Monday, November 25, 2013

Celebrate Good Times

A reason to celebrate. What does that mean? It’s a real “up” word, celebrate. My big honking dictionary explains it this way.

Celebrate – To praise or honor publicly; to extol.

Hmm – we don’t use words like extol very much anymore, do we? But I like the idea of celebrating something publicly and that’s what Giving Thanks Day is all about. We have a reason to celebrate and there’s the private and the public aspect when it comes to Thanksgiving. So here’s my breakdown.

Men – Around here Thanksgiving Day is pretty much their favorite celebration because so little is required of them besides a hearty appetite and skill with the remote control. No shopping or gift giving for these guys. Nope. A day off for food, sports and storytelling. Plus leftovers. What could be better?

Women – One monster meal cooked and then - off for 4 days. “You want dinner? There’s turkey left so go make us a sandwich.” This is especially true for women who put on their armor and battle the dark forces of Black Friday. I’m not one of them, but I understand. Yes, I do.

Kids – No school! For 4 days!

God – So happy to have created a people who celebrate everything He’s given them.  So pleased that they fill the churches to sing “We Gather Together” and then wish each other a Happy Thanksgiving. “We’ll be heading to Aunt Clara’s. Bobbies just home, too. He loves the Navy.” “I’m doing the pies and thanks for the recipe!” He just grins and grins about stuff like this. The public acknowledgment and extolling of His provision for us all is evident here. Nice.

Turkey – Thrilled to be able to . . . hey! Wait a minute. Can anybody think of why a turkey should celebrate? Me neither. I only have this to say. Wouldn’t you rather be sitting on a lovely heirloom platter, all browned up like a Florida sun worshiper than hauled home to a family of drooling foxes who don’t even use the best silver to carve you up? C’mon now.

So get out there and extol and honor the God who gives, the people who cook, the day of rest and eating, and the sacrifice of the great hoards of turkeys, potatoes, pumpkins, and cranberries that gave up their lives for you. They deserve it.

Happy Giving Thanks!

Image: Free Digital Photos

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What do they call you?

“She didn’t really want to be a grandmother,” he said of his wife.

I looked at him as he chuckled slightly. We were sitting at coffee hour, munching away, discussing what our grandchildren call us. Before they could pronounce a true “gr” sound, I was Damma. I don’t know how the “d” got in there, but at least three of them called me that. I loved it. They were recognizing who I was in that one simple, mispronounced word. The transition to Grandma was just as delightful.

But I smiled at my friend. “My mom was the same,” I said. “She would have liked her grandkids to call her Elaine.” With the first few anyhow.

Mom was in her early forties when she first became a grandmother. I guess vanity played a role – it does that. It speaks to aging. Hello? We all do it. Can’t be avoided. So why not embrace all the wonderful things aging brings? Like insight and wisdom. Like perspective. Like the ability to laugh at ourselves and to realize how true it is that time heals. Like grandchildren.

I was 50 when our first grandchild, Elaina, was born. Yup, her name is a derivative of my mom’s and I think that pleased her. By the time Elaina was born Mom had scads of grandchildren so I guess some wisdom and the sheer delight of being around the energetic young swung the balance in their favor. Hooray for that!

We’re up to six now. They range in age from 3 to 15. Every one is a gift. Every one has his or her charms and – um – their not so charms. ?? Okay, I couldn’t figure out a word that wouldn’t incriminate. They can be a trial at times. But that’s all part of the game. The lovely, life affirming, hilarious and necessary way we go on. It has only a little to do with aging and in such a good way – if we let it.

If any of you are an aficionado of old songs, think of this one, but put whatever your grandkids call you into the first line. The song? Let Me Call You Sweetheart.

Let me call you Grandma,
I’m in love with you,
Let me hear you whisper
That you love me, too.

It’s just fine with me if they call me Grandma. I waited a half century to hear it and I whisper "I love you" every chance I get.  

Photo: My sister, Shari, me and our youngest granddaughter, Sierra, at her baptism party a few years ago.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Life With the Queen

Some of you may have seen this picture on Facebook of Sister Agnes – our come to stay stray. She’s graced us with her presence for about two weeks and she’s brought to mind other cats we’ve owned and one other we’ve rescued. Suddenly all things cat are coming back to me now  and – oh – let me count the ways.

Attitude – Or maybe I should say “cattitude”. There’s a reason the Egyptians worshiped the feline. I’ve yet to meet one that didn’t have a bit of regal bearing. As if, after God created Adam and Eve and said, “It is good,” He created the cat and said, “It is better.” And like Queen Nefertiti, who would dismiss her slaves with the flick of a bejeweled hand, the cat does the same with her tail. No jewels, but then, superior beings don’t need them.

Fastidiousness – Even Agnes, who was starving out in the wild – is fussy about her food. This came sharply home to me as I wandered the cat food aisle at Hannaford. Others were there, bending down, squinting at labels, reaching way back for the last can of Ocean Delight – this week’s rage among cats and harder to get than Red Sox tickets (I don’t know why I wrote that – I have no clue about tickets). Anyway, I want to go along the aisle handing out tissues to fellow sufferers whispering, I know, I know. And then to myself, What will you eat this week? What, Agnes, what??

Comfort Zone – James Herriot in his wildly popular (from a while back) book series, All Creatures Great and Small, notes that cats, of all the animals, know best where to find the places of maximum comfort. How right he was! So far Agnes has found my lap to be her favorite spot (covered with a fine Woolrich blanket), but when I’m not there, she manages rather well tucked into the corner of the gold love seat or curled up on the super soft yellow fleece baby blanket that’s supposed to be for our son’s dog.

Barfing – The other day I saw it just in time. The cat barf on the stairs as I was going up. The next day in a great, great hurry and not wanting to mis-step I gabbled to myself as I went down, “please no barf, please no barf,” and felt strangely thankful when there wasn’t any. What’s up with that???? My life was so simple before.

Our reward for putting up with Sister Agnes? The occasional grateful rub against the legs and a deeply contented purr that lets us know we’re appreciated. Somehow that seems like enough.

We couldn’t ask much more from the superior being who has come to live with us.

PS: Her nun- like qualities are the reason for her name. Look at her. Would you misbehave in her presence? Right after I took this picture she arched an eyebrow and I felt compelled to clean up that bit of dirt on the baseboard. Sheesh.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The First Time

Okay, now, don’t get excited. Despite what “first time” usually brings to mind I’ll have none of that for this post. No, what I’m thinking of are all the first times throughout history that have influenced how we function now.

For instance.

Think of the guy who waded into the ocean and spotted a lobster. Wow, he must have thought, look at that big bug – right there in the water! So he gets his brave up and grabs for it.  The lobster, having a brain the size of a nit and who would never win in a race with a sloth, let’s itself be scooped up and examined. Our guy flips the lobster this way and that, claws flying and antennae swingin’and immediately thinks, Wow, I just want to pop this thing into my mouth right now!

Yeah, right, me too.

Tobacco. Big fat leaves, kind of stinky. Some farmer notices it growing in the Boohaw Basin of Northern Immo (a fictional place, people) and says to himself, Wow, I think I’ll dry this stuff, roll it up, set fire to the end and put it into my mouth. Then I’ll inhale. I’ll be the envy of the whole Boohaw Basin. Everyone will want to do this!

Uh, huh.

And who was the genius who saw a wild horse thundering across the plains, rearing to the height of a small skyscraper, screaming through teeth the size of piano keys and thought – Wow, I’d love to get on that things back and have a little ride for myself.

It wasn’t me, sister.

I suppose the catalyst for a lot of these first times and Wow moments was need. Such as – Eww, my arm pits really stink or Man, am I tired of beating these clothes on a rock, or Boy, that wooly mammoth looks a lot warmer than me, doesn’t he, Grog? Grog? Put the remote down and listen to me!

If these thoughts hadn’t bounced around in someone’s head we wouldn’t have deodorant, washing machines or leather jackets so I’m going with need. Hunger for the lobster and getting around town for the horse. Tobacco? Still workin’ on that one.

What firsts have you pondered lately?

Image: criminalatt                                             Free Digital Photos

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Okay, I'm inflicting a poem on you again. With the changing of the seasons I get all poetic. I like the way rhyming poetry reads and that's primarily where I go when the mood is on me. I do veer off now and then, but this one's a rhymer. It's short, but I do hope it evokes the month for you. 

By Susan Sundwall

November enters unadorned
stripped of her autumn cloak,
with maple leaves and acorns
all scattered near the oak.

And deep within those darkening folds
lay remnants of a golden past,
the dying year and winter’s gall
now coming on a bit too fast.

Then tumbling from her bounteous store
comes seed to wanton earth,
and in the iron winter waits
til’ spring invites re-birth.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, November 11, 2013

Karen Lange's New Book

I’m so excited to be a part of Karen Lange’s blog tour! Her new book, Homeschool Co-ops 101, has just been published and it’s a winner. Congratulations, Karen!

homeschool co-ops 101

Essential co-op tools, tips, and options for today’s homeschool families. Thinking about joining or starting a homeschool co-op? Not sure if a co-op is a good fit? Homeschool Co-ops 101 weighs the pros, cons, and creative options available for today’s homeschool family.

  • Section 1 includes essential, digestible info on co-op ingredients such as planning and organization, schedules, teaching, finances, and addressing conflict and burnout.
  • Section 2 shares a sampling of co-op games and activities, and
  • Section 3 contains five hands-on unit studies. These ready to use studies include lessons on Leonardo da Vinci, Birds of Prey, Public Speaking, Tall Tales, and Creative Writing, and are suitable for co-op or home use. This section also includes unit study guidelines that are easily customized to suit any topic.
  • Section 4 offers suggested books, curriculum, and other resources.
Karen Lange has gathered insight from years of co-oping and now shares her own and others’ experiences in this valuable and encouraging handbook.

Homeschool Co-ops 101 is available at:
karen lange

About the Author Karen Lange, her husband, and three children were active in co-ops during their sixteen-year homeschool journey. Her experience includes serving as a local homeschool support group coordinator and consultant for a state homeschool network in New Jersey. Karen’s children have since graduated, and she is now a freelance writer and online writing instructor for homeschooled teens. You can connect with
homeschool co-ops 101Karen at her Blog, on Twitter, and Facebook.

Blog Tour Schedule
November 4 ~Ruth Schiffman, ~Robyn Campbell,
November 5 ~Carol Alexander,
~Diane Estrella,
November 6 ~Gena Mayo,
~Marja Meijers,
November 7 ~Sandie Crozek,
~Melissa Brander,
~Cecelia Lester,
November 8 ~Susan Reinhardt,
~Cecelia Lester,
November 10
~Laura V. Hilton,
~Melissa & Tiffany,
~Janette Dolores,
November 11 ~Susan Sundwall,
~Michelle Isenhoff,
November 12 ~Carol Alexander,
~Jeanette Levellie,
November 13 ~Susanne Dietze, ~Sherryl Wilson,
~Anne Payne,
November 14 ~Rhonda Schrock, ~Abi Buening,
~Amber Schamel,
November 15 ~Crystal King, ~Barb Winters,
~Tyrean Martinson,
November 16
November 17 ~Amada Chavez,
~Cindi Clubbs,
~Rebecca Boerner,
November 18
~Carlene Havel,
~Cindy Loven,
November 19
~Karen Loethen,
~Amy Smith,
November 20
~Darlene Arroyo-Lozada,
November 22
~Sarah Bailey,
~Thumb Updown,
December 2
~Jennifer Shirk,
~Ticia M.,
My Review

Right from the beginning, with a simple explanation of what a homeschool co-op is, and through to the end where we find practical ideas for activities, this book will be an invaluable aid to families who have chosen home schooling. Ms. Lange addresses various concerns from her own experience as a homeshooler and puts your mind at ease. She knows what she’s talking about. She knows what relatives say and she knows how difficult it can be at times. The personal notes she adds lets other home schoolers know that this is more than an academic exercise. This book was written from the heart.

It’s evident that considerable thought and research went into the writing of this book. Lange encourages soul and goal searching when parents are in the planning stages of setting up a co-op. She uses examples of actual planned activities – if they worked out and if they didn’t. She quotes parents who have been through the experience and makes no bones about success and failure and why that can happen.

These elements and so much more will make homeschoolers want to have this one in their libraries. I highly recommend it. 

The Giveaway Open to US addresses only. One person will receive a $25 Amazon GC and a copy of Homeschool Co-ops 101. Please use the Rafflecopter below to be entered: a Rafflecopter giveaway The winner will be chosen from those entries and announced December 5, 2013. Good luck!
Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code. Winning entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter and announced here as well as e-mailed, and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Diane at That’s What I’m Here For… and sponsored by the author, Karen Lange. The author provided me with a free copy of Homeschool Co-ops 101 to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a giveaway in return for the free book.VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

What's This Great Wind?

Years ago, when we’d first come to the place where we live now, I joined a church. Having three small boys I felt it imperative that they be enrolled in a Sunday school where they could learn about all things bright and beautiful. I should have known that the powers that be would soon tap me on the shoulder to ask, “Would you be our Sunday school superintendant?” I’m not fond of positions of power – don’t care to wield it – and have a “condition” that frequently betrays my inner angst regarding such things. Read on.  

At the about the same time I joined a group of very nice women who were all wrapped up in a program called Stretch & Sew. It was sweeping the nation. We sat with an instructor, learned how to stretch our garment as we sewed and gushed over the fabric choices available to us – at about a gazillion dollars a yard. But I sprung for it, loved it, and made myself a nifty chocolate brown skirt.

So, what do these two things have to do with each other? Stay with me here.

With reservations I accepted the position of Sunday school superintendent. I gathered my group of teachers and we brainstormed ideas for our big September Rally Day. I talked with one of my sisters – also a SS super – and she gave me some great pointers. The upshot of all this was an outdoor balloon release and an indoor introduction to the program for the parents.

I decided to wear my cute brown skirt and a top I happened to find to go with it. I was excited. Rallying kids was what I had done for years. I could do it, especially in that nifty little skirt.

The night before the “big day” I prayed like Jonah – okay, whined like Job – that my nerves would not come undone. In school I used to shake so bad when I had to get up in front of a class that my paper actually rattled in my hands. Mortifying. But I was consoled by the thought that these were just kids and there was nothing to be nervous about. Not like when I used to sell Tupperware and my behind would break out in hives from the stress. No, not like that.

On Rally day we had a great turnout. I strode forth in my little brown skirt and passed out balloons of many colors with scripture messages inside. We included our church address for anyone finding them to let us know. Fun stuff.

Then it was time to gather inside. My nerves were holding. There were lots of kids to distract me. And I had my cute little skirt as an aide. But then, after we’d all settled down, the pastor introduced me and asked if I’d explain the program a little.

Oh. No. Didn’t see that coming. I froze. I sat still. He looked at me with expectation. I felt myself rise, quaking. There were adults in this audience. People who expected something from me. Something wise and wonderful that I was NOT prepared to give them. And I can’t remember what I said. But what I do remember is a great wind beneath my wings – uh – skirt. I looked down real quick like. What could this be, this great wind?

And that’s when that cute little brown skirt betrayed me. For it wasn’t a great wind at all. It wasn’t the Holy Spirit come to my rescue. Oh, no. It was my knees knocking. Oh, yes they were. Back and forth and out of control. The front of my skirt was swishing away like grandma’s backyard swing. In the nano second before full humiliation it occurred to me that this sort of thing only happened to Daffy Duck facing down Elmer Fudd, but no, it happens in real life, too. To me. Right in front of God and everybody.

I said a few more words, giggled, and made my way back to the pew. By the time we
were all having cookies and juice I was fine. Of course now I had to consider a whole new category to be added to my list of “conditions” – knee knocking. Yeesh.

Do things like this EVER happen to you? I really want to know.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, November 4, 2013

Friend in the Pew

I can’t recall for certain, but I think it was late spring the day I chose to sit next to my new friend. I’m a Lone Ranger in my immediate family – being the only one who attends church nearly every Sunday. I’m a free agent in the pew finding department. So when I saw her I plopped down and said, “Hi!” She smiled and seemed happy to see me. We always have time before services for the “holy hubbub” that surrounds people content to be in the house of the Lord. So we cheerfully began talking about the women’s retreat we’d just attended.

The details of that event fully wrung out, she then  told me she and her family would soon be moving. This saddened me because it meant she wouldn’t be coming to worship, sitting at coffee hour, or hanging out with us for much longer. We talked about friendships and how they come and go and that’s when she gave me this saying that I’ve carried with me for several years now.

Friend for a reason, friend for a season, friend for life.

It gave me pause because the truth of that simple sentiment hit home. It gave me a nugget to nibble for the rest of the day and got me thinking – always dangerous.

Remember your first best friend? You were probably quite young. When I was about eight I had a friend and we wished we were sisters. She had three brothers, two of them twins, an older, good looking one, and her mother had a drinking problem. Even at that young age I knew our playtime was a refuge for my best bud. On the face of it this girl had everything, a pretty bedroom, lots of clothes, her dad drove a new car, and their home was immaculate. But I remember bits and snatches of the neighborhood gossip and I felt sorry for Cathy. She would have been a good sister.

In high school I had a friend who was a transplanted Texan. What a Southern Belle Judy was! She lived with her older sister and her husband as their parents were deceased. She also had a car and boy did we have fun cruising the streets of Southern California of an evening. We both had to be in by nine so we never got into real trouble, but it was kind of fun pretending we might have. She moved back to Texas before our senior year because, of course, everything is better in Texas, right?

Charging forward about forty years and thinking of other friends, I cherish those I’ve had for years. The lifetime friends; some like sisters. And my sisters, all five of them, fit into this category, as does my remaining brother. I’m so very far away from them, but there’s an instant rapport when we’re together. Blood ties and friend ties do that. 

I don’t like to put people into categories except very generally and I guess that’s why I love the words my friend for a season, Terry, gave to me that Sunday. Perhaps she was given to me for a reason to impart something to keep with me for life. As though Someone knew just what I needed from her that day.

I’m thinking I could go on and on about friends and what they are and mean to us, but somehow I think you get it. And sometimes a few succinct words say it all.

Image: Free Digital Photos 

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Dream of Paris

I wrote this short essay years ago for an online publication. It’s a bit of nostalgia and a bit of history all in one. See if it takes you back (if you're not yet 50, it probably won't - just sayin'.)

Do you remember “the fragrance worn by more women than any other in the world”? It came in a cobalt blue bottle with a tall silver cap and could be found on hundreds of dressing tables throughout the country in the 40’s and 50’s. Are you thinking “Evening in Paris”? Then you’ve got it.

When I was a very young girl that bottle didn’t hold just perfume, it held dreams. This was especially true at Christmastime when the five and dime stores like Woolworth and W.T. Grant’s set up their holiday displays. How I loved to linger at the counters and wonder what the affect would be on my latest crush if I were to wear the scent from that elegant blue bottle. The boxed sets included perfume, cologne, and dusting powder set in rich folds of silvery satin. Unfortunately, for me, it remained a dream, as there were other things I had to spend my limited allowance on at that time of year.

In 1929, Bourjois of France launched their Evening in Paris (Soir de Paris) perfume line in the United States, and just in time for the Great Depression, too. Some savvy marketer, however, managed to get the romantic new fragrance placed in the five and dime stores for 25 cents a bottle and in expensive Baccarat bottles with their dazzling crystal stoppers for considerably more in the upscale department stores. With this strategy women from all walks of life, even during those rough years, could pamper themselves and dream of Paris nights.The floral scented perfumes and colognes with their woodsy base added a sense of sophistication, romance and escape to otherwise ordinary lives. By 1955 Evening in Paris had become “The Most Famous Fragrance in the World.” 

Most perfumes today are chemical concoctions whose scents mimic the flowers and essential oils used by their predecessors, a distinctly unromantic fact. But perhaps the time has passed when a single perfume can hold sway over so many hearts and minds. As popular as it was, Evening in Paris had dropped off the radar screen by the mid-sixties. 

If you’re interested it can still be found at online auctions like Ebay in its original form and from a few select vendors like the Vermont Country Store who are banking on its nostalgic appeal. For me, though, it represents a schoolgirls’ dream of faraway places, silvery stars twinkling through the Eiffel Tower in an inky Paris sky and dashing suitors hoping to claim my heart. That’s probably where I’ll keep it.  

Image: Free Digital Photos