Thursday, November 16, 2006

Of Mice and Men

Could you consider one for a pet? The reason I'm asking: in my suspense novel, Tara--the detective--has one for a pet. Her twin brother gave it to her for a joke and she ended up loving the little fellow. He's also sensitive to what is right and/or wrong in the cases she's trying to solve and he's able to give her animal hints (if she's smart enough to figure them out!)

So, would you have a mouse for a pet? Is it too icky? (By the way, I'm not changing Tara's pet--unless an editor demands it!) Are you afraid of mice? And are they more trouble than men?

That's what I'm getting at. Mice mess (uh hem) where you don't want them to (excuse me, but have you ever cleaned a toilet bowl?) They get into the food you don't want them in. But what else do they do? They run around, but them who wouldn't when a monsterish human form towers over you? I'd run for my life, too!

Not to be too indelicate (see above vague hint), but yeah, same difference. Then, ever try to hide the cookies? (homemade bread, pie, cake, etc. etc.) You'd think they were going through a worse persecution than some foreign third world country. They're much worse than children when they get sick. (I carry the phone around afraid any minute I'll have to call emergency.) And just let them prepare some document, manuscript, article, etc. You must, must, must listen to this.

So why is it when I have a tiny bit of my novel I need proofed, "I'm too busy right now" is what I hear? Fair turnabout is what I thought it was all about. Men!

They insist on heading to the most boring sections in Wal-Mart. They chat endlessly about sports and cars and jobs, but let us mention a baby! Oh, my, their eyes turn glassy and droop with a sudden syndrome called sleepiness.

Tell me this: is that fair?

But, hey, I gotta remember, I get warm cuddlings from one certain handsome man (hubby!), and I can't complain about him not taking me places. Conference in Texas was one total thrill. Plus all the other places we go together.

He helps me in the house, strives to give me what I need--and want (most of the time--don't want to get too generous here! Grin) He's good at keeping the fireplace stoked because he knows I love it. He puts up with my pets, when he'd just as soon not have any. He listens-- sometimes--to my eternal chatting about my writing. He buys me flowers. And I think he loves me.

Hmmm . . . I think I'll keep him around for awhile yet.

Here are a few suggestions to keep you mentally healthy during the upcoming holidays:

Be adventuresome and creative. Thre is more than one way to do things. Different is sometimes delightful, and holding on to your rigid ideas can be painful. Try something new!

* Flexibility is key to happiness. Resolve that no matter what happens yo are going to have a great time and help others to do so, too.

* Self Pity is a sure route to sadness. Don't do it. Spend time with someone who genuinely needs your assistance. Take care of yourself.

* Sometimes strangers offer safety. Errr . . . I mean, sometimes new is good. Stretch your wings, invite someone new to your celebrations. It increases awareness of what you do have that is good.

* And relax. Don't think you have to do it all. Have fun. That high shelf will probably never even be noticed if its not dusted.

A quote to get your goat!
The man (or woman, I suppose) who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.

Blessings on a rainy-but-great-to-be-alive day!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


What makes one person susceptible to others' opinions and another couldn't care less?

But that's not right.

Everyone is influenced. Yeah, that' s what I said. Be it other humans or circumstances we're all influenced by something. Maybe our reading material, maybe the media. Friends, family, even enemies influence us.

Now don't stomp me down. Listen to what I'm saying. We don't have to respond negatively to that influence. Say Terri Terrible calls me up, chews me out. How will I respond? Will I "get even" by slamming the phone and proceed to tell all my friends what an awful person she is? (Okay, if I do, I've allowed her to influence my response. But then, there could be other influences bearing on me. It wouldn't have to be just her.)

But what if T.T. calls and I respond sweetly. "I'm so sorry you feel that way? How can I make it better? (Did she cause me to react that way? Probably not. The influence there could be the reactions I learned from my parents: they always reacted that way. My church and/or religion, could have a bearing on what I say, how I feel. My personality could play on how I speak to her.

Weather, my physical and mental self, food. Whatever. You name it, and it could influence how you are, think, react.

Food? Definitely, food. Ever seen children eat too much sweets? What about people who're hooked on caffeine, or other items? Junk food? Certain soft drinks?

So why are children so different? One son stands up for what he wants and feels, the other goes with the flow. No matter who he's with, that's who influences him. Is he weak?

I say, with hesitancy, yes. But, then, when I think of all the times I've been influenced by someone, who am I to point a finger at him? I wish I had more of a backbone. Wish I could block out all those influences.

But wait, wouldn't that make me a box? Empty, without thought or feeling? How sterile would life be with just my own thoughts? Would I even have any? Or would I amble about bored with me? Bored with no challenge to accept or reject what's presented to me as real, false, entertaining, boring, life. Would I end up being a robot?

Life is life. We're always going to have to deal with it. Aren't influences some of the things that make life interesting? That cause me to think, to make the judgments in my life? To decide whether to go or stay, to be or not to be? Whatever choices (good or bad, harmful or helpful) we've made--well, at least we made them. (We may hang our head in shame or glow with happiness).

I think they're here to stay. What say you?

Speaking of influencers: I read a book recently to help influence others (grin). It's Chris Wells book published by Harvest House, called "Deliver Us From Evelyn."

Here's a short blurb: Evelyn is a rich hard-to-get-along-with woman whose husband disappears. Together they own a magazine business. She is constantly changing things there, taking out and inserting other articles at the last minute, causing chaos with those who work under her. Into the scenario are two police detectives--one with a fascination for cartoons, a pretend minister who is really a very bad guy, and a mysterious blogger whose identity know one knows.

Will the people involved be finally delivered from Evelyn? Will her husband accept a daughter he didn't even know he had? And will the blogger achieve her/his goals? Read it to find out.

Hints for a healthy Thanksgiving:
* Enjoy the variety of food available at Thanksgiving without consuming large volumes.
* Get some exercise before and after the meal, even if you just take a walk.
* Make an effort to see if there are low-fat alternatives for some of your holiday meals.
* Buy a smaller turkey and prepare smaller servings of all that you plan to serve.
* Give your family a chance to help out in the kitchen. This will teach them healthy cooking!
This will all emphasize the familial aspects of the gathering rather than the gastronomic. The meal is a transitory experienc--gone shortly while the memories could last a lifetime!

We all mold one another's dreams. We all hold each other's fragile hopes in our hands. We all touch others' hearts.

(Is that quote saying we're an influence?)


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My Comfort Zone

What is "comfort zone?"

The Wikipedia encyclopedia says this: a term used to denote a type of mental conditioning resulting in artificially created mental boundaries, within which an individual derives a sense of security.

Yikes. Technical terms.

Setting up a fence to keep out anything that disturbs me? Is that what the encyclo is saying?

* Like going to conference and because I know no one--wanted to hide out in my room with the one person I did know (hubby)? That's a comfort zone?

* Like cringing when a professional pianist strides into the church/building and it's my allotment to play that night?

* Like pushing my plans and dreams and hopes and manuscripts in front of people who will criticize and say no?

* Like worrying about submitting my baby (manuscript) and then (when it is published) worrying whether anyone will read it? or worse, like it?

* Like laying all these thoughts in front of the world (yeah, right!) to read and waiting-waiting-waiting for some one to comment--and no one does. (whine, whine)

Could be those are just some of my comfort zone fences. How do I get rid of them?

Well, I tore down one when I went to conference and refused to hide out in my room. Another came down when I joined a writer's critique group and now learn from (accept) the critiques of my partners. I'm tearing at another one while preparing to submit (ending result from editor: yes, I love your ms--send us ten more immediately! or no, what do you think you're doing calling yourself a writer? You need to give up the fantasy and quick!)

Then I tear off one board at a time with the bloggie thing. (Mental dialogue with self: You wrote total drivel today! The next day: not bad, one out of twenty ain't too bad!)

Why erect them in the first place? Insecurity? Privacy? Yeah, probably. Writers are all those things, and more. It's safer to hide behind the fence and peek through a crack. But nothing ever gets done. No goals are reached. No satisfaction of completed projects fill the heart. Remember: There's no soaring with the eagles when you're strutting with the turkeys.

And, yes, writers aren't the only ones who have comfort zones. Are you willing to expand your wings? Try something new? and scary? and daring? Then spread those wings and jump from that nest. You just might fly!

Hints on cooking turkey
Think you know it all when it comes to cooking turkey? Read on:

First, a "frozen" turkey is fresher than a "fresh" turkey! Yeah, really. The frozen turkey was immediately frozen while fresh turkeys can sit in the store for days. Buy frozen.

1. It takes a full 24 hours to defrost every five pounds of frozen turkey in the frig (the safe method!)

2. Use a shallow roasting pan to keep from steaming the meat.

3. Do not stuff the turkey ahead of time as harmful bacteria growth could spoil the uncooked turkey. Stuff just before cooking, and remember to stuff lightly as stuffing will expand.

4. Roast your turkey breast-side down on a v-shaped rack until the last hour, then turn it to brown. Result: moister white meat.

5. To prevent the white meat from drying out, loosely cover just the breast with a triple thick sheet of aluminum foil, butter on the inside to prevent sticking. Remove after the first hour.

6. Never rely on the little plastic thermometer or the turkey will overcook. Use an instant read thermometer inserted several inches down through the skin between the thigh and the breast. When thermometer reads 165, turkey's ready.

7. Let the cooked turkey "rest" after it has been removed from the oven. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the turkey.

8. Don't reheat the turkey. This will dry it out. Serve it warm with hot gravy.

Remember: baste, baste, baste. Use a cooking bag which keeps all the juices and flavors in the bag and turkey automatically basted. Juices do not evaporate, stick, or burn.

Happy eating!

I love the stretching-my-wings-makes-me-think quotes. Here's a good one for you:
God created us with an overwhelming desire to soar...He designed us to be tremendously productive and "to mount up with wings like eagles," realistically dreaming of what He can do with our potential. --Carol Kent


Friday, November 10, 2006


What started me thinking along this line: I came to work this morning. Since I normally work by myself, I'm the one who opens up. No one around.

I opened the heavy door this morning and heard the sound of a door in the basement closing. Yikes! Spooky! Especially since I've never heard it before.

To make a long story short, I eventually found the reason for the sound, but not before I felt the ripple of fear trail through my veins.

Shortly afterwards, this huge German Shepherd showed up on the doorstep, peered in the floor-to-ceiling windows at me. He had a collar and tags, but kept hanging around. He was so friendly he was practically lolling on the ground, wanting attention. He was adorable.

He--along with the spooky sound--was what shifted my brain into thinking about all the protectors in the world.

Was he my protector this morning?

I know my little spunky Taffy would be. She's a terror if she thinks there's something strange around. I know hubby is. He won't tolerate insults or personal injuries to me. I know my boys would be if I needed them to be.

What else? Can our attitude be a protector? The way we think and react to a situation. Doesn't that at times protect us from an incoming hurt? When we shed off that slight that would otherwise crush our feelings, because we decide to do so? Isn't that a form of protection?

How about prevention? Think about the healthful things we do to prevent sickness: exercise, diet, weight. How about our checkups with the health clinics?

Don't we read to prevent boredom and ignorance? Don't we eat to prevent sickness or worse? (And snicker, snicker: Why do you bathe? To prevent people from shunning you? for your own personal satisfaction?)

Then there's God. He can be our protector in so many areas. Temptation, depression, wrong choices, and life in general. And it goes without saying that He is the best protector of all. A sure and mighty arm. Lean hard on Him. He'll never fail.

Hints for your fall decorating:

* Make good use of all those colorful leaves! Tape some to your bathroom mirror. Pin a few up on your family bulletin board. Use on your table, under the glasses as coasters. Splash a few across a mantel or a end table.

* Start with pumpkins--all sizes. Paint funny faces on them and label them with family members' names. Use them as doorstops for the children's bedroom doors.

* Collect gourds (such fun shapes!) cattails, Indian corn, pampas grasses, bittersweet, acorns and pine cones. Let your imagination soar. Be creative.

* Make an edible centerpiece for your table or counter top. Use pumpkin shapes molds for candy, cookies and cakes. Place on a plate, serving tray, etc. that is painted or molded with fall colors or shapes. Scatter those beautiful leaves around and you have an enticing, warmy table ready for company or family!

Quote for you:
Reverie is not a mind vacuum. It is rather the gift of an hour which knows the plenitude of the soul. --Gaston Bachelard

Blessings for a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Great Day in the Morning!

Are you one of those individuals who get up at the crack of dawn?

Confession time: I am. Or least most of the time. I love rising and knowing I've got a whole lovely day ahead of me. Fresh and brand new, ready for me to go at it with renewed strength and vigor.

I didn't use to be that way. I liked (and still do on occasion) staying up late, then catching up on my sleep in the morning, although I've NEVER EVER been one of those who can sleep in till all hours. Sorry, that's not me.

Let me tell you what I like about the early mornings:

The misty dawn sliding up over the hill tops. We live in the hills--not mountains--hills. I don't know if there's anything more lovely than waking and seeing that beautiful blue-gray mist hanging over a valley.

Then there's the animals. They waken, and those dependent on us for their nurture--come bounding--big and small alike--awake and crying out for their sustenance of the day. "Feed me, feed me!" the spoiled animals say. And we caring humans bow to their demands. Their innocent and loyal faces ready and waiting patiently--or impatiently--whatever the case.

I love the dew on the summer grass, getting my toes wet or my nose when I bend to smell the roses. I love the new soft layers of snow--untouched and clean from the night's storm.

I like starting anew with a fresh aspect on the day. Sometimes it only takes a nighttime to clear my brain of a confusing fog of hesitation, to know what to do about a situation. I like starting my writing of the day with the new idea that came to me in the night.

I love the sleepy sound of birds beginning their morning songs. I like the sound of my coffee dripping into its pot. I like the tingle of coldness on a winter day before the house warms enough to take away the crispness. I like the patter of rain drops on my roof and on my umbrella when I dash around in it.

Now you can see why I titled this meander what I did (at the top). It's because I thank God for mornings.

Yesterday we talked about simplifying our lives around the holidays by giving simpler, more heartfelt gifts. Today I want to share some ideas for putting together fun gift baskets. They are almost as much fun to make as to receive:

*Got a fisherman in the family? Use a tackle box or fish bowl--put hooks, bait, line, hot chocolate or sodas, trail mix, gloves, fishing magazines and/or a fish pillow in it. He'll love you! (This can work for any kind of sport--hunting, etc. Maybe use a gun case or a orange vest and stuff it with shells, gloves, warm socks, magazines, etc.)

* Pet lovers? For a dog, use a dog bowl, place a ball or other toys, dog bones, rawhides, a leash, name tag and a brush in it. How about a picture of a mailman with "the enemy" written on it? Cat lover? Use a cat litter box, place a catnip toy, cat food, a scoop, leash, name tag, and a little rubber mouse. Pets and owners alike will adore you.

* Got a son who loves his truck? Buy a large bucket, place a hanging ornament for the mirror in it, air freshener, wax, car wash, chamois, tire cleaner & spray to make tires shine (what's it called?), key ring, ice melter and scraper. Use your imagination!

* Relaxing Basket for those who need some coddling: Line a basket with a hand towel. Add scented soap, bath oil, bubble bath, bath salts, a mood candle, and don't forget to insert a favorite magazine or the current inspirational novel.

* The next two suggestions would be good for either the older ones in the family or even those on special diets or the health concious:

Make up a basket lined with tissue paper. Add fruit, hot chocolate mix (maybe dietic type?) various teas, and some dried fruits. Sprinkle nuts on top of everything.

Or, In a basket, stock pot, or bean crock, add large soup mugs, a seven-bean soup, cornbread mix, cookie mix (& cutters?) and oyster crackers.

These are just a few ideas. You could make up a chocolate lover basket, a family night basket, Ice cream lover, coffee lover, baby basket, writer and/or reader basket. The list goes on and on.

A sun-shiny day quote and prayer for you, my special friends:
Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you. (Taken from 3 John 1:2)


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What Do You Think?

Is stress already taking its toll? Are you dreading the Christmas shopping rush coming up? And in a whisper: (Do you wish Christmas was over?)

Ah, it can be awful. I know.

You see, I use to be caught up in the "buy the best, buy it all, do it all, or you're not doing what you should." As if life will come to an end because I didn't get to another Christmas program or dinner. A scheme. Right. You read that right. A scheme.

Everything--the media, the stores, the kids, life in general--everything, come Christmas--rotates around buying and doing all that can be rung out of you. It doesn't matter what you think, or what you want. For that matter, it doesn't matter what you know better.

But a couple of years ago, I came to a screeching halt. I decided that enough was enough. I was through with the over hyped Christmas commercial living. Christmas would go back to being simple in our house. A limit on the spending. A limit on the activities. Simple is better. Simple is easier.

I decorate simply, with what I have. I don't rush out every year and buy the current trend in Christmas decorations. I like my last year's snowmen. I like my traditional angel I've had forever. So, I use them. Saves me time and money.

We set a limit on how much to spend for who. I cut back on who I bought for. Some, I've amended the gifts I give. They'll probably like the filled basket of goodies I designed as much, or better, than a premanufactured gift they'll never use. And I shop wiser. Books from outlet stores, combined gifts for a couple, gift certificates--all our great gifts and cut down on the wasted time I use to consume on shopping.

Now, I enjoy more time at home, puttering on my interests, listening to tapes, enjoying a good book and the fireplace. We pick and choose the Christmas events we absolutely want to attend. And enjoy them more.

So, yes, my Christmas stress is much less.

Can you tell me then: should I buy that expensive hunting gun my son's wanting?

Need some gift ideas, but can't spend a lot? Here's a few ideas that will help you remember your friends and family without breaking the bank:

* Shop garage sales and thrift stores for baskets and other attractive containers
* Buy items in sets and divide them among the baskets. Example: A specialty or scented soap packaged in fours--divide and give one to a basket. Kids whistles or marbles (Divide and bag in small cloth bags). Take individual popcorn bags, coffee, tea, or cocoa packets out of their boxes and divide to fill the baskets better. Use your imagination.
* Dollar stores have some great gift ideas. Browse!
* Use cellophane bags to package mixes. They're inexpensive when purchased and make great containers for those special food or drink mixes you want to share. A nice touch: include the recipe for that special tea drink.
* Last, don't limit yourself. Use a pretty mug and fill with tea bags, tied with a pretty ribbon. a soup bowl and saucer filled with several soup flavors and a package of crackers. Try an inexpensive but attractive glass bowl filled with potpourri.

Some gift basket ideas tomorrow.

Gray skies quote:
Into all our lives, in many simple familiar, homely ways, God infuses this element of joy from the surprises of life, which unexpectedly brighten our days, and fill our eyes with light. --Longfellow


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Taffy--God sent?

I lost my big ole collie dog this summer. We knew he was getting old, stiff, deaf, grouchy--sometimes. But I didn't want to face it, didn't really think his death would come anytime in the near future. After all, he wasn't as old as another dog we took in.

We got him as a five month old pup, papers and all. He was adorable. My sons were younger and we enjoyed debating over what to name him. We'd had a female collie years before when the boys were just babies. Now we decided to go with a male. My family has always been big with western stories. It seemed appropriate to call our favorite dog after a character in one of them. Of course, he had his registered name, but we shortened it down to Sabre.

We loved him dearly. I use to tease my sons and tell them Sabre minded better than they. They'd just look at me and smile.

Sabre was smart. Very. He came when I called, even obeyed the hand motion I used for him to come. He loved playing hide and seek with me, and I think I loved it just as much. His big brown eyes were thrilled when he located me, and when I tricked him with a new place, I was as excited as he was.

He'd play fetch as long as I would throw. He'd follow hubby and myself on our walks. He'd ignore another dog we rescued (Mackie). I don't know whether he thought he was better, or just too dignified to get into Mackie's petty arguments over territory.

That last week, he began getting weaker. He had a horrible time moving about. I petted and talked "love talk" to him, telling him how much I loved him and what he'd meant to me through the years. And I cried and cried. I couldn't sleep that last night. Checked on him over and over.
The next morning I said my last good-bye to him.

A couple weeks earlier my oldest son and hubby came home from work. There sitting in the pasture near one of our horses was a small dog. Where did she come from? Did someone lose her? Want to get rid of her?

We don't know. Although son made inquiries we never found out who she belonged to. My hubby called her Squirt. I call her Taffy. She's a beautiful Jack Russell, big eyes, loving, and all. Well, I've never had a JR. We were gone traveling for conference (remember?), but when we returned, I began making up to Taffy. She's a doll.

Could it have been God knew I'd need something to help me fight the lonesomeness of losing Sabre? Does God care about our love for animal companions?

I think He does. However it happened that Taffy came to us, I'm happy she did. I'll never forget Sabre. But my heart is big enough to love Taffy, too.

More helpful hints on holiday cookie baking:
* If you are a chewy cookie lover, use 1/2 shortening (can be butter flavored) and 1/2 softer margarine spread.
* For something different: try adding a small package of instant vanilla pudding to your chocolate chip cookie recipe, or try 1 tablespoon of peanut butter. Good!
* Try saving your empty margarine wrappers to grease cookie sheets. The unsalted butter is better at keeping your sheet non-sticking.

A little bit of admonition for your quote today. I like it!
Enjoy yourself. These are the "good ole days" you're going to miss in the days ahead. --anonymous