Friday, January 30, 2015

Flashback Friday - Speak for Yourself

I was wondering what picture from my past I could share with you today. It seemed like an awful lot of work to find a picture in a photo album and scan it. Instead I looked through the few pictures I already have scanned into the family archives of the computer and came across this gem. Ok, so it’s not very pretty. It is a newspaper clipping from 1979 so it didn’t scan very well. I tweeked it and edited it as much I could, but I guess you will just have to use your imagination.

A few years ago, when I found this clipping amongst my aging high school memorabilia, I was struck by the connections I still had with these people.

I lost track of Kathy, my best friend from high school, until a few years ago, when her dad passed away. Then, thanks to the internet, it has been easy to keep in touch again. I was in Bible study with Pam for a while and still work with her husband. Laura’s brother was also in Bible study with me for a long time. A few others I still run into on occasion.

Except of course for the token male of the group. Who knew at the time that Jay would take off for the big lights of Hollywood? And who would have ever guessed that he would die so young?


Crazy how much I remember about these people, and how little I remember about forensics. (I do remember the sweater I was wearing was my sister Pat's.) But the craziest thing is that I was in forensics at all, considering how ridiculously shy and introverted I was.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Wildlife Wednesday - just a little rant

Without a doubt, every single creation that God put on this Earth has the right to live, breed and thrive. God didn’t make any mistakes. Every species of animal that was put here was put here for a reason. And yet, one creature give me the willies and I can’t help but wonder. Sometimes I ask, “why?” and sometimes I just can’t even come up with a question. I just have to walk away, shivering.

Insects? No, there’s not a one I have met who has really turned me off. I’m not thrilled by wood ticks. Anyone who lives where I live knows the feeling that seems to hang with us from early spring until late summer. That crawly feeling of a wood tick looking for a place on your body to go after a meal. I can live with wood ticks.

Spiders? Really? They are our friends. They are predators who catch a great deal of mosquitoes. And speaking of mosquitoes, I don’t want any bats in my house, but they are definitely a friend to have in your backyard. I read somewhere that a bat can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes an hour.

And what about those mosquitoes? When they buzz around your ears and attack every piece of open skin they can find? I think it’s all in your head. I ignore them. Sure, they bite, but freaking out about it doesn’t help. Swat the ones you can, but let the rest be (unless you are in a malaria region). You have enough blood and if you just don’t itch, you won’t swell up or anything. Or build a bat house.

Snakes? My only beef with snakes is that they suddenly seem to be there, underfoot or hanging from something. If I know you are there, Mr. Snake, you don’t bother me in the least, just don’t sneak up on me.

On the other end of the spectrum, here where I live, there is a big wolf controversy. People say that wolves are so mean and torture their prey to death. And that they attack dogs and other domesticated animals. The wolves were here first. Is it any different from the African tribes who kill the lions that attack their cattle? Here in America we think that is wrong, but it’s not wrong to kill wolves. I don’t know. I think the predators have as much right to their lifestyles as the prey does.

All of that being sad, there is one animal that makes me squirm. They are so disgusting. I just can’t help it. I don’t even think I can post a picture of one here.

And yet they have a right to live too and not be eaten by those Chinese officials who made the news last week over this. Really? The Giant Salamander is a delicacy in many parts of Asia and eating it is thought to promote long life. Really? How can anyone eat such a horribly ugly creepy-looking animal? Even when I have come across those little black salamanders with red spots in my woodpile, I freak out. They are just plain gross. I don’t care how big or small they are.

But I wouldn’t eat one! And I wouldn’t want to see any of their species wiped off the planet. We need to just leave alone enough dank swampy places all over the world, and just let them do their thing. And keep them away from me.

Actually if you go to this website, you will see that most amphibians are rather creepy, except maybe for this Hewitt Ghost Frog. 

 (Hewitt Ghost Frog picture from http://www.edgeofexistence.org/amphibians/top_100.php)

Ok, now I will get off my soapbox and go about my usual life.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Back to Acceptance

Sorry that I don’t have an inspirational blog to share this Sunday. Well, maybe you will find this inspirational. It may inspire you to never give up, never surrender. And that the experts aren’t always the ones who are going to get you the help you need.

If you read yesterday’s blog, you know that my internet connection died. As I was posting that, however, I was confident that my internet would be back up and running on Monday, and that I would survive until then.

When I got home from town yesterday, there was a voice mail from my internet server, someone named Dan, reporting to me that my issue had been resolved and my help ticket had been closed. Hmm? Earlier in the day, when I had ended the hour-long conversation with some marginally helpful woman, it was my understanding that a technician was coming to my house on Monday to fix my problem. To me, that didn’t mean my issue was resolved.

I called back to the help desk and got someone young man named Juan, or something like that. I told him that I just wanted to make sure that someone was still coming to my house on Monday to fix my internet. He wanted to know what the problem was. I told him about the long conversation I had had three hours before and what the resolution was. He told me to go to my computer and try typing in – when I interrupted him. Could he just tell me if someone was coming on Monday?

He put me on hold (oh, and by the way I was on hold for fifteen minutes before I got Juan in the first place). When he came back on the line, he sounded confused but was convinced that no one was coming to my house. I asked him why. He said the issue had been resolved. I asked him who did that. He said someone named Mark. Who is Mark, I wondered, but before I could ask, Juan asked me again to go to my computer and type in some IDP number or something.

I told him again that I had spent an hour with some woman typing in two hundred different numbers, letters and messages and the problem was not resolved. He just kept talking and wouldn’t shut up. I started out kindly trying to get him to stop, but it kind of escalated until I was yelling at him, “shut up, shut up, shut up!” I was so loud that the dog started barking.

Finally he quit talking long enough to say, “don’t yell at me”. I said I was sorry and that I would try something else, and I hung up.

I called back a few minutes later, was on hold again for 15 or 20 minutes, before I finally got through to Keith. I told him what had happened and that I had lost my temper with the last rep and I was sorry about that, but I just wanted someone to listen.

Keith patiently listened and when I was done, he said, “there are a few things we could try, but I think that you have already tried everything possible. I think we should just send you a new modem. The request won’t go in until Monday, but you should have it by Wednesday.”

Wednesday? Ok, I can deal with this until then, I just need to know that this will work. I was pretty sure it would, coz we have had problems with our external modem in the past and all it takes is getting a new one set up.

Throughout the day yesterday I would check my connection just for fun. The computer just kept saying, “No internet connection”. I could check email and stuff again every day from work starting on Monday. I would survive.

When we went to bed last night, I decided to turn everything off and unhook all the internet connections and just let the whole thing sleep overnight. I got up this morning, and also just for fun, I unhooked the other end of the cables, turned them around and plugged them back in. Just for fun.

The icon in the bottom right hand corner glowed, “internet connection available”.


I don’t know. I guess some days are diamonds, some days are stones. I don’t think this connection will last, but it is what it is. Maybe only a rhinestone, but I’ll take it.  

Saturday, January 24, 2015

And I'm Down til Monday

I had a totally unexpected glitch in the system yesterday. My internet connection went out on me. It has been funky and unreliable for the last few months. We blamed it on the fact that there is just too much information out there, too many YouTube videos, too much noise in the airwaves, and the antique (isn’t anything a couple years old an antique nowadays?) phone lines that our internet enters my house via (though my internet server says it is broadband or high speed or something) just cannot keep up. I think that it is kind of like our brains. I know my brain can only handle so much before it starts to shut down.

I just spent an entire hour on the phone with customer service. She made me type in twenty-nine hundred different things and the whole time I kept telling her, but it says I have no internet access, I don't think this going to work. She answered with, but all the lights are blinking on your modem so the internet is getting into your house just not into your computer. 

Well, I do have to admit that I know next to nothing about this, but I do know that my problems have never been solved by sitting on the phone with customer service for an hour. 

So someone's coming out on Monday.

So I drove into my place of employment this morning and borrowed their internet to post this, just so I can get this posted, as well as take care of two other things in my ebox that shouldn't wait until next week. 

I'm trying not to have a meltdown. I start to go into the DTs when I am not connected to the internet every few hours. I know, that is a bad thing and I need to disconnect more often for longer periods of time. And I will, but just not right now, when I have a bunch of deadlines coming up. Ok, granted, they are deadlines in my own head, because if I don’t give myself deadlines, I pretty much don’t get anything done. Isn’t everyone else the say way? The problem is that none of my deadlines can be met without internet excess. Snail mail? Yea, that’s not going to happen and if it did, guess what? I need to look up the addresses on the internet first anyway. 

I suppose this should teach me a lesson. Just like my cell phone. I don’t know anyone’s phone numbers anymore, all I do is look up their phone number on my cell phone, even if I am going to call them from my landline (because I don’t have cell phone coverage at my house in the woods), I look up their number on the cell first. I have a couple physical addresses in my cell phone too, but just tonight, I said, enough of that and I did write them down with pen on paper and stuck the paper in my paper address book. 

I was thinking about running into town again tonight and tomorrow to go online and take care of stuff, post blogs, check Facebook, etc. But you know what? I am just going to disconnect until Monday. It may do me some good. See ya then. 


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hubby's Man-Cave

I’m sitting here tonight wasting time watching “Rehab Addict” on HGTV. It is one of the few shows I watch, and most of the other shows I watch are on HGTV as well (House Hunters, Fixer Upper, Property Brothers). You remember that I am pretty much as boring as they come.

So I watch those shows, and think, “how I wish I could remodel my house like that!” Instead, the extent of remodeling I do is to paint. Or let the hubby paint.

The first week of January, which I talked the hubby into taking off with me, I managed to leave him home while I went to Michigan with my daughter. He was pretty happy to see me go so he could paint his man-cave by himself.

All that was left for me when I got home was to put the room back together. 


 Before the room was painted in black and white checkerboard, it actually was Packer green and yellow. I was too lazy to scan those pictures tonight, but I promise to some day break out the old photo albums and scan all the before, during and after pictures of my house from the last 24 years.

Someday, we will also put a ceiling in this room and hopefully I will be able to talk the hubby into taking the fiberglass insulation out of the windows and let me hang curtains. 



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wildlife Wednesday - the Saola

I had two other ideas for my post today, but then this adorable little creature came back into my head and said, “pick me, pick me.”

Over the weekend I was looking up something totally unrelated, when I discovered the saola on the World Wildlife Fund’s website. Only first discovered in 1992, the elusive saola lives in the Annamite Mountains of Laos and Vietnam. None have survived in captivity for long and no one is sure what their numbers in the wild are. Estimates range from a few hundred to less than twenty. Scientists have only positively identified the saola in the wild four times.

The word saola (pronounced: sow-la) means “spindle horns” in Vietnamese. The animal is named such because of its two parallel horns which can reach 20 inches in length and are found on both males and females. Their coloring is chocolate brown to deep red with distinctive white markings on its face. They can weigh between 175 to 220 pounds and average 32 to 35 inches tall.  

Often called the Asian unicorn, they are most closely related to the cows, though they look more like they should be in the deer or antelope families. I don’t remember that much from high school biology, but I do remember trying to memorize certain class-order-family-genus-species of certain animals and that there was a reason each animal went in each group. 

But back to my beautiful little saola. They are so critically endangered because they only live in a very limited habitat, one which is shrinking from deforestation and development. Many are caught and killed in snares which are set up by the local people to catch other species. It has been through the locals, however, that the most information about the saola has been gleaned.
(Pictures from the WWF website. Please click here to learn more about this critically endangered animal.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Guess Who? then guess what

 You haven’t heard from me in a while. That is a good thing, though, coz I usually only write Mom’s blog for her when she has a headache. She is very sad coz she has had this headache for two days and it really bugs her. She says she has too many things to do and that she doesn’t have time to lay around waiting for her headache to go away.

I think she just needs to spend all day cuddling on the couch with me when she has a headache and that would make it go away sooner.

Anyway, now that I have the computer, I wonder if you would like to help us out. Everyone always asks what breed I am, to which Mom answers, “Mutt”, and I am totally ok with that, but we do just wonder sometimes what my real mom and dad might have been.

I know you have seen lots of pictures of me, but here are some more. Also they say I weigh about 60 pounds and I come up just past Mom’s knee.
If you want to take a guess at which champions’ blood I have running through me, let us know. It would make Mom very happy.
  
 What else do you need to know about me which might help you out? 
 I love to run.
 And I love to swim.
I even love being in a pontoon boat just looking at the water. 
 I love my cats. 
But mostly I think they love me more. 
But what I love the most is my whole family!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Let the Anticipation Begin!

My husband and I are horrible home-bodies. We each come home from work and never leave the house (or yard) until we have to go to work next time. Saturday nights we do venture to church and once in a while we go out to eat afterwards with some church-friends. Other than that, my husband goes grocery shopping once a week and I go shopping or to see my daughter every couple weeks. There’s the occasional road trip or a day trip, but that’s mostly in the summer.

Sure I make plans for vacation every year. This year, in addition to our daughter’s wedding in August, we have two other out-of-town weddings to plan for. Sometimes, though, it just feels like we never do anything.

So this weekend I made plans. Yes, my word of the year – anticipation – has come into play. I’m so excited. My husband and I talk about doing this kind of stuff all the time, but it just never happens. So Saturday afternoon, I was on the internet, I found what I wanted to do, and what I was positive the hubby wanted to do, checked his schedule and found that he was off. And just like that, I ordered us some tickets.



Hotel California, here we come!!!!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Not up on current events, but . . .

I don't follow the news as much as I should. I just can't stomach all the senseless violence. Instead of one anti-christ, it seems as if there are 30 of them out there, terrorizing innocent men, women, and children around the world. Then they have the gall to say that these killings are in the name of their god. Exactly who would follow such a god? 

Because I don't stay on top of current events, I can't comment much more than that about what I see going on around me. All I know is that it is getting pretty bad, and according to the Bible, is going to become even worse before it is through. But these mindless killings occurred even during Biblical times. 

Day 27
Herod, when he realized that the scholars had tricked him, flew into a rage. He commanded the murder of every little boy two years old and under who lived in Bethlehem and its surrounding hills. (He determined that age from information he’d gotten from the scholars.) (Matthew 2:16)

Several times in the Bible, a king ordered the extermination of all young boys. Back in the Old Testament book of Exodus, Pharaoh, king of Egypt, commanded that all baby boys be drowned. He wasn’t afraid of any one boy in particular growing up and threatening his power. Instead, Pharaoh saw all Jews as a menace. Because they were such a strong people, he feared they would one day arise and conquer Egypt. To prevent this from happening, he ordered that the baby boys be killed, but he left the baby girls alone because he didn’t see them as a threat.


Wouldn’t it be horrifying to live in a time when such things happened? Are you thankful that you do not live in a society where that could occur? Surely you have heard on the news where countries around the world are currently killing babies and children. Is abortion in this country any different?

(From "The Early Life of Jesus in 40 Days", available through Life Sentence Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and of course me.)
A very sick baby from my first trip to Kenya. All babies should have the same chance at life. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Frustration

I spent the day yesterday with my daughter Val working on our nonprofit organization. The better part of two hours we slaved over our business plan. Neither one of us has any clue how to do this and are just winging it from sample business plans we have found on the internet. Val has asked a few “experts” but hasn’t been able to get a straight answer from them. The one guy just keeps sending her documents. We have enough documents; we can pull more from the internet. What we need is someone to go over the business plan we have and say, “yup, you are on the right track” or “boy, maybe you should scrape this and start over”.  

Simple enough. Feedback. That’s all we want. Why haven’t we been able to get any???

Next thing we worked on was social media. Tumaini Volunteers is already on Facebook and has a website. I thought that LinkedIn would be an appropriate place to get connected, so we tried that. After typing in our organization’s name, they wanted the work e-mail address of the person (me) who is the designated contact. We thought that the organization’s email address should be the one to use, which is tumainivolunteers@gmail.com. And LinkedIin can’t accept gmail accounts as a business email. Why would that be? It is the truth. That is our email address. So that went nowhere.

Next I set us up on Twitter. That actually worked out okay. I found a bunch of other nonprofits to follow who all either work with Kenya or orphans or clean water. Now they all just have to start following us. Except that I really don’t get Twitter anyway. I think that there is just too much going on. The goal, I suppose, is to have lots of followers, but the more followers you have the more Tweets start popping up and there is no way to read all of them.

On my personal Twitter page, I can get a hundred Tweets coming in within a few minutes. And often times there isn’t even anything to read. All that comes up are random numbers, letters and hash marks, which I know are all links to websites, but when there are four or five of these in each Tweet, which link do I even want to go to?

Arggh! Is there anyone out there reading this who can help us with any of these issues? We would so much appreciate it.


Thanks so much and have a great weekend. My goal is to have a weekend without frustration. Which may mean unplugging. 
This is little Monica. Her father had abandoned her and her mother. When her mother couldn't take care of her child anymore, she hung herself from a tree outside their home. A neighbor took Monica to Agape Hope Center orphanage. This, believe it or not, is a story with a happy ending as Monica is now being taken care of. Thousands of children in Nairobi end up living on the streets - or worse - when their parents are no longer in their lives. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Different Ploy

Yesterday, I told you about my latest book, “The Early Life of Jesus in 40 Days”. Tonight I am going to switch gears and try marketing something else to you.

If you have ever read my blog before, you know that in addition to writing, I have a passion for Africa. I came home from my first trip to Kenya in 2006 feeling as if I hadn’t accomplished a thing, confused why I even went. How things have changed since then! It all makes sense now and I know exactly why I went to Africa eight and a half years ago. (And if it is not cheating, I will put in one plug for the book I wrote about that fateful trip. “A Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven – One Woman’sTrip to Africa” is still available.)

What that trip set in a motion was a string of events which led my daughter and me to start our own nonprofit organization, Tumaini Volunteers. Why Tumaini? Tumaini (too-my-ee-nee) means hope in Swahili.

The following is from our January newsletter (our first newsletter!).

It has been a busy 18 months for Tumaini Volunteers! Back in September of 2013 we first became an incorporated charitable organization. After that, the long process of applying for tax exempt status began. Just a year ago, we sent in the 31 page form, along with several attachments, and the $850 filing fee.

On September 5, we found out our application had been approved. Tumaini Volunteers, Inc., is now an official 501 (c) (3) tax exempt organization.

We wished there was time to celebrate, but our work had only just begun. We had started writing a business plan a few months before, but now we had to get serious about it.

In addition to the business plan, we have begun planning our first volunteer trip. We hope to take a team of five or six volunteers to Kenya next fall for two weeks. We have several people on board already, but are recruiting a few more. Within in the next month or two we will choose a project to work on while we are there. If you are interested in joining us, please get in touch as soon as possible as deadlines are looming.

We remain in contact with our Kenyan friends to help us choose the project which is most helpful to the community’s needs.

Also contact us if you would like to join our team here at home, working on paperwork, fund-raising, marketing, etc. We can always use more help.

You can click here to go to our Facebook page or here to go to our website. I hate to sound desperate, but we are at the point where we really need more help. My daughter is so excited at the prospect of returning to Kenya and really making a difference. Won’t you help make a difference too? And bring Hope to Africa? 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Blatant Marketing

It is hard to believe that I took a marketing class in college or that I had a passing interest in going into advertising. There are so many things which I do not know about marketing. I suppose the hardest part is that by trying to market my books and my own writing, I am really marketing myself. And who wants to do that? But then who can afford to hire someone else to do it?

I know that I have told you that my latest book, “The Early Life of Jesus in 40 Days”, is now available through the publisher, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and “every place where books are sold” (which may not quite be true, but I would love it if people would try that). Or of course you can send me a message by whatever means works for you, and I can get you a signed copy, price negotiable.

It might help you if I told you more about the book. The cover blurb reads like this:

Jesus' life on this earth began in a humble stable. Thirty years later He began preaching the good news of salvation for lost sinners. Have you ever wondered where He was for those three decades in between?

Take a few minutes each day to learn about the infant Jesus and His parents Mary and Joseph. Find out what life was like for a simple Jewish family two thousand years ago. Travel the countryside of the Middle East during Biblical times. Witness Jesus becoming a young man.

By reading The Early Life of Jesus in 40 Days...
•          “Your faith will be strengthened as you learn more about the boy Jesus.”
•          “You will feel closer to God by knowing more about His Son.”
•          “You will understand what life was like for Jesus growing up.”
•          “You will know more about living during Bible times.”

But is that all there is to it? A friend of mine said that she read somewhere a fictional story about Jesus as a young boy. He was goofing around with a friend, the friend fell out of a tree and broke his arm. Jesus touched it and it was healed. His friend is like –whoa! And Jesus is like, don’t tell anybody!

I kept my book as close to fact as possible, throwing in just a little bit of speculation. But I so badly wanted to write a story like the one above. Or maybe make something up about Jesus out fishing with His brothers. Naturally they each want to catch the biggest fish, but they all know that Jesus is going to always pull in a fish bigger than anybody else’s.

Did His brothers and sisters get tired of Him always being perfect? Or did He always keep a low profile, even in the family? Did He always catch the smallest fish? Did He always come in last when running a race? Did He do His chores just good enough to pass inspection?

I’d like to think that Jesus was like any other boy growing up in His time. Ok, maybe, He never did get in trouble, He never disobeyed His parents or fought with His siblings. But wouldn’t you have liked to have known Him then?

 All I can offer you is my 40 days of thoughts in my latest book. Available at all of the places mentioned above.     

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My word is heard from again

Last week, I chose my “word” for the year, the word which was to guide me and keep me on track this year. The word I would turn to for inspiration or for tranquility. I picked the word “anticipation”. Or maybe it picked me.

I live to anticipate stuff – trips, holidays, days off, retirement. Yet, here I have been sitting for nearly a week feeling as if I had nothing to anticipate. There were no plans in the works, no holidays on the horizon, and until the number of days until retirement is less than a four digit number, that is just a depressing thing to look forward to.

But I won’t give up. On Monday, I turned in a vacation slip for a wedding out of town next summer. I wrote a note to the manager in big bold letters. “I know this is a long ways away, but I need to know as soon as possible so we can make reservations”. Usually I need to turn in such a vacation slip two or three times, always getting the response that the manager can’t plan that far in advance because change happens.

Then yesterday afternoon, the manager set this benign piece of paper on my desk, with her signature and an “x” in the line next to approved. That’s what I’m talking about – let the anticipation begin!
I will continue to anticipate the day I can return to this, my favorite place ever. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Mischief of Two Dogs

Earlier I shared a poem about a naughty little dog, who was actually a compilation of three dogs I have run across in my life. I mentioned that my Dino was one of the dogs and what his indiscretion was. And here is the rest of the story.

Back in the early 70’s when I was around ten years old, my sister and I started bugging our parents to get a dog. We had a few cats over the years, all of whom seemed to meet their demise under the tires of a car. But my parents didn’t want to be tied down to a dog. Fate stepped in when one of Mom’s co-workers asked if she knew of anyone who would like a dog as they just couldn’t keep theirs any longer. The woman said he was a miniature collie and that he was about a year old. That spring, my sister and I met him just the one time, tied up in the woman’s small back yard in town. He was perfect. We could hardly contain our excitement.
 
Mac in 1973, shortly after we got him. Sorry that I cut off my sister's head. 
Mac came home within a few days. The woman who gave him to us issued two warnings. He liked to run away. And keep him away from the Christmas tree. The only Christmas that they had him, they had left him alone in the house with the Christmas tree and had come home to find it completely destroyed. My mom was cautious the first Christmas we had Mac, but he never gave the tree a second look.
Mac in 1981. What a beautiful face, huh? 
Just last week I met the third and final dog who inspired my poem about a destructive pound-puppy. My son rents a room in an old farmhouse in the southern part of the state. His landlord has always owned Springer Spaniels. In fact when Nick first moved into the house, the landlord’s dog’s name was Mac. Crazy, huh?

Well, just like my family’s Mac, this man’s Mac was up in years and had to be put to sleep. The man said, I don’t want to be tied down to another dog, yet within a few months, he heard of a young Springer who was looking for a good home. Gage is three years old now and still 100% puppy. When I spent the night in the spare room of this farmhouse last week, Gage was into everything. He didn’t destroy stuff, he just took everything he could get his teeth into, took it in his kennel and not give it up. Nick warned me about him, yet the dumb dog got my socks, my gloves and my bra.
 
Our Mac with Nick in 1987. If this picture doesn't melt your heart, nothing will.
Why do we put up with this stuff from these four-legged demons? Because they look up at us with those deep brown eyes and we melt.    

One Dog's Mischief

This would be crunch-time for me on the Ultimate Blog Challenge. I work until seven tonight and I have Bible study at seven Tuesday morning. Very little extra gets done in my world in that time period. I was going to write some extra blogs on Sunday, but already did one here and on my other blog. But I am going to plow through and still somehow post something witty every single day this month!

In addition to everything else on Sunday, I wrote the following poem for my local writers group Facebook page. We have been having trouble getting together in person, so try to share stuff at least on Facebook. I posted the challenge to write a piece which included the line, “And that’s when the Christmas tree went out the door.”

The dog’s name was Bingo just like the song
But he did not know right from wrong
He got in the garbage, the cupboards, the wash
And chewed up so many things – oh gosh
No matter how many scoldings or swats
He kept getting into things, and I mean a lot
Then he would gaze up with his little dark eyes
A tilt of his head which made him look wise
He would whimper a moment and raise a paw
And just for that second I would forget all his flaws
As Christmas approached, I thought I had had it
With all of his messes, that four-legged sh - -
I couldn’t imagine him not dragging away
Each present and package I had wrapped through the day
But I was determined to keep Christmas good
The dog would go first, yes he would
He seemed to relinquish his mischievous spree
As if finally he realized what it meant to me
The house was all ready, the lights all aglow
Even the nativity which was more than for show
With the Baby Jesus in his bed fast asleep
Under the tree, Mary and Joseph to keep
In the middle of the night Bingo jumped in my bed 
An innocent mixed breed who might have been dead
Had I not saved him at the shelter that day
Picking him from all of the strays
When I went in the next room early next morn
I screamed like a banshee when I looked at the floor
Each present, each Santa, each snowflake, each ball
Had been dragged from the tree and that’s not all
Baby Jesus had become a scary sad sight
Having been torn in four pieces overnight
I looked at the dog and started to roar
No more of you, dog, you are out that door
As I pointed one finger and shook another at him
He lowered his body and started to shim
Flat on the floor he slinked over to me
Put one paw on my toe, looked at the tree
I decided right then something must give
This kind of a mess is no way to live
So I picked up my mutt as I scanned the floor
And that’s when the Christmas tree went out the door
My wish for next year is not for a tree
But to still have my Bingo spend Christmas with me.
 
My dad's dog Mac under our Christmas tree in 1981. The broken leg is a story for another time. 

You perhaps think that this poem was inspired by Dino, the Wonder Dog. Actually, there was only one line which referred to an incident he was involved in, but I took it out as there was a 300 word limit on this challenge, and I was already over by 100 words! Dino’s indiscretion involved chewing up my underwear, only the dirty ones of course. Arrgh. The disgusting little mutt! But that was when he was still a puppy. He is all grown up now. All he chews up now are used Kleenex’s! He’s matured so much.


Watch for tomorrow’s post where I will tell you about the antics of the other two dogs I thought of when I wrote this. (Yes, one of them is Mac.) 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Does Christmas have to be over?

This time of year always makes me sad. Christmas has just passed, all of the decorations have been taken down, the presents put away, the Christmas cookies eaten (except at my house; come on over, I still have bags of cookies in my freezer). It's as if Christmas never happened, as if the baby Jesus had never been born. 
I would rather it stay Christmas a while longer. My tree is still up and there are still unopened presents underneath it. I think Christmas should be celebrated all year long. 
Not that many presents though

Day 22
Instructed by the king, they (the wise men) set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time! (Matthew 2:9-10, The Message Bible)
No one is quite certain who the magi were. Whoever they were though, searching for the one who was recently born King of the Jews was an important quest for them. It is possible that they had devoted the better part of their lives in this pursuit. They had been studying ancient texts for years, probably analyzing astrological charts to find this particular star. If this search for the Christ child had been their lifelong ambition, how excited they must have been to find Jesus.
Have you been searching for Jesus this earnestly? In our modern times, we like to think that He is much easier to find. All we have to do is open our Bible or go to church, right? But it is not enough to just learn about Him. To truly find our Savior, we must welcome Him into our lives and into our hearts. We must accept Him as our very best friend.

(From "The Early Life of Jesus in 40 Days", available from Life Sentence Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble or contact me and I can mail you a signed copy.)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Let me wrap this up

I may have more to say about the 40 things I did in ’14, but I am going to wrap it up today. Here is what we had left.

TRAVEL
30.       go away in the spring – Hubby and I went to Clarksville, Missouri, in April for a week. Had a super-great time.
31        take a road trip with my sister – Sister and I went to Frankenmuth, Michigan, on a spur of the moment trip to recover some Kenyan gifts for the nonprofit.
32.       go camping in the summer – Hubby, Dino and I went to our favorite place, McLain State Park in the UP. Super-fantastic time.
33.       go away in the fall – I would have liked to choose this trip, but we had to go to the hubby’s niece’s wedding in the Twin Cities in October. Both my kids joined us, which was great.

CHURCH
34.       work on Easter Dinner – I didn’t do a whole lot, but I was there in spirit.    
35.       write children’s Christmas program – I thought about this for months, before actually writing it sometime in the fall. I have a template of sorts for the program, so I just plug in different verses and themes each year so it really isn’t too much of a big deal.  
36.       do the Christmas program – Everyone showed up, everyone knew what they were doing, church had four times the usual attendees for a Saturday night service, so all went well.  

FAMILY
37.       host Trink’s BD party – The hubby’s brother decided last winter that the three sons should have a Birthday party for Mom’s 80th birthday. Great idea, but the only place to hold said-party would be my house. Best part – perfect weather. 48 people were here, they would not have all fit in my house.  
38.       host Thanksgiving dinnerAnd this year I didn’t even have to have any alcohol to get through the day.  

HEALTH
39.       walk half the streets of town – My goal was to walk every street in town. Didn’t happen, but it gives me something to do next summer.
40.       start running again – I ran that 5K in 2013 and I don’t know why I couldn’t get fired up to do it in 2014. But I have started on the treadmill and am going to be ready for 2015.


And there you have it. 40 things I did in ’14. 
(Be sure to click on all the high-lighted links to read more about all the fun I had last year.)

Friday, January 9, 2015

House and Home

It looks like I am half-way through sharing the list of 40 things I did in ’14. Hopefully I can get through this coz right now the list looks a little boring, so I combined two categories to keep things moving. 

SEWING
20.       sew scrub top from Kenyan cloth
21.       sew curtains for Palm room
22.       sew retro summer dress
HOUSE AND YARD
23.       clean my office and keep it clean!
24.       update my Snoopy list
25.       paint my bathroom 
26.       plant my garden
27.       plant my flowers
28.       make another trail in the woods
29.       clean the basement bedroom

I love to sew. I always have. When I was growing up, my parents had a partially finished room above the garage. They picked up an old sewing machine from somewhere and put it in that room. When I say “old” I mean it, as this sewing machine didn’t run on electricity, it ran by the foot peddle that the person sewing had to pump to get the needle to move up and down. That’s what I learned to sew on. Dad would bring pieces of fabric, destined to be cleaning rags, home from the paper mill he worked at. We would turn those hideously ugly pieces of cloth into curtains for our play house and skirts for our dolls. I sure wish I had pictures as my words would never do those scenes justice.
I also love my house and my yard. I know I’ve shared that whole story before, so I won’t go there again, at least not right now.

I know that I have shared pictures of Dino on the trail on the hill behind my house, but always wanted another trail that went past the swamp in front of my house. It took me just an afternoon last summer to widen the greater part of a deer trail, but I love that little path. 

It is what inspired me to resurrect an old mail box.
Huh? Funny that didn’t make my 40 things list.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Tumaini Volunteers in 2014

If you have been following my blog, you know that I am recapping the 40 things I did in ’14. I am up to accomplishments made by our nonprofit organization, Tumaini Volunteers.

I certainly can’t take credit for any of these. This is my daughter’s organization and I am just there for moral support. Since she is the chairman of the board and I am the vice-chairman, I guess my job is to let her boss me around.

This has been a lot more work than I had ever anticipated. Government forms, bylaws, business plan, audits, I don’t know, the list seems pretty endless. And what with all of that, it feels as if we are really not working much towards our goals of helping those living in poverty in Kenya. I just want all the paperwork out of the way and I want us to have our volunteers signed up for a trip to Kenya and I want them all fired up to work on a project which will bring sustainability into the lives of families in need. When I say, “I want, I want, I want”, I sound so selfish, don’t I?

Anyway, these are some of the concrete things we accomplished in 2014:

*          apply for tax exempt status
*          do a large scale fundraiser for Tumaini
*          set up Etsy shop
*          make $1000 selling our Kenyan crafts
*          get tax exempt status

That doesn’t sound like much. In between all of that, though, we worked on our business plan, constantly hounded people to volunteer their time, and held a friend-raiser in addition to the fund-raiser. I personally set up and attended, I think, five sales. A few times my sister helped, but I did a few of them by myself. The crafts we brought back from Kenya reside in the suitcase my daughter took there twice. With all the toting of this suitcase which I have done to all these sales, I feel like the suitcase has put on more miles around northern Wisconsin than it has going back and forth to Africa twice. 

In the coming year, we hope to finalize our business plan, solicit some larger contributions, sign up a team of volunteers to return to Kenya next fall, plan that trip and take it. 


If anyone, anywhere out there, is interested in getting involved in any way with Tumaini, PLEASE let me know. You can go to our website for more information, www.tumainivolunteers.org or check out our facebook page.  

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What I wrote in 2014

Now that you know what I read last year (because of course you have been following my blog so you already know what I had to say last night), let me share what I wrote.

WRITING
* finish writing “Early Lifeof Jesus in 40 Days
* publish “Early Life of Jesus”
* finish writing “Tale of an American Woman”
* start writing “Early Ministry of Jesus in 40 Days”

I can’t remember when I actually started writing my second devotional, “The Early Life of Jesus in 40 Days”. Definitely over a year ago. I finished it, however, sometime in early September because it took me another month to finish a final edit and send it to my publisher.

My publisher released the book for publication on December 15, but if you are waiting for a print copy, join the crowd. There was a glitch with the printer, so even though I got one proof copy, I am still waiting for my case of copies to sell. The good news is that it is available to download onto your e-reader, so please do so. (And then don’t forget to write a review of it on Amazon.com or wherever else you wish.)

In January of 2012 (yes, three years ago), I had a dream about a lost Kenyan youth. I started writing his story shortly after that. About 40,000 words into the thing, I decided instead to tell the story of the American woman who befriended him. That was probably not my most productive decision, but I had to do it for various reasons.

On November 23, I typed “the end” and closed the file. After it ferments for a little while, I will open it back up and begin editing (one of my big goals for this year).

The problem with writing a series of books is that you have to keep writing them. At least three altogether. I think they call two books in a series “lazy author”. So, a while back I started organizing my Bible passages for the third book, which has the tentative title of “The Early Ministry of Jesus in 40 Days”. It really doesn’t talk much about His actual ministry; it is more like “Jesus Comes on the Scene in 40 Days”. So if anyone has a better title than that, please share.

Anyway, so I did finish my outline for the third devotional and I did write a few of the 40 days. My goal is to get through most of it in the next few months so that I can start editing it by summer.


Yep, that is where my writing has taken me in 2014.