Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008

After I finally began to notice the blessing at the end of our church service, I quickly realized that it doesn't change weekly but more like seasonally. So today, after several weeks of the same blessing, we have a new one. And, a lovely one it is:

Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. So be swift to love. Make haste to be kind. And as we go, may the blessing, the peace, the love, and the joy of the Holy One Who is in the midst of us be among us and in our hearts this day and always.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Oh, Christmas Tree...

We put up the Christmas tree today. Yes, it's artificial. After being sick each Christmas and New Year's for several years running (allergies), we switched to the fakeroo three years ago.

We found the artificial tree at a nearby specialty shop. It's fully lit with a lot of white lights and looks pretty nice - for not being real. We only paid about $130 in an after-holiday clearance. So, maybe after two seasons, the tree doesn't owe us anything. But, I figured it would last at least five years.

Maybe I should have seen the writing on the wall last season when a small section of lights went out - and never came back on. Still, I had faith it would light up on command when it got plugged in this year. Oh, I was so wrong.

We put the first section into the stand, and half of it didn't light. OK, that half can go in the back. Second section, only one little branch was without lighting. Swing it around so it, too, is in the back. Third section...totally dead. Out comes the voltometer thingy. We're checking fuses, checking outlets, checking plugs. Everything else works - just not this section of the tree. Fourth section - the top - goes on. It, too, is dead. Wait, it lives, but just a little. One tiny section comes alive. At this point, I was fighting the urge to throw the whole thing out the front window and race to the nearest store to buy a new one. Ron talked me down; we decided to make the best of it for now. Up I went into the attic to look for the box of lights from our real-tree days. Down I came with five strings of lights. Colored lights. But, our fakeroo has white lights. I didn't care. This was our tree. We were decorating it together. It was going to be what it was going to be, and we would love it.

I did have some caveats, though. Annalee suggested we string the lights like garlands. I thought I was being a big enough sport having to light a tree that had dead white lights all over it using colored lights. But, garland-like stringing just was over the top. I proceeded to explain to Annalee (since Ron has known for years) that I'm a tree-lighting freak. The lights have to be on very precisely and have to be tucked into the tree so as to display light without really showing all those wires. Annalee pressed on for garland stringing. And, Ron finally talked her into giving up. Mommy was going to be in charge of getting those lights on.

I managed to scratch up my hands almost as much on this fake tree as I used to on the real trees while stringing lights. It made me realize that after two years of not having to do that, I really prefer the pre-lit tree. When it lights, of course. There is something magical about setting up a tree, lights and all, in minutes. Saves a lot of skin, and it gives us more time for all the other decorating.

When I told my mom about the lighting fiasco - and the use of the colored lights, her response reminded me of why I'm a lighting freak. "Why didn't you call us? We could have run over with some white lights for you." Well, mom, I'm trying really hard to let go of that urge to be a perfectionist. I could have easily driven to a store to get white lights, too. But, why bother? We had perfectly good lights in the attic. And, we have a very unusual looking tree that we can all be proud of decorating. Besides, it makes for a good story when friends come over and comment on the lights (or maybe they'll be too polite to mention them).

One good thing to come of all this. I realized that I prefer the colored lights, like we used to have. They're not as overpowering as the white lights, so we can actually see the ornaments AND the lights, not just the lights. So, you know what I'll be shopping for come Dec. 26.

BTW, Annalee decided it was 'exhausing' decorating a tree. I guess she's gaining a finer appreciation for what I do. That's so nice.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving will always hold a special place in my heart. Not just because it is Thanksgiving and I have a lifetime of memories and traditions to go with it. But, because it was four years ago, on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 25, 2004), that we returned from China with our beautiful daughter. We thought it was the coolest thing to come home on Thanksgiving, given all we had to be thankful for.

This was our baby's first Thanksgiving dinner. My mom had the food waiting for us when we arrived home from the airport. My folks left us at home to get settled and get some much-needed sleep - after a tastey meal of traditional Thanksgiving fare. If you can believe it, Annalee ate that whole plate of food!

This is our baby today: a beautiful, bright 5-1/2-year-old girl with an infectious smile and laugh. She is happy, healthy, inquisitive, interested, engaging and -- shall I say it again? -- happy.

Strangely, I think Leelee ate more on Thanksgiving four years ago than she did today.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008

Whenever we return to our seats after communion at church, I talk with Annalee about saying prayers and giving God thanks. This time around, I started our prayers with thanking God for our friends and our church community. I continued with other blessings we are thankful for. Before I could finish my sentence, Annalee whipped out what had been our regular prayer (which has since become more random) during dinner for several years. This is what she said:

'Thank you for the roof over our heads, the food that we eat and the love we have for each other.'

And, really, when it comes down to it, those are our true needs and our true blessings. Everything else we are blessed with is icing on the cake.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I Love TV!

I'm not too proud to say that I really like to watch TV. My usuals are Grey's Anatomy, Real Time with Bill Maher, What Not to Wear, Get Color! and Tim Gunn's Guide to Style (a new find on Bravo!). I am a little embarrassed to admit that I actually got sucked into the most bizarre program - the Real Housewives of Atlanta. I can't really believe that these women are real, even though this is one of those reality shows. Are there really such shallow, self-absorbed, narrow-minded, petty women like that? Thank God I don't know anyone like that in my real life.

As much as I love Grey's - and I twitter about it nearly every week - I do believe Jennifer is right when she says it has jumped the shark. What? I know; I didn't know what that meant either. I guess it goes back to Happy Days when Fonzie ski-jumped a shark. The show went down the tubes after that. This whole thing with the interns cutting and operating on themselves and Izzy hanging out with Denny again, it's just crazy. Let's get on with it, for crying out loud! BTW, I love seeing Denny and Izzy together. But, he's dead already. And, I know I can't be the only one who's so sick of Meredith.

Like you, Paula, I can't wait for Friday Night Lights, Big Love and Lost to come back on TV. In MHO, FNL is THE BEST show on TV.

Oh, let's not forget Rescue Me. That show is crazy funny. I can't wait for that to come back, too.

So, there you have it. I watch TV. I like it. Actually, 'we' watch TV. That's why it makes it to the Priceless Ones blog. Because Ron and I like watching TV together, and we like laughing - and even crying (just me) - over these shows. Especially that train wreck of a show, those not-so-real housewives in Atlanta.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Annalee's Blessings

For the past several weeks, we had yards of beautiful satin ribbons in wonderful shades of reds, oranges, greens and yellows overflowing baskets at our church. Everyone who was been at services and those of us who were on the retreat last weekend were invited to take a ribbon (or two or three) and write on it how our lives are blessed and how we share those blessings with others.

One weekend, Annalee took a ribbon and marker home with her. As we were driving home, she began writing (we spelled for her as necessary). These are the things she felt were her blessings:

Mommy and Daddy
Halloween (probably because she could spell it on her own)
Nana (one she knew how to spell), grandparents
everything (my favorite)
sun! (the exclamation point was hers)
cats! (ours passed last year, but I was touched she remembered them)
pumpkin pie (yummy)
Mommy cat (not sure where this came from or if she was just filling the space)

Putting the list here just doesn't do the conversation justice. There was thoughtfulness and joy and exclamation in Leelee's deliverance of these blessings. She was excited both to share her blessings and to be able to write them on her own on this ribbon.

Annalee's ribbon, along with many, many others (including ones from Ron and me) were woven into a spectacular, colorful, blessed altar cloth that was unveiled today. After the service we went up to the altar to admire it. I spotted Annalee's ribbon within seconds. Her large printed letters - some on top with others woven underneath - it was magical to see. I picked Annalee up to show her her ribbon as it sat on the 'cloth' top of the altar; she was so excited!

Seeing that festive cloth during church will always be a wonderful reminder of my daughter's thoughtfulness - and of our many, many blessings.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Weirdo-ness

In checking out blogs this morning while I sit on the couch coughing my brains out, I found this fun challenge from Laughing Daisies. So, I thought I'd give it a try. I'm also going to e-mail it to some friends, since the original idea from Danielle suggested that you tag seven friends.

I've actually had some practice at this back to 2004 when I first met Laura online and then on the phone before we prepared to travel to China together to adopt our daughters. I think I might have terrified her when I sent her an e-mail cluing her in on my idiosyncrasies early on in our friendship. I just figured I'd get it all out there. Knowing your weirdo-ness is half the battle to being less of a weirdo, isn't it?

While I don't remember everything I shared with Laura four years ago, I do remember No. 1. The rest I'm pulling off the top of my head, but I'm sure my friends have better weirdo things to say about me than I do. I'm certainly open to their comments.

Here are my seven:

1. I am a germ-freak. Not in the Howie Mandell way that I won't touch people or shake hands or anything. But, I spray Lysol on my keyboard and phone and chair when I know someone (anyone, well or not) has sat at my desk in the office. I wash ALL the linens after I've been sick. I use papertowel to open the door and exit public bathrooms. I get grossed out thinking about all the potential germs that Annalee or I pick up at school, on the playground, grocery store, etc. Then, out come the wipes or lotion. If there's a sink with soap and water, all the better. I don't drink from the wine at church; I don't even dip my host.

2. I cry when I pray. I don't know what it is, but when I think of what I have to be thankful for and when I ask God for something, I cry. I'm just moved to tears.

3. I LOVE buying craft supplies more than I enjoy making the crafts. It's taken me a long time to figure out that I actually like wallowing in the picking of the 'stuff' more than I am pleased with the outcome of what I create. Now that I've figured this out, I've really curbed my buying habits. I have fewer silk flowers to make pen bouquets and decorate decorative pillows (which I've never done anyway). I have reduced my yarn stash and try to buy yarns to knit a specific project. I've even stopped ordering stamping supplies (for a little while, at least) until I use up the accessories I have - and even use some of the stuff I've bought at all!

4. I love cleaning the kitchen after dinner. It's a true weirdo thing. I'm happy when the kitchen is clean, especially the kitchen sink. I can watch TV or Ron and Annalee through the cut-out in the wall between the kitchen and family room while doing my thing. Makes life good.

5. I have a large collection of plastic bins. They help me organize. Even when they're just sitting in the garage waiting to be filled, they make me feel better know they're there and available.

6. I'm a bit of a hypochondriac. Maybe this goes with No. 1. But, I think it has more to do with having worked for 19 years in health-care marketing. And, having had breast cancer 14 years ago. Either way, I usually think the worst when I get sick. Like today. I'm convinced I have either pneumonia or whooping cough. I'll see the doctor in an hour and find out the real deal.

7. I am a spreadsheet freak. Give me some choices and I'll give you a spreadsheet. I spreadsheet vacation options, stamping supply lists, stamping wish lists, mailing lists, Christmas lists, house construction projects. You name it. If it can be in a spreadsheet, I make it.

Even though the game calls for a list of seven, I'd be remiss if I didn't include this one last thought:

8. I go to the bathroom all the time. Sometimes it's a nervous thing and sometimes it's just because I drink a lot of water. But, when a bathroom presents itself, I use it. I don't think I've ever flown on a plane and not used the bathroom. Same for airports, bookstores, restaurants, department stores. You get the idea. It used to kill my mom and especially my grandma Rose when I would need to use a bathroom when we were out. God forbid we had to use a public facility. Poor grandma. She'd be mortified to know that I've passed this trait on to my daughter. See a bathroom; use it. That's my motto.

(Don't worry, friends. I know I have more weirdo-ness, but these top the list for today.)

Now, here are the rules for you:

1. Link to the person who tagged you and put the rules on your blog.

2. Share 7 weird or random facts about yourself.

3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and link to their blog.

4. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a note on their blog.

Last, but not least, are my seven tagged friends: Becky, Jennifer, Mary Ann, Laura, Denise, Lauren and Paula. I also tag YOU. Now get to it!

UPDATE: I saw my doctor. He did a chest X-ray, and everything is clear. Just a virus. Luck for me, he prescribed the good cough medicine for nighttime. You know, the one with codeine! Some solid sleep should work wonders.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lines of Life

I was cleaning out our picture files this evening and came across this photo. I took this picture in August while we were on vacation in northern Wisconsin. It's Leelee's five-and-a-half-year-old foot, or is it? Sometimes, when I study her feet and see all those lines of life, I can't help but wonder about reincarnation. They look like they've walked many miles and lived many years. More like the feet of an 80-year-old woman. But, to touch them is to touch the feet of a baby. Soft and sweet, and somehow, smooth.

I remember when my dad first noticed that Leelee's feet were so creased with life. He would tease her and ask her where she got those old feet. She'd just shrug it off and say 'They came that way, Grandpa.' No worries on her part. Her feet are her feet and they're perfectly fine. She couldn't be more right.

Color Inspiration #30

The colors for Kristina Werner's color inspiration are old olive, certainly celery, sahara sand and whisper white. This week, I decided to think about a design before she posted her color challenge. I think it made it a bit easier.

I have yet to take a good picture, though. This was the best of about 30 that I took in all different lighting. If anyone has some suggestions for taking one that actually looks as good as the card, please let me know!

I used SU's It's Snow Time and Nature's Secret stamp sets. The snowflakes are stamped in craft white and embossed with SU winter white EP. The primary image is stamped in olive and mounted with dimensionals. The larger ribbon is celery with the little one being olive. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday, Nov. 9, 2008

"Jackie, we recognize you as a member of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church, and we receive you into the fellowship of this Communion. God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bless, preserve and keep you."

This was the blessing I received this morning from Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Lee, Bishop of Chicago, as he held his hands on my head. The service was the culmination of eight weeks of coursework and discernment of my belief in God. I chose today to affirm my faith, reaffirm my baptismal vows and become a member of the Episcopal church. I couldn't feel happier or more fulfilled.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Night Prayer

I've been taking a class in preparation for being received into our Episcopal church. The ceremony will be this Sunday - the bishop of Chicago will preside. I am so excited to become a full-fledged Episcopalian, not just a participating member of our church.

During our evening class last Sunday, we ended with Compline, the offering of prayer late in the evening. This is often described as the 'goodnight prayer of the Church.'

I wanted to capture the closing part of the prayer here, because it always moves me.

Lord, it is night. The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.

It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done; let it be.

The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you.

The night is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace.

The night heralds the dawn. Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.

In your name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Color Inspiration #29

I really liked Kristina Werner's color challenge this week. But, in sitting down to create a card, I realized that this just isn't the way I create my cards. I don't start with the colors. I usually start with the stamps and/or a design in my head. Then, I look at my little word window punch combos of colors or the SU color wheel and decide what colors to use. So, I've been finding these color challenges almost painful. That said, I did find that I could really get into this one, once I got going. It's just that this approach takes me a lot longer to finish a card.

I normally don't say this, but the picture just doesn't do it justice. Unfortunately, I had some camera issues - the little digital seems to have forgotten how to focus and the Canon 10D (that we just had fixed) doesn't seem to focus the way it should either. All that, and then our main home computer drive died...


People Don't Have Black Skin, Mommy

I've tried to impart on Annalee the significance of voting for and, now, the election of Barack Obama, the first African-American man to be elected president of the United States. But, she doesn't see people as belonging to a 'race' or as different from one another because of skin color. In fact, she doesn't believe that people have black skin - or even yellow skin, as people might suggest she has.

I walked a fine line between trying to teach our daughter about something of enormous historical importance and about race relations in this country and throughout the world. I treaded gently. I didn't want to alter her view of the world and of people into something cynical or scary. I didn't need to open the trunk of our history and share the ugliness that has been and continues in this world around race.

If only the people of the world could learn something from the minds of kindergartners. These little people see life in full color - and only color - without prejudice or predisposition of attitude. The way we all should live.

This is a time of transformation. Whether it comes from our children or from our president-elect, the time is now. Change has come to America, and I'm so proud to be a part of it - and to share that with my child.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What a Day!

Oh, what an incredibly momentous day this has been! Earlier today, Ron, Annalee and I went to our polling place together to cast our votes. As Annalee stood with me in the booth, I showed her the names on the ballot. She diligently watched as I filled in that oval with the dark black marker. I spoke quietly to her as I read the ballot, but she let everyone know we were voting for Barack Obama. I teared up as I filled in that little oval - I had been waiting so long to do that.

For the last five hours, we've watched election coverage on TV and online. I was cautiously optimistic. I could feel excitement building as the waves of polls closed from east to west across the country. But, I wasn't prepared for the election to be called at the stroke of 10 p.m. when polling in California, Oregon and Washington closed and were called for Obama.

The day has finally come and the results are in. It doesn't get much better than this. I can't wait to share the news with Annalee tomorrow morning!