29 January 2009

Monster shocker!

This week in class we are reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. So far, I have really enjoyed the novel (I'm only a little over half way through). I am still absolutely amazed by the range of vocabulary and word usage that Mary Shelley had at the age that she wrote this novel (I think she was 19ish). Although, her mother was Mary Stone Wollencraft and her father a literary as well, and she eloped with Percy Shelley ~ so when you think about how she was probably raised and the people who influenced her life from birth, perhaps it isn't so shocking.

Anyway, when I got to the chapter where the monster wants to talk to Frankenstein on the top of the mountain, I was completely surprised by the language he used. I had started to read this novel when I was 18, but I never got this far, so all of my knowledge of Frankenstein came from Hollywood (and I haven't seen the movie Mary Shelley's Frankenstein). He was just so eloquent in his explanation and throughout his story (which I'm in the middle of), you really can begin to feel for this poor creature. I think in some ways, it also makes it hard to believe that he was created and learned to speak that way in just a short amount of time (almost two years).

I also found it quite interesting that Shelley doesn't actually go into detail about how Frankenstein created the monster, but rather leaves that up to the imagination. Some things she goes into vivid detail, while at the same time leaving quite up to the imagination. I can really see why this novel is such a classic and I'm glad that I've been given the opportunity to read it [again].

I'm anxious to get back to the novel and finish it. As soon as I finish my online posting for tonight . . .

27 January 2009

Mike's gone :(

Though M did not have to deply to Iraq (yay!!), he did have to go TDY this week to Travis AFB, in Sacramento, CA. He'll only be gone until Friday, so it isn't too long at all. It's always so weird to have M gone, to have the whole bed to myself (which I don't view as a positive), to have no one playing with the cats, and to not hear his heavy footsteps coming up the apartment stairs at the end of the day. I keep thinking that I hear them, then I remember, "oh, yeah, M isn't coming home today." There are supposedly a lot more short TDY's that he'll have to go on in the next six to nine months in lieu of going to Iraq, but a week or two at a time is a whole lot better than him being gone for a solid nine months to another country.

My cousin David is still visiting from Alabama though, and he has been really helpful. We've been having fun talking and playing Monopoly and the Pirate Game. It's been really good to have him visit and see him again. I hadn't seen him for eight years and now he's all grown up (he was 12 the last time I saw him). Jason, Marilyn and Jake really like him a lot and he's been hanging out with them a lot, which I am glad of, especially when I was in the hospital last week. He leaves this Friday night after Bible study. It will be weird to see him go. He and Thomas are so much alike in some ways, that I almost feel like a part of Thomas is back here in Oklahoma. (Just about everyone else in the Bible study has mentioned that to him as well, so I know it's not just me seeing that.)

M returns Friday from his TDY, hopefully before Bible study starts. I can't wait to see him again and wrap my arms around him and give him a nice, long, sweet kiss. :)

24 January 2009

Blake's "Garden of Love"

"The Garden of Love"
~William Blake
I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen:
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And ``Thou shalt not'' writ over the door;
So I turn'd to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore;

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tomb-stones where flowers should be;
And Priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys & desires.

I was a little saddened after reading William Blake's "Garden of Love". It took me reading it about five times to get a sense of the meaning of it. After I came to the realization of what that meaning could possibly be, I was rather saddened by it.

This is the conclusion that I came to, (copy from the forum I posted): The poem "Garden of Love" argues that the relationship between religion and freedom cannot be. The gates of the chapel were shut, not letting anyone in, with the beginning words of most of the Ten Commandments (Thou Shalt Not . . . ) written above the door. However, there was no follow up to the "Thou Shalt Not", indicating that perhaps one just couldn't do . . . anything. The garden was not filled with flowers, being allowed to grow freely, but was filled with graves. I.e. the flowers have no freedom to grow. I think that Blake is suggesting that if one is religious, they have no freedoms in this world; they are constricted by laws and moralities from doing whatever they will. One might even say that religion could be seen in his eyes as the leash to conscious morality.

I was saddened basically because I believe personally for the opposite to be true: it is through religion that we possess the greatest freedom. In my religious belief, which is that I have a personal relationship with Christ, I have the greatest freedom~ the freedom of being forgiven and loved unconditionally. And from that freedom flows all kinds of love. Deep amorous, committed, respectful love for my husband, plutonic love for friends, love for God's creatures. From that freedom of being forgiven, I can let go of wrong doings and hurts and move on and forgive those who hurt me.

I don't think that the Lord's commandments were made to keep us from doing what we wanted, but to protect us. I also don't think that it is the Priests' job to go around keeping us from doing what we want, but to shepphard us, as keepers of the flock.

I sort of feel like I'm able to get my point out that I want to get out, so I'll use an illustration from my life.

In the 10 Commandments, it is written "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery". This commandment is not to keep us from the pleasure of love making, but to serve as a guide in our commitment and covenant in marriage. Sure it can be fun going around having one night stands with no strings attached, "two ships bumping in the night" and all that. But in the soul, it can leave one feeling haunted, unattached, lost, and unworthy even. In a marriage, you can have that kind of fun as often as you want, and it is so much more than that. The intimacy between a husband and wife can grow and blossom into a beautiful act of commitment, love, cherishing one another, selfless giving on both partners and even a form of worship (after all, God created sex and He knew what He was doing). There are no fears of abandonment, consequences or loss. Instead of leaving the soul empty, it leaves the soul nourished, nurtured and fulfilled. Joy and desire are completed in oneship between two people.

I hope that helped get my point across a little better. I hope that Blake was writing about the institution of the Church putting restrictions of the Word of God and how it is for every person and not personal convictions . . .

21 January 2009

Good to be Home!

Hey Everyone,

I am home from the hospital and it is very good to be home! I want to thank everyone for all of your prayers for me, Mike and Sophie while I was in the hospital. Things are going well and they said that Sophie is doing really awesome.

What happened:

Well, basically on Sunday I had a minor placenta abruption, or a small tearing of the placenta away from the uterine wall. So I went to the OB Urgent Care and they checked me out and decided to me admit me for 23 hour observation. Well, later in the afternoon, I started having contractions that were 3-5 minutes apart, so they gave me a shot to stop the contractions and I also had a steroid shot (painful!) to help Sophie's lungs get a head start on developing just in case I did deliver early. They gave me another steroid shot on Monday, 24 hours later, to finish the steroid treatment for Sophie.

Then because my uterus was not as "calm" as they would have liked, they decided to keep me and watch me, just in case. So I ended up staying until Wednesday afternoon.

Mike's captain, Capt Tupper, was a huge support in that he allowed Mike to not have to come into work so he could stay with me while I was in the hospital. I think that took a huge load off of Mike's mind, knowing that he didn't have to worry about leaving the hospital on time to get to work or not being able to stay the night because he had to go to work. I am extremely thankful. (And I wrote a note to Capt Tupper relaying my thanks). :)

So now I have been home for a while, and it feels good to be home. Everyone in the Bible study was a huge support, especially with prayers. Michelle came to visit and she sent out a prayer request to PWOC. Marilyn came over Wednesday night and fixed dinner so I wouldn't have to worry about it, which was really awesome. Deanna and Tony from Sunday School came to visit me in the hospital as well, which was really great. I am incredibly grateful for all the support that Mike and I have.
My cousin David has been visiting as well, and he has also been a huge support. I have felt pretty bad about not being around for him to hang out with, but he said not to worry and he seems to be getting along really great with Jason and Jake, which is a huge answered prayer and blessing!

18 January 2009

Article: What Your Supermarket Won't Tell You

Check out this article from Yahoo Finance - Midwest City is mentioned, and sadly, not for a good reason . . . (although it is another reason I don't shop at WalMart anymore).

What Your Supermarket Won't Tell You by Jim Rendon Thursday, Jan 8th, 2009 from http://finance.yahoo.com/family-home/article/106415/What-Your-Supermarket-Won't-Tell-You - from SmartMoney.com

1. “Feel the squeeze? Actually, so do we.”
When the economy slows and businesses begin to feel the heat, grocery stores are often exceptions to the rule. That’s because when consumers cut back on frills like eating out, they tend to make even more trips to the supermarket. Still, all bets may be off in the wake of the crash of 2008.

Citi Investment Research analyst Deborah Weinswig forecasts falling same-store sales growth at many of the major chains in 2009; for one, she sees top performer Kroger experiencing a decline in same-store sales growth, from about 5 percent in 2008 to 4 percent in the coming year. Meanwhile, supermarket chain Supervalu forecasts its own flat sales growth through 2009.
Even the big-box stores—now established contenders in the grocery industry—are facing tough headwinds in the wake of the market meltdown. Weinswig says she expects dips in same-store sales growth for BJ’s Wholesale Club, from 11 percent in 2008 to under 7 percent in 2009, and a drop from 8 to 6 percent growth over the same period for Costco. Bottom line, “it’s tough to pass through higher costs when consumers have such a laser-like focus on price,” says Mitchell Corwin, a senior equity analyst for Morningstar.

2. “You’re getting less for the same price.”
When Linda Edwards, a nurse in East Windsor, N.J., picked up her usual $4.99 jug of orange juice at Shop Rite this summer, she was surprised to discover that it contained 7 ounces less than it normally did. A few months later she noticed her Skippy peanut butter and chicken strips were also lighter but not any cheaper. “Everything seems to be shrinking, but my family hasn’t shrunk,” says the single mother of five boys. A spokesperson for Unilever, which owns Skippy, says reducing product size is one way the company is coping with higher food and fuel costs.
Manufacturers know that in a tight economy, consumers are driven away by price hikes, so they quietly shrink products, hoping a few ounces here or there won’t be missed, says Alexia Howard, a senior research analyst for Sanford C. Bernstein. But it’s starting to backfire, says Ben Popken, editor of Consumerist.com, who says he’s getting more complaints from readers about shrinking products. “People are really sensitive to any decrease in their purchasing power,” he says. Popken recommends checking the unit price between brands to see whether you’re paying the same price for less food.

3. “We jack up prices where you’re least likely to notice.”
When times are tough, super-markets know vigilant shoppers notice even tiny changes in the price of foods like milk, cereal, bread and cheese. In fact, there are about 500 such products, and stores raise prices on these staples at their own peril.

So how do markets deal with rising food costs? They tinker with the price of the roughly 45,000 items people don’t buy regularly enough to have a fixed idea of their cost—tacking on 3 to 4 percent to specialty products like, say, gourmet pasta sauce or fresh-squeezed juices, without consumers noticing. “There’s an opportunity to make some margin back on those items,” says Jim Hertel, managing partner of Willard Bishop, a consultant for the industry.

But don’t expect the savings to be passed on to you when costs come down. Many manufacturers lock in prices well in advance, and they often hold off on bringing prices back down to make up for the resulting losses, says Howard. One way to be sure you’re getting the best deal when prices drop: Stick to basics. Products like coffee and meat are likely “to reflect their underlying costs more quickly than most other foods,” Howard says.

4. “You can’t always believe our nutrition claims.”
It seems people are more concerned with their health these days, but nutrition labeling on most foods can be tough to decipher. Hoping to bridge the gap, grocery chain Hannaford Bros. developed a program called Guiding Stars, which posts nutrition ratings of one to three stars on the shelf tags of some products. “We’d like to see the FDA adopt the program nationally,” says Bruce Silverglade, legal affairs director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Sounds great, but according to a Government Accountability Office report, the FDA hasn’t randomly checked the accuracy of nutrition labeling in over a decade, and of those products it has tested due to obvious red flags, more than 20 percent had errors. (An FDA spokesperson says random sampling isn’t necessary; the FDA tests products according to guidelines set by its Office of Regulatory Affairs.) With so little oversight, consumers can’t fully trust manufacturers’ nutrition labels or any ratings system based on that data.

“It’s the manufacturer’s responsibility to provide accurate information—that’s all we can use to assess products,” says Julie Greene, director of healthy living for Hannaford Bros.

5. “We won’t take your coupons.”
The Sunday paper used to be the source for grocery coupons. But now they’re increasingly available online, from sites like Coupons.com as well as manufacturers’ and supermarkets’ own Web pages. The problem is, they aren’t always easy to use. Over 10.6 million Internet coupons were redeemed last year, according to Carolina Marketing Services. While that amount is expected only to increase, it’s still a fraction of all coupons redeemed, and many stores are still unfamiliar with them.

That’s what 61-year-old retiree C.J. Shearrer discovered when he printed out about $30 worth of coupons and took them to a Wal-Mart in Midwest City, Okla. Shearrer says the manager told him the store didn’t accept online coupons; only when he showed him a printout of Wal-Mart’s coupon policy, says Shearrer, did the manager agree to take them. (A company spokesperson says Wal-Mart accepts one Internet coupon per item per customer, as long as it’s legitimate and scans at the register.) Stephanie Nelson, founder of information site CouponMom.com, suggests doing what Shearrer did: Bring along a copy of a given store’s coupon policy, which should be found on its Web site.

6. “Our loyalty cards help us cater to our biggest spenders...”

Many supermarkets offer shoppers loyalty cards that get scanned at checkout for savings on specially marked products. But saving money isn’t what these cards are really about. Whenever you use your card, stores record your purchases in vast databases that contain years’ worth of your purchasing information. That means they know what you buy year after year, how often you shop and when a coupon influences your purchases. And they use this information for everything from promoting new products to deciding what to stock.

More important, stores tap this data to target customers who buy lots of groceries on a regular basis. Woolf says that as much as 65 percent of a store’s sales are derived from these core shoppers, who make up just 12 to 25 percent of its customers. Loyalty-card programs allow stores to cater to these folks by sending them free samples, offering special bargains other shoppers don’t get and structuring discounts to reward them for their regular, expensive shopping trips. “Those customers who contribute more profits, you look after them better,” says Woolf.

7. “...but they’re not always your best bet for big savings.”
Stores that use these loyalty programs want you to think you’ll save big by participating. But that’s not always the case: Wal-Mart, which has no such program, undercuts competitors on price, and most stores without these programs match their regular prices to competitors’ discounted card prices. In many cases, these retailers may even be able to offer lower prices than stores with elaborate loyalty-card programs, says David Livingston, managing partner with industry consultant DJL Research. “Loyalty-card programs do add an expense for stores,” Livingston says. “And stores can offer the same bargains without the card programs.”
In the end, what do consumers get for handing over their data? It depends. According to Stephen Hoch, a marketing professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, loyalty-card discounts really just shift higher prices onto those without cards. And even the best rewards don’t always amount to much. Supermarkets have a tight profit margin of about 2 percent, making it “hard for supermarkets to give customers big rewards,” says Hoch.
8. “Big sales may not mean lower costs for you.”

Supermarkets know you want bargains. And they’ll use bargains to get you through the door, via promotional flyers and advertised discounts. But the key is to make sure they don’t give away too much once you get inside.

How do they do it? For starters, atmosphere. Supermarkets know the first thing you see when you walk in sets the tone for your shopping trip. If it puts sale items or highly discounted products near the entrance, it can create the impression there’s real value to be had, whether that’s the case or not, says consultant Hertel. That’s also why space at the end of aisles is often used to display a small number of sale items. Stores know that you’re likely to buy lots of other products while you’re shopping—many of which will not be on sale or will be store brands—helping to cover the discounts on promotional items. Indeed, studies show that supermarkets have been effective at limiting giveaways, says K. Sudhir, a professor at the Yale School of Management. “Stores want to create the perception that customers are getting a good deal,” he says. “But they don’t want everyone to get the lowest prices.”

9. “We may carry local produce, but we’re no farmer’s market.”
When former Chicago software engineer Michael Morowitz wants to buy strawberries, he waits until summer and looks for those grown locally. “Strawberries shipped to Chicago in February are never going to be as good as those grown nearby in June,” says Morowitz, who runs The Local Beet, a Web site about locally grown food in Chicago. Like Morowitz, more people are looking for goods from nearby farms as a way of getting better, fresher foods and supporting local growers, not to mention cutting down on pollution from transportation. And supermarkets have heard the call—so much so that megaretailer Wal-Mart now touts locally grown produce.
But it’s not as clear-cut as it sounds. For one thing, there’s no agreement on what local means. For example, Wal-Mart defines local produce as that grown within the same state, but in a large state like California, that doesn’t mean much. Also, it’s tough for big chains to find enough local farms to fulfill their needs, and smaller farms can struggle to keep up with a large chain’s demands, says Julia Stewart, a spokesperson for the Produce Marketing Association. In the case of Wal-Mart, some of its local suppliers are the same massive farms that normally provide its produce. “It just makes for a positive press release,” Livingston says. A Wal-Mart spokesperson says the company works with farms of many sizes and doesn’t preclude its local farmers from selling their produce elsewhere.

10. “We’re experts in human behavior.”
Marketers know a lot about how you shop and what’s likely to make you pick up a product. For example, stores have discovered that shoppers are more comfortable staying to the right as they move through a store, says Ron Larson, associate professor of marketing at Western Michigan University. How much difference does it make? According to market-research firm Sorensen Associates, shoppers moving counterclockwise spend $2 more per trip than those who go the opposite direction.

How to avoid getting psyched out by savvy marketing? Know what you want to buy before you enter the supermarket. Livingston recommends planning meals for the week and sticking firmly to your list once in the store. Also, grab the smallest cart that will hold all your items, and heed the old saw “Never shop when you’re hungry.”

Copyrighted, SmartMoney.com. All Rights Reserved.

14 January 2009

Working Again

Well, I went down to Hillcrest Clinical Research to meet with Tom, at his request, to discuss the possibility of working part time this spring. Beth (his wife) is having surgery and will have to be out for eight weeks, so they need some part time help, which ended up working out ideally for me. Beth's surgery is Feb 3rd, so please keep her in your prayers that day and the weeks afterward as she recovers.

So starting on Monday the 19th, I will be working again as a Clinical Research Coordinator, doing regulatory stuff. The regulatory stuff is important, because I won't be seeing patients. That translates to I can sit at a desk all day and just relax and do paperwork, as opposed to being on my feet and up and down and bending over drawing blood and doing ECG's. So it works out pregnancy wise. I will be working from 0900 to 1700 (or if I finish early, earlier than that) every Monday and Wednesday until I have the baby. Unless of course I get put on bed rest or something.

And it is also an yet another wonderful example of how the Lord provides right when we need it, and always in His timing. Mike and I will be able to save up some extra money, purchase things for the baby that we might not otherwise have been able to do without dipping into savings, and hopefully put some extra on the truck on top of all of that. :)

And because I will only be working two days a week, I'll still be able to go to PWOC and the Red Cross and get my school work done and rest at home the other three days of the week. Yay! :D And I feel like I'm contributing to something again. I know it's completely psychological, but apparently my modus operendi is along the lines of providing for the family by working. I'm still learning the other part of my God-given role in providing as a care-giver. Ah balance, it's hard to get there. (Picture a teeter-totter.)

13 January 2009

New Toys!!

Blogger has added some really neat stuff since I set up my blog. I added a picture to the side and I noticed you can do a whole lot of other really neat stuff!! Anyway, just thought I'd share for those who have their head in the proverbial sand like I do . . . :)

Anyone there?

It seems like so many of us original "bloggers" in our little group don't post that often anymore. I don't that I am just as guilty as anyone else . . . and I know that everyone has so much going on in their lives. I just miss reading about everyone's thoughts on their lives. In some ways, it makes me feel closer to everyone. And it helps to keep in touch . . .

I don't want to make a New Year's Resolution out of it, because then I would be setting myself up for failure, but I really want to try to get back to posting like I used to. Hopefully others will follow suit . . . (Abby, Michelle, Sarah, Marilyn, Kyle, Joe . . . ) :) I know that Mike to the M2 posts faithfully - and Mike, I do read your blogs. :)

Oh, and for those of you who didn't know, Mike has a blog now as well. No, I don't know the name of it, but I'll try to find out and post a link to it. (I know, I'm a terrible wifewy, I don't even know where my husband's blog is.) I don't think he's gotten into the habit of writing a whole lot yet, but he wants to. :)

12 January 2009

English Lit Since 1800

This blog was created for my UCO English Literature Since 1800 class.

I do love to read and write, among many other academic interests, and this is actually not my first blog. I have a blog about family life that I try to post to faithfully. I have a lot of family and friends all over the world that read it so they can keep up on current events with my family (such as the upcoming birth of my husband and I's little girl). It's a private blog, however, if anyone is interested in reading it, I would be happy to add you, so just email me and let me know. I also have another private blog that only I have access to so I can vent about things that might upset me, I have a blog that I co-author with my husband where we write love letters back and forth to each other (that's a lot of fun! :-) ), I have a blog where I attempted to start writing a story and somehow that never really got launched (although I haven't given up on it yet, the story is still in my head), and I started a blog for the small group in my Bible study where we can post prayer and praises (since we all have blogs).

Anyway, I tend to go on and on in my blog posts, so I can see myself spending a lot of time blogging for class and not doing other assignments . . . lol . . . :)

01 January 2009

School update

Well, I finished off the semester pretty well (President's Honor Roll ~ yay!). I got enrolled for the spring and am going full time. However, I was able, with the Lord's blessing, to be able to take two intersession classes, and two online eight week classes, so I don't have to drive up to UCO all semester! The first intersession class was Psychology of Persuasion (very fascinating!) and was the week following the week of exams in December. It was grueling, but worth it. (All intersession classes are grueling, but worth it!) Then the other intersession class was Health Psychology and was the week immediately preceding the beginning of the spring semester.

I'm also taking English Literature Since 1800 and Advanced Composition for the my other two online classes. I'm actually writing this post Feb 22, 2009, even though it will be posted as Jan 1st. So that I'm getting ready to start my 7th week of class and I'm enjoying them so far. The professor has been extremely flexible with me since I've had a lot of pregnancy complications which have prevented me from turning in some assignments on time. I am very, very grateful to him for his patience and flexibility.

I have to have a blog for each class, so if you would like to read what I've been writing for those classes, feel free. I have overall really enjoyed the classes a lot and they have been very thought provoking. I have saved all of my online forums so I can later go back and peruse what I was thinking. :) I may just take more English classes in the future . . . :)

Ruth's Baby Shower for Sophie

While in SD, Ruth threw a baby shower for Sophie, Mike and I, which we really enjoyed. Ruth invited her friends from town and from church, who came and they brought gifts, which was really such a blessing.

We played a really fun game where everyone writes down something about themselves that no one else might know, and then they are all read aloud by one person and you have to guess who did what. It was pretty fun to learn some interesting things about people.

Ruth also bought Sophie her first doll (as shown in the picture to the left). She is just so cute! And there were some really beautiful decorations ~ Ruth really went all out and it turned out so wonderfully.

I also really enjoyed getting to know some of Ruth's friends some more. Most of them I had met at least once, but since Mike and I only come up once or twice a year, it's hard to get to know people. So I was glad of the opportunity to be able to take the time to talk to the ladies and get to know them some more.
We also played the imfamous "guess how big around the pregnant lady is" game, which I have always enjoyed when attending baby showers. I guess I have secretly wanted to the one who was having their measurement guessed at for some time, so I really enjoyed that game a lot. (The picture is further down with the winner.)

There was also a beautiful decorated and equally delicious cake! Which was also enjoyed in the days following the baby shower. I kept all the cake non-edible decorations for Sophie's scrap book. :)
Mike and I really felt very blessed by the outpouring of generosity from Ruth's friends, as well as from Ruth and Paul and Pam. To me, it really reflected the love of Christ ~ the body of believers taking care of one another, even though these ladies didn't really know me. Even as I went through the baby clothes and blankets recently for washing and putting away, I remember which ones were given to us by the ladies in SD. They truly are wonderful and provide an excellent example to fellow believers (such as in Titus 2).

Mike was also present for the opening of gifts, which I thought was so sweet of him. I guess most fathers don't usually attend the baby shower, but he came up from downstairs where he was hanging out with Paul, for this part. I really love sharing everything I can about Sophie coming into the world with him. And I really love and respect that he wants to be apart of everything; I just fall in love with him over and over ~ in ways I never would have imagined before . . . ::sigh:: :D

I am very grateful to Ruth and to all the ladies who came and shared their love and excitement and generosity with Mike and I. We are truly blessed. :)

Thanksgiving in South Dakota

(The pics are out of order in this post, fyi.) :)

Mike and I drove up to South Dakota for Thanksgiving and we had a really wonderful time visiting with Ruth and Paul and getting to see Joel and Pam's new house (which looks great!) and going to church and seeing everyone again. And of course, there was lots of great food!

The trip up was fairly uneventful; I had been worried about the drive up since I was about 20 something weeks pregnant, but we didn't have to stop all that often to go to the restroom - just the usual stops. I did get really sick after dinner, but luckily we were still in Grand Island, NE, so I was able to rush into a gas station restroom. And we almost hit a giant cow wandering around in the middle of the road about an hour outside of Gregory, but thanks to Mike's great driving skills and him seeing the glimmer of yellow eyes in the pitch black of the cold night, we were able to slow down and miss the cow.

Ruth and I went to the craft fair that is apparently held every year in Gregory at the community center/school gym. I really enjoyed going shopping with Ruth and we got some quilts for Sophie and also a set of placemats - all home made (which I thought was really neat). Ruth also recommended a really cute little book called Angel in the Waters, which is a beautifully illustrated story about the time the baby is in the womb. I have thoroughly enjoyed it. :)

Ruth also threw a baby shower for Sophie, Mike and I, which was really awesome. I will post about that in a seperate post.
On Thanksgiving, Pam, Joel and Beth, Matt, Jayne, Jonathan and Ben came up from NE to eat dinner. The fellowship with family was really great. And the food was really awesome as well. (Actually Ruth's cooking was so good that I gained quite a bit of weight while I was up there. That's okay though, Sophie needed it and I really enjoyed it!)

On Friday following, Paul, Ruth, Mike and I drove down to Pam's house in NE and got to see thew new house. We had lunch there and Mike and I walked around their property and tried to visit the neighboring horses. They weren't really all that interested in us though and couldn't be coaxed away from their afternoon luncheon. We did have fun playing with their Golden Retriever and one of the kitties, who apparently loves to be held.

While in NE, we also visited Camp Witness, where Joel was the director for many years and Mike went to camp and later served as a camp counselor as a teen. I'll post about that in a seperate blog as well.

It did snow while we were up there, on Saturday, the day before we left. So we ended up driving through some really beautiful snow for about three hours on the way home on Sunday. Mike is a really good driver in the snow though, so I wasn't too worried. (Which I would have been, had I been driving.) We left by way of going through downtown, and the Christmas decorations were up and I loved seeing the town in the snow with the Christmas decorations! It was so beautiful!

Mike and I really enjoyed getting away for a week and visiting with family and we felt very renewed in spirit and physically after our visit. I, personally, always look forward to going up to South Dakota for visits and look forward to bringing little Sophie up in the years ahead.

Thomas leaving for the Marines

I'm writing this on January 13th, so it's been 13 days since Thomas left for the Marines. He left Jan 1st.

He left from Florida, while Mike and I were still down in Tampa as well. He had a really early flight, so he got up before 0600 to get ready to go. We had decided the night before that I would stay home and say goodbye from home. In hind sight, I'm glad I did.

Thomas had a long journey too. He flew to Oklahoma City from Tampa, loaded his car up with what he wanted to take, then started his drive from Oklahoma City to Camp Pendleton, California, which is near San Diego in southern California. He made it safely, which was answered prayer.

It was so hard to say goodbye to Thomas. He's my brother and I love him so much. And he's been so close, living with Mike and I or living nearby (in the same apartment complex) in Oklahoma for a year and a half. And there's the fact that he's leaving to go back into the Marine Corps. And that he's leaving for Afghanistan in March or April. I have prayed about a safe return for him from the Middle East, but you can't help but have that thought in the back of your head that he might not come back alive. I don't know if that is a lack of faith or a spiritual attack or just a big dose of reality.

When I was saying goodbye, I just wanted to hold on tight and not let go of him. To keep trying to protect him like the older sister that I am. I knew that I couldn't though. I also couldn't stop the tears from coming. I knew that it made it harder on Thomas, but I couldn't help it.

In some ways, I felt like I was turning him completely over to the Lord. I have prayed for him so much in the past year and a half, as he has gone through so many ups and downs, mostly downs. I have taken care of him in many ways, which I know was hard for him as a man (having to rely on his older sister and all that). In some ways though, I just kept trying to fix the problem, instead of leaving it up to the Lord and completely trusting Christ to take care of him. My words said that in prayer, but my actions didn't always reflect that. It's just so hard when you love someone so much and you see what they are going through and sometimes you just feel so helpless . . . anyway, I know that he is in the Lord's hands and has been and will continue to be. I just have to trust . . . completely trust . . .

"But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven adn tossed by the wind." James 1:6 (NKJV)

"Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them." Mark 11:24 (NKJV)