Auntie Em's Guide to Life

A guide to all the important things in life- marriage, family, cooking, gardening, reading, travel, Christian living… And whatever else grabs my attention!

21-day Challenge Update #1

Self-discipline ChallengeIt’s already November 10, halfway through the 21-day Challenge. I’ve been aware of it every day, and I’ve done more than I would have done. Not everything I would like to have done, but hey, every little helps! And a big improvement is that I’m doing better about putting things away rather than dropping them wherever they are. Flylady is right about that shiny sink being an incentive to keep your dishes washed!

Thursday, Nov 1– Picked up and put away leather jacket, red coat, shoes by door, shoes I wore that day, sweatshirt and pants from the morning, goodie bag from dentist last week, piled-up mail on the table; emptied trash in my bathroom and laundry room; brought trash can back from the road; watered plants and ran the soaker hose. Plus supper, beefy vegetable soup. (Featured in Second Generation Meals)

Friday, Nov 2– At work– went through student forms for Booster club and requests for crim check forms and updated that info; at home, motorcycle ride to dinner with friends.

Saturday, Nov 3– ADD housecleaning. Goodwill, recycle, Walmart, computer tome only with a timer so I wouldn’t stay on forever. Cleaned my bathroom. Cleaned and straightened under kitchen sink. (Mr X replaced faucet.) Got 2 posts ready for A Biblical Marriage Holiday Minefield.

Sunday, Nov 4-– church, met in-laws for lunch (They are working out of town with the Volunteer Christian Builders.) Folded and put away ALL the clothes that had been germinating in the basket– probably 3 loads of towels and socks.

Monday, Nov 5– All- Region choir rehearsal. I took 19 of my kiddos right after school; we had a quick supper then went to a 2 1/2 hour rehearsal for our Region concert Tuesday night. I conducted all but 1 piece in the choir I was working. My self-discipline was that I stayed on my feet! (I did finally take my shoes off though!)

Tues, Nov 6–  swept kitchen, watered plants. I think maybe more, but I can’t remember!

Wednesday, Nov 7— wrote Second Generation post.

Thursday, Nov 8— Veterans’ Day program at school- my kids sang the National Anthem (a cappella) (click here if you’d like to hear them- this is in class, not at the program.) and the Salute to the Armed Forces with our band.

Friday, Nov 9— ??? Took a load of donations to Goodwill. Seems like more, but I can’t remember!

Saturday, Nov 10— cleaned house! Dusted, vacuumed, mopped, cleaned kitchen countertops; washed sheets, bedspread, and a load of towels and jeans — ALL PUT AWAY! And the biggest deal– I walked for half an hour.

Knowing that it’s only 10 minutes has helped a lot. It gives the perfectionist (recovering) in my permission not to eat the whole elephant! How are you doing?


Super Sweet


(Have I got your sweet tooth screaming? All these pictures are in my Pinterest food board; you can click to follow me.)

There are a lot of really good, inspiring writers around the world, writing blogs while carrying on with their “real” lives. It’s encouraging to know that there is so much wisdom and kindness in the hearts and minds of regular, everyday people. One of these people is Faith at Faithrises, who writes to encourage, motivate, uplift, and inspire people to rise above personal difficulties and challenging circumstances. What a great work!

Sweet Faith nominated me for the “Super Sweet Blogging Award.” What a “sweet” thing to do! My constant prayer is that all my words, coming from my mouth or my fingertips, will be a pleasing, sweet aroma to our Father. This is a fun award because it’s all about sweets… which I love! Then I get to nominate my own sweetie-pie bloggers.


1. Give credit to the person who chose to nominate you. (You rock, Faith!)

2. Answer the “Super Sweet” questions.

3. Nominate a “Baker’s Dozen” (13) blogs.  

“Super Sweet” Questions:

1. Cookies or Cake?  Cake. The ooey-gooey, pecan-covered, fudgey chocolate sheet cake.

2Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate!  

3. What is your favorite sweet treat? See #1

4. When do you crave sweet things the most? Mid-afternoon. I could eat the whole cake when I get home from work.

5.   If you had a sweet nickname, what would it be? I’m usually “honey” to my sweetie.

My Baker’s Dozen blogs:

1. simplyjuliana

2. A Thimble’s Worth of Wisdom

3. Deep Roots at Home

4. On the Border

5. Climbing the Mountain

6. I Hope 4 him

7. Thoughts from an American Woman

8. The Alabaster Jar

9.  The Romantic Vineyard

10. Too Darn Happy

11. The Reluctant Entertainer

12. Sherry’s Place

13. My botanical garden

Visit these great bloggers, and you will be in for a treat! If they are new to you, tell them I sent you by.


A Texas State of Mind

Texas is big. I mean, really big! It’s the second largest state in the United States, both geographically (behind Alaska) and in population (behind California). It’s about twice the size of Japan and Germany, and a bit bigger than France. It’s close to 900 miles from El Paso in the west to Orange in the east– less than El Paso to San Diego on the Pacific coast, or Orange to Jacksonville, Florida on the Atlantic coast. (Both are close to 750 miles.)

A Texas State of Mind

Auntie Em’s house is a bit north of  Beaumont, and 50 miles from the Louisiana border in Orange. We are near the Big Thicket National Preserve, which is a remarkable phenomenon– Wikipedia says it well:

Today the Big Thicket retains numerous species, and has been described as the “biological crossroads of North America” or the “American Ark”. The area contains over 100 species of trees and shrubs, but is dominated by Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris), which reaches heights of over 30 metres (98 ft). The National Park Service lists more than one thousand species of flowering plants and fernsthat can also be found in the thicket, including 20 orchids and four types of carnivorous plants. Animal life includes 300 species of migratory and nesting birds, many endangered or threatened. The thicket is also home to numerousreptile species, including all four groups of North American venomous snakes and alligators.

But there are other distinct geographical areas in Texas- the Hill Country, with its beautiful wild flowers…

the Panhandle, right in Tornado Alley…

and the West…

Texas has a very colorful history- we have been Spanish, French, Mexican, Confederate, United States, and of course, our own independent country. (Hence the “Six Flags over Texas” theme parks)

We’ve got famous Texas shrines — The Alamo being probably the most well-known.

We have our own “national” heroes– Sam Houston is my personal favorite, but also Davy Crockett and  Jim Bowie, among MANY others…

(If you don’t know Sam, check him out! He was a Congressman from Tennessee, a Senator, Governor, and President of Texas, plus a whole lot more!)

We like lots of things in the unique shape of our state..

jewelry …….

food….. (When we stay at an out-of-state hotel, I’m always surprised to see a ROUND waffle maker!)


garden accessories…

Some really hard-core Texas lovers build pools and homes to honor Texas!


“Texas” comes from the earlier “native Texans” (We all claim that title!), whose word for “friend” gave us our name. I’ve heard that some non-Texans think that our Texas pride makes us obnoxious, but we’re too friendly to notice…

Texas bumperstickers say a lot about the Texas mindset:


and my favorite:

So if you’re not fortunate enough to live in Texas, come visit!  Practice saying Y’ALL, and you can be an honorary (or we sometimes say “ornery”) Texan!

Jewelry, dishes , waffles Quotes, history


A First World Problem

Have you watched “Hoarders?”

We make jokes about watching it so we won’t feel so bad about our houses. But a couple of times a year, usually before school starts and after Christmas,  I start devoting a lot of brain space, if not time and energy,  to “organizing” in my house.

So… is this better?

I always want to start with the closets and work outward, but my closets are crammed full. The problem is that I have too much stuff. For heaven’s sake, we have a 4-bedroom house with 2 people living here! If I don’t have storage for everything, there is just… too much stuff.

And then I begin thinking that it’s not just a “stuff” problem; as with many things, I think it has spiritual implications. Is it godly (forget “fair” or “right”) for us to have so much when others have so much less? Is our “stuff” getting in the way of our relationships with God or people, or other important things?

So what about this? Would God rather I live like this? (I hope not. I hate this look.)

So, in typical Auntie Em fashion, I begin gnawing on the bone of this issue, reading blogs, talking to people, thinking, pondering…

The Minimalists say that “Organization is often well-planned hoarding.”

In Getting Things Done, David Allen advises people not to fill their file cabinets more than 3/4 full, for ease of access, and I think, “What a great idea for closets and pantries too!”

Then there’s  Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience, writing a heart-wrenching post about her (our) comparative wealth, put into perspective after a visit to Haiti: “The 1 Thing You Really have to Know About Your Family.”

Sunshine introduced me to the term “first-world problem.” If it’s new to you, it’s the opposite of third-world problems, like malnutrition, inadequate sanitation, no homes. Think Haiti after the earthquake.

I, on the other hand, happened to be born in America to a stable middle-class family; with intelligence and musical skill; with good schools and a nearby state university. My problems are being overweight. Having too much stuff, so that I can’t get to or find what I’m looking for. My internet is running too slow. I don’t have any cell service. My pink sweater is the wrong shade. I can’t fit all my coats in the closet.

Ugh. It’s exhausting. I don’t think God wants us feeling guilty because we are in a situation or place we had no control of, or because we have been able to live comfortably. What to do? (Tweet this.)

I don’t know.

But in the meantime, this is what I do know to do:

  • Listen for any specific direction God gives me, and keep aware of opportunities to give and to help.
  • Continue giving regularly to my church, and to charities and individuals when I feel led.
  • Don’t waste what I have.
  • Clean out my closets, drawers, and pantries, and give away what I don’t use anymore. (Note: My MIL, being a child of the Depression,has a different perspective, thinking “Don’t waste it” means keep it.)
  • Think before I buy something. (Do I need this? Do I have something that would do as well? Will I still like it when I get it home, on MY body?)

There are lots of churches and organizations having back-to-school clothing giveaways. Go clean out your closet and do some good in your community!

February 18, 2013– I saw this 1 minute video “First World Problems read by Third World People” last weekend. It really put this in perspective!


Christians and Depression

The other day I read a post over at Curly Miri’s called The D Word. It featured an interview with a woman who battles severe depression. It got me thinking about some conversations I’ve had with other Christian women about it. Go read it– I’ll wait right here.

Depression in Christians is a hot-button issue, especially when you start talking about medication. Auntie Em has had some experience in this area, so I’ll share what I learned.

I have had several bouts of depression that have required medication to get past. Usually they come in the winter months. The first time I got on an antidepressant was after my mother died in 2000. I was able to wean off of it, but got back on during several winters. I haven’t needed them for a few years.

For some reason, there is a stigma associated with Christians medicating emotional disorders- and I think it’s mostly from Christians! Honestly, nobody ever told me I should let Jesus heal my depression, and I would never say that to anybody else, but boy did I say it to myself, and apparently lots of other Christians do too. Here was my inner dialog:

What do you have to be sad about? You have a great family, a lovely home, a supportive church family… (GUILT)

Cast your care… I can do all things through Christ… the renewing of your mind… (FAILURE)

Just get over it. Make up your mind. Get moving and that will help… (WEAKNESS)

You are a Christian and a strong woman. You should be able to let God handle this and not need a crutch. (CONDEMNATION)

Dear hearts, we are often much harder on ourselves than we would ever dream of being to another. I finally got over my pride and took the medicine. I didn’t have to stay on it forever, and I might have gotten over it without it, but who knows how long it would have taken, and what tolls it would have taken on my relationships and life?

So, if you are having the same struggle I did, I encourage you to consider these things:

  • While some amount and intensity of depression can be controlled by you (your rest, diet, stress level, and general health), sometimes you have a genetic predisposition and nothing you do will make a difference. (Like some types of diabetes are caused by lifestyle choices and others are yours by birth.)
  • What would you advise a friend if he or she felt like you do? Would you tell them that they should be stronger, and do it alone?
  • Do you know what you SHOULD be doing or feeling, or letting go of, but you can’t?
  • Refusing to accept help CAN BE a manifestation of a prideful sprit.
  • Does God approve of medicine for infections or blood pressure, but not anxiety or depression?

Please understand, I’m not trying to talk you into taking medicine that you don’t need, and I know everyone’s situation is not like mine. I’m just saying BE HONEST. Pray about your situation, and talk to a trusted friend. When you are depressed you are not your best advisor!

And in the meantime, listen to the great theologian Chondra Pierce talk about her experience with depression. And if you think Christians shouldn’t take medicine, well just “take off your glasses” while you watch! (If you don’t have 4 minutes, start at 1:50 to hear her philosophy, then to 3:28 to hear the punch line.)

I”m linking up with


Auntie Em’s Texas Tea — updated

iced tea courtesy ap3601 via FlickrMr X thought a post about tea was a little unnecessary- but I told him he’d be surprised the number of times people have said they can’t get their tea right!
The Queen of “I don’t measure” (that would be yours truly) actually follows this to a T:
In a 2-cup glass Pyrex measuring cup, put 2 c water, 1 family-sized tea bag (I like Community) and 1 small fruit-flavored bag (my current fave- Lipton Purple Acai and Blueberry green tea)). Microwave on high 3 minutes. (You really might have to adjust here according to your microwave’s strength- mine is pretty powerful.)

Pour it in a pitcher; then fill your Pyrex cup up with ice (in Texas we like our iced tea REALLY ICED!) and fill with water; add it to the pitcher. Sweeten with 1/4 cup Splenda and stir it up. When serving, fill your glass to the top with ice!




A Merry Heart

Our preacher today mentioned that “A merry heart is good medicine,” (Proverbs 17:22), so take your medicine! See you tomorrow.


I’m having fun… and an award

I have been reading blogs for a couple of years- I started out with Pioneer Woman, then added The Reluctant Entertainer, The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor, To Love, Honor, and Vacuum, Hoe and Shovel, and of course the spiritual wisdom from my old longtime friend, Juliana at SimplyJuliana.

Juliana was a strong Christian even back in high school. Now I was a Christian- but a strong one? Did everyone I meet see Christ in my life? I’m not so sure. It’s easy for a mature woman to take a stand, but the older I get, (I seem to be saying that a lot lately *sigh*) the more I admire Juliana for her strong Christian witness for as long as I’ve known her.

Even though we both live in the town where we graduated, we did not stay in touch regularly until Facebook, but since then, we’ve made up for lost time, sharing prayers and requests. She even says I was instrumental in her starting her blog! She just has always been able to pull out Scripture and wisdom in any situation I needed, at the drop of a hat. So I’m really glad she’s writing and sharing it with a larger audience. She also encouraged me to start Auntie Em, and she’s nominated me for a Reader Appreciation Award! It’s sort of like an Academy Award *rolls eyes*, nominated by your peers- and then I get to nominate the blogs that I particularly love.  Thank you Juliana!

It’s been really fun (all 3 days of it lol) because, as you know, one of Auntie Em’s rules in the guide for life is to EXAMINE YOURSELF. When you write, you have to really think things out, and come up with things you might not have in normal life. For instance: My younger daughter, whom Auntie Em calls “Sunshine”, has always brightened rooms whenever she walks in. People have always said it- it’s just that obvious. She is strikingly beautiful (may I say that?), with dark blue eyes, blonde hair, and very fair skin. We always say Sunshine brings the party with her. She was very easy to name.

My older girl, Sis, is much more subdued than Sunshine. Auntie Em was trying to come up with an appropriate name for her so I began thinking- what has she been in my life? Help. Calmness. Stability. Joy. She was the child that I learned to mother with. I thought, “What a wonderful mother I must be!” when she rarely cried, and was so sweet-natured and easy to care for. (Then I had another child and realized that it was more about HER than ME!) Her teachers always said what a wonderful student she was. I find myself using the word “always” to describe her often- always a hard worker, always self-motivated, always helpful, always dependable. She lived at home until she got married, after college for bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and while many times I would advise against that, I was happy to have her here because she made my life so much easier. (She too is very beautiful!)

Therefore (as the Apostle Paul so eloquently says when summing up what he’s said before, to come to the point), because of writing Auntie Em, I talked to Sis about her blog name, and said all these things to her, which otherwise I might not have. It was a good conversation to have.

So your assignment for today, my dears: Think about someone who has made a positive difference in your life– a teacher? Child, parent, sibling? Friend? Think about HOW, and be specific. Then tell them. You know- give them their flowers while they’re alive, instead of waiting to send them to the funeral.

So here are my award nominees.

1. The Pioneer Woman – recipes, funny and heartfelt “confessions”, beautiful photography, and now a show on the Food Network.

2. The Reluctant Entertainer – Sandy writes about overcoming your perfectionism, getting over your excuses and reasons not to get together with friends, and to JUST DO IT! To someone who thinks things to death, and is much better at PLANNING than DOING, her blog really hits home.

3. The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor – In case you don’t know, “sartorial” has to do with clothes and dressing. I have always loved the royal highnesses and majesties, especially the British ones, but I’ve discovered the Belgian, Dutch, Spanish, Swedish, and Norwegian ones too, as well as other “serenes”. And did I mention the JEWELS??

4. To Love, Honor, and Vacuum – Shelia writes about marriage and — dare I say it?– sex, from a Christian perspective. She is forthright but tasteful and talks about a lot of things that SHOULD be being taught in churches, but many times are not. Christians need to hear this message in the right context, not leave it to network TV.

5. Hoe and Shovel – Meems writes about her garden in Florida. Oh. My. Goodness. Such beauty. And and environment similar to mine, so I draw a lot of inspiration from her.

Please accept this award with my thanks for the inspiration you have given me! And follow these directions.

1. Add a picture of the award to your blog post.

2. Thank the blogger who nominated you and include a link to their blog.

3. Nominate 5-10 other Bloggers and inform those selected that they have been nominated.

And don’t forget your homework! Turn it in, right in the comments section!


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