Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Stone Mountain


Tuesday, my sister Amber treated our whole family to a day of fun at Stone Mountain Park.  Stone Mountain is one of the world’s largest exposed granite mountains, and the famous bas-relief carving on the front of it is the largest of its kind, so huge in size that it dwarfs the one on Mount Rushmore.  (To give you a sense of the scale, at one point during the carving project, a 20-person banquet was held at a banquet table set up on Robert E. Lee’s shoulder.)

Stone Mountain is a beacon in many of my childhood memories.  Our family attended the laser show on the front lawn of Stone Mountain Park over and over each summer, and I’ve climbed it with friends more times than I can count.  Everyone who lived anywhere nearby had a season pass, and the park was a popular hangout spot for teens all through high school.

Going back with the kids was a lot of fun.  We started out the day by taking the cable car up to the top of the mountain.  I did not scream, hyperventilate, or pass out.  (I have a weird psychological condition: I will thrill to the crazy heights and loops and hairpin turns of any roller coaster in the world, but the ferris wheel–or the cable car–renders me helpless and shuddering in a pool of terrified sweat.) 

The ride is worth it, though, when you’re standing on top of the world with the wind playing in your hair.

Amber and Caleb

A miracle: Katie and Caleb, both looking, both smiling!

My dad, a man on the edge...

After the tram ride, we took a walk around Stone Mountain Crossroads, watched a craftsman blowing glass, and experienced a 4-D production of Polar Express (we wore 3-D glasses for the movie, and there was snow falling from the ceiling, water spraying at us from the seats, and gusts of air to make us feel like we were really there!)

Here comes trouble!

We rode the open air train that goes all the way around the mountain, which the kids loved.  There were Christmas lights all over the place, and Caleb glowed with delight every time the train whistle blew. 

We finished up the day in The Great Barn, a children’s activity area that features 65 interactive games, climbing structures, trampoline floors, and slides.  Everything was powered by these fun foam balls that the kids could collect and then shoot out of air guns and feed down complex chutes to the people below.  They were pretty sad to leave, until they saw the cool toys outside.


Thank you, Aunt Amber, for a wonderful day!  It ended with the one major indicator of a successful adventure: tired kids!

Ten Things I’m Thankful For


1.  Jesus Christ, who brought me back together with God through the gift of His life’s blood spilled on the cross.

2.  Paul, my husband, best friend, and 24-hour tech support.

3.  My children, who amaze, frustrate, delight, and challenge me every day.

4.  Jobs, both mine and Paul’s, in this time of economic uncertainty.

5.  Our new home, much-anticipated and only half-decorated, but full of good memories already.

6.  Awesome friends, the deep-down kind, good for both everyday wear and special occasions.

7.  America, a country that, for all its faults, wants to do the right thing, and keeps getting up again, no matter how many times it falls down.

8.  Laughter that comes from the belly and spills up and over, wave after uncontrollable wave, until you can’t breathe.

9.  Tears that wash away the balled-up tensions of the day, leaving behind only fresh hope and a desire to start again tomorrow.

10.  Heaven, closer every moment.



The Big Things:

*Jesus Christ, who died to reunite my Father and me.  The rest wouldn’t mean anything without Him.

*the love of a good man.  We’ve walked through the sun and the rain, and every day is a little sweeter.

*two unique and amazing kids, with hearts and minds that grow deeper and richer all the time.  They are a wonder, a joy, and an awesome responsibility.

*my precious family.  We live all over the country, but they are always only a phone call away.

*the friendship of loving, talented, sweet-spirited women–girlfriends who have been there through joy and heartache and the kind of laughter that makes you wet your pants.

The Little Things:

*Paul’s job, and mine.  With economic worries swirling around like a flock of malevolent bats, I am deeply thankful for the security of Paul’s job.  I know there will be lots of opportunities in the coming months and years to help others who are struggling, and I’m thankful that we are in a position where we can do that.  It wasn’t very long ago that we were the ones in need.

*the beautiful home we’re renting.  What a blessing to have a yard, and another bedroom, and (eep!) a walk-in closet!  After so many years in our apartment, I feel like Annie visiting Daddy Warbucks for the first time.

*music, and the iPod that makes it possible for me to carry it around.  It’s my own personal soundtrack.

*hot tea.  I think the British are on to something.  In times of discouragement, it’s a small, warm comfort, and in times of peace, it puts a finishing touch on the feeling of contentment.  My favorite?  English Breakfast with a splash of milk and one spoonful of sugar.

*the smiles of strangers.

*Jay Cutler, who is the main reason my Fantasy Football team is leading the league this year.  I know it’s not ladylike to gloat, but…BOOYAH!

*Netflix.  I don’t even miss cable TV.  Well, maybe Mythbusters.

*the sidewalks in our new neighborhood.  I love to walk, and I appreciate places that make it easy.

*my library card, and the wonderful public library it unlocks.

*living in a place that has all four seasons in lovely abundance.  The fall colors were beautiful, and I’m looking forward to winter’s snow.

*my blog, and those who read it.  I really feel like I know some of you, and you have blessed my life.

Thank You for the Little Things


*notes from Katie tucked into my pocket or hidden under my pillow

*pumpkin flax muffins with chopped pecans

*cute black boots that go with everything and actually zip over my calves

*heat in the winter and air-conditioning in the summer

*money for groceries

*Sunday afternoon naps with football playing in the background

*my new wool coat, so toasty warm I feel it in my toes

*high speed internet connection

*rare moments of complete and total quiet

*health insurance for the whole family

*Amber letting me pick out my own matron-of-honor dress, in my favorite color, and with no mention of the word “taffeta”

*Caleb’s run-across-the-room-and-knock-me-over Monster Hugs

*our Christmas tree, decorated with ornaments from every chapter in our family story

*candles that smell like food

*being lifted up in prayer by good friends

*leftover turkey, eaten cold with cranberry relish

*my library card, and the beautiful new library it opens

*music: fun, funky, beautiful, whimsical, inspiring, haunting, transcendent, invigorating, worshipful (what I’m loving right now: “Into the West” by Howard Shore and Annie Lennox)

*Coeur d’Alene Lake, ringed by green-gold mountains topped with snow

*our car: red, reliable and, best of all, paid off

*Girls’ Craft Night

*Katie’s gifted and dedicated teachers

*a good landlord, attentive and responsible

*hot drinks on a freezing night

*roller skating under a disco ball

*the entertaining and slightly nutso things that people do, like camping out in the Best Buy parking lot on Black Friday

*silky pajamas and fuzzy slippers

*cold, clean water from the fridge

*Bible study groups

*”I love you” phone calls in the middle of the day

Thank You for My Girlfriends


It’s after eleven o’clock at night, and I’ve just finished watching the most recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy online. Typically, I’m in a dither. “What is the deal with George and Izzy?” I ask the universe. The universe doesn’t answer, and in the next second I’m dialing up my friend, Kathy, whose fault it is that my emotions are invested in the events of a fictional Seattle hospital in the first place.

“Hello?” she answers.

“What is the deal with George and Izzy?” I splutter, and without asking why I’m calling so late or what I’m talking about, she proceeds to explain in great detail exactly what the deal is. A lively half hour discussion of various characters and subplots ensues, followed by a conversation that touches on all our latest news and thoughts, and finally I hang up, a little enlightened and a lot entertained.


It’s hard to imagine life without them.

Today I’m dishing with Kathy over trivia, six years ago I was floundering around in the deep waters of personal crisis, and her hand was one of those that reached down and grabbed on to keep me from going under. A good girlfriend is equally at home in your life on your best day and on your worst.

It’s been my joy and privilege to enjoy the friendship of some amazing women.

Tracy. I met Tracy on my very first day of college classes. We were both freshman, and I knew from the first moment of talking to her that we were going to be life long friends. Her calm serenity and even temper were a balm to my flighty and fidgeting spirit. When we accidentally dyed our hair pink in a Clairol experiment gone awry, she was the one who helped me see the funny side of it. She’s spent holidays at my house, we’ve gotten tattoos together, and we’ve walked each other through the jungle of dating disasters. I confess, when she got married, I felt a little jealous. Not of her, but of her husband, Perry. How dare he step in and break up the team? I consoled myself with being her maid of honor, and a year later, she was mine. Our friendship has not only survived marriage, but grown over the years. Though she lives a thousand miles away, every time we talk on the phone, we’re roommates again, alternately cheering and commiserating in equal measure.

Regina. Regina, another college buddy, makes me glad that first impressions are often wrong, because it definitely wasn’t love at first sight when the two of us met. Where at first I saw a flirtatious, hairsprayed Southern cheerleader-type (to say nothing of what she thought of me), I soon learned to see an indispensable friend–and to stop making snap judgments! We’ve been through a lot–car trouble, boy trouble, and just plain trouble. Our friendship has run hot and cold, and we jokingly refer to the Three Day Rule (the period of time we can be together without getting on each other’s nerves) but she’s been around through thick and thin, and I wouldn’t trade her for anything. Every couple of years, she and Tracy and I get together to catch up, spill our guts, and eat good food. They’re the sort of girlfriends to whom time and distance don’t matter.

Kathy, Jen, Marci, and Kim. One December day, just after we had moved here to Idaho, I got a phone call. It was a big deal. See, we’d landed in Coeur d’Alene in a maelstrom of chaos and emotional struggle. I was hurting, and I was lonely, and even though we’d come here to visit Paul’s parents at least once a year throughout our married life, I felt as if I knew no one, and no one knew me. I was sinking. Then the phone rang. It was Kathy and Jen, and they invited me to go Christmas shopping with them. I said yes before the question was finished and they picked me up for a whirlwind tour of retail hotspots, lists in hand. There, in the middle of Toys R Us, unknown to my shopping companions, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the feeling that everything was going to be okay. Their asking me to come along was a simple gesture, and they probably didn’t know how desperately needy I was (or they would have run the other way!), but it was the beginning of some of the sweetest friendships of my life. Kathy is outspoken, honest, genuine, and funny. Jen is warm-hearted and gentle-spirited and one of my spiritual heroes. Marci is a devoted friend with a wry sense of humor who reaches out to draw everyone into her circle. Kim is quirky and fun, saves everything she’s ever owned, and can talk the ears off an elephant. One year somebody (I’m still not sure which one of them it was) wanted to plan a trip to Seattle for a girls only getaway. The invitation was open to anyone, and the five of us were the ones who ended up piling into a van and striking out for the coast. It turned out, somehow, that we had perfect chemistry, and the most satisfying weekend chick trip ever ensued, complete with getting lost, eating at a fancy restaurant, endless road trip chatter, and laughter, laughter, laughter. Since then, we’ve cried together, prayed together, faced health crises and marriage problems, worked side by side in ministries, and basically entered into each other’s lives at the deepest level. They’re dirty house friends, every one. Each of these girlfriends totally deserves her own blog post.

Amber. A sister is girlfriend and family all rolled up into one. Amber and I are five years apart in age, and our relationship has gone through different stages as she’s grown from pesky little sister to cherished friend. She’s lived with me, fought with me, borrowed my clothes and checked out my boyfriends. She’s seen my bad habits, my temptations, and my disappointments up close and still she’s there for me. Not all sisters turn out to be friends, but mine has become one of the best.

I am blessed with other wonderful girlfriends, too. Girlfriends from my Bible study group. Girlfriends I call when I want to go shopping. Girlfriends who like the same movies that I do. Girlfriends who watch my kids, and ask me to watch theirs. Girlfriends who are up for an adventure. Girlfriends I exercise with. Girlfriends who are just easy and fun to be around. Even a few girlfriends I only know from the internet, whose encouraging words and shared emotions are no less real for our having never met in person. Some of my girlfriends I’ve known for years, and some I’m just starting to know, waiting and watching the delightful and gradual intertwining of experiences that makes up friendship’s rich history.

Even one good girlfriend is a gift of inestimable worth, and I am blessed with many. I only hope I can bless them half as much.

Thank You, Lord, for my girlfriends.

Thank You for My Blog


I had heard of blogs, of course, but I was a little fuzzy on the details. I just knew that somewhere, “out there” in cyberspace, people were keeping online journals. I didn’t know where they were or that you could search for them or even that, unlike their RL (real life) counterparts, they mostly aren’t meant to be private.

Then I got an email from an old high school friend, Jill, announcing that she had started her very own blog, Egg in Spoon.

Suddenly, I was interested. Jill was one of a circle of aspiring writers I hung around with in high school, and I had always admired her talent. And she had a blog? I had to check this out. Clicking on the link revealed a large archive of Jill’s thoughts and prose that kept me busy clicking for hours, reading entry after entry and enjoying a long look into the past few years of the friend I had misplaced for nearly a decade.

It wasn’t long before I felt it. An itch. A tingle. An inkling of inspiration, begging the question: “Why not me?” I used to love to write, but then I got married, had kids, got involved in a lot of really great things, and the demands of being a “grown up” temporarily eclipsed the desire to write with a laundry list of activities and responsibilities. I just didn’t think about it that often, and the “extra” time I was waiting for never materialized. One email later, the desire to pick up writing again was pounding in my veins, and before I knew what was happening, I was logged in at http://www.blogspot.com, with my own brand new shiny blog, and my fingers were hovering over the keyboard as I tried to decide what to write first.

After I had a few posts under my belt, I sent out an announcement of my own to friends and family. It read:

I’ve started a blog. For those who don’t know, a blog (or “weblog”) is an online creation that allows virtually anyone, regardless of age, sex, or ability to string two coherent words together, to share their thoughts, opinions, and experiences with the world at large. As far as I know, the world at large doesn’t read my blog, but you are certainly welcome. It’s mainly silly, with an occasional side of serious, and, most importantly, it’s a lot of fun for me! So please drop in—you can leave comments, visit my favorite links, see a picture of my eye, all kinds of wonderful stuff. Maybe you’ll even start your own blog—let me know if you do! Notes on a Napkin

I know that a lot of people choose to blog completely anonymously. I discarded that idea almost immediately, sure that if I didn’t invite friends and family to read my blog, then no one would. There have been a few moments since I started blogging when I wondered if that was a good idea, after all. Like when one of the sweet old ladies at church came up to me to tell me that she’d loved my post on bikini waxing. Overall, though, it helps me remember that I am accountable for my words, both spoken and written, and that’s no bad thing.

I’m thankful for my blog. It’s been a place I come to explore my feelings, vent my opinions, and confess my shortcomings. It’s been a writing exercise, a way to scratch the itch, and a workout for the part of my brain that still needs to know how to speak something other than Four Year Old. It’s been a vehicle for getting in touch with old friends, and for making new ones from around the world.  It’s been a tool for keeping track of my extended family and helping them keep track of me.  It’s been a way to share my faith and to ask the deep questions of life.  Not too bad for something that started on a whim.

With more than 80% of bloggers burning out within a month, I’m rather proud (and more than a little bit surprised) to find myself on the other side of my two year blogging anniversary.  It’s hard to believe.

It occurred to me the other day that if I died tomorrow, I’m leaving something behind me.  It’s not much, taken one post at a time, but all together I think it’s a pretty fair picture of who I am.  My kids and my husband would know that I loved them, and what I wished for them.  The next generation could read about my struggles, and God’s grace in my life, and I could do my small part to further the legacy of faith in those who come after me.

Good thing I back up my posts, huh?

Anyway, thanks for reading.

(And Happy Thanksgiving!)

Thank You for My Country


American Flag

I don’t post much in the way of political discourse.

Oh, believe me, I have political opinions. Lots of ’em! And nothing kicks up the dust between people quite like throwing those opinions around. If you want to spur debate and get the fires of passion moving through a crowd, just toss out a couple of labels (“liberal” and “conservative” will do, for starters), introduce a subject that affects everyone (universal health care, perhaps), and before you know it, people will be toe to toe and nose to nose over that line, shouting at the top of their lungs while holding their hands over their ears to protect themselves from dissenting voices.

Sounds fun, right?

Well, maybe “fun” isn’t the word, but as unpleasant and difficult as it sometimes gets, our ability to discuss opposing ideas in the public square is vital to the political health of our country. We have a right to be strident, and loud, and opinionated, and passionate, and I think most of us would agree that the freedom to speak our minds is just one of the many things that makes it great to live in America.

I am so thankful for my country. Even in a time when the United States is garnering censure and resentment from some parts of the world, there is something noble and praiseworthy about the ideals upon which our country was founded, principles which most of us still hold close to our hearts as we climb and stumble and reach into an uncertain future.

Being an American is a great blessing.

Right now, in many places around the world, Christians are being imprisoned, tortured, and killed for their faith. Here, I can shout my beliefs from the rooftop; I can speak the name of Jesus Christ freely on the streets or in the classroom or on the front steps of city hall without fearing for my family’s safety or having my possessions confiscated. It might not be the popular view, and I may be ridiculed or verbally excoriated, but not even the objectors would deny my right to speak. What a gift to be an American!

In some countries, women aren’t allowed to go to school or drive or hold a job. In others, rigorously defended caste systems lock people into classes, their place in life already decided for them from the moment of birth. In America, I can start at the bottom and work my way up. With great effort, wise choices, and a good education, it is possible for a busboy to one day become the CEO of his own company. No citizen is prevented by law or government from trying to better themselves. What a gift to be an American!

There’s an oft repeated stereotype familiar to anyone who has traveled abroad in the world: the ugly American. Americans, it is said, are loud, proud, uncultured and unpredictable. It’s not meant to be a flattering picture, and I wince to imagine the rude and ill-considered behavior that might have fed into it over the years. But I have to admit, there’s something that sort of appeals to me in that description as well, some jewels glittering there amidst the dirt. Yes, we may be loud, but it’s just our habit; we’re free to say what we think and believe in front of everyone. Maybe we are proud, but we have a strong national identity and a history of overcoming mistakes and obstacles together. Perhaps we are uncultured, but we are a mix of many peoples, and each one adds its own flavor to our ever changing personality.

And we are a little unpredictable, but I happen to think that’s part of our charm.

If every country has a word, America’s is “struggle”. We are still a young nation, a boiling pot of ideas and free enterprise and individuality endeavoring to shape itself on the ideals of human freedom and equality. The founding fathers called America “The Great Experiment”, and I think that’s a good description. At two hundred thirty one years old, we’re still figuring a few things out.

However the experiment turns out, I am thankful to be a part of it.

Thank You for My Husband



Amber and Daniel are deep in the throes of wedding planning. They’re making reservations, designing table centerpieces, and trying to figure out the best way to mix Shona wedding traditions with those of the American south. Daniel is happily spreading the news to friends across the world and the glow around Amber has, if anything, intensified. It’s wonderful to see.

And who can witness the anticipation and joy of the soon-to-be-married without thinking back over their own wedding memories? I can close my eyes and remember the fun and frenzy of our days as Paul and I prepared to tie the knot, almost twelve years ago. We were engaged for six months, but sometimes it felt like forever. There was stress, a lot of it. Money worries, dueling schedules, and classes and tests that fell by the wayside in our dash to the altar all jockeyed for our attention. But beneath all that, I felt a constant rippling undercurrent of delight, a thrum of joy at the thought that, soon, I would be sharing a home, a path, a life with my best friend. I couldn’t believe I was actually getting the Happily Ever After.

Of course, Happily Ever After is more a descriptor of a general trend than a moment-by-moment guarantee. Anyone who has been married for a while knows that even the most durable “Happy” can occasionally give way to “Irritated”, “Misunderstood”, and “Violently In Need of Chocolate and a Back Rub”. You learn to roll with the punches (and keep the chocolate close at hand.)

Today, I give thanks for my husband, Paul. I really hit the jackpot the day he cut college classes with me so we could sit in the branches of a magnolia tree talking about school, and family, and the hazy, crazy, far off future. It was the first of many talks, back when I had an opinion about everything, and the world looked like a big, wide open oyster with a shiny pearl in the middle. He was funny, and kind, and we were friends before we were anything. I remember the first time he held my hand, reaching out to take it suddenly as I was about to slip it into my pocket. My small hand was instantly at home in his big one, and when we hugged, my ear lay close against his chest, just over his heart, and it felt like I had always been there in the circle of his arms.

Twelve years. I blinked, and twelve years whooshed by. And what years! Changing jobs, crossing states, adding tiny indispensable people to our family. Crying. Celebrating. Aching, hoping, growing, fighting, stumbling, learning. Choosing each other again, on purpose, every day.

Here are just a few of the reasons Paul is the greatest:

He instinctively knows when I need chocolate and a back rub, and delivers.

He listens, I mean really listens.

He understands the value of retail therapy.

He encourages my passions.

He holds my hair back when I throw up.

He makes sure I get time to myself.

He gives me remedial computer lessons.

He appreciates my strengths and accepts my failings.

He helps me make the beds in the morning, even though that’s my hangup and not his.

He knows what I’m going to say before I do.

He’s a loving, involved father.

He doesn’t expect me to cook, and is wildly appreciative when I do.

He loves God.

He still makes me laugh.

And have you seen the unibrow?

Truly I am blessed among women.

Thank You


This Thursday we will celebrate Thanksgiving, a day of feasting, football, and family–not to mention friends, fart jokes, finicky four year olds, and fifty foot parade floats. It’s a day for generations to assemble and share laughter and sweet potato casserole recipes, a day for competitive games of Trivial Pursuit and falling asleep in the recliner with your mouth open. It’s a day to share all the old stories (like the one where Kathy put me in charge of the gravy and I turned it into something resembling turkey-flavored jello.) It’s a day for tradition. And I so love all of that. It’s important, though, amidst all of the foofala, when we’re pushing our chairs back from the table and unbuttoning the top button on our pants in gustatory delight, to remember what the Thanksgiving holiday is all about: giving thanks.

So this week, Thanksgiving week, I’m going to post every day about one of my blessings. I have so many, the only hard part will be choosing seven. Because I’ll tell you right now, I am one very rich girl. My cup runneth over. My heart is full. I am blessed far beyond my deserts. (Desserts? Did someone mention desserts? That could be a whole day of thanks right there…)

Today, the first day of my week of Thanksgiving, I am kicking off the gratitude by giving thanks for my Number One Blessing. Because what I’m most thankful for is also the One I’m thankful to. My biggest, best blessing is that I am a child of God, saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, and heir to an inheritance that will outlast everything else I have in this world. God loves me. He died for me! And now I get to be with Him forever. That pretty much blows all my other blessings out of the water.

So thank you, Father, for the blessing of being a part of your family. I hope my life shows my gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving!