Friday, December 30, 2005


When I was home over Christmas, I came across a notepad someone had given me some ten or twelve years ago. In it, I had written all kinds of stuff...books I planned to write, an open letter to the President (that stayed in my closed notebook), a schedule (that had me getting up at 4:30 am to practice guitar), and all kinds of other odds and ends.

Just for fun, I started to peruse some of my other old journals and such as well. The first journal I have I must have started when I was about seven. In it, I had a list of people that I liked, people that I didn't like, and people who were sort of "in the middle." My parents were on the list of people that I did like, which probably means I had made it through that day without getting spanked. I seem to remember telling Allyson about that time that if she wasn't nice to me I would put her on the list of people I didn't like. As I recall, she took that as a very serious threat.

Anyway, one of the things I browsed through was the list of goals I made for 2005. I found that I had accomplished about half of them. That's rather pathetic, except that I've learned after putting goals on paper like that a few times that I usually accomplish about half of them regardless of how many or how few I set. I figure I might as well set a bunch and hope for the best.

One thing that struck me as I went through pages of stuff that I've written was how much and yet so little of my life has gone according to my plans.

I hate jigsaw puzzles, but I'll use the analogy's been neat to see how the Lord has so often taken what looked like a shapeless, meaningless piece of my life and used it to snap together other shapeless, meaningless pieces of my life to do what I never would have thought possible. I still don't have the "box top" and I don't know what it will look like when He's done, but I know that He that has begun the work will be faithful to complete it.

I used my flight back from NH on Tuesday to try to set some new goals. Although some of them are one-year goals, I decided to also make a "five-year plan." It's a delicate process because even with my 50/50 record, I hate setting goals that I don't reach. Sometimes it's hard to maintain the balance between working diligently toward your goals and being flexible.

At the very least, I can look back in five years and chuckle - like I do now at my plan to write a book on getting along with your brother. I no longer keep a running list of people that I like and dislike, but if I did, he'd be on the list of people I like very much. And Allyson would be right at the top. :)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Here are a few highlights from the past few days...
Caleb getting a little antsy during our gift exchange (we did it a little early this year). So far, the biggest hit with him was a glowing bouncy ball that Charity bought for Paul.

This is a snowman we made in the yard this morning. We named him Rick. Pretty cute, huh? He has been slowly shrinking today since the weather was warm. Paul and I had a short snowball fight after this photo was taken. I won.

Friday, December 23, 2005

What Do We Do

Now that my family is spread all over the globe, we really look forward to the times when we can all get together. My parents haven't complained yet about the long drive to West Point to pick up Paul. Charity is willing to change planes a million times to get from Florida to Manchester. Erin deals with the adjusting that comes from crossing a dozen time zones, and I'll even give up singing in an ensemble so that I can be home for Christmas.

If you have ever wondered if we all make our long pilgrimage to New Hampshire so we can sit at the dining room table, staring at each other and saying, "Isn't this fun. We're all together!" I want you to're about right.

In June, when we were all home for a few days, we celebrated everyone's birthday, Father's Day, Mom and Dad's anniversary, and had a baby shower for Allyson. Which basically means that we ate a lot of junk, stayed up late, and created a lot of work for my mom, who loves us anyway. Everyone got to pick something for us all to do, so over the course of the week, we went golfing (sort of), yard sale shopping (for a few minutes, anyway), and did foot scrubs...(okay, just some of us on that one), and did some other random and sundry things including climbing in kid toys at the mall and eating desserts at Applebees.

When I came home in October, I got to spend half a day trying to convince the New Hampshire powers that be to let me register a car even though I was not a New Hampshire resident, the car did not belong to me, and there was a defect in the title. Praise the Lord, I was successful without either crying or getting angry. After that, Dad and I made a 12-hour trip to West Point and back in the pouring rain so that he could sleep on our couch for the weekend. But it was all worth it because I got to hold Violet and watch Caleb play with a tractor toy for a while. Before the weekend was over, I also watched "Follow Me, Boys." Now that's a quality waste of time.

Caleb provides a lot of our entertainment when we're home. This trip we have had a lively competition in seeing who can get Caleb to say their name the most times. Paul has an obvious advantage in this, since his is only one syllable. We did get something that resembled "Danielle" out of him a few times, though (it also resembled nanell, aaayaayay, and hippopotamus).

As for this trip...there's a lot I could say, but here are some pictures that will probably say it all and better.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Say Something Nice

We get all kinds of strange mail at the office, but one particularly noteworthy piece of mail was a little booklet called "Say Something Nice."

The author of this booklet is a PhD and he goes into great detail about the importance of "being a lifter." He not only gives instructions on how to pay compliments (use the person's name, smile, etc.), but he also gives you some suggestions of nice things to say, in case you aren't able to come up with your own - several for each letter of the alphabet. For example: "Your solo was groovy." Or how about "You made a glamourous fairy godmother." One that has come in particularly handy around the office is, "Your intrepid actions brought us the victory!" I haven't yet found an appropriate time to use, "You were really brave to rescue your dog."

Needless to say, we've had a lot of fun with this little book. It is cleverly designed to fit in your breast pocket in case you ever need to whip out the "nice book" and tell someone, "Your emphathetic characterization was gut-wrenching." And you never know, you might land a big case by using "Your ability with crossword puzzles is mind-boggling."

Despite the obvious benefit of the book, we opted not to purchase a copy for all our staff and sponser its distribution in local public schools. Nevertheless, I would agree that there is a lot to be said for "saying something nice" and being a lifter.

I've often noticed in my own life how important praise is...I work so much harder when people are telling me that I make a glamourous fairy godmother. Yet, I'm also learning that I need to do the right thing because it is the right thing, regardless of whether other people notice or comment.

Perhaps one of the reasons I tend to rely so heavily on the affirmation of others is that the people that I'm around are generally encouraging. They don't need the "nice book" to give them ideas for praise. However, in the rare event that I do my best on something and it goes unnoticed, it is good for me to see in what ways I have been focusing on myself instead of striving to bring glory to the Lord. It is the Lord that deserves our praise...not those who sing groovy solos.
In the News

I got my name in the newspaper this week. Front page of the Monday paper as a matter of fact. Unfortunately, I was out of town, so I didn't actually get to see it in print.

Last week, I spoke at a public hearing of the Charleston County Council to support an initiative to establish a Greenbelt Bank in Charleston. I'd tell you more about it, only, I don't know much more about it except that it is a good idea. That is what I told the Council and that is why I was in the newspaper.

It was my first time speaking at a County Council meeting, but not the last. I got up and spoke again at the end of the meeting just to thank the Council and county staff for all their work. That was well received; I don't think politicians get thanked very often.

Anyway, the intiative did pass and my boss did get his share of praise in the newspaper article (from what I heard), but that was only the end of a long road of criticism and opposition from other politicians and the press. And what I said to thank the Councilmembers, I hope they heard it, because that sure wasn't in the newspaper.

The reason I'm writing this is because it struck me funny how I could end up in the newspaper for doing something as simple as showing up at a public hearing and stating my name and that I think some else's idea is a good one; while other people could work so hard and so long on something and get nothing but criticism. I wonder if President Bush thinks that's funny.

I will end this rambling by simply saying that I hope I learn to thank people for the things they do that generally go unnoticed and unappreciated. And, of course, I hope I do many more things in life important enough to be opposed and criticized, and noteworthy enough not to be in the newspaper.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Allyson and Kevin's second baby, Violet, was born October 1. I had the privilege of going to visit her when she was about two weeks old and giving her her first baby doll. She didn't care much for me, but I thought she was absolutely wonderful. Caleb is almost 20 months now. He is bursting with energy. Between the two of them, Allyson has her hands pretty full and she's loving it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Men in My Life

A few weeks ago, I took advantage of a free evening to visit a new church. While I was sitting alone in a pew waiting for the service to start, the Pastor walked up to me asked my name, and then said, "Are you married?"
"No." I said.
"We'll have to fix that." He said, as if I'd said I had a leaky faucet or a hole in my garage door.
Now, if you ask me, being single is not exactly synonymous with being broken. I guess he's of the mindset, "if it ain't broke, fix it 'till it is."
Pastor Stevens is only one in a long line of well meaning (or just nosy) people who ask about the men in my life...and some times try to go a step futher...
Since I greatly appreciate the efforts of all friends and family members to help me find someone to fix my garage door, I thought I'd make it easy for you and answer the "is there a man in your life question" with something besides my usual...

Of course, there's a guy who I love and who I'd do just about anything for. He's a cute blond, he has blue eyes and a winning smile. He's had my heart for about a year and a half now...I guess it will be two years on April 22 when he turns two. I guess that means he's a little too young to be fixing garage doors. Since he's my nephew I guess he's out of the running anyway.

But as long as we're talking about guys who are not in the running, I'll tell you about the friendly man next door. He came over to find out if the possum he trapped in his garage was mine. He had already "gotten rid" of it, but I didn't need to worry about it too much because he had handled the matter humanely. What a relief.

Yancey. Now there's someone who greatly influenced my life. He laid my kitchen and bathroom floors for me. He called me "honey" and darling," but he was married, and a tattoo-covered, cigarette-smoking kind of guy to boot.
He left his impression one day when I went by the house to see how work was progressing and he informed me that my shoes were ugly. They were fairly new and they were comfortable and practical, but I guess there is just no fogiving ugly. I never wore those shoes again.

Then there is...well...lets just call him our office tech guy. He comes in more often them we would like because our computers beak down more often than we would like. He has an afro and can't sit at my desk to work because he doesn't fit in my chair. He likes to make sure I understand each problem that arises and what he did to fix it. When he talks, it sounds to me like asdf jkl wiojkl jfkl;; awidkc jklwekjfd fjklsdf gjkldfg jfiewfkc cjklfkjew jklfgjkfld fjkleidk sjdfkl.

Then there is Nathaniel. He took me out for fondue over Thanksgiving weekend. I guess you would have called it a date if he wasn't my cousin. We had fun dipping strawberries in a bowl of chocolate and talking about his friend's sister who can't stand to drive with a car window down because she is deathly afraid of flying out the window.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea...there are plenty of men in my life and I'm learning to enjoy it, such as it is. In fact, being single gives me opportunites for all kinds of mischief.

For example, this week I received a card in the mail that I put on my desk at work. It is pink and has a nice spray of roses with the words "Please give me another chance" on the front. You should see the eyebrows it raises and the people who try to nonchalantly sneak a peak at it when they think I'm not looking. What a surprise they have in store for them when they find out it's from the phone company.

So anyway...I hope this helps satisfy your curiousity...or at least wets your appetite. And if you really want to help, feel free to send me another card to put on my desk. The more romantic the better.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Morning in Charleston...

I drive over the Ashley River every morning on my way to work. This morning it was overcast and there was a light sprinkle of rain coming down. But just as I went over the river, I noticed a small break in the clouds. Our brave little sun was shining through. I could see it across the water, just a bright yellow spot in the large, gray sky.

In moments, I was over the bridge, and I couldn't see it any longer. I was on my way to work...I had things to get done.

My day seemed to have taken its cue from the dismal weather. It was dreary, dull, and long. It was like the drive to work - but without the bright spot.

So that's when I made the decision: Danielle, you be the bright spot. I wasn't the only one having a difficult day, in fact, mine was easy compared to some. So, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to take a new challenge.

Smile. Be grateful. Be glad. Be the the bright spot shining down over the river.

My resolved lasted until, Oh, about 10:00 am the following morning when my world fell apart (a phrase which herein means, "I received a call from a client informing me that I had made a big mistake on a project.") So much for the sun.

So...the world was gray, dark, big, and ugly until, Oh, about 1:00 pm when a friend made themselves a bright spot in my life. I don't know that their day was going any better than mine, but they had resisted the temptation to be dreary.

Today, the sun is shining and the sky is blue, but I don't think that's any excuse not to strive to be a bright spot in someone else's life. I think that's what Jesus would do.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

"Life is Like a Roll of Toilet Paper"

It was an otherwise uneventful trip to Dallas. Granted, I was only there for one night and the hotel we'd picked turned out to be a major loser. But, even if I'd tried a little harder, I still don't think I would have enjoyed that city.

But there was one redeeming factor. My boss and his wife, whom I was traveling with, had been in contact with author and theologian Dr. Charles Ryrie. They called him up and asked if he was interested in going to dinner with us.

I guess I've not spent true leisure time with any renown pillars of the Church (or whatever you'd title someone like Dr. Ryrie), and I don't know what I was expecting to see. He was a dignified man, around 80. Not stuffy, not conceited, more than willing to spend some time with a few blood-shot out-of-towners like us.

He took us to one of his favorite restaurants. It was an Italian place not far from his house. I probably let out a little gasp when I saw the menu. Maybe, I thought, Dallas uses pesos. But I didn't think so.

A few other people there stopped to talk to him, but for the most part, it was a quiet dinner. We talked a little about his teaching and traveling ministries, his grandchildren, and his books. He made us feel more than comfortable. I worked up the courage to ask him to sign my Bible - even though it didn't have the word Ryrie on it. By then end, we were feeling at ease enough to split chocolate cake.

After dinner, he invited us upstairs to his home. It was a quite place, full of art and other curiosities. He had shelves of books and they weren't the type thing you see in Christian book stores today. They were mostly "classic" theology. Browsing around his house made me realize how much material for study the Bible has in it and how little I've read.

There are an incredible number of books he has authored. He gave Curtis and Jenny each a book. He gave me a copy of "Miracles of Jesus" and signed that for me too.

Dr. Ryrie said one particularly noteworthy quote. "Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the quicker it seems to go by."

There's a lot you can say about a quote like that, but I'll end with this, I think someone who has devoted that much of their life to the study and application of Scripture has nothing to fear from the end of the roll. And as my life gets slowly used up, I hope I spend lots of it with men like Dr. Ryrie and not much of it in Dallas.