Holiday Happenings

Family Thanksgiving 2014Hello there! You might think I’ve expired, but actually, like most folks around this time of year  I’ve just been very busy! The photo above is my family (Brian, Bliss, me, and Brandon) taken in front of my in-laws’ house on the day after Thanksgiving. We traveled to Georgia to visit, and there was no time to write any new posts for this week. Anyway I noticed that blog traffic was dead so I figured we were ALL out shopping and traveling and such, and we would meet again when life settles back down. I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving!

To those who read my post about making money with Fiverr, I had to set my Fiverr profile to “on vacation” just to get a minute to breathe while I was out of town! I turned it back on yesterday and have already had two inquiries. Plus, I finally heard back from Textbroker (another place to make money writing content) and was rated a four-star writer. (Yay! Five is the best but four is OK. I admit I am not a textbook grammarian, I just kinda play it by ear.) Tonight I’m going to get my profile filled out over there, because reportedly one can make enough money that I might eventually fulfill my dream and not have to go to an office every day. We shall see!


Lilla Rose is going strong and I am selling clips to everybody I know! Normally I don’t push this aspect of it, but would YOU be interested in being a Lilla Rose consultant? All it takes to get started is around $50, and for that they will send you five hairclips (which would cost you more than $50 if you ordered retail) PLUS all the catalogs and various supplies you’ll need to sell to your friends. Trust me, it is NOT HARD to get people to buy. I sent a catalog to work with my husband and he brought home $75 worth of orders just from putting the catalog on the table in the break room last week. Email me if you’re interested.

Finally, I’ll just mention that I’m on the launch team for a new book entitled Choosing Him All Over Again, by Juana Mikels. I’m reading it now and will tell you more about it in January. For now, you might want to visit Juana’s blog to get to know her and a little more about the book. As you might glean from the title, it’s a story about leaving her husband…the same husband she’s now been married to for 33 years! I’m sure a lot of us have been at that point or close to it, and need to share our stories with younger wives.

I wish you all the joy of the holiday season, included a belated Happy Thanksgiving! Let me know what you all have been up to!



How I’m Making Money with FIVERR



(Image by Gualberto107, courtesy of

If you’ve ever read my Dreams, Schemes, and Income Streams page, you know that I have a goal of leaving my full-time job and working from home. So I’m always trying one thing and another as a way to earn money. Before I forget to mention it, I want to share that I was recently inspired and interested by a great post over at Equipping Godly Women, entitled “How I Make Real Money from Home Writing for Textbroker.” You should check it out. Thanks to this post, I’ve already sent my writing sample to Textbroker and I’m waiting for their reply, but Fiverr is a different thing altogether.

Basically, Fiverr is a website where people can go and list all sorts of things they would be willing to do for five dollars. Their main categories of service are graphics and design, online marketing, writing and translation, video and animation, programming and tech, advertising, and business. There’s also a “more” category, where people often offer to do silly things such as dress up as a character and sing happy birthday to you, or dance in the street while holding a sign to promote your business, or maybe draw a cartoon that resembles you. I have to wonder if some of these people are making decent money doing something so simple and silly! I kinda hope so.

My husband has a friend who set up a profile offering to do voiceover work, and he began to get requests. Since he already had the equipment, it was quite simple for him to record himself reading a script and then send the recording to the buyer. Naturally he hopes this will lead to a relationship with one of these clients and increased money at some point, but for now he’s having a little fun. I thought about that and realized how many documents I proofread at my job, so I thought I would put up a profile offering to edit or proofread. While I was at it, I put one up offering to write 500 words on any topic. (500 words is one typed page, single-spaced.) I got my first order right away, and it was just what I was hoping for–something extremely simple. A man was launching a website dedicated to matching people with appropriate pets for them and their families, and he needed to fill it up with content about people who had had certain types of pets. So he asked me to choose two pets I’d had in my life and just write a little bit about the positives and negatives of owning that particular animal. Easy as pie, so I was excited!

Then, strangely, for about two weeks I had NOTHING. No order, no message, no inquiry. I told my husband I was just going to delete Fiverr from my bookmarks and forget about it as I was just tired of looking at it. But before that day was over, for some unknown reason, my email started BLOWING UP. Every day since, I have received multiple Fiverr orders or messages. Many I decline to do, just because the subject matter is not something I’m comfortable with (I don’t mean it’s inappropriate, I just mean it’s usually some technical or business area that I’m sure somebody else could do a better job with). Also, many times I’ve been asked about something that would not be a good use of my time. For example, a man asked me if I would take his 2000 word document full of meeting notes and organize it into something understandable. I said no thanks, because I would have to first READ his 2000 words of notes before I could even make a decision about writing them up, and five dollars just doesn’t buy that much of my time.

But some of my assignments (Fiverr refers to them as “gigs”) have been easy and fun, and the buyers were very pleased. I wrote one article about female empowerment (Seeking Empowerment? Try Modesty)  that I was so happy with, I wish I could use it here! I can’t, I sold it and it no longer belongs to me, but once the buyer gets her blog up and running I might be able to link to it. I wrote one about toxic materials in toys. I wrote a sort of a social media advertisement about a credit repair company, and then a “testimonial” which one of their customers had authorized them to write on his behalf. So there is a lot of variety in the assignments, and plenty of demand allows me to choose what sounds interesting and decline the rest. Payment is via Paypal. For now, the money I’ve made is just sitting there…they keep track of every completed order and you can see your sales and revenues every time you log in. Whenever I feel like it, I can transfer the balance to my bank account. (You can also use your earnings to buy things from other Fiverr sellers, if you want to.)

You may be saying to yourself, HA! I wouldn’t write a grocery list for five bucks, much less a 500 word article. Well, that’s a good point, but here is the good news. After only 30 days of being a seller in good standing, Fiverr advised me that I’m now a Level One seller, so I can offer “Gig multiples” or “Gig Extras.” This means that I have the option of telling a seller that I would not care to do their assignment for $5, but if they would like to add a Gig Extra and make it, say, $25 or whatever I think it’s worth, then we have a deal.

I’m just a beginner at this myself, so if you have questions you’d probably do better exploring the Fiverr site than asking me. But I am excited about the results so far and wanted to share them with you. If you have any gifts or abilities in the categories Fiverr offers, I encourage you to check them out and see if you too can boost your income doing something you enjoy.

Surprise! It Was Anemia


(Image courtesy of Stockimages at

Very few times in my life has a doctor told me something I didn’t already know. Not that I’m any sort of a medical genius, but I guess I’ve pretty much had the garden-variety ailments that are not very hard to identify. Once, though, a doctor truly impressed me. Out of the blue, my arm got sore, and then I found a big scary lump in my underarm. Of course that was fairly alarming so I went straight to the doctor. He didn’t think the lump felt like anything serious, but he wanted to pinpoint the cause, so he was asking me a series of questions–do you drink a lot of caffeine, and so forth. I was saying No, no, no….and he was stumped for a moment. Then he paused and said, “Have you been scratched by a cat recently?” That was a big YES, and he gave me a prescription for whatever it was I needed, and the lump went away. I never would have thought to connect one thing to the other, so I appreciated the doctor’s knowledge in that instance.

Well, now it has happened again.

I was having a NUMBER of problems…so many, in fact, that I often found myself thinking that if I were a car it would be time to quit wasting money on a mechanic and just trade the old clunker in on a newer model. (Luckily my husband didn’t get that idea! ;-) ) But there were so many things going wrong that it was hard to pinpoint one in particular. Was there something worth seeing a doctor about, or was I just getting older?

The problem that finally drove me to seek medical attention was ITCHING. I have never been prone to dry skin or allergies, but I was itching all over my whole body. At work, I reached for my scissors or letter opener a hundred times a day, to scratch my back. I kept a back-scratcher on my nightstand because no sooner would I try to settle down at night than a maddening itch would get me in a spot I couldn’t reach. Countless times, I sat down in front of my husband and begged him to scratch my back. Meanwhile, I was clawing myself to pieces in the places I could reach easily (arms, legs, and stomach!). It became such a serious aggravation that one day I had to actually leave work and go buy some not-very-good-smelling anti-itch spray and hose myself down with it; otherwise I would have had to leave for the day.

MEANWHILE, a similar problem arose. I had a nervous, hyperactive, “herky-jerky” sort of a sensation that made me feel like I wanted to jump out of my skin. I often had to get up from my desk and just go out and walk around the parking lot for a few minutes. I’ve had restless leg syndrome a couple of times during pregnancy or periods of extreme stress, but this was more like restless-whole-body syndrome. Friends, let me tell you, this was psychological TORTURE. My job mostly pertains to me sitting down and quietly concentrating on my work. But when this problem was going on, I would sit down and I would begin to ITCH, and then I would begin to TWITCH! (That is, to feel that hyper feeling that made me jiggle my legs and otherwise move around. I looked a lot like Ray Charles did in the movie Ray, when he was on heroin.) I was afraid my coworkers would suspect me of substance abuse, although I was pretty honest about what was happening. I still felt like a fool because I had no explanation for it and I could not stop it. When these feelings would kick in around 9 in the morning and I would look at the clock and know I had to sit there and suffer all day, then  I would feel anxiety on top of everything else.

I was worried to death, because what if this continued to get worse? You can call in sick but you can’t call in itchy, and besides, missing one day of work would not have helped anything when the problem was occurring EVERY DAY. It was scary. I thought the problem might be somehow hormonal just because I’m getting to be that age. I also thought it might be psychosomatic, because it seemed to strike me at work or at church, times when I needed to sit still. At home I was not bothered as much.

Although, it was keeping me awake at night. Itching and twitching don’t make for relaxing rest, and then if you’ve ever had insomnia, you know how it tends to snowball. You have one bad night, and then the next night you lie down and start worrying about whether it will happen again, so invariably it does. I was getting a decent night’s rest about every three nights, because by then I was just worn out.

Well, I felt too silly to try to tell a doctor about my herky-jerky feeling, but I figured at least something could be done about the itch. I went to a dermatologist who turned out to have some rather silly suggestions (i.e. “Get a colonoscopy to rule out cancer.” Um, what??) She did do one useful thing, though, which was to run some blood tests. As soon as she got the results, she called me herself to say she was alarmed by them and that I should go to my regular doctor.

The regular doctor noticed right away that I was very anemic.  As a matter of fact, she said I was SO anemic that she didn’t understand how I was upright and functioning.  It was kind of a surprise…I’m not exactly a frail flower, but I’ll say this much, I have zero energy! It’s kind of a joke in my office that after two o’clock, I’m done, but I must have been that way for so long that I thought it was normal.  Strange as it sounds, the doctor felt that every problem I was having could be chalked up to anemia. She ran a few more tests until she was satisfied that I wasn’t anemic due to internal bleeding or anything like that, and then she gave me a B12 shot and a prescription for iron pills. (Integra is the name of them.)

Voila, the problems went away! One day a week or so after I started the medicine, I reached for my scissors at work and realized I was no longer using them as a scratching tool. The hyperactive feeling disappeared, and I’m sleeping fine every night. What a relief, and what a blessing that I went to someone with the knowledge to figure it out! Imagine the expensive procedures I could have had to go through, or the useless drugs I might have been prescribed. It could have happened so easily.

Now, just one more funny thing I’d like to share. I am known as the Popcorn Queen, because popcorn had been the staple of my diet for a long time. I always liked it, but for at least four years, I had been eating it pretty much daily. Much of the time, nothing else sounded as good to me as popcorn. I ate a snack-size bag at work every day, and anytime we didn’t have a family dinner, I was secretly a bit glad because it meant I could have popcorn. I’ve wondered at times if such over-consumption might lead to any health concerns, but I did some research and never found anything to worry about. After I heard of this anemia thing, I was up late one night (the insomnia hadn’t gone away yet) and I thought I would just research and see if perhaps popcorn might be preventing iron absorption  in my body somehow. What a surprise when I found out that popcorn is RICH in iron, and that a craving for it is a good sign that you’re iron-deficient!  This makes me think that I may very well have been quite anemic for at least four years (coincidentally this was during our uninsured period when I was not having any checkups). No wonder my symptoms went so far beyond the norm.

I’m feeling much better now, and glad to have my mysterious symptoms all resolved.

Put Some Clothes On, Granny


I have read many, many, many a blog post on the topic of modesty. And not just blog posts…I spent a year or two seeking out every published article I could find, and I’ve read several books about it as well. If you are interested in the topic of modesty, you may very well have done the same, so I am excusing myself from presenting an exhaustive review of the following:

1) Modesty is a biblical principle, although the exact application of it to modern life is a matter that individuals may differ about.

2) Yes, what’s in your heart matters most, but many of us believe that there is a standard of decency that Christian women should follow, and that this standard requires clothing that is quite a bit different from what many women wear (and completely different than what most celebrities wear).

3) We should give grace to those who may not yet know what we have learned, and to those who interpret the scriptures differently than we do.

Are we mostly agreed? I sure hope so, because I’m about to bust right out and tell you that


OK, maybe I exaggerate just a bit, but I see a lot more skin than I want to, and my husband sees a lot more than I want him to. I can’t even count how many young women come to services in backless, strapless, and/or too short garments.  It bothers me, because I’m always wondering– even if these women choose to wear revealing clothes elsewhere, why don’t they have enough sense to put on something decent for church? Oh, wait…’s because their mothers and grandmothers are doing the same thing.

I’ll be honest with you, it hasn’t been that long since I went through what bloggers like to call a “modesty transformation,” but one thing that has made it extremely easy is the knowledge that I am neither a spring chicken nor a fashion model, and there isn’t that much of my body that anybody is dying to see anyway! Can I get an AMEN on that?? I mean really…it’s a blessing to me to cover up what needs to be covered, and I know a few trying-real-hard-to-look-hot grandmas who might want to give that idea a try themselves, and be a better example to their younger counterparts.

Can I say this plain and simple? We all have different ideas of what’s pretty and what’s appropriate. But church is NOT the place for any outfit that could possibly be called sexy. It’s just not. Stop advertising if you’re not selling, and throw on a cardigan or something.

And while we’re at it, do you really need to come to church in jean shorts and a graphic T-shirt? Do you really?  I get the idea that nobody wants to get all dressed up on a Sunday morning, especially if the weather is not conducive to that. As a society, we don’t do very much dressing up anymore…it seems we’ve all (except my boss, of course) agreed that we’d rather be comfortable.  I have to dress in “professional” clothes every day at work…like this:





….and you can bet your sweet patootie that there is quite a bit of the wailing and gnashing of teeth when I have to get up on Sunday and put on the exact same type of thing. It’s HOT here, and now I’ll have to come home after church instead of going straight on to whatever else I planned to do and I don’t feel like dressing up today and blah, blah, blah. Oh well, that’s too bad, and I have to get over it and put on something appropriate to where I’m going–just as I would for a job interview, a date, a wedding (to which people also go dressed in any old rag nowadays, and that’s extremely RUDE ) or for that matter, to work out at the gym or clean out the garage. You dress for the occasion, not just to suit yourSELF.

I could show up to my church in denim shorts (if I had any). Women do it every week. And I could wear a sundress, or bare my cleavage and give the pastor a heart attack when he looks down from the altar (no joke, women really are very inconsiderate of the pastor when they do that). I could wear a mini-skirt, or something peek-a-boo with a plunging bare back to give the men in the pews behind me a distraction. (Hey, I didn’t say a pleasant one…just a distraction.)

But I do none of these things, and I don’t think anybody should, and do you know why? Because, in the famous words of “Mammy” from Gone With the Wind…


… “It ain’t fittin’, it jest ain’t fittin.’ IT AIN’T FITTIN’.

Dealing With Your HOA


Where I live in Florida, it seems that every halfway “nice” subdivision has a homeowners’ association (HOA), often managed by a professional HOA management company like the one where I work. Living all my life (up until three years ago) in Georgia, I’d never even heard of an HOA management company. But here, possibly because too many people are crowded onto residential lots about as big as  postage stamps and homes are expensive, people tend to be a lot more concerned about what the neighbors are doing. The HOA is ostensibly charged with preserving property values in the neighborhood, and since the actual board is made up of volunteer homeowners who usually have full-time jobs and other commitments, they often hire a management company to handle the day-to-day business of running the community.

At my company, for example, we are hired–by the board of community volunteers– to do monthly inspections of the communities, deal with the vendors who handle such tasks as landscaping and lake maintenance, and (among other things) send out invoices and collect HOA dues.

By and large, we are not very popular with the average homeowner. :-(

In fact, we get cussed out on a daily basis by homeowners, for a variety of reasons. (Sometimes by Christians who snarl “Have a blessed day” after ripping us to shreds, which reminds me–I plan on doing a post in the near future about how anger levels seem to correlate with EGO SIZE, so keep an eye open for that.) Anyway, I think that in many cases, if  homeowners could keep their cool long enough to get a clue about how HOA management actually works, they could spare themselves a lot of pointless stress. May I offer a few tips?

1) Please remember that your representatives sought us out and HIRED US. We did not storm in and take over your community by force.  Also, we don’t make up the rules! We are hired to enforce the covenants and restrictions that have been in existence since your neighborhood began! Now it may be that we are enforcing rules that the previous management company did not, but guess what? That’s probably why your board hired us. We are trying to keep your neighborhood from “going downhill.” We are trying to help you.

2) We understand that nobody likes being told what to do. You may have every intention of cutting your grass or pressure washing your siding just as soon as you get a chance, and it makes you angry for someone to have the nerve to mail you a letter pointing out that you need to get on it. You know already! You don’t need us to tell you! Okay, that’s fine, but must you call and scream at our receptionist? We are not mind readers, you know. We drive by your house and we call ‘em like we see ‘em. We have no idea whether tasks have gone undone because you’re recovering from surgery or because you’re lying on the sofa eating Cheetohs, and no, we are not going to knock on each and every door just to inquire.  Give us a break, we’re just doing our job.


3) We don’t “grade on the curve.” There is one standard for the entire neighborhood, so it is really a waste of time for you to respond to a letter from us by stating that your neighbor’s property looks much worse than yours, so why don’t we send them a letter? Just so you know, if your neighbor’s grass is a foot high and they have a junk car in the driveway and a Lynyrd Skynyrd flag in the living room window instead of curtains, I’m pretty sure we HAVE sent them a letter. It’s just that they don’t care. Your trashy neighbor is ignoring us, and eventually we may have to take them to court to force them to comply, which may cost thousands of dollars of YOUR HOA’s money. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll pursue them to the ends of the earth, IF your board instructs us to. Why don’t  you go to the next meeting and let your voice be heard? One other thing: we are not harassing you because of your race or nationality. It’s not exactly a rarity nowadays for people of all stripes to live in the same neighborhood. Nobody is saying, “Oh, my word, we MUST get this black/hispanic/Muslim person out of the neighborhood!” Chances are, when we’re doing property inspections, we have no idea who lives in the house anyway. We are simply making a note that 123 Elm Street needs to trim their hedges. It’s no more personal than that.

4) We enforce the covenants, but we do not handle everything that happens in the community. If your neighbors are throwing wild parties or their kids are running wild through your yard, call the cops or child protective services. We also can’t do anything about the sexual predator who moved into the area or the Canada geese who soil your driveway. Think about what power we have. Do you want us to send the geese a letter? Also–and I am so serious about this–do not call us and complain that someone’s dog is pooping in your yard if you have no idea whose dog it is! What do you think we’re going to do, stake out the property with infrared binoculars to catch him in the act? Just because something is happening that you do not like does not automatically mean that the HOA management company is responsible for fixing it.

5) We understand that you own your property and feel you should be able to do whatever you want on it. However, you CHOSE to buy a home in a deed-restricted community, and I’ll assume you did that because you wanted to make sure the neighbors wouldn’t be able to do something tacky. However, please realize that YOU are someone else’s neighbor, and they don’t want YOU to do something tacky. Maybe you think a gazebo or a statue of Aphrodite or some fake deer in the front yard would be lovely. Maybe you think pink is a perfect color for a house, or maybe a tin roof is more to your liking than slate. But our job is to keep the neighborhood harmonious, so that one person’s idea of beauty does not became an eyesore to a hundred others. You want absolute freedom? Go buy some acreage where there are no HOA rules to restrict you.


6) The management company is not pocketing your assessment (dues) money. Your HOA has a bank account, and they vote every year about what it will take to run the community. The management company collects your money and  puts it in your community’s account. Out of that, they do pay us a set fee for our services, but they pay numerous other vendors as well, to maintain your community. Request to see the budget if you’d like to know where your money is going. And by the way, please do not call us and raise a horrible fuss if you fail to pay and then must face the consequences. We are not pocketing your money then, either, but a lawyer might be profiting somewhat from your failure to take care of your obligation. Sure, times are hard for lots of people, but what state would your neighborhood be in if nobody paid?

I’ll stop there for now, though I’m sure I’ll add another post on this topic at some point. In the meantime, please just try to keep your righteous indignation in check, and deal with your management company like a sensible adult. Lawn-mowing is great for stress-reduction, I’ve heard… :-)


This week in addition to my usual linkups I am sharing with:


The Black Dog that Lurks

black dog

For over a hundred years, people have used black dog as a metaphor for clinical depression. Winston Churchill said it. So did Sheryl Crow. Poets and writers mention it. Do a little research and you’ll find there is such a thing as the Black Dog Institute and the Black Dog Campaign. I was curious about the origin of this expression, so I read an essay about it that went (I believe) completely overboard to prove that our ancestors had a superstitious fear of man’s best friend, and that there were negative connotations to the color black (duh).

I think there’s a much simpler reason why so many people hit on the very same image to describe depression: because that’s what it feels like. It’s a dark creature lurking just outside your place of safety. You don’t claim him or want him. You didn’t ask for him to come and you don’t set out food for him. He comes anyway, though,  and paces up and down in front of your door. If you stay very still and quiet, locked inside your house, he might not get you. But he is blocking your path to the rest of the world, and to life.

I distinctly remember my first episode of depression. I was eighteen years old and a senior in high school. I had a new boyfriend. Nothing was wrong. And yet one day in French class, my favorite class, I put my head down on my desk and cried for the whole class period. About nothing. While never suicidal or overly dramatic, that day started me down a life path that included a lot of sighing, a lot of shrugging, a lot of staring at people blankly for a moment too long after they asked me a question. A lot of saying, “I’m tired.” It’s funny how negative things can occasionally work in your favor, because many times at work I was described as “calm, cool, and collected,” or “even-tempered.” People remarked about how I failed to get upset or take offense at various aggravations that occurred on the job. Well, folks, here’s my secret….it was because I didn’t care. I was so insulated in my own numb world that  daily squabbles and work-related crises barely made a ripple in my consciousness.

Times like that, the black dog is not lurking outside, he has come in and made himself at home. And just like a real dog, you get used to living with him. You might not like  him, but he is so firmly entrenched that you don’t remember what life was like before and you don’t know how to get him out. For years I tried to explain to people, “I get depressed the way you get a migraine. There is not necessarily a why. It comes to me and I am stuck with it until it goes away.” I’m sure I was never much fun to live with, and there were a couple of times when my frame of mind dipped so severely that I sought medication for a while, but in general I was just sort of an Eeyore every day, dragging through life.


And then a few years ago, there was a crisis. First of all, excuse me for mentioning it, but I started to have severe PMS, which I’d never suffered from in my life. Several months in a row, I threw a screaming fit at my husband without realizing the cause until afterward.  I eventually learned to watch for times when I was very angry about something that seemed perfectly rational to me at the moment and only later proved inconsequential. But before I could figure that out, there came a particular week that changed our lives.

We were already dealing with some trouble and some drama. Things were going on in our personal life…and he was out of a job at the time, so I was feeling the strain of that…plus my supervisor at work had been fired and then replaced with a recent college grad who had to learn everything from the ground up…just a lot going on. Every day that week, I spent my lunch hour on the phone with my husband, sobbing like my heart would break (and ordinarily, I’m not a crier). Long story really short: I quit my job, we burned our bridges behind us and moved to a new state where promptly everything went even further down the tubes…for a while.

But in the midst of the wondering-how-we’ll-survive strife, I noticed an interesting thing…the black dog had wandered off. I was worried, all right, and stressed and a lot of other things, but I was not depressed.  Maybe the Lord was saying to me, like a  parent says to a whining child, “You keep that up and I’ll give you something to cry about.”  I did have plenty to cry about for a year or so. But while dealing with real problems, real regret, real grief…the lingering malaise that had followed me around most of my life disappeared. And while we’ve since regained our equilibrium in our personal life, it hasn’t returned.

Advice about depression has limited usefulness. Going back to my comparison to a migraine, I might tell you a hundred ways to avoid a migraine, but that doesn’t mean it’s  your fault if one shows up anyway. You can, however, do your best to avoid known triggers.  I find it best to steer clear of tear-jerker movies, for example. I avoid news stories that sound especially disturbing. The Bible tells us to dwell on what is pure and good and lovely, not to wallow around in what’s sad and horrible, so I try to do that. And also, now that the black dog no longer lives with me, I’m better able to discern when he comes around, scratching at the door, trying to get inside. I recognize him for what he is, and do my best to run him off before he gets any ideas about staying. He’s not my dog, and I don’t want him around.

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My Body, My Husband



I am not usually a person who likes to call attention to anything negative about myself. It’s not that I don’t criticize myself internally for countless things; it’s just that I see no benefit in pointing them out to other people. So this post will be a departure from my usual ways while I try to express something that’s been on my mind for quite a while now.

I am five feet tall. As a teenager and young adult, I had a great figure and wore a size five. But with my first pregnancy, I was so excited about it and so anxious to “show” that I allowed myself to gain without even attempting to keep it under control, and weight has been a struggle for me ever since. I’d say right now I’m about sixty pounds too heavy.

When I met my husband, I had already had two children (one who passed away and another who was a toddler then, a young adult now). So Brian never saw me at my best. He first knew me as an chubby 30-year-old with an especially ugly vertical c-section scar. I was so in dread of him seeing my ruined body for the first time, but he loved me then and he still loves me today. He has never once called me a name (not even passed off as a joke), made a cutting remark, or suggested a diet. He accepts me exactly as I am, even though the aging process is contributing even more unattractive components to my physical self.

But so often, when I’m alone, about to step into the shower, I catch sight of myself in the bathroom mirror and I want to say to him, “I’m so sorry.” I’m not anything so nice as “curvy;” I’m misshapen with a rear end (formerly my favorite body part) like a wad of chewed bubble gum. Brian’s usually not home at the time of morning when this happens, so I have thoughts of emailing him or calling him to apologize for myself.  I don’t do it only because he’d scoff and tell me I was crazy and point out that he is imperfect as well.  But you who are not involved, I hope you can understand me. This mirror-moment is not a moment of self-pity or of me wanting him to assure me that I look fine. I really don’t look fine, and I know it, and for the man who made a promise to be intimate with nobody else but me, I am sincerely so sorry that this is the body I have to offer him.

Some of you, right now, are yelling at your screen, “Then DO something about it!” I know; it sounds so simple, doesn’t it? I feel the exact same way when I look at people who can’t manage their houses—oh my gosh, how simple is it to keep up with laundry, take the trash out and make the bed? It’s easy! Or, hmm, maybe it’s just easy to me because the effort expended leads so quickly to a consequence that gives me great enjoyment. I like to look around and see a tidy house, so I clean up. Maybe some people feel great after eating a salad and climbing the stairmaster, whereas I’d just be irritable and exhausted.

So it seems pretty clear that I am not naturally drawn to being a gym rat, and i’m so far past my prime now that if I were single, I’d probably just buy myself some big ol’ clothes and just say “forget it!” But I care about Brian and what I am to him. I know he loves my heart and soul, but shouldn’t it be worth any amount of sacrifice and effort for me to put them in a prettier package?  I often think about this: if anything (God forbid) were to happen to him, I know my emotional makeup well enough to know that the first thing I would do is lose interest in eating, and all the weight would drop off. If I could do it then, why not do it while he’s alive and with me to enjoy it? I also sometimes think, (not that he would, but) suppose he got himself a girlfriend. The stress, the anxiety, the maddening fear of “what’s she got that I ain’t got” would have me wearing out the treadmills all over town. So why not do it now, before something like that happens? I don’t understand it myself.

I’ll end with an anecdote from a TV show… it may have been Dr. Phil from a while back. There was a husband who was just slightly overweight, but his wife was absolutely livid about it. It was brought to her attention that he had eaten a doughnut at work, and I was shocked at how infuriated she was with the poor, hapless guy. Her face suggested that she hated and was utterly disgusted by him. “How could you do that?” she demanded. When I try to get into that woman’s head and understand what was the huge deal about a doughnut, the only comparison I can come up with is to think how I might react in a financial crisis. If we were flat broke, desperate, counting every nickel, and Brian came home after making some fairly innocent but totally unnecessary purchase, I might feel a bit like the doughnut wife. It’s not the doughnut that counts…it’s the idea that she was trying so hard to move him in one direction and he deliberately went in the other one. It made her crazy.

So I’m wondering if I could refocus my thinking somehow…to get myself to believe that every calorie is important…not in and of itself, so much, but in relation to the direction I want to go. I’d like my husband to be not just content with me, but excited about me. Proud of me, even.

I do have one bit of news to share: this fall, I expect to be a participant in a clinical weight loss study, using an experimental drug. Sounds scary, I know. But maybe it will be a good thing. Comments are welcome, and prayers even more so.



18 Years of Getting Through the Day


The photo above is of my beautiful only daughter, Bliss, who is so named because that was exactly what I felt when she came into the world. I had dreamed all my life of having a little girl, and she was that precious dream come true–a gorgeous infant and then an adorable toddler. I couldn’t leave the house without strangers remarking about her. She was better than a doll come to life, and I loved being her mama. I still do.

Early childhood brought some challenges, though. I had married Brian (her step-father) and the two of them didn’t get along. Also, though her preschool teacher had felt that she was gifted, within the next few years we learned that sitting quietly and focusing on reading and writing was a near impossibility for Bliss. At the end of a day I would come to pick her up from after-school care, wanting only to hug her, but so many times, some conflict would intrude. Some misbehavior would be reported. Or if not that, we’d make it home and work our way through dinner and bath time and bedtime in a house with a man who seemed to wish this annoying kid would just go away and stop needing his wife’s attention. (Note: that’s my take on how it felt–Brian would surely express something different–and I only mention it now because they have worked out their differences and the past has been forgiven.) What I’m trying to say is that in spite of my immense love for my daughter, I wasn’t able to hold hands with her and skip through a rose-garden life. There were those extra challenges, on top of the ordinary adult responsibilities of working, paying bills, keeping the house, caring for pets, planning time with grandparents, and trying to give our marriage its fair share of attention, among other things.

Middle and high school were variations on the same theme. Though she and I both love to sing, I was never enthused about attending chorus concerts at the end of a long day. The expenditure of my time and resources for science projects and the like was so irksome. Ferrying her back and forth to drama club commitments (though the high school was just a few minutes down the road) was just an annoying pain. I want you to understand that I didn’t berate her about these things; I merely sighed and displayed my reluctance. It breaks my heart now to realize that she asked for so little and demanded absolutely nothing.

Several years ago, we decided to move to a different state. Bliss, then eighteen,  didn’t want to leave her boyfriend, and as it turned out, she had a final angry confrontation with her stepfather and unceremoniously showed up with a truck and some friends to move her things out, just days after her high school graduation. I didn’t even know that her last night at home had been her last. She and I were not angry with each other, but there was no heartfelt goodbye scene, either. I had already known she didn’t plan to move with us, and I didn’t blame her for wanting to get out of the war zone of living with Brian.  I didn’t let myself get emotional; I had enough drama already at that moment. I kissed her when she left, and that was that.

Some days after her departure, as I continued with the task of packing up the house to move and sorting through what we wanted to sell or donate, I was culling through my lifetime collection of books. I ran across my Little House books and some other ones from my childhood that had special sentimental value, and I started to cry. I had saved these books, even while I was still a child myself, with the thought of sharing them someday with my little girl.  It suddenly struck me so hard that this imaginary dream-girl had actually been born, and she had lived with me for eighteen years, and now it was all over–my time of raising her was ended, and she was gone. I didn’t remember if I had read her those books, or offered them to her. I didn’t know if she even realized they were there in the house, because I had spent eighteen years just getting through the day.

I was so wrapped up in my own to-do list. I loved Bliss–I loved her–but it had always seemed to me that my job was the main responsibility of my life–the non-negotiable thing that I had to do–followed by all those other responsibilities (including, eventually, a little brother) that had to be attended to. I had so much on my plate that I wanted only to get through the work day, get through the week, get through the winter–whatever. I was constantly focused on getting something over with, reaching some vague goal that moved away whenever I got near it.

That day on the floor of my office with the books, I realized with grief that I had truly “gotten it over with, the very thing I had dreamed of and looked forward to all my life: the raising of a little girl. That season of my life is finished now, and though I would give everything I have to go back and start over again–to do it differently, to do it better– I cannot have one day of it back.

KB Tenn

Homeschooling Moms: Spelling and Grammar


My friends call me a grammar nazi, but that’s not true. I’m not a stickler for perfect schoolmarm grammar in casual situations. I am actually a spelling nazi, because in my opinion, there’s never ever a time when bad spelling is acceptable. No, not even when you text. Definitely not when you’re on Facebook…not that I call individual people out about their spelling. No, I just make general posts about how annoyed I am by the illiteracy in the world today, and those who know themselves to be functionally illiterate  naturally respond and say things like, “I’m on here to relax, I’m not worried about all that.” Apparently they consider spelling words correctly to be quite an effort; something to be done when making a good appearance is an absolute requirement.. like dressing up for a job interview requires wearing pantyhose and heels instead of comfy flip-flops.

I’m afraid I don’t buy it, though. How to spell the common, everyday words in our language is something that should already be stored in the brain of every adult, and if the words are there, you will use them no matter whether you’re writing a letter to the President or scribbling a grocery list. If the words are not in your brain,  you will not know them no matter how formal the occasion might be, so please don’t try to pretend that you knew the right way and just didn’t bother to get fancy.

Now these are just my broad complaints about the world in general, but today I am particularly concerned with parents who homeschool. I read the blogs of many of these ladies, and by the way, I’m by no means a homeschool basher. I always did think it was an interesting idea and I would love to have taught my children at home, had my life situation been favorable to that. Additionally, I have no doubt that your children, by and large, probably finish up with a better general education than the average public school student. (Public schools are mired in silliness nowadays, and I think plenty of kids spend the days just shuffling from one class to another, waiting for the time to pass by.) So anyway, homeschool moms, I like you. I’m your fan. But I read a lot of your blogs and I am worried about your spelling and (although I’m not a nazi) your grammar. I see a lot of mistakes that are not typos. I see that some of you don’t know when to use your and you’re, loose and lose, their and there. I see  you writing about scarfs and roofs. You don’t know where apostrophes go. You talk about floors that “need vacuumed.” It worries me so much I want to put  my head down on my desk.

Because, you see, you are so much of your child’s universe. My own mother, for example, always said “stoled” instead of “stole.” This was a mistake on her part, but I had the chance to hear so many other people using the word correctly that I never picked up her mistake or carried it into adulthood. Your children hear (or read, or learn) the same mistakes from both their teacher and their mother, and if you have a large family, likely from all their peers! If you’re doing it wrong, there’s no one to point it out. Your child simply learns it wrong.

The problem is that of course we all think we’re doing it right. (Believe me, I proofread the work of a number of people at my job, and even after these smart professionals do their very best to hand in a perfect document, many times errors still exist.) The mistakes that are most deeply ingrained in you are probably the ones you’re least aware of. So what can you do to make sure your spelling and grammar are up to par? Well, I can’t personally check all your work (though secretly I would really love to!). But do you have a friend who has that grammar/spelling nazi reputation? That is the very person you should ask. It’s not enough for the person to be bright or to have a college degree. (One of my aforementioned coworkers is a college graduate who spells such words as “leesh,” “debrie,” and “nusicance.”) College means little in this circumstance, when what you need is simply a real stickler. Find that person and let him or her know how important it is to you that errors on your part are not passed on to your students, and I’m sure they will be overjoyed to help. If they’re like me, they’ve been dying to correct you already. :-)


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My Laundry Area Makeover

Since our move to Florida in 2011, our family has lived in an apartment. While I have not done many projects here because we’ve never been sure how long we’d stay, one thing that I really couldn’t tolerate was our junky, cluttered laundry area.




All that stuff on the top shelf made me crazy, and the stuff on the dryer bothered me as well. So…. just a few changes brought us to this:


IMG_0251 We rigged a curtain rod to hang down from the ceiling. It doesn’t go all the way over to the opposite wall…the water heater hides over there. But it covers the part that most anybody would ever see. (Curtain from Wal-Mart.)

IMG_0253The two lined baskets came from Michael’s, and my biggest score was the FRAMED laundry room prints from Hobby Lobby. They were just a few bucks each, marked down from $40! The fact that I found this stuff at different places but in coordinating colors was just a bonus! :-) Now my laundry area is neat and put-together, without having to make any expensive permanent changes.

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