Monday, December 30, 2013

Trivia Quiz - Fun Stuff!

Time for a little end of the year fun, wouldn’t you say? I’m one of those people who gets little bits of useless information stuck in the crevices of my noggin. Just love to pass it on in the form of a quiz. See how you do. No prizes – just the satisfaction of getting some or all of them right.

A    You can see me and and you can feel me, but if you touch me you will die. What am I?

B    Where does Poland Spring water come from?

C    “Taste the rainbow,” is the slogan of what candy?

D     Name the original host of Jeopardy!

E     John Chapman was better known as . . .?

F    What is the third hand on a clock called?

G    The most germs on your toilet are found on the handle. True or False?

H    What is the last name of TV’s Dr. Phil?

I     Who wrote Auld Lang Syne?

J    How long does it take the crystal ball to fall on New Year’s Eve? (in NYC)

Answers (You didn’t peek, did you?)

A    The sun
B    Maine
C    Skittles
D    Art Fleming
E    Johnny Appleseed
F    The second hand
G    True
H    McGraw
I     Robert Burns in 1788
J    60 seconds

Now honestly, how did you do? Have a wonderful 2014. I'll be right there with ya!

Photo: Simon Howden                                                 Free Digital Photos

Friday, December 27, 2013

Precious Trinkets

The week after Christmas is a strange place in time. Calmer, more relaxed, and hopefully the little gray cells are full of new and wonderful events stored away to become beloved memories. Our December was packed, but some little thoughts and visions crept in at odd times.

Like at our grandson’s Winter Concert.

Sam plays tenor sax. He’s eleven. We sat in the balcony in the auditorium at Albany Academy and watched the kids file in. Nicely dressed, they were, and eager to perform. We could barely see the boy, but that sax poked over the head of the kid in front of him, bobbing away, so we knew he was playing. It occurred to me, as it does to every grandmother, that kids grow up too fast (well – except when they’re two months old and have been screaming for forty five minutes at 2:00 a.m. and you have to get up in four hours. Right then you wish they were already twelve). But you get the idea.

So the program rolled along, and finally it came time for the band to exit stage left and as Sam neared the doorway he turned and looked in our direction – briefly. But in that quick second I had a vision of a sandy haired three-year- old standing next to me eight years ago. We were trying to decide what else to draw on a big cardboard box, the one he’d soon crawl into to play. We had a door, and flowers and windows, but something was lacking.

“How about a ladybug, Sam?” I asked, magic marker in hand.

“No, gramma, I don’ like ladybugs,” he said in his precious toddler voice.

“Uh,oh,” I said, full of concern. I could still crouch down in those days, so I did. His soft eyes looked into mine. “Why don’t you want a ladybug, Sam?”

“They make me nuurvice,” he said  with the “uur” pronounced and drawn out.

I had to stop thinking too hard about that right then. No sense puddling my sentimental tears right there in the Academy balcony seat. I looked away because that small tender boy is gone, he only lingers in my grandma heart as one of many memory trinkets – piling up as the years pass.  I know there’s a decent young man emerging and that makes me so proud. But still.

And then on Christmas day. Anna, who is eight and Sam’s sister, wanted a mermaid tail for Christmas more than anything this year. As she sat in her dad’s recliner, her legs proudly stretched through the long shimmering turquoise tube with fins on the end, I had another flash. Anna at four standing for a picture in a black velvet dress holding a single yellow rose. We were at a church dinner. Her hair was long and curly then and she looked beautiful – totally unaware that at that moment her little girl loveliness was burning a memory in Grandma’s heart. I want to reach back through time and grab her for a hug. I guess I’ll have to learn to hug mermaids now. 

Before I go all “grandma” on you with stories about all six of them, I’ll stop myself. Because I know you do this, too, if you’re a parent, a grandparent, a wonderful aunt or uncle,caring teacher. The odd, poignant flashes come to you, too, don’t they?

Yes, they grow too fast. As we did. And time is a cruel taskmaster bidding us march to its tune, however reluctantly. I think, at Creation, God must have realized this, so He programmed in memory banks to allow visions and brief moments when grandsons turn and look at  you from the ripe old age of eleven and granddaughters' morph into Flipper. It all makes you realize how wonderful your world is.

Please share the memories that this Blessed Season sparked for you. 

PS: There's one from friend and fellow blogger Linda O'Connell here

Image: Free Digital Photos

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

It’s been a rough week with my tummy acting up, a good friend undergoing the stress of major surgery, and Christmas looming. Which all means I’ve been in a blog – slog. So I’m falling back on an old favorite and once again sharing Mary’s Sparrow with you. If you’ve read it before, thank you. If you haven’t I hope you enjoy. Go ahead and pass it on. Print it out, mail it to friends. You have my permission. JUST – don’t give away the ending. Okay? May God’s blessings shower down upon you this Christmas.


Mary’s Sparrow
By Susan Sundwall

     Twigs snapped and feathers swirled as the little bird landed hard on the tree branch. The terrible storm that dashed her nest to the ground had blown furiously, lifting her high and away into the sky. Chilly desert air settled around her as night fell. Alone and frightened, she tucked her head beneath a tiny wing and tried to sleep.
     When dawn broke there was no friendly bird chatter to comfort her. The ancient wind-bent tree stood alone over a battered stone well on a long stretch of road.
     Ting-ching. Ting-ching. The bird picked her head up at the strange sound. Harness bells danced to the rhythm of a caravan and she watched a ragged line of camels come towards her. The camel driver gathered the animals to the well and one plodding old camel stopped beneath the branch where the bird sat. The man in the saddle nibbled on a seed cake. It looked so good!  
     The camel looked up. “Are you out here all alone?”
      “Yes,” the little bird said, “My home was blown to bits and I don’t know where I am.”
     “Come with us,” said the camel kindly. “We are near the end of our journey. You may find shelter in the village where we stop.”

     The little bird perched between the camels’ ears, and as the day wore on the road became more crowded. Whole families traveled together and children darted about,
laughing and tossing stones. One lady, riding on a donkey, smiled to see a bird riding between the camel’s ears.
     “Small friend,” said the camel as they entered a noisy street, “our journey has ended and you will have to find your own way now. May fortune shine upon you.”
     The little bird was sad to leave the kind camel, but she was excited by all the activity in the bustling streets of the village!
     The market stalls were filled with wonderful sights and smells. Great mounds of figs and dates were piled high on rough wooden tables. Baskets filled with olives and jugs of fragrant oil sat in the shelter of billowing tents. Fisherman and weavers called out to eager shoppers. The little bird flitted among them snatching stray bits of food.
     “Get out!” The shadow of a huge foot suddenly hovered above her small head. “Silly sparrow! Garbage bird!” The mans’ eyes were cold and mean.
     Fear flew with her as the bird scurried to the doorway of a crowded inn where people ate coarse bread and drank small bowls of steaming coffee. As she darted for fallen breadcrumbs a tall woman stepped on the little birds tail, crushing two feathers. How it stung! Shuddering into a corner near the window, the small creature thought of how she missed the kind camel and the comfort of her own nest. Then, through eyes blurred by tears, the bird saw the lady who had smiled at her from the donkey. The lady’s husband asked the innkeeper for a room.
     “No! The inn is full!” blurted the innkeeper. “Shall I put you in the stable? Ha!”  
     “We can go to the stable,” said the man calmly.
     The innkeeper waved them on and bellowed at a servant boy. “Ho, boy! More wine, we  have thirsty travelers here; rich merchants who will pay well!” Then he disappeared into the crowd.
     That poor lady is tired and hungry just like me thought the little bird. Something inside urged her to follow the man and his lady as they made their way to the back of the inn.
     The stable was dark; strewn with old rags and dirty straw. The donkey groaned as the lady climbed down. The man busied himself trying to make her comfortable.
     “Psst,” the little bird called, peering down from a low rafter.
     “Who’s there?” asked the donkey, looking about him.
     “It’s me, a tired, hungry sparrow,” said the bird. “Will you help me?”
     The donkey glanced at the bird and then turned to the lady who began crying softly into her hands.
      “She’s crying!” said the sparrow.
      “She’s having a baby soon,” said the donkey. “And a dirty stable is no place to lay a little one. The journey here has been long.”
      “I saw clean straw in the market stalls!” cried the sparrow. She raced away and found some golden strands in a basket under a bench near the door of the inn. She flew  swiftly
between stable and streets, dipping here and tucking there to place each piece just so. At last there was a golden bed of clean straw for a newborn baby to lie in, safe and warm.
   The little bird now ached with hunger, but before she could ask about food again she heard beautiful singing. Through a small hole in the thatched stable roof the night sky glimmered. It beamed bright as morning and the stars shone like silver. She flew to the roof and poked her small body through the hole.  The unearthly singing made the little bird’s heart swell with joy and wonder. When the sound faded, she looked back into the stable and saw – the new baby!
     The lady looked so tired but she rocked her little son and kissed his plump cheeks as she tenderly laid him on the bed of clean straw.
      The bird drifted down and slumped against the rafter. With a contented heart she watched the mother and newborn child. The lady’s gentle voice drifted up to her. 
     “Come little bird,” she said, looking up. She lifted a palm towards the bird. “You made a soft bed for my precious child and I must thank you.”
     The little sparrow’s wings barely carried her to the upheld hand, but how warm it felt when she rested there!
     The lady stroked the sparrow’s downy head and hummed low in her throat. As the little bird closed her eyes, she thought of her ruined nest. She remembered the kind camel and the child lying in the clean bed of straw. Then she laid her head over, breathed a few gentle breaths and died. She was simply too weak and too hungry to live for another  moment.
     When the lady, Mary, saw that the little bird had died, a deep sadness filled her heart. How hard the bird had worked to make a bed for her baby, Jesus. I must always remember what this small bird did for us tonight, she thought. So Mary told the story to her son and he remembered it always. Wherever Jesus went he told people about the sparrow. Even today we recall what he said. “For God sees even the little sparrow when it falls.” And so He also sees you.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Sunday, December 15, 2013

While Baking Cookies

I love to bake and especially at Christmas time. Cookies – my family expects them and I rise to the occasion. And I make it just that. I choose my recipes, set out my racks, and turn on the carols (sometimes Rush. I know, I know!). Anyway, it’s real cozy in my kitchen on baking days. Between batches I stare out the window and think of all the little things that make life so interesting at this time of year.

Like . . .

Yesterday morning I helped decorate our church sanctuary. The Sunday school kids were in there practicing – almost done – and I wandered around trying not to intrude. Three little girls waited for siblings in a back pew. They had CYO basketball shirts on and we stuck up a conversation (our grandkids play CYO). One of them – an adorable blond – was a real chatterbox. She wanted to know all about my grandchildren who attended Ichabod Crane elementary. Names. Ages. Grades. All of great interest. When I started to move away, she left the pew and came after me with more questions. Thank God my nose was beginning to drip. I told her I had to get a tissue and beat a hasty retreat to the ladies.

Later, as we put Chrismons (Christ monograms) on the tree, several of us who are rather long in the tooth, fondly recalled the icicles that were once mandatory on any self respecting Christmas tree. The really old kind were aluminum and pressed at the manufacturers in a way that you had to sort of peel them apart to put them on the tree. After those there were some kind of clingy synthetic ones, new and improved, that would follow you out of the room if you weren’t careful. Sort of like my little girl from the pew.

We then discussed placement methods. Turns out we’d all come from the “one at a time” school (Harvard) of thought. There was unanimous consent that “icicle flingers” were of a lower order of humanity that we would never claim kin. And don’t even ask about taking them off the tree at New Year’s. That was a whole other purgatory (one at a time – draped carefully over the original cardboard – ugh).

When I was very young we were very poor. We’d migrated from upstate Minnesota to Southern California and those first years were lean. But love and excitement came from afar in the form of packages from sympathetic relatives who’d stayed behind. Those were the years when “brown paper packages tied up in string” really meant something. One year our Aunt Jean sent oddly wrapped somethings that brought out the ultra-snoop in me. It must have been a rough journey for those gifts because, to my delight, there were small tears in the wrapping. And since Mom always put them under the tree as soon as we got them, I could pick mine up and dream. Through the tear I spotted a little bit of pink and when I turned the package sideways, it gurgled. The pink moved. I was under that tree nearly every day “fixing” the tape that held it together. Turns out it was a bottle of bubble bath. Very girly and I loved it.

And then last night our not-stray-anymore cat, Agnes, found a spot under the Christmas tree, wrapped her tail around herself and settled down for a long winter’s nap. I think she likes it here and I’m so glad.

I hope you have memories and incidents like these that come to visit you in the few moments of peace you have at Christmas time. My advice is that you share them with someone over a cup of Joe and one of those cookies you just baked. Or pick one, write it out, and send it in a Christmas card to someone you know will love it.  

I made gingersnaps this morning. Want one?

Image: Free Digital Photos 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Whatcha Readin' ?

Book Reviews

Okay, it’s time to discuss books. What have you been reading of late? I hope the busy holiday season hasn’t interrupted this necessary pleasure. I’ve got a few things to say about some of the books I’ve been reading. Here goes.

The 13th Tale
By Diane Setterfield

What an interesting book. Gothic-y, a mystery wrapped in enigma.  Two women set out on a journey. Oh, gag. I hate it when someone says that. Here’s the deal. A young woman, who lives and breathes books, snags an interview with an old woman whose writing has captivated the world for decades. The thing is, the old woman has never told the world the truth about her own life – until now. Oooo, sets the stage nicely for some murder, mayhem, mental problems – and a connection the two women share that keeps them talking. I liked it.

Cover of Snow

I met the author, Jenny Milchman, when she attended our November Mavens of Mayhem meeting. I often will buy the books of authors I’ve met, and I bought hers. She told me she liked my speaking voice and she laughed at the bit I'd read from The Red Shoelace Killer. I'm a sucker for flattery, I guess. Several authors read from their works at that meeting. Raising my hand as one of them. Anyway, her book was quite good. Set locally (Adirondacks) and with a protagonist who would do what I hope I’d do if I woke up one morning and found my husband hanging from the rafters. She grieves, wonders, and then goes looking for his killer, butting heads with authorities who have held sway over the town for decades. She uncovers naughty secrets about them all and one about her husband that’s a shocker. Worth the read.

Anne Perry

This writer’s own disturbing past was revealed not too many years ago and lends a certain aura to her work. She’s a convicted murderer. Read about it here. I met her at Bouchercon, briefly, when she signed the book I’d bought. I’d never read her. And I haven’t read the book she signed because she warned me not to. Creepy sounding, I know. But it’s the last in her Monk series and she advised that I read the others first. What I did do was purchase several of her earlier books for my Kindle. The Cater Street Hangman is the first in another series she wrote early on in her career. She develops her characters and sets them up for future installments. Victorian. Detective meets strong woman. Unlikely, but guilty, perpetrator. Worth my time to the extent that I “Kindled” two more. I'll get around to Monk. 

Now, tell me what you’re reading. 

Image: Free Digital Photos

Friday, December 6, 2013

Wondering as I Wandered - In the Hannaford

My favorite Christmas story, besides The Birth, is Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. Yesterday a certain scene from the book (and movie) came to mind as I wound my way up and down the aisles of our local grocery store, Hannaford. For once I was not in a particular hurry – you know – frantically ticking off the items on my list, my mind set on what I had to do once I got home. So I had time to look around. And, OH, the riches!

In the scene that popped into my head, Scrooge is about to encounter the Ghost of Christmas Present who is resplendent in “a simple, deep green robe bordered in white fur.” And at the feet of the ghost, “heaped up on the floor to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, suckling pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince pies, plum puddings, barrels of oysters, red hot chestnuts, cherry cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth cakes, seething bowls of punch that made their chamber dim with their delicious steam."  

Okay, our local Hannaford falls a bit short of Dickens’ Horn of Plenty description in not stocking suckling pigs, but they do a great job of bringing the season forward for us. And it’s epidemic across the land, in supermarkets and grocery stores all over the country; this insistence on joining in the celebratory practices of the people they serve. I’m amazed that all of the people at the various corporate offices have read A Christmas Carol and seek to imitate the glorious bounty described therein.

So I lingered in the fruit and veggie aisle, inhaling the citrus-y smells of the oranges and lemons, the earthy aromas of the potatoes and cabbages. I marveled at the loads of cheeses and spiced meats and jaunty Santa Clause hats on the scales at the deli counter. In the drinks aisle the red and green bottles of Coke and Sprite shouted a cheery “hello” to me all in their holiday array. The end cap in the breads and roll section sported Little Debbie Christmas cakes liberally done up with colored sprinkles for the children. When I got to the eggnog I swooned. A dash of rum and nutmeg with a pillow of whipped cream on top danced in my head.One day I'm going to try the caramel flavor. In the candy aisle I picked up a chocolate snowman as a little gift for my hairdresser. And there was great joy at the checkout (for Hannaford anyway) as the cashier rang up an additional ten items I hadn’t really intended to buy. I was in the thrall of the bounty and Dickens, after all.  

It kind of made my day to wander through the harvest so to speak. It’s all given by the gracious hand of our Lord who deigned to be born among us in the bleak mid-winter and bids us remember why He did so. That realization comes later, but for now I (and I hope you) will bask in the glory of all we’ve been given and do our best to pass it on. God bless us every one.

That’s my commercial for Christmas. Thank you, Ghost of Christmas Present and Mr. Dickens, too!

Image: Free Digital Photos

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Big Reveal - My Handbag

Every couple of days, on my way upstairs in the morning, I reach into my purse and grab my wallet. It’s one of those that holds my checkbook, credit cards, bills and coins – all purpose. You’d think I wouldn’t need yet another devise to carry all my junk around, but I do. It’s called a purse, a handbag, a bag, or a pocketbook (my late mother in law always used that one). Anyway, this morning as I pulled the wallet out I spotted something brown in the bottom of my purse. I plucked it up. It was a balled up cookie tissue – the kind you use to snatch a free cookie at the bakery counter for your granddaughter who knows exactly where they are in the grocery store. She grabs the cookie and hands me the tissue. There's never a trashcan near so into the BBB it goes.

So then I wondered what else my BBB – that’s Big Brown Bag, Rhonda. Giggling. Well – what an assortment! Let me list it for you.

Keys – They love to hide at the very bottom in the far corner invoking my fury when I’m in a hurry.

Free Sample – Must have got this in the mail and thought it might serve in an emergency. It’s a foil packet of hand lotion. Nivea. Remember when free samples came in a size that actually thrilled you?

Coin  purse – This was my mom’s. One of my sisters probably gave it to her. It’s a nice one and I keep my business cards in it.

Gloves – Yikes, two pairs. I’ve been wondering where they were. Small, knit, black and perfect for driving which is why I stuffed them in there, I’m sure.

Tums – Two of them in a little plastic bag. Had some tummy issues after a friend had me try his brown beer. Ugh.

A penny – I picked it up from the pavement in front of the dollar store yesterday. Waiting for the good luck that’s supposed to come with it. “See a penny, pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck.”

Batteries – In case my camera (NOT in my purse) runs out while I’m not taking pictures. Hmmm.

Other – Cheap, collapsible hair brush from the $ store, a pen, small notebook, big weekly planner , a paper clip, two cotton swabs (???), contact lense cleaner in a neat little brown holder, tissues (new and used, not the cookie kind), my cell phone (on – must turn off), two aspirin in a little plastic bag, and Oriental Avenue. That last one is a McDonald’s Monopoly game piece from our trip out west in July. Good grief.

Boy, I’m glad I grabbed my wallet this morning. Need to balance the checkbook and then I’ve got some cleaning and tossing to do! My handy, ever-ready BBB deserves it.

What’s in your wall . . . handbag?

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