Monday, January 31, 2011

The Persistence of Peppermint

Outside my back door, beside my chimney lives a peppermint plant that has withstood many attacks. It has lived through weed pullings, being stomped on by five children, and weed wackings—and that's not counting the ash and creosote that has leached out the chimney through the years. After each assault the peppermint grows back as big and as beautiful as ever. My husband considers the peppermint plant a nuisance because it is not where it's supposed to be, but, secretly I love it because of where it is. In past years it has amazed me with it's persistence, but never more than it did last month.

After an ice storm I went out with my camera in an attempt to keep my mother happy by providing her with pictures of her grandkids. An icicle lured me around the back corner of the house, but I quickly lost interest in that when I spotted the bit of green encased in ice. It was my peppermint plant.

Pushing up through last year's dead leaves and stems was a perfectly formed baby peppermint sprig. It had grown, and was flourishing, in spite of winter. I was in awe as I hunched down there, studying it.

We're to be like that peppermint plant: persistently getting up when we're knocked down. Persistently growing and blooming when the conditions seem to be against us. By getting up when we're knocked down, and blooming after we've been pruned, we bring glory to God. Jesus is manifested in our lives when we grow through difficult, even impossible, situations. Patty Wysong Finding the extraordinary God in our ordinary lives.

Paul says it well in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9.
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

That little peppermint sprig was encased in ice, but it was beautiful in its crystal coating. Even in the midst of great adversity it was glorifying God and it reminded me, inspired me, to persistently live and shine for Him so that others might see Christ in me.

Patty Wysong Finding the extraordinary God in our ordinary lives.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Gone Flying

One day I came home from a writer's luncheon to see husband's desk. And I smiled. Today I ran across the picture I took that day, and it sparked this post. 

See, this post, about how we all need a hobby, was going to feature sewing. I'm sewing some new dresses to wear to the American Christian Fiction Writers board meeting in February. It's fun to see the flat pieces of fabric take shape and become something else. And it adds a bit of zing to my closet to add something new.

Sewing unlocks my creativity, which helps my writing. And I needed a picture to go with this post. But I looked around my space as I sewed yesterday,and realized I have some cleaning up to do before you get to see pictures of my creative space.

This picture of husband's desk reminded me how I learned we also need an outlet for our frustrations.

I learned early in our marriage how important flying is to my husband. He doesn't drink, he doesn't smoke, he doesn't even play the lottery. Momma and I both married men dedicated to their work, but she taught me that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. 

So when Aunt Prune [name changed to protect the guilty] told husband flying was not something any married man should do, because she thought it was a reckless pastime, the same as she thought about riding motorcycles, etc. I smiled and held my peace. 

Soon after husband got his pilots licence, our hogs got TGE. A horrible gastric disease. The sows were large and could handle it, but they passed the disease to their suckling pigs. And almost all the infant pigs dehydrated and died. 

Day after day husband treated the dying pigs. He tried everything the vet had to offer. But day after day he carried out more dead piglets. A sick smell filled the farrowing house. 

The only thing that helped husband's spirits was to take off in his small plane for an hour or so, and sour above the clouds. It was the only time he could forget, for just a few moments, the heartache in the barn.

Normally once the sows have TGE they are immune. However the very next winter our pigs got this dreadful sickness again. How disheartening that was. How I appreciated that husband had a way of escape so that he could bear it.

So although I am not always comfortable flying, I do go along on trips in our small plane.

As for me, sometimes I have to lose myself in a novel. Especially on long winter days when the sun refuses to shine. I am so thankful for the many writers who furnish reading material that teaches me something, and lifts my spirits at the same time. Sewing and reading are my hobbies.

Do you have a hobby? What helps you cope when life gets tough?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ten Ways to Know Winter Has Gone on Too Long

In the Midwest you are very excited when your see the first snow flurries of the season at the end of October.  You love having a white Christmas.  Then, there's a big blizzard New Year's Eve and finally you make it to MLK Day. But, what’s a Mom to do when she’s still trapped inside on Valentines' Day? Here are 10 sure signs our Midwest winter needs to mercifully end right now…
 
1. The clerk at Dairy Queen® asks if you’d like to order another
Blizzard®, and you immediately begin to weep and shake
uncontrollably.
2. The temperature finally reaches 34 degrees above zero, so you roll
out the backyard Slip ‘N Slide® and spend the afternoon gliding on
your stomach and honking like a Pacific seal (and your kids don’t
even get a turn).
3. You wear thermal underwear instead of nylons to formal occasions
— and so does everyone else.
4. You use the wrong end of the snow shovel to finish clearing the
driveway and still do it in less than 30 minutes.
5. You spend an hour a day reading by the 20-watt light bulb in the
freezer to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (and don’t notice
your nose is frostbitten).
6. You demand to leave your fur-lined boots on during your pedicure
(and the pedicurist agrees it’s a good idea).
7. To save time shopping, you snowmobile through Walmart®, causing
prices to instantly roll back.
8. To lose weight, you take your goose-down coat in for liposuction
(and it works).
9. You cancel your plans to spend all day Saturday ice fishing. (You
haven’t figured out how to get the outboard motor through the hole
in the ice.)
10. You rush outside in a blizzard with a hand-held hair dryer to
prevent another “snow day.”

By Cheryl Moeller, Midwest native, who loves living in a winter wonderland.
She's a comedian and speaker all over the midwest!
Author of eight books, including Help! Mom's Stuck on Spin Cycle

Friday, January 28, 2011

California Native Joanne Sher's Impressions of her new home in the Midwest

Lisa interviews Joanne. Nothing was off limits but I'm a Midwesterner and couldn't imagine anything too wild to ask.
Do you have questions for Joanne?

Did you ever think about living somewhere else besides California when you were growing up?
Not really. I really didn't know any other places very well. When I was in college and right after, I definitely wanted out of SOUTHERN California—I even took a fairly long drive north not long after I got out of college, applying for teaching jobs in central and some of northern California, but that was about the limit of it. It was partly because my teaching credential was specific to California though, I think.

Is there any one thing you don’t like about California?
Just one? (wink) I don't like the crowds, the incredible cost, and the generally more self-centered attitude, at least in Southern California. There are others, but I'll leave it at that.

What was your first thought when you realized you’d actually be relocating to Michigan?
I was actually pretty excited about it. I've always told folks that I knew I wanted to get out of So Cal, but I had no idea where I wanted to go. Meeting my Michigan native husband-to-be helped me decide where out of Southern California to go. And since I was following him, I was excited.

Did you do anything to help prepare yourself for a lifestyle change?
I didn't really do anything, per se, other than having the Sunday Flint (MI) Journal delivered to my home for several months, looking for a job for myself. I remember looking through a local Flint grocery flyer, and finding that I could buy California strawberries cheaper in Flint than I could at my local grocery store. That's when I knew cost of living would NOT be an issue :)

What were your first impressions of Michigan?
I was amazed by the wide open spaces, and all the “nature.” And how friendly the people were. I wasn't used to walking down the street and having someone just say “hi” to me.

What do you like best about life in Michigan?
The people. I love how friendly and helpful folks are to each other, and the conservative values here on the western side of the state. There's so much less of the competitiveness and me me me of what I grew up in.

What do your parents and siblings think about your move to the Midwest?
In general, they think I'm crazy LOL. They can't understand anyone wanting to live “in the middle of nowhere” with snow—especially my parents. My brothers (got four of them) too, but not as much, I don't think.

My folks and my beautiful daughter
How often do you go back?
The majority of my family has actually moved from Southern California to Las Vegas, so I rarely go to California itself – it has been probably five years since we've been there. As far as visiting family, I'd say I go to visit my folks and brothers—either at my parents' in Vegas or on a family vacation—about once a year.

What do you miss about California?
There are definitely days I miss the sunshine, but that's not a constant thing, because I love the weather variety here in the Midwest. Probably the one thing I miss most is authentic Mexican food. It's VERY hard to find the real stuff, here especially when you grew up so close to the border, and with so many friends who were Hispanic.

What are the top three things you can do in Michigan that you can’t do in California?
Ohh – fun question! First of all, you can go to the same spot on vacation four times a year and have it be a completely different experience every time. The seasons here in Michigan are so neat to me, especially for someone who jumped in her first pile of leaves in her 30's.

Second, you can leave your car door unlocked in the church parking lot. Probably other places too (at least in our area), but I would NEVER leave anything unlocked in the Los Angeles area.

Talk about wide open spaces - this pond was in our back yard until we moved last year.
Third, enjoy the outdoors right outside your own door. Living away from large cities makes it possible to be very close to nature no matter where you live. Even though I'm not far from Grand Rapids, there's a lot more “green” (and white in the winter) here than in most parts of Southern California. The development is nowhere near as prevalent in most of the Midwest.

Thanks, Joanne! It was fun to pick your noodle. :)









Thursday, January 27, 2011

Native Midwesterner Lisa Lickel's Impressions of Sunny California

If you've read any of my posts, you know I was born and raised in Southern California, and am now happily living in the Midwest. I got to talking to Lisa Lickel, the brainchild of The Barn Door and an awesome lady, and discovered that she had vacationed in my home state. We both thought it might be fun to interview each other about our experiences with each other's "home turf," if you will.

So...today I present you my interview with Lisa. Check back tomorrow for hers with me!

Joanne: What brought you to California for your visit?
Lisa: My husband's youngest brother, the first PhD in the family, a psych professor at USC, lived in LA for a number of years. We decided to visit. You know, nosey families and all. We invited ourselves, of course.

Joanne: What did you expect California to be like?
Lisa: Warm, dry...I heard it never rains in southern California. I hoped to see movie stars all over.

Joanne: How was it like you expected? How was it different?
Lisa: Well, it was warm. Of course we were visiting in mid-July, but, still…very pleasant. Dry. How was it different? Well, I didn't recognize a single movie star, although my brother-in-law pointed out a few places in the neighborhood where a couple minor stars lived. Brother-in-law lived a block off Hollywood Boulevard, but wasn't into the tourist thing. I think it was a pre-advanced conspiracy between the two of them, and we drove past Grauman's by accident. Seeing the cases of water Brian kept in his apartment was a wake-up call about the threat of earthquakes. I also sort of hoped to have an earthquake – just a little one, while we were there.

Joanne: What did you like best about California?
Lisa: I got a kick out of seeing where Dr. Brian lived and worked. He took us to the USC campus, showed us his office and then we visited the museum across the street for a while. LaBrea Tar Pits, which weren't really touristy, I guess, were awesome. Palm trees, of course. I freely admit I totally rubber-neck touristed along the streets. Those things are so cool. And then there's the whole thing about trimming them so the dried parts don't drift around the streets like corn husks after harvest in Wisconsin. After LA we toured around a bit—San Francisco, Sequoia and Redwoods, King's Canyon and Yosemite. Dr. Brian showed us his favorite haunt around San Francisco, which turned out to be a park overlooking the bay. I saw a late golden California poppy blooming and in Yosemite I plotted my third published novel.

Joanne: What surprised you most about California?
Lisa: Prices. I figured it would be a bit expensive, and it was. Also, the distance between LA and San Francisco. I suppose I acted more like European visitors to the US who haven't a clue how big the US is, but I didn't figure it was so far between those areas. I loved the Redwoods. Again, big in Wisconsin is ginormous in California. So eerie, so beautiful.

Joanne: What thing or things in California would you like to "bring back" to the Midwest?
Lisa: Oh, I don't think anything. Honestly, I love things about both places, and hope to visit again. It's nice to think about being able to visit other places, and just as nice to go home.

Joanne: Do you plan to go back to California? Could you see yourself living there?
Lisa: I'd love to visit California again. We didn't get further south than LA, so I'd love to tour the more southern part, and do things we didn't get to see the first time, and spend more time along the ocean, something we pretty much avoided, unfortunately. Dr. Brian has since moved to New England. Living in California? Well, I could, depending on the circumstances—which would amount to a complete life change. Since I'm, like, almost fifty, that would be quite a shock. I might get another gray hair.

Hope you enjoyed this interview :) I know I did! See you back here tomorrow for Lisa's interview of ME!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

January Blahs

This is me. Well…on the inside, anyway. By this time of year I just want to curl up with a bone and a shoe, heave a great sigh, then lay my muzzle on the rug. I’m done with snow, nostril-freezing winds, and especially finished with idiot drivers who still haven’t figured out that a fast move on an icy street probably isn’t the best idea.
So what’s a girl to do? Read!

If you’re stuck in the same end-of-January slump, here’s a few fantastic journeys you can take with authors I discovered this past year...



The Hourglass Door
by Lisa Mangum

You’ll be sucked in so fast, you’ll feel as if you’ve been pulled through the portal described in the book. Hero Dante is mysterious, intriguing, hunka-hunka handsome, and comes complete with an Italian accent. Yes, there were several times I had to wipe the drool from my chin. Top that off with his gallant, protective, sensitive yet strong personality, and he’s one character that you’d love to meet in real life. I also connected with Abby, the heroine, in a way that didn’t make me feel at all jealous. I became her as I read. And believe me, it’s a rare book that can make a forty-eight-year-old feel like a teenager again.


Shoofly Pie
by Tim Downs

Tim Downs is one of my newest favorite authors. His style is sassy, informative, unexpected. I don't care if is next book is about centipedes, I'll read it, and I won't be able to get my hands on it fast enough. Currently my youngest daughter is reading Chop Shop (the next in the series), but being that I brought her into this world, I can take her out and the book will be all mine, mine, mine!




The Shape of Mercy
by Susan Meissner

Sweet pickled pineapples Batman...I LOVE THIS BOOK! The story, the characters, the theme will stick with me for a long time. Meissner's tale of stigmas and prejudice spans the centuries from the Salem witch trials to today, and she pulls it all off with finesse. I rarely say this, but this is a must read.


If you'd like to see all the books I read last year, visit my Goodreads page.
Happy January reading!


Monday, January 24, 2011

Winter in Minnesota


In case you can't make out the numbers, this is a picture of the thermostat in my backyard. Yes, when I woke up at 7am, it was 20 below zero. Real temperature...not the "real feel" temperature that you hear TV meteorologists talking about. I didn't bother to check on the wind chill because when it's 20 below....does it really matter?

I love Minnesota, but my dream is to live in a warmer climate. I would love to life half of the year in the sun, and then spend the warm months in Minnesota. Unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to work a job around that, but that is the dream.

Recently, I went with my sister and Mom to a popular vacation retreat center in MN. In it's heyday of the 60's and 70's, it was the place to go! They still talk about all the various Hollywood celebrities that flew from California to visit their beautiful grounds. While other vacation hot spots in the area are drawing in the young families with high definition TV's and video game systems, this place now caters to an older crowd, who still remember it's glory days.

As I was looking thru the different classes and amenities, I realized that I could really get into the retreat center life. Exercise Class in the morning, lunch by the pool with your friends, art class in the afternoon, and a lively game of Bingo at night. Yes indeed, I believe I could be a snowbird quite well!

Since I can't fly to a sunny climate, I did the next best thing. Jumped back in my warm bed, and read this email from a friend about winter in Minnesota. Enjoy! ;)


She said...

"I just got off the phone with a friend. She said since early this morning the snow is nearly waist high and is still falling. The temperature is dropping below zero and the north wind is increasing. Her husband has done nothing but look through the kitchen window. She says if it
gets much worse, she may have to let him in."





Sunday, January 23, 2011

Book Review/THE FLEX DIET



IF YOU'RE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING THAT MAKES SENSE:

Ever know in your heart that you could
design your own weight loss
program better than a nutritionist or doctor?
That you understood
your body better than someone else?

I can spit out all the facts to you on low-fat diets,
high-carb diets, low-carb diets,
and shucks, I probably even remember in detail the
Grapefruit, Steak and Egg diet
(lost a bundle on that one and gained it all back plus some).

So why am I still battling weight? Well, for one thing,
I don’t crave grapefruit every day.
And because, until now, no one has given me
good advice on day-to-day living that I can incorporate into
a program of my own.

A REAL lifetime change that will reap the rewards
I’ve wanted for nearly thirty years.
A PROGRAM OF MY OWN???

Absolutely!


Cardiologist, James Beckerman, while caring for a patient,
realized he needed to do more for the patient than
merely patch him up and send him home.
He had to find a REAL SOLUTION to help this man change his life or die.

THE FLEX DIET: Design-Your-Own Weight Loss Plan
by James Beckerman, M.D.
Touchstone Hardcover / Simon & Schuster


I ORDERED MINE ON MY NEW KINDLE-Woohoo!

You say: HO-HUMMMM!
What’s so different?
Hasn’t it all been said?
Why should I try again?

I’ll tell you why, because FLEX is a new approach
that anyone can live with.
LIVE BEING THE KEY.


Try all his suggestions or just one, and you’ll see a
difference in your life. Common sense. Isn’t that what
the old family doctors used to prescribe instead of all the whoop-la?

Common sense solutions to better health.

Dr. Beckerman uses Solutions that offer not only ways to eat,
drink, and exercise that are actually doable,
one Solution,
one pound at a time.
But also, a way to see YOURSELF,
encourage YOURSELF,
talk YOURSELF into getting healthier.

Incorporating all of these, or just some, will allow you to see
a difference in how you view your health, your body,
and the rest of your life, one small step at a time.

IF YOU BUY ONE NEW BOOK THIS YEAR
(and me, a fiction writer)
BUY THE FLEX DIET. See a difference in your life.


Don’t simply spend the rest of your overweight life quoting
diet programs that have failed you, get on board with The Flex Diet and learn
how to change your life without uprooting your life—style!

James Beckerman: As seen on the Today Show and anywhere else you
find cutting edge-no pun intended-contemporary home-run segments,
Dr. James Beckerman is a cardiologist with the Providence Heart and
Vascular Institute in Portland, Oregon. He graduated summa cum laude
from Harvard University and earned his medical degree from
Harvard Medical School. Dr. Beckerman completed his medical training
at Massachusetts General Hospital and Stanford University Hospital.
He serves on WebMD as well.

AND NO, I’M NOT RELATED TO OR INDEBTED TO THE AUTHOR.
I JUST FOUND A GREAT BOOK THAT HAS THE OLD-FASHIONED
COMMON SENSE SOLUTIONS LIKE MY FAMILY DOCTOR USED TO EXPOUSE.

ARE YOU READY TO PUT YOUR NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS
INTO ACTION? YOUR BODY IS YOUR TEMPLE,

TAKE CARE OF IT...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

L.E.S. - Lake Effect Snow




Well, it finally hit. Lake Effect Snow.


Those are dirty words as far as Farmer is concerned. He hates the snow, the cold and all the issues that fall from the sky with the flakes.


We live a few miles east of Lake Michigan. If they are predicting 10 inches at the lake shore we will most likely get 6 to 8 inches and just a few short miles east of us they may receive only 3 to 5 inches.

When I leave work which is about 15 miles from my home I travel through what I call “Weather Weirdness”. This is too often my experience.

I leave the parking lot at work with a dry car, dry parking lot and nary a snowflake in sight.

The first invisible border is about 4 miles into my drive and there I find it snowing with wet roadways.

The next line comes after another 3 to 4 miles and the roads are totally snow covered with the snow blowing and swirling a bit.

With the next boundary I cross into a different world. The roads will be drifting and the wind is blowing.

At the final turn onto my road I enter a different universe. The roads are totally covered, and have drifts across the road in waves. The snow is swirling, blowing sideways and total white outs are common.

There is a quarter mile stretch where the dirt road is low and gets filled quickly. There are no trees or mailboxes along that stretch. That is where it gets tricky to stay on the unseen road.

Many a night on my way home I am white knuckling it and Jesus and I are in close conversation.

Winters can be tough around here. We have had barn roofs collapse even with several guys shoveling their way across the peak. Thankfully no one has been hurt. I think we did have one injured cow.


There hasn’t been anything really close to a blizzard since April of 1982. We had overnight guests that Farmer found stranded on the road.

We came home from a wedding south of us and he was attempting to take one of the guys from the farm, home. There was less snow in the corn field than the road so a new road was created. He finally got him safely home a few miles away and on his way back he found a small car parked in his parent’s driveway. They were basking in the Florida sun at the time. The roads were closing in fast, so he brought the man, his two kids and their neighbor kid back to our house. The man turned out to be one of Farmer’s high school teachers that he hadn’t seen in several years.

I cooked supper and we made a bed on the floor in the extra bedroom for the kids. The dad took the bed. We had a good time entertaining our unexpected stranger guests.

The next morning a while after breakfast the roads were opened and Farmer took him back to his car, pulled it out and sent them on their way.

Another “big snow” year was 1976 when Son #2 was born. We had the road closed for almost a week except for the path down our road that Farmer would plow out daily for the milkman. There have been years when the milkman hired a huge front end loader to travel in front of him going from farm to farm to pick up the milk.

What most people don’t realize is that most farms only have enough storage to hold one day’s milk supply. If you can’t get your milk out of the tank, on to the truck and off to market, you will have to dump the next milking down the drain along with your profits. Remember, the BEBs want to be milked three times a day.




The one thing about the snow lately is its beauty. God has been dusting everything with crystals and then shining the sun on it. 


Martha Stewart with all her glue and glitter has nothing on God.

Check back in a couple of weeks to see what’s been happening on our side of the mitten.

You can follow our regular day-to-day activities at www.randomramblingsof.com.


Also, my book 101 Ways to Celebrate the Ordinary is available at www.randomramblingsof.com. Click on the buy now button and have this great gift book at your door within a week.


Friday, January 21, 2011

The Road Less Traveled

I'm back in Michigan...again. I've traveled a lot the last two months. Both trips (a total of 18 days) were to Las Vegas to visit my family. It's always a good time, but it's also usually inconvenient. I stay with my younger sister, M, but my older sister, C, has the kids. M goes to work at 6:00 am, as does C's husband. C only has one car, so once everyone goes to work, I'm stuck where ever I happen to be. I don't mind getting up early for a 6:00 am trip to C's house, but it's not always convenient for everyone.

The last time I was in Vegas we borrowed my mom's car, and that spoiled me for the rest of my life. Now that I've tasted the sweet freedom of being able to travel between houses at my leisure, I can no longer rely on everyone else. I must rent a car. Sounds simple enough, but there's a catch (isn't there always?).
.
 I found a car rental place near my sister, but the rate was almost $40/day. I didn't have a budget for that. No problem, though. It's Vegas. There are 43,284 car rental places, and I soon found a mid-sized car for $15/day. Problem solved, right?

Not quite.

You may remember from previous posts that I don't like to drive. It's not a phobia. It's not a fear of big cities. I just don't like driving. Period. I'll rework my schedule so that my husband can drive me 10 miles, just because I don't like to do it. I just don't like driving.

That didn't work well when we found the $15/day car, because it was at the airport. Now I can handle driving five miles between my sisters' houses (which are 30 minutes away from the Vegas strip), but my cheap rental car was at the airport - THE AIRPORT!

Did you notice those top two photos? Yeah, that's what driving in Vegas can look like. See this picture on the right here? That's where I live. It's a big enough shock to go from the small town of ER to Vegas, but for a driving-hater to make the jump? I don't think so.

But it goes deeper than my dislike of the pedals. It's much more than the fact that C's housing complex has more cars than my entire hometown. What really freaks me out about driving in Vegas is the fact that I have two sisters, a brother-in-law, and my mom and dad all living in Sin City and NO ONE can agree on how to get anywhere! I'm not kidding - if I ever needed directions, I would get five different answers. The last thing an insecure, nervous driver needs is options.

I did end up renting the car, and I even drove it between family members' houses, but I never got on the freeway. Nope. I made my sisters drive to and from the terminal, along the 215, or the 15, or down Tropicana, or maybe the tunnel. Was that east or west? Just a couple of u-turns and the occasional construction zone. Whatever. I didn't pay attention. I'll stick with two lanes of nature lined 55 mph highway.

QUESTION: Is there anything about traveling that makes you uncomfortable?




Thursday, January 20, 2011

Snowments in Time

This is a poem I wrote a couple years ago. Although it's a fictional piece, it's based on my own struggle with a tendency to put "stuff" before my kids. It's a long one, but I  hope it encourages you to take advantage of every moment. As I (and many of you) have discovered, the years pass much too quickly.

Snowments in Time
by Lynda Schab

Twas a crisp, chilly morning
when I opened my eyes
I moaned and I groaned…
I did not want to rise

I'd rather have stayed
snuggled up in my bed,
but that wasn't an option,
so I rolled out, instead.

We had guests arriving
and the house was a mess!
Today would be spent
preparing for guests.

There were floors to be mopped
and sheets to be changed,
carpets to vacuum,
furniture to arrange.


There were piles of laundry,
toilets to scrub,
and that nasty brown  ring
that circled the tub.


As I trudged past the window,
I squinted outside,
and when I saw what I saw,
I stood there and cried.




The whole yard was covered
in three feet of snow.
Oh please…not today!
No, no, no, no, no, no!

I closed up the curtains
and said a quick prayer
that my kids wouldn't notice
the snow that was there!

They'd want to go out,
but I had no time for fun.
Today was important -
there was work to be done!

But then - there it came…
that loud, piercing squeal,
and I knew I had failed
my attempt to conceal.

My children all ran
to the window with glee.
The only one who looked glum
was poor, pitiful me.


They pleaded and begged
to go play in the snow.
How I wanted to say,
"No problem - just go!"

But they were too little
to go out alone,
which meant that my cleaning
I’d need to postpone.

I sighed and gave in
to the pleas of my four,
and almost got trampled
as they ran for the door.

"Hold on!" I called.
"Get back over here!
Come help me find
all of your winter gear."

We searched high and low
for the scarves and snow suits.
We dug out the mittens,
the hats, and the boots.


It took thirty whole minutes
to completely get dressed,
and when we were finished,
I was ready to rest.

But the kids grabbed my hand
and dragged me outdoors.
And every inch I was thinking
about my dirty floors.

We were out for five minutes
when my youngest son, Scotty,
tugged on my sleeve -
he had to go potty.

Right then, I suspected
as I looked at my son,
that my floors would stay dirty,
laundry wouldn't get done.


My guests would arrive
to toilets unscrubbed.
They would probably notice
the ring in the tub.

But at that single moment,
on that blustery day,
I just didn't care -
I wanted to play.

I tried not to think
of what wouldn't get done
as I frolicked and played
with my kids - oh what fun!

We stopped to eat lunch,
then went back for more.
We built a huge snowman
and a fort with a door!

Freezing and spent,
we finally went in,
took off our wet clothes
and warmed up our cold skin.


I looked at the clock -
only two hours more
before we would hear
that knock on the door.

I went for the broom,
but saw on the way
the message light blinking,
so I paused to push "play."

"So sorry, can't come…"
was all that I heard.
The rest of the message
was all but a blur.

Our guests would not
be arriving today.
I was more than relieved,
though it sounds cruel to say.

There was no need to mop
or vacuum or scrub,
or tackle the ring
that still circled the tub.

But none of that mattered
I learned on that day.
The important thing was
I'd gone out to play.

My house may have sparkled,
been clean and dust-free.
But that can't compare
with such great memories.




The dirt will still be there
as my children grow,
but there won't always be
days to play in the snow.

Now "snowments in time"
I grasp at all cost
before moments to treasure
forever are lost.


--Lynda Schab

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Singing In The Snow




Posted by Elaine Cooper

Everyone in the Midwest knows when a snowstorm is coming. It’s when the parking lots at the grocery store fill up in anticipation of needing food for days of potential snow-boundedness. (My new Iowa word for “I’m being swallowed up by the white stuff!”)

So imagine my surprise and delight recently when a simple trip to pick up survival supplies brought music to my ears—literally.

“Thank you very much,” was sung followed by, “and have a nice day.”

What?? Who is singing? I wondered. I turned from my deadpan, let’s-get-this-shopping-trip-over-with demeanor to a suddenly softened and sighing shopper.

One of the cashiers was SINGING! And I instantly felt a little bit happier because of his soothing tune.

That smile on a customer’s face is the impetus behind singing cashier Bob Borg’s plan to bring music and joy to the mundane task of shopping. What begins as drudgery, quickly becomes uplifting.

It all started a couple of years ago when he jokingly sang out the amount of change to one of his customers.
“People started smiling and I just kept it up. I’m incorrigible,” he said, grinning.

Customers started looking for a jar to leave him a tip.

“I don’t need a tip,” he tells them. “Your smiles are reward enough for me.”

Bob has been surrounded by music his whole life. Raised by parents who were music teachers, he was taken as a child to see musicals like “The Sound of Music,” where the dialogue was often sung. Bob asked his mom why people in real life didn’t do that.

“Well, if you want to, you can,” she told him.

That was apparently all the encouragement he needed to inspire his current career.

Everything gets put to music. “Seven dollars and twenty-nine cents,” he croons. Money never sounded more melodious. The tune is soothing, gentle—a complete reverse from the frantic pace of busy, harried lives.

A calm amidst the storm. Even an Iowa snowstorm.


Praying you have a Joyful January!

Elaine

Monday, January 17, 2011

All Wrapped Up

The college kids were home for the Christmas break and they wrapped up our year and yard for us. LoL. This is what they were doing late on December 30th...

I hope we get to hear their side of the story sometime because we happened to walk out of the house while a car was parked at the end of our driveway! And then we stood in the driveway talking with our guests (who is an older one of the college crew!) for quite awhile and there was far more traffic on our road than usual. Enough that we commented on it and even speculated about the kids being out TP'ing.

They weren't TP'ing--this time, but they sure did a great job of wrapping us, of course. They've had a lot of practice over the years.

Here's our internet dish. Since we were still up and online when they wrapped us, we would've known they were here if we were actually still using this dish for our internet, but lucky for them (and us because that service stunk!) it's simply a yard ornament at this time. Isn't it pretty?

We have a large front yard, so they concentrated their work out there and wrapped the trunks of several trees and one of our light posts. Pretty cool, huh? Jim went out that night after we discovered what they'd done and said the mailbox was great. They had completely wrapped it, but it was so windy that it was all gone before sunrise and I didn't get to see it. Bummer.

I had never heard of wrapping someone before, so our guests explained it to us, and I think that as he explained, his friends (which happens to be the college group my oldest hangs out with when they're not at school) were creeping around our yard, wrapping us. And freezing since it was COLD that night! (hehe.) Not that I would want those poor college kids to freeze or anything. *eye roll*

Later that night, as I did the dishes (have I ever mentioned that I don't like doing dishes at 10:30 at night, even if I DO enjoy visiting with company while they're here? LOL) I felt like I was being watched. I so wish I had gone outside!

The pampas grass was wrapped all around, before the wind blew it down. Not only that, but they had embedded gold tinsel in it. Our cat didn't know whether to like it or not.

When the rolls of wrapping paper were empty, they posted the empty tubes on the car and van antennas, which is what tipped me off to their shenannigans.
Our kitten is an indoor/outdoor cat and just before going to bed I put her out for the night... and saw the empty tube on my car, not even 20 feet from my front door. It made me look around and I couldn't help but laugh. They had wrapped my 15 passenger van which was parked under the yard light up at the barn!

The next morning we found they had even tied a bow on our front door. Wasn't that nice of them? It's still there and it makes me smile.

Oh the things kids do for fun! Maybe they're pretty smart after all.



Ordinary Lives

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Ripe Old Stage

I must be getting old.
After all, my kids are starting to fly the coop and I'm developing a greater affection for Mew, our naughty kitten. Last night I let her sleep on my neck like a starlet's old stole.

Another stage of life.

We used to tease my mother-in-law for her talk of stages. It seemed that whenever one of her nine kids was making a spontaneous decision, changing a relationship, or devising some new scheme, she attributed it to a "stage" they were going through. But life, I've found, really can be dissected into a myriad of various phases, from the having-babies-in-diapers period, to the soccer mom, teen, career, and grand-parenting years, with many micro-stages in between.

I'm so thankful that we were able to raise five kids. I remember the pregnancy years, when annoying relatives or even people in the grocery store, had the nerve to say things like, "Five? What are you trying to do, populate the world?"

Pu-leeease.

This new stage, with my oldest daughter relocating three towns over, my son marrying, another son moving into his own place, another hardly ever home because of work and courtin'... and now even my youngest looking down the road to her own independence in a couple of years, I tell you, it's exciting! It's not that I want them out of the house. Far from it. Seems I'm still feeding all of them a lot. But I sense their yearning for this next step in life's grand adventure, and it's giving me a lot of freedom to pursue my own.

John Denver (whom we'll forgive for not being a Midwesterner) sang, "It turns me on to think of growing old." I'm with him on that. We've got to get over the negative connotations of this getting older thing. Instead of zeroing in on the fact that older age comes with diminishing muscle tone and physical exams that make us shudder -- yeah, there's that -- let's get into the opportunities that these years afford us.


It's not the age, it's the stage. Take it and soar.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Where You Wanna Eat At?

(My title is pure Hoosier. We always end sentences with prepositions here in Indiana.)



This is a room in the Joseph Decuis restaurant that is outside of Ft. Wayne, Indiana in a small town called Roanoke. It not only has fabulous food, it is a true "farm-to-fork" restaurant. They grow their own Wagyu beef (which is done just like Kobe beef in Japan,) as well as many other types of farm grown foods. It's one of only three "Four Diamond" restaurants in the whole state of Indiana. I've been there several times and also stayed at their B &B for our wedding anniversary--fun.






This is a portrait of the real Leon Decuis and Celeste hanging on the wall of the restaurant Joseph Decuis. Quoted from their site: "The Joseph Decuis art program began in 1996 with three objectives: to contribute to the visually stimulating atmosphere of the restaurant for the enjoyment of guests, share contemporary fine art with an appreciative audience, and support the artistic community."

Art and eating; can't beat that with a stick!

My favorite places to eat here in Indiana means I usually have to travel anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour and a half. It's tough to eat out, since I live in the middle of woods,over the river, by a cornfield, by a covered bridge, by a creek, next to a pond (yeah,ok, so it's the mosquitoes who feast around here.)Thus, I'm not really close to any fabulous restaurants. But I love to eat out, when we can. Indiana sweet corn is the BEST ever and we shuck and boil or grill corn on the cob almost every night when it's in season. I also love homegrown Hoosier tomatoes and will eat them by themselves until my mouth is sore. In the spring we feast on morels--that is, if you can find them in your secret 'shrooming spot in your woods. (Guarded by generations of families.)

By winter we are popping all that popcorn we grow here. We have Purdue which tests the corn and finds the best way to grow it, Orville Redenbacher  Popcorn (Orville being a Hoosier born in Brazil, Indiana and had gone to Purdue University,) and Weaver Popcorn, which is just a stone's throw from me. In the winter we like to eat, and it gets difficult to go on a diet come Thanksgiving through Valentine's Day. And then there are all of our festivals held throughout the year but really hot (as in hoppin' hot) in the summer through fall. Indiana has to be the festival capital of the nation! Seriously. If you can't find something to eat at one of our festivals, then you just aren't trying.

I think on all the food I love to eat about this time every year. The reason being is that I am stuck in the house with my 100-book cookbook collection and I'm writing, which seems to make me munch more, and then I feel guilty and decide I need to cut back the feed bag and lose a few pounds. (Can you hear me sighing from here as I write a run-on sentence just thinking about it?)

I'm serving as the American Christian Fiction Writers Indiana Chapter vice president this year. One thing I know about writers, they always want to meet where there is food. Our chapter typically has lunch and then we talk shop. I'll be meeting with board members this month at Cracker Barrel because at Cracker Barrel they don't mind if you sit there a few hours while you have notebooks all over the table.

I can't leave this topic without talking about our Ivanhoe's in Upland, Indiana. Your editors know about Ivanhoe's. Some of your agents know about Ivanhoe's. Taylor University is just down the street in this very small town and it's home to the Professional Writing Program led by Dr. Dennis E. Hensley. Many authors you know have journeyed to this place and ended up at...Ivanhoe's.


Boy, do they have some of my favorite items! I love their homemade strawberry shortcake with soft-serve ice cream in the spring/summer. In the fall they have a pumpkin pie milkshake that is delish. And I love their fruit plate/chicken salad, the tenderloins, soup in a bread bowl and hamburgers. You really can't go wrong with anything on their menu. Taylor students have been known to return to TU and make a trip to Ivanhoe's because it's so good. And there is a 100-items milkshake and sundae list that challenge people to eat their way through that list. A few bottomless pit stomaches--er, I mean, I mean sundae-lovers, have won the honors of making it through the entire list and their names go on the wall. I know of one Indiana author, Rachael Phillips, who is trying to eat her way through that sundae list--all in the name of research for a book. Rough work if you can get it.

So, where you wanna eat at? I'm in!





Crystal Laine Miller, brainstorming where to eat at

P.S. Come on over to the Book Loft here in the Barn to read interviews and thoughts from Jeff Gerke of Marcher Lord Press--Click and Go!





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