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Our church promotes our school-age classes at the beginning of June each year.  Simultaneously we launch an all-summer rotational VBS-style program for our Kindergarten through 5th graders.  This is our third year to offer our “Summer Bible Vacation” series, and my third year to take the lead role in coordinating it. All of it. From January to June, a team meets and develops the lessons for each rotation (arts, story, movie, singing, games and  history).  I recruit teachers and guides and hold work days to build sets and prepare for it.  Finally, in late May, we black out our classrooms and transform six rooms into an art studio, bookstore, movie theater, radio station, arcade/game show set and museum/discovery center.

It is like a hurricane: a whirlwind of activity that starts out slow and picks up speed and intensity as you get pulled in deeper.  By the time we launch, I have lived-and-breathed-and dreamed all the minutiae and details imaginable.  Juggling last minute personnel changes, creating and acquiring specified props, costumes and supplies, making sure kids have guides, guides have rosters, the DVD players work, and popcorn bags are on hand and ready.  Got a question?  I willingly put myself in the role of “go-to-girl.”  Why do I do it?  Mainly because it’s fun and gratifying.  I have dim but fun memories of VBS as a kid, and I’m passionate about the importance of grabbing kids’ hearts and minds while they are willing and eager learners, and helping them develop an unshakable faith that God is, was and always will be, and that He has always had this amazing plan that includes each of us.  And so I pour myself into this effort.  In return I get a huge reward from seeing a few words scribbled on paper come to life in the eyes of many talented and creative individuals who volunteer to help.  And hearing kids beg their parents to bring them back for the next lesson.

Unsurprisingly, it is equal parts exhilaration and exhaustion.   The laundry, cooking and cleaning fairy tend to get less reliable as we get closer to the kickoff (lack of supervision, I’m sure); they flat-out go AWOL the last week or two of May.  They reappear in early June, as does my creative muse.

Speaking of which, this coming week I have plans that don’t involve acrylic paint, hot glue guns or construction paper.  These plans entail some TLC work on our front porch seating, sprucing up the back deck patio set and/or painting the upstairs bathroom and adding some storage.  (These are all high-priority projects, so prioritizing them is my first order of business.)  I’m also looking forward to figuring out how to display some new (vintage) Fiestaware I snagged while we were in Oklahoma.  So stay tuned…good things are coming this summer.

But before that starts, I gave myself Sunday afternoon off to do nothing more energetic than water the front plants.  After we got everything launched yesterday morning, it was time for quiet rest for every man and beast in our family.  And I have the pictures to prove it.

It was a much-needed afternoon to do nothing, guilt-free.  I hope your Sunday was just what you needed, too – whether highly productive or laid back and quiet…or even downright lazy.  (And for those of you who know I try to make our Sundays a day of rest from consumerism, I *almost* succeeded.  We needed hamburgers to grill out…and I didn’t realize it until late Saturday night.  So I made a quick pass through Kroger and a promise to myself to plan better for next week.)
Happy Monday,
Terry

P.S., This morning the Pirtle family is preparing to welcome a new baby/grandbaby into this world.  I send my prayers for a safe and easy delivery for mom and baby and congratulations to dad, grandparents, aunts and a super-cute new big sister.

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Or, “How we spent our Saturday morning.”

Oldest son joined us for coffee mid-morning on the porch.  After everyone was fully caffeinated, the “boys” got out Mr. Official’s new RC boat and took it for a spin on our little pond.  (Thanks to the rain a couple of weeks ago, it now has enough water to actually float the boat, but as you can see from the pics, it’s still down a good foot or so from the rock ledge.)

The dogs weren’t really digging the whole water sport thing…

but they hung with the guys anyway.

It beats being stuck in the backyard, right?

Some of us still need a leash because we lack impulse control, we have selective hearing, the attention span of a gnat, and run like a gazelle.  Yes, all of that in this diminutive 30-pound grandpuppy.

As for me, I wandered over to the nest box to check out the second brood of bluebird eggs incubating.

And snapped some shots of the emus wandering around their pond next door.

Then I put on my sturdiest gloves and got busy on the (14, but who’s counting?) Knockout rose bushes that surround our front porch.  Sawflies did some nasty damage to the leaves so each plant received  a gentle pruning, a drench of systemic insecticide around each one, topped off by a sprinkling of Mills  Magic Rose Mix and a chaser of fresh-brewed alfalfa tea, and then a thorough watering.  In return, they left me with countless scratches and puncture wounds.  That’s okay, they’ll repay me later when they recover their leaves and start blooming heavily again.

Life in the country definitely moves at its own pace, but wherever you spent your weekend, I hope it was a pleasant and enjoyable blend of peacefulness and productivity.

Happy Monday,
Terry

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“Thanksgiving” by Norman Rockwell

I wrapped up my Thankful Thursdays series last week.  I’ll let you decide if it was intentional or a miscalculation.  (Before you decide, remember I do hold degrees in accounting and finance.  On the other hand, I’d rather balance a buzzing chainsaw than our checkbook.)

Anyhoo.


The six-week countdown was a good reminder of just how much of my life falls under the blanket heading of “blessings.”  But they are/were pretty general in nature, and occasionally I suspect God likes to hear some specific thank-you’s from me.  So here’s just the tip of the iceberg of detailed things I’m grateful for, from A to Z. Some of these are more profound than others, but really – shouldn’t we be grateful for everything we have been given, whether it’s inconsequential or completely essential to our life?

A is for Anthony Shea.  Oldest son, owner of Sadie, my beloved grandpuppy.  He was our parenting guinea pig, and seems to have survived his childhood with a fairly well-adjusted outlook on life, and has become a confident, fun and capable young man.

B is for books.  Starting with the Bible and winding my way through cookbooks, Dr. Seuss, my beloved literary giants, even frothy fiction on the beach.  Books are one of life’s greatest and simplest pleasures.  The smell of bookstores and books, new or old, the way the spine creaks when you open a book for the first time.  And the way a well-crafted story draws you into it, and makes you feel and think differently when you’ve finished reading it.

C is for chocolate.  It is and will always be my favorite flavor in the whole wide world.  Creamy milk or smooth and dark – it’s all good.

D is for David Brice.  Younger son, and the child everyone would vote as most like his mama in so many ways.  He too somehow survived his “wonder years” under our parentage and has a way of looking at things that is uniquely his own.  Life with Brice will never, ever be dull.

E is for Eden:  my birth family.  My grandparents, aunts, uncles and my parents and brother all bear this name and they surround me with love, and I love ’em back.  Without them, I wouldn’t be!

F is for football.  It took me a long time to be able to say I love the game, but recently on a trip home (after another frustrating defeat), the car was filled with football talk about the game and upcoming high school matchups that would lead up to the state final championship. And I realized I was in my element.

G is for gardening.  There is something about watching seeds become seedlings and the smell of fresh-turned dirt in the spring that brings me in tune with the One who created me and everything I see when I’m down on hands and knees, tending to things of this earth.

H is for Highland Heights Church of Christ. My spiritual family.  May God bless every one of my brothers and sisters.  It’s not about the place, it’s about the people and the faith and hope we share.

I is for ice cream.  Homemade is best.  A hot fudge sundae can cure almost anything, and an offer to slip out for some ice cream can make an ordinary evening rather extraordinary.

J is for Jesus.  He is my savior, my king, my teacher, my brother.  Everything I need to know about living in this world, I can learn from His example and teachings.  Without Him, I would have no hope for anything beyond this life.

K is for kisses from the dogs.  Puppy kisses are wet and sloppy and their doggy breath is stinky.  But they love me and  never tire of letting me know they do.  The trust and unconditional love of a dog is a treasured gift.

L is for Lea.  Many years ago, my husband’s family opened their hearts and shared their name with me. My mother-in-law is an amazing and precious woman, my brothers- and sister-in-law are as close as blood.  You don’t marry your spouse’s family, but I think I got a pretty good deal when I married into this one.

M is for marshmallows. Roasted and toasted, or all soft and gooey floating on hot, hot chocolate.  Everyone’s life should include some puffy goodness every now and again.

N is for needlework.  From the time I was a child, the women in my life taught me to use my hands to sew, embroider, crochet and knit.  Admittedly, I am not an artistic person by nature, but with a needle in hand, I can create something useful, soft to touch, and pretty to look at.  I’m grateful to those who taught me, and I’ve enjoyed teaching others.  It’s a pass-along gift from one generation to the next.

O is for the Olympics. For thousands of years, humans have pushed their bodies in order to compete against each other.  Watching Olympic athletes is both inspiring and deluding – they make it look so effortless we sometimes forget how much blood, sweat, pain and tears it took them to reach the place where they are.  But it’s a marvelous tradition that has stood the test of time, and continues to challenge us to be better tomorrow than we are today.

P is for polish.  I have a plethora of polishing and cleaning concoctions.  The smell of furniture polish says the house is clean.  Squeaky shiny mirrors and doors let light sparkle and glow.  The simple act of buffing and polishing something from dull and dirty to a soft sheen or high polish reminds me of how God works to remove my rough edges and and dirty spots.  Not to mention, a fresh coat of polish on my toes can make me happy from head to toe.

Q is for Q-tips.  Pure genius.  So small, so soft, and yet so totally useful. And cheap.  Really.  Just try to imagine life without them and then you’ll be thankful for them, too.

R is for rainy days.  There is something healing and soothing in hearing rain drop to earth.  It’s a cool respite in the middle of summer, a gentle noise that can lull us to sleep.  Naps on a rainy day?  Pure, simple pleasure.

S is for Shelby. Our youngest child and only daughter.  Swimmer girl is a beautiful creature inside and out.  I am humbled by her faith, and awed by her capacity to love and understand others, and her love of God and life. Sooner than I care to think about, she will be ready to strike out on her own, and I can’t wait to see how her life turns out.

T is for Tony.  Aka Mr. Official.  And truly, my better half.  God must have thought a lot of me to put this man in my life.  There’s so much more I could say, but if you know him, you know why I love him with my whole heart.

U is for uniforms, especially those worn by men and women who defend and protect us.  Since ancient times, soldiers have worn clothing that sets them apart from civilians, and I am always proud and humbled when I find myself standing next to a member of our military, whether they are in their dress blues or whites, or fatigues.  They have stepped up to the line and set themselves apart by their actions and their attire, and they have my undying admiration and respect.

V is for vacations. In my life, I’ve been privileged to visit from sea to shining sea and quite a few of the places in between.  The thrill of packing in anticipation of a trip, experiencing new vistas and foods, finding just the right keepsake to bring home, and finally returning to our own beds after some time away gives us memories that last a lifetime, and sometimes a new-found perspective.

W is for water.  It’s not only what we’re largely made of, but it replenishes us when we drink it, invigorates us when we jump in, cleanses and calms children (and adults) before bedtime, and reminds us of God’s power and presence when we see his handiwork in thundering waterfalls, mirror-like lakes and pounding ocean waves.

X is for Xerox and X-rays, and all the other marvels of the technological age we live in, where we can replicate anything at the touch of a button, and peer inside our bodies and see babies growing, pinpoint cancerous tumors to remove, and see broken bones that can be made good as new.  We live in a truly amazing era.  And what we know now simply points out how much more we don’t know.

Y is for yoga.  It is part physical, creating flexibility, strength and balance.  It’s also part mental, soothing and calming with steady breathing and focused attention.  An hour of yoga is an hour well spent.

Z is for the zillions of blessings I haven’t begun to list here.  Try to count your blessings, I dare you. They are infinite and they just keep coming, so keep enjoying the life you have and thank God for the the good things He sends your way.  As Harriet Beecher Stowe so eloquently put it,

“Give this one day to thanks, to joy, to gratitude.”

Today is the big day.  It starts with the Macy’s Day Parade (shout out to Evan O’Neal, who will be marching in it!) and turkey and all the trimmings. I pray for safe travels for all of us going “over the river and through the woods,” and an edifying and peaceful day of giving thanks for all we have.

Happy Thanksgiving,

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After replanting a container the grandpuppy recently mistreated, I thought I could breathe easy.

Not so fast.

Last Thursday, “big dog” was out doing her nightly business and spotted an animal moving in the shadows.  She – being the nosy Nellie type – decided to check it out.  The animal was a pole cat, of course.  You would think that white stripe and odor would tickle a memory somewhere in her dog brain, but apparently dogs have little recall and even less discretion.  So she got skunked for the second time in as many years.

I distinctly recall her first encounter with a skunk.  It was on my birthday two years ago. The spray caught her full in the face.  Happy birthday to me.

That time, I followed conventional wisdom and trotted to the store and bought gallons of tomato juice and doused her.  Then I tried hosing her down outside, followed by a warm bath inside. By the time I called the groomer, the bathroom was a wreckage of water and wet towels, and we were both cold, wet, traumatized and we stunk to high heavens.

At least this time around, I knew better.  (Note to the uninitiated:  tomato juice might work on humans or on a pet with dark fur.  But not on a white dog.  It stains their fur and makes them look like a pink punk-rocker dog.  And it did nothing for her “aura.”)

Fast forward to last week.  After she spent the night outside (there was a lot of whimpering and whining out there), the groomers gamely took her on first thing in the morning.  God bless ’em – that is a thankless task.  I had them go ahead and clip her down while she was there…might as well get off most of the stinky fur while we’re at it.

So now her head  appears about three times too big for her body, and she looks a little alien-esque. But the smell is dissipating quicker this time and neither of us is suffering any long-lasting trauma from another bathing ordeal.

Let’s hope there isn’t a “Close Encounters of the Third Kind Time” in her future.

Happy tales & tails,

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A bad time of year to be a bad dog.

I love our grandpuppy. But the key word here is “puppy” – she’s got a full grown dog’s body and a puppy’s lack of impulse control.

Which explains some carpet stains.

And this.

As bad as this looks, it looked much worse when we first discovered the carnage.

So what do you do when a container goes kaput in late summer?  It’s too late to buy duplicate replacements, especially if they were part of a set, like this one was.

This late in the year, the pickins are slim indeed.  If we lived farther north, I’d just call the planter done for the season and put some pansies in it to enjoy through the weeks of fall.  But we live in an area that won’t see 30-degree temperatures for another 6-8 weeks.  Pansies won’t even be available for another month around here, and my motto is “leave no container unplanted,” especially since we don’t have much in the way of borders or vegetable garden this year.

Fortunately one of our garden centers still had a decent selection of annuals, including some coleus and begonias, making it easy to make do.  Since the begonias were in a four-pack, I inserted the others in a few other blank spots in the deck containers to try to tie the whole thing together, gave some remaining plants a haircut and fertilized and watered everything.

Now I’m just hoping the dog will leave this one alone and let it grow until the first frost does it in, sometime late in October.  Be good, sweet Sadie.

Happy planting,

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Hot DAWG!

According to the Old Farmers Almanac, July 3 marked the start of the 40 dog days of summer and if my math is correct, that means they end today.  (Somebody tell the weatherman, please?)

Until recently I didn’t really know why we call these hot, steamy days “dog days” – I just know the dogs seem to spend most of their indoor time these days moving from one cool spot to another on our wood and tile floors.   (Little dog spends a couple days a week over here, where she can romp and stomp and aggravate big dog and the cat until she finally sprawls out and naps along with them.)

Little dog and big dog snoozed while I steamed up the kitchen making pepper relish

Turns out, the term goes back to ancient Romans and astronomy. Sirius (the star) rose around sunrise around this time of year. The Romans thought they could appease his rage with sacrifices and offerings. Bad dog.

Knowing why we call them the dog days won’t make them any cooler, so I’ll just keep watering the plants and fanning myself and hoping my water and electric bills aren’t too outrageous this month.

Stay cool!

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While the boys are away…

the girls will play.  (The “boys” are headed to Knoxville for the UT-Bama game.  Fingers crossed we can keep the score close. Or just get on the board. Yes, we have low expectations, so anything we get is a gift.)

So what’s on our agenda today?  We’re puppy-sitting Sadie, and I was reminded why you don’t buy one toy for two kids.  Little dog enthusiastically snagged the new toy (a cat-like tennis ball with rope legs), much to big dog’s chagrin.   I think this look and howl can be safely interpreted as “Mom, make her share with me!”

 As soon as we pulled the pumpkin gooey butter cake out of the oven, we girls took “the girls” for a puppy walk at the greenway.  

Now that the pooches are exhausted from the brisk 3-mile round trip, we will leave them to nap and take the gooey cake to a painting class this evening at Faithful Strokes.  Yes.  Me.  Painting. Artistically.  With something smaller than a roller or 2-inch wide trim brush.  Using more than one color.

They promised me anyone could do it, so we’ll see…

Happy weekend!

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