Pumpkin Pushers

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Fall is my favorite season. Like almost everyone, I love all the fall foofaraw that accompanies the breathtakingly beautiful yearly shutdown of chlorophyll production in the nation’s trees: sweaters and football and school supplies and brisk wind carrying the promise of future snow. I sigh with contentment at hearing the heater cycle on in the middle of the night. I relish kicking my sandals to the back of the closet and digging out my boots, which make a much more satisfying *crunch* on all those windswept piles of desiccated leaves. I look forward all summer to finally snuggling down with my husband into the cottony warmth of our fleece sheets, a toasty pocket of comfort in the chill of autumn night (not to mention the fun of pushing my icy toes up against Paul’s warm legs!)

Fall also brings out the pumpkin pushers. Suddenly, there is pumpkin everywhere. Friends bake fragrant pumpkin bread, pumpkin-themed Pinterest boards are passionately propagated online, pumpkin-scented candles go on sale, and, on October 1st, Dairy Queen once again offers that most delectable of frozen treats, the Pumpkin Pie Blizzard.

I am not complaining.

I love pumpkin stuff. I have had to enforce a strict once-a-week limit on my Pumpkin Pie Blizzard consumption, my Scentsy is diffusing delicious pumpkin-scented happiness through the house around the clock, and I can single-handedly make a loaf of pumpkin bread disappear in less than 24 hours.

But my pumpkin meter is maxed out, people. I don’t have room for another pumpkin-y obsession in my life. That’s why, despite all of the (well-deserved, I’m sure) hype, I have never tasted a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Even I find it hard to believe. I see the commercials; I wade through the dozens of facebook posts and Instagram pictures, admiring the artistic swirl of whipped cream sprinkled with its magical fairy dust Pumpkin Spice®. However, given the violent affections of the PSL fans I have encountered, I’m afraid that once I’ve tasted it, I will wake up to find myself pawning off Paul’s Xbox games and heartlessly hiring out my kids as day-laborers to support my habit. Starbucks is expensive, yo.

Have I made the right choice? I really don’t know. And, for now, I’m planning to keep it that way.

Any Pumpkin Spice Zombies out there who want to tell me what I’m missing?

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Joy

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When I was a kid, I thought that joy was that wonderful, effervescent feeling that bubbles up inside you and rushes through your blood on Christmas morning, or when you swing really high, or when you stand on a mountain and look out across mile after beautiful mile of green valley.

I would have described it as swelling, overflowing, intoxicating, and mine by divine right—a feeling of whimsical enjoyment that I could summon up at will, that would paint life with a fairy sparkle that would never, ever wear off.

That was a while ago.

The fairy sparkle, to be honest, comes and goes. It’s hard to effervesce when sickness strikes, or your marriage is in trouble, or you don’t know how you’re going to pay your rent. At least it has been for me.

Ironically, or maybe not, I came face to face with real joy during one of the darkest times in my life. A few years ago, I entered into battle with anxiety and depression. I don’t know what flipped the switch, but I was plunged for a time into a state of acute misery. In between debilitating panic attacks that made my heart race and my hands shake, I was beset by nameless fears and a sucking darkness that made it nearly impossible to enjoy… well, anything. Children, laughter, Christmas lights, music—it all tasted like sawdust. Knocked loose from my moorings and listing badly, I lost myself—my personality, my cheerful disposition, what I had always thought of as “me”. I didn’t know what had caused it, and I certainly didn’t know how to get out of it.

I prayed almost constantly during this time, but for the first time in my life, I knew what David meant when he wrote in the Psalms begging God to stop “hiding His face”. That’s exactly what it felt like. That sense of God’s presence, that comfort in prayer, that warmth of His enfolding words—I couldn’t feel it, any of it.

And yet—even with my prayers seeming to bounce off the ceiling and fall back in my lap—I knew that He had not left me. My feelings were gone, but, despite that, my conviction that He still saw me, that He still loved me, and that my suffering was known to Him never wavered. Underneath all the pain, at the very bottom of the hole I was buried in, I found certainty. It wasn’t bubbly, or intoxicating. It was solemn, and deadly serious–a desperate lifeline in a dark and angry sea. Paul, helpless and worried about me, would comfort me by saying over and over, “This won’t last forever.” And I knew he was right. At the time, he meant to assure me that I would physically get better somehow (which, thanks to my doctor and the marvels of modern medicine, turned out to be true), but I heard it as God’s promise that suffering in this life, however incomprehensible, however long it goes on, will not last. For those who trust in Him, the light of morning will always come, even after the longest night. That is God’s promise. And I believe it.

That is my joy.

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Favorite Bible Verse

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YouVersion, the free Bible app I sometimes use on my phone, recently sent me an email that listed the top ten Bible verses most often bookmarked by their users. Here they are:

Philippians 4:6 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Proverbs 3:5 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.

Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Romans 12:2 – Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Philippians 4:13 – I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:7 – And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Proverbs 3:6 – In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Romans 8:28 – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Matthew 6:33 – But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

I Corinthians 13:4 – Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It’s a good collection. There are so many treasures there… promises, comfort, encouragement for the journey. Great verses. Is your favorite there? Mine isn’t. Philippians 4:6 is high on the list, though. As someone who has struggled all my life with fear and anxiety, the assurance that I can cast my cares on the One who made me and loves me offers great strength.

My favorite verse (right now) is Romans 10:23 – Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

I know a lot about hope. Hope that startles, hope that rises, hope that quietly wraps around you and keeps you holding on for one more day. In my life, I have seen God come through over and over. Sometimes He flies in like Superman and sweeps away the obstacles; other times He simply assures me of His presence–a small, warm light glowing through the dark, just bright enough to illuminate the next step. And then the next. And the next.

And I take those steps. I take them trembling. I take them stumbling. But I take them, because I know they are leading me to the home that was promised. And that He who promised is faithful.

So do you have a favorite Bible verse? What is it? And why?

Summer Fun List 2012

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Last year, the kids and I sat down and brainstormed a list of things we wanted to do with our summer vacation time. It was a huge success! We ended up checking off almost everything on the list and making some wonderful memories.

So, of course, we decided to do it again this year! Katie, Caleb, and I sat down at McDonalds and, over fries and bottomless root beers, came up with this, our 2012 Mega-Awesome Summer Fun List of Justice!

Skate Plaza

make a blanket fort

Lego madness

have a friend sleep over

Jamms frozen yogurt

play at the park

go to the movies (Brave, Madagascar 3)

library

Independence Point

ride bikes

make a present for Dad

visit Grandpa and Grandma Evans

make a cool video

bake cookies

geocaching

Julyamsh Powwow

Art on the Green

hike Tubbs Hill

water gun war

sew stuffed animals

paper airplane races

picnic

Bluegrass Park water spot

make-your-own-pizza day

go hiking with the Kleins

But that’s not all. This year, I wanted to take our list to the next level, so I told the kids we would also be doing some Random Acts of Kindness throughout the summer. I have a few possibilities, but I’ve been trying to narrow it down to things that the kids would enjoy doing. Things like creating drawings with encouraging messages on them and leaving them on people’s windshields at the mall, or passing out free candy bars to people waiting in line at the DMV. I’m open to suggestions, so if you have any service project or RAK ideas for kids, let me know in the comments!

I Have a Microphone, and You Don’t

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It’s the first glorious day of summer break for the kids and me. *pause to take a deep, delightful breath*

This morning, as Paul got ready for work, Caleb lamented, “I wish Dad had the summer off, too, so we could all do stuff together. It’s not fair that some people have to work in the summer. If I was President, I’d make it a law that everybody got to have summer vacation!”

I sympathized. “I know, Bubba, but if nobody worked all summer, the economy would fall apart.”

He pondered that for a moment. “What do you mean, Mom? How can it ‘fall apart’?”

And then, I came up with a brilliant analogy. “Well, you know how your circulatory system works, with your heart pumping blood where it needs to go all over your body? Well, the economy is kind of like that, but–”

“Mom, no offense, but I don’t really need a whole presentation.”

WHAT???

The child of my heart and my body is rejecting the bounty of my wisdom? Already? I thought I had at least until he was thirteen. He must be an early bloomer.

I wish I could say I just shrugged it off, but no. I am not that cool. I made him sit back down on the couch and listen to the end of my presentation (which was very inspired, if do say so myself), and I could tell by the look on his face that he was totally wowed. Speechless, really. In fact, he couldn’t even articulate how impressed he was before running off to play, possibly wondering what other nuggets of brilliance may be lying behind my mediocre motherly facade.

Don’t worry, kiddo. I’ve got plenty more metaphors where that came from. And you will get to hear them all.

And the winner is…

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Commenter #8: Alyson Klein! 

Congratulations, Alyson. Your prize will be packed in silver tinfoil inside a hermetically sealed mayonnaise jar and delivered at midnight by sled dogs.

Oh, wait. I don’t have a mayonnaise jar big enough for the CD. I’ll just stick it in your mailbox at church.

Thank you to all who participated! Now that I know you’re out there, I’ll blow the dust off my keyboard and stop by more often.

Happy Friday!

(You’re welcome!)

Oh, hello, internets.

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I’m not a fan of blog posts that are just apologies for not blogging more. I ran across a blog the other day that was five posts long: one “Hurray, I’m starting a blog!” post followed by four apologies at six month intervals.

So I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to trick you into forgetting all about my little hiatus by distracting you with… a GIVEAWAY! That’s right. I will bribe you to keep you from mentioning what a sad excuse for a blogger I am.

Also, I must admit, I’m a little curious to find out if anyone still reads this blog. Maybe offering an amazing prize will flush out the commenters still loyally lurking, waiting for signs of life. And what, you are asking yourself, is that prize?

After digging around in my stuff for a few minutes much thoughtful and serious contemplation, I found the perfect thing! Well, things, actually.

Not only will the winner receive this awesome mix CD, lovingly compiled by yours truly and entitled “Songs You Will Definitely Like”:

but I will also throw in, as a bonus, this completely original and terrible never-before-published poem, written in 1994 by 21 year old Katrina Wright (Swaim)–The College Years:

How terrible is it? Well, you’ll just have to win it to find out.

To enter, leave a comment on this post before Friday, June 1st, and I will use this supercool random number generator to determine the lucky winner.

Eleven

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My friend Alyson tagged me in her post, and since I’ve been a little neglectful of my blog lately (“lately” here meaning “an embarrassingly long time”), it provides the little kick in the derriere I need to open up that New Post window!

First Things First… The Rules:
  • You must post the rules.
  • Post eleven fun facts about yourself on the blog post.
  • Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post, and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
  • Tag eleven people and link them on your post
  • Let them know you’ve tagged them!
Eleven Fun Facts:
1. Did I ever mention that I met Dick Van Dyke once? (That sound you hear is fifty people simultaneously rolling their eyes.)
2. Paul and I have different memories of meeting each other for the first time. He says we met at his brother Matt’s apartment a few days before classes began his freshman year at Harding. I don’t remember that at all. I remember running up behind him on the front lawn while he was playing volleyball and throwing my arms around his waist in a somewhat overly enthusiastic hug, only to find out when he turned around that it wasn’t Matt after all. (I’m not sure why I thought it was appropriate to storm someone’s volleyball game to surprise hug him in the first place!)
3. If I could live in any fictional universe, I would live in Middle Earth, in Rohan. I would braid my hair and ride horses every day and learn to fight with a sword. I would build a cottage on the edge of Fangorn Forest and sit by the fire at night, planning long journeys to see Hobbiton and Minas Tirith and Mirkwood. But I would not cook. Adventurers don’t cook.

4. I am totally done being pregnant. But I would definitely consider adopting someday.

5. I used to be addicted to World of Warcraft. Every moment I wasn’t playing, I was looking forward to playing. I concocted an elaborate back story for my character and lost myself completely in make believe. I had dreams in which I ran across Azeroth, pursued by bands of orcs. I had to quit for a while to reclaim my grip on reality. Now I’m playing another online role-playing game, Star Wars: The Old Republic. I’m enjoying it, but it stirs up no spark of the old madness. Maybe that kind of magic only happens with your first MMO.

6. The first food I ate after getting my braces off was corn on the cob. It is still the best corn on the cob I’ve ever tasted.

7. I can’t watch “America’s Funniest Home Videos” while I work out. Every time something makes me laugh, I stop moving.

8. I have heterochromia iridum in my eyes, but not the cool kind that makes each eye a different color. I have central heterochromia, where the iris is a different color right around the pupil than it is at the outside. Paul always says it looks like my eyes are rusting in the middle. Romantic, right?

9. Once, at one of my life’s lowest points, I was sitting in my car in a grocery store parking lot, crying and praying, and I begged God to give me some sign that He was with me, that I was not walking through the dark alone. The moment I stepped out of the car, it started snowing–big, fluffy flakes that kissed my upturned face and made me laugh through my tears. That was years ago, but every time it snows, I still remember the warmth and the joy and the feeling of being completely loved that flooded through me at that moment.

10. I love words! I collect them on my walls and shelves and doodle them in notebooks and admire them in other people’s writing. Sometimes one will pop into my head (“pusillanimous!”) and roll around in there until I figure out a place to use it.

11. I’ve always longed to go skydiving and experience the rush of flying through the sky on the wind, but I’d have to go tandem, attached to an instructor, because there is no way I could take that step out of the plane door. I’m a secret thrill-seeker wrapped in the pedestrian packaging of a pusillanimous wreck.

Here are the questions that Alyson posted for me to answer:

1. Would you rather be in prison for the rest of your life, or stranded on a deserted island with your closest loved ones for the rest of your life? (Assuming this is a tropical deserted island with plenty of food and such.)  Oh, deserted island, definitely. In fact, some days I would pay good money for someone to arrange it!

2. What was your biggest worry in high school? (Friends, grades, boys, acne, sports, something else?)  Boys. This boy, that boy, but mostly one boy who I had a crush on for four years! We finally dated the summer after we graduated.

3. If you had to be a character in a movie, who would you want to be? As you can tell from my #3 Fun Fact, I would love to be Eowyn from Lord of the Rings. Cooking isn’t her thing, either.

4. Would you choose an all-expense paid trip around the world (as many destinations as you want, for however long you want it to be, including your spouse and family if you want), or would you rather have $1 million cash here and now? It’s not very romantic, but I’d take the cash and pay off our student loans and mortgage. There would still be enough left to do some traveling, and I could enjoy it more knowing I didn’t have debt hanging over my head!

5. If you had to go a year and eat only 5 foods, what would you choose? (Let’s assume your nutritional needs are taken care of by a vitamin of some sort.) Sushi, grilled vegetables, ice cream, Zuppa Toscana soup, Hawaiian rolls. Hmmm… now I’m hungry.

6. What is your favorite physical feature on yourself? Well, I have lovely elbows, I’m told. Just kidding–I like my hands. They look like my mom’s.

7. What is your very first memory as a child? I was with my mom at the park and a man came up and asked my mom if he could take my picture. (It turned out he was from the local paper, and I ended up on the front page, playing on the playground in a patchwork dress my mom made. I wonder if she still has that somewhere?)

8. If you had to move to another country, which country would you choose and why? Scotland. Moors, kilts, cliffs, Scottish accents–need I say more?

9. What movie can you watch over and over and over again? Can I cheat and pick a series? If so, it’s definitely Harry Potter. If not, then Pride and Prejudice also gets a lot of replay time.

10. What is one job that you’d like to do, but can’t or wouldn’t because of circumstances? (circumstances such as: it doesn’t pay well enough, the hours are bad, you don’t live in a place where there’s a great need for marine biologists, you don’t have the body type to be a professional figure skater…) I’ve always wanted to be a writer. But most writers who aren’t J.K. Rowling fight hard for every word they publish, living pretty much hand-to-mouth–and I’m definitely no J.K. Rowling! I’d still like to write something, though, if only for myself.

11. What is your secret phobia? (I’m not talking spiders or being alone or public speaking, I’m talking about the weird and totally irrational one that you don’t like to admit to.) The King from the BK commercials. That guy creeps me out. I could totally imagine being stalked by a serial killer in a Burger King mask.

And here are my eleven questions for the people that I tag:

1. If you won a gift certificate good for a year’s service from either a maid or a private chef, which one would you choose?
2. Name something you’ve done that was totally out of character for you.
3. Imagine we discovered a life-sustaining planet and a way to get there in a five year space journey. If invited to go, would you be willing to leave behind your life on Earth to explore a new world? (Your family can go with you, of course.)
4. If someone gave you $500 on the condition that you somehow use it to help someone in need, how would you spend it?
5. What’s the worst movie you’ve ever seen?
6. If you lost your U.S. citizenship and had to relocate permanently to another country, where would you go? Why?
7. What’s your guilty pleasure?
8. Who would win in a street fight between the Black Eyed Peas and the Fugees?
9. If you could go back in time and change just ONE decision that you’ve made, what would it be? (I’m not talking about mistakes, but about a time you had to choose between two or more paths.)
10. What superpower would you like to have?

11. Do you have a weird body quirk? What is it?

This is who I’m tagging:

1. Kelly

2. Julie

3. Amy

4. Ada

5. Sarah

6. RosieBoo

7. Jessica

8. Phil

9. Jennifer

10. Silver Valley Girl

11. freebie

If I tagged you, don’t worry. There is no pressure at all. You can even just do part of the challenge, like the eleven fun facts! If you don’t do it, however, I’ll have to make up your fun facts, and I’m warning you–they will be EXTRA fun!

Thanksgiving 2011

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It’s time to catch up. Thanksgiving this year was an occasion for even more thanksgiving than normal for many reasons, not least of which was that I didn’t spend it curled up on a friend’s bed, hyperventilating and crying uncontrollably. (That tends to put a dent in the holiday cheer!)  Instead, we spent a fun, relaxed, mentally stable two weeks in Georgia with lots of family and great food. Maybe a little too much great food. I could barely zip my jeans when we left.

This year, I’m thankful for: the excitement of watching the kids grow up and take on more independence, the laughter and conversations and kissing and hand-holding that still characterize our marriage of almost 16 years, the treasure of true friendship from friends who don’t bail out when I temporarily go to the zoo, the pleasure of living in a world God designed to delight His creation, deep and wonderful sleep that leaves me rested and refreshed, and, most of all, the adventure of walking through life with a great wonder, a great purpose, and a Great Love.

Now for the photos!

Mom and Dad enjoy the view from the top of Stone Mountain.

Checking out the rainwater pools for signs of tiny life.

Jamie, Bill, Seth, and Riley.

Mufaro and Amber.

Mufaro and Grandpa.

Daniel and Mufaro. (Obviously, Mufaro gets a lot of camera time.)

The Goofballs (a.k.a. Katie and Caleb)

Waiting for the Stone Mountain Light Parade to start!

The Wright family in Stone Mountain's Christmas Village.

The Lufiyele family.

Eat ALL THE PIES!

The Kids' Table: where the fun is!

The Feast!

Cousins.

Sweet Seth and Riley!

Katie all wired up for neurofeedback.

Katie loves to swing.

Moo playing with Mommy at the park.

Evil Knievel.

Kira and Moo think the dog's kennel makes a very fine playhouse.

Caleb ❤ Aunt Amber!

Mark and Brandi. ❤

The Sandford family. It was such a treat to see them!

Shiloh has some muscles!

The Vampire and the Werewolf Should Be Friends

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Oh, the vampire and the werewolf should be friends!

Oh, the vampire and the werewolf should be friends!

One drinks blood and climbs tall trees,

The other barks and brings home fleas,

But that’s no reason why they can’t be friends!

Children of the night should stick together,

Children of the night should all be pals,

Werewolves take out the angry townsfolk,

Vampires won’t drink the werewolves’ gals!

I’d like to say a word for the vampires,

Who clearly didn’t choose their evil fates.

They always have the time,

And their manners are sublime.

It’s too bad that they’re such bad dinner dates!

And now in the defense of the werewolf,

To whom the moon is such a frightful bane:

She can live a normal life,

Maybe even be a wife,

But “that time of month” can really be a pain!

Children of the night should stick together,

Children of the night should all be pals,

Werewolves take out the angry townsfolk,

Vampires won’t drink the werewolves’ gals!

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I might have taken a few liberties with the source material: