Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Some Surprises are Wonderful

Our children left for a two year commitment to serve in Haiti in January 2012.

When we took the little family to the airport in Detroit, we had no idea when we would see them again.
And we rejoiced when we were able to coordinate with International Faith Missions last month and schedule a visit.
The Children's home is now a memory we won't forget.
Our son using the first-aid station kept on his front porch.
Patients with more serious conditions waiting to see the doctor on call at the clinic at the IFM compound.
When we left our children behind in Haiti, once again, we did not know when we would see them again.
Sunday 7-29-2012 they surprised their congregation with a 4 day trip home.

Some surprises are wonderful!

What blessing has God brought into your life lately?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Dessert or Salad?

I was telling my friend about this new recipe, and told her it was a great salad to bring to a party.

As I was telling her the recipe..she started laughing, and said,

"So, it's really not a salad, it's a dessert!"

I don't know if it's a Midwestern thing, but it's definitely a Minnesota tradition.

We love to bring salad's to get togethers! Plus, as well all know, salad is healthier.

And if it has Cool Whip in it...all the better!

Here are a few of my favorite "salads!"  I'll let you  be the judge!

Orange Fluff Salad


Mix 1 large box of instant vanilla pudding with 1 cup of milk. Fold in a tub of Cool Whip and a can of drained Mandarin oranges. Chill until ready to serve. Then crumble a row of Keebler Fudge Stripe cookies, and sprinkle on top.

Snicker Apple Salad


Cut up 6-8 red and green apples. Then chop up 1 large snicker bar. Fold in one tub of Cool Whip.

What are some of your favorites?

Michelle Strombeck

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympic Fever

I’m coming down with a bad case of Olympic Fever. It’s a cyclical condition which occurs, without fail, every other year. The only cure is to watch copious hours of Olympic coverage.

I first contracted the virus in 1972. My parents, television-phobic in general, must have been bitten by the same bug, because we all sat in front of the TV for two solid weeks. We held our collective breath when Mark Spitz went for his 7th gold medal. I broke out with crushes on Mark, a marathon winner paradoxically named Frank Shorter, and Dave Wottle and his golf cap.

My heart skipped when a tiny Russian gymnast named Olga Korbut did things with gravity unheard of outside space walks. Painkillers couldn’t numb the anguish when our US men’s basketball team had victory snatched away forcibly by (I was convinced) corrupt officials and communist Russia. I pleaded delirium when I threw a book at the TV.
When terrorists assassinated the Israeli team I ached with the rest of the world. The image of a kidnapper on the balcony, features blurred by a stocking mask, is seared in my spirit as indelibly as Spitz’s shining gold medals.

My symptoms are worsening this week. I check the calendar to see if any social engagements can be switched during the crucial 17-day incubation period. I bemoan our lack of a DVR. I stock up on coffee to watch late night/early morning coverage and I check the London extended forecast.

Cheering for the USA doesn’t preclude appreciation for the amazing sacrifice and dedication of young athletes from around the world. For two and a half weeks I, along with fevered fans around the world, will cheer and cry. We’ll wish this world– a world with political differences set aside for the clean joy of running faster and jumping higher and hurtling further–could last long after the closing ceremonies are over and the torch extinguished.

But those of us who remember the tragedy-stained triumphs of the 1972 Olympics know that, at best, this is just a foretaste. One day the disease of bitterness and base rivalry between all nations and all people will be cured for all time.

Let the games begin!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Golden Rule

We have committed the Golden Rule to memory, let us now commit it to life.
-Edwin Markham

Like all siblings, my sisters and I would squabble.  Every day events could ignite a raging conflict. It is my turn to sit in the front seat!  I did the dishes last night. It is your turn! Why do I always have to walk the dog?  Yes.  We could argue about almost anything.

If my memory is accurate, my parents and grandparents were often able to redirect our behavior with this simple sentence: Don't forget The Golden Rule.

In the fifties and sixties, it seemed that everyone embraced The Golden Rule.  Bullying wasn't the problem that it is today. Most of us knew and believed that we should "do unto others" exactly that which we would want done to ourselves. Just the mention of The Golden Rule stopped me in my tracks as I was plotting revenge on a sister.

This simple line of thinking served as a culturally accepted boundary.

I love The Golden Rule.  I think it is the secret to loving, healthy relationships.

This principle comes from the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the greatest moral, religious and relational teaching of all time.  As I have read and re-read Matthew 5 through 7 over the past few weeks, I have discovered that I do not disagree with one word of Jesus' famous sermon.

No one can dispute one word of His teachings.

In the wake of recent national tragedies, I am concerned about the spiritual and relational condition of our country.  I am saddened that we rarely hear anyone mention The Golden Rule or The Sermon on the Mount.  It seems we have also lost our appreciation for the Ten Commandments and the 23rd Psalm.  What about The Beatitudes or The Lord's Prayer?

Passages that once were the well-worn and well-loved truths of the Christian faith, as well as guardrails for our society, seem to have disappeared from our teaching and conversation.

Perhaps, it is time for a revival of The Golden Rule, The Ten Commandments and The Sermon on the Mount. Surely it is time to be comforted by the picture of the tender shepherd of the 23rd Psalm.

Whether we live in the Midwest or the Northeast, just imagine what our communities would be like if we really did begin to treat others the way we would want to be treated.

How would we all be transformed if we expressed the same compassion to friends, neighbors or even acquaintances that we hunger for ourselves?

I think I'll take some time to sit on my patio, watch the hummingbirds as they visit the hibiscus and thoughtfully consider Jesus' matchless words in Matthew 7:25. " So, in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

How can you make The Golden Rule or The Sermon On The Mount a part of your daily conversation?  

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Legend--Or Not--of Herr Gessler

by Sandra Heska King

They say it's only a legend.

But some believe it's true.

That the national hero of Switzerland, William Tell, really lived.

The story (or at least one of the stories) goes that he was a Swiss mountaineer. Strong and tall and brave, and he was an expert with the crossbow. He lived in the canton of Uri during the 13th or 14th century.

Hermann Gessler, a cruel Austrian ruler, hung his cap on a high pole in the marketplace in the village of Altorf. He demanded that everyone who passed bow down before it.

One day William and his young son passed through the square, but William refused to bow to the hat. This act enraged Herr Gessler, and he envisioned others following suit, and he would lose control. So he ordered William and his son executed, but because he was fascinated with William's fame as a marksman, he told him he could redeem his life by shooting an apple off his son's head.

The boy stood still and firm because he had faith in his father.

William split the apple in half with a single shot.

When Gessler asked William why he had removed two bolts from his quiver, William explained that if he had failed and killed his son, he would have turned the second bolt on Gessler himself.

That ticked Gessler off, of course, so he arrested William and tossed him on a ship to be imprisoned in the castle dungeon. A storm arose on the lake, and the terrified soldiers released William so he could steer the ship with his famed strength.

William managed to jump overboard and escaped. He ran cross country to the area of the castle, and when Herr Gessler arrived, he assassinated him with the second bolt. That sparked a Swiss uprising that eventually defeated the Austrians and led to Switzerland's independence.

Some stories leave out the part about Gessler being killed. And really, what was William doing with his bow while he was bound in a boat?

The truth is that Herr Gessler got away. I know this because I've seen him. I see him every July. I saw him just last week.

He hides out in Gaylord, Michigan, and tries to wreck the annual Alpenfest (now pushing 50 years.) He demands silence and that everyone bow down to his hat. The only way to get rid of him is to join together to sing Edelweiss, the song named after the white flower that grows in the alps.

By the way, the edelweiss was apparently adopted as a Swiss national symbol in the 19th century, and I found this little tidbit about it here.

Did you know that the edelweiss is not really a flower as such, but a set of 500 to a thousand tiny florets grouped in several heads (between 2 and 10 of them) surrounded by 5 to 15 white velvety leaves, that it is fertilised by flies, or that it originally comes from the Himalayas and was practically unknown until the late 19th century?

Interesting how something so beautiful can be fertilized by something as filthy as a fly.

Oh, here's another thing. It's scientific name, Leontopodium alpinum, literally means "alpine lion's paw."

But I'm sidetracked.

Because now I'm thinking about flies and standing firm and faith in our Father and redemption and the cross and apples and things being split and lions and overcoming evil with song.

Speaking of which, here's another song to the tune of Edelweiss. Maybe you'll recognize it.

Alpenfest happens again next year July 16-20. But if you want to see Herr Gessler, you have to be there for the opening celebration before he's chased out of town again.

And just for fun. Here's a handful of photos from our week.

Sissy and I and our other "mom" at the Honors Luncheon

What I looked like a bazillion years ago

Nancy and her alphorn

Thursday, July 26, 2012

10 Things I Won't Say to My Children Anytime Soon...

….Why waste all that time, all those hours, all that toothpaste brushing your teeth?

…Nevermind we adults are exactly like you, we are just grown-up kids.
…Don’t you want to get up later?  I admit I've just been jealous of your sleeping in.

…Please quit hogging the dog, you never let me have a turn to take care of Marshmallow.

…It turns out we don’t all have to learn how to play the piano, I apologize for all those long lessons.

…Your brother actually played thousands more video games than you do, so go for it.

…I'm so tired of the beautiful multi-color sweet smelling rose garden at the park, let’s go home.

…Let’s forget the dirt bike ride on nature mountain trail and just watch television all weekend.

…I think traveling 60,000 miles to eat at Burger King was worth the trip, don't you dad?

...I'm so very sorry for living my life through you, just because I wanted to play the violin and be a lifeguard.

by Cheryl Moeller, mom of 6, who once found and sold large worms with her eldest son to fishermen.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Looking For A Cheap Vacation???

Who isn’t? A ticket to Disney World costs $94.79...and that’s for only one person. I don’t know about you, but my piggy bank currently doesn’t have that many pennies jingling around in it.

Still, hubby needs to get away from work. I need to get out of the house. And the kids NEED time away from video games, texting and Facebook. So what’s the solution?

If you live in the Midwest, there’s a great little getaway in northern Minnesota called the BWCAW…that’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It’s a memory-making getaway that ought to fit any budget.

The BWCAW is a unique area located in the northern third of the Superior National Forest in northeastern Minnesota. It's over 1 million acres in size and extends nearly 150 miles along the U.S. Canadian border. There are over 1200 miles of canoe routes, 12 hiking trails and over 2000 designated campsites.

What It Costs

The cost is $16 per adult and $8 per kid. For more detailed info on cost (such as a season pass or senior discount), click here.

How It Works

You obtain a permit by registering for one here. You can stay as long as you like, but this is the wilderness. You’ll have to carry in everything you need and carry out all your garbage.

You’ll either need to own or rent a canoe.  A tent and sleeping bag are nice as well. There are plenty of outfitters willing to rent everything you need if you don’t happen to own all the gear.

And before you freak out, let me assure you…though this is wilderness camping at it’s finest, I didn’t see (or hear) one bear. I saw loons and chipmunks, but the wildest animal I encountered was a pack of foxes crossing the road as we were driving out to go home.

So all you do is put your gear in your canoe and paddle away to an open camp site. There are many different lakes and campsites to choose from. To get from lake to lake, you can paddle from one to the other on some, but on others you need to portage. Portage simply means take the canoe out of the lake and carry it for a ways then set it down in a new body of water.

Then let the fun begin!

Things To Do
Me & Hubby

  • Put on your inner native and paddle a canoe like nobody’s business
  • Explore one of the many small islands and discover places that seriously look like Hollywood movie sets
  • Eat s’mores over a campfire
  • Park yourself on a large rock, bring a book, and relax with the call of the loon in the background
  • Fish
  • Swim
  • Unplug from technology (though, to be honest, my hubby still managed to get cell phone service and check his e-mail if he climbed to one of the higher areas).
  • And for even more ideas, click here.

Camping is quickly becoming a lost art. Perhaps this is the reason the ranger told us permit numbers are down. Do yourself, your family, and the future of wilderness camping a favor and schedule a trip to the BWCAW soon.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Backyard Drama In the Heat of the Night

One of the thrills of summer is the opening of the evening blooming primroses, Oenothera biennis.

You can roll your eyes, if you want to. I know I did when my Mom asked me to stop by and see them. The sheer number of people showing up on her lawn at dusk changed my mind. Neighbors and family members dragging friends, drinks, and lawn chairs to Lu’s yard to wait for the unfurling.

 Adults exclaim, “Look there!” Little children dance from one stalk to another. They watch one bloom, see another long bud vibrate, fatten like a caterpillar, glance at it, and the first is already open. Pretty soon the other bud looks alive as if exiting a cocoon that turns into a pinwheel.

After focusing on how a single flower unfolds, it’s better to sit back and get the full effect like a continuous explosion of color. It's as if hundreds of yellow butterflies are fluttering.

The blooms are temperamental divas, opening earlier on gray days or in the heat and humidity. If the weather is cool, they stall until darkness has completely fallen. Each flower only lasts one night, wilting in the bright sun the next day. An overcast or cool day can extend the blossoms’ lives almost to the next show time.

“How many last night?” is a frequent question everyone from out-of-state relatives to the mailman asks. It's so frequent that years ago, she started recording the count. The flowers are easier to remove when they’ve dried in the afternoon, but early morning Mom pinches them off, turning her nails black. The plant loves the heat and normally gives a better crop during July when it’s the hottest. This year the count peaked in June at 1,986. After the temperature hit 100 degrees regularly, my 91-year-old mother wisely stayed indoors.
How did this all start? My mother explains, “About 20 years ago, my next door neighbor got some from a friend. They didn’t do well for him, but the ones he gave me did. I've got all good topsoil because this was farmland when we first moved here in 1941 and there wasn’t another house in sight. (We even had to walk a block to our mailbox. Now we’re far inside the city limits, neighbors on every side.) I don’t fertilizer them or do anything special. They grow even in the gravel driveway. Some years there aren’t many, some years they’re plentiful. When they’re done blooming for the season, I pull them up by the roots, like cornstalks. The next year’s flowers come from seeds, not roots. They have pods that grow, dry, split, and the seeds fall out. They’re tiny, itty-bitty, flat seeds. But you have to drop them in the fall so that during the winter and the early spring they root.”

 To see a 1:03 minute video of a bud blooming go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiODdt8l108&feature=related  or type in evening blooming primrose.

I only wish they had a long range view for the full effect.

Mary Allen writes from Northwest Indiana. Here she poses with her mother in a patch of evening blooming primrose. Mary thinks the brightest flower in this garden is the one wearing pink. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Wisconsin-in-the-Summer Poem

A Hunt for the Hidden by Lori Lipsky

Search down the river

Gaze across the lake

Up in green tree tops

Out on a branch

Hunt for the hidden

On the rocks

in the sky

Unexpected beauty

Passes by

The ladies of our book club climbed aboard one member's boat on a summer day. Our journey took us across Lake Waubesa, through Upper Mud Lake, and down the Yahara River. The sites were splendid. There's nothing like a water view. 

photo credit: Anita Klumpers, a.k.a. the Prude, took these photos along the way.


Find more of Lori's poetry on the Poetry Patio

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sweet Corn...Sweet Yumminess

For many years a farming family has planted a field of sweet corn for the church members. Since Gene died over a year ago, and since we are in drought, no one expected corn this year. Somehow, in the midst of acres of dry field corn the sweet corn survived.

We are abundantly blessed! 
And it was some of the very best sweet corn I've ever tasted! 
A huge thank you to the McClerren family.

My crew was invited to help pick...at 5:30 in the morning. They were sent home with buckets of corn.

We do things as a family. Many hands make light work--especially when there's many mouths to feed. LoL.

My husband knows the value of tools and has made sure I have helpful tools for my kitchen. Like a food slicer--which I might add has been used a LOT this summer.

Another favorite use for the slicer?
It makes fast work for slicing cukes for pickling.

By the time he was done cutting corn off the cobs, there were two buckets of cobs!

And lots and lots of corn.

I grew up using a pressure cooker, so I used one to do a variation of blanching the corn. It was much faster--especially since we used a turkey cooker burner which was outside.

Once all was said and done, we had 17 quarts ready for the freezer.

And that was just from the first round.
We had two days of doing corn.

Can you say yumminess for the coming winter?

Even the newest member of our family, Junior, got into working on the corn. He loves sweet corn just as much as we do. LoL. That's one smart kitten!  =)

So tell me, have you had any sweet corn yet this year?

Finding the Extraordinary God in our Ordinary Lives

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Modern Pioneer - Transition part 2

Modern Pioneer—Transition from City Feller to Country Boy
(Part 2)
by Boyd Sutton

There was only one other homestead on the mountain when they first moved there.

He learned quickly what it might have been like for the early pioneers moving westward, some peeling off to settle along the way. The entire eleven acres they bought was covered by large trees, mostly oak, many hickory, a few maple, lots of dogwood, and plenty of mountain laurel, with wild azaleas mixed in. He and his good friend, Mike, worked weekends to clear the path from the front road about one-third into the eleven acre patch using only a chain saw and hand axe. Mike said he ate enough bologna sandwiches to last a lifetime. They remained friends, continued working together, and carpooled for nearly 20 years.
Later, when construction of the house began, he set up a pop-up camper in a small clearing and lived up there—fifty miles from where his wife and two daughters stayed in their home in the suburbs—and commuted to work each day. He’d stop at Mike’s home, 20 miles closer to Washington, to shower and put on work clothes, then the two of them would continue into work together. At the end of each day, he’d drop his friend off, continue on to his mountain home, and put in a couple more hours of hard work on the house.

They’d hired a contractor to put in the foundation, then another one to build the outer shell of the house, complete with siding and roofing. That left a hollow shell with sub-flooring and stud-walls. Inside, he worked on wiring, rough plumbing, flooring, cabinets, and finish work. There were also more trees to clear to create an open space for the drain field. That took most of the first year they owned the property.

Every large tree cut down was painful—twice. First, they’d always loved trees and it pained them to cut down large oaks, hickories, and maples. Second, from the work it took to limb the trees and get the stumps out. The only clear-cutting was for the driveway, for the house’s foundation, and for the drain field. They saved as many trees as possible. It’s okay to call them tree-huggers. It still pains them to see a tree cut down.

They contracted for a “package” home—one of those deals where all of the home’s components were included, but the owner had to contract for putting them together. The end product was a completed house, including flooring, appliances, and so on. It’s called “sweat equity.” The original price was low and the owners put a lot of sweat into completing it. In the end, they owned a finished home with a lot of equity and very little left to pay the bank.

They were young and brave—and foolish. Though they got it done, at the end, both said “never again!”

About the author:
Boyd spent his youth overseas with his family, moving frequently throughout Europe and the Middle East. A graduate of Pennsylvania Military College (now Widener University), the Program for Senior Executives in Government at Harvard University, and the National War College, he retired from the Senior Intelligence Service in 1997. He spent 11 years in the U.S. Army and 26 in the Central Intelligence Agency. He and his wife of 44 years now live on what used to be her family’s farm near Siren where their life is enriched (and controlled) by two horses, two dogs, a cat, acres to mow, fences to maintain, gardens and flower beds to weed, ...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Rain on Me

My pastor challenged us last Sunday with an assignment. Find and record instances of God’s goodness in your life every day this week.
So here it goes:
  • ·         60 seconds of rain dumped on our house, no one else believed me.
  • ·         My sister-in-law announced that they will be moving back to MI after 5 years in VA.
  • ·         Free time meant writing time was a bonus; a chapter I’d struggled with is written; words were put to document for a collaborative project (my portion is long overdue).
  • ·         I was ill, buried under blankets in my stifling hot room, shivering. Hubby came in, tenderly soothing the aching muscles and joints with a damp cloth.
  • ·         Looking like it wants to rain. Feeling quite warm. Temps due to drop, relief for my hubby.
  • ·         It’s RAINING!!! Hurray! Praying for those who’ve got crops relying on this for survival.
  • ·         Friends at work insist my van needs a break from all the wear and tear put on it. Because of the serpentine belt’s tendency to slip off its wheels whenever it rains, those friends can know God has heard and answered their request. The van has the day off.
  • ·         Payday! I get to pay a bill or two.
  • ·         Looking forward to Saturday’s writer’s workshop when I get to see other writers I’ve missed.
  • ·         Waiting in anticipation for this day because of fellowship with other writers, great instruction, and a day spent with an amazing friend.

Showers of blessing, abundance, and joy are readily available if I’ll look out the window and see.

It's been a pleasure to share with you.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Visiting Family in Haiti

A couple of weeks ago, Husband and I took a granddaughter with us and traveled to Haiti to visit family.
I struggled to chose a few pictures to tell the story. Our son, with the agreement of his family has committed to serve International Faith Ministries in Haiti for two years. We visited them at their 6 month mark. This is the typical time when missionaries have to fight discouragement. When they wonder if they can ever make a difference. 
So near the end of our trip we took them to a resort in Haiti on the Caribbean Sea. Our son and his wife are pictured to my right with their three children  and a cousin.

Granddaughter Emmi and I talking to the Creole language instructor who taught our son and family the bit of Creole they know.
 Daughter-in-Love took me to the market where we shopped for fabric for her. I hoped to sew while there. I did sew her one dress and a skirt for each of her daughters, but ended up bringing some of the fabric home. I will have to ship the sewn items back to her.
 After we purchased fabric, we found the notions we needed.
The night before we left, Emmi got Haitian braids to bring home to the USA. I think they were her best souvenir of the trip.

We are still processing this trip. We were warned what to expect, but previous trips to other third world counties did not prepare us for the life our family lives daily. It was good for us to go. These pictures show what we expected. Like I said we are still processing the rest of the 500 plus pictures husband took.

Please pray for Haiti and for the missionaries there that they can hold out under extreme discouragment. I cannot say more at this time.

Until next time. . . Sharon A Lavy


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