Saturday, October 22, 2016


I only have Cutter in the house right now. 
I know today I'm supposed to take off … but I'm a little off … I'm a perfectionist and I really have to do ALL 31 DAYS!

Off, the bug repellent, used to smell terrible, but we didn't have a choice up at the lake in that little cottage … the mosquitoes were terrible. Ssss. SSSSssss. SSSSt. There. Covered. Arms wet. Bare legs wet. Clothes covered. No bug could get through that.

But they were wrong.

I was always bitten. And on top of that, the smell of the bug spray made my stomach sick. So I would walk facing the breeze to breathe.

And the welts were huge, like quarters. They hurt the first day and itched the second. But it seemed like by the end of summer the mosquitoes were losing their venom, or my body was getting used to the poison, because the bites were smaller and didn't hang around so long.

But I still hated Off.

A few years ago I took some of my girls to see a reenactment of the rescue of a girl from the local Indians. The Colonel Crawford Company, a local reenactment group, divided themselves into settlers and Native Americans with one girl dressing in Indian garb and playing the captive. The reenactment took place deep in the woods. The settlers, armed with muskets, accompanied us into the woods, most of them moving silently (a skill I have never mastered) wearing high-top moccasins, breeches and cotton homespun shirts and leather jackets.

In preparation we were given individual packets of Off for protection from My Old Enemy – Mosquitoes. I braced myself for the opening of the packet, but I was pleasantly surprised by the scent. I slathered myself without gagging. I tucked the cottony pad inside my shirt for reapplication.

I saw the mosquitoes. I heard the mosquitoes. But I did not get bitten. The girl was rescued from the shaven, painted heathen brandishing authentic clubs (I prayed they had on jockey shorts under those loin clothes – but, alas) and we all made it out of the woods with our ears ringing (musket fire is much louder in the woods than on TV).

And I have a new respect for Off.

This is Day 22 in the 31 Day Challenge -

Friday, October 21, 2016



Park your car.

Running in the park.

Parking your worries at the door.

A walk in the park, kicking leaves, hugging trees, watching frogs jump into the pond, wondering about new flowers, listening to birds, smelling the autumn leaves in the wind, the scent of pine mingling with the warm sun. Walking until I get lost, then retracing my steps.

Writing in the car in the parking lot in the snow as people pass and glance, but feeling private and safe and creative.

Writing in the car in the parking lot in the summer warmth with the windows down and the door open for extra airflow feeling exposed and blocked, but struggling to get the words down anyway.

Parking myself at the computer to crank out the 1,667 words needed to complete the day's task of writing for National Novel Writing Month.

Parking in the park parking lot going through photos before taking my car out of park and driving home to park in the twenty-car parking lot that is my driveway.

This is Day 21 in the 31 Day Challenge -

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Everybody's Workin' For the Weekend ...

Weekends aren't as super cool as they used to be … They are getting better, but that's because I quit my 60-hour-per-week job. When I was working full time (plus) the weekends were for catching up on my other jobs: housework and children.

When I was young, weekends were for going places, taking drives and going out to eat, with the Sunday Ice Cream Stop at Baskin Robbin's. We would drive one to four hours on Saturday to go to explore the zoo, a museum, a lake or river, a park or Indian ruins (Arizona).

When I was finally out on my own, working week days, weekends were for dates and drinks and movies and sleeping in. When I was teaching, weekends were for catching up on correcting and working extra hours on Sunday.

Once we started a family, weekends were for sleeping in and enjoying the house, the yard, visiting, playing and just exploring life.

Now, weekends are for working together. Saturdays are quiet and I get a few extra hours to write. Sundays are busy in the morning as we go to church, sing in choir, help out with other church-related things. Then the afternoon can actually be used for napping, although, Sundays are also when the children come over to roost for a bit or eat or take food or help with yard work or borrow tools and dirty dishes while sharing a new recipe. Sundays are for seeing how big the grandson is getting and how much better he is talking.

I love weekends because they are different. But I don't like totally booked weekends. I like the freedom to say, like in the old days, “Let's go for a ride!”

This is Day 20 in the 31 Day Challenge -

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Did you notice ...

I notice things

… like how every dawn looks different – as different as snowflakes – varied colors of orange, yellow, pink, purple, blue, cloud shapes, lightness, intensity

… like that guy in front of Save A Lot taking pictures of the front of the store. He was dressed in grays, casual-professional. The large pack on his back was brand new, sat too low and did not fit his body, seemingly out of place. Either he was uncomfortable with his job and hated it or he was just uncomfortable with himself. It was awkward, but I noticed it anyway.

… like the paths around my property – regularly used paths – by dogs or deer … or both.

… like the small-town drug lord in the library, trying to be casual, but energy-driven, suspicious of everything and antsy, like he could jump up and sprint in a nano-second. The librarians all know him by name and so do the police. He glories in the fact that he can pass drugs to people in a public place as long as they paypalled ahead of time – and get away with it. He even flaunts it. I'm not angry anymore because cocky guys like that get caught.

… and how the family is quiet until it gets close to a get-together. Then Facebook and texting are almost impossible to keep up with – a week-long celebration!

… then there's the chickens which raise a big ruckus when one of the hens lays an egg. Not all the hens are celebrated. I haven't figured out that one yet.

… like the lady who was well dressed and professional that used food stamps. She was so uncomfortable and humiliated – it radiated from her body like a cloud. And the cashier who complained about her to me – within earshot of her – obviously misunderstanding the situation and thinking that this poor lady was abusing the system.

… the rich pine smell after a rain

… the bright rainbow in the west after the storm

… the howl of the coyote pack as they gather and the sharp silence as they begin their night hunt

… like the girl looking down at her steering wheel as I pass her on the highway. She's floating over the double yellow. I say a prayer that she puts down the phone.

… spirits and emotions rising in church during worship – authentic, unforced

… the rising smoke of anger, the air thick with it, in a group of unhappy citizens

… the palpable feel of someone depressed

… the clear song of a bird, moving from northeast to southwest, fading, and is gone

… that silent moment, dense with emotion, before the upset person explodes at the waitress

… like every hen lays a different size egg with just a little different color brown or white

… the gratefulness of acceptance as I feel that special cleansing through the universe to me – that tells me you read this whole thing

thank you

This is Day 19 in the 31 Day Challenge -

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Kindness, Listening and Figuring It Out

Who is my neighbor?

I must have been asked that a thousand times in all the religion classes I have ever had. I never got it. I just didn't understand.

Then, in college, a small glimmer – my dorm-mates were my neighbor, and even my family members were my neighbors. But I didn't really help them in anyway. None of them were ever in dire need, wounded and bloodied by the side of the road, in need of a place to stay.

But, said the professor, any kindness to others, to our neighbors, is a kindness to Jesus. Well, I guess I was doing okay. I was kind to my friends … I helped that one girl with her platter in the cafeteria … and I even talked to a few of those prickly people who I thought might be my enemies.

I don't remember speaking with neighbors growing up. I'm sure I did. We just weren't those have-the-neighbors-over-for-dinner kind of people.

When I was 14, I talked to the weird neighbor with the huge pool. He was so strange. He even sat on the roof of his house. I don't know what he did inside his house and my mom was pretty clear about the fact the I was not allowed in his yard. “But be nice,” she said. Whatever that meant.

Then, out on my own, I watched in awe as newly acquired co-workers talked to everyone they saw. How did they do that? I didn't know any of them, so I stayed in the background until absolutely necessary.

It wasn't until I was married and living in a trailer park that I began to understand what a neighbor was. Next door was a little girl and boy that liked to play with my children. Eventually I was comfortable with them playing at the neighbor's house, but not when the boyfriend was home. They fought like cats and dogs. The yards were small. I could understand every word.

I think she understood my fear of their fighting because she was brave enough to approach me one day and apologize. I listened and admitted that I had no advice for her, but I was willing to listen. It was a good conversation. I felt good about trying to help her in some way, even if it was just listening.

And then, in church, KaBam! Oh! She's my neighbor. She's my neighbor and my neighbor. I tried not to intrude, but I did bring her fresh bread once in a while (I love baking) and a few tomatoes once our garden got going.

With this new-found confidence, I branched out. I got to know the neighbors on the other side and across the street. I went for walks when my husband came home to stay with the children.

When we moved to the home we live in now I learned what it really meant to be a good neighbor. We built slowly on our property until we could move. The shed was up on the hill all alone at the new place and occasionally teens would drive up the new driveway and smoke there, just to get away from things. Our new neighbor would call the sheriff every time he saw them and kept our meager possessions in the shed safe. We hardly knew him and he didn't have to do that. What a great neighbor.

When we finally moved in to our new home the neighbors on the other side of us were also home educators and our children all played together. We watched each others homes when we went on vacation and called each other in the bad snow storms.

I finally understood what it was to be a good neighbor when the neighbor to the north (a pastor) married the neighbor to the south and his girlfriend in their decorated yard – and they asked me to play piano for the wedding. It was hot and sweaty and a little awkward, but the wedding was perfect and the couple was happy and I was just thankful to be part of it.

Now, as I learn a new flock in a new church I realize I am handed many chances to be a neighbor every time I attend. And, they are all my neighbors in worship, in classes, in choir and on Facebook.

And, if you haven't figured it out already, Facebook is the biggest neighborhood in the world!

This is Day 18 in the 31 Day Challenge -

Monday, October 17, 2016

Areas of Study (in which I share things I have never shared before to anyone)

via Getty Images
I love to study. I have studied a million things.

I studied lots of things before I ever set foot in my Kindergarten class in Kimberly, Wisconsin. In those days, you didn't have to go to Kindergarten, but I'm sure my mom wanted to challenge me. I was already drawing letters and wanting to read. I don't remember learning to read, but I do remember my teacher having issues with the colors I used to draw my zoo. I also hated to take naps … there were two other students whose names were called frequently during nap time. That floor was so hard!

I learned reading, writing, and mathematics from the first to the third grade at Mount Calvary Lutheran Grade School in Kimberly, Wisconsin. I loved going to school. I'm sure my teachers gave me encouragement or I would have withered. I just don't remember much of it. What stands out in my mind are the huge mistakes I made. On the first day of first grade I ran back home terrified because my umbrella had blown inside out and I was soaked. During the second graders' lessons in cursive, I got out a piece of paper and learned cursive too. I didn't understand that in a two-grade classroom the first graders were supposed to ignore the second graders' classes. It seemed a really stupid rule to me. Here I was sitting in the same room and I wasn't allowed to learn during certain times of the day?

In third grade I was given the responsibility to help one of the students with her home work. She had a bad rash on her hands that were covered with white gloves and it was difficult for her to use a pencil. So after I was finished with my math, I helped her. I knelt on the floor next to her desk and wrote down what she told me. The teacher kept a watchful eye on me and reminded me more than once that she was supposed to figure out the problems, not me. I might have been giving her answers, but I don't remember. I knew I was “helping.” The next day she had to do her own work. She sat there doing nothing and crying. The day after that she didn't come to school. I felt somehow it was my fault.

In fourth grade I studied human behavior at a school called Good Shepherd Lutheran in Phoenix, Arizona. My teacher hated me and spanked me frequently for talking in class, but of course, she didn't know I was just helping students like my third grade teacher had told me to. I learned that boys liked to shock girls and they tried to shock me (but my brother had already trained me). The only black boy in school kissed me on the lips and was disappointed when I wasn't shocked. My best friend told me where babies came from while we were at recess, sitting under a palm tree. I learned to be embarrassed on the day I didn't wear shorts under my skirt. I also learned to be prepared. From every day afterward I never failed to wear shorts under my dress. I learned to be angry when my teacher asked me to step behind the partition that separated our classroom from the small assembly room. There I learned to plot revenge as she spanked me very loudly, telling me all my sins and transgressions for everyone to hear so they would all know the spanking was necessary. My revenge took the form of sticking up for my fellow classmates that might be in danger of the same abuse. Later my mother stood up for the teacher and asked me to understand her since she had had much pain in her life. Later, when I studied WWII history, I wondered if she had been in a concentration camp or, perhaps, she had been a Nazi. My mother assured me she was hurt because her husband has left her. I wondered secretly how many times he had been spanked.

In fifth grade I was at the bottom of a class full of fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth graders. I learned what 5 minutes felt like. I learned how to flirt with boys. I learned that even male teachers could be abusive and he picked on the heaviest boy during exercise class by making him sing a solo about getting rid of chicken fat. I was humiliated for days because of that event. I wished it had been me. But I was scrawny. I would have to take the abuse for some other infraction.

The sixth and seventh grades are a blur, but only because it was the same teacher in the same classroom. We learned about car engines and that raw eggs have little chance of survival when dropped from a 20-foot ladder in a cushioned cardboard box. I learned how to be a fat little cheerleader in an uncomfortable cheer leading outfit. I braved this ordeal because my best friend also had to be a cheerleader. Five cheerleaders for a basketball team of eight (later it was four because Debbie got to quit because of her asthma). I also had to cope with the fact that my brother was so uncoordinated that he was left off the team. He was the only boy in the entire school left off the team. I wanted to quit cheer leading just to make a social statement.

In eighth grade I was on top of the class in a brand new classroom. Three of us competed for top grades – every day – and not by choice. It was grueling sometimes and definitely emotionally abusive. Dave was the smartest, then Dan, then I came in a close third, then came the rest of the class. I helped two other students, which was the only thing that made eighth grade tolerable. But when we had to write a report about what we would do for the rest of our lives, I found out that I could only squirm and could no longer save my friends. My report was 40 pages long. I planned on doing a lot with my life. My best friend and I talked about it for a week as we helped each other come up with things to put in our reports. Then came the dreadful day when the teacher decided to read the reports out loud in class. He didn't read mine because it was too long. But he read my best friend's. He put emphasis on all the wrong words and made her out to be a fool. I cried until the end of school. She was humiliated. I was brave enough by 14 to give the teacher a piece of my mind. I couldn't wait for school to be over for the year.

Looking back I can see the faces of my friends. We tried to stick together and help each other out, but discipline was tough. I moved away from Phoenix and sometimes I hear from or hear about my old friends from grade school. I find it notable, though not surprising, that they all have a weight problem.

This is Day 17 in the 31 Day Challenge -

Sunday, October 16, 2016

It's So Little

It's so little

Little boy, little girl

little paycheck, gone in a whirl

Little kids by little goats

Little people in little coats

Little you and little me

Little kiss by the yumyum tree

Little bats and little balls

Little rivers little falls

I eat a little he eats more

We all eat cause it's a bore

I have little fingers thin

He has thick ones from a bin

Little mall in a little town

Little man with a little frown

Little movie little play

Little time to serve today

Little clothes for little dolls

Little hangings in the halls

Little painting by myself

I quite like it on my shelf

Little time left in this write

I will rewrite, make it tight

Little you and little me

and little baby, that makes three

Little poem all wrote out

Little book to talk about


This is Day 16 in the 31 Day Challenge -