One life. Six words. What’s yours?

This phrase is from the cover of a book that I came across in the bookstore that changed my life. The book, Not Quite What I Was Planning: And Other Six-Word Memoirs by Authors, contains a collection of personal stories written in just six words. Ever since opening this book, I’ve been addicted to writing in just six word phrases. In fact, I’ve kept a six-word diary for months now.

I thought I’d share some favorites.

This one speaks to me now:

Slightly flabby,

Slightly fabulous,

Trying hard.     –Amy Friedman

This is how life should be:

Outcast.

Picked last.

Surprised them all.      –Rachel Pine

I frequently pray a similar prayer:

God, grant me patience.

Right now.      –Michael Castleman

Maybe it should say Mommy Dee:

I answer to the name mom.     – Lynne Chesterton

Can’t help but wonder what happened:

True love was prevented

by leprosy.       –Peter Hayward

Couldn’t have said it better myself:

Must remember: people, gadgets.

That order.      –Brian Lam

Writing in six words: fun exercise!

Maybe something you’d like to try?

It’s Not the End of the World!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock all year, I’m sure you’ve heard the world is coming to an end on Friday. This prediction is based on the fact that the Mayan calendar ends on December 12th of this year after the completion of a 5,125 year cycle.

However, I suggest you finish your Christmas shopping. Don’t spend all of your savings. You’re going to wake up to your normal life on Saturday.

The end of the Mayan calendar is no different than the end of the week. They both repeat.

As the pastor said during a recent sermon, the Bible says that only God knows when the world will end. Don’t you think if God knew we figured out the date the world was ending, he would change it?

No planet will crash into Earth. No giant volcano will erupt blocking out the sun. No super hurricane will flood the Earth. No, the Earth will not explode or implode.

See you this weekend!

 

 

Make R.A.C.K. a new tradition.

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In middle school, your writing teacher assigned a project on random acts of kindness, an idea that started in a Sausalito, California, restaurant in 1982 when Anne Herbert scrawled the words “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” on a place mat. From this simple start, bumper stickers spread the idea and a book was published filled with stories of random acts of kindness, which started a kind of chain reaction. You were asked to find an example of someone who participated in performing these acts of kindness not only as a writing assignment, but to encourage you to think about how you could be a part of this movement.

Without even thinking about it, you frequently do little things that add beauty to the lives of others. You may bring in the grocery cart for a fellow shopper, compliment someone, reach an item on a shelf, or hold the door…all simple acts, but acts that brighten the days of others. However, by thinking about acts of kindness and acting intentionally, we can bring smiles to the faces of those we meet.

So what’s R.A.C.K.? Random Acts of Christmas Kindness. Recently, I’ve come across several websites with ideas to make the Christmas season a time to make these acts, not just random, but planned to spread good cheer. In fact, you may want to search random acts of Christmas kindness on Pinterest. The ideas are boundless.

I know it’s a little late in the season to suggest this, but perhaps you can think of a couple of ways you can make an impact during the next couple of weeks that focus on Christmas kindness. I’m making plans for this week, and I will definitely make this a new tradition for Christmas 2013. And who knows, once you get thinking and doing, you may decide to make intentional acts a kindness a year round project.

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Cherish handwritten notes and cards.

Handwritten cards and notes are rapidly becoming part of ancient history. Just as Dad and I visited Petroglyph National Monument this summer looking at and taking pictures of the writings of the early Pueblo cultures, future generations may be marveling over the handwritten notes and cards of our generations.

I hope this isn’t the case, but cards, notes, letters, and anything that travels by traditional mail is becoming a thing of the past. My
original intention for these memos was to send them by mail. I even bought special paper on which I planned to print them, but reality set in. If I was going to complete this project, I needed to make it simple and practical and so I settled on email (although I
do print out each memo and keep them in a notebook).

While I enjoy our instant communication through email and even text, I truly cherish the more formal written form. On my desk in the kitchen I currently have a stack of  cards, invitations, and thank you notes. I won’t leave them on the desk forever, but it’s nice to see these reminders of people I care about. In the cabinet above my desk are the numerous cards we received when Granny died. How wonderful that so many people took the time to share their condolences, especially those who took the time to write thoughtful notes. These cards are truly cherished.

When I was young I remember the time and effort that went into writing Christmas cards. By Thanksgiving, the Christmas card list had been developed and addresses had been updated. Then we selected the perfect card. We never had the resources to print special cards with family pictures, and my mom would never have purchased cards with printed names.  It may have been because of the expense, but she was always indignant when we received those cards. I can hear her now, “I can’t believe you can’t even take time to sign your name…why bother?”

After completing the list and selecting the cards, it was time for the hard work. My mom wrote notes in the cards…short notes, but notes and included our school pictures. She labeled pictures with names and ages so the recipient would have our most up-to-date stats. When I learned to write in cursive I became an important part of the Christmas card writing tradition.  My job – address the cards, stuff the envelopes, and lick the stamps. We were quite a team.

I couldn’t wait to bring in the mail in December. Every day more cards arrived. We caught up on friends and relatives that we rarely saw, received pictures of cousins, and displayed cards all over the house – mostly hanging creatively as another type of decoration.  A great tradition I miss, but not so much that I was ever the efficient, informative card writer like my mom.

It’s not just Christmas cards. Birthday greetings, well wishes after an illness or accident, thank you cards, and invitations also
tell our story. I know it’s difficult to justify keeping all that stuff. Who needs it? What use is it? I’ve thrown out ALL of the
Valentine cards given to me by my students and do not regret that! There really isn’t anything special about a card that comes in a pack of 25 with some elementary rhyme that was probably signed on the envelope instead of the card anyway, but unfortunately I also threw away some thoughtful thank you cards written by students. I wish I kept those, but moving from one class to the next quickly often results in bad decision making.

I need to organize the cards, letters, and notes I’ve saved so that I don’t lose any more. I enjoy seeing the handwriting of loved ones – even if they only signed their name. To avoid misplacing these treasures in the future, I’ve set up a shoe box, labeled it, and placed it in the cabinet in the kitchen. I vow to keep every card, note, letter, invitation, or handwritten correspondence.  These treasures need to be easy to retrieve because I think you’ll agree they can serve as a great pick me up.

I’ll also make an effort to sent you two or three things each year that you can put in your own box of cherished notes.

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Follow Bob Costas’ Lead

Two weeks ago, Bob Costas called into question the NFL culture, the gun culture, and the domestic violence culture after the murder suicide of an NFL player and his girlfriend. He took a lot of flak for his comments with some calling for NBC to fire him. They complained he lacked any qualifications to speak about gun control. My question, what qualification do his critics possess? None! In both cases, someone is expressing an opinion. However, if that opinion questions gun laws or gun ownership then it shouldn’t be permitted according to the gun rights bullies in our country.

The NRA and others frequently quote the second amendment in these cases. Apparently, the second amendment is the only one worth quoting or protecting. The first amendment and the right to free speech is squashed by these second amendment intimidators…if you want to discuss gun control, you aren’t qualified to speak. If you support banning assault weapons, you are violating the Constitution. If you favor background checks, you’re invading their privacy. The list goes on and on.

Bob Costas spoke over a week before a gunman opened fire in an Oregon mall and twelve days before dozens of first graders and school personnel were massacred in Connecticut. He started a long overdue conversation. Before this week’s events, a few others spoke up and supported his comments. On Friday, the President finally stopped dancing around the gun control issue in his remarks regarding the school shooting. The words gun control have actually been heard in the news this week…even as some continue to say this is no the time for these discussions.

It’s time. It’s time we stop the bullies. It’s time we who support gun control speak up. Just as those who watch the playground bully without taking action are guilty in their silence, those of us who do not speak out on gun control and equally complaisant.

I will contact my legislators. I will not let other’s speech regarding the need to protect gun rights to go unchallenged. I will sign petitions and research and support organizations such as the Brady Campaign, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and Physicians for Social Responsibility, that advocate for gun control. I will follow Bob Costas’s lead. I hope you will too.

Sugar Cookie Shortcut

Now that you’re in the mood to bake sugar cookies, but realize you don’t have nutmeg or cream of tartar or other ingredients. Or maybe you just don’t have the time to invest in baking homemade sugar cookies. Let me suggest a quick, easy, delicious shortcut. The Krusteaz sugar cookie mix lets you prepare a batch of cookies that taste like homemade. All you need to add to the mix is one egg and one stick of butter, and in less than an hour, you can bake a batch of cookies that you can easily pass off as homemade.

The next best thing to homemade…Krusteaz!

If you decide you’d prefer something a little different, they also make Snickerdoodles, Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Raisin, and Peanut Butter cookie mix. You might even want to check out this link to their website where you’ll find recipes to make their basic cookies special treats. Happy baking!

http://www.krusteaz.com/?gclid=CJ306ZDmlbQCFUqoPAodAEQAMg

Granny’s Sugar Cookies

According to your dad, Granny’s sugar cookies were always his favorite. He especially enjoyed the crystallized, granulated sugar on the top of the baked cookies. He said he cannot understand why people use icing, sprinkles, or colored sugar instead of plain, white, granulated sugar. This surprises me because he is a big fan of icing. I guess just not on his sugar cookies.

The original recipe for these cookies can be found in my recipe file box on decaying yellow paper covered with lard stains. The creases in the paper barely keep the folded quarters together. Granny’s unique handwriting makes it difficult to decipher, but it’s well worth the effort.

 Granny’s Sugar Cookies

½ cup Crisco shortening

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. lemon juice

½ tsp. nutmeg

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, well beaten

2 TBSP. milk

2 cups flour (all-purpose)

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

Combine Crisco, salt, lemon juice, nutmeg and blend. Add sugar, mix. Add beaten eggs, milk and mix well. Sift flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add to the mixture.

Drop on greased baking sheet – flatten with the bottom of a damp glass. Sprinkle with sugar and bake at 375 degrees 8-12 minutes. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

I think you’ll find this is another award worthy cookie recipe. In fact, in our family, this may be the drop cookie winner, while yesterday’s recipe win’s the award for rolled cookies. I’m glad awards can be given in multiple categories! Enjoy your holiday baking.

Cookies, Cookies, and More Cookies

This weekend while reading the Sunday paper I read an article about a local cookie contest sponsored by the paper. Then I noticed the Parade magazine in the paper highlighted their cookie recipe winners. They chose the best rolled cookie, drop cookie, and bar cookie. It seems every newspaper in the country sponsored similar contests. You can find the winning cookie recipes selected by the Chicago Tribune, the Lake Tahoe News, the Indianapolis Star, and many other papers and magazines so I decided to share one of our favorite cookie recipes.

This sugar cookie recipe is the one we started using about twenty years ago and have we’ve decorated these cookies for special treats not only at Christmas, but also at Easter, New Year’s, and other special occasions. While simple, I believe this recipe could challenge for an award in any cookie contest. If you haven’t baked cookies in a while, it’s a good time to give it a try.

Sugar Cookies

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

1 cup margarine or butter, softened

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

½ tsp. almond extract

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tsp. cream of tartar

granulated sugar or icing

Mix powdered sugar, margarine, egg, vanilla, and almond extract. Mix in flour, baking soda and cream of tartar. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Divide dough into halves. Roll each half 3/16 inch thick on lightly floured cloth-covered board. Cut into shapes.

Sprinkle with granulated sugar (omit sugar if you decide to ice the cookies); place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake until edges are light brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Makes about 5 dozen, 2 inch cookies.

Icing

½ stick of softened butter

powdered sugar

Place softened butter in a bowl. Add powdered sugar a little at a time and mix with a fork until smooth. Continue adding sugar until reaching desired sweetness – a taste test is best! You may want to add a dash of vanilla or a dash of milk to make the icing smoother and easier to spread.

I know you prefer this “pretty icing” recipe because it spreads more smoothly and makes a more attractive cookie. This recipe really does make the cookies look like the ones in the cookbooks.

“Pretty Icing”

1 box powdered sugar

3 TBSP. powdered egg whites

6 TBSP. warm water (may increase to 8 TBSP. of water if a thinner icing is desired)

Beat until the consistency of sour cream. Color if desired. Spread icing on sugar cookies.

Clean your room. Clear your mind.

I know this is something I’ve said to each of you on more than one occasion. At first, it seems like the words of a nagging mother, “Clean your room!” Of course when you lived at home, that was usually the case. Your room was a mess, and it made me crazy. (Stressed me out!)

Later when away at college these words served a different purpose. Without seeing your room, I uttered these words over the phone when I could sense you were upset or stressed. I’m sure you probably thought I had lost my mind. You called and shared some problem with a class, a roommate, a professor, a project, or something else and before the conversation ended, I told you to clean your room.

There were two reasons for this advice. First, when you feel stressed it helps to get your mind off your problem. And you know it’s not possible to just get you mind off your problems – think of something else. If that worked, you wouldn’t be stressed! But if you’re busy picking up, organizing, sweeping, and throwing things away, you can get your mind off your problems. Throwing away bags of “stuff” symbolizes throwing out your problems. When you clean your room (or house) it clears your mind and you feel better.

The second reason for this advice is because when you’re surrounded by clutter it affects how you feel. Piles of books and papers, dirty clothes on the floor, and shoes scattered across the room make you feel out of sorts. It’s miserable tripping on things or knocking drinks over or dealing with stickiness from spills. It’s no wonder living in a mess increases your level of stress

There is a saying that goes something like this, “a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind”. I think there’s a lot of truth in this. Avoid a cluttered mind, alleviate some of your stress, clean your room and clear your mind.

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Advent – Time to Prepare

The Advent Season is the time to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas and concluding on Christmas Eve, Advent is a time of preparation and anticipation.  The message in this week’s bulletin at church explains how the preparation needs to take place.

Spiritual preparation for Christmas is far more important than the cooking, cleaning, shopping, decorating, and wrapping with which we fill our days. Here’s a prescription to help: Set aside thirty minutes every day to sit still in silence, and to pray, read, and ponder this week’s Advent scripture texts. Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; and Luke 3:7-18

Last week’s sermon also encouraged setting aside daily time to pray, ponder, and read texts from the Bible. The passages assigned last week were Malachi 3:1-4; Luke 1:68-79; Philippians 1:3-11; and Luke 1:3-6. While I read these verses and thought about them, I did not set aside thirty minutes daily.

This week’s plan…make time!