Thursday, December 27, 2007

I Found It!

You might ask, "What is 'IT'?"

Well...since moving to Raymondville, I've had a difficult time purchasing meat. The meat departments at our HEB Grocery Store and our Wal-Mart leaves a lot to be desired. My favorite cuts of meat are AWOL-absent without laughing. At least, I'm not laughing. Read the labels and you'll see why. Tripe (beef stomach and intestines), beef tongue, beef and pork feet, ox tails, milanesa (thin cut of cheap steak), fajita meat, skirt steak, short ribs, etc.

Today I found a meat market. They actually have large hunks of meat, and they will cut off whatever cut of meat you want. For me...today I asked for a beef roast and 1-inch thick New York Strip Steaks. I will go back for more. They grind their hamburger fresh daily, and will grind chuck or sirloin on the spot if you request it. AND they are reasonable for the quality of meat you get.

They also have special package deals. I might order the Family Pack next time: chuck roast, steak, pork steak, hamburger, and more.

If this is as good as I think it is, I feel like I've uncovered a gold mine!

Yippee!!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

After-Christmas Sales Anyone?

I have to work today, so I decided to go to our local (very small) Wal-mart in our (very small) town, to fill my shopping basket with (very huge) savings.

I figured if I had to work today, the only way to feel like I was extending my holiday spirit was to buy some items with slashed prices.

Let me tell you some of my deals:

I bought lots of bath and body types of products for half price, and to be honest, the way they were packaged as sets, there's no way I could buy these individually any other time of year for this low of price. This will make good gifts all year round (and nice for my own simple indulgences as well!).

I needed a shower caddy, and found this one gift set that had a chrome shower caddy to hook over the shower head, along with cream bath, bath soap bar, shower gel, body lotion, scrubby puff, and flower shaped soap for only...drum roll please...$2.44! That's right, two dollars and forty-four cents! AND the B&B products came in a green color that will go with my master bath. How cool is that?!

I also purchased some candle sets that I had been eyeing before Christmas but couldn't bring myself to purchase at full price. At half price they were much more enticing! One came in a white ceramic container that will be perfect in my guest bath with hand towels, wash cloths, and B&B products stuffed inside. It also contained the kind of cermaic burner that holds a tea candle below and those wax muffin thingees on top that melt and make the whole house smell good. I had some muffin thingees but nothing to burn them in. Now I do! And the set came with some candles inside mini-tea cups that will work nicely for an upcoming tea.

I purchased foot bath fizzees on the cheap too. Perfect for an upcoming makeover night with our ladies.

I could go one and on, but all I can say is, I bought several pairs of socks for Russ, And a big coffee-flavored gift pack filled with 6 boxes of goodies for him, a stuffed animal, 3 rolls of wrapping paper and tags, 6 bath and body type gift sets and two extra large gift sets of various candles and containers, packing materials, extra tea candles, and a citrus reamer (our grapefruit are ready), all for...(imagine that drum roll again)...under $70!!! I don't even know HOW I managed that, but I'm stoked!

The store was not crowded at all. I started shopping at 7:30 AM and was out the door by 8:15 AM. Now I'm ready to work, with a little extra cheer buzzing around my head and heart!

Merry After-Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Angel Tree Ministry

A few weeks ago our church secretary, Mary, introduced us to the ins and outs of Angel Tree Ministry. Different churches and organizations lets the Angel Tree organization know how many children we can provide Christmas presents for. These children have one thing in common--at least one of their parents are in prison, some for hideous crimes like killing one of their own children. These children need a little love and a little levity, especially during a holiday season when they are faced with how different their homes are than other kids in their school. Mary has a PASSION for showing Christ's love to these children. Our church adopted seven children.

Each child had 4 wishes, and so these became ornaments on a special Angel Tree. Some picked up one or more wishes to purchase. Russ and I decided since we have no children of our own, we would love to "adopt" one of the children and purchase everything they wished for. So, I picked up the wish ornaments that said she wanted dress up clothes, pajamas, socks, and "bath" stuff.

I went to Wal-mart and had a BLAST buying for this unknown 6-year-old girl. It was MY treat. I couldn't find playtime dress-up clothes specifically in her size, and the one-size tags scared me. So I purchased a for-real dressy dress in black velvet with a bejeweled bodice. I found a crown and earrings, play jewelry, a furry boa, a scarf, real rings for little girls, tights, socks, a play cell phone with case, a girl's purse stuffed with the jewelry, and some lip and nail products for girls. I put all of this in a princess-style pink mesh hamper and wrapped it up.

Yesterday was the Angel Tree party. Russ did the intro and explained Angel Tree and sort of a mini-sermon on giving. Then I did an interactive Christmas story about all the surprises of that time, and the surprises they had waiting for them. Christmas surprises included: the angel appearing to Mary, the angels appearing to the shepherds, the bright star in the sky, Our God being born in a barn-type environment in a manger rather than in a hospital or palace, and coming down to Earth and being born with SKIN ON so that He can understand us and we have someone to go to. The biggest gift is the LOVE that came with those Christmas surprises, available to each of us no matter our situation. The children really opened up to this and admitted they needed someone like that, someone they can go to, to talk to, who understands.

Then Santa and his 3 elves came in to deliver the presents. These children were so polite that they waited to open their gifts until EVERYONE had theirs. I sat behind my adopted girl and watched her dig into the treasures found in her princess hamper. She was so precious to watch as she pulled out each gift. With the box containing the crown she actually closed her eyes while unwrapping it because she said she wanted it to be a big surprise! She tried on almost all of her items and begged her mom to go try on the dress, but her mom suggested she wait until she got home. That would have been fun to see, though!

It was fun watching ALL of the children open their gifts. They were so grateful and humble. At the end they went around hugging everyone and saying thank you. And then us grown-ups starting hugging each other too.

That old adage of it being better to give than receive is so appropriate here. In less than 2 weeks I've enjoyed 4 after-glow inducing moments: Our open house, Candlelight Communion, Ladies Nite Out, and Angle Tree Party.

It's all good!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

First Ladies Nite Out!

Last night was our first Ladies Nite Out here in Raymondville, TX. Keep in mind, we normally run 25-35 on Wednesday nights (counting men and kids). But I really believed we could have 40 ladies packed into my living room. So, I made sure we had seating for 40 (it's not really faith unless you act like it's going to happen!).

The event started at 6:00 PM. At 5:00 PM women started coming to help out. My 80-year-old Wela (our secretary's mother) even asked for a broom to sweep the leaves from our driveway! The house was abuzz with anticipation. By 5:30 women were POURING in! Keep in mind most Baptists find a way to arrive 5 minutes late to all church functions! :o) My house can seat 20, so we were soon unfolding those church folding chairs I brought home, knowing we would need them. We DID!

We literally did a "count off" by going around the room and numbering ourselves, and we ended up with 37 women. We know of at least 3 who could not make it at the last minute, so that would have been my 40. AMAZING!

But the best part was what happened to the women at the gathering. They let their hair down. They enjoyed fellowship. They pigged out on appetizers and desserts. They got to forget their problems and burdens for two hours and just have a good time. We all left our problems at the door!

Everyone helped make sure everything was just right, and then we enjoyed time just visiting and eating before I started the program. First we all gave our names since so many of us don't know each other yet. Then I read a humorous reading by Liz Curtis Higgs about those dratted fashion tragedies--"leggings." We laughed so hard!

Then I shared my health story, and just how good my life is. You could have heard a pin drop. Normally as I begin to wrap up, I welcome the ladies to ask questions, because by that point they know my life is an open book. Well, I didn't have to open the floor for questions-they just very naturally started raising their hands and asking questions. It was so neat!

I announced the plans for Women's Ministries in 2008. Now the ladies are even more excited than ever! They've never had much to look forward to in the way of activities with just ladies, and in a small town with little to do, monthly fellowship meetings are needful. I told them we would have a Mug and Muffin Makeover Night. They said, "excuse me, WHAT? What is that?!" I explained that we would all bring coffee mugs to exchange, have muffins and other goodies, and enjoy some makeovers. They said, "You have to remember, we are simple country people. This is all new to us. But we are along for the ride!" I told them to hang on because it would be a wild ride, and they all laughed and cheered!

I encouraged the women to be willing to share their stories with others. God never wastes one drop of any type of pain we go through (whether it is physical, heartache, you name it). He always ALWAYS finds a way to get the glory from it IF WE LET HIM. I explained that their special story (each unique) can be used to reflect Christ to others. It doesn't have to be pain-maybe it is victory-or overcoming a circumstance. Whatever it is-God wants us each to be used by Him.

It was so neat as the ladies said goodbye, there was a flow of women coming to me, hugging me, and whispering in my ear, "I have a story to share with you sometime." They could tell I cared, and they felt comfortable letting down their walls with me. THANK YOU LORD!

They didn't leave me with a mess, either! Before I knew it, without me barking out one order or begging one person to stay to help, the ladies just starting folding chairs and stacking them outside, washing dishes, putting away leftovers in ziplock bags. You name it, they did it. I have very little to do today. This in itself is a true gift!

I am still living in the afterglow of a special candlelight communion followed-up with a rip-roaring time at our Ladies Nite Out!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dear Santa

One of the e-mail lists I'm on suggested we write 2 things we hope to find under our Christmas tree, and 2 things we hop ISN'T there. Here's what I wrote:

Dear Santa,

I'd love to find under my Christmas Tree
If you would be so kind to me
Some new clothes that will work right now
I'll put them to good use I vow
It's 80 degrees here and I'm hot
My winter clothes are working NOT

Another thing I'd love to see
Right under my own Christmas tree
Is a spa day gift card as a treat
A facial and massage can't be beat
For lotions and potions to be slathered on
Is my wish so that stress-be-gone.

And things I'm wishing NOT to appear
Under my tree this very year
Would be bad health for 2008
For this I would really hate.
And also please oh Santa dear,
Make sure I don't have any fear.
Through Christ I can do all things
As He directs, my life will sing!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Open House/Open Heart

I'm enjoying the wonderful sensation I call the "afterglow" of a hosting an event that went oh-so well! It's our first "Willis Hospitality" on a big scale here in Raymondville.

The time leading up to this day is a blur-interrupted by speed bumps like the broiler not working, the pans and stovetop not being exactly right for making candies and homemade custard pastry cream..and even a deep knife-cut finger. But we made do!

I had a sign-up sheet for those who wanted to bring food to help out-and made the menu so all they had to do was sign their name to the item they wanted to bring-that way we didn't have any repeats. I made the last 7 items on the menu.

The menu included:
vegetable trays with dip
fruit trays with dip
4 bags tortilla chips and 1 jar salsa
crockpot of cocktail meatballs in sauce
crockpot of cocktail sausages in sauce
tortilla roll-up slices
assortment of cookies
Southwest Cheesecake (for cheese spread)
Mini-Sandwich Rolls with Deli Meats and Cheese
Swedish Nuts
Walnut Christmas Toffee
Veggie Pizza
Cranberry Scones
Homemade Cream Puffs with Homemade Custard Pastry Cream
Rumaki (Cocktail Water Chestnuts)

Oh-and I made a punch that went like hotcakes. It's funny because I was concerned I didn't make enough-but Russ said I had plenty because most folks always want iced tea. Not tonight. They were clamoring for the punch, and we had to make more several times. They wanted the recipe, and it was just light lemonade from a mix, and sliced sweetened frozen strawberries, thawed. They were all calling it "that yummy strawberry punch."

I think the hit of the night were the Swedish nuts. I usually make them once or twice a year for church events-because they always go over well. They don't take much skill--just patience because they look so ugly during the cooking phase!

One almost flop was the Christmas Walnut Toffee. It just didn't set up as well as it usually does, and so didn't crack apart sort of like peanut brittle. Instead, the bottom layer never turned to toffee-staying a sort of off-white soft candy. So, Russ cut the candy into squares, like fudge, and the parts that didn't crumbled up he made into little balls. That worked, and looked so festive! And so delicious that no one knew it was a flop that was "repurposed." What would I do without Russ coming up with Plan B?!

Here's the cool part. We walked the neighborhood earlier the week and placed invitations at each home, so that not just our church family were welcomed to our Open House, but our neighbors as well. Some commented on how cute the invitations were (a tri-fold sheet, with a candy cane taped to it that became the hanger for the invitation). I didn't get the guest book going until about a half hour into the party, but I think we had 7 neighbors attend, 8 other non-church guests, and 49 church folks, for a total of 66. Considering we had several families sick and out of town, that was a good number. We normally run about 35-40 on Sunday nights for our regularly scheduled services, to give you a comparison for why we were THRILLED with an attendance of 66! Especially considering getting to know our neighbors.

We always believe our homes are to be used for God's service, and surrender all we have to His service, so we were JAZZED to see it used in this way.

And not meaning to gloat (well...maybe just a little), but the weather was just perfect for the gathering. If anything, it was a little too warm. I think the high today was 86! We set up folding chairs under our carport, and our side porch is adjacent to that, so we placed the 3 tables of food and drink outside-and then allowed them to come in for tours of the home, and to sit and visit. Then, when it was time for our evening service, we just all sat outside (we were going to go in and enjoy the air-conditioning, but with the breeze, it was nice to be outdoors where it was a testimony to the neighborhood.) Our song leader played his guitar and led us in a mixture of secular and faith-based Christmas songs for a little fun and a little inspiration. The carport did a great job of trapping the sound and making it resonate as if we were a trained choir! So beautiful. In fact, I saw some ladies brush a few tears during songs like "O Holy Night" and "The First Noel."

Russ had me read a funny reading about Martha and Mary when Martha was fussing about Mary not helping in the kitchen and then he gave a short devotional on that thought.

Clean up was quick and I had plenty of help.

It was just a great joy to see all the work of the last 2 months culminate in something so uplifting!

Many hugged us tightly as they departed, and told us they had been starved for fellowship and they are so excited to see how much we implement fellowship into our Christian service.

God never made us to be islands unto ourselves-we need each other to get through this time on Earth!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

What to Write When...

What do you write when you know you need to update your blog, but your supply of words for the day are already spent elsewhere? That's what it's been feeling like lately for me. So, I apologize for the delay in getting an update loaded to the site.

So many good things are happening in our new world. We love the ministry God has called us to, and we are grateful to be here. Already God has given us a sense of purpose and a sense of direction for how He wants us to be His hands and feet and voice.

A funny thing did happen the other day. I spoke to someone who lived elsewhere, and told her I froze the other day in the doctor's office. She didn't realize where I live now, and she asked how much snow we had. She had over 5 inches of snow on the ground, and she WAS freezing. Me? It was 82 degrees outside and the AIR CONDITIONING is what froze me out! I guess I don't have too much room for complaining this time of year, do I?

I've been busy collaborating on writing 2 books and 2 journals. I love it, but it does take a great deal of my creative juices. And I have several PR clients as well. And then there is also the creativity I pour into the ministry. Sometimes I have to make sure I find ways to get refills of creativity so that I don't run dry!

We are preparing for a big Open House this Sunday in our home. We will be delivering invitations to our neighbors in the next couple of days and of course we are spiffing up the house (it has undergone a huge makeover). And I've been pouring over cookbooks to decide what I want to prepare for our fingerfood table (appetizers, sweets, etc.). Many church members are helping out so that it's not all on me, and I appreciate that so much! They are excited because this is the first parsonage open house they can recall. It's our way to give back to the church and show our love to them. Later in the month I'm hosting a Christmas party for the ladies, and that will also be a lot of fun.

I'll try to write more in the days ahead. But for now-just know that I'm still alive and kicking (sometimes LITERALLY kicking!). One thing I need help with is coming up with ways to feel like I'm in the Christmas Season. I need more Christmas Spirit. I've gotten so caught up in my own life that I've let 2 months pass and it's just unreal to me that we are in December. Do you have any tips to help me? I know to take time to think of what Jesus birth' meant to us all. And to enjoy the Christmas lights and music. Also to reminisce about memories of Christmas-past. It's just hard to feel like Christmas when the weather is in the mid-80s and you are surrounded by a tropical paradise. Not that I'm complaining, mind you! In fact, some of you might wish to come for a visit when you are enduring yet another freezing forcast. We have the guest rooms ready!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Rest of the Story

I have to share one reason why it was so cool for Wendy and Jack to invite us over for Thanksgiving (other than all I've shared). You see, we felt compelled to give up our own Thanksgiving meal to a family in need. Our church was hosting "Thanksgiving-in-a-Box." We encouraged families to decorate a box, and put all the major ingredients for a Thanksgiving meal in the box, including a turkey. We had already made one box, but felt like we needed to give away our own food too. So we took 2 boxes to be delivered to needy families. We were blessed to get to deliver 4 of the 17 boxes our church put together, and got to interact with the families receiving the boxes. They weren't families who knew how to "use the system" but families who just needed a little extra help. Many were multi-generational. We took a church member who speaks Spanish with us to interpret for us. She did a great job! Two of the recipients asked Russ to pray for them, and Dehlia interpreted as he prayed. It was a special time.

God blessed us in a special way-He made sure we had a Thanksgiving meal. Just an hour after we decided to give away our own meal, the invitation came to share the day with Wendy and Jack.

God is the great provider! He provided for the needs of these Hispanic families who wouldn't have a turkey dinner without "Thanksgiving-in-a-Box." And He provided us with not only a turkey dinner, but with the family interaction we so greatly needed our first Thanksgiving in the Rio Grande Valley.

I'm glad I listened and obeyed to that little nudge to give away my dinner. It might not have been the 5 loaves and 2 fishes that fed the multitudes, but God worked in a special way, none-the-less!

Thanksgiving Day

Did you have a nice Thanksgiving? We spent the afternoon with new friends Wendy and Jack in Harlingen, and their families. Jack is an orthopedic surgeon, and his family comes from Mexico. They have a beautiful home, and were very gracious to open it up to several from both sides of their families, as well as us. It was a perfect blending of Mexican and American cultures of several generations, except the food was All-American Thanksgiving. I was introduced to Jack's cousin Pillar (sounds like pill and rhymes with car), from Mexico City. I said, "Como esta, usted" and she said, "Mui Bien, et tu?" and I said, "Mui Bien, Gracias." I said it with all the correct Spanish accents. Then Pillar thought I was fluent in Spanish and/or was Hispanic and she started a long conversation in Spanish before she caught her breath. I had to explain I didn't know much Spanish! She thought I did pretty well-but now I'm determined that I need to learn more!

My contribution to the yummy meal was a recipe from Paula Deen. No offense, Mom, but it's called Not Yo Momma's Banana Pudding. It is delicious. I changed it up just a bit from the original recipe. In a mixing bowl, I mixed 1 pkg of cream cheese, reduced fat (it's smoother and blends better). To that I added: 1 large pkg. jello instant vanilla pudding, 1 cup half-n-half, 1 cup milk, and 1 can sweetened condensed milk. Then I added 1 regular container of Cool Whip, extra creamy. I put one layer of cookies on the bottom of the casserole pan. The cookies are by Peppridge Farm and are a shortbread cookie with the chess game figures on them. Then I layered 3 sliced bananas and the pudding mixture 3 more sliced bananas and the rest of the pudding mixture, and ended with another layer of cookies, pressed into the mixture. YUMMO!

It was great to spend our first Thanksgiving Day in the Rio Grande Valley with families who love each other and embrace life with gusto!

Thanksgiving-A Look Back

I continue to pinch myself and praise God for the direction our lives have taken over the past 15 months. I would have never DREAMED we would be where we are today last Thanksgiving. We've had several issues happen over the past year-circumstances that would fall into each of the "major stressors" categories. Illnesses, surgeries, betrayals, disappointments, being bullied, homelessness, joblessness, lack of direction, strange new surroundings, rejections...heartache of all kinds.

BUT GOD.

Through each trial, God has been faithful.
Through each trial, we have grown.
Through each trial, God's strength has been sufficient.
Through each trial, peace that supersedes all human understanding, permeates the heart and mind.
Through each trial, God reigns supreme.
Through each trial, my relationship with Jesus has been strengthened.

AND NOW.

A ministry with opportunities to use what God has been equipping us for all along.
A home with more square feet than our last eight dwelling places.
New friends to love, who love us back. Old friends who prove their loyalty.
God's networking to connect me to clients.

AND MORE.

Opportunities to pay it forward-to help others, using the resources with which God has entrusted us.
Womens Ministry as an open door for me to show ladies the love of God.
A new culture to learn and embrace.

So much for which to be thankful. The trials aren't over, but even still, we can testify...

WE ARE MOST BLESSED.

Friday, November 09, 2007

New in the Neighborhood

The last 11 days have flown by since I first arrived in Texas. It feels good to be home. I told my mom I would not complain in the least if I became like one of those root-bound plants. You know the kind. A potted plant that really needs to graduate to a bigger pot, with its roots all wrapped up in the dirt-more root than dirt. Okay-obviously I was kidding-a little bit. I only want to live where God wants me to live. But my heart's desire is for us to serve longterm here at First Baptist Church/Raymondville.

The unpacking was slowed a bit because I've been fighting bronchitis the past 3 weeks-it's all better now. I guess I was just supposed to know my limitations-something I might not have recognized if I had felt better.

Last week I paced myself between unpacking and resting and getting to know my new surroundings. A church member became a widow, so the entire community showed up to show her our love and support. I got to see the surrounding area in its finest hour-being there for someone during their time of need. I knew then that I would fit in just fine! And of course, part of this outpouring is a testimony of how much Robin had been there for everyone else in the community during THEIR times of need.

This week, I've added getting back to work with my freelance job during the day (and some nights) and finding homes for items from unpacked boxes during my off hours. This home has no shortage of storage space! And just last night we finished buying window treatments for the 6th room of the house. I still have the laundry room and one bedroom to go (and maybe a color change for the master bath). I'm celebrating buying my first REAL drape, and having REAL curtains and not just mini-blinds in my windows. How's THAT for putting down roots?

Today we stocked up the refrigerator. I've gotten referrals for: accountant, pedicurist, hair stylist, doctor, housekeeper, and restaurants.

It's all coming together! And soon, we will enjoy entertaining our first guests. I can't wait! I'm so excited to start having people over, that I've already drawn up seven different menus to start with for guests.

And Sunday I substitute teach Sunday School for one of the women's classes.

I'm getting plugged in. And you know what happens when you get plugged in-you get energized!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Magazines and Life

I remember growing up, I used to love it when my mom splurged and brought home Women's Day, Redbook, Family Circle, or Good Housekeeping. She subscribed to Reader's Digest. I loved reading her magazines because it opened up a whole different world to me.

In the homes of others, I could define them by the magazines on their coffee tables. My Aunt Minnie had Psychology Today. Mrs. Scott had National Geographic. Grandma Mary had The National Inquirer (Inquiring Minds...). When Mom started her nursing career, nursing magazines filled the magazine stack. Later, her interests blossomed into Better Homes and Gardens, Southern Living, and others.

As a pre-teen I learned all about celebrity crushes by reading hand-me-down Tiger Beat magazine from my cousin Kristy. I inherited her clothing, her magazines, and one time even a chemistry set! Tony Defranco was my my first crush, thanks to Tiger Beat!

Fall of 1980 was a big time in my life. I read every holiday magazine I could get my hands on. My mom's, Russ's mom's, you name it. Why? Because I wanted to throw a blow out party for my friends, to announce my engagement, and the engagement of one of my best friends (Patricia). I received the ring on Christmas Day, and a few days later I hosted the dinner party. We set up various tables in one room, and decorated a little bit (not nearly as big as I dreamed in my head). I cooked most of the meal. The menu included baked pork chops with apples on top, and homemade yeast rolls. I can't remember what else we fixed. Mom helped me get it together. In fact, it was a tense time because I also went to St. Louis for a shopping trip rather than staying home to get things finalized (sorry Mom). I had my head in the clouds those days! What started all of this was dreaming big by reading the holiday magazines.

I go in phases with magazines. I used to buy them at the magazine counter all the time. Sometimes I subscribed. Other times I'd go to the library to check out older mags or sit in and read the current issue.

Right now I'm in between phases. When I get settled into my new home (flying there October 29th!) I will begin to subscribe to my favorites again. I know we will be putting roots down, so I won't have to mess with those awful change of address forms.

I combine work with pleasure on my magazine picks. Sometimes I buy magazines because I want to consider writing for them, or targeting them for one of my author clients. Other times I have ministry in mind. Or home and hospitality.

I guess if I picked 5 to subscribe to, at this phase in my life, they would be:
Today's Christian Woman
HOPE For Women
Real Simple
Writer's Digest
The Writer

I also enjoy reading the magazines I picked up over the summer at our SBC church. I looked forward to each new month, for new reading material to bring home. These include:
HomeLife
Mature Living
On Mission

Check them out!

What magazines are you reading these days?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A God-Thing

I just have to share a "God-thing" with you. It's how God gave an affirmation about a book doctor project I'm working on. This project has become very dear to my heart.

I prayed about where to worship today. We already said good-bye to the church where we served in an interim capacity this summer, so I didn't really want to go back there to worship (just too hard after saying good-byes). Russ isn't here-he's already in Raymondville. Here in Southwest KY, I live in the belt-buckle of the Bible Belt, so churches abound. In a 20-mile radius, I had about 30 good Bible-believing churches to consider. I decided to drive twenty minutes away, to Martin, TN to attend church at Central Baptist.

God confirmed my choice in a unique way. The pastor spoke on the very topic I've been working on in this book project THIS WEEKEND. It was Chapter ONE all over again!

He even used some of the same examples. It was like I was reading my author's manuscript! NO KIDDING!

It was an amazing affirmation of the author's direction, and I'm glad to be a part of it.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

A Birth Announcement of Sorts, or Maybe More of a Marriage

It's official. First Baptist Church of Raymondville, TX voted unanimously to extend the call for Russ to be their pastor. (The unanimous part is a first for us!) We are excited. Russ said this is a wonderful affirmation that his purpose in life is ministry. This is a relief, and more than that it gives us a renewed sense of direction. We had the burden, passion, and vision for ministry-we just needed to be plugged into a church. Now we are!

Thank you so much for praying!

Monday, October 01, 2007

A Day to Remember!

Today was our going-away day at Clinton's First Baptist Church. We were invited to sing with the choir, so that was special. And before the morning message, Russ and I sang a duet (and he played the trumpet) of the song, "Go With God." There were some tears in the audience, as the words hit home (HOPEFULLY it was the lyrics and not the notes! Just kidding!).

Before the evening service, we were honored to a church fellowship. The meal was yummy, the goodbye messages from the congregation meant a lot, and they even had a money tree and gift/card table. How thoughtful! We were only there for 4 months! But it did seem like we were FAMILY for all our lives-we just hit it off from day ONE.

Some of the sentiments we heard:

You'll never realize just how much you've done for our church.

You blessed our hearts just by being YOU.

You brought our church out of a dark despair with your music and with your smiles.

You loved on us in ways you probably didn't even realize.

You gave us confidence and helped us sing material we would have never attempted before-our choir sounded like double the voices because now we aren't afraid to sing out.

We know you went through some fires in your life and we just want you to know we think you have come out of the fires shining like gold. Your lives have inspired us to move forward when we didn't think we could.

I'm not ready to let you go.


Wow! Can you believe just how good God is to let us enjoy such kind words at a time when we needed it more than THEY knew! The truth is, the church became our family this summer-our brothers and sisters and grandparents too. They blessed us as much as they say we blessed them. The opportunity to serve there came at just the time we needed it.

Thank you Clinton FBC, for being YOU. And for those reading this from the church, thank you for the generous outpouring of gifts. And the notes were precious reminders of God's goodness to us through you.

It was a great day! It was so hard to say goodbye and to give final hugs. Some refused to say goodbye and said, "Until we meet again."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Be Careful What You SAY, Even More Careful What You HEAR!

Last night at church 2 conversations were easily misunderstood. Here's how it went:

Conversation #1:
Senior Citizen Lady: Russ, how far will you travel tomorrow?
Russ: Well, since I'll have the dog and Kathy, we'll only go 6 hours.
Senior Citizen Lady: RUSS! That's not nice!
Russ: Why?
Senior Citizen Lady: To say 6 hours is all you can take of your dear wife!
Friend of Senior Citizen lady: I think he meant that Kathy can't travel long distances at a time because of her health.
Senior Citizen lady: oooooh....

Conversation #2:
Pianist: Kathy, did you ever make it out to the cemetery?
Kathy: No, but I really want to go there soon!
Pianist puts loving hand on Kathy's arm, caresses it warmly and says: Don't worry Kathy, you've got plenty of time to get there.
Eyebrows of a couple of eavesdroppers raised!
Kathy to Pianist, while bursting out laughing: If they heard just part of this conversation, they would think I'm eager to die and go to the cemetery, and you were comforting me and encouraging me not to wish it to get here any sooner than it will!
Pianist: I was just letting you know that I feel good that you will be here for a long time next time you come.

Be careful what you say, even more careful what you HEAR!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Life List

Throughout my life, I've heard of people who have the "Bucket List." Things they want to do before they kick the bucket. I think I'd rather call it a Life List. Anything on that list would have to ADD to your life, or it wouldn't be worth putting on a list! I've never made such a list, have you?

If I were to start such a list, what might I add to my already BLESSED LIFE?

I might add things such as:

1. Go snorkeling.
2. In my dreams I para-sail, but not sure I would be brave enough in real life.
3. Publish a book with my byline.
4. Make a souffle.
5. Try truffle-laced ANYTHING.
6. Visit Japan.
7. Mission trip to Mexico.
8. Go on a cruise.
9. Find the perfect hairstyle (that might TAKE a lifetime!).
10.Sing the national anthem at events in 5 different towns. (one down, four to go)

More important is my spiritual "Life List." It contains only 2 items:

1. To grow in my relationship with Christ, and to know Him in His fullness; pleasing Him in my thoughts and deeds.

2. To reflect Christ to others, discipling them and being discipled by them in an interactive fellowship, always mindful of inviting others to join the journey with me.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

WHIM-Women's Hearts In Ministry

Come on a WHIM-Women's Hearts In Ministry, that is. If you are a woman and serve in ministry, you are welcome to join a new e-mail group I started. This group is designed for: pastors' wives, missionaries, staff wives, staff women, women's ministry directors, etc. We ask that you subscribe to a Christian statement of faith and that you can testify of a specific time in your life that your walk with Christ began. WHIM will be there for you-when you rejoice, we will rejoice. When you cry, we will cry. Our empathy will relate to your day. Come on a WHIM to share ideas, recipes, book reviews, Bible studies, and prayer requests. Brainstorm events and themes. We can thrive in the position of helper, whether as a helper to a ministry or to a minister. We are WHIM, Women's Hearts In Ministry.

If you'd like to check us out, go to:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Womens_Hearts_In_Ministry/

Or, e-mail to subscribe at:
Womens_Hearts_In_Ministry-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Monday, September 17, 2007

What a Journey!

Greetings-Friends & Family!

Many of you have wondered about our well-being over the past few days, so I wanted to touch base and let you know our status.

Tuesday we left around noon and headed for Jackson, MS. I enjoyed a catfish po'boy for lunch, with a side of fried pickle chips. YUM!

Wednesday we drove to Vidor, TX to spend some time with a family we discipled, Leno and Mary Yellott. Mary is Hispanic and was born in the USA; Leno is Mexican and was adopted by a USA couple when he was 18 (they helped him get his start in the states). Leno has built a roofing company from scratch-bringing over family members as he can, for staff. Many live on the same lot or block as he. Considering he was mute until the age of 10, he is quite the success story. He doesn't read English or Spanish, but he knows numbers! Leno was one of Russ's deacons when he pastored in Vidor, and Mary was one of my best friends. Russ performed his first Spanish baptism (he memorized the words) for a family member named Oscar-and we got to see him this trip-grinning ear to ear. Oscar asked where we lived now. We said Kentucky, and he said "Pollo!" And then we had Mary tell him, no Kentucky Fried Pollo in Fulton, Kentucky!

We also saw Mati and his familia, and Rene. And we enjoyed time with the Yellott's grown children, Connie and Alan. It was a blessing to this ol' heart to see so many who were discipled during our time in Vidor, still going strong. And to see Alan all grown up with his wife Belinda, and to think we knew him starting at age 12!

When we got ready for bed, the weather said tropical storm Humberto was headed for Galveston. We wondered if we would make it to our next destination and determined to just take it an hour at a time. But first, SLEEP! In the middle of the night, when the air conditioning shut off and the lights were blackened, I realized the storm I heard outside was more serious than a thunderstorm. Leno awakened us around 6 am to say he needed our keys to move the van in case his palm tree fell. Russ got up with him, and I snuggled in the bed a while longer, although the crowing roosters kept me from sleeping (and Jazzy was antsy, unsure of the upset, but knowing there was one). We all gathered outside on their front porch/carport area, and talked. Mati's wife Chelly swept the fallen leaves. Her children, Angel (4-year-old all boy) and Karen (10-year-old shy girl) entertained us. Angel had his Uncle Leno strum on the guitar so he could sing (in Spanish) and always ended with AIEEEE in a high pitched Cajun-style yodel! His legs and hands not to be outdone by his voice, danced and strummed while seated in a rocking lawn chair.

No shower, no power, no land lines, but the cell phone kept ringing. We were in the home of a roofer! Russ and Leno took a smaller truck to go see what was out there, and discovered the street in front of the school covered in 3 feet of water. Smaller vehicles were getting almost swallowed. Traffic was backed up, so they returned home to get a truck with more gas. This time Mary and I were invited to go along for the adventure, and we made it through the water, to see about some donuts. All the shop had left were kolaches, so we ate them in gratitude (they were yummy!). Each gas station was packed with panicked Vidorians, flashbacking to Hurricane Rita, getting gasoline for their generators, prepared for the long haul. We witnessed cameramen and newscasters reporting the damage done. In a nearby town, a man was killed under his carport. Sometime around this time we discovered Humberto had been upgraded to a hurricane rather than a tropical storm, and that Vidor was in the eye of the storm-not Galveston.

I can say I've survived a hurricane! Grant it, Humberto was only graded a Category 1, unlike the Category 5 (Rita) that hit them a few years ago.

Speaking of Rita, we were glad to see that Vidor had rebuilt since that disastrous hurricane and was looking better than ever. Most churches were able to use the insurance money to improve their structures. We were saddened to see that what used to be the church where Russ pastored was not able to rebuild after Rita, and they had chopped off the damaged part of the sanctuary and capped the end of the building. Rita may have destroyed the church, but those who became believers as a result of that ministry were still going strong as they dispersed to various churches for worship.

One of the funny things that happened while we were staying with the Yellotts is that I put on a little show without even realizing it. Leno told me he was growing some hot peppers hotter than jalapenos. I looked at the plant, and the peppers looked similar to the tabasco-sized peppers my Granny and Papa used to grow. They used to pickle them and we ate them with pinto beans. Mati brought out a large jar of these peppers, and I ate the tip off of one (cautious at first, until I knew how hot they were). Then Russ ate a teeny-tiny bit of it and said "that's HOT!" and then I finished the pepper. For "braving the pepper" they gave me the jar to take home. The next day, Leno wanted me to eat a raw pepper from the plant, so I did. Evidently it was then that someone said in Spanish that they had never seen a white woman eat a hot pepper without running for some water. Ha ha! They then gave me yet ANOTHER jar of the peppers. I explained privately to Mary that there was no way I could eat both jars of peppers before they went bad, but that I didn't want to hurt the feelings of Mati and Chelly. She said I should just take them and give them away (Mom-they are yours if you want them!). Then she explained that Chelly had just been in the E.R. for stomach pain that ended up being an ulcer (and stones), and the doctor told her she couldn't eat spicy things. So they were giving me their peppers-and thought it was funny that I could eat something that one of "their own" couldn't eat. CUTE!

The waters from Humberto receded and we were able to leave Vidor in the afternoon, on the way to Galveston. First we stopped in Texas City at our hotel, to grab a shower and freshen up. Then we entered the island of Galveston and found our friends, Dennis and Teresa Hankins, and daughter Becky. We enjoyed fellowship, talked about church stuff and hobbies like writing and music, and ate a yummy gourmet-style meal at Casey's. It was great to see them after six years.

After a night's stay in Texas City, we journeyed on to Raymondville-our destination! Oh how it thrilled our souls to see the mission-style church with gothic touches. I'll take photos to share as I can. Since no one was there, we went to the local McDonalds to see about wi-fi and then called Terry, the head of the pastor search committee and deacon board. Terry is a teacher at the high school and also the tennis coach. Terry escorted us to the parsonage, and Guy, another gentleman on the search committee, met us there. They helped us unload (it looked like we were moving in!) and told us where to find things before giving us time alone to unwind after the trip. We decided to venture out for dinner and tried the Carne Guisada at Mecca. It was "media" but the server was sweet. Then we went to their H*E*B grocery store. I used to love the H*E*B in Beaumont, so I'm happy happy! Everywhere we turned we found more of the Mexican treats (both savory and sweet) that we used to love so much. And we looked around to notice the faces, and felt as if we were in Old Mexico. The homes and landscaping also bespeak the same "feel."

Saturday we met with the pastor search committee for dinner, and enjoyed a time of fellowship as well as an opportunity for them to interview us. It was easy to bond with these good people!

Then Sunday-the day of our expectation! We got all spiffed and buffed and showed up for Sunday School. I attended a women's class and enjoyed the sweet spirit. These women really enjoy getting into the Word-many carried study Bibles or 4-version parallel Bibles. It was neat to see they didn't just rely on their quarterly (S.S. curriculum), but each had their Bibles open to the passage we studied.

The new song leader, Jesse has such an endearing spirit! He's a band director at a nearby school and father of a one-month old baby. He is jolly, tenderhearted, willing, moldable, and all the traits for a good servant of the Lord.

Russ preached both Sunday morning and Sunday night, and it seemed he connected with the congregation. It was great to sense their reactions and hear their interactions and responses. Sunday afternoon before church we met with the church body in an informal time of tea and cookies. It was a great time to hear their life stories and share our hearts with them. After church Sunday night, the pianist told the chairman of the pastor search committee that Russ was a "keeper." She then turned to hug my neck and told me the same thing. I jokingly replied, "well then don't throw him back!" (like the fish.) She said Russ was just the man of God meant for this time in this place. What a wonderful affirmation of what we had already sensed. Of course, there are no guarantees. Another pastor candidate will be following us, and then they will consider who to recommend for a vote-or will pursue more options. We're not really sure. We just are willing to be used, whether for this two-week period, or permanently.

Let me tell you a little about the parsonage. It was built around 1960 from what I understand, and is a type of ranch or rambler style home. The kitchen still has the original cook-top and oven! It is connected to a sort of great room, with areas for dining and recreation or television, with a type of very large 3-foot squares of what looks like a hard-finished flooring (not tile, but not linoleum). The rest of the home is floored with berber carpet. All the walls and woodwork are the same white paint. One full restroom has the 1960s pink tile floor, countertop and wall surround. The master restroom has the same look, only in mint green. There are 3 bedrooms, and also a formal living space that is currently blocked off to save on air conditioning. The most noticeable thing about the house is the number of closets. The master bedroom has 3 large closets, the guest room has 2 large closets, the other bedroom (probably will be the office if we come) has 1 large closet. The hallway has 2 more closets, and the kitchen has 2 pantry closets. Each restroom has built-in storage. The family room has large built-in bookcases and cabinets. It also has a sliding glass door to go out to the porch/carport area. There is also a laundry coming in from the carport, on the way to the kitchen. Oh! And I mustn't forget the 2 doors outside under the carport, closets for even MORE storage! The formal living room has a foyer with yet another closet, and also built-in shelving.

Outdoors, there is plenty of local flora and fauna! I can't even identify all of the plants and trees, but I'm sure if I take photos, I can find out! I did recognize 3 orange trees in the fenced side-yard, with green oranges just waiting to ripen. I hope I get to try one! And Russ has been saying for months that his dream would be to sit under a palm tree on Christmas Day. If we come here, that will be possible-as there are several palm trees near the parsonage!

We also have enjoyed the bright-yellow-breasted birds landing in the parsonage's trees. I'm not sure if these are orioles or what-I will have to look at photos to decide what is the best match.

Monday we spent time with the church secretary, and at lunch with her, her daughter, and a friend. What great fun as we cut up and it felt like we had known each other for years rather than days. She said one of the members of the church has been asking if we could just go ahead and vote on "Brother Russ" as pastor because he's the ONE! She asked if we had any thoughts yet about if we wanted to come if called. We said so far everything we have seen matches our heart's desire for ministry, but that each day we seek God's will and also touch base with each other.

Learning the Spanish language will not be necessary down here, but it will be a help. Even so we know what to order on the menu!

Stay posted for more adventures On The Road!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Top 10 Ways You Know You're Not in KY Any More!

10. You find po'boys on the menus instead of sub sandwiches.
9. Spanish Moss decorates the trees.
8. Oil Pumpers in the fields instead of corn.
7. Find crawfish traps and rice fields instead of limb lines and soybean fields.
6. Seagulls and cranes grace the boggy fields-and even ride bareback on cattle.
5. Love bugs pollute the air and collide with windshields rather than lightning bugs.
4. Cajun food signs rather than KFC.
3. Words use more vowels and less consonants (such as Ribodeaux).
2. Instead of rivers, creeks, lakes, and ponds you are more likely to see bayous, marshes, and swamps!
1. Carnage consists of puffed up armadillo rather than fatally injured deer.

And here's a bonus one:

You don't worry about drought, you survive the eye of Hurricane Humberto! We woke up in Vidor, TX with no power, no telephone land lines, and no air conditioning. Streets were flash flooded and lines were out to the main roads at gas stations (to power generators).We're fine now-all snug in a bug at La Quinta Inn, Texas City, TX near Galveston.

Monday, September 03, 2007

A New Meal Planning Technique!

My hubby is always wanting variety in our meals. And wants them to be healthy, yet affordable, without getting stuck with many leftovers. I will plan menus, give him several choices, but sometimes things just don't sound good to him. But when I ask him what he wants, he says the best gift I can give him is him not having to make a meal choice. So, round and round we go. The good news is that he's willing to try new things.

I'm saying all of this because I'm guessing most of you meal-planners out there have the same problems when you are coming up with your menus.

Today, I decided to make a game out of it. Rather than asking Russ what he wanted this week, I told him we were going to play a game, and he was to tell me the first thing that popped into his head. Maybe some of these questions will get you going on your own meal-planning game time.

Here are the questions I used today, and I'll come up with more as time goes on. It was fun!

- Name a food starting with "s."
- Name the meal you would request on death row as your last meal.
- Name a food you would most likely grab at a potluck dinner.
- Name a meal made from hamburger.
- Name a white food.
- Fill in the blank, "I'm hungry for ____"
- _________ counts as a veggie!
- "You can't make me eat green foods, except for ______"
- I wish you would try to make _____ like I order at ____ restaurant.
- I wish you would make ____ like I see on the TV food network or in a magazine.
- I always requested ____ for my birthday dinner.
- I wish you would buy _____ fruit sometime.

Do you want to know the answers? Here goes:
- Salmon starts with "s."
- Pork Chops and Applesauce for a "last meal."
- Lemon Bars at the potluck meal.
- Make stuffed meatloaf with hamburger (also strogonoff).
- Garlic mashed potatoes are white.
- I'm hungry for pork loin roast.
- Corn as a veggie.
- Salad as a green food (I'm making Spinach/Strawberry/Almond salad)
- Crispy Orange Chicken from Applebee's (found recipe online)
- Make fish like on TV
- Never had a birthday request
- Buy berries for fruit.

Let me know in the comments section if you try this game in your own household!

Trust Can Be Exciting!

I firmly believe that I can trust God to have my ultimate good in mind as He directs us and opens doors for our future. He can also close doors to help us move along when we need a little boot.

It can get exciting when we see signs of God's hand at work. Or even just POTENTIALLY at work!

Let' me explain.

For about a year now Russ has sensed that God has wanted him to pastor again. He has been placing resumes and applications every time he hears of a church. I'm guessing over 150 resumes have gone out.

We are serving as interim music at First Baptist in Clinton, KY and LOVE the people. They will be our friends FOREVER. But no matter how much we love the church, we know that Russ needs to be preaching.

So, September 16, 19, and 23 he will be preaching in view of a call ("trying out," or candidating) at First Baptist Church of Raymondville, TX. We are excited, and can't wait!

By now you are wanting to tell me-"Kathy, we know all this!"

Well...there's more!

Yesterday our landlord came by to inform us that the house we are renting was going to be shown by the Realtor to some interested buyers from out of town. You have to realize that this house has been on the market for a couple of years, and has not sold. Probably everyone in this little town who might be interested, has already looked at the home. So it would take an out-of-towner to really come in and make an offer.

We've lived in the home since May 23rd and it hasn't shown ONE time. Until now. I don't think that is coincidence.

Because now, I get the opportunity to TRUST God for the outcome. There are many what-ifs, but here is the one I'm hoping for:

WHAT-IF #1-Maybe God knows we will get the position in Raymondville, and that we will need out of our lease one month early. Maybe He is helping us by providing a buyer, who, if you figure out the timing of most home loans, will land just about the same time on the calendar as a possible move on our part. See how amazing that is?

Of course, there are other possible outcomes too...

WHAT-IF #2-Maybe we won't get the position in Raymondville, the house will sell, and we will have to decide where in the world we want to move to. We can go anywhere. Russ's last week at Clinton is next week. We have no permanent ties here, although we love the people we have met here. My business is doing well, but would do even better if we lived in a state that was more "tax friendly." Even a move 5 miles away to Tennessee would be advantageous. Or maybe a move to Texas. Who knows?

WHAT-IF #3-Or another outcome could be that we do get the position in Raymondville-but the house doesn't sell here. No biggie. Most rental leases can be broken if your job takes you out of the area and you aren't just moving to another rental in the area. But even if it can't be broken-we are only talking one month, so it's no big deal. Besides-we don't know for sure when Raymondville will be voting-maybe their vote won't take place until later. Who knows?

WHAT-IF #4-Another outcome is that we don't get the position in Raymondville, and the house here doesn't sell. If that happens, we still have a lot to consider. What next? Where next? What timing?

See? No matter what the outcome, it's all a matter of trust. Waiting on God. He's not a puppet master and He's not just pulling our strings to make us move. We can confound things by making unwise choices. That's why we trust-we get our direction from Him. And He in turn blesses obedience. And gives peace. Even when things don't go our way, with peace we can deal with anything.

But still...let's go back to What-if #1. What if? What if God is already working things out so that if everything falls into place we will soon have a new ministry and will also have a way out of our lease here. That would be simply AMAZING!

See why I got excited rather than depressed when I received word that a Realtor was showing the home we are renting to a potential buyer?

I can't wait to see what's next!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Queen Esther's Beauty Treatment?


I haven't really made a list of some of the beauty treatments Esther had that year prior to her selection as queen. But I do know that some women enjoy being fussed over, made to feel special, or at least enjoy the relaxing calm that comes with spa treatments. Spa has the word AH! in it and that's what I find myself saying when I splurge with any sort of spa treatment. It doesn't happen often, maybe once or twice a year. Just often enough to make it special, so I will appreciate it. Indulged without coming to expect it.

For our 26th Wedding Anniversary gift, Russ gave me a half-day of spa and beauty at my salon. For that, I'm getting: a new hair cut, some color (I'm grayer than ever!), a spa pedicure (which I hear is more special than the regular pedicure), and a facial that also includes a neck and back massage. I wonder if I will feel like Queen Esther? Or at least like a calmer, more relaxed Kathy? I've only had one facial in my life and it was AMAZING so I can't wait for this treat!

All of this is my preparation (again to use the Esther analogy) for our upcoming consideration for ministry at Raymondville. More important is the spiritual preparation prior to their vote.

My prayer for this is, "Thy will be done, dear Lord."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Opportunity to Serve!

First Baptist Church in Raymondville, TX has interviewed us, and interviewed our references and decided my husband Russ is their #1 pick. YAY! We are so excited because this ministry opportunity has so many of the elements of what we are looking for in a ministry (small town in the South, multi-cultural, etc.).

So, we will be traveling by car for 3 days to get there, and will candidate in view of a pastoral call, on September 16th, 19th, 23rd. We will spend about 11 days there and travel back 3 days. So that will be a 17 Day Adventure! :o)

Also on the way there we hope to see a couple of our friends (Leno and Mary Yellott in Vidor, TX, and Dennis and Teresa Hankins in Galveston, TX).

The thing is, Hurricane Dean is headed to Raymondville right now. If it does hit, maybe God wants us to be there to help with the clean up. Who knows? Or maybe it won't hit, and God will tell us "just checking to see if you are willing to go ANYWHERE I send you!" (Yep-we are!)

Please pray about the is opportunity with us. You know how Jeremiah said he tried to suppress the Word inside him, and it burned and would not remain silent? That's how we are about ministry-we just HAVE to find a place to serve!

Thanks for praying with us-I'll keep you posted.

My New Web site!



Check out my new Web site at:
http://www.kathycarltonwillis.com

I almost feel like I need to give it a birth announcement!

Friday, August 17, 2007

SomeOne Cares!

Click on graphic to check out this site. Such a worthy cause. Please pass the word along about the LifeWay sponsored conference. Also, check out the movie while you are at this site. Warning: It will bring goosebumps and tears.

Someone Cares Conference

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Survey From a Friend

A friend sent me the questions-this should be fun!

1. *What time is it? - 3:38 pm
2. *Name: - Kathy Carlton Willis
3. *What are you most afraid of? - Disappointing God and others
4. *What type of car do you own? - 2002 White Olds Minivan
5. *Have you ever seen a ghost? - Nope-not my cup of tea.
6. *Where were you born? - Louisiana, MO
7. *Ever been to Alaska ? - No, but I'd love to go on an Alaskan cruise.
8. *Ever been toilet paper decorating in trees? - Yes, but not until I worked with teens (hangs head in shame.)
9. *Croutons or Bacon Bits? -Neither-sunflower seeds
10.* Favorite day of the week? - Sunday-the Lord's Day!
11. *Favorite restaurant? -
12. * Favorite Music? - It would be easier to name what I DON'T like!
13. *Favorite sport to watch?- whatever is on
14. *Favorite Drink(s): - Currently, it is a wild strawberry energy drink mix (sugar free) from Crystal Light.
15. *Favorite Ice cream: - Tin Roof Sundae
16. *Disney or Warner Brothers? - no preference
17. *Favorite fast food restaurant?* - Wendy's
18. *What color is your bedroom carpet?* - hardwood
19. *How many times you failed your driver's test?* - Never
20.* Before this one, from whom did you get your last e-mail? A client
21. *What do you do most often when you are bored?* - I don't think I know that word.
22. *Bedtime: - between 11 pm and 1 am
23. *Hobbies? - read, cook, indulge Jazzy, music, etc.
24. *Favorite TV show? - I enjoy several (Top Chef, House flipping shows, So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol, Amazing Race, CSI, NCIS, etc.)
25. *Ford or Chevy? - doesn't matter
26. *What are you listening to right now? - Top Chef on television
27. *What are your favorite colors? - right now I'm drawn to aqua and brown together
28. *How many tattoos do you have? - NONE
29. *Do you have any pets? - Two, Jazzy and Libby
30. *Which came first the chicken or the egg? - According to the Bible account of creation, that would be the chicken
31. *What would you like to accomplish before you die? - Figuring out how to be a woman of grace

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Family and Friends/Old and New Part Four

Monday of our trip proved Bill right-or at least, "so far, so good." Remember how he said when his congregation prays, stuff happens? Well...we got a call-not THE call, but it could lead to that!

But let me tell you about my day up to that point.

Sunday night Taishi asked me to wake him up to go with Russ on his morning walk. Well—I decided to tag along. Healthy for me both physically and mentally, right? Right! But that big hill isn't so great going straight down and even worse going straight up-in suffocating heat and humidity no less. But it was a great thrill to spend that extra time with Taishi and to see Russ interact with him (they love talking about sports AND music). And who wouldn't want to walk down for a spectacular view of the sun coming up over the Mississippi River? (My shin splints don't get to vote!)

Monday was the day we had set aside to go visit Bill and Elaine Rubemeyer (our across-the-alley neighbors during my growing-up years). On our way there, the cell phone rang and it was the head of the pastoral search committee in Raymondville, TX. Remember what Bill said Sunday about "stuff happens when our church prays"? Well, in less than 24 hours, we got that desired phone call! We've been invited to spend 11 days in Raymondville, TX for Russ to candidate in view of a call to pastor First Baptist Church. We are so very excited of the prospects! Our hearts desire to serve in this position, and especially in a multi-cultural/Hispanic small-town area. What a great opportunity this will be! Take a look at any map of Texas, put your finger in the tip, near the Mexico border and near the San Padre islands, and you'll see why we are excited about this mission field!

I'm guessing when we stepped out of our car to visit with Bill and Elaine (after receiving that phone call) that there was an extra spring in our step or perhaps we weren't touching the ground at all!

Then, kick it up a notch to the elation of seeing the Rubemeyers. I just couldn't hug Elaine enough! The only disappointment was that Patricia wasn't able to drop by to spend extra time with us.

Monday ended with sight-seeing of our old stomping grounds.

Tuesday we had to say goodbye to family. So hard to hug everyone goodbye, unsure of when our next visit will be. No one is assured of tomorrow. When we see Taishi again, he will probably be a teenager. Imagine THAT!

We drove to Pittsfield again, and Russ went with Bill to visit some of the folks at the Southern Baptist Convention association in Springfield, IL. Phylis and I browsed at our LEISURE at stores in Pittsfield and back in my hometown of Louisiana, MO. We dined at the Eagle's Nest, which was a cozy cafe where Green's variety store used to be when I was growing up. In fact, that was where my wedding cake topper was purchased 26 years ago almost to the DAY of when I dined there this week! I needed the girlfriend time with Phylis while Bill and Russ enjoyed their time together as well.

Then our time away came to an end, and we made our way home.

We were eager to see our Jazzy girl again. Laura Dillard was holding Jazzy and watching out the door window as we walked up. Jazzy looked VERY comfortable in Laura's arms. In fact, she was glad to see us, but seemed perfectly content to just "live" there. Glad to know the Dillards made her feel like family. They said she is very smart, like she knows what you are going to do before you even do it! And they said I should write a book about her time there, and title it, "When the City Dog Goes to the Country." One day, Laura didn't want to leave Jazzy in her crate for long, so she took Jazzy to our friend Jouella's home to spend time with her dog, Onyx. They loved her so much they even called someone else who used to have a Boston Terrier to come over and play with Jazzy. Jouella said Jazzy's so smart it's almost like she speaks English-and she is so agile that she looks like a gazelle when she plays! Sounds to me like Jazzy was treated like royalty-just like Aunt Verna Jean treated us while we stayed in Clarkville!

Family and Friends/Old and New Part Three

This past Sunday was a real treat for us. We traveled to Pittsfield, IL to serve at Calvary Baptist Church pastored by our friend Bill Herald. It was great to see Bill and Phylis again. I first met Phylis on a pastors' wives e-mail group 11 years ago. Each has been there for the other many times since that first e-mail exchange.

After Sunday School we walked into the sanctuary and were greeted by my schoolgirl friend, Patricia. Look back in the archives and you will see many memories from my childhood include Patricia (aka Patty and Purple). Oh—it was so good to see her, and her hubby, Don! They scooted over in a pew, and I suddenly felt like we were teenagers again.

After the kids performed their Vacation Bible School wrap-up program, I sang "I Will Listen," originally performed by Twila Paris. And then Russ preached a great sermon that spotlighted the value of children (to go along with the VBS program). The title was "Unnamed Masterpiece." At the close of the service Bill collected a love offering for us, (which was NOT expected, but very much appreciated). He sent us to the foyer doorway to allow the congregation to greet us, and called the deacon of the week up to close in prayer. The deacon suggested they have a special prayer service for us, for God to open and close doors for us as we pursue a new ministry (Russ would LOVE to pastor again). So, we walked back down to the front of the church, and all the deacons and wives, and Bill and Phylis gathered around us, laid hands on us, and prayed for us, that Russ will soon receive a call to pastor. It was such a surprise for a deacon to care that much for someone he had just met. He had no way to know just how special this would be for us.

Bill told us that when this congregation prays, they GET results. Not that they have a hotline to God or anything, but they pray in faith, trusting God for the outcome. The church also has a prayer chapel and individuals sign up to pray for an hour, using the prayer cards provided by the church to prompt them to recall the needs of the church and the members.

Family and Friends/Old and New Part Two

It was so good to see Aunt Virginia at my cousin's wedding. She has overcome some great trials these last 12 months. We lost Uncle Skillet (who treated her like a Princess for almost 60 years of marriage). She was diagnosed with breast cancer and endured surgery and treatment for that. And she moved out of a home she had lived in for at least 50 years. That's one strong woman!

We arrived early for the outdoor wedding of my cousin Kristy's daughter Nicole. Nicole was about 5 when my dad died-she was so special to him-like a grandchild really. I'm so glad Dad had Nicole and Matt to "love on" since he died before Wade married Kana and they had Taishi.

Kristy worked feverishly on all the last minute details of the wedding while the wedding party posed for pictures. Especially smile-inducing was the antics of Dean, Kristy's grandson. I had heard "brags" of this 2.5 year old, but figured the raves were skewed by a Great-grandmother's bias. Not so. He was all that and MORE. So photogenic and all boy. His face tattled on his thoughts—so animated!

The wedding ceremony celebrated the happy couple's friendship. Not so happy was the weather-with near 100 degrees and near 100% humidity. Rivulets of sweat trickled between my should blades, despite the wedding-fans that were distributed (like the old-fashioned paper funeral fans of days gone by). Iced bottled water also available during the wedding quenched the thirst but didn't put the "fire" out!

We drove to the country club for the reception. Each table was graced with miniature bottles of bubble-blowing liquid for guests to create an archway of bubbles through which the bride and groom entered. Each table also had silver bells to ring to encourage the bride and groom to kiss. Guests were equipped with disposable cameras, to record all the evening's activities.

It meant a lot to attend, to represent the well-wishes my father would have wanted for Nicole on her wedding day (as well as my own).

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Family and Friends/Old and New Part One

Last week we dropped off Jazzy (our not quite 2 year old Boston Terrier) at a friend's home so we could attempt a REAL getaway. Thanks, Dillards, for treating Jazzy like one of your own. You went way above and beyond the call of friendship duty! Jazzy acclimated immediately, and we were on our way.

We drove from Southwest Kentucky up to Clarksville, Missouri for a long weekend. When we arrived, my mom, and Aunt Verna Jean and Uncle Lewis burst out the door to greet us with welcoming hugs. What a reception! I had not seen my mom in 15 months, and my Aunt and Uncle in years. The family "reunion" had begun!

Then my brother Wade and his 11-year-old son Taishi returned from playing tennis. I had not seen them in 3 years (they live in Japan with my sister-in-law Kana). Quite a difference between an 8-year-old nephew and an 11-year-old! Taishi did an amazing job with English, considering it is his second language. Wade and Kana have certainly raised him right!

Aunt Verna had planned our menu for the entire time, and she spoiled us like royalty. Everyone needs a vacation like that from time to time!

On Saturday more family came in from out of town, prior to the wedding. My Aunt Deanna and Uncle Bob drove down from Waterloo, IA with my cousin Sonya. And my cousin Valinda drove my Aunt Virginia up for the ceremony and reception from St. Louis. What fun to see all my cousins in their 40s-many of us experiencing those midlife hot flashes!

Aunt Deanna and Sonya have both been e-mail buddies of mine for a couple of years, so I finally got to turn those virtual hugs into reality. YAY!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Living the Dream!

Yesterday Russ left for camp with the teens. I had determined to try to make this a high-impact freelance project week. Almost like I get a 5 day writer's retreat! Russ was not all that excited about going to camp-but they needed a male counselor and he had the time free, and he gets paid.

Monday I found out I would have 3 business phone calls. Only one problem. The cordless phone was off-kilter on the base, so it wasn't charged. ARGH! And the corded phone had so many sound problems-the voice on the other end was muffled to near silence and so I picked up about one in every ten words. So then I took the filter off the phone, and I heard the voice better, but I also heard fax-like noises. I called my friend Amy (hi, Amy!) and she said she couldn't hear the noises on her end so at least I wasn't going to blast out the listener!

Phone call #1 was with another publishing house who wants to use my freelance services. I'm excited!


Phone call #2 was with an author about a compilation book I'm co-compiling. I wanted to pick the brain of Wayne Holmes because he is known as one of the "compilation kings." I've heard of him online but never spoken with him. He e-mailed and suggested we talk by phone-he was willing to help me brainstorm the project and helped me know how to write up guidelines and contracts for each contributing author. Wayne's books include: The Heart of a Father, The Heart of a Mother, The Heart of a Teacher, The Embrace of a Father, and others. Odd thing is—Wayne lives in Cincinnati and I never did meet him when I had the chance! We both belong to the Christian Humor Writers group. See: http://watkins.gospelcom.net/christianhumorwriters.htm
and also at: http://www.christianhumorwriters.com

Anyway-the call with Wayne went great. I told him my plans for the book and he said I was headed in the right direction. It was reassuring to know I had done my research well! He gave me some other great ideas and I'm glad I had the opportunity to visit with him by phone. What a NICE man!

Phone Call #3-was a writer's coach client of mine. We visit 2-3 times a month by phone to talk over her project. She's always a blessing to me. (Thanks Sheryl!)

Also yesterday I received an e-mail from the coordinator of the SomeOne Cares conference. I'm doing PR for that event. We are already making preliminary plans for at least 3 conferences next year (hinging on if this one is a success). One event will be in Hawaii where the coordinator resides. Well, she e-mailed me yesterday and said she wouldn't be able to fly as many speakers over for the Hawaiian conference, but she was wondering if I had some topics in mind to be a workshop speaker for the event, and not just the publicist. Wowzer! She would pay my way to Hawaii??!!!! So, I'm supposed to "try out" by suggesting some workshop ideas to either assist caregivers or to train ministry teams who will be ministering to caregivers in their churches. If you have an idea for a subject that goes along with caregiving, let me know! So far I have:
• Getting On Top Of Your Emotions
• Too Stressed to Care (how stress affects women)
• How NOT to Care (a play on What Not to Wear)
• Why Won't God Heal My Loved One?
• Frequent Flyer Miles from Guilt Trips
• How to Deal with Unmet Expectations
• Care Enough to _______ the Very Best
• Weary in Well Doing

I went to bed late and woke up today anticipating my time at the Ladies Night Out tonight. But first, I had a phone call from Russ. Guess what? He is really enjoying the camp experience and I think it is encouraging him. YAY! I think it is a good getaway for him. They are meeting on a college campus. I'm thrilled for him to have a good week. He needs it and deserves it!

I spoke at a Ladies Nite Out for First Baptist Church, Clinton, KY tonight. You have to realize that this town only has 1350 population. I'm not much one for "signs" or "voices" when it comes to God speaking to a person-but when we first started planning this event, I felt like we were going to have 50 women at the Ladies Nite Out. They've never really had this large of a women's event at a residence. The hostess was expecting 30. I prepared her for 50. We ended up with 47 women, and 2 who signed up had something come up and couldn't be there (but called). That would be 49. Very close to that 50 mark I had in mind. For a town of 1350, that's HUGE!

But much more important than the numbers are the details of the night. We suggested women bring salads or desserts. The variety was amazing. Not a duplicate dish among them! And honestly, I couldn't have asked for a caterer to do a better job. The food wasn't just good, it was beautiful. One of the ladies brought a bouquet of flowers from her own garden in a crystal vase for our centerpiece and it looked it it just came from a Victoria Magazine photo shoot! The hostess had a screened in porch and a patio that she used to set up intimate card tables and chairs. With tablecloths, it looked just like a tea room! She was so gracious to open her home to all of us. The fellowship and the intimacy was "just what the doctor ordered" for this hurting church family (they've gone through a lot this past year).

All the ladies came inside for the "program," and I shared some of my story with them. For starters, I played a game by having them guess my age, then guess how many surgeries I've had (and add that to my age), and how many addresses I've had (and add that all together). The one closest to the correct number won a prize-one of the Groovy Chicks books that has part of my story in it. Can you guess the number? It is 81!

It seems like the speech went well-just enough humor interspersed to lighten the message. I might have stuck my foot in my mouth a couple of times-saying something that could be misunderstood. I hate it when that happens! So, on the way home, rather than basking in the joy of a night of blessing, I was concerned about being misinterpreted. Don'tcha just hate it when that happens? So, before going night-night, I just had to get my mind back in focus and leave the results of the talk up to God. It's in His hands. As the ladies left, most took the time to hug me and thank me for sharing from my life with them. It's a risk to be transparent, but it's worth it!

Great beginning to an equally great week!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

AWOL

Okay, I admit it. I've been AWOL. Absent While Out Living. That's right. Life happens. And when it does, to-do lists get prioritized and judgments are made between want-tos and have-tos.

Did I mention that in June I received a promotion to Director of Publicity? Oh-and did I mention that in July I resigned from that same job? I loved what I did there, but it just was not a good fit. Better to admit that and move on—right? It certainly was a difficult decision. Especially since I'm the primary breadwinner right now. Or I should say I WAS the primary breadwinner!

We are fully relying on God to open doors and supply for needs. His provision is sufficient. Again, we have to weigh out our wants and our needs. The best part of all of this is that we have become even MORE available to whatever God wants in our lives. I'm not sure that was even possible. It seemed we had surrendered all to God. But for the last couple of months we were waiting for life to happen to us, and now we are out seeking opportunities. We have become proactive in looking for that open door from God.

The most exciting part of this journey is that we are ready for Russ to pastor again. We've BEEN ready, but after a large number of unsuccessful attempts to apply for church openings, we had sort of back-burnered our attempts to get the word out that Russ is looking. It's so frustrating to hear the statistics for pastor-less churches-we just want to say "We will take you!" But they have to take US! That's a much longer process.

In the mean time, life goes on. I've gone back to my freelancer roots, and am exploring many different great opportunities (some pay up front and some pay if they pan out). I'm working as: writer, editor, speaker, book doctor, writer's coach, publicist, etc. Keep me in mind for your next project!

I was thrilled to get a great endorsement from a writer I met at my last job. She wrote:


It was a privilege to work with Kathy Carlton Willis for the promotion of my latest book. As a publicist she is sharp, creative, and enthusiastic. As a person, she is confident, competent, and a joy to work with. She has a superb knowledge of the industry and was willing to go the extra mile and think outside the box to maximize my publicity campaign. Before I worked with Kathy, I dreaded PR. But Kathy made the process both effective and a pleasure. I can’t recommend her highly enough.

--Marlo Schalesky, author of 5 books including VEIL OF FIRE, with upcoming books including BEYOND THE NIGHT and FACES IN THE SAND

Well, I'll close this tardy epistle...until next time.

Friday, June 29, 2007

I Feel Pretty! Oh So Pretty! (OK I don't, but I like the song!)

It's been weeks and weeks since I've had a "day of beauty." Before I went to teach at a writers conference in Elizabethtown last week, I colored my hair (and LOVE it!). But my hair...really needed shaped up. I don't know WHY I kept putting off making an appointment. I guess I hate trying to find someone new. And I hate taking the time to go. And I hate spending the money. And I'm afraid they'll mess it up. That's a lot of ANDS!

Then there's my crusty feet, arthritic bone spurs and stubby toes. Not exactly model feet for sandal-wearing! It's summer for goodness sake. I needed a pedicure! I'm not so good at giving myself "the works" because I have that spinal cord implant that looks sort of like a metal tape measure in my belly. Not great for bending over longterm.

So, today I went to a new spa salon in town called Bella Amici. I had a nice relaxing shampoo in a comfy reclining chair, a careful layered haircut, a style, then some thinning shears, and hair product. After that, it was over to the spa table-to have my eyebrows waxed.

The finishing touch was the spa pedicure. She spent an hour on my feet! The best part was the girlfriend-style conversation that happened the whole time. And my favorite radio station was playing in the background.

I was there for almost 2.5 hours, and the "spa experience" only cost $56! That's not bad for all I had done. Cheaper than what I found in Northern Kentucky, for certain! I WILL go back!

I came home entirely relaxed. I needed that in the WORST way. So glad I decided to splurge.

Oh-and we had some excitement at the salon while I was there. When the stylist cut my hair, I noticed five young teen boys playing with bottle rockets and firecrackers right by my van! I said something to my beautician, and she said something to another gal, who went and got the owner of the shop! The owner opened the door and yelled at the boys, "you are too close to my customers cars with those firecrackers. You need to move!"

Just at that moment a police car comes into sight. The leader of the pack yells to the owner, "Did you call the cops?!"

The owner denied calling (we didn't!). But next think we knew, two police officers and two car, are out front and one of the officers is giving a stern lecture to the boys. They split up and went their separate ways. But one kid stayed behind and jumped in a van in the lot. Then we realized he was the child of one of the ladies in the tanning booth. Ru-ro for the owner. What if the kid tells the mom that the owner called the cops on them (even though she didn't). So, the owner then had to tell the customer what happened when she came out of the booth. It was a little awkward, but still...No kid should have firecrackers of any kind in the city limits, let alone in a parking lot full of cars! That's a no-brainer!

After all the excitement of my spa day, I headed for home.

Home, with a meal of meatloaf made with onions and red bell pepper and half a bagel crumbed up and milk and egg and ground beef chuck. Topped with ketchup and sorghum syrup stirred together. Baked until crunchy on the outside and moist inside. Also had a stir fry of yellow squash, fresh tomato, red bell pepper, and onion. Also had some rolls hot from the oven. And the crowning glory was the ten cent corn on the cob that was TO DIE FOR! It was sweet and just right-not too crunchy and not too mushy. Oh-and for dessert I made a concoction. First I put together cubed angel food cake and sliced fresh peaches. Then I boiled water, put in diet peach flavored jello, with diet Sundrop rather than cold water. This mixture went over the cake and peaches. I let this set up and served it with light cool-whip. YUMMO!

I'm going to rest well tonight after such an indulgent day!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Can You Go Back?

Last weekend Russ and I traveled up to our old stomping grounds to attend his family reunion. Can you say ROAD TRIP?! We were something like 7 hours on the road with Jazzy, the Boston Terrier cruiser. On the way, we stopped at Lamberts, the "throwed roll" place. YUMMO!

Then, we veered off course to stop in Louisiana, Missouri. Russ and I were both born in that town, grew up there, and became the cliche' of the late 70s when we met as high school sweethearts. For this road trip we wanted to see the Mississippi River. You just can't take the river out of a river-town kid. I remember my dad letting us get Dairy Queen treats and driving us to the river to watch the boats, barges, and fishermen go by. On this trip to the river, since we had no kids in tow, we took our Jazzy to see how she would react. She very cautiously walked up to the water,and every time the water would lap up onto the edge, she'd back away like she had seen a ghost. Then she would creep back to river, curiosity getting the best of her, only to get scared by the next splash of water—water that smelled like fish and mud. Thirsty, her tastes ran more for the bottled water in the car than the stinky Mississippi River. Silly girl!

While walking the Riverfront, I saw a gentleman working outside a building. I wondered who he was. Then it dawned on me that any middle-aged person in this town was probably someone I went to school with. Oh yeah! I wasn't 18 anymore. I left the town at that age and still felt I was that age when I returned. These people who looked like my parents were really my classmates. Am I really that old? I'm actually OLDER than my mom was when I left Louisiana. I was tripping on this trip down memory lane!

The town itself looked cleaner and quainter than I remember seeing a few years ago. It was no longer MY town, but it looked like a place where I'd go antiquing. Would I find remnants of MY childhood in the antique shops?

Friday, June 15, 2007

When Did I Become Middle Aged?

Yesterday I noticed a boy running across the road. I laughed because he looked like he was running across hot coals. I first thought, "boys are so awkward at that age—and goofy too!" Then I looked down. He was barefoot! Asphalt on a 93 degree sunny day probably did feel a LOT like hot coals! I laughed again and said, "what a stupid kid, to go barefoot on such a hot surface."

Then came the groan. Almost like the V-8 commercial's bop on the forehead, I remembered my own childhood summertime barefoot antics. My soles became so calloused they developed almost a Teflon coating. I could walk barefoot on any surface. Of course, the rough shards of glass brought me crying back home for my mom to make all-better.

I loved that time in my life. Not a care in the world. It didn't matter how I looked. It only mattered that I embraced life with gusto.

Somewhere along the way,I changed. Now there are rules and regs to living life. To being just "so."

When did I hit middle-age and how can I bring back some of that summertime carefree living?

Maybe chasing fireflies at night and making glow-in-the-dark jewelry will be a start. Wish me luck!

Unfortunately, the next time I find my childhood again, I'll be in Depends and live in the imaginary world of senility. While I still have my mind, I pray I can embrace that childhood spirit once more!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Random Thoughts

I keep meaning to write, but life happens and I don't take time to jot it down. So, here are just a few random thoughts that I keep intending to post here on the blog.

• While at the writers conference, I was assigned a table for lunch and dinner. Since I was faculty, I was expected to sit at this table, and then people who want to bend my ear can choose to sit at the table (the students get to pick where they sit for meals, the faculty are assigned tables). Since so many folks misunderstand what we do at GRPR, it was funny, yet uncomfortable, to watch writers walk up to my table, read my sign, and then tell me they didn't need me and moved on to other tables. What they don't know is that the really DO need us! We start with the manuscripts and offer content edits and line edits, then write book proposals, help connect them with agents, do their publicity (television, radio, magazines, newspapers, internet, blog tours), and we even have a speakers bureau for novelists. So we have a lot of everything to offer, but others just don't know it. So, I would sit at my table, very lonely, feeling like the last girl to get picked for dodge ball teams or something. Usually, I would eat my entire meal before the last of the conferees came to sit at my table as the last open spots. Okay-it wasn't ALWAYS that bad-sometimes folks from my workshops or my one-on-one appointments would recognize me and come sit with me. But sometimes, it felt very much like getting picked LAST. I just need to network more during the general sessions and encourage people to come look me up at meal time.

• It's seems like a blast from the past to move here to Fulton, KY. People don't lock their cars here (some even leave their keys in the car). House doors aren't locked during daytime, but some do at night. We went to the local grocery story, and it was like going to the J & M market in my hometown of Louisiana, MO. It is owned by a family who actually works there. The store is set up like a grocery, not a supermarket. We kept waiting to be offered little tickets or stickers to save up to earn dishes or something. It is really like living 30 years behind the times here, in many ways.

• Speaking of memories, we were staying with Vickie and Casey, and with our biscuits they served Sugar Cane Syrup. It tasted sort of like Sorghum, but not as strong. Just very good flavor. Now I want to find some! Anyway, the taste reminded me of some tastes we had in my childhood. Mom-did we ever have Sugar Cane Syrup? This is really really good!

• We still have boxes surrounding us, but it is getting better. Russ and I are both working long hours, so the boxes have to come last on our priorities. We do just a few a day. Russ did a lot of work while I was away-scrubbing down the moldy basement walls with bleach water, and painting the basement floor. He also painted the office walls (changed from aqua with a tropical fish border, to a neutral cream). This isn't the home we were going to buy, but at least we are in a place of our own. And we will keep an eye out for a place to buy while we are renting. No hurry!