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Overcoming Obstacles

I strongly encourage you to watch the following video:

This inspirational young man is Nick Vujicic.  He is a follower of Christ and is quick to give God the glory for the opportunities he’s had to share his testimony to others despite (and because of) his physical challenges.

We watched this video at church this morning.  It was used to illustrate the point that no matter what life throws at us, we can find our hope in God.

I felt a sense of shame at the way I allow myself to be brought down by various things in my life…nothing near as dramatic as what this young man has had to deal with.

I also felt inspired as I watched him get back up…with much effort…to stand up proudly.   I’m sure there were times when he didn’t have the will to do anything.  He could have easily given up and allowed others to do things for him.

But, leaning on God’s strength, Nick persevered, grew stronger and more daring, and laughed in life’s face as he cleared each hurdle.

Truly inspiring.

Flowers and Socks…They Are a Growin’

I went outside this morning to check on my newly planted sunflowers.

Lookie!!!!

Can you believe it?!  I just planted those three days ago!  What a great little project to do with young children since they wouldn’t have to wait long to see the fruits of their labor!

My sunflowers aren’t the only things growing around here.

I started a new project last week…the Belle Epoque Socks from the book Two-at-a-Time Socks.  I’m using Regia Silk sock yarn…a gift from a West Coast Oddball knitter.

Here’s my progress so far:

I’m getting ready for the heel flaps.  Fun stuff!  I’ll post more details when I finish the pair.

Another Sink of Dishes

Turning 15 did not make the boy stop procrastinating.

Look at the pile of dishes awaiting Rooster’s gloved hands…

All I can say is better him than me!

I suggested that as a birthday present, Chicky could offer to do them for him.

No way, Jose.

She suggested I do them.  My response?

I may be mean, but I’m not stupid.  The dishes could wait for the day after Rooster’s birthday.

Poor Rooster.

Two Birthdays in the AuburnChick House

Today is Rooster’s 15th birthday.  He’ll be getting his drivers permit on Tuesday.  Look out world…another Chicklet will be on the roads!

It’s also the day we have designated as Molly’s birthday.  She’s two years old.

To celebrate, I made two cakes…one for human consumption and one for the dogs.

The tradition in this family is that every birthday cake is comprised of white cake with chocolate frosting.  However, ever since I made a Chocolate Chip Cake for Thanksgiving, it’s become Rooster’s favorite.  And that’s what he requested for his birthday this year.

Here’s the recipe, originally posted by Sunshine’s Mom on KnittingHelp.com.

Chocolate Chip Cake

Duncan Heinz Butter cake mix
1 small package Jello instant vanilla pudding
1/2 bar grated chocolate (I usually use German chocolate – it’s in a green package)
chocolate chips
1 cup oil
1 cup milk
4 eggs
A bundt pan

(Let me just say to start – grating the chocolate is the most time consuming part of this cake. I’ve found that using a zester instead of a grater works so much better. In any event, grate your chocolate first before doing anything else and you’ll be happy you did.)

With mixer, beat together cake mix, vanilla pudding, oil and eggs. Fold in grated chocolate. Put half of mixture into bundt pan, add enough chocolate chips to your liking, put rest of mixture on top (and maybe a few more chocolate chips?) Make sure chocolate chips are pushed into the top layer of cake mix. Lick the spoon, bowl and detach and lick the mixer blades, seriously. It’s that good.)

Bake at 350 deg. for an hour or until inserted knife or toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool in the bundt pan (I can’t stress this enough!). Once cool, tip over onto plate and cover with powered sugar if you wish.

I don’t have a bundt cake pan, so I use an angel food cake pan instead.

Rooster, in his excitement about a hot cake straight from the oven, ate a piece before anyone else…forgetting that we had yet to put candles on it and sing Happy Birthday.  Hence, the missing piece in the picture below:

I didn’t want the dogs to feel left out, so I decided to bake Molly a cake.  I visited Google for a recipe and found this site.  The only substitution I made was Almond Extract.  I didn’t know I was out of the vanilla until I began digging around in the pantry.

Here’s what the cake looked like after I put the candles on it:

I think Molly knew it was for her.  She was so excited when she saw me carrying it around and could not stop smiling!  You do know that dogs can smile, don’t you?

We sang Happy Birthday and helped her blow out the candles.  Then, we divided the cake into thirds and gave each dog a piece.

I think it’s safe to say they liked it.

Peer Pressure

The other day, when I pulled into my driveway, this is what I saw:

That is the area between my house and my neighbor’s.  For years, we’ve talked about landscaping the area around those green boxes.  We’ve never actually gotten around to it, though.  Apparently, she decided to take action.

I offered to help plant them, assuring her that I would follow her instructions since my thumb refuses to turn green.  She got the jump on me when she started work the next morning at the early hour of 8:00.

I was shocked when I went bouncing out of the house, showered, face made up, and wearing a fun, summery green skirt and white polo.  It was the last day of school, and I wanted to visit Ms. D, the Attendance Lady, and wish her a good summer.  The last thing I had on my mind was digging up grass and, thus, sweating thus requiring another shower.

I left feeling extremely guilty and called my good friend, Rabbitrescuer.  She told me not to worry.  If I was lucky, she would be done when I got home, and I could sneak into the house unnoticed.  Bad, but guiltily true.

And she was right…the work was done…

While my neighbor was slaving away, I stopped at the school, said my “End of the School Year Goodbyes,” and drove on to Lowe’s to pick up my own plants.

Yeah, I caved to the pressure…the pressure to pretty up my own yard.

A few pictures will illustrate the need for improvement.

Remember how the Mr. and I dug up the trees beside the garage?  We tried planting new shrubs, but they died.  I guess you shouldn’t plant them in the middle of winter.  Insert “I told you so” in the Mr’s direction.

I came home with two Knock Out Rose plants and two packages of Mammoth Sunflower Seeds…

I don’t know if you can read the brown label, but it claims that the roses are “Trouble-free shrubs…that suit any lifestyle.”

We’ll see.

Here’s what it looked like after I planted everything:

I planted sunflower seeds in the plant-less areas below:

The front right corner of this bed…

The small space in front here…

This narrow planter, which will be moved to ground level after the flowers start growing…

And two small pots (recycled from the Knock-Out Roses)…

Maybe, one day, I’ll get nicer pots.  As you know, I tend to wing it around here.  Changes come as slowly and as inexpensively as possible.

Speaking of recycling…my neighbor, kind lady that she is, saved the grass she removed from our new flower bed and told me I could use it for my yard.  My biggest dilemma?  Which bare spots to cover?

The seeds I planted a month and a half ago did not take.  So, I needed to do what I could and start somewhere…

I know.  It’s bad.

Here’s how I look at it.  The grass that I have is, at least, green.  Planting the seeds forced me to begin watering my grass regularly (so much for saving money).  At least the homeowner’s association can’t complain too much.  Thank goodness they can’t see the backyard!  It would take a truckload of grass to fix that area!

Anyhoo…getting back to the flowers…

I took the pictures hoping that in a couple of weeks, I’ll be able to post updated pictures of flowers that are actually GROWING.

One never knows…miracles still do happen sometimes.

Honey, What Did You Do Today?

Um…let’s see…

I fixed the doorbell.

Say what?!

Yes, AuburnChick’s been at it again…making home repairs.

A couple of days ago, I discovered that the doorbell at my house was defective.  I now suspect that it’s been broken for awhile.  I wonder how many visitors we’ve missed because of this.

What does AuburnChick do when faced with a new repair job?

Google, of course!

I found a few different sites that basically said the same thing.  According to the ‘net, doorbells are comprised of three elements:  the button at the door, the transformer, and the chime.

I printed out one set of instructions and proceeded to the front door, where I followed the first set of instructions.  After touching two of the wires together and getting a tiny spark(can we say scary), the doorbell still didn’t ring.  So, the problem wasn’t with this element.

On to the next.

I realized that a trip to Home Depot was in order.  I’m very comfortable in Home Depot.  I’ve gotta tell you that the doorbell aisle is a fun place to visit!  If you want to annoy a lot of people on a Saturday morning, take your kids and let them push all of the buttons.  Who knew that I could have Greensleeves play in the middle of the summer whenever someone visits?

I’ll admit that I was a bit overwhelmed by the different products available.  Do I get a wireless (which my friend Figaro mentioned in a chat earlier that day), or do I stick with the wired?  Do I get the entire chime set or just the transformer.

If you’re smart, this is where you look for an employee.

I’m smart, and that’s just what I did.  I got a 30-something male who gave me the eye that belied his thoughts, “You’re going to fix that yourself?”

To his credit, he didn’t give voice to this thought.  But he did give me a stern warning to mess with only one wire at a time…that the voltage would be strong if I messed up.

I started getting nervous.

Really nervous…especially after his third warning.

I wound up buying a transformer and a chime.

And I headed home.

I was relieved that Rooster would be there while I switched the parts out.  I didn’t want to electrocute myself and not have anyone find me for hours.

First, I set out what I would need…

Then, I went to the circuit breaker box to find the switch labeled doorbell, but there weren’t any!  Ugh.  What to do?

I went back to Google and discovered that most electricians wire the doorbell in with another circuit since the output is so small.

Great.

I knew that I could do the job without turning off the power, but the Home Depot employee’s warnings kept ringing in my head.

I decided to turn off the main switch.

Rooster had no clue what I was doing until, from the bathroom, he hollered out, “Who turned out the lights?”

I had to laugh.

I climbed a chair armed with a screwdriver and flashlight, which I placed between my boobs.

Go ahead and laugh.

I couldn’t figure out how to handle everything along with a flashlight.  You’ve gotta be resourceful!

I decided to change out the transformer first.  It was a nerve wracking job.  I think I’ve watched way too many shows about the Special Forces…the kind where they’re diffusing bombs, twisting wires together…that sort of thing.  Do I cut the green or the black wire?

In all seriousness, all I had to do was unscrew the tops of each set of wires, one at a time, and connect the same colored wires from the new transformer.

Still, it was scary.  I knew the power was turned off, but what if there was a little bit of juice flowing?

I got the transformer hooked up, and we tested the doorbell.

Still no go.

The problem wasn’t the transformer, but I wasn’t about to switch them back.  I figure the house is six years old.  The part probably needed to be changed.

It was now time to change the chime…a far easier task.

Notice the words Rear, Tran, and Front?  You can wire your doorbell for front and back doors, and they’ll ring differently so you’ll know which door your company is coming from!  Way cool!

My back door isn’t wired for a doorbell, so I didn’t need that.  I switched out the chime and connected the wires properly.

Rooster ran and tested it.

Ding-Dong.

Molly started barking.

It worked!

What an amazing feeling…to know that I fixed the doorbell!  One last task remained…the new cover…

When the Mr. came home and asked what I’d been up to, he cocked his head quizzically and said, “I didn’t know the doorbell was broken.”

Don’t even get me started.

Where Did the Year Go?

Today is the last day of school.  The kids left about 15 minutes ago, and I thought I would take a few minutes to look back on the last nine months.

It seemed like only yesterday when Rooster was starting off his high school career.  I remember being nervous for him but confident that Chicky would have his back.

The first day of school, I made a big show of giving the kids their lunch money (a lump sum that was to last for a week) with the warning not to call unless they were desperate.  The year before, Chicky had gotten in the bad habit of calling for any and everything.

When I picked up the kids from school that day, Rooster informed me that he had lost his billfold and, thus, had missed out on lunch, heeding the warning not to call.

Yeah, I felt about this tall.

The next morning, he found his billfold.  It was in the first pair of shorts he had put on the day before but changed out of before heading to school.  For his second day of school, he chose to make his lunch.  We had the fridge stocked with lots of yummy stuff.

I dropped off the kids and went to work where, upon getting out of the car, I discovered his lunch on the floorboard.

I remember being exasperated.  Fortunately, Chicky had given him some of her lunch money.

Poor kid.  It was, pretty much, what I had expected given his penchant for forgetfulness.

Fortunately, he found his brain before each class and excelled.  He earned mostly A’s and found himself doing quite well in English (AuburnChick pats herself on the back for that one).

He has struggled with friendships.  Boys can be mean to each other, but in more obvious ways than girls.  He has a ways to go in this area…seeing people for how they truly are…and learning not to care so much but just walk your own walk.

I’ve enjoyed watching him try new things.  He tried out for soccer and made the JV team.  I’m proud of his effort and was sad for him when he didn’t get to play very much.  Today he’ll be trying out for the band.  I hope he makes it so he’ll have a niche for next school year.

Meanwhile, Chicky was growing by leaps and bounds.  She had gotten her drivers’ license last July but, being the worried mom that I am, had to hold off driving to school the first week until traffic eased up.  She quickly earned my trust, got her parking spot, and lived up to my expectations as a responsible young lady.

I watched her blossom in her service to others as well as her relationships with those around her.  I’ve also watched her struggle.  She had a tough schedule…four AP classes and advanced math courses.  We quickly discovered that she doesn’t share her mama’s love of history.  Surprisingly, she did quite well in pre-calc.  Go figure.

I’ve watched as she’s been hurt by the cattiness that accompanies girl-girl interactions.  She has come to the conclusion that fakeness does not make for true friendships as she was unceremoniously dumped by supposed “friends.”  It’s been painful for me as I see her hurting.  However, I can’t help but marvel that she’s getting it…earlier than those girls who think that money and fancy clothes speak louder than actions.  I fully expect her new, hand-picked friends to be more genuine and sincere.

You can see the progression of her confidence reflected in the photos over the course of the year.  She walks with her head held high.  She carries two debit cards…one for her own account stocked with money that she’s earned babysitting, along with one for my account, which she uses to fuel up the car and buy the family’s groceries.  She’s quick to volunteer for tasks and is, overall, preparing herself for bigger responsibilities.

It truly is amazing how much personal growth is possible in such a short amount of time.  Raising children is the hardest job I’ve ever done, but it’s also the most rewarding.  Being able to look back and see milestones along the path that’s been walked is the payoff and worth every gray hair on my head.

I can’t wait to see what happens next year!

A Shawl for Christine

Three weeks ago, one of my online friends sent me a message in which she asked if I would be willing to make her a shawl.  She had seen the one I crocheted for my church’s prayer ministry, which came from this booklet (purchased at Joann’s):

She wanted to pay me.  For shame!  How can you put a price on handiwork?  I offered to let her pay for the yarn and shipping and call it even.

The deal was done.

I bought the yarn right away, even though I had explained that it would probably be a while before I made it…having other projects on my needles…one of which was the Swallowtail Lace Shawl.

That bag of yarn was like a siren…calling to me from the dining room table, where I had placed it.

There’s something about making a commitment to a friend.  You want to follow through right away.

And so, after feeling frustrated with the Mexican Rainbow Shawl, I began Christine’s shawl on May 18th.  Because I haven’t delivered the other shawl to church, I was able to check my gauge.  Apparently I crochet tightly.  I decided to go up two hook sizes to an I (5.5mm) hook.

I quickly made progress.  I think my crocheting has improved.  There’s a different kind of rhythm that I find very soothing.

Four days later I had completed this much (keeping in mind that I do work and sort-of clean and cook)…

Two days later, I finished.  It was actually rather late at night when I wove in the last end, so Chicky took pictures of it yesterday (Memorial Day)…hence my patriotic shirt…

You’ll notice that this shawl is bigger than the last one.  I really like the texture that resulted from using a larger hook.  The stitches are much more open, and the yarn is fabulously soft.

I just love this shawl.  I love the yarn – Bernat Satin (Worsted).  It’s soft, snuggly, and will be oh so warm in the frigid climate that my friend lives in.

The border, which I struggled with last time, was much easier this go-round.  Maybe it was the fact that the stitches were looser, making it easier to see where I needed to insert the hook.  I don’t know, but all I can say is I tore it up (that means I went really fast), easily completing it in one sitting and with no hair-pulling.

I’m going to put it in the mail today.  My fingers are crossed that it lives up to her expectations.

Not Just a Day Off

Memorial Day.

What does it mean to you?

Does it mean a three-day weekend with steaks on the barbecue?  A day to do yard work or clean the house?  Maybe you’re spending the extra day visiting family.

I have to admit that it’s hard not to get caught up in the joy that accompanies a day off while glossing over the reason for it.  However, I found myself getting focused on the holiday last week when the classes I subbed for were assigned to watch the movie Pearl Harbor.

The students sat in rapt attention as the drama played out.  Some of them had never seen the movie.  And while they all knew about the historic day itself, I think that the characters really drove home some issues.  Sure, they were fictional, but the personal storyline most likely occurred time and time again throughout history…

Men and women felt it their duty and honor to serve.  Their lives did not stop despite being in the fight of their lives.  Each person who served gave up something…loved ones, innocence, and often their very lives.

I am a naturalized citizen…a freedom made available by the selfless service of others.  Many men and women alike paid the ultimate price to ensure that I would have the right to read a Bible in public and have my voice heard (however contrary it might be to public opinion)…among a myriad of other such freedoms.

A few years ago, we traveled to Arkansas for a soccer tournament.  On the way, we stopped in Vicksburg, Mississippi, to do a little sightseeing.

Vicksburg is filled with history, being the site of a 47-day siege during the Civil War.  We toured the Vicksburg National Military Park, which is home to a cemetery.  I quietly walked around, choosing my steps carefully out of respect to those at rest, reading off some of the names of the soldiers buried there.  Both Union and Confederate soldiers lie together.  I found it poignant.  Ultimately, this country would be united, despite the lengthy war that nearly tore it apart.

When I was a teenager, my family traveled to Washington, D.C.  We did the usual “tourist” things…visited the Smithsonian, took pictures at the Lincoln Memorial, and walked the grounds of Monticello.

The most memorable part of that trip was the visit to Arlington Cemetery.  We were privileged to watch the Changing of the Guard.

It was a somber ritual…one befitting those who died in service to this country.

May we never cease to honor those who carry the banner for freedom.

Serving Others

We had a fabulous message, given by our youth pastor, at church this morning.

His message was about serving others.  The text for his message came from John 13:1-17…

Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet

1It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.[a]

2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

7Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

8“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

9“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

The pastor told stories of the ways that people in the church have and are currently serving.  My heart was especially touched when he spoke of the many times the youth have worked on service projects.  Rooster spent a good portion of last summer volunteering for such activities.

The congregation was challenged to serve when it sees a need and not not to wait for someone else to do it.  That’s what Jesus did when He washed the disciples’ feet.  The washing of the feet was a chore relegated to the lowest servant in a household.  If anything, it should have been Jesus who reclined back and got the royal treatment, yet He humbled himself to take care of others.  His was a selfless act…a precursor to what was to come.

As I reflected on the message while driving home, I thought about those in my life who serve so generously.  My online friends, Nancy and Rebecca were the first to come to mind.

Nancy knits endlessly for charity.  I have often been humbled by her generosity and realize that my itsy-bitsy contributions pale in comparison to her’s.  Rebecca works tirelessly with the youth in her church.  When you see the pictures she posts on her blog of some of their get-togethers, you’ll notice that she always has a smile on her face, as do the kids around her.

These two ladies serve as wonderful examples for me.  How much more can I give of myself?  How can I stretch myself?  Am I willing to open up my arms to embrace those in need around me?

God has blessed me beyond what I deserve.  It’s only fitting that I share what He has given.  You never know…perhaps a heart will be touched and another life will be joined with Christ’s.

The following is one of the songs we sang today.  The title is “How Great is Our God.”  Every time I hear it, my heart swells with love and appreciation for Who God is.  He is more than I can ever put into words.  He is everything.  I owe Him everything but can pay back nothing.  Perhaps in giving to others, I can at least say thank you.


VERSE(1):
The splendor of a King,
Clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice,
All the earth rejoice
He wraps himself in light,
And darkness tries to hide
And trembles at his voice,
And trembles at his voice

CHORUS(1):
How great is our God,
sing with me
How great is our God,
and all will see
How great, How great
Is our God

VERSE(2):
Age to age he stands
And time is in His Hands
Beginning and the End,
Beginning and the End
The Godhead, Three in one
Father, Spirit, Son
The Lion and the Lamb,
The Lion and the Lamb

CHORUS(1):
How great is our God,
sing with me
How great is our God,
and all will see
How great, How great
Is our God

CHORUS(2)
Name above all names
You are Worthy of all praise
and My heart will sing how great
Is our God
(x2)

CHORUS(1):
How great is our God,
Sing with me
How great is our God,
and all will see
How great, How great
Is our God

CHORUS(1):
How great is our God,
Sing with me
How great is our God,
and all will see
How great, How great
Is our God

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