Reading, Writing and Parenting

Today I was looking over some of my early attempts at writing.  I’m sure somewhere deep down in my inner being there is a story to be written.  Or maybe I should be thinking along the lines that there is a story to be read…its much easier to read than to write.  Anyway, since I was little, I have loved to write.

Part of that is because of a combination of events early in my life.  I am number 5 of six children.  The first four are a at least 8 years older than me, with the baby being somewhat closer to my age.  My oldest sister left for college about the time I was discovering how to hold a pencil.  My mom encouraged me to write to her.  I wasn’t content to draw a picture and write a word or two.  No, I had to write a whole letter.  I had learned to write my letters, but couldn’t spell worth a hoot (hadn’t started school yet you see) but that didn’t stop me.  Mom and all my older siblings would patiently spell out each word so I could write the letters, one by one.  I really thought the idea that I could put letters down on paper and stick a magic stamp on the envelope that would take that paper to my sister several states away was pretty cool!

Then in third grade I had the most amazing teacher.  All the good things teachers are doing today she was doing waaaaaay back then.  We did experiments and wrote about them in our journal.  We raised butterflies and wrote about them in our journal.  We learned about poetry and wrote our own poetry in our journal.  Wham!  I hooked to poetry like it was industrial strength Velcro!  The beauty and flow of words and rhyme.  The rhythm.  Words drawing pictures and evoking emotion.  Here is one of my 3rd grade originals

In School

In school we have spelling,

And a time for work and play,

And just like at home

I could do my work all day.

 

But do you know what?

Oh, please try to guess.

Well … Glory Be

I think I should have my recess.

Ok, that isn’t really ready for publication, but you get the picture. And I’m sure my mom would have something to say about my willingness to do my work at home all day.  I HATED washing dishes!!! Added to my love of writing was my love of reading.  That got me into trouble more than once when for some reason I couldn’t read and hear at the same time. I still get into trouble for the same thing!

Mom always wanted me to write, which eventually led me to start this blog in the first place.  It’s ok that I don’t have hundreds of people following the blog.  I just love to write, although sometimes I forget to allow myself time to do so.  But now I have started something new that melds my love of writing and my love of reading together.  Recently I started reviewing books.  I was invited by Barbour Publishing to join their Review Crew.  Aha!  They will send me a book to read and review if I so choose.  Perfect.  Now I can say, “But dear, I need to read this book for my review.”  Hubby loves me and is happy I am getting a free book to read.  I am happy to have a new book to read and I even get to “voice” my opinion. Shame I wasn’t invited back in my school days.  It would have saved a lot of misunderstanding with my mom.  I remember one time….well, never mind that.  You don’t want to know, I’m sure.

Now don’t worry, I don’t plan to review every single book here, but this recent book is too good to pass  without a comment.  The book is a parenting book by Dan Seaborn, entitled Parenting with Grace and Truth.   I have to say I really enjoyed this book.  Those of you who know me personally know our children are grown and have children of their own.  That didn’t stop me from gaining a few tips starting from the first chapter.  Several times I picked up my pen to take notes. The suggestions given are good ones, backed up with scripture, examples and real life experiences and application.  And the language is easy to understand.  Mr. Seaborn doesn’t just say, “This is what you must do!”  He shows you how to develop your own life rules by looking at character traits that are important to you.  Parenting is hard work, and he understands that and gives encouragement.  He even covers parenting through a crisis and parenting blended families.

After reading this book, I feel I can recommend it to anyone who has any contact with children.  Whether you are a parent, hope to be a parent, or know someone about to be a parent this book is a great read.  Are you a pastor, a teacher, work in children’s ministry or operate a day care? This book is helpful.  Or in my case, are you a grandparent who wants be a good role model for grandchildren?  Then this book is for you.  Yes, at the bottom of this I have to tell you that I was given this book*, but I was not required to review it, especially here on this blog.  If you want to see my official review, it is on Amazon, Christian Book Distributors, and Barnes and Noble. But here, I just want to share with family and friends a book I think is very helpful.

Now all this talking about early writing has caused me to want to pick up my pen and paper.  Gotta go!  I have a story to write!

*I received a copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

 

 

 

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Pancakes…a Life Lesson

Recently one of my granddaughters and I were discussing cooking and food.  Nothing new here…we often discuss food.  I remember how special it was one day to tie an apron around her tiny waist, stand her on a chair and let her help me cook.  I think we made mac and cheese in a saucepan or something similar to that.  And of course, before you click your tongue, I had turned the stove off during the time she was “stirring” and I did everything with her safety in mind.  Really, what else would you expect.  I guard my treasure and my grandchildren are some of my treasures.

Anyway, we got on the topic of pancakes.  Both of us love pancakes.  We even both love blueberry pancakes!  With visions of  preparing a family breakfast together, I asked her if she had a special blueberry pancake recipe.  No, she declared.  She only likes blueberry pancakes from iHop!  FIDDLE!  My visions melted away, but it did start a trip down memory lane.

One particular memory stays vivid in my mind.  It haunts me a bit and I hope it always will.  You see, I didn’t always like pancakes.  I remember like it was this morning a time when my frustration with pancakes bubbled over…and frustration bubbling over wasn’t something you did in my family growing up.  We had too much respect for our parents, and had been raised well if I do say so myself.  But this particular day my younger brother and I had been playing outdoors after completing our chores.  It was probably a summer weekday or else other siblings would have been home from their summer jobs.  I’m guessing I was somewhere between 7 and 10 years old. (Age has never been super critical to me so I’m not entirely sure.)  I remember Mom calling out the door that we were to come in for lunch.  With a big smile she gave us each a pancake that she had sprinkled sugar on and rolled up like a jelly roll.  “Take it outside and eat it.”  Normally I would be thrilled to eat outside, but seriously- a pancake?  And not even any syrup?  As we scampered out the door without a backward glance, I remember saying, “I HATE pancakes.”    It seemed to me we had them often, so obviously Mom must love them a lot.

It wasn’t until years had passed that I realized what had probably happened.  You see, we were loved so much that I didn’t realize we were poor.  Never did I realize as a child that other families may live differently than us.  I thought Mom loved sewing so much that she enjoyed making our clothes.  I thought Dad loved his work and that was why he spent so many hours there.  Oh, I knew there were a few kids with more “things”, but I just thought they were probably spoiled kids, you know?  In my heart’s eye I can see my mother looking out the window at her two youngest children, saying to herself, “Lord, what can I possibly feed them today?”  I can see her opening the cupboard doors and seeing a few basic staples on the shelf.  (That woman could make more from a few basics than anyone I ever met!)  I can see her taking out the flour and sitting it on the counter and reflecting that she was blessed to still have some flour on hand.  My heart almost cracks as I mentally see her mixing up batter…enough for two pancakes.  Trying her best to make it special, I can see her looking in the sugar bowl for those few grains of sugar and deciding she didn’t want sugar in her coffee anyway.  Then, my heart cracks a little more as I see her cheerfully calling us to come get lunch, and sending us outside on a little picnic so we wouldn’t see the empty batter bowl and notice she wasn’t “hungry” for lunch.  And then pain slices through me as I hear myself say, “I HATE pancakes!”.  And in retrospect, I can see Dad coming home that night and mom greeting him at the door with a kiss, and a look into his eyes that said how much she appreciated his efforts to provide for his family.

I learned several lessons from this childhood memory. I’ll quickly share three.  One is that poor is a state of mind. The fact that I never considered us poor speaks well to the upbringing our parents provided.  We may have scraped the bottom of the barrel at times, but we never went without something to eat, clothes to wear, and a roof over our heads.  We did things as a family, and had fun!  Another lesson is that love is a powerful force that can embrace and protect in amazing ways.  (If you don’t think so, just think about God’s love.) It isn’t about keeping our loved ones from hard experiences, but about helping our loved ones THROUGH hard experiences.  Tough times will come, but we can get through them…together.  And finally, when we dig deeper in trying to learn and understand one another, our preconceived perceptions often change dramatically.

What can I say?  I LOVE pancakes.  Thanks Mom.  Thanks Dad.

Chilly Mornings and Cinnamon Toast

Recently someone on Facebook shared a link an article by Pioneer Woman about how to make the Cinnamon Toast the right way.  You can read it for yourself here on Rhee Drummond’s Pioneer Woman website: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/the-right-way-and-the-wrong-way-to-make-cinnamon-toast/

Of course, I already knew the right way to make cinnamon toast but I followed the link anyway.  Now I admit, in a pinch I have been known to toast a piece of bread, butter it, and add cinnamon and sugar. That isn’t cinnamon toast-it is toast with cinnamon and sugar.  It’s tasty, but nothing like the taste of REAL cinnamon toast.

When I was a little girl, admittedly life was simpler.  We lived in a tiny town…village…whatever you call a collection of about 15-20 houses.  Our front yard was large and was often filled with the neighborhood children as we  played games like Red Light/Green Light, Mother May I, and Red Rover.  I am blessed to have 5 brothers and sisters, so even if the neighborhood children were not around, we still had plenty of kids to share games, secrets, chores and fun. Being one of the youngest, I got a lot of hand me down clothes and I was proud of that.  I still remember the beautiful mint green dresses my sisters had.  If I remember correctly they had butterflies on them.  I couldn’t wait until they would be passed down to me.

We weren’t wealthy and I’m glad.  We had a huge garden, which probably helped me develop my own love of gardening.  (That and the fact that I never liked to do the dishes and would rather work outside.) Our meals were not fancy, but I thought they were the most wonderful meals on earth.  Looking back, I know that Mama and Daddy put a lot of love in the family to make everything stretch. I’m not sure how they did it, but I never felt deprived in any way.

Back to the cinnamon toast.  Every so often mama would make hot chocolate and cinnamon toast.  Six or eight slices of bread would fit on her cookie sheet.  She spread each slice with butter, and then sprinkled the cinnamon and sugar on the bread.  After a few minutes in the oven, we were treated with the most delicious REAL cinnamon toast I have ever tasted.  For an early breakfast or a rare bedtime snack, there was nothing better. The oven warmed the kitchen and the toast warmed our heart and set the tone for the day.  I don’t know where mama learned to make cinnamon toast the right way…maybe from her mama.  Of course now that I am thinking back, I don’t remember us even having a toaster back then.

So when that Facebook link was posted, it immediately took me back to fond childhood memories of chilly mornings and cinnamon toast. I would write more about the subject, but I’m busy. Its a little chilly and  I think I have earned a cup of hot tea and cinnamon toast!

Camp Feet

Years ago when I was a youngster, I attended a 4-H camp.  It was AMAZING!  I remember singing around the campfire, listing to our camp counselor and playing lots and lots of volleyball.  When our sons were young they were able to go to church youth camp several times.  I remember being happy for them; I was also a bit wishing I could be a youth and go to camp.

As an adult, I knew there was our denominational church camp.  Hubby and I often went nightly and heard some great preaching.  I heard people share memories of camp and thought…how did I miss all that?  What are they talking about? Well, this year I was able to go to Family Camp.  Who knew that the evening services we attended were only a small part of the camping experience?

Camp CoffeeOur theme was THRIVE. In a nutshell, during the daytime hours we talked, had Bible Studies that were so enriching, shared wonderful meals, formed friendships, enjoyed family activities, ate some more, and had some incredible coffee before the evening service.  WOW!  I enjoyed getting to know some older people from the state north of us and hearing the life stories they had to share.  Some of the younger adults had so much enthusiasm to share.  And watching the children was an experience all its own.  They played and learned and rode their bikes from breakfast until lights out.  And like me long ago, they played lots and lots of ball…but it was GaGa Ball.  And yes, some of my grandchildren were there. What they learned about Jesus and the songs they shared with us were so precious.  Spiritually, the whole experience was so needed and so uplifting.

I went a bit early to help get things ready only to find so many people had volunteered so many hours to clean the campgrounds, make repairs, set up the tabernacle and more.  Helping to prepare the grounds definitely helped me see and appreciate all the effort that goes into something like this.  During camp, I was scheduled to teach 7 different craft classes so I tried to get everything ready for that too.

In between the work, there was so much fun!  A local company that rents golf carts delivered 10 to the camp.  Some were rented to campers, some were set aside for the speakers, the nurse, or other staff that would need to get from place to place quickly.  Never having driven a golf cart before, I was thrilled to be given a tour of the camp.  Then- oh what fun- I was allowed to drive.  Oh yeah!  Hubby wasn’t around which was good, since he tends to be a bit overprotective.  Needless to say, I had a blast.  And in case anyone wants to know what to give me for my birthday, I would like my electric golf cart to be a cool shade of lime green with purple trim with 4 seats and please remember a great sounding horn. (hint hint)  And by the way, when hubby got to camp and was able to drive one, he had the same grin on his face that I did.

Craft time went well, although the flip flops flopped a bit.  We managed.  But the great thing is that we had so much fun.  Maybe a later blog can focus on the specific crafts, but suffice it to say, we shared plenty of laughs along with the paint. And speaking of paint I seemed to accumulate a splotch of each color and I wasn’t even painting! I still haven’t figured that one out.

One of the big things I heard people talking about was camp feet.  Yes, by the end of the day, those wearing flip flops had accumulated several layers of ummm, well- dirt.   It was a badge of honor that showed others just how active a person been that day and how much fun they were having.  Some even posted pictures of their feet that clearly showed the strap lines of their flip flops.  Since I was wearing purple Crocs, it took a bit longer for me to get my camp feet on.  (of course we washed our feet, but it was hot and dry at camp this year and dirt does cling you know.)

Camp is over now. Laundry is clean again.  All those supplies that I took to camp for crafts are back at home.  I would like to say they have been put away, but that wouldn’t be true so I won’t even go there. And finally, after many days I am able to sit once again at my computer and share some thoughts on this blog.  In fact I think I will kick off my Crocs and read a few other blogs while I am sitting here.

Wait a minute!!! I think I can see just a shadow…maybe just a memory…of camp feet!

Ripples

RipplesWhen my children were little, they loved little cars. They took pretty good care of these cars, so they built up quite a collection. Some were name brand models like Hot Wheels or Matchbox. Others were the 6 in a package for a dollar kind. They had all colors and models. Somewhere along the line, they cooked up quite a scheme. Calling their unsuspecting mother into the room, they had several cars lined up. It was my job, they said, to choose the one I liked best. Just a word to all mothers…children usually have a reason for what they ask. Their reasons rarely match ours, but they are reasons just the same. Beware! Anyway, I picked out the make and model I thought the most appealing at the time. “That’s HIS car. That means you love HIM best!” they cried. Oh man! I tried to never fall for that again. However, although their questions or comments became more thought provoking, they never yet have quit asking…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Recently my youngest son sent me a text message. “Where do the ripples in the pond go?” At first, I sent a cute text back…the ripples travel to the shore and wait in peace until they are needed again. Then I thought, wait a minute, there is something really deep here. I promised I would send a more mature response later via email. It took me a while to send it because each day I seemed to gain some new depth from the question and answer. In order to truly understand “The Sisters by Choice” I think I first need to tell you my answer to that question.
The ripples on the pond begin with an interruption of the calm pond surface. It may have been a stone that plops into the water as a grandfather attempts to teach his grandchild how to skip stones across the pond. It may have been a huge drop of rain heralding the arrival of many similar drops. Perhaps a fish broke the surface out of curiosity of the great world beyond their watery domain. Regardless of the reason, the surface tension has been disturbed, and the resulting ripples travel in ever widening circles away from the initial point of contact. Eventually the ripple meets the shore, causing a few grains of soil to be displaced. I could easily visualize the tiny water droplets then slowly leaving the shore and moving ever so slowly back to their place in the pond each time another ripple reached the shore.
Then I thought about what ripples I might send…what effect I might have when I ripple the surface of life. First I thought about my impact as a Christian. Many times God disturbs the surface of our calm, comfortable Christian walk. The ripples we send out are up to us. We can refuse to react, and the ripple is barely noticeable. Or, we can draw on God’s strength and make a difference. Each time I am obedient, and move in the way God commands, there is an impact on the effects of sin in this world. The wall that satan (I refuse to capitalize this) has built to confuse and confound the world is large. But if I am obedient, slowly but surely that wall is impacted, grain by grain, until, along with the ripple of others, the wall will come down. If even one person comes to meet Christ as their personal savior, the ripples with be worth the effort.
Likewise, through obedience to God, I can make ripples in other areas. Think about world hunger. Many of us remember being told to clean our plates and to think of the starving children in whatever country was the popular example at the time. Now, cleaning or not cleaning my plate truly didn’t change the shoreline of world hunger. However, if every time I went to the grocery store and bought groceries I bought even 1 can to share, that added to the efforts of the ripples of others will make a difference to at least some local children.

Now that leads me to ponder my day. What ripples will I cause today? Will they be good ripples or harmful ripples? Will my ripples make a difference? Even a smile can have a ripple effect. Think about it in a quiet moment and see how you can start a ripple and make a difference.