The Evil Panda
I knew when I woke up this morning that today was going to be one of *those* days.  It would be one of the days when I run through the day from activity to activity and never have a chance to take a breath.  When the alarm went off, I should have pulled the covers back over my head.  Oh, wait…I did do that, but I should have kept them there longer.  It wasn't a bad day; it was just busy.

This morning, I had to get up and out for a training meeting at my second job.  It was supposed to last an hour.  It lasted two.  Of course it did.  Mr. Everything and the Goose dropped me off there.  After an hour and fifteen minutes, they ended up coming in and using the company’s break room table to play cards.  It was a Scrabble card game.  (That can count as spelling for today, right?)  When the two hour training was over, we ended up standing at the front of the office chatting with my manager.  Mr. Everything is good at everything, including talking.  Trust me on that one.  The man can talk.  Meanwhile, the Goose entertained herself by walking in a figure ‘8’ around the Mr. and me.  (Come to think of it, can that count as math?)  I finally had to tell her to stop because I did not have my Dramamine this morning.  Later, I wished I had, because I could have worked while riding in the car.

Next, we rushed to the bank to withdraw money to buy a used Suburban that we have been considering for a while.  We had arranged that we would call the owner of the car and he would meet us at the empty lot where the car was sitting.  We grabbed lunch in the drive-thru and headed that way.  We were two hours behind where we had hoped to be, but all was still okay with the world.  We could make it.

We got to the location to meet the guy to buy the Suburban, and he was not there.  For some reason, that did not surprise me.  It always seems that on the rushing days, things never work as planned.  I’m pretty sure it’s a conspiracy against me.

After waiting fifteen minutes, the man showed up, and we bought the car.  That included the part where he counted out the money in plain sight while we were standing on the side of a road in an empty lot in the ‘hood.  The Goose and I acted as security.  She’s a black belt, and I’ve watched a lot of Tae Kwon Do.  Apparently, the nice gentlemen who walked by us could see that we had mad ninja skills, because they did not mess with us.  Bless their heart;, they could not even afford belts or pants that fit, so I would have thought they might try to take the money.  I was wrong.  They kept walking, thank goodness.

As Mr. Everything was chatting with the car guy, I nicely reminded him that I had a meeting for my first job in 5 minutes.  I hope the car guy took my expression as a smile instead of what I was really feeling at that point.  However he took it, he wrapped up the conversation quickly, and we were on our way.  At this point, we were driving two cars, and since the Beetle was home sick, I had to be the driver of the truck.  (One benefit of having a 15 year old is that you have a built-in chauffeur anytime you need one.)

The beauty of working from home is that I can work from anywhere.  My motto is, “Have laptop, will travel.”  Before we left the side of the road in the ‘hood, I turned on my laptop and dialed into work, and I was good to go.  Mr. Everything needed to stop at a house that he was working on in the same neighborhood, so I went with him.  My meeting was supposed to last an hour, so the plan was for me to sit in the house and attend my meeting.  Before we could get to the house, the meeting was starting, so, as I was driving, I had a cell phone on speakerphone and my laptop on the passenger’s seat.  I was following the Mr. and had no idea where he was leading me.  All I knew was that I was NOT going to lose him as he made various turns on narrow streets, so I stayed on the bumper of my new Suburban like glue.

When we got to the house, I stayed in the truck for my meeting, until my laptop’s battery died with no warning.  I rushed in, carrying my laptop with my cell phone hooked to it for internet and the Mr.’s cell phone with the call playing on speaker.  It was a good thing I was on ‘mute’ during the call.  I’m pretty sure I would have caused a disruption.

While I sat in a back bedroom and listened, Mr. Everything worked in a front room.  The Goose decided it smelled too badly in the house, so she went to play in the new Suburban.  The Mr. had warned her not to have the radio playing because the battery on the Suburban did not sound like it was very strong.  (You know where this story is going, right?)

My one hour phone call ended an hour and fifteen minutes later.  (Again, I’m pretty sure it’s a conspiracy.)  My next mission was to go to the DMV to get the new car tagged.  I was oh-so-excited about that, as I’m sure you can imagine.  I gathered the paperwork from Mr. E and made sure the Goose was in the car.  I got in the Suburban and turned the key.  Click, click.  *Sigh.*  The Mr. hooked jumper cables up to our truck and to the Suburban and told me to turn the key.  Click.  After twenty minutes of charging, turning and clicking, Mr. Everything decided he needed to go get a new battery.  I decided to stay at the house so I could at least get som
e work done. 

His simple trip to Wal-Mart turned into a 1 ½ hour trip.  By the time he got back and changed the battery, it was 4:30.  It was Friday afternoon, and I was on the wrong side of downtown.  The trip to the DMV would have to wait, and for that, I was thankful.  Since I had followed Mr. E on various roads in the ‘hood while paying attention to my meeting instead of to where I was going, I had no idea where I was or how to get home.  I found myself in a vehicle I had never driven, in a neighborhood I didn’t know, in rush hour traffic and with large numbers painted across the front windshield.  Needless to say, I was a little stressed out.  I warned the Goose that she should not talk to me or she would surely die.  Luckily, she was thrilled to sit in the very back seat of the new Suburban so I never heard from her.

As I drove home, there was a car in front of me driving painfully slow.  The man had a panda bear in his back window that taunted me for the full length of my trip.  The panda and I quickly developed a hate-hate relationship, and I was pretty sure I was going to have to ram the car out of my way just so that stupid bear would quit looking at me.  The bear was probably looking at the large numbers written across the windshield of my Suburban.

Meanwhile, every time I hit the brakes, the Suburban would bounce like something was wrong.  I called Mr. Everything, and he assured me that it was okay.  He said he knew the brakes needed to be replaced and that he would take care of it.  He, being Everything, would be able to fix it, I knew, so I did not worry.

I discovered on the trip home that the gas needle had stopped working.  It was just floating around oblivious to the fact that it was supposed to serve a purpose.  Since I stopped and put $100 of gas in the new car, I knew I had at least enough gas to make it home. (Let’s hope….)

The Goose and I ran home, changed clothes, grabbed a sandwich for dinner, patted the Beetle on the head and ran back out.  We had a play to go to.  It was a local production of the longest play in the history of the world.  The acting was fine, but the combination of uncomfortable seats and a really hectic and long day made it a difficult story to watch.

Finally, at 11:15 PM, we headed home.  The bouncing brakes continued.  The gas gauge continued to float around aimlessly.  As I drove down the final leg of my trip, the new addition of the gentle orange glow of the “Service Engine Soon” light helped to guide me home.  Yep, it was just another day in my life.     -Al

It had been standing there since April 14 as a painful reminder.  The burned out garage that used to house our business grew uglier and uglier as the months went by.  Sometimes, we would drive by it and sigh.  Other times, we would drive by it and laugh about the changing colors of the burned materials.  No matter what the mood, we always looked.  Every time we drove up the driveway, we looked.  We couldn’t help ourselves.  We had to look.

Today, however, it is gone.  It got torn down this afternoon.  Our constant reminder of a time of turmoil in our lives is gone.  Just like that, it’s gone.  I wonder how long it will take us to stop looking every time we drive by the place where the garage was.  When will grass start to grow there again?  How long will it take for wildflowers to bloom?  When will it happen that no one even thinks about the fire that happened that night?  It probably won’t take long. 

As I thought about the disappearance of the garage today, I realized that this is how life works.  Time heals everything.  It really does.  Something that is so painful eventually goes away, and before you realize it, the pain has disappeared and wildflowers and grass are growing in your heart in the place where the hurt was. 

At first, you think you might die from the pain.   Then, you continue to look back at the pain.  Sometimes, you can face it with a sense of humor.  Other times, you sigh sadly or even tear up.  Then, one day, you wake up and the source of pain has disappeared.  While you might remember it from time to time, it isn’t something you focus on.  Eventually, the wildflowers and grass cover the hurt.

Some of you are hurting right now.  I know it.  I know some of your hurts, but not all of them.  Just know that your hurt will pass.  Soon, you’ll forget, even if for a few minutes, to think about the hurt.  As the days go by, you focus less and less on the burned out garage in your soul.  Then, one day, you’ll drive past that place in your mind and realize the pain is gone, and before you know it, there will be grass and wildflowers where the pain once lived.  I wish you wildflowers soon, but for now, hang on and know that the day is coming.     -Al

Anyone who has ever flown has been through the safety procedures presentation at the beginning of a flight.  The attendant always says if you are traveling with someone who requires assistance, you should put the air mask on yourself first before assisting the small child or disabled or elderly person you are traveling with.  I used to always think that was mean.  It just seemed so selfish to me that I would take care of myself first.  I could not imagine saying, “You just sit there without air while I put this mask on myself.”

However, the longer I have been a wife and mother, the more I understand the reasoning behind the instructions.  In the case of the plane, if you are helping someone else first, you will run out of air before you can get your own mask on. If you pass out, who is going to help you, since you are traveling with someone who is helpless?  However, if you give yourself oxygen first, you can then help the person beside you, and you can do it more effectively than if you were gasping for air.

I have found that the same thing is true in life.  Motherhood and life in general just have a way of smothering you.  People always need something.  The kids need to be fed.  They need to know where their shoes are.  They need help with their homework.  They need to be taken to soccer practice.  They need help with a science project.  The phone rings, and it’s for you, of course.  The PTA needs you to volunteer.  The bake sale needs delicious, homemade baked goods.  The coach needs you to be the team mom.  Your husband needs his clothes picked up from the dry cleaners.  Your mother needs you to take her shopping.  Your sister needs you to keep her kids.  Your neighbor needs to borrow a cup of sugar.  Do you have a headache yet, or should I keep going?

The people around you are sucking the life out of you.  They are like little vampires, and they all want a piece of your soul.  As much as you love them and you want to take care of them, if you take care of them first, you are going to run out of life.  As women, we have to take a moment to take care of ourselves first so we can be of better service to others. 

We’ve been conditioned to think this is wrong.  We are supposed to happily serve everyone around us and have a merry countenance and a cheerful disposition.  We are never supposed to have a break down or a melt down or a sit down.  We are supposed to tirelessly serve others because we are Mom with a capital ‘M.’

I am hereby giving you permission to be selfish.  You can’t do it all the time, or you will become one of those mothers…you know the ones who walk around all dolled up with a brand new pedicure while their kids are bare foot and snot-nosed.  Don’t become them, but do take a small lesson from them.  It is okay to take care of you.  It is okay to say, “I will help you, but first I am going to….” (You fill in the blank.)  It is okay to have time just to remember who you were before you had kids and a husband.

Here are some simple ways you can take care of yourself first, so you can better serve those around you:

Read a book.  Remember those?  They are made of paper, and they have words and no pictures.  They can tell you a magical story and take you to a wonderful place away from your laundry room!  Even if you only allow yourself 15 minutes a day to read just for the fun of reading, this can serve as a great escape.

Get a pedicure.  I don’t mean letting your 5 year old paint your toenails.  I mean a real, live pedicure with real people serving you.  If you don’t have anyone to watch your kids, look around for another mother with a wild look in her eyes.  Offer to trade off, so she can go away for an hour and so can you.  (You might want to meet her kids before offering that.)

Call a friend.  When is the last time you talked to a friend?  Not texted or emailed.  Talked.  Call her.  You’ll be glad you did.

Write something.  I have found that writing this blog is extremely therapeutic. (Y’all may need therapy after reading my ramblings, but at least I feel better!)  Write a letter.  Write a story.  Write an article.  Just write.  If you write something good, let me know.  I’ll post it on my blog with you as my guest author!

Take a nap.  When the kids are napping, or if your kids are at school, allow yourself a 30 minute nap.  Now, you can’t do that everyday and you can’t sleep all day, or it quickly becomes depression.  However, an occasional power nap will do you good!

Take a bubble bath.  Light some candles, turn on soft music (or loud to drown out the sound of the kids) and take a bath.  Soak away your troubles…it does wonders for your soul.  If you combine that with reading a book, it will be sheer bliss!

There are many quick and easy things you can do to take care of you.  What might be relaxing to one person might be torture to another.  That’s the beauty of taking care of yourself; you know what you like!

If you need to, write “ME” on your calendar and block off a little time for yourself.  You and your loved ones will be glad you did.  There’s an old saying that, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”   There is much truth in that, so make sure you give yourself time to be happy.    -Al

The Christmas list looked so simple.  The Goose even typed it up for me.  She color coded it according to which catalog or website she found each item.  (I’m not kidding.)  I thought shopping for her would be so easy this year!  I was excited to sit down and get it done, since she even gave me websites.  Heck!  I didn’t even have to leave the house.  Bless that child’s heart.  She knew I needed it to be easy this year, so she found her gifts online for me.

Then, reality set in.

I started looking through her color-coordinated list tonight.  Number one on the list was an American Girl doll.  Not any American Girl doll, mind you, but a “My American Girl.”  That means the doll is supposed to look like the little girl.  Easy enough, right?  Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Why in the world would American Girl have a doll with blond short curly hair and a doll with blond straight long hair but no doll with long blond curly hair?  There’s a red head with long curly hair.  Apparently, red heads have longer hair than blonds.  Who knew?  Seriously.  Who thought this up.  “Hey!  I know!  Let’s create dolls to look just like little girls everywhere.  We’ll make little black ones and little white ones and little freckled ones and little tan ones.  Oh, but no need to make one with long curly blond hair.  No girls like that would want a doll!”  I’m pretty sure this is a conspiracy against me.

Then, the mother in me got smart.  So I thought.  I decided I would just buy the My American Girl doll with long straight blond hair, and I would buy the special American Girl curlers to go with it.  Then, I would curl the doll’s hair before Christmas, and all would be right with the world.  Right?  Sure.  If I want to take out a loan, or sell my first born child.  (The Goose would probably be okay with that.)  Did you know that doll curlers cost $50?  I’m not kidding.  That’s more than I’ve paid for a perm before!  I’m going to the dollar store and getting foam curlers.  The doll is going to have to learn to live life on a budget, along with the rest of us.  If she’s going to live in my house, she’ll have to deal.  As Mr. Everything says, we live by the coupons around here.

The Goose marked the other items she REAAAAALLLLLY wants on her list.  (Notice her dramatic emphasis on really.  I mean REAAAAALLLLLY.)  What else did I find there?  Hmmm….let’s see.  She wants the American Girl crutches and cast.  Price?  $30, and they are back-ordered until March.  I’m really not kidding.  (Does this look like the face of someone who thinks this is funny?)  There are enough insane parents in the world willing to spend $30 for doll crutches that they are sold out.  I’m thinking a toilet paper roll and some sticks are going to have to do the trick.

Since when do we pay more for a doll cast and crutches than we would pay for a deductible for a real cast?  The doll needs to check into Obamacare, because I ain’t payin’ for her injury.  That’s where I draw the line.

The other items on the Goose’s list:

A flute set for $30.  We only spent $75 on the Goose’s real flute, and she can use it to torture her brother with noise for hours.  The AG version doesn’t even make noise.

A soccer outfit for $34.  That’s more than we paid for either child’s uniform for softball and baseball.

Pretty party outfit for $28.  Do you know the last time I spent $28 on a dress for myself?  Me neither.

A dreamy daybed for $95.  Really?

Bedding to go with the daybed for $34.  Doll-baby needs to meet Goodwill.  Just sayin’.

A healthy smile set for $14.  I might want to get that one.  Can you imagine how much the filling for the doll’s cavity would cost?

The Goose may end up with a naked doll with short, black hair this year.  So much for easy.     -Al

Galatians 6:9 says, “So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up.”  I used to read that verse and think, “How could I ever get tired of doing good?  I love helping others and changing the world!”  Notice, I said, “Used to.”

There are some of you who are reading this and thinking the same thing.  How could you ever get tired of doing good?  Why would you want to do anything but good?  To you I say, “Bless your little heart.  Just you wait.”

I was young once.  I mean, I’m not old now, but I’m certainly not young.  I’ve got the gray hairs and wrinkles to prove it.  (I also have a teen and a tween reminding me constantly that I’m old.  I’m beginning to believe them.)  I used to love doing for others.  I baked cakes.  I wrote cards.  I visited people in the hospital.  I threw baby showers for them.  I kept their children.  I arranged play days and moms’ teas and Easter egg hunts.  I did all that, and I did it with joy.  Then, life happened. 

Now, I’m doing good just to take care of my own.  I don’t have time to bake a cake.  (Isn’t that what God gave us Publix for?)  I wrote a few cards to people about three months ago, and it took me a month to actually get them in the mail.  I barely make it to the baby showers now; forget planning them!  My children are lucky to get an Easter basket, and I certainly can’t manage to plan a hunt for anyone else.

What happened?  Well, honestly, I wonder that myself.  Life seemed to just speed up and take over.  What I do know is that it is much harder to do good now.  I just don’t have the time, and I’m tired.  Really tired.  Like, if I sit still, I fall into a coma, tired.  Now I get it.  I know why we are warned not to grow weary.  It is easy to do so, especially during times of struggle and times of busyness.

There are seasons of life, and we are all in different seasons.  I believe that some seasons are meant for you to do good and other seasons are meant for you to reap the benefits of the good you did.  What do I mean by that?  Well, I’ll try to explain.

As I told you, when I was a younger mother, I baked cakes, cooked meals and helped others in various ways.  I visited, I prayed, I wrote and I served.  I did not grow weary in doing good.  In fact, I thrived on doing good, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

As things in life changed, I grew tired and weary; not necessarily weary of doing good…just weary.  There were circumstances in my life that did not allow me to bake and cook and help and serve.  I still really wanted to, but there just wasn’t time or money for that.  We had several years of one disaster after another.  (Not horrible disasters.  Many people have it much worse than we do.  However, life got difficult.)  Instead of me helping others, people began to help and serve me.  It was very humbling.  When I would say to people that I was humbled (and embarrassed) by their help, over and over, people would say, “You deserve it.”  I did not feel that I did, and I still don’t know that “deserve” is the right word.  I deserve nothing (and neither do you).  We are all blessed by God.

Several times, as people were helping me, they would say, “Remember when you helped me clean my house?”  “Remember when you brought that meal to me after my surgery?” “Remember when you hosted that baby shower for my daughter?”  Honestly, I did not remember most of the things people told me.  I wasn’t keeping score.  I never expected “pay back,” so I did not remember what I did.  The verse says, “At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up.”  I believe, in one way, I have reaped a harvest of blessing because of the good I did. 

I am not saying this to glorify myself.  I am not great, and there are many, many people who have done much more than I could ever dream of.  I am saying that to tell you this:  As much as you are able to do good, do it.  If you have time, use it to do good.  If you have money, use it to help others.  There will be a time in your life when you are not able and you do not have time or money.  Chances are, whether you do good now or not, someone will take care of you.  They will do good, even if you never did.  However, why not “bank” some good now?  That’s better than any retirement plan you can invest in!  By doing good for others, you are planting seeds that you may one day need to harvest.  You may need others to take care of you, do for you and bless you.  Why not take care of others, do for others and bless others now?

The bigger picture of this verse is heaven.  If we do not get tired of doing good now, think of our reward in heaven!  I want to be there, and I want to hear God say, “Well done.  Alison.” (He probably won’t call me “Al.”)  I want to hear Him say, “You did well with what I gave you.”  Don’t you want to hear Him say that too?  Don’t give up now!  If you are struggling, yours is just a little struggle in the grand scheme of things.  Keep on doing good, and your reward will be great!

If you are in a season of life where you have no good to give, receive the good that others are blessing you with.  Thank them and praise God!  Make sure you aren’t sitting around feeling sorry for yourself.  A pity party is a party of one, and that’s no fun!  Do not grow weary of doing good.  As soon as you are able, get to work doing good!  Even if it is something small, it will make you feel better.  I promise, and better yet, God promises.            -Al

Recently, a friend of mine went to the gas station and found an envelope taped to the pump.  Inside was a $20 bill with a note explaining that the giver wanted to do 30 random acts for her 30th birthday.  How awesome is that?

In a world where it’s “all about me,” it is refreshing to see someone thinking about others, especially for her own birthday!  I’m about to hit the big 4-0 in December, and I want to follow this person’s lead.  The best part of random acts is that the generosity spreads through others.  I plan to do 40 random acts to celebrate my big day.  I can’t decide whether to try to do 40 acts of kindness on the actual day, within the week or within the month.  Since it will be Christmas season, I already will be so busy I can’t see straight.  I’ll probably be lucky to get them done in a month!

I’ve had a hard time thinking of random acts to do.  I can’t afford to leave $20 bills all over town.  I’m not made of money, you know. (This is what I tell my kids all the time, but they aren’t listening.)  I need random acts that will not cost money or at least not much money.  Anyone have any suggestions?  Throw them at me!  I’m anxious to hear what you come up with.    -Al

I am tremendously blessed and thankful for so many things.  I have a good life, and I love everything (well, almost everything) about it.  It occurred to me that there is a list of things that the average person is thankful for.  After weeks of Facebook lists, you have seen this list repeated over and over by your average friends.  I thought I would give you my non-average list of things to appreciate.  These are some random thoughts I had of things I am thankful for:

I am thankful that I can’t read the minds of others.  Think about all that noise!  With as much as people talk, can you imagine what’s going on in their brains?  Frankly, people drive me crazy most of the time.  The last thing I want is to hear them thinking too.

On the flip side, I am thankful that other people can’t read my mind.  Many times, I am not thinking nice things.  There are times I am stabbing my eyeball out with a pencil when someone is talking to me.  Other times, I am making my grocery list.  I would really have to behave myself if people could tell what was going on in my head.

I am thankful for turtles.  They bring me joy.  I don’t know why, but they do.

I am thankful for bras.  That’s a weird thing to be thankful for, but if I didn’t have to wear a bra, I would never know the relief of releasing the hooks at the end of the day.  Besides that, there are some women out there who really need to wear them in the interest of public safety.  (You know who you are, so I won’t name names.)

I am thankful for mystery shopping.  If I hadn’t been brave enough to answer an ad almost 20 years ago, I would have never tasted the food at the nicest steak house in Tampa (since I would never go there if I had to pay for it!).  I’m pretty sure my life would not be complete without a coffee crusted filet mignon.  And the bread…don’t get me started on the bread. (Maybe I shouldn’t blog when I’m hungry.)

I am thankful for floss.  (Not the underwear variety – no woman is thankful for that.)  I can’t stand the feeling of food stuck between my teeth, and I’m glad someone thought of the idea of string to get it out.

I am thankful my dog can’t talk.  He is by my side all the time.  If he talked, I would never get a moment’s peace.

I am thankful for my sense of humor.  Some people seem like they don’t have one.  I can’t imagine living life so seriously.  If I couldn’t laugh at my mess ups, I would go crazy.  My life is full of mess ups.

I am thankful for comfortable socks.  Those of you who have sensory issues probably understand this totally.  The rest of you just think I’m just weird.  The truth is, I have socks that I refer to as, “the angry socks.”  They stay in my drawer most of the time, but when I wear them, they make me angry.  Why do I still have them?  On days when the laundry has not been done, they are my spare pair.  However, every time I wear them, I am angry for the day.  They just don’t feel right, and they make me mad.

I am thankful for fat.  I know, I know.  You find that hard to believe, but it’s true.  While I would like to get rid of some of this fat, it does have its benefits.  Fat fills in wrinkles.  If I lost weight, my face would probably look like an elephant's butt!

So on that note, I will go prepare food for tomorrow so I can add to my wrinkle-reducer.  I hope you all have a very merry Thanksgiving and a joyous Black Friday!   -Al

Many of my friends have spent the last 19 days of November posting on Facebook things they were thankful for.  I think this is great.  I tried it last year, and it quickly became a source of guilt, like so many other things in my life!  (That's also why I can't scrapbook....too much guilt when I don't get it done.)  I couldn't keep up with a daily list.  It wasn't that I wasn't thankful everyday.  It was that I didn't have time to post, or I was living my life instead of living on Facebook.  I've noticed a trend this year of people saying things like, "I'm 2 days behind, but I'm thankful for..."  To that, I say, "Good for you!"  Great job of giving yourself a break and not stressing out if you didn't keep the self imposed "rules" of thankfulness posting.

Today, I want to give some things that I am thankful for.  Of course I'm thankful for the "normal" things....my family (well, they aren't really normal, but you know what I mean), my health, my house, my car, chocolate, deodorant, etc., etc., etc.  There are other things that I am thankful for that I would probably never put on that list of blessings.  I started thinking about this yesterday after I heard a sermon about being thankful for your circumstances.  No matter what you are going through, be thankful for it, because you never know where it is leading you.  We've had MANY circumstances to choose from in the last several years.  (God must really trust us.)  Here are some that were blessings in disguise:

- I am thankful that we had to leave our house.  At the end of 2007, we could no longer afford our house, so we made the very hard decision to give it back to the bank. (Well, we tried.  It's 5 years later, and the house is still in our name.  Different story.)  At the time, it was heart breaking, and I mourned my house for a long time.  (I still can't go in the Goose's nursery without tearing up.)  This was the first home we lived in as a family, and it was a house we intended to stay in until we died.  Having said that, I can now say I am thankful for being forced to leave it because it made us free.  We are not tied to a physical dwelling, and we can go where ever we are led.  It awakened a "gypsy" spirit in me, and I am ready to go whenever I am told to.

- I am thankful for an ugggg-ly  falling out I had with someone who was close to us.  (Did I mention it was ugly?)  I could probably safely mention her name here, because I'm pretty sure she would never read anything I had to say.  She still doesn't speak to me, and I'm confident that she would not want to read my writings either.  It was not pleasant, and it was not something I would want to repeat.  It did, however, cause me to toughen up and stop wearing my feelings on my sleeve. (Well, they are still there, but I just pad them a little better.)  That was the first real falling out I had ever had with anyone, and it prepared me for worse things to come.  I have fought some battles since then that I could have never survived if I had not been put through that first.

- I am thankful that our pottery business closed down.  Especially now, at Christmas, the most unpleasant retail time of the year, I can say that I am so happy not to own a store!  At the time we closed, it was heart breaking because we had worked so hard to get the business going.  However, I have not spent one minute missing it, and I am thankful that we are not stressing out and worrying about our declining sales.  I miss some of my customers, but I am very thankful not to be dealing with some others.

- I am thankful that we have no stocks and bonds.  We have no investments, and we have no savings.  We have absolutely nothing to lose, so there are no worries!  Oh, the stock market plummeted today?  Sorry for your luck.  Come join my club.

- I am thankful for our second pottery business burning down this year.  That's a weird thing to be thankful for, but it's true.  I'm still not completely sure what the purpose of that was, but I do know there was a purpose.  I can already see some good things coming from it, and I know more will come.

No matter what your circumstances are right now, stop and give thanks.  You really never know how God will use your circumstances in life.  It always amazes me to see how things come out in the end.  His plan is much better than ours could ever be.  A favorite verse of mine is Jeremiah 29:11.  "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"

Many times when I am talking to someone who is hurting,  I tell them that a year from now, this will all be a memory.  That thought is actually how I have dealt with a lot of hurts in my life.  It's so cliché, but time really does heal.  When I am panicked and wondering how I am going to survive the next hour, I try to step back and remember that this too shall pass.  My dear friend, A* (names changed to protect the innocent), says that her favorite words in the Bible are, "And it came to pass....."  I hope your circumstances come to pass soon.  Philippians 4:11-13  "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength."   

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.  Remember to stop and count your blessings!

My husband, Mr. Everything, is a smart cookie.  Really, he is.  Though his grades in school did not reflect it, he has an incredible memory.  He also is incredibly sensible and methodical.  That’s why I call him “Mr. Everything.”  He can fix anything, and he usually knows everything (and when he doesn't, he's pretty good at faking it).  He is amazingly talented and smart and funny and kind and wonderful.  That’s why he is Everything.  We complement each other so well.  He’s logicial and organized, and I’m, well….artsy.

So, here is what I am asking myself.  When Mr. Everything tells me to back up my files on the computer, why don’t I listen?  (Insert image of me kicking myself in the butt here.  Yeah, like I could be flexible enough to do that.)  I had files, beautiful files, including many articles for you, my friends, to read and relish. (Okay.  Maybe not relish, but you could read them anyway!)  Where were they?  On my thumb drive.  Where are they now?  Still on my thumb drive that is no longer working.  *Sigh.*  Why didn’t I listen.  (Another kick.)

Here’s what you need to do.  Think of the best blog article you can come up with.  Right now.  Do it.  I’ll wait.  Type it in your brain.  I’m waiting…  Does it look good?  Check the they’re, their and there’s.  I will not tolerate incorrect usage.  I am an editor, you know.  Is the article finished?  Good.  Give me credit for it.  See, I’m a good writer, right?  I wrote just what you wanted to hear.  Yay me!  Maybe tomorrow I can com up with something equally as fabulous!        -Al

Lately, I have felt like I am running a rat race, and sadly, I don’t know where the cheese is.  I wake up in the morning and start working.  I am busy until the moment my head hits the pillow.  I don’t have time to smile.  I don’t have time to rest.  Laundry?  Talk to me next week.  Does anyone else feel this way?

How did this happen to me, this never-ending rat race?  How did I get here?  I’ve never considered myself a workaholic or a type-A personality, but if you were to watch my actions, you would probably think I was.  It’s sad, really, that I am letting my activities and work rule my life instead of me ruling them.

Lately, I’ve been looking for ways to slow down and make my work work for me.  I work from home, for goodness sake!  The point of that is so I can be with my children.  Really, I’m never WITH my children.  I’m sort of near them while working.  Sometimes, I even answer them when they speak to me.

When I searched for ways to organize my day, the first thing I saw was a statement that basically said, “Your actions define you.  How you spend your time is who you are.”  Gulp.  It’s not looking good for me.

Then, what followed that statement was a list of things to do.  Some items were:

1. Set long term goals.  (Does my goal of going back to bed count as long term?  Or shall I aim for the future by planning to sit down and watch 20 minutes of TV a week from Thursday?)

2. Determine my priorities.  (I know what my priorities are.  Unfortunately, feeding my children is one of them; thus, the work.)

3. Think ahead. (Well, duh.)

4. Postpone minor tasks.  (I’ve got that one covered.  If you want proof, look under my sofa.)

And the list went on from there.  This led me to determine a way I could save time...don’t read articles about how to save time.  (Which reminds me, why do people BUY books on how to save money???)

So for now, I’m going to just try to schedule my work time.  I’ve considered getting up at 3:00 in the morning to work so that I could have my day with my family.  Then, I realized that they really would not want to be around me, Mama Bear, if I did that.  I’m going to set an amount of time that I will devote to work each day.  When I hit that time limit, I will turn off my computer and walk away.  My job is one where the work just keeps coming and coming and coming.  If I leave it, I can assure you that it will be there the next day, and it will have friends.  I just have to remember that I can only do what I can do.  The rest will have to wait.  The kids’ activities are calming down right now for the holiday season.  Now, if only my work schedule would calm down!  Until it does, I’ll have to figure out how to calm it myself.    -Al