an all too familiar sight


someone is going to be very sad that this tree will be gone soon. he's the reason we can't have ribbons and bows on presents. i was lucky to have ribbons on the tree. he only tried to climb it a few times, that i know about, anyway. i think Christmas is his favorite time of year. he gets more excited about the tree than the rest of us...

he's already sad his toys (i.e. ornaments) have been removed. i bet he'll be even more happy when i take him to get his fur removed (i.e. shaved). but that'll be another post for another day.

mister bluebird's on my shoulder

i really need a bluebird house.

new reality tv addiction

this year i may skip watching american idol. *gasp!* i just don't know how much work i can ask my dvr to do. i am totally into watching a (new to me) reality show. it's completely inspiring and proves that if you put your mind and heart into it, you can accomplish your goals. i started watching the biggest loser about midway through the last season and i found myself pleasantly inspired.

the contestants work out every day, learn healthy eating habits and not only a new, healthy lifestyle but they also come away with a new outlook on life. they battle the weight and what was causing them to gain it. they work so hard and it made me realize that i have no excuse when it comes to not wanting to work out or complaining about that extra 10 pounds i carry around. i can't wait to get rid of this cold/infection/whatever so that i can get to the Y (which we joined right before the snowstorm, Christmas, and the sinus/cold infection from hades) so i haven't even been yet. i haven't been officially tracking points during the holidays and have maintained my weight without exercise. yeah! but i am ready to get back to it and come away with some good, healthy workout habits. and i plan on watching the biggest loser when it starts back, too, to inspire me to keep going! fyi... the new season starts january 5 on nbc 8/7c. :) i encourage you to watch it, too.


it's the little things

you know, i never give much thought to the things we have, that we use every day without thought, until i don't have it to use. our street has been having trouble with our water pipes- bursting and such. so we spent Christmas day without running water. our neighbors had their yard dug up and part of their driveway, too. thanks to the men who worked on Christmas, we had water again by 1am Saturday morning.

we were driving home from our friends' house down the street tonight and noticed the all-too-familiar site of a heavy flow of silt-laden water running down the street and realized another section of the pipes have busted. so now, at 12am Sunday morning, we are without running water again. (and we are so glad to be heading to kingsport for a few days...)

all of that back story to say... you never think about the simple things we do every day that require water: washing your hands, flushing the toilet, taking a shower, filling up your pets' water bowl, making coffee or tea, doing a quick load of laundry, running the dishwasher... almost everything we do day in and day out requires water. what would we do without it?

we never seem to think about how blessed we are until we are without. you can show me countless commercials about third world countries, well, i've seen enough poverty in person to know about it. but i don't really think about it. my friend jen gash is in uganda right now, showering orphans and other children with beds and mosquito nets. beds. a mosquito net costs $8- it's not only to prevent itchy bug bites. it prevents malaria and death. $8. two cups of starbucks you-name-it lattes. we are blessed to live where we live.

so, as it is come back to my attention, i would like to bring it back to yours. find a cause in this coming new year (and decade). it can be local or global. (it might even involve clean water, which i learned about here, on jess's blog. i don't know jess personally, but having been following her story, and praying, for almost the last year, i feel like i do. and if you venture over there, grab some kleenex before reading cora's story.) it can cost a lot or very little. set a little aside every week or paycheck. but find a way to give back.

6Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:6-8

it isn't always easy to give. i make excuses not to do so all the time. but next time i want some starbucks, i'll make myself a cup of coffee or tea at home and set aside $4 for someone else instead.

that's my goal in this new year. well, besides losing 10 more pounds. but that's another blog post for another day.


santa claus has* come to town...

from Santa Paws and her trusty Reindog!


frolicking in the frosty firmament

cotton wants to know... what would a foot of snow make you want to do?

-stay inside in the warmth

-sip hot chocolate or hot peppermint tea or, better yet, peppermint hot chocolate

-find gloves, hats, fleece, and down jackets galore and go play in the snow

or how about all of the above?

or you can do what she and barley did...

-have a full-force wrestling match

-grab cotton in a barley headlock

-search for (snow) balls thrown by their owners

-really wish you could find that ball

-walk in snow up to your chest

-make sure your feline brother doesn't miss out on the snow action

-finally find that ball

-come charging, full-force, when your mom calls (really focus on barley)

-play with your friends

-or happily by yourself

-are you watching? here's what cotton would do...

-make labrador angels!

-and bury your face in the snow.

-get ready to attack the snow balls

-get some belly-scratchin' lovin' by your owner's snow recliner!
that's what cotton and barley would do. how about you?

they got it right.

the weather folks, that is.

got it right.

the forecast.

the snow.

who would have thought they would have been right?

i was really hoping they weren't (because i had to work. i did not make it in friday. i worked 17 hours sat/sun.).

not only were they right, they were about 6 hours off on their start time, too.

it started about 6am friday and asheville had the largest amount of snowfall in 24 hours in their history. but don't quote me on that. it ranks about 5-6 in all time records, which encompass a 48-72 hour time period. asheville got anywhere from 15-18 inches. here in fletcher, we got about 10-12 inches. not 10-12 snowflakes, which is what we typically get when snow is in the forecast.

i chronicled a short timeline of how quickly it accumulated with pictures, of course.

8am friday morning, shortly after i returned home from work.

2pm friday afternoon, shortly after i woke up.

6pm friday night, about 12 hours after it all began.

10am saturday

almost all the bushes were covered in snow


in living color

(a glimpse of our christmas card in color.)

it's beginning to look a lot like christmas...

the stockings are hung by the gas logs with care...

please don't tell me if you think the tree is leaning. don't you dare!

this tree was grown in lansing, nc (ashe co.) and we got a fabulous deal... $35 for this gorgeous, full tree. we had a great experience getting our tree this year and enjoyed decorating it. dave is happy it is christmas time again, too. you can find him most moments under the tree.

christmas for thanksgiving

i am finally getting around to posting after our whirlwind visit to TN after thanksgiving. so, really, here's how it played out trip-wise.

and let me back up a bit before that... i was able to be on call the thursday before thanksgiving. but, then i worked the friday, saturday, monday, tuesday, and wednesday before thanksgiving. yes. sunday was my only day/night off. but after that i was off for 7 days. small price to pay. babies don't stop coming for the holidays, and this year was no exception. it was crazy busy that week. oddly busy. oh well. it's over and done with. and i digress (as i usually do).

so, i came home from work on thankgiving morning, we packed and made a few pit stops and then it was on to kingsport. (the doggies stayed with steven, kelly, and harley- and had a great time, too.) we made it there, jay visited and i napped. we ate. we visited, watched football, i napped some more, and it was off to bed after that. we got up friday morning and headed to nashville. we made it in friday afternoon around 1:30pm and left from my parents house around 5:30pm sunday night. quick trip. but, we celebrated christmas with my family and i had all of the shopping finished that i possibly could then, too (which is about 85% of all of it). so we delivered gifts and spent time with our families and just relaxed when we could. this time around, we stayed at jay's mom's farmhouse with mamaw stella.

sunday afternoon we spent at my parents' house and we got to see phil, samantha, and courtney (my almost 3 year old) niece for the first time since last christmas. (jay didn't even see them then.) we had a great time visiting and playing with courtney and enjoying the busy-ness that embodies a toddler. she had fun following us around and telling us all sorts of things. she kept close tabs on both me and jay and if we left the room for too long, she would come to find us. then my grandparents and aunt and uncle and sweet cousins came to visit and watch some titans football. it was great to see everyone, i just wish it could have been a longer trip. next time, i suppose. here are some pictures from sunday afternoon.

i knitted a scarf for courtney, but she wasn't so sure about it when it came to putting it on.

i got her a touch and feel book about dogs that she seemed to enjoy.

family picture

the granddaughters... lindsey, me, and haley

courtney showing off her ponytail holders. lindsey (and myself) wear them on our wrists (you never know when you might need one!) and when courtney sees lindsey's, she must wear it too.

we had a great, although short, visit. i don't know when we'll get to go back it'll be for a longer period of days. (and, hopefully, it'll be post rockslide clean up!)


sweet sleep

(this is) my friend, jen gash, started a non-profit sweet sleep to help build beds for orphans. she went on a mission trip to moldova many years ago and discovered that there are children there, and all over the world, who do not have beds to sleep on. and, if they did have beds, they were old, stained and hardly in any shape to be called a bed. and that is how sweet sleep began.

today, she is asking for our help. she is leaving soon for uganda and needs our assistance. there are many ways you can help- do so as you feel led. let me know what you think.
now, you can read more about it in jen's words...

For nearly 22 years northern Uganda has been in a war-- a war which I have never known about until a few years ago. I had vaguely heard of “invisible children” or child soldiers or night commuters. Really all I knew was that a crazy evil man attacked villages at night, killing as many as possible and kidnapping children to be in his rebel army. I knew that each day, at dusk, children would walk long distances to sleep in safe shelters so the rebels could not get to them at night. This was all I knew. Recently this war entered into a time of peace. I’ve been trying to learn about the plight of the children in this area. This rebel army, the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) would attack villages during the night. As they attacked, LRA soldiers would kill as many adults as they could and they would force the children of these villages to kill their parents or be killed themselves. From there the children were kidnapped into the LRA army and forced to become child soldiers. These children have lived through tremendous atrocities.

Earlier this year God called our organization, Sweet Sleep (www.sweetsleep.org) to work in Uganda. In March, Sweet Sleep was contacted by an organization working in the Gulu region of northern Uganda ---the center of the impacted region. 10 huts had been burned down and there was an urgent need for beds for the children. We responded to this need and in July, while working in other orphanages in Uganda, I had the opportunity to travel to Gulu to see what Sweet Sleep had provided and to understand what more we could do. What I saw and learned that day has changed my life, and the ministry of Sweet Sleep.

There are far too many things to share about that day. However, I do want to tell you one story: In Gulu I spent the day with 5 teenagers who had either been child soldiers or who had lost their parents, they took me from camp to camp showing me huts and some of the beds Sweet Sleep had provided. I had never been in a hut before and focused on taking in everything I could. Actually, it was a little crazy to think I was in a hut in the middle of nowhere in east Africa. At one point in the afternoon we ducked through the doorway into another small hut. I looked around and saw it was just as all the others: a hard dirt floor, curved walls made from mud and little rays of light coming in at the top where the wall met the simple straw roof. I stood there and looked at the contents of this hut: one little bed with a pink blanket and one toothbrush somebody had woven in and out through the straw of the thatch ceiling. That was all. I asked a question I’d not yet asked, “Who lives here?” The answer that followed rocked my little world.

The teens told me that a 14-year old girl and her five younger brothers and sisters lived there.

I heard their answer, but I didn’t understand it. So, I asked, “Where are her parents and why have we only given them one bed?” The answer that came was dumbfounding to me. I learned that in the Gulu region there are still one million displaced people—people who have lost their homes and everything they owned---because of the war. I learned that three-quarters of those people are children living in child-headed households. Yes, read that again. That’s about 750,000 children with no parents or grandparents or even orphanage to protect or care for them.

This information struck something deep inside me. Spending the day watching and studying those 5 teenagers struck something even deeper. I kept asking myself what in the world our ministry could do there. I knew we couldn’t give them back what had been taken away from them---we couldn’t give them back their parents. I knew we couldn’t take away what had been forced upon them---those children had watched as their families and villages had been brutalized. What could we do? God and I wrestled with this for weeks and weeks and weeks. One of our driving verses at Sweet Sleep is Proverbs 3:24 which says, “they will lie down and not be afraid; they will lie down and their sleep will be sweet.” Here, in Gulu, this verse just did not make sense to these children.

In the months that followed, God showed me another verse, also in Proverbs, that says, “Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act.” The answer, I realized, is that I had seen and had learned and was responsible to share their story with all of you so that you, too, would know and be able to respond. The answer for Sweet Sleep was that we respond just as we have always: we work together with everyone we can in order to find resources that will bring beds and hope to as many children as possible. This is the good news. It’s such good news that hope is coming to these children in the form of a bed which communicates to a child things about God’s promises so that peace can slowly begin to come to their hearts.

So, we are moving on to bring true sweet sleep to these tired and traumatized little ones. We face a challenge before us that is greater than ever. It is our ministry’s responsibility and challenge to connect the message of God’s hope, His love, grace, forgiveness, protection, provision and redemption, to the beds which we will provide. And, to equip those children with scripture that they can begin to learn and memorize which will enable them to push out the fear that grips them at night----the time the rebels come. If they can lie in their new beds and know they are loved and protected and then claim a verse reminding them of this knowledge, they can begin to have little victories over the fear that grips them. And, peace and hope and love can slowly come to their little hearts. This is why I desperately need your help.

My hope is you can help me find people who want to do something great this Christmas. We are providing 450 beds which will go to “heads of households” and thus, provide beds and nets for 2,000 children. Of those 450 beds we need 218 more. A bed in Gulu consists of a straw mat, a mattress, sheets, blanket and a mosquito net, for a cost of $88. Of that, $8 is for a treated mosquito net to help prevent children from being bitten by a life-threatening mosquito infected with this disease. In Uganda, malaria now kills more people than HIV/AIDS.

So, here’s what I still need, you can determine which opportunity suits you best:

·I need a team of people who can commit to praying for me and for the work I’ll be doing

·I need notes of love to give to a child I encounter. They can be notes of love, encouragement, your favorite scripture, whatever. Mailed to Sweet Sleep. I’ll pack and take and hand deliver to a child I get to spend time talking with.

·218 mosquito nets. 8,320 Ugandans will die of malaria during the 26 days I will be gone. I will purchase these in Uganda for $8 each. Malaria kills more people in Uganda than HIV/AIDS.

·Mattresses for 218 children so they will be able to sleep up off of the ground for the first time in their lives. Mattresses are $50.

·Can you imagine not having a blanket to warm you during these chilly nights or sheets to sleep in? 218 more children still need to be able to be warm and snuggly. They can for just $30.

·If you do the math you can see 218 complete beds are $88. That’s a fun total of $19, 184. Slow and steady wins the race. Sweet Sleep is nothing if not grass roots.

In this last home stretch it’s anything goes. Yes, we’ll welcome your donations. Yes, we’ll encourage you to bring these opportunities above to your office, church, small group, Sunday school class, college, school, running group, book club…anywhere you live your life. And, yes, we welcome your gift donations that you make in honor or memory of someone you know. We have fun card options you can choose for Sweet Sleep to send to your recipient, letting them know about the gift you’ve made on their behalf. Visit our site for more on this: http://www.sweetsleep.org/getinvolved/givethegift.html Any checks can be made to Sweet Sleep with a note for “Gulu” in the memo line. Our mailing address is PO Box 40486, Nashville, TN 37204.

and a couple of other things from Jen... especially #1 if you are still shopping for Christmas gifts:

Oh, two other things:

1) We have handcrafted jewelry made by orphans and widows in one of the orphanages we’ve worked with. All the proceeds benefit the beds we’ll provide this Christmas in Gulu, Uganda. These necklaces, bracelets and earrings are “green” because they are made from magazines! The children cut the pages into strips and then roll them on a small stick and then shellac and string them. The colors of the necklaces depend on the colors of the beads. They’re really pretty and definitely one-of-a-kind. Contact me for pictures or, if you’re in Nashville, come by our office or visit one of the stores you can buy them in.

2) Sign up to “follow” our blog. Just go to www.sweetsleep.org and click on the box featuring our blog (right side of page). One there you will find something on the side of our page that says “subscribe to post”…click there and then click to subscribe. Each time I post a blog in Uganda you’ll get a little email letting showing a clip of this which will take you to the blog. What an easy way to keep up!