Wednesday, January 30, 2008

My Favorite Hymn

As you know, I often have a song in my head that is just as often coming out of my mouth. Every once in a while, it will be a contemporary hit. More often, it will be a jazz standard that my father has taught me. Most often, it will be a hymn.

I like playing the "My Favorite" game with people. Our group plays it in the car on the way home from a church meeting. One person will announce the category (like favorite flower, favorite food, favorite conversation from the weekend, sermon point from the weekend that has most stuck with you...), and each person will take a turn answering it before the next topic is announced. Playing this is a wonderful way to get to know someone or learn about the interesting facts of his/her life.

It seems we always end up at "favorite hymn", and I have never known what to answer. There are so many great ones from which to choose. How could I narrow it down to just one? But, in the last year, one has continually returned to my mind, and I find myself singing it - both when I need that particular encouragement and when I don't even realize right away that I am singing. It probably has a lot do with the melody which I love, but the hymn also includes some important reminders which apply to my particular pitfalls. So, I need the reminding. Regularly. Very regularly. I think this may also be one of my dad's favorites - as I hear him call for it at church meetings.

Mary F. Stewart
HYMN # 327

Lord let me praise Thee in the morning,
While the day is new.
Let me praise Thee at the noontide,
And the evening too.
Let me not forget to praise Thee,
For since on the cross they nailed Thee,
Thy love has never failed me,
And it never will.

Lord, keep me with Thee through life's journey,
Else I'll lonely be.
Let me ever feel Thy presence,
Keep me close to Thee.
Let me not forget 'tis Jesus
That has never yet forgot us,
He says He'll always love us,
And I know He will.

Lord, I must come to Thee for comfort,
To Thee, Lord, alone,
All that we may do for others
Can't for sin atone.
Lord, we know that Thou dids't tell us
That the poor are always with us,
And that Thy love is jealous.
Let us love Thee more.

I know it is difficult to narrow down the list to just one. But, do you have a favorite hymn or one which you turn to regularly?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

State of Confusion

When I'm waiting for a fax or for a meeting to start, I like to test myself. Sometimes, I try to write out a block of scripture from memory. Or, I'll list the perfect squares up to 30 or 40. Right now, I'm trying to learn the presidents in order - which is something I never had to learn in school - so testing myself would do no good at this point. I hope to be able to recite them from memory by next month. And, I'm ashamed to admit that I've never made myself learn the bible books in order which I've wanted to do for years, so I am diligently working on that.

Yesterday, at the start of two different meetings, while waiting for some of the participants to show up, I decided to go back to the basics and make two lists... the United States from west to east and (later in the day) the state capitols from east to west. Mind you, I didn't allow myself to go back to my first list to make sure I had all of the capitols included on the second list.

This morning, I decided to check my work. Sadly, both lists had only 49 entries. For the life of me, I could not think of the state I had forgotten or the capitol I had forgotten. Then it hit me. Delaware was missing from the first, and Dover was missing from the second. The entire state seemed to be erased from my mind.

I've never been to Delaware, so I guess I should visit sometime soon.

Monday, January 28, 2008

5 Days for 5 Recipes

Inspired by Kelly's post on her new recipe for Broccoli Cheese Soup, some of us discussed how it would be fun for our blogger friends to post a favorite recipe each day next week - starting on Monday, February 4. You have a little time to prepare, so start digging through that recipe box. Five recipes. One for each weekday next week. That's all you need.

Bloggers, you can post your recipes right on your blog. Commenters, feel free to participate by posting within the comments section. And, if you don't have your favorites down on paper, write to your mom or grandma for help. If you plan to participate, leave a comment for me so we will know who is participating.

Sky High

My friend and co-worker Alan has been wanting a dog for so long. Specfically, a hunting dog. But, because his work hours would not permit him to fully train one and he'd like a dog to be in the house with his parents, it was not an easy task to find the perfect puppy. Besides, Alan is very picky about his hunting partners.

After months of searching, he found Frontrunner Kennels. And, on the Started Dogs page, he fell in love with Sky. But, he needed to see her in person before he would know for sure that he wanted to purchase her. Before Christmas, he headed north to visit the kennels, and the truck had an extra passenger on the way back.

I had never heard of a Llewellin Setter before, but that is what Sky is! After going to the house on Saturday to help Alan's parents with a few things, I was able to finally meet her. She's a sweet dog, and she seems right at home there.

But, somehow, she senses when Alan is ready to go hunting. She starts pacing around the house, and she was thrilled when she was allowed to jump into the truck because she was ready to go. It is amazing to watch her track a scent, and she is very excited when she's allowed to work - to do exactly what she's been trained to do.

Sky seems right at home, and I think they're happy that she's now part of the family. She gets plenty of attention.

Friday, January 25, 2008

All The Way My Savior Leads Me

I can't count the number of times we've sung a hymn at church that seemed to lift me off the pew... only to look at the top of the music to find Fanny J. Crosby as the lyricist. Born Frances Jane Crosby on March 24, 1820, she was a lifelong Methodist and wrote over 8,000 hymns in her lifetime.

When we met together this past Saturday night for our monthly church social, we took some time to sing... and once again, we turned to one of Fanny's songs. I noted how much I loved her words, and Brother Chris, Brother Jerry and others told me that Fanny also used pseudonyms to not draw attention to herself and her large body of work.

All The Way My Savior Leads Me, Saved By Grace, Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior, Safe In The Arms Of Jesus, Blessed Assurance, Near The Cross, I Am Thine O Lord (Draw Me Nearer), Savior More Than Life To Me, Tell Me The Story of Jesus, Close To Thee, He Hideth My Soul, Hide Thou Me, Praise Him Praise Him, Redeemed How I Love To Proclaim It!, and so many more. It is hard to believe that one person could write so many songs... especially with such beautiful words. But, when discovering more of her story, it was clear that she had a God-given gift in expressing the joys and valleys of life and she gave God all of the praise and honor.

Blind from the age of six weeks, Fanny was guided in her studies by her grandmother and their landlady while her mother worked as a maid. (Fanny's dad died when Fanny was one year old.) Fanny attended the New York School for the Blind where she eventually became a faculty member and met her husband. Several volumes of her poetry were published. She lived a full life while meeting presidents and dignitaries of the day, and it is written that she never seemed bitter about her blindness. Of course, Fanny would be able to say it best - even at the young age of nine:

"Oh what a happy soul I am,
Although I cannot see;
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy,
That other people don't;
To weep and sigh because I'm blind,
I cannot, and I won't."

Later, she commented, "It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me."

She could see far beyond her physical limitations, and I pray more of us might gain the sight she had.

"When I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior!"

I cannot say any more than what is already printed on the web site dedicated to her. The pages are filled with wonderful details of her upbringing, life as a teacher, and musical collaborations. If her hymns and life interest you, I hope you will take the time to read more about this precious saint.

Do you have a favorite Fanny J. Crosby hymn?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ugly Fabric, Beautiful Creations

A little over ten years ago, I created a list of 25 goals that I wanted to accomplish in my life. These were over the top, out of the ordinary feats. Ok, some were over the top. Some not so much. Right from the start, one of the goals was "Make a quilt." I don't know why I've always been interested in quilts. Maybe it was because I remember always having the quilts around our home that my great grandmother and great great aunt had made. I'm not sure. But, I knew I wanted to make a quilt. So, after feeling a little more settled last year, I joined a local craft guild so that maybe I could learn - as most of the members are avid quilters. And, I could get going on crossing another line off of my list.

The new club president and vice president are very creative in making up new activities, and a few months ago, they asked for volunteers to participate in the "Ugly Fabric Challenge." I didn't exactly know what that was. But, I've learned that if I hope to get better at this sewing gig, I had better get a move on and get to sewing. So, I've been trying to particpate in the contests and activities as often as I'm allowed... no matter what it involves. It makes me stretch, and that's a good thing.

So, I opened my little paper bag to find my ugly fabric, and here it is stacked on top of some (somewhat matching) material that I purchased at the store. I didn't know what I was going to make. I didn't know what material to use. But, I did know one thing. I was sure my material was the only member's material that was going to go from UGLY to UGLIER.

Tracy offered the suggestion of making an apron since I am also trying to continue my studies in making clothes. Lydia was kind enough to allow me to use her "frilly girly apron pattern" which I just love. Both gave their kind suggestions on what fabric to use. There were rules to this contest, mind you. We could add only 3 other coordinating fabrics to our project - no matter what we ended up making. Lydia and Tracy helped me settle on two. So, drumroll please.....

Here is my submission for the contest - in its full frilliness and girliness and gawdiness and oldtimeyness. One apron that is sure to not be forgotten. Despite Tracy's very thorough and wise coaching, I still did plenty of messing up. And, when it took so long to get through the first two coaching sessions, I had to complete it on my own. That was a mistake! (Many mistakes, to be accurate.) It is not put together correctly, but it sufficed for last night's guild meeting and contest. Tracy has offered to continue in providing guidance once I take a few sections back apart, and I'm thankful. And, I need her help. BADLY. Those sewing instructions might as well be in Chinese. At least then I might have a fighting chance at understanding some of the symbols. I hope I'm not a lost cause.

After seeing my apron, I'm sure you can guess that I wasn't going to give anyone a run for their money in the contest at the meeting. (Let me laugh for you. HA HA HA!) But, I just wish everyone could have been there to see the beautiful creations my fellow members made. Gorgeous gorgeous stuff.... alongside my horrendous apron. At least I can be counted on for some humorous story at each meeting... sharing my mishaps and reminding all of the very mature ladies what it was like when they learned to sew back when they were 7 or 8. I am so behind... but I'm trying to catch up. I'm trying.

I could not capture all of the beautiful creations, but here are a few that I thought you might enjoy seeing. From wall hangings to quilts to table runners to sweaters to dolls to artwork... I was reminded that such talented ladies surround me... women who can make the most beautiful out of the most ugly. With fabric and otherwise. May they continue to inspire me and remind me this feat is possible.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tater Mitts Have Got A Hold On Me

Something about those Tater Mitts infomercials has still got a hold on my brain... besides the completely tricked feeling I have over the blanching issue. Blanching just kept ringing through my head. Blanching. Blanch. That is such a funny word to me. Say with with me. BLANCH.

So, of course, I started thinking about the name Blanche. Say it with me. BLANCHE. Sounds the same and is just as funny with or without the e.

The fact is that I don't know a single person with the name Blanche. Not one. The only time I know of hearing it is in reference to that character on the TV show Golden Girls. So, that made me think of the name Maude.... which was the other TV personality of Golden Girls co-star Bea Arthur. I know it is a perfectly legitimate name, but I don't know of anyone named Maude.

It just made me think of all of the names that were so popular a century ago that are not used today. Even since 50 years ago, there have been some names that have gone out of style. With apologies to my mom, how many babies do you know named Phyllis? How about Gladys? Dorothy? Fern? Bertha, Edna, Hazel? Emma seemed to be firmly stuck in that category until the name was used for the child on the TV show Friends.

How about male names? Mortimer? Herman? Fred? Ralph? Barney? Herbert? Floyd? Elmer, Earl, Eugene, Clarence, Ernest? Know any babies with those names? I don't. The only exception that I know of is that Henry (with the nickname Hank) is making a strong comeback. I have 3 different friends who have named their sons Henry in the last 5 years.

So, in another attempt to stay awake and entertain myself at the hotel this past week, I made a list of all of the names I could think of that fit into this category.

Do you have any names that come to mind that you just don't hear parents naming their children any more? Or do you have any older names that you know are making a comeback?

Leonard, Albert, Gertrude, Bessie, Mabel, Agnes, Thelma, Ida, Myrtle, Beulah, Harry, Roy, Alvin, Delbert... the list goes on and on.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Conflicting Thoughts

I meant to post this over the weekend. This is from Friday's edition of Dear Abby. With access to so many of the newspapers at the hotel, I've enjoyed reading the advice and manners columns in the past few months. I read the letters and tried to imagine what my response would be if I had an advice column... thinking through the details, trying to find biblical examples, recalling life experiences... Let's be honest. The majority of the time, I was just shocked at what advice was printed in the newspapers. The columnists were full of statements such as "Do it to them before they can do it to you." "Paybacks are fine." "Look out for yourself." "They're beliefs are wrong." "Get what you can when you can." "Parents, I'd just give up if I were you." "Do whatever makes you happy." And, the train of thought seemed to be all over the place from one letter to the next. It's perplexing to figure out where they've found their belief system, their ethical code, their sense of right and wrong.

Every once in a while, however, I would think one answer was be spot-on. And, I could hardly believe it.

This question and this answer (below) gave me conflicting thoughts. Anybody want to chime in? My answer - as it does with so many of these kinds of questions - would depend on me knowing about circumstances which are not included in the letter.

DEAR ABBY: My daughter, "Felicia," is 33 and still lives at home with her father and me. She's a wonderful person, has a great job and contributes to the house. Her father and I love Felicia and are very proud of her. However, we both feel that she needs her own place.

Every time we bring it up, Felicia says she would like to live here until she marries. Her dad and I have been married for 37 years, but we would like our privacy. What do you think? -- IMPATIENT MOM IN CHICAGO

DEAR IMPATIENT MOM: I think you have been more than patient. The time has come for you and your husband to tell your fledgling she needs a nest of her own. Help her to find one, and do not allow her to stall any longer. You will be doing all three of you a favor.

People Labels

On New Years Eve, I had a long conversation with Tasha about some country songs that I really like. After writing them down for Tasha to check out, Sister Michele asked me, "How do you always know about so many new songs?"

Just a week later, I was given a wonderful gift by some wonderful friends. It was a book, and it was inscribed, "From one who cares to another who cares." Below is a chapter from this book, On Words: Insight Into How Our Words Work - and Don't by Paula LaRocque.

The answer to Sister Michele's question? See the last paragraph for the answer. As if you needed a label to know it!

Chapter 18
People Labels

Let's forget for a moment all of the reasons why we shouldn't label each other and observe that the labels we do use are often at least lazy and threadbare. Even those lovely words conservative and liberal carry so much emotional baggage that we've lost sight of the potential nobility they suggest: How nice to conserve. How nice to be open-handed.

We need fresh and imaginative words that identify people without being either meaningless or mean-spirited. And many such labels exist. We just don't use them. For example, we frequently talk about introverts and extraverts, but how do we identify those who are neither, those who balance sociability with healthy self-interest? There's a word for such people. It's ambivert.

Speaking of "ambi," we know what to call someone who is equally skillful with both hands. That person is ambidextrous. But what do we call someone who is equally clumsy with both hands? That person is ambisinister. "Ambi" is a prefix meaning both, and "sinister" means lefthandedness. So being ambisinister is a short form for saying we have two left hands.

What about people who have two left feet? No such word seems to exist, so let's play wordsmith and coin one. Since "ped" means foot, what about ambisiniped? (A wordsmith, by the way, is a logodaedalus.)

What trait would you say the word monoculist identifies? It means to have only one eye. And speaking of eyes, are you a presbyope? Or a myope? If you'r far-sighted, you're a presbyope, near-sighted, a myope - hence, the more commonly heard terms, presbyopia and myopia. But how might we label the near-sighted person who is lucky enough to have reached middle-age - and the age of the bifocal. Is that person a presbyopic myope?

Still speaking of eyes - are yours blue? And do you have blond hair? Then you're a glaucope. Now there's a label that sounds far more unattractive than the condition. No wonder we don't hear the term.

Or what if your eyes are brown instead of blue? Then you're a cyanope - a fair-haired, dark-eyed person. If you're a redhead, we can call you a pyrrotist. And if you have freckles with that red hair, you're a lentiginous pyrrotist. Sounds like something you could be arrested for, doesn't it?

We have fewer labels for thin people than we have for fat, and labels for skinnies are not as unflattering as those for chubbies. Of course, there are such terms: beanpole, stringbean, or bag of bones. Or the more clinical term ectomorph. But there's a finer, friendlier label for the naturally thin. It's leptosome. Compare that word to the porknell, which labels a fat person and means not only a pig, but a stuffed pig.

This next label is probably one you can put to use immediately. Do you know people who wake to music, drive to work to music, fall asleep to music, and spend the rest of the time wearing headsets that pipe music directly into their ears? Those people are melomaniacs. Bet you thought they had to be some kind of maniac, didn't you?

When I came to my job five years ago and found out our boss would not allow radios or CD players in our offices, I was devastated. And, I felt like I couldn't handle it. So this was me some years ago. Not any more. Not to this extent. But it is true that I love listening to music. All types of music. A good amount of the time.

Friday, January 18, 2008

New Commercials with New Songs

There are all sorts of quirky new commercials with new songs that are being played on the tv and radio these days, and they are stuck in my head. For the most part, I like the songs. (Of course, I haven't heard all of the lyrics, so please forgive me if anything is questionable.) I just don't know the artists' names in most cases. So, today, I tried to use my investigative skills to track down a few that I remembered.

There this one, "Love Song", by Sarah Bareilles that is playing on the home page of her site. It plays on the Rhapsody commercial.

Then there's Ingrid Michaelson who sings "The Way I Am" on the Old Navy commercials. I think it is funny how she sings the line, "Here, take my sweater." If you've heard it, you probably know what I mean.

There are two more that were just in my head 10 minutes ago that are now gone because the two above won't get out. That's the problem with songs getting stuck in my head. Sometimes they get really stuck.

Do you know of any to which I might be referring? I'll probably hear them over the weekend... so maybe I'll come up with them by Monday. It's just interesting to see these commercials do such big things for indie and little known artists these days. Land a Gap ad, and your album sales skyrocket.

Update on Saturday morning: I just remembered another artist because she's had at least two big commercial songs out there. Cat Power with a remake of Cat Stevens' "How Can I Tell You" for the diamond advertisement and "Hanging on the Telephone" for Cingular/AT&T.

Then there's Feist with "1234" for the Ipod Nano commercial.

And, don't forget Regina Spektor with "Magic" for the JC Penney ad.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cutting Edge Techniques for Killing Time

Tonight begins the countdown....3....2...1... for my last 3 evenings at the night job. While I will miss the financial benefit, I am looking forward to having my weekends once again and am anxious to see what other part-time work or fun might take the place of this job.

The hardest part has been trying to stay awake and to make the hours pass by. So, I've resorted to all sorts of techniques. My usual evening at the hotel might go like this:

Greet the employee that is on duty before me, hear the instructions for the night, read the journal notes from the owners, start the next batch of laundry if needed, count the cash drawer, prepare for the remaining check-ins if needed, do my first walk-through of the building, find things to do for a few hours, do my second walk-through, take care of the garbage, find things to do for a couple of hours, bring in the new newspapers, start breakfast, fold laundry, place the linens in the linen closet, complete final walk-through, find something else to do until the next staff member relieves me.

So, often, there is a ton of killing time in between the important tasks of the night. (That is, when our hotel isn't full with guests and the breakfast doesn't have to be huge and when the laundry room isn't packed with sheets and towels.) On any given night there, I might read my bible or a good Christian book. I've read a few classic novels too. While reading usually doesn't make me sleepy, it does so when it is at the time when my body thinks I'm supposed to be sleeping. My brain is correct, but I have to force myself to switch my hours around on those 3-4 days I work. So, the reading can't always last too long. That's why I try to do that first. Sometimes, I go to the workout room and walk on the treadmill. While it wakes me up a little, I can't do that for too long either because I need to stay presentable for the front desk. Workout = perspiration. Sometimes, I move to organizing the supply shelves. But, there usually isn't much to do there. Of course, I've been working on a lot of craft projects for Christmas so that has greatly helped. Since I've been instructed to throw away the lobby newspaper from the day before, I have started looking out for the puzzle section so I can work through those.

In recent weeks, I've started watching back seasons of TV shows on the internet. But, I don't want to devote much time to that, so I usually try to read my bible again or write letters. But, truth be told, I almost always end up flipping on the TV and have once again become interested in the Game Show Network. It keeps me awake even though I admit it may not be the best use of my time. I've just tried to find something because it is so tempting to start dozing off at about 3:00 a.m. I used to have extended cable and loved watching the very old games shows that they'd re-run. To Tell the Truth, What's My Line, I've Got A Secret... all of those. However, now I have only basic cable at home, so it is a treat to watch the Game Show Network again. From midnight to 3, there have been some funny 70s and early 80s shows playing that I don't remember... Trivia Trap and Now You See It. They sometimes show Body Language which is where celebrities and contestants pair up to play charades. And, 'Merv Griffin's Crosswords' has really helped my crossword skills. Earlier in the evening (meaning 11 pm), Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is now on. And, last week, they had a very interesting question that I didn't know how to answer, but I thought it was something that most of us would want to know. Especially those of you who are aspiring chefs. The question was something like this...

What is the name of the part of a knife blade that extends into the handle? The answer is here along with labels for the other parts of a knife.

Very interesting stuff. Not the most useful or important, but it is interesting. Something else that is interesting is the frequency of biblical questions in the older gameshows. Much more common than in the gameshows of today. And, when the older celebrities are playing, they actually know the answers! Unbelievable. I don't think the celebrities of today would fare so well.

Thankfully, Press Your Luck is not on while I am working. You know, "No Whammies. No Whammies. STOP!" I just never caught on to that one. I do wish Name That Tune would play then. That always used to be one of my favorites, and I haven't seen it for years.

Do you have a favorite game show you always look forward to watching? Or, maybe a favorite way of passing the time?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


When Tressa turned two, I drove around town to collect items that she could use to play school, veterinarian, construction worker, pro soccer player, and various other professions and hobbies. Not to mention some huge, gorgeous jewelry that shimmers and shines. And, I bundled all of it up in a storage tub that I named the Imagination Station. It has been fun to see Tressa run to that box from time to time and even add to it. Her imagination has run wild in the last two years.

As Abi's birthday approached, I wanted to give her something special for her second birthday. And, my mind immediately kept returning to an idea. But, time did not allow, and I was not able to follow through. (Notice a theme in the last few months?) So, I gave Abi a Leap Pad so she could play with her own while Tressa plays with Tressa's Leap Pad. Those girls love those Leap Pad books.

But, my mind could not leave my initial idea. And, when the family decided to not get rid of their old entertainment center because they were going to follow through with Tressa's idea to build a puppet theatre with it, I knew I needed to get in gear for Christmas and not have any second thoughts. Back in early fall, I had the idea of giving Abi a fold out theatre board complete with curtains, but Tressa's idea was much better. However, I knew I could help by contributing the most important part which I had ordered months before.

So, I gave Tressa and Abi... puppets, puppets, and more puppets. Complete with Three Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, Grandma, Goldilocks, Little Bo Peep, Kings, Queens, Dragons, Mom, Dad, Baby, Doctor, Elephant, Cow, Tiger and so many more. There is a big tub of them, and the first night we opened them, we had a blast. It made me want to run out and buy some for my house. (To keep for only when the girls come over, of course. Of course!) :)
Before having dinner that night, two princesses graced my presence and welcomed me to their castle. Tressa and Abi wanted me to see the fancy dresses and jewelry they received for Christmas and which came in their very own dress-up chest. The girls were adorable.

When Tressa and Abi danced around, Rian became so excited that she couldn't stop laughing. I know she can't wait until she's old enough to join in on the fun. When watching the girls, time seems to rush by, so I know it won't be long. So, we'll just try to have as much fun as we are able right now when the girls are young, and I think we're doing a good job of it!

Beware to those visiting this family! You will probably be invited to the basement for a command performance in the beautiful theatre - complete with a red curtain that Mommy made for the actresses and puppet mistresses. You must be prepared to provide loud cheering, tons of clapping, and many Bravos!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Go Cubbies Go in 2008!

On December 28th, my brother and sister-in-law celebrated their 5th anniversary, and Ketra sent me this fabulous picture of the happy couple on their special day. CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Up until this point, I've tried to be good about following the list for the traditional anniversary gifts. (You know, first year = paper, second year = cotton, etc.) However, as December approached, I knew I would not be able to continue with my plans for their wood gift for five years no matter how hard I tried. Time was just too scarce. So, while trying to deal with the disappointment of not being able to carry on with that, I tried to think of something special I could give them (possibly, make for them) that would be something that Aaron and Ketra would truly enjoy. Then it hit me. I could make them a fleece Cubs blanket. Something to keep them warm for the cold games and something to give them a little extra padding for the long games.

I headed out to the fabric store with many questions. It had been a while since I had made a throw, so I didn't even know how big they were supposed to be. The fabric cutter assured me that most are made to be about 1.5 yards long. I explained to her that I wanted my sister-in-law to have a fighting chance at part of the blanket, so I wanted to make theirs twice as long. So, 9 feet of Cubs fabric was cut.

Then, two days later, another idea hit me. (Or, maybe it was the same idea hitting me just a tad harder!) What gifts could be more perfect for my partners in crime at work, Laurie and Phillip? We're the only Cubs fans in a sea of Cardinals fans. We get plenty of grief for our loyalty, but we know how to hold our own. And, we do it proudly without any apologies. So, I found even more Cubs fleece. Being that I was in the heart of St. Louis, I received some strange stares that day... but I tried to hold my head up high as I exited the store... while realizing that I had purchased enough fleece to also make another for my college buddy and die hard Cubs fan, Mike.

It took me a little while to get everything cut and tied, but, in all, I made one huge blanket for Aaron and Ketra and three smaller throws for Phillip, Laurie, and Mike. I was so excited as I sent Aaron and Ketra's gift in the mail and as I wrapped up the others. I couldn't wait for them to be opened.

Ketra sent me a photo to show me Aaron really appreciated the blanket. I felt badly that Laurie received hers so late due to the hectic schedule at work, but hopefully she got a little hint of what she'd receive when she saw Phillip's throw when she returned to the office. Phillip decided to cover his conference table with his and promptly invited our most aggressive Cardinals fan, Kurt, down to his office for a nice long chat. Kurt could barely stand to be in the room... let alone that close to the Cubs logo. I told Kurt if he really wanted one, I'd sure make one for him. He quickly declined the offer.

So far, the blankets have created a lot of fun. I hoped the gifts would help each of the recipients root a little louder for our dear Cubs while they surge toward victory.

Seriously. I think this could be the year.


New Year Games

I know these posts will be out of order, but hopefully, together, we can make sense of all of this.

Amongst a great feast at the church building and some wonderful preaching by Elder Marty Smith, Little Flock Church followed its annual tradition of singing in the new year. The voices truly rang out that evening, and we could feel the Lord's presence as we anticipated the arrival of 2008.

It is also the tradition to break up a tad early so that some members can make it safely home before the new year's arrival. But, others of us have become accustomed to moving the celebration to a member's home to be rambunctious and loud while playing crazy board games. We've been known to even bang a pot and pan or two together at midnight. Look out Times Square! We know how to really celebrate.

So, we moved to the Zimmerman household. We decorated cookies. (Brother Chris' gingerbread man is a rather smiley chap with a rather large schnoz.) We talked in the living room while putting off playing the games. (At least, it seemed that way to me.) We watched Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest call out the countdown. We played PIT! (Two, two, two! Three, Three!) We played Catchphrase which made us need to take breaks to catch our breath from laughing so hard.

But, I think we would all agree. The most fun activity of the night, hands down, was HUNGRY HUNGRY HIPPOS! Just look at Tressa's face. She was so excited.

I know some of you played a game that our family politely calls "I Doubt It!" And, some of you played Risk. But, did you play any other games while ringing in the new year? Better yet, do you have any games you liked as a child that you like to bring out every once in a while and play again? (If not, I strongly suggest Hungry Hungry Hippos with a pre-schooler.)

Stremmel Family Christmas 2007

Each year, on the Saturday before Christmas, the Stremmel extended family meets in Canton to celebrate Christmas. Through the years, our get-together has gone through many changes, but for several years now, we have gathered to start some new traditions. And, many have stuck, and we like to have a lot of fun carrying them out.

One of my favorite parts. The littlest cousins love to gather around Great Uncle Dennis at the piano to sing songs. Of course, the biggest little cousin, Bart, can't help but join in too.

We then break for the men's grab bag gift or white elephant exchange. Many other families participate in something like this, and the game includes a lot of teasing, stealing presents, persuading others to please take my present, and trying to figure out what exactly that is in my box. Dad is more interested in David's present than his gloves, and Uncle Dick (in yellow) doesn't know quite what to think about his GIANT TV remote. By the conclusion of the game, Dad ended up with a fork and spoon that each stretch out about two feet - just in case he's in a situation where he'll need a little extra reach.

Lauren shows off her pink bag that she won in the women's gift exchange, and Brianna is sittin' pretty.
Little Gavin's shirt sure tells the story, and Miss Kayla and Miss Taryn wait to join in on the carols.

Of course, we started our big carol sing by first carrying out our traditional Twelve Days of Christmas with each family member (or group of family members) singing for each day and gift. Uncle Dick (again, in yellow) sings a very dramatic "Five Golden Rings", so we try to make sure that he always receives that part. We acted out the gifts also... with a lot of drummers drumming, ladies dancing, and, yes, maids milking. I was representing Six Geese A' Laying, so I am sure you can imagine!

I've received many questions wondering how we've been able to have so many participate in the fun at our family Christmas party. The truth is, in years past, many of my cousins have been big ol' sticks in the mud. That's right. I said it. Sticks in the mud! They might has well have said 'Bah humbug' throughout some of the past parties. It has been wonderful watching their children become older, see these funny things we've been trying to do year after year, and look forward to participating. So, my cousins have then wanted to join in with their children.

I always enjoy going home to sample some of the family's best cooking. There are some dishes that I am able to eat only once a year. So it is important to go through the line early, because some of pots become empty quickly. Unfortunately, I spoke with cousin Bart too long, but I was so happy to be able to scrape out the last helping of Aunt Norma's beef and noodles when I finally went through the line. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

In the past few years, it seems we have become more busy and more disconnected. So, I asked if each cousin, aunt and uncle would be willing to stand up, re-introduce their family and provide some highlights of the year. Yes, there were a lot of grumbles and moans. But, that was my favorite part of the day. (The sharing. Not the grumbling and moaning.) While some of the family sees each other several times a week, some of us live farther away and really miss knowing what is going on in the lives of our loved ones. It was a wonderful day with the extended family and a great start to the Christmas week.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I'll Be Back...Soon

I'll try really hard. I will. I promise. I've been trying. But, I'll try even harder tomorrow. Or, maybe even tonight. Or, maybe it will be during the part of tonight that is really tomorrow. When I'm working at the hotel, things get a little blurry and I forget what time or day it is. Goes with the territory, probably.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Passing of a Co-worker

Some time ago, I resolved to not check in on others' blog unless I had recently written a post or was in the midst of making one. Because the last two weeks have been hectic, I have not been able to write and, therefore, have missed my online friends and their blogs. I hope you will forgive me, and I will try to catch up next week with all I've been waiting to share. Of course, I never know what will happen, but I will try.

I had big plans to post yesterday, but something much more important took precedence in the day. Our company lost a dedicated employee who was in charge of production for our site. After the exchange from third shift to first, Mike reviewed the day with his lead staff, helped for the set-up of the production line, and came up to the front office to meet with our boss Phillip just as he did every morning. Mike felt like he was experiencing indigestion from overeating at the holidays, so he went to the lunchroom to retrieve some antacid from the first aid kit after leaving Phillip's office. Shortly after, a co-worker walked into the lunchroom to find that Mike had collapsed. While waiting for the ambulance, 3 of our staff members tried to revive him. The ambulance and medical staff did everything they could, but later that morning, we received word that Mike passed away due to a massive heart attack.

Mike, Production Manager, on left with Steve, Ice Cream Pilot Plant Tech

It has been difficult for our staff to pick up the pieces. The production operators who worked for Mike had just seen him an hour before, and it was hard to believe that he was now gone. The gruff man with extremely high expectations was not here to lead the team, and the absence was difficult to understand. Thankfully, each of us saw glimpses of his soft side from time to time, but he was careful not to show it too often - as he needed his team to stay on task, respect him, keep up the expectations at work. But, Mike would visit my office for small chats...and occasionally, unexpectedly, a long talk would be shared. It started with sharing our cat stories. Lots and lots of funny cat stories. The discussions often landed on our mutual love of music. He had just started a band this year, and he seemed happier than he had ever been. And, every once in a while, he'd carefully ease into a spiritual topic. I have no business answering these types of questions for anyone, but I'd study my bible to try to give him the best answer I could. I am most thankful for those times, and I am thankful - and amazed - that he was comfortable to talk to me about these important matters.

We will be trying to find our way in the weeks ahead as our employees are very close. We have banded together. We've spent time talking, we've shared stories, and we've taken breaks when we've needed them. A grief counselor has been on our site today, and I am happy to see that several co-workers have taken advantage of the opportunity to speak with her. My close friend Alan has stepped up to take responsibility as the interim Production Manager. And, when our leadership team met with first and second shifts yesterday afternoon to wrap up the day, our friend Tyrone led us in the most beautiful prayer. It was wonderful to join together with our co-workers to thank God for our blessings, plead for His healing, and ask Him to wrap his arms around Mike's family. Please join us in praying for our staff and Mike's wife and two children.