Friday, June 27, 2014


Warning: The following post is a rant!

While youngest child has been spending long days learning wonderful things and making beautiful music at piano camp this week, I have been hanging out at a local coffee shop and writing for several hours each day - it's been like a little bit of heaven.

I have enjoyed meeting some of the regular customers who stop in each morning. I have appreciated Kim and Megan's friendly hospitality, letting me occupy a table and warm a chair here for so many consecutive hours - they haven't once pressed me to move on out the door! And I've enjoyed listening in on all the interesting conversations initiated by patrons:  a coffee shop is like an open forum, where even complete strangers can present topics and engage in dialogue with others.

Which leads to today's rant.

One morning a young mother came in for her jolt of caffeine. Approaching an older, 30-something woman already in line at the counter, she said, "Can I ask you a question? How do you deal with the problem of biting?"

Synopsis: The young mother had a toddler who kept coming home from playcare with bite marks and bruises. This happened at least twice a week, and had been going on for several months. There was a notorious biter in her daughter's class, and, although the staff had tried repeatedly to remedy the situation, her own small child was still coming home with bite marks. The young mom felt like the playcare staff was not adequately dealing with the problem, and she wondered what she needed to do to keep her little daughter from suffering any more trauma. Exasperated, the young mom asked, "Do I need to call Child Services and report the playcare center for abuse?"

The full-figured 50-something mother of seven sitting at the other end of the coffee shop bit her own tongue and fought mightily against an overpowering urge to yell, "Are you kidding?! I think you need to call Child Services on yourself! You've been sending your baby into a classroom, month after month, where she is repeatedly bitten so hard that she comes home with bruises and scabs? What are you thinking?!"

The solution to this mom's problem seemed glaringly obvious to me:  parent her child herself, at home.

Okay, that sounds rude and insensitive.

A couple of thoughts following said conversation...

Protecting and parenting my young children is my responsibility, not someone else's. And when there is a problem - like biting - it's my responsibility to take care of it, not someone else's.

And, yes, some kids are biters. That doesn't make them monsters from hell, and it doesn't make the adults who are trying to stop the biting - albeit without much success - monsters, either.

I had a child who was a biter. I had other children who were bitten. As their mom, I had to deal with - discipline, love, comfort, forgive - both kinds. And for the sake of brevity, let's just say here that the biting was not a problem for long. Mr. Biter quickly figured out that he needed to find a more socially acceptable way to express himself.

So, young woman, if your toddler coming home a couple of days a week with bite marks and bruises upsets you as much as you claim, do something about it. Put your big girl panties on, and be The Mom.

Now that my spleen is vented, Dear Reader, what advice would you offer the young mother at the coffee shop? Perhaps you can answer her question with more gentleness and grace than the grouchy woman at the corner table!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Because Helen had an alternate ride to piano camp this morning, I was able to exercise with the awesome ladies at ADBC Fitness Studio in Troy this morning.

Mr. Easterwood was mowing the hay field around the house when I headed out to Martin to retrieve my young piano virtuoso - smells yummy, and makes the field look so tidy and well-groomed.

My new glasses came in - still adjusting to a new prescription, but, man, these are cool-looking frames!

Now, I'm sitting at The Looking Glass coffee shop in Martin, Tennessee, halfway through a super-productive week of writing. (I love piano camp!)

Two articles written and submitted for the Homeschool View column. Coffee and cannoli.

Book #2 - Bethel Road - has finished going through the editing/revision process, and it should be available in both print and Kindle formats next week. Finally! If anything, I've enjoyed writing this book even better than writing the first - and I really like the story.

Worship this evening with my family at Grace Presbyterian Church.

It's been a good day today!

Thursday, June 19, 2014


I have been reading this week in Nehemiah. I love how God uses a seemingly-random passage that I've read many times before to encourage me right exactly where I am struggling today.

Nehemiah was an Israelite who was living in exile and who served as cupbearer to Artaxerxes, king of Persia. When Nehemiah receives news of the horrible condition of his homeland, he is brokenhearted. However, in answer to Nehemiah's prayers, God prompts King Artaxerxes to send Nehemiah back to Jerusalem with an entourage of fellow Israelites, and he tasks them with rebuilding their beloved city.

Back in Jerusalem, Nehemiah inspects what remains of the city walls. The walls have been pulled down and the gates burned. In fact, the wall around Jerusalem was such a pile of rubble that the animal Nehemiah was riding couldn't even pass through the debris at one point.

Soon after arriving back in the city, Nehemiah organizes workers to begin rebuilding the wall. The people are so excited about rebuilding Jerusalem that they eagerly join in the work. Chapter 3 makes me think of a swarm of ants busily climbing about an anthill - these folks are motivated!

But of course, this work cannot long continue unopposed. In Chapter 4, Sanballat and Tobiah the Ammonite - two Gentile rulers who do not want the Hebrews to become unified or strengthened - show up and begin harassing the laborers. These two stand and hurl insults at the men working on the wall. They jeer and scoff. They behave like bullies on the school playground, belittling and threatening the men who are hauling away debris and stacking new stones into place.

In the face of hostile opposition, Nehemiah again turns to the Lord in prayer. And then he writes...

"So we built the wall." (Nehemiah 4:6)

I love this! Faced with the monumental challenge of clearing away the rubble and debris of the old wall and then building a new wall with new gates - we're talking back-breaking labor and lots of sweat and sacrifice - faced with this great challenge, and then having to endure a constant shower of insults and threats, these people did...

...exactly what they set out to do.

Do you feel called to a particular task? Is the labor before you daunting? Are there people in you life who constantly try to pull you away from the work before you? Are there voices around you who can think of nothing to say but discouraging words about the work you are doing? Do you want to give up? Or at least take a half-holiday to throw a pity party?

"So we built the wall."

Be encouraged by the account of Nehemiah.

Me, I want to write a book, a story that communicates the gospel. But it seems like I have a thousand and one people making demands on my time, pulling me away from the work of writing, distracting me from the task I feel called to do. And there are those who say, "You are not a very good writer" - and they are right - and, "This book will never amount to anything" - and they are probably right about that, too. I find it easy to be discouraged, distracted, demotivated. Sort of like those workers toiling away on the wall around Jerusalem.

"So we built the wall."

I am greatly encouraged. And, so, I will write the book.

Monday, June 16, 2014


Bob:  "Did you know that whales can communicate with each other for distances of over 1000 miles?"

Fred:  "No, I didn't know that. How fascinating! What do the whales say to one another when they're 1000 miles apart?"

Bob:  "Scientists are not sure, but they think the whales are saying, 'CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?'"

I heard that joke many years ago, so I probably have a few of the details wrong. However, I did a little poking around on the internet this morning and found out that:

Scientists believe that before the noise and water pollution levels we have today, whales could actually communicate with one another from opposite sides of the globe. Even today, the loud, low-frequency sounds produced by fin whales may travel as far as 4000 miles, depending on water conditions. What are the whales saying? No one is certain, but the recordings of whale songs are fascinating to listen to!

I honestly do not know very much about whales or whale communication, and you've probably already guessed that is not what I'm really writing about. But maybe the whales could help me out with a problem...

I meet regularly with a small group of people who have been assigned the task of working together on a common assignment. A few months ago, I described to the group an issue I saw developing that I thought would impede our ability to work effectively on this project. The others agreed that, Yes, this was definitely something the group needed to be aware of and to address - and that was that. The group moved on to the next item of business.

So I brought up my concerns again the next time we met. "Yes, yes, this is something we all need to think about," everyone agreed - and so it was decided that everyone in our group should take some time to think about the issue and possible solutions. Perhaps we should plan to spend more time addressing the problem at our next meeting. And that was that.

And so I brought the subject up again at our next meeting. And again, everyone agreed that this was a matter of serious import, requiring much thought and consideration, and that we should probably be considering ways to address the problem. And then they moved on to the next item of business.

I was beginning to feel disheartened - I really didn't think anyone understood the seriousness of the situation, and no one seemed committed to hammering out a solution. Knowing that I am not a very emotive person and that I often do not communicate my feelings and concerns very passionately, I interrupted with a fervent, "I don't think you understand how serious this situation is!"

And everyone listened to my not-very-emotional-but-pretty-danged-emotional-for-me plea, and they nodded and agreed and decided that we should talk about this at our next meeting.

I feel like a whale out of water.

I feel like I am booming out a message that no one is hearing.

And I have no clue how to get through, no idea what else to do in order to communicate effectively.

Maybe if I brought a recording of whale songs to our next meeting and played it with the volume turned up really loudly...

Maybe if I asked, "Can you hear me now?!"

Thursday, June 12, 2014


We all know those people who meet every comment, every idea with some kind of "off" response. They are not as clearly and completely negative as the bitter, angry person who just seems to hate everything in life on principle, but these more subtle "Eeyores" are joy suckers none-the-less.

"I'm going to work in the garden this afternoon" - is met with - "It will probably rain."

"I signed up for a new fitness class" - is met with - "You're too fat to wear stretchy pants."

"I'm really excited about this new story I'm working on" - is met with - "Everyone these days spends too much time on their computers."

It's not that the person thinks you shouldn't weed the garden, or exercise, or work on a fun project - no, she may even be in favor of your doing those very things. But for some reason, the words that come out of her mouth tend to be gray, a downer, energy draining.

I am a people pleaser. My husband calls it being an "approval suck" - a crass term, but it adequately communicates the yuckiness of the condition. I want the people around me to be happy, to like me, to approve of my choices and decisions.

Now, I realize that every single person approving of everything I do is an impossibility. I know that. But still, when someone comes right out with a negative comment or response to something I say or do, I get this little saggy spot in my heart.

And when I'm around someone like the joy sucker mentioned above for a substantial amount of time - someone who seems by nature to always have an "off" comeback - that little saggy spot in my heart turns into a great big heavy weight.

But I think that's about to change.

I had an epiphany of sorts this morning.

I was thinking about my personal Eeyore - we'll call her Darla - and I was feeling sorry for myself and wondering why Darla always has to be so negative and critical, why she has to always be letting the air out of my balloon, subtly opposing every idea, sucking the joy out of whatever I am doing. Blegh.

Then it occurred to me - maybe God gave me Darla as a special gift, especially to help me deal with this preoccupation with people pleasing. Maybe Darla is my opportunity to brook small opposition and disappointment and ho-hum-ness, so that I can grow stronger and better able to meet greater opposition and bigger obstacles in the future.

Maybe Darla is like one of those Drill Instructors that motivates you to go further and do more by pointing out that whatever you're doing right now probably won't work and is never going to be enough.

Maybe my challenge is this...

When Darla says, "You're too fat for stretchy pants" - instead of slipping into a melancholy attitude of "Yeah, Darla's right. This exercise class was a crazy idea," maybe my challenge is to come back with "I may be heavy, but I'm already a size smaller than when I started this class. I'm so motivated now that I bought another pair of stretchy pants!"

So, with this new epiphany - the thought that Darla is not a thorn in my flesh but an aid to growth - I am going to try a new attitude discipline. Whenever Darla comes out with one of her soggy, gray comments, I'm going to stop and formulate a positive response. Take time to find a little sunshine to soothe that saggy place in my heart. At first, this will probably be mostly a mental exercise - but I wouldn't be surprised if, with time and practice, those responses begin to find a way to my lips and out to Darla's ears.

Watch out, Darla - I think I see a bit of blue sky.

Here comes the sun!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


I am trying something new in the garden this year. Realizing that much of my muscle is leaving the nest, I thought it was time to simplify.

The garden this year is about half the size of last year's plot. And instead of tilling it all up before planting, we laid down a thick layer of newspaper, then several inches of mulch. To plant beans, we cleared a narrow trough in the mulch, cut through the newspaper, and dropped in the seeds. Tomatoes - I raked back the mulch, stabbed a hole in the paper, and set each seedling.

After several very rainy weeks, the garden looks fabulous. The squash, cucumbers, and eggplant are vigorous and covered with blossoms. It rained again yesterday evening, and the beans shot up their canes another several inches.

This time last year, after warm temperatures and so much rain, I would have already been waging a loosing battle against Bermuda grass. So far this year, it takes about 10 minutes to weed the entire garden.

I am digging this new style of gardening.

Yesterday, Ben moved furniture and prepped the walls in the boys' room so that today I could begin painting. The walls in the bunk bed alcove now have two fresh coats of a lovely paint that is two shades darker than before. When I finish this post, I'll head upstairs to paint woodwork. Tomorrow, I'll tackle the other end of the room. The new paint looks uh-may-zing - so fresh and bright and clean. Next week, the girls' room gets a fresh coat of paint - can't wait to finish one room so that I can start on the other.

Then, I want to wash the downstairs windows and the kitchen cabinets. And excavate my closet. And do a couple of sewing projects. And WRITE. And...

Have I mentioned yet how nice it is to be working on something other than school? I am loving summertime!