Wise Words

"Wait on the Lord, be strong and of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart...wait on the Lord. Psalms 27:14


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Sunday, December 31, 2006

...Looking Forward to the Next Year

So, my last post covered the resolutions I made at this point last year and what happened to them. By this time next year, I will be doing the same with these as well. These are in no particular order of importance just as they come to my mind.

For 2007 I resolve:

1. To be more responsible - I am a responsible person, but there are areas in my life that could use some help.
2. To have more fun. This past year was a year that I would never want to repeat - though I learned and grew a lot, it was through a lot of heartache and disappointment. This year I resolve to have more fun.
3. To get out more. This kind of goes hand in hand with #2, however, I am mostly a homebody and I have a tendencey to sit at home unless someone - most usually MC - drags me out. I resolve to get out more on my own and do things I want to do even if I have to do it on my own.
4. To get that massage - heck to just get A massage.
5. To open my life to the possibility of love. I may not find it this year, but that doesn't mean I have to be afraid of it any longer or give half effort on it.
6. To be more open to criticism. I have a very hard time listening to anything negative said about me. But I have to realize that these points usually are well-meaning and meant to try and improve myself.
7. To be less cluttered. Yes, I admit - I am NOT a neat freak. I resolve to do a better job of keeping pace with my clutter.
8. To get rid of some older clothes that I have been hanging on to - just in case. You think that would be easy but you don't know me very well.
9. To lose another 20 or more pounds and STICK with working out. Yeah, I have to force myself to work out - which is why I haven't done it in so long, but walking so much at the Trail of Lights really did wonders for me, physically, mentally and emotionally so I signed up at a little weight room at a rec center about 5 minutes from my place to really target the areas that need help. I have incentive to do this.
10. To stop dwelling on the past - yes this was part of my resolution last year that is carrying over to this year. I can't make a life for myself for the future if I can't let go of certain parts of the past.
11. To increase my self esteem. Honestly - I have very little. I don't have a good self image so that is what #9 is about.
12. To become the woman of God that I know I can become but yet am still a bit hesitant to step out on that limb and do it.
13. To be a better mother, daughter and friend rather than just being complacent and keeping things status quo - in other words, be a more proactive person in my relationships.
14. To continue to see the glass as half full - this past year the optomism that I am famous for almost slipped under. These past few years have really done a number on me but I am starting to see the light ahead and it isn't an oncoming train.
15. To try and stop wearing my heart on my sleeve as much. I am an open book and I trust people way too easily so therefore I get hurt too easily and get taken advantage of too easily. I need to have more backbone.
16. To volunteer more. I had such a wonderful time at the Trail of Lights this year and I am resolving to volunteer more and even get my amateur radio license and get more first aid training to help in my volunteer capacity.
17. To STOP getting in God's way. I have to remember that God is in control of my life. If He's my co-pilot, I need to switch seats b/c He should be THE pilot.
18. To reach out more to others who have been in my situation or are in my situation regarding a broken marriage. I have a lot to give, I just need to find the avenue in which to channel it.
19. To stop swearing so much. Yes, shocker! I don't do it around Emily, but get me in traffic with stupid drivers and I don't do so good. Get me frustrated and I don't do so good. Get me angry and it is very hard for me to not just unleash my mouth. Most times I am the only example of a Christian person that anyone will ever see. I should live my life as such.
20. To remember that work IS NOT my priority, but rather that my family and friends are.
21. To find peace in the midst of the chaos that is this world and my life.
22. To worry LESS and enjoy MORE. Enjoy Emily more, enjoy life more, enjoy my friends and family more, enjoy myself more.

I'm sure there will be many more to come, but those are my thoughts for right now. MC is not up for going out tonight but that isn't stopping me tonight. I'm going to this little dance hall to watch a band and maybe do some boot-scootin' and catch up with old friends. Who knows what tonight will bring, but it will be the beginning of a new year, new times, new experiences and a new me. Ok, not a new me but a better me inside and out.

My Wish for You in 2007

May peace break into your house and may thieves come to steal your debts. May the pockets of your jeans become a magnet for $100 bills. May love stick to your face like Vaseline and may laughter assault your lips! May your clothes smell of success like smoking tires and may happiness slap you across the face and may your tears be that of joy. May the problems you had forget your home address! In simple words ............
May 2007 be the best year of your life!!!

May you all have a safe, joyous and happy New Year celebration! Thank you for stopping by and sharing in my journey on this rollercoaster ride called life. :)

Friday, December 29, 2006

Reflections of the past year...

So, last year around this time I had a post on my resolutions and what they were going to be. Let's just check over them and see what happened:

I, Nicole Boedeker, resolve to:

1. Laugh more
I think I did more crying than laughing. It's been a tough year.
2. Worry less Nope, I got divorced, have had no child support coming in for several months, my ex got his little mistress pregnant, most likely before he was even served papers and had their kid a few days before Em's birthday and we have been just going round and round with the whole thing about Em and child support since then. I'm paying her tuition all by myself along with the regular bills and it's not easy, but I do it to give her a better life and education than what she would get in a public school and I do it willingly. I can now disclose this as it is public knowledge - we lost the re-bid of our major contract at work that we were going after to keep so the work situation is shakey since they really don't need 3 admins and I have the least tenure there. Yeah, worry abounds but I'm hoping that 2007 will be a better year.
3. Trust God with everything instead of trying to fix it myself. Well, I have learned to wait on God more than go full speed ahead on my own - but I still have problems sometimes on being impatient and not understanding God's timing.
4. Read my Bible more and spend more time with God Ok, so I kind of tanked on the reading the Bible more part, but I have spent more time with God, talking to Him, unloading on Him, thanking Him for the things in my life and that I experience that are God's miracles to me - like a gorgeous sunset or gold fog in the morning or an easy traffic day...the simple things from God are what I am taking more notice of.
5. Look to the future instead of dwell on the past Ummmm, I plead the 5th on this one.
6. Do more stuff outside the home for me whether it's lunch with a friend or a movie by myself or take a drive in the hills around Austin on a warm day, windows open, music on - just me and God and nobody else(if you don't take care of yourself, how can you take care of those who depend on you, like a precious little 4 year old) Yes, I did more of this. Traveled to Missouri with a Em to meet friends from across the US. MC has been a HUGE factor in trying to break me out of my homebody, reclusive shell. In fact, we are going to go out for NYE - first time I've been out in at least 4 years for NYE.
7. Lose 20 pounds (or more) through #8 and additional exercise. I lost about 20 and during the Trail of Lights I walked on average about 6-10 miles a night and I am going to start a fitness regemine of weight lifting and walking/jogging this coming year - in fact I already signed up for it and paid for it today.
8. Get out to dance again - I used to teach C&W dance and was really good at it and I loved it! In fact, I lost 40 pounds in the first year teaching it b/c it was so intense. Was down to a size 5/6. I won't see that size again, but a nice size 10 would't be so bad. Not as much as I would have liked. MC and I have gone out a few times dancing, but unless a guy friend dances with me, I don't usually get asked to country dance anymore. Bummer - I vow to change that this year too.
9. Do more things with Emily that are what she wants to do, not so much what I want us to do I've been working on this but admittedly still have a little ways to go, but it has gotten much better.
10. Take a trip to somewhere, anywhere, that isn't writing, family reunion or work related Well, I went to Missouri with Em on a trip that I coordinated and facilitated and this coming year I am going to be in charge of these trips all across the US for my friends Jack and his wife Gayle. I will be going to a few of them too. At least 2 in Missouri/Kansas and 2 in Texas.
11. Take that full day at a spa that I talked about in the last post. I'd love to get an exfoliation scrub, wrap, facial, reflexology foot massage, head massage and an aromatherapy deep tissue massage. Of course that will be about 525.00-600.00 for all of that (tip included). SHAH! Don't have the money for that but it's nice to aspire to for this coming year. Um, yeah with what money? Maybe this year.
12. Give over ALL my anger, hurt, loneliness and disappointment to God and let Him deal with it instead of giving it to Him in parts. He can take care of it better than I can. Oh, that is so hard to do. It's hard to give it all over and not still feel it at times and have it come flooding back. Still working on this one.

So, as you can see, it has not been a total success, but that is what life is about. Striving to do better, do more, live more, be better all around. I'll post my 2007 resolutions Sunday and some of them might surprise you - I'm sure that when I really think of them that some of them might surprise me too.

BTW, what are your resolutions?

Friday's Feast

How do you usually celebrate on New Year's Eve?

Wow, it's been so long since I've been out on New years. I used to go out with friends and celebrate, but I have not been out in at least 4 years. MC and I are going out this year though so anything's possible.

Name one thing unexpected that happened to you in 2006.

Finding out that The Ex had gotten his little mistress pregnant well before our divorce was final, very possibly before he was served the papers even, and having their baby be born just a few days before Emily's birthday.

Where was your favorite place that you visited in 2006?

I really enjoyed Branson with friends from around the country and New Braunfels with friends from Texas.

Main Course
What resolution is your top priority for 2007?

Really? I think my priority, aside from Emily, is trying to get my life in order, do things that I have been putting off and really trying to turn to God for everything first instead of myself.

Using just three words, describe 2006.

Heartbreaking, hopeful, frustrating

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Trail of Lights

So, the last night of the Trail of Lights was such a bummer. I was really looking forward to working it and with the people I have come to know fairly well. It was pouring when we got there and the volunteer parking was flooded so they were parking us under the bridge and shuttling us in to the volunteer area. About an hour after we got there, before it even opened, they decided to shut it down b/c the electricians said it was way too dangerous with all the water and electricity/GFI's going every where. There were some displays not lit and the electrical crew couldn't work on them b/c of the danger of electrocution. I really, really was bummed about that. Plus, I wanted another funnel cake! LOL! Those are so few and far between here.

Some of the people I have been working with over the past two weeks I got to know pretty well and we got along wonderfully. My group controlled the communications between the Park Police, APD, PARD, the volunteers and ourselves. It was a big learning experience. I grew close to some of the people in PARD and Park Police so it was a real let down to go from anticipating our last few hours working together to leaving an hour after we got there. I really hope to volunteer with some of them again. The people I got closest to were with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department. All of them were a bit younger than me, well, maybe Stacy wasn't, but Kate, Devon and Lucas were. Well Lucas wasn't too terribly much younger than me, but was still in his late 20's. The other girls, Kate and Devon were around their mid-20's but we all got along supremely well. Working with this crew was one of the most fun times I've had all year – and for the regular readers, you know how bad this year has been but for a couple bright spots. I looked forward to getting there to work and I can't wait to do so again next year!

Our communications lead and a couple of the supervisors who were there were "gently" pushing me to get my radio license as they say I'm a natural at it and at taking command (yeah, I laughed at that one too!) and I think that would be rather fun – especially now that I know how everything works.

Maybe I can work the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo. After all it is a two week long affair that is a lot of fun! I'll have to bring that up to CERT and REACT to see what they have lined up for that. Of course SXSW is that same week so I'm sure that there would be a choice of where to go if they are helping out with both of those. Hmmmmmm, my mind is all a flutter with possibilities now!

Anyway, here are several shots that I took on Friday night – the last great night of the Trail. I hope you enjoy them. There were 28 stations and I patrolled stations 10-20/Santa's House/Volunteer Headquarters. That was probably a good 1/3 mile. All total over the 7 days I worked in a 2 week period I lost 12 pounds, 1.5 inches and I feel great! (Except for the lingering crud in my lungs from the bronchopneumonia I've had over the past 2 weeks). These pictures are mostly from the section I patrolled though some are out of the patrol area. I hope that you enjoy the pictures and please stop on by next year if you're in Austin and say hello! It's a fun time. :)

This is a distance shot of our HUGE Zilker tree. The tree is something like 150 feet tall and has all of these lights and you go under it and look up and spin until you are so dizzy you can't see straight. It's a blast! The Zilker Tree is the worlds largest man-made tree.

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This is a closer look at the tree

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Under the tree spinning around - It'll get you really dizzy!

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Here is the entrance to the Trail of Lights

These are various displays along the Trail

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I particularly liked this tree. It reminded me of one of my favorite childhood books called "The Laughing Dragon".
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This one is Santa's Magic Workshop and honestly, the sound from it reminded me of the nasty Gremlins laughter. It kind of freaked a lot of the volunteers out. Most of us thought that it belonged more in a haunted house than a Christmas venue. The noises that came from it were slightly macabre.

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Our local EMS got into the act as well. The volunteer headquarters/shacks were right behind the decorated ambulance.

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Here is the exit tunnel - this one actually has a mirror ball that wasn't going at this point and the song for this area was Carol of the Bells.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas from my family to yours

Most of you who stop by here I do not know, though there are several of you that I connect with on a regular basis, and some that I have not communicated with in a while - even so, y'all remain frequently in my thoughts and prayers. I am blessed to know all of you and my life has been made all the better for it. Knowing that you enjoy this blog and come back on a regular basis makes me keep writing. I have made some wonderful blogfriends over the past couple of years and have been richly blessed by them.

So at this Christmas time I have several wishes for all of you who stop by. I wish you hope, joy, peace and happiness. May you be content with what you have and reflect on the blessings in your life and when you count them may you find all you've been given to be more than you sought.

May your spirit never grow old and may your heart see with the innocence of a child. I wish for you friendships and support when times get rough and may you find that you always have enough.

May you take time to share and thank those who share with you and never forget to express your love to those who are near and dear to you too. May you remember that hugs help to heal the hurts and a smile can lighten the load. I wish for you smooth goings as you travel your road. I wish for your journeys to be short and your burdens light.

May your days be filled with warmth and sun and may all your clouds have a silver lining. I wish for you to never feel lonely, because there are those who care. May you realize that you are special, unique and that you do make a difference in the lives of others.

I wish you smiles and laughter, love and cheer, not just for today but also through the coming year. I wish for your mind and your spirit to be at peace and I wish for you freedom from all worries, stress and fear as you reflect on the One who holds you in His heart so dear. May the love, peace and joy of Christmas be yours always and not just during this season.

Merry Christmas to all of you and may you have the most wonderful of years in 2007!

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Friday's Feast on a Saturday

Call me crazy.

I didn't take any days off through this pneumonia/bronchitis thing. I did come in late a couple of days and leave early those days and I worked the Trail of Lights as well. A friend of mine called it a different kind of crazy. LOL! Sometimes I just have this need to do and do and do. On Wednesday we had a potluck at work and I brought my Irish Stew and Mashed Potatoes and they were the hit of the potluck. I love to cook and I'm so glad that people liked it!

I will be posting Trail of Lights pictures later. Last night was a beautiful night - a little chilly but just beautiful. Tonight it's supposed to be in the upper 30's to low 40's and raining. It's going to be miserable but it's the last night so we're all thankful for that. On the plus side - I've lost 12 pounds and 1.5 inches since last week Wednesday. WOOHOO!

Well, here is my Friday's Feast a day late.

What is one of your Christmas traditions?

My favorite Christmas tradition is at my mom's house. She has her tree decorated with lots of white lights – my favorite kind. Not the blinking ones, but the steady, small, clear white lights. LOTS of them. On Christmas Eve, after the Christmas Eve candlelight service at church, after the presents have been opened and the food has been eaten (in our Dutch family we open gifts Christmas Eve), we get blankets and pillows and lay on the living room floor to fall asleep under the soft glow of the Christmas tree lights and listening to the quiet hush of Christmas music playing in the CD player. It's quiet and still and peaceful and it's just lovely!

Who is the easiest person on your list to buy presents for?

Emily. She makes it so easy by going “Oh, I want that mommy...and that...and that...!” She truly is such a special girl. She really doesn’t ask for much knowing that I don’t have a lot to spend so I really try to get a couple of bigger gifts throughout the year and then a few smaller ones like movies, etc. that she’s been asking for.

What is your favorite Christmas scent?

Ooooh, that’s a toughie! I love the scent of a wood fire. I also enjoy the scent of pine trees and Christmas cooking with cinnamon, vanilla and cloves. Cold has a scent all its own that is refreshing. Bath and Body Works has a candle that incorporates a lot of the scents of Christmas in it and it smells divine!

Main Course
If you could give a fellow blogger a Christmas gift, who would it be and what would you give them?

This is a total no-brainer - she came to my mind as soon as I read this question. CMHL – I would give her the gift of being truly happy in her life with no pressure, depression, stress or HWMNBN (pretty interchangeable there since he causes the majority of her stress and depression) and no problems for her wonderful children as well. I wish her a life filled with true love and true happiness.

What's something on your Christmas wish list this year that you need (not just want)?

I could go with the usual things like money - that would be REALLY NICE for the bills since The Ex isn't paying his court ordered child support and I am paying Em's tuition all by myself along with all the other bills - but I would just like to have a good year in 2007. I need to have a good year b/c the last few have not been so very good - lots of stress and uncertainty and betrayal and hurt. I need a drama-free, stress-free year. That is what is on my Christmas list.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

It's official

My doctor is a smartaleck. I told him to NOT tell me that I had bronchitis or pneumonia. He said "Ok...you have bronchiopneumonia." Great. Just great. He was suprised that I had gone on with this since Wednesday and not had it go to full pneumonia - said I was very lucky b/c he had seen 4 people this morning with the same symptoms as me and they all had "whopping cases of pneumonia" and that I actually sounded worse than them with my cough. He said if I had waited until Thursday to come in that I would have been in some serious trouble with it - including possible hospitalization. So I'm home early from work, exhausted as all get out and having to take the granddaddy of antibiotics - 1 pill per day for 5 days, plus an inhaler for breathing easier - Advair and since I am highly allergic to any hydrocodones - including vicodin and codine I'm on a behind the counter OTC cough suppressant. Ok, going to crash now. Glad I'm off tonight. Going to take it easy.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Life on the Trail...of Lights

So, it's been pretty busy, as you can imagine. Saturday and Sunday were pretty busy – especially Saturday. We had an estimated 40,000+ on that night alone through the Trail of Lights. We had very few drunks but what we did have a lot of was missing kids. We had at least 12-13 missing children reports that night. The thing that I do not understand . . . I was looking after this one 5 year old whose mom lost track of him – he was 5, very small and delicate for a little boy – or maybe my Em is just really big and sturdy for a 5 year old. He was small and scared and silently crying. We tried for at least 30-40 minutes to locate his mom. Finally, we had a report that a mother was missing her child. She was at the very end of the trail – this little boy was about ¼ of the way in to the trail. What kind of mother walks the entire trail before going to someone and reporting her child missing? With 47 displays and 28 stations, there was ample time. The boy was at station 8. I told net control that I would bring the boy to the volunteer house so that he could be reunited with his mommy. He was so exited to be with her.

So, what would you say when reunited with your missing child? Would you hug them and say "I'm so glad I found you! I was so scared." Would you let that child know that you loved them and that they meant the world to you and then talk to them about the seriousness of what they had done/being separated meant? What would you do?

Want to know what this mother did? First words out of her mouth were "WHAT did I tell you? I TOLD you to stay with me. Do you know how embarrassing this is to me? DO you have any idea how embarrassed I am right now?" She then turned to me and said "I am so sorry about this." I was trying hard to keep my cool b/c the little boy was looking at me with these big, blue, sad eyes. I told the mother that it was fine, we have a lot of missing children reports and that he was very scared about having been separated from her but he had done a good job of giving me information about her so that we could find her. Her response was "Well he should be scared. I'm very sorry." No hugs or kisses to soothe this cute little boy, no declarations of love or concern other than she had been embarrassed. As they walked away she still was berating him about how embarrassed she was. She should be embarrassed – for her own behavior.

Some people do not deserve to be a parent.

It is still beyond me how she walked the rest of the trail first before trying to find her child. Some people are just selfish like that I guess.

Last night was fairly calm – large crowd but fairly calm. Still had several missing children but on both nights everyone was reunited.

I've been chosen to do the whole spiel to the volunteers before the trail opened of what to do and what not to do pretty much the rest of the days that I'm working. It was kind of funny, after I went through the talking points Park Police told me I had pretty much covered what they were going to say but that they did have one thing to say and asked my permission to speak. Hmmmm, I could get used to that. LOL. KIDDING! I had a blast! I've been asked to get my HAM radio license. I'll have to check into that. I'm pretty hoarse today with a lot of upper respiratory crud still. I guess the humidity and sweating and muggy air at night isn't helping much.

Tonight we had some pretty interesting volunteers. A couple of high school groups were there and we had some PDA issues - flagrantly, blatantly in front of the families right at their stations. It's kind of like "Look, this is a family event. They are here to see the lights - not to see you suck face. Family being the operative word here, you look like you're wanting to try and start one, but this is neither the time nor the place. Can't you get enough of each other outside of this event so that you, little missy, aren't wrapped around your twig of a boyfriend like a python in front of the kiddies? You may be feeling 'warm and tingly' but we're not lovin' the loving - so knock it off!" We had two different couples that kept on "disappearing" into the brush for extended periods of time doing Lord knows what. I caught one of them trying to sneak off and when I asked them what station they belonged to, to which they replied "We're off to get some water." Water? Maybe if the water you're talking about is the lake - which is beside the venue - but there isn't any drinking water down that way. I think there should be some definite age limits to who can volunteer out there.

On a plus, because I've been walking/jogging so much on this "job" at the Trail I've lost about 7 pounds since last week Wednesday. Who knew it could come off so fast? Of course, I wear my steel toe boots so it's like I'm wearing ankle weights every night. Here's to hoping and losing about 10 more by the time this week is over. I have 4 more nights to go. It would be nice. :)

On a negative - I am going to the doctor tomorrow b/c my lungs are filled with yuck, I have almost no voice left and am having problems breathing. I'd like to get it cleared up as much as possible before Wednesday night - my next night on patrol.

Here is are some Christmas funnies for you to enjoy.

The 12 Days Of Christmas (For the politically correct)

On the 12th day of the Eurocentrically imposed midwinter festival, my Significant Other in a consenting adult, monogamous relationship gave to me:

TWELVE males reclaiming their inner warrior through ritual drumming,

ELEVEN pipers piping (plus the 18-member pit orchestra made up of members in good standing of the Musicians Equity Union as called for in their union contract even though they will not be asked to play a note),

TEN melanin deprived testosterone-poisoned scions of the patriarchal ruling class system leaping,

NINE persons engaged in rhythmic self-expression,

EIGHT economically disadvantaged female persons stealing milk-products from enslaved Bovine-Americans,

SEVEN endangered swans swimming on federally protected wetlands,

SIX enslaved Fowl-Americans producing stolen non-human animal products,

FIVE golden symbols of culturally sanctioned enforced domestic incarceration,

(NOTE: after members of the Animal Liberation Front threatened to throw red paint at my computer, the calling birds, French hens and partridge have been reintroduced to their native habitat. To avoid further Animal-American enslavement, the remaining gift package has been revised.)

FOUR hours of recorded whale songs

THREE deconstructionist poets

TWO Sierra Club calendars printed on recycled processed tree carcasses

AND a Spotted Owl activist chained to an old-growth pear tree.

To: All Employees
From: Management
Subject: Office conduct during the Christmas season

Effective immediately, employees should keep in mind the following guidelines in compliance with FROLIC (the Federal Revelry Office and Leisure Industry Council).

1. Running aluminum foil through the paper shredder to make tinsel is discouraged.

2. Playing Jingle Bells on the push-button phone is forbidden. (It runs up an incredible long distance bill.)

3. Egg nog will NOT be dispensed in vending machines.

4. Company cars are not to be used to go over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house.

5. All fruitcake is to be eaten BEFORE July 25.

6. Work requests are not to be filed under "Bah humbug."

In spite of all this, the staff is encouraged to have a Happy Holiday.

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS in Legalese (Author unknown)

Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter "the House") a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to a mouse.

A variety of foot apparel, e.g., stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by and around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or belief that St. Nick a/k/a/ St. Nicholas a/k/a/ Santa Claus (hereinafter "Claus") would arrive at sometime thereafter. The minor residents, i.e. the children, of the aforementioned House were located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal hallucinations, i.e. dreams, wherein vision of confectionery treats, including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams.

Whereupon the party of the first part (sometimes hereinafter referred to as ("I"), being the joint-owner in fee simple of the House with the party of the second part (hereinafter "Mamma"), and said Mamma had retired for a sustained period of sleep. (At such time, the parties were clad in various forms of headgear, e.g., kerchief and cap.

Suddenly, and without prior notice or warning, there did occur upon the unimproved real property adjacent and appurtenant to said House, i.e., the lawn, a certain disruption of unknown nature, cause and/or circumstance. The party of the first part did immediately rush to a window in the House to investigate the cause of such disturbance.

At that time, the party of the first part did observe, with some degree of wonder and/or disbelief, a miniature sleigh (hereinafter "the Vehicle") being pulled and/or drawn very rapidly through the air by approximately eight (8) reindeer. The driver of the Vehicle appeared to be and in fact was, the previously referenced Claus.

Said Claus was providing specific direction, instruction and guidance to the approximately eight (8) reindeer and specifically identified the animal co-conspirators by name: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen (hereinafter "the Deer"). (Upon information and belief, it is further asserted that an additional co- conspirator named "Rudolph" may have been involved.)

The party of the first part witnessed Claus, the Vehicle and the Deer intentionally and willfully trespass upon the roofs of several residences located adjacent to and in the vicinity of the House, and noted that the Vehicle was heavily laden with packages, toys and other items of unknown origin or nature. Suddenly, without prior invitation or permission, either express or implied, the Vehicle arrived at the House, and Claus entered said House via the chimney.

Said Claus was clad in a red fur suit, which was partially covered with residue from the chimney, and he carried a large sack containing a portion of the aforementioned packages, toys, and other unknown items. He was smoking what appeared to be tobacco in a small pipe in blatant violation of local ordinances and health regulations.

Claus did not speak, but immediately began to fill the stocking of the minor children, which hung adjacent to the chimney, with toys and other small gifts. (Said items did not, however, constitute "gifts" to said minor pursuant to the applicable provisions of the U.S. Tax Code.)

Upon completion of such task, Claus touched the side of his nose and flew, rose and/or ascended up the chimney of the House to the roof where the Vehicle and Deer waited and/or served as "lookouts." Claus immediately departed for an unknown destination.

However, prior to the departure of the Vehicle, Deer and Claus from said House, the party of the first part did hear Claus state and/or exclaim: "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!" Or words to that effect.

And Finally...

FROM: Pauline Lewis, Human Resources Director

TO: All Employees
RE: Christmas PARTY ON DEC. 23RD
DATE: December 1

I'm happy to inform you that the company Christmas Party will take place on December 23, starting at noon in the banquet room at Luigi's Open Pit Barbecue. There will be a cash bar and plenty of eggnog! We'll have a small band playing traditional carols...feel free to sing along. And don't be surprised if our CEO shows up dressed as Santa Claus! A Christmas tree will be lit at 1:00 P.M.

Exchange of gifts among employees can be done at that time, however, no gift should be over $10.00 to make the giving of gifts easy for everyone's pockets.

This gathering is only for employees! A special announcement will be made by our CEO at that time!

Merry Christmas to you and your family!


FROM: Pauline Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: December 2
RE: Holiday Party

In no way was yesterday's memo intended to exclude our Jewish employees. We recognize that Chanukah is an important holiday which often coincides with Christmas, though unfortunately not this year.

However, from now on we're calling it our "Holiday Party." The same policy applies to employees who are celebrating Kwanzaa at this time. There will be no Christmas tree present. No Christmas carols sung. We will have other type of music for your enjoyment.

Happy now?

Happy Holidays to you and your family.


FROM: Pauline Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: December 3
RE: Holiday Party

Regarding the note I received from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous requesting a non-drinking table ... you didn't sign your name. I'm happy to accommodate this request, but if I put a sign on a table that reads, "AA Only"; you wouldn't be anonymous anymore. How am I supposed to handle this? Somebody?

Forget about the gift exchange, no gift exchange is allowed since the union officials feel that $10.00 is too much money and executives believe $10.00 is very little for a gift.



FROM: Pauline Lewis, Human Resources Director
To: All Employees
DATE: December 7
RE: Holiday Party

My, what a diverse group we are! I had no idea that December 20 begins the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which forbids eating and drinking during daylight hours. There goes the party! Seriously, we can appreciate how a luncheon this time of year does not accommodate our Muslim employees' beliefs. Perhaps Luigi's can hold off on serving your meal until the end of the party — the days are so short this time of year — or else package everything for take home in little foil swans. Will that work?

Meanwhile, I've arranged for members of Overeaters Anonymous to sit farthest from the dessert buffet and pregnant women will get the table closest to the restrooms. Gays are allowed to sit with each other. Lesbians do not have to sit with Gay men, each will have their own table. Yes, there will be a flower arrangement for the Gay men's table. To the person asking permission to cross dress – no cross dressing allowed.

We will have booster seats for short people. Low-fat food will be available for those on a diet. We cannot control the salt used in the food, we suggest for those people with high blood problems to taste first. There will be fresh fruits as dessert for Diabetics since the restaurant cannot supply "No Sugar" desserts. Sorry!

Did I miss anything?!?!?!?!?!


FROM: Pauline Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All Employees
DATE: December 8
RE: Holiday Party

So December 22 marks the Winter Solstice...what do you expect me to do, a tap dance on your heads? Fire regulations at Luigi's prohibit the burning of sage by our "earth-based Goddess-worshiping" employees, but we'll try to accommodate your shamanic drumming circle during the band's breaks. Okay???


FROM: Pauline Lewis, Human Resources Director
To: All Employees
Date: December 9
RE: Holiday Party

People, people, nothing sinister was intended by having our CEO dress up like Santa Claus! Even if the anagram of "Santa" does happen to be "Satan," there is no evil connotation to our own "little man in a red suit." It's a tradition, folks, like sugar shock at Halloween or family feuds over the Thanksgiving turkey or broken hearts on Valentine's Day.

Could we lighten up? Please?????????

Also the company has changed their mind in announcing the special announcement at the gathering. You will get a notification in the mail sent to your home.


FROM: Pauline Lewis, Human Resources Director
TO: All #%&$**@ Employees
DATE: December 10
RE: The %#*&^%@*%^Holiday Party

I have no #%&*@*^ idea what the announcement is all about. What the %#&^!@ do I care...I KNOW WHAT I AM GOING TO GET!!!!!!!!!!!! You change your address now and you are dead!!!!!!!!!!!! No more changes of address will be allowed in my office. Try to come in and change your address, I will have you hung from the ceiling in the warehouse!!!!!!!!!!!

Vegetarians!?!?!? I've had it with you people!!! We're going to keep this party at Luigi's Open Pit Barbecue whether you like it or not, so you can sit quietly at the table furthest from the "grill of death," as you so quaintly put it, and you'll get your #$%^&*! salad bar, including hydroponic tomatoes. But you know, they have feelings, too. Tomatoes scream when you slice them. I've heard them scream. I'm hearing them scream right now! HA!

I hope you all have a rotten holiday! Drive drunk and die, you hear me!!!!!!!!!!!

The B!tc# from HELL!!!!!!!!

FROM: Terri Bishop, Acting Human Resources Director
DATE: December 14
RE: Pauline Lewis and Holiday Party

I'm sure I speak for all of us in wishing Pauline Lewis a speedy recovery from her stress-related illness and I'll continue to forward your cards to her at the sanitarium.

In the meantime, management has decided to cancel our Holiday Party and give everyone the afternoon of the 23rd off with full pay.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

It's a late Friday's Feast and FFT

I go out again tonight for the first night of three in a row for the Trail of Lights. I'm going to try and get some pictures to post as well so you can see how beautiful it all is!

So we'll just jump right in with the post!

What was your very first job with a paycheck?

I worked retail for the Limited – hated it but I got some great discounts on cute clothes.

Did you ever lose something really important to you?

Yes, my heart – long before The Ex, and it's yet to really recover from it. IF there is a next time, I need to be more careful about whose care I give it to.

What is the best Christmas present you ever received?

Hmmmm, not really sure about that one. I do really enjoy the garnet earrings from James Avery that The Ex gave me the first Christmas we were dating. I wear those all the time. Is that the best? I'm not sure, but I think it has been one of my favorites.

Main Course
Tell about a favorite "hang out" place for you and your friends when you were in high school.

The Flats out at the lake. Senior skip day (which we did every year, not just when we were seniors), after semester finals for fall and spring (those were ½ days), during the summer...you name it, we were there. Underage drinking was huge. I remember the last year getting busted by the Travis County Sheriff's Department and staying there, as a "good" girl, to help clean up the empties that littered the area. B/C I did that they were very lenient and did not give me an MIP – probably b/c they never saw me with anything in my hands anyway, but they did send a "warning" letter to my house to let my mom know that I had been at a party where underage drinking had occurred. I'd already told my mom about it so it wasn't a big surprise.

Name something that always brings a smile to your face.

EASY – my daughter!

Next up is this week's FFT.

This FFT contains some fun you can have for your kids and/or yourself for Christmas. These are all just a blast and I have done them all – especially the email from Santa. I do that for Emily every year. It's free and is fun for the kids to get a personalized reply instantly. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I have.

Call Santa for free!
You can call the following number and your kids will get a recorded message from “Santa” until Christmas Eve. Have fun! 1-800-972-6242

Write to Santa and get an instant personalized response!
HO!! Ho!! ho!! Write a letter to Santa Claus? Yes kids its true! Just finish this letter... Santa's waiting for *you*! From the North Pole, Santa will send your reply... faster than Rudolph the reindeer can fly!! Merry Christmas!! Santa Claus will reply to you personally!! Just wait in front of your computer for a few seconds and your reply will magically appear (of course, it might take a bit longer if Santa Claus is really busy or taking a "cookie break"!!).

Email Santa Here

Go Elf Yourself!
Yes, you heard that right. This is a really FUN site that allows you to upload a picture of you and put your head on top on an "elf" and create a fun little dance with music. Create your own elfamorphasis and email it to others!

Get Elfed!

This little gem was submitted by a commentor:
It's time to play Simon Says with Santa. At this site you cal tell Santa what you want him to do and chances are, he'll do it. Just be careful what you ask for. Go play Simon Sez Santa!

Well, I hope that you have fun this last week before Christmas with these nifty little Christmas gems above. Remember that this season is not about getting, it's about giving – just as God gave us His one and only Son to come down to earth to be born as both human and God so that He would know what it was to be human and experience what we do and yet give us that hope that we can become His child if we believe and accept God's gift of salvation to us through his death on the cross.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hurt so good

So, today I am dealing with a sore body from the waist down and a sinus/upper respiratory infection that I've been trying to fight off the past couple of days, but last night was a total blast! During the Christmas season I work as a Community Emergency Response Team volunteer at our local Christmas attraction here in Austin – the Trail of Lights. The Trail of Lights attracts probably close to half a million visitors every year during its two week run. As a rover who does "undercover security" for a quarter of the mile-long stretch, I see all kinds of things with the people who come out to enjoy the lights. Drunks and stoners – which we help the police apprehend, love-birds, families, friends and various groups. I must have walked at least 5-6 miles last night in steel-toe boots. We had several drunks last night – in fact they were surprised at how many there were. Out of the 9 PI catches (PI=Public Intoxication), 7 of them were mine. I had a great team of 47 general volunteers under me at 10 of the stations who would spot them and radio it in from their stations, which would come through on my radio unit. I would then go over and take away the alcohol containers, if needed, and shadow them if there was the possibility that direct confrontation could prove dangerous. Some of them weren't carrying containers, but it was really easy to tell they were snockered off their rocker. Walking a straight line was above their functional limits.

The first guy was shorter than me and smelled like he hadn't showered in a week – at least and it smelled like he had been pickled in alcohol all day. He was "walking" with a 40 oz. Zima can in his hand. I walked up to him and said, "Good evening sir. I'm sorry but alcoholic beverages are not allowed in the park. I will take that. Thank you." He had seemed a bit befuddled when I took the can from him but was pretty amiable about it – unlike the first drunk of the night who was belligerent and about to get violent with the rover who had made the mistake of confronting him, rather than shadowing him (thankfully not in my section). I shadowed my guy for at least a good 10 minutes, radioing in my position to the net command center every couple of minutes until the park police FINALLY showed up. I was a little miffed at the cops showing up so tardy. It shouldn't have taken them that long to get there, but at least they did get there.

When the guy saw them coming up (they were still at least 100 feet away) he stumbled over the train tracks and tried to get down the embankment to the hike and bike trail, but in doing so he lost his footing and busted on his butt. The cops came up and I told them he had gone into the brush. They dumped their bikes and ran down after him and did the whole field sobriety test, checked his pockets, etc. As they're doing that, I'm guarding the bikes that were abandoned and noticed that they were laying on the train tracks. This is for a small train that people ride on around the park. As luck would have it, they do a Christmas run during the Trail of Lights. I didn't know if I would get in trouble for moving their bikes but I knew that the train was due by again in a couple of minutes so I moved them off the track. When the cops came back with the offender in cuffs they looked at the bikes kind of like "That's not where we left the bikes." They were appreciative though when the train came through a minute later.

Not 20 minutes later it was two women who were walking together – one with a bottle and one with a can. After that it was pretty calm up until right before closing, with the exception of some twit that ran and jumped over the barrier right in front of me and ran to the Nativity scene and knelt and kissed the feet of the baby Jesus. I got him out of there and was giving him the standard "protocol" talk about staying behind the barrier, blah, blah, blah and was trying to figure out if I wanted to call him in when he said "I'm a member of the Roman Catholic Arch Diocese here in Austin and I HAD to pay my respects." One of the women he was with said "Oh PLEASE don't tell them that, they'll hate us for sure." This guy was a wee bit intoxicated, more tipsy than drunk but he was with friends and he wasn't overly tipsy, just a bit friendly and enthusiastic so I let him go with the warning to stay on the trail side of the barrier and asked his friends to keep an eye on him or else someone else would catch him in a different section. Nothing more was heard about that guy so apparently his friends did a good job of keeping him under control. He would have been # 8 for me, but I felt like giving him a break.

Finally, near closing, it was two guys and a girl walking out of the woods and one guy had a beer can in his hand. I was pretty sure it was a Dos Equis can so I shadowed them, radioing in their description and our position. They were questioned by the cops and let go after having their alcohol confiscated. I was right, it was a Dos Equis can. Do I know my beer cans or what? Well, um, that didn't come out quite right. They were heading home (walking) so that is the reason they were let go. The cops explained that if they had chosen to stay at the venue, then they would have been arrested.

Within two minutes of that, there was someone else who was a PI and dumping some little baggies, etc. from his pockets as he was being radioed in with the description so the cops came back and searched him, etc. As they were cuffing him, I told the cops that I was sure I would be seeing them the other nights I was working (6 more nights through next Saturday) and one of them chuckled and said, "Well, judging by tonight, I'm sure we'll be seeing plenty of you again." Heeheehee!

By the time I was done helping net command check back in the radios, etc. from the other volunteers and got home, my body, especially my back was so stiff I could hardly walk. It doesn't help that I was running a lot in the steel-toes. I sat down on the couch to check email, etc. around 11:15 and when I got up, I literally had to hold on to things to walk until my back loosened up. I tell ya what – 11 years of gymnastics certainly took its toll on my body (especially my back) and I felt all of 80 last night. Getting old before my time. I REALLY need to get into an exercise routine to help strengthen my back (and lose some weight). I'm sure by next week Saturday that I will have no problems with this, but right now – OY MY ACHIN' BACK!!!

Still, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I had a blast, got picked up for another night b/c of the good job I did last night and got to see some really beautiful lights for free. :)

I can't stop yawning. I am extremely exhausted from the upper respiratory crud I'm fighting, but at least part of it is also a good exhausted! I was going to go to a concert tomorrow (Charlie Robison - he's awesome!), but I think I'll rest up for working the next several days at the TOL and try and get over being sick. I'm heading to bed very early tonight.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Blogger beta

For some reason people are having problems posting comments with the new Beta Blogger - I've gotten several emails today from blog friends who tried to post on Em's videos and couldn't. I think I found a short work around. Blogger Help said something about previewing your comment first and then being able to post said comment. Who knows if it works or not but I'm NOT happy with the new Beta Blogger. Posting the videos of Em's performances in the below post was nothing short of a Herculean task. If Beta Blogger is going to be this difficult i want the old Blogger back.

Check out the videos of my darling girl singing with the children's choir at the Christmas Cantata in the post below.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Musical Monday

My dear blogfriend Lois Lane politely "questioned" as to if I was going to post any sound bites from the Christmas Cantata that Em was a part of. (Of course the polite question was the kind of rhetorical question that mob bosses ask their subordinates - it leaves no room for a "no" answer.) Well dearest, I did ya one better.

I captured two videos of the kids singing their songs. The first one is cute, but the 2nd one had me laughing so hard you could hear me on the video at the end. It definitely shows that Em is the youngest in the choir. The next kid is at least 6 months older than she. Em had her hands over her mouth b/c she kept singing with the adults and the kids director kept trying to get her to stop so finally Em took it upon herself to cover her mouth with her hands to stop singing with the adults when she wasn't supposed to. I should have videoed it from the beginning, but I wanted to just get the kids singing and then by the end, my little Em just went manic with the air trumpet and air violin, and trying to blow out the advent candles, and swinging side to side...

They did two cantatas yesterday morning and the videos are from the second one. All the kids were wearing out, but Em just got kind of hyper. I talked to the kids music director after and she said that she had the hardest time keeping a straight face when Em did her "air orchestra".

In both videos Em is on the far right, in the second row, right next to the adult chior, raising her arms and doing other things. She is about level with the choir director's hands as she is directing. You can't miss her, especially in the 2nd one. At one point she started taking her arms out of her sleeves and all I could think of was, "BABY! We don't take our clothes off in church!" She looks like a little ADHD kid. LOL!

The video is a little shaky b/c I took it on my digital camera and had to hold the camera up to get a "decent" view of the kids.

Ok my lovely, lovely Lois, this is for you! Enjoy it!

Friday, December 08, 2006

It's just another manic Monday - on a Friday

So, I can now talk about one of those difficult things that was alluded to in the previous post. As my regular blog readers know, I was divorced in April of this year. After months of trying to get the decree finalized and entered into the court and trying to get a withholding order submitted b/c the court ordered child support payments were not forthcoming on a regular basis and lately have pretty much stopped altogether, we had to go back to court because The Ex was not communicating with his lawyer, was not signing the decree and was not even paying his lawyer so they had filed a motion to withdraw. In order to do things like get The Ex off of my driving insurance, show lenders I was divorced and not tied to The Ex's credit or even if I ever met someone and wanted get married again, I had to have that decree entered into court and have paperwork to show for it.

When we got to the court and went in front of the docket judge we were told that there were no notes pertaining to the divorce case back in April in their system – so, in the eyes of the court, without those verifying notes that the divorce had been granted it was like we had never gotten divorced. My tummy went on a very wild rollercoaster ride.

The presiding docket judge said that if we could find the original judge who had heard the case and had granted the divorce, we could get them to sign the decree to get it entered and filed. But...if we couldn't, then basically the divorce case would have to be done over again – re-tried. My lawyer (who is just the most amazing guy!) told the judge that I had been living my life under the belief that I had been divorced since April. Her response was that she was sorry but unless we found the original judge from 8 months ago, there was nothing that could be done except to re-try the case.

I couldn't believe what was happening. My eyes started to tear up. Here is The Ex who already had another child by the girl that he had been shacking up with most of the time we had been separated before the divorce was final. He was getting on with his life as if he didn't have a care in the world. It looked like I wasn't going to be so lucky.

We went to the court administrative offices, two floors down, and asked if they had records of the cases and who they were given to. No such luck but there was someone who might be able to look up further info, but she would not have been there until after noon. That was not going to happen b/c my lawyer had 2 cases back to back after mine and I had to get in to work.

Thankfully, God was on my side because after some brainstorming we ended up finding the judge who had tried the original divorce case and he ended up signing the decree, the withholding order and The Ex's lawyer's motion to withdraw. So, now I have my copy of the divorce decree that has been entered into their system AND I have a copy of the signed withholding order so that the child support for Emily can start getting garnished from The Ex's wages.

Even though the divorce was finalized in April – now, officially, in the eyes of the court, I am completely and fully divorced.

As relieved as I feel that it is finally and totally over, I still feel sadness over it all. Nobody goes into a marriage thinking they will get divorced before they make it to the 5 year mark – or less. Or at least they shouldn't. If they go into a marriage with the expectation that it will probably end in divorce, then what is the point? What are they trying to do, hedge their bets? That's not a marriage, that is a betting pool and a disaster waiting to happen. I found out after The Ex had been served that he told me that he never wanted to get married and that the marriage had been over from practically day one. He could have said no. He could have walked away. He didn't have to go through with it.

Lessons learned. Don't ignore the red flags. Don't go into a marriage thinking that you can fix things once you're married or that they will get better. If problems exist before the marriage, they will exist after it too. Make sure that you are on the same page with each other. Communicate. Be honest. Fight for each other, not with each other. It's the only way to make a marriage survive.

A relationship works if both people are working for it. A relationship can not exist, survive or thrive if only one person is invested and interested in it. It takes three, not two. Three? You may ask why three. A rock solid, unshakable relationship or marriage takes you, the other person involved and God. That was where it went wrong in the first place. God wasn't invited into the marriage b/c The Ex was not a Christian and we were not living a Godly life.

Ecclesiastes 4:12b: A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

On another note, it's going to be a busy, busy weekend. Em has a final choir practice tomorrow morning at 9:00 to do their songs with the adult choir for the Christmas Cantata Sunday morning, then there's the children's Christmas program at church tomorrow afternoon. After that I have MC's company Christmas party tomorrow evening where I am her platonic date. Sunday morning I have to be at the church with Em by 8:30 in the morning for two Cantatas that she will perform in in the morning. From there I have a late luncheon with my Community Emergency Response Team where I get instructions and parking passes for the Trail of Lights that I am working several nights during the week as well as the Friday night and Saturday night before Christmas.

The Trail of Lights is a HUGE part of Christmas here in Austin. I will be working security as part of the Austin Office of Emergency Management team I am part of. It will be late nights though. The TOL closes at midnight every night so it will be little sleep for me on those nights. This thing is so huge that many people literally wait hours in line to park and walk through it. It is not unusual for people to get in line in their car around 7:00 and not be able to park until at least 9:00 or later. So, if you live in Austin and plan on going to this - GET THERE EARLY! - if not, have plenty of gas in your car and stuff to do while you wait.

It's only going to get busier until this Christmas/New Year season is over.

Friday's Feast and a reminder FFT

Don't forget to check out the post below this one to leave me an AskNic question.

Enjoy this week's Friday's Feast!

Which language would you like to learn and why?

Arabic or Farsi so that I could work with our government or some anti-terrorist organization and go online and try and help them bust terrorist plots against us and our interests.

What's the funniest thing you've heard or read so far this week?

There hasn't been much to laugh about this week. Work has been very tense all around - the tension there with EVERYONE is almost tangible and a couple of other things in my personal life - one of which I will post about after tomorrow.

Which movie was so bad you couldn't watch the whole thing?

I can't remember a movie but I can remember several books. I'd like to hear your thoughts on this one so I know which movies to avoid!

Main Course
If there were a holiday in your honor that didn't use your actual name, what would the day be called?

Oh heck, I have no idea. They already have Mother's Day and to me that is the best thing that I do so I'm not sure what else there would be.

Name one movie which is coming out soon that you would like to see.

Ok, I saw the new James Bond movie and I have to say AWESOME! BEST BOND MOVIE EVER! Daniel Craig isn't conventionally handsome and he knows it so he works harder and just shines in his role as the new Bond. I've seen it twice and will see it again. It's just a fabulous, back to basics, cheese and smarm free, action-filled movie.

The other movie I would like to see is The Nativity Story. Word of mouth reviews have been really great and it tells the story of the birth of Jesus in a very well crafed, well acted movie.

Today's FFT is one that I mentioned earlier in the week:

As mentioned, I received an invitation to my very dear friend Captain Picard's Annual Christmas party and I wrote a post about it from my POV. It is up right now. I encourage you to go read it along with the SEVERAL other posts about the party on his blog up now and those coming up over the next couple of days. Every year this is a blast to participate in and I hope you head on over there and enjoy! If you check it out, Tell the good Captian I sent you.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Christmas HDQ and AskNic

Christmas Traditions. There are a lot of Christmas Traditions out there that we celebrate, but did you ever wonder where we get a lot of them from? Why we do or say or have certain things at Christmas time? Well, there is a station here in Austin that has collected a whole bunch of traditions and placed them on one page. You can find them HERE. There are some very interesting ones that I have enjoyed reading.

This brings me to the HDQ (Humpy Day Question being that Wednesday is the hump day of the week).

What is your favorite Christmas tradition that you celebrate every year or have participated in in the past?

I answered this in a recent Friday's Feast but I'll post it again. My favorite Christmas tradition is at my mom's house. She has her tree decorated with lots of white lights – my favorite kind. Not the blinking ones, but the steady, small, clear white lights. LOTS of them. On Christmas Eve, after the Christmas Eve candlelight service at church, after the presents have been opened and the food has been eaten (in our Dutch family we open gifts Christmas Eve), we get blankets and pillows and lay on the living room floor to fall asleep under the soft glow of the Christmas tree lights and listening to the quiet hush of Christmas music playing in the CD player. It's quiet and still and peaceful and it's just lovely!

This is also the return of the Ask Nic: today as well.

This is the place where you can ask me anything that is on your mind about me, something you have wanted to know or were just curious about in general. You can ask about my experiences in life and love and parenting, my beliefs, etc... Be creative, be fun, be introspective, but please be clean! You can post the questions in the comments section or email me your question directly to asknic@gmail.com.

I will be posting the questions and their responses soon so check back within the next week for them.

Monday, December 04, 2006

In "Other" Words - Tuesdays at CWO

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I wonder how many of you out there were disenchanted about Christmas last year. I was chatting with some of my friends online and pretty much all of us were really disenchanted with Christmas last year. It was just not the same as in years past.

Most of us talked about how we enjoyed the giving of gifts but were less than enthused about the receiving of them and someone mentioned that maybe it was because Christmas had become so commercialized. Another mentioned that maybe it was because we know that the gifts we give and receive aren’t permanent. In terms of the eternal, they won’t last. I mentioned that I felt, well, hollow about the whole Christmas thing last year. Christmas just didn’t really ring true for me. It seemed to be lacking. Lacking what? The very essence of Christmas, the Sounds of "Merry Christmas", and Christmas songs and anything really having to do with "CHRIST". Instead it was "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings". Heaven forbid that anything about this time of year should have to actually include the REAL Reason for the Season.

How many of us, who know better, have allowed ourselves to get caught up in the materialistic and let the world push Christ to the tiny corner in our lives where we pull Him out for emergencies only?

How many of us put Jesus in the back corner, last on the list or as a passing thought?

How many of us have allowed ourselves to become preoccupied with the day-to-day aspects of life instead of focusing on the Giver of life, the Creator of the universe, the very Reason for the season that we celebrate at this time of year?

So many people were trying so hard to remove any association of Christ with Christmas. Without Christ, Christmas just becomes Mas – which in Español means "more". It means nothing but greed and money and commercialization. More, more, more, gimme more! If we put the Christ back, it should mean that we want Christ More. After all that is what we should strive for every day of our lives. Wanting Christ MORE - to know Him, to love Him, to follow Him. Instead many of us who know better follow the path to materialism just like the rest of the world.

Along with the excessive greed, the removal of the birth of Jesus, the name of Christ and the true meaning of Christmas meant that a lot of schools last year didn’t have Christmas pageants b/c they couldn’t sing carols b/c most carols mention the Holy birth, baby Jesus and/or his mother Mary, the gift of God. One school in Wisconsin also changed the words to Silent Night, the most recorded song in history, but later recanted after they received such backlash across the country from it.

The original lyrics to the beloved carol are:
Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace

The replacement lyrics were:
Cold in the night, no one in sight,
Winter winds whirl and bite,
How I wish I were happy and warm,
Safe with my family out of the storm.

Many schools also had no decorations up b/c they didn’t want to “offend” anyone – anyone except for Christians that is. The same Wisconsin school that changed the words for Silent Night also had decorations for Santa Claus, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah Menorah displays and La Befana – an Italian Christmas witch who had turned her back on visiting the baby Jesus stating she was too busy, but there were no allowances made for a manger or a Christmas tree. And forget calling it a Christmas break anymore. That has the word “Christ” in there and we can’t have the children remembering what is really celebrated at Christmas...or Who. It’s called a winter break now.

How can little kids get truly excited about Christmas if there is nothing there in the schools that can be used to get them into the Christmas spirit? I remember when I was in school they had BIG Christmas trees, decorations of red and green rings in a paper chain, snowflake cutouts from the kids, a nativity set and more. Christmas was hyped up when I was in school. There was nothing shameful, wrong or offensive back then about celebrating Christmas in schools and all over as it’s meant to be celebrated.

How can adults get into the Christmas spirit if there is nothing warm and "Christmasy" about this time of year? Instead it seems to all be about who can get or give the bigger, better gift. Bragging to your co-workers, family and friends about the jewelry or the vehicle or the vacation that you received seems to be the order of the season. The bigger the better it seems. Whatever happened to the true spirit of giving of ourselves, our lives, our love, our time? Whatever happened to celebrating with the advent calendar for the kids or the Nativity scene in the front of houses? Many neighborhood associations frown on Nativity scenes now and you can get fined for having one up. How many adults even remember what an advent calendar is, much less what it is used for?

Christmas items started appearing in many stores at the end of September already this year. What happened to everything rolling out at Thanksgiving time to give children and adults alike something to really look forward to? When it becomes so commercial and it’s all about the money, Christmas starts to lose its thrill and enchantment and excitement. It almost becomes just another day instead of the celebration that it’s supposed to be.

The more we allow others to take Christ out of Christmas, the more it affects us too. The more we start looking away from Christ and celebrating Him daily, not just during the Christmas season, the less of a light we are to a world in dire need of the Light. We need to take our holiday back from the liberal secularists who want nothing to do with the meaning behind Christmas and who don’t want anyone else to celebrate, much less remember, the Higher meaning behind the celebration of the Christmas season. The birth of Jesus Christ, God coming to earth in human form to give us the hope and the gift of eternal life. To live a limited time here on earth so that we could live eternally and to die so that we wouldn’t have to.

Isaiah 9:6 is the Old Testament prophecy that was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, and recorded in Luke 2:11.

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince Of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his Kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with Judgment and with Justice from henceforth even for ever... ~ Isaiah 9:6-7

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the LORD. ~ Luke 2:11


A piece of Christmas Trivia:

Have you ever wondered why Merry Christmas, rather than Happy Christmas is used as a Christmas greeting?

Merry Christmas is a common phrase exchanged among Christians during the holidays. The term Christmas is a translation of the Old English version – Cristes Maesse which is the Mass of Christ.

Under modern day definitions of the word “merry” means cheerful or festive. However, when the saying Merry Christmas first came about, the widely accepted meaning of the word was peaceful or blessed. Thus, wishing someone a Merry Christmas is truly wishing them a blessed or peaceful Mass of Christ.

Christmas, under that definition, is a Christian holiday set aside to celebrate the birth of Christ, the Son of God and the Savior.

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TRUTH About Religious Expression at Christmastime

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Get Your Own Magnet and Tell Others about the
REAL reason for the season.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

An Enterprise Christmas Party

I received an invitation to my very dear friend Captain Picard's Annual Christmas party! It was a real blast, even better than last year's party and I wrote a post about it from my POV. It will be run on the Captain's blog this Friday. In the meantime, there are SEVERAL other posts starting tomorrow from other blog attendees that will be posted on his blog over the next several days. Every year this is a blast to participate in and I encourage you to head on over daily, starting tomorrow, and read the differing POV's from the attendees - don't forget to look for mine on Friday!

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday's Feast and a Funny Story

Well, today it is BRRRRR-CHILLY COLD! It was a hard freeze last night and I have to be to work at 7:30 for training. Our work Christmas party is this afternoon from 3:30-5:30 and I can't even properly enjoy that b/c Emily's school Christmas Program is tonight at 7:00 - far across the other side of town by like 25 miles. Rush hour traffic on a Friday afternoon and I'm hoping to be there only a few minutes late.

So first up is the customary Friday's feast and then a funny story from one of the guys in the 167th over in Iraq that I got a huge kick out of and hope you will too!

Have you ever flown in a helicopter?

Nope. I've always wanted to but I don't have money to do stuff like that.

What color is your warmest coat or jacket?

My warmest jacket is a shearling coat, which I wore yesterday and today. It's a beautiful thing of warmth!

What is your favorite rainy day activity?

Cooking or reading

Main Course
Describe your hands.

Small, kind of delicate though not bony or skinny, but strong with fairly good vein definition. The knuckles have deep grooves in them. I have short fingers and my palms have well-defined lines and small calouses on them, especially under the two fingers that I wear rings on. The nails are fairly short, colored in glittery red polish for the Christmas party. On my right hand I wear my dad's wedding ring on the middle finger and on the ring finger of my left hand I wear a garnet and silver ring that I have had for at least 10 years.

If you could eat only one nut for the rest of your life, what nut would you pick?

As much as I love cashews, I would rather eat peanuts the rest of my life because they have more flavor overall.

Next up is SGT M's story. B/C Centcom visits my blog on a very regular basis (usually about once a week), I suppose to "check" on me and what I post since Dan is over in Iraq, I shall only refer to this person as a letter. I hope that y'all get as big of a kick out of the story as I did!

Dear (deity of your choice) what have I put in my mouth?

Ah, Army food. One of those long running cliche's which holds so much truth that it may never die. Now don't read too much into this, the chow halls over here are first rate. Well prepared, recognizable food, hot without being overcooked. But due to our scheduling and lack of proximity to the chow hall we almost never are able to eat there. So our one 'hot' meal per day is usually served to us at midnight out of mermites (insulated plastic food containers kind of like a portable steam table), and with little choice of items.

Tonight was salisbury steak, onion rings, succotash, and fried bits of some darkish meat substance. Originally we took it to be overcooked chicken nuggets, so very few of us selected them. But of course there are a couple guys who just can't stomach salisbury steak, or have a perverse fondness for chicken nuggets. Keep in mind that the entry control point isn't lighted at all, so you're seeing your dinner with a flashlight as you serve it up, and are often times eating in the dark finding your mouth by luck and instinct (silverware just isn't used).

My buddy who shares my check point with me had passed on dinner and I elected for salisbury steak so I was unsuspecting. I was just nibbling onion rings when I heard a coughing choking sound that for once wasn't our generator dying. Then over the radio I heard "Oh dear god, what IS that!" there was a pause, heavy with anticipation, then "Oh my god it's LIVER!"

"Last calling station did you say it was liver?"

"Affirmative, affirmative, some bastard breaded and fried little chunks of liver!"

"Are you OK? Do you need help?"

It was quickly established that those who had attempted to eat the liver were not in any immediate danger, but all agreed it was a dirty trick for the KBR guys at the chow hall to have played on us.

Most of the chow hall workers are foreign nationals, Pakistanis, Phillipinos, Indians and normally supervised by a few US Soldiers. We agreed that it was foolish of them to have done such a thing as we are all heavily armed and somewhat frustrated at our lack of opportunity to shoot people. Serving us breaded fried liver chunks seemed an almost suicidal breech of dining hall etiquette.

At the end of our shift it was agreed that we would meet again to plan some sort of counter liver mission. It's doubtful you'll hear any more on this subject from me in order to protect those who should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

One Thousand Gifts and Thankful THursday

~1 Thessalonians 5:18~ Give thanks to God in all circumstances (no matter what they may be), for this is God's will for you (who are) in Christ Jesus.

My Peace I Leave With You

Thankful Thursday: What Nic is thankful for this week

Warm clothes to wear when an extremely cold cold front comes through.
Shelter to protect us from the icy rain and cold wind.
Friends from around the world who have great senses of humor
The ability to breathe even though I have asthma. The ability to breathe is taken for granted until you can't
Snow which I'm hoping we'll see some of here with the weather the way it is. We rarely get any snow so that would be a HUGE thankful and gift from God.

(If you participate, leave your link in the comments and I'll post it below; or, you can post in the comments)

Click here for the Thankful Thursday code

Click here for Chrixean's blog

Trackbacks, pings, and comment links are accepted and encouraged!

Monday, November 27, 2006

It's that time once again - the Christmas Season

I must admit that Christmas is my favorite holiday. It's not because of the gifts - though I must admit I get such a kick out of Em's delight in opening her presents! It's because everything seems to have a softer, gentler glow about it. Bright lights lining the houses and streets, the delight of kids as they see Santa in the malls, the soft hush of a cold winter's night as a new blanket of snow covers the landscape, the quiet lull of a Christmas carol, the snap and pop of the logs in the fireplace and the glow of the firelight.

Last year I was incredibly disenchanted with Christmas. Probably because I was at the beginning of my divorce and everything seemed brittle and bitter and broken at that time. This year, it's the same commercialization out there, the same greed, but this year, it's also different. People are starting to fight back and take back Christmas from the politically correct naysayers and telling them to back off and just shut up already b/c we're sick and tired of you telling us what we can and can not do to celebrate Christmas (See my sidebar to the right under Nic's Christmas Corner to find out what your rights are at Christmas). For some reason, this Christmas just seems different to me and I can't really put my finger on it. Maybe it's because this Christmas, I'm not looking at the end of something, but rather the beginning of something else - my life. Maybe it's because this year I have hope again. Hope that the next year will be better than this past year has been.

I love this time of the year because instead of singing the regular night time songs and hymns to Em, she loves it when I sing Christmas carols and Christmas hymns to her. She asks for Silent Night, I'll Be Home for Christmas, O Holy Night, White Christmas, Oh Come All Ye Faithful and on and on. Christmas is the time of year when people, in general are kinder to each other, more generous in spirit and in giving. There are more acts of kindness to others, acts of selfless giving and sharing. Why can't it be like this year 'round instead of just Christmastime? If only people would look to the REAL Reason for the season instead of the materialistic ones, I believe that the world would be a lot better off. Christ is in CHRISTmas for a reason because without Christ all that is left is "mas" which means "more" and when we take Christ out of Christmas, all that we're left with is the greedy commercialization and expectation of bigger, better and more and that's not what Christmas - or life - is all about. You should want "Christ more" instead of just "more".

In honor of the start to the Christmas season, I recorded the first verse to Silent Night. I hope that you enjoy it and remember that Jesus is the Reason for the Season: CHRISTmas.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Friday's Feast, a Fun and Worthwhile FFT and an Ode

Wow! This has been a LONG day. Em slept for a couple of hours late yesterday afternoon so she wasn't asleep until close to 10:45 and then I was sleeping at 1:00 - up at 4:00. You know those good old Black Friday sales. I was very close to hitting the outlet malls at midnight but decided against it - my boys are playing right now anyway. Playing poorly, winning by 1 at the end of the 3rd quarter but I'm yelling at the screen nonetheless for them to get it together. After the game, I'm hitting the sack for some much needed shut-eye. The X has Em today so I can get some uninterrupted sleep. Then I might go hit the dance hall and get a dance or two in, but I'm undecided about that.

So, I actually have three things up on my blog this Friday. First up, the Black Friday Friday's Feast, then a delightfully fun and worthy FFT (I loved doing this one!) and last but not least, an Ode on a Black Friday from my dear blogfriend John Earle. He hit the serntiment that I feel so clearly that I couldn't help but share with y'all. If you like it, stop on by and tell him "thank you" and tell him I sent ya!

Friday's Feast

Have you ever changed a flat tire by yourself?

Yes. In drivers ed in high school, they made sure that EVERYONE could change a tire in order to pass. Didn't matter how "clean" your clothes were or how "prissy" you were about your appearance. You did it until you could change it. I'm a big believer in two things about driving - know how to change a tire and know how to drive a stick shift.

Do you have an "innie" or an "outie" belly button?

I have a deep innie.

Name a new paint color and describe it.

Er, um, Sparkling Sunshine - a deep, dandelion yellow with yellow glitter in it or how about Ravishing Red - a firey red with red glitter in it?

Main Course
What is your favorite holiday tradition?

At my mom's on Christmas Eve, after we've opened gifts and eaten once we got back from the 6:00 candlelight service at church, we take blankets and sleep out on the floor of the living room with the soft glow of the white lights on the Christmas tree illuminating the room and the quiet whisper of Christmas music playing oh, so softly as we fall asleep.

If you were a cookie, what kind of cookie would you be, and why?

My favorite cookie is oatmeal raisin but if I were a cookie I would have to say that I am a warm, gooey, chocolate chip cookie just out of the oven. Homey, comforting, a little hot and completely irresistable! Heeheehee. :)

The Fabulous FFT
A dear friend of mine alerted me to this incredibly FUN FFT! You can Create Your Own Snowflake. Not only is it FUN but it is for a GOOD CAUSE. The more snowflakes that are created through the end of this year, the more money gets donated to the Salvation Army. PLEASE go make a snowflake, as many as you want, and go make money for a great organization that helps everyone.

My First Flake the "Star and Hearts" Snowflake

Go Create Your Own Snowflake(s) Now!

And last, but certainly NOT least, here is the poem from my friend John. He is a writer and created this poem last year and it got such a great response he decided to post it again. Enjoy it!

Our paper came on Turkey day.
It weighed about a ton.
'Twas full of ads for stores with sales
On stuff for play or fun.

Or maybe gifts for someone else,
Or items for our homes.
Seemed everything that stores can sell
Was offered in those tomes.

The Mall would open early,
And to get a super deal,
You had to rise at two or three,
(You’d better pack a meal!),

And stand in line outside the door
To be among the first,
Supplies were short. And all agreed;
To lose out was the worst!

So people from around the town
Did congregate and gather
Outside the doors of many stores,
And all were in a lather.

The folks would push and shove to be
The first inside to buy.
As “Don’t get in my way today,
I’ll knock you down!” they’d cry.

The traffic on the streets, it seemed,
Was packed and barely moving,
And tempers flared and teeth were bared.
'Twas not exactly soothing.

I wondered, in the midst of all
This snarling, angst, and hissing,
If maybe there was something here
That all of them were missing.

What happened to the “Ho, Ho, Ho!”
And “Peace on Earth!” we’d hear,
When friends and family gathered round
To share, from far and near?

This season is supposed to bring out
All the best in man,
Like loving, giving, peace and joy.
At least, that was the plan.

So what’s the answer? Is there, somehow,
Some sure way of stopping
The discontent connected with
Thanksgiving Friday Shopping?

For me it’s pretty simple:
When the mobs rush out to roam
The malls and stores and parking lots,
I’ll stay inside my home.

I’ll ponder God’s atoning Son,
The best gift given yet,
And do my Christmas shopping
On my high-speed internet!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving and Praise Day

This piece came to me via email and it is definitely worth a more public setting and viewing. May God bless you all on this day of Thanksgiving and Praise!

photo by Mary R. Vogt

Thanksgiving and Praise Day

You've probably seen them, too. Herds of Christmas trees: green, perfectly shaped, huddled together, standing shoulder to shoulder in a temporary makeshift corral consisting of a droopy string of bare light bulbs strung from four corner poles that always appear as if they are about to fall down.

I was returning from a wonderful matinee play watching my son perform on stage when I spotted the year's first herd. My immediate thought was that it was way too early for Christmas trees to have migrated into town. After all, it was still a week until Thanksgiving, for heaven's sake!

I think something has caused a dramatic shift in the migratory patterns--they don't match our calendars anymore. Easter bunnies now appear in February and pumpkins show up in late August. I'm feeling more and more confused. I actually felt some disorientation last month when I walked into a department store and saw a Santa Claus display several weeks before Halloween.

We live in a world of severe overlaps.

The University of Michigan finished its last scheduled football game on Saturday, but the season won't end. No, the players and coaches will sit around for nearly two months hoping to play in the championship game the second week in January, which is about the time college basketball, which started at the height of football, will be gearing up for its March Madness. The NBA now runs from October to June, and the Super Bowl is now in February, when Major League Baseball is starting spring training.

You can buy oranges and bananas all year round.

The point of this is that the commercialization of everything puts in danger the meaning of anything. We are about to breeze through a day that has been set aside for giving thanks. Not that we shouldn't be doing that every day, but our nation recognized that we owed a formal day to acknowledge the source of our blessings and to give the thanks due to Almighty God for his grace.

As you sit around the table this Thursday, you may wish to read from the Scripture your favorite verse that expresses the truth that God is the original Giver and that we owe Him a full heart of thankfulness.

You may also want to read the text of Abraham Lincoln's proclamation in which he originally declared this national holiday. Unfortunately, the world would find it to be offensive today.

P.S. You may be surprised to note that Abraham Lincoln called for a day of "Thanksgiving and Praise." Truncating this to simply "Thanksgiving Day" has made it easier to leave God out of the celebration.

Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.


~1 Thessalonians 5:18~ Give thanks to God in all circumstances (no matter what they may be), for this is God's will for you (who are) in Christ Jesus.

My Peace I Leave With You

Thankful Thursday: What Nic is thankful for this week

My wonderful daughter who is the light of my life
A job that I enjoy immensely and have in this economy when there are very few jobs for a single mother to make a living wage at.
My mom who is my rock, my anchor, my support and my best friend
Friends who love you and are there for you no matter what
The freedoms in this country that we enjoy and the men and women in uniform who sacrifice daily to allow us to have those freedoms.
Dear blogfriends who, though far in geography, are close in heart.
The ability to have a relationship with God, knowing that He is there for us no matter the circumstances.

(If you participate, leave your link in the comments and I'll post it below; or, you can post in the comments)

Click here for the Thankful Thursday code

Click here for Chrixean's blog

Trackbacks, pings, and comment links are accepted and encouraged!

Happy Thanksgiving and Praise Day!

Of course, to get you started on the Black Friday shopping, check out this awesome site that lists the ads of several stores out there and they monitor the ads and every new one that comes up, as soon as it is out the post it. You can find it at BlackFridayAds.com.