Saturday, December 31, 2005

Ending the year on a high note


This is my second New Year as a member of J-Land.  Funny, but I don't remember much about last year's end of year.  I know we watched the ball drop in New York - 9 pm here - and fell asleep early.  I think we may have awakened to kiss each other for the New Year, but I'm not sure.

This year may not be much different.  Andrea and Amanda have gone off to an overnight church party and won't be home until 7 am tomorrow.  Rob and I are alone for the night!!!  This doesn't happen too much around here, let me tell you.  I brought home beautiful steaks which we grilled on the George Foreman and we had a yummy final meal of 2005. 

After dinner, I slipped into a luxurious bubble bath.  I will never ever get tired of slipping into hot water and bubbles and scrubbing myself after a nice soak.  Then I stand up and rinse with fresh hot water and wrap myself in a terry robe.  It's almost heaven.  Rob even came in and scrubbed my back. 

Rob is watching the Raiders/Giants game and there are 4 hours left of the year here on the west coast.  It was rainy and dreary most of the day, but the sun came out about 4 o'clock and the roads were nearly dry when I left work at six.  I have two days off now.  I worked hard both yesterday and today to prepare for year-end.  I can go back on Tuesday with confidence that my part is done well. 

I don't get excited over New Year's like I did when I was young.  Even before I quit drinking, I had stopped going out because there were just so many drunks on the road.  We called it "amateur nite" after those who never drank until New Year and then drank too much and got on the road.  Still happens.  I heard a story about a young girl in this area who 2 years ago decided to be a good samaritan and give rides to drinkers.  One of them killed her for her kindness.  What kind of world is that?

I know that there are many more wonderful people than awful ones in this world.  It's just that the terrible ones tend to make all the noise.  Wouldn't it be cool if we had a TV or Radio or Internet News station that only shared good news?  I guess they wouldn't make much money, but I would read or watch or listen to all of it. 

We have all had our ups and downs this year.  There were happy times and disappointing ones, but we've made through (almost) to 2006.  I have a lot of hope for this new year.  I don't want to wash away what was or is, I just see the opportunity for new beginnings.  I don't make resolutions.  Never have kept one.  That is one sure way to see myself as a failure.  Through it all, with the many different times of my life, I have failed a lot.  I have never, ever been a failure.

This is what I want to pass on to you as well.  We all fail.  We fail to live up to our expectations or those of others.  We miss a step.  We tell a lie.  We look the other way.  This doesn't make us failures.  It can't.  There is something in most of us that makes us recognize our shortcomings.  For me, it's my life with Christ.  For others, there may be another path.  I just think that those of us who recognize when we're on the ground, tail in the air and grab our bootstraps and stand up again . . . well . . . we are the winners.  We learn from it, get over it and grow on.  Even if those things still hurt, we grow on.  Never forget that. 

We are taking the winners into 2006 with hope and joy.  I pray that you all live, love, laugh and be happy this year.

Blessings to you all and . . . .


Much love,  Penny

24 Kids and One Bathroom

For the enquiring minds who want to know, here is the story.  It's rather convoluted, but by the end, I hope to get to the point.

The ministry started while we were living in a 30 foot travel trailer across the street from where we were building our new home.  Lest you think we were too terribly cramped, we had built a room to the side of the trailer - 33 feet long and about 10 feet wide.  It was nice to have a 2nd bathroom also.  Trailer bathrooms leave much to be desired.  We started with one little baby boy.  His name was David.  He had great brown eyes and a somber look on his face.  I'll post a picture of him sometime.  He was a failure to thrive baby . . . 9 months old weighing just 7 pounds when he came to us.  I didn't want him.  I didn't think I was qualified to care for him, but finally agreed for 'one week'.  David stayed with us 3 weeks . . . learned to smile and broke my hardened heart.  I could hardly wait for the next baby.

The next baby was an 11 year-old who had been severely beaten with electrical wire.  She was such a beautiful little girl and her father such a monster!  How could we turn her away?  She was nearly raw from her neck to her ankles.  I can't tell you how many times I lay with her in my bed and just held her as she cried.  I cried too.  A lot.  There's a bunch more to her story, but I'll leave it there for now.

While we had her in our care, we got Andrea.  8 months old and 5 pounds.  A breath away from heaven, but God had other plans for her.  Then 4 little girls who had been raped by their father, a baby boy whose mother would have let him die at birth and so on and so on.  When my then husband died, we had 12 children in that 30' trailer w/extension.  4 of them were my grandchildren visiting for a month. 

In the following months, missionaries and others came to help finish our dream house across the street.  I moved in with just 3 children and quickly expanded to 14. It was wonderful to live in a huge home with 5 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.  The kid population fluctuated from 8 to 16 most of the time, with an average of 12.  Then the unthinkable happened.  A land dispute forced us and 300 other beachfront homeowners from our homes. At the time we had 17 children and 5 adults in residence.  I'll write more about that later, too.  

We moved to our pastor's ranch.  He had a 2-bedroom 1 bath house for us.  We sent a mother we'd had in protective custody and her 3 children to a women's shelter, the 3 other adults moved out, taking 2 of our children with them and I was left alone with the 12 remaining children.  We lived at the pastor's ranch for about 14 months, during which time Robert and I got married.  We had a volunteer to live inside with the kids, so for the first 6 weeks or so of our marriage we stayed in a tiny trailer with one baby.

At that 14 month point, the pastor's brother had asked for his house back.  Go figure.  We looked and looked and finally came upon a 3 bedroom house.  We were elated.  It had city water instead of well water, so we didn't have to worry about filling the storage tank.  They even gave us a break on the rent because we were missionaries.  The rent was $150 a month.  We paid too much!  We were so far up the hill that the city water only made it up there a couple of days a week.  We had to fill two outdoor storage tanks with water, but there was no pump, so we became bucket bathers.  If you wanted hot water, you had to heat it on the stove because there was never enough water pressure to keep the water heater lit.  We did have an out house out back it someone couldn't wait, but we learned the value of showering same/sex  same/age kids together to save water.  If we were lucky, we could actually do 4 kids with a 5-gallon bucket of water.

We dropped to just 8 children right after we moved in and tried to stay at that level once we found out about the water.  Unfortunately, disasters won't wait.  We were asked to take 5 children whose mother could not care for them properly. She had left her abusive husband, but the only babysitter available for her was her oldest - a skinny 8 year-old girl.  She had a choice.  Give them to us or let the state take them away from her.  We couldn't refuse.  Then came 5 more children - their mom was in jail.  What were we to do?  We let sisters sleep together on the bunks, put babies in our room and brothers together as well.  It wasn't over, though.  As the holiday drew near, we got 6 more children.  They were short-term care, but there were 24 kids now and 2 adults living in that "huge" (what were we thinking?) house with only ONE bathroom.  We all learned to dance pretty well that winter!  We sent the 6 kids home, but ended up with 2 more and had 20 children in residence when the state came to inspect us in May.  Their question:  Where do they all sleep?  How do you keep them clean?  Our kids looked wonderful that day, but the state was extremely happy when we moved to the ranch. 

So there it is.  I told you I'd get to the point.  I just needed a little history to get you there. It's nice to have 3 of us and one bathroom!  I'm as happy as a clam.  I was happy in Mexico, too.  God kept our hearts full of joy even when everything around us was falling apart. 

Bless you today - stay safe . . .




It's funny, but this time last year, I didn't know how to add anything to my journal save those from "You've Got Pictures" and now my entries seem empty without graphics.  I am so grateful to have learned a thing or two.

I still haven't gotten the links up for December.  I'm not lazy, truly I am not (well, maybe a little).  I woke up almost pain-free this morning.  Thank you, Lord.  It's been a long haul this time.  Fibromyalgia and back pain can really knock a one-two punch.  I did finally manage to get my flu shot.  I don't want to have that on top of everything else. 

I hope to be able to post again this evening.  It's been very busy at work with year-end stuff happening, the GM so sick and still some confusion over which upper management person will do what over the course of the next few months.  Fortunately, Elaine and I work well together and will just go with the flow and try to make the best of it. 

This has been a year of new beginnings for us here.  We literally started a new life when we came back here in August of 2004, but this year we actually moved out on our own for the first time in years.  Our marriage started with 13 kids in residence in a two-bedroom house on a ranch in Mexico.  We moved up to 24 kids in a 3-bedroom house (one bathroom - I'll tell that again sometime) and then on to our own little ranch with two huge bathrooms, two dorm rooms and an actual "parents room" upstairs.  It was heaven.  In April, when we moved in here, it was the first time in our marriage that we had lived on our own.  We are still adjusting, but we love every moment of it.

If I don't post again tonite, Happy New Year to all of you.  You are very important to me. 

Blessings and love,

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Just a note . . .


These guys look so cute, and seeing as how I won't be able to add Christmas-y things much longer, I thought I should use them now.

My second day at work was semi-busy.  We were kind of expecting the boss to come in, so we did as much as we could on a drizzly and very cold day.  Outside work was out of the question.  There were still leaves to blow and sweep up, but it was just wet enough that Elaine couldn't do it.  We took some time to organize some files and take a look at things that will be taking place for us when we start the new year.

Can you believe we are heading into a new year already?  Have you ever noticed how much faster time seems to go when you are a bit older?  When I was a kid waiting for Christmas or summer vacation or another special event, time seemed to crawl.  As the years pass, they seem to pass quicker.  I will have another birthday next month.  I'm never afraid of birthdays or the numbers they represent.  Each seems to be a milestone and I look back fondly on the many I have passed.  Somewhere in the Bible, there is a verse that says a day with the Lord is like a thousand.  I guess that has to do with trying to measure time with a God who made time.  In His eyes, we are here for less than a millisecond.  Humbling, isn't it? 

I have a day off tomorrow.  I need it.  I spent so many days in bed that these two days at work have taken their toll on me.  I'm taking Andrea and Amanda shopping after I wake up.  Rob and Andrea have been warned to let me wake up without help.  When I know I can sleep in, I often wake at nearly the same time anyway, but I like the idea of having the option to roll over for 40 winks more. 

I just wanted to come out here before going to sleep to check some of my alerts and make an entry.  I am overwhelmed by alerts and e-mails, but will catch up sometime.  Wish I had my laptop back.  I could work from the bedroom and not have to sit in this miserable chair.  I can't complain, really.  There was a time not so very long ago that there was no back-up computer to work on.  I guess you could say I'm spoiled. 

Everyone else is long asleep and I guess I should be, too.  I pray you all have restful, healthy sleep.



Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Good Night All!

             I know, I know.  I just got back and now I'm saying goodnight already.  My first day at work went well and I am exhausted to say the least.  Andrea's best friend is spending the night and they are cleaning the kitchen for a well-earned bribe, Rob is watching some "bowl" or other on the tube, the dog is already snuggled down on the sofa and Dufus has climbed inside my work shirt and is sound asleep as well.  Little fart will probably bite me when I wake him up to put him away.  He's tried to get me to keep him with me when I go to bed, but I would hate myself if I smothered his precious self as I slept.

I couldn't have a better life if I tried, you know.  We have so much!  We worried when we left the ministry in Mexico  . . . would they treat our "baby" and our babies like we did?  Would they love the ministry?  We gave our lives to building that home.  -  They've made it better!  We just got their Christmas/New Year's letter.  I got tears in my eyes.  God was right when He put them in our minds and hearts to take over where we were leaving off.  Of course things have changed, but we had a chance to plant the seed and water it for a while and now they are bearing fruit for it.  Who knows the final result?  Only God and His ideas are far better than our own.  Isn't that grand??

And to top it off, I have the world's best husband, a gorgeous little daughter, we have a beautiful tiny little house in a place we can't afford to live, a job that will take me as I am and I am so very loved that nothing I could imagine will contain it.  I wish I could tell you it was all perfect.  It's not.  We're not.  But do you know what love does to our imperfections?  Makes them invisible!  That's right.  We are loved, warts and all and that's more than we could have ever expected. 

As you can tell, I am grateful tonite.  Exhausted, grateful and loved.  Can't get much better than that.

Blessings to you all and: 




After a week in bed, I am going back to work today.  I think it's in self-defense.  I must be feeling better.  Being home all day is beginning to get to me.  I still have over 400 e-mails and alerts to go through (I've been reading maybe 4 or 5 a day - got to 35 this morning).  My back is a lot better, but I am still going to take it easy.

I haven't been able to get all the December Challenge stuff together yet.  For the sake of time, I may link to your journals so others can see how many of you participated.  I hope to be able to do that before Friday. 

Things are changing at work.  Our general manager will be a long time recuperating and the owner of the business will take over management for the forseeable future.  It means we will have to make some changes, but Elaine and I are a good team so we can do whatever it takes.  Please keep Larry and his family in your prayers as he recovers from something called Dengue Fever. 

I also want to thank all of you for your prayers and comments while I've been abed.  I feel lonely without you.  My laptop might have helped some, but I think the rest was truly needed.  As promised, I will put in Christmas pics soon.  If you haven't heard from me soon, be prepared, I'm almost back.

I love you all.  Be blessed today,

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas


It's a beautiful Christmas day here in California.  We are celebrating together as family.  Pictures to follow soon.  I miss you all.  Blessings, Penny

Friday, December 23, 2005

Not Yet


I love this graphic.  I used to tell the kids at the ministry that the Lord held them in the palm of His hand.  He's got me there, too.  I am not improved enough yet to get to your journals or even more than this short post to tell you all I'm thinking of you.  I feel terrible, but hopefully the new day will bring less pain.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

Love, Penny

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Thank You

                      First of all, I'd like to thank you all for your prayers and kind thoughts.  I am slowly recovering.  It's probably a pinched nerve.  I'm going to try going back to work today.  We'll see how that goes.

            This Santa is just the way I imagine Santa should be . . .worshipping with us the birth of Jesus.  Even some of the most wonderful, magical stories written about Christmas time would have us believe in something we can't see.  Many of them never mention the Lord, but we treasure them because they ask us to believe. 

I will be working on your December Challenge entries over the next few days and try to get them back to you on Saturday sometime.  Your comments, traditions and memories have been wonderful and I treasure them.  My hope was to have them compiled by now, but unforseen (is that unseen?) circumstances have slowed me down. 

            My thoughts and prayers are with you all today.  


Monday, December 19, 2005

I haven't disappeared, friends.  I just can't sit at the computer for very long.  Back as soon as I can.  Be blessed.


Saturday, December 17, 2005

Christmas Cards!


Good morning all!  Today is December 17th, three days from the end of the December Challenge.  I think I have my work cut out for me this time.  You are all so full of Christmas memories, and a few Hanukkah memories there, too.  It's wonderful. I hope I can get it all done and back to you by the 24th.  A few of you will have your links shared here so others can read the wonderful things you wrote in your journals.

There's one Christmas tradition I don't seem to have a good handle on:  Christmas Cards.  I bought some really nice ones.  I have a list of addresses.  I haven't sent them.  They may get out in time for New Years.  I never have been very big on them.  I love getting them - sending an e-card might happen, but I'm pretty awful at that as well.  I don't even remember if my mom sent cards, but she probably did.  Last year we sent about 15 cards.  First time in years!  I'm feeling pressure to send them out again - write cute and cheery notes inside - all that stuff.  Rob offered to do it - my pride said no.  Where does that come from? 

Our home looks beautiful this year!  There are Christmas dolls, nutcrackers, a lovely tree, stockings and now some gifts are sitting under the tree.  I've wrapped Andrea's gifts, for the most part, but haven't brought them home yet.  Hate to leave too much temptation for a little girl. 



Carolling Through J-Land

I've been watching this phenomenon grow and was at Natalie's journal this morning and decided to join in.

If you are so inclined, please make an entry in your journal called "Caroling Through J-Land" - name your favorite Christmas carol and go visit and comment in the carollers' journals.  Sounds like fun to me!  I'll leave a note for Natalie and I'll be on my way.

My favorite carol is the Carol of the Bells, followed closely by O Holy Night. 

Anyone care to sing along?

Blessings, Penny


Friday, December 16, 2005

Christmas Memories


Good morning from beautiful Ventura!  Again the sun is shining here even tho' it is very cool.  I've read about your snow and ice and the pictures are nothing short of gorgeous.  And that's just how I like to see snow and ice.  In pictures.  I lived through a blizzard in New Mexico in 1971.  I hated that.  Got pneumonia because all I had were mini-skirts and lightweight jackets. 

Back to the December Challenge.  Please forgive me again for missing yesterday.  I'm having trouble sitting in a chair long enough to post.  That's why I put Miss Techincal Difficulties up there.  My body is having them!  So for a second time, I will try to do a double post.  That's not too hard for me, because I love Christmas and have many memories.

I love to stuff stockings.  We have always done it the same way in our family and even though we are making new traditions here this year, this is one I'm keeping.  I always put a tangerine in the toe of the stocking, some nuts and candy - have you noticed how hard it is to find hard Christmas candy? - then underwear and socks, then little trinkets to enjoy.  I wrap everything.  I know.  It seems silly, but it entertains a kid for quite a while.  We always told the kids they could open their stockings and nothing else until we got out of bed.  I remember getting up extra early when I was a kid to do just that.  For us, a stocking was a treasure trove of excitement.

Now, here is another thing that makes Christmas exciting.  I've been a grandma now for almost 21 years.  I haven't been able to spend a lot of Christmases with my grandchildren because I've spent so much time in Mexico.  One year, my oldest granddaughter, Ashleigh, lived with us and we celebrated with her.  It was wonderful.  Christmas is so magical through the eyes of a child.  One of my most precious memories was the year Kailani lived with me and was part of the Christmas pageant at church.  She was an angel.  She stood at the back, elevated above the others with her arms spread wide.  Something happened to her that night as she announced the birth of Christ.  She glowed.  Real tears of love for Him streamed down her cheeks.  I wasn't the only one to notice.  People were staring at her with such awe.  For that moment in time, my precious granddaughter was as filled with the Holy Spirit as anyone I've ever seen.  This is a Christmas memory I take out and treasure from time to time.  I'm happy to share it with you this morning.

Be blessed today my friends,


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Is it always a Merry Christmas?


I was thinking this morning about all of the Christmas memories I have.  I've been sharing with you some of the happy times with my mom, my kids and the kids in Mexico.  I've also shared with you the traditions we are beginning to put in place now that we have our own home.  It seems like Christmas has always been wonderful for me.  For the most part, it has.

There was a time, years ago, when my children were living with my sister.  I had some serious health problems going on.  I was separated from my then husband and lived in a studio apartment next door to the bar where I worked.  I wasn't looking forward to Christmas.  My family wasn't really speaking to me at the time, I drank too much and I wasn't being responsible.  I tried to tell them I was doing the best I could, but it just fell on deaf ears.  Even the people in the "singles" apartment where I lived had places to go on Christmas.  I had no where.  I felt so alone.  I left my apartment on Christmas morning and opened the bar, hoping there were others like me who would come in.  It was hopeless.  I closed up after about an hour and a half.  I've struggled with depression for many years and that was one of the times I was at my lowest. 

Christmas time brings out our highest and lowest feelings.  That year, I was depressed and alone.  I was just 25 years old and I felt like the oldest person on the face of the earth.  I'm here to tell you that no matter how bad I felt then, it passed.  The new year came and went and my life got better.  I remind myself of this when I'm feeling low.  Nothing ever stays the same.  I'm grateful that those feelings passed and that my children came home and we got on with our lives. 

If you are feeling alone and sad this Christmas season, I wish I could put my arms around you and just hold you for a while.  I know it feels like it is thatbad.  I won't tell you it's not.  Who ever you are and where ever, I love you.  I've felt that way, too.  I know that doesn't help, but there are others like us.

Be blessed today, my friends


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Oops! Missed a day!

              I think this darling little kitty also ate my Monday!  I certainly wasn't here to make an entry.  I thought my back was so much better, but it gave me fits anyway.  I cried "No fair!" but my body didn't listen.  Getting older is really a bear! 

Yesterday I did something momentous.  I made the first appointment to have my teeth fixed.  I guess the first one will be to take mouth impressions so they can make the partials, then they will fill the teeth that are damaged and get me ready to chew.  I am so excited!  I promise I will take pictures when my smile is new again.  I am grateful the Lord has provided a way for this to happen.

Since I missed a day, do you think I need two memories or traditions for the December Challenge?  Okay.  I'll try.  Until around 1998, our Christmases in Mexico for the children were rather small.  We did what we could to get a few gifts for the children and I bought a tree.  In 1999, a small group came to the house with gifts for all the children and adults.  They brought Christmas dinner and lots of goodies.  Each child had sent a "wish list".  One boy was named Dolores.  He was 12 years old at the time.  He wanted a watch very badly.  When he opened the box, there was his watch . . .a purply-sparkly girly watch.  He smiled, put the watch in his lap and said, "My mom is going to love this watch."  He never complained or even looked disappointed.  In him was the true spirit of giving.  Funny, but we were surprised a few days later with more gifts for the children.  In the box for Dolores was a black alarm chronograph watch!  His joy was overwhelming.  I'll never forget the boy's love and charity. 

I always cook a turkey for Christmas.  I do it with all the trimmings just as I did for Thanksgiving.  This year, we are making a new tradition in the Perez family.  We are having ham and all the fixin's.  Rob asked for ham.  At first, I didn't really want to do that . . .I have my own tradition.  Then I realized we were breaking the mold of Christmas past and creating new traditions in our new home.  Our little family deserves their own, not mine.  This is so cool.  New traditions, memories from the past and always the gift of the Christ child to remind us.

I'm on a sort of rant this year.  I won't snag tags that say happy holidays.  Even season's greetings is out for me.  I'm wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!  If you celebrate something else, then tell me and I will wish you the most wonderful holiday by name.  Happy Hanukkah!  Happy Kwanza!  Merry Christmas!  Isn't that better?  Really, now.  Let's not forget.  I'm not offended by other holidays.  Just by lack of respect for them all.  Let's not bunch them together and forget what they really mean.  Okay - - -rant over.  I love you all.

Be blessed today, my friends,


Sunday, December 11, 2005

We've Been Tagged!!

Our "buddy" over at Perish the Thought has tagged Rob and me!  We are supposed to tell 10 Things that Make Us Happy.  I'll let Robert answer the odd numbers and I will answer the even #'s:

1.  The Superbowl

2.  Faith in God

3.  The Rosebowl

4.  Love of family

5.  The Fiesta Bowl

6.  My computer

7.  The Sun Bowl

8.  Pogo Games

9.  and . . . the Hula Bowl

10.  A broken television!!!

I don't know who to tag, but we will come up with someone. 

Have a great night!  Rob & Penny

As a little child . . .


I was in a meeting with some of the leaders and the pastor of the church this morning and we were talking about the service to be held on Christmas day.  We will of course be having a candlelight service on the 24th, but there was discussion about Christmas day.  Usually, we send the children out after the worship time so they can have children's church while we study the word.  But on Christmas, we are all going to stay together.  One of the ladies suggested that it's important for us to be as children and what better way than to have the children with us as we celebrate Jesus' birth!  I thought about that for a while and I like the idea a lot.  Sometimes we just get so involved that we forget the simple celebration of the Christ Child.  I'm looking forward to the service and the time together with all of our children.

It's wonderful building new traditions as we establish ourselves in our new home and our new life since retiring as missionaries.  I still remember old traditions, those that will warm me until I'm very old.  My mom used to buy apple cider at Christmas time and we would heat it up with spices and drink it on a cold evening.  For the most part, my memories are of just mom and myself at Christmas.  My sisters were all gone from the house by the time I was 8 years old.  Mom would be sewing long into the night and I would fall asleep somewhere near her.  Later on, she would wake me and send me to bed.  Somehow, in the intervening time, some other decoration or gift would have found its place into our living room or under the tree.  We sang Christmas carols together and made plans for Christmas day.  I liked those easy evenings together.  They were pleasant and generally without the strife of growing up.  For a while, we were just a little microcosm, unaffected by the world around us.  Mom was still a smoker then, and I would watch the smoke of her cigarette curl around her face as she stabbed at the air to make this point or that.  It's kind of a shame we couldn't have known the dangers then.  Bubbles would have been better.

We got a little shopping done for Andrea today.  She went to her friend's house while we went out after church.  It's hard to do much shopping when she's with us 24/7.  We had a nice lunch together as well.  I'm looking forward to sharing Christmas day with our family here.  I'll share with you as well.

Just a few more days of the December Challenge.  Today is day 11.  I can't believe how quickly the month is passing us by.  I've been resting a lot because of my back, so haven't been writing back to you as much as I'd like, but rest assured I am reading and thinking about you all. 

Be blessed today, my friends.



Saturday, December 10, 2005

Scooter the Love-Sick Dove


I've been wanting to tell you this story for a few days, but have not been feeling well enough to sit at the computer and write it down.  My poor back is making a very slow recovery.  I suspect changes in weather here are not helping.

As you know, we have 3 birds.  Dufus, of course is the Sun Conure and apparently my best friend.  I wrote a Christmas story about him for a weekend assignment last year.  He's a very special bird.  We also have a ring-necked dove that we've named Scooter and a handicapped pigeon we named Skeeter.  You've read how Hank saved Skeeter from the middle of the street and how she now has a permanently bent leg.

As soon as we placed Skeeter's cage near Scooter, the love calls began.  Scooter coo ed and swelled out his throat with such passion.     He would turn in the direction of Skeeter and coo his very best.  We decided to put Skeeter in the same cage to see what would happen. Scooter made immediate advances, which Skeeter spurned.  She's bigger than he is and let him know that he just wasn't her type.  To save Scooter's life, we separated them again.  Skeeter goes outside in a large cage during the day and comes in to a small cage next to Scooter at night. 

Scooter has not given up his suit.  He turns to face Skeeter and sings his love-sick song to her.  Just before we take her outside each day, we lift the cage off of her and let her walk around the house a bit.  Scooter turns where ever she is.  Their cages are on the hearth of our fireplace.  One morning, Skeeter walked into the fireplace (we don't use it!) and Scooter sang to her.  Rob picked her up and took her outside.  Scooter, however, sang to the fireplace all day long!  These birds are in need of help!  Skeeter has no friends and Scooter needs a wife.

 I've taken to looking in the want ads to see if anyone has another dove or handicapped pigeon they want to get rid of.  I don't know how long Scooter can take this unrequited love.  Skeeter doesn't care.  She just wants to eat and drink.

Today is day 10 of the December Challenge.  We are making new traditions here at the Perez household.  Robert like nutcrackers and we found a few small ones to place around the living room.  They look great.  He saw a larger one at the market, but I tried to discourage him because of cost.  Yesterday, he determined he wanted it bad enough to pay the price, so he had the young man take it down for him.  As it came down, the toes came loose!  The young man looked at Rob, Rob looked at the manager.  She said, "Well, you can always glue them." Rob frowned, she smiled and gave him a deal - "Okay, how's $6.99?" The nutcracker is home and his feet have healed!  We now have 6 nutcrackers here and are establishing our own traditions as a family.  Isn't that cool?  Our first Christmas in our own home as a family.  God has truly blessed us!

Are you making new traditions as well?  Let me know about them.  Blessings, Penny


Friday, December 9, 2005

A song in my heart


Hi everyone!  I'm back at work, even if I still hurt like you-know-what (or is it where?).  I'm using Rob's cane to get around outside and staying seated here at my desk for the most part.  I wish I knew what I did to my back so I wouldn't do it again. 

When I was young, I belonged to the children's choir at church.  Ours was a large church and we had choirs for every age group.  Our choir mistress, Miss Mary, was one of my favorite persons.  She was just plain, brown hair, brown eyes, round glasses and beige clothes.  But she was a wonderful teacher and kept our excitement going for each and every song.  In September, we would begin to get ready for our Christmas services.  Each week we would sing a different song, culminating in a wonderful song service on the Sunday closest to Christmas.  She challenged our abilities and taught us songs other than "Silent Night" and "Away in a Manger".  I love those songs, but there are so many more!  I  stayed in choir from the time I was 8 until I was 15.  It was a glorious time of my life.  Christmas time was so wonderful.  We wore choir robes - kids choir wor red robes - and sang from the balcony of that wonderful old church with the pipe organ accompanying us.  My voice changed somewhere along the line and now I just make "a joyful noise" unto the Lord, but at this season, my favorite thing to do is sing Christmas carols and hear Christmas music.  It just fills my heart with joy.  I'm thankful for memories from long ago and the many songs that spring from my heart this time of year.

If you haven't joined in for the December Challenge, it's not too late.  I am so enjoying reading your comments both here and in your journals. 

Blessings to you all,


Thursday, December 8, 2005

Opening the Gifts


Please forgive me for this late entry on day 8 of the December Challenge.  My back hurts so badly that I can barely walk.  Don't know exactly what I did, but I've been in bed most of the day.

This morning I went to observe the classroom that they want to put Andrea in.  There are only 7 children in the class, one special education teacher and one assistant.  Most of the kids are learning at the same level as Andrea.  To start, they would want her to attend 3 classes daily.  She would also receive daily homework.  We'll have a meeting in January to see what they are proposing.  Please keep that in your prayers.

Years ago, when my children were still quite small and I was a single mom, I started putting things on lay-away in August so that I could have a nice Christmas for them.  Bit by bit, I got everything out and brought it home.  After we got the Christmas tree decorated, I stayed up one night late and wrapped the presents and put them under the desk in the living room.  Early the next morning, my 3 and 5 yr old imps came screaming into my room with toys in their hands!  "Santa Claus came!!! Santa was here!!!"  I wanted to kill them!  I took the toys away, telling them that they were toys we were giving to other children.  Then I called my mom in tears.  I had worked so hard to surprise my children and had flubbed it up.  I left things out where they could get them.  Mom told me to put the toys out of sight until Christmas eve and then wrap them again.  Then she told me to pray and to remember what Christmas was all about.  She was right.  It was my pleasure to give toys to my children, but I needed to remember why we gave gifts at Christmas.  I sat with my children and we read the story of the birth of Christ.  They were pretty young, but for a few days, they were talking about the baby Jesus who was born. 

I am so grateful to be remembering Christmas past.  These memories are precious gifts that will not tarnish or be spoiled by time.  In fact, I think time makes them more wonderful.  How about you?



Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Shopping Day


Andrea and I had a chance to go Christmas shopping together this morning.  We needed to get her daddy some presents without him along.  We looked for stocking stuffers and other stuff as well.  Of course I won't detail any of it here, because Rob reads my journal.  I also picked out the gift I wanted Andrea to buy for me.  I'm not telling because it's my secret until Christmas day.

We're not getting Dufus anything because he's been a bad bird lately.  Right now he's inside my shirt trying to get the underwire in my bra loose.  I make him stop, but he goes after it again in a few minutes.  He hasn't bitten since the other day.  I think he got the idea when I wouldn't hold him.

Christmas seems to bring out the best and the worst in people.  A lot of people are in such a hurry to buy their gifts and to get the right one that they become rude and obnoxious.  Others couldn't be nicer.  I've often wondered where we went so wrong with Christmas giving?  Who was it that decided that children needed everything they asked for and huge gifts were the norm?  When I was in my early teens, I was getting ready to fold the clothes at the laundromat for my mom.  I first looked at my things and then at hers.  Her underwear was clean, but old.  The elastic was nearly gone.  Many of her blouses were ones she'd had forever.  Then I looked at my things.  Mom sewed a lot of my clothes, but I also had fairly nice things from the store.  By this time, my sisters were gone from the house and we were a twosome.  Mom gave up the nice things so that I might have them.  I felt so guilty.  I was spoiled and she did get me many of the things I said I really wanted.  That year for Christmas, I saved up my money and bought her new underwear to put in her stocking and some cologne that she particularly liked.  The tears in her eyes gave me the best Christmas gift I could ever have gotten. 

This is not only day 7 of the December Challenge, but also Pearl Harbor Day.  I want to take time to remember the heroes who lost their lives and to honor those who fought in that war.  We are free today because of men and women who fought then and fight now. 


Be blessed today, my friends, 



Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Memories Filled with Love


I like to think that Santa is looking in to see if we are celebrating Christmas in Jesus.  After all, Santa is the worldly adaptation of the spirit of Christmas. 

Yesterday, while I was at work, Rob put up some Christmas lights outside.  I come home after dark and it was my surprise!  Also, Andrea had cleaned the whole house so that I wouldn't have housework to do on my day off.  What a blessing to have these two beloved ones.  When I awoke this morning, Andrea was cleaning again.  She had just mopped the kitchen floor.  What did I do to deserve such love?

We might all ask ourselves that question as we think of the birth and life of the Christ child.  How much love God had for us to bring His only son to save our lives!  He gave Him a life we could relate to and the knowledge that loving Him could free us forever.  What a Christmas gift!!  All our other gifts pale in comparison, but we give because we love. 

I like to think of the special gifts I have gotten over the years.  I am a collector of dolls and when my children Heather and John were around 6 and 8 years old, the gave me a pair of Fisher Price Dolls, a boy and a girl.  No matter how often I tied his shoes, the boy doll's shoe would come undone.  Their names were Annie and Joey.  I loved them then and love them now.  They are care-worn and dirty now, far from being collector's items, but they hold the love of my precious children in their soft bodies.  As good a gift as the Christ child?  Well, no . . .but worthy because of the love they hold.

I hope you share your memories as well on this 6th day of the December Challenge.  Maybe your memories are new or they are ones in the making .  It doesn't matter. 

Be blessed today,


Monday, December 5, 2005

The Posada


I really thought I'd have a chance to post this morning before work, but my computer was acting funny, so I didn't mess with it. Today is my Friday, guys!  I get 3 days of now.  I love when this happens.  One day to rest, two days to play.  I like that. 

On Thursday, we are going to observe the special education class they want to put Andrea in.  I've been told she can attend that class and then come home, but I am concerned that they no longer want her home schooled.  I'm not sure just an hour a day will be enough for her. 

I had a mishap with Dufus last night.  He doesn't like Andrea to come near me, so when she wants a kiss, I cover his head and kiss her.  This time I was on my bed and I don't know what the difference was, but since he couldn't threaten her, he bit me!  Oh!  did that ever hurt.  His beak is so strong.  It was a deep bite and he broke the skin in two spots.  I feel bruised today.  Of course, it has to be on the middle finger of my right hand.  Everytime I type with it, I am reminded.  I left him on his cage this morning.  I was still a little upset with him.  We'll see how it goes tonite and tomorrow.  Bad bird!!

Today is day 5 of the December Challenge.  Today I want to talk about my first Christmas with the children in Mexico.  We just had two children at the time.  We had a little 12 year-old named Cynthia and Andrea.  Andrea was 9 months old and fattening up nicely.  Our little church had a posada that year, where we met in different homes each week and shared the Christmas story.  It wasn't like the Mexican posada where the travellers are turned from every house as Mary and Joseph were, but we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.  Cynthia had so much fun!  At each meal, we swapped names and gifts.  It was very special.  Andrea was the delight of the party.  No one else had children, so when someone got Cynthia's or Andrea's name, they would somehow go over the spending limit.  It was a precious time and one I will never forget.


Be blessed today,



Sunday, December 4, 2005

Hard Sauce?


I put up this snowman for those of you who live in such climates.  I think it would be wonderful if Andrea could experience snow and ice, but I'd be miserable giving her the experience.  When its cold, my poor body pays the price in pain.  I guess that's what happens as some of us get older. 

I am working today again.  One more work day after this and I get 3 off in a row.  Sunday is a short office day at work, but there are things to do outside.  I have to do a lock check, clean a couple of vacant units and stay until the gates close.  I will probably have time to ruminate, maybe some computer time and some time to catch up on things I can't do when customers are present. 

Today is day 4 of the December Challenge.  At Christmas time more than any other, my mom loved to bake and make candy.  She made different kinds of fudge, from caramel to divinity.  She also made the best mincemeat pie!  On top of the pie we always put hard sauce.  It's made with cooking sherry, butter, powdered sugar and other things, like nutmeg.  I just loved it.  Mom would always be happy on the day she made hard sauce.  It took me years to connect the dots . . .the rest of the year we never had alcohol in the house.  Depending on the taster, the hard sauce got harder and harder!  Yum!

I haven't had hard sauce in years.  I don't use alcohol in any form, but I remember it well.  I also like to bake at Christmas.  My specialty is bread.  I make specialty loaves and give them as gifts to those I care about.  My favorite is a cardamom braid, however I am unable to find cardamom this year.  It's very expensive, but it really adds to the flavor of the bread.  I also make rosemary loaves.  Maybe this week I will start. 

Andrea and Rob are going to church today and will tell me what I missed.  I feel like a part of me is missing when I don't attend. 

Be blessed today,


Saturday, December 3, 2005

Do as you will . . .

This is more of a woman’s story than a man’s, but I hope men will read it as well.  When I was 15 years old and thought I knew everything, I slipped into the back seat of a butter yellow Chevy Super Sport Impala.  The rest is history.  With that one little action, I changed the course of my life forever. The chance to be a little girl again was gone.  A life grew inside me. 


How many teenage girls can say with a certainty that getting pregnant is their first option?  And those that actually do . . . how many are prepared for the awesome responsibility that goes along with being a mother?  I know I wasn’t prepared.  No way.  I was immature and irresponsible, spoiled and a few other adjectives that come to mind.  Mother material isn’t one of them. 


Immediately after my experience in the back seat, I was ashamed.  My mother had taught me better than that.  I didn’t listen.  A few days later, I knew with a certainty that I was pregnant.  I had to get the word to Mom and disappoint her.  It was a very tearful time. 


There was life inside me.  Swimming around in there was a child.  Wow!  From the moment my flat little belly began to swell, I loved him.  Unless you are a parent it’s hard to understand that kind of love.  I loved my precious child enough to give him up for adoption.


But this isn’t my story.  It’s her story.  I can’t adequately tell it, but I’m going to try.  It was a different era altogether.  There weren’t any cars and people mostly walked to get where they were going.  Most teenage girls were betrothed (engaged) very early.  There were rituals to betrothal and young couples were never unsupervised.  It was a time of innocence, I believe.


Come back with me to the road in a little town.  A young girl is walking there.  Possibly she is picking wild flowers or kicking stones, thinking about her betrothed.  He’s a handsome man and already has a trade, so will be a good provider.  She’s got her head down and she’s in sort of a dream world. Suddenly, out of nowhere, an angel appears!  He’s huge and glowing and she is very frightened.  Her eyes widen and she trembles.  One can only imagine the thoughts racing through her young mind.


“Greetings to you, woman of favor.  The Lord is with you,” he says to her.  Favor?  What have I done?  I’m just a simple girl, she thinks.  Then the angel tells her the most unbelievable thing.  She’s going to be pregnant!  Even back then girls knew you had to be intimate with a man to get pregnant and she certainly hadn’t been.  What’s up here? 


“Me?  I’m still young and a virgin!  I am just betrothed.  I cannot have a child!” Mary exclaims. (You knew this was about her didn’t you?)  The angel explains that the Holy Spirit will overcome her and she will have the child of God. He told her not to be afraid.


Not to be afraid?  They stone women who get pregnant out of wedlock!  What will she say to her family . . . to Joseph?  How will she do all of this by herself?  I’m not sure these were her thoughts, but can you imagine trying to explain this to people?  Oh, my God! 


Yes, we are talking about God here aren’t we?  And it’s known that Mary was faithful.  How much faith?  You know her response.  “Do as you will unto me.”


There is no place in my mind where I can fathom this response.  I probably would have run the other way.  But not this girl.  What did she do?  Shortly thereafter, she probably walked the approximately 90 miles to see her pregnant elderly cousin. Now that’s obedience for you.  It doesn’t say when she told everyone about her condition. She had great courage to do so.  It turned out well.  Joseph saw an angel in a dream who told him that it was okay and to marry her anyway. 


I wonder how it must have felt to Mary to place her hands on her belly and know that God was growing inside of her?  I know what it feels like to have life inside me, to feel the first fluttery movements, to be kicked, hiccupped and somersaulted.  I know the pain of childbirth and the joy of holding my still-wet child in my arms.  How much more must Mary have felt?  I wonder if she worried as I did about the future of her child?  Did she consider whether she was ready for this responsibility?  Did she think she’d lost her girlhood?  I guess we’ll never know.  I kind of doubt it, though.  I think if God gave her the willingness to bear the Christ child, He must have filled her with the confidence (faith) she needed to face any struggle.


As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, let us take time to remember what a miracle life is!  Let’s not shortchange His life or God by saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”  We got the best gift of all when a teenage girl said:


“Do as you will unto me.”

Christmas Stockings


I'm not bragging or anything, but after the cold and rainy day yesterday, Southern California is back to its beautiful bright sun again this morning.  This is why I just can't imagine living elsewhere.  I suppose Florida and Hawaii have bragging rights as well, but this is my home state.  I did live in Hawaii when I was young.  We were a military couple and he was stationed there.  It was very expensive to live there - even more so than California.  I don't know about Florida, but I'll take earthquakes over hurricanes hands down.  What's that about picking the known evil over the unknown?

I have to get into work early again today through Monday when my co-worker will be back.  Then three lovely days off!  WooHoo!!!  I was getting obsessed about having enough hours to work then realized I will always have just what I need and time off is extremely valuable.  Even with days off this month, I'm only working 8 hours less than last month.  Go figure.

Today is day 3 of the December Challenge.  I am breaking from my own tradition this year.  We always make our own Christmas stockings.  My Aunt Merrie made my first one . . .pinked out of red felt, felt animals and toys sewn with sequins and french knots, and of course a Christmas tree.  Each had our name with sequins in green.  When the mice got to them, we just made more.  I kept that tradition when my kids were young as well, stitching late into the night to finish them before they needed to be stuffed.  Unfortunately, we moved quite a bit and I had to make more.  One year, I made them from red burlap lined with Christmas tree material.  They were really cute.  I started them last year, but broke my wrist and couldn't finish.  This year . . .well . . .Andrea found a really cute stocking that she wanted.  Rob found one he liked and they found one for me as well.  I guess when you have a new life in a new home it's time to start new traditions.  Maybe next year I'll make them . . .just for fun.

Have a blessed day my friends,



Friday, December 2, 2005

End of a Very Long Day!


Please forgive me friends!  I just now got home from work and it's nearly 7:30 pm my time.  I guess some days are like that.  My co-worker is off to a rodeo and I had to go in early (hence no morning post) and leave late.  Still and all, it is day 2 of the December Challenge and I have a responsibility to you all.

My mother did most of her Christmas wrapping when I wasn't around.  She didn't want to be caught unawares.  She and her friend Kay would sit up after I was asleep and choose paper.  For her, it wasn't just paper and a bow, it was a work of art.  The package that always comes to mind when I think of her is one that was a blue foil type paper with white Christmas trees on it.  She outlined the tree first with glue and sprinkled silvery-white glitter on the edges.  Then she filled in the tree row by row until the tree was perfect.  The edges of the paper were glued, not taped and inside was my much coveted transistor radio.  How I loved to see my mother's packages.  I wish I were that talented.  I have problems with paper, tape and store-bought bows.

My sisters continue that wonderful tradition to this day.  I may even try it myself this year for Andrea.  What do you think?

Be blessed tonite,


Thursday, December 1, 2005

Advent Calendars

                                    Every year, my mom would purchase an advent calendar at our church.  It had 24 little windows that we would start to open on December 1st.  I would get so excited!  We would have it for a few days before the beginning of the month and it was all I could do to wait until the first special day to come along.

Each window revealed a Bible verse to read, leading us up to the moment of our precious Lord's birth.  Mom and I would sing Christmas Carols along with the radio or with the records we had.  It was a special time for us.  In the years since I have grown up, I have looked for advent calendars similar to those we had, but most don't measure up.  There are cute ones with little animals to pass the days and games and other things, but not those with a verse for each day.  It saddens me a bit to find that they are just not popular enough now.  Instead, Rob and Andrea and I will have our own advent, beginning tonite, reading in the Bible the wonderful story I learned as a kid.

Don't get me wrong, we still have decorations, stockings and Santa Claus, it's just that for us, Jesus truly is the reason for the season.

Since this is day one of the December Challenge, you can leave your comments here, in your own journal with a link back here, or in an e-mail.  If you e-mail me, please put December Challenge in the subject line.  Now!  Let's get started.