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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Unwanted Gifts

Have you seen that commercial where women go on vacation and Mother Nature shows up with a "gift"? Well, that was the start of my Christmas vacation. Very not fun. Not the kind of gift anyone wants for Christmas, that's for sure.

Christmas morning, I opened the gifts from hubby. I told him I didn't want anything. We were getting the Wii Fit and that was enough. I also wanted a new bowl set, but because I'm picky, I told him I wanted to pick it out, so not to bother. So for Christmas, he got me a set of bowls. Yep, wrong bowls. Don't get me wrong, they're nice bowls. But they aren't the kind I need, so even though I can use them, I still have to go buy the bowls I need. He also got me another gift that I thought was a little too expensive, and not something I really need, so I was frustrated with that. The third gift from hubby was sweet, so it wasn't a total loss. But still, a disappointing morning when I'd have been happier with nothing.

As the day wore on, I started feeling like I was coming down with something. By the end of the day, I couldn't deny it. Santa had brought me a cold.

At face value, you could say this has been a disappointing Christmas. The family loves the Wii, and even though I've played a couple of times, I don't feel like doing more than resting on the couch. I've gone to the other room and slept for a while when the sound of their joyful giggles made my head ache too much. As much as they are enjoying the perfect gift I've been wanting to give them for so long, I am not.

Today, when we went out to pick up a few things, we drove past a house that burned down the other day. Talk about an unwanted gift. I bet losing everything wasn't a part of their holiday plans. A friend of mine spent Christmas with her little one in ICU with flu symptoms. Another friend asked for prayers for a neighbor who found her husband dead of a heart attack on Christmas Day. I don't think they asked to lose a husband and father of two children for Christmas.

Even though it wasn't quite the holiday I expected, I have to sit here in gratitude for the things I did receive. Or at least still have. A nice, safe, comfortable home. Healthy children. A husband. Maybe I don't get to enjoy the Wii today, but I will. And my husband and kids are having a great time. Today, my 5yo thanked Jesus at dinner for our Wii. They're both pretty happy with everything they got. I'll be feeling better soon, and things will be back to normal.

We put so much emphasis on the material gifts that we sometimes forget about the best gift, the reason we celebrate the holiday to begin with. What are all these other things in comparison to that?

So today, I am thankful. Even for the unwanted gifts. Because I have the best gift of all.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Who can you touch?

Last week, one of my critique partners brought a rough piece to share. She told us she didn't know what she was going to do with it, but she needed to write it because it was heavy on her heart and she needed to get it out. First off, let me say that it was a great piece. In terms of the writing, I thought it needed very little in terms of mechanics. Yes, it needed direction, but mostly in that she needed to figure out who her audience was and the purpose of the piece. Otherwise, it was excellent. But that's not my point.

Frankly, if all she did with the piece was let it languish on her hard drive, it did its job. Why? Because when I read it, I knew it had been written for me. Did she say as she was writing, "I think Danica needs to read this?" Nope. But it was a struggle heavy on her heart that the Lord needed to deal with in her life. Which happened to be similar to a struggle in mine. As I've pondered her words and the Lord's words, I can only sit in complete amazement in how perfectly our God works with our imperfections to meet our needs.

My prayer for this piece is that my friend figures out a home for it and lots of people read it and are ministered to by reading it. But even if it garners thousands of rejections and no home, God still used her writing. First, it helped her vocalize emotions to a situation she struggled with. But second, it helped me sort through something I've been struggling with. All because she had the courage to write something hard and share it with someone else.

Are you writing and wondering what the payoff will be? Maybe you'll be like Debbie Macomber and touch millions of people across the globe. But maybe it's only meant to draw you and God closer. Or maybe it will help the one person you give it to. And maybe it'll help someone in between. But maybe, you'll write something and never know it's touched a person's life. You just have to have the guts to put it out there trusting that God will let it land where it needs to land.

Personally, there are so many people who've written things that meant the world to me, and I wish I'd thanked them all. I'm so glad that they decided to put it out there anyway.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sweet Anticipation

I told you about how we're surprising the kiddos with a Wii this Christmas. In a fun turn of events, we keep going to friends' houses and they all have Wiis. The kids have been so excited to play the games. Today we went to another friend's house where again, the kids got to play a Wii.

On the way home, my 9yo says, "Mom, I didn't have very much fun playing the Wii today."

What? Oh crap. But I need more info, right? "Why do you say that?"

"Because there were too many people to share with so I didn't get a very long turn. Plus, I REALLY wanted to play Mario Kart but my sister never wants to play, so I haven't had time to play it. Mom, I really want to play Mario Kart."

SCORE!!!! Because yes, we DID get them Mario Kart. And hubby is super excited about playing it with her.

"Mom, I wish we could go somewhere where I could play Wii for a long time. I really liked it at our cousin's, where I got to play as much as we wanted. Can we go back there?"

Do you know how hard it was for me to NOT crack? I wanted to say, "Guess what, honey bear?! You're getting a Wii for Christmas!!!"

But did I? No. I said, "Well, honey, we'll see what we can arrange. Maybe after Christmas."

What satisfied me more than her sweet, "that would be great," was her lack of begging for a Wii. A long time ago, we told her that they were too expensive and we didn't think they were a good idea. It's going to be so exciting for her to see that maybe they didn't get a lot of presents, but they did get something they never imagined we'd get.

For me, this has been a hard secret to keep. Mostly because I cannot wait to see the joy on her face when she realizes what she's been given. I'm so excited for that moment.

I think about what it says in Luke 11 " 11"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!""

If I am as excited as I am about giving my kids a Wii, I can't imagine how excited God is for all the great gifts He wants to give us.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My big fat tea confession

Most of you know my love for tea. Tea is something that, for me, is a guaranteed pick-me-up. I drink hot tea 365 days a year. I like tea bags, loose tea, and any other tea in between. I have three teapots that I use regularly, three I use sometimes, but are mostly decoration, and then a few itty bitty decorative ones that people keep giving me because they think I like tea junk (PLEASE!!! STOP!!!). I also have a handy dandy on the go travel tea mug with a strainer built in so I can have tea whenever, wherever. And, as some of you know, the best birthday gift EVER was my hot water boiler so I can have instant hot water for tea anytime.

Today, though, I had to ask myself if I have a little bit of a tea problem.

I finished my Christmas shopping yesterday, but when I was in one of the stores, I noticed that they had a number of Republic of Tea teas that are special for the holidays. Republic of Tea is one of my favorite brands of tea. They can get pricey, although since I've started buying a lot of loose tea from tea shops, I don't have as much sticker shock over spending $9.50 for a thing of tea, especially considering I get 50 tea bags. After justifying and justifying, I bought myself a tin of tea. I decided that it would be my stocking stuffer, since I usually take care of stocking stuffers for the family.

Then today, I was reading one of my magazines and they mentioned a different tea from Republic of Tea that sounded wonderful. Well, okay, two teas. And I am very happy that I could not find them on their website, because otherwise, I may have had to buy some. Which would be very, very bad. Yes. Bad. My tea cupboard is pretty close to capacity right now, and my rule is, when the cupboard's full, I can't buy more.

This, my friends, is my tea cupboard. The top shelf actually is a pull down spice rack with three shelves FULL of tea. My blue teapot on shelf two is the one I use the most-it's my I'm alone all day drinking tea teapot. It has a nice strainer built right in. Best little teapot on the planet.

A few notable teas:
Top shelf: I actually don't like the Tazo African Red Bush tea or the Yogi Peach Detox tea. I just can't bring myself to throw away perfectly good tea. I'm allergic to the banana chamomile tea, because I'm allergic to chamomile, but I give it to my kids. The big gray box is the decaf Earl Grey I bought today because I'm drinking my last bag of it now. The white box is my current fave- Sugar Cookie by Celestial Seasonings. My kids like it too. The others are just random teas I drink in when in the mood or keep around for guests who like that kind of tea.

Middle Shelf:
I mentioned the teapot. We have limited cupboard space at our house, so that's the only spot I have for it. I'm a bit resentful that I don't get to use that space for more tea. I also keep a box of Emergen-C there, and I'm not sure why. The orangish box is a nice bagged chai I stick in rice milk to trick me into thinking I can drink chai on this dairy free diet. The blue box is my Lady Grey, and I only have one bag left. I should've bought it today when I got my Earl Grey, but I thought it would be too greedy of me to buy two kinds of tea in one day. The plastic wrapped box is Red Zinger, hubby's favorite. On top of that is Tazo Lotus, which is my fave green tea. The silver bag is a lovely loose mint called Mahgreb Mint that I got at a local tea shop. Behind my teapot, I have a number of similar bags of other lovely loose teas.

Bottom Shelf:
The brown bags are all assorted loose teas from local tea shops. You can see a red container of lotus seed tea that my FIL picked up for me in Cambodia. Next to it is a detox tea I like. Next to that is my favorite bagged Jasmine tea, Jasmine Pearl, made by Two Leaves and a Bud. Then there is the good old standby, Lipton, and YES, I DO drink Lipton. Next to that is some of the Traditional Medicinals tea I keep on hand for colds.

AND... behind all of the containers of tea you can see are more containers of tea. My tea cupboard is PACKED.

So how can I possibly want more? Seriously, I am a sick woman. I justify this all by saying no one ever hurt another human being under the influence of tea. Well, maybe they did, but the Surgeon General hasn't come out with a warning about it. And frankly, the more tea I drink, the less I want to hurt people. If you see me in an "I want to hurt people" mood, give me a cup of tea, and I'll calm right down.

You know, the more I look at this picture, the more I'm convinced I can fit more tea in there. I'm going to InTea on Tuesday to meet my BFF and her daughter, my daughter's BFF, so we can attend the Teddy Bear Tea. Which means I will probably bring home a bag of their tea of the day, because I can never resist. *sigh* I don't know if you can tell in the picture, but there are some green bags toward the back of the bottom shelf as well as behind the teapot on the middle shelf- those are InTea bags. If I moved my Emergen-C, which really belongs with supplements, and not tea, I'd get that box space back. And surely if I moved things in my OTHER cupboards, I could put the blue teapot somewhere else, freeing up that space, right? And if I found a good home for the icky detox and African Red bush, that would give me more room there, right?

Anyone want to come over for tea?

Monday, December 14, 2009

A response from the President

Some of you may recall that I wrote a letter to the President and my Congressmen back in March. Yup, March. I figured they'd all blown me off, but imagine my surprise when I received a letter in the mail from Barack Obama himself. It takes him the amount of time it takes most people to have a baby to write little ole me a letter. Yeah, I know, he's busy running the country and all that.

But really... I must share his sage words with you all:

Dear Friend (Huh, I never said we were friends. Is that kind of like a guy who sleeps around calling all the girls, Baby?):

Thank you for writing me about the pressures facing the middle class. (Sort of like that Santa/M&Ms commercial where they both realize that they do exist!) I have heard from countless Americans working hard to make ends meet (do you call all of us Friend, or is that just the special little name you have for me), and I appreciate your perspective. (Really?! I'll just bet you hung on every word my talented self wrote.)

My administration is addressing the serious challenges our Nation faces. (That is just swell!) Some say we are moving forward on too many issues too quickly. (Not letter writing, that's for sure. Especially since I'm beginning to suspect someone merely printed off a canned response and stuck it in an envelope.) Given our unprecedented circumstances, swift, deliberate action is needed. (You put the words right in mouth, buddy. Can I call you that? After all, you called me friend.) I am committed to taking immediate steps that generate job creation and economic recovery, and I am determined to make investments that lay a new foundation for real and lasting progress. (Wow. So do you send this letter to all your friends, or do you have a list of canned letters based on keywords in a person's letter? Just wondering. Because so far, you haven't addressed any of the points I made.)

I can't type any more of his letter without vomiting in my own mouth. The next paragraph is all his propaganda about health care reform, clean energy, education, homeland security, cutting the budget deficit, yada yada yada. The last line, though, I think is really clever. "We can do all this, and change the way business is done in Washington, by building the most open, transparent, and accountable government in history."

Seriously. He said that. The most open, transparent, and accountable government in history. He hasn't read much history, has he? Actually, he's right. In comparison to say, the communists, this is a very open, transparent, and accountable government. After all, a communist would have me jailed for daring to say that he is falling really short of the mark. So hey, kudos to you, President Obama. You got me on that one.

Final paragraph: Ultimately, the only way to solve the problems of our time is to involve all (ALL? Really? Are you sure? I don't think anyone really even read this letter, so how are you involving ME in the process, except to put more of your propaganda in my hands. Come on, Mr. President, surely you think we're smarter than that) Americans in shaping the policies that affect our lives. Thank you again for writing. (No, thank YOU. Really, I mean that.) I encourage you to explore www.WhiteHouse.gov, which is regularly updated and more interactive than ever before. (Super! It has a lot of great information about what you're doing, but I don't get the interactive part. Interactive as in we get to watch a video of you? Or interactive as in we actually get to participate in our governmental processes? No need to answer, we already know it.)

A very clearly stamped by someone else signature of Barack Obama (I am so touched. It's a pretty high-quality stamp. I'm not 100% on this one, but it may have even been printed on the page by the computer. Now that's some high-tech, courtesy of my tax dollars. I bet THAT helped stimulate the economy.)

Sooo... here is my takeaway. Um, yeah, they really don't give a crap. Someone very well trained in regurgitating the President's agenda wrote a nice letter to send to anyone who has issues with what's going on in the country. I'm actually more disappointed that I have not heard from my Congressmen. They have fewer people to deal with, and it's disturbing that they don't seem to care what the people they represent think. So who exactly do they represent? I'm not sure. I just know it's not me.

Welcome to Democracy in America, ladies and gentlemen. Along with a bridge he's going to try to sell us all, the President wants you to believe that is is the most open, transparent, and accountable government in history. I suppose duck manure and cow manure smell differently, but in the end, it's still just crap.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Best Christmas movies ever?

My friends keep talking about their favorite books... I have to be honest. I couldn't think of any until someone reminded me of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. LOVED Imogene. I think I need to get that book for my kids.

Now movies... there are some good ones. I've heard people listing them, but you know, they've all left out MY favorite. So I'm going to blog about it because I think we need to remember this oft forgotten classic.

Meet Me in St. Louis

Seriously, if you have not watched it, you must. This, my friends, is the movie that debuted the fabulous Judy Garland song, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. If you like that song and haven't seen this movie, shame on you! I think having seen the movie, the song is so much more beautiful.

So there it is... my favorite Christmas movie. Margaret O'Brien as Tootie is delightful. Actually, she reminds me of my own children. Maybe that's why I love her. Plus, who doesn't love Judy Garland? Well, maybe you shouldn't answer that. This is what we call an IQ test. :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Are you missing the ocean in the desert?

I had dinner with a friend recently, and this friend asked me a question that rocked my world. It was an innocent enough question, and I know she had no idea what she was asking. But as I began the answer I've been giving to that question for a long time, I realized something... that's not me anymore. Sure, that was the answer to what was happening in my life a while ago. But now? I'm living in entirely different circumstances. Better ones.

I'd been in the desert in this one area of my life for so long that I'd begun to accept that I will always be in the desert. I began to see this place as one big desert, and completely missed the fact that I was actually swimming in an ocean of blessings! Talk about being blind.

Since then, God has continued to rip off the blinders and pour salve into that wound. No, my life isn't perfect, and certainly, I lack a lot of things. But this one place... I am so full that the blessings are overflowing. And I almost completely missed it because I had resigned myself to the desert.

Do places of your life feel like a desert? Have you taken time to reexamine them? Maybe, instead of being in the desert, you're swimming in an ocean, but haven't realized it yet!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Five Cents? Really?

Today's irritation: the whole Starbucks world AIDS day thing. Guess what? When you buy a cup of their overpriced coffee, they'll give a whopping FIVE CENTS to AIDS relief efforts. People are going to rush in to Starbucks to do their good deed for the day, Starbucks gets the pat on the back for being socially responsible, everybody feels good about themselves, all over a measly FIVE CENTS. Here's a thought: Why not skip the Starbucks today, and donate your $2.50 or whatever your drink of choice costs to the charity of your choice? Imagine what kind of good you could do if you skipped your Starbucks run one day a week and donated that money. But instead, everyone's all hopped up over the five cents that doesn't cut into anyone's profit margins. Yes, it adds up, and yes, I'm sure it does good. But come on people!

Most of us make in a week what these people in Africa make in a year. And all it takes to ease our conscience is five cents out of money we're already spending. That doesn't sit right with me. Even if you're making an extra trip to Starbucks to do your part, you're spending your money to give FIVE CENTS. Seriously. Five cents. If all you really want to give is five cents, why not run by the mall and drop that change in the Salvation Army bucket?

Maybe I'm jaded, but it seems to me that this whole making a difference for World AIDS Day is less about actually helping people, but about giving Starbucks a great PR platform. People are going to buy more coffee because they think they're doing a good thing. And sure, they're helping people. Starbucks gets $2.45, AIDS gets $.05. Who's the real winner here?

If you care about AIDS and the plight of people with AIDS, here are a few suggestions to make a real difference. First, visit the World AIDS Day website, with information on AIDS as well as ways to get involved. Yes, it takes a little more than buying your favorite drink, but seriously, why not feel good about actually making a difference as opposed to tossing in your five cents while Starbucks gets richer? Second, there are a lot of great organizations invested in caring for people affected by HIV/AIDS. Two of my favorites are World Vision and Compassion International. For what tends to be the average American's monthly Starbucks budget, you can sponsor a child in an HIV/AIDS affected area and give that child hope for a decent future. You can't drink it, but you will be saving a life.