Monday, December 29, 2008

My Personal Self Help Book

Recently I've been looking back over the last few months of my life (Probably because I'm aging even as I type --- Birthday countdown 29 days January 27 for those not sure of the math) and I've been trying to determine if I really have changed, or if it's all in my mind. Well, I'm going to go with I've really changed. All because self help book.

Some of you may have just gasped. Those are the books that everyone hears about, everyone is reading, but no one will actually ADMIT to being a reader. Well, today I am standing unashamed in saying, oh I have one. Now in my opinion, since that's the only opinion i currently have to hear, most people have at one point or another either, considered buying a self help book (paying of course with cash only), considered reading a self help book (except if you check it out at the library and they are electronic, it would be down in history that you checked it out!), read the cover and the back cover and a few pages throughout of a self help book, borrowed one from a friend...I could continue. My point being at some time, most people believe that they are in need of "self help." If that is not you, I'm impressed that you are bothering reading, because I will tell you I need all the help I can get!
Anyways, I have recently taken on an appreciation for self help books. There are a few things though that I think should be observed:
  1. They don't say anything we don't already know,
  2. They don't say anything our friends and family haven't already tried telling us- you just paid to hear it again from a stranger, and
  3. Numbers one and two sum it up, so I guess I only have 2 points.
That being said I have also discovered that a book I already owned in my possession was actually a self help book. Amazing! I know I OWN one.
And to top it all off- It's all inclusive.
My self help book discusses any topic you ever might could need! (Yes, I said might could):
  • Relationships- Check.
  • Money- Check.
  • Time Management- Check.
  • Self Value- Check.
  • Being kind to others- Check.
  • Anger problems- Check.
Over the last few months I have gained a new appreciation for my self help book. I would say that by consulting it frequently I have really learned more about myself, and more about others.

Sometimes we just need a new perspective outside of ourselves to really see the truth and really see the light. I will close my rambling with one additional thought. Sometimes we place our value in the opinion of another. We decide on our "beauty" or intelligence or whatever simply if someone decides to look at us and grant us his/her attention. It is a powerful thing when a person can determine that he/she is beautiful or intelligent or WORTH IT simply because God made us.

That my friends, is what I have learned. And, it's been worth the trip getting here.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

All I want for Christmas...And World Peace.

I know I know, I'm a few days late. But, here it is nonetheless.

Christmas is, at least for my family a time of tradition. I'm sure that to some, our traditions are trivial and probably not too exciting, but for me and my family, they are ours, and something I look forward to every year. For as long as I can remember, Christmas Eve would come, and with it the arrival of our tried and true tradition. We'd have our meal of chips and dip, popcorn, cheese and crackers, and whatever else sounded good, something salty and something sweet. We'd break out our comfy pajamas, sometimes new, sometimes old, and we'd then settle in for a night of movies. The movie choices always varied, except for the final movie- A Christmas Carol (with Alastair Sim, and only him). This year was no different. Oh, the meal was different, but just as always my family settled in for a quiet night.

This year I sat wrapped in a blanket on the couch, the only light the Christmas tree lights and watched the story that I've seen over and over. It never fails me how a movie, a black and white movie, fifty some years old speaks to me in some way or another. This year I was reminded of how Christmas is not just a one day celebration. Oh, it's true that it's the holiday marked on our calendar, and it's true I go home to my family and we open gifts and sing carols and dance our old traditional folk dance (hahahaha, kidding, there is no singing or dancing). But the real reason I celebrate isn't all shoved into one day. The "Spirit of Christmas Present" really summed up the whole movie and the whole holiday for me. "Mortal! We Spirits of Christmas do not live only one day of our year. We live the whole three-hundred and sixty-five. So is it true of the Child born in Bethlehem. He does not live in men's hearts one day of the year, but in all days of the year. You have chosen not to seek Him in your heart." I, however, want to choose that very thing, and choose to seek Him each day of the year. What I have found is that when I do that I experience peace, that's my world peace.
Ah the holidays.
Until next year Mr. Scrooge, until next year.

A few miscellaneous Christmas notes:
  • When I was around six, we lived in an apartment. That Christmas I remember very vividly asking my mom how Santa would be able to drop off our presents. We had no chimney, AND we lived on the bottom floor. My mom was very quick with her response. "Santa, has a really big key for all those houses without a chimney. It can open any lock in the world. No worries. Santa will be here." Wow, that Santa is a genius. A pure genius.
  • My favorite quote came out of my brother's mouth one year as he ripped open a present. He held the box in his hands and started yelling, "Oh, oh, oh, I love it! I love it! What is it?"
  • This year my cousin Jake made our desert- Pumpkin Cheesecake. Props to you Jake! It was amazing!
I leave you with a miscellaneous picture:

(This was a picture from my drive home a few weeks ago...the snow really looked like this!)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Over the two months I have drafted and begun writing ten, (I actually counted them) ten posts and didn't finish any of them. I have thought of combining all of them into one big mega post, but that sounds like a lot of work; a lot of copying and pasting, and then a lot of editing and then, quite frankly a lot of reading. Then I thought maybe it would be fun to take the first sentence of each draft and putting it together into one big messy paragraph, just to see the fun chaos that would result. That also sounded like a lot of work. My third option, which is the option that I am going with now, is to actually FINISH each of them, one at a time and post it. Because I'm actually the writer, and because I didn't know what I was going to be doing with each and every one of them, I reserve the right to not post them all!
So, tonight, in the middle of a snowstorm, I give you my first redo, of a never been done!

Original post 10.24.08
Tonight I spoke with an old friend. And, in that phone call I felt a great chasm between the old and the new. To clarily, when I'm mentioning the old and the new I'm referring to the old me versus the new. Is it possible that within a two month time period much of the old can be chipped away and removed? Is it possible for things once painful to be erased and wiped away just by the presence of space and time?
Much of life is a decision. What to eat, what to wear, where to go, what time to get up in the morning (Or to sleep on Sunday afternoons)... And we decide these things on our own. Oh, sometimes we blame others. We can say, "Everyone else is doing it," "Mom said," "My brother told me it was a good idea," "The devil made me do it," but it's all on us. We decide. And today, or tonight, I was struck by the reality of my decision. There are these things that I have held onto, feelings, emotions, the lack of belief, belief in something false, whatever it is, that have in a sense held onto me. Like a noose around my neck I have been strangled by
things. And tonight I realized the desire and ability to shake off these "things" and restart anew.

The Monkey and the Pickle Jar by A. Ullrich

There once was a monkey who lived in the forest who always bragged about how smart he was. One day the monkey found a pickle jar with a handful of pickles left inside. The monkey was extremely fond of pickles. The monkey put his hand in the jar and grabbed all the pickles. When he lifted his hand, it wouldn't come out. He wasn't sure what to do, so he started yelling, "Help, help, my hand is stuck!" Then suddenly a little rabbit came by and looked over the situation. After carefully reviewing the jar and monkey's hand, the rabbit said, "Poor, poor monkey. Trapped by your own greed and stupidity. Let go of the pickles and you'll be free." And he was.

I read this story and I realize how often I do this. Oh, I've not literally stuck my hand in a pickle jar, but I have in another sense. There are days when I feel as though I have my hand in a trap-not necessarily greed but other things like an unnecessary stress or weight on my back, or an enveloping of fear and concern and worry, but just like the monkey, I have made it my choice to hang on, rather than to let go.

Revert to present day 12.18.08
Today two months later, I have found that I have begun to release the fear and unertainty that I've gripped onto for so long. The monkey, in some ways (I think) held onto the pickle because he thought it was what he wanted. But, he didn't know for sure. Instead of going out and looking for something new and better and really available, he stuck with what he thought he knew, what he thought he wanted. And I've done the same for a very long time. My thought is that as soon as the monkey got out of the "pickle" (hahahaha) by letting go of the pickle, the world became a different place. I just bet that the monkey never found himself in that same predicament again.

You know what, neither will I.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Ticket

Oh, today was a Monday alright. From the snow, right down to my food falling out of the fridge at work and busting the container right open. My work day ended with me, throwing on my warm coat, trotting outside to my car, which started, and me driving home to my home warm and waiting for me.

I was 16. Never been out of the country before, and yet there I was, sitting in a structure literally made out of tin and cardboard. I was sitting beside a small girl and her brother. In her hand she held a small ticket crumpled in her hand. See, the structure I was in, was built on a hill, where people lived in homes also made of tin and cardboard. I was there with a feeding center that brought food to those who lived on the hill. The tickets were passed out to as many as possible. Once passed out those with tickets would stand in line and what for their food. The meals consisted of rice- plain rice- and beans, and a tortilla. Bland, but full of nutrients. We ran out of food. The entire time I was there, sitting with the girl, talking with her. (I use the word talking loosely, as I tried to talk using my broken Spanish.) She never mentioned how hungry she was. She did not comment on her growling stomach or her disappointment. There were no words as she played with her two year old brother. She laughed and watched the puppet show. She gave hugs and kisses. She had nothing. I had everything.

That night at the mission house it was time for us to eat. My plate was filled. And, I couldn't eat. I couldn't stand how the food smelled. I couldn't handle how it looked. And, I was ashamed. I threw my plate to someone, and begged him to eat it for me, and I walked away and cried. I didn't eat the rest of the night. I took comfort in the fact that my stomach growled. But, hungry is only ever a temporary state of being for me. I ate the next day, and once again was filled.

I had a friend pass away last week. She was elderly. From the time she was eleven she suffered with arthritis, crippling arthritis. Yet, this woman, who at times could not even walk, always welcomed everyone. She gave hugs freely, and always had a kind word. And when you'd ask her how she was doing, she'd smile and say, "Honey, I am just thankful I am here."

Each day I can roll out of bed. I can walk down my stairs, carry my things. I can wash dishes and clap my hands. I am, alive. And moving. I should be glad to be able to get out of bed. But, sometimes that's not even enough for me.

It should not take a starving child, or a woman in pain to remind me of how much I have to be thankful for. It should not take a disaster or tragedy. Each day when I open my eyes I should remember that I have a new day that God has given me. Each day, I get a ticket.

It's my choice if I use it.

Psalm 126:2
"Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
"The Lord has done great things for them."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Random Thoughts from a Traveler

It's dark outside. Really dark. Of course, it's midnight-ish, so obviously it'd be dark. (I say "ish" because to be honest I don't know what time it is. I'm central time, converted from Eastern time back to Central time now on Eastern time, and my computer is confused, and apparently so am I. And, I could check my phone, but I just don't wanna. That's why I say "ish.") In addition to the lateness of the hour, I also happen to be in North Central Indiana. (I think that's what this area is called.) The "BIG" street outside my house is a two lane highway that runs into Michigan. The truckers just hop on the Big 13 and right that baby north. Oh yes, so do the Amish. There are no streetlights. Just dark. And quiet. And it's home. The duck farm is upwind. (Oh yes, that means we're downwind. That means- well, you don't need me to explain. Trust me, it ain't pretty.) There is the cornfield behind my neighborhood, and the other one across the street. Oh yes, I am home. And I love my home.

But then there's my other home. The home in Illinois where I live. Where I've been living. Where I've made my life, my friends, my work. The lights are always on. It's Chi-town. Even though I don't live in Chicago, it's close enough to carry the traits that come with a big town. Loud, bright, busy. Oh, and traffic. I love, love, love traffic. The more the merrier. )Um, no. Kidding.)

I have two different worlds. Two different places that I can go to and call home. There are differences and there are similarities. There is of course where my family lives. (In reality, I could also throw Texas out here too, but I'll save that for another day. GO COWBOYS!) The place where I grew up. The place that holds my past. It holds my memories. My secrets. And, in the basement some boxes full of trophies. It is the place that I can see that shaped me to be me. The place where I learned to drive and aced trigonometry. (May that A from back then help me with my math class now!) It's the place I hung with my friends, played games with my family, and walked around the neighborhood alone. It is home. Then there is the place where I live. Where I have new friends (new meaning less than 6 years). The people that I see daily and weekly. The place that I had my first apartment and bought a car all by myself. The place that I work. The place where I fought to become a better me, and still fight. It is where I learned to not be afraid and to enjoy the dark and enjoy my own quiet space. Oh, it is home too.

Tonight is my last night here, at my home, with my parents and family. Tomorrow I will travel back to my other home. I am always sad to leave and happy to arrive. I am at the same time reminded how this home here, on earth, isn't really supposed to be our home. It can be easy to fill misplaced or forgotten as I have so many times throughout my life. The one thing that I should remember, and yet so easily forget, is that there is Someone who always has a place for me. Why is it then, that He's the first one I forget?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

¿Qué le hace feliz?

Oh, Happy Day!
Today did not start off quite as I had hoped. I woke up late. (Really only by 3 minutes, but those three minutes really do a number on my drive.) Fortunately I always figure out what I'm wearing the night before, otherwise, I'm standing incoherently at the front of my closet, bleary eyed and squinting unable to figure out what to put on. At least I had one thing going for me. I arrived to work, five minutes late, but at least I arrived. As I was sitting there I was discussing my choice to be happy. Happy's competition, Cranky, was beginning to win me over. Then I thought, maybe I should come up with a list of things that cause me to be happy. The difference is that I decided to think of weird, eccentric things that bring me some level of joy. There is God, family and friends, but there are also smaller, every day things. In no order of importance here are some things that I thought of:
  1. Chipotle- For those of you who share my feelings toward Chipotle, you know just what I'm saying.
  2. My teeth- I know it's been months, but I can't help it.
  3. Stickers- haha! My fave sticker, "Vote for Jimmy" from Jimmy Johns (of course)!
  4. The smell of leaves burning.
  5. Quiet.
  6. Grape Koolaid.
  7. Bamboo and beavers in the wild.
  8. Flowers- I'm a Lily, Star Gazer, fan.
  9. Cleaned off counters.
  10. My favorite beach in Kenosha.
  11. The word "akin"- Finding different uses for it recently has been quite the challenge, but entertaining in the least.
I am sure that there are others, but those are some for now! Feel free to add your own!

Miscellaneous things to note:
  • I have been trying to figure out how to post a video on this here blog thing. Someone even sent me directions, with pictures! Um, yeah, I don't know. I am determined, however, to figure it out.
  • Based on the clothing I have hanging in my closet I decided to try something new in order to make sure that I cycle through all my clothes. I have all my sweaters/shirts hung down the row in my closet. I am going to wear one right after the other. (I guess that's usually what people do- hard to wear them all at the same time.) But this way there's no choosing. It's like a surprise every day. We'll see if I can keep it up.
  • It was pointed out to me that I have begun to start every sentence with the word, "so." I even find myself typing it. If you happen to experience me using the word so- please wack me.
Random Picture of the Day
Me making dumplings! Also a happy day!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Random Picture Day

On my drive back from church today I took some random pictures. It is a beautiful day!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Purple Pants and a Well Worn Sweater

Oh yes, it was my favorite outfit through my freshman year in high school. The pants were purple. There was this faint black patterny design- so light that by the time I got rid of the pants, the black design was no longer visible. The sweater was red- yes red- with patterns of black, green and purple. The purple in the sweater is what tied the whole outfit together- well, in my mind at least. The beauty of those purple pants- they were very versatile. If I needed to dress down I had another shirt- horizontal stripes of gray, pink, blue and purple. In addition the versatility, these pants were extremely comfortable! Nothing like perfection!

How funny is it, that there are certain things we pick out in our mind as "perfect" and then later we realize that whatever it was, wasn't so perfect after all.

I have decided that I am really good at perfecting imperfection. Oh, the glory of being human. The messes we make in our life on a daily basis; from ordering a burger instead of the Quesadilla Explosion Salad (I recently experienced this), to, of course, wearing the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing, thinking the wrong thing...I could go on and on. Point being, I have experienced the imperfection that comes with day to day living.

This week I started thinking about my desire to be perfect. It is difficult to say the least. (Okay, it's impossible.) I try though. I try to please everyone: my friends, my family, my coworkers, my boss. And then what's funny is sometimes I forget to look to please the one person who really counts- God. It's hard to please everyone at the same time. Especially, when you have people who have conflicting ideas and opinions. God, however, is always consistent in His direction.

I've been reading one of my friend's blogs. This week she talked about Galatians 6. In the last paragraph she says, "It isn't easy doing good. It isn't easy to examine every moment of the day to see if it is "keeping in step with the Spirit." But, it is worth it. It is what we, Spirit-filled followers of Christ, are called to do. We won't be perfect... we will continue to make mistakes... but we have to try..."

The purple pants, and the sweater, and the horizontal striped shirt are long gone. In their place I have found other substitutes. (Namely things that actually match.) It is my hope that as I continue living day to day, I will continue to learn more about God, and I will become more of who He wants me to be. If only being perfect was as easy as changing a wardrobe. Unfortunately it's not. The good side, being dressed in an attitude that comes from God is free!

A random picture from my last week in Charlotte:This "Sticky Bun Dough Blast is (obviously) from Sonic. And while, I've not tried it, I've heard it was good. And who can't help but laugh at the name?!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Doowap doowap... (Spelling anyone?)

I have now been back for a week from Charlotte. This hasn't been the quietest week of my life, but it has been good to be home. The hardest adjustment is the time difference. Because of the time change, and then the time change, there's a two hour difference. I know, I know, two hours is not really that big of a deal, but it's messing with my mind.

A few miscellaneous things to note.
  • My little buddy Joey now says a lot of new words. "Mebow." That's elbow. "Mouf." Mouth. "No." Self explanatory. (That's his favorite word- everything is "no" when you are almost 2.)
  • I hallucinated driving to Iowa on Wednesday. I did not know it was possible, but as I was driving down the road, fixin' to get off on my appropriate exit, I put on my turning signal and exited... well, I thought I did. Another ten miles later I realized- I was on the SAME road! I never exited! Keep in mind, that in Iowa ALL THE ROADS LOOK THE SAME! I can say that without getting in trouble. I grew up in Indiana. The roads are the same there too...corn...cows....tractors...corn...more cows.... pigs.... You get the picture. On the same trip I was also cut off by a tractor! The thing just pulled out in front of me, like he owned the road! Of course, when you take up a lane and a half, and you have round spikey things sticking out from all sides- you can do what you want.
  • I turned on my heat today. Each year I will refuse to turn on my heat until the temp dips into the 30s. Today it dipped. The heat came on. As soon as the temp hits 40 in the spring it'll go off. I can't wait until then. I love when the temp is in the range that you don't need hot or cold.
I leave you with a random picture.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

My Lasting Hope

We called ourselves "The Fam." There was a good size group of us. Many came and went, but once we designated ourselves with a name, it stuck.

Years later the name still sticks. The group, however, is spread far and wide. While once upon a time we knew exactly where to find each other, corner table in the CBC caf generally, we are now in different locations, leading separate lives. Yet, even still we are all still tied together by the name we gave ourselves so many years ago.

During the college years we encountered a variety of trials and tribulations. Many of us were thrown into a dumpster (or maybe that was just me). There were exams, books to read, and the cafeteria food. We played cards and hockey. (Well, I more watched and tried to stay upright on my Rollerblades.) We went camping, caving and canoeing. We ate together, and laughed together- and we occasionally cried (okay- me again!).

And then, this week sadness struck a few members of The Fam as a brother died unexpectedly and tragically. And I know that over the last few years since we have all been apart, this is not the first tragedy. Unfortunately over the next sixty years it probably won't be the last.

Last night I found myself sitting in this small church in a small town in Iowa with this reality washing over me. The reality that we only have one life. The reality that we are none of us immune to heartache and disaster. The reality that life is short, and there are no guarantees.

But I have this hope. I have this hope and faith and belief that God does hold us in His hands. That He works all things for good for those who love Him. And I have this knowledge that no matter how far I fall, if I reach my hand out toward Him, He will life me up and hold me tight. And many will disagree with me, maybe even you as you read this. But as I sat and listened to Jason's sister-in-law, my friend, explain what happened, explain the sorrow and the brokenness this family has encountered over the last few days, and what they will continue to encounter, there was something else on her face, another emotion, and a light behind her tears. She has peace. Peace that only God gives. And as I listened to her talk, heard how she believed God has a purpose in the midst of this tragedy, not knowing what the purpose is, I myself prayed and am still praying that I have that same type of faith, and that type of light in my eyes- NO MATTER the situation.

I am at the same time reminded to take advantage of today. To live like today is all I have to live. I am reminded to tell those that I hold dear, "I love you;" to laugh with all my heart and to cry when my heart is broken; to forgive those things that I have held onto for too long. I need to take risks despite fears. I. Need. To. Live.

Laugh with all your heart.
Smile with all your face.
Hug with all your might.
"Live life with arms wide open."
We only have today.

To the Goodwin family, our prayers are with you.
And to The Fam- All my love.

Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way, and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see the works of the Lord, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire. "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted the earth." The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

This is my hope.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I am home...

And I had intended on writing a few things, but they will hold for now. I am asking for everyone to pray for some friends of mine. Click here for information.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Today's lunch break brought with a new form of entertainment, high speed car chases with a little chicken fried rice on the side.

The best part was how the suspect got out of the vehicle, ran through the bushes (as though, I dunno, the helicopter wasn't following him??) and then sat in the lawn chair as though nothing happened. Listen carefully to the commentary. My favorite part is, "What? Is he bringing out a snack?"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Technically speaking...

...I tried to go to sleep a while ago. It's not working. Instead I'm just laying in bed thinking. Not a good idea for someone with a wild imagination and an enormous amount of creativity. I do my best writing at night in my mind, but once my mind starts wondering it makes it even harder to sleep. Then I realized that it was October 27th already out here in North Carolina. And usually October 27th is the date that the real countdown begins.

The countdown to Thanksgiving?
Nuh uh.
New Year's?
Not that either.

The answer:
The countdown to my birthday.

So, just as a head's up to everyone, my birthday is in 3 months from October 27th. If you have difficulty counting, that makes my birthday January 27th. This is a big one too.

Be prepared to hear me countdown from here on out.
Thinking about this birthday makes me feel old.
I'm gonna try to sleep again. If sleeping doesn't work, I might try to buy some orthopedic slippers online.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Last days...

Time is running short on my big Charlotte adventure. I've been busying myself with hanging out, walking, eating at new places and the like.

So what have my last few weeks looked like?
Something like this:

Jay from work has been showing us some of his favorite places to eat! This was Lupie's.
This place had great ambiance and great chili! (Nothing like a lot of crackers!)

View across the street.
What does chips, ranch and the Quesadilla Explosion Salad from Chili's look like?

(That's the face of excitement!)

My favorite books EVER: Nancy Drew! (She's my hero! She's inspired me and helped me to fine tune my detective skills. You should be afraid. I guarantee I know more about you than you realize!)

Sittin' in a buggie! (NOT a grocery cart) I don't know why I kept making the same face all night long. Note the huge wall of those NASTY Honey Buns! (Who knew that Costco could be so much fun!)
Another one of Jay's favorite places. Penguin was on the list. For those of you from Elkhart, this is NOT Penguin Point.

Jay and Steve.

So, it came out a little blurry, BUT this is a bottle of Cheerwine. I had never heard of it! What is it? Cherry Coke of course! BUT, it's a lot of cherry!
I had also never had fried pickles. Sound strange? Yes. But oh so good! (Dipped in ranch!- You can never go wrong dippin' food in ranch!)

Barbecue. Good times.
At Cookout! I had a corndog and hushpuppies!Our table was a little unsanitary, but it worked

Apparently, Matty has trouble eating without getting stuff all over his face. At least he looks happy!
I forgot about zoom!

6 days left! More pics to come!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My life as a Made for TV Drama

(Quick note, go to the post below to see pics of the Biltmore estate in Asheville, NC. Awesome!)

If the opening scene were to start with where I am right now, it would be me wrapped in my red blanket sitting on the porch. It's dark and chilly. There's actually a frost advisory that I know about because my laptop weather channel alert is blinking yellow with the message. My nose is, I am sure, red and my feet are frozen, but I am sitting outside because it's quiet and I can think. The air smells cold and a bit like burning leaves. I breathe deep. That could be how the drama would start. It wouldn't get much more exciting from there though. I am not too interesting to watch. After I leave the porch I will undoubtedly go to bed where I will sleep until tomorrow morning when I have to drive my friend to the airport. If I'm not exciting enough to watch, I am probably not exciting enough to write about, but here I am typing typing typing. Trying to make sense of what is buzzing in my brain.

I've thought that maybe I'm writing to much. Maybe the world doesn't or shouldn't know the thoughts that I have in my brain at all hours of the night. Maybe I shouldn't give the world the power of knowing what I am thinking. There is a vulnerability that comes with putting words to paper- or in this case, typing them on an internet space so that the World Wide Web viewers can read and view and judge. And yet, here I am on another night typing my thoughts away.

If you have been reading then you know I've been on this little journey of sorts. Shall we call it, "New Adventures of the Old Stephanie"? Much like the new t.v. show about to make it's debut, (or has it already?) I have been working hard at finding me, finding what matters, deciding who I am, who I am going to be, and what I plan to do once I get myself all in order.

So, "What is it today Stephanie?" What is it that I am trying to determine today? That's what I am asking myself. Without going into much detail, as is the usual plan when typing out in public, today the thought running through my mind is "What do I do?" Have you ever had to make a decision and had everyone tell you his or her opinion- basically telling you what to do.
"Oh, take the job you'll make more money."
"Don't eat the pizza- you'll get heartburn."
"Get in the car and be quiet."
"Finish your homework."
"Be positive."
"Did I not tell you, No more wire hangers!!!"

And I can honestly say, I don't know what I want. I am torn from all sides. I don't know. The voices that I am hearing I cannot decipher. I do know that none of the voices are mine. I've turned mine off and instead and muddling my way through a sea of others. What am I waiting for? I don't know. I think somewhere inside I'm hoping that someone will say something that I like better than a previous statement, but it hasn't happened yet.

The other ironic part of this is that very few people know of the decision that I am trying to make. So not only am I trying to figure out what I want, I am actually trying to figure out what other people would want me to do, and what they would say. So the voices in my head, while not my own, are in reality, all my own.

There is another voice though. A voice that I have silenced that actually should be heard. A voice that could make sense of my mess if I would listen. I'm a little afraid, though, to hear it. I am afraid of what could come next. Like the director shouting at an actor I am afraid of what God could want me to do. I find that somewhat amusing considering I don't know what I want. Shouldn't I be open to what God might have for me? I have found that when I listen, things actually go better than planned.

So, what's the next step for Stephanie? What do I do in scene two of this unfolding life drama? I go to a quiet safe spot, and have a little conversation with the director. And while I don't think I'll be up for any Emmy nominations, I think at the end of the day, I'll do alright.

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you... Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.

Biltmore Adventures

...or should I call the day HoneyBuns and Cupcakes? (You'll see why below.)

On Saturday, I went to Asheville, NC and visited the Biltmore estate with friends, Mary Beth, Christy and Melissa.

When I walked outside I saw this Star leaf attached to the back of my vehicle. I had to take a picture!

This truck made it several miles with us on our way to Asheville. Can I just add, I hate HoneyBuns- as much as the word Bun makes me laugh- HoneyBuns are the equivalent of nasty!

The view was amazing. I was driving so no I did not take the pictures, nor did I really spend much time looking side to side, but it was gorgeous just following the road!

This is Wendy. I would like to add that the time it said we'd make it by- well, I beat it.
Overheard in the car:
Mary Beth and Christy -"I can't wait until we get to the mountains."
Melissa to me - "When should we tell them we are in the mountains?"

We ate in the stable. Note the lovely centerpieces.

Which is which? Unsweetened vs. Sweetened?
The mansion. Awesome, no?
The Biltmore house was actually built by George Vanderbuilt. Notice the "V" that the trees make. This was the view from the center of the house. If you were right in the middle this is what you see straight in front of you.
We went on the "Rooftop tour," and if you see the window at the top of this tower, I actually went out that window and around the side of the roof! I'm afraid of heights- whew- it was a touch scary, but oh so cool! Fortunately MB and Christy let me hang on to them for dear life!
Pictures from the roof.

On the roof.
This is part of the roof. You could actually still see some of the flecks of gold that were used when building the house.

See the "V"?

Wouldn't the be just darling on my porch?

I would like to add right here that I was going to post a picture of Christy, but I deleted it so she wouldn't hurt me later!

My SECOND star leaf of the day!

I want one of these for my apartment.

MB, do you notice how the flowers are bursting with color. Can you imagine it in the spring?

I was trying to take a picture of myself, but the sun was bright and I couldn't keep my eyes open! I don't know why I didn't try it from the other angle.
Notice the design on the side of the building. That is actually the counterweight to the stairs on the inside (other side of the wall).

Cucumbers? Or maybe Zuchini? Nope- neither. Actually this is a LOOFA. Weird that they grow like this, I had no idea!

I am disappointed that I did not get any pictures of the bamboo growing along side the road. I also did not get a picture of the WILD beaver along side it either.
"How often do ANY of us get to see a beaver in the wild?" Well, after yesterday I am proud to say that I have.