Wednesday, March 8, 2017



Image result for the little book of hyggeAs a rule, I no longer review books here.  I make the occasional exception for those rare books that are too wonderful to keep to myself.  This is NOT one of those books!  This is the opposite end of the spectrum; a book so ridiculous, so jaw-droppingly stupid that I'm embarrassed to admit I spent money on it.  During Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon last October, I heard a lot of chatter about the upcoming release of this book, so I jumped on the bandwagon and preordered.  After all, who doesn't want to know the secrets of happy living?  Let me save you the $19.99 and explain Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga).


Atmosphere:  Light candles, use multiple lamps rather than one overhead light, and look for bulbs marked "warm white", or better yet, buy a house with a wood-burning fireplace.

Presence:  Shut off the phone and other electronic devices and be "present" where you are.

Food:  "Hygge is about being kind to yourself - giving yourself a treat."  Sweets, cake, coffee and hot chocolate are all hygge.  "Fancy" foods, such as foie gras, are not.

Clothing:  Casual, black, scarves, bulky tops, layers and woolen socks.  Works in Denmark and Nebraska in the winter.   I'm not sure how to hygge on the beach.

Home:  A hygge home should contain a cozy nook for reading, a fireplace, candles, things made out of wood, books, ceramics (like a favorite coffee mug), blankets, pillows, and vintage items.  

Hygge activities:  Board games, TV night, croquet, pot-luck meals - anything where you spend time with friends.

In short, the secret to happiness is chocolate cake, coffee (with cream), a board game and good friends, followed by a good book in front of a fireplace.  It's about savoring each of those items and being grateful.  I figured that out years ago!

The book is authored by the CEO of the Happiness Research Project.  I guess getting paid to research what makes people happy, not to mention a major book deal, is pretty hygge.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

In His Time

Those of you who know me personally, or who follow me on Facebook, have seen "Miss P".  Miss P is a now-seven-year-old cutie who came into our lives when she was five.  We hired her father to work on our construction crew, and Miss P appeared at company bbq's.  We were instantly in love.  Besides being cute, she was polite and respectful and all-around adorable.  Over time, she spent more and more time with us, frequently spending the night - or three or four nights.  The guest room became "her room" and I think she's a little annoyed when other guests sleep in her bed.  She was even the flower girl in our son's wedding last month.  One of Miss P's favorite things to do with "Boss", as she calls Dave, is to read a story before bed; and Dave's favorite books to read are the Junie B. Jones series.  Junie once said "Confiscated is the school word for 'just ripped it right out of my hand'." 

Monday evening we found out that Miss P has been confiscated from us.  Her parents took a portion of their belongings and snuck away to live 250 miles distant - without telling anyone.  I had no chance to prepare, no chance to say good-bye, or even to pack the clothes and Christmas gifts she left here.  By the time we found out, she had been gone close to a week. Just ripped right out of our life. 

Needless to say, I'm stunned, heartbroken and filled with questions. Why?  Their reasons for making this choice is not mine to tell, and I'm pretty sure I don't know the whole story.  From my perspective it was a poor choice, made in haste.  I have visited with MIss P by phone and she is doing fine.   I can't bear the idea that our time together is over, so I hope to make the four and a half hour drive to see her soon, and often.  My bigger desire and prayer is that they will return. 

In the mean time, I wait and pray.  My sister reminded me of an important truth.  When we ask God to use us to reach others, or even when He uses us in spite of ourselves, it is His plan.  We don't get to dictate the outcome.  Perhaps Miss P was brought into our lives because she just needed us for a short time.  Perhaps she was intended to stay longer, but, since He has given us free will, His plan was interrupted by poor human choices.  Perhaps God has something in mind that I can't see for now.  Whatever happens, I know who is in control.
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end.     - Ecclesiastes 3:11




Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The White Flag of Surrender

It all started with an ugly song.  I attended church with our son and his then-fiance a couple months before their wedding.  If you attend a protestant church, you are surely aware that services usually fall into one of three musical categories:  the traditional if-its-not-in-the-hymnal-it's-not-church-music group; the "blended" service that mixes traditional hymns and modern praise choruses, thus making everyone uncomfortable half the time; and the "rock concert", which involves a band, songs you've never heard (and would like to keep it that way), and an over-50 crowd that is checking their watches and wondering why the preacher doesn't start the real service.  Son's new church was hovering somewhere between blended and concert, and the band was playing an ugly song.

To be honest, I can't remember the words . . . or the melody . . . or if it HAD a melody.  I just remember a heavy, military drum beat - not unlike the snare drum dirge they play in the movies as the outlaw is marched towards the gallows.  The lyrics had something to do with surrender, and I checked my watch again, wondering why we couldn't just sing "I Surrender All".  Now there's some church music! 

All to Jesus, I surrender.
All to Him I freely give.
I will ever love and trust Him
In His presence daily live. 

As if on my cue, the band segued into the traditional melody and I relaxed into the familiar.   All to Him I freely give . . .  Screech!  *Insert sound of a record scratching when someone hastily grabs the needle away*  The military drum beat of the first song, and the soft lyrics of the second clashed in my head.    The picture of a defeated army laying down their weapons in surrender did not mix with the concept of "freely" giving.  A conquered soldier does not gently raise his arms to his captor and promise to do better.  A conquered soldier falls to his knees before the power that has overwhelmed him and begs for mercy.  

The first definition of surrender in the dictionary is to "cease resistance".  Cease resistance!  Stop fighting!  Give up!  Put down my ways and my plans, and pick up the yoke of bondage to His way.  A military surrender does not allow the defeated to choose their future.  They don't get to "opt out" of servitude.  The victor lays out the rules for life after surrender.  So why do I think I can surrender to God by asking Him to bless my way?  "Lord, I surrender my bad habits to you; I lay down my failed plans and confess my poor choices.  Now please pick them up and carry them for me.  Make them work out this time!" 

There are several battles I have been "surrendering" this way for years; trying to convince myself - and God - that my plan is His plan.  It's time for me to admit defeat - to cease resistance.  My battle with an unhealthy attitude towards food will never end by diet plans or self-inflicted rules.  I have proven that I can stick to a diet plan long enough to lose the weight, but I never change the underlying beliefs that get me right back to the same spot on the scale.   In my head, I rant that "it's not fair".  Other people don't have to watch every calorie.  Other people aren't tempted by the things I am.  Other people have bigger, better, shinier, easier lives than me and I DESERVE to eat cheesecake in compensation!

The truth is I don't deserve anything.  Christ died for my bad attitudes and poor decisions!  So if He demands to be placed above Key Lime Pie in my heart, that is His right.  He has conquered sin for me and He gets to make the rules for life after surrender. 

My focus in 2017 is "surrender"; not just in my eating habits, but in my life.  Surrender as defined by Jesus, and explained by Oswald Chambers:
 Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.”  So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s,  who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.  - Mark 10:28-30
Surrender was not for the purpose of what the disciples themselves would get out of it. . . Our motive for surrender should not be for any personal gain at all. We have become so self-centered that we go to God only for something from Him, and not for God Himself. It is like saying, “No, Lord, I don’t want you; I want myself. But I do want You to clean me and fill me with Your Holy Spirit. I want to be on display in Your showcase so I can say, ‘This is what God has done for me.’ ” Gaining heaven, being delivered from sin, and being made useful to God are things that should never even be a consideration in real surrender. Genuine total surrender is a personal sovereign preference for Jesus Christ Himself. - "My Utmost for His Highest" 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Virtual Advent Tour - Welcome Back

Welcome back for a second stop on the Virtual Advent Tour.  Last weekend, I told you about a friend who is facing a change in her Christmas traditions because she'll be celebrating Christmas from a hospital room.  At the risk of being thought a "downer", this week I want to share about some changes in my own Christmas routine.

For many years, my extended family has gathered at my mother's house for our Christmas meal and gifts.  When we returned home, Dave and I, and our children started our own holiday traditions.  

My mother celebrated her 80th birthday a few weeks ago.  Hosting a gathering of twenty-five or more - even if others bring part of the food - has been increasingly difficult.  This year she is considering letting my sister host.  It looks like a small change.  After all, my sister just lives a few blocks away, the menu will be the same and Mom will contribute part of it.  But its a sign that time is marching on.

Our children are now grown and have homes of their own and, of course, they want their turn to host our immediate family for Christmas.  I enjoy visiting their homes and, to be honest, the house where Dave and I now live was never "home" to either of them.  They were in college when we moved here.  But it's another reminder of the passage of years.  More change.

But on Christmas Eve, the four of us (now five with the addition of Mitch's bride a few weeks ago) will all be in one place.  We will exchange gifts and laugh and eat and play games - just like always.  On Christmas morning we'll have cinnamon rolls in our pj's and watch A Christmas Story on repeat.  We'll dress a little nicer than usual and sit around the table and share a meal.

Tomorrow afternoon, two 7-year-old girls will be at my house to decorate Christmas cookies.  Decorating sugar cookies is a tradition dating back to my mother's childhood and passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter and now to granddaughters.   My two assistants on Sunday are not my granddaughters, but since I don't have any grandkids close enough to help, they are standing in.  The giggles, sticky fingers and sprinkle-covered floor will still be the same.  

Time moves on, people age, traditions adapt, and sometimes - for better or worse - things change for good.  But still we celebrate because Christmas is not about the gifts or the decorations or even the traditions.  As Linus explained to Charlie Brown in their annual Christmas special, "I can tell you what Christmas is all about."
 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.  Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”      -Luke 2:8-14
So wherever you are, and whether you have dozens of traditions or none at all, I wish you a very Merry Christmas!
                           


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Virtual Advent Tour

A perfectly decorated tree, Bing Crosby crooning White Christmas in the background, egg nog and hot chocolate, the family gathered together to exchange beautifully wrapped presents with no visions of credit card bills dancing in their heads. This is what I call my "Norman Rockwell" fantasy. I have it every year when I start making Christmas plans. This will be the year that it actually happens. This will be the year with no scheduling conflicts or atrocious grocery bills. THIS will be the year that my fantasy comes true and we have the "perfect Christmas". When it doesn't happen, I'm momentarily crushed and vow to try harder next year.

But this year is different. This year, instead of worrying about finding the perfect gift or how many pies to make, I'm helping plan a benefit for a friend who is spending her Christmas season in the hospital. Kari is a 32-year-old foster-mother of two boys. In May, she and her husband sold their business. Kari had plans to spend the summer at home with her boys, then start job-hunting after school started. Instead, within a few weeks, she was diagnosed with kidney failure due to diabetes, and contemplating a transplant. Her fun summer changed to a string of doctor appointments and hospital stays. An infection lead to more complications, more hospital stays, extreme pain, confinement to a wheelchair and, finally, 42 hours in a coma. While I was searching for deals on Black Friday, she was having  a nerve biopsy. While I decorated the tree, she struggled through physical therapy.

Tonight, several hundred people will gather to throw a party and raise money - not for Christmas gifts or lavish meals - but for hospital bills, medications, and home health care. Friends and family will sacrifice a portion of their Christmas budget to give Kari a chance for more Christmases. My Norman Rockwell picture has faded this year, and in it's place is a vision of Tiny Tim - "God Bless us, every one."

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thankfully Reading Weekend

This year, Hubs and I find ourselves alone for Thanksgiving.  That's not a complaint - merely how things fell.  Our son and his fiance have to work; our daughter went to help a friend move from New Mexico to Kansas; I offered to cook for a friend who has been in the hospital, but doctors decided she should stay a few more days, so she and her husband will be sharing a hospital cafe meal.  

So I will be putting my feet up and reading, along with Jenn at www.jennsbookshelves.com and others who are thankful for some time with books. Thankfully Reading Weekend is a four day reading event that Jenn has been hosting for quite a few years now. 
There are no rules to the weekend, we’re simply hoping to devote a good amount of time to reading, and perhaps meeting some of our reading challenges and goals for the year. We thought it’d be fun if we cheered each other on a bit. If you think you can join in, grab the button  and add your sign up post to the link-up below. If you don’t have a blog, you can sign up the comments or sign up using a link to your Twitter account or Facebook page.  We’ll also be checking in on Twitter using hashtag #thankfullyreading. Join in for the weekend or for only a single day. No rules, no pressure!

There will be challenges throughout the four days - including one right here.  If you have some time - any amount of time - to spend reading in the next four days, join in the fun and conversation.

I'm going to get a little jump start and read till I fall asleep - which will be a maximum of three pages.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Going Tiny?


When this tiny cabin made the rounds on Facebook and Pinterest a couple years ago, I saw it as the perfect hide away - a place to retreat from the world temporarily.   It was the first I had heard of the oncoming trend toward full-time tiny house living.  

Now that there are so many options for affordable, available small homes, I'm fascinated with the idea of downsizing.  I'm probably not ready for life with Hubs and two dogs in a house this small (or white), but I could learn to love the tiny house life...couldn't I?  The biggest attraction is simplicity.  

Less space requires less stuff.  Less stuff takes less time to clean and maintain.  Less time on housework means more time to do the things I enjoy.  But where?  Does my tiny home have room for a sewing machine or an artist's easel?  And what about my books?

One solution is to make use of outdoor living space.   Reading or hosting a dinner party on a patio or rooftop deck sound so inviting, but only in temperate weather - which happens approximately 30 days/year in Kansas and Nebraska.  Could I move to a state that doesn't have four distinct seasons?  

Speaking of less stuff, I have gone through my current home, which isn't exactly huge, and culled out everything I considered excess, but there's still a lot of stuff that isn't used daily.  I struggle to let go of the "good" dishes or the "good" table linens.   What do tiny-home owners do with Christmas decorations?  

Maybe my perspective on "stuff" is what really needs to be purged.  Maybe that al fresco dinner party would be just as enjoyable if served on the same dishes I use every day - or paper plates.  If I could remove the sentiment from objects - see them as tools to accomplish the necessities of life rather than having intrinsic value - the downsizing process would be easier.  

Living in a tiny home would be financially rewarding.  The cut in mortgage/rent, utilities, upkeep and insurance would make funds available for travel, charity and upgrading our remaining possessions.  If I only have space for dinnerware for 8, make them good quality and beautiful.  

Then there's the issue of guests . . . 

We probably won't start tiny-house hunting today, and "tiny" is relative - but it's an idea I can't completely escape.