Eclectic, quirky, and sometimes edgy…this is how things look from my front porch.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bargain of the Day

I am a voracious reader. I used to just buy whatever I wanted, never considering the library, reading a review, getting recommendations from friends or finding a cheaper way to buy new.

The result was that by last year, I was drowning in books. I actually threw some away. The same thing with magazines. Half the time, I wasn't so crazy about the books, which I bought on impulse. I've wised up.

My local Starbucks has a big wicker basket to exchange books. I've picked up a few and dropped off plenty of books and magazines. I borrow books from friends or my mother and sister. I get recommendations before I buy a book. I particularly like to buy books my blog girls recommend.

Yesterday, I decided to add two books to my wish list on Amazon: Housekeepinng and The School of Essential Ingredients. That way I don't forget about them, have time to consider them and family members can look there if they need a gift idea.

I noticed that Amazon has a charge card with incentives, no annual fee. Bruce and I have been using credit to our advantage, by picking a credit card with cash back or other perks. My husband uses one from a favorite store and it pays for his shoes and cowboy boots. We charge EVERYTHING and then issue a draft from our checking account the same day, paying it back.

I decided to get the Amazon card so I could start getting credits to spend there. Why should Bruce have all the fun? Imagine my surprise when I saw a message on the screen saying that I had received an immediate credit which paid for my wish list books with just sixteen cents for me to pay. The shipping was free, with orders of $25 or above. The costs are vastly reduced from the bookstore. You can also order used books for a very reasonable price.

I still do use the library, but also like to have my own books. This is a very cheap way of doing it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Speak to the Hand

They're six and nine. Piper and Jaime are acting so grown up in these shots I feel like they should be applying for their learner's permits!

Christmas Trip to Richmond

Piper, Bruce and I drove up to Richmond for a trip to the Carytown neighborhood. We went to a few very interesting stores. One store sold only spices. The next sold only beads. Our final stop was 10,000 Villages, which sells fair-trade goods from all over the world.

Radio Flyer

Back before Christmas, Bruce and I took a drive up to Richmond, VA via a back road. I love old-timey back roads. On the way, we stopped at a huge antique mall and picked up this fun miniature Radio Flyer wagon. I used it on the porch with old-fashioned toys for Christmas. Now it holds my potholders and kitchen towels.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Unexamined Life

One of the best things about leaving the working world, which I discussed in my last post, is having the time and space to critically think about how we live. These days, with the economy so uncertain, a critical examination of our lives is crucial.

I guess I must drive my husband crazy with my musings about things. For instance, lately here when he says he enjoys an activity or something I've cooked, I ask him why. There's a method to my madness. In these days of scarce resources, I want to critically consider why I do what I do and what things bring joy and contentment for what reasons.

Because we are on a tighter budget, we're doing a lot fewer things that I used to think I really liked to do. Yet my contentment level is much higher. The Bible talks about being content with what you have. "Godliness with contentment is great gain," the Pauline Epistles say. I only say Pauline Epistles cause it sounds so smart and because I'm too lazy to look up where in the New Testament Paul said that.

I've finally figured out that the reason we were running here and there, eating out all the time and buying things we didn't really need was because of tension. The house was disorganized, my job brought enormous tension into our lives and instead of facing that, we escaped from it.

Nearly a year after quitting my work outside the home, our house is well-organized. I don't over-buy groceries because I forgot we had stewed tomatoes or couldn't see them. I only buy extra now when things are on sale at a great price. I store them in the deep freeze or in the basement. I don't go out and buy new clothes, I use what I have and get creative with accessories. I don't misplace bills and then stress out about whether they got paid on time.

We don't go out to dinner all the time because I plan our meals. I have time to cook them now. Our meals are far lower in fat and empty carbohydrates. I can include all the vegetables we like and the Food Pyramid encourages.

I set our dining room table with beautiful china I've been given or inherited. Why use the every day stuff all the time? I have time to wash it by hand. We put on music. Our meal times are relaxing and we want to eat at home.

We used to eat at IHOP on the weekends. Was that because I love IHOP particularly? No. I like the luxury of having someone else make breakfast. I'm not a great breakfast cooker. I actually disliked part of going to IHOP. I hate tea with microwaved hot water. I actually found out why from Martha Stewart. Microwaved water isn't aerated with oxygen like boiled water. How freakin' picky am I? I like Earl Gray tea, I like half and half, and I want a certain sized cup.

What do we do now? On Saturday and Sunday, Bruce cooks breakfast. He has a very limited cooking repertoire, but he is the King of the perfect egg sandwich on whole-grain bread. He also knows how to make my tea perfectly. He slices the oranges thinly, lets me sleep in, and brings it all to me in bed. We snuggle with the dogs and watch the morning news. No cigarette smoke blowing over from the smoking section. No noise and cussing from the kitchen. Well, usually. Total cost at home: fairly negligible, because we often make the bread. Total cost per weekend in the old days at IHOP? About $40.

Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. The unexamined life is also expensive.

I spend money on some things that true frugal zealots would cringe at. I go to Starbucks and I enjoy it. However, I've considered why I enjoy it. I love the music, the decor, the quiet, the smell, the comfy chairs. I really dig their vente, three-equal, sugar-free vanilla lattes. I know I can make coffee much more cheaply at home, but I don't like it nearly as well. I love to do my Bible studies there without thinking that I should get the clothes out of the washer and hang them Bruce and I like to meet there as he exits the tunnel coming home from work and have a little date.
I make Starbucks fit into our budget because it is a lot of luxury for me at a minimal cost. There is a bang for my buck. Having critically considered that, I also charged up a Starbucks card that gave me a discount on each latte. Starbucks then introduced a premium card with an annual fee. I got one of their promotional cards for this plan free for a year because I am pleasant to the staff and they used their promotion dollars on me. Now I get my drinks even cheaper.

Our family knows that we adore Starbucks and so we get gift cards. We organized all our drawers, cleaned out our wallets and found gift cards we hadn't used. We inquired and found out we could transfer them all onto the current card. I haven't actually paid for a Starbucks coffee for quite a while.

Not everyone reading my blog likes Starbucks or even has one nearby, but once you determine what things are really important to you and why, you can do the same thing with your particular guilty pleasure. It is my opinion that nearly everything which is critically examined can somehow be done more cheaply.

This weekend Bruce and I spent a grand total of $3. On Friday, I made a fabulous roast chicken with an infuser a dear friend loaned me. This item makes the chicken "stand up" in the oven and all the grease runs off. I filled the infuser with wine, garlic and rosemary and nearly swooned when we tasted it. I hear you can do the same thing with a beer can, so that's next. The chicken was on sale for 99 cents a pound. This was a lot cheaper and more tasty than the rotisserie chickens I used to get at Farm Fresh. It was much, much cheaper than the roast chicken at Baker's Crust.

We had movie madness night and rented three from the kiosk for $3: Memoirs of a Geisha, The Queen, and And Then She Found Me. I recommend each one. Bruce made popcorn on the stove top the old-fashioned way. Far cheaper than microwave and much tastier. We planned the luxury of some Coke Zero. It was special because we don't drink soda much at home these days.
I estimate that a dinner at Bakers would cost, with tip, maybe $60. The movie tickets would have been $20 for both of us, times three at $60. Add another $5 at least for popcorn and drinks. Never mind the gas. Never mind the parking charge at the garage. $3 is a lot less than $125.00. We spent less than 2% of what we used to with even more satisfaction. What a difference a year makes!

The unexamined life is not worth living. The examined life brings contentment. The choice is yours.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Baby Come Back

You can’t watch a talk show or a news report lately without hearing about thrift and frugality. Thank goodness we, as a country, are taking a good, hard look into what contributed to this terrible problem we now face with the economy…waste, excess and greed.

Some people might observe that I picked the worst time in the world to leave a relatively good-paying job in 2008. I disagree completely. It was a job that sapped my joy, energy, self-worth and health, which is a sad commentary about a job in a church. Quitting helped me to look at many things from a new perspective, including how I view money and my lifestyle. We are happier, more peaceful and with the exception of a few ups and downs, having a better quality of life than we ever had before.

With that all in mind, I’ve been looking at TV, advertisements, what I see in grocery stores, and other ways we live with a more critical eye. You hear folks complaining about the cost of groceries, but my spying on grocery carts shows me that people are still buying totally unnecessary items. Our advertising media has created habits among us that need to be re-examined.

What follows are my top choices for ridiculous consumer expenditures:

Microwavable Raw Potatoes in the Produce Section:

Have you seen these potatoes in your local Wal-mart yet? These are plain, ole raw baking potatoes washed, and wrapped in plastic wrap. They cost four times as much as a regular potato. I mean how complicated is it to wash a potato, prick a fork into it and wrap it with Saran wrap? However, if they’re selling them, that means someone is actually buying them.


Ah yes, more plastic to go into our landfills. Plastic never biodegrades. More sodium, artificial sugar, fat and additives to go into little people. How about making a nice sandwich on homemade whole-grain bread, slicing up an orange, and adding a drink from home, in a reusable container which you froze the night before? Put it all in a lunch pail and the drink will defrost by noon and keep the other food cool at the same time.


Those nauseating “Baby Come Back” commercials ought to be enough to make you stop buying them, but all that Swiffer stuff is really expensive. Not to mention bad for the environment. So baby, come back to a bucket, a mop, and some vinegar and water.

Pledge/Lysol Wipes:

Use vinegar and water on a rag. Just think of all those used wipes which are Not going into landfills for our grandchildren to deal with.

Microwave Popcorn:

Last night we checked and figured out that it takes an almost equal amount of time to microwave popcorn or cook it the traditional way. It tastes better cooked on the stove and costs four times less.

Salad Shooters:

I include in this category any other single-use appliance like a special hot dog cooking appliances, etc. These items are very expensive new and take up a lot of storage space. Use a knife to cut your vegetables and a pan or your grill to cook hotdogs.

Poop Scooper Bags:

Go into a PetSmart and you’ll actually see these items for sale. We save grocery, produce, and baked good bags to clean up while our dogs are walking. They’re free and at least we use them twice before discarding them. Again, the sad thing is that someone is actually buying these.

Individually-Wrapped Servings of Anything:

Chips, cookies, pretzels, etc…whatever you purchase like this costs twice as much as the same item in a big bag. Use some ziplock sandwich bags or little plastic, lidded containers and divide them up yourself OR switch to fruit or a home-made more healthy snack.

Most Cleaning Products:

Bubbles to scrub the bathroom, something else to scrub the floor, stove-top cleaners, toilet cleaners, grill cleaners, shower stall cleaners, dishwasher gel packs and, my personal favorite, vegetable cleaners.

You can clean nearly everything in your house with white vinegar and water. Dusting can be done with a slightly damp cloth with only water in it. Bathtubs can be cleaned with a rag wrung out with vinegar and baking soda for a slight abrasive.

Vegetables can be cleaned with water and a brush or soaked in a mild vinegar and water solution if you're concerned about pesticides.

The only other products I’d include are the occasional use of bleach for toilets, lemon oil for furniture from time to time and a Windex-type solution of ammonia and water. Debra from As I See It Now uses windshield wiper fluid, which is much cheaper than Windex.
All of the items I mention are expensive and unnecessary. All have negative impact to our environment and health. Most of them are no more convenient than the traditional ways our grandmothers used.
We can continue to complain about the economy OR we can take positive steps to change those things that we can.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


One of the things I love most about my bedroom is the old fireplace mantel. The fireplace is now set up for a pot-bellied stove, but we may open it up some day. All of the items on the mantel are thrifted except for the birdhouses.
My headboard was found left out for the trash. I changed the black finish to green with some spray paint. The hanging plates and saucers are all from Goodwill and junk stores. The "window: is a frame of the window from the old chicken house where Bruce tended chickens as a young child and later used to build model rockets. He added the chicken wire for me. If you look to the far right of the fireplace mantel there is on old elementary school desk from the fortie.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bruddah Iz

I lived in Hawaii for over 8 years. Every day there was a privilege with tradewinds, plumeria trees, rainbows and the most beautiful people in spirt anywhere. The picture above is of a small island called "Chinaman's Hat."

I grew to love Hawaiian slack key, Hawaiian culture, Hawaiian haupia (coconut pudding) and the spirit of aloha that permeates everything there. I particularly love ancient Hawaiian hula. The values of Native Culture are Aloha, Ohana and the Aina; love, family, and the land.

One of the kings of Hawaiian music was Israel Kamakawiwo'ole . That's pronounced "Kah maka veeva oh lay." He was known as "Bruddah Iz." The following is a tribute to him and the most beautiful version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" ever.

I heard this beautiful song again when I watched "Jon and Kate + 8" recently. It was featured at their re-commitment ceremony.
This next part is just for Bruce...remember Honolulu City Lights and Hanalei Moon:

Project - Vintage Stepstool

We're in a major frugality mode here at the Old Shea House at 256. This isn't a huge, gorgeous project where I create a large garden bench out of stair spindles, a wooden dying rack and chicken wire. I'm not that talented. This is the little type of project I love to do. For ONCE, I remembered to take a before and after pic.
I love this vintage stepstool, but the red leather seat was split. A year ago, I would have run to JoAnne's Fabrics and bought some new red leather. Without measuring either, I would have just bought a lot more than I needed.
Today, I decide to mull it over. I took a close look at it and realized that I only had to remove four screws. Well, Bruce (germanic precision-engineering boy) only had to remove four screws. I asked for a half hour of his time.
I had a red bandana fabric pillowcase I never use. I decided to cover the small seat with it, but then thought that I couldn't wipe it off. Last week, I came across one of those heavy plastic zippered bags that bedding comes in. I almost threw it away, but it seemed so useful. I asked Bruce to add it on top.
You can see the before and after pics. I think it turned out just the way I wanted it. And for free!
I also took some shots of the corner where I keep the stool. You can see my vintage apron used as a valance at the back door. I found it in the gutter on garbage day five years ago, inexplicably there along with a rough-hewn red painted heart.
I bought the red chair at a vintage store in Richmond, VA.
The kitchen scale is part of a small collection of three. Two, including the one pictured, came from the trash bin at church when they switched to electronic scales for making the fundraiser Easter Eggs.
A cop friend of mine came in for something while we were making eggs, saw the electronic scales and all the powdered sugar. He said, "is this manufacture and sale of drugs or a fundraiser? Ya'all look like drug dealers in white aprons and you appear to have been sampling the product."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Put a Deer on Your Head and Call Me in the Morning

It is a good thing that there are no hidden video monitors in our house, because if anyone ever saw what goes on here, we’d be on the psych ward.

Bruce and I were puttering around today. I was cleaning upstairs. He decided to clean out our neglected freezer in the basement. He brought up two frozen items that he could not identify, one in a casserole dish and another in plastic. The one in plastic was a large five or six pound lump that I eventually realized was venison from a friend who hunts.

I took it because Mills offered it to me and I didn't want to hurt his feelings. I guess it is hypocritical of me, because I do eat meat, but it bothered me. I never cooked it because it makes me sad.

Bruce was sitting on the cedar chest storage built-in unit (kind of like a window seat with no window) in the hallway chatting with me, surrounded by UFO's (unidentified frozen objects).
I went into the adjoining bathroom to wash my face. My old-fashioned medicine cabinet door was slightly open. When I lifted my head to look in the mirror, I smacked my head very hard. One of those sickening thuds that you know will really hurt in about 3.2 seconds. “Ouch, oh my God,” I hollered.

Bruce ran in and put the frozen venison on my head.
It is a good thing we don’t have children. They’d be warped for life just being around us.
Thanks to Bruce for that great picture of the deer he took over Thanksgiving. It was taken at a nature preserve in Panama City, Florida

Friday, January 16, 2009

Miracle on the Hudson

I love it! Even the hard-nosed, practical news outlets are calling this story a miracle. A plane which lost its engines successfully landed in the Hudson River without any loss of life. Hey, God does miracles every minute of every day, but rarely gets the credit on CNN.

This brings to mind something I've always loved to read in John's Gospel, Chapter 9 vs. 1-3, Amplified Version, as follows:

1AS HE passed along, He noticed a man blind from his birth. 2His disciples asked Him, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind? 3Jesus answered, It was not that this man or his parents sinned, but he was born blind in order that the workings of God should be manifested (displayed and illustrated) in him. And then, naturally, Jesus healed the blind man.

Somtimes when I wonder about why things happen as they do, I remember this passage. I think, "perhaps this happened that the workings of God should be manifested in this situation."

And then I pray, "God, show Yourself...mighty!"

My Little Hutch

I bought this little hutch years ago at a second-hand/vintage store in Honolulu. Up until six weeks ago, it was sort of a maple color. I continue to experience my mania for painting all things white or off-white, so I spray painted this baby out on the front porch.
Some of the things I really treasure are displayed here. Pink depression glass from my grandmother. A wee tea set. Part of my pitcher collection, including an unusual majolica pitcher that was also Helen's, my grandmother's. On the bottom left hand side is a plate from the Pearl Habor Submarine Base Chapel and next to it, in the middle, is a very special blue plate that my mother-in-law gave me one Christmas.
Click to enlage each picture, if you like.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Crockpot, My Best Kitchen Friend

I don’t know what I’d do without my crockpot. Actually, I have two and they are in constant use.

I’m often out and about during the day, so the crockpot is a great tool for having a piping hot meal when I get home. There is nothing like coming home to the smell of salsa chicken or a beef stew simmering in my crock. Since I started using my crockpot regularly about five years ago, we’ve saved a great deal of money by not eating out. The crockpot is also wonderful for tenderizing tougher cuts of meat, another cost savings.

So what do you put in there? You can find some good recipes here:

Here are some of my, very easy, favorites:

Salsa Chicken

4 chicken breasts, boneless or bone in
A large bottle of salsa, any type

Place one third of the salsa on the bottom of the crockpot. Place the chicken on top and ut the remainder of the salsa on top. Cook on low for 8 hours. Great by itself with a vegetable or fork-pulled with tortillas.


4 to 6 bratwurst, the turkey variety is much healthier
2 cans of sauerkraut, the cheaper the better
2 apples
caraway seeds

Peel and slice the apples. Rinse the sauerkraut to remove some of the salt. Put rinsed sauerkraut in a large bowl, add a tablespoon caraway seeds and apples and mix thoroughly. Place one third of the mixture on the bottom of the crock, add bratwurst and place the remainder on top. Cook on low for 8 hours.

Crockpot Beef

London broil
28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 pkg gravy mix or Lipton onion soup mix
2 tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar

Mix last three ingredients together. Place on third of the mixture at the bottom of the pot. Add London broil. Add a ½ cup each zucchini, button mushrooms, cubed raw potatoes and baby carrots. Pour the rest of the tomato mixture on top. Cook on low for 8 hours.

Other ideas for crockpot cooking include your favorite meat loaf recipe with BBQ sauce on top, Irish (steel cut) oatmeal with apples for breakfast and “baked” yams or potatoes. Scrub the yams or potatoes, prick with a fork, spray with Pam, wrap with tinfoil and cook on high for 8 hours. The potatoes are a great reason for a second crockpot. Combine them with a crocked meatloaf and you have whole meal.

Crockpots are often available at thrift stores and garage sales or through relatives who don’t use them. Before running out and buying a new one, try finding a used one. Make sure that you choose a crockpot with a removable pot, they are far easier to clean. Before putting food in a used crock, fill it to the top with water and leave on high for a few hours. It should get very hot and have some bubbles on the edges. If it does not, discard it, as the heating element isn’t working properly. If it isn’t, you run the risk of food poisoning.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Travoltas

I have to say a word about the Travolta family. Have we reached such a point in our culture that we cannot let this grieving family mourn in peace?

We can blame the media for the intrusiveness into the lives of the famous. We could, but it wouldn’t be entirely accurate. If none of us were watching the news or buying the People magazines that discussed the intimate details about this mourning family, the media would cover something else. What does it say about us that we have such a morbid fascination with the intimate details of celebrities’ lives?

I guess some curiosity is normal, but I particularly object to physicians and forensic pathologists commenting about such incidents. Physicians take an oath to do no harm. How is it ethical for them to comment on a boy whom they have never even seen, never mind examined? How is it ethical for a forensic pathologist to comment on an autopsy for which he or she was not present? Of what benefit is it to anyone to speculate upon, make suggestions about, or hold parents culpable for the death of a young man whom they’ve never met or even seen in person?

God bless Kelly, John and little Ella as they mourn Jett. I pray that God will reveal Himself to them in truth and draw them into closer relationship with Him. May the God of all Comfort comfort and lead them. And may the rest of us keep them in prayer and leave them alone.

Let’s all think about what we can do to remove our support from this kind of intrusive, unkind, and unseemly prying into the tragedies of public figures.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Cutest Little Peanut in the World

...Just sayin'.


I haven’t been able to write about this for a few weeks, but our beloved malamute, Francis, died just before Christmas.

Francis was a special boy who appeared on an exit ramp while I was driving home from work on the proverbial “dark and stormy night.” We really don’t know how old he was, perhaps five. He was sitting in the middle of the ramp, so I got out of my Jeep. As I talked to him, he calmly walked past me and jumped over into the passenger seat. And that was that.

We named Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and after Frank Sinatra, because our Frankie also had blue eyes. He was so beautiful, even in old age, that people frequently stopped us to comment on him. He had a creamy white chest and big, snowshoe paws.

Francis was a very vocal dog and we always knew precisely what he wanted. He was a picky eater of epic proportions. We had to entice him to eat kibble by adding other things, but he clearly preferred people food. Or road kill.

Croissants were among Francis’s greatest loves, along with meat loaf, Spam, (eeeeww) and canned chicken. Last year, he realized that there were croissantsin the fridge and “talked” to me for 45 minutes about them until I broke down and handed them over.

Francis had slowed down during 2008, but he still loved his walks, his croissants and chicken, and his family. He was very kind and often put his big, puppy head down in my lap when I was troubled. He had a little spot near the fireplace where he spent most of his days and it comforted me to see him there.

It is a cruel irony that dogs only live for about 12 – 15 years on earth. One of the things I most look forward to in heaven is that I will never have to say goodbye to a dog again. I firmly believe that I shall see Francis again, along with Lupa, and our beloved Alex.

As I heard Chuck Swindoll say, “Anyone who doesn’t believe that there will be animals in heaven will have a hard time with the big, white horse Jesus comes riding on.” The Psalms say that the Lord protects both man and beast. All creation sings the praises of God.

I was reading in Jonah yesterday and noticed two things I hadn’t noticed before. Scripture says that God himself spoke to the great fish and asked the fish to um “get rid” of Jonah. Actually, it is said a little less delicately in the Bible.

In Jonah 3:8, Amplified version, the Word says, “But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth and let them cry mightily to God.” Animals and people can cry out to God. I know God is watching over Francis and that his hips don’t hurt anymore. And I can’t wait to see him again.

No Vile Thing

Not long ago, I heard my mentor, author Anne Ortlund, via Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s website; Revive Our Hearts at It was a broadcast from a number of years back, but so timely.

Anne was commenting on Psalm 101:2-3, which reads:

I will walk in my house with blameless heart. I will set before my eyes no vile thing.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about accountability in my television and movie watching. The verses quoted resonated with my spirit.

While it is true that not every situation we encounter is covered specifically by name in the Bible, the Bible is able to provide all the insight we need to make correct life decisions. Watching television is not specifically mentioned in the Word, but setting no vile thing before our eyes surely is.

I have to confess that I’ve been setting a lot of vile things before my eyes. Mindlessly….casually…in the background…I’ve been parading vile things before my eyes. Not only are many of the things on TV vile, they are mind-numbing, enticing (think of all the food commercials), create in me desires for things I don’t need and can’t afford. Much of TV is an intellectual wasteland, a desert. Finally, most of what is on TV is a complete waste of time.

Bruce and I are making a concentrated effort to turn the TV off. When Psalm 101 mentions “vile thing” it is referring to house idols; the little statues that the Israelites often kept in their home, just to hedge their bets and make sure they got everything they thought they needed. If the Lord, the God of Israel didn’t give them everything they wanted (like the big Santa in the sky), then maybe Molek or Asherah would.

The Israelites were commanded to have no other God but the Lord, but they stumbled again and again into idol worship. The psalmist wasn’t exaggerating when he called these gods vile. Many of the gods required the sacrifice of children and other detestable practices. Come to think of it, don’t we often sacrifice our children to the “God of TV” when we park them in front of it as a babysitter?

Today I had a few minutes and found myself mindlessly using the remote to breeze through the many channels we have on cable. Then I saw an image of a man in bed with two beautiful women. At two in the afternoon. I don’t have any premium movie channels, this was on basic cable.

I stopped clicking without thought and started paying attention. Next we had an unmarried couple making love on Sex and the City. Then I landed on The Real Housewives of Orange County, which repels and fascinates me all at the same time. The only important things on Real Housewives are physical appearance, silicone, and conspicuous consumption.

I won’t bore you with too much more, but two channels were selling things I didn’t need and a cable news network was castigating Israel for trying to exist. As if Canada and Mexico would start lobbing bombs into NY State or CA and we'd do nothing.

Finally, there was a chef whom I usually think is cute as a button on Food Network. Her blouse so low cut that my niece, age six, commented that her “bosmums were hanging out.” Not so YUM OH. I shut it off.

Bruce and I have been cutting down on the mindless TV for about a month, now. We’re not zealots. We’ve watched some things. We are keeping up with the news from Israel with prayer and tears for all of God’s people there. We watched a Sherlock Holmes mystery on PBS tonight and enjoyed it thoroughly. The History Channel often has wonderful things and you can’t miss “Jon and Kate + Eight.”

What do we do instead? We’ve talked over dinner. I’ve set the table with my grandmother’s majolica and fresh yellow roses. We’ve read the Word. We’ve done Bible studies, read books, caught up on projects, studied, spent time with family, gone to the gym, walked the dogs, listened to our favorite Bible teachers on the computer while doing chores, wrote thank you notes, encouraged other Christians, organized dining room cupboards, fixed a kitchen drawer, written out our prayers, and made multicolored cupcakes with our nieces.
I don’t think I’ve missed one thing on TV.

Finally, sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Phil 4:8)

And I don’t think that could possibly include Sex and the City.

With love from,
The Real Housewife of Portsmouth, VA

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Special New Year's Gift

I've never written about my godson, Ke'won. Ke'won is not my godson in the traditional sense. One day about nine years ago, when we had just moved into our house in VA, we met Ke'won and his two brothers as we walked our three dogs. We got to talking and I had the impression that they didn't have adults talk to them very often. They lived on a very troubled street at the very edge of my gentrifying neighborhood.

A few days later, all three boys came by to ask if I could "come out and play" and a relationhip was born. Julius, Ke'won and Little Ronnie were 11, 9 and 5 at that time. The more accurate description of our relationhip would be "mentors." But godparents works better for him and get him fewer odd looks than when he used to say we were his aunt and uncle.

Ke'won has experienced every type of difficulty growing up that one could expect. He is poor. He is black. His mother has MS. HIs father has been in jail. Up until about two years ago, his father was addicted to crack and alcohol. He has a learning disability. It is difficult for him to read at his age level. He has been homeless.

However, by the grace of God and through his own sweet inner spirit, he has never gotten involved with drugs and has never gotten into trouble with the police. Last year, through the irresponsible behavior of his mother, he became homeless when his mother was evicted. He was too ashamed to tell school administration or me about his situation.

His only lifeline to his family and me was his cell phone, Ke'won, who had never been in any trouble, got kicked out of school for text messaging during class. The letters notifying of a hearing before the school board were returned to sender because his family has been evicted. By the time he figured out who to talk to, he had been permanently expelled because no one had appeared to explain his situation to the school board.

I think that this kind of thing happens to teenagers more often than we think. I also think that Ke'won's situation would have been far different if he atteded a suburban school, had parents who had a clue, and if he was white.

Ke'won deperately needs a job while he studies for his GED on line. Recently, I've been writing my prayers and one prayer I wrote was to ask God if He would allow me the privilege of helping someone that day After my quiet time, I went to shop at Food Lion. The service at our local Food Lion is always bad, so it is odd that I went there.

The service was bad once again and this time I felt led to talk to a manager. I argued with myself that perhaps I shouldn't be murmuring and complaining, but I still felt a push to talk to a manager.

After hearing that they were having a terrible time finding employees with good customer service skills, I suggested Ke'won. I find it hard to believe that they can't find good people, since we have so many Americans out of work, but it is true.

Ke'won and I created a resume for him, filled out an on-line application and prayed. He went in, just to introduce himself to the manager, today and when he left, he had a job!

God is good, all the time. Pray for Ke'won, that he will be able to overcome the difficulties he has been through and that God will allow him to find favor with everyone at Food Lion.