Winner for Seal Under Siege!

So, I finally finished my writing project and started drawing names for winners in various places and got a late entry here.  SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO  I decided to go ahead and draw before I forgot!  😀

The winner is… MARY!


zip me an email Mary and let me know if you’d like this on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, or if you’re “old school” and like a nice paperback in your hands.  🙂


Despite every attempt to hide, deny, or resist the truth, I must confess that I am spoiled—rotten.  I’m not talking about the way my parents sacrificed to give me a great education and a rich childhood.  I’m not even talking about the way my husband pretty much gives me whatever I want (since I happen to want little we couldn’t afford).  No, I’m talking about a much broader picture. I live in one of the richest countries in the world—and it’s bankrupt.  Morally, socially, fiscally, politically, and spiritually—my beloved United States of America is bankrupt.

I know what I believe the solution to be.  I also do not believe anyone has the guts to do it—myself included.  We need to lose our cushy lifestyles and pay the price to fix the mess we’ve allowed our country to get into.  We need to make sacrifices that none of us are willing to make.  I’m holding my hand s out, trying to push away the inevitable just as much as the next person.

Thanks to the sequester, my husband is going to be paying the price with the upcoming furlough—six months of 20% income loss. A lot of government employees are complaining that the rest of the country isn’t losing their income.  It makes me want to scream.  Do they not realize that when all the government employees in this country stop spending 20% of their income, it’s going to affect the rest of the country?  That’s 20% less eating out.  Twenty percent less gas purchased.  Luxuries cut.  We’re already thinking about things like cutting DirecTV, cutting unlimited long-distance service, and watching our food expenditures.  We spend an insane amount of money on food.

But you know what?  That’s about the extent of my willingness to “suffer.”  I don’t want to have to make truly “painful” choices. You see, to make true and lasting changes, we’re going to have to really suck it up.  And that’s where I think we’re going to have to quit looking at this as a quick fix and really look at what is wrong with America.

We’re soft.  We’re really soft.  We think we deserve to have it easy because two hundred fifty years ago, someone died to give us freedom from oppression.  Hogwash. We’ve taken, and taken, and taken until we’ve glutted ourselves on our “rights” and we’ve borrowed the money to do it.  We’ve ignored God, redefined Him to whatever is politically and socially correct this week, and too often decided we simply don’t care what He says or thinks.

Well, it does matter.  All of it matters.  The fact is, God is on the throne, and no matter what we want Him to think or do, He will decide what happens to us.  I think of Second Chronicles… “If My people…”  Do if I call myself “His?”  Then this applies to me. “Who are called by MY name…”  Ahem.  Yep, that’s me. “Would humble themselves…”  Ahem.  That means I’m proud.  I need to HUMBLE myself. “And pray.”  (Not my strong suit).  “And seek MY face.”  Okay then.  In other words, put myself before the Lord and seek HIS will for this country.  Not mine, not the founding fathers, not current politicians, GOD’s will… even though this isn’t a theocracy, this is MY job as a Christian.  An atheist or a Buddhist would do something different.  AND THAT IS OKAY.

Here’s where it hurts.  “And turn from their wicked ways.”  I always feel like this doesn’t apply to me.  I’m not wicked.  I’ve been washed clean of wickedness.  I obey the laws, I try to obey the Lord (why is it so much easier to obey the speed limit when I’m late than it is to obey the Lord when He says not to grumble about the speed limit?), and all those lovely things that make me look so much less wicked than say a murderer.  Ahem.  God says I need to turn from MY wicked ways.  Period.  I don’t need to look at anyone else’s, I need to look at mine and TURN.  Period.

Here’s where we start balking.  It says, “Then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sins and HEAL THEIR LAND.”

We like to pretend that He hasn’t given us a job to do.  THEN.  That word then kills me every time.  First this (humble, pray, seek, turn) and THEN this (hear, forgive, heal).  It’s not comfortable for me.  God is a God Whose mercies rain on the just and the unjust.  His love is saturated with grace.  Nothing we can do can merit it.  All these things are true.  But when we’re looking for the saving of our nation, it seems to say, “Look out. I demand this of you.  When that is done, this is what I will do.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I know this was written to a specific people at a specific time.  But the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  This is not “old law” that has been fulfilled.  We’re not reading about animal sacrifices that are a shadow of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice.  We’re talking about something that has been repeated in the New Testament here.  We’re God’s people.  We’re named for Christ when we call ourselves Christians.  We’re to “humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord,” and “pray without ceasing,” and “repent and turn to God.”  All of those things are required of us period. 

So what would happen if we did?  What would happen if just the Christians did what God tells them to and didn’t focus so much on how the rest of the world is blowing it?  Yeah.  That could be pretty amazing.  Scary amazing.

And James 4:17 tells me that I have no excuse whatsoever for not doing it.  I know the right thing to do.  I know it.  If I don’t, it’s sin.  Period.

So what on earth is this whole rigmarole about anyway?  Apparently, it’s a call to me to repent.  Ouch.

Adoption from the Outside

For the past year, a dear friend has been in an adoption process.  I’ve watched others over the years.  From the first paperwork to the trip overseas and then the first meeting… it’s always fascinating.  I enjoy seeing the differences in how countries handle things.  It fascinates me.  Some seem to whiz past at speeds that seem unreal.

And the heartache.  I’ve seen that too.  The mother who had everything ripped apart close to the end of the process.  The mother who is waiting after YEARS and will finally get to bring home her babies soon… leaving a sibling in a grave in his home country.  They aren’t babies anymore.  And my friend.  She was matched with a baby.  Just days before it would have become official, an official confiscated the baby girl and she was sent out of the country.  Oh, the heartache.  We all wept for them.

I watched as my friend turned her grief into joy as the other child they’d considered became officially theirs.  I watched as she researched.  I watched as she prepared.  I watched as her heart knit in a womb of a different kind with her daughter thousands of miles away.  And I watched how others interacted with her– particularly those who had walked that road already.

Watching is fascinating… and one thing that this outsider noticed is that when reading about how things will be, even (if not especially) those who have adopted previously will comment about how “this will happen” and “that will happen” as if people are adopting Webkinz rather than people who are individuals.  I’m astounded at how often I read,  “your kid will love having her hair played with” or “your kid will hate having her hair played with.”  I rarely saw comments like, “Some kids react strongly to people messing with their hair.  In our case, our daughter loved it but…”  They were almost all decided opinions almost as if laws.

From how they slept to what they ate to being naturally possessive or unattached to “things”, It seems like everyone expects being an adoptee to be the defining personality trait rather than one of many.  Even now that little Kiffanie is here and home, I see her mother responding to expectations.  I don’t even know if she knows that she does it.  If she says the girl is settling in well, she’s quick to acknowledge that this could change.  If she says she doesn’t have this or she does do that, and obviously some or a lot of children do the opposite, she makes a point of recognizing that.  It really is amazing.

There are so many things to learn about adopting.  I know that all I know from watching is that I know pretty much NOTHING.  However, I have learned one very valuable lesson from the observation deck.  If I ever adopt, I am going to work hard to keep in mind that all the advice and “knowledge” in the world about the process of adoption won’t change the fact that the child is still a person– an individual–and keeping that thought in mind as it seems my friend, Dell, has is probably one of the most important things I could do.

Thanks for the lesson, Dell.

T is for Time

“I wish I had more time.”

How many times in books or movies is that line employed at the end of a life?  The husband who spent his days traveling and staying late at the office–always trying to get just a little bit more ahead.  The procrastinator who thought she’d write her parents or her friends–tomorrow.  She’d call tomorrow.  She’d send flowers tomorrow.  The young man who thought he had a lifetime ahead of him, gasping for breath in a hospital room, the victim of a hit and run on his way across the street.  The child who should have had a lifetime before cancer ravaged her body at the tender age of three.

Time.  Our days are numbered.  Mine, yours, your family’s, my family’s.  We don’t get an infinite number of days.  We hear and give such conflicting advice.  To the young man who can’t decide if he’s ready to take the plunge into matrimony, we tell him he’s young and has a lifetime ahead of him.  Don’t rush things.  Enjoy the benefits of single hood now.  Marry in a year or ten.  To the young woman who can’t decide if she should take that year abroad or stay home and close to her family, we tell her to go.  Enjoy herself.  She’ll never have that opportunity again.

Those things are true.  She probably won’t have that opportunity again.  He probably does have a lifetime ahead of him.  The man in his late thirties probably does have time to establish himself in a new career.  The new mother probably does have the next twenty years with that baby.  She can afford to miss a weekend now.  Probably.

The problem is, we can’t know if any of that is true.  We can only know today.  We can only pray about today.  We can only try to make wise decisions based upon today’s knowledge and that is where the problem splits into two problems.  If we choose to live as if today is our last day, we will never prepare for tomorrow.  If we choose to live assuming tomorrow will come, we can squander today.  And, we have to live with the consequences of those choices.  The young man might not have her next year.  Her days might be coming to a close.  The young woman might find herself dying alone on the other side of the world, her family frantically scrounging the money to get to her in time.  You can’t make decisions based upon fear… and neither can you ignore the fact that you just don’t know.

Time is ticking past… day by very slow day.  Hour by whizzing hour.  It’s relentlessly slow and dizzyingly swift.  How we spend it… that is the question.

3-Day Shopping : Day 8

Went on Thursday and forgot to post.  I bought quite a few filler things (milk, butter, bread, veggies, fruit, and very little meat.  But I did buy chicken nuggets and tater tots… which became dinner on Thursday night– was too tired to do the chicken bacon sandwiches.  So, we’ll have those tomorrow night!)

Grand tally…

Day 1: 75.00
Day 2: 122.00
Day 3: 20.00
Day 4: 91.00
Day 5: 117.00
Day 6: 113.00
Day 7: 102.00
Day 8: 112.00

Thanksgiving 2011 Is Over… Hello Christmas!

Well, eight Hungarian Coffee Cakes, four pies, two batches of rolls, an enormous batch of mashed potatoes (without a single spoonful left), gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, and TURKEY later, Thanksgiving is over.  We played games, did a bit of shopping, enjoyed more good food than we usually eat, and enjoyed a lot of work.  Yes, I mean enjoyed.  My eldest son turned seventeen– full circle from birth.  He was born on Thanksgiving Day.  I tease him that the Lord did that to remind me to be thankful for him.  As if I needed it.  Friday began the Christmas season.  I was awakened at around six-thirty by my daughter Andra and I drove her out to Inyokern so she could go shopping in Lancaster with friends.  I came home and went back to bed while the family shopped.

At ten o’clock, I got up and Kevin and I went to buy a new laptop.  The one I wanted was no longer on sale.  I was so disappointed.  The one I have I liked, but it isn’t as perfect as the other one was.  I am working on letting go of that disappointment.  I had no idea why the other one mattered so much to me.  I had no idea I felt like that.  I didn’t know.  However, I’m getting accustomed to the change.

Friday was spent pounding out words, cooking more, and having fun with the kids.  We played more games, laughed a bunch, and then had Mud Pie to celebrate Nolan’s birthday.  It’s a tradition.

Saturday was even more exciting.  Christmas trees, decorating– a beautiful house.  I love my house.  It’s exquisite right now.  There are lights, villages, greenery, trees, cranberries, candy candles, and even better- a new carousel!  We splurged. Everyone spent Saturday night stringing popcorn and cranberries.  We sang, laughed, and enjoyed hot chocolate with a dinner of leftovers.  YUM.  Unfortunately, Morgann had to zip on back to Irvine in order to have time to finish assignments.

Speaking of which, most of Sunday was spent writing by three of us!  While Braelyn took her final math test (possibly of her life), Nolan wrote about the evolution of science fiction in the twentieth century.  Jenna and I both wrote of pirates.  She wrote about what they are, what they stole, and such, while I actually wrote about pirates stealing, murdering, and finally reaching the Caribbean with a huge prize to boot!  (Or is that booty?)

Finally, at around ten o’clock, I finished and validated my 50k words for my NaNoWriMo novel.  This novel excites me.  I love the young boy who battles self who wants his own way against what he knows is right.  He loves and respects his father and yet despises their life and wishes for a different one.  Finishing was great for me because there are only about another 10k words to finish.  Now, if I could just find a replacement for illegitimate children.  There is one sentence where I WANTED to use that word.  I really wanted it (that’s a pretty unusual thing) but of course, it’s inappropriate.

So, now life goes back to normal.  Tomorrow I have more cleaning to do– my room is a disaster. It always is the Monday after Thanksgiving.  I need it cleaned up so I can get going with the rest of the month.  December is a huge thing in our home.  We have a lot of fun.  I can’t have fun in a mess.  No, no I cannot.

School goes back to mom involvement (including me helping the older kids to break down their papers better in the future– oh and I won’t be scheduling two intensive classes to take place during the same week and on the week of Thanksgiving!  YIKES!  My poor son was writing on Thanksgiving (remember… his birthday too).

It also means my blog is no longer neglected.  It means that Confessions of a Decluttering Junkie can end now!  Just a few more posts and it’ll end!  I have another idea for January.  “Frugal to a Fault.”  I can’t wait for you to meet our new friends.

Life is good.  I am very blessed.  I have had a lovely life, a wonderful family, and God to keep me grounded when things feel like they’re spiraling out of control.  Isn’t it strange how feelings are lies just as often as they are truth?  The feelings are real, but they may not necessarily be true.  That’s what my life feels like when it feels so uncontrolled.  It is.  I live in the palm of the Lord’s hand, in the shadow of His wing.  I am a daughter of the King of Kings and my life reflects that– even when I can’t see it.

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas, my friends.

Neither Nellie nor Kelly~

Ok, so my kids are on a church softball league.  They play ball.  There’s no one in the stands, but hey, they play.  Last week the other team only had three or four people show up so our players had to split up so they could actually have the game, but hey.  Me, I got a few pics.  I need to scrap ‘em.  So, what did I do? I made them the pics du week… nah, just doesn’t have the same feel as du jour.  Oh, well.

Review– of Sorts

Ok, so Mondays are my book/movie review days.  You know.  Media.  Well, I’m going for media of a different sort– Cameras.

We’ve owned quite a few digital cameras in the past ten years or so.  The first one was a Dimark or something like that and had like 1.2 megapixels.  It wasn’t too bad, though.  It did the job.  Then, we bought an HP second hand from a friend.  I think we doubled our megapixels.  Oh, and back then flash was kind of essential for everything– sometimes in bright sunlight.  LOL.  At last, we bought our first “decent” camera.  A Kodak Easyshare.  It had 3.2 megapixels and we thought the thing took GREAT pictures.  It did too.  Then, we bought a second one for Braelyn for Christmas.  When Challice got married, we bought a five megapixel EasyShare Z740.  We still have that camera and we love it.  Great camera for daily shots– particularly for online photos.  Challice bought one as well.  Hey, when you find a product you love, why not stick with it.  A couple of years ago, I decided I wanted a better camera– one that could handle good prints and so forth.  After all, I do digital scrapbooking and need at least 300 dpi and the current camera does only 240.  So, I naturally went to the Kodak Easyshare again.  Why wouldn’t I?  They’d been so good to us for a good eight years or more.  I came home with the 12 megapixel M381.  Talk about wonderful.  Right?

Hardly.  I have almost never gotten a picture out of it that wasn’t noisy, nasty, and a huge disappointment.  I thought it was my fault.  I really thought I  hadn’t learned how to use the settings and such.  Well, guess what?  Not true.  Oh, sure, out of the THOUSANDS of pictures we’ve taken with it, I’ve gotten some decent ones, but at least 80% look horrible.  I kept trying, did everything I knew how to do, but last Thursday was the last straw.  I went to Morgann’s awards ceremony.  I took a ton of pictures.  Almost every single one was horrible.  If they weren’t the ONLY pictures I had of the occasion, I would have tossed them.  Without a second thought.  Alas, all we have to record that morning are blurry, noisy, and required a huge amount of processing to be able to see them at all.

Friday I went on a rampage.  Kevin and I went to Walmart.  We wrote down the model of every camera that we thought might be remotely decent.  We went to staples.  Lathered, rinsed, and repeated.  Went home.  He took the Walmart list; I took the Staples list.  We crossed off almost every single one.  He had two left.  I had one.  Mine was the same as one of his.  We went back.  At Walmart, it was 400.00.  Went to Staples.  150.00 (on sale 50.00 off).  That didn’t make sense.  We went back to Walmart.  I checked battery compartments.  They were different.  I reread the model.  Different.  Instead of the SX130, it was the SX 30.  We walked back to Staples and compared.  Went online at Staples.  Read reviews.  Bad reviews for the SX30.  Compared features.  Alas, the price difference was for a telephoto lens that I didn’t even want.  We compared prices.  If we bought online, we could get the same price from Walmart as Staples.  If we price matched we could get the same price from Walmart.  However, with Staples, Braelyn is buying a laptop soon.  Between that and the camera, that’d make for a nice Staples rewards thingie.  We went with Staples.  We didn’t buy the 2 year replacement thing at the time..  I wanted to make sure I still WANTED the dumb thing.  I was going to take lots of pictures in various settings to be sure.  Guess what?

LOVE IT!  Check out the ratings difference.  Two stars to FOUR.  Oh, and I paid less for the Canon than I did for the Kodak, but that isn’t really Kodak’s fault.  Everything is a little cheaper that way.  That is one good thing about ever-changing technology.  You get to save a bundle if you’re not a gadget geek who has to have the latest/greatest thing all the time.  Compared shots?

For Comparison purposes, these are straight out of the camera– NO adjustments of any kind.  When I tried to adjust to make the pictures look better, the Kodak ones looked both better and worse and the Canon ones just looked GREAT.

Kodak on the left.  Canon on the right.  (Apologize for the laundry pile and kitchen in process of being cleaned.

Again, Kodak left, Canon right.  I literally pointed and shot.  Didn’t use flash, didn’t use special settings.  These are on “auto.”

Do you see the blur and the grain in the Kodak pics?  Those are “good” shots out of this camera.  I’m frustrated that they don’t show the ugliness that usually comes out of it, but then I remember that you’ll see the hideous pics from Thursday this coming Wednesday.  That makes me feel better.  Sigh.

So, let’s just say I LOVE the new camera.  When I took pictures of things I WANTED pictures of, they were clear, crisp, noiseless, and colorful.  EXACTLY what I wanted.

Update: Just Because

Well, it’s been a busy weekend.  Friday evening, I realized I hadn’t written the latest installment of Decluttering Junkie. I meant to do it after a nap, but got lost in Wynnewood instead.  Then, as often happens, the weekend got away from me.  I didn’t get my review done for today, I didn’t get Sunday’s post done, and I’m barely sitting ok for tomorrow, so I thought, hey, why not just do an update.  So…

Decluttering Junkie– I hope to do this sometime this afternoon.  If I don’t, I may just wait until next week. Kaye is about to do battle with the toys.  YIKES!

Book Reviews- Since I didn’t read the book, I’ll just save it until next week.  Oh, and on the topic of book reviews, please take note of the FYI page at the top under the Paradoxology banner.  I hate to beat a dead horse, but I figure it doesn’t hurt to add reminders now and then.  To those waiting for past books, I am doing a major shipping thing today, so if yours isn’t there yet, it should be soon.

And, if you care to see what I’ve been doing this weekend, step on over to my craft blog and check out the cards I made.  I have an ongoing contest over there.  Splitcoast Stampers has a series of “Sketch Challenges” for different cards.  I’ve been systematically working through them from 1-312 or however many there are this week.  They post one a week, so I need to do at least 3 to stay ahead of the game.  I make two of each card, and will be giving away an ENTIRE SET of the cards to one “lucky” winner when I catch up.  All you have to do is post a comment on the cards and you get an entry.  I’m on card number 130, so it’ll be a while before I get it done, but hey, I’m trying!  To see all the sketch challenge cards, just click on the categories drop-down box and look for “Sketch Challenges.”  To help pay for this giveaway, I’m also selling most of the duplicate cards, so check out the Card Shop and see if there are any that tickle your fancy.

So, what did you do this weekend?

Art Class– Home School Style

One day my fabulous illustrator, Craig, and I were discussing Thomas Kinkade. I was curious to know what other artists think of someone who became wildly popular.  Let’s just say I wasn’t surprised when he sent me a link to his blog and pictures of his Thomas Kinkade wallpaper border– liberally decorated with dragons, dinosaurs, monsters, and all kinds of fun stuff.  With a sharpie.  I showed Ethan.  Ethan already thought Craig was the world’s most awesome guy after seeing the Tardis” in the most recent map for my book, but a guy who draws on the wall with a Sharpie… ON PURPOSE???  WOW!  This dude is COOL.  Instantly, Ethan wanted to put together one of our Kinkade puzzles and do the same thing.  Craig challenged Ethan to do it.  The kid worked HARD on a very large puzzle– only to have it destroyed by children Morgann babysits.  He was daunted.  Then he found this one and begged to do it.  As you can see, it was missing a piece, but he didn’t mind.

Mind Games, Money, & Me

Image compliments of I buy all my images from istock

Self-discipline has never been my strong point.  I’ve always been very good at following direct orders, but I don’t always take the kind of initiative to do the things that I really should do.  I’m kind of a coaster… just ride the waves of life, let things go how they go… and sometimes that’s a good thing.  Other times, not so much. Those not so much times need more responsibility.

One thing I’ve done since childhood is play games with myself.  Yeah, I know, it’s immature and silly.  Grow up and do what you’ve got to do, right?  Well, sure.  That’d be the best option, I guess, but it’s not always the realistic one.  Sometimes, it’s just really hard to grab those bootstraps and start pulling.  I’ve been known to play the, “Company is coming in ten minutes.  Get the house clean!” mind game with myself.  It really works when you just need a boost and giving yourself a stern lecture fails.  I liked beating the clock as a kid and I like it today.  Sue me, it works.  The same is true of other things.

A friend once asked me for help in coming up with a painless way to pay off her credit cards.  Yeah.  Painless.  After we got done laughing, I went home and thought I forgot about the idea, but it kept percolating.  Over the next few days or weeks, it must have been growing in my subconscious, because one morning I woke up with an idea– one I’ve used in various ways since then, but I’m going to spell it out here because it illustrates one way to play mind games with yourself to make hard tasks less painful.  I don’t remember how much she had on various cards, but it doesn’t really matter.  I’m just going to throw out arbitrary numbers as examples only.  It’d work slightly differently, and that’s ok.

Let’s say you have a $2500 dollar maxed out Visa card.  Your monthly payment is 100 dollars.  (It might be more or less, I don’t know.  I’m making this up as I go.)  If I remember right, the first month my friend had a 50 dollar gift card to Wal-Mart that she used for her general Wal-mart shopping so she could take fifty dollars out of their account without feeling the pain of it.  That worked out perfectly and is the key to their success..  The way she and her husband used the card was, pay down a bit and then use it up again, pay down a bit… and so the cycle of debt continued.  She was just as guilty as her husband.  She’d tried the snowball things that most financial planners recommend.  They’d failed.  Sticking to such a strict budget for extended periods of time didn’t work for them for reasons that I didn’t ask.  None of my business.  So, that first month her bill looked like this.  I’m starting it in January for example.  I’m pretty sure this was fall when we worked it out.

January (Payment plus gift card amount)–  2500-150=2350
Finance Charge (1.5% of monthly balance)-  35.25
Total at the end of January-  2385.25
Available credit-  114.75

This is where things got interesting.  They went on a  “round up” plan.  I think they did fifty dollars, but it could be ten, twenty-five, whatever.  This is how it worked.  I’m going to call her Sally.  Sally went to the store and used the card spending $35.43.  When she got home, she immediately wrote a check for $50.00 and sent it to the credit card company (today I’d just go online and pay I think.).  So.. now her balance looks like…

2385.25+35.43-50.00=  2370.68

A week and a half later, her husband brought home a receipt for $83.22.  She immediately wrote a check for 100.00

2370.68+83.22-100.00= 2353.90

Two days later, she spent $19.91 on lunch out with a friend and groaned when she realized she put it on her card, but forced herself to go home and write that 50 dollar check.

2353.90+19.91-50.00= 2323.81

The end of February arrived and it was time to pay the bill.  Her balance was $2323.81

February (Payment) 2323.81-100.00=2223.81
Finance Charge (1.5% of monthly balance)- 33.36
Total at the end of February-  2257.17
Available credit- 242.83

One thing that happened was she often found herself not using the card if it meant that she’d have to write a check for over double what she otherwise would have spent.  For example, that lunch.  After a few weeks of doing this, the habit of sliding her credit card across the counter instead of her debit card without thinking was over.  She’d glance at totals and think about it.  “Do I really want to write a check for fifty dollars for a twelve dollar purchase?”  If she knew she had the extra money, sometimes she did it deliberately to get her ahead.  Other times, she knew they had spent too much to afford to do that– again.  So, she opted to spend the twelve dollars instead.  One friend told her she’d just retrained herself not to pay off her bill early.  We thought she’d retrained herself not to add frivolous amounts to a bill and let it pile up like that!  They also kept the original amount they’d been paying as their payment amount.  Each month the minimum payment due went down, but they kept paying the same as they had in January.  Their theory was, if they could afford it in January, they could afford it in June.  I kind of agree.

After only three months, I remember that they’d managed to drop almost eight hundred dollars from their balance.  Doing it this way retrained them in several ways.

  1. They learned not to purchase anything that they couldn’t afford to pay off immediately.  Sure, I think I remember her calling discouraged because they’d bought something or done something when they couldn’t pay for it once or twice.  However,  my theory was, who cares!  Once or twice instead of every single time was still better!
  2. They learned to think about the impact their purchases made on their bank account.  It was simply too easy to pay for things with a credit card when that money felt “free.”  However, knowing you’re going to go home and not only pay for it but pay MORE for it right away really makes you think!
  3. Paying the round up amount instead of the actual amount gave them an instant taste of interest with every single purchase.  It felt like they were hit with interest charges from the second they got home.
  4. They learned to communicate about purchases.  Prior to that, each of them had spent money without thinking much about it until bill day came and the balance was much higher than either of them expected because they didn’t know the other had been spending.  That was the first time I understood the concept of separate credit cards for husbands and wives.  When you’re the only one adding to the debt, it’s much easier to keep track of expenditures.

Obviously this worked for two reasons.

  1. They wanted out of debt.
  2. They could afford the extra money (it wasn’t easy, but they COULD)

It would have worked even if they’d have rounded up to the next ten dollars.  Oh, it would have taken longer, sure, but it would have worked.  The next twenty-five would have worked.  If they’d been able to spare the resources, once they got going, Sally told me they’d have rounded to the next hundred.  It became liberating and exciting to see those numbers drop so rapidly.  I remember feeling so excited for them.

I’ve heard of people doing the same thing with savings.  If they normally would have bought a coffee but refrained, they stuck the money in an envelope in their purse or section of their wallet.  If they had something in their cart at the store but returned it to the shelf before checkout, they tucked that money away too (either physically or wrote it down and got cash for it later).  If they had a store return, the cash went into that same envelope.  And, at the end of every week, they took that money and deposited it in savings.  Voila.  Instant savings without a whole lot of pain.

I’ve also heard of people doing something similar with their check registers, but I’m not sure how many people still use those.  They’d round everything up to the next dollar.  A purchase of 19.32 became 20.00 in the register.  18.24 became 19.00.  5.99 became 6.00.  Simple easy way to let their change add up even when it was just on paper.  They went by the total in their checkbook register rather than whatever the bank balance said (one woman, unable to stand not balancing to a penny, kept a pencil ledger going under the ink one.  Cracked me up to read about that.)  Bank of America has a similar savings option with their debit card I believe.  You sign up for some thing or another (or so the commercials say) and voila.  Every purchase rounds up and puts the change into your savings.  Brilliant.  No, I’m not switching banks for it, but it’s still pretty cool.

I mean, come on.  Isn’t it pretty amazing to see banks helping people play the same kinds of head games that the rest of us do?

Whether it’s pretending company is coming, that you’re being paid to do the dishes, or that Jesus is sitting on your couch with you while you watch that movie (and really, isn’t He?), playing mind games can really give you a fresh perspective– particularly when life is feeling pretty stagnant.  You know, I’ve been rounding up my teeth payments each month.  One is 69.00 and change and the other is 90.00 and change.  I’ve been rounding up to 75.00 and 100.00… but what if I rounded both up to 100.00?  We’d never miss that other 25.00, but we’d pay off the balance several months sooner and save on interest.  I’m thinking this walk down memory lane has given me the inspiration to get rid of my own debt… and maybe clean my kitchen while I’m at it.  Maybe.

Christmas Music~

Title: Merry Christmas
Artists: The Brothers Four

  1. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  2. Mary’s Little Boy Child
  3. The Night Is Christmas Eve
  4. Away in a Manger
  5. Christmas Is A-Comin’
  6. O Holy Night
  7. Little Drummer Boy
  8. T’was the Night Before Christmas
  9. Silent Night
  10. The Borning Day
  11. I’ll Be Home for Christmas
  12. Medley:  Hark the Herald Angels Sing/It Came Upon a Midnight Clear/Angels We Have Heard on High


My childhood is rich in beautiful music.  I love the beautiful harmony, the lovely tones of the guitar, and I’ve always preferred masculine voices.  This CD fills the bill.  The problem is that this CD isn’t readily available.  You have to watch for it on,, or  It’s worth every penny in my opinion.  My favorite songs on this album are Christmas Is A-Comin, Away in A Manger, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.


Title: White Christmas
Artist: Bing Crosby

  1. Adeste Fideles
  2. White Christmas
  3. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  4. Faith of Our Fathers
  5. I’ll Be Home for Christmas
  6. Jingle Bells
  7. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
  8. Silver Bells
  9. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
  10. Christmas in Killarney
  11. Mele Kalikimaka (Merry Christmas)

Ok, come on, Christmas isn’t Christmas without Bing.  I mean, I think his real name was Bing Merry Christmas Crosby!  His voice has that perfect croon that makes you just want to listen all day.  However, I have a confession.  White Christmas isn’t my favorite of his.  I like it.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s beautiful!  I just have other favorites from this album.  I recommend Adeste Fideles, Silver Bells, and Christmas in Killarney.  “… it’s nice, you know, to kiss your beau, while cuddlin’ under the mistletoe.  And Santa Claus, you know of course, is one of the boys from home!”


Title: A Christmas Songbook
Artist: Jim Reeves

  1. Silver Bells
  2. Scarlet Ribbons
  3. Blue Christmas
  4. An Old Christmas Card
  5. Teach Me How to Pray
  6. C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S
  7. Precious Memories
  8. Jingle Bells
  9. Merry Christmas Polka
  10. In the Garden
  11. Silent Night
  12. O, Come All Ye Faithful
  13. It Is No Secret (What God Can Do)
  14. A Beautiful Life
  15. Padre of Old San Antone
  16. Senor Santa Claus
  17. Mary’s Boy Child
  18. May the Good Lord Bless You and Keep You
  19. O Little Town of Bethlehem
  20. Flowers, The Sunset, The Trees
  21. An Evening Prayer
  22. White Christmas

One of the best singers of all time (beloved by me because he sounds very much like my father– almost as good as Dad too), this selection of songs is just perfect.  Jim Reeves had a very rich warm voice.  He sang very clear and true, which is exactly how I like it.  My favorites on this album are An Old Christmas Card, C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S, and A Beautiful Life.  His Silver Bells is just about the best Silver Bells I’ve ever heard.


Title: The Best of The Statler Brothers: The Christmas Collection
Artists: The Statler Brothers

  1. I Believe in Santa’s Cause
  2. I’ll Be Home for Christmas
  3. I Never Spend a Christmas That I Don’t Think of You
  4. White Christmas
  5. Christmas to Me
  6. Who Do You Think?
  7. Away in a Manger
  8. Something You Can’t Buy
  9. The Carols Those Kids Used to Sing
  10. A Christmas Medley

I almost didn’t add this album because I haven’t heard it all, but since it includes one of our all time favorite songs, The Carols Those Kids Used To Sing, I have to include it.  Don’t hesitate.  Amazon sells that song singly here, just buy it!  There is nothing more heart-wrenching than hearing, “She had told them there wouldn’t be a Christmas, and the looks on their faces I still see.  I’m glad for what we did for we made some happy kids dance around where there might have been a tree…”  Gulp.  I did listen to the clips on Amazon, and there weren’t any I hated.  Actually, Jingle Bells wasn’t my favorite until one part and then I kind of liked it, so who knows.  Just get Carols Those Kids Used to Sing unless you’re a big Statler Fan and don’t happen to have this yet.


Title: Celtic Woman: A Christmas Celebration
Artists: Celtic Woman

  1. O Holy Night
  2. Away in a Manger
  3. Ding, Dong Merrily On High
  4. White Christmas
  5. Silent Night
  6. Christmas Pipes
  7. The Christmas Song
  8. Carol of the Bells
  9. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  10. Panis Angelicus
  11. Don Oíche Úd I mBeithil (That Night In Bethlehem)
  12. O Come All Ye Faithful
  13. Little Drummer Boy
  14. The Wexford Carol
  15. Let It Snow

As a general rule, I’m not a big fan of Celtic Woman.  I like a few specific songs such as Innisfree, At the Ceili, and Caledonia, but I tend not to like female vocalists without male accompaniment.  It’s just my thing.  However, I think they do the BEST Carol of the Bells I’ve ever heard.  O Holy Night works with their voices, as does Little Drummer boy.


Title:  The Joyful Season
Artist:  Jo Stafford

  1. Little Drummer Boy
  2. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
  3. Deck the Halls
  4. White Christmas
  5. Jingle Bells
  6. Merry Christmas
  7. Christmas Is the Season
  8. O Little Town of Bethlehem
  9. Silver Bells
  10. Winter Wonderland
  11. Silent Night
  12. Gesu Bambino
  13. Ave Maria
  14. Medley:  Hark the Herald Angels Sing/The First Noel/O Come All Ye Faithful/Deck the Halls/O Come O Come Emmanuel
  15. Joy to the World/It Came Upon a Midnight Clear/Little Town of Bethlehem/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/Silent Night
  16. Toys for Tots

Jo Stafford is probably my absolute favorite female vocalist of all time.  I LOVE her rich voice, and while I don’t usually like female soloists, I LOVE to hear her all the time.  I could listen to the same songs repeatedly.  She does the only female version of Winter Wonderland that I really like.  There is a great Deck the Halls, and Little Drummer Boy.  While most aren’t my absolute favorite version of the songs (I have an idea of what each song should sound like and prefer to have a playlist of my favorites), I like her version of them and am not disappointed when I hear hers.  That’s not true of most.


Title: Various
Artist: Gayla Peevey

  1. Angel in the Christmas Play
  2. Hippopotamus for Christmas
  3. Are My Ears on Straight
  4. Code in the Node for Christmas
  5. 77 Santas


I could write all day about favorite songs by certain people, but I won’t.  I’ll just leave you with this one video…



Strollin’ Down Memory Lane

On my A Wonderful Life blog, I write about the memories I have of my childhood.  I LOVE my childhood.  It was a delightful time in my life.  People often express dismay at how often I moved, the strange places we lived, and even my parents’ educational choices for me (choices I happen to appreciate greatly), but while I can see that life was not perfect, it was beautiful and wonderful.  I have memories that most children could only dream of having.  How many kids do you know that got to sleep on the roof, in the shrubs, on the front lawn, or at the beach– for fun!

A couple of years ago, I started turning those stories into scrapbook pages.  One of my goals is to get them all done, add all the memories I can think of, and bind them into a memory book for my parents.  This week, I made a step toward that with another page in that book.  🙂