Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hope your Christmas was merry and bright

I had very good intentions over the past week of writing a lovely Christmas post and wishing all of my online friends a wonderful holiday. It never happened. Just like Christmas cards this year didn't happen. And the big Christmas meal didn't happen.

But you know what? It was wonderful anyway in a low-key, simple way.

This year, I set a new rule. If it hasn't happened by December 23rd, just don't worry about it.

That went for last-minute shopping, baking, stressing, the whole Christmas enchilada.

Hubs and I did do a good bit of Christmas Eve wrapping but not nearly as much as in past years. (The awful memory of that Christmas about three years ago when we did ALL our wrapping on Christmas Eve still haunts my memory and prompts me now to start wrapping gifts as soon as I buy them which isn't nearly as early in the year as I wish it were, but that's another post.)

The simplicity allowed us to focus more on the Giver than the gifts under the tree. It gave us time to sit around the kitchen table with our nativity set and "What God Wants for Christmas" and reflect with the kiddos on the real reason we celebrate. Time to bake cookies and decorate them. Time to snuggle on the sofa and read Christmas books. Time to appreciate all that is precious to us.

I hope your Christmas was the same, that amazing smells and people filled your home and that you made the kind of memories that will cause you and your children to smile in years to come and say, "Remember that year when ..."

I hope you feel as blessed as I do.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Soup's On!

BooMama is asking for soup recipes today, and I'm thrilled to pass along one of our absolute faves here at The Potter Place. Since this only serves 4, I usually double or triple it. It's great fresh but muy fabuloso a day or two later!

White Chicken Chili

2-3 chicken breasts, boiled and chopped
1 can navy beans, undrained
1 can great northern beans, undrained
1 can Rotel, undrained
1/2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 t. thyme
cheddar cheese
Monterey Jack cheese

Combine all ingredients except chicken and cheeses in large pot. Simmer for 30 minutes covered. Add cheese and chicken and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Serves 4.

Head on over to BooMama's place for more souptacular recipes!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Month Before Christmas

'Twas the month before Christmas
When all through our land,
Not a Christian was praying
Nor taking a stand.

How the PC Police had taken away
The reason for Christmas - no one could say.
The children were told by their schools not to sing,
About Shepherds and Wise Men and Angels and things.

It might hurt people's feelings,
The teachers would say.
December 25th
is "just a holiday".

Yet the shoppers were ready
with cash, checks and credit
Pushing folks to the floor
to be the first to get it!

CDs from Madonna, an X-box, an I-pod
Something was changing, something quite odd!
Retailers promoted Ramadan and Kwanzaa
In hopes to sell books by Franken and Fonda.

As Targets were hanging their trees upside down,
At Lowe's the word Christmas was nowhere to be found.
At K-Mart and Staples and Penney's and Sears
You won't hear the word Christmas; it won't touch your ears.

Inclusive and sensitive
Di-ver-si-ty
Are words that were used
To intimidate me.

Now Daschle, Now Darden,
Now Sharpton, Wolf Blitzer
On Boxer, on Rather,
On Kerry, on Clinton!

At the top of the Senate,
There arose such a clatter
To eliminate Jesus,
In all public matter.

And we spoke not a word
As they took away our faith
Forbidden to speak
of salvation and grace.

The true Gift of Christmas
was exchanged and discarded
The reason for the season,
stopped before it started.

So as you celebrate "Winter Break"
under your "Dream Tree"
Sipping your Starbucks,
Please Listen to me.

Choose your words carefully,
Choose what you say
Shout MERRY CHRISTMAS,
Not Happy Holiday!

Author Unknown

Monday, December 03, 2007

Pruning

I'm no greenthumb, but house plants have always held a special place in my heart. My Mimmaw Snyder could grow African violets like nobody's business and always had a variety of cheerful colors brightening up her little home. My mother was fond of her Schefflera, Wandering Jew, and heartleaf Philodendron. I loved to tease her that she took better care of her plants than she did her kids.

After Mom's memorial service last September, I brought more than a dozen beautiful plants home with me. Knowing I couldn't care for all of them, I gave some away to family and friends and carefully tended the remaining half dozen with all the care that my mother gave her plants over the years.

I watered them, fed them, talked to them, gave them plenty of sunshine on pretty days, and brought them inside on cold winter nights.

And so you can imagine my heartbreak when I awakened this morning to the sight of a half dozen frozen plants on my deck where it rained all day yesterday and then dropped down to 22 degrees last night. Some of them had to have warm water poured around their bottoms to even pry free.

Disappointed, I nearly threw them out with the morning's trash, but something stopped me. Perhaps they can be saved, I thought. But then I looked again and saw no signs of life in the frozen foliage.

I left them on the kitchen table as I departed for school, planning to do something with them when I returned later.

Much to my amazement, when I prepared to toss them out later in the day, hiding deep beneath the dead black leaves, now thawed and hanging listlessly over the sides of the pots, I saw something that made me rejoice. GREEN! BRIGHT GREEN LEAVES!



With my sharpest pair of kitchen scissors in hand, I proceeded to cut away everything that the ice had destroyed from the cruel night outdoors, and when I was finished, I was left with a half dozen naked houseplants.

As I thought about the new growth that would be permitted (and encouraged) by removing the dead foliage, I thought about the pruning God does in the lives of his children to encourage their spiritual growth.

The dead leaves and vines piled up around me, reminding me of the unpleasantness that must be purged not only from my ailing houseplants but also from my sinful heart. Jesus reminds us of this when He says, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2). Doing so makes the tree bear better fruit, grow higher or to give the tree a more lovely appearance.

Just as my sharp scissors were the perfect tool for pruning my plants, God's Word is the perfect tool for pruning us. God’s Word is sharp so that it can remove unwanted branches in our lives without harming us. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

I have no idea whether my plants will survive this experience or not, but I do know that my own pruning -- as unpleasant as it can be at times -- will allow me to grow in God's character and to be more fruitful in His kingdom.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I will never feel bad about my house again

Okay, I can't reveal ANY of the details pertaining to how I got my hands on this photo, but suffice it to say that police officers get invited into a LOT of homes they wish they didn't have to visit.

Let me just say right now that I will NEVER feel bad about the messy condition of my home EVER again, and you shouldn't either. Here's why:



You know a house is bad when the occupants, completely unworried about the possibility of someone breaking into their abode, secure the front door with DUCT TAPE ALONE. Heaven help us.

Updated to add: The ironic part of all of this is that this was NOT (as I would have assumed) a shack in a seedy part of town ... this was a nice middle-class neighborhood with homes in the $180,000+ range ... I started to post of photo of the outside of the house but thought better of it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

From all of us at The Potter Place to everyone at your place, Happy Thanksgiving! We've had a grand time this week counting our blessings, and they are many. We hope that you can say the same.

Here are some highlights:















Our precious Pilgrim Rachel














Gathered around the feast giving thanks













Our place "cards" ... aren't they
adorable?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

If I weren't so tired, I'd have a title for this post

It feels like a hundred Sundays ago that I last posted to this blog. And I don't really know why I'm writing tonight except that about 30 minutes it suddenly occurred to me that I couldn't even remember how to log in, y'all. So I tried various and assorted passwords, everything from my ATM password to Old Faithful, the password I've used for simply everything for the past ninety-eleven years. And now that I have finally remembered how I used to get into this thing back in the days when I, you know, used to share my fascinating life with all of you, I feel obligated to write something. Only I'm not really sure what that something should be.

It's like this ... I'm tired. Really tired. And I don't just mean because it's a few minutes before midnight. Trying to work a full-time job, teach part-time, run a business on the side, be involved in a Bible study, volunteer at church, AND tend to the never-ending duties of managing a home, being a wife, and raising children has just worn me out lately. I keep trying to think of something "deep" to write about, but truthfully, if there has been a thought deeper than how to get my children to like each other that has fluttered through my mind recently, it got lost in between all the sleep deprivation and caffeine-induced insomnia.

Jeff and I talk often about how I need to give something up, but we never seem to come to any conclusions about what that something should be, because I really love everything I do. I love my job at the hospital. I love teaching my sweet group of 28 sophomore and junior English students each day. And I love the creativity of designing gifts for people that bring smiles to their faces and occasional tears streaming down cheeks. And, it goes without saying, that I'm absolutely head-over-heels crazy about my man and three kids (despite an occasional threat to hock one or more of them on eBay!) How in the world does a person make a choice like this? And yet to continue living this way, pushing myself to unhealthy limits, is utterly crazy.

Midnight is here now, and my alarm will be going off in a little over five hours. Although I can think of at least three more things I really ought to get done before calling it a day, common sense is telling me those things can wait.

'Night, y'all.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

My Boy is Going to be a Bible Scholar

I've written before about my efforts to get the Little Potter People to pay better attention at church on Saturday nights. I'm pleased to report that of late, as I have quizzed them on the drive home, they have dazzled me with their increased attention to the lesson.

With my oldest (almost 8), I ask for a summary of the story and the lessons she learned that night. She can recite to me almost word-for-word the story as well as lessons learned and applications to life. Since I work in her class every other week and can keep a close eye on her, I have little doubt that she is there to grow spiritually and is behaving herself pretty well.

It's the other two that I just haven't been so sure about. They bring home a "Ride Home Recap" that is a coloring sheet on the front with their Bible story on the back. I ask them a couple of questions before we start our review just to get a feel for whether they were mentally present in class that night. Broad questions such as "What Bible character who was hidden in a basket as a baby did you learn about tonight?" will often be my first clue, then as I read the story, I leave out key words for them to fill in.

Last night, the lesson was about Queen Esther. Gavin assured me as we buckled in that he had been listening "very, very, very well" and was ready to tell me all about his night.

And so I began: "A long time ago, there was a Queen named ...."

from the back seat, in unison, "ESTHER!"

"And she had a cousin named ..."

Long pause. I finally decide they need a prompt. "It starts with 'mmmmmm'

"MORON!" the little guy yells.

I sincerely hope that if my little man ever runs into Mordecai in eternity, that the old guy has a fantastic sense of humor!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

My baby girl is 6 today

Precious Sarah,

Six years ago tonight, your daddy and older sister and I welcomed you into our family. It had been a very long labor (24 hours to be exact!), but the moment I saw you and held you in my arms, I knew you were worth it all.

And six years later, I still feel the same way.

You have heard me say this before, but it bears repeating. You are a daughter anyone would be proud to claim. You are smart. You're funny. You are beautiful. And without a doubt, you are THE most compassionate person I have ever known. You cry for and with those who are suffering. You always have a gentle word to encourage the discouraged. You are helpful. And kind. And precious beyond words.

I look at you and your brother and sister, and I cannot believe that I was chosen by God to be your mom. It's a blessing I will never take for granted.

Thank you for six wonderful, amazing years. Your daddy and I are so very proud of you!

Friday, October 05, 2007

This made my day

If laughter is good medicine, then I should be the healthiest gal today. I just read this over at Baby Bangs which echoes numerous thoughts I myself have had in recent months while working out at the gym. Go visit Amanda (Beth Moore's daughter) who is a VERY funny lady and get your daily dose of laughter, too!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I Took On the Parking Police ... and Won!!

I will warn you right now. I'm in rare form today.

It all started bright and early this morning (well, it was early, but due to the monsoon season we're in right now, I can't really say it was bright) as I drove around the University of Arkansas campus hunting for a parking spot. I just needed to run a book into a building to a friend, but every empty spot was for permit holders only.

So, I did exactly what I would have done 17 years ago when I moved to Fayetteville as a grad student ... I snagged a permit spot and prayed HARD that I would not get a ticket or a ride on the back of a tow truck during the three minutes that it would take me to run my quick errand.

A few short minutes later, I approached my vehicle to see what looked like Cro-Magnon man standing near my truck punching buttons on his ticket machine.

"Excuse me," I began in disbelief. "Are you writing me a ticket?"

"If this is your vehicle, then yes, I am," Cro-Magnon man replied, without expression.

"Sir!" I protested. "I was in that building for just a couple of minutes, and there are PLENTY of empty spaces in this lot! PLEASE don't write me a ticket!"

"The rules are the rules," C-M man replied slowly, staring at me from under dark, heavy eyebrows, his flattened affect giving me the chills.

The drama queen in me switched into performance mode, and I looked him square in the eyes and asked, "Have you people NO compassion or mercy???"

"Compassion and mercy," he repeated back to me, again, with no trace of expression. (I'm starting to wonder at this point if he is on drugs.)

"Do you even KNOW what COMPASSION and MERCY are?" I pleaded with him in my best schoolteacher/perturbed mom voice. "I AM BEGGING YOU. PLEASE. DO. NOT. PUT. A. TICKET. ON. MY. TRUCK."

He looked stunned for a second as if no one had ever dared to speak to him like that. I myself was a little stunned that I had the nerve to even TRY to take on one of the Parking Nazis (those of you who are familiar with the UofA will know EXACTLY what I mean).

A brief silence followed.

And then, the words that I have been rolling around in my mind the rest of the morning: "Have a nice day, ma'am."

I've been celebrating this unexpected act of kindness the rest of the day by passing the generosity along to others:

* In a long line of traffic, I stopped to let TWO cars turn in front of me.

* I cancelled a quiz my tenth-grade students were supposed to take today.

* I gave my little guy an extra spoonful of cinnamon applesauce at lunch.

* After the elevator doors were nearly closed, I pushed the "open" button, because I thought I spotted someone rushing toward the elevator. The woman and her son who got on were in a big hurry and very glad I waited.

And there are still lots of hours left in the day to commit all manner of random acts of kindness ...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Random thoughts

Tonight's post may be rambling. I'm not sure that I have much worth writing about, so bear with me here ...

THE POWER OF THE INTERNET
Much has been written about the seedy side of the Internet and the adult predators who lurk in chat rooms posing as children, but I'm seeing a whole other side to this thing we know as the World Wide Web, and it excites me.

Conor and Boothe Farley lost their precious daughter Copeland this week just eight days after birth, and within a few short hours, there were HUNDREDS of messages of hope and encouragement on their blog from believers around the country who have been praying for this family.

Let's face it: The Internet brings people together in ways that "real life" never could. It offers us the safety and security to drop our masks and share our lives with each other the way we long to connect ... with authenticity and transparency.

It was therapy for me when I was walking through my dark valley to process the pain, the lessons learned, and the truth gleaned in the safety of this blog. So many of you responded with the most comforting words and scriptures, and I cannot even begin to tell you what it meant to me. Remembering the love I felt as I read each post compels me now to connect with others who are in their own dark valleys and send comfort, love, and hope their direction.

I think this was exactly what the apostle Paul had in mind when he penned these words long before the dawn of the 'Net:

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

MY GIRL LOVES THE HOGS
Okay, this is a total change of subject, but I warned you that I was feeling a little bit random tonight.

I took Rachel to her first Razorback football game tonight, and she LOVED it! We took the North Texas Mean Green to the cleaners, bless their little hearts. They couldn't seem to gain any yardage to save their lives, and the ONE touchdown they made at the end of the second quarter was almost funny. They ran the ball down to their ONE YARD LINE and then took THREE plays to get it into the endzone and score.

She kept watching the scoreboard and exclaiming excitedly, "We're WAY ahead, Mom! Do you think we're gonna win??" And when it was time to call the Hogs or do The Wave, an onlooker would have thought for sure that my baby was a veteran Hog fan, so confident was she with all the goings on in Razorback Stadium tonight.

My favorite moment of the night: When she looked upon the 70,000+ fans in the stadium and asked, "Where are the people from the other team? There's no one here wearing green. Oh wait, they're down below us ... all TWELVE of them!"

Can I hear a loud "Hallelujah!"??

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Guess who's 40 today ...

An open letter to the world:

Before I even get started on this, I should mention a couple of things. First, I am Sheryl’s husband. Second, I am a recovering marriagephobe. I was never against marriage, mind you. I knew that someday I would want to, but the fact was that I was comfortable in my day-to-day bachelorhood. Like a nice old pair of shoes, my life was comfortable. Then Sheryl happened.

For three long years, she laid siege to my defenses, and I found myself unwilling to go one step further in life without marrying her. That’s not to say there wasn’t arm twisting involved, but I was a willing participant. Needless to say, twelve years ago, I married Sheryl and that’s where the excitement really began.

Now anyone who might know me knows that I don’t gush, play games, or act really sappy. I do, however, call it like I see it. Sheryl is, without a doubt, one of the best gifts God has ever given me. I still find it incredible that her father willingly gave her over to me. Me?! I was an ignorant kid. Had the roles been reversed, the young man would still be in a coma. However, God seemed to make things happen for us. I think I was the one He was blessing that day, and let me tell you why.

Sheryl embodies so many of the qualities in a person that I aspire to have in my own life. She challenges me daily. Yes, guys, she challenges me in bad ways sometimes too. One of our long-standing jokes started one day when I looked at her and said, “You are IMPOSSIBLE”! Without missing a beat, she replied with, “I’m VERY possible" ... and then walked off, completely failing to explain. To this day, I’m still working on figuring that girl out. Regardless, I am a better man today because of her. Our differences complement one other perfectly. Where I fail to be tender, she is. When I lack insight, she makes up for it. We fit together like two pieces of a puzzle.

Like a song I heard not too long ago, she does not at all match up to the boyhood fantasies that I carried with me so many years ago. She is so much more than my limited imagination could come up with at the time. Her ability to love me; her love for our children; her hard work; her great cooking abilities; the fire that dwells inside of her all come together to make a wife I could never have imagined.

I love you, Button. Happy Birthday! Let the celebration begin!

Your husband.

P.S. I know you will edit this. (Note from Sheryl: Yes I did, but only a teeny bit!)

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Celebration Cometh

In case you were unaware (which I am painfully aware that most of you probably are), a celebration is coming tomorrow ... more details to come.

Pray for Copeland

I've been following the story of tiny little Copeland Farley of Nashville, TN, since before her birth last week, and my mind can hardly think of anything else today.

Copeland's parents, Boothe and Conor, were told several months ago that their little girl had Trisomy 18, a chromosomal disorder which usually results in death before or shortly after birth. These precious parents have been blessed to spend several days with their little one, but it's been a roller coaster ride from the beginning. In the wee hours of this morning, it appeared that Copeland was in her final moments of life, but she is still here, breathing and living.

You can read the rest of Copeland's story here. Prepare to be blown away by the faith of this mother and father. If you think of the Farleys today, please pray for them. They're walking through the fire, for sure.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Remembering and rejoicing

Monday, September 10 marked the one-year anniversary since my mother ended her journey on this earth and began a new life in heaven. The following day would have been her 66th birthday, and we chose to celebrate that day exactly like we did last year -- by sending a bunch of balloons heavenward and singing "Happy Birthday" as loudly as we could.

Last year's balloon send-off was held in a church parking lot across the street from my parents' house. There were about a dozen of us there, and we were in complete shock and disbelief that God had taken our mother from us.

This year, we chose a neighborhood park as the site for our birthday gathering (I cannot bring myself to call it a "party"). The mood at this year's balloon release was considerably less somber but still marked by its fair share of tears. The girls sent up one pink balloon each, and the guys a blue (although my little guy somehow managed to pop his before we even left the house). We spent a few minutes before we sang to her just remembering many of the things that made her incredibly special to us. We laughed, we cried, we remembered and rejoiced that we had been so privileged to be loved the way she loved us.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Weekend at the movies

Spoiler warning.

My theater visits seem to come in bursts. The last time I went to see a movie at a theater (in early June), I saw THREE in one weekend. That's a heckuva lot of Cherry Coke and artery-hardening popcorn, folks. The movie bug hit again this weekend, but it was only two this time.

Yes, my arteries are thankful indeed.

My heart, however, is not.

For the first time in I can't remember when, I deliberately did not read a single review before handing over my $7 for a movie ticket. You can rest assured that will not be happening again.

Since the first preview for Becoming Jane, I had been waiting most impatiently for its opening. Oh the disappointment when I learned that yes, August 3 was the release date, but it was a limited release and not one that included Northwest Arkansas.

Circumstances prevented me from seeing it the following weekend on its full release, and by the time this past Thursday arrived, I could not wait another moment to take in what I assumed to be the spectacular love story of a brilliant writer.

And it was. Sort of.

Anne Hathaway was delightful as Jane, and I couldn't help but wonder as I watched the story unfold, "If Jane had written a story about her life, would it have looked anything lke this?" It reminded me very much of the screen adaptation of Emma, Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice.

I found the tender relationship between Jane and her sister Cassandra very touching and sweet, but when the final credits rolled, it wasn't tender sweetness I was basking in but profound sadness over the author's unfulfilled longings for love and marriage.

Stories of sadness and despair fill newspapers and the airwaves daily. When I go to see a movie, I expect to be uplifted, and frankly Jane just sucked the air right out of me. Judging by the tears flowing down her cheeks as we left the theater, I'm fairly sure that my companion that evening shared my sentiments.

The following evening, Hubs and I enjoyed a rare date and took in Bourne Ultimatum. It did NOT disappoint, and I left some serious indentions in a sixth-row seat to prove it. There weren't too many moments through the nearly two-hour action fest in which I wasn't holding my breath, digging my fingers into something or both. I needed a masseuse after it was over, my muscles were so knotted.

And that's all I'll say about that. It's one you need to see, but be prepared for a bit of unwholesome language the writers, unfortunately, chose to use.

All in all, it's already been a good weekend and we've still got Sunday and Monday left to enjoy!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Gut wrenching

Our friend Kyle sent this to The Potter Place today, and I was moved to tears. Oh, how many times have I been this girl ..

Monday, August 27, 2007

A little something for your Monday night enjoyment

This is so stinkin' awesome I could watch it over and over and never tire of it. Talk about TALENT. I don't know what kind of job this kind of entertainment would land a person, but it sure is fun to watch. Enjoy!


video

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Reminiscing

I've been doing a lot of reminiscing and reflecting lately. I hope my vast numbers of readers (all both of you) will forgive me as I relive the events leading up to the first anniversary of my mother's homegoing.

It was one year ago today that I made the agonizing drive to Little Rock in anticipation of the meeting in which my mom and dad would be given the news that we were looking at not only an esophagectomy but also metastatic bone cancer. It does not seem possible that an entire year has passed since that day.

This time last year I was camped out on the recliner in Mom's hospital room in what would prove to be our last bunking party. She coughed and struggled to breathe so much through night that I became very worried and traipsed to the nurses' station in my PJ's several times for assistance. Even though I got little or no sleep, I felt honored that she wanted me to stay. I remember pulling my chair as close to her bed as I could and holding her hand as we both tried desperately to rest.

I remember watching "America's Funniest Home Videos" and laughing just like we had not a care in the world. After Dr. Bravo delivered the tragic news earlier that day, neither of us ever spoke the word "cancer" in our conversations with each other. Perhaps we were in denial, but I'm so very thankful that I have a night of laughter to remember and not one of tears.

There were certainly enough of those to follow.

One down, 35 to go

We survived the first week of school. I had really good intentions of posting first-day photos of the kids in their new outfits, but, folks, the reality of getting myself and three youngsters up at 6 a.m., getting to school on time AND snapping a few photos along the way proved more than I could pull off. The bell rang at 8:15 a.m., and if memory serves me right, I believe we scooted in the door at 8:16, earning my two oldest a tardy slip on their first day of the new school year.

The late arrival wasn't entirely my fault. Hubs came down several days earlier with the same fever virus that Sarah had two weeks earlier. He had taken off sick on Monday and was sweating and shivering on the sofa watching TV when somewhere around 8 a.m. he decided that it might be nice to see the girls off on their first day of school. He pried himself off the sofa and slowly managed to clothe himself as I herded the children out to the car and began buckling them in. I watched the clock as several minutes passed (desperately willing myself NOT to honk the horn and thus add MORE stress to the morning). Finally at 8:06, he ambled out to join us. With all of us finally in the car, I took off in haste toward school only to realize that in the morning traffic, the drive was going to take considerably longer than it had when I mapped it out a few days earlier.

I should have known the first morning could not possibly go smoothly. Nothing else leading up to the start of the school year had.

Just a little background for your reading pleasure:

We decided in late May to enroll the kids in a private school this year. When we went to check it out, we were told there was a dress code, but no real specifics were given. When I asked for a handbook, we were told that they were in the process of being revised and that we would get one in the mail in just a few weeks. Sarah's kindergarten teacher just happened to be working in her room that day (the students were already out for summer), and we spent a few minutes visiting with her. Sarah happened to be wearing a skort that day that hit several inches above her knees (remember that little detail; it will be important later), so I asked the teacher if that sort of outfit would be appropriate for school. "Sure" she answered.

Throughout the summer, the girls and I shopped for skirts, dresses and skorts, and I was feeling pretty good about the condition of their wardrobe.

And then, the first week of August, THE REVISED HANDBOOK made its appearance in my mailbox. And right there, second paragraph on page 20, were the words that started my back-to-school excitement on a rapid downward spiral. "In grades K-3, girls' dresses and skirts must reach the top of their knees. The top of their knees? This was seriously news to me. No one had bothered to mention this small bit of information, and of all the skirts and dresses we had acquired through the summer, only two or three were going to work.

The next paragraph brought more surprises as I read about the shoe requirements. The no sandals rule sent both girls into a tizzy. Tennis shoes could be worn if they were all white (i.e., Keds). "You mean we have to wear TENNIS SHOES with our DRESSES???" they protested in unison.

Being the procrastinator that I am, I waited until Sunday afternoon (as in less than 24 hours before the start of school) to go purchase white tennies for the girls. Rachel and I headed off for Shoe Carnival, and so sure was I of their correct sizes, I didn't even have her try on her shoes. We grabbed boxes off the shelf, and I did a cursory glance inside each to determine that the contents were the right size and style, and off to the registers we went.

Later that evening after kids were in bed, I began laying out their outfits for the next morning. After clean socks and underwear had been placed atop each girl's dress, I got out their new white Keds(which STILL had not been tried on, if you can believe it) and did a double take. Inside Rachel's box were TWO right shoes. It was after 9 p.m., and I did the only thing I knew to do: Grab my keys and head to Wal-Mart.

"Oh, faithful Wally-World, how many times hath thou saved me? Please don't fail me now," I thought as I sped off for the second time that day in search of white tennis shoes. I was shocked as I pulled into the parking lot at the sheer volume of cars at that hour. Throngs of families crowded the school supply aisles, frantically filling their carts with pencils and crayons. That sight quickly erased any trace of self-condemnation for my own procrastination. At least we took care of the school supplies several weeks earlier.

Back in the shoe department, I quickly located Rachel's size, but it was in a wide width. There is NOTHING wide about that child, including her feet, so I kept looking. The only other possibility was a pair that looked to be a half-size too small. Into the cart the wide pair went. And just to make it up to her, I picked up a bottle of "Love's Baby Soft" for the girls, their first bottle of "real" perfume.

The following morning when they finally tried their shoes on for the first time, Rachel's wides were much too big for her. Sarah's were much too large for her as well. R ended up wearing the pair I bought for S, and S fished out a pair from the depths of their closet which might have been white when they were brand new but had since turned a lovely shade of dingy gray-brown. But they fit, hallelujah.

The girls might have looked slightly thrown together in their cute little dresses and tennis shoes, but I have to tell you, they smelled heavenly!

Friday, August 17, 2007

I couldn't resist

I've NEVER in my own personal blogging history ever posted twice in the same day, much less twice in the same hour. After I foud this, however, I knew MUST share. This is SO where I'm at these days ...

The girl's got it all figured out

Late this afternoon, Rachel and I were walking to the mailbox together. I was checking out the flower beds and wondering if I should water then or wait until later. She was going on about her most recent score on Dance, Dance Revolution when I winked at her and said, "You know, really cool people call it DDR ..."

"What?" she asked, looking at me in confusion.

"DDR for Dance, Dance Revolution," I replied. "You go to school and tell the kids you made that kind of score on DDR, and they'll think you're just the coolest," I said, sure she could hear the kidding in my voice.

"Mom," she chided me, "I'm not in-stres-ted in livin' the cool way, I'm in-stres-ted in livin' God's way!"

Oh, that girl sure knows how to make her mama proud ...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

It's too hot to live ...

Somebody just take a gun and shoot me. One of us (I think it was me, but I'm much too ashamed to admit it) thought it would be Oh! So! Fun! to escape to Branson once more for the weekend and hit the parks in one last roller coaster fling before school starts back next week.

And what I'm really too embarrassed to admit publicly is that I actually tried to talk my family into camping out one night before we checked into Big Cedar on Friday.

What was I smoking?

It is hotter than Hades in Arkansas right now, y'all, and Missouri is not a whole lot better. It passed tolerable about a month ago.

The past three times we've traveled, I have forgotten some essential component necessary for the Baby Bears to keep from hurting each other watch movies in the back seat. The first time it was the stash of movies. The second time it was the power supply. The third time it was the player itself. I groveled all the way to Branson, a 90-mile exercise in humility, and promised the kids up and down that I would never as long as I live ever, under any circumstances, pull out of the driveway on a trip longer than 50 miles without first testing the player to make certain, you know, that ALL the parts and pieces were along for the ride.

They were quick to forgive because they understand all too well that their Mama is probably the most scatter-brained Mama west of the Mississippi.

Anyway, Hubs and the Cubs were all too eager to talk me out of my hair-brained camping notion, and so were understandably thrilled when I announced last week after watching the local weatherman forecast 100+ temperatures that maybe camping out in a tent wasn't the brightest idea after all.

So, we spent Thursday night in the sanctity of our own beds and air conditioning and took off early Friday morning to experience three full days of humidity-induced madness.

My brother and his sweet little family joined us there, and my sister-in-law and I competed with each other to see who could slather the most sunscreen on our offspring the fastest. I really wanted to share some pictures of the Sweat-Fest, but, alas, in my obsession to make certain that we had a functional DVD player (and movies) for the trip, the camera didn't make it along.

When did I get so middle aged and forgetful??

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A Commitment to Healthy Living


It was my privilege today to volunteer at the Speaking of Women's Health conference at the beautiful John Q. Hammons Covention Center in Rogers. The morning started early when my alarm went off at 4:30 (gasp ... until this morning, I wasn't aware that such an hour existed on Saturday mornings!), and I was tempted to pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep. I'm so glad I didn't ...

Speaking of Women’s Health is a non-profit foundation whose goal is Saving Lives Through Education. They strive to educate women in a variety of ways, including educational conferences like the one I was a part of today, and to provide up-to-date information from credible experts in a fun and entertaining way so that women can better care for themselves and for their families.

One of the things that impressed me the most was the number of mothers and daughters (and daughters-in-law) that attended together. What a positive example we set when we show our daughters that taking care of ourselves mind, body, soul and spirit and working toward wholeness is important. We can't adequately care for others if we neglect ourselves.

At each SWH conference, attendees are encouraged to take a pledge for better health. Big changes come from small steps in the right direction, so with that in mind, I am pledging to drink more water and exercise daily.

So, let me pose the same question to you: What's your change going to be? Lurkers, come out of the closet, and share your thoughts.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Summer Fun

Mom Judy -- that's my mother outlaw as I like to call her -- and I took the three munchkins across the state line to the Oklahoma Aquarium on Sunday. With temperatures creeping toward 100 and the humidity at unbearable, it was a great day for some indoor, air conditioned entertainment. Aside from some minor squabbling fist fighting and eyeball clawing in the back seat on the way home, I think a good time was had by all.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Incredible Adventures of Rat-Shack (or how my boy snagged himself a Drumstick)

Hubs and I have been growing increasingly frustrated with an occurrence that seems to be happening with increasingly regularity at Potter Place. I've labeled it "The Saturday Night Brain Drain."

It goes something like this:

On the way home from church, we routinely ask the children to tell us what they learned in their class that evening.

Rachel (oldest child, Type A personality, always eager to impress) takes a deep breath. Exhales the following: "We-learned-about-Moses-and-Pharaoh-and-how-he-wouldn't-let-the-Israelites-leave-Egypt-to-go-to-the-Promised-Land-even-after-God-sent-terrible-plagues-on-the-land-what-an-idiot-he-was!"

Very good.

Sara (middle child, so very NOT Type A) yawns, looks around the car as if waiting for someone to help her out: "Ummm, I'm not sure. I really don't think we had a story tonight."

Good try, except for two things. First, I am 110% certain that the leaders of our children's ministry would NEVER plan a lesson that did not include something from God's Word. Second, they send home a "Ride Home Recap" card each week that summarizes the main points of the lesson with discussion questions and suggestions for home activities to further reinforce the principles taught.

So, even if she can't tell me the first thing about what she learned, I have it all right there in front of me, something one would imagine that she would figure out over time.

So we try again with Gavin (baby of the family, a class clown in the making).

"What did you learn tonight, honey?" I gently probe.

"Nothing," he replies in a tone that lets me know he is hoping that will be the end of discusson. Which, of course, it is not. But, alas, more gentle mama probing gets me nowhere with these two tight lips. If they remember something, anything at all,from their time at church, they certainly aren't about to let on.

So, last weekend I announced a new Saturday Night incentive program. Any child who could give us a suitable synopsis of that week's lesson would be rewarded upon returning home with a scrumptious ice cream treat. That sounded reasonable, I thought, and was sure to motivate all three to put on their listening ears at church.

Eager to see the first week's result, I picked them up last weekend and began asking questions on the way to the car. Take note of that last statement. I did NOT wait until we got home. I did NOT wait until the next morning. They were given the opportunity to tell me what they had learned as quickly as I retrieved them from their classes.

And still, neither of the younger two could even tell me the main character's name. It broke my heart to serve up their older sister's ice cream treat while they looked on in shock, yelling about the unfairness of it all and how-in-the-world-could-I-expect-them-to-remember-anything-for-THAT-LONG?????

(Umm, maybe because when I promise to take you to the park, you remember that for HOURS?)

Fast forward to tonight. I mentioned to the children several times today that there were Drumsticks in the freezer for everyone who listened quietly at church and could tell me about their story afterward. I hoped that the result would be better than last week but definitely wasn't holding my breath.

And so it was with great joy and surprise when Gavin and Sara jumped into the car this evening that I heard my little man burst forth with, "I LISTENED TO MY STORY TONIGHT AND IT WAS ABOUT ME-SHACH, RAT-SHACK AND A-BEN-DI-GO AND HOW THEY WOULDN'T BOW DOWN AND WORSHIP THE STATUE."

It has never thrilled me more to give a kid a Drumstick.

And yes, both of his sisters got one, too. It was a mighty fine night at Potter Place as our four-year-old regaled us with stories about Rat-Shack and his friends.

Man, I love this age.

Friday, July 27, 2007

And the winners are ...

First, let me say a big thanks to Shannon for a week of oh-so-much-fun! I wonder if she had ANY idea how much participation this first (but hopefully not last!) Dog Days of Summer would garner ...

Second, there is a WHOLE lot of creativity out there, and I have loved browsing so many new sites this week. I've bookmarked several lots to go back and read in the future, and I hope that some of my visitors this week will drop back in at Potter Place again.

Now, the moment you've been waiting for ...

The winner of my first giveaway for the personalized famiy notecards is Sherry from over at Semicolon, and the winner of the candle is Linda SS whom I will contact by email.

Many thanks to everyone who entered!

I'm still offering a 20% discount on all orders placed by August 15 ... it's never too early to start thinking about Christmas gifts, you know!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

It's a Summer Giveaway in Bloggityville!!!

I'm playing along with Shannon over at Rocks In My Dryer who is organizing what must surely be The World's Largest Giveaway Ever.

I had a hard time selecting just one item, so I'm giving away TWO personalized gifts from my business, Lasting Impressions, to TWO lucky winners!

The first is a handmade candle decorated with a fall harvest design. It is 3x3 (3" tall x 3" across top) On the back, it says, "For these and all our many blessings, make us truly thankful. The ______ Family" and will be personalized with the last name of the winner.

The second is a set of 10 personalized notecards and envelopes. The star in the middle features the surname in a beautiful script, while the background is made up of a repeating design of family members' first names.

I will choose a winner for these hand-created items on Friday, July 22. If you wish to enter the drawing, just leave a single comment (duplicates will be deleted) below. You must provide a valid e-mail address, but you do not have to have a blog. International participants are welcome. I'll close comments at 12:01 a.m. this coming Friday morning, July 27, and I'll draw a random winner from the list. I'll announce the winner sometime on Friday.

In addition, anyone who places an order by August 15 and mentions this blog will receive 20% off their order.

If you're interested in seeing the other items up for grabs, you can peruse the entire list of participants over at Shannon's place.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Is there anything more beautiful ...

than a garden full of produce ready to be picked, sliced and served that night at the dinner table?
Because of our move last summer, I wasn't able to plant a garden. Never did get around to tilling one up this past year, so when planting season rolled around, I got myself a couple varieties of tomato plants, some soil and fertilizer and decided to give container gardening a try.
My first tomatoes have ripened within the last week, and I must say, the results are every bit as tasty as the ones produced in gardens in years past.
I'm just a little bit giddy, y'all, with all this tomato-y goodness!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Pray for Amy

I've been following Amy Wilhoit's blog since she was diagnosed with leukemia last year. This precious young woman has fought bravely and written very articulately about her journey though a very difficult illness. She is facing more tests this week and could sure use some prayer and encouragement. If you have a moment, stop by her blog and let her know you're lifting her up.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Surely, you're joking ...

The girls and I got out of Dodge yesterday to spend a few hours with some friends in Branson at Silver Dollar City. It was undoubtedly the hottest day we've had in the South so far this summer, and by day's end we were exhausted.

The wait for a tram to take us to the parking lot seemed to drag on for an eternity. Although we were at the front of the line, each time an empty tram rolled up to our stop, throngs of the weary masses rushed to fill the seats. Tired 5- and 7-year-old legs just couldn't move as quickly.

A couple of Illinois retirees standing behind us seemed content to take their time waiting and struck up a conversation with us. "Did you all have a nice day?" the woman asked. The absence of the word "y'all" in her question alerted me to the fact that these were not Southerners in our midst, so I asked where they were from. And so began the conversation.

After I commented upon the oppressive heat and humidity and the fact that a heat stroke might be occurring in my near future, the Illinois wife leaned in close and motioned me to do the same. "I have a secret," she said.

A secret?

"Put ice cubes in your bra," she said, completely serious. "You'll melt the first two. The next ones will feel amazing!"

I can think of a number of adjectives for the sensation of ice next to my chest, but I'm not sure that the word amazing would be among them. Exquisitely torturesome. Unbearably unendurable. Violently stabbing. Those would be more fitting descriptors, I should think. (Not to mention exquisitely embarrassing to look like a lactating mother with leaky faucets!)

But what do I really know? I've never tried it. So, in the interest of saving some poor soul(s) from this wretched summer heat, I pass this tip along, proven by a wise grandmotherly type who was kind enough to share it with me. If it saves at least one gal from a heat-related illness, then I will have done my duty to womankind.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Goodbye, Dear Carrie

When the respected author/Christian counselor team of Dr. Gary and Carrie Oliver moved to Northwest Arkansas several years ago to head up the Center for Relationship Enrichment at John Brown University, I was thrilled to learn that they had joined the Saturday night congregation at my church. We had the privilege of hearing Gary speak several times a year, and quite often sat behind this amazingly gifted couple.

Many were heartbroken last year when Carrie was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We watched this vibrant, beautiful woman of God fight valiantly. She blogged about her journey (http://www.carrieshealth.com/) and the amazing lessons she learned along the way. We her readers and fellow church members rejoiced with them in the victories and wept with them in the struggles.

Yesterday afternoon at home surrounded by her family, God ended Carrie's struggle and took her home to be with Him. Though our hearts break over the loss of this incredible woman, we can rejoice that her fight is over and she is now receiving what must surely be a substantial reward.

Please pray for comfort for her husband Gary and sons Nathan and Andrew. This dear family (who lost their middle son Matt just two short months ago) has experienced unbelievable suffering since Carrie's diagnosis a year ago.

At times like this, it is difficult to imagine what our Heavenly Father is up to. It's hard not to think about how much MORE the impact of Carrie's ministry could have been had she been given more years in this life. How many more college students would she have impacted? How many more marriages brought back to life? I am reminded once again of God's statement in Isaiah 55:9, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Translation: We don't have to understand God to be able to trust Him.

Goodbye for now, precious Carrie. Thank you for the wonderful legacy you left in your 48 years on this earth. You were a beautiful example to so many women who saw in you a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend worth emulating. May that legacy live on in a powerful way. You will be deeply missed.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Speaking out

We spent Saturday enjoying Silver Dollar City with our friends Brent and Susan from Fort Worth, and the day could not have been more perfect. The morning crowds weren't too bad, the weather was nice until just before we were ready to leave, and the good folks who run the City gained my respect in a new way.

If you've ever been to SDC, you know that they pride themselves on being a family friendly place. They expect their guests to be attired properly and to behave themselves properly. There are signs near several rides that state the following: "Your photo will be taken on this ride. Guests who make obscene gestures at the camera will be asked to leave the park." The park information guide carries a similar warning concerning foul language. The message is clear: If you want to be uncouth, please don't do it at Silver Dollar City. It simply won't be tolerated.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when I noticed a young woman behind me in the lunch line wearing a t-shirt with one of the most obscene messages I have ever seen.

Surely that doesn't say what I think it said. Trying not to be conspicuous, I peered cautiously once again at the message on the black shirt. Yes, it did.

My first reaction was disgust. What kind of person would use their body to advertise such a lewd, pornographic message? My second was embarrassment. What in heaven's name would I say if my seven-year-old daughter (who reads everything in sight) asked what it meant?

A righteous anger welled within me, and I called the indecent clothing to my husband's attention. I thought of the thousands of other parents in the park that day whose innocent children would be assaulted by this pornography. "What can be done?" I asked. He suggested that I find a security guard and see how he would like to handle the situation.

The manager of the restaurant was kind enough to call security for me, and within minutes a uniformed guard was on the scene thanking me for sharing my concerns and assuring me that she would not be allowed to remain in the park wearing the shirt.

The restaurant staff, trying to keep the situation as discrete as possible, allowed the woman to finish her meal and as she was leaving, the guard stopped her outside and led her away. I have no idea whether she was asked to leave the park or was allowed to turn her clothing inside out, but I am fairly certain that no more park patrons were subjected to her smutty message that day.

As I watched that misguided soul walk away, I thought about how radically parenthood has changed me. Ten years ago, would the same experience have disgusted me? Absolutely! But would it have moved me to action? Probably not. The responsibility I now have for the proper care and training of my three children (and the responsibility I feel to help protect the innocence of ALL children) is a powerful force. Channeled properly, it can be a force to help shape the future of our country and keep its values based on the truth of God's Word.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Empty Arms

Starting in the last few months of the 20th century, I began an every-other-year tradition of bringing new life into the Potter Palace. Rachel was the first in October 1999. Her sister Sara joined us two years later in October 2001. Gavin arrived nearly 20 months later in June 2003, and that did it for any additions of the human variety.

My husband loves to tell the story of how the obstetrician, quite, um, impressed, with how quickly I was delivering, remarked aloud, "This is Number Three, huh?" to which I wasted nary a second replying, "This is Number Last! How quickly can you TIE MY TUBES??"

I've wondered how that comment must have sounded to those in attendance at the blessed event. If it came across at all, even a tiny little bit, that I was unhappy about the arrival of our first and only son, well, let me just set the record straight right now and say that was certainly not the case at all. Rachel had begged mercilessly for months on end for a baby brother, and we were just thrilled beyond words that the Lord God Almighty had heard the prayers of that child and granted her heart's desire. It's just that I KNOW MY LIMITS. And I'm pretty sure it was TWO. Three was really pushing it, and at 35 I knew my baby-making days NEEDED to come to an end.

But, I digress. In 2005, the desire to nurture a little one overtook me once again, and I satisfied that need with Chloe, a newborn kitten who meowed for HOURS on end the first few nights we had her. In a sleep-deprived 2 a.m. moment of insanity, I finally moved her, bed, litter box and all, into my closet, placed a ticking clock next to her and threw a towel against the bottom of the closed door to contain any stray kitty anguish that might try to drift into the bedroom ... and finally slept, hopeful that the kitten would outgrow her need to cry all night faster than my babies had.

When another odd year began this past January, I braced myself for the familiar yearnings that I was sure would eventually come. I tried to tell myself that my life is full to overflowing: 1 husband + 3 kids under the age of 8 + 1 dog + 1 cat + 1 full-time job + far more hobbies and extracurricular activities than I have time to manage = INSANITY. The semiannual tradition I'd begun would simply HAVE to be laid to rest this year, I told myself.

But that was before I met Henry.

A few Sundays ago, Chief Potter called while he was out on patrol and announced that he was "bringing something home". Now if living with this man for nearly 12 years has taught me anything at all, it is that 99.9% of the time, the phrase "bringing something home" does NOT mean he's arranged takeout for dinner or that he's planning to surprise me with a new piece of jewelry. Nosiree Bob, it means he's found another stray, and I've got to get on the horn and do my best to find a home ... quickly.

I had only moments to prepare the children for the new puppy's arrival, and when Chief pulled into the driveway, I reminded them several times NOT to get attached, because "We're NOT keeping the puppy!"

He was the cutest little brown furrball ever, and within a couple of days, the puppy had been named twice. The kids called him Brownie, and I named him Henry. They finally agreed to call him Brown Henry which really suited him just fine. He was quite amenable to being carted around by kids (ours and the neighbors) all day long and didn't even seem to mind when they jumped with him on the trampoline. (I had a fit over that one, oh yes I did).

I was certain that someone was going to report him missing sooner or later and tried my best to NOT get attached, but somewhere around the third or fourth day, I had to admit that I was hopelessly in love with the little thing. I gave myself over to the desire to love something tiny and decided that maybe just one more pet wouldn't be such a bad thing. Just sitting and cradling him in my arms as I worked at my computer filled me with a joy I didn't even know I had missed.

Five days after Henry joined us, Chief took him to the vet for his first check up and shots, and he was declared to be in good health. That was on Friday.

Three days later, I came in from an outing with the girls, took one look at Chief and knew something was terribly wrong.

He shooed the girls from the room before whispering, "Something's wrong with Henry. Really wrong."

I stepped out onto the deck and there was my little guy shaking, lethargic, and his nose dripping mucus. We called the emergency vet hospital to get their advice and briefly considered taking him in that evening. After watching him for a little while, we decided that he could wait to see the regular vet the following morning.

At the crack of dawn the next day, I quickly got kids dressed and loaded in the car with little baggies of cereal thrown together for a breakfast-on-the run, and we drove over to the vet clinic. Who knows what prompted me to leave the kids in the car (something I NEVER do unless I am just going in some place very quickly and will be able to keep my eyes on the car the entire time), but on this particular morning I did exactly that. They had their cereal and juice to keep them occupied for a few minutes, and I figured I would just drop Henry off and come back later to pick him up.

He shivered in my arms as we waited in the reception area. Whether it was fear or the illness I wasn't sure, but I held him a little closer and told him everything was going to be okay.

An assistant came out and took Henry to an exam room where the vet checked him out privately for a few minutes while I paced and prayed. I was finally summoned to join him, and when I saw him on the exam table, I suddenly knew why I'd felt so strongly about leaving the children in the truck: Henry wouldn't be going home with us. Not that day. Not ever. He was one very sick puppy. And that was a sight my three youngsters did not need to witness.

As we waited for the doctor to come back into the room, I watched Henry's eyes start to roll backward and his body stiffen. The seizures came every few minutes or so, and I would hold him closely and speak softly until they passed.

The vet confirmed what Chiefand I had suspected: Distemper. He was reluctant to tell me that I needed to have Henry euthanized, but when I asked him what he would do in my situation, he finally admitted that there was only a very slim chance that the little guy could pull through and that putting him to sleep was the most humane choice.

I was given a few last moments to love on him during which time one office assistent brought in a box of Kleenex and another stuck her head in to see if I needed anything. When the moment came and the needle was gently placed under his skin, I cradled his soft brown head in my hands and whispered my thanks into his ear. "Thank you for picking us. Thank you for the last 10 days. Thank you for the love you showed us and for what you would have meant to our family if things had worked out differently. I'm really sorry that they didn't." And with that, the shaking stopped and his eyes closed for the last time. I removed his little red collar and kissed him on top of his furry brown head one more time before heading to the car.

"Where's Henry?" a chorus of voices piped from the back seat.

"He's staying here for awhile," I answered. Not altogether a lie, I told myself.

I'd been through enough trauma for one day. The Chief could handle it from here.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Food and Fun and Way Too Much Sun

Four summers ago shortly after the birth of my youngest, somebody in my husband's clan got the wonderful idea to get everyone together at the family lake house in Oklahoma ... all on the same weekend. They obviously didn't think through the ramifications of inviting THIS branch of the Potter Family Tree, what with our THREE children under the age of FOUR. It was a dreadful pain to pack up two toddlers and a newborn and all the accessories that go therewith (pack-n-play, diaper bags, portable swing, etc.), but when it was all said and done, everyone had a great time - and here's the amazing part - THEY INVITED US BACK FOR THE NEXT SUMMER!!

Here we are four years later (WITH NO INFANTS!!!) continuing the tradition, and I have to tell you, it just gets to be more fun every year. There are no "in-laws" at these weekend food-and-water fests ... everybody's just family.

Each year, the ladies of the family commemorate the weekend in a unique way. One year it was with pink light-up flip flops. The next year it was pink sunglasses. This year we all had matching pink T-shirts sporting our new logo: "The Potter Perfect Pontoon Party Weekend." Cute, huh?

A few highlights for your viewing enjoyment:








I only wish that I'd gotten pictures of the massive spread of food, because the amazing potluck is such an integral part of our fun. We really only eat one meal while we're there. It starts on Friday afternoon and doesn't end until the last person leaves. No one is allowed to talk about dieting, carbs, calories, fat grams or anything else related to health and nutrition.

You're starting to understand why we only do this once a year, right?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Gratitude

I watched you today as you took our five-year-old daughter's hand and she pulled you excitedly into line to ride Power Keg ... again.

You didn't know it, but I was watching you sit with Gavin, enjoying a cold drink on a hot afternoon while you waited for the rest of us to finish a ride.

I saw how patient you were as you filled their plates in the buffet line at lunch ... while I gabbed away on my phone behind you, unable to end an important conversation.

I've listened with admiration so many times as you've instructed the children in how to do their chores properly and watched as you've shown them just one more time how to make their beds. Or vacuum the floors. Or straighten their closets.

You probably had no idea I was watching. And listening. But I was.

And each time, I offered up another prayer of gratitude for the wonderful gift God has given our family in you. I'm blessed beyond measure, Chief, to be able to call you my husband, and the kiddos to be able to call you their daddy, their Johnson 12 Potter, Big Ol' Good Guy, Daddy Ally, and Black Bart.

Happy Father's Day! You're doing a fabulous job!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Why does this make me feel better?

Okay, maybe it's sadistic of me, but when I read this tonight, I just had to smile laugh my head off. Since I was first introduced to Beth Moore's Bible studies and videos in 1999, she has been to me the epitome of the perfect, polished Southern lady. Always gracious, always charming, always knowing the right thing to say and never forgetting to ask how your mama's doing. Never with a hair out of place or wearing the wrong shade of lipstick and never, ever breaking a sweat. At least not in public. Never missing a quiet time and always with fresh revelations from heaven from the most everyday occurrences.

That's just how I've imagined her to be and so much more.

Imagine my shock and surprise tonight to read that -- gasp! -- she has bad days sometimes, too. And -- gasp! -- that time of the month sometimes turns her into a wicked witch, too. And -- triple gasp! -- she and Keith occasionally disagree fight with each other.

I laugh not because I find humor in her day gone awry but because we all can completely relate. And because (admit it) it's so reassuring to know that underneath the perfectly coifed hair and matched lipstick and polish, we're all just women. And sometimes just making it through the day can challenge even the most spiritual among us.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Raising Godly Girls

I ran across this article by Ingrid Schlueter from Slice of Laodicea today and it raises some good points about the choices we as Christian parents are making in the raising of our daughters.

" ... many Christian girls live in a fashion that is hard to distinguish from the world. Smaller families have meant less of an opportunity for girls to learn how to be mothers. Rather than girls growing up being tutored by watching their mothers care for home and family, girls are more likely to grow up while mom works outside the home. Like secular middle-class counterparts, Christian homes and families center their lives around their kids' activities. Chances for a young girl to help care for the home or be a consistent help to her mother are few and far between. Life is often about keeping the kids happy while valuable lessons are lost in the scheduling shuffle. "

"So how should Christian girls differ from the unsaved counterparts? Their entire worldview should be different. This means that exposing girls to a lot of secular television, including the Disney Channel, warps their perspective on what it is to be a young lady ... The entertainment we allow in our homes must comport with what the children are learning from Scripture or the message is canceled out."


If you have a young lady (or two) living in your home, Schlueter's article, entitled "It's 911 Time for Christian Girlhood" is worthwhile reading. You can read it in its entirety here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Adjusting

It happened again tonight. For the first time in a month or so.

I was walking through a Wal-Mart I don't normally shop, one that has undergone a fairly major "overhaul" in the last month or so, looking for the fabric department. My oldest is in a school play tomorrow, and I needed some red felt to make ladybug spots for a black shirt she'll be wearing.

After several minutes of wandering, it slowly began to occur to me that in the renovation, this Wal-Mart had completely eliminated its fabric department. And yarn. And all things crafty. I was dumbfounded. Sure, we have a Hancock's and Hobby Lobby nearby. And yes, the quality of their merchandise is much higher than anything you could ever find on Wal-Mart's shelves. But, where in the world will I go the next time I'm staying up until the roosters crow trying to finish a baby afghan and lose my crochet hook? Or need just one more skein of white cotton thread to complete a project? Really! I can't even imagine not being able to make a 2 a.m. run to Wally World for thread.

My mother and I have whiled away many happy hours over the years sitting in Wal-Mart leafing through the Vogue and Simplicity pattern books while sipping Coke Icee's.

It upset and surprised me to the degree that I reached for my phone. "Mom's gonna be so upset!" I thought ... and then, once again, the realization that has broadsided me a million times since September 10th.

Adjusting to the sudden loss of someone dear to you is a lot like being given a pair of really small shoes and being told you have to leave them on your feet for the rest of your life. There's never any lessening of the pain. The shoes don't get bigger, nor do your feet get smaller. You may learn to block out the pain, but it is always there. Every experience you have from that moment on is clouded by the pain which ranges anywhere from a dull ache to sharp and stabbing. There's no escaping it.

Since my mother's passing, I have watched my dear friend Angie go through the same thing. And now, another friend, Lisa, is facing the loss of her mother. I've been through everything they're experiencing, and I feel as if I should be ready with some kind of deep wisdom to share. You know, words of comfort from one who has already walked through the valley.

The problem is, I'm still there. Journeying through valley of sorrow is a very long, extremely painful trek. I used to ask the question, "How long before I don't feel this much pain? How long before I can get through a day without tears?"

I've stopped asking those questions and started accepting that the grief process is much longer than I had expected. From what I've read, working through the various stages can take as long as several years and is not a process to be hurried along. It can sometimes mean two steps forward and three steps back. And that's okay.

And it can sometimes mean flipping my phone open in the middle of Wal-Mart to call Mom about the most trivial of occurrences in my life. And being reminded all over again.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

He Is Risen!

After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God's angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn't move.

The angel spoke to the women: "There is nothing to fear here. I know you're looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed. Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, 'He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.' That's the message."

The women, deep in wonder and full of joy, lost no time in leaving the tomb. They ran to tell the disciples. Then Jesus met them, stopping them in their tracks. "Good morning!" he said. They fell to their knees, embraced his feet, and worshiped him.
Matthew 28:1-9 (The Message)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Song for Easter

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev'ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow'r of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.

Words and Music by Keith Getty & Stuart TownendCopyright © 2001 Kingsway Thankyou Music

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Remembering through writing

"Once again I'll go over what God has done, lay out on the table the ancient wonders; I'll ponder all the things you've accomplished, and give a long, loving look at your acts.
(Psalm 77:11-12, The Message)

I love this verse. Just the idea of the psalmist giving a "long, loving look" at the acts of God brings to mind innumerable wonders in my own life of things the Father has accomplished.

It brings me great joy to remember the Lord's work and to brag on His accomplishments. When He has done something really neat in our lives, how fun it is to "go over what God has done," relishing every detail.

Why, then, is it that so many of us suffer from spiritual amnesia, letting the miraculous details of our lives fade with time?

Perhaps that's why I am so drawn to journaling and blogging. Once written, those details are set. They might fade from our memories, but if written in ink, probably won't fade from paper. They will still be there a year from now, a decade from now, a generation from now, waiting to give new hope and encouragement to whomever reads them. They become an important part of the legacy of faith we hope to pass on to our descendents.

Remember with me this week as we journey to the Cross. Remember all that He has done, and consider with me all His mighty deeds.

And then, write them down.



Monday, April 02, 2007

This do in remembrance of me

Quiet music filled the place. The elements were passed. To my right, my oldest child sat with head bowed reverently, preparing to observe her first Communion.

And with the pastor's instructions to remember all that our Lord has done for us, my mind went back 7½ years ago to the night this precious child beside me joined our family.


* * * * *

It had been a difficult pregnancy, to say the least. Around the 30-week point, my blood pressure became dangerously high, and I found myself on complete bed rest. Despite the precautionary measures, I began having stroke-like symptoms. Each time I felt one side began to numb and my speech became garbled, it became a little more difficult to have faith that this pregnancy was going to have a happy ending.

The baby and I finally made it to the 36-week mark, and my obstetrician decided that was as far as he could allow us to go. On October 29, 1999, by emergency C-section, he delivered to us a very healthy, 4-pound, 13-ounce baby girl. Still emerging from the general anesthesia in the wee hours of the next morning, I hadn't yet held my tiny daughter when I became aware that something was terribly wrong. Slipping in and out of consciousness, I wasn't even able to alert my sleeping husband to the fact that my life was in danger. I had survived the pregnancy, now a postpartum hemorrhage was about to claim me.

Incredible peace filled me, and I somehow knew that whatever happened, it would be for the best.

Some amount of time passed, although I have no idea how much. I became aware of female voices in the room. Concerned. Placing a middle-of-the-night call to my doctor to alert him of my rapidly deteriorating condition. There was talk of a rapid transfer to the ICU. More drugs given. Transfusion begun.

"I'm not going to make it, am I?" I asked the pretty nurse, when I could finally muster the strength to open my eyes.

There was a pause, as she looked at my vitals. "No. I think you're going to be just fine," she answered.

"How can you tell?" I slurred, convinced that the next time I opened my eyes it would be God's face I saw.

"Because your blood pressure is coming up," she replied.

As much as I could, I turned my head to look at the monitor to my right and was shocked to see that I had nearly bottomed out. Of course it was coming up ... it sure couldn't go any lower.


* * * * *
As we held the elements, I opened an eye and looked at my oldest snuggled close to her daddy, and contemplated for a moment what could have been. It could be just the two of them making it through life on their own right now, the younger two having never been born.
I don't fully understand all the reasons God spared my life, but I'm thankful that He did. And I'm not only filled that gratitude that He saved my physical life, but even more that He saved my soul as well.
Remembering and reflecting. As we journey through this Holy Week in anticipation of the celebration of our Lord's resurrection, let us think back on ALL He has done for us. And let us be filled to overflowing with thankfulness for ALL His blessings.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

This stopped me in my tracks

"We fear insignificance. But what we really fear is that God might call us to do something that He calls significant but that we don't." - John Hannah.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

An Unusual Request

File this one under "Conversations I never thought I'd have with my 5-year-old":

Sara: "Mom, do you think you could take me to a fa-yoo-neral sometime?
Me: "A funeral?"
Sara: "Yeah! A fa-yoo-neral!"
Me: "You're kidding, right?"
Sara: "No ... it's not that I want anybody to DIE (dramatic emphasis here), but I was thinking maybe you could find somebody dead that we don't know and we could get all dressed up and go to their fa-yoo-neral!"

Yeah, and maybe that would be the beginning of a new career as a professional mourner. I'll send my best black dress to the cleaner's tomorrow.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A delayed Valentine's celebration

Chief Potter and I have never been big fans of celebrating Valentine's Day on February 14th. For one thing, the actual holiday (if you can call it that) never seems to fall on a day that we don't already have something scheduled. And, more importantly, I despise long waits in restaurants just to be seated. It's one thing to wait if you're already at a table and can munch on an appetizer or sip a soft drink. It's another thing altogether to be shoved in a small area (because who really wants to wait outside in February????) shoulder to shoulder with people you don't know while being taunted by the delicious aroma of foods that you can't yet have while your stomach has reached the perpetual growl stage. Really. We tried it once and decided that from then on we would either celebrate V-Day the weekend before or the weekend after.

When I talked to my mother-in-law about babysitting for us the Friday night after Valentine's Day, she casually offered to let us leave them at her house for the entire night, a suggestion which I promptly dismissed as being entirely too much work for her.

It only took moments after I hung up the phone to start wondering exactly why I felt that keeping three kids overnight would be "too much" for her. After all, I keep them every day all day. And work a full-time job with the chaos going on around me. And love it.

She's a very young *4 (she'd shoot me if I revealed the first digit of her age), and so after talking it over with the chief, we decided to take her up on it.

Here's how the evening went:

We dropped the kiddos off at 5:30 p.m. at their grandmother's house with instructions to obey Grandma Judy happily the first time and to not eat every single cookie she put in front of them (but wait ... that's a whole OTHER post).

By 6:30, we were seated at our favorite Thai restaurant where we both ordered our favorite dish, Evil Jungle Prince (no kidding ... I have to order it by number, because I can't manage to say the name aloud without bursting into laughter). When they deliver the stuff to the table, it never looks like very much food. The sticky rice is in one bowl, and the Evil Jungle Prince is on a plate by itself. You're given a third dish on which to serve yourself a portion of rice and cover it with EJP. Halfway through the Prince, my stomach started feeling a little full, but the stuff was so delectable (and spicy!) I ignored the messages my stomach was sending and happily served myself up another big portion of the rice and Prince. Before too long, we both had finished off our wickedly hot meal and left the restaurant headed for our next favorite destination: Lowe's.

Halfway to the car, with the February wind biting through my coat and gloves and my tummy angry with me for feeding it WAY more food than it is normally accustomed, I started rethinking the whole night and decided that my very warm child-free house sounded like a much cozier way to spend the rest of the evening than shopping for a new storm door.

Chief was all too happy to cancel our home improvement plans in the sub-freezing wind, and to home we went. On the way back to the house, he told me excitedly about a movie he'd recorded on TiVo and thought it might be something I'd enjoy.

We arrived back home shortly before 8 p.m. and after getting comfy in my new fun PJ's Chief gave me from PajamaGram, we poured ourselves something to drink (my mouth was still on fire from the Evil Jungle Prince) and settled onto the couch for a movie that would be uninterrupted by kids getting out of bed, wanting sips of water, needed extra goodnight kisses, etc. It promised to be a relaxing evening like we hadn't had in a long, long time.

I remember the opening scene and vaguely remember asking Chief the actor's name playing the main character ... and that's the last thing I remember until about 6:30 this morning. Yes, that's right, I fell asleep moments into our movie date and didn't awaken until 10½ hours later.

Yep, I'm in trouble.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The House Fairy


Anyone who has spent any time with me at all over the past few weeks has, no doubt, heard me singing the praises of FlyLady. If I could give her an award for the inspiration she has been to me (and apparently THOUSANDS, maybe MILLIONS) of weary but well-meaning wives and mothers, it would be huge. Really huge.

Through a constant flow of emails which arrive throughout the day, FlyLady has provided me with the belief that I really CAN manage my home effectively and efficiently and given me some tools to get moving in the right direction.

The latest of these tools has been the introduction of The House Fairy to my children. In case you don't know The House Fairy (and I'm assuming that most of you probably do not), she pays a visit to each child's room every day. The kids have no idea whether she will come in the morning, afternoon or evening, they just know that she WILL show up before the day is over. In an introductory letter she left before her first real visit, she promised the kiddos that at each visit she would either leave something (a cool treat if she finds a room in a condition that pleases her) OR take something(s) if the room is left untidy. She has a simple "report card" she leaves behind on each pillow that allows her to make a note of what she observed during her visit that day.

This new system has been in place now for a little over a week at the Potter Palace, and I am ASTOUNDED at the change that has come over my little ones. No longer do I have to hound them like a broken record about keeping their rooms picked up. A simple reminder that House Fairy will be making rounds "soon" motivates them to keep clothes off the floor and toys put away. One day last week, House Fairy ended up with two pairs of little girl tennis shoes and some stuffed animals that had to be "bought back" with extra chores. A few instances like that, and I think they are FINALLY beginning to learn how to get out a toy, play with it, then put it away.

If I sound like a control freak, perhaps it's only because I'm still haunted by the memory of how AWFUL I kept my room as a child. Bless my poor mother's heart, she tried her best to teach me some housekeeping skills but must have given up on me at some point as a lost cause. I had a walk-in closet that was such a disaster. I can remember piling game on a shelf up over my head with no concern for putting larger games on the bottom and smaller ones on top. They just went where they landed. Until one day when I tossed something up top and the whole pile came crashing down on my head. I lay on the floor of my closet for a long time, stunned that the shelf finally gave way and wondering how-in-heaven's-name I was EVER going to separate 79,000 various and assorted game parts and puzzle pieces back into their respective boxes. It was a nightmare I tell you. And if it harelips every cow in the great state of Texas, I am DE-TER-MINED to do my part to make sure my children learn a few organizational skills early in life. Not when they're in their 30's, like their mother.

So, House Fairy, you come visit anytime. And feel free to stop by my bedroom and check my top shelf. I think you'll like what you see.