Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sweet Christmas Song

One of the many things I love about Christmas is the music. I L.O.V.E. Christmas music and John does too. I listen to it on the radio in the car going to and fro, on my computer at work and play lots of Christmas CDs at home and in the car throughout the holiday season. I even worked out to Christmas music this morning - it made it a little more enjoyable and tolerable (but still no fun at 5am). Nevertheless, Christmas songs bring me so much joy and cheer.

We have several Christmas CDs and we took a few on our Thanksgiving road trip. It was fun to listen and sing along as we drove along the highway. Last year, I bought John Chris Tomlin's Christmas CD "Glory in the Highest". It is SO GOOD - we love it. All 12 songs are amazing. He sings a few classics and also songs written just for this album. We highly, highly recommend it! One of the songs on the CD is simply beautiful. It is written and sung by Audrey Assad who has such a peaceful and angelic voice. The song is called "Winter Snow" and is about the way Jesus came to us - in such a quiet and soft way, just like snow. Of all of the ways our Lord and Savior could have come into the world, He came in such a serene way. I found a video online (part of the side is cut off - sorry!) where you can hear her sing and follow along with the lyrics on the screen as well as some beautiful images - especially the one at the end.



Enjoy ~ Until we meet again...
Riley

Monday, November 22, 2010

HAPPY THANKSGIVING


We had a wonderful weekend! We got caught up on several things, had some time to rest and the house is now decorated inside and out for Christmas so we will be ready to enjoy it all once we return from our Thanksgiving trip. It's nice to have it all done and the house feels so fun and festive. We took lots of pictures so we hope to share those next week.

We'll be taking a little blogging break as we leave tomorrow afternoon to go and spend Thanksgiving with my family. We'll be back home Saturday evening and will have Sunday to recover and regroup before going back to work next Monday. We are looking forward to a great Thanksgiving trip and time with family.

After Thanksgiving, we look forward to enjoying the Christmas season! There are lots of fun and exciting things ahead. Christmas card preparations are underway, we've got a few gifts bought and can now begin wrapping presents to put under the tree (my favorite thing to do at Christmas), more shopping and ordering to do, holiday baking, we have some Christmas activities planned for around here, we have a list of Christmas movies we want to watch over the course of the next few weeks (probably with popcorn or hot chocolate - yum!) - lots of neat things going on to enjoy this magical time of year.

From John and I to you and your family ~ we wish you a VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Be safe and have fun and give thanks to God from whom all blessings flow!

Until we meet again...
Riley

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Time is Near to "Deck the Halls"

These are actually a couple of pictures from last year, but we are excited in the Ussery home because we are decorating for Christmas this weekend. Hooray for the holidays!

We do realize that we have yet to celebrate Thanksgiving, but we will be traveling this Thanksgiving (leaving next Tuesday afternoon) so we wanted to put up our lights on the house and get the inside decorated so it's all done and ready to enjoy once the Thanksgiving weekend is over. We are going to make a few snacks and do our decorating Friday night and Saturday. We also play Christmas CDs while we decorate so it makes it all the more fun. John is getting started on our outside lights and decorations tomorrow. He's really excited and loves to play "Clark Griswold" and work on "exterior illumination". The weather has felt very cool and crisp lately - perfect for this time of year.

We will have a recap and pictures soon of "Christmas Decorating 2010". We are looking forward to December - we have a lot going on, but it's such a fun time of year!

Until we meet again...
Riley

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Salute to Veterans

This morning when I woke up, I knew it was Veterans Day. I was aware of it, but that's about the extent of my thoughts early this morning. Then I tore off the page on our "page-a-day" calendar by the phone and it read, "Respectfully acknowledge the price courageous and liberty-loving men and women in uniform today and in the past have paid for our freedom, our opportunities, and our security." It gave me chills!

We have family that have served in the military including my Grandpa, Armando's father, Kristin's father, John's Dad and John's brother as well as several other family members and friends. I even lost a dear childhood and church friend, Dan Amaya, who died while serving in Iraq.

As I headed off to work, several people in the neighborhood were flying their flags. I leave early in the morning, so the streets are quiet. There was something about the peaceful neighborhood this morning and the site of "Old Glory" waving in the wind in many front yards. And then on the radio, I hear Lee Greenwood singing "I'm Proud To Be An American" followed by an unbelievable rendition of the national anthem. By this point, I have tears streaming down my face.

AND THEN, I turned it on to a local Christian radio station and they are interviewing a soldier and his wife. The soldier suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of serving in the military. There's no way I can express how horrible his current life is, although it's getting much better, but it was eye opening! His wife talked about how angry and aggressive he was when he returned because he still had that "fighting" mentality. He talked about the endless tears of guilt he sheds and the severe depression he suffers with because he survived and others didn't and because he got to come home and others are still serving. He said he has constant visual images in his mind of what he saw over there and they are haunting. He talked about how simple things like digging a whole for a tree in the backyard will remind him of horrible things. He also mentioned a time that they were walking through the mall and he heard a distant pop and he immediately fell to the ground thinking it was a gun shot. His whole life has been changed, but he still was so proud and grateful to have served.

I think about the holidays coming up and how blessed John and I are to be able to visit and see both sides of our family. However, I feel for those who haven't seen their family in months or more. I am saddened to think about soldiers not seeing their spouse, children, parents, friends and extended family at the happiest time of the year. Not only are they away from their loved ones, they are fighting for us and going through unimaginable things. I'm at a loss for words.

When we went to a Texas Rangers game over the summer, on 4th of July, they had a pre-game ceremony where almost two-hundred young men and women lined the baseball diamond and were sworn into the United State Air Force. Oh it gave me goosebumps, a lump in my throat and tiny tears in the corners of my eyes. It was touching and made me so proud to be an American!
I guess today was a wake up call. What I complain about seems so petty after what I experienced and heard this morning. I gripe about traffic driving to work and driving home, not enough time in the day, having to get up early, a long to do list, a busy schedule during the holidays, house chores to tend to, projects going undone, a bad hair day, not wanting to workout - you get the idea. We all complain about the most trivial things. I felt so greedy, guilty and selfish after this morning. I have before, but then I fall back into my comfortable life and lose sight of things, taking so much for granted.

So today, I am saluting veterans - the MANY men and women who are now and who have served in the past putting their life on the line for my me and for us, for our freedom. This amazing group of people, past and present, deserve so much more than the simple thanks I can express. There's nothing I could write about that would detail what the military and their families go through from beginning to end. Their sacrifice and their service is a precious gift to all Americans.

There are so many opportunities to help the military and sadly, we don't do it enough. They need Bibles, their families need Christmas gifts and food (and care and help throughout the year for that matter), they can use old cell phones, they deserved to be greeted and appreciated when they fly home, they need encouragement and to know we are rooting for them, they need help transitioning back to normal life and the list goes on. If you can, especially during this holiday season, help them!

The solider on the radio said this verse helped him as he served. Joshua 1:9 "This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

I salute you all!
Riley

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Things to Be Happy About ~ October Edition

Goodness, I have been bad blogger! I haven't blogged in a week. Where has the last week gone? Life has been busy and we've been out of town with another trip planned this weekend. November is upon us and 2010 is nearing it's end. It's time to post my "things to be happy about" from October. If you are new to this, I received a bright yellow, page-a-day desk calendar for Christmas last year and it sits on my desk at work. Each day the page lists various things to be happy about. Throughout the month I keep up with my favorite things the pages list and blog about them at the end of the month explaining why it makes me happy. I'm a person who tries to find happiness in the littlest of things and so many things excite me. I'm easily pleased. If you want to catch up, I started this in January so you can always look through my archive.

Here are my October things to be happy about...
  • Lattes ~ Yum! My favorite drink at Starbucks and visiting Starbucks makes me happy.
  • Service with a Smile ~ I love a good "customer service representative" or a person that works in retail with a smile and good attitude. Sadly these days it seems like more and more people that work in stores are rude or are so negative.
  • Screaming for Your Team ~ I LOVE sports! High School, College and Professional and I LOVE cheering my teams on. I admit, I can get a little intense too!
  • Saturday Nights ~ This is usually "Date Night" for me and my sweet husband whether out on the town enjoying dinner, dessert and a movie or staying in at home for a fun meal and board games. Saturday nights bring me lots of happiness!
  • Paying Cash ~ Dave Ramsey and his system are amazing. We have been doing the Dave Ramsey "thing" for over a year now and it's been such a blessing and helped us a great deal. One of his methods is paying/using cash for as much as possible via "the envelope system" so it's worked out really well. It took some adjusting at first, but now we love it.
  • Spongebob Squarepants ~ Such a funny little dude that makes me laugh!
  • Hamster Wheels ~ This makes me happy not because I love hamsters, nor have I ever had one, but John often refers to me as his "HamsterMonkey" (which is a whole other post), but it has to do with me and my OCD, to do lists and need to keep up with too much at once. If I have a lot going on or I'm going in a million directions, we joke about me getting in my "hamster wheel".
  • Getting exactly what you ordered ~ I tend to have bad luck at restaurants with many stories I could share, so it's always nice to receive exactly what I ordered
  • Christmas Wish Lists ~ I've been working on mine! I also love knowing what my family and friends are wishing for...especially our nieces and nephews.
  • Frying Donuts ~ This reminds me of my Grammy. She would make us and also taught me how to make little cinnamon and sugar donuts out of biscuits. They are very tasty and it's a precious memory.
  • Halloween Candy Stash ~ Halloween candy is fun because we never buy that much candy at one time and such variety any other time of year. Once I had our Halloween candy out in bowls this year,. we would grab a "fun sized" item from time to time. We had a record 170 trick-or-treaters (yes, we count them) and that was even with running out of candy at 8pm or we could have had more.
  • A Roof Over Your Head ~ I'm thankful for this every.single.day! Especially when I drive by and see homeless people. I feel for those living in horrible environments or in homes falling apart. Just a couple of weeks ago (on a Saturday) a house about 1/2 a mile from us completely burned. We pass by the dark black remains of this home every day and it's so sad that these people not only lost their home, but everything in it.
  • Baked Beans ~ I'm not a "straight out of the can" pork & beans fan, but I love me some baked beans. My Dad's recipe is the best - YUM-O!
  • Beef Stroganoff ~ This is on our menu every month - one of our favorites. We use my Grandpa's recipe that's in their church's cookbook from many, many years ago. I love making my grandparent's recipes and favorites in my own kitchen.
  • The World Series ~ We just have the pleasure of enjoy this. Unfortunately, our Texas Rangers came up short and were beat by the San Francisco Giants and their awesome pitching staff, but it was fun! We are big Rangers' fans so it was a thrilling year - thanks for a great a season guys.
  • Getting Engaged ~ This happened to me on April 16, 2002 - 8 1/2 years ago. It was one of the happiest days of my life.
  • Leaving on a Road Trip ~ We really enjoy traveling together and are always up for a road trip and have taken many. We have a few planned over these next couple of months with the holidays nearing.
  • Cherries in Fruit Cocktail ~ My favorite part! I don't eat it too much, but when I do or I buy it I like to get the "very cherry" for extra yumminess.
  • A Triple Word Score in Scrabble ~ Oh the excitement in an enjoyable game!
  • A Newly Trimmed Lawn ~ Fresh cut grass makes the house look and feel so nice.
  • Waking Up Without an Alarm ~ A.K.A. SLEEPING IN - that makes everyone happy when we are able to do that.
  • A Mug of Hot Cider ~ A warm fall treat! I actually had some the other night while I was working on things around the house. Have you had a "Carmel Apple Spice" at Starbucks? - get one!
  • Cooking at Home More ~ I love to cook and bake and wish I had more time to do it. I have time now, but I can't get enough. After working all day and making the drive home, I still enjoy making supper and sitting down to eat with John. I really enjoy cooking on the weekends when I have additional time. I love to try new recipes and I really enjoy making desserts.
  • S'Mores ~ Finger Lickin' Good! They are the best with a campfire, but we have a tabletop s'mores maker that works really well and is super neat.
  • Erasers that Work Well ~ I can't stand a pencil with a crummy eraser or one that leaves colored streaks. A good eraser = two thumbs up!
I have a lot to be happy about this time of year with Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching - such a special time of year. We have lots of fun plans with family and also just for the two of us. It will be a busy time with lots going on, but life is good. God is Good!

I hope you find something to be happy about each day.
Until we meet again!
Riley