Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Sniff. Sniff. Smell that? There's turkey in the air! Thanksgiving is upon us, my favorite holiday. Why? Because it's the underdog holiday of the year. Stores go crazy bananas for Halloween then go straight to Christmas, completely ignoring the day set aside for gratitude.

Every year I think how great it would be to write notes to people I rarely thank:

  • store clerks
  • janitors
  • trash collectors
  • postal carriers
And every year I fail to accomplish that little task. This year, however, was different. I knew that if I didn't have some kind of outside accountability that I'd fail yet again, so I decided to hold a FRIENDSGIVING OPEN HOUSE.

And you can, too. Here's how . . .

1. Invite friends over to your house for a two-hour time slot. That's it. Just two hours, so that you're not giving up a huge chunk of time.

2. When you invite them, let them know this is their chance to be intentional about Thanksgiving this year by taking the time to write thank you notes to whoever they'd like to.

3. Here are the supplies you should have on hand for your open house:
  • thank you notes and envelopes
  • colored pens
  • stamps
  • Bible verses printed out for inspiration
  • a list of possible people to thank
4. Then all you do is sit and write out notes of encouragement and gratitude for those you don't usually take the time to appreciate.

It was a huge success. Everyone that came was thankful for the opportunity. I finally took the time to write out the cards I'd always wanted to. And even better, it gave us all a few minutes to really think about those who make our lives better.

So go for it. 
Start your own "Friendsgiving" tradition.

Monday, November 24, 2014

North Wind Scores One

The north wind sweeps along
the gently curving boulevard
dividing county from city.
It rustles through cornfields
opposite landscaped mansions.

It jostles linebacker aspens
mounting that tall barrier of trees
to curl and crash over the golf course
stirring the geese on the pond.

Like a quarterback heading for the goal
it rushes lush expanse of lawn
while well-shaped burning bushes cheer it on
with pom-poms flaming red.

In a frenzied victory dance
it strips the tip-tops of maples
and leaves them standing like
well-fed, balding gentlemen
bundled in overcoats of gold and red
debating who will win this season.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! 

Mary Allen lives in Northern Indiana with her husband, a German Shorthair Pointer and a German Wired-haired Pointer. She enjoys nature, walking, and wordplay. She wishes she had a photograph of the trees that looked like bald-headed men in overcoats, but you'll just have to use your imagination.                              

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Van Gogh's Avenue Of Poplars In Autumn

Avenue of Poplars

an unseen sun broadcasts itself
in patches
on the leafy pathway

at the head of the avenue
flanked by narrow poplar trunks
stands a quaint cottage, and

above golden treetops
blue sky transmits dreams
of an eternal autumn

“Avenue of Poplars in Autumn” 1884 oil painting by Vincent Van Gogh
poem by Lori Lipsky

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Since winter chose to arrive early and unannounced this year (something we Midwesterner’s abhor), I feel it’s my duty to offer my southern friends some winter driving tips that we in the Great White Up North have understood for weeks.

  1. As soon as possible, move at least 30 miles south of your birthplace. That way you will always be able to say, “People down here don’t know how to drive in the snow!” 
  2. When your car begins spinning violently out of control because you were that guy who knew how to drive in the snow, throw up your hands and yell, “Jesus take the wheel!” No, Jesus will not take the wheel, but you and He can share a good laugh in about 3…2…1… 
  3. By all means, get right behind a semi-truck during a snowstorm. I’m reasonably sure the driver isn’t a 20 year-old Florida kid who got his CPL license last week. 
  4. Before the Big One hits, sit in your driveway and practice snapping your moving windshield wipers from the driver’s seat. This doesn’t actually accomplish anything, but it makes you look like a real pro. 
  5. When stuck in heavy freeway traffic, implement #1 and continuously swerve over to the shoulder to make sure it’s not just the guy in front of you holding up the works. 
  6. Ice scrapers and snow brushes are for rookies. All you need is a six-inch hole wiped off your windshield for proper vision. Bonus tip: If you lean forward so that your face is right up against the windshield, you can see even more of the road. 
  7. Beat the high cost of windshield wiper fluid by stopping every two miles to grab a handful of snow and wiping off your windshield with it. 
  8. Flip your windshield wipers up while parked outside during a snowstorm. I have no idea if it does any good, but everyone else is doing it now, so I have to do it. 
  9. Buy a 4-wheel drive truck. It’s a proven fact that ice can only reduce traction on two tires at a time. 
  10. Ignore everything I say. We don’t know how to drive in the snow, either. It’s pretty much a crap shoot.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Repeat After Me - I Do NOT Hate Winter, I Do NOT Hate Winter... by Suzanne M. Brazil

Complaining about winter while living in Northern Illinois is like a mermaid complaining about being wet.  I have dreams of retiring on a tropical beach while my husband scouts land in Alaska.  We’re thinking of settling on a six-month compromise – he'll visit me at the beach in winter and I’ll venture north in summer.

I recently decided it’s all about attitude. I hereby pledge not to complain about the cold, the snow, the darkness or the ice.  We all complain about drivers – and winter drivers are the worst so that’s fair game.

Photo from voices.suntimes.com

Here are the Top Ten Things I Love About Winter in the Midwest

#10        No lawn mowing or pulling weeds
#9          Sweatpants and baggy sweaters for everyone
#8          No Mosquitos
#7          Pumpkin spice everything
#6          Hot bubble baths
#5          No guilt for staying indoors reading a book
#4          Making hot chocolate for the shovelers
#3          Moonlight peeking through bare, black branches in my backyard
#2          Holidays are coming!
#1          The soft silence of early morning, outside in the pristine blanket of the first snowfall

Forecasters predict a repeat of last year’s record-breaking weather. I better print out this list and stick it on my fridge as a reminder.

Stay warm everyone and let us know your favorite things about winter!

Friday, November 14, 2014


They started so small we could hardly see
What they became happened gradually

But in time they overwhelmed
Blending together so we couldn’t tell

Hanging around our activities
They took what they needed to grow and we

took them for granted as we lived our lives
Enjoying their presence as the days went by

When suddenly they began to change
Each one was different but somehow the same

Then overnight the darkness came
The wind grew cold and then the rain

At first they danced as if with glee
To celebrate a victory

Then filling the air with a swirling sea
Of color and sound they fell at our feet – leaves.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Our First Deployment

Naomi Musch

Yesterday's social media news feeds were flooded with pictures of soldiers past and present and prayers for the safety of our servicemen. I've always been thankful for those who have been willing to serve our country sacrificially along with the families who've missed them. But it has never hit me the same as it did this year, with "our" first deployment just last month.

Our youngest son Beau departed for Fort Bliss, Texas in October -- an up-north, Mid-western, snow-loving boy is off to the south, and from there he'll head to Afghanistan in December.

Beau with his wife Liz and son Aiden
I have to admit, October was a tough month, and my emotions ran the gamut. Saying farewell wasn't the same as when we've sent some of our kids off on other kinds of adventures. Knowing he is going to face imminent danger is hard, and he'll be gone for the entire first year of little Aiden's life. We'll do our best to support and encourage to Liz.

We are thankful for modern technology, the chance to keep in touch, and especially for our Savior's divine plan for Beau, knowing that God instilled this desire in him to take this path, and that he will not pass through anything without God's knowledge. Still, goodbyes were hard.

Liz and Beau

Little Man Aiden

Sisters Evan and Jessamyn
Brother Cade

Brother Quinn

Papa Jeff

Mom - That's Me!

We are so very proud of Beau and all our service men and women. Come home safe and soon! We'll be waiting for you!

Naomi Musch


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