Wednesday, February 28, 2007

FINALLY!! (I can't believe he's dead)

Today, you get two for the price of one. :) I watched last week's epi of Veronica on Monday, and then got to watch this week's on Tuesday. I've been down and out with the stomach crud, so I'm slowly getting around to everything. Life ala Danica: Just when you think you're smooth sailing, someone pukes.

Anyway, I totally did not see the death of Lamb coming. Although I have to say that his last words were sooo lame. That ruined what could have been a beautiful moment. But oh well. There's finally a decent Sheriff in town.

And, as you can well expect, I am irritated at the whole Logan/Parker thing. First, I don't like Parker. She gets on my nerves. Second, I hate how they make him so fickle as to chase after someone else so soon. Third, remember the whole Veronica and Logan forever thing? Get with the program already!!

Also, I realize they did this to attract new fans who can follow the story, but I'm tired of the mini arcs. I preferred the big arc over the season deal. And, I think they keep dropping a lot of the little threads, which irritates me. What can I say, the writer in me demand satisfaction. But really, wouldn't any human being pick up on this and want to have everything neatly tied up?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

How sweet the sound

Tonight, I put the kiddos to bed, and we said our prayers. I try to let the kiddos lead and pray how they feel led. B said her prayers and then little K followed. It was mostly a lot of jibber jabber and a few intelligible words here and there. My heart was so warmed to hear this beautiful little girl having a conversation with God. I had no idea what she prayed about, but isn't it cool that God knew exactly what this little girl was saying to Him. As tickled as I was to hear her little baby voice, can you imagine how much more so He was?

I've got a lot more perspective right now. I was thinking the other day about one of the books God's been asking me to write that I keep saying I'm strong enough to write. I started thinking about it and where I want to go with it. One of the lessons I'd learned that is going into this book is that even though my intentions were toward God, and I'd been doing all the "right" things, the one thing I wasn't doing was reading my Bible.

Funny, in the midst of my struggles lately, that's the thing that I've been neglecting the most. Lesson not learned.

But the cool thing is that I worked on my Bible study this afternoon and it was awesome. My beloved Beth did not disappoint. One of the things she pointed out was that Abraham walked with God for 100 years and during that time, he messed up a lot. Does the name Ishmael ring a bell? And yet, he's listed as one of the faithful. A friend of God. Isn't that cool? How awesome would it be to be considered one of God's faithful friends?

It doesn't matter if we mess up. What matters is chasing after God and believing Him no matter what. As I was reading, one verse jumped out at me: Hebrews 10:23 "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful."

I am waiting on so many promises from Him. Part of what has been frustrating me is that I feel like I have been waiting FOREVER on some promises from God. But I look at Abraham and how long he has waited on promises from God. All of which have been fulfilled or are being fulfilled.

Thursday, in our Bible study group, we talked about how long we were waiting on promises, and it occurred to me that one of the things I'd been praying about had been answered. I was filled with this utterly twitterpated feeling for my husband. At that moment, I realized how deeply I love him. Which is funny, because I've never really been twitterpated over him. I love him, but it's not like it's this crazy giddy love you read about in books. I've spent a lot of time asking God for it. So there we were, talking about promises we're waiting to have fulfilled, and I can't explain it. I literally felt like some love-crazed teen over him.

Answered prayer.

So today's lesson really got me going-reminding me that He will keep His promises-in HIS time. Just as He answered my prayer about wanting to be giddy in love with my husband. Odd timing, but His timing. Good thing we have a romantic weekend coming up. ;)

Which brings me back to the sweet prayers of my little girls. They, too, are some incredible answered prayers. Promises God made me long ago. Promises He will keep, and continue to keep. And who knows, maybe that sweet little voice, speaking words only God could understand, was making some promises of her own. Even though I am still longing for the promises to be kept to me, I am hungering for something else-to see that little girl grow up and see in her own life, that God keeps His promises. Which will lead to another even sweeter sound. That baby voice, all grown up, sharing those same promises with her own little baby voices. Who will share with their little baby voices. Who will share with their little baby voices.

One day, when we're all up in Heaven together, those little baby voices are all going to be singing praises together, and some big voice, maybe even that of Abraham or Sarah, is going to say to each one of us, "You were that voice I prayed for." A sweet sound indeed.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Costly Spending

The most expensive money you can spend is....

Money from your retirement plan.

If you haven't reached retirement age, and you take money out of your retirement plan, you don't just have to pay tax on it, but you'll also pay penalties. A lot of folks think that when they get into a financial bind, their 401K or IRA is the perfect solution.

And then tax time rolls around.

If I got paid based on how many clients gave me the shocked comment at seeing a balance due that "they had taxes taken out", I'd have a nice retirement nest egg of my own. The trouble with people taking money out of their retirement plan, even if they have taxes withheld is that it's never enough to cover the penalty. More importantly, few will take out state taxes, so even if the person is lucky enough to have all the Federal taxes and penalties covered with extra withholding and credits, they end up with a huge State balance due.

It's actually cheaper to take out a loan than it is to pay the taxes and penalties on an early distribution from a retirement plan. If you must raid the good ole nest egg, make sure you set aside more than you think you'll need for good ole Uncle Sam. Otherwise, come tax time, you're going to be in a bigger bind. Plus, when it comes to retire, you're not going to have as much to do it on.

Friday, February 23, 2007

It's been HOW long since I blogged?

I must have a fever or something...

I'm just so busy and stressed and all that. I know, not a good excuse. I'll do better soon, I promise. Life is just kicking me in the butt right now.

I do have to ask, though... why is it that there are some people, who, despite doing everything wrong, treating everyone wrong, still end up smelling like roses and achieving all sorts of success. And then there's those of us who try so hard to do the right thing, who work hard, who do everything we can to do the right thing and apply every success principle we know, and we can't get a break?

I'm feeling a little bitter, I guess. I'm just pretty mad that I work so hard and try to do all the right things and I don't feel like I'm getting anywhere. Just spinning my wheels. I wrote a horrifically depressing email to my friends earlier, and while I am much more rational than I was when I wrote the email and am throwing some of that frustration into concrete plans for change, I seriously have to ask-will it make any difference? As hard as I've been working, even though I've found one smart way to "tweak" it, will I be better off?

Okay, I'll stop ranting. I'm sounding bitter, and well, I am. So I'll go do something productive-like take a bath. I've got the latest installment in The Secrets of Stoneley waiting for me. Ahhh... I love gothics.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Renovating Becky Miller by Sharon Hinck

Becky Miller believes in fixing things: children, friends, mother-in-law, sister, church . . . and her husband. So renovating a run-down farmhouse is right up her alley--the perfect antidote for the pressures of modern life.

But Becky’s pursuit of the simple life is soon threatened. Her mother-in-law moves in, her son finds trouble at school, her sister arrives for a visit, her best friend is acting weird, all while work stresses mount. Worst of all, her marriage is in need of some major remodeling of its own.

Cinematic daydreams provide Becky with heroic drama. Maybe that’s why she escapes into the scenes so often. In real life, everything is a muddled mess.

Who knew one old house could lead them to the brink of bankruptcy? Or that Becky’s physical handicap could threaten to steal their dream?

Can Becky stop fixing everyone else and let God renovate her heart so she can find her own happy ending?

    Thoughts on the Story

You know, I could give you my review, but there's quite a few folks out there with some great things to say about this book. I do want to talk about the book-Sharon has some great discussion questions at the end, and I thought, rather than regurgitate what's already been said, I'm going to talk impact. After all, that's why we write books. To change lives. To help people.

1. Remodeling from the Inside Out: Where have you noticed spiritual growth from God's renovation in your life?

Wow. That's an ongoing process for me. I think it's all about pushing the envelope, making me recognize boundaries I've set and allowing myself to go beyond. I think that's why my blog is all about the journey. Every time I've arrived at one place, God shows me somewhere else I'm supposed to go.

2. Family Renovation: In addition to renovating our original lives, God is at work in our family lives. Becky feels squeezed between serving her husband, children, mother-in-law, and sister. What family stresses do you face at this season in your life?
I have a two year old. Enough said. Okay, so there is a lot more to Danica family life than the little terrorist destroying our universe. Throw in teenage stepchildren, a six year old, a dog, and a Man, and I think we can safely say that it's a lot of stress, and not much sanity.

3. Church Reconstruction: Becky's church is experiencing growth. What challenges does this growth bring? What challenges does your home congregation face? How can you support and serve your local church community?
Our church is in a season of change, certainly. We're moving to a new location next week, so there will be some adjustment. We're partnering with another church, and it sounds like there's going to be a lot of great new opportunities for us. In particular, I'm excited that we're going to be doing a lot more events surrounding the liturgical calendar. I've always wanted to do something like that. To support and serve-hmmm... I guess I think I already do some of that by some of the work I do within the church. But certainly, if I saw an opportunity (that didn't stretch me too thin, as Becky Miller had to learn), I'd be willing to do more.

4. Subcontractors: The Support System: Who makes up your support system? Becky's small-group Bible study serves a vital role in her life. Are you part of a trusted small group for prayer, Bible study, and accountability? What steps could you take to find or create this sort of ongoing fellowship? If you are part of such a group, what is working well? What could be improved?
Another tough question. One of the things Becky Miller revealed to me is how imperfect groups can be. I love that the woman I thought the least "friendly" towards Becky came through when she really needed it. I definitely think I've had some unrealistic expectations of my own group, so it bears re-evaluating. One of the things I know I'm missing is depth-something my best friend and I used to have, but our schedules have been so busy lately that we haven't had that good bonding time.

5. Power Tools: Getting a Little Assistance: Becky tries to ignore her physical limitations but learns that she has limits to her time, energy, and strength. Is this a copout or a wise discernment? Lori battles a chronic emotional health challenge she has hidden from her friends. How do you make choices to nurture your physical, emotional, and spiritual health without becoming selfish? Has God been prompting you to make some changes? To slow down, cut back, care for yourself? Or to step out, try something new, and care for others?
Ouch. Um, yeah. God and I have been talking a lot about that lately, and I think that will be a big part of our Lenten conversations. I'll be giving up some of my sleep time (getting up earlier-ACK!) to spend more time with Him. In a lot of ways, there's some expansion and growth happening in terms of trying new things and stepping out. But He's been reminding me a lot lately about the flipside. God's going to have to give me a lot of strength for this one.

So there you have it-Renovating Becky Miller and how Becky Miller is renovating me. Ha ha.

Did I mention there is a worldwide conspiracy against my getting any sleep. Between God and the two year old, the sleep thing is not happening.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Holding back

There's a sad fact about my life that no one knows. I write poetry. Secretly. I haven't written much of late. The interesting thing about my poetry is while I've actually had some awards for it, I've never really pursued it as part of my career. Maybe it's silly, but really, who reads poetry these days?

The other day, I started thinking about a poem. The thing that hit me about my writing is that what made my poetry so good is the raw emotion. I was called into my school counselor's office many times because they couldn't believe that what I'd written wasn't based on personal experience. The emotion was so deep and real that no one believed it was just in my imagination.

I realized, thinking about my poetry, that at some point, I began to hold back in my writing. I was tired of justifying my emotions. I was tired of explaining that the things that came out of my mind. They weren't real, but everyone was so convinced they were. Even to the point of my teachers thinking I'd experienced abuse myself. So I held back.

For a long time, I was plagued with nightmares about the death of my husband. I hated the thought of losing him. It devastated me. When the nightmares began, I started pulling back. I thought it would be easier to lose him if we weren't so close. But still the nightmares came and I held myself back.

I struggled to write the poem that was on my heart the other day because I don't want to access those emotions. I don't want to admit to the combination of hope and despair that I feel at this moment. Then it will be real. Odd, how when I let go before it was not real, and I stopped because too many thought it was. And now, I am afraid to let go and make it real.

I hold back on a lot of things. Mostly to avoid the pain. In doing so, I robbed myself, and others of the joy. It's time to learn to let go.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Pop! goes my heart

If you don't know where that reference came from, shame on you! We went to see Music and Lyrics. Very good movie. I'm going to buy it when it comes out on DVD. I was surprised-Hugh Grant can sing!

Anyway, I know what you all really want to hear about. VERONICA!!!

Another really good epi. Finally, the writers are back on stride. I love how the little girl helped Logan grow up. I still want to wring Veronica's neck for being so hard-hearted.

I think it's interesting that there's so much murder and mayhem happening in that small little college. How sad that I didn't get to experience a single homicide during my college days. I am sick of the whole Dean's murder/suicide thing. Let's get off that merry go round and come up with some answers, shall we?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

More on mercy

There are moments when even I don't have the right words to say. Right now, all I can think of are a bunch of bad words. A friend of mine was in tears today because of how a person showed her so little mercy.

She was on her way to get a manicure-a treat someone had given her because she was so stressed out. The place is less than a mile from her house, and her colicky baby was screaming. I've heard this kid cry, and I seriously have no idea how she does it. However, the one thing that calms him is to rock his seat while riding in a car. Since hubby wasn't able to be with her, she had the kid in the front seat. YES, I know you're not supposed to do that. But the poor woman was at her wits' end.

Some guy saw this, chased her down with his car, made her pull over, and berated her for "child abuse." WORSE, he called the police and pinned her car in so she couldn't go anywhere until the police got there. The guy made all sorts of nasty threats, and pretty much told her he was going to do whatever he could to make sure she got what she deserved for being such a bad mom. The police gave her a ticket for the violation, and so far she hasn't had social services call, but she's now terrified that this guy is going to get them to take away her kids.

I am furious. Like I said, having the kid up front wasn't the best choice in the world. But come on, as parents, we have all made some decisions that weren't the best. Sometimes, even when we think we're doing the best thing for our kids, it ends up being the wrong thing.

This stranger, who knew nothing about her, chose to show no mercy. He ignored her tears, ignored the wails of the colicky baby, and didn't bother to talk to her. Didn't bother to find out why she'd do such a thing. He was so intent on proving to her what a bad mom she was that he succeeded.

My friend is a great mom. I see all the things she does with and for her kids. She loves her kids. I've watched her sacrifice and give all for the sake of those kids. Yet this guy, who thought he was doing the world a favor by saving a kid from a bad mom, knew none of these things.

I hate the grocery store. It brings out the worst in parents and kids. I've gotten many a stern look and the occasional lecture because someone didn't like what I was doing to parent my kids. I was convinced one woman was going to call social services on me because I chose to "jerk my child by the arm" rather than let her run into oncoming traffic. I've also watched other parents yell at their kids, spank them, and do a lot of things I personally thought was out of line. But I know what it feels like to be berated when you are doing the very best you can and someone who knows nothing of the situation thinks they can step in and "correct" it.

A while back, there were commercials on the tv about a mom screaming at her kids, so another mom stepped up and asked her to take a time out and back away. The point of the commercial was that we should help prevent child abuse. Having dealt with child abuse cases, I'd like to suggest that while some of the behavior on the part of the parents isn't exemplary, those aren't the parents you should be worried about. It's the ones with kids who meekly sit in the cart, afraid to say or do anything. They're too afraid of their parents to misbehave. (And no, not all well-behaved kids are abused).

But I think sometimes, we're so caught up in trying to stop a problem, we forget about what it means to be human. We forget about being merciful. We forget that these are real people whose lives we are impacting. And not always in the good way we think we're doing. Is there a way we can show the other person a kindness without hurting them? Are we acting out of love? Or is it anger, or fear, or disgust?

Or maybe in a moment of self-righteousness, we think that we're superior to that other person because we would "never" do that. And maybe we would never do "that". But there are a lot of things we would do that are just as bad, or even worse. Two verses come to mind-"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," and "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?".

Obviously, people need to be punished for their infractions. But I wonder how different this world would look, if we would showed a little mercy to others. What if, when we saw the frazzled mother with her screaming kids, we didn't give her that judgmental stare? What if, instead of muttering under our breath about what a bad mom she is, we said something to encourage her? What if, rather than watching her struggle to keep her kids under control while juggling groceries and car keys, we asked if we could help carry some of the groceries? Or offered to push the cart? What would happen if we approached someone like my friend, and rather than providing a solution that spoke of judgement, we asked if there was anything we could do to help?

In talking with the moms in our group today about this and other unrelated things, one of the themes that kept coming up is how alone many moms feel. Even though we're all married (I can't imagine doing this without a husband), we all feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders. Our husbands are great, but they can barely keep our kiddos alive, let alone tackle the other multitude of things on our plate. It is overwhelming. Some days, we want to sit and cry because there is so much to do and we only have two hands and twenty four hours in which to do it. I've told my husband that the thing I need most from him to feel loved is for him to ask, "What do you need?" and when I answer, to do it-no arguing, no whining, no resentful looks, but to have an attitude of, "this is what my wife needs from me, and because I love her, I'm going to give it my very best effort." If I got that, I would feel like the most treasured woman on the planet.

I don't say that to condemn my husband in any way. He has a lot of other fine qualities and I love him. But I think sometimes, when we look at being merciful to others, we do what WE think is best, and don't bother to approach it from the other person's point of view. To see what they really need, and what would help fix the situation rather than make it worse. To truly have mercy, I think we also need compassion, that understanding of who the other person is and the situation they're in.

And who knows, maybe the mean dude lost a child in an accident and feels compelled to prevent another from dying or something. I don't know. I'm just so heartbroken over how this poor woman is feeling now because of some awful, cruel things that a person who didn't bother taking the time to see her as a human said.

I'm rambling. It's late. I'm exhausted.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A piece of the puzzle: Mercy

Sadly, it's got a million pieces. However, I'm quite pleased that it popped right out at me.

My VDay plans were a bust. That Man didn't get home from work until 9 (but he did say the extra moolah was MINE!!), so I didn't get a date or an evening out to write. Instead, I went out for chinese with the other residents of the house and baked cookies with the kiddos. One thing God has been convictine me of lately is how I treat my two year old. Now, I don't mean that I'm cruel or abusive or anything like that. However, the word most commonly coming out of my mouth with her is, "NO!". Don't touch that. Don't do that. Don't stand on the chair. Don't climb on the table. Don't stick your fingers in there. It's exhausting. And then God gave me compassion for this little girl, who is just figuring out what the world is like, and wants to explore it for herself. How hard it must be to always hear, "No."

So tonight, I did my best to say, "Yes," even if it meant that all the cookies have probably been licked by a child with an ear infection. Or at least touched by the finger that was just up her nose or in her mouth, or in other really gross places. We won't think about that. We'll just eat the cookie and be grateful for the little girl who thought it was the best thing ever that mommy said "YES!" to her tonight.

Once everyone was tucked in bed, I dragged out the old Hosea study stuff I've been working on-it's been about three weeks since I've touched it. Sadly, or is it gladly, I couldn't remember the stuff I'd written where I'd left off, so I went to the place I was studying the time prior to that. The verse popped out at me.

Hosea 6:6 "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings."

He desires mercy, not sacrifice. As a wife and mother, I could go on and on about how I sacrifice for my family. Lately, I've been a little bitter about the sacrificing I'm doing with nothing in return. And certainly, I've had some less than merciful thoughts. Maybe even some less than merciful actions. But I'm sacrificing and that should count for something, right?

Wrong.

He didn't ask for my sacrifice. Jesus already did that. All He wants is for me to be merciful.

Oddly enough, when I started writing this post, it was supposed to be about another area in my life where God is asking me to be merciful. I couldn't figure out why all the enemies from my past were suddenly reappearing in my life thinking we were long-lost best friends. As if all the bad things they'd done to me had never happened. Mercy. Where they have shown me none, I must show it anyway. When I am the most angry, the most ready to do some real homicide, it is when I must be the most merciful.

Dictionary.com has a great definition of mercy:
compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one's power; compassion, pity, or benevolence

Here it is Valentine's Day (at least for 28 more minutes) and we're supposed to be showing love to those we care about. But I wonder, do the hearts and flowers mean anything when there is no mercy? Seriously. Does the snazzy little card you sent your significant other mean a thing after you just tore him a new one because he yet again forgot to take out the trash? Heh. I didn't rip him a new one today-I just mentally griped that yet again, I had to go out in the cold and race the trash man. But does that make it any better? Are my words of "you're the perfect man for me" really sincere if I can't take a second to stop and realize that the poor guy has an awful cold, feels like crap, and would rather stay in bed, but is getting up anyway to work what would become a 14 hour day because he knows it's important to me that we get bills paid off? I am such a gutter snake sometimes. And yet humbled, because he knows this about me and loves me anyway.

Tomorrow is just another ordinary day. I hope, and I pray, that you will take the time to show mercy to someone in your midst. Maybe, it's as simple as putting down the phone and not calling him to rip him a new one for the latest transgression, but taking a moment to realize that even the man of the house has an off day or two or three or four and having compassion on him. Maybe it's finding a gentler way to redirect the maniacal two year old. Maybe it's not calling the rude bank teller's boss and complaining about the poor service, and instead, smiling, telling her to have a nice day, and sending a little prayer that God would bless her. I don't know what mercy will look like for you-but I think if we all took the extra time to show it, it would make a bigger impact on the world than some silly day where we all sent each other flowers, candy, and Starbucks cards.

Happy Valentine's Day?

Okay, so I think this is slightly hysterical. For Valentine's Day, That Man got me a $20 Starbucks card. Now, in order to realize what a hillarious gift this is, you have to understand: he hates Starbucks. Any coffee, really. I think I've shared his "coffee as birth control" philosophy. So on one hand, it's quite romantic that he'd get me something he absolutely hates.

On the other hand, I have to wonder... if he won't come near me if I've been drinking it, not even for a little kiss... why did he buy me a gift certificate for coffee?

Can I get a translation here?

I don't really know what God's trying to tell me here. Subtlety and I don't get along too well, and usually, with God, I just need to be beaned over the head.

So to start it off, I got an email from someone today, just a casual, hey, how's it going thing. Which was unexpected, but a nice surprise. I read this person's blog, but don't generally comment on it, and haven't commented in a long time, because well, frankly, a lot of what this person has said lately has kicked me in the behind. (And I'm sure this person has no clue) So of course, I read the blog, and sure enough, WHAM! I'm down for the count. One of the things I'm really working hard on right now, based on this information, needs to be seriously re-thought.

Then, today, I was at church, and the only reason I went is that it was my night to be in the nursery. That Man is sick, baby is sick, so B and I went together. Actually, B is becoming a huge part of the spiritual pulse of our family. The thought of not going to church makes her bawl. And I mean bawl. "But I can't miss the lessons about Jesus, Mom."

As I was walking back into the main area because part of our tradition is that B has to go hug our worship pastor (he married us and dedicated B), a girl I know stopped me. She said hi, which we do on occasion when we see each other, although I usually wait for her to go first, because I'm never really sure if she remembers who I am. I said hi back, and went to chase my child, but she stopped me. She said that she wanted to let me know that it warmed her heart every time she saw me, even though we never talked. She went on about how we're one of the few who've been there since the early days, and how she was so glad I was still there.

Which is funny, because of late, I've really wondered what my place is-life in general, but also in my church. I'm the weird girl no one talks to. And generally, I'm okay with that, except when I read things in my Bible about how we're supposed to be in community, and I notice that everyone but me seems to have that. I have the hermit of all hermits living with us, and even though she's just moved here, she has a more active social life than I. And it isn't because I'm turning down social invitations. I'm not mad or bitter, or anything like that. But it does make me wonder-what's wrong with me?

The last time I asked these questions is when God gave me the whole "you are exactly where you are supposed to be" lecture. Which, okay, I'm fine with. If God says this is where I'm supposed to be, then I'm okay with that. But the part I don't get is why I would even have dreams of more? Why, my whole life, I would hope for so many things, and yet God is saying, "sorry, Charlie, that's not what I want for you." Why would I be given visions of other things if I wasn't meant to have them?

So then I was visiting a message board I frequent, and some of the folks were talking about how they're different, and I made the comment, that as much as we've all felt like we were the freaks our whole lives, the group of us had so much in common. It's cool to have someone who connects with you when you're used to people shaking their heads or looking the other way.

There's always this temptation to conform, to take off those shackles and make yourself into something that would be more appealing to the general population. I've never been that good at it. I don't know how to pretend to be someone I'm not. But reading the posts of my friends, I was reminded how God created us to be special pieces in His puzzle of the universe.

Which you would think would be an answer-except it only leads to more questions. Because of all the things I have figured out, it's mostly the things God is saying "NO" to. I thought, at the beginning of the year, He was saying, "GO!" But all the things I think I'm supposed to GO! on, are all the things He's saying NO! to. And I realize that it's nothing short of sheer idiocy to even ponder these questions when in reality, I am busy-crazy with everything else, and I do not have the time to sit and try to figure it all out. Why can't I get an instruction manual or something?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Those pesky doctor visits!

And yes, I know, not only am I behind on my blogging, but I'm behind on my tax tip. Tonight, you get two for the price of one. Oh yeah, I don't charge.

Anyway, I got off work Saturday and pretty well collapsed. I nearly killed a guy I work with. Everyone started leaving, and there was still a huge pile of work left, so I asked him to stay and help (which would have taken him ten minutes). He looked at me and said, "I've worked twelve days straight, I'm out of here." Which, on one hand, I understand-he was tired. But you know, I'd worked more days in a row, and I was tired too. And basically, because he and a few others didn't have enough of a work ethic to stay and help me finish some work that was everyone's responsibility, rather than everyone staying ten minutes late, I stayed an hour. I came home, loaded up the fam to go out for dinner. (And oh MY, it was REALLY good!)

I fell into bed after dinner, and didn't leave until Sunday afternoon. I know, I'm a sluggard. Did I mention I was exhausted? Ran a few errands on Sunday, and went back to bed. :)

You'd think that would be a happy ending to the weekend, however, just as I reached that blissful state of drifting off, and the baby began screaming. I spent the night off and on comforting screaming baby, losing all the make-up sleep I'd gotten. She finally fell asleep at dawn.

So this morning, I called the doctor, and we got to pay our first visit for being sick, as opposed to well-baby checks, or visits because she did something to injure herself. The diagnosis-ear infection. Wahoo us.

Anyway, it reminded me of an important tax tip I frequently share with my clients. When deducting your medical expenses, are you also including your mileage? For the past two years, we didn't have enough medical expenses to deduct. Until I added in the mileage. 18 cents a mile adds up. One of my clients, who lives in a rural area, had over 4,000 miles because she has to see a specialist in the big city. That's a BIG deduction. But, you say, I don't have that many miles. Are you sure? I live 12.6 miles from my doctor. Round trip, that's 25 miles. Four doctor visits, and that's 100 miles. Between me and the kids, we easily do 10 doctor visits a year. When I was pregnant, or they were babies... we did a lot more.

"But I don't keep a log," you whine. And your point is? Allow me to teach you how to re-create a mileage log. Go to mapquest. Put in your address and get directions to your doctor's office. Along with the directions, you'll get the mileage. Now go through your day planner. Count the days you went. Or, if you don't keep track on the planner, you can look at your bank records-the days you wrote a check for a copay, you probably went to the doctor. But if you want to be really sure, most doctors are happy to give you a year-end printout itemizing all your visits. Then, multiply the number of days you went to the doctor by the mileage (don't forget return mileage), and badda bing! You've got medical mileage to deduct.

Don't forget to keep the mileage info and formula you used with your tax records. That way, if you get audited (and many audits are completely random), you've got it right with your return and you don't need to scratch your head to figure out how you came up with those numbers.

And now I'm going to bed. Maybe I can catch up on sleep tonight.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Tagged by Margaret and Squirly

And since we all know I adore Margaret Daley and Squirly , you know I have to do it. Ugh. I should probably stop calling her Squirly and refer to her as CHERYL WYATT so you know that she's FABULOUS and want to buy her books. But she'll always be Squirly to me. (PS, Everyone give a great big WAHOOO to Cheryl because she just sold another book to Steeple Hill)

Anyway, I'm supposed to share six weird things about myself:

1. The only thing that can be touching me while I sleep is The Dog. It creeps me out if That Man touches me when I'm asleep, especially if it's his feet.

2. I'm strangely obsessive about books I read. If I think of a phrase or character I liked in a book I've read, I must IMMEDIATELY re-read it or I go stark raving mad. I have been obsessively hunting for an old Harlequin Temptation that I read when I was sixteen because it had a line that I LOVED. The only trouble is I don't remember the title or author, just the line. Even with the company book database at my fingertips, I STILL can't place it. My goal is to find it and own it again before I die. (This is the reason why I seldom loan out books. I lent it to someone and never got it back.) Okay, that's really pathetic. I just realized that I've spent half of my life looking for a book.

3. I like researching things, particularly old texts. I want to learn Hebrew and Greek, just so I can read the old Bible stuff. I would LOVE to go to Seminary just to learn stuff, not that I have any plan for using it as a career.

4. I like eating applesauce on my chicken enchiladas.

5. I actually LIKE doing taxes.

6. Making a list like this is so pointless, because it would take an entire library of books to cover all of my weirdness. :)

I'm not tagging anyone, because I think everyone I know who doesn't go postal over being tagged has already been tagged. But hey, if you want to play, consider yourself tagged. :)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Because I'm too tired for anything else.

I'd put it in all fancy and all that, but sadly, I don't have the energy to even think of how to do it. Sooo... click on this link, and you will see the most heartwarming video EVER of my little angel.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I am FINALLY satisfied

With the latest episode of Veronica Mars, of course.

Sadly, because of the job, I don't get to watch it until the next day. While That Man is a prince for getting us a DVR, it's in the bedroom, which means he doesn't appreciate my coming home and popping it on. *sigh* The sacrifices you make for true love. And a hubby who makes three times what you do and has to get up early to bring it home. ;)

So, today, I watched.

Definitely saw the breakup coming-that one was obvious from the previews. LOVED LOVED LOVED that it wasn't Veronica who wasn't pregnant. I'm going to pretend that it was my brilliant blogging that made it so. I totally loved the whole epi. The best thing, IMO, was that FINALLY!!!! we see Veronica experiencing some growth. The preacher rocked. I love the preacher. I want to marry him when I kill off my hubby. (kidding... get a sense of humor) I think what I loved was that Veronica's expectations were so low, and they were just shattered by this guy and his genuine faith. YES!!! Faith wins by a landslide on primetime tv!! The other thing I thought was interesting, and I'm going to have to re-watch to see if she deleted it or saved it (did I mention I love having a DVR?), was Logan's message. As much as Veronica has such low expectations of the universe, Logan made a pretty profound point: She's the only one who has high expectations of him. Now this, my friends, is brilliant character development. I love it!!!

Alas, I have to get ready for work now. Which means changing out of mommy gear and into professional gear, brushing my hair for the first time today, and pulling dinner out of the oven. Can I accomplish this in 14 minutes? Yes, I can!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

So this is what exhaustion looks like

Insert picture of me.

Nah, don't want to scare anyone.

I ended up giving up my days off this week, mostly because I'm so behind on online that I have no hope of catching up otherwise. Great plan, except we have so many office clients, I'm stuck doing that. Ah well, it'll be over soon enough. I'm working way too many hours, and I said I wasn't doing that this year. It's amazing to see how one changes so quickly with a bit of arm twisting.

Although I can't keep up this pace. I know lots of women are working mothers. But I realized something today that made a difference. Most working mothers work during the day, while kiddos are in daycare or school. Me, I work at night. Which means, my kids are home while I work. Insert hubby who is unable to multitask, aka either house stays clean or kids stay alive, and I run this horrific cycle of: clean house, go to work, come home to find house worse than when it was before I started cleaning it, clean house, go to work, etc. I am now on day six or seven or somewhere thereabouts of killer headache that only stays gone so long as drugs stay in my system. Which means, even though I am exhausted, the tylenol/caffeine/sudafed cocktail I took to get me through work is still in my system, and while the pain is back, the caffeine/sudafed high is still there, and I've got so much racing through my brain that I can't quiet it enough to sleep.

I am totally sleeping in on Sunday. In fact, I think I might see if I can sleep the whole day.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Did you think I forgot?

Yep, it's our weekly tax tip. :)

Are you getting a refund? Or do you owe? The thing to be looking at right now is your withholding. Huge refunds may mean that you don't need to have as many taxes taken out of your paycheck. A big balance may mean that you haven't had enough taken out.

Why do this analysis? For some people, adjusting their withholding may mean an extra $50 a week in their paychecks. For others, taking out that extra $25 may mean that you don't have to write that big check at the end of the year.

A few people will argue that they like big refunds, because they plan on it every year for things like vacations. Here's a tip: the IRS does not pay interest on your taxes for the year. Which means they're using your money for free for a year. If you're using it as a personal savings account, you're better off stashing it in a regular savings account where you will at least get paid some interest. Especially if your employer has direct deposit options, it's not that hard to have a portion of your paycheck direct deposited into a savings account, rather than it all into your checking. OR, which is what I do, I have bimonthly automatic withdrawls from my checking account to put money into my Roth IRA (you could also put it into a regular savings account). As I tell my clients, even if you only put $25 a month into savings, it only takes a few years for that to turn into thousands.

Yes, I know, I can hear you all saying, "But I'm BROKE." And you're gonna stay broke unless you can find a way to start putting aside some money. Let's face it, we all throw away $25 a month. Why not do something good for yourself?

So if you're getting a huge refund every year, consider adjusting your withholding, taking that money, and putting it aside for yourself. Maybe you're being conservative, like me, and putting it all for retirement. But maybe you want a new house. Or your first house. Or maybe, for once, you're going to take your dream vacation. But this is a gift you can give yourself.

For those of you who dread the big day, save yourself some stress, and have an extra bit taken out of your check. Even if you do $25 a month, it'll be a much smaller bill and you won't give yourself another ulcer trying to figure out where the money is going to come from.

The Good Ole Days

Well, I really want to be in bed, but I put wood on the fire and now I'm not sure that's a good idea with a raging fire. I'm exhausted. Super long day. Got another headed right up.

Tonight, we had a benefit soccer game to benefit the family we did the game for last year, and to benefit a couple of other guys who'd died in the past year. It was super cool. I think what I loved was seeing all of these players come together to support their lost friends.

The cool thing, though, was watching all these old, out of shape guys, who used to play soccer together kicking the ball around like they were kids again, then realizing they weren't. Afterward, we all got together and listened to the guys re-hash the game, which of course, led to all of their "glory days" stories.

I sorta miss those days.

Granted, it gets old listening to the guys re-hash every minute detail of every single play. But it was fun watching them do something they love when they hadn't done it in a long time. I sat talking with the widows, and they thought it was so awesome-that this was what their husbands would have loved.

I think, when That Man kicks the bucket, I'm not having a funeral. We're having a soccer game. All his buddies running around, kicking a ball, talking about how they miss having him there to cherry pick-and looking forward to the day when they're all up there together, kicking it around, and not having to worry about their aching bones or griping that they used to be able to make a shot.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Exactly where I'm supposed to be

God and I are going rounds again. I've been really frustrated and depressed over a lot of things and I want to know WHY. WHY AM I HERE, in this place, when I'm trying so hard to get out? I'm doing everything I know to do, everything I'm supposed to be doing, and it's not working.

So I had a bit of a hissy fit. Yes, I yelled at God, and I cried, and I pouted. I wanted to put my head under the covers and spend a day in bed, however, I don't have that luxury in the peak of tax season.

And then God answered, in the tiniest of whispers. "You are exactly where you are supposed to be."

Excuse me?! I don't think so. You apparently did not hear what I was saying. So I whined a little bit more.

Then my friend Diane (yes, the sainted one from yesterday's post) was telling me about her "stuff" yesterday. Cliff notes version-she hasn't had a job in like, years. And she's really frustrated with God, because it's not like she hasn't been trying. Anyway, she was telling me the latest in the God journey of it, and she told me about how she'd listened to something recently by Charles Stanley that made her realize that all of this frustration isn't about the job. It's about God using her in this time to mold her into the person He wants her to be. Which makes a lot of sense.

Of course, because I tend to be slow when it comes to understanding God, I didn't understand the "Danica application" portion. So I continued nagging Him and asking why about some specific things. Like why, with all the growth in my life, aren't a lot of things I've waited my whole life for, not falling into place? God repeated Himself. "You are exactly where you're supposed to be."

Yes, I heard that. But what about THIS? Same answer. On and on, we wrestled. Then He reminded me of what Diane told me about her situation. It isn't about the situation. It's about HIM. So He asked me, "Can you abide in ME?"

Um, maybe. What exactly does that mean? Abide in Him? Then He reminded me of Philippians 4:11-13. That I need to be content regardless of my circumstances, ending with the famous, "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength." So I can be content even though I'm not where I want to be because You're giving me the strength to do it? Yep.

But I argued with God, because the things that are hard for me right now, and the things I want that I'm not getting, are things I think are important. And frankly, I think they fit in to the big picture of what I'm supposed to be doing for God. Anyone see the problem with the logic of that argument? I didn't, until He chatted with me a while longer. It's HIS deal, so HE is the one who will determine what's important for what I'm doing for Him, not me.

Here's the other thing. Even though finally getting some of the "other things" I want would be totally cool and fulfilling to me personally, it would take away from what I'm working on with God right now. Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all these things will be given to you as well. I'd thought I'd done enough seeking and it was time to be getting. Um, no.

However, because I apparently have a tough time grasping concepts involving turning over my will to God, I had to still argue and question. I GET that it should be about Him. I GET that He's preparing me for what He wants me to do. But WHY, after all this time, am I still in the same place, with no obvious fruit? Jesus zapped the fig tree that bore no fruit. And even though I know we're not supposed to be comparing ourselves to other, I'm sorry, but you know, it SUCKS to watch people who aren't even TRYING to walk with God have blessing upon blessing multiply in their lives. To see that they aren't going through hard stuff day in and day out, and here I am, mucking through, and I'm still in the same place.

"You are exactly where you're supposed to be."

I continue whining, and finally, God pulls one of my tricks on me. "You are exactly where you're supposed to be. Lalalalalalalalalalala."

Fine. I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.

Then today, at MOPS, our mentor mom (married 47 years) talked about marriage, and she said some things that reminded me of my own marriage. She said that in questioning whether or not her hubby was the one she was supposed to marry, that the answer she was given was that the fact that she married him was what made him the one she was supposed to marry. Whoa. Don't get me wrong, I'm not about to kick That Man to the curb or anything like that. I'm in it for the "til death do us part." But I have wondered, is he really The One? And wow, the peace that settled over me in hearing that-He's "The One" because he married me. Now he's really stuck with me. :)

Finally, Danica logic kicked in. Or maybe God finally made my brain work in this area. But it occurred to me. If my being married to That Man, makes him "The One" for me, that means we're supposed to be married. It's the relationship that's supposed to be in my life. And trust me, there are moments when he is the only person who can handle being married to me. God brought him into my life for a reason.

Translate into the other stuff I'm whining about.

I am exactly where I'm supposed to be. God is using me in THIS place. Because it isn't about the place. It's about Him. I'm still not really sure what this whole "abide in ME" stuff is all about. But I get the contentment thing. Not that I am content, because I'm not. I'm not really sure I've ever consistently learned how to be content.

We live in a society that's about goals and achieving, and bigger and better in dealing with everything. God isn't looking for bigger and better. He's the biggest and the best. He just wants us to spend some time, hanging out with Him, and able to say, "in this moment, I am exactly where I'm supposed to be, and in this moment, abiding with You, I am content."

Veronica for Tori

Yes, the previews were TOTALLY misleading!! I was quite pleased to see that they got a full episode worth of happiness. Although they just had to bring in dumb-head what's her name. Madison. Did you know Madison is the name of a famous porn star? Funny story, that. I used to want to have a daughter named Madison (before it was "popular"), but then one of my friends in a band sang this awesome song called "Madison" at a music fest. I asked him about it, and he's like, "oh, that's my favorite porn star." I haven't like the name since. And I really don't like the character. She needs to just die or something.

Sooo... the previews for next week... I'm hoping the whole pregnancy thing is misleading. Because if she IS pregnant, it'll ruin everything. Her only options are 1. abortion, which will make me hunt down Rob Thomas and kill him before I stop watching the show, 2. Her having the baby, which leaves her and Logan to get married, which I can't see that as anything but the satisfying end to the show, OR, being a single mom, which would totally infuriate me, even though I can't see Logan doing that. I can see her pushing him out though. and 3. Losing the baby, which is just too sad and devastating. I suppose she could go with 4. adoption, but I can't see her giving up the baby after what she went through with stupid head what's his name, Duncan. Basically, the only outcome I see that I like is her and Logan getting married, having the baby, and opening up a family detective agency. Now that would be cool.

Especially because, well, what is Logan doing for money these days anyway? Hadn't he spent most of his trust? I was really hoping it would make him go out and do something with his life. Other than being Veronica's numero uno man, of course. :)