Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas from my family

I thought I might tell you about the gifts my family chose for me.  Deep down, when we choose items for others, there's a lot of 'us' in them, too.

The gift from El, our youngest, will be the first one consumed.  She got me a book:  a specific book I requested.  She is very literal.  And she has recently developed an interest in reading.  Her 2 older sisters consume books at an alarming rate.  And not just once, but over and over for their favorites.  They have been that way since they learned to read.  El read something at school last year and wanted to read it again on her own time.  Then she read the other 2 books in the series.  I asked for the 2nd book in a different series and she jumped right on that suggestion.  It was something she understood.

The ....hmmm .... I hate to use the word 'geekiest' gift, but I'm having trouble finding another word to convey the essence of a jigsaw puzzle depicting a painting in the style of Van Gogh used in the TV series 'Doctor Who.'  I have always loved jigsaw puzzles and the Doctor.  A few years ago when we learned that the series from my college days had been revived, we started watching.  True to their heritage, at least 2 of my 3 girls have embraced the Doctor with open arms.

The gift from my beloved Mr. H reflects quite a bit about him, too.  He presented me with a set of fabulous knives:  German Henckels with Japanese -styled blades.  He's a guy and guys like tools.  Just the other day, I was complaining because my one and onlyHenckels knife had been missing long enough for me to conclude that it wasn't coming back.  This set has 11 knives and a pair of kitchen scissors that are as sharp as the knives.  Ooooo......

Then there is the gift from my eldest:  a mug and cozy.  But not just any cozy.  It was knit by her own hands, hands that I taught how to knit.  And not just a plain pattern, but a basketweave pattern that I did NOT teach her.  She researched and experimented and learned it on her own. She knew what it would mean to me. And she was exactly right.  It makes me smile and warms my heart.  And it lets me know that she is an 'accomplished' lady (to borrow a line from her favorite book.)

All these gifts are special because they are from people I love.  And each one represents specific qualities about those loved ones.

I am indeed a very blessed woman.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Gift of the Shepherd

The Gift of the Shepherd

The old shepherd made his way through the night to his quiet place.  The stars above him burned brightly to light his way.  Even though the dawn  was many hours away, he had a special “thank you” to say.  This night, in his little house just  outside of town, his prayers had been answered:  he had a son!  Now he had to tell his God how thankful he was.

As the shepherd was  praying, thanking God for his family, a bright light appeared before him.  It was brilliant, like the sun, but so sudden he knew that it was not the sunrise.  A gentle voice spoke from the light:  “Do not be afraid.  Your faith has been rewarded.  Your son Joel will prepare a special gift for the Lamb of God.”
The shepherd was so surprised that he could not speak.  The angel disappeared before he could ask about this Lamb of God.  He ran back to the house to tell his wife of this wonderful promise.

The next day he returned to his quiet place, wondering of the angel and promise had been a dream.  As he turned to leave, he felt  something under his foot.  It was a curious-looking seed, about the size of a small stone.  As he picked it up, his doubts  about the night before  disappeared.  He took his knife from his belt and dug a hole where he was standing.  As he planted the seed, he asked God to help  him and his son understand this puzzling promise.

As Joel grew, the old shepherd watched for signs of a special talent.  A gift  for the Lamb of God would certainly have to come from a talented craftsman.  How would they recognize the Lamb of God?  Would it look different from  the other lambs?  Would it be at the temple?  So many questions.  And yet  the shepherd found no answers in his son.  Joel was a good boy who loved to go with his father out into the fields.  The sheep trusted him and  followed him just as they followed his father.

“Will the Lamb of God need a shepherd?” wondered the old man.

As the boy grew, so did the tree that had sprung from the seed planted in the quiet  place.  It grew tall  with spreading limbs that gave shade in the hot summers.  Joel knew that this tree was connected with the night of his birth.  He had heard the  story of the appearance of the angel to his father and the promise of the gift for  the Lamb of God.  Sometimes, out in the fields under the starry sky, he would wonder what it meant.  But his first duty was always tending his sheep.

As the  years went by, Joel grew into a man.  His father was too old to stay out in the fields with the sheep, so Joel took over the duty alone.  He returned home every week to pick up supplies and to see his father, who had lived alone since the death of Joel’s mother.  One of these trips home followed a fearful wind storm the night before.  The old shepherd and the small house were unhurt, but the tree growing in the quiet place had been blown over by the winds.  Joel and his father decided to use the wood from the tree to build a shelter for the sheep.  Maybe God’s Lamb would  need a home.

Joel was not trained as a carpenter, but  he did know what sheep needed.  The shelter was strong and the sheep felt safe inside.  When the shelter was  finished, there was  a small stack of wood left  over.  Joel did not want to waste any part of the tree.  From the last pieces of the tree, he built a manger for the sheep to eat from.  It was not very big, but Joelwas pleased with the work.  On one end of the manger, Joel carved a sign as a reminder  of  the  promise.

Many more years passed.  The little town grew  until the house that was now Joel’s was crowded close to others.  Joel’s flock of sheep had gotten bigger and bigger.  He had to hire other men to help him care for them.  The shelter he had built was not  big enough to hold his sheep.  He gave the shelter to his neighbor, who had built an inn next door.   He and his men lived in the fields with the sheep.  Joel had not forgotten  the promise of the gift for the Lamb of God, but he had other sheep to care for until he found this mysterious Lamb.

One night as Joel and the other shepherds  were  settling down for the night,  a sudden bright light appeared around them.  The other shepherds were  terrified, but Joel felt an odd excitement, as  if he knew what was to come.  Out of the brilliance a gentle voice spoke to them:  “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today is the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he  is Christ the Lord.  This  will  be a sign to you:  You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly the shepherds were surrounded by angels saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

The sound of the angels filled Joel’s heart as well as  his ears.  He had been waiting for this moment since the day he  was born.  He knew that he must go into  Bethlehem to see what the angel of the Lord had told them about.

As  the band of shepherds came to the edge of town, Joel recognized the old shelter  he had  built from the fallen tree.  He knew in his heart that this  was  the place that  the angel had spoken of.  He thought of  the sign the angel had described: a baby in a manger.

A manger . . .  his manger?  Could it be?

Joel and the others approached the entrance to the shelter and looked in at a young family.  The infant was wrapped in  cloths, lying in a manger, just as the angel said.  And there on the end of manger was the sign that Joel had carved so many years ago.  Could this tiny baby be the Lamb of God of the promise?  This night the angel had called him “Savior.”  Joel was reminded of the Passover and how the lamb had saved his people so many generations  ago in Egypt.

Instantly Joel knew that the promise made to his father by the angel had been honored.  The Lamb of God had needed a shepherd and a shelter.  Joel had made the manger that cradled the infant Savior.

Unaware of the shepherds at the entrance, the new mother was speaking to her husband.  As well as being exhausted, she seemed to be puzzled.

“Joseph,” she sighed, “I just didn’t think it would be like this.  What are we doing in this place?  What is He doing in a stable?  He should have the throne of David, like the angel said.  Not this sheep pen.”

“Mary,” her husband replied, gently touching the baby’s face, “remember that David was a shepherd before he was a king.”

“But no one even knows that He is  here!” she cried.

“We know,” smiled Joseph.

“And we know,” said Joel, coming forward with the other shepherds.  He told them of the words of the angel and tried to explain the song of glory and peace and goodwill.  Then he told them a story of another angel’s visit many years before.  As they looked at the sign on the manger, the infant, God’s precious Lamb, stirred in His sleep.

When the young mother looked  at her son, Joel saw her smile and nod.  She thanked the shepherds for coming to welcome the Lamb of God.  In her heart she thanked them for bringing her the news of the angels and their wondrous song.

Joel saw the joy on her still-tired face.  He was reminded of more of the angel’s words.  The good news of great joy was for all the people.  But the angel had brought the news to only a few shepherds.  How were all the people to hear the good news?  He called the other shepherds to him.  Soon they left to spread  the word about all they had seen and heard that night.

And that is still the way that people hear the news about the Savior today:  People who have heard the Good News spread the word to those who haven’t.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

End of an Era

Do you remember this guy?  I never met the Maytag repairman in person because our Maytag drier never had any problems.  We purchased it about 21 years ago, when our eldest was a toddler.  (She turned 23 last month.)  We were replacing the stacking, apartment-sized washer and drier that we'd had for several years.  Our family had outgrown them and needed a larger capacity.  We chose Maytag.

That washer/drier set saw us through a 2 year house rental in Ocean Springs, 4 years in a mobile home park  in Gautier, then the move to George County which was 5 more years in the mobile home and then 10 in the house we built.  About 2 years ago we had to replace the washer.  Then one day last week, we noticed that the drier wasn't heating.  It still tumbled and timer worked:  it just wouldn't heat, so the clothes didn't dry.

We went to Lowe's yesterday to look at replacements.  When we informed the salesman that we were replacing a 20 year old machine, he told us he wished he could promise that a new one would last just as long, but it probably wouldn't.

I'm hoping our drier history holds out, because I didn't purchase the extended warranty.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


We try to be frugal at the H household.  Some might even call us cheap.  But I hope we're never stingy.

I think it's associated with the genes from Mr. H's side of the family.  His sister is one of those people who can almost always find something on sale, and if it's not on sale (or better yet:  clearance!) has the willpower to simply walk away.  My eldest daughter is very much like her aunt.  She can find a deal on every shopping trip.  (side note:  we are going on our first outing as wedding dress shoppers tomorrow.  We'll see how well the genes prevail.)

This applies to utility expenses as well.  Living in south Mississippi, you know your highest electric bills will be in the summer.  When the temperature is in the upper 90s and the humidity is right there with it, the A/C just has to be on.  Last summer, it seemed that the warm weather was slow to start.  I think we made it until May before the A/C was turned on.  Some years there are days in late February that test the resolve of those who refuse to give in before April.  I can take the heat, but my family would rather not sweat.

Then there's that transition from summer to winter (there really is no fall in Mississippi.)  There will be several times in November that the A/C will be on for part of the day and you'll be wrapped in a blanket that evening.  We try not to turn the heat on until absolutely necessary.  Socks, sweatshirts, couch-potato blankets . . . do whatever it takes to keep warm.  Usually we have the fireplace to help out, but until the chimney sweep comes on Wednesday, I'm hesitant to light a fire.  We've lived in this house since the winter of 2001-02 and never had the chimney cleaned.  A few weeks ago, I started a fire and it tended to smoke and smell (yes, I DID remember to open the damper!) so I called to see if someone could come take care of it.  Who knew that it would take 3 weeks before someone could come!  And that was the 2nd place I called.  The first said they couldn't have anyone in our area until the off-season!  Wow!  If I need a new profession,  I'll look into that one.  Seems like they need a bigger labor force.

Sunday, 12/4 8:58 p.m.
This particular post has rambled on for several days now.  I started writing it Thursday.  It's time to wrap it up.  The eldest did find a dress she likes.  Yes, it is on sale, but her sisters must see it first so we have an appointment Thursday afternoon for all the H womenfolk to make the final decision.  There will be no pictures of it posted because a certain young gentleman might see it before he's supposed to.

And with that I'll say good-night because it's been a really long day.

Friday, October 28, 2011

She's Got a Pneumatic Sander and She's Not Afraid to Use It

After looking at lots of replacement car possibilities, our eldest has made an incredibly wise choice:  paint the current (paid-for!) Civic!!

Her dad has some experience with the process, having once painted a freezer, a BMW 535 and a Bronco 2.

We worked all day to remove the dark blue paint. . .

 . . . from the car . . .

 . . . and ended up wearing it ourselves : )

My beautiful daughter had blue paint dust in her hair, in her eyes, in her ears, and yes, even in her belly button!

When we called it a day (after a day filled with power tools), we used one last one:

We created 2 small blue dust clouds by blowing each other off with the leaf blower.

It was a good day.

Friday, October 21, 2011


Stars gleamed up above.
Moonlight pierced the dark branches
Casting down moonlace.

Sometimes when we take our early morning walk, we talk...
...and there is no limit to the subject matter: weddings, painting cars, birthday parties, traffic, family members...
...and sometimes we don't.

When we don't talk, I'm writing in my head.  I'm playing with words to convey exactly what is surrounding me as we walk along.  And since it's really dark at 5 a.m., the sky is very nearly all I can see.

When I first joined Mr. H and the Eldest on the morning walk, Orion was in the eastern sky as we left the house.  Now he is slightly west of overhead.

I am very aware of the phase of the moon. A waxing moon will have already set before we start out.  A waning moon will light our path, but lose a bit of its power every day until it fades completely for a while.

Last week the moonlace was conspicuous under our feet.  Now it is dissolving with the moonlight.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Let Me Give You a Hand

There are some people in the world who just know how you think.  
A good friend of mine (M2) knows me.  
When she needs a large blue hand, she knows who to call.  And between the 2 of us (but mostly her!), we had everything we needed to make it happen.  
Don't you just love it when a plan comes together!  

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wide Highway or Narrow Road?

Earlier this summer, Mr. H and I went on a trip to Birmingham.  It was my first road trip riding my own bike instead of just riding behind him on his bike.  One of the first things I wanted was a map.  Yes, I was following Mr. H, but what if we got separated just before a critical turn?  I wanted to know what road I needed to be on to get where I needed to go.

Because here’s the deal:  If you don’t care where you end up, it doesn't matter what road you’re on.  But if you have a destination in mind, you need to be on a road that will get you to that place.

Matthew 7:13-14    “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

Let’s look at a map.

You see Lucedale over on the Mississippi side and Mobile is at the bottom of the yellow line.  Birmingham is in that knot of yellow up at the top.  Looking at this map, you’d think the best way to get where I want to go is to get on I-65 and just keep going until I get there. Or maybe over to I-59 and then I-20 over to Birmingham.  But that’s about it. 

Those big fat yellow lines look so inviting.  They go right where I want to go, right?  The fatter the line, the more lanes on the highway.  Don’t have to worry about missing turns.  The speed limit is usually higher so you can go faster without breaking the law.

But what about real life?  I mean, it’s not really a big fat yellow line painted on the ground.  It’s a highway.

It’s a broad highway!
Wow!  Look how easy it is to get around.
Think about the speed you’re traveling.
Could I take that exit if I needed to?  How would I get over there?

Looks like I’m going right where I need to be going!  This is actually I-65. Several years ago we were headed north toward Birmingham and saw this backup on the southbound side.

Remember verse 13:  'its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.'  Looks like the entire world chose that way.  And they are going nowhere fast! 

The world is like that.  People see everyone else on a big expensive road and think all those guys know where they’re going.  But, really, they’re just following the guy in front of them, who’s following the guy in front of him.  Some are just going around in circles and don’t even know it. 

Let’s go back and look closer at the map. 

These little roads didn’t even show up on that first map!  We had to go looking for them.

You can miss so much when you don’t look closely.  Yes, these roads are smaller, fewer lanes, but there are other advantages.  What do you get to see from the broad highway?  Not much!! 

The smaller roads seem winding, but sometimes they are avoiding obstacles. 

Sometimes they are respecting other people’s property lines.

There is usually something interesting to see along the way.

Or a great place to stop and rest.

Or maybe just the view is breathtaking.

It’s the same way on the road to God’s Kingdom.

There’s that broad highway that most people think leads to where they want to go.  It’s filled with people going around in circles and getting nowhere fast.  That is the road to Hell.
Then there’s that narrow road.  It’s the road that Jesus blazed for us.  Sometimes it seems winding – it’s leading us around obstacles.  It is respecting the boundaries of others.  It leads us to the things He wants us to see, to the people he wants us to meet, it causes us to use skills that He wants us to practice.

We would miss all those things on that noisy, wide highway to nowhere. 

But there they are, on a narrow, rough road that leads directly to Him.

So which road will you choose?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Odd Sky

This morning when I stepped out onto the front porch, two things were immediately noticeable.  The first was the warm humidity wrapping itself around my air-conditioned arms and legs.  The second was the lightning that seemed to surround the sky.  There was flashing to the south as well as to the northeast.  I was surprised when I stepped off the porch to see that, overhead, the stars were visible from horizon to horizon.  In the pre-dawn hours, clouds usually make their presence known simply by obscuring the stars.  This morning, the clouds were below the horizon all around.  They didn't cover the stars.  They simply lit up the sky around the edges.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Example

Last night a family with 2 sons came into the Fellowship Hall for dinner.  The oldest son spotted a friend, ran up to him and grabbed him in a big hug.  The younger brother watched the exchange and waited.  When his big brother moved away, the younger brother grabbed the friend and hugged, too.

Quite a few people commented on the 2nd hug.

If someone is praised for following your example, you are definitely doing the right thing.

Even if you're only 4 years old, there are people younger than you watching to see how you treat the world.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Morning Walk

I am up before the moon this morning.  Or maybe she is in her dark phase and isn't going to let anyone see her at all today.  The stars are very bright in her absence and the air is clear.  This far in the deep south, the humidity of August is usually a visible entity.

The lane is dark.  A few of our neighbors have security lights, but none illuminate the lane.  They shine on sleeping cars and tool sheds.  Orion is high in the sky behind us as we head out.

The lane runs north, so that's where we're headed.  I have never noticed before that there aren't many bright stars low in the north.  The sun is still below the horizon, so it is very dark.

At the end of the lane we turn left and start up the hill.  The horses that sometimes trott up to the fence to greet us stay with their hay this morning.  That means I am looking up when the meteor races into the west. A straggler from the Perseid shower?  No one else says anything, so I suspect I was the only one who saw it.

At the top of the hill, we turn left again and start downhill.  The incline isn't nearly as noticeable as it will be on the return trip! This part of our walk has the most traffic.  There is usually a dump truck that we can hear backing up to start his morning commute:  beep...beep...beep...beep.  Then a minute or so later his lights appear at the intersection.  Most days he heads straight through the intersection and we slide to the edge of the road to give him plenty of room.  This morning he takes a left and we stay on the road.  It is so quiet and so dark that there really isn't much chance of a vehicle sneaking up on us.

When the moon is out, there are lacy patterns of trees on the road.  This morning it is just dark.  When we come to an open space, I look east to see a lavender band beginning to form on the horizon. We pass a long section of white rail fence that always signals the domain of horses.  Orion is high in front of us.

We've walked about a mile now, but we're not ready to turn around.  We've come to my favorite part of the journey.  There are only 2 more houses to pass.  The first has no security light, just a warm front porch fixture that glows on the door and 2 friendly chairs.  It is surrounded by trees.  We walk through a deep darkness and come to the last house.  Its security light is so bright that it illuminates the house, the old homestead on one side and part of the hay field on the other.

Just past the hay field, we pass under an oak that arches over the road.  Tall pines rise on both sides and the road becomes a dark canyon.  The scent of pine fills the air. The only thing visible is the sky like a river above us.  There is a fork in that river of sky that we know is the turn-around point of our walk.

In the sky above the hay field, I can see that most of Orion's cosmic companions have faded.  He is steadfast in his watch.  As we come back to that last house, a rooster's hoarse crow announces our passing.  The darkness is losing its hold on the night.  We make our way back along the white rail fence and begin to climb.  The gentle descent of the outbound trip has become an angle of attack on the way home.

At the crest of the hill, we turn right.  The lavender wave in the east has crept up higher than the distant treeline.  Just a bit farther and we're on our own lane.  I look up and the only part of Orion that is still visible is the lower corner of his tunic.  The sky is brightening in the east as we turn into our yard.  Orion turns his watch over to the rising sun.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Interesting Phone Call of the Day

Sometimes, you just never know what to expect when you answer the phone at church.  Today provided an excellent example.

I answered the phone and the caller asked if I could look up a bible verse for him.  Now, this isn't an unusual request.  I have looked up verses for people on several occasions. Usually, they give me a topic or a few key words they know are in the specific verse they want and I find it.

This caller had the reference (Psalm 25:4), but wanted to know what that verse said.  So going to trustworthy BibleGateway, I find the words to pass on.  When I had done so, he filled me in on why he wanted to know.  He was wearing an old VBS T-shirt that had that reference on it, and he wanted to be able to answer any question that might come up in conversation about the shirt.  He, being a Gideon, usually has several bibles in his vehicle, but today was empty-handed.  I asked him which VBS that shirt was from and he couldn't remember the theme (the big picture with the name was on his back, which he couldn't see).  I asked him what color it was.  "Black," he replied.  I have shirts for VBS going back almost a decade.  There has been only one black shirt in all that time:  Ramblin' Road Trip, 2005.  (It's amazing what church ladies remember and for the most absurd reasons!)

Notice the connection between the "ways" and "paths" from the verse and the "road" from the theme.  The verse was very familiar to me for a much more recent reason.  This year's VBS at Agricola Baptist was "Inside Out and Upside Down on Main Street."  The memory verse for the week was Psalm 25:4-5.

Our shirts were red this year, by the way, which is a good thing.  My youngest daughter El is currently attending a camp that assigned her to the red team.  I don't know if you have noticed, but there is just not a lot of red clothing in stores this year.  In fact, almost none at all that doesn't reference the 4th of July with fireworks or flags.  And she wanted red clothes to wear this week.  Yes, her VBS shirt is packed.

So now I have an absurd reason to remember that VBS 2011 had a red shirt...

...just in case anyone ever asks.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Getting a Handle on Your Wallet

I saw a post a few weeks ago by a young friend of mine, recently graduated from college.  In it, there was a link to a personal budget spreadsheet.  Being the financial record keeper of my household as well my church, I have an interest in these things.  I decided to check it out.  It was a basic budget with income and basic expenses like rent and utilities.

It got me to thinking about when Mr. H and I were first starting out.  I learned to tithe.  I learned (the hard way) that some expenses come up only once a year, but that one time always comes as a surprise.  It took a decade before I was comfortable with the flow of our finances!

One day all that changed.  A friend and her husband were teaching a couple's Sunday night break-out group at church.  They showed us a budget they had set up for their son, a young adult with his first real job.  It was broken down by weeks:  first week -pay rent and buy groceries; 2nd week -set aside $100 towards next week's car payment and buy groceries; 3rd week - use last week's $100 and this week's check to pay car payment and buy groceries.... you get the idea.

I took that idea to my checkbook register.  I knew how much was coming in every week.  I paid attention to the due dates on all our regular expenses.  I assigned certain bills to specific pay checks: Mortgage to the last paycheck (in case the first paycheck of the month didn't come until the 6th or 7th day of the month!)  Electric bill to the 3rd paycheck, car payment to the 2nd paycheck.  I was stunned at the freedom I felt!  I knew that if nothing unexpected came up, certain bills would always be covered by certain paychecks.

I've heard people say that they don't want the restrictions of living on a budget.  I think they've got the wrong idea about what a budget is.  It's not a set of rules.  It's more like a map.  And unless you have unlimited access to a vast pool of cash, you are on a budget:  you're just ignoring the fact.  Only so much comes in and therefore,  only so much can go out.  You're much better off knowing where it's going.

To help with getting a handle on all the comings and goings of your dollars, I'd like to offer a form to get you started.  If you're familiar with spreadsheet programs, you can download it as an Excel or Open Office file and put your own numbers in (click File, Download as, and pick your format.)  If your computer skills are limited to read-only, get yourself a notebook and a calculator and write it out by hand.  Yes, it will take a while, but believe me, you'll feel better when you can see it all together!

Monday, July 4, 2011


I think tonight is the first time I will have gone to see 4th of July fireworks since 2007.  That year my mom came to spend some time with us and we all went up to Lucedale to see the big display.

What a difference a year makes...

The following year, we had just returned home from her funeral on the 4th and I was not in the mood for celebrating.  The girls made plans to go without me.  I was fine with that (or as fine as I was going to get for a while.)  I'm not sure what I was doing on the 4th in 2009, but I'm pretty sure it didn't include the fireworks display.

Last year, all my girls went up to Starkville and spent the 4th with school friends of the eldest.  Mr. H and I stayed home and enjoyed the time alone.

This year, I think I'm ready.  But I can already feel the sorrow creeping up on me.  I still remember that last Independence Day I shared with her.  It's amazing how that feeling of loss will stab you sharply when you least expect it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

VBS Air Stuff

I know it's taken a while, but I'm back from vacation and back from youth camp so I can pick up with posting some of our VBS Mad Science topics.  Actually, I was reminded while I was at camp that I needed to do this. 
My small vortex generator is a 16 oz. Styrofoam cup with a nickel-sized hole cut in one end and a membrane made from a sandwich bag rubber-banded to the other end. 

While at camp, I was in the adult seminar and a gentleman walked in with one of these

It's a good thing my daughters weren't there because at the end of the session, I chased the man down and asked if I could check it out!!

Back to VBS:  We studied air on the day that we covered the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Our lessons called it "The Roadside Rescue" and the 'Word on the Street' that day was COMPASSION.  The wounded man felt invisible to the first couple of people who passed him by.  Now they may have actually THOUGHT about helping him, but they didn't actually DO anything.  We picked AIR as the science topic of the day because it's invisible itself, but it is visible by what it can do.

Above you see the picture of our small vortex generator.  When you tap on the plastic membrane, it quickly compresses the air in the cup and it's forced out the hole in the other end.  Just a gentle tap can move your hair around and even blow out a candle.  (Try it on your next birthday cake!!)  We made a larger vortex generator out of a 5 gallon bucket and a piece of shower curtain held in place with a bungee cord.  The hole in the bottom of the bucket was about 3 inches in diameter.  The larger one is good for knocking cups off the heads or out of the hands of your volunteers.

If you are truly ambitious, you can try it with a much larger garbage can.  It needs to be round and you might have to add a shoulder strap for handling it.

Air and curved surfaces are a great combination.  You can make a ping pong ball hover over your hair drier or a beach ball over a box fan.  Balloons are a bit unstable, but if you drop a penny inside the balloon before you blow it up then place it over the fan, it will SOAR.

If you want to see a simple demonstration of lift (how curved airplane wings make the plane fly) do this:  blow over a piece of paper held about chin level.  The faster air moving over the top creates lift.  To see the same principle in fast motion, use a roll of toilet paper and a leaf blower.  Bro. Mark attached a paint roller to the end of his leaf blower with duct tape and put the roll on there, but you can just as effectively put the roll on a broomstick and have someone hold it out in front of the blower.  We discovered that it took about 5 seconds for the entire roll to be dispersed!

Air, even though it's invisible, is capable of doing lots of stuff that we can see.  Our compassion needs to be visible by what we DO with it, just like in "The Roadside Rescue."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

What I Learned at Camp

(Catchy title, huh!)

 So much goes on at at youth camp that, quite often it's hard to boil it down into one concise thought.  This year, however, is different for me.  Several different moments pointed me in the same direction and I wanted to collect my thoughts here.

There are age-graded seminars (or minisaurs, as Will the Trill called them) at SuperWow.  I went to the adult leader seminars.  On Tuesday, we looked at this verse:  Judges 3:31.  Shamgar is mentioned in only 2 verses in the bible:  this one and one a couple of chapters farther on (5:6) where it says that during his time, the highways were abandoned and travelers took to the back roads.  So this guy Shamgar killed 600 Philistines with, essentially, a stick that was used to drive his oxen.  The "Shamgar Principle" then is that you use what God has given you - to do what God has given you to do. The trick is to actually "see" what God has given you: to find your stick.

On Thursday night, we heard (saw actually, because it was done as a wordless drama) Drew Worsham's testimony.  His stick, obviously, was magic.  It was an ability he had been given and he decided to let the Lord use it.

At that moment, I decided to ask our youth pastor if I could lead our late night session.  He told me I could.  I started writing down for each person on our trip what I could see was a "stick" God had given them.  Sometimes your stick might be an obvious talent, but sometimes it's something that others may see as a liability.  Don't you know the Philistines laughed when they saw that all Shamgar had was a stick.  Goliath laughed the same way when David showed up with just a sling and some rocks.

I didn't tell Bro. Dusty what I was planning to say, just that I wanted to say something.  When we got back to our rooms, he told me he wanted to say something first, then I could take over.  When he opened his mouth and started talking, I knew it was a God thing!  We had been teasing him all week about his navigational skills, mostly the U-turns.  In fact we had gotten a glass-marker and written on the back windows of his van:  We may be lost. Watch for U-turns.  At first he had felt bad, but then decided to use it as an illustration.  He was the youth pastor.  He was there to show kids how to make U-turns in their lives.  Because when you are lost, it just might be that you are going in the wrong direction and need to make a U-turn.

When he said that, I almost fell off my stool.  That was EXACTLY the message I was going to illustrate.  The U-turn was Dusty's stick on this trip and he was using it!

I told the group about Shamgar and his stick.  I told them we all had sticks and, like Dusty's, our sticks might just be things that people tease us about.  But God made each of us with certain abilities, certain character traits, certain circumstances and experiences that make us unique.  It's up to us to use what God has given us to get things done for His Kingdom.  We can fight who we are OR we can use who we are.  It's up to us.

Friday, June 17, 2011

VBS bubble stuff

I told the kids that I'd post some of the VBS science experiments that we did.  Since they were fascinated by the bubbles, I figured I'd start there.

To get started, you'll need:
* 1 cup of water
* 4 tablespoons of Dawn dishwashing liquid
* 1 tablespoon of glycerin (you can get this at Edwards Pharmacy and at WalMart close to where Calamine lotion is sold)
Distilled water may work better if your water comes from a well.  Mix it together very gently so it doesn't foam.  You can use a regular drinking straw as your bubble wand.  Blow gently.  Cardboard toilet paper centers work, too.  Just about any closed shape will do.  You can try cookie- or biscuit-cutters.  Try bending some out of chenille stems that you get in craft supplies.  (these work very well because the fuzzy stuff holds bubble solution)  If you're having problems getting bubbles, add a bit more Dawn.

Dirt and oil are the enemies of bubbles.  Your skin has both.  Try bouncing the bubbles that you've created off your sleeve.  Some gloves work well to catch bubbles, too.  We found in the Mad Science Lab that fuzzy winter gloves work better over time than smooth cotton gloves.  We think that's because the fuzzy ones don't absorb the dampness as much.

To create a big bubble maker, you'll need 2 wooden dowel rods and some yarn.  Coat 3 to 4 inches of one end of a rod with glue and wrap yarn around the glue.  Do the same with the other rod.  Then take 2 lengths  of yarn, one about 2 1/2 to 3 feet long and the other about 4 feet long.  Now stretch the shorter piece between the wrapped ends of the dowels and tie to each dowel.  Then tie the longer piece of yarn in the same place.  When you pick it up there should be a shape like a side-ways capital D hanging between the sticks.   DO THIS NEXT BIT OUTSIDE!!  Dip the yarn-wrapped ends into the bubble solution and move it through the air or let the breeze do the work.  I found instructions for another giant bubble wand since VBS.

We did this experiment on the day we talked about forgiveness.  Forgiveness is all about letting go.  For a bubble to be a real bubble, it has to let go, too.

To make the square bubble rig, I built a cube out of 12 4-inch pieces of drinking straw hot-glued at the corners.  Then dip it into enough bubble solution to completely submerge it. (see bigger recipe below) When you've got all 6 walls filled with a film of bubble stuff, shake it a bit to make 2 walls stick together in the center.  Now take a straw, dip it in bubble stuff,  place it into the edge the connected wall and blow.  Keep trying and you'll get a cube-shaped bubble in the center of your rig.  Click here to see a square bubble demonstration .

If you need a lot of bubble solution, here you go:
* 2 cups Dawn
* 12 cups water
* 1/2 cup glycerin
You can store this in a gallon jug.

Covered in Prayer

On our recent road trip, I did a lot of praying.  There was no way I could talk to Mr. H since we don't have bike-to-bike communication yet, so I talked to God.

Before we started out, I prayed for general safety.  I really didn't know specifically what I needed.  On the road, I began to see those specifics.

Thank you, Lord, for the trees on the side of the road that are keeping us in the shade.

And for the light being green, so I didn't have to stop on that incline.

And for that nice man at the top of Alabama who asked if we needed any help (and for giving me a husband who was already all the help I needed!)

And for letting us see the rain start while we were on a very straight stretch of road with a very wide bridge, just right for pulling over and putting on rain gear.

And for letting that rain be in the morning before it would have made the day unbearably steamy.

I don't remember everything that I prayed about, but all were thanksgiving prayers.  I read something this week asking what would you do if all you had was what you had thanked God for today.  That really is something to think about.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Road Trip on the Fizzer

Tuesday morning when I woke up, I was ready to do something that I've never done before:  ride my own bike on a long distance road trip.  When something big is on the horizon, I usually don't sleep well the night before.  I've learned that I can completely ignore the upcoming event and manage to catch some Zzzz.

Here are the bikes as we're loading them up.

Notice that my bike has MY STUFF packed on it.  I don't have any side bags so all my clothes were in a nifty dry sack that Mr. H got at Bass Pro several months back.  The cargo net is a wonderful thing.

We got started about 8:30, a full half hour earlier than Mr. H's planned departure :)

Since it was my first REAL outing, we planned for no interstate highways between George County and Birmingham.  I wasn't ready for I-65!!  We traveled up US 43 until as few miles north of Thomasville, AL.  Then turned right onto what I think is now one of my favorite roads:  Alabama Highway 5.  It's a great road for new riders: not much twisty stuff, nice scenery, trees close enough to the roadway to make shade, not much traffic. . .  just about perfect.

At some point Hwy 5 joins with AL Hwy 25 and then 25 splits off.  We followed 25 all the way up to Leeds, which is east of Birmingham.  Yes, it was out of the way, but it kept me off interstates and introduced me to some twisty roads, too.

From Leeds, we took Hwy 78 to Hwy 280 and that's where we stayed.  There's a Joe's Crab Shack just next door to the hotel and an IHOP across the highway.  We were hot and tired, but we got there safely and that's the main thing.

The next morning, we set off for the Skyway Motorway in the Talladega National Forest.  It runs by the Cheaha State Park.  We stopped at the first overlook and Mr. H took this photo.

We rode to the end and then came back and went into the state park.  Inside the park, you can have access to the highest point in Alabama.  I will never forget it!

Making the left turn into the driveway, I thought I was going wide and stopped.  That was a mistake as the driveway was on a steep uphill grade.  After stalling the motor 4 times in an attempt to get going uphill, on the 5th try, the bike assumed it natural posture (horizontal on its side!)  On its way over, the last inch of the clutch lever snapped off as well as the entire foot peg on that side.  I was not happy with myself for several reasons, but the most maddening of all was that I couldn't stand my bike up without assistance from Mr. H.   He came back down the hill and we got her upright again.  Then he rode up to the lookout tower without a foot peg on the shifter side. 

Let me just say right now that I am married to a most amazing man.  He is my hero, my knight in shining armor, my genius roadside engineer/mechanic.  He didn't fuss at me or laugh at me as some men might do.  He touched the pillion foot peg (the one for the passenger) and calculated that it would probably be transplantable.  There is a small bag of tools under the seat of my bike from which he pulled a pair of pliers and set to work.  (Soon that pair of pliers will be replaced with a better pair, but it got the job done!) 

We sat in the breezy shade at the top of Alabama and I waited for myself to calm down a bit.  I wasn't scared, but I was angry with myself on several counts.  After a bit, we went up in the lookout tower and enjoyed the view.  The picture below is of the repaired Fizzer, waiting to be ridden back down from the top of Alabama!

I am so thankful that I didn't do more damage than I did.  The foot peg is easily replaceable (as the spot fix that Mr. H so ably performed shows) as is the clutch lever.  I think everything can be remedied for less than $50.

Now I need to plug 2 pieces of gear that made the trip much more enjoyable.  One is called a Cramp Buster. It's a piece of plastic that wraps around the throttle and allows you to relax your grip while still keeping the throttle twisted.  It's not really a cruise control device because you don't set it and remove your hand.  You are still completely in control of the throttle, just more with your wrist instead of your fingers.

The next is something called Frogg Toggs.  I own the pink set.  It is very light and packs compactly, but is easy to put on when the rain starts (like it did this morning).  Mr. H has something called the Bull Frogg signature suit  in bright yellow which is a bit more waterproof and is made for biking.  When it stopped raining, we pulled off into a parking lot, rolled and stowed the rain gear, and were back on the road in no time.

And that's just about it for my first road trip!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Humming Birds and Phone Calls

Today I noticed that the humming bird feeder was empty.  Well, actually I noticed earlier it in the week, but today is the first time I've done something about it.

I put the water in the microwave to boil.  I'm not sure that this step is necessary, but it does help the sugar dissolve really quickly, so I do it anyway.

As I measured out the sugar, I thought of my mom.  Every time she wanted to make humming bird food, she called me for the recipe.  I repeat, every time.  I even wrote it out for her and stuck it on the side of her microwave.  She still called.  "Two cups of water and 1/2 cup of sugar, Mom."

I don't think it ever occurred to me at the time that the hummer food recipe was just an excuse to call and talk to me.  I'd love to be able to pick up the phone and call her and say, "Hi, Mom.  Have you fed your hummingbirds lately?  Let me tell you how to make it."

Wrist Warmers (as promised)

I have been holding back on using any of the alpaca wool Mr. H brought me from Peru. 
I didn't want to waste it on something that I wasn't up to the challenge of doing well. 
Now, I have used some of the darker gold alpaca to make some wrist warmers.

Even though I wasn't following a tested pattern, I was pretty sure that what I was doing would work out.  And I was pleasantly surprised!

If you've never knitted in the round on double pointed needles, there are lots of videos on the web.  Here's one from a site that has lots of helpful info.

Here's the materials list:

  • No. 8 (5.0mm) double pointed needles
  • 1 bundle of Medium yarn (I used alpaca that didn't exactly tell me the weight -  Peruvian yarn isn't labeled the same way as yarns sold in the U.S.)
  • a stitch marker
  • a tapestry needle for weaving in loose ends

  1. Cast on 28 stitches.  I used the "knitting on" method because I read somewhere that it's stretchy.
  2. Divide the stitches between 3 needles (8+8+12), then join to begin knitting in the round.  Lots of patterns call for putting a stitch marker where the round is joined, but the tail is always right there on mine so I just use the tail as the marker.
  3. Work in K2P2 ribbing until work measures 1 inch.
  4. Next round and following, knit every stitch until stockinette portion measures 2 inches (3 inches including ribbing.) Stop at your maker.  Now you will begin to leave the open gap for your thumb.
  5. Instead of joining to the next needle, turn your work and purl this row across all 3 needles until you reach your marker.
  6. Turn your work and knit this row across all 3 needles until you reach your marker (the gap.)
  7. Repeat the previous 2 rows until the gap is about 1 inch high. (about 6 rows)
  8. When the gap is tall enough, on a knit row (not a purl one), rejoin across the gap.  This is just like the initial joining in line 2 above.
  9. Keep knitting every row for at least 2 inches above the top of the thumb gap.  It depends on how much of your fingers you want to be covered.
  10. Bind off loosely. (You can use a needle a few sizes larger for binding off to make sure the edge isn't too tight.)  Using tapestry needle, weave in yarn.
  11. For a different look you can switch back to the ribbing for the last inch at the top or skip the ribbing at the bottom and have uniform stockinette all the way from wrist to fingers.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Learning Lessons

Warning:  This post is about knitting!!  If you aren't interested, now is the time to abandon ship.  Don't say I didn't warn you....

Recently, I've become addicted to knitting.  Just ask my family.  I've made scarves, neck-warmers, and what I call a couch potato blanket.  These are all basically rectangles.  I learned to make button-holes for the neck-warmer.  But in the end, they all called for simply the basic ability to knit or purl back and forth.  I wanted something more challenging . . . . more creative.

Then I discovered double pointed needles, which give one the ability to knit seamless tubes (like socks and hats).  I've made a couple of socks (not a pair, mind you, just 2 different socks out of yarn left over from other projects!) I think I've got the hang of the heel-turning technique.

This weekend, I was reminded of how double pointed needles came to my attention in the first place.  There was a review of a pattern that I saw on-line for a pair of open-toed socks.  The pattern called for the socks to be knit flat and then seamed  at the back to make the tube shape.  The commenter said that she liked the pattern, but she had made hers on double pointed needles to eliminate the seam.  I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded good to me.  I found that I could order a set online and get them delivered in my mailbox quicker than if I waited until the next time I was in Mobile.  (See my first project)

Now that I know how DPNs work, I decided I'd try to convert a flat, seamed pattern to one knitted in the round. I didn't want to try the socks, but I remembered some wrist warmers constructed the same way so I decided to give them a try.  I learned some lessons in the process that I thought I'd collect and pass along here. And the first 2 are for those of you non-knitters who, despite the "Knitters Only" warning, have persevered this far:
  1. (just a generalization to start off with)  Google is a wonderful thing!  For just about anything that you want to learn how to do, there is a video or forum on-line that will give you more information than you thought possible.  People love to show you what they know how to do. 
  2. (another generalization) Don't be afraid to try something new, just because you've never done it before.  If it doesn't work, see if you can figure out why.  Begin by expecting a learning curve.  Start small.  Start with a trial sample.  Start by using what you already have.  This applies to so many things in life.  (knitting, sourdough baking, and driving a standard transmission come most immediately to mind) 
  3. (now for some knitting specific stuff) When I first started knitting and had to lay the work down, I wasn't sure which direction to go when I picked it back up.  I've learned that after the 1st stitch, the working yarn always comes from the right needle.  At least in the Continental style that I use.  The best way to tell is to work some stitches and pay attention to which side the working yarn is coming from.  Remember what you see and know that it will always be that way in a regular row.
  4. Knitting in the round instructions always say to distribute the cast-on stitches evenly on the (usually 3) needles.  In the beginning, I thought that meant divide by 3 and come as close as you can.  I have learned that it is best to divide the stitches in a way that works with your pattern.  In the wrist warmers I made, I cast on 28 stitches and the first several rows were worked in a K2-P2 ribbing.  That's a 4 stitch pattern.  Instead of distributing the stitches mathematically evenly (9+9+10), I did it "pattern-wise" evenly (8+8+12) in multiples of 4.  That way, I always start a new needle with the beginning of the pattern.  No more "did I just K1 or K2 or P2?"  (ex: Your pattern says to cast on 30, and calls for a K2P1 ribbing.  You would need to divide the stitches in multiples of 3.  Not the obvious 10+10+10, but rather 9+9+12)
  5. The wrist warmers needed a hole for my thumb.  I had ignored this for as long as possible, but there came a point that I had to address it.  If I had been using the pattern as written, I would have simply left a gap in the seam.  Now, however they were seamless, but still needed a gap.  I remembered from my sock-making that when making the heel, there was back and forth knitting using the regular method.  After thinking it through, I decided that if I could knit all around using 3 needles, I should also be able to stop and reverse (i.e.turn and purl around using those same 3 needles.)  So that's what I did.  I turned the work and purled back to the marker, then turned again and knitted to the marker, then turned and ...You get the picture.  When the gap was about an inch or so high, and I was on a knit (rather than a purl) row, I stitched across the gap to close up the top of the thumb hole and was back to knitting in the round again.
I warned you that this was really a knitter's only post!!
And I realized that I started this several days ago and had never quite finished it.  It's time to get it out there and I'll follow it with the actual pattern I came up with for the wrist warmers and a picture of them.

    Friday, May 13, 2011

    Becoming Something Else

    Recently, a friend gave me a bread starter.  It was a Herman starter.  I made several loaves from this recipe and even made some cinnamon rolls.  I liked it, but I wanted something else. 
    When I think of sourdough, I don't think "sweet." And Herman is definitely a Sweetie.

    So I did some research and discovered that you can convert one starter to a different type of starter simply by changing its diet. 

    Now for those of you who aren't up on sourdough care and feeding, you probably aren't aware that "care and feeding" are even necessary steps to certain types of bread-making.  Sourdough starters are alive:  they eat and they breathe.

    So, I am attempting to convert Herman into something not so sweet .... something more .... what? 

    This called for a trip to the thesaurus

    And there, I found that the antonyms for sweet were not what I was looking for:  acid, bitter, salty, sour, mean, unfriendly, unpleasant, (it gets worse), malodorous, stinking, stinky, cacophonous, discordant, ugly.  I think I just go with "savory."

    Anyway, instead of feeding Herman sugar and spud flakes, he got a half cup of "highly fermentable" (according to The Bread Bakers Forum) rye flour with his drink of warm water.  We shall see what becomes of Herman.

    This made me start thinking:  Aren't we all defined by what we consume?  If you live on junk food, your body starts to look and act and feel like junk.  And that goes for your spirit, too.  Are you feeding your spirit what it needs to thrive?  Living Water and the Bread of Life are great spiritual health foods.

    Oh, back to Herman.  He may need a new name to go with his new identity.

    How about Harrye?