Monday, December 22, 2014

The Devil Wears Cleats

This has been a rough month.

It's bad enough that the budget in our household is tighter than an acrobats undies during the Christmas season, but with all the other wonderfulness on top of it ("wonderfulness" being the epitome of irony at this point), I have to admit- the Devil is wearing cleats and jumping on us with both feet.

In the beginning of the month, my husband had a bout of severe exhaustion and was out of work for almost a week. So when the plant shuts down between Christmas and New Years, he has to work part of the week because he used all of his allotted days off. 
I had pain in my right shoulder for a long time and was told over and over again that it was tendinitis, so no lifting for me with that arm, lest I rip something important and need surgery. So I overcompensated and wound up spraining my left forearm. When the MRI results came back for my shoulder, I was diagnosed with Osteoarthritis. So I didn't need to overdo my ding-dang forearm. It was going to hurt anyway, dagnabbit.

It wasn't all bad, however. We prayed for blessings and got them- God let the money stretch so I found some great stuff for Christmas at the thrift store, and then my husband was getting a Christmas bonus! YAY!

The next day, the car died.

When I say died, I mean died. Dead as a doornail. Kaput. The timing belt broke and decided to shred the engine. The family that does all the running-around for ministry was now stuck. How was my husband going to get to work? How would we go food shopping?

I know I prayed to God about the need to walk more, but this was not what I meant!

Normally news like this would send me into a panic. Yes, I only got the car once a week to go food shopping, but this was our only car, and we've been living paycheck to paycheck- so it's not like we can just go to Bubba's Auto Mart and pick up a couple more Hyundais.
That night, I was lying next to my husband and something occurred to me. "I don't remember when the Devil had jumped on us so fast after being blessed," I said. "We must be doing something really right."
He chuckled and held me closer. 
I sighed. "Remember that movie, Facing the Giants? The guy said 'in the good times I will praise You, and in the bad times I will still praise You.' Let's do that right now."
And we did. We praised Him for the peace we felt in this mess, We praised Him for the blessings of being able to work during the holidays when the company could have said "No" and suffer the loss of income, We praised Him for the Christmas bonus, the fact that I got the gifts before the car died, and all of the little things God does for us each day.

Then we went to sleep.

I'm going to confess something. As true as this story is, That doesn't mean I'm happy about it. I'm so not happy. I really liked that little Hyundai wagon, and they don't make them anymore. I run a bread ministry and I'm the main driver for picking up the bread. Our church and the local families need that bread. I cried when I was praising Him because my husband works so hard just to keep our heads above water and doesn't need anymore stress. 

I'm hating the situation, but I'm not going to hate God for it. The Devil would be dancing in his cleats if I did that. I'm not a perfect Christian- I'm not even a fantastic Christian. I'm just your semi-normal calorically-challenged individual that loves God and needs Him on a daily basis, or I'll fall apart. 

This has been a rough month. If I wasn't leaning on God, I'd be a hot mess right now. Trust me.

When I told a family member about my situation, she asked "Are you sure you're doing things right? Maybe God is telling you you're doing things wrong by letting all this bad stuff happen."
I gave that some thought. Was he trying to punish us? I didn't think so- if He'd wanted to punish us, why were we feeling so peaceful, like God was smiling on us? I think if God was upset with us, we'd know it- big time.

There's good news though! When my church heard about all this, someone lent us his truck for the weekend so we could get our food shopping done. Because of my husband's bonus we could buy enough food for several weeks (since we don't know when we can go shopping again). People offered to do some bread pick-ups for my ministry until we can wrangle up another vehicle- and my husband found that he can get a ride to work and take a train home, so he can work those overtime hours during the holiday.

The devil wear cleats. But God's cleats are bigger and have the devil's name on each spike.

God is indeed good. And I praise Him for it.

Happy Birthday Jesus! And thank You for all the gifts!


Monday, December 15, 2014

Ham Radio

I was invited to be a guest on an internet radio station.

At first I was terrified. Who was I to be on a radio interview? I've never done a lick of stand-up, no TV commercials, and haven't even made it on to the news. But he wanted me on his show anyway, because he thought I was funny. What I really am is a complete and total ham- and he wanted me to be funny on the air.

Egad, the pressure!

He listed me a a comedienne- Me? Oh, no, no, no..I'm a humorist. Comediennes need to be funny every few seconds, while I'm a storyteller- I need a few minutes to be funny. But he insisted that i would be good enough for his show. 

I studied on how to be a good radio guest. I learned tips and tricks to keeping up the conversation. I learned what not to do, like say a lot of "ums" and leave dead air by pausing too much before answering. I was ready. When the time came, I called in.

At first I thought we had a bad connection, but the hosts mike was on the fritz and only worked sporadically. The co-host was good to go though, and all I had to do was repeat what I though the host said, just to make sure I and the listeners understood before I answered. He sounded like he was stuttering, but we managed to muddle through 40 minutes of the hour-long program. I thought I did only a few "ums" but all in all, I was doing well. I even spouted a poem I'd written called "Ode to Baldness".

Then the air went dead.

"John?" I paused a moment. 
"John?" 
Nothing. I tried to buy time. "Come on, John, the poem wasn't that bad was it?"
Silence. 
Nothing from the co-host either. Egad.
"Okay folks, I think we lost John."
Then the co-host popped on "I'm here!"
"Aaugh! I think I killed John!" (unfortunately this part was edited out of the broadcast)
"Nah, his mike probably died." the co-host replied. Then we continued the show.

John popped on a few minutes later- he had to call in on his own show! But at least his voice was clear now, and we completed the interview, having some laughs along that way.

Apparently he liked what I did, because he suggested I start my own radio show. "What would you call it?" He asked.
"Oh that's easy- Footprints in the Mud!" I replied.
"I'm going to keep egging you on to do this Beth", he said. "You have a great radio voice."
I, being the ham I am, lowered my tone a few notes, doing my best "announcer" persona, "Why, thank you, John!"

After we finished the show and I hung up, I gave his suggestion some thought. Could I be a radio show host? The idea has merit.

Though if I did, they might have to redefine the definition of "Ham" radio!

What do you think?

Here is a link to the show if you want to listen : http://blogtalk.vo.llnwd.net/o23/show/7/093/show_7093221.mp3

Monday, December 8, 2014

Meowy Christmas

It happened. As an early Christmas gift, we now have a new kitty added to our chaotic family. I named her Tinkerbell.

I should have called her Schizo. Or Sybil.

I first saw her at the shelter when I took Scootch in for a checkup. This little kitty had pure black silky short hair, with golden orange eyes. She reached out with her little paw, playing with me without using her claws, and I was enchanted. I asked to see her and we were put in a room. She was a total doll, playing and letting me pet her- even her tail. She was sweet but not overly friendly- she was more interested in playing, not cuddling- but that was to be expected since she was only 2.5 years old and stuck in a cage all day. 

After a few conversations with my husband to form a game plan, I went to the shelter to take her home. She entered the carrier without a fuss, and didn't utter a single sound on the way home.

The second we brought the carrier in, our boys wanted to see what was up. She hissed. We took her upstairs. She was going to reside in my daughter's room for most of the time until they got used to each other. Cats don't get along at first- she needed to get used to the sights and sounds of a new home, and my boys needed to get used to a new girl in the house.

We let her roam about when everyone is home for just a few hours each day- eight eyes are better than two, and the worst that's happened so far is growling, hissing and a few staring contests. The funniest part is that our boys are scared of her!

She comes down the stairs and they run. Yet when I come near her she runs. Tinkerbell seems to be bonding with my daughter (which is what we wanted), but she doesn't seem to like me. At least not yet. I hate this part of the bonding process because I have to be patient- and I'm not a patient person. I'm used to being able to charm animals, but Tinkerbell is slow to warm up to me. She likes my husband though- at least, until he pets her too fast- then he's rewarded with a swat.

She'll lay down with us one minute, and the next make a dash upstairs for no reason. Crazy cat.

I found her lying on my daughter's bed the other day and reached out to pet her. She was into it at first, but then tried to nip me. I tried easing my hand near her and she placed her paw on my hand, claws extended just enough so I could feel them. I got the hint and removed my hand. Slowly.

I know it will take time for her to get used to us. She was adopted before and returned, and I won't allow that to happen again. But I really do hope that she calms down and becomes the sweet little cat I met in the shelter. But for now, I'll have to play Kitty Referee and Master of Distractions to avoid any serious fights.

Maybe if I rolled myself in catnip...?


Monday, December 1, 2014

Boomerang Blessings

Unexpected blessings are awesome.

A friend of mine is caring for three children, and was feeling a bit overwhelmed. So we invited the whole bunch over for dinner and encouraged the kids to play games that didn't involve any techy gadgets. The three kids (two girls are tweens, one boy is mid single digits), rolled their eyes when my kids sat down with them to play cards and board games.

The eldest girl wasn't paying attention much to the jovial chaos, playing a game or texting on her phone. But after thirty minutes, all five kids were into a hilarious bickering over the rules of one particular game, because my son was trying to change the rules in his favor- and everyone knew it- including my son.

He didn't care. He's sixteen, has Aspergers, and thrives on conflict. His grin was wider than the Mississippi River as he went toe to to with each of the kids, including the youngest boy. When the first hour was over, they were having a blast! They switched to a new game, this time it was Battleship- though all three kids were surprised that the game didn't have all the sounds and electronics that the newer versions have. 

Yes folks, we actually have games that don't require batteries. Call Guinness World Records. 

In the beginning, we were blessing my friend and her kids. In the end our kids were blessed with company, we were blessed with the sounds of laughter and kids who weren't bored, enjoying themselves. By the end of the night, everyone went home or to bed tired, but smiling. Even the youngest had been begging to come over the next day to play again. 

We invited them back two days later, and this time we made homemade french bread pizza. They had a blast playing all kinds of silly card games and spent the next four hours at our house like they were there only a few minutes. Oh there were some snarky remarks made during heated debates over the rules, but since we adults were in the next room to hear everything (and correct any bad behavior), things settled down pretty quickly and fun ensued once more.

By ministering to others, they had in turn ministered to us. Which was an unexpected but delightful boomerang blessing!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Leftover Day

Traditions have to start somewhere...right? So we've decided to start a new one.

We call it Leftover Day.

Thanksgiving is the time for family. We make a ton of food, eat a ton of food, then talk about all the food we ate. Most of the time there are leftovers, and many questions as to what to do with all of the food before it goes bad. I have teenagers, so I my leftovers don't usually last very long, but I remember having leftovers from past Thanksgivings.

I noticed some of my friends didn't seem thrilled about being with family for Thanksgiving. In fact, some dreaded it because of all the drama that ensues. Since this holiday is geared towards family, even with the drama potential, no one really wanted to not go over for the traditional family Thanksgiving meal.

So I devised a solution.

We invite several friends and people with no family over on the Friday after Thanksgiving for Leftover Day. If they have leftovers they bring them, or bring a side dish. We make an extra turkey, and one or two side dishes (if we weren't hosting that year), then have a second Thanksgiving with friends. Everyone has their signature side dish or dessert, so we all get to try something different at the Thanksgiving table, and maybe share a few new recipes. Any unwanted leftovers are boxed up and sent to the local shelter or to local families in need. 

I always manage to have enough left over to make turkey salad for lunches for work and school, my fridge is cleaned out, and no food will go bad. I get to spend some extra time with friends, and there's no pie daring me to eat it. 

Oh yeah, this is going to be a new tradition in our house!

Would you be willing to try having a Leftover Day? If so, I'd love to hear how it went!

Monday, November 17, 2014

MRI Yi Yi!

Once upon a time I had a shoulder. It was a good shoulder, but it got strained and decided to go on strike. Now I no longer have a shoulder- I have this creaky old arm hinge that hurts whenever I try to lift stuff.

I asked for an MRI. I got an X-ray. X-ray said the bone was fine. Duh. I already knew that. This wasn't a bone issue, medical people- even you told me it was a tendinitis thing. But let's waste some fundage anyway by taking useless pictures of perfectly healthy bone. Sheesh.

Only after the X-ray was I allowed to get an MRI. So I took my permission slip and off I went to schedule an appointment.

I've never had an MRI before. Oh, I've heard tales of claustrophobics having panic attacks and people not knowing they had metal in them (like a pin they swallowed in the second grade), but I watched House and Bones and knew that those machines weren't as small as my friends had told me- they seemed roomier on TV. After all, TV doesn't fabricate...right?

The TV people lied.

Everything was hunky dory as I lay down on the little bench, trying to keep my bulk from slipping off the sides as the technician screwed on a shoulder holder thing that reminded me of a really weird-looking C-clamp. This was to keep my shoulder from moving during the photo shoot.

They laid a cotton blanket on me that was thin but warmed me up in a jiffy- especially nice since the room was below freezing. I really want to know where they sell those things- I want one to slip between my sheets on winter nights!

I also had a firm pillow tucked under my knees to make things more comfortable. Back spasms are bad if you have to lie still for forty minutes. I was given a panic button to summon the tech if I needed anything. Now it was time to stick me in a tube that reminded me of the casket shooter that shot Spock's body into space in Star Trek: Genesis.

As my head went in I was also concerned I might reenact Mr. Incredible's entrance into the travel pod in The Incredibles. A few more pounds and that might have actually happened!

My body parts that tried to slide off the sides were suddenly scooped up and pressed against the very tight walls of the machine. Oh sure, my shoulder had some support now, but was squished against the C-clamp and the wall. Looking up only rewarded me with a close look at frosted glass that glowed like a small sun. 

To hide the impending noise of the machine, I was gifted with earphones. Before the earphones were put on, I was given ear plugs. Talk about an oxymoron. But the best part was that my ears were already half plugged with wax (yet another health issue from the Wonderful World of Old), so I could barely hear the music from the 80's that I'd requested. 

But I'd heard that machine. 

I imagine it would sound the same from the inside of a dryer that contained a pair of sneakers. Thump, thump, thump. I hit the button several times to ask for her to turn up the music, but my requests fell on deaf ears- or the button she gave me was a fake one. I suspected the latter. I closed my eyes and thought happy thoughts- like how I was eternally grateful not to be claustrophobic.

Believe it or not, I fell asleep.

The sound of my own soft snoring woke me, and the tech clicked in. "How are you doing in there?" she asked. I think she thought my snores were me having labored breathing from a panic attack. "I'm good- can you turn up the music please?" But I heard a click after "I'm good" and the music remained muted.

So I fell asleep again.

The machine stopped and started a few times, and she kept announcing every four minutes that another four minutes had passed. And each time, she woke me up. Apparently I didn't need an update- I needed a nap.

Then it was over and I was extracted from the machine. My shoulder was killing me. It didn't like being shoved in a C-clamp and a Star Trek tube for forty minutes and let me know most insistently. 

I was helped into a sitting position, and my head spun. "Oh, that's normal," she said. "You'll be fine in a few minutes." Then she tried to rush me to stand and get out of the MRI room. I put a hand up and warned her to give me a minute- unless she wanted to try to pick my bulk off of the floor all by herself. She waited a minute until I was ready to stand. Smart lady.

I went into the changing room and slid off the robe, then spent the next ten minutes trying to get dressed with a shoulder that refused to cooperate. I did not want to go out into the real world without certain undergarments (at my age, gravity is not my friend), so after a struggle and a lot of awkward twisting, I finally managed to get dressed. Then I got the heck out of there.

I should be getting the results this week. I have to wonder what MRI really means. Personally, I think it means Majorly Rectal Irritant, which means a pain in the posterior- or in my case, shoulder. But you get the idea. Please keep me in prayer, Dear Readers- I need them!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Teens!

I know why God gave me children, but why did He have to give me teenagers?

These people think they know everything- and thanks to technology and new math, most of the time they can prove it. But I have questions that need answers!

Why can a teenager program my new cell phone in 3.2 seconds, but can't figure out the proper setting for a dishwasher?

Why can a teenager talk or text friends on the phone forever, but can't remember what they did at school for eight hours?

How can teens make themselves a four course breakfast, but can't remember to put the food away?

How can teens be up at the crack of dark to go on a trip, but can't manage to crack an eyelid when the alarm goes off for school?

How can they understand new math but don't understand the simpler, old math?

Why are we parents considered dumb as stumps- until we brainstorm a way to get them out of trouble?

Why do teens think spelling isn't important, but get mad when no one understands their written work?

Why are teens okay with spending money- unless it's their own?

And why, King, of Kings and Lord of Lords, can't these teenage people clean up after themselves when they make a mess? I don't care if it's their rooms, the couch, or the kitchen- the house seems to be their personal dump site!

I really wonder if God was dealing with Adam and Eve as teens in Eden. "I gave you a garden and all I said was 'Don't touch that one tree'...and what do you do?" Then God places His hand to His head and sighs, muttering to Himself, "Thou shalt not kill...thou shalt not kill...I need to write this down...."

So God decided right then and there to invent The Mother's Curse- because He wanted them to have kids that act exactly like they acted.....

Teens. Can't live with 'em, can't sell 'em on Ebay. But you gotta love 'em, because you're the only one who can brainstorm them out of trouble....

Sigh.