New things happening and coming up

Two new things today, plus a promise of things to come:

NEW:

  • The latest WordPress update contains a new tool called Press This. It’s a different way to share content from across the interwebs, and I thought I would try it today by reposting my friend Lois’ “Song of the Month” post. (I don’t think it’s something the reader will notice; the magic happens behind the scenes.)

Song of the Month: “No Longer Slaves” | Waxing Gibbous

  • I’ve updated my theme today (the overall look of the page). What say you? Better? Worse? Didn’t even notice? I’m still tweaking, moving things around and deciding the best location for everything, but I would love your opinion. Do you even look at the stuff in the sidebars? Do you even notice the fonts? Is this one easier to read? That is my goal: To make it as easy on you, the reader, as possible, because I like you. 🙂

COMING SOON:

  • Up next (or soonish) is a rewrite of my About page.
  • I have started working on the new blog, To Well With You. It will focus on wellness, fitness and running. Suzy & Spice will remain here, so you will be able to read either/or or both. Details to follow.

I’d better finish this up. I have work to do!

Leave me some comments below, please!

 

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Blogging from A-Z – music

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “M.” (I’m blogging the alphabet in April. Read the details at Suzy & Spice here or the Blogging from A-Z page here.)

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ConfuciusQuoteMusic4I would hate to live in a world without music.

Can you imagine? I can’t.

There’s something indescribable about music, something it does to your soul – a filling of empty spaces you never realized you had.

(And yet I apparently feel the need to try to describe it.)

Music can calm, uplift, unite, honor, inspire, rally, heal …

Read this story about a music rehabilitation program for severely wounded soldiers.

Music is transcendent.

Wrap me up in a symphony like a cocoon that keeps me safe and warm, and soon I acquire enough energy to become invincible. The harsh light of reality doesn’t seem so bright anymore …

… when I listen to music.

(Music awakens the feeble poet in me, just a wee tiny bit.)

Music is basic. It brings clarity, strips away pretense, speaks to our insides.

“For me there is something primitively soothing about this music, and it went straight to my nervous system, making me feel ten feet tall.” – Eric Clapton

And I suppose you could say that, sometimes, it can alter reality. Can you relate?

“Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. … On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.” – Hunter S. Thompson

I’m never the same after I listen to good music, even for a few moments.

“Music can change the world because it can change people.” – Bono

And even a standard poodle named Django can appreciate a good Beatles tune.

That’s my friend Conrad and his musically gifted dog playing “Norwegian Wood” along with a music student.

What’s your favorite kind of music?

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Tomorrow: N is for No.

Follow me on Twitter: @OakleySuzyT

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Blogging from A-Z – Highland games and Scottish heritage

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “H.” (I’m blogging the alphabet in April. Read the details at Suzy & Spice here or the Blogging from A-Z page here.)

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Arkansas Scottish Festival 2015My dad used to say bagpipes sounded like “a squashed duck.” It was one of the few things we disagreed on. I’m in love with the instrument, which is most commonly associated with Scotland. (No, I don’t play it – I just enjoy listening.)

As we get ready to welcome the annual Arkansas Scottish Festival to Batesville this weekend, I’ve had some of the traditional bagpipe melodies running through my head.

My second-favorite part of the festival is the Parade of Clans and Bands, which happens at 1 p.m. on Saturday in the courtyard of the Lyon College campus. During this time, festivalgoers gather to watch all the pipe bands march in together, playing as one.

I have “Scotland the Brave” coursing through my brain even as I write.

The festival is one way Lyon showcases its Scottish heritage. Folks come from all over the world to celebrate Scotland.

Oh, the kilts.

As I think about the part of the festival that’s long been my favorite, I get a bit melancholy.

Alex Beaton, whose music was a popular part of the festival for many years, was paralyzed in an accident in 2011 and is no longer able to travel to the festival. You can read more at Alex’s website.

Even though he won’t be there, he’s a part of the festival’s history and I want to share a little bit of him with you.

Alex is a storyteller and has entertained crowds all over the world with his beautiful Scottish ballads, but his sense of humor also comes through in songs such as The Scotsman. This clip from another festival contains that song, along with “Mary Mack” and a song I’m not familiar with (“Come Along,” perhaps?).

We miss Alex and wish him the best. Say prayers for Alex and his wife, Linda. He recently endured a five-month hospital stay and seems to have continuing health challenges. (I know a bit about that, as I had a cousin who was a quadriplegic. There always seemed to be something to deal with.)

Here’s another clip where his personality shines through, and it also contains another favorite sad song of mine: “The Massacre of Glencoe.” I hope you enjoy Alex as much as I do.

But bagpipes and balladeers aren’t the only things you’ll enjoy at the Arkansas Scottish Festival. Besides food, traditional music and a British car show, there are dogs! …

Sheep dog demonstrations – another favorite part of the fun. You just need to go and watch.

… and there are contests – bonniest knees, dance, piping competition, caber toss – a feast & ceilidh, a Sunday morning church service outdoors, a book sale and much more.

This year they’ve added a Highland Adventure Race, which I would totally do if I weren’t a wimp (people, I would turn myself over in the kayak and drown). But it sounds like so much fun! (Can someone please explain the Asparagus Toss to me? Please don’t tell me it has to do with “losing your lunch”).

There just isn’t room to list all the fun, so you’ll have to go see for yourself (or click here to download the schedule and map). Take your dogs; they’ll love it too.

And did I mention that admission is FREE?

Arkansas Scottish Festival and highland games
April 11-12
Admission: FREE
Lyon College
2300 Highland Rd.
Batesville, AR 72501

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Tomorrow: I is for “Intentional Walk,” a book review.

Follow me on Twitter: @OakleySuzyT

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Songs to make your heart happy

It’s no secret that I love Christmas music. Heck, I just love music, period. I listen to everything from country to rap (if it has positive lyrics) to opera. Just about anything can get me singing along, tapping my toes or even dancing around the room.

I’ve been listening to Michael W. Smith’s new Christmas album since it came out several weeks ago. It features duets with country and other artists, including his longtime pal Amy Grant (and even one with her husband, Vince Gill).

I have Michael’s first Christmas album, which is 25 years old, and all three of Amy’s Christmas albums. (I totally missed Michael’s 1998 and 2007 albums. Where was I??? The only thing I can remember is that those are the years of Bruce’s two biggest Crohn’s flare-ups, including the year we got married. I guess I was a bit distracted.)

The thing I like about Michael and Amy’s Christmas albums is that they include not only traditional songs (with their own unique spin) but original or lesser-known music that makes my heart soar (orchestras, full choirs and instrument solos are plentiful). There are tender songs such as Amy’s “Breath of Heaven” and the hauntingly beautiful “Gabriel’s Oboe” (a version of this song was featured in one of my favorite movies, The Mission); Michael’s “Lux Venit” (co-written with Amy) and “Christ the Messiah,” both with choirs; and the gentle “Welcome to Our World” (both artists).

At least one album from each artist includes a song with bagpipes, which I personally love, although my dad always considered them noise (like listening to a “mashed duck”): Amy has “Highland Cathedral,” and Michael includes “A Highland Carol.” Beautiful, both.

But enough going on about Amy and Smitty. To the songs I wanted to share with you today:

The first two are from Michael’s 2014 album, “The Spirit of Christmas.” These are “lyric videos” – the only versions I could include here legally – although I do find the lyrics on screen distracting from the beauty of the music. To get the full force, close your eyes and listen to the soaring music. (Don’t worry – you’ll be able to understand the words; this isn’t Bob Dylan.) And if you want to go back and catch the lyrics visually as you listen, click and listen a second time. This particular album features mostly country singers, with the exception of Audrey Smith (Smitty’s granddaughter), Michael McDonald (the Doobie Brothers) and U2 lead singer Bono (another of my favorites), with a whispered take on “The Darkest Night.”

It’s all good!

This one, “All is Well,” features Carrie Underwood. Close those eyes and listen (after you click, of course).

And this one, “Almost There” – about Mary’s long journey to give birth to our Lord and Savior – features Amy Grant.

Switching gears a bit, I thought I’d throw in a third one, which is not a Christmas song at all, but I received a link to it (and two others by Crowder) in an email today from Capitol Christian Music Group. Called “This I Know,” it’s really good, especially if you like hillbilly music! And if you don’t, still give it a try. You don’t even have to close your eyes.

I had trouble deciding which of the three Crowder songs to share here. Seriously, I went back and forth for a few minutes before deciding to share the above video on this page. They’re all good in different ways. So if you visit YouTube, also listen to the inviting “Come as You Are” and the toe-tapping “Ain’t No Grave.” You won’t be sorry.

Finally, I’m giving a shout-out to my friend Lois over at Waxing Gibbous, who more or less inspired this little sing-a-long with her Song of the Month feature. Her latest is a song by The Martins, “This is the Promise” (also not a Christmas song), and it’s beautiful.

Which of these did you like best? Leave us a comment below.

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A simple Christmas

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10, NASB

Christmases in the Oakley house are pretty simple. I would characterize them as more sentimental than material, and for that I’m grateful. Being “poor” in worldly wealth (but not in spirit) has its advantages!

These are some of the things that have allowed me to feel abundantly blessed this Christmas:

SHOPPING

Heavenly Treasures global market at our church. I bought gifts for all the women on the Taylor side of our family (immediately family, that is). All the proceeds go to small-business owners (which may simply mean one artisan struggling to feed her family somewhere in Cambodia, Vietnam or another area where poverty is the norm). Blessings: 1) We bought these gifts for a fraction of what we would have paid in stores; 2) they are handcrafted; 3) most of all, we helped someone who’s hurting in another part of the world.

I also took advantage of a clearance sale online and bought seven copies of a book I read years ago – a book I wish I could give to every woman I know: $5 apiece, one for each woman in the Taylor-Oakley clan.

My stepson, Courtney, who lives in Oklahoma, was blessed recently with a promotion and a good raise, and because one of my main missions in life is to help people be good stewards of their God-given blessings, instead of buying him a gift he doesn’t necessarily need, or writing him a check like we often do at Christmastime, we put money into his savings account at the bank where I work.

When I turned 50 last month, Bruce pooled his money with birthday money from my mom, and he took me to the jewelry store. (This is the type of splurge I rarely indulge in, but I figured a half-century was a special enough occasion.) He helped me pick out a beautiful opal ring. I’ve always loved opal, and this ring is so special to me.

So because we splurged at birthday time, we kept it simple for Christmas, although keeping it simple has always been our norm. We have such abundant blessings throughout the year, we don’t buy much for each other at Christmastime. We also have our anniversary coming up next week, so Bruce suggested we combine the occasions and buy a house gift for ourselves. We really don’t know what that might be, but while we were shopping Saturday for my brother and his stepson, we ran across a DVD copy of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” (Bruce is a mixture of realist and sentimentalist, and often the sentimental side wins – he loves the idealism of this movie, and so do I, although I fall closer to the realist side of the fence. And we both love old movies and the great Jimmy Stewart.) So here’s a recap of our conversation in the store when I picked up the movie:

Me: “Do we have this on DVD?”
Bruce: “I don’t think we have it on DVD or anything else.”
Me: “Household gift. Ten dollars.”
Bruce: “Great.”

End of conversation. End of Christmas shopping for Bruzy. Simple.

This type of Christmas spirit allows me to breathe during the holidays, because I hate shopping. It’s a little easier at Christmas because then I’m shopping for others, but I still would rather sit near a sunny window with a good book than fight the crowds at the shopping center.

MUSIC

I could listen to Amy Grant’s Christmas albums year-round. Oh, what am I saying – I do listen to Amy Grant’s Christmas albums year-round. You might hear “Tennessee Christmas,” “Breath of Heaven” or “Welcome to our World” in my car during the blazing heat of July. To me, these songs and albums are timeless and always a breath of fresh air. Each album is better than the last, and she includes some incredibly beautiful pieces in the mix. The last album, “A Christmas to Remember,” is especially full of pieces that cause me to stop what I’m doing (unless I’m driving), close my eyes and savor every note. I also tend to wear out my Christmas albums by: Collin Raye, Andrea Bocelli, The Carpenters, and John Denver & the Muppets. Heck, even the classically trained Bocelli sings with Miss Piggy on his album. My favorite Christmas song? “Oh Holy Night,” especially Martina McBride’s beautiful rendition. Bruce’s favorite? “Silent Night” – and John and the Muppets do a pretty good job of that, singing it first in German (the language it was written in), then English. Bocelli sings it in three languages.

MOVIES/TV SPECIALS

Since we canceled our satellite service in August, I didn’t get to watch wall-to-wall Food Network like I love to do between October and December, and I didn’t get to OD on the sappy movies on Hallmark Channel, but we still have the good ol’ standbys on VHS (taped from TV in the mid-1980s) and a few on DVD. Another challenge this year: Bruce and I had about four weeks to pull together the White River Christmas Half-Marathon & Relay (long story), and my only Christmas-special “viewing” would fall more into the category of background noise. Nevertheless, I got to listen to these as I did my half-marathon work or cooked for family: Rudolph, Frosty, Charlie Brown (I love Linus’ soliloquy on “what Christmas is all about”), and my favorite, the Grinch (another lesson on the true meaning of Christmas, plus it rhymes!). I also had these movies in the VCR: “Christmas in Connecticut” (my favorite Christmas movie, but only the Barbara Stanwyck version) and “White Christmas” – “snow, snow, snow, snow!” I think I even listened to “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” early in the season. Oh, I almost forgot: I did get to sit and watch an entire movie, start to finish, when Bruce and I spent Dec. 23 with Mom watching the remake of “Miracle on 34th Street.” (The 1994 version isn’t quite as good as the original, but the cute little girl and the beautiful scenery [and wardrobe] make up for it.) Movies I didn’t get to watch: “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story.” (There’s still time, right?)

FAMILY (FURRY AND FOUR-LEGGED)

Our two fur-babies are … well, my babies. I have a stepson, but I never gave birth to children of my own, and Salsa and Pepper warm my heart every day, even 30 seconds after they’ve infuriated me by wetting the carpet, barking incessantly or begging for snacks. We call our girls The Spice Dogs, and when I created this blog in 2007, they were part of the inspiration for the name (I was also baking spice cookies that evening). They’re good help around the kitchen, too: When I drop a bit of food while chopping, mincing or mixing, they rush to help me clean it up.

FAMILY (HUMAN)

I’m writing this on Christmas morning, 10 a.m. (savoring a steamy and wonderful cup of coffee with my favorite flavored creamer). We’ve spoken to some family members by phone today but haven’t gathered for the big celebration yet. We’ll go to Mom’s later for a feast of food and fellowship (more on the food below). I look forward to seeing those I rarely see throughout the year because of busyness, physical distance or, dare I say, apathy (on my part as much as anyone’s).

Bruce has been sick the past couple of weeks, and I’ve been trying to figure out why this cold/sinus junk has caused me more worry than other recent minor ailments. And why I might have seemed to overreact yesterday when he wanted to run a longer distance than I thought he should. Could it be that we’re “overdue” for a Crohn’s flare-up? The average for Crohn’s patients is 5 years, and his latest flare-up started in 2007 (and I did not marry an “average” guy!). I realize that it’s insane to worry – God has us covered. I suppose it’s just an opportunity to flex my trust muscles; after all, He is the Great Physician.

On Christmas Eve, Bruce got an opportunity to be the social guy that he is. We started with an afternoon run with some dear friends, the Tuckers; a family member, Bill, from out of town whom we had never had the opportunity to run with before; an awesome running buddy, Rita – who is growing to be a great running partner for me because, even though she’s a lot faster, she is sweetly willing to hang back with me, the slow one. She and I have had some great conversations, and she’s really fun (yesterday, we conspired to pretend we ran up a crazy hill when we saw Bruce and Shane – and I swear it was her idea! Unfortunately, we topped the hill and the guys hadn’t paid a bit of attention to us!).

I should have a separate category called Family (Running), because our running family is really precious to us. No space today to count all the ways, but in the spirit of Christmas, I’ll mention the great run last Tuesday night before our Roadrunners club Christmas party. Again, the speedsters took off without Slow Suzy, but Rita stayed behind with me. (She has a good heart.) On another note, I loved being able to attend a Christmas party in my sweaty leggings, running shirt and sports watch. (That’s just the way we roll!) This was only three days after my work Christmas party, which was beautiful and wonderful (except for the slightly inebriated Santa), but for which I made a most unfortunate choice of shoes, one of which had to come off before the party was over because my left foot was killing me!

But back to the main topic: Family (Human). After our run, I rushed to get clean and start the pecan pies, which needed to be out of the oven by 4:45 so we could attend the Christmas Eve service at Mom’s church. This church service has become a bit of a tradition for Bruce and me, starting even before we moved here in 2010. West Baptist always has a beautiful Christmas Eve service (which could also fall under the Music category). As I was whipping up the filling for the pies, I realized that someone had put the vanilla extract bottle into the cupboard with about three drops of extract remaining. (Seriously, who would do that?) Mom – on speed dial – to the rescue. Fortunately she’s less than a mile away. I sent Bruce over there, told him not to stop by our church to make sure the bathrooms were clean (part of his job), not to pass Go, not to collect $200. Just get back here with the vanilla. And he did.

The pies? Well, let’s just say the jury’s still out. I had to leave them in the oven (turned off) and put them back on to bake after all the evening’s festivities. I’m still not sure they’re quite right. But I’m also pretty sure no one will leave the table hungry this afternoon, pecan pies or no.

But wait! There’s more! (Isn’t there always?)

After the service at West, we went to my Aunt Pat’s across the street from our house. Her son-in-law, the aforementioned Bill (running buddy from out of town), had requested a family get-together in the spirit of the old days (the old days of our family, that is). Aunt Pat’s relatives from both sides gathered in her kitchen, which is only cramped when lots of relatives visit. Strange, she noted, we have all this space in the rest of the house, but everyone congregates in the kitchen and dining room. Not strange to me at all – Aunt Pat makes some of the best holiday treats west of the Mississippi. Can you say peanut butter fudge?

And then … we left that party to go to our church, Fellowship Bible Church in the old Landers Theater on Main Street. Whereas the West Baptist celebration was bright, colorful and upbeat, the Fellowship service was quiet, candlelit and reverent. Both services were full of beautiful music, and each was unique and meaningful in its own way. Each service fed my spirit and focused light on the One whose birth we celebrate, and whose Light takes away the darkness.

The Oakleys ended the evening together quietly – mama in her kerchief (OK, a red plaid flannel PJ shirt) and papa in his cap (his ubiquitous hooded sweatshirt), with one of the fur-children nestled under her bed down the hall and the other one begging for belly rubs. Both two-legged Oakleys spent the next hour reading, growing sleepy and sipping … okay, people, I’m not gonna lie. I wasn’t sipping a picture-perfect mug of steamy hot chocolate. I was indulging in a 10 p.m. glass of diet Coke, which I rarely drink after 3 p.m. And Bruce was sipping apple juice or water or something.

Now back to our fantasy.

FOOD

Three things I almost insist on having at Thanksgiving and Christmas are pecan pie, Cranberry Salad (made with red gelatin, apples, oranges, pineapple and pecans) and Aunt Pearl’s Potatoes. (As I’ve mentioned before, we don’t have an Aunt Pearl and have no idea who she is, but we loooove her hash-brown casserole!) And because I’m the one who has a strong need for these three dishes, I’ve become the designated maker of them. How else am I going to be sure it happens? The pies … we’ll see. (Dec. 29 update: Let’s just call them “pie soup” and be done with it.) The cranberry stuff is ready, and the potatoes will go into the oven soon.

I also have a year-round craving to bake, but my schedule doesn’t allow it very often anymore, so the holidays are when I get to indulge in that. Even when I’m tired, baking sweet treats, breads, even pizza dough, makes me very, very happy.

And then there are the dirty dishes. But since this is a post about counting blessings, being with family and remembering our Savior’s birth, we’ll skip over that part.

Post-script: leftovers (lots of them)

Have you ever eaten mashed potatoes for breakfast? Yeah, me, too.

REMEMBRANCES

My dad died 15 years ago this week. Every Dec. 23, I think about the day he died. That was a day full of pain and sadness, but knowing that my dad knew Jesus makes it so much easier. Even on that day, we had a measure of indescribable peace knowing he was no longer in pain (the pain my brother and I had known him to have our entire lives) and he is with Jesus now. Dad had told a relative just that morning that he was ready to go and was not afraid to die. None of us knew then that this would be his last day on earth. But we have the hope that surpasses all human ability to understand, and that’s because we know the Savior he rests with now.

Dad died 11 days before my wedding. In the ICU, when we weren’t sure whether he could hear us or not, as I held his hand I told him he needed to stick around and give me away next week, that I wasn’t ready to let go of him. But the Father had other plans, and Dad was gone within a couple of hours. That’s OK. My plans aren’t necessarily God’s plans, and His ways are not always my ways. He is sovereign, He is wise and He is, above all, GOOD. He takes care of us, even when we don’t always like how He goes about it. But even amid the not-liking, we had blessings: My Uncle Charles and Aunt Pat, who had just arrived at their daughter Kathy’s house in South Carolina when they got the news of Dad’s death in the evening, turned right around the next morning and drove back to Arkansas. They were here in time for his funeral. Now, that’s family.

God has blessed me with good family, good friends, a good job, an abundance of physical comforts (too much sometimes) and an ever-increasing awareness of just how good He really is. I thank Him for everyone He has put into my life, whether it’s to teach me, to reach me or just to bless me with caring and warmth.

As we celebrate His incarnate presence on the earth, may each of you feel His love, remember His sacrifice and give your life to Him.

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6, NKJV

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Stop the insanity (pods)!

A giant insanity pod has descended upon me and has taken up residence on top of my head. For the past few days, it’s been trying to make its way through my dense thicket of hair to creep into my cranium and wreak havoc with my internal circuitry. It threatens to annihilate me if something is not done to stop it.

What is an insanity pod, you say? You won’t find the precise definition in any dictionary, but an insanity pod is much like the humidity pods that descend upon Arkansas about this time of year and don’t leave until October or November. It’s a presence you dislike, but you learn to live with it, much like you learn to live with oily skin, or a husband who steals the covers. Until it’s time to cry out, “Enough is enough!” or “Out, out, darn pod!”

But, unlike with the humidity pods, you have some measure of control – within predetermined parameters – over an insanity pod. For instance, you can control how large it gets and how long it stays attached to your brain – or whether it makes it past your scalp in the first place.

In case you have never heard of insanity pods, we offer this helpful Q&A:

How do insanity pods form? No one knows for certain how the first pod came to be, but it grew and spawned other pods (much like Amish friendship bread). They approach the most vulnerable victim first (they can tell who you are). They begin by spotting someone with an overloaded schedule, too much stress from the challenges of life, a poor diet, the inability to sleep through the night and a merely compulsory reading of the Word. To that they pile on more stress, which leads to impulse eating, more insomnia, uncontrollable drooling, chocolate cravings and a worried mother (well, that last one is just a fact of everyday life, but it becomes more obvious as the insanity pod tightens its invisible tentacles around your nerve endings).

How do insanity pods manifest? The list of symptoms is exhaustive, but, among other things, the pods cause forgetfulness, crankiness, night blindness, a messy house and the Scary Mama Voice when the dogs misbehave (which means when they act like themselves).

Who suffers from insanity pods? As mentioned above, the pods attack the most vulnerable members of society first. The most likely victim is female, age 35-55, premenopausal, works full time, goes to school part time, volunteers at church and takes care of children, an aging parent, a chronically ill spouse or at least two pets – or all of the above. (We should mention that the sufferers include not only the victim, but relatives and members of the victim’s work and social circles.)

What can a loved one of an insanity-pod sufferer do to help? Just stay out of the way, baby.

How does one “stop the insanity”? As with an addiction to alcohol, food, shopping, gambling or Dancing with the Stars, the insanity-pod sufferer, or IPS, must admit her affliction. That is the first and most crucial step. (If the malady is caught early enough, there is no need for a formal 12-step program.) Then she must recite the insanity – er, serenity – prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and sufficient distance from sharp or heavy objects that can be used as weapons.

The next step is to begin removing obstacles to sanity, starting with items (even seemingly important ones) on her social, business and volunteer calendars, even if others don’t understand why this is happening. Would they rather find out about it in the newspaper or on the 10 o’clock news? (“Disgruntled worker takes out 23 colleagues, then turns the staple gun on herself – coming up after the break!”)

Relief can be immediate, much like when an Alka-Seltzer grants the first gut-relieving belch. In fact, when the first one or two items fall off the calendar, the IPS begins feeling lighter and the furrowed brow begins smoothing out. Then recovery can begin in earnest.

Within weeks (or perhaps days, depending the sufferer’s commitment to the program) a balance has been struck – the schedule is more manageable, school is out for the summer, the sufferer’s mother and the dogs are speaking to her again, the husband has stopped sleeping on the sofa. At this point, it is probably safe to approach, but proceed with caution. There could be a relapse. It is best to monitor the IPS from a distance for a few days to be sure equilibrium has, indeed, been restored.

How can you tell when the insanity pod has left for good? As there is no immunization at this time, there is no way to permanently remove the threat of insanity pods. But you can minimize the risk by remaining vigilant. The sufferer should get adequate sleep and exercise, stay hydrated, restrict caffeine, take long baths, play with the dogs, spend time with her husband, immerse herself in a few pieces of quality literature (no, we’re not talking about People magazine), work/play in the garden, write in her blog, eat 1-2 ounces of dark chocolate daily, watch Saturday morning Food Network and/or HGTV, listen to music, visit her mother more often (this should go without saying), pray and read Scripture regularly, and start reading the Sunday funny pages again.

This way, when the fall semester begins and the cycle threatens to repeat itself, the insanity pod will be less likely to try to park its ugly head on top of this particular victim’s. It will simply move on to the next unsuspecting forty-something woman and try to suck out her brain.

Help researchers find a cure for insanity pods! Contribute your suggestions by leaving a comment below. Or just send me a check.

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Thankfulness, Day 8

Today I am thankful for a little girl whose name I do not know.

I was very, very tired in church this morning. I remember thinking at one point, after the announcements were over and we had prayed and our worship leader had us stand again (we stand during every song): “Do we really have to stand AGAIN?”

I was so tired.

And then, along about the third song, I heard a sweet little voice behind me, singing loud and clear, those words of praise on the big screen in front of us (we sing choruses at Fellowship Batesville, and the words are projected on the big screen).

When I heard that voice, everything changed. My heart melted, and the weariness went away. My body was still tired, but my spirit wasn’t.

I didn’t want to turn around and stare, but I wanted to know who belonged to that sweet, sweet voice.

After a break in which the kids are dismissed to their classrooms, I turned around. She was small, maybe 5 years old. How had she known those big words? Either she could read them or she has heard the songs enough times to know them by heart, but even I didn’t know the next song we had sung, and she had sung along to it, too.

When church was over, I wanted to catch her mom and ask the little girl’s name and age, but Mom was already gone when I turned around.

Next Sunday I’ll make a point to find her. I’d like to introduce myself and tell her and her mom how she blessed me today.

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Tennessee Flat Top Box

This is my second post of the evening (be sure to read my earlier post below), but I’m so full of music tonight I couldn’t resist posting these YouTube videos of my all-time-favorite Johnny Cash song, “Tennessee Flat Top Box.”

The first video is Johnny from the album my dad had (and nearly wore out), and the second is from Johnny’s daughter Roseanne Cash. I love them both!

Heeeere’s Johnny:

And Roseanne:

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Thankfulness, Day 6

Today I’m thankful for two things: The Cinnamon Stick and music. Tonight those two things came together in a fun-filled, family friendly evening.

The Cinnamon Stick is a new coffeehouse and sandwich shop in downtown Batesville (a couple of doors down from the Melba Theater) that features local bands and all kinds of neat stuff. Tonight the bulk of the worship band from our church (Fellowship Bible Church of Batesville) played and sang. They did some Beatles, a few other oldies and some worship songs. Sean Roulier on a jazzed-up, Jars of Clay version of “It is Well (With My Soul)” was surprisingly enjoyable! (I say surprisingly because that old hymn is one of my top 2 or 3 favorites, largely because of the story behind it, and I was afraid I wouldn’t like “Sean’s version” – I have never heard Jars of Clay’s rendition, but Sean’s mom says it’s great.)

Randell, Tommy, Angela, Sean and Becky

Last night at the Stick, the Fellowship kids had karaoke night (check out our pastor’s rendition of “Ghostbusters” on my Facebook page), played board games and shot some pool. (I wasn’t there, but I have seen the videos.)

Bruce and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE music and are especially fond of supporting locally owned businesses. And when great food is involved … well, what more could you ask for?

You must go to The Cinnamon Stick. Immediately. Next time you need an iced coffee, instead of McDonald’s, stir up some friends and visit the Stick. Try the Loaded Baked Potato Soup and a hot tea or latte. Bliss!

The Cinnamon Stick is open on Saturdays. I may be there when they open tomorrow. Got to start trying their hot teas – one by one.

Won’t you join me?

Come on downtown and support your local coffeehouse. The Cinnamon stick is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

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