Monday, February 27, 2006

Gratitude List

There is always at least 5 things big and/or small we can be thankful for at any given time. Here is my gratitude list for this past week.

I'm grateful for:

1. The Poes, who brought us a chicken dinner at lunchtime yesterday, and Betty who brought us chicken noodle soup, rolls, and cupcakes (homemade everything).

2. Friends who pray, friends who call.

3. Friends who substituted for Russ at church yesterday with no notice, so that Russ could stay home and try to recover from this upper respiratory infection. His voice sounds better today.

4. A loving dog who knows how to administer healing of her own kind.

5. An in-door ice dispenser, and crushed ice. Even Jazzy likes it!

Jazzy's Upset (noun AND verb)

(Cross Post from My Jazzy-the blog about our 3 month old Boston Terrier)

Russ and I both stayed home from church sick yesterday-maybe we have that kissing disease or something! Jazzy enjoyed the attention from both of us, and we also used the time to really work with her on her house training (she is still having some accidents, but getting better).

Jazzy seemed to sense we were sick, and was extra cuddly all day. So sweet. An added bonus was that her body worked much like a hot water bottle to comfort our aches and pains.

When Jazzy's "daddy" went to bed, I was still watching the Olympic closing ceremonies (excellent, by the way). Russ invited Jazzy up into bed with him. About one hour later, I came to the bedroom. Just as I entered the room, I heard a thud, thrashing around, and Jazzy barking and yelping in pure misery. She was scared and startled and seemingly in pain. I turned on the light, and found Jazzy somehow on the floor, rather than in the bed with Russ. Russ was awakened from a deep sleep, so he wasn't sure what happened. Poor Jazzy lost both bowel and bladder function in her frenzy, and her ears were back like she had seen a ghost. I comforted her, and loved on her, but she was inconsolable.

She came back to bed with us, but it must have been hours later before she really slept again. Every once in a while I would wake up and hear here little whimpers, and she would sit straight up in bed and look at the door. After about the sixth time of looking at the door, I was almost convinced she really could see something I couldn't see!

We'll never know what really happened, but it made for an crazy ending to a laid-back day!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Proverbs 26:2

"As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come." ~Proverbs 26:2 (KJV)

Two Commentaries comment:
"He that is cursed without cause-the curse will do as little harm as birds flying overhead."-from the commentary of Matthew Henry

"The curse that is unjustified never does anyone any harm. It is a refutation of the superstition that the righteous could be hurt by the malicious curse."-from the commentary called "The New Bible Commentary: Revised" put out by Eerdmans

From me:
Since the rest of Proverbs 26 gives lessons about the fool, I'm guessing verse two is also referring to a fool-it is implied. Perhaps a fool tries to put a curse on someone (not sure if this means cursing at them, or a spell), but the fool's curse is ineffective at hurting the person who is undeserving of the curse. This fits because in verse four it tells us what to do if a fool does try to unjustly curse us. It says, "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him."

To me this means, when others curse us, do not return in kind. That sounds similar to Matthew 5:44, which says, "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Mentor Relationship

I was humbled (and still am-to think of it!) to be asked by a dear online friend to mentor her writing career this year. Carmen, you have so much talent that I fully expect for you to pass up what little knowledge I have of the written language in the very near future. I can't wait to see even more of your work in print (on paper and on e-screen).

Last night we caught each other online at the same time, and we really hammered out one of her articles and also searched for appropriate markets. Then we made a plan of attack for approaching these markets. Working on it together, though at least 2 or 3 time zones apart, was very exhilarating.

It was rewarding to sense light bulbs go on all over the place, and to work together to polish a piece from very good to excellent. I edited a sentence or paragraph. If I forgot to explain why I thought it needed changed, she asked "why." We then discussed the "why." To be honest, the "why" is the reason I'm in this mentorship with Carmen. I could easily just edit pieces and send them on their way, but I want to have the opportunity to help writers not quite as far along on the journey as me, and help them on their way with tips and pointers. I have not arrived by any means. There are those further along, who help me out as well.

It's really a sort of "pay it forward" type of arrangement. But the more I attempt to be a help, the more I find I'm the one being blessed. Now how cool is that? The whole reaping and sowing thing. Or better to give than receive. With being a mentor, I get to give AND receive!

Squeaky Wheel Gets The Worm (grin-see below)

My Grandma Mary used to mix up her proverbs like this. We all know the real saying is, "the squeaky wheel gets the oil." Here is an example:

Remember the complaint letter I wrote to the United States Post Office regarding our local p.o.? They e-mailed me with a follow up question. I e-mailed back. Today, by regular snail mail, I get the following letter:

(the third paragraph is the best, so hang on)

Dear Ms. Willis:

This letter is in response to your recent call to our National Call Center regarding your concerns with the Postmaster in Burlington.

Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with us. Much like any service organization, quality customer service from professional, courteous, and friendly employees is vital. We are always concerned when a customer is not satisfied with the way we conduct a transaction or provide a service.

I want to take this opportunity to personally apologize on behalf of the Postal Service. As a customer, you have many choices today and it is vital that we provide the level of professional service you deserve and have come to expect. I regret this experience, which is not indicative of the service we wish to provide.

Because of the nature of your inquiry, this issue has been referred to...

Ms. Willis, I hope you will be forgiving enough to give us another opportunity to serve you. Your business is important to us.

Thank you for calling this matter to our attention.


To quote the church lady, "Now-wasn't THAT special?"

It really DID mean a lot to me-to know that as a tax payer I still have some rights in this country. Getting mail most days of the week, and being treated like a human being by government employees, are two such privileges I get by being an American.

Proverbs 25:2

"It is the glory of God to conceal such a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter." ~Proverbs 25:2 (KJV)

God has the prerogative to conceal some things. What might He want to conceal? When we repent of our sin and confess it to Him, asking for forgiveness-He conceals it with the blood shed from the ultimate act of forgiveness. He goes a step further and totally blots out our sin, and remembers it no more.

God can conceal the deeper spiritual things (the meat) from young believers who would be overwhelmed by it, and gives them milk (the basics) to begin with. He often has a surface meaning and a deeper meaning, so that those who are prepared to really "get it" will. But keep in mind, that the Holy Spirit indwelling every believe can make even complex biblical matters seem simple to understand, so that we don't have to have a steady diet of just milk!

God can conceal the acts of obedience of believers from authorities who might want to harm them for their acts (I think of Bible smugglers, and missionaries in unwelcome countries).

God often wanted to conceal His glory from men in biblical times because it would be too much for them to comprehend. That is why no one has viewed God the Father in all His glory. Moses was blessed to view bits and pieces of God, and that was enough to cause Moses to glow a special glow. Can you imagine how we will glow when we see God as He is in His Heaven?

Why does a king make matters known, as stated in this proverb? Because any authority on this Earth is responsible to "get to the bottom of things." A king will request all truth and evidence be presented to him in a clear way, so he can make the best decisions for all involved.

This verse is a contrast verse. God is the King of kings, yet He does not have to "make matters known." I'm guessing this means He doesn't have to research things because He already knows all things. And He also knows the best outcome, and the ultimate outcome.

He just plain KNOWS. Won't it be great when we KNOW too?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Proverbs 24:2

I'm going to try to type out a Proverb a Day, using the date as the chapter (hence 24th chapter for 24th day of the month) and the month number as the verse number (hence the 2nd verse for the 2nd month of the year).

Here goes:

"For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief." KJV

WHO: evil people-see verse 1 for clarification
WHAT: they desire to destroy (often with violence), they speak trouble.
WHEN: whenever they have opportunity (assumed from the passage)
WHERE: with anyone who will be a partner to it (verse 1 instructs us not to desire to be with these sorts of people)
WHY: evil people are like this because sadly, it comes naturally to them. Why should I avoid them? So that they don't bring me down. Their negative words can cause me to have a negative attitude, and their negative actions can cause me to choose ungodly deeds.

Clarification: This is not a shunning, but a wise choice to surround self with positive people who strive to glorify God in all they say and do. Not all people who say they are believers are positive people. I would be wise not to spend as much time with the downer people, to protect my own growth and journey. But, there will always be times when I am placed in the presence of someone who wants to bring someone else down. At those times, I am best off to keep my guard up and be skeptical of any sweet words (flattery) they might bestow upon me. They can be tricky, tricky--sneaky, sneaky!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

End of Post Office Story

I called the postmaster, and he wouldn't even hear of the hassle this week has been. Just said it would be taken care of immediately. No apology. Could tell it was a hassle for him, and he wanted to be rid of the situation more than wanting to help. I pulled the blinds so I could watch the mailbox across the street. I witnessed a postal worker pulling up in a private car, to fix things. Then, she started walking to my house. I figured, "Okay, here is my apology." WRONG! She didn't even ring the doorbell. She just placed the new keys on a rubber band and placed them on our doorknob. No phone call to let me know it was resolved. If I hadn't been watching with my own eyes, I would never have known when the job was completed. I did go outside, the keys worked, and the mailbox was stuffed FULL of mail, including two books that filled the space, and some important mail. I would think good customer service would have caused the postal worker to hand deliver the mail to my house, along with the keys, ring the doorbell, and apologize for any inconvenience from this past week of not receiving mail. Dream on!

Good news though-in the mail were two books for me to write book reviews on. One of the books is a book I've been wanting to buy, so I'm thrilled! There was also a paycheck from The Sunday Challenger for my freelance articles. They paid for all but one article, but at least they are moving in the right direction of getting things paid off. They paid extra for another article, so I'm not sure how to handle things from here. Will e-mail the editor and let him decide.

Time Machine Memory Tour-H.S. Sophomore

So much happened this year, it will take two entries to complete.

From the middle of my freshman year, to the middle of my sophomore year, I enjoyed dating around, without committing to just one boyfriend. This allowed me to learn about the different types of guys, and to also learn about how to deal with relationships. A few weeks before my sophomore year, our marching band began to rehearse for the football games. I would be the new high school band majorette, which included doing the full-field direction. I had a lot to learn, because it was so different than marching for parades. It was also awkward because the upperclassmen again had ill-feelings about an underclassman having this honor. If they only knew how much work it was to try to please Mr. Christy! So much pressure! At these rehearsals, I met a new guy. I knew him from when I was a child, but he had been away at a Christian School for a year, so I had never met him in high school. His name? Rusty Willis. When school started, he hung-out before school in the same classroom where I was accustomed to being, and we had mutual friends. Later this information will come in handy...

I tried out for "The Sound of Music," and again I made it only to the chorus-line. I really thought I had a better voice, but maybe it just wasn't my time to "shine." I was glad to just be a part of the process, and we were thrilled to have a new teacher: Mr. Conrad. He was also attending our Methodist church. And I know several of us girls had school girl crushes for the first time in a long time. We figured out his age, and thought for sure it wouldn't be all wrong to date him (in our young minds we could rationalize it). You can imagine our disappointment when he attended the Homecoming Dance with his FIANCE!

I attended the dance with Tom Griffith. He was a year older than me, had red hair, and played saxophone. We didn't have a connection, but he was a nice guy. He didn't realize the connection was missing, and attempted to kiss me good-night. I turned my head just in time, and he caught my cheek. Sweet guy, just not MY guy.

Then came December. I had begun flirting with that Rusty Willis guy before school. One morning, I hit him with my cloth purse, being a little sassy in response to something he said. That night, he called me at Teri Wilhoit's house, to ask me out to a church gym night. He said, "You seem the athletic type, and I thought you would enjoy going with me." I was not anything at all athletic, but Russ was. He was hoping to impress me by shooting hoops! I said "yes." But then I went home and realized that I was scheduled to babysit for two families, and would be getting double pay. It was the money I was planning on using for Christmas gifts, so I couldn't back out of a commitment, and I wouldn't anyway because of the principle of the thing. I had to call Rusty back to explain the situation. He told me later that he had half-a mind to call Teri up and ask her to go instead. I'm so glad he didn't have a FULL mind to do it! It might have changed history.

Instead, we made plans to go to a basketball game together, and later to a party that the Weese's were hosting at the Hercules Club. I even remember what we were wearing for that first real date together. I had on a silky emerald green blouse and tan dressy slacks. Russ had on a baby blue denim sports jacket and platform shoes. He was AWESOME (still is!).

Customer Service Woes Again

So frustrating! You know the post office mailbox lock problem? It has worsened.

I'm expecting some important medical records via the mail (from other states) as well as some payments for articles I've written.

Keep in mind, I got mail last on Friday.

Well, they fixed the lock on Tuesday. One problem. They left us the wrong keys. Russ and I both tried all 3 keys they left us, and none of them fit at all. We tried the next day, thinking maybe we were just being goofy or the lock was sticking due to weather. No luck-not even the same shape. Russ took the keys back to the post office. He asked again how we could get our mail. No luck. Tough luck. They said they would get us the right key in the next day or so, and then we could get our mail.

I called the post office today, explaining that we needed the mail-not just wanted it. And that the last time we got our mail was last Friday-and now it is Thursday. That is too long to make someone wait for mail without giving them an alternative. They said the mail carrier had brought the keys back and tried them, and they worked and they didn't know what our problem was. I told them that she was not being truthful because two people had tried those keys on two separate occasions before returning them. Then I said, that they had a customer service problem, each time placing the inconvenience and blame on us rather than doing all in their power to make things right. Then the staff guy said it sounded like we needed to speak with the postmaster. He will be in in an hour, and I will call back.

I'm guessing the mail carrier replaced two locks on the same day and switched the keys by accident. Both returned the keys and complained. To cover face, maybe she switched the keys back and said they worked all along. Who knows? But she didn't bring us the keys she said worked when she came back to check to see if they worked-didn't place them on a rubberband and hang them on our doorknob like they did the first time, and didn't knock on the door even though I was home all day. So-she says the keys work-but she didn't leave them for us to find out on our own and hey-maybe GET THE MAIL!

This is going on way too long.

Can you believe customer service these days?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Don't sit on good stuff or stew on bad stuff

I just posted two letters I wrote this week, as examples of how we can deal with things when we are displeased, or when we are extra-pleased. We should not find ourselves just stewing over our frustrations when we can notify someone higher up of the offense. And we should not bask in the glow of a good deed performed by someone else without giving them the appropriate praise. Perhaps you have a letter you need to write today!

Example of a Complimentary Letter

I wrote this note yesterday to the hotel where we had our Spa Retreat this weekend. The hotel coordinator was concerned because we had trouble with our heat. I wrote her back:

Dear Kathy,

Our Spa Retreat event went without a hitch. It was awesome! The accommodations of the hotel were terrific, and the wait-staff helped us before we even asked. Brad did an excellent job of making things work out for us. Yes, the heat was a problem for us-it was either too hot or too cold in the conference rooms, but we made do. It all worked out.

Of particular note that impressed us was when we had a snack time in Campbell 1, and there were not enough chairs for everyone. The wait-staff noticed this and brought in a rack of chairs before we even said anything. We were impressed!

The only real problem we had were four male guests who were drunk and sat at the Upper Terrace all of Saturday afternoon. They stared down every woman as she passed, and said lewd comments to each other about the women, or what they would like to do to the women... My guests got a little frustrated by this, so I called the front desk and spoke with Bobbi. She let me know the men had been there for 2 weeks, and they had nothing to do. She said she would have security speak with them. The way she handled things was very professional, and I was grateful for her intervention on our behalf.

I could go on an on about examples of why we were pleased. The food was excellent, the service was superb, and the facilities were all we had hoped for and MORE.

Is there someone we can write to put in a good word for you, Stephanie, Bobbi, Brad, and the others?

Kathy (too)

Kathy Carlton Willis
Florence Baptist Temple, Burlington

Example of a Complaint Letter

I sent this to the United States Postal Service today. The letter is self explanatory:

Saturday, 2-18-06, our USPS mailbox (across the street from our home) had a jammed lock (probably someone else had tried to use their key in our box by mistake). Neither of our keys would open the box. We were unable to retrieve our Saturday mail. Sunday and Monday were holidays. We called our local post office first thing this morning, 2-21-06, and were told they could not repair the lock until tomorrow. We asked if we could please have the Saturday and Tuesday mail delivered to our door, since we could not retrieve it from the box. They said the postal worker was unable to do this, but if by chance we saw the postal worker delivering mail to our box, we could go outside and request it. They also did not offer to hold the mail at the post office for us to pick up this evening.

What ever happened to the motto of delivering mail every day the post office is open, no matter the rain, ice, sleet, JAMMED LOCK?

Even if the mail carrier had left the post office prior to our call, couldn't the office call their cell phone to notify them that the family at **** Name of Court need their mail delivered to their door?

We find their lack of concern to be unacceptable customer service, and wanted to report it.

Russ and Kathy Willis

Thursday, February 16, 2006

It's Going To Be Awesome!

With all the obstacles of the past month, I am confident of one thing. The Spa Retreat I'm coordinating for this weekend is going to be awesome! We are having 7 seminar speakers and 5 spa service providers, along with 2 catered meals, 1 snack, and all-night snacking at our slumber party. Twenty-five women are coming along for the ride!

But, before this tremendous event starts, there have been lots of crazy things happen, I'm sure to see if I will get frustrated, depressed, discouraged, or give up. No way Jose! Life goes on, this too shall pass, stuff happens, it's all good (how's that for a sentence full of cliches?).

Last night I just had to laugh when my temporary crown fell off while I bit into a soft muffin (no nuts). Russ saw me spitting out the muffin mush, and laughing at the same time, and asked "what's up with you?"

I'm sure it looked bizarre! I just told him, "I'm just getting tickled by this long list of circumstances that have happened this past month. There have been so many of them, it is getting ridiculous. Ridiculously hilarious, that is!"

So, beware of this lady who laughs at sad/mad things, cries at commercials, and sighs from just plain fatigue.

And soon I'll report in on how this spectacular Spa Retreat turns out!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

It's All Good

It's All Good!

He had superhuman strength and gigantic muscles. A man of strength and discipline, abstaining from those things that he has taken a vow to avoid. Imagine Sylvester Stallone with Fabio hair (except black). As a child, Samson was a hero in my mind. And the villain? Delilah! I thought Samson could do no wrong, and Delilah could do no good. Cut and dry. Black and white.

But as I read those same scriptures now, two problem areas pop out to me in Samson's life. He had an anger management condition. And he was intimate with the wrong kind of women. He could take a vow against touching the fruit of the vine or dead people, but he couldn't keep his hands off of at least two women who were not of his faith (two problems there, purity of body and purity of beliefs)! He used his superhuman strength to protect the nation of Israel, but it also emerged in times of anger. Temper tantrums, at any age, are not acceptable.

We all so want to put people into two categories: bad and good. Some are heroes, some are villains. But to be honest, there are bad traits in good people and good traits in bad people. We can't be so easy to judge or to put people on pedestals. We are what we are: human beings entrapped in the cursed flesh.

But there is good news. Even though there aren't always happily-ever-after endings, there is grace. Grace from a perfect man who was all good-no bad to be found. Jesus gives enough grace to save those who are only slightly bad or bad through-and-through. Not one of us is good enough to escape the need for grace. It's not about how good we can get on our own, it is about realizing we can't do it on our own at all, and we rely on the price Christ paid on the cross for our sins.

I guess there is a happily-ever-after ending after all.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Oh no, Ohno!

Last night, Russ and I were watching the Olympic contest called short track skating. It really isn't how fast you skate, but your positioning. The first two of each race advance to the finals. We were cheering for Apollo Anton Ohno of the USA. He had experts believing he could win gold. He was in a solid second place position, which is all he needed to advance. I cheered him on to try to pass and go for first position. Almost as if he heard me coaching him through the t.v. waves, he attempted a bold move to try to pass the leader, China's Li Ye.

Ohno lost his balance. One hand tipped down and touched Li Ye's skate, and his other hand teetered over and touched one of the lane blocks. Because of the bobbles, he lost speed and position, and others passed him up. He ended up fourth for this race, and did not advance to the finals.

Before I realized what was coming out of my mouth, I was screaming into the television, "Oh no, Ohno!" I really hurt for him! I almost felt like it was my fault for encouraging him via the t.v. to try to pass, when he could have been content with second-enough to advance. But this is what America is all about-never content with status quo-always grasping for a goal just out of reach.

Living Out Loud-This Week's Work Week Shaped Up!

My report of the Living Out Loud Work Week:

-Interviewed 10 subjects for a Valentine's Day article. Wrote the article and submitted it to my editor. It was in print on the front page in color, of Section C in the Sunday Challenger, and is online at:
Brainstormed with my editor for art to go with the article-can't wait to see how it turned out!

-Researched Valentine's Day and wrote a sidebar for the above article. They ended up using it as a full article, found on the Faith and Values page of Section C in The Sunday Challenger, and online at:

-Used the above research to write my Wednesday Inspirational Column, using a different angle-which went to print Friday in The Paris News.

-Wrote a column for, which went up today at:
I hope to syndicate these columns.

-Brainstormed with a writing coach about several possible business ventures for Living Out Loud Communications.

-Blogged frequently at:

-Wrote literature for an upcoming Spa Retreat.

-Wrote 2 book reviews for my blog and for (just short ones, but wanted to get my feet in the water every once in a while!)

-Managed 2 online critique groups for writers.

-Received some great feedback from readers, and also from my editors. This always makes my day!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Time Machine Memory Tour-H.S. Freshman

I went into my freshman year of highschool at 15 years old. My parents told me I couldn't date until I was 16, in December. But I was boy crazy already! This was the first year of school when my classes were integrated with more than just my year of classmates-there were sophomores, juniors, and even seniors in some of my classes, and some of them happened to be boys! I absolutely think the reason Algebra was not my best subject was because I couldn't (didn't) concentrate. LOL!

I was Freshman Student Council representative, and loved being part of the student leadership of the school. Mrs. Gleason was right, there was a whole new world out there!

Then, there was also an invitation by Karen Culhane to be on the yearbook staff after school. I became the freshman editor for the yearbook, and got to know a whole new set of people. It also became the realization of a dream I had for a long time, of being trained in journalism. I followed this dream for the remainder of my high school career, and on into college.

Karen also invited me to help with Special Olympics and with a special camp during the following summer. It opened my eyes to the needs of specially challenged individuals, and allowed me to see these individuals as joyful, fun-loving, caring people who just wanted to be noticed and to MATTER to someone else. Well, they mattered to me! I also attended to the needs of an autistic young lady, age 18, with the mental age of a 2 year old when she came home to visit family from her residential care facility.

I tried out for the musical, "Fiddler on the Roof," and made it into the chorusline. Oh what fun it was to learn the songs and the scenes, and to help create the sets and props! And to mix with an expanding group of new friends and acquaintances. Some who happened to guessed it...boys!

Kevin Hampton was the male lead in the musical. He was also in Student Council. He was the same boy I had first noticed when he visited his mother's sixth grade class. He was tall, thin (rail thin to be honest) and talented. A pianist extraordinaire! He called to invite me to the Homecoming Dance, just a couple months shy of my 16th birthday, and my parents decided to allow me to go, since he was known to be a respectful upright citizen. I was going with a senior! This began a dating relationship that lasted from October until February. My, oh, my what I heartbroken when he began to brush me off and became suddenly unavailable to me. No break up. Just a sudden end to a nice time together. This was when I learned the fun of not being exclusive with one boy, and I dated several. This went on until the Christmas of my Sophomore year-but that will wait until another time machine trip.

Marching Band was difficult my freshman year, because it was the only year I marched as a clarinetist. I didn't have the training the others had, because I had been the majorette before now. I had to wait to be the highschool majorette until my sophomore year, because an upperclassman had the coveted role before me. At least I got used to the football field, and marching eight steps to the ten yard lines, before being thrust into the spotlight of "full field director."

I was extremely involved with my church youth group this year, and got to know all of the highschoolers for the first time. Being a freshman was a dream come true, finally feeling like you were grown up enough to hang out with the cool upperclassman! At least, in a small town, in a small church, that was the case! The whole youth group became like brothers and sisters to me. I especially appreciated the friendships of: Don and Vickie Waltman, Jeff Oliver, Dana Hope, William Ludwig, Darrell Brown, Mandy McCarty, John Robert Bibb, and I'm sure there were more I'm leaving out.

Darrell Brown ended up asking me to the Junior/Senior Prom my freshman year. We ordered a gown out of the Sears clearance catalog. Darrell picked me up wearing a top hat and I think he had a stick too (not a cane, what do they call the sticks?). Mom and I bought an after-prom outfit at a store in Clarksville that had a big sale going on-it was a cream jumpsuit. I felt like Cinderella with two outfits for one evening! I even borrowed Aunt Minnie's transparent high heel shoes to wear, that looked like glass!

One thing I was introduced to this year was Miss Saijbon's parties for students. She was the single music teacher who preferred the company of students to adults. She allowed the punch to be spiked with alcohol and didn't report inappropriate behavior of the students. In fact, she encouraged it. I went to two such parties. One was as Kevin's date to a chamber choir party at her house to go Christmas caroling. And one was as Darrell's date before Prom night. I can't help but wonder if this type of behavior is why Miss Saijbon was not our music teacher after my freshman year? There were rumors that she dated a guy that was one of her students (she did wait until he graduated). We hear about teachers being inappropriate in the news, and we think it is a new thing-but there is no new thing under the sun!

I'm sure Mom and Dad got tired of being my taxi cab driver my Freshman year. Fortunately I had some older friends who often drove me to and from events. Patricia Rubemeyer was one such friend-a neighbor who was like a sister to me. I had play practice, yearbook, Student Council, FSA, and more. I was in that group that teaches teens how to plan and run a business-what is it called? We made and sold indoor thermometers one year, and jumper cables another year. Junior Achievement, perhaps?

I was so busy with extracurricular events that I have no idea when I did my homework. I didn't have a study hall until my senior year, because I took so many electives each year. I'm glad I got good grades!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Japanese Cuisine

I think my brother, Wade, and I are living in parallel universes or something! First, we both post book reviews to our blogs. Then, we both go eat Japanese cuisine. Of course-I would think that isn't unusual for Wade since he lives in Japan! haha! But for us, although we love it, we didn't have a place near us, until this week! We went for Russ's birthday to a restaurant that I think was called Miyogi's or maybe it was Miyagi's.

The restaurant is small inside, and simply decorated with modern Japanese design. Very aesthetic! The waitstaff served with the grace of the best hosts, providing a calming feel. One room is set up Japanese style, with a large table near the floor, and some sort of padded floor seats all around the table. Before entering that room, customers are to remove their shoes and put them in a special cubicle designed just for this purpose, and there are slippers available. There are two doorways that can be closed, which were screens made with rice paper and the wooden dividers. Next time I go, I want to eat in there, for the full experience!

There was no silverware on the tables, and we didn't see anyone request any. I had learned how to cheat and use the chopsticks while they are still hooked together (the disposable wooden ones are often joined at one end, sort of like tongs). But I got a little clumsy while eating my salad, and the chopsticks broke apart. Now I was FORCED to eat the correct way. It takes much longer, but I did pick it up and was able to eat everything, even the rice! We had great food. Started with a green lettuce salad with ginger dressing. Russ and I really like that dressing. It is thick and tastes like it might have Worcestershire sauce or anchovies in it. Just guessing.

Then we were served Miso soup. I wasn't that thrilled with eating it, because I don't like bean curd products. But, I was still going to give it a good college try. But, crazy me, tried to pry off the decorative top to the 2 piece soup bowl, and tipped the entire bowl of hot soup onto my lap and all over my clothes. UGH! Keep in mind this is Russ's birthday and it is supposed to be a nice experience for him. I ran to the restroom, and they were out of towels. I grabbed the tissue paper toilet seat liners, to try to at least brush off some of the soup, even though it couldn't absorb any of the liquid. My thighs and belly were pink from the hot liquid. But thankfully I was not burned. Then, the wet clothing started to get cold. Ice cold. Weird! I came back out and tried to act as normal as possible, sitting there in wet clothing (I had on 5 garments that managed to get wet in the process!). I tried Russ's soup, and I was correct about one thing, I'm not a big fan of Miso soup. Try wearing that smell for an hour before changing clothes, and you REALLY won't like it if you marginally don't like it to begin with! LOL!

I ordered tempura shrimp and vegetables with sauce, and rice. It came with 3 large shrimp, a few pieces of squash, eggplant and onion. Russ ordered panko breaded pork cutlet served with cold noodles and thin sliced raw cabbage, and rice. I think it is called tonkatsu. Both meals were excellent. We look forward to going back. Next time, I'll pass on the soup. Maybe I'll try the green tea ice cream.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Happy Birthday, My Love!

Russ Willis is 44 today (February 8th). I have so many reasons to be thankful for his birth and existence on this Earth. Let me count the ways:
-Commitment to Christ, and to calling
-Relationship with Christ, which is different than a commitment-it speaks of intimacy and is the secret to his wisdom and peace and insight
-Musical talent (can play any instrument with 3 valves and sings-he's the music man!)
-Intelligence (brilliant with technology, math, and more)
-Integrity (a man of character and values)
-Sense of Humor (could be a stand up comic!)
-Creative (great writer, power point designer, and more)
-Handy (what CAN'T he do around the house?)
-Hard worker-doesn't know what it means to leave a project undone, when he can give just a few more hours to know it is done, and done well, and done on time
-Compassionate-cares for the needs and concerns of others
-Kind and fun loving with children and teens, as well as with senior citizens and those serving us at restaurants in in stores
-Frugal, but not cheap
-Enjoys God's creation
-Up for a new challenge-willing to get out of comfort zone
-Bible scholar
-In touch with reality
-Always willing to give a helping hand
-Knows a little bit about a lot of things: cars, computers, music, sports, home improvement projects, books, culture, restaurants, and more-helps him converse with just about anyone

I love him! Happy Birthday Honey!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Sisterchicks Down Under-by Robin Jones Gunn

Today I finished book #2 for 2006. I picked it up yesterday and completed it today, so it is an easy read. It is called _Sisterchicks Down Under_, by Robin Jones Gunn. This is my third one in the series, with more to read later. The book would be in the category of chick-lit, or some might even call it hen-lit since it is for middle-aged women (mostly). It is about two 40-something women who meet in New Zealand, each with a reason to start a new life. The book shares their silly antics, describes in great detail their travels, and more importantly, points to the inspiration of their new lives. They find an extravagant love with Jesus Christ and a reason to love others in extravagant ways as well. Intertwined in the book are the themes of forgiveness, second chances, setting goals as mid-lifers, the joy of lightening the burdens of others, and the peace that God gives even when a person is thrust outside of their comfort zone. Though the book primarily focuses on the friendship of two women, it also shows how a marriage survives a work-a-holic husband and a depressed wife. Though this book is not a difficult read, it does have several layers. Like peeling an onion, each layer has a different impact depending on where you are in your own life. The book also has study questions at the end, and would be great for a book club!

Time Machine Memory Tour-8th Grade Graduate

Before entering my freshman year of high school, several things happened, which are important to mention.

The last day of my 8th grade year of school, I endured a ritual of hazing that has since been discontinued, from what I hear. Rumors had it that I was on the top 5 list of girls to be hazed, for 3 reasons. #1-I was the junior high majorette, and some of the highschoolers didn't like that I beat out someone they loved. #2-I was attending some weekly teen American Legion dances, and had danced with some of the high school guys-the high school girls were jealous of that, #3-I had been voted in as Freshman representative of the student council (see, I'm going down a different path, thanks to Mrs. Gleason and others).

I had only 3 choices on hazing day-all of the 8th graders considered these same options. I could try to walk home like normal, but since the upperclassman had cars, the tormented walk home was said to be just as bad as surrendering to the hazing willingly. Also, it was told, much like a folk-tale passed down from generation to generation, that if a person didn't surrender to hazing on that one day, they would have to endure it their entire Freshman year. My other choice was for my Mom to pick me up at school. This is what a lot of kids did to try to avoid the bullying. For some reason, Mom and I decided this wasn't a good choice-maybe she couldn't make it that day, or we just thought it was best to go through it. Some of the kids, sadly looking for popularity, asked to be part of the hazing even if they weren't on the lists. They didn't realize just how lucky they were, because it was humiliating. I picked option 3-going along with their whims and wishes for one day.

I remember at least 2 things I had to do. I was forced to go to that same body of water in which I had hoped to be baptized, and was told I had to button in the water. Buttoning is when a candidate puts one hand on his/her hip, and then makes a thumbs up, the places that hand, thumb down, on his/her head. Then, they were to do deep knee bends, while they said whatever the upperclassman wanted. Doing this in the water, there was risk of the water covering my whole head at points, and it was scary, especially when they said to keep talking even if the water came over your mouth. I can't remember how I dealt with the risks, but I must have found some shallow water. The other thing I had to do was go to the Walmart sign, by our main road, Georgia Street, and do more buttoning, while I said more things to their liking. I can't remember what else I had to do that day, but those two things stand out in my mind. Some kids who refused to endure hazing day, had to do penny races in the school halls, pushing pennies from starting line to finish line, down on their hands and knees, propelling the pennies along with their noses. By going along with hazing day, at least I didn't have to do that. Others had to wash cars with toothbrushes and then brush their teeth. Things like that. I can't remember what else went on.

Another thing that happened before I started my Freshman year was that I made a new circle of friends. The girls I met while candystriping were such great fun. I remember for sure: Teri Wilhoit, Joy Weese, Moira Horton, and Virgina Garth. These same girls ended up being some of my close friends in high school-all a grade older than me.

Next I'll start sharing about my Freshman year of highschool...


We had a beautiful snow on Saturday. When it converted from rain to snow, it came down in feathery pillows of snow. Almost looked like some opened big bags of poly-fill or bits of white cotton candy. Before we knew it, the entire earth was engulfed in a snow blanket which radiated light and white and all things bright.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Boys Are Special!

Tonight, one of our neighbor boys, probably around 9, came to the house after dark, to ask if we had any D batteries. He wanted them for his flashlight. We grabbed some out of our flashlight (after making sure they worked) and handed them over. At that time, his friend came to the door too. We found out they were planning on going bass fishing, right then, said they were biting! I think I may have heard his dad in the background, so maybe Dad was taking them. Or-they were just going down to a nearby fishing hole. Either way, boys will be boys!

Grateful Gratitudes

So much for which to be grateful! Isn't our God good? Even when circumstances are yucky, God is there. He is the one constant in our ever-changing world. We are blessed-I am blessed!

I'm almost finished with this week's daily barrage of medical procedures/tests/exams. God has provided some neat stuff to happen even with the medical personnel each place I go-bringing His broken people to me.

I'm grateful for a renewed relationship with my father's sister, Aunt Deanna. A great woman of faith who lives in Iowa. E-mail makes the distance bearable-as we share our lives with each other. A real treat!

I'm blessed with opportunities to write. I'm now a columnist for an online e-zine called My column is called "Grammar 'N Style." This is a paying gig! Other paying opportunities to write have also surfaced, and so now I'm faced with at least eight or nine deadlines a month. I love it!

Jazzy (our 10 week old Boston Terrier) is not being too much of a handful-a real blessing this week with all that is going on. In fact, she loves to snuggle. Her warmth is better than any heating pad and her velvety fur is softer than any blanket. She is a gift.

We have every reason to be a grateful people, even when things don't go our way-no matter what I go through, I always remind myself, "It could be worse!" And, if worst case DOES happen, (which is inevitable for all of us) I get to be with Jesus. Now is that so bad? :o)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Broker/by John Grisham

One of my goals for the year is to read more-and to mix it up a bit. Today I completed "The Broker" by John Grisham. It was excellent! I felt like I had slipped away from Burlington, KY and was taken captive into a new set of surroundings with a new identification. It was if I became a shadow of the main character, Joel Backman, on every part of his journey, from: expensive unscrupulous attorney, to prison, to pardon, to Italy. Backman had to play grown-up hide-and-seek or risk life and limb. He outwitted his enemies by playing their game better than they played it. A similar t.v. show is Alias.

I'm also reading "Eats Shoots And Leaves," "The Bad Girls of the Bible," and "Captivating." I'll give brief book reviews of these as they are completed.

Time Machine Memory Tour-8th Grade Part 2

More about 8th Grade:

-Sometime around 8th grade I started doing a little babysitting. I doubt I was very good at it, to be honest, and didn't pursue it much. But, because I was a good girl with good work ethics, a few mothers wanted to use me on occasion. I also babysat my 3 second cousins while my Dad's cousin, Kay, went to her bowling league. That was sort of neat because they weren't babies and we could entertain each other. Not a career I'm cut out for, though! :o)

-I also started working with the physically and mentally challenged around this time. Our church signed up volunteers to work with a family who had a developmentally challenged toddler. We used a revolutionary technique called patterning. Since then, it has been disproved by the medical society, but it offered this family some hope at the time, and taught me the importance of volunteering to help others.

-I was asked out to a FFA barn dance in a neighboring town by Carl Ulrich, the son of a family friend. We had always been friends, and it was fun to think about going to a different school to meet different kids. Carl was one year older, a freshman. Since he didn't have his license yet, his folks picked me up in their conversion van. After we got on the road, Carl told me that the entrance price was 5 cents times the date's waist size. At the time, I was a 22-inch waist. He admitted he thought it would be fun if I had the smallest waist there. Not sure if I won that or not, but for 5'5" at the time, that was pretty thin. On the way back, Carl wanted to get "romantic" and I had to explain that I wanted to be just friends. I had always heard girls use that lame speech, and never wanted to use it myself, but it was so true in this case. Carl was a good friend, and he was more like a brother than a boyfriend.

-I didn't have such willpower when a complete stranger (who played in a rock band) wooed me. I met him when our folks went to visit some of Dad's cousins at one of Missouri's Lakes. They had a daughter, Debbie?, who was a couple of years older than me. She had a boyfriend in this band, and another guy from the band reeled me in hook-line-and-sinker. They wanted to go skinny-dipping, but I refused (underneath it all, I was a good girl-mostly). We enjoyed time together as a group on a pontoon party boat, listening to music and more, while our folks were inside. I don't respect myself much for some of what happened that night, but I didn't go as far as most kids go-just further than was right and decent. Wade, you were on the boat too- I think that night made for blackmail material for you for a couple of months-rightly so! Ugh-try to erase that memory from your mind!

-In between my 8th and 9th grade years, a couple of neat things happened. One was our trip to California as a family. I was such a hick who hadn't seen much outside of Pike County, Missouri. I borrowed clothing and shoes from my Aunt Minnie so I would appear more aware of style than I really was. There are many memories of this trip-and I will write more about it at another time.

-I signed up to volunteer as a Candystriper the summer after my 8th grade year. I was trained by a neat nurse-was her name Alice Oliver? She was a stickler for hospital corners on the bed linens, and taught us neat techniques for assisting patients and nurses. I ended up finding my niche in the medical records office, though-and still love working with medical terminology and paperwork (just not my own!).

The Birthday of Lula Mae Willis/Mother-in-Love

Today is the day we remember Russ's mother on her birthday. She always joked about being born on Ground Hog's Day. Russ was due on this date, but was stubborn and waited until February 8th to arrive. This way, Lula got the day all to herself.

I want to brag on Mom Willis today. She was an immaculate housekeeper and frugal penny pincher. She listened to young girls (not just hearing them, but enjoying their company) and always had two or three adopted well after her own girls had left home. She collected salt and pepper shakers, as well as other nifty knick-knacks. She sang hymns with gusto and listened intently to sermons. Her wardrobe was mostly sewn by her own hands and faithful sewing machine. She loved to go to garage sales and watched craft shows on television. She was uncomfortable in the water, especially before moving to a home that had its own pool, and it was a real act of faith when she was baptized by immersion (she always said as long as her feet could touch the bottom and her hair didn't get wet, she could deal with being in the water-obviously baptism broke those two rules!). She had a giving heart and loved seeing a need and meeting that need.

In 1994, Mom Willis was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the same time we were moving to a new ministry and were grateful for the phone, e-mail, and postal service to keep us in touch during this very critical time. She survived the initial cancer and lived for three more years. In 1997 she was diagnosed with a metastasis to the liver and bones, meaning her cancer had returned with a vengeance. She had an uncanny instinct of knowing she would not survive this round. Soon after the metastasis was discovered, she arranged for everyone to meet to have family photos. She wanted to record the happy times before the treatment beat her down. Eventually there was nothing more that could be done for her, and she requested Hospice for her last two weeks. Hospice administered wonderful palliative care and the entire family benefited from their services.

My mother-in-love had a tremendous faith. Her relationship with God was very evident as she endured the effects of the cancer, the chemo, and the radiation. She knew she wasn't suffering alone; God was with her every step of the way. Even on days when she couldn't read her Bible, she would have someone else read it to her. I learned a lot from her about trusting God no matter what. I disagree with people who say someone "fights" cancer. Then if that person passes away it is said that they "lost the fight with cancer." This makes cancer patients feel like they have failed if they have to sign up for Hospice. They have not failed, they have just moved on to a new trial in their lives. We are all on journeys and we choose how we want to travel on that journey. But at the end of that journey, it doesn't end because we have lost. It ends because we have graduated! There is no defeat in death!

Next time you see a pink ribbon, don't just think breast cancer awareness, think choices. We all have choices. We can choose how proactive we are with our health. We can choose how our relationship with God will affect our attitudes and actions. We can choose going from this life to the next with anticipation rather than fear. I know that would make Russ's Mom proud. What will you choose?