Try as I may, I just can't seem to keep up with my Better Homes And Gardens subscription. The magazine comes only once a month, but I'll be darned if I'm able to finish an issue before the next one arrives. I mean, I haven't even gotten through the "Build A Folk-Art Birdhouse" article from the January issue, and guess what came in the mail today: That's right... February!

I've got a stack of back issues piling up on the coffee table in the living room, and it's only getting higher. One day I'm reading the article about sprucing up your home office with some simple curtains, and the next, I'm reading a letter to the editor praising the article! And what good is the "Sensational Seasonal Snacks: Beyond Christmas Cookies" pull-out section if you don't get to it until late January?

You'd think I'd have more time to myself now that Katie, our youngest, started college, but I've been so busy lately with church and with sponge-painting the guest room that I stand to miss out on some vital home-improvement tips and tricks.

I used to have a system I'd follow each month, but somehow, I've allowed myself to slip off track. First, I would read "The Family Network" readers' letters column, my favorite part of the magazine. There's always some wonderful nugget of wisdom just waiting to be discovered there. (Last November, there was a terrific letter about keeping vegetables fresh by placing a paper bag filled with rice in your refrigerator's veggie crisper.) Then, I would page through and clip the coupons. That's important because of the expiration dates. There's nothing worse than finding a 75-cents-off coupon for Pillsbury ready-made pie crusts, only to discover it's no longer good. Then, with all that clipping done, I'd settle into the articles, checking them off in the table of contents as I finished each one.

I've always been an avid reader, someone who understands the value of broadening one's knowledge. My education didn't stop when I got my college degree, that's for sure. I simply don't understand people who spend all their time watching TV, just sitting there like a bump on a log. I like to read books–I just finished Beating Back Pain by Dr. Gregory Gunger and I'm about to dig into Taking The Guesswork Out Of Your Retirement Plan–but I prefer magazines. The information's more timely, so it's the best way to keep on top of the latest trends in home decorating and fashion.

And, boy, do things change fast! One month, "country" will be all the rage, and Better Homes will be full of patterns for picnic-basket centerpieces and gingham dishtowel curtains. Then, the very next month, the winds of change blow, and Better Homes will announce that "bamboo is back," with 15 pages chock-full of ways to add a sophisticated Eastern accent to one's den.

In the past year alone, I've learned how to make my backyard seem roomier, build a gorgeous vine pole, and make a scrumptious praline carrot cake from scratch. Better Homes And Gardens isn't all fun and games, though. They have important, must-read articles about unlocking jaw pain, the hidden dangers of automatic garage doors, and the dangerous pesticide levels in apple cider. A recent issue informed me about irradiation, "meat safety's ray of hope." The article said that in the past year, several lives have been lost as a result of E. coli. This is not the sort of stuff I can afford to fall behind on.

When I saw that E. coli article, I made sure to get out my scissors and cut it out for my daughter-in-law Deborah. See, as I read Better Homes, if there's an article I think would be helpful for someone, I circle the headline and write "Give to Janie" or "Show Pastor Lott" next to it. Just last week, I tore out "Chair Makeovers: Easy Slipcover Tips" and gave it to Judith, my new next-door neighbor. From the looks of her old Honda Civic, she doesn't have a lot of money, but I told her it doesn't take much to really perk up an old kitchen set. And I gave my friend Bonnie the "Full Steam Ahead" article, which contained 25 low- to no-fat vegetable steaming techniques, after noticing she's getting a little heavy in the face.

I guess that just goes to show how important it is that I keep up with my subscription. As you can see, I'm not just reading Better Homes And Gardens for myself. There are a lot of people depending on me.