Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Grateful #31

I'm most grateful for my family.
From left to right: the Pretty Girl, AmyDubDub, the Little Friend, Mr. Dub (a.k.a. the Hunka' Burnin' Love) the Little Prince, and the Little Biggie.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Grateful #30

In these uncertain times, I am oh so grateful that Mr. Dub has a job.

I'm grateful that it's a good job. I'm grateful that he has the education and skills needed to do his job. I'm grateful that he's the kind of husband who is willing to go to work and work hard at his job.

I'm grateful that Mr. Dub provides for our family.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Grateful #29

I'm grateful for the public library. Books, magazines, movies, internet, activities for the kiddies, exhibits, reference librarians who will help you with all things literary.

The world at your fingertips.

All for free.*

*Well, free for people who take their stuff back on time. I owe the library something like seven dollars in late fees right now. But they don't hassle me about it all. They don't. They trust that I'll get to it eventually. They understand. I'm grateful for that.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Grateful #28

Pansy P. Petunia, by Ken Nesbitt

I'm Pansy P. Petunia and I never take a shower.
There isn't any need because I smell just like a flower.
My breath smells like forget-me-nots.
My burps smell like impatiens.
My armpits smell like daisies
And my feet smell like carnations.
And what is most impressive,
And should tickle many noses,
Is if I ever "cut the cheese"
It makes me smell like roses.
But maybe I'm mistaken and could use a bath today,
'Cause everyone who smells me holds their nose and runs away!

This poem isn't very sophisticated but it made me laugh. Petunias do stink - I remember my mom used to plant petunias in our front flower bed and I always thought they were so pretty, but they definitely don't have a pretty scent.

Petunias are homey and cheerful. Petunias could never be ostentatious or solemn. I like the way their sweet, ruffly petals flutter in the breeze.

I love seeing my pink petunias every time I drive up to our house. They make our home look friendly. I'm grateful for spring flowers.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Grateful #27

This is one of my most favorite pictures ever and I stole it from my mother - it's my brother Mark. See how adorable and sweet his little mouth was when he tried not to smile? See how that one side curved up a bit? It's a wonder we didn't eat him up when he was little.

Happy Birthday Mark!

Mark is my baby brother, even though he's not a baby anymore. I've known Mark all his life, but I don't always "get" him, and whenever he says or does something that is a little (or a lot) mysterious or deep I remember this precious little boy that I know is still there inside my now quite manly brother. Mark has many fine and manly qualities.

I wish you a very happy day, Mark. I'm grateful you're my brother.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Grateful #26

I like Thursday. Thursday is my favorite day of the week. There are lots of reasons why, and some of them are pretty silly, but I'll make a short list.

Reasons why Thursday is AmyDubDub's favorite day of the week:
  • It feels better than Wednesday's "hump day". I can't really appreciate being halfway done, I like nearly done much better. Nearly done is much more satisfying.
  • I am supposed to babysit every Thursday so I never plan or schedule anything important or hard to do on a Thursday.
  • I hardly ever actually do babysit on Thursdays. That means it is nearly always a free day for me to do whatever I please.
  • Or not do whatever I don't please.

And finally,

  • Thursdays just seem to suit me. For no special reason at all. I feel good on Thursday.

I'm grateful for Thursdays. What day do you like?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Grateful #25

Romans 8:38-39:
"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

When life seems overwhelming and I'm feeling stormy and tossed inside, I'm grateful that I'm not separated from the love of God.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Grateful #24

Some of you may know that I'm not a gadgety-type person. Mostly I think gadgets junk up cabinets, drawers, counters, and so forth. Sometimes gadgets work, and sometimes they don't, and you never know till you try them (which of course means you have to buy it first). I'd rather keep my money and figure out a way to use something I already own to do whatever job is at hand. I prefer to get along without whatever is the latest and greatest.

Alton Brown says you should never have a tool in your kitchen that does only one thing execpt for a fire-extinguisher. Your cooking tools should be multi-functional. I really like that because it means less junk in my kitchen drawers. I hate clutter and strive to rid my home of it at every opportunity. If I'm not sure if I'll ever need something again, or if it's broken or stained, or missing some vital part, or just because I'm sick of the way it looks or works, I generally toss it. I rarely, rarely miss the stuff I've thrown away.

It's liberating, it's freeing, it's illuminating. I love getting rid of stuff.

So my Good Friend D gave me the Magic Chopper for Christmas as a gag gift. (It's a gag because I hate clutter and gadgets, get it?) I'm trying something new in my duties as chief cook and bottle-washer for the Dubs and the new thing (I'll tell you all about it after a few trial runs) requires the chopping of lots and LOTS of vegetables at once. I dragged out my Magic Chopper and you know what?

The thing works. Like a charm. It's saved me tons of time and probably a blister and possibly some cuts and nicks from my knife. (oh if only it would also make breadcrumbs or something!)

Thanks again, D! I'm grateful.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Grateful #23

These fun people are part of our church family. K is the cubmaster for the cub scout den that my Little Friend belongs to and L is his wife. Their daughter is in my seminary class.

My grandparents have known K since he was a kid growing up in San Diego, California. That's weird to me. It's also a little comforting. I'm glad that there are all these connections in the church - connections that span generations.

I'm telling you, L is one smart cookie. She is so different from me, and is interested in all kinds of things that I've never thought twice about. For example, L is the kind of person who drives to the state capital and has meetings with our state representatives and senators about issues that confront our society and has no qualms, misgivings, or fears about letting her opinions and preferences be known.

(I could never do that. I'd be too worried about tripping over my own feet and making an even bigger fool of myself. In the state capital building of all places. Where all the movers and shakers are. And besides, it's a long drive. The most politically active I ever got, other than simply showing up to vote, was one time going to the party after the polls closed. I think it's called a precinct caucus? It was interesting but...)

L goes to the state capital all the time, and she takes her kids with her, and now her kids are also interested and involved in the political process.

L is a writer. She's written books. She's written short stories. She's written magazine and newspaper articles about various topics.

L and K have a huge dog named Samson. I think he's scary. But she and her family love this dog. They call him Sammy. It's cute, isn't it? That this huge, scary dog has such a sweet and mild nickname?

Political people. Writers. Dog lovers. What an interesting world it is! I'm grateful for that.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Grateful #22

There is oppostion in all things, right? And so the crummy days are there in order that the happy, sunshiney days feel even more glorious, right?

Today's crummy. Because of everything and most especially for no particular reason at all.

I'm grateful that there's always tomorrow.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Grateful #21

Happy Birthday Christy!

I hope your day is filled with sunshine, happiness, and surprises.

I'm grateful that you were born, my little sister.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Grateful #20

Yesterday Mr. Dub uttered those three little words I love to hear: "Amy was right."

It was music to my ears, I'm telling you.

All kidding aside, Mr. Dub is perfect for me. I love him. I looooovvvve Mr. Dub. That he puts up with me at all is a miracle. That he loves me back without reservation is a blessing beyond what I deserve.

I'm grateful for him.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Grateful #19

This is the fog picture from yesterday, cleaned up by my tech-savvy brother Mark. I have no idea how he did it, and more is changed than just the trash cans. (It makes me think of those games from puzzle magazines where you have to find the differences between two seemingly identical pictures.)

I don't know how he did it, it's true, but I do know Mark wasn't born knowing it. That means I can learn it too. I hope that the learning curve is not steep and that it doesn't make me crazy as I try to figure it out.

"I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught." ~Winston Churchill

I'm grateful that I can learn. And I'm grateful for brilliant people who invent cool stuff for us to learn.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Grateful #18

It's been foggy in the mornings for the past few days. I like fog. It lends a secret, anonymous quality to normal, everyday sights. I wish it hadn't been trash day when I took this picture, but the fog has even softened the edges of an ordinary blue trash barrel.

Fog makes me feel kind of sneaky. I like that.

I'm grateful for a little mystery now and then.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Grateful #17

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everybody!

Here's an equation I'm grateful for today:

1 (girl) + 3 (boys) = 0 (cavities in their teeth)

We've successfully completed a happy series of visits with the dentist. If you could see me right now, you'd find out that I rock a totally swingin' happy dance.

I guess you should be grateful I don't have my webcam on.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Grateful #16

I'm grateful for my faith and my Church.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Grateful #15

I'm grateful for signs of spring.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Grateful #14

I spent Friday night in a hotel with some girlfriends. I had a wonderful time and I'm so glad I got to go along with them.

But I'm grateful to be back at home, in my own bed.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Grateful #13

Here's a good shot of Gram and her handsome, loving husband. My grand-dad is an awesome person - so fun and interesting. I'm grateful that they had one another.

Making Do, part 4 (remember that I wrote this a few years ago):

Gram lives far away from us again. She is eighty years old. She is now tiny and frail, but her spirit is larger than life. She tells me sometimes that she is ready to die, ready to meet God. She talks a lot about her childhood, her family, and her old friends. I wonder if she is telling me without saying so that I must not forget her parents and grandparents. She tells me about her faith, how it is stronger than ever, that I must not ever give up in my walk with God. She tells me that life is hard sometimes, but things always come right in the end, that the answers don’t come before I’ve asked the questions. She tells me about the people in her life, her neighbors and church friends, how she loves them, how kindly they treat her. Gram shows me her latest craft project and tells me again to take all of her yarn when she dies. I promise to remember that she taught me how to knit and remind her how much fun we’ve had learning new ways to make an afghan out of leftover bits of yarn. I tell Gram that someday I’ll teach my own granddaughter how to love the feeling of making something beautiful out of what you have on hand. I try to show her that I’ve listened to her wisdom and that I love her. I try to show her that I’ve learned how to make do.

It's been hard on me the last year, trying to get along without Gram. I'll think of something I want to tell her, or make something I want to show her, and then I'll remember she's gone and it will feel like I just lost her all over again.

I think it's been hard on the whole family. Family, I'm grateful for all of you.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Grateful #12

Gram was a hoot. I loved that about her. I'm grateful for Gram's sense of humor; I'm grateful that I know that funny is important.

Making Do, Part 3:

I grew up and started my own family. Gram came to visit, at first, while our grandfather’s health was still good. She told my children of her own childhood. During the depression she lived with her parents, her aunt and uncle, and her grandmother. Gram called her grandmother Ma, and Ma was a dynamo. Ma took care of Gram when she was a little girl because her mother worked. Ma was busy with her church and always looking for ways to help other people. Gram went along with Ma as she did her church work, learning how to be charitable and how to love the people she served. We learned that Ma never threw anything away before it was remade into something else. The worn out centers of sheets were thrown away while the still useful edges were made into handkerchiefs. Tattered blankets were given another life when covered with new fabric and re-quilted. Leftover food was never discarded. It was served again, and then again, until there was nothing left. Wasting food was a sin, right up there with adultery and murder. Whatever you needed was fashioned from materials at hand. You made your own clothes. You made your own bread. You made your own toys. You made do. “How do you make do?” my daughter asked. We laughed, but we know she will learn.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Grateful #11

Here's a pic of Gram with her brother Bruce. I don't think they look too much alike but I see Uncle Bruce's face in many of Gram's descendants so there must be some resemblance there.

I miss you Gram. I'm grateful that I knew you.

Making Do, Part 2:

Everyone who lived in Gram’s house had his or her own room. Even Gram. She had a regular bedroom with our Grandfather, but also a little room that was richly cluttered with the things that represent all femininity. She called this bright and cheery space her sewing room, but none of us had ever seen her sew. It had a door to the outside. This door must have been the front entrance of the house, but no one had ever been known to go in or out of this way. Everybody always used the back door.

Aunt Michele had a door in her room that lead right into the bathroom. Everything about Michele’s room amazed me. She had her own closet, her own dressing table. This seemed to be the ultimate luxury. She is only a few years older than I, and seemed to possess everything I could ever want. Her room was trendy and beautiful. Gram decorated it herself.

Uncle Jeff had his own room too. He had a radio all to himself, his own bathroom, and his own back door. These things amazed me.

Gram moved out of her house to live closer to us when I was entering adolescence. Along with my grandfather and my aunt, she moved into a tiny duplex that held no secrets, no surprises, only strangers who lived right next door. When we visited we could hear their sounds.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Grateful #10

This is my Gram. (She's got my cousin's kids on her lap. They're cute little dumplings, aren't they?) Tomorrow, March 11, is the one-year anniversary of Gram's death. I still miss her so much. I know my grand-dad misses her so much. My mind and my heart are full this week, remembering and missing Gram.

I'm grateful that I had such a grandmother.

A few years ago I wrote a paper about Gram. It's about the things I remember about Gram from the time I was a little girl and on throughout my life. I got an A on the paper, and when I showed it to her Gram made all sorts of proud and approving comments. She asked me to give her a copy of it and I think she kept it. I don't know for a fact that she kept it, but in my mind, she kept it. In my mind she treasured it.

Reading over it again now, years later, I realize that I used the word "amazing" far too often. (I must have been channeling Katie Holmes at the time. Think back - remember when we had no idea who Katie Holmes was? Wasn't it nice? Wasn't it amazing?)

In remembrance of my Gram, I am posting the paper in parts over the next couple of days. Here's part 1:

Making Do

Gram’s house was so far away that it took more than one day to get there. We drove there for the Christmas holidays and summer vacations. I spent the many hours in the car with my parents, my brothers and sisters. We fought, we played games, and we looked out the window at the desert landscape. My mom always bought us comic books to read on the way, and looking back I can tell that she tried to make the time pass quickly for us. The last and most exciting part of the trip was a long driveway that curved up the steep side of a canyon. Gram’s house sat at the top; it was big like Gram was, and held many undisclosed treasures.

The first thing you saw coming up the drive was the door to Uncle Bob’s room. This room was separate from the house; it was right off the garage. How could a boy have his own room, a room not under the same roof as his parents? The garage and sheds were my grandfather’s domain. The big white Oldsmobile was there. Gram would take us for a ride in her car later. The back seat was big enough to hold all five of us kids, an amazing fact. In Gram’s yard there were flower gardens, towering pines, and lovely green lawns. She had a honeysuckle vine growing over the fence. Aunt Michele and I would pick the blossoms and suck out nectar like we did every summer. It was a beautiful place, and around the back I knew that there was a space to look into the darkness under the house. My siblings and I would be rediscovering that marvel before our visit was through. We had heard that skunks and other small animals sometimes hid under there and we scared ourselves as we wondered what we would see.

Inside Gram’s house it was dark and mysterious. There were innumerable drawers and cabinets paneled in dark wood. In Gram’s pantry there were space food sticks. She’d give us as many of the these sweet and chewy treats as we wanted, one at a time, and we’d look at the moon and speculate whether or not they were also being eaten by astronauts on the moon at that very moment.

Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Grateful #9

See that chin dimple? It doesn't get any better than that.

That is some kind of sweet face, don't you think?

I'm grateful for this face.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Grateful #8

I'm a night person.

I'm a night person who gets up at 4 am 5 days a week.

I'm grateful for naps.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Grateful #7

Yesterday I had an unexpected opportunity to work in the Bishop's Storehouse for a few hours.

I hitched a ride to the storehouse with our bishop and his wife. When we arrived it was a nice surprise to find some old and beloved friends already there. We filled orders for frozen meats and refrigerated dairy products and fresh produce. (It was super nice and cool and easy and sociable work in the freezer and refrigerator. The men that were there loaded the packed boxes onto trucks - since this month is all about gratitude on AmyDubDub I'll say that I'm grateful I'm not a heavy-lifting, truck-loading man.)

What an amazing set-up we have in the Church! I'm so grateful that such beautiful and well-cared-for food is available for families who need help. I'm very grateful for awesome friends and associates who let me help.

I love these people and I'm grateful to have them in my life.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Grateful #6

Have you seen this Relief Society video by Dieter F. Uchtdorf called "Create"? It's short but powerful:


I'm grateful for the opportunities I have to be creative.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Grateful #5

Streusel-topped Muffins

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cooking oil
1 recipe Streusel Topping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease twelve 2 1/2" muffin cups or line with paper bake cups; set aside. In a medium bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in center of mixture; set aside.
In another bowl combine beaten egg, milk, and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Stir just until combined (batter should be lumpy).
Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each two-thirds full. Sprinkle Streusel Topping over muffin batter in cups. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden and a wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in muffin cups 5 minutes. Remove from pan; serve warm.

Streusel Topping
In a small bowl stir together 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour, 3 tbsp. packed brown sugar, and 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon. Cut in 2 tbsp. butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 2 tbsp. chopped pecans or walnuts.

A warm muffin topped with cinnamon-y, crispy, nutty, sweet crunchiness? I'm grateful.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Grateful #4

In the fall of 2003 Cy-Fair College opened its doors for the first time. It's located approximately 4 miles away from our house. Fall of 2003 also marked a huge milestone in my personal life; I would finally have all of my kids in school.

That school being built right up the road from my house? At the precise moment in time when I would finally have some free time during the day? I'm telling you, it was like a message from the universe. The universe was telling me to get myself in school.

I had always planned and plotted that I would go back to school when the Little Ones were in school. But as the time began to get closer and closer I became nervous and unsure of myself. Was I smart enough? Was I able to juggle homework and class time and kids? What if the kids got sick? Would I end up dropping out after one semester? Was it wasteful and selfish to spend the money Mr. Dub works so hard to bring home on expenses like tuition and textbooks? Would people expect to me to be some high-powered, ambitious career woman if I somehow managed to graduate? Would I be a failure all my life?

(Do you ever wish that the voices in your head would just shut up?)

Anyway, I acted my age, pretended to be smart and self-assured, and got myself enrolled in some classes. And I LOVED IT. I kept going back every semester, and lo and behold, I graduated. It took 5 years. I didn't try to rush through because after all, it wasn't a race. But I did a little bit every semester and eventually I succeeded and I graduated. With a 4.0 GPA. Summa cum laude.

It was hard. Sometimes the material was difficult for me to learn and remember. Sometimes the kids got sick and I missed class. A couple of my professors were crummy and so sometimes I didn't want to go to class. Sometimes I worried about spending the money. Sometimes I was tempted to quit. Sometimes I juggled parenting, homemaking, and homework. Some people did expect me to get a job and make something "important" of myself and my education.

But I learned something in college. Something about myself. Here it is: I am smart enough.

And for that I am grateful.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Grateful #3

I like trees. Trees are nice. I'm a fan of trees.

In the Coastal Plain of the United States we have a lot of trees.

In our own yard we have trees: two live oaks, a pine, and several crape myrtles. Everyone in my neighborhood has live oaks and pines in their yards. Live oaks and pines are ubiquitous in our little corner of the world. (Isn't "ubiquitous" an awesome word?)

Did you ever hear this poem when you were a child?

by Alfred Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Oh yes, I am grateful for trees.

And particularly right now, in the springtime, when all the live oaks and pines are pollinating, I'm especially grateful for this:

Monday, March 2, 2009

Grateful #2

Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.
~ Arnold Lobel

I'm grateful I was taught to read and appreciate books. I don't know what a person does who isn't a reader of books and I have no idea how to relate to them.

I love everything about books. There are books in every room in my house. (Except the bathrooms. I would never besmirch a book by taking it in there - that's what magazines are for.)

I love how a new book smells and looks, and I love how it feels in my hands. I love the anticipation and promise a new book offers - I read for escape, for entertainment, for knowledge, for insight, for education, and for the simple pleasure that the act of reading gives me. Nothing makes me so furious as when I finally get my hands on a much-anticipated new book and it turns out to be a complete dud.

I love old books too, and enjoy reading my favorites again and again. They are like old friends: comfortable, proven, and satisfying.

I'm grateful for books.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Grateful #1

This is a photo of my fence. The backyard fence on the west side. This fence blew down during Hurricane Ike last September. I remember looking out the window in the middle of the night during the hurricane and being able to see, in intermittent flashes of lightning, directly into our neighbor's yard.

I remember thinking, "Hmmmm... that's not good."

Our poor neighbor. The next morning when we went out to assess the damage our neighbor's roof was, along with the fence, all over our backyard. And a goodly portion of his huge Bradford Pear tree was all over our front yard.

Anyway, the fence blew down. The fence posts broke at ground level and whole sections were flat on the ground. It stayed down for quite a long time. First we were so overwhelmed at the devastation and all the work ahead of us. Then it was hard to get the necessary materials because, well, every other fence in the Greater Houston area was blown down.

I am grateful that the fence is now fixed. I'm grateful that our friend J came over to help me repair it. I'm grateful that he brought all his power tools with him. Because if he hadn't come, and he hadn't brought his tools, then it would have been me and my Little Prince out there with a hand saw and a hammer. You can't understand what a blessing a nail gun is until you are looking at 30 feet of fence with, oh I don't know, maybe 100 fence pickets, with six nails in each and every one. (And I'd already pulled all the old nails out of the approximately 100 pickets so we could reuse the pickets.) We'd probably still be out there hammering. But we're not.

And for that I'm grateful.

This is Hurricane Ike. See how it filled the whole Gulf?