My 500 Words Challenge: Day 11

Today’s assignment is to write about food. Whenever I think about food, I get hungry.

In all seriousness though, often food has some sort of memory attached to it for me. Many of the memories I have as a child have to do with family eating together or watching someone else cook. I’d like to share some of those with you now.

When I went to my Grandma’s house as a child, there was always the smell of something cooking or baking. Freshly baked bread, cookies, or dumplings oh my.  She had jars lined up on one of her small counters and I could tell you what each jar had in it. Sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies, molasses cookies.

She must have smiled to herself as her grandchildren ran in and out of the kitchen throughout the day, reaching into a jar and then racing back out.

My Uncle Jack would always make “pizza pancakes” when we were kids. If you are wondering what that is, let me share this amazing breakfast item with you.

He would chop up bacon and sausage links into small pieces and then sprinkle them onto the ginourmous pizza sized pancake that he had poured onto the griddle. I can still remember his big smile as he madly chopped the ingredients and the sausage and bacon would be flying. We’d nibble the pieces that scattered in our direction.

He would then make us gasp in glee as he flipped the huge pancake and then use a pizza cutter to slice us each a piece. Our pizza pancake was complete only when he’d drench it with syrup and slide the plates perfectly across the counter to come to a stop in front of us.  It was so much fun and delicious to boot. 

I’m now an Aunt and hope that I’m sharing experiences with my little nieces and nephews like Uncle Jack did with me. Just a few weeks ago I miraculously flipped an omelet high in the air and back into the pan while me niece was watching.

Her eyes grew wide in awe and she yelled, “You did it! Everyone she did it!” I winked at her even though I had been holding my breath as I attempted this culinary feat. Maybe she will remember that when she’s 40, maybe she won’t, but it sure was fun to have that moment together.

The one tradition we did start that I know the kids will remember is called “Breakfast team.” Basically each person in the family has a role to play in order to get breakfast ready.

Currently, Jonah and I are the egg team. Jude and Uncle Chris are the toast team. Grandma and Idie are the meat team. Erin and Mo are the pancake team. Papa and Paul and anyone else who is a part of our family at the time is the set the table team. As family members are added we continue to find roles for everyone.

It’s a practical way to easily get breakfast ready for a large group but that isn’t why we started it.

More importantly it allows conversations to happen between family members. It allows us to teach the kids as they come alongside us and we come alongside them. There have been mishaps. There has been a lot of laughter. There have been a lot of really sweet moments when the kids tell each other how delicious the other’s food item is. It’s a good and precious time.

Food is a basic need that we all have, but it can also be something that builds life skills and relationship.

All kinds of creative ingredients can be added to make things tasty, but I’ve found that love and laughter add the best flavor.

What memories do you have related to food? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.


My 500 Words Challenge: Day 10

Today the challenge is to write about writing.

I love this crazy thing called writing. I think I developed a love for writing at a young age after I realized how much I loved reading. Other worlds, characters who went on adventures, people who seemed to figure things out as I turned the pages. It fascinated me in every way. I loved smelling the pages and running my fingers along the paper edges. I loved wondering how they would take me on such an adventure and make me love people in only 200-300 pages.

Writing is such a creative process for me. Like any art I have attempted, it carries a similar theme. I sit down with something blank in front of me and try to make something. And not just any old something. Something good. Something great. Something life changing for me and whomever might read my fine words. Ha!

Writing is something I love to do even when its hard. In all honesty and seriousness, the act of writing takes me through a mixture of emotions and makes me feel all of the things.

First I have to be decisive and courageous and put something there in that whitespace in front of me, not really knowing exactly what is going to happen. Then I have to let go of the strictness and allow the creative juices to take over and make a journey happen from those first few sentences.

I have to take myself somewhere, hoping my reader will follow. This applies to non-fiction or fiction. No one likes to read or let alone do anything that gets them nowhere. I have to move them. Change something in them somehow. No pressure.

I also love the creative process. It may sound strange, but I honestly feel really close to God when I write. I think the part of his character that is CREATOR seems more real when I’m writing.

It makes more sense to me how He loves us so much because He created us. As soon as one of my characters forms in my mind, I am connected to them. I love them. I want to watch every move to see what happens to them as well as the choices they will make. It is a special relationship purely because I made them.   

The sound of my fingertips on the keyboard clicking a maddening patter even now makes me content. It is a really unique experience to move your fingers and see words form in front of you. Where there was nothing, there is something. Where you weren’t sure what would happen, all of a sudden people are doing things and going places and you can make it whatever and wherever you want.

I could write about writing for way more than 500 words, but even what I have written reminds me of why I love this so much and why I am so thankful for this challenge that has brought that back to life in me.

My 500 Words Challenge: Day 9

Today’s assignment was to teach something. As I write this I am sitting and watching birds outside my window. Might sound boring to some, but I have learned to see these little creatures as beautiful and unique and quite pleasurable to watch. So, for the sake of helping you take a breath and see the world around you, I’d like to share with you a bit about how to watch birds.

First of all, you should get comfortable. What I mean by this is you should maybe have slippers or a nice pair of comfortable walking or running shoes on. Perhaps you might also have tea or coffee in your favorite mug in hand. A pair of binoculars doesn’t hurt either.

Next, check to see that your feeders and bird baths are full so that the birds will come. If you feed them they will come. Just like me, but I digress…

Next you need to position yourself in a place that allows you a good view. Birds move around a lot so you will want to be able to see the feeders, baths, and the ground below and tree branches above.

After you find a good view point in which to stand or sit, get settled.

Now, you may be thinking you do not want to make this an event or have time for such things. You may be thinking “I usually just glance out the window as I’m doing all my stuff…” If that’s you, you can still birdwatch and even enjoy it. You’d be surprised how much you can see in a few short seconds.

If you are getting excited about this bird watching thing and already want to buy the t-shirt, I have good news for you. You can turn from watcher to scientific observer and become part of a citizen scientist program like I did at Project Feederwatch.

Go here if you are interested:

Now that you are settled, let’s talk a little about what to look for as you stare out the window that makes this whole thing interesting.

When you see a bird, take note of the following:

  • How do they move?
  • What color are they?
  • Are they big or small?

When you go from saying, “Hey, there’s a bird” to “Hey, look at that tiny grey and white bird jumping down that tree upside down” your observation skills are starting to make things exciting.

Soon, you will find that you want to know what that tiny grey and white bird is called.  (Pygmy nuthatch by the way) You will begin to notice what their feathers look like. You will wonder if their beak is different than the other bird next to it. Is their tail feather long or is it shorter and closer to their body? Are they small enough to fit into your hand or are they large and something you wouldn’t want landing or pooping on you?

As you choose to ask yourself even two questions about a bird you see, you will begin to notice even more that causes you to ask more questions. You’ll find similarities and differences and your curiosity will grow.

This is very basic advice I’ve given you but it’s a start. You might be surprised at how little you’ve seen outside your window.

Until you make a conscious effort to really pay attention, you may only know a bird has flown by, not that it was a Scrub Jay with a peanut in its mouth.

I hope next time you see a bird, you stop for a moment to see. They have fun little quirks and beautiful designs and colors that I think we are meant to appreciate. You may even learn the ones that are friendly and like to nibble up close and personal like this mountain chickadee below.

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If you try anything I have suggested please let me know. I’d love to hear stories of the birds in your world.

My 500 Words Challenge: Day 8

Just write a list.

Marriage can be incredibly fun.

Here are 5 tips in Part 1 of my article on How To Win At Marriage:

Have a sense of humor…together. Life is much easier if you can laugh at yourself right? Think of how much more fun it will be if you can laugh at each other? Don’t be cruel, but make an agreement to laugh or find the ridiculousness in the way each of you can be. If you can laugh at the little things and not pout or get offended, the giggles will bring you together and help you build memories in your everyday life that will make you laugh well into your future.

Kiss each other every day even if your spouse isn’t awake. Kissing is important in marriage. I’m not talking gross lip smacking that makes people gag. I’m talking about sweet kisses on the cheek, or the forehead, or other G rated places. These quick moments of connection can build up over time and bring a lot of security on both sides. I love when I feel my husband kiss my forehead before leaving for work even though I may still be in a drool worthy sleep state. He likes it when I do the same on my early mornings.

When your spouse wants to do something for you, let them.  Effort is more precious than perfection. Don’t yell at him when he doesn’t put your underwear in the right drawer. Give her a break when she forgets to add potato chips to your lunch. Be thankful they tried. Gratefulness is a great foundation for growth and maturity in knowing how to love each other better in the basics. If you can share and teach each other lovingly you will want to kiss him when he puts just the right amount of jelly on your toast. Feeling known in the little things is a big deal.

Enjoy each other in and out of bed. I said bed, how naughty. Come on! We all know married people do things. But, do you know that how much you enjoy each other outside the bedroom has a direct impact on how much you enjoy each other in the bedroom? Intimacy is not just a physical act. Closeness, trust, and the freedom to enjoy one another doesn’t just happen. Do the work in the little things and you’ll have way more fun in the private moments.

Encourage and allow the other time for their dreams. This could be something big or something smaller. Maybe he wants to go to medical school or become a law enforcement officer. Maybe he wants to build a clock or get an old car running. Maybe she wants to be a writer or start a small business. Don’t downplay the dream. The dream is the tip of the iceberg of a belief and a desire down deep below. Who they become while they attempt the dream should be way more important to you. Let them spend time accomplishing a goal and feeling like you are their biggest supporter, and it will only build strength into your marriage.

Stay tuned for Part 2…coming soon. Try these tips and let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!

My 500 Words Challenge: Day 7

Write something that you wish someone would have told you 10 or 5 or even one year ago.

Life has a way of making us believe that we can see everything in the stage of life we are in. It deceives us into believing that we are always functioning with the whole truth. This will cause you a lot of pain in your lifetime, and you will hurt others as well. Remember you always have something to learn.

The world is broken even if at times it can seem absolutely perfect. People are broken too. Because of this, our assumptions will be incomplete, our hurts will not always be resolved, and our hearts may feel like we don’t belong.

Know that you are a piece of a larger puzzle. All the puzzle pieces are somehow meant to create a beautiful picture together, but each one of us has an edge bent or we are flipped upside down and feel we ‘just don’t quite” fit with the others around us.  Resist the urge to create your own puzzle, that’s not the answer. 

Don’t let how you feel deceive you. You are way more special than you could ever imagine and the world will never tell you the truth about yourself.

It will tell you that you need to fit where and how they want, but you won’t ever know your uniqueness or how special you were made to be in your attempt to be like everyone else.

Becoming who you are meant to be is going to be one of the hardest things you ever do.  

Even those who know you the best may not know or always understand what it is that you are meant to become. Sometimes fear is what keeps them from seeing. Sometimes daily routines prevent them from believing in the adventures that you are called to go on. Give them grace, your calling isn’t theirs, its yours.

The world will not tell you the truth. It will tell you its truth. The problem with a broken world is that it will create and claim broken truth.

The world will tell you that you don’t need God, but the reality is that you need to answer that question for yourself. No one can decide for you and they aren’t meant to. Don’t let them.

You must have a truth to bump up against or you will get lost. Choose this truth wisely. Don’t let it be “your” defined truth, let it be something bigger than you. 

When you feel sad, or hurt, don’t settle for not knowing why. Don’t believe that when you are misunderstood it means something is wrong with you. That is a lie.

Seek to understand what grieves your own heart because part of your calling and who you are to become could be hidden in the pain. You are worth digging deep for and sometimes no one is going to be there to help you with the shoveling. Do it anyway.

Because you are special, what you have to offer the world matters. Your contribution is only yours and cannot be replaced by someone else. The talents you have been born with mean something. They are for something. They will help someone so don’t keep them all to yourself.

You will make mistakes and sometimes you will be able to fix them and sometimes you won’t. Make things better if you can, learn from the ones you cannot.

Don’t be afraid to love people. If you find you don’t know how, it’s ok. Pray and ask God to give your heart more for the task ahead of you. Know that it’s ok not to know. Keep a teachable heart.  

Be thankful for what you have to offer the world even when others don’t even notice. Recognition is not validation. It just means someone noticed you.

You will do way more for the world and for God that others don’t see. At least that’s how it should be. The small things, the you behind the scenes, it is important.  

Enjoy your life and try to live it well and safely but not without adventure and the need for great courage. Don’t try to be perfect, just continue to learn how to be you. Give it your best each day, and that is enough.

My 500 Words Challenge: Day 6

Challenge: Tell Someone Else’s Story

He sat running the fingertips of his right hand back and forth along the the rim of the wooden desk. The methodical movement eased the stress he was feeling. His left hand held the coffee mug. The coffee mug held whisky.

He took another sip and let it burn as it moved from the top of his throat to his stomach. A nightly ritual, but more so lately than ever before.

Why’d that kid get under his skin so bad? The kid could be a leader if he’d drop his attitude and disrespect for authority. The kids who were just hesitant trouble makers before now looked up to this butt head. Little jerk. Who did he think he was anyway?

John turned towards the window and spread the blinds between his fingers. The voice of the kids at the dance below echoed through the vent at his feet. Troublemakers were no doubt spiking the punch as he sat here and drank his own little stash.

But where was Pete? That was the question tonight.

He’d heard rumors that Pete had some plans and it wasn’t picking up girls at the dance.

What would it be this time? Setting off the fire alarm again? Flooding the bathrooms? What hadn’t he done? He was John’s biggest challenge yet.

I hate the kid. No I don’t, not really. John’s mind narrowed as he turned from the window and took another swallow. He took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

He glanced at the trash can that lay by the door. It held the note he’d found earlier pinned to the wall outside his office. He was the principal and he wasn’t going to let Pete get away with this tonight.

A sound, a small step hesitated at his door. Sally stood there and slowly pushed the door inward. Poor kid, older in responsibility than her years should have allowed. But everyone’s hurt did something different to them he guessed.

“Principal Howard?”

“Yeah Sally, shouldn’t you be at the dance?”

“Well, yeah, I was, but I saw the note outside your door earlier and…” She looked at her feet and scrunched the fabric of her skirt between her fingers. “Well, I know you heard what Pete’s been up too and you and me both know he’s the one who left you that note.”

“Sally, spit it out. What did you come here to tell me?” He had made her sink back into herself for a moment but her skirt was helping her gather her courage.

“I just thought you’d want to know I saw him sneak out back behind the gym. He and some of the other guys were pushing that old green dumpster back into the dark.”

“Thanks Sally, now you go on get yourself back to the dance.” He could tell she didn’t want to go. She’d probably grow up to be a cop someday. You had to watch out for the shy ones with a strong sense of justice.

He took one more sip from his glass and stood. Pete wouldn’t get the best of him tonight. Sally quietly moved out of his office doorway and down the hallway back toward the dance. He knew that was the last place she wanted to be.

He bent and took the note from the trash can, straightened it in his hands and read it one more time. His chest tightened at the words. John tucked it in his pocket, turned, and locked his office door.

Sally sat in shadow peeking around the corner at him. He put his finger to his lips to keep her quiet and he moved out the door toward the gym.  

You’ve got plans for me Pete, but I used to be like you and I have plans of my own. You’re a tough kid but I’m tougher and no matter how much whiskey you make me drink, I’m not giving up on you.  

My 500 Words Challenge: Day 5

Today we are supposed to pick a scene from our life that we will never forget.

It was time. Last minute kisses on the cheeks. Tender hands on my shoulders. Sweet smiles reminding me to breathe deep, take it all in, don’t lock my knees. Last minute touches to my face and hair.

The basement had emptied quickly of my closest female friends and family. I was left alone in the almost silent room. The low rumble of voices barely making their way to my ears through the floor above.

I looked up at the ceiling trying to make out the sounds, the laughter. Trying to guess who the voices belonged to. Almost everyone I loved and who loved me was up there.

He was up there. A smile tickled my eyes and lips. What was he thinking right now?

Surprisingly, I wasn’t as nervous as I expected I’d be. I wasn’t worried. Everything was as it should be and even if it wasn’t I didn’t care anymore. I was filled with gratefulness.  

God had brought us both so far and in my mind this was His day. A day to celebrate what a love like His can do for two broken lives.

My Dad should be coming anytime now. Dressed so handsome in his tuxedo, knees still healing from recent surgery just so that he could dance with me.

Everyone quieted upstairs. In a whisper my Dad was beside me, “You ready?” I nod.

We walk to the elevator that would take us up. As we wait, the music has begun playing upstairs. The cue for my brother’s two sons in their tiny tuxes and my cousin’s beautiful little girl in her sweet dress to begin their walk down the aisle.

The cuteness factor has to be through the roof up there.

My Dad and I ride the elevator and the doors open to a small stoned in area outside the church. We walk around the pillar to the main entrance where any time they’ll open the doors and let us into the foyer.

It is a bitter cold, single digit Colorado morning and in an instant a gust of wind blows so hard that my veil almost takes flight. My Dad grabs at the material with one hand and the church doors with the other. He tries to get me inside but someone is holding the doors closed from the inside.

I laugh. I remember joking with the woman who did my “wedding” hair.

“Don’t worry, I’ll make you look perfect.” She smiled.

I had giggled. “Usually perfect is not what I pull off, but let’s give it a go.” The gusts of wind seem to be laughing with me.

Finally the church doors opened and we are let in.

My Dad desperately tries to get my veil back in place and make everything just so. People tend to me and I am distracted by the view through the foyer doors. Groomsmen. So handsome lined up perfectly in their chocolate brown tuxedos.

The music begins to play, the sanctuary doors open, and my brother’s pre-recorded voice sings me forward.

I know I am smiling, and I know so many are smiling back. My Mom is at the front with almost all of our family from Wisconsin surrounding her. So many precious faces. So many friends.

My Dad holds me steady.

In the front row is my 91 year old Great Auntie Kay. She reaches for me and I stop to let those precious hands who used to squeeze my cheeks as a child hold my hands for just a moment.

“So beautiful, oh so beautiful.” I hear her softly say as tears fill her eyes. How blessed I am.

My Dad hands me to Chris. I move forward and almost fall at the first step.

I didn’t wear the heels I had worn when my dress got hemmed. I was afraid I’d lock my knees, so I wear very flat ballet slippers. My dress is too long. I don’t care. Chris helps me up the stairs.

Minutes pass in a blur but our pastor captures our story so perfectly and makes us all laugh with his depiction of us and our love story. There is no time for tears, just joy.  

When I put the ring on Chris’ finger I clap my hands and everyone laughs.

When Chris kisses me, many do not know that it is for the very first time. Our pastor knows and I hear him ask Chris a question.

“How was it?”

Chris turns and gives a thumbs up to the audience and the church erupts in laughter and clapping.

I am so very happy. I am so very thankful. What fun I am having.  

A day that is so much more than worth the wait and the prayer that got us here. God over answered and my heart could not be more full.   

This is the beginning. So beautiful, oh so beautiful…