Walking on broken glass

The sound of breaking glass is almost never good.

Especially not when the sound is coming from the kitchen, where dinner is cooking, and you’re in the living room, watching the kids watch “Bob the Builder” and taking a quick minute to check your e-mail.

Even more surprising than the sound that propels you out of the easy chair in a dead run for the kitchen with two curious kiddos trailing behind is what you find when you get there.

Glass. Everywhere.

Mostly concentrated on the stove, where you discover the cause: You turned on the wrong set of burners for the cast iron griddle. The chicken sausages you thought would be ready when the acorn squash came out of the oven are literally chillin’ on a cold griddle while the dishes you had piled on the stove to make room on the table (yes, you have an oversized pile of dirty dishes) are now in various states of broken, hot and cooked.

You shoo the children back to the living room, slap on a pair of flip-flops so as to avoid the inevitable shard-of-glass-in-the-bottom-of-the-foot pain and sweep the room with your eyes before deciding to sweep the floor with the broom. Gotta start somewhere.

After trying to salvage the sausages for dinner, you notice glass on the griddle and fearing shards of glass lodged in the sausages, you dump five otherwise perfectly fine sausages in the garbage because you don’t want a trip to the emergency room. (You also have an overactive imagination.) Besides cleaning glass from every corner of the kitchen, you wrack your brain for a quick and easy protein replacement for the sausages, knowing the squash won’t quite cut it for dinner.

Meanwhile, the squash is ready to come out of the oven and the children (well, one curious almost-2-year-old in particular) begin to wander toward the kitchen. You send him away for his shoes and he wails “But I can’t put them on!” He brings you his sandals; you put them on; you realize he’s walking funny, like he’s in pain in one foot. You sweep him up in your arms and take him to the bathroom, ready to administer your minimal first aid knowledge.

A small spot of blood appears on the bottom of his foot. You wipe it away and poke around with tweezers, finding nothing. You attempt to put a band-aid (a Cars band-aid, no less) on the squirmy child, who resists. You put his shoe back on. He limps and cries in pain. You take the shoe off and poke around on his foot again, wondering if glass causes infection and if you’ll have to have his foot amputated when his father gets home from work in a couple of hours. (See previous note about overactive imagination.) Shoe back on. Limp and cry. You wonder if the glass is in the shoe. “Glass in da shoe,” your son tells you. You look, then look again, and sure enough, you pluck a small piece out of the shoe. Sandals back on.

Meanwhile, you discover this has happened in the living room while you’ve been sweeping, picking and wiping up glass in the kitchen.

Under normal circumstances, this would send you searching for the closest Diet Coke or bar of chocolate. Today, you shrug and retreat to the kitchen. The 3-year-old follows you, wearing mismatched slippers, determined to help you find all the glass in the kitchen and asking a million questions. (Where was the glass? Everywhere. But WHERE was it? Everywhere you can see.) You move back to dinner, finishing up the squash and deciding that scrambled eggs are going to have to suffice. Scrambled eggs and squash — not exactly a texturally diverse meal, but thankfully no Food Network judge is scheduled to appear at your house tonight. (Robert Irvine, however, would be a welcome guest. Kitchen: Impossible. You bet.)

You finally plate the squash and eggs and offer the children a nice little table in the living room in front of the TV for their dining pleasure. Your son plows through his eggs and demands more, then takes a bite of his squash, rubs it all over his hands and face and declares “I no like squash. I wanta save it.” He heads for the kitchen, barefoot, to get the plastic wrap. You get up for the 3rd time during your “dinner” and put his shoes back on before putting his plate in the fridge and offering the kids toast as another course to their gourmet meal. Butter and  jelly (also wiped all over everything in the living room) are a small price to pay for a few moments of peace.

You reflect on the past couple of hours and here’s what you what you can take away from the evening:

  1. You are finding new and different ways to ruin dinner.
  2. You now have at least 2 dirty dishes you don’t have to wash. Ever again.
  3. Women with more than 2 children under the age of five should not be allowed to cook without adult supervision.
  4. You will discover glass in your kitchen for the next month and be amazed at how far shattered glass can travel.
  5. The strongest drink you have in your house is Diet Coke and even if you had something stronger, your church disallows it and you are practically a pastor’s wife.
  6. You wish you’d paid more attention in chemistry (or physics?) about the properties of glass.
  7. You realize that by writing an entire post in the second person you are violating your English teachers’ rule about using the word “you” and even though you are MANY years past high school, you fear their correction. (Automatic one letter grade lower. Some things just stick with you.)
  8. It is Thursday night and even though you were underwhelmed by the NBC comedies last week, you are guaranteed at least a few laughs tonight. Unless you decide to clean the kitchen from top to bottom.
  9. Most importantly, you are grateful that neither you nor the children were in the kitchen when the glass shattered because although you aren’t always satisfied with your looks, “scarface” is not a name you’re eager to adopt. And you’re queasy around too much blood. You remember that God is good. And even when things are bad, they CAN be worse.

It’s a fish story but not a tall tale

I don’t like fishing. I do like a good story, though, and Susan May Warren delivers another hit with her straight-to-ebook short story Hook, Line & Sinker. If you’ve read any of her Deep Haven novels (I’ve read one and reviewed it here.) and liked them, then I’d suggest you check this out. It’s available for only $1.99. What a bargain!

Hook, Line & Sinker is characteristically Warren from page 1. She begins with action, conflict, tension and longing and builds from there. Her characters, the main two are Ross and Abby in this story, are likeable and believable, and Warren has a way of making them jump off the page and into your life, as if you have a front-row seat to the action. I was hooked (pun intended) in the first scene, and Warren’s other Deep Haven novels are on my must-read list.

The central conflict of the story is set against a fishing contest, which I, one who has barely fished and won’t touch worms or other creepy crawlies, could not personally relate to but enjoyed reading about. I’m not sure I’m ready to go out and catch a walleye or a muskie yet, but I certainly won’t rule it out. OK, maybe I’ll just stick to reading about fishing.

Bottom line: you don’t have to love fishing to love this short tale by Susan May Warren, so snag yourself a literary treat in Hook, Line and Sinker.

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In exchange for this review, I received a free digital copy of Hook, Line and Sinker from Tyndale House Publishers.

We went to Colorado and caught a serious case of fever

Nobody warned us when we took a mini-vacay to Colorado that we’d come back with mountain fever. I’d never heard of it before the trip, but we definitely caught it.

Symptoms of mountain fever include: uncontrollable smiling, delusions, lightheadedness, daydreaming and jaw-dropping.

The only cure seems to be moving to Colorado. Or forced amnesia.

Months ago, my husband and I planned this trip for my cousin’s wedding. Thanks to some writing work I’ve done, we could afford the airfare, and my husband’s seminary schedule made a long-weekend-kind-of-trip possible. The week before we were scheduled to leave, our basement flooded. (See my post on that matter here.) We worked hard in the days leading up to the trip so we wouldn’t have to consider cancelling it. A trip west was refreshing and needed. Maybe that made us more vulnerable to mountain fever.

You might be thinking: C’mon. You live in Pennsylvania. It’s not like you spend your days in Iowa. You can see mountains from down the block and every time you head to the grocery store.

True. But can Pennsylvania really compete with this?

It wasn’t just the mountains. Although I could wake up to this every morning.

I’m pretty sure I’d have to win the lottery or something to afford a view like this. I don’t know where the money comes from in Colorado, but some people have A LOT of it.

The people also warmed us. It started with our flight crew, who were from Dallas, but let’s just say, they were amazing, even in the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced. (I laughed through it. I must be crazy.) Then, when the computer mixed up our car rental entry, the employee taking care of us offered us a free upgrade (can you say truck? I knew you could.) plus a big discount and a future discount. If you’re keeping score, that’s 1 for Southwest and 1 for Enterprise. Granted these people are in the customer service business, but we were blessed by their kindness.

The next day, shopping at Target, we were asked numerous times by employees if we were finding everything OK. And we didn’t even look lost! (Or maybe we did and I was oblivious.) And they asked with smiles on their faces, like they might actually want to help us. Am I making too big of a deal out of this or have I just lived in the Midwest and now the Mid-Atlantic too long? People are not like this everywhere. I think it has something to do with the mountain air. Or maybe Coors runs from the faucets instead of water. Whatever it is, I want some.

Here are a few other highlights from the trip. I’ll let the pictures speak for a while.

Elk on the golf course across from my cousin's wedding

 

 A talking moose at Group Publishing, the company for which I’ve been writing. It’s a little unnerving the first time, but a talking moose? That’s pretty cool. Great food at the cafe, too. And fun people! Seems like a great place to work. And visit. And hang out at.

I took pictures, mostly for my daughter’s sake.

OK, that’s a lie. How often do you see the back end of an animal that’s been stuffed?

Besides the people and the scenery, there’s a bounty of outdoor activity. Everything we had in mind to do in Colorado involved the outdoors. Hiking. More hiking. Driving through the mountains. (We were denied this opportunity because it snowed in the mountains. It’s 80 degrees in Pennsylvania today. At the end of September. Snow in the mountains in September sounds OK by me right now.)

And although it rained a lot, we still took in a lot of hiking. First at Devil’s Backbone in Loveland.

Later, at Red Rocks. (Note to self: Add “concert at Red Rocks” to bucket list.)

At the very least, we’ve added Colorado to our list of places to vacation as a family. You know, once my husband finishes seminary and has legitimate vacation time.

We will be back, Colorado. We will be back.

Saturday smiles

I’ve been focusing too much on the negative in my life. Our still-damp basement full of somewhat-salvageable stuff. My husband’s seminary workload. Finances. Demands on me (both real and imagined).

It can’t be healthy. I know this. I’ve been consuming 6 coffee-pot-cups of coffee a day most of the week. (Really, that’s only like 2 mugs of coffee, but when it makes me twitch, I have to wonder …) I’ve been overwhelmed and stressed and sarcastic, even with the kids, who SO don’t catch on to sarcasm.

It occurred to me this morning that the week wasn’t all bad. In fact, it was mostly good. So, with that in mind, I’d like to share with you the things that made me smile this week.

  • Spending $10 at the Farmer’s Market and coming home with 2 butternut squash, 2 acorn squash, 4 cucumbers and maybe 1/4 bushel of apples
  • My almost-2-year-old’s “going to see Daddy” dance (performed on Wednesdays when we meet my husband at the seminary for lunch)
  • Taking an overflowing 18-gallon tote of kids clothes to the new consignment shop in town and having them turn down only 3 pieces of clothing.
  • An unexpected customer service phone call from a Bible study publisher helping to point me in the right direction for study topics for our ladies’ Bible study
  • Leading Tuesday night Bible study with a great bunch of ladies
  • Suave dry shampoo (It’s a life-saver on those no-shower days, which unfortunately are more than I’d care to admit.)
  • Caramel macchiato creamer in my coffee. (I’m currently substituting with Italian sweet cream creamer because I drained the other kind this week.)
  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
  • Undeserved grace
  • the Psalms
  • My 3-year-old’s explanation of her Sunday School lesson last week: “That’s about a man who could not walk. Jesus said, ‘Take your wheelchair and go home.’ That’s when he was in Je-wu-sal-um.”

Join me weekly for Saturday smiles and feel free to share yours. I need the regular reminder of the good going on in my life. It’s too easy to focus on the bad.

Till next week.

Going where no woman has gone before

I’m no Star Trek fan, but I’m familiar enough with the series to know that in it, space is the final frontier. In 21st century America, it’s hard to imagine what the exploration of land was like, though I sometimes find myself thinking of pioneers as my family crosses the mountains in our van.

Author Jody Hedlund captures the story of a pioneer missionary couple in her new book The Doctor’s Lady. The story is based on the life of the first white woman to cross the continental divide and travel to the far West. Devotion to God links Priscilla White to her husband Eli Ernest, both of whom are following a call to mission work. Love is secondary. Theirs is a marriage of convenience and sometimes inconvenience. As they experience the trials of a 7-month journey from New York to Oregon Country, they discover parts of themselves they didn’t know existed, and their relationship is the better for it.

This story pulled nearly every emotional string I have. Hedlund’s characters resonated with me and the story’s message beats a drum on my heart that God has been beating for weeks now: courage in the face of new and terrifying experiences.

Priscilla has no idea what it’s like for a woman to travel across country or what it will take to survive. She has pledged her life to a man so she can fulfill God’s call on her life. She doubts. She fears. She presses on.

With a husband nearing the end of seminary, I felt akin to Priscilla. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the right woman for this job of supporting my husband in ministry. And if I have the strength to do it.

Commitment and courage — those are my take-aways from The Doctor’s Lady. Hedlund is also the author of The Preacher’s Bride (which may still be available for FREE on Kindle) and she has a new book coming next year.

Read on for an interview with Hedlund, a homeschooling mom of five from Michigan. And check in on the blog today to see if Jody stops by. Keep reading for a chance to win a copy of the book, too!

What was the inspiration behind The Doctor’s Lady?

This book is inspired by the true life story of Narcissa Whitman, the first white woman to brave the dangers of overland trail and travel west. In 1836, she married Dr. Whitman, and then the next day left her childhood home and would never return for the purpose of starting a mission among the Nez Perce natives.

It was my hope in this story to bring Narcissa Whitman to life. This heroic woman has often been ignored and at times even disparaged. In reality, she exuded incredible courage to attempt a trip many proclaimed foolishly dangerous. It was called an “unheard-of-journey for females.” Because of her willingness to brave the unknown, she led the way for the many women who would follow in her footsteps in what would later become known as the Oregon Trail.

What percentage of The Doctor’s Lady is true? And how much did you add?

As with any story of historical fiction, the large majority of what I’ve written was truly from the depths of my imagination, all of my creative meanderings of “what could have happened.”

However, in my research of the Whitmans, I drew from numerous biographies. While I wasn’t able to stick to every historical detail in complete accuracy, most of the story outline is taken directly from Narcissa’s diary.

I tried to follow the trail they took west as closely as possible. While I was unable to include every stop and incident of their travel for the sake of brevity, I did try to capture the essence of their journey. I included their travel first by sleigh, then steamboat, and lastly by wagon and horse.

Make sure you read the Author’s Note at the end of the book where I explain in more detail which specific incidents came from the pages of her diary and what I made up for the sake of the story.

What’s coming next?

In 2012, my next historical romance releases. I’m really excited about this story because it’s set in my home state of Michigan. It takes place during the 1880’s at a time in history when the lumber era was at its height. Although the story isn’t inspired by a true person the way my first two books have been, I do include several real people, particularly a real villain by the name of James Carr who was notorious in central Michigan for his violence and for introducing white slavery into the state.

The heroine of the story is a young woman, Lily Young, who is looking for her sister who’s caught up into the degradation of lumber camp life. While Lily searches for her missing sister, she fights against the evil that runs rampant around her, and she fights not to lose her heart to the lumber baron who turns a blind eye to the lawlessness of the lumber business.

How did you decide to write historical romance?

I’ve always loved reading historical romances and losing myself in the past. And I’m also a big history buff. So I was naturally drawn to writing about the things I love most.

As a homeschooling mom of five children, how do you manage to find time to write?

It’s definitely not easy. I feel like I have two very full time jobs! But like any other writer trying to balance dual careers or multiple responsibilities, I’ve had to look for ways to make it work. I’ve scaled-back on outside commitments and simplified home life as much as possible. I also stick to a very strict writing schedule when I’m in first draft mode. I block out writing time and don’t let myself go to bed at night unless I get in my daily word count.

What’s your must-have road trip item?

My pillows! I always take my pillows with me on a road-trip (except of course when I fly). I’m really picky about sleeping on “used” pillows. I can’t help wondering who slept on the fluffy mound before me, whether they had clean hair or bad breath or whatever! And besides, no pillow can ever be quite as comfortable as my own. (Now you can see why I wouldn’t have made the trip west in a covered wagon–at least not without a great deal of complaining and whining!)

Where can readers find you?

I hang out on Facebook here: Author Jody Hedlund

I also love to chat on Twitter: @JodyHedlund

My home base is at my website: jodyhedlund.com

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WANT TO WIN YOUR OWN COPY? Leave a comment on my blog site (not Facebook) revealing your must-have road trip item. I’ll pick a random winner via Random.org on Sept. 30. The winner will receive a signed copy of The Doctor’s Lady! Open to U.S. mailing addresses only.

WANT A BONUS ENTRY? Share this post on Facebook or Twitter and come back to the blog to let me know you’ve done it.

But, wait! There’s more! Click the banner below for another contest on Jody’s blog.

Enter the Be A Trailblazer Contest!

In exchange for posting a review and interview, I received a free copy of the book from the author and Bethany House Publishers.

A crash course in letting go

Two weeks ago, I had a plan. A blog post every day of the week because I felt I had so much to say and I was learning some things worth sharing.

Then this happened.

The rains came down and the floods came up. Thirty inches of water in our basement turned our world upside down. Maybe that’s a little dramatic. Others have it worse. We are blessed. And God is good. I don’t doubt either of those things for a minute.

But life is, let’s say, overwhelming at the moment.

What started as an inch of water quickly escalated after the town’s leaders decided to cut power to the power station when it flooded. Our sump pump, which was diligently working while we slept, stopped when the power did. Thus, the indoor swimming pool in our basement.

We didn’t lose as much as we could have nor anything we consider extremely valuable. But loss is loss and it hurts nonetheless. Perhaps the biggest loss I discovered this week was all of my high school and college yearbooks. This didn’t matter as much to my husband, and I’m not sure why it matters so much to me. Nostalgia. Memories. These are the things that get me in trouble sometimes because I hold on to things that should have long been thrown away.

We’re still going through stuff, drying it out and finding ways to get rid of it. We’ve been collectors for too long. Clutter seems to follow us. I’m always saving things for later. (Like the mound of empty cardboard boxes that were in the basement for our eventual move next summer. Gone.) 

God, it would seem, helped us clear things out sooner than we’d hoped. (I’m not suggesting He caused the flood to punish us or anyone else. Just want to get that out there.)

Where I once stockpiled, I now find myself with an urge to rid our house of everything we’re not using RIGHT NOW. I have more than three years worth of kids clothes that will be finding a new home in the next several months, and even though it’s been years since my daughter wore some of her things, I still feel pangs of guilt as I toss them into a “to sell” tote. (I’m convinced guilt is a by-product of giving birth to children. I’ve never felt so guilty about everyday actions the way I have since becoming a mother. Is anyone else with me on this?)

My husband and I have talked about the desire to live more simply, but until now our actions haven’t matched our words. It’s still hard to give things away or throw things away, thinking we might need it again someday. Even with the kids clothes. We’re not 100 percent sure we’re not going to have more kids, but we have no immediate plans for another one. Besides, kids clothes are abundant and grandparents love to shop. (At least our kids’ do.)

We have much. And what we give away could easily be replaced in the future.

The Bible tells us to store up treasures in heaven where moth and rust cannot destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal. We are learning the reality of this principle. The reason so many of our stored items were in the basement is because a year ago, we had a mold problem in the attic and had to move everything out of the attic to the basement so the mold could be removed. We never moved our stuff back upstairs because we didn’t think we’d need to.

The water line

Treasures in heaven — where mold and flood cannot destroy.

After the fire department pumped us out.

Charlie Sheen made popular the idea of “winning.” I still don’t get it. Our family is experiencing a season of “losing.” At least in the earthly sense.

Elsewhere in the Bible, Jesus tells his followers that those who lose and give up for Him will gain in the long run. I’ve heard it called  “winning through losing.”

It’s not as glamorous as it might sound. Some days, it really stinks. My hope is that because of this, we’ll be better off.

Not wealthy in goods, but rich in what really matters.

Cooking with kids

If my husband and I had a show on Food Network, we’d have to call ourselves the Messy Chefs. We are pro at making a complete mess of the kitchen anytime we cook together.

The kids are starting to get in on the action, and I’ve considered sending Food Network some feedback about the challenges on their shows. Cooking for kids? How about cooking with kids? Now, there’s a challenge.

And it’s one I’ve voluntarily undertaken. Anytime I start preparing food for lunch or dinner, I’ve got two willing helpers instantly at my side.

Sort of like this.

Now, I know someone is going to warn me about the dangers of letting my kids “help” too close to a hot stove.

Trust me; it’s more dangerous if they don’t help. Like yesterday when we were making ratatouille (which I’m pretty sure is French for “everything but the kitchen sink”), I didn’t have much for them to do, so they made their own fun.

A pastry brush became a paintbrush. The meat mallet was a hammer that had to hit everything. (I cringed with every “BANG!”) My favorite, though, was the whisks, which they whisked into guitars. “Guitar, guitar,” Corban yelled as he air strummed through the kitchen.

Anyway, I decided to partially harness this eagerness to help and let Isabelle pick out one meal a week (that’s the goal, at least) that she wants to make.

We used this book:

To make these last week:

Piggy pies, they were called. And the only problem was Corban kept trying to eat the eyes (peas) before they went in the oven. How creepy would blind pigs have been?

They both had a blast, and I think Isabelle enjoyed eating more because she had helped make them.

Of course, this whole experiment requires large extra doses of patience and a frequent letting go of control, both of which do not come easily to me, especially when trying to accomplish a task.

Gradually, we’re letting Isabelle, and Corban to some extent, help more with food prep.

Here, she was helping us make baked hush puppies for Phil’s birthday meal on Sunday.

I love her two-handed method for stirring the wet and dry ingredients.

Cooking with kids isn’t always easy and sometimes we break a few eggs (unintentionally) but for me, it’s more fun to have them helping, even if the whole process takes longer.

Do your kids like to help in the kitchen? How do you let them be involved?

Nowhere to go but down

So I’ve been at this weight loss challenge for 2 months now with nothing but gain to show for it. I’ve gained weight. I’ve gained perspective. I’ve gained insight. I’ve also lost some things, too. Desire, motivation, pride.

Besides the actual act of losing weight, I’m struggling right now to make exercise and eating right a priority. We’ve had to — and will have to — make some tough decisions about what’s going to be most important to our family. Exercise is part of it, but in the last two weeks, we haven’t been able to follow through on that. Spending time together as a couple, time as a family, my husband’s last year of seminary, restoring the house to some kind of normal after being gone for two weeks … these are what we’ve spent our time on.

The next two weeks won’t be “normal” by any means — we’re having company; we’re taking a trip to Denver for my cousin’s wedding. I haven’t finished unpacking from the last trip yet and I’m already starting to think about packing for the next one.

I feel like I’m waiting for conditions to be “perfect” for exercise to fit into the routine. I know I’m kidding myself. Life with two little ones will never be perfectly right for making exercise a priority.

Help me out, here. How do you make exercise a priority? What suffers when that happens? What benefits do you get from it?

Looking for church in all the wrong places

Sometimes, I have a love-hate relationship with church.

I love the people who are the church. I hate what we sometimes do in the name of the church. I love getting together on Sundays. I hate that sometimes we leave it in the building and don’t take it into the rest of the week.

Like every relationship, it has its highs and lows. I’ve not considered leaving the church or living the Christian life solo, but after reading Joshua Harris’ Why Church Matters (formerly titled Stop Dating the Church), I’ve come to this realization: I’m unfaithful to the church.

Because my husband is going to be a pastor, I’ve thought that giving our lives and vocation for the church is commitment enough. Never mind that I “shop around” in my mind, comparing my current and former churches to other churches I’ve visited or heard about or read about.

If we could just be like that church, I’ll think, or, if only we lived closer to this church.

These kinds of thoughts set us up for disappointment and a lack of commitment to the church, God’s chosen vessel for the Gospel, His bride. Harris reminds us that Christ loves the church, and loved her to the point of death, and sees her with the eyes of a groom on his wedding day. She’s not perfect, but she’s getting there.

Harris encourages commitment to a biblically based church and offers 10 questions to consider before choosing a church. He does not advocate making the best of a bad situation, i.e. one where the Bible is secondary to anything else, discipline is an afterthought or where people live contrary to what they proclaim on Sunday. But church-shopping, or not attending one at all, is not to be a Christian’s way of life, according to Harris.

Some of Harris’ beliefs and teachings about church seem a little extreme to me and sometimes, with little room for grace. That doesn’t mean the book isn’t valuable. I think it’s best to take parts of it with a grain of salt. Like in another of his books, I Kissed Dating Good-bye, Harris writes with authority and backs up his beliefs with Scripture and experience.

I’m not sure everyone will buy everything he’s selling, but I think he makes some good points about committing to a church family, serving within that family and ending the search for a “perfect” church.

Check out chapter one here.

In exchange for this review, I received a free copy of the book from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

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