Tips for a Challenge

A few of you are taking me up on my challenge, and I am SO glad you are even considering it! It is also NOT too late to join! Jump on in, the water's fine...!

Some things I have read have said that 10,000 is a less-than-scientific ideal. 10,000 is what makes an adult considered to be 'active'. I still contend it is a good goal to aim for -- yet I will confess that I RARELY make it. Remember that the winner of the challenge (one of them) is for total number of steps.

If you would like some tips on how to improve your numbers for the November Challenge, think about these things:

1) First and foremost: your feet. You MUST wear shoes that you can tolerate all day. That's one of the reasons I have a 'rest day' so that my feet can have a 'cute shoe' day! Tell your co-workers about the challenge and that you may be looking a little sportier than usual through November. Wear your tennis shoes EVERYWHERE. Have your co-workers sign up for the challenge while you're at it.

2) Unload your groceries one bag at a time. Seriously. Put the entire bag away, go back for more. Think about laundry, trash, etc. the same way. Steps won't kill you as long as you are in comfortable shoes.

3) People have been saying for years: park at the far end of the parking lot. This alone will not make you in shape, but it will help.

4) You HAVE to have enough sleep, as well. You will feel so much better and be able to get in your steps much easier when you are well rested.

5) Enlist a buddy. Mindy and Keith are in the challenge together (I think Mindy has an advantage as an elementary school teacher). They will do great as they can go for a walk after dinner together and talk about their day while they add up steps.

6) Do not be discouraged no matter what your first few readings may be on your pedometer. It is a measuring device -- like blood pressure or cholesterol (or, yes, the scale). The best part about a pedometer is it takes just a few changes to make it better the next day -- unlike the scale. Another thing I read said to aim for improving your average number of steps by 500/ week. So, if you are hovering around 3,000/day right now -- aim for 3,500 by the end of the week. By the end of the challenge you should be around 5,000. BIG improvement!

7) If you do other forms of exercise that will not register as 'steps' you can use this chart (though I think it measures EXCESSIVELY high) to convert it to steps. This is for 30 minutes of activity.

I think that's all for now. Any questions? Any more takers?


The Overnight Bag

I hate my husband's overnight bag.

When we first moved here, Troy's job required him to travel a few times a month. Hard on a family with little kids, but, at the time, part of the trade-off for getting out of another job in a difficult environment. For our first Christmas here, a sweet family friend gave him a travel overnight bag -- one that has a hanger on it so you can hang it on door frames or hooks, and has several compartments for razor, toothbrush, medicine, contacts, etc.

He loved and still does love that overnight bag. It is very handy and useful. When he first got it he was traveling so much there was not much point in really unpacking it, so he pretty much lived out of it at home or on the road.

So the overnight bag was either chronically hanging on my shower, reminding me that another leaving was just around the corner, or it was gone, reminding me that he was gone with it. When the overnight bag was here, it made me think of my mom encouraging anyone who may be in her home wearing a coat, "Take off your coat and stay a while." I wanted to say, "Unpack your bag and stay a while..."

Eventually I did. Seriously, I built up so much resentment to that one poor bag (it wasn't just the leaving --it was also that it was in the way of the shower door) that I asked to Troy to please just unpack it when he got home and repack it as he was leaving. By this time his travel had slowed considerably and that wasn't as much of an issue.

Then... glory be! Last year, Troy got an entirely different job, requiring very little travel. The overnight bag was tucked away, only to be drug out for fun vacations, or hunting trips. Much better.

Until...(cue suspense music) now entirely different job can't decide which job it really should be, so maybe all 3? The bag has returned. The travel has returned. He has been gone each of the last 3 weeks (for 2-4 days each week, not all week), Today will begin a brief 10 day respite before another 2 weeks of travel. Color me unamused currently.

I am in the pouting phase. I hate that stupid bag.

Now, you know I can't leave it like that. Mainly because I can already hear you clackety-clacking on your keyboard preaching at me, but I KNOW. The best part is, that my friends who really truly know -- my widow friend with kids younger than mine, my air force wife friend -- never preach at me. Because they know. They know that deep in my soul I am grateful simply for a living, breathing husband whose job is on this side of the ocean. But they also know that a family simply works better as a cohesive unit, and sometimes a mom doing it on her own also needs a release valve. Mine is that stupid overnight bag. That is what I choose to be angry at and loathe. And those who truly know what it's like -- simply let me be mad at the overnight bag, no judgment.

Another thing I will eventually be thankful for is that thus far (I am so jinxing myself) we have had neither house nor health calamities through these travels. A trip out of town usually requires either a trip to the ER or a phone call to the plumber for those left behind. So... that is what I leave you with. Next trip, I will change my attitude and we will have a walk down memory lane, I promise. There is some hilarity of all the goin's on that have happened here in Troy's absence -- few of them funny at the time. I will share soon.

So -- anyone have any good single-parent stories to share while we wait?
UPDATED: Didn't the Lord have fun with this one?? For months after I wrote this he had no job, then he had a job in another town where he really did live out of that overnight bag. Now he still travels for work, but usually on a plane where the overnight bag is too big, so he is full of travel size toiletries.


Just Time for a Laugh

Oh, I have too much to tell you and no time, so I just leave you with this.

It is red ribbon week at my kids' school. DRUGS ARE NOT FUNNY, KIDS!!!!!!!!!


Good Things Out There

Many of you know that one evening a week I spend with 3 wonderful people with A Better View podcast. We have the best time and I generally feel pretty much out of my league all the way around. This post from one of my co-hosts, Amanda, simply confirmed that fact. This is some wonderful cleverness regarding spiritual application of Zombie movies.

I rarely do churchy type things on Good Things Out There, but oh my stars, you need to read this. Then you need to email your preacher, elders, and any other church leader you know and have them read it, too. Have them repeat after me: We will miss you. Love it.
Do not send your church leaders here, but send people you love here, especially those over 50. But go read it first. I literally put my head on my desk and cried -- I was laughing so hard. I know this month is all pink for Breast Cancer Awareness -- but this is about colon cancer which has its own awareness month in March, but I will never remember that, and this is just hysterical and you need to read it anyway. Seriously.
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Friday -- Clean Up and Fun Day

Don't forget to look into the November challenge. You know you want to do it. What's stopping you? We'll all have so much more fun doing it together!

Drumroll please...... WINNERS!!!

Here is the official Cleft of the Rock choosing bowl, full of Monday's entries:
At which point, one of my offspring with writing all over her hand even after a shower dug into the bowl and drew this name:

Please trust me that the bowl full of Tuesday's entries looked virtually the same as the bowl full of Monday's entries. A different offspring's hand dove into the bowl and pulled out this name (no writing on the hand, but still dirty fingernails after a shower):
So, congrats to Stephanie and Christy Cate. Thanks to one and all for playing along. More prizes/ give-aways coming up! Start with the November challenge -- Target gift cards...! Woot!

Don't you want to be the voice of this booth?

I get a date tonight! Then volleyball tournament and soccer tomorrow (and the end of both seasons are in sight! Awesome!) and worship with my church family on Sunday.

Who has an awesome weekend ahead? What's going on where you are?


November Challenge

Friends of the Bloggy Kind:

I initially was going to offer this challenge to only my friend Roxanne, but then figured I would let us all in on the fun!

Here's the deal:

I am finding that age is catching up to my rear, as well as my whole "to write I have to spend time sitting my buttocks in the chair" philosophy. So I have invested in the most expensive pedometer I am willing to buy that gets rave reviews, and I have set about aiming for that elusive 10,000 steps per day to help ward off the 'expansion of time', if you will.

It was working, as long as I was getting in my 10,000 steps, then I got lazy and am not getting it. So, how about a challenge? The best part about this challenge is that it is 100% within your control -- it isn't pounds lost or calories consumed or whatever. It is simply steps taken per day. Short of a catastrophic injury over a pecan, you should be able to manage it.

Who would like to join me in logging steps for the month of November? How 'bout a Target gift card for the person who logs the most steps for the month of November? (Yeah, NOW you're paying attention, right?)

How to enter:
A) Secure a pedometer. Seriously, you want a decent one. Here is the one I have that isn't OUTRAGEOUS, and you may be able to have it at your doorstep by next week!
B) Email me at sarah [at] Please notice this isn't my usual email address where it could potentially get lost with Kohl's sales and forwards. Also, do not assume you are actually signed up until I have replied with "You are on the list!"
C) Put a link to this post on your blog, facebook, Twitter, etc. so that we can get the whole country walking off their Thanksgiving meal before they ever eat it!

How to play:
A) Starting November 2, wear your pedometer 6 days/ week. Sundays are always my day of rest, you may pick a different day. Your pedometer should come with instructions on where and how to best wear it.
B) Email me your daily total. You can do this how you choose: at the end of every day, morning of next, or keep the total for the week yourself and send in that total, or just wait until the end of the month and send me THAT. Whatever works for you. I assume it would be easier to simply email me the number on the pedometer when you take it off at the end of the day, then punch 'reset' for the next day.
C) The November Challenge will run Nov. 2-30 for 25 days (figuring a day of rest per week). You have through December 1 to send me your totals, and I will figure and announce the WINNER on December 2. TRUMPET FANFARE!! Target gift card, just in time for Christmas shopping!! Woot!! Also -- lotsa walking steps just in time for Thanksgiving!

I will calculate the winner based on total number of steps for the month, so you could potentially only walk 2,000 steps one day and then walk 450,000 steps the next and collapse in a heap in time to claim your card!

Since I do have a philosophy of "Anything is better than nothing" when it comes to exercise, there will also be a category of "Most Improved" or "Most Consistent" or some such of my choosing that I haven't settled on yet. Mainly, I don't want anyone to launch down this path and get discouraged at how far they have to go and give up.

Remember, the goal is 10,000 steps per day.

So... with or without a Target gift card, who would like to try to take a lot of steps throughout November? November Challenge -- are you in?


Middle School Advice

So last week I asked you what you would say to the middle school you (as if you would have listened). (And P.S. -- can anyone else believe that was only last week??? Does it feel like about 6 weeks ago to you, too???)

So, in the name of laziness disguised as simplicity, I am compiling answers here. For one, many of us obviously did not see the value of exercise at the time and do now. Hmmmmm. Makes me thankful my daughter is an athlete. At least she is forced into exercise.

"One thing I would want my 13-year old self to know is why puberty is the way it is,
and that it won't last forever. That was a truly weird time, and I didn't even understand why.

Another would be that God loves me pretty much the way I am, and my friends will just have to learn to do so, too.

Be kind to my parents - they're learning their way through this, too.

Any cigarette smoked in the next few years will come back and bite me 50 years from now.
How much space ya got?"

"Hmmmmm. . .be nicer to your brother. He is just as confused and scared and lost and hormonal as you are, and you two are all you've got. Plus you will recall later, in great detail, the times you were unkind to him and you just can't take 'em back.

Develop good study habits. Just because you're smart enough to "get by" doesn't mean you'll always be able to.
You are not fat. You hang around with girls that weigh 75 pounds dripping wet and are a foot shorter than you. You will someday look at photos and realize that you were fine.

All the pain you are having now--the uncertainty--the doubts, those will mature into wisdom, so pay attention and hold on."

"I like what dad said: "Be kind to my parents - they're learning their way through this, too." I find myself telling my boys this from time to time, along the lines of, we as parents have been there done that, but that doesn't mean we have the answers all the time. Some things you have to figure out on your own.

I also remind them them that oftentimes if their peers taunt or make fun, are probably not feeling that great about themselves.

I also would have told my then-me to get more exercise, and not to be afraid to sweat! Exercise/physical activity is a bigtime cure-all."

"I don't know how to get it across to a 13-year old, but you are better at doing those things -- I would try to help them to see the value of reputation, that it is worth more than all the money they will ever make in a lifetime, that a foolish moment
can damage it, and that when you do or say something that could damage someone else's reputation, you also damage your own." (loved this one -- SS)

You are a great person and it all turns out ok. Study harder and learn to love exercise. God loves you unconditionally and so do your parents. Save sexy for your hubby....."

"1. You will find more success in life than most of the girls who beat you out for cheerleader three years in a row. Doing the splits is not that big an accomplishment.
2. Stick with that journalism thing -- writing is going to make a di
fference in your life.
3. Don't worry about being so tall. It works out quite well in the long run.
4. You may feel insignificant but God knows better, and someday so will you."

"I would say to parents "really listen" what we think is drama is so real to them. When they feel alone , no matter how much we say " oh come on you have friends" it does not help. There really seems to be little we can say . It is a season of life that here in America is so hard. Stay aware of what is going on. Pray pray pray. And listen more than you talk. Give a lot of grace during this time for so many academics takes a back seat to the Drama!"
"1). "8th is better than 7th and 9th is better than 8th". Being able to look ahead & know it will get better, or was better helps.
2). "You are a work in progress, God didn't intend for you to have your full beauty until you were 18 and could handle it." I come from a long line of late bloomers... and the picture albums are proof!
3). "You can't date until you are 16". That keeps the boy/girl pressure off, pair that with "The boys are going to regret being so mean to you when you are older"
and most important:
5). "You know how this works, someone has to be left out for them to feel good about themselves..."Also, Taylor Swift is a real inspiration for these girls. She's open about being left out and how it made her

"I'd say, "How bout we go to McAlisters?" That fixes EVERYTHING!"

"The road ahead is pretty tough, but you're gonna do just fine!! So hold your head up and meet it all head on, an while you're at it, here are a few things you should NOT do.........And always remember that you're worth a whole lot more than some people think you are, so don't let other people's opinions drag you down!!" Then I
think I'd Introduce myself to someone who could have introduced me to the Gospel sooner!!"

"This too shall pass. And one day you will look back on it and it will make a lot more sense. Don't label the whole state for the bad experience you had here."

"BE with them. Affirm what they do somehow, someway. They can smell a lecture 20 miles away. I've watched quite a few broken hearts heal with the unconditional love and companionship of an affirming person. It is THE most beautiful thing I've ever seen. the word."
"Oh Jr High was so tough for me-I was 75 lbs soaking wet and already 5'9, I had buck teeth and when I was on Homecoming Court in HS I still thought of all the kids who made fun of me. My mom gave me every example in the Bible of those who were 'different' and how God uses those differences to his glory. She wanted me to embrace my strong willed self and not try to fit in, blend in, when I was made to stand out :-). That helped when I felt so 'unlike'. In the end, the best advice my parents gave me was the same advice God has imprinted on my heart 'my child, this too shall pass'"

Today's prizes have very little to do with middle school, but perhaps are a reward for surviving! To enter, leave a comment telling me either which of this advice you liked best, or maybe giving some more of your own. We're kind of stuck in middle school around here at The Cleft of the Rock! I promise we're graduating soon...


Lowest Common Denominator

originally in Abilene Families magazine

It was a gorgeous fall afternoon, if a bit on the breezy side -- not that fall afternoons come in many other varieties than breezy in West Texas. I had to leave one job early to go claim a child from middle school to shuttle her to the most recent athletic event.

As I drove along, my head swimming with deadlines unmet, emails to return, projects piling up, and family errands that must be done, I noticed what I thought was a neighborhood construction project. With a double-take on the tombstones, I realized it was simply Halloween decorations. Of course. Halloween decorations when it isn’t even October. For the love.

If you have been by or inside my home, you know that my landscaping, interior decorating, and holiday decorating can all be described as ‘minimalist’ at most generous. I’m just so darn happy to get food on the table and clean clothes in the drawers, anything in addition to that is considered extraneous and bordering on obsessively overachieving.

I actually do decorate for the holiday celebrating the birth of our Savior, but every year I get out less and less, and delegate more and more. I figure in a few years I’ll be down to having the kids put out one strand of lights each and call it good.

When the kids were little I would even get out a bunny or two at Easter, but that quickly declined to me crawling through the attic the day before Easter just to find the box with the baskets in it for the egg hunt. My own hunt before the hunt, if you will. Of course this was immediately followed by me crawling back into the attic the day after Easter to toss the baskets back in a random box, making next year’s hunt all the more exciting.

But to decorate for the holiday that is celebrated by going to beg candy off of the neighbors while dressed as a geometrically clad underwater creature? Um, no. Now, I could go down the pious religious road and say that it’s a Pagan holiday, All Hallow’s Eve, blah-dee blah. But the truth is, I simply do not have the wherewithal to decorate for such a short-lived event.

I think the entire reason I am able to decorate at all for Christmas is that school and life comes to a halt around Thanksgiving, allowing for decorating time, and if I am really on top of things I can get decorations thrown back in the attic before school gets too cranked back up in the new year.

With apologies to Halloween die-hards, I just can’t pull it off amongst soccer, band, volleyball, PTA, tennis, Open House, algebra homework, and the million six other things my family is juggling at this point.

So, instead of agreeing to disagree on the whole decorating for Halloween thing, let’s do it this way: if your home, especially your front yard is decorated for Halloween to the point that I mayenjoy it while I drive by, thank you. Thank you for giving my family something to enjoy about the season and the fun and frivolity that comes with Halloween that won’t be taking place at my house.

I, on the other hand, will be the lowest common denominator. I will be the house that the rest of you may look at to say, “Well, I didn’t do much, but at least it isn’t the Stirman’s house. Bless ‘em.”

You’re welcome. We all have our place in this world. I have found mine, and I am claimin’ it.

So, what about you? Decorate for Halloween or no? How extensively? I am actually considering buying a pumpkin...

To enter for today's drawing, leave a comment telling me about Halloween decorations. Anything: memories, a favorite, pro or con. Whatev.

Prizes for today's drawing include these books:

Prizes for today's drawing do not include this dog, who felt the need to hide under the table for some reason:

Who needs Halloween decorations with that under the table?


Looking Back

So glad you are here! Welcome to the continuation of the party for my 1,000th post!

Help yourself to some cake, pour some Diet Coke, coffee, or the beverage of your choice, and we'll stroll down memory lane just a little.

First, I want to mention that I never intended this blog to be as 'public' as it has become. I only wanted a place to house my own personal writing. But soon I just needed to vent, or tell about something funny that happened at my house, and that is what people responded to.

So I continued to chat and share my life with you here and you continued to come around and visit with me.

You have been down several roads with me. You were here when I started a teaching job, and when I left it to try out this writing business.

You have grieved and remembered my Poppa Max with me, and laughed and enjoyed my kids with me.

You have celebrated big doin's with me, and been there to keep me going when I was grouchy.

And last week, you gave me great thoughts about going back to middle school (shudder).

All this week I will be saying thank you. I usually only say the words "Thank you" -- because words are the best way I know how. But I have a few little token 'thank you's' just to say,
"Really! Thank you for still stopping by!" Give-aways all this week.

Today's give-away will include two books, one a little more 'fluffy' than the other, and a magnetic list pad because I simply love those things, don't you? If not, maybe you will learn to love them?

To enter today's give-away, leave a comment telling me about a middle school experience you would rather forget. My kids asked "your most embarassing middle school moment" -- if you are ready to re-live that on the world wide web, knock yourself out. I will simply phrase it, 'a time in middle school you would rather forget' since there are SO many of those.

I will kick off but I have to confess that I have successfully blocked much of middle school out. Partly because I went to school at the same school 1st-12th grade, and we moved to the same building at 4th grade, so many of the memories have merged. I do remember being in 7th grade and having a crush on a tall, lanky senior and I'm sure I acted like a total doof around him at all times. Not that that sort of behavior is rare for a middle school girl.

So, what about you, can you be more specific than me? What do you remember as awful about middle school? Any particular bad experience? PE comes to mind for me...


Good Things Out There

I do not know this young lady's entire story. Nothing I have read leads me to believe she is actually in physical danger. However, I do know she is a baby Christian against amazing odds and could use our prayers. Add her to your prayer list.

Don't forget to scroll down and visit my 1,000th post to tell me a little about you!

These ladies say that anyone can sing standing where they are. I don't believe it, but this actually did make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. One of my favorite songs:

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Party Time!

Time for partying here at The Cleft of the Rock! Time to celebrate a landmark and I am so glad you are here to celebrate with me!

This is my 1,000th post! Can you even believe I have yakkety yakked that much on this world wide web? Gracious, but I am a talkative one, aren't I?

But you knew that! So, welcome to the party and come on in.

The party will be going on all week long, so stop in every day next week (starting Monday, not Sunday) for some memories (no slideshows, but you will have to re-live a few favorite posts) and more celebrating.

The best part??? There will be GIVE-AWAYS!! Come on by and win some stuff!!

So now more than anything I want to know who you are. Come on in to the party and introduce yourself. Let me know who you are and how you found The Cleft of the Rock. And, just out of curiosity, if you've been here a while, let me know which post still makes you think or make you laugh or let you know that I am a complete whack job!

Who are you? :-)


Winding Down the Week

I have much to say in not much time, so forgive the 'drive-by blogging'!! I am on my way out the door -- I am substitute teaching in PE today. Wow, yesterday weather was weird. Warm, humid as I left the house to walk to school, then drizzly and got cooler and cooler, then finally about 4 minutes of blessed SUNSHINE at about 3 p.m., then more clouds later. As typical, weird weather = cuckoo kids for an elementary school. Long day of subbing hopefully today will be better.

Troy has been traveling this week and will be traveling next week. His job description seems to be fairly fluid right now, and the description-for-the-moment seems to include much more travel than in the recent past. It's disappointing, as that was one of the perks of this job we enjoyed over the previous job. But, in this economy, we truly are thankful for a job, and know that God has plans for everyone here.

Along those lines, one of the greatest things someone told me recently: "Nothing is ever wasted in God's economy." Feel like you are spinning your wheels in a job that is for naught? God is preparing you for SOMETHING as long as you are surrendering all of it to Him. And... God continues to show that to me, as well.

Besides that coolio quote, I am enjoying studying Beth Moore's Esther. I hate to say it, but there is simply no way it can live up to the hype, which is one of the reasons I hesitated to start on it. When I hear for months that this is THE!! BEST!! ONE!! EV-ER!!!!!!! of pretty much anything (TV show, movie, Bible study, laundry detergent, whatever) I go the other direction. It simply cannot withstand such billing, whatever it is. So far, I won't say that, but yes, it is good. And yes, I had heard that Lesson 2 was really good (the video). Heard it last night -- Beth makes some tough calls about the way women dress, etc. and goes off on 'mean girls'. Oh, yeah. Loved it. My favorite: "Mean girls don't dress provocatively in front of your man."

Another point that really stuck with me: "Anger is power to those who think they don't have any other source of (power)." She talked about getting angry when we are perceived to be threatened. I thought of a recent "Mama Bear" rage I broke into that I didn't even know I had in me! Wow. Indeed.

I've got much more blah-dee-blah I could share with you, but I must run! Wish I could really run, but that hasn't been in the cards (or my feet) lately. Getting old stinks... :-) Busy weekend of school and soccer activities for the kids, ACU Homecoming activities here, and church fun and work.

Don't forget-- party this weekend right here! If you have a busy weekend, too, don't worry. The party will go on for quite a while. All week, probably. Much ado about nothing.

What does everyone have planned for the weekend?


Duchess Drama

Oh, gracious, have we had a week with our puppy. What a little turkey she is!

Last Friday, Ashley and I were heading out to get her to school (Riley went earlier for a meeting) and since it was raining I was herding Duchess into the laundry room while Ashley was heading out to the car. Seizing an opportunity, she took off.

Disgusted, I could see her, but decided to get Ashley to school on time as opposed to go after her. This is nothing new for this dog. I have met 50% of my neighborhood by them fetching her after she escaped then the kind neighbor will call the number on her tag. Not a perfect system, but it works.

I returned home about 20 minutes later, glancing at the machine for the blinking light that would let me know someone wanted me to come get her. Then my heart sank. Duchess' tags fell off this summer and we never put them back on. My dog was out running the neighborhood with no ID. Oh, bless, what an irresponsible pet owner I was.

Troy came home at lunch to help me drive the neighborhood for her -- to no avail. I left to go toRevolve, leaving Troy to welcome her home when she wearied of the wandering. He logged online to place an ad in the Classifieds, he went to the pound (and took Riley -- big mistake). No Duchess.

It was drizzly and cool all weekend. I just knew and hoped that she was inside someone's warm home, waiting for that ad in the paper to finally come out. Which never came out. Turns out, our paper can't do classifieds between 2 p.m. on Friday until Tuesday morning. Ugh. So I waited, hanging my hope on that ad.

Three people called or let me know they saw a dog that looked like her on the highway close to our house Monday afternoon. I looked and looked for her. Nothing. Thankfully, no smooshed puppy, either, but no dog. I called the pound. Nothing. *sigh* There will always be Tuesday's ad.

Tuesday came raining buckets. My mood was very gray, as well. My phone didn't ring at all. I waited and waited and nothing. I grew sadder and sadder, and prayed more and more -- yes, I prayed a LOT for this dog to come home. After Meals on Wheels, I drove around a little more, and called the pound one more time. "Yeah, you may need to come look at one."

There was my puppy. At the pound. Almost 5 days after she took off. They had only picked her up that morning -- from a vet's office off the highway where I think she was spotted the day before. I bailed her out, then promptly went to the vet's office and bought her a new tag. Done and whew.

I won't say it was like one of the kids being gone, but it was definitely a void in our family. So thankful to have her back, and so overwhelmed by the people who worried and prayed and fretted with me. I am blessed by pet lovers around me.

We are drama free for a while.


What Would You Say?

Having middle school children certainly throws you back into that horrible age yourself, whether you want to go or not. Recently several things have come up that have caused me to reflect on that time, and who I was then vs. who I am now.
One was the reunion where I spoke last weekend. Many pictures, many friends, many memories of days gone by. Most of them fun and funny, some of them dredging up the old feelings of 'not (tall/thin/short/developed/rich/smart/giggly/curly/whatever) enough' that we all felt in middle school.

Then I returned to some girl drama of Ashley's. Let me say -- Ashley doesn't instigate OR tolerate girl drama well, if at all. So it is rare to have any of it at this house. But something cropped up that she and I discussed and other folk were fanning into flame. I confess that I was angry enough that I wanted to go dump some gasoline on the flame and set off an explosion and Jesus won out by a hair when he took control of my actions and kept me from doing that.

Then there was Revolve, surrounded by thousands of girls, primarily of that age group. The giggles, the posing, the way the young ladies spoke to them of the struggles of that age, reminding me of that season of life.

I am so thankful it is over, yet I suppose I must be thankful for the journey if for no other reason than to empathize with all other young people at that awkward stage of life.

I wondered today -- IF I would have listened to 40-year-old me, what would I have told myself to get through that season? I still am not really sure. I think besides imploring myself to exercise to try to steady out the hormones, it may have been something along the lines of: "It just isn't that big of a deal. None of it. Ten years from now, this won't even be a blip in your memory. Stop making such a big deal about it."

What about you? If the now you could tell the middle school you something that you may actually listen to, what would it be? I may need to pass it along to someone.


Revolve and Announcement

This weekend I had the opportunity to take Ashley to Revolve. If you are familiar with Women of Faith, Revolve is put on by Women of Faith, but is geared to teen girls. Held in large arenas, bands are brought in that play fun music for that age group, but also several young women just spoke to the girls about being real (theme was "4 Real") and a few well done dramas solidified the message, as well.

Two favorites for the weekend were, of course, boys. Chad Eastham is a young man that speaks on the differences in boys and girls in a way that the girls (and, honestly, ME) can completely relate. I really wish Chad had sat me down about a week before I got married. Truly would have saved about 7 years of figuring life out. Another favorite was 14 year old Austin Gutwein, who started Hoops of Hope. Amazing young man, the girls thought he was cute, so they listened to what he had to say.

To me, and I think to Ashley as well, the value in such events is less what comes from the stage, though some valuable things were said, it's more about the relationships along the way. Ashley has talked more about the trip over and back, and some fun times overnight than the event. That's how females are wired -- relationship. Oh, 'lest you think we have that awesome mother/ daughter bond and she is that enthralled with spending time with ME, oh no. We were able to go to Revolve because someone I know bought a group set of tickets to get a discounted price, and we traveled with friends -- some we knew, some we met that day. Fun times, making memories.

However, I will say that being around that many teens and moms generally gives Ashley and me an appreciation for each other and our relationship -- and this weekend was no different. I have a beautiful woman of God in her and I am so thankful for the ways she seeks the Lord and marches to her own drum, while never marching over the heart of another.

Please come back here this weekend -- my numbers tell me that many of you miss blog reading on the weekend, as if you have fun to be had or families to attend to or something. Let me just give you a heads up that Saturday there is a party happenin' right here at The Cleft of the Rock and you aren't going to want to miss it! There will be give aways, slide shows (okay, not so much, but memories), and all manner of bloggy fun. The deal is, I realized there is a rather momentous occasion with the blog arriving this weekend, and I couldn't let it pass by unnoticed. Anyone care to venture a guess as to what it is?


Good Things Out There

I haven't known John long, and barely know him in person, but he has become one of my favorite people on the planet. A little over a year ago, he and his wife Maggie were plunged into horrific grief when their son, John Robert, died in a traffic accident at age 18 a few days before his high school graduation. John wrote this amazing article about grief and how to walk through it with someone. Thank you, John, for those great words.

Lysa is going into detail about her spiritual journey of late. It started as a journey of food, and God turned it into a lesson of sorts as he tends to do. I truly loved this post and the message behind the scripture, but there are many to dig through there.

If you are looking for fitness motivation, Ruthie has a wedding dress challenge going on over at her fitness blog. Love it! Of course, I refrained from pulling out my wedding dress when I was at my mom's last weekend. I always said I would get back into it for my 25th. Maybe I should start a few (8) years early!

If you would like to add your 'Good Thing' button to your blog, copy the code into an 'HTML' box on your sidebar:


Observing Life

Ponder this:

My mood tends to absorb the gray weather. I try desperately not to unleash it on those around me, but the gray seeps into me. We have had a week of gray here, with flashes of light to taunt us that there is a sun somewhere.

Driving with Riley in oppressive humidity, under a gray sky, he said, quite honestly, "I just love this weather, don't you?" The need to drive prevented me from staring at him as long as I needed to.

"See?" he continued, "we're under a gray sky, but if we just keep going, we'll be in the light soon. I love weather with a moral to it."

Indeed, the gray was soon running out and this barren desert that I live in revealed that in the direction we were headed the sun was shining. In my gray mood, all I felt like was that the gray cloud was following me, but Riley knew we were headed into the light.

Just put one foot in front of the other, the gray eventually runs out, and there's the sun. Walking in the light, as he is in the light... 1 John 1:7

I'm crazy about that kid...


Book Review: The Edge of Winter

Last weekend I drove by myself to Louisiana, remember? You may remember that I thought the drive was SO!! BORING!!!!!!!
So I stopped at a Cracker Barrel. You may recall that I am not a particular fan of Cracker Barrel, but they do have a cool little deal: you can rent books on CD for $3.49/ week and return them to any Cracker Barrel. (you actually purchase the book first, then are credited the balance whenever you return it -- po-tay-to, po-tah-to).
Here is the book I chose:

The Edge of Winter by Luann Rice was a good book. I definitely give it a thumbs up all the way around. It deals with many 'politically correct' topics in a sensitive, non-preachy way. The characters are endearing, except for the villains, who aren't supposed to be. Unfortunately, the villains are a little too true-to-life, using the 'f-bomb' for authenticity, otherwise it would also be an excellent young adult book as any other topic is handled quite well. There are many true to life situations: an alcholic father who rarely shows up where he says he will, the memory of a young man killed in Iraq, bullies in high school, teen drinking, etc. All handled well and realistically, I think.
I encourage you to give it a read or listen!


Stepping Into the Ring

Nicole Johnson is an amazing woman of God, mostly in her dramatic interpretations. After my announcement yesterday of my inaugural mammogram, I came across this video that brought me to tears. What a battle. Enjoy, and fight on, whatever fight you may be fighting.


Think Pink!

I ordinarily don't share QUITE so much info on my blog, but in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month (NOT Breast Awareness Month, as some would lead you to believe...) I wanted to let you in on a milestone for me.

Remember that I had a little birthday a few weeks ago that went basically unnoticed by the population at large, except of course when I went for my annual check up with my doctor in August. They always notice birthdays. And, since this was 40 for me, it was time for a mammogram.

Yesterday was the day!! I admit that I was a little bummed -- I was hoping they gave out free stuff during October the way that the blood center gives out ice cream during the summer. And, why else to schedule important routine exams besides to get free stuff??? Alas, no free stuff.

First, let me say, no it didn't hurt. Having my eyebrows waxed is FAR more uncomfortable. Especially that last time when I left with the burn blister.

Also? Yeah, definitely leave your dignity at the door. I did have the absolute sweetest technician who had me sit in a chair, explained EVERYTHING clearly before starting, then 'say cheese for the camera' (or not) and... 20 minutes total, I'm DONE.

One thing my sweet technician did tell me is that many 'first-timers' get called for a return trip since there is nothing to compare the picture to. So they will take another, compare the two, and be done. She encouraged me -- nay, implored me -- not to panic if this were to happen. I surmised she had seen a panicked woman or two come through her door.

Otherwise, in about a week I will get a letter stating that all is healthy. I don't know if I get to keep the prints or not. :-)

So, please make it your priority to see about yourself if you are 'of age'! If finances are an issue, please contact your local American Cancer Society OR your local YWCA, both of which find ways to provide mammograms for women in need.

When I walked into my appointment, it was about 80* and HUMID. When I walked out, it was about 68* and starting to rain! Woot! So, we had a most yummy soup and sandwich dinner.

Baked Potato Soup

Judy's Special Sandwiches

It was a HUGE hit, with plenty of leftovers. What do you make when the weather turns cold?


Road Trip

This weekend I had the privilege of traveling to, and speaking at, a reunion honoring a choir instructor from my high school. I feel a little guilty because she could not have possibly had as much fun as I did at that reunion.

Roxanne and I were able to spend most of the day together and that was simply joy. No kids needing us, no husbands quietly sighing their boredom, no other family members needing just one more thing. Lots of talking, figuring, catching up, and reasoning.

Thing is, Roxanne and I talk enough that there wasn’t much catching up to do, so we were able to delve in. Go deeper. One thing we discussed is how glad we were that we grew up in that precious town, and how glad we are that we left it to grow our children up. We also talked about how great it was to go home and all insecurities and high school “caste systems” were done away with: it was just home. I think it took 20 years for it to be that way -- the 10 year reunion wasn’t quite so comfortable.

The travel there was easily the worst part of the whole weekend, especially considering the total travel time was exactly equal to the time that I was awake on Saturday: 17 hours. Obviously, I don’t travel by myself very often any more, so I had ample time to consider the pros and cons of solo travel.


1. I am queen of the temperature.

2. I am queen of when to stop.

3. I am queen of when not to stop.

4. I am queen of the radio/ CD/ talk radio/ not-talk/ music/ volume.

5. No back seat drivers.


1. It’s boring.

2. No one to blame wrong turns on.

3. So boring.

4. No one to dial/ text/ screen calls.

5. Boring really doesn’t adequately describe it.

6. No one to relieve you as a driver.


So, as you can see, being queen certainly has its place, but it cannot outweigh the drawbacks of traveling alone.

Let me clarify -- this was a 500 mile (one way) trip. A shorter trip of about 150 miles would be a breeze and just about enough time to clear my head and get all my good music listened to. Mile 300 is about where I start to slide onto the floorboard and wallow.

The return trip on Sunday was brutal as it POURED rain for the first 250 miles, then drizzled for another 150. During the pouring rain there were cars all over the median and ditches, as well as a few 18-wheelers, that evidently can’t keep it at 75 in the blinding rain like they thought they could.

So, I’m thankful to be back safe. Thankful for the legacy I have and to celebrate it at a reunion.

What about you -- do you do reunions? Been to a homecoming this fall or planning to go to one? Why or why not? Talk to me people!

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