Category Archives: Fun

MY NEW TOY

Well, I did it. I finally joined the twenty-first century and gave in to the e-book revolution. I fought it as long as I could. But when I kept seeing e-books I wanted to buy on Amazon for $.99—or better yet free—I cracked.

I’d already been introduced to the ease of downloading books when I learned a few months ago that Amazon had an app to read Kindle books on my PC. It felt like a step forward, but portability was a problem. If I wanted to take an e-book with me to read while I waited for the dental hygienist to clean my kids’ teeth, it was too much trouble. So I ended up thumbing through old issues of Highlights and Golf Digest instead.

Then one day at Office Max, when we’d stopped in to by my son a new spiral notebook to doodle in, the Kindle display caught my eye. My daughter turned it on, pushed a few buttons and suddenly text filled the screen. It reminded me of the old days when having my own portable black and white TV seemed like a dream. The compact size would fit easily in my purse or a tote bag. And this one device could hold more books than I had in my entire house. Amazing!

A few days later I saw a refurbished Kindle Touch for sale for $74.00 on Amazon, a $25.00 savings. It came with the same warranty as if I’d paid full price. I read through a list of its features. When I learned I could transfer my personal documents to the Kindle to read on the go, I was hooked. I counted the bills in my mad-money envelope. As if by providence the two matched up. I pushed the “Buy now with 1-click” button before I could change my mind. And I’m glad I did.

I love my Kindle. I downloaded the ESV Bible for free and only paid $1.99 for the KJV Bible. I picked up a newly-released book by a favorite author for only $3.99. It even has Sudoku! And I’m just getting started.

There is one little problem, though. My daughter likes my Kindle, too. She’s already finished one book on it, and she’s half-way through another. I can already see the need to buy her a Kindle of her own. Or maybe I’ll just give her mine and I’ll get a new one. Have you seen the Kindle Fire? It has color!

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IT’S IN THE BAG

I think I’m turning into a bag lady. 

It started when I went to a writer’s conference. Each attendee was given a tote bag with the American Christian Fiction Writers logo on it. It turned out to be pretty handy to carry around the hotel. I loaded it with pens, a notepad, the workshop schedule, free books and bookmarks I picked up, business cards, my book proposal, coin purse, lipstick and other personal items. When I got home I kept all my writing-relating stuff in it for when I wanted to, say, go to Panera and spend a couple of hours writing away from dusty bookshelves and the crumbs on the kitchen floor. 

Then when we went on vacation it became my fun-stuff-to-do-in-the-car bag. I tossed in a couple of novels, a book of Sudoku puzzles, magazines, 3×5 cards for jotting down interesting recipes, Pez and a bag of wintergreen Life Savers (my secret indulgences), and a couple of audio books I rented from the library in case the two monkeys in the back seat got restless or starting bickering. In a gift shop I found another cute bag with a brightly colored geometric design to carry all our souvenirs. 

When we came home from our trip the washing machine broke down before I finished the first load of laundry. I loaded three baskets of sweaty t-shirts, muddy jeans, dirty socks and underwear into the car and headed for the nearest laundromat. I packed my new tote bag to take along. Instead of watching sudsy clothes go round-and-round, I started a new novel, worked three Sudoku puzzles and finished the bag of mints. 

Eventually, I got tired of using the same two bags each time I wanted to take a bag somewhere. I started buying cute bags whenever I saw one. Soon I had five or six. I hit every thrift store and garage sale in a twenty mile radius. My collection grew to eight or ten. My family threatened to intervene. 

This time of year, I can hardly walk through Target without feeling the pull. Who can’t use a cute new candy-striped or polka-dot bag to take to the pool? On every family outing I’m expected to take along a box of granola bars and a couple of bottles of water. What am I supposed to carry them in? I’m not about to use a crumpled brown paper bag when I can sling the snacks over my shoulder in style, encased in an insulated lime green bag with little white starfish. Am I right? 

If you ever hear a rumor that I’ve been captured and carted off to rehab it won’t be because of drugs or alcohol. Oh, no. It’ll be the bags.

THE INFERNAL EQUINOX

It’s starting…

Trees budding. Robins hopping around the back yard. Ants in the kitchen. All sure signs of spring around my house, and it couldn’t be more welcome. Today, the weatherman is predicting highs in the low 70’s with a guaranteed bad hair day due to windy conditions. Last week we had snow. I’ve lived in Missouri long enough to know this is a normal weather pattern this time of year.

Even as Mother Nature’s pendulum swings between snowflakes and sunshine, people like me, who get spring fever on the day after Christmas, will not have our optimism deterred. Spring is coming, and we don’t want to hear anything different.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, spring in the Northern Hemisphere begins this year on March 20 at precisely 1:14 am EDT, at the time of the vernal equinox. (Equinox is a fancy Latin word meaning equal night.) On that day, “the sun rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west. The day and night are each approximately 12 hours long.”

Approximately?

Reading further, I discover that on March 16th there will be 11:59 hours of daylight and on the 17th there will be 12:02 hours of daylight. So why are we waiting until March 20th to declare spring? By then, we’ll be soaking up a glorious 12:11 hours of daylight. I thought this was science.

Every time I mention planting flowers or pulling my capri pants out of the closet, my daughter, the more literal of my two offspring, reminds me that spring doesn’t officially start until the calendar says it starts on March 20. That may be true – technically.

But I don’t need my daughter, or the calendar, or the Farmer’s Almanac to tell me when spring starts. I can feel it in my bones.

HOODIE-HOO DAY

One of my favorite holidays is coming up. It’s even better than Ground Hog Day. If you’re like me, and you start getting spring fever on the first day of winter, you’ll love this holiday, too.

Monday, February 20 is Northern Hemisphere Hoodie-Hoo Day. There are no presents to buy. No decorating to do. No baking to be done. No work involved at all. To celebrate, put on springy clothes, grab your sunglasses, a handkerchief or something similar, and go outside at 11:55 am. Look for the sun. Think about all the things you love about spring:  warmer weather, flowers, thunderstorms, warmer weather, short sleeves, iced tea, warmer weather, etc. At high noon (local time) face the sun, wave your handkerchief, and call out, “Hoodie-Hoo! Hoodie-Hoo!” Yes! Out LOUD! This is no time for timidity. Just like when we were kids and our intense hand-clapping saved Tinkerbelle’s life, our collective cries of “Hoodie-Hoo!” will chase away winter and usher in spring. So put your heart into it. Who cares if the neighbors stare and point over the fence? It’s fun. And besides, they’ll thank us soon enough.

Then get ready. Order that seed catalog. Sharpen your mower blades. Buy a new jar for sun tea. Spring is on its way. Target already has swimsuits in stock. They know it won’t be long now before we’ll all be spreading GrubEx and grass seed and listening for the ding-ding-ding of the ice cream truck. I can almost taste that cherry Bomb Pop now…

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For more information on Northern Hemisphere Hoodie-Hoo Day, and to see a few photos of past celebrations, visit http://www.wellcat.com/february/northern_hemisphere_hoodie.htm.

THE GOOD OLD DAYS

My youth is fleeting.

I realized it for the first time a few months ago when I was out running errands. I needed to make a phone call and the battery in my cell phone was dead. Did you know it’s almost impossible to find a pay phone anymore? Since then, one incident after another has slapped me in the face with the reality that today’s world is not the world I grew up in.

I remember when you could stick a dime in a red Coca-Cola-only vending machine and get a real Coke, housed in an ice-cold, green glass bottle that tasted the way Coke is supposed to taste.

I remember when cashiers used to say the price of each item they rang up out loud, announce your tax and total, then count your change back to you, starting with the pennies.

I remember when the raciest thing on TV was the annual parade of Miss America contestants wearing modest, one-piece swimsuits and four-letter words were not allowed.

Yes, the world has changed. Thankfully, not all of it is bad. I’m grateful for computers, air conditioning, microwave popcorn and digital cameras. And so far, I’ve found ways to cope with the changes I don’t like. I’ve gotten used to drinking Coke out of a plastic bottle. I get a kick out of confusing cashiers by handing them exact change. And I limit my televison viewing to what is appropriate for my children to watch with me. And, when I can remember, I make sure my cell phone is charged up, just in case I’m away from home and need to make a call.

BOBBLE JESUS

     When the weather is nice, my husband takes a walk in the morning. He gets his exercise for the day while picking up cans and watching the sunrise. He varies his route between back roads and highways, and while he’s walking he finds things. All sorts of things. And he brings them home. Things like credit cards, smashed cell phones, hubcaps, pieces of clothing, deflated balls, sunglasses, and run-over ball caps. Mostly useless things, like the day he brought home Bobble Jesus.
     I hated it the minute I saw it. Why would anyone make such a thing? Or buy it? Or bring it home from a walk? The next thing I knew, it had been affixed to the top of my refrigerator. In my kitchen.
     The kids got a kick out of leaning it over to one side and letting go to watch it bobble back and forth. So did the cats. I nick-named it Bobble Jesus and figured the thrill would wear off, hopefully by trash day, and I could get rid of it. But it’s been seven months and it’s still there. Here’s why.
     As I went about my daily tasks of fixing meals and folding laundry at the kitchen table, under the watchful eye of Bobble Jesus, the thing grew on me. It reminded me that the real Jesus promised to keep his eye on me. It reminded me of his constant presence in my life. That he was available 24/7 to hear a prayer, a complaint, or supply me with needed wisdom.
     At first, I hated it when one of the kids made Jesus bobble. I called out, “Stop it! Leave it alone.” But one day I realized that too often in this life we leave Jesus alone. We don’t touch him or make him a part of our day. We don’t interact with him. Every now and then, when no one is looking, I give him a nudge myself and watch him go.
     So Bobble Jesus is still on the fridge. Yes, it’s stupid and corny and silly, but I like it. I don’t worship it, but I do worship the one it reminds me of. And now when one of the cats sends Jesus into motion with a swipe of a paw, I laugh – and shoot up a prayer of thanksgiving for the reminder that Jesus is constantly on the move in my life.

THREE LITTLE WORDS

My husband, John, recently trimmed our giant weeping willow in the back yard. Everything went well until he climbed waaaay up to cut one last branch. He couldn’t cut all the way through because of the height of the limb and the awkward angle. He tried three different saws and finally had to leave it hanging by a thread.

The next night after work he tried again. He climbed and sawed, worked and worked, huffed and puffed with all three saws until dark, and the limb refused to be disengaged from the tree.

Last night he was at it again. Armed with new saw blades and renewed determination, he ascended the ladder.  The sound of serrated teeth chewing through wood inspired hope, but alas, the saw dust piled up as his energy waned. It wasn’t long before he climbed back down, muttering and shaking his head. In a last-ditch effort, he attached a rope to the branch and pulled and pulled. We heard the crunchy sound of ripping wood, but still, the limb hung on.

About that time, three little words our neighbor called over the fence changed everything.

John raised his head and saw our neighbor and his buddy coming through the back gate. They listened sympathetically as he recounted his failed attempts to separate the branch from the tree. The neighbor ran back home to get his magic this-thing-will-cut-through-anything saw and handed it up to his comrade on the ladder. He sawed and sawed, cursed the inadequate height of the ladder and climbed back down. The three of them brainstormed ideas and came up with a plan. The neighbor ran home again and returned with a rope and harness. He rigged up his best friend, who turned his ball cap around on his head as he narrowed his eyes at his bark-covered target. Game on.

My husband steadied the ladder. The neighbor manned the rope attached to the limb. The fearless friend at the top of the ladder attached the harness to the limb behind him–just in case. In the fading light, he stood on the top rung of the ladder with one arm wrapped around the tree for support and cut away. I held my breath.

Moments later, the branch hit the ground. The tension in the air dissipated as a brief celebration broke out. Then, the hero climbed down the ladder. The neighbor packed up his saw, his rope, his harness and went home. John put away his ladder and saws, closed the garage door and came in to wash up for supper. For the first time in days, he had a smile on his face.

What three little words did our neighbor call over the fence? Just the three most encouraging words my husband could have heard at that moment.

The next time you see someone struggling, make their day by calling out those three little words:  “Need some help?”

CLIMB ON

     The other day I was helping a five-year-old boy learn to tie his shoes. He kept telling me how hard it was so I encouraged him to keep practicing. “Don’t give up,” I told him. “You can do it if you don’t quit,” I said over and over. Every time I followed one of his mistakes with one of my encouraging comments, he looked at me like I was forcing him up Mt. Everest with a whip.

     Fortunately, I’d been through the torture of learning how to tie shoes before, both as the learner and the teacher. I remembered learning to tie my own shoes, despite the criticism of peers who had already mastered the skill. It was hard, but I learned. And it wasn’t too many years ago that my own children clawed their way up that mountain. We had a few squabbles and ended up putting the shoes in the closet for a while. At times, I was tempted to give up and buy the children slip-ons, but we got through it.

     As I watched this kid fumbling with his shoe laces, I felt guilty. Maybe I’d pushed him too hard. Expected too much. He’d only been in kindergarten a few weeks. Most kids his age would be in tears by now. Should I tell him to take a break? Go play? He had plenty of time to–  He tapped me on the arm and pointed at his feet. His smile told me the news before I saw the bows on his laces.

     “I did it!” he yelled. We exchanged high-fives.

     I think this boy will go far. Already, at the tender age of five, he’s learned a deeper lesson than how to tie his shoes. He learned that the view from the top of the mountain is worth every inch of the climb.

What mountain are you climbing at the moment?

I REMEMBER WHEN

     One day when I had time to kill, I wandered into an antique store. I felt out of place since my only connection to the world of antiques is that my children think I am one. But once I started looking around, I spotted a Roy Rogers Chow Wagon lunch box like the one my older brother had in grade school. The matching Thermos had a picture of Roy seated on his horse, Trigger, reared up on his back legs, just like on the TV show. I also found a Crissy doll like the one I’d gotten for Christmas one year, a big seller because of the button on her tummy that allowed the length of her hair to be adjusted. And I smiled to myself when I saw the collection of Little Golden books, many of which my mother had read to us as children.

     While I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, it bothered me that all the items looked brand new, as though a child had never carried a baloney sandwich to school, braided the doll’s hair, or thumbed through the books with sticky fingers. Perhaps someone, with an eye for what might be considered valuable in the future, saved these things in their near-pristine condition in order to sell them in an antique store some day. Maybe they were just gently used. I don’t know. But I’m glad my brother had the fun of pretending to be a cowboy while carrying his lunch to school. The Chow Wagon sustained its share of dents and scratches along the way, but if I catch my brother in a nostalgic mood he still talks about the joy he had eating lunch with Roy Rogers every day. And I still remember how I stumbled onto Mom’s hiding place for wrapped presents the year I got the Crissy doll. Everyday, for two weeks before Christmas, I took her out of the box and stroked her shiny red hair. She became one of my favorite dolls. I broke the mechanism that adjusted her hair long before I tired of playing with her. And I can still remember the pictures of The Three Little Pigs and Pinocchio in the taped-back-together Little Golden Books Mom read to us at bedtime.

     I loved seeing those mementos of my childhood, and I’m glad to see that someone still sees value in them. But I wouldn’t trade the wear and tear we put on those well-loved possessions for their current prices. My memories of wearing them out are worth far more.

BIG JOBS

Near my house, two men are painting the water tower. They’ve been working on it for weeks. I stopped the other day to watch them work. Surprisingly, they’re using what appears to be a roller no bigger than what I’d use to paint a bedroom. 

What must they have thought on the first day when they got out of their trucks, craned their necks skyward and saw the height and girth of the tower? Did they feel overwhelmed? Perhaps they thought, “This is impossible!” But they didn’t get in their trucks and drive away. Instead, they opened cans of paint, grabbed their rollers and got to work. Stroke by stroke, they’ve worked for weeks to transform our dingy white eye-sore into a fresh, sky-blue beauty. And now, after only a few short weeks of diligence and perseverance, they’re almost done.

 As I begin work on a new novel next week, I’m going to keep these painters in mind. Writing a book is a huge job, but if I work at it faithfully, day-by-day, I’ll see progress. And eventually I’ll be able to stand back, admire my work and say with pride, “I’m finished!”

Let’s get to work. What big job will you be working on?