Archive for the ‘Lessons Learned’ Category


Lessons Learned from a Mammoth Charity Garage Sale…

The nonprofit counseling center that I helped to start in 2015 is now in its 4th year! In fact Compassion Counseling Center is nearing the 4200 hour mark for number of sessions it has provided to our area citizens.

Unfortunately, there is still a gap in what our clients often can pay and what it costs us to provide an hour of therapy. We need a total of about $ 6000, bare minimum, to cover this gap for 2019. We have chosen to never turn a client away because of an inability to pay because we believe that changing mindsets for the better is the key to improving life in our communities.

This past Saturday the small church that hosts Compassion out of pure kindness, Oakdale United Methodist Church, also hosted a massive garage sale for Compassion.


Lessons Learned from Bar Harbor…

The hubby’s family takes a destination family reunion vacation every three to four years. We have been to Virginia Beach, VA, Hilton Head, SC, Branson, MO, Estes Park, CO, Brown County, IN, and now, Bar Harbor, Maine! (I’ve probably forgotten a few, too.)

When one tries to get 36.5 people together in one location where none of us live, it’s an interesting “expedition,” both planning-wise and execution-wise. (When one of the homes you rented actually has “servants quarters,” you realize just how large this family has gotten!) Thankfully, the family “travels well” and when we hit “road bumps,” we muddle through it all together. Here’s my take on the lessons learned from the latest vacay with pretty much the entire family:


Lessons Learned from Another Family Wedding…

wedding cakeThe eldest son married the love of his life last weekend. And of course, I can’t go without at least commenting on the lessons learned from this rustic West Texas affair…

  1. Supposedly, the “groom’s side” is easier to plan and execute. However, that is probably based on the premise that you don’t house the wedding guests in the same town as Texas Tech in May. How do you feel about red and black wedding colors, really?
  2. Apparently, the cost of renting a rehearsal luncheon space for about 3 hours requires a student loan from the government. I am in the wrong business.
  3. It only takes a weekend at the Reserve, a chainsaw, grubby clothing, an Amish Hardware Store in Ohio, Oriental Trading, and 7 more mason jars to create rehearsal luncheon centerpieces. Oh, and 2 willing-to-be-slaves sister-in-laws and an equally willing niece.
  4. They don’t sell Mason jars in packs of 7 or singly…only in dozens. Grr…
  5. Bring insect repellent, ear protection, work gloves and safety glasses to get the wedding guest book. Let’s just say the hubby and I used muscles we’ve never used before.
  6. Even though the attire is casual for the rehearsal and ensuing luncheon, please advise the groom that gym shorts are not part of “casual” even in Texas.
  7. Be on the lookout for wild prairie dogs and pesky tumbleweeds on your way to the venue.
  8. A smart mother of the groom would confirm the time of delivery for the rehearsal luncheon.
  9. I never said I was smart. Okay…so I haven’t said it in the last 5 minutes.
  10. Your decorating “slaves” are far more creative than your “vision.” Pay them extra next time.
  11. Catering dollars in the country go farther than in the big city.  Closer to the food source?
  12. The “slaves” will gladly pack up your decor leftovers for a slightly higher fee. They take hugs as a form of payment. There is a God in Heaven.
  13. Only trust your fancy wedding purse with your brother. It matches his belt buckle.
  14. The brother, because he knows you, will inquire if he should bring a dolly for your purse.
  15. Allow extra room in the wedding budget for physical therapy for your brother post-wedding.
  16. The youngest son will actually shave and get a haircut if it’s for a wedding.
  17. I plan to have family weddings every six months from now until he’s 30. I have plenty of adopteds “in the pipeline.” See # 16.
  18. Even if you have 3 hours to get dressed for the wedding, you won’t get time for a nap.
  19. They need to make SUVs in wedding dress size.
  20. Your best opportunity to get to know the mother of the bride will be in the car on the way to the wedding, provided you don’t hit any prairie dogs on the way.
  21. Just because the bride’s dressing room says that it has air conditioning does not mean it will work while housing 7 bridesmaids, 2 flower girls, 2 mothers, 2 photographers, 1 videographer, 1 bride and a partridge in a pear tree.
  22. You REALLY get to know each other when it’s 81 degrees in the bride’s dressing room.
  23. Renting a new car doesn’t mean it’s reliable wedding transportation. Ask the groom.
  24. Even if the rental car comes with a jack, that doesn’t mean the jack works.
  25. Superman status goes to the father of the groom for getting the car back on the jack, changing the tire, getting tire replaced, and doing a wardrobe change in the tire store restroom and still managing to look dashing.
  26. Relatives from far-off Midwestern states who went to great lengths to not miss another family wedding will miss it because THEIR rental car tire is being replaced.
  27. We need better roads in West Texas. Or maybe better rental cars. Or tires.
  28. Just because there is a PA system at the venue, does not mean it works well with West Texas wind. Even the Chicago wedding guests were impressed with the “windage.”
  29. Even if the venue is in the middle of nowhere, two duallys will go right by the “altar” while the vows are being said. I’m pretty sure their mufflers need replacing.
  30. It’s easier to say your wedding vows if your veil is not being blown into your mouth.
  31. Beware of the flower girls. They may look harmless, but they can pelt you with rose petals.
  32. Bring sunglasses to all outdoor sunset weddings in West Texas.
  33. Leave your wedding gift in the back of the red pickup. No. Not kidding.
  34. Sign the guest log. Seriously. It’s a log….slice. See # 5: 
  35. Enjoy the reception in the barn. Yes, the barn.
  36. Barns can be really pretty in Texas.
  37. The best dancer at the wedding will be your two-year-old great nephew. He’s my favorite dance partner. Shhh. Don’t tell the hubby.
  38. The next best dancer at the wedding will be your twenty-two year old son. Unfortunately, without the facial hair and longer hairstyle, everyone will mistake him for the groom.
  39. The groom hates dancing in front of people, but he tells great jokes while doing so.
  40. The mother of the bride will tear up when she hears she is doing her mother-daughter dance to the tune, “You Are the Wind Beneath My Wings.” Okay…so everyone teared up.
  41. Your family pics will be taken in front of a train freight car. Yes, a train freight car.
  42. You will be forever proud with your eldest son who breaks from his normal, practical tradition and sends two beautiful cards to the bride and her mother before the ceremony.
  43. You will be even more impressed that you didn’t have to tell him to do that.
  44. You will marvel at your daughter and son-in-law for balancing bridesmaid and groomsman duties with nursing a baby, changing diapers, soothing said baby and helping the mother and father of the groom. Do they take hugs as a form of payment???
  45. You will be astounded by the maturity of your youngest who graciously and quietly did all that was asked of him and more!
  46. You will be even more impressed that you didn’t have to tell him to do that.
  47. This wedding must have been a big deal, because the week after Blue Bell did this: 
  48. The sober end of the crowd will dance more than the drinking end. Surreal, but true.
  49. Praise God for choosing to let you be a mom when you didn’t think that was possible.
  50. Forget May 14th…this was MY Mother’s Day this year.


Log Rhythms: All I Ever Wanted to Know About Logs…and Then Some

Square-logged cabin

Square-logged cabin

I’ve been asked by several folks to post about how one approaches designing and building a log cabin in the 21st century. Today I will begin to outline the steps my hubby and I took to get to where we are today: ready for construction.

I have a sneaky suspicion he and I were exceptionally particular about this process compared to most and that may be why people are asking us to write about it. They’d either like the information because a log cabin has been a dream for them, too or because it seems so wild that we would embark on this journey at this point in U.S. history and in our lives.

Because it turned into a lengthy process, I’m going to outline the first steps we took and then post in May about the rest of that process. Here are the Lessons Learned from the “early going” and what we’d recommend to others:


Why We Should Care…


Last weekend my oldest son became engaged. My first thought on this big development? I’m glad I’m here to enjoy this. 

The longer I’m on the planet, the more I’m just happy to be here. I could have been dead at 39, when this son was only in junior high. Instead I’ve watched him graduate high school, graduate college, become financially independent, find the right girl, develop his own set of values (and I’m really impressed with those!) and now become engaged.

I’ve watched his sister graduate high school and college, get married, finish her master’s, succeed in her job, and buy a home. She, too, has a great set of values and her hubby is rapidly becoming my favorite wry comedian (not to mention a successful entrepreneur), as well as more of a son than a son-in-law. 


Lessons Learned from 9 Weeks at a Nonprofit Counseling Center…

phone booth

When I’m not writing, reading, or taking care of my family and home, then I’m probably volunteering.  Lately I volunteer at Compassion Counseling Center, Inc. Compassion has a unique mission: to help the hurting and to support the next generation of counselors.

Compassion is into its 10th week of counseling now. And as the Board secretary for Compassion, I just reported on “the status” of this “experiment” at our first quarterly Board meeting for 2015. We are off to a good start despite ice storms, rolling Spring Breaks and people not even knowing we exist.

Compassion, as of right now, has completed 72 hours of counseling and 35 people have been seen by Compassion counselors. Because we are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, we are able to offer counseling at a very reduced rate. Our average session fee is currently $ 13.83.

Fifty percent of our clients pay less than that, based on a very generous sliding fee scale. Some pay nothing at all. We have 14 hours of counseling sessions scheduled for the rest of this week. That is well above our average (over the past 2 months) of 7.22 counseling hours per week.


Lessons Learned from San Diego in February…

I haven’t written a Lessons Learned post in a while. And you’ve missed it? Me, too. So, to take care of both of us, I’m bringing it back briefly.

Last weekend I spent time with my hubby, which isn’t all that novel, except that I was also spending it with his work colleagues and their wives…in San Diego…in February. My mom and dad had lived there during Dad’s time in the Navy in World War II. Mom had always said it was one of her favorite places to live. She loved visiting the world-famous San Diego Zoo many, many times, so it was definitely on my list of San Diego attractions I wanted to see. Fortunately, the hubby felt the same way. Here’s what I learned along the way:

1. If your hubby says you need to leave for the airport at 9:45 am, you will hear 10 am in your brain. I call this “night owl brain processing.”

2. Any time the hubby has to travel by air with his wife, it’s a source of irritation for him. I think it has something to do with the fact that I don’t have those “Flash the pass and breeze through all TSA checkpoints” thingies that he has.

3. All those thingies have names like “Priority”, “Executive Level” and “Platinum” in them.

4. I must be “Low Priority”, “Peon Level” and “Cork.”

5. Those with the designations listed in # 2 and # 3 do not have to worry about the following things: a) Do my sox have any holes in them? b) Am I wearing sox? c) If no, to question b, then did I bring my foot sanitizer? d) Does my foot sanitizer bottle contain less than 3 ounces and fit in one sandwich bag? e) If the foot sanitizer manages to leak, did I remember to get a new sandwich bag for those 3 precious ounces? f) Do they sell new sandwich bags at the Starbucks kiosk? g) Did I remember to remove my titanium fake arm, fake leg, artificial heart, brain plate and knee pins before entering TSA security? h) When was the last time I remembered to use the computer sanitizer on my poor abused laptop? i) Did I remember to buy compressed air to get out all of the Golden Lab fur stuck underneath my keyboard? j) Did I take off all the jewelry that shows people I’m actually more than a peon with cork status?

6. Because of the concerns in # 5, it will take me about 45 minutes to get through the TSA checkpoint if there are absolutely zero people in front of me.

7. By the time I get through TSA, everyone will know I’m a walking pharmacy.

8. By the time I get through TSA, they will know I am rightly designated a cork peon.

9. Buy new sox.

10. Wear sox.

11. Once we get through TSA and get a sit-down lunch, we will have 90 minutes until boarding.

12. I will be irritated about the 90 minutes. For a night owl, this is critical sleeping time!

13. Even cork peons can complete 6 Medium-Level Sudokus in 90 minutes.

14. Priority Platinum Executive Level people get the polite, smiling flight attendants; cork peons get the surly ones who should have retired 5 years ago.

15. If the latter smiles during a flight, apparently, they are fined.

16. Priority Platinum Executive Level people get warm towels, warm nuts, glass glasses, china plates, real silverware, and warm chocolate chip cookies.

17. Cork peons get a pine cone napkin, dry mini-pretzels in a “space suit”, and a bill for the cardboard box of 5 grapes and an apple. Apparently, cork peons need to eat healthier.

18. If you arrive ridiculously late, thanks to this unseen enemy known as the FAA, then you’ll still be on time to meet your hubby’s boss who flew in from the Netherlands and is on his way to Spain for an undisclosed reason. I’ve never felt so cork in all my life.

19. You’ll lug luggage approximately the size of a moving van to the bathroom while the boss has a confab with your Priority Platinum Executive Level hubby.

20. After lugging the stuff in # 19 to the one and only concession stand at the other end of the airport to get a bottle of water, the cashier will tell you she can help you only if you lug all of # 25 plus a 10 lb. bottle of water to the other side of the concession stand. She must be related to the cork peon level flight attendants.

21. After giving her the “Momma” look, suddenly you can check out anywhere you want.

22. After reading War and Peace twice, finishing the Sudoku book just bought and feeding partridges in pear trees, we can leave for the hotel.

23. The hotel is in outer Siberia.

24. The student population of the nearby college campus must be into Hookah, tattoos, yoga, and vapor cigarettes. My counselor alarm went off with, “What do these things have in common?” Hmmmm….you don’t want to know!

25. Upon arriving at the Siberian hotel, you will actually be astonished to find it really nice with an ocean view. Maybe I’ve risen to Bronze status??? Nah. Must be a dream.

26. The San Diego warm weather has been replaced by Anchorage, Alaska weather. It will leave precisely when you are scheduled to come back to Texas to…ice.

27. Guess who packed her spring wardrobe. That’s what cork peons do.

28. I dress up when others dress down. I dress down when others dress up.

29. Do not rely upon when your hubby tells you to dress up and dress down.

30. The restaurant you thought you were going to eat at is actually a bar.

31. In ocean side towns, all hors d’oeuvres in bars are raw seafood

32. I don’t do sushi.

33. The uber spectacular looking bed in your room isn’t so uber when you bang your shin on the side of the bed at 3 am to go to the bathroom.

34. The black objects in the water are not whales, but surfers. Remind me to get new glasses.

35. If you go whale watching in a huge boat, sit on the port side.

36. We sat on the starboard side.

37. If sitting starboard, grab your beverage when the announcer spots a whale on the port side. Otherwise, your beverage will now be all over the people looking for whales on the port side.

38. My cell phone carrier likes to announce my entrance into Mexican waters with, “You will now be assessed the National Debt for roaming outside the country.”

39. I had a choice about going into Mexican waters?

40. The Mexican waters are on the port side.

41. The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier is spectacular.

42. It was on the starboard side. (Of course! Ronnie would never be caught on the port side.)

43. Sailboats dotting a seascape mesmerize me.

44. Naval bases mesmerize me. (Hmmmm….guess who was a Navy brat!)

45. The San Diego Zoo welcomes you with a flock of flamingos.

46. I like flamingo welcomes.

47. Orangutans fascinate me.

48. Trust your hubby when he says you’ll get along with one other couple well.

49. Take the male end of the other couple with you whenever you can’t spot the designated animal in the “enclosure.” He has animal radar.

50. I don’t cringe when a grizzly bear eats a rabbit in front of me. Especially if there are two of them doing that. I’m scared to hear what Freud would say about that.

51. Ask your tour guide about elephant breeding. Okay. Maybe not.

52. Feed camels by hand.

53. Feed giraffes by hand.

54. Walk on the catwalk above the elephant enclosures.

55. Develop an appreciation for why California condors should be saved.

56 Pandas are shy.

57. The plants at the San Diego Zoo are just as endangered as the animals and are worth more.

58. Take the sky lift ride over the zoo and notice that you’re overlooking gorillas!

59. Learn that you didn’t see everything even though you walked 10,000 steps in one zoo.

60. Note that there is a “San Diego Zoo Safari Park” that is 10 times larger than the San Diego Zoo.

61. Think you’re flying back that night.

62. Learn you’re wrong.

63. Panic when you realize you don’t have enough in your mobile pharmacy for an extra day.

64. Leave wanting more and noting that God sure has blessed us with a diverse universe.

65. It’s okay to be a cork peon. And Mom was right.

Monday’s Post: What did you guess for the WOW?

You Might Also Like: Lessons Learned from a Face Plant; Lessons Learned from Starting a Nonprofit Counseling Center; and Lessons Learned from Being a Part-time Wife


Word of the Day: Avoidance



Let me guess: You’d like to avoid reading this post. Congrats! You, like most of the world, deal with unpleasant things by avoiding them. Guess what? I’m a chronic avoider, too.

Is this a characteristic you’d like to change about yourself? Again, welcome to the “Club.”

I’m realizing that the wisdom I admire in other people is acquired by hitting your head against some “wall” long enough that you eventually realize your head hurts and you change some aspect of hitting your head. You pick a softer surface the next time. You wear a helmet. You take Tylenol. You STOP hitting your head. You break through that “wall.”

In other words, wise people have just been through the trial and error process so long that they eventually figure out better ways to handle tough situations or projects.

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize that the things we avoid bring us pain, boredom, anger or some other negative feeling. So, avoidance is a good thing, right?


Lessons Learned from a Face Plant…


I know many of you are expecting a post about your favorite posts of 2014, but something unusual happened on Wednesday night that I just can’t resist discussing.

First, let me say that we had a wonderful turnout for the Ribbon-Cutting ceremony for Compassion Counseling Center and we couldn’t be more pleased. Thanks to all who helped us launch this new endeavor. Now all we need are lots and lots of counseling appointments for our counselors-in-training so they can graduate on-time.

Unfortunately, I chose to trip over a cement curb in the parking lot and did a huge face plant in the parking lot afterwards and I now know, firsthand, what getting a black eye feels like. Only I could end a fabulous day this way.

Have no fear–I am fine. But, while I was in the ER awaiting the results of my first CAT scan, I had a lot of “free time” on my hands to come up with a few lessons learned. Gosh, I hope I learned some lessons from this stupidity.

1. As a member of the Board of Trustees for the church, I think I’m going to bring up better lighting in our parking lot at the next meeting and….painting the cement parking curbs hazard yellow.

2. Remind me to heed the thought in my head to wear jeans and tennies when cleaning up after a public event. (I was in high heal boots and I have never walked all that elegantly in heels.)

3. I now have something in common with Sylvester Stallone. (I look like the female version of Rocky after a fight.) Could I please get a paycheck like Sylvester Stallone?

4. I chose to protect the crock pot in my arms rather than my face, because it belonged to the Executive Director for Compassion. Remind me that replacing crock pots are cheaper than replacing my face.

5. Thanks to the CAT scan, I now know what it’s like to be inside a dryer. I totally get why they have pretty blossoming tree branches on the ceiling tile.

6. Remind me to bring Tums to my next CAT scan.

7. I know what black top taste likes now. I’m not impressed.

8. Scrapes under your nose hurt more than a gigantic knot on my forehead. Who knew?!?

9. Neosporin helps quell a stinging upper lip. Do they sell Neosporin in “vat-size”?

10. Band-aids should be curved. Can I get a paycheck from Johnson & Johnson for that idea????

11.  Before you get strapped to the oxygen level and blood pressure monitors, grab your cell phone and Kindle so you aren’t absolutely bored senseless while waiting forever for your CAT scan results.

12. Reading glasses should be curved.

13. My bright red reading glasses now match my new version of “eye shadow.” You know me–I like to “match.”

14. Is this God’s way of “knocking some sense into my head”? If so, He and I need to talk.

15. I’ve been praying for humility as I work on creating Compassion. Remind me to be more specific about the way I’d like God to do that next time.

16. I’ve heard, “Pride goeth before the fall.” I just didn’t know God meant that literally.

17. My “goose egg” matched my bright blue dress. See # 13.

18. My swollen chin is not amused by the expression, “taking it on the chin.”

19. I wonder if there’s a vendor for the blossoming tree ceiling tiles. Can you Google that?

20. I’m now really fond of “Jackie O” sunglasses. The bigger and the darker, the better.

21. I definitely have my master’s in Psychology. While in the ER, I was praying they wouldn’t report my injuries to the authorities since I look like Exhibit A in a domestic violence textbook.

22. It’s difficult to wear reading glasses and Jackie O sunglasses at the same time. Jackie O sunglasses should be curved.

23. I may have to reconsider the “Any day I’m not in the hospital is a good day.” mantra I’ve had for the past few years. How about “Any day I’m not in the ER it’s a good day.”????

24. I need to buy more of the tights I wore Wednesday. I bruised my left knee and yet, no run in the tights at all.

25. Do they make tights for faces?

Monday’s Post: WOW time

You Might Also Like: Lessons Learned from Starting a Nonprofit Counseling Center and Lessons Learned from Being a Part-Time Wife


Lessons Learned from Starting a Nonprofit Counseling Center…

Just because writing a blog, writing a book, teaching Bible study, organizing trips to women’s conferences, taking care of an ailing brother, taking care of his estate, serving on the Board of Trustees at my church, and recovering from 2 heart attacks apparently wasn’t enough to keep me out of trouble, I decided, in September 2013 to work on a new project. The project?


It’s good that I helped with its formation, because after this 14 month process (that often reminded me of childbirth–without the epidural), I probably need my head examined.

What is Compassion Counseling Center? A non-profit organization dedicated to helping those in our community who need counseling, but can’t afford it. But that’s not all it is.