Friday, April 30, 2010

Doing the Right Thing

When I am fearful it is hard to do the right thing. Money has been very tight, for a while. Lately I've been experiencing the sweet serenity that accompanies a heart convinced that God is my provider. To top that off He has been providing for me beautifully in unexpected ways.

Then I hit a bump this week.

Actually I hit a mailbox.

This mailbox.

I'm staying with friends for a few days.



and Hobbes.

Their driveway is super steep and my car is super long. Also the street below is very narrow. Thus this Monday I slowly crept out of the driveway and proceeded to cautiously turn on to the street and ever so carefully plow down this mailbox.

The owners were very gracious and I stepped up to do the right thing and get them a new mailbox. But I have to tell you that inside I just want to run away and shirk my responsibility. I wanted a pass, a get out of jail free card.  I didn't want to spend the money to fix this stupid mistake because I'm afraid that I won't have enough. That's the plain, ugly truth.

So I spent some time in my Bible this morning trying to find a particular verse to comfort me (I really stink at memorizing verse references) when I rediscovered this.

God, who get's invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on your guest list?
"Walk straight, act right, tell the truth.
Don't hurt your friend, don't blame your neighbor; despise the despicable.
Keep your word even when it costs you, make an honest living, never take a bribe.
You'll never get black listed if you live like this."
Psalms 15 Message

Hmmm, don't blame your neighbor and keep your word even if it costs you: how on point is this? The funny thing is I'm in a conflict right now with a couple of companies for harm I received through no fault of my own: much like this poor mailbox who was standing there minding its own business. And what I really want them to do is to not blame their neighbor and keep their word even if it costs them. The justice I want is the very justice I am tempted to deny because I am afraid there will not be enough left for me.

Oh, do I ever need grace and mercy. I am so thankful for those gifts. And for Psalms 15. Fly in grace today and do the right thing, Sweet Birdies. I’m off to pick up a new mailbox.

Blog Med Sig 4

P.S. Just a quick update: Due to a discrepancy between the picture on the website and the actual product in the store, Lowes Customer Service offered me a 36% discount on the mailbox. Ok, God just rocks!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Inspired by the 'Queen of Random'

Tonight, I'm inspired by Shannan, the self-proclaimed Queen of Random.  She's moonlighting at Farmgirl Paints, but her normal blog is Flower Patch Farmgirl.  Anyways, she talked about just sitting down each night and blogging at random.

I liked that idea.  I'm pretty new at this blogging thing, but so far I've been a little more planned: not insincere, not reserved, just planned.  So I thought it would be nice to experiment a little and just write to you, the dear, sweet, six Birdies who are flying with me and any other lurkers out there.  After all that's really what this is, a way for me to break out, to use talents that I think may be gathering dust, or worse, rust.  To overuse commas with abandon and throw out fragments as if they really were sentences.

So, here I am, just me, unplanned and unrehearsed.  Hi, I'm Joybird.  I've been laid off for almost a year from a job that was never my ideal fit.  And you know, it hasn't been the year that I expected, but it has been kind of wonderful.  It's been quiet, in a birds chirping, breeze billowing, summer day kind of way.

I'll be honest. I can be pretty results oriented and I had goals in mind when I was laid off last year. I had plans for me and God, an expectation of what my life would look like by now. And I don't see it. I have not met or surpassed those goals. My annual performance review should be dismal, but it's not. I guess I'm accepting that this year isn't my show. I'm not really setting the agenda. God knows what He is doing in me even when I do not.

And He is doing work inside of me. I feel like a kid trying to peek through knotholes to see construction going on behind a large wooden fence. I can hear activity, I know that something important is going on, but I only catch glimpses and they don't always make sense to me.

So I rest and choose to enjoy this season.  The fence will come down in His perfect time.  Until then I wait.

P.S.  Hmmm, interesting, this random post was far more introspective than I expected.  Hope the pics of Inspector Stinkerbell or at least my random experiments with PhotoBucket made you grin.
Rest well,
Blog Med Sig 4

Monday, April 19, 2010

Joybird's Kitchen: Breakfast Smoothie

I love smoothies. In college I haunted Jamba Juice. Since being in college meant that I was often broke, I came up with my own version of Razzmatazz. This original version heavily featured raspberry or orange sherbet. About three years ago, I began to take steps to reduce (not eliminate) the amount of dairy and refined sugar that I eat. So I had to adjust my smoothie recipe. Here's what I came up with.

Disclaimer: I know that a certain well known blogger, who often makes me laugh so hard that I snort, illustrates her recipes with step-by-step pictures.  And I am totally going to copy her.  I love those step-by-step pictures.

Ok, now that we have the business out of the way, here is my recipe for a breakfast smoothie.

What we need: one banana, flax seed oil, fresh spinach, orange juice, frozen pineapple, frozen berries, vanilla

The first step is really difficult. Peel the banana, break it into pieces, drop it into the blender, decide to no longer read this blog due to excess sarcasm.

Add 2 to 4 tablespoons of cold pressed flax seed oil. Finding a tasty, cold pressed flax seed oil can be a little expensive but it's really worth it. It's so healthy and the fat adds this smooth warmth that helps me get over not adding sherbet.

This is the secret ingredient. My sweet friend, Karo, who is a registered dietician, let me in on this trick. Add 2 handfuls of baby spinach. It adds a fresh cool taste, and we’re sneaking dark, leafy greens into breakfast.

Next add 8 oz of frozen pineapple. I always add pineapple because it seems to have the right level of sweetness to balance a smoothie. Then add 16oz of mixed frozen berries. Today I am using 8oz of frozen raspberries and 8 oz of a cherry, raspberry, blackberry and blueberry medley.
WARNING: Can we chat blenders? I have killed many blenders with my smoothies. Smoke has wafted out of their overtaxed engines. I like my smoothies icy and thick. A $30 Costco special may not be able to handle that. I am currently using a KitchenAid Pro blender. Please be aware of how strong your blender is as I already have enough dead blenders on my conscious. If you don't think your blender is super strong, defrost your fruit until it's icy but not rock hard. 

Add 1 - 2 cups of orange juice (depending on how thick you want your smoothie).

The last ingredient is a splash of vanilla, because it's yummy.  Enough said.

Squish it all down so the lid attaches securely and begin to blend on low.

Let the blender puree the spinach and banana and begin to munch on the frozen fruit before turning the blender onto medium. And don't worry. It won't stay bright green.

Dead blender.

Just kidding.

If you turn the blender on too high, too fast then it will develop gas. Seriously, there is an air bubble in the middle and the blades are happily whirring away, pureeing nothing. If/when this happens, turn off the blender and gently stick a spatula in until the bubble bursts. Repeat if necessary. I often find it necessary.

See, the berries are mixing in, which transforms the disturbingly bright Grinch green into a respectable pink.

When all of the fruit is pureed, let the smoothie blend on high for about a minute, until it's...well, smooth. You'll know it's ready when you can remove the little cap and see it steadily moving through the whirlpool.

Enjoy! Straws are necessary. I am using a fancy glass because I am still celebrating the little things. Notice there is a ton of smoothie left in the blender. If you don't feel like sharing, pour it into a couple of plastic cups, cover with Glad Press-N-Seal and toss into the freezer. Well, not literally toss. That would be bad. But you get the point. These freeze well and make great icy treats for hot afternoons. Also feel free to experiment with different fruit or add protein powders if you like. Like most of my dishes, this recipe is pretty flexible.
Breakfast Smoothie
• 1 banana
• 2 - 4 tablespoons cold pressed flax seed oil
• 2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach
• 8 oz frozen pineapple
• 16 oz frozen berries
• 1 – 2 cups orange juice
• A splash of vanilla (to taste)

Preparation Instructions
First, break up the peeled banana and drop into the blender. Then add the flax seed oil. Follow with the handfuls of spinach. Add the frozen pineapple and frozen berries, smashing the spinach down if necessary to make room. Pour the orange juice in and finish with the splash of vanilla.

Put the blender lid on and start blending on the lowest speed and slowly move to medium as the frozen fruit is being pureed. Once all of the fruit is pulverized and the smoothie is moving through the whirlpool, blend on high for one minute.

Serve or freeze immediately and enjoy.
Blog Med Sig 4

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Freedom Generation

During the four hundred years that slavery was allowed in my land it is estimated that 11 million Africans lived in captivity: 11 million across four hundred years. But just today, April 15, 2010, over twice as many (27 million) people, primarily women and children, are living as slaves. Shamefully, the greatest demand is for sexual slaves. Millions of sex slaves toiling and suffering around the world, my mind and my heart can't even begin to take it in. But this is the challenge facing my generation. Will we rise up to meet it in battle, or will we turn our backs?

I have some friends who are joining the front lines of this battle. Buddy and Krista have moved their family to Hamburg, Germany to reach out in love to those who work in the Reeperbahn. (Reeperbahn is the second largest red light district in Europe.) Their work and the stories they share through their blog have really put those staggering numbers into a perspective I can comprehend. Krista recently gave a speech that she shared on her blog that helped me have a little more understanding into the mindset of the women who work as prostitutes.

Please take the time to read her post. Then do something. Coffee.Justice.You. is a very simple way to be part of the solution. And don't underestimate the power of your prayers.

This is our moment. This is our battle. Let's be the generation that stood up and said, "Freedom for the captives, now!" Let's be a freedom generation.
Blog Med Sig 4

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Few Local Beauties

Allow me to introduce you to a couple of our local beauties.

Enjoy your day,
Blog Med Sig 4

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Little Things

Sometimes I just have to cheer for the little things. I've been home sick with a cold all week. The days have been gorgeous, sunny, balmy and breezy, all of which I have watched primarily through my windows (except for a looooong day doing medical stuff).  This has left me cranky. But today I celebrate a triumph. Not world peace or even a better way to pick up Dalmatian hair (which would contribute to world peace in my household), but still a triumph. I succeeded at a plumbing project.

My family has a long history of failing at plumbing projects. I have hazy preschool memories of a toilet being turned upside down in the front yard late at night to retrieve a toy that my brother accidently threw into the toilet at the exact moment that I flushed. I have clearer memories of a leaky bathroom faucet resulting in the entire floor of the bathroom being ripped out, including the subfloor. I do recall seeing the dirt below. So needless to say one of our lesser known family mottos is "Prex Precis a Canalis Restituo." (Loosely translated - call a plumber. Look it up. The things you can discover when you delve into genealogy).

But today I am victorious. I solved a plumbing problem without calling a plumber. And I did it while I couldn't even breathe without coughing. First, there erupted a nefarious leak. Then the anti-social hand spigot separated from the wild hose.  At great personal risk, I reunited the two.

Ok, so this actually involved screwing the two pieces back together. But I broke a nail. So I think this counts. Today I will applaud the little victories.
Blog Med Sig 4

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Far More Interesting Things to Do

Confession is good for the soul they say, so will you be my confidante?  May I share with you that I often find myself watching other women to size them up?  I do this everywhere I go: the zoo, church, the mall, the library, Trader Joe's, you name it. When I am in public I am usually comparing myself to the women around me.

I don't do this randomly.  No, I have set areas of evaluation.

Of course they are the areas that I struggle in, the parts of my own personal report card in which I would I would grade myself with 'Needs Improvement.'  And that would be on the days I am being kind.  Those kind days come around more often than they used to but not as often as I'd like.  On the other days it's flat F's.

Frankly, this is kind of difficult to admit. I want to be totally secure to embrace all of the women around me as sisters to be supported, befriended and encouraged. As great as that Kumbaya moment sounds, I'm just not there. I am not always gentle enough with myself to be gentle towards others.  

Now don't get me wrong I have a lot of friends and I don't walk around judging them all of the time. It's much easier to judge strangers, much less messy, none of those pesky facts to get in the way.   It's easier to rate myself against others when I don't know their actual dreams and heartaches. 

And I'm not criticizing all of the time; it's more of an evaluation, an internal pecking order of sorts. I'm looking to see where I fit in.  It goes something like this: she is slimmer than me - she is not but she just had a baby because she is pushing the sweetest little one in that stroller - she is beautiful and about ten years younger than me - she is so talented and look at the success she has already achieved and on and on. 

I have to tell you, it's exhausting just to type that, not to mention how tiring it is to walk around all day with that monologue drilling away in my head like irritating elevator music.  

So what?  I compare myself to other women. What's the big deal? 

Well, this is a very self-centered way to live. I am looking at other women solely through the lens of how they make me look.   Pride rears its ugly head and whines, "I want to be the best."  My little mental world revolves around me. This leaves very little room to give to others and I'm left a bit shriveled and pruney, like dried fruit I have very little love juicing out. I don't want to be dried fruit. I want to luscious, vibrant and warm. I want people, friends and strangers, to leave my company refreshed.

Then there's the reality that constant comparison stifles me.  Very rarely do I come out on the more successful end when I am making comparisons.  I am not looking around so I can find fault with the world, really.  I am looking to bolster the 'can't-not' voice in my head.  You know the one I'm talking about.  The voice that says you can't do x because you are not enough y: the equation of failure narrated by insecurity.  When I allow this voice to become to soundtrack of my days I dare not try, risk, create, speak or even be seen.   Humming along with this internal tune locks me up as effectively as any set of iron bars.

How do I escape? How do change the station, tune in a different song, break this debilitating habit? 

If you read this post you know that I am making a concerted effort to attack the insecurity that has been plaguing me.  To take out this habit I think I require awareness, resolve and truth.

It's time to become more aware.  I must consciously tune in to what I'm thinking.  I can no longer afford to let that insidious comparison dialogue play in the background.   I choose to listen to what is being said in my head.   I will not let the soothing melody of the familiar lull me back to sleep.  I choose to wake up.

In order to stay awake and allow change I must have a firm resolve.  If I'm not sure that this is a big deal or, on the other hand, I think it can't be beaten, I'm sunk. And the truth is, on my own, I can't beat this. But I'm not on my own. The power that breathed the universe into existence can change my heart. My Jesus can change me when I cannot. But I have to be deliberate in my cooperation. It's highly unlikely that I will haphazardly stumble into freedom. As painful as this habit has been on some level I have found satisfaction. It's had some sort of payoff for me, but now I see that the payoff is nothing compared to the price. So with firm conviction I commit to change.

How? I mean I love Tinkerbell (and Stinkerbell), children's books, romantic home decor and can daydream with the best of them, but under it all I am pretty practical. I want to know the nitty gritty 'how' of a thing. Well... I'm still figuring that out, but I do know that a necessary ingredient is a healthy dose of truth. Whenever I catch myself comparing I choose to embrace and repeat truth to myself. Out loud if necessary. Truths like, her story is not my story and her 'muchness' does not make me less. The truths found in the Bible are quite helpful. I love them because they have a power greater than my own thoughts and are infinitely more reliable. One of the verses pointed out to me through this book has just rocked my world this week.

We will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse.
We have far more interesting things to do with our lives.
Each of us is an original.
Galatians 5:26 THE MESSAGE

How's that for a truth you can sink your teeth into.  Just a few days ago I was being distracted by comparing myself to my friend.  She's young, trendy and slim.  I was already whistling that captivating comparison tune when I caught myself.  I closed my eyes and whispered, you have far more interesting things to do with your life than this.   Admittedly, I had to 'rinse and repeat'.  Of course I also asked God to rescue me.  And it worked.  I experienced a breath of freedom. 

Am I alone in this?  Or do a few of you find yourself doing the same thing?  My friends, we have far more interesting things to do with our lives than compare ourselves to each other.  Far more interesting things to do.  And just like the flowers blooming in my back yard each of us is an original. 

Sweet original Birdies, enjoy your interesting lives today!
Blog Med Sig 4

Monday, April 5, 2010

Super Cooperative Stinkerbell

So I've been trying to get a specific picture of Stinkerbell for a different post. It requires her to be sleeping. Since she refuses to sleep on command I have to sneak up on her. My gorgeous girl is quite youthful in appearance but she is 14 years old and going deaf. So creeping up on her to take a picture should be no problem, right?

Darn camera!  It makes this tiny beep when it's focused.  How did you hear that?

Seriously.  I tiptoed all the way around the house.  You heard my feet stepping on the grass?  Stinkerbell, I'm becoming very suspicious of this "deafness".  I'm wondering if you aren't just growing ornery.

Look at that face.  Definitely ornery.  And see that artful fog at the bottom of the last picture. Would it gross you out to know that was puppy's nose prints all over the sliding glass window? Oh, it would.  Well..uhmm...pretend it's just an artistic choice.
Blog Med Sig 4

Friday, April 2, 2010

Joybird's Library: Gone-Away Lake

I love children's books.  No, seriously, ninety percent of the books I own are children's books.  And, since most of my stuff is in storage, this translates to approximately 38 boxes of children's books.  I even imagine an entire room devoted to books, my own library in my big little house of dreams. 

I think it all began with my parents reading to me and my little brother, complete with character voices.  Just to see if we were paying attention, my dad would slip in that somebody, Ebenezer Scrooge for example, was sitting down to eat a nice, piping hot slice of pizza.  This was, of course, followed by a chorus of objections and corrections. Then there were the trips to the library with mom.  It was one of the first places we visited whenever we moved (which was often).  I still love the smell of libraries.  I walk in the door and get an excited feeling in the pit of my stomach, adventure awaits.  Finally, my Grandma Arlene sealed the deal in the third grade.  She gave me the most amazing gift a budding bibliophile could ask for: boxes and boxes of my mother's books.  Her entire juvenile collection was, and is, mine.  This even included a few volumes of a series my Great-Grandma Big (more on that random name in another post) read as a child.

Since I have this lovely obsession passion, I thought I'd share it with you.  Today's recommendation from Joybird's Library is "Gone-Away Lake" by Elizabeth Enright.  I've been intrigued with this book for a very long time, but was only able to read it fairly recently. It's the story of two cousins who happen upon an abandoned vacation settlement on a lake that has been turned into a bog by the building of a dam.  They meet the eccentric inhabitants of this settlement and, of course, have wonderful adventures. 

In my Southern childhood I stumbled upon a "Gone-Away Lake" of my own.  The wonder and mystery of that discovery has never left me: the dusky light as picking blackberries with friends in the woods lead us to crest a hill with an astonishing sight on the other side.  A huge, almost flat muddy expanse with pockets of reeds and other bog plants.  None of us knew what had caused the lake/pond to dry up but that memory retains a magical, dreamlike quality for me.

But I digress. (Warning, this may happen a lot.)  The events of Gone-Away Lake are not just the clichéd misadventures of kids learning about themselves in nature.  The author creates unique three dimensional characters.  I love the portrayal of friendship between elderly characters and children.  There is a camaraderie and respect between the generations that I don't often find in more modern children's literature; at least, not developed in such an unforced manner.  Ms. Enright's style is breezy. But there is a subtle humor in her writing. "He was a tall boy with curly brown hair; he was going to be very handsome, but he didn't know it yet.  Neither did anyone else."  I like the authenticity of her characters' mindsets, which differ by age.    It's also refreshing to lose yourself in a safer era when parents could allow their kids to disappear into the woods exploring, every day, all summer without fear.  I'd recommend this book to readers age 7 to 11 who enjoy stories with animals, nature or history. 
Happy reading,
Blog Med Sig 4
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