I Can Still Taste the Caramel Apples (aka Why I LOVE Halloween!)

Traditions are the guideposts driven deep in our subconscious minds. —Ellen Goodman

10690117_715990488490123_92735026534026743_nWhen it comes to holidays, I like to go full-out! I love traditions…the habits and rituals that create memories (both good and bad, but especially MEANINGFUL) and serve to connect families and friends to the past, present and the future.  Equally as important, I enjoy sharing where, why and how the traditions came about.  So for the last month, my family has endured all of my favorite stories about Halloweens past.  I share these little gems, not just for myself (okay, maybe just for myself) but also as a way to join together my childhood experiences, a little history, some faith/religion and finally…to secretly instill some expectations and wisdom upon my kiddos.  And you thought I just hung out in my kitchen baking cookies all day 🙂

Seriously, I think one of the most effective tools in parenting (and a number of other categories) is the personal testimony.  That’s why I like telling Sean and Casey all about my Halloween adventures–successes and epic fails (age appropriate, of course.)  Everything from what costumes we donned (not ashamed to admit that I was Bat Girl more than once) to trick or treating in the neighborhood to visiting my great grandmother’s house (for peanuts and apples) to haunted houses and everything in between.  We compare and contrast classroom parties, popular candy (then and now), real (and not so real) ghost stories all while asking questions and googling Halloween history.  Together we’ve learned a lot!  And the payoff comes when the kiddos are just as invested in the traditions as I am 🙂

10616209_716894205066418_4160538980628630829_nI would say that I get my love of Halloween from my Dad.  He was the first adult (outside of teachers) that I can remember dressing up for Halloween on a regular basis.  Dad likes his costumes to be scary, and while that’s not my cup of tea, I have many memories of his gory masks and spooky get-ups.  He would help us carve pumpkins and Mom would work on roasting the pumpkin seeds.  At the time, pumpkin patches weren’t a part of our Halloween experience…but we looked forward to the carving nonetheless.  We didn’t use fancy stencils or patterns and our primitive carving tools could have easily sent one of us to the ER (fortunately it never came to that!)  Today, my family looks forward to our annual trip to “the patch” (which my son tells me doesn’t sound quite right) and choosing our own pumpkins from a giant field of orange and green.  Over the years, I have amassed a great deal of pumpkin carving supplies and we make an event out of the whole thing…complete with spooky music courtesy of Pandora.  This year we added hot dogs and s’mores to the occasion.  It’s one of my favorite days of the year (and someday I will master those pumpkin seeds, too!)

The traditions go way beyond the pumpkin patch and the carving.  We decorate the house, reminisce over old Halloween photos and spend countless hours discussing, shopping and creating Halloween costumes.  The costumes have become one of our best-loved parts of the season.  Fortunately, my kids aren’t into scary and with a little imagination and planning, they’ve managed to come up with some pretty creative costumes over the years.  And while I’ve quietly lobbied for the “family” costume, I am afraid that ship has sailed.  For some years, however, I was able to finagle the kiddos into coordinated costumes, but my luck eventually ran out there, too :(.  Oh well.  There’s plenty of fun in sharing stories about past costumes, who we went trick or treating with (family or friends,) where we were living at the time and surprisingly no one ever seems to mention the candy.

Typically we watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” once (sometimes twice) each October and I marvel at the questions the kids come up with.  When they were younger, they needed help with the character’s names and who was related to whom.  Now they ask why Lucy is so mean, how come Charlie Brown can’t get a break, and what Snoopy’s role as the Red Baron is really all about.  This year I had to explain that bobbing for apples was a real thing and we discussed some of the reasons why that tradition didn’t carry on (gross.)  We marvel at Schroeder’s piano playing skills, discuss party invite etiquette and basically feel bad for Linus.

As the children have grown older, Halloween has included a faith dialogue as well.  We talk about the early history of the holiday…a time when pagan superstitions and overall fear fueled the observance.  Picture a people who warily watched the seasons change and anxiously retreated into a time of the year when no crops grew, the weather was particularly harsh and their survival depended upon the work that had been done in the warmer months.  Harvest really was a reason to celebrate as they prepared for months of cold and uncertainty.  Can you imagine how they were compelled to turn to a number of gods for protection and provision?  Warding off evil lent itself to carving scary faces on gourds and trees and displaying these items on their doorsteps.  And what about trick or treating?  A custom that spans ancient beliefs, religious practices and morphed into a “pseudo-war” between the haves and have-nots before becoming the family friendly outing that we now know.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/the-history-of-trick-or-treating-is-weirder-than-you-thought-79408373/?no-ist

10700574_718765481545957_3257901382160519510_oIt’s November 1st and  costumes lie crumpled up on the floor, candy wrappers dot the tabletops, and tired looking eyes stare up at me.  And while the whole Halloween adventure culminates in one day, I realize that it’s not the holiday itself that means so much to me–it’s actually the whole season.  We’ve been gearing up, preparing for, talking about and making plans for a whole month.  Through it all we’ve carved out special (additional!) time together…outside of mealtimes and the occasional quiet evening.  We’ve cooked and baked together.  We’ve shopped together.  We’ve attended school parties together.  We’ve enjoyed nature together.  And it feels good.  I know these seasons are fleeting.  Before long, their Halloween plans won’t include me.  The kids are growing up so fast and that probably scares me more than any creepy costume on Halloween.  For now I hold onto the imagination and creativity of the season.  I look forward to the cooler temperatures and the rustling of leaves and my mind wanders (unafraid) to the approaching season that seems to draw us closer (even if it only is for warmth 🙂 )  The traditions abound and yes, I can still taste the caramel apples that sweeten this already favored season.

There is a child in every one of us who is still a trick-or-treater looking for a brightly-lit front porch. ~Robert Brault

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Daughter…Marry a Chef (You’ll Thank Me Later)

Eating is a necessity but cooking is an art. —Unknown

When I was a kid, I would tell my mother that I wanted to live in a house without a kitchen.  Actually, if I remember correctly, we had several conversations about it.  I’m fairly certain that I’ve even brought up the subject with a couple of past boyfriends (just to let them know what they were in for—yes, I’m a courteous girl :).)  And my poor husband, he knows all too well how much I LOATHE the kitchen.  Turns out that it’s not really the kitchen that I have a problem with…I mean I always planned to have a microwave and a refrigerator (I’m not stupid.)  What I really hate is the COOKING that takes place in the kitchen!

Kiss the Cook :)

Kiss the Cook 🙂

Maybe my dislike for cooking comes from possessing a very plain and boring palate.  For example…I’m pretty much a beans and rice girl.  When we go out for dinner I typically choose one of three entrees:  cheeseburger, pizza or chicken, and I’m not really into sweets.  There isn’t an adventurous bone in my body when it comes to trying new foods (asparagus anyone?)  And I’m actually very okay with this.  I view eating in the same manner that I see the need for sleep–a mere necessity and nothing more.  I have a hard time relating to a lot of my foodie friends who rave about their latest food find and go on and on about “pairing” this delectable tidbit with that scrumptious delicacy (am I even using those words right?)  I really just don’t get it.

In my own defense, I WANTED to get it.  I wanted to be a so called “expert” in the kitchen.  While I make a mean sandwich, there actually was a time when I secretly aspired to be whiz in the kitchen.  I own a lot of cookbooks, including the elusive Joy of Cooking CD-ROM (lol) and at one point I was absolutely addicted to the Food Network.  Like many stay-at-home moms, Paula Deen, Bobby Flay, Tyler Florence, and Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) were not only my idols, but also my best friends.  As soon as it was acceptable for me to turn off Nickelodeon (11am or so) I would quickly click the channel to see what my “friends” were whipping up for lunch and dinner.  Never has anyone been more into “homemade” and “from scratch” as yours truly.  I was rolling out dough, making my own stock, and a regular in the fresh herb section at our local supermarket.  I’m not sure if I crossed the line into “cooking obsessed,” but I’m pretty sure I was right on the edge.  When my three year old daughter started to request tuning into Rachael Ray instead of Dora the Explorer I finally woke up.

To be honest, I was spending a lot of time, energy and money on a hobby that I hated.  Not only did I not enjoy cooking, but truth be told, I was NOT very good at it.  In hindsight, I realize that I was fighting a losing battle.  Don’t get me wrong…I have the utmost respect for foodies and chefs alike.  It just turns out that it’s not my thing.  Slowly, I stopped turning in to the Food Network and filling my time with other things.  I began adhering more to the Sandra Lee method of food prep—“Seventy percent store-bought, ready-made plus 30 percent fresh allows you to take 100 percent of the credit.” Her kitchen motto was all that was left of my so called “love of cooking.”

Needless to say, my family didn’t starve to death.  Not once has any one ever said, “Oh, Anna, how I wish you could go back to making (fill in the blank.)”  While there are few remaining recipes that I rely on all these years later, I don’t really sweat it…especially since my children inherited my same plain and boring palate.  We primarily live on the basics:  a variety of chicken dinners, tacos, spaghetti, LOTS of sandwiches and whatever my husband can grill.  It’s not exciting, but it fills a hole.  What used to make me feel like a failure as a wife and mother, now has crossed over into the realm of acceptance.  I no longer want to be a good cook.  If I could, I honestly would quit cooking altogether and live on cereal. Unfortunately, that is not an option.  Sigh.

So here it is…I am over the mom pressure from the foodie crowd (I couldn’t grow or can anything to save my life.) I will be the first one to shout from the rooftops that being a successful wife, mother, & homemaker doesn’t mean that you are required to be a culinary genius, too.  Just because you stay home with your kids does not mean your worth and value is tied up in what’s for dinner.  Serving chicken nuggets does not make you less of a woman.  I wish someone had told me all of this years ago.  Today, the only chef I pay attention to on the Food Network is Guy Fieri…and that’s because I like to drool over the food (mostly cheeseburgers and barbeque) he samples on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”  Mmmmm….

I completely understand that no “knight-in-shining-apron” is going to come to my kitchen rescue anytime soon.  Research shows that even in today’s modern society, woman are responsible for nearly 80% of household food prep.  And while a growing number of men are becoming more and more comfortable in the family kitchen, I realize that meals will continue to fall into the woman/wife/mom category for the foreseeable future.  And that’s okay because I’ve already been coaching my daughter to marry a chef.  Problem solved.  (You’re welcome.)

Today’s menu has two choices:  TAKE IT or LEAVE IT!

That’s NOT My MTV….

Everything popular is wrong.  Oscar Wilde

mtv-logo-7I’ll admit that I don’t watch a lot of MTV these days, but I so clearly remember when the network first debuted in the 80s.  Practically THE perfect channel (in my adolescent assessment,) as it was brilliantly simple–music videos with young, hip, fun personalities known as video jockeys (VJs.)  The ability to tune in to my favorite songs, 24/7, served as the backdrop to my tween and teen years and I’m sure that was the story for countless others from my generation.  And while reminiscing about Paula Abdul videos, Yo! MTV Raps, Pauly Shore and MTV News typically bring a smile to my face, it’s at this time EVERY year that my thoughts about MTV merely result in a long, sad sigh as the network offers up the its annual MTV Music Awards show.

Right now the web is blowing up with critiques and reaction to Sunday night’s show.  The annual offering was pretty hard to miss given that it runs live on several Viacom channels aside from MTV.  And while you couldn’t avoid it, there were plenty of reasons one might try to.  Obviously, the show is edgy.  It was edgy back in the day, but somehow the definition of edgy has been changed from simply “pushing the limits of good taste” to “practically naked” and “high on drugs.”  Hence the long, sad, sigh.

I am a big music fan (I have kids so I think it’s important to know WHO and WHAT they’re listening to) and believe it or not, I was actually very familiar with most of the performers and nominees.  I am genuinely impressed by the talent and creativity that goes into making a hit song, I just wish it could be different.  The pop psychologist in me wonders if these music celebrities would be any less successful or culturally relevant if they decided to keep their clothes on and skip the pre-awards show doobie?  I have a feeling those with true musical talent would still find fame, but those whose celebrity relies upon sensationalism might not.  I guess that’s what they call “famous, for being famous.”  My biggest disappointment in all this is that I’ve seen research that suggests provocative clothing (or lack there of,) foul language and drug references actually make today’s teens that much more inclined to like a song or artist.  Apparently, marketing and public relations gurus are also hip to this trend as many advise their celebrity clients to continue to push the boundaries.  Listen, I was young once…we all want to push a little, test the waters, and see what else it out there as part of declaring our independence from our parents, peers, etc.  That’s pretty typical, but somewhere along the way we’ve also opened the door AND placed a welcome mat out to some pretty disappointing, potentially dangerous and scary behavior.  Long, sad sigh.

The optimist in me keeps looking for a little glimmer of hope…a sampling of the fun, nostalgic MTV of days gone by, but that’s a pretty tall order for a network that has used sensationalism as its stepping stone toward continued relevance.  Several writers have outlined their top ten moments from this year’s show and while I could recall each of these episodes…none of them stood out as great or outstanding.  Most of them weren’t even about the music.  Again…long, sad sigh.  Just another f-bomb laden, almost nude, drug-promoting, angry ranting awards show.  For me, the best part of the show was not what was taking place on the television, but rather my family’s reaction to the whole thing.  I wish I had kept a tally for every time my husband asked “why we were watching this show, when we could change the channel, and if the show was over yet?”  My tween daughter opted to watch YouTube tutorials in her room, and my teenage son didn’t even know the show was on (boy, I dodged a bullet there!)

No doubt the coverage of this event will continue.  Miley Cyrus will be critiqued, the feud between her and Nicki Minaj will further develop, a reporter will be assigned to find out why Justin Beiber was in tears, and a campaign team is likely assembling now for Kanye’s presidential run.  It’s all just a little too much.   As I type this, plans are probably in the works for next year’s award show, but as much as I ascribe to the “devil you know” mantra…MTV just might have to count me out.   I think I’m done.

When you get something like MTV, it’s like regular television. You get it, and at first it’s novel and brand new and then you watch every channel, every show. And then you become a little more selective and more selective, until ultimately… you wind up with a radio.  David Lee Roth

 

 

 

 

I’m Only Happy When It Rains (NOT!)

One can find so many pains when the rain is falling.  –John Steinbeck.

Rain, rain go away…, oh, forget it. We’re past the point of cute nursery rhymes, the rain has gone on long enough, the puddles are turning into ponds and I’m going to come clean–I HATE the rain!  I’ve always hated the rain.

For years, I feigned interest when people talked about rain.  In Kansas, it seems that we never have enough rain and the topic comes up ALOT.  People love to talk about the weather here…it’s a conversation staple.  Don’t get me wrong…I am a big-time weather nerd, but the rain just doesn’t float my boat.  At all.  I can’t stand it when it’s gray and cloudy and I especially don’t like it when this type of weather goes on for days.    This spring has been especially rainy and I’m so over it.  In some ways it’s gone from annoying to spirit draining.  I’m done.

SomePeopleFeelTheRainOthersJustGetWetI thought about writing a blog titled “5 things to do in the rain,” or maybe “5 things NOT to do on a rainy day, or “5 ways not to go INSANE when it won’t stop raining,” but…I just don’t care.  This is what the rain does to me.  It puts me in this pensive mood.  It takes me to a place where time feels like it’s standing still…clocks no longer matter.  The rain brings back memories (both good and bad.)  It keeps me in this sleepy sort of daydream like mood.  I feel like eating chocolate (and I’m not a huge chocolate kind of girl.)  I have no energy.  And the worst part is that I just don’t know what to do with myself.  I should clean the house, I should catch up on work, I should start a project, I should bake something, I should read a book…but I can’t.  As I write this I can imagine family and friends reaching for their phones…thinking that they should call and check on me.  I’m fine.  The truth is, I just hate the rain.

SpongeBob Uno...Jellyfish wild, anyone?

SpongeBob Uno…Jellyfish wild, anyone?

It’s funny to think that the rain could affect me so much.  Especially since I LOVE thunderstorms!  Crashes of lightening, booming thunder, and hail–oh, I’m a big fan.  It’s exciting and BRIEF compared to our recent bout of never-ending showers.  Several people have been complaining about how the rain is forcing them indoors and cancelling all their social plans.  This makes me laugh because these are things that don’t bother me in the least.  I’m not an outdoors person (too many bugs) and I’m perfectly happy keeping myself company (a self-proclaimed introvert.)  Others have seized the opportunity to use these rainy days for family bonding and togetherness.  This is all well and good, but there’s only so many games of Uno one can play in an afternoon (BTW that number is 37.)

Spencer family swamp.  May 2015

Spencer family swamp. May 2015

Basically I am in survival mode trying to busy myself with anything that will distract me from staring out the window.  This is where Facebook is an absolute godsend!  I so enjoy all the posts about the rain…the worried, the productive, the thoughtful and especially the FUNNY takes on the weather!  It’s rainy days like these where Pinterest is a lifesaver as I pin all the projects I will NEVER get to.  Thank you, Instagram…#hashtag everything.  Fellow blog writers…I appreciate all your genius insights into every subject under the sun (oh, yes, the glorious SUN!)  Right now, you’re all keeping me sane AND awake!  And finally, HGTV…where would I be without YOU?  This sounds like an Academy Awards speech for keeping my head above water, but it’s so very true.

Right now all is quiet and it’s not even 9pm.  The kids have retreated to their own corners of the house…binging on Minecraft and streaming TV shows.  My husband is at the computer working.  And the rain–well, it’s NOT stopping.  When I pray tonight, I’ll be sure to thank God that I don’t live in the Pacific Northwest (as their rainy climate would absolutely kill me.)  Along with this constant drip, I hear only one song playing over and over in my head…and it makes me smile.

Pour your misery down….

June Bugs in May (A Horror Story)

Insects are my secret fear. That’s what terrifies me more than anything – insects.  —Michael O’Donoghue

This will probably only make sense to those who know me best: I HATE June bugs!  I don’t remember when my phobia began, but I’m pretty sure that it’s hereditary since I have early childhood memories of my mom, my aunts, my cousins and my sister shrieking in terror when one would come around on a warm spring/summer night.  By the time I was in junior high, the phobia was in full force…as my good friend, Joy, and I would part ways at the street light halfway between our houses.  Under this light it would seem that June bugs gathered by the thousands…just looking for young girls with long hair to attack.  Of course, we played it cool…walking to the street light, quickly saying our goodbyes and running like maniacs back to our houses screaming all the way!  I think it’s their large bodies, hard shells, sticky limbs, drunken flight patterns and the sheer noisiness of the little beasts that send me into a tizzy.  YUCK!

June bug memeTurns out that up until now, my fear of June bugs was strictly theoretical.  You see all that time I spent dodging them and screaming about them and running from them was merely child’s play.  I had never actually had one land on me.  I’ve never had to pull one from my hair.  Mostly, when I saw one I ran the other direction and if I came across one on the ground well, I stepped on it and tried not to throw up (it’s that body crushing sound that makes me want to hurl.)  This system was my response to these scary critters and while it may not sound like a great plan, it had always worked…that is up until last night….

While sitting around a warm campfire, preparing s’mores on an especially beautiful night I met my fear head on (so to speak, ) but let me back up just a bit–I should probably set this up a little.  My kiddos were having friends over and with all the comings and goings I left the outdoor lights on.  I wanted parents and kids arriving at our house to have a little light…especially since the bulb in the lamp-post that lights the sidewalk had burned out.  This meant the flood light that illuminates the patio and basketball goal was on…for HOURS!  It was during this time that a swarm of June bugs made their way to our house.  There were so many that my son and his friend took to trying to exterminate the problem by clubbing them with sticks (probably a boy thing) and stepping on them.  This was all well and good (or so I thought) because 1.  it gave them something to do while they were waiting for every one to arrive and 2. they were killing the June bugs!  By the time we were ready to get started I foolishly believed that the June bugs were no longer and issue and that any remaining little beasts would simply move on to someone else’s yard once we turned out the lights.  But, NO.

The only good June bug--a dead one!

The only good June bug–a dead one!

Throughout the campfire we could HEAR the June bugs lurking.  Much of the noise came from June bugs running into the garage wall where the light had once been.  There was even a loud popping noise when the less brilliant bugs sizzled up in the fire–much to the amusement of the kids.  And finally there was the crackling noise of the June bugs beneath MY feet as I moved about helping the kiddos make their s’mores.  Each crunchy moment made me want to lose my dinner and I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to stomach eating a s’more myself.  After about 20 minutes my thoughts drifted away from these horrible bugs and on to the silly ghosts stories that were being told.  But wouldn’t you know it…just when I finally got past the situation enough to put together my own ooey gooey, delicious s’more I felt something.  No it wasn’t in my hair or on my arm…no the sinister little beast was crawling up my pant leg–ON THE INSIDE!

So there I was with my marshmallow stick in one hand and my fixin’s in the other when I could feel something moving up my leg (darn those wide leg, boot cut jeans.)  Okay, I thought, be calm…we have company.  We don’t want to panic the children.  I’ll just crush it up against my leg and then it will fall out, right?  (As I type this I can’t believe those words crossed my mind!)  So I quickly transferred everything to one hand and smacked my knee with the other.  I heard and felt the crunch.  I shook out my pant leg, but nothing fell out.  Surely, I had killed the thing!  I mean, I hit it pretty hard.  I shook my pant leg even more, stepping out of my sandal and using the moonlight to search out the area.  NOTHING.  Alright, maybe it fell out and I just didn’t see it.  Yeah, that sounds good.  I’ll go with that.  Thinking that the issue had resolved itself, I went back to the task at hand and set out to assemble my s’more.  As soon as I bit into that little square of goodness that same feeling returned to my leg.  This time I couldn’t help but react.  I jumped, squirmed and announced, “There’s a bug in my pants!”  You can imagine the giggles and fits of laughter.  Great.  So again I smacked my knee as hard as I could and this time I knew without a doubt that I had succeeded in killing that thing.  You can’t deny BUG JUICE! (Excuse me now while I once again try NOT to throw up!)

What I realized last night is that somewhere along the way, I must have grown up.  While I still wholeheartedly claim AND proclaim my June bug phobia–somehow I got through that moment.  In the past a trauma like this would have completely ruined my night, but not this time.  Instead, I shook out my pant leg (again) and what was left of the bug fell out (of course, I immediately stepped on it for good measure.) Then I moved past it.  We finished up our s’mores and Steve and I enjoyed chatting by the fire until nothing was left but smoldering embers.  It was so peaceful.  Obviously, I didn’t want to discover another bug up my leg, but I wasn’t afraid to let my feet rest on the same slab of concrete where the incident occurred.  Call me crazy, but this is BIG GIRL stuff!  I felt so good and proud of myself (especially after that squishy spot dried on my pant leg.)  Sometimes it truly is the little victories…”sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug”…and sometimes you just get over it and move on as dignified as possible…BUG JUICE and all!

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.  Proverbs 31:25

 

My Purse Keeps Getting Bigger (and Not for the Right Reasons)

As the purse is emptied, the heart is filled. –Victor Hugo

IMG_4376

My briefcase-sized purse…easily weighs 8-10 pounds.

Remember the good ol’ days?  Footloose and fancy free?  Not a care in the world?  I do…and what I remember most about them was that everything that I truly NEEDED fit into the palm of my hand.  Gone are the days of tucking cherry-flavored Chapstick into my pocket and heading out the door.  No more securing a dollar bill to the inside of my sock…you know,  just in case.  Forget about making room in your shoe to save that last piece of gum for later (seriously, forget about that–it’s a bad idea.)  All of these good times ended at about age 16…the year where freedom (a.k.a. driving) meant that you had to carry proof that you were indeed legal behind the wheel!  Thus one enters the era of THE PURSE….

At first, having a purse made me feel all grown up.  My purse contained nothing but the necessities, right?  This is sorta funny because at the time I remember searching my room frantically for items to fill my purse.  You know–a comb, lipstick, gum/candy/breath mints (sometimes ALL three), a pen. perfume (I know…I’m sorry,) a stylish journal (for all my important thoughts) and of course a wallet for money…plus that prized driver’s license (the reason I desperately needed a purse in the first place.)  In the beginning the purse was pretty small…always messenger style so I could wear it across my body.  This is important, because when you’re new to carrying around a purse you need one that you can’t lose…just saying.  The purse and I became sympatico and a love/hate relationship was established.

By the time college came around I had to re-evaluate the whole purse thing.  Life was changing–big time!  I found that college life required a backpack and not necessarily a little messenger purse.  The school that I attended was situated on top of a hill, so a lot of walking was a given.  Fortunately, I found an item that I refer to as a wallet-keychain. This nifty little gadget became my best friend for four years.  It tucked nicely into the backpack, held the bare essentials (license, student ID, money, and bank card) and was attached to my keys!  Genius.  I wished I had discovered it in high school.  This would make everything better…or so I thought.  But the purse would eventually have its revenge.

After graduation I ventured into a career path that required some “primping” to say the least (I am only slightly embarrassed to say that I wanted to be the next Connie Chung 🙂 )  Carrying a make-up bag, a brush and comb, etc. was just the norm for this girl with big dreams.  Add onto that the things I needed for work:  a pen (a back up pen,) a notebook, tapes (and back up tapes,) and HAIRSPRAY!  Then there were the snacks (you wondered when I would get to this point?)  You see, when your lunch hour varies (or doesn’t necessarily exist) you need more than gum to sustain yourself.  Small packages of crackers, cookies and even instant coffee started entering the picture and filling my (now bigger) purse.  My shoulder aches just thinking about those days.

I wish I could say that changing career paths meant less stuff and a smaller purse.  It didn’t…and mostly because I moved to California.  You’re probably wondering why that matters, but it does matter and maybe not for the reasons you might think.  It wasn’t that I needed a big purse so that I could keep up with the Kardashians, but rather I needed a purse filled with survival supplies.  While California is amazingly beautiful, it’s also a jungle!  And jungle life meant that you had to be ready for your 11 mile commute to take as long as two hours.  If you had to cross a bridge, someone else’s fender bender might have you looking at a 3 hour delay.  Traffic is ridiculous there and so you had to pack ridiculous things in your purse.  Water was just as big a deal then as it is now.  Carrying around water bottles was not only in vogue, but it could save your life on a warm, Cali day if the traffic was particularly uncooperative (especially when you AC goes out!)  Food in your purse was a must, but because this was the Golden State you felt obligated to have “healthy” food.  Fruit, nuts, cheese and crackers were the standards–and “fresh” food meant carrying a cold-pak, too.  I pity the person who got busted stuffing their face with Cheetos on the California freeway!  (Really, you should know better!)

But never was the purse’s revenge as terrible as the day I become a mother.  It’s like I could hear the purse saying, “You will never, EVER go back!”  I tried making my purse into a diaper bag and when that didn’t work I asked the diaper bag to do double duty as a baby-things-carry-all and a purse.  Either way you look at it, I was carrying around a bunch of nonsense.  Okay, you’re thinking…”Well, your kids weren’t toddlers forever, right?  Eventually you went back to carrying around a plain old purse.”  Well, yes AND no.  Now that I was a mom I discovered this unwritten rule where you are forced to carry things for your kiddos.  This form of servanthood is sneaky, even to the most savvy mother.  So many times I have told my children that if they brought it, they had to carry it…only to find my purse a little heavier and their book, toy, or gadget safety tucked inside while my child proceeded to run and do hand stands all over the place with their newfound freedom.

My migration to the extra-large purse didn’t end with just the kids’ stuff.  My purse also doubles as a medicine cabinet.  Bandages, Neosporin, allergy medicine, etc.  all make their home here as well.  I am the keeper of Kleenex, keys and bubble gum (of various flavors nonetheless.)  My purse houses accessories for cleaning glasses, and extra contact lenses as well as a portable hair salon equipped with fashionable hair-ties for my daughter.  Need to write something down?  I have pencils, pens and SHARPIES (assorted colors) in my bag!  Not to mention lotion, hand sanitizer, post-its and a small magnifying glass (BTW I’m aging and my eyes were the first things to go.)  I have ear buds, sunglasses and occasionally pizza crumbs (don’t ask.)  These are just the staples, I could go on (and on….)

So why am I telling you all this?  Because I want it to stop.  REALLY.  I am over the purse thing.  I want to be the kind of person who just goes with the flow (sans the “luggage.”)  The kind of person who doesn’t need a million accessories just to go to the grocery store or to watch my kiddos play ball. I want to go back to the days when everything I NEEDED fit into the palm of my hand.  I am craving simplicity and I think the reason all of this has to come to a head is because physically AND spiritually the purse is weighing me down.  Stop.  I know that’s a pretty big leap, but hear me out.  I finally understand the reason I carry around the equivalent of  a briefcase everywhere I go, 365 days a year.  It’s because of fear and control.  Every time a situation has come up in the last 20+ years and I DIDN’T have the tools I needed to handle it, another “something” was added to the purse.  This is a pretty big revelation for me.  While feigning having it all together, what was really going on was a lack of trust.  I didn’t trust myself, I didn’t trust life and in someway I was also saying that I didn’t trust God (at least not completely.)

IMG_4453

My new wristlet…smaller than a paperback book!

After so many years, it’s going to be hard to change this pattern…to fight the urge to cover all the bases, at all times–EVERY time.  The desire to be superwoman, superwife, supermom, etc.  is so very strong.  Listen, I know this isn’t the biggest problem on the planet, but I feel convicted to make a change.  I want to trust more…to put myself out there.  In some suburban-housewife-kind-of-way…this is my next faith test.  So here’s where I am–I purchased a wristlet (which just may be the grown-up version of the wallet-keychain that I loved so much in college.)  Full disclosure–right now the wristlet resides in my purse (along side a million other items,) but I am making a plan to downsize to this little dandy.  Just the NECESSITIES!  Those of you who know me, know that this is a tall order!  I think I’m up to the challenge.  Don’t worry, I’m not going cold turkey…I will still have a large bag (NOT a purse) for sporting events, kid-related activities and church projects.  So what if I don’t have a bandage for every boo-boo or a just the right flavor of gum for my kiddos?  I have a funny feeling (and a whole lot of FAITH) that we will survive…and it just might save my shoulders, too!

Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”  “Nothing,” they answered.  Luke 22:35

 

 

 

hymningandhaing (The Title Explained)

First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.  Epictetus, Greek Philosopher

Not that anyone has ever asked, but I thought that maybe I should explain (just in case the thought ever crossed your mind)…why hymningandhaing?  If it sounds familiar and looks horribly misspelled, then you’re right on both accounts.  The title is my take on the familiar idiom “hem and haw.”

hem and haw and hymn and ha

When I began writing this blog in 2011, I planned to share bits and pieces of my faith along with my everyday life and I wanted a title that would reflect that theme (go with me on this one, the road is a little twisted here….)  To hem and haw means to dither, refuse to give a definitive answer and to keep one’s options open (according to The Word Detective at least.)  So while the more familiar version of hemming and hawing connotes a level of indecisiveness, uncertainty and fence-sitting, my interpretation is a little more personal.  The “hymning” part is a playful way of suggesting that while I’m a pastor’s wife, I am also the least literate hymn person in the congregation!  I didn’t grow up in church so for the most part the hymnal is full of dozens of songs I’ve never, EVER heard of.  Not exactly what you’d expect from the so-called “first lady of the church,” (a title that makes me giggle every time!)  While this might seem like a sad state of affairs, the “haing” part of the title (pronounced ha-ing…like ha, ha, ha) suggests that I try to take all this in stride and accept the fact that no matter what role I find myself in (wife, mother, sister, friend, etc.) I always try to find the lighter side of things and not take myself too seriously.  Afterall, NONE of this was my plan.  I am just grateful that God’s plans are so much bigger than anything I could have imagined for myself!  And that’s where the original hemming and hawing meets my variation.  I don’t know where all this is going or how it will all play out.  For the most part, I try to stay open to the possibilities, be thoughtful in all situations and just wait and see…realizing that I don’t have all the answers (if any at all.)

So that’s it.  It’s definitely not an earth shattering revelation.  Just a little insight.  Although I will admit that it makes me belly laugh every time someone mispronounces the blog title!  My favorite to date is when someone asked me why I call it hymning-and-HAYing…is it because I live on a farm?  (No, I don’t.) 🙂

 

 

 

 

Small Town Night Owl

I stay up late every night and realize it’s a bad idea every morning.  —unknown

As I near 40, I’m almost ashamed to admit it.  Almost.  But here’s my confession:  When it comes to sleep I am my own worst enemy.  I think I might have jinxed myself as a kid when I muttered that both food and sleep were overrated.  While I still hold these tenets to be true, I have come to discover that sleep is pretty vital (I’m sure food is, too…I just don’t want to admit it or PREPARE it.)

sleepIt’s not that I don’t need sleep.  Trust me, I NEED it!  It’s just that my clock is “off.”  I could try blaming age, but my real trouble with sleep began way before that.  It seems that at bedtime…I’m just not tired.  As a child I remember sharing a room with my little sister and after lights out, we would simply stay up and talk…or sing.  (We had these singing contests where we tried to win the other person over to our song.  Popular catchy songs work well, but if I remember right, annoying brain worm songs like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” worked much better!)  I also loved to tell stories and like an old woman I could spin a yarn that would go on for days.  My poor sister!  On more than one occasion I’d tell a story that would go on so long that she would fall asleep before it ended 🙂  It was slightly embarrassing….  Only slightly.

In junior high and especially high school, I continued my night owl ways.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t tired.  I really, really was!  But afterschool activities, a social life and school work kept me up ’til the wee hours of the morning.  (Before you jump to any conclusions let it be known that I stayed up way later for school work than for anything else! I know–I’m a NERD 🙂 ) For some reason, I always felt like I had more energy at night.  11pm seems to be peak time for me.  To be fair, I have to admit that I am not a morning person.  Not at all.  Maybe that’s part of why I’m a night owl.

During my college years, being a night owl just went with the territory.  We were all night owls…burning the candle at both ends.  It wasn’t that big of a deal–nothing ever is at that age.  Wake up early, stay up late…some nights sleep was more of a good idea than a reality.  I can remember going to a Poe concert the night before a final, closing down the club, going out to breakfast, drinking my weight in coffee, studying for an hour and arriving on campus just in time to take a 7am final–and acing it.  (Good genetics, I can thank my Mom for my test taking abilities!)  This was the way life rolled and I loved it!  Yes, sleep was overrated indeed.  We are so invincible in our 20s….

One might think that motherhood would change everything.  No.  Now I had an excuse to be awake at all hours of the night.  Pregnancy, middle of the night feedings, a colicky baby, illness of one kind or another, bad dreams, etc.  All this and so much more just pushed my night owl tendencies to the next level because a sleeping child meant that I could have a moment to do what I wanted to do.  You know, like watch a sitcom from beginning to end (forget movies…that’s asking for too much time,) have a snack and not have to share, catch up on correspondence, READ, and have a continuous thought (crazy, right?)  Let me be clear, my late night tendencies have never had anything to do with insomnia (which sounds horrible!)  It really is LIGHTS OUT once my head hits the pillow.  It’s just that I can find a million and one things to do before going to sleep.  Did I mention that I drink ALOT of coffee?

I’ve given my night owl tendencies a lot of thought lately.  For the past few weeks I’ve noticed several news articles and studies that cite the need for better sleep habits…specifically MORE sleep and an earlier bedtime.  At first I sort of brushed it off, but I’m starting to think that maybe I should take these things more seriously.  These same studies say that a lack of sleep leads to poor memory, an inability to focus, impaired immunity, sluggish metabolism and WRINKLES.  (Look, I claim not to be vain, but I don’t know a woman on the planet who’s “okay” with wrinkles!)  So, what’s a girl to do? Change seems practically impossible.  And let me just state for the record, this wouldn’t even be an issue if I could find a school district where classes didn’t start until 10am (that’s what I call a reasonable morning hour.)

My best friend recently told me that she has successfully made “the transition,” moving from night owl (she was my social counterpart in my early years) to morning person.  I know–it just doesn’t seem possible!  No longer does she fritter away the late night hours or need to set several alarm clocks to wake up in the morning.  Instead she’s up with the sun and happy about it.  So what’s her secret?  She tells me that through prayer and discipline she has made a change for the better.  Wouldn’t you just know it?  Jesus is the answer (again!) I have to tell you that I’m not optimistic.  It’s not that I don’t have faith…it’s more that I don’t know if I’m ready.  Because you see EVERY part of me LIKES staying up late.  It’s my chance to breathe, to sit without interruption, to find peace, READ and have a continuous thought all my own! (Notice a theme here?)  I like being the only person awake in the quiet of our little home.  Maybe it’s an introvert thing, but nighttime is MY TIME!

Okay, so someday (soon) I plan to grow up and get serious about sleep and taking care of myself.  And when I do, I know (without a doubt) that Jesus will see me through.  That and the threat of WRINKLES….

Night, night.

Ohhh, Christmas Tree!

The perfect Christmas tree? All Christmas trees are perfect!—Charles Barnard

THE Christmas tree:  Symbol of that oh so special holiday, proudly displayed each and every year in a place of prominence, carefully adorned with treasured and sentimental ornaments.  A recognized hallmark of the Christmas season and the BANE of my Decembers. As our family always opts for the “real” variety (instead of the plastic trees of my childhood,) it seems that somewhere along the way a war has been waged between the Spencer family and THE tree.  A battle that never fails to entertain and frustrate at the same time.  This year proved no different.

So may I present to you our annual Christmas tree adventure–in song form!  Oh yes, this year’s tree had us fooled…we REALLY thought this was THE perfect tree 🙂  Each family member convinced that we could avoid the typical end of the year evergreen hijinks.  Fools we were, this tree had our number from Day 1.

tree poem

THE tree on January 4, 2015.  A little scraggly....

THE tree on January 4, 2015. A little scraggly, still standing!

Still standing!  We made it through December and into 2015.  Sure, it’s a sight to be seen and my son is already begging me to “please, take it DOWN.”  No, son, not yet.  I promised my daughter I would try to have it down by the time her birthday rolls around (mid-January.)  In the meantime, I will sip coffee and watch our once majestic tree transform into a scraggly shrub, daily picking up the ornaments (aided in their fall by the dog no less,) placing lights back onto the branches and taking bets on just how crooked it will get before it tips over (again)…and then, maybe then, I will take it down.  I’m in no hurry.  The whole ordeal has practically become its own Christmas tradition…a tradition I secretly wouldn’t trade for anything in the world!  Ohhh, Christmas tree 🙂

Don’t measure the height of your Christmas tree.  Measure the abundance of the love present in your heart!  Have a blessed Christmas!–author unknown

Another Blog-iversary :)

blogiversaryDear Readers,
I would like to say THANK YOU to those who have been following my blog, hymningandhaing.com.  As I enter my fourth year of blog writing, I am proud of the 65 posts I have penned thus far and the positive feedback that I have received—it continues to fuel my desire to write more!  I am grateful for the fun comments, insights and encouraging words that you have offered throughout my blogging endeavor and I look forward to 2015 and the writing opportunities it will bring!

Happy blog-iversary, hymningandhaing.com!!!