Sunday, November 29, 2015


On the first day of Advent, I had no internet
At my in-laws in Pennsylvania.
On the second day of Advent we were on our way home
From my in-laws in Pennsylvania.

And so I write this blog post on the eve of our trip to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving, realizing that my plans to write every day of Advent won't exactly be every day of Advent, considering we'll either be without internet or on the road for at least 10 hours. 

I'll first start posting my Advent posts on December 1st, instead, with perhaps a little about our Thanksgiving and Advent adventures mixed in. I'll try to link to them here, in an effort to keep a list of them all in one place. 

Stay tuned for the further ADVENTures of the rannygahoots.

December 1: Lifeless Stump
December 2: Reflecting God
December 3: Where Are You?
December 4: Broken Heart
December 5: Blessing to Others
December 6: Laugh With Me
December 7: God Sees to It
December 8: Stairway to Heaven
December 9: Easy Now
December 10: Commands, Covenants, and a Case of the Crankies
December 11: Bad Reputations
December 12: Ruth-full
December 13: Heart Things
December 14: Land of Deep Darkness
December 15: Troublemaker
December 16: Season of Second Chances
December 17: Feeling Small
December 18: Speak Up
December 19: King of the Mountain
December 20: Advent List
December 21: Thunder in the Desert
December 22: Teenage Pregnancy
December 23: Wanderer
December 24: Make Room
December 25: Ponder

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

White Space

I've had a new blog post screen open on my computer for days. OK, weeks. It's remained white space until just this moment. I've wanted to write, but the words just haven't been coming. Pain has gotten in the way. Packing and planning and cuddling and trying not to watch Christmas movies has also gotten in the way.

It seems when pain levels are high, there is white space where deep thoughts should be. In fact, there is white space where any thought the connects to any other thought should be. I miss the most obvious of connections, making life ten times more difficult. I've completed grocery shopping and moved on to picking up things for my class, realizing after leaving the supermarket that three of the items I needed for class were, in fact, groceries. That sort of thing happens with increasing frequency as of late.

But there's hope in the form of cat scan guided sacroiliac joint injections in my future. Just a couple weeks away, as a matter of fact. I'm both excited and scared. I'm not so much scared of the procedure, but of the side effects, of it not working as well as we're hoping, or of it not working at all. 

I'm also excited that they might just be my ticket to walking, sleeping, and enjoying life more fully. I can barely wait!!!

But wait, I must. 

It seems fitting in this time of waiting - Advent. 

Speaking of Advent, and of White Space, I have a plan - a hope for this season of waiting. I'm going to write - to fill up the white space that has become my mind and my blog with words and thoughts and photos. Every day. And blog what I write, good or bad, long or short, intelligible or nonsensical. 

We are using Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift as our Advent devotional this year, with many of the pretty and fun free extras she has on her website. I found it months upon  months ago and loved what I read then when paging through it. In the book, each day of December leading up to Christmas has a Bible verse followed by some beautiful thoughts and intriguing questions. I've not read any of them in months, and plan to take the next day's Bible verse and write about it the night before without reading any of what's in the book...writing about how that particular Bible verse talks to me (or not!) in that moment.

But for now I wait. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Worst Wait

Advent has to be one of the best times of the year. The waiting, centering on the meaning of the season, and all that goes with it. Waiting for Advent is worse for me than waiting for Christmas.

I'm trying my best not to give in. It's supremely difficult, with stores and ads and preparations and my deep, deep love, to hold out until it's time. I don't know how much longer I can wait. 

My name is Amanda, and I'm a winter holiday movie addict. I'd watch them year round if my family would allow me. I usually have a "Christmas in July" movie marathon, but somehow didn't this year. It's been over ten months since I watched a winter holiday-themed movie. I might die. 

I have to admit that this addiction may be the major reason I can barely wait for Advent. I have a little over a week to wait and then you won't see me until the New Year, as I'll be in bed with hot chocolate or hot cider watching movie after movie. Just watching the movies in my Netflix queue will take a month. 

We watch our first movie on Thanksgiving night ... A Muppet Christmas Carol. Speaking of which, I'm in a slight panic because the book of Christmas movie dvds has disappeared. We can't find it anywhere. I'm freaking out just a little. I must pack them for our annual journey to Pennsylvania to spend Thanksgiving with my in-laws. 

In my house, you won't find many Christmas decorations ... usually some lights around the inside of the dining room windows (ok, I think they're still up from last year), our Advent spiral, our homemade Christmas tree and the kids' stockings. Oh, and the nativity scene(s). How many we put up depends on how much space we can find to display them. And then there are the Mary holding baby Jesus figures that adorn my walls and bookcase year round. They count, too, right?

What you will find are the sounds of the holidays. If a movie isn't playing (gasp!), there's holiday music wafting through the house. Laughter abounds as the children put too much decorating sugar on the sugar cookies and build a Christmas tree out of framed and unframed photos from the past year. Whispers scurry after children putting together gifts and doing good deeds in secret as "Christmas Angels" for their sibling or parent. The Word rings out each morning and evening as we put aside time at least twice each day to wait, to prepare, and to center ourselves in Advent. 

I love Christmas Movies Advent and can barely wait for it to begin!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Fifty Five

Fifty five children lurked in the twists and turns of the long, dark hallways. Some were bruised, some bound, chained, gagged, or a combination. Groans, pleas for help, and screams could be heard throughout the labyrinth. All were there for one reason. 

These amazing youth designed their own costumes and their Childhood Nightmares themed rooms, from paint and set to lights and sounds. They wrote their own scripts, including not only an experience in their own room, but a transition to the next as well. Epoch Arts Haunted House consumed these young people for several Sunday afternoons, hours at home and at Epoch Arts in East Hampton, CT tweaking costumes and adding things to their rooms, as well as two tech days and four astounding nights of fright. 

Not only did the youth, under the guidance of some fabulously creative adults, put together an astonishing Haunted House, but they provided baked goods and other confections for sale in the Cafe each night as well. 

Freakish zombies attacked the hayride and several scary girls rode the hayride or wandered around Epoch Arts. A troll-like figure emerged, ready to snatch overly rude or inappropriate guests from the Haunted House and escort them out of the building, as well as fixing myriad lights, curtains, and other objects that faltered throughout the evening. 

There were ticket sellers, food peddlers, a popcorn popper, and the Ones with The Most Dangerous Job of All, at least according to one smallish guest. You see, there were several brave souls who wended their way through Haunted with pitchers of water and funnels - it was there job to water the creatures that lurked within. This, according to the child, was a job she most definitely would not want, it being especially dangerous and scary. 

And then there was me. Living forty minutes away from Epoch Arts and unwilling to drive back and forth twice a night with Princess Peach Gone Wrong, I decided to be available for whatever was needed of me during the Haunted House. I did my daughter's make-up and helped others with theirs. I found myself assigned to laying down the ground rules and slightly freaking people out before they entered the first room - as well as timing entries to maximize the number of people who were able to experience the creepiest of creeps each night. 

My spiel, which started out with a simple welcome - no photography - the actors won't touch you so please don't touch them - evolved to something like this...
Welcome! Before you enter our Haunted House, I need to lay down some ground rules. No photography, please. Also, please don't use your cell phone or any other device to illuminate our Haunted House - we like it dark in there. Our actors won't touch you - please do not touch them. Please treat our actors respectfully - some of them are quite small, quite scary, but quite small - we wouldn't want to have to send our resident troll after you to drag you out for inappropriate behavior. Please stick together. Several times during your fifteen minute journey through our Haunted House you will be asked if your group is all together in the room. If, by that time, you have lost the power of speech, simply nod your head to indicate when all the members of your group are present. We wouldn't want to lose anyone .... again. Good luck!

We had a few accidental injuries, a lost contact lens leaving a child near-blind (but he carried on), lots of actors needing to sneak out to the bathroom (one more than the rest of the actors combined, it seemed), and several rude guests who were, indeed, extracted from the Haunted House and escorted from the premises. But all in all, Childhood Nightmares was a roaring success. 

I feel blessed to have been a part of it. To observe my children - all the children - thoroughly enjoying themselves despite, and perhaps because of,  the hard work and long hours they put in was heartwarming. 

Most breathtaking to witness was the community of tweens and teens who gathered enthusiastically (most of the time) to put this all together. Room leaders and staff stayed late and arrived early. Staff and parents brought in or made food to ensure that everyone was well fed before they got to work. The young adults looked out for each other, getting help immediately when a "guest" was inappropriate with the female members of the cast so he could be swiftly removed, or when someone needed anything from an ice pack to a snack. Everyone took good care of each other. 

Before the last night of Haunted ended, plans were already in the works for next year, by both the children and the adults. That, in itself, speaks volumes. 

Fifty-five or so children, a bunch of adults, lots of love, and tons of blood, sweat, and tears made for one hair-raising haunted house with a lot of heart.