and many others) for dish cloths in the kitchen but they are soft enough to use in the shower and even on your face.  My friend's daughter, who is a professional nail artist, uses them with the spa treatment for a pedicure to rave reviews.

These are the colors, plus a cheery apple green, I will echo with towels and bedding and curtains and artwork to make a little sanctuary for myself that's bright and happy and cheerful.

Saturday, October 3, 2015


My next door neighbor, Elizabeth, was the first real friend I made after moving to Georgia.  It struck hard and almost unbelievable when she was diagnosed with cancer this past summer.  And then when treatment went poorly and she came home with hospice care, we all thought there would be a few months to visit and let her get things in order.  While her death is not a shock, that it happened now is very much a surprise.

I know that she was in pain.  And I'm happy that she's not suffering through the special kind of hell that lung diseases so often offer to those unfortunate enough to contract one.  She's in a better place, happy and whole and reunited with her loved ones that had gone before.  It's the people left behind that are sad and lonely and walking around a little lost without her presence.  Although... her funeral is going down as the most memorable one I've ever attended.


Elizabeth and Danny, her husband, were never followers of any particular religious doctrine so as it became clear that planning this funeral was imminently needful, they asked the Chaplain from her hospice provider to lead a simple graveside service.  I'm guessing the format was Baptist with a few prayers, a few scripture selections and some short remarks about his impressions from visiting with her at the beginning of her time with hospice.

In north Georgia it's been raining for most of the past two weeks.  The red clay soil is completely saturated.  Crossing any low spots in the lawn are like walking on a soggy sponge.  And it's been raining all day today.  Mostly just an annoying drizzle, but with periods of what you'd have to call real rain.  What I'm trying to get across is the ground is wet.  And soft.  Very wet and very soft.

So picture this:  A smallish group of mourners huddled under a couple of those blue tents that funeral homes set up to protect people from the elements during those graveside moments.  The rolling countryside around the cemetery is lush and green.  The only background noise is the evening song of a few birds gathered in the nearby trees.  It's beautiful and peaceful and about as close to heaven as I can imagine.

The Chaplain is reading a passage from the beginning of Psalm 103...  He's half way through verse 4. (Please click the link and read that far before continuing on here.)  Almost on cue, one side of the grave collapses and the coffin slides partly off that scaffolding-like thing that holds it elevated over the vault and.. pit.

Almost like she's telling him "I ain't goin' yet, dammit!" it's headed right for the Chaplain.  His eyes were about as wide as saucers and there's a collective gasp of disbelief!  And the men from the grave digging company and from the funeral home leap in and are belly stretched over the astro-turf covered mound of dirt trying to keep it from sliding all the way off while the Chaplain concludes much more quickly than I think he'd planned.  And we are all sent to wait safely by the hearse while the workers got the grave walls reinforced and everything back in order before the coffin could be lowered.

Not something a grieving family needs, or wants, to see.  Terrible.  Stressful.  Surreal.  Those would all be good words for the moment.  But pretty soon the giggles set in... and we were all crying for a different reason!  Her daughter, Kari, finally choked out "I knew Momma would just have to get the last word in!!"

After that kind of ending, Elizabeth, who could ever forget you?

Rest in peace, my sweet friend... you were kind, generous, and funny in life.  And also in death!  I love you and I will miss you so very much!!

Elizabeth Karen Bryant Robinson
June 30, 1964 - October 1, 2015

At Kennestone Hospital shortly after being diagnosed with multiple
cancers in June 2015.  You didn't like that Kari snapped your picture... but I'm
sure glad she did!  This is how I'm going to remember you!!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Family Vital Records Binder - Week 4

Your assignment for Week 4 is getting all the information about your family's cars into one place.  Vroom vroom!

Again, you want copies of any official documents in the binder.  Keep the originals in a safe place like a Safety Deposit Box.  Be sure to note where the originals are located on your copies.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Green Bean Salad

Over the past few weeks I met Brandon and his partner, Chad, taking the dogs to the dog park.  Their dog, Lucy, plays well with Lightning and Jack and Gizmo so we exchanged phone numbers with the promise to set up future play dates for them.  At the end of our latest play date, they invited me to a BBQ at their house for the 4th of July.  It was a small, but fun, get together with them, Brandon's sister and her husband and daughter and another gentlemen who rents a room in their house.  I haven't laughed so much in a long time!!  It was awesome!

One of the salads was this amazing marinated green bean concoction that made my tastebuds feel like they'd been transported directly to Heaven.  So delicious!

And different.  And refreshing.

I kept going back for just one more little taste so I could figure out how to make it!

This recipe may be just a little frustrating to anyone who's looking for precise measurements and cook times but it's salad and the ingredients are subjective.  For example, I like onions and would add them generously but after bell peppers made their choice to do me bad I don't like them so much and would choose to skimp on them.  You might feel just the opposite so your salad would happily have more peppers and less onion than mine.  And that's perfectly wonderful!

Green Bean Salad

In whatever quantity is pleasing to both your eye and tastebuds toss any (or all) of the following vegetables together in a very large bowl:
Sliced onion
Rough chunks of multi-colored bell peppers
Inch cuts of celery
Thick slices of zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, cucumbers
Small button mushrooms
Match-stick cut carrots
Finely chopped fresh herbs such as dill, parsley, cilantro, rosemary, jalapeno pepper

Add double that amount of fresh green beans snapped into approximate 2-inch long pieces. The green beans are the feature ingredient, the star of the show, so you want lots of them!

You'll need enough marinade/dressing to barely submerge all of the vegetables for several hours, even overnight, prior to serving. Mix apple cider vinegar, white vinegar and sugar in a saucepan and heat until almost ready to begin boiling.  Remove from heat and stir in a bit of turmeric and a few pinches of pickling spice.  It should taste very much like the brine from bread & butter pickles.  Let cool slightly and then pour over your vegetables.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate until serving time.  Strain or use a slotted spoon to remove vegetables from marinade and put them into your serving dish.  Splash just a bit of the marinade over the top.  You still want the vegetables to be quite moist, just not drowning while out on your table...

My mouth is watering just telling you about it!  Pretty sure this salad has a destiny as a summer cookout staple in my life...

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Family Vital Records Binder - Week 3

Your assignment for Week 3 is to gather medical information for your family.

NOTE:  Make copies, or use duplicates, of your insurance cards in the binder.  You need the originals for your everyday normal life now.  Likewise with insurance policies.  Keep the original documents in a safe place, like a Safety Deposit Box, and put copies in the binder with a notation with where to find originals.

I used a business card style page protector for the contact information for doctors, dentists and veterinarians (my dogs are my kids - definitely an important part of the family and this section is the first place I'd go looking for their medical information!).

My dentist gave me a little grief about getting a copy of my x-rays.  He said they lose their value as a diagnostic tool after about 6 months.  When I explained what this binder was and that including them was for identification purposes, he finally gave them to me.

Also, I did not try to gather up immunization information or medical records from every single doctor I've ever seen.  If you do try, you will likely be better off scanning and saving it to a CD than dealing with that much paper here.  I just wrote out my history as best I could remember and got a photocopy (stamped PHOTOCOPY so it couldn't be used to actually get a prescription) of my medication prescription.  You might also think about including a list of any vitamins or herbal supplements you take since they can affect many medications effectiveness.  I would just photocopy the labels that show the RDA information or pull it off a used up bottle and slip into a sheet protector in this section.

If you have a Living Will, DNR Order or desire to be an organ donor I would include that information here, too.

Outside a widespread disaster, this whole section could be extremely important and helpful if someone else ever needs to make medical decisions for you.  For example, if you are injured in a traffic accident these are details that would help your family and doctors make the best decisions about your care.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Refrigerator Pickles

Saturday morning I got up and went to the Farmer's Market.  It's a small town and a small market but there's usually some interesting stuff.

I talked to a lady selling sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls.  Hers isn't sour either... more sweet than anything but dang good homemade bread.  It had a flavor that's slightly different than what I make but mine is also really good and I love the simplicity of it too much to go looking for something different right now.  I also picked up a bottle of raw honey, more herbs for the garden and some fun little cucumbers just right for munching.  They are tiny and striped like a very miniature watermelon and the flavor is slightly lemon-like. It was a fun little snack!

And I got cucumbers to make refrigerator pickles.

3 bottles of Bread & Butter slices and 2 of Dill spears.  And, yes... those
are old spaghetti sauce jars.  Since the pickles aren't processed only a tight-
fitting lid is needed so these are perfect.  And cute with their reproduction
Atlas marks!  Maybe for next year I'll spray paint the lids like I did for
my spice jars and hide the "Classico" on them.

Now comes the hard part: waiting for them to be ready to eat.

I really love how simple refrigerator pickles are to make.  Anything to do with food that doesn't heat the house up in summer is a good thing!  I've made the Dill pickles for years.  It's a recipe handed down from a friend of my Mom's that is easy and delicious.  This is the first time I've made Bread & Butter pickles this way and I'm excited to get a taste and decide if the recipe is a keeper.

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Pack whole small cucumbers OR spears OR slices cut from larger cukes into 1-quart jars with dill and sliced garlic according to your taste.

Add to each jar:
2 Tbl salt
1 cup vinegar (white or a half-n-half mix with cider vinegar is good)
1 Tbl sugar
1/2 tsp alum
pinch of pickling spice

Fill each jar with cold water. Put on tight fitting lids (does not need to seal, just be airtight) and store in a cool, dark, dry place. Ready to eat after 3-4 weeks. Can be stored up to a year. I've also made 2 quarts worth directly in my old Tupperware PickleKeeper and put it in the back of the fridge for 3-4 weeks.

Refrigerator Bread & Butter Pickles

Thinly slice cucumber and sweet onion and layer them into 1-quart canning jar(s).  Be sure to pack the in the jar tightly as they will shrink when the hot brine is added.

For each jar you need to measure into a saucepan and bring to a steaming simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved:
1 1/2 cups vinegar (I used half white and half cider vinegar)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric

Pour hot liquid over cucumbers and onions in jar,wipe rims and put tight fitting lids on.  Store in refrigerator.  Can be eaten after 48 hours.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Cookie Salad

Thursday I made a dessert for a Relief Society activity... and it was so good I made it again Saturday for a potluck dinner!  Though it has the word "salad" in it's name, you'd have to make some creative substitutions to make it Weight Watchers friendly.  It is rich, delicious and just a little bit decadent!

And it's simple to make, doesn't heat up the kitchen and travels well!

That's a winning combination on every front!!

With friends who love to experiment with food as much as I do, we've come up with some yummy combinations of ingredients...

We all start with this basis:

1 small pkg instant vanilla pudding
1/3 cup milk
32 oz of thawed whipped topping (aka CoolWhip)

Whisk the pudding and milk together until smooth, then fold in the whipped topping.  Next you add crumbled up cookies and cut up fruit.

Some combinations we've tried and really like:

  • Carmello cookies (or Twix or Snickers) with a tangy apple like Fuji or Granny Smith
  • Pecan shortbread cookies with fresh peaches
  • Vanilla sandwich Cookies (aka White Oreos) with strawberries, blueberries and raspberries
  • Fudge stripe cookies with mandarin oranges
  • Chocolate animal crackers and mini marshmallows and tangy apples
  • Ginger snaps with peaches, pineapple and halved grapes

We've all eaten them so quickly that no one has got a picture so here's one I stole off Pinterest of the Snickers/Apple combination.

Photo from

Father's Day

I got to talk in Church today.  Me, of all people, addressing a congregation on Father's Day and speaking about a father's role.  Me, the person who's pretty much all alone in life... both my parents have passed on, I have no siblings, no husband, no really tight ties to extended family (friendly ties, yes... but tight? Not so much.).  I think I'm an odd choice to talk about family relationships.

I had some reference materials suggested, with the disclaimer that I could use any other Church produced material I wanted, and I used the 2 suggested Ensign articles to prepare my talk early in the week.  Thinking "Whew!! That's done." I metaphorically wiped my brow and went about my week.  But something just felt off whenever I thought about the talk.  So I revised.  Then I rewrote.  And then revised some more.  It still didn't feel right.  Finally, late last night I tore up all my notes and jotted down the thoughts that are in my heart and that's the talk I gave...

If we pause and take a good long hard look at the world today, we can clearly see that Satan is working overtime creating havoc with the family and trying to enslave the souls of men.  His main target, more and more often, is the family.   Sadly sometimes it looks like he is winning this battle.  We see grim facts on the news and among many families around us as increased crime, behavior disorders, poverty, drug abuse and a long long list of other societal problems.

In April 2004, Elder L. Tom Perry remarked, “It appears to me that the crosshairs of Satan’s scope are centered on husbands and fathers.”

Why would that be so?  Why would Satan specifically target the men in our lives and our relationships with them?

I personally believe it is because our relationship with our earthly father is a mirror for our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  In a sense, we, as children, learn how to relate to Heavenly Father by how our fathers relate to us.  Think about it for a moment… if you are close to your father and have an open and attentive and loving relationship with him, then it is easy to recognize and feel an open, attentive and loving relationship with Heavenly Father.  If you didn’t have that relationship with your earthly father; if it was distant or tense, for example; you’ve never learned to receive that fatherly attention.  You may want it desperately but not recognize it or know quite how react to it.

My dad... from a wedding picture. October 1962.
I would say that is true in my own situation.  My parents married late and tried right away to start a family.  I ended up their one-shot wonder... an only child. My dad was disappointed that I was a girl… he wanted a boy to teach to hunt and fish and wrestle and play football and whatever other rough and tumble things you do with boys.  And then he got me.  I know that he loved me and I’m in no way saying that he didn’t or that he was a bad man.  Quite the contrary… he was a good man who worked very hard to see that we had the things we needed but he didn’t know how to relate to all the lace and ruffles and baby dolls and teddy-bear tea parties that go with having a little girl and so he held back and left raising me mostly to my mom.  Because he wasn’t a strong presence in my younger life, I feel like I don’t know how to have a close and tender fatherly relationship.  And that sometimes leaves me feeling like Heavenly Father is distant and unconcerned with me.

That’s a lot to overcome.  Satan manipulates circumstances to reinforce that that feeling of estrangement and whispers to dismiss the times when the relationship is good and healthy and working properly as fleeting.  I wish his lies weren't so easy to believe!!

Fortunately, there are other fathers we can look to for examples.  Grandparents, uncles, friends, teachers... There are many of you right here in this room that I observe on a weekly basis caring for and loving your children.  You give me joy when I see you so involved with your little ones.  You give me hope when I see you relating in a positive and loving way with your teens and them mirroring that back to you with respect and adoration.  And in all honesty, you make me more than a little bit jealous when I see you look at your wife with love and honor and respect in your eyes.  So many of you are doing so many things right.  And, sadly, you hear so much criticism and condemnation for your role as a father.  I think it’s time we recognize, encourage and support you!

Not just on Father’s Day but every day.

In this life there are things that matter and things that don’t.  Fathers… YOU matter.

One of the reference articles Brother Embry asked me to use was by A. Theodore Tuttle and was printed in the December 1971 Ensign.  At the beginning of it, he shares the following analogy: “Some years ago, I read an editorial in the Deseret News entitled “The Mechanical Rabbit.” I quote:

“Most of our readers must have smiled the other day when they read of the greyhounds in Britain who don’t know a rabbit when they see one. So long had they chased a mechanical rabbit around the racetrack, that when a real rabbit bounded across the track, the dogs didn’t give it a second look.

“Stupid, eh? But sad too, this perverting of the natural instincts...

“We chase mechanical rabbits, too.

“We chase paychecks, and don’t give a second look to the glint of the rising sun on a snow-topped peak.

“We chase our way through the appointments of a crowded desk calendar, and fail to take time to chat with the next-door neighbor or to drop in on a sick friend.

“We chase social pleasures on a glittering noisy treadmill—and ignore the privilege of a quiet hour telling bedtime stories to an innocent-eyed child.

“We chase prestige and wealth, and don’t recognize the real opportunities for joy that cross our paths...

Wordsworth said words appropriate to this condition: “The world is too much with us: late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.”

“Race on, you poor, blind over-civilized hounds. You’ll never catch your rabbit until you learn to recognize a genuine one.

“But, you’ll have company in your race; the company of unnumbered men who’ll never catch the joy they chase until they, too, learn to recognize a genuine one.”

This points up our challenge: See “that the things that matter most … are not at the mercy of things that matter least.” (Ashley Montague.)

Fathers… YOU matter.  Your influence in the lives of your children, and even other children – like me, matters.  As does your loving presence.  A close relationship between father and child is high on the list of things that matter most!  Your example helps me to repair my relationship with Heavenly Father and that’s at the top of my list of things that matter most!

If you ever start to doubt that you matter, consider this quote from The First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles that's been used in articles, videos and pamphlets for at least 5 decades now:
“The title father is sacred and eternal. It is significant that of all the titles of respect and honor and admiration that are given to Deity, he has asked us to address him as Father.”
You, fathers, have big shoes to fill.  And I give you my respect, honor, admiration and support in building these most important eternal relationships and wish you a most happy and blessed Father’s Day!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Family Vital Records Binder - Week 2

Your assignment for Week 2 is all about getting important addresses together.

You'll need all of the addresses of people who are important to you both personally and professionally.  I started with a list of names and then started going through my address books on my phone, email, hard copy... and I included phone numbers and email addresses where I could and it was appropriate.  What I didn't have and thought I might want, I sent messages to friends, family and other associates asking for their information.

When you've got all the details, type up your lists and print them out.  Insert into sheet protectors and put in your binder.

HINT:  Format your 'Christmas List' as address labels and use a fun font so it takes the work out of sending cards in those hurried days after Thanksgiving.  Print (or photocopy) onto label stock and you're ready to go! 

This section could be a great resource even in 'normal' times!

Or if something happened to me and someone else had to step in and try to piece my life together to get me the help I needed...

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Family Vital Records Binder - Week 1

This is a project I started several years ago and kind of lost steam and then... well, life happened.  I've been meaning to get back to it for awhile because it's something I firmly believe is really important, but darn it!!  Life keeps happening.

The place I found this is a blog called Prepared Not Scared.  It doesn't look to be very active any longer but if you go there and dig around you will find yummy recipes, cute graphic items like calenders and games and some really great preparedness ideas!  Tricia Smith, the woman who writes (wrote?) the blog was the Family Preparedness Coordinator for her Ward in Bountiful, UT at the time I first started my Vital Records Binder.  All credit for the ideas, organization, order, thought process... EVERYTHING... is hers.  I am just copying what I think is a really great idea and inviting you to follow along as I post how I'm going about accomplishing it.

The plan, as I remember it, is that it should take a year to complete everything in the Binder.  And it is a comprehensive set of documentation that, should something terrible ever happen, is a grab and go item to help you restart your life after the disaster.

Your assignment for Week 1 is to gather your materials.  You will need a large (3-inch plus thick) 3-ring binder along with full page sheet, business card, and CD protectors (all available at office supply stores) that are punched to fit in the binder.  You'll also need to download and print the tabs to divide all the sections of the binder from each other.  Once printed, go ahead and slip each tab into a sheet protector and put it in your binder.

Click HERE to view, download and print the tabs.  I'm having trouble creating a shareable file for the labels that go on the sides of the tabs but I'll keep working on it and post them as soon as I can.  Once they are available, or if you want to create your own, they are just attached with clear packing tape.

When you're done, it should look something like this!

Take a few minutes and thumb through the tabs reading what goes into each one and you'll see just how comprehensive this project is!!

A few people who've seen my beginnings of a binder have complained that it's bulky and heavy and hard to tote around and they can save everything on a flash drive that's easy to just slip into their purse or bug-out bag.  If you are comfortable that the days following any kind of major disaster will include readily available electricity, computers, and printing services then that is a good option for you.  I'm not so sure my faith in technology is that strong.  I think it could take weeks to have those services up and running so I'm choosing to make the binder.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Seagulls Can Fly

Photo credit:
Once upon a time there was a Mormon seagull named Sam.  He was a studious seagull, engrossed with learning every detail of whatever new thing he came across in his day.  He was also very punctual... always on time.  He knew exactly how long it took to go from place to place in his town so he knew the exact moment to leave so that he would arrive someplace at the exact right time.

One Sunday morning, Sam was up early and reading his scriptures as all good Mormon seagulls do when he came across a certain passage that made him scratch his head.  He was sure he'd read it a thousand times before.  Maybe even more than a thousand.  But today it spoke something new to him and he was fascinated.  Flipping back and forth between Bible and Book of Mormon and Doctrine & Covenants and Conference talks by modern day Church leaders he just had to learn everything there was to know about it.  His wife came out and nervously checked her watch before asking Sam if he was coming to Church.  He checked the time and, knowing precisely how much time he needed to get dressed and make it to the Church, he waved her on and dived back into his research.  He was sure he had time to finish up his morning's study and still make it to Church on time.

When he looked at his watch he saw that more than the few minutes he thought had passed were gone and he was going to be late for Church.  Unless...  Unless he went the other way by the cliffs.  There were two ways to get to the Church from Sam's house.  The safe way that almost everyone went that took 10 minutes.  And the route that went along the edges of the cliffs where dangerous winds blew in off the ocean and could send an unsuspecting seagull crashing to certain death on the beach far below.  If he went by the cliffs, he might just make it barely on time.

So Sam finished getting ready and set off.  He knew a little about wind from working on the bridges where breezes got strong on some afternoons and that convinced him that he'd be ok.  He kept reminding himself of this crossing the cliffs and then, suddenly, there was a massive gust.

Photo credit:
What was happening?  He couldn't feel solid ground.  And everything was spinning.  And he was falling at an alarming speed.  All Sam could think about was his family.  What are they going to do if I die?  How will they get by?  Deciding he was going to at least try to break the fall a bit and not die this way, he lifted his wings to the side.  And noticed he wasn't falling nearly so fast.  Then he decided maybe he could slow it just a bit more if he moved his wings up and down.  It worked!!!  Soon he noticed that not only had he stopped falling but he was starting to rise.  And so he moved his wings faster and made it back to the top of the cliffs where he continued on his way to Church.

Sam arrived just a few minutes late that Fast Sunday morning.  He sat down next to his wife just as the Bishop was making the announcement to turn time over for testimonies.  And he knew he had to share what he'd learned.  So he walked up to the pulpit and taking a deep breath, said "Brothers and Sisters... Seagulls can fly."  There was a collective gasp from the congregation and some snickers of disbelief so he said it again. "Seagulls can fly."  Then he related the tale of being blown over the cliffs and learning for himself that he could fly.  He challenged the other members to try... to extend their wings and move them up and down.  Everyone sat still nervously eyeing the bird next to them.  Finally a young bird off to one side put his wings out and started to move them.  And sure enough, he started to rise.  Everyone was amazed and soon a few more youngsters were flapping away.  Then some of the adults gave it try.  Soon the whole congregation was flying around the chapel excited about this new truth in their life.  And they flew down the halls to the rest of their meetings just as excited.

Then when Church was over... they walked home.

How many of us are like those seagulls?  We have these great and wonderful truths, things we are thankful for and happy to have in our lives... things we get all excited about at Church.  And then we walk out the door and do nothing with them.

Why do we walk when we are made to fly?

Story credit: As close as my memory comes to what was related by Doyle Embry on May 31, 2015.

A Visit to the Dog Park

There's a new dog park close to my house.  It's way more convenient than the one Derek and I had taken Thunder and Lightning to when they were about 6 months old... back before things went south.  My next door neighbor had told me about Coleman Camp Park and the dog park that had just been added and after getting some directions from her, me and the boys have made a couple of visits.  Here are some pictures:

Lightning saying it's the best Mommy/doggy date ever!

Inside the fenced Large Dog area looking toward the park's pavilion.

There's a splash fountain for water loving dogs to play in.
My guys act scared out of their minds when it comes on...
And there's tires to climb on and crawl through.
The way Jack and Gizmo go all commando under my bed, you'd
think they'd love this.  But you'd be wrong.  It got a couple of
sniffs and then was completely ignored.

Thunder thought drinking from the doggy drinking fountain was
the greatest thing in the history of ever.

Dog bone shaped bench.  The cutest thing for a dog park
or what?

Mostly they just galloped laps around the park.  We had it all to ourselves...  Lightning kept coming up to me with the silliest happy grin almost like he couldn't remember having so much fun before and then he'd take off again and run hard.  Jack was so worked up over the event that his back leg just shivered everytime he stood still for a moment.  And poor Gizmo whose short legs don't move so fast, wore out first from trying to keep up.  Even at home, I call him Pokey because it almost always takes him longer to get to the door to come in.

After about an hour they were all looking for shady spots to lay down in the grass so I gathered them up to go home and they crashed.  Nothing but snores for a couple of hours...  It was an awesome break!

We'll definitely be going back to this park often!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Prayer Beads?

A couple of weeks ago I went to a garage sale where an older gentleman was selling the last of his wife's jewelry as she had passed away a year or so ago and they had no children to take it.  I picked up a little packet of unusual beads for $1.  When I got home and unpackaged them for a closer look, they were part of a necklace or possibly a crucifix since there is a copper cross attached to the one end.  The strand is broken but there's a good number of beads and I've been pondering what to do with them ever since.

My first thought was some kind of art display for these oh-so-bare walls.  But how to accomplish that?  Then a friend suggested stringing them for a bookmark in my Bible.  I'm still uncertain if I want to do that but I do like the idea of being able to touch them because they have such a unique feel when you hold them in your hands that's both pleasant and disturbing.  I like the elements of irony and contrast and surprise in jewelry and decor.

Besides the cross, there are 8 of these skulls.  Each is approximately the size of my small fingernail and they are VERY primitively carved.  No two are the same and some barely resemble a skull while others look very much like one.  The material feels like polished bone or possibly ivory.  There's probably a simple way to tell the difference and I'll feel silly for questioning it once I find out...  The other beads are a little smaller than pony beads and either dark brown or black glass.

When I came to the cross, I was stumped.  Why would skulls be part of a religious item?  Turns out I was again woefully undereducated.  Skulls have a long history of symbolism in religious art as a reminder of the transitory nature of our life here on earth and the certainty of our physical death.  Very old paintings of saints such as Mary Magdalene, Jerome and St. Francis of Assisi often included a depiction of them meditating over a skull.  Some pictures of Jesus' crucifixion show a skull over the cross presumably as a reminder that He could not rise again and offer us resurrection and salvation without first experiencing death.  And more than a few religions have been known to keep a human skull on the premises for their members to use as an aid to meditation.  It seems a little macabre to me considering the squeaky-clean image of a very nice father-figure God most of modern Christianity holds but a Google search shows that skull prayer beads are pretty widely available today and appeal to a variety of faiths.

This description for a set of Buddhist mala beads was interesting:  "...Buddhists integrated Tibetan skull images into malas to represent the brevity of life and the restrictions of human understanding.  Skull-shaped mala beads help chanters [consider] the inevitability of fatality and the requirement of accepting lives filled with empathy."  (Source:

I find it fascinating when looking at world religions just how much we all have in common.  And this is another example... that our earthly life is short and, while we don't understand everything we are here to do, we are to be compassionate and helpful to others on this journey.

While the idea of using the beads in meditation is appealing, a Rosary is not part of my faith's tradition and it's not something that feels comfortable to me to introduce into my personal spirituality.  (I really know very little about Rosaries beyond they are an aid to repetitive prayer.  My most simple explanation is that each bead is like a place marker to keep you focused on the part of the prayer you are reciting.)  And I'm not really sure what to do with the cross as, again, that's not part of my faith. Mormons choose to focus on the ministry of the risen Christ and the promises of eternal life and see the cross as an instrument of death... a common method of executing criminals in that part of human history.  It's not pretty and pleasant to consider, and it shouldn't be... but could it possibly be more painful to bear than what He experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane when taking our sins caused blood to pour from his body like sweat?

So... if you had these beads, what would you do with them?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Difference Between Heaven and Hell

I've heard some version of this little story before but it's been a long time since I thought about it so it was a nice reminder at Church today...

A man died and was greeted by Heaven's gate keeper who offered to show him both Heaven and Hell. The man agreed and was led into a room where there was a large round table with several pots of the most delicious soup he'd ever imagined.  At each place around the table a person was seated.  And each person had a large long-handled spoon strapped to their wrist.  Each person could dip up a spoonful of this delectable soup but they couldn't maneuver it to their lips because their arms were too short or the handle was too long or some combination of those problems.  So they sat there miserable and hungry and very much wanting the soup that was right in front of them.  When the man turned to his heavenly guide with a confused look, the guide said "This is Hell."

And then he led the man away to another room.  Walking in it was identical.  There was a big round table with several pots of that same delicious smelling soup and people seated all around the table with those long-handled spoons strapped to their wrists.  But these people were happy!  Each dipped up a spoonful of soup and turned to the person side of him (or her) and brought the spoon to their lips.  Everyone was well fed and enjoying the soup.  The guide explained, "This is Heaven."

Picture from:
The gist of the talk was that focus on self leads to misery and we create a heavenly environment by serving each other... that we get farther faster when carrying each other's burdens than if each person has to carry all of his own problems by himself.  Sometimes service doesn't have to be a grand gesture; it can be as simple as a friendly smile of welcome when you greet someone.

I think it's a great and valid point.  Service changes perspective. In my own life, I've seen it get my mind off my own problems and feeling sorry for myself because of them.  Years ago my Mom had a heart attack and was in the hospital for several days.  It was a bad one and things were not certain and at one point one of the doctors, a young man finishing his residency, urged me to pull life support right now and be done with it.  A visibly upset nurse advised me to wait until morning when the cardiologist came around.  I waited and things got back to what was our 'normal' at the time, but leaving the hospital that night I met another woman.  She was crying and wanted someone, anyone, to talk to.  I wasn't sure I wanted to be that person but not seeing much chance of a polite escape, I sat down with her and listened.  I'm glad I did.  Her husband had been shot in a street brawl.  And he woke up from surgery angrier than a hungry bear.  He wanted out to go seek revenge.  And he wanted out NOW.  And death to anyone who tried to stop him...  She signed the order for the hospital security to restrain him knowing the threat to kill her for doing it, when he did get out, was real.  Suddenly my problems didn't seem so terrible.  My perspective was changed.

In the Book of Mormon when King Mosiah has called his people together and he addresses the fairness, equity and spirituality of his reign as their leader, he exhorts them to be good to one another.  In part he says "And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.  And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!" (Mosiah 2:17,19)

That phrase "when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God" is a hallmark of my personal faith.  The best way I can say thank you for all that I enjoy, and ever hope to enjoy, is to share it with those around me.  Someday I'd love it if my gravestone could honestly be engraved with she went about doing good.

Now isn't that a powerful possibility?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Power of the Word

As I've said now and then, I sometimes substitute for the regular teacher in Sunday School or Relief Society (the women's auxiliary of the LDS Church).  Today was one of my days to have a captive audience!  Lesson material was drawn from an April 1986 General Conference address by Ezra Taft Benson, his first Conference as President of the Church.  He was addressing the Priesthood session but the concepts hold value for all of us still today.

He noted, "We live in a day of great challenge.  We live in that time of which the Lord spoke when he said, "peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion."  (D&C 1:35)  Those words were spoken 29 years ago.  Think about how much has changed in that time.  Both good and evil have grown stronger.  There's less "gray area."  President Benson continued, "...while many of our members are remaining faithful and strong, some are wavering.  Some are falling.  Some are fulfilling John's prophecy that in the war with Satan, some Saints would be overcome. (Rev. 13:7)

Besides John the Revelator, prophets such as Lehi and the Apostle Paul spoke about this same condition in our days.

Learn more about this picture and the artist, Dr. Steven L. Neal, here:
Lehi saw that many people would wander blindly in the mists of darkness, which symbolized the temptations of the devil.  He saw some fall away "in forbidden paths," others drown in the rivers of filthiness, and still others wander in "strange roads," (1 Nephi 12:17 and 8:28,32)  Paul described a time when such things as blasphemy, dishonesty, cruelty, unnatural affection, pride and pleasure seeking would abound. (2 Tim. 3:1-7)  Such grim predictions by prophets of old would be cause for great fear and discouragement if those same prophets had not, at the same time, offered the solution.  In their inspired counsel we can find the answer to the spiritual crises of our age.  Lehi wrote of an iron rod and when his older sons, Laman and Lemuel, asked what it meant, the answer was "It was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction."  (1 Nephi 15:23-24)  Not only will the word of God lead us to the fruit which is desirable above all others, but in the word of God and through it we can find the power to resist temptation, the power to thwart the work of Satan and his emissaries.

Several weeks ago when Katelyn McLeod spoke in Sacrament Meeting she said, "Conversion is a choice you make every day not something you get to decide once and then move along with your life."  At the time I saw it as a great comfort and contrast to a troubling sentence that had stuck with me from a blog post I'd read sometime earlier.  That blog, and I've forgotten both the author's and blog's name now, was written by an active LDS woman and in that particular post she was talking about current church events and some sadly high profile excommunications.  Overall the post was well done and positive, except the last sentence... She said that "leaving the Church was not beyond the realm of possibility in [her] future."  That bothered me.  And it made me sad.  It also caused me to reflect on my own commitment to the gospel and what I'm doing about keeping it strong. I resolved to focus more on the basics: church attendance, prayer and scripture study.

Spending quality time in the scriptures is the answer to the great challenge of our time.  The word of God, as found in the scriptures, in the words of living prophets, and in personal revelation, has the power to fortify the Saints and arm them with the Spirit so they can resist evil, hold fast to the good, and find joy in this life.

Photo from
President Benson referred to an earlier meeting giving instruction to Stake Presidents and Regional Representatives in 1982. At that meeting, Boyd K. Packer said "Buildings and budgets, and reports and programs and procedures are very important.  But, by themselves, they do not carry that essential spiritual nourishment and will not accomplish what the Lord has given us to do.  The right things, those with true spiritual nourishment, are centered in the scriptures."  And it's true, none of those activities can be ignored and laid aside, but they are not the most important thing you can do.  In recent years, time and again we have counseled you that certain activities bring greater spiritual returns than others.  As early as 1970, President Harold B. Lee told the Regional Representatives: "We are convinced that our members are hungry for the gospel, undiluted, with its abundant truths and insights.  There are those who have seemed to forget that the most powerful weapons the Lord has given us against all that is evil are His own declarations, the plain simple doctrines of salvation as found in the scriptures."

Each of us must, at some point in our lives, discover the scriptures for ourselves -- and not just discover them once, but rediscover them again and again.  We filter what we are reading by the sum of our experiences and since we are living and experiencing every day, each time we read a scripture we have the potential to see it in a new way because we now understand differently.  "The Lord is not trifling with us when he gives us these things, for 'unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required. (Luke 12:48)  Access to these things means responsibility for them. We must study the scriptures according to the Lord's commandment and we must them govern our lives. (3 Nephi 23:1-5)

During our last Stake Conference, Elder Kopischke spent a great deal of time talking about how Councils work.  He was specifically talking about Ward Councils but noted that the principals apply to Stake Councils, General Councils and even Family Councils.  He instructed our leadership to consider what is the best for an individual over what is in the interests of the auxiliary organizations of the Church.  When we care for the people, the auxiliary needs will be better met than when we put them first.  That same idea also applies to us as individuals.

If YOU do this:                                                  The whole Ward benefits with:
Immerse yourself in the scriptures                     Increased activity levels
Search them diligently                                       Testimonies will increase
Feast on the words of Christ                              Commitment will be strengthened
Learn the doctrine                                              Families will be fortified
Master the principles                                         Personal revelation will flow

Bend your efforts and your activities to stimulating meaningful scripture study!

The Prophet Joseph Smith said that "the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and they keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book."  (Book of Mormon, Introduction)  To get nearer to God... Isn't that what we all want?

We want it individually and collectively.

In the Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew, during the Savior's great discourse on the Mount of Olives, He promises "And whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived."  (JST Matthew 1:37)  Sisters, when we pick up the scriptures we hold a treasure in our hands.  Do we treat them as a treasure?  They are filled with guidance for our lives...

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."  (Psalms 119:105)

Nephi promises that feasting upon the words of Christ "will tell you all things what ye should do."  (2 Nephi 32:3)

They are also there to pull us back when we go astray.

"Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil."  (Helaman 3:29)

Success in righteousness, the power to avoid deception and resist temptation, guidance in our daily lives, healing of the soul -- these are but a few of the promises the Lord has given to those who will come to His word.  The word of the Lord is a valuable gift, and we must not treat it lightly... but treasure it.  Spend time in the scriptures.  Learn to hear God's voice for yourself.  Immerse yourself in a relationship with Him.

What a treasure!

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."  (Matthew 6:21)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Lightning's Recovery

With a past misdiagnosis as allergies (from the Banfield in Kennesaw's Petsmart) resulting in feeding him daily antihistamines in vain for nearly a year while my sweet Lightning-bug suffered with pretty severe Entropion (inward turned eyelids) top and bottom on both eyes, he finally got the right diagnosis for his problem and had corrective surgery for it the morning of March 4th. Clay Leathers at New Hope Animal Hospital is our vet now and I like him so much I'd go to him if he'd see me! Before the surgery Lightning's eyelashes were rubbing on his eyeballs and causing a lot of irritation, swelling, tears and pain. To greatly simplify Dr. Leathers explanation: the procedure involves cutting a half moon shaped piece of skin from around the eye and then suturing it to force the eyelid into the correct position.

Lightning's got pain medication, an ointment to help with the itch and swelling while his eyes heal and an antibiotic that the pharmacy had me shaking my head over.  Who writes those drug information sheets they staple to your bag?  The pharmacist was chatty and bragging about how all that information is so helpful and they are happy to offer that level of 'personalized service' to their customers... After I gave my boy the first dose, I sat down and read it.  Adverse reactions I'm supposed to watch for: vaginal irritation and discharge.  I couldn't help but think to myself, "Now THAT would be a much bigger problem than a drug reaction for HIM!"  So much for 'personalized,' huh?

This is him (cropped out of a group photo with Jack and Gizmo) a few months ago when he was on Benadryl.  You can see there's something wrong...  It almost makes my eyes hurt to look at this again.

And this is a few days before the surgery when he'd had the ointment put in his eyes for a couple of weeks so Dr. Leathers could gage how much correction was needed.  He looks so stoic... sad but resigned to this is how things are.  Dogs have such good attitudes!

Recovery is going well, I think.

Day 1:  His eyes are open and clear but they still look mightily irritated and sore. There are 4 stitches above and (if I'm counting right - the suture is the same color as his fur) 5 below each eye. Just like Dr. Leathers indicated would be the case, his upper lids appear almost normal because gravity pulls them down and close to the eye while the bottom lid seems to sag just a little. The sagging is due to being inflamed and as he heals it will go away. Lightning is resting comfortably. He's ravenously hungry and sweet and cuddly today - it's rainy and yucky so it's a good day to curl up in the bed and do some reading anyway! And he's mostly stopped fighting the e-collar (although he's not yet figured out that big thing around his head means he needs a much wider turning radius to keep it from catching on the door frames, steps... my backside).

Day 2:  Scabs are forming around his sutures and they look a little crusty and weepy, which is normal for my experience having stitches and from everything I read about this kind of surgery beforehand, so I'm leaving it be.  Lightning is spending more time out of the e-collar... only putting it on him for a bit when he gets insistent about rubbing his face.  His energy level is up and he's running and playing with Jack and Gizmo and looking happier than he's seemed in a long time!

Day 3:  There's no visible difference from yesterday but his demeanor, energy level and patience with Jacky squirming and slurping on his face for attention are much better!  He finally got to spend the majority of the day out of the cone...

Day 4:  We're done with that oversized Elizabethan thing!  Yay!!  He's enjoying the freedom and I have to admit I'm liking not getting it jammed in my bum every few steps, too.  Lightning is walking around in wide-eyed wonder at all the things he can see now.  He's sweet and playful and all day I've only heard one minor warning growl when he thought Gizmo was going to swoop in and get his treat.  So nice to have more play and less grrrrrr!

Days 5-7:  He's still looking at things like he's seeing them for the first time and can hardly take it all in fast enough.  It makes my heart glad to see him so much happier...  We went on a little Momma/Doggie date.  He loves to be in the car and he LOVES the chicken nuggets from McDonald's $1 menu so the date was a huge success!

Day 8:  The stitches are more visible today so the swelling must be going down some.  And they have nice clean scabs.  Sadly those scabs itch and Lightning is rubbing his face a lot again.  Stopping him as much as I can and keeping a close watch on him but I think he's healed enough that they will be okay unless he gets really vigorous about it.  His eyes are also starting to lose some of their bloodshot look.  Happy, affectionate and handsome!  How did I get to be such a lucky doggie momma?

Day 9-13:  Each day the incisions look just a little bit better.  If I'd actually taken a photo every morning, as I'd intended in the beginning, you'd see the change is almost imperceptible day-to-day but looking back from now to day 5 is a huge difference!  I'm so glad we had this procedure done!!  He looks so much happier about life, too!

Day 14:  The medicine is all done and the stitches are out!  Sadly, a few hours later, right at the end of the work day, I see the incision is opening up.  A quick call to the vet and email him this picture and sure enough... back in the cone and fasting tonight and he has a 7:30 am appointment tomorrow.  No sleeping in for this boy.  Or me.

My poor lil' "coney dog!"

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

And the car started...

What a thankful moment that was!

Yesterday, at the end of my running around with Lightning in tow (he went with me to the Library and to deliver a loaf of bread to a friend and we stopped to explore a dog-friendly park to scope out future picnic sites - great adventures for him!) I saw that I needed some gas in the Explorer.  And so we extended the day just a few minutes more and got him some Mickey D's chicken nuggets before pulling in to the gas station.  I paid and pumped my $10 worth of regular and turned the key to start the car.  And nothing happened.

Nada.  Not a sound, grunt, grind... nothing on the dash lit up.  There simply was no power to anything.  Uh oh!  And I'd left my cell phone at home.

I fidgeted and thought, and amazingly stayed completely calm and together, and tried twisting the steering wheel hard on the off chance (I knew that wasn't the problem, but action seemed better than just stewing on it) I'd locked it up again.  Nope.  I tried putting it in gear and back to park, and pumping the gas and brake, and pushing on anything on the column or dash that looked pushable.  No effect whatsoever.

I got out and walked around the car hoping for a clue.

Or a miracle.

Or at least a jolt of inspiration.

Then I got back in and turned the key one more time.  And it tried, bless its ancient Ford engine, it tried.

And then there was, for lack of a better way to describe it, the voice inside my head telling me to open my door one more time and shut it forcefully.  It wasn't really a voice so much as a thought, I guess.  Or maybe it was a voice?  I do tend to think in my own voice.  That was the magic needed to get the old girl revved up and running!  The car runs just fine, handles perfectly normal.  It's like there is no hint at the problem ever happening.  And I'm good with that!!  It seemed like someone hit a giant reset button, though.  The stereo was asking me to set it up.  That struck a little more fear into my heart.  That is not the kind of technology I have any competence with... I want to just turn it on and have it work.  After poking at a couple of buttons, I found the tuner (the fancy word for radio) and BOOM!!  The volume, reset to level 40 from my normal of 5, about shot me out through the open sunroof!

Seriously.  Painfully loud and sudden Natasha Benefield going on about opening up a dirty window... I may be scarred for life.

After I got home, I saw a news clip about a solar storm hitting the Earth at just about the same time.  And I got to wondering if that was the cause behind my car's little hiccup.  How epically dramatic and adventurous would that be in my tales?  I'm thinking it would rank right up there near the top!

Turns out the problem was a loose battery cable.

I know.  That's kind of a deflating diagnosis after all the build up, isn't it?

But the voice.  I got my jolt of inspiration!  And I think that's maybe even more important than the car being ok.  It helps me rebuild the feelings of trust that God actually hears my prayers and cares enough to intercede with these tiny, practical, and hugely helpful personal revelations.  I have an acquaintance who records these tiny evidences of heavenly communication and calls them HFS.  Heavenly Father Stories.  I thought it was a sweetly quaint throwback to childhood when she talked about them, but doubted I'd ever experience it in my life.  Well... I'm pretty sure this surely would qualify as an HFS!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Buh... buh... buh...BLING!

I always wanted a monogrammed something but had this silly idea that you had to have 3 initials to make it work.  You know those classic frilly lettered pieces with your first and middle initials to each side and a bigger letter for your last name in the middle... but I didn't get a middle name when I was born so I only had 2 initials and that made the whole thing sort of lopsided and weird.  Now that I've given up on the idea of ever getting that third initial for a really classic monogram, I'm being more liberal and creative in my interpretation of what that means.

Here's my very first monogram!

I kind of love it... I don't know if I love it more because it's such an unusual creation for me (I'm not all that into bling or an ultra-feminine girly girl by any means!) or if the appeal is the family history that's wrapped up in it.  I used 6 of my Grandma Clarke's broaches and a rhinestone belt buckle and some silver earrings that were my Mom's and buttons that one or both of them cut off old clothes.  When that wasn't enough to cover the wooden letter, I supplemented with some extra buttons from clothes of my own and buttons and rhinestones I purchased.

The base is a 5-inch pressed wood letter from the oh-so-glamorous Walmart.  I spray painted it with some brushed nickle paint left over from updating the cabinet hinges in the kitchen.  And then came the fun part:  arranging all those pieces and hot gluing them down.  It was kind of like putting together a glittery puzzle!

And it was really really fun to do!!

Once I finish it off with a sheer black ribbon bow to hang it from, the final display spot will be nestled amongst a collection of black & white family photos in a variety of styles and sizes of black frames along the stairwell walls going to the basement family room.

I had so much fun with the monogram that I'm gathering materials to make a 3X magnifying mirror for my future master bath.  I've kind of settled on yellow gold, old pearls, white (or clear) rhinestones and a couple of shades of aquamarine blue for the color theme.  That will be such an unexpected and romantic little touch in the room!

Also in process... opening an Etsy store where I'll be offering both monograms and picture frames/mirrors for sale along with some other fun hand-crafted items.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Welcome Home Wreath

Awhile back I was thrilled to think that maybe I'd inherited my Great Grandpa Burton's poetry writing gene when I wrote a little poem called Welcome to My Home.  All along my intent was to frame it in a $1 store frame that was decorated with flowers and ribbons to make a wreath-type decoration for my future front door.

Except that I couldn't find flowers and ribbons that I like...

And so I ended up making the flowers from fabric and ribbon.  That was kind of an adventure!

Directions here.  Scroll down about 1/3
of the way to find the round pouf variation.
I made these round poufs, 2 from blue plaid fabrics and 1 from a golden yellow print.  For future reference, choose a fabric that is colored similarly on both sides.  The yellow has a definite front and back and since both show when you fold the circles you can see the pale and not so attractive back of the fabric on that flower.

Directions here.
I also made 3 of these 2-layered stars from a deep golden yellow satin ribbon that also makes up the middle layer of loops in my bow.  The website is in what I think might be Russian but I was able to follow the diagram successfully.  Because it's what I had, I used 5 iridescent large-sized seed beads in the center.

And finally, I made 5 flowers from the same sheer ivory ribbon as in the bow by cutting about a 9-inch length and running a gathering stitch along one edge.  Pulled tight, it looks like a pleated circle.  The same iridescent seed beads make up the centers.

I printed the poem in a pretty font on ivory cardstock using navy blue ink and slipped it into the frame after carefully cleaning the glass. Then the flowers were arranged and hot glued to the frame with some leaves cut from a spray of red berries I picked up after Christmas to finish another project.  The bow is a mix of the yellow and ivory ribbon with long tails tied in a half-knot at the end.  At some point, I may try to tuck in either some fine ribbon or flowers in a deep denim-y blue just to pick up that color a little more.

Now to pull me together and get that future front door/entryway...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

When Rover Goes Missing

We've all been drilled in this modern day to microchip our pets so it's easier to find them if they should go missing.  Today, with the ulterior motive of finding out how to update the contact information, I asked the vet how they work.  And he was gracious enough to spend 20 minutes or so educating me and checking Lightning, Jack and Gizmo for chips.

Jack doesn't have one.  Or the one that the folks at Banfield inserted in his scruff is faulty and doesn't read.  No... I won't go on another rant about just how much I hate them.  I do hate them!  I'm just sparing you the rant about it.  Lightning and Gizmo, and Thunder I presume though he wasn't with us to check, have chips made and/or maintained by a company called Home Again.  I don't have the other names, but he said they are one of several companies to offer this service.

What got me thinking about this was the bill I got awhile back for Gizmo's chip.

Home Again wants $18.97 each year.  That made me worry that they could somehow 'turn off' the chip so he couldn't be scanned at a vet or shelter were he to be picked up loose somewhere...  That's kind of what the bill led me to believe and it made me a little nervous.  I thought it was outrageous!  Better to look dumb and be sure than end up with a problem down the road, so I asked about it.

The vet explained the yearly fee is for their 'location service.'  In a nutshell, when your pet goes missing you alert them and send them a recent picture so they can prepare fliers for you to print and post in your neighborhood and they fax the information to area vets and shelters.  I have a computer and the minimal skills needed to make a flier and I can place a few phone calls...  He agreed that the yearly fee is pretty much a rip off.  He also said that 5 times more lost pets are reunited with their families because of Facebook postings than those fliers.  Once the chip is there, it's there.  You may, depending on the brand, have to pay to register it and, again depending on the brand, update your contact information.  But unless you move or change phone numbers, the location service is a needless extra charge and not something you have to subscribe to in order for the chip to be active.

If you don't update your information, the chip will point the organization searching for you to claim your lost pet to the vet who originally purchased it and hopefully they will be able to reach you.  The biggest problem with this is if your pet is hurt at night or on a weekend while out on his (or her?) adventure and they can't reach the vet's office.  Most shelters will NOT provide even basic life saving care while you are being sought...

So tonight I'm updating the address and phone number on their microchips.  And 2 years down the road trying to register Thunder's and Lightning's chips because, even though Banfield was paid for that, it wasn't done.  Yay.  And yay, again, Jack will have to be chipped when I scrape up another $40 for it.

In the vets office, he brought out the reader to show me how it worked. It's kind of similar to and used like the 'wand' that TSA probes you with at the airport and when it goes over the microchip it beeps and displays an alphanumeric code in the display window.  That code, much like a barcode, is the identifying information linking you to your pet in their database.  The vet or shelter staff can enter it in to the website and get an owner's contact information and pretty soon witness a happy reunion.

And that, my friends, is what I learned about microchips today.

And no... I'm not happy that I have to come up with $100 to get everyone chipped with the correct information.  It's another place where it feels like I'm needlessly hemorrhaging money that I don't have but they kind of have me over a barrell.  Now that I know that Home Again is so fee oriented I will specifically request that they not be used on any future pet.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Happy Birthday to Me!

Last year my birthday was miserable.  Definitely the worst birthday ever and probably one of the top 10 worst days of my life.  The whole year actually is something I'd just as soon forget ever happened, but the birthday - it sure did start the year off on a sour note.  On January 13, 2014 I was forced to sell my beautiful dark blue Jeep Grand Cherokee to CarMax for 1/3 less than I'd paid for it at the end of 2012 to cover a couple months of household bills and get out of paying the taxes that were due.  All of my adult life one of the two cars I ever truly wanted was a Jeep Grand Cherokee.  I had it and it was taken away from me.  And all I could do was paste on a fake smile, nod like a bobblehead and go about the day telling the people around me that everything was ok when I was far from ok.

But this year, 2015, is different.  And, while it's just a few days early to match the precise anniversary of my entry into this world, I got to replace that crappy memory with a good one!  I got myself a car.  It's an older Ford Explorer with reasonably low miles on it considering the age.  The body looks good, the engine checked out as mechanically sound and it's had a recent tune-up, new battery, a fresh oil change and has 4 brand new tires.  It also has some fun features like remote start up, a kickin' custom sound system and sunroof. It's not the vehicle I really want, but that will come with time.  And this one will certainly do what I need it do:  get me and 3 big dogs from where we are now to where we need to go.  Check off one of my big goals for the year!

Happy Birthday to me!!

My "new to me" Ford Explorer

Looking at her head on!

What I'm looking at driving her.

What you'll see if you're behind me...

Back row comfortably seats 3, 4 if they're skinny folk.

Cargo space (aka where you'll find the boys hanging out).
The back seats fold down to give them even more room.