Thursday, September 29, 2011

Extreme Makeover: My Little House Edition

Last weekend, I was in the mood to shake things up around the house. Instead of spring cleaning, I gave two very important rooms in my house a Fall Makeover of the extreme kind. (Ok, not really too extreme but it feels extreme to me).

First,  I tackled the space formerly known as the formal dining room. It used to have heavy, dark mahogany furniture: a dining room table, a buffet and a china cabinet. Let's be honest. We ate in there approximately 3.2 times in the almost three years I've lived in this  house. The walls were a dark cranberry color and the curtains a rich gold.

But I decided I need a cozy room. My friend, Jennifer, gave me the idea. Then another friend, Connie, found the two most delicious pillowy chairs, well supplied with sleep dust. The icing on the cake was when a nearby boutique posted on Facebook that they were getting rid of their chandeliers to make way for new light fixtures. I'd been looking everywhere for a small, sparkly bit of bling for the room and everything I'd seen was cost prohibitive.

So the cozy room was born. I wish I had a true "before" picture but this one will have to suffice. The walls became a soothing Eddie Bauer color called "Meadow." Sheers brightened up the space and the cozy chenille comforter is perfect to curl up into when the sleep dust starts to take effect. My wall art isn't complete yet...but I'll post another picture when it is.


And after:

The next day, after church, I changed the color of the kitchen. Although a lovely shade of sage green before, I coveted a bright, sunny yellow. This one is called "Butter." Perfect!!!!


And after:

My "extreme makeover" makes me quite happy. 


Wednesday, September 28, 2011


It's been a week since I entered a blog post.

Practically an eternity for me.

But tonight's lesson at Bible study was about anger.

And I realized, not for the first time, mind you, that I'm kinda angry.

MORE THAN KINDA, if I'm honest.

I can't even post the things I'm angry about. That would give away confidences that I can't exploit.

But suffice it to say, I'm angry.

The study tonight detailed different ways of handling anger.

1. Suppressing it. Check! I tend to not communicate things until I blow. Not good.
2. Open aggression. Although accused, I haven't boiled a bunny yet.
3. Passive aggression. I have a blinged out, sparkly crown with a PA emblazoned in 100 percent cubic zirconia. It's hot.

I'm working on it.


Work in progress.

I tend to shut people out. Build walls. Don't let myself get hurt again. Hurt before I get hurt. I think that's the product of being hurt myself.

Epheians 4:31-32 says:

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

So that's what I'm going to work on this week.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Soft Place to Land

There was this country road in Lampasas County, Texas, I used to drive when I was a regional reporter at the Killeen Daily Herald covering a county beat and several small towns.

The road was so filled with potholes, bumps, moguls and cracked dirt that driving it was like a slalom course...or maybe a game of dodgeball, where the potholes and flying rocks became the objects to avoid.

Sometimes, even through my best efforts, I'd have to hit a pothole with one tire and a huge bump in the road with another. I had my windshield cracked on that road - twice - from flying pebbles kicked up from the pick-up trucks that used to hurtle down the road without a care to the dangerous conditions.

Life feels like that road sometimes. By the time I turned back onto the four-lane highway, I was a little worse for the wear.

Feeling a bit more than battered and bruised, I've been looking for a soft place to land.

I've found a few so far.

Although far away, my family is always there for me.

I have some very special friends who have been like big, fluffy emotional pillows I can bury myself in like I would a snuggly down comforter.

And I have a new group of women, who, although maybe not yet "friends," are driving that very same road and know what it's like to navigate the bumps and potholes.

Then there's church. And the Bible. And Proverbs and John and Isiah. And my new Sunday School class. And my Wednesday night Bible study.

Right now, they are my soft place to land.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Adventures in Cooking: Omelet

I usually eat my breakfast in the car on the way to work.

A toasted English muffin with fat-free cheese; a frozen (chock full o' preservatives) breakfast quesadilla, something along those lines.

But then I saw this blog post from Self magazine blogger Sarah-Jane Bedwell.


Goat cheese. 


She was speaking my language!

I dreamed about this omelet. HAD TO HAVE THIS OMELET.

Finally MADE this omelet.

And I'm in love. A few mornings a week I'll make this tasty treat.

Today I added mushrooms left over from a dish I made this weekend.

It was heavenly.

Spinach, Goat Cheese and Mushroom Omelet

(ingredients easy to mix and match!)

1 whole egg

1/4 cup egg whites

sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1/2 cup fresh spinach leaves, preferably organic

1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, also organic

1 ounce goat cheese

Whisk eggs, egg whites, salt and pepper and a splash of milk, together in a bowl.

I wilted the spinach in this bowl before I whisked the egg...saves something to wash.

Spray nonstick skillet with cooking spray.

Saute mushrooms until they begin to sweat and shrink.

Add spinach (mine appears already wilted because I forgot to take pictures of that step!). Cook until wilted.

Remove veggies from pan.

Pour eggs into pan. Over medium heat, cook eggs, sliding edges of eggs back from sides of the pan to allow more of the uncooked eggs direct contact with the pan.

When eggs are almost set, crumble the goat cheese.

Add goat cheese and vegetables to one side of omelet.

Fold omelet in half.

Continue to cook for another minute. Flip omelet. Cook another minute or until cheese is soft and melty.

Slide onto plate and enjoy.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Happiness Is...

Cleaning things out and finding a 'love note' that Curt wrote a year ago.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Adventures in Cooking: Crock Pot Red Beans and Rice

I keep trying to duplicate my mom's red beans and rice.

I've failed every time. I even have her RECIPE and I can't make it work. 

So in lieu of Mom's version, I try almost every other red beans and rice recipe out there. I love this one because it uses the crock pot, and it's a Cooking Light recipe.

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice


  • 3 cups water (I added 15 ounces chicken stock)
  • 1 cup dried red kidney beans
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 (14-ounce) package turkey, pork, and beef smoked sausage, thinly sliced (such as Healthy Choice)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups hot cooked long-grain rice
  • Hot sauce, to taste (this wasn't in the original recipe, but I had to add it!) 

  • Combine first 12 ingredients in an electric slow cooker. Cover with lid; cook on high heat for 5 hours. Discard bay leaf; stir in salt. Serve over rice; sprinkle servings evenly with green onions.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

On Eagles Wings

I started a new Bible study and class last night at Green Acres Baptist Church, one that is pertinent to my particular phase and stage of life (as all good Bible studies should be).

But I have to admit,  I started this one more because I thought I *should* rather than because I really *wanted* to. Let's face it, this particular study is going to uncover layers of myself I'm not sure I wanted uncovered.

So with my game face on and head held high, I walked into the room full of unfamiliar women last night...and left feeling like I had 15 new best friends.

Sure, that's a little bit of an exaggeration, but there are certain life circumstances that define people. And those going through this study are going through it with me.

What REALLY sealed the deal is when I got home, got the boys bathed, brushed and settled, ate my dinner and opened my workbook for the first time.

The VERY. FIRST. ASSIGNMENT. was to read Psalm 91.

It's an honor to share it with you:

Psalm 91

New International Version (NIV)

 1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
   will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
   my God, in whom I trust.”  3 Surely he will save you
   from the fowler’s snare
   and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
   and under his wings you will find refuge;
   his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
   nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
   nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
   ten thousand at your right hand,
   but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes
   and see the punishment of the wicked.
 9 If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,”
   and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
   no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
   to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
   you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
 14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
   I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
   I will be with him in trouble,
   I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
   and show him my salvation.”
  1. Psalm 91:1 Hebrew Shaddai
  2. Psalm 91:14 That is, probably the king


Sometimes God whispers His messages to me and sometimes he SMACKS me over the head with a 2 x 4. This was a 2 x 4 moment.

My BESTEST. EVER. FAVORITE. OF. ALL. TIME. hymn, from growing up in the Catholic church, is "On Eagles Wings," Psalm 91 put to music. (listen to the video link)

Here are the lyrics:

On Eagle's Wings

You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord,
Who abide in His shadow for life,
Say to the Lord, "My Refuge,
My Rock in Whom I trust."

And He will raise you up on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His Hand.
The snare of the fowler will never capture you,
And famine will bring you no fear;
Under His Wings your refuge,
His faithfulness your shield.

And He will raise you up on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His Hand.
You need not fear the terror of the night,
Nor the arrow that flies by day,
Though thousands fall about you,
Near you it shall not come.

And He will raise you up on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His Hand.
For to His angels He's given a command,
To guard you in all of your ways,
Upon their hands they will bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

And He will raise you up on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of His Hand.
And hold you in the palm of His Hand.

When I was attending St. Edward-Epiphany Catholic School, Mrs. Mary Malloy taught choir (among other things) and she was the most nurturing soul I can remember. She realized early on I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket (but I sure was enthusiastic in choir), so she redirected my talents into liturgical dance. I can't remember whether she or I, a combination thereof or another party entirely created the dance to this song, but I do know that I can perform it to this day.

My point being, like so many things that God puts in my path at exactly the right time, seeing Psalm 91 as our VERY FIRST LESSON just confirmed that I needed to be there. I needed those two teachers, the Bible study, and probably most importantly, the ladies sitting in that room with me.

I can't wait until next Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fashion NonSense

For years and years, I picked out the clothes my boys wore every day. I relaxed my standards on weekends, but I liked them to go to school in nice pants and a collared shirt of some kind.

All that went out the window when they got minds of their own. 

Now Curt will still let me lay his school clothes out for him. Luke, on the other hand, looks at what I've laid out for him to wear and immediately changes it.

And he can't match clothes to save his cute little 8-year-old life. He likes to pair orange basketball shorts with his purple Splash Day T-shirt. Or he'll wear his blue and green plaid shorts with his yellow and blue striped Polo shirt.

But today, they were in cahoots picking out their outfits.

This is what they came up with. Look might not be able to see them...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

IKE. I Hate That Guy. (Happy Anniversary, Meanie!)

Or that storm, as the case may be.

Three years ago today.

Was it really only three years???

After being decimated by a tree through our Beaumont roof during Hurricane Rita (yes, the one right after Katrina everyone forgot about), we fixed our house, put it on the market and high-tailed it to Sour Lake. 

We didn't move because of Rita, we moved because Curt, with autism, would have a much better chance of succeeding in Hardin-Jefferson schools than in Beaumont.

But I digress.

We moved to Sour Lake July 2007, into a farmhouse we lovingly restored and shaped into our own. Hurricane season that year was mild. Nothing like the following year.

We'd evacuated for Rita in 2005, the fourth most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. And sadly, although we have a lot of good stories and a lot of good friends, evacuating for Hurricane Rita taught us a lesson: that sometimes it's a half dozen of one, six of another.

However, when Southeast Texas was evacuated for Gustav, just before Labor Day weekend in 2008, the boys and I packed up and headed west to Houston. Don't even get me STARTED on the chain of events kicked off by that visit to  Mimi's house....

Anyway, Gustav ended up being a total and complete non-factor.

We drove home just in time to celebrate Luke's birthday.

But yet a week later, we were staring down the barrel of Ike. At that point, Mimi, aka, Brian's mother, who lived in Houston, was in the hospital. We really had no where to go. Brian had to work. He couldn't leave. And the boys and I had weathered Rita in DeRidder and *just been gone the week before for Gustav.

We decided to ride it out.

I took pictures of our house before:

Good thing too. For insurance purposes.

Because it started to rain. And blow.

And all night long, it sounded like our house was going to be sucked into the vortex of the storm and land the next morning in Oz.

The boys and I laid on a (rapidly deflating) air mattress on the bottom story of the house in the innermost corner we could wedge ourselves into. Luke slept through THE ENTIRE THING.

Around 1 a.m., our power went out (and would not be restored for over three weeks).

The storm was defined as much by the cacophony of sounds: the limbs breaking, the trees toppling, the rain it was by the even more horrifying absence of all sound, when the wind and the storm sucked up all the energy in the atmosphere.

The hours ticked by. Raised Catholic, I recited the decades of the Rosary in my mind, clutching Curt in one crooked elbow and Luke in the other, the darkness and the blackness complete and encompassing.

When daylight broke, I pried a stiff, aching and totally sleepless body from the deflated air mattress and ventured to open the door to the Cat 1 winds.

The back yard. From the treehouse. We lost every single tree we had in the back.

View from the front porch. Approximately 8 a.m. Sept. 14, 2005.

Also from the front porch.

And one more from the front porch. The benefit of living in a rural community is that soon after this, a neighbor came by with a backhoe and cleared the road.

It rained awhile longer.

And then it stopped. The rebuilding began.

Brian went to work at the newspaper.

The boys and I went to work in the yard.

Silvia and I took the kids to a bar. Ha! Before you judge, know it was the only place in town serving hot food that day. Trust me, there were plenty of kids there.

Did you know that when a hurricane comes through, when trees are uprooted, it's because of the storm; when they snap, it's because of tornadoes?

We were lucky. The tree that fell on our house only clipped the corner of the laundry room. But took out our weatherhead. (OF COURSE) And totaled Brian's car.

Three days after Ike, Mimi was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. She died eight days later. We didn't even have power back yet.

Brian, after the disaster dust had cleared at the newspaper, went to work on grief therapy, ie, clearing the backyard. By hand. And chainsaw.

By the end of it all, we had enough brush to probably supply the paper for a year's worth of Tyler Morning Telegraphs.

And another "if it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger" experience under our belts.

Curt and Luke stand in front of the pile of debris I collected on the first morning after the storm. The pile would grow to be 10 times that size.

Monday, September 12, 2011

If You Give a Kid a Box... will become a fortress. 

Or a spaceship.

Or a clubhouse.

If you give a kid a box, it will become a secret hiding place.

Or a place where MOMs can't go.

Or anyone else for that matter.

If you give a kid a box...they will spend hours decorating it. And playing in it. And even trying to hook up a window air conditioning unit to it. It will become a faraway land where they reign supreme.

If you give a kid a box...their imaginations will soar.

***Note: why is it that Mom LOVES the new furniture, but the kids love the box? It's *always* that way!!!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Kids and 9/11

I've never sheltered my kids from things.

Sure, I might not give them ALL the facts or go into gory details, but I do not sugar coat the harsh realities of life or make up alternative stories or endings for things that are simply true.

We talked to them honestly about their Mimi's cancer. We spoke frankly about the ravages of Hurricane Ike. Yes, they were living it, but there was devastation far beyond what they saw in our own backyard. We've discussed global tragedies such as the earthquake in Haiti and the tsunami in Japan. When we pass a homeless person on the street and the boys want to know why someone is pushing a full shopping cart on the sidewalks of downtown, we talk about.

Thus we arrive at the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

Curt, now in 4th grade, has been talking about 9/11 in school.

And Curt, with his penchant for perseverative interests, has fixated on the events of 9/11.  In keeping with my parenting philosophy, we talk about it pretty freely.

He especially likes he fact he was "in my tummy" at the time of the attacks.

He asks me to repeat the story of that day endlessly, firing a barrage of questions off of his proverbial port bow.

The condensed version is that I had just arrived at work, as the features editor of The Beaumont Enterprise. The newsroom was almost empty that morning, as most reporters, and journalists in general, tend to keep later hours. So when the events of the day began to unfold, I was one of the only journalists in the building. Although it wasn't my usual beat, it was an all-hands-on-deck kind of day.  I was dispatched, via phone by the editor, to the federal building, several blocks away from the newspaper office.

I ran. Notebook clutched in one hand, belly in the other. I can even tell you what I had on that day: a black maternity skirt and periwinkle blue maternity top. With black sandals. It's hard to run when you're pregnant. It's even harder when you're pregnant, wearing heels, and in the Beaumont heat and humidity. Was I going to complain? NO. WAY. I arrived at the federal building and walked right in. And then they locked down. I pulled the pregnancy card to get them to let me out. Yep. I'm not ashamed. Back at the newspaper office, we watched as the Pentagon was attacked and the plane suspected  to be bound for the Whitehouse or Capital crashed in a Pennsylvania field. It was a LONG day in the newspaper world. Even longer for those who lived through the horror, including my friends Lisa (who worked in WTC 7) and Tricia, who worked in Manhattan.

But back to the kids. Curt has asked everything from how tall the Twin Towers were (1 WTC was 1,368 feet tall and 2 WTC was 1,362 feet) to when they were built (started in 1968 and completed in 1970 and 1972, respectively). He's wanted to know how many people died, whether there were security cameras in the building that captured footage of the day and why the structures were not rebuilt. He's asked how people died, how many emergency personnel helped and what the memorials were going to look like. 

He's watched all the videos on YouTube. He saw footage of people leaping out of windows. Not what I necessarily would have *wanted him to watch...but he did. And I was honest.  So was he. 

"It was a very scary and sad day," Curt says now. "Because two planes ran into the Twin Towers, one into the Pentagon and one crashed."

"The United States changed that day because three to four thousand people died and many got injured. The terrorists killed a lot of people and hurt many more."

"Some people had heart attacks and died because of that. Other people were sad because people they loved died."

"That's how the Afghanistan war began and it's still not over."

"And all of that is sad."


Yes, Curt, it is.

Adventures in Cooking: Stuffed Bell Peppers

*Disclaimer...pictured are Emeril's Stuffed Peppers...not mine...mine were eaten before I got to take a picture! ;-)

Turkey Stuffed Bell Peppers (For the Crockpot)

4 green bell peppers, tops removed, seeded
20 ounces lean ground turkey
1/2 cup brown rice (before cooking)
1/2 cup black beans
1 cup flash frozen corn kernels
28 ounces canned San Marzano tomatoes, divided and crushed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T cumin

Remove tops from bell peppers, core and seed.

Cook rice according to package directions. Let cool slightly.

Combine turkey, beans, rice, corn and spices. Mix with about 3/4 cup of the tomatoes. Stuff turkey mixture into peppers (you'll probably have a bit extra). Place peppers in crock pot. Top with rest of tomatoes. Cook on low for 6-7 hours.

Monday, September 5, 2011





And those of you who use "retarded" as a derogatory term, or insult: SHAME ON YOU.

You might think it's funny.


"MENTALLY RETARDED"  is a clinical term referring to people who have an IQ, Intelligence Quotient, less than 70.

Perhaps one of my MOST. HATED. PHRASES. EVER.

You wanna know why????

Because when he was 3 years old, my non-verbal, autistic son was tested by an incompetent diagnostician....and labeled  RETARDED.

Is RETARDED  a bad word?




Mentally retarded is defined as an IQ of less than 70. And there are all kinds of new tests these days and I don't want to pretend to be a professional.

But "retarded" is relative.




When people use that term as derogatory.

My cousin is "retarded."

She was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. Oxygen supply cut off.

Cerebral palsy.

Her fault?

No way.






And those of you who use "retarded" as a derogatory term, or insult: SHAME ON YOU.

You might think it's funny.


MY kids have been taught to respect different brains: from autism brain to mentally retarded, we are fearfully and wonderfully made:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Thursday, September 1, 2011

*~*~*Thursday Three~*~*~ Happiness Is...

1. An email from my son, Curt,  this morning:

                                                              "I love you mom." 
2. My new puppy, Gretel, who will hardly hold still long enough for a picture.
3.  That despite circumstances they can't change, my boys are resilient, excited and strong