Thursday, December 10, 2009

My trip to Texas

Once again I find myself really slacking off on my blog! I have high hopes that I will eventually come out of this slump, but until that day, I'll leave the blog here and try not to abandon it completely.

I thought I would post a few pictures from my Thanksgiving trip to Texas. It was really wonderful. I got to meet my brand new grandson, Josiah Daniel, who was born on November 9th, as well as spending time with my other grandson, almost-three-year-old Payton, and all my other loved ones who live in the Austin area



Payton and me


With brand new little Josiah

He feels so precious to hold!


Me and my sister Lisa

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!


Yes, I've been terribly remiss in keeping up with this blog! Hopefully at some point I'll get it together and once again be a decent blogger. However, I didn't want to miss an opportunity to wish those of you who may chance by here.

Take a moment--or more--to thank God for his blessings. In my case, there are too many to count. All the praise and glory goes to Him!

And now, my Thanksgiving forecast that has become a tradition on my blog!

Thanksgiving Forecast

Turkeys will thaw in the morning, then warm in the oven to an afternoon high near 190F. The kitchen will turn hot and humid, and if you bother the cook, be ready for a severe squall or cold shoulder.

During the late afternoon and evening, the cold front of a knife will slice through the turkey, causing an accumulation of one to two inches on plates. Mashed potatoes will drift across one side while cranberry sauce creates slippery spots on the other. Please pass the gravy.

A weight watch and indigestion warning have been issued for the entire area, with increased stuffiness around the beltway. During the evening, the turkey will diminish and taper off to leftovers, dropping to a low of 34F in the refrigerator.

Looking ahead to Friday and Saturday, high pressure to eat sandwiches will be established. Flurries of leftovers can be expected both days with a 50 percent chance of scattered soup late in the day. We expect a warming trend where soup develops. By early next week, eating pressure will be low as the only wish left will be the bone.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The kind of story that makes me glad I'm in Christian radio

I just got off the phone with a lady who is a classic case of Christian radio meeting her need at the point where she desperately needed it.

She had contacted me yesterday wanting to know the name of a song that played Monday night. I couldn’t find the log for Monday (long story), and she could only remember one small phrase from the song. I did a Google lyric search, but it proved fruitless.

I ended up calling her (she had left her phone number) to find out if she could remember any more details.

Come to find out, her husband died of swine flu Monday night (he had other underlying conditions). When she left the hospital and got in her car, one of her son’s rap CD’s was playing. She got rid of that, and although she says she never listens to our station, she somehow ended up at 100.9 FM.

The song that was playing grabbed her immediately. She wanted to have it sung at her husband’s funeral Saturday.

With a little detective work, I figured out that it was Chris Tomlin’s “I Will Rise”—a great song, but one that most of us that play it are probably a little tired of hearing.

But it was the first time she had heard it, and it met her at her point of need. She said it was perfect for her husband, who was blind and had been plagued by health problems for years.

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

She also says she’ll be listening to us more from now on.

I shared the story on an e-mail group that includes many Christian radio announcers. Here's the thing: even the songs that we may be a little tired of hearing are still speaking to people’s hearts and ministering. Everything we play and say on the air is potentially something someone needs to hear right at that moment.

What an awesome responsibility…and privilege.

Here is Chris Tomlin's "I Will Rise."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veterans Day



My deepest, warmest gratitude goes out to all US veterans, both past and present, who served our country! A special thank you to my brother David, a Marine Gulf War veteran.

The following was written by my friend Kathy Guzzo, whose son Brian served in the Marines.

PORTRAIT OF A VETERAN

The following is a description of a group of people who by their nature and through intense training, do their best to be persons of integrity in even the toughest situations.

A Veteran could be anyone’s child, spouse, parent, neighbor, or friend; but in reality, they ARE someone’s son or daughter, mother or father, wife or husband, fiancé or best friend all who are deeply loved.
They are selfless having put their own career and family’s, hopes and dreams on hold in order to be a part of the toughest, most respected and feared military in the world, a part of a brotherhood that is so much bigger than what they were as an individual.

When they enlisted they traded activities like dating, sporting events, hunting, parties, paint balling, movies, and cruising around in their vehicles, for the opportunity to carry a rifle, while wearing a bullet proof vest in a slow moving, armored vehicle on roads filled with hidden explosives.

They gave up comfortable name brand t-shirts, jeans, hoodies and shoes for long sleeve scratchy camouflage uniforms they wear 24/7 for days at a time without laundering.

They gave up talks around the dinner table, cell phones, wireless electronics, and video games, for a few cherished minutes of delayed filled phone calls, sporadic costly internet access while being extremely thankful for letters received by what is now known as snail mail.

They weren’t able to listen to new music or watch newly released movies or sporting events on a big screen. Instead, they heard the orders given by their Commanding Officers, bombs exploding, and rumblings of gunfire as if they were part of the latest award winning war movie.

They gave up home cooked meals; pizza, fast food, ice cream, and lattes for power bars, instant coffee tasteless powdered meals to which they added warm water.

They missed the birth of children, first words, first steps, the death of loved ones, holiday celebrations, weddings, reunions, vacations, graduations, the change of seasons, and many other events as they endured the loneliness of days that melted together as one.

They gave up hugs, kisses, smiles, and laughter from those they love most, for hatred and evil seen in the eyes of the enemy.

They forfeited nightly sleep in a comfortable bed under a solid roof, to get sporadic rest in a sleeping bag, tucked under a truck, under the stars, in a tent, on anything from lava rocks to sand and if they were lucky in a plywood building.

They gave up ‘regular’ jobs where they would have been safe and secure sitting, in order to be an open target on a road filled with hidden mines or IEDs, or busting doors down looking for the enemy, never knowing what they would find.

They gave up the enjoyment of long hot relaxing showers and a dip in a hot tub, for an occasional dousing on a hot day with bottled water and cold showers in the middle of winter.

They gave up heaters and air conditioners in their home for daily temperature extremes from mountainous winters of below zero with howling winds to sandstorms and a stifling 140 degrees in the desert.

They left the freedoms, culture, familiarity, and knowledge of the country where they were raised, and entered a hostile environment different in every area, from clothes and food, to religion and languages. A place filled with hidden enemies where they couldn’t always tell if those they met were friend or foe.

They willingly took the risk of being injured physically, scarred emotionally or even dying for a duty and purpose they felt called to fulfill.

Veterans are valiant men and women, with an immense pride in having been a part of the history of our great country. They are sometimes as young as 18, who chose to forfeit all these things understanding they’d gain so much more in order to preserve and protect a way of life for the love of a country built on freedoms and liberty.

They are not seeking attention or high forms of praise, they only want to be appreciated, not criticized, for following through with the job they chose that they have been trained and sent to do. For them simple thanks goes a long way.

Veterans developed a sense of maturity and respect for life at a young age. Through their training and life changing experiences, they became responsible, honorable, and dedicated. The words “I can’t” were removed from their vocabulary, as they became self-assured individuals knowing that they could accomplish anything they set their minds too.

They’ve learned that some victories unseen with the human eye can be a victory within themselves and that battles aren’t always won on the front lines, but in the preparation and training that is endured behind the scenes.

They have a deep sense of loyalty, which grew through the life and death experiences they shared with their fellow comrades. At a moments notice, Veterans are available to help their family, friends, or one of their friends, even at the risk of their own lives.

So regardless of the branch in which they served, their rank, whether they served during a time of peace or a horrendous war, Veterans young and old are courageous heroes that have earned this country’s deepest thanks, respect and honor. Americans need to be continually supportive of them for not only whom they are, the sacrifices they’ve made, but also for the difficult yet amazing job they’ve done in protecting and preserving our great country. Any less than that would be a disgrace for us as citizens of the United States.

Written by a Proud Mom of a VFW in honor of her son and the USMC 2/3 “Island Warriors” 2004-2008

© 2009 Kathy L. Guzzo

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Today is National Young Reader's Day


Today is National Young Reader's Day, and I took the opportunity to ask my listeners what books they enjoyed reading as a youngster and what books they read to their children now. Here are some of the replies I got on Facebook:



The Little Princess

Pippi Longstocking, Nancy Drew and any biographies

Jack London's The Call of the Wild and the Little House series...
My boys like me to read Roald Dahl's books to them: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Matilda, and The BFG.

The Little House on the Prairie Series and The American Girls Collection

Roald Dahl books, as well as Women and Biographies

Al the dog books (Big Red, Irish Red, etc) from Jim Kjelgaard. He wrote at least 20, I think


A couple of years ago I wrote this post on Young Reader's Day, so bear with a re-run:

I've been a voracious reader ever since I could string words together on a page, and I had some definite favorites as a child.

I blogged about some of my favorites on 12/15/05:

*****

I went to a British school for two years, and read "Jane Eyre" at the age of eight or nine. It remains one of my favorite books of all time other than the Bible...probably my very favorite.

I remember one Christmas, when I was nine or ten, I got several classics, including "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen, "Gulliver's Travels" by Jonathan Swift, and "Villette" by Charlotte Bronte. But probably one of my very favorites was a large anthology of Enid Blyton.

Enid Blyton
was a British writer who was very prolific. I loved everything she wrote, including a series she did about a girl's boarding school called "Malory Towers."

[NOTE 11/14/06): I'm delighted to find that you can buy many Blyton titles new now, and they are also available new or used on sites like eBay and amazon.com.]

The anthology was a huge,almost coffee-table size book full of her stories. I loved that book and wish I knew where it was today. (By the way, I still have many of the hardcover books my parents gave me in those days, and re-read them every now and then...even the ones that were for children.)

(I blogged last year about my delight in finding one of my childhood favorites, "Red Knights from Hy Brasil," by Christine Savery.)

It was during this era that I also fell in love with Noel Streatfield's "shoes" books, C.S.Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, and anything by Louisa May Alcott.



Beirut also had a Christian bookstore in those days, owned by a British missionary society. They had a great selection of books from Moody Press (anybody remember the Danny Orlis series?) as well as many by British authors. Again, I still have many of those books.

And today I ordered another of my childhood favorites...

It's "Auntie Robbo," by Ann Scott-Moncrieff.

I've probably read this book at least once a year throughout my entire life. The problem is, my copy--yes, the paperback one my parents bought for me circa 1966--is coverless and missing the last couple of pages of the book.

The engaging, quirkily humorous story is about an eighty-something Scottish lady who is highly eccentric and stubbornly independent, and who totally refuses to act her age.

Seen through the eyes of her great-nephew Hector, who is a boy of eight or nine, Auntie Robbo is a highly admirable and fascinating character. The two live a carefree and rather undisciplined life in the Scottish hills, and Hector's perfectly happy with the status quo.

When the second wife of Hector's late father shows up to claim him as her own--Hector has never met this obnoxiously annoying lady until now--Auntie Robbo and Hector go on the run. Their adventures make for delightfully absorbing reading, even at my advanced age.

******

I did get my copy of "Auntie Robbo," by the way, in very good condition, and thoroughly enjoyed re-reading it.

Baby Josiah is here! Yay!



My 2nd grandson, Josiah Daniel Swanson, was born yesterday--November 9, 2009! Josiah was three weeks early, but he weighed in at a healthy 6 lb 6 oz, and is doing well at this writing. Thanks to many who prayed!

Josiah joins my first little grandson, the adorable Payton.

No pictures yet...but I'm planning to go to Texas at Thanksgiving, and you know I'll be taking pictures like a madwoman!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop: The Case of the Miracle Substance???


Can hydrogen peroxide cure everything from plugged sinuses to toothache, kill foot fungus and whiten your laundry?

Those are some of the many claims of an e-mail that’s currently making the rounds…and the answer isn’t a clear-cut “yes” or “no.” Peroxide actually IS beneficial in many instances, and it’s definitely a helpful bottle to keep in your medicine cabinet. But some of the claims about peroxide are unproven, and it’s NOT a good idea to ingest it orally.

The e-mail starts out like this:

“I would like to tell you of the benefits of that plain little ole bottle of 3 per cent peroxide you can get for under $1.00 at any drug store.” Some versions of the e-mail go on to pit peroxide against bleach.

Both snopes.com and truthorfiction.com tell us that the e-mails are a mixture of fact and fiction. For example, the e-mail touts peroxide as a mouthwash---but according to truthorfiction.com it should only be used in that capacity on a limited basis, and I quote:

“The FDA has approved 3% solutions of hydrogen peroxide for use as a mouthwash. Most sources said to use it only for a short time, however, such as part of a treatment of a mouth infection. A report from Well-Connected (written or edited by physicians at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital) recommended against extended use, saying that overuse may actually damage cells and soften tooth surfaces. We were not able to find any authoritative information about hydrogen peroxide and canker sores."


How about using peroxide to clean your kitchen counters or rinse off your wooden cutting boards? That’s absolutely true…The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved hydrogen peroxide as a sanitizer.

You can also use it as a vegetable wash to kill bacteria...and cleaning with hydrogen peroxide will be helpful if your house becomes a biohazard
after being invaded by toxic mold, such as those with water damage.

As for helping foot fungus, getting rid of skin infections or sinus infections, those are disputed and just haven’t been proven.

Bottom line: hydrogen peroxide can help with many things and probably won’t hurt with others. But most experts agree that you should NOT ingest it orally or have it injected into your system.

Clearing up another internet rumor, this is Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop...reminding you to check it out BEFORE you hit that SEND button!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Oh no, not Abby!--Biggest Loser was too sad last night



My favorite contestant on this season's Biggest Loser went home last night.

Abby Rike, the woman who lost her husband and two children in a car crash 2 and a half years ago, basically sacrificed herself so that her team-mates could stay on the ranch.

I'm so sorry to see Abby go. She was one of the most inspiring people on that show. You never saw her whining or being mean or petty. She was consistently positive and gracious, despite having experienced a devastating tragedy...and despite the fact that a problem with shin splints kept her sidelined most of the time.

Honestly, I thought Daniel should have stepped up to the plate and insisted that he himself be voted off. This is Daniel's second season on the show, and I do like him, but he's already proven his ability to lose weight off the ranch.

But, it is what it is. I'm not really crazy about any of the remaining women on the ranch--I like Amanda and Rebecca, but Liz and Tracey are incredibly annoying.

I do like the remaining guys a lot...and I'm actually hoping a man will win it all this time. I'd love to see Rudy, Danny or Allen take it all. Great guys.

Abby's update at the end of the show indicates that she's still losing weight, thriving, and sharing her testimony of triumph over tragedy to encourage others.

But I will miss Abby on Biggest Loser. How about you?

Incidentally, a bit of trivia: according to this article, Abby was influenced to join Biggest Loser by one of my LEAST favorite contestants ever...Vicky Vilcan. Interesting!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Balloon Boy incident leaves me feeling used...but still glad



Have you ever agonized over the lateness of a loved one, imagining the worst...and then when they show up, you're so mad at them you could (and sometimes do) scream?

That's kind of how I feel after the Balloon Boy ordeal.

A co-worker and I stole glances at the station TV yesterday, trying to get an update on the soaring balloon.

When the balloon landed without a boy inside, we were both horrified. My husband and I were both literally sick to our stomachs.

My sister in Texas says she was monitoring the situation too, with anguish and concern.

Twitter and Facebook were abuzz with status updates (including mine) expressing worry and encouraging prayer.

Prayers in vain?

I'm sure tens of thousands of prayers were sent up for the safety of that little boy. Then he turns up, having been hiding in a garage attic the entire time.

To be honest, I suspected--even hoped--that might be the case all along. I even expressed that to my co-worker before I left work.

And before the little boy turned up, a police officer friend told me on Facebook that there was something off about the story that was making his cynical cop instinct kick in.

Now all kinds of questions are being asked about the integrity of the boy's parents and the legitimacy of the entire incident. Was it a publicity stunt?

Even the little boy has said more than once that it was all done "for a show." What?!?

As disturbing as that is, though, I can't help but be happy. We're not mourning a little boy's death today. He was hiding the whole time, for whatever reason.

We were all worried sick, yes. So we prayed...was that wasted time? I don't think so. I don't think it hurts us to pray occasionally for something that's not a real crisis. If our motivation--love and concern--was right, the prayer wasn't in vain.

Maybe we should just keep on praying for Falcon Heene. With a family like his, he just might need it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

As teams divide, Biggest Loser heats up


Terrible Tracey--but I still can't detest her as much as I did Vicky!

I can't believe Tracey lived to fight--I mean, lived to experience unbelievable luck--another week! Even more amazing: her husband, as portrayed on a "video from home" prize, seems like a really cool guy! Is Tracey not as crazy and awful as she seems? Hmmm.

One thing's for sure: being separated from their partners is not the worst thing in the world for the contestants, although it seemed like a funeral when they were being ripped apart.

I think one result of being cut off from their families and the rest of the world is that they become almost obsessively attached to their partners. I think even by the end of last night's episode, they were realizing that they could succeed without their erstwhile partners constantly at their side.

Also, being assigned to Jillian instead of Bob is NOT a fate worse than death. Jillian consistently grooms winners on that show. Could I train with her? Absolutely NOT...look up "wimp" in the dictionary, and there's a picture of me.

However, my Gulf War veteran marine and ex-cop brother says he would LOVE to have Jillian for his trainer. :) From someone who has experienced near-torture in the name of physical fitness, that's pretty high praise.

I'm not thrilled about the black-versus-blue, Bob's team versus Jillian's team starting all over again, because inevitably, that's when "game play" shifts into high gear. And quite frankly, game play is NOT what I love about this show...it's determination, motivation, inspiration--watching people who had no discipline and no goals transform into physically fit, well-adjusted people.

But you know what? I firmly believe "Biggest Loser" is one of the best things on TV right now.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop: The Case of the Ghoulish Gangs



Are local gangs planning to kill 30 or more women on or around Halloween as part of an initiation?

That rumor has been around for a few years, but it ran rampant in October 2008, and it’s making the rounds again this year…not just through e-mail, but through social networking sites like Facebook, and cell phone texting.

As often is the case with such rumors, it’s wise to be careful and use good common sense to protect your personal safety. However, there’s NO evidence that such a gang initiation has ever taken place, or that it’s planned for this Halloween.

The messages come in various forms—usually saying that the police are actively warning people about the initiation…some even going so far as to say the police are handing out flyers at sports practices and that warning signs are being posted at Wal-Mart and other stores. The warnings vary as to how many women are going to be killed—some saying as many as 140 women will be targeted.

According to snopes.com, a New Jersey man was actually arrested in December 2008 for spreading false reports of gang violence in Jersey City. He was charged with causing false public alarm. And police departments across the country have issued assurances that the rumors are NOT credible.

The truth? Last Halloween came and went with no such massive gang killings reported.

CyberSnoop always urges you to err on the side of safety—so don’t take any risks with your personal safety this October 31st, whether you observe Halloween or not.

But don’t pass along these gang warnings, because they are completely unsubstantiated.

Clearing up another internet rumor, this is Cindy Swanson,
CyberSnoop…reminding you to check it out BEFORE you hit that “send” button!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

This is my Sixth Blogoversary!



Me in 2003, when this blog began



On Friday, October 10th, 2003, I kicked this blog off with this little entry: "Well...hello.

"I guess this is my introduction to the world of blogging....a modern technological wonder that appears to be tailor-made for people like me, who can't seem to stop putting their thoughts on paper (or cyber-paper, as the case may be!)

I think this is going to be fun!"

Later that day I came back with a lengthier post filled with personal happenings.

A year later, I celebrated my first "bloggiversary": "As I look back on the year that has passed, I'm struck with an unexpected but obvious benefit of keeping an online diary. I now have a written record of the past year of my life. I blogged about most of it, good and bad.

"From the Cubs barely missing the World Series, to my son's wedding, to my father's worsening illness and death, with a ton of discoveries of new book and music delights, annoyances and opinions thrown in for good measure, it's all there.

"Yep, I enjoy blogging. So I guess I'll stick around a while."

My blog has evolved somewhat since I first started it. Early on, I discovered I could add pictures, and I still think that's one of the things that grabs people. I want the look of the blog to be bright and appealing.

I started out with one of Blogger's standard templates. A few years ago, I paid Susie of Bluebird Blogs to create a custom design for me. I still love it. The musical notes represent not only my love of music, but the fact that the title of my blog, "Notes in the Key of Life," is a play on words. (I actually got the idea from Stevie Wonder's 1976 album, "Songs in the Key of Life." I always thought that was a cool title!)

I still blog about personal events and activities, but I would say the focus is more on the culture from a Christian perspective, with a strong emphasis on Christian fiction.

In the beginning, I don't think I was writing so much for an audience...it really was just my "random thoughts." Now, I take into consideration the fact that some people really ARE reading it...so most of the time I try to make it worth your while.
I'm more conscious of the "salt and light" aspect of having a blog that people actually take time to read.

With my burgeoning involvement in Facebook and Twitter, I've neglected my blog of late. But I'm renewing my commitment to it. After six years, I can honestly say blogging is a good thing--a way for me to connect with friends, family, like-minded people all over the world, and the general public, on many levels.

And hopefully another way to fulfill my life's mission statement: "O Lord, let your light shine on others through me."

Friday, October 09, 2009

Sunday is Clergy Appreciation Day...



...what are you doing to encourage your pastor?

I grew up the daughter of a pastor, and I am now the daughter-in-law of a pastor. So I know a little something about the pressures of the ministry...the discouragement, the fatigue, and the pitfalls, as well as the rewards.

Sunday is Clergy Appreciation Day, and I encourage you to let your spiritual leaders know how much you appreciate them. The following is from a Christianity Today article:

Eight Ways to Encourage Your Pastor

1. Cut the Criticism
2. Pray regularly
3. Express appreciation in writing
4. Use your skills to bless
5. Squelch gossip
6. Offer to meet a need
7. Be openly responsive
8. Throw away the measuring stick


You can read the entire article here.

This piece of humor is an oldie-but-a-goodie--and in some cases, not much of an exaggeration!:

The Perfect Pastor preaches exactly 10 minutes. He condemns sin roundly, but never hurts anyone's feelings. He works from 8 a.m. until midnight, and is also the church janitor.

The Perfect Pastor makes $40 a week, wears good clothes, drives a good car, buys good books, and donates $30 a week to the church. He is 29 years old and has 40 years' worth of experience. Above all, he is handsome.

The Perfect Pastor has a burning desire to work with teenagers, and he spends most of his time with the senior citizens. He smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his church. He makes 15 home visits a day and is always in his office to be handy when needed.

The Perfect Pastor always has time for church meetings and all of its committees, never missing the meeting of any church organization. And he is always busy evangelizing the unchurched.

The Perfect Pastor is always in the next town over!

If your pastor does not measure up, simply send this notice to six other churches that are tired of their pastor too. Then bundle up your pastor and send him to the church at the top of your list. If everyone cooperates, in one week you will receive 1, 643 pastors. One of them should be perfect.

Have faith in this letter. One church broke the chain and got its' old pastor back in less than three months.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A sequel to "Phantom of the Opera"? Coolness!



What "Phantom of the Opera" fan hasn't wondered what happened after Christine and Raoul rowed away, leaving the woebegone Phantom to declare that the end of the story?

Apparently Andrew Lloyd Webber has. The famed composer is announcing a stage (not movie)sequel, called "Love Never Dies." But this time, the Phantom isn't residing under the Paris opera house. He's made his way to Coney Island.

Yes, you read right...Coney Island.

Webber says the ending of the first "Phantom" is "unsatisfactory":

"Christine goes off with this boring guy, the Phantom disappears," Webber said. He said he wanted to set the piece at Coney Island because, at its turn-of-the-century heyday, it was "the eighth wonder of the world."


"Love Never Dies" is due to open in London in March. The musical also will be staged in New York beginning November 2010.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Way-back Wednesday

In which I go back into the archives of Notes in the Key of Life to take a peak at what I was blogging about a year ago today! Step into the Way-back Machine and fasten your seat-belt...here we go!

Originally posted October 7, 2008:



What would I do without Linda of 2nd Cup of Coffee? Not only is she simpatico with me on so many levels, she always comes up with great memes when I need direction for a blog post!

This time, Linda is encouraging bloggers to share their favorite fall comfort foods in what she's calling Fall Into Flavor.

So here's my entry. If it looks familiar, it's because I've shared it more than once here. Not only is it tasty, the beans are very good for you (hey, pop some Bean-o before you eat if you anticipate a problem! :)), it was originally a Weight Watchers recipe. So it's points-friendly as well as healthy. Just don't tell your family that. I promise you, they will LOVE it...and they'll never guess it's not fattening!

TACO SOUP

1 pound very lean ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
1 large can Mexican-style Ro-Tel Tomatoes
1 can pinto beans
1 can black beans
1 can chili beans
1 can corn
1 packet Taco seasoning mix
1 packet Ranch style dressing mix

Brown the beef with the chopped onion; drain. Add other ingredients; DO NOT DRAIN beans and corn.

Cook and simmer until all the flavors are nicely mixed. You might want to serve with some shredded cheddar for sprinkling over the top.

You could also make this in the crockpot (brown the ground beef first, of course), and come home from work or church to a ready-made meal.--Originally posted October 7, 2008

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop: The Case of the Clinic's Warning


I admit it: I've been a terrible blogger.

What with new job responsibilities, more Facebook and Twitter interaction, and sheer negligence, my blog has suffered.

I humbly beg the forgiveness of the legions of people who wait with bated breath for my every new blog post. (Uh, note: sarcasm there. :))

I hereby resolve to be a better blogger. Here we go, with a brand new edition of CyberSnoop!



The Case of the Clinic’s Warning



Did the famed Mayo Clinic warn its staff members to expect a massive swine flu pandemic, affecting over 45-thousand people in a nine-week period and causing hundreds of deaths among Mayo Clinic employees alone?


That’s the subject of an e-mail that’s currently circulating. And according to Snopes.com, it’s FALSE.

All health officials, including the Mayo Clinic, are taking the H1N1 virus very seriously, and planning for every contingency.

However, this e-mail…which reportedly originated with a Mayo Clinic employee…is unnecessarily alarmist.

The e-mail begins like this: “Dear Friends, My mother works at the Mayo Clinic and she just informed me of some alarming news concerning the H1N1 virus.” The e-mail goes on to give a lengthy note from the person’s mom, who says she just got out of a Mayo Clinic staff meeting in which some very dire warnings were issued about the virus…including the fact that the clinic was expecting 106 of its employees to die from the virus EACH WEEK!

The quote from the mom ends with: “This is real dear family. This is not me going overboard. I just came out of a meeting. This is real.”

Actually? It’s NOT real. Snopes.com contacted a Mayo Clinic public affairs spokesman, Kevin Punsky, who said, “The employee describing the H1N1 pandemic took hypothetical statistics used in internal planning scenarios, mis-stated them, and presented them as real.”

Punsky goes on to say: “Please ignore the information contained in the errant e-mail from a Mayo Clinic employee. The information is wrong.”

Yes, we should all be very careful to keep our hands clean and keep ourselves healthy…but freaking out and panicking, and spreading alarmist e-mails? Not a great idea.

Clearing up another Internet rumor, this is Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop…reminding you to check it out BEFORE you hit that send button!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Biggest Loser is off to an inspiring start


Biggest Loser trainers Bob and Jillian

OK,here's what I'm picturing. After the last couple of seasons of NBC's The Biggest Loser, the show's honchos and powers-that-be are around the conference table.

"All right. Obviously we need to make some changes," says one.

"Yep," says another. "E-mails, letters and online forums are telling us that our core audience HATES the drama, the nastiness, the underhandedness and game-playing that has become the norm on the show."

"Agreed," another comments with a sigh. "Looks like the kind of people who watch the show the most--our loyal core audience-- are the kind of people who are turned off by manipulation, sneakiness and outright hatefulness."

"Ya think?" pipes up another. "Not to mention profanity-laced tirades that have to be bleeped every couple of seconds. We're getting e-mails saying they no longer let their kids watch the show with them."

"So what do we do?"

"Well, let's start giving viewers what they really want. Inspiration by the bucketloads. Motivation to change their lives, because, let's face it, a LOT of the people watching are overweight, and desperately want to make positive changes in their health and fitness."

"So what's causing most of the drama?" the original guy queries.

"Obviously, the competition between the teams of Bob and Jillian."

"How do we solve that?"

"Eliminate the Bob vs Jillian competition by having them work together to coach the contestants?"

"Brilliant!" says the second honcho. "But reality shows are all about competition and friction. Where's the drama if they're not working against each other?"

"Oh, believe me, there'll be other little dramas. When you get a group of people together, they're not all going to like each other all the time. There'll be enough friction to keep us going."

"I've got another idea!" pipes up the guy who thought of having Bob and Jillian work together. "Why don't we give the contestants challenges in which they have to work as a team? Things that foster a spirit of unity and cooperation?"

"Hmmm. You might have something there."

"Well, let's give it a try, anyway."

Maybe there was no such conference room exchange, but I would imagine I'm pretty close. The result? The best start to a Biggest Loser season that I've ever seen.

The contestants are almost all genuinely likable; several are downright lovable. Some, like Abby who lost her husband, 5-year-old daughter and 2-week-old son, have heartbreaking backstories that make you root for them every step of the way.

Some, like Rebecca and Amanda, are just funny and cute. (My 24-year-old nephew, watching the show with me last night, said, "Wow, those girls are really attractive.")

Whatever the producers have done to keep me watching, it's working. The Biggest Loser is a high point of my week. I look forward to watching the transformations of these people.

I find it refreshing that there's not a detestable villainess like Vicky, or a sneaky manipulator like--wow, I've totally forgotten the name of the Don Corleone guy from last season.

Of course, it's possible that the show will veer back to its past ways of setting everyone at each other's throats and manufacturing, or at least showcasing, drama-ridden situations that foster ugliness and nastiness.

I hope not. Because for me, at least, this formula is working in a major way. Keep it up, Biggest Loser honchos!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop: The Case of the Megawoosh


It's all over the Internet and being forwarded by e-mail...one of those videos that you just have to see to believe. But can you really believe it?

On YouTube and elsewhere, the video is being called The Megawoosh. The video clip is of a man--engineer Bruno Kammerl--in a neoprene suit, zooming down a slide, soaring off a ramp and traveling an incredibly long distance before ending up splashing into a small wading pool. Is it for real?

The answer is NO. Actually, the video wasn't meant to be real...it was developed as a viral ad for Microsoft Germany's Office Project 2007.

So how was the video really done? Here's what the website newteevee.com tells us, and I quote:


As some bloggers guessed, it’s a case of creative compositing, meaning that the clip we get to see is based on multiple elements that were combined together to create a final video. A stuntman slides down the slide, secured by a rope. Then there’s a body flying through the air, which is animated. And finally, the big splash. "He actually jumped from a wooden ramp into the pool," explains Koenigs. Of course, you don’t get to see any of this in the final clip, thanks to careful editing that makes it look like a single take.



Judging by the fact that over a million people viewed the Megawoosh video in just the first week it was on the Internet, it looks like Microsoft accomplished their goal of getting people to watch it!

Clearing up another internet rumor, this is Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop...reminding you to check it out BEFORE you hit that "send" button!

Here's the video:

Thursday, September 03, 2009

My interview with "Drop Dead Diva's" Brooke Elliott



Brooke Elliott dishes about body image, working with icons, and NOT being pressured to lose weight

Television being what it is, I never give a blanket endorsement to a TV show. However, I've seen "Drop Dead Diva" several times now, and I've really enjoyed it so far.

OK, it's one of those someone-comes-back-to-life-after-dying premises. We all know you have to suspend disbelief there, so just enjoy the show for what it is: light-hearted fun with some occasionally serious things to say about the weight issues that most women live with.

The best thing about the show? Its star, the delightful Brooke Elliott.



Deb is a slim, air-headed woman brought back in the body of a brilliant but dumpy and overweight lawyer, Jane. Somehow they merge--with Deb getting Jane's overweight exterior and brilliant mind, but keeping her own ditzy personality. Plus, Deb can't seem to remember that she doesn't look like a babe anymore, so she still acts like one.

The lovely Brooke Elliott is absolutely convincing portraying this paradox, and as I told her, it makes me believe that all overweight women should just act beautiful...then maybe it would become a self-fulfilling reality!



I asked Brooke about having a job in which she feels NO pressure to lose weight...what it's like working with famous guest stars like Delta Burke, Paula Abdul and Liza Minelli..and what about the guardian angel, Fred--will we ever see him again?

You can listen to my 8-minute interview with Drop Dead Diva's Brooke Elliott here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I kissed my husband good-bye this morning!


Before you get worried, I just kissed him good-bye for the day, as we were both leaving for work.


What's so remarkable about that? Well, for the past 20 years, I have risen before anyone else in my family...while they were all still sleeping soundly.


My daughter was just two years old, my sons 9 and 6, when I started the morning shift at WQFL (101QFL.) I stayed on that shift for all these years...until just a few days ago.


Some of you may have heard or read about the changes at the radio stations where I've been on the air for all these years. Two stations under the same management...WQFL came first; WGSL (Radio 91) arrived on the scene in 1988. I did the news on both stations, and was morning show co-host on both of them at different times. Recently, however, the stations were sold, and Radio 91 is no more.


I actually started working at WQFL in 1981, but it was in 1989 that I began that morning shift.


Getting up at 4 AM to be at work by 5 isn't all bad. For instance, I never had to deal with heavy traffic. Rockford is an early-rising town, but the streets were never crowded during the four AM hour.


And getting off work around 1 PM was great...IF I wasn't too sleepy to function.


A morning show is a fun thing to be a part of. There's a fun and an energy that's particular to that day-part. And usually, once I was there and well into my first cup of coffee, I was fine.


However...


Since this past Monday, I have been working a different shift. I get up at 6:30 in the morning. My first feeling is one of joy, because even though the sun might not be shining brightly, it's NOT the middle of the night!


My husband and I get ready alongside of each other. We have time to chat about our coming day.


As I write this, it's 8:35 PM. In my past life, I would be thinking, "I really should be getting to bed."


Now, I know that even if I don't hit the pillow till 10:30, I'll still be getting enough sleep...8 hours...something I NEVER got on weekday nights with my previous shift.


Frankly, I'm not sure what the future holds for me. I'm doing a mid-day show on 101QFL right now, and I'm loving it...but I'm not sure how permanent the gig is. I'm kind of taking one day at a time, which is really all we can do anyway, right?


But I'll tell you this. I don't think I can ever go back to the 4 AM rising thing. I'm enjoying living like a normal person too much.


And I get to kiss my husband good-bye in the morning!


I don't think I'll ever take that for granted.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop: The Case of the Aerial Abode



Are pictures of a house made from an airplane for real?

An e-mail currently making the rounds asks “Would you like to live in an aeroplane?” (that, by the way, is how the British say “airplane”). It shows several pictures of a house built around an old Boeing 727 perched above the ground.

Well, our sources tell us the pictures are definitely real…although instead of a private residence, the airplane “house” is actually an exclusive suite at the Hotel Costa Verde in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.

You can go to the hotel’s 727 Fuselage Page http://www.costaverde.com/727.html to find out all about the suite and see the pictures. The page explains:

“We salvaged this airframe, piece by piece, from its San Jose airport resting place. We carefully transported the pieces on five, big-rig trucks to the jungles of Manuel Antonio where they have been resurrected into a unique jumbo hotel suite. Our classic airplane, nestled on the edge of the National Park in our Costa Verde II area, is perched on a 50-foot pedestal. At this height, you will enjoy scenic ocean and jungle views from the hard wood deck built atop the plane's former right wing.”


The plane's interior is Costa Rican teak paneling from the cockpit to the tail. It features two bedrooms, each with its own private bath, kitchenette, dining area and ocean-view terrace, among other amenities. It’s really quite beautiful!


And it’s all yours for 500 dollars a night in season—January through April—and 400 dollars a night the rest of the year.


Master bedroom of the fuselage suite

By the way, the hotel website admits their Boeing 727 home isn’t the only such dwelling in the world. The say they were inspired by a Forbes Magazine article about a company offering hurricane-proof living via surplus Boeing 727 airframes.

Confirming another Internet rumor, this is Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop…reminding you to check it out BEFORE you hit that “send” button!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop: The Case of the Celebrity Coincidence




Did three celebrities who died recently have in common the fact that they all appeared on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” on the same day back in 1979?

The rumor currently circulating has to do with Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. Long time Tonight show announcer and sidekick Ed McMahon passed away on June 23rd, followed two days later by actress Farrah Fawcett and singer Michael Jackson.

Not long after their deaths, rumors began flying that the three had all appeared on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show back on September 18th, 1979. Wouldn’t that have been an eerie coincidence?

Well, yes, that would have been an eerie coincidence.

However, it’s not quite true. For one thing, the date—September 18, 1979—couldn’t be right. Sources tell us that on that date, a Best of Carson re-run aired. It was a re-run of a show that originally ran in March 1978, when Johnny’s guests were Walter Matthau and Bob Uecker.

THIS much is true, though—Farrah and the Jackson Five, including Michael Jackson, were guests on the Tonight Show one day apart from each other at one time. That was in August, 1974—when the Jackson Five were guests on August 19th, and Farrah was a guest on the show the following evening, August 20th.

But Ed McMahon wasn’t there on either of those dates…bandleader Doc Severinson was filling in for him.

So, you can stop the Twilight Zone theme. While it may appear true that celebrities die in threes, these particular three celebrities were NOT on the Tonight Show on the same date.

Clearing up another internet rumor, this is Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop…reminding you to check it out BEFORE you hit that “send” button!
--Listen to this post here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Welcome to My Home

My house is not fancy or luxurious by any means, but I love it. The fact that I live in this house was totally a "God" thing, and I truly do regard it as a gift from God. I don't think I've ever done this, but I thought I'd share a few pictures of my home here on my blog. Hope you like it!
A shot of the livingroom. Two things I love most about it: the vaulted ceiling and the fireplace.



I have two book-cases in my living room...this is one of them. The two pictures on the top are one of my sister Lisa and me...the other one is of my grandson Payton, I think before he was even one year old.


The other bookcase, which is on the opposite side of the fireplace as the other one. The picture is of my three wonderful children, Elizabeth, Justin and Jonathan. I picked up the Paris clock (I'm addicted to all things French!) at Hobby Lobby recently for seven dollars!



The fireplace...I love it, even though the gas fire doesn't work very well. I just love the way it looks! The painting above the mantel was a gift from my friend Teri. I love it! On the mantel are pictures of my children, including the one on the far left of Daylyn and Jonathan on their wedding day.

The piano, which is often played by my daughter Elizabeth (even though it badly needs tuning.) More family pics atop the piano. The harp-shaped candle-holder was a clearance item I picked up at The Persimmon Tree during my recent trip to Geneva, IL.


The couch, where you can see our little toy poodle, Brandy, relaxing (with strangely glowing eyes.) The senior pictures of each of my children are on the wall behind. The staircase behind the couch goes to the basement, where there is a guest bedroom, bathroom, TV room, office, and unfinished storage area.
A view of the kitchen. One of the things I love about my kitchen is that it is so well-lit. I can't stand working in a dim kitchen!


Another view of the kitchen. The theme is fruit, including the fruits of the Spirit.


One last kitchen shot. In this one you can see the hutch that although not an antique, is very special to me because it used to belong to my grandmother.

Hope you enjoyed your visit to my home!

Friday, August 14, 2009

My nephew's blog is FUNNY.


My nephew Jeff Swanson

I've known for a while that my nephew Jeff Swanson is a terrific writer, but he's really outdoing himself on his new blog.

This post
, in particular, cracked me up...and you'll be able to relate if you've dabbled in more than one social networking site! I can totally relate, and at one time I even WAS a teenaged girl. :)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

13 Things to Tell You


A veritable potpourri of fascinating facts and links!

--Apparently, real men eat fried chicken made with Coke.

--Thanks to movies like "Julie and Julia," food is really big in the entertainment world these days. (My daughter, who works at Borders, says books about Julia Child and French cooking are selling like hotcakes--no pun intended!)

--Should Christians be cremated? Pastor Chris Brauns has some thoughts on the subject.

-- Ten of the Most Beautiful Places in the World, at least according to this photo blog. (Hat tip to Angela Hunt.)

--I may be the only person left in the world who doesn't have an mp3 player, and I'm asking for one for my 31st anniversary next week. I took an informal poll on Facebook and Twitter as to which one I should get, and the iPod is winning. What do you think?

--Check out the trailer for BJ Hoff's latest book, Where Grace Abides.

--Remember when we used to have real telephones? Apparently there's a real market for vintage phones.

--I read The Nanny Diaries recently because I picked it up on the cheap at a dollar store. I found it very entertaining and, if it's depiction of rich families who employ nannies is an accurate one, very disheartening. It's one thing to have a nanny as an adjunct in raising your child, but do some people pretty much turn the raising of their child over to a nanny? Sad.

--Eeeuw, creepy: Death Masks of the Famous.

--Found a great site for public speakers, media people and anyone who wants to know the correct way to pronounce people, places and stuff! Its Inogolo.com

--My latest fave healthy treat: Fuze empower pomegranate and acai berry. Yum

--Soon, visitors will be able to look at Navy Pier from a balloon.

--Very interesting: the 100 Best First Lines of Novels.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Andrew Peterson talks about songwriting, storytelling and the evil Fangs of Dang









One of the ways that I think that we're created in God's image is that
he's given us this satisfaction in creation...in speaking light into the world...in speaking something out of nothing. This idea that something that wasn't in the world yesterday is in the world now, and I was the guy who got to be part of that process of speaking it into being.--Andrew Peterson on creating music and fiction


Before Andrew Peterson, Sharon Hinck and Jeffrey Overstreet converted me, I wasn't much of a fantasy fiction buff. It was Sharon's Sword of Lyric series that first lured me in, Jeffrey's Auralia Thread series drew me further, and Andrew's Wingfeather Saga sealed the deal. I guess I do like fantasy fiction after all!

I enjoyed reading On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness so much, as well as interviewing Andrew Peterson the first time and seeing him in concert, that I was delighted when the second book in the Wingfeather saga appeared. North! Or Be Eaten abounds with more of Andrew's vivid imagination, whimsical humor and riveting storytelling.

Andrew Peterson and me at a fall 2008 concert

I talked with Andrew Peterson recently about the newest book in the Wingfeather saga and about the differences and similarities between writing books and writing songs (something which he does quite well!),about what kind of an imagination it takes to create an entire world, and about where God and spirituality fit into that world, among other things.

--In this clip, Andrew says he thought that with his songwriting background, writing books would be a snap...but it wasn't quite that easy.

--In this clip, Andrew says songwriting and bookwriting ARE similar in some key ways.

You can listen to the entire 20-minute interview here.

As always, talking with Andrew Peterson was a joy...and I'm already eager for the next book in the Wingfeather saga!

Listen
to my review of On the Dark Sea of Darkness.

For more on Andrew Peterson, go to his website...and for more quirky and whimsical info on the world the Igiby children inhabit, go here (one of my personal favorites? The Creaturepedia.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

In need of a "Lost" fix?

As with all things "Lost," it raises more questions than it answers, but here you go:

UPDATE: Hmm...well, my friend "Dale Gribble" tells me this video may be a fake.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

13 Favorite/Famous Movie Quotes



(OK, this is a repeat...originally posted in June of last year...but it's worth reprising! Feel free to add yours in my comments section!)

This was the subject of our Fun Poll on the Marlar in the Morning show 101QFL a while back, and I thought it would make a good Thursday Thirteen. Here are some favorites (some of mine, some of other peoples') in no particular order...


--"What we do in life echoes in eternity." "Gladiator," 2000.

-- "You're gonna need a bigger boat." "Jaws," 1975.

-- "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." "The Godfather Part II," 1974.

-- "Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac ... It's in the hole! It's in the hole! It's in the hole!" "Caddyshack," 1980.

--"Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary." "Dead Poets Society," 1989.

--"Every man dies, not every man really lives."--"Braveheart," 1995.

--"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."--"The Princess Bride," 1987

--"I'm your huckleberry."--"Tombstone," 1993.

--"Round up the usual suspects." --and--

--"Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."--"Casablanca," 1942

--"Life goes by pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."--"Ferris Bueller's Day Off," 1986

--"I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure."--"Chariots of Fire," 1981

--"Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly. I'm a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior." "Amazing Grace," 2006

What are your favorites?


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop: The Case of the Michael Jackson Photo



Is that image predicting what Michael Jackson would look like at age 40 for real?

Well, yes and no. It’s not an actual photo of Michael Jackson, but it IS an actual photo from 1985 predicting what Michael Jackson was going to look like 15 years from THEN.

One of the sad things about Michael Jackson’s life…which ended this past June…was the fact that he was never satisfied with his own appearance. Jackson reportedly had plastic surgery after plastic surgery, to the point where his face was almost completely unrecognizable, and even shades lighter than his original skin tone.

Now an e-mail is circulating that shows a picture of Michael projecting how he would look at the age of 40. When the picture was published in the August 1985 issue of Ebony magazine, Michael Jackson was a handsome young black man. The projection of how he would look in 2000 showed him as a handsome 40 year old black man. The magazine couldn’t have known that Jackson would go on to totally change his appearance in the ensuing years.

So if you get that e-mail? Yep, it’s legitimate.

More in this Snopes.com story.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My father passed away 5 years ago today


It's hard to believe it's been five years since my father died. Shortly after he passed away, when it was all still fresh on my mind, I wrote about it. I'm reprising it today.

By the way, I think I miss him more, not less! His sister, my aunt Jean, died Saturday night. She was a precious, dear woman, and I'll miss her very much. But I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that she's having an amazing reunion with her two brothers, her sister and her parents. As Bart Millard sings, "I can only imagine"!

***********
In Loving Memory (originally posted August 2004)

My father, Thomas V. "Pepper" Garrett, went home to be with the Lord on Wednesday, July 28th, 2004.

Many of you know that my dad has been dying of cirrhosis of the liver/liver cancer for the past few years. In fact, not too long ago I blogged about my memories of wonderful times spent conversing with my dad.

He was a Baptist pastor and missionary whose entire life was dedicated to ministry. He was a wonderful man--wise, funny, kind, generous, musically talented. He adored his family and was happiest when we were all gathered around him.

I had planned for quite some time to visit my folks July 26th through August 4th. I knew my dad's condition and quality of life had deteriorated greatly, and although I didn't really expect him to die that soon, I wanted to spend some time with them, particularly to give my mom moral support and help in any way I could.

As it happened, the Thursday before the Monday I was to fly to Texas, my parents moved into the Christopher House, a hospice in Austin. An appalling feature of my dad's disease was that he suffered from nocturnal agitation. Although he was extremely weak, he could not stop walking around the house at night, to the point where his feet actually swelled. Besides depriving him of sleep, it did the same thing to my mom, who was his major caregiver.

My dad's hospice nurse had suggested taking him to the Christopher House for a few days so stronger medication could be administered that would give him and my mom some rest.

As it happened, my dad went to sleep on Thursday night and woke up only once--briefly on Friday night--until the following Wednesday.


Beverly, Dad and me July 2003

After ascertaining that my dad would probably be dying at the Christopher House, I was extremely concerned about whether I would be able to see my dad alive one more time. The airline tickets for my daughter and me had been purchased on Hotwire, and couldn't be changed.

Fortunately, I had said everything I wanted to say to my dad in previous visits. I had no regrets on that point. I just wanted to see him alive one more time.

As soon as Elizabeth and I arrived in Austin, my sister took us directly to the Christopher House. My dad was in a deep sleep, but when I told him I was there, he physically responded and even tried to open his eyes.

The next many hours in the Christopher House were extraordinary. My sisters, my mom and I kept watch over my dad, frequently joined by other loved ones. The nurses and doctors had told us that my dad could hear us, so they encouraged us to talk to him and sing to him. Although we often broke down in tears, there were also times of laughter and reminiscing.

When we sang to him, it was amazing to see him respond even while asleep. He would move his mouth and raise his eyebrows as if trying to join in with us. My dad could never hear anyone singing without wanting to join in! He was a beautiful singer and musician, and loved singing for the Lord more than anything.


My dad, mom and sisters before my dad's illness

On Monday night, my mom and my siblings all spent the night in the small room at the Christopher House. My mom and Beverly slept on a small couch that folded out into a small bed. I slept on a recliner. Lisa slept on a mat on the floor; David slept on the bare floor. We had grieved and said what we thought would be our final good-byes to our dad, but he didn't pass away that night. The vigil continued on Tuesday. It was extremely difficult to see my father's labored and ragged breathing, and it continued to worsen.

At 12:30 AM Wednesday morning, Lisa and her husband David and I decided to go to her house and try to get some sleep. My dad's heartbeat was still relatively strong, and it didn't appear he would die in the next several hours. We knew the next day would probably be a rough one, and decided it would be better to face it after having had some rest.

However, shortly before 7 AM on Wednesday morning, my mom called to tell us my dad only had a few minutes. Shortly afterwards she called to tell us that he had indeed passed away, at 7:05 AM.

You often hear stories about Christians seeing a glimpse of heaven as they died. D. L. Moody reportedly said: "Is this dying? Why this is bliss...There is no valley....I have been within the gates...Earth is receding; Heaven is opening; God is calling; I must go."

My dad never spoke, but my sister and my mom tell me he woke with a start; his eyes came open, clear, bright and aware, and he looked up with an expression of incredible awe and joy on his face. As they talked to him, telling him they loved him, he continued to look upward with that rapturous expression before taking two peaceful breaths (his earlier breathing had been labored and difficult), then he went home to glory.

I wish I had been there. But just hearing my mom and sister describing it...my mom called it a "beautiful" death...renews my faith. Heaven is not just a lovely myth; it is REAL. And I believe my dad caught a glimpse of it before his soul actually departed his body.

The funeral, on Saturday, was more a celebration than anything else. There were tears, but there was laughter as well. There was joy! Beverly, Lisa and I had pre-recorded "Home Where I Belong" and Lisa had pre-recorded "Beulah Land," (we would never have been able to make it through the songs live) and a tape of the song "At The Crossing" was played.

The way the service ended was extremely fitting. My dad loved nothing more than when his close and extended family members would gather around the piano and sing. With my cousin Elaine playing the piano, several of my cousins sang "I'll Fly Away." It was wonderful! My dad would have loved it.

How do people who don't know the Lord make it through the deaths of their loved ones? I'm so glad we don't "sorrow as those who have no hope." We'll miss our dad terribly, but we'll see him again. And he is happier and better off now than he ever was in these "Shadowlands."

I'll close with the poem my mom chose to put in the programme of my father's funeral:

"SERVANT of God! well done,
Rest from thy loved employ;
The battle is fought, the vict'ry won,
Enter thy Master's joy.

The voice at midnight came
He started up to hear
A mortal arrow pierced his frame,
He fell--but felt no fear.

The pains of death are past,
Labor and sorrow cease;
And life's long warfare closed at last,
His soul is found in peace.

Soldier of Christ, well done!-
Begin thy new employ;
And while eternal ages run,
Rest in they Savior's joy."--James Montgomery

Monday, July 27, 2009

Stuff I've never done, that's ALWAYS done in the movies


The summer movie season is in full swing. So Men’s Health came up with this list of things happen all the time on screen, but never in real life: “I’ve never…” (Note: my co-host Darren Marlar and I revised it a little, and even added a couple.)

• Bumped my head and gotten amnesia.

• Left the water on in the bathroom sink long enough to flood the whole house.

• Been chased through the forest, tripped, and twisted my ankle, compromising my escape, but I still say, “Don’t stop. Go on without me.”

• Been stuck in an elevator with a woman I hated, but by the time the elevator was repaired, we were passionately making out. (*revised for family friendliness :))

• Been stuck in an elevator with a pregnant woman.

• Said, “Open this door or I’m breaking it down.”

• Found myself on top of a moving train.

• Picked a lock with a credit card.

• Said, “Don’t do it, man. Just give me the gun.”

• Been to a wedding where someone stood up and objected.

• Collapsed onto my car horn.

• Seen a bunch of homeless guys standing around a flaming trash can, singing doo-wop and wearing gloves with the fingers cut off.

• Dialed a “555″ phone number.

• Closed my medicine-cabinet door and seen someone in the mirror who wasn’t there 3 seconds ago.

• Ran into a church where the girl I loved was about to get married to someone else, but upon seeing me stopped the wedding and professed her love to me (and either ran out the door with me, or WE got married instead...and the former groom admitted he was in love with one of the bridesmaids.) (*added by Darren and me)

• Rushed to the airport to stop the woman I just realized I love from leaving, and as I get to the gate, I see her plane pulling away, and then feel empty because I think that my best chance at love is now gone, but, as I turn away, she’s standing there because she decided at the last minute not to get on the plane because she realized that she loves me too and was hoping I would come to the airport to get her.

and...

Woken up in the morning, after a long night of sleeping, with a full face of make-up and breath fresh enough to kiss someone. (added by me!)

Got any to add? :)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thursday Thirteen: 13 of the Most Popular Hymns of All Time


Well, PopularHymns.com lists 100 most popular hymns in alphabetical order. So I decided I would choose 13 of my personal favorites for today's Thursday Thirteen.

(By the way, Semicolon has been featuring an ongoing project about the most popular hymns, based on feedback from readers of her blog.)

1. A Mighty Fortress is Our God
2. Be Thou My Vision
3. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
4. Great Is Thy Faithfulness
5. Holy, Holy, Holy
6. How Firm a Foundation
7. I Need Thee Every Hour
8. It is Well with My Soul
9. Nearer My God to Thee
10. O Worship the King
11. There Is A Fountain
12. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

And...MY personal favorite hymn, which was incredibly NOT on this list:

13. And Can It Be?

I once blogged about the song:

The vivid word picture painted by the verse about his spirit languishing in prison, only to be awakened when "the dungeon flamed with light" never fails to stir me, and is my favorite verse in all of hymnology:

"Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee."


What are YOUR favorites?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop: The Case of the Facebook Forward



Is Facebook going to delete your account if you don’t forward a particular message?

The answer is NO…and if you get such a message on other free online services like Hotmail, Myspace, YouTube and others, you can ignore them as well.

This message has been showing up on Facebook for quite a while now, and my co-host Darren Marlar actually just got it last week. It reads in part:

“Facebook is recently becoming very overpopulated,there have been many members complaining that Facebook is becoming very slow. Records show that the reason is that there are too many non-active Facebook members and, on the other side, too many new Facebook members.

"We will be sending this message around to see if members are active or not. If you are active please send to at least 15 other users using Copy+ Paste to show that you are still active. *Those who do not send this message within 2 weeks will be deleted without hesitation to create more space.”

The message is supposedly signed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Snopes.com tells us that this hoax originated in 1999, but it was about Hotmail at the time...and it’s been falsely used with MySpace, Yahoo, MSN and several others.

And urbanlegends.about.com sums it up pretty well:

“Facebook officials have made no public announcements saying that the service has become ‘overpopulated’ or has ‘slowed down.’ Administrators of social networking sites on this scale don't issue misspelled and ungrammatical chain letters to their members. And even if they did, they wouldn't announce in an email that they "need to get rid of some people" to make room for the rest.

File this one in the trash bin where it belongs.”

Clearing up another internet rumor, this is Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop…reminding you to check it out BEFORE you hit that “send” button!
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