Monday, January 30, 2006

Month One Accountability-Goal Report

At the beginning of the year, I posted my goals for 2006. Not resolutions that get dropped at the first whim, but real measurable goals. Here is how things are shaping up after one month (reports in parenthesis, after each goal):

-"365 Ways To Know God" by Elmer L. Towns, with husband Russ
(We started well with this, but did not like the book, so are looking for a new one)
-Prayer Journal
(Still need to be more disciplined with this)

-Develop mentorship goals with those I mentor
(This is going better than 2005, but will improve as I manage my time better)
-Coordinate/Facilitate Women's Ministry events and Bible Studies
(Going great! A Spa Retreat is 2/17 & 2/18, and I'm doing a 10 week Bible Study)
-Equip-U classes (lead various 6 week classes)
(Going better than I ever imagined!)
-HomeBuilders Class
(Awesome Chili Cookoff-had 48 people present, counting kids)
-Music Ministries
(Sang Peace Speaker as solo, that was well received, and worked other music ministries as well. Ordered more music for future opportunities)

-Lose 60 pounds (or more)
(Lost 8.5 pounds in January)
-Exercise at least 4 times a week
(Doing lots of stair climbing and running and carrying with Jazzy, but hope to join YMCA tomorrow)
-Eat mostly from diabetic diet/portion control
(Not eating diabetic diet, but am watching portions and eating healthier)

-Read 15 books or more in various categories (don't get in a rut!)
(I'm in the middle of 3 books right now)
-Learn more about MS Word and MS PowerPoint and page layout
(still need to learn!)

-Keep in touch more with family and friends
(This is going GREAT! I'm so glad-it is like a reunion every week!)
-Develop more friends in the community-especially our cul-de-sac
(New neighbors moved in 3 houses down, we hope to meet them. Jazzy has helped us meet some of the neighbors or visit with them)
-Entertain in our home twice a month (often using the Dinner-8 invitation)
(Haven't started this yet-due to Jazzy in the process of house training)

-Mentor Carmen Rockett-edify her as a writer/a Christian/a friend
(going well-could be better, I need to do more!)
-Finish Laundry Room
(We are working on plans for this now)
-Buy and train a puppy/dog
(Working on this one big time!)
-Online Critique Groups
(Going well-will have some changes in a couple of months)

Living Out Loud:
-Book at least 4 speaking engagements
(Have some demo stuff to send out (speaking/singing)
-Record CD
(Not yet)
-Print booklet
(Not yet)
-See at least 70 articles published
(Had 9 articles published this month)
-Pursue self-syndication of column
(Will be a new columnist in February for Dabbling Mum)
-Do mass-mailer to 50+ pastors/WM directors
(Not yet)
-Register at a WM speaker's site
(Not yet)

More Discipline:
(Not good enough)
(Better, not good enough)
-Time allotment
(Better, not good enough)

Mammogram Laugh-o-gram

Today I went for a mammogram-just for screening purposes. I had put it off long enough, and it is the one thing I can give Russ that probably gives him the most peace of mind, since his Mom died from breast cancer. I'm never more aware of how unique I am than when I go for a mammogram. They ask all sorts of questions that end up being almost like an Abbott and Costello "Who's On First" routine.

Tech: "When was your last menstrual period?"

Me: "I've never had one. I have MRKH."

Tech: "So when did you have your hysterectomy?"

Me: "I've never had one, I have MRKH."

Tech: "So when did you reach menopause?"

Me: "I'm still pre-menopausal. I have MRKH."

Tech: "How can you not have a period, not have a hysterectomy, and be pre-menopausal?"

Me: "I have MRKH, meaning I was born without all of my reproductive organs, but I have ovaries."

Tech: "You have WHAT?"(like she had heard it for the first time rather than 4 times in one conversation)

So then I went on to explain MRKH. she asked if I was able to have children naturally, like she hadn't heard a word I had told her. It was just too much data to absorb at once-I don't blame her, I remember how I felt when I first learned about it.

Then we went on to discuss my breast health. She noticed from my history that I had a previous breast reduction. Without reading the rest of my history first, she drew on a breast chart the typical scar lines for a post-reduction patient. I made sure she knew about my other surgery, which removed the most feminine parts of the breast (to be delicate here). I also explained that I had breast regrowth after my reduction. All of that did not prepare her for what was next. She had me disrobe one side. She had never seen anything like it. So then there were more questions. Why the scars? What for? (then she revised her previous breast chart to show the rest of the scars). And how was it possible I had a previous reduction, considering the current size of my breasts. I explained (again, now making more sense because she could see it with her own eyes) that a medication had caused my breasts to regrow.

To help her not be so rattled, I employed humor as mood-lifter for the next 10 minutes. While she positioned me: arm here-squish here-don't breath-I explained that perhaps I was the first bionic woman she had met. More positioning, more squishing, extra compression by hand-hold my breath-and it seemed the tech was holding her breath too. So more humor.

All of this causes me to ask myself:

-Do humans often deal with stressful things with humor? Is it good or bad to do that? (Probably a little of both.)

-Why is it that some medical professionals have such a hard time acting professional (I know they are human too), and the patient ends up feeling like they have to lighten their mood or entertain them (while they are educating them)?

-Why do we worry so much about how we look to medical staff, when they are supposed to be there to help US feel better?

To close out-the tech shared with me that she had a congenital abnormality too-pyloric stenosis (meaning food didn't get to her stomach). She said she had a huge scar from the surgery, performed while she was an infant, that seemed to just grow with her. Again I comforted her, saying, "Why is it that some women are blessed with dainty little scars that fade with time, and others of us are cursed with thick red ropes of scar tissue that makes us feel like Frankenstein's Bride?" She said she was so glad to know she wasn't the only one.

I left the room that day, giving her a hug and letting her know that true beauty comes from within. No one is perfect, except one, and He came as our Savior. She was thankful for the inspiration. I saw HOPE in her face. I went in apprehensive, and left feeling like it was a divine appointment.

Time Machine Memory Tour-8th Grade

This is the year that began my making-or-breaking point. Oh how volatile the junior high years are!

-I was still hanging around with a bad crowd, but trying to fit in with some of the other classmates, only as much as they would let me hang with them, which was usually because Dana Hope was my friend. But please keep in mind that I was NOT friends with Dana in order to gain a new status-she was a GENUINE friend.

-I wore a "Property of Playboy Magazine" T-shirt to receive a marching band award after a summer parade, to represent our band. I don't know WHAT I was thinking! I do know that T-shirt sort of represented my view of my self-worth. Feedback from others had me convinced that my body (at the time, pretty hot if I do say so myself) was my MAIN contribution to this world. How sad. Funny, though, that the T-shirt was a hand-me-down from an adult I babysat for sometimes. What was SHE thinking?

-Mrs. Gleason, junior high science teacher, pulled me aside and admonished and shamed me for my sexual-thinking way of life (no sex involved, but evidence that I was going to go down that path). She knew that some of the kids I hung around with were sexual perverts (one boasted of having relations with guys, gals, and animals, and I have no doubt he was being truthful). She told me I had VALUE. She praised my grades and my personality, and said I could be a leader. She encouraged me to run for student council office for my Freshman year. She said I needed to have a wake-up call, and she hoped she made a difference in my life. Mrs. Gleason (now deceased)--yes, you made a difference in my life!

-I know it might sound like just a crush, but my first love, Roy Scott-son of friend of family, died when I was in eighth grade. I was beyond devastated. Leading up to his death, we corresponded by mail, since he lived in Arkansas. The kids in my class thought I was making him up. They thought I just wanted sympathy when I said that one of my boyfriends had cancer. I brought in letters, they said I faked them. Like typical teenage angst-I felt alone in my love, and then alone in my grief, when he died. I discovered poetry-first to send to Roy, and then to deal with my grief.

When Roy died, my folks decided to leave us at Aunt Minnie and Uncle Bill's while they traveled to the funeral. We got the call about his passing on a Sunday morning early, right before walking to church for Sunday School. I vowed a vow of silence for the whole day. Then, when I went to school on Monday, same thing-a vow of silence in memory of Roy. For this chatty Kathy-that is a sign of true grief (while I'm sure I was a bit of a drama queen too-I don't deny that). But I was shaken with the reality of two things that week: the reality of death in general, and how it separates loved ones much more than just miles had previously done. I think if I had been allowed to go to the funeral, I would have grieved in a more healthy manner, because there would have been closure. Instead, I wrote out my feelings, and gave my Home-Ec teacher what I wrote. She called me up after class and said she acknowledged my feelings, and she was very sorry for my pain. Since my classmates believed Roy was fabricated, they believed I staged his death because I was tired of living that lie anymore. That made the grief that much more painful. Only Dana believed me, and was there for me. What a friend! Roy's passing helped me realize I shouldn't waste my life. Roy's cancer and death, and the intervention by Mrs. Gleason really helped me evaluate my life.

-I took two specialized Girl Scout courses this year, that helped with my life evaluation. One was called "God and Church." The second was called, "God and Country." These courses were offered to both the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts, and many of the ministers of our community taught the classes. I bombarded them with questions! It gave me a good look at the different doctrinal statements and belief systems.

-Also sometime during this time, I was asked to be confirmed in the Methodist Church. The first time I went through confirmation classes, with Vickie Walton and Mandy McCarty, and others (if I recall correctly), I did not follow through with the confirmation ceremony because I still had so many questions. The second time, Dana Hope was in the class with me, and I decided to go through with my plans, mainly because it was expected of me, as a leader in the youth group. I wanted to be immersed in a body of water cutting through town-what was it called? The same one where in-coming Freshmen were hazed. Our pastor said there were 3 forms of baptism in the Methodist church: sprinkling, pouring, and immersion. I chose immersion because it was closest to how Jesus was baptized. But the minister said to simplify matters, so all of us could be confirmed the same day, I would need to be sprinkled there in the church building. I guess a part of me always felt like I compromised.

(too be continued)

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Grateful Gratitudes

I haven't posted my gratitude list in a while. I haven't stopped being thankful, though!

I'm grateful for:
-Hearing from my Aunt Deanna/what a blessing!

-Getting to be a puppy mama/most of time!

-The opportunity to film a short devo for Upward Basketball/and hearing others responded favorably to it! (And the calmness of nerves to get it right on the first take-they say I am camera friendly-must be the eyes, not this ol' body)

-Russ/he helped with household chores this week and I certainly needed the assistance!

-a new friend, Regina/we watched a movie together yesterday at her house, and it was a blast. We both are weird and like thrillers-we watched _Half Light_ with Demi Moore. Very good-and the cinematography was superb. We paused the DVD several times to discuss where we thought the story was going-so many potential plots-made us sit on the edge of our seats!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Time machine Memory Tour-7th Grade

Seventh Grade-Junior High (the BIG-time!)

-I had a crush on Jeff Crevelt-the new guy at school (even 8th grade girls liked him!). I discovered a talent of flirting to get the guys I was interested in to be interested in me. So, was there any doubt that he was my date to the junior-high dance? But, my heart was broken when he danced half of the dances with the upperclass girls. Upperclass in age, but also in socio-economic status. I learned a great deal at that dance. He was no gentleman. He met me at the dance, rather than coming to my home. I left the dance without him, because he was enticed away from me to be with someone he deemed better than me. I know now, it was HIS loss! :-)

-This was my first experience in Home Economics. I excelled, but my grades didn't reflect it. Why? Because I helped other girls with their projects, and didn't complete some of mine. This was another life lesson. Not to let others use me for their own gain, without taking care of my own obligations first.

-Dana Hope came onto the scene this year (if my memory serves me correctly). She became my best friend for the next 2 or 3 years. She was (is) brilliant, talented, humorous, insightful and offered me an unconditional love type of friendship. She liked me for ME, not what I could offer her! I loved her zeal for life and her life experience (she had so many neat stories about Virginia (or was it West Virginia?). She turned me on to sound track by Neil Diamond for the movie _Jonathan Livingston Seagull_ and other musical types. She took me to my first R-rated movie with her family, _A Star Is Born_.Her older brother, Markm, made me feel like I had value-he later went on to become a Green Beret. Their entire family gave me such a gift, the gift of self-respect, if that makes sense. I'm sorry I haven't kept up with Dana, and would love to hear from her again.

-I was told about a competition to try out for junior high band majorette (small band meant there was only one drum major/majorette/twirler-not different kids for each role). On a whim, I grabbed my baton, which had not been twirled in years, and entered the audition. The entire band expected an 8th grader to be selected, but to everyone's surprise (including me), Mr. Christy, his wife, and the high school majorette, chose me. ME! Woo Hoo! I was on my way to a transformation. Think Tulah from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." This butterfly was about to leave the chrysalis (give me a few more years for the transformation to be complete).

-Because everyone wanted an 8th grade girl to be selected, I was bullied for winning. Even older family members dropped by our campus to put some pressure on me, but I didn't budge. I'm sure I went home and cried into my pillow, though. Even Russ remembers the animosity everyone had towards me for being the new majorette. Not a great way to start out, but I pressed onward and forward. Just as I had new skills and routines to learn, I had a new life to create.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Racism in Hometown and in Family

My brother, Wade, wrote a blog entry about racism in our hometown and in our family. I had so many comments, that I thought it best to type it out here (not sure how big those comment boxes are!).

My first memory of African American people would be witnessing folks enter and leave the Black Methodist Church right next door to our house. I loved hearing them sing-my goodness they could rattle the rafters! They also seemed to know how to enjoy each other's company-with hugs abounding and much food brought in for fellowships. I envied the closeness of that community.

Then, when I entered school, I shared the classroom with a few African American students, but there was not much mingling. In our class, Willetta Salmon was the main one to feel comfortable mixing with Caucasians. I'm not sure if that cost her any friendships with her black friends, because she "crossed over." Who knows?

My favorite Sundays of the year was when our two Methodist churches shared services. One week we would go to their church and participate in a black worship service. A different week they would come to our church, and often a black singer would provide the special music. I'll always remember one bass singer belting out "Be Still My Soul."

Dad was the proverbial Archie Bunker-prejudice as all get-out, peppering his conversation liberally with the "N" word. Odd, though, that he did make friends with some of the black guys at work-or at least did not shun them-including Willetta's father. He judged mostly on how hard of a worker someone was, but I daresay he never quite trusted someone with a different skin color.

I'll never forget when I was in 8th grade, a black guy from high school called me at home (unsolicited) and my father was right there. He let loose with a diatribe of profanities, and I felt about an inch tall. Why was *I* in trouble for something I didn't even encourage? I escaped the house on my red old-fashioned bike and rode all over our part of town, trying to race beyond my tears, but they somehow caught up with me.

In high school, there WAS one black guy I was interested in, Jerome. And another guy came back from college to lead the marching band one week, Phil, if I recall correctly. He drove me home from practice and was a perfect gentleman, but I'm sure I did some flirting. I never acted on my inclinations, mostly because I was fearful of what my father would do. My relationship with Dad was more important than any potential relationships that might or might not work out.

I shared student council duties with Lynnette Salmon and her half-sister, Kim. Seems I shared a bed with both of them at one time or another when we were away at different conferences and camps. I can truly say I learned from them just how much skin color didn't matter. There were differences, yes, this is what makes ethnicities so rich, but there were not superiorities versus inferiorities because of skin color.

Russ (my DH) had to let go of any prejudices our little town may have taught him when he went away to college. He had 3 different roommates, and none of them were Caucasian. One was David Garza (Mexican), one was Jose Esquibel (Mexican from Hawaii), and John Patrick Mitsuo Shirota (Japanese, from Hawaii). We loved them all (sadly, John has gone on to be with the Lord since then).

In 1994, God called Russ to pastor his first church, in, of all places, Vidor, TX. Vidor was stuck in the corner of Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico, near Cajun country in Louisiana (the state). Vidor was infamous for it's sign warning "N's" to get out of town by nightfall (gone before we got there), and the KKK paraphernalia store (also gone when we got there). But, just the year prior to our move, there had been a great deal of hub-bub regarding integrating the government housing. The first black families were being transplanted into an all-white Vidor, to force the issue. Neither side liked it very much at all (sad that there were sides at all). The government aided the animosity by giving the black side of the housing complex special perks that the all-white complex prior to that time did not have (such as air conditioning). They also gave black families an incentive to move there-some have said as much as 1 year of free rent, although I heard a more believable figure of 3 months.

Ku-Klux-Klan meetings were still rampant in the town, filled with white church goers and businessmen. Our work was cut out for us, to give this prejudiced community a burden for colorless souls! We saw many Mexican families enter the doors of our church, and several African American children as well. We frequently entertained missionaries going to non-white countries.

I'll never forget the time we had a missionary to Africa entertaining questions during a Q & A time. One man, known to attend the KKK meetings, who used to be a member of our church but was at that time just sort of floating from church to church, asked this question (his words, not mine): "So, how do you trust the darkies over there. Here in America, they steal from us and are violent in many other ways. Do you have to protect your stuff more, because of having niggers all around you?" I remember I was standing in the back of the room, against the wall, and I could feel my legs just sort of turn to jello as I slid down the wall in disgust and disbelief. How could this man call himself a Christian, and what was this missionary going to reply?

Here is the reply, "Sir, we do not look at skin color. Before having Christ in our lives, we all have one boss that drives us, that being self. Anyone of any color is capable of doing anything when self is in control. But when Christ is introduced to a soul, no matter the skin color, a change takes place. All of a sudden, Jesus is in control of that individual. And we become brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter the race or creed. Our blood all runs red, and our hearts all worship the same Lord." AMEN and AMEN!

I could write story after story, but these are just a few experiences of a little girl (now grown woman) who was brought up, in part, by an Archie Bunker-type father.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Time Machine Memory Tour-6th Grade

Sixth Grade Memories:

-This year, I started school in a new wardrobe, sewn by Mrs. Gabbert (our upstairs renter). I was so proud of those clothes! But, there was one outfit I didn't exactly like. It was a Mother/Daughter outfit that matched something my mother would wear. It made me feel like I was six rather than in sixth grade. We wore these outfits to my cousin Keith's first wedding, and I was so embarrassed, because there, of all places, I wanted to look "cool." I'm sorry, Mom, if I acted out in any way, it must have hurt your feelings. But, knowing me, I probably kept my opinions to myself, and just did the submissive daughter thing. Mom-do you remember? (I didn't learn to express my opinion until much later, and it still would not have been anything rebellious, just opinionated).

-A girl named Tina was cheating by looking at my tests, and I didn't like it. So I talked to my teacher-Ms. White, and there was only one way to catch her in the act. The teacher had me write all the wrong answers, as a decoy, to see if Tina would fall for it. She did, and then the teacher dealt with the matter. I hated being in the middle of it-always wanting everyone to like me, but I felt violated for someone to rob me of MY intellectual work. Tina was also the first girl I knew to start her monthly cycle. She made sure everyone knew about it, with her little zippered bag containing the "equipment" and the special permissions to leave the room to tend to her feminine hygiene needs. I'm sure others had already entered womanhood, but were just more subtle about it!

-I had my first official boyfriend-Billy Wallace. He was running for Student Council office, and I helped him get votes by making posters and name badges. He treated me nice, and I felt desirable. It was a good boost to my low self-esteem. Billy was nothing like his brother, who was known to be what now would be called a "player." One time I road the bus home with some girls who lived in the same subdivision as Billy, and I remember him singing the song "rag mop." Oh how free we felt-the best bus ride after school I ever experienced!

-Sandra Reid and I had fun making a display for a speech. It was a proposed doggy bath, similar to a car wash. We made it in different stages, each room doing a different duty. One part was a powdering, and we blew powder into the room onto the dog via a straw. I'll never forget Sandra accidentally inhaling rather than exhaling. The outcome could have been much worse, but as it was, the experiment was short-lived!

-This was the first year I recall leaving the classroom to attend classes with other teachers. Mrs. Wright was my English teacher. I'll never forget having a dispute with her regarding serial commas. These are commas placed to separate a list of words. The last word has "and" in front of it, and she said we do not place a comma before the "and." I said we did. Well, it turns out we were both right (she would never acknowledge this!). AP Style says no comma, but the Chicago Manual of Style allows for the serial comma before an "and." Now, I'm not as dogmatic, and try to make commas work only when I would naturally pause in my speech.

-Another teacher was Mrs. Hampton, my Science teacher. I remember researching and writing about the LASER, a new technology. But, the best part about her class was when the bell rang for the end of the school day, and her son, Kevin Hampton would be there-he was so SUAVE-and was 3 years older than me, a Freshman in high school. Later on, when *I* was a Freshman, this same Kevin asked me out for my first official date. We'll talk about that later.

A couple of late flashbacks:

-I forgot to mention that in fifth grade was when my mom first told me the facts of life. Prior to the "talk" I overheard Evelyn Rubemeyer telling Mom that she needed to tell me SOON because I was already developing. Mom ordered some booklets from Kotex, and sat down and asked me to read the books and come to her if I had any questions. I don't think I asked her anything-it was all sort of hush-hush back then. Funny thing was, Evelyn didn't tell her that she had already told me what I needed to know. Most girls do learn these things from a friend first-Evelyn was the older sister of my friend, and also a neighbor of ours.

-Also, I just remembered something that happened in primary school. I was in a musical as one of the main characters, and the teacher told me to quit using the wobble in my voice, because it made me sound too grown-up. She wanted me to sound cute. So, for years, I covered up my vibrato, and it wasn't until junior high before I brought it back. Funny the mistakes teachers make-just because they don't know better.

Time Out!

The following is an inspirational article I wrote for my column in this week's _The Paris News_. It is also for a devotional I'm doing tonight. They are videotaping me doing this speech, which will then be aired at halftime for each Upward Basketball game at our church this week. I think there are about 8 games total, and about 1,000 people attend the games each weekend. As much as I like to speak, it is a little nervewracking!


"Mister, I need to GO," whined Jimmy as he tugged on the ref's pant-leg.

"Okay, go tell your coach, and he can call a time out for your team," said the referee.

"No, Mister, I need to go NOW!" pleaded Jimmy.

What could the ref do, but send Jimmy to the restroom, while calling a time out. They were only second grade, don't you know!

There are times when we all need to take a time out. Sometimes, it is a gradual building up of pressure that indicates we need to take a break. Other times, it is an urgent warning that we need to stop everything right NOW and take a time out!

A story is told of a man and woman who challenged each other to split wood for 8 hours, and at the end of the time, see who had the largest woodpile. Every hour, the woman took a break, but the man cut wood the entire time, thinking the extra time would amount to a larger pile of wood. To him, it was such an easy victory.

But when the eight hours was up, there was only one obvious winner. The woman's woodpile was much larger. The man asked, "How can this be? I worked the entire time, while you took a break every hour."

The woman responded, "I used that time to sharpen the ax!"

I dare say, each of us needs to take time to sharpen our proverbial axes. What should we do, when we take a break from our everyday busyness? First, think of the word break spelled as BRAKE-stop what you are doing-put the brakes on. It is amazing what happens when we slow down. The inner quietness allows us to hear God's still small voice more clearly, and we can meditate on His Word. We should seek a relationship with Him through prayer and reading the Bible. Through Him we can find the peace that we can't seem to find anywhere else. We can choose to relax, to allow our physical and emotional well-being to rejuvenate and reenergize. As one commercial so aptly put it, "Calgon take me away!"

The Bible sets up a time for spiritual renewal. In the Old Testament that time was called the Sabbath. Christians set aside time for the Lord the first day of the week; on Sunday, also called the Lord's Day. This day commemorated the resurrection of Jesus at Easter. Unfortunately, because of our busy work weeks, Sunday becomes the only day to complete chores and errands, and it is no longer a day of rest.

Are you feeling an urgent need to leave the playing field of Life for a break? Just ask for a time out. It's not just for ball games or errant children. It can be ours today!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Time Machine Memory Tour-5th Grade

Many of my memories have more to do with certain people rather than certain years, so sometime in the future I will get into that, but for now, let's keep with the theme of certain years of my life. Here goes for Fifth grade:

-I had Mrs. Wilkins as a teacher. She was a widow lady and wore only hand-knit garments (well made by her). She was strict, and assigned about 2-4 hours of homework a night. But, because of her, I adopted a passion for excellence, rather than mediocrity. I still remember her pet peeve about the abuse of the word done in place of the word finished. She said "done" is referring to the status of how a meat is cooked, rather than if a project is completed.

-This was the first year I really noticed cliques forming in my age group. I saw it at school, at Girl Scouts, and at church. I was so used to being friendly with everyone, regardless of their neighborhood, clothing, family income, or status in town. Others wanted me to disrespect certain others (usually underprivileged kids) to be in their circle of friends. I refused to do that, so it cost me some friendships, but kept my integrity intact. But-because of that, I did hang around with a group of kids that led me down the wrong path at times (maybe the other kids would have also done this). I had a wrong view of my self-worth, and I was very much into pleasing others, no matter the cost to me personally.

-This was the first year I joined band. I picked up the clarinet because my cousin Kristi had abandoned hers the year before, and it was available for me to use. Dad was such a good musician (he could play anything by ear) that he picked up the instrument, and after figuring out the fingerings, he could play any tune. It took me more work than that, and I'm sure my squeaks and squawks that year were painful for my parents. At some point before then, they had given me a little chord organ (Dad put longer table legs on it to be the right height), and I remember using that as my music stand to rehearse my music. Sometimes I would even pick out my part on the organ.

-This was also the first year I was aware of Rusty Willis (now husband Russ Willis). My friend Patricia Rubemeyer (Patty back then) had a crush on Rusty, and so she pointed him out to me on the playground. I also found out his dad worked at the same plant as my dad, and he lived up on a culdesac where church-goers, the Browns, lived.

-We (the Methodists) had a combined youth group with the Presbyterian Church, and I enjoyed a social life on the weekends because of these fun activities on Sunday afternoons/evenings.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Good Week for LOL Biz!

This has been a good week for my Living Out Loud Communications business. I was asked to be an online columnist (paid) for The Dabbling Mum. The column will be called "Grammar 'N Style."

I also had two of my CD reviews posted this week. One is NOT a CD I would buy-but you give the review and let people decide for themselves. Here are the URLs:

StorySide B (scroll down to read review):

Scott Grimes (secular)

And I did a news story for The Sunday Challenger:

And I wrote an inspirational column for The Paris News. Unfortunately they are not online.

My homeschooling article has been picked up by at least five or six online publications. Too bad they didn't get consent from me first (and it's really too bad I didn't get paid for the reprints!). AND-while searching I found 2 of my other articles floating around the web as well. What I've been told is that the homeschool article was well written; so I'm going to write all of these places nice letters to thank them for using my article, but let them know it violates copyright law, but I'd be glad to write an article custom-made just for their needs...

I've also been asked to become a book reviewer for Glass Road Public Relations (the reviews will be of their clients' books, for various publications).

AND-I've been given 3 wonderful leads as well (if they pan out, I'll tell you about them). If all continues to go well, I will remain a freelance writer, rather than going back to a job where I have to clock in. We'll see!

I just want to thank God for giving me such a blessed week-it surely must be of HIM-when I write it down it makes me feel like much more got accomplished than I realized!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Interesting Discovery

I subscribe to google alerts, which allows them to send me notices anytime a key word I select is found on a Web site for the first time. One of the key words I designated is my own name. this allows me to see if my writings appear anywhere with or without my consent.

Today I discovered three of my articles on five different sites—without my consent. This violates copyright law. They didn't just pull quotes from my articles, they were used the articles in theirentiretyy. One even used the copyright symbol. WRONG.

At first, I admit, it was flattering to see them use my material-at least they gave me a byline. But the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. It is comparable to being robbed, if you think about it.

Also, one article disputed some of my points, without giving me the courtesy of letting me explain my point of view. It can't be a true debate when only one side engages in the dispute. They would be surprised to know the facts-because they assumed the wrong things!

I've discussed this copycat problem with other writers, and they say I need to notify the Web sites and nicely let them know they have violated copyright law. I'm almost fearful to do so, because if I'm too assertive, they could make my name MUD. Who can stop them? The Web is freedom of press at its "greatest."

All this got me to thinking about the few times I posted song lyrics here on my blog. Even though they seem to be public domain-they aren't. From now on, I won't post lyrics without the consent of the song writer. Instead I will point you to their Web sites, to read the lyrics there.

At times, I've been asked to give CD and book reviews. In those instances, consent has been given to me to discuss their work and to quote their writing.

But if in doubt, I will ASK first or abstain from using someone else's work without their permission!

Time Machine Memory Tour-4th Grade

There are several bits and pieces of memories from fourth grade. Here goes:
-My teacher read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to us as a class. I loved it!

-I saw my first "girlie" magazine at recess with some guys who turned out to be sexual deviants of different degrees later in life. (I'm not proud of this-just stating a fact.) They started their obsession with sex early. Sadly, since I was already too big for training bras, I felt my only self-worth was as a sex object. It was how I drew attention from others-what set me apart from the rest. And it only added to my diminished self-esteem (but there is good news about that just a few years later).

-Sabrina E. invited me to her bowling party. It was my first time at the Bowling Alley, and I was soaking in all the sights and sounds and smells as well as learning to bowl. She had some cool high school girls there too, who had cute little miniskirts with matching "bottoms." The hard part was when I was told by several of the girls that the only reason I was invited was because Sabrina's mother made her invite everyone in the Girl Scout troop-to discourage her from having a clique. She had good intentions, but it backfired as the "mean girls" pointed out just how backward I was. I felt *SO* different! At least Sabrina was nice to me.

-I had a crush on a new guy at school who had gypsy/hippy parents. His folks openly did drugs. He had a different look and talk than the other kids. I can't remember his name. Seems his last name had the word "berry" in it-like Newberry or something like that. He held his breath to protest something the teacher had done, to prove his point, and the freckles on his face made him look like a strawberry-his face was so red! He was hoping to pass out, but before he did, the teacher drug him up to the principal. He was a bad seed for sure. One time he stole money from me and from others-money we were to take to a Girl Scout meeting. We were all strip searched to find out who had done the dirty deed. I was humiliated by it-but the girls strip searched with me were even more embarrassed-they were poor and did not have nice underwear on. My heart went out to them. I remember Mom speaking at the PTA about the security we had at school against these thugs. It was my first real look at the boy I thought was so "cool." He hurt so many people. And he was gone as quickly as he arrived in our school.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Deadline Approaching


I work better with deadlines. I've never missed one! When I know a project is due at such-and-such a time, I prepare and plan for it, writing out detailed to-do lists until the project is completed. If I have a writing assignment, I work at a steady pace and do my best to get the article in before the deadline. If I know company is coming over, I have a checklist to make sure each room of the house, and each dish on the menu is exactly as I wish it to be. When I work outside of the home, I have daily tasks to be completed at home to make sure it is running in tiptop shape. (Uh-oh. I hear a "but" coming.)

BUT, when I do not have a deadline, I tend to procrastinate. I have a CD review business with no deadlines. Because of that, I choose to work on the critiques "when I get around to it." And you can guess when that is — when I force myself to do it or the editor inquires about the project. That's not the only time I procrastinate. When I'm not working outside of the home, housework can also be put off, thinking I can do it tomorrow when I have more energy, more time, more...whatever. My excuses all sound like good enough reasons, but I'm sure they are not.

I've spoken to those who find out they have a terminal illness, and that is when they get real about their spiritual walk. They now have a "deadline" — pardon the pun. They make out a list of all those things they hope to do before they die. They make sure they have their SPIRITUAL house together. They want to face God with no regrets. But in actuality, just as many (if not more) meet their Maker with no advance notice or preparation. Without a deadline, they rationalize their procrastination with nothing more than empty excuses when it comes to spiritual matters.

Thinking about this has me more determined than ever to live each day as if it is my last. One of these days, it will be.

Time Machine Memory Tour-3rd Grade

When I hit third grade, I hit the BIG-time! I was no longer able to ride the bus to school, because Meriwether (can't remember spelling?) School was close enough for us to walk (a little less than a mile if I recall). Mom was extra-protective, and was concerned about us crossing Georgia Street (our main street) to get to the school. So, for the first few weeks, or maybe months, she walked us across Georgia Street, and then went back to wait for me at the old Kroger building to walk me home. Eventually, though, I attained independence, and was allowed to walk the whole way with my friends. That first year I walked with the Rubemeyers, some, but I think they got tired of me walking with them because that was the year people made fun of me (not sure why, other than the bullies could sense I was weak). I also walked with Wesley Henderson and Elizabeth Brolinson. Sometime that year, I met a new girl, named Trevor, and we walked home together for a while. Problem was, Trevor was bigger than me (she was a prematurely developed larger African American), and even though we were "friends" she would beat me up on the way home. Why oh why did I still walk home with her? Call me crazy-Third grade was my year to be certifiably STUPID! Benton King started picking on me too. One day, after school, He beat me up while we were still on school property, and then pushed me down the rock wall that divided the school from the playground. It was a steep incline, and I had the air knocked out of me. Someone took pity on me (can't remember who) and walked me back into the school to see the nurse.

Around that same time, my sleep walking worsened. I'm sure my subconscious was working overtime due to all the emotional turmoil I was going through. I just wanted to fit in! I was bright, creative, and sociable. Not sure why they targeted me. But I'm sure I was an easy target that year. I was probably considered easy to pick on because my Mom was involved in everything I was in (Girl Scouts and Sunday School), and she didn't let me sleep over with others because of my sleepwalking. When the other kids could walk to school on their own, my mother was walking me part-way. I can't say I blame her; she just cared more than some of the others. I was blessed to have a Mom who wanted to be involved in my life. But, word got out that I was a namby-pamby and that might have made me a target for the bullies. Who knows?

Also that year, I got a bad rash while at school. I itched EVERYwhere. And I do mean EVERYwhere. Mom was called, but she didn't have a way to come get me. While I was waiting to leave school, the itching worsened. My rear-end even itched! I told my friend that, and she went to get the teacher to tell her I was worse. I was too embarrassed to tell the teacher where I really itched, so I told her my head itched. So there she was digging through my hair. I'm sure she was concerned that I might have lice, which would have affected the whole class. Eventually, Mom's friend, Nancy Goodhart arrived with a different top to wear, in case the sweater I had on was what I was allergic to. Then Mom got there (she had to walk) and we walked straight to the doctor's office. They brought me in the back way in case I was contagious. The doctor didn't know what the rash was. I'm guessing now it was probably hives from nerves, but if I recall, the rash wasn't big blotchy spots like the hives I get sometimes, but more of a small dotted rash. Do you remember, Mom? Anyway, the treatment was oatmeal baths and avoid wool. I do have allergic reactions now to things, so maybe that was the beginning of it all. But knowing that year of school, it was emotionally based.

Of all my years in school, third grade was the worst. But the good stuff is just around the corner (and yes, there is a good ending!).

Monday, January 16, 2006

Time Machine Memory Tour-2nd Grade

When I was in second grade I joined the Brownies. My mom was one of the girl scout leaders. The meetings were held in the neighborhood adjacent to the Primary School, so the girls all walked there after school was out. We were instructed the way to go, but often we went different ways, to explore. Especially of interest was the construction of a public swimming pool. They dug a huge hole in the dirt where the pool was placed. I recall vividly walking to one meeting in my brand new two-tone oxford lace-up shoes. I only got two pairs of shoes a year (normally), so I was instructed to keep the shoes nice. I was so proud of them! The girls wanted to walk by the pool construction site on our way to the meeting, and being the follower I was when I was young, I went along. I would have been too scared to walk the correct way to the meeting, all by myself. Well, the dirt piles from the big hole became a big muddy mess due to a recent rain, and we had to wade our way through it to get to the other side. With each step I took, my shoes sunk deeper into the mucky mud, and my heart sunk too. My beautiful shoes were destroyed. I was already heartbroken when I arrived at the meeting, but to make matters worse, Mom gave me the earful I deserved, and said I would be rightfully punished when we got home. I had to clean up the shoes myself, as part of the punishment, but they were never pristine again.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Time Machine Tour: First Grade

In first grade, I learned all the basics. Not just scholastics, but how to make and be a friend. Miss Davis taught me how to skip rope and how to tie my shoes during recess so I would fit in a little better with the other kids. Mom found out the other kids had snacks at recess time, so she made me graham or saltine crackers and peanut butter. The cafeteria ladies made me drink milk even though I didn't like it, so Mom let me bring chocolate milk mix to school.

Our folks were extra-protective of us (I did NOT say overprotective), and so we were required to ride a trike when most were old enough to ride bikes. We were given the most beautiful, extra large red tricycle our folks could find. Sometimes we imagined it to be a tractor, it was so big! Wade and I could only ride it around our half block (an alley divided our block into two sections). On one such ride, I remember us meeting Jimmy Pennock in front of his Grandmother Midge's house. He became the little brother we never had. One time, at the side of Midge's house, I find a disrupted bird's nest, with eggs spilled all over, exposing fully formed birds. They would never have a chance to live. At that point in my life, I became soft hearted towards animals, and also a believer in LIFE. We started a little animal cemetery between our house and the African American Methodist Church next door.

P.S. I remember another Kindergarten memory-we started attending the Methodist Church Sunday School when I was age 5. It was the beginning of a wonderful church education. We walked to church every Sunday as we heard the church bells ring, and Mom put my offering (usually a couple of nickels or maybe more), inside of one of Daddy's handkerchiefs. She would tie it in a knot and tell me to hold on tight until my Sunday School teacher could take my offering from me. I looked forward to giving to Jesus every week!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Time Machine Tour: Kindergarten

I attended the very first year of free Kindergarten available in Louisiana, MO in 1968-1969. The school itself was designed in a revolutionary way, with multiple circles conjoined with movable walls. I was excited to attend real school, after playing pretend school with Lisa Atterberry.

Some people bought fancy naptime mats for their kids, but most of us used multi-colored rag rugs.

I had my tonsils and adenoids removed during this time. I guess I had been sick a lot. While in the hospital (back then you stayed a couple of days), I enjoyed having visitors. Wade and I stayed in the same room (he had 3 different surgeries). Aunt Jean brought me a REAL toy tea set that I LOVED. I wish I still had it! I remember my first meal after coming home was eggs over easy with toast. (Why do I remember things like that but not important things?!)

Because I had been sick so much, I was used to being home and getting coddled by Mommy. So, even after I was well, I would SAY I was sick, with little problems, so Mommy would arrange for me to be picked up from school (I don't think she started driving until I was in middle school). She called my bluff and told me if I was THAT sick, I would have to stay in bed with no TV and no playtime and no snacks. It worked. I began to love school after that! I'm not sure what year she called my bluff, but it was while I was in elementary school, for sure.

I recall Darren Goodhart reading to us. We all thought it was so cool that he could read, because we were just learning our alphabet at that point. I wanted to be like him, so I learned as quickly as I could-and words have been my friends ever since.

Sometime around this age, our town had its Sesquacatenial. Dad grew a beard and Mom made us all old fashioned clothing to wear for the big parade and celebration.

Not long after that, we were to go to Oklahoma to visit family, but also because Little Grandma (my great grandmother Lamb) was on her death bed. I did not know she was that sick, and all I could think of was showing her my old-fashioned dress and hat. My hat looked similar to the hats that Little Grandma wore all the time to protect her skin from the sun. Sort of a Little House on the Prairie style. When we got to Oklahoma, everyone was crying and wearing black. Little Grandma had already died. Aunt Billi was doing Granny's hair for the funeral, and our time was very different than I had anticipated. This was probably the first time Mom had to explain death to me.

Tangled Web is Costly

What a tangled web they weave when first they set out to say they are "free."

My internist said I needed a follow-up MRI for my lumbar spine, due to recurrence of symptoms. (Short History: lumbar disc surgery 1993, physical therapy off and on since then, epidural steroid shots in 2000, nerve root injections in Jan. 2002 and Jan. 2004). He said he could not order another nerve root injection (which is helping me delay a second surgery) without the MRI because no doctor would touch me without it. Last one showed arthritis, scar tissue, disc injuries, and more.

Since then I found out my doc is not on the in-network insurance list anymore. The receptionist incorrectly took my insurance card on 1-3-06, and charged me an in-network copay. She messed up big-time. I refuse to pay out-of-network price for that visit, because the receptionist should have told me that my card was no longer accepted. It was their choice not to be in contract with the insurance company, so they need to keep track of that. No way a patient should have to look it up on the internet before every visit to see if their doc is still on the preferred list.

Today the Kentucky Diagnostic Center called to schedule my MRI-it had been approved by Humana, ordered by my not in-network doctor. I asked how it could be approved if my doctor isn't on the plan anymore. I wanted them to double check because I didn't want to pay full price for an MRI just because of a clerical error on their part. They checked into it, and sure enough, Humana made a mistake to approve the MRI, and I cannot go there until I find a doctor to order it who is on the plan, even though the diagnostic center is on the plan. What a mess!

This also means my prescriptions are being questioned, and I can't get the bloodwork to monitor my use of Methotrexate (a low dose chemotherapy for my autoimmune disease). Normally I have to get my liver functions and blood counts checked about every 2 months, and it has been since September, due to all of the various runarounds I've been getting (doctors leaving the area, doctors changing insurance, etc). Admittedly, I had also canceled an appointment out of frustration when I found out my rheumatologist was moving away-I should have kept that appointment.

What happens to people who don't ask questions of these "professionals?" No wonder medical care has bankrupted so many patients. Who can literally AFFORD the errors and incompetency of the ones we trust with our health?

It shouldn't be called health insurance. It should be called "we get you coming and going" assurance.

Okay-off my soapbox.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Stand-Out Memory of Preschool Age

Since I can't remember much of my early years, I will lump them all together. Here goes:

-Mom babysat some while we were young. I enjoyed playing with other kids. I hated the enforced naptime, because I had places to go, people to see! The other parents brought things like jello, pudding, soups, and kool-aid. Not sure why I remember that, but I guess it was something I looked forward to!
-I loved sitting on my daddy's lap. When I was real young, he even let me wrap my legs around his waist, and he would hold me while he stood. It seems he often avoided chairs when visiting with friends or family out-of-doors. He either stood or squatted. Every once in while, if he was standing, he held me until I was too big to hold.
-Mom sang folk songs to us and told us neat stories. I don't think moms do that much anymore-it seems they have been replaced with CDs and DVDs. Sad, huh?
-Extended family was really important-just felt like extra sisters and brothers, or mothers and fathers.
-I adored Mr. and Mrs. Elliott next door (adopted them as Grandma and Grandpa). She was so patient with me, allowing me to beg a piece of Roman Meal bread or showing me her projects.

Well, I guess I don't remember much about my preschool years. But watch out for the next few days, my memory improves drastically!

Stand-out Memory Tour Begins

For the next 40 days, I will try to write about one year of my life each day. It will include a few stand-out memories—the best and the worst of each year. Come along for the trip down memory lane.

Piles are Toppling Over

I'm a stacker. I make piles of "stuff" until I can sort through it. Russ does the same. We get too busy. Stuff accumulates. Now the piles are toppling over. Several piles on the coffee table have turned into one big mound of stuff. Same for our kitchen island, the dining room table, and the guest bed (not to mention my office). I want to return to the peacefulness of order and neatness rather than the chaos if clutter. What am I to do? I only have bits and pieces of time right now.

I think I will just extend my arm and sweep up all the stuff into laundry baskets and dump it all on the guest room to sort out. I will decide what to keep and what to throw away. Maybe I can whittle away at it, a little at a time.

I want to reclaim my great room, to make it GREAT again! :-)

Adding to my Career List

Well, it is POSSIBLE I will be adding to my career list one more title-photographer. I wrote an article about homeschooling families for the Faith and Values page of The Sunday Challenger. Last night, I took photos to go with the article. Funny, the first photo I took ended up being the best of the bunch. Like my brother, Wade, I love using a digital camera because you aren't wasting film every time you hit the button and you can get a bunch of shots looking for the right one.

Anyway-not sure why it is a big deal, but one of my goals is to see photo credits to my name in the paper this year. And it COULD happen this Sunday! I'll let you know!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Nothing Comes Easy!

Often I post my gratitude lists because I really do try to maintain a positive outlook on life. But another coping skill is to learn to "vent" when something frustrating comes along. So, occasionally you will find a post containing one of my "rants." I'm sure you will relate in some way to what I'm discussing.

Today's rant is a combo one: Medical "Businesses" and Health Insurance Companies

Picking healthcare coverage is about as technical as reading the instructions for setting up your VCR in Russian. I selected a comprehensive health plan with prescription drug coverage through Humana. I chose my physicians based on THEIR recommended in-network list. Just when I had 3 visits under my belt with the physician, and we were getting "settled," I found out my doctor was no longer in-network. Just from last month to this month that has all changed. And no one notified me. The doctor's office did not notify me to say they had decided not to continue in a contract with this insurance plan. The insurance company didn't tell me they removed my physician from their in-network list.

All of a sudden, when some tests and treatments came up, I was put in a holding pattern, but no one told me why. I decided to call and get to the bottom of it, and that is when I discovered the change. I called the doctor's office, and they said it was between me and my insurance company. But it was THEIR Alliance Primary Care (business side of the doctor's office) that chose not to renew their contract with Humana.

So, now, I will be selecting my third primary care physician in just six months, all because of insurance hassles. OR, I can pay out-of-network prices. But-that rebounds and becomes a bigger problem than just paying higher office copays. It means, every time that doctor orders a test, if it is at an out-of-network facility, the ins. co. doesn't have to approve the test. Or if they prescribe a medication, they can have the pharmacy put a red flag on it, and then delay getting back with them on approving it.

It has been a hassle all the way around.

And don't get my friends and family started who are having to select a Medicare prescription plan. Talk about confusing!

Where is all of this heading?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Grateful Gratitudes

Here is this week's gratitude list. I encourage you to write your own gratitude list-five items each day or week that you acknowledge are blessings. List small things and big things, they all matter!

#1-Beautiful weather today-High of 58!

#2-Jazzy's first day "home alone" was a success. We were gone 4 hours this morning and 3.5 hours this evening, and we came home to a contented puppy and an intact bedroom/bathroom!

#3-Got to speak with my Aunt Verna today on the phone. It was a good visit, and I hope to call her again soon.

#4-Fellowship with other believers at church was a blessing!

#5-The opportunity to start a new Equip-U class at church this past week really has me pumped up. I enjoyed teaching the class, and sensed a wonderful camaraderie with the class members. This will be a six week series about how women can be ladies without being wimps. It is taken from a new book called "Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Heart."

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Sweet Reunions in 2006

One of my goals for this year is to renew old friendships and make new ones, as well as make good relationships even better. I am guilty of having tunnel vision with my to-do list, and not being in contact with those I care about as much as I want to be. I'm not a big telephone person, and now that I have e-mail, I don't write snail mail much. But, relationships mean so much to me that it is worth what I need to do to make it work.

I got a headstart on making relationships matter more this past weekend. Thursday night we drove up to Cincinnati and met friends Mark and Stephanie Stokes at Encore Cafe (a restaurant complete with real chefs). Of course, I had to announce during dinner that if I seemed a little off my game, it was because my position as copy editor had just been terminated a couple of hours prior. But fellowship trumped that bad news, and we had a wonderful time. Then we drove on up to their raspberry farm in Wilmington, OH to stay the night in their late 1700s country home. It's always good to spend time with them!

Then, we drove up to Bexley, OH in the middle of Columbus to renew an old friendship with Greg and Megan James. My last visit with them was back in 1-1997, and Russ last saw them 8-1994. Megan hadn't aged a bit (no fair!) and we picked up right where we left off. It was so cool to know that when God blesses you with a friendship, it can last in spite of time and distance! Megan worded it this way, "NOW I remember why we liked the Willises so much-we just have so much fun with them!"It was amazing to see how their boys had grown. Megan also served the most original lunch: corn belgium waffles spread with refried beans, covered with taco meat, cheese, and other taco toppings. It was yummy! We only live about 2 hours away from them, so we are already talking about when we can visit again.

From there, we drove to Bellville, OH to get together with Amy and Larry Mills. Amy has been like a sister to me over the years, but I confess with miles and "life" we weren't in touch like we used to be. And Russ hadn't seen Larry since their visit to Vidor, TX in 1995/6. And the icing on the cake, we had never met their two neat boys, Zach and Andrew. We were enteretained thoroughly all weekend! We renewed all of our old topics of shared interest: music, ministry, cars, computers, ebay, old memories, food, you name it! We were even allowed to watch as they let some new fish and a shark go into the large child's pool they have downstairs, which is also stocked with an alligator (you read right!). We look forward to going back so we can also see our old church and home in nearby Mansfield.

Hopefully, all of these important friends will feel welcome to come visit us in Burlington. We want to share our new lives with them, and have a wonderful blend of old and new in the NOW-and-NOW.

Friends are so important. I'm ashamed I allowed so much time go by. I look forward to being in touch with others who have blessed my life throughout 2006.

Don't Forget To Back Up!

Don't Forget To Back Up!

I'm not good at backing up my van. Okay, I admit it! I try to use my mirrors, and I move my head around to visualize things, but I'm still awkward at maneuvering the car in reverse. There are some parking lots and parking garages that do not allow enough wiggle room, let alone parking room. I'm a novice.

On the other hand, I've noticed our new puppy enjoys going in reverse as much as she enjoys moving forward. All that's missing is the back-up horn blaring a warning: "Watch out for Jazzy, she's backing up!" She doesn't even look where she is going; no mirrors to consult. She just reverses her footsteps in the same locations as when she was moving forward. It works. She's a pro!

I'm programmed to advance, not retreat; to progress, not regress. Most of my leadership training focused on one point: moving forward. We studied goal setting, becoming a visionary, striving for success, you name it. But nothing was ever said about the need to go in reverse every once in a while.

I've had one such reversal in my life this week. I can see where it will be good for me. Reversals cause me to reflect and to grow. They cause me to evaluate what is really important in my life. They keep me humble and grounded. Success without trials only produces empty victory, full of shallow egotism. Real growth happens when life says, "Go back. See what you missed. Learn from it." Backing up allows us to see things in the proper perspective.

Sometimes the object we must go back to is our "first love." Revelation refers to the church that lost her first love. They were challenged to return; to back up and find where they lost it. When I lose something, I have to retrace my steps, and remember what I was doing when I last had "it." As this New Year begins, let's make a commitment to remember our First Love (Jesus), and to accept reversals as they happen, knowing they will conform us into His image.

"Don't forget to back up" is not just a motto for your computer, but your life!

Year of the Dog

In Japan, 2006 is known as the Year of the Dog. Well, for the Willises, that is true too. We added Jazzy, a Boston Terrier, age 6 weeks, weighing in at 5 pounds, on 1/3/06. I've been immobalized to do anything other than be a puppy mother, ever since! LOL

I feel like the disciple who came up with a good excuse for why he couldn't do such-and-such a thing, he said, "Lord, I have taken a wife." Well--readers--I have taken a puppy!

So, bear with me, and I will write some little snippets as I have time and energy-both are in short suppy right now! :-)

If I can figure out how to add photos, I'll show you just how cute Jazzy is!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Hold Me Accountable To 2006 Goals

On 12/28/2005 I started typing out my goals for 2006. I prayed about what God would have me do this year. It took several days. Today, I finally published that list on my blog-but it shows up on the 12/28 date, since that was the date of origin. So, if you want to see me goals, scroll down until you get to that date.

And now--the request...

Will you hold me accountable to these goals? I will need all the support, encouragement, and motivation I can get to attain the goals set before me. And I, in turn, will be glad to be a support system for you, regarding your goals.

If we aim at nothing, we are sure to get our goal, but where will we be? Better to get out of our comfort zones and aim for those things outside of our immediate reach, to stretch us and grow us into the person God would have us to be.

Have a blessed 2006!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

2005 Was Great Too!

I would be negligent if I did not praise God for some of the bigger blessings of 2005. We have learned over the years it would be easy to think a year was all bad if we just focused on the negative, but when we turn our eyes to what has been wonderful, our life-outlook is much more balanced (not to mention more pleasant for others to be around us!-haha!).

Here are some of the great things that happened in 2005 for me:
-The book, "Groovy Chick's Road Trip To Peace" came out in 2005, with one of my articles included
-I was hired to be the executive director of a crisis pregnancy center-even though I didn't get to fulfill it due to relocating out of the area-it was nice to be hired and trained!
-I was able to faciliate several Bible Studies and topical studies for various groups
-I was part of the leadership team several critique groups that were launched by the Fellowship of Christian Writers
-An opportunity to write CD reviews for and
-We found an awesome ministry opportunity as well as fellowship opportunity, in our move to Florence Baptist Temple, Burlington, KY
-We purchased a neat almost-new home to call our own
-Made many new friends, and renewed friendships with the Mills and James families
-Opportunity to work for The Sunday Challenger as copy editor-and still get to do freelance writing for their Faith and Values page

Grateful for 2005-we are blessed indeed!

2006-A Year of Blessings

I pray 2006 will be a year of blessings for you, and for me-after 2005 was a year of lessons. Just on Christmas Day, Russ and I said we would be glad to have 2005 behind us, because it had been a year of several trials:
-A bid for the house of our dreams (old house like we like), was accepted by the seller, then we found out we didn't have job security and had to let it be taken back out of escrow
-The news that we didn't have job security in Wilmington and we were desiring ROOTS
-Getting a job as executive director of a crisis pregnancy center, only to have to turn it down after finding out we would be moving soon.
-Having major gall bladder pain, followed by gall bladder surgery, followed by moving just 4 days after surgery! (what were we thinking?!)
-Picking a great rheumatologist here, and having several good office visits, only to get word that he was moving away.
-Getting news that the adoption we were hopeful would work out, was not going to happen.
-Finding out my cousin Mark, who was like a brother to me, had passed away. This did a major number on me, because I had not spoken to him in several years due to life getting in the way (I won't let that happen again!)
-Not to mention, still missing our Boston Terrier, Mijo, after we had given him away in 2004.

But there was still one more lesson to learn, when I lost my job due to downsizing at the newspaper. It is still new-only 17 months old-so I guess they are still learning what positions will work with their budget.

But-now we are to 2006. The best news of all is that none of these bad things took God by surprise. He knew all along, and He had just what we needed to not just survive the loss/transition, but to grow and thrive. That is why I can say I'm still living out loud!

I pray 2006 is a year of blessing for you-and for me!