Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Adopted by Iowans

I feel a little like a “Fake Midwesterner.” Although I have lived in Iowa now for 21 (almost 22) years and was born in the quaint city of Oshkosh, WI, my roots run deeply in Massachusetts. To add more fuel to the “fake” fire, I spent a number of years living in

California. I know, I know—I really MUST be a fake.

While moving to California was solely my Dad’s dream, I am glad that I met my husband there. But in 1989, with crime increasing and freeways clogging, we were looking for a safer place to raise our family. So despite the difficulty of moving to the Midwest with a carload of kids, a nervous Dachsund, and a Country Squire station wagon that broke down in Arizona, it was still the best thing our family could have done. We had moved to the “calm” after the California “storm.”

Iowa was (and is) our new home. At least by Iowa standards, I think we are still considered newcomers!

But that’s OK. We’ve made many forever friends here, even Carl and Becky who own a real John Deere tractor! I know it looks like we’re driving it…but not exactly. My husband Steve and I just know how to pose—not plow. (Is that what tractors do?)

Anyway, I try desperately to cover up my lack of farming skills. The best I can do is work in my perennial garden. That’s a joke in and of itself. The year we put Round Up all over our front lawn to make way for the English country garden I had long dreamed of, I’m certain our neighbors were having heart failure. I could just imagine my lawn-loving friends all over the block whispering about the crazy people down the street killing their grass off. Once word spread that we had lived in California, they probably nodded their heads knowingly and remarked, “So that’s why they’re so misguided…”

(See picture above of my "Field of Dream" Flowers!)

So fake our not, I am a Midwesterner by adoption. Just don’t let native Iowans know that I really don’t like football. They might disown me.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Corn Field Traffic Jam

Gracie is a free spirit and she was not a happy camper recently. You see, she thinks it's her duty to protect us from the deer. We're fine with that, but hunters just don't appreciate dogs that chase the deer off, so she spent deer season tied up. Here's how she was most of deer season: sleeping in her doghouse. Good thing she actually likes it there! But as much as she likes it, she sure was glad when we cut her loose after church that Sunday evening! I bet she ran non-stop that Sunday night! LoL

The back roads around my house are narrow—they're barely wide enough for a combine sometimes. That means that when there's two of us on the road, if we both hug the sides of the road we can slip past each other without one of us having to stop—unless of course, one of the drivers is a nervous nelly and stops to let the other pass. When it's just you on the road, though, the road is yours to drive smack in the middle of it. And that's what everyone does.

The other evening we were flying along the back roads a pick-up was approaching the intersection, too, so I came to a complete stop. While we were both at the sign in the middle of nowhere, a car crested the hill and joined us. We had a traffic jam in the cornfields.

In the 20 years I've lived here I've never seen so many cars at that stop. There were THREE of us thee! At the same time! Unbelievable.

Not too far from this stop sign we go through a tiny town with a stop sign that gets more traffic. I've seen 3 cars at that sign a few times, but not many more than a few. With a town population of 55, what do you expect? They have a post office, a cemetery, two churches, and most interestingly, two names. The name on the map is not the name we use for the town. One day as I approached that tiny town's stop sign, I counted five of us at the sign at once. It must have been rush hour. Or something. ;-)

I love the country roads—they're just wide enough to stop on and chat with a friend as you pass each other coming and going. That's something you can't do just anywhere!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

50 Years With The Same Man

Ten days ago husband and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary.

On October 10, 1960 I turned 16, On November 18, 1960 I became a wife to the most wonderful guy in the world. December 28, 1960 husband turned 18. He said, "Don't worry that we're young, we'll just have a head start." 

In August we went to Alaska!
The Denali Bluffs was a highlight.
With a bus tour.
The lone scout. Searching for food for his pack.
The Hunted. 
The Beauty
So How did we celebrate The Day? In a very simple way. Earlier, Mother-in-love informed our friends about our anniversary and we were showered with greeting cards. We saved our cards in a basket as we received them.

On The Day, our oldest son and wife took us our for lunch and we shared a delicious salmon meal. In the evening, after our devotions Husband opened the cards and handed them to me to read aloud. Half way through the stack it hit me. 

Fifty years is a long time!
Future plans: we will celebrate with our children and grands, siblings, and mother-in-love in the spring of 2011 when all our children can be in Ohio with us.

How does it feel to be married to the same man for 50 years? It gets better every year. 
I highly recommend it!
So until next time, this is Sharon A. Lavy signing off.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ten Ways Mom Can Know She’s Gone Overboard with Christmas Decorations

by Cheryl Moeller

I'm hopelessly a Midwesterner.  I once tried to leave the Midwest, but it only lasted 22 months.  I so desperately missed it, I kissed the ground upon my return.  The thing I ached for the most was the changing of seasons and all that entails.  For instance, just after Thanksgiving, I usually enlist all my family members to help decorate for Christmas.  I'm always  confronted with the temptation to overdo it when it comes to outside decorations and trimming the tree.  So how can I know when far is too far?

1.    The live Nativity scene in my front yard puts the Brookfield Zoo out of business.

2.  The heat from my outdoor Christmas lights causes global warming.

3.  My green Christmas garlands are so long, Tarzan unexpectedly crashes through the front window. 

4.  The icicles on my Christmas tree cause polar ice caps to reverse and start growing again.

5.  The inflatable Frosty the Snowman in the front yard deflects several killer asteroids back into space. 

6.  Seeing thousands of twinkling lights, E.T. dials my home phone.
7.  After seeing my elaborate decorations, Elf develops an inferiority complex and must be treated for depression. 

8.  My plastic Rudolph’s nose is so bright, the neighbors think it’s morning and leave for work at 2:00 AM.

9.  Due to the abundance of bright flashing lights, several 757’s line up for final approach to my house.

10.  I use so much electricity on the tree that Congress hastily approves construction of the first nuclear reactor in 40 years.

Cheryl Moeller's new book Help! Mom's Stuck on Spin Cycle,  a 2-pack with a book and CD, can be purchased on Cheryl's blog at Momlaughs.


Baby Saves Christmas by mother-daughter duo Cheryl Moeller and Melissa Moeller Briggs will change your children's Christmas perspective from "getting" to "giving."

Follow Cheryl on Facebook and Twitter.

The Christmas Tree that Wasn't and the Great Book Shop Op

Good Friday Morning! The temperature is 24 degrees this morning in east central Wisconsin and the sunrise spectacular. 
For those of you who are heavily into Christmas, here, in the Midwest, we start early. Christmas Tree farmers have already harvested and are in the midst of shipping the product all around the country. For many years my husband has picked out a little white pine tree on our farm in western Wisconsin. At deer hunting time, which is around Thanksgiving, we'll cut and bring it home to where we live now in eastern Wisconsin. The trees are au naturel in the extreme, (ungroomed) or as I like to think, leaving many great openings for my huge ornament collection. I love to pick up ornaments on our travels. Some of my favorites are from the different states we've visited: a ship in a bottle from Maine, a tin horse with real horsehair from Colorado, milkweed at a local craft fair. I’ll share some of my ornament collection.
The best part is knowing we have a tree that came from our own property. I love the scent of it, and even cleaning pine needles and sap from the back of the van isn't a terrible chore. Sometimes I wonder what people think, seeing a tree crammed into the car with me occasionally sitting sideways to avoid branches in my face. It's a three-hour ride. I guess nothing much surprises Wisconsinites that weekend after Thanksgiving. There are a lot of deer carcasses on rooftops of cars, in trailers. Not much can get weirder than trucks on the freeways at 77 miles an hour, trying to get close enough to count the antlers on a nice buck.

A month ago in an amazing wind storm we lost the top twenty feet of a great blue spruce we have in our eastern Wisconsin back yard; a tree that was planted long before we bought the place. Mowing around it was getting to be a chore, but it was a beautiful specimen. I suppose the rest of it will die quicker. After our dismay, and thankfulness that the fall didn't smach our garage, we wondered if perhaps we could use the top of it as our Christmas tree this year.

While my husband got out his chain saw, I anticipated the smell of cut pine, some sap, even the sting of prickery needles. I wasn't real crazy about the thought of lugging all those parts to the brush pile, but that's part of the clean-up. When we finally got to the crown of the tree, it had been too badly damaged by the fall, wasn't nice and straight, and actually pretty bare-looking. We already have a tree picked out on the farm, so we weren't terribly disappointed. It was a strange feeling, looking at the broken ends of the fell, the bottom where the wind had taken and ripped it from the trunk was probably a foot across; the top was a ruin. Wow. I touched the inside of the tree and a little part of me felt like crying. Something I thought was so strong and true had been destroyed by a greater power.

The Christmas Tree That Wasn't meant to be our Christmas tree this year makes me pause and give thanks and respect to that Greater Power. The same God who used his breath to show me his might used that whisper and shout a couple thousand years ago to announce his son's birth to a group of shepherds. How cool is that?

And now!
In honor of the Great Shopping Day, Black Friday, 
a very special announcement:

It's Shop OnLine Til You Drop Friday.  Books, books, glorious books, signed by the author, no less.

The Christian Review of Books in conjunction with CrossPurposes Bookstore is excited to announce the first annual Christmas Book Signing Bash.

 75 Christian Authors * One Amazing Online Event 

Beginning on the day after Thanksgiving and lasting ten days (26 November - 7 December), this book signing will be an unprecedented online event.

 75 of today’s favorite Christian Authors have come together to answer questions, chat with their readers, and offer signed copies of their books—all without leaving the comforts of home and hearth! Readers can search by author, title, or genre at the Christian Review of Books (http://www.christianreviewofbooks.com/) and then follow the purchase links to CrossPurposes Bookstore (http://www.crosspurposesbooks.com/) and buy autographed copies of each book featured. The authors will sign the books and ship them to the customers. For a full list of participating authors, visit the CRoB

How can we resist? Signed books, no lines. Meet you there after Thanksgiving (well, I’ll be cutting up deer, but promise – Sunday, soon as we get home).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving! Praying your day is full of delicious food, wonderful family, and extreme gratitude to God for all of your blessings.
Yup, it's Thursday the 25th, and the weather is...well...average for this date. High around 40, low below freezing. So, my kids are a bit more bundled up than they were last time you looked. We've had a bit of flurry, but no real snow to write home about. But tonight or tomorrow may be different story. They're excited to see the first of the white stuff. I'm not--at least not as much as they are.
For only the second time since I've been married (and that would be 16 years), we are not heading out to spend Thanksgiving day with extended family. We already had our "Thanksgiving" a couple weeks ago with my husband's side of the family, so it's just me, Marc, and the kids this year. We're still doing a turkey and the fixings, though on a much smaller scale. I'm looking forward to being able to focus on our blessings in a more intimate setting this year - likely the last like this for a very, very long time. Don't get me wrong - I do enjoy

The first time we didn't have a big family gathering on Thanksgiving day, I was busy. VERY busy. You see, early Thanksgiving morning in 2003, I was giving birth to my second-born. Yup, my beautiful daughter was born in the wee hours of the morning on Thanksgiving Day. On her due date. And I was the only one in the family to get turkey (my husband and his parents went out to eat, but the restaurant was OUT OF TURKEY. Is that even legal?), and it was from a hospital kitchen.

I didn't want to give birth on my due date. You see, my husband had recently (as in three months prior) had brain surgery, and driving was not on his "can-do" list. And we had no local  family, so we had to depend on our church family to get us to the hospital, and watch my then-almost-three-year-old son.

It was then I was most appreciative of the wonderful hospitality of Midwesterners, and more specifically, our Midwestern church family members. I seriously could go on and on about how wonderful and supportive they were. But I won't. I'll just say that Midwestern hospitality made that day--and the days around it--full of blessings and things to be thankful for.

And this year? My blessings are numerous. A new home since last Thanksgiving. Neighbors. A God who loves us. Two kids who LIKE to go to church (and a hubby too!). A chance to use my gifts for God's glory. Again, I could go on and on. But I need to get that turkey going... ;)

Question for you: What are you most thankful for today?

Paving Rough Roads With God's Presence
Joanne Sher An Open Book
Stop by my blog! :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

T'was the Night Before Thanksgiving

T’was the night before Thanksgiving, when all through the house
Not a husband was stirring; left that to his spouse.
The table was set by the wife with such care,
In hopes that the in-laws would all soon be there.

The children were snuggled and nestled in beds
While visions of turkey legs danced in their heads.
Me in my curlers, Farmer in his John Deere cap
Had finally settled in for a longThanksgiving nap.

When on the back porch there arose such a clatter
I yelled “Farmer! Someone is taking your ladder!”
Over to the slider I ran like a flash
My face to the window my nose I did smash.

The mercury light that was all a glow
Displayed to me what I had to know.
When what to my confused eyes did appear?
But a gaggle of turkeys and one lonely deer.

They formed a line so neatly and quick
I knew in a moment they’re up to a trick.
Then from the sandbox came more of the same
The deer whispered and pointed and called them by name.

“Now Thomas, now Stuffing, now Cranberry Sauce
On Gravy, on Pumpkin. Listen! I’m the boss.
Take that ladder and go on up to the wall
Now dash away, dash away, do not fall!”

As dry leaves that swirled and floated on by
Those that didn’t land in the pool flew in the sky.
So up to house with the ladder they flew
With the deer pushing, pulling and shoving a few.

Then in a moment I heard up on the roof
Another fat turkey and deer on the hoof.
As I stood there and looked all around
They went to the window with hardly a sound.

The ladder was moved over and held with a foot
The turkey in camouflage with his face covered in soot.
A rope and a crowbar he had on his back
Looking this way and that way ready to attack.

His face was flushed, his eyes were quite wary
His cheeks were puffed out and his nose was so hairy.
In his beak was an ice pick, carried just so
His wattle was tied back with a black leather bow.

He pecked at the window with the pick in his teeth
He broke it open and threw out my wreath.
He worked through the hole being careful of his belly
He slipped, got cut and bled like red jelly.

He moved to the counter with such grace and stealth
He’s taking my turkey I wailed to myself!
“Farmer get up, get out of the bed
We got a live turkey, he needs to be dead!”

The turkey was busy going to work
He heard me, then turned with a jerk.
He dashed out the window with the turkey in tow
Yelling “Get out of here, follow the does.”

The deer sprang to their feet and gave a shrill whistle
They started to cuss when they fell on a thistle.
I heard the Tom turkey squawk as he flew out of sight
“There will be one less Turkey this Thanksgiving Night.”

By Diane Loew

Monday, November 22, 2010

One person's junk is....

This is my first post for The Barn Door, and I'm excited to write about my corner of life in Minnesota and get to know you!

Although not overly "crafty," I've always wanted to learn how to paint and have what I consider artistic leanings. I don't consider myself an artist, but enjoy things of beauty in whatever form it takes.

Since moving to Minnesota, I've discovered a love for arts and crafts shows. Just to make the clarification, I'm not talking about antiquing. My Dad loves to poke around in antique shops, but since I'm allergic to dust, trips to these shops don't usually have a happy ending for me.

What has fascinated me about the shows that I've been to recently is how many people are making truly great creations from what most of us would consider junk.

My first great find were these earrings

The artist was hitting the local thrift shops, and came across a set of travel dominos. She told me that she grabbed them off the shelf and didn't know what she would use them for, but just knew she had to have them! Finally, inspiration hit, and she turned them into earrings!

My favorite find was something I had not seen anywhere before. You may have seen purses and journals made out of old license plates...but a bangle or cuff bracelet?

Wonder Woman is my favorite Superhero, and now I have my very own wristband...Minnesota style!

As I was considering what to write for http://www.thebarndoor.net, I started to think about the old barn on my parent's land. My parent's decided to tear it down several years ago, but before it bit the dust, all of my siblings and I were able to take whatever we wanted from it.

My sister suggested we sell the barn wood because she had heard that crafty people would pay alot of money for original barn wood. After debating whether we could become millionaires by selling the barn wood, we decided to each take one of the still fully intact windows instead.

My sister has done something very unique with her window! She lives near a lake in a tourist town, and her decorating scheme is very "North Woods." So, her window works perfectly, not only for her home, but for the area they live in.

My window is lonely.


It's still sitting in the exact place I put it the day the barn came down. Still wrapped in a garbage bag....waiting for inspiration.

I'd love to display this, but need some ideas! Any and all suggestions welcome!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Michelle Strombeck

p.s. You can find me on Facebook or Twitter

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Here's this Michigander's take on adjectives and adverbs(I can't seem to get away from the writing). Michiganian? No, I think we're officially ganders. Go figure. Just remember, what's good for the Michigoose, is good for the Michigander. (GIANT GROAN)

I recently read what I thought was going to be a wonderfully, exciting, marvelously crafted story, but, alas, it was so fraught with long, drawn out, exhausting, hideous adjectives, that I wanted to shout one of my best, shrill, higher-than-high, terrible screams. Suddenly, I realized that I had quickly fallen into a tumultuous tempest of impeccably written, albeit terrible lines of fiction, so I abruptly put the pages aside and hastily fell asleep.

Back pedal about forty years.

I’m sitting in my Plainwell, MI, high school creative writing class. The teacher has given us an assignment to get comfortable with adverbs and adjectives. We turn in papers lined with so much glorious description even the worst paper will get an A.

That’s it! That was what I’d been reading. Something that would have pleased an English teacher who’d asked her class to write lots of adverbs and adjectives just to get acquainted with using them.


Good, strong writing doesn’t need a lot of “extras” to make it stand out, in fact, those intrusions are usually the sign of a weaker writer using them to beef up what they think might sound good. Nothing that moves the story forward. Nothing that lets us get to the know the character in any substantial way. (I realize literary might lean a bit more in this direction--but don't lean too far).

Just my humble opinion, but do we really need to know on page one that the heroine has masses of long, brown, shining curls of hair? That the heroes eyes are deep-set pools of cerulean blue orbs? And that she uses her lovely, slim fingers to push the soft, blond waves from his deep-crested foreheard???? Yeeks!


It’s not to say that adjectives don’t serve a purpose. They do, when sprinkled like salt, but wouldn’t the reader be more inclined to find a story exciting if these things came out subtly as the story progresses? A couple here, a couple there. When it takes five pages to get into the novel due to so much non-descript description in the first few pages, most readers will have glazed over and forgotten why they picked the book up in the first place.

Just a bit of delicious, gourmet-style, lip-smacking, finger-licking food for thought, but that’s this Michigander's take. And you can take it or leave it…

Linda Glaz
Suspense Sealed With a Kiss
Come by and visit:
Even when you're in the swamp
and up to your armpits in alligators,
Remember to trust Him in all things.

Perseverance determines the outcome
of an individual's life.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Farmers, BEBs, and Wigglies!

“Hello” from West Michigan. I am excited you are joining us on The Barn Door. Today is a most beautiful fall day. We get a lot of ribbing about the weather here in Michigan, but that is one of the most attractive things about living here – the variety. I actually mowed my lawn, today, for the last time this year, and enjoyed it completely. I get some of the best thinking and praying time on that lawn mower. I miss it during the winter months.

This past week most of our beautiful leaves were blown off the trees and out into the fields. So, we got the good with the bad – no raking leaves, but no glorious colors anymore.

I thought I would introduce myself and family to you. My Farmer and I live, love, and work on our dairy farm. Three of our four sons work with us. Son #1 has his own business. He is a boat broker and sometimes we get to enjoy the wonderful yachts here on Lake Michigan that he buys and sells.

Son #1, #2 and #4 are married and we have 6.7 wigglies between them. Son #3 is happily waiting for God to bring his special girl. We all live within 3 miles of each other – four of us are on the farm. We are a very blessed family. There are great advantages to working and living so close, but, sometimes it can be hard. At times, there are disagreements, different opinions, and feelings can get hurt, but at the end of the day we make a huge effort to love each other and honor God.

We harvested 640 acres of corn and 350 acres of alfalfa this year. Some fields had four cuttings of hay. The last few days have been busy with cleaning up and storing equipment for the winter. It is a bit of a relief after many long hour days of harvesting.

A lot of our work is weather driven. We have to get the fields planted, get the hay off, and cut the corn before the rain comes. For instance, if the hay is ready and we are making hay on Monday and there is rain scheduled for Friday, we will work like crazy, even around the clock, to get the crops in before the rain. If the cut hay is rained on and stays wet, the feed value of the hay is diminished or possibly in some cases becomes useless as feed altogether.

So, it’s a bit crazy. In between all the field work the BEBs (Brown Eyed Bossies) are getting milked, fed and the poop is being taken care of. For added twists there are break downs, communication challenges and other minor irritants.

We are busy hauling manure to the fields in hopes of emptying our Slurrystores (above ground storage for the manure) before winter. We aren’t able to haul manure when there is a lot of snow.

Speaking of snow, since we live about 20 miles east of Lake Michigan we get “lake effect” snow. This year they, whoever they are, are calling for a lot of it.

And, once again, speaking of snow, I am hoping Farmer gets the pool covered without snow being a determining factor. Yes, it’s November in Michigan and our pool is still not covered. Refer back to the long hour, days, plus a minor case of procrastination and you’ll understand why this is still on the “to do” list.

Sunday dinners are family time and most Sundays after church everyone finds their way here around the table. I love it. There’s one rule about Sunday dinner – there is always room for more. If you find your way to West Michigan on a Sunday afternoon, stop in and pull up a chair. We’d love to have you.

I thought you might like a peek at some of my surroundings and what drives my writings.

Check back in a couple of weeks to see what’s new on the farm or you can follow what’s happening on www.randomramblingsof.com.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Small Town Socialite

Today is my first official post here on the Barn Door, and I'm pretty excited about it. In order to help you understand me and my neck of the Midwest I thought I'd show you where I live.

This is the view across the street from my house. I'm not kidding - I really have this red barn-like building across the street! It's actually an old fire house, but it's close enough to a barn for me.

If you read my intro then you know that I'm sort of a small town sweetheart. I've moved around a lot, but I'm addicted to the little life. I know my neighbors. I can walk to the grocery store and the post office. There are four beaches within walking distance. From my front lawn I can hear the marching band practicing.

The transition into ER has been even easier with me writing for the local newspaper. It's just a short weekly paper that covers four townships, but it only covers the local news, so I write about a lot people and events that the bigger papers aren't interested in. These people are thrilled when I show up to ask them about their stories, and once you know someone's story it's hard to forget them.

The combination of the town and paper have helped me get to know the people here pretty quickly. Anyone who knows me well might think that my extroverted tendencies contribute the most to my fitting in here, but the truth is that I'm extroverted because of small towns. I'm not comfortable around new people - everything about meeting people terrifies me. In a small town, however, there are only so many people and they're only new for a short period of time. Then they're comfortable. Once I'm comfortable, I can be myself.

When I feel comfortable at home, it's easy to put on a brave face for a few hours (or even days) someplace else. Even though I might be terrified by the thought of a four day writing conference in a new city, I'm actually okay with it because I know that I'll get to return to my cozy, quiet home. Living here is like having a break from the chaos of the rest of the world, and that gives me the strength and energy I need to face that world.

I thought it was necessary to warn you because when I get comfortable, I'll talk about anything (ANYthing!). And since I'm writing from home, I'll be completely comfortable, so don't be surprised - you never know what I'll say.

And there you have it - the brief introduction of a total extrovert living in a small town, writing about it online. Come back next month for another look at the positive influences of small numbers of people.

QUESTION: Where are you the most comfortable?

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I love change. Especially the kind that comes from a cash register. 

Other kinds of change? Well, I guess it depends. Some changes I embrace and some I fight tooth and nail. Change can be good or change can be bad, but one thing is sure: change is inevitable.

Here are some things I consider "good kinds of change"...
My daughter has seriously disowned me for posting this.
  • Change of pace - especially when going from an overly busy schedule to nothing on the calendar for two days.
  • Change of position - especially when my leg is falling asleep.
  • Change of expression - especially when going from blah to silly
  • Change of mind - especially if I suddenly decide to eat chocolate instead of an apple.
  • Change of direction - especially if I'm going the wrong way on the highway (this happens to me a lot).
  • Change of hairstyle - especially when I've had fourteen "bad hair days" in a row (see photo).
  • Change of a lightbulb - especially if the last one has burned out.
  • Change of underwear - especially if...well, 'nuff said.
Some changes I consider "bad" include:
And this...
  • Change of pace - especially when "nice and relaxing" turns to overly busy.
  • Change of position - especially when going from laying down to standing up.
  • Change of expression - especially when I see a spider and my face contorts in ways I never though possible (see photo).
  • Change of mind - especially when my husband decides not to take me shopping, after all.
  • Change of direction - especially when my husband turns in the opposite direction of the mall.
  • Change of hairstyle - especially when the cut I asked for looked more flattering on me in my head.
  • Change of a lightbulb - especially when I get zapped in the process.
  • Change of underwear - Okay, so this one could never be "bad."

So you see? Besides underwear, any kind of change can be good or bad, depending on the circumstance or the way you look at it.

One of my favorite changes, though, is the seasons of nature. And, as many of The Barn Door ladies have already pointed out, the Midwest offers spectacular changes four times per year, each season vividly distinct and beautiful.

Which is why I'm glad the one thing in my life that hasn't changed is my address. Well, I take that back. I've moved a few times, but never out of my hometown. Michigan may be suffering more economically than the rest of the country, but I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. And unless something drastic happens, I doubt I'll be changing my mind about that.

Fall is my absolute favorite season (after the Holiday Season, that is). We've had a very mild autumn so far. Earlier this week, temps still topped out around 50 and sunshine abounded. Bill Stephen, the local weatherman, kept reminding us to enjoy it because colder temps and possibly snow will be arriving soon. As in, any day now. Well, any day has come. Today, temps are dropping and the pretty white stuff is expected to start falling.

Change has arrived.
Photo taken by my awesome friend & photographer, Cari Weber
As I was pondering the changing seasons, I came across this quote by French poet and novelist, Anatole France - "All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another."

Isn't that so true? Not just in the seasons of nature, but in the seasons of our lives. I will be posting to The Barn Door on the first and third Thursdays of each month. I look forward to sharing the various changes and seasons of my life with you and hearing about yours, too.
Here's a question for you today:

What changes do you fight and which ones do you embrace?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Midwest Maple Tree

When our family moved to the Midwest countryside a couple years ago, my fifteen year-old daughter shook with horror at the thought. Cows? Corn fields? The smell of spring fertilizers (manure to those who of you not blessed with the experience)? Of course my husband and I set about calming her urban withdrawal with promises of a new John Deere tractor for her 16th birthday or perhaps a donkey of her very own (oh yeah, we’re those kind of parents).

Two years later, my daughter can’t wait for her first college experience to arrive (go figure—she’s chosen a college in a rural part of Indiana). And the rest of the family loves all the benefits of country living.

From my kitchen window, we watch the turkeys migrate in great numbers and the neighbor’s cornfield change with the seasons. But my favorite is the ancient maple tree that sprawls near our backyard. It has a story of its own, one wrought with misery and adventure.

Six years ago, lightning struck the maple’s top branches. Tales tell of a great fire that burnt the inner parts of the tree’s trunk, leaving nothing but a charred hole that opened at the base. Wonder of wonders the tree survived—thrived even. My children love that tree. Chock full of childhood toys and papers etched with secret messages, that charred cavern became a hiding place—a treasured space.

Then the unthinkable happened. One spring night, my husband and I awoke with the house-shaking violence that accompanied a wicked storm. Thunder and lightning struck in quick succession for over an hour, but the rain didn’t come. Eventually, we crawled back into bed hoping to catch at least a few hours of sleep before the morning called us to work.

Two hours later, my eyes opened to white, blue, and red lights swirling around my ceiling. I tip-toed to the window, pulled the blinds aside—quietly so my husband could sleep in peace—and trembled at the scene that played out in my backyard. Our sweet maple spewed fireballs from the hole in its trunk like a sideways volcano. The flames licked up the trunk, reaching to the utmost branches—higher than our two-story home. Every volunteer fireman and police officer in our community fought to squelch the blaze and when they did, the north side of our maple—blackened darker than the night sky—stood leafless and broken.

The next morning the children inspected the damage, as did the county assessor. Surely they would take our maple down, we thought. It stood too close to a neighbor’s home to leave up. But as the months passed the assessor did not return and to our amazement, the south side of our maple grew new leaves and new branches. It had been struck twice by lightning and yet it thrived. Worked around its tragedy to find a new way to survive.

Oh the things I can learn from the Wisconsin countryside. More than the finer points of lawn mowing and landscape, it teaches me about perseverance and gratitude. And if you’ll join me, I’ll share those lessons. . .


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