No mundane Mondays around here

Mondays may be the busiest day of the week for me, if not our entire family. It’s our CC day, and from wake-up before dawn til late in the afternoon, it’s go, go, go. I realize that many people live that way every day and have much busier lives and schedules than we do, but for our universe, the Monday schedule is probably the craziest.

Even into our sixth year, we all love the CC program and I’m continually thankful we found it. And now, seven weeks into directing, I can say I’m glad I accepted the position. There are several aspects I had no idea I was getting myself into (um, like plunging toilets and mopping floors at least once a week), but the benefits have far outweighed the risks. I’m thankful for the chance to lead the group and get to know families better both in and outside of our class day, and I am being stretched in ways I couldn’t have imagined. But mostly, it’s refreshing to know that it’s not because of me and me alone that our campus runs so smoothly. I appreciate how my own kids step up and help out, even when they’d rather be doing something else, but I also am continually amazed by everyone else’s willingness to work and jump in to make the days run well. While I may not ascribe to the “it takes a village to raise a child,” I can certainly attest to the fact that it takes a village to clean up after 80 of them every Monday!

By Monday evenings, I am flat out exhausted. When I tutored, I used to come home mentally worn out, but now I think I’m more physically so. There are new challenges every week, it seems, but many more joys in coming together with friends and fellow homeschoolers to work towards the same end of educating our kids.

And trying to sneak in a few minutes of mom-conversation between the activities of the day.

I probably had other encouraging comments to make, but Todd just started NewsRadio, and my brain is just about out of juice.

Until tomorrow, good night!

Crescent Cream Cheese Squares

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Whether it can be called a spiritual gifting or a love language, I’m not sure, but I do know that I really enjoy making meals for other people who have a need for them. So it’s great news that I’ve felt good enough to be able to prepare dinner for someone other than my own family. A friend from our church just recently had a fairly involved surgery that required a longer-than-planned hospital stay, so I was happy to step in and help out with a meal for her family as she recovered. While the dinner choice was easy (a chicken and wild rice soup that is a staple in our home), I looked for a dessert recipe that I had not tried before for some excitement in the kitchen. What I found in my “I have five minutes to pick something” search was a recipe with few ingredients, but lots of promise. With my cooking buddy Ben, we set out to make two batches of the sweet treats: one for them and one for us.

OK, so it’s not exactly a diet-ish sort of recipe, but I’m all for a treat every now and again. I haven’t had cream cheese in the house for quite some time, so I’m OK with an occasional splurge. It’s just how I roll.

Here are the list of ingredients for those readers who are more visual. My picture is missing butter, but that will turn up later on…

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It’s very easy: the first step is unrolling one can of crescent rolls and pressing them into the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan, and sealing the seams as much as possible. Ben took one pan while I attacked the other. Not a problem.

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Meanwhile, combine the softened cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract in a bowl and beat until smooth. Ben still has memories of the cheesecake we made together when he dropped an entire egg–shell and all–into the bowl, so he was greatly relieved to learn this recipe was egg-less.

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This just keeps getting easier and easier, don’t you think? Next, just spread the well-combined cream cheese concoction over the crescent rolls, and make sure it’s evenly distributed.

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We unrolled the second can of rolls, but since we couldn’t press them into the cream cheese, we got out our trusty rolling pin, shook some flour on the worktable, and rolled the rolls (HA!) out until they were about the proper size. (I eyeball a lot.) Then we easily placed them on top of the cream cheese mixture.

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The next step was one that I misread–or missed altogether–until I had made some mistakes. The original recipe read to melt butter and pour over the top of the crescent rolls, but I somehow missed that. Ben pointed it out, so we caught it in time. I re-scanned the recipe and saw ‘softened butter,’ so I quickly added butter to the cinnamon and sugar mixture he’d already made. When it wasn’t coming together easily, I slowed down and actually read through the entire recipe (who has time for that?! really!), and that’s when I caught the “pour melted butter” step. Oops. So we improvised. And put the butter, sugar, and cinnamon all in the microwave together. What came out was this buttery yumminess:

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In the end, I actually liked this changed better. Instead of drizzling butter and sprinkling the cinnamon-sugar, we mixed the three together and easily spread it over the top of the rolls in one step. I thought it covered more completely. And that’s the story I plan to stick with from here on out.

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The two pans sidled into the oven without complaint and remained there, in a toasty 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, during which time they turned a lovely golden brown. The aroma that surrounded the kitchen was heavenly. When the timer alerted us that we hadn’t gotten nearly enough done in the 30 minutes we had to ourselves, this is what we pulled out of the racks…

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That was it! They cooled until one batch rode with me to the friend’s house, and the other remained intact until after dinner at our house. General reactions were positive, but the negative comments came from the children I did not expect to like it anyway. Those who tried it, enjoyed it. I will definitely be making this again, but next time I think I will try some changes in the filling. The possibilities are quite endless, with fruit and maybe even some chocolate. Who knows?

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Cream Cheese Square Dessert

2 (8 ounce) cans refrigerated crescent roll dough
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch pan.
Press one can of the crescent rolls into the bottom of the prepared pan. In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese, 1 cup of sugar, and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Spread over the crescent layer. Unroll the second can of crescent rolls and lay them on top of the cream cheese layer. Do not press down. Pour the melted margarine over the entire pan. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over the top.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the top is crisp and golden.

(Kick) the Summer Bucket List 2013

It is two short days into the new season of autumn, and lovely though it has been, I already miss summer. Actually, I began to miss summer back on August 12 when we started the new school year, so you’d think I would be resigned to the fact that the sunny season is in fact over. Never. I love everything about the summertime, and always lament its exit, which always seems too soon. This year has been no exception, but with the slightly cooler and definitely rainier summer, it felt like, in some ways, we got cheated out of a real summer. Perhaps that’s why our summer bucket list went unfinished throughout June, July, and August, until one morning we woke up and the Labor Day weekend was upon us. As we surveyed just how many boxes of our grand summer plans chart were still empty, panic began to sweep over us.

Well, maybe I exaggerate just a tad…but I was extremely disappointed to realize that we would not finish our list. Something had to be done.

Todd and I brainstormed an idea to have a one-day cram session in an attempt to cross everything remaining off the list. We called our good friends (who had also made one part of the list for the summer) and introduced our idea to them: we’d invade their house, and in return, they’d help us kick the (summer) bucket (list)! Of course, being fun-loving friends who usually seem to be up for a challenge, they agreed. And so it was settled. We would send summer out right.

Among the items on the docket, we planned to swim in the pool, eat too much delicious food at a cookout/potluck, set off some fireworks, “enjoy” a water balloon fight, have a bonfire with s’mores, rubber band a watermelon…

Wait. Rubber banding a watermelon? What in Sam Hill does that mean, you ask?! We got the original inspiration from Ralph, our brother-in-law, who showed us a YouTube video from two men calling themselves The Slow Mo Guys. You can watch the video here:

Yep. We wanted to do THAT. But really, can you blame us? Isn’t that so CRAZY cool?!

If it’s true that crossing things off your to do list releases endorphins, we were setting ourselves up for quite the high!

I wish I could say that the day was a complete success and we completed everything we set out to do, but I can’t. What we did do, however, was completely enjoy the last official Sunday of summer and wrap up what could go down on record as perhaps the shortest feeling seasons on record. Many thanks to our dear cohorts for the laughs and the friendship. You helped us kick the summer bucket list in style, Hagan family!

Below are a few highlights from the afternoon of hysteria… err, I mean, laid back relaxation.

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Goodbye, Summer 2013!! We shall miss you!

Forty has arrived!

 

After all the avoiding and thinking that I could just “skip it,” my fortieth birthday arrived yesterday, right on schedule. Funny how time just keeps marching on, right? Actually, my first gift arrived the night before when a fast and furious storm blew into Lexington with little warning. Todd and Patrick had just left the house on their way to church and were in the van when the wind whipped up so hard and so fast that it broke a huge limb from the top of our tree and caused it to crash onto the driveway. It happened in an instant, it seemed, and on the driveway where we normally park one of our two vans. As it turned out, Todd’s van and trailer had been parked in the street and my van was in the grass. The fallen limb shattered the smaller branches around it in a rather large mess.

 

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Thank you, Mayhem, for coming to our home! We were incredibly thankful that the boys were not involved. The next morning, however, they were involved in the cleanup effort.

 

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Another strange delivery arrived on our front lawn later that night between storms. Everyone except Hannah was at the church for musical practice or set construction, and I received a strange text from her about halfway through. “Are you expecting anyone, Mom? Some guy I don’t recognize is putting letters in the front yard!” Since she has not the life experience of pranks or other such activities surrounding milestone birthdays, so she had no idea what was happening before her eyes! When we arrived home, we saw a birthday greeting that spanned almost the entire length of our front lawn, complete with a flock of pink flamingos. Who on earth could have arranged that for me?

 

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The kids were immediately tickled by the flamingos in particular and planned which ones they would claim (not understanding that the flock would quickly move on…).

 

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What an awesome way to mark the day! Whoever had organized this did a fantastic job. I had a few suspicions as to who could be responsible, but ended up being totally surprised later in the day to find out that it was actually my family in Michigan who had set it up! Sneaky folks, they are! It was fabulous.

 

On the morning of my birthday, I shared a special treat with my coffee drinking buddy, Todd, that I had been saving since last December. I bought several pounds of my favorite Starbucks flavor, Christmas Blend, and tucked one away for a birthday treat. It did not disappoint.

 

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The day had more surprises and delights in store. Thanks to Facebook, my phone’s alerts went off all day. For someone whose love language is ‘words of encouragement,’ that was a real blessing.

 

 

 

 

My parents, who had planned a weekend trip with everyone in Cincinnati before Mom’s fall, had to move on to plan B and sent a box full of various thoughtful gifts to mark the day.

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It must have hurt my dad a whole lot to buy me a UK cup. I really appreciate his sacrifice!!

 

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Earlier in the week, I had received an unmarked package which turned out to be a shirt from my cousin in Arizona. My older cousin who had turned 40 four years ago. The shirt, I thought, had been passed down from cousin to cousin to wear as they turned that magical number. How fun! What I learned on the day of my birthday, however, was that in reality, the shirt had originated thirty-four years before when my dad turned 40. As the oldest member of his family, the tradition was started with him and had been passed down to each of his sisters and then the cousins. Suddenly the “fun” shirt transformed into a much more meaningful tradition! We took pictures and then carefully took it off. I’m not sure, but I think it may have historical protection status. I treated it accordingly, just to be safe.

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While Todd was trying to get a picture of me (such a hard job for someone like me; pictures of myself are difficult to approve…this is probably the only blog post with so many of me, me, me…ugh), Andrew snapped perhaps the best candid picture of the day.

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It’s fun to be forty! Sort of.

A mysterious stranger sent me a text around 6pm instructing me to look out on the van. Thankfully, no tree branches had crashed on top of it. Instead, there was a large balloon and deliciously decorated chocolate covered strawberries!

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I love the little body coming out of the bottom of the balloon. 🙂

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I wouldn’t find until much later–when a card was delivered to the house–that these treats were made by our dear friends the Hagans.

Todd took me out to dinner, but while we were there, his family all stopped by in an instance of bad timing for both of us. Not waiting to leave feeling they hadn’t done what they came to do, they recorded themselves singing happy birthday to me and sent it via text. I was so sorry to miss their visit (but the dinner out with Todd was lovely).

Ralph and Laura and their kids brought yet another of my favorite treats–key lime pie. It was waiting for me in the fridge when we returned home.

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And another balloon to remind me of just how old I had become…

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We ended the day looking through old pictures and shared a piece of birthday cake (my favorite: Boston Crème Pie)…except for Brendan, who preferred to have some mint chocolate chip ice cream.

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All in all, it was a very, very good day. I have been blessed beyond measure in the years I have been given so far, and pray that however many I have left will be just as full of family, friends, and fulfillment. Thank you to everyone who sent a message (or a FLOCK OF FLAMINGOS!!) or a treat. You made my day extremely special!

A funny thing happened on the way to surgery…

This past Friday, I went through lumbar microdiscectomy for the second time in five months. Apparently I’m an overachiever because of the people who have the surgery, only 4-5% have a recurrence afterwards. Woohoo! That’s me, always trying to outdo the odds. I blame my uber-motivating parents who always pushed me to do my best…I just can’t imagine they had something like this in mind.

In any case, this story really isn’t about the fact that I had to have two almost identical surgeries only 163 days apart. It is interesting to explore the possible reasons for a recurrence happening so quickly, however. Of course, my first thought was “have I done something I shouldn’t have?” I would be shocked if it was because of what I did, because I don’t feel like I pushed myself at all. Hannah has almost completely taken over the responsibility of the laundry, as that chore was certainly one of the largest triggers of my back pain. The kids are on KP duty, so another one of my nemeses, the dishwasher, held no power over me. I even tried to get the kids to take over vacuuming and floor cleaning. Sometimes I feel like I’m pawning off all the housework on them, but then I consider what a valuable commodity these children will be as they grow up–for their own households and for their future spouses. Regardless of whether it’s to assuage my own guilt or I really am preparing them well for life, this is how we’ve been rolling around here.

So, no heavy housework, no lifting more than maybe two gallons of milk….Hmmm, gallons of milk. Could pushing a shopping cart have caused such a profound reinjury? I didn’t even go shopping alone until I was cleared by the surgeon the first time in late November to slowly return to normal activities. Perhaps it contributed, but surely didn’t cause it…?

No accidents, no trauma, no hauling heavy materials….. I honestly couldn’t think of anything, and yet, starting in early January, a pain started slowly creeping back into my life when I had so gloriously returned to a pain-free lifestyle. At first, although it was again on my left side, it was in a completely different place. My hip was giving me a nagging pain that kept getting worse and worse, but not constant. Finally, I gave in and went to see my doctor, half embarrassed. “Really, Deb?” I imagined her saying. “What could it possibly be this time??” (Even if she thought it to herself, she never once vocalized it to me. She’s much too sweet for that.) Nagging pain progressed to the kind of pain that makes a person cry in the doctor’s office two weeks later because walking around is getting tough. Crying led to different treatments and a prescription for a round of physical therapy. The physical therapist went along with the initial diagnosis of hip bursitis until I started reporting symptoms like shooting pain down my leg when I raised my hands over my head and unrelenting pain from my sciatica down to my foot that got so bad it would keep me from sleeping at night and made finding a comfortable position almost impossible.

One day after about a month of PT, my thoughtful therapist at Bauman Physical Therapy, mindful of how many visits my insurance would allow me, strongly suggested I stop coming to him and call my neurosurgeon for a follow up visit. He was convinced that something was going on in the same area as before. How disastrous.

After scheduling an appointment for the middle of March (in the middle of February; my neurosurgeon is sought after, apparently, and it didn’t help that he had a vacation in there as well), I thought I’d just wait it out. When that worked about as well as instructing a fish to climb a tree, I went back to a different doctor in my GP’s practice (since she was in Thailand; I have fantastic timing), feeling ridiculous to come back again yet helpless in regards to getting relief. He immediately assured me that I wasn’t imagining it and referred me for an MRI the next day. Once I had the CD of the MRI in hand, I proceeded to spend the weekend examining and re-examining the images of my spine. I’m not a trained professional and don’t even play one on tv, but it didn’t take a genius to compare the current MRI to the first one I had in July. It did not look good. In fact, it looked pretty obvious that that which was supposed to be on the inside of my disc was once again on the outside. Devastation magnified.

Then came the waiting. From the March 1 MRI to the March 14 appointment with my neurosurgeon seemed like an eternity to say the least. I was convinced that my disc had reherniated, but started to wonder if, when I finally saw him, my doctor would say, “Well….it’s really not what it looks like.” or some other such nonsense, such as “There’s nothing we can do for this. Stinks to be you.”

The day before my appointment, though, I heard from two different doctors who didn’t know me but had seen my MRI images. One of them called it “a catastrophic herniation.” The other was reported to have simply exclaimed, “Oh shit.” Neither, to be honest, sounded especially encouraging.

As we suspected, the next day the surgeon confirmed what I had “arm chair” diagnosed: my disc had reherniated in the same level, same side. He used terms such as “impressive,” which made me cringe. I’d rather be impressive in my speaking abilities or in my organizational skills–not in my injurious proclivities! Regardless, he suggested a redo procedure. Usually, the surgery is successful the first time around, but in the rare occurrences when it happens again, it was still more successful than not. It looked as though it was the option for me. I knew that for quality of life alone, surgery was a good option, but the likelihood of the disc healing itself (which can happen if caught earlier and if the injury is to a lesser degree), was almost negligible.

At quite possibly the worst time in our homeschool schedule–memory master testing, end of year testing, spring fever, and other events not even mentioned–we scheduled my redo procedure. I had eight days to get my ducks in a row to prepare myself for an identical surgery and recovery. I wasn’t excited about it, but felt it was the best option for my situation.

The surgery had a couple of complications. Beforehand, the doc went through worst case scenarios with us, one of which was a dural tear when removing the scar tissue from surgery #1. He did say that it was rare–only 1-2% incidents in these procedures. Yeah, that happened, resulting in a killer spinal headache and an overnight stay instead of an outpatient procedure. Maybe I should have played the lottery? In addition, I had a small incident in recovery called vocal chord paralysis that caused my blood pressure to drop and me to stop breathing. Thankfully with an ambu bag, a couple breathing treatments, and a shot of epinephrine, I was back to the land of the living. I was also glad to hear of this complication after coming around; I have no memory of the event.

Now that I’m home, I’ve had no additional surprises. My recovery has gone slowly, but well overall. My goal, as after the first time, is to “keep moving forward.” My prayer is that this time will be the last time. I’m hopeful that it will be a more permanent fix (at least longer than 163 days!) and I can move on from back issues for a long while.

On the day of my first surgery, other than getting an IV placed, the only other dread I had was getting weighed that morning. By October, after suffering through a summer of inactivity and pain, I had become quite the blob in my own eyes. I hadn’t really done anything to remedy the problem, though, either–other than moaning and complaining.

I had the brilliant plan to close my eyes when I stepped on the scale in pre-op. The nurse would write down the hideous number and I’d never have to know. I mean, I knew already, but I wasn’t interested in having the reality of the numbers attached to it.

My plan worked until a different male nurse came back to do yet another pre-op exam. He checked me out, left, and then returned in a bit to complete something in my chart. As he filled out whatever it was with a couple other nurses, he asked, “What do you weigh?” I admitted that I didn’t know and hadn’t looked. Clueless, he left to get that number and then when he learned it, he hollered down the hallway to the other nurses in my area. My plan was foiled by the man who announced that hideous number to anyone who had listened. Ugh! was all I could think. Worse than I’d feared! As my sister-in-law once astutely observed, “Everybody’s got a number.” She’s right, and THAT was not mine.

After surgery #1, I don’t think I could say that Clueless Male Nurse was my sole impetus for getting my ‘house’ in order, but he definitely played a leading role. That number seemed to follow me everywhere: from my bathroom scale to my mirror to my follow up appointment post surgery. I had to lose that number somehow!

At the same time, a friend on Facebook was beginning a challenge with her friend to commit to walk or run at least one mile every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day in an attempt to keep holiday weight gain at bay. I had been dabbling in short walks by that time: not daily and not more than around the block, but at least something. I’d read that one of the best ways to recover from my kind of back surgery was by walking. So I did. The more I saw her accountability updates to her friend on Facebook, the more intrigued I was. On December 5, I started my own challenge. I committed to walk a mile every day until January 1. I was late to their party, but thought I could still start my own. In addition, I downloaded a food tracking app on my phone, set up my “No Longer That Number” goals, and jumped in (but not literally. Jumping is kind of still off limits).

I was successful at walking every day–even on Christmas Day. I really began to enjoy my walks during the days. Some days I walked in the rain or snow, and a couple days I walked in the dark. But that 20-30 minutes were really important to me. I practiced the Timeline for memory master or listened to praise and worship music…or some cardio 80s. I also successfully avoided gaining weight throughout the holiday season, with all its sweets and goodies that I love so much. It wasn’t that hard, actually. I made the decision that I would fast from Christmas Crack entirely and kept my promise. (With that stuff, once you have one piece, it’s pretty much over. It’s called Crack for good reason!) For probably the first time ever, I lost weight during Christmas and didn’t feel deprived.

I had strung together around 60 days in a row of waking without a break when my hip and leg pain got so intense that I could hardly walk back to the bathroom, let alone walk my two miles. I was completely devastated the day I broke my chain. I say devastated only because I couldn’t think of a word stronger than that, but that’s how I felt.

Fast forward to the day of surgery #2, when I was not only able to keep my eyes open when limping on the scale back in pre-op (remember, jumping = colossal no no). I haven’t reached my end goal yet, but for once, I didn’t have to hang my head in my own personal shame. As I waded through the déjà vu of going through the exact same thing as I had just five short months before, imagine my surprise when Clueless Male Nurse popped his head around the curtain. (I guess I shouldn’t have been all that surprised, but he hadn’t been imprinted in my mind as my favorite person.)

“How much did you weigh today?” he asked. I couldn’t believe it, but this time I was able to answer him without delay.

“There seems to be a 17 pound discrepancy between your weight today and what’s in your chart,” he explained. Then he went on to tell the nurse who was taking my blood pressure what the chart said. It was as if I couldn’t escape him and that number!

But actually, I have been able to escape that number. It is now 17 lbs. away, to be exact. I’m a huge fan of irony, and believe I had a large dose of it that morning, right before my huge doses of anesthesia.

Maybe I should have taken the opportunity to thank Clueless Male Nurse for motivating me to finally get started on my goals! Hopefully my back will heal quickly enough that I can continue to outrun “that number.”

Obligatory Post

I’m only writing because I made a promise to write every day. I really don’t feel like it, though, especially after watching America willingly give away its greatness in liberty in exchange for socialism. Our children are responsible for so much debt it boggles the mind. Our enemies are thrilled with the apparent outcome of the election. I simply do not understand how so many people could be so deceived by a man who wasn’t raised here, doesn’t know our culture, doesn’t care to preserve or protect the Constitution, and actively works to undermine our Anerican exceptionalism.

I am so tired of losing. I am, however, rejoicing in the knowledge that the battle is the Lord’s. I pray that He has mercy on us if it’s not too late. Our poor children.

And also, when do the Obamaphones come in?

NaBloPoMo takes over in a much more responsible manner

Thanks to some seasoned veteran blogging friends, I can see that I was mistaken as to WHICH type of “write every day” program I should be following.  Perhaps some day a novel will be on my to do list, but for now, I’m much more content to be able to say that I posted a blog entry every day for a month, which falls under the category of “NaBloPoMo.”  You too can join this adventure by going here.  So, later today, I will hopefully continue the month-long journey by posting an entry of actual substance, and not just explanation.  We shall see.

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