Friday, December 31, 2010

Do-overs, Mulligans, New Beginnings and Redundancy

Here we are already.  The last day of 2010.  There's just something about a fresh start.  A chance to do it better this time.  A clean slate.  No mistakes.  No stains.  No failures.  No regrets.  No disappointments.  No bad decisions.  The possibilities are endless.  I can be a better person in the new year.  Eat less.  Exercise more.  Get up earlier.  Read more.  Be nicer.  Be more patient.  Give my all.  I think that's why I love a new school year.  THIS year I'll be more organized.  THIS year I won't procrastinate.  THIS year I'll pray for each student BY NAME every day...but, in time, I forget.  I fall.  I fail.  I slide down the mountain of expectation I've climbed in the hope of a better view.

I believe God knew what He was doing when He created me.  He knew my flaws, my defects, and imperfections.  I can't hide them from Him.  He knows.  Because He knows, I have the freedom to turn my mess over to Him and let Him do His work in me, perfecting me in the way He would have me be more useful to Him.  He also knows where I'm scarred, healed over from past wounds.  He knows how to pierce my thick skin in the places where I've been hurt and healed many times over. 

What is it with me?  Why do I ever question Him?  How can I ever wonder if He knows what He's doing?  God never, ever wastes a hurt.  He can and will use my biggest hurt to make the biggest difference for His glory...IF, there's always an "if" - IF I will let Him.  My decision on this last day of 2010 is to turn it all over.  All of it.  The whole mess. 

I was reading a little book tonight that has sat on my coffee table for a few weeks.  It's a sappy, little gift book called "God Thinks You're Wonderful" by Max Lucado.  Here are a couple of the lines that jumped off the page at me:
-He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning (Why do I ever miss a sunrise?)
-"I have written your name on my hand."  Isaiah 49:16 (Think of all the crazy things teenagers write on their hands...God has "Amy" written there in a bold, black Sharpie and that makes me smile)
-The next time a sunrise steals your breath...or a meadow of flowers leaves you speechless...remain that way.  Say nothing and listen as heaven whispers, "Do you like it?  I did it just for you."  (Sometimes I really do hear that whisper, and it never ceases to stir my heart and often brings tears to my eyes - God, I want more of you!)
-Why give a flower fragrance?  Why give food its taste?  Could it be He loves to see that look upon your face? (Wow.  I never thought about all the things He has done that I've completely taken from in the sky, funny chicken struts, the smell of fresh cut grass, the satisfying crunch of leaves in the fall...)
-You were deliberately planned, specially gifted, and lovingly positioned on this earth by the Master Craftsman. (Being me is looking better all the time!)

On that note, I'll close my introspective New Year's Eve, 2010 post, full of hope for an exceptional year filled with divine appointments and snow-covered pitted lions. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

'Twas the Week AFTER Christmas...

Sam has decided to sleep on his beanbag in his closet.  This is one silly boy!

Christmas morning breakfast buffet - So much for which to be thankful!

Sam, Tom, Chelcie, Drew, and I went to see "Secretariat" on Christmas night.

Chelcie battles Natalie for the sled

Sam does a face plant!  His hands were FREEEEEZING!

This is what happens to Sam when he's left with his sister without supervision!  Poor child.

Sam and Evan use their creative ingenuity in the first annual "Battle of the Gingerbread Houses!"

The girls decide to work slowly and carefully in order to defeat the boys.

My 2010 Christmas poem and one of my favorite gifts of all time!

Another favorite gift - Peace Like a River

This is the screen of my iTouch after surviving the washer and dryer but BEFORE I burned it beyond repair on my bedside lamp in an attempt to dry it out. 
The reason for my rededication to the Couch to 5K program effective January 1, 2011

Monday, December 27, 2010

Why the Name Change?

It has to do with my search for voice, audience, and purpose.  I want to document significant moments in the lives of my children; I want to share insights I learn from my teaching experiences, and I want to share my thoughts, hopes, struggles, and dreams.  Not exactly "The Crawford Chronicles" because some of my posts will not be about my family at all.  Not exactly, "Because They Matter" because it's not always going to be about my students either, and I still tremble in fear after having been "reprimanded" and called out with no warning for my first attempt at sharing my heart as I learned the ins and outs of "urban teaching."  That's why I'll continue to vent on my own private blog and perhaps someday those candid ramblings will develop into a book someday, even if it's only for my daughters and sons.

Hence, I thought my postings would center on my quest to be a lion chaser in this world that runs from lions.  Basically, I'm a wanna-be.  There's nothing about me that makes me courageous enough to be called a lion chaser and there's nothing that scares me more than no knowing what tomorrow brings, BUT there's also nothing I'd rather do with my life than follow God with reckless abandon- like nothing else matters, like a lion chaser.

So here we between the lines and maybe you'll find divine inspiration to be a lion chaser too.  We can't have too many in this crazy world of ours.  There are lots of lions to chase.  Grab your snow boots and your sense of humor and let's head out on a journey together.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Ripping of Paper + Squeals of Delight = Peace?

Christmas Eve...Dinner at Grandmom's and Papaw's with the sisters and cousins, plus the Nick-man. Snow in the forecast.  Semi-clean house.  Family safe and happy at home.  No work stress.  Stocked frig and pantry.   Life for the Crawfords is especially good this year.

Sam and I combined our culinary skills for the second time in two days and created a BIG batch of M&M cookies.  I've enjoyed watching people and looking for God in unexpected places lately.  I almost feels like I'm a stranger in a strange land, which it true if I really stop to think about it.  If I'm truly Kingdom-minded, I'm not "of this world" anyway.  It's funny sometimes how far a smile, a little humor, and some patience will go under the right circumstances.

My contribution to our Christmas Eve dinner was bread/yeast rolls and my "Wonderful" salad.  This meant yet another trip to Food City-This eating at home is going to require a little more advance planning on my part, but I have to admit the food tastes better to me and I think we all enjoy spending time together without the distractions of a restaurant.  We haven't quite mastered the meal at the table yet, but we'll work up to it eventually.

We loaded up two cars and headed out to NorthStar for "A Simple Christmas."  Scott cleverly started the service with a Children's Story about the Candy Cane at the conclusion of which he presented each child with a candy cane to "lick on" during the service.  Purdy cool move on his part, I must say!  The church was packed wall to wall with families and friends. Actors portrayed parts of characters involved in the original Christmas story (the Innkeeper, Joseph, Anna, Mary, etc.)  and the music helped us focus on the birth of our Savior.  Afterward,  I invited Anderson to join our Christmas dinner and gratefully, she agreed to join us.

Back at Grandmom's house, we were surrounded by family, laughter, mouth-watering aromas, and beautiful decorations.   Grandmom prepared steak with mushroom gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, a plethora of desserts, and everyone ate their fill and then some!  As tradition commands, dinner was followed by the trip to the basement for the massive ripping of paper and squeals of delight as the UNwrapping of the gifts commences.

One of my favorite gifts was a photograph that Katie took of clear, sparkling water spilling over some rocks framed and matted in a simple black frame.  On the mat, Katie had written the following messagein her precise, careful handwriting :
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, 
"All is well, it is well with my soul."

Hate to say that I have a favorite gift when I truly loved them all, this one was the most meaningful.  Peace.  Peace like river.  Peace.  God's peace that surpasses understanding.  THAT's what I want. 
Scott shares the Legend of the Candy Cane with lots and lots of sugar-charged, super excited children!

Sam and Addie listen to the story and count down the minutes 'til PRESENTS!!!

I love seeing hands lifted in surrender to the Lord, especially when the hand belongs to our pastor.

Charlie, Lauren, Natalie, Addie, Chelcie, Drew, Courtney, Bennett, and Sam (what's up with his HANDS?!)

Special prayers being lifted up for Justin Jackson and his family as he prepares to leave for Afghanistan just after Christmas.  This brave, young man is one of my former third grade students...and one of my favorites!

Cousins Round 1 - Charlie, Courtney, Chelcie, and Drew

Sam and Addie in ADDIE'S matching PJs...Poor Sam, so much to be embarrassed about later in life.

How I love these people!!!!

Seriously?  NOT!  This one is totally staged!

Christmas Eve Eve

We made a happy birthday Jesus cake tonight.  Sam and Chelcie helped.  My house is a complete wreck, but that's only because it's always darkest before the dawn.  For my Christmas gift this year, Tom is getting things in order.  He painted Addie and Sam's room, organized the hall closet and is working his way through organizing their room as well.  Ricky left yesterday for North Carolina and will be back on Sunday.  It's sooo nice to have Chelcie AND Drew at home with no extras.  Ricky is nice to have around and has been helpful and relatively low maintenance, but I'd almost forgotten what it feels like to be "us," and it feels good.

This morning dawned dark and c-c-cold as nearly all nasty winter mornings do, but we managed to find light and warmth by helping out with the Empty Stocking Fund.  It was incredibly rewarding to see several of my former 8th graders involved in serving our community.  I stand by my Mission Unstoppable premise that young people can change the world and do anything they set their minds to do - good OR bad.  It's up to us to give them opportunities to serve.  I plan to come up with some kind of project for the Spring in which my Champions will learn what it feels like to give back.

Chelcie, Sam, Tom, and I assisted recipients choose gifts for their children - one age-appropriate toy per child, one "miscellaneous" item and a book per child.  The event was extremely well organized and I was impressed with the order and "festive" feel of the morning.  I couldn't help but keep an eye out for my students and especially Jack.  I'm sure many of their family members were there.

Afterward, we enjoyed a late breakfast at Panera Bread with steaming, creamy cups of hot chocolate and cinnamon crunch bagels.  It's hard to even imagine what it would be like to never sink my teeth into such a special treat.

I'd be failing myself if I did not mention the fantastic meeting I had yesterday with my new friends at the United Way.  It was an absolute pleasure to meet Marie Alcorn, the Director of Community Relations for the United Way - such a genuine and gracious lady!  I hope we can work together to bring our Reach Them dream a little closer to reality in the near future.

My life is incredibly blessed.  On this Christmas Eve Eve, I pause to thank God and reflect on the wonder of Christmas.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pictures of the Week

Drew is HOME!  YAY!!!!!

Colton made me an ornament for my tree.  A treasure forever!

Brittany's "Super Yummy" treat bowl!

Somebody's been stealing our birdseed!  Gotcha!

THIS is why I do NOT LIKE winter!!!!!  ANOTHER dreary, gray, cold day.  How many days 'til Spring Break?

Drew and Chelcie came to visit our Locker Room - Does it get any better than this?!

Special Rudolph cupcakes to enjoy together

Don't hate her because she's bee-you-tea-full (and so, so funny)!

My one specialty - M&M cookies!  I eat 'em by the pan-ful!

The cute one in the Nicaraguan t-shirt with braids is mine, all mine! 

It's nothin' but Ice, Ice, Baby!  Sunday night on Morrell Road by the mall.
Chelcie's "Cupcake Sandwich"

She samples her creation.

I think she got cupcake up her nose.
Chelcie teaches me how to create a "Cupcake Sandwich."  She's quite the culinary genius!

This is how my son prepares to take his shower.  You just never know when you need to swim around in the shower looking for pennies.

Sam takes a shower (with his goggles on)!

It Started with Stanley

A paper doll.  A geography/reading lesson.  A "creative" strategy.  Never would have predicted a miracle.

Meet Flat Stanley.  (picture to be added later)  Flat Stanley is a paper doll.  He is about 13 inches tall and  once detailed features are added, he can become anyone at all.  Meet Flat Maya.  Flat Maya was created by a student in my classroom and sent via Facebook post to a high school friend of mine.  Today I was witness to a miracle.

Story to follow...

Not long ago, our class created paper dolls to send out into the big, wide world.  Our plan being to send them out to exotic places - places we would likely never get to visit ourselves.  Then once our dolls came back to us, they'd share their stories of adventure and we would learn about all the places they visited...vicariously, of course.

Well this little Stanley-ette didn't leave Knoxville, but she certainly was a catalyst for a magnificent adventure...Here's what happened in as small a nutshell as this little squirrel can find.

L. is a champion in the making to be sure.  She has seven children in her family ranging in age from 3 to 15.  Five boys.  Two girls.  The oldest boy is in a wheelchair, but is of sound mind.  Their father is not able to be with them at this time due to his incarceration for reasons unknown and irrelevant to me.

My first conference with L.'s mother left me in awe and admiration of a strong woman with a lot of pride.  When I volunteered help, she looked away from me and said, "I have this pride thing..."  Let me step up on my soapbox for just a minute.  I need to vent.

First of all, who are "we" to think that we can ride in on white horses (pun intended) to "save" our poor, black neighbors (as long as they don't live next door, but on the other side of town)?!  Maybe it's me and the way I've been changed to see things differently, but "Blind Side" movie considered as well, how the heck would I feel if the roles were reversed?!  Yes, it makes us feel like we've done something to write a modest check, bag up some old, worn-out clothes, and take our time to haul it down to Goodwill...Look at me.  I did my "Christian" duty.  I helped the poor today.  Ugh!  What we actually did was clean out our closets and our garages or our basements to make room for new stuff for ourselves, by giving our old stuff to "them."  (See?  I'm finally learning why "them" can be an offensive pronoun.  Before, I had no clue).  Not that it doesn't help because it does, but at what price?  More stripping away of dignity and self-respect.  We should seriously look at tearing down walls and actually learning from each other.  Those of us who think we're in a position to help and teach, just might be surprised to find out that we can be helped too,  and we just might have a little something to learn. Okay, I'm climbing down now...

By all outward appearances, L.'s mother looked tired.  Other adjectives come to mind as well, but I am ashamed to admit they crossed my mind at the time.  She wore a housedress and houseshoes.  Her teeth were in need of some dental care.  But there was something about her eyes...they shined.  When she talked about her children, her eyes lit up and sparkled!  There were a couple of times during our conversation when her eyes actually filled with tears of pride, especially when she talked about L.  Apparently, L. is Momma #2 in the family.  She wakes herself up early to get her younger siblings fed, dressed, and ready for school.  She is a hard worker and is so, so eager to please.  L. is a fabulous judge of character and surprisingly will stand up for herself with force and determination.  (Once, a substitute threw a folder at her and she told him, "You ain't gonna throw nuthin' at me!"- for that, she got sent to the principal's office, but she went with her head held high).  I love this kid!

L.'s paper doll was sent to an elementary school friend of mine.  Ironically, we'd recently reconnected via Facebook!  Hope (more irony...or divine appointment?) has a daughter the same age as L. and thought it might be a fun thing to take part in our project as a family.  Flat Maya, as L. had named her, went off to Hope's house the first week of November.  She rode horses and attended plays.  She visited a private school and made new friends, but one of the most interesting things that happened occurred on a trip to the dentist's office.

As Hope waited in the reception area, she shared the story of the fun they'd had with Flat Maya.  The receptionist and Hope struck up a conversation and as Hope shared what little she knew of L.'s life, the receptionist's eyes filled with tears and she grabbed Hope by the hand and explained.  Three years prior, she had found herself in very similar circumstances.  Single mom.  No job.  No money for Christmas.  Too much pride to beg...Desperation and despair had taken over.  One night, she arrived home to find a fully decorated Christmas tree on her front porch complete with presents below for herself and her children.  She'd been keeping the tree "for such a time as this" in the hope (?) that someday she would be able to pass along the tree and her story with someone else who could keep the tradition alive.  When you get on your feet, pass the tree on to another...

Well, needless to say, that special tree ended up in L.'s family room complete with presents for the entire family (and then some)!

Fast forward to the day before Christmas break.  Chelcie and Drew stayed after school with me to help load L.'s mother's car with a plethora of gifts, gift cards and cash.  I handed her mother a business card that contained a quote from John C. Maxwell.  “If we do not INTENTIONALLY ADD value to others, we probably UNINTENTIONALLY SUBTRACT from them.” My prayer is that she will continue to add value to the lives of her children and everyone with whom she comes in contact.  I know she's added value to my life.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Man Named Charles- and two pieces of chicken

What kind of Crazy Love kinda life is this I'm leading? Even I know that rejoicing in times of struggle is unusual and yet I'm finding myself finding joy all around me. Seriously. Me. Griping, complaining, embarrassed, humiliated, broken me. My flesh says that our financial struggles are an embarrassment. My kids deserve to "have it all." They really do. All four of them are leading lives that draw people to them. They want to help others and serve God. Well, Sam, not so much, but he would help someone in need if he could. He always begs to put a dollar in the kettle when we pass one. He loves to feed the homeless. I take that back- Sam too! Well today I had another "chance encounter" that left me wondering if God Himself is stalking me.

There I was, minding my own business cruising Food City with a shopping cart full of "must-haves" for dinner plus and impulse purchase or two. Reindeer cupcake toppers, cinnamon bread for Sam, bananas, apples, etc. when I'm approached by an elderly black man dressed in shabby, but warm clothes and a ball cap. As he walks toward me he says, "Don't be mad at me. Please don't yell at me. I don't want money, I don't want money." To say I was taken off guard would be an understatement. Again, I felt that same sort of "shock" I felt earlier this week when I met that little angel. Could this guy be an angel as well??

I told him I was not going to be mad at him and how could I help. He went on to explain that he was from Lenoir City and someone was coming to pick him up. He'd just stepped into the store to get out of the cold. He shared that he has just been discharged from the hospital (he showed me his hospital bracelet still around his wrist as proof) because he has Type II diabetes. He wanted me to buy him two pieces of chicken. Two pieces of chicken??? Seriously? (My mind flashed back to the minutes before I left the house...I knew I had gone back to get the $10 in cash I'd stashed in my jacket pocket for a reason, I just didn't know WHY - now I did. The man explained that the special deal was $2.75, so I handed him $3 and asked if he would do something for me. He said he would. I asked him if he would help out someone else when he found himself in a position to do so, and he nodded his head and said, "Yes, ma'am, yes, ma'am, I'll do that." Off he went.

My bewildered self was left to relive the moment. I handed him money, but I never touched him. I didn't call him by his name. I never validated him as a human being. This wasn't over...Oh God, this is so out of my comfort zone. Can't it just be about the money? Didn't I do what I was supposed to do? Not according to God . I felt I needed to sit down and talk to him while he ate, but I argued with myself. Maybe he didn't even get chicken. Maybe his ride came to pick him up. Maybe he wants to be alone. And the real argument, maybe I'll cry for him. Or for me. I didn't even know, but I had to act.

I called Tom and Drew who were on their way to pick me up and told them to come in when the got to the store. They did, but it was before I made it over to the deli counter where I'd seen the man purchasing his two pieces of chicken. Oh well, no time, right? Too late, right? Let's get out of here...Tom and Drew bagged up the groceries and headed to the car with them. Rain? More rain? I asked them to pick me up from the sidewalk because I didn't want to run out in the rain. Bad idea. More moments alone with God...

Go. Now. Go. Don't regret the things you DIDN'T do...NOW! I went. As I approached him, I asked him how he liked his chicken. He told me it was good. I noticed he didn't have any vegetables, so I asked him about the meal deal. He said he didn't have enough to get the vegetables, but it was okay because the chicken was good. What kind of vegetables would you like? Mashed potatoes and gravy and green beans. You got it. When I took the food to him, I asked him his name. "My name is Charles" he told me. "Charles, I'm Amy." "It's good to meet you Miss Amy!" "You too, Charles. I hope you have a Merry Christmas!" So, tonight, I'm thinking of Charles. Merry Christmas, Angel Charles, wherever you are.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Angels, Cheerleaders, and Hammers

After an unexpected four day weekend, I dragged my spoiled rotten, freezing cold body out from under my toasty warm covers at an absolutely obscene hour to head across town to see what remains of my Locker Room. Surprisingly, I found my "home away from home" to be pleasantly warm, rather welcoming, and smelling like Christmas (thanks to Plug-Ins)! Once I plugged in my two mini Christmas trees and string of peppermint lights, the effect was quite festive.

I immediately warmed up my belly with my new winter addiction - Maple and Brown Sugar Quaker Oatmeal. Mmmm, that is some good stuff! Again, I was unexpectedly surprised to find myself excited about greeting my Champions. In fact, I almost ran down our front porch ramp to bring them "home." Good times. Definitely good times.

Everyday begins with a challenging DOL (probably the most academically productive activity we undertake each day), pledge, mission statement, and announcements. Off to Music today with a little hallway math (Start with the number in a half dozen and multiply by 6, subtract the number of hands you have, and divide by 2).

This was one of the days at school that turned up with unexpected surprises. Surprise #1 - I met an angel today. She probably disappeared immediately after her contact with me. As I walked down the hall to pick up my Champions, a little girl with sparkling brown eyes, gorgeous Halle Berry skin, and two bouncy braids looked me right in the eye - wait, she didn't look me in the eye, she looked straight into my soul so much so that I actually felt a little shock. Anyway, with a voice like an angel she said, "Well, good morning! How are YOU today?" I think it was in the way she emphasized the word "YOU" that let me know that she was sent to me by God Himself. I don't care what anybody says, or how simple this encounter seems to my current reader, but that little 5 year old girl WAS an angel sent by the Creator of the universe because He loves me and wants me to know He sees me right where I am!

Angels I have heard fer shure!

Here's another crazy experience from today. I was on my way to school in the dark, freezing cold weather trying to remind myself to be THANKFUL that I have a car with a heater that works (hasn't always been that way) and that pesky calling that keeps forcing me to do things that just don't make sense (like leave WVMS and teach at SMG), when my phone alerts me to a text message from none other than Miss Brittany! In my mind I'm thinkin' "What the HECK are you doin' up at 7:30 on a dreary, DARK, EARLY morning when you don't have to be?!" Then I read her text. Here it is in it's entirety:

Brittany (B): Good morning!! I don't have practice until 11, so I'd love to come see the Champions this morning for a lil bit!!!
Me: C'mon girl! We'd love to see you
B: Yay! I have to return my books at 8:30 so I'll head to the Locker Room after that! (Smiley face)
Me: They will be back from music @ 9 so that works great
B: Okie dokie perfect!

Of course she showed up right on time and brought along with her some homemade treats (peanut butter balls and puppy chow in a specially hand-painted bowl "Merry! Merry! with snowflakes painted all around). After school I texted her my thanks.

Me: Yummy treats. Thanks for sharing! We need some choreography.
B: Ohh goody!! I can definitely help w/ that (smiley) & glad the treats were yummy, wanted to bring some fuel for the Champions! (smiley)

God is going to use that girl in a very powerful way! What am I saying?! He ALREADY is!

I want to be a tool in the hand of the Master Carpenter. God, use me too. Show me, and prepare me to SEE and ACT! No fear. No doubts. Know God.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A New Beginning (again)

I'm really going to do it now. Really. I've taken a year off from my family blog and given the number of stalkers out there who enjoy reading about my very exciting life, I feel I owe it to them...and to my family. Especially Chelcie who has recently begun a blog of her own. So...again, I play my mulligan. I use my "do over." I turn over a new leaf and try again to document the journey of my crazy life with my nutty husband and unique progeny.

Rather than try to go back in time and recapture the past year, I'll start fresh. With just today. Our second snow day of the 2010-2011 school year. Snow before Christmas? It just doesn't happen here. But it did. Just goes to show ya that we don't call the shots here. We can make our plans, but God trumps EVERYTHING. He can change "our" plans without warning. That's the kind of God He is. All powerful. All knowing. All amazing. All the time.

I'm determined that NOTHING is going to steal my joy this year. Yes, there's almost insurmountable debt. Yes, the economy has had a huge impact on Tom's real estate business, especially of late. The last thing in the world either of us wants to do is tell our children that Christmas will not bring "everything your heart desires." God will. Maybe there's a lesson in that. Maybe pinning all your hopes on someone else to fulfill your dreams means that you put your hope in that person rather than the one, true Savior of the world.

SO...for that reason. We will turn our eyes upward, rather than outward. "Stuff weighs you down," courtesy of my afternoon drive time buddy, Phil Williams on NewsTalk 98.7. Thanks for the reminder, Phil. I was liking my stuff too much.

Let's close this post with ten of "Amy's Favorite Things" - with my apologies to Oprah...the "Queen of Favorite Things."

1. The freedom to openly love my God, His Son and my Savior, Jesus Christ
2. My husband who has managed to put up with my antics for over 24 years. (I'll resist the urge to mention his...kinda.)
3. Four of the most beautiful, intelligent, loving, thoughtful children ever created.
4. Friends who have my back, no matter what. The list is short, but oh, so deep.
5. A job with an opportunity to make a difference in the world. A chance to impact the future. A calling, really.
6. A crackling fireplace, warm blankets, food in my belly, and clothes on my body.
7. A sense of humor that can never be underestimated. When I can no longer laugh, I may as well die. Opportunities to laugh are everywhere. Sometimes we have to look to find them.
8. An education. No one can ever steal my treasure in my head. I can read. I can use words to create a picture in the mind of my reader, even if my "reader" is only myself. I can think, problem solve, and reason.
9. My extended family. In spite of our eccentricities, we love each other deeply. Our love has never been tested in that we've had no family crisis that has forced us together. Maybe because we haven't needed one. We love each other. Now and always.
10. I have a reason to get myself out of bed in the morning. Many people do not. Oh God, I pray for those divine appointments to be set before me, and I pray for Your eyes through which to see them so there's never a doubt that they were set by You. Let me, equip me, enable me, and empower me to seize the opportunities each new day brings.

It is with anxious anticipation of what tomorrow holds in store for me, that I bring this "fresh" post to a close. Funny, unless you count the fireplace, my list of "favorite things" doesn't include a single thing that could "weigh me down." Cool. I really need to do this more often. Go before me, Lord. Set it up. You've gotten me ready.