New Year, New Adventures, Same Me

I’m still on Chapter 5 of my growth project book and I think that’s where we’re going to leave it.  It’s a new year and I’m wiping the slate clean on a couple of books that didn’t get finished and a quilt project that suffered from my inability to coordinate any colors outside out neutrals.  I’m also closing up the non-stop sugar buffet that lasted between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

It was fun while it lasted, kids.

And I’ve got 9 everlasting pounds on my thighs to prove it. 

There are many happenings at Casa de Carpool.  We went to Oklahoma to see my family for the holidays and had a wonderful time.  My mom is doing SO MUCH BETTER and it has made all things right in my world to see her moving around, to see her smile, and hear her laugh.

I hadn’t heard her laugh for over a year and when she did, it was the most beautiful sound in the world.

It was sweet to see the relief in my daddy’s spirit that she has improved as well.  He has been a wonderful caretaker to her, so attentive.  He’s long carried an emotional anguish seeing her in physical pain and his face is now aglow.  God is good and we had a very special moment on Christmas Day as the whole family gathered and prayed to thank Him for the gift of her healing.

Our trip back was fairly uneventful.  My back was a little stiff from sitting in the car but I didn’t think too much of it.  When it was still sore a couple of days later, I scheduled a deep tissue massage and BOY WAS THAT THE WRONG THING TO DO.

The next day the muscles started pulling whenever I leaned forward and then they started tweaking when I walked and by Saturday morning, I couldn’t sit, stand, or put on my clothes without Craig helping.  We went to Urgent Care and the PA diagnosed a strained back (hmphhh, could’ve made it sound more serious), gave me some delightful drugs and told me to rest for a few days. Saturday through Tuesday I’ve been pretty much on the heating pad and in the recliner. I made big improvements yesterday and today I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

In other news, I *do* have a story to tell about a project I’m working on right now but that’s easily a thousand word post and I still don’t have my brain wrapped around what I want to share. The story is flat-out crazy and I’m smack in the middle of it but it’s all good and I’m excited to tell you what’s going on when the time is appropriate.

Please pray that I’d be wise.

Oh! And I have to tell you about the dumpster I found myself in yesterday but that story will also have to wait because, first, I have to download pictures.

Yes, I took pictures.  I may not have written a post in two months but all three of you who still read are never far from my thoughts and I knew you’d need visuals for this one.

That’s all for today.  Not sure what my publishing schedule is going to look like this year but if you hang around, something’s bound to show up.  (There’s a subscribe button at the top where you can have new posts delivered to your inbox if you’d like.)

Happy New Year, friends.  You are loved.

Have a nice day.

Five on Friday: Deep and Not So Deep Thoughts and Maybe A Rant

I heard that John Maxwell was participating in Michael Hyatt’s on-line Influence and Impact Summit, so I decided to virtually attend to see what he had to say.  Three days later, he still hasn’t shown up on the daily docket but I’ve had the chance to listen to a few of the other speakers and am a little unsettled about some of the things I’m hearing (or not hearing, as the case may be).

Some speakers have been talking about monetizing blogs, increasing the “size of your platform” (gag), how to build influence, and how to be as awesome and wonderful and successful as they are and it has me wrapped around the axle for various reasons.  First, from the lineup I’ve seen so far, it’s implicitly targeted towards Christians and I have yet to hear the name of Jesus and I’ve heard a lot about making it all about you and your goals. Second, from the fine print I read in the promo materials, it looks like it’s just a way for Michael Hyatt to get a lot of email addresses to target for subscription to his online program and for all of the speakers to plug their forthcoming book.  Third, it reeketh of exclusivity and the cool kids club.

And fourth, it clearly brings out my own insecurities.

I long for the days when Jesus was enough. When His call on your life didn’t get polluted with cries that there’s room at the table for you IF you put in hard work, IF you bring a network of people to your book deal, IF you have a new way to say things, IF you turn out consistent content that makes people care.

No, no, no, no.

Our lives are found at the foot of the cross and in Him all striving ceases.  Our eyes are fixed on Him, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, not the worldly authors who tell you if you could just be this way or do it that way or “know your why”, it would go well for you.

I know my why.

Jesus is my why.

Every day.

In however He chooses to direct my path.

And He says I’m enough and you’re enough because HE IS ENOUGH.

Thus endeth the rant.


Is anyone watching Blindspot?  I am OBSESSED with this show (Agent Kurt Weller would be my new imaginary boyfriend if I were imaginarily single) and if we are going to be friends, you have to watch it and talk about it with me.  I may or may not have spent hours a little time on the Internet reading about the show and cast and watched each episode a few times because not only is it a great procedural/mystery, but it has ALL THE FEELS as well.

Thus endeth the not-so-deep thought. 


I may have too much time on my hands.


Because I can’t write more than 200 words without talking about food, I must mention several dinners this week have been less than stellar except for the Chick-fil-A at the football game last night and more than once I’ve caught myself thinking, “As soon as these children move out, I am never cooking again.”  And then I find a new recipe on Pinterest and hope springs eternal.

After Wednesday’s garlic lime chicken fiasco  – how does one forget the garlic in a two-ingredient dish? – I’m pulling out the standby shepherd’s pie (minus the chocolate chips) for dinner tonight so we can go into the weekend happy.  If you’re looking for something homey, easy, and uses the leftover mashed potatoes stashed in the back of the fridge, give that a whirl.


And because it’s still bugging me paragraphs later, here’s another thought on the first thing.  I don’t want it to come across like I’m bashing other people’s life choices or begrudging their success, particularly since many of them profess the same faith I have and I know zero of them personally.  What I do want to caution is that we have a big responsibility, particularly in our Christian community, to not create false idols out of the dogged pursuit of success, significance, accomplishment, impact, and influence for any other purpose other than making Christ known. He told us to love the Lord God with all our hearts, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  It just seems pretty simple to me and doesn’t require a platform to do it.

He must become greater; I must become less.

John 3:30 

Five on Friday

Greetings from soggy North Carolina.  We’re on our 10th straight day of rain (and therefore, big hair) without an end in sight for at least two or three more days.  I’m not going to complain, though.  Rain is my favorite weather, regardless of season, so I’m happily out on the back deck with some books, a laptop, a Thermos of hot water, assorted tea bags, and a quilt to keep me warm.  I intend on staying out here until the kids get home from school and enjoy the sound of the rain through the leaves and water gurgling down the gutters.

Happy. Place.

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Craig returns tonight from California.  He’s been gone for the week which meant it was the perfect time for things to fall apart back here.  The garage fridge went on the fritz and knocked out the circuit that controls the garage doors, something happened with one of the kids’ laptops and the one hammer in my toolbox – turn it off and turn it back on and see what happens – didn’t work, AND the dog ate a $250 retainer so let’s just say WE ARE READY TO HAVE AN ADULT IN THE HOUSE.


In the “if you give a mouse a muffin” category, I cleaned the freezers out which led to discovering an assorted mess of chicken parts which led to not having a pot big enough to handle them which led to a trip to Walmart and a 22 quart stock pot which didn’t sound like a lot until JJ did the math (he can do that now after a few months with a tutor – yay!) and told me I’d essentially purchased a five and a half gallon pot.

Oops.

It took the better part of two days to cook, strain, cool, heat, and can it all but it’s now in the pantry and I’m officially done with canning for the year except for maybe something else because it’s so much fun.

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Local friends, there’s a little Mexican restaurant I found that has really good pupusas and tacos and flan.  It’s called Las Marias and it’s located across the parking lot from the Walmart on New Hope Road.  I stopped in for lunch on the day I bought the stock pot (and a cute little pitcher from Pioneer Woman’s collection – see below – darling) and liked it so much that I dragged Heather back a few days later.

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I think she was a fan.


Tommy and I have been working concessions during the varsity games.  It’s been a blast and sometimes we get free nachos.  The concessions manager loves to have him there not only because he is a natural salesman (just like his daddy), but also because he tends to draw an large crowd at the counter just to observe the giant.

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Maybe if we stop feeding him, he’ll stop growing.

Have a nice day.

Five on Friday

Whenever life starts to feel a little unsettled or my brain is working overtime to solve all the world’s problems, I gravitate to the familiar until I can get my bearings.  My thoughts have been in high gear this week and that’s why I found myself at not one but two taco stands in the last four days, eating the food of my people and finding a little bit of footing.

Last week’s Food section of the News & Observer recommended a taqueria that’s co-located with a gas station off Capital Boulevard so while I was out picking up 25 pounds of pork butts and chicken wings for our neighborhood block party this weekend, I stopped in for a bite.

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It was a tiny space – no more than 7 or 8 tables – and no frills.  You had to buy your drink separately from the gas station attendant before ambling to the back to place your food order.  The cashier and other customers looked a little uncertain as I approached (I was the only pale face in the store and the only female).  He greeted me in English and I replied in Spanish.  He laughed and said, “I’m so sorry, I thought you were American.”  Everyone around laughed as well and the curiosity seemed to dissipate and they joked around while my order was being fixed.  I took the meal to a small table and started to eat but was interrupted by one of the other patrons who came over to share the communal bottle of homemade salsa.  “I noticed you didn’t have any on your tacos.  You’re going to want to try this.”  His hospitality and friendliness, the smile on his face and his genuine acceptance lent a sense of peace to the place and I ate in serene silence and was once again grateful for the rich childhood experience of growing up in Guatemala and for the kindness and beauty of Hispanic people.


Update on the Great Growth Project – I’d been doing really well with keeping on task in the three areas I’d identified for improvement until last week when I got sidelined by all the apples.  And then one skipped day went to two, and then three, and before you know it, the train was off the tracks.  This week I sat down to start Chapter 5 and almost snort-laughed when the first paragraph talked about people failing to grow because of lack of consistency.

Well, I seem to be EXHIBIT A.

Time to get back on track.


I kept up with the laundry this week and that sort of deserves its own blurb.


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Ladies, just say no to athletic socks with loafers.

No, no, no, no.

And no.


My doctor called this week with the results of some testing she’d done last week and it looks like my thyroid problems are the result of an autoimmune hiccup.  Apparently I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis which doesn’t change how it’s treated but explains why it happened.  I had visions of implementing all sorts of nutritional changes to avoid other autoimmune problems but a cursory review of recommendations suggested than in addition to eliminating grains (which I sort of do when it’s convenient or unless it’s tacos) I should also get rid of cheese, nuts, seeds, nightshades AND COFFEE and that is my entire diet so it just ain’t going to happen.

It has been nice knowing you.

Have a nice day.

The woman and the coin

About three weeks back, I lost my favorite Bible.  I have several (what preacher’s kid doesn’t?) but this one was special because Craig gave it to me almost 20 years ago on Valentine’s Day, just weeks before our wedding.  Those of you who also suffered pre-wedding jitters will totally understand that sigh of relief at yet another confirmation that HE REALLY DOES LOVE ME AND IS GOING TO MARRY ME when I saw he’d inscribed my new last name on the cover.

It was the book I’d read from when we dedicated our children, charging them to trust in the Lord with all their heart and lean not on their own understanding.  The pages bore witness to my insatiable need to underline everything. Sermon notes and prayer requests were scrawled out in the margins, promises circled and asterisked.  The leather peeled away from the edges of the front cover and the binding was starting to give way but I didn’t want to stop using it and had on my to-do list to research businesses that could fix it.  I wanted to be able to leave it as a spiritual diary of sorts for my boys at the end of my life- a witness to the faith of their mother and the hope she had in the Lord. I wanted them to see the goodness of God and His steadfast faithfulness to me and to our family as they read notations of answered prayer.

I don’t know when or where I lost it.  I don’t always read in the same place in the house so at first I assumed it was in another room or by another couch.  I used my grandmother’s study Bible while I looked for the other one (though I felt guilty underlining in it even though she died nearly 20 years ago) but after days of tearing the house upside down and even driving to church to fruitlessly search my Sunday School room and Lost & Found, I had to admit defeat.

Craig tried to console me (and I’m sure in the back of his head he thought, “Jackpot! I know what to get her for Christmas this year.”) but I was so bummed that I literally had to pray for the Lord to help me GET A GRIP.  “And while you’re at it, Lord, can you please find it for me?”

AND HE DID.

Just a few days after praying for divine intervention, I came home to a beaming husband who had found it and a jillion other things the dumb dog had stuffed way under a couch in a room where I never read (or thought to look) because the lighting is horrible.

And I may have cried and hugged his neck.

And then wrote “God answered my prayer” next to this verse:

 Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one.  Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?  And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’

Luke 15:8-9

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Have a nice day.

An “Ask Sus” Edition of Five on Friday

Sus, where’ve ya’ been?

We went to Western North Carolina to visit my inlaws for the long Labor Day weekend and spent some time breathing in fresh mountain air, wandering flea markets and craft fairs (Susan), playing golf (Craig) and generally being lazy bums (the kids).

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Oh, and we watched the Hogs win their season opener.  WOO PIG SOOIE!

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That looks like fun, Sus.  Browsing around in small towns is one of my favorite things to do.  Did you find anything interesting while you were out shopping?

I love nosing around thrift stores and antique malls and there’s a good one just outside of Waynesville (next to Thad Wood’s Auctions).  There’s so much stuff piled everywhere that I usually go in with something specific in mind so as not to get overwhelmed, and this time I had cookbooks on the brain.  I especially love books written prior to the mid-1950s and I found two this time – one published in 1942 and the second was a reprint of a 1908 Rumsford  cookbook ($1.50 – SCORE). As I headed to the checkout counter, I spotted another one that looked interesting and even though it was outside of my usual collecting range, I bought it for the cover alone.

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It goes without saying that if I’m ever caught out in public matching my wallpaper, please stop me by whatever means necessary.

Craig did not share my love for the flea market (he sat in the rocking chairs by the front door) but he got over the painful experience quickly when I suggested we stop at the bakery/apple orchard store conveniently located across the highway.  He said we absolutely needed some apple turnovers.

And apple muffins.

And cider donuts.

And maybe some apple cider, too.

And how about an apple cake?

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How’s that diet going, Sus?

Next question.

Did you buy any, oh, you know, APPLES at the apple orchard?

Yes, I bought almost a bushel of apples because they had a sale and I am powerless in the presence of a bulk discount.  Add that to the box and a half of apples my father-in-law graciously picked and had waiting for me, I came home with over fifty pounds of fruit that I’ve spent the last four days peeling, coring, chopping and preserving.

Oh, so *that’s* why you haven’t blogged this week?

Yep, basically my kitchen has looked like this every day (and just imagine the sticky mess on the floors and the sink piled high with dishes just out of view).

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But the house smelled fantastic and as of yesterday I put up 11 quarts of applesauce, 4 quarts of apple pie filling, 8 half-pints each of apple jelly and apple pie jam, one cobbler, and a mess of apple butter.

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And I still have 6 pounds left.

Serenity now.

Have a nice day. 

Five on Almost Saturday

You’ll have to forgive any typos since I am typing without the use of my left index finger and muscle memory is fighting shifting my middle finger a quarter-inch to the right on the keyboard.  I had a little bit of an industrial accident yesterday while chopping an oddly shaped chunk of cabbage and wound up slicing a little more than I’d intended. I took one look at my finger and knew it was a job for the professionals so I wrapped it with a paper towel and drove myself to urgent care (fortunately just up the road) and they took me right back and started cleaning it out while I practiced not using all my reserved words because, man, did it hurt.

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Fortunately, it was a fairly clean cut and they were able to Steri-strip it all back together and I managed to avoid a tetanus shot because I remembered the magic answer to that question is “yes, I’ve had one within the last 5 years” and because I also stressed I was chopping an *organic* cabbage and surely that counted for something, right?


I wasn’t the only one visiting the doctor this week.  Stella started acting a little puny (as in refusing food and yakking in the yard) so I took her to the vet and $300 later found out she had pancreatitis. The vet asked me if she was getting too many fatty treats and I told him I didn’t think so but when I got home and started asking the family if they’d been giving her anything unusual, turns out that three of us had given her a peanut butter filled bone four days in a row.

Eek.

She’s better now and back to eating socks, Legos, and my pretty flower arrangements in the den, and we’ve all learned our (expensive) lesson.

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Have you ever come across a verse in your Bible and think, “I have never read this before in my life.  Is it new?  Did someone put it in there while I wasn’t looking?” I’ve been reading and underlining my Bible since I was 7 years old and just yesterday noticed I Thessalonians 4:11.

And make it your ambition to lead a quiet life (emphasis added) and attend to your own business and work with your hands just as we commanded you.

Oh, that’s a fascinating charge in light of today’s social media driven world.  I don’t know that I can say it has been my ambition to lead that kind of life.  What did Paul mean?  What does a quiet life look like? Where do I need to make a change? (And don’t get me started on “attend to your own business” Who doesn’t love a good train wreck?)

I’m memorizing that verse this week and reflecting on it.  No insights yet but wanted to share.


A couple of weeks ago I mentioned assembling a bunch of make-ahead meals for the freezer. I tried one of them this last week, Asian Honey Sesame Chicken, and it was good enough to pass on.  After thawing the tenders (use whatever you prefer), I cut them into small chunks and stir fried in a wok with a little canola oil and added steamed broccoli, some red pepper flakes, and finished it with a sprinkle of rice wine vinegar and sesame oil.

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The kids really liked it and I’ll make it again.


My wonderful hairdresser (who works MIRACLES, I tell you) asked me this week if I was thinking about ever going back to my natural color.  She was quick to clarify that she certainly didn’t want to talk herself out of job security but was honor bound to tell me that if I wanted to go “natural”, I was now sufficiently gray that it wouldn’t look weird. And I said, “Let’s go for the caramel highlights and, by the way, WE WILL NEVER SPEAK OF THIS AGAIN.”

Dying.

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And dye-ing.

Have a nice day.