Monday, August 24, 2009

Urban Gardens

We have lived in our sweet, humble abode for 10 years now. Over the years we have gone from room to room, redecorating, painting, tiling, etc. No room, nook or cranny has been left untouched. In some cases, a room may have been touched more than once.

Our projects have also included the landscaping. The previous owners had done a fine job creating perennial gardens of bushes and shrubs (is there a difference?) and sharp spiky things that required very little maintenance on our part. What a relief, right? Well, I always thought that these garden areas made it look as though retired elderly people lived in our home, which is in stark contrast to the image I'm trying to convey by leaving hool-a-hoops, balls, bikes and chalk strewn about haphazardly. I mean, really, how many old people ride around on pink tricycles and leave beach towels hanging from the Dogwood in the front yard? Anywho, the point is that over the years we (and by we, I mean not me but Jay and his dad and his brother) have transformed the gardens into much prettier, younger looking gardens. I even know some of the plants names and don't always pull out the good plants thinking that they're weeds.

See? Not too shabby. My favorites are the butterfly bushes along the driveway. The picture doesn't really do them justice. But they smell awesome!!! I love it! And man! They make a lot of butterflies.

We have not tried our hand at a vegetable garden for various reasons. A) I don't want to. B) Jay doesn't want to. So, we were surprised recently when my Sister-in-law commented on our squash vine thingy. Huh? We didn't even know it was there. And the rate it's been growing is phenomenal. The kids just got to see the actual squash....check it out.

Pretty cool, huh? And it has it's own private space where it won't need to worry about being choked out by other pesky plants or weeds.....See?

Yeah, that's right. It's growing out of a crack on our driveway. Nice. We're going to see how far we can take this thing....

This, my friends, is an urban garden.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Spinning My Wheels

Our church (and by "our", I mean the church that we go to...not that we own the church or anything) has been doing a sermon series titled "Things My Mother Told Me". Each week they've been taking a typical mom like thing to say and applying it to our Christian life. One week was "Brush Your Teeth". The pastor then tied the importance of having a clean mouth with the importance of having a clean heart...see? Ties together nicely...and they handed out toothbrushes at the door. Even better!

Recently, the sermon was titled "Clean Your Ears!" My dear friend and Pastor of Caring Ministries gave this sermon and I think she'd be pretty pleased to know that I have been going around and around in my head over this one! The application was that as Christians we need to be very careful about what we hear/watch/read/etc. lest it draw our minds and hearts away from God and the things He wants us to focus on.

My first concern with the sermon was outward focused in that I felt like if someone was visiting the church for the first time and maybe was not a Christ follower, they could have walked away thinking that the message was "If you're a Christian, do not read, watch TV, go to the movies or participate in anything culturally relevant." But then I figured that I was just being nit-picky and got over it.

I started to think about how this applied to me personally, and this is where the wheels started to fall off this culturally saturated truck. I read A LOT. I watch TV A LOT. I do not listen to the radio a lot at all, only in the van and then it's an endless rotation (thanks, Toyota, for the 6 CD changer) of Silly Songs, Philadelphia Chickens, Laurie Berkner, the CD the kids got from VBS, and a Worship NOW! CD. The last movie I saw in the theater was High School Musical 3 with my niece and I do feel that the ridiculousness of the film put my salvation in question.

That being said...Should I not be reading my mystery/whodunit type books? Hmmmm...After reading them, I have never attempted to commit or solve a crime. The sometimes gory content has never seeped into my dreams. But yet, I do draw the line at what I will read. No science fiction here, please. Wizards and vampires can camp out on someone else's nightstand. Why? Why do I accept murder and thievery as passable literature but fantasy and magic are somehow ungodly?

Should I not be watching the (too long, I know) list of shows that I enjoy? I'm so torn! Again, I have my staunchly ambiguous standards down to a T. Shows like Dancing With The Stars make me angry because I think it's touted as "family friendly", but is more like she-who-wears-the-least-gets-the-most-votes or creepiest-camera-love-wins. But, So You Think You Can Dance is awesome in my eyes because they're professionals and that's what professional dancers wear (or barely wear).

If I closed myself off to everything "of this world", would I be able to effectively reach people in the name of the Lord? Do I need to be culturally relevant to earn the right to be heard? Or is being culturally relevant an excuse to be able to speak intelligently about last nights CSI or Office? If I know who got voted off Survivor, will that give me more credibility?

Jay was seriously getting frustrated with me as we discussed this because I kept going around and around and around. To everything he said, I had an equal and opposite reaction. I'm looking for black and white answers where there are none to be found. And that frustrates me. I want someone older and wiser and closer to the Lord to give me a run down on every thing I read, watch or hear and tell me if it's okay in the eyes of Lord or not. That way, I could have a tangible check list and maybe a cool clip board that I could show off to people and look super holy in the eyes of man...wait a second, that's not right! Jay's more level headed, practical advice is to ask the Lord directly...cut out all wiser middle men and clip boards. If I'm not sure if something may be causing me to sin or worse yet, causing someone else to stumble, ask God.

It sounds so simple! So why am I struggling with it? Is it because I'm afraid of the answer? The pastor challenged us to apply this test: If Jesus were sitting with you, would you be watching/reading, etc. the same thing as you are now? Jay had a two fold answer 1) If Jesus were with me, I wouldn't be watching or reading anything. I'd be all about the Savior. And 2) Jesus wants to spend time with me. If that means camping out on the couch for an evening, that's fine with Him. He'd meet me wherever I was. He'd probably enjoy our Tuesday night chicken wings. Now, in all honesty...I'd probably make less fun of the contestants on America's Got Talent and Wipeout!

It's a slippery slope between being "in this world" and being "of this world" and I'm looking for something to hold onto.

"Finally, brothers, 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." -Philippians 4:8

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Get Rid Of That Junk In Your Trunk!

No, this is not a post about dieting or exercising. Rather this is my own contribution to the garage/yard/church bizarre sale world and all those who dare to enter it's sometimes musty smelling atmosphere.

Every year, our neighborhood hosts a HUGE multi-family yard sale. For a measly 5 bucks, a group of mysterious neighborhood women folk will put up 1.2 million posters throughout the area, place ads in the local papers and deliver balloons and maps to each participants house in the cover of darkness. No one has ever seen this bevy of bargainers, but I'm convinced that they exist....simply because of the balloons appearing the morning of the sale.

This extravaganza is not for the weak of heart! People start trolling the streets around 7:00 a.m. clearly ignoring the 9:00 start time. Plus, some of these early birds have the audacity to be irritated if you're not ready to receive them and their fresh from the bank dollar bills. Parking becomes impossible and quite laughable when people literally park in the middle of the street to jump out and check someone's table o'crap.

This will be our third time participating. I invited Christina from the Crafty P to join in our drawn out misery but strangely she declined my prime driveway spot. Actually, she is going to sell her wares at a different venue and asked if I had any helpful hints.

I don't know if they're helpful, but here goes!

Be prepared! Have extra stickers, markers, scissors, plastic bags, newspaper (Who has time to read? To wrap delicate things in, Silly), water and snacks (be sure to hide the water and snacks or else you'll be holding a lousy quarter and have cotton mouth all day)...oh, and don't forget a money box or super cool fanny pack, and change. God forbid you don't have change for a dollar.

What's your goal? Is it to make money or get rid of stuff? You need to know which it is to price accordingly. And remember, this is probably the wrong place to try to sell your "priceless" antiques and valuables. You'll only end up insulted and tired after dragging your stuff back home because someone was outraged that you rejected their $10 offer on a $100 piece of furniture. People want to be able to use the money in their pockets and not blow it all at one yard.

Know ahead of time if you'll be willing to negotiate. These bargain hunters can smell your fear and uncertainty and will attack viciously. I like the plan that goes like this...if you have something that you'd be willing to part with for $5, mark it for $10. Either someone will pay the asking price which is pure bonus for you or they'll make you a counter offer to which you should then arch your back and suck your teeth as if you just got punched to make it seem like they're really robbing you blind. They think they got a great deal, but victory is yours. Stand your ground, too! Inevitably, someone will approach you with an armload of stuff worth $10 and offer you something ridiculous, like .50 and a stick of gum. Get outta here! Be firm and say something like, "$9 is as low as I can go for all that stuff, Pal...and don't think I didn't see you put that My Little Pony in your pocket, either!"

You could put a price sticker on each individual item...but I think I'm going to do it differently this year. I'm going to section off my tables and mark each section with a price. Then, I'll put a colored sticker on each$1, yellow=$2, etc. I, also, like to bundle items...4 books for $1, $5 for a bag of baby clothes, etc.

Make sure all your items are clean and in working condition. I have learned from personal experience that you should, if at all possible, try to have an extension cord at the ready to prove to these ruthless shoppers that the clock on your $2 coffee maker works. Also, make a little sign for an item if (non-essential) parts are missing. If essential parts are missing, may I introduce you to your garbage can?

Some sellers, in addition to selling their wedding gifts that they clearly did not register for, clothes from the "fat years" , and things from the grandparents basement that they thought were cool at the time, may want to sell specialty items like baked goods, hand painted things, baby blankets???? For these items, I would make a clear sign stating the asking price and put something on the sign like "final price" to warn folks not to try to negotiate. Since everyone likes a deal, though, you could add something like 1 for $10 or 2 for $18.

Be prepared for people who may not think as logically as's an example. I was selling a dining room table and 6 chairs for $100. A very nice woman started wheeling and dealing with my father-in-law, which was her first mistake. She said that she didn't want the table, just the chairs. My FIL told her that the chairs were $20 a piece....and she agreed to it! Feeling badly, I tried to explain to her that she was being swindled, but she would hear nothing of it! $20/chair was what she was willing to pay! So, she left with my chairs and I kept her $120. The FIL was very proud....

Finally, if you were willing to sell it, be willing to either pitch it or donate it if it's still around at the end of the day. Don't take anything back into your house at the end of the day. If people didn't want your crap this year,they're not going to want it next year.

Now, go forth and sell junk.

This Is Why I Struggle With Laundry...

...and this is just breakfast.