Friday, December 26, 2008

Goodbye Christmas

So Christmas is over.

We had a nice day once again, of course. One tradition that we have been doing as a family for quite a few years now is having Christmas crackers with our Christmas meal. We became friends with a family from England about 10 years ago or so, and it became an annual tradition to phone each other on Christmas day. On probably our first of these phone calls, they mentioned that they were wearing their crowns.

Your crowns?? we questioned. And then came the explanation of Christmas crackers, which we had never heard of before, and they couldn't believe everyone in the world didn't know about and do.

Since then we've occasionally seen them in a store, but our Christmas crackers are authentic, sent straight from England by this family. In recent years, he has somehow managed to open the crackers and insert a nicer toy inside for Little Girl, and now Baby Boy, without ruining the cracker. Little stuffed animals and things like that.

Well, for some reason, the mail seems awfully slow this year for everything. And after the mail came on Christmas Eve, we were still cracker-less.

During Communion (prompted by the eating of the cracker), Little Girl whispered to me, "Are we going to have those other crackers this year that we don't eat, the ones that pop and have a prize inside?" I had to tell her no, they didn't come in time, but when they came we would open them. She was very disappointed, and my grandmother was very disappointed as well when she too asked about them, and was given the news.

My mom had her annual Christmas phone call to England yesterday morning, and they too were disappointed to learn that the crackers didn't arrive in time.

We were due to eat at noon, and at 11:30, I heard a car drive down the driveway and a door slam. I went to the door, expecting to see Little Girl and her family, and lo and behold, who did I see but Old Saint Nick the mailman delivering our Christmas crackers! As it was just sent regular mail weeks ago, not overnighted or anything, I can't believe he came out on Christmas day to deliver our crackers, but we're very glad he did. How surprised everyone was to come in and find them sitting by their plates!

However, our British friend didn't make a special cracker for Little Girl and Baby Boy this year, and instead, just enclosed a couple of sheets of Christmas stickers for them. So when Little Girl opened her cracker and found a keychain, she was greatly disappointed.

"How about we open yours?" she suggests to her mommy, and was again disappointed to find a pair of tweezers. Moving on to her stepdaddy, she says, "I'll trade you a sticker for what's in your cracker." But when she discovered another pair of tweezers, she quickly said, "No, I don't want to trade," and moved on to Grandpa. Grandpa had some tiny dice, but she didn't even want those. Grandma had the best prize, but we didn't know it, it was a "fortune telling fish", but it just looked like a fish cut out of plastic wrap, so it was set aside quickly as junk. And at last to Mammaw, her great-grandmother, she went. And Mammaw had a little purple glittery pen! Little Girl was finally satisfied, and Mammaw agreed to the "trade". :)

Also in each cracker is a paper crown and a joke. The jokes are very very bad. Maybe they aren't bad if you have a British sense of humor, but... here in America, they are very bad jokes. But that's okay, because we laugh about how lame they are. :)

The fortune telling fish, once we paid closer attention to it, was a big hit. You lay this fish on the palm of your hand and it does things -- moves its head or tail, curls up, flips over. And the accompanying guide tells you what each of those things means. Little Girl was passionate. And indeed she is. About everything.

We spent the afternoon at my grandmother's, visiting with extended family. My cousin is recently married with a stepdaughter. My aunt, the little girl's new step-grandmother, bought her an American Girl doll, and she said the child just sobbed and said it was the very best Christmas she's ever had. Her mother and her mother's family gave her nothing. Her father's family gave her nothing. This little girl has never gotten anything for Christmas before, other than what her father could manage to scrape together for her, and now all of a sudden she's showered with gifts from her new grandparents. It's sad to think about, and yet happy because now she's cared for and loved. :)

And now, I must admit to being somewhat glad that Christmas is over, because now I can actually run into a store to get something and be out in a couple minutes instead of waiting in ridiculous lines for my one little thing I needed, and hopefully the crazy traffic will die down, as well. They may say we're in a recession, but I don't think folks around here have gotten the word yet, because you haven't been able to get anywhere near the mall or the shopping centers for weeks now. If that's a recession, I don't think we have a whole lot to worry about...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Some Fun Christmas Moments

At church last night when getting ready to take Communion, my mother turned to Little Girl and whispered, "Do you know why we do this?" Now Little Girl certainly did know, because I'd asked her before church and she spit out the whole story of the Last Supper and the crucifixion and resurrection, etc. without a flaw.

But in response to my mother, she nodded and whispered back, "Because it's healthy." "Noooo..." my mom began, and Little Girl insisted, "Juice IS healthier than pop -- that's probably why Jesus gave it out."


She went on to add, "And bread is kinda healthy because it has milk in it!"

Well, there you go. How can you argue with that logic? We take Communion because it's healthy.

Other fun moments of the night were:

When Baby Boy opened a Buzz Lightyear toy and shouted BUZZ!! BUZZ! at the top of his lungs for at least five solid minutes.

I think he liked it.

Little Girl got an American Girls catalog in the mail a couple months ago. She went through it, and circled the Bitty Baby and allllll the things that go along with it. She then handed it to my mother and said, "This is what I want for Christmas -- I want everything except that girl." (She meant the girl in the ad modeling the pajamas and holding the doll.)

Well, she got it. And she was so excited she had to put on the pajamas immediately and COULD NOT WAIT for Grandpa to put together the crib. And after gazing happily at her little collection, she announced,"I got everything except that girl I didn't want!"

She's hysterical.

To her credit, that's all she ever asked for for Christmas. When I asked her a few weeks ago what she wanted, she shrugged and said, "Nothing." I said, "Nothing?? You don't want me to get you anything at all for Christmas?" She said, "I do, but I just want people to get me whatever they want to get me." Well that's refreshing. :)

The other big hit besides the Bitty Baby was a Build-a-Bear penguin. I bought this penguin the year she was born, when she was just a few months old, and had it tucked away, saving it for when she was old enough to play with it. I bought it because her mommy and daddy were VERY into penguins at that time, and this was a special edition so it wasn't something that would be able to be purchased later on. Well, instead of Build-a-Bear clothes, I put together a little collection of HER baby clothes and they've been tucked safely in the box all these years. I ran across it and thought, good grief, if I don't hurry up and give it to her, she's going to be too old for it, so at last she got her penguin. LOVED it. Dressed it immediately and tucked it into the crib with Bitty Baby.

Baby Boy gave her a little plant kit; she had to set that up immediately too, getting dirt everywhere, of course. She asked when the plant would grow, and she was told it would need light and water. She poured a ton of water into it, and then ran and got a flashlight and shone it over the pot. As I said, the kid's hysterical.

Baby Boy was very much into opening presents this year for the first time, and no longer needed a bit of assistance. However, he wanted to play with everything right then, naturally, and so all we heard all night was, "Open! Open!" while his parents struggled greatly with all the toy packaging. Why oh why do they make toys so difficult to get out?

He opened a video and clutching it in one hand, went dashing out of the room. He was on his way to put it in the DVD player, of course. :) He doesn't waste time.

All in all, it was a very nice Christmas. The kidlets will be back again shortly for Christmas dinner, so I'll wish you all a merry Christmas once again, and be off!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

My Christmas memories from my little girl days revolve around several things:

1) Family

We spent Christmas Eve at my grandparents' house. My grandmother cooked a big meal, and my "twin cousin" (we use that term because we're the same age, were always together, looked a lot alike, and dressed alike frequently so people always thought we were twins) and I ate in one of the bedrooms, and then played together in that bedroom all evening until it was time to open gifts. We each received one gift from our grandparents, and all nine of us cousins exchanged names so we got one cousin gift.

I have seen on a lot of blogs, people commenting that they don't really even remember any of their Christmas gifts their parents spent so much money on, implying the insignificance of gifting and focusing on family, Christmas traditions, etc. I do remember some of those gifts. The one that really stands out in my mind though was the year that my twin cousin and I received a large box full of Barbie clothes, handmade by my grandmother. Wow. They had everything, even down to bathing suits and TOWELS to go with the Barbie pools we didn't know we were getting the next day for Christmas. :) I can't imagine how much time she must have spent making all those little clothes, but I know how much time we spent playing with them! It was one of the best gifts ever!

On Christmas Day, our own little family opened gifts at home, very early in the morning. And it wasn't because we kids couldn't wait and awoke extra early -- oh, no, Christmas morning typically began with my dad shaking me awake and telling me I was the bear who slept through Christmas. At like 5 or 6 am. HE couldn't wait!

My grandparents, who lived next door, always came down to see what we got later that morning. Then for the noon meal, we headed over to my other grandparents' home across town, and spent the rest of the day with my dad's side of the family.

Every Christmas was a glorious one, and those cozy rooms filled with family are one of my fondest Christmas memories.

2) Songs

We had a record called "The Living Christmas Tree" that my mother always played in the week leading up to Christmas. I remember "helping" her bake cookies and make candy, listening to that record over and over. The most fascinating thing about it was the picture on the cover, of the choir dressed in colors and standing in such a fashion as to make them look like a Christmas tree. I must have spent hours just gazing at and studying that picture. It's an important Christmas memory to me, and any time I hear any of the songs that were on that album, it takes me back to those days of baking with my mother.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is "O Little Town of Bethlehem", not because of anything about the actual song, I think, but because I remember when I first learned it. I was in kindergarten, and it was part of our Christmas play. I loved it the moment I heard it, and whenever I hear that song, I'm five years old again, standing in the aisle of that church (the one I still attend when I go home).

We had a Disney Christmas tape that has long since been lost or torn up, I'm sure, as I haven't seen it since childhood. It was orange. I wish we still had it, but I think I've found most of the songs online, at least. Those songs are part of my memories of Christmas.

And lastly, there's "Wee Sing for Christmas." When I was a little older, maybe 8-12ish, I was very into making Christmas presents. After all, I had no money to speak of, so making them was the only way I was going to get any. And I loved crafty things. Funny how that didn't carry over into adulthood -- I guess it did, I still enjoy doing those things, I just never seem to have time anymore. Anyhow, my grandmother has a room in her basement that she just used for storage, and a good couple months before Christmas, that was my workshop. I would go down there every day for hours (since she lived next door) and work away, and I had a tape player in there playing Wee Sing for Christmas the whole time. Nobody else was allowed in that room while it was my workshop, so no worries about anyone stumbling upon my Christmas surprises. It was a wonderful wonderful experience, and I'm very grateful to my grandmother for allowing me to clutter up her garage every Christmas with all my junk. :)

3) Stories

My mother had two little booklets with Christmas stories. I still have them. She used to read one every night in the weeks leading up to Christmas, year after year, and those stories remind me of Christmases past. I also remember curling up under the tree or behind it, because somehow it seemed so magical back there, enclosed and surrounded by all those twinkling lights, and reading those stories over and over, and reading Luke 2, as well. The stories spoke of the true meaning of Christmas in various ways, some old-fashioned stories, others modern (for the time period in which they were written), and I loved every one of them. They ranged from the story of a little shepherd boy in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus' birth, to children in an orphanage who prayed for specific things for Christmas when the workers had nothing and those items miraculously appeared at the last minute, to a little orphan girl in a foreign country who told her big brother that she would believe in Jesus if only He would bring her chocolate, like she had tasted once from a missionary -- and when gifts from overseas arrived and were handed out, her box indeed a chocolate bar in it. I always think of this story when preparing boxes for Operation Christmas Child, and wish I could include a chocolate bar, but know that whatever the little girl who receives my box truly needs to have will be in it instead.

Those stories bring back Christmas to me.

4) Gifts. Because it isn't Christmas without gifts, now is it? We didn't have a ton of gifts, like children seem to have now, but we did have several each and Christmas certainly wasn't lacking in the gifts department. My favorite gift ever, and I still have it, is a large dollhouse that my dad built and my mother and grandmother made all the little curtains and bedspreads. One of my favorite pasttimes as a child was to go shopping with my dad on Saturday mornings, to the little miniature shops downtown, to pick out a tiny can of Campbell's soup, or a little kitty cat, to add to my dollhouse. That gift became a gift of quality time.

Other favorites are dolls that were very special to me, and again, I still have. Books are also special, and I have kept most of my childhood books to be passed along. I think Little Girl is about ready to start some of them, she is avidly devouring short storybooks now, and I'm giving her a "big girl" chapter book for Christmas to see if she's ready for it. She can definitely read it, but my mother thinks she won't because she likes to read the whole story RIGHT THEN, and not a bit at a time as she would have to do with a chapter book. But I say, give her the chance and we'll see. If she does, wow, do I ever have a ton of books for that child to dig into. :)

So in summary, I'm not going to say that gifts aren't important, and it's all about family and traditions, as I've read in many other places. People keep bringing up "Little House on the Prairie" and how excited those girls were over a doll, or mittens, or a penny and a stick of candy, or a tin cup. Yes, they were, but those were gifts, now weren't they?

I think gifts are important because they are a way to show love. I think many people have gone over the top showering their children with too many gifts, but I definitely think gifts are an important part of Christmas, and a part their children will remember. But instead of purchasing the latest junky fads from the store, maybe next year you might consider what gifts are going to stand out in your child's memory when they are grown. Gifts that involve your time rather than just your money are probably going to be more meaningful.

And don't forget the family and the traditions, or make Christmas so stressful, that those things aren't even fun anymore.

And above all, have a very merry Christmas. God bless us, everyone. :)

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Quest for a Home (aka, God Displays His Sense of Humor Once Again)

God is funny. REALLY funny. I've said it for years, and I grow more convinced of it as time goes by and I see more and more really funny things that He does. I really think He likes to laugh, and likes to make us laugh. Why, even the Bible is full of funny things God does. The first example I can think of offhand is Genesis 11, where the people are building a tower to heaven. Verse 5 cracks me up every time: "The Lord came down to see the tower..." (If you don't see the joke in that, think on it a little while...)

Anyhow. Now that I've spent the weekend looking at homes for sale, I'm really wondering what on earth took mine so long to sell. I can't believe the condition people try to sell their homes in. After about the tenth house, I was getting really discouraged -- here I was leaving a beautiful move-in-ready home where everything is in good condition and now I was going to end up having to buy and fix up someone else's mess? Not pleased.

I wasn't really sure what to do. I had just about exhausted the entire list of possibilities, and nothing was even close to being suitable, except for one house which I absolutely loved, and was in great shape, except for standing water in the crawlspace... an issue which the realtor was quite certain was going to require expensive repairs.

And then we entered the next to last house on the list. It was 12:30 Saturday afternoon. The moment we set foot in the door, we said somewhat hesitantly, "This one looks promising so far..." We kept waiting for the huge glaring problem to show up around every corner but it never did. It was beautiful. Carpets looked new. Hardwood floors shone. Paint was lovely. Bathroom was clean and fixtures nice. Kitchen was outstandingly gorgeous, with brand new stainless steel appliances. Nice-sized yard, fenced, and FLAT. (The issue with my house was that the yard was too steep (hello, people, this IS the mountains, what do you expect?) so a flat yard was very very nice to see.)

I needed no time to think it over. I was ready to make my offer. The thing is, the house was new on the market and was already underpriced as it was, in our opinion, anyway. So despite it being a "buyer's market" these days, I was hesitant to lowball them. I offered $8K under list price, hoping to meet somewhere in the middle, though I was willing to pay list price if necessary to get this house.

I went to my grandmother's after doing all the paperwork, while I waited to hear back on the house. The realtor I used was my pastor's son. But apparently he didn't mention to his father that I'd called him and we were going out house-hunting. Because when I showed my grandmother the pictures I'd taken of this house, and I told her who my realtor was, she was shocked.

"Why, Pastor So and So was just here earlier today visiting me," she answered. "And he asked me if I had anything special I wanted to pray about, and I said no, you'd sold your house this week so that prayer had been answered. So then he said, "Well, then, we'll just pray that she finds a home here very soon so she can get moved back."

Remember, neither of them knew I was out looking at houses.

I asked my grandmother, "About what time was that?" "12:30," she replies.

Now that's funny. After a long discouraging morning of nothing but bad houses, they pray for me to find one soon and at that very minute, I'm entering my House of Dreams with none other but that very pastor's son?

See what I mean about God's sense of humor? :)

So anyhow... it was a long day. A long night. A long next morning. No word at all from the sellers. What on earth was going on? Why would they take so long to respond? Their deadline was supposed to be noon Sunday.

At 1 pm, my realtor called to say he'd phoned to find out what was going on, and was told that they had two more showings scheduled the next day so they were going to wait on those to respond. Oh, great! Keep in mind that every other house in the price range, we SAW, and they were in dreadful shape... so there was a very strong possibility that at least one of these two showings would bite... and then we'd be in a bidding war. Nooooo!!!

I have no idea how he did it (God did it, I guess!) but he convinced them to give an answer now. He was told that they would, but they'd probably be sticking pretty tight to their price.

An hour later he called again, with their counter. Their offer was $2K above my offer -- $6K below their list price. !!!! That was better than I'd even hoped to negotiate them down to, and keep in mind, I said we thought the house was underpriced as it was! I almost feel like I'm stealing this awesome house!!!

Oh, but the coincidences aren't done yet. I had my dad come over to look at it. There is a gorgeous mirror in the entryway, an enormous wooden mirror, with ornate carvings. (And it's staying!!) My dad took one look at that mirror, and said, "Whose house is this?"

"I don't know," replied my realtor. "Whose do you think it is?" My dad responded with the name of his former boss, and the realtor looked on the desk in the office and sure enough, there was that man's name written on a paper.

How did he know? Because that mirror came out of the old high school building, and my dad had helped him refinish it! Now how cool is that?

Little Girl is very very pleased, to say the least, and my brother says that when he heard I was hoping to get a house in one of two neighborhoods, that Baby Boy was voting for the one I ended up in. Why? That subdivision has its own pool. ;) Baby Boy and Little Girl will both be very happy about that this summer.

And all the details worked out perfectly so I can move straight from this house to that one without having to deal with storage in between.

This whole thing is totally God. How could it not be? Things don't just all fall into place perfectly like that any other way!

What a very Merry Christmas it is for me! :)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Library, Revisited

After all my complaints about the computer users at the library, I thought I'd best tell this story that happened there a few days ago, to present the other side of the story.

I entered the library, armed with my box of microfilm, as usual, and took my seat at the microfilm reader. A boy sat at the computer closest to me, about fourteen years old or so, I would guess.

He immediately looked up when I sat down, and as he saw me put the reel on the machine, asked, "What's that?"

"A microfilm reader," I replied, wondering if further explanation was needed (do 14 year olds know what microfilm is these days?) or not. He didn't say anything, but just nodded and turned back to his computer, and I proceeded with my work.

About ten minutes went by. He must have been thinking and processing all this in his head the whole time or something, because suddenly, he looked up again and whispered, "Is that like, to read old newspapers or something?"

I nodded, and he said, "Cool." Turned back to his computer, and I went on, though admittedly surprised that he had taken an interest at all.

A few minutes later he got up from his chair and came and stood behind me, watching over my shoulder. I didn't say anything at first, just continued, but when he continued to watch, I looked back at him, and he said, "What year are those newspapers from?"

"1955," I answered, and his eyes just lit up. "COOL," he says. "WOW, that is SO COOL. I can't believe they keep newspapers that old!"

Insert pause, while everyone who was alive during 1955 cringes... because even at my age (30s) I don't think 1955 is very old...

Aha, I thought. This is more than idle curiosity. This kid is really interested.

So I showed him where the cabinets are for the local newspapers, and said, "Here are all the newspapers they keep of our paper, if you ever want to look at them sometime."

"COOL!" he said again, and actually started going through the cabinets and taking out rolls and just GAZING at them. Had there been more than one microfilm reader, or had I been nice enough to get up and let him have a turn (which I wasn't), I've no doubt he would have sat there and scrolled through old newspapers the rest of the afternoon. As it was, he kept returning just to watch me. He asked what I was looking for, and if I was doing "a report or something." He seemed genuinely interested. I've no doubt that the next time he goes to the library, assuming I'm not hogging the machine as I have a tendency to do, he'll be experimenting with it. :)

It gave me hope. Perhaps there is intelligent life left in some of today's teenagers after all. Maybe our future isn't completely doomed. :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

God, What Are You Doing?

That's a question I've been asking a lot. Not in the sense that I think there is no answer, but in the sense that I know there is and I've been dying to figure it out. Like I could figure out the mind of God... yeah, I know, funny. :)

So anyhow, the reason for this question is multifold, but all boils down to one big issue: THE HOUSE.

Now, mind you, I definitely keep this in perspective. I know there are many people out there dealing with BIG problems. In comparison, this is pretty small. But for me, in my life right this moment, it looms above everything else and therefore, it's a question that pops up a LOT in my prayers -- God, PLEASE, tell me what on earth You're doing here? Because I know there's a plan, and it's a good plan, but I'd really like to know what it is!!! And, by the way, would you PLEASE sell my house?? :)

The reason the house not selling is such a big deal is not financial, and I actually realize I'm very blessed as many people waiting for their house to sell are trying to deal with two mortgages, or are facing foreclosure and just hoping someone will come along and rescue them at the last moment with a buy, so that I don't HAVE to sell my house for any financial reasons is definitely a wonderful thing, and greatly reduces the stress that would likely be there otherwise.

But I do have two pretty important reasons to want this house to sell, and to be so tired of waiting: Little Girl and Baby Boy.

Now Little Girl -- she's not as big of a deal, because she just WANTS me. It's an issue, for sure. About six months ago, I was on the brink of a sale and so I went to look at a house I was thinking of buying if my sale went through. My sister wanted to see it too, and Little Girl came along, and the whole thing about how I might be buying that house was explained to her. Well, that sale didn't work out and I didn't buy the house, but Little Girl has acted differently ever since.

When she was a toddler, she used to just cry and cry when I would leave. It was heartbreaking, but she eventually outgrew it as she came to understand that it was just a part of life; I didn't live nearby, and that was all there was to it. So she hasn't done that in years. Until a few months ago. Now every time I go in, when it's time to leave again she clings and she cries and she begs me not to go. I guess it's because she knows I'm supposed to be moving nearby, and it's not happening. So I have to wrench myself away and drive hours home, asking God WHY He's keeping me so far away from her. It just seems so wrong.

But as I said, she's the minor issue... because she only WANTS me.

Baby Boy NEEDS me. As anyone who has read here for long has probably figured out just from the subtle things mentioned about him from time to time, he has a disability. It's neurological in nature, and prognosis isn't great... when caught in older children, that is. I am specially trained in this particular disability and have learned to identify it in its early stages, and have known for months that Baby Boy's delays are caused by this particular issue. How ironic that the disability I have the most expertise in ends up being what my own nephew has... (and no, it's not autism). The thing is, I have learned through treating many little ones that prognosis is actually quite good when it's caught this young, when given intensive treatment before the age of 3. (There's a lot of brain growth through age 3, then things slow down a bit till about 5, and then they slow down dramatically, so if you catch neurological things that early, you can actually make changes to how the brain works through proper treatment and FIX, to a large extent, the problems. Thus the reason for early intervention...)

But Baby Boy, he's several months past two now. And I can't give him intensive treatment when I live three hours away. His window of opportunity is rapidly closing, and he is the primary reason that I have been SO frustrated in recent months at the wait to sell my house. I can't afford to sit around here for months and let him miss out on the treatment he needs! He needs me, and I need to live near him so I can go over and work with him EVERY DAY. He does receive therapy and his parents do work with him all the time the best they can, but it's not enough. He's making progress but not as much as I know he could be if only I lived there!

So that is the reason for my constant questioning of God, in asking why I'm stuck out here hours away from Baby Boy who needs me. When Baby Boy's family was going to move to Florida earlier this year, and then when those plans were suddenly and miraculously altered by a job that just dropped out of nowhere into my brother's lap, I thought to myself, "Ahh, God is keeping him here, and pretty soon I'll be moving there too, and all is going to work out splendidly." And then month after month went by, and here I am, still stuck.

Now, I'd made some plans. I signed on with the realtor for six months. The six months ended in late October, and when nothing was happening, and the economy was failing, and the real estate market just kept sinking, I decided I was going to take the house off the market for the winter. Winter isn't a good time for me to move anyhow, due to all the things I'm going to have to do to transfer my job from here to there which is going to entail several months of weekly trips back and forth, which isn't going to be fun at any time of year, but especially not winter. Winter's a bad time for real estate anyway, and I could relist in the spring and it would look like a new listing instead of a house that has sat on the market for the year. These were my plans, and they seemed like good ones.

And then, two days before the listing was to expire, I got an interested buyer. They made an offer, way too low for me to accept. I countered. And we waited, and we waited. And they called and said they didn't have enough money for the downpayment if they go any higher, but they really want the house, so they're trying to get their parents to help them out, and they need a few days. Okay, but the listing was expiring and I'd already informed my realtor that I was pulling it off the market till spring.

So we renewed the listing for a 30 day period so that this sale could hopefully go through. And after we did that, they got back with us and said they couldn't get the money and therefore weren't going to be able to continue negotiations.

"Okay, God... why did you have me renew this thing for nothing??? Now I'm stuck with another month of people trekking through, and getting kicked out of my house, and having to keep the place looking like nobody lives in it day in and day out in case someone wants to see it, for another month." I'm quite tired of living like that.

The month passed and nothing happened. Then a couple days before it was due to expire again, my realtor called. It seems a local company had just contacted her because they were bringing in 80 people from another city, and those 80 people are required to live within ten minutes of this company, so they could be there quickly for emergencies that could arise while they're on call. My house is within the range.

So we talked, and we debated, and I came to the discouraging conclusion (because I was really looking forward to having the winter off from showing the house, despite my desire to move, plus as I said, winter is NOT a good time for me to move anyway) that I should leave the house on the market. After all, 80 folks coming through wanting a house... mine's already on the market BEFORE the spring people all list theirs, and there aren't even 80 houses within ten minutes of that company for sale anyway, so I'm almost SURE to sell it now. So THAT'S what God was doing with that deal... keeping me on the market long enough to find out this information. Right?

So we relist for six months. And the weeks begin to pass, and my realtor then informs me that those people are coming in, but they can't do anything yet. Why? Because they have to sell their houses before they can buy here. And not only were 80 of them sent here, but hundreds of employees from their city were moved to various locations around the country. That means there are hundreds of houses suddenly on the market in that city. Think they're going to sell anytime soon?

So again. "God, WHAT are You doing? WHY did You make me relist this thing for NOTHING??? WHAT is going on here? I know something's up, I know You have a reason for this, but WHAT? And will you PLEEEEEEEEEEEEASE sell my house?" (I've said that line a LOT in the past few months, feeling like a little kid begging for a candy bar or something.)

The other day I got a letter in the mail from a lady at church, a lady I barely know, I met her once at a party and that's about the extent of it. She knows virtually nothing about me.

She writes, "I don't know what I'm supposed to write here, but I know I've felt a desire to reach out to you this Christmas. God placed you on my heart, or in my inward vision? Whatever your desire from Him, I pray you'll sense He is completely aware of your heart's cry."

"Okay," I think. "Thanks, God... thanks for letting me know You're listening. I knew You were, but confirmation is nice. I know You know what's best and have a plan and I need to just be patient and let You work that plan out, but thanks for reminding me that yeah, You're listening."

Ten minutes later my realtor was at my door with an offer.

I'm not kidding.

It was a wretched offer. Insulting really. Much much much below anything I could ever consider taking. It was discouraging.

"He is completely aware of your heart's cry."

I countered. He came back again. I countered again. He came back again with a message that he was getting agitated because he had come WAY up and I had barely come down at all, and I'd best be more cooperative or he was going to walk.

Uh, well maybe if you'd started at a reasonable price to begin with, you wouldn't have that problem... I've gotten a lot of REALLY low offers, it seems that people think everybody is on the brink of foreclosure and they can take advantage of that and dash in and "steal" their house for WAY under the market value as a result. Well that wasn't my problem and I wasn't interested in GIVING away my house.

I countered again with a response that I was pretty much at rock bottom and he was going to have to come up significantly if he wanted the house.

He countered again. Do you know how exhausting this process was? And it dragged on for several days too. I reread that letter a time or twelve, I tell you. "He is completely aware of your heart's cry." Anyhow, I countered once more and he AGREED. (Actually he wanted to counter AGAIN but his realtor told him to stop playing games and take it before he loses this house. Thank you, Realtor.)

The house is SOLD. Well, under contract anyway, but he's approved for the amount so all should be fine from here on out.

So, I see He did have a plan after all. (Duh.) But all the "HUH? WHY did You do that?" questions fall into place now. Why the offer two days before the listing expired that then didn't go through? To keep it listed. Why the announcement about the company, only to then learn all those people had to sell first so it could be months before they were ready to buy anyway? To keep it listed. Why to keep it listed? Because if I'd done things my way, the house would have been off the market two months ago and this buyer never would have seen it.

And I'd be stuck here all winter, and who knows how many more months might have gone by before I finally found a buyer who was actually qualified to buy?

Now I can go. And Baby Boy's window is still pretty open. We have nine months to get him on track. I think we can do it. Pack all those treatment sessions with prayer, and I know we can. :)

There has been a lot of rejoicing in this house over the last couple days, let me tell you. A LOT.

Now to just figure out where I'm going to live... ;)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A New Level of Scary...

It's amazing what you can find out about people on the internet. There is no privacy anymore. None. It doesn't matter if you stay far far away from those scary computers -- there is no privacy.

I spent this evening trying to find information on a family, where all I knew was that there were two brothers who owned a furniture store in the 1930s, and I knew last name and city. That was it. And through some creative searching, I now know who they are, who their families were, and where they lived.

And when I plugged those addresses into Google Maps to see how far apart the two brothers lived, I discovered quite an astonishing thing. Street view. I clicked it, and by golly, no need to drive to the city to see what the houses look like, if indeed those houses are still there, because I can see them right there on my computer! And I can "drive" my mouse down the street and check out the whole neighborhood, or the whole city, for that matter!

I was appalled at the lack of privacy. I use Google Maps all the time and had never seen this come up before. I quickly plugged in my own address and was relieved to see that there was no streetview. I put in my parents', and lo and behold, there was. But it wasn't their house. I recognized the house, however, as one right down the road, and "drove" my mouse and sure enough, there was their house.

I found my sister's, and I found my brother's. I found my best friend's, and then I went crazy and started plugging in all sorts of people's addresses. They were ALL THERE.

(However, you can't assume they're all exactly the right house. Lots of houses I looked at were not the right house, but were close. You sometimes had to "drive" down the street...)

I am apparently the only fortunate person whose privacy has not been invaded to this degree. Yet.

I was really surprised because I entered some addresses that I know I've looked up in just the last couple of weeks, and they had streetview, and I swear I have never seen this before. So I did some investigation and learned that on December 9, extensive U.S. coverage was added to Google's streetview feature which before was only available for a few cities. Wow.

Is it just me, or is this positively frightening?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I Don't Like Winter

As anyone who's been reading here long will know, I had no intentions of being here for another winter. Winter in the mountains is not pleasant, and I had great hopes of escape. Not that the weather is that much different three hours down the road where I was hoping to be living by now, but the desired location is much more sheltered, in a river valley, and the amount of snowfall is significantly less, as a result.

So while I've become used to snowy winters, this one is earlier than most. Usually it's Christmas before the first snow of the year begins. January and February are pretty yucky, and sometimes March, but December is usually fine.

Not this year. The snows started in early November and haven't let up. I'm not pleased. Not pleased at all. It was even more jarring because we had an unusually warm fall, the weather not getting chilly until mid-October. Two weeks of fall and winter set in. Not pleased about that either. I like fall.

So this last weekend, I headed down to see Little Girl's Christmas play on Friday night. I had no plans for Saturday, and there is a place just a couple hours away from there that I've been wanting all fall to get to, to do a bit of research. So bright and early Saturday morning, I decided it was the perfect time to make the trip. It was chilly, but sunny and clear, and off I went, little suspecting the nightmare that was to come.

I intended to keep the entire trip a secret from my mother. The last time I planned on going out there, she and my aunt threw an absolute fit and forbade me to go, saying it was highly dangerous and I would get murdered. I didn't go, but on further reflection, I decided they were nuts, and I'd be fine. I let my sister know where I was going so if I didn't come back, they'd know where to send the search party, but had no intentions of letting anyone else know until I returned. ;)

So watching me head out the door, my mother told me to show my grandmother the video from the Christmas play the night before, thinking that's where I was going. I hesitated. "I'm not going up there till later this afternoon," I told her.

"Where are you going?" she questioned. "Oh, just running some errands," I replied.

"What kind of errands?" she pursued. Good grief, it's the Christmas season, I live in the boonies, and am finally in a real town that actually has stores other than Walmart. I figured she would just ASSUME I was going Christmas shopping! But no. She had to play 20 Questions. :)

"Just some errands," I repeated, and she stared at me and said, "You're not going to xxxx, are you???"

HOW did she KNOW? I hadn't even mentioned going there since October!

She went on and on about me getting killed again, and appealed to my father for support, but he agreed with me that she was overreacting and I'd be fine. We both assured her that the kind of people she was concerned about would all be in bed sleeping on a Saturday morning. It's not like I was going out there at night, after all. So off I went.

It was an easier drive than I anticipated, and the time went by quickly. I was surprised when I neared my destination and noticed some snow flurries, as I had not seen any snow predicted, other than a few flurries expected late that evening, which -- being out of the mountains -- I did not anticipate to be anything to worry about. The snow skittered along the surface of the road and billowed into smoky wisps. I've never seen anything quite like it. It wasn't sticking to the road though, and I kept going, assuming again that this was nothing to worry about.

Good old Zenobia, my GPS, piped up and told me to turn before the personal directions I had been given instructed me to. I hesitated, but wanted to see the area anyway and get to know it better, and so I thought okay, if it's wrong it's no big deal, I can turn around and come back and it will be nice to see what's out this way anyhow.

My destination, by the way, was not a city or a town as you may have assumed from the murder warnings, but way out in the middle of nowhere. Absolute nowhere. But it was critically important that I get out there and see it. I needed to be familiar with the area for a project I'm working on.

So. I took this road and Zenobia tried to tell me that my destination was a mere 3.5 miles down it. I was skeptical -- my handwritten personal instructions from someone in the area told me to stay on the main highway for another ten miles or so, then out another road for five miles, and then another one for two. If Zenobia was correct, that was certainly a much shorter way there, and I really didn't think the person would direct me the long way unnecessarily. Due to my past history with Zenobia, I doubted she was right, but again, it was just 3.5 miles and I wanted to see the area anyway. So off I went.

Well, when I reached the pinpointed destination, I knew I wasn't at my desired location, but I did feel like I was close. Unfortunately, there were three road choices, all hilly, and the snow was sticking to the road now. I tried to use Zenobia's map to figure out which one might be correct but to no avail. If there hadn't been snow, I wouldn't have minded experimenting, but these were back roads, and in a rough terrain, and I didn't want to risk it in the snow, not knowing just where these roads might lead me. So I turned around and went back to the highway.

(I checked google maps when I got home to figure out where she'd taken me, and determined that I was a mere two miles away from my destination, if only I had known which of the three roads to take. It's a really really rough two miles of road, because I've driven a mile of it before from the other direction, and all along its edge are steep cliffs. The snow was so limited at that point I probably would have been okay to have taken that route. If only I had.)

So back to the highway, on to the "town" (if you can actually call it that), and now began the part of the directions that read, "Go over two hills and across a bridge, then turn left."

Those were no hills.

Treacherous. Steep. Windy. No, not hills.

I wasn't even sure what constituted a "hill", as it wasn't like you go up and down, then up and back down again, which to me would be two hills. You wound around and up and down and around and up and down and I had no idea what the two hills were supposed to be. I arrived at a bridge, but the only option there was to continue straight or to turn right. I thought perhaps the left turn was just ahead, so continued straight.

And I drove and I drove and I drove. By this time, there was a good couple inches of snow on the road, and did I mention twisty, winding, up and down, and treacherous? I decided I'd gone too far, and turned around and drove it all again, back to the bridge. Then I checked Zenobia, and consulted the hand-drawn map, and determined that actually that wasn't the case at all. I hadn't gone far enough yet.

Back over those mountains again I went, this makes three times now I've taken the most treacherous portion of the trip. Still I was okay (praise the Lord for four wheel drive or there is absolutely no way I would ever have made it out of there alive) and finally made it to another bridge, where indeed there was a left turn.

Out two more miles to my destination, and I pulled over to do my looking around and take my pictures. On the bright side, I got to see what the area looked like in winter. I've only ever been there in the summer before, and with all the leaves off the trees, it really looks quite different.

I didn't spend a lot of time, obviously, as the snow was still pouring down and I knew I had to get back over those cliffs, or else be stranded in the middle of nowhere.

And did I mention my cell phone wouldn't turn on? I don't know what was wrong with it. It shut itself off and absolutely would not turn on for anything, even when plugged in. I don't know if I would even have had any reception if it had worked, but the fact that it wouldn't even turn on made it completely useless.

And then back across those mountains I went. Lots of skid marks all over the roads. Some cars along the edge of the road, where they didn't make it up, or didn't try. A couple of wrecks. Passed a couple of ambulances. Just the kinds of things you want to see when you have to navigate a treacherous road in the snow or else be stranded in the middle of nowhere with no phone.

The first steep hill was the worst. The road turned sharply and then immediately went straight up and around, so you couldn't take that sharp turn slowly or you'd not have enough force to get you up the mountain. So I held my breath, clung to the wheel, and went for it. Thankfully nobody was coming down as I was going up, because I slipped and slid all over that road despite the four wheel drive, but I just kept pressing the gas and praying hard to get to the top without slamming into the wall of rock on one side of me or going over the edge of the cliff on the other, because I knew once I started slipping backward, I was doomed.

And obviously, since I am writing, I made it. The worst was over, it was mostly downhill from there, and that's so much easier to do in snow than uphill, and the uphill bits that I did have weren't anything near as bad as that first climb.

Once I got over those "two hills" and back into "town", the road had been salted and so I was able to make the long drive back in relative ease. But on that cliff, I sure thought I was going to be a goner for sure.

So while my mother's fear that I would be murdered was way off the mark, the trip turned out to be quite a dangerous one that I feared I wouldn't survive after all.

The rest of the weekend actually wasn't much better. The hill going to my parents' house was quite dangerous as well, and even on the interstate before I got there, there were wrecks everywhere. I sighed with relief as I got to my parents' house, and called my sister. She was to go to a Christmas party that evening, and I was supposed to babysit Little Girl, but I was certain she wouldn't be going out in this weather. Wrong. She had every intention of going.

I decided the safest thing to do was for me to go ahead and go over right then, if I could still make it out, and then spend the night at her house rather than try to come back over the hill at night. It was a wise decision, my dad was crazy enough to go out later that evening, and he said the hill was in even worse shape than it was when I'd driven it, and that was pretty bad.

I really wasn't looking forward to spending the night at my sister's, however, because although I like the old-fashioned life and all, I don't care for it in the winter. My grandmother's sister passed away a couple years ago and my sister has been living in her house ever since, looking after it for her son who lives out of state but wants to return and live in it when he retires in a couple years.

I couldn't do it myself, even for the free place to live. The house was built around 1920. It is huge, very poorly insulated, and heated by one little gas floor furnace that my sister has nicknamed Hoss. That means that even when Hoss is fired up as much as he can go, the house is still downright chilly. And I don't like a chilly house.

Then there are the plumbing issues. There is no shower, only a cast-iron footed tub, which is actually kind of neat, except that I really prefer a shower. And the biggest problem with the tub is, there is lime or something built up so thickly in the pipes that only the slightest trickle of hot water comes out, making it take forever to fill the tub.

And I do mean forever. It took an hour to get enough water in it to give Little Girl a bath. At that point, there was no way I was emptying that water and taking another hour to fill it for myself. Like the pioneers of old, I decided to just use her water. When I suggested it, my sister said that's what they do all the time -- they all three just use the same water. Ick. I could stand it for one night, and it was just Little Girl, how dirty could she be? But all the time?

And I could never ever live full time without a shower either. Or in that cold house. They do have a little electric furnace downstairs, named, of course, Little Joe. And a small electric heater in each of the bedrooms. But it's still cold. And drafty. And did I mention cold?

Anyhow, I survived the icky snowy cold weekend and made it home safely, where more snow is predicted for the weekend.

At this point, I don't even mind skipping Christmas. I just want it to be spring.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I'm Not Who I Was

This post gets a little more personal than I usually get. Sharing innermost feelings with close friends is one thing, but with perfect strangers is another altogether. However, I've been feeling like it's time I started to share some of this, in the hopes of being able to help others. So here's a start.

I've enjoyed Brandon Heath's song "I'm Not Who I Was" since it first came out. It resonates with me because it reminds me of situations from my past. Tonight on the radio I heard the coolest story behind that song.

I tried to find it online to make sure I remembered it all accurately, but could not, so I'll do my best to get it right but there's my disclaimer. :) Brandon wrote the song about a friendship that dissolved years ago. He said that he had a problem with unforgiveness, but was finally able to forgive this friend and then he sat down and wrote this song about it.

The really neat thing is, since writing this song, he's heard from old girlfriends and such wondering if that song was written about them. No. It was about this friend. And it just so happens that this friend heard the song on the radio and really liked it. He had no idea that he knew the artist, nor that the song was about him. But he learned through a mutual friend that Brandon -- whose MIDDLE name is Heath which is why the friend didn't realize it was him -- was indeed the Brandon he used to know, and that the song had been written about him. He contacted Brandon and the two men are going to meet in a couple of weeks. They haven't spoken in, I think the lady on the radio said 11 years. Won't that be interesting?

I won't post the entire song's lyrics, but here are a few bits that pull me back in time a bit and make me think. And here also are my thoughts on those lyrics...

I wish you could see me now.
I wish I could show you how
I'm not who I was.

We'll start right there. I have felt that way many times before, in thinking about relationships from the past that have been broken, or even relationships that were just drift-aways. I think the reason this thought comes to mind so much is that I really do feel like a completely different person than I used to be.

You see, I used to struggle greatly with insecurity and self-esteem, for starters. Add to that extreme social anxiety, and fear of rejection, then mix in some dependency issues. Compound the whole works with depression and generalized anxiety, and you have a mess. I don't like that person and I don't know how anyone else did. Friends that I have now who were also friends during those years, I have asked that question -- how on earth could you have liked me? They assure me that they did, but I didn't like myself even then, and I especially don't like the self that I was, NOW.

I've thought about writing a post -- or it would probably have to be a series of posts, actually -- on how I overcame all of those issues (a great big dose of God, obviously, but the process He used is what I'm referring to here) and became who I am today (completely healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) but whenever I sit down to do it, I really can't piece together just how it happened. I know so many people struggle with depression and anxiety disorders and if my story could help even one other person overcome them as I did, all those miserable years would be worth it. So hopefully one of these days, this post will come. But for now... back to the song. :)

I have that thought, about wishing that the people who knew me then who are no longer in my life today, could see how I've changed, could see what a different person I am today, whenever I reflect on any part of my past, actually.

The song continues:

I used to be mad at you,
A little on the hurt side too,
But I'm not who I was.

Knowing now that Brandon was writing about his own issue of unforgiveness, his meaning for the song is a little different than my perception for my own life experiences, but that's okay. I always think of two people in particular during this part of the song, two terribly broken relationships from years ago. I didn't deal greatly with the anger aspect, a bit of anger from time to time when the breaks first occurred perhaps, but hurt more than anything else. They say that time heals all wounds, and it does. I've felt neither anger nor hurt over either of these relationships for a long time now, but I do feel remorse. I wish that I could go back into the beginning of those relationships and be the me of today rather than the me of the past, and redo those relationships the right way. Obviously, that can never happen. And there really isn't a thing in the world I can do to rectify those long-past situations either, and so as I said, I simply feel remorse and remind myself not to screw up any future relationships like I did the past ones. :)

Another line I like,

I found us in a photograph,
I saw me and I had to laugh,
You know, I'm not who I was.

That's such a me thing to do. I don't look through old photographs from these two friendships, don't even know where they are, it's been so long, but Angie of Bring the Rain wrote a couple months or so ago about how she views life moments in snapshots, and I can identify with that. I see snapshots of memories from events with those people in my mind, and those are my photographs. And just like Brandon, I sometimes just have to shake my head and laugh at myself, at who I was then. Because as my grandmother says, sometimes you just have to laugh to keep from crying. ;)

And finally, the last bit of the song that I'll quote,

I wish I could see you now,
I wish I could show you how
I'm not who I was.

And to this, I just have to repeat that I think that it's really cool that Brandon is going to be doing exactly that in a couple of weeks, with this friend from eleven years past that he obviously thought he would never have the opportunity to do this with.

God does some pretty cool things, and if God would put all of that together for Brandon, I suppose it's possible He just might do it someday for me too. He's still in the miracle business after all. I'm reminded of that every time I think about how "I'm not who I was."

I Learned Something New Today...

I knew today was the birthday of Rose Wilder Lane. What I did not know until today is that this is also the birthday of Walt Disney. Cool! :)

Happy birthday, dear Rose!! Happy birthday, Walt!! Thank you both for your part in bringing me two of my greatest loves. :)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Webkinz Letter

Dear Webkinz World,

Your target audience is children. Children do not understand when things do not work properly. Your site never works properly. NEVER.

You do not respond to customer complaints. Do you not care that you cause children heartbreak on a daily basis?

This is no way to do business.

Frustrated Aunt

This was precipitated by tonight's phone call from Little Girl, the proud owner of so many Webkinz now I've lost track. (Okay, it's only 5 or 6 which is nothing compared to some people... compared to some ADULTS, in fact!!... but it still seems excessive to me...)

LG: "Hi, do you want to come see my new Webkinz?"

Me: "Sure, give me a minute to log on... what color is your phone?"

LG: "Blue."

Me: logging on, hoping against hope that we can both actually get on the blue phone, and both actually stay connected to the blue phone without getting dumped or freezing up, or our Webkinz doing some freaky thing like getting stuck outside the walls of the room... because this is typically what happens when Little Girl wants to play Webkinz with me, and it makes her cry, and I therefore have come to dread the "do you want to play webkinz?" phone calls simply because I know it frequently ends in frustration.

However, this time it logged right onto the blue phone beautifully, and Little Girl giggled as our computers simultaneously made the sound that shows a friend is online.

But guess what? The "invite" button wouldn't light up. So I had no way to get into her Webkinz room to see her new Webkinz. After several attempts, we determined that it most definitely was not going to happen, and a tearstorm erupted.

Me: "Oh, it's okay, don't cry, Baby, listen, I'm coming in tomorrow night to see you in the Christmas play and after the play we can get on your computer and you can show me everything you want to show me in person."

LG: "But I wanted to show you TONIGHT!!!" More tears.

Thanks, Webkinz. Thanks so much.

Anything can mess up once in awhile. But you consistently bring children to tears.

Kids deserve better.

There's my rant for the evening. Good night, all. :)