Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008's almost a goner

I really can't think of many years I have wished to be over as much as I have wished for this one to be over.

I hate to even say that because despite all the difficulties 2008 has presented, God has been pretty good to us personally. My husband and I both have jobs. We have our home. We have our health. We made some major home improvements this year by replacing our first floor carpet with laminate flooring and extending our patio in the back yard. We didn't take one of those crazy adjustable rate mortgages that so many people are trapped in now. I saw some really wonderful concerts this year: the Police, Michael Buble, Chicago/Doobie Brothers, Dave Koz, Harry Connick, Jr., and yes, even Barry Manilow. I also attended some good plays and musicals, so I am very fortunate in that I am in a position to do those things.

On the other hand, I was laid off from my contract with Anheuser-Busch and had to go through a 2.5 month jobless period while I conducted my employment search. The company I am now working at was bought by another company, so there is some uncertainty as to my future with the new organization. There are assurances from my company that things are looking good for our group here in St. Louis, but you never really know. I suspect I won't know much of anything for at least three more months. All that "job uncertainty" that we hear so much about in the news is exactly what I am experiencing right now. On top of all these things, my friend Kathy passed away unexpectedly on Thanksgiving.

I visited my friend Jan and our friend Amy on Christmas at Jan's home. I wore a pretty and cheerful reindeer pin on my coat lapel; I have worn it in my coat lapel every year since I received it as a gift from Kathy. Jan and Amy immediately complimented me on it; neither of them could restrain themselves from welling up with tears when I told them it was a gift from Kathy. It's been that kind of year -- that kind of holiday season.

Additionally, I am not at all happy with the existing administration, but am hopeful President-Elect Obama will be able to right our country's standing in the world after all the damage President Bush, Vice-President Cheney and crew have done to it over the past eight years. I am also hopeful that the environment will once again become top of mind for our administration and more importantly, our citizens. $1.30 a gallon gasoline is a relief from the $4 a gallon we experienced earlier this year, but let us not forget that our gas-guzzling ways got us to $4 a gallon in the first place.

So 2008, I won't miss you too much. Here's to a happy, healthy, and hopeful 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Joys of Home Ownership

We built our house and closed on it November 1, 2002. In that time, the house has behaved pretty well, though it's starting to show a little wear and tear.

So this year, we made a few improvements to the home. We took up all the carpet on the first floor and replaced it with laminate flooring. We also extended our patio in the back yard so that we have a very generous space for outdoor entertaining. Ultimately, we also plan to install a knee wall along the perimiter My brother-in-law also graciously put up chair rail in our dining room -- a project that had been languishing for about two years.

Well today we get the joy of having a plumbing issue that is somewhat frustrating. The soil stack (waste pipe) from the second floor bathroom has a leak in it some place. At first, we were hopeful the leak was somewhere in the basement, which isn't finished and would therefore provide easy access to the plumbing, but Murphy's law being what it is, unfortunately the leak is above the basement ceiling. So I am now listening to the plumber cut holes in our wall. I am hoping he at least can keep the holes in the hall closet instead of having to cut into the dining room side, which would then affect that fabulous chair rail!!!

We have had some wonderful times in this home and I am overall very pleased with it. There are a few things I would change about it, but it has been a place where we have loved, worried, prayed, laughed, cried, strengthened friendships and family ties, mourned the deaths of loved ones, and had wonderful parties and meals. God has truly blessed us with a good life in this home.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Quick Note

Just a quick jot today. Christmas was very good this year. We enjoyed the company of nearly 30 people on Christmas Eve and I was very glad that more of my side of the family came to visit this year. It was nice to have a great big house full of people and kids, all sharing the Christmas spirit together. God is great.

I am off work right now -- won't return until January 5. I am using the time to get the house cleaned up, things put away, and to do some household organizing/cleanout.

More later!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

It's the Winter of Soup!

I really enjoy cooking and this Fall/Winter has so far been spent trying lots of different soup recipes; I try a new one at least every other week. I've tried chicken and wild rice soup, minestrone, lentil and sausage soup, vegetarian chili, turkey chili, and split pea soup. I also have made my old favorites zuppa toscana and good ol' regular chili.

Some of these soups, like minestrone, are just things I've wanted to try to make. Others, like the chicken and wild rice soup or the lentil and sausage soup, are efforts to re-create something I had elsewhere. The chicken and wild rice soup is based on a recipe I got when I bought some wild rice from a restaurant called the Northern Lights Roadhouse near Beaver Bay, Minnesota in September. The lentil and sausage soup is similar to one I had at a German restaurant in Minneapolis. Each time I prepare those soups, I am reminded of our wonderful trip.

Often the soup recipes make far more than I can eat, so it's a great opportunity to share my blessings with other people. My husband Joe's co-worker Jim, my co-worker Sara, and my friend Fr. Ron have all been recipients of soup care packages. Something about sharing of your food is very powerful. Of course, I am reminded of the Last Supper and of the many other occasions in the Gospels during which Jesus shares a meal. Somehow, there's an intimacy created when sharing a meal -- even if it's just in the form of a take-home container of homemade soup.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

My Friend Kathy

We had some very sad news on Thanksgiving -- our friend Kathy passed away that morning!

Kathy was a wonderful, giving, kind person and she will be sorely missed. She was full of a joy for life and shared that generously with so many people.

In addition to her wonderful gift for sharing in her personal relationships, one of the most remarkable things about Kathy's life was how she spent it professionally. She worked in the St. Louis Special School District for 31 years. For most of those years, she taught behaviorally-disordered children. Later, she moved into counseling for both children and parents.

There really isn't much I can do here to adequately explain Kathy's wide-ranging influence. All I can do is say I miss her and I look forward to the day when I see her again.