Monday, February 27, 2017

Musings On Life...By Gracie the Cat


A Few Catly Ideas About Life



Well finally!!  It's been quite awhile since I have been able to wrestle....errr.....ask politely for use of the computer from Fur Mama. You know how much she loves her blog! From morning to night she's either typing on the computer, or planning a post or checking emails for comments. A cat can't hardly get a chance to surf the web, if you know what I mean! But, I finally was able to use my "poor kitty" look to get my paws on the mouse again! And just in the nick of time, because I have a lot I want to get off of my furry chest.

Funny, my paws are moving a little slow these days. Frankly, I've been a bit under the weather lately. My mouth feels funny and...well, this is a bit embarrassing....but I haven't been able to keep up with my catly hygiene in the manner to which I have become accustomed these last 16 1/2 years. Hygiene is something I feel quite strongly about. Have you ever been around a smelly human? Pee----yew!!!  How hard can it be to lick yourself about 150 times so you don't smell bad?! But, that's just the point. Lately, I can't seem to get my tongue to work quite right. It's upsetting I can tell you. And, I want to sleep a lot. Y--a--w--n-- I can't believe how tired I am these days. I just want to sleep and sleep and sleep....when I'm not working as an Ace Cat Reporter, of course!

I'm worried about Fur Mama and Fur Papa. They seem to go around feeling sad all the time. Cats can sense these things, you know. We are highly tuned to human emotion. Fur Mama insisted (against my better judgment, mind you) on putting me into that plastic cage contraption and dragging me to that smelly, noisy place I hate. I hear all sorts of other cats meowing and the dogs....oh that place reeks of dogs... and their barking hurts my ears! But, the worse part is that man that always has to pick me up and poke and prod at me. I do not like him one bit! And he said something that upset Fur Mama. And while he was saying it he was prying my mouth open to show my mouth to Fur Mama. And then Fur Mama began to look sad. She tried to hide it, but I am a cat and I know these things. I could feel her upset and...well, she hasn't really been the same since. I tried to help her feel better by not meowing as loudly going back home as I had meowed going. But, it didn't seem to help much. A part of me wants to bite that man for making Fur Mama sad....but, I know I should turn the other whisker whenever possible and keep my paws...and fangs...to myself. 

I wonder what has made her and Fur Papa sad? And they have been giving me the strangest food! Tuna and chicken all smashed up with liquid on it that smells like either chicken or clams. I do my best to lap it ....but my mouth....it's hard to make my tongue work right. Strange.....

Since I have so many cat naps these days, I have been having numerous dreams about my sister, Groucho. You know she came up missing, right? It is a mystery that I haven't been able to solve yet, even as great of an Ace Cat Reporter as I am. One day she was here, then she wasn't, and I haven't been able to find her. Fur Mama and Fur Papa looked very sad when this all happened, also. Hmmm....I just thought of that. Very similar to how they are acting now.

I go upstairs and downstairs on a daily basis meowing for her. I can still smell her scent on the corners so she must be around somewhere....but where? She was always good to touch noses with me when I was frightened, and, well, I'm feeling a bit frightened lately what with my tongue acting so strangely and all. Perhaps that's why I dreamed of her. In my last dream she was lying in a beautiful green field with lots of other cats. The sun was shining down on her and warming her sleek, black fur. There were sweet smelling flowers growing next to a stream and I do believe there were even dogs nearby....but the cats didn't seem to mind. Groucho seemed to be calling to me, meowing to me to come be with her. Did you know that cats could dream? In another dream I had, Groucho was more of a shadowy figure in the background next to the stream. But, get this....the cat who was meowing to me to come was my arch nemesis also known as my Cousin Annie! Why on earth would she be meowing for me to come be with her?! We were sworn cat enemies you know!

Oh yes, I remember the days when she made my life, and Groucho's, a living he......well, let's just say she made our life "unpleasant" and leave it at that, shall we? It all started so innocently at first. Grandma Nana would go out of town and Cousin Annie would come to our territory for a few days to stay. Fur Mama called it "Cat Sitting" of all things. How silly! Why would a cat need to be sat on? This happened quite a few times, this cat sitting business. (Although, I never witnessed Fur Mama actually sitting on Annie. It was quite the opposite. Cousin Annie would sit on Fur Mama and get petted.....I ask you!) But then, one day, Cousin Annie came and NEVER LEFT! Oh it was a time of sore trial, my friends. You see, Cousin Annie thought she knew EVERYTHING about our territory and she proceeded to swiftly take over. Or....at least she TRIED to take over. But, oh Groucho and I were equally swift to put her in her place, I tell you that! My friends, the fur would fly some days. First, she demurred to sleep on the dresser like a proper cat OUTSIDE of her territory should, leaving Groucho and I to our well deserved places between Fur Mama and Fur Papa. But, then...she started sleeping on the bookcase next to the family bed and THEN...plopped her paws right on the bed next to Fur Mama! I saw her beady eyes looking greedily at the family bed from the first day she came. Who did she think she was, anyway? And worst of all, friends.....well, I am hesitant to say this....actually a bit embarrassed at this point over the whole thing.....but, well, I may as well come out and say it. Cousin Annie was......orange! There, I said it, yes, I admit that I was prejudice against her fur color. And envious of the fact that she got so much attention from the Fur Humans....especially Fur Mama. 

Y-A-W-N.....oh, here I go getting sleepy again. Must be time for another cat nap. I have a few more things I want to say, though, before my big sleep comes and I may only have a few more minutes before Fur Mama takes back her computer so I had best complete this post. Hmmmm...big sleep....those words seem a bit poignant today. In fact, everything about life seems poignant now. I've even begun thinking of Cousin Annie a bit differently...somehow the fur on my neck doesn't stand up when I think of her the way it used to....before.....

You know, she came up missing, also. What is it about cats coming up missing in this territory? Like Groucho, I still catch a scent of Cousin Annie from time to time and I actually admit that....well...that I kind of miss the scraps we used to get into. She wasn't so bad, I guess. She may have been orange and bossy, but she had four paws and a tail just like Groucho and me. And she acted a little kinder to me once Groucho went missing. She would even sometimes curl up on the bed close to me sometimes. She seemed to sleep a lot, too, before she went missing, just like I am doing now. And a few times, she would awaken from a cat nap and tell me about strange dreams she had...of seeing Groucho next to a stream meowing to her to come. I didn't really understand it at the time, but....now.....I wonder.....

A cat's life is not an easy one, my friends. Even when a cat is loved and petted on by their fur humans. Groucho and I were lucky to be brought home by Fur Mama and Fur Papa and not left to fend for ourselves like we had to in our earliest days. We were just kittens when we picked out our humans. They have shown me love and I have done my best to teach them what they should learn from me. It is the duty of every cat to do this, even though humans can be stubborn and willful and want their own way rather than doing what is best. But, cats understand this. We are infinitely patient and willing to wait, if need be, until our humans get the point. I heard Fur Papa tell Fur Mama once that "animals have a direct line to God." I am glad that he knows this, for I have known this from kittenhood. That is why, although I am puzzled and uncertain by not knowing exactly where Groucho and, even Annie, are, I know that they are safe. For God loves and takes care of all of His creatures. Of that I am certain.....Perhaps my humans knowing this means that I have completed my teaching of them. Mission accomplished.

I end this post with what I will call my "pithy cat commentary" on life......don't let the hairballs in life get you down. 

OK, Fur Mama....I'm done with my post....no, here, I want you to take the computer back....I think I'm ready for my big sleep....

Signing Off,
Gracie, Ace Cat Reporter



Saturday, February 25, 2017

Saturday Scriptures #7-It's All In The Details

Implications Of The Spirit In The Details Of Our Life

Pen

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original. Galatians 5:24 (The Message)

I'm a details person. Planning things is an important part of everything I do. So much satisfaction comes from making a list of chores or items to do and then crossing out each task as it is accomplished. For me, lists are a way to make sure I'm not missing any of the details. 

Today's scripture speaks to this idea of details. But these details are not items to cross off on a to-do list, but rather the details of our lives that speak to how we are living the life of following Christ. The use of the word "implications" fascinated me as I read this scripture and really caused me to ponder its meaning in light of the scripture. Here are the Google definitions for the word:

im·pli·ca·tion

ˌimpləˈkāSH(ə)n/
noun
  1. 1.
    the conclusion that can be drawn from something, although it is not explicitly stated.

    "the implication is that no one person at the bank is responsible"

    synonyms:suggestioninsinuationinnuendohintintimation, imputation
    "he was smarting at their implication"
  2. 2.
    the action or state of being involved in something.
    "our implication in the problems"
    synonyms:incrimination, involvementconnectionentanglementassociation;
    datedinculpation
    "his implication in the murder case"


    It appears that this scripture is reminding us that living the life of faith involves looking at each aspect of our lives in terms of how the Spirit is moving and directing us to act or to be. As I have reflected on this scripture this week I've been trying to truly listen for God's leading in my life in an intentional way. It takes a lot of listening in order to discern the implications of the Spirit. As the definition says, these implications are sometimes quite subtle and come as suggestions, hints, innuendo. I especially love the definition of implication as an "entanglement." Life can sometimes feel like an entanglement. But, even within the tangles, God's Spirit is leading and guiding us, if we listen for that still small whisper. 
    And this is a detail in my life that I don't want to miss. And it will never be checked off of my to do list. I am not done learning from this scripture that reminds us that each of us in an original...a work of art sculpted and guided by the Lord's hand. 

    After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. (I Kings 19:12 NIV)

    Blessings, 
    Debbie

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Meeting Author Helen Simonson at Malaprop's Bookstore

An Evening To Remember


Guess what famous author came to Asheville last evening? If you guessed Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, then you guessed correctly. You will remember that I recently reviewed Major Pettigrew in a recent post. If you missed that post, you can read it here. It was an evening to remember as my friend, Sharon, and I got to hear Helen Simonson speak. The author was then gracious in signing my copy of Major Pettigrew and also posing for pictures with Sharon and me!



In my post about Major Pettigrew, I mentioned that Helen had written another book called, The Summer Before the War. Yesterday was the release day of the paperback version of this book and that was the book Ms. Simonson was promoting and talking about during her presentation. It was lovely to hear her soft British accent and humorous stories of getting started "late" in life as a writer. Having been a stay at home mom, after a career in advertising, Helen decided to work on an MFA in writing.  Major Pettigrew began as a short story written for one of her classes and then developed over a five year period into her final Master's thesis for her degree. When her husband lost his job, Helen thought she would be re-entering the world of advertising rather than continuing on as a writer. She was surprised (and thrilled) when an agent contacted her via email telling her that she wanted to work with Helen to promote Major Pettigrew which was then published by Random House. 



I found Helen to be inspiring as she shared her story of her early forays into writing. Using humor and honesty in a self-deprecating style, Helen spoke of going to a writing class at a local Y in Brooklyn in order to further enrich her life beyond diapers and baby classes. Although she had loved writing as a teenager, she did not "see" herself as a writer and was in awe of others who did pursue the craft. This first writing class gave her the "permission" she needed to see herself as a writer and to go forward with the whole process of becoming an accomplished author. Her stories of critiques from writer's groups and editors as well as all of the challenging and interesting research needed to write books such as Major Pettigrew's Last Stand and The Summer Before the War gave an honest account of the joy, work ethic and tenaciousness needed to be a writer.  


It was an evening to remember, for sure, and one that gave me further inspiration to continue to work hard at my own writing goals. Thanks, Sharon, for finding out about this event! Helen Simonson shared that she is in the first steps of writing another book right now, so we can look forward to hearing more from this talented author!

Until Next Time,
Debbie

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Saturday Scriptures #6-Desert Times of Faith in Prayer


Pray Without Ceasing



Praying Hands
Public Domain Image
                                         

The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.  I Timothy 2:1 
                                    (The Message)

Do you ever feel like your prayers stop at the ceiling? Or that you pray and pray and pray about a personal matter or for a situation that involves someone you love or care about and the situation never seems to change? At times like these, believers in prayer can get discouraged and wonder, "what's the use?" It is like trudging through a dry desert with hot sands underfoot. Our mouths are dry and dusty and each step seems to take more energy than we have available. We long for the healing of cool water on our tongue but there is none to drink. We wonder where the strength will come to continue onward. It would be so much easier to just lay down and give in to the hot desert around us than to keep on going. 

I've heard many thoughts about these "desert times" of faith over the years. Many people say that there are three answers to prayer: "Yes, No and Not now."  Others have added a little humor by saying the answers to prayer are: "Yes, No and You've Got To Be Kidding!" When a believer is hurting or watching someone they love and care about struggle, though, there is sometimes no humor to be found in why a prayer is perceived to not be answered. The worries and hurt can be too great. 

I believe that Jesus knew about these "desert times" of prayer when He walked on this Earth. Scriptures tell us that on the night before he was sent to the cross He suffered great despair in prayer. In Luke 22, we read that Jesus went to the Mount of Olives to pray asking God to, "remove this cup from me." As Jesus continued to pray, His prayers became so intense that "Sweat, wrung from him like drops of blood, poured off his face." (The Message). Now, I have often struggled with prayer, but at no time have I sweat like drops of blood in prayer! Such intensity is hard to imagine. 

In reading about prayer over the years, I have been interested in learning about prayer as a conversation. So much of my prayer can be "asking" but there are so many other facets to prayer. Asking is certainly a part of prayer and we want to take our concerns to the Lord. But, I am learning that prayer is also about praise and thanksgiving and gratitude and joy. And, the most important aspect of prayer to me...and one that I have often missed over the years...is listening in prayer. If prayer is a conversation, and conversations tend to be two-way interactions, then I must quiet myself enough to listen. What is God wanting to say back to me? How is He answering my thoughts and questions and concerns and doubts and, yes, anger? 

I'm not certain that prayer is meant to be easy. It certainly wasn't for Jesus. I'm not certain that we are meant to get all of our answers right away. Perhaps some answers will not come until we meet the Lord. But, just like the comfort of a friend who sits with us, prayer is a time of companionship. A time to know that we don't walk alone is this world, even when times are hard and even when it doesn't feel like our prayers go past the ceiling. There is companionship even in silence. And what feels like silence to us....does not mean there is silence on God's end of things. Let's go back to when Jesus was sweating in prayer. From a human perspective, it might seem that Jesus was alone in His misery. But scriptures tell us that, "At once an angel from heaven was at his side, strengthening him." And what came next? "He prayed on all the harder." 

Friends, we are never alone in prayer. Even when it feels that way. Our desert times of faith are not unknown to the Lord, for He has experienced them as well. In Jan Karon's books, Father Tim and his wife, Cynthia, would often pray what they called, "the prayer that never fails." It is a prayer that Jesus himself prayed that night on the Mount of Olives. And it is a prayer that removes the worry away from waiting for answers of "yes, no, not now or, even, you've got to be kidding!" It may sound a bit simplistic when we are worried or hurting or doubting....but there is great wisdom in simplicity. The "prayer that never fails" goes like this: "Lord, not my will but thine be done." The Message translates it this way as Jesus prayed:

        "But please, not what I want. What do you want?"

Truly a prayer that never fails.....even during the dry desert times of faith.

Blessings,
Debbie

Hills And Desert
Public Domain Image





Thursday, February 16, 2017

Accessories Make The Look

Accessories Take Your Look To The Next Level


Hello everyone!  Today, I am sharing with you my thoughts on how accessories can take a look to a whole new level. The accessories I am using are a scarf, necklace and purse.


I love when serendipitous things happen with fashion. Take this purse for instance. When I saw the beautiful stripes of colors and fun silver handles of this thrifted purse, I knew that it was a style I would really enjoy carrying. See how the handles hang down into the curve when not being used? Little things like this add to the style factor of a piece, whether it is a handbag or a piece of jewelry. It's that "different" factor that can add a touch of "panache" to a look. 


Then, I held the purse next to this sweater and I thought, "Oh my...this is a perfect match!" I really didn't plan it this way. It just happened! 


I also like to have fun with adding colors together that are a bit unexpected. The paisley scarf I am wearing has a variety of colors and designs in it against a mainly red background. My turtleneck under the sweater is pink. There is some pink in the scarf. So, all of these shades work together to provide an unexpected melody of color that, I believe, adds to the outfit and takes the look to the next level of style. Using the paisley scarf and striped purse against the solid backgrounds of the sweater and jeans also adds some interesting pattern mixing. I typically don't wear a necklace with a scarf, but I liked the way this silver heart necklace added yet another layer of style to the look. 


So, let's do a comparison and you tell me if you think the accessories take this look to the next level. Here I am with no accessories (other than earrings).


Here, I have added only the necklace. 


And here I have added the scarf with the necklace.

debbiethisandthat.com

And, one final look at the whole ensemble. 

Do you think accessories add to the look?  Do you ever wear necklaces with a scarf?  How about pattern mixing--are you for or against?  Hope you'll take a moment to share. I enjoy hearing from you!

Until Next Time,
Debbie

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Love Is In The Air Magazine Challenge

Magazine Cover Creativity



Happy Valentines Day! I hope your day is filled with joy, love and sweet treats that bring you happiness! Today, I am having some fun with my creative side by joining in with Katherine of Katherine's Corner to do a magazine challenge. 



The challenge she gave us was to create a magazine cover about Valentine's Day. The cover could be one that was inspired by a magazine that we like or we could create a magazine exactly as we would if we had a magazine of our own. I decided to go with the latter. This is a "tour" challenge so make sure to visit the other blogs on the tour to see all of the great ideas everyone came up with. There is no voting for this challenge. But Katherine is drawing a name at random (via random.org) and the winner will receive a hard copy or kindle copy of the book, The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful by MyQuillyn Smith.  

Always up for a challenge, I decided to join the festivities and give it a try! First off, I needed to figure out just how one goes about creating a magazine cover? Luckily, I had recently completed an online writing and publishing course which had introduced me to a free publishing site called Canva.com. I searched the possibilities on this site and voila...they did indeed provide the graphics for magazine covers. If you have never heard of Canva, you may want to check it out. The choices for graphics are wonderful and can be used for all types of designs and presentations from social media to ebooks and online book publications. I'm not receiving any compensation from Canva to promote them, I just have enjoyed using their graphics and am still in process with learning all of what they offer. There are certain graphics which involve a small cost, but I stuck with the free choices of which there are many. If you enjoy blogging, writing or just designing creative posters, business cards or flyers, you might want to check Canva for great ideas!

For my magazine cover, I used lots of pinks and reds and incorporated a tablescape vignette from last year's Valentines post. If you missed that post you can check it out here. I hope you enjoy the magazine cover I created and please make sure to hop on over to Katherine's Corner to check out all the other folks who joined in the challenge! Have a great day everyone!

Until Next Time,

Debbie

An InLinkz Link-up

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Southwestern Style Vest and Corduroy Pants

Southwestern Style


I decided to get one more style post in before Valentines Day in which I am wearing red. 


This outfit could actually be worn anytime. It doesn't have to be for Valentines. I love the look and comfort of this Southwestern style long vest with fringe by Studio JPR. I just picked this vest out a couple days ago at Stein Mart. 


I had been given a gift card to Stein Mart for my retirement and I decided to do some shopping. I actually tried on another long style vest in blue shades and decided against it. Then, I spied this vest and I knew it was the one. When I got it home and hung it in my closet next to my tan corduroy pants by Basic Edition, I knew it was a great choice and a great match! Plus, the vest was on sale. Win, win!!


There is just a hint of gray in the vest that matches well with the gray booties. And the red mock turtleneck by White Stag brings out the red stripes in the vest. Most vests don't have the longer sleeve length that this one does. So, it is more of a sweater vest in my opinion. Soft, warm and cozy. 


When I walked into the kitchen this morning dressed in this outfit, my husband wanted to know if this was my "Clint Eastwood look." Ha! Critics everywhere!! I like the look, though, so I do believe this will be an outfit on repeat! Oddly enough, however,  I'm suddenly craving spaghetti......

Be sure to check out my blog on February 14th---Valentines Day! I'm expanding my creativity in a new way. (It's a secret for now, you'll have to tune in Tuesday to see what it is!)  Also, have you noticed my link to my online course coming up in March through beadisciple.com?  If you click on my picture at the top of my sidebar, you will be taken to the info page about my course. I'm teaching a course on Finding Serenity using a book on the Serenity Prayer by Trevor Hudson. It's a great book and I would absolutely love for you to join the course! The class begins March 13th for two weeks so sign up soon!

Do you wear clothing with a southwestern flair? Hope you'll take a moment to share your thoughts! 

Until Next Time,
Debbie


*No compensation has been given for this post or for brand names mentioned in this post.