Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Saturday, December 31, 2011

RIP Emily Houser

Coming home from Gatlinburg on Thursday I received two pieces of terrible news.  The first was from my friend Susan.  She called to let me know that her niece, Emily.....was not going to make it.  Susan asked for prayer and the group in my car prayed with me as we went down the interstate heading home.  Once we got home I thought of times we had visited Chuck and Susan and Emily would be part of the mix.  She was such a darling little person with such a big heart and smile.  Susan had asked that she not suffer.  That was the hardest part of praying....for a child to not suffer any more.  I prayed....and I watched for emails and got a couple that said she was showing no brain activity and one that said they were taking her off the tube.  That night at 8:24pm Emily Houser went to be with the Lord. She was 14 years old and for the last 5 years of her life has dealt with the side effects of a brain tumor that was removed. She was a gracious, beautiful (inside and out) little girl who delighted in doing for others. God showed His divine mercy by allowing her to go quietly as she slept. She left a huge void in their entire family but especially for her parents and two sisters who are 10 & 11. Please pray for strength and peace for all and celebrate with me that she no longer hurts and is doing things all in heaven that her body would not allow her to do here on earth.  A friend of theirs put together a wonderful tribute video I would love to share with you here.  RIP little one.  You will be sorely missed Emily!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Hodge Podge Vol 59 - A Few Days Late and Few Dollars Short

On Tuesday through Thursday of this week I was either traveling to, from, or in Gatlinburg for Winter Extreme with our youth at Rock Mills.  Tuesday, on the way up....was sick the whole hence why there was no Hodge Podge posted as per usual.  Sorry I am late guys...I am home, still not 100%....but home and happy.  If you have not already, hop over to Joyce's blog and check out everyone else's answer.  You might want to visit Joyce's Christmas is a lovely piece.

Ok so here we go with Joyce's questions and my answers.  I hope you are prepared to be amused and whatever.
1. Share something you loved about your Christmas day.

Easy Peasy....a day at Church with my precious husband reading the Christmas story followed by an afternoon of games, food, and fun with my precious daughter Kat and her precious husband Brian.  It was a perfect day filled with favorite things!

2. You get to put five items in a time capsule to be opened in 100 years, what items would you choose and why?
  • an handwritten journal-  handwriting might be a thing of the past.  Most young people think so.  
  • a classic book - not an ebook....a real, smell the pages kind of book.  They will be extinct in a 100 years and it would not amaze me if the only place you will be able to find one is in the vault of a library somewhere. My problem is chosing which one.  There are so many awesome ones out there.  
  • My 2011 scrapbook and blog in book form - I think the pictures will give 100 years from now the kind of laugh we get now when we look back at the 1950's, 60's and 70's.  I find it hard to believe that I wore that.....ever....and thought I was cute in it.
  • the Bible - I would love to pack up my most favorite, dog eared bible, after having carefully marked the special passages I want to share.
  • a core set of school books (history, math, english, and science)...that way they will know what kind of role education played in our lives....and what we taught our children.  
3. What do you like on a cracker?
Holiday cheeseball, peanut butter, colby or jack cheese, pimiento and cheese, chicken salad,....yep.... I will pretty much eat anything on a Ritz.....reasonably.
4. Do you make resolutions? How'd that work out for you this past year?
I don't make resolutions.....I break those pretty quick.  I  simply spend a week and reflect on my life from Christmas day until New Years Eve....I look at the good and the bad.....what I succeeded in and failed at....where I need to improve....or accomplish something new.....and pray over them.  I do not write them down....because I have found when I made a big deal of them....I ditched them early on....with it kind of between God and I.....I tend to be a bit more focused because the big guy himself is aware of them.   Last years goals were shot down in the water with all the death and dying in my life.  I hope this year will be better.  If I had to give myself a grade I would maybe get a C-.  I was halfway there.
5. What's a song or song lyric you'll associate with 2011?
Blessings by Laura Story....this is the kind of year I had.
'We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise'
6.  How will you ring in the new year?
I promise you I will be asleep before the ball drops.  I will wake up and it will be 2012.  We will do something with friends or do something together.

7. What is something you look forward to in 2012?
Peace for my family.  A good year. I would like a year with no loss.  I am tired of hanging out at the funeral home.....I am tired of tears.

8. Insert your own random thought here.
Youth trips are so fun....especially with all girls....there is never a dramaless moment.  You have got to love them.  We took some of our youth to Gatlinburg to Winter was a wild ride....and the devil had his hand in it from the get go....but...inspite of him....three of our four girls rededicated their lives to God.  Can I get an AMEN on that one.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mercy Come Morning

About The Book:  There are no second chances. Or are there?  Krista Mueller is in a good place. She’s got a successful career as a professor of history; she’s respected and well-liked; and she lives hundreds of miles from her hometown and the distant mother she could never please. It’s been more than a decade since Alzheimer’s disease first claimed Charlotte Mueller’s mind, but Krista has dutifully kept her mother in a first-class nursing home.  Now Charlotte is dying of heart failure and, surprised by her own emotions, Krista rushes to Taos, New Mexico, to sit at her estranged mother’s side as she slips away. Battling feelings of loss, abandonment, and relief, Krista is also unsettled by her proximity to Dane McConnell, director of the nursing home—and, once upon a time, her first love. Dane’s kind and gentle spirit—and a surprising discovery about her mother—make Krista wonder if she can at last close the distance between her and her mother … and open the part of her heart she thought was lost forever.
About The Author:  Lisa Tawn Bergren is a mompreneur, God follower, author, editor, traveler, dreamer, risk taker, learner all rolled up into one.  She is definitely my kind of writer.  Visit her website:
My Thoughts About The Book:  As a child of a parents who suffered from dementia this book touched me to the core.  I wish there really were somewhere like Cimarron where Alzheimer's patients could be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.  This book is a must if you have walked, or are walking in my shoes.  The characters were so vivid that I felt as if I knew both Krista and her mom.  It was a touching and emotional story line.  When dementia takes a loved ones mind it is actually harder than death....because they are physically still present....but the person you knew and loved is no more.  I think Bergren did a wonderful job of portraying the steps of dealing with this illness and making peace with the past.  A must read!  But don't just believe me....look at what other writers have said about this book:
“A timeless tale, to be kept every day in the heart as a reminder that forgiveness is a gift to self.”—PATRICIA HICKMAN, author of The Pirate Queen
Mercy Come Morning is Lisa Bergren’s best yet! Strong characters dealing with passionate life-and-death issues in a Southwest setting so authentic I could taste the chilies and smell the sage. A compelling story of longing, love, and the search for life.… It’s a story to meet the need in every woman’s heart.”
—JANE KIRKPATRICK , author of A Name of Her Own and the Kinship and Courage series “Bergren just keeps getting better. Mercy Come Morning is a deeply moving story of love lost and found. It is also a gentle but compelling invitation to remember the things we should know by heart but often forget along the way.”
—CAROLYN ARENDS, recording artist and author of We’ve Been Waiting for You
“Lisa Bergren writes like a dream, softly calling us to familiar places, walking us through our memories in grandma’s kitchen, past the disappointments of growing up, and through the complexities of imperfect families. Mercy Come Morning is a timeless tale, to be kept every day in the heart as a reminder that forgiveness is a gift to self and joy the glittering residue left upon our doorpost when Christmas is kept every day of the year.”
—PATRICIA HICKMAN, author of Sandpebbles and Katrina’s Wings
This book was previously released as Christmas Every Morning
Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book in ebook format from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Company through their Blogging for Books program in exchange for my review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are 100% my own and may differ from others.

Winter Extreme 2011/12

Well it is the end of December and here we are at Winter Extreme again.  This year we brought 4 girls and 3 adults.  Our token male, Stiles, had to cancel at the last minute because his grandmother died.  I miss having Stiles with us.  The trip had a shaky start yesterday because I got sick on Monday night, was sick Tuesday morning, came anyways....and then...when I thought I had it licked....was sick in the car coming back from registering for the event.  How gross and I am so sorry for Renee, Libby, and Lyndi as I sat in the front seat and threw up in a bag....there is no where to stop and pull over in Gatlinburg.  We got back to the hotel and I went straight to bed at 3:30.....they all went to eat at CiCi's Pizza and then went to the first session....I slept.  All night....and woke up only once when they got in about midnight.  At 6 this morning I woke again....took a swig from my Sierra Mist....and knew I was going to survive today.  We went to breakfast....and yes, yesterday was a total fast day for me.  It killed me to be in a restaurant and smell grease, much less eat it.  This morning I managed to keep a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit down from Mickey D's.  It was very good.  We went to session one....and even though I wanted a Krispy Kreme doughnut I just could not stomach it.  I ate half a hamburger for lunch...and some fries...and seem to be fine right now.  We are ordering pizza for supper tonight after the concert....I hope I am up to it.  I love me some Papa John's!  Switchfoot is in concert tonight....but two of the girls have mega (migraine) headaches so they are napping now at the hotel.  If they don't feel good when it is time to leave....I will stay behind with them.  No problem for me.  Switchfoot is a LOUD band.  I missed hearing Toby Mac sing and Tony Nolan speak last night...and that does make me sad...but as bad as I was was ok.  We took the girls shopping this afternoon between sessions....I am not a huge to be honest it was torture for me.  I bought a pair of clips for my glasses so I could have some sunglasses....Frank bought a can see we are definitely the last of the big shoppers. I hope you all are having a wonderful day.....I will have pictures to post on my Project 365 Saturday night.  Frank and I got some great shots of Unhindered and Dave Edwards.  Happy Wednesday!
BTW are you a camper?  Up here in the mountains there are a ton of camping locations.  I have actually camped at a few of them myself.  While I am not an avid camper I have camped and enjoy it from time to idea of hardshell camping is Motel 6.  But....I have camped several times with my cousin in her 36' 5th wheel with three pop outs.  That is my kind of camping.  There are some beautiful places in Alabama to camp....Lake West Point, Lake Martin, Lake Guntersville (especially if you want to see eagles). And...if you are a camper....then check out the following sites....
Alabama Camping (linking to:
Family Camping Resources (linking to:
RV Campgrounds (linking to:
24 Hour RV Roadside Assistance (linking to:

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bittersweet Surrender

About the Book:  Carly Westlake is living the dream. She spends her days at a spa (okay, so she owns the place), she's dating a hunk, and she's surrounded by chocolate-milk chocolate, her favorite-that she uses for the chocolate facials that made her spa famous.
But when long buried secrets threaten Carley's business and her friendship with business-partner Tom, she fights like crazy to keep the dream-and the illusions-afloat.  It takes a miracle of grace to get Carley to finally make that bittersweet surrender to love and real life.

About the Author:  Since January 2010 her life has been in a state of turmoil, though nothing more than  God can handle. It was then she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It’s been a roller-coaster ride to be sure, but she has been fighting with everything in her and hopes to get past this. Want to know more about Diann?  Check out her website:
About The Disease:  Ovarian cancer is a silent killer. Symptoms don’t appear many times until it’s too late–or at least it makes for a much harder battle.  Ovarian cancer is something women thing will never  happen to us. We always think it’s someone else, but it isn’t. Take care of yourself. I care about you. Your family cares about you get tested regularly.
My Thoughts:  I have to be honest and tell you that Bittersweet Surrender started out very slow for me. The key word there is started out.  Once the foundation for the story and the characters was laid the book became an very interesting read and the ending was worth the buildup.  This book is a story of a tangled web created by lies, and of grace that is God given. Carly, the main character feels broken because of breast cancer and rejected because her husband left her when she needed him most. When another character sees her inner and outer beauty he reminds her that she is a creation of God and that Jesus loves her just the way she is. I loved the fact that these characters were seasoned and more mature in age. not the traditional 20 something year old heroine. As a 50+ reader, veteran of divorce, who has lost many friends/family members to breast cancer the book really touched my life.  It is a definite must read.  I hope you will take a chance and pick it up at your local book store.  You won't regret it.  Warning:  This book will make you want to divulge in great amounts of chocolate.  
Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book in ebook format from Thomas Nelson Publishing Company  in exchange for my review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are 100% my own and may differ from others.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas To All!

We had a wonderful breakfast this morning first thing with the Towler family in the house next door.  It was such a warm and wonderful time.  At church Frank read the Christmas story from Luke 2:1-20 to us this morning at church sitting in this rocker with the children at his feet.  We had the picture made after church.  It was a messy, rainy day but the spirit inside the sanctuary was one of warmth and love.  I am sitting here right now waiting for my daughter to come and spend some time with us.  I have made chili and Mexican cheesy chicken soup for us to share.  I quit making regular Christmas fare several years ago.  I hope we have time to play a game or two.  I hope you are enjoying your families and loved ones today.  Merry Christmas to you all!  

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Project 365 - Week 52

Well, according to Sara it is Week 52.  It seems a bit odd for it to be week 52 when there is another week left to go.  So Sara looked back and the issue is the week 1 only had 1 day in it!!  Ok Sara so what are we going to do about this?  I will be honest I am not ready to give up just yet.  I think we should all post one more time and call the week 52B.  Head over to Sara's place and see what everyone has been snapping this week.  Merry Christmas to you all and a Happy New Year.  Feliz Navidad!  So, here's my week in a nutshell:
Sunday, December 18th

No, we do not have children this small....or grandkids.  These are donations that were made for 8 children and my house was the collection point.  The boys bike is for a neighbor child, the biggest girls bike is for the sister at that same house.  The little girls bike is for a Rock Mills child who's house burned to the ground.  I know these kids will love this.  Two of these we are actually delivering after the kids go to bed on Christmas Eve.  I can't wait.

Monday, December 19th

Bill's Charlie Brown outdoor decorations.  I thought they were to cute to pass up.

Tuesday, December 20th
I didn't have my camera at Mrs. Betty Jeans and Mr. Larry's today when we stopped by to see their tree but this ornament caught my eye so I shot it with Frank's cell phone camera.  It is not as good as I wished it were, but it will do.  The bowling pin below was our Christmas gift from the Kings.  They brought it all the way back from Michigan.  I love it and it has a place of honor in the tv room.

Wednesday, December 21st

We were supposed to meet Georgia at school at 8 a.m. to clear out Mary's closet.  Georgia must have forgotten because she did not show up, so Frank and I went through the closet and got all of Mary's stuff we could find.  When we left you could actually go from the front to the back.  

Thursday, December 22nd 

Thursday night we had dinner and Christmas with the Blairs.  Deborah's house was decorated so cute and we had such a great time.  We had Brunswick soup and salad and then opened gifts.  It was a fun time.  We love spending time with the Blair family.  

Friday, December 23rd
Frank gave me my Christmas present early.  It is a backpack camera bag with a tripod.  I love it and have already loaded it up and it makes traveling a whole lot easier.

Saturday, December 24th - Christmas Eve

Sunrise this morning.  The second shot was out my french door window.  Greg tinted my windows a few weeks ago and I thought I would try a shot through the tint.  We went to Amanda's this morning for our family brunch and Christmas present opening.  It was great fun.  

Will with the garage.  He was really into his work.

Kimbell and Drew man sharing a juice box.

I made photo albums for all of us who went to Rosemary Beach at Thanksgiving.  They were a hit and Dustin is checking out theirs.  I made 7 albums and they had 75 photos in each one.  This one gift was the one gift that gave me a happy feeling.  

Frank is figuring out how to put one of the kids presents together.

Drew and Tommy in deep discussion over a toy stethoscope.  Tommy won.

Victor opening one of the two huge presents.  One was full of packing peanuts and thankfully this one was not.

Wheeler with his Fischer Price backpacking tent set.  It was really cool.  We had for Wheeler and one for Drew...and it took six adults to put the thing together.  Oh I miss those days when we had little ones.  Merry Christmas to you all!  I hope you have a blessed day!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tres Leche Cake

A couple of weeks ago I was eating at a new Mexican restaurant in town and eavesdropping on a conversation between the owner and some customers.  They were talking about Tres Leche(three milk) Cake and I have a killer recipe that one of my hispanic students mom gave me.  I told the owner I would make him one to try, bring him the recipe, and maybe he could/would add it to his menu.  Tonight was the night.  I made the cake today and it looked yummy.  He loved it and Frank and I got a meal on the house.  I had Mexican lasagna and Frank had Texas Border Fajitas.  The food was delish.  I thought I would share my recipe with you and let you try it out.  It is relatively easy to make and really different.  Bon Appetite!
Tres Leches Cake

1 cup All-purpose Flour
1-1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
5 whole Eggs
1 cup Sugar, Divided
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1/3 cup Milk
1 can Evaporated Milk
1 can Sweetened, Condensed Milk
1/4 cup Heavy Cream
1 pint Heavy Cream, For Whipping
3 Tablespoons Sugar 
Preparation Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan liberally until coated.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Separate eggs.

Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.

Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.

Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread to even out the surface.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter and allow to cool.

Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher. When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly drizzle all but about 1 cup of the milk mixture—try to get as much around the edges of the cake as you can.

Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes. To ice the cake, whip 1 pint heavy cream with 3 tablespoons of sugar until thick and spreadable.  Spread over the surface of the cake. Decorate cake with whole or chopped maraschino cherries. Cut into squares and serve.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Christmas Tale

I heard one of the best children's tale of Christmas past yesterday while visiting with some of our congregation.  I am paraphrasing it for brevity and omitting the names.  The momma reads my blog so she will recognize this delightful tale.  "It seems that when the children were young times were tough.   They only had one vehicle yet, this young mother would walk them to town and they would do things.  One of them was looking at the toys at the dime store.  At this particular dime store there were loads of the little army men and their accessories.  The little boy wanted an army tank for Christmas.  When Christmas time rolled around he got many gifts....but no tank.  Later that day they went to a neighbors house and lo and behold the neighbor boy had gotten "the tank."  My friend's son went to the little boy and told him he had to give the tank to him because Santa had left it at the wrong house."  Don't you just love it.  The innocence of children at Christmas.  My second tale is also of days when times were tough.  The father made minimum wage and I think it was around 1.90 an hour.  Christmas rolled around and there was not a whole lot of money to be blown on toys.  The mom was a thrifty shopper and managed to get several gifts by shaving money off her grocery money.  The little girl in this story wanted Barbie everything.  Santa brought her a couple of outfits, some accessories, a pool set( not Mattel, but a cheaper replica),some necessities, and something special.  The children of the house had bulging stockings full of fruit, nuts, candy canes, and a small prize.  Later in the day the little family went to be with extended family to celebrate the day and daughter of one of the cousins, who was the same age, had also asked for Barbie everything.....only she got it.  The little girl with the fake pool ensemble could not understand the difference in gifts.  Wanting to help the mom finally told her that parents paid Santa throughout the year.   for the gifts and the little girl was fine with that.  Several hours later she told her parents that she wanted her daddy to get a better job so they could give Santa more money next year so she could have a Barbie Dream House.  Ah kids.  My last two tales I am telling on myself.  I too wanted Barbie stuff one year.  Yeah...I was young when Barbie came on the scene.  I wanted Barbie clothes....lots of them for my bubble hair cut Barbie.  I only had the time.  My parents were firm believers in one big gift, on medium sized, and a couple of small gifts.  When I woke up Christmas morning there was a Midge doll (She was Barbie's friend) and tons of Barbie clothes.  They weren't in the pretty pink boxes that the store bought clothes came in....but they were perfect replica's of those.  The key word here was replica's.  I was almost embarrassed to show them to my friend, Carol.  She got Barbie clothes in a box.  I have realized as a parent and adult how selfish I was....and how much I hurt my mom and Aunt Mae Belle with my embarrassment.  Each one of those outfits were made with love and after I went to bed each night the two ladies got out their sewing machines and made all those wonderful little outfits....and believe me sewing Barbie clothes is not easy.  I had a black velvet evening coat with a diamond clasp at the neck, a fur lines red-velvet skating outfit, many dresses, many formals, and they had the accessories for all of it.  All in all I had over 50 changes of clothes.  They even made little under garments.  When my friends came to play they actually fought over my stuff because months after Christmas my clothes were still intact and theirs were not.  What love that was.  Thanks Mom and Aunt Mae Belle.  My last tale is about our poor year.  My dad had been out of work for a while.  He had a terrible kidney problem and was unable to work.  I wanted a guitar, skateboard, and skimboard for Christmas.  My dad would work during the day while I was at school an when he was not hurting....and he took an old busted guitar my grandfather had given him.....fixed it....painted it electric blue with a pink lightening bolt down the face, he took an old pair or metal wheel skates and made me a skateboard (electric blue with a pink lightening bolt), and made me a skim board out of a piece of our hurricane storm window boards...electric blue with a pink lightening bolt.  I was delighted!  I was old enough by then to know my dad had made these for me....and old enough to know what it cost him to sit up and make them.  As a matter what....I have wonderful Christmas memories.  Do you have a special one?  Tell me about it in a comment.  I would love some bloggy Christmas love today.  Happy Christmas Eve Eve Eve.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

'Twas the Hodgepodge Before Christmas....

Welcome to the Wednesday Hodgepodge. I loved Joyce's Christmas play on words so I borrowed it.  I hope she doesn't mind.  I too hope this week finds you enjoying time with friends and family as we celebrate the gift of God's only Son. Be sure to join us and add your link to the bottom of Joyce's post and then go spread Christmas cheer to some of the other Hodgepodgers playing along today. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

1. Are you cooking Christmas dinner? How many will be round your table this year? What are we having?  We are going to Amanda's on Saturday for brunch and I am making Noel's wonderful overnight sweet bread.  I will make a picture of it on my Project 365 for this weekend.  Sunday, Kat and Brian are coming and I am making something like chili.  We always play games after we eat and my family does not do the traditional....on either side.
2. What is one must-have Christmas cookie in your house?  Oreos.....year round.... in any way form or fashion.  Dipped, plain, with milk, with coffee, it does not matter.  But we don't eat them often....they are a special treat.
3. Santa likes a glass of milk with his cookies-do you? What kind of milk is on tap at your house-skim, almond, soy, full fat (Gasp!)  In our house Santa drinks 2%.  Mrs. Claus does not drink milk(yuck), except in her coffee.
4. Time magazine recently named its Person of the Year for 2011. This is the person the editors believe has had the greatest impact, for better or worse, in the past year. This year they chose 'The Protester'. Your thoughts? Who would you name person of the year for 2011?  Gabriel Giffords would be my choice.  She definitely triumphed over tragedy, and I mean come this day and time her own husband stood beside her and declared his love and support from outer space. I am tired of seeing people like the Kardashians, Charlie Sheen, Lindsey Lohan, Paris Hilton in the spotlight like they are something special.  Special implies above and beyond.  I would like to see faces of our military, or Gabriel Giffords be honored....instead of overpaid, spoiled people who feel the world owes them something.  
5. December 21st is National Flashlight Day...when was the last time you needed a flashlight? Did you know right where to find one?  I used one yesterday to look into a closet that does not have a light in it.  I know where several are because I have them posted around the house in case we lose our power.  There are batteries in all of them.
6. Candy canes...yum or yuck?  I can take them or leave them.  I like the taste of peppermint in coffee or cocoa, I like it crushed in my peppermint almond bark, I like it crushed as an adornment on something I have cooked.  To just eat one....not so much.
7. What Christmas carol lyric means the most to you?  From Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song) - "I am frightened, by this load I bear" - can you imagine what this young woman was feeling?  Can you imagine what you would have felt at this age carrying this responsibility?
8. Insert your own random thought here.  Are you a traditionalChristmas song person or do you like those goofy Christmas songs...or both?  I am a purist.  I love the traditional songs like "What Child is This" and "Silent Night"; the hymn carols, and the songs like "The Christmas Song" and "Silver Bells" "The Christmas Shoes".  I do not like songs that talk about Grandma getting run over by reindeers, or 9 years probation, or even Robert Earl Keen's song about Christmas with his family.  You would think that as musical as I am I would like it all and my friends say that all songs are my favorites....but when it comes to Christmas music....not so much.  Have a wonderful rest of the week and I will see you back at Hodgepodge next Wednesday from Gatlinburg, TN. Woooo Hooo....we are taking our youth to Winter Extreme!  Can't wait!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mercy Come Morning

Product Details:
Paperback: 240 pages
List Price:  13.99
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; 
Reprint edition (August 16, 2011)
Language: English

About the Book:  Krista Mueller is in a good place. She’s got a successful career as a professor of history; she’s respected and well-liked; and she lives hundreds of miles from her hometown and the distant mother she could never please. It’s been more than a decade since Alzheimer’s disease first claimed Charlotte Mueller’s mind, but Krista has dutifully kept her mother in a first-class nursing home.  Now Charlotte is dying of heart failure and, surprised by her own emotions, Krista rushes to Taos, New Mexico, to sit at her estranged mother’s side as she slips away. Battling feelings of loss, abandonment, and relief, Krista is also unsettled by her proximity to Dane McConnell, director of the nursing home—and, once upon a time, her first love. Dane’s kind and gentle spirit—and a surprising discovery about her mother—make Krista wonder if she can at last close the distance between her and her mother … and open the part of her heart she thought was lost forever.

About the Author:  Lisa Bergren is a best-selling, award-winning author with more than thirty books to her name and with more than two million copies sold. A former publishing executive, she now splits her time working as a freelance editor and writer while parenting three children with her husband, Tim, and dreaming of the family’s next visit to Taos.  Want to know more about her then visit her website.

My Thoughts:  As a child of an Alzheimer's parent this book was a direct hit home.  I read and cried and read some more.  It was a touching story and I would recommend it to anyone who has a parent with Alzheimers.  I was delighted when Krista is able to make peace with her past and her mom.  I was fortunate enough to also spend time with my mom and make peace with her and myself. Unless you have walked this walk it is hard to understand how this disease robs someone of their personality and mind.   I wish Cimarron really existed.  It sounds like an amazing place.

The First Chapter:

“She’s dying, Krista.”

I took a long, slow breath. “She died a long time ago, Dane.”

He paused, and I could picture him formulating his next words, something that would move me. Why was my relationship with my mother so important to him? I mean, other than the fact that she was a patient in his care. “There’s still time, Kristabelle.”

I sighed. Dane knew that his old nickname for me always got to me. “For what? For long, deep conversations?” I winced at the harsh slice of sarcasm in my tone.

“You never know,” he said quietly. “An aide found something you should see.”


“Come. I’ll keep it here in my office until you arrive. Consider it a Christmas present.”

“It’s December ninth.”

“Okay, consider it an early present.”

It was typical of him to hold out a mysterious hook like that. “I don’t know, Dane. The school term isn’t over yet. It’s a hard time to get someone to cover for me.” It wasn’t the whole truth. I had an assistant professor who could handle things on her own. And I could get back for finals. Maybe. Unless Dane wasn’t overstating the facts.

“Krista. She’s dying. Her doctor tells me she has a few weeks, tops. Tell your department chair. He’ll let you go. This is the end.” I stared out my cottage window to the old pines that covered my yard in shadows. The end. The end had always seemed so far away. Too far away. In some ways I wanted an end to my relationship with my mother, the mother who had never loved me as I longed to be loved. When she started disappearing, with her went so many
of my hopes for what could have been. The road to this place had been long and lonely. Except for Dane. He had always been there, had always waited. I owed it to him to show. “I’ll be there on Saturday.”

“I’ll be here. Come and find me.”

“Okay. I teach a Saturday morning class. I can get out of here after lunch and down there by five or six.”

“I’ll make you dinner.”

“Dane, I—”

“Dinner. At seven.”

I slowly let my mouth close and paused. I was in no mood to argue with him now. “I’ll meet you at Cimarron,” I said.
“Great. It will be good to see you, Kristabelle.” I closed my eyes, imagining him in his office at Cimarron Care Center. Brushing his too-long hair out of his eyes as he looked through his own window.

“It will be good to see you, too, Dane. Good-bye.”

He hung up then without another word, and it left me feeling slightly bereft. I hung on to the telephone receiver as if I could catch one more word, one more breath, one more connection with the man who had stolen my heart at sixteen.

Dane McConnell remained on my mind as I wrapped up things at the college, prepped my assistant, Alissa, to handle my history classes for the following week, and then drove the scenic route down to Taos from Colorado Springs, about a five-hour trip. My old Honda Prelude hugged the roads along the magnificent San Luis Valley. The valley’s shoulders were still covered in late spring snow, her belly carpeted in a rich, verdant green. It was here that in 1862 Maggie O’Neil single-handedly led a wagon train to settle a town in western Colorado, and nearby Cecilia Gaines went so
crazy one winter they named a waterway in her honor—“Woman Hollering Creek.”

I drove too fast but liked the way the speed made my scalp tingle when I rounded a corner and dipped, sending my stomach flying. Dane had never driven too fast. He was methodical in everything he did, quietly moving ever forward. He had done much in his years since grad school, establishing Cimarron and making it a national think tank for those involved in gerontology. After high school we had essentially ceased communication for years before Cimarron came about. Then when Mother finally got to the point in her descent into Alzheimer’s that she needed fulltime institutionalized care, I gave him a call. I hadn’t been able to find a facility that I was satisfied with for more than a year, when a college friend had shown me the magazine article on the opening of Cimarron and its patron saint, Dane McConnell.

“Good looking and nice to old people,” she had moaned. “Why can’t I meet a guy like that?”

“I know him,” I said, staring at the black-and-white photograph.

“Get out.”

“I do. Or did. We used to be…together.”

“What happened?” she asked, her eyes dripping disbelief.

“I’m not sure.”

I still wasn’t sure. Things between us had simply faded over the years. But when I saw him again, it all seemed to come back. Or at least a part of what we had once had. There always seemed to be a submerged wall between us, something we couldn’t quite bridge or blast through. So we had simply gone swimming toward different shores.

Mother’s care had brought us back together over the last five years. With the congestive heart failure that was taking her body, I supposed the link between us would finally be severed. I would retreat to Colorado, and he would remain in our beloved Taos, the place of our youth, of our beginnings, of our hearts. And any lingering dream of living happily ever after with Dane McConnell could be buried forever with my unhappy memories of Mother.

I loosened my hands on the wheel, realizing that I was gripping

it so hard my knuckles were white. I glanced in the rearview mirror, knowing that my reverie was distracting me from paying attention to the road. It was just that Dane was a hard man to get over. His unique ancestry had gifted him with the looks of a Scottish Highlander and the sultry, earthy ways of the Taos Indians. A curious, inspiring mix that left him with both a leader’s stance and a wise man’s knowing eyes. Grounded but visionary. A driving force, yet empathetic at the same time. His employees loved working for him. Women routinely fell in love with him.

I didn’t know why I could never get my act together so we could finally fall in love and stay in love. He’d certainly done his part. For some reason I’d always sensed that Dane was waiting for me, of all people. Why messed-up, confused me? Yet there he was. I’d found my reluctance easy to blame on my mother. She didn’t love me as a mother should, yada-yada, but I’d had enough time with my counselor to know that there are reasons beyond "...I’d always felt as if I was chasing after parental love, but the longer I chased it, the further it receded from my reach. It left a hole in my heart that I was hard-pressed to fill. God had come close to doing the job. Close. But there was still something there, another blockade I had yet to blast away. I would probably be working on my “issues” my whole life. But as my friend Michaela says, “Everyone’s got issues.” Supposedly I need to embrace them. I just want them to go away.

“Yeah,” I muttered. Dane McConnell was better off without me. Who needed a woman still foundering in her past?

I had to focus on Mother. If this was indeed the end, I needed to wrap things up with her. Find closure. Some measure of peace. Even if she couldn’t say the words I longed to hear.

I love you, Krista.

Why was it that she had never been able to force those four words from her lips?"

Excerpted from Mercy Come Morning by Lisa Tawn Bergren Copyright © 2011 by Lisa Tawn Bergren. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group's Blogging for Books program . I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, December 19, 2011

OOOOPS! Wrong Church!

Have I got a great story for you all today.  Most of you know that Frank preaches at Rock Mills UMC and we share a parking lot with Rock Mills Baptist Church.  The Baptist Church is the first church you come to when you come down Hwy 22 heading East.  Yesterday, Amanda and I were singing at our church.  She was supposed to be there at 10:45 my time(Central time).  She lives on Eastern time so we always make sure to let the other one know which one of the time zones we are talking about.  At 10:58 Amanda was no where to be found.  I could not get her on neither her house phone nor cell phone.  I was a bit concerned.  At 11:03 Amanda came in and told me she had been next door at the Baptist church for the past 30 minutes.  She asked me, "didn't you see my car in the parking lot?"  I replied, "No, because I was not looking for it in the Baptist side."  She said she had talked with some of the members, had her guitar, and it was not until she saw the Baptist Hymnal that she realized she was in the wrong place!  She made a hasty retreat and we sang on time at the METHODIST church. When she left I walked her to her car in the Baptist Church part of the parking lot.  They were getting out too and several of them came over....including their pastor....and we all had a good laugh at the mix-up.  We did get a singing invitation to come back at another time and sing for them.  We promised we would.  The pastor then told us of a time when he was preaching a revival and went to the wrong church.  One of the members told of a time he went to a funeral at the wrong church.  I love stories about these unexpected life events.  Thanks A for giving me a great story to tell.  I will definitely add it to our unforgettable wedding tales.  We have some doozies don't we?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Project 365-Week 51

Well the countdown is on and there is only one more week until Christmas.  Am I done shopping....for the first time in 20 years I have to say, "no!"  Friday was our last day at school so I am hoping to finish up next week.  Everyone has gorgeous pictures posted this week so head over to Sara's and see what is happening in blogger world at Christmas.  Here is a glimpse into my life this week: 

Sunday, December 11th

Tonight was our Children's program at church.  I left morning church and went to sing at my friend Mary's funeral.  On the way home I saw these in our neighbor's yard and grabbed them.    Their house looks like a gingerbread house.  It is so precious.  Tommy and Sandra went all out this year.

Monday, December 12th

After guitar lessons on Monday night, Frank and I went down to Tommy and Sandra's to see her Coca Cola tree.  Everyone around here knows that I am all about decorations.  Sandra's were awesome.  I have never seen a deer mount decorated and loved it.  Her living room is full of deer and bear and looks just like something you would see in a cabin in the woods in the Smokies.  I loved it.

Tuesday, December 13th 

Tuesday night we met the Girl Scouts at the Armory to get the food they had collected for our food bank at church.  Then while we were headed to unload it at the church we got an emergency call for Santa.  We unloaded and ran home and Frank jumped into his Santa Phonebooth and out popped Santa and his elf P.J.  I grabbed a quick shot before they headed off to do their Christmas work.

Wednesday, December 14th

Frank has been working day and night in his workshop.  He has it set up now so that it runs like a fine oiled machine.  He has been making all kinds of things in there and on Wednesday invited me in to the "Man Cave" to see what he was up to.  I love the cross and the portrait.  He delivered them on Saturday and the mother was delighted.

Thursday, December 15th

We bowl on Thursday night and Frank had a couple of projects for Bill, Mary's husband, so we stopped by to visit before bowling.  I had to get some shots of his tree and yard.  I was with Mary when most of these were bought.  Each one has significance.  Mary and Bill love Mickey and Minnie, the beaver ornament has a light in the barrel that makes it look like fire....and reminds her of Maine, we both collect lighthouses, Bill makes birdhouses, and they are huge....and I mean huge Auburn fans.  The manger scene came back with us from our trip to Michigan in 2010.  It took up almost the entire back of the van.  

Friday, December 16th

I had a wedding rehearsal/dinner in Chandler Springs tonight.  The rehearsal dinner was in the fellowship hall and I got to grab a few shots of what we are in for on Saturday.  The colors were pink and silver and the bottom picture of the napkins and bows ....each table had them....each table had a different theme....and the groom's aunt did every one of them.  I think she started the day the engagement was announced.  Even the brides table was done around the base.  I am telling you it was lovely.  The jars of pink stuff...will be lit tomorrow and it was really beautiful in the hall.

Saturday, December 17th

While we were setting up to sing at the reception I grabbed a few shots more.  The bride's cake was made by my best friend, Deborah.  Angela is a nurse and her table was an ER heliport with little things that tell you about her.  The ornaments on the tree were clear ones filled with pink shredded paper.  They were so pretty.  Quinn's cake was made by Barbara and was red-velvet.  His table had things on it that are fireman/EMT things....and a Charlie Brown tree.

I grabbed two shots inside the church before the ceremony began.  Quinn's pink helmet was on the railing and there were three decorated trees with huge pink and silver bows topping them.  Pink poinsettias were everywhere.  After the service we moved them to the reception hall and put them in their places there.  When Amanda and I got ready to leave Quinn gave us each one.  I am going to put mine in the church today.  All in all it was a lovely week and I am glad to have the next two weeks off.  Have a wonderful week and I will be back next week with my final submission for 2011.