Archives for December 2010

Happy New Year

I’ll be honest. At the end of last year, I sort of wanted to hand 2009 its coat, escort it to the door and then very gently and authoritatively KICK IT TO THE CURB.

It was a humdinger, it was.

And while this year has been a humdinger in a lot of ways, too, I’m just a little bit sad to see it go. In fact, I want to give 2010 a great big hug and ask it to stay just a little bitty teensy while longer. Not because it’s been easy. Not because it hasn’t had its fair share of hurts. Because oh have mercy – 2010 has more than delivered in the refining department. There’s been death and illness and heartbreak. There’s been loneliness and insecurity and fear.

But there have also been lessons that I’ll treasure in my heart forever. It’s been a year of not just knowing that God is faithful – but seeing His faithfulness over and over again. It’s been a year of seeing how intricately God works in our circumstances, of seeing the Truth of 1 Corinthians 2:3-7 over and over and over again.

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. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

I’m so grateful for this past year. Even though it’s been really difficult at times, even though I look back on last January and February and think Maybe I should’ve asked my doctor for a little medicine to take the edge off, even though there have been moments when I’ve sort of thrown my hands up in the air and wanted to give up completely on this problem or that situation or the stuff in my life that just completely confounds me, I am ending this year with more peace than I’ve had in a long time.

And that peace isn’t because everything is perfect. OH MY WORD, NO.

That peace is because God is perfect. He is loving. He is gracious. He is holy. He is merciful. He is good.

And I trust Him.

So given all that, my prayer for 2011 is really pretty simple:

O, for grace to trust Him more.

Happy New Year, y’all.

I Don’t Even Know What To Say

Last night Melanie and I were feeling all wild and crazy and decided we were going to record a new podcast. The last couple of times we’ve tried to record one we’ve had weird technical stuff happen, and the problem with the weird technical stuff is that WE DON’T HAVE ANY IDEA HOW TO FIX IT. Last night, though, we were confident that we were going to have some serious podcast victory.

Well.

Around 10:30 we both got on iChat, but unfortunately iChat was unwilling to recognize that we were online. No matter how many times we quit the application, opened it again, restarted our computers, etc. and so on and oh sweet mercy so forth, we continued to show up as “offline” in each other’s buddy list. In a fit of desperation I finally decided to re-add Mel as a buddy, and that did the trick. And reaching that solution only took about 45 minutes of our time. So it was an exercise in efficiency, really.

After we got an audio chat going, I started recording on my end, and after about 20 seconds we had a connection error. Tried again. Another connection error. Tried again. CONNECTION ERROR. By that point Melanie was on the Google, trying to figure out what the issue was, and on some Mac message board she saw that we might need to change our port settings. Quite frankly I thought that sounded like more of an activity you’d deal with when, I don’t know, YOU’RE BOATING, but in the interest of NOT LETTING TECHNOLOGY BEAT ME I followed the port-changing instructions.

And then we started another audio chat and got disconnected and Melanie called me on my cell phone and said, “I DON’T UNDERSTAND. ALL THIS INTERNET BUSINESS IS FOR THE BIRDS AND ALSO I’VE NEVER FELT LIKE A BIGGER NERD.”

After some more Googling we came to the conclusion that the iChat wasn’t interested in being our friend anymore, so we decided to try Skype, which is how we recorded our first few podcasts back in ye olden days when we used to record more than two a year. We both had to download Skype onto our computers because neither of us has darkened Skype’s doorstep in about two and a half years, but once we got Skype up and running, we were full of hope. Giddy with podcast promise.

So we started an another audio chat. We marveled at the sound quality (I have to say: it was spectacular). We made sure our sound settings were good to go, and, about 50 seconds later, we were disconnected.

By this point we had pretty much left all of our warm and fuzzy want-to-record-a-podcast feelings way, WAY behind, but we turned to Google one more time – just on the off chance that there was an easily fixable problem. But all we saw were reports of some horrible Skype outage right before Christmas and message board thread after message board thread about how Skype doesn’t always get along really well with Macs.

And at that point we had to admit that, at least temporarily, the technology had taken us down for the count.

So here’s my question: do any of you nice people have any suggestions for a better, more reliable way we could record the podcast? In the past we’ve done audio chats via Skype or iChat, I’ve recorded on my end using WireTapPro, and then I make a few edits in Garage Band and upload the file to Libsyn. We’ve tried recording directly into Garage Band a few times, but for whatever reason doing that has crashed my computer. So that might not be the best method.

Based on what the Google has told me, our method of recording is pretty typical and should be a best-case-scenario for two people in different cities, but for whatever reason iChat and Skype are giving us tons of trouble lately. The iChat method worked fine back in May, but since then it’s been a big bust whenever we’ve tried to record something.

Is there some bigger and better way to talk online that we don’t know about? We just have so much pointless, absolutely meaningless information that we long to share through the podcast format, and given the technical frustrations of late, I thought I’d check with y’all for possible solutions so that we can continue with our particular brand of nonsense as quickly as possible.

That is all.

And just FYI: I think I’ve pretty much hit an all-time high with this post in terms of BRINGING YOU THE NERDY.

(I just typed “BRINING YOU THE NERDY” by accident. But I would imagine that nerdy becomes somewhat more potent when immersed in salty water.)

Happy Wednesday, y’all.

Tackling The Hard-Hitting Issues Of 2010

Well, considering the fact that yesterday moved past mere procrastination into real-live action, I think it’s safe to say that it exceeded my expectations. I NOT ONLY showered and put on real clothes – but we went out to lunch and ran a few errands, too. My MUST-PREPARE-HOME-FOR-THE-NEW-YEAR gene kicked in, and I found myself looking longingly at Rubbermaid storage tubs and cutlery organizers in Target. I managed to contain myself (GET IT? THE WACKY ORGANIZATON PUNNY-NESS?), though, and all I bought was some cushion-y shelf paper for the cabinet where I keep my pots and pans.

I’d hate for the newest members of the family to be uncomfortable, after all.

Hasn’t shelf paper improved by leaps and bounds? I remember when blue and peach plaids were all the rage, but now the shelf paper is much more modern and kicky and fun.

Anyway, after we got home this afternoon I started taking down Christmas decorations (I know. It’s probably too soon. But I need to deep clean this house, and it’s difficult to deep clean when you’re swimming in a sea of garland.), and as I was working I started to think about some highlights of 2010. I wasn’t thinking about anything deep or meaningful or anything like that – just your various and sundry memorable moments in entertainment. So here are some of my favorites from this year. And keep in mind that I’ve been pretty behind on television, and I don’t read that much, and I rarely go to the movies, so basically what I’m saying is that I’m quite the expert.

1. Into the Morning – Ben Rector – This was hands-down my favorite CD of 2010. It was our summertime soundtrack, but more than that there are some incredible lyrics that will stop you in your tracks with the wisdom. Can’t recommend it enough.

2. Friday Night Lights, Season 4 and Mad Men, Season 4 – Both of these are shows for grown-ups, and they’re not always easy to watch. MM was even tougher this season because of Don Draper’s spiral into alcoholism, and the ongoing struggles of the Taylors and Tim Riggins made FNL almost unbearable sometimes. But SWEET MERCY there was some brilliant acting in the mix, and that acting (plus really good writing) is what kept me coming back week after week.

3. 30 Rock with Jan Hooks as Verna – I laughed, I howled, I clapped my hands. Great one-liners, perfect timing – it was a comedic treasure (“Wear something real nice like white jeans and a Dan Marino jersey”). Adored it.

4. This. Because do you see how it’s been viewed about 49,000 times? I’d be willing to bet that the members of my family account for about 3,000 of them. It’s a delight.

5. Surprised by Worship – Travis Cottrell – I actually read this book for the first time after I’d tried to break every bone in my body by falling down the Cottrells’ front steps. And do you know that I stayed up until almost 2:30 in the morning reading every single word? This book really prompted me to reflect on times when I’ve been surprised by worship in my own life – and remembering God’s faithfulness is always a very good (and encouraging) thing.

6. The Best Thing I Ever Ate – I don’t know if I’ve ever watched a TV show that helped me solidify dining goals like this one has. Every single time I watch, I can’t help but think THIS IS SOLID TELEVISION GOLD. The combination of delicious food and the chefs’ commentaries is just perfection. The “snack foods” episode will forever be a precious memory for D and me. With “totally fried” a close second.

7. Phineas and Ferb – Listen. We are all about putting limits on TV time for our little guy, especially during the school year. But things loosen up a bit in the summertime, especially late in the afternoon after we’ve spent most of our day at the pool. This past summer we ran across Phineas and Ferb, and it’s probably the first kids’ show that we’ve loved to watch together. It’s hilarious. HILARIOUS. I haven’t seen a single episode since August, but I can’t wait to watch it again when summer 2011 rolls around.

8. Despicable Me – In 2009 my favorite family movie was Up. This year it was Despicable Me. It was funny and smart and tender – and I actually saw it twice AT THE THEATRE. Such a sweet message about how love changes everything, and Steve Carell is great in it.

9. “Andy’s Play” – The Office – I’ve been a little disappointed in The Office the last couple of seasons, mainly because at some point the characters started to get on my nerves a little bit (the same thing happened to me with Glee last year – it just wasn’t the show that I wanted it to be, so I stopped watching). All that to say: this episode brought me great joy (by the way, you might not want to click over if there are kids in the room – LITTLE EARS, you know). I just love how earnest and sincere Andy is…totally endearing. Not to mention that Creed’s expressions at the end of the episode are priceless.

10. Big Fish by Daniel Wallace – I read this book a couple of months ago, and it has stayed with me like nobody’s business. At the end of the day it’s all about letting loved ones have their own stories – and letting go of our need to control or interfere in the narrative. It’s a beautiful book.

Okay. What about y’all? What were some of your favorites this year?

p.s. There aren’t any affiliate links in this post.
p.p.s. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.
p.p.p.s. I just felt the need to clarify.
p.p.p.p.s. Remember, overexplaining is my spiritual gift.

I’m Fresh Out Of Titles

Considering that I woke up at the crack of 8:45 this morning, I’m thinking that all signs point to a restful, relaxing wrap-up to 2010. My husband has the week off, which means that for the first time in a sweet forever, our little family will have lots of uninterrupted time together. Right now I’m using that time to procrastinate in terms of taking down the Christmas decorations (just FYI: I need to CLEAN THIS HOUSE). Yesterday afternoon I chose to procrastinate by watching four episodes in a row of “Giuliana & Bill.” So I think it’s safe to say that I am committed to some serious holiday excellence.

Our Christmas was probably my favorite ever; Christmas Eve was super fun thanks to some friends who hosted open houses, and Christmas Day was laid-back, easy and good. My parents rolled into town around 5:30 Christmas afternoon, so we got to have Christmas dinner with them (I made Chicken Tuscany, and while D and I loved it just as much as we did the first time I made it, I’m not so sure my parents were fans – it may have been too many mushrooms and too big a deviation from sweet potato casserole). It poured snow Saturday and Sunday, and even though it didn’t stick, we had the best time looking out the windows and watching it fall.

(pretend there are gorgeous snow pictures here)

(the ones I took didn’t really do the snowfall justice)

(because you can’t really tell that it’s snowing)

(so all together now: “Ooooooooh!”)

(“Ahhhhhhh!”)

(“BEAUTIFUL!”)

My people surprised me with the gift of some really nice cookware, and I am still just TICKLED by it. I’ve always used whatever cookware was on special at Target or Walmart, and it typically works just fine until it peels and cracks and we have to throw it out. A few years ago I bought a Dutch oven at Macy’s that I have just LOVED, and I’m now the proud owner of new pots and pans from that same line. Oh, HAPPY DAY.

(My 21 year-old self would be all, “Um, it’s POTS. I don’t get it.”)

(Obviously my 21 year-old self had no firsthand experience with the bliss of cookware contentment.)

So that’s about all that’s going on around here. I think I’ll go jump in the shower and get dressed for the day because it’s important to pretend like you’re going to be productive even when your biggest plan for the day is to start playing catch-up with the DVR.

The pretense of productivity is precisely why I’ve been known to spend an entire day in my work-out clothes without ever doing anything that could be interpreted as “physical activity” or “exercise.”

Oh, it’s good to have the illusion of goals.

Hope y’all had a wonderful Christmas!

It’s The Crazy That Makes Christmas So Fun

Every once in awhile I’ll get an email from someone who mentions that they wish they could get along with their extended family as well as I get along with mine. And inevitably when I read those emails I throw my head back and CACKLE because OH MY WORD, NO. I mean, by and large we behave and love each other and enjoy some good times, but don’t think for one second we don’t have our issues. Because people, we have some issues. Like everybody else we get through them as best we can, but I don’t blog about a lot of that stuff because so far I haven’t really gotten any requests from family members asking if I would please discuss all of our junk WITH THE INTERNET. Plus, I want to remember the fun times and the happy times and the times when we laughed until we hurt.

In other words, I don’t necessarily need a blog post that chronicles the time that David and I went to a Chinese buffet with my parents, and after D went back for seconds my mama surveyed his plate and said – without a hint of irony – “OH MY WORD LOOK AT ALL THAT FOOD YOU’RE GOING TO DIE.”

My husband, he was somewhat aggravated by the buffet-related judgment. As you might imagine.

But we worked through it, just like all families work through countless other tense and/or awkward and/or hurtful moments with the people who are nearest and dearest. There’s no question that there’s a whole lot of refining that takes place in families, especially around the holidays. Just because I don’t write about it doesn’t mean we’re unfamiliar with that sort of stuff. We just try our best to deal with it and move on without recording it on the internet for posterity’s (and Google’s) sake.

So, all that being said, I’ll now say this: we really and truly had a blast with D’s family last night. It was blissfully drama-free, completely relaxed – and it’s a night that’ll make me smile for a really long time.

(The jacket! It’s just DARRRRRRRRRLIN’!)

This morning we had a last minute change-o-plans when our friend Todd called to say that their little girl was running a fever (bless her), so we postponed that trip and decided to run by and say goodbye to my aunt C before we headed home. We’d been at her house about fifteen minutes when my cousin Paige and her little boy stopped by, and my aunt asked if she could take all of us to lunch. Since we were feeling all devil-may-care-ish in terms of our schedule, we said yes and enjoyed a great lunch where I felt like I saw approximately half of the people I have ever known. And really, it was only about ten people, but when you live in a bigger city, you forget what it’s like to be in a small town where you know people EVERY SINGLE PLACE you go – I don’t typically run into my childhood pediatrician and his sweet wife at the salad bar, after all.

After lunch we made a trip with Martha, Rose and our niece to the nursing home to see Sissie. At first she seemed to be having trouble hearing us, and Martha was insistent that a little hearing aid device that was stored in Sissie’s dresser might help. But then she realized that the battery in the hearing aid thing-y was dead, so she took matters into her own hands by putting her face approximately a quarter inch away from Sissie’s ear and saying, “Mother? Can you hear? Can you hear, Mother? Sugar, can you hear? Can you hear us, darlin’?” And after about the eighth time that Martha asked, Sissie whipped her head around and said, “I CAN HEAR, MARTHA! I CAN HEAR!”

I laughed so hard that I had to clap my hands.

We gave Sissie her Christmas present, which was a really cute lime green zip-up jacket and pants. I bought that particular outfit because a couple of months ago Martha was FIT TO BE TIED that the nursing home had lost the top to Sissie’s turquoise velour track suit. She talked about that lost turquoise top ALL THE TIME WITHOUT STOPPING EVER, to the point that if you drove to my hometown, got out of the car, walked up to a total stranger and said, “Turquoise velour track suit,” the stranger would say, “Didn’t Martha tell you? THE NURSING HOME LOST THE TOP.” Oh sweet mercy. As a general rule I try to laugh and go with the flow as far as Martha’s various and sundry obsessions are concerned, but that turquoise velour track suit nearly exhausted every bit of my patience. In fact, the last time that Martha was at our house and was talking about that turquoise velour track suit for the 74th time, I said, “Martha? I think Sissie is going to be just fine without that turquoise velour top for her track suit. Because do you know what? SHE’S ONE HUNDRED YEARS OLD. A MATCHING TRACK SUIT IS SORT OF THE LEAST OF HER WORRIES AT THIS POINT.”

I’m happy to tell you that my attempt at perspective did not one iota of good.

Anyway, Martha was beyond tickled that we got Sissie an ensemble that was similar to the turquoise one (DID YOU KNOW THAT THE NURSING HOME LOST THE TOP?), and nothing would do but for her to describe it to Sissie in great detail: “MOTHER! FEEL THIS FABRIC! AND DO YOU SEE THE SPARKLIES? IT HAS A FEW LITTLE SPARKLIES! AND YOU’RE GOING TO BE THE PRETTIEST PERSON HERE! THE PRETTIEST PERSON! AND YOU NEED MORE COTTON OUTFITS, MOTHER! YOU NEED MORE COTTON!”

Sissie’s response?

“Okay.”

And I think she may have rolled her eyes.

It made all of us so happy.

One last thing: when Martha got to the nursing home, I told her how cute she looked because, well, she looked really cute. So she did a little pivot turn so I could see her whole outfit (I think it goes without saying that she was wearing a jacket from Steinmart), and she said, “Do you like my new jeans?”

BegyourpardonImusthavemisunderstooddidyousayjeans?

About that time D said, “Are you wearing DENIM?”

And she was! She was wearing denim! For the first time since I have known her, which is basically for my whole entire life, Martha was wearing denim. She bought a pair of Not Your Daughter’s Jeans, and they were GREAT-looking. So cute on her. So sassy. And so perfect with her brown corduroy jacket.

It was big fun for all.

And then we drove home.

And we said, “I CAN HEAR, MARTHA!” approximately seventeen times.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Christmas-ing, Round One

Tonight we celebrated Christmas with D’s side of the family. We decided a couple of weeks ago that we’d get together at Scott and Rose’s house (D’s brother and sister-in-law), and can I just say? It was DELIGHTFUL. I was happy as soon as we walked in the door because I couldn’t wait to cook and visit with Rose, and then Scott came in from work and caught us up on all the latest (local) news and made us laugh and played ninja high-five with Alex. Martha was there, of course, as was Rose’s mama Julia Claire and my aunt C, so between all the grown-ups and a couple of very sweet young’uns, the mood got festive pretty fast.

Rose decided to make a dish called Seafood Spectacular, and I was completely supportive of that plan since my affections for turkey and dressing and the like are long gone by the time Christmas rolls around. I actually snapped a picture of Rose’s recipe so that I’d have a copy forever and for always.

It would be so nice if it weren’t, you know, blurry. But would you just look at the beauty of the sauteed vegetables? I thought they were so pretty.

BECAUSE I’M 105.

And then we added cream cheese and butter and shrimp and crab meat and OH, YES MA’AM, HERE COMES TASTY.

Mix it with a couple of boxes of wild rice, bake until gold ‘n bubbly, and you’ve got a suppertime hit on your hands, my friends.

Before we ate supper we opened presents, and in a development that was shocking to absolutely no one, Martha LOVED her new jacket from Steinmarts. I took a picture with my real camera, but I can’t find the cord right this second, so for the time being you’ll just have to imagine her holding up the jacket and posing while she said, “It is PERFECTLY DARLIN’,” and then:

“Now when you blog about this, you tell the girls that I said it is DARRRRRRRRLIN’.”

All I could think was that Martha had just used the word “blog” as a verb. Next thing you’ll know she’ll be playing Farmville on Facebook and reserving the username “martiedarlinplus” on Gmail.

After presents we sat down for our delicious meal, and it was a good time all the way around. Alex bartered for the last roll, Martha told us about a family from a neighboring town who’d come by to sing Christmas carols for her, our niece Melissa very thoughtfully served coffee to the grown-ups, and I thought over and over again that it’s been thirteen years – THIRTEEN YEARS – since D and I spent our first married Christmas with his family. I’m a wee bit more comfortable now (even though I’ve known his family forever, it can still be tricky trying to find your way when you’re the newest family member), and tonight was just a fun, easy, laid-back time – a great way to kick off our Christmas festivities.

Tomorrow morning will be round two with our friends Todd and Marti and their little girl Gracie, and then tomorrow afternoon I’ll start the grocery shopping for round three. Fingers crossed that a certain seven year-old can reign in his enthusiasm over the next 48 hours – right now I’m a little afeared that he’s going to punch holes in the floors with All The Jumping. He just CANNOT WAIT for Christmas morning.

And neither can his mama and daddy.

Merry Christmas, y’all.