Sunday, December 31, 2017

So Long . . .

The house where I grew up has been torn down.  Grandma and Grandpa Wheat are gone, and I hear their house has been remodeled - modernized.  The pear tree I used to climb is missing from the back yard. No more jars of home-canned pear honey on homemade bread. Downtown Jewell has a gap-toothed smile where I remember a thriving business district.  A grocery store, James Clothing, Callie's Dry Goods, Jewell Variety, Belden's Barber Shop, Stapleton's Cafe, the Legion Hall that held poppy day lunches and UNICEF trick-or-treating, Bartsch's TV repair - when TV's weren't considered disposable - the Lumber Yard, two gas stations, and the mystery of IK's pool hall, where I was never allowed to enter. Two churches are boarded up.  Dr. Plowman's officer is abandoned. Many of the beautiful homes I remember have been demolished or are crumbling.  In some cases new homes have replaced the old, but not always.  

The schools are closed. The lights on the football field are dark and grass grows long and thick on the track.  The outfield of the baseball park is now a residential area. There are no ball games, no rehearsing marching bands, or school floats in the parade.  There is no variety store candy case to browse, no window displays of school jackets and Converse high-tops.  Even the playground equipment is gone - likely considered too dangerous by today's standards.  The tornado took the Tastee Freeze and the "South Place" - the family homestead where I had dreams of a log cabin in my golden years.

There are still touches of the familiar.  The car wash is still in business, but there are no lines of teenagers on a spring day. Ice cream is now served in the post office lobby where I bought air-mail stamps for letters to penpals - long before email - and waited anxiously for a reply.  The park is refurbished - better, but still different.  The bank is in the same location - updated, and without the library and meeting rooms below.  The library has a beautiful new home, but with less atmosphere and without the inescapable eye of Mrs. Kelly.

Most of all my parents are changing.  For that matter, so am I.  Aging, declining, forgetting.  Over the past months while I have been spending extended time in Jewell to help care for Dad, I have been mourning all of this loss.  I'm tired of my childhood being torn down.  I want to cling to my memories; resuscitate them; actually squeeze them so hard in my mind that they come back to life.

But God says, "Forget the former things.  Do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing."  Ironically, even as I mourn this passing of time, I'm ready to put 2017 in the past.  I don't care to dwell there any longer.  Welcome, 2018!  I can't wait to see the "new things" God has in store.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Hard Pressed But Not Crushed

A while back, our son commented that he didn't read my blog anymore because I used to write funny things, but no more.  "Where's the funny, Mom?"  My answer was that he and his sister flew out of the nest and took my "funny fuel".  I was half serious.  When they were home or in college, it was therapeutic for me to take their teen-age challenges and peculiarities and turn them into humor.  However, life doesn't seem to be that funny these days.

  The last few years have seen major changes for us.  We purchased a business, both of our children moved to Kansas City (nearer us - woo hoo!), our son got married, our daughter entered grad school . . . and my parents began to decline.  In our seven empty-nest years, I have made it a priority to "be there" for my adult children - whether they needed a hand at moving, recovering from surgery, throwing a Halloween party for fifty foster-children, or decorating a new home.  I finally have them both within 100 miles, and had plans for frequent visits. 

Then, in June my Dad spent a couple weeks in the hospital due to kidney failure.  Fortunately, he has returned to his home and to moderately good health.  However, the illness and hospital stays advanced his early stages of dementia and he is no longer able to live alone.  My two sisters, who both live less than 20 miles from Dad, handled his care for several months, until it became obvious that he was not going to return to totally independent living.  Assisted living or nursing home care are still a ways in the future, so we now have a rotating care schedule that has me traveling several days a week.   

Mom is slipping, also.  A totally different form of memory loss, but just as difficult in it's own way.  So far, she is able to continue living alone - just a mile away from Dad - with daily visits and assistance from one of her daughters.  My youngest sister has carried most of this load because she is only a few blocks away, but the time is coming when we are all needed to allow her to stay in her home.  

"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you."  Exodus 20:12  I feel blessed for the opportunity to honor my parents by caring for them, and try not to look any further down the road.  God is in charge of the length and form of this period of honoring.  In the mean time, I condense my "other" life - home, husband, work, church, children - into the remaining days and try to squeeze in some time for myself.   

The "Sandwich Generation" - pressed between the roles of parent and child.  "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."  2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Sunday, October 22, 2017

And the Winner Is . . .

My apologies - life got in the way and I didn't get the winners of my Dewey's Readathon mini-challenges announced as intended.  But here they are - better late than never:

Readathon Memories Mini-Challenge - the winner is:

Sarah @ Reviews and Readathons

Reading Decades Mini-Challenge - the winner is: 

Tammy @ Mug of Moxie

Reading Decades Bonus Challenge - the winner is:

Maggie Wickham

Congratulations, winners!  I will be in contact to deliver your prize.  Thanks to everyone who entered.  I had so much fun reading through your entries, especially the Decades entries.  It is interesting to see what books have influenced people through the years.

And a special surprise - As expected, the majority of the entrants in the Decades Challenge were born in the 80's or later.  Only three readers began their decades with the 1960's, like me.  So, to honor readers who have been book lovers for 50 years or more, I am offering these three readathoners a $10 gift card from Barnes and Noble.  Congratulations to:

Jill L. @ Jill's Journey's 
Janet Goddell, @jangoodell
K. Olson @ Introspective Yarns

I will be contacting you as well for prize delivery.  If you entered the Reading Decades Mini-Challenge and listed 6 decades or more, and I missed you, please let me know.

Here are the answers to the Bonus round of the Decades challenge.  Readers were asked to identify the six books I chose, based on these clues:

1960's:  A young girl writes down everything she knows about everyone, even her classmates and her best friends.  When her notebook ends up in the wrong hands, her friends read the always truthful, sometimes awful things she's written about each of them.

1970's:  As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he'll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing.  But as the harsh winter sets in, the idyllic locations feels ever more remote ...and sinister.

1980's:  [This book] takes us back to the dawn of mankind and sweeps us up into the amazing and wonderful world of Ayla.

1990's:  With cats Koko and Yum Yum for company, Qwilleran heads for a cabin owned by a family friend.  Soon Qwill enters into a game of cat and mouse with a killer.  (Identify the series or the specific book.)

2000's:  In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit.  [This book] tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it. 

2010's:  After twelve years of wrestling with the conflicts of retirement, [the main character] realizes he doesn't need a steady job to prove himself.  Then he's given one.  As for what it proves, heaven only knows.  It's life as usual in this small town.  (Identify the series or the specific book.)

The correct answers are:
Harriet, The Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
The Shining by Stephen King
The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jane Auel
The Cat Who... Series (Specifically, The Cat Who Played Brahms) by Lillian Jackson Braun
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
The Mitford Series (Specifically, To Be Where You Are) by Jan Karon

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to play along.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Decades of Reading Mini-Challenge

Hello!  Me again.  Yes, I'm hosting a second mini-challenge.  This time around, we are celebrating our own reading decades.  For this challenge, tell me a book that represents your reading from each decade in which you have been able to read. (Decades on the calendar - 1970's, 1980's, 1990's, etc.)  For some of you, this will only require two or three books.  Since I'm a more "experienced" reader, I need six books. The book can be your favorite, one of a favorite series, a sample of a genre you liked, or whatever you feel describes your reading during that calendar decade.  For example, if you were born in 1984, your reading for the 1980's may be represented by the first book you read alone.  If you were born in 1987, chances are you didn't do any independent reading in the 80's, so you can skip that decade, or you can include a favorite story someone read to you.  For clarification - the book does not have to be published in the specific decade - it just has to be what YOU READ in that decade.

As in my previous challenge (Hour 4 - there's still time to enter, if you haven't) your answer can be in the form of a list, picture, video, poem, interpretive dance, or any other form you choose - as long as you can leave it, or a link to it, in the comments below OR in a Tweet using the hashtag #readingdecades.  

The winner will be drawn randomly at the end of the readathon, so be sure and leave me a way to get a hold of you.   The winner will receive a $15 Barnes and Noble gift card or a $15 credit at Book Depository.  This challenge is open internationally.

AN ADDITIONAL WINNER will be drawn from those who correctly identify the six books I selected to represent my six decades of reading, using the clues below.  The winner will receive the same prize as above, and will also be drawn at the end of the readathon.  Good luck!

1960's:  A young girl writes down everything she knows about everyone, even her classmates and her best friends.  When her notebook ends up in the wrong hands, her friends read the always truthful, sometimes awful things she's written about each of them.

1970's:  As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he'll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing.  But as the harsh winter sets in, the idyllic locations feels ever more remote ...and sinister.

1980's:  [This book] takes us back to the dawn of mankind and sweeps us up into the amazing and wonderful world of Ayla.

1990's:  With cats Koko and Yum Yum for company, Qwilleran heads for a cabin owned by a family friend.  Soon Qwill enters into a game of cat and mouse with a killer.  (Identify the series or the specific book.)

2000's:  In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit.  [This book] tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it. 

2010's:  After twelve years of wrestling with the conflicts of retirement, [the main character] realizes he doesn't need a steady job to prove himself.  Then he's given one.  As for what it proves, heaven only knows.  It's life as usual in this small town.  (Identify the series or the specific book.)

10 Books in 10 Years

As part of the 10th Anniversary celebration, Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon is hosting a challenge to list one book published in each year since the inception of the readathon (2007-2017) that I would personally recommend.  Some years, I had so many to choose from that it was difficult to narrow down, and some yeTars I had to search for something I could recommend.  But here are some of the best of the past 10 years.

2007 - Still Me by Lisa Genova
2008 - Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
2009 - Under the Dome by Stephen King
2010 - The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard
2011 - Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
2012 - Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
2013 - Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman
2014 - Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
2015 - At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen
2016 - The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly
2017 -To Be Where You Are by Jan Karon

Readathon Memories Challenge

Greetings Readathoners!  Welcome to Just One More Thing... for the 8th mini-challenge I've hosted here.  In honor of the 10th anniversary of Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon, your challenge this hour is to do the impossible.  Relax, it shouldn't take more than a few minutes.

All you have to do to enter this mini-challenge is tell me your favorite book.  (I can hear you all groaning.)  I know that is an impossible request so, to make it easier, I've narrowed the field.  Tell me the favorite book you read during each Dewey's Readathon in which you have participated. Please identify by month/season and year.  (Example:  Spring 2011, The Illustrated Tiddlywink Handbook)  For those of you joining us for the first time, just tell me a book you've already completed, or the one you're most looking forward to in the coming hours.  

Answers can be submitted as a simple list, a list with pictures, a video of you giving a synopsis of each book, a poem, interpretive dance --- whatever strikes you.  I ask only that you leave your entry, or a link to your entry, in the comments below, OR Tweet your entry with the hashtag #readathonmemories.

The winner will be drawn at random at the end of the readathon (or as soon after as I wake up) so be sure to leave me a way to find you.  The winner will receive a $15 Barnes and Noble Gift Card or $15 credit at Book Depository.  This challenge is open internationally.

Have fun - and thanks for the memories!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Lord is my Shepherd . . .

Image found on "Think & Let Think" 
Familiar words, but so easy to read or recite without really thinking about the meaning. Since this is one of the few passages of scripture - longer than a verse or two - that I have memorized, I was reciting it in my head the other night when I couldn't sleep.  The idea was to distract my brain from all the things it was pointlessly stewing over, and I was successful.  Instead, my brain began to stew over things like "What kind of table did He prepare before me, and why are my enemies present?"  "Aren't a rod and a staff just sticks?  What's comforting about sticks?"  "This oil on my head - is it some sort of deep conditioning rinse?"   After a long night of pondering these weighty matters, I sat out to dissect the oft-heard phrases and dig out the deeper meaning.  

If you've never used a lexicon in your Bible studies, you are missing a great tool for discovery.  A lexicon is basically a dictionary of the original language in which a book of the bible was written.  By looking up specific words within a verse you can get a clearer meaning than sometimes is obvious from the English translation. There are so many nuances that don't translate well in English.  You can also find where else within the Bible that same word was used and how else it was translated.  It fascinates me, and often surprises me.  If it doesn't fascinate you,'ve either learned something new about me, or reaffirmed your previous suspicion that I'm a little different.  

I examined the lexicon entries for shepherd, fear, rod, staff, annoint, still waters and several more.  I also read several commentaries written by people much more learned than I.  Combining all that I learned in my research, and a couple things God highlighted just for me, here is my personal translation of the 23rd Psalm:

The Lord is my Shepherd – gentle, kind and sure.  Because He is my caregiver and defender, I have everything!  He makes me stop moving and rest when I need to.  He leads me to a safe, peaceful place and provides refreshing and cleansing.  He makes me whole and ready to serve Him again.  He guides me along the paths to where I can be useful to Him so that He may be glorified.  Even when I wander into a deep, dark valley, I do not need to be afraid, because He stays beside me, to guide and defend me.  His rod corrects my way and keeps me safe.  His staff of grace supports me.  Together they reassure me and give me confidence in His presence.  I feast at His table of abundance, set up specifically for me, in spite of my enemies, who watch in envy, but are powerless to interfere.  He pours out His undeserved blessings on me until my life overflows with them.  God’s goodness and mercy are unending.  I will follow Him gladly and fearlessly, wherever He leads, all the days of my life.  And when that life is ended, I will move to a better world, to dwell in His house forever.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Diabetes Bites! - Part I

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes on July 5, 2017, and it has been a roller coaster since then.  Sometimes I am determined to research and understand this disease so that I can "reverse" it.  Sometimes I am frustrated to the point of giving up on even trying to understand.  Sometimes I'm scared.  Sometimes I'm angry.  Sometimes I think I've got a handle on what I need to do.  Sometimes I think it is impossible to know.  Sometimes I am all of these things in the same day.  I am writing a series of blog posts about what I have learned and what I wish I knew, to be spaced out over the next couple weeks.  If you have diabetes, or care for someone with diabetes, who has already been through these stages, still struggles with them, or was just diagnosed, please share your knowledge, questions, and fears, and maybe we can figure this out together.

Question #1, of course, is "What is diabetes?"   In a nut shell - when food is digested, the sugar it contains is released into the blood stream; insulin pushes the sugar into cells, where it is stored until it is burned for energy.  Think of your body as a house with central air and heat.  When a "normal" person's blood sugar rises, the air conditioner (insulin) quickly brings it back down.  If the level gets too low, the furnace (liver) pushes it back up.  The high-to-low range stays within a narrow band. 

Diabetes is the result of faulty air conditioning (low insulin production, low insulin effectiveness, or insulin resistance).  When my blood sugar level rises, the a.c. isn't strong enough, so the level goes higher, stays their longer, and takes more effort to bring down, thus creating broad fluctuations and long periods of time at the peak of the waves. During those high times, the excess glucose is causing damage that leads to cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, eye damage, Alzheimer's . . . the fun just goes on and on.

The worst part is knowing that I did this to myself.  There is a gene that predisposes us to type 2 diabetes.  Not all people who have the gene will get the disease, but if you DON'T have the gene, you can't get the disease.  That means there are hundreds of thousands of people out there who ate the same poor diet, and gained as much or more weight as me, but they are not at risk of diabetes. That hardly seems fair!  On the flip side, there are an equal number of people who have the gene but have spent fifty years making better choices and will never develop diabetes.  I have no one to blame but me.  

"My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline, and do not resent His rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in." - Psalm 3:11-12

We teach our children that actions have consequences, and when they make poor choices in their actions, the consequences follow.  They can ask for, and receive, forgiveness and possibly even a second chance, but the consequences remain.  As adults, we are reluctant to apply that to ourselves, but God does.  For years I made poor choices in what I ate and how much I exercised (or didn't exercise), and I steadily gained weight.  In 2012 I decided to make better choices and I lost fifty-five lbs.  I felt great and didn't look too bad!  But my arrogance remained. Like an alcoholic who thinks he can have just one drink, I thought I could return to old eating patterns but not let them get out of control.  Wrong!  I was soon back to consuming high-sugar, high-fat foods; large portions; no exercise; and turning to food for comfort, reward, entertainment, and consolation.  I got rid of some pounds, but I did not get rid of my "worship" of food.  Four years later, I had regained the fifty-five pounds, plus five, and discipline followed.

"But, Lord, I tried!  I put all that effort into following a diet, walking, lifting weights.  I was strong enough to turn away from temptations (most of the time).  I was in control for 12 months!"  I did...  I was...  I could...  And God answered "You didn't try hard enough. In your struggle against sin, you did not resist to the point of shedding your blood." (Hebrews 12:4 paraphrased)  Shedding blood?  Lord, isn't that too much to ask?  "That is why I shed MY blood in your place. So you could use my strength when you were too weak."

I do not despise the Lord's discipline.  I have accepted that diabetes is the end product of my poor choices; the consequence that a fair and loving Father handed out.   I will not make the mistake of thinking I can handle it on my own.  I don't yet know exactly how to live with diabetes.  I haven't deciphered the stacks of conflicting information.  And I'm sure there will be more days when I'm a crumpled, bawling heap on the kitchen floor.  But I will look up - and remember His words, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  I will get back up and put my hand in His and try again - "For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor. 12:9-10)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Total Eclipse of the Sun

The "path of totality" for the total eclipse on August 21st passed right over Green Acres (our little spot in the country).  Every motel room in the nearby town was booked more than a year in advance. RV's, campers and tents filled the city parks. The city closed off 2 blocks of downtown and restaurants served lunch at picnic tables during the eclipse.  School was out for the day; churches served food; local businesses ran specials.  It's estimated that 2000 visitors came to town - that's a lot for a town that boasts 4500 permanent residents.  We elected to avoid the "crowds" and host our own Eclipse Party for our employees and their spouses.

I served "Eclipse-iladas" (normally called enchiladas), followed by eclipse-themed goodies like Milky Way, Starburst, and Star Crunch.  Beverages included Sunkist Orange soda, Sunny-D, Capri Sun juice boxes and Pepsi Fire.

We even had a playlist of sun/moon themed songs, including  "Moon River", "House of the Rising Sun", and "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me."

 The crew arrived as the eclipse began - about 11:30 - and we lunched in the growing dusk.  And then the big moment arrived - the approximately 2 and a half minutes of totality - during which we saw . . . absolutely nothing.  It had rained off-and-on all morning and the clouds never parted to give us so much as a glimpse of the sun.

We did get to see the 360-degree sunset that occurs with a total eclipse.  I tried not to waste the experience taking pictures, but I did snap this shot of sunset in the North.  

Though the darkness at mid-day was amazing, I am disappointed that I didn't get to see the actual eclipse.  I had never given any thought to seeing an eclipse, but after weeks of preparation and research for one that happened to cross my path, I'm now determined to see one.  So I'm vacation planning for 2024, when a total eclipse will move from southern Texas, up through Maine.  Maybe this will be my chance to finally visit Maine.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Blog Makeover -

Welcome to the new and improved blog.   "Improved" may be a stretch, but there have been some changes.  For starters, there is the new background and header.  I have gotten out of the habit of blogging and thought my renewed enthusiasm to return deserved a new look.

There won't be any huge changes to the content - a little about books, a little about crafts, a little about faith, and a little about life in general.  One addition will be some posts about my journey with diabetes.  I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes on July 5th.  So far it has been a roller coaster of information, glucose testing, diet changes, carb counting, exercise, weight loss, medications and depression.  I think journaling some of my thoughts (believe me, you don't want to hear them all) will help with the depression and anger.  Hopefully, sharing my experiences and lessons will help someone else who is dealing with this ridiculous disease.

A second addition, or rather expansion, will be more posts about faith.  In the past, I tried to avoid including most things faith-based to keep the blog P.C., but I realized that is effectively denying my faith, so there will be posts about things I've learned and messages received, or possibly questions I hope someone else can answer.

Life just keeps rolling along, like it or not, so I'll also be talking about aging, aging parents, owning a business, and hopefully some humor thrown in.

In the mean time, I am preparing for our Eclipse Party tomorrow.  We are in the "path of totality" so will be hosting lunch in our front yard for our construction crew and some friends.  I'll post pictures and details afterward.  If you are traveling to view, or can see the eclipse from your house, I hope you enjoy.  

To my returning friends, thanks for not giving up on my blog.  If you are new here, thanks for coming by and I hope you found something you enjoy and that will bring you back.  Please leave me a greeting, including your blog address if you have one, so I can pay a return visit.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


In my on-going quest for non-overstuffed closets and cabinets, I am participating in the city-wide garage sale this weekend.  Toward that end, I drug some boxes out of the basement storage room - boxes that haven't been opened since we moved to this house six years ago.  One box was some bric-a-brac of my Grandma's.  With some encouragement from my wise mother, I was able to choose a few meaningful items to keep and let go of the rest. 

The second box was mementos from my children's preschool and grade school days.  After an hour of tears as I reread "You're the best mom ever!" and "My mom is as pretty as a princess," they all went back into the box, to be brought out another day when I need a good cry. 

Also in that box were two thin, paperback books - "A Gift of Memories from Grandma/Grandpa".  I gave these books to my maternal grandparents when I was newly married and asked them to complete them.  Grandpa's Parkinson's Disease was advanced enough at that point that writing was difficult, so most of his answers are one or two words, but there are some wonderful insights and a few humorous stories. 
"Grandpa, if you were elected President, what would you do for our country?"   "I would outlaw green peppers in salads."
Grandma told a story of hiding in a patch of tall grass as a child, and listening to the whole family searching for her.  She also admitted to some cooking fiascoes in her newlywed days.  

I wish I had taken the time to visit with them about their answers - to ask more questions and get more details - but when you're twenty-two, you think there will always be time. Even as incomplete as they are, the books are precious.  They were repacked with the other items for another round of memories another day.

Not long after my day of memories, I was browsing Barnes and Noble and picked up "Mom, Tell Me Your Story" a guided journal by Susan Branch. This memory book is much more in-depth, with spaces for full-page answers, rather than a word or two. 

Some are straight forward questions:

Where did your family go on vacation?
Who were your childhood friends?
What did you have then that we don't use any more?

And some are going to take more thought:

What did you dream about while growing up?
As you matured, what kinds of things inspired you?
What is your best advice about relationships?
What should I know about having children?
What would you most like to be remembered for?

Writing my own story is a challenge that is both exciting and frightening.  I'm not shooting for a professional memoir, but I do want to write more than cursory facts.  I want to give my children some genuine insight into being a child in the 60's and 70's, a young wife in the 80's, a stay-at-home mom in the 90's -  a true picture of their mom, flaws and all. But also some some stories that they'll enjoy finding and re-finding.  My plan is to work on it bit by bit.  Maybe I'll present it to my kids when I'm 60 - or maybe 70 - or 80.  After all, there's always plenty of time, right? 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Solve and Share: The Answers

The best laid plans . . .

Sometimes things just don't work out as you anticipated.  Such was the case with my mini-challenge for the April Readathon.  Several people got some of the answers, but no one got them all.  However, some people came up with alternate answers that are true, even though not what I intended.  So, I counted everyone's answers as correct and made a $20 donation to Literacy KC.

Here are the answers I intended:

#1 - rabbit, basket, eggs - Easter
#2 - calla (lily), mum, daisy - flowers
#3 - Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington - presidents
#4 - One, II, 3 - numbers

Bonus:  Coke (nickname for cocaine in title), Sprite (another word for fairy - Tinkerbell) and Tab (file tabs) - soft drinks 

Thank you for playing.  Hope your Readathon was a success.  See you in October.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Solve and Share Mini-Challenge

Hints:  #1 - The answer has to do with objects pictured on the books.
            #2 - The answer is in the titles.
           #3 - The answer is in the authors' names.
           #4 - The answer is in the titles again.
Also - the genre, plot or theme of the book does not come into play.  It is strictly the cover that matters.  Hope that helps.

Welcome, Readathoners!  Here's your chance to make a donation to promote literacy - without spending any money - and have some fun at the same time.

The Challenge:  Below are four sets of book covers.  Can you discover the common theme that connects the three books in each set?   For example, the three books below contain the words Summer, Autumn, and Winter in their titles, so the answer would be Seasons of the Year.

The Prize:  In this challenge, everyone's a winner because the prize goes to charity.  The more people who play, the bigger the contribution.  

0-25 correct entries = $10 donation
25-50 correct entries = $15 donation
51-75 correct entries = $20 donation
76+ correct entries = $25 donation

The money will be donated to LiteracyKC.  Please visit their site and see all the wonderful things they are doing to promote adult literacy and family reading.  Once the donation is made, I will post a copy of the receipt - just to keep things on the up-and-up.  

When you have your answers, you can leave them in the comments, or on Twitter using #solveandshare.  Comments will not be visible until after the challenge.  You'll have to use the honor system on Twitter.   The challenge will stay open for the duration of the readathon.

The Bonus:  There's one more puzzle - for the serious puzzler.  If anyone manages to find the obscure connection between these covers, they will receive a $15 credit at their choice of Barnes and Noble or the Book Depository.  If there are multiple super-puzzlers out there, the winner will be drawn at random.  

Good Luck!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Here Comes the Bride . . . and An Angel

I am a little embarrassed that our son got married four months ago and I am just now getting around to posting pictures.  Says a lot about the amount of time I've been devoting to blogging.  But all that aside, Mitchell married Whitney on Dec. 3, 2016.  It was a beautiful wedding - and I'm not at all biased.  

First they got engaged.  Both Mitch and Whitney are RN's, and Mitch is also a fire-fighter, hence the truck and the stylin' pants.

Twas the night before the wedding and all had rehearsed...  So we celebrated at one of our favorite restaurants (sorry, nothing rhymes with rehearsed).  The hunting theme was a nod to one of Mitch's favorite pastimes.  Centerpieces made from empty shotgun shell casings, No Hunting signs, and a touch of camoflage -- a little corny, I know, but Mitch loved it - including the bride and groom hunting vests.

A quick (and off-center) snap shot before walking down the aisle:  The groom; bridesmaid and sister of the groom, Amanda; and the father of the groom, Dave.

Our beautiful Miss P tossed rose petals and stole hearts.  (This was before her abrupt departure.  News flash:  She's back! see story below*) 

Then came "I do"s and rings and "You may kiss your bride". . .

, , , and let them eat cake.

The happy couple is at home in Hays, Kansas . . . and Kansas City, Kansas.  Their plan was to move to KC after Whitney's contract at her current job expired at the end of June.   Unfortunately, circumstances beyond their control resulted in the hospital being over-staffed and cutting hours for nurses.  Two part-time paychecks were going to make for some penny-pinching months, so Mitch accelerated his schedule for applying in KC.  He is now working in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at St. Luke's Hospital - the same unit where his grandpa had heart bypass surgery 20 years ago.  He makes the four hour commute to KC for three or four days (working 12-hour shifts) then returns to Hays for three or four days.  It's not the start to their marriage they were anticipating, but they are rolling with it. 

We are blessed with a wonderful daughter-in-law, and can't wait for them to both be in KC full time.  Then - God willing - we will have both kids in the same town for a year.  What a joy to have them both 90 miles away!  Amanda will finish her Masters degree - God willing - in May of 2018 and who knows what comes after that. 

*Update on Miss P.  

If you look back a couple posts, you can read about our Miss P., a 7-year-old girl who chose us as surrogate grandparents, and who was taken away without notice a few days after Christmas. I'll let you get the details there, rather than repeating.  

During the time she was gone, I made the trip to visit and was somewhat calmed by seeing where she was living and how well she was doing.  We had a wonderful weekend and I returned home sad, but not as terrified as I had been.   Then, as abruptly as she left, she was back.  There is a long story and her living situation is not perfect, by any means.  But she's here.  She spent Easter with us.  She has plans for a long visit when school is out.  

We will just enjoy each visit and see what God has planned.  Thank you all for your prayers and support.  I was touched by the wonderful messages and your concern for a friend you've never met.  Love you all!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Image result for the little book of hyggeAs a rule, I no longer review books here.  I make the occasional exception for those rare books that are too wonderful to keep to myself.  This is NOT one of those books!  This is the opposite end of the spectrum; a book so ridiculous, so jaw-droppingly stupid that I'm embarrassed to admit I spent money on it.  During Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon last October, I heard a lot of chatter about the upcoming release of this book, so I jumped on the bandwagon and preordered.  After all, who doesn't want to know the secrets of happy living?  Let me save you the $19.99 and explain Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga).

Atmosphere:  Light candles, use multiple lamps rather than one overhead light, and look for bulbs marked "warm white", or better yet, buy a house with a wood-burning fireplace.

Presence:  Shut off the phone and other electronic devices and be "present" where you are.

Food:  "Hygge is about being kind to yourself - giving yourself a treat."  Sweets, cake, coffee and hot chocolate are all hygge.  "Fancy" foods, such as foie gras, are not.

Clothing:  Casual, black, scarves, bulky tops, layers and woolen socks.  Works in Denmark and Nebraska in the winter.   I'm not sure how to hygge on the beach.

Home:  A hygge home should contain a cozy nook for reading, a fireplace, candles, things made out of wood, books, ceramics (like a favorite coffee mug), blankets, pillows, and vintage items.  

Hygge activities:  Board games, TV night, croquet, pot-luck meals - anything where you spend time with friends.

In short, the secret to happiness is chocolate cake, coffee (with cream), a board game and good friends, followed by a good book in front of a fireplace.  It's about savoring each of those items and being grateful.  I figured that out years ago!

The book is authored by the CEO of the Happiness Research Project.  I guess getting paid to research what makes people happy, not to mention a major book deal, is pretty hygge.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

In His Time

Those of you who know me personally, or who follow me on Facebook, have seen "Miss P".  Miss P is a now-seven-year-old cutie who came into our lives when she was five.  We hired her father to work on our construction crew, and Miss P appeared at company bbq's.  We were instantly in love.  Besides being cute, she was polite and respectful and all-around adorable.  Over time, she spent more and more time with us, frequently spending the night - or three or four nights.  The guest room became "her room" and I think she's a little annoyed when other guests sleep in her bed.  She was even the flower girl in our son's wedding last month.  One of Miss P's favorite things to do with "Boss", as she calls Dave, is to read a story before bed; and Dave's favorite books to read are the Junie B. Jones series.  Junie once said "Confiscated is the school word for 'just ripped it right out of my hand'." 

Monday evening we found out that Miss P has been confiscated from us.  Her parents took a portion of their belongings and snuck away to live 250 miles distant - without telling anyone.  I had no chance to prepare, no chance to say good-bye, or even to pack the clothes and Christmas gifts she left here.  By the time we found out, she had been gone close to a week. Just ripped right out of our life. 

Needless to say, I'm stunned, heartbroken and filled with questions. Why?  Their reasons for making this choice is not mine to tell, and I'm pretty sure I don't know the whole story.  From my perspective it was a poor choice, made in haste.  I have visited with MIss P by phone and she is doing fine.   I can't bear the idea that our time together is over, so I hope to make the four and a half hour drive to see her soon, and often.  My bigger desire and prayer is that they will return. 

In the mean time, I wait and pray.  My sister reminded me of an important truth.  When we ask God to use us to reach others, or even when He uses us in spite of ourselves, it is His plan.  We don't get to dictate the outcome.  Perhaps Miss P was brought into our lives because she just needed us for a short time.  Perhaps she was intended to stay longer, but, since He has given us free will, His plan was interrupted by poor human choices.  Perhaps God has something in mind that I can't see for now.  Whatever happens, I know who is in control.
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end.     - Ecclesiastes 3:11

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The White Flag of Surrender

It all started with an ugly song.  I attended church with our son and his then-fiance a couple months before their wedding.  If you attend a protestant church, you are surely aware that services usually fall into one of three musical categories:  the traditional if-its-not-in-the-hymnal-it's-not-church-music group; the "blended" service that mixes traditional hymns and modern praise choruses, thus making everyone uncomfortable half the time; and the "rock concert", which involves a band, songs you've never heard (and would like to keep it that way), and an over-50 crowd that is checking their watches and wondering why the preacher doesn't start the real service.  Son's new church was hovering somewhere between blended and concert, and the band was playing an ugly song.

To be honest, I can't remember the words . . . or the melody . . . or if it HAD a melody.  I just remember a heavy, military drum beat - not unlike the snare drum dirge they play in the movies as the outlaw is marched towards the gallows.  The lyrics had something to do with surrender, and I checked my watch again, wondering why we couldn't just sing "I Surrender All".  Now there's some church music! 

All to Jesus, I surrender.
All to Him I freely give.
I will ever love and trust Him
In His presence daily live. 

As if on my cue, the band segued into the traditional melody and I relaxed into the familiar.   All to Him I freely give . . .  Screech!  *Insert sound of a record scratching when someone hastily grabs the needle away*  The military drum beat of the first song, and the soft lyrics of the second clashed in my head.    The picture of a defeated army laying down their weapons in surrender did not mix with the concept of "freely" giving.  A conquered soldier does not gently raise his arms to his captor and promise to do better.  A conquered soldier falls to his knees before the power that has overwhelmed him and begs for mercy.  

The first definition of surrender in the dictionary is to "cease resistance".  Cease resistance!  Stop fighting!  Give up!  Put down my ways and my plans, and pick up the yoke of bondage to His way.  A military surrender does not allow the defeated to choose their future.  They don't get to "opt out" of servitude.  The victor lays out the rules for life after surrender.  So why do I think I can surrender to God by asking Him to bless my way?  "Lord, I surrender my bad habits to you; I lay down my failed plans and confess my poor choices.  Now please pick them up and carry them for me.  Make them work out this time!" 

There are several battles I have been "surrendering" this way for years; trying to convince myself - and God - that my plan is His plan.  It's time for me to admit defeat - to cease resistance.  My battle with an unhealthy attitude towards food will never end by diet plans or self-inflicted rules.  I have proven that I can stick to a diet plan long enough to lose the weight, but I never change the underlying beliefs that get me right back to the same spot on the scale.   In my head, I rant that "it's not fair".  Other people don't have to watch every calorie.  Other people aren't tempted by the things I am.  Other people have bigger, better, shinier, easier lives than me and I DESERVE to eat cheesecake in compensation!

The truth is I don't deserve anything.  Christ died for my bad attitudes and poor decisions!  So if He demands to be placed above Key Lime Pie in my heart, that is His right.  He has conquered sin for me and He gets to make the rules for life after surrender. 

My focus in 2017 is "surrender"; not just in my eating habits, but in my life.  Surrender as defined by Jesus, and explained by Oswald Chambers:
 Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.”  So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s,  who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.  - Mark 10:28-30
Surrender was not for the purpose of what the disciples themselves would get out of it. . . Our motive for surrender should not be for any personal gain at all. We have become so self-centered that we go to God only for something from Him, and not for God Himself. It is like saying, “No, Lord, I don’t want you; I want myself. But I do want You to clean me and fill me with Your Holy Spirit. I want to be on display in Your showcase so I can say, ‘This is what God has done for me.’ ” Gaining heaven, being delivered from sin, and being made useful to God are things that should never even be a consideration in real surrender. Genuine total surrender is a personal sovereign preference for Jesus Christ Himself. - "My Utmost for His Highest"