Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas Lights

We were instructed by the voters assembly last week that electrical usage at the parsonage should be decreased by 12% in an attempt to make the church budget workable.

I don't know how to cut it any more. We don't use the garage door opener. We turn off lights. We usually keep the radio, stereo, and tv turned off. We don't use the air conditioning. I often hang clothes on the line outdoors instead of using the clothes-dryer, even when it's pretty darn inconvenient. We don't have many appliances (hair driers, can openers, bread machines, wood-working tools, etc). We don't have decorative lighting indoors or out. We don't use those little plug-in air fresheners. We don't have electric toys, and the kids don't have tv's in their rooms. Because we've ripped out 1/3 of the carpeting in the house, we can clean that much more floor with a broom instead of the vacuum.

So I'm ready to start doing a little Christmas decorating. The first time I put up Christmas lights on our spruce, someone from church told us they were appreciative that we were finally "doing something like that" to participate in the celebration like everyone else instead of being so different. The last few years we have put four (count 'em: four!) strings of lights on the forsythias in front of the house. I don't know if that's okay anymore. I fretted about this all day yesterday. If I put up Christmas lights, I'm wasting electricity. If I don't, I'm weird and stand-offish.

We finally decided that I'd go ahead and put the lights up. If the church council decides to tell us next week that this is too wasteful, then I guess we'll know even better exactly where we stand.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Avoiding Cracked Nipples

Guys may want to stop reading now. You've been forewarned....

My mom's career (in addition to momming) was an RN in the hospital nursery. In her last decade or so before retirement, she also worked as a lactation consultant. Nursing seemed to come very easily to me, but when I read How My Breasts Saved the World, I realized that a large part of my ease probably was a result of having my own personal lactation consultant on hand 24 hours a day for the first week after my eldest was born.

Nevertheless, I frequently had cracked nipples and also suffered greatly with mastitis. Eventually, sometime during Kid#2 or Kid#3's nursing days, I learned to recognize the signs of a breast infection early and take steps to prevent its worsening. (By the way, in case anybody is inclined to listen to a doctor's advice to stop breastfeeding when mom has a breast infection, take the doctor and stick his/her head in a toilet and flush, and then go home and nurse your baby more than ever.)

Some time after I'd had 3 or 4 kids, Mom happened to be at work and ran across a new mom, still in the hospital, who was nursing her baby for 30-45 minutes per side. This is usually not a good plan for new moms; it's usually a perfect plan for obtaining sore and cracked nipples. But this mom was doing fine. So my mom the lactation consultant asked her about it. It seems this woman had pulled on her nipples 300 times a day for the last couple of months of pregnancy.

That's it? No complicated exercises from the Lamaze teacher? No "nipple conditioning" out of a modern book on pregnancy and labor? Nope. Just holding onto the nipple (not the areola) and pulling straight out 300 times a day.

Now, with my track record of sit-ups, jogging, dusting, saying my prayers, and other things that I struggled to make habits, I never managed to do the 300x per day thing. But I probably did manage to work in 150-200 yanks on most days, divided between getting dressed, showering, changing into jammies at bedtime, etc.

And that was the END of my cracked nipples. So simple. So easy. No problems with any of the kids after I heard this tip. And so I want to shout it from the rooftops, beat mommies over the head with it, and foist this information upon them, to save themselves trouble when the baby is newborn. So any of you pregnant people out there (Melynda!!) consider yourself whopped upside the head.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Homeschoolers (and others) will get a laugh from reading about Laura's conversation today regarding Ben's socialization.


Once upon a time, in a fit of Thinking Outside The Box, pondering how we could rearrange the living area, we wondered what would happen if we put the living room furniture in the dining room, and put the dinner table in the living room.

Last week, Andrew was all hyped to try this. So the two of us made up a map of the room, with little furniture cut-outs the right size. I let him shuffle those pieces around until he found something that would work. Then I would shoot a hole in his theory: "nope, that blocks heating vents" or "can't get to the light switch there" or "no seats where the tv is visible" (the last of which really wouldn't be toooo bad because it would be incentive to move the screen to the chilly and uncomfortable basement; but that's another topic).

Andrew finally came up with three plans that were feasible. Tuesday he picked one, and we started moving. Hey, it's a great way to get around to dusting the backs and underneaths of furniture, and vacuuming those never-to-be-reached places! It's further from the kitchen cupboards to the dinner table, but it hasn't gotten intolerable yet. The living room is nicely cozier.

I was reminded, partially by the kids, but mostly by the cats, how much I loved it when I was little and Mom switched around the furniture. It's like it's intellectually stimulating. New ways to do things. New things to explore. I remember wanting to just TRY sitting on the couch in its new place. I'm not sure I want to be kept on my toes right now, with regard to where the pens are sitting or where the boombox is. But so far, I'm still functioning in spite of the changes, and there are a lot of good aspects of this.

Most people don't take on wacky projects like this during December. No cards are sent. No tree is up. No decorations are out. But we think the furniture placement is pretty nifty nonetheless!


Pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:16

Jesus is a righteous man -- the righteous man. He prayed fervently on the night in which He was betrayed: Father, I desire that those whom You gave me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me. John 17:24

If the Father will do whatever a righteous man asks, then surely He will grant Jesus His petition that we will be with Him in heaven.

Job News

Philip started a temp-to-hire job yesterday. It's one of those jobs where you work 12-hour days, 7 days over the course of a 2-week period. Right now he's just making boxes. But the temp agency told him this was a "get to know you" job, and if the company likes him, they'll keep him on, giving him more interesting work and higher pay. We didn't really hear last night how his first day went, because his windshield got an ice-brick thrown at it on the way home, so we were dealing with auto-glass repair issues instead of a calm "So, how did your day go, dear?"

Gary has had only one bite on any of his job applications. He had a phone interview a month ago. This week he got a return phone call, inviting him in today for a series of interviews. It sounds like it went very well with two of the interviewers, and pretty okay with the third. Now, we wait some more.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fashion Sense

Was I supposed to have some? I thought the reason for my existence was for fashion photographers to take pictures of me and put me on the "Don't" page, across from Bethany on the "Do" page.

Wearing jeans underneath your dress is not stylish. But your legs don't get cold!

Wearing jeans under your dress, and outfitting your feet in wool socks and Birkenstock sandals is entirely dorky. But my legs aren't cold, my feet aren't cold, and my bunions don't hurt.

And who knows? Maybe I'll end up famous, in a magazine with my face fuzzed-over to conceal my identity.

Processional Cross

I was in Stemper's consignment room last week. I always check when I go in ... just in case. So in case anybody's interested:

There's a gorgeous processional cross. The corpus is about 7-8" high. The cross itself is probably about 20". The pole and stand are a nice medium-dark wood. (I'd guess maple, but I'm not good with knowing wood grains.) Stand is sturdy. I've seen things on consignment there that are chipped or cracked, in less than stellar condition. This is in very good shape; it's the nicest thing I've ever seen in the consignment room. It's not big enough for a large church building, but would be very nice for a chapel or maybe for a church that seats 100-140. I don't have the code number of the item, but if you contact Stempers or drop by for a look, it came to them in July 07 and is priced at $450.

1 Thessalonians 5:3

Then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman.

Men just don't get this.
Pastor was talking about it in Bible class the other day. Everything he said was true and good and right. But being a man, he missed a major point.

When a woman is pregnant, she thinks she will always be pregnant. Her mind knows better -- the baby WILL be born sometime in the next couple of weeks. Her logic knows how it all works. Nobody has ever seen a woman wandering around who has been pregnant for the last 57 months ... or 57 years. Sometimes women will say, "This baby will never come." Men think it's hyperbole. Men think she just trying to express her feeeelings. Men think that statement is about frustration.

It's not.

There's something deep inside that cannot fathom the change. Even though your mind knows better. Even though history has proved that the baby WILL be born. Still, a woman's KNOWS that nothing is going to change and that the travail will never start and that that big belly is going to be there forever. It's frustrating as all-get-out when your mind knows how stupid that is. But that doesn't change your "reality" that the baby is never going to be born.

THAT is one of the points in comparing the Last Day to the arrival of a baby. Paul might've been making the point with regard to the suddenness, or the danger. But there's also that other aspect that is known only by women who've been overdue.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Yesterday's Meeting

The proposed 2008 budget for the congregation included a $200/month pay-cut for the pastor. The congregation cannot afford that. Even having been bailed out (by outsiders) to the tune of $9000 this year, they're still behind on bills, and paychecks are running late. A realistic view shows that offerings would cover the pastor's health insurance and the utilities at the church and parsonage, with about $800/mo left to pay the pastor. So the big decision yesterday was whether they were going to cut the pastor's pay a little ($200/mo) or cut it in half. Even cutting Pastor's salary in half would be a financial stretch for them.

Several suggested eliminating the pastor's salary altogether, as that's the only way to "keep this organization afloat." The circuit counselor pointed out that this would require a severance package.

Even though the congregation cannot afford it, the final decision was to keep the so-called full-time pay, with the $200/mo cut. It was made clear that this is just a plan, not a promise. The paychecks may be late or skipped if necessary. One of the men pointed out that pastor had been saying he'd rather get a smaller paycheck that he could actually rely on to be there, rather than a bigger amount but never knowing when we'll actually get it. But so many people could not bring themselves to vote for $1200/month for their pastor.

So the plan is to try to pay him the $2400/mo salary. But pastor's family needs to remember that it's not a promise; it's what the congregation wants to pay but may not be able to. And they will cut his salary when he finds secular employment. They don't know how much to cut his salary now, because they don't know how much he'll be earning when he gets a job. It's kinda nice to know that they would rather give him more for a bit longer, not knowing if/when he'll be able to get secular employment. (It's awfully hard to job-hunt when you're answering the phone at church and making shut-in calls and keeping up with his responsibilities here.)

Interestingly, the circuit counselor pointed out that the congregation is not now paying a living wage. He said that if Pastor earns an extra $1000/mo flipping burgers or sweeping floors, that the congregation ought not cut his pay, but consider that a supplement to what is already a too-small paycheck. Problem is, the reality is that they're only go to be paying $1000-1500 per month (max), regardless of what the budget says they'll pay.

So, for those of you waiting for news of yesterday's meeting, there ya go.

Anticipating the next question (because it's been asked a lot!), yes, we have food on the table. During our "fat years," back when Gary was actually earning almost 1/2 of district scale, we scrimped and put money in the bank. Furthermore, God's saints from all over the country have been sending money directly to us or giving us grocery scrip. There for a while, in my panic and unbelief, I thought we might need to start spending money on lottery tickets. But as the paychecks from the congregation fail, God has been giving and continues to provide daily bread through the generosity of His saints.


Yesterday was the voters meeting to determine the annual budget. The congregation has come nowhere close to being able to pay the pastor during 2007. So after much discussion over the past months, it was finally time to make the decision about what to do.

Someone said in passing something about the pastor having been given permission to look for outside employment. This confused me. At the last voters meeting, several people were very vocal about the fact that he was NOT to look for a job. One even said it didn't matter how little we paid him, we needed a full-time pastor and so he would be full-time, even if the pay is $1400 per month. One (only one) maintained that it was unfair to the pastor to pay him a minimum-wage salary and prohibit him from earning additional income. (To be fair, a lot of them sat quietly and didn't choose a side.) After that meeting, the district president told Gary to start job-hunting. Gary also told the elders and the council that he had been advised to apply for secular jobs. But the last the voters assembly heard, the congregation had said "no."

So I asked for clarification.

People thought I was nuts. "We never said that." "I don't remember that being discussed." "Where did you get THAT idea?" I was beginning to wonder if I might truly be going insane and hallucinating, remembering things that I was completely certain of, and finding out that they never happened.

Someone looked in the notes from the last meeting. He found the reference. He read it. "The intent of the congregation is to maintain a full-time pastoral ministry in this place."

Okay. So I wasn't insane. I had remembered correctly. And then came the stunning comment. "SEE? We never said he couldn't look for a job. The INTENT of the congregation was that he remain full-time. But just because it's our intent doesn't mean it's going to happen that way."

I'm still reeling from that one. How can I rely on anything they say?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mom's Best Apple Pie

My mom makes mighty good apple pies, but this is her bestest one. You start with your standard pie crust, your standard apples, and your standard flour & sugar & cinnamon & salt. (By the way, if you use more than one kind of apple, it really boosts the flavor!)

It's the top "crust" that makes this pie great in all its caramel deliciousness.

2/3 cup white flour with
1/2 cup brown sugar (preferably dark brown)

Mix in 1 stick (aka 1/2 cup) softened butter

My recipe card says "crumble over pie." According to my understanding of the word crumble, there ain't no way you're gonna crumble this pasty goo. I just pick up little bits of the goo, squeeze it kinda sorta flat between my fingers, and keep plopping these little "crumbs" onto the top of the pie until it's pretty much covered. Bake at 350 for an hour.

If you want low-fat and low-sugar, this cover for an apple pie is not the way to go. But if you want ultra yumminess, then it's definitely worth a try.

Easy Pie Crust

Mix together
2 cups white (or mostly white) flour
1/2 tablespoon salt

1/2 cup olive oil (or other vegetable oil) with
5-6 tablespoons cold water

Add liquid all at once to flour. Stir lightly with fork. Form into two balls. Flatten balls slightly. Place between two squares of waxed paper, and roll thin, to edges of wax paper. Remove wax paper from crust, fit into pie pan, and fill.

This crust "patches" nicely if it doesn't roll out into a pretty circle, or if you poke a hole in it while transferring it to the pie pan. And no "cutting in shortening" -- just measuring the liquid!