Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cutting Back

I'm always looking for ways to cut back on how much money we spend for the household. As I am the one that goes grocery shopping and picks up almost everything needed for the running of the house, I feel a responsibility to cut back wherever I can and to use whatever we have so that there is very little to no waste. One area that I have been resistant to cutting corners with is my hair. I love my hair. It is probably the one area that I have indulged and primped and protected more than most other parts of me.  I have faithfully gotten my hair colored every five weeks for years. I started coloring it when I saw the first gray hair (I honestly don't remember how long ago that was) and as those have just continued to multiply, I have continued getting my hair colored. In fact, Nate has never seen me with my natural color of hair. I did shop around and found the best beautician at the cheapest cost and I went to her for several years. Then a friend of mine suggested someone that is a trained cosmetologist but just works on the side out of her home. I went to her a few times and paid 50% of what I had been paying at the salon. That went well too, but it also made me want to see how far I could go in cutting back in this area and still get a good haircut and color. So, I bit the bullet and yesterday went almost as far as I could go. I started researching the best home hair coloring kits out there. Good Housekeeping has a ranking of them, so I made a list of the best ones. I bravely went to Meijer and looked at each of them. As my hair color is red, and my natural color is dark brown, it is difficult to decide on the right shade. I didn't want to go too red, but I also didn't want it to be too dark. So, I chose Auburn Brown. I thought that would give the hint of red I was looking for....hopefully. The best one for red hair, according to Good Housekeeping, was also the cheapest hair color at Meijer!  It was $3.48. Holy Cow!  That's quite a mark up at the salons and even at my friend's house! $3.48? Really?  So, I triumphantly bought it gaining more and more confidence that this would be an amazing way to save money each month. I then went to Great Clips and got a trim. The hair cut plus tip cost me $16.00. I'm not stupid enough to even begin to believe that I can cut my hair. I learned that I couldn't cut my hair back in 1987 when I cut my younger brother's hair thinking, "how hard can it be?" He didn't want to leave the house for weeks. It was awful. I felt horrible about it and yet even more horrible was the fact that I was grateful that I didn't try it out on myself first! That means, if this works, I can get my hair cut and colored for less than $20. That is 1/5 of what I paid in the salon! So last night, with Nate watching the furry children, I colored my hair. I followed the directions very carefully. The directions clearly said to not be concerned about the color of the dye because my hair wouldn't be the same color. I took them at their word because the dye was purple. When I finished, I washed my hair very thoroughly and when I looked in the mirror, it seemed rather dark...definitely colored, but dark.... So, I dried it to see if maybe it would lighten up. And to my chagrin, I have successfully turned my hair purple. That's right, the same color as the dye in the bottle. I think it's supposed to be red, but the brown is so dark that the red looks purple. The other small bit of concern is that after I thoroughly washed my hair, while towel drying it, the towel had red/purple streaks on it. I assumed that it would only be that time. Then, this morning, when I just wet my hair to style it, the sink had reddish/purple water splotches in it and my new towel had reddish purple streaks all over it after toweling it dry again. So, I may not have to worry too much about my hair being purple, it'll probably all wash out by tomorrow!  One can only hope!  Now, an intelligent person in this position, would probably swear off of home coloring, crawl sheepishly back to the salon and beg forgiveness. I'm not to that point yet. I've decided that I need to go a little lighter in my color selection and I'm going to try again. I will certainly keep you updated on the results! I am determined to keep up my effort to cut back in this area.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Desire vs. Doing

"For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do - this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight to do God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. How wretched I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Romans 7:18b-25a

I started working part time on July 1st. I envisioned the amazing time of productivity I would have each afternoon, getting all the chores done and having a hot meal on the table by the time Nate walked through the door....envision June Cleaver, and that's close to what I was planning.  Instead, I have struggled with developing any sort of routine. Although, I have developed the habit of "deserving" a snack when I get home and watching all sorts of TV. And this is the habit that I need to break, immediately. The sermon series at church this month has been entitled "Losing our 'buts' - getting rid of the excuses we use in life." There was a great sermon a couple of weeks ago as part of the series on habits called "But I just can't stop." Taking what I learned from that sermon, I know I need to replace the bad habit I have developed with something good. That shouldn't be hard to do. It's not like there isn't plenty to do around the house. With two furry children that shed on a fairly continual basis, I could vacuum and sweep and mop everyday and still never catch up. There are always errands to run, laundry to do, and who can forget that I'm supposed to be practicing the training we are learning in class with Lucy!  So, there is lots to replace it with, but I honestly need something that is going to be as satisfying as eating a snack and as relaxing and rejuvenating as vegetating. And there's the rub. I need to understand/figure out what I am using the snack to satisfy. Am I truly hungry? If so, then why won't grapes or an apple suffice? Why do I always reach for the high calorie snack that has the caloric intake of a meal? I know there is something more to it than just being hungry. I mentioned in a previous post how I have been convicted lately about my prayer life, or lack there of, and although I'm doing better at it, I could devote that period of time to prayer and praise. I love playing the piano and singing, and yet do it rarely. But I believe that is the replacement. Playing the piano and singing fills my thirsty soul and I believe that is what I am trying to do with food right now. So, I make a commitment to you, dear reader, that starting today, July 30, 2011, I will take time each day to play the piano and sing instead of turning to food. I will take the time to be in prayer instead of watching tv mindlessly. And as I continue to practice replacing the bad habits with the good, I will be improving my attitude, improving my outlook, and hopefully start to live out more effectively and productively, according to 2 Peter 1:8.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Progress



I wouldn't have been able to tell you a few months ago that we would ever reach this point. When we brought Lucy home on March 12th, it was as if Buddy's world had fallen apart....and I guess, to him, it probably had. He ignored all of us for at least a month...well, he ignored Nate and I...he ran, hissed, and clawed at Lucy. He lost weight to the point that we took him to the vet to find out if there was something wrong. Nate, being the eternal optimist (ha,ha) was convinced that he had cancer. I, being more of a realist, said he's eating less calories than he's using now that Lucy is chasing him all around. Guess who was right?  If you guessed me, you would be right! Over time, Buddy has finally forgiven Nate and I for turning his world upside down...or at least we hope! Today, when I brought Lucy in from her walk and she jumped on the chair to be next to Buddy, and Buddy didn't seem too bothered by it, I thought I better take a picture to remember this moment. Of course, in the time it has taken for me to write this, Lucy started wagging her tail, which was then touching Buddy's tail, and our peaceful moment ended.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bulk Up!

It's only been as an adult that I've suffered from allergies. After growing up on a farm with two dogs, 17 cats (please know that they all lived in the barn), 2 horses, 3 cows, 2 sheep, a bunch of ducks, pigs, and one turkey, you'd think they would have flared up then! But no, it was after getting Lucy and her falling asleep curled up next to me that I began to sneeze constantly. Nate also suffers with them, so we are both taking OTC allergy meds. I went yesterday to get more and saw that the store brand bottle with 30 pills in it was 20% off, which would have made it $12.00 per bottle. The store brand bottle with 45 pills was $24.00. So, I figured I'd get 2 of the 30 pill bottles and pay about the same as the 45 pill bottle. Thankfully, I didn't just pick them up and go, which is my tendency. I continued to look at all the options in front of me and my gaze went to a much larger bottle. One for 300 pills. It was $34.00. Excuse me?  I may not be a math whiz but you're going to charge $24 for 45 pills but I can get 300 pills for $34???  For 30 pills, I'd pay $12.00 which is....hold on....let me get out the calculator.... 40 cents per pill. The 45 pill bottle is 53 cents per pill and the 300 pill bottle, which will last Nate and I 150 days is 11.3 cents per pill. I thought there was some catch...like I'd find out that the 300 count was actually weaker and you needed to take 4 pills a day to equal one of the other pills. But everything was the same. And then I thought about how in the 4 months I've been buying allergy medicine, this was the first time I had noticed this and how I had just gone in, grabbed what appeared to be the best priced option, which for me, had been the 45 pill bottle. What a racket! I couldn't believe it! Is everything this way? Do I need to buy a much larger house? Another refrigerator, and a deep freeze so that I can go to Sam's Club each week and buy the bulk sized of everything? Do you now envision me on an upcoming episode of Hoarders???

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dealing with Difficulties

I tend to dwell on difficult things. Some people might use the word obsess but I prefer "dwell" as it doesn't seem as bad or in need of professional help. Right now I am dealing with a broken friendship. Although it may be best that it remain broken, I can't help thinking of the "what ifs." And I tend to dwell on those. So, today, after a day of dwelling (bordering on obsessing) I was feeling rather "bleh." Unfortunately, my "go to" when feeling blah is food. Who am I kidding?  My "go to" for most emotions is food. So, when I got home from work I headed for the pantry and made popcorn with real butter (of course, why not go for the gusto?), sprinkled with a little salt and then to add insult to injury, a beautiful dusting of powdered sugar. After two large bowls of that. I felt worse. What's always a great combination is to add a guilty conscience to an already low emotional state. As I began to fall asleep in this food induced stupor something within me snapped and out loud I said, "No, you're NOT going to do this" and I got up and headed to the garden. I love working in my flower gardens. I love loosening and aerating the dirt. There is something so soothing about it. I went and loosened the earth, pulled the weeds, popped the dead heads off the daisies and I felt so much better. As we haven't had much rain this summer, I then watered the plants and it just felt like everything was coming back into alignment and I felt more at peace than I have in the last several days. As Martha Stewart would say, "it was a good thing." So hopefully, in the future, I'll be able to skip that first step of damaging behavior and move right into one that actually works!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Leisurey Loose Leash Dog Walk - NOT!

Loose leash walking is NOT easy! I am to walk with my "Biscuit Buddy" (the clip-on pouch that holds all the treats) attached to my waist, have the leash in the hand opposite of Lucy and a treat in the hand next to Lucy. Then I am to walk at a very brisk pace with Lucy by my side. (honestly, think of how the dog walkers at the dog shows walk their dogs at that brisk pace for that short amount of time....yeah, that's what I'm supposed to look like) . The problem is, Lucy pulls. So, according to the instructor, the second Lucy begins to pull, I'm to stop. She is under no circumstance to be allowed to get whatever she's pulling toward. And, when she pulls, I'm not to call her, say "come" or pull her back into position. I'm to do nothing to entice her to come back and let the leash go slack. I'm to wait.  This morning I took her for a walk. We got to the end of the block. Our house is the 4th one on the street. It's not that far. It might take a minute or two to walk it normally.  This morning, it took Lucy and I 20 minutes just to walk to one end. No that's not the time for a round trip walk. That was one way. We stopped about 15 times along this very short walk. Every time I gave the command, "Let's go!" She took off like a bolt of lightening. So, before I took a 1/2 step, she was already pulling. What's really amazing is that we actually made it to the end of the block. By the end of our porch I was ready to call it quits! On the way back she did much better...or was that me just deciding to keep up with her?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lessons Learned from the Blue Angels

We went to see the Blue Angels with some friends. Neither one of us, as couples, had ever been to see the Blue Angels so we had made a lot of assumptions. I learned a few lessons from them that I will pass on for your future Blue Angels viewing.

1.  Read all the rules before planning or going. I know they are boring. I know when you see a list of 552 rules, you think, "yeah, yeah....these won't apply to me." You see, that's what I do. I read the main page, it sounds like fun and I go with it. Thank the Lord for my friend, Lori!  She's the reader of the group!  She sent me a message on Friday night (by the way, I received the message after Nate brought the cooler up from the basement, and after buying two large bags of ice to go in the cooler). Her message said that coolers weren't allowed. As Nate and I continue our quest for healthy eating, we had decided to take our own food.....in a cooler, of course! When I got her message, it made me think that maybe a few of those rules did apply to me and maybe, just maybe, I'd benefit from reading them. So I did. I now have two large bags of ice in my freezer that I need to find a use for, as "loose ice" was not allowed. So, as a quick improvisation,  I ended up freezing our water bottles and using them to keep our sandwiches cool.

2. "Gates open at 9:00. The Show begins at 11:40."  I read that and believed that I would see the Blue Angels beginning at 11:40. I thought, well this will be a nice late morning/early afternoon outing. We can see some of the show and leave when we are ready. Instead, we sat out in the sunny/extremely overcast weather (Michigan can never decide what weather it wants to have so it tries to offer a lot of variety in a single day) for several hours watching planes fly around. They just kept flying around in circles. At one point (oh, I don't know...probably around 2:00), I said to Lori, how long do you guys want to stay?  She replied, "well, I would like to see the Blue Angels!"  See? That's how clueless I was about this! I thought we had been seeing the Blue Angels since 11:40! They finally announced The Blue Angels and the intro music began around 3 and their show began about 15 minutes later (or so Nate says...it seemed like an eternity longer than that to me). So, if all you want to see is the Blue Angels show, show up at 3:00. By the time you get there, the people that have been there since 9 are hot and tired and they are leaving already.  So, you'll be able to find a parking spot and not have to wait so long! The good thing was that we hadn't seen these friends in a long while so we had many hours to chat and catch up!

3. I would make an excellent UFO photographer! The explanation lies in the results:
I took so many photos of just gray sky.  I thought I'd only have you suffer through one of them.
This would be one of the many UFO sightings I photographed.
This is also a nice one.... Blurry, cut off planes....I have several of these.
This one shows improvement! I actually got 4 of the planes at once, although it's still blurry.
Probably the best one I took. Fairly clear (although it appears that they are really far away).

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Flank Steak

I'm anal about cooking and grocery shopping. I make a menu for the week of what meals we are going to have and then I make my grocery list from that. I think it makes perfect sense because I'm able to make sure we have all the ingredients and, if you don't already know, I'm a bit of a planner. I like routine, I like a schedule. I feel stable and secure when I'm living according to a plan. So, this week I thought I'd change it up a little.... I mean, you gotta live on the edge, don't you? So instead of our typical grilled chicken, I found a recipe for marinated flank steak that sounded good. Armed with my list I went to the store. Meijer has a large beef section and I went in search of my flank steak. I couldn't find it anywhere. I found steaks from the "top round" and "bottom round" (not quite sure what the round is). I found shoulder & chuck roasts, sirloins & ribs..but no flank. I even looked it up on my phone, thinking they'd give me some alternative names for flank steak. Wikipedia gave me this very nice picture of a cow that highlighted where the flank is:

.....uh, that's great....not really helpful with what I was looking for, but quite informative...I now know where the "round" is located! I found a description of what the steak should look like, so that's what I went with....long and thin... I don't even remember what I ended up with but the only long thin steak was in a family pack, so I hope it's good because our freezer is stocked!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Clumsiness

Have I always been clumsy? I'm not sure. I don't think so...I can't recall multiple times of me dropping things, forgetting things, misjudging things...but I certainly can list off the times I do that now! Yesterday, for example, I was walking upstairs with my glass of water (I have to have water on my bedside table when I go to sleep. It truly is a Murphy's Law type of thing because if it's there, I don't wake up and don't need a drink. If it's not there, I wake up in the middle of the night parched and have to come downstairs to get a drink of water. I've just learned, sleep with a cup of water nearby and I'll sleep fine!). My sandal caught on the top of one of the stairs and the glass tipped as I tripped and water was running down the step. I came downstairs, refilled the water with our great Brita filter system, but when I put the water back into the fridge, I left the spout in the "open" position, so water continued to pour out. I caught it right away and cleaned that up with the towel that I had pulled out to clean up the step, and then went and cleaned up the step with the now already wet towel; only to go into the bedroom, take a sip of the water and proceed to pour it down my front instead. By the time I got to bed the cup was only 1/4 full and I was so frustrated that the only thing I could do at that point is go to bed. Nate shared with me that he had been thinking about it ("it" being my clumsiness) and had decided that if I would be more like him, and do things more deliberately I'd be less clumsy. Uh....yeah..... sure, Honey....I'll start working on that right away...

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Arch-Nemesis


Doesn't look like much...and I will admit, I'm the one that brought it into our home.  But, in my defense, I didn't know everything that this beast would do to our lives. First of all, the painted parts of the chicken rubs off on anything it hits. So if you throw it to play fetch, which is what Lucy wants to do most of all, it leaves traces of paint wherever it hits. And just so you know, the Magic Eraser, is not so magical when it comes to getting this paint off the walls. It will happily take the real paint off...just not the chicken paint. And yes, I did see the marks the chicken was making and foolishly said, "That's not a big deal! We have the Magic Eraser."  I think our new "magical eraser" is going to be named Benjamin Moore!






Secondly, although I did hear the horrific noise that this monstrosity makes when I stood there in Meijer contemplating purchasing it, I truly had no earthly idea the number of times that Lucy would make the horrific noise in just a few seconds.

video







And although we have this perfectly acceptable toy:





and this perfectly acceptable, albeit, gross toy (it's a beef trachea),




she wants the chicken. Even when we put the chicken far away, she whines and whimpers until, yes, I admit it, I give in. So, I am the maker of my own misery. And I am declaring to all that the chicken is going down!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Superhuman Abilities

I don't mean to brag, but I do have superhuman abilities. The unfortunate thing is that my superhuman abilities aren't superhero abilities. I can't lift gigantic amounts of weight..I'm pretty puny in the upper body strength area. I can't run with amazing speed. I've run two 5K's and in neither was I the winner by a mile... (or a K, as the case may be!) No, my superhuman abilities are ones that annoy the crap out of my husband. According to Nate, I have superhuman hearing. If the car starts to make a strange noise, I'm the one that hears it first...but not just first.... I'm the only person that hears it. Right now is one of those times. There is a noise coming from the back of the car.... as it is only when we are moving, I'm assuming that it is coming from one of the wheels. And I have diagnosed it to be a wheel bearing. We have taken the car to two shops...neither has found the need for a new bearing. In fact, one of them rotated our tires to help stop the noise, and yet I still insist that there is a weird noise and that we need a new bearing. As my dear husband has taken it in to be checked on two separate occasions, you can imagine how he feels when I mention that I can still hear the noise. He has told me that our car is aging and that it may develop some new noises as it ages and that I should just get used to the new noises. So, as I was driving home from work today and still heard the noise I sighed and decided that the mechanics must know what they are talking about. So, I wish I didn't have this ability because I'm not able to relax and enjoy driving. The other superhuman ability I wish I didn't have is superhuman smelling abilities. I can smell almost everything. How this annoys my husband, as the hearing one does as well, is that I'll say, "Do you smell that?" or "What's that noise?" and he rolls his eyes and looks at me like he wishes I'd stop forgetting that I have these amazing abilities that he doesn't possess. I've decided he's jealous....that must be it..... With the superhuman smelling abilities, there is one minor flaw. It is very closely connected with an amazing gag reflex. I smell something revolting, I gag. If the smell continues to invade my olfactory nerves, I throw up. This was very inconvenient when my family lived in Haiti. My family spent several years in Haiti and I must say, thankfully, that I haven't smelled horrific odors of that intensity ever since. I would have to take one of my dad's handkerchiefs and spray it with some sort of perfume before we went through a certain area of Port-au-Prince called Carrefour (pronounced: Car-FU). And unfortunately, at times, the handkerchief was not enough. Today, however, my superbly pronounced olfactory nerves took a beating. Ann Arbor has a fairly high homeless population. And if you remember from yesterday's post, we're in the middle of a heat wave. I was walking to work following a homeless man that I've seen many times. I call him "Mr. Fireman." He normally wears fireman boots and wears a fireman coat, hence the name....makes sense, I believe. Today, I was glad to see that he wasn't wearing the coat, but he was still wearing the boots. I was slightly disconcerted to see that he had a pickax in his backpack, but that's hopefully something we won't ever need to worry about. So, as I was getting closer and focusing on the pickax, a very horrifying smell of body odor assailed me and I was instantly gagging. I couldn't decide what to do. Should I quickly move past him, should I retreat and walk even slower? I hesitated long enough to get one more whiff and immediately decided to pass. The problem is that as I was closing the gap, the smell/gagging intensified. I was trying to stifle it. I certainly was not upset with Mr. Fireman. I understand that it's hot, and you have been outside for a while and inevitably you'll begin to sweat. But just as I can't blame him, I hope no one thinks that I have some control over my reaction. Trust me. If there was a way to control it, I would have learned it after living in Haiti for two years. I can thankfully say that I did get by him before I threw up. My hope is that he didn't even notice the woman bent over with her hand over her mouth pretending to cough/gag as she walked by at an ever quickening pace....for some reason I don't think I pulled that one off.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's Not Rocket Science

If you watch TV with any sort of regularity.... who am I kidding? If you turn the TV on at any time no matter how regular your watching may be, you will come across infomercials detailing the latest weight loss "miracle." Claiming that you don't need to work out, don't need to count calories, don't need to do anything but take this pill, or sprinkle that, or do this cleanse, or .... you get my drift, You supposedly can shed fat and become trim and toned continuing your normal lifestyle. This same lifestyle that has you now watching infomercials on how to lose weight. What determines your weight is the number of calories you take in vs. the number of calories you use. It's that simple. To lose weight you need to use more calories than you take in and if you want to gain weight, the opposite is true. And yet, even though this factual information is in my head, I'm sucked in by the infomercials. Just the other day I sat there watching these gorgeous trim models talk about how they can eat whatever they want...(in my head I'm thinking, "what does that consist of? Iceberg lettuce?? A head of bok choy?? Kholarabi??)
It is day 3 of my husband's and my latest attempt at "Gosh darn it! We need to eat right and exercise or else!" The eating plan has gone well (except for me whining yesterday about "not feeling well and not wanting to cook and instead, why don't we just order pizza?" Nate sighed and said hesitantly, "ok." And that gave me the strength to go ahead and cook). The week that we commit to working out would be the week that we are suffering with this massive heat wave coming through which has caused the powers that be (ie: the news anchors of the morning tv show) to tell us to be careful when outside and to avoid strenuous exercise outdoors. We had quit the gym in March when we got Lucy because we thought we'd get great exercise from walking the dog everyday. We were clueless. That dog stops and sniffs everything. You can't get a good rhythm to your walk, you can't even break a sweat! And in this weather, the dog walks three feet and sits and looks at us like, "are you two stupid? It's hot out here!" The other day the dog actually laid down and then rolled on her back and laid like a dead cockroach. That was our clue that she doesn't handle the heat very well. So, our grand plan to get amazing exercise while walking the dog fell through. Therefore, a week ago, I rejoined the gym. And like I said, it's not rocket science. Through healthy and sensible eating, I'm taking in less calories than I am using and therefore am losing weight. I am down four pounds since rejoining the gym a week ago and I'm excited about continuing this trend!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Soup

I take the dog out at 5:30 every morning and it felt like I was walking through soup this morning....and I don't mean Gazpacho! I mean some thick creamy soup that would make it difficult to breathe. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it is HOT!!!  Being from North Carolina I honestly never thought I'd say it was hot in Michigan. However, this soup like heat is not like the heat in North Carolina. In North Carolina you have the sun intensity as well and it feels prickly on your skin.  I love that type of heat. It was 106 on the day Nate and I were married and I was perfectly comfortable, loving the way the sun felt on my skin. Right now in Southeastern Michigan, the sun is not shining and it is 96 degrees with a heat index of 106. How in the world could a place be 96 degrees without a shining sun? We took Lucy for her evening walk and she stopped 1/2 way through and laid down. She was spent and I don't blame her. We were dripping! So without sunshine, we are under a heat advisory for our area through Thursday. (Thursday's high is supposed to be 100! oy!) Stay cool, everyone!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Prayer

During my personal devotions, I have been reading the "Fresh" series by Jim Cymbala. These include Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, Fresh Faith, and Fresh Power. The overarching theme in these books is the church's need to humble itself to the Holy Spirit's control through prayer. Through the reading of these books, I have been convicted regarding my prayer life. My personal prayer life is one that many times, consists of  a wish/to-do list. It goes something like this, Dear Lord, thank you for this day. I pray for work today that it will go smoothly with little drama. I pray that I would be able to get done with everything that I need to do today. I pray that I won't come across any difficult people and that only good things would happen. Amen."  So that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but my happiness is basically my focus in prayer. Although this series of books focuses more on the church and is written with a slant to pastors, I have learned and been reminded of quite a bit. So, here I am in the midst of reading these books, I'm convicted about my own prayer life, I'm convicted about not being as involved in the prayer ministries available at my church, and then we go to visit my in-laws for the weekend and the title of the message at their church on Sunday was.....(drum roll please)..... Prayer. Some people would say it is a coincidence. I beg to differ...and I beg you to indulge me as I continue telling about the sermon, because I think you'll agree that this was a bit more than coincidence once you learn more of the details. It had been announced that a group was traveling to New York City that afternoon for several days. I assumed they were going on a missions trip, but they were actually going to New York City to attend the Tuesday night prayer meeting at the Brooklyn Tabernacle who's pastor is Jim Cymbala. They were also going to meet with several church leaders at Brooklyn Tabernacle to learn about how prayer has made a major impact on their church and community. The pastor talked about the importance of prayer and how prayer is what will radically change a church. Prayer is what will radically change a person's heart. Can you see why I would not see this as a coincidence? All of this is what I have been convicted about. I truly was overwhelmed. I'm still not sure what God is trying to teach me through this, but I am going to look into getting more involved with the prayer ministries at our church and also want to be one who prays the way God wants me to pray.

Back to School


I went back to school last Thursday night and already I've failed. My husband, Nate & I enrolled Lucy in dog training classes. Lucy is our 6 month old chiweegle (chiwhawha/dachshund/beagle) I guess the first lesson is that dog training is really about parent training...it doesn't have much to do with the dog. So, Nate and I are being trained on how to have a more obedient dog. What did I learn? I need to buy stock in dog treats because we are going to use a LOT of them. Our instructor was giving her dog treats constantly. And, we learned that you have to give the treat a 1/2 second after your dog exhibits the behavior you want to see. How it normally happens with me is that I give Lucy a command, she does it, and I say "good girl" and then I start hunting for the treats. 3 minutes later (which in dog land, evidently, is an absolute eternity), I have found the treat and I'm giving it to Lucy. Evidently, according to the instructor, Lucy is clueless about why I'm giving her a treat after that long span of time. However, in my defense, Lucy does follow me around waiting for the treat, so I think that's a sign that she has a much longer memory than most dogs...or at least, that's how I'm choosing to look at it. So, I guess I'm supposed to carry treats around all the time. Which might have explained the fanny pack that the instructor was wearing in class. Indeed, she has a fanny pack filled with treats and during training, she is giving out treats left and right from that fanny pack. I bought her spiel hook, line & sinker. To the point that I made Nate stop at the pet store on our way home and we bought everything that the instructor had encouraged us to get. I don't know what kind of racket she has going on with the pet store, but if they don't have some sort of agreement, they should!  Friday morning, I diligently got out the homework we have for the week and I started training her. I had to train her that the clicker we received (free with the class) means that she did a good job and that she gets a treat. The instructor said to click and treat about 15-20 times and that should be good. By the 20th time I think Lucy was so stuffed with treats and so tired of the noise that she just cowered and wanted to get away from it. We went away for the weekend. I took our homework along and the treats and the clicker. We didn't even pull any of it out. We didn't work on the whole list of things we need to teach her by Thursday. And I came home worried about what we have to accomplish by this week's class. As we were unpacking last night from the weekend away, Nate unpacked the clicker and clicked it a couple of times. Lucy, who was nowhere around him, came running. I breathed a sigh of relief as I know she has definitely learned that "click" means treat. That is one smart dog! We'll see what happens and what we can accomplish by Thursday!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cars Continued

As you read in the previous post, we have an issue with the car. My husband came home and bungee corded the door shut and the plan was that I was to take the car and wait for it at the auto repair shop. My husband had called and had made an appointment at Saline Auto Care for this morning. So to prepare for my waiting, I had my briefcase filled with my kindle, snacks, etc. I was ready.  I pulled into the parking lot for the shop and thought it looked like it had a huge bay to work on cars which left very little room for me to "wait for the car." I walked in and literally there was about 1 1/2 feet between the door and the counter. There were two stools that took up 1/2 the space. I stood there carrying all of my things and tried to look beyond the counter, thinking that maybe there was a waiting room behind it, but all I could see was the bay. I wasn't quite sure what I was going to do. But, I can usually charm my way into at least a chair in the corner! So, I beamed my biggest smile and explained what was wrong with the car and then announced that I was planning to wait for the car. The man behind the counter's eyes got incredibly wide. And he said, "No. We don't do that." And then he said, "You should have told us ahead of time." I, still thinking I'd charm my way onto maybe a stool right outside the door, laughed a little and said, "We just assumed that we could wait for the car. I'm not sure where I can go." While I'm talking, the man who had only shown emotion when I mentioned waiting for the car, hands me a key. Now I'm confused. I thought he'd tell me where the nearest fast food restaurant was so I could go and wait there and instead he handed me the keys to a car and said all we ask is that you fill it up before returning it. I must admit..... I can be a little slow.... I said, "You're giving me a car to use?" And that's exactly what Saline Auto Care did. And, even now as I write this, because they won't be able to finish the car until tomorrow, that loaner car is sitting in my garage. PLUS, they've called, they know what's wrong with the car (it needs a new latch), they checked out a couple other things, and it's going to be fixed tomorrow. The customer service I was shown today was a fresh experience. It was great!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cars

I like cars that work the way they are supposed to. I don't need anything fancy. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy the heated seats, etc. but most of all, I need a vehicle to get me from Point A to Point B without any problem. How difficult is that? Am I asking too much? Today I parked in the parking structure for work and opened the back door to grab my brief case and lunch box. I shut the door only for it to bounce back open. Seems strange, I know. A door shouldn't bounce. So, I tried it again. It must have been "operator error" (as the IT guy at work always says when my computer isn't working properly). Again, it bounced. The door was unlocked, nothing was blocking it. It just wouldn't latch. I didn't quite know what to do..(this is of course, after I had bounced the door open and closed for about 5 minutes). I decided that I had to leave it. It looked shut, so I thought as long as nobody tries to open it (which would be an incredibly easy task) they'll assume it's shut and locked. So, I went to work, hoping that our two bikes would remain safely in the back of the car. And they were, thank God! While at work I was trying to decide what to do. How could I keep the door closed while driving home? There was an old phone cord sitting on my desk Why I keep random stuff sitting on my desk, I don't know. But, there was an old phone cord. So, I took that along with me thinking that I could tie the door closed. And that's what I did. I tied it to the headrest on the back of my seat...thinking I was incredibly clever. But, I now know the angle was wrong. (my dad, the physics teacher, is probably groaning right now) So, as I was leaving the parking garage, basically driving around in a circle, anytime I turned a corner or a curve, the door would start to swing open. So, instead of being so proud of myself for MacGyvering my way home, I drove with one hand while my other arm  was oddly positioned behind me holding on to the door handle for dear life. It was NOT comfortable. However, I guess I should be glad that it was the on the driver's side instead of the passenger!

Thunder

I love thunder. I don't know why, but I always have. Yesterday a severe storm came through our area. Let me just take a minute to say "Thank You, God for the rain!" We REALLY need it. While I was at work yesterday morning the sky grew black. And I mean BLACK!It literally looked like it was the middle of the night outside at 11:00 in the morning. And then I heard the thunder. I don't know why it does this for me, but it calms me. I guess a better description is that it centers me. Does that make sense? It makes me remember what really matters. Once again, I really have no idea why. I remember when I was young, we lived in an old farm house in rural Illinois. Without air conditioning, you of course are sleeping with the windows open and hoping for a breeze. One night the storm woke me up. Instead of shutting the windows, I opened them wider and curled up at the end of the bed and just watched and listened. I felt such peace. My mom came in and found me laying there with the window wide open, the rain coming in and she chastised me for not shutting the window. My feeble explanation that I liked listening to the thunder didn't wash with her desire to not have water coming in to the house. Even to this day, when I have my own house, I am tempted to open all the windows as wide as possible and find the best location to sit and watch and listen to the storm.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Best Intentions

Yesterday began with the best of intentions. In fact, the planning of it all started on Saturday. We were going to go to church Saturday evening and then go for a long bike ride Sunday morning, followed by a healthy lunch, a relaxing afternoon, and then we were to go to small group.  It was a great plan. The problem is, life happened.What really happened was this:
Saturday night we started out for church only to have the car stall on us as we were getting ready to turn out of our neighborhood. I told my husband that there was no way I wanted to go to church now because I didn't want to end up in the middle of nowhere with a broken down car. Granted, it's not like we live in Timbuktu and the minute you leave our subdivision it becomes cavernous space with no civilization around, but this is always what I envision when I imagine the car breaking down on me while on the road. So, we decided to go to church in the morning and just push everything else back a bit. However, I didn't sleep well and then woke up with a headache that just wouldn't go away. I searched for the Advil, then the Tylenol, to no avail. I still have no idea where they are. Needless to say, I was a tad on the cranky side and had no motivation to go anywhere. By the time my husband woke up I had determined that I wasn't going to church and wasn't sure about anything else on the list either! However, the bike riding initiative was his idea, and I didn't want to rain on his parade, so even though all I wanted to do was crawl back in bed, turn on Housewives of New Jersey or some other trashy reality marathon, and eat bon bons. (Ok, so here comes the first confession....I don't know that I've ever eaten a bon bon....I envision some sort of cake thing covered in chocolate...I think that's what they are... so, that's what I'd want to eat, but I'd probably resort to string cheese, because that's what we have.) So, I help him put the bikes in the car (which entails me opening the passenger door and I watch as he lifts the bikes into the back). And we are off. As I have a phobia about riding my bike on roads with cars, we head out to the countryside to ride on dirt roads and other roads less traveled.  We get the bikes out of the car, we strap on our helmets, and we are off...well, not quite.... I look like a drunk person trying to ride a bike and I'm getting frustrated because the bike is just not moving. I try probably three times before getting off the bike and find that the rear tire is completely flat. It's not just in need of a little air, it needs a tube transplant! So, after all that work, and with me grumbling and whining, you would think that my dear husband would throw his hands up in disgust and surrender. But he didn't. He really wanted to go on the bike ride. I suggested that he just drop me off at the house and he go for a bike ride but he was equally determined to have me go with him. So, we went back home where he removed the wheel from the bike and we headed to the bike shop: Two Wheel Tango. The guys there were really great, replaced the tube and even a liner inside the wheel that might be causing the tube to rub against the wheel and cause the pin prick holes in them. We bring the wheel back and I'm still working on getting up the energy to go when my husband struggles to put the wheel back on the bike. Remember my typical stance, I just stand there and watch....and whine.... I'm a real encourager, I am!  The wheel doesn't go on right and so he puts the bike and the wheel back in the car. At this point, I'm being very vocal about my desire to just stay home and he can go for his own bike ride. One thing I can say for my husband, he is, if not more, at least as stubborn as I am. What can I say, we both come from strong German backgrounds....it's in the blood! However, he also knows when to surrender and he'd had about enough. By this time, our nice long bike ride had turned into a fiasco that would end up, if we ever even got to ride the bikes at all,would be a quick ride around the block before having to leave for small group. It just wasn't worth it. It was an incredibly frustrating day for one person that was really wanting it to work and the bystander (that would be me). I wish I had done more to help. I wish I had done more to encourage and support. I think of the verse that I started this blog with: make ever effort to add to your faith goodness.....brotherly kindness and love. I certainly did nothing to support and encourage my husband or myself to a life that was effective and productive. *sigh*...... There's always tomorrow!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Frustration

I begin this blog from a point of frustration in my life. I'm 42 years old and I'm struggling with motivation. This blog is my attempt to regain the motivation I once had. I want my motivation to eat right and the desire to exercise back. I want to be motivated to do what I need to do when I need to do it. I want the motivation to kick "Ms. Lazy Bones" to the curb and live a productive life. I have been thinking about doing a blog for some time now...and have made some half-hearted attempts in the past. My hope is that by being honestly transparent in this blog, I will not only find the motivation to live a productive and effective life but may also encourage you as well. The name of the blog, "Make Every Effort", comes from 2 Peter 1:5-9 "For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind,and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins."
Honestly, I read these verses and I think to myself, "I'm supposed to be/do all of those?"  The next thought that goes through me is, "is this even possible?" But all I have to do is look at an earlier verse, verse 3-4 says: "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." Yes, I need to make every effort, but it is all done through His divine power. He has given me everything I need to eat right, to exercise, to kick "Ms. Lazy Bones" to the curb. He's already done it. Learning more about God through reading the Bible, and prayer will help me stay focused.

 I hope that you will enjoy the gift of this day! After reading these verses, I then found this Francis Chan sermon. It says it all... enjoy!