{ A Thank You Note to Covid Winter }

Dear Covid Winter,

We just wanted to touch base and let you know that, despite all of your villainous efforts, we are grateful you came along.

When we first saw you come into our lives (thankfully, late — around the first part of December) we weren’t so sure. What with isolating mandates and masks in play, we didn’t exactly welcome anything else that would disrupt life.

Covid Winter, you were a taker — upsetting plans and outings with cancelled meetings and closed public places. You tried to ruin our lives with blizzard warnings, wind chills and the fear-mongering tactics of icy roads, spin-outs and accident reports. Oh, you weren’t just a taker, you were a giver, for sure:

  • Instead of red hearts, you gave us those red hazard triangles on our screens — those weather alerts that made chills run down our spines. (As if we didn’t already have enough chills running down our spines.)
  • You gave us a frozen laundry pipe, so we had to manually drain the loads.
  • You gave us an opportunity to park outside, because the garage door froze in its tracks and the spring broke.
  • You gave us cracks on our skin and frost on our windshields. 

And that brings us to why we are grateful — despite all of your endeavors to make us miserable. Even though you tried to give us your worst, we are emerging victorious. We are adding books to our Goodreads list like crazy, creating delightful things in the kitchen, and focusing on home repair. We stayed on top of our homeschooling, with limited outings or events that would have distracted us from our schedule. We haven’t wasted time on the library computers, loitering in coffee shops or browsing in stores. We have found fun things to do at home, and some of us have:

  • Become yoyo experts
  • Recently read or re-read one or more entire series of books
  • Returned to daily violin playing
  • Affirmed that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing
  • Made and eaten soup every day, realizing that you don’t really need a recipe
  • Written and received snail-mail letters regularly
  • Discovered and excelled at watercolor painting

Covid Winter, you have given us what spring, summer and fall have not been able to give. 

And, for that…we say a big “Th-th-thank Y-you.”

~~~

When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here in February, and basking in the warmth of our books, our soups, our blankets and our cozy naps, we couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.

 — taken and revised from the movie Groundhog Day

Photo by Unsplash

{ Mama Makeover }

This post is not about pickles. Please keep reading.

Mama Makeover: Part 1

It started a few months ago, as documented in a previous blog post.

Summary: my oldest adult daughter gently wondered why I have been wearing such unlikely wardrobe combinations / mismatched outfits. I could blame it on a mid-life crisis, that I have nothing to wear, or on cabin fever. I could have blamed it on Covid-19 as many things were in 2020.

This first daughter pointing out my wardrobe issues was the initial step in what I believe may be a groundbreaking 2021 Mama Makeover. Yes, it is past due. Indicators that a mid-life makeover may be mandatory include the color-damaged lifeless hair, the lack of age-appropriate makeup, and the extra 10 pounds gained in record time.

Mama Makeover: Part 2

I showed up at my sister’s house on Christmas Day, feeling rather blah. Sara is only 4 years younger, but is slim and accomplished and doesn’t even have to color her hair. She is a great listener and encouraged me when I realized that I had forgotten our plate of cookies at home, but I brought a helping of my age-related grumblings instead. We commisserated together for a few minutes before diving into the lefse.

Mama Makeover: Part 3

Hours later, my next oldest daughter lounged on my bed (I love when she does that.)  I laughed and summarized my Christmas Day aging discussion with my sister. She affirmed me as she always does…and then gently and tentatively added some makeover ideas. 

Have you ever seen The Pickle Story episode from the Andy Griffith Show? Aunt Bea offers her homemade pickles to her neighbor Clara, who has been the winner of the county fair pickle contest 11 years in a row.  At one bite of Aunt Bea’s unsavory pickles, Clara winces and nods her head, trying to be kind. But then she slowly adds several recommendations, revealing that Aunt Bea’s pickles truly need serious improvement.

In like manner, my daughter rolled out a few tips:

  • Maybe you could get bangs again, so your hair would frame your face…
  • You seem to wear a lot of dark colors. If you wore bright colors once in a while…
  • And, your glasses make you look a little severe…
  • I follow this one homeschooling mom on Instagram and even though she is home every day, she always wears lipstick…

The Makeover Continues

Guess what? I have explored and followed many of these suggestions. Why? Because when a Mama gets makeover support from her young adult daughters, this is wise advice from the people who know her the best and love her the most.  My girls know that I don’t wear lots of makeup or fancy clothes and I usually keep my hair in a ponytail. They know my favorite accessory is an apron, that I shop at GoodWill and that I could never give up cookies. They are the ideal consultants to brainstorm a few changes that I can live with — so, the 2021 Makeover is to be continued….

~~~

Note: Because I believe that God created me in His image, it is my personal desire to make improvements where needed — not to try to recapture youth, over-focus on outward appearance or to imitate the world and its values, but to make my aging, imperfect body the best it can be for myself, my family and for service to my Creator.

~~~

I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself…” 1 Corinthians 9: 26-27 The Message Bible

{ Cardboard Creations }

When you can’t locate the kitchen scissors…

When the toilet paper roll disappears prematurely…

When there’s a trail of cardboard clippings that lead downstairs…

You know creativity is happening here.

 

Creating with Cardboard

Out of the Box 25 Cardboard Engineering Projects for Makers
Out of the Box: 25 Cardboard Projects…

 

Here’s the book, given by Tia, that started the 3-day rummaging through the recyclables…

The usurping of Mama’s tape…

the glue frenzy…

The lamenting of the ring toss that is too flimsy to stand…

…and the rejoicing over castle towers that stand strong.

 

 

~~~~

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{ Surprise! 10 Things You Do}

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Oldest son is moving to new base with the Air Force

What do you do when your oldest son — who is headed overseas for two years —  surprises you with an unannounced visit 3 days before leaving?

  1. You say “WHAT?” about 10 times when he gives you a bear hug from behind, and you turn around and he’s there.
  2. You cook him his favorite foods.
  3. You listen to the foreign phrases he is practicing.
  4. You talk about things he has learned.
  5. You make sure he has enough warm blankets. You even steal them from other family member’s beds, because right now he is the special one.
  6. You play charades with the family — including a reenactment of the moment he surprised you.
  7. You take silly pictures.
  8. You talk about when he will come back.
  9. You pray with him and for him.
  10. You wait for a play-by-play of his next stops, and for the moment he lands.

 

{ Blizzard-Ready}

We enjoyed Homeschool Ski and Snowboard Day last Monday.

Hyland Hills in Bloomington, Minnesota is a tame spot for beginning skiers, and the 26 degree January day was perfect.

Anyone walking in to the chalet could tell it was a homeschool event — crockpots were everywhere, and the air smelled like patchouli and lavender essential oils.

Now, we are bracing for more snow, and true to our nature, Minnesotans are frantically storming the grocery stores to stock up, like we may be snowed in for months.

I confess I left the house at 6:00 a.m., determined to beat long lines and the blizzard.

After being urged last night by one of my teenagers to get some “fun food,” (as opposed to gloomy, drudgerous food?) I grabbed a few essentials:

  • meat
  • kombucha
  • microwave popcorn
  • hot chocolate mix
  • coffee and herbal teas
  • heavy cream for the coffee
  • makings for soup and homemade no-knead bread. (Not the boring soups I usually make from leftovers) but Copycat Olive Garden soups, like Zuppa Toscana.

In addition to these staples, we are armed with *anti-cabin fever* activities:

  • Season 2 of Gilligan’s Island DVDs, purchased at GoodWill
  • Crispin: At the Edge of the World. I love the Crispin books by Avi, and I wish I’d known about these when we were studying the Middle Ages.
  • A new puzzle. This is our third Mudpuppy puzzle, and it’s Kaleido-Beetles! I like Mudpuppy puzzles because they have three pictures of the finished puzzle for reference as you go, making it easier for 3 or more people to work on the puzzle.

Other Mudpuppy puzzles we have ordered are the 1000-piece Ocean Life, 500-piece Songbirds and 500-piece Butterflies of North America.

I’m glad we are ready, because it’s starting to snow…

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{ True Theater: The First Christmas }

 

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Curtain opens / Scene appears peaceful

Middle-Eastern baby in dimmed spotlight

(a real baby, wrapped in livestock rags) 

Nestled in rough wooden feeding trough

Country setting. Clear night with stars. 

Mother exhausted. Sleeping.

Father watching. Thinking.

After miles of sweating and praying

After the end of the journey

After the labor

Just sitting

Just gazing

Now cue the angels.

The shepherds.

The wonder.

The starlight.

Behind the stage and unseen by the audience:

A fierce and ugly dragon – yes, an actual beast – has been trying to walk out on center stage.

He’s been trying to ruin the show.

He grabbed the script and stuffed it into his flaming mouth.

(It didn’t matter, because everyone already knew their lines.)

He tried to tear down the curtain with his talons (that’s supposed to happen anyway — scene three)

His demonic buddies brought an assassin to kill the baby. They stormed and burst down the side stage door. (He wasn’t a good shot after all, and the baby was whisked away.)

The director just sat there. Directing. 

He knew this was going to happen.

It was all actually in the script. 

***Spoiler alert: It has an ending that’s out-of-this-world***

Curtain.

~~~~~

Inspiration from Revelation 12 and Luke 2.

Manger photo:Greyson Joralemon

{ Clean }

 

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I don’t dress like this when I clean the house.

 

I like a clean living space, but, cleaning is not a cherished hobby of mine. I generally value clutter-free over dust-free.

Years ago, my Spanish friend Ana invited me into her small apartment. I was amazed at how shiny-sparkly-clean it was and I commented on it.

“Yes, I like to do this!” Ana bubbled enthusiastically. I’ve never forgotten her radiant response; scrubbing the home spotless was a happy thing for her.

My Norwex-selling friend recently educated me on the stunning benefits of micro-fiber cleaning.

I’m totally not going to have a Norwex party, but I appreciated her zeal and knowledge; I really learned something.

grove stuff

 

For a recent birthday, my daughter gave me a cleaning tote, stuffed with Mrs. Meyer’s sprays and other goodies. Was this gift a not-so-subtle hint, because she knows my housecleaning flaws? Hmmm….

Anyway, cleaning is more fun, now that I have Mrs. Meyer’s help.

I will now awkwardly transition to some brief thoughts about spiritual cleaning.

I was reading my Bible the other day and I cannot remember exactly what I was reading. I didn’t feel spiritually dirty and didn’t set out be to be purposefully “washed” that day, but suddenly I truly felt God’s words cascading over me, cleansing me.

As I have chewed on this the last few days, I have felt that reading God’s word is a powerful spiritual cleaning agent because:

  • It reminds me whose I am
  • It purifies my life perspective
  • It shines a loving light onto my heart
  • It pours hope down on me
  • It showers comfort over my soul
  • It cleanses festering wounds
  • It removes destructive thoughts and damaging lies.

~~~~~~~

“…wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7

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“The Gospel is a cleansing agent, for it is the good news of Christ’s atoning death at Calvary. The Word is a cleansing agent also for sanctification. That’s why it’s important for us to read and study the Scriptures; they are a cleansing agent in our lives. It’s amazing what the Word of God will do with people when they read and study it. — John MacArthur

 

Bible photo:  Aaron Burden

{ Bacon, Books, & Body Fat }

It’s been over a month since I have logged in, but I haven’t been idle. This is what I have been up to:

  • My husband got home from out-of-state and he came back eating Keto. The man I married 29 years ago thought eating bacon was scandalous — but now he embraces bacon as a legitimate thing, and I don’t have to hide eating it anymore!

Life is change…and this is a good change.bacon-1238243__340

  • I read several books this winter:
  1. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
  2. A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller
  3. The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
  4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
  5. Killing the SS: The Hunt for the Worst War Criminals in Historyby Bill O-Reilly
  6. The Persian Gamble by Joel C. Rosenberg
  7. Still Life by Louise Penny

 

This was the best ever year for field trips. We attended two homeschool ski days; joined a free program at the Paint Factory; visited the Amazon Fulfillment Center; toured the St. Cloud Hospital; saw the Sea Life Aquarium on homeschool week; jumped at a Trampoline Park and went to the fish fry after the last day of pick-up hockey at the local ice rink.

 

 

Did we finish our history or math books? Nope.

However, I consider this year fruitful in other ways, because…

  1. We got to see the underbellies of sharks, real sea turtles and God’s creativity with jellyfish — and write about it.
  2. My youngest boys got to ski for the first time.
  3. My three teenagers got to experience the joy of group painting, and brought home their masterpieces. (The one who most reluctantly attended was the same one who proudly set his finished canvas next to his desk at home.)
  4. We saw how robotics works in a hospital operating room AND how robotics works in an Amazon warehouse.

 

  • On the creative side, I’m dabbling in tote bags again, thanks to a request from a friend’s daughter.  The tote bags I create make use of old wool sweaters, discarded men’s dress shirts, and empty burlap bags. After years of sewing with zipper avoidance, I’m officially not afraid of zippers anymore. 

 

 

 

  • Lastly, my husband and I took a preventative health test from Life Line. It’s a mobile set-up that moves you through simple tests like blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol and then uses ultrasound to check for artery blockage.

But, here’s the interesting scenario: My husband, who:

  • works out almost every day
  • carries minimal spare body fat
  • can let a chocolate bar sit unopened in his closet for 5 months

…got only fair blood test scores. It was surprising.

I tried to feel bad for him.

But, all the while I was pleasantly surprised at my own excellent scores, since I:

  • have been virtually sedentary all winter long (except for the field trips I mentioned)
  • have oodles of spare body fat
  • can’t let a chocolate bar sit unopened for 5 minutes

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I tried to console him. I did some online research on his behalf and it might have something to do with sleep…

Speaking of sleep, I just found the word for my kind of nap: Nappuccino. A nappuccino is when you want to take a 20-minute power nap but not go longer than that. So, you drink a cup of coffee right before your nap and then the caffeine wakes you up just when you should wake up.

I didn’t know it was a *thing*…but turns out it is 🙂

  1. https://www.myrecipes.com/extracrispy/the-nappuccino-is-a-wellness-trend-i-can-get-behind
  2. http://dreamstudies.org/2012/06/08/4-steps-to-reaganing-all-day-long-the-power-of-the-nappuccino/
  3. https://1079ishot.com/nappucino-coffee-nap/

 

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{ S’no More? & Sweeping Reforms }

There comes a point of acceptance.

I have been griping about the snow in my spirit –and aloud– and I have been groaning about how –or if –we can maneuver through our long and perilous driveway.

Today, I just looked at the snow falling gently down from the sky and thought:

“Well, then. Let it come.”

I’m strangely content today. I told everyone it’s a day to stay in our pajamas.  I baked up those cookie dough balls from the freezer that have survived the nibblers. And right now I’m making a double batch of brownies.

Has my body entered a state of hibernation — one where I’m subconsciously adding layers of fat to sustain me until the snow melts?

Is my mind slightly sedated, which would explain my docile–or perhaps numb–outlook on life?

Yesterday, however, was a day of sweeping reforms.

Do you find that your best ideas come to you early in the morning

Or late at night?

Or, perhaps in the middle of the night?

That happened to me yesterday as my clock rang early and I sat in a dark room.

Inspiration drifted down to me like a gentle, welcome snowfall, telling me:

We are too distracted by devices. We need to corral our dependence on phones and tablets. We need to organize our use of technology and vary our interests. Everyone seems to default to devices when they don’t have anything to do.  This is not how we started out. This will not help us.

So yesterday was a day to roll out the new rules.  Phone and tablets will stay in a basket in the middle of the table. We will use them from 3:00 to 4:00. There will be exceptions, of course, but this will be our goal. Surprisingly, it seemed as if everyone was relieved instead of being upset.

I told everyone we will have a contest to name our hour of device-using-time.

“How about Happy Hour?” I heard someone say.

~~~

There’s something truly beautiful about this snow.

It’s a clean, firm covering over everything that has finally surrendered to winter.

It’s a white quilt on an already fattened landscape.

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We have received an average of one inch plus per day of snow this last month — February, 2019. [40 inches total in February and we are getting more today, March 1st.]

{ Long Winter, Short Ballad }

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Lo, the sweet home lights are burning

They are burning clear and bright,

They twinkle and they beckon:

“Come home this cold, dark night!”

~~~

I see their beams not far away

Across the snowy sea

But alas, my car is anchored here

At driveway’s end, unfree —

~~~

The shovel, it doth twist and scrape

At waves of ice and snow

How long the van will sit here

I confess, I do not know.

~~~

The month of February 2019 has gifted Minnesotans with 31.5 inches of snow! 

(So far)

~~~

I sat in a heated car, thinking up this poem, while my dear son shoveled us out.

~~~
(There was only one shovel.)