Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ornamentation

I love Christmas ornaments, a whole hodge-podge of them on a tree, each meaning something special. I thought I'd share a few of ours with you...

My sister Jessica gives such fun ornaments for stocking stuffers each year. The following five are from her, and I love every one of them!






This one is from my sister Carrie. She said that my niece Caitlyn picked it out. :)


This plaid bear is from my Aunt Barbara. She got it in Thailand when she lived there.


This next one I picked out. It's actually a set of tiny rustic churches, all in unfinished wood with copper roofs. I believe I got them at a craft store sale a long time ago. I think they're so charming.


This Santa is from my Aunt Barbara's antique store. There were a few in this set, but this is the only one that doesn't have a broken string. I need to fix the others so that I can hang them.


This is Winn's, in honor of his alma mater (go Cyclones!).


I've had this Jingle Bells one for probably about 10 years. It was part of a gift for singing in a friend's wedding.


I can't remember where I got this crocheted ball, but I think it's so delicate and lovely.


We got our first real snowfall this evening. Not too much, just a dusting. But it's the first snow that's stayed on the ground. It's beautiful out. I should know. I just got home from work, after 10:30 pm! That late of an hour is unusual in my line of work (thank goodness!), but it was a deposition with some New Jersey folks who, I guess, could only arrange to fly here for an evening gig. It's a good thing. Or else I wouldn't have been out to enjoy the quiet night and the gently falling snow and the Christmas lights on the eves of the houses I passed.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mittens


Thought these mittens over at Sew, Mama, Sew were great and wanted to share them with you. I can't wait to make some! Hmmm, I think these might be some of my stocking stuffers for this Christmas... Click here to view the mitten tutorial.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Back to School


Well, as of last night I'm officially a student again. This term I'm taking two online classes, Social Psych and Management. I love the business and management courses, hate the psychology. The bummer of it is that I already fulfilled my psych requirements; however, those credits wouldn't transfer, so I'm taking it again. Thankfully, that was one of the only ones that didn't transfer, so I've only got about a year to a year and a half left to complete my bachelor's (see To-Do List, No. 3).

While reading the first chapter in my management textbook last night on coping with a changing environment, I came across this interesting perspective on environmentalism by Authors McDonough and Braungart:

We see a world of abundance, not limits. In the midst of a great deal of talking about reducing the human ecological footprint, we offer a different vision. What if humans designed products and systems that celebrate an abundance of human creativity, culture, and productivity? That are so intelligent and safe, our species leaves an ecological footprint to delight in, not lament?

Consider this: All the ants on the planet, taken together, have a biomass greater than that of humans. Ants have been incredibly industrious for millions of years. Yet their productiveness nourishes plants, animals, and soil. Human industry has been in full swing for little over a century, yet it has brought about a decline in almost every ecosystem on the planet. Nature doesn't have a design problem. People do.

No matter how you feel about issues like global warming, toxic waste, pollution, etc., I appreciate the creative thinking of these two gentlemen in trying to adapt to change (one of the biggest challenges facing managers today), rather than fighting change. I also like how their observation points to intelligent design.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Christmas Wish List


My family draws names for Christmas gifts. This year it's a secret who has whose name, so we all had to send our "wish lists" to everyone. Here are a couple that I enjoyed reading...


Dad's wish list:
An evening curled up on the couch next to Mom, listening to all my kids playing their instruments and singing Christmas songs, with a crackling fire in the fireplace, hot dogs and marshmallows roasting on the fire, apple cider to drink, and whatever else I think of between now and then to add to the scene.

My brother Bobby is easy to please. Here's his list:
Guitar
Laptop
Car
Riverfront Property (house included)
Pretty wife who laughs at my jokes and can balance a checkbook

(Okay, he had a few more attainable items on there too, such as overalls, Goose Island Rootbeer, a bald wig, and chocolate chipless cookie dough.)

My nephew Joel:
He says he wants Santa Claus and a house and a fridge and a brown bear. :)

My niece Caitlyn:
I thought it was sweet that Cate wanted "only for me" fruit rollups and a new baby for Christmas. (So...what about that new baby, Carrie??)

What's on your "wish list" this year?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Turkey Day

I hope all of you had a fantastic Thanksgiving day! We had a whopping total of 78 people at our annual family fest in the booming metropolis of Madelia, MN. Each year we take over my grandparents' house, two aunts' houses, a church building, and the AmericInn Hotel for the better part of a week. This year we enjoyed an evening of bowling; lots of visiting; an endless supply of pies and coffee and other delectable eats; singing and the playing of stringed instruments; an afternoon of improv (including such acts as the "Three-headed Opera Star" and "Dating Game" from Whose Line Is It Anyway); a good game of Scrabble (I actually beat my prosecuting attorney cousin Renata, Miss Wordsmith herself--I plan to get a lot of mileage out of that one); and a baby shower for my cousin Emily's new baby Joely (btw, I'm lovin' my new sewing/embroidery machine--I made this little hooded towel for her shower gift):



Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Shopping with Mom


It's crazy, but I think I spend less time with my family ever since they moved to the same town as me. I mean, I run into them at church sometimes, although not always since our church is fairly large and we have a couple different service times, and once in a while I'll see them around town. I think that now that they're here, I just figure that I can see them anytime I want, so I don't make that much of an effort to spend time with them. Isn't that awful? But today I spent the day shopping with my mom. We found some fun sales; she took me to lunch; and I got a couple stocking-stuffer gifts knocked off my Christmas list. Good times. We'll have to do it more often.

Monday, November 19, 2007

To-Do List


I've been working on my Life To-Do List. Writing it down and rereading it often helps me to remember my dreams and goals and to work on accomplishing them. Here's what I've come up with so far. I'll add to it as I think of things.

My To-Do List

1. Learn keyboarding for worship band
2. Ride an elephant
3. Finish my bachelor’s degree
4. Write a song for Martina McBride to perform
5. Go skinny-dipping with my husband
6. Adopt a child (or children)
7. Get my CRR certification (certified realtime reporter)
8. Read through the whole Bible
9. Learn to play the drums
10. Float through the Blue Grotto in Capri, Italy
11. Take a photography class
12. Be on Wheel of Fortune
13. Learn to garden
14. Learn to can
15. Visit Africa

There's even a book out about to-do lists. Click here to see it. Do you have a to-do list? If so, I'd love to hear about what's on it...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Just Listen


You know the kind of people that just make you feel like you want to confide in them? I have a few people like that in mind. And you know what they all have in common? They're all such good listeners. When I talk to them, I feel like I'm being heard, like what I have to say is important to them. I want to be like that. I want to be a good listener. That's one of my goals. I came across this great listening advice on Lylah's blog and thought I would share it:


Ten Quick Keys to Learn to Listen

In order to listen well, we must first understand that it’s an art to be rediscovered. We listen more frequently than any other activity that we can name, except breathing. And, in spite of all the listening that goes on, there is a great need for improvement. We can become good listeners because without training ourselves to listen, we retain only 25 % of what we hear.

If you can, picture this huge iceberg floating in the ocean near Alaska. You only see the portion that’s above the water line. You don’t see this very large piece of the iceberg below the water line. It’s like that in listening. We are hearing only what’s above the water line, and in true listening (hearing the heart), we want to hear what’s below the surface of the water line. It truly takes training ourselves to focus and pay attention. I believe that listening is a personal obligation.

Poor listening stems from poor habits, from self-centeredness, and from pride. It’s been said that listening is one of the most complicated things we do because our emotions and our personality traits can actually interfere with good listening.

In learning the skill of communication, more time is spent on learning to speak rather than learning to listen. Interestingly enough, we spend about 16% of our time reading, 30% of our time talking, and 45% of our time listening. Hmmm… How many speaking courses have you been to? And, how many listening courses have you been to?

Here are Ten Quick Keys to Improve Your Listening:

1. Look directly at the person who is speaking. Engage your mind in their words. Giving direct attention shows you care.

2. Identify what they are saying. Is it an opinion, an experience, a request, a desire, a concern, or are they asking a question?

3. Don’t interrupt. Speak only in turn. It’s rude to tramp on someones thoughts and heart that is being spoken.

4. Think of what they are saying, not what you want to say. Mentally summarize their message. When you sense emotion in you rising up, get control, keep it under control.

5. Don’t get swept away in emotion. We get emotional when we are thinking their words are a personal attack. Just listen. It’s their words and their heart that is being expressed. Be thinking about what God is after in this situation.

6. Don’t change the subject. Give the person the gift of being heard out completely.

7. Don’t be in a rush. Being in the posture of listening is the posture of learning.

8. Certain words mean certain things to certain people.

9. Don’t judge what they are saying in terms of your experience. Remember, this is their story. Listen to understand.

10. If you don’t understand the meaning of a word, then ask.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fancy Tie


Winn was a good sport and let me snap a photo of him in his fancy orange tie when he came home from work today. He was needing some new dress duds, and while we were doing some Christmas shopping at the mall last night, we noticed that JcPenney's was having a nice sale on their neckties and fitted dress shirts. We spotted this tangerine tie, but it had a snag in it and appeared to be the last one on the shelf. Well, after sending the sales associate on a wild goose chase to find another, we finally found a hidden stack of unblemished ones and were able to bring this fancy number home. What a studmuffin.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Daddy's Boy

Sajak is such a people person...dog. He likes to be near, if not touching, us most of the time. Last night I went out to the dining room to find that Winn had moved Sajak's bed over next to him so that they could be together while he wrote his paper for school. Ahhhh, aren't they cute...


Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Guide For Short People (Part 2)

Written by Bob Blanshan, the younger

Being 5'11" myself, I appreciate my brother's humor. Hope you get a giggle out of it as well. (To see "A Guide For Short People, Part 1", click here.)

CAREER OPTIONS FOR SHORT PEOPLE

So many young short people dreamed of playing for the NBA and had their hopes dashed. However, there are a number of competitive fields that are advantageous for the Shorts. Here are a few:

Plumber (The less plumbers have to bend over, the better it is for us all.)

Miner (Any job with low ceilings is going to give short people an advantage.)

Sewage Worker (This is especially good for the workaholic as sewage work often leaves you up to your ears in work.)

Shoe Polisher (This has great job security because most people have shoes.)

Jobs That Involve Flying (Try sitting in a plane with long legs.)

Foot Doctor (Even better job security; almost everyone has feet.)

Tailor (There must be jobs in this field because evidently all clothes are made by short people.)

Submarine Sailor/Jet Pilot (Both are occupations where you are not allowed to be over a certain height.)

Tunnel Rat (Another military job. Basically you go into an enemy tunnel, kill the enemy, and blow up the tunnel. They only allow Shorts, and the Shorts can have it.)

Astronaut (Astronauts are not allowed to be over 6 foot, 4 inches.)

Roller Coaster Designer (Roller coasters are obviously designed by short people because I am not allowed to ride the best roller coasters.)

If you had your heart set on athletics, don't give up. There is still hope. Here are some sports that give short people an advantage: Limbo, Jockey, Weight Lifting (if you are short, you don't have to lift as far), Professional Hide-and-Go-Seek, Dodgeball, and Baseball (smaller strike zone).

Friday, November 9, 2007

Update


Sherill (Winn's mom) had surgery this week to put in another port. She had to have the old one taken out due to a rare bacterial infection that she got. Right after they put the new port in, they gave her a dose of chemo. Although the lumps in her neck came back while she was taking a break from the treatment, the tumors on her liver and lung appear to have remained stable, so we're extremely grateful for that. They're going to try a lower dose of the chemotherapy every week, instead of the larger dose every three weeks. Please pray with us that this method is more tolerable for her and that the treatment does its job quickly.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

New Mittens


I had another doctor appointment yesterday morning to go over my test results. Apparently I do have Raynaud's, but thankfully it's not due to lupus or sclerderma or anything like that. HUGE sigh of relief. Thank you, Father. It's just something that we'll have to keep an eye on. It could get worse, but it could get better too. My doc wants me to take Norvasc during the winter months, a blood pressure medication that will help enlarge the capillaries in my fingers and toes to promote more blood flow to those areas. I'll probably be ordering a supply of handwarmer packets (the kind that you take skiing), and I've also been stocking up on mittens/gloves since they're my new best friend. This is my favorite pair...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Kids Hope USA


Today I went to Franklin Elementary School to visit my Kids Hope student. This is my fourth year as a mentor. It's a wonderful program that pairs a church with an elementary school, and people in the church spend one hour a week with an at-risk child, helping them with schoolwork, reading with them, or just listening to them talk about whatever they need to talk about. My student is in second grade, and her parents just went through a divorce. This is my second year with this particular student, and we've been able to talk about what she's going through at home, as well as work through many of her academic struggles. It's rewarding at the end of the year to see the progress that's been made, and it's so fun to see a child's face light up when you walk into a classroom and they know that you're there just to see them. You can also arrange to spend extra time with them outside of school, with consent from their parents, of course. I've taken a student to one of Winn's ball games, out for ice cream, etc. Our Kids Hope director also plans many fun parties for the kids and mentors to all get together. We've gone snow-tubing, had picnics, set up a children's carnival at our church, all kinds of fun stuff. For more information about Kids Hope, here is a link to their website. I'd encourage you to get involved if there's one in your area, or become a director and start one at your church!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Shots, car seats, and other things to be thankful for...

We went to a car seat training over the weekend (a requirement for foster care providers). Three hours of them telling us how to strap a car seat into the car. I have to admit that I got more out of it than I anticipated I would, but come on, three hours? Basically, kids need to use them, five-point harnesses can save lives, and don't put a 50-pound child in a seat rated for 20-pounders. That about sums it up. :)

I hate getting shots. I don't know why. It doesn't hurt that much. I've just always had a bit of a shot phobia. I start to breathe a little heavier when I sit down in the "shot chair." So naturally, today when I had to get some tests done in the blood lab, I got the room with a student in it. Nice. Luckily, he was a conscientious student and didn't do too bad. He actually was better than the gal I got last week when I was there. Then I also had to get my tetanus shot today, so I've definitely had to "face my fear" this past week.


On a lighter note, I'm extremely thankful for these things today:

1. My new sewing/embroidery machine! I got it set up last night and started playing with it. You should see all the neat stitches and designs it has! I'm very excited to start putting it to use.

2. A mom who's a GM at Panera. Our Connections Team from church had a meeting there this evening, and Mom sent us all home with a bag of our favorite treats (mine had cinnamon crunch bagels in it!).

3. Our volleyball team made it to the playoffs again this season! The championship is on Thursday night.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Dog Psychology



My Aunt Nancy has been training and showing dogs for about 15 years, so naturally we called her when we were having trouble with Sajak going crazy when people come to our door. He would constantly bark (and his bark is LOUD) and crowd them at the door. Well, after spending some time with him to watch his mannerisms, etc., and after enlisting the help of a couple of our neighbors to come to the door and ring our doorbell, Nancy helped me make him sit quietly at the top of the stairs while I'd let our neighbors in. Sajak would sit there until I released him, and then he'd calmly go down and sniff the guests to make sure it was "safe" to let them in the house. I had no clue it would be so easy. Apparently, we need to work on being the alpha (leader of the pack) so that Sajak doesn't feel like he has to be. She said that he's a smart dog, but it's just that his parents need a little training. :)

The photos below show her trying to rid Sajak of his vacuum-cleaner phobia. We're still working on that, but it's a lot better than it used to be.


Friday, November 2, 2007

Salsa



We made another batch of fresh salsa this week. We got the recipe from our friend Ben a couple of years ago and have been chips-and-salsa-aholics ever since. It's the perfect blend of tomato, garlic, onion, jalapeno, and cilantro. Have a taste:

Ben Steed's Salsa
- large can of Hunt's petite-diced tomatoes
- cilantro (one to two-thirds of the top of a bundle)
- 2 or 3 garlic cloves
- 1/2 big or 1 small red onion
- 1 or 2 jalapenos (we like 2)
- salt and pepper to taste

Chop all the ingredients, mix together, and refrigerate. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Handsome Boy

Our dear friends Chris and Rebecca asked us to be "godparents" this week to their little boy Ashton. We feel enormously honored that they would trust us with their most treasured possession. Ashton means a great deal to us, and we're so blessed to be able to play a role in his life.



He came to visit last night to say trick-or-treat, and let me tell you, he was the cutest little peapod you ever did see! He didn't seem to mind the little hat tied to his head or the big fluffy "peas" that kept getting in his face. He was just chillin', laid back, up for anything. What a cutie.




Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
- Matthew 19:14