Friday, July 25, 2008

Beautiful evening

Friday evening. 7:45 pm. Max and I have been driving across Iowa to find 'the shot.' We seem to do this a lot now that he has his camera. And, now that I have my laptop, I actually enjoy writing while we are out. I'm parked in a field in front of an old grain bin. Max has walked into the field next to me and set up his tripod.

We never know what we're going to find out here, we just keep looking until one or the other of us says 'how about that'?

I love Iowa. The sights, sounds, smells just fill my senses. Crickets, cicadas, birds, flies buzzing around, and even a frog croaking are sounds that fill my ears. As I look across the vista in front of me, I see the gold prairie grass and freshly mown green grasses. We are next to a soybean field and on the horizon there are rows of trees punctuated by farmsteads. The scents flowing through the car windows are of fresh grasses. There are sounds I can't identify, but for me it is beautiful.

Max likes to shoot pictures in the late afternoon, early evening and early morning. The shadows grow longer and give him interesting subjects to shoot. This is a peaceful time of day here, very little traffic and the wind of the day has settled down.

I think I need a nap. I was up late last night reading and writing. I'm warm right now with the late sun coming in the car window/ I could easily fall asleep. In fact, I am doing a lot more editing as I get droopier and droopier. My fingers forget where they are at on the keyboard. If I nod off, however, you won't even know it. The next words I type - whether they be within moments, minutes or hours will be the next words you read!

Last Friday we were out and came across a beautifully serene scene.A horse and a donkey were in a field grazing. The background was filled with trees, clouds in the sky and rich grasses. I pulled over, Max set up his tripod and began to prepare the picture. It was soon ruined however by the horse and donkey. They came trotting over to see Max in action and pose for the photographer. It was a riot! We didn't stay long after tht, but he did get a couple of shots of the kids posing.

The sun continues to set. Max continues to shoot. What a beautiful evening.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Weird Dreams

You know, I've told some of my friends that I have very strange dreams and I really enjoy them! In fact, they are generally more entertaining than television. A lot of my dreaming is based on books that I'm reading - the freakier, the better!

This morning I was in the middle of a dream stranger than most. Max woke me up as he was getting ready to leave and I tried to tell him I was having weird dreams, but he pretty much ignored me and went about doing his thing. Hmmmm ... I don't blame him (hehe).

However, this was entertaining enough that I have to share with you!

The whole family was at Bell's Dell (our cabin in north central Iowa). Jim had brought up some old D&D gaming things, with characters that I had developed years ago. I thought it was fun. Then, for some reason or other, he and I needed to leave to deal with something. We got in his van and at some point were on the interstate headed east. I looked up, the sky was bubbling in interesting colors and then, there was a huge dragon coming toward us. It opened it's mouth and whoosh! A blast of flame surrounded the van. We drove through it and the dragon continued its westward path. I looked at Jim and said, "I'm glad you're here to see this. Otherwise, no one would believe me!" He kept driving and another ... smaller dragon was in front of us. It opened its mouth, but we moved past it quickly and no more blasts of fire.

As I looked up there were immense creatures all over. They looked like the large balloons that you see in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, but were autonomous and nearly alive. There was an immense, cartoonish elephant rumbling down the opposite side of the interstate, scattering cars to the side.

I was trying to call Max (Jim had this awesome computer display in the visor of his car - don't ask, I make these things up in my dreams) to let everyone know what was happening. Jim turned off the interstate to head back to Bell's Dell. Whatever errand we were on was not nearly as important as getting back to our families. Along this 2 lane road, all of a sudden, there was an immense Spiderman that flew up beside us. He pulled ahead of us and began rapidly clapping his hands to stir up the air currents and throw us off course. It didn't work and he flew away.

By the time we got back to the cabin, there was a large group of people there. And for some reason, I was in serious trouble. These people were afraid of me and I found myself on a deck facing a wood chipper! I looked around the meadow and saw my family and a few friends. Carol got my attention to show me how they were planning to get me out of the situation. I just needed to hold them off for a few minutes. So, I began to preach! I called for my Bible. Someone found it and brought it to me and I started to preach on fear and the end of the world.

I kept looking at the wood chipper and thinking that this was not a pleasant way to die and I needed to get these people to turn their minds to something else.

And then ... I woke up.

I know where the wood chipper came from in the dream. I had been watching several episodes of "Bones" and that implement was used to spread skeletal parts around an area. Carol is at Bell's Dell this weekend and I've talked to her several times, so I know why that imagery is in my mind. But, the large balloon characters? Dragons on the interstate? Preaching on the end of the world? Yah. Got no idea.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Still Gotta Love the Weekend

Ok, my favorite thing about the weekend (and evenings for that matter) is that Max is around. Granted, the man is a geek and hangs out a lot in front of his computer, but it's kind of nice to be able to talk to him immediately rather than hope that he has time to answer a telephone.

Yesterday was great. He got home after work and we took off for Southwest Iowa. It's our favorite place (because it's close) to haunt with his camera. Leica is a pretty great traveling companion, the Jeep is a fabulous vehicle to take on the backroads of Iowa and my Kindle is good entertainment for me while Max is wandering ditches and highways looking for 'the shot.' He has finally gotten some photos that he has uploaded to Flickr.

When we first got married, his photography was his life. Every chance that we could, we were in the car and out driving so that he could shoot. We learned a lot about southwest Iowa ... a part of the state that I had never spent much time in. I think we hit every single historical marker in the area and it was a joy to find interesting sites and explore them. Max got some fabulous photographs at the time and one of these days we'll get those negatives scanned. But, until then, Max finally has a camera and lenses that make it fun for him to be shooting again.

Once I got involved in a church, our travels ended. Max got a job at CompUSA, his schedule changed, our lives got hectic and we simply didn't have time to traipse around on the weekends. I must admit that I am so grateful for the time to offer back to Max.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I slept well last night. I was pooped. 'Hurricane Carol' hit my house with gale-force winds yesterday. She tells me that I am a packrat with a heart. She's right. It's not that I buy or try to collect a ton of stuff, mostly people give it to me and I can't get rid of it. But, I've been at the end of my rope for awhile and have been ready to purge. Yesterday, it began.

When I tell you that you have no idea how much stuff is in my house, you might think that I'm exaggerating. I'm not. It's incredible. I've lived in this place for nearly 19 years. My friends have been generous with me over the years (read: I get gifts that turn into stuff), my father began passing on family memories to me, before that I had accepted my mother's kitchen and life into my world and then my grandmother's kitchen stuff into my world. Carol has managed to move into smaller places every time she moves and I absorb more things when that happens (we don't mean for it to happen, it just does!). Max is the worst packrat I've ever met. I don't think the man understands the word 'trash.' If you know me at all, you know that is the one thing that I could pound him for ... but, I digress.

I'm going to go look at a cute little house on Saturday. The rent is higher than we are used to paying, but no one gets away with what I have gotten away with for 19 years. I've been darned lucky. By the time we're ready to move (whether it's this place or another), I hope to be down to nearly nothing.

Carol and I filled the back of my Jeep with stuff for Goodwill, the backseat with boxes for the storage unit (oh yeah ... there's more stuff from my world). After we got rid of that, we came back and Max showed up. So, we filled the back again with an incredible amount of computer parts, cases, etc. that we are taking to my nephews this evening. Jim said 'bring it.' Again, he has no idea how much he is getting. The back seat is filled with books that I'm going to take to my friends at church. I have another huge load of stuff for Goodwill that is being collected into a space so that it can go tomorrow and we're gathering more boxes and tubs for the storage unit.

Several years ago, Carol came over for a weekend and we did an immense purge of stuff - much of it to a 20 cubic yard dumpster. I don't have quite that much trash now ... it's just things that need to be in other people's lives.

I received this quote in my email this morning, "We have very little, so we have nothing to be preoccupied with. The more you have, the more you are occupied, the less you give. But the less you have, the more free you are." --Mother Teresa

She's right. Well, of course she is.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My First Love

I finished the second two books in the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. I'm so enraptured by these characters, I can hardly stand it. Edward Cullen (the vampire) is in love with Bella Swan (a very human girl). He is the perfect boyfriend. He stands as her eternal protector, but he is so concerned with her feelings and reactions that he is willing to set everything aside so that she is happy, even if it means being without her.

While it probably makes sense now that I should tell you about my first love, it's not in the way that you think.

God has taken me back into the book of Revelation. I can't believe I'm here again. I spent an interminable amount of time studying this book and all of the related commentaries and books I could get my hands on.

I've moved into Chapter 2, which begins with the letter to Ephesus. I know these letters intimately, I actually spent over a year just reading and studying them. In Chapter 1, verse 20, Jesus tells us the mystery of the seven stars and seven golden lampstands. The seven stars are the angels (or messengers) of the seven churches and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

I was talking with a friend earlier about my disappointment with the institutional church and where God might be calling me right now. I haven't got answers yet, but I am spending time asking questions. I didn't know what asking those questions was going to get me into, though. I began reading this evening and didn't get past the letter to Ephesus.

This is a church that was very busy. They were known to Jesus. How? For their hard work and perseverance, they routed out false apostles, endured hardships for Jesus' name and had not grown weary. These were a hard-working bunch of Christians. Yet ... they had forgotten their first love. He told them to remember the height from which they had fallen! And then, to repent. If they didn't, he would remove the lampstand from its place. What was the lampstand? The church.

As I prayed, I began to realize how closely this church resembled me. I've spent many years being very busy, working hard and enduring hardships. Yet, I don't take time to think about the intimate loving relationship that I have with Jesus. I'm much too busy for that. I began weeping and weeping as I thought about the love portrayed in the story (Twilight) that I've been reading and how that barely begins to describe the relationship I have with Jesus!

As I cried out to Him and told Him that I wanted Him to be my protector and I wanted to feel the embrace of His mighty arms and the tenderness of His touch, I realized that many of us miss out on that intense set of emotions because we are filled with so many fears. Rejection, uncertain of the reality of His truth. Many of us have never experienced the raw power of complete love. A yearning that goes beyond anything physical. A yearning that reaches down to the very depths of our soul.

I remember trembling with excitement the first time a boy held my hand. We could barely look each other in the eyes, but soon, our fingers touched and our hands were clasped.

I remember the first time I had such an intimate moment with Jesus I thought I was going to burst. When He filled my heart and my mind and I didn't think that there could be anything else on this earth except me ... and Him.

This is exactly what Jesus was telling the church in Ephesus and what He is reminding me of tonight. As I began to picture Him waiting for me to draw into His arms, my tears continued to flow. But now they were tears of unbelief. That I am given the chance to be that close to Jesus - all the time. He wants to hold me with all of His strength. He wants to brush away my tears and whisper ageless words into my ears. He wants to tell me mysteries and express the love of Creation. He is the physical manifestation of the God who comforted David and protected Daniel, who guided Moses and led Joshua. Who spoke words of truth to Isaiah and Jeremiah and who taught Jonah and gave wisdom to Solomon.

He is my first love. How can I move from His arms to be busy again? I don't want to do anything else except to walk moment by moment in His will. Where He leads, I will follow. Where He tells me to go and what He tells me to do, I will obey. He is my first love.

What a Woman Sees

I am reading Revelation right now ... decided that I wanted to start over on that book. Obviously a year's worth of study in one book wasn't enough for me. And it's not! There is so much that I don't know yet about this final book in God's Word.

Ok ... anyway ...

I got stuck on Revelation 1:12-16, the description of Jesus Christ - the son of man.

"I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance."

While I was reading this, I began to giggle a bit. I've also been reading the "Twilight" series by Stephenie Meyer. In it, a young woman falls for an absolutely gorgeous vampire. Meyer's descriptions of Edward Cullen (the vampire) are glorious! A reader can't help but completely fall in love with him. Throughout her books, she paints a picture of a young man that sparkles when sunlight falls on him, with smoldering eyes that are a liquid golden topaz, skin that is like marble, facial features that are perfect and angular, fingers that are slender, and a dazzling crooked smile.

It doesn't take long for Meyer to make the average woman fall completely in love with Edward Cullen. He is the perfect boyfriend, a gentleman in all ways, a protector, he is exciting and mysterious. I was originally quite astounded by the attention this series of books has received, but once I started reading them, I was quickly drawn into the story and the characters.

One of the things that we don't see in the Bible is a physical description of Jesus Christ. Many assumptions have been made regarding his appearance, but none of the Gospel writers felt that it was important to tell history what He looked like. The only time we get a description is when John sees Him in Revelation. And that image is like nothing we have seen on earth.

So if you were a writer and were trying to describe what Jesus Christ looks like, what would you say?

Good Morning!

It's 4:15 am and I am sitting in front of my computer. I should be sleeping? I was. In fact, I slept well tonight - the first good sleep I've had in awhile. The Air Conditioning is back on at the Muir household and I feel like a normal human being again. I hate to admit how out of control I get when heat and humidity oppress me, but there it is. My life has been strange for over a week ... just a lot of things going on and with the fact that I've had no air conditioning, I haven't even been in my home for at least that long. Do you know how weird it is to be in Omaha and not go home? Yeah, I don't like it.

But, right now I feel rested and content and finally a yearning to spend time in the quiet with God. Oh. The other part of being all 'out of the ordinary' is that I was constantly around someone. Anyone, everyone. I was never alone. A lot of it was Max and I love him more than life itself, but don't forget. I'm a hermit at heart. And we hermits need definite alone time with a little bit of air conditioned comfort! Today is going to be a great day!

I took Leica in for dental work and the removal of two fatty tumors from her chest yesterday. After I dropped her at the veterinarian in the morning, I came back to my very warm house. I sat in front of a few fans and it was tolerable. Ichabod was awfully glad to see me and get a chance to hang out with me. I had ordered a Kindle from and it showed up about 10:30. That meant that this girl didn't do anything at all. In fact, I had to drag myself away from the thing at 2:45 to make a sandwich to calm the growling of my stomach. I can't believe I am going to be able to feed my reading addiction again. It is a most wonderful tool.

Whoops ... I got distracted. You don't know it, but a bit of time has passed since I typed the last paragraph. I was praying, heard God tell me to get to my Bible, realized that I could put one on my Kindle and ended up at I know, I know ... He meant the Bible that sits on my desk. But, right now it's stuck in a bag somewhere. And yes, I know full well, that God wasn't encouraging me to purchase one more thing. But hey, give a girl a break! While I was there, I decided that I really needed Lee Strobel's, "Case for a Creator." Ummm ... yup, this is going to be a problem.

So - off I go. I'm going to have to turn a light on at this point so that I can actually read and communicate with God through His Word. But, it's cool in the house, I've had 5 hours of sleep and I can get a few more when we're done chatting!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Customer Service Rant

Yup ... this is going to be a full-blown rant. If you don't want to read my whining and complaining, it won't hurt my feelings.

I have spent 4 hours today on the telephone with customer service from various retail suppliers. For the most part, they all stand out as hideous, but two companies have nearly pushed me over the edge of sanity: Capital One and Both will receive letters of complaint from me, but I can guarantee that neither will care.

I try to be patient with companies that have many customers trying to get information, but at some point, my patience is replaced with fury. I'm tired of having my calls shunted to a customer service center in another country. I understand the need for inexpensive customer service care and I understand that these call centers in other countries are trying to provide training, etc., but I've had it! I don't want to have to explain myself several times to make myself understood. I don't want to have to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to understand what someone is saying to me. I don't want to have to explain all of the reasons for my request.

At some point, this customer service person is simply reading off a script and when presented with a question that can't be answered by the script in their repertoire, they repeat one of the previous answers ad nauseum. Because of cultural and language differences, there is no leap of understanding that is made by the representatives.

Last night on my way to dinner, I called Capital One to find out why my funds had been put on hold. I had made a large payment on Thursday, and all of a sudden on evening, no longer had access to funds in my account. I was told that because I had made such a large payment, they would be putting my funds on hold for 10 days!

Are you kidding me? Because I pay attention, I knew that the funds would be removed from my bank account today. I pushed and pushed the representative, who kept repeating the same information back to me. I finally got furious and demanded to speak to a supervisor. After a 15 minute wait on hold, I was told that the account supervisors were no longer there. Well, duh - during that wait, the hour had changed. I just hung up. I tried again this morning. And after waiting and waiting, giving my account information to 4 different people and moving back and forth between foreign speaking people and others, I finally got to a person who told me (after a 1/2 hour wait to get to her) that they had transferred me to the wrong department. I freaked out again.

I'm certain that these representatives don't want to have to deal with furious customers, but let me just ask how they can expect anything different? I had been on the phone for over an hour, been transferred through 4-5 systems, given my credit card number, PIN number, home phone number, ok ... they had my life ... each time I was transferred and then I'm told that I had the wrong department.

The automated phone system kept telling me that they cared about my call, that they had higher than normal call volume. I don't believe they care and I don't care if they have a high call volume, it should be their job to hire enough to meet that call volume.

Capital One is losing me as a customer and there will be a letter explaining how disgusted I am with their customer service.

By the way, I've discovered that when calling India - I get excellent background music while on hold - when I'm into an American system, the background music is filled with static. The music will change back and forth as I'm transferred through these systems. Drives me insane. Do they think we're stupid?

As for Well, they kind of have you over a barrel. There simply aren't great ways to purchase computer systems. This group has the most insane verification process I've ever seen. You can't ship anything to a second address without them freaking out. I had to call Capital One back (don't even ask - I wanted to kill for this requirement) and add a friend's address so that Newegg could ship to this person. Excuse me, what? I have worked with numerous (and it's more than that number) online retailers and this has NEVER happened before. Yet, again, when I pushed the issue, I kept receiving the same statement: the shipping address must be verified by your credit card company.

It really didn't change anything. It simply made things more of a pain in the butt for me. I had to call Capital One, deal with another foreigner that couldn't understand what I was asking for, add a temporary address to the credit card, then call Newegg back and tell them that I had done that. Shipping!!! Not billing. Shipping!

Yes, they have great prices, but no ... they have lousy customer service. Adding a shipping address to my credit card does not prevent fraud - it just makes me annoyed.

I dealt with and Jeep's customer service today. I've been on the phone with my bank and numerous other retail establishments as well today. And, I'll be honest. With both Amazon and Jeep, I know that I was dealing with foreign customer services. When I hear, "I wish you have a good day," I know that he doesn't know my language. I wanted to scream, but I put my patient voice back into my mouth and just dealt with the annoyance.

The training must be much better for Amazon and Jeep, though. I was able to get questions answered and the young man at Amazon took excellent care of me as quickly as he could.

So, why the public rant? Because I also know that these companies search the internet for their name and links to their names. I'm freakin' sick and tired of lousy customer service and if people let them know how disgusted they are by this behavior, it has a better chance of changing than if we just allow it to happen with no pushback. I'll be pushing back.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Gotta love Wifi

We are back in Webster City ... at a hotel ... with a shower ... and wifi!! My brother pulled the shower out of our cabin last fall and we are still working on the plan to replace it. Consequently, I refuse to sleep there. At some point in my day I need to have hot running water. Alright, it's not so much a refusal as it is a chance to hide for a night and offer the rest of my family a shower tomorrow.

We were up here a month or so ago and in a different hotel which advertised wifi and the stupid girls at the customer service desk couldn't figure out how to make it work. I wanted to send my half-nekkid husband down there and simply have him unplug and re-plug in their router, but I figured that internet wasn't worth the effort of bailing him out of jail. We are at a different hotel this evening and not only is there easily accessible internet, but it's also much nicer. Score!

What a great day we've had. We were a little concerned since none of us had been up to the cabin since the Iowa flooding happened last month. The meadow had every possibility of being a complete mess with debris littered throughout. That would require an enormous amount of work from all of us as we tried to clean it up so that it could be mowed. But, yea! the meadow looked pretty good and the grass wasn't as tall as we worried it might be. See ... worry gets you nowhere.

I have the best family. I'm not kidding you! There are three of us kids - my sister, Carol and my brother, Jim who has 3 kids with his wife Janet. The eight of us truly enjoy being with each other. In fact, we miss each other a lot when we wait too long to hang out. Max, Jim & Janet took off this afternoon for Fort Dodge and came back with a fire pit grill. So, Jim grilled steaks over hickory wood for dinner! Oh my goodness - better than any restaurant!

Carol mowed the meadow, I watched Jake play video games, Matthew talked to his girlfriend on the phone, Emma texted her friends and took a nap, the dogs played ... great day.

After dinner we congregated in the screened-in front porch to laugh and enjoy each other. Of course, no matter where we tried to take the conversation, it always ended up with poop. Good heavens, we could not leave that conversation to save our lives. But, you know what? I've come to the conclusion, that everything ends up as poop.

We'll head back in the morning for more fun, lots more food and probably more poop conversations. We are also planning how to renovate and re-energize the cabin. We are a little excited as we think about finding ways to make it look nice and be more useful for small and large groups.

Max and I are staying in the same hotel we stayed at last year when we were here for Dad's funeral. It was kind of strange walking in here - the last time I was here, I was caught up in strange emotions. It's interesting to think about how time changes our outlook on things.

Max has taken his shower. It's my turn. Goodnight!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Thank You

As I was processing on my last post, it occurred to me that some of you who are reading this deserve my thanks.

I have friends who are there for me through thick and thin.

I have friends whom I have grown closer to in just the last few months.

I have friends whom I could never live without, even though we don't see each other regularly.

I have friends that challenge me in many different ways. To think thoughts bigger than I might have ever thought.

I have friends that encourage me.

I have friends that are excited for me.

I have friends that believe in me.

I have friends that would lay down their lives for me.

I have friends that offer all they have to me.

I have friends that teach me different aspects of living, different ways of thinking.

I have friends that teach me about tolerance.

I have friends that stir my passions.

I have friends that expand my horizons.

I have friends that pray for me.

If you read this, and think that I might be talking about you. I am. I cannot believe the gifts that God has given me in my friends. Thank you for allowing Him to work through you in my life.

To say Thank You.

One thing that I'm exceptionally grateful for is the ability to be ... well ... grateful. I think that this is one of the most astounding gifts that my parents gave me. We didn't grow up with much. When I think back to my childhood, it was pretty barren in comparison to what I see children with today. I distinctly remember standing at an endcap of a store looking at an Etch-a-Sketch and being told that we didn't have money to buy that. Such a simple toy and there was no money. Mom would spend hours creating amazing toys for us to play with. She was a fabulous artist and I remember how she would create gorgeous paper dolls on tagboard. We would cut them out and then create clothing for them from stacks of paper. You see, mom loved to write and she would type all of her stories and poems and lessons, so there were always reams of paper around the house. Carol and I would sit for hours designing gowns and outfits along with hats and shoes for the paper dolls mom had created. A pile of paper, a bunch of crayons and some scissors was all it took.

Since we were a pastor's family in small towns, the church community took care of us in wonderful and weird ways. One church made a huge deal at Christmas over us. One year, there were small red stockings hanging on the Christmas tree at the church with each of our names on them. Mom and Dad both received cash, but the three of us kids received hundreds of pennies in our stockings. We were awfully small and thought we had incredible wealth poured on us. Another year, they pulled back a curtain and there was a beautiful wing chair. They gave us a television one year and a stereo (yes, with an 8-track player in it) another year. It was awkward standing in front of the congregation while these gifts were given to us. But, mom and dad taught us how to say thank you. Because you see, the gifts weren't about us, they were about the love that the congregation had for Dad.

Gifts are rarely about the receiver. They generally describe the heart and soul of the giver. It's the connection between the two - the giver and the receiver - that makes a gift fabulous.

I remember a few 'awful' gifts. One year for her birthday, dad gave mom a wheelbarrow. He desperately needed one at the cabin and didn't have the money to spend on two separate things. It was either the wheelbarrow or a birthday gift for her. She cried. Fortunately, she had a great sense of humor, too and within a few days, it was a classic family story.

As soon as I was old enough, Dad began to rely on me to actually deal with mom's gifts. She loved Chanel No. 5 perfume. By the time I was purchasing gifts for her, Dad planned a little better and saved enough money to send me to Corner Drugstore to purchase a bottle for her, wrap it up and have it ready at dinner that evening. She cried, but this time, I believe they were tears of relief.

Parishioners have given us many strange gifts over the years. We would receive wonderful produce from their gardens - one woman gave us 200 pounds of potatoes. You might think I would hate potatoes after all of that, but mom learned to use them in many ways and to this day, it's a favorite staple. One day I came home from school and on the dining room table - in a vase - were two cow's tongues. Someone had given them to Dad and he thought it was a howl. Mom didn't, but she did cook them up for dinner that evening. Nope, I don't like tongue. Another time, we received a batch of pig's brains. I'm not really sure whose sick joke that was, but mom was never one to throw away good food.

That night at dinner, she set the table with candles and the fine china and silver. When we asked what we were having, she informed us that it was "Cerebral Delight." You know what? We had no idea what she meant, we were much too young and we liked it!

We three kids were always told who had brought us gifts and food and were asked to please say 'thank you' the next time we saw the person, which generally happened within a week at some church function.

Mom never let us get through Christmas Day without writing thank-you letters to our grandparents and anyone else who had given us gifts. In the morning, we opened gifts, there was lunch and generally a nap and before we took off or did anything else in the evening, we were required to write out our letters. We wrote thank yous for everything that was given to us from our grandparents. Mom didn't care what they said, as long as 'thank you' was in the message. Let me tell you, I've seen a few of these letters and they were insane babbling from very young children. But, as soon as we could write, we were writing them.

I'm grateful for that training. It makes it easy for me to say thank you - sometimes I forget, but I do try. And it makes it easy for me to say those words to God regularly. I want to be seen as a grateful person. I want people to hear those words from me. I want God to know how much I am thankful for all that He has done. Because I am a fortunate woman. I have been given much.