Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month)

What??? Again? Yes, it's November again and for me and my writing group that means Nanowrimo. I went to the Nano site and updated my information. They've given me badges for important things like filling out my profile, creating my novel, getting myself some writing buddies, and donating money to the cause.

Donate_earned Profile_earned Novel_earned Buddy_earned
Is it just me, or does the red one look like a couple of  Eggo waffles popping out of a toaster? I know, I know, you don't often see single slot toasters, but still. I'm tickled to have such a lovely line up of colorful badges. Now the hard work begins. I'll need to write nearly 2000 words a day, give or take 300 and allowing for a day off here and there, namely Thanksgiving Day.

Without my writing group -- of which I am the senior most member -- I don't think I'd have the motivation to make a commitment to Nano this year. They are leading me with their enthusiasm and exuberance! I don't want to be left in the dust (there's that teensy weensy competitive streak I've got) and I surely don't want to disappoint. 

I've technically been a Nano winner two years in a row, but I've not done anything toward editing the two books I've written. This year will be different. That's my promise to myself.

So the count down begins... 26 hours, give or take a few minutes. And then, buckle up it might be a bumpy ride. Here we go.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Indoor/Outdoor Campers!

If you weren't at our house this weekend, you missed a lot of fun!

I'm pretty sure it was too cold to be camping this past weekend, but hey, with the right equipment and a toasty campfire (and a warm house with indoor facilities nearby), it can be done! These people were undaunted.

There was some cookin' out and snackin' out...
Some cookin' and lots of eating in...
Playing outside

Playing inside...

We even had a birthday party... a jewelry cake with 5 candles...
And here's the newest person, cute as a button. Youngest baby is a title he won't hold next year. There will be two more little ones added to the mix!
And finally, my most favorite picture of all. The footie pajama boys. Count 'em. Seven, 2 and under,1 just 3/12. The 3 older children (5, 6, and 8) weren't keen on getting in the photo, but they were good helpers with all of these little ones all weekend long. 
Getting ready...waiting patiently...just need 4 more kids and we can start snapping.

If you get some footie pajamas you can be in the picture too!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Home Sweet Home

Rocky Mountain High
One week ago the minivan was all loaded up, and on Thursday at 7 o'clock a.m., Tom and I, along with Parker, the big black dog, set off on a road trip. We traveled the northern route, Interstate 80, from Pennsylvania, through Ohio, to Iowa, to Nebraska...forever in Colorado. The goal was to reunite Parker, our grandpup, with his master, our youngest son, David. The reunion was a fun success. Two happy guys they were! -- and are.

After two days in Colorado we began the return trip home, Tom and I, alone in the big empty minivan. Well not exactly empty, we brought a bicycle built for two back to PA for a friend of ours. My friend, Toni Jo Kidd's grown up boy, David Fox, lives only 20 minutes away from where our almost as grown up boy, David, lives. How good to see Davy Fox's house and neighborhood. Davy, that's who he was when I knew him eons ago. He was an adorable 5-year-old, but that was something like 39 years ago. Looking at him, I could still see his baby face -- using just a bit of imagination, mind you. After chatting, catching up, laughing about how difficult it is to ride a bicycle built for two and how it can be hard on even the best of relationships, we loaded up the bike. Believe it or not a tandem bike fits in a minivan.

David Fox has lived in the Boulder area for something like 25 years. He gave us some good tips on things to do and see on our short visit to the area.

After hiking Sunshine Canyon on Saturday, sharing lunch at the Walnut CafĂ©, taking in the Pearl Street walking mall, hitting an Italian restaurant for a fancy dinner (for which we were underdressed), attending church on Sunday (for which we were overdressed), strolling around Harper Lake (slightly less than a mile long stroll, no dogs allowed), and briskly walking the Davidson Mesa Open Space (dogs welcome, but we didn't have Parker because of the restriction at Harper Lake waterfowl refuge), we ended our visit with Dave over a late lunch at the Smiling Moose where I had the best sandwich ever! I was starving. We did all that and more in less than 48 hours. It was great, but time was up. We wanted to get a jump on the trip back east, and enjoy 2 overnights instead of just one to break up the 22 hour trip.

We chose the more southern route, Interstate 70, to go home: from Colorado to Kansas, to Missouri, to Illinois, to Indiana, through Ohio, and finally, Pennsylvania. Home sweet home. No matter where I roam, my only home, is Pennsylvan-i-a! I found myself relishing the landscape close to home: hills, trees, farm fields. Each state we drove through wore its own cloak. Beautifully and differently adorned for the most part. Although we did see some shabbiness as we rolled on through state after state, pushing to the next destination. A couple more hours one day means a couple less hours the next.

Aside from all the sights we saw, as much as can be taken in at 65 or 70 miles per hour, and the joy of spending time with our youngest son, hiking scenic trails, viewing the unbelievable mountains and blue sky, being blessed with absolutely fabulous weather -- aside from all that -- church was the next most memorable part of the trip. Flatirons Community Church is a mega church. Google "mega church near Denver" and Flatirons Community is what will come up first. I'm not a mega-church-type person, but I'll tell you what -- it was a great place to visit, with an unbelievable facility, amazing music, phenomenal message, inspirational prayer. When I say amazing music, not that I could appreciate it, but I know a good concert when I see one. Besides, Tom and David both said the band was incredibly talented, and they would know. And though I'm not fond of a beat that reverberates right through me, my feet felt like tapping, and my hands wanted to clap, and my heart was filled with praise -- I believe I was moved to worship God almighty in spite of myself.

Still... I can't wait to be Lutheran again this coming Sunday, where we start with a brief order of confession and forgiveness, and then the minister asks the Lord to be with us all, and we respond, "And also with you." We sing the Kyrie, praying that the Lord would have mercy on us. We pray for the Reign of God, peace throughout the world, and for the unity of all. We sing praises to God and songs of celebration for the feast of communion to come. And together we recite the Apostle's Creed, later the Lord's Prayer.

I missed all that this past week, but it's okay, I worshiped in a different fashion, and I do believe God is pleased with our worship regardless the style.

Tonight I get to sleep in my own bed because we are home. I'll wake up, look outside and see our own blue sky, colorful trees, fields, and yard. Home sweet home. Next Sunday I'll worship in my own Lutheran Church because I am home. Home sweet home.

Pennsylvania Blue Sky

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Good News!

The government is back up and running. Isn't that absolutely ridiculous? Not that our government is functioning as it should, but that it was shut down at all. And on that note, I would like to thank the United States Post Office for not letting us down. Of course, now, someone needs to rewrite their creed.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night
 stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds
Not even a government shut down!
Thank you, thank you, thank you dear postmen, postwomen, and postmasters.
But that isn't the good news I was thinking of. I was contemplating the good news that Jesus told his disciples to go and proclaim, "The kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt. 10:7)
Two questions come to mind about that message. 1. Do I believe it? 2. Do I believe it's good news?
I'll answer in reverse. Yes, to the second question. Yes, I believe it's good news. But about that first question, is the kingdom of heaven really near? Such a relative word, "near," considering Jesus spoke these words over 2,000 years ago. Still, I want to believe that His coming again is really and truly near. For me, and all of us who are in the second half of our first century, it is. It's relatively near, one way or another. Either He's a comin' or we're a goin'. Soon, relatively so, or very, very soon.
The state of our world and the abject poverty in third-world nations, our country's political infighting, religious infighting, the economy, ill treatment of people different from ourselves, the state of education, and high rates of unemployment are all so depressing. And what's to be done besides calling out to God?
From the end of the earth I call to you, when my heart is faint. (Ps. 61:2)
Ah, but when I call out, I find that is enough. God hears and answers with comfort and hope. Understanding? Not so much. But I have to be content, I am content, knowing His ways are higher than mine.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:9
And hey, I'm grateful for the good news that our government got their act together, which is no small miracle. Meanwhile, let's continue praying for the poor people who were left without money and means while leaders of differing political parties duked it out. It was no skin off their noses (those who held the government and poor people hostage), and though I don't want to ask this -- God have mercy on them. And while you're at it, God, have mercy on me, and all of us who see to our own needs and wants before the needs of others.
Therein lies the realio trulio good news: God is merciful. He shows us mercy, even though we don't deserve it. And so I'm moved to pray all the more for other miracles, more miracles, big ones, little ones, and everything in between. "God, please, in your mercy grant us your peace. In our heartache, our pain, our broken relationships, financial hardships, sick bodies, Lord in your mercy, grant us healing and peace."
You are my refuge and a strong unshakable tower against the foe. (Ps. 61:3

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Break the Hate Art Event

I just had one of my writings read at an Art Event in Austin, Texas. The woman who read it did such a splendid job...I couldn't believe I actually wrote that...but I did.

You can read it here Break the Hate by Betsy Henning.

Thank you, Susan Harris, for inviting me to participate from afar in your Art Event. Thank you Nathalie (Women Beyond Bars Ministry), for doing such a spectacular reading for me.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

3 Dogs and a Little Lady

Pups and preschoolers make for a 3 ring circus...if you're trying to get a picture of all 4 of them, that is. So here's a compromise. Get the little girl to hold the puppy on a leash while two dogs sit (or don't sit) on the other side of the sliding door.
There, that almost worked.
Parker (black dog) is a temporary resident. We're just keeping him for our boy David until we can reunite them in Colorado. Mia (white dog) comes over to play on the days I babysit Bridget (adorable child holding the leash). I thought it would be nice to get a picture of them all together. Maybe that will happen another day when I have help in the form of a grown up.
Our dear old Phoebe wonders what in the world these other mutts are doing in her space. (Please excuse me, Mia, I know you are a pedigreed pooch, but the other two, well, they're not, so mutt seems to work here). Phoebe used to be Bridget's favorite four-footed friend. That was before Mia, and before Parker. The competition is infringing on Phoebe's getting attention, and clearly she's annoyed with our canine company.
On the bright side, little pup keeps Parker occupied. She jumps and yips and generally harasses the big, black dog, and he loves it. That gives Phoebe a break. She quickly tires of them and can slink off. No wonder Phoebe doesn't want to play with Parker. She's like his auntie in dog years. 
Parker, pup, and little girl whooped it up all morning. Then every dog went to his or her kennel, and Bridget and I went to the library. Later in the day, after a swim, we had a hot cocoa "tea party". So fun!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fall Birthdays

To have been born in the glorious autumn lucky can you get? Crisp dewy mornings give way to warm afternoons that turn into cool evenings. Lawns, covered with golden leaves that feel  soft and cushy, then crunchy underfoot, beg to be rescued. Mow them, rake them, shuttle them over the bank, or if you catch a windless day, start a fire and burn them up.

I really should remember to thank my parents for having me in October. Mom has an October birthday too. It's always fun to guess when the leaves will peak...on her birthday in the middle of the month or mine in the first week. This year, I think she'll win.

The leaves were beautiful enough, and I had a great birthday last week. It started with a couple of early morning happy-birthday-phone-calls before breakfast out with a friend. I swam in the afternoon with 2 friends, went to dinner with Tom and 2 of our couple-friends, came home for dessert, chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting (my favorite...thanks Deenie). There were Facebook messages all day long, and I got lots of cards in the mail. Among my gifts is a learn-to-crochet book, hooks and yarn. I'm excited about learning to crochet... again. My mom taught me a long time ago, and I was pretty good at it, but it turns out, you've got to use it or lose it. I pretty much lost it, and that's a situation I intend to remedy.

This year, October 4th was a fine day for swimming. Each chance to do laps seems more precious as the inevitable day of closing the pool approaches! Every warm-enough sunny day tempts me and Tom to wait for another one to start the closing process. One of these days, when cleaning out the fallen leaves takes more time than I spend lapping back and forth, we'll give up and give in. Unfortunately, by then we'll be working at closing it with winter coats on, freezing our fingers off, vowing not to wait so long next year. But we will, you know we will.
Yep it was a great birthday. And I enjoyed it all over again through this recap!
Thanks for dropping by and reading my blog. It means a lot to me that you did, so thanks!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What Happened to Yesterday?

What happened to last year for that matter? I have a birthday tomorrow. But wait, didn't I just have one of those? A big one -- just, well let's see, three hundred and sixty some days ago? My, how time flies. And what do I have to show for it?

But that's of no concern to me right now. I'm trying to remember what I've accomplished this week. The list of household chores is long and includes cleaning out and switching two closets, organizing the shoe/hats/gloves cubby (because that kind of weather will be upon us before you know it), and tidying up the shelves above the washer/dryer. I love well arranged closet space. And I love that Tom opens the closet to get at the dog food and says, "Wow, this is so organized. You're amazing."

I say, "Aw shucks, it was nothing."

Nothing? Who am I kidding? Do I think he can't see the bags of trash waiting to go out, the carton of hardly-ever-used stuff waiting to be carried up to the attic, the clutter on every flat surface -- things I wasn't sure where to put, and oh yeah, the absence of delicious aromas signaling dinner's a-cookin'? That would be because dinner is not cooking, nothing's thawed, I don't have a plan, just plain didn't think about dinner. I wasn't hungry...then...but now... I am. Starving in fact.

But hey, Tom thinks I'm amazing. So I assess the situation, and say, "Give me half an hour. I'll get the rest of this clutter busted and fix us something to eat. Then, even I will think I'm amazing.

He mowed lawn, I tidied things up, threw together supper, we ate, took the dogs for a walk, and called it a day.

We were all plumb tuckered.
But that wasn't yesterday. It was the day before. Yesterday I paid bills. There's a challenging task. Everything we enjoy and take for granted has to be paid for: electricity, phone, internet, gasoline, groceries, pool chemicals, clothes, and all the must-have niceties. The check book records all we treasure, and as I pay bills I can't help but assess our values: our giving, our spending, our saving.
Then I wrote some belated cards for birthdays and anniversaries. Why didn't I write and send them earlier? I've known for an entire year that these special days were coming up for these special people. Well, no use agonizing now. Just get them in the mail and pray that even a belated card touches the addressee and brings a smile. 
After than I sorted through and chose sympathy cards to write and send. My heart broke for each grieving person I had to send a card to. Had to. Couldn't not send a card with a few words -- words thought about, prayed over, and written in my own unattractive hand. If only I had beautiful penmanship, perhaps that would make the job easier and give wing to words of compassion and comfort. But no matter the flourish with which it's written...I'm sorry for your loss will be blurred by tears.
It took the whole day. It took longer than all the chores I accomplished the day before. And it was exhausting: mentally arduous, emotionally draining, and physically? well you wouldn't think fatiguing, but trust me, it was. No wonder I don't sit down to pay bills and write cards in a timely fashion. I mean really...who has time and heart enough for that? Who can do unto others as they'd like done for themselves? And then not make a big deal of it.  
Apparently not me. But that was yesterday. That was what happened to yesterday.